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Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Week 12 Top 25 and Commentary

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 20, 2011 at 6:28 PM

My ratings didn’t join the SEC trifecta trend. By the way, I added another proposal to my SEC realignment blog. It wouldn’t help out the balance of power though. I also updated my LSU-Ole Miss Rivalry blog.

Alabama should surpass Oklahoma St. next week if they beat Auburn. But if the Tide is idle the following week and the Cowboys defeat the Sooners, Oklahoma St. would resume its #2 spot. Remember that late losses are penalized in the polls but not here. As to #3, Texas A&M isn’t as good as Penn St. is, so that’s one reason Arkansas is a bit behind Alabama. Also, of course, Arkansas’s loss to Alabama hurts it more than Alabama’s loss to LSU hurts the Tide. Alabama also gets credit for a high-quality win over Arkansas.

Another conceptual difference from the polls is you aren’t penalized by losing spots but by losing points. Oklahoma St. did lose about .12 for losing to Iowa St., but since there was a big gap and Alabama only played Georgia Southern, that wasn’t enough to move ahead. Oklahoma, who also might have had a chance to move ahead, lost. Next after Oklahoma was Oregon, who also lost. It’s not at all a typical result to lose to an un-ranked team and stay #2, but this wasn’t a typical weekend.

But there was a lot of movement after the top three because the next few teams were really close together, and they still are. It’s hard to predict whether beating LSU followed by beating Georgia would be enough for Arkansas to be #1 or #2, but it certainly seems possible, particularly if Alabama beats Auburn and Georgia beats Georgia Tech. There would also be some benefit with SEC wins over Wake Forest, Florida St., and Clemson. Arkansas did play Vandy (who will be the team to play Wake) and South Carolina (who will be the team to play Clemson).

Boise St. doesn’t have much to add to its total, although of course wins by Georgia would also help the Broncos. But Wyoming is not a great team and a win over New Mexico wouldn’t be much better than a bye week.

Houston can significantly improve its rating with wins at Tulsa and if they win that, likely Southern Miss in the CUSA championship game. USM wouldn’t be as good of a win now that the Golden Eagles have lost to UAB. Both would be would be tougher games than any Houston have had so far, and Houston was fortunate to beat UCLA (win at home by 4) and Louisiana Tech (win at home by 1) in the early going.

Virginia Tech shouldn’t be overlooked either. They only have the loss to Clemson, which they could redeem in the ACC Championship game, if they can beat Virginia for the ACC Coastal division next week. The ’Hoos last defeated the Hokies in 2003.

I’m disappointed in the voters for putting Stanford 4th, , although I am not surprised. I hope whatever happens (apart from the Cardinal winning the Pac-12 and the only other BCS-conference options having two losses apiece), the voters have the good sense not to put a team with a 23-point home loss in mid-November in the BCS title game. That’s just an echo of Nebraska in 2001 if that happens.

I don’t think the lower teams are an option at this point unless we get to a 2007 scenario (which, except for LSU losses in OT, this year is starting to remind me of), and all of the conscionable choices have two losses.

I’ll just cover the larger movements in the rankings for the lower teams. Oklahoma dropped 7 spots by losing to Baylor, which is more because of how close those teams were than it was because Baylor is a terrible loss. The Bears jumped up to #22 after being un-ranked. This helped to push out Arkansas St., who got little credit for beating #113 Middle Tennessee. Rutgers (who joined the top 25 with a win over Cincinnati) and Tulsa also edged ahead of the Red Wolves, who landed at #26. Southern Mississippi (who fell from #16 all the way out of the top 25) was the only team Arkansas St. was able to surpass.

Clemson tumbled 10 spots after losing to North Carolina St. (still only #71), USC went up 6 spots, putting them right behind the aforementioned Sooners. Of course, the Trojans would likely end up in the Pac-12 title game but for the post-season ban. The Ducks fell 9 spots. Clemson and Oregon can rebound a good bit since they will each have two games left. This is especially true of Clemson, who will definitely play South Carolina and could also face Virginia Tech. Teams with two games left generally have a significant advantage over those who do not.

Top 25:

rank / team / prior
1 LSU 1
2 Okie St. 2
3 Alabama 3
4 Houston 8
5 Boise St. 6
6 Va. Tech 9
7 Arkansas 10
8 Michigan 12
9 Stanford 11
10 Kansas St. 15
11 Oklahoma 4
12 USC 18
13 S Carolina 13
14 Oregon 5
15 Penn St. 17
16 Georgia 20
17 Clemson 7
18 TCU 19
19 Mich St. 21
20 Nebraska 14
21 Wisconsin 23
22 Baylor —
23 Notre Dame 22
24 Tulsa 25
25 Rutgers —

Out of rankings: (16) Southern Miss., (24) Arkansas St.

Top 120 Permalink

Prior weeks
Week 11
Week 10
Week 9
Week 8
Week 7
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1
Preseason

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The Mad Hatter and the Nutt

In College Football, General LSU on November 19, 2011 at 12:15 AM

LSU finishes its regularly-scheduled season with games against Ole Miss and Arkansas, so naturally I thought about one Houston Dale Nutt, Jr., who presumably the SEC will be without next year for the first time since the 1997 season.

Feel free to check out the Arkansas and Ole Miss editions to my rivalry series, but this is going to be a little bit different.

The first thing I noticed when looking up information for this was that Houston Nutt makes $2.5 million per year. No wonder they fired him. I have more respect for him than most do, but I’m not sure he ever earned that kind of salary.

But he did do a pretty good job against LSU, in recent years especially. His teams have beaten LSU in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008, and 2009.

LSU was heavily favored from 2003 to 2005, but in 2005 (the first time Les and Houston squared off), Arkansas (who would finish 4-7) nearly beat an LSU team that won the SEC West and finished 11-2 (one of the two losses being in the SEC championship). It was only 19-17, and the game was played at Tiger Stadium. LSU also barely beat the Hogs in 2006 (31-26), a win which would give the Tigers a Sugar Bowl berth.

Those two games set up Arkansas’s win over the #1 Tigers in 2007, at which point Houston was on his way out the door for not doing more with Felix Jones and Darren McFadden that season. I don’t know if it was Bo Pelini or what the situation was, but LSU could not handle those guys. It was a miracle the Tigers had won in 2006, when Jones and McFadden each averaged over 8 ½ yards per carry. LSU gave up over 300 yards rushing before sack yardage was subtracted, and the Tigers also gave up 33 passing yards to McFadden in two attempts (more yards than the Hogs got in Casey Dick’s 17 attempts). In the 2007 game, Arkansas gained 385 yards on the ground, albeit with the aid of three overtimes to pad its numbers. Dick did better as well, which forced LSU to pay more attention to the pass. Given this, the final score was surprising again.

So since 2000 (Saban’s first year with the Tigers), LSU only had easy wins against Nutt’s teams in 2003 (when LSU won the national championship and Arkansas went 9-4, which included a 55-24 loss to LSU) and in 2004, when Arkansas went 5-6 to LSU’s 9-3 and the Hogs lost, 43-14. So despite that finish, Saban was only 3-2 against Houston when he was at LSU. The only Saban-era win not covered was when LSU beat Arkansas, 41-38, in a fairly evenly matched game. With the win, LSU won the SEC West and would win the SEC and the Sugar Bowl. Saban has not lost to a Nutt team since taking over at Alabama, although he did have close calls in 2007 (41-38) and 2008 (24-20).

