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McGuire Metric: SEC non-conference strength of schedule is unchallenged

Looking for a way to compare strength of schedule in a simple way, I decided to assign a point value to wins that could be used to add up for specific teams or conferences. It is incredibly simple in concept. I have no clue how effective it really is, but I am going to let it play out this season and see what the results are. I go into this admitting upfront there are potential flaws in the system, but I will look back and assess how the system can be adjusted in the offseason.

I call it the McGuire Metric, neglecting the possibility that naming it after myself is both narcissistic and could be leading to eventual ridicule down the road. Here is how it works.

A point value ranging from 20 points to half a point is assigned for various degrees of difficulty. Only wins are counted, except wins against lower-division opponents (Example: Florida State gets credit for beating Oklahoma State but does not receive points for defeating Florida A&M). The more difficult the game match-up is, the higher the possible points to be earned. Games played on the road or on a neutral field receive more points than playing at home. Games played against higher-ranked teams also yield more points. At the end of the week, all points are added up for an overall score. This can be done for individual schools for an entire season or by conference. When calculating conference scores, I only track non-conference results.

Here is how the point total breaks down…

  • 20 = Win over top 1-3 team on road
  • 19 = Win over top 1-3 team on neutral field
  • 18 = Win over top 1-3 team
  • 17 = Win over top 4-5 team on road
  • 16 = Win over top 4-5 team on neutral field
  • 15 = Win over top 4-5 team
  • 14 = Win over top 6-10 team on road
  • 13 = Win over top 6-10 team on neutral field
  • 12 = Win over top 6-10 team
  • 11 = Win over top 11-15 team on road
  • 10 = Win over top 11-15 team on neutral field
  • 9 = Win over top 11-15 team
  • 8 = Win over top 16-25 team on road
  • 7 = Win over top 16-20 team on neutral field
  • 6 = Win over top 16-20 team
  • 5 = Win over top 21-25 team on road
  • 4 = Win over top 21-25 team on neutral field
  • 3 = Win over top 21-25 team at home
  • 2 = Win on road
  • 1 = Win on neutral field
  • 0.5 = Win at home
  • 0.5 = Win against power conference (bonus point)

 

Teams may receive one standard point grade for each win, depending on the opponent. An extra half a point is added to a score for a win coming against a power conference opponent. For the purposes of my scoring, I include Notre Dame and BYU in this power conference mix, but not Army or Navy. Rankings are determined by Associated Press rankings at the time the game was played.

So, here is how the McGuire Metric adds up after one weekend of college football. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the SEC gets out to a big lead, followed by the Pac-12. (Click the image for a larger, clearer image if needed)

McGuire Metric 09-02-2014

The SEC score was boosted significantly with LSU’s victory over Wisconsin on a neutral field. The Tigers win received 10 points for coming against a team ranked 14th in the AP poll on a neutral field. It was the single most valuable win seen in game one according to this system. It was also given an extra half point for coming against a team from a power conference. Georgia’s victory over No. 16 Clemson also helped boost the SEC score with six points, plus another half point for coming against a power conference opponent. The SEC picked up one and a half points for wins against power conference opponents (defeated Clemson, Wisconsin, West Virginia), and capitalized on winning three games on a neutral field (Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss).

The Pac-12 score was boosted by a pair of victories on the road against power conference opponents, although the strength of those opponents is questionable. UCLA received half a point for winning at Virginia, and California notched half a point for the Pac-12 with a win at Northwestern. The rest fo the score was fed by home wins against inferior opponents, not counting wins over FCS teams. The Pac-12 will take it.

The conference that may have opened some eyes this week was Conference USA. Among the Group of Five conferences, Conference USA was one I felt was down in the pecking order behind the Mountain West Conference, MAC and American Athletic Conference. One week into the 2014 season and that was certainly not the case. Western Kentucky contributed with a home win against MAC favorite Bowling Green and UTSA handled Houston on the road (boosting the Conference USA score while holding back the MAC and American in the process). The conference notched three road wins, valued at two points each and picked up a pair of home wins for another point. It may not have been a banner week for the entire conference, most of which played the role of season opening cupcake to the likes of Oklahoma and Nebraska, but it was a good week for the conference in the new era of the College Football Playoff and a guaranteed bowl berth from the selection committee to the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. The rest of those conferences have some catching up to do.

Despite great efforts from West Virginia and Oklahoma, the Big 12 is sitting behind the Big Ten, ACC and American using this method. This is where things get a little tricky. The Big Ten’s score was given a mild boost with a pair of neutral site victories, with Penn State clipping UCF in Ireland and Ohio State getting by Navy in Baltimore. Wins by Purdue and Nebraska at home added to the total, as did a Rutgers road victory at Washington State (earning a power conference victory bonus as well). The ACC’s biggest win was Florida State’s victory over Oklahoma State (power conference bonus) on a neutral field. Meanwhile, the Big 12 piled up no points for wins against three FCS opponents (Iowa State also lost to one, North Dakota State) and received minimal credit for wins by Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor at home. How did the Big 12 fall behind the American, which was off to a horrible start in week one? Temple scored all of the AAC’s points with a road win (two points) and doing so against a power conference opponent (Vanderbilt, bonus half point).

Over the course of the next few weeks I suspect this will even out. With games against FCS opponents filling many week one schedules, the opportunities for points using this metric will increase this week and next. I will attempt to update the numbers for this weekly, as needed.

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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