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Posts Tagged ‘Iowa’

“Best Conference” Arguments & Final “SEC Wednesday” of 2016

In College Football, Conference Reports, SEC Wednesdays on December 1, 2016 at 7:59 PM

I did take a few paragraphs out of this, so it’s less thorough than it could have been, but it was too long.

sec football

I’ve seen a lot of nonsense about the SEC having an off year even from SEC fans lately. Maybe the SEC has had more dominant years, but there really isn’t any legitimate doubt about the SEC still being the top conference top to bottom.

As has been the case for probably more years than I’ve been keeping track, the SEC is the consensus number 1 in computers top to bottom.

big10_logo_detail

SEC vs. Big Ten

Why are people forgetting that the SEC still has the best overall record? Now I know if you exclude FCS games, the Big Ten has the best record, but I think it matters that the Big Ten lost two games to FCS opponents. I’m not talking about bottom-of-the-barrel teams either. Iowa finished 6-3 in conference, and Northwestern finished 5-4 in conference.

The media talks about how there is only one SEC team in the top 10. That’s true, but why is that? Records. Why are the records the way they are? (1) Opponents like Wisconsin, Clemson, and Florida St., and (2) other SEC teams.
There are a couple of losses that weren’t too pretty by teams who finished .500 and below in the SEC, but that’s not why LSU, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, and Texas A&M aren’t a game or two better and in or nearer to the top 10 as a result.

Apart from the few teams from other conferences I mentioned, the reason for that is simply that if any of that group played one another, both teams had a reasonable chance to win and it evened out over the course of the year. If Alabama does as expected and wins Saturday, all five other teams will go into the bowls with exactly 4 losses. That doesn’t mean the SEC is having a down year, that means Alabama is beating everyone and no one is making a particularly strong claim on second-best in the conference.

I’m going to compare the SEC teams to the Big Ten, just because the Big Ten happens to be the conference were their wins and losses ended up placing four teams in the top 10. It could have happened just as easily in the Pac-12 or ACC.

There is a group of teams of relative parity in the Big Ten as well, but that group is right at the top of the Big Ten. That’s the main reason why the Big Ten has four teams in the top 10. The highest group just isn’t very vulnerable to losing to anyone lower (the only in-conference exception was Iowa over Michigan).

Another thing that helped is big wins were by this top group instead of lower teams. On the other hand, three of the four best SEC wins were by teams that finished 4-4 in conference (Kentucky over Louisville, Tennessee over Virginia Tech, and Georgia over North Carolina).

Imagine the following. LSU beat Alabama and Florida, Tennessee beat Texas A&M, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, and Auburn beat Georgia and Texas A&M. Without changing out of conference results at all, the result is two one-loss teams (Alabama and Tennessee) and two two-loss teams (Auburn and LSU). All four would easily be in the top 10.

We didn’t change how good the SEC was, we just made the lower SEC teams worse and the second-tier (the group below Alabama) better with the exception of Florida. If we add in a couple of Florida conference wins (Arkansas and Tennessee), maybe we could get 5 SEC teams in the top 10. Would anyone say the SEC was having an off year then? Probably not. At least not anyone who doesn’t claim that every year. But the perception of the SEC is ironically hurt by the middle and lower teams being better. It’s nice to have a relatively easy opponent at some point in conference play, but that didn’t really happen.

There was one 2-6 team per SEC division, Missouri and Ole Miss. Missouri beat two bowl-eligible teams, and Ole Miss beat three. There were no 1-7 or 0-8 teams. There were 3 teams in the Big Ten who finished with one conference win or fewer, and those teams had one more chance to pick up a conference win than the SEC teams did. The lone 2-7 team (Illinois) didn’t beat anyone bowl-eligible; the Illini’s only FBS wins were over teams that finished below them in the Big Ten. So all Big Ten teams were guaranteed to have two less-dangerous conference games than anyone in the SEC faced in conference all year. Most had three such games (although Ohio St. to its credit wasn’t one of them).

ACC

SEC vs. ACC

There is one other conference argument I’ll address and that’s, “You just went 1-3 against the ACC [in the final weekend].” Let’s look at that another way.

I’m going to take out the names of teams and just put a list of the records. These are games over the course of the year. I just listed them in order of ACC record.