In 1998, LSU was in the middle of a 3-15 stretch covering two seasons and they lost to Arkansas, 41-14. LSU had won the previous four games in the series. My absolute favorite win over a Nutt team was in 1999 when LSU ended that run, with an interim head coach on the sidelines, beating a bowl-bound Arkansas team, 35-10. Arkansas finished 8-4, and LSU finished 3-8. The Tigers have not had a losing season (or even lost more more than 5 games in a season) since. I’m guessing Saban would have taken the job anyway, but it meant so much to me as a fan because I knew we had a much better team than that, and it was something to give us hope going forward. By the way, Gerry DiNardo, who was fired as head coach before that 1999 Arkansas game, was once on the same staff with Les Miles in Colorado. Gary Barnett, another big name in coaching in the 1990s, was also on that staff. It’s interesting that Miles took so much longer to get a major head coaching opportunity.

In total, Houston is 6-7 (2-1 at Ole Miss) against LSU going into Saturday. He’s 3-3 against Les Miles.

Let’s compare to some other coaches vs. LSU since 1995:
Jim Donnan, 2-0*
Steve Spurrier, 6-3*
Bob Davie, 2-1*
Bobby Petrino, 2-1
Tommy Tuberville, 7-7 (2-2 at Ole Miss)*
Urban Meyer, 3-3
Mark Richt, 3-3
Hal Mumme, 2-2*
Mike DuBose, 2-2*
Phillip Fullmer, 2-4
Nick Saban, 2-4
(only coaches with two wins or more are included)
*-at least one win was during the 3-15 stretch mentioned above (in the cases of Donnan, Mumme, and DuBose, both wins were during that stretch; Spurrier and Tuberville also got two wins apiece during that period)

Vs. Les Miles (2005 to present):
Joe Paterno, 1-0
Bobby Petrino, 2-1
Mark Richt, 2-1
Urban Meyer, 3-3
Rich Brooks, 1-1
Nick Saban, 2-3
Gene Chizik, 1-2
Phillip Fullmer, 1-2
Tommy Tuberville, 1-3
Steve Spurrier, 0-2
(coaches in the first category or with at least one win are included)

So Nutt and Urban Meyer are the only two coaches that beat a Les Miles team 3 times in the last 6 seasons. You can see why Les compared Nutt to Meyer here. It’s interesting how Les appreciates it when he has trouble with an opponent.

Only Tommy Tuberville has more wins against LSU since 1995 than Nutt does. Steve Spurrier, who is tied with Nutt, is the only other coach who is close. Only Meyer and Richt have even half as many wins over LSU in that time (although of course neither has coached continuously in the SEC since 1998).

Teams against Les Miles with LSU (two games or more)
Georgia 2-1
Arkansas 3-3
Florida 3-4
Ole Miss 2-4
Kentucky 1-2
Alabama 2-5
Auburn 2-5
Tennessee 1-4
Appalachian St. 0-2
UL-Lafayette 0-2
Louisiana Tech 0-2
North Texas 0-2
South Carolina 0-2
West Virginia 0-2
Vanderbilt 0-3
Tulane 0-4
Mississippi St. 0-7

I noted that Les’s Oklahoma St. teams only played one SEC team while he was there, the 2003 Cotton Bowl, which the Cowboys lost to Ole Miss. So the Rebels are actually 3-4 against Les as head coach.

Les was 1-1 against Louisiana Tech while at Oklahoma St. and 1-0 against UL-Lafayette.

And not that this has anything to do with the above, but he was 1-1 against Iowa St., the loss coming in Ames in his first season.

How I Would Reorganize College Football……… Part V: SEC for Now

In College Football, Realignment on November 17, 2011 at 8:33 AM

I’m going to get to my ideal SEC in another blog (the 16-team conferences I’ve been presenting in this series; I had omitted Missouri originally), but I wanted to first address the current 14-team SEC now that is is official.

What drives me crazy about SEC expansion is there is no way to make it work out as well as it does right now. Also, Texas A&M and Missouri are not an upgrade. They’re mostly going to be second-tier teams. But since it’s happening, it’s worth talking about how it should work.

Putting Missouri in the East adds ridiculous travel times to Missouri and to the eastern teams (at least for Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina; the rest are all right). I don’t think that’s productive. But since that’s how it’s starting out, I hope they at least let Missouri play Arkansas as an inter-division opponent. I guess Texas A&M- South Carolina isn’t any worse than South Carolina-Arkansas was. South Carolina isn’t as badly placed geographically as Arkansas either. Tennessee and Georgia are a lot closer to South Carolina than any current SEC team is to Arkansas.

Also, maintaining an 8-game schedule means that if you split up teams, they’re really split up. They’re not going to play each other twice in a five-year period like non-annual opponents do now. It would be twice in a 12-year period, unless they decide to do away with annual inter-division opponents.

Proposal 1

I have one suggestion that I think does a good job of combining competitive balance and keeping rivalries in tact. I would call the divisions North-South, except Auburn and Arkansas would be in geographically incorrect divisions, but this was the only way I could find to keep the following rivalries together at the same time: LSU-Arkansas, LSU-Alabama, Auburn-Georgia, Georgia-Florida, Alabama-Auburn, Alabama-Tennessee. It had the added bonus of keeping Tennessee-Florida together.

Tennessee– Florida
Alabama– LSU
Kentucky– Miss. St.
Missouri– Arkansas
Auburn– Georgia
Vandy– Ole Miss
South Carolina– Texas A&M

LSU-Auburn would be split up (this will upset people of my generation and younger), but that only started being an annual series when the SEC expanded before the 1992 season. They had played one another only 8 times in the 49 seasons prior.

Ole Miss (as well as Mississippi St.) would be split off from Alabama (which I think would mostly upset older people), but the Rebels would keep Vandy, Mississippi St., and LSU. They would also keep the more recently-created rivalry with Arkansas. I think Arkansas and Georgia are geographically appropriate annual series for the Rebs. Florida and Texas A&M aren’t quite as good, but as I said, nothing works out perfectly here.

I think I did a good job for Arkansas here. They have a team slightly to the North, the two teams most directly to the South (LSU and Texas A&M), and the first SEC team to the Southeast. Vanderbilt might have been all right, but I didn’t see a good way to do that. Arkansas-LSU was a big pre-war rivalry, but there were a couple of Cotton Bowls (1947 and 1966) and a 4-game series in the between the two, and it’s been a good series since Arkansas joined the SEC. The winner has even claimed a trophy. I’ve already mentioned the benefits of Missouri. Arkansas would also begin playing old Southwest Conference foes Texas A&M every year (of course they’ve played two great games in Dallas the past two years…Jerry can just start writing the SEC a big check every year, it can be the Cocktail Party West.)

I also got the Hogs out of that ridiculous annual game against South Carolina, not that South Carolina would be happier about this. Texas A&M wouldn’t be thrilled with South Carolina either, but the other choice would be Kentucky, which makes even less sense. Plus, I thought we might as well keep Kentucky-Mississippi St. together. They’ve been playing one another every year as it is, and there weren’t better pairings available.

It’s also a good way to integrate Missouri. They would have the short trip South to Arkansas, they go almost due East to Kentucky, and then they don’t have to go too far to the South for Vandy and Tennessee. Auburn and South Carolina aren’t very good trips, but at least it would be an average of one per year. That’s better than having them play South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida every year. (Alabama would be the other team, but I think that’s actually closer to Missouri than Tennessee is.)

