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Penn State football ranked No. 1 in latest ESPN résumé ratings

According to ESPN’s advanced analytics, Penn State has the best résumé in college football.



Penn State Football, ESPN, No. 1 team, Résumé SP+
Sep 9, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State football has proven itself to be one of the best teams in the nation through six weeks of the college football season. The Nittany Lions are 5-0 with four solid wins against Power Five competition. James Franklin and his team have been ranked inside the top 10 all season, and just cracked the top five for the first time this year in Sunday’s Coaches Poll. But are the Nittany Lions the No. 1 team in America? According to advanced analytics from ESPN, the answer is “yes.” In this week’s edition of the ESPN Résumé SP+ rankings, writer Bill Connelly says Penn State has the best body of work in college football.

Penn State football is the No.1 team in ESPN Résumé SP+ rankings

By now, most college football fans are familiar with Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings. The ESPN writer’s widely used power rating system has become popular for its ability to benchmark teams and predict outcomes on the field.

The SP+ rankings do a good job of incorporating advanced analytics to determine offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency. However, the power ratings do not consider how teams fare in the eye test. Given that this aspect is crucial to the College Football Playoff, Connelly also includes Résumé SP+ rankings in his weekly column.

“SP+ is intended to be a power rating, not a résumé evaluation tool, but Résumé SP+ attempts to fill that latter gap,” Connelly writes on ESPN on Sunday. “It is a look at two things: (1) how the average SP+ top-five team would be projected to perform against your schedule (in terms of scoring margin) and (2) how your scoring margin compares to (1). Throw in a seven-point penalty for every loss a team has suffered, and you can say that this is what the CFP rankings would look like if SP+ were in charge.”

With the résumé portion of the ESPN SP+ rankings considered, Penn State football comes in as the No. 1 team in the nation. This is a big jump from the regular SP+ rankings, where the Nittany Lions are No. 10. The full top five is as follows:

  1. Penn State
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Oregon
  4. Washington
  5. Ohio State

Are the Nittany Lions passing the eye test?

In essence, the ESPN Résumé SP+ rankings say that Penn State football is winning its games by a full touchdown more than the average SP+ top-five team would perform in the same situation.

Obviously, this is the highest that Penn State has been rated or ranked this year. The Nittany Lions cracked the top five in this week’s Coaches Poll, but were jumped by Oklahoma in the AP Poll for Week 7.

But, the Résumé SP+ rankings may not be surprising given some of the other key metrics surrounding Penn State this season. As has been well circulated at this point, the Nittany Lions lead the nation in consecutive 30-point scoring games and 14+ point margins of victory. Penn State has won its five games by an average margin of 31 points this season.

All of this means that, even when Penn State has looked off at times this season, James Franklin’s team is still doing more than enough in terms of the eye test. And having a top-level body of work will only help the Nittany Lions if they need to make their case for the College Football Playoff at year’s end.

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A third-generation Penn Stater, Matt is Editor-in-Chief for Basic Blues Nation, co-host of the podcast PSU Tailgate Talk, and a credentialed member of the Penn State football media. Matt also works as a staffer in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Matt lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and a small army of pets.