theknightswhosay

“Best Conference” Arguments & Final “SEC Wednesday” of 2016

In College Football, Conference Reports, SEC Wednesdays on December 1, 2016 at 7:59 PM

I did take a few paragraphs out of this, so it’s less thorough than it could have been, but it was too long.

sec football

I’ve seen a lot of nonsense about the SEC having an off year even from SEC fans lately. Maybe the SEC has had more dominant years, but there really isn’t any legitimate doubt about the SEC still being the top conference top to bottom.

As has been the case for probably more years than I’ve been keeping track, the SEC is the consensus number 1 in computers top to bottom.

big10_logo_detail

SEC vs. Big Ten

Why are people forgetting that the SEC still has the best overall record? Now I know if you exclude FCS games, the Big Ten has the best record, but I think it matters that the Big Ten lost two games to FCS opponents. I’m not talking about bottom-of-the-barrel teams either. Iowa finished 6-3 in conference, and Northwestern finished 5-4 in conference.

The media talks about how there is only one SEC team in the top 10. That’s true, but why is that? Records. Why are the records the way they are? (1) Opponents like Wisconsin, Clemson, and Florida St., and (2) other SEC teams.
There are a couple of losses that weren’t too pretty by teams who finished .500 and below in the SEC, but that’s not why LSU, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, and Texas A&M aren’t a game or two better and in or nearer to the top 10 as a result.

Apart from the few teams from other conferences I mentioned, the reason for that is simply that if any of that group played one another, both teams had a reasonable chance to win and it evened out over the course of the year. If Alabama does as expected and wins Saturday, all five other teams will go into the bowls with exactly 4 losses. That doesn’t mean the SEC is having a down year, that means Alabama is beating everyone and no one is making a particularly strong claim on second-best in the conference.

I’m going to compare the SEC teams to the Big Ten, just because the Big Ten happens to be the conference were their wins and losses ended up placing four teams in the top 10. It could have happened just as easily in the Pac-12 or ACC.

There is a group of teams of relative parity in the Big Ten as well, but that group is right at the top of the Big Ten. That’s the main reason why the Big Ten has four teams in the top 10. The highest group just isn’t very vulnerable to losing to anyone lower (the only in-conference exception was Iowa over Michigan).

Another thing that helped is big wins were by this top group instead of lower teams. On the other hand, three of the four best SEC wins were by teams that finished 4-4 in conference (Kentucky over Louisville, Tennessee over Virginia Tech, and Georgia over North Carolina).

Imagine the following. LSU beat Alabama and Florida, Tennessee beat Texas A&M, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, and Auburn beat Georgia and Texas A&M. Without changing out of conference results at all, the result is two one-loss teams (Alabama and Tennessee) and two two-loss teams (Auburn and LSU). All four would easily be in the top 10.

We didn’t change how good the SEC was, we just made the lower SEC teams worse and the second-tier (the group below Alabama) better with the exception of Florida. If we add in a couple of Florida conference wins (Arkansas and Tennessee), maybe we could get 5 SEC teams in the top 10. Would anyone say the SEC was having an off year then? Probably not. At least not anyone who doesn’t claim that every year. But the perception of the SEC is ironically hurt by the middle and lower teams being better. It’s nice to have a relatively easy opponent at some point in conference play, but that didn’t really happen.

There was one 2-6 team per SEC division, Missouri and Ole Miss. Missouri beat two bowl-eligible teams, and Ole Miss beat three. There were no 1-7 or 0-8 teams. There were 3 teams in the Big Ten who finished with one conference win or fewer, and those teams had one more chance to pick up a conference win than the SEC teams did. The lone 2-7 team (Illinois) didn’t beat anyone bowl-eligible; the Illini’s only FBS wins were over teams that finished below them in the Big Ten. So all Big Ten teams were guaranteed to have two less-dangerous conference games than anyone in the SEC faced in conference all year. Most had three such games (although Ohio St. to its credit wasn’t one of them).

ACC

SEC vs. ACC

There is one other conference argument I’ll address and that’s, “You just went 1-3 against the ACC [in the final weekend].” Let’s look at that another way.

I’m going to take out the names of teams and just put a list of the records. These are games over the course of the year. I just listed them in order of ACC record.

4-4 SEC beat 7-1 ACC
7-1 ACC beat 3-5 SEC
7-1 ACC beat 5-3 SEC
4-4 SEC beat 6-2 ACC
4-4 SEC beat 5-3 ACC
5-3 ACC beat 6-2 SEC
5-3 ACC beat 2-6 SEC
4-4 ACC beat 4-4 SEC

So the SEC won three games in which the SEC team had the worse conference record, while the ACC only won one game in which the ACC team had the worse conference record. Also, all of these games but two (7-1 ACC vs. 5-3 and 5-3 ACC vs. 2-6) were played by teams in the SEC East, the lesser SEC division. Five of the eight games were played by the top three teams of the ACC Atlantic, the better ACC division.

