2009 College Football Rankings – Week 3

Finally, it’s time to unveil this year’s edition of the college football rankings! I explain the formula behind the C Ratings, designed to factor in both margin of victory and strength of schedule in a sane fashion, in more detail here; an abbreviated version is below. The basic principle is that margin of victory and strength of schedule are interrelated: who you beat and how you beat them are important, but the Morgan Wick Ratings are unique in that your margin of victory against a given team is associated with that team. Two innovations protect against running up the score: diminishing returns in the A Rating for RUTS, and because margin of victory is associated with the team the margin of victory came against in the B Point formula, you don’t get much benefit for beating a scrub team big. (Ignore the part in the post about the B and C Ratings being overly high; I fixed that problem last season.) If I’d change anything, I’ve considered making C Ratings dependent on all a team’s opponents’ B Ratings, not just the rest of their conference regardless of whether they’ve played everyone or not, and fixing my database so FCS games are counted as being against a team with an A Rating of 0, instead of just not counting for B Points.

It’s so early that we’re going to get some really wacky results in the ratings, and you’re probably going to have to take everything with a grain of salt. We are, however, far enough into the season to make some early judgments, and one of them is that the Big East just may be due for another season like 2006, when – in contrast to the conference’s usual mire of mediocrity – at least three different teams were in the national championship conversation very late into the season. The Big East has had a fantastic nonconference slate so far, and their reward is that the team that looks to be the biggest diamond in the conference, Cincinnati, takes the top spot in this first edition of the rankings.

How the C Ratings are tabulated: First, A Ratings are tabulated by multiplying the total score ratio, which is expressed by (points-opponents’ points)/points, by the winning percentage. Score ratio minimizes the effect of running up the score. Next, B Points for each game are tabulated by (margin of victory)/(opponent’s A rating)+/-1 for wins, and -(margin of loss)/(1-opponent’s A Rating)+/-1 for losses. The “+/-” is + for road games and – for home ones. The total number of B Points is multiplied by the A Rating to get the B Rating. Conference Ratings are tabulated by averaging the B Ratings of all teams in the conference. (Independents are counted separately, and Army and Navy are counted as one conference.) Finally, the C Rating is tabulated by taking the difference between the team’s B Rating and his conference’s rating, taking a fraction of that equal to the fraction of Division I-A the conference makes up, and taking the result off the B Rating. The three ratings go A, B, C across. Click here to see the complete ratings.

