The Absurdity of K-State Above ND

We all know the polls are dumb. I don’t mean any individuals are dumb (which is also likely) but that the collective group is. They lack data, they don’t pay attention to data if they do have it, and their own biases impact everything. It’s kind of a silly system, and the current ranking of ND behind K-State is also silly.

Kansas State Engraved Rock
This is a rock. We have a golden dome with Jesus’ mom on it. C’MON!

Here’s why.

Let’s take a look at a few data points to evaluate the order here:

1. Performance against the same opponents
2. Absolute Stats
3. Opponent-Adjusted Stats
4. Overall SOS (stealing this from Tex’s post earlier this week)

So, first:

1. Performance against the same opponents

Both ND and K-State played Miami and Oklahoma, and both teams won those games. But they didn’t win by the same margins. This is probably the ‘fairest’ comparison of the two teams we’ll get as they are the exact same opponents. The results of a comparison favor ND.

ND-OK: 30-13
KS-OK: 24-19

ND beat Oklahoma by 17 points for score ratio of 131%. KS beat Oklahoma by less than a Touchdown, a differential of 5 points or 26%. ND scored more points against Oklahoma and gave up fewer. This is clearly a superior performance by ND against the same team.

ND-MI: 41-3
KS-MI: 52-13

Here the story is more mixed as ND scored fewer points but also gave up fewer. On a percentage basis KS put up 3X or 300% of Miami’s points. But ND put up almost 13X or 1300%! C’mon now, folks!

But even if you call that a tie it’s pretty clear that ND outperformed K-State against the same competition. Say whatever else you want, but ND wins this test. ADVANTAGE ND

2. Absolute Stats

This is the one place where K-State looks better than ND, and it’s almost entirely on the offensive side of the ball. When we look at rankings of Passing and Rushing Offense (Yards), Points For and Points Against, ND only wins in the last category. And that’s where the perception that K-State is ‘better’ sets in. Here are national rankings in those categories:


PASS 82 89
RUSH 18 30

So K-State wins Test 2 but that brings us to Test 3 which pretty much negates it…

3. Opponent-Adjusted Stats

The problem with the previous view is that it completely ignores who they’ve played. And while K-State clearly has better offensive stats, ND has played a slate of teams with MUCH better defenses. And that matters. A lot.

Looking at the Combined S&P/FEI rankings on, which accounts for the quality of the teams played, we get a very different story.


OFF 11 4
DEF 15 4

ND is better at both offense and defense once the competition is taken into account. ADVANTAGE BACK TO ND. Which brings us to point 4, competition.

4. SOS

See, when two teams have the exact same record, this is where the rubber meets the road. Look, if I am 100-0 in boxing and only fought 5th grade girls (or BC students – ZING!) you might not be intimidated. If I was 100-0 and took down heavyweight pros, it’s a different story. But somehow poll voters ignore this. ND is undefeated. So is K-State. BUT ND HAS PLAYED A HARDER SCHEDULE ACCORDING TO EVERYONE!

From Tex’s post earlier this week, here are the various SOS rankings for K-State and ND respectively:

KS: 30 40 13 16 33 AVERAGE = 26.4
ND: 25 8 10 7 16 AVERAGE = 16.2

So ND goes undefeated against the 16th most difficult schedule and K-State does the same against the 26th and somehow K-State is better than ND? WHAT KIND OF CRACK IS BEING SMOKED HERE?


ND performed better against the same teams, ND has better opponent-adjusted stats, and ND played a more difficult schedule and has the same record. ND is #3 folks, plain and simple.

All K-State has over ND is style points (because people love offense), ND hatred in the general populace, and ND pulling off some close Ws in OT. But I find that much less compelling than all of the data here.

So that’s that. Now, on to Oregon…


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  • Discnerd

    After the political quants were so successful this week, I think football needs to join the big data world and weaken the role of the human polls in the rankings.  They are overly biased and don’t adjust to new data fast enough.  If you want to keep them, just weight them the same as one computer poll.  I’d probably add them to the list to be dropped if they are the high or low value.

  • patrickleistner

    Killin’ it with the posts this week!

