No real introduction this week. Let's just jump into the ratings and discuss.
Week 4 F/+ Top 40
Week 4 Observations
F/+ Top 10: The Top 10 has become nearly stagnant. No movement at all from #1-6 or #10. Auburn moved up a spot, and Notre Dame and TTUN moved back into the Top 10. The biggest loser this week was Miss State, falling seven places after getting handled by Kentucky. For the SEC conspiracy theorists, Miss State fell nine places in the AP Poll after that loss. (Likewise with Texas A&M, but more on the Aggies later.) More importantly in the Top 10 is the stratification beginning to appear, especially in S&P+. ‘Bama, OSU, UGA and Clemson are within +/-3 points in S&P+ differential. The next closest team in S&P+ is TTUN, which is another two full points below UGA. The Top four may continue to separate themselves over the coming weeks as teams play better competition.
Overrated: This list just won’t stop growing. Every time an undefeated UK knocks off another undefeated team, they get a huge bump in the polls only to fall down to earth the next week. Boston College was last week’s poster child for this (Thanks, Purdue!). This week, Kentucky jumped 14 places in the AP Poll with their big win over Miss State. That boost coincided with a 16-place jump in F/+, so the Wildcats are actually within five spots of their AP ranking putting them on the bubble.
AP Top 25 Teams that are currently too high in the polls include LSU (+7), Stanford (+8), WVU (+6), UCF (+6), Texas (+10), Texas Tech (+10), and Va Tech (+10).
I’m introducing the new category of ‘obscenely overrated’ for the following teams: Oregon (+21), BYU (+21) and Cal (+28). Oregon moved up one spot in the AP Poll despite a loss at home to Stanford. (Take that SEC.) BYU is still riding high on their win over Wisconsin, but they have a date with the other UW this weekend. And Cal…are we seriously believing Cal is a Top 25 team because of a 3-point win over UNC and a TD win over BYU? Never fear, the Oregon Ducks are here to take down Cal. Wait a second…that’s some SEC-level circular logic. At least we know this much, at least one of the three is taking a loss come Saturday. (Sidenote: Colorado is #26 in the AP by votes. They don’t show up in F/+ until #66. The Buffs are in a class by themselves when it comes to be being overrated.)
Underrated: TTUN, Boise State (see what a bye can do) and Wisconsin all rejoined joined the list of teams with an F/+ ranking only five places or less better than their AP ranking, taking them off the list of underrated teams.
The rest of last week’s underrated teams in the AP Poll were Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Miss State, Michigan State, and BC. In an interesting turn of events, all but Michigan State lost, causing them to plummet in the AP Poll. Miss State and A&M fell nine places each, BC dropped completely out of the poll receiving zero votes, and oSu fell a full 15 places with their blowout loss to Texas Tech. Joining these teams are UW, SCar, TCU and NC State, which sit a full ten places in the AP poll than their F/+ ratings indicate.
So here’s the full list: Washington (-6), MSU (-8), Miss State (-9), oSu (-13), A&M (-11) , SCar (-9), NC State (-10), and TCU (-10). All of these teams have the opportunity to move up this week with a win. The two with the toughest tests will be SCar at Kentucky and Miss State hosting UF.
Inside the Numbers: Four weeks of stats helps give a better idea of how teams should perform. Still, with a third of the data still relying on preseason information I expect a few more upsets in the coming weeks.
Some of the disparities between FEI and S&P+ are working themselves out: A&M is only five places different in the two systems now instead of 15. And although there is still some inconsistency with Auburn, Stanford and Miss State, that gap is narrowing. I expect most of the large inequalities to be gone by mid October.
An interesting indicator to start looking at now is how teams are trending. For example, if preseason data had a team ranked low based on returning production and recruiting averages, is that team now over-performing and moving up in the F/+ ratings? There are a couple of very good examples of this in Kentucky and NC State. UK started the season with an F/+ rating of -1.3% putting the Wildcats at #64 in FBS in Week One. Kentucky jumped to #45 in Week Two, #38 in Week Three and #22 this week. That’s a pretty dramatic trend line.
Likewise, after Week One, NC State was the #47 rated team in FBS with an F/+ rating of 13.5%. By Week Two the Wolfpack moved up to #34, slid slightly to #35 in Week Three, and now sits at #25. It’s an impressive upward trend, especially if they can keep performing at that level.
On the other end of the spectrum are Louisville (2-2) and Ole Miss (3-1), who started the season as the #28 and #32 teams in F/+. They’ve dropped in the weekly ratings, with maybe one exception, and now sit at Ole Miss #51 and Louisville #84. That’s going the wrong way, and their schedules are only getting tougher.
Way Too Early CFP Prediction
No change this week to my CFP predication: ‘Bama, Clemson, OSU and Oklahoma.
Week 5 AP “Top 25” Match-ups
Last week I did well with wins and losses: 5-1, including the Purdue upset call. But I was off on my scores for Bama and obviously TCU. The others looked pretty dang good. I’m just glad I didn’t include Oklahoma State and Va Tech in my picks. Woof. Speaking of dogs, I just realized that I've picked a winning underdog every week so far. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
BloomingtonBuckeye asked for a table of previous picks. Here it is. I'll work on the format.
Five AP Top 25 matchups this week, so we’ll just stick with those. My picks are in bold.
#12 West Virginia @ #25 Texas Tech – See aforementioned “overrated” teams. Although both fall into this category, Texas Tech is a full 10 places higher in the AP Poll that their F/+ rating suggests. What’s interesting here is that FEI and S&P+ agree on Texas Tech, but they have a wide gap regarding WVU. I’m guessing that is partly because we’re missing the hurricane game as a data point for the ‘Neers. The line is only -3.5 in favor of WVU. If you like offense, this is the game to watch: the over/under is about 76. S&P+ has WVU as about a 10-point favorite, so I like West Virginia and the over.
#4 OSU @ #9 PSU – We’ll start with Vegas, which has the Buckeyes -3.5 points. S&P+ has it around five points, but you take away at least one for Happy Valley/White Out. I think this is going to be a close one, possibly a late FG or overtime, which I know is not a popular opinion. Just a feeling I have. I’m taking the Buckeyes straight up, but this is a pick ‘em in my book.
#7 Stanford @ #8 Notre Dame – ND is actually the favorite in Vegas by 5.5 points, which is within half a point of S&P+. Traveling east seems to affect Stanford teams (see 2015 Northwestern), but this one won’t start until 7:30 pm eastern. The Irish have changed QBs, so it’s hard to say how that affects the numbers. This will be Book’s first time starting in South Bend and in a big time atmosphere. Both teams have excellent defenses but only slightly above average offenses to date. I don’t know why, but I feel like Stanford has some confidence after their come-from-behind win last week. I think they upset the Irish this weekend.
#11 Washington vs. #20 BYU – Washington is undervalued in the polls, and BYU is overvalued…a lot. Which is probably why the Huskies are a 17.5 point favorite in Vegas. S&P+ has the difference at 21 points. No question in my mind that UW wins this, and I think they’ll cover.
#19 Oregon @ #24 Cal – This is essentially a pick ‘em, with Vegas only favoring the Ducks by 2.5 points. S&P+ says it’s more like six points at a neutral site. The fascinating piece here is that Cal’s defense is the 5th best in S&P+. Looking at their previous competition, I have hard time believing that’s going to continue, especially against Oregon. I’m taking the Ducks to win and cover.