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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

Updated NFL Relocation Proposals

In History, NFL, Realignment on January 30, 2016 at 7:33 PM

I don’t want to get right into it, because when you talk about this subject, it provokes a lot of gut reaction, so I’ll start with a little background.

Post-merger to 2002 Realignment

Beginning with the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, there was a division known as the NFC West that included the Los Angeles Rams, the San Francisco 49ers, the New Orleans Saints, and the Atlanta Falcons.

Apart from the Saints, these teams had been in the Coastal Division with the Baltimore Colts, who I suppose were theoretically potential rivals to the Falcons, while the Saints were supposed to be potential rivals to the Cowboys.

Anyway, that all got scrambled with the merger, but it was decided Saints-Falcons was a better rivalry, partly because they joined the league only a year apart. The Cowboys were also a fairly new team but had already accelerated into a top team with one of the best hires ever, Tom Landry.

Of course, logically, one team was in the central United States and another was in the East. I guess it would have been more correct to call it the NFC West and South, but that would have been too wordy.

These four teams remained in this division until 2001, although tin 1995 it got even more ridiculous as the Rams moved to St. Louis and the expansion Panthers were added.

The 2001 NFL divisional alignment with 6 divisions.

The 2001 NFL divisional alignment with 6 divisions.

In the 2002 realignment, the Rams and 49ers only retained one divisional opponent apiece, and the Cardinals and the Bucs retained none.

A couple notes on the last two. After playing in the AFC for its inaugural year, Tampa Bay had joined the NFC Central in 1977. Arizona had started in the NFC East when that franchise was in St. Louis, moving in 1988.

In 2002, the Seahawks changed conferences and of course didn’t retain any divisional opponents either.

In the AFC, the Titans and Jaguars retained only one divisional opponent apiece, and the Colts retained none.

Changes in 2002.  Same key as 2001 with the two new divisions noted.  The North in both conferences was exclusively comprised of former Central teams.

Changes in 2002. Same key as 2001 with the two new divisions noted. The North in both conferences was exclusively comprised of former Central teams.

The point of all of this is to disabuse people of the notion that new rivalries can’t be formed fairly quickly and that we should not place teams into logical divisions.

The Effect of the Rams and Relocation

My primary proposal last time had the Rams in kind of a mid-South division with the Titans, Panthers, and Chiefs, so of course that idea is now obsolete.

I had thought since there were exactly four West coast teams, it made sense to put them all together, but there is a problem with that in the TV markets since the 49ers and Raiders are in the same market.

So when you have more than four teams, I think it makes sense to respect the idea that there should only be one CBS team and one Fox team in a given market. I didn’t see any reporting about this, but I suspect TV might have been one of the factors many owners switched from the Raiders-Chargers proposal to the Rams one.

Had the Raiders-Chargers proposal gone through, there would have been about six weeks where one of the two would have had to play a night game because every other week, CBS is restricted to one game on Sunday during the day. (You can get it down to six given that each team has a bye week, the two teams would play each other twice, and both networks have a doubleheader in Week 17.)

Accordingly, I have one proposal for the Chargers staying in San Diego and another in the event they move to Los Angeles.

The West

I know it was ancient history to some younger fans; but before realignment (as indicated above), the Seahawks played in the AFC against the Raiders, Broncos, and Chiefs. I would preferably bring that back.

Why? The two closest locations to San Diego are going to be Inglewood, CA, and Glendale, AZ. I don’t agree with the idea that the Chargers shouldn’t be in a conference with either of those just because before 1970, they were in the AFL instead of the NFL.

Arizona also is in a situation that doesn’t make any sense, as can be seen on the current map.

I’ll admit that in recent years, the best intra-state rivalry in California has been the Raiders and the Chargers. However, a big reason for that is the large group of Raiders fans extending from the Bay Area to Southern California. I think the Rams moving and the Raiders staying (or perhaps moving to another state) will completely change that dynamic anyway.

If the Chargers move, I would just keep the current alignment as is. Besides, I think I have enough ideas that will challenge the status quo.

There could be an all-California division and everyone else if the Chargers move, but two reasons I don’t think that’s a good idea: (1) it would require two pairs of teams switching conferences, and (2) even if one shared market can be accommodated, two is probably pushing it.

So this is my proposal for the Western teams if either the teams stay put or it’s decided that to allow two Los Angeles teams in the same conference.

West 1

Messing with Texas

The Cowboys’ and Texans’ divisions don’t make a bit of sense, and I have no qualms about removing them from those divisions.

