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Posts Tagged ‘BYU’

Thoughts on Pac-12 expansion

In College Football, Realignment on November 12, 2013 at 8:26 PM
Logos in white boxes represent potential additions.  The red areas are the current South Division, and the blue areas are the current North Division.

Logos in white boxes represent potential additions. The red areas are the current South Division, and the blue areas are the current North Division.

With BYU’s success as an independent team (despite losses to Virginia and Utah, the latter a recent Pac-12 addition), I still think the Cougars would be a good fit for the Pac-12. That’s the real rival for Utah–not Colorado, who doesn’t have a real rival in the Pac-12.

I know the conference is expressing reluctance to expand, but it wasn’t too long ago that it was talking about 16 teams. Also, it doesn’t seem like that long ago that the Pac-10 and Big Ten didn’t want to expand, didn’t want a championship game, and didn’t even want to be involved in the BCS. Both wanted their champion to play in the Rose Bowl and for that to be the end of it. A few conferences seemed happy at 12 but have expanded/are expanding anyway.

I still don’t understand why public “research universities” is such a priority for Pac-12 admission, but people always bring it up. I had never heard much about Utah or Arizona St. (or a couple of the more long-standing Pac-8/10/12 schools) being academic powerhouses. Anyway, I do know BYU is a good school (without so much research maybe), and since they’re unaffiliated and there are two schools in the Rockies unconnected with the rest of the conference, it seems it would fit.

Although I don’t know anything about its standing among other schools academically (promotional materials seem to make their research sound impressive: http://www.depts.ttu.edu/vpr/), Texas Tech would be a good way to expand into the pool of Texas talent since it is in Western Texas, actually not very far to the East (although significantly to the South) of Boulder, Colorado. It was one of those potential additions to the Pac-12 when the Big XII nearly fell into pieces.

How to align the divisions would be a challenge, although I do have an idea of how that could be done. Basically, take the 7 rivalry pairs and put all the more sophisticated schools in one division and the other schools in another. Washington St. and Oregon St. seem a little grittier than Washington and Oregon, the latter two being rivals of one other anyway. Stanford/Cal, USC/UCLA, and BYU/Utah are fairly obvious since the first one of each pair is private and the second public. I don’t think I have to elaborate on why Texas Tech is more rough-around-the-edges than Colorado. Just imagine Boulder, then imagine Lubbock. By reputation, Arizona seems a little more buttoned-down than Arizona St., but I’m not sure that matters either way.

Colorado could have an even better rival in Air Force, although that doesn’t really expand the recruiting base. It may add to fan interest though. The service academies have fans scattered all over. Of course, Air Force also regularly played BYU and Utah when all three were in the Mountain West and WAC. The team right now is pretty bad though. You don’t always want to focus on the short term, but I think that would be a meaningful concern. The Pac-12 doesn’t want another doormat.

Boise St. doesn’t have much of an academic profile, but that would seem to make for an easy transition. The Broncos already have the talent and interest to compete, and it would be natural to add them to the Pac-12 North and BYU to the Pac-12 South. I still think teams in Colorado and Utah being in the South seems a little off, but my understanding is everyone not in California wants to play in California at least once a year.

Fresno St., UNLV, San Diego St., and San Jose St. could be other possibilities if academics aren’t a priority. UNLV and San Diego are big unexploited media markets for major college football (and in the case of UNLV, there are no major professional sports in the area either). I’m not sure how much San Jose St. and Fresno St. would add, so they’re probably least likely, but they make obvious geographical sense. There are half a million people in Fresno and no major sports in the surrounding area, where arguably another half a million people or more live. San Jose St. isn’t very far from Stanford, but not everyone is a Stanford person.

Another possibility I thought of was Hawaii, which apparently does have some research credentials, but that program has crashed and burned since June Jones and Colt Brennan left the islands, so it has some of the same problems as Air Force, except I think Air Force has better road fans. Logistics aren’t very favorable for Hawaii either, of course.

Nebraska is a long-shot, but I thought it worth mentioning. I don’t think the Big Ten is quite what the Huskers signed up for. If they have to play a 9-game conference schedule and travel to one of the coasts, why not the Pacific Coast instead? With Colorado, at least they would get one of their traditional rivals back. Maybe if they joined along with Texas Tech, that would be the best way of including new teams in a more logical way.

As to how the divisional alignment would work, Utah could just be switched to the North and keep playing Colorado as a permanent opponent (or “protected series”, as the Big Ten calls it). Berkeley is about the same distance away as Tempe (Arizona St. is the second-closest Pac-12 South opponent for the Utes) is anyway. Nebraska would also help out the competitive balance in the long-run. I’m sure that would be a really expensive proposition though.

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All-Blogger Poll Week 9

In Blogger Poll, College Football, Rankings Commentary on October 31, 2013 at 1:16 PM

top-4-week-9b

I’m going to try to post something tomorrow about inter-conference games, but it might have to wait until next week. For now, I’m just going to post and discuss the All Blogger Poll.
We have one new voter taking the place of one we had the last couple of weeks, so we’re staying at six. I’ll just say that the voter who happens to be a Michigan fan didn’t submit a proper ballot and was probably not being serious anyway. Anyway, we have a new voter who’s not particularly a fan of any team, but he’s from Texas and now lives in the Los Angeles area, if that means anything.
The returning voters, if you’re not familiar, are an LSU fan, a Texas fan, an Oklahoma fan, a Notre Dame fan, and I (I’m an LSU fan who almost exclusively relies on my computer formula). I’m still open to allowing new voters, I think one with allegiances on either coast might be a nice addition. I think we all try to be reasonably fair, but there are some cases where bias creeps in a bit.

