It’s finally here: the 2021 College Football season. We’ve been waiting for a long 7 months for the return to a full schedule, and hopefully a sense of normalcy with fans back in the stands.
And a new season means the return of our Elo ratings, a point-based rating system originating from chess and now being applied across a wide range of sports, where you gain or lose points based on your wins and losses over the expectation. So if you win games that your Elo rating suggested you would lose (think Appalachian State over Michigan), you’ll shoot up the rankings much faster than if you win games you were always expected to win.
So without further ado, here are our 2021 preseason Elo ratings for the Top 25 teams.
As expected, the 2020 National Champion Alabama team sits atop the rankings. This is because the Elo rating system discounts every team equally (within the Power 5 conferences) during the offseason, meaning that every team’s starting rating at the beginning of the 2021 season is 5% less than at the end of the 2020 season.
However there are still some names to get excited about, and teams that haven’t typically cracked the preseason top 25 sitting up there like Kentucky, Indiana, and Northwestern.
In total, there are 7 SEC teams, 6 Big Ten teams, 4 Big-12 teams, 4 Pac-12 teams, and 2 ACC teams plus Notre Dame who competed in the ACC last season.
You can check out the full ratings for all Division I teams below. We’ll update these ratings weekly to track the biggest movers as the season progresses.