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What Happened: LSU @ Mississippi St.

In College Football, General LSU, History, Post-game on September 16, 2017 at 7:53 PM

Before I begin, I’ve updated my rivalry blog for the LSU-Mississippi St. series. The Bulldogs ended LSU’s run of 8 straight wins in Starkville (the longest such streak by either team if you don’t count LSU’s run at home that ended a few years ago) and also beat the Tigers by the largest margin of victory ever.

Although LSU had not lost in Starkville since 1999, Ed Orgeron is now 0-3 there as a head coach. Ole Miss did beat the Bulldogs the one time he faced them at home.

I wanted to write to explain what happened in the game this evening. I’m not offering excuses (it was a deserved loss) and not trying to take anything away from Mississippi St. for playing well and having a good game plan; but there are reasons this game got away from LSU, and one of those reasons was not that Mississippi St. had more talent.

One thing is the early touchdown that was taken away from LSU for no good reason. The game starting out 14-7 in LSU’s favor is a completely different scenario from Mississippi St. starting the second half with the ball up 17-7.

Of course, LSU’s second touchdown never came.

There were a couple of other Mississippi St. drives in the first half that were either extended by penalties (at least one of which should not have been called) or by an LSU player accidentally knocking down a potential tackler. I don’t remember which one of those led to touchdowns or field goals, but all but a couple of drives ended in one or the other.

LSU had stops when the whistle was blown on other occasions, but they had no one to blame but themselves. A defensive lineman had already been injured in the first half, and when LSU momentarily had a three-and-out to start the second half (which could have been a turning point for the Tigers), a defensive lineman was ejected for a completely stupid targeting penalty.

Within a few minutes of that ejection, LSU got a second ejection for a similar penalty. I don’t think that was an intentional head-to-head hit, but you don’t take the chance of being called for a late hit when it can’t benefit the play. It was a targeting in my opinion because right as the defender approached, the quarterback turned his head toward the defender (after he released the ball), causing a collision between the defender’s helmet and the quarterback’s facemask.

In all, LSU was penalized for 112 yards, but that doesn’t count the 66-yard (If I heard correctly; I didn’t see it) touchdown pass that was taken off of the board. The Tigers also had to score twice on the actual touchdown drive that took place because of a deserved penalty.

After the ejections, LSU had almost no chance to win whatsoever. The linebackers and secondary tried to support the defensive line, but you can’t do that without opening up passes over the top of the defense. This was demonstrated by the second-to-last touchdown where the receiver could have walked into the end zone if he wanted to.

DJ Chark scores an apparent touchdown that was called back due to a phantom penalty.

It also didn’t help that multiple LSU passes that could have given them some offensive rhythm (not to mention helping out the run and giving the defense a chance to catch its breath) were dropped.

Both sides of the ball got more and more desperate as the score got worse. The defense over-pursued in the backfield (or got flagged for interference), and the offense had overly ambitious downfield throws.

I ranked LSU #14 in preseason because I thought that’s where they would finish, not because I thought LSU would play that way consistently in September. I still think the talent is there to finish in that area or higher, but when you have 5 returning defensive starters in their first road game and you lose 3 players, it’s awfully tough to defend an offense like Mississippi St.’s.

To give some credit where it’s due, MSU’s Nick Fitzgerald showed good poise in the pocket even before the ejections and injuries.

The ejections come with disqualifications from the first half of the next game against Syracuse (in Baton Rouge). If LSU loses to Syracuse, then I’ll admit I overestimated this team significantly, but I have a feeling the Tigers both upper- and lowerclassmen will play with more consistency and confidence in that game.

There are two very winnable games coming up (also a home game against Troy), and despite the win over Tennessee today, Florida is vulnerable. If LSU gets behind the 8-ball again, that could be another long and miserable road game, but if not it could be pretty competitive. I did pick Florida ahead of LSU in preseason, but we’ll see.

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Cancellations and (later) Game Previews

In College Football, History, NFL, Preview on September 9, 2017 at 11:09 AM

I will not make a habit of posting game previews on Saturday, but it just worked out that way this week. I didn’t look for pictures but may do so later.

Cancellations

First of all, I want to make clear that South Florida (and possibly parts of North Florida, West Florida, South Georgia, etc.) are under very serious threat and nothing about Hurricane Irma should be taken lightly.

But being that hurricanes are storm systems that move methodically and don’t shoot out death rays from hundreds of miles away, I do have some criticism over games that were canceled.

hurricane 0909

I understand South Florida and Miami deciding not to play even though they had road games. There would have been too many distractions on Saturday, and there would have been legitimate concerns about the ability to go back after game activities without getting stuck. Preparing to make a couple of days’ trip for a football game and preparing to evacuate indefinitely are two very different things. Maybe the two games could have been moved up to Friday if the decision had been made earlier in the week, but it’s hard to coordinate that with road games against opponents who aren’t used to hurricanes.

I don’t think Florida and Florida St. needed to cancel their games though. I think they should have done what LSU did with the Appalachian St. game in 2008 and played the games in the early morning on Saturday (10:00 Central was early for me anyway, especially as a West Coast resident). The storm would have still been in Cuba at that time, and it would have allowed plenty of storm preparation to help out evacuees from other places.

Along the same lines, I don’t know why it was necessary to cancel the Friday game in Orlando (Memphis @ Central Florida). Attendance might have been low with people having difficulty traveling or for whatever reason having more important matters to attend to, but make-up games often have low attendance anyway.

Anyway, if there are hurricane-force winds in Gainesville, it would probably not be until Monday morning, even later in Tallahassee (if at all). I know some of the players would have had family evacuating from South Florida, but South Floridians play at a large number of schools. I think the primary concern should be for the teams whose campuses were under immediate threat.

Also, for the NFL game, there is of course no question that the game should have been moved. It could have been played at a neutral site elsewhere in Florida, but obviously Florida and Florida St. didn’t want to host games this weekend for NFL or college. Maybe Jacksonville could have been a possibility, but I guess that would have been too close to the anticipated path of the storm. There was also the fact that the Dolphins would have only had six home games. (They already gave up one to play the Saints in London.)

Florida International, which is in the Miami area, managed to host a game on Friday, which makes it even more baffling to me that Central Florida canceled their game. FIU beat Alcorn St. 17-10 if you were curious. Maybe FIU has more sense because they have an international hurricane research center on campus. Also, Florida Atlantic, which is in Boca Raton (North of Miami), is playing @Wisconsin now (Wisconsin will win, but it was surprisingly competitive).

Another possibility is that the road teams who were traveling to Florida got nervous, but I hope that wasn’t the case. I would think someone could have explained that although circular winds in this one have been 160 mph or more within the last day a hurricane isn’t going to suddenly start moving across the map at such a speed. I’m pretty sure people in Monroe understood that, but I’m less sure about whatever city Northern Colorado is in.

Another LSU memory I have is of 2005 when LSU didn’t play Tennessee until Monday night because Hurricane Rita was too close for Tennessee and its fans even though that Saturday in Baton Rouge was just a normal fall evening. Rita was a very destructive storm, just not for Baton Rouge and not on Saturday. That game was also notable because it was Les Miles’ first SEC game at LSU. I’d rather not recall the game itself.

One good thing is that other than Central Florida, none of the games were conference games. Those can cause all kinds of issues later in the year. As you might recall, the SEC had to threaten Florida’s possible berth in the SEC championship (which they eventually earned) before the Gators finally decided to play LSU last year.

