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Compu-Picks 2011 Analysis: Week 12_1

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Nov 22, 2011


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

As of the end of Saturday night's games, these are the top 25 and bottom 15. 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 Vegas Rank Team League Score Schedule Rank * Result Rank
1 1 1 Louisiana State SEC 0.93 8 2
2 2 2 Alabama SEC 0.91 12 1
3 4 3.5 Oklahoma State Big 12 0.79 7 7
4 9 3.5 Oklahoma Big 12 0.79 4 8
5 10 5 Oregon Pac-12 0.77 5 9
6 7 6 Stanford Pac-12 0.71 26 6
7 6 7 Boise State Mountain West 0.67 34 5
8 16 8 Wisconsin Big Ten 0.57 64 4
9 15 18 Michigan Big Ten 0.51 43 10
10 10* 11 Southern California Pac-12 0.50 17 20
11 11 19.5 Kansas State Big 12 0.50 1 37
12 3 9.5 Arkansas SEC 0.46 45 11
13 8 12.5 Houston C-USA 0.45 96 3
14 NR 14.5 Texas A&M Big 12 0.43 18 23
15 13 9.5 Georgia SEC 0.41 42 13
16 25 23.5 Texas Big 12 0.38 13 32
17 NR 21 Missouri Big 12 0.38 2 50
18 12 23.5 South Carolina SEC 0.36 40 22
19 NR 22 Florida State ACC 0.36 50 15
20 20 12.5 Texas Christian Mountain West 0.35 73 12
21 22 16.5 Notre Dame Indep 0.35 36 25
22 14 16.5 Michigan State Big Ten 0.35 52 14
23 17 19.5 Clemson ACC 0.33 39 24
24 5 14.5 Virginia Tech ACC 0.33 58 18
25 21 25 Nebraska Big Ten 0.33 24 34
106 Army Indep -0.45 84 105
107 Troy State Sun Belt -0.48 115 93
108 Idaho WAC -0.49 92 107
109 Indiana Big Ten -0.50 57 116
110 Colorado State Mountain West -0.54 111 103
111 Central Michigan MAC -0.55 101 106
112 Buffalo MAC -0.55 109 104
113 Nevada-Las Vegas Mountain West -0.56 78 113
114 Alabama-Birmingham C-USA -0.58 102 108
115 Middle Tennessee State Sun Belt -0.59 118 101
116 Tulane C-USA -0.76 117 115
117 Memphis C-USA -0.82 120 114
118 Florida Atlantic Sun Belt -0.83 97 119
119 New Mexico Mountain West -0.86 110 118
120 Akron MAC -0.90 113 120

