One of the strengths of a computer rating system is the uniform application of criteria in the ranking of teams.  However, that can also be one of the weaknesses.  One potentially deceptive aspect of computer rankings manifests itself in the calculation of the strength of schedule.  What exactly does “strength of schedule” mean?

In the case of the Fleming System, strength of schedule is calculated simply as the average rating of the opponents has played to date.  As such, the calculated strength of schedule does not reflect games yet to be played.  This is important to keep in mind as we approach the latter stages of the season, as some games may greatly affect a number of teams’ strength of schedule.

One noteworthy circumstance will affect a number teams in the SEC on the second-to-last week of the season.  On that date (November 23rd) three SEC programs will play teams from the football championship subdivision (FCS.)  The list of teams that have this late season cross-divisional game include Alabama vs. Chattanooga, Florida vs. Georgia Southern and South Carolina vs. Coastal Carolina.

This represents a significant decrease in the number of teams playing cross-divisional opponents relative to last season.  It also represents an increase in the quality of FCS opponents the SEC will face late in the season.  For instance, it made for a puzzling scheduling choice last season when Alabama played Western Carolina, whose only win was over NCAA Division II Mars Hill.  In their penultimate contest last season, seven SEC teams played FCS opponents.  The result was a lowering of the average conference rating, despite the 7-0 record the SEC posted in those games.  The reason?  Strength of schedule.

In computer rating systems, a team playing a weak opponent adversely affects all of the teams opponents by lowering the strength of schedule.  Conversely, playing a strong opponent helps the strength of schedule, raising the ratings of the opponents’ opponents.  As such, if a conference champion is given low consideration by the computer, they might be advised to examine the schedules and performance of the mid- to- lower performing teams in their conference and ask, “why didn’t they play tougher teams . . and/or do better against them?”

All that said, here are the ratings following games on Saturday, October 26…

The Fleming System

(Rankings for Week 10)

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