The MaxDiff Poll After Week 8: Fans Agree with The AP This Week

Week 8 was headlined by a monster upset by the Purdue Boilermakers over the Ohio State Buckeyes. While this was arguably the biggest upset so far this season, Week 8 featured few other notable upsets of major consequence on The Playoff Picture. Speaking of The Playoff, with Week 8 down, fans across the nation are eagerly awaiting the release of next week’s first College Football Playoff Poll. It will be interesting to see how fans’ perceptions differ from those of the CFP Committee. Last year, I found fan perceptions to mirror the CFP Poll more closely than the AP. That’s ironic because this week’s MaxDiff Poll aligned with the AP more so than any poll this season. Let’s dive in!

This Week’s Poll Specs

When was this fielded?: October 22, 2018
Number of respondents: 1,571
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 109 means that team was ranked 9% 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. Fans agree with the AP for the most part.

      I was very surprised at this week’s results because they look closer to the AP than what we’ve seen in previous weeks. There are no glaring differences like we saw after Week 2 or Week 3. That’s pretty boring. Luckily, the release of the first Playoff Poll next week should spice things up a bit.

    2. USF is this week’s most overrated team in the AP according to fans.

      I’ve written extensively about how this poll captures the fact that fans may give lip service to the Group of Five teams, but they don’t actually think they can hang with the Power Five. Every week, quite a few G5 teams are included among the teams fans feel are most overrated in the AP, even though most G5 teams that are lucky enough to even make the AP usually limp in at the bottom of that poll. This week’s most overrated team is none other than the American Conference’s USF Bulls, who were ranked #21 in the AP versus #25 in the FanJuicer MaxDiff Poll. While fans are probably unimpressed with South Florida’s weak schedule, my hypothesis is that they are even less impressed with how the undefeated Bulls have looked in some of their narrow wins over bad teams such as UConn, Tulsa, East Carolina, and even P5 Illinois. The Bulls will have a chance to impress this weekend when they face one of the best G5 teams in the Houston Cougars. Speaking of the Houston Cougars. . .

    3. Houston is one of this week’s most underrated teams according to fans.

      Unlike USF, Houston has won most of its games comfortably against other G5 opponents. In addition, Houston looked competitive in its loss against Texas Tech, who is looking better each week. Houston is currently favored by a touchdown over the Bulls. Based on fan perceptions, I expect them to be favored by even more by kickoff.

    4. Fans did not drop Ohio State as far as the AP voters.

      Ohio State’s shocking loss to Purdue was one of this season’s most surprising upsets so far. Despite the Buckeyes falling to #11 in the AP, fans only dropped the Buckeyes to #9 in the MaxDiff Poll. The Buckeyes can rebound and get back in the CFP conversation with a victory over Michigan in their upcoming cage match, which may be a play in game for The Playoff.

    5. Fans think LSU is better than Notre Dame.

      Unlike the AP, fans ranked LSU above the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Tigers took the majority of head-to-head sets against the Irish, which is one reason LSU makes Tier I and Notre Dame remains in Tier II. Speaking of tiers. . .

    6. Alabama really should be in a tier of its own.

      I’ve put Alabama in Tier I this week alongside Clemson and LSU to make this week’s poll comparable to the Tiers from previous weeks. However, fans really think Alabama should be in a Tier of its own, which is why I have marked them as Tier “IA”. Differences in MaxDiff scores mean more at the top of this poll If you are wondering why Alabama should be in a tier of its own when its MaxDiff score is only two points greater than that of #2 Clemson.


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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. 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 seven predictions with three wins and four losses. Despite two very bad weeks of predictions, the Poll’s predictions are still +50% (but barely) on the season with a  35 – 31 record (53% hit rate) ATS on the season.

Here are this week’s predictions:

  • USF (+7.5) over Houston
  • SAN DIEGO STATE (-2.5) over Nevada
  • BOSTON COLLEGE (+3.5) over Miami

How Do Fans Feel About This Week’s ESPN GameDay Showdown Between Georgia and Florida?


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