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Comparing Opponents in College Football

Posted by Chase Stuart on December 2, 2008

Despite having two Big 12 fans writing on this blog (neither of which are me), we've been pretty quiet here about Texas, Oklahoma and the rest of college football. At this point, there is very little left to be said that hasn't been repeated a hundred times. While I don't speak for Doug or JKL, here's my very short summary of OU and UT:

  • The Texas win over Oklahoma is an important data point when comparing the two teams, but it is not the only data point that matters.
  • While we have asked whether H2H is the right tiebreaker, I'll simply stipulate here that it should be the tiebreaker used whenever possible. If only UT and OU were tied in the Big 12 South, Texas should certainly advance.
  • The BCS rankings should not be bound by such rules, of course. It's perfectly legitimate to rank teams with even records based on other things than head to head. For example, it is reasonable to rank Iowa ahead of Northwestern. Don't blame the BCS -- it is the Big 12 that decided to use the BCS rankings as its tiebreaker.
  • That said, I think the Big 12 made the right decision. While many are upset now, what would you think if OU was 2nd, Texas was 8th, and Texas Tech was 10th? Surely the Big 12 would want Oklahoma to advance. It is in the conference's best interest to advance the team with the highest chance of making the championship game. And while the Pac-10 avoided having Oregon State win the conference, about a week ago I am sure the Rose Bowl was wishing the Pac-10 used BCS rankings to break all tiebreakers, as opposed to head to head (which would have put the Beavers ahead of the Trojans.)
  • All that said, OU had a slightly more difficult schedule than Texas and outscored its opponents by slightly more points. As an unbiased observer, I'm perfectly fine with Oklahoma winning the Big 12 South.

I said earlier that almost everything that could be said has been said so far. But there's a neat little stat I like to use every once in awhile, and it goes like this: you rate each team based on how it did against every opponent, compared to how every other team did against that opponent. Let's use Penn State as an example. I award three points to the home team, and then use the points differential to rank the games.

PennState	Iowa	        23	24	R	 2	 1
PennState	OhioState	13	 6	R	10	 2
PennState	Illinois	38	24	H	11	 3
PennState	Purdue	        20	 6	R	17	 4
PennState	Indiana	        34	 7	H	24	 5
PennState	Michigan	46	17	H	26	 6
PennState	MichiganState	49	18	H	28	 7
PennState	OregonState	45	14	H	28	 8
PennState	Temple	        45	 3	H	39	 9
PennState	Wisconsin	48	 7	R	44	10
PennState	Syracuse	55	13	R	45	11
PSU's worse game of the year was against Iowa, of course. While Penn State lost by one point, since it was a road game, that counts as a two point "win". Wins and losses are largely irrelevant in this system, though, so don't worry about whether something is classified as a one point win or a two point loss -- it's essentially treated the same way here. So Iowa gets 1 point for playing the toughest game against the Nittany Lions; Ohio State gets 2 points, and all the way down until Syracuse gets 11 points for being the easiest opponent PSU faced. All 1-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) teams were ignored in this system. Obviously, the fewer points you score the better. For example, check out where Florida ranks against its eleven opponents (the Citadel excluded):
FloridaState	Florida	15	45	H	-33	1
Georgia	        Florida	10	49	N	-39	1
Hawaii	        Florida	10	56	R	-43	1
Kentucky	Florida	 5	63	R	-55	1
LouisianaState	Florida	21	51	R	-27	1
Miami(Florida)	Florida	 3	26	R	-20	1
SouthCarolina	Florida	 6	56	R	-47	1
Tennessee	Florida	 6	30	H	-27	1
Vanderbilt	Florida	14	42	H	-31	1
Arkansas	Florida	 7	38	H	-34	3
Mississippi	Florida	31	30	R	  4	5

Florida put the biggest whooping a team saw all year on nine of its eleven opponents. That's impressive. Arkansas was only beat worse by Texas and Alabama, while Ole Miss only fared worse against South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Alabama and Wake Forest.

Florida's average score in this system was 1.5 -- they scored 17 'points' in 11 games. That 1.5 rating is the lowest (best) in college football. Not surprisingly, they are followed by USC, and then UT and OU.

These rankings are obviously not the best way to rank college football teams. This is just a fun exercise.
As you'll soon see, teams that play easy schedules have an advantage here -- Boise State gave New Mexico State its worst loss of the season, but BSU was competing with the likes of Utah State, Nebraska and San Jose State for that prize. It's not too impressive to give your opponent its worst loss when those are its other opponents. But Texas gave OU its worse loss of the season, when OU also played Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Cincinnati and TCU. That's a lot more impressive.

Still, it's a quick and neat way to look at things. And thankfully, it's not the same thing we have heard over and over again for the last three weeks. Here are the full rankings:

1.5	Florida
1.6	SouthernCalifornia
1.9	Texas
1.9	Oklahoma
2.0	BoiseState
2.2	TexasChristian
2.3	PennState
2.7	BallState
2.8	OhioState
3.1	Alabama
3.3	Missouri
3.4	TexasTech
3.5	Utah
3.5	OklahomaState

This is not how you should rank all teams in Division 1 (Football Bowl Subdivision) college football. This is a simple system with some very obvious flaws. This list should not be used as a replacement for other rankings. This system is definitely biased towards teams whose opponents had easy schedules, and this system is slightly biased towards teams with great offenses relative to teams with great defenses.

