With three weeks to go in college football’s regular season, Alabama has vaulted to #1 in the Anderson & Hester Computer Rankings. The 1-loss Crimson Tide, which beat previously undefeated Mississippi State on Saturday to move up from #3, edged undefeated Florida State in this week’s rankings (.816 to .813), while 1-loss Oregon (#3 at .803) and Mississippi State (#4 at .795) aren’t far behind. There’s a relatively clear division between the top 4 teams and the rest of the field (with #5 TCU coming in at .780), so things should be pretty easy for the College Football Playoff (CFP) Selection Committee when it releases its rankings tonight.
The same four teams compose the top-4 in both major subjective polls — with the order flipped between Florida State and Alabama — and in the other three non-margin-of-victory-driven computer rankings that were part of the Bowl Championship Series Standings. (The other two former BCS computer rankings, which now incorporate margin-of-victory (but didn’t during the past decade of the BCS), both rank undefeated Florida State outside of the top-5, and one ranks the (10-0) Seminoles behind 4-loss LSU.)
The Anderson & Hester Rankings, which don’t incorporate margin-of-victory (because it isn’t the object of the game), don’t rank Florida State behind Alabama because of the Seminoles’ repeated close calls — the latest having been their overcoming a 23-7 deficit on Saturday at Miami). After all, a win is a win (is a win). Rather, the Seminoles are ranked behind the Tide because FSU hasn’t beaten a current top-25 team. Still, Florida State is right on Alabama’s heels, and it’s an indication that there isn’t a standout team this season that neither the #1 or #2 team has a winning record versus the current top-25. (Alabama is 1-1 versus the top-25 — with both games having been against the top-10 — but is also an impressive 4-0 in games played away from home versus #26-40.)
In comparing the fourth and fifth spots, #4 Mississippi State has played 2 current-top-10 teams (Alabama and Auburn), while #5 TCU hasn’t played any, and both are 9-1.
Alas, the poll voters think that TCU has played a top-10 team — and a top-6 team at that — in (8-1) Baylor. But based on accomplishments to date, Baylor (#14 in the Anderson & Hester Rankings) is probably the most overrated team. The Bears are an impressive 2-0 versus the current top-25 (with a home win against TCU and a road win against #21 Oklahoma) but are only 1-1 versus the rest of the current top-90. That means that most of their wins (5 of 8) are against teams that are either ranked #91 or worse or else aren’t even among the 128 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. In comparison, #6 UCLA (ranked outside of the top-10 by both subjective polls) has 7 wins versus the current top-90 (2 versus the current top-25) and hasn’t lost to a team ranked outside of the current top-25. (Baylor lost at #31 West Virginia.)
As a 1-loss team, however (and there are now only seven 1-loss or undefeated teams left in major conferences — plus six 2-loss teams from the mighty SEC and Pac-12, which are presumably still in the running for playoff spots), Baylor can rise quickly if the Bears can post a couple more wins against decent teams (namely, #59 Oklahoma State and #15 Kansas State) in the three weeks to come.
Jeff Anderson is co-creator of the Anderson & Hester Computer Rankings, which were part of the BCS throughout its 16-year run and are now published by the Dallas Morning News.