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Week 6 College Football Rankings 2014

In General LSU, Preview, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 6, 2014 at 1:32 PM

LSU plays Florida this week, so if you’re interested, here is my LSU/Florida Rivalry blog.

Dak Prescott evades an Auburn defender last year.  I rank the two teams #1 and #3 going into their game Saturday.

Dak Prescott evades an Auburn defender last year. I rank the two teams #1 and #3 going into their game Saturday.

Rank/team/previous
1 Auburn 1
2 Florida St. 2
3 Miss. St. 6
4 Ole Miss 11
5 Arizona 15
6 Notre Dame 12
7 Ga. Tech 13
8 TCU 23
9 UCLA 9
10 Alabama 3
11 Marshall 24
12 Oregon 4
13 Nebraska 10
14 TX A&M 8
15 Oklahoma 5
16 Mich. St. —
17 Baylor 17
18 Missouri 25
19 Penn St. —
minnesota
20 Minnesota —
21 Ohio St. —
22 Arizona St. —
23 Louisville 20
Cal-Football-Golden-Bears
24 UC-Berkeley —
25 Florida —

Full computer rankings 1-128 (as I will explain, these are not in agreement with the top 25 given above)

Out of rankings: (7) BYU, (14) LSU. (16) E. Carolina, (18) Georgia, (19) S. Carolina, (21) Okie St.. (22) NC State

Explanation and future rankings

I only made two adjustments to my computer ratings to make this top 25. One was to keep Florida St. at #2. They actually were #2 in the computer rating last week, but the big points by undefeated Ole Miss, Miss. St., and Arizona teams them all ahead of the Seminoles. I still think it’s too early to put any of them #2 though.

If the Bulldogs win next week, I may even put them #1. If Ole Miss and Auburn win, they may be 1 and 2, but then Florida St. would have a chance to get back in the top 2 with a win over Notre Dame the following week. In that scenario, I may again keep Florida St. #2 pending the outcome of the game against the Irish.

The other adjustment was to keep UCLA at #9. It just doesn’t look right to lose to an unranked team and move up. They were #1 in the computer ratings last week.

I may make similar minor adjustments next week (I mentioned one possibility), but after the following week, I plan to just follow the computer rating to the letter.

In total, 7 of my top 11 teams lost of the 9 possible. There were three games where top-11 teams were playing one another, so that’s why there were only 9 possible losses. The only survivor against a team ranked below #15 was Florida St. Auburn was also a survivor, but LSU was #14 going into last week. (More on LSU below.)

I’m going to talk about new teams in the top 25 and old teams that fell out. I think it’s pretty obvious why South Carolina (losers to Kentucky) and North Carolina St. (losers to Clemson) fell out. Some teams only moved into the rankings because 12 teams ahead of them lost.

BYU fell all the way out after losing to Utah St. That wasn’t based on past opponents so much (although Texas didn’t help), but Utah St. (#87 going into the week) is a bad loss at this point, so having a bad loss this early makes you sink like a stone. Virginia is still a quality win though.

East Carolina’s loss to South Carolina continues to drag them down. Also, the Pirates essentially have zero points to show for the last two weeks (a bye and a win over SMU). Virginia Tech won, but they beat North Carolina (another prior opponent of East Carolina), so that didn’t help much.

Georgia also lost to South Carolina, so that is hurting them as well. Also, Tennessee’s loss wasn’t helpful either.

Oklahoma St. is having issues with prior opponents, and Saturday’s win over Iowa St. (which only has one win) didn’t help much. Texas-San Antonio has struggled, and Texas Tech lost yet again as well. Florida St. is still a respectable loss, but it’s not really more respectable than it was already.

Michigan St. is back after finally getting a good win over Nebraska, nothing controversial there. Their land grant rivals (Penn St.) might be more of a mystery, but Akron, Rutgers, Northwestern, and Central Florida all won last week, and of course some higher teams suffered losses.

