There are a whole bunch of ways to compare college football teams, some of which are better than others. And sometimes you see a ranking that seems so far out of place that you stop and scratch your head.
ESPN college football analyst Bill Connelly has an analytics formula he calls SP+, and he has an … ummm … interesting take on Penn State’s performance this season.
In his SP+ rankings released today, Connelly has the Nittany Lions as the No. 17 team in the country, despite a 4-5 record. The rankings are even more fascinating when you consider this: Notre Dame is No. 16 after a 10-2 season and appearance in the College Footbal Playoff.
🔥 POST-BOWL SP+ RANKINGS 🔥
* OU surged from 12th in mid-Nov to 4th
* ND plummeted from 4th in early-Dec to *16th*!!
* Did some behind-the-scenes tweaks that ended up helping B1G and SEC teams (#bias)
* No. 1 vs. No. 2 for the title!https://t.co/9xvWDK1MEQ
— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) January 3, 2021
The SP+ ratings are listed as ESPN+ content that users have to pay for, so I’m not going to give the entire list away here for free. But you can find the entire rankings if you’re a little resourceful with your google search skills.
Here are a couple of highlights, though.
Alabama is No. 1 and Ohio State No. 2. At No. 17, Penn State is ahead of No. 18 Oregon (4-3), No. 21 Miami (8-3) and No. 22 Oklahoma State (8-3). Oh, and Indiana is only No. 24 after a 6-2 season that included a controversial win over PSU.
Coastal Carolina, which finished 11-1, is only 25th.
Connelly’s SP+ formula includes offense, defense and special teams, all tabulated to come up with a final rating.
What is SP+? In a single sentence, it’s a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency. I created the system at Football Outsiders in 2008, and as my experience with both college football and its stats has grown, I have made quite a few tweaks to the system.
Media members, fans and bettors – especially bettors – paid close attention to the S&P+ rankings over the years because of their “52 to 54 percent success over a full season” against the Las Vegas point spread.