Proposal 2

This is the best way I could figure out to keep it generally East-West (this would actually be more like Northeast-Southwest).

Missouri– Kentucky
Texas A&M– Auburn
Arkansas– Tennessee
LSU– Alabama
Ole Miss– Vandy
Miss. St.– South Carolina
Florida– Georgia

At first, I had Alabama paired with Texas A&M. That would actually be closer, but I thought it was more important to make sure LSU and Alabama kept playing. This would separate LSU from Auburn and separate Alabama teams from Mississippi teams as well.

As an LSU fan, I liked the first one better. I’m not interested in playing Missouri every year. I certainly don’t think Florida fans are either. This keeps more of the current SEC East together though. The only one that would be taken out would be Florida. So Georgia might like this better, since they would continue all of their current annual rivalries, a few other teams might prefer this due to continuity, but I think they would be out-voted.

As for the inter-divisional rivalries I’ve chosen for this format, LSU-Alabama, Ole Miss-Vandy, and Florida-Georgia are obvious. I thought the rest were just the best geographic pairings. Missouri and Kentucky are the teams farthest north. Arkansas and Tennessee are pretty much on a line to the south of that. Auburn and Texas A&M are two of the more Southern teams, leaving Mississippi St. and South Carolina in between. Mississippi St. could be paired with Auburn though, to maintain one of the Alabama-Mississippi series.

Proposal 3

I have another North-South idea. It would take Ole Miss and Arkansas from the West in exchange for Georgia and Florida. Arkansas of course will be the closest SEC team to Missouri, but Ole Miss is actually approximately the same distance from Missouri as Kentucky is. Arkansas and Ole Miss don’t have the history of Florida-Georgia, but Ole Miss is the closest current SEC team to Arkansas and will be second to Missouri. Also it makes sense because Arkansas would be in the division with Vanderbilt, which is next-closest after Ole Miss. Anyway, here it is:

Miss. St.—Ole Miss
LSU—Arkansas
Auburn—Vandy
Florida—Kentucky
Texas A&M—Missouri
Georgia—South Carolina
Alabama—Tennessee

The team with the most adjustments would seem to be Ole Miss. LSU, Ole Miss, and Alabama were a good historical combination for the SEC West. But Ole Miss does have that traditional rivalry with Vanderbilt, I think maintaining the newer rivalry with Arkansas makes sense, as mentioned. I think Tennessee-Ole Miss could be a good rivalry, particularly in Western Tennessee. Eli and Peyton would enjoy it as well.

Florida would lose Tennessee, South Carolina, and Vandy, but they would keep LSU and Georgia and get Auburn back. Also, Florida-Alabama is a good border series. Of course, there is a competitive-balance issue, but as I’ve said before, that’s not a static thing. I think I still prefer my first proposal, but I find this one interesting. A benefit of this one as compared to the other one is it keeps Georgia-South Carolina and LSU-Auburn.

Unfortunately, this would not take advantage of the history between Arkansas and Texas A&M. I don’t think Arkansas would miss the more Southeastern members of the current SEC West too badly. I already stated the logic behind having them play Missouri.

Tennessee would miss Georgia and Florida, but they keep Vandy, Kentucky, and South Carolina. Ole Miss is closer than Florida anyway, although of course Arkansas isn’t as good as Florida. Tennessee makes more sense for Arkansas than the other way around.

Potential lost rivalries

You can decide this for yourself, but I just wanted to make a list of the lost rivalries the first proposal would have that the third one won’t and the lost rivalries the third one will have that the first one won’t. The first proposal would lose Auburn-LSU, Auburn-Miss St., Florida-Kentucky, and Georgia-South Carolina. The third proposal would lose Miss St.-Arkansas, Ole Miss-LSU, Ole Miss-Auburn, and Florida-Tennessee.

The lost rivalries common to the first and third proposals would be: Auburn-Arkansas, Alabama-Arkansas, Florida-South Carolina, Florida-Vandy, Georgia-Tennessee, Georgia-Kentucky, and Georgia-Vandy.

The lost rivalries from the second proposal would be: Arkansas-Auburn (all 3), Alabama-Arkansas (all 3), LSU-Auburn, Ole Miss-Auburn, Ole Miss-Alabama, Miss. St.-Auburn, Miss St.-Alabama, Florida-Kentucky, Florida-Vandy (all 3), Florida-Tennessee, and Florida-South Carolina (all 3).

Earlier Entries to Series:
Part I: Intro
Part II: SEC/Southern Conference
Part III: Big East/ACC Recombination and Big Ten+2+4
Part IV: West of the Mississippi

Week 11 Top 25 and National-Championship Commentary

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 15, 2011 at 9:09 AM

Blog note: I plan to post my next two blogs on Thursday morning and Friday evening.

Race for #1

LSU is still #1, but I can almost guarantee they will not be on my ratings site after next week. However, in two weeks and from then on, it should not be a problem for the Tigers if they stay undefeated, as Oklahoma St. will have a bye week on the same weekend that LSU will play Arkansas. A win should give LSU a decent lead that would probably withstand a Cowboys victory in Bedlam.

LSU’s strength of schedule (which does not penalize for FCS/I-AA opponents, which are compensated for elsewhere in my formula) fell to 7th this week, and will probably fall out of the top 10 after they face Ole Miss, which has only one FBS/I-A win this season, over Memphis, and which just lost to Louisiana Tech. Okie St. plays a mediocre Iowa St. team next week, but the Cyclones rate as a much better opponent than the Rebels do.

As far as Oklahoma, if the Sooners were to win Bedlam, I believe they would pass up Alabama (and Oklahoma St.) for #2. A lot of commentators have already been dismissing the Sooners, but I don’t think this is fair.

Now, I’m the last person who wants to give anyone a “pass” for a loss. They lost the game to Texas Tech, that’s why they’re #4 and not #1 or #2 (and they would be lower if everyone else in front of them in recent weeks hadn’t lost), but what about the other 90% of the season thus far? They’ve dominated two teams that, when they played Oklahoma St., came down to the last play. Those teams were Kansas St. and Texas A&M, and Kansas St. played Oklahoma at home and Oklahoma St. on the road. Oklahoma also has had one of the best schedules. The Sooners did not play an FCS/I-AA opponent and did play Florida St. and Tulsa. So I think wins over those two teams plus 8 wins over Big XII teams should be enough to put Oklahoma in the title game.

I’ve heard talk about not wanting to punish teams for having already played LSU (IF LSU is the #1 at the end of this), but what about punishing LSU? Why should the Tigers have to beat a team they already beat on the road (albeit in an extremely close game) at a neutral site? Why should they have to beat a team they already beat easily at a neutral site at yet another neutral site (probably a less-neutral one at that)? If you’re undefeated, you shouldn’t have to worry about a team you’ve already beaten, especially if you didn’t play that team at home.

I’m not saying this because I want LSU to have an easier opponent. As I’ve said, OU will have had a formidable list of accomplishments. They will present their own unique challenges–they have a different kind of offense from Oregon or Alabama, for starters. Plus, along with LSU, Oklahoma would probably be the only relevant team with a win over a top-5 team when we get to the end of the year. I don’t think Stanford will be in the top 5 unless Oregon loses, and I don’t think Arkansas (a loser to Alabama in September) will be in the top 5 unless they beat LSU. I can’t imagine that Oklahoma St. would fall out of the top 5 because of a loss to Oklahoma, unless it’s a complete blowout, which certainly shouldn’t hurt Oklahoma’s argument.

And like LSU’s win over Alabama, Bedlam would be a huge game that everyone knows is a huge game. Also, Oklahoma would be at least mildly disadvantaged by having to play the week before and having to travel to Stillwater, so that would impress me possibly more than what LSU did. I think Bedlam will be the type of game where it’s going to inform us of how good of a game we would get in the BCS national championship game. I don’t think the Texas Tech game would say very much about how Oklahoma would perform in the BCS national championship game.

All things being equal, losing to Texas Tech is worse than losing to LSU (and worse than losing to probably 50 other teams) of course, but all things are not equal. The remainder of Oregon’s schedule would not compare at all. The strongest team in the Pac-12 South is probably USC, who’s not even playing for a championship and who struggled against teams like Minnesota, Arizona, and Utah (and lost to Arizona St.) before coming on more strongly (but if you want to consider that, we should consider that Texas Tech was playing better when they played Oklahoma), and the only real competition in the North was Stanford. That’s not week-in, week-out like the SEC (at least the West and half of the East) and the Big XII.

Alabama of course does play in the SEC West, but hanging their hat on a win in September, regardless of the margin, is more suspect. Obviously if LSU wins out, Alabama would not have had a championship game. Also, the Tide did have an easy non-conference schedule overall. Penn St. was good, perhaps better than Florida St., but there is no respectable #2 out-of-conference opponent, and since Alabama would not be in the championship game, they would have 8 SEC games to Oklahoma’s 9 Big XII games.

The top 10 SEC teams are better than the Big XII, but Alabama played the worst SEC team (Ole Miss) and will have played neither South Carolina nor Georgia, both in the top 5 of the SEC. (I had my doubts about Georgia being that high up there until Saturday.) So the Tide would be a total of 1-1 against the 5 best SEC teams, having played neither of those games on the road. By winning out, Oklahoma would be 4-0 against the 5 best Big XII teams, having played two on the road. LSU, by winning out, would be 3-0 against the top SEC teams (one home, one road, one neutral-site), with a (neutral-site) win over the likely Pac-12 champions and with a (road) win over the possible Big East champions.

As a neutral observer, I would want to see LSU play Oklahoma. As a biased fan, give us Oregon again. Alabama would be the worst of both worlds. I don’t think it’s a compelling game to see a second time. Why do I want to see the same match-ups? I think re-matches just lead to a bunch of over-analyzing and second-guessing rather than either team just playing their game. Those who didn’t like the first game would probably like this even less.

As a fan, I don’t like it because LSU had a little bit of an element of surprise. Many analysts said LSU’s defenders were too small and would allow Alabama room to run. I think Alabama found out otherwise. McCarron threw more than was probably in the game plan, and even though the interceptions were not really McCarron’s fault, with those play-makers on the LSU D, they were playing with fire. Also, I don’t think Alabama suspected LSU would so easily put Jordan Jefferson in there to run the option if Lee struggled.

Now maybe LSU runs the option the whole time (maybe putting in some reverse plays, halfback passes, student bodies, etc.) and wears out the Alabama linebackers and by the fourth quarter, they’re finding the edge routinely (as LSU did on the near-TD in OT), and this possibility would make me feel a little better as a fan, but if that happens, it will be intensely boring as an observer, at least when LSU has the ball. It might be fun for a few moments if you don’t know where the ball is, but mostly it would be like a throwback to Nebraska in the late 1990s. No thanks. I also think Alabama might throw even less, which isn’t fun to imagine either. If they throw more (which they could conceivably try in the hopes that LSU defenders try too hard for big plays and let receivers get behind them), it might be entertaining when Alabama has the ball, but that would still only be half the game…actually less, because then LSU would likely win the time of possession easily. And in that case, I don’t think Alabama would be highlighting their better players.

I’m not telling the voters to pick Oklahoma over Alabama in that scenario because you don’t want to see a re-match, but pick Oklahoma because of the teams they’ve beaten since September and because if they beat Oklahoma St., they deserve a chance to beat another great team for the championship. This is from someone who would be voting Alabama #2 right now, but barring an upset in the next two weeks, I would probably change that vote after Bedlam.

Except for Arkansas (who could possibly beat LSU, propel itself over Alabama in the BCS standings, and then win the SEC championship), I doubt anyone below #5 right now matters. There would have to be a series of upsets that made the last two weeks of 2007 look pedestrian. It’s highly unlikely that the Big XII champion would be anything other than one-loss Oklahoma or undefeated Oklahoma St. It’s doubtful that Oregon would lose again (they play home games against USC and Oregon St., probably followed by another home game for the Pac-12 championship). Auburn (or Georgia Southern) over Alabama would be an incredible upset. All of those need to happen for the ACC champion, Boise St., or Houston to even merit discussion. The Big Ten and Big East can forget it too. I could see Stanford getting an argument from some if Oregon loses again, but they just got smacked around at home. This is mid-November, I don’t think you recover from that by beating Notre Dame, Cal, and UCLA or ASU.

New Top-25 Teams

I’ll just skip the 10-team carousel from #12 to #21. It was nice to see a few teams fall off and give two new teams a chance. Tulsa, still with losses only to Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., and Boise St., makes its first Top 25 appearance of the year. The fact that it took this long means they haven’t beaten anyone, but they have Houston in two weeks, and if they get past the Coogs, they would likely face Southern Miss in the CUSA championship. So those are a couple chances for decent wins. Arkansas St. makes its first appearance ever. The Red Wolves have losses to only Illinois (in the season opener) and Virginia Tech. Since losing to the Hokies, they have won 7 straight, also over no one special, but on Saturday, they became only the third team (one of them Oklahoma St.) to beat ULL.

So back to the fact that Arkansas St. is in my top 25. I have now ranked at one time or another 93 of the 120 current FBS teams in the 17 seasons I’ve been doing rankings. Of course, the number is considerably lower in my mathematical ratings, which I’ve only done in their current format since 2008. I did a top-40 mathematical rating of sorts from 2004 to 2007, but it was a much different formula. Anyway, I’m counting any team that I ever listed as top 25, even if it was early in the season, before I begin using any mathematical formula.

Notre Dame and Wisconsin have climbed back on, and they deserve it, but they were both over-rated for much of this season. The Domers have won 7 of 8, beating competitive BCS teams Michigan St. and Wake Forest in the process (maybe you can include Pitt, but it would depend on which team showed up).

I can still hear Craig James whining about Wisconsin not getting computer love. (If his son sounds anything like that, I would put him in a closet too.) Wisky is there because other teams lost mostly, but before this week, their LONE quality win over Nebraska didn’t look as good as it does now. I’m not being a jerk; these are their other wins—(2-7) UNLV, (2-8) Oregon St., (6-3) Northern Illinois, (3-4) South Dakota, (0-9) Indiana, (4-5) Purdue, (2-8) Minnesota. I didn’t count wins against lower-division teams. That eliminates one win each from Northern Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue; and it eliminates three wins from South Dakota (an FCS team with three non-DI wins). I did count losses to lower-division teams, of which there were three (one each by UNLV, Oregon St., and Minnesota). Northern Illinois’s opponents have won only 34% of their games, by the way, so even that isn’t as good of a record as it might first appear. I do realize the Badgers played a top-25-caliber game against Michigan St., but computers are banned from considering margin of victory, so don’t blame the computers for just treating that like any other loss. They’re playing the role they’re designed to play, and that role is not to factor in margin of victory (which would also give Wisconsin more credit for beating Nebraska {along with their other large margins of victory}).

Top 25:

rank / team / prior
1 LSU 1
2 Oklahoma St. 2
3 Alabama 5
4 Oklahoma 3
5 Oregon 9
6 Boise St. 4
7 Clemson 8
8 Houston 7
9 Virginia Tech 10
10 Arkansas 12
11 Stanford 6
12 Michigan 15
13 South Carolina 13
14 Nebraska 21
15 Kansas St. 16
16 Southern Mississippi 14
17 Penn St. 11
18 USC 18
19 TCU 25
20 Georgia 19
21 Michigan St. 20
22 Notre Dame —
23 Wisconsin —
24 Arkansas St. —
25 Tulsa —

Out of rankings: (17) Texas, (22) Cincinnati, (23) Ga. Tech, (24) Auburn

Top 120 Permalink

Prior rankings:
Week 10
Week 9
Week 8
Week 7
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1
Preseason

Don’t Cry for Joe Paterno

In College Football on November 10, 2011 at 4:01 PM

I usually don’t write blogs this close together, because I want to allow people more time to check out the previous blogs, but you can see the last couple if you go to my main blog page.

I wanted to comment about the Paterno scandal just to try to get it off my chest. I know a lot of people really don’t want to read about these things, and if you don’t want to, I don’t blame you. I tried to avoid it, but it just got to be too much. I have to comment when I feel something so wrong is being defended, especially with the despicable actions on the Penn St. campus. This was a good condemnation of what went on there, written by an unrelated child-abuse victim, who I thought did an impressive job to not react more emotionally.

I don’t feel sorry for Joe here. This investigation has been going on for years. They first looked into Sandusky in the late 1990s. It seems like there has been a conspiracy to keep Joe the head coach long enough to break the record. There was a meaningful column about this posted back in April, but the national media and Penn St. (except for a few people who commented to insult the writer) ignored it until after the record was broken. That can’t be a coincidence.

Also, Sandusky has been living on borrowed time since he “retired”. Did Paterno or the university disassociate from him? No. Firing Paterno now is the least they can do. He was going to voluntarily leave at the end of the year, but having Penn St. in major football games against Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Ohio St., and also possibly in a Big Ten Championship game and in a BCS bowl with him as the face of the program in light of what has happened with his program and his staff is just adding insult to injury not only to the victims but to the program and the university going forward. He could have 500 wins, and there is no excuse for it. There needed to be sweeping ramifications years ago, and since there aren’t any time machines, getting Paterno out now (even if he thought there was just some “horsing around” and possibly touching and honestly thought this was being handled appropriately) needed to be done. It would have been irresponsible not to. They could have had a nice meeting with tea and crumpets and a cigar to fire him, but they had already waited long enough.

Ironically, I think the only reason as many people are still around at Penn St. is they really need to start from scratch from the top down, which takes more than one week. They need to have a new president, that new president should probably have something to say about the AD, the AD should probably have something to say about the head coach, who should have something to say about his assistants. Also, of course, they’re more removed from the problem.

As far as McQueary, I think it depends on what exactly he saw to say how culpable he might be, but for me, if it’s a potential victim like that—and even if what was seen was merely suspicious rather than criminal, any reasonable person can know that if you see something suspicious, what makes it suspicious is the possible things that you don’t see—failing to contact law enforcement, parents, etc., and continuing to be associated with a program that has Sandusky around seems to show some serious character flaws. I wasn’t in college that long ago, and I wouldn’t want to be around someone like that. I can’t imagine parents would want their children around someone like that. It just comes off as unconscionable to me to have anyone in this whole “chain of command” still around, including McQueary.

Maybe not all the coaches who are there right now have had anything whatsoever to do with this, so I do understand keeping the rest of them on, but at the end of the year, I think how it should work is, they should all be fired and if they are found out not to have had anything to do with it or any knowledge of what was going on AND the new coach chooses to add that person to his staff, then they can be hired back. I don’t know if it makes sense to consider someone currently on this staff if it might be found out later that they also knew or were told something about the situation and did not handle it responsibly (“responsibly” being something other than making sure the head coach was told).

I noticed after writing this that Jeremy Shaap had expressed similar sentiments.

Week 10 Top 25 and BCS Mega-Commentary

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary, Rivalry on November 8, 2011 at 10:17 PM

(Go to the second bold subtitle if you want to skip all the LSU/Alabama stuff. Every time I try to post this, I lose my internet connection, so as I’ve reviewed, I’ve kept thinking of new things to mention.)

LSU/Alabama For the Record

As you might have expected, I’m not quite done talking about LSU/Alabama (since this is the first blog I’ve written since the actual game).

A few notes on the history before I get on my soap box. The last time LSU was in a game where the only scoring was field goal(s), they lost to Alabama, 3-0, in 1979. Alabama won the national championship that year as the only major undefeated and untied team. Going back to 2011, Les Miles moved past Nick Saban in wins against Alabama, 5 to 4 (Miles admittedly leads Saban in losses against Alabama, 2-1). No other coach in LSU history had more than two wins against Alabama, although Bill Arnsparger (1984-86) was an impressive 2-0-1, the tie of course coming in Baton Rouge. If LSU can get past Arkansas, Miles will have a winning record with LSU against every SEC team except for Georgia (1-2). (That would have been true even had LSU lost this game though.) LSU has now won 11 of the last 15 against the Tide in the state of Alabama and 7 of 9 (also 9 of 12) against the Tide overall. Alabama still has leads in the series: 45-25-5 overall, 20-16-2 in Alabama in general, 10-9 in Tuscaloosa, and 25-9-2 in Baton Rouge. The one game missing is a tie in New Orleans. It’s just bizarre that LSU has as many wins in Tuscaloosa in this series as in Baton Rouge despite playing about half as many games in Tuscaloosa. The two teams are tied in their last 31 games (15-15-1), their last 29 games (14-14-1), their last 27 games (13-13-1), and their last 22 games (11-11) against one another. One more thing: LSU now leads in overtimes in the series, 2-1. The Tigers had won in 2005 (in Tuscaloosa, of course) and lost in 2008 (in Baton Rouge, of course).

I’ve seen some criticisms of this year’s LSU/Alabama game that claimed that the defenses weren’t really so great, the offenses were just bad. I guess in that case, in every no-hitter in baseball history, the batting was just bad.

The fact that there were four interceptions thrown is somehow proof that the defense wasn’t that good? Well, the two interceptions thrown by Alabama would have been completions against your average BCS-conference defenders (especially against Oklahoma St. or Kansas St.), and one of them probably would have been a touchdown. Jarrett Lee threw one interception all year, a pass that basically amounted to a punt against Mississippi St. He doesn’t throw two in this game if Alabama doesn’t make him extremely uncomfortable. He was used to being able to resort to his “checkdown” receiver when someone wasn’t open downfield, but the Alabama linebackers were too good to allow that. And the reason Jefferson did better than Lee did is because they couldn’t allow the linebackers to fall back into coverage as easily given Jefferson’s ability to spread out the field and run.

