The MaxDiff Poll After Week 13: Ohio State or Oklahoma?

Rivalry week was headlined by Ohio State’s surprising dismantling of the Michigan Wolverines, which sent shock waves through the college football world. With one huge victory, the Buckeyes completely upended the College Football Playoff picture and flipped the script on the narrative for their season. Ohio State, who have largely been seen as “troubled underachievers” all season (despite only having one loss to their record), are now on the cusp of sneaking into The Playoff for the third time in five seasons.

At this juncture, three of the four Playoff spots are more than likely filled. Alabama is in – even if they were to lose the SEC Championship game. Clemson is also in unless they were to completely stumble against Pitt in the ACC Championship game, which they are currently favored to win by more than three touchdowns. Conference-less Notre Dame, who concluded their regular season unbeaten with a 24 – 17 victory over rival USC is also in. That leaves one spot.

Georgia could claim the final spot with an upset of Alabama, but it is more likely that the final spot will go to either Oklahoma or Ohio State. Both teams play respectable opponents in their conference championship games, but if they were to win those games, we would have two one-loss conference champions. That means that a deserving team will more than likely be left out this year. That’s why I was interested in how college football fans across the nation view the Buckeyes and Sooners in terms of team quality, which I discuss in more detail below.

Let’s dive in!

This Week’s Poll Specs

When was this fielded?: November 26, 2018
Number of respondents: 1,149
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 197 means that team was ranked 97% 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 view Georgia and Notre Dame similarly.

      A running theme this year has been the lack of respect given to unbeaten Notre Dame by both fans and the media. In many of this season’s MaxDiff Polls, fans have passed on the Irish in favor of other teams. Michigan was one of those teams, even though the Irish defeated the Wolverines head-to-head on a neutral field in Week 1. That narrative died on Saturday when Michigan was humbled by the Ohio State Buckeyes. This week, fans placed the Irish in Tier II with the Georgia Bulldogs, but ranked UGA slightly ahead of Notre Dame. If these two teams were to play on a neutral field, who do you think would be most likely to win? This data suggests that most college football fans would be split, but a slight edge would be given to the Bulldogs. This is most likely irrelevant, because we probably will not see that game happen, but it is possible. As I stated above, Georgia can still make The Playoff with an upset win over Alabama in the SEC Championship game. Where would that put the Irish?

    2. Fans think the CFP Committee is underrating Texas and West Virginia.

      The second and third best teams from the Big 12 are not being given proper respect from the CFP Committee according to fans. This week, the CFP Committee ranked the Longhorns and Mountaineers #14 and #16 respectively, but fans felt both of these teams should have cracked the top ten. West Virginia’s regular season is over, but Texas still has a chance to spoil Oklahoma’s Playoff aspirations with an upset win in Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game. It is difficult to think that if Texas were to beat Oklahoma that it would be an “upset” because you may remember that these two teams have already played this year and Texas came out on top. Nevertheless, most fans think Oklahoma will win the rematch, and Vegas currently favors Oklahoma by eight points!

    3. Fans think the Committee is overrating Florida.

      The 9 – 3 Gators cracked the Committee’s top ten this week, but fans ranked the Gators #14 in the MaxDiff Poll. Throughout the season, the SEC has been given the benefit of the doubt. However, in recent weeks fans have cooled on the SEC’s rank-and-file (i.e. every team not named Alabama or Georgia). The Committee, however, still is high on the SEC’s middle teams as evidenced by the fact that they still view three loss Florida and LSU as two of the nation’s ten best teams. Which leads me to my next point. . .

    4. Outside of the elite teams in the Big 12 (Oklahoma) and SEC (Alabama and Georgia), fans favor the top of the Big 12 over the top of the SEC. 

      See points two and three above.

    5. Fans have no respect for Utah.

      The Pac 12 South Champions have been consistently given “overrated” status by fans in this poll. That trend continues this week as Utah was ranked #17 by the CFP Committee, but #22 by fans in the MaxDiff Poll. Utah has a chance to impress on Friday when they clash with the Washington Huskies in the Pac 12 Championship Game.

    6. Fans also have no respect for Fresno State.

      The Mountain West in general gets very little respect from fans, but Fresno State in particular was given no love this week. Unlike Boise State, who has a bit of national brand recognition, Fresno State gets little national attention, which is why I think fans voted the Bulldogs as the most overrated team in this week’s CFP rankings.



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


Oklahoma Versus Ohio State?

As I mentioned above, the Committee will most likely have to decide between two one-loss conference champions when determining who gets this year’s final Playoff spot. That’s why I was interested in what fans think.

It looks like most would give a slight edge to the Sooners. It’s worth noting that conference affiliation impacts which team fans think would win this hypothetical matchup. Big 12 fans favored the Sooners (84%), while Big 10 fans favored the Buckeyes (73%). However, fans of neither conference would take the Sooners (62%).

I also asked which team fans thought would claim the final Playoff spot, and the Sooners received more votes (60%) than the other contenders:  Ohio State (26%), Georgia (7%), and UCF (7%). All of this together suggests that the average college football fan views the Sooners as superior to the Buckeyes.