2009 College Football Rankings – Week 4

It’s still way too early to know what sort of college football season we’re going to have, although it is starting to take shape. The general consensus so far seems to be that, while not quite as wild as 2007, the 2009 college football season may well be very upset-ridden… but it’s hard to know whether any of these games should really be considered upsets.

People have complained about the preseason polls for a long time, and this year seems to have underscored it. Ole Miss was ranked very highly in the polls, rising to #4 after the first three weeks, only to fall to South Carolina. That sparked a discussion as to whether Ole Miss should have had that much hype thrust upon them without this year’s version of the team having done anything to deserve it. After all, we’re hit with surprise teams in both directions all the time in pro sports; why should college be any less of a crap shoot to predict?

But the rest of the weekend seems to have suggested that’s not the problem. Miami (FL) wasn’t ranked at all in the preseason poll and rose to the top ten in only three weeks, only to be demolished by Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, the two teams considered the undisputed top two in the country on the basis of the preseason polls, Florida and Texas, thanks to the volatility of the early rankings, have zoomed up to take two of the top three spots in the C Ratings – they are who we thought they were, despite the Gators losing Tim Tebow during the Kentucky game. That the C Ratings already reflect the national consensus in this area suggests people should pay close attention to the fact Iowa stands between the two in the 2 hole – they are the real deal, and should be considered a budding national championship contender.

I heard someone on ESPN (Kirk Herbstreit?) suggest that the preseason polls are too useful for focusing our attention on certain teams early in the season, so we should keep them but make them meaningless later. Individual conferences have media and coaches’ preseason polls and don’t even have polls during and after the season; to say the conferences should have preseason polls and the entire country shouldn’t seems absurd. Here’s my solution: Have a preseason poll, but hold off on putting out any other polls until week 4 or so, maybe even as late as the release of the first BCS standings. That way, instead of having pollsters make requisite “tweaks” from week to week, you force them to look at the entire body of work of the first four weeks and free them to make a fresh, unencumbered ranking.

