For the sake of adding some data to these tiers, I went through a small exercise for every FBS teams, ranking them 1-130 in each of eight key categories: Explosiveness, efficiency, finishing drives and converting third and fourth downs, both on offense and defense. To do this, I used the following stats:
Explosiveness = explosive plays/total plays, with explosive play defined as a run of 12 yards or a pass of 16.
Efficiency = plays per point
Finishing drives = % of drives inside opponents’ 40 that resulted in TDs
Conversions = 3rd coversions + 4th down conversions/total chances
Again, we did this for each team on both sides of the ball and added up their rankings for a total score. So, the best you could get is an 8 (1st in all eight categories) and the worst is 1,040 (130th in all eight categories). For what it’s worth, the actual best score belonged to Alabama (82) and the worst to MTSU (907). We didn’t include FCS games, so this skews things a bit for a team like MTSU which has just two FBS games so far.
Anyway, what did we come up with?
Here’s how the tiers shape up using a rough breakdown of those points, looking for large gaps from one spot to the next.
Alabama (82) — They’re the only team with a score under 100, and the difference between Bama and No. 2 is 49 points. So yeah, they good.
Ohio State (131), Penn State (160), West Virginia (175), Clemson (203) — I fudged this a bit to include Clemson, which is closer to the next group than it is to West Virginia, but it’s my stat, so I can do what I want.
Mississippi State (214), NC State (220), Michigan (234), Kentucky (241), North Texas (247), Oklahoma (251), Colorado (264), Wisconsin (279), Georgia (280), Buffalo (281), Washington (289), Notre Dame (301) — Here’s where we see issues of sample size. One blowout or one close game can skew things quite a bit. So you see Mississippi State and Michigan ahead of teams they lost to head to head. That’s fine. It’s to be expected this early in the year.
Cincinnati (306), Michigan State (307), Oregon (311), South Carolina (316), Baylor (317), Stanford (324), UCF (334), Florida (335), Boise State (345), Memphis (347), Houston (348), Miami (357), Maryland (360), Vandy (364), Fresno State (368) — Again some very meh teams here mixed with a few we have ranked much higher by the eye test.
Virginia (390), Oklahoma State (392), Arizona State (396), BC (403), USF (406), Purdue (412), ECU (413), Minnesota (414), FIU (415), Temple (415), Auburn (417), Duke (420), Syracuse (434), TCU (435), Hawaii (444), Missouri (446), Iowa (446), Southern Miss (446). – A real mixed bag here, but what should be noteworthy here is that teams we think of as pretty darned good like Auburn and TCU are all the way down here in Tier 5, and some others like Washington, Texas, Texas Tech, Utah and BYU aren’t on any of these lists at all.
Again, sample size means a ton here, so there’s no need to take any of it too seriously at this point. But what we can say is that, through four weeks of games, it’s clear who the most dominant teams are (and the numbers really do match the eye test here), while some of the teams we think are playing really well based on the end results may have a few more question marks than what’s shown up in the standings.
For what it’s worth, if you’re interested in separating out offense and defense, here’s how we ranked them:
3. Penn State
5. Ohio State
8. Mississippi State
10. Boise State
And on defense…
3. North Texas
7. West Virginia
8. Ohio State
Of note, Clemson was 11th on offense and Florida State was 11th on defense.