News & Analysis

PFF Top 25 College Football Power Rankings following Week 11

Week 11 exceeded expectations as the best regular-season week of college football we have had in quite some time. Four matchups between top-25 teams were decided by less than a touchdown, with two undefeated teams suffering their first loss of the season. The College Football Playoff selection committee may not be able to handle any more chaos at the top, as we have three clear favorites to get into the four-team race with the fourth team needing to add impressive victories still to their resume. We have a remade Top 25 rankings as we head into the final weeks of regular season play.

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.

[Editor’s Note: All ELITE subscribers have access to PFF Greenline, an online dashboard with projections for the spread, total and moneyline for NFL and FBS games every week. Subscribe today to gain access!]

Top 25 Rankings:

1.  Clemson

Clemson sits atop our rankings despite less impressive victories than the other teams currently locked into the top four. Their toughest ACC matchup has never materialized, as they sit as almost five-touchdown favorites to Wake Forest this weekend. Resume and strength of schedule matter, but when you are the undefeated reigning national champion, you are all but guaranteed to get into the four-team race. Our simulation loves the Tigers, all but locking them into the college football playoff while giving their championship odds value at anything greater than +250.

2. LSU

No team deserves to be in the playoff bracket more than the undefeated LSU Tigers. Their strength of schedule up to this point is third in the nation. Joe Burrow is running away with the Heisman trophy as the likely number one overall pick next April. We are higher than most on the Georgia Bulldogs, meaning our projection for LSU’s SEC title chances are lower than expected. The expectation is that LSU rolls through their remaining schedule, but in the unlikely event they drop the SEC title game to Georgia, there is still a compelling case for a one-loss LSU team to get into the four-team playoff picture.

3. Alabama

It is hard to fault Tua Tagovailoa for the Crimson Tide’s first loss in 2019. He actually posted a slightly higher game grade than Joe Burrow while accounting for five big-time throws. The Tide had the number one overall defensive ranking but couldn’t stop Burrow at any point on Saturday. It is another example of high-quality offense trumping great defense. Alabama’s coverage unit had been exceptional when opposing teams targeted the wide receiver position, posting a 92.0 coverage grade. That all changed on Saturday with their coverage game grade of 41.5, as they allowed .761 EPA per pass attempt to wide receivers. It is nearly impossible to predict what the committee will do, but a one-loss Alabama team not making it to the SEC title game feels like a far cry from the four-team playoff bracket despite likely being one of the four most talented teams in the nation.

4. Ohio State

Sitting atop the College Football Playoff rankings and the odds on favorite to win the national title, Ohio State looks a bit undervalued in our current rankings. Justin Fields can easily lay claim to being the second-best quarterback in the nation at this point. They average the fourth-best EPA per pass attempt in the nation. Along with their impressive offense stats, their defense is clearly the best unit in the country. It is touch and go with Chase Young, but it sounds like he should be back in time to play a key role for the Buckeyes at the end of their regular-season schedule. We are higher on both Penn State and Michigan than most rankings, which is why our simulation gives slightly worse odds to Ohio State both making and winning the national championship currently. With the talent that resides on both sides of the football, we are preparing to be wrong on our lower projections for the Buckeyes quickly.

5. Georgia

It has been the same message for weeks, but if Georgia simply wins out, they will secure a place in the College Football Playoff. With how good LSU is currently playing, that looks like a more difficult task each passing week. The Bulldogs once again find themselves in our Game of the Week matchup, heading on the road to face Auburn. We appear to be much higher than most on Georgia, backing them in a cover victory against Missouri last week. We are all over their -2.5 point spread against Auburn this weekend, giving them a 60.7% cover probability according to our Greenline projections. If it all plays out as planned, we could be looking at Georgia as greater than a touchdown dog to LSU in the SEC title game.

6. Minnesota

P.J. Fleck got his signature victory as the Golden Gophers move to 9-0 and officially enter the playoff discussion. Tanner Morgan was nearly perfect, posting a 94.7 passing grade with a 90% completion percentage. He maintained near-perfect precision while averaging 10.7 aDot and throwing past the sticks on 65% of attempts. The Gophers have been a pleasant surprise all year, but if they continue to get near-elite quarterback play, they have the receiver unit and coverage ability to play with anyone in the country.

