theknightswhosay

Archive for the ‘SEC Wednesdays’ Category

“Best Conference” Arguments & Final “SEC Wednesday” of 2016

In College Football, Conference Reports, SEC Wednesdays on December 1, 2016 at 7:59 PM

I did take a few paragraphs out of this, so it’s less thorough than it could have been, but it was too long.

sec football

I’ve seen a lot of nonsense about the SEC having an off year even from SEC fans lately. Maybe the SEC has had more dominant years, but there really isn’t any legitimate doubt about the SEC still being the top conference top to bottom.

As has been the case for probably more years than I’ve been keeping track, the SEC is the consensus number 1 in computers top to bottom.

big10_logo_detail

SEC vs. Big Ten

Why are people forgetting that the SEC still has the best overall record? Now I know if you exclude FCS games, the Big Ten has the best record, but I think it matters that the Big Ten lost two games to FCS opponents. I’m not talking about bottom-of-the-barrel teams either. Iowa finished 6-3 in conference, and Northwestern finished 5-4 in conference.

The media talks about how there is only one SEC team in the top 10. That’s true, but why is that? Records. Why are the records the way they are? (1) Opponents like Wisconsin, Clemson, and Florida St., and (2) other SEC teams.
There are a couple of losses that weren’t too pretty by teams who finished .500 and below in the SEC, but that’s not why LSU, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, and Texas A&M aren’t a game or two better and in or nearer to the top 10 as a result.

Apart from the few teams from other conferences I mentioned, the reason for that is simply that if any of that group played one another, both teams had a reasonable chance to win and it evened out over the course of the year. If Alabama does as expected and wins Saturday, all five other teams will go into the bowls with exactly 4 losses. That doesn’t mean the SEC is having a down year, that means Alabama is beating everyone and no one is making a particularly strong claim on second-best in the conference.

I’m going to compare the SEC teams to the Big Ten, just because the Big Ten happens to be the conference were their wins and losses ended up placing four teams in the top 10. It could have happened just as easily in the Pac-12 or ACC.

There is a group of teams of relative parity in the Big Ten as well, but that group is right at the top of the Big Ten. That’s the main reason why the Big Ten has four teams in the top 10. The highest group just isn’t very vulnerable to losing to anyone lower (the only in-conference exception was Iowa over Michigan).

Another thing that helped is big wins were by this top group instead of lower teams. On the other hand, three of the four best SEC wins were by teams that finished 4-4 in conference (Kentucky over Louisville, Tennessee over Virginia Tech, and Georgia over North Carolina).

Imagine the following. LSU beat Alabama and Florida, Tennessee beat Texas A&M, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, and Auburn beat Georgia and Texas A&M. Without changing out of conference results at all, the result is two one-loss teams (Alabama and Tennessee) and two two-loss teams (Auburn and LSU). All four would easily be in the top 10.

We didn’t change how good the SEC was, we just made the lower SEC teams worse and the second-tier (the group below Alabama) better with the exception of Florida. If we add in a couple of Florida conference wins (Arkansas and Tennessee), maybe we could get 5 SEC teams in the top 10. Would anyone say the SEC was having an off year then? Probably not. At least not anyone who doesn’t claim that every year. But the perception of the SEC is ironically hurt by the middle and lower teams being better. It’s nice to have a relatively easy opponent at some point in conference play, but that didn’t really happen.

There was one 2-6 team per SEC division, Missouri and Ole Miss. Missouri beat two bowl-eligible teams, and Ole Miss beat three. There were no 1-7 or 0-8 teams. There were 3 teams in the Big Ten who finished with one conference win or fewer, and those teams had one more chance to pick up a conference win than the SEC teams did. The lone 2-7 team (Illinois) didn’t beat anyone bowl-eligible; the Illini’s only FBS wins were over teams that finished below them in the Big Ten. So all Big Ten teams were guaranteed to have two less-dangerous conference games than anyone in the SEC faced in conference all year. Most had three such games (although Ohio St. to its credit wasn’t one of them).

ACC

SEC vs. ACC

There is one other conference argument I’ll address and that’s, “You just went 1-3 against the ACC [in the final weekend].” Let’s look at that another way.

I’m going to take out the names of teams and just put a list of the records. These are games over the course of the year. I just listed them in order of ACC record.

4-4 SEC beat 7-1 ACC
7-1 ACC beat 3-5 SEC
7-1 ACC beat 5-3 SEC
4-4 SEC beat 6-2 ACC
4-4 SEC beat 5-3 ACC
5-3 ACC beat 6-2 SEC
5-3 ACC beat 2-6 SEC
4-4 ACC beat 4-4 SEC

So the SEC won three games in which the SEC team had the worse conference record, while the ACC only won one game in which the ACC team had the worse conference record. Also, all of these games but two (7-1 ACC vs. 5-3 and 5-3 ACC vs. 2-6) were played by teams in the SEC East, the lesser SEC division. Five of the eight games were played by the top three teams of the ACC Atlantic, the better ACC division.

SEC WED

“SEC Wednesday”

I’ll keep the SEC Wednesday relatively short this time.

I guess I’ll finally give up and take Alabama -24, which probably will make the game close. It seems like Florida is fading. Judging by their games against LSU, it should be a nail-biter, but that’s not how it works. LSU played much worse against Florida, at least for the last 2 ½ quarters. For one analogy, I’m sure Arkansas thought LSU (who beat them by 28) was much better than Florida (whom they beat by 21).

