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Week 9 Top 25 and Commentary

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 30, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Top 25

rank / team / prior
1 Notre Dame 2
2 Alabama 1
3 Ohio St. 5
4 Kansas St. 4
5 Oregon 6
6 Florida 3
7 Louisville 12
8 LSU 8
9 Oregon St. 7
10 Georgia 21
11 S Carolina 15
12 Florida St. 16
13 Stanford 18
14 Toledo 13
15 TX Tech 9
16 Clemson 22
17 Boise St. 17
18 Nebraska —
19 N’western —
20 Miss. St. 11
21 Rutgers 10
22 Texas 20
23 TX A&M 25
24 Oklahoma 14
25 Tulsa —

Out of rankings: (20) W Virginia, (24) USC, (25) Wisconsin

Full 124 permalink

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

I’m going to write separately about LSU-Alabama. For now, I’ll just mention that while I expect LSU won’t win, I had the same feeling the last time a coach I particularly dislike as a person brought a top-5 team to Baton Rouge. LSU may also have benefited from that experience. I certainly hope the Tigers are at a higher level than Mississippi St. is, and that was probably the best team Alabama has played by far. I believe that South Carolina and Florida are both better teams (or at least South Carolina was).

Top 25 comments

As I indicated last week, I have put aside my cynicism about Notre Dame for the purposes of this top 25 listing. From now on, I expect to just paste the top 25 that my computer formula comes up with. This is not about any deficiency of Alabama, who I believe has a shot at becoming #1 again in the next couple of weeks (the Tide faces LSU and Texas A&M), regardless of what Notre Dame does against Pitt and Boston College.

For the most-part, the undefeated teams are ahead of the one-loss teams. Florida is a notable exception. Why are they higher here than in the major polls? LSU and Florida have each beaten Texas A&M and South Carolina. But while the loss to Georgia loses Florida more points than LSU’s loss to Florida loses them, LSU still has to accumulate good enough wins to overcome the points that Florida got for beating LSU. The Tigers have not done so. I think LSU being ahead in the polls is merely a result of when the respective losses happened. If Florida had lost to Georgia before beating LSU and South Carolina, and LSU had beaten South Carolina before losing to Florida, I think you would see the poll rankings more in line with how many rankings are.

Except for a brief mention below, I’m going to talk about Louisville moving ahead of LSU in a comment to my main blog. It would have taken up too much space otherwise.

Ohio St. curiously moved ahead of Kansas St. even though Texas Tech is a better win than Penn St. is. So that was a result of past opponents for the respective teams. Oklahoma counts for much less of a win after losing to Notre Dame than it did before that. Not only was that a negative for Kansas St., but there were also some positives for Ohio St. with how past opponents such as Nebraska, Michigan St., and Miami U. (which beat a previously undefeated Ohio U.) fared on Saturday.

Oregon was close enough to Florida to move ahead, and I think the Gators’ drop was reasonable. There was a big gap between #7 and #8 last week and it showed when neither Florida nor Oregon St. fell out of the top 10.

I would note that in my old ratings, Louisville wouldn’t even be close to LSU, but the idea of this rating is to put the top two teams at the top. More often than not, an undefeated team deserves consideration ahead of a team with a loss. And we’re not talking one loss at the end of the season (in which case a few SEC teams with losses could be ahead of Louisville), we’re talking about one loss if the season were merely (for most teams) the 8 playing weeks that have gone by so far.

Georgia’s jump forward had some similarities to Louisville’s. It wasn’t just the value of the win (which for Georgia was much greater), it was also the improvement of Georgia’s strength of schedule as a result of the game.

Texas Tech slipped 6 spots for losing to Kansas St. but has a chance to move ahead of some teams next week, as Nos. 11, 12, and 14 all have byes, and #13 Stanford plays Colorado.
Clemson is up 6 spots, mostly as a result of other teams’ losses, and also because this was a part of the rankings where teams were statistically very close together. This is also why Oklahoma fell so far.

Nebraska and Northwestern benefited from other teams similarly to the way Clemson did, although they picked up quality wins also.

Texas and Texas A&M, like Boise St., just hardly got any points for their wins on Saturday. Too bad they won’t be playing each other this year, that could have been a good one.

Admittedly, the best team Tulsa has beaten has been Fresno St. (barely in the top 50), but if you win 7 games in a row, you have a shot to sneak into this top 25, especially if the one loss (Iowa St.) is near the top 25 (#34). Maybe one could argue Tulsa should be behind Iowa St. because of the loss to them, but I don’t want to punish so much for a loss to Iowa St. that it counts as worse than Iowa St.’s three losses. After all, one of Iowa St.’s losses is to Oklahoma St., which is about their equal.

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The Mad Hatter’s Mad Accomplishments (so far)

In College Football, General LSU, History on October 27, 2012 at 4:31 AM

I was talking to a Florida fan the other day, and shortly after we talked about Spurrier, he mentioned that Miles wasn’t doing a very good job at LSU.

I’m as frustrated as a lot of LSU fans with some issues. Clock management at the end of certain games against Ole Miss and Tennessee, refusing to give Jarrett Lee a chance in the BCS championship game in January, sticking with former OC Gary Crowton as long as he did, and so on.

But the man wins games and somehow finds a way to take teams that don’t seem particularly strong and have them win 7 of 8 or 6 of 7 and so forth. There was sort of a 2-year rebuilding process after the national championship, but take away Lee’s interception affliction in 2008 and a couple two-point losses in 2009, and those teams have similar records to the teams in Miles’ other 5 full seasons before this one.

The gold standard in recent coaching stints is Pete Carroll at USC, who went 110-20. I think Miles would have to have a few 1- or 0- loss teams in a row to even come close to 85% (Carroll won 84.6%), but he’s competitive with or ahead of other recent luminaries, particularly if you limit it to tenures in the last 10 years or those that (have) lasted longer than his. I’m not looking at career winning percentage but only at a particular school.

