Ranking the Best in College Football

Head-to-head Matters Most

College football is not an Olympic sport.  That’s why the scoreboard is (or at least should be) more important than the stats sheet when ranking teams.  I start with who beat who, and then go from there.  Yes, football is a game of inches.  The more inches a team accumulates, the better the odds are to put points on the scoreboard.  So “ball control” (quantified by total yardage and time of possession) is a good indicator of a team’s ability.  But . . . . .

Points Trump Stats

Points are the point.  Not Yards.  Not possession.  Let me be clear.  When I say points trump stats, I’m not advocating a team getting a ranking bump for dropping 70 points on Northeastern Key West University.  What I am advocating is if Team A and Team B have the same record, the winner between the two should be ranked higher.  In a three way tie, you evaluate other factors (results against common opponents, strength of schedule, etc).  Also, among the five power conferences, a team with a better win/loss record should be ranked higher than a team with a lesser win/loss record.  A “lucky” win is better than a “quality” loss.

We are talking about college football, not track and field.  We are not awarding medals for who can run fastest, who can jump highest, who can throw farthest, or who can lift the most.  It’s not about which team has the “better” athletes.  It is about winning the game.  We are trying to determine which teams deserve to compete for the national title.  Of course, my plan (AKA the King’s Decree) is the perfect solution, but until it is adopted and implemented, it is critical to minimize subjectivity and bias in the ranking process.  Certainly strength of schedule, strength of record and common opponents are factors to consider, but these should only be used to differentiate between teams that have the same win/loss record.  Of course, I recognize strength of schedule becomes a much more significant factor when you are looking at teams outside the five power conferences, which is why I drop those teams further for a loss than I do a power five team.

I find the college football playoff (CFP) selection committee’s ranking to be highly suspect, particularly regarding the ridiculous “eye test” so often spouted by sports analysts and pundits.  This 13-member “panel of judges” should be called The College Football Pageant Selection Committee.  That designation is a more accurate description of how the group operates.  The Associated Press (AP) ranking is significantly better, but still somewhat flawed.  Therefore, week by week, I will give you my ranking of the top 25, compared to CFP and AP.  It will be interesting to see how things turn out, for both the current 4-team playoff format as well as my proposed plan (AKA the King’s Decree).  Stay tuned.


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