7. Penn State

The Nittany Lions fell just short on the road, with Sean Clifford receiving some tough turnover luck after throwing three interceptions. Clifford is one of only 14 quarterbacks in the FBS to have a higher number of interceptions than turnover-worthy throws, with the fourth-highest percentage in the nation. The Nittany Lions have a road matchup against Ohio State in two weeks that provides them the opportunity to reenter the playoff discussion with an upset victory, which would slide them back into the Big Ten title game.

8. Auburn

Auburn comes out of their bye week as 2.5-point home dogs to Georgia this Saturday. Our feelings for Bo Nix have been clear all season, but he has been more than capable against teams that don’t sit atop our defensive rankings. Unfortunately for Nix, the Georgia Bulldogs currently have the 10th best opponent-adjusted defense ranking in the country. This feels like a mispriced spot for Auburn in a game that could easily get away from them quickly. It could be an old fashioned SEC defensive showdown, but our projections point toward Georgia running away with a convincing victory in Auburn.

9. Michigan

The Wolverines have quietly covered five of their last six games since their brutal loss to Wisconsin in Week 4. It is a rivalry matchup this weekend, with Michigan sitting as 13.5-point favorites at home to Michigan State. It is a matchup of our fourth- and second-ranked defenses in the Big Ten, with the total expecting just over six touchdowns. This is a spot that we think Michigan will roll in, giving them a 54.9% cover probability at the current spread price. The Wolverines still have their end of regular-season showdown with Ohio State circled even if the rest of the nation has forgotten at this point.

10. Oklahoma

The Sooners survived a potential catastrophic blow to their slim playoff hopes by outlasting Iowa State at home in Week 11. Their offensive output still ranks as the best in the nation, but with just the 72nd best defense, they find themselves in more close shootouts than their talent projects. Our simulation gives the Sooners the sixth-best odds of getting to the playoffs, but they sit behind both of the one-loss SEC teams at this point.

11. Oregon

The forgotten team out west is still clinging to the hope that a one-loss Pac-12 title will be enough to make the College Football Playoff. Our simulation sees that happening just 9% of the time, with quite a bit of chaos needing to occur at the top for the Ducks to sneak in. With Justin Herbert rounding into form, this team has the talent at key positions to hang with anyone in the country. Their one low spot is a lack of playmakers on the outside for Herbert to deliver the ball to. The Pac-12 title game is shaping up to be one of the best matchups we have had recently.

12. Utah

The other Pac-12 team with playoff aspirations needs the same breaks as Oregon to backdoor their way into the four-team bracket. Utah sits with the second-best defense in college football, with the 10th-best EPA allowed per pass play and second-best EPA allowed per run play. If they didn’t rely on Zach Moss so much at the expense of Tyler Huntley, we would most likely project the Utes to beat Oregon when all is said and done.

13. Florida

Florida has played with the best of the SEC and has to be encouraged seeing their quarterback position stabilize with the play of Kyle Trask. Trask hasn’t significantly increased the production of those around him, but he has been above average despite having too many turnover-worthy plays. If he can cut out a few of the errant throws, he has flashed the capability of making any throw needed on the field. He has the 20th-best accuracy percentage and has thrown the 12th-lowest percentage of uncatchable inaccurate throws in the FBS.

14. Notre Dame

The Ian Book enigma lives on for another week after an impressive road victory over Duke. Book posted just a 67.5 passing grade, but that is his fourth-highest game grade of 2019. Most of his offensive production came via his legs, as the Fighting Irish averaged .171 EPA per rush attempt in Week 11. It is a recipe that works against lesser teams but goes to show the struggles this offense has had when facing quality opponents.

15. Wisconsin

Wisconsin rode the Jonathan Taylor Train to victory in the fourth quarter, outlasting a hungry Iowa team hoping for a comeback. The Badgers continue to highlight the shortcomings related to relying on running the football for offensive production. It was their first time in four weeks where they averaged a positive EPA per rush attempt. They now sit at .082 EPA averaged per rush attempt, which is barely above break-even on 384 rush attempts. Without an offensive philosophy change, it is hard to see the Badgers graduating to the class of the Big Ten anytime soon.