League Ratings

League Rating OOC Schedule Rating Home/Away/Neutral Splits OOC vs Top 10 OOC vs 11-20 OOC vs 21-40 OOC vs 41-60 OOC vs 61-80 OOC vs 81-100 OOC vs Bottom 20
Big 12 0.34 -0.02 15 / 8 / 1 0 - 0 2 - 1 3 - 2 4 - 0 4 - 0 6 - 0 2 - 0
SEC 0.25 -0.19 22 / 6 / 4 1 - 1 1 - 0 4 - 2 0 - 1 2 - 1 6 - 0 13 - 0
Pac-12 0.20 0.09 11 / 12 / 2 0 - 3 1 - 2 1 - 1 3 - 3 2 - 1 5 - 1 2 - 0
Big Ten 0.13 -0.14 26 / 10 / 2 0 - 2 0 - 0 3 - 3 4 - 2 6 - 0 6 - 2 8 - 2
ACC 0.08 -0.04 20 / 11 / 0 0 - 2 0 - 1 2 - 5 4 - 2 2 - 1 4 - 1 7 - 0
Big East 0.05 -0.07 19 / 12 / 1 0 - 2 0 - 0 1 - 3 2 - 5 3 - 3 6 - 1 6 - 0
Indep -0.01 -0.04 18 / 20 / 1 0 - 2 0 - 3 1 - 4 1 - 5 5 - 4 5 - 4 5 - 0
Mountain West -0.15 0.00 12 / 17 / 1 0 - 2 1 - 1 1 - 3 3 - 3 3 - 3 3 - 2 3 - 2
WAC -0.19 0.00 12 / 23 / 0 0 - 4 0 - 3 0 - 4 0 - 9 2 - 1 2 - 3 5 - 2
C-USA -0.21 0.06 14 / 25 / 1 0 - 3 1 - 3 2 - 5 2 - 7 4 - 5 1 - 0 4 - 3
MAC -0.25 0.04 12 / 26 / 2 0 - 6 0 - 2 0 - 7 0 - 5 0 - 6 2 - 4 8 - 0
Sun Belt -0.34 0.03 9 / 20 / 1 0 - 3 0 - 4 0 - 6 0 - 3 1 - 5 2 - 1 5 - 0
League Rating Bowl Record OOC vs AQ's OOC vs Non-AQ's OOC vs Big 12 / SEC OOC vs Pac-12 / Big Ten OOC vs ACC / Big East OOC vs MWC / WAC OOC vs CUSA OOC vs MAC / Sun Belt
Big 12 0.34 0 - 0 6 - 3 15 - 0 0 - 1 3 - 1 3 - 1 4 - 0 5 - 0 5 - 0
SEC 0.25 0 - 0 6 - 2 21 - 3 1 - 0 2 - 0 3 - 2 5 - 2 4 - 0 10 - 0
Pac-12 0.20 0 - 0 6 - 7 8 - 4 1 - 3 1 - 4 3 - 0 7 - 2 0 - 1 0 - 0
Big Ten 0.13 0 - 0 7 - 7 20 - 4 0 - 2 4 - 1 2 - 2 4 - 1 1 - 1 14 - 2
ACC 0.08 0 - 0 8 - 9 11 - 3 2 - 2 2 - 2 3 - 3 1 - 0 4 - 2 6 - 1
Big East 0.05 0 - 0 5 - 11 13 - 3 1 - 4 0 - 3 3 - 3 0 - 0 3 - 1 8 - 2
Indep -0.01 0 - 0 7 - 11 10 - 11 1 - 3 3 - 4 3 - 4 5 - 5 3 - 2 2 - 4
Mountain West -0.15 0 - 0 2 - 9 12 - 7 1 - 3 1 - 5 0 - 0 4 - 5 1 - 2 3 - 0
WAC -0.19 0 - 0 3 - 13 6 - 13 1 - 6 2 - 6 0 - 1 5 - 4 0 - 3 0 - 2
C-USA -0.21 0 - 0 5 - 17 9 - 9 0 - 9 2 - 1 3 - 7 5 - 1 0 - 0 2 - 5
MAC -0.25 0 - 0 3 - 26 7 - 4 0 - 7 1 - 10 2 - 9 2 - 2 1 - 0 0 - 2
Sun Belt -0.34 0 - 0 2 - 17 6 - 5 0 - 8 1 - 4 1 - 5 0 - 1 4 - 2 2 - 0

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) Last week, I added in a data field called "Result Rank." This is simply stacking up each team's 1-A game scores, ignoring opponents, HFA, etc. This week I'm adding in a data field called "Vegas Rank." This corresponds to a feature from ESPN's Chad Millman blog, where he polls a few Vegas figures and comes up with a composite Vegas power ranking. Worth noting: the top Compu-picks eight correspond exactly to the Vegas top eight (the two Oklahoma schools are identical to two decimal places, which is basically a tie), and the list of Compu-Picks top 25 teams is the same as the Vegas top 25 (though a few are in substantially different orders). Moreover, the "Vegas Rankings" list's take on who's over- and under-rated by the BCS is fairly similar to Compu-Picks' take. So for those who sometimes think that the Compu-Picks numbers are in some way random or just wacky, keep in mind that there is a very strong correlation to the numbers that Vegas has... and pretty much everyone acknowledges that those guys know what they're doing.

3) As usual, I'm only posting the compu-picks ratings for the very top and bottom teams (top 25 / bottom 15 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.

After the chaos of last weekend, there has been movement in the Compu-Picks numbers, though as usual not nearly as much as the overly fluctuating BCS rankings. There's still the same group of top seven teams, and there's still a decent-sized gap between them and everyone else, though the individual ratings for each team have fluctuated quite a bit in some cases.

4) This week I'm going back to the league ratings. As it was two weeks ago, I think this is fairly self-explanatory, and I don't believe any of the numbers should be particularly controversial. It's worth noting that the SEC's OOC rating will get a meaningful bump after their four games against ACC opponents coming up, and that the league's overall rating could go up or down materially depending on how those games go (the same is true of the ACC, incidentally).

5) New this week is an additional piece of analysis, where I look in more depth at the various non-LSU national title contenders. For those who want the brief summary, here goes: Bama is the best of the lot, but Oklahoma St (provided they win Bedlam) is the "most deserving" by more traditional measurements, with a stronger strength of schedule than the various one-loss contenders (even before Bedlam), and would be the undisputed champion of what is almost unquestionably the best league this year (if the SEC goes 4-0 vs the ACC, it gets iffier, but even 3-1 doesn't change how much better the Big 12 has been top to bottom). So if you care about margin, then Bama is the best of the lot. But if you don't, then Oklahoma St should get the nod. There are various pro and con arguments ("Bama missed UGA and SC" vs "ISU is a much worse loss than LSU"; "we don't want a rematch" vs "Bama's loss was before OK St's" etc.), but I think that (at this point) it really boils down to whether you want the team that has played the best football or the team that has played the toughest schedule. Those questions have different answers, which is what makes the debate interesting.

