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Posts Tagged ‘Houston’

LSU Keeps Coach O and Week 14 Top 25

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 27, 2016 at 8:42 PM

I’m going to have to do three blogs this week to keep them from being too long. I’m not sure when I will have my SEC material ready, but since there is only one game coming up, I see no need to do that on Wednesday. I also want to talk about bowl games and other conferences.

LSU Sticks with Coach O

I don’t know what to believe about the LSU coaching search and the conversation with Tom Herman and his agent. One story is there never was any kind of final offer, just informal talks. Another story is Herman asked for $6 million per year and LSU rejected it. A third story is all details of the deal were in place and agreeable to both sides, but LSU withdrew its offer and hired Orgeron when Herman or his agent said he wanted to talk to Texas before signing.

Like Coach O (or Eaux as some fans spell it) said in the Texas A&M press conference, I really would have liked to have had that Florida game. LSU would be all but a lock for the Sugar Bowl as well as making this decision easier. Should falling short by a foot or so when we had a chance to get that win determine who the next coach should be on a permanent basis? I don’t think it should. I’ll talk more about bowl possibilities later in the week.

Coach Orgeron accepting "the greatest job in the country" Saturday.

Coach Orgeron accepting “the greatest job in the country” Saturday.

I don’t want to belittle the job Steve Ensminger and the offensive staff did in trying to make a productive offense out of the playbook and offense that Les Miles and Cam Cameron left behind. It wasn’t very ideal to have to patch something together like that four games into the season, but offensive inadequacies were still exposed against Alabama and Florida and even in the first half against Southern Miss. I hope Coach Ensminger can stay on to help the new coordinator because I think it did show that he’s not just a run-of-the-mill tight ends coach.

If we get one of the best offensive coordinators like Orgeron says he wants to do and that guy has the whole offseason, that should put us in position to score more than 10 points against Alabama, more than 16 points against Florida, more than 18 points against Auburn, and more than 16 points against Wisconsin. Had we done that this season, we would be undefeated. I don’t know if the defense will be quite as good next year as some of our replacement players struggled on Thursday, but we will not be rebuilding from scratch either.

I’m more skeptical about LSU doing well next year than I was this year because I felt like the array of talent should have been just right this year (which was why starting 2-2 was bad enough to fire the coach), but sometimes you do better when you’re not quite as good on paper. One example was when we had a number of players drafted early and a new offensive coordinator in 2007 and had a better year than the year before.

I mostly agree with the decisions Alleva made, although I would prefer to have that Florida game at home next year.

Oh yeah, and we did a couple of neat things in the game (see bolded areas).

Rankings Comments

Before you have too much of a knee-jerk reaction, remember that Ohio St. and Michigan won’t gain any more points this week. It might benefit them slightly if Penn St. beats Wisconsin instead of losing to the Badgers, but the big points will go to the teams that win this weekend. Regardless of the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions, chances are that both will pass up Michigan. If Clemson wins, it is likely they will pass up Ohio St., but the Buckeyes should be secure in the top 4.

I don’t think Western Michigan would beat any team in the top 10, but I think this shows my system has adequate safeguards against an undefeated team with an easy schedule finishing ahead of a one-loss team or even in some cases a two-loss team with a strong schedule.

The idea is to rank playoff-worthiness. If there were an 8-game playoff (heaven forfend), I do think it would be fairer to include a team like Western Michigan than the fourth Big Ten team or the third ACC or Pac-12 team. If the season ended today, I think Wisconsin should get the 7th seed instead (since we won’t really establish which Big Ten team should be fourth until Saturday), but I’m not going to overhaul my formula over a 0.006-point difference between two teams that will be irrelevant after this weekend anyway.

The next thing I can see people griping about is Oklahoma taking a tumble, but that’s because some teams picked up meaningful points while the Sooners were idle. It also didn’t help the Sooners that Houston lost to Memphis, which is obviously more harmful than Ohio St. beating Michigan was helpful. An oversimplified explanation is that Houston’s FBS winning percentage fell 8 points while Ohio St.’s winning percentage only improved 0.8 points. Oklahoma should be able to recover all the lost ground with a win though.

Normally Boise St.’s loss would have hurt more, but of the Broncos’ four out-of-conference opponents, three of them won. The only loss was by Washington St. to Washington, which didn’t hurt very much. ULL and Oregon St. both got really important wins for them. Oregon was by far the best team Oregon St. beat; and Arkansas St. had been undefeated in the Sun Belt, so that was a big win for the Cajuns, who had only had four wins before that game.

Why is Tennessee still 16th? Well, they beat one conference champion (Appalachian St. of the Sun Belt) and three divisional champions (MAC East, ACC Coastal, and SEC East). That’s in addition to playing Alabama and Texas A&M as non-divisional opponents. Every SEC team is now in the top 75, so while there were only a few good arguments for the top 25, there is still a laundry list of at least somewhat decent teams that the Volunteers beat while none of the losses were catastrophic.