I’ll just make a few comments about the changes to the rankings in this poll and will post them below.

Although Florida St. is 6 points behind for #1, they could challenge if not overtake Alabama with an impressive performance this weekend. They are third, fourth, and fifth on three of the ballots, so they could become #1 by passing up the Tide in two of them or even by being second in all three. Alabama is idle this week after winning by 25 points or more in the last 6 consecutive weeks. On the other hand, none apart from Ole Miss are top 25 candidates in the near future (and Ole Miss hasn’t even gotten any votes here yet). Oregon and Stanford are also idle before facing one another on Nov. 9.

Oklahoma went from #15 into the top 10 after beating Texas Tech, which only fell 4 spots. South Carolina improved from #19 to #13 by beating Missouri, which fell from #4 to #8.
Virginia Tech and UCLA went from Nos. 13 and 14 to barely staying in the top 25 after losses.

There are less clear reasons, other than the change in voters, but there were also notable ranking improvements for Miami, Northern Illinois, Michigan, Michigan St., and Louisville.

BYU, Duke, and Texas St. are all receiving a vote for the first time this week. Houston received votes after not getting any last week. 33 teams got votes this week, and a total of 6 others have gotten votes in prior weeks.

rank/team(first place votes)/total points[last week’s rank]
1 Alabama (4) 146 [ 1 ]
2 Florida St. (2) 140 [ 2 ]
3 Oregon 139 [ 3 ]
4 Ohio St. 134 [ 5 ]
5 Stanford 120 [ 7 ]
6 Miami 115 [ 9 ]
7 Baylor 111 [ 6 ]
8 Missouri 106 [ 4 ]
t9 Oklahoma 95 [ 15 ]
t9 Auburn 95 [ 8 ]
11 LSU 84 [ 12 ]
12 Clemson 82 [ 11 ]
13 S Carolina 74 [ 19 ]
14 Texas Tech 62 [ 10 ]
15 N. Illinois 58 [ 20 ]
16 Fresno St. 52 [ 17 ]
17 TX A&M 46 [ 16 ]
t18 UCF 45 [ 18 ]
t18 Michigan 45 [ 24 ]
20 Okie St. 43 [ 21 ]
21 Mich. St. 36 [ ]
22 Louisville 21 [ ]
t23 Texas 18 [ 25 ]
t23 Va. Tech 18 [ 13 ]
t25 UCLA 14 [ 14 ]
t25 Wisconsin 14 [ ]

Others receiving votes: BYU 10 [ ], Houston 10 [ ], Notre Dame 10 [ ]. Arizona St. 3 [ ], Duke 2 [ ], Texas St. 1 [ ], Oregon St. 1 [ 23 ]

No longer receiving votes: Georgia, Nebraska [22], Florida

Previous rankings:
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8

All-Blogger Poll Week 7 and Week 8 Preview

In Blogger Poll, College Football, Rankings Commentary on October 17, 2013 at 2:43 PM

This week, the submissions are from two LSU fans (myself included), one Texas fan, one Oklahoma fan, one Michigan fan (new participant), and one Notre Dame fan. All the contributors from last week have returned.

All-Blogger Poll Week 7

rank/team(first place votes)/total points[last week’s rank]
1 Alabama (5) 149 [ 1 ]
2 Oregon (1) 138 [ 2 ]
3 Clemson 137 [ 3 ]
4 Ohio St. 129 [ 5 ]
5 Florida St. 125 [ 6 ]
6 LSU 119 [ 8 ]
7 Missouri 102 [ 21 ]
8 Miami 96 [ 11 ]
9 UCLA 94 [ 13 ]
10 Baylor 91 [ 19 ]
11 Stanford 86 [ 4 ]
12 Louisville 83 [ 12 ]
13 TX A&M 81 [ 10 ]
14 S Carolina 74 [ 14 ]
15 Va. Tech 66 [ 23 ]
16 Texas Tech 59 [ 17 ]
17 Oklahoma 51 [ 9 ]
18 Fresno St. 42 [ 20 ]
19 Georgia 41 [ 7 ]
20 Auburn 29 [ ]
21 Florida 27 [ 18 ]
22 N. Illinois 25 [ 24 ]
23 Nebraska 18 [ ]
24 Mich. St. 14 [ ]
25 Texas 13 [ ]

Others receiving votes: Okie St. 12 [ 25 ], Houston 11 [ ], Washington 11 [ 15 ], Michigan 11 [ 16 ], Wisconsin 6 [ ], Oregon St. 3 [ ], Utah 2 [ ], Notre Dame 2 [ ], N’western 2 [ 22 ]

Oregon edged Clemson on the last ballot, which also kept Alabama from being perfect. It will be interesting to see what happens if Clemson wins on Saturday. If you were wondering, Texas’s only points come from the two Big X(II) participants. The Missouri/Georgia game caused the most movement, as Missouri shot up 14 spots and Georgia fell 12. The Bulldogs did not appear at all in two of the rankings.

Stanford only fell 7 spots, and Oklahoma only fell 8 spots. Auburn’s jump into the top 25 was a bit of a mystery. We’ll see how well they can defend their position against Johnny Football and the Aggies, who fell three spots after a lackluster performance at Ole Miss. Baylor made a significant jump (9 spots) despite a relatively unspectacular win over Kansas St. Virginia Tech also moved up considerably (8 spots) after beating an unranked Pitt team, also by 10. Washington and Michigan both fell dramatically after losses.

