Sometimes it’s better not to play, apparently. Miami ranked 15th in last week’s SP+ ratings and took a bye week before this Saturday’s big game against Clemson. Of the teams ranked just above them …
UCF lost to No. 71 Tulsa
Texas lost to No. 45 TCU
Oklahoma lost to No. 41 Iowa State
North Carolina narrowly beat No. 58 Boston College
Auburn got absolutely walloped by No. 4 Georgia
Combined with some slight shifts in the weighting of opponent adjustments, Miami was able to move up to ninth in this week’s rankings without lifting a finger. Now that’s efficiency.
What is SP+? In a single sentence, it’s a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency. I created the system at Football Outsiders in 2008, and as my experience with both college football and its stats has grown, I have made quite a few tweaks to the system.
SP+ is intended to be predictive and forward-facing. That is important to remember. It is not a résumé ranking that gives credit for big wins or particularly brave scheduling — no good predictive system is. It is simply a measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football. If you’re lucky or unimpressive in a win, your rating will probably fall. If you’re strong and unlucky in a loss, it will probably rise.
(Note: UMass was added to the mix this week. I should have added the Minutemen last week, but they slipped my attention with all of the other additions. Apologies to the Minutemen.)
This week’s movers
With opponent- and conference-level adjustments getting a little stronger for some teams, and with a few programs hitting the four-game mark (which is generally where preseason projections start getting filtered out at a more rapid clip), we had a good amount of movement in the middle of the rankings.
Eight teams moved up at least 12 spots from where they were last week.
Air Force (up 35 spots from 101st to 66th)
Army (up 21 spots from 72nd to 51st)
Georgia State (up 17 spots from 92nd to 75th)
Liberty (up 16 spots from 97th to 81st)
Wake Forest (up 13 spots from 93rd to 80th)
Georgia Southern (up 13 spots from 96th to 13th)
Appalachian State (up 12 spots from 42nd to 30th)
UAB (up 12 spots from 64th to 52nd)
A lot of these teams are from the Sun Belt, which, as you might expect, has benefited significantly from the aforementioned conference-level adjustments with its strong showing against bigger leagues. And of course, Air Force’s season debut was a nearly BYU-level knockout of Navy, which gave them a hefty boost.
Six teams moved down at least 10 spots this week as well.
Baylor (down 18 spots from 21st to 39th)
Missouri (down 17 spots from 48th to 65th)
UCF (down 15 spots from 13th to 28th)
East Carolina (down 14 spots from 105th to 119th)
South Carolina (down 10 spots from 34th to 44th)
Texas A&M (down 10 spots from 19th to 29th)
Baylor was a bit artificially high after destroying Kansas, and the Bears’ underlying stats against West Virginia suggested they were a bit lucky to get the game to overtime. So they drop back near where they started the season. And three SEC teams that lost to higher-ranked foes by a combined 65 points all fell accordingly.
The SEC’s hierarchy seems to be establishing itself
Two weeks in, we’re basically looking at four well-defined tiers within the league.
Tier 1 (SP+ rating of 21 to 29)
2. Alabama (28.5)
4. Georgia (25.6)
8. Florida (21.0)
SP+ is a little slow to warm on Florida for reasons I will explore on Monday, but the Gators are still a few steps ahead of the rest of the pack at the moment.
Tier 2 (10 to 15)
15. Auburn (14.9)
20. LSU (13.7)
22. Tennessee (13.6)
29. Texas A&M (10.3)
Auburn and LSU have each looked fine once and bad once, Tennessee regained the ground it lost with last week’s narrow win over South Carolina, and Texas A&M is … moving in the wrong direction pretty quickly.
Tier 3 (5 to 7)
42. Kentucky (6.6)
44. South Carolina (6.1)
45. Ole Miss (5.9)
47. Mississippi State (5.4)
Kentucky and Ole Miss played a wonderfully nip-and-tuck game on Saturday that suggested they are indeed on even ground, while Mississippi State has beaten a second-tier team and lost to a fourth-tier team. Ahh, the Mike Leach Experience.
Tier 4 (below 1)
65. Missouri (0.2)
68. Arkansas (-0.7)
115. Vanderbilt (-12.7)
If we’re being honest, Vandy is in a fifth tier to itself, but that seems mean, so we’ll go with this.