Saban (Ala.) 62-12 (83.8%)*
Spurrier (Fla.) 122-27-1 (81.7%)
Meyer (Fla.) 65-15 (81.3%)
Tressel (Ohio St.) 94-22 (81.0%)
Miles (LSU) 71-17 (80.7%)*
Stoops (Okla.) 144-35 (80.4%)*
Brown (Texas) 146-41 (78.1%)*
Richt (Ga.) 122-39 (75.8%)*
Carr (Mich.) 122-40 (75.3%)
Saban (LSU) 48-16 (75.0%)

*=active; record and percentage as of Week 8

Before I continue, I wanted to mention that of course I realize winning 70 games is nothing like winning 150 or 400. Being able to keep ahead of the other great programs over a decade or more is no easy task. Urban Meyer seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown after 6 seasons at Florida.

But nonetheless, this is pretty good company to be in as far as how often your team wins games, and any fan of these teams will tell you that.

These are some historically great coaching tenures that had lower winning percentages (ties counted as half a win) than Miles has had so far:
Schembechler (Mich.) 194-48-5 (79.6%)
Holtz (Ark.) 80-21-2 (78.6%)
Royal (Texas) 167-47-5 (77.4%)
Blaik (Army) 121-33-10 (76.8%)
Holtz (N.D.) 100-30-2 (76.5%)
Hayes (Ohio St.) 205-61-10 (76.1%)
Bowden (FSU) 304-97-4 (75.6%)
Paterno (PSU) 409-136-3 (74.91%) {record includes 111 vacated wins}
McKay (USC) 127-40-8 (74.86%)
Vaught (Miss.) 190-61-12 (74.5%)

If you’re wondering where guys like Dooley, Robinson, Broyles, Dodd, Jordan, and even LSU’s McClendon are, I cut this off at 74.5%. But let me know if I miss a notable with a better record than 74.5% who coached, let’s say, over 100 games and isn’t mentioned by the end of this.

There are a few coaches I put into the somewhat-untouchable (at least without a good few years elapsing) Pete Carroll category. I thought of Jimmie Johnson and Dennis Erickson of Miami and Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy of Notre Dame. But I came up with a lot more where Miles is at least within about 3%. These include Parseghian (N.D., 83.6%), Bryant (Ala., 82.4%), Osborne (Neb., 83.6%), Devaney (Neb., 82.9%), Wilkinson (Okla., 82.6%), Switzer (Okla., 83.7%), and Neyland (Tenn., 82.9%).

When you’re in the same conversation with several people after whom stadiums are named, I think that’s a pretty good sign, at least as far as percentages. Coaches with short tenures don’t generally get that kind of treatment. Just looking at LSU, there isn’t a good comparison, at least not in the modern era, to what Miles has done. The only coaches who had winning percentages similar to Miles’ didn’t stay very long. Saban lasted 5 years, and Bill Arnsparger lasted 3 (each is credited with exactly 75%). Going back to the late 1950s/early 1960s, Paul Dietzel won 82.6% in his last four seasons (better than any four consecutive seasons under Miles), but combined with his first three seasons, that only amounts to 65.1% overall. If you were curious, McClendon (who coached 18 seasons, with a winning percentage of 68.2) has had a practice facility named after him, but the stadium is still known as Tiger Stadium (and sometimes Death Valley).

Week 8 Top 25 and Commentary

In Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 23, 2012 at 6:08 PM

Top 25

rank / team / prior
1 Alabama 1
2 Notre Dame 2
3 Florida 5
4 Kansas St. 4
5 Ohio St. 3
6 Oregon 7
7 Oregon St. 6
8 LSU 12
9 TX Tech 8
10 Rutgers 11
11 Miss. St. 15
12 Louisville 16
13 Toledo —
14 Oklahoma 13
15 S Carolina 9
16 Florida St. 24
17 Boise St. 18
18 Stanford 19
19 W Virginia 10
20 Texas 23
21 Georgia 25
22 Clemson —
23 USC 21
24 Wisconsin —
25 TX A&M 14

Out of rankings: (17) Cincinnati, (20) N’western, (22) La. Tech

Full 124 permalink

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

Note about the SEC:

Mississippi St. is interesting at this point, even though they do have the games coming up against Texas A&M, LSU, and Alabama. The SEC has 9 of the top 27 best schedules and 11 of the top 44. The outliers are Alabama (#84), Mississippi St. (#107), and Georgia (#116). The bad ones may be better and the good ones may be worse, because when I factor in the third level (opponents’ opponents’ opponents), it evens out a little bit (or Alabama wouldn’t be in the top 3), but that gives you an idea of why Georgia is so low also.

Tennessee is Georgia’s best win, and they lost once again. Also, Georgia lost to South Carolina, which has since lost two in a row.

Not surprisingly, the SEC also has high numbers in the ratings. 4 in the top 11, 5 in the top 15, 6 in the top 22, 7 in the top 26. That’s half the conference in the top 26. There is a bit of a gap before the next SEC team (Ole Miss at #47), and then there is a four-team cluster (Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri, and Arkansas) between #65 and #71. This leaves only Auburn (#97) and Kentucky (#107) as lower teams.

Overall comments:

I was a little unhappy that both Notre Dame and Ohio St. escaped with narrow home wins on Saturday, but as things stand, I still have to explain their positions. Even though Michigan St. (a team the Irish beat) lost, they lost to Michigan (another team the Irish beat), so that didn’t really hurt them. The other opponents went 2-2.

I have ranked Alabama #1 again here even though they’re now down to #3 in my computer ratings. But as of next week, I’m probably just going with the computer rankings. If Florida is a very narrow #1, I may still pick Alabama, but if Notre Dame wins again, I’m making them #1, assuming that’s where they end up in the formula. I’m also excluding Ohio from my top 25 since it’s not really possible to give them a rating according to the same rules as the other teams. I don’t know if playing Miami U. will improve their rating enough to correct this. So I’ll continue to exclude them until this can be done. The rankings on the ratings site are, as always, unaltered.

