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All-Blogger Poll Week 9

In Blogger Poll, College Football, Rankings Commentary on October 31, 2013 at 1:16 PM

top-4-week-9b

I’m going to try to post something tomorrow about inter-conference games, but it might have to wait until next week. For now, I’m just going to post and discuss the All Blogger Poll.
We have one new voter taking the place of one we had the last couple of weeks, so we’re staying at six. I’ll just say that the voter who happens to be a Michigan fan didn’t submit a proper ballot and was probably not being serious anyway. Anyway, we have a new voter who’s not particularly a fan of any team, but he’s from Texas and now lives in the Los Angeles area, if that means anything.
The returning voters, if you’re not familiar, are an LSU fan, a Texas fan, an Oklahoma fan, a Notre Dame fan, and I (I’m an LSU fan who almost exclusively relies on my computer formula). I’m still open to allowing new voters, I think one with allegiances on either coast might be a nice addition. I think we all try to be reasonably fair, but there are some cases where bias creeps in a bit.

I’ll just make a few comments about the changes to the rankings in this poll and will post them below.

Although Florida St. is 6 points behind for #1, they could challenge if not overtake Alabama with an impressive performance this weekend. They are third, fourth, and fifth on three of the ballots, so they could become #1 by passing up the Tide in two of them or even by being second in all three. Alabama is idle this week after winning by 25 points or more in the last 6 consecutive weeks. On the other hand, none apart from Ole Miss are top 25 candidates in the near future (and Ole Miss hasn’t even gotten any votes here yet). Oregon and Stanford are also idle before facing one another on Nov. 9.

Oklahoma went from #15 into the top 10 after beating Texas Tech, which only fell 4 spots. South Carolina improved from #19 to #13 by beating Missouri, which fell from #4 to #8.
Virginia Tech and UCLA went from Nos. 13 and 14 to barely staying in the top 25 after losses.

There are less clear reasons, other than the change in voters, but there were also notable ranking improvements for Miami, Northern Illinois, Michigan, Michigan St., and Louisville.

BYU, Duke, and Texas St. are all receiving a vote for the first time this week. Houston received votes after not getting any last week. 33 teams got votes this week, and a total of 6 others have gotten votes in prior weeks.

rank/team(first place votes)/total points[last week’s rank]
1 Alabama (4) 146 [ 1 ]
2 Florida St. (2) 140 [ 2 ]
3 Oregon 139 [ 3 ]
4 Ohio St. 134 [ 5 ]
5 Stanford 120 [ 7 ]
6 Miami 115 [ 9 ]
7 Baylor 111 [ 6 ]
8 Missouri 106 [ 4 ]
t9 Oklahoma 95 [ 15 ]
t9 Auburn 95 [ 8 ]
11 LSU 84 [ 12 ]
12 Clemson 82 [ 11 ]
13 S Carolina 74 [ 19 ]
14 Texas Tech 62 [ 10 ]
15 N. Illinois 58 [ 20 ]
16 Fresno St. 52 [ 17 ]
17 TX A&M 46 [ 16 ]
t18 UCF 45 [ 18 ]
t18 Michigan 45 [ 24 ]
20 Okie St. 43 [ 21 ]
21 Mich. St. 36 [ ]
22 Louisville 21 [ ]
t23 Texas 18 [ 25 ]
t23 Va. Tech 18 [ 13 ]
t25 UCLA 14 [ 14 ]
t25 Wisconsin 14 [ ]

Others receiving votes: BYU 10 [ ], Houston 10 [ ], Notre Dame 10 [ ]. Arizona St. 3 [ ], Duke 2 [ ], Texas St. 1 [ ], Oregon St. 1 [ 23 ]

No longer receiving votes: Georgia, Nebraska [22], Florida

Previous rankings:
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8

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My Top 25 Week 9

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 27, 2013 at 1:49 PM

top 4 week 9

I think I can anticipate the first question that most have, and that’s probably something like, “How are Ohio St. and one-loss Stanford ahead of Oregon and Florida St.?”

Put simply, if the season ended right now (without Oregon playing Arizona, Stanford, Oregon St., Pac-12 championship and without Florida St. playing Miami, Florida, ACC championship game), I think the right 1 vs. 2 match-up would be Stanford and Alabama.

Stanford has 7 wins against FBS teams to Oregon’s 6. They’ve beaten Arizona St. and Oregon St., neither of which have played the Ducks (yet). Oregon has their best two wins, Washington and UCLA, in common with Stanford.

Florida St. also only has 6 wins against FBS opponents. After the win over Clemson, the Seminoles’ best win is over #47 Pittsburgh.

Like Stanford, Ohio St. also has an “extra” FBS win, but without the loss of course. The Buckeyes have been rightly criticized for their schedule, but they’ve beaten four teams that are rated higher than Florida St.’s #3 win, Maryland.

Just keep watching in the next two weeks when Ohio St. has approximately 0 points to earn (Purdue doesn’t count for anything at the moment), while Oregon could potentially beat Stanford, and Florida St. could potentially beat Miami and Wake Forest.