I’ll talk more about conferences later in the week, but because of what I said above, the SEC is still the best top-to-bottom conference in my rankings, although analysis of the top 40 (the part at the top) tells a different story.

Top 25

rank/team/prev
1 Alabama 1
2 Ohio St. 3
3 Clemson 2
4 Michigan 4
5 Washington 8
6 Penn St. 5
7 W. Michigan 10
8 Wisconsin 9
9 Colorado 12
10 Florida St. 14
11 Boise St. 7
12 Oklahoma 6
13 USC 22
14 S. Florida 21
15 Okie St. 16
16 Tennessee 11
17 Stanford 23
18 Florida 18
19 Nebraska 15
20 Louisville 13
21 West Virginia —
22 Auburn 19
23 Houston 17
24 Virginia Tech 24
25 Navy —

All 128 Teams

Out of rankings: (20) Texas A&M, (25) N. Carolina

Nega-Tiger Time & Head Coach Position

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game on November 20, 2016 at 4:14 PM

A few preliminaries:
Computer ratings of all teams after Week 11
Updated Florida Rivalry Blog
Texas A&M Rivalry Blog

I don’t know where this comes from exactly, but somehow on message boards there developed the concept of “nega-Tigers,” the more skeptical and pessimistic LSU fans, and “sunshine pumpers,” those who were more optimistic and stressed the positives. I try to be accurate and have seen the merits of both sides, but people have called me a sunshine pumper in recent seasons for pointing out that Les Miles had the best winning percentage of any coach of a substantial number of games in LSU history. Nega-Tigers tend to stress things like recent losses to teams like Alabama and Arkansas and the issues I’m about to discuss below.

One of the reasons I didn’t want to talk much about the Arkansas game was I didn’t want to get my confidence up too high. It’s just so disheartening that we can’t win a close game to save our lives. I don’t understand how you score one touchdown, you get a few yards away from another touchdown after driving for 75 yards, and then you can only come up with a single field goal for the last 37 ½ minutes of the game.

Technically, the Tigers beat Mississippi St. in a close game, but LSU was ahead by 17 with five minutes left. So let’s look at it another way:

Close game (<17 points) with 5 minutes left … result
Wisconsin 16, LSU 14 … Wisconsin 16, LSU 14
Auburn 18, LSU 13 … Auburn 18, LSU 13
Alabama 7, LSU 0 … Alabama 10, LSU 0
Florida 13, LSU 10 … Florida 16, LSU 10
Total: 0-4, scored 0 points, gave up 6 points

I don’t see a way out either even with a coaching change. We have to know how to win close games somehow. I know we were one positive play from beating Wisconsin, one second away from beating Auburn, and maybe one foot away from beating Florida, but losing all three is almost unforgivable.

Jimbo Fisher (right) with Nick Saban.  Fisher also coached under Les Miles for two seasons as the offensive coordinator.

Jimbo Fisher (right) with Nick Saban. Fisher also coached under Les Miles for two seasons as the offensive coordinator.

Jimbo Fisher is going to fix it (assuming we can get him anyway)? We had one of our best offenses in 2006 when Fisher was the offensive coordinator, and we lost to Auburn 7-3 and Florida 23-10. We also only managed 20 points in regulation against a pretty sorry Ole Miss team (coached by a guy called Ed Orgeron). You can’t tell me we can rest assured about not having games like this again.

Florida State has 3 losses against an ACC schedule and their best out-of-conference opponent was Ole Miss. If they’d played Wisconsin instead, that likely already puts them at 4 losses right now even if we pretend their conference schedule was just as hard as LSU’s.

Had the Seminoles played SEC opponents instead of North Carolina St. (won by 4) and U. Miami (won by a missed extra point), that could have made 5 or 6 losses.

That’s great that they only had two regular-season losses over the previous three seasons, but again, I think that has a lot to do with schedule. In 2014, there were five games that came down to one possession.

Jameis Winston was a great college football player and 2013 was a great season for the Noles; but we’re not talking about Gene Chizik, and he had a great season with Cam Newton as his QB in 2010. This is not a motivated team who plays to the best of its ability every week either. When you have an off game in the SEC, you lose the majority of the time no matter how good of a coach you are.

One big reason Alabama doesn’t have more losses is they don’t really have off games against teams that can beat them. They have sloppy games sometimes, but they seem motivated and ready to play every time, and the sloppiness is rare in big games. So I don’t mean that you can prevent guys in their late teens and early 20 from having an off night in all cases, but you can have a focused team that responds appropriately when things go wrong.

The Guice fumble was an example of sloppiness, but there is no way in the world Alabama would respond to something like that by shutting down on offense and allowing the other team to get ahead like LSU did. Outside of maybe a bowl game or two, I can’t think of an example of Alabama doing that since Saban’s first season.

Houston's Tom Herman

Houston’s Tom Herman

I’m even less impressed with Houston, led by Tom Herman (who actually beat the Seminoles in the Peach Bowl last year). There is no way Navy or SMU has even close to Houston’s level of talent, but the Cougars lost to both within 3 weeks this season. They had a full month of subpar play. In addition to those two games, they needed overtime to beat Tulsa in between, and then after the SMU game (which they lost handily), they struggled against Central Florida. Tulsa and Central Florida were home games. Houston apparently needed a bye week to snap out of it before easily beating Tulane and Louisville.

