Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Toughest Schedules (So Far)

When looking at strength of schedule, I like to use the NCAA’s rankings so their simplicity and lack of bias. The NCAA ranks the teams by the win-loss of their opposition (after stripping out the opponent’s records against the team in question).

One of the reasons I think it works so well is it doesn’t give undue credibility to mid-major conferences. The mid-majors tend to accumulate a bunch of losses early on when they play major conference teams, and those losses carry against them when they play in their conference.

I also like the transparency. You have other strength of schedule rankings like Sagarin’s, but his method is a black box that he doesn’t reveal. For some reason, according to Sagarin, the Pac Ten always ends up with the toughest schedules.

Anyway, the NCAA’s strength of schedule ranking is found here.

A couple that jumped out at me (with ranking) –

The Impressive

1. Nebraska – sure they are 3-3, but they have faced teams that are 19-4. Ouch.
4. Oklahoma – impressive schedule so far.
5. Arkansas – no wonder they look dreadful.
6. Illinois – see Arkansas
11. Georgia – with plenty more meat ahead.
18. Georgia Tech – for those who say I over rank them.
21. USC – Pull out OSU and it isn’t that grand
22. North Carolina – Again, deserving of their ranking
33. Boise State –Playing tougher teams than many think

The Less than Impressive

60. (Tie) Alabama – harder times ahead?
60. (Tie) Florida – I think our offense clicked last week, but we still haven’t played tough teams.
67. Northwestern – perhaps this is why they are 1 loss?
72. Oklahoma State – Even with Missouri
74. Michigan – this is just sad.
79. LSU – I’ll say it again – these Tigers are headed for more losses
81. Tennessee – even sadder than Michigan.
84. Texas Tech – untested and unbeaten
93. Auburn – If Michigan and Tennessee are sad, this is pitiful.
94. Penn State – Schedule Strength Say What?
117. West Virginia – Who the hell have they been playing?

I use this strength of schedule format in my own Power Rankings, which should be out next week with our 2008 inaugural version.


Anonymous said...

I think OU's schedule is a bit decieving as their High Marks are buoyed by wins over a couple of teams who have deceptive records (with their own games stripped OU has played three undefeated teams, of those Texas is ranked and TCU is 23, the other is Cincy).

Scully said...

Boise State has played - in order -

Idaho State
Bowling Green
La Tech
Southern Miss

Tougher by who's standard? A team located in Tallahasse?

Mergz said...

Don't be a Boise State hater. If you have to hate anything, hate that Boise isn't a real state.

Mergz said...

and you're right, they should never, ever make a BCS Bowl game, as a team like Boise could never, ever beat someone like, say, Oklahoma.

dethwing said...

I have to say, that NCAA's method of calculating schedule strength is bizzare at best. No explanation for the arbitrary 2/3 and 1/3 has ever been supplied. Plus you get scenarios where you get more creding for playing a 11-1 MAC school than a 8-4 SEC team. Lastly, it encourages conferences to schedule as weak as they can out of conference. Come in with as many inflated records as you can, and boom, eveyone's SOS goes up like a rocket when they play eachother. See: Big 12 and SEC year in and year out.
You also get strange things like Boise playing the 33rd hardest schedule. My own personal rankings put them at the 97th schedule.

But don't take my word for it. Check out Wes Colley who has them at 111th [out of 134, counting groups of FCS teams]. And unlike Sagarin, Colley is completely open with his method. You can read his entire treatise on the subject on his webpage.

Year2 said...

Last season I did a strength of schedule based on total and scoring offense and defense. Take the average rank of the teams someone has played in those four categories, and then average those four together to get a score. The lower the score the tougher the scedule, and I-AA opponents automatically get a rank of 120.

It downplays outliers by using the teams' national ranks in the four categories. It adjusts for strange/unlikely game outcomes by using stat categories, since the better team doesn't always win a game.

There is some noise, like when someone racks up huge numbers while blowing out cupcakes, but those tend to get evened out by the teams that don't do much thanks to tough opponents. There will be some noise in any SOS rank as long as there's not a balanced schedule across the board, which is to say there will always be noise.

I've run it for the first time this week, since seven weeks is probably enough for a preliminary result, and the writeup should be posted soon. By this setup, Washington has the toughest schedule, followed by Wake and then Nebraska. BYU (last) and Tulsa (second to last) are bringing up the rear, but they may be victims of their own success and the relatively small pool of games so far.

jj gator said...

Everybody's so quick to jump all over Florida's fans for always complaining about something, but IMO Boise "Bitchy" State does it plenty, too. They were bitching about "having a share of the NC" in 2006 because they went undefeated, adn if they do the same thing this year but don't get BCS recognition they'll be tinkling in their cornflakes again, too. Hey, if they want to prove how "tough" they are, let them join a BCS conference, like the Pac-10, and see how well they do week after week against the big boys. Anybody can beat "cupcakes" week after week and look good.

Hell, Georgia handed them their ass back in 2005!

DolFan 316 said...

Actually considering the way the Pa(theti)c 10's been this year, Boise probably WISHES they were in it these days.

I would love a Boise-OU BCS bowl rematch :-)

Jesse W. said...

Great post! I have to agree with GT, they are definitely a team of the future. When Paul Johnson gets some option players in there, it is on for the ACC

Jesse W.