• Paul Compton

The AP Top 25 versus The Sports Cruncher Top 25

The AP Top 25 versus The Sports Cruncher Top 25

Near the midway point of the season, I thought it would be fun to do a top 25 breakdown comparing my rankings to the AP poll. My ratings are based on offense, defense, efficiency, and win percentage. Strength of schedule is covered mostly in the rescored offense and defense numbers, and can skew results, depending on how much weight you give it. For example, by a method I've used that includes strength of schedule in ratings, Rutgers ranks as high as #37, because they've played the toughest schedule in the FBS, where without using SOS, they rank #107. Just a bit of a difference there, and clearly they are closer to 107 than 37, lol. This took long enough to type up that I'm not going to go back and proofread it, so excuse any errors in advance.

AP #1 - Alabama - TSC #2

Alabama is not a top ten team either running or passing the ball -- offensively I rank them 17th. Defensively, they are #1 -- though they only edge out Michigan by 2/10ths of a point for the top spot. I rank Alabama's run defense #1 and their pass defense #9. Michigan is the reverse, with the #1 pass defense and #9 run defense. I actually have Michigan with the slightly tougher schedule played so far, too.

AP #2 - Ohio State - TSC #3

You'll see a pattern here, where the AP top 3 are all bumped down a spot by my #1, Michigan. The Buckeyes are right up there with their defense, ranked 4th, but offensively, in what might be a surprise, they have my lowest ranked unit in the top 10, ranked 24th. And it is 100% because of their passing game, which is actually below average, gaining .7 yards less per pass play than their opponent's usually allow. In run offense they rank 3rd.

AP #3 - Clemson - TSC #4

Clemson's early season offensive struggles have evened out and they're now my 7th ranked offense. Defensively they're ranked 3rd. This is a team with no obvious weaknesses, ranking in the top 15 in both run/pass offense/defense. Their offensive efficiency (turning yards into points) is 3rd worst in the top 10, while their defensive efficiency is near average for the top 10.

AP #4 - Michigan - TSC #1

All hail the leaders of scoring efficiency after 6 weeks of college football. The Wolverines have scored 17 more points per game than the average team would have done with the yards gained. Scoring efficiency isn't only above offensive efficiency (though that's the main thing), it also reflects short fields/scores from turnovers and kick returns. Washington is #2 at 16.4, and Ohio State is #3 at 15.4. Michigan's running game has been very good, ranked 6th, but their passing game is just 37th, 3rd worst in the top ten behind OSU and LSU.

AP #5 - Washington - TSC #5

Our first match! Washington is a solid all around team, but if they one "weakness," it's run offense, where they rank 37th. Their efficiency numbers are outstanding, both top ten. QB Jake Browning really looked like he was going to turn into something special the way he was playing down the stretch last year, and he's really looking the part so far. I guess it's not a huge surprise, as highly touted as he was coming out of high school.

AP #6 - Texas A&M - TSC #18

Here's where things are going to start getting funky. This one is funny, as I ranked TA&M 13th preseason, higher than any poll. I haven't moved them much, while they've shot up the polls thanks to their undefeated season so far. The only thing TA&M has done at a top 10 level so far this year is run the ball -- that's it. Their pass offense is 32nd, their pass defense is 37th, and their run defense is a below average 88th. The Aggies happened to have a really good game of pass defense against Auburn, getting the road win against another ranked team, which for pollsters looks really impressive. TA&M indeed has 5 wins against Power 5 teams so far, including 4 SEC conference foes. That is pretty solid, and probably deserves to have them ranked a little higher than where I currently put them.

AP #7 - Louisville - TSC #6

My top ranked offense, thanks largely to their 2nd ranked run offense. The Cardinals are pretty average against the run, though, which drops their defensive ranking to 30th.

AP #8 - Wisconsin - TSC #11

The Badger's offense is never quite as bad as people imagine, coming in at a respectable 35th. And don't think that it's because of their run game -- their passing game ranks higher at 31st versus 50th. And which you believe that the weakest part of their team so far this year has been pass defense, at 50th? Their run defense is 2nd. You can see why their defense matches up well against Ohio State in this week's game, giving them a better than even chance to cover, though I don't think they'll win.

