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Compu-Picks 2011 Analysis: Week 9_1

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Nov 2, 2011

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

As of the end of NIU - Toledo, these are the top 15 (+ South Carolina for discussion purposes) and bottom 10. 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 0.95 4
2 2 Alabama SEC 0.92 31
3 4 Stanford Pac-12 0.82 33
4 3 Oklahoma State Big 12 0.81 8
5 6 Oklahoma Big 12 0.81 11
6 8 Oregon Pac-12 0.77 7
7 5 Boise State Mountain West 0.76 30
8 20 Wisconsin Big Ten 0.56 50
9 19 Arizona State Pac-12 0.51 9
10 10 Nebraska Big Ten 0.49 27
11 11 Clemson ACC 0.48 35
12 15 Michigan Big Ten 0.47 66
13 21* Southern California Pac-12 0.44 12
14 NR Texas A&M Big 12 0.43 29
15 14 Kansas State Big 12 0.42 19
16 9 South Carolina SEC 0.41 52
111 Central Michigan MAC -0.54 107
112 Colorado State Mountain West -0.54 112
113 Indiana Big Ten -0.55 83
114 Buffalo MAC -0.61 94
115 Alabama-Birmingham C-USA -0.64 102
116 Akron MAC -0.72 101
117 Florida Atlantic Sun Belt -0.74 84
118 Tulane C-USA -0.76 119
119 Memphis C-USA -0.83 113
120 New Mexico Mountain West -0.90 98

Game Rank Team Opponent Location Score
1 Oklahoma Texas NEUTRAL 55 - 17
2 Oklahoma Kansas State AWAY 58 - 17
3 Louisiana State Oregon NEUTRAL 40 - 27
4 Oklahoma State Missouri AWAY 45 - 24
5 Stanford Washington HOME 65 - 21
6 Louisiana State Tennessee AWAY 38 - 7
7 Clemson Virginia Tech AWAY 23 - 3
8 Wisconsin Nebraska HOME 48 - 17
9 Alabama Florida AWAY 38 - 10
10 Alabama Mississippi AWAY 52 - 7

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 15 / 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 week, some fairly obvious patterns emerge from looking at the above table. LSU and Alabama are unsurprisingly still at the top, and have created fairly decent separation from the rest. Depending how next week goes, it's possible that the LSU/Bama loser could still be in the top two.

After those two, five more teams are in a pretty close jumble: Stanford, OK St, Oklahoma, Boise, and Oregon. After that, there's such a huge dropoff between them and #8 (Wisconsin) and beyond that it seems all but certain that whoever ends up the season rated #1 by Compu-Picks will be one of those seven teams. And that makes sense. You have the four AQ undefeateds, Boise, Oklahoma (who has been consistently dominant against a tough schedule, with two VERY impressive blowout wins, and the one ugly loss) and Oregon (lost to #1 LSU, but has otherwise been pretty dominant against a very tough schedule).

Also worth noting: in that group of seven, four teams have been pretty well tested to date, while three haven't been quite as much. Bama is about to be tested in a major way against LSU, and Stanford will get a big test against Oregon one week later. Boise's schedule ranking, meanwhile, will continue to decline. TCU isn't a gimme, but that game is in Boise, and compared to what the other contenders have to deal with, it's sorely lacking. Barring extreme chaos at the top, Boise isn't going to jump into the top two, and given the way that most of the other top teams have been playing against tougher competition, that's probably fair.

3) Mixing things up, this week I'm showing the "top 10 wins" list instead of league ratings. As you can see, Oklahoma has two fantastically rated games, while LSU and Bama each have two wins in the top ten as well. It's probably worth noting that if I expanded this to the top 25 instead of just the top ten, LSU and Bama would pretty clearly rule this list, with a bunch of their wins showing up. Which is why those are the top two rated teams by a pretty decent margin.

4) The "Compu-Picks Curse" is back! Last year, after six out of the seven weeks I posted comments (ignoring Army-Navy week, since there was just that one game played), at least one teams the model thought that the BCS overrated got exposed. This year, we're one of two:

After week 7: Oklahoma St, Arkansas - none, though Arkansas came pretty close
After week 8: Oklahoma St, Clemson, Nebraska, Michigan St, Arkansas, Virginia Tech - Clemson justifies my "wildly overrated" comment with a loss 31-17 at unranked Georgia Tech. Arkansas and Virginia Tech come very close against unranked opponents but pull out the wins. I won't count Michigan St since Nebraska was also on the list.