Maybe if we get a better offensive coordinator or maybe even if Ensminger is allowed to develop his own offense and playbook over an off-season, Orgeron can still be the guy, but how many chances did Les Miles get to figure out the right combination of coordinators to no avail?

Pretty soon recruits aren’t even going to remember the 2011 regular season, and LSU is going to be that team that gets hyped up every so often only to lose the big games.

I hope we give A&M a serious beat-down, and Orgeron somehow figures out a better plan for the offense and keeps his job, but here we are waiting till next year again. I’m not even talking about a national championship. I’m talking about losing fewer than 3 conference games in a season. 2011 was the last time that happened.

CFP Response and SEC Wednesday #10

In Bowls, College Football, College Football Playoff, General LSU, History, Rankings Commentary, SEC Wednesdays on November 2, 2016 at 7:27 PM

A little later than I prefer, but I thought some Eastern Time sports fans may be up due to the baseball.

I honestly wasn’t surprised by anything in the CFP rankings, so that’s why I didn’t write a special blog last night. I do have something I wanted to rant a little bit about before getting to the SEC Wednesday blog though.

I was confident a team with a loss was going to be in the top 4. Obviously I had Ohio St. in the top 4, but A&M was a very close fifth. I guess they felt more comfortable with a loss to Alabama than a loss to Penn St. for obvious reasons.

Although I have them very high—and I’ve discussed why multiple times—I wasn’t expecting Western Michigan to be in the top 20, but I’m encouraged they were ranked at all since the CFP is notoriously skeptical of Group of Five teams.

I’m also encouraged WMU is the top Group of Five (G5) team.

I’m not sure what it will take for the committee to buy into the G5 teams more. Maybe it just needs to try harder to appoint people from G5 backgrounds. G5 teams have won a lot of games out of conference against major teams. They’ve done well in the major bowls in the past. I wanted to just give a list of the results. Pre-bowl records in parentheses:

2015 – Houston (12-1) 38, Florida St. (10-2) 24
2014 – Boise St. (11-2) 38, Arizona (10-3) 30
2013 – Central Florida (11-1) 52, Baylor (11-1) 42
2012 – Florida St. (11-2) 31, Northern Illinois (12-1) 10
2010 – TCU (12-0) 21, Wisconsin (11-1) 19
2009 – Boise St. (13-0) 17, TCU (12-0) 10
2008 – Utah (12-0) 31, Alabama (12-1) 17
2007 – Georgia (10-2) 41, Hawaii (12-0) 10
2006 – Boise St. (12-0) 43, Oklahoma (11-2) 42 (OT)

The G5 teams usually had one fewer loss than the opposition. I would point out that Northern Illinois and Hawaii had atrocious schedules and only got so high on account of their record.

It pre-dated this blog, but I can assure you I was a Hawaii detractor the whole year in 2007, and you may remember how I felt about Northern Illinois. I had the Huskies 17th (behind Florida St.) going into the bowls that year. I had stronger loss penalties than I do this year, so now they would be even lower. It’s not worth the trouble of searching, but I believe I said here that they weren’t really 17th-best.

I’d also like to mention that Northern Illinois went 1-1 against P5 teams in 2012, but the win was against Kansas, which finished 1-11. In 2007, Hawaii’s only game against a P5 opponent was a close win over a Washington team that also finished with a losing record.

This year, by contrast, it appears that both Western Michigan and Boise St. have defeated at least one eventual P5 bowl team apiece. Northwestern still has to win two games, but Purdue and Illinois only have two conference wins combined. The Wildcats also play un-ranked Minnesota, which has the same conference record (3-2) as they do. Western Michigan and Boise St. are both 2-0 against P5 opponents regardless.

SEC Wednesday

Last Week

The first three games got my hopes up before disappointing me.

Unfortunately, the Texas A&M defense allowed a touchdown after holding the other Aggies to 3 points over the first three quarters. This caused the closest New Mexico St. game against an SEC team other than Kentucky in several years.

Georgia hung tough for a half, but I was very surprised the Bulldogs were shut out by the Gators in the second half.

I knew when South Carolina scored in the fourth quarter, Tennessee most likely was not going to beat the spread, but I thought the Vols would come back to win until the very end.
Thankfully the reverse happened with Auburn, who trailed after every quarter but the fourth, which they won 13-0 to beat the spread.

I mentioned Kentucky earlier. The Wildcats are still not a great team, but they’re beating the spread every week. I don’t know what the bookies were thinking with Missouri.

Similar to last week, I was 5-1 in picking winners and 2-3 against the spread. (Mississippi St. won an FCS game against Samford.) This brings my records to 64-12 overall and 30-35-1 against the spread.

SEC WED

Next Week

Rather than wasting words, I’ll just let you know when I pick an upset win below.

