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Posts Tagged ‘Conferences’

Conference Summary and Week 4 Preview

In College Football, Conference Reports on September 23, 2016 at 6:13 PM

Guess which conference has the fewest losses in non-conference play? (discussion of conference losses will mean non-conference play below)

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The SEC has only lost one (Vanderbilt to Georgia Tech) since opening weekend. Five of its 7 losses were against Power-5 opponents. Only the Mississippi St. upset at the hands of South Alabama and Kentucky’s loss to Southern Miss were not to that group.

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The Big Ten still has a higher overall average winning percentage, but it has faced twice as many FCS opponents, two of which were victorious. Also, although there are many Power-5 wins, they’re often not against quality opponents. Four of the wins were Duke, Iowa St., Oregon St., and Colorado.

In the SEC, on the other hand, four of the five wins against the Power-5 were against teams that were ranked in the preseason. 78% and 75% aren’t far enough apart to overcome the strength of schedule disparity, so I’d give the SEC a slight edge at this point, but it will depend on some future games, and the SEC will have more of them.

ACC
Pac-12

For #3, I’m going to go with the ACC. They played five SEC opponents as well as Oklahoma St. and Oregon. The Pac-12 has similar records against slightly worse teams.

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The Big XII is only 15-11 right now. The best wins were over Notre Dame and Pitt. Not only would I put them last among the Power-5, I would also argue the American (AAC) should go ahead.

The bottom tier of conferences is harder to rank. I would say the MAC and MWC are roughly even. The MAC would be ahead if it weren’t for the three FCS losses. The Sun Belt is a little better than CUSA. Mississippi St. is a better key win than Kentucky, and Southern Miss and Ohio are better than Bowling Green and Miami U.

Week 4 Preview

There are a few major inter-conference games this weekend. I already covered the SEC games.

I’ll address the ones going on right now first. If Eastern Michigan beats Wyoming, that could arguably break the MWC/MAC deadlock. TCU vs. SMU is another chance of an upset by the AAC over the Big XII.

Similar to TCU, Boise St. is only a story if they lose, but it’s still good to get a road Pac-12 win even if it is against Oregon St. Central Michigan is another G5 (meaning not in the Power-5 of ACC, Big XII, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC) team on the road that should probably win, at Virginia in their case.

Another game in the state of Virginia is East Carolina against Virginia Tech. The Pirates were able to beat North Carolina St. but were not so lucky against South Carolina. The Hokies have a chance to rehabilitate somewhat from their previous non-conference game against Tennessee.

BYU will play its fourth Power-5 opponent, this time traveling to West Virginia. The Cougars beat Arizona before losing to Utah and UCLA in close games.

I’ll be very interested in the Wisconsin-Michigan St. game, the big game between two ranked teams.

The Pac-12 has a couple of big games involving Southern California teams. USC is playing Utah right now, and UCLA plays Stanford tomorrow Of course Stanford beat USC last week, so they’re trying to sweep L.A.

I also wanted to mention there is a big game in the ACC Coastal between North Carolina and Pitt in conference openers for both.

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SEC Wednesday #3: Recap and Predictions

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on September 14, 2016 at 7:05 PM

The SEC East has me all confused, but at least I picked the right teams to win. I thought Vanderbilt would be the doormat this season, but right now it looks like it will decidedly be Kentucky.

I’m not sure if South Carolina, which beat Vanderbilt in week 1, turned in a poor game or Mississippi St. turned in a good one, but I thought the Gamecocks with the points were a good bet. Nope.

Missouri showed more life than I thought they would, so they’re not looking so doormat-like either. Speaking of the SEC East, I felt really good about my Virginia Tech pick with the points for a quarter or so, but they got destroyed after that.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t pick a Georgia spread.

I predicted the SEC West better even though the numbers were not much better. I was not surprised about Arkansas taking the game into overtime, I just didn’t think they’d win there. Actually, I picked Arkansas to win in a pick ‘em game with some other bloggers, but I didn’t actually pick them to win on here.

I wasn’t really wrong about Alabama, but I got bitten by that last .5.

I made the right pick in Auburn, and of course I got the winning team right in that one too.

Finally doing this on an actual Wednesday.

Finally doing this on an actual Wednesday.

So I was 11-1 in picking winners last week, but only 2-6 against the spread. This brings my totals to 22-3 and 11-8.

