Commentary: Pool's College Football Power Rankings
College football’s top 25 polls are released every Sunday and sometimes it can leave people scratching their heads.
After years of watching the wrong teams topping the rankings, I decided to create a formula that decides which teams are the best and, more importantly, the worst.
I have no emotional investment in the rankings, just the simplest of mathematic equations that basically states: wins are good, losses are bad. Teams are rewarded for playing highly ranked teams and vise versa.
I use the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) preseason top 120 by Rivals.com to start, and the math handles the rest. No matter their record, I rank all Football Championship Division (FCS) teams 121. This poll is updated every Sunday.
How it works
The teams with the best records rise to the top, and teams with the worst fall to the bottom.
For example, 5-0 Iowa is automatically ranked higher than 4-1 Ohio State. A 3-2 team will always be ranked higher than a 2-2 team and so on.
Next, a team is rewarded for its strength of schedule. This is how average strength of win percentage (AWP) is calculated. If a team defeats a highly ranked team, it will lower – a good thing – the winning team’s AWP. Beating a poorly ranked team doesn’t improve AWP too much.
For example, the average ranking of the teams LSU has defeated is 52.6. That’s the lowest average of any undefeated team, which is why LSU is ranked No. 1. The average ranking of teams Eastern Michigan University has lost to is 87.3. That’s the highest out of any winless team, which is why EMU is ranked last.
And finally, if two teams have the same record and AWP, the team with the lowest average strength of loss percentage (ALP) is ranked higher. If a team loses to a highly ranked team, its ALP will be lowered – assuming that team hasn’t lost yet. Losing to a poorly ranked team will hurt a team’s ALP.
For example, Mississippi State and San Diego State are both 2-3 and have a 101.5 AWP. Mississippi State is ranked higher because its ALP is 14.7, while SDSU’s is 67.7. Mississippi State has lost to higher-ranked teams than SDSU.
So here are my top 10 and bottom 10 teams in the country:
1. LSU (4-0, 52.6 AWP, 0 ALP) started with wins against Washington, Vanderbilt and Louisiana Lafayette. Those wins jumped the Tigers to the top five, but last week’s win against Georgia put them at the top. This week: Florida (10)
2. Alabama (5-0, 56.8, 0) hasn’t played a close game yet. Wins over Virginia Tech and Arkansas were good, but its ranking is held down because of wins over bottom feeders Florida International and North Texas. This week: Mississippi (42)
3. Iowa (5-0, 66.2, 0) loves to live on the edge. Wins over Penn State, Arizona and Iowa State helped the Hawkeyes in this spot. However, close victories over Arkansas State and FCS Northern Iowa could lower them to the middle in the future. This week: Michigan (16)
4. Auburn (5-0, 69, 0) might be a team in the Southeastern Conference that is quietly sneaking up on people. The Tigers have key victories over West Virginia and Tennessee, but a win over a very bad Ball State team weighs down its AWP. This week: Arkansas (69)
5. Missouri (4-0, 69.5, 0) is an example of what happens when a team’s opponents are highly ranked early and then collapsed. The Tigers’ wins against Illinois and Bowling Green looked good at first, but those teams since have combined for two wins. That has the makings of a short stay in top 10. This week: Nebraska (32)
6. Texas (4-0, 75.3, 0) is a victim of playing teams at the wrong time. Every team it’s defeated has moved up in rankings afterward, except Texas Tech, thus keeping its AWP down. This week: Colorado (99)
7. Kansas (4-0, 78, 0) started with three easy wins but nearly lost to Southern Mississippi and nearly fell out of the top 10. Kansas, unlike Missouri, could make some noise in the Big 12. This week: Iowa State (58)
8. Wisconsin (5-0, 78.6, 0) doesn’t win pretty, but that doesn’t matter in this poll. It’s won every game, and that’s more than 107 teams can say. This week: Ohio State (21)
9. Boise State (5-0, 78.8, 0) fell last week from the top five after playing UC Davis, but its win over Oregon looks better every week as the Ducks are 4-1. This week: Bye
10. Florida (4-0, 79, 0) hasn’t played the best so it can’t be the best in this poll. It’ll get a chance this week against LSU. That game will have big effects in the SEC, national championship and this poll. This week: LSU (1)
111. Purdue (1-4, 108, 78.8) and its program after coach Joe Tiller haven’t gone well. Its lone win came over Toledo. This week: Minnesota (48)
112. Memphis (1-4, 121, 56.8) has a win against FCS Tennessee-Martin, but its four loses have put it in the bottom half. This week: UTEP (80)
113. Miami, OH (0-5, 0, 53.6) was the last team in the FBS to score after being shut out the first two weeks. It still hasn’t scored enough to win, though, so here it is. This week: Northwestern (64)
114. Florida Atlantic (0-4, 0, 60.5), along with its fellow Florida Sun Belt colleague FIU, hasn’t won a game, but two-point losses in the past two weeks show signs of hope. This week: Bye
115. Florida International (0-4, 0, 64) has found ways to score, but it wasn’t enough to beat Toledo and Louisiana Monroe. This week: WKU (117)
116. Rice (0-5, 0, 71.6) hasn’t even been close to getting a victory. Its closest defeat was by 17 points, not that it matters to this poll anyway. Sad to see success in this part of Houston was short lived. This week: Navy (54)
117. Western Kentucky (0-4, 0, 74) scores 12 points per game, allows the most rushing yards in the country and lost to FCS Central Arkansas. All build a recipe for disaster for the newest member of the FBS. This week: Florida International (115)
118. New Mexico (0-5, 0, 76.4) has a bad loss to instate rival and 2-3 New Mexico State, which put it toward the bottom. Next opponent: Wyoming (57)
119. Ball State (0-5, 0, 78.8) has been saved from last place because of its loss to Auburn. The rest of its losses have come to worse opponents than EMU’s. Add Army, North Texas and FCS New Hampshire to BSU’s list of teams it has put in the win column. This week: Temple (76)
120. Eastern Michigan (0-4, 0, 87.3) has been a huge disappointment even for its own historical standards. While it kept the score close against Northwestern, the Eagles have two bad losses to lowly ranked Army and Temple. This week: Central Michigan (27)
27. Central Michigan (4-1, 91.3, 63)
50. Ohio (3-2, 80.3, 70.5)
55. Northern Illinois (3-2, 89.7, 56)
65. Toledo (3-2, 113.7, 67)
76. Temple (2-2, 101.5, 77.5)
92. Western Michigan (2-3, 111.5, 61.7)
93. Kent State (2-3, 116.5, 67.3)
102. Akron (1-3, 121, 32)
109. Bowling Green (1-4, 66, 45.8)
110. Buffalo (1-4, 81, 76.3)
113. Miami (0-5, 0, 53.6)
119. Ball State (0-5, 0, 78.8)
120. Eastern Michigan (0-4, 0, 87.3)