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Posts Tagged ‘Arizona St.’

Week 5 Rankings and Comments

In College Football, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 29, 2019 at 3:16 PM

This is the first week that I have published my computer rantings; but as I mentioned I did some trial runs before.  I won’t be following the order too closely for now, but that will partly explain some teams that may be in surprising places.

Part of the transition from subjective to objective rankings (for this year anyway) is a strict rule that the ranking of a given team can only vary 6 spots from the computer formula.  For instance, Georgia and Washington were 9 and 10, but they ended up 3 and 16. Likewise, teams that started 13 spots apart could be one spot.  If 6 seems like an arbitrary number, it is. I wanted the flexibility to put a team like Oklahoma with no losses ahead of a team like Oklahoma St. with a loss to Texas, whom I was barely able to include in the top 25. I had to leave Berkeley ahead of the Sooners though.

For now I’m keeping the top 5 the same as I had it last week, but I probably won’t next week even if none of them lose. I will give myself less leeway to deviate from the computer, and I expect at least Alabama to have a lower computer rating due to missing out on points entirely during the bye week.

North Carolina had no chance of getting what would have been the go-ahead two-point conversion try in Chapel Hill on Saturday.

Partly because margin of victory for the most-part doesn’t factor into my philosophy (except to fill in the gaps early on and except for certain narrow home victories), I am keeping Clemson #1.  I need some pretty strong evidence a team is the best to make a change at #1; it’s not purely about who had the best 5 weeks and picking a team in a vacuum.  The other candidates don’t have the quality wins necessary yet.  Georgia, with the win over Notre Dame, had the best argument on paper; but their second-best win is Arkansas St., so that doesn’t do it for me.  Alabama hasn’t beaten anyone in the computer top 50, and that may not even change if they beat Texas A&M.in two weeks.  Alabama and Clemson are a much closer 1 and 2 to other teams than earlier in the season, but I’m giving it another week.

Outside of the top 3, Auburn still has too many question marks despite being the computer #1.  Ohio St. is also up there, but the Buckeyes need a better win than Cincinnati (I never bought into the Nebraska hype, and neither does the computer). 

I decided to leave Boise St. ahead of Notre Dame.  While the Irish have the better win against an ACC team (since Virginia beat Florida St.), the Broncos beat Air Force. Notre Dame’s second-best win is over Louisville.  The Irish also have a loss, but I think Boise St. would have also lost, so that wasn’t a major factor.

Arizona St. (which beat Cal Friday in Berkeley) might not have an impressive offense, but the Sun Devils have had two impressive road wins with ball control and defense.

There are some unexpected teams after that.  Arizona St.’s being 2-1 against the top 20 with a third OK FBS win (over Kent St., whose only other loss is to Auburn) is pretty good right now.  Wake Forest is undefeated and didn’t come as close to losing to UNC as Clemson did.  SMU is also undefeated with a win over TCU.  Colorado beat Arizona St. but lost to Air Force.  More on the Falcons below.  Michigan St. lost to Arizona St. but has three fairly decent wins.  Appalachian St. is undefeated and also beat UNC more easily than Clemson did.  Berkeley is 1-1 against the computer top 10 with no other losses, so that was as low as I could put them.

I could have ranked Air Force and Virginia, but I preferred to keep undefeated Iowa and one-loss Texas.  Although LSU hasn’t had depth in its schedule yet, I think the Tigers look like a better team than Boise St. or Notre Dame.  Also, the Longhorns beat a better team (Oklahoma St.) than anyone Virginia beat. Air Force did beat Colorado, but I want to see if they can follow that up with anything before I kick Texas or someone who hasn’t lost out of the top 25. In the next five weeks, the Falcons play Navy, Hawaii, Utah St., and Army.

Not only did Kansas St. lose to Oklahoma St., but the Wildcats’ win over Mississippi St. lost its luster when the Bulldogs got blown out by Auburn.  So Virginia and Kansas St. are the only two teams to fall out from last week.

Hawaii’s Cedric Byrd II celebrates one of two touchdown catches in Reno on Saturday.

I had to rank Hawaii due to the six-spot rule, but I think the Warriors deserve it.  In addition to blowing out Nevada on the road Saturday, they’ve played three Pac-12 teams and only lost to Washington.  Oregon St., as usual, isn’t good; but the Beavers gave Stanford a game.  Arizona hasn’t lost to anyone else yet, although UCLA gave them a scare.

Speaking of the Pac-12, that conference has the highest computer rating per team.  There aren’t any undefeated teams, so the Pac-12 is outnumbered in the top 10 by the SEC.  However, the Pac-12 has more teams in the top 25 and doesn’t have as many teams below 100.  The SEC leads 3-1 in the latter category (Vanderbilt, Arkansas, and Tennessee against just UCLA). 

Top 25

rankteamlast
1Clemson1
2Alabama2
3Georgia3
4Auburn4
5Ohio St.5
6Boise St.7
7Notre Dame25
8Wake Forest9
9Wisconsin13
10Arizona St.22
11SMU11
12Colorado20
13Michigan St.23
14LSU10
15Florida6
16Washington21
17Penn St.14
18Oregon24
19Appalachian16
20UC-Berkeley8
21Oklahoma19
22Oklahoma St.
23Iowa18
24Hawaii
25Texas15

Out of rankings: (12) Virginia, (17) Kansas St.

Week 3 Top 25

In College Football, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 15, 2019 at 3:38 PM

I’ll include my thoughts about the most-recent LSU game when I go into detail about Vanderbilt later in the week.  I’ve been waiting to write about the LSU-Vanderbilt series for a while, but there is only so much to say about it since Vandy has not won since 1990.