I really don’t know about LSU. Etling showed some promise, but his anticipated first game as a starter (although Les doesn’t want to call him that) could be tricky. We don’t really know how Fournette will respond, even if he is fully recovered.

The team who will be on the other sideline, Moo State, had one awful week and one respectable one. If it were LSU vs. a consistent SEC team, I’d pick the other team. I guess since both of Bulldog games were at home and they’re still pretty inexperienced, I’ll pick LSU to win -14.

Dak Prescott converts a key third-down play in 2014 as State got its first win in Baton Rouge since  1991.

Dak Prescott converts a key third-down play in 2014 as State got its first win in Baton Rouge since 1991.

The SEC home opener went pretty well last year after all (even though I swore it would be close before), 45-21 over Auburn; but LSU also had that lead at the half. Mississippi St. may be better than that Auburn team, but LSU should be better than they were last year.

Tennessee has already had its home opener and probably won’t have their peak motivation this week, so I’ll take the Ohio Bobcats and 27.5. Watch the Vols win by 28 just to annoy me. Ohio beat Kansas fairly comfortably, although Lawrence is no comparison to Knoxville.

Georgia Tech beat Mercer by 25 and only beat Boston College by 3. I think BC and Vandy are similar, so I’ll take the ’Dores +6.5, but the Wreck to win at home. I was pleasantly surprised by Vandy’s level of play the first two weeks, but they still don’t look like winners yet.

Ole Miss hasn’t impressed me for the last 93 minutes of game play, and Alabama isn’t a good team to find your footing against. It’s a good line, but I’m thinking 11+ points is more likely than 10 or less, so I have to pick Alabama -10.5. I hope I’m wrong. Saban was in an “ass-chewing” mood after last week’s performance, so I expect they’ll tidy (get it, Tide-y) things up this week. The motivation is there.

East Carolina looked pretty good, and South Carolina certainly did not. I have to pick the Pirates +3, although second-tier SEC teams at home are usually good bets.

Kentucky disappointed me last week, but the NMSU Aggies will probably have a hangover from the exciting win over the Lobos. It is at Kentucky, so I’ll take the Wildcats -19.5. I think they’ll want to let out some frustration. If it’s close, Mark Stoops needs to quit during the post-game press conference to give someone else a chance. Alabama in two weeks could be embarrassing.

Thirty-six-and-a-half is just too many for Florida against North Texas. I expect the Gators will not be particularly up for the game. North Texas only won a single game last year, but they only lost to Tennessee by 24. I expect similar, but even an extra touchdown and field goal wouldn’t cover the spread.

I feel the same about Arkansas-Texas St. TSU won the battle of bobcats in Week 1 and had a week off to prepare while Arkansas played the aforementioned crazy game against TCU. Arkansas only beat Louisiana Tech by 1. They could go undefeated with close wins at this rate, but beating a not-terrible team by 31 I’m not so sure about. The kinds of lines drive me crazy though. It’s just hard to predict whether a team is in the mood to beat down an inferior team.

Georgia RB Nick Chubb fumbles against Nicholls St.

Georgia RB Nick Chubb fumbles against Nicholls St.

Speaking of playing inferior teams, Georgia (who only beat Nicholls St. by 2) was much worse than I expected while Mizzou was better than I expected, but I think that’s factored into the line of only 6.5. I would predict Georgia to win by some number in the teens.

I actually forgot Texas A&M-Auburn.  I’ll pick Auburn to win.  Three-and-a-half isn’t enough to change that, although it very well could make the difference on the field.  I think A&M beat UCLA because it was in Texas, and this is a team of similar quality at home.  Auburn has played two decent games.

2015 Pre-Bowl Conference Report

In College Football, Conference Reports on December 18, 2015 at 6:21 PM

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

If anyone is interested in my blogger top 10 poll on MacApp, click here.

Before I begin, I just wanted to reiterate that I believe the correct way to evaluate conferences is to look at the games between conferences. I don’t think any result within a conference weakens it. So when I talk about wins, assume I mean non-conference.

Also, I will refer a lot to P5 and G5. P5 are the traditional Power 5 conferences: ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12, and SEC. Notre Dame is included in this group since it primarily plays a major-conference schedule and is given special privileges in bowl consideration.

G5 are the other conferences: AAC (American), CUSA, MAC, MWC (Mountain West), and SBC (Sun Belt). Discussion of these will include BYU and Army.

