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Posts Tagged ‘Baylor’

Week 10 Top 25 and Comments

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

Housekeeping

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

LSU-Alabama Rivalry since 2000.

LSU-Alabama Rivalry since 2000.

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

Contrast with Other Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion of My Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 25

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

All 128 teams

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

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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 6 Top 25 and LSU Comments

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 4, 2016 at 6:46 PM

Orgeron Tenure Weeks 1 and 2

Since I haven’t posted about LSU in a while, I’ll start with just a few comments. Beating Missouri doesn’t mean a whole lot on its own, but the way the Fighting Tigers did it has to mean something. Mississippi St. is a similar team, and LSU could never quite put them away. Granted, LSU was up 17 somewhat late against the Bulldogs, but even despite the onside kick, State would have never been able to make it close had the LSU offense not stagnated.

LSU is given about a 4% chance of running the table in the regular season, but it improves to about 10% if you allow for one loss.

The Fighting Tigers scored their first points of the season in the fourth quarter. Even though the game was over, I think the changes to the play-calling and to the practice schedule are already having an impact on stamina.

I think everyone knows the LSU coaches would be crazy not to call a lot of running plays with the current team, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that if you don’t have a particularly mobile quarterback (although he can pick up 5-10 yards in a pinch), it’s probably a good idea to throw some play-action in there somewhat regularly.

Derrius Guice (left) and Darrel Williams combined for 314 yards and 6 touchdowns against Mizzou.  LSU's total offense of 634 yards was the most in an SEC game in program history.

Derrius Guice (left) and Darrel Williams combined for 314 yards and 6 touchdowns against Mizzou. LSU’s total offense of 634 yards was the most in an SEC game in program history.

A lot of LSU fans have whined about the I formation. If you soften up the defense with the pass effectively and you can tempt the defense into focusing on the wrong part of the line, it can be a great formation. It just doesn’t work very well if it’s play after play with the same blockers and the same running backs doing the same things. You can at least switch up the people in the backfield, which they finally did in this game.

Orgeron talked about using elements of the USC offense (not 100% sure if he meant Kiffin or Chow), and I think there were a few minor things that were adapted, although obviously a major overhaul doesn’t happen in a week. New offensive coordinator Ensminger handled two running backs well, Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams. The full-time fullback J.D. Moore was also helpful.

There was a vertical passing game that was at least credible. It’s a long way from what Matt Leinart did, but the defense at least had to be mindful of the receivers.

I don’t know if Leonard Fournette will play next week, but I’m hopeful. I know sometimes the next day it feels worse, but Fournette was able to play (but limping) toward the end of the game against Auburn. I doubt anything happened since then. Maybe there is something major they’re just not telling us.

I know we’re not short on people in the backfield who can gain yards, but Fournette does have a gear that Guice doesn’t have, and he’s not as likely to slow himself down with stutter steps and hesitations. Being tackled inside the 10 versus scoring a touchdown might make a much bigger difference next week.

I almost always enjoy this rivalry though. This isn’t the best game on paper, but I think it’s much more likely to have a stereotypical SEC final score. 21-17 would not surprise me a bit. A lot of these games have been very close over the years. Click here for more on the rivalry.

Rankings Commentary

LSU still has a long way to go before they’re relevant here.

I don’t like to alter what the computer tells me, but for the first couple of weeks of the computer ranking, I think it’s OK to substitute my own #1 and perhaps include a team over another in the top 10 or top 25.

I need to say upfront that I messed up by ranking Louisville so high the last two weeks. When they beat Florida St. so easily, I thought they would also beat Clemson. Before the Florida St. game, I had them #23; so keep in mind they’re only one spot lower now.

Most of the new additions are just teams lucky enough not to have a loss or it’s fairly obvious that they beat a team who fell out. An exception is Air Force, which beat an undefeated Navy team (easily) and moving into the driver’s seat for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy. Navy would have been ranked last week had it been an objective system last week, so the Midshipmen may make it back at some point.

Although he completed only 8 passes, Air Force quarterback Nate Romine led the Falcons to a 28-14 win over Navy.

Although he completed only 8 passes, Air Force quarterback Nate Romine led the Falcons to a 28-14 win over Navy.

I realized that with my new formula, losses aren’t going to subtract enough points this early, so I modified the formula slightly for the purposes of this blog (I did not change my mind about the formula on the ratings site). I tried to rely on objective numbers as much as possible though. I’ll explain how I did that.

I am keeping Alabama #1 (I don’t like to change #1 without a clear problem with the current #1, and I especially don’t like to do this if the computer #1 will play the current #1 soon), and I’m making Western Michigan #11 for now (I’m a little bit skeptical of how good they are, and it just a little bit too far on one week; U. Miami moved farther, but it was justified). Then for #17 to #23, I actually like the order better in the formula on the site. It is somewhat objective, but I chose one objective order of teams over another.

I’m hoping I won’t feel the need to do anything like this next week. If Alabama loses, I plan to follow the site from beginning to end. If Alabama wins, they stay #1; and if Tennessee wins as well, I expect the winner of the game between Tennessee and Alabama will be the computer #1 in two weeks. Their respective opponents on Saturday are no joke though.

I know Western Michigan is a weird one, but they keep beating teams with decent records. It also doesn’t hurt that they don’t have a bye week yet. Also, their FCS opponent hasn’t lost a game against the FCS. It’s kind of a quirk in my system at this point if you’ve played an FCS team like that because very few (if any) of these teams will finish that way.

The system as a whole is designed to be ideal at the end of the year of course, not now. But I still like to know how far along teams are.

Tennessee and Louisville

It makes perfect sense that Tennessee is #1 in my system because they’ve had a big game almost every week. This means they’re the farthest along toward a national championship. If they were to have 3 more intervals that were just as strong, they’d probably have twice as many points as Alabama had last season.

Tennessee celebrating the win at Georgia.

Tennessee celebrating the win at Georgia.

