Network Rankings Week 8 - Sorting Out the SEC and ACC Win Networks​

by Patrick Rhamey

With Georgia's second loss to another undefeated team, significantly more complexity is introduced into the Top 10, shedding light on how the Network Ranking evaluates evidence in sorting out Missouri, Clemson, Georgia, and Alabama.

1) It starts with a comparison of Georgia and Alabama's win networks.  So far this season the value of beating South Carolina, North Texas, LSU, and Tennessee > Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Colorado State, Ole Miss, Georgia State, and Kentucky.  In fact, Georgia's four wins are more impressive than the cumulative wins of any other team in the FBS, including Missouri and Clemson who beat Georgia (Missouri and Clemson subsume Georgia's win network, but they are two degrees away from LSU, South Carolina, etc. so they are getting credit for the quality of those two degree away teams at a discount, see the explanation link below for more details).  Now with more evidence each week, the value of Georgia and Alabama's win networks will change, but for now, even subtracting 2 points for Georgia losing to 2 undefeated teams, Georgia has more evidence of goodness based on wins and losses than Alabama.

2) Clemson and Missouri's win networks are driven mostly by beating Georgia.   In the network, the combined value of Missouri's wins over Toledo, Arkansas State, Indiana, and Vanderbilt is, I think as common sense would dictate, worth less than the value of beating Georgia alone.  For Clemson, the same is true of the value of beating NC State, Wake Forest, Syracuse, and Boston College.  Evidence of both teams' quality is currently very dependent upon how Georgia performs, though both teams have very big tests coming up in Week 8 (Florida for Missouri and Florida State for Clemson).

3) Georgia, likewise, is strongly dependent on LSU and South Carolina.          Potentially the foundation of all four teams position at the top of the ranking is LSU, and to a lesser extent South Carolina.  Alabama won't play LSU until November.  Georgia's win value is almost a majority due to LSU and Georgia's win value is a majority of the win values for Missouri and Clemson.  LSU has beaten both Auburn and Florida, both of which the Network Ranking lists as top 25 teams.

4) The PAC-12 needs this ACC/SEC pyramid to fall apart.   For an Oregon or a UCLA to break through, the foundational elements of this win network (LSU and to a lesser extent South Carolina) would need to lose, which will weaken the win values for the teams in the top 5 (we saw this happen to Alabama last year the post-season following poor SEC performances in bowl games).  If, however, LSU and South Carolina keep winning, and these top ranked SEC/ACC teams keep winning as well, there will be no way for an undefeated PAC-12 team to dominate the ranking.

So we see through these connections how the web of wins and losses is sorting out these three teams, and how information regarding the quality of those wins and losses is updated each week.  LSU/South Carolina->Georgia->Missouri/Clemson is creating a very impressive win network that provides far more evidence of a team's quality than what any other teams have accomplished this year.  Alabama is so far performing strongly, but they're left out of this strong win network by not yet having played any of these teams.   Unlike Oregon who will be left out in the cold all season by not playing strong teams, Alabama plays LSU November 9th and Auburn in the Iron Bowl November 30th, so they'll have ample opportunity to provide evidence of their goodness as the season progresses if LSU and Auburn keep winning.  

Another side observation, both the Big 12 and the Big 10 look terrible.  Baylor (#20) is the Big 12's highest ranked team, with no others in the top 25 following Oklahoma's (#27) loss to Texas (#37) yesterday.  Other preseason favorites have drifted into obscurity: Oklahoma State (#38), Kansas State (#86), and TCU (#87).  In the Big 10, Wisconsin (#50), who has otherwise not been great, beat Northwestern (#44), leaving Ohio State (#19) the only remaining team in the Top 25.  Ohio State is undefeated, but they just haven't played anyone of great value.

Week 8 Ranking (Explanation; Full Ranking)

  1. Missouri
  2. Clemson
  3. Georgia
  4. Alabama
  5. LSU
  6. Oregon State*
  7. Oregon
  8. UCLA
  9. Florida State
  10. Utah** 
  11. Miami
  12. Auburn
  13. Virginia Tech
  14. South Carolina
  15. Louisville
  16. Texas A&M
  17. Stanford
  18. Maryland
  19. Ohio State
  20. Baylor
  21. UCF
  22. Pittsburgh
  23. Houston
  24. Florida
  25. Northern Illinois

*FCS losses not included in the network. 
**Lost to Oregon State who has an FCS loss not included in the network.