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Northwestern in the Sagarin Ratings: Not A Pretty Picture

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Yesterday I said I wasn't going to write about football anymore, but then I took a look at the latest Sagarin Ratings, and Northwestern was so low I felt it was worthy of a story. For those not familiar with Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings, there are two components: the ELO-CHESS part, which just looks at wins and losses, and the PREDICTOR part, which just looks at average margin of victory. The two components are then combined to form the overall rating. All 246 Division 1 teams are included, both FBS and FCS.

For the last few weeks, Northwestern has been cruising along at around 90th in the country, but after the loss to Penn State combined with Boston College, Eastern Illinois and Army all losing, Northwestern has plummeted to 110th overall. Since there are only 120 FBS teams, that's pretty embarrassing, and it's even more embarrassing when you consider some of the teams above them.


SEC: Just like the human polls, LSU and Alabama are 1 and 2 in the Sagarin Ratings. The worst team in the SEC, Kentucky, is 101st, better than Northwestern. Our fellow nerds Vanderbilt appear to be on the road to respectability, ranking 54th overall after their blowout of Army on Saturday.

Big 12: The Big 12 is the best conference according to Sagarin, with an amazing eight teams in the top 26. The two worst teams in the Big 12, Iowa State and Kansas, rank 62nd and 78th respectively.

Big East: Being the worst SEC or Big 12 team isn't that awful, but being the worst in the mediocre Big East is more than a little embarrassing. Everyone in the Big East is ranked between 31st and 80th.


#115 Duke
#120 Colorado
#137 Boston College
#141 Minnesota
#142 Indiana

Northwestern's supposedly improved schedule features the three worst BCS conference teams, although Boston College's complete implosion couldn't have been foreseen.


We have to delve into the FCS conferences to find ones that Northwestern could conceivably win; this team sure as hell couldn't win an FBS conference.

Big South: Northwestern comes in just ahead of 116th ranked Liberty, would be quite a battle for the Big South title.

Great West: The Great West is widely known as the worst Division 1 basketball conference, and features Western teams such as the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and in football it only has 5 teams. The best of the bunch is 114th ranked Cal Poly-SLO.

Mid Eastern Athletic Conference: Northwestern would dominate these guys; 158th ranked Norfolk State is the current favorite.

Northeast: This conference is awful at basketball and even worse at football, SUNY-Albany leads the way at 177th.

Ohio Valley: Northwestern already beat up on Ohio Valley member Eastern Illinois, but the Panthers are struggling in conference play; they've lost six in a row since losing to Northwestern and currently come in at 206th overall. 136th ranked Jacksonville State is the cream of the crop.

Pioneer: I'd never heard of this league before. It's a truly national conference, with members ranging from San Diego to Dayton. It's also really bad at football: 174th ranked Jacksonville is the best team, and it also has the worst team in Division 1, Valparaiso.

SWAC: Ahh, our good friends the SWAC. Alabama St. currently leads the way at 161st. Perhaps Fitz should start scheduling this league for some easy wins in non-conference play like Bill Carmody does.

So there are 7 conferences that Northwestern would be able to win. That's the good news.


Now the bad news. There are more than seven FCS conferences, and some of the ones Northwestern wouldn't be the best team in are particularly depressing.

Big Sky: 2nd behind Montana State

Colonial: 4th behind Maine, Towson and James Madison. Good thing we didn't play Towson this year. On the bright side, we are one spot ahead of former nemesis New Hampshire.

Missouri Valley: 3rd behind North Dakota State and Northern Iowa.

Southern: 7th (!) behind Georgia Southern, Wofford, Appalachian State, Chattanooga, Furman and Samford.

Southland: 2nd behind Sam Houston State: The Bearkats!

Patriot League: 2nd behind Lehigh. Yes, really.

And for the grand finale....

Ivy League: 2nd behind Harvard. I wish I were making that up, but I am not.

I'm going to go hang myself now.