1. Cincinnati (3-0)
Big East Leader
.832 15.319 14.431 Account for the only loss of each of the FBS teams they’ve faced, including a very good Oregon State team, and reside in a top-notch conference. Could the Bearcats go from being unranked in the preseason polls to a national championship contender?
2. Auburn (3-0)
SEC Leader
.737 11.943 10.909 Account for the only loss of both the BCS teams they’ve faced, including being one of only five teams to beat the Big East. Never scored less than 37 or won by less than 11, and have faced better opposition than Cincinnati. And the polls don’t have them ranked?
3. Iowa (3-0)
Big Ten Leader
.723 11.237 10.271 Again, Northern Iowa struggle aside, account for the only loss of either FBS team faced, and Arizona is actually pretty good. Ohio State and Penn State better not make plans for their showdown to be a de facto Big Ten title game just yet.
4. LSU (3-0) .794 10.029 9.186 Never scored less than 23, and the one time they allowed double digits it was to the team that just upended the Trojans. The Tigers are out to prove last year was an abberation, but they’ve got a heck of a hurdle to climb to win the SEC West.
5. Texas (3-0)
Big 12 Leader
.785 9.478 8.609 A weak schedule so far and avenging last year’s Texas Tech loss by only 10 at home hurts them, but they are still the non-Florida national championship favorites.
6. Oklahoma (2-1) .547 8.488 7.718 Have yet to allow a point since the BYU loss. Haven’t faced the best opposition, but losing by only one mitigated the damage from that game, and 45-0 is 45-0 even if it’s against Tulsa.
7. California (3-0)
Pac-10 Leader
.838 7.879 7.141 With USC upset (again), Cal seems to be ready to carry the Pac-10 banner, both here and in the polls. Never scored less than 35 or won by less than 14, Minnesota is positive B Points, and you might start hearing the name Jahvid Best for the Heisman.
8. Alabama (3-0) .802 6.977 6.440 What a year it’s shaping up to be in the SEC West! People think Alabama is the best of the bunch again, ranked in both polls, but weak competition and a tight pull-out against V-Tech hurts them. It’ll be much harder to make the SEC Title Game this year.
9. Kansas (3-0) .894 6.992 6.371 They’re ba-a-ack! Weak opposition so far, but never scored less than 34 or won by less than 27, awakening the echoes of 2007 when they were in the national championship conversation. But they’ll have a bumpy road to the Big 12 North…
10. Clemson (2-1)
ACC Leader
.471 6.013 5.431 Last year Clemson was seen as the class of the ACC, but their season fell apart after losing to ‘Bama. Maybe everyone was just a year early. Never scored < 25, and their one loss was by 3 on the road – and they could get better as G-Tech and BC win.
11. Missouri (3-0) .797 5.302 4.851 How big is the Border War going to be this year? As in 2007, a trip to the Big 12 Title Game could be on the line. Weak opposition and won by only 7 to Bowling Green at home, but still demolished Illinois. There’s a reason they’re ranked in the polls.
12. Pittsburgh (3-0) .817 4.806 4.619 Never scored less than 27 or won by less than 17, but they’ve got a meatgrinder of a conference schedule ahead. Fortunately, they still have NC State before that starts.
13. Florida (3-0)
Princeton-Yale Title
.879 4.812 4.492 Not as dominant as we thought, eh? The polls didn’t drop the Gators from #1 after their struggles against Tennessee, but they should, especially with the weak schedule outside that game – and it only gets tougher with Kentucky setting up a trip to Baton Rouge.
14. Mississippi (2-0) .893 4.619 4.317 The Rebels would rank higher if they played more than one FBS game. But it’ll still be tough to break through a meatgrinder of an SEC West.
15. Miami (FL) (2-0) .647 4.756 4.299 Have the Hurricanes made it out of the darkness of the last few seasons? It’s possible, and a top ten AP ranking is evidence of it, especially what you consider what their rivals have been able to do…
16. Florida State (2-1) .433 3.816 3.453 …that is, recover from a narrow loss to Miami to win going away against a Cougars team thought to be the BCS buster du jour. Is the ACC’s marquee rivalry finally living up to what the ACC had in mind when it expanded to 12 teams?
17. Virginia Tech (2-1) .397 3.632 3.287 Could have done better than a narrow home escape against Nebraska, but they’re a good team, and they still blew out Marshall and their only loss is still against Alabama – whether or not that reflects well on the ACC. Will the Miami game be for the Coastal?
18. Boise State (3-0)
Non-BCS Leader
.818 4.718 3.283 With BYU’s loss, it looks like Boise is once again carrying the flag for the BCS busters. With a big win over the team that just upended Utah, and never scoring less than 48 or winning by less than 17 since, they certainly seem to be playing the part.
19. Nebraska (2-1) .515 3.354 3.097 They lost to V-Tech, but it was by one on the road and the Hokies are showing signs that they will at least contend for the ACC title. Their other two opponents are from the Sun Belt but they crushed them like you’re supposed to.
20. Penn State (3-0) .888 3.042 2.827 The Nittany Lions have been nice and consistent, winning games against admittedly weak teams by scores of 31-7, 28-7, and 31-6. That streak might end after a tilt with Iowa that could influence the direction of the Big Ten.
21. UCLA (3-0) .732 3.109 2.768 The wrong LA team is undefeated! Yes, the Bruins have put together a nice string of wins against admittedly mediocre opponents, including a road win over Tennessee with a similar score to the Vols’ road loss to the Gators. Is the Pac next?
22. Houston (2-0) .773 4.020 2.302 How impressive are the Cougars to make the rankings (and the polls) with only two games under their belt, only one against BCS competition, from a non-BCS conference? That’s how impressive it is to beat 2-1 Oklahoma State on the road.
23. Arizona State (2-0) .892 2.330 2.054 Can you tell we’re in the dregs of the rankings when Arizona State has beaten only one FBS team and that was Louisiana-Monroe? Still, they’ve looked impressive enough in both games that the Pac-10 is in their sights – but Georgia ain’t Idaho State.
24. Indiana (3-0) .656 2.088 1.960 They haven’t beaten much in the way of teams, but they’ve certainly handled them, and very quietly, Indiana is 3-0 and a potential Big Ten spoiler.
25. Connecticut (2-1) .378 1.870 1.879 They’ve lost, but by two to a North Carolina team ranked in the polls, and their two wins weren’t impressive but were on the road. They just might be a factor in the Big East.

39 teams total with positive C Rating (1 with negative B Rating (South Carolina))

2006 Boise State Title: #41 Oregon (2-1), .299, .070, -.018

Unbeaten teams not on top 25: #26 North Carolina, #27 Michigan, #29 South Florida, #30 Wisconsin, #34 Kentucky, #40 TCU, #42 Colorado State, #44 Texas A&M, #54 Southern Miss (last four not in positive C points, and Texas A&M not in positive B points)

Rest of Watch List (both 2-1): #28 Washington, #31 Arizona

Other Positive B Ratings (all 2-1 unless otherwise noted): #32 Duke (1-2 but Richmond doesn’t count and Army win outweighs loss to good Kansas team), #33 Ohio State, #35 Louisville (1-1), #37 Hawaii, #38 USC, #39 Minnesota, #41 Oregon, #55 Northern Illinois

Bottom 10: #111 Washington State, #112 New Mexico State, #113 Toledo, #114 Florida Atlantic, #115 Miami (OH), #116 New Mexico, #117 Rice, #118 Tulane, #119 Western Kentucky, #120 San Jose State

Conference Rating: #1 Big East (2.005), #2 SEC (1.604), #3 Big 12 (.787), #4 Big Ten (.693), #5 ACC (.186), #6 Pac-10 (-.980), #7 Mountain West (-9.883), #8 MAC (-11.405), #9 C-USA (-13.158), #10 WAC (-14.413), #11 Sun Belt (-15.238)

Best game of week: Iowa @ Penn State, 5pm PT, ABC

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