There is a bit more to say about the top 25 games that weren’t against FCS opponents and the new members of the top 25.  This is still primarily subjective, but I did try out my ratings system for the first time.  It’s pointless to even look at it before everyone plays an FBS opponent, so that’s why I hadn’t looked before.  Now that that’s happened, the system has given me a little bit of guidance; but it’s still somewhat limited.

For the new teams last week, I just added teams who beat opponents I previously thought were good.  That didn’t work out particularly well.  USC promptly lost to BYU, and Maryland promptly lost to Temple.  I don’t believe BYU or Temple belong in the top 25.  BYU should have lost to Tennessee, who I wouldn’t even put in my top 75.  Temple is closer, but I put that win down to Maryland being inconsistent (as usual) more than I put it down to Temple being very good.  Cal, the third team I added after last week, did win; but the Bears didn’t do very much to separate themselves from their opponent North Texas, whose only win is over a basically winless FCS team (I don’t count wins over Division II or lower).

BYU’s Dax Milne catches a 30-yard touchdown pass from Zach Wilson to put the Cougars ahead of USC in the second quarter in Provo on Saturday.

There are very basic observations this early that my computer system is not capable of.  For instance, it doesn’t realize Texas is harder to beat than USC.  They both faced three FBS opponents, and they’re both 2-1.  The opponents of both Texas and USC have a total of 3 wins against FBS opponents (LSU and Louisiana Tech combine for three as do BYU and Stanford).  I don’t add any inputs for how teams did last season or in any recent seasons, so it takes time to differentiate quality wins better.

Number 1 on the computer list is Auburn.  Only 7 teams are 3-0 against FBS teams at this point.  Only one of the Tigers’ three opponents has a loss to another team, and two of those opponents have wins over an FBS team.  All three have wins over FCS teams. Eighty-five of 130 teams have FCS wins, so it’s hard to have a better schedule so far among the unbeaten teams.  You could argue Ohio St. has a better schedule because their opponents had four wins over FBS team.  However, one of the four FBS wins by the Buckeyes’ opponents (Cincinnati over UCLA) was over a completely winless team, and the three other wins by Buckeyes’ opponents were over teams who are winless against the FBS. 

It only goes downhill from there.  In the computer, the worst 3-0 (vs. FBS) team is Alabama, who beat South Carolina (which counts for zero points since they’ve only beaten a winless FCS team) and New Mexico St. (who is completely winless).  Alabama did beat Duke, who beat Middle Tennessee; but as you might guess Middle Tennessee is also winless against FBS opponents. Anyway, this is why I said this early you have to look at more than wins and losses even though later in the year I move away from that.  I think we’ve seen more evidence of the ability to win championships by Alabama than Auburn even though Auburn has had more accomplishments so far.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa has been able to wear down the defenses he’s faced so far, but his coach expressed frustration that the Tide hasn’t been tested against better opponents.

Anyway, I’m not relying on the computer rankings to tell me if one team is better than another, but I did use it to find suggestions for teams to add to the top 25.  Three were teams I was already strongly considering: Arizona St. (which beat Michigan St.), Iowa (which beat Iowa St.), and Wake Forest (which beat North Carolina).  I’m not about to put them in the top 10 like the computer has them, but I think they’ve had a good enough 3 weeks to belong where I put them. 

Kansas St. was not one I was thinking of, but the Wildcats are 3-0 and have a win over Mississippi St.  Otherwise they beat a bad FBS team and a good FCS team.  Another candidate was Virginia, who has a very similar profile; but I think it’s harder to beat Mississippi St than Florida St. right now, especially since the Wildcats went on the road to beat the Bulldogs while the Cavaliers beat the Seminoles at home.

Despite what I said about the North Texas game, I still think Cal’s win over Washington will turn out to be a very good one. So I’m not inclined to take the Bears out of the top 25 unless there is a loss. They go on the road to face Ole Miss before two fairly tough in-conference opponents (Arizona St. and Oregon), so we will soon see how much of a fluke the Washington win was.

Top 25

rankteamlast
1Clemson1
2Alabama2
3Georgia3
4LSU4
5Ohio St.5
6Notre Dame6
7Auburn7
8Florida8
9Wash. St.9
10Oklahoma10
11Michigan11
12Texas A&M12
13Utah13
14Texas14
15C. Florida15
16Penn St.17
17Appalachian18
18Arizona St.
19Iowa
20Wake Forest
21Cincinnati21
22Boise St.22
23Oregon23
24UC-Berkeley25
25Kansas St.

Out of top 25: (16) Michigan St., (19) USC, (20) Maryland, (24) Iowa St.

LSU More Qualified for #3 Seed Than Kansas

In College Basketball, General LSU, Rankings Commentary on March 2, 2019 at 9:54 PM

For more background about LSU, see my blog before last week’s games.

I started seeing LSU projected as a three-seed when they beat Tennessee, but I’ve been waiting on probably the most famous prognosticator Joe Lunardi to put the Tigers there.  As of Friday, he still had not done so (I’m using archived links because these pages are updated frequently).  A ton of fans say their team should be higher and are vague about what team should move down in their stead, but I’m not.  It’s Kansas. 

LSU’s substitute point guard Javonte Smart (with ball) was fouled with about 1 second left before hitting the winning free throws against Tennessee.

