Rankings through games of 2012-11-11
New entries: Cincinnati.
Dropped out: Penn State.
Well, it finally happened. Going into the game, Texas A&M had roughly a 10% chance of beating Alabama, and they pulled it off. Those are pretty much the same odds Iowa State had against Oklahoma State last year when the Cyclones upset the Cowboys. The Aggies definitely put themselves in a position to win this game, but in many ways this was a replay of the Auburn-Alabama game of 2010; Alabama should've pulled it out in the end but was doomed by their own mistakes.
For everyone saying that this "proves" that Alabama isn't a great football team, answer me this one question: if give Alabama 1st and goal from the 5 yard line, do you bet that they will score a TD, or do you bet that they'll come up empty? According to CFBStats.com, the Crimson Tide has gone 39/42 in the red zone this year, with 30 of those 39 scores being touchdowns.
In the end, Texas A&M put themselves in a position to win, and Alabama make crucial mistakes to hand them the victory.
So where does that leave the top 25?
TFG is conservative and won't overreact to a single game, so while Alabama drops a few points in the Expected Win metric, they're still a comfortable #1. LSU easily handled Mississippi State to stay a distant second. Below that, though, things are very crowded. Oregon and FSU are in an actual tie for third, while Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Florida, and Oklahoma are all right on their heels. The difference between Oregon/Notre Dame and Oklahoma is so small that either team would only have a 52.6% chance of defeating the Sooners.
"But wait!" you might say, "Notre Dame beat Oklahoma pretty soundly, 30-13!" True. But if you look at how the game unfolded you'll remember that they were tied at 13 with only a few minutes left in the game. Notre Dame engineered a long drive to go up 20-13, and then the Sooners had two costly turnovers in the closing 5 minutes to give the Irish another 10 points.
With Stanford and Wisconsin (yes, that Wisconsin) rounding out the top 10, that leaves one big name missing: Kansas State. The Wildcats remain on the doorstep of the top 10, just seven-thousandths of a point behind the Badgers. Why? Their still-suspect defense. The good news for the Wildcats is that by holding TCU to only 10 points, they improved their defensive rating by almost a full PPH from 19.4 to 18.5. The bad news is that they still need to move that needle about 1.5 PPH to enter the top 25 for defense, and another 2.8 PPH beyond that to be a legitimate title threat.
We'll take a closer look at the national title picture tomorrow in our look at the remaining undefeated teams, but for now the math gives the ever-so-slightest of nods to a Notre Dame/Kansas State championship, with the Irish as the favorites.
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