16. Iowa

Iowa secured us a cover at +8.5 in our game of the week writeup for Week 11. The loss, unfortunately, drops them completely out of the Big Ten race. The Hawkeyes have opened up as three-point home favorites over the undefeated Golden Gophers. This line may continue to fluctuate, but Greenline gives Iowa a 55.5% chance at delivering the Gophers their first loss this Saturday.

17. Baylor

Baylor needed multiple overtimes to survive on the road against TCU. They are rewarded with a tough two-game stretch, starting against Oklahoma at home where the Bears are listed as 9.5-point dogs. Despite their undefeated record, Baylor has gotten little support from betting markets but appears underpriced in our game of the week matchup. Greenline leans toward the Bears, giving them a 55.4% cover probability but just a 28.7% chance at staying undefeated in Week 12.

18. Texas

It has been a brutal four-game stretch for Texas, but they did outlast Kansas State at home in Week 11. This weekend, they head on the road as touchdown dogs to Iowa State. In Week 13, they are most likely looking at a similar spread when they head to Baylor. With just a 13% chance at playing in the Big-12 title game, it has been a quick fall from grace for the 2019 Longhorns, as things could get much worse before they get better.

19. Texas A&M

Neutral in Week 11, the Aggies get one final date at home before road showdowns against Georgia and LSU to cap their brutal 2019 schedule. They have had the 25th most difficult schedule up to this point, with games against three teams in our top 25. Their remaining schedule is third toughest in the FBS, with road matchups against two teams in our top five. They have not lost a game where they were favored in 2019, and a couple covers to wrap up their regular season would be a nice resume builder for their bowl credentials. Right now, they are an extremely tough draw come bowl season.

20. Washington

The offenses failed to show up, but Washington rode an impressive defensive performance to victory last Friday night. They are now one of only two teams in our top 25 observing the late Week 12 bye week. It is tough to find a more disappointing team in 2019, with the Huskies needing to win out to secure a winning record in conference play. Jacob Eason has flashed at points but will probably stay in school another year after a season that failed to see his draft stock materialize.

21. Missouri

Missouri wasn’t dinged for their loss to Georgia while starting backup Taylor Powell. Once thought to be a contender in the SEC East, the Tigers have looked like a disaster in recent weeks. They have been pushed out to touchdown dogs at home in their matchup against Florida. With questions on Kelly Bryant still swirling, this is a game to avoid at all cost, with Missouri most likely out of our top 25 after Week 12.

22. Pittsburgh

The Panthers come out of their bye week set to host UNC in some ACC Thursday night action. They have dropped to four-point favorites, with Greenline offering no discernible edge at either the current spread or total price. Pittsburgh needs a Virginia loss to squeeze into the ACC title game. Right now our simulation gives them just a 15% chance of winning out and getting help for the right to play Clemson.

23. Iowa State

Brock Purdy and the Cyclones came within a successful two-point conversion from upsetting Oklahoma in Norman last weekend. It was a bounce-back performance for Purdy, who relied on his receivers to generate significant yards after the catch. As the third-ranked team in the Big-12, they sit as seven-point favorites over the fourth-ranked Longhorns. Greenline leans toward Texas covering in what has all the makings of an exciting Big-12 shootout on Saturday.

24. Memphis

The Tigers head out of their bye with three tough conference tests remaining on their schedule. They need to win out or get some help to reach the AAC title game. Right now, our simulation gives them a 50% chance of reaching and 26% chance of winning the AAC conference. Brady White is playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the country, posting the 15th best overall grade while maintaining an aDot over 10.

25. Virginia

Rounding out our top 25 is the second team with a bye in Week 12. The Cavaliers have the inside track to the ACC title game, needing a home win against Virginia Tech in the last week of the season. Our simulation gives them a 70% chance of getting to the conference title game, where they will open up around three touchdown dogs to Clemson.

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