Welcome to the new team rating system for college football teams that we’ve created here at Sports Unbiased. The system is designed to provide weight to the various elements — offense, defense, coaching, talent, and schedule difficulty — that are integral determinants in a team’s ability to contend for spots in the College Football Playoff, the affiliated New Year’s Day bowl games, or to separate themselves from one another in the battle for postseason berths.
This ranking utilizes a collection of both objective and subjective statistical data to measure these five areas and assign rankings between one and 10 for each program in each area of analysis. The data used to calculate these weighted point values are as follows:
- OFFENSE: The offensive analysis sets weighted totals for scoring offense as measured in points per game, both the compiling and efficiency nature of the offense via yards per game and yards per play, and turnovers lost. The 1-10 weighted points are then averaged to create the Offense PRS score.
- DEFENSE: Defensive calculations work much the same way as the offensive analysis; scoring defense is measured by points allowed per game, yards allowed per game and per play are factored in, and turnovers created finishes the equation. The 1-10 weighted points are then averaged together to create the final Defense PRS score. In both cases the statistics are readily available at the NCAA website.
- COACHING: To evaluate a coaching staff is to ultimately evaluate the man at the top of the pyramid holding the ultimate responsibility for the team’s functionality. The Coaching PRS is generated by an average of the weighted 1-10 scores of career winning percentage and number of games coached. In this way longevity at historically weak programs is not punished, and sustained excellence is rewarded through the combination.
- TALENT: Talent is always going to be a subjective statistic in many ways. The Talent PRS factors in two key areas — the raw talent brought in at the time of recruiting, and the experience on this year’s roster. To calculate weighted points from the former, I utilized the composite recruiting rankings from 247Sports.com for the past four years recruiting cycles. Each year was then given its weighted score from those composites, and then averaged against Phil Steele’s Total Experience Points. This number accounts not just for returning starters but also senior starters and two-deep, returning letterman, the percentage of total returning offense and defense, and offensive line experience. Again, this category is always going to be the most subjective, but any weighted point allocation requires some starting point and these provided the most comprehensive foundation.
- SCHEDULE: In the College Football Playoff era, schedule difficulty is going to be increasingly important in determining which teams are given a shot at the national championship and at the most lucrative bowl opportunities. The Schedule PRS accounts for the 2014 winning percentage of 2015 opponents, the number of opponents that finished 2014 with winning records, the number of opponents that were bowl-eligible in 2014, and the number of opponents that finished 2014 in the Top 25 of a major poll.
The ranking also includes an evaluation of margin of victory that is weighted based on Sagarin ratings. This allows for normalization across both FBS and FCS opponents, and creates a more accurate representation of both schedule strength in real time as well as evaluates the true quality of both close wins and blowouts.
The final ranking equally weighs each of the calculated point totals from these five categories and the adjustem margin of victory calculations utilized last season in the Top 128 evaluations and spits out a number. That number provides merely a foundation for looking at how teams will likely be evaluated heading into the 2015 season. The higher one is on the list, the greater are both the expectations and the potential rewards for sustained excellence.
Naturally, like any algorithm plotted to spit out a ranking, there are pitfalls to the data spewed forth. Feel free to call me out about those in the comments below, on Twitter, or via email, as I cannot claim proficiency as any sort of trained mathematician. The ranking, however, stands as one unbiased way of evaluating the various key ingredients that go into creating a championship team in college football.
(QUICK NOTE: This ranking does not include transitional member Charlotte, given the new C-USA member’s inability to transcend the established hierarchy without bowl eligibility. No matter what happens this year, the deck is stacked against the 49ers by default in a way that sadly renders the team moot on its own merits before the season begins — just like it went for Georgia Southern last year as the undisputed, undefeated-in-conference-play Sun Belt champion.)
So who is most likely to walk away with significant hardware at the end of 2015 and the beginning of the new year? Check out the ranking below and stay tuned here at Sports Unbiased as we continue to preview the impending 2015 college football campaign as we near the September start of the season.