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130-team S&P+ rankings, in which Wisconsin chose a perfect year to make a run

There might not be any truly elite teams, but someone’s still going to win the national title.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Minnesota Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

At this point in the 2016 season, six teams had an S&P+ rating of plus-22.3 or higher (meaning they were measured as 22.3 points or better than the average FBS team), including all four eventual College Football Playoff participants. Louisville was No. 7 at plus-21.4.

Your current No. 1 team for 2017, Ohio State, would have ranked eighth at plus-21.3. Wisconsin is almost literally the same team this year (plus-18.6) as last year (plus-19.2), only the Badgers were 10th in 2016. They’re third this time around.

When you look at the updated S&P+ rankings below, keep that in mind. As strange as the top 10 may look to you — there are currently four two-loss teams among the top seven — realize that the problem isn’t with those teams, it’s that there’s no blatantly obvious top tier this season.

This is an absolutely perfect season for a team like Wisconsin to make a run. The Badgers might not be as good as the typical Elite Team, but they’ve been as good as anyone else in 2017, and if they can pull a slight upset over the Buckeyes in next week’s Big Ten title game, they could have a legitimately solid chance of making noise.

A reminder: S&P+ is intended to be predictive and forward looking.

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. That’s how Ohio State can remain No. 1 despite a pair of losses. That’s how Auburn doesn’t automatically hop Alabama after a head-to-head win.

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 13. It paints no clearer a picture but might make more sense from a transitive perspective.

Below, however, are the predictive ratings, the actual S&P+.

(You can find full unit rankings, plus 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.)