WHY THE SEC REMAINS THE TOP CONFERENCE

I opted just to do one for the season overall rather than trying to evaluate everything that happened since the last conference report separately.

ACC-SEC Rivalry games

The ACC won three games against the SEC on the final week of the regular season; but with the relative weakness of the SEC East in recent years, this wasn’t that surprising. Any negative implications were overcome by earlier games between the two conferences.

South Carolina kept North Carolina's offense wrapped up to open the season, although the two teams went in drastically different directions since.

South Carolina kept North Carolina’s offense wrapped up to open the season, although the two teams went in drastically different directions since.

In hindsight, one of the best non-conference wins was by an SEC team that didn’t even make a bowl game when South Carolina beat eventual ACC Coastal champions North Carolina in the opening week. I don’t hold it against the Gamecocks that they later (in the final week of the regular season) lost to eventual ACC Champions Clemson by 5. The Gamecocks also suffered the worst loss of an SEC team by losing to the Citadel in controversial fashion, but you expect non-bowl teams to lose such games from time to time.

The two bowl teams who were playing non-bowl teams, Louisville and Georgia, both won their rivalry games. Louisville only went 1-1 against the bottom half of the SEC though, as the Cardinals had lost to Auburn early in the season. On the other hand, Georgia had no non-conference losses.

The only game that on paper should have been competitive—Florida St.’s win over Florida—is a credit to the ACC, although the Gators were showing major signs of weakness against such opponents as Vanderbilt (won by 2) and Florida Atlantic (won by 6 in overtime) in prior weeks. The Gators would have likely finished much worse in conference than 7-1 had they not played 6 SEC games by the end of October and had the remaining two games not come against two of the worst SEC teams.

Why the SEC Led before Rivalry Week

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To talk a little more about why the SEC had a significant enough lead to remain #1 despite the final week, we can look at another of the worst SEC teams, Missouri. The Tigers beat Connecticut, not a good opponent by any means; but the Huskies were the only team to beat Houston, so they certainly had the talent to beat Mizzou. The Tigers also had a really quality non-conference win over BYU.

I do give credit to the fact that teams like South Carolina and Missouri were even able to compete and in some cases win against good competition out of conference.

Vanderbilt only went 1-2 against FBS opponents out of conference, but they got a road win over a Middle Tennessee team that will finish with a winning record. They also were a late two-point attempt away from tying Western Kentucky in regulation.

This is why SEC teams have such good schedules in my formula. They are guaranteed eight games against tough teams at a minimum. It happens there were three teams in the SEC who went 2-6 in conference and one that went 1-7, but I think the results I discussed indicate they might beat some of the best teams in other conferences and would have a shot at some of the mediocre teams.

If before the season you took the top 14 teams in the preseason poll and had them play 8 games against one another, there may well have been some that finished 2-6 or 1-7. As you might remember, Auburn was in the top 10 in most preseason projections and was actually #3 according to the ESPN power rankings.

The numbers

You can accuse me of trying to spin the results in these arguments, but I really don’t need to.

By my calculations, the SEC won 81.5% of its games out of conference. That’s 3.1% better than the Pac-12, which is second. To show how big of a gap that is, the Pac-12 was only 2.0% better than the #4 Big Ten.

Yet you can turn on ESPN any day of the week and probably listen to someone tell you it’s a down year for the SEC because it didn’t place a bunch of teams in the top 10.

To be fair, all but a couple of the SEC teams played an FCS opponent whereas in the Big Ten (for instance) only half of the teams did.

I would point out though that Big Ten teams played an average of exactly two games per team against either the bottom four conferences (being the MAC, CUSA, Sun Belt, or MWC) or 2-10 independent Army. The SEC played six fewer games against that latter group.

Regardless, the SEC was similarly better than the other conferences when you subtract out FCS opponents. SEC 78.6%, Pac-12 75.9%, Big Ten 72.9%, Big XII 72.7%.

Strength of schedule

You might also quibble about FBS strength of schedule, but further analysis only strengthens these numbers.

Other than the SEC, the only conference to win a majority of its games against the P5 (adding in Notre Dame) is the Big Ten. I think the SEC wins out in FBS strength of schedule because it played five games against the AAC while the Big Ten only played one, which it lost.