4-4 SEC beat 7-1 ACC
7-1 ACC beat 3-5 SEC
7-1 ACC beat 5-3 SEC
4-4 SEC beat 6-2 ACC
4-4 SEC beat 5-3 ACC
5-3 ACC beat 6-2 SEC
5-3 ACC beat 2-6 SEC
4-4 ACC beat 4-4 SEC

So the SEC won three games in which the SEC team had the worse conference record, while the ACC only won one game in which the ACC team had the worse conference record. Also, all of these games but two (7-1 ACC vs. 5-3 and 5-3 ACC vs. 2-6) were played by teams in the SEC East, the lesser SEC division. Five of the eight games were played by the top three teams of the ACC Atlantic, the better ACC division.

SEC WED

“SEC Wednesday”

I’ll keep the SEC Wednesday relatively short this time.

I guess I’ll finally give up and take Alabama -24, which probably will make the game close. It seems like Florida is fading. Judging by their games against LSU, it should be a nail-biter, but that’s not how it works. LSU played much worse against Florida, at least for the last 2 ½ quarters. For one analogy, I’m sure Arkansas thought LSU (who beat them by 28) was much better than Florida (whom they beat by 21).

Anyway, Florida seemed to fade toward the end of the last few games (they almost let LSU win after all), and Alabama always seems ready to get that one more score to beat the spread at the end. Alabama just beat a much-improved Auburn team by more than they beat them last year. So it might be Alabama by 14 at the half and they end up winning by 27 or something with a late touchdown or field goal.

Well, that’s it for predictions in this season. Bowl games have too many variables for me to include. I’ve made good bowl predictions in the past, but I’ve also made really bad ones. It’s like flipping a coin.

There might be a lot of this Saturday.

There might be a lot of this Saturday.

So a team favored by 7.5 (Vanderbilt) pulled an upset (over Tennessee), but I picked the wrong one (I picked Florida. Unfortunately, the wrong team scored meaningless points right at the end in multiple games (Florida St., LSU, and Alabama, for instance), which hurt me in the spread. I did not pick the 26.5-point underdog who won (Kentucky), but I did caution it could come down to the end. I did take the points in both upsets though. Too bad I couldn’t use the excess.

Georgia was in great shape up 13 late, but then they lost by 1.

I was wrong about LSU against the spread again. Maybe I should pick the other team more often so LSU plays well more consistently.

The Missouri team who beat Vanderbilt showed back up again against Arkansas, but I admit I didn’t see that coming. That was one reason I didn’t pick Vanderbilt to beat Tennessee. It’s like these teams try to screw with me.

South Carolina didn’t really show up at all, so that was another game that was completely uncharacteristic of the rest of the season. Same with Mississippi St. but for the opposite reason.

I think my readers can add one to either side of these after this weekend, so almost-final records: 85-26 and 42-52-1 against the spread.

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

Post-Game Comments and Week 3 Top 25

In College Football, Conference Reports, General LSU, Post-game on September 12, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Inter-conference Play and LSU Recap

So there was a lot of critical talk last week about the SEC being that there were a few losses. The conference went 6-6 against strong outside competition while other conferences mostly played slates of FCS or low-level FBS opponents. Now that the SEC had opponents more similar to what the other conference had last week, it didn’t lose any. Not to minimize the wins over TCU and Virginia Tech, but there were a lot of expected wins by the conference as a whole.

The Big Ten did well last week but Northwestern, who won 10 games last year, fell to 0-2 with a loss to Illinois St., an FCS team. I mention how many they won last year because I wouldn’t pick on some team who had finished last in the conference or something of that nature.

The Big Ten will no longer be scheduling FCS opponents, but their non-conference schedules would be pretty empty without MAC opponents, and the MAC has split its six games against the FCS so far. There are good FCS opponents even though there are also very bad ones. The same is true of the MAC.

Speaking of FCS opponents, LSU played a high-quality FCS opponent, Jacksonville St., which was the national runner-up in last year’s FCS playoffs. Their success has been aided over the years by a number of SEC transfers. They were good enough to expose a couple of weaknesses in some of the defensive reads, and they were also good enough to show that starting QB Brandon Harris does not seem to have what it takes to run an effective offense.

When Etling couldn't complete a pass in the second half, he was able to score on the ground.

When Etling couldn’t complete a pass in the second half, he was able to score on the ground.

