Before we tear into it, let me give a quick refresher on what exactly it is I'm doing. Simply put, I've tried to find how much a team dominates its schedule by calculating a base score using margin of victory (MOV) and average knockout time (KO). Then, I weight each team's score based on strength of schedule (SOS) and the team's winning percentage. Everything is summarized here at the beginning of the article, if you need a refresher, or you can delve into the Excel formulas if you want to see EXACTLY how I'm doing things.
Ok, let's dig in.
If at the beginning of the season, I had told you that the Tigers were undefeated and at #1 in the first iteration of the Playoff Committee's rankings, you would have been pretty happy, but you also probably would have expected it. After all, Auburn was the favorite to win the SEC. You would also be a little anxious about the rest of the year, as Auburn would still have a high profile Texas A&M, the SEC East favorite UGA, and a showdown with Alabama to finish things up. But hey, if the Tigers are undefeated, that means Carl Lawson has probably stayed healthy, Jeremy Johnson and Duke Williams have been the NFL caliber pair we thought them to be, and the Auburn ground game looks like 2013 all over again. Well, guess what. The Tigers are undefeated, despite a pretty tough game with Louisville early in the year.
Wait, what's that? Auburn isn't undefeated or #1? But you said...
Oh. Oh no.
Somehow, someway, it's the Clemson Tigers that are on top of the college football world right now, not our Auburn Tigers. You saw it last week, and maybe you thought I was a little crazy, because surely Clemson would Clemson sooner or later. But as it turns out, Clemson has just been really, really good, and they showed it again by handling a top-30 NC State team by 15 points last weekend. The Playoff Committee agrees with me, too. Okay, enough bragging, I guess you probably want to see the rankings now. Drum roll, please...
Here's the whole spreadsheet in all of it's glory if you're into that sort of thing.
Same as last week, folks. The Top 4 is exactly the same, and #5 Alabama/#6 Stanford have swapped positions this week due to slight changes in their SOS. So instead of just repeating myself from last week, let's talk about the Playoff Committee. I've got three of the same four, with #1 Clemson, #3 Ohio State, and #4 LSU. However, the Committee must have struck a deal with the devil, deciding Alabama was worthy of a Top 4 spot, replacing my #2 Baylor. Sure, Baylor ain't played nobody (I've got them with the 123rd strongest schedule. Which is also the 6th easiest in the country. Yikes.), but the only team that has taken them to the second half within a possession was #107 SMU in week 1, who eventually lost by 35. They've been blowing EVERYONE out of the water. Meanwhile, Alabama has a LOSS on their record to a good but far from great #24 Ole Miss team in Tuscaloosa, and let #42 Tennessee and #52 Arkansas hang around deep into the second half. Don't get me wrong, I think Alabama is one of the elite teams this year. They're #5 in my rankings. But they have shown me nothing to say that they should be in the Playoff before Baylor so far this year. Luckily, Baylor has probably the most difficult road in the country the rest of the way, and should they (or TCU, where this argument is basically the same) go undefeated, they won't have to worry about being left out.
An even bigger gripe I have about the Committee's rankings, though is where they have put Notre Dame. Number 5? Really? At 7-1, they have blowout wins over #85 Texas, #105 UMass; decent wins over #64 Georgia Tech, #15 USC (who is unranked by the Committee, by the way, so I'm not sure the Committee gave them much credit for that), and #13 Navy; a last minute win over #22 Temple, and a no-knockout win over 2-5 #90 Virginia. Basically, I'm saying their resume is barely above average, they have a loss, and they've let multiple inferior teams take them down to the end of the game. Top 10 team? Sure, I'll give them that. But ahead of teams like Baylor, Florida, Stanford? I don't think so. They're getting too much credit for losing to Clemson if you ask me.
Another Another Crazy Ending
Two weeks ago it was Michigan-Michigan State. Last week it was Georgia Tech-Florida State. While those two games provided Kick Six-esque endings (both comparable in style, but neither come close to that night in Jordan Hare), this past weekend we got something completely different. I'm not here to get into the argument of how it should be handled, but obviously Duke should feel jobbed. The ACC said as much. Sadly, there will be pollers who say a loss is a loss is a loss and drop Duke down just for "losing". This situation is a reason why I love this game, though. No matter what happened on that last play, this was going to be a no-knockout game, so each team was rewarded/punished the same regardless of the outcome. The only difference was Duke getting either +/- 3 points in the MOV, which is a pretty small difference over the course of the whole season's numbers. I decided I would still use the official final score, with Miami winning by three and sitting at #67. But it's ok, Dukies. Right now, I have you at #40, but with the win, you would have only been at #35. That's not a huge jump.
