Hot Reads: What the Power Rankings Say About Huskers-Buckeyes
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Hot Reads: What the Power Rankings Say About Huskers-Buckeyes

September 23, 2019

Nebraska's closer-than-expected 42-38 win over Illinois didn't have a big impact on the Huskers' spot in the power rankings. Based on the point differential, Nebraska underperformed as a two touchdown favorite on the road. Based on the yards, the Huskers' offense did not. Because of the fumbles and short field, that dominance wasn't evident by looking at the scoreboard.

That Illinois game was a strange statistical soup. Lot of different flavors, tough to isolate and determine which one defined it. For the three predictive rankings I look at to start each week, they didn't see a big reason to move Nebraska up or down.

That seems fair enough. Here's a quick look at the Huskers' latest standing in SP+, FPI and Sagarin. Also, I'm including a chart towards the end of this if you want to follow the fluctuations week by week.

SP+: Nebraska entered last week's game with a 7.5 rating (i.e. 7.5 points better than the average team on a neutral field) and the No. 39 ranking. Post-Illinois, the Huskers were up to 9.5 and No. 35. SP+, in my opinion, does a good job of cutting through the random parts of football (like fumbles) to focus on the parts of the game teams can consistently control (down-by-down success). The big news here is that, after four weeks, SP+ is now equally weighted between preseason ranking (which includes previous seasons' results) and results from this season. Nebraska started the year at 7.4/No. 39 in SP+. Based on its ranking this week the Huskers are a full two points better than SP+ projected. That's progress.

As it pertains to this week, however, Nebraska's gain pales in comparison to Ohio State's through four weeks. The Buckeyes started the year with a rating of 23.6 (No. 7) and are up to 31.1 (No. 2) after destroying Miami (Ohio) 76-5 on Saturday. The Buckeyes "are the only team with a top-five offensive and defensive SP+ rating at the moment . . .," Bill Connelly wrote this week.

Ohio State is a little more than a two touchdown favorite on the Vegas line today. SP+, based on the rankings, would have it around Ohio State -19.

FPI: Nebraska dropped two spots (No. 34 to 36) following the Illinois game and its rating (another "team is X points better. . ." measure) went from 6.8 to 5.9. That puts the Huskers one spot behind 2-2 Florida State.

The nice thing about FPI is that it lists fluctuating game-by-game projections based on its ratings. Right now Nebraska has a win probability of greater than 50% in just three of its remaining eight games––Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue. FPI should have this week's game around Ohio State -18.5.

Sagarin: The grandfather of power rankings and here for its historical value. The Huskers took just a one-spot drop here (No. 41 to 42). The Sagarin numbers are a little different than those of SP+ and FPI, but you can still use them to formulate a projection. Sagarin, which also has Ohio State rated as the second-best team in the country, has this week's game at Buckeyes -22.

This goes without saying, but the Huskers have their work cut out for them this week. The AP poll may have Ohio State at No. 5, but the power rankings are saying that's not giving the Buckeyes enough credit.


The Grab Bag

  • Derek Peterson looks at some of the criticism around Adrian Martinez’s performance this season and plenty more in his Monday column.
  • Jacob Padilla breaks down Wan’Dale Robinson’s game against the Illini. (Premium)
  • It’s going to be a big week for recruiting analyst Greg Smith as the Huskers’ have their marquee home game. He already confirmed one big-time visitor for Saturday and there will be more throughout thee week.
  • Cool Twitter thread from Nebraska’s event management department on how College GameDay endeed up in Lincoln.

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