I’m picking Georgia Southern to beat the spread of 27.5 against Ole Miss. It could be a blowout, but the Eagles took Georgia to overtime last year. Ole Miss beat a similar team in Memphis this year but only won by 20. Also this year, Georgia Southern’s only game against a P5 opponent was a 35-24 loss to Georgia Tech.

Despite falling short of the spread against New Mexico St., I think Texas A&M wins by at least 14 this week. The Aggies beat Auburn by 13 (on the road) and Arkansas by 21 (at a neutral site). The only thing that worries me is that the Aggies only won at South Carolina by 11. I’m put somewhat at ease by what I think is the most similar Mississippi St. game, which was when they hosted Auburn about a month ago and lost by 24.

Vanderbilt is a decent team that has fought admirably in the Commodores’ three conference losses so far, but they haven’t played an opponent as good as Auburn yet. If you can lose in Atlanta by 31, you can lose on the Plains by more than 26 (even). Also, I think Arkansas is better than Vanderbilt (albeit not by a whole lot), and I don’t need to recount what happened to them a couple of weeks ago.

Speaking of Arkansas, the Hogs host Florida, which is now on track to win the SEC East. The Gators even have a loss to spare. Arkansas should be fresh after a week off though, and Florida hasn’t performed that great on the road (loss to Tennessee by 10 and beat Vandy by 7). Gators by 3, which is less than the 5.5-point spread.

I think South Carolina is improving and Missouri is getting worse. If it were @Missouri, I’d think about it, but Gamecocks -7 all day long.

With Tennessee, I’ll just go with the win of course since there is no ESPN line for FCS games.

Georgia is favored by 2 over Kentucky. Although the Wildcats always seem to disappoint in the end, they’ve treated me well the past few games while picking Georgia has been a disaster most of the year. Kentucky to win.

Marcus Randall, not to be confused with JaMarcus Russell, may have engineered the "Bluegrass Miracle" in 2002 but could not even get the Tigers on the board against Alabama that year.

Marcus Randall, not to be confused with JaMarcus Russell, may have engineered the “Bluegrass Miracle” in 2002 but could not even get the Tigers on the board against Alabama that year.

Alabama is favored by almost an overtime-safe margin (very rare to win by 8 in OT), so I have to take LSU. The worst two LSU teams of the Miles tenure (2008 and 2014) both lost to the Tide in overtime at home. Other recent home games in the series for LSU were a loss by 4 in 2012 and a win by 3 in 2010. I really don’t think this will be the worst LSU does in the series at home since 2002.

I can’t countenance LSU losing to Alabama again, so I’ll tell myself it won’t happen this year even though the prudent pick is Alabama to win. The best argument I have is the gambler’s fallacy: LSU has to win a marginal game against Alabama at some point; and as I said, I don’t think this is the first team to lose by more than one possession at home to the Tide since 2002, which incidentally was Nick Saban’s worst team at LSU (8-5). I’ve plugged it a few times, but for more on the LSU-Alabama series, you know what to do.

Week 6 Top 25 and LSU Comments

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

Orgeron Tenure Weeks 1 and 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rankings Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennessee and Louisville

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

Tennessee celebrating the win at Georgia.

Tennessee celebrating the win at Georgia.

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

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

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

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

Top 25

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

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

Full ratings 1-128

Week 5 Top 25 and Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-Game Comments and Week 4 Top 25

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 18, 2016 at 3:16 PM

I’ve updated the Mississippi St. Rivalry blog, and here is the one for Auburn.

LSU really needs to work on the end of the game. Everything was going great at halftime for the last two games, and the second half was underwhelming even though it didn’t hurt nearly as much against Jacksonville St. Against Wisconsin, the second half was better than the first, but the Tigers had the lead late in the fourth quarter and were in field goal position on the last drive before the interception that essentially ended the game.

There were a couple of bad calls in this one. There was a highly questionable pass interference call that set up one of the Mississippi St. field goals. Then Leonard Fournette appeared to have converted a fourth down play but was stripped as he crossed the line to gain. It was reversed by replay, although I don’t see how the video evidence was indisputable. Mississippi St. scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession then scored another touchdown 40 seconds later following an on-sides kick.

Fournette was effective most of the game, but a late fumble (his second of the game) helped keep the Bulldogs alive.

Fournette was effective most of the game, but a late fumble (his second of the game) helped keep the Bulldogs alive.

I do want to give some credit to the defense for that last series. They didn’t give State a chance at a tying or winning drive.

I think things are improving, but there is a long way to go before LSU can claim to be a top team. Going to Auburn is never easy even though the War Eagle Plains Tigers lost to A&M at home.

That’s all I have to say about that. There were some more significant developments elsewhere.

The Florida St.-Louisville game blew me away. If Louisville wins by a touchdown, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised, but someone wrote that they made the Seminoles look like the Charlotte 49ers, which isn’t too far off. I mentioned before that I don’t like to move teams more than 10 spots in a week, but I had to make an exception and move them up 15 spots.

