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Utterly Unbiased Top 25: Fact-Check Edition

THERE ARE WEEKS where everything comes into focus and there are weeks when everything gets a touch more murky. This past week in college football gave us the best (and worst) of both worlds.

We did see some separation, especially in the Big 12, where TCU and Baylor took the conference by the throat with lopsided wins over quality opponents. We saw Notre Dame and Michigan State fatally exposed, as it relates to the playoff picture.

In the end, what we were left with was a jumbled rankings that need … well … more clarity and separation.

We have heard a lot this past week about the “Eye Test”, both from national pundits and the college football playoff selection committee. We’re here to call bull on the eye test. Case in point — there were three teams going into Saturday’s games whose names were brought up in regard to passing the so-called eye test: Notre Dame, Michigan State and Alabama.

We call “oops” on two of those after this weekend and a “meh” on the third. Here at the Utterly Unbiased Top 25, we do not take into account when a team defeats another and by how much. We care much more about the win, period, and where it took place. Each week, those wins either become more impressive or not. Same goes for the losses.

Kansas State is an interesting models for this. The Wildcats were thrashed at TCU this week, 41-20 (and it wasn’t that close). The domino effect of that win led to multiple changes. The loss by KSU damaged Auburn’s portfolio. Kansas State itself also did itself in by failing to post a victory that would have been more impressive than their victories against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, which currently stand as its two best wins. Oklahoma further damaged the Wildcats by getting smoked at home by Baylor.

So Kansas State is left with a resume that includes OK wins against the two Oklahoma schools and Texas with losses against the two best teams it played – Auburn and TCU. That profiles them as a pretender. They were dealt with accordingly this week.

Texas A&M stunned us, though, when we pored over the Aggies’ resume. By defeating Auburn, the Aggies put themselves on the consideration list. Once there, its win at Auburn stood as one of the six best wins in the nation this year. Its second best win was against an Arkansas team whose 5-5 record absolutely fails to convey its strength.

Lastly, the Aggies’ three losses – against both Mississippi schools and Alabama – to us rated far better than many two-loss schools’ portfolios. Combine the win at Auburn with the knowledge of who those losses came against and add in the final ingredient – the mediocrity (call it parity if you wish) in college football beyond roughly the top nine teams and poof. There’s Texas A&M returning to our ranks at a whopping No. 16.

Just behind Kansas State.

On to the rankings. If you’re questioning why one team is ahead of another and you’re using the “eye test”, go get your eyes checked. This is just about the facts, ma’am:

1. MISSISSIPPI STATE (9-0) … Defeated Tenn-Martin 45-16/No change

2. FLORIDA STATE (9-0) … Defeated Virginia 34-20/No change

3. OREGON (9-1) … Won at Utah 51-27/Up one spot

4. UCLA (8-2) … Won at Washington 44-30/Up two spots

5. BAYLOR (8-1) … Won at Oklahoma 48-14/Up six spots

Baylor’s win at Oklahoma was a game-changer for the Bears. They had the one win against TCU already, but that stood as an outlier, for the rest of their schedule had truly been hot garbage. The only other team of note Baylor had played was West Virginia, and the Mountaineers defeated them. The win at Oklahoma rated as Baylor’s second-best win of the season and VASTLY improved that category, pulling them onto nearly equal footing with TCU for evaluation. Head to head, Baylor’s win over TCU is a big deal. Now UCLA … how is an 8-2 team in the all-important top four? We here at the UU Top 25 believe there is ample evidence the Pac-12 is close to, if not on par, with the SEC this season. As such, wins against Pac-12 rivals have made a huge difference for the Bruins. Their wins against Arizona and Arizona State get more impressive as the weeks pass, while losses to Utah and Oregon are nothing to sneeze at.