AP #9 - Tennessee - TSC #20

The Vols are a good team, but they are not great at any one thing. They are also not bad at any one thing. Their schedule gets incredibly easier after this week's loss to Alabama. That's not a typo -- they are not going to win. 2 losses will keep them out of the playoff picture after finishing the season with wins against SCAR, UK, MIZZ and VAN.

AP #10 - Nebraska - TSC #33

Hold your horses -- 10th, AP? Nebraska is a Tennessee light, not bad at any one thing, but even more average at every single thing (okay, with the exception of pass defense where I rank TENN higher). Ranking them this high has everything to do with their undefeated record, and obviously nothing to do with the fact that those wins are against Fresno (close 'til the 4th quarter), Wyoming (close 'til the 4th quarter), Oregon (now exposed as a lousy team, to which Nebraska trailed at home until a late, winning score), Northwestern (Nebraska's only road game so far, and one in which they barely covered the spread), and Illinois (against whom they trailed by 10 points entering the 4th quarter)! Color me extremely unimpressed.

AP #11 - Baylor - TSC #60

Sweet Baby Heysus, is this for real? How can I possibly have Baylor so low? In a "Am I Nuts" shell -- Baylor's pass offense ranks 97th. Now remember, total yards counts for less than half of my rating. Just because you throw it a shit ton and end up with some yards doesn't mean your passing game is that good. Well, they don't even have a ton of yard, averaging less than 300 pass yards per game. They've also averaged 1.5 yards per pass less than their opponent's usually allow, and that has not been a murderer's row of pass defenses. SMU, Rice, OK State and Iowa State. ISU has the only above average pass defense of the bunch, and not by much. Their running game is much better, and finally kicked it into high gear against Iowa State last week. Defensively, they haven't been able to stop anyone's run game, and includes Rice, who ran for 5.6 ypc against them. Rice! The Bears pass defense had actually been pretty solid until Iowa State torched them for 11.3 ypp last week. I mean, geez, they struggled for large chunks of the game against both SMU and Rice, got seemingly ALL the breaks in the way against OK State, and then had to come from behind to beat ISU. That is not the profile of an 11th ranked team.

AP #12 - Mississippi - TSC #10

Rebel offense good, real good. You will hear people say that they don't run the ball well, but that is garbage. I rank them 7th in both run and pass offense. Defensively they are not great against the run, though they've been really good against the pass, ranked 7th. 777 -- jackpot! Squandering two big leads against FSU and ALA most likely takes them out of the playoff, barring craziness, but shows how obviously dangerous a football team they are, deserving to be in the top ten despite their record.

AP #13 - Houston -TSC #29

Look, Houston never should have ranked in the top ten at any point of this season, and should have fallen a lot more than 7 spots for losing to Navy. Their offense isn't nearly as good as you think -- though they're probably better than what I rank them. I mean, they didn't punt even once against Navy, either scoring or turning it over, lol. Defensively Houston is solid top to bottom. They just don't play great defense against Navy's system, it's as simple as that. Navy racked up a ton of offense on them last year as well, in Houston. Houston won that game because Greg Ward Jr. apparently greased himself up with pig fat before the game because Navy defenders couldn't hang onto him at all in that game -- he scrambled his way to victory.

AP #14 - Florida State - TSC #14

We have a match! (said in Target Lady voice) FSU has had some bad luck with injuries, and through that have experienced a giant roller coaster of a season through only 6 weeks of play. One week it's a huge comeback against Ole 'Miss. The next it's getting crushed by Louisville in Freshman QB Francois' first road game. Then it's a bounce back offensively crushing a pretty good South Florida team. Then it's losing to a 50+ yard last second field goal to North Carolina. And then it's making up a ten point half time deficit against Miami to get the win after blocking a late extra point. God Damn, their schedule must get easier after this.

