CFB: Re-Introducing the Napkin Rankings

Los Angeles Coliseum
Los Angeles Coliseum by Alex Ho, on Flickr

Covering games on Saturday nights, I would go home and find Bob Valvano on ESPN Radio for years. I think they moved him to a different time on weekends for some reason, but I thought of all the yakkers we’re accustomed to on the Four-Letter Network, he was among the more thoughtful and eloquent.

One of the best things he came up with was the Napkin Rankings. Rather than using strange algorithms on computers or even stranger tendencies of human nature, his rankings did their best to try and eliminate human nature. In a nutshell:

– Teams get 1 point for a win over a FBS team.
– Teams lose 1 point for a loss over a FBS team.
– Teams lose 2 points for a loss over a FCS team.
– Teams get 1 point for a win over a power-five conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC).
– Teams get 1 point for playing away regardless of result.
– Teams get 1/2 point for a win on a neutral site.
– Teams lose 1/2 point for a loss on a neutral site.
– Teams get 1 points for a “dominant” win. A dominant win is usually 30 points or more, but it’s subjective. If it was a 10-point game with 4 minutes left before it became a 30-point game, it probably won’t qualify. If it’s a 40-point win over a win-less FBS team, it most likely won’t qualify. Wins against any FCS team are not dominant.

A team can get a maximum of four points in one week. Like I said, it eliminates most of the subjectivity we’re used to seeing in rankings with the big exception of the dominant win factor. With that said, here are the rankings after Week 1. Ties are listed in alphabetical order.

1. Temple (4 points)
1. Texas A&M
3. Ohio State (3 points)
3. Rutgers
6. Auburn (2 points)
6. Baylor
6. Boston College
6. BYU
6. California
6. Georgia
6. Louisiana-Monroe
6. Marshall
6. Mississippi State
6. Ohio
6. USC
6. Washington

I’m almost certain that Temple will most likely not be at the top of the rankings all season. Nor do I think Louisiana-Monroe will be much of a factor in the national championship debate. But it will be interesting to see how these rankings compare to our perceptions and to which teams actually make it to the two-game playoff.