Previous ranking

Week 8 Preview

I referenced a couple interesting games this week above. This was the hardest week for me to pick so far, at least among the top 25. I could see Auburn upsetting Texas A&M, being dominated, or anywhere in between. I think Florida will beat Missouri, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Gators’ offense can’t score enough points to accomplish that.

I have no idea who’s more likely to win the FSU/Clemson game. I picked Clemson since they’re at home and I think they proved a lot in the Georgia game. That team we saw in Athens last week was not the team Clemson beat. But none of that means that Florida St. isn’t better, they just haven’t shown it yet. They blew out Maryland, but I’m skeptical Maryland deserved to be ranked (or even come close) in the first place.

If Ole Miss plays the same game they played against Texas A&M, I’m going to be a little worried for my Tigers. Games against Ole Miss (apart from the disaster of Houston Nutt’s last season) are usually pretty close. Hopefully, they used all their energies on the Texas teams, as they also did pretty well against the Horns.

Arizona St./Washington is an interesting contest as well. Arizona St. seems to get preseason hype fairly often before it fizzles. Washington could well be a top-10 team as far as quality, despite the two losses (to Stanford and Oregon). I wouldn’t go by these rankings. Keep in mind that we have no one with a West-coast cheering interest. If you have any suggestions of how to change that, let me know.

There are a couple other major Pac-12 games of note. Utah faces Arizona, which may be another case of hype going up against on-field accomplishments, although the Utes had a couple of questionable performances before upsetting Stanford last week. Speaking of which, UCLA travels to Stanford. I guess we’ll see if there are any serious challengers to the superiority of the Pac-12 North. Seems incredible, but with a win, UCLA could be in the top 5 in the initial BCS standings. There is one other major game involving a Pac-12 team, and that’s USC travelling to Notre Dame. Both teams have two losses already, which takes a little bit away from the rivalry, but either could return to the top 25 with a couple more good wins. Oregon plays Washington St., but I don’t expect that to be close for more than a half (if it’s even close beyond the first few minutes).

There are a couple of non-major games of note, both involving AAC teams. The AAC is a BCS conference this season, but I think few people take them seriously in the national-title hunt. Houston plays an enigmatic BYU team (which has lost to Virginia, blown out Texas, nearly beat Utah, and looked better against Georgia Tech than the U. of Miami had). Louisville puts their undefeated record on the line against Central Florida, but there will be more pressure because it’s a conference game. The Cardinals have won every game by at least 14 so far. Houston has looked shaky a couple of times.

Alabama/Texas A&M Pre-Game; W(h)ither Texas and USC?

In College Football, Rankings Commentary on September 13, 2013 at 8:24 PM

Before I start, I wanted to share a couple of things.

Even non-LSU and non-ESPN fans seem to be highly amused by this video. Apparently, this was released at least two weeks ago, but I happened to catch it while watching SportsCenter yesterday while my car was in the shop and found it hilarious.

This isn’t really relevant to anything, but it was a game in Texas on Thursday (TCU @ Texas Tech). I wasn’t interested enough to turn the game on, but this was different.
foxtech_medium

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Alabama/Texas A&M Pre-Game

Getting to more serious matters, the first thing on everyone’s mind at the moment is Alabama/A&M, and I’m glad LSU doesn’t have to play either this early in the season. Not that this makes up for the uneven scheduling as far as inter-divisional games.

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but I’m picking Alabama. In short, I’ll take competent offense + really good defense over really good offense + seemingly non-existent defense.

Restricting my comments to his abilities on the field, the main problem I see with Manziel is he’s not a two-way player. The offensive prowess of Rice and Sam Houston St. notwithstanding, you can’t justify giving up a combined 59 points and 899 yards of total offense in those two games.

As an aside, I’m not sure what’s going on with SEC defenses. Georgia and South Carolina don’t seem to have any defenses to speak of either. That’s half of the top 6 SEC teams from last year.

McCarron is over-rated (there are several quarterbacks that I believe could have the same or better record based on Nick and the teams he’s had recently), but I would venture to say Florida’s offense might even look competent against the Aggie defense.

Speaking of Saban, I saw his grumpy press conference. Sorry to ask about how the preparation is going, your highness. That’s the kind of question that can even be asked as a head coach is walking onto the field. “We’re going to put the distractions behind us and be ready to play.” I don’t understand what’s so difficult about that.

The game will be in College Station, but no one other than Les Miles has beaten Alabama two games in a row over the past few seasons; and he needed overtime to do it in 2011. Don’t remind me about anything that happened after that.

Also, I think Texas A&M is particularly vulnerable to the adjustments I would expect Saban to make. No one could quite prepare for the Aggies by game time last year, but there shouldn’t be the same adjustment period this year, at least not for the players who played defense last year. After the first half, the Aggies lost to Florida 10-0. After the respective first quarters, they lost to LSU 24-10 and to Alabama 24-9.

Yes, Alabama had more trouble initially than LSU or Florida did last year (hence the loss), but Texas A&M will probably be more reliant on the run than last year, and that’s good news for the Tide as well.

Compare the Sam Houston St. game this year with the one last year. Manziel had 13.4 yards per pass last season and only 10.1 yards per pass this season. The only reason I thought to look for that number was the fact that 4 of the Aggies’ top 6 receivers from last season are no longer on the team. Maybe the new receivers will be just as good at some point this season, but September 14 is a little early to expect that.

However, I’d be perfectly happy to see Alabama lose as usual. I don’t think they have anyone to realistically lose to apart from A&M and LSU. I hope I’m wrong.