A low-scoring game does not mean there weren’t sustained drives and good scoring opportunities. There were those things. For example, LSU had a 40-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, but that possession had started on the 5. Why did it start on the 5? Alabama punted after a 30-yard drive of their own. So why didn’t that drive put Alabama in better field position? Brad Wing’s 72-yard punt. Why was LSU so backed up before that punt? Eric Reid intercepted a ball at the 1. The offense of one team repeatedly did enough to bury the other team deep in its own territory (although Alabama didn’t do this as often as it perhaps should have due to long field-goal attempts). And how can you call that a boring game when it was tied in the fourth quarter through all these great plays and potential game-winning drives? The defenses basically put up a wall when it came time for the offenses to potentially make a game-changing play. That’s not simply offensive ineptitude.

Of course, there were some stupid penalties, but that takes place in big games all the time, especially in college. The back-of-the-helmet-grabbing penalty (I don’t know if you call that a facecollar or a horsemask or what) actually wasn’t that bad of a penalty, because I don’t know if LSU would have gotten the tackle (at least it may have been many yards downfield) without grabbing at the head and shoulder area. Of course the substitution penalty by Alabama and the pre-punt-return mugging by LSU were inexcusable, but these are young men with the average age of about 20, and it was a very tense, frustrating sort of game, so I don’t think that’s evidence of offensive ineptitude (of course the latter was a special-teams penalty anyway) or an indictment of either team overall. And I think it was tense and frustrating enough that even the coaches lost focus with some of the play-calling and decision-making.

Also, someone on the Alabama sidelines should have been making sure something like the substitution infraction didn’t take place. Alabama also had a similar penalty in the first quarter (which also helped put the Tide out of field-goal range, but don’t forget that in both cases, the LSU defense also helped out with tackles for a loss). LSU had a few pre-snap penalties as well, but a good defense will cause those at times. One of them was an illegal shift, which resulted from an effort to gain an advantage on the defense when those were obviously hard to come by. I think the only thing I didn’t cover was a couple of holding penalties, but every game has those—maybe they’re called, maybe not, but they’re there.

There were 32 first downs in the game. By comparison, there were 37 in the Arkansas-South Carolina game, which the Hogs won, 44-28. Also, there was a good mix of run and pass in this game. In yards gained, there was a total of 290 passing yards and 244 rushing yards. Attempts favored rushing of course, but for Alabama even that was close, 29 passing attempts against 31 rushing attempts. The difference in the game, as expected by commentators and coaches alike, was a few big plays and special teams, but that’s not to say nothing else was going on. As stated earlier, those plays are less meaningful without enough offense to set them up.

Ratings/Rankings Commentary

To transition to my ratings, I didn’t have Alabama #2 going into this. They had fallen to #3 due to the bye week. But if I had voted this week, I think I would have put them #2. I watched most of the K-State/OSU game, and that just wasn’t at the same level. Oklahoma’s game against K-State might have been at that level, but that’s the only example I can think of. Maybe we’ll see if Stanford can come up with a similar game this weekend. As to the chorus of complaints from commentators too lazy to actually do research about these teams they think are mistreated by the computers, Stanford’s opponents have an overall winning percentage of 36.7. That’s pretty bad. Alabama’s and Oklahoma St.’s opponents average 52.7%. Even Boise St.’s opponents average 47.6% wins. Oklahoma’s average 55.3%. LSU’s opponents (keep in mind they’re about to play Western Kentucky and Ole Miss) average 61.2%. This doesn’t require a mysterious sophistical formula to explain. I don’t think you consider who these teams are going to play until they play them, and the BCS computers do not do this either.

So that’s nice that Stanford plays a decent team next week. If they win, they’ll get credit for that. They’ll also get credit for Notre Dame, which isn’t to Oregon’s level, but it’s better than a bye week, Ole Miss, Western Kentucky, Georgia Southern, Iowa St., or New Mexico. UCLA does count for significantly less than Iowa St. right now, but they won’t if they win their remaining games in order to capture the Pac-12 South and Iowa St. Cal is in a virtual tie with Iowa St., and Arizona St. (the other possibility in the Pac-12 championship game) is significantly ahead of Iowa St. Both Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. have bye weeks in addition to playing the Cyclones anyway, although the winner of that game stands to gain a good bit to make up for it.

As a side note, this is part of the reason why we have a human element and a computer element. I don’t believe there is a good way to input final scores into a computer. The only way to fairly consider that is as part of a human system where you can also see and consider the circumstances in which those points are scored. But obviously human rankings have too much bias, and I think silly unofficial rules about not moving teams down if they win and keeping teams ranked basically according to preseason rankings. There is also an unfair forgiveness phenomenon when teams like USC and Oklahoma lost to the likes of Stanford and Colorado a few years ago. Also, at times, there can be too much focus on a couple of recent games instead of the overall course of the season.

If anything, I believe human ratings carry too much weight, but then an even greater percentage of football coverage would be taken up by whiny commentators who are too self-important and ignorant for basic math, not to mention the kind of formulas we get in the individual BCS computers. They also forget that part of the rules forbids the computers from considering any kind of margin of victory. So if Texas Tech is in the top 50 (where I have them), they might scratch their heads and talk about what Iowa St. did in Lubbock and how lucky the Red Raiders were to beat Oklahoma, but the computers are only allowed to consider loss vs. Iowa St. and win vs. Oklahoma. There also isn’t room for Andrew Luck’s stats in there (by the way, I don’t know what his numbers were, but he didn’t pass the eye test in the last two weeks anyway). There needs to be a hype-free, emotion-free element in there, and I don’t think 1/3 (even lower than the percenage of games won by Stanford’s opponents thus far) is enough.

Anyway, with that in mind, it looks like a one-loss Alabama team (or Arkansas team) that doesn’t make the SEC Championship game isn’t realistically going to pass up a one-loss Oklahoma team. But to give you an idea of how far the teams are separated, #3 Oklahoma is about as close to #1 LSU as they are to #15 Michigan. The Sooners are also about as close to their in-state rivals (who are #2) as they are to #8 Clemson. The gap between Boise St. and Oklahoma is 1/10 that between Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. The gap between Alabama and Oklahoma is 1/3 that between Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. I believe this is the first time in the history of my rankings that the #1 team this late in the season is in the top 5 of my strength of schedule ratings, which are typically dominated by teams with losing records.

Alabama at least has a good chance to pass up Boise St. and may pass up the loser of Bedlam (for BCS purposes, Tide fans should cheer for the Sooners, although that may not help their ranking for me). Although I would have voted Alabama #2 last week, I think that’s a reasonable place for them to be. I have no plans to tinker with my formula to change any of that. Penn St. was a good team out of conference, but Kent St., North Texas, and Georgia Southern are just too weak of a remaining non-conference slate to pick up Alabama’s other games. Don’t forget that the “Big XII” has a 9-game conference schedule now, so that makes it harder to play three weaklings out of conference for those teams even if they wanted to. Also, right now, Tulsa (with losses to only Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., and Boise St.) doesn’t qualify. It wouldn’t surprise me that if Stanford wins out, they might pass up Alabama too (probably in the BCS as well), since there would be one extra game, and as referenced Stanford’s worst remaining opponent is Cal (or possibly UCLA, but somehow, having watched local games and sports shows from time to time over the past 7 years, I believe UCLA will not make that game).

