Now the picture has become almost crystal clear. With all but the Conference Championship Games left, and the Army-Navy Game. We have a clear and concise view of who’s beaten who and who teams are. We have play-in games to the Playoff in the Championship Games and other Bowl games on the line. Perhaps once this Top 25 exercise is over we will delve into the Bowl games and make predictions for each of those. I am not basing anything off of preseason rankings. Rather, we look at metrics such as Offensive Efficiency (OE); Defensive Efficiency (DE); Strength of Victory (SV); Football Power Index (FPI) and we take into consideration: How good is your good?
1 Clemson 12-0 (last week: 1) FPI-6
13th OE; 2nd DE; 4th SV; +229 Point Differential. They have been #1 in this poll for awhile now. Clemson now has one more game, they’re 11th in 11 weeks, against North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game. Win and you’re in, its as simple as that.
2 Iowa 12-0 (last week: 2) FPI-26
23rd OE; 17th DE; 14th SV; +180 Point Differential. Still not flashy, but we don’t expect that from the Hawkeyes. Kirk Ferentz is now tied for the longest tenured Head Coach in FBS. There is no question he has earned that over the years. Iowa is solid enough to win the whole thing this season. Will be a good game with Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship Game.
3 Oklahoma 11-1 (last week: 3) FPI-1
10th OE; 4th DE; 2nd SV; +300 Point Differential. A legit case can be made that Oklahoma should be #1 in the country. Well, they’re in the Playoff and will have a chance to prove that in either the Orange or Cotton Bowl. The only team playing with a Top 10 offense and defense efficient unit, Oklahoma goes in as my favorite to win the National Championship.
4 Michigan State 11-1 (last week: 7) FPI-14
22nd OE; 22nd DE; 11th SV; +148 Point Differential. The Spartans roll into the Big 10 Championship Game after dominating Ohio State in poor weather then obliterating Penn State yesterday. Now they face Iowa in an evenly matched game to decide which Big 10 school will be in the College Football Playoff.
5 Alabama 11-1 (last week: 4) FPI-2
27th OE; 1st DE; 1st SV; +242 Point Differential. Hate me SEC fans but I don’t care. Sure the stats paint a picture of dominance, but the reality is the SEC is down. The fact that Nick Saban HAD to give the ball to Henry 46 times against 6-6 Auburn is sad. Too bad Florida is inept on offense, the SEC Championship Game will be a laugher.
6 North Carolina 11-1 (last week: 8) FPI-15
4th OE; 38th DE; 13th SV; +246 Point Differential. Racing out to a 35-7 lead IN THE FIRST QUARTER was impressive. Hanging on for dear life for the next 3 was not. However, the Tar Heels are 1 win away from crashing the Playoff Party.
7 Ohio State 11-1 (last week: 10) FPI-3
28th OE; 7th DE; 3rd SV; +252 Point Differential. They saved their most complete game for The Game. If the Buckeyes had played like that all season, they’d be facing Iowa. Instead they are probably going to draw Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Oh what could have been.
8 Stanford 10-2 (last week: 13) FPI-11
11th OE; 59th DE; 8th SV; +165 Point Differential. What a game against Notre Dame. The reward for that is a rematch with USC in the Pac 12 Championship Game. If they win, the next reward is Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
9 Florida State 10-2 (last week: 15) FPI-10
16th OE; 20th DE; 6th SV; +199 Point Differential. Those of you that watched the FSU-UF game know that it was a lot closer than the final score indicated. Florida State is a few plays here and there away from being in the National Championship chase for a 3rd consecutive year.
10 Notre Dame 10-2 (last week: 6) FPI-9
5th OE; 51st DE; 10th SV; +148 Point Differential. The Irish played a whale of a game on the farm against Stanford. That should be enough to get to a New Year’s 6 Bowl. How’s the Peach Bowl against Florida State sound after all the controversy in that game last season?
11 TCU 10-2 (last week: 16) FPI-7
24th OE; 21st DE; 7th SV; +187 Point Differential. TCU clawed its way to a victory in the worst of conditions on Friday night. With that win, they will probably go to the Sugar Bowl and face a watered down Florida team. Maybe everyone on both teams will be healthy by then.
12 Baylor 9-2 (last week: 5) FPI-4
3rd OE; 25th DE; 5th SV; +252 Point Differential. Baylor deserves credit for the way they played Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and TCU in succession. I have undervalued them all season because of the non conference schedule and they are a good team. Just too many injuries at the QB position. Should get a Fiesta Bowl bid. Side note-first time all season Baylor’s offense isn’t #1.
