The sweet spot of college football is finally here. Not only do we have the most anticipated regular-season game in the PFF college football era, we also have four other matchups among teams in our top 25. The icing on the cake is the return of MACtion, which ushers in football on every night of the week for the foreseeable future. With so much to look forward to, let’s dive into our current top 25 power rankings as we head into Week 11.
PFFELO is an iterative system that updates each team’s rating after each game based on two things: how well they played against their opponent and how well they were expected to play against their opponent. The PFFELO rating system measures the former using our unique offensive, defensive and special teams grades, while the latter is determined by the PFFELO ratings leading up to the game and where the game is played.
For example, a heavy favorite playing at home is expected to outplay the visitor, so a victory would result in only a small rise in their PFFELO rating and a similarly-small decrease in the defeated team’s. But if an upset were to happen, the visiting team would see their PFFELO rating rise substantially, and the home team’s see a similarly-sized drop.
Sometimes in football, the best team does not win, and PFFELO accounts for these oddities by using our grades. Hence, there will be teams rated higher or lower in this system than their win-loss record would suggest. While adjustments are made using preseason market data, along with recruiting rankings, the majority of these numbers are derived using our grades. Since PFF began charting college football in 2014, the difference in PFFELO values alone has been able to explain over three-fourths of the variance in the closing Vegas line. Check back to profootballfocus.com for weekly college spread picks using this model (as well as other information) and check out PFF College Greenline for a full slate of against the spread and total lines based on our rating metrics.
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Top 25 Rankings:
Despite currently being the first team out of the initial College Football Playoff rankings, there is no conceivable way that an undefeated Clemson team doesn’t make the four-team bracket. Our power rankings align most closely with betting markets compared to other polls or ranking systems, with Clemson still the odds on favorite to win the national title. They will be leaped by Alabama in our rankings if the Crimson Tide win at home this weekend, but they still have the inside track in our simulation — reaching the playoffs 95% of the time while collecting the national title on close to 30% of occasions.
The most hyped regular-season showdown is finally upon us as the second and third overall teams in our rankings face off for a play-in game to the SEC conference championship. LSU continues to receive the hype in this matchup, with bettors cutting the opening touchdown line down to -6. Key matchups have already been covered, with a full betting preview dropping on Friday. Right now, Greenline gives the Crimson Tide a 69.1% win probability with current playoff odds sitting just shy of 80%.
The hottest team in America has exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations en route to an impressive 8-0 start. They have done everything asked of them, with Joe Burrow tied as the top-rated passer in college football. His aDot has fallen off in recent weeks, though, with his two worst-graded games coming recently. A move back to his early-season performance is necessary against the impressive Crimson Tide secondary, which will be the key to LSU being able to keep this a close game.
4. Ohio State
Ohio State checks in at No. 4 in our rankings but was just unveiled as the No. 1 team in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. They have two cupcake matchups coming in the Big Ten before wrapping up with Penn State and Michigan. They have quite possibly the most talented quarterback in the country, who now sits tied with Joe Burrow as our top-graded signal-caller. Justin Fields is also the clear number one in grade from a clean pocket but drops to fourth on throws targeted 10 or more yards downfield. People are starting to realize that Chase Young is the most dominant player in college football and should be the first non-quarterback selected in the upcoming NFL Draft. He leads the best pass rush unit in the nation — one with an overall unit grade of 93.1 and that has allowed -.532 average EPA per pass attempt.
5. Penn State
The forgotten matchup in Week 11 pits the two other teams in the Big Ten that are still undefeated. The Nittany Lions opened as road favorites by a touchdown, with the line continuing to fluctuate between that and 6.5 throughout the week. Penn State is in control of its own destiny but has the 21st most difficult remaining schedule. Greenline gives Penn State a 69% win probability on Saturday, with their showdown at Ohio State coming in two weeks. Despite currently sitting fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings, Penn State will need to win out to reach the promised land — something that we project to happen only 28% of the time.
Georgia increased its SEC title game odds by 22% with a win over Florida in Week 10. Greenline gives the Bulldogs a 90% win probability at home against Missouri this weekend. It is also a spot to target the spread, with Greenline giving Georgia a 53.4% cover probability at the -17 price. The Bulldogs control their own playoff destiny. If they win out and knock off an Alabama or LSU team in the SEC title game, there are few scenarios where they get left out of the playoff picture.