Today’s Big Games

Anyway, I did want to talk a little bit about the games that will be played. As I mentioned above, the conference games are the most important, and there is an SEC game between residents of the two “Columbias” (South Carolina and Missouri). I decided that instead of picking all games involving SEC teams, I would just do the conference games and maybe a few extras in weeks with few conference games. So in this game, I’m picking South Carolina +3. I just don’t think Missouri is very good despite all the points they scored last week. They scored 61 against Eastern Michigan last year but lost to South Carolina by 10. I don’t see why the same sort of scenario is less realistic this year.

Offensive lineman Mason Zandi hoists the “Columbia Cup” after last year’s game.

Clemson isn’t in the SEC obviously, but they’re playing Auburn. Clemson won by 6 last year with the best team they’ve had in over 30 years and Auburn was relatively mediocre. So I’m taking Auburn and 5. Auburn might even win, but if they don’t, I can easily see them losing by 3 or 4 and not more.

Somehow Notre Dame is favored by 5 over Georgia. I think if anything Georgia will outperform expectations. Notre Dame’s expectations seem to be unjustifiably positive as usual, so I’m taking Georgia and the points there.

I guess I’ll go against the SEC in the early game of interest, which is TCU (-3) @ Arkansas. Arkansas has started slow a few times in recent years. I think TCU has more of the pieces in place even though I think Kenny Hill probably has a lower ceiling than some of the other quarterbacks in the Big XII alone, but he had a pretty good game in the early going in 2014 against an SEC team (Texas A&M @ South Carolina). Not saying he’ll pass for over 500 yards, just enough to win by 3 or more.

I’m not going to pick any more games against the spread, but there was another early game I’m very eager to follow, which is Pitt at Penn St. It was a great finish last year and probably kept the Nittany Lions out of the playoff in hindsight.

A few other big evening games I haven’t mentioned: Oklahoma @ Ohio St. (two of my top 4, hopefully better than Alabama/Florida St. game), Stanford @ USC (the Trojans were underwhelming last week, but maybe WMU is good), and Boise St. @ Washington St. (I’d take the over, although both struggled offensively in the last couple of games last season).

LSU and Major SEC Games Week 1

In College Football, General LSU, History, Post-game on September 4, 2017 at 3:04 PM

Strange times in the SEC, but I suppose it’s not too unusual that LSU and Alabama look good in the early going.

I’m still getting used to the absence of people like Les Miles, Steve Spurrier, and Mark Richt.

Less significantly, Hugh Freeze is gone now too. Based on recent developments, Kevin Sumlin may be on his way out as well. It’s a tough job and you expect turnover, but it’s getting to the point where you can barely get used to people.

Despite managing to win the East the past two years, Florida has been struggling against non-divisional major-conference opponents for a long time. By my count, the Gators have dropped the 16 of the last 20 such contests (see the end of the blog for the list).

So although I’ve never been a fan, it’s been disconcerting to have Florida struggle outside of its own division as well. It’s not the Spurrier or Meyer days there anymore for sure.

Moving on to specifics over the weekend, Florida St. (who incidentally is responsible for four of those Gator losses) made me feel a little bit better about the fact that LSU was shut out against Alabama about 10 months ago. That’s a pretty talented quarterback with a pretty talented play-caller (actually one of the best), and the Tide held them to only 7 points. LSU had an interim OC and a quarterback who couldn’t manage to hold the starting job at Purdue a couple of years before.

The Seminoles’ longest run from scrimmage was 9 yards. If that happens to LSU against Alabama, we’re most likely going to see another shutout.

Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher when Fisher was Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU. Of course, they were head coaches on opposite sides of the Alabama-Florida St. game.

I do want to be fair to both Florida St. and Alabama (which did show some weaknesses in giving up 210 passing yards) going forward though. If Florida St. struggles in the passing game this year, it may be due to the season-ending injury of that quarterback at the end of the game. If Alabama’s defense doesn’t look quite as good, it may be because that unit suffered a couple of season-ending injuries as well.

Going back to Florida for a moment, the score makes the Gators offense looks a lot better than it was because two of the scores were from interception returns. Even without any injuries, Florida may struggle at the QB position more than Florida St. does going forward.

Another program that shouldn’t be feeling too good is Texas A&M. When you’re paying your head coach $5 million per year and your defensive coordinator $1.55 million, you don’t blow a 44-10 lead. That’s something that happens to a school where the head coach and DC are lucky to get $1 million per year combined.

Kevin Sumlin (left) and John Chavis probably don’t have very secure jobs at the moment.

So with the big headline scores in the SEC out of the way, I’m going to talk a bit about my Tigers. It might not be quite as impressive as holding Florida St. to 250 total yards; but BYU isn’t Savannah St. or anything, and the Cougars were held below 100 total yards for the game.

The negative rushing yardage was the lowest by an LSU opponent since Ole Miss in 1982. The longest run from scrimmage being only six yards was the “lowest long” since Tulane in 1976.

On the LSU rushing side, there will be some criticisms that the Tigers ran too much, but when you average over 5 yards per carry and only have to punt once, you can theoretically run every down without it being “too much”.

Although he only threw 17 passes, Danny Etling (the former Purdue quarterback I mentioned) had the highest completion percentage since Zach Mettenberger was 25/29 in Week 6 of 2013. Unlike Mett, Etling didn’t throw an interception though. Etling mostly threw short passes, but he did throw one pass for 52 yards and another for 32.

DJ Chark catches a 52-yard pass from Danny Etling to set up the Tigers’ second touchdown in the second quarter.

It was far from a perfect game though, as you’d expect from a first game. At halftime of his game Nick Saban said something like, “We made a lot of mistakes, but we got away with most of them.” Same applies here to some extent.

LSU did get to third down 10 times, which resulted in 5 conversions, 3 field-goal attempts (1 missed), 1 punt, and 1 failed fourth down attempt. So only 3 of the 10 were complete failures.

Without a deep threat and without the ability to gain speed in space, the offense did sputter at times in the red zone. The failed fourth-down attempt was on the goal line and it looked like a combination of the wrong back and a missed block. I don’t think it was a bad play call though.

There could have been some more passing plays called in the red zone, but there were reasons not to call those. When you have less margin for error, there is a greater chance of an interception. LSU’s field goal kicking is a work in progress. Giving up a sack could have taken them out of field goal range. Also, since LSU was ahead by 14 or more points for 2/3 of the game, it was obviously in the Tigers’ interest to run the clock.

A couple of other minor things that could be problems in the future…

The one LSU drive (the first one) that led to a punt was mostly due to 15 penalty yards. LSU was also penalized a total of 15 yards in the drive that ended in a missed field goal. In total, the Tigers were penalized 10 times for a total of 86 yards in the game.

LSU had a lot of kickoffs, which is good, but on many of them the coverage outran the return team. This is how you give up special teams touchdowns. It didn’t happen, but I’m sure there will be someone back to make them pay in some of the SEC games without improvement. The average BYU kick return was still almost 20 yards.

At any rate, I’m more optimistic than I was going into the game. I think the line was 14.5, which seemed about right to me. If anything I thought LSU would win by less than that. I’m impressed by how well the young players did, and to think many of them are second string right now gives me hope for both this season and for the future. We have to go one week at a time, but I have a feeling that we could at least win more big games than we lose in October and November.

