The MaxDiff Poll After Week 10: Michigan Eclipses Notre Dame in the Minds of Fans

Many went into Week 10 expecting it to be the biggest one of this year’s college football season. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I felt a bit underwhelmed by the drama of the past week’s on field outcomes. There were no major upsets in the Top 10 and no unexpected outcomes of consequence on the College Football Playoff picture other than West Virginia’s win over Texas. However, the most bland aspect of the week was the fact that the headline game – which was billed as the single most important game of the season so far – ended in a predictable 29 – 0 stomping of LSU by the seemingly invincible Crimson Tide. I don’t think it is crazy to start putting this year’s Alabama team in the conversation for the best college football teams of all time. There’s still plenty of football left to be played, so perhaps there is a team in the mix that can do the impossible and pull off an upset similar to the one that Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns pulled off over the USC Trojans in the 2005 – 2006 season. At this point, if anyone were to beat this year’s Bama team, I think it would be a bigger upset than the one the Longhorns pulled off over a decade ago. We still have two months of action left until the College Football Playoff, so let’s dive in!

This Week’s Poll Specs

When was this fielded?: November 5, 2018
Number of respondents: 1,406
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 129 means that team was ranked 29% 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. Michigan eclipses Notre Dame in the minds of fans.

      Michigan had arguably the most impressive showing this week of any of the contenders for The Playoff. The Wolverines looked flawless in a 42 – 7 beat down of Big Ten East rival Penn State. It seems like Jim Harbaugh has finally created the Wolverine team he has always wanted – ruthless, physical, emotional, and angry – much like Harbaugh himself. I expect Michigan’s placement above Notre Dame in this week’s MaxDiff Poll to create some discussion, if not controversy, considering the fact that Notre Dame has defeated Michigan head-to-head this season. I hypothesize that many fans are keeping in mind that that game was played in South Bend as the first game of the season and that the Wolverines have improved a great deal since then. In fact, Michigan looks almost like a new team – a team possessed that will stop at nothing other than a Big 10 Championship. It isn’t just fan perceptions – the Wolverines also surpass the Fighting Irish in the S&P+, one of the more objective measures of team quality. The Wolverines are now positioned to win their first Big Ten East Championship under Harbaugh, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves – there are still a couple of hurdles left to clear. The Wolverines may get a tune up game this week against Rutgers, but face a competent Indiana Hoosiers team in two weeks. Once the Wolverines clear the Hoosiers, they will travel to Columbus to face the Ohio State Buckeyes in The Game, which may be a play in game for The Playoff. Speaking of Ohio State. . .

    2. Fans could be giving up on Ohio State.

      Ohio State looked pretty rough this past weekend as it barely sneaked past 2 – 7 Nebraska. As a brand name, blue blood program, Ohio State usually is ranked a little higher in the MaxDiff Poll than the AP. That’s not the case this week. Ohio State has faced a litany of problems this season on and off the field, but despite this, the Buckeyes still have a reasonable shot of making The Playoff. Ohio State’s defense has struggled mightily in recent weeks, and will have to right the ship before facing the Wolverines on November 24.

    3. Fans might be chilling on the SEC.

      Throughout this season, fans have generally ranked the SEC teams higher in the MaxDiff Poll than the AP, which reflects fans respect for the quality of that conference. Fans may be softening this view, as this is the first week that the top SEC teams are generally ranked similarly in the MaxDiff Poll and the AP. The only exception is Florida, who clocked in at #19 in the AP and #15 in the MaxDiff Poll, which makes them one of the most underrated teams in the AP this week according to fans. Fans even ranked Mississippi State as one of the most overrated teams in the AP this week – a rarity this season for SEC teams.

    4. Fans are not giving much respect to Boston College.

      Fans ranked Boston College as one of this week’s most overrated teams in the AP, a trend that continues from last week’s MaxDiff Poll. Furthermore, most fans are not even giving the Eagles a chance in their showdown this weekend against the #2 Clemson Tigers. Scroll to the bottom of this article, and you’ll see that the fans predict a 45 – 17 win for the Clemson Tigers. Odds makers originally set the Tigers as a 17.5 point favorite, but that number has now shifted to 20. I expect it to shift even more before kickoff. Keep in mind that perceptions and spreads have absolutely zero impact on the outcomes of games.

    5. Oklahoma and West Virginia are viewed similarly in terms of strength.

      West Virginia picked up a signature victory this weekend over Texas, converting a two-point conversion in the game’s final seconds to win in dramatic fashion. Interestingly, the Mountaineers are now in the same tier as the Oklahoma Sooners, meaning the two teams are viewed similarly, although most give will give a slight edge to Oklahoma. It will be an interesting matchup later this season when the Mountaineers and Sooners clash, which might happen more than once.

    6. Fans once gain have no love for the Mountain West.

      Just like last week, Fresno State and Utah State are two of the most overrated teams in the minds of fans. This continues a season long trend. Most voters in this poll (and college football fans in general) are not fans of a team from the Mountain West or any of the other Group of Five conferences. This creates a lack of familiarity with the Group of Five teams, which I believe contributes some to the lower rankings of the G5 teams each week in this poll. However, I also think when fans really consider if the top G5 teams could compete with those in the Power Five, most will say no.


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How Do Fans Feel About This Week’s ESPN GameDay Showdown Between Clemson and Boston College?


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