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130-team S&P+ rankings, where Ohio State somehow remains the safest bet in college football

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S&P+ is not alone in its love of Ohio State — Vegas likes the Buckeyes even more.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

My S&P+ ratings have been extremely dialed in over the last couple of weeks. After a midseason slump, they hit 56 percent against the spread in back-to-back weeks with an absolute error — the average difference between projected and actual margins — at 11 or lower each week. (As means of comparison, the spread tends to have an absolute error around 12.2, and over the course of a season, almost no ratings system does better than that.)

I mention this not to pound my chest — okay, not entirely, anyway — but to set the table. Good predictive ratings are not résumé ratings, and they don’t give you bonus points for wins and losses. They simply compare expected output to actual output and adjust accordingly.

If you’re interested in a decent résumé ranking of sorts, I encourage you to visit this post on strength of schedule. I created a Resume S&P+ ranking, and it is updated through Week 11.

Below, however, are the predictive ratings, the actual S&P+. You’ll probably roll your eyes at the top team.

(You can find full unit rankings (and a yearly archive) at Football Outsiders. Also, if the chart below isn’t loading friendly on your mobile device, that Football Outsiders link should work.)

Week 13 S&P+

Team Rec. S&P+ Rk Last Wk Change
Team Rec. S&P+ Rk Last Wk Change
Ohio State 9-2 22.5 1 1 0
Alabama 11-0 22.2 2 2 0
Central Florida 10-0 17.8 3 5 2
Wisconsin 11-0 17.3 4 3 -1
Georgia 10-1 17.0 5 7 2
Washington 9-2 17.0 6 4 -2
Auburn 9-2 16.9 7 6 -1
Penn State 9-2 16.0 8 8 0
Clemson 10-1 15.2 9 11 2
Oklahoma 10-1 14.9 10 10 0
Miami-FL 10-0 14.0 11 9 -2
TCU 9-2 12.8 12 13 1
Notre Dame 9-2 12.5 13 14 1
Oklahoma State 8-3 12.0 14 12 -2
South Florida 9-1 10.9 15 15 0
Florida Atlantic 8-3 10.6 16 19 3
Michigan 8-3 9.7 17 16 -1
USC 10-2 9.2 18 17 -1
Washington State 9-2 9.1 19 21 2
Mississippi State 8-3 8.8 20 18 -2
LSU 8-3 8.6 21 22 1
Memphis 9-1 8.4 22 30 8
Boise State 9-2 8.4 23 27 4
Louisville 7-4 8.3 24 36 12
Toledo 9-2 8.1 25 28 3
Fresno State 8-3 8.0 26 23 -3
Arkansas State 6-3 7.8 27 25 -2
Southern Miss 7-4 7.8 28 32 4
Ohio 8-3 7.6 29 20 -9
Missouri 6-5 7.6 30 34 4
Wake Forest 7-4 7.3 31 29 -2
Stanford 8-3 7.0 32 26 -6
Virginia Tech 8-3 7.0 33 24 -9
Houston 6-4 6.2 34 35 1
Michigan State 8-3 6.2 35 39 4
Northern Illinois 8-3 5.4 36 37 1
Troy 8-2 5.4 37 40 3
Purdue 5-6 5.4 38 43 5
Colorado State 7-5 5.3 39 50 11
Iowa State 7-4 5.2 40 41 1
UTSA 6-4 4.9 41 42 1
Appalachian State 6-4 4.9 42 47 5
West Virginia 7-4 4.5 43 33 -10
NC State 7-4 4.5 44 38 -6
San Diego State 9-2 4.4 45 49 4
Utah 5-6 4.3 46 44 -2
Arizona 7-4 4.3 47 31 -16
North Texas 8-3 4.1 48 46 -2
Northwestern 8-3 4.0 49 62 13
Ole Miss 5-6 3.9 50 51 1
Indiana 5-6 3.8 51 65 14
Oregon 6-5 3.8 52 60 8
Texas 6-5 3.2 53 61 8
Wyoming 7-4 3.0 54 53 -1
Miami-OH 4-7 2.7 55 54 -1
Georgia Tech 5-5 2.5 56 45 -11
Texas Tech 5-6 2.4 57 52 -5
SMU 6-5 2.4 58 48 -10
Army 8-3 2.4 59 59 0
Marshall 7-4 2.3 60 58 -2
Texas A&M 7-4 2.1 61 57 -4
Iowa 6-5 2.0 62 55 -7
South Carolina 8-3 1.8 63 69 6
Utah State 6-5 1.5 64 75 11
Virginia 6-5 1.5 65 67 2
Eastern Michigan 4-7 1.4 66 64 -2
Western Michigan 6-5 1.1 67 66 -1
Florida State 4-6 0.8 68 79 11
Kansas State 6-5 0.7 69 68 -1
Navy 6-4 0.6 70 63 -7
UAB 7-4 0.5 71 56 -15
Boston College 6-5 -0.2 72 77 5
UCLA 5-6 -0.5 73 72 -1
Duke 5-6 -0.6 74 88 14
Buffalo 5-6 -0.8 75 84 9
Arizona State 6-5 -1.2 76 91 15
Middle Tennessee 5-6 -1.3 77 74 -3
Western Kentucky 6-5 -1.4 78 83 5
Central Michigan 7-4 -1.4 79 78 -1
New Mexico State 4-6 -1.4 80 73 -7
Massachusetts 4-7 -1.7 81 87 6
Colorado 5-6 -1.8 82 80 -2
Florida 4-6 -2.4 83 100 17
Pittsburgh 4-7 -2.5 84 92 8
Minnesota 5-6 -2.6 85 70 -15
Syracuse 4-7 -2.6 86 71 -15
California 5-6 -2.6 87 89 2
Kentucky 7-4 -2.7 88 76 -12
Louisiana Tech 5-6 -2.7 89 95 6
Vanderbilt 4-7 -3.1 90 81 -9
Tulane 5-6 -3.3 91 93 2
North Carolina 3-8 -3.4 92 103 11
Florida International 6-4 -3.5 93 86 -7
Temple 5-6 -3.6 94 85 -9
Arkansas 4-7 -3.9 95 99 4
Nebraska 4-7 -4.1 96 90 -6
UNLV 5-6 -4.5 97 98 1
UL-Monroe 4-6 -4.7 98 94 -4
Air Force 4-7 -4.9 99 97 -2
New Mexico 3-8 -5.1 100 104 4
Idaho 3-7 -5.3 101 102 1
Georgia State 6-3 -5.3 102 101 -1
South Alabama 4-7 -5.4 103 82 -21
Tennessee 4-7 -6.1 104 105 1
Baylor 1-10 -6.5 105 109 4
BYU 3-9 -6.5 106 108 2
Rutgers 4-7 -6.5 107 96 -11
Akron 6-5 -6.7 108 110 2
Maryland 4-7 -6.8 109 106 -3
Cincinnati 3-8 -6.8 110 107 -3
UL-Lafayette 5-5 -7.7 111 115 4
Texas State 2-9 -8.4 112 113 1
Nevada 2-9 -8.7 113 114 1
Bowling Green 2-9 -8.8 114 111 -3
Old Dominion 5-6 -9.0 115 116 1
Coastal Carolina 2-9 -9.1 116 117 1
Tulsa 2-9 -9.6 117 118 1
Illinois 2-9 -10.3 118 112 -6
Connecticut 3-8 -11.5 119 120 1
Hawaii 3-8 -12.1 120 119 -1
East Carolina 3-8 -12.1 121 125 4
Oregon State 1-10 -13.3 122 121 -1
Georgia Southern 1-9 -13.6 123 129 6
Ball State 2-9 -13.8 124 123 -1
Kansas 1-10 -13.8 125 122 -3
Charlotte 1-10 -14.6 126 124 -2
Rice 1-10 -15.4 127 126 -1
Kent State 2-9 -16.1 128 127 -1
San Jose State 1-11 -17.9 129 128 -1
UTEP 0-11 -18.5 130 130 0