I don’t anticipate having much to say about LSU after next week’s game, but I’m going to consider what kind of blog I want to write in the middle of the week going forward. This will be a much shorter week than normal since I won’t have the top 25 until tomorrow.

Many were on the road or at neutral sites, but the Swamp still isn’t what it used to be.

This was the list of Florida games I referred to earlier.
1/2/13 Louisville (Sugar Bowl) L 23-33
9/7/13 @Miami L 16-21
10/5/13 Arkansas W 30-10
10/12/13 @LSU L 6-17
11/30/13 Florida St. L 7-37
9/20/14 @Alabama L 21-42
10/11/14 LSU L 27-30
11/29/14 @Florida St. L 19-24
10/3/15 Ole Miss W 38-10
10/17/15 @LSU L 28-35
11/28/15 Florida St. L 2-27
12/5/15 Alabama (SEC Champ) L 15-29
1/1/16 Michigan (Citrus Bowl) L 7-41
11/5/16 @Arkansas L 10-31
11/19/16 @LSU W 16-10
11/26/16 @Florida St. L 13-31
12/3/16 Alabama (SEC Champ) L 16-54
1/2/17 Iowa (Outback Bowl) W 30-3
9/2/17 Michigan L 17-33

Another Tradition Lost; Week 1 Plans

In College Football, General LSU, History, Preview on August 27, 2017 at 2:57 PM

(After I wrote this, I found out I lost the ability to use my Facebook account, so I made a new one: https://www.facebook.com/TheBayouBlogger)

I usually try to use sports as an escape from real-world issues including personal problems and politics. I won’t bore you with any personal problems, but unfortunately politics has been intruding into college football and its traditions, so I feel obliged to talk about it.

The new resident of the LSU athletic complex

LSU will have a new live tiger mascot to replace Mike VI, now known as Mike VII (he was previously known as Harvey when he lived in Florida), but not only will he not be brought to the stadium if he doesn’t feel like it (which had been the policy), he won’t be brought into the stadium EVER, which seems to be a move to placate animal rights activists.

The last time a live Tiger will have been brought to a game was when Mike VI witnessed the beginning of a game against McNeese St., which went down as a cancellation. Mike VI, who had taken over the job in October 2007, declined to get in the cage pictured above for all the subsequent home games while he was still alive. He was euthanized on October 11, 2016, after battling cancer which had been diagnosed in June.

This is a 2015 picture of the late Mike VI during his traditional trip to the stadium on game day. He seems relaxed in the picture, but the various “Mike the Tigers” would at times roar or otherwise express hostility toward opposing players.

I AM grateful LSU isn’t Ole Miss, which had its main mascot replaced by a guy dressed as a bear (a rebellious bear I suppose), but I still find it ridiculous. I’m also glad the flag of Louisiana isn’t banned like the flag of Mississippi apparently is from the University of Mississippi, but that’s another conversation.

The old and new mascots of Ole Miss

The live tiger at LSU is one of the best cared-for tigers in the country, but it’s now unconscionable for him to earn his keep by spending 7 or 8 evenings a year in a cage inside the stadium? He lives in the tiger equivalent of a mansion and is well-fed with excellent medical care. Even if one didn’t like football, what person wouldn’t take that deal?

What about all the police dogs that are compelled to sniff out drugs somewhere? Wouldn’t they be better off if they were given a huge habitat to hang out in all day? Why is that any different?

At least there will still be an eye of a tiger on the field.

I don’t even want to talk about why a guy named Robert Lee can’t do a football game in Virginia. I’ll just try to move on, but this stuff needs to stop intruding into my sports.

I know the major polls came out before the games that just took place. South Florida and Stanford didn’t experience what would have been shocking upsets, but I didn’t think that small possibility was worth doing the rankings early.

I’ll just release the “Preseason”/Week 1 rankings by kickoff on the Thursday before Labor Day as usual. I may release the top 10 before that, but it just depends on how quickly I get things ready. I already have my top 25 picked out, but I’m not sure about the exact order or presentation yet.

Also, best wishes to South Texas and the Houston area (where LSU is still scheduled to play its opener against BYU in less than a week) in the recovery from Hurricane Harvey.  (Reports indicate that a different venue may be chosen during the day on Monday.)

Final Pre-Bowl Top 25; CFP Plays It Safe but Gets It Wrong

In Bowls, College Football, College Football Playoff, General LSU, History, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on December 5, 2016 at 9:00 AM

College Football Committee: Top 4, Sugar Bowl, and Orange Bowl

There were some complaints in the media Saturday night about why the College Football Playoff committee even has weekly rankings.

Ideally, I think it’s good to let teams know where they stand from week to week and start the process from scratch after the games are all finished. But I wonder if that really happened or if they just took the easy route and rubber-stamped what they already had as the top four (Clemson and Ohio St. switched spots, but that won’t affect anything except who wears what jersey and who calls the coin toss). Would it have been easier to pick Penn St. over Washington had the committee not declared a few days before that Washington was #4 and Penn St. was #7? If so, the weekly ratings should be abandoned.

The committee also played it safe by picking as the BCS would have in all the major decisions. There were about 15 teams that were in contention for the major bowls (other than the “automatic” Western Michigan). This is how they would have finished if we had just kept the BCS system.

The BCS average of the polls (AP and Coaches' poll since the Harris poll no longer exists) and the medium 4 computer ratings.  They're calculated as fractions of the perfect score and then averaged.

The BCS average of the polls (AP and Coaches’ poll since the Harris poll no longer exists) and the medium 4 computer rankings. They’re calculated as fractions of the perfect score and then averaged.

As I mentioned last week, I also disagree with Auburn’s selection to the Sugar Bowl, but part of the problem was that it was a three-way race. Although LSU gained on Florida in the last couple of weeks (and actually passed the Gators in the most-recent AP poll) and had the highest computer average of the three, obviously head-to-head came into play in subjective rankings and put LSU at a disadvantage. Auburn would have the stronger argument had they not also lost to their chief SEC East rivals and had that team (Georgia) not been worse than Florida.

The answer Auburn people kept repeating about why it should be Auburn is head to head, but if that’s the primary way you decide between close teams (even if the game was early in the season), why is Ohio St. in the top 4 but not the team who beat them and then won their conference? Why is Florida St. in the Orange Bowl but not Louisville, who not only beat the Seminoles but blew them out? 63-20 is not similar to the difference of a foot or two or a second or two at the end of the game like the two relevant LSU games.

Louisville did lose two games late to fall into a “tie” (although they finished two games ahead of the FSU in the conference standings), but so did Auburn. At least in Florida St.’s case, they blew away the Cardinals in the BCS computer ratings.

To turn back to Washington vs. Penn St., one of the rewarding things about having my own objective mathematical system is when it validates my subjective opinion. I also like that I don’t have to do complicated mathematics like algorithms and least-squared regressions to get there. I’m not sure what any of those tell you about how good a football team is anyway.

Washington didn’t play a single team in my final top 10 and went only 2-1 against the top 25. Penn St. went 2-1 against the top 10, on the other hand. The Nittany Lions did lose to #25 Pitt, but I don’t think it’s really fair to eliminate them based upon that when Washington had one of the worst non-conference schedules in college football. The committee has sent a clear message that record counts for more than schedule and (in view of Ohio St. making the field, although I agree with that) for more than championship status.

