Just a few more weeks hang in the balance, with most teams wrapping up their 10th games of the season over this weekend. We are seeing the field settle itself out as the weeks keep churning along, with the top of the standings becoming increasingly solidified and the field below the top handful of teams becoming increasingly fluid.
At the top, Oklahoma’s win over Baylor in a critical Big 12 matchup had little effect on the Pigskin Rating System during this week’s analysis, as Oklahoma locked down and stretched its lead at the top and Baylor remained among the top four. If the PRS rankings were to determine the playoff field today, we’d see the Bears taking on the Sooners in a rematch.
On the other side of the bracket, a familiar matchup is looking like it too will take place again. Last year, Ohio State stunned Alabama in the Sugar Bowl en route to its unexpected national championship. This year the Buckeyes appear locked into a collision course with the Crimson Tide once again.
Of course, this isn’t quite how the committee has had the teams sorted out the past few weeks. Clemson remains the top team in the College Football Playoff rankings, and should again when the third set of rankings are released on Tuesday. But in the PRS calculations, they continue to come up short. Dabo Swinney’s crew is stuck behind three one-loss teams, and is rated closer to 7-3 Ole Miss than it is to 8-1 Baylor. This in particular will be valuable to keep observing moving forward.
The committee ultimately has the final say in setting the field. But while they happily ramble on about “wins over .500” and “top-25 victories” and “quality wins” every Tuesday when they release the new poll, there is no objective criteria that fans can track like the much-maligned BCS actually did offer. (Yes, I called it a poll. When you get 12 people in a room grappling with how to sort a team, you have created a poll. It doesn’t matter whether you take a ballot and tally them up, this is still a poll. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.)
Instead of the frustrating-but-transparent BCS era, we are instead left to try to create our own sense out of the quagmire. The PRS rankings, ultimately, are but one guess based on several key aspects of football success and failure.
Here are some other random takeaways from the Week 11 PRS rankings:
- Being undefeated doesn’t necessarily count for as much as you might think in the PRS rankings. Nowhere is this more evident than with Iowa, which improved to 10-0 after knocking off rival Minnesota to reclaim the Floyd of Rosedale yet remained locked in at 21st in this week’s PRS printout. Likewise, Oklahoma State stayed alive by escaping their recent house of horrors with a close win in Ames over Iowa State, but stayed locked in 10th. And mid-major Houston is ranked between the two Power Five unbeatens, meaning that among the five remaining undefeated teams only two (Ohio State and Clemson) are considered top-five by the PRS.
- Suffering a bunch of losses, as the corollary would go, does not necessarily doom a team to obsolescence, either. As I mentioned earlier, only one of the three teams that would project into the playoff are undefeated, with Clemson hovering on the outskirts of selection. Five different teams with 7-3 records — #6 Ole Miss, #9 USC, #19 UCLA, #20 Mississippi State and even #17 Boise State are ranked higher than unbeaten Iowa. Some of this comes down to schedule, some of this comes to fluke losses that obscure strong offensive and defensive numbers, and some of this I’m still evaluating as the weeks advance to see if any adjustments might need to be made to the methodology utilized to rank each FBS team.
- Naturally, as the past decade of college football has preconditioned fans to expect, the SEC has the most teams in this week’s PRS top 25, with six of its 14 schools featured among that list. Alabama now has a clear path to meet Florida in the SEC championship game, and three of the other four schools in the top quintile are from the SEC West. The distribution of the other conferences shows that there is increasing balance both between the Power Five leagues as well as among the Group of Five schools competing for the Access Bowl berth. Here is how they stack up by conference: SEC (6), Big 12 (4), Big Ten (4), ACC (3), Pac-12 (3), AAC (2), independent (1), MAC (1), MWC (1)
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.