I believe Houston, Memphis, Temple, and Navy were the best four teams in the G5 conferences as a whole, so that’s why I treat that conference a little bit differently. The four teams I mentioned only lost two conference games that weren’t against one another (unfortunately for Memphis, they played and lost to all three of the others). Apart from those two, the only non-conference game any of that group lost were Notre Dame’s wins over Navy and Temple.

In that context, I think it’s understandable that Ole Miss and Vanderbilt both lost to teams from that group. Clearly, Ole Miss’s loss to Memphis was a negative for the SEC. It’s a negative for any conference to have one of its top teams lose a non-conference game, but that sure is better than a team like North Carolina losing to South Carolina or even a team like Stanford losing to Northwestern.

The only non-AAC team with a strong argument for being among the top four G5 teams was Bowling Green, which lost to Tennessee, the same Tennessee team that lost late (in overtime actually) to eventual playoff team Oklahoma. Yet the Vols only finished in a four-way tie for fourth in the SEC if you combine the two divisions (so actually a two-way tie for sixth if you give LSU and Arkansas credit for being in the better division).

Speaking of the MAC, I think that Tennessee win helps to balance out Arkansas’s loss to Toledo. The Rockets did not play in the MAC title game, but they were in a four-way tie for the MAC West title and went undefeated against a good non-conference slate.

So losing to Toledo was not as bad as it was made out to be when it happened. I also mentioned here how Arkansas was better statistically in the game. It’s pretty clear that they learned as the season went on to better translate yards into points as Brandon Allen’s passing improved.

I mentioned the other conferences a bit above, but I’ll mention some things I left out below.

OTHER P5 CONFERENCES

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The best Big Ten win was when Michigan St. beat Oregon, but to be fair, Michigan St. won its conference and Oregon didn’t win theirs. So that’s much less of a boost in my view than Northwestern’s win over Pac-12 champions Stanford.

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Utah’s win over Michigan was the best non-conference win by a Pac-12 team, followed closely by Stanford’s win over Notre Dame, but neither one was a lower-ranked team beating a top team of another conference. I think if Notre Dame had played a full ACC schedule, it would have finished second or third, so Stanford should have won that game. The Big Ten East was a good bit better than the Pac-12 South (don’t get me started on why they put Utah in the South), but I don’t know that third in the Big Ten East is much better than tied for first in the Pac-12 South.

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I haven’t talked much about the Big XII because it didn’t do much. Another part of Arkansas’s early-season struggles was a loss to Texas Tech. That seems to be the best non-conference win for the Big XII. The champion of the conference was supposed to beat Tennessee, so that’s not it. Minnesota is 5-7, and that was the best opponent that Baylor, TCU, or Oklahoma St. played out of conference. There were no good wins by the lower half of the conference, although West Virginia had a couple of borderline-decent wins over Maryland (which was had some bad luck in going 3-9 this year but made a bowl last year and is still a major-conference opponent) and Georgia Southern.

ACC

Other than Clemson’s win over Notre Dame and the SEC wins mentioned, I didn’t go into details about the ACC’s other three wins. They were Purdue twice and Illinois. So I that FSU win over Florida was actually the conference’s best win.

G5 DISCUSSION AND BEST WINS

I mentioned the best wins by the MAC, CUSA, and AAC because they came against the SEC. That’s right, the best CUSA win was over Vandy.

The Sun Belt’s best win was San Diego St., which went undefeated in conference after losing to South Alabama.

The MWC’s best win was Boise St. over Washington. The Broncos finished in a four-way tie for second in the Mountain division. The Huskies finished with a losing record in conference, but you still don’t expect a loss in hindsight to a team like Boise.

The winning percentages tell you pretty well who belongs where.

One exception of sorts: I give the MWC the nod over the CUSA even though the CUSA had a slightly better FBS record because MWC teams also beat Virginia and Colorado. I know three wins, none of which were won by the conference champion or runner-up, weren’t against great teams. Colorado might not even qualify as mediocre. But I don’t think Vanderbilt by itself is really a comparison. I certainly can’t put Purdue or Central Florida ahead of any of those.

The AAC had a better FBS record than the ACC but not a better overall record. I sided with the AAC because it played only one fewer P5 opponent despite having two fewer teams, and it won more games against P5 opponents. It was very close though. Had Georgia Tech upset Georgia or had Army beaten Navy, for instance, that would have made the difference. This was the only change from the prior Conference Report.