AP #15 - Boise State - TSC #15

We have a match! I really thought Boise's defense might take a step back this year with all of the player's they graduated. That has not been true against the run, but it's been very true against the pass, where they rank a lowly 91st. The Broncos' pass offense has been their strength, ranking 5th. Boise has already avenged last season's lapse-losses to Utah State and New Mexico. Now it remains up to them to not suffer any late-season lapses this year. I mean, it must get boring trashing on Mountain West teams, and eventually that boredom can catch up with you. It shouldn't this wee, though, against a Colorado State team severely unpoised to take advantage of BSU's defensive weakness, now that the Rams have lost their starting QB for the season.

AP #16 -Miami (Fla) - TSC #12

Miami's defense has made a huge turnaround from last year. Their disinterested effort under former HC Golden showed up in the trenches, where Miami was routinely pushed around on both offense and defense. The defense is actually the signature unit of this team now, ranking 10th. QB Kaaya has led them to a #22 ranking in the pass game thus far, while the run game still lags behind at 69th. But, as mentioned, that's still an improvement over last year. Miami has a revenge game this weekend against North Carolina, and I project them to get the job done.

AP #17 - Virginia Tech - TSC #7

The Hokies should have beaten Tennessee and been undefeated and ranked 7th in the AP poll right now. If you rank largely on statistics, and less on win/loss record, like I do, you get VT ranked 10 spots below their true strength. This team is scary good, is in the midst of a money train run, and the lines makers still haven't caught up to them yet. Next week's game against Miami -- man, that's going to be a good one.

AP #18 - Florida - TSC #35

Hmm. Florida waits until the 4th quarter to pull away from MASS, demolishes Kentucky for their only impressive win of the season, shuts out a North Texas team still struggling to figure out their system, absolutely soils the bed in the second half at Tennessee to lose, and then struggles to win @ Vanderbilt. To me that's not a top 20 resume, even without taking the statistics into account. It reeks of reputation-ranking. Their run game, surprise!, is still below average, and their pass offense is just average. The Gators have been very good against the run, but were very shoddy against the pass to the only team they've played who can give the QB enough time to pass the ball and throw it reasonably well when doing so -- Tennessee. With this many weaknesses they don't belong in the top 25.

AP #19 - Oklahoma - TSC #16

Sigh. The numbers are almost always going to like Oklahoma. They pile up yards...and points...and failed covers when you're really counting on them, like last week against Texas. Talk about a nightmare end of game scenario holding Oklahoma -7.5 (and 2nd half -6.5) tickets. I still have the sour taste in my mouth, and refuse to talk about this team any more, except to say that you know they're going to Stoop the bed at some point in the season.

AP #20 - West Virginia - TSC #25

West Virginia -- they're pretty good, but another team that doesn't excel at any one thing. Their weakness is rush defense, which they're kind of average at. That means they match up pretty well against Texas Tech. Should be a fun one.

AP #21 - Utah - TSC #50

It's Deja Vu all over again, with the Utes being ranked higher than they deserve to be. They're racking up enough injuries that they're probably going to slip up and lose a game pretty soon, dropping them from the rankings, just like last year. Utah has a surprisingly below-average run offense this year (maybe not so surprising). They have a truly surprising poorly ranked pass defense at 99th. They started off okay against a "meh" BYU pass offense, but have gotten progressively worse, allowing high ypp averages since then. In an odd, "That's how Utah always wins" twist/not twist, they've been outgained in their last two wins, while outgaining CAL in their loss.

AP #22 - Arkansas - TSC #47

Get crushed in back to back weeks by TA&M and ALA and get ranked! Arkansas has apparently found a way to game the system, with this feat. Hmm, I guess it was the one point victory over Louisiana Tech, the barely eked out victory over a not-so-great TCU after yakking up a big lead late, and a predictable win over a physically over-matched Texas State that got them in into the polls. Yeah. Doesn't make a lick of sense, and this is coming from someone who in the past has routinely put SEC teams in the top 25 in spite of losses because of good statistical performances, given the level of the competition. Not the case with the Razorbacks at this point of the season. I just hope they pass for enough points to help get the Over against Ole 'Miss this week.