Ohio St. could get a lot of points with Michigan, which is another team whose ranking will probably be criticized, but if Michigan isn’t at least a decent team, then they’ll probably lose one or two of their pre-Ohio St. stretch: @Michigan St., Nebraska, @Northwestern, @Iowa. Also, if Ohio St. beats Michigan twice, the second win would end up taking away from the value of the first win.

If Oregon beats Arizona St., for instance, in the Pac-12 championship, they won’t have that problem. Florida St. could have to face Miami again, but Miami is apparently a better team that Michigan and could possibly pick up a couple of top-25 wins (and maybe three top-40 wins), depending on other results) between the two games.

As South Carolina shows (by going from #18 to unranked and back up to #16 in just three weeks), the teams are a lot closer together lower down in the top 25, so that’s something else to keep in mind. The gap between Alabama and Michigan is 0.4. To get to a team that far below Michigan, you have to go all the way down to #45. So don’t think that Ohio St. will necessarily beat a top-15 team in Michigan. The Wolverines may not even be ranked with a couple of losses down the stretch. On the other hand, Florida might be ranked in the top 20 when Florida St. plays them.

Top 25

rank / team / prior

1 Alabama 1
2 Stanford 4
3 Ohio St. 5
4 Florida St. 3
5 Oregon 6
6 Auburn 7
7 Missouri 2
8 Miami 9
9 Oklahoma 11
10 Clemson 8
11 Fresno St. 14
12 Baylor 12
13 Michigan 15
14 LSU 16
15 N. Illinois 17
16 S Carolina —
17 Va. Tech 13
18 TX Tech 10
19 TX A&M 25
20 Mich. St. —
21 Houston —
22 Notre Dame 21
23 UCF 18
24 Louisville 22
25 Arizona St. 19

Out of rankings: (20) Oregon St., (23) UCLA, (24) Georgia

All 126 teams

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

All-Blogger Poll Week 8

In Blogger Poll, College Football on October 24, 2013 at 7:01 PM

Same voters as last week: two LSU fans (myself included), one Texas fan, one Oklahoma fan, one Michigan fan, and one Notre Dame fan.

rank/team(first place votes)/total points[last week’s rank]
1 Alabama (5) 148 [ 1 ]
2 Florida St. (1) 140 [ 5 ]
3 Oregon 138 [ 2 ]
4 Ohio St. 130 [ 4 ]
5 Missouri 129 [ 7 ]
6 Baylor 115 [ 10 ]
7 Stanford 109 [ 11 ]
8 Auburn 106 [ 20 ]
9 Miami 100 [ 8 ]
10 Clemson 97.5 [ 3 ]
11 Texas Tech 88 [ 16 ]
12 LSU 78 [ 6 ]
13 Va. Tech 66 [ 15 ]
14 UCLA 58 [ 9 ]
15 Oklahoma 55 [ 17 ]
16 TX A&M 54.5 [ 13 ]
17 Fresno St. 47 [ 18 ]
18 N. Illinois 42.5 [ 22 ]
19 S Carolina 40 [ 14 ]
20 UCF 37 [ ]
21 Nebraska 35 [ 23 ]
22 Okie St. 28 [ ]
23 Oregon St. 19 [ ]
24 Michigan 15 [ ]
25(t) Texas 15 [ 25 ]
25(t) Mich. St. 15 [ 24 ]

Others receiving votes: Louisville 14.5 [ 12 ], Wisconsin 11 [ ], Arizona St. 7 [ ], Notre Dame 5 [ ], Florida 5 [ 21 ], Georgia 2 [ 19 ]

No longer receiving votes: Houston, Washington, Utah, N’western

Previous rankings:
Week 6
Week 7

Once again, Texas’s only votes came from the Big X(II) participants, and it was enough to sneak them into the top 25, although they’re tied with Michigan St. The first unranked team, Louisville, received votes from four voters.

This week was the first time I’ve gotten ties on ballots, and I got them from two people. As far as I know, the AP still allows it, so I’m allowing it.

Auburn jumped 12 spots, but they still didn’t take over as the top one-loss team. That honor goes to Stanford.

Texas Tech gained 5 spots but not nearly enough to compete with most of the undefeateds. The Red Raiders will face four of the current top 25, so the opportunities to advance should be there.

Once again, we had a change of the top 5 with the last ballot. Ohio St. edged Missouri for #4.

In another regional eccentricity, the two Midwestern voters were the only two to place Nebraska higher than 23rd.

My Top 25 Week 8

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 22, 2013 at 5:30 PM

First, I wanted to mention that Missouri did come first in my computers, but I’m keeping Alabama #1 for now. I don’t like to change #1 on my personal list lightly. However, if after Alabama plays LSU on November 9, Missouri or any other team is ahead, I will list that team as #1. Apart from the switch between 1 and 2, the remainder of my list is solely based upon the results of my formula.

Speaking of LSU, they not only fell because of losing but also because that Georgia loss is hurting them more and more every week. I know the Tigers played a better Georgia team, but there is no way to comb through 126 teams and make adequate adjustments for injuries and so forth, so I don’t do it in any case. Auburn’s win did keep LSU from falling farther, but LSU has a lean couple of weeks coming up with Furman, followed by a bye. A loss to Alabama, followed by another bye, could dig the hole even deeper.