If LSU wins out, this is probably a moot point for national-championship purposes, but the SEC West teams should probably cheer for Auburn to beat Georgia for a couple of reasons. It would strengthen the value of Auburn, and also it would probably put a better team, South Carolina, in the SEC Championship game. And furthermore, it weakens the argument for Boise St. of course. Another side note: I believe the only prior wire-to-wire #1s in my personal rankings (this is almost impossible in the computer ratings per se…the first few weeks, I’ll keep #1 subjective) was Florida St. in 1999. I had no computer formula of any sort at that time. I didn’t even give them serious thought until 2003.

There MIGHT be a scenario where Alabama can be a #2 to LSU, but it’s remote. Alabama would have to beat Auburn of course. Auburn getting that win over Georgia would be key. If the SEC wins those remaining non-conference games (South Carolina-Clemson, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida-Florida St.), that could help. Of course, Oklahoma beating Oklahoma St. might be good (or if Texas Tech could beat Oklahoma St., that might be even better). Oregon (of course a victim to LSU) beating Stanford would help. A Boise St. loss or a loss or losses by Tulsa would probably help too. UCLA making the Pac-12 championship could keep a Pac-12 champion from the North from getting too much credit as well, but might as well cheer for ASU and UCLA both to lose. A late loss by LSU would not have the Tigers #1, but it could put the Tide #1 if enough dominoes fall, and Arkansas (or maybe one-loss LSU) could conceivably be up there too.

This isn’t just for my ratings, but these are things that help tilt the computers in one way or another as well. The computers are only 1/3 of the BCS formula though, so if there is a strong feeling among the voters, generally the voters get what they want.

Other than Oregon, who could at least factor into the top 4 and other BCS thresholds (and who made a good jump of 6 spots, mostly due to others’ losses), I doubt any of the other one-loss potential champions (Clemson, Va. Tech, Penn St., USM) will matter too much in any of this. There wasn’t anything else too surprising about how the ratings came out. Michigan fell a few spots. Nebraska fell many spots. Both are still ranked. Michigan St. fell a spot despite winning, but since they just lost to Nebraska, that’s not a surprise. Arizona St. and North Carolina both lost, so that opened up spots for Cincinnati and TCU. The reason Cincinnati is 22nd instead of 24th is that both Auburn and Georgia Tech had bye weeks. Georgia didn’t really get much credit for beating New Mexico St., but it (combined with other results) was enough to separate them from Georgia Tech as well. It so happens Nebraska’s loss put the Huskers and the Spartans below Georgia. The only other movement of note was Texas, which beat Texas Tech. This was better than the wins by USC (Colorado), Georgia, and Michigan St. (Minnesota).

Full 120

Top 25:
rank / team / prior
1 LSU 1
2 Okie St. 2
3 Oklahoma 6
4 Boise St. 4
5 Alabama 3
6 Stanford 5
7 Houston 8
8 Clemson 7
9 Oregon 15
10 Va. Tech 9
11 Penn St. 13
12 Arkansas 16
13 S Carolina 12
14 So. Miss. 17
15 Michigan 11
16 Kansas St. 14
17 Texas 23
18 USC 18
19 Georgia 21
20 Mich St. 19
21 Nebraska 10
22 Cincinnati —
23 Ga. Tech 20
24 Auburn 24
25 TCU —

Out of rankings: (22) Arizona St, (25) North Carolina

Prior rankings:

Week 9
Week 8
Week 7
Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1
Preseason

Blog note: It might be obscure and/or boring to some, but my series of LSU/Alabama posts led to by far my highest-ever weekend, with 139 views Friday to Sunday (including my highest-ever views for one day, with 68 on Saturday–my previous high was 49). Anyway, thanks for reading.

LSU/Alabama: Blog of the Century

In College Football, Rivalry on November 4, 2011 at 6:01 PM

(It’s not that great, but I had to put “of the Century” in there somewhere. It is pretty long though, especially if you follow the links.)

Even in the worst of years, LSU/Alabama is my personal-favorite rivalry. I don’t remember Bear, but I remember Gene Stallings and the early 1990s, so Alabama was the gold standard for me at that time. I was also aware that LSU notoriously had trouble against the Tide. LSU ended the Tide’s 31-game unbeaten streak in 1993, but that was LSU’s only win in an 8-year period which took place right around the time I started to become an LSU fan. I vaguely recall the 1988 season, which was LSU’s previous win in the series.

Almost as big for me as that upset in 1993 (a year in which LSU finished only 5-6) was 2000, when LSU defeated the Tide in Baton Rouge for the first time since 1969. That so happened to be Nick Saban’s first year with the Tigers. Interestingly, LSU still lost to a team from Alabama in Baton Rouge that year, but it was UAB. Alabama only finished 3-8 that year and LSU finished a respectable (at the time) 8-4, but it was still huge that LSU finally got that done.

So in light of this background, I’ve had a few different takes on the LSU/Alabama series.

I’m not going to do the entire history again, but to say a couple of things about recent history, Alabama has only won once at home in this series since 1999. That was of course two years ago with the Tide on its way to a national championship. Bama won by 9, but in reality it was much closer. In total, LSU has won in Alabama 10 times since 1982 (inclusive), while the Tide has only won 4 times during that period in the series. The series is knotted at 14-14-1 overall during that time. That tells you how far ahead Alabama was before that, but that’s part of why I enjoy cheering against them. As you can imagine, I’m also sick of the suggestion that playing at home is the trump card when I still have a very fresh memory of thinking that was the only place LSU would win. Alabama is LSU’s only annual opponent against whom the Tigers are exactly .500 during that time period (Tennessee and Georgia are the other two SEC opponents in that category, although of course LSU has broken the tie against Tennessee). So that probably has helped keep the intensity of the rivalry going as well, even through all the ups and downs of these two programs.

I’m just pasting the “Series Facts” from the Rivalry entry below (you’ll know it’s over when you see a line like this, “~~~~~”).

Alabama leads 45-24-5, including 25-9-2 in Baton Rouge, 10-8 in Tuscaloosa, 8-5-1 in Birmingham, and 2-0 in Montgomery.
LSU only leads in Mobile (2-1-1, the last meeting in 1958, the first game of Bear Bryant’s career at Alabama and of LSU’s last undefeated season), and the two tied their only meeting in New Orleans in 1921.
Largest win: Alabama, 47-3 in 1922 (largest shutout was 33-0 in 1930 in Montgomery)
Largest LSU win: 28-0 in 1957
(The most recent shutouts were 1997 {LSU, 27-0} and 2002 {Alabama, 31-0}. There have been 16 shutout wins in the series {only 3 by LSU} as well as a 0-0 tie in 1927.)

