The Sports Cruncher's College Football Top 25
Or, a Look at the AP Top 25 -- Who Deserves to be in There, and Who Doesn't, After Eight Weeks of College Football
The Sports Cruncher rankings are based on one thing -- lining up each team in my spreadsheet against all other teams and seeing how many games they'd win. If there are ties the tie-breaker is total margin of victory (or smallest deficit) versus all other teams. It's what my spreadsheet is made to do, line up teams and create a point spread and total, so this is the first week I've decided to just do my power rankings this way, too. I'm totally comfortable with most of the results, though there is one huge surprise in my top 10, and possibly two.
AP #1 Ohio State
Top 20 yes, #1 -- not yet, though they are gaining ground. We all know the Buckeyes seemed pretty bored with the schedule from weeks 3-6. That was a full month of blah Buckeye football where they let inferior opponent's hang around. In week 7 round about the fourth quarter they finally shook off their doldrums. Penn State was driving, in the round zone, looking to score and make it a one score game. Didn't happen for Penn State. What happened for Ohio State in that fourth quarter is that coach Meyer finally realized Cardale Jones should not be the starting QB. JT Barrett got into the game "not just in the red zone" and the Buckeye offense is now showing better signs of life. They hung a couple more score on Penn State in the 4th quarter and were rolling to a 49-0 shut out of Rutgers until the Scarlet Noughts managed a touchdown in the final minute of their Knight.
The Sports Cruncher's Ohio State ranking -- #14. Reasons for my ranking lower - too many statistically average games passing the ball with Cardale Jones on the resume. Barely above average run defense.
AP #2 Baylor
No real arguments here -- but Baylor's position in the polls can be dependent on if you are using strength of schedule or not. I am not using it at all (other than the fact that I use compensated stats in my projections, so how well a team performs versus the opponents' usual averages completely matters), so I rank Baylor #1. But now Baylor has lost their starting QB Russell for the year. With a medium ding to their passing projections and a small ding to their running projections, I'd still rank Baylor #2.
The Sport's Cruncher's Baylor ranking -- #1
AP #3 Clemson
Clemson did what small aircraft pulling banners could not -- they got Al Golden fired. They knocked out Miami QB Kaaya in the first half, and as you could see from how the 'Canes played afterward, he is their whole entire goddam offense. Clemson's defensive numbers do benefit a bit for having played against Miami's backup QB, while Miami's previous opponents did not. Still, I rank Clemson's rush defense and pass defense both at #1, which is hugely impressive after only returning four defensive starters and the expectation that there'd be some defensive regression. They've done it against an above average bunch of offenses, too (with the notable exception of Boston College).
The Sport's Cruncher's Clemson ranking -- #2
AP #4 LSU
Nothing to look at here, but LSU has their hardest games are in front of them. LSU has the lowest ranked pass offense in my top 10.
The Sport's Cruncher's LSU ranking -- #3.
Not surprisingly three of the top five easiest schedules in my top 25 are for Big12 teams, as they haven't had particularly tough out of conference schedules while getting the conference patsies out of the way early. TCU hasn't played anybody in my top 25, and they have a dead average defense. Winning with offense, TCU is.
The Sport's Cruncher's TCU ranking -- 6.
#6 Michigan State
Well, I'm about to find out if Michigan State fans are as patently in denial about the real strength of their team as Utah fans were a month ago when I didn't have the Utes in my top 25...I do not have Michigan State in my top 25.I know, you beat Michigan, you even deserved to win that game in a non-horrifically-for-Wolverine-fans fashion. You held Michigan to 230 yards of offense, outgaining them by 156 yards. You had one of your best games against the best opponent you've played this year. But it is still just. One. Game. Having a fourth quarter lead of one score or less against Oregon, Central Michigan, Purdue, Rutgers and Indiana (with all of those games at home except for Rutgers) does not make you a top ten team. By my stats it doesn't even make you a top 25 team. Sorry, it's not personal.
The Sport's Cruncher's Michigan State ranking -- #34. Reasons -- Too many mediocre games against too many G5 and conference weakling schools so far. Your running game has been well below average. Sure, you've had some injuries up front, but you don't get ranked on "if only"s. Your run defense has been good, your pass defense has been average. Just because you performed above your averages in one game doesn't entitle you to a ranking.
Alabama narrowly avoided a second home loss this past weekend versus Tennessee. Tennessee is good, much better than their record with the brutal schedule they've faced so far. Ole Miss played pretty well in upsetting Alabama but was still lucky to do so. Alabama's pass offense is ranked second lowest of my top ten teams, and that's really been their only "deficiency" so far (as they've still been above average with freshman Coker).
