Adam Burke shares his weekly college football power ratings
It is hard to believe that one-third of the regular season is over for a lot of teams. There are only six teams that have played just three games. Eleven teams have already played five games. College football can be the ultimate sports paradox because it still feels “early” and there are a lot of moving parts year in and year out with the programs, so you want to give them time to come together. But, then you think about the schedule and come to the realization I just talked about. Can we really call it early when 33.3% of the season is over?
The reason I bring that up is because making power ratings has been a challenge this season with the tremendous variance from game to game for some teams. We had more of those this past week.
Akron, who was a fumble return touchdown with less than a minute left away from losing to Morgan State, should have beaten Indiana in Bloomington this past week. Indiana hung in there two weeks ago on a Louisville team who hung 56 points on a Boston College team that should have beaten Florida State two weeks ago.
Arizona State, who scored 39 points in three games to open the season, was within a touchdown of USC with eight minutes left. A USC team that had won its first three games by 126 combined points.
The list goes on, but I don’t need to. Because there are two other things I want to talk about before getting to this week’s Power Ratings.
Let’s start with box score study and why it’s important:
I’m sure people were ready to bump up Penn State after last week’s 31-0 win over Iowa, right? It was a stellar defensive performance from the Nittany Lions, but they had 397 yards on 97 offensive plays. Drew Allar had 166 passing yards on 37 attempts. Penn State had 3.8 yards per carry. Iowa lost four fumbles in the game.
Missouri beat Memphis 34-27 in a game where there was some clear interest in the Memphis side from influential bettors. Missouri went 0/8 on third down, but racked up 8.9 yards per play in the game.
Oregon State “looked” close against Washington State in the 38-35 loss, but the Beavers gained 248 yards on their final three possessions, which started trailing 35-14, 38-21, and 38-28. The Beavers had 192 yards prior to garbage time.
These are just two examples, but there are others.
Here’s what I really wanted to touch on in the intro of this week’s article - strength of schedule discrepancies. There are going to be some really big differences between the caliber of opponents that one team has played against another.
For example, Clemson has played the 59th-ranked schedule per Jeff Sagarin. Syracuse has played the 149th-ranked schedule, and remember, there are only 133 FBS teams. Central Michigan has played the 23rd-ranked schedule. Eastern Michigan has played the 173rd-ranked schedule - and they’re only 2-2. Kentucky has played the 164th-ranked schedule, while Florida has played the 75th-ranked schedule.
I think there could be some good opportunities with the strength of schedule mismatches, especially because some teams have looked really good against very weak slates and others are now finally playing teams closer to their level. Something to watch for this week.
Here are my Week 5 College Football Power Ratings:
Here are my Week 5 power ratings adjustments:
Up: Georgia State +2, Virginia +2.5, San Diego State +3.5, Air Force +4, Georgia Tech +2.5, Syracuse +1.5, West Virginia +1.5, New Mexico +1.5, Louisville +2, Akron +2, Duke +3.5, Kansas +1.5, Georgia Southern +3, USF +3.5, Iowa State +3.5, Florida Atlantic +2, Arkansas State +4, Oregon +3, Washington +2, Washington State +3.5, Ohio +2, Maryland +2.5, Tulsa +2, Memphis +2, Central Michigan +4, Jacksonville State +1.5, Charlotte +2.5, Georgia +1, Texas +1, Arizona State +3, Alabama +1, Oklahoma +2, Miami (FL) +1.5, TCU +3, Liberty +2, Colorado State +2, Tulane +2, Texas State +3, UNLV +2, Western Michigan +2, Louisiana Tech +3, Kentucky +2, James Madison +4
Down: Coastal Carolina -2, NC State -4, Boise State -2, Wake Forest -4, UMass -1.5, Mississippi State -2, Indiana -3, UConn -2.5, UTSA -2.5, Pitt -3, Toledo -1.5, Oklahoma State -2.5, Minnesota -2.5, Southern Miss -5.5, Arizona -2.5, Colorado -5.5, Oregon State -1.5, Michigan State -2.5, Vanderbilt -2, Northern Illinois -2, Kansas State -2.5, Ole Miss -3, South Alabama -3, LSU -2.5, Western Kentucky -3, Auburn -3.5, Eastern Michigan -3, Purdue -2, Florida State -1, Iowa -2.5, Utah -2, Cincinnati -3, Virginia Tech -2, Ball State -2.5, Sam Houston State -4.5, UTEP -3, Utah -3, Bowling Green -4, Florida -1.5, Wyoming -3, Illinois -3
Injury: Rice -6 (Daniels)*, Texas A&M -3.5 (Weigman)*, UTSA -5 (Harris)*, Toledo -5 (Finn)*, Baylor +3.5 (Shapen may be back)
Some notes on the biggest movers:
Southern Miss -5.5: Y’all had your chance and blew it. Giving up 44 points and 425 yards to Arkansas State is embarrassing. I gave Southern Miss the benefit of the doubt for playing a tough schedule and they lost to a consensus bottom-five FBS program as a touchdown favorite. Deuces.