Post-bowl S&P+ rankings

Team Rec. S&P+ Rk Last Wk Change
Team Rec. S&P+ Rk Last Wk Change
Alabama 12-1 20.8 1 2 1
Ohio State 12-2 20.8 2 1 -1
Georgia 13-1 18.6 3 3 0
Penn State 11-2 17.2 4 5 1
Washington 10-3 16.7 5 4 -1
Wisconsin 13-1 16.6 6 6 0
Central Florida 13-0 15.4 7 9 2
Clemson 12-2 15.3 8 7 -1
Oklahoma 12-2 15.0 9 8 -1
Auburn 10-4 14.2 10 10 0
Florida Atlantic 11-3 13.4 11 12 1
Oklahoma State 10-3 13.1 12 11 -1
Notre Dame 10-3 11.2 13 14 1
TCU 11-3 11.0 14 13 -1
South Florida 10-2 10.4 15 15 0
Louisville 8-5 9.3 16 17 1
Miami-FL 10-3 9.2 17 19 2
Appalachian State 9-4 9.1 18 35 17
Michigan State 10-3 9.1 19 27 8
Memphis 10-3 9.1 20 18 -2
LSU 9-4 9.1 21 20 -1
Ohio 9-4 8.8 22 33 11
Boise State 11-3 8.1 23 28 5
Fresno State 10-4 8.1 24 25 1
Arkansas State 7-5 8.1 25 23 -2
USC 11-3 8.1 26 22 -4
Michigan 8-5 7.8 27 21 -6
Mississippi State 9-4 7.8 28 26 -2
Virginia Tech 9-4 7.6 29 24 -5
Toledo 11-3 7.5 30 16 -14
Troy 11-2 7.4 31 37 6
Stanford 9-5 7.1 32 30 -2
Utah 7-6 6.9 33 39 6
San Diego State 10-3 6.6 34 38 4
Missouri 7-6 6.4 35 32 -3
Houston 7-5 6.4 36 29 -7
Wake Forest 8-5 6.0 37 36 -1
NC State 9-4 5.9 38 45 7
Washington State 9-4 5.4 39 31 -8
Southern Miss 8-5 5.2 40 34 -6
Purdue 7-6 5.1 41 41 0
Ole Miss 6-6 5.0 42 46 4
Florida State 7-6 4.9 43 51 8
Iowa State 8-5 4.8 44 44 0
Colorado State 7-6 4.7 45 42 -3
Northwestern 10-3 4.7 46 43 -3
Oregon 7-6 4.7 47 40 -7
Arizona 7-6 4.1 48 49 1
Iowa 8-5 3.8 49 47 -2
Texas 7-6 3.7 50 54 4
Indiana 5-7 3.5 51 50 -1
Marshall 8-5 3.5 52 58 6
Wyoming 8-5 3.4 53 61 8
Northern Illinois 8-5 3.3 54 48 -6
UTSA 6-5 3.3 55 52 -3
Miami-OH 5-7 3.2 56 53 -3
Utah State 6-7 2.8 57 55 -2
Texas Tech 6-7 2.8 58 57 -1
Army 10-3 2.1 59 59 0
South Carolina 9-4 2.0 60 66 6
Texas A&M 7-6 2.0 61 64 3
North Texas 9-5 1.9 62 56 -6
West Virginia 7-6 1.6 63 62 -1
Kansas State 8-5 1.3 64 65 1
Duke 7-6 1.2 65 70 5
Boston College 7-6 1.0 66 67 1
SMU 7-6 0.9 67 60 -7
Middle Tennessee 7-6 0.9 68 71 3
Navy 7-6 0.9 69 78 9
Eastern Michigan 5-7 0.9 70 68 -2
Louisiana Tech 7-6 0.8 71 80 9
New Mexico State 7-6 0.6 72 69 -3
Georgia Tech 5-6 0.5 73 72 -1
Western Michigan 6-6 0.2 74 74 0
Buffalo 6-6 0.2 75 76 1
UAB 8-5 0.1 76 63 -13
UCLA 6-7 0.1 77 75 -2
Temple 7-6 -0.2 78 86 8
Central Michigan 8-5 -0.7 79 73 -6
Vanderbilt 5-7 -1.2 80 81 1
Arizona State 7-6 -1.4 81 79 -2
Pittsburgh 5-7 -1.5 82 82 0
Western Kentucky 6-7 -1.8 83 84 1
Massachusetts 4-8 -1.8 84 85 1
Virginia 6-7 -1.9 85 77 -8
Florida 4-7 -2.2 86 87 1
California 5-7 -2.5 87 88 1
Syracuse 4-8 -2.7 88 89 1
Tulane 5-7 -2.8 89 90 1
Kentucky 7-6 -3.1 90 94 4
Arkansas 4-8 -3.2 91 92 1
Florida International 8-5 -3.2 92 83 -9
Colorado 5-7 -3.2 93 91 -2
North Carolina 3-9 -3.6 94 93 -1
UNLV 5-7 -4.4 95 95 0
Georgia State 7-5 -4.7 96 101 5
Minnesota 5-7 -4.8 97 96 -1
South Alabama 4-8 -4.9 98 97 -1
Idaho 4-8 -5.2 99 98 -1
Air Force 5-7 -5.4 100 100 0
BYU 4-9 -5.4 101 99 -2
Cincinnati 4-8 -5.8 102 103 1
Nebraska 4-8 -5.9 103 102 -1
New Mexico 3-9 -6.1 104 104 0
UL-Monroe 4-8 -6.4 105 105 0
Baylor 1-11 -6.5 106 106 0
Tennessee 4-8 -6.9 107 107 0
Nevada 3-9 -7.2 108 108 0
Bowling Green 2-10 -7.2 109 109 0
Rutgers 4-8 -7.4 110 111 1
Coastal Carolina 3-9 -8.0 111 112 1
Akron 7-7 -8.5 112 110 -2
UL-Lafayette 5-7 -8.6 113 113 0
Maryland 4-8 -8.8 114 114 0
Old Dominion 5-7 -9.7 115 115 0
Tulsa 2-10 -9.9 116 116 0
Texas State 2-10 -10.1 117 117 0
Illinois 2-10 -11.0 118 118 0
Connecticut 3-9 -11.4 119 119 0
Georgia Southern 2-10 -11.6 120 120 0
Hawaii 3-9 -11.8 121 121 0
Ball State 2-10 -13.3 122 122 0
East Carolina 3-9 -13.9 123 123 0
Charlotte 1-11 -14.6 124 124 0
Kansas 1-11 -14.7 125 125 0
Kent State 2-10 -14.9 126 127 1
Oregon State 1-11 -14.9 127 126 -1
Rice 1-11 -15.0 128 128 0
San Jose State 2-11 -16.2 129 129 0
UTEP 0-12 -18.5 130 130 0

