We’re breaking down some of the biggest movers in our top 25 and revealing our TRACR projection model’s college football picks for the biggest matchups.
Red River Showdown
Perhaps the biggest college football game of the weekend is the Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, where No. 12 Oklahoma (5-0) takes on No. 3 Texas (5-0) on Saturday in a battle for supremacy atop the Big 12.
The Sooners, who are the No. 5 in TRACR after a 50-20 win over Iowa State, had won four straight in this rivalry before getting trounced 49-0 at the Cotton Bowl last season. Bijan Robinson is no longer around to torment Oklahoma after the eventual NFL Draft pick ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns in that meeting, but Quinn Ewers will be.
The Texas QB threw for 289 yards and four TDs with one interception in that rout and he’s thrown for 10 scores and just one pick so far this season. Now he’ll face an Oklahoma defense that has given up just 10.8 points per game, which is tied for the fourth fewest in the country.
But while Sooners are stout against the run, ranking fourth in defensive TRACR, they’ve been vulnerable through the air. They rank just 38th in defensive TRACR against the pass.
TRACR (Team Rating Adjusted for Conference and Roster) is a net efficiency metric that evaluates how well a team performs based on who it plays. The model, which is trained on over 10 years of data, is based on an EPA (expected points added) calculation weighed by who teams play.
A team with a TRACR of 0.0 is considered an average team in the FBS. The rankings, along with projected record, probability of running the table and chances of becoming a bowl-eligible team, are being updated throughout the season on our TRACR college football rankings page.
Things should be just as interesting when Oklahoma has the ball. Texas ranks second in the nation in defensive TRACR, while the Sooners are seventh in offensive TRACR. Dillon Gabriel has been on a heater, averaging 369.7 passing yards – the third in the FBS – over the past three games. He also has thrown for 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions on the season.
Texas, No. 6 in our rankings after outscoring Wyoming, Baylor and Kansas by a combined 109-30, may be sportsbooks’ favorite at around minus-6.5, but our model gives Oklahoma a 52.0% chance of pulling off the upset in Dallas. The matchup between College Football Playoff hopefuls is by far the top-rated game on the college slate, according to SmartRatings.
SmartRatings is an AI-based platform that calculates excitement ratings based on six primary variables: pace, parity, novelty, momentum, context and social buzz. The excitement scale translates to the following general sub-ranges: 0-39 (Dull Game), 40-64 (OK Game), 65-84 (Good Game), 85-100 (Great Game).
MOST EXCITING WEEK 6 NCAA GAMES, PER SMARTRATINGS
- Oklahoma vs. Texas (82)
- Washington State at UCLA (72)
- LSU at Missouri (71)
- Alabama at Texas A&M (70)
- Kentucky at Georgia (67)
Will there be a shake-up in the AP Top 25 by the time we get to Monday?
It’s quite possible since a number of ranked teams are projected to have their hands full in Week 6, according to our TRACR model.
Another game that figures to have major implications in the AP Top 25 is Saturday’s Pac-12 clash between unranked UCLA (3-1) and No. 13 Washington State (4-0) at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
The voters and our projection model are far apart when measuring these two. The Bruins enter this contest No. 23 in our rankings, while the Cougars are back at No. 47 despite their high AP ranking. As a result, TRACR gives UCLA a pretty substantial advantage with a 76.2% win probability in this key contest in terms of the conference race.
It’s the defensive side that has brought Washington State’s rating down. The Cougars are an eye-opening 79th in the nation in defensive TRACR after allowing Oregon State to rush for 242 yards in a 38-35 victory in Week 4.
The Bruins will be looking to get on track offensively after failing to get much going in a 14-7 loss at Utah in Week 4, but that came against a Utes unit that ranks third nationally in defensive TRACR. UCLA also owns one of the top defenses in the FBS, ranking fifth behind only Duke, Utah, Texas and Michigan.
2023 DEFENSIVE TRACR LEADERS
- Michigan Wolverines (-11.4)
- Texas Longhorns (-8.8)
- Utah Utes (-8.0)
- Duke Blue Devils (-6.1)
- UCLA Bruins (-5.9)
- Penn State Nittany Lions (-5.1)
- Alabama Crimson Tide (-4.2)
- Miami (FL) Hurricanes (-4.1)
- Oklahoma Sooners (-3.9)
- Ohio State Buckeyes (-3.6)
Our model also projects No. 25 (AP) Louisville to fall at home to No. 10 Notre Dame after the Cardinals narrowly escaped a loss to NC State (13-10) in Week 5. No. 11 Alabama at Texas A&M and No. 4 Ohio State against visiting Maryland are nearly 50-50 in terms of win probability.
So which teams are the best bets? How do they compare to the expert picks? Here are the rest of our model’s win probabilities for all the TRACR top 25 football games.
Week 6 College Football Predictions
TRACR No. 1 Michigan 98.4% over No. 60 Minnesota
No. 2 Oregon is idle
No. 3 Washington is idle
No. 4 USC 87.3% over No. 24 Arizona
No. 5 Oklahoma 52.0% over No. 6 Texas
No. 7 Notre Dame 66.5% over No. 16 Louisville
No. 8 Miami (FL) 95.1% over No. 73 Georgia Tech
No. 9 Duke is idle
No. 10 Penn State is idle
No. 11 Ohio State 53.3% over No. 12 Maryland
No. 13 Florida State 88.3% over No. 53 Virginia Tech
No. 14 Alabama 52.2% over No. 17 Texas A&M
No. 15 Oregon State 88.3% over No. 61 California
No. 18 Georgia 66.1% over No. 29 Kentucky
No. 19 North Carolina 73.4% over No. 34 Syracuse
No. 20 LSU 76.5% over No. 42 Missouri
No. 21 Tennessee is idle
No. 22 Ole Miss 77.8% over No. 46 Arkansas
No. 23 UCLA 76.2% over No. 47 Washington State
No. 25 Kansas State 87.8% over No. 83 Oklahoma State
The Wolverines took over the top spot in our rankings following a 45-7 win over Nebraska. Big Ten rival Penn State moved into the top 10 after beating Illinois, Iowa and Northwestern to open 3-0 in the conference slate. Coming off an overtime win over the Clemson Tigers (No. 32) in Week 4, the Seminoles return to action at No. 13 against Virginia Tech.
On the outside of the rankings looking in are No. 26 Wisconsin, No. 27 Air Force, No. 28 Texas State, No. 29 Kentucky Wildcats and No. 30 Rutgers.
How close is Conference USA darling Liberty, which takes on Sam Houston this week as the only undefeated team in the conference? No. 52. How about Sun Belt leaders James Madison (5-0) and Marshall (4-0)? 67th and 65th, respectively. Fresno State (5-0) out of the Mountain West, which has a win over Purdue, is another under-the-radar team making a push at No. 35.
Colorado hung in there in a 48-41 loss to USC, but ultimately has dropped to 2-2 and to No. 81 in TRACR heading into its game at Arizona State this weekend.
The Trojans fell from No. 2 to No. 4 as a result. Remember, our model rewards big wins over good teams and punishes losses to bad ones or even wins that are closer than expected.