But of course that won’t happen. They’ll play Tennessee Tech, Missouri, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina. So far, the only somewhat easy opponent statistically was Ohio, which nonetheless has a winning record. The non-conference opponents may lose ground as the season goes on. If Florida loses to LSU, that would hurt the quality of that win and the quality of the East as a whole. Same thing if Georgia were to lose to Auburn, for instance.

I know things are unstable right now, which is part of why Louisville fell so dramatically (as I mentioned, it was also partly my fault). All their opponents lost. Adding four opponents’ losses makes a big difference at this stage.

You might notice Maryland up there. They have no losses, and the teams they beat also have the same number of combined FBS wins as the teams Louisville beat (but Maryland has no losses).

Anyway, Louisville may fall out of the top 25 next week as they are idle; but if it comes down to Florida St. or Louisville, I will give the Cardinals the edge for about 43 reasons. That being said, my formula is win/loss (although close home wins only count only get 9/10 of the credit and close away losses only count as 9/10 of the normal “debit”), so it would arguably just be one reason. It will be a long time before Louisville has another shot at a strong win, possibly not until Houston in November. Until then, 1-1 against good teams (provided Florida St. even qualifies as a good team after next week) only takes them so far.

Top 25

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

Out of rankings: (14) Ga. Tech, (17) Utah, (18) San Diego St., (20) Florida St., (23) Arizona St.

Full ratings 1-128

What Should Happen in the Major Bowls

In Bowls, College Football on December 6, 2015 at 12:06 AM

Here are my full ratings after the games on Saturday.

I want to get this out there, so I may add pictures later. I’m not going to guess what the committee is going to do. I’ll just start with my top four and why it’s correct. Then I’ll talk about the other major bowls.

Semifinals
1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Michigan St.
4. Oklahoma

semifinals

According to my 100% objective ratings, Alabama has beaten 11, 16, 28, 31, 32, 34, 35, and 39. Their loss was to 13.

It’s extremely difficult to have that many top 40 opponents and only lose to one of them. The only team I can think of that went undefeated before the bowls against such a list was LSU in 2011.

You might say top 40 isn’t that good, but teams like Washington St. (a late field goal from beating Stanford), Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin (the last two barely lost to Iowa) are in that #30-40 group that you can’t afford not to play well when they’re you’re opponent. Even if a top 10 team should have an 80% chance against a team in that range, Alabama played 5 teams in that range and by that logic should have lost to one of them and didn’t.

The Tide going 3-1 against the top 30 is also very respectable. So the only team that beat them is in the top 20 and it was a close game despite 5 Alabama turnovers. Also, since it was so long ago, the chance of a repeat performance by Alabama is almost 0.

Clemson beat 9, 20, 22, and 38. They blew out #38, but they barely survived the other three games. They didn’t happen to lose any, but I believe that had the Tigers played 9 top 40 opponents instead of four their luck would have failed in one of those games.

cfp

I do think Clemson will look better than last year’s undefeated ACC champion Florida St. looked in the playoff, but I sincerely believe they are not the best team in the country.

Doesn’t Michigan St. have better wins too? Yes, but I think losing to a team like Nebraska toward the end of the season is much more concerning than the loss to Ole Miss. Ohio St. lost to a mediocre team last year, but (1) it was the first game of the season, and (2) at least that team went on to qualify for a bowl game with six wins. Also, just because a team ended up winning doesn’t mean that being seeded low was unjustified. I thought it was completely justified that the Buckeyes had to overcome being the #4 team last time.

Just for the sake of comparison, I’ll give the other losses and top 40 wins.

Michigan St. beat 5, 6, 17, and 18. They lost to 80. I think that just further bolsters my argument that a team does prove something by playing a series of top 40 teams if even a team nowhere near the top 40 can play well enough to beat a team like the Spartans. So they also suffer a bit for the lack of quantity of top-40 opponents.

Oklahoma beat 12, 14, 30, and 34. They lost to 75. I don’t think I need to further explain why I think they should be fourth in the playoff.

So I would have Alabama against Oklahoma in the Cotton and Clemson against Michigan St. in the Orange. It might happen anyway, but I doubt the committee agrees with my order.

Other “New Years Six” (NY6) Bowls

NY6

The first step is to replace any “displaced” champions. This would be the Big Ten champion, the SEC champion, and the Big XII champion. The ACC champion isn’t really displaced because the Orange Bowl is one of the semifinal bowls, so there is no special consideration for a secondary ACC team. The Pac-12 champion goes to its natural spot of the Rose Bowl.

If it were up to me, Ohio St. would play in the Rose Bowl ahead of Iowa. Both lost to Michigan St., but the Buckeyes played in a division that included Michigan, Penn St., and Indiana along with the Spartans and Buckeyes. Apart from Iowa, there were only two teams who finished at .500 or better overall in the Big Ten West.

I think Florida should play Oklahoma St. in the Sugar Bowl. I don’t think it’s right to penalize a team for having to play Alabama at the end of the season. I don’t rely on head to head, but it’s not a bad way to consider comparable teams.

I’ll go over why they’re comparable, and if anything Florida would have a slight edge even without looking at head to head. Both Florida and Ole Miss lost a game out of conference, but Florida St. is a more understandable loss than Memphis. Florida played two of the best three teams in the SEC West looking at their overall records, but of course they lost to LSU. Ole Miss’ only win against the SEC East was over Vanderbilt.

Oklahoma St. and TCU had almost identical schedules (they each had one OK bowl-eligible out of conference opponent apiece {although Minnesota is eligible as a 5-win team} and the nine-game conference schedule), so I’ll once again defer to head to head there. Both teams played three of their best opponents in the last four games, losing two. TCU won in overtime against Baylor, and Oklahoma St. beat TCU by 20.

I know in both cases, the team I’m arguing for has lost two in a row, but I think “body of work” as they call it should beat last impressions as a general rule.

