David Annis, Ph.D.  

2012 Football - Rankings

Division I-A College Football Rankings

About the Rankings

Since the advent of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), computer rankings have played a prominent role in determining college football's national champion. Ranking 120 teams using a handful of games involving each is extremely difficult and inherently ill-defined. Many ranking methods are based solely on wins and losses. Others are based on point-scoring and margin of victory. Which are better?

Both types of models are problematic for ranking college football. Win-loss models often predict that undefeated teams (even those who played a very weak schedule) will never lose and are infinitely better than even the best one-loss teams. This results in the Ohio State1 effect (determining the only undefeated team is, de facto, the best around). At the other extreme, point-scoring models discount the value of winning and can rank a mediocre team with a few blowouts ahead of a solid, yet unspectacular team with a better record against a tougher schedule. (We refer to this as the Kansas State2 effect.)

Our rankings are the first to combine both wins and losses AND point-scoring data to extract the most from a limited slate of games. In addition to modeling win-loss and point-scoring data, our rankings explicitly account for home-field advantage and implicitly consider strength of schedule. Rather than rehash the details here, we refer the curious to Annis and Craig (2005)3 for in-depth explanation of the ranking procedure.

You will find our Strength-of-Schedule ratings here.

Our rankings were mentioned in the Kansas City Star (November 18, 2005) and the Charlotte Observer (October 18, 2006 and October 17, 2007).

  1. In the 2002-2003 season, Ohio State won the national championship after completing the only undefeated season in Division I-A. Despite their 14-0 record, the Buckeyes had seven wins by a touchdown or less, including a 10-6 win we saw in person at Purdue. I'll go to my grave thinking that they were much more lucky than good.

  2. Under Head Coach Bill Snyder, Kansas State has earned a reputation as a team which schedules extremely weak non-conference opponents, resulting in many season-opening blowouts, and consequently, impressive scoring margins ... even for a three-loss team.

  3. Annis, D. H. and Craig, B. A. (2005) "Hybrid Paired Comparison Analysis, with Applications to the Ranking of College Football Teams."  Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, 1 (1).