Full blog

Conference Report #3: Midseason

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

Previous Conference Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new chart is below.

sec football

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

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.

Pac-12 Gets It Wrong

In College Football on June 27, 2011 at 5:44 AM

I somehow missed this back in November—or I was paying too much attention to current games to care—but I’ve been looking at the divisional alignments and schedules, and I disagree with putting Colorado and Utah in the South.

There is a wrinkle to this that makes it more digestible to the California teams, since with Colorado in Utah in the South, Cal and Stanford were placed in the North. That wrinkle is that both USC and UCLA will continue to play Cal and Stanford annually.

By the way, the scheduling format chosen continues the 9-game Pac-10 schedule, so of course every team in a division plays one another (5 divisional games per team), and every team also plays 4 non-divisional opponents. So for the California teams, it will be the divisional opponents, two non-divisional California opponents, and two other non-divisional opponents. I’ll call this the California rule.

To get some grumbling out of the way, I really don’t think this approach is fair because not only does 9 games mean some teams will get an extra home game, but there is greater potential disparity between non-divisional schedules this way. Consider this scenario. Team A and Team B are in the North, which is relatively weak. Team A beats every team in the North, including Team B. But Team A loses twice against the South, possibly against the two best teams in the conference and possibly against teams that Team B does not have to face. Despite the loss to Team A, Team B would still win the division by being undefeated outside of the division. Of course, a similar scenario can take place with an 8-game schedule, but it’s less likely that one team in this scenario would be 1-2 and the other 3-0 against the other division. That’s 33% versus 100% in the 8-game schedule rather than 50% versus 100% in the 9-game schedule.

But apparently the teams want a 9-game schedule. It has served the Pac-10 well with schedule ratings (not always easy to schedule an opponent of a quality conference when they’re all so far away…and now there are two fewer non-conference options in the West), so I can’t say it’s a bad thing for the conference, although the unfairness will continue to bother me. Anyway, my proposal assumes that there will be a 9-game schedule. I don’t think there is much point in talking about what would or should happen under an 8-game schedule.

You might say, “Why bother arguing about it at all? This is the way it is.” The SEC saw after a few years that its initial approach (which was two permanent rivals, meaning 7/8 of the schedule was the same teams every year) didn’t work very well, so it changed the scheduling rules. It did not change the divisional alignment, but in this case, the divisional change if done within a few years would not be that traumatic, since the California teams will all play each other, so that wouldn’t be a problem, and the Mountain teams are new to the conference anyway. There isn’t an alignment that just jumps out as inherently logical here, as there is in the SEC and as there was in the Big XII. The ACC, whose alignment I can’t remember, could still realign, and I don’t think it would upset many people.

I understand the respect for tradition underlying the California rule, but it will cause some problems. This would mean that there would be more games between the Arizona teams (shorthand for Arizona and Arizona St.) and the Northwest teams (shorthand for Oregon, Oregon St., Washington, and Washington St.). One of the benefits of expansion is that there will be fewer such games. Either way there will be fewer Arizona—Northwest games than there were before, but enough travel has necessarily been included due to the selection of Utah and Colorado (I’ll call them the Mountain teams) that the Arizona—Northwest trips should be minimized. I don’t think the Northwest teams even need to play an Arizona team every year, but that was the only way I could see how to get my overall scheme to work, and you have to fill out nine games somehow.

Of course, my suggestion is not that we leave the divisional alignment alone and eliminate the California rule. That would probably expose further weaknesses in the chosen alignment. It’s a choice between having the four California teams play one another as an exception to the rule (causing the adverse consequences mentioned) or as part of the rule.

USC will only play two Northwest teams to go with the two Northern California teams (Cal and Stanford). UCLA will also play two. Since there are four Northwest teams, that means there will be an average of one game per year played by the Northwest teams against an L.A. team (being USC or UCLA). So the Northwest teams will each have to play a combined three games against the Mountain and Arizona teams every year. I can’t see how that could be desirable.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
So this is the current format:

Divisions—
North
Washington
Washington St.
Oregon
Oregon St.
Cal
Stanford

South
Colorado
Utah
USC
UCLA
Arizona
Arizona St.