Yes, Ohio State.

It’s become a weekly tradition since Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes lost to Oklahoma: I post the updated S&P+, and I get yelled at because the Buckeyes are obviously too high. They moved to No. 1 in Week 7 thanks to a rampant run of dominance following the OU loss.

When they got rocked by Iowa, they fell only to No. 2 because of the cushion they had built with the aforementioned dominance. And following one of the most dominant wins of the year — 48-3 over Michigan State — they snuck back ahead of Alabama, which needed all of 60 minutes to eke past Mississippi State.

So yes. Despite two losses, my numbers (and others’, I should note,) still trust the everliving hell out of Ohio State. And while some may find that appalling, I should also note that S&P+ has actually underestimated the Buckeyes in half of their 10 games.

Ohio State vs. S&P+ projection

Opponent Projected Margin Actual Margin Diff
Opponent Projected Margin Actual Margin Diff
at Indiana 17.0 28 11.0
Oklahoma 5.9 -15 -20.9
Army 32.2 31 -1.2
UNLV 35.9 33 -2.9
at Rutgers 25.5 56 30.5
Maryland 26.2 48 21.8
at Nebraska 21.7 42 20.3
Penn State 9.6 1 -8.6
at Iowa 16.1 -31 -47.1
Michigan State 13.5 45 31.5

On average, Ohio State has overachieved its projection by about three points per game. That’s pretty impressive considering how favorable those projections have been. Plus, here’s your remind that Vegas liked the Buckeyes even more than S&P+ and has for much of the year. Vegas is also good at the predictions.

