2010 Compu-Picks Ratings - College
This story originally published on CollegeFootballNews.com

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Dec 5, 2010


The Compu-Picks model rates the top and bottom teams in college football after week fourteen

As of the end of Saturday's games, these are the top 25 (and a couple more) and bottom 25, along with conference ratings (straight average of the scores for each team in the confernece), the top twenty performances of the year, and the top ten / bottom ten home-road splits. Remember that this is a predictive model, designed to pick games and show how good a team actually is. Its results can be very different from what you'll see elsewhere. The workings of the model are confidential (it is, after all, designed to make winning picks), but I'm happy to answer questions about the models' results.

Team Ratings

Rank Team League Score Schedule Rank BCS Rank
1 Oregon Pac-10 0.93 6 2
2 Stanford Pac-10 0.88 3 4
3 Texas Christian Mountain West 0.83 42 3
4 Boise State WAC 0.81 38 11
5 Auburn SEC 0.75 8 1
6 Virginia Tech ACC 0.68 34 13
7 Alabama SEC 0.67 14 16
8 Ohio State Big Ten 0.65 57 6
9 Oklahoma Big 12 0.59 12 7
10 Arkansas SEC 0.59 15 8
11 Missouri Big 12 0.57 22 12
12 Nebraska Big 12 0.56 27 18
13 Oklahoma State Big 12 0.53 39 14
14 South Carolina SEC 0.52 10 20
15 Wisconsin Big Ten 0.50 51 5
16 Louisiana State SEC 0.50 16 10
17 Nevada WAC 0.50 66 15
18 Florida State ACC 0.49 17 23
19 Arizona Pac-10 0.47 4 NR
20 Texas A&M Big 12 0.44 20 17
21 Southern California Pac-10 0.42 11 NR
22 North Carolina State ACC 0.38 25 NR
23 Utah Mountain West 0.38 62 19
24 Arizona State Pac-10 0.37 2 NR
25 Michigan State Big Ten 0.35 54 9
26 West Virginia Big East 0.34 67 22
29 Mississippi State SEC 0.32 21 21
33 Hawaii WAC 0.29 71 24
44 Central Florida C-USA 0.15 99 25
96 Arkansas State Sun Belt -0.36 110
97 Kansas Big 12 -0.36 43
98 Wyoming Mountain West -0.38 68
99 Marshall C-USA -0.38 92
100 Central Michigan MAC -0.39 95
101 Louisiana-Monroe Sun Belt -0.47 97
102 Colorado State Mountain West -0.49 75
103 Kent MAC -0.49 113
104 Nevada-Las Vegas Mountain West -0.49 59
105 North Texas Sun Belt -0.52 116
106 Rice C-USA -0.53 100
107 Tulane C-USA -0.54 94
108 Middle Tennessee State Sun Belt -0.54 120
109 San Jose State WAC -0.56 69
110 Florida Atlantic Sun Belt -0.60 101
111 Louisiana-Lafayette Sun Belt -0.62 104
112 Bowling Green State MAC -0.63 108
113 Western Kentucky Sun Belt -0.64 117
114 Ball State MAC -0.64 119
115 New Mexico Mountain West -0.69 84
116 New Mexico State WAC -0.72 90
117 Memphis C-USA -0.74 88
118 Eastern Michigan MAC -0.81 106
119 Buffalo MAC -0.83 111
120 Akron MAC -0.87 114