Auburn, which took LSU’s place in the top 7, wasn’t really hurt by the other SEC upsets since they’ve played both LSU and Ole Miss and have not played Georgia or Florida. Auburn probably would have done a little better with LSU winning though. Also, Georgia’s loss will make it harder for the Plainsmen to move up as the season goes on.

Texas Tech also jumped up 8 spots, mostly due to weak opponents or losses by teams ahead of them. The teams are closer together toward the middle of the poll, so small deviations can make a big difference.

Another SEC team fell out of the top 25 and two more nearly did, but the conference as a whole is still pretty dominant when the top teams are compared (see here). With the addition of Ole Miss, there are now nine SEC teams in the top 40 and three more in the top 66. Vanderbilt and Tennessee were not in that latter group last week.

If you think this is too weighted toward the SEC, keep in mind that some SEC strengths of schedule will decline in the next couple of weeks as those of other conferences will improve. Most other major teams do no play FCS opponents at this point, but several SEC teams do. Texas A&M and Auburn will not play FCS (I-AA) opponents (again), but they will play UTEP and FAU, respectively.

I did tweak the formula slightly to make sure the better FCS teams don’t count as horrible losses. Oregon St., for instance, would not be in the top 25 had I not made that change. Kansas St. was also being unduly penalized. Both losses are treated about the same as losing to TCU, just for reference. If I start trying to explain the numbers, almost everyone will get bored, so I’ll just leave it at that. I have more detailed statistical information here if you are interested. If an FCS team has a substantial number of losses (or losing percentage) in its sub-division, the rating decreases fairly quickly, so the change doesn’t benefit all teams who lost such games. FCS team ratings are just more of a bell curve now, which I think more accurately reflects the quality of the FCS. That’s the only part I’ve tinkered with in the last few years.

Top 25

rank / team / prior

1 Alabama 1
2 Missouri 2
3 Florida St. 5
4 Stanford 7
5 Ohio St. 6
6 Oregon 8
7 Auburn 15
8 Clemson 4
9 Miami 10
10 TX Tech 17
11 Oklahoma 14
12 Baylor 11
13 Va. Tech 9
14 Fresno St. 19
15 Michigan 23
16 LSU 3
17 N. Illinois 22
18 UCF —
19 Arizona St. —
20 Oregon St. —
21 Notre Dame —
22 Louisville 16
23 UCLA 13
24 Georgia 12
25 TX A&M 21

Out of rankings: (18) S Carolina, (20) Houston, (24) Mich. St., (25) Utah

All 126 teams

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

Rankings Reminder and Discussion

In Blogger Poll, College Football, Rankings Commentary on October 21, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Once again, please submit your top-25 rankings, by Wednesday if possible. I may not post them until Thursday evening though. If you’re like me and most of your sports time is reserved for the weekend, feel free to leave a comment on my most-recent rankings blog (once all the games are finished) on any of the various sites I post it. I haven’t had anyone (that I know of) contact me through intheneutralzone.com, which I allow to republish my WordPress blog automatically, but that’s the only place where I might not get it.

I will post my full rankings tomorrow, but in the mean time, you can view my computer ratings. I haven’t gotten many views this week, I guess because Kenneth Massey didn’t get around to posting most of the ratings until right around the time the BCS standings were released. I will vote Alabama #1, for what it’s worth; but for the time being, Missouri is ahead slightly in my formula.

If you don’t want to post your personal rankings publicly, that’s fine. Send a message. If you do post them publicly, I’ll take that as an invitation to discuss your list (and I think anyone else should be able to discuss it). For the vast majority of teams, I don’t have a comment. For instance, the team I primarily cheer for is LSU. An argument could be made that LSU is a top-10 team. Another argument could be made that because LSU has two losses, particularly combined with the fact that the two teams that beat LSU each have multiple losses, LSU should not be in the top 25. I don’t have a problem with either. Just please try to be aware of major results and treat similarly situated teams similarly. If you don’t, I’m still going to accept your list, at least for the foreseeable future; but I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request.

For instance, if team A (one loss) beats team B (only loss), and team B beats team C (only loss), and your ranking looks like this:
10. Team A
11. Team C

18. Team B

I might say something resembling, “Say, kind sir, were you aware that Team B beat Team C?” I would be especially inclined to ask that if Team C didn’t beat anyone ranked #25 or higher and obviously Team B did. We can also add in the fact that Team B beat Team D, who beat Team A.

Turning to the first release of the BCS ratings, I predicted Florida St. to come out ahead of Oregon, and they did. They deserve it. They probably won’t deserve to be #2 in December, but why don’t we put off talk about who deserves what in December at least until late November? I’m not going to do that right now though, because the talking heads on ESPN have already opened the door to that discussion.

ESPN suggested that Florida St.’s rating was “a mirage” and that Oregon would surpass the ’Noles. They may well be right about the latter, but I don’t understand why people insist on looking at it that way. Being #2 at the moment in no way suggests that you should remain #2 or higher as long as you don’t lose. In recent history (the last 10 years) there have been Michigan, Cal, and USC fans, among others, who never seemed to understand this; and I think the failure to address this was part of the problem with the public perception of the BCS.

If voters maintain the same confidence in Oregon that they have currently, I do think Oregon will surpass Florida St., but it won’t be because Florida St. isn’t more deserving at this moment.

