So how ‘bout that Big Ten? Have no fear. The season is young, and there’s plenty of time to make people forget about those early losses. In term of analytics, with only 50% of preseason data affecting the numbers, the best of the Big Ten have managed to keep themselves in the F/+ Top 40, despite some poor showings. And, teams like Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana have quietly gone 3-0 and have climbed into the Top 50 of the latest F/+ ratings and may start seeing some AP love. The PAC 12 and ACC have seen the opposite effect, with several former ‘quality’ teams dropping rapidly in the analytics over the first three weeks. This week I’ll touch on the usual topics, but I’m also taking a trip “Inside the Numbers” to point out a curious anomaly.
Week 3 F/+ Top 40
Week 3 Observations
F/+ Top 10: The Top 10 has really settled down, with minimal movement among the eight teams at the very top. Bama is still the clear #1 with the Buckeyes close on their heels. The separation between OSU, UGA and Clemson is minimal, so I would expect UGA and Clemson to possibly move up next week only because they play Power Five opponents this Saturday and OSU plays Tulane. It will certainly depend on how well they all perform, but I don’t see either team having a problem with Mizzou or Georgia Tech, respectively. The biggest movement this week in the Top 10 comes from Wisconsin losing to BYU and falling to #11, and Oklahoma State getting a huge boost from their annihilation of Boise State at home, climbing to #9. (I did not see that coming, nor did anyone else.)
Overrated: The AP Poll is such a captive of the moment, which is how this whole thing started for me. Two weeks ago, LSU was an afterthought to the voters, and I was calling them “underrated” according to F/P+. That fixed itself after a nice win against Miami. Now that the Tigers “upset” Auburn, the AP voters got nothin’ but love for Jeaux Burreaux and the Bayou Bengals. LSU jumped from #12 to #6 in the AP Poll with their win on the Plains. But, they actually moved down one spot in F/+ to #15. LSU is now a full nine places higher in the AP Poll than F/+. I doubt that changes much this week, unless they lay an egg against Louisiana Tech.
Stanford (+9), Va Tech (+14), and West Virginia (+13) haven’t left the ranks of overrated teams, yet. Oddly, both WVU and Va Tech sat out the hurricane last week without playing. Yet somehow, the AP voters found cause to move the ‘Neers ahead of the Hokies in their poll. Not to be outdone, F/+ mysteriously bumped WVU up five places while it dropped Va Tech one spot. It probably has something to do FSU losing, again.
Joining the ranks of the AP’s overrated teams this week are #20 Oregon (F/+ # 31) and #25 BYU (F/+ #41). BYU faces mighty McNeese this weekend, so I doubt they lose. More on Oregon’s tilt with Stanford later.
Underrated: Last week’s underrated teams in the AP Poll were TTUN, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Miss State, Michigan State, BC and Duke. They all won (even MSU beat the bye), and they all moved up in the AP rankings…except for Michigan, which stayed at #19. Sparty didn’t even play and moved up one spot. LOLOLOLOL. The Aggies, BC and Duke had nice wins last week and closed the gap between their AP rankings and F/+ ratings to five or fewer spots, which is close enough this early in the season.
oSu obviously enjoyed the biggest win and saw a commensurate boost. The Cowboys are much closer in the AP poll at #15 to their F/= rating at #9. They’re still slightly undervalued, with the chance to move up further against Texas Tech this week. Miss State (AP #14, F/+ #7) continues to gain respect in the AP poll and has the chance to make a “statement” facing a 3-0 UK on Saturday. Sparty is the least valued team in the Top 25 (AP #24, F/+ #14) but has the chance to improve their status with voters when they face undefeated Indiana. The Rival faces winless Nebraska, which is starting a walk-on at QB. If TTUN doesn’t win by two TDs, I expect them to drop in the polls and in F/+.
Once again, being captives of the moment, AP voters dropped Boise State ten places and Wisconsin 12 after losses on Saturday. F/+ didn’t see the losses quite as badly as the voters did. BSU (AP #27, F/+ #20) and the Badgers (AP #18, F/+ 11) dropped in slightly in F/+ but now find themselves in the underrated category with respect to the polls. Wisconsin can rectify that with a win at undefeated Iowa (AP #26, F/+ #24). Boise is idle.
Inside the Numbers: We’ve got three weeks of games in the books, so 50 percent of the preseason bias is effectively wiped out, giving a more accurate picture of teams. However, there are some anomalies in the analytic ratings that seem odd.
There are some glaring disparities between FEI and S&P+ regarding several teams. For example, FEI has Auburn #5 (2-1) while S&P+ has the Tigers #14. But they’re reversed when it comes to Miss State (3-0): FEI #13 and S&P+ #5. The teams average out right next to each other in F/+ composite, but why the spread? Another example of this are F/+ #16 Stanford (3-0) and #17 Texas A&M (2-1). Stanford is #10 in FEI but #27 in S&P+. A&M is reversed: FEI #27 and S&P+ #12.
Recognizing that it’s still early, I can accept some disparity. Ten to 20 spots seem a bit much. Looking into each team’s schedule reveals a little more in the two systems’ rationale.
Auburn has one win over an FCS school and a good win over UW, which is ranked highly in both systems. But they also just lost to LSU, which both FEI and S&P+ have ranked below them. Miss State, on the other hand has wins over an FCS school, a Group Five school and Kansas State. But the Bulldogs have won with ruthless efficiency, holding opponents to 10 points or less while scoring 63, 31 and 56 points on offense. S&P+ appears to be more focused on how well you play favoring Miss State, while FEI focuses on who you played favoring Auburn.
