theknightswhosay

Posts Tagged ‘Appalachian St.’

Cancellations and (later) Game Previews

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

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

Cancellations

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

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

hurricane 0909

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Big Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Week 11 Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 6, 2016 at 4:06 PM

LSU-Alabama

Not too much to say about LSU, at least not compared to before the game. I was very surprised with the lack of a passing game because of how that had appeared to develop in previous weeks.

Had it existed, it would have opened up the run; but to be honest, Leonard Fournette wasn’t making the best decisions anyway. It never seemed to sink in for him that the only holes that were going to open against Alabama were going to be small and very temporary.

Danny Etling made a number of decent (although imperfect) throws that just weren’t caught, so there was never any reason to provide much better than man-to-man coverage.

It’s a credit to the LSU defense it wasn’t 42-0 instead of 10-0. There were a couple of plays where the defense had the ball carrier or receiver in a good spot and just didn’t make the play, but that’s not worth griping about. They played well enough to allow a minimally competent offense to win. I think Dave Aranda won more strategic battles than Lane Kiffin did. That was the “chess match” everyone wanted to key in on before the game.

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts attempts to avoid a sack.

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts attempts to avoid a sack.

The LSU offense barely won any battles. They had one first down in the second half and six for the game. In recent games, the LSU offense was able to wear down the defense; but in this game the LSU offense seemed to get more discouraged and inept with every play. Maybe Steve Ensminger isn’t the play-caller we need after all (I wonder why Guice only got two carries, I wonder why Fournette wasn’t used as a decoy at all), but for the most-part I don’t care who calls the plays with that lack of execution.

Alabama has once again defeated LSU more than twice as many times as LSU has defeated Alabama. For more, see the series blog.

Future LSU Games

Enough about that. Arkansas lost 56-3 a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday they beat Florida by 21. If they can turn it around after that game, LSU can after this game… never mind that the next game is against Arkansas. If the LSU players like Coach O and want to keep him, they need to win. I don’t know if they need to win all three remaining regular-season games; but they can only win one at a time, and it’s definitely time to get the Golden Boot back.

No meaningful chance of any kind of conference honors now, but I think we could get a decent bowl game going 6-1 to end the season. It would be the same record as last year, but we lost 3 games late last year.

Rankings Commentary

Other than some other SEC play, I didn’t see too many of the other games. Most of the ones I recorded were blowouts, but I’ll talk about the impacts of the various games on my rankings.

Arkansas over Florida was a big win for the SEC West. Mississippi St.’s win over Texas A&M also helped some teams like LSU, which stayed in the top 40. Arkansas especially is also part of the reason Auburn went up several spots. It’s also helpful to Auburn that Clemson continues to do well.

As I anticipated, Western Michigan and Boise St. are still gradually sliding downward despite winning.

North Carolina might be surprising until you look at what their opponents did this week. Georgia, Florida St., and even Illinois won. Florida St. played a future UNC opponent rather than a previous one, but the wins by the non-conference opponents are really significant because they don’t involve a loss by another conference team.

The win by Illinois also kept Western Michigan from falling even farther.

Tennessee also fell despite a win (over Tennessee Tech), mostly because Texas A&M lost.

West Virginia also fell. Missouri and Texas Tech lost, while Kansas barely counts for any points. On the other hand, Oklahoma St., the team that beat West Virginia, got a quality win over Kansas St. to move into the top 25.

Appalachian St. improves in part because Miami won. The Hurricanes are one of the Mountaineers’ two losses (the other was Tennessee).

Wyoming improved party because of Air Force’s non-conference win over Army and Northern Illinois’s second consecutive victory after starting 1-6.

Of course in all these cases, it helps if there is a group of teams close together (for instance, #16 is closer to #32 than #4 is to #5) and other nearby teams lost, didn’t play, or for some other reason had worse weeks.

My conference standings didn’t really change much, but the SEC is still considered ahead for having more teams in the top 40. As I mentioned, LSU barely hung on to the top 40. Arkansas rejoined the top 40 although they did so by knocking Florida out of the top 25. Georgia knocked Kentucky out of the top 40, but it was not enough for the Bulldogs to join the top 40.

There are several SEC teams that have potential to move up though. Arkansas and Florida would likely make it into the top 25 with wins. LSU could make it in depending on other games, but 15 spots is a lot to move in one week. The SEC also has 6 teams between #43 and #62. So the only SEC team below #62 is Missouri, which fell to #107.