Anyway, Florida seemed to fade toward the end of the last few games (they almost let LSU win after all), and Alabama always seems ready to get that one more score to beat the spread at the end. Alabama just beat a much-improved Auburn team by more than they beat them last year. So it might be Alabama by 14 at the half and they end up winning by 27 or something with a late touchdown or field goal.

Well, that’s it for predictions in this season. Bowl games have too many variables for me to include. I’ve made good bowl predictions in the past, but I’ve also made really bad ones. It’s like flipping a coin.

There might be a lot of this Saturday.

There might be a lot of this Saturday.

So a team favored by 7.5 (Vanderbilt) pulled an upset (over Tennessee), but I picked the wrong one (I picked Florida. Unfortunately, the wrong team scored meaningless points right at the end in multiple games (Florida St., LSU, and Alabama, for instance), which hurt me in the spread. I did not pick the 26.5-point underdog who won (Kentucky), but I did caution it could come down to the end. I did take the points in both upsets though. Too bad I couldn’t use the excess.

Georgia was in great shape up 13 late, but then they lost by 1.

I was wrong about LSU against the spread again. Maybe I should pick the other team more often so LSU plays well more consistently.

The Missouri team who beat Vanderbilt showed back up again against Arkansas, but I admit I didn’t see that coming. That was one reason I didn’t pick Vanderbilt to beat Tennessee. It’s like these teams try to screw with me.

South Carolina didn’t really show up at all, so that was another game that was completely uncharacteristic of the rest of the season. Same with Mississippi St. but for the opposite reason.

I think my readers can add one to either side of these after this weekend, so almost-final records: 85-26 and 42-52-1 against the spread.

SEC Wednesday #13: Thanksgiving Edition

In College Football, General LSU, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on November 24, 2016 at 4:01 PM

Last Week

I haven’t been right about an LSU line since Missouri. I justifiably felt really good when LSU had a great chance to go up 11 midway through the second quarter, but the second touchdown never came. It’s baffling to me that LSU scored almost 40 against Arkansas on the road but only scored 10 against a decimated Florida team at home the very next week.

I’ll talk about Texas A&M more below of course, but feel free to check out my LSU/A&M Rivalry blog. Despite the offensive deficiencies, LSU has not allowed more than 21 points all season, and A&M has not scored that many against LSU since the Aggies joined the SEC.

But the good news is I got every other FBS game right against the spread last week. The only other winner I got wrong was Vanderbilt. That was also kind of bizarre that Ole Miss scored 23 points in the fourth quarter against Texas A&M but only came up with 17 all game against Vanderbilt (including 7 after the game was out of reach). Even worse than that, they made Vandy’s offense look terrific. It could have been ugly had the Commodores not let off the gas after three quarters. I knew Vandy would run better, but I was surprised by almost twice as many yards per pass.

Vanderbilt's Ralph Webb ran for three touchdowns against Ole Miss and is only 27 yards short of the school career rushing record.

Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb ran for three touchdowns against Ole Miss and is only 27 yards short of the school career rushing record.

I pretty much nailed everything else. There was no reason to believe Georgia would win by over 20 or A&M would win by almost 30. Tennessee cleared the spread by 10, which was about as expected. It makes sense to beat Kentucky by 13 and Missouri by 26 in consecutive games. I don’t know why the gamblers have over-valued the Tigers in all but one game in the last two months.

I really was not seeing Mississippi St. beating Arkansas under any circumstances (not that that’s a guarantee), but I was a bit surprised neither defense showed up. 100 combined points in an SEC FOOTBALL game? Were the quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Cam Newton?

It’s usually pretty easy to pick the SEC team to beat FCS opponents. There were no real scares, although South Carolina winning by 13 (against a team that is winless on the road) is nothing to write home about.

I didn’t provide an updated total last week (probably a result of subconscious embarrassment), but my records improve to 82-20 and 40-45-1 against the spread.

SEC WED

Next Week

As is my custom, I am looking at the line on Wednesday even though this is published on Thursday.

I’ll take A&M +7.5. Maybe the LSU team that went to Arkansas shows back up and we win by 28, but last week we looked like we would struggle to win a rematch with Missouri by 7.5 or more. Ed Orgeron’s only road loss as an interim coach was @Notre Dame in his second game in 2013 (4-0 on the road as an interim coach since). I guess I’ll pick us to win, but I’m not confident at all. If I were an A&M fan, I wouldn’t be confident either though.

Speaking of Missouri and Arkansas, again I don’t see Arkansas being as bad or Missouri being as good as the gamblers do. The Hogs won by 16 in Starkville, so I have no idea why they don’t win by 8 in Columbia.

Georgia has had a problem with showing up in unexciting games against mediocre opponents. I don’t think the chance to close out the season with a home win over the Rambling Wreck qualifies. I also don’t think Georgia Tech is as good as a team like Tennessee and will beat them despite a great effort from the silver britches.

The two teams have the same record, and Georgia has played the better schedule. I have to go with the home team to win, and 4 points makes it hard to try to split the difference. I think if you played the game 10 times, Georgia wins by 4 to 14 points at least half the time, and there might be one in there they run away with.

Ole Miss didn’t play well in Nashville, but I don’t think that means they let Mississippi St. eliminate them from bowl eligibility. Do they win by 7.5 though? I’m going to guess yes based on the Bulldogs’ last couple of games, but I would not put money on it.