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 (13) Florida (4-0)
SEC Leader
Princeton-Yale Title
.888 21.444 19.498 Demolished Kentucky for Wildcats’ first loss, even once Tim Tebow left. Good thing they have the bye before LSU; with this lead and Iowa playing lowly Arkansas State they might not even lose the top spot.
2 (3) Iowa (4-0)
Big Ten Leader
.733 19.202 17.425 Obviously, Iowa’s ranked in the polls now, but right now they’re ranked behind the Buckeyes’ bigger name. Will they get the respect they deserve if they beat Michigan in two weeks?
3 (5) Texas (4-0)
Big 12 Leader
.825 16.770 15.373 An impressive blowout of UTEP going into the bye; UTEP’s weak standing and Texas Tech losing keeps them behind Iowa. Taking a bye will hurt them as well, and Colorado will just be a tune-up for the Red River Rivalry.
4 (1) Cincinnati (4-0)
Big East Leader
.785 15.879 14.875 Escaping with an 8-point victory over weak Fresno State the main reason the Bearcats slip, as is Oregon State losing. But they might still be a national championship gadfly, especially if the Big East is as down as everyone thinks.
5 (6) Oklahoma (2-1) .547 11.562 10.685 Huh? Oklahoma moving up despite not playing? Credit big wins for both FBS opponents. Imagine where they’d be if Sam Bradford hadn’t gotten injured. Now to get to work this week against Miami.
6 (9) Kansas (4-0) .821 9.890 9.180 Handed Southern Miss their first loss, but it was by only a touchdown, preventing them from leapfrogging their Southern brethren. And now they could slip back after the bye.
7 (17) Virginia Tech (3-1)
ACC Leader
.501 9.818 8.593 What Alabama loss? Beating a team with as much hype as Miami by that much earns the Hokies their own ticket to the top ten in the polls.
8 (8) Alabama (4-0) .826 9.042 8.336 Alabama is showing as the second-best team in the SEC now, but other than V-Tech no team they’ve played measures up to a Miami. Kentucky has a higher A Rating than Arkansas, but the real test: Ole Miss in two weeks.
9 (4) LSU (4-0) .737 8.549 7.892 Way too tight a pullout against weak Mississippi State, but the real bad news is big losses for Washington and especially Louisiana-Lafayette. Will Georgia be enough tune-up for Florida in two weeks?
10 (2) Auburn (4-0) .733 8.452 7.805 Winless Ball State just doesn’t get within two touchdowns, or score as many as 30 in general, in Jordan-Hare Stadium. And the only opponent that had a game lost. Will a road trip to Tennessee be a rebound, or an upset opportunity?
11 (18) Boise State (4-0)
Non-BCS Leader
.828 8.747 7.147 A blowout’s a blowout, especially on the road. And the win over Oregon is starting to look more and more impressive as the Ducks continue to win. At 5th in the polls, might they have a real shot at the national title game?
12 (41) Oregon (3-1)
Pac-10 Leader
2006 Boise State Title
.433 8.007 7.137 The embarrassing loss to Boise State seems a distant memory now as the Ducks follow a BCS-buster-busting defeat of Utah with a win over Cal to inherit pole position in the conference – without LeGarrette Blount.
13 (19) Nebraska (3-1) .622 7.500 7.030 55-0 is 55-0, even against Louisiana-Lafayette. But don’t awaken the echoes of Tom Osborne just yet – you’ll slip for a bye you need to prepare for a showdown with Missouri to determine who’ll challenge Kansas for the Big 12 North.
14 (29) South Florida (4-0) .880 4.134 3.912 The only FBS team the Bulls had played was newbie Western Kentucky. But beating Florida State shows they’re for real, and they want this year to be similar to 2007 in another way – South Florida in the national conversation.
15 (33) Ohio State (3-1) .558 4.055 3.666 Shutting out Illinois, even a mediocre Illinois, and not allowing a point since USC a needed feather in the Buckeyes’ cap to justify the top-10 poll ranking. What would really help: Beating Indiana this week.
16 (21) UCLA (3-0) .732 4.182 3.630 Skipped a week but Tennessee and Kansas State each had big wins, making UCLA look all the better – and scarier, heading into a game at Stanford that’s a tuneup for a huge game with Oregon in the Rose Bowl in two weeks.
17 (10) Clemson (2-2) .309 4.138 3.482 Losing to TCU at home not the way to represent the ACC. They probably need to beat Maryland to prove themselves deserving of this ranking.
18 (27) Michigan (4-0) .698 3.785 3.421 Could it be? Are the Wolverines riding the shoulders of Tate Forcier back? They only won by three to Indiana at home and no other opponent so far is in positive B Points, but that’s far better than the team that lost to Appalachian State.
19 (11) Missouri (4-0) .763 2.744 2.749 Beating winless Nevada isn’t much of an argument that you’re for real, especially with Illinois and Bowling Green losing as well. They better be able to bounce back for Nebraska in two weeks if they want a shot at the Big 12 North.
20 (25) Connecticut (3-1) .488 2.399 2.293 The fact the win came against a I-AA team limits the benefit the Huskies get from it, and still no one is giving them any respect. They’ll drop for the bye but then get a chance to prove themselves against Pitt in two weeks.
21 (38) USC (3-1) .534 2.678 2.251 Matt Barkley’s injury really hurts the Trojans in the rankings, not only because of the loss to Washington but the narrowness of the win over Ohio State. Can he return to full strength for a big test against Cal?
22 (31) Arizona (3-1) .463 2.661 2.236 Off go Arizona State, on go their rivals after a big win over an Oregon State team expected to be among the Pac-10’s Big Four. With their only loss being to red-hot Iowa, could they be a big factor in the Pac-10 as well?
23 (20) Penn State (3-1) .544 2.280 2.054 Don’t slip much because Arizona State and Indiana losing provided a cushion, Iowa’s a good team, and Syracuse and Temple won. Still, with Ohio State and Michigan zooming onto the Top 25, JoePa might want to kiss the Rose Bowl goodbye.
24 (22) Houston (3-0) .688 3.879 1.833 Slip because they beat middling Texas Tech by only one at home, but two wins against the Big 12 is two wins against the Big 12, and the Cougars smell BCS Buster this year.
25 (12) Pittsburgh (3-1) .536 1.805 1.739 Bad sign when you lose to a team that isn’t even positive. It was close and on the road, but their schedule really looks bad now, and the Big East looks that much tougher.

38 teams total with positive C Rating (none with negative B Rating)

Off Top 25: #29 Florida State (was #16), #30 Arizona State (was #23), #32 Indiana (was #24), #33 Mississippi (was #14), #51 Miami (FL) (was #15), #74 California (was #7)

Unbeaten teams not on top 25: #26 Texas A&M*, #28 TCU, #36 Wisconsin

Rest of Watch List: #27 Stanford*, #29 Florida State, #30 Arizona State, #31 South Carolina*, #32 Indiana, #33 Mississippi, #34 Iowa State*, #35 Utah*

Other Positive B Ratings: #37 West Virginia*, #38 Wake Forest*, #39 Hawaii, #40 Duke, #48 SMU* (*=Newly Positive)

No Longer Positive: #43 Minnesota, #51 Miami (FL), #52 Southern Miss, #56 North Carolina, #57 Washington, #58 Kentucky, #63 Northern Illinois, #71 Colorado State, #74 California, #76 Louisville

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

Conference Rating: #1 Big 12 (2.795), #2 SEC (1.982), #3 Big East (.811), #4 Big 10 (-.189), #5 ACC (-2.429), #6 Pac-10 (-2.436), #7 MWC (-9.326, leader #28 TCU), #8 WAC (-12.590), #9 C-USA (-16.583), #10 MAC (-18.081, leader #60 Central Michigan), #11 Sun Belt (-19.835, leader #79 Middle Tenn. St.)

Best game of week: UCLA @ Stanford, 12:30pm PT, ABC

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