The Anderson & Hester College Football Computer Rankings: Forget Alabama, Georgia Is #1

Perhaps more than any other major sport, college football revels in predictions. The sport’s preseason polls get a lot of attention, and the expectations they set continue to influence the rankings for much of the season. But at some point—like about now, with the season’s midpoint nearly upon us—it becomes more important to look at what teams have actually accomplished, rather than what they were (or are) expected to accomplish.

The Anderson & Hester College Football Computer Rankings, which Chris Hester and I co-created, focus solely on teams’ accomplishments to date. These rankings function like standings, showing which teams have the best won-lost records considering the schedules they’ve played so far. According to these computer rankings, which were part of the Bowl Championship Series throughout the BCS’s 16-year run, the team that has accomplished the most through the season’s first six weeks is the Georgia Bulldogs—a team which was absent from the top-10 in the preseason polls.

With half of its regular-season games in the books, Georgia has posted a 6-0 record while handing #16 Notre Dame its only loss, a 20-19 nail-biter in South Bend. (Unless otherwise noted, rankings reflect teams’ current placement in the Anderson & Hester Rankings.) The Bulldogs are followed closely by five other undefeated teams:

  • #2 Clemson (6-0), which won at #28 Virginia Tech and #36 Louisville;
  • #3 Penn State (6-0), which edged out #19 Iowa in Iowa City, 21-19, on a 7-yard touchdown pass on the game’s final play;
  • #4 UCF (4-0), which wasn’t in the top-25 in the leading preseason polls (and didn’t even get a vote) but has beaten #27 Memphis and #33 Maryland;
  • #5 Washington State (6-0), which has beaten #11 USC, #38 Oregon, and #40 Boise State (along with three non-top-95 cream puffs);
  • #6 Alabama (6-0), which won at #37 Texas A&M.

The polls, meanwhile, are a subjective and rather undefined blend of expectations and achievements. They agree with us and have Clemson at #2 and Penn State at #3. But they have Georgia at #5/#4 (Coaches/AP), UCF at #21/#22, Washington State at #9/#8—and Alabama at #1.

While no one, at this point, doubts the dominance of the Crimson Tide—they’ve finished the past five seasons ranked #2, #1, #4, #9, and #1—if the season ended today, you could not say that they have the most to be proud of, because they have yet to beat even a single top-35 team.

But Alabama, which trails Georgia by just .014 (.833 to .819) in the Anderson & Hester Rankings, is only marginally overrated by the polls. The most overrated teams right now in the polls happen to be the Oklahoma Sooners and my alma mater, the mighty Washington Huskies.

The Sooners have so far played just one top-50 team and have one loss. Half of their victories have come against winless foes (#127 UTEP and #128 Baylor). Oklahoma has one good victory—at #18 Ohio State (highly overrated in the polls at #8/#9)—but lost at home to #51 Iowa State. For going 1-1 versus #18 and #51 and having no other wins versus the top-125, the polls have rewarded the Sooners with a #12 ranking. The Anderson & Hester Rankings say that resume merits a #31 ranking—which is just 15 spots ahead of Texas, Oklahoma’s opponent this week in the Red River Shootout.

Washington, on the other hand, is undefeated. But with no wins to date against the top-60, the Anderson & Hester Rankings place the Huskies at #15, not at #4/#5—which is where the polls have them. The Dawgs will get plenty of chance to show their real mettle, though, as their season gets serious in the second half: #56 Arizona State, #39 UCLA, #38 Oregon, #22 Stanford, #45 Utah, and #5 Washington State await them.

If Washington fares well enough, they’ll then play the Pac-12 South winner (likely #11 USC) in the Pac-12 Championship Game. So the Huskies will have plenty of chance to earn their top-5 rating.

Meanwhile, the SEC can take pride in Georgia’s having been the #1 team—in terms of accomplishments—to date. But the SEC hasn’t been the top conference. That honor goes to the Big Ten (32-10 in non-conference play against the toughest schedule to date of any power-5 conference).

The SEC is #2, just like at the end of last year.

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard


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