The next step is to locate the Group of Five team that automatically makes an NY6. I don’t think anyone would argue that should be the AAC Champion Houston Cougars, who finish with only one loss. The Cougars won what was clearly the best conference that isn’t a traditional “Power 5” conference. So now we just need three more teams.

I have Iowa, Notre Dame, and Ole Miss. Notre Dame has only lost to Stanford and Clemson.

Northwestern has a good argument, but I don’t think a fourth Big Ten team should be in one of the major bowls. Stanford was a good win, but a distant second in the weaker of the two Big Ten divisions is pretty questionable.

Ole Miss has lost three games, to (11) Florida, (24) Memphis, and (39) Arkansas. Arkansas beat the Rebels by 1 in overtime after converting a freak fourth and 25 with an over-the-back lateral. Ole Miss is also the only team to beat Alabama, as mentioned. To give their win list (because I think some would be skeptical of this selection), it is: 1, 16, 28, 35.

I’ll take 4-3 against the top 40 over TCU’s 1-2 or Northwestern’s . That would be an easy choice in basketball, so it should be an easy choice here.

So for the two remaining bowls, the committee is instructed to:
• Create competitive matchups.
• Attempt to avoid rematches of regular-season games and repeat appearances in specific bowls.
• Consider geography.

Ole Miss went to the Peach Bowl last year (which I’m sure their fans would like to forget) and were also in Atlanta last year to play Boise St. So it would seem they should be sent to the Fiesta Bowl even though that isn’t particularly close. The Rebels make more geographic sense than Notre Dame or Northwestern though. Houston makes even more sense geographically.

The committee also wants to create competitive matchups. I think Ole Miss and Houston would be interesting. The Rebels would have a chance to redeem their earlier loss to an AAC opponent, and I think it would be an entertaining game.

Notre Dame and Iowa should be a good game, and I see no reason that wouldn’t be a competitive (though probably a more defensive) game. They should play in Chicago or Indianapolis or somewhere like that, but their fans might like to get out of the cold. Atlanta can be cool in January but is usually much more moderate than the Midwest. It will be nice and warm inside regardless.

This isn’t part of what the committee looks at, but I think it’s also good for the teams playing each other to be from similar areas, provided that the teams don’t normally play one another.

I’m not even going to try to address all the other bowls, although I did mention the SEC bowl affiliations briefly here.

Week 7 Rankings with LSU Comments

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 18, 2015 at 4:09 PM

Blog updates/LSU

I decided to delay my response to “30 for 30: Trojan Horse” until the end of the week, because I won’t have much to talk about then.

There isn’t enough with Western Kentucky worth talking about for a full blog. The Hilltoppers played close games at Vanderbilt (which they won) and at Indiana (the only team to beat them).  LSU’s secondary may be stretched again as WKU has a good passing game with two wide receivers who have at least 25 receptions AND average over 18 yards per reception as well as a number of other targets.  The rushing game has been spotty, but it has improved in the last couple of weeks with the introduction of Anthony Wales, who gained over 300 yards combined in the two games.

On the other hand, the defense should allow LSU to keep up the offensive output from yesterday.  Although there were a few games with low scores by opponents, Louisiana Tech and Indiana each scored 38 against the Hilltoppers last month.  In the last two games, Middle Tennessee and North Texas each scored 28.

I updated my two LSU-Florida blogs, the one I did last week that focuses on the last 15 years and the full rivalry blog that covers the entirety of the series.  Apart from “SEC Wednesday”, that’s all I have specifically about LSU this week unless something unusual happens.

Trent Dominque (who just recently earned a scholarship) became the second LSU kicker in five years with one of the key plays in an LSU-Florida game. In Dominque's case, he scored the winning touchdown himself.

Trent Dominque (who just recently earned a scholarship) became the second LSU kicker in five years with one of the key running plays in an LSU-Florida game. In Dominque’s case, he scored the winning touchdown himself.

Rankings

Before I get to the top 25 list, here is the 100% objective full list of 128 teams.

I guess there is one more thing.  I have moved my Tigers to #1.  Florida exposed some weaknesses and LSU was in some ways fortunate to win; but that’s true of anyone who has played another ranked team this season, except that a number of them had more trouble with lesser teams.

Baylor hasn’t played any close games, so they’re the popular pick right now, but give me a break.  Their best win is over Texas Tech, who is well into the “others receiving votes” category in both polls.  The Red Raiders’ best win is over Arkansas, who has also lost to undefeated Toledo and a couple of otherwise-defeated SEC opponents.  So if beating the team that beat Arkansas makes an undefeated team #2, why doesn’t beating Arkansas directly make Toledo #1?

I’m not saying it’s impossible that Baylor easily beats everyone all the way until mid-January, but I just don’t think they’ve proven much yet.  If they’re undefeated after playing Oklahoma, @TCU, and @Oklahoma St. within 13 days in November, then I think it’s a very different conversation.

I mentioned last week that it was possible that I would follow the computer ratings top 25 exactly, but I’ve made only two switches.  I switched LSU with Utah for #1, and I switched Florida St. with Memphis for #10.  I just think #10 is too big of a jump at this point.  Memphis has a couple of weeks coming up where they will earn only a few points (assuming wins), so it is likely that they will not stay in the top 10 anyway.  However, this is the last adjustment apart from the top spot that I will make.

Starting after the games of the first week of November, I will also not alter the #1 spot.  It’s possible that LSU will be #1 in the computer next week; but even if they do, I would expect them to fall after the bye week at the end of October. At that time, LSU will have only had 7 weeks of play and would likely be competing with other undefeated teams who will have had 8 or 9 weeks of play.  The Tigers are of course slightly disadvantaged by having had to cancel the opener against McNeese St.

Anyway, I don’t like to have a carousel of #1 teams, that’s why I held onto Ohio St. this long.  I just think it’s time to limit myself to the top few teams based on my objective standards.  Moving Ohio St. from #5 in the computer to #1 here would go too far, in my opinion.  The way the Buckeyes played in earlier games didn’t help their cause too much either.