Inter-divisional Scheduling—

L.A. teams: Both Northern California teams annually, two rotating Northwest teams
Northern California teams: Both L.A. teams annually, one rotating game against Mountain teams, one rotating game against Arizona teams.
Mountain/Arizona teams: three rotating games against Northwest teams, one rotating game against Northern California teams
Northwest teams: three rotating games against Mountain/Arizona teams, one rotating game against L.A. teams
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is my proposed format:

Divisions—

North
Washington
Washington St.
Oregon
Oregon St.
Colorado
Utah

South

Cal
Stanford
USC
UCLA
Arizona
Arizona St.

Inter-divisional Scheduling—

All California teams: One rotating Mountain team, three rotating Northwest teams
Mountain teams: Both Arizona teams annually, two rotating California teams
Arizona teams: Both Mountain teams annually, two rotating Northwest teams
Northwest teams: three rotating games against California teams, one rotating game against Arizona teams
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Admittedly, moving the Mountain teams to the North would mean that each Northwest team would play both Mountain teams every year, but under my proposal, they would only EVER play one Arizona team per year. That seems more logical than sometimes playing two Arizona teams and one Mountain team. The two Mountain teams aren’t ideal, but someone has to play them.

By the way, Salt Lake City and Boulder are to North of Stanford/Palo Alto and Berkeley. People don’t always realize this, but there is geographically a lot of California between the Bay Area and the Oregon border, and then it’s a decent trip to get to Eugene or Corvallis from there.

Granted, a little bit would be lost from the Northern California—Northwest rivalries, but there would still be three games a year between Northwest teams and California teams. I don’t think it’s a catastrophe if the Northwest teams play the Northern California teams three years out of four (there were also such breaks in series with the L.A. teams before the 9-game schedule began), plus it’s an added bonus that they will also play the Southern California teams three years out of four. I think playing all California teams most of the time (which was same basic frequency before the implementation of the 9-game schedule) is more acceptable than playing the Northern California teams all the time and the L.A. teams rarely. If someone with an understanding of the Northwest disagrees, let me know, but watching the coverage and talking to people around here, it’s certainly the impression I get from this end that there is strong feeling by L.A. teams and their fans about playing the Northwest teams.

The Mountain teams would only play one L.A. team per year instead of two, but my proposal would still ensure they play two Arizona teams per year. I think it makes more sense for the Northwest teams to each L.A. team more routinely than the Mountain teams would.

Also, from the perspective of the Arizona teams, I think they’d rather play two Northwest teams per year than three.

I also prefer the idea of playing a home and home and then taking a break in the series, to playing (for instance) Cal one year, Stanford the next year, and having a return trip against Cal the third year.

Those are my abstract arguments. My more concrete arguments relate to how far the various teams are from one another geographically.

I’ve spent a lot of time crunching the numbers to determine what the average road trip is for a visiting team. Under the current format, it is 740 miles, and under my proposal, it would be 731 miles. But the average isn’t really that important anyway. I think it’s more important to consider what a reasonable trip might be.

Ideally, you would want the trip to be under 400 miles. That’s the kind of game that you can get excited about generally anyway, because if you’re a local fan, you may know someone who has something to do with that team, or it wouldn’t be unusual to live closer to the other team that you live to your team. Teams of that closeness tend to have better rivalries than those significantly farther apart. Also, I personally would generally choose to drive that distance, even if there weren’t a difference in price. That way, I would be comfortable leaving when I wanted, stopping to eat, etc. Same thing with going back.

I also looked at trips of 600 miles and below. That’s too much for one day for sure, but if you want to take a long weekend or something of that nature, even that might be something you would consider driving, and if you did fly, it would be around an hour. Even if you missed your flight, you could probably still get there without great expense or inconvenience on another flight. That’s not too far for a bit of a rivalry to develop either. Of course, Notre Dame and USC is a rivalry, but regional rivalries are more common and seem to develop quickly if they’re not already there. I anticipate that very soon, assuming a couple of competitive games at least, Utah and Colorado will have a rivalry despite being over 500 miles apart.

In divisional series, there would be 4 more trips a year of under 400 miles than there will be under the current format. There would be 1 more trip of under 600 miles.

There aren’t many relevant inter-divisional games, but of course under the current format, there will be the in-state California games (all of under 400 miles). Under my proposal, there will be the games between the Oregon teams and the Northern California teams (the farthest of those trips is Stanford—Oregon St., which is almost exactly 600 miles) but no inter-divisional games of under 400 miles.