When the Houston Oilers still existed, they played the Steelers, Browns, and Bengals. The Texans playing the Jags, Colts, and Titans is better, but not that much better. It was really a collection of mismatches. The cities that were least appropriate for the central were removed, and the city that was least appropriate for the East was removed, and they were all put together.

The Colts are close to enough other teams that there is no reason to share a division with anyone south of Nashville for sure.

The Jaguars’ closest divisional opponent is 600 miles away even though 5 non-divisional teams are closer.

I get that Tennessee and Indianapolis worked because they were both kind of leftover mismatches and aren’t that far from one another, but the triangular divisional configuration is ridiculous.
As for the Cowboys, I have yet to see a real argument as to why that’s not a misfit that needs to be corrected. Why is it better than the Oilers in the AFC Central, the Falcons in the NFC West, the Cardinals in the NFC East, or the Bucs in the NFC Central? They were all used to it as well.

The NFL was correct in the late 1960s when it saw two teams in bordering states, the Cowboys and the Saints, and put them in the same division. Adding in a Houston team in somewhat comfortable driving distance or sub-60-minute flying distance from both only makes more sense. The Falcons would be a bit more removed, but Falcons-Saints was one thing the NFL got right in 1970. It would make no sense to undo it. Texas isn’t as close to Atlanta as Carolina of course, but it’s better than San Francisco, Los Angeles, or even St. Louis.

Given the Rams’ move back to Los Angeles, I can’t think of one alignment where I wouldn’t want this division.

Two Obvious Divisions

The first keeps together four teams that have been in the same division (which they shared with Tampa Bay years ago) since the merger: the NFC North (previously the NFC Central, or as Chris Berman calls it, the Norris Division), made up of Minnesota, Green Bay, Chicago, and Detroit.

The second one is the current NFC East minus the Cowboys. Their replacement is perfectly obvious on the map, the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore is about 40 miles from Washington and about 100 miles from Philadelphia. Philadelphia is less than 100 miles from New York. I don’t think you can get a more ideal division than that.

It would mean Baltimore changing from the AFC to the NFC, but Baltimore was never an AFL city. Apart from some overlap with Steelers fans in rural Maryland, I think Baltimore fans encounter would-be rival NFC East fans a bit more often as well. This would also make it so that the rural Maryland/Northern West Virginia/Southern Pennsylvania/inland Northern Virginia area could have the Ravens on one network and the Steelers on another.

The More Traditional Approach

I used a different color scheme for these.

I used a different color scheme for these.

Obviously, the most traditional thing to do would be to leave everything the way it is, but one of the things I’m not in favor of is radical realignment. This would be blowing up all the existing divisions and conferences as if they never existed. When I talked about the western teams, I even talked about trying to limit the number of teams who change conferences.

I call it radical realignment because that was the name for the proposals in baseball after the strike when it was suggested that teams like the Mets and Yankees should be in the same league and no attention be paid to which franchises were traditionally in which league.

But anyway, I’ve said how I feel about the 8 western teams, the 4 teams of the current NFC North, the 4 teams of my proposed NFC South, and the 4 teams of my proposed NFC East.

I have mixed feelings about the other. The more traditional approach would start by leaving the current AFC East (Buffalo, New England, Jets, Miami) in tact.

That leaves Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Carolina, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay. I would just make the teams north of the Ohio River the AFC North and those to the south the AFC South.

The More Geographic Approach

East 2

You can figure out which one of the AFC East is not like the others. Miami isn’t so close to New York, and it’s even farther from Buffalo and New England.

So why not start by putting all the Florida teams into one division instead? None of them currently have rivalries that make sense anyway.

But they need another team. While the Falcons would be ideal, I’ve put them in the NFC South already to keep their rivalry with the Saints.

The Panthers are the logical choice here. They would maintain their series with the Bucs, but it would add a team in between in Jacksonville. I know the Jags haven’t had a good season in a while, but it could evolve into something like the Saints-Falcons rivalry with two franchises of a similar age in the same general part of the football landscape. This arrangement would have the added bonus of making it so the Florida television map doesn’t look like a Jackson Pollock painting (see below).

florida pollock

This would require the AFC East to add a fourth team, and the remaining team closest to the coast is the Steelers, who seemingly could develop a natural rivalry with Buffalo and already have had a competitive rivalry with the Patriots, although not in the same division of course.

This would leave sort of a Ohio River division centered around Cincinnati, with the Titans to the South, the Browns to the Northeast, and the Colts to the Northwest.