Some people may say it’s Houston now that it lost to Central Florida (and that would be a convenient excuse to move LSU up without having to deal with Kansas fans), but I’m not making that argument.  Although it was in December, the Cougars beat LSU.  I know the first reaction to Central Florida is “This isn’t football,” but they are a top-30 team according to the NET (Warren Nolan’s version anyway), which I guess is the new and improved RPI (which I was never a huge fan of because it gives teams a ton of credit for the games they lose).  I’ll grant that it’s late in the year to record a loss like that, but I don’t think Houston was exposed all of a sudden.  There is no reason to believe that’s a game Kansas or LSU couldn’t have lost in past couple of weeks.

Losses by Marquette and Nevada may also help LSU going forward, but like I talked about in the last blog, new things happen in basketball all the time, and my blog process isn’t that fast. I’d also note that Jerry Palm (whom I’ll mention later) now has LSU as a #2 with KU still a 4-seed.

I don’t think Lunardi is doing this intentionally and it may well be the same subconscious bias the committee holds, but I can’t help but think Kansas is getting some “blue blood” special treatment. 

Worst Loss

Normally I wouldn’t quibble too much about the worst lost, I’d just say both lost to a bad team and leave it at that.  But in this case, Oklahoma St. is 24 spots higher than West Virginia in the NET, and we have the benefit of them being in the same conference, so it’s not like the two have had vastly different opportunities. 

I think a good example of these teams is their respective February trips to Lubbock.  Texas Tech is a similar team to LSU, so I think that makes it a particularly good point of comparison (what the teams can do when they get up for a game).  Oklahoma St. took the Red Raiders to overtime while West Virginia lost by 31.  In Kansas’s defense, they did play the Mountaineers much closer than LSU played the Cowboys; but a bad loss in November means a lot less to me than one in mid-January. 

Oklahoma St.’s Lindy Waters’ hit four threes in the final minute, including the tying shot as time expired against Texas Tech; but the Cowboys fell in overtime.

When LSU lost to Oklahoma St., they were playing their third night in a row and just off a disappointing overtime loss to Florida St.  We may see in the SEC tournament if that third night in a row is the problem, but for sure the Tigers won’t be playing the day after a loss.  Also, the most you play in the NCAA tournament is twice in a week.

I started writing this on Friday, but it so happened the Cowboys also played Kansas close, so that furthers my argument, while on Saturday LSU got a slightly more impressive road win over Alabama.  I think beating teams in the NCAA field on the road is impressive even if they end up being 11 or 12 seeds. 

Let’s talk about the second-worst loss.  LSU’s was against Arkansas.  Absent winning the SEC tournament or at least winning 4 or 5 more games, Arkansas will not be an at-large team.  However, the Razorbacks just got a pretty decent win over Ole Miss for their 6th win in conference play.  Also, if you throw Kansas a bone for only losing to West Virginia by 1, certainly it’s more understandable to lose to Arkansas by 1.

Other Losses

Kansas’s second-worst loss is slightly better, but Arizona St. just lost by 28 points to Oregon.  The Kansas-Arizona St. game was over two months ago, and Arizona St. is a higher-ranked team than Arkansas; but the disparity between Arizona St. and Arkansas is much less than that between Oklahoma St. and West Virginia. 

LSU’s other 3 losses are all against the NET top 30: (4) Houston, (23) Florida St., and (29) Florida.  Only one game in this group of losses (Florida, if you couldn’t guess) happened after December 12.

Kansas’s other losses: (5) Kentucky, (10) Texas Tech, (14) Iowa St., (28) Kansas St., and (36) Texas.  All the losses in this group have come since January 5.

Key Wins and Conclusion

According to Palm at CBS Sports, Kansas had two more “Quad 1” wins as of Friday morning.  Quad 1 wins consist of home games against the top 30, neutral games against the top 50, and road games against the top 75.  Since it was a road game, Alabama qualifies as a Quad 1 win, reducing the margin to 1.  Oklahoma St. is not in the top 75.

Although Alabama hit two late 3s, Tremont Waters (no relation to Lindy) led the Tigers to a 5-point victory in his first game back.

Kansas has the best non-conference strength of schedule in the nation, so a lot of these key wins took place before the new year, and as mentioned a lot of losses took place after.  I think analysis of the losses and when the games took place more than compensates for Kansas’s single additional Quad 1 win, and I hope Lunardi’s new projections give LSU the #3 ahead of Kansas.

Of course if LSU loses two (or more) of the next three games and Kansas wins out in the Big XII, Kansas will belong ahead; but I think it’s getting close enough to Selection Sunday that it’s a concern if you’re not giving teams proper credit for what they’ve done as of right now. 

Top 25 after Week 2

In College Football, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 9, 2018 at 4:19 PM

I do plan to write blogs other than rankings soon, but there weren’t a lot of extra days in the first two weeks. I posted the preseason rankings right before Week 1 started, and there were 5 playing days followed by the midweek Week 1 rankings. I’ll definitely have something to say about the upcoming LSU-Auburn game, possibly on Thursday.

I’m dropping Clemson because from what I saw they didn’t deserve to win. I’ll take a controversial close win over a major unranked team on the road if you’re #20 maybe, but not if you’re #2. Later in the season, it just counts as a win, but when we have relatively little information about the teams, you have to look at how they won.

If you didn’t see the game or highlights, Texas A&M came close to scoring the potentially tying touchdown in the last few minutes, but the ball was knocked loose. The ruling on the field was a touchback. Although from every angle, it looked like that was wrong, the call stood. I’ll elaborate in the next paragraph, but I’ll warn you it’s a bit of a rant.

