Bill Connelly takes a look at the early-season S&P+ outliers and whether his eyeballs agree or disagree with the stats. Spoiler: Alabama is underrated. Alabama! Underrated!
19 Nov 2010
by Bill Connelly
By November, who you are as a team can be quite different who you've been all season. Your S&P+ (or FEI, or F/+, or anything else) rating could be either propped up or weighed down by how you were playing two months ago. (Or, you could be Virginia Tech, statistically impervious to any ailments, including losses to James Madison.) On the pro side, you find a Weighted DVOA measure that is intended to signify how a team is playing now as compared to how it has played over the course of the entire season. There is no reason why we cannot do something similar in college.
The Weighted S&P+ numbers below are based on single-game S&P+ scores. The single-game scores are not something that gets used often, but maybe they should. They are quite telling.
Before we get to Weighted S&P+, however, let's take a quick look at the 10 best performances of the season according to single-game S&P+. As you would expect, they are heavily schedule-adjusted, so blowout wins over terrible teams do not make the list unless they were incredible blowouts.
(Remember: 200.0 is a dead average performance.)
|Top Ten Performances of 2010 According to Single-Game S&P+
|1||TCU||Utah||November 6||451.9||TCU 47, Utah 7|
|2||Ohio State||Ohio||September 18||430.5||Ohio State 43, Ohio 7|
|3||Oregon State||California||October 30||421.1||Oregon State 45, California 7|
|4||Georgia||Kentucky||October 23||403.7||Georgia 44, Kentucky 31|
|5||USC||California||October 16||399.3||USC 48, California 14|
|6||Boise State||Idaho||November 12||398.5||Boise State 52, Idaho 14|
|7||Temple||Buffalo||October 23||396.3||Temple 42, Buffalo 0|
|8||Ohio State||Indiana||October 9||391.8||Ohio State 38, Indiana 10|
|9||Boise State||Hawaii||November 6||390.8||Boise State 42, Hawaii 7|
|10||South Carolina||Florida||November 13||389.6||South Carolina 36, Florida 14|
You see California on that list twice as a victim. That's what we in the business call foreshadowing. Now, on to Weighted S&P+.
|Weighted vs. Actual S&P+|
The top three teams in terms of recent play are also the top three for the season as a whole. And when you look at the list of top games above, you can begin to see why they are where they are. Meanwhile, there is quite a bit of variation between teams on the Weighted list and those which have played well throughout the season. Southern Miss is a surprise entry, but great performances against Central Florida last week and, strangely enough, Marshall in early October bumped them onto the list. Iowa is a bit of a surprise too, being that they have lost twice in the last four games. But they were incredible against Michigan State, and they were still very good against Wisconsin. The Indiana and Northwestern performances knocked them down a bit, of course.
Here are the "hottest" BCS conference teams, those with the largest differences between their Weighted S&P+ rank and their actual rank:
California (Weighted Rk: 23rd, Actual Rk: 48th). The S&P+ ratings clearly have no idea what to do with the Golden Bears, which looked outstanding against Oregon, very good against UCLA and USC, and downright terrible against USC (single-game S&P+: 111.3) and Oregon State (86.7).
Georgia (Weighted Rk: sixth, Actual Rk: 29th). The Bulldogs still have to beat Georgia Tech if they want to become bowl eligible, but they have looked good to very good in five of their last six games. They dug themselves such a hole in September and early October (needless to say, the lifeless loss to Colorado does not look too good right now), but they are a handful at the moment.
Syracuse (Weighted Rk: 48th, Actual Rk: 67th). Iffy performances against Louisville and Rutgers have slowed their momentum considerably (though it bears noting that they still beat Rutgers), but Doug Marrone's Orange have improved considerably since an awful game against Washington in September.
West Virginia (Weighted Rk: 18th, Actual Rk: 36th). The Mountaineers began the season with two subpar (i.e. sub-200.0) performances against Coastal Carolina and Marshall, but they were sound in October and great last week against Cincinnati.
Now, here are the "coldest" BCS conference teams, those whose Weighted S&P+ is but a shadow of their overall ranking.
Washington (Weighted Rk: 91st, Actual Rk: 47th) and UCLA (Weighted Rk: 78th, Actual Rk: 44th). Those who watched last night's Huskies-Bruins game on ESPN should not be surprised to see both teams on this list. Just a terrible, terrible game.
Mississippi State (Weighted Rk: 64th, Actual Rk: 32nd). The Bulldogs started strong but have managed a single-game S&P+ of more than 190.0 just twice in the last six games. Luckily, thanks to a pillow-soft portion of the schedule (Alcorn State, Houston, and UAB all fell victim to MSU in this stretch), the wins kept coming.
Texas Tech (Weighted Rk: 79th, Actual Rk: 52nd). The Red Raiders' surprising upset of Missouri was the only time since early October (five games) that they had a single-game S&P+ of over 200.0.
Vanderbilt (Weighted Rk: 100th, Actual Rk: 76th). Here are the Commodores' last five games according to single-game S&P+: 147.4 (vs. Georgia), 171.5 (vs. S. Carolina), 199.1 (vs. Arkansas), 109.8 (vs. Florida) and 146.9 (Kentucky). They host Tennessee and Wake Forest to finish the season -- Tennessee's hot, but with Wake in the finale, Robbie Caldwell might still get to three wins in his first campaign as Vandy head coach.
