We're three weeks into the 2023 season, and we've already seen three changes atop the SP+ rankings.
Two-time defending champion Georgia had just reassumed the No. 1 ranking last week but laid a first-half egg against South Carolina and prevailed only 24-14. Its rating fell, as did that of Alabama after an offensive no-show against USF. The result? Ohio State, with its drastically improving defense and an offense that might be finding traction after a 63-10 win over Western Kentucky, rises to No. 1.
The Buckeyes will play another rising team this coming Saturday: Following another comfortable showing, Notre Dame has jumped to No. 4 overall, just ahead of No. 5 USC, stumbling Alabama and a couple of teams -- Oklahoma and Washington -- that have looked spectacular (against mostly overwhelmed competition) in nonconference play. There's quite a bit of movement at the top of the sport at the moment.
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.
SP+ is indeed intended to be predictive and forward-facing. It is not a résumé ranking that gives credit for big wins or particularly brave scheduling -- no good predictive system is. It is simply a measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football. If you're lucky or unimpressive in a win, your rating will probably fall. If you're strong and unlucky in a loss, it will probably rise.
Here are the full rankings: