Below are the new S&P+ rankings after college football’s Week 11.
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 a given team can win but plummet or lose and move up.
Through 11 weeks, the S&P+ rankings are performing well, hitting 54 percent against the spread and 52 percent on the over/under point totals for the year.
As you would hope, the absolute error — the average size of miss between projection and reality — has settled into a healthy area as well. Week 11 was S&P+’s best week yet in that regard.
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 will be updating it on Mondays throughout the rest of the season.
Below, however, are the predictive ratings, the actual S&P+.
(You can find full unit rankings, plus a yearly archive, at Football Outsiders. The offense and defense pages are updated by Monday at the latest.)
2018 S&P+ rankings after 11 weeks
|Team||Rec.||S&P+ Rating||S&P+ Rank||Last Wk||Change|
|Team||Rec.||S&P+ Rating||S&P+ Rank||Last Wk||Change|
|San Diego State||7-3||7.6||37||44||7|
|New Mexico State||3-7||-16.9||121||122||1|
|San Jose State||1-9||-19.4||126||125||-1|
It has felt inevitable in recent weeks, but the “Alabama and Clemson separate themselves from everyone else” narrative that is quickly defining the 2018 season is a pretty new thing. Among other things, Georgia was part of that dominant class until about a month ago.
Kirby Smart’s Dawgs fell from third to sixth in S&P+ following their 36-16 loss at LSU on October 13 — not a horrible drop, but enough to fall behind not only Bama and rising Clemson, but also Oklahoma and Michigan.
Since the LSU loss, however, they’ve beaten Florida (currently 22nd in S&P+) by 17, Kentucky (top-30 at the time) by 17, and now Auburn (currently 20th) by 17. They are keeping strong teams at arm’s length, and they have been rewarded by a return to No. 3 in this week’s rankings.
The Dawgs’ run game is brilliant (outside of the red zone, at least), and while the defense is a little less efficient than it was last year, no one makes big plays on the Dawgs. Granted, UGA is still closer to Michigan and Oklahoma than Clemson. But consider this a reminder that Alabama’s path to the College Football Playoff is not bump-free ... and, perhaps more importantly, that Michigan’s spot in the current CFP top four is not guaranteed.
The week’s top movers (good)
- Minnesota (up 23 spots, from 76th to 53rd)
- Syracuse (up 19 spots, from 58th to 39th)
- Tennessee (up 12 spots, from 82nd to 70th)
- Florida International (up 11 spots, from 97th to 86th)
- Nevada (up 11 spots, from 84th to 73rd)
- Memphis (up 11 spots, from 39th to 28th)
- Maryland (up 10 spots, from 65th to 55th)
- Stanford (up 10 spots, from 35th to 25th)
- Air Force (up nine spots, from 89th to 80th)
- Pitt (up nine spots, from 71st to 62nd)
Good god, Minnesota. Here’s what I wrote last week, when Minnesota pulled off the week’s biggest drop.
Minnesota, meanwhile, is reeling for about the fourth different time this year. The Gophers have either risen or fallen by 10-plus spots six different times this season. S&P+ doesn’t have a read on this team, and it doesn’t appear that head coach P.J. Fleck does either.
Make that seven times rising or falling by at least 10 spots. Don’t bet on Minnesota this year, kids.
Top movers (bad)
- TCU (down 19 spots, from 48th to 67th)
- Purdue (down 15 spots, from 25th to 40th)
- Ole Miss (down 14 spots, from 46th to 60th)
- Virginia Tech (down 14 spots, from 61st to 75th)
- Florida State (down 12 spots, from 75th to 87th)
- Kentucky (down 11 spots, from 37th to 48th)
- Toledo (down 10 spots, from 62nd to 72nd)
- Baylor (down 10 spots, from 81st to 91st)
- Four teams down nine spots
TCU was projected 22nd in the preseason and rose to 16th in week two. They were 25th by week four, 46th by week eight, and now, following a humbling 47-10 loss to WVU, they have fallen into the bottom half of FBS.
FBS conferences, ranked by average S&P+ rating:
- SEC (plus-10.0 adjusted points per game, down 0.3 points)
- Big Ten (plus-5.6, same)
- Big 12 (plus-5.4, down 0.4)
- Pac-12 (plus-4.2, up 0.2)
- ACC (plus-3.8, down 0.1)
- AAC (minus-0.4, up 0.3)
- Mountain West (minus-2.1, up 0.1)
- Sun Belt (minus-4.4, up 0.3)
- Conference USA (minus-5.9, up 0.5)
- MAC (minus-6.7, down 0.4)
Changes from last week: the Big Ten has eked by the Big 12 for the No. 2 spot, and the MAC has landed with a thud in the bottom spot despite having six teams ranked in the top 75. (The main reason: four teams in the bottom 14.)
Another reminder: I have made a few philosophical changes in this year’s S&P+ rankings.
When I get the chance (so, maybe in the offseason), I will update previous years of S&P+ rankings to reflect these formula changes, too.
- I changed the garbage time definition. S&P+ stops counting the major stats once the game has entered garbage time. Previously, that was when a game ceased to be within 27 points in the first quarter, 24 in the second, 21 in the third, and 16 in the fourth. Now I have expanded it: garbage time adjustments don’t begin until a game is outside of 43 points in the first quarter, 37 in the second, 27 in the third, and 21 in the fourth. That change came because of a piece I wrote about game states at Football Study Hall.
- Preseason projections will remain in the formulas all season. Fans hate this — it’s the biggest complaint I’ve heard regarding ESPN’s FPI formulas. Instinctively, I hate it, too. But here’s the thing: it makes projections more accurate. Our sample size for determining quality in a given season is tiny, and incorporating projection factors found in the preseason rankings decreases the overall error in projections. So I’m doing it.
- To counteract this conservative change, I’m also making S&P+ more reactive to results, especially early in the season. If I’m admitting that S&P+ needs previous-year performances to make it better, I’m also going to admit that S&P+ doesn’t know everything it needs to early in a season, and it’s going to react a bit more to actual results.
Basically, I’ve added a step to the the rankings process: after the rankings are determined, I go back and project previous games based on those ratings, and I adjust the ratings based on how much the ratings fit (or don’t fit) those results.
The adjustment isn’t enormous, and it diminishes dramatically as the season unfolds.
Testing this process for past seasons improved performance against the spread a little and, more importantly, decreased absolute error (the difference between projections and reality) quite a bit. I wouldn’t have made the move if it didn’t appear to improve performance.