W(h)ither Texas and USC?

Just to mention a couple of other teams, I’m not sure how to explain Texas and USC in recent years. They sure have fallen a long way from the 2005 BCS title game.

Mack Brown was always a better recruiter than coach, in my opinion, but I don’t know how the original McCoy/Shipley team didn’t lead to the recruits necessary to succeed since then. Maybe it’s not having Muschamp around on the other side of the ball. Something has gone terribly wrong if you give up 40 points to a team Virginia held to 16, especially when you’re loaded with returning starters. The Cavaliers gave up 59 to Oregon, by the way.

USC was the opposite problem. They only managed 7 points against Washington St. at home. Auburn (which didn’t even receive a vote in either major poll to start the year) scored 31 points against the Cougars. The Trojans’ average in this series the last 7 meetings had been 45.4 points. It seems there is something going on there that can’t just be chalked up to probation.

Now it’s easy to say Kiffin just isn’t a good head coach (living in Southern California, I might have heard that once or twice), but they went 10-2 in 2011 and finished even better than they started: after the bye week, they looked great for the remaining seven games, winning all but the one against Oregon by at least 2 touchdowns and only losing to Stanford after three overtimes. That doesn’t happen if you can’t coach.

Kiffin’s performances at Tennessee and the Raiders were actually underrated in my opinion. He won two more games than the Vols had won in Fullmer’s last year, and Dooley wasn’t able to match that win total in any of his three seasons.

Kiffin didn’t do very well with the Raiders, winning only ¼ of the games while head coach there (5-15), but in the shape that team was in after trying to bring back the early 1990s with Art Shell, I thought there was more improvement than the record indicated. Seven of Kiffin’s losses with the Raiders were by a touchdown or less. When Shell went 2-14 in 2006, only four of his losses were by a touchdown or less.

All I can think is that Kiffin has difficulty planning for the long-term as head coach. I think this is more vital in college than in the NFL. There is no guarantee you’re going to have a large number of known quantities from one season to the next in the NFL. I never see this printed anywhere, but I’d like to see the number of returning starters that NFL teams have from year to year. Anyway, even though offensive coordinators are often more involved than a defensive head coach, maybe Pete Carroll kept tabs on long-term recruiting goals at USC.

Bring Back the Big West

In Bowls, College Football, Realignment on December 8, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Even though this could have been the promising first year of a reorganized respectable second-tier conference, the WAC as we used to know it seems pretty much dead. All the football members have left or are leaving apart from Idaho and New Mexico St.

As recently as 1995, the top three WAC teams of this year, Louisiana Tech, Utah St., and San Jose St., all competed in the Big West. Nevada, UNLV, and New Mexico St. were also in that conference, and Boise St. joined (along with Idaho) in 1996.

Which got me thinking… since there won’t be a WAC, why can’t there be a Big West in football again? I can’t think of a good reason. In football, the Big East is doing so much expanding from the area near the Mississippi River all the way to Boise and San Diego, so that can incorporate these teams while the rest of the conference can keep operating as it is already, with some possible quality expansion in other sports.

These were the teams in the WAC in 1995:
Air Force
BYU
Colorado St.
Fresno St.
Hawaii
New Mexico
San Diego St.
Utah
UTEP
Wyoming

Boise St. and San Diego St. are actually going to be in the Big West in other sports, and Hawaii is already there. I imagine Utah St. and San Jose St. (which appear to be headed to the Mountain West) could be brought back with just the foundation I’ve mentioned so far. BYU left the Mountain West to become independent in football (WCC in other sports, which makes less sense than the Big West would), but no currently AQ-conference has offered them a spot, and they’re naturals to be playing the likes of Boise St. and Utah St., both of which they’ve played this season.

The East-West alliance along the lines of the previously-discussed MWC-CUSA idea didn’t work out because of all the existing obligations (essentially schools could then leave without buyout fees and without paying the conference shares of post-season revenue), but all those problems aren’t here since administratively, it would still really be the Big East.

Louisiana Tech is a definite for the Conference USA, but that’s fine because they were too far to the East for the WAC anyway. The Big West football conference did extend into Arkansas and Louisiana briefly (inlcluding Louisiana Tech and UL-Lafayette, then known as the University of Southwestern Louisiana). There is a bit of a central region in the Big East as well that could provide the anticipated mega-conference some flexibility, so they’re not completely out of the question later.

The Big East has already announced plans to include Memphis, Tulane, SMU, and Houston. With the quality Western teams available, I would think Memphis and Tulane would be playing in the true Big East (by which I mean teams that would be in the Big East in other sports and in the Eastern division in football), but SMU and Houston would be good opponents for them as well. If only one of the four goes out West (in the even both Cincinnati and Connecticut find other conferences), then SMU and Houston could still be permanent opponents.

The only teams left from a couple of years ago (to make up the core of the true Big East) will be Connecticut, Cincinnati, and South Florida.

So this is what I’m thinking as a possible alignment…

Big East Big West
Central Florida Boise St.
Cincinnati BYU
Connecticut Hawaii
East Carolina Houston
Memphis Nevada
South Florida San Diego St.
Temple SMU
Tulane UNLV
Future possibilities Future possibilities
Army Air Force
Louisiana Tech San Jose St.
Navy* Utah St.

*-Navy is already set to join in 2015.