Louisville's Lamar Jackson had no problems with the Florida St. defense.

Louisville’s Lamar Jackson had no problems with the Florida St. defense.

It seems that Florida St. and Oklahoma are showing that having a top-4 season and a talented team doesn’t guarantee anything for the next year or even a couple of years later after a successful rebuilding year.

There were a couple of other dramatic movements that were necessary. Of course Florida St. had to go down pretty far, and so did Iowa for its loss to North Dakota St. The Bison would probably go about .500 (if not better) in the Big Ten West, but still.

I did the first trial run of my computer rankings. I only used them as a somewhat small part of the consideration this week, but next week I’ll do a full computer formula and a subjective top 25 and roughly average the two.

Since I am relying more on what’s happened on the field, I feel it is appropriate to move Michigan down even though I still think they’re a potential competitor for championships.

Since 9 of the 14 SEC teams started Week 1 against power 5 opponents and there have been a number of such games since then (both in conference and out of conference), it’s not really surprising that five undefeated SEC teams are in the top 10 in the formula. However, other teams will still get a couple more weeks to see what they can do in big games before I would rank those SEC teams so highly.

LSU’s win last night helped to bolster Wisconsin, so that’s why they’re up there. Oklahoma is almost certainly out of the running for the national title, but beating them still looks pretty good right now. Maybe they’re just not good and Houston and Ohio St. didn’t do anything special, but for now, it’s hard to justify not giving the Cougars and Buckeyes high rankings.

UCLA (who fell to the Aggies in Week 1) beat BYU and of course Texas A&M beat Auburn, so that’s why they move up again. Arkansas is also 3-0 with all games against FBS opponents, which is significant at this point.

As I mentioned, I moved Louisville up as far in one week as I was willing to. It will be interesting to see if they keep blowing out teams like this. I think Stanford’s results are what you expect of a #9 team, but I didn’t see anything that seemed to require that they move up. I’m also comfortable with where Clemson is. I’m OK with moving LSU up one spot because I do think they show some potential.

Florida goes up two spots. They’re also 3-0 against (not very good) FBS opponents, and they have won comfortably.

San Diego St.'s Week 2 win over Cal could be significant if the Aztecs make a run toward a New Years Day bowl.

San Diego St.’s Week 2 win over Cal could be significant if the Aztecs make a run toward a New Years Day bowl.

San Diego St. beat Cal, and Cal looked pretty decent last night. Maybe Sports Illustrated was right to rank the Aztecs in pre-season. At least it looks good for the moment.

I only dropped Georgia one spot even though they looked pretty bad at times in a close win again. You win on the road in the SEC, and I can’t gripe too much about the margin. I wouldn’t be confident about the next two weeks (@Ole Miss and hosting Tennessee) if I were a Dawgs fan though.

I moved Nebraska up six spots for the win over Oregon even though the two teams scored the same number of touchdowns. Going for two every time is a losing battle.

I don’t think Notre Dame is anything special, and I didn’t think so in preseason either, so I kept Michigan St. in the same spot. I also saw no reason to move Boise St. or Washington.

I think of Oklahoma St.-Central Michigan as a tie roughly, and the Cowboys just beat the Pitt Panthers, so they seem to be good selections for 23 and 24. I thought about #25 for a long time, but Cal was pretty high in the computer ranking and Texas is a good win. I won’t penalize them any more for San Diego St. until the Aztecs have a loss.

I think we’ll have a much better idea about a lot of things next week. I count about 10 games that could have a major influence on how the divisions and conferences shake out at the end of the year.

rank/team/previous
1 Alabama 1
2 Wisconsin 5
3 Ohio St. 6
4 Tennessee 7
5 Houston 8
6 Arkansas 14
7 Texas A&M 16
8 Louisville 23
9 Stanford 9
10 Clemson 10
11 LSU 12
12 Michigan 3
13 Utah 11
14 Florida St. 2
15 Florida 17
16 Iowa 4
17 San Diego St. —
18 Nebraska 24
19 Georgia 18
20 Mich. St. 20
21 Boise St. 21
22 Washington 22
23 Okie St. 25
24 C. Michigan —
25 Cal —

Out of rankings: (13) Oklahoma, (15) Texas, (19) Oregon

Week 2 Rankings with Recap and LSU Thoughts

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 6, 2016 at 10:01 PM

NOTE: Since I did not post this until late Tuesday and did not share widely until midday Wednesday, I’m delaying my SEC Review/Preview to Friday.  When I said it would be on Thursday, I did not realize there were no games on Thursday this week.

I know this isn’t the optimal time to post this, but I promised to get it done tonight.

On one of the sites where I post my blogs, I got a request to compare my preseason rankings (which, just to avoid confusion, are not part of my formula and on which I generally only spend two to three hours every offseason, especially in recent years) to results. I’ve added into my last blog a summary of the post-2014 blog and also a short comparison between my 2015 preseason top 25 and the AP preseason top 25. I didn’t do a blog with any such comparisons after last season. I meant to, but I wrote a series of blogs about the NFL relocating to Southern California and did not get around to it.

