Coach Lee Corso is fond of cautioning his TV co-hosts against rushing to judgment and that’s what all TV commentators should force themselves to do at this point in the season. After six weeks it appears that Alabama, Georgia, Clemson and Ohio State—in that order, please—are odds-on favorites to make the college football playoffs but there’s way too much football left to be played to anoint them just yet. Alabama has yet to face LSU, Auburn and maybe Georgia; Georgia, which is not as good as last year’s juggernaut, will be tested by LSU, Kentucky, Florida, Auburn and maybe Alabama. Notre Dame is hiding in the weeds—with the easiest schedule on paper—should either slip on a banana peel on their way to a coronation.
LSU and Auburn are positioned to play spoiler or to usurp Division titles from the favorites, but both took a hit over this past weekend. Auburn’s offense is dead last among the fourteen top teams we rank (66.06, a failing grade in any school year) and unless the play-calling and offensive line play improves dramatically, will not pose much of a threat to the favorites. LSU, on the other hand, could pull an upset of either Georgia or Alabama. This weekend, the Tigers played better in a loss to Florida (67.74) than Miami did in a come-from-behind victory over Florida State (67.15) or than Wisconsin did in its shabby performance against winless Nebraska (65.25). The RPG system does not award teams meaningless wins and losses; it calculates a numerical grade for how a team played the game so we can see clearly how good (or poor) a team actually is.
Speaking of poor performances, last year, Oklahoma’s defense was graded the worst among our ranked teams and, you guessed it, this year the defense is again the worst among our ranked teams (65.26). Because of their scintillating offense, the Sooners are chronically overrated in the polls. The four best defenses so far this year are Miami (102.23), Georgia (99.14), Clemson (99.07), and Alabama (96.26), so you can see how big the gap is. By the way, Ohio State is 12th out of our fourteen teams, better only than Stanford and Oklahoma. As Texas proved on Saturday, a terrific offense like Oklahoma’s can’t always outscore its opponents. Watch out, Buckeyes.
The best offensive performance of the weekend was Clemson’s in its 63-3 drubbing of Wake Forest, right? Not so fast, my friend. The RPG system doesn’t merely look at points scored, it looks at how efficiently an offense played. Clemson scored nine touchdowns on seventeen possessions, meaning it was stopped eight times. Its efficiency rating was 52.94% (9/17) and it scored an average of 3.71 points per possession (63/17). Alabama scored 51 points on just nine possessions for an efficiency rating of 88.89% and a scoring average of 5.67 points per possession. Alabama’s offense didn’t score as many points or have as many chances to score as Clemson’s, but it was more productive when it did have the ball and received a better offensive grade as a result. However, Clemson received the best overall game grade of the weekend, thanks to its defense and the difficulty Alabama had in stopping weak Arkansas from scoring.
For the season, the best offenses have been Alabama (127.61), Oklahoma (118.89), West Virginia (111.09), and Georgia (108.21). Two things to notice: the offenses have played far better than the defenses so far; and, West Virginia has been added to our rankings at No. 7, just ahead of Notre Dame which is still a bit over-ranked by the polls. RPG does not forget the two F grades the Irish made on earlier tests. The best way to describe the Mountaineers is talented but sloppy.
For a complete list of ranked teams and weekend playing performance grades, visit www.nemosnumbers.com. If you want to know how the numerical grades are calculated, find a copy of Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics wherever you buy books.