We hold our college football title contenders to a different standard. We talked about Alabama's 63-48 win over Ole Miss like the Tide survived a major scare, but Ole Miss never had the ball down just one possession in the game's final seven minutes. We're talking about Ohio State's 42-35 win over Indiana in the same terms, but the Hoosiers never had the ball within 60 yards of tying the game late. Only for the elite would a two-touchdown win over a top-50 team or a one-score win over a top-30 team feel like reason for concern.
Alabama responded well to its "scare" -- the Tide have outscored their last four opponents by an average of 48-11. Now it's time to see what Ohio State does. In the meantime, though, Saturday's results made SP+ far more confident in the Tide than the Buckeyes. For the last three weeks now, the teams have traded the top spot, and with Saturday's results, Alabama seized a more than two-point advantage up top. Ohio State nearly slid past an unexpectedly idle Clemson into third.
It wasn't a great week for the Big Ten's ruling class in general. Wisconsin's rating fell by more than three adjusted points per game with its turnover-addled loss to Northwestern, not only dropping them from third to fourth but placing them much closer to fifth than third. Meanwhile, the conference's two falling blue bloods, Penn State and Michigan, continued their descent. They are still propped up somewhat by solid priors and preseason projections, but they both fell by 13 spots this week, with PSU getting walloped by a top-15 Iowa and Michigan eking out an overtime win over Rutgers. (A fallen Big Ten blue blood, Nebraska, absolutely crashed following Saturday's egg-laying against Illinois.)
What is SP+? In a single sentence, it's a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency. I created the system at Football Outsiders in 2008, and as my experience with both college football and its stats has grown, I have made quite a few tweaks to the system.