SEC WED

“SEC Wednesday”

I’ll keep the SEC Wednesday relatively short this time.

I guess I’ll finally give up and take Alabama -24, which probably will make the game close. It seems like Florida is fading. Judging by their games against LSU, it should be a nail-biter, but that’s not how it works. LSU played much worse against Florida, at least for the last 2 ½ quarters. For one analogy, I’m sure Arkansas thought LSU (who beat them by 28) was much better than Florida (whom they beat by 21).

Anyway, Florida seemed to fade toward the end of the last few games (they almost let LSU win after all), and Alabama always seems ready to get that one more score to beat the spread at the end. Alabama just beat a much-improved Auburn team by more than they beat them last year. So it might be Alabama by 14 at the half and they end up winning by 27 or something with a late touchdown or field goal.

Well, that’s it for predictions in this season. Bowl games have too many variables for me to include. I’ve made good bowl predictions in the past, but I’ve also made really bad ones. It’s like flipping a coin.

There might be a lot of this Saturday.

There might be a lot of this Saturday.

So a team favored by 7.5 (Vanderbilt) pulled an upset (over Tennessee), but I picked the wrong one (I picked Florida. Unfortunately, the wrong team scored meaningless points right at the end in multiple games (Florida St., LSU, and Alabama, for instance), which hurt me in the spread. I did not pick the 26.5-point underdog who won (Kentucky), but I did caution it could come down to the end. I did take the points in both upsets though. Too bad I couldn’t use the excess.

Georgia was in great shape up 13 late, but then they lost by 1.

I was wrong about LSU against the spread again. Maybe I should pick the other team more often so LSU plays well more consistently.

The Missouri team who beat Vanderbilt showed back up again against Arkansas, but I admit I didn’t see that coming. That was one reason I didn’t pick Vanderbilt to beat Tennessee. It’s like these teams try to screw with me.
South Carolina didn’t really show up at all, so that was another game that was completely uncharacteristic of the rest of the season. Same with Mississippi St. but for the opposite reason.

I think my readers can add one to either side of these after this weekend, so almost-final records: 85-26 and 42-52-1 against the spread.

SEC Bowls: LSU and Florida Should Go Ahead of Auburn

In Bowls, College Football, College Football Playoff, General LSU, Rankings Commentary on November 29, 2016 at 7:16 PM

*In an earlier version I neglected to mention Florida’s loss to Arkansas.*

Most bowl projection sites that I looked at over the past few days have Auburn going to the Sugar and Florida going to the Citrus. I hope ESPN’s Greg Ostendorf is right and LSU gets the Citrus (you can see his other projections as well), which would be a just result for my Tigers in my humble opinion. It would not be fair to Florida, but Florida is not exactly on my good side right now. So while personally I would not feel aggrieved as long as LSU is in the Sugar or Citrus, it still bothers me as someone who values fairness and logical consistency that Auburn would go ahead of either team.

In the new College Football Playoff (CFP) standings, Auburn is ahead of BOTH LSU and Florida.

It’s important to note that the Sugar Bowl and the SEC get no input. The Sugar is contractually bound to pick the best available SEC team in the College Football Playoff standings. It appears that unless Florida wins (or loses so valiantly that they move up), Auburn will go to the Sugar Bowl. It’s also possible that a Clemson loss could negatively affect Auburn.

How the SEC bowl selection process works.  For this year, it is assumed that only one SEC team will be in the top 4 and that the Cotton Bowl will not select an SEC team.

How the SEC bowl selection process works. For this year, it is assumed that only one SEC team will be in the top 4 and that the Cotton Bowl will not select an SEC team.

It will be very frustrating if LSU ties both Auburn and Florida in losses but falls below the top three SEC bowl slots (CFP semifinal which is all but guaranteed to Alabama, Sugar which will likely go to Auburn, and Citrus which will was previously projected to go to Florida).

I won’t be one to complain if Florida makes the Sugar Bowl, but LSU should at least get the Citrus (once known as the CapitalOne) Bowl over Auburn. I like my formula and if it were followed, LSU would also be out of the SEC top 3, but that’s not how this or similar systems have historically worked.

The way LSU is being treated is not in keeping with fair play. For instance, when LSU lost to Alabama, the Tigers fell 11 spots. Auburn just fell ONE spot even though they lost to the Tide by 8 more points than LSU did. That more than accounts for the current gap between Auburn and LSU of 7 spots. If Florida loses to Alabama, I’m guessing the Gators won’t fall 11 spots either.

CFP rankings after Alabama defeated LSU.  Florida was unranked.

CFP rankings after Alabama defeated LSU. Florida was unranked.

The three relevant teams in the current CFP rankings.

The three relevant teams in the current CFP rankings.

