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Introducing The Roberts Poll: Our unofficial MAC computer rankings

Your one-stop shop for an unbiased look at how your favorite MAC teams stack up.

MAC Championship - Western Michigan v Ohio
Western Michigan celebrates the Mid-American Conference Championship in Detroit, Michigan.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Over the past few years, I have been very frustrated with the AP Top 25, Coaches Poll, and CFP Rankings. Then it hit me. Why not rank them myself?

I thought each team deserves points for a win, especially if they win big. At the same time, quality of win needs to be balanced without bias. Over a few years of testing, I believe I have created a simple, balanced formula. No longer will certain teams from Idaho get special treatment for winning a bowl game ten years ago. In its essence, teams can earn two types of points: quality and margin.


Methodology:

Quality:

Each year, the conferences are put into three tiers. Their level is based on last year’s performance in the system, not based on who won the College Football Playoff or somebody’s opinion. I strive for unbiased, statistics-based data.

This year, the elite top tier’s three conferences consist of the Big Ten, PAC-12, and SEC. Next is the ACC, Big 12, and Mountain West. Everybody else is in the third tier. At the beginning of the year, the tiers are reset. The top three conferences go to the top tier, the next three to the second tier, and the rest to the final tier.

When a team wins, they earn an incremental number of points based on the opponent’s conference/status. A top-five win nets 100 points, 90 points for a top-10, and 80 points for top-25, each determined by the AP poll. If the team is unranked, 70 points are awarded to SEC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 opponents. A win against the ACC, Mountain West, or Big 12 earns 60 points. Everybody else in the FBS nets 50 for the win. FCS and smaller schools only earn ten points because the difficulty is typically lower.

When a team loses, they lose points at a similar rate to account for difficulty. Losing to a top-five school has no penalty. An AP top-10 loss costs 10 points, while other top-25 schools cost 20 points apiece. If the opponents hails from the SEC, Big Ten, or Pac-12, that team loses 30 points. ACC, Big 12, and Mountain West losses come with a 40-point penalty. All other FBS schools follow the pattern with a 50-point penalty. Every team ought to win their FCS games, so those carry a whopping 100-point penalty.

Margin:

Each team deserves some points as a reward for winning big. This is an offset to make blowout wins against FCS schools close to the points earned by a close game to a bigger school. Against any opponent, the margin-of-victory is added or subtracted to the team’s score. This can be found by simply subtracting the second team’s final score from the first team’s score.


Exposition:

When the Kent State Golden Flashes lost to the #19 Louisville Cardinals 42-3, Kent State lost 59 points. That comes from a 39-point margin of victory and 20 points because they were top-25. Louisville gained 89 points, 39 from the margin of victory and 50 because Kent State is in the MAC.

In the first four weeks, the Ohio Bobcats managed to put up the most points. Much of that can be attributed to their week three defeat of the Kansas Jayhawks. The highest-scoring week was put up by the Central Michigan Chippewas, when they also defeated the Kansas Jayhawks in week two. The lowest week was put up by Bowling Green in their loss to FCS South Dakota.

As you’ll see, these MAC rankings are fairly accurate to how they actually play. Even better is the fact that the Western Michigan Broncos are out-performing Central Michigan.


Results:

Points by Week

Ranking Team Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Total
Ranking Team Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Total
1 Ohio 69 -53 72 57 145
2 Toledo 44 73 53 -42 128
3 Eastern Michigan 67 73 0 -57 83
4 Northern Illinois -43 38 74 0 69
5 Western Michigan -18 -44 59 45 42
6 Ball State -33 70 25 -62 0
7 Buffalo -40 -54 33 53 -8
8 Miami (OH) -55 31 -54 67 -11
9 Central Michigan 13 78 -64 -67 -40
10 Akron -62 59 -67 -55 -125
11 Kent State -53 17 -71 -59 -166
12 Bowling Green -55 -108 -72 -61 -296
First four weeks of games, with final rankings. Spencer Roberts

If we zoom out and include all 130 FBS schools, an interesting pattern emerges. Most of the AP Top 25 is represented in the Roberts Poll top 25, and in a reasonable order. The system even placed the top four in the correct order. As the season progresses, the accuracy of the Roberts Poll increases. One thing is for sure: win-less teams are not ranked.

Top 25 by Comparison

Roberts AP Coaches Team
Roberts AP Coaches Team
1 1 1 Alabama
2 2 2 Clemson
3 3 3 Oklahoma
4 4 4 Penn State
5 6 6 Washington
6 9 11 TCU
7 8 7 Michigan
8 5 5 USC
9 NR NR Duke
10 16 16 Washington State
11 7 8 Georgia
12 12 12 Virginia Tech
13 NR NR Wake Forest
14 18 17 South Florida
15 20 19 Utah
16 19 21 San Diego State
17 11 9 Ohio State
18 15 14 Oklahoma State
19 NR NR Minnesota
20 22 NR Notre Dame
21 10 10 Wisconsin
22 24 24 Mississippi State
23 17 18 Louisville
24 NR NR Iowa
25 13 15 Auburn
I also calculated the less important 118 schools and created a top 25 that is comparable to the official ones. Spencer Roberts

How close do you think this poll is? Let me know in the comments below! Maybe submit your MAC rankings or top 25.