CFB Strength Ratings update: Season-defining Saturday shakes things up


The first Saturday in November was perhaps the most impactful day of the season in terms of how the College Football Playoff field will shake out. Three of the top six teams in the latest CFP poll lost, including No. 1 Tennessee, which was essentially manhandled by defending champion Georgia. Alabama and Clemson also lost, doing serious damage to their hopes to stay in the top four. Elsewhere, some fringe contenders flexed their muscles and boosted their resumes for playoff contention. Typically, there are only one or two Saturdays per season that have the impact that last weekend did. Let’s take a look at how the key results affected my strength ratings as we head into the 11th week of the season.

Power Ratings

The weather at Northwestern clearly had a huge impact on Ohio State’s play, but the fact that the Buckeyes were only able to turn back the pesky Wildcats 21-7 couldn’t go without “punishment.” As such, OSU falls back into a tie with Georgia atop my Power Ratings, each at 74.5. The Bulldogs get the official No. 1 spot by virtue of their higher Effective Strength Ratings, the second-most important indicator in my sorting process. Alabama falls back to No. 3 after its loss at LSU but still maintains a highly respectable 71.5 PR. The two-loss Tide still maintain a glimmer of hope for a playoff berth, but a lot would have to happen between now and Dec. 4 for that to come to fruition. Michigan moves into the No. 4 spot in the PRs while Tennessee slips to No. 5. Interestingly enough, those two teams are in the rare position in which a single loss — assuming the Wolverines don’t win in Columbus in a few weeks — and failure to make a conference title game might still be good enough to earn a playoff bid. TCU remains the biggest threat to anyone among the top-rated teams as the Horned Frogs remain undefeated after taking care of Texas Tech. This Saturday’s game might be their biggest remaining test, however, as they are 7-point underdogs at Texas, the team ranked No. 6 in my PRs.


Some of the other big games on tap for Saturday include LSU at Arkansas, Louisville at Clemson, Georgia at Mississippi State, Washington at Oregon and North Carolina at Wake Forest.

Biggest upward Power Ratings movers after Week 10

1. Georgia State (+3.5 points)

Lost in the state of Georgia on Saturday because of the Bulldogs’ strong effort was another big win for a less prominent resident, Georgia State. The Panthers had what could best be described as an overwhelming victory at Southern Miss as they ran for 388 yards (out of 521 total) in turning back the Golden Eagles 42-14. Their defense also held USM to 202 yards. GSU has put together a 4-1 SU and ATS mark in its last five games and is making a strong push for a bowl bid.

2. Western Kentucky (+3.5 points)

The Hilltoppers were on my biggest downward movers list last week, but to be fair, they had run into what is becoming a buzzsaw in North Texas, a team on a roll having now covered six straight games. WKU throttled Charlotte 59-7 on Saturday, putting up 461 passing yards. It was the closest this team has looked like the QB Bailey Zappe version of a year ago all season. While still in the hunt for a C-USA title bid, WKU needs some help.

3. Iowa (+3 points)

Iowa’s offense has certainly received a lot of negative attention all season. However, over the last two weeks, the Hawkeyes look like a team that could have some say in the Big Ten West race on both sides of the ball. While aided a bit by some nasty weather at Purdue, Iowa put together an impressive effort in beating the Boilermakers 24-3. They put up 376 yards on offense, split nearly evenly on the ground and through the air. Up next is a big test at home versus Wisconsin, another team that seems to be heating up late in the season.

4. Liberty (+3 points)

Liberty’s last two trips into SEC country left a lot to be desired as it was outscored 80-14. Otherwise, the Flames have been a very tough opponent for most Power 5 schools, and they proved themselves worthy by taking down Arkansas 21-19 on Saturday. It was thought this might be a rebuilding season for coach Hugh Freeze’s team after losing QB Malik Willis and 10 other starters from last season, but they’ve kept it going, running their record to 8-1, a mark that includes three outright upsets. The rest of the schedule is very manageable, and at 11-1, could this team be the Group of 5 rep in the New Year’s Six bowls?

Biggest downward movers after Week 10

1. Charlotte (-3.5 points)

Charlotte was on the upward movers list last week after its mammoth blowout of Rice. However, anything gained there was immediately lost with an ugly decision versus Western Kentucky. The 49ers have lost all five of their home games this season, both SU and ATS, getting outscored 46.2-20.4. A miserable 2-8 season wraps up with games at MTSU and at home versus Louisiana Tech over the next two weeks.

2. Oklahoma State (-3.5 points)

Oklahoma State was in this exact position last week, meaning the Cowboys have now dropped seven points in my Power Ratings since their impressive upset of Texas on Oct. 22. Sure, the absence of QB Spencer Sanders hurt them last week, but it was no excuse for allowing 554 yards of offense to a Kansas team that is still riding its backup quarterback. OSU has fallen out of the Big 12 title race but can still finish strong with games remaining against three teams below them in the standings.

3. Southern Miss (-3.5 points)

I already mentioned earlier how much USM was outplayed by Georgia State on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, there was no reason to see it coming. They were favored by two points and had won three straight games. With difficult games upcoming this week and next, Southern Miss may be left fighting for bowl eligibility in the season finale vs. Louisiana-Monroe.

4. Miami (-3 points)

Miami is making regular visits to the biggest downward movers list, and even still, I’m not sure I’m deducting enough points for how bad of a free fall it’s been. Tom Petty would be jealous. The Hurricanes are on the verge of one of the worst ATS seasons ever for a college football team, as they’ve lost eight straight games against the Vegas number. To get beat by FSU 45-3 while being outgained 454-188 has to be absolutely painful for Miami alumni. As strange as it seems though, a 2-1 finish, not completely out of the question, could find this underachieving bunch bowl eligible.

