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130-team S&P+ rankings and the 4 things we know about this college football season so far

Also, explaining why the ratings aren’t what you might expect for Ohio State, Clemson, San Diego State, and others.

Ohio State v Rutgers Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Five weeks into the 2017 college football season, we know at least a few things:

  • Bama is Bama.
  • Clemson looks great when it has to (then throws things back into cruise control).
  • Ohio State responds well to early-season losses.
  • Outside of Bama, there’s very little separation among elites. That didn’t make for a very fun Week 5, but it could make for one tense November.

Below are this week’s S&P+ ratings. 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.)

I am again including where each team would rank if there were no preseason projections involved. Predictive success requires inclusion of such projections — for teams that have played five games, projections carry only 35 percent weight at this point — but I like including the non-projection rankings here. It both addresses a lot of questions people might have (“How is [Losing Team A] ranked so high???”) and gives you a better feel for which teams are trending up or down.

Week 6 S&P+

Team Rec. S&P+ (Margin) Rk Last Wk Change Rk w/o preseason projections
Team Rec. S&P+ (Margin) Rk Last Wk Change Rk w/o preseason projections
Alabama 5-0 31.2 1 1 0 1
Ohio State 4-1 26.8 2 2 0 2
Oklahoma 4-0 23.2 3 4 1 7
Wisconsin 4-0 21.3 4 5 1 8
Clemson 5-0 21.0 5 6 1 11
Florida State 1-2 21.0 6 3 -3 76
Washington 5-0 20.8 7 8 1 6
Penn State 5-0 20.4 8 7 -1 9
Michigan 4-0 20.2 9 9 0 15
Georgia 5-0 19.8 10 14 4 5
Miami-FL 3-0 19.6 11 11 0 3
Auburn 4-1 18.9 12 13 1 17
Oklahoma State 4-1 17.4 13 15 2 10
TCU 4-0 17.1 14 17 3 13
USC 4-1 16.8 15 10 -5 26
Notre Dame 4-1 16.5 16 19 3 18
Louisville 4-1 16.3 17 18 1 20
Stanford 3-2 15.8 18 16 -2 24
LSU 3-2 15.0 19 12 -7 36
Oregon 4-1 14.0 20 26 6 14
Washington State 5-0 13.0 21 21 0 16
Virginia Tech 4-1 11.6 22 20 -2 28
Georgia Tech 3-1 10.8 23 29 6 27
Kansas State 3-1 10.7 24 28 4 25
Florida 3-1 10.6 25 23 -2 82
South Florida 5-0 10.5 26 27 1 19
Texas 2-2 10.5 27 25 -2 62
Utah 4-0 9.3 28 33 5 23
NC State 4-1 9.1 29 32 3 39
Mississippi State 3-2 8.9 30 24 -6 35
Wake Forest 4-1 8.8 31 35 4 21
Michigan State 3-1 8.5 32 37 5 22
Arkansas 2-2 8.4 33 36 3 45
Houston 3-1 8.2 34 34 0 32
Texas A&M 4-1 7.8 35 30 -5 63
Ole Miss 2-2 7.6 36 22 -14 71
Boise State 2-2 7.5 37 38 1 55
Nebraska 3-2 7.1 38 42 4 48
Colorado State 3-2 6.7 39 53 14 44
Central Florida 3-0 6.6 40 59 19 4
West Virginia 3-1 6.3 41 47 6 29
Appalachian State 2-2 6.3 42 44 2 33
UCLA 3-2 5.7 43 41 -2 59
Minnesota 3-1 5.5 44 39 -5 41
Iowa 3-2 5.4 45 43 -2 47
Indiana 2-2 5.0 46 45 -1 68
Northwestern 2-2 4.7 47 40 -7 72
Iowa State 2-2 4.6 48 49 1 51
SMU 4-1 4.6 49 64 15 30