Not surprisingly based on this information, when you look at all the teams top to bottom, the SEC comes out first as well.

Top 25


rank/team/prev

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

All 128 teams

Out of rankings: (18) Florida, (20) South Florida, (24) Utah

Week 9 Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 24, 2016 at 5:17 PM

This blog is mostly about the rankings, but I wanted to mention I have updated the LSU/Ole Miss Rivalry blog. LSU earned its 40th win over Ole Miss in Baton Rouge and 60th in the series overall. I hadn’t fully updated it after the last two games, so the last few paragraphs are new. Also, it’s not too early to check out the Alabama Rivalry page.

Western Michigan and Washington (and Baylor)

I know the obvious first criticism a lot of people will have is Western Michigan is in the top 4 and Washington is not even in the top 15.

I’ll talk about Western Michigan first. The only other team that has won 8 games so far is Alabama, and as I’ll get to in the next section, Alabama is such a clear #1 that in all likelihood they’ll be able to take a week off and stay #1. So despite Western Michigan’s having beaten two Big Ten opponents, there is still a significant gap in reward for playing a top schedule.

One of Western Michigan’s weakest wins was over FCS opponent North Carolina Central, but that’s a good FCS opponent. So when some teams would have taken a hit in points for playing an FCS opponent, that didn’t happen here.

Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell led the Broncos to their third consecutive Michigan MAC trophy with the win over Eastern Michigan.

Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell led the Broncos to their third consecutive Michigan MAC trophy with the win over Eastern Michigan.

Although the MAC has several teams that are in the bottom fourth of FBS football, the Broncos have not played many of the particularly weak opponents on their schedule yet. Not to worry though because they don’t play an opponent in the top 100 for the next month, so their point total will not increase very substantially. This will give other teams, particularly those in power conferences, plenty of opportunity to pass them up.

Normally a team like this doesn’t get so high in the first place, but (along with the front-loaded schedule) things happen. They would be a spot lower if Penn St. doesn’t block a field goal and return it for a touchdown against Ohio St. They would be a spot lower if Tennessee scores a touchdown in the first overtime instead of a field goal against Texas A&M.

It’s also worth noting that if you control for number of playing weeks, Boise St. and Texas A&M would both be ahead of Western Michigan. That imbalance will be corrected when the Broncos have a bye nest weekend.

As for Washington, they did play a non-conference game against a Power-5 opponent, but it was Rutgers, one of the worst Power-5 teams. The Huskies’ best win is over Stanford, but that’s by far their best win; and Stanford has two other losses. The second-best win was over Idaho. Third-best was 2-5 Arizona, which has only a single win over an FBS opponent.

I’m convinced that the 16 teams ahead of Washington would also be undefeated against that schedule so far, and I suspect several others would be as well. Basically, it would be anyone who would beat Stanford and have some reasonable level of consistency apart from that.

Western Michigan wins: #55, #57, #62, #68, #70, #99, #115. As I mentioned, they also beat North Carolina Central, which is undefeated (5-0) against FCS opponents and has also lost to Duke.

Even if a good team has an 80% chance to beat numbers 55 to 70 and a 95% chance to beat the other three, that team would only have a 28% chance of going undefeated thus far.

Washington wins: #33, #73, #90, #95, #98, #108. The FCS opponent, Portland St., is only 1-3 within the FCS and also has a loss to San Jose St.

So Western Michigan has beaten five teams that are better than Washington’s second-best win. Washington’s third-best win is only marginally better than Western Michigan’s sixth-best win. I add in FCS games differently, but it’s possible that the latter should be the seventh-best win.

However, unlike Western Michigan, Washington’s schedule the rest of the way is pretty tough. It’s not SEC West, ACC Atlantic, or Big Ten East tough; but @Utah, @Cal, USC, Arizona St., @Washington St. isn’t something against which many teams would go undefeated.

If you were wondering about Baylor, the Bears also only have one win over a top-70 team, but in their case it’s #47 Oklahoma St. Baylor has played 3 teams ranked #119 or worse and has a win over FCS team Northwestern St., which has no wins over any Division I opponent.

#1 This Week and Next

Back to Alabama, the Tide gained about 0.18 in points for beating an undefeated team with a top schedule in Texas A&M. Since Clemson actually lost points during its bye week (I’ll give other examples of how you’re at the mercy of prior opponents during a bye week), the Tide has an advantage of almost 0.20.