Ohio St. slipped two spots because South Carolina and West Virginia, respectively, were much better opponents than Purdue was. Oregon moved ahead of Oregon St. due to the relative quality of Arizona St. over Utah.

I don’t particularly like how when teams close in rank play each other, they’re repelled away from one another, but if the teams are close, this will even out over time. Texas A&M was gaining points while LSU played Towson and Auburn, and those don’t count for very much. If LSU loses to Alabama, they’ll be slightly negative over the next two weeks. Texas A&M could be significantly positive by beating both Auburn and Mississippi St. Both Texas A&M and LSU have losses to Florida, so most of the current gap is due to A&M having the additional loss but not LSU. Also, A&M has had a prior bye week.

If Texas Tech beats Kansas St., the Red Raiders will likely be the #1 one-loss team, but of course, a one-loss SEC team would have a chance to pass them up (again?).
Rutgers, Mississippi St., and Louisville mostly just moved up by default.

Toledo had a pretty good win over Cincinnati (a formerly weak undefeated) and also, Arizona (the only team to beat Toledo) finally got another decent win, not that they should have been expected to beat Oregon, Oregon St., and Stanford anyway. (I guess the Pac-12 scheduler was an Arizona St. fan this year. The Wildcats have yet to play a game against the Pac-12 South.) Arizona themselves was also helped by Oklahoma St.’s win over Iowa St. I noticed something odd. Arizona has played three #18 teams this year. Arizona still isn’t ranked, but since there haven’t been all that many losses by ranked teams, a win over a now-top-35 team still helps out a lot. If Arizona does start beating all or almost all the Pac-12 South, you may see Toledo, Oregon, Oregon St., and Stanford tend to move up more than would be indicated by their week-to-week competition.

Oklahoma fell a spot by playing Kansas, little better than a bye week. I think 6 spots was a reasonable fall for South Carolina. Florida St. went up rather dramatically, but U. Miami is buoyed by a good schedule. UNLV (vs. Boise St.) and Cal (vs. Stanford) didn’t count for too much.

I guess Tubbs broke WVU a couple weeks ago, they moved down a lot. The only team above WVU who didn’t win last week is South Carolina and they were too far ahead, so that didn’t help.
Texas improved moderately by beating a struggling now-struggling Baylor team. Clemson (over Virginia Tech) and Wisconsin (over Minnesota) also got moderately helpful wins, but their improvements were more about a team like Texas A&M losing and a team like Louisiana Tech, who had lost to A&M the week before, losing. Northwestern also lost. USC beat Colorado, which barely counts as anything.

So I think that explains most things. All of my top 5 have challenging games this week. Florida should have the easiest time, but I don’t think Georgia is nearly as bad as their game against South Carolina or Florida nearly as good as their game against South Carolina. Lower down the list, Cincinnati @ Louisville and Michigan St. @ Wisconsin could be interesting, although the latter is less important than it seemed a couple weeks ago. (Wisconsin seems to be about to wrap up the Leaders [with Penn St. and Ohio St. ineligible, and no one else with a win], and Michigan St. is already 2 ½ games behind in the Legends.)

LSU vs. (Steve Spurrier and) South Carolina

In College Football, Rivalry on October 19, 2012 at 4:53 PM

I’ll just write a brief intro to bring this current (some of which is a repeat from my blog from earlier this week), and I’ll also provide the updated records instead of what I had on the original blog (replaced by ellipses).

LSU is 18-2-1 against South Carolina all time, which now includes four wins in the Spurrier era. South Carolina won the first game between the two schools in 1930 and didn’t win the second until 1994 (its only win in Baton Rouge), then earning the tie in 1995.

This was the 9th time in the LSU/South Carolina series that the game was decided by 8 points or fewer, so LSU is 6-2-1 in such games against the Gamecocks.

If you’ll look at my LSU/Florida rivalry post, I included a list of the larger point totals in that series. In four of the five instances in which the Gators scored over 40 and two of the three instances in which they scored over 50 against the Tigers, Spurrier was their coach. Obviously this game yesterday was a huge game anyway, but it always adds a little extra to the spirit of LSU fans to have Spurrier there.

Spurrier has now fallen to 11-4 against LSU now that he has lost all three games against the Tigers since beginning in South Carolina. Spurrier is now 67 years old, so there may not be too many more games against LSU, particularly if the league sticks with the 6-1-1 format, which means that every year LSU would only play one of the 6 teams in the East apart from Spurrier’s alma mater, who the Tigers play every year. If they continue on the same rotation, LSU will not play South Carolina again until 2021. I have a feeling he won’t still be coaching at 76, but I guess it’s conceivable.

The following was originally posted on The Sporting News September 17, 2007.

The Gamecocks have won 6 of their last 7 SEC road games (7 of 8 overall), the only loss to Florida, 17-16, last season.

LSU has won 6 SEC games in a row, 7 SEC home games in a row, and 15 home games in a row overall. Since losing to Ron Zook’s Florida Gators in 2003, LSU has won 13 of 14 SEC home games and 25 of 26 home games overall. The one loss was the Monday night game against Tennessee in overtime in 2005.

Wins by South Carolina—1930 and 1994, each by 1 point. 1930 was the first meeting between the teams, so 1994, the first SEC game between the schools and first regular-season game since 1983, marked the end of a 12-game series winning streak by the Tigers. The 1994 win was the Gamecocks’ only in Baton Rouge in 9 attempts, fittingly in the last year of Curley Hallman’s tenure. Hallman, who coached 4 seasons, has the lowest winning percentage (36.4) of any LSU coach who coached 10 games or more. Hallman is now coaching at a high school in Alabama [he was fired in short order].

The teams played one game at a neutral site, the 1987 Gator Bowl, which the Tigers won, 30-13.

The teams tied in 1995, the last tie recorded by either team. LSU has since won 2 in a row (2002 and 2003). Of course, in those meetings, the head coaches were Nick Saban and Lou Holtz, not to be confused with Lou Saban and Skip Holtz.