Photo Credit: Grant Halverson / Getty Images
"Coach K would've gotten that call"
Winners and Losers
Let's start with the losers in the Sterritt Score compared to the Playoff Committee. I have a few teams ranked significantly lower than the Committee does. The most high profile drop I have is with #19 Michigan State, where they are at #7 with the Committee. I think the Committee sees the team that has been one of the two best B1G programs over the last few years, who is undefeated with a win over a really good Michigan team. Sure, but that's not the whole story. That three point, last minute win against #51 Oregon is looking pretty uninspiring these days. #94 Purdue and #91 Rutgers, both laughing stocks of the B1G, took them to the wire. Their ONLY win against a team inside the top 50 is #11 Michigan, which they essentially played to a draw for all intents and purposes. They still have #3 Ohio State and #33 Penn State, plus a potential conference championship game against a likely undefeated #8 Iowa. My point is, if they deserve it, they'll be there. Other losers of note are #34 Texas A&M (-16), #23 Utah (-11), #27 FSU (-11), and #61 Northwestern (-40). Northwestern beat Stanford, sure, but they barely won in three of their five wins, and were BLASTED by both #11 Michigan and #8 Iowa. They have no business being ranked, and I actually have them with a slightly negative Sterritt Score.
As far as winners go, I think you would have to consider Baylor my biggest winner, as they moved up four spots into the Top 4 at #2. I also have #6 Stanford (+5) and #9 Oklahoma (+6) jumping into the Top 10, Mississippi State (+7) at #12, Houston (+8) at #17, and #13 Navy and #15 USC not even in the CFP Rankings. The three I'm most hesitant about are Mississippi State, Navy, and USC, but the common theme there is several blowout wins and a handful of TIGHT loses to go along with strong strengths of schedule.
Just like the Top 4, nothing new to see here. The SEC is the clear favorite, with the B1G/Pac 12/Big 12 group packed tightly together behind it. Then there's the ACC, which again, has put all of it's eggs in one basket this year with Clemson. If #27 FSU were to upset the Tigers this week, the ACC is all but eliminated from the Playoffs with the rest of the conferences poor performance. The gap with between the ACC and the AAC has shrunk to almost nothing this week, with the AAC's average team ranking sitting around #61 compared to the ACC's #59. I'm telling y'all, the American Athletic Conference is legitimate this year. They have 3 Top 25 teams and 5 in the top 40. That's one more Top 25 team than the ACC and the same number of top 40 teams for those who are keeping track.
Games of the Week
Now this is the kind of week we've been waiting for. Several conferences have backloaded schedules this year, namely the Big 10, Big 12, and AAC. We're hitting the home stretch. This next month is why we love college football. This week specifically, our top game is no surprise. #4 LSU travels to #5 Alabama in what should be another great game between the two, and despite my total antipathy for the two teams, I have to say I'm pulling for Fournette to embarrass the Tide like he did Auburn. Besides the obvious showdown of goliaths this week, we also have #27 FSU at #1 Clemson, #40 Duke at #21 UNC (not just a basketball game anymore!), #13 Navy at #16 Memphis, #14 TCU at #20 Oklahoma State, #10 Notre Dame at #57 Pitt, and several important conference games across the country. If you are a fan of some #FunBelt games, I highly recommend #61 Arkansas State at #44 App State on Thursday night. Both teams have provided some high quality entertainment when they've been in the spotlight this year, and I can almost guarantee you will enjoy it more than watching #74 Mizzou futile attempts to get past midfield against #12 Mississippi State on Thursday.
We Are Who We Are
As disappointing as this season has been, this Auburn team has finally found it's place in the rankings. We sit again this week at #68, the same as last week, and essentially where we've been since the beginning of October. It's not pretty, folks. Obviously this team has way more talent than the #68 team in the country, and we've been able to play with any team we've faced so far, sans LSU, because there are so many reasons we couldn't play with LSU this year. This week we have #34 TAMU on the docket, and while I'd like to sit here and tell you all the reasons we can win this one, I've given up on that this year. It all comes down to execution, both in the players and the coaches themselves. I won't beat that dead horse, though, Peggy already provided us with the best breakdown of the current situation that you can find.
Questions? Comments? Let me know down below or give me a shout on Twitter @SterrittScore !