There isn’t much analysis required for Minnesota, Ohio St., and Arizona St. Minnesota was idle, so they didn’t really have points added, but it still helped a lot that TCU (the team they lost to) beat Oklahoma. The other two also had fairly decent wins.

Cal is probably the worst 4-1 team, but their only loss is to undefeated Arizona. Even though the Colorado and Washington St. wins weren’t pretty and the Bears have allowed 144 points in their last 9 quarters, a win is a win. The Pac-12 schedule is a decent boost as well. I’ll mention Florida below.

I don’t factor in margin of victory, so you might wonder why LSU fell so far. The Tigers had two wins over otherwise-unbeaten teams (ULM and Wisconsin) going into the week, but both lost. LSU does still have an extremely good schedule (#12 in FBS average), but it’s very difficult to be in the top 25 with two losses this early, and the ULM and Wisconsin losses made it impossible. Also, an average FBS opponent would have given more points than Sam Houston St.

I’ve already given my thoughts about LSU in the past few blogs, but this was a very good article about what is important in this season at this point. http://espn.go.com/blog/sec/post/_/id/90273/developing-talent-the-key-now-for-lsu?ex_cid=espnapi_public

Forget winning the SEC West. Sure, competitive divisions like that can theoretically have a two-loss champion, but they need to just put it out of their minds completely. It should be a relaxed atmosphere where if you can upset Alabama, Ole Miss, or whoever, that’s great, but just play a good game. We didn’t do that against Auburn, it was like the worse it got the more afraid LSU was of making it even worse. Even though Auburn is in playoff position and could easily be overshadowed with just one slip-up, they played more like a team with nothing to lose than LSU did.

My one disagreement with the author in the piece above is I don’t think you settle on one quarterback. If one of them plays a bad half, take him out. The only decent drives were orchestrated by Jennings in the last game (the touchdown drive was essentially one good play rather than a well-orchestrated drive) and by Harris in the previous game. Neither one should have stayed in. We don’t have to pick next year’s quarterback until next year. If they both get an equal number of snaps this year, then you have even more to go on in picking the quarterback for next year.

I think it’s far worse to wrongly settle on a quarterback and stubbornly refuse to make a change. That’s what happened in the 2012 title game. Maybe they wouldn’t have gotten any points with Lee (who had struggled in the first game against Alabama), but you can’t do worse than 0. Saturday was only one of two times since then (the other being @Alabama last year) that LSU lost by more than one possession.

As mentioned, LSU plays Florida next week. They also have two quarterbacks. Will Muschamp benched one of them to provide an offensive spark, and it worked. I don’t know if he put a better QB in the abstract in, and he probably doesn’t either, but he made a change to see if it would help against a given team in a given situation and it did. I suspect the second quarterback will do better against LSU based on his skill set (at least they might not be shut out for three quarters); but if not, I’m sure Muschamp will put the other guy back in.

The Gators snuck into my top 25 because the Kentucky win was strengthened when the Wildcats beat South Carolina. The one-point win at Tennessee got them some points as well. I think beating a team like that on the road would be something for LSU to be proud of. There will be a lot of unhappy people if they don’t win; but like the ESPN article says, there is a lot of potential for the future either way.

Earlier rankings:
Preseason
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5

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What Happened: LSU-Auburn Reaction

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rivalry on October 4, 2014 at 8:00 PM

I’ve added to and updated my LSU-Auburn Rivalry blog.

I guess I should start by giving credit to someone I talk to who goes by scurds. He predicted Auburn would win easily. I’m glad no one offered me LSU +21 (that was his predicted margin of victory for Auburn), because I would have taken it. There is a bit of a caveat to that: he seems to enjoy picking LSU to do poorly, and as you might guess has been wrong a few times. Broken clocks should be congratulated when they are nonetheless correct.

I’m disappointed. Not because it was a loss, which I expected. I ranked Auburn #1 for good reasons, and they were playing at home against a young team that hadn’t really traveled before. I was disappointed that the young men on the field from LSU weren’t given a fair chance to at least make it interesting.