League Ratings

League Rating OOC Schedule Rating Home/Away/Neutral Splits OOC vs Top 10 OOC vs 11-20 OOC vs 21-40 OOC vs 41-60 OOC vs 61-80 OOC vs 81-100 OOC vs Bottom 20
Pac-10 0.35 0.16 10 / 14 / 0 0 - 2 0 - 4 3 - 1 3 - 1 5 - 2 2 - 0 1 - 0
SEC 0.30 -0.16 26 / 9 / 2 0 - 1 1 - 1 4 - 0 4 - 0 4 - 3 6 - 1 12 - 0
Big 12 0.22 -0.07 26 / 11 / 3 0 - 2 1 - 0 3 - 3 8 - 2 6 - 0 5 - 0 10 - 0
ACC 0.16 0.07 18 / 15 / 2 0 - 6 0 - 2 2 - 4 3 - 1 5 - 3 4 - 1 4 - 0
Big Ten 0.12 -0.14 23 / 10 / 1 0 - 1 0 - 2 4 - 2 1 - 1 3 - 2 6 - 0 12 - 0
Indep 0.12 -0.06 15 / 12 / 1 0 - 1 0 - 0 3 - 5 1 - 2 3 - 1 6 - 2 4 - 0
Big East -0.01 -0.08 16 / 15 / 0 0 - 1 0 - 1 2 - 7 0 - 4 1 - 2 6 - 0 6 - 1
WAC -0.04 0.02 14 / 18 / 0 1 - 2 0 - 3 2 - 2 1 - 4 5 - 2 2 - 2 5 - 1
Mountain West -0.04 0.09 14 / 18 / 1 0 - 3 0 - 6 2 - 3 3 - 2 5 - 2 1 - 3 2 - 1
C-USA -0.24 0.00 20 / 22 / 0 0 - 4 0 - 2 2 - 6 0 - 11 2 - 3 4 - 0 6 - 2
MAC -0.43 0.00 11 / 31 / 0 0 - 4 0 - 2 0 - 4 0 - 10 3 - 9 2 - 6 2 - 0
Sun Belt -0.47 0.04 8 / 26 / 0 0 - 3 0 - 6 0 - 5 0 - 6 0 - 5 1 - 5 1 - 2
League Rating OOC Schedule Rating OOC vs AQ's OOC vs Non-AQ's OOC vs Pac-10 / SEC OOC vs Big 12 / ACC / Big Ten OOC vs Big East OOC vs MWC / WAC OOC vs CUSA OOC vs MAC / Sun Belt
Pac-10 0.35 0.16 10 - 5 4 - 5 1 - 0 6 - 4 2 - 0 2 - 4 1 - 1 1 - 0
SEC 0.30 -0.16 10 - 6 21 - 0 0 - 1 7 - 4 3 - 1 2 - 0 8 - 0 11 - 0
Big 12 0.22 -0.07 8 - 4 25 - 3 4 - 3 3 - 1 1 - 0 10 - 2 6 - 1 9 - 0
ACC 0.16 0.07 6 - 13 12 - 4 2 - 7 0 - 3 4 - 2 1 - 1 3 - 1 6 - 0
Big Ten 0.12 -0.14 7 - 5 19 - 3 2 - 3 2 - 1 1 - 0 2 - 1 2 - 0 15 - 2
Indep 0.12 -0.06 6 - 6 11 - 5 1 - 1 4 - 4 1 - 1 2 - 3 3 - 1 6 - 1
Big East -0.01 -0.08 3 - 12 12 - 4 1 - 5 2 - 6 0 - 0 1 - 2 2 - 1 8 - 1
WAC -0.04 0.02 5 - 9 11 - 7 2 - 3 2 - 6 1 - 0 8 - 4 0 - 2 2 - 0
Mountain West -0.04 0.09 5 - 10 8 - 10 2 - 1 2 - 7 1 - 1 4 - 8 1 - 1 1 - 1
C-USA -0.24 0.00 5 - 22 9 - 6 1 - 9 2 - 11 1 - 2 3 - 1 0 - 0 6 - 2
MAC -0.43 0.00 3 - 25 4 - 10 0 - 4 2 - 17 1 - 3 1 - 3 1 - 3 1 - 1
Sun Belt -0.47 0.04 0 - 26 2 - 6 0 - 8 0 - 13 0 - 5 0 - 0 1 - 3 1 - 1