Apart from Navy, the Western future possibilities are more likely in the event of more shuffling of the Eastern teams. The ACC or Big Ten could take teams from the East if they want to go to 16. If the SEC goes to 16, they would likely come from the ACC, which will probably want to replace those two. So if two teams are lost from the Eastern division, they could be replaced by SMU and Houston, whose spots in the Western division could be taken by San Jose St. and Utah St. I could also see SMU and Houston joining the Big XII to make it… wait for it, 12 teams. Then you could simply replace them with San Jose St. and Utah St. Air Force (who could of course be a permanent opponent of Navy) seems like another reasonable possibility

To balance out possible unfairness from permanent opponents, I would be in favor of only counting divisional play toward picking the contestants for the championship game, but this would not rule out one or two games against teams from the other side during the season. If Air Force and Navy were in different divisions, they would still need to play one another. I don’ t know if Army is a possibility, but just for instance, it might be that if all the Commander-in-Chief teams are in this conference, two permanent opponents would be needed. That can’t really be done if it counts as an equal conference game. Other programs may not prefer to play any inter-divisional games.

Also, if circumstances change (which seems to happen every couple of months), maybe there could be too much interest in the East and not enough in the West. Then, you could easily have Memphis and/or Tulane move to the West.

I guess we can expect the Mountain West to have a number of members suitable for a round-robin format, which is sort of why it was created around the turn of the 21st century. So in addition to the three programs mentioned as future possibilities for the Big West, the Mountain West membership includes Wyoming, Colorado St., Fresno St., and New Mexico. I started this off by mentioning Idaho and New Mexico St. They could fit right in if some of the defections take place. Another possibility would be UTEP, which is less than an hour away from New Mexico St. West Texas might be a place to make recruiting inroads. Of course, the Big East is already going to be in East Texas.

Idaho isn’t quite as great of a fit for either conference, but another possibility for Idaho is to go back to the Big Sky, which may also house future FBS programs, by the way.

Anyway, there are definitely suitable teams for an 8-10-team Mountain West as well as an 8-team Big West to be part of the football Big East.

The bowl policies are interesting here. The Fiesta Bowl currently is the Big XII champion’s default destination, but that is going to be the Sugar under the SEC-Big XII contract, so that will open up. Maybe the winner of the football Big East could play there, even if the winner were from the East. An Eastern team might be good enough for the Orange Bowl in some years, but nothing would rule out a Pac-12 or Big XII #2 team playing the MWC champions in the Fiesta Bowl if it worked out that way. I don’t think the MWC under what I’m envisioning would be a fixture in the major bowls, but there may be some years where that would be appropriate. The Cotton Bowl also seems to be taking on increasing importance, but one would think that would be a common location of the SEC-Big XII bowl in the years where the Sugar is a semifinal bowl. In other years, the football Big East might be a good fit as well, regardless of which division the winner comes from.

The Big East doesn’t have to be an unmitigated coast-to-coast disaster, but I’m afraid that is a possibility without the kind of clear direction I would like to see it have with the Western teams. Funny that just a could years ago, many (myself included) were thinking the solution might just be to make the MWC an AQ in lieu of the Big East or simply to remove the Big East from AQ status to make room for more MWC or WAC teams. Now I’m talking about a lot of the teams in question being in the same conference somehow.

Conferences and LSU Update

In College Football, General LSU, Realignment on August 25, 2012 at 9:28 PM

I had a lot of thoughts about what the conferences should do moving forward, but there were a couple of LSU issues I wanted to cover first, this being the last non-game week.

Mettenberger seems to be dong extremely well. In the final scrimmage, he completed 26 passes on 36 attempts for 336 yards. There was an indeterminate number of TD passes, but I’m not sure how relevant that is anyway. According to the stats given, he didn’t fare nearly as well in the first two scrimmages, with only 15 completions each time.

Kenny Hilliard seems to be at or near the top of the RB depth chart, so I’m excited to see him this year.

There are a couple of linemen who are “a little nicked,” according to Les, but I’m still feeling fairly positive about the offense.

Defense is a little more up in the air. There is only one real returning starter in the secondary, and there has already been an injury. FS Eric Reid is the only returning starter from that unit. The defense as a whole returns 4, although Tharold Simon had a lot of impact in more limited playing time last year. There is a lot of talent, but talent alone doesn’t stop tackles from being broken/evaded and passes from being completed by the other team.

In recruiting news, LSU has two good incoming quarterbacks, Rivals’ #4 pro-style QB and another product of the state of Georgia (as was Mettenberger), Anthony Jennings, whom Rivals ranks as the #12 dual-threat QB. It will be interesting to see how much LSU goes for the dual-threat options in the future. LSU is now ranked #5 in overall recruiting class by Rivals.

Moving from the future to the distant past, I thought this was a nice tribute to a former LSU player turned NFL Hall of Famer: http://bleacherreport.com/tb/d8jlB?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=lsu-football

Onto the conferences, I know I like to talk about this topic a lot, but the regional rivalries and series histories are important to me.

First off, I’m hoping the ACC and SEC stay at 14. The only way I would support a 16-team conference would be if 7 or maybe 8 games counted toward the conference title. With 9 games, you could have one team with two extreme lightweights from the other division as well as an extra home game, and that team could end up ahead (either by a single game or due to a head-to-head tiebreaker) a team who had an extra road game and played two of the best teams in the other division. I can countenance 8 games because there may be a natural rival in the other division anyway, and it could be used to even out the home/away situation mentioned. One game is less likely to be determinative than two. Such an arrangement might work in the ACC if it continues to poach the Big East but I don’t think it would work well in the SEC.

