clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Unboxing the 2015 College Football Polls: Week Four

New, 7 comments

We get an object lesson in what happens when what looked like a bad game for two teams turns into a good one.

No, you're not #1. You're #22.
No, you're not #1. You're #22.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We're a day late, because we were a bit busy yesterday. But here we are now, unveiling this week's edition of Unboxing the Polls, where we fiddle around with the actual vote totals from both the AP and Coaches's Polls and put them together in a way that makes mathematical sense. Because the difference between #7 and #8 may be much larger than the difference between #8 and #9, you can't just average their ranks, and because the polls have a differing number of voters, you can't just blithely add them together. So how do we solve the problem?

We derive the number of points earned per ballot (PPB), which works because both polls use the same 25-1 system.

We'll get to the analysis in just a moment, but first our combined Week 4 rankings. "RK" is our combined ranking.

TEAM AP COACHES RK 1ST PPB LW +/- PPBLW +/-
Ohio State 1 1 1 103 24.666 1 0 24.976 -0.309
Michigan State 2 3 2 3 23.137 4 3 22.075 1.063
Texas Christian 3 2 3 7 22.603 3 0 22.546 0.057
Mississippi 3 5 4 11 21.111 14 11 12.598 8.512
Baylor 5 4 5 20.599 5 0 20.672 -0.073
Georgia 7 6 6 19.532 7 1 17.245 2.288
Notre Dame 6 8 7 18.361 9 2 15.462 2.899
Louisiana State 8 9 8 1 17.395 13 5 12.848 4.547
Florida State 10 7 9 16.554 8 9 16.856 -0.303
UCLA 9 11 10 15.603 11 1 14.353 1.251
Clemson 11 10 11 15.386 10 11 15.114 0.272
Alabama 12 12 12 14.151 2 -10 23.346 -9.195
Oregon 13 13 13 13.688 12 -1 13.550 0.138
Oklahoma 15 14 14 12.582 16 2 11.049 1.533
Texas A&M 14 15 15 12.361 18 3 10.445 1.916
Arizona 16 16 16 8.727 19 3 6.160 2.566
Utah 18 17 17 7.512 21 4 4.591 2.921
Southern California 19 18 18 6.610 6 -12 18.251 -11.641
Northwestern 17 19 19 6.555 24 5 2.147 4.408
Georgia Tech 20 20 20 5.526 15 -5 11.670 -6.145
Wisconsin 22 21 21 3.567 23 2 2.898 0.669
Stanford 21 24 22 3.400 47 25 0.025 3.375
Oklahoma State 24 22 23 3.112 25 2 0.957 2.155
Missouri 25 23 24 2.935 20 -4 4.704 -1.769
Brigham Young 22 27 25 2.004 22 -3 4.480 -2.475
West Virginia 27 26 26 0.979 26 0 0.692 0.287
Mississippi State 26 31 27 0.786 28 1 0.548 0.238
Auburn 33 25 28 0.781 17 -11 10.476 -9.696
Tennessee 28 29 29 0.752 27 -2 0.587 0.164
Miami (FL) 37 28 30 0.560 37 7 0.152 0.408
California 29 35 31 0.468 41 10 0.089 0.379
Arizona State 31 33 32 0.447 31 -1 0.442 0.005
Texas Tech 33 32 33 0.445 52 19 0.008 0.437
Kansas State 39 30 34 0.433 29 -5 0.523 -0.090
Toledo 30 45 35 0.311 32 -3 0.285 0.025
Temple 33 36 36 0.281 30 -6 0.502 -0.221
Florida 40 34 37 0.245 36 -1 0.162 0.083
Houston 32 42 38 0.212 38 0 0.147 0.065
Boise State 36 39 39 0.202 34 -5 0.242 -0.040
Iowa 38 38 40 0.184 42 2 0.081 0.103
North Carolina State 41 36 41 0.158 35 -6 0.218 -0.060
Minnesota 42 41 42 0.080 39 -3 0.137 -0.058
Memphis 44 39 43 0.071 40 -3 0.103 -0.032
Virginia Tech 42 42 44 0.064 50 6 0.016 0.048
Northern Illinois 44 45 0.023 54 9 0.000 0.023
Boston College 46 46 0.008 54 8 0.000 0.008
Duke 47 0.000 33 -12 0.262 -0.262
Arkansas 47 0.000 43 -4 0.073 -0.073
Illinois 47 0.000 44 -3 0.063 -0.063
Kentucky 47 0.000 45 -2 0.063 -0.063
Michigan 47 0.000 46 -1 0.040 -0.040
Nebraska 47 0.000 49 0 0.024 -0.024
Western Kentucky 47 0.000 48 0 0.024 -0.024
Pittsburgh 47 0.000 50 0 0.016 -0.016
South Carolina 47 0.000 52 0 0.008 -0.008

