College Football Strength Ratings: Who's on the move after Week 6?

October 12, 2022 07:07 PM
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Last weekend wasn’t nearly as dramatic as others we have seen so far in college football, at least in terms of upsets and other surprises. 

Out of the 10 games featuring teams ranked in the top 13 in Week 6, only one was decided by single digits. In other words, there wasn’t a whole lot of movement among the upper echelon. 

That figures to change big time this week as the schedule could be the best one we see all year. The College Football Playoff picture figures to get a lot clearer as several fringe contenders go head-to-head in a Week 7 slate that could be described as “decisive.” 

Let’s take a look at my strength indicators heading into the big weekend (and feel free to dig deeper with the full list). Perhaps the most important note for this week: I have a new No. 1 atop the Power Ratings 

Power Ratings

After watching Alabama (without QB Bryce Young) struggle against Texas A&M, I have bumped up Ohio State to the top spot. The Buckeyes trounced Michigan State on Saturday and are looking like the offensive juggernaut they were expected to be. Since a hard-fought 21-10 victory over a respected Notre Dame team, OSU has scored 54.4 PPG in its last five outings. I have moved coach Ryan Day’s team to a 75.5 PR, putting them at least two points higher than any other team in the country. Second on the list is Alabama, which survived against A&M but faces an even bigger test this week at Tennessee. The Volunteers are my fifth-rated team with a PR number of 62. They buried LSU in Baton Rouge with a huge performance, shaking off any concerns that they would be looking ahead to the ’Bama showdown. Georgia and Michigan remain in the Nos. 3 and 4 spots. The Wolverines face a huge challenge on Saturday, hosting an undefeated Penn State team that seems to be a bit under the radar right now. The winner of that game figures to represent Ohio State’s biggest hurdle the rest of the way. The other huge game involving unbeatens in Week 7 is Oklahoma State-TCU. Huge road tests are on tap for Clemson (at Florida State) and USC (at Utah). With wins, those two teams will be bona fide playoff contenders.

Biggest upward movers after Week 6:

UCLA (+ 3 points): If people weren’t taking UCLA seriously before, its 42-32 win over Utah as a 3.5-point home dog should turn some heads. The Bruins are undefeated and the offense is marching behind senior QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson. They face a tough task in Week 8 out of their bye, however, with a trip to Eugene to take on Oregon. Currently, I have UCLA as 21st in my PRs but 33rd in Effective Strength.

San Jose State (+ 3 points): San Jose State knocked UNLV QB Doug Brumfield out of the game early Friday night, and with him went essentially any hope the Rebels had at competing. The Spartans have rallied for three straight wins and now sit at 4-1 (and 4-1 ATS) after opening the season with modest expectations. After allowing 28.5 PPG in a 5-7 season last year, SJSU is allowing just 14 PPG (Effective Average: 13.6) this season.

Navy (+ 3 points): I had the Midshipmen on this same list last week after I bumped them up three points following their near-miss upset of Air Force. They get the same upgrade this week after routing Tulsa 53-21 as 4.5-point dogs. Navy rushed for 455 yards in that game and seems to have found its footing. I wouldn’t want to be one of this team’s upcoming opponents.

Eastern Michigan (+ 3 points): I’ll tell you what, this Eastern Michigan team has been a hard one to get a grasp of this season and has taken a roller-coaster ride in my Power Ratings. Last week, the Eagles won big at Western Michigan for their second upset of the season. That followed a pair of games in which they were favored but went just 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS. This seems to be a team you’ll want to back when expected to lose but fade when expected to win.

Biggest downward movers after Week 6:

Oklahoma (-3 points): Oklahoma seems to be making permanent residence on the downward movers list, and I dropped the Sooners another three points this week after their 49-0 loss to Texas. They could have dropped more but I took into consideration that QB Dillon Gabriel was unable to suit up for the game. This week, OU takes on a Kansas team that has surprised people this season and is starved to end its 17-game losing streak in the series. 

Tulsa (-3 points): For the past several years, I haven’t been a believer in laying points with Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane proved me right Saturday when they were throttled by Navy at home, allowing 455 rushing yards in the 53-21 loss. Over the last two games, this team has looked nothing like the one that almost upended Ole Miss on the road in the last game in September. 

Utah (-3 points): Some teams just don’t handle expectations very well. Utah was considered to be a fringe CFP contender this season after its huge run to close the 2021 season. However, after a key loss at UCLA on Saturday, coach Kyle Whittingham’s veteran team faces the realistic prospect of a third loss already. A defeat against USC at home would wipe out any hope of the Utes winning the Pac-12 again. The primary concern is Utah’s defense, which has allowed 450+ yards in half of its games after hitting that mark just three times in 14 games last season.

Western Michigan (-3 points): Thanks to the loss of its starting QB and several other offensive starters from last season, I made Western Michigan Under 6.5 wins one of my top win-total wagers entering the season. The Broncos are well on their way with a 2-4 mark after an upset loss to Eastern Michigan on Saturday. I wouldn’t say WMU is playing awful football, but the inexperience is showing and is making the difference between winning and losing.

