The verbiage almost never changes. Each week, when I put out updated SP+ rankings, I say 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.”
Note the italics. Week 2 of the 2022 season gave us some of the best possible examples of how that part works.
Alabama beat Texas 20-19 with a last-second field goal following a statistically even contest. Texas didn’t almost pull an upset with fluky turnovers luck and special teams wildness; the Longhorns nearly won by simply lining up and beating the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Consequently, despite the fact that Bama survived, Alabama’s SP+ rating fell by 4.5 points in a win while Texas’ rose by 1.4 in a loss. The Tide now rank second overall, behind Georgia, while the Horns have jumped from 18th to 16th.
Down in Conway, South Carolina, we got another example. Coastal Carolina moved to 2-0 on the season by beating FCS foe Gardner-Webb 31-27. Again, it wasn’t some fluky series of bounces that kept GWU close — in fact, GWU was the statistically superior team, gaining 495 yards (7.5 per play) to Coastal’s 354 (5.3). The Chanticleers recovered four of the game’s five fumbles, which saved the day, but that isn’t a sustainable recipe. Therefore, despite the win, their SP+ rating fell by a whopping 5.8 points, the biggest drop of the week. They were 65th, and now they’re 80th.
There were plenty of other moves during a wacky second week. Check out the new rankings below.
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.
(Note: Special teams still don’t carry much weight this early in the season. That’s why the range between good and bad is almost nonexistent this week.)
This week’s movers
First impressions can sometimes be terribly inaccurate. I try to account for this by leaning almost entirely on preseason projections one week into the season, but some performances can be extreme enough to create big movement all the same.
In Week 2, we saw some of Week 1’s stumblers bounce back to around where they began the season.
Here are the nine teams that moved up at least 10 spots this week:
Oregon: up 22 spots from 49th to 27th
Cincinnati: up 17 spots from 29th to 12th
Louisiana Tech: up 14 spots from 119th to 105th
Purdue: up 14 spots from 43rd to 29th
Utah: up 13 spots from 24th to 11th
North Texas: up 12 spots from 99th to 87th
Ole Miss: up 10 spots from 16th to sixth
Maryland: up 10 spots from 55th to 45th
Troy: up 10 spots from 93rd to 83rd
Oregon started out 24th, plummeted after getting its doors blown off by Georgia, then jumped right back to 27th after walloping EWU. Cincinnati fell from 16th to 29th after its loss to Arkansas but dominated Kennesaw State as a top team should — here’s your reminder that properly blowing out the teams you’re supposed to blow out is as predictive as any other result — and leaped to 12th. (Awkwardly, the Bearcats are now back ahead of Arkansas, which performed about as projected in a win over South Carolina.)
Utah has gone from 12th to 24th to 11th, too. Second impressions are all the rage.
Here are the 12 teams that moved down at least 10 spots this week:
Coastal Carolina: down 15 spots from 65th to 80th
UCF: down 14 spots from 27th to 41st
South Carolina: down 14 spots from 32nd to 46th
Virginia: down 14 spots from 61st to 75th
Wisconsin: down 12 spots from ninth to 21st
Florida: down 12 spots from 19th to 31st
Arizona State: down 12 spots from 40th to 52nd
Navy: down 12 spots from 105th to 117th
Missouri: down 11 spots from 47th to 58th
Miami: down 10 spots from 14th to 24th
West Virginia: down 10 spots from 62nd to 72nd
Utah State: down 10 spots from 86th to 96th
I list these by how much their rankings fell, but if you’re appalled by the fact that Texas A&M still ranks ninth overall after losing to Appalachian State, note that the Aggies’ rating fell by 4.6 points, the third-most of the week. (Coastal and Virginia fell by more.) It’s just that they had a pretty big lead over the teams directly below them, so only a few passed them as they fell from fifth to ninth.
The SEC East had itself a pretty bad week. Georgia handled Samford with appropriate ease, and Kentucky outlasted division mate Florida, but Missouri got drubbed by Kansas State, Vanderbilt gave away some of its early-season ratings gains with a 20-point loss to Wake Forest, South Carolina’s rating fell more than Arkansas’ rose with its interdivision loss, and while Tennessee beat Pitt, the Vols’ rating sank slightly after struggling more than expected.
In all, the East’s average rating fell by 1.8 points, the biggest drop of the week.
As a conference, however, the SEC still holds a heavy lead over the field.
1. SEC: 16.5 average SP+ (35.2 average offensive SP+, 18.7 average defensive SP+) 2. Big Ten: 11.1 average (30.8 offense, 19.7 defense) 3. Big 12: 11.1 average (33.8 offense, 22.7 defense) 4. ACC: 6.5 average (31.3 offense, 24.8 defense) 5. Pac-12: 5.0 average (28.8 offense, 23.9 defense) 6. AAC: 0.3 average (28.4 offense, 28.0 defense) 7. Sun Belt: -6.0 average (24.2 offense, 30.3 defense) 8. MWC: -7.2 average (21.5 offense, 28.7 defense) 9. Conference USA: -8.8 average (24.7 offense, 33.6 defense) 10. MAC: -11.4 average (22.9 offense, 34.2 defense)
The SEC’s average rating fell by one point, but it still has the resounding top two teams, plus eight of the top 17 overall. The Pac-12 is closing the gap a bit on the ACC, and while the Sun Belt scored some incredible marquee wins — East Division teams beat Texas A&M (App State), Notre Dame (Marshall) and Nebraska (Georgia Southern) — Conference USA’s rating actually rose the most this week overall.