The scary thing is Utah could be an even more convincing computer #1 at this point.  Michigan could have held onto the win yesterday, and Oregon could be better than 4-3. Still, I consider the Utes a little suspect being that they will not play Stanford, who is (at this point) apparently the best team of the North, the better of the two Pac-12 divisions.

Utah's Devontae Booker breaks free from the ASU defense yesterday.

Utah’s Devontae Booker breaks free from the ASU defense yesterday.

Of course, LSU just beat Florida, who is apparently the best team of the SEC East, the weaker of the two SEC divisions.  That being said, if Utah or Iowa or whoever is #1 in a few weeks, they will also be #1 here.  Last year at this time, Ole Miss was #1 in the computers; and I was glad I waited before making them #1 here.

Alabama jumped 11 spots with the win @Texas A&M.  It wasn’t just the strength of the win.  There were very low-point weeks by some teams in between such as Toledo (beat 1-win EMU), UC-Berkeley (bye), Temple (beat winless Central Florida).  Michigan of course fell with the last-second loss to Michigan St.

Some other teams moved up with less impressive victories than Alabama’s. Notre Dame moved up five spots after beating USC, and Baylor moved up five spots after beating West Virginia.

Stanford went up just a few spots with the win over UCLA, and BYU and Pittsburgh joined the top 25 after wins over Cincinnati and Georgia Tech, respectively.  Both new teams were helped by losses by Penn St., Ole Miss, UCLA, and Kentucky.

Rank Team Previous
1 LSU 2
2 Utah 4
3 Mich. St. 10
4 Iowa 6
5 Ohio St. 1
6 Florida 3
7 TCU 5
8 Alabama 19
9 Clemson 13
10 Florida St. 14
11 Memphis

Memphis

12 Okie St. 9
13 Notre Dame 18
14 Temple 11
15 Baylor 20
16 Toledo 17
17 UC-Berkeley 15
18 TX A&M 7
19 Stanford 22
20 Michigan 8
21 BYU
22 N’western 12
23 Oklahoma 23
24 Houston 21
25 Pittsburgh

pittsburgh_panthers-primary-1980

Out of rankings (with last week’s rank):

16 Penn St.
24 UCLA
25 Ole Miss

Here are the previous rankings blogs:

Preseason

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 3 Rankings and Commentary

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 20, 2015 at 2:43 PM

Like last week, I’ll start by mentioning a couple of other blogs and then get to the rankings.

I’ve updated by Auburn Rivalry blog.  Not too much to say about this game, although it was the highest-scoring of the 50 games of the series.

Here are the previous ranking blogs:

Preseason

Week 1

Week 2

Rank Team Previous
1 Ohio St. 1
2 Ole Miss 9
3 Mich. St. 4
4 LSU 11
5 Baylor 5
6 TCU 3
7 TX A&M 14
8 Alabama 2
9 UCLA 7
10 Clemson 8
11 Florida St. 12
12 Notre Dame 16
13 Oregon 10
14 Georgia 15
15 Okie St. 17
16 Oklahoma 18
17 Wisconsin 20
18 Northwestern 25
19 Arizona St. 21
20 Stanford
21 USC 6
22 Kansas St. 19
23 Ga. Tech 13
24 U. Miami
25 BYU 22

Out of rankings: (23) Missouri, (24) Temple

Last week, I talked about LSU in one blog and about the prominent national teams in another; but for the moment, I feel like that’s the same conversation.

I was concerned that Mississippi St. was allowed to get within two and had a chance to win at the end in Week 2 (the Tigers’ first game), so I thought LSU didn’t deserve to be a top 10 team.  But if that were true now, almost no one deserves to be a top 10 team, so I’ve significantly re-evaluated this position.

I’ll give a brief summary of the rest of my new top 12 for comparison of such games.

Ohio St. just won a home game against a MAC opponent by only a touchdown.  The Buckeyes only managed 13 offensive points before a defensive score late in the third quarter and did not score in the fourth.

Michigan St. only led Western Michigan by 10 points for part of the fourth quarter in Week 1 before kicking a field goal with 8 minutes left.  Still, the margin was less than two possessions (37-24).  Western Michigan was blown out by Georgia Southern.

Midway through the fourth quarter yesterday, TCU only led SMU by five points.

Baylor has only played SMU and Lamar, so no close games yet, but allowing a combined 52 points in those two games has to be concerning.

UCLA only beat BYU by a single point yesterday after taking the lead with just over 4 minutes remaining.

Clemson beat Louisville by a field goal after the Cardinals lost a neutral-site game to Auburn and also lost to Houston at home.

Florida St. only managed one offensive touchdown against Boston College and led only 7-0 going into the fourth quarter.  The defense scored in the fourth quarter, but the offense only scored on its first drive.

Notre Dame trailed Virginia in the final two minutes in Week 2.

There are three SEC teams not mentioned above.  Alabama lost to Ole Miss (and for that reason I’m moving the Rebels up to #2 and moving Alabama down 6 spots).

There is also Texas A&M.  I’m still a little skeptical about the Aggies, who have yet to go on the road (although technically Houston was a neutral site), and perhaps they just got a little lucky in Week 1 when they pulled away from Arizona St. late.  Really though, if Arizona St. is anywhere close to how good they’re supposed to be, A&M should be in the top 5 if we only looked at what’s happened on the field so far.

Going back to LSU, of course it also didn’t hurt to have such a dominating conference win.  The Fighting Tigers were lackluster at a couple of points in the second half, but it was a 24-point lead at the half, and LSU won by 24.

The rest of the top 25…

Oregon is the #2 team with a loss now, so I don’t think 13th is too bad even though it’s worse than last week. I’m concerned about their defense though.

Georgia, the Oklahomas, and Wisconsin just moved ahead of teams that lost or that I moved down.

