The Massey-Peabody bracket reconciles politics and analytics, leaning on good analytics while acknowledging political reality. We begin with the traditional Massey-Peabody Power Rankings, a predictive analytics model built to identify the “best” teams. We then impose a few political constraints in order to also consider which teams are “most deserving”: 1) Every team starts the season equal (hence we use Massey-Peabody’s “hybrid” rankings, MPh, detailed below), 2) No more than two teams per conference can be seeded, and at least three conferences must be represented, 3) Priority among comparable teams goes to conference champions and head-to-head winners, and 4) Though win-loss records are notoriously unreliable indicators of team quality, even we recognize that a 2-loss team cannot be seeded above an undefeated power-conference team.
Massey-Peabody bracket if played Nov 15
1. Alabama, 8-1, SEC, MPh #1 (MP #1)
2. Ohio State, 8-1, Big 10, MPh #2 (MP #2)
3. Oregon, 9-1, PAC-12, MPh #6 (MP #5)
4. Baylor, 8-1, Big12, MPh #9 (MP #13)
Our top seed has been steady, with Alabama being a clear #1 whether or not you consider pre-season expectations. If Alabama takes care of Mississippi State at home this weekend it will be interesting to see how the committee wrestles with the seemingly incomprehensible possibility that a 1-loss Alabama might deserve a higher seed than an undefeated Florida State. The #2 seed is also easy for us, with Ohio State holding that spot with or without pre-season expectations after one of the season’s best performances in East Lansing. We reach over three 2-loss teams – Georgia, Wisconsin and Auburn – to seed Oregon at #3 after a big victory at Utah late Saturday. Finally, we welcome newcomer Baylor to the bracket, sliding in at #4 due to the head-to-head “tiebreaker” over TCU. The two Big 12 leaders are neck-and-neck in both our rankings, exactly the scenario the committee had in mind when they articulated the importance of head-to-head outcomes.
Mississippi State (MPh #9, MP #8) and Florida State (MPh #20, MP #6) remain on the outside looking in. We are still unfazed by their undefeated records and – in FSU’s case – lofty pre-season expectations, instead caring only about what their in-season performance suggests they will do in future games. In short, we’d take Alabama and Ohio State over FSU and Mississippi State on the field, and know of no valid political reason they shouldn’t be in the bracket.
Background: To be more politically palatable, we created a modified version of our rankings that does not use priors. In these rankings all teams start the season on equal footing and are never affected by our pre-season expectations for them. (Tip: This is a bad way to bet.) But we do use priors for strength-of-schedule considerations. Hence, while Marshall and Alabama begin the season equal, we know Alabama plays the tougher schedule. It’s a fudge. But it allows us to maintain some realism while staying “pure” in our evaluation of this season’s play. Below is our current “Hybrid” Top 15, along with the rankings from our full model (MP).