LSU/Steve Spurrier

Speaking of Nick Saban, after losing to Saban’s last Michigan St. team, 37-34, in the 1999 Citrus Bowl, Spurrier defeated Saban’s first two teams at LSU (2000 and 2001), 41-9 and 44-15, respectively. Despite this, in that last season Spurrier coached the Gators, LSU won the SEC, LSU’s first outright conference title in 15 years.

[At Florida,] Spurrier l[ed] his own series against LSU, 11-1. This includes 4-1 against LSU teams who would finish with winning records, and 3-1 against such teams in Baton Rouge.

LSU’s only win against [Florida under] Spurrier was in 1997. LSU was the first team to beat the Gators after their 1996 national championship, and Florida was 5-0 at the time. 1997 was also an odd year in that it was also his only year at UF that Spurrier lost to the Georgia Bulldogs. Those were the Gators’ only two losses on the year.

On the other hand, circumstances have changed in Tigerland since Spurrier left for the NFL. In the 4+ seasons since Spurrier left the Gators, LSU is 32-9 in conference regular-season games, 17-3 at home. LSU was 41-60-1 in conference games while Spurrier was at Florida, 23-28 at home.

Rivalry Series
Team List:
Alabama (2011 pre-game)
Arkansas
Auburn (2010 post-game)
Florida
Mississippi St.
Ole Miss
Tennessee (2011 post game)
Texas A&M

Special editions:
Pac-12

Week 7 Top 25 and Commentary (including LSU post-game)

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary, Rivalry on October 14, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Top 25

rank / team / prior
1 Alabama 1
2 Notre Dame 2
3 Ohio St. 3
4 Kansas St. 9
5 Florida 7
6 Oregon St. 8
7 Oregon 5
8 TX Tech 14
9 S Carolina 4
10 W Virginia 6
11 Rutgers 17
12 LSU 20
13 Oklahoma —
14 TX A&M 23
15 Miss. St. 18
16 Louisville 19
17 Cincinnati 15
18 Boise St. 21
19 Stanford 10
20 N’western —
21 USC —
22 La. Tech 11
23 Texas 12
24 Florida St. 22
25 Georgia 16

Out of rankings: (13) Iowa St., (24) Toledo, (25) Duke

Full 124 permalink

Comments

LSU

Since losing his first home game against Tennessee (in which the Tigers gave up a 21-point lead before going on to lose in overtime), Les Miles has only lost 5 home games. Three of those losses occurred in the 2008 season (Georgia, Alabama [in overtime], and Ole Miss), with one loss each in 2007 (Arkansas, again in overtime) and 2009 (Florida). From 2005 to 2007 (Arkansas was LSU’s final home game in 2007), the Tigers won 19 straight games at home. Their current streak, however, is the longest in LSU history at 22 games. Nick Saban, who incidentally won his last 10 home games (and 14 of his last 15) as LSU’s head coach, will be the next coach to attempt to put a stop to that streak.

I had written a blog about the most-recent coach to try to stop that and his personal series against LSU. I would give the link if that blog hadn’t been wiped out by TheSportingNews. I may post a new version later this week, but for now, I’ll mention that LSU is 17-2-1 against South Carolina all time, which now includes three wins in the Spurrier era. South Carolina won the first game between the two schools in 1930 and didn’t win the second until 1994 (its only win in Baton Rouge), then earning the tie in 1995. If you’ll look at my LSU/Florida rivalry post, I included a list of the larger point totals in that series. In four of the five instances in which the Gators scored over 40 and two of the three instances in which they scored over 50 against the Tigers, Spurrier was their coach. Obviously this game yesterday was a huge game anyway, but it always adds a little extra to the spirit of LSU fans to have Spurrier there.

This was the 9th time in the LSU/South Carolina series that the game was decided by 8 points or fewer, so LSU is 6-2-1 in such games against the Gamecocks. Both losses were by one point apiece.

I have to admit I was mildly surprised about the offense. A team with only one official third-down conversion a week ago went 11/19 on third down. South Carolina was only 3/13, although they were 2/2 on fourth down, the second of which set up the touchdown to bring the score to within 2. The passing yards were even more modest than last week (by 10 yards), but Mettenberger was sacked one time instead of four and threw one fewer incompletion. His stats were also not padded by a 56-yard completion that only really amounted to a punt on third down last week anyway, so he showed a lot more ability to throw it far enough to keep drives going.

I’m still not sure what happened to the running game against Florida, but LSU did a better job of mixing run with pass and approached running plays with a variety of blocking schemes, not to mention directing the ball to different locations along the line. For example, there was a wildcat play that put LSU into what should have been scoring position, and Jeremy Hill (yes, we apparently found another good running back) scored on a delayed pitch to give LSU some breathing room (which they needed every bit of) with 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

LSU had 406 yards of total offense to South Carolina’s 211. Going into halftime, the Gamecocks had more yards on an interception (LSU’s only turnover) return than the offense had gained. South Carolina only ran for 34 yards (1.4 yards per rush) compared to the 176 rushing yards by Florida (3.0 yards per rush) last week. LSU improved to 4.9 yards per rush (258 rushing yards) after gaining only 1.7 yards per rush (42 rushing yards) last week.

So before now-#1 Alabama goes to Tiger Stadium, LSU travels to College Station for the first time since 1995 next week and there will be a bye week thereafter. Also feel free to check out the Texas A&M entry to my rivalry series.

I’d like the passing game to continue to progress of course, but my main concern going into next week is finishing drives. The Tigers do have a very good defense, but three field goals of 23 yards or less next week (as was the case yesterday; there was also a miss from 32), and I doubt that’s going to be a win. Texas A&M gave Florida a better game than LSU did (LSU also settled for field goals of 31 and 21 against Florida), and the Aggies only scored 17 points in that one, so despite some less-than-stellar performances (such as giving up 57 to Louisiana Tech yesterday and giving up 27 to Ole Miss the week before, both away from home), they have some players on defense too.