I moved Northwestern up on the strength of Stanford’s win at USC, then I go to some teams with “good” losses.

Kansas St. needed three overtimes to beat Louisiana Tech, so they moved down, but I put them ahead of Georgia Tech, which lost to Notre Dame.

BYU was only 22nd last week, but I still kept them in because going to the Rose Bowl and losing by a point doesn’t tell me they’re not a top-25 team.

Finally, I put U. Miami in because they had a close win over Nebraska too, but they’re ahead of BYU because they haven’t lost.

U. Miami players celebrate the winning field goal in overtime after the ‘Canes blew a 23-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Missouri and Temple were removed for barely beating basketball schools UConn and UMass.

Starting next week, however, I will no longer consider margin of victory.  It gets too tricky to keep track of who almost beat whom or should have scored more points and the circumstances, but you have to do that early to separate otherwise similar teams.

Week 2 Rankings and Commentary

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 14, 2015 at 1:50 PM

I’ll just start by mentioning a couple of other blogs and then get to the rankings.

Recap and reaction to the LSU-Mississippi St. game

Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Auburn

Week 1 top 25

 

New Top 25

Rank Team Previous
1 Ohio St. 1
2 Alabama 2
3 TCU 4
4 Mich. St. 5
5 Baylor 3
6 USC 6
7 UCLA 8
8 Clemson 9
9 Ole Miss 11
10 Oregon 7
11 LSU 10
12 Florida St. 12
13 Ga. Tech 13
14 TX A&M 16
15 Georgia 15
16 Notre Dame 14
17 Okie St. 23
18 Oklahoma 24
19 Kansas St. 25
20 Wisconsin 19
21 Arizona St. 22
22 BYU

BYU_Logo_1969-1998

23 Missouri 20
24 Temple

temple

25 Northwestern

nu_old_logo

Out of rankings

(17) Auburn
(18) Boise St.
(21) Arkansas

I don’t think I’m the only person surprised by some of the results and final scores from over the weekend, but mostly I feel like I made some good choices in the early rankings.

I did have Arkansas ranked, but I didn’t have them in the top 20 like the major polls did.

I also had Auburn ranked (at 17th last week), but they were picked by voters to win the SEC.  They were also picked #3 in preseason by ESPN the magazine.  I think I’ve been rightly skeptical about both teams.

I’m glad I picked Michigan St. above Oregon, but I was right to only put them a few spots apart in the preseason.

I know their quarterback got hurt (and the other one from last year is now at Florida St.), so I don’t want to be too harsh, but I’m also glad I didn’t put Notre Dame in the top 10.

Georgia is another team I’m glad for the moment I kept out of the top 10.  They didn’t even look like a top-25 team against Vanderbilt.

I also made the right call to rank Oklahoma but not Tennessee in preseason.

Obviously a lot can change throughout the season.  Like I tried to explain in preseason, however, the idea is mostly to rank how the teams start out rather than the projected finish, so overall I think I did a pretty good job based on what I’ve seen.

I kept Missouri in and not Auburn because they weren’t playing an FCS team and they won in regulation.  Also unlike Auburn, they were on the road and they took the lead for good in the third quarter.

Arkansas and Boise St. had losses to unranked teams, so the decisions to remove them were easy.  I decided to rank BYU, who also won at Nebraska.  They had the Hail Mary to win, but they were only down by one point before that.  Tell me what other team has a combination of two defeated opponents that looks better right now.

I did not decide to rank Toledo, partly because Arkansas was their opening game, so there is nothing else on which to judge.  I think it’s much more likely that Arkansas isn’t deserving than that Toledo is really good.

Another team with a respectable combination of wins is Temple.  They beat Penn St. and won at Cincinnati.  You might laugh at them as a ranked team, but if they were named Alabama or Michigan or something of that nature, they would almost certainly be ranked.  They may not last, but it’s still a pretty respectable start.

I also decided to go ahead and rank Northwestern given their win over Stanford.  They played Eastern Illinois, an FCS team this week; but I don’t think many other teams could play Stanford and Eastern Illinois and give up fewer than 7 points combined.  Northwestern beat the Panthers by 41, whereas last year Minnesota only beat them by 22 and Ohio U. only beat them by 15.  Eastern Illinois went .500 against other FCS teams last season.

A few interesting games next week, including Ole Miss going to Tuscaloosa.  It will be interesting to see if Ole Miss dictates the tempo, not that that would guarantee a Rebel victory anyway. It could be like the 49-42 Alabama win over Texas A&M exactly two years ago.

Two big games in Los Angeles (although the home teams should win) as Stanford goes to the Coliseum and BYU visits the Rose Bowl.

A few other games of potential interest:

(12)Florida St. @ Boston College

(13) Georgia Tech @ (16) Notre Dame

South Carolina @ (15) Georgia

(25) Northwestern @ Duke

I don’t expect Northern Illinois @ (1) Ohio St. to be too interesting; but the Buckeyes were only up 17 after three quarters against Hawaii, so the early going could be close.

Every other game should be boring, although it’s possible Louisville can finally play a good game when (8) Clemson comes to town.

Conference Report Week 1

In College Football, Conference Reports on September 11, 2015 at 3:07 PM

The new inter-conference week doesn’t start until Utah/Utah St. tonight.  A formerly WAC and Mountain West and currently Pac-12 team against a formerly WAC and Sun Belt and currently Mountain West team.

Louisiana Tech, a former WAC team, is now in the same conference as Western Kentucky, a former Sun Belt team, so that was not an interconference game last night.

A couple of disclaimers and reminders.  In these conference reports, I basically evaluate each conference as if it were a team.  For instance, “team SEC” beat Wisconsin when Alabama beat Wisconsin, and “team Big Ten” lost to Alabama.  So the SEC gets credit for beating Wisconsin just like a team would.  I don’t treat them as “generic Big Ten team”.  So even though only one week has passed, it’s almost like evaulating one season for a team against another since I believe only one conference game has been played.