The Sport's Cruncher's Alabama ranking -- #10. Reasons -- No real weaknesses but still not a passing game you'd look forward to relying on bailing you out multiple weeks in a row.
Who knows where Stanford would be ranked if their season had only started three hours later than it actually did? I've been saying that my statistics showed the PAC 12 to be over-rated since before the season began, and I nor the numbers have seen much to change that opinion. Stanford's offense is very good this year, much better than their defense. First time you can say that in I don't know how long.
The Sport's Cruncher's Stanford ranking -- #13. Reasons -- Pretty good, but not great, against the run, pretty average pass defense.
AP #9 Notre Dame
Notre Dame has had the depth to overcome multiple key injuries this year, including the loss of their starting QB Zaire and RB Folston early on. The Fighting Irish' only loss was at Clemson, where their fourth quarter comeback bid came up a 2 point conversion short. With Notre Dame it's all about the offense. Zaire started the season on a torrid pace, and the passing game took a bit of a hit when he went down. Backup Kizer is really filling in nicely now, though, putting up great numbers against better pass defenses than Zaire saw in his two games played. I can't overstate how good Notre Dame's offense -- in fact I now rank them #1 ahead of Baylor. Defensively they are no slouches either. They've been fantastic against the pass, but are somewhat vulnerable against the run, though they're still above average. Temple doesn't have the running game to take advantage of that this week -- don't hold your breath for an Owl upset of the Irish in a couple of days.
The Sport's Cruncher's Notre Dame ranking -- #7
AP #10 Iowa
The Hawkeyes are solid this year. The lowest ranked of their four units is their pass defense at 34th. If you could choose one category to be weakest at, that would be the one to pick. Iowa has been lucky and good at winning games this year. They really had no business winning at Wisconsin, as the Badgers blew it on multiple red zone trips, but hey. They're improving as the season goes along, too. Last time out they put an unbelievable 40-10 whooping on Northwestern in NW's own house. It was not a jenky win, either, they dominated in every possible way. Yeah, they covered the -2 for me. Good one, Hawkeyes.
The Sport's Cruncher's Iowa ranking -- #11
AP #11 Florida
Look, Florida is not a good running team this year, they've lost their buttered bread. Against New Mexico State and East Carolina in the first two weeks they averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Since then, against mostly better run defenses (mostly better than ECU's that is -- NMSU's is the absolute worst) they've only averaged 2.9 yards per carry. The SEC can play some run defense, boys and girls. Fortunately for the Gators, they have a much improved passing game this season, and it didn't miss a beat when Harris filled in for the suspended Grier against LSU. Harris had the highest ypp average that LSU has surrendered this year. The Gators still have a good defense, but Damn it, they just missed out on my top 25.
The Sport's Cruncher's Florida ranking -- #26 Bubble Boys
AP #12 Oklahoma State
Timing has been everything for the Cowpokes success this year. They caught Texas in still-floundering mode, and still needed some poor officiating and a botched Texas punt to win the game. They caught West Virginia when they'd just lost one of the top defensive players in the country. It might have actually happened early in this game, I can't remember. OKST won in OT. The magic is gone in Kansas State, yet it still took OKST getting the magic of a phantom first down to extend a late first half drive that resulted in a touchdown, in a game they ultimately won by 2 points. Central Michigan played them tough in the opener, and OKST crushed weaklings San Antonio and Kansas. So they had very good luck to beat three unranked teams, and that's the strength of their resume. Good enough for 12th? Hell no. Good enough to not be in the top 25, by my numbers. This week they're favored by just 3 at unranked Texas Tech. Yeah, that pretty much tells you what the betting market thinks of "#12" Oklahoma State.
The Sport's Cruncher's Oklahoma State ranking -- #27
AP #13 Utah
Utah didn't have a bad game statistically against USC in their first loss of the season, actually. It was those 4 darn interceptions by Travesty Wilson that did them in. Look, Utah never deserved to be in the top 10. The fact that they make my top 20 after a top 50 round robin is still pretty good for the Utes.