I don’t see a legitimate dispute there. Florida St. is the only team to beat Clemson, one of two teams to beat Maryland, and one of two teams to beat Pittsburgh. That should count for more than being one of three teams to beat Washington and one of three teams to beat Tennessee. To be clear, I do think beating Washington is more impressive than beating Pittsburgh and beating Tennessee is more impressive than beating Maryland, but Oregon hasn’t had a third big decent win yet. Washington St. isn’t terrible, but they’re no Clemson. Florida St.’s best three wins certainly should put them above Oregon.

B-but Florida St. plays in the ACC and Oregon plays in the Pac-12 North!

I didn’t make the schedule. Oregon does have quite a remaining slate, but they shouldn’t get credit for the teams they’re GOING TO play, only the ones they’ve played so far. I don’t think rankings (especially not computer rankings, which comprise 1/3 of the formula) should assume when picking teams that they’re all going to win their remaining games. But I definitely anticipate being on the Oregon bandwagon (at least as a proponent of them being in the title game) if they beat UCLA next week and then after the following bye week win the following games in consecutive weeks: @Stanford, Utah, @Arizona, Oregon St., and the Pac-12 South champion (Most likely, the winner of UCLA and Arizona St.).

However, if they can’t do it and Florida St. keeps winning, then the current BCS standings will be vindicated. In my view, the reason a team derives more credit for a more difficult schedule is it overcame greater odds of losing. So it’s not a knock on Florida St. that I think any given team has greater odds of losing a game against Oregon’s future schedule than it would against Florida St.’s. Nor is it a knock on Oregon that I think any given team would have had greater odds of losing against Florida St.’s schedule to this point than it would have against Oregon’s. I think it makes more sense if you consider the BCS computers from the same perspective. You don’t get credit for overcoming those greater odds of losing until you’ve faced them.

I don’t know why this is the case, but it’s always seemed to me that voters usually have in the back of their minds, “What’s going to happen if both teams keep winning?” One time they didn’t necessarily do that was when Michigan was ranked #3 after losing to Ohio St. in 2006. They didn’t think #3 was going to be a BCS championship team until #2 USC lost, then they thought about who should be in that game and selected previously #4 Florida to “jump” Michigan.

The exception proves the rule in a way. They don’t want someone to feel cheated because they held serve, so to speak, and fell in the rankings anyway. So some of them are putting Oregon ahead because they know the Ducks will eventually be tested enough to substantiate a #2 ranking even if all of the top 4 go undefeated. Others are putting them ahead because they had a higher opinion of Oregon going into the year (and perhaps factored in the schedule at that point), something else that the computer formulas don’t contemplate.

So it’s not that one is right and the other is wrong, but the computers and the voters have different perspectives, and they’re both right from those respective points of view. Despite what I said above about Florida St. deserving #2, I would pick Oregon to beat Florida St. on a neutral field.

LSU/Ole Miss and SEC Notes

In General LSU, History, Post-game on October 19, 2013 at 8:33 PM

I’ve already added the results of the game to the “Series Notes” on my LSU/Ole Miss Rivalry blog.

Bleacher Report did a video, Best Darkhorse Bets to Win BCS Title, during the week about three sleeper teams that could end up winning the national championship. I was happy when Louisville (the first team who played) lost, because it bothers me when teams are ranked that high this late into the season after not really playing anyone. I got worried when South Carolina (the second team) lost, and I got really worried once it turned out that Georgia, Texas A&M, and Florida also lost to what were second-tier SEC teams last season. Of course LSU (the third team) then lost to Ole Miss,

I never rest easy against Ole Miss, particularly not on the road, so I can’t say I’m shocked by the loss. But it makes me sick that it wasn’t so much Ole Miss playing a great game as it was Zach Mettenberger getting greedy on a bit of an off night. There was no reason for it, at least not three times. The running backs did well. There were a lot of receivers consistently open at shorter distances. At times, I thought Mettenberger was the clear successor of Matt Mauck and Matt Flynn; but even though Flynn also lost two games his senior year, he never played like this.

The only reason the Rebels ended up scoring so much was the amount of time the turnovers forced the LSU defense to remain on the field. The defense had opportunities to shut down Ole Miss at the end, which was frustrating; but that likely would have only put the game into overtime, where there is no reason to believe LSU would have necessarily won.

I knew in preseason that Ole Miss had the ability to win games such as this one, I was just hoping it would be against other teams obviously. Even though they’ve had some injuries and so forth, nearly every starter from last season returned. That kind of experience can give a team the ability to hang in there for a game like this. They really should have beaten Texas A&M last week. The main difference to me was the Aggies were only a touchdown behind at the most, so their early play gave them enough of an advantage to win.

Also, there have been a lot of close games in recent years in the series even though Ole Miss hasn’t always been very good. LSU did blow out the Rebels on their last trip to Oxford in 2011, but Ole Miss won by two in LSU’s previous trip to Oxford in 2009 when the Tigers took too much time and couldn’t stop the clock in the last second. Last season’s game was also close, with LSU winning by six.

There were a few other close games of note in the last 10 seasons. The Rebels only won 4 games in 2010, but they still only lost to LSU (who finished 11-2) by a touchdown. The teams had the same exact final records in 2006, when LSU won by a field goal in overtime. Ole Miss also only won 4 games in 2004; but they were only a field goal short of LSU, who finished that season with 9 wins.