In the weekly DVOA rankings, you also find each NFL team's game-to-game variance. My variability measure of choice is standard deviation, so let's take examine the FBS teams which have had the highest and lowest week-to-week standard deviation. (The national average standard deviation: 61.0.)
Highest Standard Deviation Among FBS Teams
1. California (106.4)
2. Oregon State (103.7)
3. Iowa (94.2)
4. Ohio State (93.7)
5. Boise State (92.9)
6. Southern Miss (92.0)
7. Temple (87.2)
8. USC (86.2)
9. Georgia (85.7)
10. Florida International (85.7)
Other S&P+ Top 25 teams with high standard deviation: TCU (78.1), Nebraska (77.7), Oregon (72.3).
It should come as no surprise that California tops this list. Be it home-road splits or just general schizophrenia, the Golden Bears have been all over the place this season, from getting drubbed by Oregon State and almost losing to Washington State, to nearly knocking off Oregon. Thanks to their recent performances, it should not be surprising to see Iowa on this list either
Top 10 Lowest Standard Deviation
1. Minnesota (17.9)
2. Michigan (18.4)
3. Louisiana Tech (19.6)
4. Tulane (20.2)
5. SMU (21.2)
6. Northwestern (22.8)
7. Washington State (24.2)
8. Rice (24.6)
9. North Carolina (24.8)
10. Akron (24.9)
S&P+ Top 25 teams with low standard deviation: Oklahoma State (34.4), Pittsburgh (38.6), Illinois (39.9), Miami (44.3).
As we see from this list, consistency is not necessarily a good thing. Of the 10 teams with the lowest standard deviation, only three (Michigan, Northwestern and North Carolina) have winning records. Most of the consistent teams have been consistently terrible.
(And just imagine what Minnesota's standard deviation was before their surprisingly strong win over Illinois last week.)
Full rankings here.
|F/+ Top 25 (After 11 Weeks)|
|F/+ Top 25 (After 11 Weeks)|
|F/+ Top 25 (After 11 Weeks)|
Miami. The Hurricanes continue to be a darling in the eyes of both S&P+ and F/+. They have the No. 2 defense in the country according to FEI, and only once this season have they had a single-game S&P+ less than 190.0 (against Virginia three weeks ago). Meanwhile, they have had more than 245.0 six times (against Florida A&M, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Maryland and Georgia Tech). Turnovers and key mistakes have left Miami with just a 7-3 record, but only the Virginia loss was a truly terrible one. They are a victim of timing and a tough schedule as much as anything else.
Here's your weekly look at how the BCS standings would take shape with a mixture of 60 percent AP poll, 40 percent F/+ rankings.
1. Auburn (11-0)
2. Boise State (9-0)
3. TCU (11-0)
4. Oregon (10-0)
5. Stanford (9-1)
6. Ohio State (9-1)
7. Alabama (8-2)
8. Wisconsin (9-1)
9. LSU (9-1)
10. Arkansas (8-2)
11. Nebraska (9-1)
12. Virginia Tech (8-2)
13. Oklahoma State (9-1)
14. Missouri (8-2)
15. Michigan State (9-1)
Miami over Virginia Tech. Spread: Miami +2.5 | F/+ Projection: Miami by 3.9. Knowing what we know about S&P+ and FEI, no matter who wins I'm sure both teams will rise five spots in the rankings, just because.
Oregon State over USC. Spread: Oregon State +3.5 | F/+ Projection: Oregon State by 1.6. Even since the loss of receiver James Rodgers to season-ending injury, Oregon State has been high variability. At home against USC, the Beavers will still have a solid chance despite last week's embarrassing loss to Washington State. Or, as is the downside to high-variability, they could lose by 35.
Iowa over Ohio State. Spread: Ohio State -3 | F/+ Projection: Ohio State by 2.5. Iowa has been terrible on passing downs this season; if Ricky Stanzi can make just a small handful of plays in those situations, the Hawkeyes should be able to stay close and/or knock off the Buckeyes.
Vanderbilt over Tennessee. Spread: Tennessee -8.5 | F/+ Projection: Tennessee by 3.5. The Volunteers have played better in the last couple of weeks, but obviously these season-long numbers are still rather unimpressed.
In honor of the scenic brilliance of football at Wrigley Field (even if somebody might die running through the east end zone) ...
"Chicago," by Sufjan Stevens
"Chicago," by Rufus Wainwright
"Chicago," by Tony Bennett
"Chicago," by The Uglysuit
"Chicago Falcon," by The Budos Band
"Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night," by The Hold Steady
"Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago," by Soul Coughing
"Via Chicago," by Wilco
And to make sure the Notre Dame-Army game at Yankee Stadium doesn't feel left out ...
"Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)," by The Decemberists
"Yankee Go Home," by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
(Also: Wilco's entire Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album.)
It has been an odd season for FO's college rankings, particularly mine. I find myself simultaneously fascinated with how the rest of the year will play out -- How will Auburn's declaration of Cameron Newton's eligibility impact the national title race? Will Boise State and/or TCU get a title shot? How much fun would Auburn-Oregon be? -- and ready for the season to end so I can begin to test formula tweaks. Such is life as both a nerd and college football addict.
17 comments, Last at 23 Nov 2010, 9:06am by Kevin from Philly