Ticket Watch Week 1

The following table lists the entry prices for all games involving AP Top 25 teams this week. Prices as of Tuesday morning as seen on StubHub.

2016wk1ticketwatch

*Note that AT&T Stadium has Standing Room Only tickets. Prices for those tickets are not reflected in the table; SRO started at $60.

A few things that jump out to me are that point spread seems to be the strongest measurable variable affecting entry price; the smaller spreads tend to have higher entry prices. Next, if a game features two ranked teams the price tends to be higher. Also interesting is that games at neutral sites are all in the top half of the table, though all but one of those also feature two ranked teams so it is difficult to say if the neutral site actually does elevate the entry price. Supply and demand seems to be fairly neutral, as the larger capacity stadiums tend to have higher entry prices, though these large stadiums also typically belong to higher profile teams. On the lower end, the data suggests that scheduling an FCS opponent will ensure a low ticket value. Scheduling games on a day other than Saturday doesn’t seem to have any direct affect on the price.

I will take a look at ticket prices of games involving top 25 teams all season, and will have a season review of all of these games at the end of the year to take a look at any consistent patterns in prices.

Week 1 Win Probabilities

After adjusting for attrition, these are the win probabilities for Week 1.

Projected winner Opponent  Win Prob.
Michigan State Furman           0.9957
Oregon California-Davis           0.9937
Oklahoma State Southeastern Louisiana           0.9899
Ohio State Bowling Green           0.9859
Florida Massachusetts           0.9853
Virginia Richmond           0.9842
Arizona State Northern Arizona           0.9807
Pitt Villanova           0.9779
TCU South Dakota State           0.9779
Utah Southern Utah           0.9756
Michigan Hawaii           0.9744
San Diego State New Hampshire           0.9724
Virginia Tech Liberty           0.9724
Iowa Miami OH           0.9615
Miami FL Florida A&M           0.9615
Baylor Northwestern State           0.9580
Washington State Eastern Washington           0.9580
Maryland Howard           0.9572
Penn State Kent State           0.9491
North Carolina State William & Mary           0.9434
South Florida Towson           0.9376
Duke North Carolina Central           0.9330
Central Florida South Carolina State           0.9270
Tennessee Appalachian State           0.9238
Iowa State Northern Iowa           0.9235
Georgia Southern Savannah State           0.9227
Cincinnati Tennessee-Martin           0.9189
LSU Wisconsin           0.9152
Mississippi State South Alabama           0.9080
Temple Army West Point           0.9063
Nebraska Fresno State           0.9057
Navy Fordham           0.9054
Central Michigan Presbyterian           0.9040
Memphis Southeast Missouri State           0.8974
Old Dominion Hampton           0.8928
Texas Tech Stephen F. Austin           0.8913
Illinois Murray State           0.8873
Nevada Cal Poly           0.8798
Utah State Weber State           0.8741
Syracuse Colgate           0.8712
Air Force Abilene Christian           0.8677
Akron Virginia Military Institute           0.8677
Oklahoma Houston           0.8603
East Carolina Western Carolina           0.8594
Northern Illinois Wyoming           0.8588
Middle Tennessee Alabama A&M           0.8499
Louisville Charlotte           0.8447
Buffalo Albany           0.8401
Washington Rutgers           0.8381
Arkansas Louisiana Tech           0.8350
Northwestern Western Michigan           0.8324
New Mexico South Dakota           0.8197
Alabama USC           0.8108
Florida State Ole Miss           0.8099
Purdue Eastern Kentucky           0.8076
Florida Atlantic Southern Illinois           0.8056
Western Kentucky Rice           0.8016
UTSA Alabama State           0.7913
Stanford Kansas State           0.7872
UNLV Jackson State           0.7844
Connecticut Maine           0.7654
Idaho Montana State           0.7522
Ohio Texas State           0.7389
Troy Austin Peay           0.7338
Georgia North Carolina           0.7335
Louisiana-Monroe Southern           0.7332
Georgia Tech Boston College           0.7177
Kansas Rhode Island           0.7151
Arkansas State Toledo           0.7119
Indiana Florida International           0.6972
Notre Dame Texas           0.6932
Clemson Auburn           0.6811
Arizona BYU           0.6783
Eastern Michigan Mississippi Valley State           0.6653
Kentucky Southern Miss           0.6512
UTEP New Mexico State           0.6466
Boise State Louisiana-Lafayette           0.6415
Vanderbilt South Carolina           0.5926
Colorado Colorado State           0.5748
UCLA Texas A&M           0.5687
Georgia State Ball State           0.5589
North Texas SMU           0.5555
Tulane Wake Forest           0.5543
San Jose State Tulsa           0.5541
Minnesota Oregon State           0.5440
West Virginia Missouri           0.5152

2016 Expected wins

The expected wins reflects only the regular season (i.e. no potential bowl games or conference championship games are factored in to the projection or the over/under). The over/under total is from May, but is the only list I could find that had values for all 128 teams. It has undoubtedly changed a little bit since May for some teams. I will keep a running tally of current expected wins throughout the season and present it in a table alongside preseason expected wins and the over/under totals. Note that the changes from the preseason numbers to current numbers reflect injuries/suspensions that were discovered in fall camp. Additionally, the result of the Hawaii/California game is reflected in the current values.