Alabama's Jonathan Allen helped put Texas A&M away by returning a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen helped put Texas A&M away by returning a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter.

So even if Clemson beats Florida St. (which has had a very good schedule as well), giving a team its third loss doesn’t help you at as much as giving a team its first loss. Unless it’s just a terrible day for Alabama’s previous opponents and a great day for Clemson’s, I don’t think it’s possible for Alabama go get passed up.

Michigan plays Michigan St., which isn’t a big opportunity for points.

Bye Weeks, Florida, and North Texas

Most teams do lose ground during bye weeks. Tennessee fell one spot, but when you get in an area where the teams are packed closer together, you can fall six spots like Florida St. did. Of course it also depends on teams around you and prior opponents.

Florida actually gained ground as Stanford, Arkansas, and South Florida all lost. The Gators were also assisted by wins by North Texas and to a lesser extent Vanderbilt. They also had prior opponents who lost, but sometimes an opponent with fewer wins has its point total increase more rapidly with a win. For instance, Alabama’s quality as an opponent didn’t change as much because Alabama’s winning percentage didn’t change.

North Texas’s quality as an opponent more than doubled. The Mean Green got a quality win over Army, and the two other teams who had beaten them had huge wins (for them anyway). SMU beat Houston, and Middle Tennessee beat Missouri.
Anyway, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest also had byes, but since none of their prior opponents’ ratings improved so much, they were also passed by Florida.

SEC

So the SEC reclaimed its #1 spot in my conference standings and also has the best average ranking. There are now 5 SEC teams in the top 25, 7 SEC teams in the top 40, and 11 SEC teams in the top half of FBS (or top 64). The ACC has more top-40 teams with 8, but half of them are not in the top 25.
LSU is still not in the top 25, but I suspect the Tigers would make it in with a win over Alabama in two weeks.

Arkansas is also idle next week, so it’s possible Arkansas and/or LSU could fall out of the top 40 simply as a result of not playing. On the other hand, losses in the 35 to 50 range are not uncommon, so they could also get lucky and move up slightly. Arkansas’s next opponent is Florida (who plays Georgia in Jacksonville this weekend), and then the Hogs play LSU.

Top 25

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

All 128 teams

Out of rankings: (18) Pittsburgh, (20) Stanford, (22) Arkansas, (25) South Florida

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

2015 Final Top 25 and Comments

In Bowls, College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on January 14, 2016 at 6:19 PM

I wanted to get this out of the way first. College football always comes first here. I will post my reaction to the Los Angeles NFL drams that I first covered here.

People are sometimes confused with my rankings after the bowl games. The way I do it is to count the bowls as just another game. So the fact that Iowa, for instance, looked mediocre and Florida looked like a JV team didn’t knock Iowa out of the top 10 or Florida out of the top 25.

I want to congratulate Appalachian St. for making my top 25, although I do think they would lose to more than 25 teams on a neutral field. Why are they so high anyway? I want such a team to be able to move up with a collection of wins. Imagine we had a 16-team tournament and they were included with the teams as the Sun Belt champions (they weren’t, but Arkansas St. lost two more games, so bear with me).

A win over a team like Alabama or Clemson counts as about 2/10 of a point. So one such win would only get 11-2 Appalachian St. to #14, two would get them to #8, three would get them to #6. and four would get them to #3. I think that’s reasonable. Any team they beat would lose points, so some of those would be one or two spots higher, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with a team that only had two losses potentially being #1 (or at least close to #1) if you imagine them beating four of the top teams.

Chad Kelly helped Ole Miss get the most valuable win of the year (0.23 in my system).

Chad Kelly helped Ole Miss get the most valuable win of the year (0.23 in my system).

IF I use a basketball example, someone who makes the NCAA basketball Final Four has won at least four games in the tournament, usually at least three of them against top 25 teams or comparable. In the poll after the 2012-13 season, Wichita St. jumped 22 spots after making the Final Four and narrowly losing to eventual champions Louisville. Appalachian St. was 27th in my rankings before the bowls this season (not that far from where Wichita St. was before that tournament), so if there were a post-season tournament comparable to basketball, I think my projected final rankings would make sense.

