The MaxDiff Poll After Week 5: Fans Pull Respect from Clemson and Give it to Notre Dame

This Week’s Poll Specs

When was this fielded?: October 1, 2018
Number of respondents: 1,451
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, Stanford’s MaxDiff score of 122 means that team was ranked 22% higher than the average team in the exercise. It is important to note that these scores should not be interpreted as “votes.” See our explanation of MaxDiff if you would like more information.


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

    1. Fans lose confidence in Clemson.

      Last week was a dramatic one for the Clemson Tigers. Senior quarterback Kelly Bryant suddenly announced he would leave the team and transfer after being demoted to backup by Head Coach Dabo Swinney in favor of true freshman sensation Trevor Lawrence. While the Tigers may have a greater ability to compete for a national title with Lawrence’s obviously superior arm talent, the departure of Bryant leaves only two scholarship quarterbacks on the Tigers’ roster. This created a nightmare scenario on Saturday when Lawrence was knocked out in the first half of the Tigers’ game versus Syracuse. With Lawrence out, the Tigers were forced to turn to unknown redshirt freshman, Chase Brice, who up to that point had thrown eight total passes in his college career. Fortunately for the Tigers, Brice proved to be a competent “game manager” style quarterback, as the Tigers were able to get their run game going behind sophomore Travis Etienne, who scampered for 203 yards and three touchdowns. Brice was forced to lead a fourth quarter drive with six minutes remaining to sneak out with a 23 – 27 victory over the Orange. At one point, the Tigers were one play away from defeat as they leaned on Brice to convert a crucial fourth and six. Brice was able to find Tee Higgins with a gutsy throw to keep the drive alive. A few plays later Etienne scampered into the endzone for his third touchdown to seal the victory. It was dramatic, but it was ugly, and it definitely did not improve perceptions of the Tigers. In addition, Clemson is yet to snag that signature victory over an elite team, and they may not get a chance this season due to their weak schedule. For these reasons, Clemson fell all the way from Tier I in last week’s poll down to Tier III this week. For the first time since I’ve been doing this poll, fans now view Clemson as one of the most overrated teams in the AP.

    2. Syracuse becomes the second team this season to earn underrated status after playing Clemson tough.

      Syracuse earned a lot of respect this week from fans with their with their scrappy performance against the Tigers. Despite the loss, the Orange entered the AP Top 32 for the first time this season, and fans felt they should have been ranked even higher, as they clocked in at #24 in FanJuicer’s MaxDiff Poll. This isn’t the first team to gain respect from fans in a losing effort versus Clemson. As I pointed out in my posts after Week 2 and Week 3, Texas A&M was the beneficiary of improved perceptions after playing the Tigers close.

    3. Notre Dame finally earns fans’ respect.

      To the chagrin of many Fighting Irish fans, Notre Dame has been continuously ranked by fans this season as one of the most overrated teams in the AP, largely due to some ugly wins against Ball State and Vanderbilt. Things changed for the Irish on Saturday, as they were able to gain a signature victory over the Stanford Cardinal behind the stellar play of newly named starting quarterback Ian Book. Book was stellar, delivering four touchdown passes in a 38 – 17 victory over the Cardinal. Since benching former starter Brandon Wimbush in favor of Book, the Fighting Irish have looked like a new team, with some calling them legitimate playoff contenders. For this reason, Notre Dame is one of this week’s biggest gainers in the minds of fans, rising from Tier IV in last week’s poll to Tier II.

    4. Texas A&M remains the most underrated team in the minds of fans, even after a less than impressive week.

      Texas A&M has been ranked by fans as one of the most underrated teams in the AP in almost every MaxDiff Poll this season. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this is because positive perceptions of A&M are largely fueled by their competitive performance versus Clemson in a losing effort. AP voters tend to not rank teams higher on their ballots after losses, regardless of how strong that team looked, whereas this poll tends to mitigate that with the MaxDiff system, which forces voters to compare teams in sets of four. Fans still view the Aggies as one of the most underrated teams in the AP, even after a less than impressive 17 – 24 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. It will be interesting to see if the Aggies can maintain these positive perceptions moving forward. Texas A&M has a real chance to impress this weekend, as they host the Kentucky Wildcats, one of the hottest teams in the country.

    5. Ohio State becomes the most credible contender to Alabama in the minds of fans.

      Ohio State took a major step towards punching its Playoff ticket with its second signature victory this season, as the Buckeyes squeaked past Penn State in Happy Valley with a 27 – 26 victory. Last week, fans correctly predicted that Ohio State would defeat Penn State, but they underestimated how tough the Nittany Lions would play the Buckeyes. In fact, the tough performance from the Nittany Lions did not harm them much in the minds of fans as they fell only one spot from #7 in last week’s poll to #8 this week. Even though the Buckeyes didn’t beat the Nittany Lions as decisively as fans predicted, they have now emerged alongside UGA as the most credible threat to the seemingly invincible Alabama Crimson Tide.

    6. The ACC is very underwhelming according to fans.

      The ACC has perhaps underwhelmed on the field this season versus preseason expectations more so than any other Power 5 conference. This season so far has been a litany of disasters for the conference as. . .

      Miami, one of the conference’s strongest teams, was blown out by LSU in Week 1.

      Virginia Tech was humiliated two weeks ago by Conference USA’s Old Dominion.

      Clemson has looked underwhelming versus preseason expectations despite remaining undefeated.

      The conference’s emerging contender Boston College was embarrassed by the B1G’s Purdue.

      Florida State has been a complete dumpster fire.

      Perceptions of the conference are starting to flounder as a result. This week, six ACC teams made the AP Top 32, and fans ranked five of them as overrated, with the only exception being Syracuse due to their performance versus Clemson last Saturday.



The MaxDiff Poll Versus the Spread?

Last season, I noticed a peculiar trend in the MaxDiff Poll in that the teams fans felt were OVERRATED in the AP tended to win versus the spread the following week, while teams fans felt were UNDERRATED tended to lose versus the spread. Using this pattern, last week’s poll made eight predictions with four wins and four losses. While the MaxDiff Poll only hit half its games last week, it remains  23 – 17 (58% hit rate) against the spread on the season so far.

Here are this week’s predictions:

  • KENTUCKY (+5.5) over Texas A&M
  • TEXAS (+7.5) over Oklahoma
  • IOWA STATE (+11) over Oklahoma State
  • PITT (+4.5) over Syracuse
  • CLEMSON (-17) over Wake Forest
  • FLORIDA (+2.5) over LSU
  • NC STATE (-4) over Boston College
  • BOISE STATE (-14.5) over San Diego State

How Do Fans Feel About Texas v. Oklahoma This Weekend?