Maybe this year will be the exception, but rivalry games can generally be expected to stay within a couple of touchdowns more often than not. None of these next three underdogs are 3-8 and on a 6-game conference losing streak like Auburn was in 2012.

Louisville has played well at home, but I don’t know if home field is enough to go from losing to Houston by 26 to beating Kentucky by over 26. The Cardinals’ last home win was over Wake Forest by 32. Kentucky is better than Wake and is coming of a virtual bye against Austin Peay. Louisville hasn’t beaten Kentucky by more than 18 since 2006 despite the fact that the Wildcats had two 2-10 teams over that span. I think a Louisville win by between 14 and 21 points is most likely, but don’t discount the possibility that it could go down to the wire like it did two years ago even though the Wildcats entered that game on a five-game losing streak.

Against recent experience, I’m going to pick against Alabama. I just feel like if I finally break and pick them they won’t beat the spread. Auburn is a weird team that struggled in the last two weeks of the SEC schedule, but I just find it hard to imagine that they don’t find some inner strength to make it competitive. This is strange, but if Alabama is ever tempted to look ahead, this might be the situation. 17.5 is a relative beat-down compared to similar games. Alabama didn’t win by that last year, and the Tigers are improved. I don’t think the Tide plays better than they did last year in this game.

South Carolina is a mediocre team, but they have not lost ugly once (although I do scratch my head a bit over the Mississippi St. game back in Week 2). Clemson has won ugly more than they’ve won any other way. So I’ll take the Gamecocks +24.

About half the time Tennessee-Vanderbilt comes down to one possession. I think this is such a year. Vandy just beat another annual rival in Ole Miss handily at home, and this game is also at home. Obviously most of the time the Commodores are not playing for a bowl berth (even though they went to three in a row from 2011 to 2013). That has to add a little bit of motivation. I’ll take Vandy +7.5 but not to win. Apart from the three seasons I mentioned, losing close games is just more often than not something they do.

Same line for Florida-Florida St., but the home team is favored in this one. Like Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, the teams have the same number of wins (the Noles have an additional loss though). Actually in this one Florida has a weaker schedule, but I’d argue the Gators had a better conference schedule. Averaging in weak non-conference opponents can be misleading.

I’m going to go against the odds and pick Florida to win. Normally I pick the home team to win in a game like this, but I just have a weird feeling. Florida wouldn’t let LSU beat them 4 in a row for only the second time ever even though that was on the road. My guess is they won’t let the Seminoles beat them 4 in a row for the first time since 1990 (and third time ever) even though that will be on the road. The Gators’ last win in the series was at Florida St. in 2012 when both teams entered the game with 10-1 records.

SEC Wednesday #12

In College Football, Conference Reports, General LSU, Post-game, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on November 16, 2016 at 7:30 PM

Last Week

The way things are looking, I guess Alabama will beat any line you put up there. On the other hand, maybe Mississippi St. is just that bad.

Kentucky scored late to beat the spread, but late in the third quarter the Wildcats had a great chance to score but instead fumbled inside the Tennessee 10 for no points, so I think the result was still fair.

Florida also deserved to beat the spread. It only got within a score somewhat late in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach (barring 21 points in 7 minutes).

I don’t know what happened to Auburn. It’s like they just deflated after the Ole Miss game. They look like a middling SEC East team all of a sudden. I thought they just had a bad week against Vandy, but they look pathetic.

Speaking of Vandy, the Commodores were the first team to make Missouri look good in a long time.

So when I pick a team to go against the last several weeks, I lose; and when I pick a team to go with the last several weeks, I also lose.

guice

Then if I pick teams to play similarly to last week like I did with LSU and Arkansas, that doesn’t work out either. I guess I should have figured out that unlike in past seasons Arkansas has trouble with teams who can run the ball, and Florida isn’t so good in that department.

LSU is pretty decent, but I didn’t expect the longest play from scrimmage in LSU history as just one component of the second-best rushing performance in team history from Derrius Guice. He did this sharing a backfield with Leonard Fournette. Jon Gruden once said his dream job was running backs coach at LSU. I can see why. It’s just hard not to look at the previous match-up between opponents, which is what I should have done with LSU last week.

The last game was tied for the third-largest LSU victory in over 60 games in the series against Arkansas. Next week, LSU will be looking for its fourth consecutive win over the Gators and sixth in seven games.  That series has been about the same number of games but it’s had a lot more games after World War II than the Arkansas series has.

Ole Miss trailed 21-6 before new QB Shea Patterson led the Rebels to 23 points in the fourth quarter.

Ole Miss trailed 21-6 before new QB Shea Patterson led the Rebels to 23 points in the fourth quarter.

I have no idea where the Ole Miss comeback came from, but it was a funny weekend. The night games are killing me every week. I should just pick the opposite of what I expect, but I’m sure if I do that, I’ll be right about them.

Next Week

Even though UTSA (+27.5) just lost to a lesser team by 28, that was out of character. Frank Wilson coached at LSU and seems to be doing a really good job rebuilding the Roadrunners from a disappointing end to Larry Coker’s tenure. Also, Texas A&M has not had a good four weeks. I believe they failed to beat the spread in every one. They did blow out their fellow Aggies from New Mexico, but not by enough.