Team  Pre E(Wins)  Curr E(Wins) O/U
Alabama                 10.72                   10.74 10
Clemson                 10.70                   10.70 10.5
Florida State                 10.61                   10.63 9.5
Oklahoma                 10.30                   10.31 10
Ohio State                 10.02                   10.03 9.5
Michigan                   9.86                     9.87 10
UCLA                   9.70                     9.72 8.5
Northern Illinois                   9.76                     9.72 8.5
Tennessee                   9.53                     9.55 9.5
Georgia                   9.53                     9.53 8.5
San Diego State                   9.51                     9.52 8.5
LSU                   9.47                     9.49 10
Notre Dame                   9.29                     9.31 9.5
Michigan State                   9.07                     9.07 7.5
Oklahoma State                   9.05                     9.05 8.5
Boise State                   8.77                     8.81 10.5
Oregon                   8.92                     8.77 8
Arkansas State                   8.65                     8.66 7.5
Appalachian State                   8.49                     8.52 8.5
USC                   8.50                     8.52 7.5
Western Kentucky                   8.51                     8.48 8.5
Virginia                   8.40                     8.45 4.5
Houston                   8.42                     8.43 9.5
TCU                   8.11                     8.11 8
Iowa                   8.10                     8.10 8.5
Washington                   7.98                     7.94 9
Florida                   7.85                     7.85 7.5
Tulane                   7.60                     7.62 3.5
Louisiana Tech                   7.55                     7.56 7.5
Penn State                   7.52                     7.52 6.5
North Carolina                   7.46                     7.51 8.5
Cincinnati                   7.47                     7.48 6.5
Toledo                   7.34                     7.35 6.5
Southern Miss                   7.32                     7.32 8
Northwestern                   7.29                     7.31 6.5
Arizona State                   7.18                     7.20 5
South Florida                   7.16                     7.17 8.5
Auburn                   7.13                     7.16 6.5
Pitt                   6.95                     7.00 7
Texas A&M                   7.19                     6.98 6
Old Dominion                   6.90                     6.97 5
Air Force                   6.94                     6.97 8
Georgia Southern                   6.96                     6.96 8
Temple                   6.92                     6.92 8.5
Baylor                   6.92                     6.92 9.5
Nebraska                   6.88                     6.90 8.5
Virginia Tech                   6.84                     6.88 6.5
Central Michigan                   6.86                     6.87 7
Utah                   6.85                     6.86 7.5
Mississippi State                   6.82                     6.85 6.5
Stanford                   6.80                     6.81 8.5
Central Florida                   6.79                     6.80 5
Navy                   6.78                     6.79 6.5
Rice                   6.58                     6.63 6
Arizona                   6.53                     6.55 6
Memphis                   6.53                     6.54 6.5
Nevada                   6.49                     6.51 6.5
Ohio                   6.50                     6.51 7.5
Colorado State                   6.50                     6.50 5.5
San Jose State                   6.34                     6.37 5
Ole Miss                   6.36                     6.36 8.5
Texas                   6.31                     6.31 6.5
Kansas State                   6.19                     6.21 5.5
Marshall                   6.15                     6.20 8.5
Missouri                   6.20                     6.20 5.5
Akron                   6.18                     6.19 5
Buffalo                   6.12                     6.13 5.5
Maryland                   6.13                     6.13 4.5
Washington State                   6.10                     6.12 7.5
Arkansas                   6.09                     6.12 7.5
Hawaii                   6.36                     6.11 2.5
Bowling Green                   6.06                     6.06 6.5
North Carolina State                   5.94                     5.95 6
Western Michigan                   5.87                     5.88 8.5
Louisiana-Lafayette                   5.88                     5.82 6.5
West Virginia                   5.81                     5.81 6.5
Louisville                   5.78                     5.80 9
Georgia Tech                   5.77                     5.80 6.5
Middle Tennessee                   5.61                     5.67 7.5
Miami FL                   5.84                     5.64 6.5
UTEP                   5.56                     5.61 5
Indiana                   5.58                     5.58 4.5
Iowa State                   5.56                     5.57 3.5
Utah State                   5.52                     5.52 6.5
Wisconsin                   5.42                     5.42 7
BYU                   5.41                     5.41 8
Duke                   5.50                     5.38 5.5
South Alabama                   5.33                     5.34 3
Ball State                   5.27                     5.33 4.5
East Carolina                   5.33                     5.32 5.5
New Mexico                   5.26                     5.28 7
Charlotte                   5.23                     5.28 2.5
Rutgers                   5.20                     5.20 4.5
Boston College                   5.17                     5.17 6.5
South Carolina                   4.96                     4.99 5
Florida Atlantic                   5.46                     4.97 4.5
Georgia State                   4.94                     4.94 4.5
Kentucky                   4.94                     4.94 5
Minnesota                   4.68                     4.68 6
Illinois                   4.65                     4.65 4.5
Texas Tech                   4.61                     4.62 7
Idaho                   4.60                     4.61 3.5
Kent State                   4.58                     4.60 4.5
Texas State                   4.52                     4.53 3
UTSA                   4.50                     4.50 4
UNLV                   4.47                     4.50 5.5
Oregon State                   4.47                     4.47 3.5
Vanderbilt                   4.45                     4.46 5
Tulsa                   4.46                     4.39 6.5
Florida International                   4.27                     4.33 6.5
Wake Forest                   4.25                     4.26 5.5
Troy                   4.26                     4.26 6
Syracuse                   4.21                     4.21 4
Fresno State                   4.03                     4.03 3.5
North Texas                   3.73                     3.73 2
Colorado                   3.72                     3.73 4.5
Wyoming                   3.72                     3.72 3.5
New Mexico State                   3.67                     3.68 3
Louisiana-Monroe                   3.65                     3.66 3.5
Connecticut                   3.58                     3.58 5
Purdue                   3.57                     3.57 4.5
Miami OH                   3.51                     3.43 3.5
Eastern Michigan                   3.36                     3.37 3
SMU                   3.34                     3.36 3.5
California                   3.01                     3.11 4
Massachusetts                   3.01                     3.03 2.5
Army West Point                   3.01                     3.02 4.5
Kansas                   2.33                     2.33 1.5

About this site

I like college sports and I like data. Analytics in sports is a growing industry. Many of the names in this industry are familiar to avid fans (Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, Ken Massey, Bill Connelly, to name a few). I am not a familiar name, and I take a much different approach to my analytics than the giants in the industry.

I do not use any advanced metrics in my projections. My input sources are minimal: players on the current roster, coaches, and venues. I assign a value to each of these, based on what I’d call macro-data; I am looking at full-game and full-season performance rather than every play/possession as is the more common practice in the industry. I’m keeping it simple for a few reasons. First, this is just a hobby for me and my time spent on sports analytics is very limited. Second, I am mining for data that is free, publicly available, and easy to find. Finally, the results are surprisingly accurate with this minimal input data. My philosophy on what makes a team win is very similar to Bill Connelly’s mantra of talent acquisition, development, and deployment. Teams with the most talent are most likely to win, and teams that are well-coached are more likely to beat teams that are poorly-coached, even with a modest talent disparity.

It is impossible to build a predictive model that is 100% accurate. Upsets happen, which is why I assign win probabilities rather than straight picks for each game. Teams with a high win probability do win most of the time (the higher the probability, the more likely a win), but that should not be confused with a guarantee. I will never place a 100% (or 0%) win probability on any team on this site; it is only 100% (or 0%) once the game has completed. I am aiming to achieve the highest success rate possible, which I hypothesize is somewhere around 85% for college football (probably similar for basketball, but I haven’t tested that model as thoroughly yet). In testing my college football model with 2014 data, I was able to generate a 72% success rate, and with 2015 data a 76% success rate. I’m hoping to achieve similar results going live in 2016, and will post progress updates throughout the season.

Occasionally my data will highlight a game that appears to be a “safe” pick against the spread. This feature of the model is still in its infancy, but I will be testing it live in 2016 and aim to release a more polished Against the Spread feature in 2017.

2016 College Football Week 0

It’s game week! Well, for two teams it is anyway. Hawaii and California open their seasons late Friday night in Australia. This week’s preview will look different than most; with only 1 game the focus will be on the FBS as a whole going into the season. The table below was constructed in a similar fashion as the expected wins table in the 2016 Preview post, but has been updated for Fall rosters (including injuries/suspensions in camp so far) and also includes some detail on what to expect throughout the season. Additionally, I’ve included the AP Preseason top 25 rankings alongside those 25 teams for comparison.

Next week’s preview will look at specific match-ups in addition to a high-level view. I will update the expected wins going forward, but will keep the preseason expected wins total in the table for comparison.

Additionally, next week I will start posting a weekly feature that I introduced late in 2015: Ticket Watch. This will look at entry prices (i.e. the least expensive tickets to a game) for games involving top 25 teams.