Danny Etling, a Purdue transfer, came into the game and led the team on three consecutive touchdown drives. With a ridiculous punt return added in, that helped give the Tigers a 27-10 halftime lead. Etling didn’t have a good second half, but he didn’t need to. The running game and defense were able to dictate the rest of the game, and the Gamecocks were never a serious threat again.

LSU has had the other pieces in place; they just need a decent game-managing quarterback of the type that Alabama has seemed to produce on an annual basis the last 9 years.

The Tigers were without star running back Leonard Fournette, who got banged up at the end of the Wisconsin game, but it is reportedly just a soft-tissue injury. Etling could be made even more comfortable by his presence on the field. Derrius Guice played well in Fournette’s absence, but he was tackled in the backfield a few times to force some long-yardage situations in later downs. Fournette is better at turning 1-yard losses (for normal people anyway) into 3-yard gains. He can break off long runs too of course.

It's not always fun to be the first defender to reach Leonard Fournette.

It’s not always fun to be the first defender to reach Leonard Fournette.

Anyway, the SEC is the only Power-5 conference without a loss to an FCS opponent. All conferences but two have now matched or exceeded the SEC’s six inter-conference losses. Those are the ACC and the American Conference (AAC), with 5 apiece. The SEC has now played 9 Power-5 opponents, but the ACC and AAC have only played 7 apiece. The SEC and ACC are one game over .500 in such games, and the AAC is one game under. Also, the SEC has played 18 FBS opponents compared to the ACC’s 14 and the AAC’s 11.

I’d put the Big Ten third, the AAC fourth, the Pac-12 fifth, and the Big XII sixth right now. The Pac-12 may improve, but as of right now their Power-5 wins consist of Virginia (which lost to FCS Richmond, and it wasn’t even very close), Rutgers, Texas Tech, and Kansas St. I guess BYU is a quality win by Utah, but it’s balanced with a loss to BYU by Arizona.

Top 25

I decided that all competitive programs with two FBS wins should be in the rankings somewhere. I tried to do this without moving other teams down for no other reason, but you can see the teams that stayed in the same spot below.

The teams I excluded are Army, Indiana, and Wake Forest. They really haven’t beaten anyone so far, and I just don’t think any of the three have the talent to be ranked, at least not at this stage. Another FBS win or two (depending on the opponent), and maybe it’s a different conversation.

Also, I wasn’t really comfortable with removing any teams apart from the ones that I removed below, so that squeezed them out. Oklahoma St. was dropped substantially, but I didn’t want to take them all the way out, particularly since the game should have ended before the final play.

I thought I caught ESPN making a mistake, but it turns out ESPN was right and the referees were wrong.  Still, you shouldn't report a final score until the refs leave the field.

I thought I caught ESPN making a mistake, but it turns out ESPN was right and the referees were wrong. Still, you shouldn’t report a final score until the refs leave the field.

A fun fact about that. You probably know that Les Miles coached at Oklahoma St. before he went to LSU, but you may not know that his wife went to Central Michigan. He says he doesn’t watch other teams on game day, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he at least checked out the highlights or was told about it.

Teams like North Carolina, USC, and Ole Miss didn’t do anything wrong, but I’d rather rank teams that have two FBS wins ahead of them at this point.

September is always tricky because it’s a transition from expectations to solid results that gets stricter every week. People ask me, “why did you do x when you did y last week?” It’s because we’re not in last week anymore. The rules have to change slightly every week or it would just be an abrupt change the second I bring in the computer formula. That happened with Missouri when they won their first SEC East title. I keep not believing they were actually good and keeping them out of the top 20, and then they jumped 20 spots in one week.

North Carolina was hurt in my opinion when Georgia struggled though. That was the only team that was somewhat securely in the top 25 at #21 last week. This won’t have much impact in my formula when I implement it though. The rest can pretty easily play their way back in. If Ole Miss wins next week, for instance, they’ll be in good shape.

I don’t really think there will be multiple Big Ten teams in the semifinals, but a decent number of them started with two FBS opponents. Next week I’ll be more critical about who those teams are (and it will be easier to assess who the better teams are anyway. The week after that I might be able to make a dry run of my rankings and do some kind of average of subjective and objective ratings.