I did have one specific thought about the SEC. I think it would make more sense if West Virginia were in the SEC and Missouri went back to the Big XII. They’re losing a lot of good Big 8 rivalries, and except for Arkansas, I don’t know if anyone is very excited about Missouri joining, particularly not in their division, the East.

I calculated the travel times for the SEC. The benefits for the Big XII are too blatantly obvious to elaborate upon. I think most people aren’t going to drive in a car for 800 miles, so the 300-mile difference in the trip to Baton Rouge, for instance, might not be that significant, but if there are 5 divisional teams less than 600 miles apart, that’s better than the 2 divisional teams (Kentucky and Vanderbilt) that close to Missouri. If you draw the line at 550, it’s 4-2; at 500, it’s still 3-2. (Georgia is between 550 and 600 from WVU, while Vanderbilt is between 500 and 550 from WVU.)

As referenced, Missouri does provide something good in that it’s closer to Arkansas than any other team and as Arkansas had no logical interdivisional rival before (it had been South Carolina), that was a marriage made in heaven. WVU, however, does not have a logical interdivisional rival. Since the two Alabama teams are seemingly off-limits (can’t break up Alabama-Tennessee or Auburn-Georgia), the one that made the most sense was Mississippi St., whose currently “rival” is Kentucky, which in turn could be paired with Arkansas as two of the more Northern teams. This still would add significant travel times to the interdivisional rivalries for the other teams.

With an 8-game schedule, the average travel time is almost exactly the same, around 740 miles (the interdivisional games make almost a negligible difference since only one would be played per year). If a 9-game schedule were adopted, WVU would involve an average travel distance of 877 miles to Missouri’s average travel distance of 851 miles. This was calculated by only counting the non-annual distances for 1/3 since only two of the 6 leftovers would be played every year. But restricting it to permanent rivalries (including divisional rivalries), WVU is only an average of 590 miles to Missouri’s 632. And strictly looking at divisional rivalries, it’s 525 for WVU to 685 for Missouri. There is a thought out there that maybe with 14 teams, not every team should have the permanent interdivisional rival, although you would at least want to keep a few of them. The two involving Alabama teams especially, but Ole Miss-Vandy is a good tradition too, even though it’s not usually two of the better teams of course. LSU has played Florida for 40 years in a row, but this has only really meant a whole lot for the last 15 years. No one (except Lou Holtz) is going to miss Arkansas-South Carolina, and few would miss Miss. St.-Kentucky.

Boise St. should forget about the Big East and instead join the Big XII. TCU came to its senses and gave up the Big East for the Big XII before playing a down in the Big East. A coast-to-coast, Canada-to-Mexico-to-Cuba (Tampa isn’t Miami but still isn’t far) league is completely ridiculous. Of course BYU would seemingly want to join the Big XII, and this would actually make sense to give Boise a more natural rival. San Diego St. would be another possibility, but let them and the Big East be stupid together, basically the same sentiment I have regarding WVU and the Big XII.

I know that still isn’t as regional as I typically argue for, but Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas make up 8 teams. So it would still mostly be regional except with teams to the Northwest (2), North, and Northeast–enough to be a presence in those other regions without destroying the natural rivalries. And the schools in question don’t have better offers anyway.

I don’t know how Tulsa doesn’t get involved in all the changes being made, but maybe that’s because it’s not a big school (fewer than 3000 undergrads). Plus, it’s going to be a team within some reasonable distance of Louisiana Tech, which has been a misplaced member of the WAC for years. In 2005, several Texas teams bolted for the CUSA when it expanded, but Louisiana Tech (in Northeastern Louisiana) was left out, with its closest opponent all the way in southern New Mexico. Now this will finally be remedied. Tech will have Tulsa to the Northwest, North Texas to the due West (only requiring one interstate highway really), UTSA and Rice to the Southwest, and Tulane and Southern Mississippi to the Southeast. It would have had Memphis to the Northeast, but that’s another seemingly misplaced future Big East member.

The Big East still has the two NYC-area teams, and it still has the two Ohio Valley teams, but it’s not extending into the rust/coal belt in what used to be the west of the conference, and it’s not going North of the NYC area to Boston or Syracuse. Why not build on that and become a regional conference again as it should be, only this time more Southern? There are a few CUSA teams that could rejoin Cincinnati and Louisville. East Carolina and Central Florida might be good, for instance. Maybe Villanova could be convinced to make the leap to FBS. Temple is already moving back to the Big East.

But instead it’s on a ridiculous quest to become some hybrid of the original Sun Belt conference (which went from Moscow, Idaho, to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Miami) and the 16-team WAC (Hawaii to Wyoming to Fort Worth, Texas). Hopefully, it will be a similarly temporary arrangement. Maybe the Big West can become more of an FBS conference again and they can draw the line of separation at the Mississippi River at least. Or perhaps several members can be the football WAC and perhaps in other conferences in other sports. It does not seem the current WAC will have enough teams for football in 2013.

I wonder if the BCS could have avoided some of this by kicking the Big East sooner and replacing it with the Mountain West. At least the MWC would have stayed together longer.

I’m unclear on why the MAC decided it needed 13 teams and replaced Temple with UMass. I fail to see how 13 is convenient, fair, or logical. Perhaps Youngstown St. can become an FBS team and they can make it an even 14. That’s another thing I wonder. We have 4 new FBS teams this season; will the new and upcoming conference shifts result in increased pressure from FBS conferences to tempt the FCS members?