I don’t think there is any way to create this image if the ball crossed the goal line before going out of bounds.

I don’t blame the referee if he simply couldn’t tell and made a guess, but the problem I have is that even if the referee has to flip a coin to decide, you have an incredible burden of proof to change the call. I wish there were an option where the referee could appeal directly to the replay booth if he didn’t see or couldn’t tell. Regardless, the call should have been overturned. Every angle shouldn’t have to be 100% clear. I don’t believe it’s possible that the ball went through the end zone. Never mind that this is the most completely unfair rule in football in the first place. If the ball goes out at your own 1, you keep it, but if you make it 99 yards down the field and you fumble forward (but not backward), it’s a turnover? Absurd.

Anyway, despite losing the ball in this ridiculous and unfair fashion, the Aggies were able to get the ball back and score a touchdown anyway. They just weren’t able to get the two-point conversion. Maybe Clemson would have played differently if they’d gotten the ball up 2 instead of 8 (assuming the same unsuccessful conversion play), but either way they would have wanted to hold onto the ball until the clock ran out. There is a very high chance that had the ruling been correct Texas A&M would have won.

I did make a rule for this week that you need to have a win over an FBS opponent from now on, so that explains some of the turnover of teams.

I also lowered Notre Dame a little bit for their close win over Ball St., who now has a 10-game losing streak against FBS opponents.

I indicated last week that Minnesota and Duke were playing for potential rankings, so I stuck to that. Iowa was ranked at the end of last year, and they just beat Iowa St., who was also ranked for much of last year, so I thought it made sense to put the Hawkeyes back. I mentioned Maryland looked good in Week 1 and despite some trouble early on, they won decisively. Arizona St. got in by beating Michigan St., although the Sun Devils’ offense needs work (as does Iowa’s). Virginia Tech and West Virginia haven’t really impressed me. I don’t think Florida St. and Tennessee (their respective Week 1 opponents) are very good, but the Hokies and Mountaineers were both teams I considered ranking before the season and have done nothing to deserve not being ranked.

The only other team that moved a lot was USC. They lost to a good team but didn’t make it very close or beat a very good team in Week 1, so 8 spots seems reasonable.

Stanford RB Bryce Love tries to pad his yardage against USC.. He ran for 136 yards for the game.

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Georgia 3
3 Wisconsin 4
4 Ohio St. 5
5 Oklahoma 6
6 Stanford 7
7 Clemson 2
8 Auburn 8
9 Miss. St. 12
10 Boise St. 14
11 Notre Dame 9
12 UCF 16
13 LSU 17
14 Michigan 18
15 Penn St. 19
16 TCU 21
17 Okie St. 24
18 USC 10
19 Minnesota —
20 Iowa —
21 Maryland —
22 Arizona St. —
23 Duke —
24 Va. Tech —
25 W. Virginia —

Out of top 25: (11) Washington, (13) Florida, (15) Fresno St., (20) Mich. St., (22) Memphis, (23) S Carolina, (25) U. Miami

Week 7 Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 10, 2016 at 11:11 AM

I’ll talk about it more with my SEC Wednesday feature, but of course the big game was Texas A&M and Tennessee. Overtime is one of the ways you can be right but still get the spread wrong. They were exactly even through 60 minutes, so if you assume Tennessee has 6.5 extra points, picking Tennessee should be a win. What makes it even more annoying is that if Texas A&M had scored a touchdown to win in the first overtime (even if the Vols didn’t score at all), Tennessee would have still been the correct pick. Going even longer without being outscored only proved me more right, yet it made me wrong according to the bookies. I’m just glad I didn’t put actual money on it.

Anyway, I did pick the correct winner at least. Tennessee didn’t fall very far naturally because A&M on the road in overtime is the least-costly loss you can have right now and also because Tennessee had the most points going into the week. Still, I decided the fair thing to do was to move them below Ohio St. I think it’s too early for a team with a loss (despite the circumstances) to be in the top 5; but of course if they beat Alabama, they will be in the top 5 next week. Putting Alabama #1 and switching Tennessee with Ohio St. were the only changes I made from the computer. If Alabama wins, I expect them to be the natural #1, so maybe next week I can go without changing anything at all.

In one of the most amazing plays this season, Tennessee forced a fumble in the last moments just as it appeared Texas A&M was going to put the game away.  The turnover led to the tying touchdown.

In one of the most amazing plays this season, Tennessee forced a fumble in the last moments just as it appeared Texas A&M was going to put the game away. The turnover led to the tying touchdown.

I don’t think 8-10 are that good, but the more credible teams keep losing or having bye weeks.

How the mighty have fallen when you realize Washington beat Oregon and got jumped by Ohio St., who beat… Indiana?

I know Florida St. has two losses, but they keep playing competitive opponents. I did make losses slightly less devastating this year, but it helpss that they’re not bad losses. Despite the margin of victory Louisville had, it just counts as one loss to a decent team.

rank/team/prev

1 Alabama 1
2 Michigan 3
3 Texas A&M 5
4 Clemson 4
5 Ohio St. 8
6 Tennessee 2
7 Washington 6
8 Boise St. 15
9 W. Michigan 11
10 Wake Forest 14
11 Penn St. —
12 Navy —
13 Houston 7
14 Arizona St. —
15 Florida St. —
16 Wisconsin 12
17 West Virginia 9
18 Virginia Tech 25
19 Stanford 13
20 Nebraska 16
21 Utah —
22 N. Carolina 17
23 Air Force 20
24 Louisville 24
25 Auburn —

Full 128

Out of rankings: (10) U. Miami, (18) Arkansas, (19) Florida, (21) Maryland, (22) Baylor, (23) Cal

Week 5 Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 26, 2016 at 8:25 PM

This is later than I like to post, but I thought maybe with the combination of Monday Night Football and the debate people might be up late. I don’t have much to add about the LSU coaching change right now, but since Les was the longest continuous SEC coach, I will include just a little bit more along with the “SEC Wednesday” feature.