Obviously, the way it’s set up, the California teams get the best deal of all because of the “California rule” I mentioned, but that wouldn’t even be the case every year. For instance, USC plays Oregon, Stanford, Cal, and Washington this year. Some years they might play Oregon, Oregon St., Washington, and Utah, and that would actually be less travel in the overall conference schedule. Regardless, I think my proposal is a good arrangement for the California teams and even if it’s USC making an extra trip to Seattle instead of to Salt Lake City, I think a lot of fans would rather have the former series.

Also, I don’t think the Arizona teams really want to play three Northwest teams per year instead of the two that I propose.

Any way I look at it, my proposal seems to make more sense overall.

My only guess as to why it came out this way was they said Washington and Oregon teams had to be in the North, L.A. and Arizona teams had to be in the South (a logical first step of course). Northern California teams are closer to Oregon, and Mountain teams are closer to Arizona. And then they said, “Wait a minute, what about the in-state California rivalries? Let’s fix that.” They should have started with, “Let’s try to keep the California teams together and make the divisions from there.” There may also have been other political considerations to which I am not privy.

This press release (http://www.pac-10.org/portals/7/images/Football/WklyRel/2011Pac-12FootballScheduleRelease3.pdf) details how the Pac-12 will work and includes a chart in case my explanation was too hard to visualize.

I’ve made a chart for my proposal, but I don’t know how to make the fancy Adobe link, so I’ll just post it the best I can here. I’m just doing the inter-divisional games. I included a total of 8 years for USC and showed which ones would be away games, assuming two inter-division road games and two inter-division home games every year (which seems like the fairest approach). The only reason I chose USC was because that was the first real schedule I came across, and I had looked at relative differences in distance, as mentioned above. The rest are by alphabetical order in the respective divisions. The abbreviations shouldn’t be too hard to understand.

South

USC
@OR OSU WA @CO
OR @OSU @WS CO
@OR @WA WS UT
OSU WA @WS @UT
@OSU @WA OR CO
OSU WS @OR @CO
WA @WS OR @UT
@WA WS @OSU UT
(They could also make it “@Colorado, Utah, Colorado, @Utah”; but I’d rather play the same team two years in a row.)

Arizona
CO UT WA OR
CO UT WA OR
CO UT WS OSU
CO UT WS OSU

Arizona St.
CO UT WS OSU
CO UT WS OSU
CO UT WA OR
CO UT WA OR

Cal-Berkeley

WA WS OR CO
WA WS OSU CO
WA OR OSU UT
WS OR OSU UT

Stanford
OSU WA WS UT
OSU WA OR UT
OSU WS OR CO
WA WS OR CO

UCLA
WS OR OSU UT
WS OR WA UT
WS OSU WA CO
OR OSU WA CO

North

Colorado
AZ AS CB USC
AZ AS CB USC
AZ AS SN UCLA
AZ AS SN UCLA

Oregon
USC UCLA CB AZ
USC UCLA SN AZ
USC CB SN AS
UCLA CB SN AS

Oregon St.
SN USC UCLA AS
SN USC CB AS
SN UCLA CB AZ
USC UCLA CB AZ

Utah
AZ AS SN UCLA
AZ AS SN UCLA
AZ AS CB USC
AZ AS CB USC

Washington

CB SN USC AZ
CB SN UCLA AZ
CB USC UCLA AS
SN USC UCLA AS

Washington St.
UCLA CB SN AS
UCLA CB USC AS
UCLA SN USC AZ
CB SN USC AZ

Conference Report #4: Weeks 6 through 8

In Conference Reports on October 29, 2010 at 6:02 PM

This will probably be my second-to-last pre-bowl conference report.

Overall rankings and a list of results from the last three weeks follow.

I’m only ranking those conferences (the independents are ranked as a conference) with three or more inter-conference games during the period.

Rankings for the period

Rank Conference Overall (vs. AQ)
1. SEC 5-0 (1-0)

The SEC gained slightly against the Big XII with Arkansas’s win over Texas A&M. It’s hard to tell where either stands in their respective conferences. Both are technically toward the bottom of their divisions, but two conference losses aren’t anything to be ashamed of. Arkansas could realistically finish in a tie for second in the SEC West (or even a very crowded tie for first), Texas A&M has a chance to actually win the Big XII South outright. My guess is this is a fairly even match-up, but we need more games to assess it properly. Either could finish in a tie for last as well. The rest of the games weren’t remarkable, although most probably wouldn’t have picked Mississippi St. to beat Houston early on in the season. I think LSU/McNeese St. was the only recent I-AA/FCS game, but that isn’t really considered anyway.