How I Would Reorganize College Football….. Part I: Intro

In College Football, Realignment on October 9, 2011 at 12:36 AM

I started writing this for suggestions of some additional changes to the conference “alignments”. But with this interest that many seem to have in the idea of 16-team conferences, I wondered how popular this idea could get. I know there are a variety of interests at play here, and it would be hard to get them to work together, but I’m mostly just imagining what I would do if I were appointed czar of college football.

I know that’s not going to happen, but as someone who frequently criticizes the powers that be, I thought I would put my own proposal out there. It comes across as cynical grumbling otherwise. But I’m not complaining because I like complaining, I’m complaining because I’d sincerely like there to be a better system, and I know I’m not alone.

For the record, I’m opposed to most of the expansion ideas because one wouldn’t really be in a conference with teams in the other division. It would just be a guaranteed quasi-playoff opponent at the end of the season. But as czar of college football, I would be an enlightened despot. If the people petitioned me through their AD’s and college presidents, I would listen.

Besides, if you did it for all of the guaranteed BCS/playoff spots, it could be good because (1) there would be fewer such spots, (2) more teams could play for those spots, and (3) there would be a more uniform process of playing for those spots.

I think the first two arguments are evident, but I’ll give some more explanation for the third. The Big East is an 8-team conference and the team with the best record in the seven conference games is named the champion. 12-team conferences play either 8 or 9 games just to determine the division winners, and then an additional game is played between the division winners. There are more hurdles in getting there from a 12-team conference, even if you assume equal competition.

Something else I dislike about the expansion/realignment talk is the idea that a conference should add one or two teams in another region in order to generate great recruiting and revenue. Meanwhile, the argument seems to go, natural and traditional rivals should be discarded if they conflict. So for instance, the Big East can have teams from Connecticut to Florida to Texas (thankfully it looks like Texas won’t happen after all), the formerly Big XII can have teams from Kentucky (suggested) to Utah (suggested) to Iowa, and the ACC can teams from Boston to Miami to somewhere inland yet to be determined (Pittsburgh, but maybe farther West). Who cares if it makes sense for the team from Boston to play the team from Connecticut or the team from Miami to play the team from Tampa? They’ll just have to try to squeeze it into the ever-dwindling non-conference schedule. I didn’t even mention the WAC (Manoa, HI, to Ruston, LA, to Moscow, ID), the CUSA (El Paso to Huntington, WV, to Orlando), the Mountain West (San Diego to Boise to Ft. Collins, CO), or the Sun Belt (Denton, TX, to Bowling Green, KY, to Miami).

There is sometimes some conflict between traditional and natural rivalries. South Florida (the Tampa team I mentioned) and Connecticut haven’t had major football programs for very long. Even though they’re about as far away in terms of latitude as any two teams are, there is some history between Boston College and U. Miami. But I tried to balance those concerns. I don’t know the history of every individual rivalry but in an effort to be comprehensive, I put each team somewhere.

What I’ve done is put 80 teams into one of 5 16-team BCS-like conferences. The remaining 40 teams (ones that aren’t as good) have been put into one of 4 10-team conferences.

Producing a playoff

My ideal would be to find a way to turn that into 8 playoff teams. The 10-team conferences could either produce one or two of those teams, and there could be one or two at-large teams.

I would not only have a way for those bottom 40 programs to win the national championship, but I would also come up with a system where the best of those teams, at least the top two would be allowed to move up and two other teams would be allowed to move down, sort of a European soccer league arrangement.

The catch is having so many potential playoff games after a 9-game schedule. My solution would be that there wouldn’t be any extra games for those teams, or there might be one. Even if there is a 4-team play-in system to be the best of the worst followed by three more potential playoff games, that would be a total of 5 post-season games. 5 + 9 =14, which is accepted as appropriate (most teams already play up to 14 games, factoring in possible conference championship, bowl games, and trips to Hawaii {I’m not being facetious, that’s actually an exception to the 12-game limit}). There could also be an 8-game conference schedule instead (the team that isn’t played can be drawn out of a hat), and maybe just one play-in game, so that would allow two additional teams to be played. And since that 14th game is so unrealistic, a third game outside of the system could also be allowed.

The schedules for the top 80 teams wouldn’t really change much. My proposal would be that they play the 7 other divisional opponents, along with one inter-divisional rival (I think an even number of home and away games is fairer; the tie-breaker system could be adjusted for inequalities that might result). And playing 8 such games instead of 9 allows three games outside of the system without risking a team having to play more than 14 games. I wouldn’t prohibit other inter-divisional games, they just wouldn’t count toward the division title.

As to which teams move down from the top 80 after the season, there could be anything from something completely objective, like a combination of computer formulas or something more transparently mathematical, to something completely subjective like a NCAA-basketball-like committee that evaluates strengths and weaknesses. There could even be a short playoff to determine who those teams are.

Next Blog… Part 2: SEC/Southern Conference

I’ll try to write these weekly until completion, but I’ve only really had time for one non-rankings blog a week, so if other things come up, they might cause me to spread it out a little more. I’ve done the second part already, but I knew the blog had gotten too long for many people to realistically read everything I’ve written so far on this topic.

Week 3 Top 25 and commentary

In College Football, Rankings on September 18, 2011 at 4:10 PM

This is going to bother some people, but I moved several teams down to the bottom of the top 25 (the last seven teams in fact) due to not having played much of anyone so far. If they beat someone decent, I’ll move them back up, so no need to make a big deal out of it. At this point, I don’t consider Arizona to be a good team, but if they start better than 1-4, I might give the teams who beat them more credit.

