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2018 Week One - CFB Analytics vs. AP Poll

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NavyBuckeye91's picture
September 6, 2018 at 2:19pm

Week 1 is in the books, and oh what a week it was.  It’s not often that we get to see three AP Top 25 clashes the first weekend of the season, and they didn’t disappoint.  We didn’t necessarily learn a whole lot about the preseason Top 10; but last weekend’s games did prove that preseason rankings, no matter how they’re generated, are subject to glaring errors. (Looking at you Texas, Miami and FSU.)  We have a complete set of F/+ ratings this week, along with S&P+ and FEI, to compare to the granddaddy of college football polls.

Week 1 F/+ Top 40

To keep things manageable, I’m limiting us to the F/+ Top 40, which conveniently contains the entire AP Top 25.

Week 1 Observations

Top 10:  Other than some minor jostling, this group was relatively stable last weekend. However, a couple of teams jump out when you compare F/+ to the AP Poll. Analytics favor Mississippi State significantly more than the sportswriters do (F/+ #8 vs AP # 18). Conversely, the media’s favorite Big Ten team, Wisconsin (AP #4), barely breaks into the F/+ Top 10.  Conspicuously absent from the F/+ (and AP) Top 10 this week is Penn State, which fell four and three spots in the respective rankings.  Thank you Appalachian State, again.

Overrated:  Last week I called out the AP Pollsters for ranking teams at least five or more places above their S&P+ ratings: Stanford (+7), TCU (+6), Texas (+7), Florida (+13), Va Tech (+14), Iowa State (+9), Boston College (+7) and West Virginia (+31).  This week, with the addition of the Power Five-friendly FEI ratings, some of these teams have closed the gap between their F/+ rating and the AP Poll.  Specifically, Stanford, TCU, Florida, and BC now have F/+ ratings within one or two places of their AP rankings.

WVU is still the most overrated team in the AP Poll, according to analytics. The ‘Neers are up 11 places to #36 in F/+ but are sitting at #14 in the AP Poll. Big XII conference play should iron that out. Of course, Bo Pelini could wreck WVU’s season this week.

Va Tech jumped eight places to #12 in the AP Poll after beating “#19 ranked” FSU (which concurrently fell 15 places in the same poll). This is where analytics tend to even things out. Va Tech and FSU are only separated by 3% in F/+ at #25 and #25.

South Carolina holds third place spot in the overrated category after falling two places in F/+ to #33, but climbing three spots in the AP Poll to #24. Apparently the voters know something about Coastal Carolina that the rest of the football world doesn’t.

Underrated:   Last week I pointed out seven SEC teams which were underrated in the AP Poll as compared to preseason S&P+. With one week of games played and the addition of FEI, lets look in on some of them this week.

S&P+ had LSU 10 places higher than the AP Poll last week. As it turns out Connelly was right; LSU jumped 14 places in this week’s AP rankings, because they beat “#8 ranked” Miami (who fell 14 places to #22). The Tigers now sit within one place of their composite F/+ rating. Miami has fallen to reality, and is now only four places higher in the polls than their F/+ says they should be.

Miss State moved up six places in F/+ breaking into the Top 10. The AP voters still have the Bulldogs all the way down at #18.  Depending on the outcome of this week’s match-up with K State, that ranking may change for Miss State.

Texas A&M was ten places higher in analytics last week. With their win on Saturday the Aggies climbed four places in the AP Poll.  They are now only seven places higher in the F/+ ratings.

Ole Miss received zero preseason votes in the AP Poll.  They got enough votes this week to appear at #32, which is exactly were F/+ has the Rebels. They play FCS southern Illinois this week, so I expect the AP poll to rank them the Top 25 on Monday for sure.

This week’s most underrated teams in the AP Poll include Iowa, TTUN, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.  The Hawkeyes get no respect from the voters at #39.  F/+ shows Iowa significantly higher at #23.  TTUN fell seven places in the human polls to #21, but their F/+ rating has them six places higher at #15. Of note, that is right behind Michigan State. Oklahoma State received enough AP votes to clock in at #27, but F/+ has them eight places higher at #19. Similarly, aTm is just barely receiving votes at #29, while F/+ puts the Aggies at #22. These are teams to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

Way Too Early CFP Prediction

If I had to pick today, I would guess ‘Bama, Clemson, OSU and Oklahoma. The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Based on their remaining schedule alone, Notre Dame is this year’s wild card.  Sorry, not sorry Pac 12.

AP “Top 25” Match-ups

Last week I picked the Huskies (they should’ve won that damn game), ND and FSU.  All three were good games. One for two based on preseason ratings isn’t awful.  If this were MLB, I’d be in the Hall of Fame batting .333.  OBTW, how about the final score of that Northwestern-Purdue game?

This week there are only two AP Top 25 matchups. I threw in a couple bonus picks that might have postseason implications.

#3 Georgia vs. #24 South Carolina – The AP Poll makes this look like a game. It’s not.  The Vegas line is UGA -10, but the Dawgs should be a two-TD favorite according to S&P+ in this early-season SEC East game.

#10 Stanford vs. #17 USC – Another September conference match-up with CFP implications. F/+ has the teams slightly more separated than the AP Poll.  The game is in Palo Alto, and Vegas favors Stanford to the tune of 6 points. That’s dead on with S&P+.  I’ll take the Cardinal by a FG.

#2 Clemson @ Texas A&M – Remember when I said aTm was underrated in the polls? This should be a closer game than the rankings would indicate. Vegas has the line at Clemson -12, and S&P+ shows the spread at 13.5. Since the game is in College Station, I’d give the 12th man an extra TD. Clemson by 6.

#13 Penn State @ Pitt – Pat Narduzzi’s defense is bound to be stiffer than App State’s was last weekend. Pitt may be the 49th team in F/+, but App State was #64 prior to their OT loss at State College. This is a great intrastate rivalry, and should be a slug fest.  Penn State is only an 8.5-point favorite according to the odds makers. S&P+ has it closer to 11 points in favor of the Nittany Lions.  I think PSU wins by a TD, after falling behind to the Panthers.

#15 MSU @ Arizona State – This is the biggest trap game of the season for MSU. ASU is the unloved and forgotten team of the Pac 12. Vegas only favors MSU by 8 points.  F/+ has the teams separated by 12 percentage points and only 16 places.  S&P+ has MSU and ASU only separated by 0.3 points and ranked #27 and #29 respectively.  The game is in Tempe and won’t be played until 10:45 EDT. Good thing, too, because the forecast is calling for daytime temps in the 100’s. I’m calling for the upset in this one. ASU straight up.

Week 0

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