SEC implications

LSU’s loss left Alabama as the only team that finished in the top 6 of the conference last season that was spared today.

Both the Tide and the Missouri Tigers are in pretty good position to win their respective divisions. Alabama leads everyone in the West except Auburn (who lost to LSU but who now controls its own destiny) by at least two games, and Missouri leads everyone in the East by at least two games. Mizzou and Bama do not play one another, at least not before the SEC Championship game.

Tennessee played very well against both Georgia and South Carolina at home, but I wonder how well that level of play will transfer to a road game in Tuscaloosa. After that, Alabama’s other remaining conference games are against LSU at home, at Mississippi St., and of course at Auburn.

Missouri certainly doesn’t have an easy road the rest of the way. South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas A&M will visit; and the Tigers will travel to Lexington and Oxford.

As a final note, I wasn’t a big fan of adding Missouri, especially not to the SEC East as currently configued, but I like the conference to be competitive from top to bottom, and–with the exception of Kentucky in the last couple of seasons (only two wins, one of them against Ole Miss, in their last 19 conference games)–it has been. Missouri was one of the teams that lost to allow LSU into the title game in 2007, so they’re not exactly strangers to the top of college football. I wonder how consistent they’ll be, but there have to be some inconistent programs in the conference.

All-Blogger Poll Week 7 and Week 8 Preview

In Blogger Poll, College Football, Rankings Commentary on October 17, 2013 at 2:43 PM

This week, the submissions are from two LSU fans (myself included), one Texas fan, one Oklahoma fan, one Michigan fan (new participant), and one Notre Dame fan. All the contributors from last week have returned.

All-Blogger Poll Week 7

rank/team(first place votes)/total points[last week’s rank]
1 Alabama (5) 149 [ 1 ]
2 Oregon (1) 138 [ 2 ]
3 Clemson 137 [ 3 ]
4 Ohio St. 129 [ 5 ]
5 Florida St. 125 [ 6 ]
6 LSU 119 [ 8 ]
7 Missouri 102 [ 21 ]
8 Miami 96 [ 11 ]
9 UCLA 94 [ 13 ]
10 Baylor 91 [ 19 ]
11 Stanford 86 [ 4 ]
12 Louisville 83 [ 12 ]
13 TX A&M 81 [ 10 ]
14 S Carolina 74 [ 14 ]
15 Va. Tech 66 [ 23 ]
16 Texas Tech 59 [ 17 ]
17 Oklahoma 51 [ 9 ]
18 Fresno St. 42 [ 20 ]
19 Georgia 41 [ 7 ]
20 Auburn 29 [ ]
21 Florida 27 [ 18 ]
22 N. Illinois 25 [ 24 ]
23 Nebraska 18 [ ]
24 Mich. St. 14 [ ]
25 Texas 13 [ ]

Others receiving votes: Okie St. 12 [ 25 ], Houston 11 [ ], Washington 11 [ 15 ], Michigan 11 [ 16 ], Wisconsin 6 [ ], Oregon St. 3 [ ], Utah 2 [ ], Notre Dame 2 [ ], N’western 2 [ 22 ]

Oregon edged Clemson on the last ballot, which also kept Alabama from being perfect. It will be interesting to see what happens if Clemson wins on Saturday. If you were wondering, Texas’s only points come from the two Big X(II) participants. The Missouri/Georgia game caused the most movement, as Missouri shot up 14 spots and Georgia fell 12. The Bulldogs did not appear at all in two of the rankings.

Stanford only fell 7 spots, and Oklahoma only fell 8 spots. Auburn’s jump into the top 25 was a bit of a mystery. We’ll see how well they can defend their position against Johnny Football and the Aggies, who fell three spots after a lackluster performance at Ole Miss. Baylor made a significant jump (9 spots) despite a relatively unspectacular win over Kansas St. Virginia Tech also moved up considerably (8 spots) after beating an unranked Pitt team, also by 10. Washington and Michigan both fell dramatically after losses.

Previous ranking

Week 8 Preview

I referenced a couple interesting games this week above. This was the hardest week for me to pick so far, at least among the top 25. I could see Auburn upsetting Texas A&M, being dominated, or anywhere in between. I think Florida will beat Missouri, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Gators’ offense can’t score enough points to accomplish that.

I have no idea who’s more likely to win the FSU/Clemson game. I picked Clemson since they’re at home and I think they proved a lot in the Georgia game. That team we saw in Athens last week was not the team Clemson beat. But none of that means that Florida St. isn’t better, they just haven’t shown it yet. They blew out Maryland, but I’m skeptical Maryland deserved to be ranked (or even come close) in the first place.

If Ole Miss plays the same game they played against Texas A&M, I’m going to be a little worried for my Tigers. Games against Ole Miss (apart from the disaster of Houston Nutt’s last season) are usually pretty close. Hopefully, they used all their energies on the Texas teams, as they also did pretty well against the Horns.