I’m also not taking the bait with Georgia (-22.5) despite their good performance in the last game. The Bulldogs have repeatedly played down to lesser competition. ULL isn’t good, but they’re probably a good bit better than Nicholls St.

SEC WED

I’ve picked against LSU three times now since Orgeron took over. The only one where I was wrong was when I took LSU with the points, but they were against spread juggernaut Alabama. I’ll begrudgingly take the Tigers -13.5. I think if you can beat Arkansas on the road by 28, you should be able to beat Florida at home by 14 even though it will be an early game. It should be the CBS game of the week at least. Missouri, really?

Speaking of which, Tennessee is favored by 16 over Mizzou. I’ll give the 16 points. It’s also Senior Day in Knoxville, and they’re not going to be looking past the Tigers to Vanderbilt or anything. Missouri surprised me last week, but if you can beat Kentucky by 13, you can beat Missouri by 16.

Four teams play FCS opponents, so I won’t bother with the lines (which ESPN doesn’t publish): South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, and Auburn.

Vandy +10 would have been an easy pick last week, but it’s much harder when they looked bad and Ole Miss looked good (at least at the end). Still, Vandy is a running, ball control team, and Ole Miss has a lot of trouble with that.

The only upset I’m picking is Arkansas (+1.5) against Mississippi St. The Hogs are a much better team than they looked last week. Mississippi St. is really not good. Losing to Alabama is understandable. Losing to Alabama and not making it close is also understandable, but not by 48. The Bulldogs managed good games against South Carolina and A&M, but like with Missouri, the chances still aren’t good in any given week.

SEC Wednesday (on Friday) #11

In College Football, SEC Wednesdays on November 11, 2016 at 8:13 PM

I know I’ve been AWOL lately, but my sports fandom takes a back seat for a few days every two to four years. I won’t say who I wanted to win, but I did want to mention that Trump is the first Republican since 1980 to win in a year in which Alabama beat LSU in football.

Last Week

I started with a 3-2 advantage ATS. I didn’t see the Vanderbilt coming close or Mississippi St. and Arkansas winning. I did pick the Hogs with the points though, so I won that one. I got the close game by Georgia Southern right, and I got the win by more than 7 by South Carolina right.

But it seems like no matter what I do, I’m destined to have a losing record every week. So I was winning against the spread with Georgia/Kentucky until the last play of the game, and I was winning with LSU/Alabama until the last 3 minutes. Of course both teams that I didn’t pick kicked field goals, and that dropped me to 3-4. I didn’t do very well in picking winners either: 5-3 there.

Georgia's Rodrigo Blankenship kicks the winning field goal against Kentucky.

Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship kicks the winning field goal against Kentucky.

It’s too late to start something new this year, but I’m thinking I might have a pick of the week or a couple of picks of the week to let people know what I feel confident in and what I don’t. I felt confident about Georgia Southern and South Carolina this week, for instance. I was a lot less confident in my LSU and Kentucky picks than I was for the earlier games.

My records fall to 69-15 and 33-39-1 against the spread.

SEC WED

Next Week

If I pick an upset team to win, I’ll make that clear. When I talk about whether a team is going to lose by more than or fewer than 40 points, I don’t think it’s necessary to specify.

Although Alabama keeps beating LSU, make no mistake that that’s still a big game for them. That’s why they take their bye week before the LSU game every year. Alabama’s next game is against Mississippi St., which is not having a good season with 5 losses already. So I do think there is an inevitable let down no matter how grumpy it would make Saban. In light of that, 30 points is too much.

Even if you just look at prior games, only one team (Auburn) beat the Bulldogs by more than 3 points in regulation. Alabama has won a few games by more than 30, but one was the season opener against USC (and the Trojans started poorly) and another was against Kent St. The Tide did beat Tennessee by a lot, but for reasons I discussed I don’t think this is the week they repeat that kind of performance.

Speaking of the Vols, South Carolina had a great home win over Tennessee, but these are the Gamecocks’ road results: beat Vandy by 3, lost to Mississippi St. by 13, lost to Kentucky by 7. They also lost to Georgia by 14 and Texas A&M by 11 at home. Florida hasn’t been a reliable point-producer, so I’m not 100% confident by any means, but it should be fairly easy for the Gators to accumulate enough points to win by 11.

I’m going to go the other way with Kentucky against Tennessee. The Vols haven’t been the same since the OT loss to Texas A&M, but Kentucky is a tough team to beat. They weren’t the first two weeks of the season, but since then their only losses are to Alabama by 28 and Georgia on the final play by 3 last week. I think the Vols win because they’re at home, but not by 14 or more.

I’ve been doing great by picking against Missouri, so I’m going to keep doing it. I also should have picked Vandy more this season. Commodores +3.5 and to win.

Auburn laid an egg as far as the point spread last week, but I don’t think they’ll do it two weeks in a row. I think that was a wake-up call. Georgia’s last home game was a loss to Vanderbilt, before the 14-point neutral loss to Florida. Last week doesn’t drastically alter my expectations of this game, so I’ll take Auburn -10.5.

The combined final score of the last two games was Arkansas 48, LSU 14, so I don’t know how you get LSU -7. I do expect LSU to win by 3 or 4 though. Even discounting the last two games, when LSU beats Arkansas, it’s usually really close. So I’ll take the Hogs and 7.