Appendix

I’m done. I just wanted to post some television maps of Florida from last season if you didn’t get my Pollock remark and picture. They’re not even consistent. Sometimes West Palm Beach goes with Miami, sometimes it goes with the panhandle or the rest of the country. Sometimes Ft. Myers goes with Tampa, sometimes it goes with Miami.

florida tv 2

florida tv 3

florida tv 4

florida tv 5

florida tv 6

florida tv

Week 11 Rankings and Comments

In General LSU, History, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 15, 2015 at 3:05 PM

I don’t have very extensive top 25 comments. Here is the full 1-128 list.

I updated the LSU-Arkansas blog. This was the Razorbacks’ third win in Baton Rouge ever. I don’t have much to say about it, but I’ll comment briefly in my SEC Wednesday entry.

Alabama allowed some yards by the Bulldogs but held them to just six points.

Alabama allowed some yards by the Bulldogs but held them to just six points.

Alabama switched places with Clemson, and Notre Dame switched places with Ohio St. These were just due to quality of opponents for the week.

Ohio St. will stay ahead with wins since the Irish play Boston College next. Alabama and Clemson will probably stay really close to one another since they have similar opposition in the next two weeks.

Oklahoma St. could also leapfrog some teams with wins over Baylor and Oklahoma. Michigan St. could move up with wins over Ohio St., Penn St., and the Big Ten West champions (most likely Iowa).

Even though Utah is ahead, Stanford is the best-positioned Pac-12 team; but it doesn’t look like anyone in the conference will reach the top four regardless.

It still appears that the top G5 team will be the winner of the AAC (American), although the winner of the Toledo-Bowling Green game may have an argument if that team wins the MAC.

Rank Team Previous

1 Alabama 2
2 Clemson 1
3 Iowa 3
4 Ohio St. 5
5 Notre Dame 4
6 Florida 8
7 Okie St. 6
8 Mich. St. 10
9 Houston 16
10 Oklahoma 15
11 Utah 7
12 Navy 18
13 N’western 13
14 LSU 9
15 Stanford 11
16 TCU 14
17 Memphis 12
18 N. Carolina 22
19 Michigan 19
20 Toledo —
21 Baylor 17
22 Ole Miss —
23 Bowl Green —
bowlgrn
24 USC —
25 Wisconsin 24

Out of rankings: (20) Temple, (21) Miss. St., (23) BYU, (25) UCLA

Here are the previous rankings blogs:

Preseason

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

History of Undefeated LSU vs. Alabama

In College Football, General LSU, History, Preview, Rivalry on October 30, 2015 at 2:57 PM

You can see the main entry of the LSU-Alabama rivalry here.

Alabama has beaten LSU 49 times with only 25 losses but has only beaten the Tigers twice at home this century.

I’ll just start by giving the list. I’ll fill in the blanks below. I’m excluding the times they played in the first few games. I’m including the couple of times LSU was undefeated in conference but not overall. The games at Alabama before 1988 were actually played in Birmingham.

1964 – @Alabama 17, LSU 9
1970* (undefeated in conference, not overall) – LSU 14, @Alabama 9
1972 – @Alabama 35, LSU 21
1973 – Alabama, 21, LSU 7
1982 – LSU 20, @Alabama 10
1984* (undefeated in conference, not overall) -LSU 16, @Alabama 14
1987* – Alabama 22, @LSU 10
2011* – LSU 9, @Alabama 6, ot
Jan. ’12* – Alabama 21, LSU 0

* = games when LSU had a higher ranking

Tenures of Coaches for Reference:
Bear Bryant 1958-82
Ray Perkins 1983-86
Bill Curry 1987-89
Nick Saban 2007-
Charles McClendon 1962-79
Jerry Stovall 1980-83
Bill Arnsparger 1984-86
Mike Archer 1987-90
Les Miles 2005-

Other Years Since 1958 with LSU Undefeated at the End of October:
1958 – stayed undefeated; national champions
1959 – lost to Tennessee by 1 in first week of November; lost Sugar Bowl
1962 – lost to Ole Miss by 8 in first week of November; won Sugar Bowl
1969 – lost to Ole Miss by 3 in first week of November; no bowl

Background

From talking to older fans, one might think LSU went undefeated several years in a row in the 60s and 70s only to lose to Alabama. That’s not what happened obviously, but I’ll try to explain why people think that.

I’m not going to get into detailed particulars of any games, just focus on the big picture of the seasons that are at least relevant to the time period.

