The Massey-Peabody bracket reconciles politics and analytics, drawing 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 Dec 6
1. Alabama, 11-1, SEC, MPh #1 (MP #1)
2. Oregon, 11-1, PAC-12, MPh #2 (MP #2)
3. TCU, 10-1, Big12, MPh #5 (MP #10)
4. Ohio State, 11-1, Big 10, MPh #8 (MP #4)
A little shuffling this week. Alabama remains a lock at the top, obviously. Ohio State falls from #2 to #4, without even considering the injury to JT Barrett (Rufus tells me that takes them down another 3.75 points). Oregon slides up 1 spot to #2. The almost interchangeable TCU and Baylor have been exchanged once again, with TCU bumping out Baylor for the first time in four weeks. Not only that, but as in the committee’s bracket, they climb up #3 for the first time.
The committee has done an admirable-ish job of demoting Florida State for their tepid performances. Admirable because people, and especially polls, are notoriously biased by outcomes (e.g., W-Ls) when they reason about people and organizations. “Ish” because our numbers show little reason for FSU to be in the conversation at all – we have them #20 in our hybrid model (and even only #8 in our full model, which allows those pre-season #2 expectations to matter).
We’re still having to reach over some 2-loss teams to fill the bracket. Impossibly we continue to respect Georgia. They’re no longer relevant, but we’re also still showing the Big 10 plenty of love, with Wisconsin, #4 (and Michigan State, MPh #6), high on our list. Wisconsin is one we’ve plugged for awhile. The Barrett loss hurts them as well, as it diminishes a potential big win in Indy this weekend. But if they win and we see a couple of upsets elsewhere, they will be in contention. We are shockingly unimpressed with Arizona. We understand they have the most straightforward path to the playoff politically, but rank them only #26 (#24 MP).
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.