The Sport's Cruncher's Utah ranking -- #18. Reasons -- Pedestrian passing game (68th), good but not great pass defense (48th)
AP #14 Oklahoma
One can only guess how high Oklahoma would be ranked right now if it for that inexcusable loss at Texas. Oklahoma had a good thing going with their running game last year, but the new OC and Air Raid offense has bedeviled the Sooner run game. It was pretty bad against anyone not named Tulsa in the first month, and then hit its' lowest point in the Texas game, which coincided with a really bad tackling day that ended up being Oklahoma's worst game of run defense for the year. Worst + worst = losing as a double digit favorite. So they don't run it particularly well (53rd, but improving?), and they are just barely top 25 material at defending the run (25th), so how do I end up ranking them 4th? When the ball goes in the air, there is no better when combining pass offense (5th) and pass defense (2nd) in FBS. Notre Dame (6th and 3rd) is the only team that comes close. In 7 FBS games they've only given up more than 5.6 yards per pass play to one team, Tulsa, who had a great day averaging 8.4 ypp. Tulsa passes the ball well, very well. Last week Oklahoma held a potent Texas Tech passing game to 5.6 ypp.
QB Baker Mayfield has been fantastic barring the week #2 game at Tennessee. Even in the loss to Texas, his only other below average game of the season, he still threw for 7.5 ypp. In his other fives games he's averaged a whopping 11.2 ypp. With Baylor's Seth Russell out this Big 12 November race will be a close one.
The Sport's Cruncher's Oklahoma ranking -- #4
AP #15 Michigan
Phenomenal defense (3rd) and mediocre offense (55th), especially the passing game. Their run game has struggled against the two good rush defenses they've faced, while their passing game is prone to struggle against anybody. At the very least the Wolverines had their best statistical game passing the ball against the best pass defense they've faced this year against Northwestern. Sure, they gave up an unusual 80 yard TD pass and punt 6 in the loss to Michigan State, but if the offense had done better than 1.9 yards per carry it probably wouldn't have mattered, which is the point -- their offense cost them any shot at being a playoff team (barring FBS wide insanity down the stretch).
The Sport's Cruncher's Michigan ranking -- #12
AP #16 Memphis
Memphis is a great passing team, yes, but Memphis hasn't run for a greater ypc average than a team normally allows even once this season. They do not have a good running attack. On the plus side their run defense is really starting to pick it up. They got off to a bad start against Kansas and Bowling Green but have been really tough since then. Shutting down Ole Miss' run game like they did was really impressive. Their pass defense, though -- not so good. The only team they've held to less than their usual ypp average is Kansas. You do recall that Cincinnati freshman QB Hayden Moore set the Cincinnati single game passing record in only three quarters of play. In defense of Memphis' lack of pass defense, they have played a pretty tough schedule of pass offenses (outside of Kansas, of course), but still my 10th hardest rated pass defense schedule over all.
So they're top 5 in passing, improving to above average at defending the run (48th), while being bottom 40 at rushing and bottom 30 at defending the pass. Does that sound like a Top 25 team? I don't think so. Their perfect record is over-inflating their poll status.
The Sport's Cruncher's Memphis ranking -- #31
AP #17 Florida State
Florida State is a pretty good team that doesn't excel at any one thing. They're best at running the football with Dalvin Cook (26th), but surprisingly average passing the ball (52nd). They're pretty good at defending the run (29th), and just a little above average at defending the pass (50th). Basically, they were primed for a somewhat flat game to give them a loss in a game they were favored this year, and now it's happened.
The Sport's Cruncher's Florida State ranking -- #24
AP #18 Houston
Houston made an early splash on everyone's radar by winning as a double digit dog at Louisville in week #2. Since then they've had one of the easiest schedules in all of the FBS, having played Texas State, Tulsa, SMU, Tulane and UCF in their last 5. Yeah, that's a whole lot of suck. Houston, has, however, beaten those teams in a statistically convincing enough fashion to make it into my top 20. I like them to beat Vanderbilt handily at home this week, but can't escape the feeling that against any team with a top 40 pulse they just might be exposed.
The Sport's Cruncher's Houston ranking -- #21
AP #19 Ole Miss
Yes, the Rebels have two embarrassing losses on their resume, but they weren't statistically dominated in those two games. They only had a handful less yards than Florida and Memphis. They had a 4-0 turnover margin at Florida, 2-1 at Memphis. They struggled on 3rd Downs, and failed twice on 4th Down against Memphis. The only main category where they're mediocre, run offense, was at its' worst in those two games. Add up all of those little ingredients of failure and you've got yourself a Loss Cake, which they sadly ate twice. Make no mistake, this is still a good football team, with a solid passing game (11th), run defense (19th) and pass defense (12th).
The Sport's Cruncher's Ole Miss ranking -- #9. Reason -- It took mini perfect storms of things not going their way plus one notable weakness for Ole Miss to lose two games.
AP #20 Toledo
Bingo! We have a match! Success!