 

6. AUBURN (7-2) … Lost to Texas A&M 41-38/Down three spots

7. OLE MISS (8-2) … Defeated Presbyterian 48-0/Up three spots

8. ALABAMA (8-1) … Won at LSU 20-13/Up four spots

9. ARIZONA STATE (8-1) … Defeated Notre Dame 55-31/Down one spot

10. TCU (8-1) … Defeated Kansas State 41-20/Down five spots

This is a hot mess, right? Again, we caution those ready to set fire to these rankings to remember it’s not the when of the win. It’s the win. Period. How does Arizona State drop a spot and TCU drop five spots when defeating consensus top-10 teams? It has everything to do with the entire body of work. TCU defeating Kansas State degraded the Wildcats while Baylor thrashing Oklahoma further wrecked the Horned Frogs’ resume. By our reckoning, the second-best wins on the Baylor and TCU schedule are Oklahoma. TCU’s best win? Kansas State, beyond a doubt, a team that is now suspect. Baylor’s best win? TCU. Meanwhile out in the desert, Arizona State’s tumble has everything to do with the team it ripped. Notre Dame’s resume resonates as weaker than ever. The Irish have played but two teams of note – Florida State and Arizona State – and lost to each. Notre Dame’s best was against Stanford, which ranked 25th of the 30 teams we were considering for Nos. 3-25, and its second-best win was … gulp … Michigan? Maybe? That rated as the 24th-best second win among the 30 under consideration. So, Arizona State did exactly what should have been done to the Irish, which didn’t hurt their cause as much as it didn’t allow the Sun Devils to hold off the rise of Baylor.

 

11. UTAH (6-3) … Lost to Oregon 51-27/Up three spots

12. OHIO STATE (8-1) … Won at Michigan State 49-37/Up 10 spots

13. LSU (7-3) … Lost to Alabama 20-13/Down four spots

14. ARIZONA (7-2) … Defeated Colorado 38-20/Up three spots

15. KANSAS STATE (7-2) … Lost at TCU 41-20/Down eight spots

Kansas State was this week’s biggest loser, as detailed above. Utah is the outlier of this group, right? Lose to Oregon and rise three spots? Again, the ‘when’ does not matter in our rankings. Utah losing to Oregon in Week 1 or Week 11 is of no consequence to our deliberations. Granted, but how does a three-loss Utah slip ahead of two-loss Arizona from the same conference? Very simple – Arizona lacks a true quality second win on its slate to date. Arizona has that gaudy win against Oregon. But its next best win was against who, exactly? The best we came up with was Nevada, quite possibly the worst second-win ranking of the 30 under consideration outside of Marshall’s win against Akron. Utah owns wins against UCLA and USC. The losses are at Arizona State, to Oregon, and a weirdo against Washington. Arizona’s two losses were to … USC and UCLA, two teams Utah defeated.

 

16. TEXAS A&M (7-3) … Won at Auburn 41-38/Not ranked

17. MICHIGAN STATE (7-2) … Lost to Ohio State 49-37/Down four spots

18. NEBRASKA (8-1) … Did not play/Up one spot

19. GEORGIA (7-2) … Won at Kentucky 63-31/Down three spots

20. CLEMSON (7-2) … Won at Wake Forest 34-20/No change

This group is fairly self-explanatory beyond Texas A&M, which we covered earlier. Michigan State defeated Nebraska. Georgia defeated Clemson. There are other factors as well, but those are the most obvious. This group is tightly clustered in our proprietary points system, meaning there could be big changes in the weeks to come.

 

21. USC (6-3) … Did not play/Up four spots

22. DUKE (8-1) … Won at Syracuse 27-10/Down one spot

23. NOTRE DAME (7-2) … Lost at Arizona State 55-31/Down five spots

24. MARSHALL (9-0) … Won at Southern Miss 63-17/Not ranked

25. OKLAHOMA (6-3) … Lost to Baylor 48-14/Down two spots

Nice to see Marshall back in this group. It’s the power of the undefeated record, for Marshall’s two best wins rate quite easily as the worst among the 30 teams in consideration for this week’s rankings. Duke will require a lot more scrutiny in the days to come. Its resume is getting stronger by the week, thanks to Miami (a loss) hovering on the lip of relevance while Georgia Tech (a win) just keeps winning. The Blue Devils face a desperate Virginia Tech, which is coming off a bye. We covered Notre Dame earlier, but let’s just say this on the bright side for the Irish – there will be plenty of opportunities for Notre Dame to prove it belongs. Another loss, though, and they could vanish from our little venture.

OTHERS CONSIDERED: Colorado State, Missouri, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Boise State, Louisville.

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Ralph Garcia

CEO NGSC Sports


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