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LSU/Alabama Pre-Game + Projected Top 10

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings Commentary on November 8, 2013 at 4:46 PM
LSU has won 5 of their last 6 games at Bryant-Denny Stadium and is 8-4 there since 1988.

LSU has won 5 of their last 6 games at Bryant-Denny Stadium and is 8-4 there since 1988.

A lot of people are going to be looking for this (and I give more information about the things I’m going to discuss here): LSU/Alabama Rivalry blog.

I also wanted to list the other posts this week in case you missed any (I usually don’t post so much in a short period of time):
My Top 25
Week 10 Conference Report
All-Blogger Poll Week 10

As to how I feel about this game, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. LSU really needs a big win right now, and I’m not all that optimistic (though a close win would not shock me). I think the win over Alabama in 2010 was what eventually kick-started 2011. Before the game, a lot of people thought Alabama could knock off Auburn that year (which they nearly did) and return to the championship game.

Alabama has only beaten LSU two in a row, the same number LSU had won before that, but it doesn’t feel that way. The bowl game in 2011 was a punch to the gut. I don’t know if LSU has ever had that kind of win over Alabama. I guess I can see an argument for 1993, when LSU was mediocre on a good day and Alabama lost its first game in almost 2 years. I can’t even think of any other candidates though, and that’s not quite the same thing anyway. When you win the year before, it’s not such a disaster. If LSU had won in 2011, the 2012 season wouldn’t have bothered me at all. But it wasn’t just that it took away the national championship that seemed so well within reach, it was also that it basically erased the regular-season win. So that was like two wins in one for Alabama, not to mention that the Tide had another national championship to brag about at LSU’s expense.

Then last year, LSU was probably one first down (or one fourth-down stop) away from beating Alabama. I think that just further cemented a feeling of helplessness that we could outplay them for that much of a game and still lose. It was a flashback to how people older than me described the series before I was born. It didn’t seem to matter how good of a team the Tigers had or how well they played, Alabama seemed to find a way to win. LSU hasn’t snatched away a victory like that anytime recently from Alabama. So the circumstances of those games were so much worse than just happening to lose to a big rival two games in a row.

During the early to mid-2000s, LSU mostly just tried to keep anything exciting from happening and wore out the Tide. Alabama was never in a position where they should have won in the first place (with the possible exception of 2007—more below). The Tide did lead 10-0 in 2005, but LSU tied it with over 20 minutes left in regulation. So other than that overtime game where a three-point deficit is normally considered a good thing (absent some kicking mishap or a ridiculous loss of yardage, the worst that happens is generally another OT), you have to go back to 1988 to find a game where Alabama was leading in the closing seconds only to lose. LSU won that game by a point with a 34-yard field goal following a 68-yard, 149-second drive. The winning points were scored with only 29 seconds left in the game.

Interestingly enough, 2011, 2005, and 1988 were all at Alabama. LSU’s loss last season and the OT loss in 2008 were both at home. Also, that 1993 game I mentioned was at Alabama. Alabama has dominated the series generally, but even when they kept LSU winless at home in the series from 1969 to 2000 (exclusive), the Tigers still won 7 times at Alabama during that time span.

The 2010 game was at LSU, but a similarly crucial game for the Tigers was at Alabama: 2007 after the overtime loss to Kentucky. Had LSU lost that game, it’s actually possible that Les Miles wouldn’t have made it past the 2008 season. I doubt the Tigers would have handled Arkansas (their second triple-overtime loss that season) any better by losing to Alabama, and the season before was good enough for Tiger fans to suffer through a losing conference record in 2008 and four losses (including the clock-management blunder against Ole Miss) in 2009.

2008 might have been an example of what would have happened. When LSU lost in OT to Alabama that season, they barely beat Troy the next week (after rallying from a 31-3 deficit) then lost big to Ole Miss and lost a close game against a losing Arkansas team.