Other teams

I’m going to keep Alabama as the #1 team in my blog and in my voting (I vote on two of the sites where I participate) unless they lose or run into serious trouble in the next two weeks. Regardless of what Alabama does, I will promote Notre Dame to #1 across the board if my formula puts them #1 and they get past Oklahoma.

I’m sure some Ducks fans have their feathers ruffled about being #3 in the BCS (I have them a bit lower of course), but when your best win is Arizona (which isn’t even top-40) and you’ve had a bye week and an FCS opponent, you should be happy with #3. Of course nothing precludes the Ducks moving up if they beat Stanford, USC (possibly twice), and Oregon St. (Arizona St. may not be bad either). The possibilities for significant advancement are there, and Florida and Alabama can’t both finish undefeated anyway.

Although Ohio is a top-25 team in my ratings, I will exclude them from the top 25 above until their schedule ceases to be so bad I have to substitute a number for my formula to work. The Bobcats’ opponents have an average winning percentage of 15.15, 123rd of 124 teams. Texas-San Antonio is 124th, and I would not rank them either, but in the Roadrunners’ defense, they are transitioning into FBS play and still scheduled a couple of non-Division I opponents, which do not factor in.

I’m not sure if I mentioned last week that the middle teams (around 10-20) were all very close together, so that accounts for a lot of the movement. Normally, #10 (Stanford, in this case) doesn’t fall 10 spots for losing to #1, for instance. But penalties for losses or relative stagnation are point subtraction or the points staying the same, they’re not for a given number of spots like the way most people seem to do ordinal rankings. Louisiana Tech fell 12 spots for losing to a ranked team (Texas A&M). LSU was able to gain 8 spots partly because they weren’t that far behind numbers 10 and 11 that week even though 9 spots seems far. Oklahoma jumped up 14 spots from #27 for beating Texas, which was #12 last week.

Of course this also involved the cooperation of some losing teams and others who did little to help their point totals. Georgia didn’t even play, but it also lost points (and dropped 9 spots) because South Carolina lost. Florida St. didn’t gain very much for beating Boston College, so they actually stayed behind Texas.

It’s also important to note at this point which teams haven’t had either a bye week or a FCS (I-AA) opponent or have had multiple such weeks. (3) Ohio St. and (9) South Carolina have neither had a bye nor a I-AA opponent. This is one reason why, along with one other ranking system, I have Ohio St. higher than anyone else does. This is also partly why South Carolina is still ahead of LSU. Another reason is that Georgia (South Carolina’s best win) is better than Washington (LSU’s best win, and the Huskies lost over the weekend). Oregon St. would actually be #2 if I ranked the teams in order of best average playing week, since the Beavers have had two bye weeks (one due to a rescheduled game as a result of Hurricane Isaac).

Much more common Is having had a bye week and an FCS opponent already, as is the case with Kansas St., Oregon, Texas Tech, Wes t Virginia, Texas A&M, Mississippi St., and Louisville. Florida St. is basically in the same boat with having played two FCS opponents, one of whom is winless against all competition.

Two teams are really at a disadvantage right now. Oklahoma has actually had two bye weeks AND an FCS opponent and Cincinnati has played two FCS opponents and has had two bye weeks. Using a weekly average, they would be ranked 10th and 13th, respectively.

It wasn’t even that interesting of a week. LSU/South Carolina and Stanford/Notre Dame were worth watching (although I think Notre Dame was handed much of that final field goal drive in regulation), and there were a couple of blowouts of note in the Big XII (neither game appeared lopsided on paper; if anything, WVU-TTU seemed slanted the other direction), but that’s about it. I am sorry I missed the Louisiana Tech/Texas A&M game (I don’t have ESPNU, another one that came down to the wire, ending when Tech couldn’t convert a two-point play that would have tied and then failed to recover an onside kick. Kansas St. had a bit of trouble with Iowa St., but that one was a bit too early for me.

I’ll be interested to see how much trouble West Virginia can give the Wildcats next week. The week after that, the Wildcats will face Texas Tech, which of course won one of the two major blowouts over that same WVU team. Another key game next week is South Carolina @ Florida, to make a full circle back to Darth Visor.

Week 6 Top 25 and Commentary

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 9, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Top 25

rank / team / prior
1 Alabama 1
2 Notre Dame 6
3 Ohio St. 15
4 S Carolina 11
5 Oregon 13
6 W Virginia 7
7 Florida 14
8 Oregon St. 4
9 Kansas St. 3
10 Stanford 9
11 La. Tech —
12 Texas 18
13 Iowa St. —
14 TX Tech —
15 Cincinnati 12
16 Georgia 10
17 Rutgers —
18 Miss. St. 19
19 Louisville —
20 LSU 2
21 Boise St. —
22 Florida St. 5
23 TX A&M —
24 Toledo —
25 Duke —

Out of rankings: (8) Washington, (16) UCLA, (17) Nebraska, (20) Clemson,
(21) Mich St., (22) Arizona, (23) Missouri, (24) Wisconsin, (25) Baylor

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Although I do rank Alabama #1 above, I know people aren’t going to be thrilled with the top couple of teams on my ratings site (can also be accessed via the headings above), but I’m happy with the top 10, and I think it will sort itself out as usual. Ohio St. has played 6 FBS opponents in 6 weeks, so that’s a considerable advantage over some other teams. Notre Dame has had one bye week, but it has played 4 BCS-conference opponents. The Irish’s opponents have also won an average of 54% of their games, and that’s factoring in their respective losses to the Irish. Notre Dame’s opponents’ opponents have won an average of 56.5% of their games. (FCS teams do not count toward these calculations.)

Nos. 3-6 include most people’s top two as well as South Carolina and West Virginia, who I feel have legitimately earned the most so far. Then the next three are Florida, Oregon St., and Kansas St. They weren’t preseason headliners, but you can’t say too much critical of their positions just looking at the resumes.

Then Stanford has had one of the best schedules so far with only one loss. Even San Jose St. has done well in other games.

