The MaxDiff Poll After Week 6: Fans Think The SEC Just Means More

Week 6 is now in the record books, and with the first CFP Poll less than three weeks away, college football fans across the country are already beginning to form their opinions on who should be in and who should be left out of The Playoff. This past weekend featured two games in particular that will have a substantial impact on The Playoff picture:  Texas’ upset over Oklahoma and Notre Dame’s victory over Virginia Tech. In addition to shaping The Playoff conversation, these two games had a major impact on fan perceptions as you’ll see in this week’s poll results. Let’s dive in!

This Week’s Poll Specs

When was this fielded?: October 8, 2018
Number of respondents: 1,945
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 135 means that team was ranked 35% 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 give Oklahoma a bit of a pass.

      Despite losing a 48 – 45 heart breaker to Texas this past weekend, Oklahoma remains in the hunt for a CFP berth. So far this season, fans have had a more favorable opinion of the Sooners than AP voters, and that trend continues this week. The Sooners fell four spots in both the AP and the FanJuicer MaxDiff Poll, but the difference is that they fell from #7 to #11 in the AP, while they fell from #4 to #8 in the MaxDiff Poll.  In fact, I expect it to be controversial that the Sooners are still ranked one spot ahead of the Texas Longhorns in this week’s MaxDiff Poll. This suggests that while Texas did defeat Oklahoma this weekend on a neutral field, fans are still not convinced that Texas is the better team. If the two teams were to play again on a neutral field, who would you choose as the most likely winner? The good news is that we may get to find out later this season if both teams win out and meet again for the Big 12 Championship.

    2. The AP and fan perceptions are starting to converge on Texas A&M after the signature win over Kentucky.

      Since the beginning of this season, Texas A&M has consistently been ranked as one of the most underrated teams in the AP by voters in the MaxDiff Poll. The fact that AP voters usually won’t move up teams after “quality losses” like A&M’s competitive losses versus Clemson and Alabama contributed a great deal to this. The Aggies finally gained a signature victory on Saturday with a 6-point, overtime win over the Kentucky Wildcats. A&M now has a notch in the win column to backup fans’ perceptions that have outpaced those of AP voters since Week 2.

    3. The SEC is getting a lot of respect.

      In the minds of fans, three of this week’s seven most underrated teams in the AP hail from the SEC:  Auburn, A&M, and LSU. Two of those three are coming off disappointing losses. The issue is that Auburn and LSU both lost to other SEC teams which fans view as worthy of respect. And before you ask – the answer is “no” – this poll does not over index on SEC fans. This poll’s representation in terms of team affiliation is actually pretty good. The sad truth is that the evidence suggests fans are willing to give more leeway to teams who lose to the SEC’s tough-middle (bowl eligible teams who finish below #2 in the conf.) than that of other conferences, which is indicative of fans’ respect for the SEC.

    4. Stanford and TCU are the most underrated teams this week according to fans.

      It could be due to Stanford’s status as one of the Pac 12’s brand names, but it could also be that fans remember Stanford’s two high quality wins over Oregon and USC despite the Cardinal’s disappointing loss to Utah last Saturday.

      As for TCU, they have looked competitive in losses to Ohio State and Texas, who looks like a much tougher foe after besting Oklahoma this past Saturday.

    5. Clemson gains back some respect.

      I noted in last week’s poll how Clemson had fallen considerably in the minds of fans after barely escaping with a victory over Syracuse in Week 5. The Tigers bounced back this week by decimating Wake Forest 63 – 3 in Winston-Salem. This puts the Tigers back into Tier II alongside the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Speaking of Notre Dame, with their win over Virginia Tech, the Irish have firmly placed themselves in The Playoff picture. For the Irish to make The Playoff, they may need to take the spot of the Power 5 conference champion with the weakest schedule. As of right now, Clemson is as good a candidate as any to be that team. As long as both Clemson and Notre Dame remain undefeated this season, I expect that fans and the media alike will constantly compare the two teams. This week’s poll suggests a slight majority of fans would pick the Irish over the Tigers.

    6. No love for the Pac 12.

      While the Pac 12’s Stanford was shown some love, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado were ranked among this week’s most overrated teams in the minds of fans.



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. I have received quite a bit of questions this season about the logic behind this pattern. Firstly, keep in mind that when point spreads are set, oddsmakers take into account public perceptions and this poll is simply a reasonably good reflection of how the public perceives the AP Top 32 in terms of relative team quality. Casual observers tend to overwhelmingly choose favorites and brand names ATS regardless of the line. Oddsmakers understand this tendency, which is why they typically shade their opening lines to force the casual participants to take less favorable point spreads when playing the popular side of a game.

Last week’s poll made eight predictions with six wins and two losses. After a stellar performance last week, the MaxDiff Poll’s predictions are now  29 – 19 (60% hit rate) ATS on the season. Please keep in mind that this is only after 48 games, which is a small sample size. As I stated in Week 1, this pattern may very well be random noise, and I maintain that position until more games have been played.

Here are this week’s predictions:

  • UCF (-4.5) over Memphis
  • MIAMI (-6) over Virginia
  • COLORADO (+7) over USC
  • USF (-7.5) over Tulsa
  • IOWA (-5.5) over Indiana
  • SAN DIEGO STATE (-10.5) over Air Force
  • GEORGIA (-7.5) over LSU
  • TENNESSEE (+15.5) over Auburn
  • SOUTH CAROLINA (+2) over Texas A&M
  • TEXAS TECH (+7) over TCU

How do Fans of Each Power 5 Conference Rank The Teams This Week? Click to Find Out.

Due to popular demand, I’ve broken out the MaxDiff rankings by fans’ conference affiliation in the link above.


How Do Fans Feel About Wisconsin v. Michigan This Weekend?