Compu-Picks 2011 Analysis: Week 7_1

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Oct 19, 2011

Compu-Picks 2011 Analysis: rating the top and bottom teams in college football after week seven

As of the end of FIU - Ark St, these are the top 10 and bottom 5. Remember that this is a predictive model, designed to pick games and show how good a team actually is. Its results can be very different from what you'll see elsewhere. The workings of the model are confidential (it is, after all, designed to make winning picks), but I'm happy to answer questions about the models' results.

Rank BCS Rank Team League Score Schedule Rank *
1 1 Louisiana State SEC 0.92 3
2 2 Alabama SEC 0.87 41
3 3 Oklahoma Big 12 0.83 19
4 5 Boise State Mountain West 0.81 28
5 8 Stanford Pac-12 0.79 55
6 10 Oregon Pac-12 0.74 2
7 6 Wisconsin Big Ten 0.71 94
8 4 Oklahoma State Big 12 0.68 26
9 7 Clemson ACC 0.54 47
10 17 Texas A&M Big 12 0.52 21
116 Florida Atlantic Sun Belt -0.70 85
117 Alabama-Birmingham C-USA -0.72 109
118 Akron MAC -0.74 83
119 New Mexico Mountain West -0.75 90
120 Memphis C-USA -0.89 110

Some thoughts on the list:

1) Please note that AA games are NOT counted for these ratings. This includes the schedule rankings. At some point later this year, I will post an adjusted schedule list that does account for the AA games, but they are not ready at this time. Please keep this in mind when looking at the schedule rankings, since a "true" schedule ranking would note these games.

2) As usual, I'm only posting the compu-picks ratings for the very top and bottom teams (top 10 / bottom 5 this week), and will slowly expand the list as the season goes on. The reason I do this is that the teams at the very top and very bottom have largely separated themselves by now, while the teams on the next tier can largely be jumbled together.

This year, it's no secret that LSU and Alabama have separated themselves from the pack, while Oklahoma has shown itself to be a serious challenger. Other than that, though, a lot of teams just haven't been tested enough to really get a handle on how good they are; of the listed top ten, four are outside the top 40 in schedule strength (including Alabama, though they've been so utterly dominant that they're still rated extremely highly). As some of the other contenders start to hit the tough parts of their schedules, we will learn more about those teams. Until then, there are a lot of open questions.

3) Wisconsin at #7 is interesting. Essentially, they're getting hammered for all of the games they played against lousy teams (UNLV and Indiana are bottom 20 while Oregon St and NIU are sub-par, and that's not even counting the AA game), and to boot they've only left home once so far. They are, as far as the model is concerned, a definite "grade incomplete" team at this point.

That said, they've got an interesting pair of road games coming up at Michigan St and Ohio St; do well in those and their rating should rise materially. Do poorly and it'll drop. Until then it's all guesswork no matter where anyone puts them. They could really be a top 3 team and we don't see it because they haven't proved it yet, or they could really be the #15 team and we don't see it because they've only had a one-game season so far, or they could be anywhere in between.

4) While I'm personally a bit skeptical of LSU (they seem like a big-play team that's vulnerable to a good opponent who doesn't make mistakes and limits their big plays), the model sure isn't. They've been dominant against a brutal schedule and, just like Alabama and Oklahoma, have absolutely earned their status of "win out and they're in the national title game."

5) Texas A&M has to be the big surprise in the top 10. Only ranked 21st in the AP Poll, and 17th in the BCS, A&M has played a tough schedule to date (games against OK St and Arkansas, as well as SMU, Baylor and Tech) and has played well against it. 3-2 isn't a fantastic record, but both their losses were close, and their wins have been dominant (SMU and Baylor were especially impressive victories); at this point in the season, that earns A&M a substantial amount of support from this model. Don't sleep on them making a big run, as the only elite opponent left is Oklahoma (though K St will be tough). While I personally think #10 is too high, I also think the AP's rank of 21st is way too low.