I know the argument is that if you lose to a team no matter how close it was, that team should go ahead if there is any ambiguity, but I think that’s wrong. It’s better to lose to the top 3 teams in the conference than it is to lose only one of the top 3 and to two 4-4 teams (Texas A&M and Georgia). In the whole season and despite the rocky start, LSU has only lost to one team that was not a division winner (Wisconsin won its division as well), and that was the road game against Auburn in September when the clock apparently expired to take what would have been the winning points off the board.

How does ending a season like Auburn did put you in the Sugar Bowl? Florida would also end with two losses, but I think ending with two losses in regular season conference play is worse than rivalry game on the road (against a team the committee tells us is better than anyone in the SEC but Alabama) followed by conference championship against the #1 team in the nation. Florida won’t fall to 5-3 in conference with a loss; they’d fall to 6-3 against SEC teams. Again, I have no problem with Florida getting the Sugar. The Gators played in a lesser division; but they did beat all but one team in that division (losing on the road to Tennessee early in the year), and they will finish with a better record in conference.

There are multiple reasons my ratings look at things differently than bowl consideration has typically done.

The first that I touched on was how close the games were. LSU was less than a yard short of beating Florida and less than a second short of beating Auburn. I don’t give them any credit for that. I also don’t give them any credit for playing Alabama closes than anyone has since Ole Miss. By the way, make a mental note of that for when I talk about teams playing differently at different times of the season.

The second is that LSU has played one fewer game (I don’t think we need to go into why), but that has not historically been a reason to penalize a team. I don’t think anyone would question that LSU would have beaten South Alabama in a home game 10 days ago.

The third difference, which I already touched on, is I don’t give any benefit or penalty for recent versus early-season games.

I know it’s a completely different group of people, but the football committee is intentionally designed to be similar to the basketball committee. No one would question that if Team A’s only losses in the two months leading up to selection day were to two top-15 teams that Team A would go ahead of Team B who had the same record but who lost to one team in common and then lost to another team that wasn’t even in the top 40. Team B’s win over Team A earlier in the year would not overcome that.

This is another apparent difference from basketball. When there is a dramatic change—and there was a dramatic change in what kind of team LSU was, at least when they weren’t playing a really good rushing defense—you consider the team that is going to actually be playing much more than the team otherwise.

I’m just not seeing the logic unless they’re using my ratings as part of the formula and not telling me. If they are, LSU shouldn’t have fallen much after losing to Alabama though. Maybe they just started using it? I wonder if I got an email about that. I should check my junk mail more thoroughly.

It would be great if it were the case, but computers aren’t unanimous either. I’ll take the BCS ratings one at a time. One difference from mine is they tend to measure whether the team and its opponents are on the upswing or downswing.

Anderson and Hester: (17) Florida, (24) Auburn, (26) LSU
Billingsley: (14) Florida, (16) LSU, (31) Auburn
Colley: (19) Florida, (22) Auburn, (24) LSU
Massey: (14) LSU, (15) Auburn, (20) Florida
Wolfe: (18) Florida, (21) LSU, (24) Auburn
Sagarin: (8) LSU, (13) Auburn, (24) Florida
LSU average: 18.17 (2 first places among the three teams)
Florida average: 18.67 (4 first places among the three teams)
Auburn average: 21.5

I can see Florida just getting a freebie loss to Alabama since neither Auburn nor LSU has to play this weekend and someone saying it’s close enough given the other factors to give Florida the Sugar, but there is no good objective measure to justify putting Auburn first.

Is it because they have a more interesting offense than either LSU or Florida? If that’s the most important factor, how in the world is Washington State not even ranked? Put the Cougars ahead of all three by that measure. Also, Auburn’s offense hasn’t even been interesting lately. LSU scored 54 in the last game, and in the last three SEC games combined Auburn has only scored 42. So it’s best offense in October then? Ridiculous.

LSU Keeps Coach O and Week 14 Top 25

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 27, 2016 at 8:42 PM

I’m going to have to do three blogs this week to keep them from being too long. I’m not sure when I will have my SEC material ready, but since there is only one game coming up, I see no need to do that on Wednesday. I also want to talk about bowl games and other conferences.

LSU Sticks with Coach O

I don’t know what to believe about the LSU coaching search and the conversation with Tom Herman and his agent. One story is there never was any kind of final offer, just informal talks. Another story is Herman asked for $6 million per year and LSU rejected it. A third story is all details of the deal were in place and agreeable to both sides, but LSU withdrew its offer and hired Orgeron when Herman or his agent said he wanted to talk to Texas before signing.

Like Coach O (or Eaux as some fans spell it) said in the Texas A&M press conference, I really would have liked to have had that Florida game. LSU would be all but a lock for the Sugar Bowl as well as making this decision easier. Should falling short by a foot or so when we had a chance to get that win determine who the next coach should be on a permanent basis? I don’t think it should. I’ll talk more about bowl possibilities later in the week.