3.8	Mississippi
4.0	Oregon
4.1	Cincinnati
4.1	GeorgiaTech
4.2	BostonCollege
4.2	Iowa
4.3	California
4.4	Georgia
4.4	FloridaState
4.5	Arizona
4.5	Pittsburgh
4.6	OregonState
4.6	NorthCarolina
4.8	Nebraska
4.8	Tulsa
4.8	Nevada
4.9	BrighamYoung
4.9	Kansas
5.1	Wisconsin
5.1	VirginiaTech
5.2	MichiganState
5.3	Navy
5.3	Rutgers
5.3	WestVirginia
5.3	SouthernMississippi
5.4	AirForce
5.4	SouthFlorida
5.4	Clemson
5.5	LouisianaState
5.5	Illinois
5.6	Rice
5.6	Connecticut
5.6	SouthCarolina
5.6	Miami(Florida)
5.7	Northwestern
5.8	Tennessee
5.8	BowlingGreenState
5.9	Troy
5.9	Houston
5.9	WakeForest
6.0	Minnesota
6.0	Stanford
6.1	EastCarolina
6.1	Vanderbilt
6.1	NorthernIllinois
6.1	WesternMichigan
6.2	Maryland
6.3	Baylor
6.3	Buffalo
6.3	Temple
6.4	CentralMichigan
6.5	NotreDame
6.5	NorthCarolinaState
6.5	Virginia
6.6	ArizonaState
6.6	Auburn
6.6	Purdue
6.7	NewMexico
6.7	LouisianaTech
6.7	Hawaii
6.8	Kentucky
6.9	Akron
7.0	Louisville
7.0	ColoradoState
7.0	Memphis
7.1	Colorado
7.2	FresnoState
7.2	Arkansas
7.3	Louisiana-Lafayette
7.3	FloridaInternational
7.3	Marshall
7.3	Texas-ElPaso
7.4	Kent
7.4	Duke
7.4	ArkansasState
7.5	MiddleTennesseeState
7.5	KansasState
7.5	Toledo
7.6	FloridaAtlantic
7.6	Ohio
7.6	CentralFlorida
7.7	Army
7.8	Michigan
7.8	SanJoseState
7.8	Nevada-LasVegas
7.8	TexasA&M
8.3	MississippiState
8.3	Indiana
8.3	UtahState
8.4	UCLA
8.4	Syracuse
8.5	Alabama-Birmingham
8.5	Louisiana-Monroe
8.6	EasternMichigan
8.8	IowaState
9.2	NewMexicoState
9.3	SouthernMethodist
9.4	Tulane
9.5	SanDiegoState
9.5	Miami(Ohio)
9.6	WesternKentucky
9.7	Washington
9.7	Wyoming
10.3	NorthTexas
10.7	WashingtonState
10.7	Idaho

In case you're curious about Alabama's low ranking, here's the full schedule report:

ArkansasState	Alabama	 0	35	R	-32	1
Auburn	        Alabama	 0	36	R	-33	1
Clemson	        Alabama	10	34	N	-24	1
Arkansas  	Alabama	14	49	H	-38	2
Georgia	        Alabama	30	41	H	-14	2
Tennessee	Alabama	 9	29	H	-23	2
WesternKentucky	Alabama	 7	41	R	-31	2
Mississippi	Alabama	20	24	R	- 1	3
LouisianaState	Alabama	21	27	H	- 9	4
MississippiStateAlabama	 7	32	R	-22	4
Kentucky	Alabama	14	17	R	  0	7
Tulane	        Alabama	 6	20	R	-11	8

Here's Texas's report:

FloridaAtlantic	Texas	10	52	R	-39	1
Missouri	Texas	31	56	R	-22	1
Oklahoma	Texas	35	45	N	-10	1
Rice	        Texas	10	52	R	-39	1
Arkansas	Texas	10	52	R	-39	1
Colorado	Texas	14	38	H	-27	2
Kansas	        Texas	 7	35	H	-31	2
TexasA&M	Texas	 9	49	R	-37	2
Texas-ElPaso	Texas	13	42	H	-32	2
OklahomaState	Texas	24	28	R	- 1	3
TexasTech	Texas	39	33	H	  3	3
Baylor	        Texas	21	45	R	-21	4

Texas Tech played a tougher game against OU and an equally tough game against Nebraska (I randomly sorted the teams for tiebreakers, so Texas should really get a 2.5 instead of a 3 for that game. For Texas' actual score, I gave them a 2.5 (and that's why I put them above Oklahoma) but for all other teams I used a random tiebreaker). Baylor was beat worse by Oklahoma, Wake Forest and Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State was beat worse by OU and Texas Tech. UTEP was beat worse by Tulsa; A&M by Oklahoma; Colorado by Missouri; and Kansas by Texas Tech.

Here's Oklahoma:

Baylor	        Oklahoma	17	49	H	-35	1
Cincinnati	Oklahoma	26	52	R	-23	1
TexasA&M	Oklahoma	28	66	H	-41	1
TexasChristian	Oklahoma	10	35	R	-22	1
TexasTech	Oklahoma	21	65	R	-41	1
Nebraska	Oklahoma	28	62	R	-31	2
OklahomaState	Oklahoma	41	61	H	-23	2
Washington	Oklahoma	14	55	H	-44	2
Kansas	        Oklahoma	31	45	R	-11	3
Texas	        Oklahoma	45	35	N	 10	3
KansasState	Oklahoma	35	58	H	-26	4

Kansas State was rocked harder by Texas Tech, Nebraska and Kansas. UT fared worse against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Washington was beat by more by the Trojans; Oklahoma State by Texas Tech; and Nebraska by Missouri.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008 at 10:49 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.