I’m mostly just going to talk about the first half, because Auburn was able to kind of cruise through the second half; and to be honest, I skipped parts of it anyway. Other than losses to Alabama in January 2012 and November 2013, this was the first game where LSU lost by more than 10 since November 2008 against Ole Miss.

I was hopeful after seeing a couple of the upsets and especially seeing how well Mississippi St. handled Texas A&M. At kickoff though, they mentioned that four top-six teams had already lost. This made me even more skeptical about a fifth.

I thought LSU would play a bit better early on. There were a couple of minor mistakes typical in any college game, but the only real criticism I have of the early going (which was mostly just good plays by Auburn) was I thought LSU should have been more aggressive on offense.

They tried all these different looks and were able to execute the previous week (I know it wasn’t a good team, but you could tell the plays had been practiced well), but then they didn’t carry forward anything interesting into this game. What’s the worst that could have happened? Falling behind early and the game being over at halftime? The runs were less up-the-middle and there were a couple of different blocking schemes, but it wasn’t anything creative.

You don’t give a team like that easy running plays to defend. Harris had some early jitters to put it mildly, so I’m not sure if different plays would have kept it from being 17-0 at some point. On the other hand, had they worked, he might have lost those jitters. I just thought they could have tried to use an element of surprise. Playing conservative in the first few possessions hadn’t worked in the games against Wisconsin and Mississippi St. and didn’t work yet again. It was also more of a problem since this was a road game. Auburn, on the other hand, did call plays to keep LSU unbalanced, such as the flea-flicker, which was successful.

Other than that, I don’t blame LSU much for having trouble out of the gate against Auburn (one touchdown resulted from basically a jump ball that Auburn caught; I mentioned the flea-flicker). After LSU scored to get on the board, it was a manageable 17-7 score.

There were then two crucial defensive errors after the LSU kickoff. One was an easy interception that the average senior citizen in a walker could have caught that was dropped. LSU would have most likely gotten at least a field goal had the pass been intercepted (defenses on quick turnarounds after a touchdown drive usually don’t have a three and out). So instead of maybe 17-10, it was 24-7 after a few more plays. Another error was a defensive hands to the face that gave Auburn first and goal around the 5 instead of 3rd and 10 at the 11. That may have made the difference between a field goal for Auburn and the touchdown.

The pieces to the puzzle seem to be on the field, but they’re just not being put together very well, at least not where it does any good. When there is a sense of urgency, Harris has done well. So there needs to be some kind of tempo on the field, but they just can’t get out of the traditional pocket passing type of setup, along with this thing that colleges do way too much where they look to the sidelines for directions and use almost the entire play clock before each play.

For instance, Harris completed a few passes (one was called back) and also ran for 32 yards to put LSU in field goal range at the end of the first half. Don’t ask me why they didn’t call a timeout or try a field goal, but playing like that makes him about 10 times better for some reason. It also seemed to help Jennings both in this game and against Wisconsin. It wasn’t a hurry-up when they put Jennings in this game (late in the third quarter), but they did play with a focus on looking for openings downfield. I continued to be baffled as to why the coaching staff waits for there to be a significant deficit before changing the style of play.

The final Auburn touchdown of the half was poorly defended, but it wasn’t drawn up poorly. I think that’s entirely the result of the defense not getting off the field. In both the Wisconsin and Mississippi St. games, when LSU established a productive offense, the defense shut everything down. Also, even in this game, Auburn only scored 3 points in the first 20+ minutes of the second half. They were trying to get that final touchdown at that point, so I think that’s relevant.

Anyway, LSU should have been behind no more than 14 going into the half and instead they were behind 24. That’s a dramatic difference. Look how quickly Ole Miss came up with the last two touchdowns against Alabama. That’s no joke of a defense either, but three or four scores? That’s not even a game really. (People say it’s three scores, but who goes 3/3 in two-point conversions?)

