There have only the slightest of shifts at the very top of the PRS Rankings this week, with USC retaining the top spot over its bye week and Ohio State remaining just outside of the top four after its close call against Indiana. In between the pair, Alabama, Ole Miss, and Baylor shuffled around, but all three remained above the hypothetical playoff qualification line.
Where the most movement occurred after the first games of October was in the positions just outside the top five. Looking further down the top 25, 14 of the 20 teams ranked between sixth and 25th moved at least five positions this week as this week’s games provided the momentum for a major course correction.
It has even allowed for more egalitarian representation across the conferences. In the top 25, seven of the 10 FBS conferences are represented along with independent Notre Dame, showcasing football at its finest in every region of the country in the process. And the three conferences not represented within the top 25 are nevertheless accounted for before you get outside the top 50, showing that even mid-major teams continue to narrow the gap between haves and have-nots in the top division.
It raises the question as to whether four teams adequately rewards excellence when determining a national champion. The new plus-one model is certainly better than the BCS era, yet it seems to still fall short of including every worthy contender. Here are some notable snippets about how this week’s rankings would translate into a playoff picture:
- Who gets left out in a four-team playoff? The most obvious oversight is an Ohio State team that remains undefeated and entered the season as the defending national champion. TCU would also get spurned for a second straight season after dropping out of the picture in the final ranking last season.
- Another discrepancy worth noting are those teams ranked ahead of programs to whom they’ve lost. USC is seven spots ahead of Stanford. Michigan is an absurd 13 spots ahead of undefeated Utah. Notre Dame is 13 spots ahead of the Clemson team that beat them on Saturday. Florida is behind vanquished Ole Miss, who was leapfrogged by the Alabama team that they beat in Tuscaloosa. I do not claim that they are perfect, only that they are one projection whose biases are solely in the numbers plugged into the formula. Perhaps a winning percentage equivalent might be worthwhile to add to the schedule strength as a test in next week’s rankings, if only to see how it would affect the hierarchy.
- Here is how the first round would look if a 16-team playoff was seeded off the pure numbers, with higher seeds hosting games on campus:
- #16 UCLA (Pac-12/4-1, 6.7 PRS) at #1 USC (Pac-12/3-1, 8.4 PRS)
- #15 Georgia (SEC/4-1, 6.7 PRS) at #2 Alabama (SEC/4-1, 8.2 PRS)
- #14 Florida State (ACC/4-0, 6.9 PRS) at #3 Ole Miss (SEC/4-1, 7.9 PRS)
- #13 NC State (ACC/4-1, 6.9 PRS) at #4 Baylor (Big 12/4-0, 7.9 PRS)
- #12 Boise State (MWC/4-1, 7.0 PRS) at #5 Ohio State (Big Ten/5-0, 7.4 PRS)
- #11 Notre Dame (IND/4-1, 7.1 PRS) at #6 Michigan (Big Ten/4-1, 7.4 PRS)
- #10 Texas A&M (SEC/5-0, 7.1 PRS) at #7 TCU (Big 12/5-0, 7.2 PRS)
- #9 Oklahoma (Big 12/4-0, 7.1 PRS) at #8 Stanford (Pac-12/4-1, 7.2 PRS)
- Looking at that above octet of games, we get to see a pair of conference rematches, one a blowout we’ve already seen (Alabama-Georgia) and the other a crosstown rivalry that would be reprised less than a month after the first showdown (USC-UCLA). It would also feature the resumption of a longstanding rivalry that ended with reaffiliation (Notre Dame-Michigan) and another former SWC rivalry (Texas A&M-TCU). We would also have a Group of Five champion in the field, with Boise State representing that team in this week’s rankings.
You can scroll through the full rankings below, including the breakdown of each category calculated in the Pigskin Rating System. To brush up on the methodology used in the rankings, click here.