Toledo 3-1 4.5 50 54 4 54
Colorado 3-2 4.3 51 50 -1 61
Tennessee 3-2 4.0 52 31 -21 81
Texas Tech 3-1 3.8 53 55 2 38
Duke 4-1 3.7 54 46 -8 53
Syracuse 2-3 3.7 55 51 -4 58
Arizona 2-2 3.4 56 60 4 49
Virginia 3-1 3.4 57 62 5 37
Maryland 3-1 3.1 58 66 8 42
Vanderbilt 3-2 2.4 59 57 -2 67
Navy 4-0 2.2 60 73 13 40
North Carolina 1-4 2.0 61 48 -13 85
Baylor 0-5 1.7 62 52 -10 92
San Diego State 5-0 1.7 63 61 -2 73
Western Michigan 3-2 1.7 64 78 14 57
South Carolina 3-2 1.6 65 58 -7 87
Memphis 3-1 1.5 66 56 -10 89
Western Kentucky 2-2 1.2 67 67 0 91
UTSA 3-0 1.2 68 68 0 12
Kentucky 4-1 1.1 69 63 -6 86
Southern Miss 2-2 0.9 70 71 1 34
Troy 4-1 0.8 71 69 -2 65
Purdue 2-2 0.3 72 72 0 31
Northern Illinois 2-2 -0.3 73 77 4 52
New Mexico 3-2 -0.6 74 99 25 43
Ohio 4-1 -0.6 75 81 6 46
Florida Atlantic 2-3 -0.7 76 82 6 56
California 3-2 -1.1 77 65 -12 95
Missouri 1-3 -1.5 78 76 -2 111
Wyoming 3-2 -1.7 79 85 6 78
Arizona State 2-3 -2.1 80 70 -10 96
Utah State 3-2 -2.1 81 74 -7 88
North Texas 3-2 -2.2 82 95 13 50
Pittsburgh 2-3 -2.4 83 84 1 105
Miami-OH 2-3 -2.5 84 75 -9 70
Eastern Michigan 2-2 -2.7 85 86 1 60
Arkansas State 1-2 -2.8 86 80 -6 66
Louisiana Tech 3-2 -4.1 87 91 4 94
Army 3-2 -4.2 88 102 14 74
Tulane 2-2 -4.5 89 87 -2 75
Cincinnati 2-3 -4.7 90 83 -7 102
New Mexico State 2-3 -5.0 91 97 6 69
BYU 1-4 -5.4 92 89 -3 114
Rutgers 1-4 -5.7 93 79 -14 93
Marshall 3-1 -5.9 94 101 7 84
Air Force 1-3 -6.0 95 92 -3 79
Boston College 2-3 -6.4 96 100 4 107
Illinois 2-2 -6.6 97 88 -9 104
UNLV 2-2 -6.8 98 112 14 64
Middle Tennessee 2-3 -7.1 99 96 -3 103
Fresno State 2-2 -7.2 100 110 10 80
Temple 2-3 -7.5 101 98 -3 119
Tulsa 1-4 -7.5 102 94 -8 112
Ball State 2-3 -7.7 103 90 -13 101
South Alabama 1-4 -8.1 104 104 0 98
Oregon State 1-4 -8.3 105 93 -12 121
Florida International 3-1 -9.2 106 109 3 100
Central Michigan 2-3 -9.2 107 103 -4 106
Idaho 2-2 -9.4 108 106 -2 90
Buffalo 3-2 -9.8 109 113 4 83
Massachusetts 0-6 -10.4 110 108 -2 110
Old Dominion 2-2 -10.4 111 107 -4 116
Kansas 1-3 -10.7 112 111 -1 99
Hawaii 2-3 -11.2 113 105 -8 113
UL-Monroe 2-2 -11.3 114 114 0 97
Coastal Carolina 1-3 -11.6 115 115 0 108
Bowling Green 0-5 -13.4 116 118 2 123
UL-Lafayette 1-3 -13.8 117 117 0 120
Georgia State 1-2 -13.9 118 116 -2 125
Akron 2-3 -14.3 119 121 2 115
Connecticut 1-3 -14.4 120 123 3 109
East Carolina 1-4 -15.7 121 122 1 129
Georgia Southern 0-3 -16.2 122 124 2 135
UAB 2-2 -16.6 123 125 2 77
Nevada 0-5 -16.6 124 119 -5 126
San Jose State 1-5 -17.1 125 120 -5 127
Texas State 1-4 -18.4 126 127 1 117
Charlotte 0-5 -18.7 127 129 2 124
Kent State 1-4 -19.2 128 130 2 130
UTEP 0-5 -20.4 129 128 -1 132
Rice 1-4 -21.4 130 126 -4 133

It’s still Alabama vs. the field. The difference between the No. 1 Tide and No. 3 Oklahoma is 8 adjusted points per game (31.2 to 23.2), about the same as the difference between Oklahoma and the No. 19 team. And it’s about the same as the difference between No. 4 and No. 21.