6) This year I'm tracking the "Compu-Picks Curse" a bit more carefully. Below is the list of the teams that the system thought overrated each week (* means a bye/AA game or a game against someone else the model didn't like). So far teams have been exposed in three of seventeen potential games, a clear reversal from last year's "at least one every week" pace, though 3/17 is a pretty decent pace).

After week 7 (0-2): Oklahoma St, Arkansas - none, though Arkansas came pretty close
After week 8 (1-3): 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.
After week 9 (0-1): Arkansas*, South Carolina*, Virginia Tech*, Houston - none.
After week 10 (0-5): Oklahoma St, Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Houston - none, though Carolina got pushed pretty hard by an unranked, 4-loss (before the game) Florida team.
After week 11 (2-3): Arkansas, Clemson, Virginia Tech, South Carolina*, USM, Baylor, Auburn*. - Clemson got annihilated at NC St, and USM lost to a flat-out atrocious UAB team, though Baylor had a very impressive upset win over Oklahoma.

7) 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. Oregon lost a nail-biter to a very good USC team and plummetted in the polls. Oklahoma did the same to a good Baylor team and similarly plummitted. Both teams are now below Arkansas, Boise, Houston and Virginia Tech, all of which seem like reaches.

8) Ah, Virginia Tech. AWFUL schedule (ranked 58th), home blowout loss, and squeakers against ECU, Miami, Duke and now UNC. And it's not like they annihilated Ark St, Marshall, Wake and BC. This is simply NOT a top ten team, much less a flat-out silly #4. Them being ranked so high is simply insane. There's no other way to describe it. Completely embarrasing. Part two and part three have more detail behind that argument, but honestly I shouldn't need it. This really ought to be inherently obvious. If anyone needed proof that the BCS does NOT care about actual strength of schedule or that it's far better to lose early than late (to the point where it's almost like the early loss never happened), here you go.

9) The following teams are ranked materially higher by the model than the BCS: Oklahoma, Oregon, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas A&M, Missouri.

Oklahoma and Oregon have played elite schedules and generally dominated them. It's that simple. #9 and #10 is just way too low.

Wisconsin was simply punished far too harshly for their two close losses. Wisconsin remains very arguably the best in the Big Ten, and continues to be likely to win out.

Michigan has played a pretty decent schedule and dominated it. While at this point there's a bit of a cluster, Michigan just seems like a cut above a number of teams that the BCS ranked over them.

Texas A&M is one of those teams the model likes because their losses have been very close (except for Oklahoma) and their wins (except for Tech) have been blowouts. While it's way too late to have a chance to play their way back into the Big 12 title race, they're likely to beat Texas (they're currently roughly TD favorites), which would give them an above .500 league record in the best league in the country, along with a dominating win over SMU and a down to the wire loss to an Arkansas team that the BCS loves thoroughly. Doesn't that sound like a top 25 resume to you?

Mizzou is a similar story to A&M, except here it's even more clear-cut. They have a winning record against the #2 schedule strength in the country (though it's worth noting that 1-AA games don't count here and that the upcoming Kansas game will drop the schedule strength). That's a strong achievement, and it's only because the BCS under-weights schedule strength that this team is being so thoroughly under-appreciated.

10) The following teams are ranked materially lower than the model than the BCS: Arkansas, Houston, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Auburn.

Arkansas, Houston, and Virginia Tech are discussed in part two and part three. Though if you want a quick explanation, it's the schedules. None of the schedules are anywhere near elite, and the system factors this in (while pretty clearly the BCS hasn't).

South Carolina has had a middling schedule for the Compu-Picks top 20, and has squeaked by way too often against that slate to be taken seriously. A 16-point loss, 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 either. 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.

So now Houston's a "top ten" team? Really? Come on. That simply doesn't make sense. They've played a total joke schedule (ranked 96th), and the best two teams they've beaten are UCLA (barely) and SMU. Plus they barely held on at Louisiana Tech and UTEP. It should be self-evident that this team is majorly overrated. And to be blunt, next week's game at Tulsa is disturbingly close to a tossup (Vegas has them field goal favorites)... and that shouldn't be the case for a top ten team playing someone unranked.

Georgia Tech has three losses against an absolute middle of the 1-A pack schedule (rated #61 by Compu-Picks). Suffice to say that putting them in the top 25 is a substantial stretch.

Auburn got blown out by Georgia (a good but not great team), got blown out by LSU, got blown out by Arkansas, lost by 14 to Clemson, and for good measure barely beat Utah St back in week one. Counter-acting these warts is... not all that much. A road win at South Carolina is nice, as is the 11-point home win over (5-loss) Florida... but they're a four-loss team with three blowout losses even before Bama comes into town. Even with the #22 rated schedule, a top 25 ranking just seems like a stretch here.

11) 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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