Alabama ended up being the one whose season fell apart instead in 2007, but the Tide had entered that game ranked #17, and didn’t go down easily. Alabama scored 24 unanswered points to take a 10-point lead with just over 16 minutes left in the game and led with as little as three minutes remaining. I guess that’s the closest LSU came to doing what Alabama did last year since 1988.

I’m not saying LSU is not going to show up the rest of the season if the Tigers lose this one or that all hope will be lost for the future, but it could be a sign of the program starting to go downhill: maybe something along the lines of what happened to Tennessee in the last 10-15 years, or what happened to Alabama between Stallings and Saban, or what happened to LSU between 1989 and 1999. Alabama getting a third win in a row in this series would really give them the upper hand going forward, in momentum, with fan and alumni support, and in recruiting. You’re never safe in this conference. At some point, it becomes, “What have you done lately?” The Alabama program, in teenage recruits’ minds especially, is being seen as more and more of a national championship program, and the LSU program is being seen as less and less of one.

Regardless of what LSU does, the national championship probably won’t be on the table like it was in 2007 — even a BCS bowl (what will we even call them next season?) might be hard to accomplish — but having 3 losses (however close) before even playing Texas A&M or going to a bowl game is going to be hard to swallow.

Also, on a lighter note, Oregon wants Bama according to their T-shirts, so we should do our best to make sure the Tide aren’t in the BCS championship game.

Projected Top 10

With the significant top-10 results yesterday, I decided to project the top 10 at the conclusion of the week. I just computed my formula with bye weeks for the teams who haven’t already played and who would not be (or play) a top-10 team. Part of the projection is the teams who are in the top 10 lists and who do play tomorrow would win. Since Alabama is playing a somewhat highly rated team, I did another projection of what it would probably look like with LSU winning.

Projected top 10 if the remaining top 10 teams all win:
1. Florida St.
2. Stanford
3. Alabama
4. Auburn
5. Ohio St.
6. Baylor
7. Missouri
8. Miami
9. Clemson
10. Notre Dame
(LSU would probably fall out of the top 25.)

Projected top 10 if LSU beats Alabama and remaining top 10 teams win:
1. Florida St.
2. Stanford
3. Auburn
4. Ohio St.
5. Baylor
6. Missouri
7. Miami
8. Alabama
9. Clemson
10. Notre Dame
(LSU would probably be #13 behind Fresno St. and Oregon.)

Keep in mind Notre Dame has a bye week next week, so their place in the top 10 would probably be highly temporary if they win Saturday in the first place. Remember also that Pitt was about a 30-yard field goal attempt away from beating the Irish last year. Also, another Michigan loss (they play Nebraska) would hurt the Irish, possibly enough to allow Fresno St. and Oregon to remain ahead of them. Oregon is very close to Fresno St., so it’s also possible that other results would keep the Ducks ahead of both Fresno St. and Notre Dame. Miami will most likely be in the top 10 with a win regardless of other games, but Clemson could get passed up

South Carolina and Michigan St. (as well as Ohio St., Clemson, and Fresno St.) are idle this week and obviously Oklahoma has already played, so absent a slew of losses, they won’t be able to jump over many teams. There is a somewhat sizeable gap between 15 and 16, so I don’t expect any team who is not currently in the top 15 to have much of a shot at the top 10.

Don’t cry for the SEC too much if it doesn’t have a team in the top 2. Alabama plays Auburn, which should help out the winner a lot, and one of them will in all likelihood play for the SEC title.

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All-Blogger Poll Week 10

In Blogger Poll, College Football on November 7, 2013 at 4:31 PM
The top 4 is unchanged, although Florida St. has inched closer to Alabama.

The top 4 is unchanged, although Florida St. has inched closer to Alabama.