Top Twenty wins of the Year

Game Rank Team Opponent Location Score
1 Auburn South Carolina NEUTRAL 56 - 17
2 Oregon Stanford HOME 52 - 31
3 Texas Christian Utah AWAY 47 - 7
4 Stanford California AWAY 48 - 14
5 Arkansas South Carolina AWAY 41 - 20
6 Missouri Texas A&M AWAY 30 - 9
7 Stanford Oregon State HOME 38 - 0
8 Auburn Arkansas HOME 65 - 43
9 Stanford Washington AWAY 41 - 0
10 Oklahoma Florida State HOME 47 - 17
11 Florida State Miami (Florida) AWAY 45 - 17
12 Nebraska Kansas State AWAY 48 - 13
13 Boise State Hawaii HOME 42 - 7
14 Boise State Fresno State HOME 51 - 0
15 Oregon Southern California AWAY 53 - 32
16 Stanford Arizona HOME 42 - 17
17 Stanford UCLA AWAY 35 - 0
18 Stanford Notre Dame AWAY 37 - 14
19 Utah Iowa State AWAY 68 - 27
20 Miami (Florida) Pittsburgh AWAY 31 - 3

Top and Bottom 10 Home-Road Splits

1 Connecticut
2 Iowa
3 California
4 Nevada-Las Vegas
5 Colorado
6 Northern Illinois
7 Rice
8 Colorado State
9 Marshall
10 Georgia
111 Buffalo
112 Virginia Tech
113 Washington State
114 Florida International
115 Ball State
116 Central Michigan
117 Western Kentucky
118 Texas
119 Navy
120 Syracuse

Some thoughts on the results:

1) Last week, I posted the compu-picks top twenty-five and bottom twenty-five, which I'm keeping this week as well. I will provide a full list at year's end. As I did last year, I'll be providing addition detail when I post that list, such as a schedule strength list, a list of teams who have improved the most/least over the course of the year, a list of the top home/road splits, most surprising results, etc. If there are other things you believe would be interesting to include in that piece, let me know. I'm always on the lookout for new ideas to add to these pieces.

2) The picks had an OK week, going 10 - 10 to put together an overall ATS record of 111 - 93 in the seven weeks of ATS picks. After an atrocious week 8 pickset, the system has recovered very nicely to post a solid record. The expectation is 55% ATS, and it's not there yet... but it's getting pretty close. 54.5% is still pretty good, and hopefully it jumps over 55% with this bowl picks.

3) After five out of the six weeks I've posted comments, at least one teams the model thought that the BCS overrated got exposed:
After week 8: Auburn, Wisconsin, Michigan St - Michigan St loses 37-6 at Iowa
After week 9: Auburn, Utah, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan St - Utah loses 47-7 at TCU and Oklahoma loses 33-19 at Texas A&M
After week 10: Auburn, LSU, Wisconsin, Michigan St, Mississippi St - Mississippi St loses 30-10 at Alabama (this really wasn't that bad; Bama is a really good team, and it was on the road for the Bulldogs... but Bama and MSU were only seven spots apart in the BCS before the game)
After week 11: Auburn, LSU, Wisconsin, Michigan St, Mississippi St - no teams got exposed, though LSU and Michigan St came pretty close
After week 12: Auburn, LSU, Wisconsin, Michigan St - LSU loses 31-23 at an Arkansas team rated seven spots below them (and Michigan St nearly got knocked off at a Penn St team that wasn't even close to being ranked)
After week 13: Auburn, Wisconsin, LSU, Michigan St, Mississippi St, Northern Illinois - NIU LSU loses 26-21 to a pretty bad Miami(OH) team (though Auburn came up with a fantastic win)

Of course, there have been ones going the other way, most notably Oregon St's implosion against Washington St (followed by a great win against USC). But it certainly seems like there have been more noteworthy bad showings by teams the model thought overrated than those it thought underrated.

4) League ratings have been a fairly popular source of comments, so let's talk about them again. The popular perception (as shown by a CBS columnist here), is that the Pac-10 is somehow "down". The basic reasoning is that the overall records aren't outstanding (the league's OOC was close to .500), and that the league is VERY top heavy (Oregon and Stanford have basically dominated the league). This is, of course, silly.