While on the subject, I am also glad, at least for the moment, that I did not rank Notre Dame in my preseason top 25. So I’m happy with the results of the two Texas games. Also, I thought I’d mention again that I did rank Wisconsin in the preseason top 25. I think it’s silly that 2 points better than LSU on the field puts them 12 spots ahead of LSU in the polls now after LSU was 20+ spots ahead in preseason though. But I’ll get to my new top 25 at the end.

I’ll give details in my next blog on Thursday, but I also did very well with my predictions on SEC teams. The only real surprises were the LSU and Mississippi St. losses (though I picked those to be close, so I wasn’t completely shocked) and the margin of the Alabama win (I thought maybe somewhere between 7 and 21 points). Yesterday, I was surprised Ole Miss went out to such a big lead, but I was not surprised by the final score.

The SEC did have some losses, but Auburn, Ole Miss, and Missouri had no business beating their respective opponents. Kentucky should have been somewhat evenly matched, but you can rarely count on Kentucky to win a football game, especially not against a team who won 9 games last season.

sec football

Although the SEC only went 6-6 overall out of conference, it faced SEVEN non-conference Power-5 opponents (just as a reminder for the casual fans: those conferences are the ACC, Big XII, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC… with Notre Dame thrown in) and zero FCS opponents. Only three other conferences even faced 4 Power-5 opponents: the Pac-12 (2-2; lost to two SEC teams), the MAC (1-3; Western Michigan beat Northwestern for the only win), and the MWC (0-4).

If you’re wondering what happened to the other two SEC teams, Vanderbilt played South Carolina for the first intra-conference game, so in total 9 of the 14 SEC teams faced a Power-5 opponent in the first week.

I don’t want to talk about LSU too much since I covered them in the last blog and there are still my rankings to get to.

Les Miles mentioned that Ohio St. lost its first game a couple of years ago before winning the national championship. The SEC is harder to win than the Big Ten (at least in recent years), but I think this Wisconsin team is a lot better than that Virginia Tech team (and it was a much closer game), so you can’t count out LSU or some of the other teams with losses out.

ohio-st-virginia-tech

A late Va. Tech touchdown helps put away Ohio St. in Columbus in the opening game of the 2014 season.  The Buckeyes did not lose again until 11/21/2015.

The message boards would have a meltdown if they see me blame OC Cam Cameron instead of Les Miles, but I thought Cam needed to go last year, and I don’t think he could have supported my point better if he’d tried. They’re moving him back to the press box, but I think that’s just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic if the offense turns in another performance like this. At the end of last year, they thought putting him on the field was a great solution.

In my opinion, Cam just can’t develop a quarterback. He did well with Mettenberger, but that was a senior quarterback who had been through a couple of major SEC camps before (he started at Georgia). Anthony Jennings, since transferred, didn’t seem to improve much either. Part of it was the offensive line, but Harris didn’t look much better than he looked at Auburn in his first start a couple of years ago.

Les mentioned there were two drops that worsened Harris’s stats this time, but there were also a few passes that required an athletic play to catch. Also, I’m not sure if Les is counting as a drop one of the balls that was over the receiver’s head. Harris also threw a lot of two- and three-yard passes when a better quarterback might have completed 20- and 30-yard passes on the same plays.

Obviously, Cameron’s quarterbacks in the NFL weren’t anything close to high-school-level. It’s like taking a college professor and trying to put him in an eighth-grade classroom. It might not work too well even if he’s good at his job (the Ravens fired Cameron, but he did help get them to the playoffs en route to winning the Super Bowl, so make of that what you will).

There was also a problem with missed blocks on the offensive line – and Les is knowledgeable in that area – but I think a good coordinator will take some initiative. I doubt Les would have intervened if Cam had an idea of personnel changes or of plays to avoid because they weren’t being executed properly. There will be at least one change in the personnel as Josh Boutte is suspended for his late hit/cheap shot. I know what it is to be frustrated (and he possibly thought the play was still alive), but risking an injury to someone is a completely unacceptable way to express that, so I agree with the suspension.

linemen-wisc

LSU linemen barely even slow down the Wisconsin defense on a screen during a key third-down play.

Cameron is largely responsible for the presence of LSU’s backup Danny Etling, a Purdue transfer who started five games for the Boilermakers in 2014, so maybe if Etling starts playing, Cameron can finally prove me wrong. Of course that 2014 Ohio St. team I mentioned (they didn’t play Purdue that year) had to get a quarterback or two off the bench as well.

Harris dropped back 23 times, and there were 8 pass-blocking misses according to the Advocate’s Ross Dellenger. Watch the highlights (mostly Wisconsin highlights) on his Twitter feed, by the way. So many blocks and tackles that just weren’t made. The LSU players were in the right position most of the time, they just didn’t make the plays.