Another thing to point out is this is NOT picking the conference who has the best team on average.  Alabama can go 0-8 in the SEC, and the important thing is it got that big non-conference win.  Baylor is apparently a very good team, but how good they are won’t matter too much in these because they don’t appear to have any quality non-conference opponents.

Also, records are against FBS opponents unless otherwise indicated.

I always liked this version of the logo.

I always liked this version of the logo.

The SEC was the unquestionable top conference of week 1, going 10-1 with wins over Wisconsin, Arizona St., Louisville, and North Carolina.  The only loss was to that Western Kentucky team I just mentioned.  The Hilltoppers beat Vanderbilt by two points after the SEC ’Doremats failed on a late two-point conversion attempt.  According to most gambling sources, Vandy either beat the spread or came out even, so while it would have been nice for the SEC to get that win, it’s not a huge problem that it didn’t.

The only record by a P5 conference (those are SEC, Big Ten, Big XII, ACC, and Pac-12) that came close was that of the 5-1 Big XII.  But the ten teams of the XII only combined to beat one major-conference opponent.  This was TCU’s win over Minnesota.  The other major opponent was when Texas lost to Notre Dame.  The other four wins were nothing special: SMU, Central Michigan, Akron, and Georgia Southern (which just became a full member of the Sun Belt after being in FCS and a transitional year).  Also, that record is not counting the fact that Kansas lost to FCS South Dakota St.  So even if Kansas is the Vanderbilt equivalent, losing to Western Kentucky is probably better than losing to South Dakota St.

The Mountain West went 2-1 with wins over Washington, and Colorado, but they also lost to an FCS team (Wyoming to North Dakota).  I can’t fault UNLV (another possible worst-in-conference team) much for losing to Northern Illinois.

The only other conference with a winning record was the CUSA at 5-4.  The CUSA did not beat any impressive teams, although it was a surprise that FIU beat Central Florida (which is now and American Conference [AAC] team).  The two wins over P5 teams were over Purdue and Vanderbilt, who are possibly the worst teams in their respective conferences.

The ACC is last among the power conferences, although it didn’t really do anything wrong, but there should have been a toss-up or something close where they won.  The only one where the ACC should have had a chance was North Carolina vs. South Carolina (in Charlotte); and the Tar Heels were respectable competition, but they didn’t win.  I can’t hold the losses by Virginia to UCLA, by Virginia Tech to Ohio St., and by Louisville to Auburn against the conference to any large extent.

The Pac-12 was relatively disappointing.  Arizona St. was supposed to be one of the best teams in the conference (based on returning starters anyway), and Stanford was supposed to be a sleeper team in the North Division.  So those losses (to Texas A&M and Northwestern, respectively) are worse than the ACC losses.  As for the wins, they are: Michigan (Utah probably isn’t great, so this is a positive), Virginia (which UCLA should have won easily anyway), UTSA (which Arizona should have won easily and didn’t), and Arkansas St. (by USC in a blowout that was expected).  Colorado might be the worst team in the Pac-12, but Hawaii was certainly a winnable game.  Also, another contender for worst in the Pac-12 is WSU, which certainly should have beaten Portland St.

So I mentioned two big wins by the Big Ten above, but there were somehow six losses.  They were all fairly excusable though.  Michigan and Minnesota put up a good fight in games few expected them to win (I picked Michigan, but hard to win on the road against a P5 opponent with four turnovers), and Nebraska of course lost the heart-breaker to BYU.  The other two wins were against MAC teams that probably won’t even be competitive in that conference, but still I think there were more positives than negatives despite the losing record.

Since we’re down to three independents, I’m not going to go into those as a category this year.  They don’t even play one another, so it’s hard to take pride in each other’s accomplishments, which is kind of the point of this. You might not be happy if your team goes 8-5, but you can take some pride in playing a lot of good teams that did well against other conferences and still making a bowl game.  It was different when Navy was there and played Army and Notre Dame annually, and Notre Dame has also played Army and BYU in recent years (I consider 2010 a recent year anyway).

The rest is mostly just a matter of who had the ugliest losses.  The good news is I mentioned the three relevant FCS losses already.  I’m just going to call it a tie between the MAC and AAC.  On the one hand, the AAC beat Penn St., but on the other hand (as mentioned) it lost to FIU.  The MAC just had vanilla results up and down the line.  Idaho and UNLV are possibly two of the worst teams in the FBS, and I can’t blame them for losing to teams that will likely make bowls.  Illinois and Old Dominion may not, but if the MAC is to beat such teams, EMU (I always wondered why their mascot wasn’t the emus) and Kent St. are probably not going to be the ones to do it.

The Sun Belt went winless (apart from against the FCS), so you can’t really do worse.

  1. SEC
  2. Big XII
  3. Big Ten
  4. MWC
  5. Pac-12
  6. CUSA
  7. ACC
  8. (tie) AAC
  9. (tie) MAC
  10. Sun Belt

College Football Week 1 Top 25

In College Football, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 8, 2015 at 1:02 PM

Rank- Team-Previous

1 Ohio St. 1
2 Alabama 4
3 Baylor 2
4 TCU 3
5 Mich. St. 5
6 USC 6
7 Oregon 7
8 UCLA 8
9 Clemson 9
10 LSU 10
11 Ole Miss 11
12 Florida St. 12
13 Ga. Tech 13
14 Notre Dame 14
15 Georgia 17
16 TX A&M 25
17 Auburn 20
18 Boise St. 16
19 Wisconsin 18
20 Missouri 19
21 Arkansas 21
22 Arizona St. 15
23 Okie St. 23
24 Oklahoma 24

k state
25 Kansas St. —

Out of rankings: (22) Stanford

Not too much to say this week.  Alabama did a good job controlling the game against what I believe is a good Wisconsin team.  Baylor and TCU didn’t do such great jobs against SMU and Minnesota, respectively.  Baylor’s defense did not seem like that of a title contender, and TCU didn’t put the Gophers away until the clock ran out.

