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Introducing the UCF Rankings

My latest attempt at a new college football ranking system

Tulsa v Central Florida Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Say hello to the Uncomplicated College Football Rankings - the UCF Rankings, for short.

For some time now I’ve been toying around with the idea of creating a formula for ranking college football teams.I’ve been fascinated by the various computer rankings and always wondered how their creators arrived at their current formulas. The formulas they choose reflect their own ideas about how to measure teams against one another.

The best way to do that was to learn Excel and do it myself, which I did over the course of the summer as we were all cooped up inside the house.

I dabbled with this formula in 2018 when comparing UCF and Alabama from the previous season, but this year I finally put together a spreadsheet for all of college football. I figured if there was a season when this needed to happen, it’s this one.

If you’d like to see a full explanation of the formula I put together, read this story:

For a CliffNotes version, I developed a formula that uses strength of schedule (based on opponents’ win percentage, opponents’ opponents’, win percentage, home/away and late-season weight) and adjusted margin of victory (again, capped at a given amount and factoring home/away) to see which teams are performing the best over the course of the season to the point in time that the rankings are taken.

One note on this: The home/away adjustment in the margin of victory formula is 2.5 to conform with Vegas’ standard.

So without further adieu, here’s a look at the first UCF Rankings of 2020:

UCF Rankings - October 12

Rk Team W L W% Opp W% SOS Rating Conf
Rk Team W L W% Opp W% SOS Rating Conf
1 BYU 4 0 1.000 .496 15.006 0.278 Ind
2 Clemson 4 0 1.000 .494 19.795 0.196 ACC
3 Georgia 3 0 1.000 .467 15.439 0.196 SEC
4 Alabama 3 0 1.000 .500 16.195 0.183 SEC
5 UCF 2 1 .667 .509 15.56 0.138 AAC
6 Oklahoma State 3 0 1.000 .475 16.497 0.111 Big 12
7 Notre Dame 3 0 1.000 .505 17.929 0.107 ACC
8 Coastal Carolina 3 0 1.000 .503 18.587 0.106 SBC
9 North Carolina 3 0 1.000 .480 18.003 0.105 ACC
10 Marshall 3 0 1.000 .400 10.098 0.098 CUSA
11 SMU 4 0 1.000 .435 18.652 0.097 AAC
12 Louisiana 3 0 1.000 .470 14.896 0.095 SBC
13 Liberty 4 0 1.000 .317 14.311 0.076 Ind
14 Air Force 1 0 1.000 .650 12.636 0.075 MWC
15 Cincinnati 3 0 1.000 .505 16.504 0.072 AAC
16 Florida 2 1 .667 .433 14.989 0.069 SEC
17 Texas 2 2 .500 .535 16.908 0.057 Big 12
18 Kansas State 3 1 .750 .500 17.067 0.055 Big 12
19 Baylor 1 1 .500 .528 15.111 0.048 Big 12
20 Houston 1 0 1.000 .657 16.975 0.035 AAC
21 UAB 3 1 .750 .478 15.077 0.034 CUSA
22 Virginia Tech 2 1 .667 .633 20.827 0.029 ACC
23 Boston College 3 1 .750 .545 20.41 0.027 ACC
24 Georgia State 1 1 .500 .574 15.091 0.026 SBC
25 Army 4 1 .800 .406 15.465 0.025 Ind
26 Georgia Southern 2 1 .667 .517 18.614 0.022 SBC