So our Oklahoma fan didn’t get a ballot in this time, and the Michigan voter is back. That means (A) votes for Minnesota and Nebraska and (B) Texas and Texas Tech almost falling out of the top 25. Also, Wisconsin jumped a few spots, although they may have anyway. Oklahoma St. seems to have gotten an extra boost with no Oklahoma voter. Three of the six voters placed the Cowboys in the top 11.

According to the poll, these are the participants in three big games this weekend (not too different from the BCS standings):

Tonight:
(3) Oregon @ (5) Stanford
(10) Oklahoma @ (6) Baylor

Saturday:
(12) LSU @ (1) Alabama (blog on the LSU/Alabama series)

Most of the other games should be boring, although Arizona hosts (19) UCLA, (20) Wisconsin hosts BYU, (21) Central Florida hosts Houston, and Utah hosts (23) Arizona St. Two teams who received votes will play when Michigan hosts Nebraska. Also, Virginia Tech, which just fell out of the top 25, travels to (11) U. Miami.

rank/team(first place votes)/total points[last week’s rank]

1 Alabama (3) 145 [ 1 ]
2 Florida St. (2) 143 [ 2 ]
3 Oregon 137 [ 3 ]
4 Ohio St. (1) 134 [ 4 ]
5 Stanford 122 [ 5 ]
6 Baylor 119 [ 7 ]
7 Auburn 105 [ t9 ]
8 Clemson 93 [ 12 ]
9 Missouri 88 [ 8 ]
10 Oklahoma 85 [ t9 ]
11 Miami 83 [ 6 ]
12 LSU 72 [ 11 ]
13 Okie St. 69 [ 20 ]
14 Fresno St. 64 [ 16 ]
15 S Carolina 64 [ 13 ]
16 N. Illinois 61 [ 15 ]
17 TX A&M 59 [ 17 ]
18 Mich. St. 57 [ 21 ]
19 UCLA 46 [ t25 ]
20 Wisconsin 31 [ t25 ]
21 UCF 27 [ t18 ]
22 Notre Dame 22 [ v ]
23 Arizona St. 21 [ v ]
24 Texas Tech 18 [ 14 ]
25 Texas 17 [ t23 ]

Others receiving votes: Louisville 12 [ 22 ], BYU 12 [ v ], Minnesota 8 [ ], Houston 8 [ v ], Nebraska 8 [ ], Michigan 6 [ t18 ], Duke 6 [ v ], Georgia 4 [ v ], Texas St. 4 [ v ]

(v = received at least one vote last week but was unranked)

No longer receiving votes: Va. Tech [ t23 ], Oregon St.

Previous rankings:
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9

Conference report after Week 10

In College Football, Conference Reports on November 6, 2013 at 1:37 PM
LSU isn't particularly relevant to this discussion, but I still thought it was a cool picture to go with the SEC logo.  It was taken after LSU went 9-0 against the SEC in 2011.

LSU isn’t particularly relevant to this discussion, but I still thought it was a cool picture to go with the SEC logo. It was taken after LSU went 9-0 against the SEC in calendar year 2011.

Background/Intro

It seems like every year when a bunch of teams make it into the top 25 from the SEC that the claim is made that it’s just SEC hype. These are three common arguments: “They play too many FCS/Sun Belt/CUSA teams,” “All but a few teams are having down years,” “SEC fans only argue the middle of the conference is good because the top of the conference has a bunch of losses.”

I’m not one to argue that you can tell anything by conference records. If one conference has 4 teams with one loss or fewer and another has none, that gives you absolutely no information about which conference is strongest. So we have to look at non-conference records.

Every week with my computer poll, I publish a page called “Conferences & Divisions“. This is an attempt to rank the conferences according to top 10/25/40 membership in my unbiased computer poll. What I’m going to look at here, however, is how the conference as a whole has fared against other conferences.

The next section is how I arrived at #1; the discussions go a lot more quickly (usually with less depth) after that.