The Wolverines have easily had the most difficult non-SEC schedule in the FBS this year. Up to this point, they have had the eighth-most difficult schedule, with their remaining slate — including a bye — ranked fifth overall. With Shea Patterson playing barely above average at the quarterback position, it has once again been a dominant defense that has carried the Wolverines. Their pass rush is the third-highest graded unit in the FBS, with the sixth-best EPA allowed per pass play. As a coverage unit, they have the 11th best grade while allowing a successful pass play on just 35.5% of attempts. With quality quarterback play they have a shot at upsetting Ohio State at home, but the question of quality quarterback play has been the issue throughout 2019.
Auburn’s defense held strong in the end as the Tigers outlasted the Ole Miss Rebels. Auburn moved the ball effectively, posting .106 EPA per pass play. Settling for missed field goals stymied a handful of drives. It was not that encouraging of a performance for a team that still faces the 10th-most difficult remaining schedule. Settling for field goals isn’t going to get it done when Auburn takes on the likes of Georgia and Alabama to close out its regular season.
The Sooners come out of their bye needing to be perfect while receiving a little help from those above them in order to get back on track to the College Football Playoff. They have bumped out to two-touchdown favorites against Iowa State, with Greenline giving them a 79.8% win probability. They are currently ninth both in our rankings and the initial College Football Playoff rankings. It is hard to see a one-loss Big-12 team getting into the playoffs, with our current simulation having Oklahoma getting in just shy of 20% of the time.
10. Notre Dame
Notre Dame needed a signature drive from Ian Book to beat Virginia Tech at home on Saturday. It was only the third game this year that the Notre Dame passing attack has averaged a positive EPA per pass attempt. Ian Book’s 2019 performance has been buoyed by quality performances against New Mexico and Bowling Green, with no other game grades reaching an average passing grade. He has a gaudy touchdown to interception ratio, which only highlights how worthless those stats can be in context. Only 36% of his turnover-worthy plays have resulted in an interception, showcasing his luck in that department. Without strong quarterback play, this Notre Dame team has only been capable of beating up on lesser competition.
The Ducks continue to stay relevant in the College Football Playoff race and are a virtual lock to play in the Pac-12 title game. Justin Herbert is starting to find the ability that put him into discussions as a No. 1-overall pick last fall. He is doing it on a lower than expected aDot, but the Ducks have not played many shootouts with their outstanding coverage unit. Oregon ranks sixth in coverage grade and is second in the nation in the newly minted big-time interception stat. They need some chaos at the top to squeeze into the four-team playoff picture, but a one-loss Pac-12 team looks more enticing than a one-loss Big-12 team at this point.
The Utes won a big game on the road despite a less than impressive rushing performance in Week 10. Hopefully, that is indicative of the direction this offense is headed, as they now sit with a barely above break-even EPA per rush play in 2019. Their EPA per pass play by comparison is .374, which is tied for fourth in the FBS with the Ohio State offensive juggernaut. We have clamored for it all season, but it is finally time to unleash Tyler Huntley over their remaining Pac-12 schedule with the conference title game shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory.
The Gators suffered their final SEC body blow, all but knocking them out of contention for the SEC title game. They close out their season with three winnable matchups and should be on track to play in a relevant bowl game as a two-loss SEC team. Kyle Trask was under pressure on over 50% of his dropbacks against Georgia and posted a 47.7 passing grade when under pressure compared to 80.8 when clean. Conversely, Jonathan Greenard was ineffective, posting a 57.7 pass-rush grade while recording just three pressures with a 10% win and pressure rate. The Gators needed more from their offensive and defensive lines if they wanted a shot at an upset over Georgia in Week 10.
It was a much-needed week off for the Badgers, as they come out of their bye needing to win out and get a Minnesota loss to get back on top of the Big Ten West. Right now, they have just a 7% chance of getting to the conference title game and should open up as slight dogs to Minnesota on rivalry week. They have some tough tests before that, starting this weekend where they are 8.5-point home favorites over Iowa. Greenline gives the Badgers a 68.3% win probability in Week 11.
