Personally, I think the main take away from college football’s week 3 is that there is going to be a lot more uncertainty at all levels of competition than there have been in normal years past. The elite programs like Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State look nothing like their usual juggernaut selves. Ranked teams are losing in droves. Home betting underdogs are cashing in. As I stated last week, a 2007 redux could very well be on the horizon for the national landscape.
Examining our own backyard, there seems to be a much more crowded upper tier than we would have expecting going into the season. One might argue that, depending on bounces, injury luck, and if you squinted as hard as Michael Palledorous, there are six or seven squads that could end up in Indianapolis. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself and giving too much credit to too few results, especially since we haven’t quite kicked into high gear within the conference schedule. But I think due to a lot of the crazy factors surrounding college football the last year and half have thrown our course into a bit of disarray.
I couldn’t think of anything for tiers this week and I almost decided not to label them but then I glanced over to the book shelf in my basement that houses our board games, and poof, a stupid, pointless theme was born! Board game tiers... COMMENCE!
(Do with these rankings what you will. SP+ rank and FEI (Fremeau Efficiency Index) rank is provided next to each team, respectively. Click these links for more information on SP+ and FEI. The previous week’s position in these pointless power rankings follows those two superior metrics.)
The Settlers of Catan Tier
#1 - Penn State Nittany Lions (7th, 8th, last week #2)
#2 - Iowa Hawkeyes (14th, 6th, last week #1)
#3 - Ohio State Buckeyes (4th, 4th, last week #3)
#4 - Michigan Wolverines (6th, 3rd, last week #4)
Mainly, these teams are rich in resources. For some, they are rich in 5-star recruits. For others, they are rich in staff and scheme consistency. In any case, these are the teams that, as of three games into the season, seem like they will compete for divisional titles. Now, three of these teams happen to be in the same division and will undoubtedly cannibalize each other, much like opposing players on the island of Catan do. Penn State had a nice non-conference home win against Auburn this past weekend. That in conjunction with an away intra-divisional victory over Wisconsin bumped them ahead of the Hawkeyes for the week. The Indiana victory is losing its luster for Iowa but their defense looks other-worldly. We will just wait until October 2nd to settle the score. In the meantime, I bet Coach Ferentz has some sheep he’d like to trade you...
The Stratego Tier
#5 - Michigan State Spartans (40th, 30th, last week #6)
#6 - Wisconsin Badgers (10th, 9th, last week #5)
#7 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (29th, 26th, last week #7)
Honestly, I think Wisconsin deserves to be in the conversation with the other teams in the tier above but I’m doing a little strategery here until I have more information available to me. After the Notre Dame game in Chicago, I think we’ll have a much better handle on the Badgers for the remainder of the season. As for the Spartans, I like the fact that they have two away wins already, despite the competition not being the highest level. I’m surprised the advanced metrics are treating them as kindly so it’s very possible I have over-ranked them this week but I like to reward Power 5 road wins... which leads me to our beloved Gophers. An excellent performance in Boulder this past weekend but I just can’t push them any higher at the moment. We honestly won’t know much about them until we see them play Purdue on the road in a couple weeks.
The Balderdash Tier
#8 - Maryland Terrapins (31st, 78th, last week #8)
#9 - Purdue Boilermakers (55th, 48th, last week #10)
#10 - Indiana Hoosiers (49th, 47th, last week #9)
#11 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (71st, 77th, last week #12)
I’m not entirely sure what to make of any of these teams. Whether due to some hang ups about past season’s performances or because there isn’t enough data against decent teams to make too much of a conclusion or that the various rating systems are not aligned (I’m looking at you Maryland). To rank these teams would be utter nonsense. Hence, the Balderdash name. I have to kind of just make it up as I go, just as one would make up a definition to a word while playing Balderdash. This past week, you had two moral victories from this group (Purdue and Indiana), one unconvincing win against a cellar dweller (Maryland), and a once down-trodden program attempting a comeback (Rutgers). Honestly, I think all these teams will remain around this tier the rest of the season but I can’t be too sure of anything just yet.
The Sorry! Tier
#12 - Northwestern Wildcats (85th, 70th, last week #12)
#13 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (36th, 60th, last week tied - #13)
#14 - Illinois Fighting Illini (92nd, 100th, last week tied - #13)
As much as it pains me to do so, Nebraska deserves to move past an Illinois team that beat them in Week 0. The data suggests they are the superior team. However, I will not “untier” these three teams until someone proves they belong higher. Northwestern looks as though its going to have one of its “down years” again which means very nearly in the cellar of the conference. It’s quite possible that these teams could be grouped with the rest of the bottom third but I’ll need more inter-conference data before I jump to too many conclusions. The tier name speaks for itself.