After the top 10, there are too many teams that are only as high as they are because they don’t have any losses. A 1-loss team later in the year is more likely to be ahead of an undefeated Louisiana Tech or Ohio because they’ll have a lot more wins with which to overcome those losses.

I’m just going to throw a simple mathematical example out there if you’re interested. For instance, if you get one point for beating a good team and lose two points for losing to a good team and then get half a point for beating a poor team, this is what it would look like. 5-0 against poor teams = 2.5; 4-1 against good teams = 2. But the same calculation right before the bowls: 12-0 against poor teams = 6; 11-1 against good teams = 9.

The high SEC teams aren’t a result of some bias built into my formula. It’s pretty consistent all around. Kenneth Massey, one of the BCS computer rankers, compiles a list of the major publications as well as just about every unbiased top-to-bottom computer ranking and based on his averages of the rankings, the numbers are as follows: 3 in the top 3, 6 in the top 14, and 7 in the top 19.

That said, I’m willing to admit that the bottom SEC teams aren’t as good as they have been in past seasons. I remember one year Ole Miss was winless in the SEC but undefeated out of conference; but teams like Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and even Arkansas all have non-conference losses already. Eighth in the SEC on the list mentioned above is Tennessee at #45, followed by Missouri at #50. But the lower teams aren’t terrible either, as Kentucky is last in the SEC but #75 in the country. Every other conference has at least one team significantly lower than that, and all except the Big XII (with only Kansas lower, at #105) have multiple teams lower than that. My rankings are actually less generous toward the lower SEC teams than these sort of aggregate rankings are.
With at least the better SEC teams as good as they are, and most of its easy weeks out of the way (having had a bye week and having played Western Kentucky, Arkansas, Florida Atlantic, and Ole Miss), Alabama will have plenty of chances to move up. Unlike with the human polls, there is no deference to what a team’s ranking was the week before. So if for instance, Alabama were to beat South Carolina this week, they could jump over several other teams who won games against lesser competition.

In actuality, LSU plays South Carolina this week (and I’m more nervous about this than I was about the BCS championship game), and Alabama won’t play South Carolina (if at all this season) until the SEC Championship game. Alabama does still have divisional games against LSU, Texas A&M, and Mississippi St. The Tide’s inter-divisional slate (consisting of Tennessee and Missouri) isn’t exactly impressive, but they are both decent opportunities for points. What could happen is Alabama could be #1 after going through the divisional games mentioned above and then fall behind after playing Western Carolina and Auburn, but as mentioned, the SEC championship game should help out a good bit.

Last season, Alabama was stuck at #3 because it did not have the benefit of a ninth conference game, so it was FCS opponent, followed by Auburn, followed by no one.

SEC champions, on the other hand, have fared quite well in my rankings, both before and after I made a change to the formula, but I’ll mention the results since the change. Florida was #2 going into the BCS championship in 2008, moving into #1 after winning, but that team had a loss (also, this was before I compiled the strength of schedule myself). Alabama was #1 in 2009, Auburn was #1 in 2010, and LSU was #1 last year. LSU was such a strong #1 that even the loss didn’t knock them out of #1, and Auburn may have obtained the same result with a loss in the 2010 championship. Texas would have surpassed Bama with a win over them in 2009, however.

The other two undefeated top-ten SEC teams should be fine as well. Mississippi St. isn’t realistically going to finish undefeated anyway, but if they did, that’s the only SEC team I could see having problems if they did so.

I’ll end with a couple of general comments. Ohio finished in the top 25 published on my ratings site, but since I had to make some numerical adjustments just to give them a good enough schedule to be rated, I thought it best to put the teams that actually earned all their points higher on here.

There was more turnover in teams than I expected. This was partly due to a relatively eventful week (this week looks like a snooze, by the way). But I would note that none of the five teams I took out of the rankings last week moved back in with the introduction of computerized ranking. So my moves in an effort to be more objective were correct in those instances.

I never claimed to be the best prognosticator–I don’t pay as much attention to things like trends, key athletes, X’s and O’s, and margin of victory, since they don’t factor into my computer ratings–but I actually have done all right when tested this season. Of the picks I’ve made so far this year, I’m 41-9.

So while people get grumpy with me, I think I know just a bit of what I’m talking about when I offer other opinions.

By the way, while I’m still mystified by LSU’s lack of a running game and general offensive ineffectiveness after the first drive last week, I still feel I was correct in criticizing those who ranked some non-SEC team from the Sunshine State ahead of LSU after Week 5.

LSU-Florida instant post-game

In General LSU, Post-game on October 6, 2012 at 3:53 PM

A couple of preliminary things. If I were going to do subjective rankings again, LSU was probably going to move down even with a win since I was surprised by Auburn’s loss to Arkansas (and Washington may well lose to Oregon). I thought the final score in that one was going to be the opposite. I’ve also updated the LSU/Florida entry to my rivalry series.

As to this season’s game, I was encouraged by a field goal on the opening drive, but it went almost all downhill offensively from there.

Instead of LSU QB Zach Mettenberger getting better, he seems to have gotten worse since the first couple of weeks of the season. Then he finally makes a good play, and the officials reverse a call from a play being dead to being a fumble with Florida recovering. I didn’t think this was possible, and I further don’t believe there was irrefutable video evidence that the play should not have been ruled dead. Regardless, I never thought it was possible to be credited with a fumble recovery after the whistle blew.

The announcers (Gary Danielson and Verne Lundquist) of course didn’t see any problem with what the refs did. They also didn’t regard the 56-yard completion as a third-down conversion, saying LSU was 0 for 9 at one point (before getting another first down on a screen pass). LSU also got a first down after a third down as a result of a penalty. So yes, LSU was poor on third downs, but there were two situations in which they had first downs; but they’re not being counted, so the 1/13 stat is misleading.

I’m not trying to say it was all about the call even though let’s say I’m skeptical. The way LSU was playing, they would have probably only gotten a field goal, making the final score 14-9 instead. It doesn’t always work that way, but that’s how I think it would have happened.

