Network Ranking for Week 15

by Patrick Rhamey

The dramatic outcomes of this week result in some pretty significant movement in the rankings this late in the season, with many teams experiencing double digit moves - but one observation does not inherently negate an entire body of work.  One of the problems of human evaluation, true of everything from ranking college football teams to generally evaluating risks or making financial decisions, is a propensity to dramatically outweigh small pieces of evidence and outliers while ignoring dominant trends - sort of like denying the existence of global warming just because it's snowing at your house.  Mississippi State did lose to Ole Miss, which caused them to fall a spot in the ranking, but it doesn't (and shouldn't) matter much.  For starters, Ole Miss was underrated following an overreaction to the LSU and Auburn losses, both of which are top 10 teams.  State losing to Ole Miss is just another redundancy in the SEC West - evidence of a lack of dominance among a group of excellent teams rather than evidence of the group's overall lack of quality.  The SEC East, however, does take a hit, with Georgia, UF, South Carolina, and Kentucky all experiencing significant drops following losses to ACC opponents, which all likewise make gains.

If the season is about the body of evidence, rather than the media hyperbole following a single game, than TCU is currently on the bubble.  Mississippi State's wins are a little bit better, their losses are a little bit worse, but on balance they come out slightly ahead of TCU.  However, given the absurd rankings we've seen so far from them, the committee is unlikely to be so sensible and cautious in their evaluation of last week's games.  While TCU in place of State is not a huge error (they are only narrowly beaten out by State in the Network), if Ohio State makes it into the playoff it will be the most egregious violation of a college football ranking since 2012 when the AP put Lane Kiffin's USC as the preseason number 1.

Top 25 (Explanation; Full Ranking):

  1. Florida State (nc)
  2. Alabama (+2)
  3. Oregon (+3)
  4. Mississippi State (-1)
  5. TCU (+3)
  6. Ole Miss (-1)
  7. Oklahoma (+5)
  8. UCLA (-1)
  9. LSU (nc)
  10. Michigan State (+3)
  11. Auburn (nc)
  12. Ohio State (+4)
  13. Georgia Tech (+11)
  14. Arizona (+4)
  15. Baylor (+2)
  16. Clemson (+11)
  17. Nebraska (+4)
  18. Georgia (-8)
  19. Kansas State (nc)
  20. Arizona State (nc)
  21. Texas A&M (+1)
  22. Boise State (+1)
  23. Louisville (+3)
  24. Missouri (+4)
  25. Wisconsin (nc)