A couple of teams had a loss as their only quality opponent, but if the team didn’t look like it belonged, I’ve already moved it accordingly. I’d rather a team play with a top 10 team and lose than not play any top 100 teams (for instance) and be undefeated at this point.

On the other hand, fewer people are likely to complain about Boise St.

I am giving slightly less weight to margin of victory, but Texas is an exception because they so narrowly beat BYU at home and then Utah (a loser to USC) beat BYU so handily on the road Saturday, I didn’t think giving Texas credit for that as a quality win was appropriate. Also, BYU’s first game was a one-point win over Ole Miss, who got absolutely destroyed by Vanderbilt on Saturday.

So even though I ranked BYU in preseason, I feel like that has been proven wrong at this point.

rank / team / prior
1 LSU 1
2 Oklahoma 2
3 Alabama 3
4 Oregon 4
5 Florida St. 5
6 Boise St. 13
7 S Carolina 14
8 Nebraska 12
9 Florida 17
10 W Virginia 19
11 Maryland 20
12 Baylor 21
13 USC 23
14 Penn St. 16
15 Utah —
16 TCU 25
17 Michigan —
18 Clemson —
19 Texas A&M 6
20 Va. Tech 7
21 Arkansas 8
22 Stanford 9
23 Wisconsin 10
24 Okie St. 11
25 Texas Tech 18

Out of rankings: (15) Michigan St., (22) Texas, (24) Arizona St.

Prior rankings:

Week 2
Week 1
Preseason

Week 2 Top 25

In College Football, Rankings on September 14, 2011 at 9:07 PM

A little more complicated this week. #25 was a close call. I went with TCU because they had a convincing win over a challenging team on the road (Air Force) after a 2-point loss to a challenging team on the road (Baylor). I didn’t rank Baylor or Air Force in preseason, but both probably would have been in my top 35. But the fact that these two games were on the road helped to encourage me to give TCU the edge over Auburn even though TCU has a loss and Auburn doesn’t. I do think TCU played the clearly better game in Week 1. The two teams each went undefeated last year and had very few returning starters, so they were comparable. Auburn of course will have many more chances to prove itself, and we’ll see how well it does on the road and whether the Utah St. or Mississippi St. game was an aberration. I’m not sure which, and also, Mississippi St. may not be as good as I originally projected (although I expect tomorrow’s game will be worth watching).

Nos. 21-24 each had a narrow win (2 in the case of USC) but no losses. Penn St. and Oregon are the only other teams with a loss, but I didn’t think they were losses that showed any inaccuracy in the prior rankings. The same is arguably true of BYU, whom I considered retaining, but the combination of a 1-point win over Ole Miss (who I question as being a good team) and a 1-point loss to Texas (which is a developing team, I would say) seemed to be worse than the other teams in that vicinity.

Other than moving losing teams out, the only other slight adjustment made was moving Nebraska down two spots. The Huskers had a very close game against Fresno St. until the closing seconds, while Wisconsin and Oklahoma St. each won in impressive fashion against respectable Pac-12 programs (although Oregon St. of course lost to FCS/I-AA team Sacramento St. in Week 1).

At this point, I’m not penalizing those teams who haven’t had a quality opponent, but that will begin to change next week. Also, I will give less weight to how close the games were as we progress toward early October, when I begin to use strict mathematical computations.

rank / team / prior
1 LSU 1
2 Oklahoma 2
3 Alabama 3
4 Oregon 4
5 Florida St. 5
6 Texas A&M 6
7 Va. Tech 7
8 Arkansas 8
9 Stanford 9
10 Wisconsin 11
11 Okie St. 12
12 Nebraska 10
13 Boise St. 13
14 S Carolina 14
15 Mich St. 16
16 Penn St. 18
17 Florida 19
18 Texas Tech 20
19 W Virginia 21
20 Maryland 22
21 Baylor —
22 Texas 17
23 USC 23
24 Arizona St. —
25 TCU —

Out of rankings: (15)Mississippi St., (24) BYU, (25) Utah

Prior rankings:

Week 1
Preseason

Week 1 Top 25

In College Football on September 7, 2011 at 4:47 AM

Not too much to say. I kept the top 14 in tact. I just wasn’t even mildly surprised by any of it, and I don’t want to penalize Oregon for losing to a team I already had a few spots higher. The Ducks fell behind due to (forced) mistakes, but I don’t think they were that clearly inferior to LSU that they needed to be moved down, especially when you consider the lack of competition the rest of the top 10 faced.

I took Notre Dame out and put Maryland in. I think Notre Dame picked the wrong quarterback, and I wasn’t blown away by South Florida. I considered ranking both Maryland and Miami in preseason, so I felt that the winner of that game made more sense. Any number of unranked teams probably could have beaten Notre Dame on Saturday.

You can see a few teams that I moved down for close wins, but maybe Ole Miss and Minnesota are better than I thought, so I didn’t want to take out BYU or USC. The other games weren’t close enough to seriously consider removing teams.

1 LSU 1
2 Oklahoma 2
3 Alabama 3
4 Oregon 4
5 Florida St. 5
6 Texas A&M 6
7 Va. Tech 7
8 Arkansas 8
9 Stanford 9
10 Nebraska 10
11 Wisconsin 11
12 Okie St. 12
13 Boise St. 13
14 S Carolina 14
15 Miss St. 17
16 Mich St. 15
17 Texas 19
18 Penn St. 20
19 Florida 23
20 Texas Tech 24
21 W Virginia 25
22 Maryland —
23 USC 16
24 BYU 21
25 Utah 22

Out of rankings: (18) Notre Dame

Earlier rankings:
Preseason