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College Football Rankings

Watch out for the 'eers
By Paul Bessire, WhatIfSports.com
October 30th, 2007

The Ohio State Buckeyes are the best college football team in the country.

And the Big East is much better than you think.

Now this is not to say that LSU and the rest of the SEC are weak. Nor does this mean that teams like Boston College, Arizona State and Oregon have absolutely no chance at winning a national championship. But, according to analysis done by award-winning sports simulation website WhatIfSports.com, Ohio State is the prohibitive favorite for the BCS title.

WhatIfSports utilized its free SimMatchup technology to “play” games between the Buckeyes and five of the better teams behind them in the BCS standings. Each game was simulated 1,000 times and scores were tracked to find the likely outcomes of the matchups.

The website has been doing this for every college football game since the bowls last season. To date, WhatIfSports has correctly predicted the winners of 77.4% of those games by “playing” them over and over again. The simulation engine considers every relevant and available team and individual statistic in order to account for all of the interactions that occur within each game. The data used is entirely based on stats from this season that are adjusted by strength of schedule.

Ohio State, the top-ranked team in the BCS, played 1,000 games against #2 Boston College, #3 LSU, #4 Arizona State, #5 Oregon and #7 West Virginia (more on why later) – fortunately, fatigue is not a factor. The Buckeyes won each matchup pretty convincingly.

As you can see from the results below that include what percentage of games each team wins, how many of those were big (by more than 14 points), how many of those were close (by less than 4 points) and the highest and lowest point totals out of all 1,000 games, despite its ranking, Boston College appears to be the easiest opponent of the five teams. BC may have the second best rush defense in the nation, but the pass defense is not spectacular and its offense is very average. The Eagles rank 62nd in the country in both yards per pass attempt and yards per rush.

Interestingly, the trend is similar at the opposite extreme. The worst ranked team of the five, West Virginia, gives Ohio State its toughest test. Everyone knows about the Moutaineers’ seventh ranked scoring offense and top ranked rushing attack (by yards per rush), but the defense is even better, giving up just 14.9 points a game and 2.85 yards per rush.

Theoretically, this is the absolute best approach to use when trying to answer the question, “Would (insert undefeated-local-team-I-have-loved-since-birth-but-plays-a-weak-schedule here) beat (insert one-loss-team-in-a–more-powerful-conference here)?” Your answer may always be, “YES!”, while WhatIfSports.com’s answer would be something more along the lines of how likely it is to happen. As long as no team defeats another team 1,000 out of 1,000 times in the sim; and, as long as games are not actually played 1,000 times in real-life, there will never be absolute certainty with an exercise of this nature. But because it looks at every minute statistical detail of the game and completely removes human opinion or bias, WhatIfSports gets closer than anything else could to knowing the answers to these questions.

What does this mean? This means that if WhatIfSports can simulate every possible matchup in “DIA” 100 times, as it has done, it can use the winning percentages from those 700,000+ games to deterministically (without any human bias) evaluate all teams to come up with the best possible ranking of how well teams have played this season. Following the results of the games with Ohio State, the Top 60 college football teams in the country are ranked using this approach.

OSU remains the best team, with the aforementioned West Virginia Moutaineers at #2, SEC favorites LSU at #3, the undefeated and underrated Kansas Jayhawks at #4 and their Big 12 counterparts Oklahoma at #5. There are three Big East teams in the top ten, which is more than any other conference. And, even though, it is undefeated on the year, Hawaii barely wins more than half of its games, just making this list in the 53rd spot.

The Moutaineers are just a fluky Friday game with a banged up quarterback away from being in the forefront of the national championship picture. According to WhatIfSports.com, they should still be there.

Results from 1,000 Ohio State Games

  Win Pct Avg Score Big Wins Close Wins High Score Low Score
#1 OSU 81% 26 413 47 55 6
#2 BC 19% 12 27 125 31 0

  Win Pct Avg Score Big Wins Close Wins High Score Low Score
#1 OSU 59% 22 191 259 44 6
#3 LSU 41% 19 63 217 35 3

  Win Pct Avg Score Big Wins Close Wins High Score Low Score
#1 OSU 72% 26 241 186 49 9
#4 ASU 28% 18 69 149 37 3

  Win Pct Avg Score Big Wins Close Wins High Score Low Score
#1 OSU 64% 33 204 234 42 7
#5 Ore 36% 27 78 178 40 6

  Win Pct Avg Score Big Wins Close Wins High Score Low Score
#1 OSU 55% 34 134 314 47 7
#7 WVU 45% 30 98 234 49 7

Top 60 Teams Ranked by Winning Percentage
(everyone plays everyone 100 times)

 TeamWin Pct
1.Ohio State97.6%
2.West Virginia96.2%
3.LSU95.9%
4.Kansas93.0%
5.Oklahoma92.6%
6.Oregon90.3%
7.Rutgers89.1%
8.Florida88.1%
9.Arizona State86.2%
10.South Florida83.5%
11.California82.5%
12.Auburn81.3%
13.Clemson80.6%
14.Boston College80.3%
15.Penn State79.9%
16.Kansas State79.2%
17.USC79.2%
18.Michigan79.2%
19.Oklahoma State78.0%
20.Texas76.3%
 TeamWin Pct
21.Connecticut75.7%
22.Kentucky75.5%
23.Boise State74.5%
24.Virginia Tech74.4%
25.Georgia Tech74.2%
26.Georgia73.5%
27.UCLA72.7%
28.Arkansas71.1%
29.Missouri69.5%
30.Florida State69.4%
31.Oregon State69.1%
32.Louisville69.0%
33.Air Force68.5%
34.Cincinnati67.7%
35.South Carolina66.6%
36.Michigan State66.1%
37.Miami (FL)65.4%
38.Wisconsin64.6%
39.Wake Forest64.0%
40.Brigham Young63.7%
41.Houston61.5%
 TeamWin Pct
42.Utah60.9%
43.Tennessee60.9%
44.Alabama60.6%
45.Navy58.8%
46.Nevada58.6%
47.Purdue58.3%
48.Illinois58.0%
49.North Carolina58.0%
50.Pittsburgh56.9%
51.New Mexico55.5%
52.Fresno State54.4%
53.Hawaii54.1%
54.Maryland53.8%
55.Texas A&M53.8%
56.Vanderbilt53.3%
57.Texas Tech52.8%
58.Tulsa52.5%
59.UCF50.8%
60.Colorado50.7%

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