Our ELO rankings have a new look throughout, as Week 7 brought distinct changes to our top 25. We have a new number one team while our third slot is filled by a new SEC team. The bottom half of our rankings saw quite a bit of turnover, with four of the bottom eight teams losing in Week 7. Let’s dive into the changes as we head towards the home stretch of college football's regular season.
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 PFF ELO 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 (link) for a full slate of against the spread and total lines based on our rating metrics.
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Top 25 Rankings:
The Crimson Tide climb into the top spot in our rankings following an impressive cover victory on the road against No. 23 Texas A&M. This was the third-lowest game grade Tua Tagovailoa has had as a starter. His reliance on his receivers has paid dividends, as he has the third-highest percentage of total yards coming after the catch among Power-5 quarterbacks. At some point, he will need to do damage downfield — which his overall accuracy ranking of 12th suggests he should be able to deliver on. His accuracy on throws 10 or more yards downfield draws concern, where he ranks just 45th among Power-5 quarterbacks. The Tide now have three straight home SEC games capped off by the showdown with LSU in four weeks.
Clemson got back on track after their bye, as they cruised to a covered victory against an overmatched Florida State squad. It turned into the Travis Etienne show, as he forced a missed tackle on over half his carries en route to 77 yards after contact. The talent on these top two teams forces us to nitpick average quarterback play from some of the best signal-callers in college football. There is a reason why both Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa begin the year as Heisman favorites only to drop in our rankings so far in 2019. It is hard to look negatively on either quarterback for spreading the football to playmakers who put up impressive production downfield. The thing that causes us to pause with Clemson is their lack of production when passing from an EPA standpoint, where they average .036 EPA per pass attempt. Their rushing EPA of .165 has buoyed this offense and should allow them to coast to another playoff berth where they will need to blossom into the passing attack they are capable of if they want to repeat as National champions.
LSU continues to roll off impressive victories, adding to their playoff pedigree while building the momentum for Joe Burrow to win the Heisman. Life is good when you have the highest-graded quarterback in college football who is capable of making any throw on the football field. Things do not let up for the Tigers, though, as they have the fourth most difficult remaining schedule in the FBS. With matchups remaining against three teams in our top 25, LSU will need to be as perfect as they have been playing throughout their remaining regular-season schedule. Should a one-loss LSU team get in before an undefeated conference champion is a question the playoff committee will most likely need to answer at the end of this season.
4. Ohio State
The Buckeyes utilized a week of rest as they prepare for the remaining six games on their schedule, featuring three matchups against the other top teams in the Big Ten. All three of these teams are currently in our top 11, giving Ohio State the 21st most difficult remaining schedule. With two Heisman trophy contenders on their roster, Ohio State is as talented as any team in the country. Realizing their 36% probability of making the playoffs will take near-perfect execution during the latter half of their regular-season schedule.
Despite being the third most likely team to make the College Football Playoff for some time, the Sooners' ranking in our system left them lower than expected due to their matchup difficulty to start 2019. They finally got the signature victory their resume needed with a 34-27 neutral-site victory over Texas. The Sooners won in a fashion we have come to expect, as CeeDee Lamb ran loose all over the field. Lamb forced seven missed tackles on five explosive plays while chipping in three touchdowns on 94 yards after the catch. Oklahoma has matchups against Iowa State and Baylor — two new entries into our top 25 — remaining on their Big-12 schedule. We continue to be high on their playoff chances, giving them the third most likely odds.
6. Penn State
On the outside looking in, the Nittany Lions start the next tier of quality FBS teams who most likely will find themselves on the outs of the playoff picture in 2019. Penn State has the opportunities in front of them, however, and simply needs to win out to reach the four-team race. It starts this weekend at home in our game of the week against Michigan. Penn State has found backing from bettors — after opening as 7.5 point favorites, this spread has ballooned out to -9 for the Nittany Lions. If they survive as favorites this weekend, they have matchups on the road against Minnesota and Ohio State looming on the horizon.