As shown in the above tables, the Pac-10 has the BEST record nationwide against other AQ leagues. Moreover, of all the AQ leagues, they're the one which has played by far the toughest slate. They're the only AQ league which has played a majority of its 1-A games on the road; they've played the fewest by far games againt the bottom 40 teams (as rated by compu-picks). They've played precisely ONE game against the Mac and Sun Belt combined; as a contrast, the Big Ten has lost more games to those two leagues (both double-digit HOME losses to the MAC) than the Pac-10 has games against them. In fact, if you break down the OOC records by groupings of 20 (as in the above table), the only leagues that show comparable results to the Pac-10 are the SEC and Big 12, and that's before you factor in home-field advantage. It's also worth noting that the Pac-10 is one of the only leagues without a AA loss; while the model doesn't factor in those games, as humans we can do so, and it's another point in the league's favor.

Focusing on the bottom 40 for a bit, the Pac-10 doesn't have any bottom 40 OOC losses (only the Big 12 and Big Ten can say the same), and had only one game with less than a 7 point win against that group (USC's win over Virginia), as opposed to the SEC's two close calls against UAB; the Big Ten's close calls against Ark St, CMU, and Vandy; the Big 12's close call against Troy; the ACC's close call against Rutgers; and the Big East's close calls against Marshall and FIU.

Basically, the unfortunate truth is that the BCS rewards easy schedules and punishes tough ones. When a league as a whole "gimmicks up" its record (overwhelming number of home games, majority of OOC games against bad competition), it gets rewarded. When the Big Ten schedules a ridiculous 17 games against the MAC/Sun Belt (not to mention the AA games), and actually LOSES two of them, it gets rewarded for it. When the Pac-10 has nine league games, a brutal OOC slate, has an outstanding 10-5 record against other AQ's, and has a near-total lack of "bad losses" (the worst was Wazzu at SMU, hardly a MAC-level loss), it gets punished for it with the silly perception that it's "down". The inescapable conclusion is that there is NOTHING that the league could have done to be perceived as excellent this year given the schedules it had to face.

Besides the bias and laziness of most analysts that attempt to evaluate leagues, what does that mean going forward? Mainly, it means that the Pac-10 needs to gimmick up its schedules too. That means no more paycheck games on the road (see: Colorado at Ohio St coming up, as well as recent games such as Oregon St at TCU, Wazzu at Notre Dame, Auburn, Wisconsin [technically a 2:1 but I've got a bridge to sell you if you think it's likely the Badgers trek to Pullman as scheduled], etc.). That means fewer games against other AQ's (15 of the league's 28 OOC slots were against other AQ's, plus there were Oregon St's games against Boise and TCU). That means getting paycheck, 2:1 or 3:1 deals with the mid-majors (as opposed to ASU's upcoming home and home with New Mexico and insane home and home deal with UTSA, Wazzu's home and home with SMU, Washington's home and home with BYU, Oregon and Oregon St's home and homes with Boise, Arizona's home and home with New Mexico and apparent upcoming home and home with Nevada, Stanford's home and home with Navy and upcoming home and home with Army, etc.). It has to be a priority to get more home games. Home games provide a meaningful edge, and other leagues are taking advantage, while the Pac-10 clearly isn't.

Quite frankly, if Oregon St had cancelled one of the Boise/TCU road games and scheduled a home game creampuff win, they'd have been at six wins with a bowl game, instead of five wins and no bowl game. Would that have made them a better team in any way? Of course not. But in the half-assed world of league ratings analysis and human polls rating teams, it would have made them look like a better team, would have put them in the postseason (which would have helped the Pac-10's bowl partners) and would have given a nice boost to Oregon and Stanford (who came fairly close to not having a top 4 BCS ranking, which probably would have meant the Alamo Bowl for them). That's tangible value to the rest of the league, even if it would have been around a net wash or loss for Oregon St's bottom line.

I'm not sure how the league can move its schedules in this direction: incentives for extra home games, changing the bowl payout for a team from an even 1/12 to something like 2/13 (the bowl team gets a double share, everyone else gets an equal cut), or actual league mandates, but there's no question that it's imperative that the league do this. The incentive structure for gimmicking up schedules couldn't be clearer, and the if Pac-12 refuses to join the party, they're only going to hurt themselves in the process.