Week 0 win expectancy shows favored games (win probability >65%), favored toss-ups (between 50% and 65%), underdog toss-ups (between 35% and 50%) and underdogs (<35%):

 

School AP Preseason Rank Expected Wins Favored games Favored Toss-ups Underdog Toss-ups Underdogs
Alabama 1 10.70960322 12 0 0 0
Florida State 4 10.52846463 11 1 0 0
Oklahoma 3 10.28407131 11 1 0 0
Clemson 2 10.68343876 11 0 1 0
San Diego State 9.489936745 11 0 1 0
Northern Illinois 9.73346751 10 2 0 0
UCLA 16 9.688039103 10 2 0 0
Georgia 18 9.41920644 10 2 0 0
Ohio State 6 10.00057504 10 1 1 0
Notre Dame 10 9.449971248 10 1 0 1
Oregon 24 8.916618746 10 1 0 1
Michigan 7 9.844163312 10 0 1 1
Oklahoma State 21 9.021276596 9 2 0 1
Arkansas State 8.6359977 9 2 0 1
Western Kentucky 8.502875216 9 2 0 1
Tennessee 9 9.454571593 9 1 1 1
Iowa 17 8.081081081 9 1 0 2
Boise State 8.761357102 8 4 0 0
LSU 5 9.381828637 8 3 0 1
Houston 15 8.420356527 8 3 0 1
Michigan State 12 9.035077631 8 2 2 0
USC 20 8.481023577 8 2 1 1
Northwestern 7.26279471 8 1 0 3
Central Michigan 6.859976998 8 0 0 4
Appalachian State 8.489936745 7 4 0 1
Virginia 8.377803335 7 3 1 1
North Carolina 22 7.618746406 7 2 1 2
Toledo 7.339275446 7 2 1 2
Louisiana Tech 7.544278321 7 1 3 1
Utah 6.872052904 7 1 2 2
Florida 25 8.301322599 7 1 1 3
Tulane 7.591144336 6 4 1 1
TCU 13 8.091719379 6 3 2 1
Washington 14 7.863139735 6 3 2 1
South Florida 7.347901093 6 3 2 1
Southern Miss 7.311960897 6 3 1 2
Penn State 7.508625647 6 2 2 2
Virginia Tech 6.802472685 6 2 1 3
Texas A&M 7.146060955 6 1 4 1
Arizona State 7.197527315 6 1 1 4
Rice 6.573893042 6 1 1 4
Stanford 8 6.788959172 6 0 3 3
Cincinnati 7.429557217 5 4 3 0
Central Florida 6.758194365 5 4 0 3
Georgia Southern 6.950258769 5 3 1 3
Old Dominion 6.90253019 5 3 1 3
Temple 7.042553191 5 2 3 2
Colorado State 6.493099482 5 2 3 2
Auburn 7.110695802 5 2 2 3
Mississippi State 6.935307648 5 2 2 3
Pitt 6.933582519 5 2 1 4
Navy 6.761357102 5 1 4 2
Nebraska 6.849913744 5 1 3 3
Ole Miss 11 6.350488787 5 1 2 4
Bowling Green 6.05520414 5 1 2 4
Georgia Tech 5.758481886 5 1 1 5
Wisconsin 5.631109833 5 1 0 6
Missouri 6.138010351 5 0 3 4
Maryland 6.130247269 5 0 3 4
Air Force 6.942208166 4 5 1 2
Baylor 23 7.094307073 4 4 3 1
Nevada 6.474123059 4 4 2 2
Arizona 6.549166187 4 3 2 3
Texas 6.265957447 4 3 2 3
North Carolina State 5.918343876 4 3 1 4
Memphis 6.493387004 4 2 3 3
Hawaii 6.366302473 4 2 4 3
Indiana 5.580506038 4 2 2 4
Buffalo 6.123059229 4 2 1 5
Iowa State 5.55146636 4 2 1 5
South Alabama 5.322886717 4 2 1 5
UTEP 5.567280046 4 1 3 4
Kansas State 6.171650374 4 1 2 5
Illinois 4.620184014 4 0 0 8
Ohio 6.500862565 3 5 1 3
San Jose State 6.331799885 3 5 0 4
Marshall 6.151523864 3 4 2 3
Louisiana-Lafayette 5.887579068 3 3 3 3
Washington State 6.120471535 3 3 2 4
Arkansas 6.010638298 3 2 3 4
Utah State 5.55146636 3 2 3 4
Florida Atlantic 5.45399655 3 2 2 5
Rutgers 5.20960322 3 2 2 5
Boston College 5.171075331 3 2 2 5
Kentucky 4.873490512 3 2 2 5
BYU 5.394767108 3 2 1 6
Western Michigan 5.878953422 3 1 4 4
Miami FL 5.798159862 3 1 4 4
East Carolina 5.28493387 3 1 3 5
South Carolina 5.122196665 3 1 2 6
UNLV 4.479298447 3 1 2 6
Duke 5.473260495 3 0 4 5
New Mexico 5.258481886 3 0 3 6
Louisville 19 5.78493387 2 6 0 4
West Virginia 5.792984474 2 4 3 3
Akron 6.161874641 2 3 6 1
Ball State 5.276883266 2 3 3 4
Middle Tennessee 5.609833237 2 2 5 3
Charlotte 5.217653824 2 2 3 5
Georgia State 4.924094307 2 2 3 5
Kent State 4.574755607 2 2 2 6
Troy 4.264232317 2 2 2 6
Minnesota 4.675100633 2 2 1 7
UTSA 4.506612996 2 2 1 7
Wake Forest 4.251006325 2 2 1 7
Tulsa 4.469235193 2 1 4 5
Texas Tech 4.602645198 2 1 3 6
Vanderbilt 4.378090857 2 1 1 8
Idaho 4.604657849 1 3 3 5
Texas State 4.525589419 1 2 4 5
Louisiana-Monroe 3.660724554 1 2 2 7
Colorado 3.727717079 1 2 1 8
Eastern Michigan 3.361702128 1 2 0 9
Oregon State 4.479298447 1 1 5 5
Syracuse 4.185163887 1 1 5 5
Fresno State 4.035077631 1 1 4 6
North Texas 3.724841863 1 1 3 7
Massachusetts 2.991661875 1 1 1 9
Miami OH 3.5146636 1 0 4 7
Wyoming 3.726279471 1 0 3 8
Connecticut 3.556066705 1 0 2 9
Purdue 3.544278321 1 0 2 9
SMU 3.310235768 1 0 2 9
Kansas 2.333525014 1 0 1 10
Army West Point 3.004887867 0 3 0 9
Florida International 4.276308223 0 2 4 6
New Mexico State 3.673087982 0 2 3 7
California 3.007475561 0 1 2 9

A few things jump out to me. First, California’s first chance at a win is also it’s best chance; this could be a rough year for the Bears. Next, a few teams look extremely over-valued in the AP poll, mostly glaringly Louisville which my data projects to struggle to get bowl-eligible. Baylor is a wild card this year; who knows what to expect from them. The Ole Miss projection is largely a reflection of their brutal schedule, especially the first half of it. Stanford is another surprising one. Their roster isn’t nearly as talented as in recent years, even with the return of McCaffrey, and their schedule is polarizing with half the games likely wins and the other half below 50% win probability.

One last thing to take away; the above table is NOT to be interpreted as rankings. My data does not project San Diego State and Northern Illinois as the 5th and 6th best teams in the country; it just sees those teams navigating their schedules as 5th and 6th best. With this in mind, the teams in highlighted as over-valued by the AP poll are not necessarily worse than all of the teams ahead of them on this table. Hopefully this will make more sense as the season progresses and actual wins can be viewed alongside expected wins.