2. Independents 5-0 (2-0)

Pitt and Wake Forest aren’t great, but they’re both AQ programs that have had some success in recent years. SMU wasn’t necessarily an easy win by Navy either.

3. Mountain West 1-2 (1-1)

I’m not going to penalize them much for losses by the two bottom-feeders, even though New Mexico lost to another bottom-feeder, New Mexico St. of the WAC. Utah is undefeated, but Iowa St. was an important win to give them a little bit of big-conference legitimacy after a weak early schedule.

4. Big East 3-1 (0-1)

5. CUSA 1-5 (1-3)

I just thought there were too many losses to have the CUSA up higher, but East Carolina got a good win over an ACC team. They’ve been making a habit of that over the years. It would have been a meaningful upset had the CUSA won any of its other games. Navy isn’t classified as AQ because they don’t get Notre Dame’s special BCS treatment, but Navy is playing like an AQ team right now. The only other loss is by Tulane to Army, and Tulane shouldn’t have been expected to win that game.

6. ACC 3-2 (0-0)
The wins are nothing impressive, so I had to put them below the CUSA. Eastern Michigan (even if it was a win by Virginia), Middle Tennessee, and Central Michigan (this is not Brian Kelly’s Central Michigan either).

7. Sun Belt 0-3 (0-3)
Similar reasoning to above. Arkansas St. was the only one with a realistic chance and they played Indiana so close, it’s hard to hold that against them.

8. MAC 0-5 (0-4)

This is the other side of the coin from the CUSA. If anything, Vanderbilt and Virginia should be subtracted from the AQ category, although they did both play a pretty bad EMU team. Miami U. was a chance to win based on Cincinnati’s other performances (sans Oklahoma). This wasn’t nearly bad enough to drop them back below the Sun Belt overall, however.

Overall rankings

Key:
Overall (vs. FBS/I-A)
AQ

1. SEC
29-5 (24-4)
8-4

2. Big XII
36-7 (30-6)
8-4

3. Pac-10
21-9 (14-9)
10-4

4. Big Ten
35-8 (26-7)
7-5

5. MWC
16-17 (12-17)
5-9

6. WAC
20-18 (13-17)
4-9

7. Independents
11-7 (10-7)
5-4

8. ACC
25-14 (14-13)
3-10

9. Big East
22-15 (12-15)
2-11

10. CUSA
15-24 (9-24)
3-19

11. MAC
15-33 (7-31)
3-24

12. Sun Belt
4-25 (2-25)
0-21

The SEC still has a big week against the ACC coming up at the end of the year, so there is still a chance for the Big XII.

Results for the period

ACC
Virginia Tech beat Central Michigan
Wake Forest lost to Navy
Virginia beat Eastern Michigan
Georgia Tech beat Middle Tennessee
N.C. State lost to East Carolina

Big XII
Oklahoma St. beat ULL
Texas A&M lost to Arkansas

Big East
Louisville beat Memphis
West Virginia beat UNLV
Pitt lost to Notre Dame
Cincinnati beat Miami U.

Big Ten
Indiana beat Arkansas St.

CUSA
East Carolina beat N.C. State
Memphis lost to Louisville
Tulane lost to Army
Houston lost to Mississippi St.
UAB lost to Mississippi St.
SMU lost to Navy

Independents
Notre Dame beat Pitt
Notre Dame beat Western Michigan
Army beat Tulane
Navy beat Wake Forest
Navy beat SMU

MAC
Central Michigan lost to Virginia Tech
Miami U. lost to Cincinnati
Toledo lost to Boise St.
Eastern Michigan lost to Virginia
Eastern Michigan lost to Vanderbilt

MWC
UNLV lost to West Virginia
Utah beat Iowa St.
New Mexico lost to New Mexico St.

SEC
Vanderbilt beat Eastern Michigan
Arkansas beat Texas A&M
Mississippi St. beat Houston
Mississippi St. beat UAB

Sun Belt
ULL lost to Oklahoma St.
Arkansas St. lost to Indiana
Middle Tennessee lost to Georgia Tech

WAC
Boise St. beat Toledo
New Mexico St. beat New Mexico