1 vs. 2

The best conference record against other conferences, at least by my tally that I keep throughout the year, is the SEC’s at 39-6. Admittedly, that includes 10 FCS wins, which is tied for second-most with the MAC and behind the ACC. Consider that the Pac-12, for instance, has played 10 games against FCS schools, but one was a loss. The ACC, SEC, and Big Ten are the only conferences that are perfect against the FCS this year. Keep in mind that the ACC and SEC each have two more teams than the Big Ten(+2) does. The Big Ten has 9 wins over FCS opponents.

If we take those games completely out, the Pac-12 is slightly better with an 80.8% winning percentage as compared to 80.6%. I think the SEC should still be considered better, all things being equal, due to the lack of an FCS loss. But all things aren’t equal, so we can explore further.

I have Notre Dame as a stand-alone category because they used to have special provisions in the BCS formula as one of the original signatories. Also, I think a program that played in the national championship game last season should qualify for that category anyway.

Anyway, other than that one-team category, the lowest number of losses overall (6 apiece) belong to the SEC and Pac-12. As mentioned, the Pac-12 has the one FCS loss (Oregon St. to Eastern Washington). Cal lost to Northwestern and Ohio St., Notre Dame beat Arizona St. and USC, and Washington St. lost to Auburn. The SEC has nonconference losses by lower teams to Rutgers (by Arkansas), Louisville (by Kentucky), and Western Kentucky (Kentucky again).

Western Kentucky is not a good team, but I think they might beat Eastern Washington. Even if they wouldn’t, I think it’s more understandable for possibly the worst SEC team (the Wildcats are winless in conference) to lose such a game. Western Kentucky only has two more losses than Eastern Washington does. In contrast with Kentucky, Oregon St. is 4-2 in the Pac-12.

I don’t think there is anything to take away from Tennessee losing to Oregon or Washington St. losing to Auburn. Georgia lost to Clemson, and Florida lost to Miami, but Georgia and Florida are probably the 6th and 7th SEC teams right now. That was against the ACC’s #2 and #3, and the ACC is having a relatively strong year, at least at the top.

I guess with Notre Dame’s loss to Michigan, you can be a little more critical of the two Pac-12 teams for losing to the Irish, but Arizona St. is the only one where it looks a little bad so far. USC is more the equivalent of Florida and Georgia in terms of in-conference strength.

The SEC is 8-5 against BCS conferences (+Notre Dame), and the Pac-12 is 6-5 against that same group. The AAC is only barely a BCS conference, so if you take that out, the SEC’s 7-4 is still better than 6-5.

So I think the SEC is fairly #1 and the Pac-12 is fairly #2. Both are over 80% against FBS, and no other conference is over 80% even if you include all opponents including FCS.

Nos. 3 to 7

I’m going with the ACC next. Even though their winning percentage dips to 68% when the FCS wins are taken out, they have fairly big wins. Among the BCS, the Big Ten has beaten Notre Dame (good win, don’t get me wrong), Iowa St., Cal twice, and Syracuse twice, along with a few insignificant AAC teams. The Big XII only has Notre Dame and Mississippi St., along with two wins over SMU.

I think based on Michigan’s position in the Big Ten, the Big Ten’s win over Notre Dame is more significant. Cincinnati and Syracuse twice is better than SMU twice. The bad losses of Rice and Navy are roughly equal, but the Big XII has the two FCS losses.

The AAC is the sixth conference at least, so it shouldn’t be too painful to watch its champion in a BCS bowl. It has a better Division I and FBS record than the Sun Belt, the surprising #7. The Sun Belt is very balanced though, and notably has no teams in my computer ratings above ULL at #49.

Nos. 8 to 11

If I counted Notre Dame as part of the independents, that would make the independents 6th, but apart from playing Navy, the Irish aren’t really in the loop with the other independents, who are now three Western teams along, two service academies, and Old Dominion, which has hardly played any other FBS teams anyway. So I think it makes more sense to just leave them out of that group. Anyway, without Notre Dame, I would put them at #8. BYU has been the only impressive team (despite the baffling loss to Virginia), but Navy’s win over Indiana was another plus.