2016 College Football Preview

Fall camps have started to open this week, so it’s time to take a look at what to expect in the 2016 college football season. This will be a very high level look at roster strength, coaching efficiency, schedules, and expected wins, with some commentary on teams with noteworthy/surprising forecasts.

Roster Strength

This metric looks at returning experience for the top 70 players on each team’s roster. The criteria includes All-American/All-Conference status in 2015, recruiting rank, and class rank for each player, applying whichever measure gives the player his highest score (e.g. an unranked recruit that developed into a 2nd team all-conference player has a higher roster value than a former 5 star recruit who did not make an all-conference team). Only the top 70 players’ scores are applied to the total roster strength in order to prevent skewness from exceptionally large rosters (looking at you, Nebraska).

School Top 70 Conference
Alabama 116.75 SEC
Ohio State 103.75 B1G
Florida State 101 ACC
Tennessee 100.5 SEC
LSU 99 SEC
Oklahoma 97.25 XII
Clemson 96.5 ACC
UCLA 96.25 P12
Michigan 93 B1G
USC 91 P12
Georgia 90 SEC
Oregon 89.5 P12
Florida 87.5 SEC
Auburn 87.25 SEC
Notre Dame 86.75 Ind
Michigan State 81.25 B1G
Texas A&M 76.25 SEC
Nebraska 75.5 B1G
North Carolina 75.25 ACC
Washington 75 P12
Penn State 72.5 B1G
Texas 72.5 XII
Oklahoma State 71.75 XII
Stanford 68.25 P12
Arkansas 67.75 SEC
Mississippi State 67.75 SEC
South Carolina 67.25 SEC
Missouri 66.5 SEC
Baylor 64.25 XII
Ole Miss 64 SEC
San Diego State 63.75 MtnW
Miami FL 63.5 ACC
Pitt 63.25 ACC
Arizona State 63 P12
Virginia Tech 62.5 ACC
Maryland 61.75 B1G
Boise State 61 MtnW
Northern Illinois 59.75 MAC
TCU 59.75 XII
South Florida 59.5 Amer
Northwestern 59.25 B1G
Vanderbilt 58.5 SEC
Arizona 58 P12
Iowa 57.5 B1G
Utah 56.75 P12
Virginia 55.75 ACC
Arkansas State 55.5 SunBelt
Kentucky 55 SEC
Central Florida 54.75 Amer
Indiana 53 B1G
North Carolina State 52.75 ACC
Georgia Tech 52.5 ACC
California 51.75 P12
Kansas State 51.75 XII
West Virginia 50.75 XII
Duke 50.5 ACC
Washington State 50.5 P12
Rutgers 50.25 B1G
Colorado 50 P12
Toledo 49.75 MAC
Southern Miss 49.25 CUSA
Louisiana Tech 48.75 CUSA
Louisville 48.5 ACC
BYU 48.25 Ind
Cincinnati 48 Amer
Georgia Southern 48 SunBelt
Western Kentucky 47.75 CUSA
Texas Tech 46.5 XII
Memphis 46 Amer
San Jose State 45.75 MtnW
Wisconsin 45.75 B1G
Appalachian State 45.25 SunBelt
Iowa State 45.25 XII
Colorado State 45 MtnW
Georgia State 44.5 SunBelt
SMU 44.5 Amer
Illinois 43.5 B1G
Oregon State 43.5 P12
Charlotte 43.25 CUSA
Nevada 42.75 MtnW
Purdue 42.25 B1G
Temple 42 Amer
Florida Atlantic 41.25 CUSA
Hawaii 41 MtnW
Middle Tennessee 40.75 CUSA
East Carolina 39 Amer
Syracuse 39 ACC
Central Michigan 38.75 MAC
Akron 38.5 MAC
Wake Forest 38.5 ACC
Boston College 38.25 ACC
Bowling Green 37.75 MAC
Houston 37.5 Amer
Kent State 37.25 MAC
Ohio 37 MAC
Kansas 36.75 XII
Minnesota 36.75 B1G
Old Dominion 36.5 CUSA
New Mexico 36.25 MtnW
Tulane 35.25 Amer
Connecticut 34.25 Amer
Marshall 34.25 CUSA
Rice 34 CUSA
Western Michigan 34 MAC
Air Force 32.75 MtnW
Utah State 32.75 MtnW
Ball State 32.25 MAC
Florida International 32 CUSA
Buffalo 31 MAC
Louisiana-Lafayette 31 SunBelt
Eastern Michigan 30.25 MAC
Idaho 30.25 SunBelt
South Alabama 29.75 SunBelt
Navy 29.25 Amer
UNLV 29.25 MtnW
Tulsa 28.5 Amer
New Mexico State 28.25 SunBelt
Wyoming 28.25 MtnW
UTSA 28 CUSA
North Texas 27.75 CUSA
Troy 27.75 SunBelt
Fresno State 27 MtnW
Texas State 26.75 SunBelt
UTEP 26.25 CUSA
Massachusetts 24.25 MAC
Miami OH 23.5 MAC
Louisiana-Monroe 22.75 SunBelt
Army West Point 16 Ind

Despite losing a fair amount of players to the NFL, Alabama is still head and shoulders above the rest of the country when looking solely at returning talent. At the other end of the Power 5, Minnesota and Kansas find themselves far behind the next teams in their conferences; they’re each likely in for a rough 2016. The bottom of the ACC Atlantic division is pretty weak as well, with Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Boston College anchoring their half of the conference.

Coaching Efficiency

For the teams that lack in talent, their season may be salvaged by superior coaching. To measure coaching efficiency, I looked at which coaches were the best at winning above their talent level as well as efficiently defeating teams with less talent. The metric used here is the fraction of extra wins per game (relative to each team’s roster strength, adjusted for venue) a coach has provided his team over the past two seasons.