5) More on league ratings: I've gotten some comments from SEC people who believe that the model has them too low (although a 0.30 rating is still VERY good). The two biggest things holding back that league's rating are the % of home games and the very large number of games against 1-A cupcakes. While I certainly believe that the model's outputs are reasonable and defensible, it may be true that it's over-penalizing them for the cupcake games. That's going to be high on the list of things to dig into further over the off-season. My suspicion is that it won't result in a material change (and perhaps not any change at all), but I could very well be wrong.

I've also gotten some comments from Big Ten people who believe the model has them too low. I don't buy it. Multiple MAC losses, few quality wins (the best ones were against Miami, ASU and Notre Dame [twice] ), a gimmick schedule with half of the OOC games against bottom 40 teams and over 2/3 of the games at home, only a 7-5 record vs AQ's... it just wasn't a good year for the league. It's reasonable to argue them over the ACC (again, it's possible that the system is over-penalizing for the cupcake games), but that's it. They were a clear few steps below the top three leagues (Pac-10, SEC, Big 12) in 2010. It's certainly possible that they have a good bowl run, which would change the numbers, but for now, the resume just isn't there.

6) I've also gotten some questions on whether home-field advantage should really considered to be meaningful. Certainly it's hard to quantify its exact impact, but it is definitely an important predictive factor. To demonstrate this, take a look at the below table. It looks at the W/L record of home teams in intra-league games in three different cases: overall record; when the two teams ended the year with the same number of league wins; and when the two teams ended the year within one league win of each other.

With only a 53% winning percentage overall, it's pretty clear that home-field isn't much of a predictor in aggregate; however, when you throw out the mismatches (loosely defined here as games where one team ended up with 2 or more league wins than the other), the story is much different. When the teams ended up with the same number of league wins, the home team won slightly more than two-thirds of the time (it's a small sample size, of course, but it's still a very compelling number). When you expand the list to minor mismatches (teams ending up within one win of each other), the win rate drops, but is still close to 60%. So in answer to the question, yes I do think that it's a relevant factor that makes a lot of sense to include in this rating system. In fact, I would go so far as to say that any system which fails to account for this is flawed (note: none of the BCS computer systems appear to account for this, which is one of the many reasons why the BCS system is flawed).

League Home Team W/L (%) - overall Home Team W/L (%) - same # wins Home Team W/L (%) - within 1 win
Pac-10 23 - 22 (51%) 1 - 3 (25%) 11 - 5 (69%)
SEC 27 - 20 (57%) 3 - 2 (60%) 10 - 7 (59%)
Big 12 23 - 21 (52%) 4 - 2 (67%) 11 - 6 (65%)
ACC 26 - 22 (54%) 7 - 1 (88%) 12 - 8 (60%)
Big Ten 22 - 21 (51%) 4 - 1 (80%) 8 - 7 (53%)
Indep 0 - 1 (0%) 0 - 0 (%) 0 - 1 (0%)
Big East 12 - 16 (43%) 2 - 2 (50%) 3 - 9 (25%)
WAC 20 - 16 (56%) 3 - 0 (100%) 6 - 2 (75%)
Mountain West 23 - 13 (64%) 5 - 0 (100%) 9 - 1 (90%)
C-USA 29 - 19 (60%) 4 - 1 (80%) 13 - 4 (76%)
MAC 25 - 27 (48%) 1 - 2 (33%) 4 - 9 (31%)
Sun Belt 17 - 19 (47%) 2 - 3 (40%) 8 - 10 (44%)
Total 247 - 217 (53%) 36 - 17 (68%) 95 - 69 (58%)

7) Looking at the numbers, it's interesting how comparable Wisconsin and Auburn's resumes are. Obviously Auburn has the better resume by far, but it's interesting to see how things played out for both. In each case, you can pretty easily draw a line on their schedules, any anything before it was pretty meh, while everything after it was pretty good. The real question is, how much do you weigh early-season issues like: struggling against an awful SJ St team, beating ASU by only one, losing by 10 to a meh Michigan St team, and fairly meh showings against UNLV and Minnesota; or getting taken to overtime by Clemson, and only beating both Miss St and Kentucky by 3. It's difficult to get the "right" answer on that, because in both cases it looks like two different teams before and after. Compu-picks has one way of weighing those results, but it's certainly not the only way. And while it does rate both teams lower than the BCS, as someone interpreting the numbers, I wouldn't say that in either case the BCS necessarily seems to be "wrong" in its ratings (although I'm still a bit skeptical of Wisconsin's rating, mainly because I'm skeptical of the Big Ten as a whole). Certainly the BCS's numbers are defensible.