At this rate, Ole Miss may struggle to make a bowl game. They ended a three-game losing streak by beating Georgia Southern by 10, and now Chad Kelly is gone for good. I want to express my condolences to him, by the way. I hate to see a college football career end with an injury. He’s a player I respected, and it can be sad enough to see someone’s last game be bowl loss.

So now the Rebels travel to the home of the 12th man. The good news for Ole Miss is the Aggies just lost to Mississippi St., but I’m not sure how much that helps. The Rebels do not have a good defense, and to now have a questionable offense is an unenviable position. The Aggies often struggle in November, which would be a deciding factor if it were close in my mind, but I just can’t muster any confidence in Ole Miss to keep it within 10.5.

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.

SEC Wednesday #9

In College Football, General LSU, SEC Wednesdays on October 26, 2016 at 5:36 PM

Last Week

The line I saw had Alabama favored by 19 even, so I guess that’s the first tie. There were some bookies that had Alabama a 19.5-point favorite briefly, but I’m not going to claim that I decided based on that.

I was right about UMass again. I guess people just keep looking at their record and figuring they’ll get blown out. It seems like someone would catch on. Sometimes I wish I lived in Las Vegas.

I got Missouri clearly wrong. I knew they might allow some points, but I’m a bit shocked by how many. Vanderbilt scored 47 against the Blue Raiders, and the Commodores usually have a much less productive offense than the Tigers, so I thought Mizzou could win a shootout by at least a touchdown.

Arkansas keeps me guessing too. I didn’t think Auburn was that much better than Ole Miss, but sometimes Auburn just knocks you down early and keeps going. That happened to LSU a couple of years ago on the Plains. I was confident Auburn was going to lose another conference game after they beat LSU, but now I’m less confident. If someone manages to beat Alabama, we could have a very interesting SEC West race.

I beat the spread either way with Kentucky, but it was nice to be right about the win as well when the Wildcats hit the winning field goal. Some LSU fans wanted to hire Dan Mullen a couple of years ago, but he’s having all kinds of trouble this season. The Bulldogs were lucky to even have a chance to win really, because Kentucky had a first and goal up 10 in the fourth quarter before a fumble was returned all the way to the other end zone for a State touchdown.

I’m going to be interested to see how many SEC teams can make bowl games. Kentucky and Vanderbilt are only two wins away from bowl eligibility apiece. It’s not looking good for Mississippi St. or Missouri, but South Carolina might still have a chance.

Vanderbilt won. It wasn’t pretty, but it counts as a win. I don’t pick a line for FCS opponents.

Once again, I felt pretty good about my LSU pick at halftime. I guess I’ll have to take the points in two weeks, although I certainly lived to regret doing that with Alabama last year. LSU and Alabama have each beaten the game-time spread in three consecutive games.

I didn't get a shot of the live stats, but this was the peak of Fournette's yards per carry on a school-record-breaking night.  This is also potentially relevant to the Ole Miss-Auburn game next week.

I didn’t get a shot of the live stats, but this was the peak of Fournette’s yards per carry on a school-record-breaking night. This is also potentially relevant to the Ole Miss-Auburn game next week.

I’m not shocked that LSU had some long TD plays, but I am shocked that we shut them out in the second half. Last year was so brutal when they had the ball, and having watched the Alabama game, I knew they were capable again this year. We were lucky to hold them to field goals a couple of times in the first half. I don’t know where our second half on defense came from, but maybe it’s the new practice schedule. We are much fresher in the late third and early fourth quarter than we used to be. (I don’t know about the late fourth since the second string was in, but I’m guessing we’ll see next game.)

So I was 2-3-1 against the spread. The only winner I didn’t get was Middle Tennessee, so 6-1 in that category. My records are now 59-11 and 28-32-1 against the spread.

SEC WED

Next Week

I think Kentucky has been playing with a bit of an edge, and Missouri has been playing poorly, so I don’t understand Missouri being favored by 5.5. Like last week, I’m going to take the points and Kentucky to win. All of Kentucky’s SEC wins have been close, so I don’t expect it to be a runaway though.

Florida is favored by 7.5 against Georgia. Georgia has been very up and down, but I think they play up and down depending on the opponent. I’m taking the Bulldogs and the points, but I guess Florida is more likely to win.

I’m picking Mississippi St. to beat Samford, but it could be close. Samford plays in a good FCS conference and is 6-1. No line.

Ole Miss is playing at home, and of course that’s an advantage. I don’t think they stay within 4.5 points of Auburn though. I don’t think Auburn accomplishes anything close to last week, but winning by 7 or more seems very likely. Before LSU, Ole Miss lost to Arkansas, Auburn’s victim last week. Auburn may not have someone to run for 70 yards at a time (although WR Eli Stone did run for 78 in one play), but I don’t see the Rebel defensive front showing up all of a sudden to stop all the weapons Auburn has on the ground.

Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway runs over an Arkansas defender on the way to the goal line.  Pettway rushed for 192 of the Tigers' 543 rushing yards on Saturday.

Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway runs over an Arkansas defender on the way to the goal line. Pettway rushed for 192 of the Tigers’ 543 rushing yards on Saturday.

Georgia won @ South Carolina by 14, albeit after running back an onsides kick after a touchdown. I don’t see why Tennessee shouldn’t do as well or better after a bye week. The line is 13.5.