I also don’t think it goes too far the other direction and ignores schedule differences. Alabama only lost one fewer game and is 1.3 points and 20 spots ahead. If you subtract 1.3 points from Appalachian St., that would give them a number of points comparable to Maryland, which finished 3-9 against a good schedule. So I think right in between Alabama and Maryland if the Mountaineers had played in a major conference is a fair assessment.

It just so happens there are a lot fewer teams on the Alabama side of Appalachian St. than on the Maryland side. All the 8-5 and 7-6 teams in major conferences are between Maryland and Appalachian St. There are a lot more of them than there are 12-1 and 11-2 teams.

Moving on to other teams… Alabama was a clearer #1 this year than Ohio St. last year, but the Tide’s loss wasn’t as bad and it had a better schedule. I expect teams in the championship game to be comfortably #1 and #2 with the way the playoff system works. Any win is more points even if you played more games than other teams. That used to anger Pac-12 and Big Ten fans when they didn’t have conference championship games, by the way. I think teams deserve credit every time they risk a loss, so I’m not changing that policy.

I like that Michigan St. stayed #3 when their post-season loss was to Alabama, they beat Ohio St., and (unlike Ohio St.) also beat Iowa, the Big Ten runners-up. Had they not played Iowa, I would have been fine with Ohio St. passing them up.

Speaking of Iowa, Stanford, the team who beat them in the Rose Bowl, moved up to fifth. Both Ohio St. and Stanford moved ahead of Oklahoma, who lost to Clemson in the semifinal. Since the final regularly-scheduled game (a win over Oklahoma St.), Oklahoma is 0-1, Stanford is 2-0, and Ohio St. is 1-0; so I don’t think that’s unfair. I felt the Sooners rightly stayed ahead of Houston, Iowa, Ole Miss, and TCU.

LSU would be in the top 10 if I averaged by week and likely would be had they played McNeese St., but if you consider that two of the three losses were to top 10 teams (Alabama and Ole Miss), 9-1 against the rest is pretty good.

One of the wins was over Western Kentucky, who finished 12-2 and #12. The Hilltoppers’ only other loss was to Indiana, a bowl team from the Big Ten. It wasn’t a good bowl, but Texas wasn’t in any bowl and they beat Oklahoma (for instance), so I don’t think that should be fatal.

Michigan started out six spots below Florida and ended up five spots ahead, so I think that’s a reasonable shift for one game. I don’t see anything controversial about Notre Dame, Northwester, Navy, or Utah.

I admitted that Arkansas’ loss to Toledo was one of the negatives of the conference’s non-conference campaign, but the Rockets finished 10-2 (they had a canceled game like LSU did), so nothing to be too embarrassed about. They beat one of the best G5 teams in Temple in the bowl game.

The other bad SEC loss (by a good SEC team anyway) was Ole Miss’ loss to Memphis, but Memphis might be ranked had they not lost to another SEC team Auburn in the bowl game. I’ll discuss conference results more in the next college football blog probably early next week.

Oklahoma St. stayed in the top 20 despite three losses in a row to end the season, so it’s not some special SEC privilege, although rightly the Gators stayed ahead of the Cowboys. Florida played the best three SEC West teams by overall record.

Mississippi St. and Georgia also benefited by the improvement to their opponents combined with bowl wins of their own.

The Big XII didn’t have the best time of the bowls, but Baylor’s bowl win over North Carolina was strong enough on its own to put them back in the top 25.

The same could be said of the Big Ten West and Wisconsin.

Top 25

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

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

Week 11

Week 12

Pre-Bowl

More on LSU’s Start and Understanding FCS Games

In College Football, General LSU, History, Post-game on September 9, 2014 at 12:42 PM

This isn’t the main thing I’m going to write about, but I heard it after I published my blog about the LSU-Wisconsin game. Since Les Miles took over at LSU, the Tigers are 22-21 when trailing in the fourth quarter, the only team in the FBS to have a winning record during that span (apparently, they don’t count the last-second loss to Clemson as “trailing in the fourth quarter”; but no one else comes close regardless). Miles is also back above the 80% mark as head coach of the Tigers. After winning 85% in his first three seasons, Miles’ winning percentage had fallen to 77.3% after the 2009 season. The Tigers are attempting to finish with double-digit wins for the fifth consecutive year since then. It would be Miles’ 8th overall in 10 seasons.