It was a painful setback for a team we were high on, as Georgia never really got going in their home defeat against South Carolina. Jake Fromm had by far his lowest graded game of 2019 with a 52.8% completion percentage on 58 pass attempts. Fromm had a bit of turnover bad luck, as he threw three interceptions but had only one turnover-worthy throw. His receivers gave him little help, as he dealt with four drops and only 26% of his total yards came after the catch. The Bulldogs are all but written off and need convincing wins against Florida and Missouri in back to back weeks to regain control of the SEC East. If they win out and pull off an upset in the SEC championship game, they could throw the playoff race into complete and utter chaos.
8. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish held off a late charge from USC and skirted by with a 30-27 victory. Ian Book was plagued by drops and, despite a 6.8 aDot, almost 60% of his yards came through the air. Book has embodied average quarterback play in 2019, which is fitting given his 73.9 passing grade in 2019. Notre Dame has a week off before a matchup at the big house in Michigan. This is the last top-25 matchup Notre Dame has on their current schedule. They will need quite a bit of help to sneak back into the college playoff discussion at the end of the season.
The Badgers had one of the most impressive victories of Week 7 in a dominating performance over Michigan State. Wisconsin may have a historically good defense, as they have allowed a successful pass play from an EPA standpoint on only 28% of attempts. They don’t get to play Brian Lewerke every week, but they just pitched their fourth shutout in six attempts so far in 2019. More of the same could be on tap for this weekend, as they have opened as 31-point road favorites against Illinois. Following is their road matchup against Ohio State, as they close the season facing off against three teams in our top 25 among their remaining five-game schedule.
Florida played well but ran into the buzz saw that is the 2019 LSU Tigers offense. Kyle Trask had his second-best game since becoming the starter, and the Gators actually led early in the third quarter. Trask was confident throwing downfield, with 50% of his attempts traveling 10 or more yards. He continues to experience some luck with his turnover-worthy throws, as only 33% of such attempts have resulted in interceptions. The Gators control their own destiny in the SEC East, and we have them getting to the conference title game in 30% of simulations.
Michigan allowed Illinois to hang around for too long but utilized some late turnovers to put the game comfortably away in the fourth. Michigan now stares down the third most difficult rest-of-season schedule among FBS teams. Their remaining schedule has an average opponent ELO number which would rank 16th in our current standings. They have matchups against four teams in our top 25 and three teams in our top 10. Their 7% chance of getting to the College Football Playoff seems accurate — if they run the table and win the Big Ten title, they assuredly deserve to continue playing for the national championship. This just doesn’t seem like a realistic option starting with this weekend where they find themselves as 9-point road dogs.
Auburn remained neutral for a week after their road loss to Florida as the rest of the SEC seemed to cannibalize themselves. Auburn has found a little betting backing in this weekend's matchup, but Greenline expects a tougher game could be in play for the Tigers. Like most things for the 2019 Auburn Tigers, it will come down to the play of Bo Nix. If he continues to struggle in big spots, we could see Joey Gatewood see an increase in snaps over their remaining schedule.
The Huskies find themselves with the slimmest of opportunities to make the Pac-12 title game, needing a win against Oregon this weekend followed by some help from Oregon’s remaining schedule. Washington has a tough two-game home stretch where they find themselves as 2.5-point ‘dogs this weekend with the Utes coming to town next. Jacob Eason has the ability to go toe-to-toe with Justin Herbert, as he has the fifth-best accuracy percentage among Power-5 quarterbacks. His ratio of 15 big-time throws to five turnover-worthy plays is the sixth-best ratio in the nation. Herbert has the hype, but Eason has the play in 2019 with Greenline buying into the Huskies as home ‘dogs in this crucial Pac-12 matchup.
Missouri has squeezed to the top of the SEC East and has over a 35% chance of getting to the conference title game. They have back-to-back matchups against Georgia and Florida coming in early November, which will determine the team that gets to face off against whichever juggernaut survives the SEC West. Kelly Bryant continues to be productive, with an above-average passing grade and impressive downfield throwing. On throws targeted 10 or more yards downfield Bryant has a 90.0 passing grade with a 58.2% adjusted completion percentage. They may falter toward the end of the season, but Bryant has been better than expected for Missouri in his graduate season.