A few years after LSU won its first recognized national championship in the poll era (and only before 2003), head coach Paul Dietzel left for Army. Hard to believe now, but Dietzel’s only coached three games against Alabama was in 7 seasons. He won all three.

Dietzel only coached against Bear Bryant in Bryant’s first game as head coach with Alabama. LSU won in Mobile, 13-3, actually not a bad result for the Tide being that this was the year of that LSU national championship I mentioned. Bama went 5-4-1 for its first winning season in five years

For the 18 seasons after Dietzel, Charles McClendon coached the Tigers. He’s still the winningest coach in LSU history, but he lacked any poll national championships and only won a single SEC title.

LSU had a number of good years, but shortly after Dietzel left and Alabama started to do well, LSU started playing Alabama every year. McClendon wasn’t winless against the Tide, but there was frequently a November hiccup against someone. I’ll cover the more interesting seasons.

There were a number of times in the late 60s and early 70s where ole miss was a big issue as well. LSU typically played the two in consecutive weeks, so this made it especially troublesome. See the Ole Miss blog for more, especially 1968 to 1972.

In 1962, LSU didn’t even play Alabama, but the Tigers did suffer their first loss in early November. That year it was Ole Miss. I wonder if people mix up Johnny Vaught (who also liked to wear suits and a hat and whose name is also on his team’s stadium now) with the Bear. Despite the loss, LSU is considered co-national champions by the Berryman system. Obviously I’m not counting that one as a major poll.

McClendon vs. Bryant

In 1964, Alabama derailed an LSU undefeated streak to start the season for the first time. The Tigers had tied Tennessee earlier though and would also lose to Florida before winning the Sugar Bowl over Syracuse. Alabama won the SEC but opted to play in the orange bowl instead.

LSU would also lose to Alabama the next four seasons but had lost at least twice before all four years.

1969 was much like 1962. LSU won every game until the first game of November against Ole Miss. Except this time the Tigers played and beat Alabama, the first win over the tide in 11 years.

The Tigers hoped to play in the cotton bowl for a potential claim on the national championship and refused all other invites. Instead notre dame decided at the last minute it wanted to go to a bowl game. So after one of the best LSU seasons in the last 50 years, the Tigers didn’t go to a bowl game at all.

LSU technically did not share the SEC championship since the Tigers only played five SEC games that season. This was shortly after Tulane left the SEC, and their spot remained on LSU’s schedule. SEC champion Tennessee had a blowout loss to Ole Miss, so they were apparently not considered title contenders.

LSU was not undefeated the next year against Alabama either, but they went (and stayed) undefeated in conference for McClendon’s only SEC championship. LSU had two non-conference losses though and also lost in the Orange Bowl.

In 1971, LSU lost early out of conference and lost to both Ole Miss and Alabama.

McClendon stayed at LSU until 1979, but in hindsight his last real chances to do anything were 1972 and 1973. This is why Alabama is usually brought up within seconds of his name being spoken among older LSU fans.

In 1972, LSU won in controversial fashion over Ole Miss 17-16 the previous week to remain undefeated. There were no heroics in Birmingham though, as #2 Alabama prevailed by 14. The Tigers would lose a bowl game to Tennessee to finish 9-2-1.

In 1973, LSU navigated all the non-conference traps including then-#10 Colorado but had only really been challenged in conference by Kentucky, with the Tigers winning by 7. Same result though. #2 Alabama again won by exactly two touchdowns.

LSU was apparently so disappointed that the next game they lost to Tulane for the first time since 1948. The Tigers would also lose the Orange bowl against Penn St. to finish 9-3.

McClendon would not beat Alabama again. Although his last team in 1979 was shut out, it held the #1 Tide to just a field goal.  There was some wind-driven dew causing inclement weather on the field though.

The 1980s

After McClendon, LSU hired Bo Rein, who tragically died in a plane crash before getting to coach the team. The Tigers turned to a loyal former player named Jerry Stovall, but he was an inconsistent coach.

So when the Tigers had the only really good start of his tenure (6-0-1), they went to #8 Alabama and won. Some may have thought happy days were in Baton Rouge again, but this feeling would be short-lived.

LSU would win a total of three games against top-10 teams that season (also Florida and Florida St.) but would lose to unranked Mississippi St. and Tulane (his second loss to them in a row) before losing in the Orange Bowl to Nebraska. The tie also came against an unranked team, Tennessee. Georgia, who LSU had not played, won the SEC.