One other note on why Ohio State is in the top spot: it’s everybody else’s fault.

This year’s upper class pales in comparison to last year’s. With a plus-21.7 rating, the Buckeyes would have ranked sixth in last year’s S&P+ ratings after 10 games. I don’t think too many people would have found that odd.

Current No. 2 Alabama would have ranked seventh. Current No. 3 Wisconsin? 11th! Only two of this year’s teams would have been in last year’s top 10. That’s how much parity we have seen this year.

The current S&P+ top 10 and where each team would have ranked at this point in 2016:

  1. Ohio State (would have ranked sixth)
  2. Alabama (seventh)
  3. Wisconsin (11th)
  4. UCF (11th)
  5. Auburn (13th)
  6. Georgia (13th)
  7. Penn State (14th)
  8. Miami (14th)
  9. Oklahoma (16th)
  10. Clemson (16th)

We haven’t seen a level of parity like this since 2007. Even Alabama pales in comparison to its 2016 self, even if the Crimson Tide have stubbornly refused to accede to our desire for chaos and has only flirted with getting upset by Texas A&M and Mississippi State. But despite this, someone still has to rank first. By a nose, it’s the two-loss Buckeyes.

The week’s top movers (good)

I like to say you can prove yourself every week no matter who you’re playing. Texas A&M was Week 11’s poster boy for that. The Aggies outgained New Mexico by more than 400 yards and racked up a 55-14 win that could have been much, much worse — it was 48-7 at halftime. Consequently, Kevin Sumlin’s team blazed by a crowded field to become this week’s biggest riser.

  1. Texas A&M (up 15 spots, from 72nd to 57th)
  2. Missouri (up 14 spots, from 48th to 34th)
  3. Ole Miss (up 14 spots, from 65th to 51st)
  4. Miami (Ohio) (up 12 spots, from 66th to 54th)
  5. Kentucky (up 12 spots, from 88th to 76th)
  6. WKU (up 12 spots, from 95th to 83rd)
  7. Arizona (up 11 spots, from 42nd to 31st)
  8. Minnesota (up 11 spots, from 81st to 70th)
  9. CMU (up 11 spots, from 89th to 78th)

Barry Odom’s Missouri Tigers, by the way, have now moved up 61 spots in four weeks. They beat Florida by 29 points a week ago, then finished the Butch Jones era off with a 33-point win over Tennessee on Saturday. S&P+ keeps moving them up, and the Tigers keep overachieving vs. their improving projections. They lost five in a row in September and October, and now they have won four in a row.

Top movers (bad)

  1. Iowa (down 20 spots, from 35th to 55th)
  2. New Mexico (down 19 spots, from 85th to 104th)
  3. Michigan State (down 17 spots, from 22nd to 39th)
  4. Rutgers (down 14 spots, from 82nd to 96th)
  5. Nebraska (down 12 spots, from 78th to 90th)
  6. Vanderbilt (down 11 spots, from 70th to 81st)
  7. Louisiana Tech (down 11 spots, from 84th to 95th)
  8. Virginia (down 10 spots, from 57th to 67th)

Wisconsin rocked Iowa (eventually), Ohio State destroyed Michigan State, Rutgers was barely able to stay within 30 points of Penn State, and Nebraska wasn’t able to keep Minnesota under 400 rushing yards. The Big Ten claimed four of the top five spots on the bad movers list. Thanks to the losing teams moving down more than the winning teams moved up, the Big Ten no longer has the best conference average.

SEC! SEC! SEC! SEC!

A Big Ten team may have taken back the top spot, but the conference had itself a bad week overall. Combined with teams like Texas A&M, Missouri, Ole Miss, and Kentucky all rising, we have ourselves a new No. 1 conference.

FBS conferences, ranked by average S&P+ rating:

  1. SEC (+4.7)
  2. Big Ten (+4.3)
  3. Big 12 (+3.8)
  4. ACC (+3.3)
  5. Pac-12 (+3.1)
  6. AAC (+0.0)
  7. MAC (-1.9)
  8. MWC (-2.0)
  9. Conference USA (-2.5)
  10. Sun Belt (-3.7)

Not too long ago, the SEC’s S&P+ average was in the double digits. Like Alabama, it isn’t quite as good as normal. But it is, for one week at least, still the safest bet in college football. We’ll see what happens next week.