How are the college football rankings determined?

Strength of a Team's Schedule

Another computer program helps to determine the third variable -- how a team's strength of schedule compares to other teams nationally. The cumulative win/loss record of not only the team's opponents, but their opponents' opponents are included in this calculation. This makes teams think twice about lining up a bunch of teams they know that they can crush on the field. It also makes coaches and athletic directors once again jump into the world of statistics. They have to plan their schedule in advance, meaning that they have to predict how well their opposition will do in the future as well as who they are likely to play.

The computer program produces a numerical value representing the strength of the opponents schedule (So) and one for the opponents' opponents (Soo). A team's overall strength of schedule (St) is then calculated using these numbers. The opponent's scheduled strength is worth twice as much as their opponents' schedule. Let's put it in the form of an equation:

2 * So + Soo= St

The resulting number, St, is used in ranking a team's schedule relative to all other 115 Division I schools. Once they have been placed in order, this list is then subdivided into quartiles (1-25, 25-50, 50-75, and so on). Their rank is then converted back to a point total by multiplying it by 0.04. This allows teams to be rated based on their placement within a given quartile.

Here's an example: A team's schedule strength is ranked No. 30 in the nation. Multiplying 30 by 0.04 gives you their point total for this category, 1.2. The 1 tells you that they placed in the second quartile, and the 2 tells you approximately where they placed within that group.

Number of Losses
The final category, number of losses, can really sound the death knell for a team. Each loss equals one point, and is added directly to a team's total score. Remember, a lower point total means a higher ranking. One loss often means the difference between playing in the national championship game and hoping to be chosen for one of the other BCS bowls. If you think about it, that's fair. This is the one place where what happens on the field matters far more than mathematical models.

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