After the Tigers went winless in the SEC the following year, defensive innovator Bill Arnsparger was at the helm in 1984. LSU once again beat Alabama in Birmingham but couldn’t win at Mississippi St. No more losses to Tulane to this day, but LSU did lose another Orange Bowl to finish 8-3-1. Florida, the team who tied LSU, would win the SEC, although the title was later vacated.

LSU lost early in Arnsparger’s other two seasons but tied Alabama in 1985 and beat them again in 1986. The ’86 win was the third road win in a row over the tide.

Between that 1969 season mentioned and Nick Saban’s first season in 2000 (in which LSU curiously lost to Alabama-Birmingham but beat the Tuscaloosa version), LSU did not beat Alabama at home even once.

In 1987, Arnsparger’s assistant Mike Archer took over. LSU was undefeated and untied in conference but had tied Ohio St. out of conference. Alabama won somewhat easily, 22-10, the Tigers’ only loss of the year. LSU finished 10-1-1 after winning the Gator Bowl.

Archer managed to win the SEC despite three non-conference losses the following year but couldn’t do much beyond that in the two losing seasons that followed.

The recent rivalry

Apart from those two games at the end of the list above, there isn’t much by way of undefeated LSU teams to talk about, but I thought I’d still tie up loose ends.

LSU only managed two winning seasons from 1989 to 1999. The longest LSU winning streak to start the season in that time was four games in 1996, so that didn’t come close to the Alabama game, but the Tide won 26-0 anyway. 1996 was one of only two 10-win LSU teams from 1962 to 2000.

The game has been in the first 16 days of November every year since 1982, so that limits the undefeated possibilities. Of course there are several examples of undefeated Alabama against LSU, and LSU has actually won a few of those in the last 20 years or so. That’s just obviously not the situation this year.

The intensity in the rivalry, despite a very entertaining overtime game in 2005, didn’t return to its prior levels until Saban took over in 2007. Although LSU won the national championship that year, the Tigers had lost to Kentucky in triple OT two games before the Alabama game.

Further evidence of the recent intensity is bye weeks. LSU had a bye before Alabama in 2007 and has had one from 2010 to at least 2016. Alabama has also typically had a bye before the LSU games. Their recent pre-LSU byes have been 2007, 2009-11, and 2013-2016 (and probably continuing afterward). Alabama won on the infamous screen pass in 2012 anyway.

2011 wasn’t that long ago, but that’s of course covered in my main rivalry entry.

Just as a side note, that weekend in 2011 was also one of the best of the history of this blog on WordPress and actually was the best full stop until last season when I got big boosts around the time of both Mississippi St. and Ole Miss.

Trojan Horse of Misinformation

In Bowls, College Football, History, NFL on October 23, 2015 at 2:43 PM

I watched the “30 for 30” about the USC “dynasty”.  They won a lot of games in a row, but that’s not my definition of a dynasty.  Overall, it wasn’t bad, but there were so many misleading or outright false things in there.  That detracts from the quality and entertainment value.

The first thing was the comparison between Paul Hackett and Pete Carroll.  I wasn’t in the L.A. area at the time, so I don’t know know what the conventional wisdom was around here, but it just doesn’t match reality.  Hackett’s previous head coaching job was with the Pittsburgh PANTHERS (not in the NFL like the documentary said).  How is that like the New England Patriots at all?  Hackett’s previous job was in the NFL, but offensive coordinator isn’t the same thing.

The Chiefs did make the playoffs all but one year while Hackett was there, but after his first season, they failed to win any playoff games under head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

The Jets never gave Carroll a chance and have been a poorly run organization for a long time, so I don’t blame him for their 6-10 mark in the one season he was there.  Jimmy Johnson went 1-15 his first season with the Cowboys.  Speaking of the Cowboys, Tom Landry went 0-11-1 in his first season there.  It’s ridiculous to judge anything based on a head coach’s first year with no chance to follow up (Carroll didn’t do much better his first couple of years in Seattle either), so I’ll focus on his time in New England.

Carroll coached the Patriots for three seasons and made the playoffs twice with an overall record of 28-23.  He followed Bill Parcells, who had coached there for four seasons and also made the playoffs twice, going exactly .500 in his time there.

I really don’t understand the view that Carroll was a failed NFL coach who was going to do poorly at USC; and as someone who followed the NFL closely in the 1990s, I did not have that expectation at all.  I’m not saying I thought USC was going to be one of the top four teams seven years in a row though.  I don’t think anyone could have reasonably expected that.