After Bama and perhaps Ohio State and OU, a mass of teams have at least briefly looked the parts of elite teams ... or are being propped up by preseason projections. Speaking of which:

But what about [insert obviously out of place team here]?

We’ll go one-by-one.

  • How is Ohio State ahead of Oklahoma??? We watched the Sooners beat the Buckeyes on the field! Yep. And the teams have played seven other games between them. Ohio State has looked spectacular since the loss, and the last time we saw the Sooners, they tried to lose to Baylor. Ratings look at every game. This is not a transitive property tool.
  • Clemson! How are the Tigers only fifth??? Dabo Swinney’s Tigers have easily the best résumé in FBS, boasting three wins over top-15 (at the time of the game) teams. But S&P+ looks at every play and every drive, and Clemson has had the tendency of only looking great when it has to. “We have to make a play?” [makes a great play, then throws it back into cruise control]
  • Florida State! How are the Noles sixth??? It takes a while to get an adequate amount of data on a given team (you could say that we never actually get an adequate amount of data in 12 to 15 games), so until you’ve played seven games, I still use preseason projections to account for unknowns. FSU has played only three games, so 65 percent of the Seminoles’ rating comes from those projections. The fact that the Noles have looked pretty mediocre on the field (76th without projections) can only drag them down so much in 35 percent.
  • LSU! How are the Tigers 19th??? I know, right? Same explanation as FSU, only LSU has complicated things by looking the part of a top-10 team for about 2.5 of its five games. And for the other 2.5 games (Mississippi State, Troy, and the second half against Syracuse), they have ... not looked quite as good. So basically LSU’s rating is 35 percent preseason projections, 32.5 percent good team, 32.5 percent bad team. I’m guessing the Tigers continue to fall, but it’ll take a while.
  • San Diego State! How are the Aztecs (a.k.a. the de facto Pac-12 South leaders at this point) only 63rd??? SDSU has begun 2017 pulling off something I don’t think I’ve ever seen. After each game, I produce a number I call postgame win expectancy — it basically looks at the key stats from that game and says “You would have won this game X percent of the time.” SDSU’s postgame win expectancy over its last four games: 22 percent against Arizona State, 42 percent against Stanford, 25 percent against Air Force, and 24 percent against NIU. Their odds of going 4-0 in those games: 0.6 percent. They went 4-0 in those games. (I’ll be looking into the Aztecs a bit more on Tuesday’s Numerical.)

Top movers (good)

NCAA Football: Cure Bowl-Central Florida vs Arkansas State
Scott Frost’s UCF Knights have played three games and looked spectacular in all three.
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
  1. New Mexico (up 25 spots, from 99th to 74th)
  2. UCF (up 19 spots, from 59th to 40th)
  3. SMU (up 15 spots, from 64th to 49th)
  4. Colorado State (up 14 spots, from 53rd to 39th)
  5. WMU (up 14 spots, from 78th to 64th)
  6. Army (up 14 spots, from 102nd to 88th)
  7. UNLV (up 14 spots, from 112th to 98th)
  8. Navy (up 13 spots, from 73rd to 60th)
  9. North Texas (up 13 spots, from 95th to 82nd)
  10. Fresno State (up 10 spots, from 110th to 100th)

I believe there just might be a common theme there. With projections filtering out and a lot of teams close together in the middle of the rankings, mid-major teams that have their act together moved up en masse.

Top movers (bad)

Tennessee v Florida
Butch Jones’ Vols are looking for answers.
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
  1. Tennessee (down 21 spots, from 31st to 52nd)
  2. Ole Miss (down 14 spots, from 22nd to 36th)
  3. Rutgers (down 14 spots, from 79th to 93rd)
  4. North Carolina (down 13 spots, from 48th to 61st)
  5. Ball State (down 13 spots, from 90th to 103rd)
  6. California (down 12 spots, from 65th to 77th)
  7. Oregon State (down 12 spots, from 93rd to 105th)
  8. Baylor (down 10 spots, from 52nd to 62nd)
  9. Memphis (down 10 spots, from 56th to 66th)
  10. Arizona State (down 10 spots, from 70th to 80th)

Another theme! Eight of these 10 teams are power conference teams who are finding the slide pretty steep as preseason projections get filtered out. (The other two, Ball State and Memphis, just looked like crap this week.)