Effective Strength Ratings

Most of the country has played half of its regular-season schedule, and that makes each successive week of the Effective Strength Ratings more and more valid. It’s often said that numbers don’t lie, and I am a big believer in that when it comes to my Effective Stats. Currently, Alabama leads the country with an ESR of 47.8, which is equivalent to about a 76.5 PR. The reason I have the Tide with a current PR of 73.5, however, is that their Recent Rating is equivalent to exactly 73.5, and their passing game without Young on Saturday was a definite concern. Still, the ESR of 47.8 is 1.6 points better than Ohio State right now and 4.5 points ahead of Georgia. Texas (41.3) and Tennessee (41.2) are next in line. Of course, both of those teams have close ties to Alabama, with the Longhorns having lost to the Tide by a point in Week 2 and the Vols getting ready to host them this week. There are many experts who believe Texas could be ranked at the top of the polls right now had it not been for the multi-week injury to QB Quinn Ewers. Other rising teams to watch on the ESR list right now are USC (No. 7), Ole Miss (No. 8), and TCU (No. 10). Illinois is making a case for a higher Power Rating as well, with an ESR rank of 16th, well below its PR rank of 35th. At the bottom, Florida International maintains its firm grasp of the title of worst team in FBS, with an Effective Strength Rating of -26, almost 74 points worse than Alabama and over 7 points worse than any other team.

Bettors Ratings

Interestingly, the current AP Poll and my Bettors Ratings show the same team at the top, Georgia. The markets seem to love the Bulldogs more than the actual performance indicators do, and that could be a concern for the defending champs, who might be a bit overrated by the pollsters and betting public. Currently, Georgia’s BR is -46.7, a single point better than Alabama’s. Ohio State is No. 3 at -42.6, 7.3 points better than Big Ten rival Michigan. It feels as if the markets are hesitant to put anyone else among the Elite 3, although that could change in the next couple of weeks as several of the fringe contenders face massive tests, as I have alluded to already. In terms of other interesting BR notes, Oklahoma remains the most overrated team by the markets, as the Sooners’ rating of -32.8 makes them the fifth-most respected team in the country by bettors’ standards. On the other hand, bettors still seem to be catching up to the prowess of teams like Oklahoma State and TCU, a pair of undefeated Big 12 rivals that will square off Saturday. On the opposite end of this strength indicator, you’ll again find FIU as the lowest-rated team, 2.2 points behind Hawaii, with a BR number of 18.3. Remember, the more negative the better for this ratings set, so FIU’s BR of + 18.3 is 65 points lower than Georgia’s.

Recent Ratings

The deeper we get into any college football season, the more important the Recent Ratings become. Teams naturally go through ups and downs in any given season, and the teams that are playing the best seem to be the biggest threats. Currently, the team with the highest RR is Ohio State, with a 47.1 rating, the equivalent of a 75.6 Power Rating for recent play. That is 2.4 points higher than Alabama and 3.8 points higher than the third-ranked team in this strength indicator, Texas. Other teams playing very well right now and rounding out the top nine in my Recent Ratings are Tennessee, TCU, Mississippi State, Clemson, Wake Forest and Illinois. If you’re wondering about AP No. 1 Georgia, the defending champs rank way down at No. 14 in this key indicator, another reason for concern. At the bottom of the RRs, you’ll again find the usual teams (FIU, New Mexico State, Massachusetts and Hawaii), but perhaps more interestingly, you’ll find a team that is out of its usual element, Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ RR of -1.9 is equivalent to a Power Rating of 27. Who is a current team with a PR of 27? Louisiana-Monroe. That is the level of football Virginia Tech is currently playing, and I would continue to advise against backing the Hokies until something changes.

Schedule Strength Ratings

The Schedule Strength Ratings reflect the difficulty of each team’s schedule that has already been played. After its win over BYU in Las Vegas last week, Notre Dame holds onto the top spot in SSR. In other words, the Irish have played a tougher schedule than any other college football team this season (it lightens up a bit this week with a home date against struggling Stanford). Arkansas (which faces BYU this week), Colorado, Texas A&M and Auburn round out the top five. The FBS team that has played the easiest slate to this point is Florida International, which still finds itself at the bottom of my four strength indicators despite the soft schedule. James Madison is next in line with an average opponent power rating of 26.8, which equates to playing ULM each week on a neutral field. The Dukes have taken full advantage of their weak schedule, however, and bring a 5-0 SU and 5-0 ATS record into Saturday’s showdown at Arkansas State. Interestingly, Minnesota, a Big Ten team, has played the fifth-easiest schedule among the 131 FBS teams, which could come back to bite the Gophers over the rest of the conference schedule.

FCS Teams

After watching North Dakota State struggle again last week (they barely beat Indiana State), it’s become quite obvious that the gap between the FCS and FBS is much larger than it had been over the last few years. In fact, the Bison’s PR of 41.5 may be best among FCS teams but it ranks behind 73 teams overall. NDSU maintains the top spot in the Bettors Ratings with a BR of -16.3. Montana and South Dakota State share the second spot in the Power Ratings, each 1.5 points lower than the Bison. Sacramento State has quietly played itself into the top Effective Strength Rating among FCS teams, with an ESR number of 17.5. To put that number in perspective, it is about 30 points less than Alabama’s. The best team recently in FCS is Mercer, with an RR of 24.7. That rating is equivalent to about a 53 Power Rating. Who is a 53-level PR right now in FBS? How about Oklahoma! Rounding out the FCS strength ratings analysis, Eastern Washington (57th) and Portland State (60) have played the toughest schedules.

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