Anyway, I think Penn St. did enough to overcome the additional loss; but it’s close enough that if Washington had played a slightly better schedule, the Huskies would have been fourth. So I firmly believe I got the formula right. There are teams (like LSU this year) who aren’t necessarily treated appropriately, but for me it’s always been about getting the top two to four teams right.

That said, it will be interesting to see Penn St. against USC. I hope Penn St. can put this behind them, but it wouldn’t the first time a team that was snubbed or fell just short didn’t really show up for the bowl game. Although the Trojans and Nittany Lions have five losses between them, neither has lost since September. Both teams played the best (other) team in their own division and the best team of the other division in that span. Penn St. also played one of the runners-up from other division.

Washington versus Michigan in that game might have been even better though.

LSU in the Citrus Bowl

Then-Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino pointed at the LSU sidelines in anger (apparently that LSU ran up the score in a 24-point win in 2011) in his previous game against the Tigers.  Petrino is 4-4 against SEC teams since.

Then-Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino pointed at the LSU sidelines in anger (apparently that LSU ran up the score in a 24-point win in 2011) in his previous game against the Tigers. Petrino is 4-4 against SEC teams since.

Also, I want to reiterate that I’m content with LSU’s selection. You have to be extremely lucky to lose four games and go to the Sugar Bowl, so I can’t be too upset there. Tennessee, Florida, and Texas A&M were penalized more for late losses, so at least we got better bowls than they did. I’m not thrilled with it being early in the day on New Year’s Eve, when I’m typically up until 3 or 4 in the morning. Hopefully I can take a long nap.

Also, our opponent will be another team with a legitimate gripe about being left out of a major bowl in Louisville. Financially speaking at least, the Citrus is the top non-CFP bowl, so that’s something else to be happy about. I’m not sure how much of that actually goes to the school, but with what Louisiana has been through lately, every little bit helps. I always enjoy Bobby Petrino though. He’s a guy most of the SEC loves to hate for multiple reasons, but he’s also a very good coach. We’ve seen LSU DC Dave Arranda give Lane Kiffin about all he could handle, so I’m excited to see how Arranda and our defense do in this game.

I’m less excited to see LSU try to produce on offense, but obviously Kentucky gave me some encouragement. There hasn’t really been time to make many adjustments on offense since the dismissal of Cam Cameron, but often bowl prep allows some flexibility in that area. It has helped LSU before even in years with relatively poor offenses, such as last year.

Other Changes

Another team that made significant progress was Oklahoma, who will be the other team in the Sugar Bowl. I mentioned 2003 earlier. Oklahoma was in the Sugar Bowl that year of course, and Nick Saban got the better of Bob Stoops, who repaid the favor against Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl 3 years ago. As a former New Orleans resident, welcome back to the Sooners and (other) Tigers. Oklahoma will play Auburn for the first time since the 1972 Sugar Bowl. This will be Auburn’s first Sugar Bowl in 12 years and only the second since 1989, so I guess that might have been a good reason to let them have this one.

West Virginia also made a significant stride even though beating Baylor wasn’t the best win, but it beat a loss or not playing at all.

Temple was also in the top 25 at this point last year before losing in the bowl game, but the Owls have another chance to finish in the final top 25 for the first time.

I’m not sure if Pitt has finished in my top 25 recently, but I don’t recall them doing so. Of course they were helped out by Penn St.’s win, but it was more about the losses by Navy and Virginia Tech.

Top 25

rank/team/prev
1 Alabama 1
2 Clemson 3
3 Ohio St. 2
4 Penn St. 6
5 Washington 5
6 W. Michigan 7
7 Michigan 4
8 Oklahoma 12
9 Wisconsin 8
10 Florida St. 10
11 Colorado 9
12 Boise St. 11
13 USC 13
14 West Virginia 21
15 S. Florida 14
16 Tennessee 16
17 Stanford 17
18 Okie St. 15
19 Louisville 20
20 Nebraska 19
21 Florida 18
22 Temple —
23 Houston 23
24 Auburn 22
25 Pittsburgh —

All 128 Teams

Out of rankings: (24) Virginia Tech, (25) Navy

CFP Response and SEC Wednesday #10

In Bowls, College Football, College Football Playoff, General LSU, History, Rankings Commentary, SEC Wednesdays on November 2, 2016 at 7:27 PM

A little later than I prefer, but I thought some Eastern Time sports fans may be up due to the baseball.

I honestly wasn’t surprised by anything in the CFP rankings, so that’s why I didn’t write a special blog last night. I do have something I wanted to rant a little bit about before getting to the SEC Wednesday blog though.

I was confident a team with a loss was going to be in the top 4. Obviously I had Ohio St. in the top 4, but A&M was a very close fifth. I guess they felt more comfortable with a loss to Alabama than a loss to Penn St. for obvious reasons.

Although I have them very high—and I’ve discussed why multiple times—I wasn’t expecting Western Michigan to be in the top 20, but I’m encouraged they were ranked at all since the CFP is notoriously skeptical of Group of Five teams.

I’m also encouraged WMU is the top Group of Five (G5) team.

I’m not sure what it will take for the committee to buy into the G5 teams more. Maybe it just needs to try harder to appoint people from G5 backgrounds. G5 teams have won a lot of games out of conference against major teams. They’ve done well in the major bowls in the past. I wanted to just give a list of the results. Pre-bowl records in parentheses:

2015 – Houston (12-1) 38, Florida St. (10-2) 24
2014 – Boise St. (11-2) 38, Arizona (10-3) 30
2013 – Central Florida (11-1) 52, Baylor (11-1) 42
2012 – Florida St. (11-2) 31, Northern Illinois (12-1) 10
2010 – TCU (12-0) 21, Wisconsin (11-1) 19
2009 – Boise St. (13-0) 17, TCU (12-0) 10
2008 – Utah (12-0) 31, Alabama (12-1) 17
2007 – Georgia (10-2) 41, Hawaii (12-0) 10
2006 – Boise St. (12-0) 43, Oklahoma (11-2) 42 (OT)

The G5 teams usually had one fewer loss than the opposition. I would point out that Northern Illinois and Hawaii had atrocious schedules and only got so high on account of their record.

It pre-dated this blog, but I can assure you I was a Hawaii detractor the whole year in 2007, and you may remember how I felt about Northern Illinois. I had the Huskies 17th (behind Florida St.) going into the bowls that year. I had stronger loss penalties than I do this year, so now they would be even lower. It’s not worth the trouble of searching, but I believe I said here that they weren’t really 17th-best.

I’d also like to mention that Northern Illinois went 1-1 against P5 teams in 2012, but the win was against Kansas, which finished 1-11. In 2007, Hawaii’s only game against a P5 opponent was a close win over a Washington team that also finished with a losing record.

This year, by contrast, it appears that both Western Michigan and Boise St. have defeated at least one eventual P5 bowl team apiece. Northwestern still has to win two games, but Purdue and Illinois only have two conference wins combined. The Wildcats also play un-ranked Minnesota, which has the same conference record (3-2) as they do. Western Michigan and Boise St. are both 2-0 against P5 opponents regardless.

SEC Wednesday

Last Week

The first three games got my hopes up before disappointing me.

Unfortunately, the Texas A&M defense allowed a touchdown after holding the other Aggies to 3 points over the first three quarters. This caused the closest New Mexico St. game against an SEC team other than Kentucky in several years.