I did want to mention briefly that I understand Les Miles spoke with the team, expressed support for them going forward, and told them to “run the table” this season. Miles, AD Alleva, and Interim Head Coach Ed Orgeron met with the players yesterday evening. Orgeron had a press conference today, but I did not watch it yet. Former Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron apparently left without speaking to anyone (unless he informally talked to a few players) before leaving campus.

I’ve done the first full round of my computer ratings, although I opted not to publish them since I’m not using them exclusively yet. I also need to write a blog on that site to explain the changes.

This is very results-based though. So although I think LSU and Ole Miss, for instance, are very good teams despite two losses apiece, they’re not ranked here. Two teams that probably aren’t very good, Western Michigan and Wake Forest, beat undefeated teams over the weekend and are themselves undefeated. Right now, that counts for something.

It might not have been the game of the century, but undefeated Wake Forest is still undefeated after traveling to play formerly undefeated Indiana.

It might not have been the game of the century, but undefeated Wake Forest is still undefeated after traveling to play formerly undefeated Indiana.

Except for just a couple of changes, all I did was rank the following teams 1-25, and then I averaged my rating with the computer rating. I determined the 25 teams on a subjective basis; but like I said, I still focused on results rather than which teams I think are actually the 25 best.

Tennessee actually came out first, but I thought it was not appropriate to make a change at #1. Absent an Alabama loss or really poor performance, I don’t anticipate making a change to #1 on here for a while even if the formula ranks someone else #1. The only other deviation from what the average of the two ratings gave me was that I broke ties by keeping whatever team was higher last week ahead.

Next week, apart from #1, I plan on simply transcribing the rankings from my ratings site.

If you’re wondering what happened to Ohio St., other teams can pass you up when they score points and you don’t. If they keep winning, they’ll pass other teams back up as they have more bye weeks. Also, that Bowling Green win looks less impressive every week. I still ranked the Buckeyes #3 subjectively; but except for the Alabama/Tennessee thing I mentioned, they went through the same process as everyone else.

rank/team/previous
1 Alabama 1
2 Tennessee 4
3 Louisville 8
4 Clemson 10
5 Wisconsin 2
6 Texas A&M 7
7 Houston 5
8 Michigan 12
9 Ohio St. 3
10 Stanford 9
11 Arkansas 6
12 Wake Forest —
13 Boise St. 21
14 Ga. Tech —
15 Florida 15
16 Nebraska 18
17 Utah 13
18 San Diego St. 17
19 Washington 22
20 Florida St. 14
21 W. Virginia —
22 Va. Tech —
23 Arizona St. —
24 W. Michigan —
25 N. Carolina —

Out of rankings: (11)LSU, (16) Iowa, (19) Georgia, (20) Michigan St., (23) Oklahoma St., (24) Central Michigan, (25) Cal (Berkeley)

Week 2 SEC Preview and Other Key Games

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

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

SEC WED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 2 Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conference Report #3: Midseason

In College Football, Conference Reports on October 9, 2015 at 4:12 PM

Previous Conference Report

I know it’s not really the middle of the season yet, but the majority of inter-conference games have been played, and this will be the only conference report before the end of November.

Once again, the SEC doesn’t win the time period, but one first place and two second places is much better than any other conference.

The Pac-12 comes out first over Weeks 3 to 5 because it hasn’t lost an inter-conference game since Week 2.

Texas A&M ran away from Arizona St. late in the only game between the SEC and Pac-12 this season.

Texas A&M ran away from Arizona St. late in the only game between the SEC and Pac-12 this season.

Arkansas’ loss to Texas Tech was the only loss for the SEC, so that’s good enough for #2.

The Big Ten is third as it was the only other conference to finish with a winning record against the P5 (again, that’s Notre Dame or any member of the ACC, Big XII, Big Ten, Pac-12, or SEC) over the time period.   The BIG also won 84% of its games against other FBS teams in that time.

The Big XII, the best conference of Week 2, achieved a .500 mark against the P5 and won 7 of 10 overall, good enough for fourth.

The records for the AAC and ACC were very similar so I made a list of wins and losses to compare.  The ACC had slightly better wins, but that wasn’t decisive.

The losses were what convinced me the ACC deserves to be higher.  Every team an ACC team lost to over the period has a winning record.  The only ones that were sort of mediocre were East Carolina, Indiana (although the Hoosiers are 4-1 at the moment), and Cincinnati.  The AAC lost to Furman, James Madison, Maryland, and South Carolina, among others.

So finally the P5 actually constitutes the top five conferences in this list.

The ACC went up a spot with Clemson's win over Notre Dame.

The ACC went up a spot with help from Clemson’s win over Notre Dame.

The MAC was 2-9 against the P5 and 6-16 overall, but only one other lower conference even recorded a single win over the P5 (that was the MWC, who went only 1-12 against the P5).  Only the CUSA had more wins over the five other conferences, but the CUSA went 0-9 against the P5.