  • Craig

    If you’re going to cite FEI, you should note that FEI ranks KSU #1 overall and gives them a HUGE edge over ND on special teams.

    • Hls

      I was citing the combined S&P/FEI not just FEI.  FEI looks relatively bad for ND because of the Bend-Dont-Break defense.  

  • Pat

    College football is a beauty pageant.  Let’s start the playoff early.

  • KyNDfan

    Totally agree. Where’s this weeks beer? Oh…wait. This isn’t the roundup. My bad.

  • David

    Lack of ‘style points’ and ‘ having to win in OT’ on the one side of your summary are directly related and attributable to the well-illustrated tougher schedule on the other side….that’s implicitly double counting their relevance. 

  • Ndalum09

    I am an ND alum and huge fan, but I disagree with your post. Both teams are VERY close, and I think you could make a strong argument for either team. I personally give the slight edge to Kansas State. Our schedules have been pretty equal with ND having the slight edge in my opinion. Common opponents have been an absolute wash–we both dominated Miami (your points % argument is a complete joke) and both pulled out close wins on the road against OKU. Yes, ND’s win was very close: the game was tied with 6 or 7 minutes left so don’t act like it was a blow out. As far as style points go, K-State has the edge. Obviously, I have watched every minute of ND football this year, but as a huge fan of the sport on a national scale, I have watched my fair share of K-State. They are winning games with ease where we have struggled and let mediocre–if not bad–teams (BYU, Purdue, Pitt) teams hang around long enough to be within striking distance of an upset in the closing minutes of the game. Outside of the common game against OKU, ND has had 5 tight games that came down to the wire, while the only team that even played KSU close was Iowa State, who lost by 6. Both teams are great, and hopefully we go 12-0 and they slip up, but your argument that ND is clearly the better team than KSU is pretty ridiculous at this point in the season.

    • patrickleistner

      What about beating up a FCS team week 1, beating North Texas by 2 TDs, and 1 TD over Iowa St is impressive? I get that KState is a good team, but for anyone to say they have done more than ND to deserve the #2/3 ranking is ridiculous.  ND/KState are on the same level right now and I’d give the edge to the Irish based on the fact that their schedule IS harder.  

      I’m not overly worried though because I believe for ND to go 12-0 they will need to get their offense going on all cylinders and if that happens we will crush BC and Wake then beat SC by a couple scores and jump KState and possibly Oregon if the conference biases don’t kill us in the human polls.     

    • Hls

      Slow your roll buddy.  

      1.  Common opponents are NOT an absolute wash.  Yeah Miami was a tie (which I stated – didn’t you read the article?) and our W over OU wasn’t as close as theirs.  It was close but not AS close.  

      2.  Schedules are ‘pretty equal’?   According to who?  Your opinion?  Every SOS ranking in the country has us well ahead of them in terms of difficulty.  Your thought here is just wrong, and very much along the way that data-less people make arguments.

      3.  I think your argument is pretty ridiculous, so there! Nanny nanny…

  • Terry

    This is really silly

  • Terry

    ND has the  horses to beat KSU – it would be a good game.

    Alabama or Oregon? No.

    Not yet.

    But soon

  • Bshervheim

    I am also an ND alum and I say bravo to hls for having the balls to stand up for our team. Everyone on this comment thread has been drinking the espn cool-aid. I would put our boys up against Alabama right now. Our offense is good, REAL GOOD, when they need to be. We can play up when we need to (crush Oklahoma IN Norman, kstate slipped one by because of a Ok mistake, Notre dame took that team by the balls). Do you really blame our team for taking a week off and playing down against Pitt and BYU who played their hearts out against us, we dont have any breaks or subdivision teams on our schedule, EVER, (im looking at you overrated SEC). We would smoke kstate tomorrow just like we roasted if we were playing a slightly easier schedule like Oregon kstate or Alabama in the early part of the season, golson might ve on Heisman watch, instead we played against defenses like byu, Stanford, and Michigan state.

  • Bshervheim

    Pardon typos stupid smart phone

  • Asuolop7

    Not disagreeing but points 3 and 4 seem to be based on the same criteria – seems like a double dip