How To Estimate Sportsbooks’ College Football Power Ratings

Written By Brett Gibbons on March 9, 2023
college football power ratings

Power ratings are one of the most powerful handicapping tools a sports bettor can use. Differing from power rankings, power ratings estimate by how much a team would be favored. Estimating where a sportsbook stands on each team is a useful way to find edges. FanDuel Sportsbook released college football opening odds in February, giving us a chance to estimate the sportsbook’s opinion of where these teams initially stand in power ratings.

Keep in mind, odds are ever changing. Some of these numbers already shifted a significant amount upon open, so we’ll be taking the opening numbers. Any movement comes from bettors whose lines might differ. Scroll to the bottom of the article for the complete list of estimated power ratings.

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College Football Power Ratings Vs. Power Rankings

Dozens of outlets use power rankings – including our own team here at TheLines – to determine which team would be favored on a neutral field. In the case of power rankings, it’s just an order.

Say Ohio State sits seven spots above Notre Dame on a power rankings list. Is Ohio State -13.5 at Notre Dame a good line? Who’s to say.

Power ratings go a step further. Instead of just ordering Ohio State over Notre Dame, they assign numbers to each team to estimate by how much either one should be favored by. Once you’ve built a set of power ratings, they can be used to estimate upcoming point spreads. From there, bettors can act faster and more confidently on opening lines.

Estimating FanDuel’s College Football Power Ratings

Having a good set of your own power ratings is a critical tool in handicapping games. But having a pulse on where the sportsbooks rate teams gives bettors an additional leg up. In this instance, I took college football opening odds released by FanDuel Sportsbook to try and estimate where they stand on each team.

The Starting Point

Creating power ratings starts with creating power rankings. A rough order of where teams stand assists with rating later on in the process.

Since many of these lines were between the same set of teams, nailing down one number created a cascade of other numbers falling into place. I decided to start at the top. The two-time defending champion Georgia Bulldogs undoubtably stand atop power rankings. Luckily, the top team didn’t take much guesswork and the order of teams beneath them fell into place as ratings were figured.

Power ratings like SP+ and FPI feature teams with positive and negative numbers, often bottoming out around -25 and topping out around 30. Early-season spreads for “gimmie games” like Ball State at Georgia generally feature spreads between 42 and 49 points with extreme spreads coming in at 56 points. Using past information, I assigned 35.5 points to Georgia to get a baseline.

The Process

Once Georgia’s number fell into place, the rest of the estimation was a logic puzzle, much like a Sudoku. The Florida Gators opened as +17.5 underdogs to Georgia at a neutral site (a number that’s since been bet way up), meaning Georgia sits about 17.5 points higher than Florida in FanDuel’s initial ratings. The Tennessee Volunteers are -6.5 favorites at Florida, so adjusting roughly 2 points for home field advantage, it’s reasonable to assume Tennessee is rated 8.5 points higher than Florida. To verify, Georgia is a -7.5 road favorite at Tennessee, meaning they should be roughly 9.5 points higher than Tennessee. (The math here comes out to 9.0, which means we’re on the right track.)

Figuring out the numbers for teams that all play each other is easy, but how did the number for the Alabama Crimson Tide get pulled? What about the Clemson Tigers?

In this instance, I looked to some outside help. I took the gap between teams in Bill Connelly’s SP+ and applied it to estimate Alabama’s number. That may or may not be the same gap FanDuel uses, but likely they’re not far off.

To get from Alabama to Clemson, I used:

Many teams’ numbers could be figured using similar paths. Other one-off teams like the Duke Blue Devils and Minnesota Golden Gophers were spokes off the core teams.


Some teams were mutually exclusive in the opening lines. Particularly, Ole Miss at Mississippi State, Oregon State at Oregon, and North Carolina vs. South Carolina. In this instance, I again crutched on looking at other power rating gaps between these teams and a comparable conference foe that had an estimated rating (Alabama-Ole Miss, Washington-Oregon, Clemson-UNC, etc.).

Some teams have differing spreads because of outside factors like play style and matchup. In the instance of Navy, who are +19.5 underdogs in Dublin against Notre Dame, their rating came out higher than Miami (OH), which is unlikely due to Navy’s complete reset of their team and Miami’s high continuity.

In general, these were rough estimates to help see which teams FanDuel Sportsbook favors more than other places.

Drawing Conclusions From FanDuel’s College Football Power Ratings

Power ratings constantly change. Camp injuries, the transfer portal, and players meeting or falling short of expectations may dramatically change these numbers. Already, we’ve seen extreme movements on Washington (-8) at Michigan State, where those betting these early numbers thought Washington was severely undervalued opening at -5.5. Given their return of the entire coaching staff and QB Michael Penix Jr., it’s understandable to see where the early movement came from.

But how does FanDuel react to that movement? Do they dramatically increase their power rating on Washington, potentially overvaluing them? Did they move Michigan State down so much that there’s some value in them Week 1 against Central Michigan?

Generally, the betting market is slow to react to changing teams. For example, there was a lot of money to be had betting on TCU last year. Keen bettors should keep tab on these early estimated power ratings and see how they do (or don’t!) change.

Estimated FanDuel Sportsbook College Football Power Ratings

Keep in mind, these numbers were derived from opening odds. Numbers have vastly changed.

TeamEst. Rating
Georgia Bulldogs35.5
Alabama Crimson Tide31.5
Ohio State Buckeyes30.5
Michigan Wolverines29.0
Clemson Tigers27.0
Tennessee Volunteers27.0
Florida State Seminoles26.5
LSU Tigers25.5
USC Trojans25.0
Penn State Nittany Lions25.0
Texas Longhorns23.0
Texas A&M Aggies20.0
Washington Huskies19.5
Notre Dame Fighting Irish19.5
TCU Horned Frogs19.5
Oklahoma Sooners18.0
Florida Gators18.0
Iowa Hawkeyes17.5
North Carolina TarHeels16.5
Minnesota Golden Gophers16.5
South Carolina Gamecocks15.5
Kansas State Wildcats15.0
Kentucky Wildcats14.0
Iowa State Cyclones13.5
Duke Blue Devils13.5
Pittsburgh Panthers12.5
Miami Hurricanes12.5
Michigan State Spartans11.5
Nebraska Cornhuskers11.0
West Virginia Mountaineers9.0
Kansas Jayhawks6.0
Colorado Buffaloes2.0
Navy Midshipmen0.0
Miami (OH) Redhawks-2.0

College Football Opening Odds

Brett Gibbons Avatar
Written by
Brett Gibbons

Brett is an avid sports traveler and former Division-I football recruiter for Bowling Green and Texas State. He’s a graduate of BGSU and works as an auditor for Google content curation products. He’s also contributed to Sports Illustrated and Fansided during his young writing career.

View all posts by Brett Gibbons