One other point: oddly enough, Wisconsin's best-rated performance (Ohio St win) came right in the middle of the year, and then afterwards they settled at a fairly consistent level of play, well higher than the pre-Ohio St games, but well below the Ohio St win rating for the most part. This is an interesting contrast with Auburn, whose best game happened in the SEC title game (duh), and other than the Arkansas blowout (2nd best of the year, around the middle of the season), seemed to register continuous week by week improvement. That's why Auburn rated really highly on the "most improved" list, and Wisconsin wasn't near the top of that list.

8) Even after Auburn's great win against South Carolina, they're still rated only fourth, behind both Boise and TCU. The main reason is, as noted above, Auburn's mediocre first half of the season is holding their rating down. Right now they're playing as well as anyone in the country... but those early struggles do count for something. Whether you think they should count as much as they do, or be tossed out the window because of how well Auburn is playing of late is up to you. But mechanically, that's the main reason why it's happening.

9) Oregon is #1 in compu-picks, and it's easy to see why. A really hard schedule, a bunch of dominant wins, the Oregon Ducks have had the total resume. They don't have a huge number of top wins, but they've got the one that's rated #2 (and it's barely below #1), their 21-point win against Stanford, as well as #15 (the 21-point win at USC). They also have a number of other quality performances that didn't quite make the top 20 list: the 19-point win over Arizona, the win at ASU, and the drubbings of UCLA and Washington.

10) Stanford holds at #2 on this list, mainly on the strength of all of their ridiculous blowout wins. They have not one, not two, but THREE blowout/shutouts, all against decent Pac-10 teams (two of which were on the road to boot). You look at the above list of top 20 performances, and Stanford dominates that list. They've beaten the crap out of a very tough schedule (all 11 1-A games were against AQ teams, including 9 against the top-rated Pac-10, and six of 11 were on the road), not just those three blowout/shutouts but also: 68-24, 37-14, 42-17, and 48-14. Seven of the 11 1-A games were thorough ass-kickings, which is just crazy. Honestly, take away the Oregon loss and you can reasonably compare this team to 2001 Miami or 2004 USC.

11) The following teams are ranked materially higher by the model than the BCS: Oregon, Stanford, Boise St, Virginia Tech, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida St, Arizona, USC, NC St, Arizona St.

Oregon and Stanford have been talked about above, so I won't go into them again.

Boise got crushed in the BCS rankings for losing a very close game on the road to a top 20 team. That was simply dumb. They've been a dominant team all year long against a schedule that, while not fantastic, compares reasonably well to at least a few other members of the top ten, including Ohio St (who themselves played plenty of "Sisters of the Poor" opponents while playing only ONE quality team - Wisconsin, who beat them).

Virginia Tech is an interesting case. Part of this difference is that the model doesn't count AA games (which means that the JMU loss doesn't count against them here), but just as important is the fact that they've gone on a tear through the ACC, 9-0 with a boatload of utter ass-kickings. #6 may be a spot or two high, but they're clearly a top 10 team. The BCS has them way too low.

Alabama is a great example of how in the BCS, hard schedules get punished, and easy schedules get rewarded. Few teams have had tougher schedules than the Tide, and few have had worse luck in close games (two of their losses were by 3 or less). It hasn't been their year, but that doesn't mean they're not an excellent team; Michigan St got hosed by having to face the Tide in their bowl game.

Florida St beat the crap out of Florida, then lost to an excellent Virginia Tech team and the net effect was to drop out of the BCS. The 'Noles have had a legitimately tough schedule, they've had close losses (except at Oklahoma), and generally dominant wins (though BC and Clemson were close). They're underrated in the BCS.