It’s really hard to judge the Texas A&M/New Mexico St. line of 43.5. The NMSU Aggies aren’t good, but I think they’re a good bit better than Prairie View, which lost 67-0. (Prairie View is an A&M school as well; this is all very confusing.) I expect the margin of victory to be somewhere between the 21 points by which TAMU beat Arkansas and the 67 points by which they beat Prairie View; but that doesn’t help, so I have to look more at the opponent.

Since upsetting New Mexico and nearly beating the 19.5-point spread against Kentucky, NMSU has had a couple of bad losses, to Troy by 46 and to Idaho by 32. So my guess is TAMU will beat the spread even though there are a variety of things than can stop a team from winning by over 40. Recent years don’t always help, but I think it’s also instructive that NMSU lost to Florida by 48 and Ole Miss by 45 last year. Also, LSU won by 56 two years ago. For perspective, LSU only scored 10 points in their win over Ole Miss that season.

SEC Wednesday #8

In College Football, Preview, Rankings, SEC Wednesdays on October 19, 2016 at 3:45 PM

Please see here for my blog about the LSU-Ole Miss series, the second-longest football series for LSU.

Last Week

I had almost no luck this week. There is usually one week that just wipes me out, and this might be it this year.

I was glad that Mississippi St. was supposed to lose by more than a touchdown according to most spreads, because I almost got tripped up by the overtime thing again. Of course I’m not so glad I got 0 right on Saturday.

My LSU pick looked good after the first half, but then this happened in the first 13 minutes of the second half (not that as a fan I’m complaining)…

lsu

I slept through the game, so I don’t know how Vandy beat Georgia, but I guess it’s just Georgia’s ridiculous habit of playing down to their opponents. On second thought, I shouldn’t have given UGA credit for beating South Carolina by 14 since they only managed to do it by running back an onsides kick.

Florida did the same thing against Missouri and also scored two defensive touchdowns. A 19-14 final score would have been just about right in that one.

I don’t know what it is about Arkansas that gives Ole Miss so much trouble that even a week off doesn’t allow them to prepare for. I just hope it carries over into the next game unlike last season (although the difference last season was Ole Miss had a bye week between Arkansas and LSU, and LSU was the one to play Arkansas the week before).

My records fall to 53-10 and 26-29.

SEC WED

Next Week

The pollsters seem to think last week is a prediction of next week, but I don’t always buy that. For instance, I don’t think it’s likely that Alabama will win by nearly three touchdowns over Texas A&M just because they beat Arkansas and Tennessee more easily than predicted. I think if anything it’s harder to do it again after having that much success two weeks in a row. I think these are both legitimate top 5 teams (I don’t think Tennessee was necessarily, especially given what happened to Georgia), so I’m pretty skeptical of that. I do think it will be awfully tough for A&M to win that one on the road though.

This is how the Alabama season has gone: won by way more than expected, won by slightly more than expected, won by much less than expected, won by more than expected, won by less than expected, won by more than expected, won by more than expected. They haven’t won by more than expected three weeks in a row yet.

UMass hasn’t beaten much of anyone, but they usually make a respectable showing of themselves, as they did against Florida and Mississippi St. I don’t know if South Carolina would beat anyone but the worst FBS teams by 3 touchdowns.

Middle Tennessee lost to Vanderbilt by a lot, and I don’t think Vanderbilt is a lot better than Missouri. The Tigers have had a rough few weeks, but they usually find their offense out of conference. If Vandy can score 47 against this team, Missouri can score over 60. Mizzou might allow 40, but they should cover the 6.5.

If two teams are equal, the road team should lose by about a field goal. I’m really unclear on why Auburn is clearly better than Arkansas, so I’ll take Arkansas and the points, which is what I should have done last week.

Apart from the second game and the last few minutes against LSU in the third game, Mississippi St. has not played very well, while Kentucky has played better than I expected. I’m going to take Kentucky to win and with the three extra points too of course.

Tennessee St. is a pretty good FCS team, but I think Vanderbilt will manage to win. ESPN doesn’t show a spread for these, so I skip that part.

LSU is favored by 5.5. Ole Miss fans used to talk about good Bo and bad Bo when Bo Wallace was with the team, but I think that characteristic caught on. As I indicated, I was a little taken aback by the loss to Arkansas after winning the two previous games by an average of 25.5 points. The game before those two wins was the 5-point loss to Alabama.

I honestly don’t know which Ole Miss team shows up, nor do I know if the first-half LSU team from last week shows up. I think LSU can end up winning something like what Arkansas did last week. It could be a 3- or 4-point game and the LSU defense can hold on like they did at the end against Mississippi St. It’s a tough choice though. It could go to overtime and LSU could win by 6 or 7, but I guess if you add in the approximately 1 in 3 chance Ole Miss has of winning, on balance it’s best to take the Rebels with the points.

LSU-Florida Reaction, Previews, & SEC Wed. #7

In College Football, General LSU, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on October 14, 2016 at 7:35 PM

LSU-Florida

So if you haven’t heard, the LSU-Florida game got resolved. The downside is LSU loses a home game next year (and will have FIVE SEC road games) and will play one fewer game this season.

I understand the SEC insurance policy will kick in for the South Alabama buyout. Reportedly South Alabama offered to play on the LSU bye week of 10/29, and LSU was not interested. So far the Texas A&M game is still scheduled for 5 days after the Florida game (the date when LSU was originally going to play South Alabama).