We head into Championship Week with no certainties whatsoever

  • Big 12 title game combatants Oklahoma and TCU are separated by 3.9.
  • In the ACC title game, Clemson and Miami are separated by 3.1 points.
  • In the Big Ten title game, Ohio State and Wisconsin are separated by 2.7 points, and the team ahead in the rankings (OSU) has two more losses than its opponent.
  • In the Pac-12 title game, USC and Stanford are separated by 1.6 points.
  • In the SEC title game, Georgia and Auburn are separated by 1.1, and the team ahead in the rankings (UGA) is the team that lost the first game between the two.

I’m not sure I can remember a season in which we headed into the final weekend with this many unknowns, and that’s before we even try to tackle how the CFP committee is going to view one-loss teams like Miami and Alabama or two-loss teams like Auburn and Ohio State. Buckle up.

The week’s top movers (good)

  1. Iowa (up 14 spots, from 62nd to 48th)
  2. Oregon (up 13 spots, from 52nd to 39th)
  3. Troy (up 11 spots, from 37th to 26th)
  4. Virginia Tech (up nine spots, from 33rd to 24th)
  5. Utah State (up nine spots, from 64th to 55th)
  6. UAB (up nine spots, from 71st to 62nd)
  7. Louisiana Tech (up nine spots, from 89th to 80th)
  8. Vanderbilt (up nine spots, from 90th to 81st)
  9. Temple (up nine spots, from 94th to 85th)

Iowa has been all over the damn map in 2017, but after an absolute trouncing of Nebraska, the Hawkeyes, who plummeted out of the top 60 in the weeks following their stunning blowout of Ohio State, returned to the top 50. For a team with such a conservative reputation, they have been hilariously volatile and unpredictable this year.

Top movers (bad)

  1. West Virginia (down 18 spots, from 43rd to 61st)
  2. Georgia Tech (down 14 spots, from 56th to 70th)
  3. Washington State (down 14 spots, from 19th to 33rd)
  4. NIU (down 13 spots, from 36th to 49th)
  5. Virginia (down 12 spots, from 65th to 77th)
  6. Minnesota (down 12 spots, from 85th to 97th)
  7. UTSA (down 11 spots, from 41st to 52nd)
  8. Colorado (down nine spots, from 82nd to 91st)
  9. Mississippi State (down eight spots, from 20th to 28th)
  10. Navy (down eight spots, from 70th to 78th)

Quarterback injuries will get you. Just two weeks ago, WVU ranked 33rd. The Mountaineers lost Will Grier to injury early last week ... and are suddenly 61st after duds against Texas and Oklahoma.

No top team, no top conference

It stands to reason that if there are no truly elite teams, the conference averages aren’t going to produce any standouts either.

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

  1. SEC (plus-4.8)
  2. Big Ten (plus-3.8)
  3. ACC (plus-3.6)
  4. Big 12 (plus-3.4)
  5. Pac-12 (plus-2.9)
  6. AAC (plus-0.0)
  7. MAC (minus-1.6)
  8. MWC (minus-1.7)
  9. Conference USA (minus-2.4)
  10. Sun Belt (minus-3.3)

The SEC remains the king of the middleweights, but with four different conferences within 1.4 points of the lead, bowl season could produce any number of rankings shifts.