Arizona is the same type of story as most other teams that compu-picks thinks is underrated: very tough schedule, tendency towards blowout wins and close losses (except at Stanford and Oregon, compu-picks' #'s 1 and 2). They're better than their record, and despite what the BCS thinks, there simply aren't 25 teams out there better than the Arizona Wildcats.

USC isn't eligible to be ranked by the BCS. If they were eligible, they'd very possibly be ranked. Five losses is never fun, but they've had a tough schedule, they've beaten a top 25 Arizona team and a nearly top 25 Hawaii team, both on the road, and two of their losses have come to elite Oregon and Stanford teams (the Stanford loss was a nail-biter as well).

I don't really have much to say about NC St. I think the BCS is punishing them a bit because it's generally underrating the ACC; other than that they have the usual formula for an underrated team, tough schedule, generally close losses, a number of dominant wins (though some were pretty close).

Arizona St is the poster child for a team that's been punished for a really tough schedule. They're 4-6 in 1-A games... but they've played six road games, they've played all 10 games against AQ opponents, and two of their home games were against top five teams (and one was a very close loss). They also played a very good Wisconsin team (rated #5 in BCS) on the road and only lost by a single point. They had an admittedly atrocious showing at Cal, but other than that it's been a boatload of quality performances, just against a schedule that was ridiculously hard. It's extremely unfortunate that this team isn't allowed to make a bowl game, especially since SJ St bailed on them late. That said, those are the rules, and they should have found a replacement. In week one, Baylor, Kansas, Miami, Virginia (who ALSO had 2 AA games on the schedule), West Virginia, Rutgers, Air Force, SD St, Nevada, Louisiana Tech, and probably a bunch of others were all playing AA teams; if ASU tried harder, they probably could have gotten one of those teams on the schedule. Presuming a win in such a game (fair assumption against at least half the list, though teams like Nevada, Miami, WV etc. would have been tough), failing to do so cost them a bowl game. In 2010, ASU was a better team than around half of the teams who are going to bowls, which says it all about both how good ASU was and the administrative screw-ups that cost them a bowl game.

12) The following teams are ranked materially lower than the model than the BCS: Auburn, Wisconsin, LSU, Michigan St, Mississippi St, Hawaii, UCF.

Auburn and Wisconsin have been discussed above, I won't rehash them here.

LSU's schedule may not be at the very top of the list, but it's been strong and absolutely in line with their neighbors in the rankings. Where they're getting hurt is, unsurprisingly, their large number of close to very close wins. 6 points (UNC), 6 points (WV), 2 points (Tenn), 4 points (Florida), 3 points (Bama), and 7 points (Ole Miss) has pretty much defined their resume. They dominated Miss St, which was a very good showing, but other than that it's been the Auburn loss, the Arkansas loss, a bunch of close to very close wins, and comfortable wins against Vandy and ULM, neither of which are going to move the dial much.

In the BCS, Michigan St recently rose two points after barely beating a mediocre Penn St team, one week after they rose two spots after barely beating a bad Purdue team at home. Once again, the BCS punishes tough schedules and rewards easy ones. Moreover, in terms of season-long resumes, Michigan St has not been especially dominant (especially after they got waxed at Iowa), and not had much of a schedule to date (Notre Dame was the only decent non-conference opponent, and they missed Ohio St, and they had a ridiculous eight home games [one was AA]). Even if you think compu-picks is too low on them, putting them into the top 10 is flat-out ridiculous. They're basically a homeless man's LSU, with the same tendency towards way too close wins, a lack of good performances against teams not named Wisconsin, a crummy schedule, and the massive beating Iowa laid on them a few weeks ago.

Mississippi St played four top 25 teams and lost to them all, though two of the four were close losses. They barely held on against an awful UAB team at home, and struggled against mediocre Ole Miss and Kentucky teams. Top 25 is a bit of a reach for them, though to be fair it's not like compu-picks thinks there's a huge difference between them and #25 on the list.

Hawaii is 10-3... but with a really weak schedule, three double-digit losses (including a 35-point bludgeoning by Boise, a 18-point loss at a poor Colorado team, and a 13-point home loss to USC). They also had a couple squeaker wins (Army by just 3, Nevada by 6). They're a good team... but top 25 is just too much.

