Well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news? I finally have enough data for my rankings! The bad news? Auburn is… pretty low. Like, 105th in the country. That’s not exactly what I envisioned for the Tigers when I started this project over the summer. Alas, four games in, here we are.
What is the "Sterritt Score", you ask? It’s a way of calculating how much a team has dominated throughout the season. It uses margin of victory (MOV), strength of schedule (SOS), and what has been recently defined as college football knockouts (KO) to come up with a score by which every team can be ranked. Margin of victory is as simple as it sounds, and strength of schedule is calculated as opponent’s win percentage in games excluding the games the team played in. For example when calculating Auburn’s opponent’s win percentage, I would first determine the total record of Auburn’s opponents (5-4), but I would not count the games Auburn played against Louisville, LSU, and MSU. This would make Auburn’s opponents win percentage 50%, or 3-3. The concept of knockouts, as written about by the user WarRoom Eagle on collegeandmagnolia.com, first got me started on attempting to construct my own ranking system this past summer, and I went back and created post-season rankings for the 2014 season to test it out, and added a slight tweak to it. However, this is my first time attempting to keep up with the rankings in-season, and it has certainly been interesting. I waited until this week to release the results, because between FCS opponents, bye weeks, and some teams even having Mother Nature on the schedule, I just now have enough data for the rankings to make sense. Even still, a few teams have a Score of 0. This is just a complication of the formula, and should be resolved in the coming weeks.
Before I say much more about the rankings, let me go ahead and unveil them. Drum roll please…
Well then. That certainly is a Top 4 you won’t get anywhere else! Before you completely dismiss these rankings, let me attempt to explain. West Virginia, far and away the number one team, has played two countable games (I don’t keep track of FCS opponents), Georgia Southern and Maryland. Neither team is great, BUT, so far, their only losses have been to West Virginia. And in those games, West Virginia DESTROYED them. Their margin of victory is 41.5, and their average KO time is 53.75 minutes. That is absurdly good, and also completely impossible to maintain. However, you have to remember that these rankings are purely reactive. The point of the calculation is to eliminate historical biases, and to help see teams for what they have actually done THIS SEASON. On that same note, NC State, a 3-0 team with wins against the likes of Troy, Old Dominion, and South Alabama, is ranked #2 because of their great KO and MOV scores. Surely once conference play begins, those numbers will slip.
Where do national favorites like Utah and Ole Miss rank? Utah comes in at #12. While they hold a decent MOV and KO average, their strength of schedule (50%) is holding them back. The same situation occurs for #17 Ole Miss, with a strength of schedule of only 43%. How can I justify Bama being ranked 3 with Ole Miss at 17? Despite Ole Miss having a head to head win, that game essentially came down to a coin flip, with only a 6 point MOV and 9 second KO. Meanwhile, Ole Miss slightly struggle with Vandy, and Bama throttled their other three opponents. When you consider Bama’s SOS is 75%, it begins to make a little more sense why they are ranked so highly.
For those of you who love to claim the SEC out there, fear not! The average ranking for teams in the SEC is #38 in the country, just barely edging out the Big 12 at #39. The worst conference has by far been the Sun Belt, with an average ranking at #109. The only team they have coming in at better than #100 in the country is Georgia Southern, all the way up at #56.
The top non-power conference teams in the country are Navy (#6), Ohio (#16), Louisiana Tech (#34), and Temple (#36). Good on you, Navy! The worst P5 team in the country has been Kansas, ranked at #117. Thank goodness for Kansas, because after them, the worst P5 team has been, you guessed it, the Auburn Tigers. Are we really worse than Vandy? I don’t think so, but on average the opposing team has put us away with 20 minutes left in the game, while for Vandy it has only been about 12 minutes. Also, Vandy has lost to Ole Miss and UGA, which really boosts their strength of schedule. Thanks, Louisville, for being 0-3.
I think this is a good point to remind everyone that we are only through Week 4. There isn’t really enough data for me to say that these rankings reflect what has happened on the field; they certainly don’t pass the eye test. But as the sample size grows, and the rankings have a little more data to draw from, hopefully things will fall into place. If not, so be it. I don’t think the Playoff Committee will be knocking at my door any time soon.
Thoughts? Questions? Give me a shout in the comments or on Twitter @RyanSSterritt