With Stanford, they’ve underperformed on offense scoring no more than 31 points in a game, while holding their opponents to ten or less. This has been against mediocre competition though: SDSU, USC and UC-Davis (FCS). Texas A&M, however, has faced an FCS team, Clemson and ULM. In those games, the Aggies scored 59, 26 and 48 points, and held two opponents to 10 or less and gave up 28 to Clemson. Their offensive production and efficiency are high, and they’ve played the second or third best team (Clemson) in both FEI and S&P+. Again we apparently see S&P+ focused more on how well a team plays, but in this case FEI doesn’t seem to care as much about A&M’s quality of opponent as they fact that they lost and don't have a quality win to offset it like Auburn does.
But that still doesn't make much sense to me. This is something I’ve seen consistently with FEI: Brian Fremeau has a tendency to overrate PAC 12 teams as compared to S&P+. This week it’s true for ten teams in the PAC 12 except Oregon, WSU, Colorado and Oregon State. With that in mind, if we go back and look my examples, I believe there’s a PAC 12 bias throughout his ratings. Auburn played and beat a PAC 12 team. Stanford is PAC 12, and they played and beat a PAC 12 team. I can’t say if its intentional or not, but I have my suspicions. I’ll try to keep on it throughout the season and see if my hunch is true.
Way Too Early CFP Prediction
No change this week to my CFP predication: ‘Bama, Clemson, OSU and Oklahoma.
AP “Top 25” Match-ups
I was nowhere close on score predictions last week (the Buckeyes would’ve won by 20 – stupid two-point conversion and being all sportsmanlike at the end), but I was successful in picking three of four winners. That moves my season total to 10-2. Best start to the season, yet. I’m working on a table to include with my weekly picks.
Only two AP Top 25 matchups this week, but there are several games between AP Top 25 teams and unranked teams with single digit lines. I’ll take a shot at those, which I know is a bad idea.
#1 Alabama vs. #22 Texas A&M – I really thought the line might be closer on this one, but Vegas has ‘Bama as a 26-point favorite. And, the O/U is 61, which means Vegas sees a score of 44-17. S&P+ has A&M ranked #12 and predicts a 16-point spread, but FEI has A&M down at #27. For those who may be wondering, Fisher is 0-1 against Saban, and he tops the list of accomplished former assistants who’ve faced their former HC. Saban is a perfect 12-0 versus his former protégés. Long story short, I actually believe that A&M beats the spread, but there’s no question that ‘Bama wins the game. https://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2018/1/2/16839892/national-cha...
#7 Stanford @ #20 Oregon – This is always a strange matchup because of the huge disparity in the way these teams play. As I mentioned before, Stanford has held each of its first three opponents to ten points or less, while scoring no more than 31 offense. The Ducks have scored 58, 62 and 35 points in three games, and have given up no more than 24. The last two times they played, however, Stanford scored 49 and 52 points. Shrug emoji. Vegas says the Cardinal is a 1.5-point favorite, which is exactly what S&P+ says. F/+ has them farther apart, but I believe this is only because of Stanford’s win over USC (who got housed by Texas last week). I’ll take Stanford by a FG. But this could be an opportunity for Stanford to improve its status with voters.
#8 Notre Dame @ Wake Forrest – This is intriguing to me, because Vegas only has ND -7.5. S&P+ has this closer to 13 points, while FEI has the teams separated by 38 teams (FEI has ND at #10 and S&P+ has the Irish at #18). Based on how these teams have played, I lean toward S&P+ in this game. I also think this is a trap game for ND, because David Shaw and Stanford come to South Bend next week. I’m with Vegas, and the Demon Deacons keep this within a TD, but ND prevails.
#23 Boston College @ Purdue – The winless Boilermakers host the undefeated Eagles. Seems like an easy win for BC. Except it’s Ross-Ade Stadium, and we’re familiar with what happens there. And, it’s a Jeff Brohm coached Purdue team, which has lost its first three games by four, one and three points on some crazy plays and penalties. BC is all run, rushing for over 800 yards in three games. Purdue is all pass, accumulating over 900 yards passing over the same stretch. The line is currently BC -6.5, while S&P+ has is closer to 13. I actually like Purdue to pull the upset in this one, straight up. Just a feeling.
#17 TCU @ Texas – Let’s start with the line: TCU -3. This is against a team that lost its second opener in as many years to Maryland (who was destroyed last week by Temple). S&P+ has these two within seven points of each other, and the game is in Austin. I think this is going to be a fun one to watch. Patterson has proven himself to be a better game-planner than Herman so far. I’m taking TCU to win, and to cover the spread.
#18 Wisconsin @ Iowa – This is another 3-point line favoring the visiting Badgers. (In my best Kirk Herbstreit impersonation.) I expect this to be old school, Big Ten, smashmouth football. The over/under is 43.5 points. The Hawkeyes are coming off an easy win over Northern Iowa, but the Badgers come into Kinnick after a heart-breaking loss to BYU at home. I expect Wisconsin to come in angry, with a point to prove to the voters. Iowa’s best opponent to date is Iowa State, and they only won 13-3. S&P+ has the spread closer to eight points in favor of the Badgers. I’m predicting Wisconsin by a TD.
Bonus pick: OSU beats Tulane by 42.