Colorado -5.5: I think the market has overreacted a little bit on Colorado at this point. The defense is undoubtedly bad, but Shedeur Sanders is still a gamer and I still believe in this offense. There will be a buy point on the Buffs soon. Maybe not this week, but soon.
Sam Houston State -4.5: I want to believe in this defense, but the offense has managed 2.97 yards per play. That is unbelievably bad.
NC State -4: As Parker Fleming, whose work I greatly respect, tweeted, “That one year of Brennan Armstrong was so fun. We'll always have that.” Yep. Dave Doeren is a hell of a coach, but this team has been among the biggest disappointments in the country thus far.
Wake Forest -4: Wake Forest is 3-1, but they’ve played the 140th-ranked schedule per Sagarin and just got pantsed by a really mediocre Georgia Tech team.
Air Force +4: That line went up quickly on Air Force last week. San Jose State was the best opponent they’ve played and that never felt like a game. I’m still a little skeptical with the schedule they’ve played (163rd), but Troy Calhoun seems to have another good team.
Arkansas State +4: True freshman QB Jaylen Raynor has injected a good bit of life into this team as a dual-threat guy who was actually being recruited to the service academies. This was a horrible team with J.T. Shrout, but they look decent with Raynor at the helm.
James Madison +4: I was really low on JMU coming into the season because they lost so much production from last season. It may not matter. They’re 4-0 and they’ve beaten Virginia, Troy, and were way ahead of Utah State in a horrendous situational spot before relaxing in the second half. Looks like Curt Cignetti is working magic in the Commonwealth again.
Central Michigan +4: I happen to think that’s a good South Alabama team that CMU beat last week. To circle back to my opening point, that’s a South Alabama team that went on the road and beat Oklahoma State last week, only to come home and lose to the Chips. CMU has played a tough schedule with Michigan State before all the Mel Tucker stuff went down and then Notre Dame. In the lowly MAC, they could be a good team in the West.
Here are my Week 5 lines:
Games to consider based on my Power Ratings (by date/rotation number):
Temple (+5 / +1) at Tulsa: Short week with travel isn’t great and Tulsa’s been obliterated by Washington and Oklahoma, so maybe we don’t have a great data set for either team, but this feels like a lot of points for a Tulsa team that was a dog at Northern Illinois.
BYU (-2.5 / -6) vs. Cincinnati: Cincinnati with travel to elevation and Emory Jones has a 2/5 TD/INT ratio against FBS opponents this season and has taken eight sacks. Against Power Five opponents, he’s only got 59 carries on 26 rush attempts. The win over Pitt doesn’t mean much at this point and they should have lost way worse to Oklahoma last week.
Georgia Southern (-6.5 / -11) vs. Coastal Carolina: Davis Brin threw five picks and was sacked four times against Wisconsin. Otherwise, he’s got a 8/2 TD/INT ratio with just three sacks and the Eagles have scored 34, 49, and 40 points in those three games. Coastal Carolina just doesn’t have the same look or feel this season.
Michigan (-18.5 / -25) at Nebraska: So, I really don’t know what to do with Michigan. I know this team is really good and has the potential to be elite. They’ve also been remarkably underwhelming in four games as a huge favorite. They actually had to use Blake Corum last week and J.J. McCarthy faced a real defense and threw three interceptions. I don’t think Nebraska has improved much and I think Michigan still has tremendous upside. I haven’t lowered them in my numbers, but it appears that the market has.
South Florida (+4 / -0.5) at Navy: I’ve been really impressed with USF and how quickly they’ve improved this season. Navy is off of a bye, but USF has hung in there with Alabama and looked decent in the win over Rice, at least on offense. I think that Byrum Brown’s dual-threat nature will help with the limited number of possessions they’re likely to get in this game.
Texas State (-7 / -13.5) at Southern Miss: As mentioned, Southern Miss doesn’t seem to have much of a defense and Billy Wiles has not played very well at QB. The ground game has had a hard time getting going and Texas State has had no problems getting the offense going, except for getting shut out in the first half last time out. The Bobcats scored 35 points in the second half and still finished with 574 yards in the game on just 66 plays (8.7 YPP).
If you ever have questions about the power ratings process, you can find me on X as @SkatingTripods or email aburke [at] vsin [dot] com.