Statistical Strength of Schedule, Week 8

October 23, 2008

This is a strength of schedule rating based on taking the average of a team’s opponents’ total and scoring offense and defense and then averaging those together. The lower the score, the tougher the schedule. For a detailed explanation of what’s going on here, including its pluses and minuses, try this post.

We’re another week into the season and most teams have added another game to their resumes. Even if they didn’t thanks to a bye week, their opponents did so everyone’s scores are different this week than they were last week. That’s the way it goes with college football; during the season, everything constantly changes.

Here is this week’s top 25 in statistical strength of schedule (SSOS), with the team’s change from last week listed in parenthesis.

  1. Washington (NC)
  2. Texas A&M (+19)
  3. NC State (+9)
  4. Syracuse (+20)
  5. Michigan (+20)
  6. Washington State (+20)
  7. Wake Forest (-5)
  8. Missouri (+42)
  9. Arkansas (+5)
  10. Hawai’i (+35)
  11. Purdue (+12)
  12. Tennessee (-2)
  13. Utah State (-13)
  14. Nebraska (-14)
  15. Wisconsin (+17)
  16. Colorado (-11)
  17. Temple (+2)
  18. FIU (NC)
  19. Middle Tennessee State (+22)
  20. Michigan State (+4)
  21. Stanford (-14)
  22. Vanderbilt (+17)
  23. UCLA (-17)
  24. Colorado State (16)
  25. Toledo (-5)

Last week, there was some considerable consternation about how many Pac-10 schools were near the top of the list. I begged for patience, asking folks to just wait and see how things play out the rest of the season.

This week six of the ten schools fell in the rankings, five of them by more than ten spots. With more games in the system, imbalances tend to work themselves out.

SSOS by Losses

A week ago, the one-loss teams had a considerably more difficult schedule than the two-loss teams. Thanks to a few of the one-loss and two-loss teams losing, that imbalance has evened out at least for now. As games go on, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a W shape return as the chart expands horizontally because there was one on this graph for much of last year.

It gets a little choppy from four losses on, but the graph indicates that those teams have played the toughest schedules. That’s what you would expect. Right now there still is some kind of circular effect, where the top teams’ success depresses the stats of their opponents, but it’s not as strong as you think and it fades over the course of the year.

Average SSOS Rank by Losses

Here is the average SSOS rank of each group of teams for each number of losses. So, the undefeated teams have an average SSOS rank of 93. That’s pretty remarkable considering Alabama is ranked 38th and Texas is ranked 60th. Oklahoma State is 89th, Penn State is ranked 99th, and Texas Tech and all the guys from the non-BCS leagues are in the triple digits.

Ball State brings up the rear this week at 119th, with Tulsa nudging up to 115th. Texas Tech is 111th, the third lowest of all BCS-conference teams. The final two unbeaten teams, Utah and Boise State, clock in at 105th and 101st, respectively.

Biggest Movers

This week’s top gainers:

  1. Missouri, +42, played Texas last week
  2. Virginia Tech, +37, Boston College
  3. Hawai’i, +35, Boise State
  4. UL-Lafayette, +33, Arkansas State
  5. Kansas, +30, Oklahoma
  6. New Mexico State, +29, San Jose State
  7. California, +25, Arizona
  8. Middle Tennessee State, +22, Louisville
  9. Michigan, +20, Penn State
  10. Syracuse, +20, USF

Keep in mind as I mentioned in the overall explanation that who you play is not the only thing that determines your movement. In the case of Missouri, playing Texas certainly made a huge difference. In the case of New Mexico State, playing San Jose State might have hurt more than it helped, but the combined effect of its other opponents’ movements as well as those around them allowed the Aggies to jump a few spots.

The week’s biggest fallers:

  1. FAU, -43, Western Kentucky
  2. Louisiana Tech, -40, Idaho
  3. USC, -34, Washington State
  4. Oregon State, -28, Washington
  5. New Mexico, -25, San Diego State
  6. Nevada, -25, Utah State
  7. Louisville, -24, MTSU
  8. Illinois, -22, Indiana
  9. Marshall, -20, UAB
  10. UL-Monroe, -18, North Texas

FAU plummets because WKU still counts as I-AA for this year and thereby gives 120 in all categories. The Pacific Northwest seems particularly toxic thanks to Idaho, Washington, and Washington State helping to drag down opponents.

We can see what kind of dynamic can exist in one case here. Louisville helped bump Middle Tennessee State up 22 spots, but the Blue Raiders helped cause the Cardinals fall 24 spots. Again, they didn’t do that to each other alone, but it’s always interesting to see pairs show up on these lists.

SSOS by Conference

Total Average SSOS for all 119 Teams: 66.98

Best Schedule: Washington, 1st overall, score of 36.92

Worst Schedule: Arizona, 107th, 80.14

Average SSOS Rank: 43.00

Average SSOS Score: 60.86

Best Schedule: Arkansas, 9th overall, score of 53.96

Worst Schedule: Kentucky, 93rd, 74.86

Average SSOS Rank: 43.50

Average SSOS Score: 62.70

Best Schedule: Michigan, 5th overall, score of 50.71

Worst Schedule: Penn State, 99th, 76.28

Average SSOS Rank: 48.64

Average SSOS Score: 63.69

Best Schedule: Texas A&M, 2nd overall, score of 48.07

Worst Schedule: Texas Tech, 111th, 82.61

Average SSOS Rank: 50.83

Average SSOS Score: 64.25

Best Schedule: NC State, 3rd overall, score of 49.46

Worst Schedule: FSU, 118th, 89.75

Average SSOS Rank: 67.00

Average SSOS Score: 68.96

Best Schedule: Syracuse, 4th overall, score of 50.50

Worst Schedule: West Virginia, 117th, 88.75

Average SSOS Rank: 70.59

Average SSOS Score: 70.88

The SEC has closed in and nearly overtaken the Pac-10 in the conference rankings. The Big 12 improved, but so did the Big Ten. As a result the Big 12 edged closer to third place but was not able to pass up the fellas up north. The only change in the order was the ACC jumping over the Big East.

If you look in terms of average SSOS rank, the gap from one to four is not all that significant and is almost as big as the gap between fourth and fifth. If you go by average rank instead, then three somewhat distinct tiers appear: the Pac-10 and SEC at the top, the Big 12 and Big Ten in the middle, and the ACC and Big East at the bottom. Incidentally, those same exact three tiers formed last season; it will be interesting to see if they remain true all year.

Another Saturday of great games will help shape these rankings even more. Let’s just say I wouldn’t be shocked to see Oklahoma State on the biggest risers list.