Effective Strength Ratings

Georgia has assumed the top spot in the Effective Strength Ratings, and for the first time this season, the nine teams at the top of the Power Ratings are the same in the ESRs, albeit with a bit of shuffling. Those are the standout highlights after a Saturday of craziness in college football. The Bulldogs have an ESR of 46.3, 0.8 points superior to Ohio State, which dropped by 1.6 points after their unimpressive win at Northwestern. Alabama holds down the No. 3 spot after its loss, a somewhat comfortable 2.3 points better than Tennessee. Michigan sits in at No. 5. On the move upward in the ESRs of late are LSU, Baylor and Florida State. At the bottom, after an impressive winning surge, Florida International revealed its true colors again Saturday, getting routed by North Texas. FIU is close to resuming its bottom-dwelling rank but is still rated 0.6 points better than UMass right now. Hawaii, New Mexico State and Charlotte are statistically the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 worst teams in FBS, respectively. Pac-12 Colorado again has a Power 5 worst ESR of -4.0 through nine games and is essentially playing at the average Conference USA level. The Buffaloes have to travel to USC on Friday night as well.

Bettors Ratings

The market has moved to Ohio State as its most respected college football team after Week 10, although the Buckeyes could be affected in the next week or two if bettors react negatively to their lackluster effort at Northwestern. Alabama remains No. 2 in these “market ratings,” with a BR of -46.8, 1.9 points worse that OSU. Georgia sits at No. 3 with a BR of -44.5 but could move up as there seems to be respect gained based on the dominant win over Tennessee. There is a big drop to Michigan at No. 4 and another big drop to Texas at No. 5. Count Oklahoma, Wake Forest and Purdue among the highly rated teams in the Bettors Ratings that aren’t thought of so highly in the PRs or ESRs. On the opposite end of this strength indicator, you’ll again find UMass and FIU as the lowest-rated teams, but Hawaii is not far ahead. The lowest-rated BR team out of the Power 5 is again Colorado, with a 9.1-point cushion still in place between the Buffaloes and Boston College. Currently, bettors believe Colorado is 52 points worse than Ohio State.

Recent Ratings

I always find some of the most interesting information in the Recent Ratings each week. Last week I pointed out how well Louisville and LSU were playing of late and suggested readers take notice. Both teams won in impressive fashion and hence continue to climb up the RR chart, both occupying spots in the top 10. LSU is No. 4 with a RR of 43.6, which, if maintained over the course of a season, would mean a Power Rating of 72, championship-worthy. Louisville, after its rout of James Madison, is No. 10, at 37.7. The only ACC team hotter right now is Florida State, with a RR of 37.8. The Cardinals face a big test Saturday at Clemson, and in terms of recent play, Louisville is performing at about 15 points better over the last few weeks, and with Clemson installed as 7-point favorites, something has to give. As far as FSU is concerned, I am still pulling for two more wins for coach Mike Norvell’s team to beat a 7.5-win prop. The Seminoles are playing well now, so I like my chances. A little bit further down the RR list, Michigan State and North Texas are playing far better football than the markets are giving them credit for. At the bottom of the RRs, you’ll find UMass, AGAIN, but perhaps more interestingly, you’ll find three teams that seem to be trending in the wrong direction, with Recent Ratings far below their Power Ratings. Those teams are New Mexico, Rice and Kent State. I mentioned last week that teams performing in this manner can prove to be gold to go against. The lowest Recent Rated Power 5 team is Colorado, although the Buffaloes are barely behind floundering Miami, a team ranked in the top 15 of the polls at the start of the season.

Schedule Strength Ratings

The Schedule Strength Ratings show the level of schedule strengths the teams have played. They are sorted in toughest-to-weakest order. With most FBS teams having played nine games, the SSR ratings are a strong indicator of which teams have tested themselves to this point and which might not be ready for the rest of the season. The most tested team to this point is Auburn (52.59 average opponent PR), by a relatively significant margin. The Tigers, who recently fired head coach Bryan Harsin, played a competitive game Saturday against Mississippi State under interim coach Cadillac Williams. Auburn still has a game at Alabama on the docket, so there is a good chance they finish the season at No. 1. The other teams that have played tough slates thus far are Michigan State, Colorado and Florida. I pointed this out last week, but again, the Spartans’ tough schedule helped ready them for their upset win at Illinois on Saturday. The FBS teams that have played the easiest slates to this point have been New Mexico State and San Jose State. These Spartans are also an interesting case, as I specifically made a winning bet against them last week with Colorado State, as SJSU was what I believed to be a highly overpriced favorite who hadn’t warranted that amount of respect from winning against a weak schedule.

FCS Teams

South Dakota State remains the top team in my FCS power ratings through Week 10 but once again, North Dakota State is nipping at its heels, just 0.5 points back. Incarnate Word is also creeping up, just a single point behind SDSU while Sacramento State is No. 4 at 40.5. In other words, there are four FCS teams within 1.5 points of one another at the top. Sacramento State leads the Effective Strength Ratings, with Weber State a close second. The other teams to consider when looking for potential FCS title contenders in terms of statistical ratings are Montana and Mercer. If you’re curious as to which team is getting the most respect in the Bettors Ratings, that is also South Dakota State at -13.9, while the hottest team lately is Incarnate Word, with a RR of 18.3. Western Illinois has played the toughest schedule of any FCS team.