We can also contrast Carroll’s prior NFL record with that of Bill Belichik, who coached a total of five seasons in the 1990s and only made the playoffs once with a total record with the Browns of 37-45.

Next, they acted like USC looked so bad in early 2002 to for losing to Washington St.  You have to hear the way they say it.  The tone suggested they had lost to a Cougar team from 2008-2010.  The loss was in overtime in Pullman, and Wazzu had won 10 games the season before and went on to win 10 games again that season before losing in the Rose Bowl.

Washington St. completes a long pass against USC in October 2002. The Trojans won 46 of their next 47 games after this loss.

Then they acted like the win at Auburn in 2003 was a monumental victory, calling them “one of the best teams in the country”.  The Tigers went 9-4 in 2002 and would finish 8-5 in 2003, infamously resulting in Tommy Tuberville nearly being replaced by Bobby Petrino.

The documentary ignored the Trojans’ last loss before the streak, which was in Berkeley against a similar team.   Winning 34 in a row and 45 of 46 doesn’t really need to be embellished, does it? So why completely ignore the one loss in those 46 games?

Cal’s Tyler Fredrickson kicks the winning field goal in overtime against USC in 2003.

I guess it was to avoid mentioning the three-team race at the end of that year.  No mention was made of the fact that Oklahoma was the unanimous #1 going into the conference championships (which of course the Pac-10 didn’t have) or that the Trojans finished third in the BCS standings behind the eventual winners of the BCS LSU.

I did note that at one point Matt Leinart used the singular when referring to the USC national championship, although the narrator repeatedly talked about how the Trojans were a minute away from winning a third in a row.  USC did beat Michigan at the end of that year, but when the team you’re playing is just playing for a nice bowl win, that’s not the same as actually playing a team who’s also trying to win a national championship.

The famous “Bush push” to win against Notre Dame.

Apart from the last-second controversial win over Notre Dame, the documentary also acted like USC was untouchable in 2005.  A lot of mention was made of how many yards the Trojans (Reggie Bush in particular) put up against Fresno St. in the second-to-last game of the regular season, but somehow the fact that they gave up 42 points and only beat the Bulldogs by 8 wasn’t mentioned at all.  You would have guessed from the information provided that USC won by several touchdowns.

The point being that there were some cracks in the façade.  USC was not seen as unbeatable by any sports fan I remember talking to that year, and I talked to a lot more people about sports back then.  They were in 2004 by some but not in 2005.  It was similar to the difference between the perception of the 2013 Florida St. team and the 2014 edition.  They were still expected to win every game during the regular season, but they weren’t seen as invincible.

I remember going to Louisiana for Christmas in 2005 and people asked me how close USC would make it, implying Texas was going to win and the only question was the margin.  Of course, I insisted USC was in fact a very good team even though I picked Texas myself.

Vince Young scores the winning touchdown against USC, ending the Trojan’s 34-game winning streak and giving Texas its only national championship since 1970.

I know that’s an indication of regional bias, but there were people in other areas who saw USC as vulnerable.  Based on the Notre Dame performance, there were also some Midwesterners (and Notre Dame fans from other regions) who saw the same thing.

Anyway, I had a lot of respect for Pete Carroll even going back to the Patriots and I still do.  I wanted him to lose once USC became a prominent team in 2003, but when I cheered for other teams to beat him I knew they were facing a prepared and formidable opponent.  It just bothers me not to correctly characterize what actually went on, and not just trying to bolster a simplistic cardinal-and-gold-tinted recollection of events.

I’m not even saying this as a USC detractor.  Why not give Carroll some credit for not being a bad coach (though I guess you could say he was mediocre) in the NFL?  Why not give the 2002 team credit for only losing a couple of early games to good teams (the other was to Kansas St., who would finish 11-2) and then finishing strong?  According to Jeff Sagarin, that was the best team in the country that year despite the losses.  I thought they at least had the best second half of the season.

I understand you can always highlight some things and not other things to tell the story a certain way, but don’t pick a game that’s a bad example of what you’re talking about and distort what happened and who the other team was.

One thing I was glad they didn’t do was mention whether Vince Young’s knee was down in the second quarter.  I think the ball was already coming loose from his hands when the knee touched (if we were evaluating a fumble rather than a lateral, I don’t think it would even be very controversial); but even if he were down, he already had a first down on the play.  Texas would have had first and goal at the 10.  The game was decided by who did (or didn’t do) what in the fourth quarter, not by that call.

I just think getting it right is more important than telling a dramatized story, which was compelling enough on its own in reality.