Cue the “ain’t played nobody!” chorus. The S&P+ rankings have a new No. 1, and it’s a team that has eaten lesser opponents up since falling to the only excellent team it’s played.
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.)
Week 7 S&P+
|San Diego State||6-0||4.6||51||63||12|
|New Mexico State||2-4||-3.3||87||91||4|
|San Jose State||1-6||-17.6||125||125||0|
I really need to think about putting an “exploding Maryland quarterbacks” adjustment in the formulas
Ohio State thoroughly humiliated Maryland, 62-14, on Saturday, and it wasn’t really even that close. The Terrapins gained just 66 total yards and scored only on a kick return and a short-field touchdown drive deep into garbage time.
Maryland whomped Texas (which has since become good) to start the year and took down Minnesota in Minneapolis last week.
But the Terrapins’ depth is increasingly tenuous, particularly at the quarterback position, and the team on the field is no longer the one that beat Texas. The numbers don’t see that. They only see Ohio State dismantling a decent team by 48 points, 518 yards, and 27 first downs.
And combined with Alabama’s strangely mortal performance against Texas A&M, that was enough to bump the Buckeyes ahead for now.
We have a new No. 1 conference, too
FBS conferences, ranked by average S&P+ rating:
- Big 12 (+8.2)
- SEC (+7.9)
- Big Ten (+7.8)
- ACC (+7.8)
- Pac-12 (+6.8)
- AAC (-1.5)
- MWC (-3.8)
- MAC (-4.8)
- Conference USA (-7.0)
- Sun Belt (-7.4)
As preseason projections continue to be phased out, the SEC continues to stumble with only three teams seemingly on sturdy ground.
With three top-15 teams and seven ranked 37th or better (plus only one team lower than 70th), the Big 12 assumes the top spot in the rankings.
We can forever debate the best way to judge conferences — average rating? Median? Best teams only? Projected head-to-head record? Using an average keeps it simple, though, and there are two pretty interesting impressions to draw from this list:
1. I expected the Big 12 to improve, but damn
From the perspective of both S&P+ projections and my eyeballs, it was pretty clear the Big 12 was going to be a much better conference this year.
Almost everybody is projected to improve. This was a young conference — another reason for the draft issues — and S&P+ expects seven of 10 teams to perform better this fall. Two others (WVU and Kansas) have enough transfers to lead you to believe they might avoid regression as well.
Texas was one of the youngest teams in the country, and TCU wasn’t far behind. They’re both projected to surge. Oklahoma State might have the best passing game in the country. Kansas State could have one of the nation’s best running games.
Texas is projected 16th in S&P+, and the top three non-OU/UT teams are projected to improve their average to 23.7. Things aren’t A-OK all of a sudden, but there should be a bounce back.
TCU has surged back into the top 15, OU and OSU are still there (for now), and Texas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, and West Virginia are all playing at a top-40 level. After competitive losses to Iowa and Texas and a stunning upset of Oklahoma, Iowa State has risen into the top 50. Baylor has at least stabilized in the 60s after plummeting with early disappointments. Only Kansas is truly awful.
This is a deep conference, one that could cannibalize itself to a certain degree (especially with the presences of the new, endlessly stupid conference title game). But that’s a topic for another time. The Big 12, the nation’s most explosive power conference, is also it’s most improved. That’s fun.
2. Parity, baby
On average, only 1.4 points separate No. 1 Big 12 from No. 5 Pac-12. Last season, that difference was 3.3 points, and that was a pretty significant drop from 2014-15, when the SEC held a pretty dramatic lead over the rest.
The Big Ten has four S&P+ top 15 teams, the Big 12 has three, the SEC still has three in the top nine, the ACC has three in the top 12 (four in the top 13 if you perilously include Notre Dame), and the Pac-12 has four in the top 18.
This could all be setting up Alabama-Clemson III in the national title game, but the possibility for every conference to cannibalize itself is reasonably high. And in college football, cannibalism is fun as hell.
Top movers (good)
By your sixth game, preseason projections are barely factored into your team rating. So as a lot of teams reach that barrier, we begin to see a lot more movement in the ratings, only so much of it based on this past week’s performance.
- Southern Miss (up 21 spots, from 70th to 49th)
- Purdue (up 20 spots, from 72nd to 52nd)
- Tulane (up 19 spots, from 89th to 70th)
- Texas Tech (up 18 spots, from 53rd to 35th)
- Virginia (up 17 spots, from 57th to 40th)
- UCF (up 16 spots, from 40th to 24th)
- Northern Illinois (up 16 spots, from 73rd to 57th)
- Florida Atlantic (up 15 spots, from 76th to 61st)
- Army (up 14 spots, from 88th to 74th)
- Buffalo (up 14 spots, from 109th to 95th)
The projections are just about done holding Jeff Brohm’s Boilermakers down.
Top movers (bad)
- Ole Miss (down 28 spots, from 36th to 64th)
- Northwestern (down 26 spots, from 47th to 73rd)
- Maryland (down 20 spots, from 58th to 78th)
- California (down 19 spots, from 77th to 96th)
- North Carolina (down 18 spots, from 61st to 79th)
- Florida (down 16 spots, from 25th to 41st)
- WKU (down 16 spots, from 67th to 83rd)
- Arkansas (down 13 spots, from 33rd to 46th)
- Vanderbilt (down 13 spots, from 59th to 72nd)
We kind of knew the chances of an Ole Miss collapse in 2017 were decent, despite on-paper production. Let’s just say that the paper is catching up to our intuition.