Georgia hung tough for a half, but I was very surprised the Bulldogs were shut out by the Gators in the second half.

I knew when South Carolina scored in the fourth quarter, Tennessee most likely was not going to beat the spread, but I thought the Vols would come back to win until the very end.
Thankfully the reverse happened with Auburn, who trailed after every quarter but the fourth, which they won 13-0 to beat the spread.

I mentioned Kentucky earlier. The Wildcats are still not a great team, but they’re beating the spread every week. I don’t know what the bookies were thinking with Missouri.

Similar to last week, I was 5-1 in picking winners and 2-3 against the spread. (Mississippi St. won an FCS game against Samford.) This brings my records to 64-12 overall and 30-35-1 against the spread.

SEC WED

Next Week

Rather than wasting words, I’ll just let you know when I pick an upset win below.

I’m picking Georgia Southern to beat the spread of 27.5 against Ole Miss. It could be a blowout, but the Eagles took Georgia to overtime last year. Ole Miss beat a similar team in Memphis this year but only won by 20. Also this year, Georgia Southern’s only game against a P5 opponent was a 35-24 loss to Georgia Tech.

Despite falling short of the spread against New Mexico St., I think Texas A&M wins by at least 14 this week. The Aggies beat Auburn by 13 (on the road) and Arkansas by 21 (at a neutral site). The only thing that worries me is that the Aggies only won at South Carolina by 11. I’m put somewhat at ease by what I think is the most similar Mississippi St. game, which was when they hosted Auburn about a month ago and lost by 24.

Vanderbilt is a decent team that has fought admirably in the Commodores’ three conference losses so far, but they haven’t played an opponent as good as Auburn yet. If you can lose in Atlanta by 31, you can lose on the Plains by more than 26 (even). Also, I think Arkansas is better than Vanderbilt (albeit not by a whole lot), and I don’t need to recount what happened to them a couple of weeks ago.

Speaking of Arkansas, the Hogs host Florida, which is now on track to win the SEC East. The Gators even have a loss to spare. Arkansas should be fresh after a week off though, and Florida hasn’t performed that great on the road (loss to Tennessee by 10 and beat Vandy by 7). Gators by 3, which is less than the 5.5-point spread.

I think South Carolina is improving and Missouri is getting worse. If it were @Missouri, I’d think about it, but Gamecocks -7 all day long.

With Tennessee, I’ll just go with the win of course since there is no ESPN line for FCS games.

Georgia is favored by 2 over Kentucky. Although the Wildcats always seem to disappoint in the end, they’ve treated me well the past few games while picking Georgia has been a disaster most of the year. Kentucky to win.

Marcus Randall, not to be confused with JaMarcus Russell, may have engineered the "Bluegrass Miracle" in 2002 but could not even get the Tigers on the board against Alabama that year.

Marcus Randall, not to be confused with JaMarcus Russell, may have engineered the “Bluegrass Miracle” in 2002 but could not even get the Tigers on the board against Alabama that year.

Alabama is favored by almost an overtime-safe margin (very rare to win by 8 in OT), so I have to take LSU. The worst two LSU teams of the Miles tenure (2008 and 2014) both lost to the Tide in overtime at home. Other recent home games in the series for LSU were a loss by 4 in 2012 and a win by 3 in 2010. I really don’t think this will be the worst LSU does in the series at home since 2002.

I can’t countenance LSU losing to Alabama again, so I’ll tell myself it won’t happen this year even though the prudent pick is Alabama to win. The best argument I have is the gambler’s fallacy: LSU has to win a marginal game against Alabama at some point; and as I said, I don’t think this is the first team to lose by more than one possession at home to the Tide since 2002, which incidentally was Nick Saban’s worst team at LSU (8-5). I’ve plugged it a few times, but for more on the LSU-Alabama series, you know what to do.

Week 10 Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, College Football Playoff, General LSU, History, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 30, 2016 at 5:11 PM

Housekeeping

I haven’t been been doing my weekend blog with everything going on with the election. I don’t want to say anything about my political leanings here, although I would mention that since 1984 the LSU/Alabama game has corresponded with the party that won the presidential election. When a Republican won, LSU beat Alabama; and when a Democrat won, Alabama beat LSU. For more on the series see here and this is a list of other related blogs.

LSU-Alabama Rivalry since 2000.

LSU-Alabama Rivalry since 2000.

Anyway, my weekly schedule may change slightly if I have a reaction to the first College Football Playoff rankings, which will be released on Tuesday afternoon. If I post on Tuesday, I most likely will not post on Wednesday. One reason I’m posting today is so the blogs can be more spread-out.

Contrast with Other Rankings

I usually ignore the polls, but I think there are some important things to address with the losses that took place over the weekend.

Apparently, because some teams lost, Nebraska essentially gets a mulligan. The best team the Huskers have beaten is Wyoming, but they stay in the top 10 despite a loss. I can’t even take that seriously. LSU lost to Wisconsin by 2 points and fell 16 spots, but now losing a close game to Wisconsin is like losing to Alabama I guess despite the Badgers’ two losses.

Other than now-#22 (my #30) Oklahoma St., Baylor has beaten NO ONE and now has a loss to a Texas team that didn’t even get a single top 25 vote THIS WEEK. But the Bears stay 13th.

I understand Western Michigan being a lot lower than I have them because for me they’ll keep going down while for the polls (assuming wins) they’ll keep going up despite not having any tough opponents coming up, whereas the only way a team like Baylor, West Virginia, or Nebraska fails to get quality wins in the coming weeks is if they lose again and fall below Western Michigan anyway. Nebraska might have to lose twice though.

I’m hoping the college football rankings exercise some greater degree of sense, but I suspect they’ll give the three Power-5 teams I just mentioned the benefit of the doubt more than they deserve.

Discussion of My Rankings

I didn’t have the time and energy to look it up for my last rankings blog, but I wanted to mention that last week is the first time Colorado has been ranked in my top 25 since September 30, 2007. The Buffs finished that season 6-7 after losing to Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide in the Independence Bowl.

Colorado QB Cody Hawkins throws a pass in the upset of Oklahoma in September 2007.

Colorado QB Cody Hawkins throws a pass in the upset of Oklahoma in September 2007.

Due to the large number of losses, Colorado just barely remains in the top 25 this week despite the bye.

As I anticipated, Alabama remained #1 despite the Clemson win (while the Tide was idle). It also helped Bama that USC and Kent St. won.

Clemson had another close call, but being that the game was on the road, this does nothing to diminish how many points they get. I only lower the reward or penalty if the home team wins a close game (defined as overtime or within 3 points) since home field accords an advantage or about 3 points. The Tigers were just too far behind to surpass the Tide in one week.

Ohio St. won of course, but it also helped that Wisconsin (the Buckeyes’ best win) won. Texas A&M’s best win had been Tennessee, which lost. The Aggies also didn’t gain very much by beating New Mexico St.

Western Michigan fell two spots during the bye week, but this fall will probably continue as the Broncos will play the lower-rated MAC teams in the coming weeks.

Tennessee still has the best schedule, which is why they remain so high; and again, it also helps that so many other teams lost.

The Power-5 teams between 7 and 21 are well-positioned to move up into the top 5 or top 10 with quality wins. I don’t have some vendetta against the teams in that range, but some of them haven’t played the better teams in their respective conferences yet.

