Alabama Football: Computers love the Alabama Crimson Tide

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports /

Trusting computer algorithms to rank college football teams may not be embraced by many Alabama football fans. Alabama fans joined close to the entire college football world in deriding computer rankings during the 1998-2013 BCS period.

Technically, the computers were the hardware. Algorithms and math formulas were the software. Some math formulas had been used to rank teams for decades before the BCS Era.

There was widespread relief and anticipation that the human factor of a CFB Playoff Selection Committee would be better and fairer than using computers. The current Selection Committee process includes analyzing data and not just game results and ‘eye-ball’ tests while watching games.

In recent years a growing argument has been the ‘computers’ are as good and at times better than the Selection Committee’s ranking of teams. That debate will perhaps never end.

College football fans can look at numerous computer rankings, from well-known ones like the ESPN FPI and Jeff Sagarin’s Ratings to less-known and sometimes more trusted sources.

Alabama Football Fans and Loving Computer Rankings

Up until the second half of the Ole Miss game, Alabama football fans have not had customary fun this season. What was believed to be a ‘return to normal’ season for the Crimson Tide quickly turned sour. The win over Ole Miss diminished the doubts of Alabama fans, but the Crimson Tide still has a hard pull to get back to Playoff contention.

Comfort in this stressful period can be provided by two computer rankings. They happen to be the aforementioned FPI and Jeff Sagarin’s model.

Sagarin and the Crimson Tide

In Sagarin’s latest (Sept. 24) Alabama Football is ranked No. 1. In Sagarin’s top 17 teams are six SEC teams, as seen below.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide
  2. Ohio State Buckeyes
  3. Georgia Bulldogs
  4. Oklahoma Sooners
  5. Penn State Nittany Lions
  6. Texas Longhorns
  7. Michigan Wolverines
  8. Oregon Ducks
  9. Washington Huskies
  10. Southern Cal Trojans
  11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  12. Texas A&M Aggies
  13. Ole Miss Rebels
  14. Kansas State Wildcats
  15. Florida State Seminoles
  16. Tennessee Vols
  17. LSU Bengal Tigers

One explanation for why Sagarin has Alabama at No. 1 is he has Alabama with the toughest schedule of the 17 teams. His schedule rank has the Crimson Tide at No. 10 and Georgia with the weakest schedule of the 17 teams at No. 130.

ESPN’s FPI is not quite as bullish on the Crimson Tide as it was a few weeks ago when Alabama was No. 1 in the FPI. The Crimson Tide is now No. 3. The FPI has six SEC teams among its top 18 teams, as seen below.

ESPN FPI and the Crimson Tide

  1. Ohio State
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Alabama
  4. Penn State
  5. Georgia
  6. Texas
  7. Oregon
  8. Southern Cal
  9. Washington
  10. Florida State
  11. Notre Dame
  12. Michigan
  13. Ole Miss
  14. LSU
  15. Miami
  16. Texas A&M
  17. Clemson
  18. Tennessee

Based on the current FPI calculation, 12 teams have a better than 5.2% chance to make the Playoff. Alabama is one of the 12, at No. 9 with a 21.6% chance.

Next. What Saban and the Tide learned against Ole Miss. dark

There are good reasons to doubt the computers in the first half of a season. Too many cupcake games happen in weeks one through four adding to other data clutter that begins to clear by midseason. For now, they can still be great fun for Alabama fans.