I don't know that I've ever seen a second half comeback like Toledo had against UMass last week. They just need to come back from an 18 point deficit, they needed to cover (for me) -9.5 points to cover the spread, and -14 and -14.5 for anyone who bet them later in the week. No problem for a school that has had issues with point shaving in the past, lol.
Toledo is another team that got into my rankings despite not being great at any one thing. They run the ball okay (42nd), are a little below average at passing it (79th), and have been better on defense this year than offense (37th vs. 51st). Not bad for a MAC team, but let's see how they fare against the gauntlet of NIU, CMU, BGSU and WMU coming up.
The Sport's Cruncher's Toledo ranking -- #20
AP #21 Temple
First of all, any team who got out-yarded by Charlotte in a game should be disqualified from the top 25 automatically, lol. The thing about Temple is that they consistently find ways to win, call it luck or whatever -- they've been doing it since last season. Outgained by Charlotte? No problem, 37-3 win. Outgained by Cincinnati by 260 yards? Yards are for chumps, 34-26 win.
Here is how Temple beat UMass: " The Minutemen appeared headed to a win after Blake Frohnapfel threw a 16-yard score to Jamal Wilson to give UMass a 23-20 lead with 1:20 remaining in the game.
But the point-after attempt was blocked, and the Owls' Will Hayes returned the ball for a defensive point after cutting the lead to 23-22.
Temple quarterback P.J. Walker then led a 10-play, 50-yard drive in 1:03 which led to Jones' field goal."
Temple has been on an incredible streak of winning lucky. They beat Penn State pretty thoroughly, but PSU was controlling the game until their stud starting LB went down with an injury. Suddenly Temple was able to move the ball and score.
Temple trailed most of the game but then had a good 4th quarter against East Carolina and got the win (outgained by 56 yards, not surprisingly).
Temple is not good at running the ball (91st), are below average at passing the ball (73rd), are pretty good at defending the run (32nd), and are best at defending the pass (14th).
The Sport's Cruncher's Temple ranking -- #41. Reason -- Being top 25 only in the least important of the four main statistical categories does not make you a top 25 team. Sorry.
AP #22 Duke
Duke has slowly turned from a consistently over-achieving team into...a still over-rated team that I've actually wagered on and won with for the first team in ages, lol. My projections liked Duke to win at Virginia Tech last week, and by golly, a full game and four overtimes later they did just that. I love Duke to crush Miami this week, and have already picked up 3 points of line value on the original investment. Go Blue Devils! Unfortunately, backing Duke these two weeks has been based more on the fall from grace of their two opponent's, Virginia Tech and Miami, than on Duke's overall strengths as a team.
Duke does have strengths -- defensively. They're strong against both the run and pass, good enough to be my 18th best defense. Offensively they're still above average running the ball (51st), but are bottom 30 passing the ball (104th). Tell me who in the top 30 you think Duke would beat on a neutral field? Yeah, I didn't think so.
The Sport's Cruncher's Alabama ranking -- #34. Reason -- If you're going to have a bottom 30 pass offense, you better have a top 10 rush offense to be ranked. Duke doesn't.
AP #23 Pitt
Pitt is the most over-rated team in the AP top 25 this week, and it's not even close. They are completely average on offense and on run defense. They are 9th best against the pass. As I've mentioned before, that's the least important of the 4 main statistical categories.
They had impressive win against hapless Akron and Virginia Tech, beat Georgia Tech and Syracuse only because of turnover luck, and played their best game of the season in the loss at Iowa, though they were still outgained by 80 yards there.
North Carolina will beat them handily tonight and take their place in the poll next week. Next.
The Sport's Cruncher's Pitt ranking -- Not on the radar.
AP #24 UCLA
Let's peruse the Bruins' resume here. A home win against Virginia, a one point home win against BYU, a 15 point home loss to Arizona State, and a 16 point home win against Cal. So...one impressive home win -- check. A road win against UNLV's back up QB, a 26 point win at Arizona, and a 21 point loss at Stanford. So...one impressive road win.
Which equals two impressive wins out of 7 games.
QB Josh Rosen and the UCLA passing game has been super average so far, honestly (64th). Their running game is good (26th). Their running defense, not so hot (85th), while their pass defense has been very good (4th).
The Sport's Cruncher's Alabama ranking -- 30th. Reason -- Just another team who only excels at pass defense that doesn't deserve to be in the top 25.