One example was Washington, who hadn’t really played anyone before this week. But they beat a good team this week, so they move up. Baylor lost to a mediocre team, so they remain un-ranked. The Bears still have chances for quality wins though.

Boise St. is another team that I expect will fall in the coming weeks since the Broncos do not play anyone better than #100 Hawaii until November 25.

Boise St. was upset by Wyoming, which as I mentioned played Nebraska earlier in the season. So this is one reason why the Huskers didn’t fall lower.

The conference standings tightened because Minnesota joined the top 40 while the number of SEC teams in the top 40 remained the same. Arkansas fell out as a result of its bye week, but Kentucky moved into the top 40.

South Carolina’s upset of Tennessee also hurt the SEC because it knocked the Vols out of the top 10 but did not add South Carolina to the top 40 (the Gamecocks are now #50). It may increase the number of bowl-eligible SEC teams when we get to that point though.

The ACC was hurt slightly by Clemson’s win over Florida St. since it knocked the Seminoles out of the top 25, while a loss may have put both in the top 10. Also, Wake Forest loss to Army, which took the Demon Deacons out of the top 40.

Top 25

rank/team/prev
1 Alabama 1
2 Clemson 2
3 Michigan 3
4 Ohio St. 8
5 Texas A&M 5
6 W. Michigan 4
7 Penn St. 10
8 Washington 17
9 Boise St. 6
10 Louisville 9
11 Tennessee 7
12 Wisconsin 18
13 Auburn 15
14 Nebraska 11
15 Houston 21
16 Virginia Tech —
17 Wash. St. 20
18 Florida 23
19 Oklahoma 19
20 South Florida —
21 West Virginia 13
22 N. Carolina 12
23 App. St. 25
24 Utah 14
25 Colorado 22

All 128 teams

Out of rankings: (16) Florida St., (24) Navy

Coaching Changes and SEC Wednesday #5

In College Football, General LSU, History, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on September 28, 2016 at 5:07 PM

This is going to be a little bit different from the other entries in this series of blogs. I really didn’t have enough time to reflect and gather information on Monday. I had work until fairly late that day and had not had much sleep over the weekend. I also don’t like to feature anything lengthy when I post my rankings.

I thought about maybe posting something on its own yesterday, but having posted blogs three days in a row, I didn’t want to do that either. I still have to write something tomorrow for my ratings site, so I needed the break. I won’t go into much detail, but the basic picks and recap for SEC Wednesday is at the bottom if you just want to get straight down to business.

With the housekeeping out of the way, I want to start by acknowledging all the well-wishes etc. that Les Miles and his family have received from fans and coaches throughout the SEC and college football as a whole.

I’m starting to get annoyed with Nick Saban trying to make me like him. A couple of weeks ago he tried to get in my good graces by yelling at Lane Kiffin. Then he had what seemed to be heartfelt remarks remembering his time at Kent St. and the shooting that took place there. Now he goes on for about a minute about Les Miles during his weekly press conference when they’re not playing LSU for over two months. He’s not normally someone who likes to go on about extrinsic information like that.

I know Saban is going to miss beating Les, but I also think Les is one of those guys that even Saban couldn’t help but like.

As an aside, apart from single comment in a forum, I haven’t heard anyone who met Miles say anything negative about the experience of meeting him or talking to him. Even if one assumes the story were true, I guess once in 12 years it’s allowable to momentarily not be in the mood to talk to a stranger.

I would disagree with Saban’s characterization of the decision that was made, but what he had to say about Les as a man and as a coach was fitting. There is some commonality with Georgia’s decision to fire Mark Richt at the end of last season, as Saban pointed out, but I think both Georgia then and LSU now were entering a kind of managed decline. I’ll get into that below.

I also wanted to share a fan tribute to Miles that was posted. I don’t know if I’m getting sentimental in my old age, so maybe it’s just me, but I dare LSU fans to watch these two videos without some kind of emotional reaction. The first link shows the Saban piece I mentioned, but several other coaches make contributions including Kirby Smart, Butch Jones (who never got to face Les), Mark Stoops, and Jim McElwain. These were coaches who happened to have been asked about it in their Monday press briefings. I particularly liked McElwain’s mention of the players and families.

http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=17645961

Gus Malzahn’s press conference wasn’t until yesterday, but he had good words to say as well. He said Les is a legend and one of the reasons the SEC is what it is today, and I agree. SEC defenses were getting spotty, traditional offenses had been eroded by those chasing Spurrier a few years before and were just about to be threatened by the emergence of the spread that Gus himself helped to pioneer. Of course the best offenses have elements of all of the above. I’m going to give the timestamp, so it won’t load the same way: https://youtu.be/QdqNqGKgKkk?t=15m28s

In the last year, the SEC lost all three coaches with longer tenures at their respective schools than Nick Saban has at Alabama.  It was fitting that Spurrier coached his last game against Miles last season.

In the last year, the SEC lost all three coaches with longer tenures at their respective schools than Nick Saban has at Alabama. It was fitting that Spurrier coached his last game against Miles last season.

Anyway, to get back to the decision, I first want to acknowledge again that Les Miles in my opinion is the best head coach of LSU in history.

There have been positive and negative trends at times. The first three years Les won 85% of his games. The Tigers went only 17-9 over the following two years, but then it was like nothing had ever happened. They went 44-9 (over 83% wins) over the following four years, improving Miles’ overall winning percentage to almost 80%. Had he stopped there, his tenure at LSU would have ended with a better winning percentage than his mentor Bo Schembechler had at Michigan.

Here is a list of the only notable major-college coaching tenures I can think of who did better with a comparable or greater number of games: Saban (Alabama), Carroll (USC), Switzer (Oklahoma), Parseghian (Notre Dame), Osborne (Nebraska), Devaney (Nebraska), Neyland (Tennessee), Wilkinson (Oklahoma), Bryant (Alabama), Spurrier (Florida), Tressel (Ohio St.). Urban Meyer hasn’t had a comparable tenure at one school, but of course combining Florida and Ohio St. puts him pretty high on that list. Pretty good company there.

There were a few other notable tenures who passed him up as his winning percentage decreased since then: Lou Holtz (Arkansas), Darrell Royal (Texas), and Mack Brown (Texas). Active head coach Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) is nearly 2 percentage points ahead of Miles, but it’s going in the wrong direction for him as well.

So despite a lot of young talent and despite an upset over Ole Miss and despite giving Alabama all they could handle, LSU went 8-5 the next year (2014). Combined with the 11-5 total between September 1, 2015, and now, that dropped Les to almost exactly 77%.

I’ve been thinking this was the year this group of LSU players would peak since two years ago, so I wasn’t that discouraged by the losses in 2014 and 2015 because we recovered when the same thing happened in 2008 and 2009.

I thought this year might have been like 2010 or even 2011. We would have recovered from the mediocre play of the previous two seasons and everything would have come together. I think those four games were enough to see that a similar resurgence just was not in the cards.

LSU had a spark around the second quarter of both the Jacksonville St. and Mississippi St. games, but with an experienced team like this, we would have run away with both of those games from beginning to end in past seasons. Either Wisconsin or Auburn might have been close, but I don’t think both games would have had to come down to the last minute, nor do I think we would have lost both.

I’ve defended Miles from people who wanted him gone for the last few years, but it just became clear that we were just going to get farther and farther away from that 80% mark I mentioned and the level of play (accounting for the normal ebbs and flows of experience that take place in college) was going to keep slipping.

