The MaxDiff Poll After Week 9: After Alabama and Clemson, No One Can Agree

Week 9 was one of the busier weeks we’ve seen so far in the 2018 college football season. Divisional races are starting to take shape, and this season is unique in that we could potentially see Northwestern, Virginia, and Kentucky in their conference championship games. There were quite a few upsets last week, and fans brought many different interpretations to what those upsets mean. That’s why fans deviated from the AP quite a bit this week. Speaking of the AP, this is likely the last week this season that I will reference that poll because its relevancy ends tonight with the release of the first College Football Playoff Poll! Let’s dive in!

This Week’s Poll Specs

When was this fielded?: October 29, 2018
Number of respondents: 1,246
Research technique: Online quantitative survey using the MaxDiff Market Research Technique.

Interpreting the Scores: The MaxDiff scores for each team are indexed against the average score of 100. For example, UCF’s MaxDiff score of 118 means that team was ranked 18% higher than the average team in the exercise. It is important to note that these scores should not be interpreted as “votes.” See my explanation of MaxDiff if you would like more information.

FanJuicer’s “Big Six” Takeaways From This Week’s Poll

    1. There’s a very crowded Tier II, which means fans do not agree.

      Tier II is the most crowded it has been this season with six members:  LSU, Georgia, Notre Dame, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Ohio State. The data suggests that most fans are unlikely to agree on the order of these six teams, but they are likely to agree that these six are the next best set of teams behind Clemson and Alabama. In other words, no one agrees about who should occupy #3 – #8.

    2. Fans are still high on the SEC.

      Three of this week’s top four hail from the SEC. On top of that, almost every SEC team in the AP top 32 was ranked higher in the MaxDiff Poll than they were in the AP. This demonstrates a trend I’ve noticed for a few weeks now:  there’s a clear consensus among fans that the SEC is the strongest conference this season. It is worth noting that most of the voters in this poll are not SEC fans. I believe this poll to be reasonably reflective of college football fans in general. The evidence suggests that fans think the SEC just means more this season.

    3. Fans are not sold on Notre Dame.

      In most of the MaxDiff Polls this season, fans have ranked Notre Dame less favorably than the AP. That trend continues this week, as Notre Dame clocks in at #5 in the MaxDiff Poll versus #3 in the AP. I think it is likely that fans are remembering some of Notre Dame’s more ugly wins over Vanderbilt, Ball State, and Pitt. In addition, Notre Dame’s most quality win came in Week 1 over Michigan. That victory likely does not come to mind as quickly as it should.

    4. If The Playoff Committee thinks like fans, UCF is getting snubbed again this year.

      UCF made the list of most overrated teams in the AP this week according to fans. The Knights clocked in at #9 in the AP and #13 in the MaxDiff Poll. Yes, this is the same UCF team that is on the longest active winning streak in the country. The Knights of Central Florida are one of the more compelling teams again this year, and their surprisingly large fan base has grown increasingly frustrated and vocal in support of UCF’s case for the College Football Playoff. Some argue that the first Playoff Poll doesn’t really mean that much, but I disagree. UCF’s placement in the first Playoff Poll will likely reveal if the Knights have a shot of even being considered by The Committee. If the Knights do not make the top 10 of tonight’s first Playoff Poll, I think that means that The Committee isn’t going to give them a shot yet again this season. If The Committee is thinking along the same lines as fans, things will not look promising for McKenzie Milton and company.

    5. Fans continue to have no love for the Mountain West.

      The two entries in this week’s AP top 32 from the Mountain West – Fresno State and Utah State – are the most overrated teams in the minds of fans. This continues a trend that I’ve noted a few times this season. The data suggest fans do not think the top teams from the Group of Five conferences can actually compete with those from the Power Five conferences.

    6. Fans have no love for the ACC either.

      The Group of Five conferences aren’t the only ones getting snubbed by fans in this week’s MaxDiff Poll. With the exception of Clemson, all of the ACC’s teams were given “overrated” status by fans. It has been an unexpectedly rough year for the conference.


How Do Fans Feel About This Week’s ESPN GameDay Showdown Between Alabama and LSU?