AP #25 Mississippi State
Mississippi State is playing above expectations this year, though I didn't think they'd drop off that far being a decently recruiting SEC school returning the probably best QB in the SEC. I bet them Over 7 wins on the season (-130), and they need one more to get the push at worst. That win had better come next week at Missouri, because MSST finishes with games versus Alabama, @ Arkansas and Ole Miss. Yikes.
Defense wasn't supposed to be a strength for the Bulldogs this year, but so far it has been. I rank them 33rd against the run, and 20th against the pass, good enough to be the 23rd best defense over all. They've done it against a pretty good schedule of offenses, too.
Their offense is improving as the season goes along -- they've had their three best games of pass offense in their last three games (facing weaker pass defenses over that span, but still...).
If the offense continues the upward trend and the defense continues it's steady play it wouldn't at all surprise me for MSST to also get a win at Arkansas or against Alabama or Ole Miss at home.
The Sport's Cruncher's Mississippi State ranking -- #15. Reasons -- Solid defense, improving offense.
So who would I put in the top 25 that isn't put there by the Associated Press? Brace yourselves...lol.
Appalachian State -- 5th.
What in the holy ****. I really don't believe it myself. I lined them up and played them against every other team in the top 45 and I'll be damned if they didn't project beating almost all of them.
App St. started off the FBS season with a butt-kicking at Clemson. In all actuality the butt-kicking occurred in only one quarter, the 2nd. In the other 3 quarters of play Clemson only outscored App St. 13-10, while outgaining them by about 100 yards. That's just a tough, tough game to be your FBS opener, on the road, no less. Still, they are the only team to have held Clemson to less than their usual ypc average in a game, while having the highest ypc average that Clemson has allowed this year. That's the good take away. The bad is that QB Lamb was slaughtered like a sheep by the Tigers, while their pass defense didn't fare much better.
So App St. has had two bad games passing the ball (the other being in a downpour against Wyoming.) Other than that their offense has been lights out good, even if it has been versus an average schedule of defenses.
Defensively that had one let down game of run defense versus UL-Monroe, of all teams, but have been pretty good other than that. They've only played a couple of teams with competent passing games, and they didn't fare well in either of those two games (Clemson and Wyoming in the rain).
Until last week you could absolutely say that they didn't have any wins versus any quality teams. And then they completely dominated Georgia Southern, a quality team.
Anyway, like I said, I don't really believe myself that they'd beat all of the other teams in the top 25 I'm ranking them above, but the truth is we'll never find out until they possibly face one of them in a Bowl game.
I use opponent-compensated stats and to quite frank I do it rather well -- I have the highest ATS winning % of any handicapper in college football at thepredictiontracker.com this year. #1 out of 50+ models, so yeah, there's that.
Appalachian State might very well be much, MUCH better than they are currently being given credit for.
North Carolina -- 8th
North Carolina has a fantastic balanced offense and pass defense. Top 25 on those 3 units and they're still not ranked? Ridiculous and stupid. As I've been saying all week, they knock Pitt out of the polls this week and take their spot. God I'm going to look like a jack ass if Pitt somehow beats North Carolina convincingly tonight, lol.
Bowling Green -- 17th
Okay, Bowling Green is really only great at throwing the ball, but they're not bad at the other two most important categories, run offense and defense. Average there? Yes. Pass defense? Not so good. Still, they have a recipe good enough to beat a lot of freaking teams out there, including Memphis, if they were to play them again.
Call me crazy, but 24, 49, and 48 point victories in the past three weeks, even against average to below average MAC teams, is impressive.
Tennessee -- 19th
In your heart of hearts you know Tennessee can beat several of these teams in the top 25. Hell, they almost did.
Georgia -- 22nd
Georgia laid an egg in the rain versus Alabama. They Chubbed out and lost a close one at Tennessee. That's it, those are their two losses, versus (imo) two top 25 teams. They're not highly consistent passing or defending the pass, but still good in the running match ups to deserve the spot.
Georgia Tech -- 23rd
Their offense had some struggles, culminating in a swampy game at Clemson, but they've rebounded nicely, in spite of the home loss to Pitt. Yes, they have 5 losses, but my poll doesn't care one iota about wins or losses. They have enough offense and just enough defense to beat teams in the 20-40th ball park, as they demonstrated last week.
Louisville -- 25th
They beat out Florida for this spot based on a tiebreaker. Again, Louisville incurred many early losses while riding the QB carousel. Their running game has struggled against the extremely tough slate of ACC defenses they've faced so far, but on the flip side they are becoming brutally hard to run against. Ask Boston College about that. Their passing game has been excellent in their last two game against two good defenses, and their pass defense has held opponents to less than their usual ypp average in 5 of 6 FBS games.