There was just too much pressure on the defense, especially given that the Tigers had the ball inside the 5 and settled for a field goal and then had the ball inside the 25 briefly before it was awarded to the Gators. Make that a touchdown and a field goal instead and I think they could have made the 16 points stand up.

Mettenberger needs to be more accurate and the receivers need to be more forgiving, that was a problem in the Auburn game as well, but the problems running the ball was really LSU’s undoing, I thought. Granted, it’s harder to run when you can’t spread the defense out with a passing game, but the running game completely lacked any creativity. And even though there were different backs, they all looked pretty much the same. I would also note that Florida was coming off of a bye week, so LSU needed to show something a little different.

Hard to believe, but LSU actually gained a total of 200 yards, 158 of them in the air, but with 25 passing attempts, that’s not too good. The Tigers averaged less than two yards per rush.

We blew our shot at a national championship last season, and it’s not looking as if it can happen this season either, but nothing says one tough road loss in early October is always fatal. The loser of an LSU-Florida game has not made the SEC championship game since 2003, when it was won by LSU (game played 10/11/03). LSU would win the BCS championship as well that season. The Tigers also won the SEC in 2001 after losing to Florida. It is now 54 straight seasons that LSU has suffered at least one loss. Going undefeated is one guaranteed “wait till next year” situation.

But before we worry about any of that, we have the visor coming to Baton Rouge next week. South Carolina has beaten LSU only twice in 19 games (1930 and 1994, by 1 point each time), but this looks like a good opportunity for the Gamecocks to win their third. If I get around to it, I’ll look for the rivalry blog I wrote about LSU and South Carolina/Steve Spurrier.

Week 5 Top 25 and Comments and LSU Recap/Rant

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 5, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Before I start, I wanted to remind people of my LSU/Florida rivalry blog. I update these (the records anyway) after each game. The two teams have played one another for about 40 years in a row, and they were the first two teams to win two BCS titles apiece, so it’s been an interesting last 10 years especially.

This is the week (the week before the first computer ratings) every year where people try to destroy me and everything I stand for sports-wise because I try to be objective, which is bound to ruffle feathers in small doses, so it’s really big when the whole football world is shaken up if one goes by my rankings. Also, people don’t like that this is a change from going more with the flow in prior weeks. We’ve played nearly half a season, time to take the training wheels off, and if there are scraped knees, spray some antiseptic on it and move on. After all, we’re not talking about shuffleboard, we’re talking about football.

I’m going to start with my rankings since I don’t want to confuse people into thinking I’m giving primary importance to what the voters do, but being unhappy with the voters goes all the way back to 1994 for me—and LSU wasn’t even a team at much risk of having a winning record that year—and that’s what got me started with my own rankings system, which started as purely subjective until it got too difficult to be consistent.

I still use subjective measures early in this season, but as is typical, I try to phase out things like preseason projections, historical strength of programs, and margin of victory before I turn it over to my arithmetical rankings system. This happens every year, it has nothing to do with LSU having less-than-impressive score lines the past two weeks.
So how I did it this year was to basically use a blind resume. I looked at which teams have been beaten and when relevant, I looked at losses. I went ahead and put a couple teams in there with more than one loss, because I couldn’t say any of the unranked undefeated or 1-loss teams fall into the category of having beating someone who at this point seems worth much of anything. I’m going to list the rankings now (after three more sentences). I’m going to go on to give some basic responses to things I’m expecting people to say, and then I’m going to talk about how silly it is to keep moving LSU down. I understand this is mostly just preliminary quibbling with so many teams still undefeated, but if LSU is fortunate enough to win this week and someone complains it was too close, they should be laughed at. If LSU loses, I will just have to be grateful that unless it’s like a Spurrier-era score, we will still look better than USC.

Top 25

rank / team / prior
1 Alabama 1
2 LSU 2
3 Kansas St. 5
4 Oregon St. 16
5 Florida St. 6
6 Notre Dame 15
7 W Virginia 8
8 Washington —
9 Stanford 10
10 Georgia 3
11 S Carolina 7
12 Cincinnati 17
13 Oregon 4
14 Florida 14
15 Ohio St. 22
16 UCLA 24
17 Nebraska —
18 Texas 13
19 Miss. St. 19
20 Clemson 20
21 Mich St. —
22 Arizona —
23 Missouri —
24 Wisconsin 18
25 Baylor 21

Out of rankings:
(9) USC, (11) Oklahoma, (12) TCU. (23) Michigan, (25) Tennessee

Prior rankings:
Preseason
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

People are going to have objections based on things I don’t care about, because they’re things the voters care about. Just know that it will be 100% objective next week.
But I will mention a couple particulars. You could tell me you know for a fact USC is going to beat UCLA (or any other currently-ranked team they’re playing) 70-0 this year, and even if I believed you are the one person who is known to have traveled time, I would still say I don’t care because at this point it seems that beating Nebraska and losing to Oregon St. is better than beating Hawaii/Syracuse/Cal and losing to Stanford. None of this is forward-looking at all.

Someone may mention that I didn’t rank Arizona when they were undefeated but I am ranking them now and at the same time I moved Oregon down. I still don’t think Arizona is very good (and I doubt Oregon has played another top-60 team), but those teams who happen not to be above Arizona haven’t beaten anyone better in my estimation. A number of teams that I don’t rank ahead of Arizona I still think are better than Arizona. I think Oklahoma or USC would beat Arizona easily. But neither has beaten anyone that you HAVE to be remotely good to beat. Arizona (until there is something to indicate otherwise) had to prove they were at least remotely good to beat Oklahoma St. And the fact that Oklahoma St. lost to Texas doesn’t prove this idea wrong. Oklahoma St. themselves haven’t beaten anyone (unless 3-1 ULL counts), but I was getting pretty desperate there at the end when I added Arizona.

I think I made clear why Oregon is going down, but to summarize. I’m taking out margin of victory (which is what impressed people with the Arizona game moreso than the opponent, be honest), and I’m not factoring in either what my projections (or anyone else’s) were for the Ducks preseason or what they are now. That doesn’t leave the Ducks with much.