5) As usual, the BCS crushes teams for losses, even if they're close, even if they're against good teams, and regardless of how good they've been beforehand (with the notable exception of USC, who only dropped one point in the AP Poll after their 3-overtime loss against Stanford). Wisconsin dropped another five spots after losing a second road game on a Hail Mary, and while it makes sense to drop them a bit, 20th given their resume is just ridiculous. Clemson also dropped heavily, though in this case they went from wildly overrated to actually about right.

6) Arkansas at 7th in the BCS seems wildly overrated. They've played a middling schedule and haven't been remotely dominant against it. Their last two games were utterly unimpressive, barely holding on against two of the SEC's worst teams, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. This is on top of only beating a crummy Troy team by 10 and of course the 24-point loss at Alabama. The Hogs had a nice 2-game stretch against Texas A&M and Auburn where they looked like a very good team, but pretty much everything else in their resume suggests that this isn't anything close to a top ten team.

7) The following teams are ranked materially higher by the model than the BCS: Wisconsin, ASU, Texas A&M, USC.

Wisconsin was simply punished far too harshly for their losses the past two weekend. Wisconsin is still very arguably the best in the Big Ten, and seems likely to win out.

ASU isn't complicated at all: the #9 schedule strength gives them a big boost, which is why they're rated so highly even though they haven't been hugely dominant and do have two losses.

Texas A&M is one of those teams the model likes because their losses have been very close and their wins (except for Tech) have been blowouts. While it's probably too late to have a reasonable chance to play their way back into the Big 12 title race, they do have games remaining against KSU and Okalhoma, and they've been playing well enough that they have a legit chance in each.

USC has an unusually strong schedule for a team in their rating range, which pushes them above most of their neighbors. The dominant win at Notre Dame win rates very well, especially compared to Michigan (who barely beat them at home) and Michigan St (who got hammered in South Bend).

8) The following teams are ranked materially lower than the model than the BCS: Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Houston.

I've discussed Arkansas above.

South Carolina has had one of the weakest schedules of anyone in the Compu-Picks top 20 (only better than Houston and Michigan), and has squeaked by way too often against that slate to be taken seriously. A 3 point win against Navy and a 2 point win at Mississippi St are simply bad performances for a team in anyone's top 15, much less top 10. And losing at home to Auburn (though it was close) really doesn't help. Moreover, it's hard to look at their resume and find a single game that was all that impressive. A 3-point win at Georgia, an 18-point win against Vanderbilt and an 11-point win at Tennesse are fine showings, but when those are the shining moments of the season, that's a resume that just doesn't have much heft.

Virginia Tech: the BCS has them ranked #12, but Compu-Picks doesn't even have them close. A very weak schedule (75th by Compu-Picks calculations), a 20-pt home loss to Clemson, way too close wins against ECU, Miami, BC and now Duke... really, the question isn't why does Compu-Picks have them so low, it's why anyone could possibly put them in a top 15, much less #12.

When people think about Houston's undefeated record and gaudy stats, they forget just how awful the schedule has been, rated 92nd. And honestly, they really haven't even been THAT dominant against it, or at least not consistently dominant. Yes, they've got a few games where they've blown opponents out, but against that schedule, a top 15 team should have done it every week (with maybe one slipup where they're close), not only about half the time, with very close wins against UCLA (4 points), Louisiana Tech (1 point) and UTEP (7 points). So basically they barely hold off three mediocre to poor teams, and then blow out a bunch of poor to awful teams. You know what? That's not a top 15 resume. Sorry, but it isn't. Likely they'll blow out terrible UAB and Tulane teams, but when they end the year against SMU and Tulsa, it seems pretty likely that they'll either barely win or lose, just like has happened the last three times they played teams who weren't horrible (and that may be generous to UTEP).

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

@ Wisconsin 48, Nebraska 17 @ Michigan St 37, Wisconsin 31 @ Nebraska 24, Michigan St 3

Kansas St 41, @ Texas Tech 34 Texas Tech 41, @ Oklahoma 38 Oklahoma 58, @ Kansas St 17

@ 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 and Oklahoma's losses were close and their wins blowouts, 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.

2011 Compu-Picks Blog

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