It was not meant to be for Texas, who hung around against Oklahoma but never felt like they were within striking distance to actually upset the Sooners. Sam Ehlinger experienced pressure on 31% of dropbacks, which resulted in eight sacks. It continued to stall drives as Ehlinger performed well when able to throw downfield, posting an 86.7 passing grade on throws targeted 10 or more yards downfield. Ehlinger was also plagued by five drops as this offense rarely looked comfortable in defeat. It was disappointing for the Longhorn faithful, as Texas has little opportunity to re-enter college football relevance with their remaining regular-season schedule.
Utah once again flashed the ability that had everyone so excited about this team to start the season. Tyler Huntley has eight big-time throws and only one turnover-worthy play, giving him the best ratio of quality throws in the country. The Utes are very much in control of their own destiny in the Pac-12 South. They have almost a 40% chance of getting to the conference title game. If they win against Arizona State as 13.5-point favorites, their chances will continue to rise as they just need a little help from an opponent of USC.
We continue to be slightly lower than consensus rankings on the Oregon Ducks in 2019. This weekend's matchup against Washington will provide plenty of opportunities to evaluate the Ducks and Justin Herbert in a less-than-ideal setting. Oregon controls their own destiny in the Pac-12 with almost an 80% probability of making it to the conference title game. Bettors have bought in, making them 2.5-to 3-point road favorites. Greenline gives them a 51% win probability, which means our model has this game closer to a pick 'em than Oregon laying points.
The Gophers appear to have distanced themselves from their early season slow starts, rattling off three impressive wins in the Big Ten. They have two more easy matchups before a difficult four-game stretch to close out their regular season schedule. Outside of a brutal performance against Georgia Southern, Tanner Morgan has been elite, posting a 90.7 passing grade. There is a very real possibility that Minnesota's home matchup against Wisconsin to wrap up the season will be a play-in game to the Big Ten conference championship.
Iowa gets a much-needed reprieve from their brutal beginning Big Ten schedule. Nate Stanley and the Hawkeyes need to find their rhythm in winnable games against banged-up Big Ten opponents before heading to Wisconsin on Nov. 9. Iowa has had a quick fall from grace and now needs a significant amount of help to maintain relevancy in the Big Ten.
20. Iowa State
Iowa State jumps nine spots to our 20th overall ranking after a 38-14 thrashing of West Virginia. Brock Purdy continues to excel when throwing deep, posting the 13th best passing grade in the FBS on throws targeted 10 or more yards downfield. One of the only matchups standing in the way of Oklahoma coasting through their regular season schedule, the Cyclones still have a 20% chance of squeezing back into the Big 12 title game.
21. Michigan State
It has been a quick fall for the Spartans, as they have put up a measly 10 points through two games against the class of the Big Ten. They head into their bye needing to right the course of their passing offense, which now has a negative EPA per pass attempt in 2019. They clearly cannot compete with defense alone. Despite the struggles of Brian Lewerke, this passing offense also leads the country in dropped passes — something that should hopefully regress moving forward.
Baylor won a thrilling overtime game over Texas Tech in Week 7. They climb four spots into our top 25 despite failing to cover over the Red Raiders. Baylor has been the biggest climber in our ranking system, where they began the season as 60th in the country but have made up ground every week. Denzel Mims continues to flash big-time-catch ability on a weekly basis and is now tied for the third most big-time catches in the FBS.
23. Texas A&M
Texas A&M failed to do anything to slow Alabama’s offense and needed some late touchdowns to make this game appear closer than it was. It is no knock on the Aggies, as no one has been able to stop our No. 1-ranked team in 2019. Texas A&M looks to rebound on the road this weekend as 6.5-point favorites over Ole Miss. They continue on the most difficult schedule in college football with their regular season wrapping up with road games against Georgia and LSU.
24. Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons failed to win in a wild shootout against Louisville on Saturday night. Jamie Newman missed time due to an injury, with Wake Forest unable to mount the full comeback in the fourth quarter. This team will go as far as Newman is able to take it. So if he misses any significant time, they could drop out of the top 25 quickly.
25. Boise State
Boise State rounds out our top 25 after jumping six spots following an offensive explosion over Hawaii. Hank Bachmeier has been impressive with 14 big-time throws and only five turnover-worthy plays on throws targeted 10 or more yards downfield. His 91.6 passing grade on such throws is the 23rd best mark in the country. This passing offense averages .165 EPA per pass attempt. We have their odds at exactly 50% of winning the Mountain West Conference.