27 Memphis 1 1 .500 .542 16.729 0.021 AAC
28 Charlotte 1 2 .333 .463 13.907 0.020 CUSA
29 Pittsburgh 3 2 .600 .561 21.246 0.016 ACC
30 Tulsa 1 1 .500 .694 17.693 0.013 AAC
31 LSU 1 2 .333 .467 16.178 0.009 SEC
32 Miami 3 1 .750 .610 18.746 0.005 ACC
33 NC State 3 1 .750 .535 19.989 0.003 ACC
34 FAU 1 0 1.000 .397 7.624 0.003 CUSA
35 Temple 0 1 .000 .594 13.711 0.002 AAC
36 Iowa State 3 1 .750 .550 16.813 -0.005 Big 12
37 FIU 0 2 .000 .642 12.768 -0.008 CUSA
38 South Carolina 1 2 .333 .500 15.838 -0.013 SEC
39 Appalachian State 2 1 .667 .487 14.756 -0.016 SBC
40 Kentucky 1 2 .333 .533 16.992 -0.017 SEC
41 TCU 1 2 .333 .546 14.647 -0.030 Big 12
42 Tulane 2 2 .500 .535 20.273 -0.033 AAC
43 Troy 2 1 .667 .433 17.545 -0.034 SBC
44 UTEP 3 2 .600 .312 15.998 -0.034 CUSA
45 Oklahoma 2 2 .500 .475 15.608 -0.036 Big 12
46 UTSA 3 2 .600 .527 19.496 -0.050 CUSA
47 Mississippi State 1 2 .333 .500 16.595 -0.055 SEC
48 Tennessee 2 1 .667 .533 16.713 -0.059 SEC
49 East Carolina 1 2 .333 .546 15.813 -0.063 AAC
50 Arkansas 1 2 .333 .600 17.521 -0.064 SEC
51 West Virginia 2 1 .667 .458 15.669 -0.065 Big-12
52 Texas State 1 4 .200 .682 24.851 -0.071 SBC
53 Auburn 2 1 .667 .533 17.193 -0.073 SEC
54 South Alabama 1 2 .333 .537 18.279 -0.079 SBC
55 Southern Mississippi 1 3 .250 .503 16.372 -0.079 CUSA
56 Georgia Tech 2 2 .500 .588 21.329 -0.088 ACC
57 Wake Forest 1 2 .333 .545 17.106 -0.089 ACC
58 Ole Miss 1 2 .333 .467 15.368 -0.102 SEC
59 Louisville 1 3 .250 .517 20.089 -0.110 ACC
60 Texas Tech 1 3 .250 .500 16.176 -0.120 Big 12
61 Virginia 1 2 .333 .541 19.191 -0.123 ACC
62 Texas A&M 2 1 .667 .467 16.156 -0.133 SEC
63 Vanderbilt 0 3 .000 .500 16.58 -0.135 SEC
64 Louisiana Tech 3 1 .750 .445 15.616 -0.137 CUSA
65 Missouri 1 2 .333 .500 16.002 -0.139 SEC
66 Syracuse 1 3 .250 .671 21.921 -0.139 ACC
67 Western Kentucky 1 3 .250 .526 18.038 -0.145 CUSA
68 Duke 1 4 .200 .561 19.945 -0.145 ACC
69 Arkansas State 2 2 .500 .511 18.812 -0.157 SBC
70 Middle Tennessee 1 4 .200 .557 18.456 -0.175 CUSA
71 North Texas 1 3 .250 .498 14.546 -0.199 CUSA
72 Florida State 1 3 .250 .580 19.752 -0.224 ACC
73 Navy 2 2 .500 .626 21.278 -0.245 AAC
74 Kansas 0 3 .000 .625 17.726 -0.270 Big 12
75 South Florida 1 3 .250 .550 18.167 -0.303 AAC
76 Louisiana Monroe 0 5 .000 .640 23.546 -0.395 SBC

Some interesting notes:

  • Yes, the UCF Knights are in fact the best one-loss team in the nation. That’s because they blew out both of their road opponents and lost a relatively close game at home.
  • BYU is off to a great start and we need to keep an eye on that team.
  • Clemson, Georgia and Alabama are good again.
  • Notice how these rankings rate G5 and P5 programs on an equal footing (as, I think, they should). Case in point: #8 Coastal Carolina.
  • South Florida is bad. Like, really bad.

Like I have said before, this is a rudimentary data project that I’ve undertaken as a side thing, and not a be-all, end-all Rosetta Stone for ranking football teams. We’ll see how it goes week-to-week as other conferences begin play.