Everyone else in the top 14 just stayed where they were.

I did move Boise down a couple of spots after being shut out in the second half against Washington.  The Broncos could have probably scored at least 30 by the middle of the third quarter, but instead they almost allowed the game to go into overtime.

Texas A&M impressed me late, and Auburn looked better than I thought they would.   Auburn could definitely be dangerous later in the year when the offense settles in a little better.

Georgia had an impressive margin of victory in only 50 minutes of play, but they only moved up because of Boise and Arizona St. moving down.

I could have put Wisconsin below Missouri, but I don’t think the Tigers would have done any better.

Oklahoma St. had a dubious performance, but it was on the road, and maybe Central Michigan isn’t so bad.  We’ll see.

Kansas St. wasn’t playing a good team even by FCS standards, but they won in a shutout, and it was 24-0 at halftime.  I can’t find any fault there.  As I mentioned in preseason, they were one of the strong considerations I had for the top 25 that just narrowly missed.

The coming week may be even more uneventful, although there are some potential revenge games to highlight.  LSU (who as I mentioned didn’t end up playing in opening week) will go on the road against Mississippi St., and Oregon visits Michigan St.  Also, Boise St. travels to BYU (which won on a Hail Mary to spoil Mike Riley’s debut at Nebraska), and Oklahoma travels to Tennessee.  I considered the Vols for the rankings above, but giving up 30 to Bowling Green was too much of a cause for concern in my view.

2015 Full Preseason Top 25

In College Football, General LSU, Preview, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on August 31, 2015 at 2:00 PM

I’ve already elaborated on these in my top 10 blog, but here they are again, with last year’s final rankings:

  1. Ohio St.           1
  2. Baylor             12
  3. TCU                6
  4. Alabama         4
  5. Michigan St.   8
  6. USC                20
  7. Oregon          3
  8. UCLA             7
  9. Clemson          18
  10. LSU                 (30)

I did want to comment on LSU briefly being that both Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit picked the Tigers to make the NATIONAL championship game (I recognize this may be bad news for the Tigers). Desmond Howard picked Texas A&M to win the SEC. I’ll talk more about the Aggies later, but his basis for that was adding John Chavis as the DC to Sumlin’s offense, so I’ll respond to that briefly. Chavis did a good job overall at LSU, but this past year was one of his poorest performances. Even if he’s not losing his touch, I don’t think he’ll suddenly conjure up a good defense in College Station. The panel was unanimous about someone from outside of the state of Alabama winning the SEC West, so I hope they’re right (but if it comes down to Auburn and A&M, I’ll be for Auburn).

Lee Corso (center) picked LSU as the national championship, and Kirk Herbstreit (to his left) picked LSU as runners-up to Ohio St.

Lee Corso (center) picked LSU as the national champions, and Kirk Herbstreit (to his left) picked LSU as runners-up to Ohio St.

11-25

11. Ole Miss         15 – staying in the SEC with this one. Even if LSU does fine the rest of the season, it’s going to be awfully hard to win the divisional road games at Oxford and Tuscaloosa. The Rebels have never won the SEC West (unless losing the head-to-head tiebreaker in 2003 counts), but with 16 starters back from a contending team last year, this could be the year. It’s also quite conceivable there could be some sort of tie with the Rebels making the SEC title game this time. Bo Wallace does not return, but that could be a blessing as much as a curse.

12. Florida St.       2 – I don’t know if this is too high for the ’Noles given my deep skepticism of both sides of the ball (as noted in the top 10 blog), but a fall in more than 10 spots for a team that’s been near the top of college football for a couple of years seemed like too much. Don’t be surprised if they finish a bit lower though.

13. Georgia Tech  10 – I had the Wreck as a top 10 team at the end of last year.       While they don’t have an overwhelming number of returning starters (13), they were right there with Florida St. last year, so I see no reason to expect otherwise this year.

14.Notre Dame    (33)– The Irish will have to play three teams mentioned above (USC, Ga. Tech, and Clemson) as well as Stanford, but I don’t hold schedules against teams in preseason. I don’t think they were actually better than LSU last year, but they did show significant improvement that made the bowl win possible. Also, almost their whole team (19 returning starters) is coming back. I can easily see the Irish in the top 4 even with a loss, but this may depend on the perceived strength of the Pac-12 and the ACC at the end of the year.

15. Arizona St.      19 – The Sun Devils have nearly as good of a chance to win the Pac-12 South as UCLA and USC do, but they never quite seem to have the consistency to do such things. They did make the Pac-12 championship in 2013, but the highest-ranked team they had to beat to do so was #14 UCLA. I don’t think it will be the same type of thing this year. They haven’t beaten a team ranked higher than that since 2002, and they also can’t do things like lose to Oregon St. (as they did last year). ASU does return 16 starters from a top-20 team, however.

16. Boise St.         5 – I always have to remind people that unlike the human polls, I do not routinely just move teams up for not losing. This makes it less problematic to put a team like this in the top 20. The Broncos return 16 starters from what I had as the #5 team last year.       Teams like this have been ranked in the top four at the end of the year in the BCS era; and now that four is the magic number, it may just be a matter of time. They do have a new quarterback, but that was also the case in 2012 (11-2) and 2008 (12-1).

17. Georgia           13 – The Bulldogs did well enough at the end of last season to earn this spot even though they don’t have a huge number of returning starters (12). I’m still not quite sure how they managed to lose to Georgia Tech, but the Auburn game and the bowl game were very impressive. They couldn’t win the SEC East in the last couple of years, and it won’t exactly be easy considering they play Alabama and Auburn, but I still give them a slight edge over Missouri.

18. Wisconsin       14 – I see the Badgers as a potential spoiler in the Big Ten championship (Ohio St., Michigan St., and Michigan – none of whom they play in the regular season – are all in the other division). They’ll have a new running back or two, but that’s one area they never seem to struggle in finding new talent. The defense should be strong with 8 returning starters on that side. They might not be fun to watch, but 10 wins or more seems probable.