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

Out of rankings: (21) N. Carolina, (23) Ole Miss, (24) TCU, (25) USC

Week 2 SEC Preview and Other Key Games

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

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

SEC WED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 2 Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Final Conference Report

In College Football, Conference Reports on January 18, 2016 at 4:06 PM

This is my last regularly scheduled blog of the college football season. Five months go by so fast. Hopefully, I will get a chance to index things on here so they’re easier to find.

For the final blogger poll, click here.

I’ll get to the point now.

The SEC was #1 going into the bowls, so going 9-2 (counting the championship game) was obviously good enough to stay #1.

I do want to stress a little bit how impressive that is. Only one of the SEC bowl teams (Auburn, the worst of the SEC bowl teams) played an opponent that was not in a Power 5 (P5) conference.
Contrast that with the Pac-12, who played three non-P5 (Group of Five or G5) opponents in 10 bowl games.

(BYU isn’t in any conference, but it was most recently in the Mountain West and never has been a P5 program, so it’s classified in the G5 group.)

One of the Pac-12’s P5 opponents was Nebraska, who was granted a waiver as a 5-7 team because there were not enough normal bowl-eligible teams.

sec-pinwheel-logo

These were the match-ups for the SEC:
#1 vs. Big Ten #1 (then vs. ACC #1 in championship)
#2 vs. Big XII #2 (Ole Miss is counted as #2 because it got a better bowl selection than Florida; Oklahoma St. is likewise counted over TCU for the same reason)
#3 vs. Big Ten #4
#4 vs. Big Ten #5 (four teams went 5-3 in the SEC, so some of these will be debatable)
#5 vs. Big XII #7 (Kansas St. was actually #8 in the standings, but Texas did not qualify for a bowl game)
#6 vs. Big XII #6
#7 vs. Big Ten #7
#8 vs. ACC #5
#9 vs. ACC #9
#10 vs. AAC #5

These were the Pac-12 match-ups:
#1 vs. Big Ten #2
#2 vs. Big XII #3
#3 vs. Big Ten #6
#4 vs. ACC #6
#5 vs. Independent
#6 vs. Big Ten #8
#7 vs. MWC #2
#8 vs. Big XII #5
#9 vs. CUSA #2
#10 vs. MWC #3

I don’t look at margin of victory for the purposes of these rankings, but I think they do help show that most of these SEC bowl wins weren’t just luck.

The Big Ten ended up with a worse record than the Pac-12 even though Nebraska and Minnesota got to play in bowl games with losing records. The win by Nebraska was good, but you expect any but the worst Big Ten teams to beat Central Michigan. I would also give the Big Ten credit for not playing any other G5 opponents.

There was a clear enough gap between the Big Ten and the Pac-12 to begin with, so even if the bowls were harder, there isn’t any reason for the Big Ten to pass up the Pac-12. Also if you look at the apples-to-apples games, USC-Wisconsin was a 50/50 game and Stanford beat Iowa soundly.

The Big XII went 3-4 in bowl games, so likewise, I see no reason they should pass up the Big Ten.

The AAC only had two wins. Although both were against the ACC, the ACC still won four bowls. The two conferences were so close, I think that was enough to flip the two.

The other conferences were all within a game of .500, so there was no reason to make any other changes. The lower-ranked conferences don’t play as many bowl games, so those are a smaller percentage of overall games anyway.

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 Rankings

In Bowls, College Football, Preview, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on December 13, 2015 at 6:46 PM

Top 25

Rank Team Previous

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

Full list of 128 teams

Out of rankings: (22) Baylor

RANK CFP 2014 KNT 2014 CFP 2015 KNT 2015
#1 Alabama Florida St. Clemson Alabama
#2 Oregon Alabama Alabama Clemson
#3 Florida St. Ohio St. Michigan St. Michigan St.
#4 Ohio St. Oregon Oklahoma Oklahoma

I’m 2/2 in agreeing with the CFP committee on the top 4 even though I disagreed with the order again. Even though I didn’t do a rankings blog last week, the top 4 wasn’t changed by Army/Navy. I agree with Michigan St. being ahead of Oklahoma, but I don’t agree with Clemson being ahead of Alabama. I think the Tide just played too many top-40 teams not to be ahead.

Last January, my #3 (also of the Big Ten) beat my #4 for the CFP national championship.

Last January, my #3 (also of the Big Ten) beat my #4 for the CFP national championship.