Team Coach Extra Wins per game
Navy Ken Niumatalolo 0.362046833
Houston Tom Herman 0.321141215
Virginia Bronco Mendenhall 0.308495907
Appalachian State Scott Satterfield 0.281951057
Tulane Willie Fritz 0.256677843
Utah Kyle Whittingham 0.247500492
Western Kentucky Jeff Brohm 0.227163142
Michigan State Mark Dantonio 0.221967807
Air Force Troy Calhoun 0.209025987
Virginia Tech Justin Fuente 0.190996101
Arizona State Todd Graham 0.172998718
Northern Illinois Rod Carey 0.17278532
Iowa State Matt Campbell 0.166348429
Rice David Bailiff 0.163661632
Iowa Kirk Ferentz 0.161078025
Washington State Mike Leach 0.160565367
Utah State Matt Wells 0.154151026
Georgia Tech Paul Johnson 0.153111666
Arizona Rich Rodriguez 0.147718269
Oklahoma State Mike Gundy 0.144291439
Ole Miss Hugh Freeze 0.144137472
Louisville Bobby Petrino 0.13961132
TCU Gary Patterson 0.134586299
Wisconsin Paul Chryst 0.128750708
Florida Jim McElwain 0.122508843
Central Michigan John Bonamego 0.116003537
Louisiana-Lafayette Mark Hudspeth 0.115420704
Kansas State Bill Snyder 0.10758057
Old Dominion Bobby Wilder 0.101785548
Mississippi State Dan Mullen 0.098368063
Marshall Doc Holliday 0.094683366
Western Michigan P. J. Fleck 0.086370606
Pitt Pat Narduzzi 0.085234306
North Carolina State Dave Doeren 0.074812047
West Virginia Dana Holgorsen 0.06580146
Duke David Cutcliffe 0.060654146
Clemson Dabo Swinney 0.057633657
Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 0.05252544
Syracuse Dino Babers 0.047069732
Ohio Frank Solich 0.045755825
San Diego State Rocky Long 0.044288932
Boise State Bryan Harsin 0.042805057
Indiana Kevin Wilson 0.040147496
Arkansas Bret Bielema 0.037050103
Boston College Steve Addazio 0.036211737
Tulsa Philip Montgomery 0.033023873
Oregon State Gary Andersen 0.031907604
Oklahoma Bob Stoops 0.029716552
Temple Matt Rhule 0.023290134
Buffalo Lance Leipold 0.016714559
Akron Terry Bowden 0.014497206
Florida State Jimbo Fisher 0.014389571
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin 0.008314186
Penn State James Franklin 0.007480025
Oregon Mark Helfrich 0.00688357
Cincinnati Tommy Tuberville 0.003884414
North Carolina Larry Fedora 0.003455869
Louisiana Tech Skip Holtz 0.002415079
UCLA Jim L. Mora 0.002195164
Ball State Mike Neu 0
Baylor Jim Grobe 0
Bowling Green Mike Jinks 0
BYU Kalani Sitake 0
Central Florida Scott Frost 0
East Carolina Scottie Montgomery 0
Georgia Kirby Smart 0
Georgia Southern Tyson Summers 0
Hawaii Nick Rolovich 0
Illinois Lovie Smith 0
Louisiana-Monroe Matt Viator 0
Maryland D.J. Durkin 0
Memphis Mike Norvell 0
Minnesota Tracy Claeys 0
Missouri Barry Odom 0
North Texas Seth Littrell 0
Rutgers Chris Ash 0
Southern Miss Jay Hopson 0
Texas State Everett Withers 0
Toledo Jason Candle 0
USC Clay Helton 0
UTSA Frank Wilson 0
Arkansas State Blake Anderson -0.005343086
Ohio State Urban Meyer -0.01041809
Tennessee Butch Jones -0.01154779
UTEP Sean Kugler -0.012924086
Alabama Nick Saban -0.014447882
Michigan Jim Harbaugh -0.015782493
Auburn Gus Malzahn -0.017437547
Stanford David Shaw -0.018162597
Texas Tech Kliff Kingsbury -0.023812563
South Alabama Joey Jones -0.027908344
San Jose State Ron Caragher -0.030730345
Nevada Brian Polian -0.031135709
Kentucky Mark Stoops -0.033851942
Middle Tennessee Rick Stockstill -0.039500185
LSU Les Miles -0.046712353
Fresno State Tim DeRuyter -0.04731843
Colorado Mike MacIntyre -0.057152882
Washington Chris Petersen -0.063069342
Notre Dame Brian Kelly -0.065557686
Miami FL Mark Richt -0.068845217
New Mexico State Doug Martin -0.069643544
Florida International Ron Turner -0.080522471
UNLV Tony Sanchez -0.08433908
South Florida Willie Taggart -0.086968359
Nebraska Mike Riley -0.088749192
Troy Neal Brown -0.090948276
California Sonny Dykes -0.092781651
South Carolina Will Muschamp -0.095382104
Wyoming Craig Bohl -0.095913118
New Mexico Bob Davie -0.09829787
Colorado State Mike Bobo -0.106100796
Vanderbilt Derek Mason -0.117478746
Florida Atlantic Charlie Partridge -0.121831632
Idaho Paul Petrino -0.122347211
Miami OH Chuck Martin -0.140460189
Army West Point Jeff Monken -0.155951608
Massachusetts Mark Whipple -0.16430166
Kent State Paul Haynes -0.164544229
Connecticut Bob Diaco -0.171698819
Wake Forest Dave Clawson -0.180284697
Purdue Darrell Hazell -0.213835129
Charlotte Brad Lambert -0.273994253
Georgia State Trent Miles -0.277584946
Eastern Michigan Chris Creighton -0.300411999
Kansas David Beaty -0.323084291
SMU Chad Morris -0.323563218
Texas Charlie Strong -0.38651062

It should come as no surprise that Ken Niumatalolo at Navy scores the highest in efficiency. Any school looking for a new coach at the end of the season should have this guy on their short list. The same can be said of Tom Herman, who may be the hottest name in the country come December if he leads Houston to another strong season.

Virginia, Tulane, and Virginia Tech each did very well for themselves with their new hires. At the other end, the heat emanating from Charlie Strong’s seat can be felt all across the state of Texas, especially with a guy down the road in Houston at the opposite end of this chart.

Note that a negative score doesn’t necessarily mean bad coaching. Contrarily, it implies excellent recruiting in the cases of coaches who win a lot but whose teams are sometimes upset by less talented teams. This is especially true for Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. Coaches would like to stay above that -0.1 level though; once you go below this point you’re coming across a lot of coaches that need to start winning more to save their jobs.

*First time head coaches and coaches without results the past two seasons were assigned a value of zero; if they return in 2017 they will have a nonzero value in next year’s preview.

Schedules

One of the best ways to determine the fate of a team is to look at the difficulty of their schedule. This metric looks at each team’s opponents as well as venue and reflects the overall difficulty for the 2016 season. (If you’re tired of SEC “bias” you may want to skip this section)