One week after the ridiculous ranking of NIU, they gag in a bad loss and get replaced by another joke, Central Florida. UCF probably doesn't even belong in the top 40, much less the top 25. Their schedule was atrocious, they've played precisely one team that's even arguably top 25 (NC St... though the BCS doesn't have them ranked), and they have three losses anyway. The best two teams they beat were probably Houston and SMU. UCF shouldn't even be without shouting distance of the top 25. Utterly ridiculous.

13) This isn't directly to do with the list, but here's a couple fun lists of results:

Texas 20, @ Nebraska 13
Nebraska 48, @ Kansas St 13
Kansas St 39, @ Texas 14

@ Michigan St 34, Wisconsin 24
Wisconsin 31, @ Iowa 30
@ Iowa 37, Michigan St 6

Alabama 24, @ Arkansas 20
Arkansas 41, @ South Carolina 20
@ South Carolina 35, Alabama 21

USC 24, @ Arizona 21 @ Arizona 44, Washington 14 Washington 32, @ USC 31

@ Air Force 35, BYU 14
@ BYU 24, San Diego St 21
@ San Diego St 27, Air Force 25

If you try to apply "head to head is the only thing that matters" logic to this list, your head will explode. You can tease out certain information from these lists (Wisconsin, Alabama and Washington had both of their games on the road, they get a bonus; Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas, Arizona and Air Force had losses much closer than their wins, therefore they get a bonus; etc.), but what it really does is highlight that each of these results was JUST ONE GAME. To properly evaluate a team, you need to evaluate the whole resume, not pretend that a single result means everything and the rest almost nothing just because of head to head "logic". That's why Compu-Picks doesn't give ANY special consideration to head to head results. You are what your resume says you are. Period.

Technical notes about the lists:

1) Conference ratings are straight averages of all of the teams in the league. There is no "central averaging" (like Sagarin does), or over-weighting the top teams, or anything like that. Such approaches would yield different numbers, and could potentially change the order of some of the leagues.

2) Games against AA teams are not counted. There are many good arguments both for and against counting such games (see this link for an interesting analysis of the issue). I have elected not to count these results in the Compu-Picks model. As is the case almost every year, this means that one or two especially surprising AA upsets don't make it into the numbers, skewing the results to a fair degree for a couple of teams. I believe that this is a more than acceptable tradeoff given the substantial issues that counting AA games would create, but you are certainly welcome to disagree with my decision on this matter.

3) As mentioned here, the purpose of this system is to make picks, not to create a list used for rankings. As such, I evaluate the system solely on the basis of how good a job it does making picks. I do not evaluate the system on the basis of whether or not it agreed with AP polls, BCS rankings, the BCS computers, or any other such list out there. In fact, the system has a long and established history of being substantially different than those sources. I am fine with these differences. To be honest, I publish these lists because I find them interesting and thought-provoking, and because I believe it is a good thing to introduce an approach that doesn't simply regurgitate the same avenues of thinking as you can find in most places.

4) The system is noisy, especially earlier in the year. This is why I start with only a top 10 / bottom 10 list, and slowly expand it. While I believe that the numbers are reasonable, I certainly accept that they're not perfect. If you believe that a specific team is over- or under-ranked, you may well be right. I bring this up because if you're going to criticize the system for being wrong about a team, I'd appreciate it if you explain why you think the system is substantially wrong, rather than just marginally so (if it's just one or two slots off, especially well before the end of the year, I'd consider that well within a reasonable error range).

5) Some people have expressed curiosity about compu-picks' schedule ratings. Essentially, it's the average difficulty of all 1-A games that a team has played to date, which basically means the average rating of all of a team's 1-A opponents, then adjusted for things like home-field advantage. This, of course, varies enormously from the NCAA's official schedule ratings, which simply look at the opponents' winning percentages and that's it. Needless to say, the NCAA's approach is silly and deeply flawed; it's better than picking numbers out of a hat, but no serious analyst should rely on it at all when trying to evaluate how difficult a team's schedule actually was.

2010 Compu-Picks Blog

Questions, comments or suggestions? Email me at cfn_ms@hotmail.com


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