Last blog I mentioned how I felt about Florida, but not surprisingly, they ended the season too badly for an “NY6” bowl (meaning one of the bowls that the committee selects even though the semifinal bowls are actually on New Year’s Eve).

I can’t hate on the committee too much though, because they’re not that far away from me. The rules forced them to put Houston in one of the NY6 bowls, but still, my first 9 teams all made the major bowls.

Florida St. made it in (I guess) because they lost to the committee-s #1 and only one other. Two of the top 4 also have losses to losing teams, so I guess they thought it made sense not to penalize that. The difference is Florida St. only had one good win, which was Florida at the end of the year. The whole reason Florida isn’t in an NY6 bowl is that “Florida at the end of the year” hasn’t been very good, but you can’t expect every team to make perfect sense.

LSU, another team that didn’t finish well, ends up behind two teams it beat, but Western Kentucky won three more games than LSU did despite only one fewer loss. Florida also played a couple more games. LSU’s average score per playing week is still better than both Western Kentucky and Florida.

Ole Miss and Oklahoma St. were mostly deserving even though they finished behind Florida and Northwestern. I would have liked to have seen Florida play Northwestern, but that would have made the Citrus Bowl less money. To be fair, Michigan did beat Northwestern fairly easily and also had the freak loss to Michigan St. The Wolverines probably did play better overall than the Wildcats did. With my system, if the rules say you won, you won. Apart from one minor situation (home team winning by a field goal or less or in overtime), there isn’t even a slight change to the point value you gain or lose.

The main difficulty I had in producing the formula I use was balancing record with strength of schedule. I could value strength of schedule higher, and then teams like Houston and Western Kentucky would be lower. The reason I haven’t changed it is it should be very difficult for someone to be ranked ahead of a team like Clemson, an undefeated major-conference team. They’re only 0.01 ahead of Michigan St. So if I valued record just a little bit less, Western Kentucky or Houston might fall a spot, but so would Clemson.

I’d rather focus on getting the right teams at the top than giving three- and four-loss teams more representation in the top 10 or top 25 even though they would likely beat some of the teams with one or two losses.

What Should Happen in the Major Bowls

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

Here are my full ratings after the games on Saturday.

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

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

semifinals

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

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

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

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

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

cfp

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other “New Years Six” (NY6) Bowls

NY6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEC Final Comments and Championship Week

In Blogger Poll, Bowls, College Football, Post-game, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on December 4, 2015 at 10:10 PM

Obviously I missed Wednesday for SEC Wednesdays, but it’s not a full week coming up anyway. I thought I should give people something to read for the morning even if you don’t stay up this late wherever you are.

There are no moral victories, or so we’re told. But I’m going to claim some anyway.

I have no idea why in the world Alabama couldn’t run out the clock instead of scoring an extra touchdown with 26 seconds left against Auburn. Saban, Kiffin, Malzahn, and Muschamp have got to be making enough money that they don’t need to be shaving points. It was a nine-point game or less almost the entire night apart from a 47-second period in the third quarter. It’s just so bizarre how the universe keeps conspiring to make me look bad whatever I pick Auburn to do or not do.

I read some commentary later that maybe it was to build the Heisman resume, but that’s still cheap in my book.

Including the point spread, Kentucky led 28-7 at the half, well beyond my wildest expectations for the team; but the Wildcats were outscored 31-0 in the second half. And I thought LSU had some bad halves this month.

LSU was only beating the spread by half a point until their late touchdown.

I was only far off in two of them.

I really got Tennessee/Vandy wrong. I’m really surprised the Vols managed 53 points against such a good defense. The Vols had averaged just 23 points per game over the last three games against powerhouses South Carolina, Missouri, and North Texas.

Florida/Florida St. was pretty far off. The Gators usually play better for that game even in a mediocre season, but maybe they’re just no good at this point.

I made the correct against the spread picks with South Carolina (who was pretty good against the spread this season despite all the losses), Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Georgia. Georgia was only correct by a couple of points, so I’m grateful not to lose all the close ones.

I finish 28-43 against the spread. It was generally positive the last few weeks, but the 1-7 mark two weeks ago killed me. If it weren’t for that, I would have finished a respectable 43%. That erased all my gains over the last month, so I basically stayed at 40%.

I improved to 55-22 in picking winners. The only one I got wrong was Florida. I guess I should have known, but Florida St. wasn’t inspiring confidence either.

