College Football Power Ratings: Conference Championship Week

This will be the penultimate College Football Power Ratings of the 2021 season. After Conference Championship Saturday, I’ll compile an updated ranking, and then that’ll be it: we’re off to bowl season and the Playoff.

However, I did make one final tweak to the system after the results of this past weekend. Because I am so dedicated to integrity and accuracy, I am constantly looking for ways to make my ratings better.

After I watched Michigan thoroughly dominate Ohio State in the trenches this past Saturday, I felt I had to add more emphasis on line play. In all levels of football, but college football especially, line play is an enormous factor in determining who wins the game.

So I decided to add a “trenches” category to the stats. This category is based off of Football Outsiders’ O-Line and D-Line rankings. I average out all the categories for both offensive and defensive line play to get a single rating number for every team’s offensive and defensive lines. Then, I average those two numbers out to get the team’s overall average in terms of line play on both sides of the ball.

I watched Michigan flat-out bulldoze Ohio State. It was such a massive disparity in the trenches, and I wanted to be able to catch that in the ratings. Now, it’s not like my ratings were wildly wrong about that Ohio State-Michigan game. In fact, my ratings said Michigan should be about a 4 point favorite in the game. But still, this is a good addition to the formula.

All that said, Ohio State still ended up ranking #2 in line play overall, and Michigan ranks #14 in the trenches somehow, so maybe this is a moot point. Maybe college football is simply unpredictable. But regardless, I want to include this stat in my ratings and no one can stop me.

We now have Georgia at #1 once again. They have reclaimed their top spot over Alabama, and it translates into about a 1-point Georgia advantage in the SEC Championship, which will be played at a neutral site.

I still think I want to take Bama and the points in that game, however.

As for Michigan-Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game, Michigan is going to be a big favorite. A real big favorite–like 2+ touchdowns big. My power ratings really, really hate Iowa, and they like Michigan a lot. But I still think Iowa could catch Michigan in an emotional let-down game.

In the Big 12 game, I have Oklahoma State as about a 3-point favorite.

Oregon is a 1.5 point favorite over Utah in the Pac-12 title game.

I have Pitt by about 2 TDs in the ACC championship game, although that seems high to me.

I’ve got Cincinnati as about a 10-point favorite over Houston in the AAC Championship Game.

Conference Power Ratings

Now that we have all 12 games played for (basically) every team, we can hand out conference report cards. How do they all stack up against one another?

I’m going to just take all the teams in each conference and average out their rating and see which one has the highest. Pretty simple process.

  1. SEC: 87.555
  2. Big Ten: 78.331
  3. Big 12: 77.364
  4. ACC: 75.536
  5. Pac 12: 70.436
  6. AAC: 60.479
  7. MWC: 53.481
  8. Independents: 53.188
  9. Sun Belt: 52.505
  10. C-USA: 51.172
  11. MAC: 48.625

No surprise, the SEC is firmly in first place, with the Big Ten as a distance second. The Big Ten is only just ahead of the Big 12, although that’s probably a function of the fact that the Big 12 has 4 fewer teams.

The ACC is just behind the ACC, and the Pac 12 is solidly in 5th place among the Power 5.

What if we just took the 10-highest rated teams in each Power 5 Conference to make it more equitable? After all, the Big 12 only has 10 teams, and the other conferences might be dragged down by the fact that they have four additional teams, most of whom skew to the weak side?

If we just take the top-10 teams in each conference:

  1. SEC: 99.432
  2. Big Ten: 90.232
  3. ACC: 84.354
  4. Big 12: 77.364 (unchanged obviously)
  5. Pac 12: 76.168

The SEC is still obviously well ahead of all the other conferences, as expected, and the Big Ten remains in second, although by a much wider margin than before.

The ACC now jumps up into 3rd place, and is now well ahead of the Big 12. The Big 12 is now only marginally ahead of the Pac 12.

I think taking the top-10 teams in each conference makes it a bit more fair and uniform.

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