The MAC and the Mountain West are pretty even. The MAC has a few more wins over BCS teams, but really they each have one meaningful win: Northern Illinois over Iowa and Fresno St. over Rutgers. Against the FBS, the MWC has won 25%, the MAC has won 24.4%. I’m just going to call that a tie.

The CUSA was pretty similar to those two, but I put them last because of some ugly games. Also, they had losing records against the MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt. One of their better teams by record is Tulane, which lost to South Alabama. The one major win was East Carolina over North Carolina, which isn’t impressive. There is a loss to Kansas and a loss to Arkansas, the two teams only having 3 FBS wins between them all season. There are also bad losses to New Mexico, Colorado St., Troy, Army, and Bethune-Cookman.

Rankings list

1. SEC
2. Pac-12
3. ACC
4. Big Ten
5. Big XII
6. AAC
7. Sun Belt
8. Independents (excepting Notre Dame)
9 (tie). MAC
9 (tie). MWC
11. CUSA

My Top 25 Week 10

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 3, 2013 at 1:53 PM

top25-week10

As I expected, Florida St. passed up the three teams ahead of them to move into first place in my computer ratings. I held off on moving Stanford and Missouri into #1, and those turned out to be good moves, so I’m once again keeping Alabama #1. I’m only going to wait one week this time though. After that, I’ll probably just go with what the formula says the rest of the way.

Speaking of Alabama, since their game against LSU is now less than a week away, you may want to check out my LSU/Alabama Rivalry blog.

Oregon would already be #5 going by average week, and as Florida St. showed, one good big win (such as over Stanford) can move you up a few spots. Florida St. is #1 by a decent margin too, so if they had been a couple more spots back, they might still be #1 in the formula this week. The Ducks also have Utah, Arizona, and Oregon St. before the Pac-12 championship game (in which they would all but clinch a berth by beating Stanford).

Baylor is a similar situation: undefeated in a pretty good conference but hasn’t really done a whole lot YET. The only game they have left that should be pretty easy is TCU, but a very large amount of points is available from Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma St., and Texas. As of right now, however, the Bears have only beaten a single team that currently has a winning record (if you don’t count wins over FCS teams). That team was Buffalo, which has had an even easier schedule thus far.

LSU fell a bunch of spots with the bye week, which followed beating Furman the week before. LSU still stands to gain a good deal with a win this weekend of course, but with a loss, the Tigers could fall out of the top 25 in the next two weeks since even if losing to the Tide doesn’t knock them out, there is another bye week the week of Nov. 16. Also, LSU’s non-conference schedule turned out to be pretty bad. TCU losing again this week didn’t help. The other two FBS opponents (UAB and Kent St.) are terrible, and Furman isn’t one of the best FCS teams. TCU and Kent St. were thought to be much better than they are going it, but it happens. In hindsight, LSU might have been better off scheduling an in-state opponent (especially UL-Lafayette or Tulane).

There are some bye weeks to keep in mind for other teams next week: Ohio St., Clemson, Fresno St., Michigan St., Northern Illinois, and South Carolina. So along with LSU, teams like Arizona St., Houston, and Central Florida (who plays Houston) could derive extra benefit from decent wins this week.

Texas A&M is probably too low by a lot of estimations, but when you lose two games, you need quality wins to pick the rating up (see LSU). The Aggies have lost to the two top teams in the West, leaving Ole Miss as their best win. Vanderbilt is the second-best win. I think that justifies their situation. A&M does still have LSU and Missouri on its schedule, and teams in this part of the rankings are packed in pretty tightly, so there is opportunity to improve if they’re deserving of a higher ranking. If they end up with four losses, on the other hand, I don’t see a problem with them being unranked going into the bowls.