I looked more into the MWC wins versus the CUSA ones, and the CUSA ones were a joke.  It only beat one team with multiple wins, which was 2-3 Kent St.  One of the Golden Flashes’ wins was over Delaware St. and the other was over Miami U., another of the teams the CUSA beat during the period.

The MWC didn’t have a great list either, but it did beat Virginia and it won the only contest between the MWC and CUSA when beat Colorado St. beat UTSA on the road.

Even though the CUSA beat hardly anyone, it still did better than the Sun Belt, which beat three teams with a total record of 4-11.  Those three teams (San Diego St., Old Dominion, and Wyoming) have gone a combined 2-1 against the FCS.

For the overall records, the Pac-12, Big XII, and Big Ten were close.  But I think looking at the teams they beat and lost to sorted it out pretty easily.  The Pac-12 has no bad losses apart from Washington St.’s loss to Portland St. in Week 1.  Hawaii (which beat Colorado) is the only other loss to a team not currently ranked.  The wins aren’t astounding for either conference (Wake Forest, Kansas, Iowa St., and Oregon St. make up 4 of the Big Ten’s nine P5 victories), but the Pac-12 only has half as many losses as the Big Ten does and almost 2/3 the number of wins against FBS opponents.

The Big XII, on the other hand, comes out behind the Big Ten.  Although it has the same P5 record as the Pac-12, the Big XII has five fewer wins over the FBS overall and has questionable losses such as Rutgers, UC-Berkeley, and South Dakota St.  I know UC-Berkeley is currently ranked, but they haven’t really played a tough opponent yet, with the possible exception of Washington.  Also, it’s not like the Bears beat Iowa St. or Kansas, they beat Texas.  I know the Longhorns aren’t what they were five or six years ago, but they did make a bowl game last year.

The rest of the overall rankings proceed pretty logically from combining the Week 1 and 2 standings with those for the period since then.  The AAC and ACC were extremely close going in, so the ACC winning the period gives it an edge overall.  Those FCS losses made it somewhat easier.

Same thing with MWC and CUSA, but the MWC started off badly enough that this decision deserved a closer look.  The MWC has actually done pretty well after Week 1.  The wins are pretty similar (although I’d argue Washington and Virginia are better than Purdue and Vanderbilt), but I think you can tell more from the losses, since I’m comparing conferences with clearly losing records.

Thirteen of the MWC’s 19 P5 losses have come to the Pac-12 or SEC, and the other six were against the Big Ten.  There are some teams in there that aren’t too good like Colorado, Oregon St., and Washington St., to be fair.  Only five of the CUSA’s 18 P5 losses came against the SEC or Pac-12, and two of those were against Arkansas and Vanderbilt.

The new chart is below.

sec football

Rank Weeks 1&2 Since Total
1 SEC Pac-12 SEC
2 Big XII SEC Pac-12
3 Big Ten Big Ten Big Ten
4 Pac-12 Big XII Big XII
5 AAC ACC ACC
6 ACC AAC AAC
7 MAC MAC MAC
8 CUSA MWC MWC
9 MWC CUSA CUSA
10 Sun Belt Sun Belt Sun Belt

10 years: Les Miles and Hurricane Katrina

In Bowls, College Football, General LSU, Me on September 6, 2015 at 5:13 PM

It was oddly fitting that 10 years after the LSU-North Texas game was postponed due to Hurricane Katrina, another game that was scheduled for Tiger Stadium was cancelled.

That North Texas game was supposed to be the home opener of the Les Miles era at LSU. Instead, this strange guy from Ohio with a goofy grin (his original nickname at LSU was “Less Smiles”) found himself in the middle of makeshift field hospital and landing zone at the LSU athletic area.

If you’re not familiar with the LSU campus, most of the major facilities operate in the shadow of Tiger Stadium. This included the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, which served as the triage area for new arrivals, many of whom landed in a helicopter on the infield of the Bernie Moore Track Stadium (which had hosted the NCAA meet in 2002). Care and shelter was provided to the injured at the Carl Maddox Field House.

A helicopter above the LSU athletic facilities. The Pete Maravich Assembly Center is to the right.

A helicopter above the LSU athletic facilities. The Pete Maravich Assembly Center is to the right.

Here is Miles talking about the experience recently:

The Athletic Director at the time was Skip Bertman, formerly the long-term head baseball coach with the Tigers. These were some of his comments:

This part isn’t really related to Les, but I thought it was an interesting observation. Skip said no one understood how bad it was until they got there:

Personally, I have to agree. I grew up in the New Orleans area, and I knew a lot of the locations that I saw on the news and so forth. Still, you couldn’t grasp the magnitude of it from a television set.

It’s like when you see a tornado touch down some place. Not to minimize tornadoes (which are actually one of the many risks posed by hurricanes), but everything on the screen can look completely devastated; but a few blocks away, there might not be any damage at all. This was nothing like that.

Seeing mile after mile of roofs with blue tarps on them, dead lawns, and boarded up concrete with spray paint on the front was really intense. As was traveling at night and seeing nothing but pitch black where you used to see the lights of civilization. I didn’t see any of this until a few months after Katrina, so I missed things like refrigerators bursting with rotting food and sky-high piles of trash that result from having everything in your house soak in rancid water for weeks in the natural heat and the resulting mold.

I wrote about this when I wrote on the Sporting News site, but people have this annoying habit of injecting partisan politics into this. I want to address that briefly. There were a lot of people in the federal government of both parties that neglected the levee system in the 40 years between Hurricane Betsy (the previous time hurricane winds actually reached New Orleans) and Hurricane Katrina. In the first 30 of those years consecutively the House of Representatives was predominantly Democratic, for instance. So assigning part of the blame on the federal government does not require having a dislike for George W. Bush.