Team Schedule Strength Conference
Ole Miss 918.475 SEC
USC 897.8875 P12
Texas A&M 888.6 SEC
Auburn 880.525 SEC
Arkansas 868.875 SEC
Kentucky 858.7125 SEC
Alabama 858.1875 SEC
California 857.7625 P12
Stanford 846.5875 P12
Florida 835.1625 SEC
South Carolina 831.5375 SEC
Colorado 829.7125 P12
Wisconsin 824.7375 B1G
Missouri 823 SEC
LSU 821.3125 SEC
Tennessee 821.3 SEC
Vanderbilt 818.85 SEC
Mississippi State 811.5875 SEC
Ohio State 809.525 B1G
Georgia 798.1625 SEC
Indiana 792.9875 B1G
Rutgers 783.025 B1G
Michigan State 780.375 B1G
Utah 779.5375 P12
Penn State 767.2625 B1G
Maryland 767.1125 B1G
Arizona State 766.975 P12
Michigan 758.9125 B1G
Oregon State 757.6875 P12
Miami FL 755.075 ACC
Oregon 751.35 P12
Syracuse 750.375 ACC
Georgia Tech 745.65 ACC
Washington State 744.3625 P12
Pitt 743.4125 ACC
Texas 742.1125 XII
UCLA 737.4625 P12
Arizona 735.55 P12
Kansas State 727.075 XII
Virginia Tech 726.4625 ACC
North Carolina State 722.4875 ACC
Texas Tech 720.475 XII
West Virginia 718.1375 XII
Florida State 717.7375 ACC
Illinois 714.3125 B1G
Iowa State 714.2375 XII
Washington 713.725 P12
North Carolina 712.3875 ACC
Kansas 711.225 XII
TCU 704.3125 XII
Notre Dame 704.0875 Ind
Nebraska 696.1375 B1G
Oklahoma 693.5875 XII
Duke 692.8125 ACC
Oklahoma State 688.2125 XII
Louisville 687.4375 ACC
Northwestern 686.975 B1G
Virginia 681.1625 ACC
Clemson 678.625 ACC
BYU 678.55 Ind
Baylor 677.6875 XII
Minnesota 656.6 B1G
Purdue 651.825 B1G
Wake Forest 647.3625 ACC
Iowa 639.2875 B1G
Boston College 637.6 ACC
Hawaii 628.5375 MtnW
Louisiana-Monroe 608.85 SunBelt
Utah State 593.9375 MtnW
Massachusetts 591.4875 MAC
UNLV 586.725 MtnW
South Florida 585.425 Amer
East Carolina 584.4125 Amer
South Alabama 579.4375 SunBelt
Tulsa 570.4875 Amer
Central Florida 570.0375 Amer
Kent State 567.5375 MAC
Wyoming 562.85 MtnW
Bowling Green 562.7125 MAC
UTSA 547.9375 CUSA
Temple 544.4125 Amer
Fresno State 543 MtnW
Western Kentucky 539.7875 CUSA
Appalachian State 539.35 SunBelt
Florida International 539.2 CUSA
Houston 537.175 Amer
Troy 535.325 SunBelt
New Mexico State 533.1125 SunBelt
Middle Tennessee 525.75 CUSA
Louisiana-Lafayette 525.4 SunBelt
Connecticut 523.775 Amer
Navy 522.0625 Amer
Nevada 521.1875 MtnW
Western Michigan 520.675 MAC
SMU 519.2625 Amer
Central Michigan 519.1125 MAC
San Jose State 518.5125 MtnW
Rice 516.7375 CUSA
Southern Miss 516.375 CUSA
Marshall 515.0625 CUSA
Memphis 511.15 Amer
Ohio 508.725 MAC
North Texas 507.925 CUSA
Eastern Michigan 503.3625 MAC
Ball State 501.5125 MAC
Cincinnati 500.7625 Amer
Georgia Southern 496.525 SunBelt
Boise State 496.1625 MtnW
Florida Atlantic 495.6875 CUSA
Toledo 493.9375 MAC
Northern Illinois 490.725 MAC
Miami OH 487.45 MAC
Louisiana Tech 482.4875 CUSA
San Diego State 481.0375 MtnW
Arkansas State 481 SunBelt
New Mexico 480 MtnW
Texas State 479.325 SunBelt
Old Dominion 477.725 CUSA
Colorado State 474.275 MtnW
Charlotte 468.2375 CUSA
Idaho 467.825 SunBelt
Tulane 458.1625 Amer
Akron 455.375 MAC
Buffalo 449.425 MAC
UTEP 447.925 CUSA
Air Force 444.2125 MtnW
Georgia State 443.475 SunBelt
Army West Point 441.9875 Ind

There is a lot of talent in the SEC; the entire conference’s strength of schedules make up 14 of the top 20! This is also very clear evidence for why no Group of 5 teams should have a claim to a CFP bid; none of their overall schedules are as difficult as any Power 5 team’s schedule. Hawaii only comes close because they have a 13 game schedule this season.

Expected Wins

This metric is determined by summing up the win probabilities for every game on a team’s schedule. For example, if a team has a 75% chance of winning a game, that game adds 0.75 to their expected wins for the season.

School Expected Wins Conference
Florida State 10.66861942 ACC
Oklahoma 10.40261053 XII
UCLA 10.27362664 P12
San Diego State 10.25221641 MtnW
Alabama 10.222695 SEC
Ohio State 10.07015731 B1G
Clemson 10.05941647 ACC
Northern Illinois 9.942781101 MAC
Boise State 9.70580085 MtnW
Tennessee 9.696799298 SEC
Michigan 9.6913527 B1G
Notre Dame 9.569581544 Ind
Oregon 9.450323696 P12
Georgia 9.396109981 SEC
LSU 9.141060917 SEC
Arkansas State 9.113347025 SunBelt
Oklahoma State 9.098406192 XII
Michigan State 9.061284352 B1G
Florida 8.841162367 SEC
Nebraska 8.506432438 B1G
Appalachian State 8.450550949 SunBelt
USC 8.266189893 P12
Auburn 8.123473693 SEC
Washington 8.121895721 P12
Southern Miss 8.041957136 CUSA
North Carolina 8.012522051 ACC
Penn State 7.982332694 B1G
South Florida 7.968693972 Amer
Toledo 7.957983045 MAC
Iowa 7.922353437 B1G
Cincinnati 7.831901687 Amer
Louisiana Tech 7.80701041 CUSA
TCU 7.797645491 XII
Baylor 7.764170835 XII
Virginia 7.741705842 ACC
Central Florida 7.739179087 Amer
Northwestern 7.431578479 B1G
Virginia Tech 7.427385499 ACC
Western Kentucky 7.407932768 CUSA
Georgia Southern 7.390851892 SunBelt
Mississippi State 7.375010271 SEC
Tulane 7.308831191 Amer
Arizona State 7.20997905 P12
Memphis 7.148407025 Amer
Air Force 7.065578601 MtnW
Houston 7.04834238 Amer
Ohio 7.042103033 MAC
Colorado State 6.986654121 MtnW
Central Michigan 6.964167477 MAC
Arizona 6.872625978 P12
Temple 6.818187178 Amer
Pitt 6.744204358 ACC
Nevada 6.722840289 MtnW
Utah 6.708516343 P12
San Jose State 6.702724799 MtnW
Texas A&M 6.667047601 SEC
Missouri 6.663717706 SEC
Old Dominion 6.630393598 CUSA
Navy 6.5772867 Amer
Louisville 6.553534291 ACC
Akron 6.552702691 MAC
Hawaii 6.393753953 MtnW
Rice 6.38538815 CUSA
Maryland 6.372086645 B1G
Texas 6.370872525 XII
North Carolina State 6.345883712 ACC
Kansas State 6.295631105 XII
Bowling Green 6.128818085 MAC
Georgia State 6.093744266 SunBelt
Stanford 6.001685595 P12
Indiana 5.894689579 B1G
Washington State 5.888169936 P12
Middle Tennessee 5.886944889 CUSA
Iowa State 5.86730738 XII
Miami FL 5.845985435 ACC
Ole Miss 5.832938922 SEC
Marshall 5.824792692 CUSA
Florida Atlantic 5.799877419 CUSA
West Virginia 5.793523836 XII
Buffalo 5.758174925 MAC
Arkansas 5.69912744 SEC
Western Michigan 5.645677618 MAC
Duke 5.613858113 ACC
South Carolina 5.611519904 SEC
Charlotte 5.610997003 CUSA
Louisiana-Lafayette 5.501710581 SunBelt
Utah State 5.361006581 MtnW
Boston College 5.341367176 ACC
BYU 5.243278982 Ind
East Carolina 5.183844786 Amer
Wisconsin 5.150158609 B1G
Ball State 5.142858964 MAC
New Mexico 5.133137789 MtnW
Georgia Tech 5.02601392 ACC
Rutgers 4.904623001 B1G
Kent State 4.857204281 MAC
Kentucky 4.819705659 SEC
Texas Tech 4.61322875 XII
Idaho 4.598953226 SunBelt
North Texas 4.577905919 CUSA
Illinois 4.535080722 B1G
Texas State 4.46093624 SunBelt
South Alabama 4.34169175 SunBelt
Syracuse 4.170532828 ACC
Oregon State 4.150558942 P12
Tulsa 4.121447198 Amer
Minnesota 4.062200549 B1G
UTEP 4.047586062 CUSA
SMU 3.934175712 Amer
UTSA 3.889684814 CUSA
Troy 3.856575088 SunBelt
Florida International 3.757646865 CUSA
Colorado 3.725927678 P12
UNLV 3.614168826 MtnW
New Mexico State 3.580038505 SunBelt
Wake Forest 3.484377444 ACC
Fresno State 3.287772372 MtnW
Louisiana-Monroe 3.273824502 SunBelt
Connecticut 3.147045444 Amer
Vanderbilt 3.104918543 SEC
Purdue 2.991720498 B1G
Wyoming 2.985800924 MtnW
California 2.963022149 P12
Miami OH 2.417977102 MAC
Eastern Michigan 2.258765415 MAC
Massachusetts 1.868539579 MAC
Army West Point 1.311666055 Ind
Kansas 1.288311078 XII