13 Northwestern 10-2 (last week: 20) FPI-53
102nd OE; 6th DE; 33rd SV; +51 Point Differential. Played in a lot of close games, but the won 83% of them. In any other year Northwestern could make it to a major bowl, but the Big 10 is arguably the strongest conference in the nation this season. So they will settle for a higher tiered bowl in New Years Day against the SEC.
14 Florida 10-2 (last week: 9) FPI-23
69th OE; 5th DE; 20th SV; +117 Point Differential. Lets hope for the viewers that Jim McElwain sandbagged against FSU and will throw caution to the wind of offense and try to beat his former boss Nick Saban. Whatever it was last night against FSU did not work and will not work against Alabama.
15 Ole Miss 9-3 (last week: tie-17) FPI-5
8th OE; 23rd OE; 9th SV; +209 Point Differential. This team is better than 9-3, its quite simple. This is the most talented team in the SEC and they are the ones that should be in Atlanta. However, they lack the focus that championship football teams possess and its shown all year. No excuses for that.
16 Oklahoma State 10-2 (last week: 11) FPI-17
19th OE; 34th DE; 17th SV; +146 Point Differential. It was all there for the Pokes. Win your last 2 home games and off into the Playoff. But, losses to Baylor and rival OU in Bedlam leave the Cowboys in the Alamo Bowl most likely and dreams shattered.
17 Oregon 9-3 (last week: 21) FPI-25
7th OE; 78th DE; 19th SV; +77 Point Differential. Oregon has righted the ship after a 3-3 start. The offense is again clicking on all cylinders and now they will probably get Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl.
18 Houston 11-1 (last week: NR) FPI-40
35th OE; 40th DE; 29th SV; +251 Point Differential. Houston blew out Navy to set up the American Championship Game against Temple. If the Cougars win they will get a New Year’s 6 bowl. Probably against Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.
19 Temple 10-2 (last week: 22) FPI-48
72nd OE; 16th DE; 41st SV; +162 Point Differential. Temple has an opportunity to be the buster with a win at Houston in the American Championship Game. With Coach Rhule rumored to be a favorite for the Missouri vacancy, will the team be focused enough to play for a championship?
20 Georgia 9-3 (last week: 25) FPI-18
55th OE; 9th DE; 24th SV; +115 Point Differential. Ho Hum another 9-3 or better year for the Bulldogs. 9-3 is really good and I’m taking nothing away for that. Georgia battled injuries and shaky QB play and getting to 9 victories took a great coaching job by the whole staff.
21 USC 8-4 (last week: NR) FPI-8
18th OE; 27th DE; 12th SV; +136 Point Differential. USC has to get it right at the head coach position. This is arguably the most talented team in the country. The lack of leadership at the beginning of the season spelled doom for the Trojans, who will need a Trojan horse type of game plan to beat Stanford.
22 Tennessee 8-4 (last week: NR) FPI-12
25th OE; 29th DE; 16th SV; +158 Point Differential. Another highly talented team that failed to live up to expectations. By the numbers Tennessee is as good as anyone, but that is on paper. It has taken all year but the Volunteers may have found their stride and if they can carry it over into next season the SEC East can be theirs.
23 LSU 8-3 (last week: NR) FPI-13
20th OE; 31st DE; 18th SV; +74 Point Differential. I wrote about perspective earlier today and finally someone in Death Valley figured out Les Miles is a fantastic leader of young men. The 3 losses in a row hurt, but this is a successful season nonetheless.
24 Michigan 9-3 (last week: 14) FPI-19
31st OE; 18th DE; 15th SV; +161 Point Differential. I almost dropped them completely out, however this is not about 1 game. Granted that was the worst game of the year for the Wolverines. It just goes to show Harbaugh needs more dudes to battle the truly elite teams in the country.
tie-25 Utah 9-3 (last week: NR) FPI-29
61st OE; 11th DE; 25th SV; +101 Point Differential. Well they started out #1 but it ain’t where you start it is where you finish. Utah will be in a very good bowl, however they won’t be in the bowl they thought they could have reached based on the first half of the season.
tie-25 Mississippi State 8-4 (last week tie-17) FPI-22
15th OE; 36th DE; 27th SV; +122 Point Differential. So they lost the Egg Bowl, at home. As mentioned above, they lost to the most talented team in the SEC. It wasn’t exactly a blowout either, sure didn’t get as bad as Michigan or Penn State. This is still the team that went to Fayetteville and defeated a red hot Arkansas team, just caught the wrong team at the end of the season.
All efficiency ratings and FPI taken from ESPN. SV ratings taken from Jeff Sagarin’s college football rankings page.