- Bill Connelly is a staff writer for ESPN.com.
The fire hose that was Week 1 of the college football season saw stirring upsets, loads of surprises … and one team, Nick Saban’s Alabama, clearly standing out ahead of the pack. The numbers very much reflect that. While this week’s SP+ ratings see teams bunched together from top to bottom (the No. 5 and No. 12 teams are separated by a minuscule 1.6 points, No. 29 and No. 43 by only 2.8, etc.), No. 1 is miles ahead of the pack.
At 32.9 adjusted points per game, Alabama is 8.1 points ahead of No. 2 Georgia, meaning Bama would be projected favorite of 8.1 points on a neutral field; that’s nearly the same distance separating UGA and No. 17 UCLA. It’s only been one week, and the Crimson Tide could still hit some bumps along the way, but there’s no question who the top team in FBS is at the moment.
What is SP+? In a single sentence, it’s a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency. I created the system at Football Outsiders in 2008, and as my experience with both college football and its stats has grown, I have made quite a few tweaks to the system.
It is, as always, important to note that SP+ is intended to be predictive and forward-facing. It is not a résumé ranking that gives credit for big wins or particularly brave scheduling — no good predictive system is. It is simply a measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football. If you’re lucky or unimpressive in a win, your rating will probably fall. If you’re strong and unlucky in a loss, it will probably rise.
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