Longest winning streak: Alabama, 11, 1971-1981
Longest unbeaten streak: Alabama, 12 (9-0-3), 1919-1945
Longest LSU winning streak: 5, 2003-2007
Longest road winning streak: Alabama, 7, 1987-1998 and 1971-1983
Longest road unbeaten streak: Alabama, 15 (14-0-1), 1971-1998
Longest LSU road winning streak: 4, 1982-1988 and 2001-2007
Longest home winning streak: Alabama, 5, 1972-80
Longest home unbeaten streak: Alabama, 8 (7-0-1), 1920-1947
(LSU has only won two in a row at home twice, 1946 & 1948 and 2004 &2006)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Since this is a matchup of unbeatens, I will include one last paragraph about history that does not include history of one of the current coaches of either team. LSU was the first team to beat the Tide in 2005. Alabama last beat an undefeated LSU team in 1987, but (like when the Tigers beat Bama in 1993) there had been a tie earlier in the season. The teams faced one another in the opener in 1981, but that would turn out to be an awful year for LSU (3-7-1). Apart from that, the last time LSU and Alabama were both undefeated was 1973. Alabama won, 21-7 , in Baton Rouge but would suffer its only loss to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. LSU would fall to Tulane the following week and lose to Penn St. in the Orange Bowl to finish 9-3. This is LSU’s first 8-0 start since then. Both teams were also undefeated and untied when they met in Birmingham the year before. Alabama won that game, 35-21, although they lost to Auburn in the finale and again to Texas in the Cotton Bowl. After LSU won in both 1969 and 1970, Alabama started 10-0 or better (beating LSU) every year from 1971 to 1974 but finished undefeated none of those years. LSU did not finally beat the Tide again until 1982.

Les Miles (see here for a great OTL story about him) is 4-2 against Alabama. With a win, he would break the tie with (guess who?) Nick Saban for #1 in LSU history in wins against the Tide. Saban was 4-1 against Alabama with the Tigers, but to be fair, only one of those Bama teams he beat finished above .500 (7-5 in 2001). Miles’ Tigers have defeated two winning Alabama teams, in 2005 and 2010. Each of those Bama teams finished with 10 wins.

I’m also interested in John Chavis’s record against Alabama. I’ll just give a list of scores. Chavis was the defensive coordinator at Tennessee (a permanent interdivision rival of Alabama) from 1995-2008. He took the same position at LSU in 2009. (If location is not indicated in some way, the game took place in Tuscaloosa.)
Tennessee, 41-14 (Birmingham)
@Tennessee, 20-13
Tennessee, 38-21* (Birmingham)
@Tennessee, 35-18**
Tennessee, 21-7#
@Tennessee, 20-10
Tennessee, 35-24
Alabama, 34-14 (Knoxville)
Tennessee, 51-43
@Tennessee, 17-13
Alabama, 6-3
@Tennessee, 16-13
Alabama, 41-17
Alabama, 29-9 (Knoxville)
Alabama (hosting LSU), 24-15**
@LSU, 24-21
*=winner won conference championship
**=winner won conference and national championships
#=loser won conference championship

So his defenses have allowed over 24 points to be scored by Alabama only 4 times (2002, 2003, 2007, and 2008) since 1995. Of course, 24 points might easily be enough to win this game, as it was in the previous two games in this series. I doubt this Alabama offense is quite as good as the one in 2009 though.

We also have a short history of Nick Saban’s defenses against LSU. To be fair to him, his early Alabama teams did face a few players he recruited.
LSU (vs. Michigan St. in Shreveport), 45-26
LSU (@ Alabama), 41-34**
Alabama (@ LSU), 27-21, ot+
Alabama (hosting LSU), 24-15**
LSU (hosting Alabama), 24-21
+=winner won division championship
**=winner won conference and national championships

So after two games he probably wanted back, I think he was at least somewhat satisfied in the last three games. The LSU offenses were struggling though. Alabama probably would not have had enough points were it not for Jarrett Lee throwing to them in 2008, and LSU had, to be kind, inconsistent offenses in the past two seasons. I think this will be the Alabama defense’s toughest test against LSU, at least since it truly became Nick Saban’s team.

I wanted to give just a little bit of game analysis, which I don’t normally do myself. I’ll post a few links (mostly from Bleacher Report) and give my comments.

This is a good place to start: Strengths and Weaknesses…
(Hit “Next” to see the LSU info.)

If AJ McCarron completed less than 50% of his passes against Florida, I really don’t think he will complete more than that against LSU. The side-by-side comparisons may make it look like the LSU defense isn’t great against the pass, but a couple of things to keep in mind. When fumbles are forced, that doesn’t count in the passing statistics even if it’s a passing play. Alabama will at least have to be careful about avoiding such turnovers and this may lead to taking sacks (also not reflected in passing yardage) or throwing the ball away.

Also, the big number counting against LSU is 463 passing yards by West Virginia, whom LSU beat 47-21. It was 27-7 at halftime. Although at one point they closed the gap to 6 (at least until LSU ran back the ensuing kickoff), they were throwing the entire second half. They had 15 COMPLETIONS against 11 official rushes (this includes sacks and fumbles). There were also 11 incompletions by my count. The Mountaineers threw for 256 yards in the second half with only two touchdowns to show for it. In LSU’s other 7 games, the Tigers have averaged giving up 133.6 yards per game in the air, two yards fewer than Alabama has overall.

An under-reported statistic is that LSU has a +15 turnover margin (almost +2 per game) while Alabama only has a +6 turnover margin. This should make up for any small differences between the two in net yardage. This information was provided here: 11 Stats you Must Know.

There are also some other interesting numbers on ESPN.

The video only offers a very superficial analysis though. He mentions that LSU is good against the run against teams like West Virginia and Oregon due to its speed, but then he suggests that running straight at LSU will work wonders for Alabama. With speed, players can fill gaps, and LSU has plenty of players that can tackle well in the backfield or at the line. That’s how you get an advantage against larger offensive linemen. You run around them. Every defense does this in one way or another. And if it were so easy to run down the middle against LSU, it would have been done by now. I’m not saying Alabama won’t get rushing yards, but it won’t be three yards and a cloud of dust for the whole game with Alabama emerging on top.

I also enjoyed this piece which gives LSU and Alabama point totals based on different aspects of their respective games: Predicting Value for Each Key Element.

I especially liked that LSU won, 17-14, which would not be a surprising final score. This is despite the fact that Saban garnered Alabama one more point than Miles garnered LSU. Come on, they’re at least even, especially factoring in LSU’s assistant coaches.

This game is really a tough call though. I said that LSU’s relative advantages MAKE UP FOR Bama’s advantages, but I’m not sure they overcome those advantages. As the Daughters column (11 stats…game of the century) states,

“LSU has a slight edge due to two huge facts: one, they’ve earned their stats with stiffer competition (which would realistically level the playing field statistically in some areas), and secondly, the turnover category which in reality is three numbers in one.
The Tigers lead in fewest turnovers, most take-aways and, therefore, turnover margin, which combined with the opponent resume (another three prong category) gives LSU a narrow advantage in the game of the century.
How narrow?
Very, very, very slim…and this is why the 2011 LSU-at-Alabama extravaganza has all the right stuff to be one for the ages.”

I agree with that basically, but I’m not even sure there is ANY advantage either way. I’d like to think the Tigers’ most impressive start since the 1970s (or possibly even since the 1950s) will result in an undefeated season, but picking a winner here is really just a guess. I think it will come down to how on-target the respective quarterbacks are. If they can open up the defenses, that will provide a necessary advantage to the running game. McCarron will have to avoid the various ways LSU can create turnovers, and LSU can’t frustrate the efforts of its quarterbacks by rotating at the wrong time. There will probably be one or two special teams plays (see here) that can make the difference as well. So if the QB play evens out, I would give LSU the advantage on that basis. But despite what I just said, it’s also possible it could just be one team’s day and not so exciting after all. I am picking a close LSU win (10 points or fewer), but I can’t be too confident in that pick since I think there is about a 40% chance of that happening.