I knew we had a young team this year, and I’ve expressed disappointment (but not shock) in how slowly both quarterbacks are coming along. It happens though. Experience can do a lot of good and its absense can be clear. The coaches have to give the team a better chance to win though, even if a win still would have been unlikely had things been done well. The halftime score was ultimately the result of a lack of good strategy and leadership.

LSU did have scoring opportunities in the second half, but rather than kicking field goals, they went for it on fourth downs. I would have probably kicked field goals personally just to try to build some momentum, but that’s the least of my complaints.

Trivia and Looking Ahead

Tommy Tuberville remains an unpopular person in Baton Rouge for smoking a cigar on the field after the big Auburn win in 1999.

Tommy Tuberville remains an unpopular person in Baton Rouge for smoking a cigar on the field after the big Auburn win in 1999.

Likely due to those decisions, this is LSU’s worst loss since… Auburn in 1999. LSU lost by an identical score that year when the Fighting Tigers started 0-7 in conference before Gerry DiNardo was relieved of his duties (leading to the hiring of Nick Saban in the following offseason). LSU won by 35 in 2011, so that’s still the biggest win in the series by either team. This is the fifth time Auburn has beaten LSU by more than 20 (49 games dating back to 1901), but it is only the third time since 1938. The closest of the three was by 24 in 1993.

LSU did have five losses of 28 or more since then, but only once was under Les Miles. They were Florida 2000, Florida 2001, Alabama 2002, Georgia 2004, and Florida 2008.

Miles will try to win his 100th game since coming to LSU at Florida next Saturday.

Since the SEC expanded to 12 teams in 1992, LSU has traveled to both Auburn and Florida in every even year. LSU has never won both games and not coincidentally has never won the SEC West in an even year, so this pretty much assures it won’t happen this year either.

Auburn is now the only undefeated SEC team outside of Mississippi, but they have what should be an interesting trip to Starkville next week. Ole Miss will travel to Texas A&M, so there may be only one SEC undefeated after next week.

LSU @ Auburn and SEC West Notes

In College Football, General LSU, History, Preview on October 2, 2014 at 3:38 PM

No SEC West team has a loss outside of the SEC West yet. That may not change in the next few weeks, but one thing is certain: the number of undefeated teams in the division will be reduced considerably from the current number (5).

Below are the upcoming intra-divisional games. Two games in each of the next two weeks are between pairs of currently unbeaten teams.

October 4
Texas A&M @ Miss st.
Alabama @ ole miss
LSU @ Auburn

October 11
Ole miss @ Texas A&M
Auburn @ Mississippi st.
Alabama @ Arkansas

October 18
Texas A&M @ Alabama

I thought of one scenario where there could be no undefeated teams and a 5-way tie for first at one loss apiece.

LSU beats auburn, who beats miss st., who beats A&M, who beats Alabama, who beats ole miss. That would assume wins in other conference games.

LSU has won 15 of 28 (going back to 1982) and 4 of 7 games (going back to 2007) in the state of Alabama. The last game (in Tuscaloosa last November) was of course a loss though.

When LSU travels to the state of Alabama, we are generally talking about close games though. Last year wasn’t close, but the few times before that… (Even years are Auburn, odd are Alabama)

Spencer Ware was one of the few offensive play-makers when LSU last visited Auburn in 2012.  Over his right shoulder is Gene Chizik.

Spencer Ware was one of the few offensive play-makers when LSU last visited Auburn in 2012. Over his right shoulder is Gene Chizik.

2012: LSU, 12-10
2011: LSU, 9-6, o.t.
2010: Auburn, 24-17
2009: Alabama, 24-15
2008: LSU, 26-21
2007: LSU, 41-34

Auburn only has one recent single-digit game at Tiger Stadium, the 30-24 LSU win on a touchdown right before the final gun in 2007. That had been the fourth straight LSU-Auburn game decided by less than 7 points.

Another interesting thing I read was that Les Miles is just one win short of his 100th victory at LSU (in his 10th season).