By comparison, Nick Saban won 75% of his games at LSU and had two double-digit-win seasons in five years, falling just short of a third on the last play of his stint at LSU. I understand Saban didn’t take over a program in the same shape; but he was still considered a strong success overall, so building on his tenure is still something to be proud of. Not many coaches can step into a situation like that and improve it, so Miles deserves a good deal of credit.

I don’t have too much to say about the Sam Houston St. game itself, but although LSU won extremely easily, that was not necessarily the expected result.

Ameer Abdullah's great run with 20 second left saved Nebraska from potential embarrassment.

Ameer Abdullah’s great run with 20 seconds left saved Nebraska from potential embarrassment.

After the Nebraska-McNeese St. game (if you missed it, Nebraska scored the winning touchdown with 20 seconds left with the Cowboys essentially one tackle away from forcing overtime), I want to talk a bit about FCS opponents. They really vary. A number of the scores were pretty close. Of course, you also have your 70-point wins against such opponents as well.

Sam Houston St. went to the FCS championship game in the 2012 season, so they could have been among the best teams this season. I was looking at the margins Sam Houston St. won by that season. They won seven games by 35 points or more and beat Southeast Louisiana, 70-0. I think there is as much of a gap between the top and bottom of FCS as there is of FBS. Maybe Sam Houston isn’t as high on the scale this season; but the team they lost to in that championship game, North Dakota St., seems to be about the same after the Bison’s 34-14 win over Iowa St. So I don’t think there is a real appreciation of that.

Most people dismiss the opposition right off the bat. I know a Kansas St. fan who just assumed North Dakota St. was nothing to worry about last year, for instance. There is a general lack of appreciation of the fact that if you play a playoff-level FCS team, there is a good chance that team will be clearly better than a low-level FBS team.

One of those teams that is routinely toward the bottom of the FCS is Nicholls St. (which just lost to Arkansas , 73-7), but even they have a recent win over an FBS school. They beat Western Michigan last year, but when they played would-be bowl teams, the results were more predicable: losses to Oregon, 66-3, and to ULL, 70-7.

Anyway, I’ve noticed the quality of FCS opponents on LSU’s schedule of late. The Tigers played Furman last year, and while that’s not typically one of the top FCS teams (although they are competitive in one of the top FCS conferences), they still did a decent job. LSU only led by four at halftime and didn’t lead by more than 11 until less than 17 minutes remained in the game. The Paladin defense folded after that, and LSU ended up winning by 32; but that was still a better exercise than Kent St., whom LSU led 31-7 in the second quarter, or UAB, whom LSU led 35-7 in the second quarter last season. LSU let both teams back into the game a little bit before pulling away, but I don’t think that’s the same kind of pressure.

In 2012, LSU blew out Idaho, 63-14, but then struggled to beat Towson, 38-22, two weeks later. Towson failed to make the playoffs that year despite only losing twice in FCS play, but they advanced to the FCS finals last year (they also lost to the Bison of NDSU) after again only losing two games in FCS play. They played no FBS opponents last season, however.

A similar combination of results took place in 2010 when LSU beat McNeese St., 32-10, after trailing in the second quarter and leading only 16-10 after halftime. The Tigers then went on to beat ULM, 51-0, later that season. LSU plays ULM next week, by the way.

LSU had only played an FCS opponent twice in the previous six seasons, both times being against Appalachian St. In the first meeting in 2005, the Tigers, who would win the SEC West, only led the Mountaineers 14-0 after three quarters before pulling away slightly in the fourth to win, 24-0. Appalachian St. at one point drove to the LSU 15 while it was still 14-0 (before missing a field goal), so the game was in doubt for a long time despite the lack of points. The Tigers had easier wins that season @Mississippi St., @Vanderbilt, @Ole Miss, and in the bowl game against Miami. LSU also blew out North Texas at home by more than twice that margin in that season.

So if I wanted to give LSU a test in a given year, I’d pick a top-20 FCS team over a bottom-20 FBS team every time. Just something to keep in mind.

Also, McNeese wasn’t the only team with a good result last week. Eastern Kentucky got the only win (over Miami U.), but there were some others that were in doubt fairly late. Stony Brook gave Connecticut all they could handle. Rutgers only beat Howard by 13. Eastern Washington was neck-and-neck with Washington the whole game, falling short by only 7 points. Southern Mississippi only beat Alcorn St. by 6, and UNLV only beat Northern Colorado by a single point.