It reminds me of a Bear Bryant comment after a loss. A homer announcer said, “The Lord just wasn’t with us.” Bear said, “The Lord expects you to block and tackle.” (source)

So the defense doesn’t completely get off the hook. Wisconsin was in position to score a lot more points than they did due to some missed tackles, 10 of them in the first half. However, given the offensive ineptitude, they did an amazing job when they were backed up to get the game into halftime down only 6-0 and to give the offense a chance to win at the end.

Anyway, unlike the polls, I don’t like to move teams more than 10 spots unless they lost to someone completely off the board, which didn’t happen to anyone in my top 15. One of many boneheaded plays could have kept LSU from losing to Wisconsin, and a slight breeze or bump in the turf or holding error could have caused Wisconsin to miss the winning field goal. So I think separating them by one spot is reasonable at this time anyway.

I did give Ohio St. the full 10 spots even though as I said I’m not inclined to reward running up the score. I would have put the Buckeyes in the same spot had neither team scored after halftime when it was 35-10. I think a lot of teams who are up 35-10 at the half can score 70 if they really want to.

It’s just that many teams in the 10 spots above them did not play well at all. Arkansas won by 1 over an inexperienced Louisiana Tech team, USC got annihilated, Washington St. and Mississippi St. lost to directional teams most people haven’t heard of, and Michigan St. and Florida failed to impress against two teams that Bowling Green (Ohio St.’s opponent) probably would have been beaten comfortably. Akron finished 8-5 a year ago and lost to Bowling Green, 59-10. UMass, Florida’s opponent, lost to Bowling Green, 62-38, last year.

The two Texas teams beat in my opinion deserving top-30 teams (the pollsters thought they were a whole lot better than that), so that’s good enough for now. They jumped over the same teams Ohio St. jumped over.

Ole Miss didn’t really move because my estimation of the Rebels has not changed at all. I just wanted to give credit to those three teams, and three other teams fell below for obvious reasons.

Anyway, it’s even getting to many people’s bedtimes where I am now, so I’ll leave it at that. If you’re reading this in the morning, I may add pictures later.

rank/team/previous
1 Alabama 1
2 Florida St. 3
3 Clemson 5
4 Michigan 6
5 Okie St. 7
6 Utah 8
7 Iowa 9
8 Houston 18
9 Stanford 10
10 Georgia 12
11 Wisconsin 21
12 LSU 2
13 Oklahoma 4
14 Ohio St. 24
15 Texas A&M —
16 Texas —
17 Tennessee 11
18 Oregon 22
19 Florida 19
20 Mich. St. 20
21 N. Carolina 13
22 Arkansas 14
23 Ole Miss 23
24 TCU 25
25 USC 15

Out of rankings: (16) Wash. St., (17) Miss. St.

In Defense of Preseason Rankings

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings Commentary on September 4, 2016 at 12:25 PM

I never claimed projections, especially preseason ones, as my strong suit, but a lot of smart people who spent more than a couple of hours before they make their projections picked LSU and/or Oklahoma to make the national semifinal. Sometimes I project the final rankings better than the professionals, and sometimes I don’t. I think I’ve done a pretty decent job over the years for the focus that I give to it.

I’ve always had a greater motivation to give teams proper credit for what they’ve done, and I’ll strive to do that for the wins over LSU, Oklahoma, and Bowling Green. (Those are the three results where there is the most apparent discrepancy with my preseason rankings so far.)

I actually spent more time in the off-season looking at my formula (so that later this year I do give teams the rankings they deserve) than I spent looking at anything to do with preseason.

I expected LSU to have a close game against Wisconsin in the state of Wisconsin. I just didn’t expect them to get into winning-field-goal position and for the quarterback to inexplicably throw It to the wrong team. I also didn’t anticipate that Wisconsin would hit two long field goals, the second of which was to take the lead in the fourth quarter. If they miss the second one, there is little doubt that LSU wins.

The Wisconsin defense won't get many easier interceptions this season.

The Wisconsin defense won’t get many easier interceptions this season.

Although I did not rank Wisconsin at the end of last season, I ranked them at the beginning of this season because I believe they can play good teams, especially close to home, and have a chance to win if said good team chokes. I don’t think they’ll beat everyone, but I would be surprised if they didn’t beat another ranked team at some point. I moved Wisconsin up more spots than I moved LSU in the preseason. Also, I only ranked LSU 3 spots higher than the AP poll did. I didn’t do anything crazy there.

As for Houston, 18th is pretty high for a preseason ranking for a non-power-5 team. I was surprised that the Houston defense took control late rather than the Oklahoma offense. Usually you expect a good offense to wear down a suspect defense, but maybe the Cougars are going to be a more balanced team than in past seasons. Absolutely no one should be surprised Houston scored 33 points (although the special teams is responsible for one touchdown), but holding Oklahoma to 23 was a bit surprising.

Regarding Ohio St., which got the most immediate push-back, I did want to say a couple of things about not buying in to certain preseason considerations that are present in other polls and rankings. This is typical of my preseason outlook of only seeing a team as worthy of continuing in the top 10 if they have most of their key players back.