That winning percentage was just going to keep going down. The same thing was happening to Georgia. I think Richt’s winning percentage would have continued to decline as well. He lost his job with just under a 74% total winning percentage, but that number was going down over the previous three seasons. In a couple more years without a change, I think Miles’ percentage probably would have fallen below Saban’s LSU winning percentage of exactly 75%.

Les Miles with TE Foster Moreau, who scored the only official touchdown of the game on Saturday.  (Moreau said he was not actually assigned a route on the play.)

Les Miles with TE Foster Moreau, who scored the only official touchdown of the game on Saturday. (Moreau said he was not actually assigned a route on the play.)

SEC Wednesday #5

Back to your regularly-scheduled programming…

Last Week

Alabama just had to get that extra touchdown. I could swear Lane Kiffin Is placing bets on the side. This has happened with Alabama a lot the past couple of years.

I was surprised by the Ole Miss margin of victory. I guess Saban was the driving force behind Kirby Smart.

I was also surprised how A&M pulled away.

Florida was way out ahead against the spread, but of course Tennessee had to score one too many times. It just turned out to be a big win weekend and I was expecting a series of close games. Why couldn’t this have happened with Auburn?

Well I thought South Carolina-Kentucky might be the magical bookie game, but I just couldn’t make a pick that didn’t make any sense to me.

I was right about Mississippi St. – UMass at least. The Minutemen are a little too good to lose by three touchdowns at home.

I saw final scores on the television or computer showing me that I picked the right team to win and the game was over! But they were both wrong somehow. At least I got the spread right in the Vandy game, but it’s another bad week in that category.

Missouri beat their FCS opponent as expected.

So given that I picked the wrong team to get credit for the last-second touchdown, I ended up with three losses straight-up, although the only genuine surprise for me was Kentucky.

Overall I fall to 36-8; against the spread I’m now 16-21.
SEC WED

 

Next Week

I’ll start with the easy one. If Arkansas can’t beat Alcorn St., they should just disband the football program.

Florida goes back to the state of Tennessee. I screwed up by taking the Gators with the points last time (but right winner), and I screwed up by not picking Vandy to win (but right on the point spread). On the other hand, neither team can be trusted week-to-week. Vandy can be mediocre at home after a win, and Florida has done really well with the lesser teams this year. Florida minus 10.

I don’t think ULM is a whole lot different from Arkansas St., so the Auburn offense should come back with a vengeance. I’ll take the War Eagle Plains Tigers -32.5.

I got burned by both Tennessee and Georgia against the spread last week. I don’t think Tennessee wins by 10 again, but 3.5 is too small to pick a team I don’t think will win, so the Vols -3.5.

I’m going to pick South Carolina and the points against A&M. I still think the Aggies will drop a couple, but they’ll be against the West. I just think South Carolina will keep it within 18.

If Lane Kiffin has Alabama throwing from the shotgun up 30, I’m not going to be happy; but I don’t think Alabama goes to Lexington and wins by 35 especially now that Kentucky has finally shown some fight.

Memphis made Ole Miss and people who pick the SEC look silly last year, but I don’t think the Rebels are resting easy this time, and they’ll be at home. The blue Tigers probably faced a tougher opponent in the spring game than they have since. I just think they’ll be out of their element. Ole Miss -14.5. 17 to 21 points seems about right.

My logic is similar with LSU-Missouri, but there is the added benefit that two touchdowns and two extra points would beat the spread. Missouri played Georgia to about the same level at home that Nicholls St. had between the hedges. SEC Network tried to sell me on the Mizzou offense based on the Tecmo Bowl performances against Eastern Michigan and Delaware St., but they only managed 11 points in Morgantown (3 points in the first 57:59 of the game). I think that’s the closest thing to a trip to Baton Rouge Mizzou has experienced this season.

If LSU is to be beaten it’s probably like they have been, one score in the teens against a slightly lower score in the teens. I haven’t seen any indication the black and gold Tigers can win a game like that.

If the most successful coach in program history getting canned isn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what is. Also, I’d bet Ed Orgeron is a hell of an alarm clock. I expect LSU to get a lead like they did in their last home game against Mississippi St., and then it will just be a question of keeping it.

Speaking of which, I had to post one more Les picture. This is him singing the Alma Mater for the last time in Tiger Stadium after Mississippi St.

lsu-football-6156_rs1

Week 2 SEC Preview and Other Key Games

In College Football, History, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on September 9, 2016 at 8:38 AM

I added a note to my rankings blog about why this was delayed until today. It’s partly because the playing week hasn’t started yet.

SEC WED

In my first round of SEC predictions, I only got two wrong in each category, with the spread and without. Florida St. and Alabama beat the spread, and obviously LSU and Mississippi St. lost. So the total is 9-2 against the spread and 11-2 overall (I picked the winners for the Thursday games but did not consider the spread).

ESPN doesn’t publish a spread for FCS opponents, and I skip those anyway. Obviously I pick LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M to win.

Florida only beat UMass by 17, and Kentucky usually makes it interesting against the Gators, so I’ll take the Wildcats and the 16.5 points but Florida to win.

I have a feeling Alabama will be high-energy for their home opener, so I would give the 28.5 points there.

Vandy-Middle Tennessee is a good line. I’ll pick Vandy to win but take the 5 points. They may win by a touchdown. They may win by 1 or even lose. I just think the five points roughly reverses the likelihood.

I think South Carolina was lucky to win, while Mississippi St. was very unlucky and has more potential. Another good line, but for this one I’ll give the 6.5 points and pick the home team.

Neither Arkansas nor TCU did very well in their opening games. I’ll give TCU the edge because it’s a home game for the Horned Frogs, but Arkansas could make it very close or win, so I’ll take the 7.5 points. I was tempted to pick the upset, but then I remembered what happened with Texas Tech. The Hogs may be repeating their pattern from last year.

If Auburn can give Clemson trouble the way they did, I see no reason they can’t put Arkansas St. away easily. So I’ll give the 19 points there.

I know Eastern Michigan is bad, but from the game they gave LSU last year and Missouri’s general ineptness the last 11 months, I’ll take the 25 points.

Tennessee will be motivated to redeem itself from Week 1 against Virginia Tech, but I think the setting will motivate both teams and Tennessee has some things to work out. 11.5 is just too many, so I’ll take the points.

Week 2 Preview

It’s sort of a poor man’s rivalry week, but I know it isn’t the most thrilling collection of games. A lot of these teams are not ranked and don’t deserve to be, but some of the teams might treasure obscure- or latent-rivalry wins when we get to bowl season. They are also games that matter with recruiting.

In addition to the Arkansas and Tennessee games, another interesting close interstate game is Washington St. and Boise St. Washington St. lost to Eastern Washington, a very good FCS team, but I wouldn’t count them out. Boise St. is trying to return to being the top Cinderella of the land on the blue field. Had the Cougars gone to Eastern Washington instead of hosting the Eagles, they would have played on a red field last week.

Will the formerly intimidating Smurf Turf return to its past glory?

Will the formerly intimidating Smurf Turf return to its past glory?

There are also some intra-state games to look forward to as well: BYU-Utah took place a couple of playing weeks ago, but it was surprisingly close and may be again. Pitt hasn’t played Penn St. in 16 years. That’s a big inter-conference game as well as a game for bragging rights. I don’t know why some of these games don’t take place more often.

