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Compu-Picks 2011 Analysis: Week 15_1

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Dec 26, 2011

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

As of the end of Army-Navy, these are the detailed top 30 (as well as a couple selected others). 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 0.99 2 2
2 2 2 Alabama SEC 0.95 12 1
3 3 3 Oklahoma State Big 12 0.83 3 5
4 5 4 Oregon Pac-12 0.78 5 8
5 4 5 Stanford Pac-12 0.73 25 6
6 14 7 Oklahoma Big 12 0.71 1 11
7 7 8 Boise State Mountain West 0.64 54 3
8 10 6 Wisconsin Big Ten 0.61 47 4
9 5* 9.5 Southern California Pac-12 0.56 26 13
10 13 14.5 Michigan Big Ten 0.51 39 10
11 6 9.5 Arkansas SEC 0.48 24 17
12 8 17.5 Kansas State Big 12 0.48 4 34
13 19 14.5 Houston C-USA 0.45 80 7
14 16 11 Georgia SEC 0.45 18 22
15 9 20 South Carolina SEC 0.44 33 18
16 17 16 Michigan State Big Ten 0.40 38 19
17 NR 24 Texas A&M Big 12 0.39 21 24
18 18 13 Texas Christian Mountain West 0.38 77 9
19 12 22.5 Baylor Big 12 0.38 7 37
20 20 25.5 Nebraska Big Ten 0.36 27 28
21 NR 19 Florida State ACC 0.36 57 14
22 15 22.5 Clemson ACC 0.35 32 26
23 24 25.5 Texas Big 12 0.35 10 41
24 NR 21 Missouri Big 12 0.34 8 44
25 NR 17.5 Notre Dame Indep 0.33 30 33
26 11 12 Virginia Tech ACC 0.29 56 20
27 21 NR Southern Mississippi C-USA 0.27 88 12
28 NR NR Arizona State Pac-12 0.25 23 46
29 NR NR Louisiana Tech WAC 0.23 67 21
30 NR NR California Pac-12 0.23 19 57
31 22 NR Penn State Big Ten 0.22 35 40
35 23 NR West Virginia Big East 0.20 50 36
47 25 NR Auburn SEC 0.12 13 76

Some thoughts on the list:

1) Please note that AA games are NOT counted for these ratings. This includes the schedule rankings. For the post-bowl analysis, 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) 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 six of twenty-four potential games, which is a very solid 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.
After week 12 (2-3): Arkansas, Houston, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Auburn. - Arkansas got smoked at LSU, Georgia Tech lost by 14 to Georgia. I thought about including Auburn, but when you're only ranked #24, you're expected to not be tremendously competitive against the #2 team. Maybe if it'd been a 38+ point rout I'd count it, but a 28-point loss that was actually somewhat competitive for a while feels like a gray area for this list.
After week 13 (1-1): Houston*, Arkansas*, Virginia Tech, Penn St*, Southern Miss*, West Virginia. - VA Tech got thumped (again!) by Clemson, while West Virginia escaped USF with a win. Houston and USM played each other (so Houston's faceplant doesn't make the list), and everyone else was off.

3) The following teams are ranked materially higher by the model than the BCS: Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Houston, Texas A&M.

Oklahoma's schedule is currently rated #1 by Compu-Picks, which the BCS does not seem to factor in at all. Against the schedule they've had to deal with, they have been VERY successful. Them being outside the top ten is silly.

Wisconsin was simply punished far too harshly for their two close losses. They have been consistently dominant, and ought to be rated above a couple of the teams that the BCS has ranked over them.

Houston played terribly against USM, but it's a bit extreme for them to drop TWELVE spots for just that one game. Their schedule has been a joke, but they're still a one-loss team that has had a bunch of dominant wins. As a point of comparison, it's tough to see why they're rated below TCU, a team who has played a similar schedule with one more loss. Yes, they had been overrated before that game, but they suffered a major over-correction for just one single result.

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. They're a good team that had a lot of tough luck against a very quality schedule. They're better than people give them credit for.

4) The following teams are ranked materially lower than the model than the BCS(/AP): USC, Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Baylor, Penn St, Southern Miss, West Virginia, Auburn.

Compu-Picks banged on the "USC is underrated" drums for quite a while this season, but jumping to #5 in the AP poll is a bit too much. They're a very good team, but not top five. They still got crushed at ASU, they still squeaked by Minnesota, they still lost to Stanford, and while their schedule is respectable, it's not incredible. Top ten is fair. Top five isn't.

Compu-Picks has the same issues with Arkansas that it's had all season long. They weren't competitive in their losses to Bama and LSU, they barely won way too often (and barely beating Vandy and Ole Miss is NOT a good thing), and they really haven't played a schedule good enough to justify a near top five position given their ugly losses (even without counting their squeaker wins). And neither do they have a legitimate signature win; beating up South Carolina at home is nice, but most top ten teams have at least one win that's a lot better than that one.

Virginia Tech dropped heavily after their ugly loss to Clemson, but they're still hideously overrated. Utterly mediocre schedule (even after the ACCCG), which seems to have not been factored into their ranking at all. Plus two ugly blowout losses, and nothing close to a signature win (though their blasting of UVA to clinch the Coastal was decent).

Baylor did have a very respectable scheule, but 9-3 isn't a great record for a team ranked 12th, and they got smacked around twice (at A&M, at OK St), and they had a boatload of way too close wins (especially against Kansas). Were they a solid team? Yes. #12? No.

Three losses (including a massive blowout at Wisconsin), not much of a schedule, Penn St seems ranked almost by default.

Southern Miss has played a lousy schedule even after their league championship game against Houston, other than Houston there's not much of any heft to their resume, and most egregiously, they lost to Marshall AND UAB. One by itself is enough to arguably eliminate a team from legitimate top 25 contention, but both? Jeez.

West Virginia has played a much worse schedule than people realize (the LSU OOC game was tough but the other games were nothing special, and the Big East was lousy again this year), and other than "league champion" they really haven't accomplished much. Plus that Syracuse loss was REALLY bad.

A good schedule, but FIVE losses, multiple blowout losses, nothing close to amazing on the plus side, honestly I have no idea why anyone would vote Auburn as a top 25 team. Just silly.

5) 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).

5) Part of the reason so many more teams showed up as "overrated" than "underrated" is because the BCS ignored USC in their rankings this year. Since USC was a very high-level team, that ought to have pushed most teams down one spot from where they ended up.

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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