The most shocking number has to be Wisconsin at only 5.15 wins. Paul Chryst will either dramatically improve his efficiency rating for 2017, or there will be a lot of disgruntled Badger fans this season.

Summary

This table summarizes the ranks in each category for every team, sorted by expected wins, for a concise, high level view of the college football landscape in 2016.

Team Conference Roster Coach Schedule Expected Wins
Florida State ACC 3 52 44 1
Oklahoma XII 6 48 53 2
UCLA P12 8 59 37 3
San Diego State MtnW 31 41 114 4
Alabama SEC 1 86 7 5
Ohio State B1G 2 83 19 6
Clemson ACC 7 37 59 7*
Northern Illinois MAC 38 12 111 8
Boise State MtnW 37 42 108 9
Tennessee SEC 4 84 16 10
Michigan B1G 9 87 28 11
Notre Dame Ind 15 100 51 12
Oregon P12 12 55 31 13
Georgia SEC 11 60 20 14
LSU SEC 5 96 15 15
Arkansas State SunBelt 47 82 115 16
Oklahoma State XII 23 20 55 17
Michigan State B1G 16 8 23 18
Florida SEC 13 25 10 19
Nebraska B1G 18 106 52 20
Appalachian State SunBelt 72 4 84 21
USC P12 10 60 2 22
Auburn SEC 14 88 4 23*
Washington P12 20 99 47 24
Southern Miss CUSA 61 60 99 25
North Carolina ACC 19 57 48 26
Penn State B1G 22 54 25 27
South Florida Amer 40 105 72 28
Toledo MAC 60 60 110 29
Iowa B1G 44 15 65 30
Cincinnati Amer 65 56 106 31
Louisiana Tech CUSA 62 58 113 32
TCU XII 39 23 50 33
Baylor XII 29 60 61 34
Virginia ACC 46 3 58 35
Central Florida Amer 49 60 76 36
Northwestern B1G 41 38 57 37
Virginia Tech ACC 35 10 40 38
Western Kentucky CUSA 67 7 83 39
Georgia Southern SunBelt 66 60 107 40
Mississippi State SEC 26 30 18 41
Tulane Amer 100 5 122 42
Arizona State P12 34 11 27 43
Memphis Amer 69 60 101 44
Air Force MtnW 105 9 126 45
Houston Amer 93 2 86 46
Ohio MAC 95 40 102 47
Colorado State MtnW 74 112 119 48
Central Michigan MAC 88 26 96 49
Arizona P12 43 19 38 50
Temple Amer 82 49 81 51
Pitt ACC 33 33 35 52
Nevada MtnW 80 93 93 53
Utah P12 45 6 24 54
San Jose State MtnW 71 92 97 55
Texas A&M SEC 17 53 3 56
Missouri SEC 28 60 14 57
Old Dominion CUSA 98 29 118 58
Navy Amer 115 1 92 59
Louisville ACC 63 22 56 60
Akron MAC 90 51 123 61
Hawaii MtnW 84 60 67 62
Rice CUSA 103 14 98 63
Maryland B1G 36 60 26 64
Texas XII 21 128 36 65
North Carolina State ACC 51 34 41 66
Kansas State XII 53 28 39 67
Bowling Green MAC 92 60 79 68
Georgia State SunBelt 75 124 127 69
Stanford P12 24 89 9 70
Indiana B1G 50 43 21 71
Washington State P12 56 16 34 72
Middle Tennessee CUSA 85 95 89 73
Iowa State XII 73 13 46 74
Miami FL ACC 32 101 30 75
Ole Miss SEC 30 21 1 76
Marshall CUSA 101 31 100 77
Florida Atlantic CUSA 83 114 109 78
West Virginia XII 55 35 43 79
Buffalo MAC 110 50 124 80
Arkansas SEC 25 44 5 81
Western Michigan MAC 104 32 94 82
Duke ACC 57 36 54 83
South Carolina SEC 27 109 11 84
Charlotte CUSA 79 123 120 85
Louisiana-Lafayette SunBelt 109 27 90 86
Utah State MtnW 106 17 69 87
Boston College ACC 91 45 66 88
BYU Ind 64 60 60 89
East Carolina Amer 87 60 73 90
Wisconsin B1G 70 24 13 91
Ball State MAC 107 60 105 92
New Mexico MtnW 99 111 116 93
Georgia Tech ACC 52 18 33 94
Rutgers B1G 58 60 22 95
Kent State MAC 94 119 77 96
Kentucky SEC 48 94 6 97
Texas Tech XII 68 90 42 98
Idaho SunBelt 111 115 121 99
North Texas CUSA 120 60 103 100
Illinois B1G 78 60 45 101
Texas State SunBelt 123 60 117 102
South Alabama SunBelt 113 91 74 103
Syracuse ACC 86 39 32 104
Oregon State P12 77 47 29 105
Tulsa Amer 116 46 75 106
Minnesota B1G 96 60 62 107
UTEP CUSA 124 85 125 108
SMU Amer 76 127 95 109
UTSA CUSA 119 60 80 110
Troy SunBelt 121 107 87 111
Florida International CUSA 108 103 85 112
Colorado P12 59 98 12 113
UNLV MtnW 114 104 71 114
New Mexico State SunBelt 117 102 88 115
Wake Forest ACC 89 121 64 116
Fresno State MtnW 122 97 82 117
Louisiana-Monroe SunBelt 127 60 68 118
Connecticut Amer 102 120 91 119
Vanderbilt SEC 42 113 17 120
Purdue B1G 81 122 63 121
Wyoming MtnW 118 110 78 122
California P12 54 108 8 123
Miami OH MAC 126 116 112 124
Eastern Michigan MAC 112 125 104 125
Massachusetts MAC 125 118 70 126
Army West Point Ind 128 117 128 127
Kansas XII 97 126 49 128

2016 Predictions
Since no preview is complete without a prediction of some sort, here’s a projection of the conference winners and runner-ups (based on conference championship game, if applicable), College Football Playoff and other New Year’s bowls:

Conference Champion Runner-up Conference
Florida State North Carolina ACC
Ohio State Nebraska Big Ten
Oklahoma Oklahoma State Big XII
UCLA Oregon PAC12
Alabama Georgia SEC
South Florida Houston AAC
Western Kentucky Southern Miss CUSA
Northern Illinois Ohio MAC
San Diego State Boise State MtnWest
Arkansas State Appalachian State SunBelt
Final Four picks   Bowl
Alabama Oklahoma Peach
Florida State Ohio State Fiesta
Other New Years 6 picks   Bowl
Clemson San Diego State Orange
Michigan UCLA Rose
Tennessee Notre Dame Sugar
Oregon Georgia Cotton
Title Game   Location
Alabama Florida State Tampa
National Champion
Alabama

College Football Divisional Overhaul

College football expansion/realignment has been discussed nearly every off-season for the past decade. The latest wave involves the Big XII (which currently consists of 10 schools) and their future plans for expansion. Schools that are not currently members of another Power 5 conference are mentioned as candidates to join the Big XII. This list includes Houston, BYU, Boise State, Memphis, Colorado State, Central Florida, South Florida, Cincinnati, and Connecticut. The pros and cons have been weighed for both sides; the conference can expand their media market footprint and thus bring a stronger hand to the negotiation table when it comes time for new TV contracts (the current Big XII contract runs through 2025, but expansion could trigger negotiation of a more lucrative deal), and the schools that are invited to move up could increase their TV revenue ten-fold. The downside might be a watered down share of the contract for current members as well as a less appealing overall strength of schedule.

The implications of expansion have been discussed at length many times over, so I want to approach it from a different angle. The Power 5 conferences (and Notre Dame) consist of 65 teams which compete for a spot in the 4 team College Football Playoff. Technically, the rest of FBS is eligible for a berth in this playoff, but it is an unwritten understanding that this will never happen without very extenuating circumstances. The entire FBS would be better off if the Power 5 teams broke away to form their own division, and the rest of FBS merged with the FCS. Here’s what that would look like.

The New Division: 4 Conferences of 16 Teams

Step 1 of creating a new division of college football is to determine who is included. Currently there are 65 candidates; a team that isn’t in the Power 5 by now has missed their chance (the divisions are fluid long-term; transitions in future years are inevitable, but this article is only looking at a theoretical starting point). Only 64 will be included, so who gets left out? I’ll get to that in a minute. First up, the 4 conferences: ACC, Big Ten, PAC12, and SEC. The Big XII and Notre Dame will be split amongst the 4 remaining conferences as follows:

Teams to ACC: West Virginia and Notre Dame; 16 total

Teams to Big Ten: Texas and Oklahoma; 16 total

Teams to PAC12: Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State; 16 total

Teams to SEC: Baylor, TCU; 16 total

Remaining: Iowa State

This doesn’t necessarily mean Iowa State is left out of the new division, however they are on the very short list of candidates. Other candidates to consider: Texas Tech and Rutgers. Why these teams? It comes down to fitting in with their peers. First, they are each geographic outliers, which has led to complications forming a rivalry. Sure, Iowa State has a natural rivalry with Iowa (which will ultimately be their saving grace), but what about Texas Tech and Rutgers? Do either of these schools have a reciprocated rivalry within the new division? Texas Tech is at best a secondary rival to Oklahoma State, and at best tertiary to any other Texas team. Rutgers doesn’t have a rivalry with anyone; they are a misfit in the Big Ten already so their absence would go unnoticed. To avoid getting into a diatribe on any of these teams, I’m going to affirm the move of Texas Tech to the PAC12, move Iowa State to the Big Ten, and push Rutgers down to the lower division. This allows each of these 3 to remain amongst their natural peers.

The New Division splits up very nicely, preserving traditional rivalries and prioritizing geographic proximity:

 

ACC Big Ten PAC12 SEC
North East East East
Boston College Illinois Arizona Alabama
Louisville Indiana Arizona State Auburn
Notre Dame Maryland Colorado Florida
Pitt Michigan Kansas Georgia
Syracuse Michigan State Kansas State Kentucky
Virginia Ohio State Oklahoma State South Carolina
Virginia Tech Penn State Texas Tech Tennessee
West Virginia Purdue Utah Vanderbilt
South West West West
Clemson Iowa California Arkansas
Duke Iowa State Oregon Baylor
Florida State Minnesota Oregon State LSU
Georgia Tech Nebraska Stanford Missouri
Miami FL Northwestern UCLA Mississippi State
North Carolina Oklahoma USC Ole Miss
North Carolina State Texas Washington TCU
Wake Forest Wisconsin Washington State Texas A&M

 

Scheduling

Each conference will be two 8 team divisions. Their schedules will include 7 games against the rest of their division and 3  cross-divisional games within their conference. Two non-conference games will allow for at most 1 game against a team from the lower division (in order to preserve long-running rivalries like Colorado/Colorado State, Utah/BYU, and Notre Dame/Navy). The 10 conference games will feature at most 5 home games, but will allow for neutral sites where both teams agree (e.g. Texas/Oklahoma, Florida/Georgia). Neutral site games do not count against the 5 home game cap.

The season will feature 12 games for each of the 64 teams. The 12 game schedule will allow for at most 6 home games (i.e. 1 non-conference home game per year); the remaining 6 can be set up as road or neutral sites, so long as the 6 home game cap is not violated. This ensures a competitive balance among the 64, and removes the ridiculous claim that a team needs 7 home games to “balance their budget.” Plus, bonus home games can be earned in the post-season (details below).

The season would be played over a 13 week span from the last Saturday in August to the Saturday before Thanksgiving (in 2016 this would be August 27 through November 19) with one bye week; all games are on Saturdays. One exhibition game is allowed two weeks prior to the start of the regular season. This can be played against a team from any division level and does not count towards the regular season record and is not used in any tiebreakers or rankings.

Post-season games

Each division winner will play in their conference’s championship game Thanksgiving weekend on the campus of the team with the better conference record (tiebreakers applied as necessary). The four conference champions will play in a 4 team playoff, with semis again at home sites two weeks after the conference championship games. The national championship would be played New Year’s Day at the Rose Bowl.

The Expanded FCS Division

The teams outside the 64 in the new division would join the current FCS division and abide by their rules. Less money coming in the door from TV revenue is a likely consequence, but reduced scholarship obligations and long-distance travel costs would lessen the financial burden currently facing most non-Power 5 programs. Additionally, this would finally enable the Boise States of the world to compete for a national championship.

Final Thoughts

I would love to see college football take this route because it provides everyone with a more level playing field amongst their peers, cuts down on low-quality matchups, and moves post-season games to home sites. Additionally, it creates more interest in the FCS level, as fans of teams in the new division could adopt their local FCS team in a similar fashion to minor league baseball. The financial burden on the new FCS teams would be substantially reduced, lowering the pressure on those teams to meet unrealistic expectations against teams with exponentially more resources.

Unfortunately this will likely never happen, as smaller schools would rather hold out hope of eventually being called up to a major conference and receiving their windfall of TV revenue. The Big XII needs to be very careful with their selection of new teams, but most importantly they need to be accommodating to their most high-profile teams so the conference has a future. If Texas and/or Oklahoma leave, the Big XII is done as a major conference. The best-case scenario for the Big XII is that the College Football Playoff expands beyond 4 teams so their conference may be granted an auto-bid. Four playoff teams for five major conferences is not sustainable, but whose hand will be forced first?