Arizona St./Washington is an interesting contest as well. Arizona St. seems to get preseason hype fairly often before it fizzles. Washington could well be a top-10 team as far as quality, despite the two losses (to Stanford and Oregon). I wouldn’t go by these rankings. Keep in mind that we have no one with a West-coast cheering interest. If you have any suggestions of how to change that, let me know.

There are a couple other major Pac-12 games of note. Utah faces Arizona, which may be another case of hype going up against on-field accomplishments, although the Utes had a couple of questionable performances before upsetting Stanford last week. Speaking of which, UCLA travels to Stanford. I guess we’ll see if there are any serious challengers to the superiority of the Pac-12 North. Seems incredible, but with a win, UCLA could be in the top 5 in the initial BCS standings. There is one other major game involving a Pac-12 team, and that’s USC travelling to Notre Dame. Both teams have two losses already, which takes a little bit away from the rivalry, but either could return to the top 25 with a couple more good wins. Oregon plays Washington St., but I don’t expect that to be close for more than a half (if it’s even close beyond the first few minutes).

There are a couple of non-major games of note, both involving AAC teams. The AAC is a BCS conference this season, but I think few people take them seriously in the national-title hunt. Houston plays an enigmatic BYU team (which has lost to Virginia, blown out Texas, nearly beat Utah, and looked better against Georgia Tech than the U. of Miami had). Louisville puts their undefeated record on the line against Central Florida, but there will be more pressure because it’s a conference game. The Cardinals have won every game by at least 14 so far. Houston has looked shaky a couple of times.

Pre-BCS Top 10 and Comments (+ Last Call for Rankings)

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings Commentary on October 15, 2013 at 1:37 PM

A couple of preliminary things. First, another reminder to get those top 25s in. I only have three in addition to my own so far. Second, check out the LSU/Ole Miss Rivalry blog.

I also wanted to mention that LSU is bowl-eligible for the 14th season in a row. This was after only qualifying for a bowl three times (the first three years of DiNardo) from 1989 to 1999. I like to recall how much better things are than they used to be, even though I think most LSU fans feel overdue for another national championship.

I’ve done preliminary calculations of the BCS ratings. Keep in mind that one of the computers (Wolfe, which usually treats the SEC fairly well) is not in operation yet. I only looked at the teams that were in the top 14 of the relevant polls. Texas Tech was #15, and I knew they weren’t high enough in the computers to move them into the top 10.

1 Alabama
2 Oregon
3 Clemson
4 Fla. St.
5 Ohio St.
6 LSU
7 Texas A&M
8 UCLA
9 Louisville
10 Baylor

Miami and Missouri were 11th and 12th, respectively. Stanford and South Carolina were far enough back that it’s possible other teams whose BCS ratings I didn’t approximate could be ahead of either or both of them.

The deck may look stacked against LSU making it as a one-loss team at first blush, but keep in mind that only one ACC team will be left standing, and for LSU to finish with one loss, they have to beat #1 Alabama anyway. I’ll elaborate more about the potential avenues to the title game for undefeateds (for non-BCS or AAC undefeateds, it’s realistically about making a BCS bowl game) and one-loss teams below. It could be awfully interesting if voters have to choose between undefeated Ohio St. and one-loss LSU at the end of the season, but chances are one of them will lose between now and then.

After the LSU/Georgia game, Lou Holtz and Mark May talked about whether we would have a one-loss team in the national championship game. Holtz seemed pretty confident that we would not, but as May rightly pointed out, people seem to have that idea at that point every year. I tend to think at least one team will have a loss, and the results of the games this week supported that idea.

Last year, we were about another month into the season when LSU played Alabama, and conventional wisdom was that SEC fans should cheer for Alabama since if Alabama lost, there would be no SEC team in the BCS title game. Not only would LSU had made the BCS title game by winning out in hindsight, Alabama actually lost in the FOLLOWING week (over a month after LSU’s first loss) and still stayed high enough and rebounded to make and win the BCS title.

Part of the reason I like waiting until this point in the season before I do computer ratings (other than them being easier to reasonably calculate) is there is a lot more to consider and be said at this point. It’s more important to have something objective to fall back on.

Another reason is what I started off with, the BCS, but of course this is the last time we have that week of anticipation before the first BCS standings.

As an aside, I hope there will be some sort of guideline given out by the new committee. There seems to be a consensus that there needs to be something to let people know the approximate places of the teams rather than blindsiding everyone in December, but the form that will take and the timing is anyone’s guess. I hope it’s something a little more helpful than the college basketball RPI. The recommendation could just be to look at the current BCS formula or a modified version (doubling the coaches’ poll, adding in the AP poll, something of that nature, since I don’t know if Harris will even exist anymore).

So here are the undefeated teams by conference, with notes on opponents left:

AAC – Houston and Louisville (play one another on 11/16). Both also still have to play UCF and Cincinnati. Houston plays BYU out of conference.

ACC – Clemson and Florida St. from the Atlantic (play one another next week); Miami from the Coastal (will play Florida St. and Virginia Tech). Also obviously, the ACC has a championship game that could provide a loss. Miami beat Florida, but Clemson and Florida St. still have their big SEC rivals yet to play.

Big XII – Texas Tech and Baylor (play one another on 11/16). Both teams also still have to play Oklahoma, Texas, and Oklahoma St.