The Hawkeyes draw the other two teams atop the Big Ten West in subsequent weeks. They are over a touchdown road dogs this weekend and could easily open up as home dogs next weekend depending on how the Minnesota vs. Penn State battle breaks. Greenline sides heavily with Iowa this weekend, giving them a 57% cover probability at the current 8.5-point spread. It all rests on the shoulders of Nate Stanley, who has delivered only two games where this passing unit has averaged an above break-even EPA per pass attempt.
After coasting to an 8-0 start it is officially put up or shut up time for the Gophers who have the sixth most difficult remaining schedule in the FBS. They currently sit with a 75% chance of playing in the Big Ten title game. They have to realistically win three of their next four games to ensure they get a chance at the conference title. Their most difficult test is this weekend with Greenline giving them a 30% win probability against the fifth-ranked Nittany Lions. Bettors seem to have bought in slightly with this line moving off a touchdown spread down to +6.5.
17. Texas A&M
The Aggies get a needed break this weekend before embarking on the second most difficult remaining schedule in the FBS. Texas A&M has the talent to play road spoiler to Georgia or LSU over the last two weeks of the regular season. Defensively, they have allowed -.074 EPA per play, with only 40% of plays being successful from an EPA standpoint. Taking into account the quality of opponent they have faced shows that the Aggies can keep it close with anyone in the country.
Bettors have not lost faith in the Longhorns yet, pushing them out to touchdown favorites at home against Kansas State this Saturday. It is a tall task for a defense that has looked incapable of stopping anyone over their previous three weeks. Their coverage unit has the 92nd best grade in the FBS and ranks 111th in EPA allowed per pass play. Their completion percentage allowed of 68.1% is the 23rd highest mark in the FBS, and they are one of only four defenses to allow that high of a mark with an aDot over 10. Greenline isn’t buying in either, giving Texas just a 44% cover probability in Week 11.
The last remaining undefeated team in the Big 12 survived a close scare on Thursday night against West Virginia. The Bears control their own destiny in the Big 12, with our simulation giving them a 90% chance to reach the title game. They may not escape unscathed, with matchups against Oklahoma and Texas still looming.
It has been a challenging season in Washington, with the Huskies letting another close game slip away at home. This time, the blame falls directly on Jacob Eason, who posted his lowest passing game grade of 2019. He had a negative big-time throw to turnover-worthy play ratio with three turnover-worthy plays resulting in two interceptions and one pick-six. He also dealt with six drops, which is tough to overcome against one of the best secondaries in the FBS.
Sitting in the ‘what are you still doing here' category, Missouri had a brutal two-week stretch before its bye. They may not last long in our top 25, with matchups against Georgia and Florida coming in subsequent weeks. This weekend, they sit as 17-point road dogs in a game that Greenline loves for the home favorites. The Tigers are officially on blowout notice, which doesn’t bode well for their home matchup against Florida next week either.
The first AAC team in our rankings, the Knights almost got some of the help they needed to get back to the conference title game. East Carolina failed to finish off Cincinnati with UCF on the outside looking in, with just a 17% chance of getting to the title game. UCF has the fourth best EPA per pass attempt in the nation and will be a fun bowl matchup when the dust finally settles.
Pittsburgh heads into its bye with a 22% chance of getting to the ACC title game. Kenny Pickett has slowed since his early-season performance, with seven turnover-worthy plays over his past four games. He has also dealt with 11 drops and taken 10 sacks over that same timeframe, which has stalled out this offense on too many occasions. As a passing unit, they rank 95th in EPA averaged per pass play.
24. Iowa State
The Cyclones look to get back on track following their bye, heading to Norman to take on the Sooners. Bettors seem to have little confidence in Iowa State, with this spread rising from an opening of 13 out to two touchdowns in a rebound spot for Oklahoma. The question becomes if Brock Purdy can shake off his previous game performance, which was by far his lowest passing grade of his career — where he had six turnover-worthy plays. Greenline has faith, giving Iowa State a 52.9% cover probability at the current two-touchdown spread.
Memphis won a wild Saturday night shootout in front of the gameday crew. They sit tied atop the American West with an impressive Navy squad. Our simulation gives Memphis a 47% chance of getting to the title game, with the expectation they capture the crown 24.5% of the time. Brady White had one of his best games of 2019, throwing three big-time throws with an aDot of 12.3. Almost 67% of his yards came through the air, which highlighted how good this passing offense is. Currently, they are seventh in the nation in EPA per pass attempt with the 10th-best passing grade in the nation.