There are some less compelling intrastate games, but they still might have close final scores. Games like New Mexico-New Mexico St. They are both usually terrible, and I have no contrary information, but football games can be like movies. There is a level of badness you get to where the entertainment value starts to improve.

One that may be lopsided is Iowa-Iowa St., but the Cyclones are good for one or two good games a year, and that game is often one of them. I wonder if they’ve given any thought to bringing Gene Chizik back. Speaking of which, North Carolina (where Chizik is an assistant now) travels to Champaign to play the Illini. It wasn’t close last year, but these things can turn on a dime. For instance, you might remember LSU losing in triple-overtime to Kentucky in 2007, but people forget that the year before LSU beat them 49-0.

Another compelling intra-state game is Cal-San Diego St. Sports Illustrated actually picked San Diego St. for the top 25, so that could be a good matchup in hindsight at the end of the year.

Texas Tech and Arizona St. dominated the old Border Conference.

Texas Tech and Arizona St. dominated the old Border Conference.

Finally, lest we forget, old Border Conference rivals Texas Tech and Arizona St. will square off in Tempe. They combined for 16 Border Conference championships. All other members of the Border Conference combined for only 11 championships (3 were shared). That conference disbanded during the Kennedy administration, but there you go. Another fun fact: Les Miles’ first win at LSU was against Arizona St., and as of right now his last win was over Texas Tech.

Week 1 Preview and SEC Outlook

In College Football, General LSU, History, Preview, Rankings, SEC Wednesdays on September 2, 2016 at 1:23 PM

SEC Wednesdays

SEC WED

Looking back at last year, I did not do a good job at picking against the spread in non-SEC games, so I’m not planning on including those in my totals. If I do really well with them early on, I may change my mind. I was already excluding FCS opponents from my spread games, so I’ll just have more even spread and non-spread categories this way.

I was too busy the last couple of nights to post anything. You’ll have to take my word that I picked South Carolina to win, but I didn’t even look up the point spread before the game, so I’ll score that as a non-spread game. You don’t really have to take my word on Tennessee-Appalachian St., because if I thought they would lose at home to Appalachian St., I certainly would not have ranked them so high.

They can expect to fall a few spots. However, you might remember Michigan’s loss to Appalachian St. in 2007. The Wolverines went on to finish in the top 20 in both polls after beating a very good Florida team in the CapitalOne Bowl. Make the Appalachian St. game a close win rather than a loss, and maybe they finish in the top 10. Also, I suspect Appalachian St. recruiting has improved a bit since that Michigan upset, so this is probably a much better team than the one Michigan faced. Let’s not forget that Appalachian St. won 11 games last season.

Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs fumbles in OT.  The ball was recovered for what turned out to be the winning TD.

Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs fumbles in OT. The ball was recovered for what turned out to be the winning TD.

Yes, it was a fluke that Tennessee got that winning touchdown, but the Volunteers had some bad luck too. A muffed punt set up the first Mountaineer touchdown, and Tennessee also had a drive deep into Mountaineer territory that ended in an interception. Take out either of those events, and the overtime touchdown probably wouldn’t have been necessary because there wouldn’t have been an overtime. Of course the Vols do need to improve in a hurry (including eliminating those key mistakes) to have a good season, but I don’t think their struggles were due to any talent deficit as compared to expectations.

Obviously today isn’t a Wednesday, but this will be a weird week anyway since all the games won’t be completed until Monday. I will have my rankings on Tuesday, god willing, and I like to have separate them by a day. So next time expect the big SEC post to be on Thursday, and afterward, I’ll plan to transition to Wednesday.

On to the predictions for upcoming games…

Wisconsin should test LSU’s 52-game non-conference regular-season winning streak. I would probably take the Badgers with the points though.

Arkansas to beat Louisiana Tech. Not much to say there, although I would probably take the points there as well.

Mississippi St. might struggle with South Alabama similar to Tennessee’s performance, but again I have to go with the SEC team at home. I would definitely take the 28 points though.

I won’t do that with Missouri-West Virginia though. The Tigers looked pretty bad at the end of last year despite the BYU win (they lost the rest of the final 7 games of the year). West Virginia hasn’t been abundantly consistent under Dana Holgorsen, but inconsistent is better than consistently weak. It’s a good line, but I think the chances are the ‘eers will beat it.

UCLA didn’t end last season particularly well. Neither did Texas A&M, but I’ll give the edge to the home team and pick the Aggies. Might as well give the three points.

Georgia will be playing a “neutral” game in the Georgia Dome, but the SEC team usually wins there even if they’re not from northern Georgia. Give the three points as well.

Kentucky beat ULL by a touchdown and needed overtime to beat Eastern Kentucky last year. USM had a six-game winning streak before they ran into Western Kentucky and Washington last year. Kentucky and USM have similar numbers of returning starters. I’ll pick the Golden Eagles. The bottom of the SEC will likely have a loss or two out of conference to someone, so this looks like one of the more likely ones.

Florida should cruise against UMass, but given their struggles with Florida Atlantic last year, who knows? I would not give that many points (36.5).

Alabama seems like an easy pick against USC, but it could be interesting. I picked the Trojans to do well the past two seasons, so maybe the fact that I didn’t this preseason means they’ll be good. I’d take the points there too.

Although Auburn had a disastrous 2012 campaign, the season-opening win for Clemson was huge.

Although Auburn had a disastrous 2012 campaign, the season-opening win for Clemson was huge.

I’ll predict another SEC loss on the Plains. Auburn has to be so much better than they were last year and Clemson has to be so much worse than they were last year in order for the home team to win this one, I just don’t see it happening.

Ole Miss has a good quarterback but not much returning support. I don’t see them knocking off the ’Noles either. Maybe take the points on those last two games though.

So in my preseason rankings, I didn’t show the ranking changes since last year. I’m going to do the adjusted rankings below as the prior rankings, but you can always check out my official un-adjusted ones here.

Ranking/team/prev./opponent
1 Alabama 1 – #15 USC (Arlington)
2 LSU 11 – #21 Wisconsin (Green Bay)
3 Florida St. 27 – #23 Ole Miss (Monday, Orlando)
4 Oklahoma 6 – @ #18 Houston
5 Clemson 2 – @Auburn
6 Michigan 13 – Hawaii
7 Okie St. 21 – SE Louisiana
8 Utah 10 – Beat Southern Utah, 24-0
9 Iowa 9 – Miami U.
10 Stanford 4 – Kansas St. (today)
11 Tennessee 26 – Beat Appalachian St., 20-13 in OT
12 Georgia 29 – #13 N. Carolina (Atlanta)
13 N. Carolina 24 – #12 Georgia (Atlanta)
14 Arkansas 25 – La. Tech
15 USC 28 – #1 Alabama (Arlington)
16 Wash. St. 30 -E. Washington
17 Miss. St. 20 – S. Alabama
18 Houston 7 – #4 Oklahoma
19 Florida 15 – UMass
20 Mich. St. 3 – Furman (today)
21 Wisconsin 32 – #2 LSU (Green Bay)
22 Oregon 22 – UC-Davis
23 Ole Miss 8 – #3 Florida St. (Monday, Orlando)
24 Ohio St. 5 – Bowling Green
25 TCU 14 – S. Dakota St.

Out of rankings: (12) W. Kentucky, (16) Northwestern, (17) Notre Dame, (18) Navy, (19) Toledo, (23) Baylor