CFB Power Ratings: Week 10

This is where we stand after 10 weeks of college football (although of course most teams have had a bye so they’ve only played 9 games). Georgia and Alabama remain solidified at the top in a class of their own, while Ohio State and Michigan are a bit lower in a tier of their own:

I include the ESPN FPI rankings so you can see side-by-side how mine compare to theirs. Let’s go over some of the biggest differences:

  • I have Oregon at 5, ESPN has them at 22.
  • I have Oklahoma at 7, ESPN has them at 4.
  • Baylor is 9 for me, 23 for ESPN.
  • Arkansas is 14 for me, 33 for ESPN.
  • Coastal Carolina is 18 in mine, 35 in ESPN.
  • ESPN has Iowa State all the way up at 7, I have them at 24.
  • ESPN has Clemson at 8, I have them at 31.
  • I have Purdue at 56, ESPN has them at 32.

I want to add here that while I include the FPI ratings just for reference, the FPI ratings are not the be-all, end-all. While FPI has gotten 71% of the games correct this year, according to this great website Prediction Tracker, that’s only good for 17th out of the 54 different computer rating systems tracked. (Also, to really drive home the point about how hard it is to make predictions, the best prediction ratings for against-the-spread numbers is only hitting at around 53.4%–which is barely above the break-even point for sports betting. FPI is only hitting 46.8% of the time ATS, and only 9 of the 54 ratings systems are above 50% ATS).

Some takeaways from this week’s college football action:

Nebraska might be the best 3-7 team ever. People might rag on Ohio State for only beating them 26-17 on the road this past week, but Nebraska is a lot better than their record, and ESPN FPI agrees as well. Nebraska has an ugly week 1 loss to Illinois (33-20), but Illinois has actually turned out to be pretty decent in beating both Penn State and Minnesota (although my ratings have the Illini at 83). Nebraska has a 23-16 road loss to Oklahoma, a 23-20 road overtime loss to Michigan State, a 32-29 home loss to Michigan, a 30-23 road loss to Minnesota, a 28-23 home loss to Purdue, and now this 26-17 home loss to Ohio State.

This loss to Ohio State was Nebraska’s first loss of more than one possession since week 1 against Illinois. The Huskers have played an absolutely brutal schedule, and while I’m sure they would have liked to have scored a big upset win against one of the powerhouse programs they’ve played this year, they have been knocking on the door all year. They still have to play Wisconsin on the road on Nov. 20, and then the traditional season-ending game against Iowa, which Nebraska gets at home this year.

I have a feeling the Huskers will win one of those two games, probably the Iowa game. They just announced they’re bringing Scott Frost back, and I think that’s the right move. He’s got this program going in the right direction, it just takes time. As long as his guys are all bought-in, and it appears that way, they should be a lot better over the next 2-3 years.

Give the guy some time to get things turned around; it’s been a very long time since Nebraska was a powerhouse, and it’ll take a while to return them to anywhere close to where they were in the 1990s, when Scott Frost was playing QB and winning National Championships. It might not seem like it because they’re 3-7, but that program is heading in the right direction.

Alabama had a surprisingly close win against LSU in Tuscaloosa. The Tide were 29-point favorites but had to hold on to win 20-14. LSU had several opportunities to win this game in the 4th quarter, they’re just not competent enough offensively to put drives together and score when they need to.

4 times LSU got the ball in the 4th down just 6 points with the opportunity to score a go-ahead TD, but they couldn’t capitalize. They got as close as the Alabama 7 yard line with just under 7 minutes to play, but went for it on 4th and goal and turned it over on downs instead of kicking the field goal to make it 20-17.

The most alarming part for Bama was that they ran the ball 26 times for only 6 yards, however, if you take out Bryce Young’s -22 yards from sacks, it was more like 28 yards on 17 carries. That’s still bad–really bad, especially considering LSU was able to run for 109 yards, or 124 yards on 32 carries if you take out the sacks. LSU was able to sack Bryce Young 4 times in the game, and after the game, the one thing everyone was talking about was how bad Bama’s offensive line looks–at least for Bama standards.

The obvious takeaway here is that if Bama struggled like this against LSU, what does that mean for when they play Georgia?

Purdue remains the most dangerous team in the country against highly-ranked teams. There is some black magic happening in East Lafayette or something: the Boilermakers ended yet another undefeated season, with Michigan State being handed a 40-29 L for their first loss of the season.

I would say Ohio State is on major upset alert this week hosting Purdue, but Purdue is inconsistent. After their 24-7 win in Iowa City over the #2 Hawkeyes, they followed it up with a 30-13 loss to Wisconsin the following week. Ohio State is still scarred from the memory of that stunning 49-20 loss at Purdue in 2018, so there’s no way Ohio State will be taking this one lightly.

Still, though, it’s tough to see why Vegas has Ohio State as a 20-point favorite in the game. After seeing Ohio State’s red zone woes the past couple of weeks, it does not seem likely Ohio State will be able to cover that line. Then again, Vegas knows what they’re doing. They don’t just throw those lines out there willy nilly.

Purdue now has two wins over teams that were ranked in the top-3 at the time of the game. Can Purdue pull off yet another win over a highly-ranked team?

AP Poll Questions: While we’re on the subject of Purdue, a lot of people on social media are asking why they’re not ranked. They are just outside the top-25 at #26, and people are pointing to Auburn, who is also 6-3 like Purdue, but ranked 16 in the latest AP poll. Auburn’s two best wins are Arkansas and Ole Miss, while Purdue’s best wins are Iowa and Michigan State, who again were ranked #2 and #3 respectively when Purdue beat them. Purdue really deserves to be 10 spots lower than Auburn?

Purdue at the very least deserves to be ranked. It’s not like they have bad losses, either: a road 27-13 loss to Notre Dame, a home 20-13 loss to Minnesota, and then the Wisconsin loss.

Another question: why is Penn State ranked 23, 7 spots behind Auburn, when both teams are 6-3 and Penn State has a head-to-head win over Auburn this season? I know Penn State lost three in a row, but one of those was to Iowa on the road in a game where Sean Clifford got hurt. Penn State was controlling that game until their starting QB went down. They had a really bad loss to Illinois at home, and while it’s inexcusable, Clifford was definitely not 100% in the game. And then Penn State played Ohio State really tough in Columbus in a night game environment. Penn State deserves more respect.

And it’s not as if Auburn has “great losses” either: they lost 28-20 on the road to Penn State, which is respectable, but then got blown out 34-10 at home by Georgia, and then 20-3 on the road at A&M. Two of those games Auburn was non-competitive.

I still think Auburn is a pretty good team, but the issue is these SEC teams get the benefit of the doubt big-time.

Now obviously it’s the CFP rankings that really matter, the AP poll doesn’t mean much these days. But the Almighty Committee has established the standard that head-to-head wins matter, and so I’ll be interested to see if The Committee applies that standard to Penn State and Auburn.

One of the best comments I saw on Twitter was, “Because Bama has to finish the season against a somewhat highly ranked team before losing to UGA, so the committee can convince themselves Bama should be #4.”

I really hope this isn’t the case. If Bama is going to get into the playoff with 2 losses, then they need to be more impressive than this 20-14 win at home against a 4-5 LSU team with a lame-duck coach.

This is the part where I repeat my obligatory “We Need a 12 Team Playoff With Automatic Bids” exhortation, but it’s simply the truth. I’m sick of complaining about the rankings every week.

If we had a 12-team playoff right now, with 5 automatic bids for the P5 conference winners, plus an automatic bid for the highest ranked G5 team, and then 6 at-large spots, we’d have so many teams in the mix right now.

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