Although Florida St. had about twice as many returning starters last year as Ohio St. does this year, I still got criticism for dropping the Seminoles from #2 (where I had them at the end of 2014) to #12. They finished #14 in both polls (and even lower in my rankings, obviously), so I was actually conservative in demoting them. Like Ohio St., the Seminoles had won the national championship two years before. Unlike Ohio St., they had an undefeated regular season and made the national semifinal the prior year.

Even if they’d rallied to end the year in the top 10, my skepticism in preseason was still warranted by the level of play early on. I try to accurately reflect how tough a team it is now or at least in the near future more than I try to look into the crystal ball to predict what might happen in late November and afterward, but often they mean the same thing. If you have a lack of experience now, that will in most cases plague you throughout the year because for most teams the experienced players will get even better, so it’s hard to surpass them.

I also think the pushback is a function of Saban’s success at Alabama, though he’s generally had 11 or 12 returning starters, which is a a lot more than 6. Everyone thinks their team should be able to be really good yet again if they were good last year. Never mind how much the final top 10 changed from one year to the next. Urban Meyer is a great coach, don’t get me wrong, but even great coaches have years with a few losses. Half of his Florida teams had at least three losses and a third of them had at least four.

Urban Meyer's results at Florida.

Urban Meyer’s results at Florida.

Speaking of Florida, I dropped them to #13 in the 2013 preseason when they only had 10 returning starters after finishing the regular season with one loss the year before (they lost the bowl game, but not showing up for the bowl game the year before didn’t stop Alabama in 2009 or 2015 (it also didn’t stop the Tide from making the national semifinal in 2014). Anyway, I should have dropped that 2013 Florida team a lot more than that since they finished 4-8.

I’m not saying anything like what happened to Florida in 2013 will happen to Ohio St. this year. I’m only picking one Ohio St. team to have a few losses.

The only real argument I got in response was that Urban Meyer is a really good coach and recruiter. In 2010 (when they had 10 returning starters according to Phil Steele), even Alabama had 3 losses. That was Saban’s fourth year there, so there isn’t some other coach to blame for that. There is just only so much even the best coaches with even the best recruits can do with raw talent in the offseason.

Maybe Ohio St. better talent than some of these other examples, maybe they’ll be really good at avoiding injuries. Maybe they’ll have a couple injuries, lack depth, and start having trouble. All this is about is assessing likelihoods. With 128 teams playing 12 or so games apiece, a lot of unlikely things are going to happen.

The final score in the Bowling Green game doesn’t mean much to me. Urban Meyer always liked to run up the score. There is absolutely no reason in a game like that to score 42 points in the second half. I don’t think Louisville scoring 70 means they should be in the top 10 either, and I also didn’t think that when Boston College scored 76 in a game last year that they deserved a ranking.

I’m not making a prediction at this time, but I’ll be very interested in the outcome of Ohio St.@ Oklahoma in a couple of weeks.

I’m sure there will be examples where I made better picks than the experts and examples where I made worse picks. The decision not to rank UCLA, for instance, is looking pretty good at the moment. Also, I was 9-1 against the spread in SEC games. Of course I would have preferred to go 1-9 with LSU winning, but that’s life.

Addendum: Review of 2014 and 2015 Preseason Rankings

I didn’t do a blog after last season about it (I was busy writing the NFL blogs, and then I just got onto college basketball and didn’t think about it again).

I think I did a good job when I reviewed the results after 2014. I got 3 of the top 4 right in preseason that year. I also had two other top 10 teams who ended up in the top 10, Ohio St. and UCLA. I got the exact rank correct for UCLA.

No one (by no one I mean the other major preseason listings I compared) had Boise St., TCU, Marshall, or Ga. Tech. Some had Michigan St., but I had them pretty close to the top 10 myself.

I also had Ole Miss higher than anyone else did in 2014. Northern Illinois was a good pick no one else had.

The only one I ranked in preseason who didn’t make a bowl game was Michigan. Brady Hoke always surprised me by how much talent he was able to waste.

I know you think I always hate the Big Ten, but I’ve actually been too positive about some Big Ten teams over the years. I think I’ve picked Ohio St. #1 in preseason more than any other team, although it’s possible Alabama tied or passed them up recently.

I also had the wisdom not to pick North Carolina or Oregon St. in 2014. They were both worse than Michigan. Other good non-picks were Texas A&M (which resulted in some criticism here) and Washington.

In 2015, I just calculated this really quickly:

Semifinal teams
In my preseason top 4: 1
In AP preseason top 4: 1
In my preseason top 5: 2
In AP preseason top 5: 2
In my preseason top 10: 3
In AP preseason top 10: 3

*Ohio St. finished in the AP top 4 but did not make the semifinal. The AP and I both had them in the preseason top 4.

AP final top 10:
5 were in my preseason top 10
4 were in AP preseason top 10
6 were in my preseason top 11
4 were in AP preseason top 11
The AP and I both had 8 in preseason top 25 (we did not have Houston or Iowa)

2015 Final Top 25 and Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 25

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

Here are the previous rankings blogs:

Preseason

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

Week 11

Week 12

Pre-Bowl

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.

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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.

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