Big Ten – Only Ohio St. remains undefeated and is expected to be widely favored in the remaining regular-season games. If they get through that, their likely opponent in the Big Ten championship game will be the winner of Michigan St. and Nebraska.

MAC – Only Northern Illinois remains undefeated. The Huskies will play Ball St. later in the season, and possibly Bowling Green in the MAC championship game. Both Ball St. and Bowling Green are undefeated in conference so far, as is Buffalo.

MWC – Only Fresno St. remains undefeated. Their toughest remaining game may be a rematch with Boise St., whom they beat earlier by a single point, in the MWC championship game; but three other teams (Fresno St. will play all of them) are undefeated in conference.

Pac-12 – Oregon and UCLA (play one another on 10/26 and may meet again in the Pac-12 championship). Oregon also still must play Stanford and Oregon St., which are the most likely opponents for UCLA if the Bruins are undefeated going into the Pac-12 championship and the Ducks are not. UCLA also has to play Washington.

SEC – Alabama and Missouri (would not play one another until championship game). Alabama also has LSU and Auburn, who each have one loss, remaining. Missouri has Florida and South Carolina in just the next two weeks and will end the regular season against Texas A&M.

So other than Ohio St., who was known to lose to second-tier conference opponents before Meyer showed up anyway, I don’t see a second team I would characterize as likely to finish undefeated. Oregon or Alabama may finish undefeated, but I would not bet on it (at least not without something like 3:1 odds). Some have mentioned the possibility of the BCS snubbing Ohio St., but I wouldn’t bet on that either.

Fresno St., Northern Illinois, and possibly an AAC team may finish undefeated though. The AAC does have an automatic bid to a BCS bowl in (mercifully, in my opinion) the final year of the BCS contract.

Threatening one-loss teams

I’ll start with the SEC, where such a team is most likely to make the BCS championship.

In the SEC West, LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn each have one loss; but the best avenue to the SEC championship is LSU’s. Texas A&M would lose a tiebreaker to Alabama; and Auburn would lose a tiebreaker to LSU, not that I would expect the two to tie for the SEC West anyway.

South Carolina only has one loss, but they would need Georgia to lose at least one more conference game to control their own destiny in the conference.

Oregon St. and Stanford control their respective destinies in the Pac-12, and the Beavers are still undefeated in conference. Stanford also has the big non-conference game against Notre Dame yet to play.

There are several ways a Big XII team could finish with one loss. There is no championship game there to complicate things. Oklahoma (or even Oklahoma St.) could win out; and as mentioned, there are many ways Baylor and Texas Tech can lose a single game apiece. Texas, which has not lost in conference yet, could be a spoiler.

Virginia Tech controls its own destiny in the ACC Coastal. I don’t think Maryland is much of a threat in the Atlantic, but if they beat Clemson and Florida St. loses twice, winning the division could happen.

Michigan, the one-loss team I didn’t mention earlier from the Big Ten Legends, is unlikely to factor into any national-championship discussion, but if they run the table, possibly beating Ohio St. twice, they may have a chance. The Wolverines also will have to play Northwestern, Nebraska, and Michigan St.

I plan to write what I call “ rankings commentary” blogs like this one more often—now that the season is at this point—as kind of a supplement to my computer ratings.

College Football Top 25 Week 7

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 13, 2013 at 1:54 PM

Before I begin, I wanted to mention that I’ve updated my LSU/Florida Rivalry entry. LSU is now one game shy of a .500 record at home against the Gators. Also, feel free to submit your top 25 rankings. If I don’t know who you are, leave a link to your blog and mention who your favorite team is.

Rankings comments

These are probably best understood by starting with the strength of schedule. Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Georgia have top-8 schedules, and there are six other SEC teams among the top 30 schedules. Schedule strengths are just based on opponents’ records and opponents’ opponents’ records, so that’s pretty straightforward.

So that’s why the top 3 teams are all in the SEC. Georgia has two losses, but the #8 schedule despite that means the teams they’ve played (other than North Texas anyway) hardly had any other losses, and the ones they had were very high quality.

LSU has the #37 schedule now, but only having one loss, that gives them a lot of credit. It’s also the fact that LSU hasn’t had a bye week or FCS (I-AA) opponent yet.

This is the top 5 if you average the ratings by playing week:
1. Alabama
2. Florida St.
3. Missouri
4. LSU
5. Clemson

Stanford is in a similar situation to LSU’s. If you average their rating by playing weeks, they fall to #9.

As the season progresses, Stanford’s loss to Utah, for instance, might hurt them a lot more. But at the moment, the Utes have only lost to an undefeated team and a one-loss team. I have the system set up so that a team like Florida or LSU who finishes with one loss would be ahead of a team like Boise St. (or this year, maybe Fresno St.) with no losses at the end of the year. With only roughly half of the season played, the differences can be a lot more pronounced, as teams like Oregon have most of their quality opponents still to play. The Ducks did move up from #19 last week.

Putting aside the spectacle of the Oregon offense, human voters look at a team like Oregon and know that they play in a competitive conference, so they don’t really worry about the fact that they haven’t played the most difficult teams yet. But before they played Washington, their rating was roughly equal to Fresno St.’s. Human voters never would have put Fresno St. so high because they would have felt obligated to keep them there.