It also does not imply that state and local officials did all they could to coordinate relief efforts or otherwise direct available resources to their best purposes. Even though Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin were both Democrats, I’m told they butted heads because Nagin had endorsed the Republican (who happens to be current governor, then known as Congressman Jindal). So just put that aside and realize that something like this doesn’t happen just because of one party or the people who were in office at the time.

To bring this back around to football, Miles’ home opener was then supposed to be Arizona St. This game was moved to Arizona and LSU won in a bit of a shootout (at least it was at the end), 35-31. The Tigers had scored 28 points in the fourth quarter with the winning touchdown coming with 1:13 remaining.

So after not having a home opener either of the weeks he was supposed to, surely LSU would just have it the next Saturday against Tennessee, the second consecutive top-15 opponent. It could have happened that night, but Tennessee threatened to forfeit because of another approaching Hurricane named Rita (although it was far enough away not to pose a threat to anyone in Baton Rouge that night), so the date was moved once again.

Finally, Miles’ home opener took place the following Monday, 23 days after the North Texas game was supposed to have been played. It looked good early, as LSU’s offense scored early in the first and second quarters. The Tiger defense had completely rattled Tennessee QB Erik Ainge though. He went 7 for 19 for 54 yards with an interception (pick six) and two sacks in the first half. It was 21-0 LSU at halftime. Ainge also was hit a few times, but that came back to haunt the Tigers when he was knocked out of the game. One-time LSU player Rick Clausen started the second half for the Vols with some success and Chief John Chavis’s defense held the Tigers to just three points in the second half. This allowed Tennessee to come all the way back to tie, and they won in overtime.

I remember Miles somewhat nonchalantly mentioning he thought LSU would win in overtime, which didn’t exactly make me feel better. I didn’t realize that this attitude was based on things generally working out for him one way or another.

That would be LSU’s only loss until the SEC Championship game that December, but that game didn’t affect national title hopes since the BCS championship was already going to be undefeated USC against undefeated Texas. After finally getting a break, the Tigers would dominate Miami in the Peach Bowl.

Les Miles (with Larry Coker) before his first bowl game at LSU.

Les Miles (with Larry Coker) before his first bowl game at LSU.

I’m not sure if they would have beaten Tennessee had the season proceeded as scheduled, but for your only loss in your first 11 games as an SEC coach to be in overtime under those circumstances was pretty good. I don’t care who recruited those players.

So even before witnessing some of his eccentricities, I will always have a soft spot for Miles, and this will continue even if we have an awful year or two and Les has to find a new line of work. I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of his success though.

Les has won 78% of his games in 10 seasons. His first three years he won 85%, and from 2010 to 2013 he won 83%. There have been three years, including last year, where LSU didn’t have double-digit wins. But when LSU started 13-0 for the only time in its history in 2011 (actually they were perfect in that calendar year), that was only two years removed from an 9-4 season and three years removed from an 8-5 season. Going back to Miles’ predecessor, LSU’s first BCS championship in 2003 came directly after an 8-4 year.

New Orleans has thankfully only had one big rebuilding process in the last 50 years, and hopefully it will be a long time before another is needed. College football doesn’t work that way, but whether it’s a good year or a rebuilding one it can be a welcome distraction from disasters, as it certainly was 10 years ago.

Ranking the Conferences, Part II: King of the Bowls

In Bowls, College Football, Conference Reports on January 7, 2015 at 4:30 PM

I believe these are all of this season's bowl games.  Apologies if I missed something.

I believe these are all of this season’s bowl games. Apologies if I missed something.

Part I: Frame of Reference

This went long enough just covering the top two conferences, so I plan at least one more blog to finish off the bowl list and another for the overall list.

Before assessing the overall strength of conferences, we should discuss the bowl games, since that’s often the first place people go when talking about conference strength.

I’m skeptical about the bowls being very decisive because all but four teams (until 2014, all but two teams) aren’t really playing for anything but a nice trophy that few people really care about. Not only that, but there is a month layover after the games that really count.

Granted, anyone who lost more than a game or two was out well before the season ended, but there were few teams who didn’t at least have a rivalry game to get excited about in the last couple of weeks of the season. Also, what often happens is a team will be disappointed or disinterested in a bowl game.

There is a lot of talk about let-down games during the season, but a fair percentage of the time the better team ends up winning games like that. It’s a little bit different in bowl games. A relative lack of interest and motivation over a month makes a bigger difference than over a week. Also, you’re pretty much guaranteed an opponent who will beat you if they have a fairly good game by their standards and you have a fairly poor game by your standards.

Nonetheless, if you take the bowl games as one week, that’s still the most important playing week of the season when determining relative conference strength.

The most important consideration for me is how many wins a conference has. I think this is more important than winning percentage, because winning percentage is based more on who your competition is and which teams you have qualify. If only your best five teams are put to the test in a bowl game, what about the other half or more of your conference? They wouldn’t likely have won bowl games. Also, you have to look at who the wins came against.

The SEC, the #1 conference going into the bowl season, had the most wins with 7, 6 of which were against Power 5 conferences. The SEC had 12 teams qualify (and was very close to a 13th). The ACC was second with 11, but the ACC only won a total of 4 bowl games, two of which were not against other Power 5 conferences.