The upside is LSU still keeps the 7 home games for this season, Although the Tigers now finish with five consecutive opponents who are currently ranked, two will be separated by a bye week and only two of those five will be on the road. LSU has not played a ranked team yet this season, although Wisconsin and Auburn are currently ranked.

I doubt it will be two top-10 teams at game time like it was back then, but I think of the 2007 match-up every time Florida @ LSU is brought up.

I doubt it will be two top-10 teams at game time like it was back then, but I think of the 2007 match-up every time Florida @ LSU is brought up.

Also, despite all the road games next season, LSU also avoids having to go on the road in consecutive weeks next season. There will be two potentially brutal stretches though: @Florida/Auburn/@Ole Miss and @Alabama/Arkansas/@Tennessee/Texas A&M. At least that A&M game will be on a Saturday.

Florida loses two home games this year in the process (for a loss of one net, same as LSU), but let that be a lesson to them. When a program used to reacting to hurricanes calls you and tells you that you need a better backup plan than “we’ll delay the game a few hours,” listen.

I thought this was a pretty good take on what happened. It suggests that Florida reacted to LSU with paranoia, and that was part of the problem: http://www.outkickthecoverage.com/what-really-happened-with-lsu-and-florida-101316

SEC Wednesday #7

Last Week

I mentioned my aggravation with the Tennessee/A&M ATS “loss” in the rankings blog. You shouldn’t ever have to cheer for the team that you didn’t pick to score. If A&M wins in regulation with a field goal, I win. If they win in the first overtime with a touchdown, I win. But since they win in the second overtime with a touchdown, which means Tennessee played even better, I lose.

Kentucky likes to just barely beat the spread, so at least I won that one. I think they beat it by 4, but Vandy was close to sending that game into OT.
I was somewhat reluctant about Auburn, but they’ve been doing quite well on offense. Random stat I noticed: Sean White completed 14 passes for 204 yards with only 4 incompletions.

I was just plain wrong about Alabama. I could have backed into it with another late TD, but it was not to be. Maybe LSU will be able to get the Golden Boot back this year even though the game is in Fayetteville.

Most of the game Georgia was ahead either 14 or 7, but thankfully time expired with them ahead by 14.

I am finally back to a winning record against the spread. I was not hopeful about that happening again a couple of weeks ago. My records are now 49-8 picking winners and 25-24 against the spread.

SEC WED

Next Week

I guess for next week I’ll start out with the non-conference games. Lines were taken from the ESPN site on Wednesday to be consistent with other weeks.

BYU is kind of a tough nut to crack. I don’t understand beating Toledo by 2 at home and then running away with a game at Michigan St. Missouri beat BYU last year despite having an awful season, but the game was in Kansas City. I’ll take the Bulldogs and the points, but I’ll pick the Cougars to win.

I think the line has gotten out of control for LSU/Southern Miss. I think it opened at 21. It’s now 25.5. So 31-7, for instance, wouldn’t be good enough. I’ll take the Golden Eagles. LSU has some serious injuries on offense. If they’re up by between 17 and 21 at halftime, I don’t think they’ll be trying too hard to outscore the opponent in the second half.

USM is coming off an ugly road loss, which may have helped to inflate the line, but they did win by 9 at Kentucky earlier in the year. In the other road game a couple of weeks ago, the Golden Eagles beat UTEP 34-7, so last week may have just been an aberration. It could be a blowout, but I think the unnecessary bye week could have put a damper on LSU’s momentum.

Georgia by 14 hosting Vandy is a good line. Vandy is roughly equivalent to South Carolina and this will be between the hedges. I’ll take the Dawgs, who I think have been improving overall.

Alabama is favored by 12.5. I’m thinking they’ll win by 3 to 10 points, somewhere around there.

Florida has looked shaky and as mentioned is banged up. Despite the manhandling LSU gave them, Missouri should be able to keep it much closer. I’ll take the Tigers +13.5.

As mentioned, Arkansas has been a bit flat. Ole Miss was playing very well before the bye week. I think they can win by more than 7.5. I’m sure they want revenge from the last two years. I don’t really understand how in both 2014 and 2015 they lost to Arkansas but beat Alabama, but anyway.

Other Games

I was going to do some kind of preview of other games, but the only thing outside of the SEC that excites me much is Ohio St. @ Wisconsin. So far Ohio St. hasn’t shown any symptoms of having a young, mostly inexperienced team, but the only thing that looked like a major challenge previously was Oklahoma. The Sooners are not nearly as good as they were projected to be though.

Of course Wisconsin beat LSU, although both teams are a lot different now from what they were then. The Badgers had a surprisingly easy victory over Michigan St., another team that has proven not to be very good after making the Playoff last year. The Badgers’ only loss was by 7 @Michigan. The home field may make the difference here as well.

ESPN’s FPI gives the Buckeyes a 71% chance to win. I’d put money on Wisconsin if you gave me 7:3 odds.

The only other non-SEC game I plan to watch is UCLA @ Washington St. Both teams can have fun offenses, although as an SEC fan, I may get frustrated with some of the defensive play. There may be good defensive players, but it’s hard to keep up they barely have time to catch their breath between opponents’ possessions.

LSU/Florida and SEC Wednesday #6

In College Football, General LSU, Preview, Rivalry, SEC Wednesdays on October 5, 2016 at 5:26 PM

NOTE: The LSU-Florida game has been postponed indefinitely.  If it is not rescheduled, this would give LSU about a 7% chance of winning the remaining games.