So that brings up one of the weaknesses with the human rankings: they are less willing to move a team down without a loss. If Team A is right behind team B and Team A beats a better team than Team B three weeks in a row, Team A will move ahead. But human voters will often wait for Team B to lose before making such a change. Beating a team they’re favored against like Oregon did against Washington doesn’t move a team up nearly as far in the human polls. Of course, Oregon was too high in the human polls to move up so far, but imagine they were Oregon St. with the same schedule and outcomes so far instead but with less impressive scores.

Another example of the differences is that LSU will play Furman on October 26, followed by a bye week. In my ratings, that will be an opportunity for a lot of teams to pass them. Human rankings usually have the opposite effect. Those are two weeks when they’re relatively safe from moving down in the rankings.

I’ve had some people familiar with my ratings conclude they don’t mean very much until later, but that’s not true. They mean just about as much as they mean at the end of the season—the most accomplished teams at this point will be higher just like the ones at the end of the season—but they just don’t factor in any information about what might happen later on. There isn’t as much of a bell curve at this point. Some teams are severely untested, and others have been tested a lot. There will only be a few teams on the extremes at the end of the season, and the teams with the best schedules are usually about 8-4 at best. The teams with the worst schedules will either have good records (with relatively poor ratings in comparison) or they’ll be among the worst teams in the ratings.

The real weakness earlier is not inaccuracy but volatility. For instance, Washington would have been in the top 5 had I started the computer ratings a week earlier; but after two losses and Arizona’s loss to USC (Arizona is Washington’s best win), the Huskies are not even in the top 25. Let’s say, for instance, South Carolina wins the rest of their regularly scheduled games (to get into the top 5) before losing the SEC Championship and a bowl game. They’re still going to be in the top 25 in the last rating.

I tried to minimize the big jumps in going from subjective to objective rankings, and it turns out there were only a few. I had initially moved Washington up a couple of weeks ago thinking that would help transition, so I created the need for a big correction in the other direction. I also should have moved Missouri up more incrementally, but I didn’t think they would beat Georgia, to be honest. The others are pretty normal at this point, and movement should be more gradual as the season goes on.

Top 25

rank / team / prior

1 Alabama 1
2 Missouri 22
3 LSU 9
4 Clemson 3
5 Florida St. 6
6 Ohio St. 4
7 Stanford 2
8 Oregon 7
9 Va. Tech 14
10 Miami 10
11 Baylor 21
12 Georgia 5
13 UCLA 17
14 Oklahoma 11
15 Auburn 20
16 Louisville 18
17 Texas Tech 13
18 S Carolina 15
19 Fresno St. 19
20 Houston —
21 TX A&M 16
22 N. Illinois 24
23 Michigan 12
24 Mich. St. —
25 Utah —

Out of rankings: (8) Washington, (23) Florida, (25) N’western

All 126 teams

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

All-Blogger Poll Week 6

In Blogger Poll, College Football, Rankings Commentary on October 10, 2013 at 1:39 PM

I wrote posts at a few of the blogging sites (where I share things I post here) asking for rankings. I only got four of them this time, but some expressed some interest in doing them in the future, so hopefully this will become a regular thing. I’ll probably wait until the middle of the year if I do it for future seasons.

Here is the first one. The submissions are from two LSU fans (myself included), one Texas fan, one Oklahoma fan, and one Notre Dame fan.

rank/team(first place votes)/total points
1 Alabama (3) 123
2 Oregon (2) 116
3 Clemson 114
4 Stanford 112
5 Ohio St. 104
6 Florida St. 102
7 Georgia 94
8 LSU 83
9 Oklahoma 81
10 TX A&M 72
11 Miami 71
12 Louisville 70
13 UCLA 64
14 S Carolina 52
15 Washington 51
16 Michigan 48
17 Texas Tech 47
18 Florida 47
19 Baylor 38
20 Fresno St. 27
21 Missouri 27
22 N’western 26
23 Va. Tech 21
24 N. Illinois 13
25 Okie St. 10

Others receiving votes: Auburn (7), Nebraska (3), Michigan St. (1), Wisconsin (1)

Alabama was #2 in both polls where it was not #1. Oregon was only #2 in one poll, so that’s why the gap is more than one point. Clemson is third in every poll but two of them (2nd and 5th), so they’re not far behind Oregon. Stanford was the most uniform top-5 team, with four 4th-place votes and one #2. Ohio St. varied from #3 to #7, but Florida St. was either 5th or 6th in ever ranking. LSU finished ahead of Oklahoma by being in the top 10 of every ranking. Texas A&M varied from #6 to #20, but the Aggies finished ahead of the more consistent Hurricanes. Consistency seems to come from actually beating a good team. Washington was edged by South Carolina since the Huskies were as low as #22 in one ranking. Nos. 16 to 18, 20, and 21 weren’t particularly remarkable apart from being close. Baylor, Northwestern, and Virginia Tech each appeared in at least one top 15 but they each failed to appear in at least one ranking. Northern Illinois was ranked by everyone but no higher than #22. Oklahoma St. prevailed for #25 because they appeared in three rankings, while Auburn only appeared in two. The rest appeared in one apiece.

I repeat, we DID have a Notre Dame fan voting. Such modesty.