Hard to believe, but it's actually been 6 years since Alabama last played Florida for the SEC Championship.  The #2 Tide beat the #1 Gators 32-13 to get revenge for losing in the reverse situation in 2008.

Hard to believe, but it’s actually been 6 years since Alabama last played Florida for the SEC Championship. The #2 Tide beat the #1 Gators 32-13 to get revenge for losing in the reverse situation in 2008.

Tomorrow, Alabama is favored by 17.5. The Tide beat a similar team by 29 when it beat Missouri to win the SEC last year. Picking the Gators hasn’t been a good bet in a while, so I’ll pick Alabama minus the points.

Alabama likes to score points that don’t matter too. In addition to the end of the Auburn game I mentioned above, they also poured it on in the championship last year, winning the fourth quarter 21-0.

I decided against picking the bowl games. I like to judge teams on what they’ve done and what kind of seasons they’re having, but a lot of times that goes out the window for bowls. Some very good teams have the ball bounce the wrong way a couple of times, and then they don’t care when it’s time for bowl prep because they’re not playing for a championship. Whereas other teams who aren’t very good are thrilled to be in a given bowl (or any bowl) and anxious to prove themselves. I’ve had good seasons picking bowl teams in the past, but I just don’t think it’s in keeping with this series.

I’m not sure what exact format this will take next year. I might just concentrate on games within the conference and keep it going the whole season.

Just to comment on the playoff briefly, if there is an upset of either Clemson or Alabama, I’ll be very interested to see whether Stanford (assuming they win) or Ohio St. finishes higher. It seems like the winner of the Big Ten and Oklahoma have their spots already.

I also did a top 10 poll on another site with some other bloggers. You can check that out here.

Week 13 Rankings & SEC Bowl Outlook

In Bowls, College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 30, 2015 at 8:04 PM

Top 25

Rank Team Previous

1 Alabama 1
2 Clemson 2
3 Mich. St. 3
4 Iowa 4
5 Oklahoma 7
6 Ohio St. 8
7 Stanford 11
8 Notre Dame 5
9 Florida 6
10 Northwestern 12
11 Houston 21
12 Okie St. 9
13 Ole Miss 17
14 TCU 24
15 N. Carolina 16
16 LSU 22
17 Michigan 10
18 Oregon 19
19 Navy 13
20 Temple 23
21 Utah 18
22 Baylor 14
23 W. Kentucky —
image
24 Florida St. —
25 Toledo 15

Full list of 128 teams

Out of rankings: (20) Mississippi St., (25) UCLA

Seems pretty simple to me if UNC and Florida don’t pull upsets. Oklahoma isn’t currently in the top 4, but they will pass up the loser of the Big Ten championship game. If Michigan St. wins, we could have two teams trying to emulate 2014 Ohio St. with ugly losses but wins over all the good teams on the schedule.

Speaking of Ohio St., they would be next in line right now; but the way my rankings work, it doesn’t help you not to play, so Standford could move ahead. Likewise, the committee is supposed to favor a conference champion over a team that didn’t win its division. They also seem to pay less attention to record than the polls have in recent years.

Houston against Temple for the AAC championship should be a good game. I’m glad that the G5 representative will really have to earn it this season.

As for bowl games, I’ve seen LSU everywhere from the citrus bowl to the TaxSlayer (Gator) Bowl.

I’m guessing an Alabama win in the SEC championship will put Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl over Florida even though the Gators beat the Rebels. Each would finish with three losses; but Ole Miss has looked a lot better, and it’s usually not good to lose two in a row. The Rebels were a 4th-and-25 stop against Arkansas away from making the SEC title game.

Arkansas has three conference losses and they beat LSU, but the Hogs lost two games out of conference.

Tennessee and Georgia also have three conference losses apiece. The Vols have the benefit of five straight wins and the non-conference loss to Oklahoma is looking pretty understandable right now.

It will be very interesting to see how this mess is sorted out. It’s basically the two respective divisional champions, Ole Miss, and a big cluster afterward. Auburn will apparently get the worst SEC bowl, which seems to be the Birmingham Bowl. Edit: The NCAA is considering allowing 5-7 teams to play bowl games. Missouri has already announced it will not pursue such an invitation. Kentucky may.

Mississippi St. and Texas A&M have four conference losses; but unlike others, they do not have non-conference losses.

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