Georgia hasn’t been a top 25 team on the field lately, but they did beat LSU and South Carolina, so that still counts. Michigan hasn’t looked like a top 25 team much lately either, but their win over Notre Dame (Oklahoma is the only other team to beat the Irish) still counts too.

I don’t think any of the others are very controversial, but if you want me to address something, feel free to leave a comment.

Top 25

rank / team / prior

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

Out of rankings: (17) Va. Tech, (18) TX Tech

All 126 teams

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

Friday Night Musings

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings Commentary on November 1, 2013 at 9:37 PM
Despite two losses, the LSU Tigers still have not lost at home since the mishap against Alabama last season.  The Tigers of Missouri were not able to stay undefeated at home, however.

Despite two losses, the LSU Tigers still have not lost at home since the mishap against Alabama last season. The Tigers of Missouri were not able to stay undefeated at home, however.

This is later than I like to write blogs, because I know a lot of people (particularly in the more Eastern time zones) are asleep. But if I wait until tomorrow, I’ll be writing while games are on, so I’m writing now.

I’ve talked about this general topic before in reference to Florida St.’s initial BCS ranking, but I’ve also seen Missouri called a fraud, particularly now that they’ve lost a game, albeit in overtime and largely due to a bad day for the kicker.

“Now that they’ve *finally* played a good team, they lost” is one comment that stuck in my craw, whatever that means. Well, let’s look at some records that teams have apart from playing Missouri: Florida 4-2, South Carolina 5-2, Georgia 4-2, Toledo 5-2, Vanderbilt 4-3, Indiana 3-3. If you look at the overall records, it’s true that South Carolina is the only team without at least three losses, but Missouri gave three other teams one of three losses and nearly did that a fourth time. I know Toledo, Vanderbilt, and Indiana aren’t great, but they’re not bad 3rd, 4th, and 5th best wins. Having played 6 teams that are at least semi-decent does give Missouri a good enough schedule to deserve some respect.

Oklahoma, by contrast, has two pretty good wins in Notre Dame and Texas Tech, but what’s their #3 win? TCU or WVU? They play each other this weekend, and the team that loses will in all likelihood fail to even qualify for a bowl game. If TCU wins especially, it wouldn’t be surprising if neither made a bowl game. Louisiana-Monroe is probably the #5 win. I’m not saying I don’t understand ranking Oklahoma ahead of Missouri; but if you don’t pay special attention to which loss took place more recently and you put more of a premium on playing a number of decent teams rather than a couple of headliners, it also makes sense not to. For argument’s sake, I guess we can treat the respective losses (Texas and South Carolina) as roughly equal, although I personally think Missouri had the “better loss”.

Of course I did expect Missouri to lose a couple of games even before they finally lost one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up with more losses than Oklahoma. But the Tigers still beat Georgia and Florida when I did not expect them to do so. There is nothing wrong with giving them credit for that for the time being.

I only had one small thought about my Tigers, the ones from LSU. Based on how different a team like Georgia is from earlier games and how strong Ole Miss has come on in recent weeks, I just wondered if LSU would be undefeated if they played Ole Miss in September and Georgia in mid-October. If LSU wins out and Alabama wins the SEC West, I’m still going to be annoyed that LSU had to play such an inter-divisional schedule in the first place, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on those results anyway. (I don’t know why I keep using old-time country expressions. I’m in my early 30s and from the suburbs of New Orleans.)

I have some ideas for upcoming blogs. I have one mostly written about potential Pac-12 expansion. For another one, I used to regularly do blogs called Conference Reports (you can see the tab above if you’re viewing this on WordPress), where I look at how the various conferences have fared against outside opponents. I can’t think of any major inter-conference games this week, so that can wait until next week. I also might do a blog about suggested NFL realignment, but that will probably just make people angry. It’s after 1 a.m. on the East Coast, so I decided to just go ahead and publish this and work on those later.