I’ll cover LSU in what is becoming my weekly rant, but Washington looks like a heck of a team based on other games, and other than losing to Mississippi St. somewhat convincingly, Auburn doesn’t seem so bad despite its record. “They don’t have a QB”… yes, I’ve heard it. LSU had probably the best 13-0 start of any team ever last year, and they didn’t have much of one either. No risk of me ranking Auburn #1 or #2 though, so don’t worry about that. Anyway, Washington + Auburn seems a lot better than Arizona (a somewhat nobody) + some serious nobodies. I don’t care if LSU beat both teams by 2 and Oregon won by 149 over Arizona instead of 49.

#25 was Baylor, whose best win is over ULM. But none of the other undefeated or one-loss teams have beaten a team that I think has looked as good the first few weeks as ULM has in playing 3 BCS opponents, two on the road. I’m not counting margin of victory for those teams in the top 25, but since ULM is instead being considered as an opponent, I think it is telling that not only did ULM beat Arkansas, but they played Auburn very close in a loss; after all, Auburn didn’t lose convincingly to either Clemson or LSU.

I also don’t care about the “eye test”. If it hasn’t translated into doing well on the beat-somebody test, I don’t care. Wins and losses, maybe an opponent’s final score in other games here and there, but that’s it. Next week, no final scores matter even slightly unless it was within a field goal and the home team won (in which case, I think it’s fair in my system to reduce the value of the win 10% and to reduce the value subtracted by the loss 10%).

Although I did try, I’m sure I wasn’t completely consistent. I’ve been up for 20 hours straight, and when it got toward the end of the year, I used to spend hours trying to be perfectly fair and take every game into account, but I just can’t anymore. Not until someone pays me. So this is as much work as I’m going to do on this all year, except for next week, but it’s much less intellectually taxing to input numbers than it is to rank teams this way.

I usually leave #1 alone, so I didn’t subject Alabama to the same scrutiny, but the win over Michigan plus being 2-0 in the SEC was good enough not to try to find someone else. Another opponent, Western Kentucky, is undefeated apart from the Alabama game .

As to last week, I’m not even going to take seriously ranking Florida St. ahead of LSU. This isn’t the 1990s. And Florida St. has done what exactly? Beat Clemson? Even if Clemson is as good as they were last year, Clemson went into the ACC title game after having won one game (by 3 over Wake Forest) out of four. So they beat Va. Tech, which gave them the right to get drubbed in the Orange Bowl, 70-33.

Forget that a lot of people were ranking USC ahead of LSU a few weeks ago. What happened? USC lost a conference game on the road (to Stanford, which lost to Washington), and LSU won a conference game on the road. LSU also beat that Washington team.

Florida St. easily beat two FCS opponents? That’s a great predictor of being able to beat good teams consistently. This must be why the Seminoles haven’t won the ACC since 2005, a year in which they lost to 5 teams overall. This was despite beating Charleston Southern 62-10 in 2011, beating Samford 59-6 in 2010, and beating Western Carolina 69-0 AND Tennessee-Chattanooga 46-7 in 2008. And in that 5-loss 2005 season, they beat the Citadel, 62-10.

Compare that to LSU’s recent experiences. 2010 was a pretty strong team (11-2 after the Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M), and they only led McNeese St. by 6 after three quarters that year. Prior to that game, the Tigers had already won 4 SEC games.

Western Kentucky is an emerging FBS team now, so maybe they’re a cut above McNeese St. , but LSU only led them 14-7 in the third quarter last year. We can also go back to LSU’s 2007 national-championship season when LSU only led Tulane 10-9 at halftime. 2009 wasn’t a great year (9-4 after losing the CapitalOne Bowl to Penn St.), but the Tigers only beat a BAD Louisiana Tech team by 8 after leading by only 4 going into the fourth quarter.

LSU has won 41 consecutive non-conference regular-season games (all but a handful since Les came to town), so they know what works. A slow, grinding game gives LSU a sufficient advantage. If you start airing it out and being cute, you might win by a lot or you might help out a team that can’t win on talent alone.

As I’ve made clear, I still disagree with the Oregon #2 ranking. Somehow it doesn’t matter that Arizona has lost another game and Washington beat Stanford, because things only matter if they happen before you play the team in question, not after. It probably also won’t matter if we find out Auburn wasn’t so bad after all.

LSU allowed 22 points to Towson on Saturday. But of course we can’t go beneath the surface to consider that 13 of those points were scored in the last 10 minutes. LSU probably could have followed the Oregon/Arizona blueprint and scored a few meaningless touchdowns after that point, rather than just one after a 9-play drive. After all, the score that put the Fighting Tigers up by 22 was on a 53-yard pass on the first play of the 4th quarter.

And maybe LSU could have done more to put a stop to Towson’s 6-minute touchdown drive, but why? Why not just let a team run out the clock on itself? Slow and steady wins the race for LSU’s offense in such games, but it loses the race for a competitor who takes possession of the ball down 22 in the 4th quarter.

I for one am glad the LSU coaching staff didn’t fall into that trap. They worked on things the team needed to work on and finished the game in a respectable manner instead of trying to impress the pollsters. If LSU wins the SEC, it probably won’t matter too much if the voters remember that LSU played that Washington team anyway. Nor will it matter if they were dropped a spot for in the AP poll after declining to run up the score in September. For instance, Mettenberger didn’t need to throw the ball that much. LSU probably could have done just fine making it primarily a rushing attack. LSU may well have done even better considering Mettenberger was sacked 5 times. But the LSU defense succeeded well enough (until the offense came up with the TD to go up 31-9 anyway) that the game wasn’t really threatened by this. (Towson is the Tigers too, so that’s why I’m not being very creative with my subjects.) But he’s a first-year QB; and against Auburn, it showed. He needed to be taken out of his comfort zone against a team that LSU wasn’t too worried about figuring out how to beat.