The Pac-12, the #2 conference going into the bowl season, did very well with 6 wins (5 over Power 5 conferences) out of 8 bowl teams. As a result, discussion of the best conference of the bowl season should rightly center in on the SEC and the Pac-12

Where I may part with some is I believe strength of schedule should not only be evaluated in the abstract (how good the opponents are on their own) but also by how difficult the opponent is in light of how highly ranked the conference member.

For instance, the most impressive non-conference win of the season in my opinion was by the ACC when Virginia Tech beat Ohio St. Virginia Tech was about #10 in the ACC, and they beat a team that made the championship game. If Florida St. had beaten Ohio St. instead, it would have been a lot less impressive.

All of the Pac-12 bowl games were fairly even match-ups. I think the combination of Arizona and Utah was a fair match for Boise St. and Colorado St. of the MWC. Each conference won one of the two. The combination of UCLA and Washington was also a fair match for Kansas St. and Oklahoma St., and again each conference won one of the two.

Since there were no other losses, everything else goes in the plus column for the Pac-12. Of course, Oregon beat Florida St. going away. Arizona St. was #4 in the Pac-12 and beat the ACC #5 Duke. Stanford was #7 in the Pac-12 and beat Big Ten #6 Maryland. USC was #5 and beat Big Ten #5 Nebraska.

Returning to the SEC, the results were contrary to what one would have expected. Most of the season, the top five teams of the SEC West beat all the other teams. It wasn’t until the last few weeks that that group lost to ANYONE else. Auburn lost to Texas A&M and Georgia, and Ole Miss and LSU lost to Arkansas. Still, it was interesting that three of those losses were still inside the SEC West. Also, despite the fact that the SEC lost more inter-conference games in rivalry week than it had lost the entire rest of the season combined, not a single one of those losses were by the SEC West.

Those five top SEC West teams were curiously the only teams to lose bowl games though. I think part of it was that disappointment, letdown sort of phenomenon I mentioned, but obviously that wouldn’t apply to Alabama. I think what happened there is the Tide defense got worn down, and then the Tide offense couldn’t keep up with the Buckeyes. That’s not the kind of game Alabama is accustomed to having to win, although they did manage to win a similar game against Auburn.

Also, those teams gave each other a beating. The most notable injury in an inter-SEC West game was to Laquon Treadwell, but I know LSU lost a lineman in the Alabama game, and some other players (such as Kenny Hilliard) were banged up as well.

Out of the five games lost, there was only a game and a half that was bad. Auburn took Wisconsin to overtime, LSU lost in the last second, Alabama was alive in their game until the final minute. The second half by Mississippi St. and the whole game by Ole Miss were pretty ugly though.

I believe I counted accurately that despite those five teams not winning any bowl games of their own, they got a total of 18 wins over teams that won bowl games. That’s more than the top five of any other CONFERENCE. The only one that comes close is, of course, the Pac-12.

I was a bit surprised that with Arkansas playing Texas in Texas (#10 SEC vs. #6 of the Big XII), Texas A&M playing West Virginia (#9 SEC vs. #5 of Big XII), South Carolina playing U. Miami (#12 SEC vs. #10 of the ACC), and Tennessee playing Iowa (#11 SEC vs. #7 of the Big Ten), no other SEC team lost a game. I won’t pretend I was at all surprised by Missouri, Georgia, and Florida winning all of theirs, but that doesn’t make them count for less.

It’s frustrating that there were no games between the SEC and the Pac-12 of course, but there are a few different ways to look at this.

There were four bowl wins by the Pac-12 over teams in the top 5 of power conferences and two losses to other teams. If we limit that to the top 4, the Pac-12 had two wins inside and two losses outside.

The SEC had three bowl wins over teams in the top 5 of power conferences, and Notre Dame was the only loss outside of that group. Notre Dame barely had a winning record against Power 5 opponents (even though they generally played pretty good ones), but we don’t have to count them as of that quality. Of course, if we discount the Irish too much, that devalues the season as a whole for the Pac-12 (three games against them vs. only one by the SEC). If we limit it to the top 4, it’s two wins and one loss. These are both better ratios than the Pac-12 had. I would also note that the Pac-12 didn’t have a sub-top-5 team beat a top-5 team of another conference.

Here’s another way to look at it. The Pac-12 wasn’t really over- or under-matched in any of their games, so they’re 6-2 in games in which they weren’t over-matched or under-matched.

The SEC was 3-2 in games in which they were over-matched. The wins I mentioned were by Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Tennessee; the losses were by Ole Miss (#4 SEC vs. #1 [tie] in the Big XII) and Auburn (#6 SEC vs. #3 in the Big Ten).

You could argue Florida was under-matched by East Carolina (#8 SEC vs. #4 American/AAC), but even though they struggled against the top of their own conference, East Carolina did beat ACC #6 North Carolina 70-41, so I think it’s fair to say that was basically even as well.

If the SEC and Pac-12 had the same number of teams, I would honestly struggle to pick a better conference despite the Pac-12’s 75 winning percentage in bowls vs. the SEC’s 58.3%. But since ½ of each conference won bowl games, I think it’s fair to give the Pac-12 a little slack for not being over-matched in any games and for having a smaller percentage of teams qualify. So they’re my #1 for the bowl “week”.

I do want to note that I don’t blame the Pac-12 for not having better bowl opponents. There aren’t that many great bowls out west that the other major conferences really want to play in. Also, the bowls in the East aren’t particularly disposed to trying to get Pac-12 opponents. Just because they’re good teams doesn’t mean a large group of fans want to travel two or three thousand miles to go to the game. But just like with my team standings, I can only judge on the games that actually take place.