Finally, I don’t think Missouri St. made Oklahoma St. too nervous, but I thought it was interesting that the Bears only lost by 17 after the Cowboys were a touchdown short of beating Florida St. in Week 1.

By the way, LSU plays McNeese St. and Eastern Michigan next season. I would not be surprised if they had more trouble with McNeese St.

Most Unlikely FCS vs. FBS Win Yet

In College Football, Post-game on September 8, 2013 at 12:28 PM

Nicholls St. beat Western Michigan yesterday, 27-24. If you don’t know anything about Nicholls St., you’re probably thinking, “So what? FCS teams have won several games like this in the last few years, who cares if a mediocre MAC team lost a game like this?” Hopefully I can explain.

Going into today, most people probably regarded the biggest upset of a I-A/FBS team by a I-AA/FCS team as the upset by Appalachian St. against Michigan, which caused the AP to revise its rules to allow for voters to rank I-AA teams for the first time. So I’m going to talk about that first.

Michigan was ranked #5 nationally when it lost to Appalachian St. in the opener in 2007, but that was mostly because it was widely regarded as the second-best team in the nation for most of the year in 2006.

Most people had not heard of Appalachian St. before then, but they probably should have. The Mountaineers were on a 14-game winning streak since losing to North Carolina St. in the 2006 opener. They were on a 23-game winning streak against I-AA opponents dating back to October 2005.

Michigan had a decent year in 2007, but they did lose to 3 I-A opponents that year as well. Appalachian St.’s winning streak did end in 2007, but the Mountaineers won their third consecutive title despite two losses on the year. So in hindsight, you can at least understand Appalachian St. having the confidence to believe it could win that game.

As an aside, I’m not even sure that was a bigger upset than Stanford over USC, also in 2007. Stanford, which had gone 1-11 the year before, ended a 35-game home winning streak for the Trojans, who would lose only one other game in the 2007 season. USC was the #2 team in the nation going into that game after starting the season #1. Stanford would finish 4-8 in 2007. The closest comparison I can think of is if Kentucky beats Alabama this year and then Alabama goes on to win the Sugar Bowl.

Anyway, comparing that 2007 Appalachian St. team to 2013 Nicholls St. isn’t like comparing day and night. It’s like comparing the surface of the sun to the dark side of the moon.

Going into yesterday, the Nicholls St. Colonels had a 21-game LOSING streak against NCAA schools (15 of them FCS). The Colonels’ only wins in 2011 and 2012 combined were both against Evangel College, which competes in NAIA. Nicholls St. had lost its last three games against FBS opponents by a combined score of 209-22, managing only a field goal apiece against Oregon to start this year and against Oregon St. at the end of last year.

Oregon St. lost to an FCS opponent, Eastern Washington this year, but just to show how Nicholls St. compares in the context of FCS, the Beavers beat the Colonels last November by a score of 77-3. So Eastern Washington won by 3 against a team made up mostly of the players who had beaten Nicholls St. by 74.

The last time the Colonels had played Western Michigan, in 2011, the Broncos won, 38-7. That WMU team went to a bowl game, by the way. So although the Broncos finished 4-8 last year, we’re not talking about a long-term doormat or anything. There probably is a good number of players on the team with bowl experience.

To be fair, Nicholls St. only lost to South Alabama 9-3 last season, but that was the Jaguars’ first game as an FBS transitional team after going only 4-4 against Division I competition (mostly FCS) the year before. Not quite the same thing. South Alabama also suffered a loss to an FCS team already this season before beating Tulane, a winner of only two games last season.

Western Michigan, on the other hand, had not lost to a currently FCS team since 1996 despite playing one in almost every season, usually wining by a convincing margin. For instance, in 2004, by far the worst WMU season in recent history, the Broncos still beat Tennessee-Martin, 42-0.

The only team I can think of nearly as bad as Nicholls St. that has won a game like this was Central Arkansas in 2009, which was only playing its fourth season in Division I. The Bears finished 5-7, but two of those wins were not against Division I teams and one was against… Nicholls St. But since the upset game by the Central Arkansas was over Western Kentucky, a team fairly new to FBS play, that one was nothing close to the Nicholls St. upset.

So in short, if there is an argument for a bigger disparity in a win by an FCS team over an FBS team, I’d certainly like to hear it. I know a little bit about the subject matter (obviously), but that’s all I can come up with.