AP #23 - Auburn - TSC #8

Well, lookey here, this is exactly what I was just talking about -- ranking an SEC team fairly high in spite of losses because of good statistical performances. This is a team that has played very well overall, but have lost in just one statistical match up in the two games they've lost this year. Against Clemson they couldn't get the run game going, and lost. In the rest of their games they've gained more yards per carry than their opponent usually allows, even if not by much against most of those teams. Against TA&M, they had their only bad game of the season throwing the ball, throwing for 2.6 yards less per pass than TA&M usually allows. In the rest of their games they've averaged a whopping full 3 yards per pass more than their opponent usually allows. This is a solid team from top to bottom with two unfortunate blemishes on their record against two ranked teams.

AP #24 - Western Michigan - TSC #26

In the preseason I predicted that WMU would be ranked 25th by seasons end. Well, it didn't even take that long, as their undefeated record to this point (which I also predicted) has snuck them in. And I almost have them in their as well, just missing out on the bubble.

AP #25 - Navy - TSC #38

Look, the answer to Houston losing to Navy last week was NOT to put Navy in the top 25, it was to drop Houston out of the top 25, where they don't belong. 'Nuff said...except to say that I was glad to see that win for my Navy Over season wins, bet. :)

So, who do I have in my top 25 that the AP doesn't?

#13 - Colorado. The Buffs have two losses on their record, in games at Michigan and at USC. There's no shame in that, though it's easy to see why the second loss has dropped them out of the polls.

#17 - Washington State. 2 losses, including one to an FCS team, are also keeping WSU out of the polls right now. The Cougar's offense has been pretty good, as expected, but what hasn't been expected is how good their defense has been -- actually playing at a much higher level than their offense right now, by my numbers. 12th ranked defense? Who would have predicted that?

#19 - Central Florida. Okay, okay, UCF doesn't have any wins against a ranked opponent, but when you look at the stats, this team has a lot of strengths, which is miraculous considering their product on the field last year. Their defense has been extremely good -- they severely outrushed Michigan, at Michigan. Their pass offense is still sketchy, but has actually been okay, given the defenses they've faced. The same goes for their run offense. Did I mention their defense? Ridiculously good so far. It was with extreme sorrow that I was refunded the early plays on the Under against Tulane last week. Sitting on almost 8 points of line value for 3 units...and squawdouche.

#21 - Stanford

WTF. Okay, look, Stanford's schedule has been REALLY tough so far, especially when looking at the defenses they've faced. Even in their blowout losses they actually passed the ball pretty well. Washington and their State counterpart were pretty obviously keying on stopping the Cardinal run game, and it worked. Stanford had run the ball really well in their previous three games against KSU, USC and UCLA, all of who have above average run defenses, especially KSU and UCLA. Hey, there are other two loss teams in the AP top 25, including teams who have also lost their last two (I'm looking at you, Arkansas). Are you telling me Stanford's wins over KSU, USC and UCLA is a less impress resume than the previously mentioned one of Arkansas? You'd have to be literally insane to say so. The AP poll is literally insane.

#22 Memphis

Memphis is not great, admittedly. They probably shouldn't have beaten Temple last week. Their only loss was at Ole 'Miss. There is little shame in that, and they scored a fair amount of points in that game. Still, their running game isn't that good. They are above average defensively, but aren't world-stoppers there. Look, I didn't put them in the top 25, my numbers did, blame them if you've got an issue with this one.

#23 Penn State

What have you done for me lately? For the Nittany Lions, it's been just enough, apparently, to get them into my top 25. Their running game is picking up steam right now, big time (though I wish I would have known that before last week's games). Their passing game had already been decent. Combined, I rank their offense 22nd. Defensively they've been solid against the pass. They've had a lot of injuries at linebacker and really struggled against the run...but they really shored that up against Maryland last week. Again, regrettably.

#24 Maryland

They played the role of Paper Tiger last week, but have done enough prior to that to stay in my rankings, apparently. This is a team that could really use a passing game to compliment their great run game. It is what probably will stop them from competing against the better teams in the Big Ten this year. Well, that and their suddenly very average run defense.