19. Missouri         11 – The Tigers were a better team overall last year (still not sure what happened with Indiana) than the Badgers, but I don’t know if 13 returning starters is enough. I’ll talk about this more below when I discuss teams that didn’t make the cut.       That being said, they could easily go into the season-ending Arkansas game with a chance to make the SEC title game once again.

20. Auburn            21 – Once again with this section of teams, the question is going to be consistency. They had great games (41-7 win over LSU, for instance) and not so great games (34-7 loss to Georgia). I don’t know if that’s suddenly going to turn around with a mediocre number of returning starters, which I mentioned in the top 10 blog.  The Plainsmen do supposedly have a good new quarterback, but he’ll have ample opportunity to prove it.

21. Arkansas         (38) – Staying in the SEC West, the Hogs seemed to turn the corner late last year and had an excellent chance to finish the SEC schedule with a third straight win after shutting out LSU and Ole Miss. Mizzou upended them late, but I certainly expect the Razorbacks to win some similar games this year with 15 returning starters.

22. Stanford          (32) – The Cardinal were supposed to have a great offense line last year, and I didn’t even rank them in the top 30 and the end of the year, so I’m more tepid about them than a lot of the preseason ratings are. They should have a strong offense with 9 returning starters though. I’ve seen some hand-waiving over the lack of experience in the defense, but look at the Pac-12 teams I’ve mentioned above and Notre Dame. I could easily see several games where the defense struggles to keep up.

23. Oklahoma St.  (58) – The Cowboys weren’t very good last year, but they won 10 games two years ago and 12 games two years before that. Maybe they just like odd years. They certainly showed flashes of talent last season, and they do return 16 starters. They could be a sleeper/spoiler team in the Big XII. Don’t forget that TCU’s performance last year was after a 4-win season in 2013.

24. Oklahoma       (36) – While we’re talking about the Sooner state, why not talk about the Sooners? They were a disappointment to the faithful last season, I’m sure, but nearly beat TCU and Kansas St. and had other good games. Again, it’s just another team that struggled with consistency though. A more modest number of returning starters though (13), so they might not be able to hang in so well against TCU and Baylor and so forth.

25. Texas A&M    (31) – The former divisional rivals of those Oklahoma teams will probably struggle to contend in their current division, but they have 15 returning starters evenly distributed on both sides of the ball and apparently some stability at quarterback, so they could be dangerous.

Out of top 25: (9) Marshall, (16) Mississippi St., (17) Arizona, (22) Colorado St., (23) Kansas St., (24) N. Illinois, (25) Memphis

I would understand if people want to stop reading there, but I thought it was worth addressing why certain teams do not appear above.

Despite being a top-10 team most of last season, Mississippi St. only has 9 returning starters, which puts them among the lowest in FBS football. I don’t think they’re a good candidate for the preseason top 25. Just because they had a good year doesn’t mean they had Ohio St. and Alabama level backups standing on the sidelines waiting their turn, but I guess we’ll see against LSU in a couple weeks.

Marshall only had a couple more with 11, and I’m really skeptical they had a great second squad last season.

Another team I wanted to mention who didn’t make the cut is Arizona. I just them as fading at the end of the season, and they don’t have impressive numbers coming back. They could be in the top three of their division with some luck, but I don’t see the upside for them being much better than that. The downside is they could be a low-level bowl team (or worse) who struggles with the likes of Utah.

Kansas St. is pretty much in the same boat. The Wildcats also have 12 returning starters and finished in the top 25 last season, but it’s a similar profile. I don’t think the upside is all that strong even if things go well. The teams I have ranked can win their respective conferences if things fall into place. I just don’t see that with this group.

Colorado St., Northern Illinois, and Memphis were also in my final top 25.  Even if they had a lot of returning starters, I probably would not have ranked them. This is a bit of a tangent, but I’ll explain why below.

I don’t think they were better than many of the 26-40 teams that were in major conferences. It’s more that the philosophy of my rankings focuses on top teams so it is set up to remove those with four or five losses from consideration more than a team with a small number of losses who doesn’t play anyone.

I’ll give an example. Team A is in a major conference and is 7-4.   Team B is in the MAC and is 10-1. There is a good chance Team A is better than Team B. Two slightly worse teams last year demonstrate that. Northern Illinois lost to Arkansas, 52-14. Arkansas finished 7-6, and NIU finished 11-3.

Going back to the hypothetical, what if the following happens? Team A then beats two top ten teams and goes to 9-4. Team B then beats two top ten teams and goes to 12-1. Team B would be ranked higher for sure. Even though the season will almost never end like that, I still don’t want it to penalize easy schedules so harshly that if you do add a couple of really good wins that the team can’t then be in the top 10.

Anyway, the point is that such a team being ranked last year doesn’t mean they actually would have beaten Stanford, Notre Dame, LSU, Oklahoma, etc.

Finally, Tennessee wasn’t ranked last year and barely made the top 50, but they have almost their whole team back with 18 returning starters. I just think you need to have a better team to start out with for that to matter enough. The Vols were very fortunate to play in a bowl game at all.

The same is technically true of Arkansas; but like I mentioned, Arkansas dominated their last two SEC West opponents and nearly beat the SEC East champions. If Tennessee had played in the West, they probably would have finished last and not made a bowl game. About a month before Arkansas beat Ole Miss 30-0, Tennessee lost to the Rebels 34-3. Also in the last month of the season, the Vols only beat South Carolina by three (in overtime) and Vandy by 7. Tennessee had a respectable performance against Alabama (losing by 14) and dominated Kentucky before beating Iowa in the bowl game, but that’s not enough to change my perception that they’re still an unproven collection of players.

The Week 1 top 25 won’t be until Tuesday, that’s one reason I waited until today; but after that, it should be on Sundays pretty regularly.