Coach Orgeron accepting "the greatest job in the country" Saturday.

Coach Orgeron accepting “the greatest job in the country” Saturday.

I don’t want to belittle the job Steve Ensminger and the offensive staff did in trying to make a productive offense out of the playbook and offense that Les Miles and Cam Cameron left behind. It wasn’t very ideal to have to patch something together like that four games into the season, but offensive inadequacies were still exposed against Alabama and Florida and even in the first half against Southern Miss. I hope Coach Ensminger can stay on to help the new coordinator because I think it did show that he’s not just a run-of-the-mill tight ends coach.

If we get one of the best offensive coordinators like Orgeron says he wants to do and that guy has the whole offseason, that should put us in position to score more than 10 points against Alabama, more than 16 points against Florida, more than 18 points against Auburn, and more than 16 points against Wisconsin. Had we done that this season, we would be undefeated. I don’t know if the defense will be quite as good next year as some of our replacement players struggled on Thursday, but we will not be rebuilding from scratch either.

I’m more skeptical about LSU doing well next year than I was this year because I felt like the array of talent should have been just right this year (which was why starting 2-2 was bad enough to fire the coach), but sometimes you do better when you’re not quite as good on paper. One example was when we had a number of players drafted early and a new offensive coordinator in 2007 and had a better year than the year before.

I mostly agree with the decisions Alleva made, although I would prefer to have that Florida game at home next year.

Oh yeah, and we did a couple of neat things in the game (see bolded areas).

Rankings Comments

Before you have too much of a knee-jerk reaction, remember that Ohio St. and Michigan won’t gain any more points this week. It might benefit them slightly if Penn St. beats Wisconsin instead of losing to the Badgers, but the big points will go to the teams that win this weekend. Regardless of the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions, chances are that both will pass up Michigan. If Clemson wins, it is likely they will pass up Ohio St., but the Buckeyes should be secure in the top 4.

I don’t think Western Michigan would beat any team in the top 10, but I think this shows my system has adequate safeguards against an undefeated team with an easy schedule finishing ahead of a one-loss team or even in some cases a two-loss team with a strong schedule.

The idea is to rank playoff-worthiness. If there were an 8-game playoff (heaven forfend), I do think it would be fairer to include a team like Western Michigan than the fourth Big Ten team or the third ACC or Pac-12 team. If the season ended today, I think Wisconsin should get the 7th seed instead (since we won’t really establish which Big Ten team should be fourth until Saturday), but I’m not going to overhaul my formula over a 0.006-point difference between two teams that will be irrelevant after this weekend anyway.

The next thing I can see people griping about is Oklahoma taking a tumble, but that’s because some teams picked up meaningful points while the Sooners were idle. It also didn’t help the Sooners that Houston lost to Memphis, which is obviously more harmful than Ohio St. beating Michigan was helpful. An oversimplified explanation is that Houston’s FBS winning percentage fell 8 points while Ohio St.’s winning percentage only improved 0.8 points. Oklahoma should be able to recover all the lost ground with a win though.

Normally Boise St.’s loss would have hurt more, but of the Broncos’ four out-of-conference opponents, three of them won. The only loss was by Washington St. to Washington, which didn’t hurt very much. ULL and Oregon St. both got really important wins for them. Oregon was by far the best team Oregon St. beat; and Arkansas St. had been undefeated in the Sun Belt, so that was a big win for the Cajuns, who had only had four wins before that game.

Why is Tennessee still 16th? Well, they beat one conference champion (Appalachian St. of the Sun Belt) and three divisional champions (MAC East, ACC Coastal, and SEC East). That’s in addition to playing Alabama and Texas A&M as non-divisional opponents. Every SEC team is now in the top 75, so while there were only a few good arguments for the top 25, there is still a laundry list of at least somewhat decent teams that the Volunteers beat while none of the losses were catastrophic.

I’ll talk more about conferences later in the week, but because of what I said above, the SEC is still the best top-to-bottom conference in my rankings, although analysis of the top 40 (the part at the top) tells a different story.

Top 25

rank/team/prev
1 Alabama 1
2 Ohio St. 3
3 Clemson 2
4 Michigan 4
5 Washington 8
6 Penn St. 5
7 W. Michigan 10
8 Wisconsin 9
9 Colorado 12
10 Florida St. 14
11 Boise St. 7
12 Oklahoma 6
13 USC 22
14 S. Florida 21
15 Okie St. 16
16 Tennessee 11
17 Stanford 23
18 Florida 18
19 Nebraska 15
20 Louisville 13
21 West Virginia —
22 Auburn 19
23 Houston 17
24 Virginia Tech 24
25 Navy —

All 128 Teams

Out of rankings: (20) Texas A&M, (25) N. Carolina