Last week, 53 teams received votes; this week, that number fell to 46. As a result, anyone who was below 46 and received no votes this week is noted as having zero delta, because giving them credit for moving up would be ludicrous.

Alabama's loss to Mississippi threw the entore top nine into clear focus. The only gap larger than 1.5 PPB -- indicating a clear distinction between the higher team and those above it, and the lower team and those below them -- is that between Ohio State and Michigan State, and that only barely. Although the AP and coaches have serious disagreements between them on the order of teams from 6-11, as a consensus they are strikingly certain of the order of the top nine.

At #10, however, things get fun. We have three consecutive pairs of teams which are effectively equal: UCLA and Clemson are separated by only .27 PPB, Alabama and Oregon by just under .5 PPB, and Oklahoma and Texas A&M by only .21 PPB. Each of these pairs are separated from one another by close to a full PPB, which can only mean one thing for everyone below them: you're on a different level, boys.

It's about a 3.6 PPB drop from A&M to Arizona, which isn't as large as the same gap was last week but it's still pretty absurd. This, of course, is also the point where teams started jumping to fill spots vacated due to the losses suffered by Georgia Tech and Auburn, and also the vacuum created by LSU and Mississippi making large jumps. Utah moved up, a full PPB back of Arizona, and then another pair of teams are right next to one another: USC, plunging from sixth, and Northwestern. The Wildcats got a big boost thanks to Stanford beating USC, but inexplicably it wasn't enough to slide past the Trojans in the combined rankings. Blame the coaches for that one. Still, the two teams are only separated by .055 PPB, so they're basically even.

Georgia Tech is next, with a nearly two-point drop between them and a quartet of teams. Stanford benefitted not just from beating USC, but by a re-evaluation of just what their loss to Northwestern was actually worth. It looked really bad two weeks ago; it looks completely acceptable now. They're part of a group which also includes Wisconsin (.167 PPB ahead of the Cardinal), Oklahoma State, and Missouri. The spread from the Badgers to Mizzou is only .633 PPB, shoving four teams into a space which should only hold one.

BYU rounds out our top 25, properly distanced from Missouri and from #26 West Virginia, the first team in the list to receive less than a full point per ballot. That means our perception of space changes a bit. The Mountaineers are visibly ahead of Mississippi State; the Bulldogs lead a group including the precipitously-falling Auburn and Tennessee. Miami's pretty solidly in 30th for now, and then there's a cluster including Cal, Arizona State, Texas Tech, and Kansas State. This group all received just a little less than half a point per ballot. The remainder of the list is composed of teams that just got token support.

Five teams appeared on our grid last week, but did not return as they received no votes for a second week running: Louisville, Cincinnati, Marshall, Maryland, and Louisiana Tech.

The biggest gainer of the week, by far, was Stanford, which vaulted a ridiculous 25 spots. Texas Tech also gained big, moving up 19 positions; Mississippi and California each gained 10. Duke earns the dishonor of the week's biggest loser, plunging 14 places from 33rd to no votes. USC (-12), Auburn (-11 -- for the second week in a row!), and Alabama (-10) also suffered. USC also ate the largest loss of actual vote support, dropping over 11.5 PPB from last week; the big winner in that category was Ole Miss, jumping 8.5 PPB.