6) And on the flip side, Arkansas, a team that might have been a more obvious inclusion on this list, has a couple meaningful warts that are hurting the rating. The most obvious was a 38-28 win over Troy, far too close a game (especially at home) against a bad team like Troy (worth noting: both of the University of Louisiana teams beat Troy by more, and ULL beat them by 28 at Troy). The second was a thrashing at the hands of Alabama, another game that dropped the Hogs' rating. That said, their last two efforts have been extremely good, and if they keep up that level of play, the could find themselves in the model's top ten before long.

7) You can make an argument that Oklahoma St is a bit underrated by this model (of course, four of the six BCS computers rated the Cowboys #1, so we know where they'd stand on the matter... and no, I don't have a clue why they did that). And there really isn't anything particularly wrong with them here, no major warts that stand out or the like. Mainly, it's the the teams above them have just been a bit more impressive, more dominant, playing against tougher slates, or both. As noted earlier, a lot of teams' ratings are really open questions at this point, so a number of the teams rated a bit above the Cowboys could very easily drop down materially over the next couple weeks, pushing Oklahoma St up to a higher rank (which is where I'm inclined to think they belong right now).

8) This isn't directly to do with the list, but here's fun lists of results:

@ Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31
@ Notre Dame 31, Michigan St 13
@ Michigan St 28, Michigan 14

If you try to apply "head to head is the only thing that matters" logic to this list, your head will explode. You can tease out certain information from these lists (Notre Dame's loss was close and their win a blowout, therefore they get a bonus; Michigan's win came much earlier than their loss, therefore they get a demerit; etc.), but what it really does is highlight that each of these results was JUST ONE GAME. To properly evaluate a team, you need to evaluate the whole resume, not pretend that a single result means everything and the rest almost nothing just because of head to head "logic". That's why Compu-Picks doesn't give ANY special consideration to head to head results. You are what your resume says you are. Period.

Technical notes about the lists:

1) Conference ratings are straight averages of all of the teams in the league. There is no "central averaging" (like Sagarin does), or over-weighting the top teams, or anything like that. Such approaches would yield different numbers, and could potentially change the order of some of the leagues.

2) Games against AA teams are not counted. There are many good arguments both for and against counting such games (see this link for an interesting analysis of the issue). I have elected not to count these results in the Compu-Picks model. As is the case almost every year, this means that one or two especially surprising AA upsets don't make it into the numbers, skewing the results to a fair degree for a couple of teams. I believe that this is a more than acceptable tradeoff given the substantial issues that counting AA games would create, but you are certainly welcome to disagree with my decision on this matter.

3) As mentioned here, the purpose of this system is to make picks, not to create a list used for rankings. As such, I evaluate the system solely on the basis of how good a job it does making picks. I do not evaluate the system on the basis of whether or not it agreed with AP polls, BCS rankings, the BCS computers, or any other such list out there. In fact, the system has a long and established history of being substantially different than those sources. I am fine with these differences. To be honest, I publish these lists because I find them interesting and thought-provoking, and because I believe it is a good thing to introduce an approach that doesn't simply regurgitate the same avenues of thinking as you can find in most places.

4) The system is noisy, especially earlier in the year. This is why I start with only the top and bottom few, and slowly expand the list. While I believe that the numbers are reasonable, I certainly accept that they're not perfect. If you believe that a specific team is over- or under-ranked, you may well be right. I bring this up because if you're going to criticize the system for being wrong about a team, I'd appreciate it if you explain why you think the system is substantially wrong, rather than just marginally so (if it's just one or two slots off, especially well before the end of the year, I'd consider that well within a reasonable error range).

There are a few important notes and caveats I need to make about this model:

1) Compu-Picks does not endorse implicitly or explicitly any form of illegal gambling. Compu-Picks is intended to be used for entertainment purposes only.

2) No guarantee or warranty is offered or implied by Compu-Picks for any information provided and/or predictions made.

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