LSU and FPI

Obviously there are a few big games to be excited about in the SEC, and I’ll talk more about this in the picks section, but I wanted to expound upon something I added to the last blog at the last minute. I mentioned there is a 4% chance that LSU still has only two losses after the regular season (meaning games before championship week). There is a 10% chance LSU finishes the regular season with 3 losses or fewer. I calculated this from the FPI numbers released by ESPN.

I'm skeptical of some of these numbers.

I’m skeptical of some of these numbers.

It seems like FPI doesn’t factor in recent results in the respective series. LSU has owned Texas A&M and has been owned by Alabama. We’ve seen A&M start strong before without much to show for it by the time we get to late November. I honestly would not be surprised if LSU is favored by the time we get there. I’m not saying this to prematurely brag about LSU but to say that I don’t think home field is enough to give LSU more of a chance to beat Alabama than the Tigers will have to beat A&M. Also, I was surprised the likelihood of LSU beating Arkansas was so high.

I found it interesting that despite the location of the LSU/Florida game (series blog), both the FPI and the commentators seem to think LSU has this. Some of them are more confident than I am, but as I’ll explain, if I had to pick the winner, I’d guess LSU is more likely. Steve Spurrier, who I guess is now a PR spokesman for the Gators, didn’t do much to dissuade me of that notion either.

LSU has about a 25% chance to finish 5-2 or better, which would give Ed Orgeron at least the same record that he had as the interim coach at USC. That might seem counter-intuitive since the Tigers should be favored against everyone but Alabama and (possibly) A&M, but I’ll give an example. If your chance in one game is 60% and your chance in the next game is 60%, you only have a 36% chance to win both games (roughly LSU’s chance of beating Florida and Ole Miss). That’s just the way odds work.

SEC WED

Last Week

A lot of things went about as I expected, so you can just read the link above about why things happened as they did. I expected Tennessee to win a fairly close game. I hoped it was going to be by 4 instead of by 3, but my prediction was still pretty smart although unlucky. This isn’t all about getting it right, it’s partly about describing what kind of game we might have.

I said Ole Miss would win by between 17 and 21 points, and they won by 20, so it’s nice to get something that specific right. 5-2 with a shenanigans incorrect pick in Athens is pretty good. It’s a fluke in the gambling rules more than anything. If it were up to me there would be two exceptions. (1) If you took the points in an overtime game, you should automatically win, and (2) if a team scores a touchdown on the last play (not in overtime), they should get credit for 7 points unless there is a try.

I’m back at .500 (22-22), which is not easy to do when you force yourself to pick games you’re not comfortable with. If I picked a similar number of games from all over college football but only lines I liked, I’d like to think my winning percentage would actually make money at a sports book.

As to the one I more clearly got wrong (although I was only off by a few points), there was a Florida fumble near the goal line where obviously another touchdown could have allowed me to win. I usually cheer for Vanderbilt as the traditional underdog of the SEC East, so I was disappointed they didn’t do more with the opportunity, but it’s predictable.

On the other hand, since I picked Florida with the points the last two weeks, I was disappointed with their performance. I hope the Gators will be similarly disappointing to their fans next week. I know a few Florida fans, and I’ve enjoyed being on the right side. Anyway, I thought it was going to be a bad day when I started out with that one, but as they say, it’s not how you start.

I didn’t even mention that I got all the winners right, not that it was particularly hard this week as long as you had the Vols. My overall record in picking winning teams is 44-8.

Next Week

Only six conference games this week.

It appears Leonard Fournette will NOT play for LSU against Florida. This makes me more nervous, but I just don’t think LSU will revert back to the way they played against Auburn just because of being on the road. If they play better than in that game, they should win. Still unclear who the Florida QB is or whether both will play. Also still unclear if the game will actually happen at the date and time currently scheduled.

LSU went far above and beyond the line last week of course. The Tigers may get half the yards and half the points, but that should still be enough to win. As I mentioned previously, Florida has been disappointing of late. -3 isn’t enough for the ATS (against the spread) to be different.

I already mentioned Auburn. Obviously the Tigers would rather be at home, but I don’t think Mississippi St. is the toughest venue in the SEC. They’re not the better team either. Once again I’ll reluctantly take the visitors -3.

Texas A&M is favored by 6.5. I think that’s a bit too much, but Tennessee is overdue for a loss, so I will split my prediction there.

Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight looks downfield in Week 1 against UCLA.

Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight looks downfield in Week 1 against UCLA.

Kentucky is favored by 3 at home. If they could do it to South Carolina, I see no reason why they can’t do it to Vanderbilt.

I think 13.5 is too much for Alabama. Too many recent Bama @ Arkansas games have been close. I know a few were blowouts, but this is not an Arkansas team that will finish with 3 or 4 wins like the one that lost 52-0 a few years ago. So I’m not picking the upset, but I think the Hogs will keep it within about 10.

Georgia/South Carolina can happen a number of ways. Georgia did play a lot better last week than in any previous game, so if they can maintain, it could be over at halftime. On the other hand, it might be hard to show up in an opposing stadium with any kind of momentum after the heartbreak of last week. Even if it’s the latter, I could still see the Bulldogs winning by 7 or more with a late touchdown or something, so I will give the Gamecocks 7.

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