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Posts Tagged ‘Louisiana Tech’

Top 25 after Week 4

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game on September 23, 2018 at 1:21 PM

LSU had a good first 22 minutes and a good fourth quarter against Louisiana Tech, but it’s concerning to give up 21 consecutive points to two opponents in a row.

Apart from the touchdown drive at the end of the first half against Southeastern (SLU), LSU has not played well around halftime and the third quarter in any of its first four games.

The Tigers were way out in front of U. Miami and SLU; but in the case of U. Miami, ending a game with no touchdowns in your last 8 drives (not counting the kneel-down at the end) isn’t desirable in my opinion no matter what the score is. LSU may have been shut out in the second half against SLU if they had not recovered a fumble at the SLU 18 late in the fourth quarter.

The troubles started against Auburn after about a quarter and a half instead of two quarters, and that’s the same thing that happened against the Bulldogs on Saturday. We were up 24 against the Bulldogs instead of the 10-point lead at Auburn, but the play from that point until the fourth quarter was similar with identical results (outscored 21-0 in both instances). So there is a wide range of teams that could blow out LSU if the Tigers were to play like that for a full game. To look on the bright side, LSU could probably beat anyone if they eliminate that mid-game lag.

If the Tigers don’t play better, they may well lose the next game against Ole Miss. See here for more about that rivalry.

That said, I don’t see anyone other than LSU I want to put #4. Clemson’s game against Texas A&M and Oklahoma’s game against Army were more concerning, and no one has the pair of top-10 wins the Tigers have.

I thought about dropping Ohio St. due to not having played anyone except a team that just got beaten soundly by Texas, but I may have gotten some flak if the first three teams were all in the SEC. The Buckeyes’ strength of schedule should improve significantly in the next two weeks though, so I’ll leave them where they are for now.

Army’s ground game and ball control were almost enough to beat Oklahoma in Norman on Saturday.

I know I ranked Army #25 last week, but that’s not really a good excuse for Oklahoma to go into overtime against the Knights/Cadets at home. After an uninspired win at Iowa St. the week before, I’m not really feeling the Sooners right now. I’m phasing out the feeling element of this as I always do in late September, but going solely by the numbers wouldn’t even put OU in the top 10. I haven’t been impressed with other Big XII teams either, but the toughest games may be away from home: TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia, and Texas (in Dallas). The remaining home schedule is Baylor, Kansas St., Oklahoma St., and Kansas.

Auburn didn’t do anything wrong; but even assuming they win next week, 3 of their four wins will be Alabama St. (who has lost by at least 34 to every Division I opponent), Arkansas (who probably still won’t have any FBS wins), and Southern Mississippi (whose only FBS win is over Rice). It’s just time to start factoring in strength of schedule more. Auburn has Georgia and Alabama later of course, but they won’t get credit until they play one of them.

Central Florida, the (AU) Tigers’ opponents in the Peach Bowl, and Michigan were even further from a ranking in my formula, so they dropped more.

Mississippi St. lost to a team I already had ranked, so I thought a 10-spot drop was enough even though the Bulldogs are also not on my computer list.

After that, I knew which teams I wanted to rank (they were all selected from the top 25 of my computer), but when I couldn’t decide the order, I just ranked them by how good the teams who beat them are. For instance, Texas Tech and Maryland (which beat Texas before the Longhorns’ big wins of the past two weeks) had lost to unranked teams. Ole Miss (which beat Texas Tech) has only lost to Alabama, and Temple (which beat Maryland) lost two games, one of which was to Villanova—and it wasn’t in basketball—so that was pretty easy to sort out. I think Oklahoma St. lost to a better team than Texas Tech did, but I couldn’t put the Cowboys ahead of a team who just beat them 41-17 in Stillwater.

The five teams that are in the computer top 25 but not in this one are (in order): Buffalo (beat Temple; see above for discussion about Maryland and Texas), Indiana (lost to Michigan St. but is the only team to beat Virginia), Michigan St. (beat Indiana, although the Spartans lost to Arizona St.), San Diego St. (beat Arizona St., only loss is to Stanford), and North Carolina St. (nothing too special, but they are the only team to have beaten James Madison or Marshall; they play Virginia next).

San Diego St. has a bye week, so they will be staying out; but any of the others could make it in by winning. I know it sounds silly, but this is especially true of Buffalo, which plays Army. Who knew New York could field decent college football teams, not to mention (possibly) three of them? The third is undefeated Syracuse, who fell just a few spots outside of the top 25 and will attempt to beat Clemson for the second year in a row on Saturday.

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Georgia 2
3 Ohio St. 3
4 LSU 5
5 Stanford 6
6 Oklahoma 4
7 Clemson 7
8 Notre Dame 12
9 Penn St. 11
10 Auburn 9
11 Duke 15
12 Kentucky 24
13 UC-Berkeley 18
14 BYU 19
15 Wisconsin 20
16 UCF 13
17 Michigan 14
18 Miss. St. 8
19 S Carolina —
20 U. Miami —
21 Washington —
22 Texas —
23 Texas Tech —
24 Okie St. 10
25 Maryland —

Out of Top 25:
(16) Minnesota, (17) Iowa, (21) Boise St., (22) TCU, (23) Indiana, (25) Army

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LSU-Auburn Recap and Notes

In College Football, General LSU, History, Post-game, Preview on September 19, 2018 at 1:50 PM

I wanted to address something before going into detail about the LSU-Auburn game. I saw some Auburn fans were incensed about the pass interference (PI) calls during the game; but honestly, the referees didn’t even call all of them. They also apparently had double standards (in Auburn’s favor) about what constitutes a taunting. The referees missed some holding calls too (probably on both sides), but no officiating staff can call every hold. The ones they did call were obvious, but I’m sure some Auburn fans complained about those too.

In the less egregious of the two PIs that were called on the final drive, the defender grabbed the receiver’s elbow before the ball arrived. It wasn’t one of those hand-check PI calls: it hindered the receiver’s ability to catch the ball. The receiver wasn’t tackled or anything, and defenders can get away with worse at times; but there are few if any officials who would have seen that play well and not called it. Earlier in the game, there was another PI call that was borderline uncatchable, but it has to be clearly uncatchable to overrule an interference. The interference took place right as the ball was being released, so it was very hard to say where the receiver would have ended up had the interference (it may have even been holding) not occurred.

I know coaches are careful to avoid saying anything that may result in a fine, but both head coach Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele (formerly LSU’s defensive coordinator) deserve credit for properly placing the blame on the way the plays were called and executed. I agree with them that the important thing is LSU made plays with the game on the line and Auburn didn’t.

The only thing I would quibble with is Steele blamed the coverage on the 71-yard touchdown play. Someone may have been a yard out of place; but I think it was mostly just a good offensive play, and no one could catch Derrick Dillon. He had four players right near him when he caught the ball, so the coverage couldn’t have been that bad. He and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow just saw and succeeded at hitting the small space on the field the defense left open. The whole field can’t be covered at all times, especially with LSU running or throwing very short passes on first down most of the time.

LSU WR Derrick Dillon catches a touchdown pass (what would be a touchdown pass after a sprint to the end zone anyway) over the outstretched arms of Auburn LB Deshaun Davis in the fourth quarter on Saturday in Auburn.

It’s been since the mid-1990s (that’s before Saban arrived in Baton Rouge) that either LSU or Auburn beat a team that would finish with a winning record in a road game in this series. LSU won such a game in 1995, and Auburn won one in 1997. When Auburn won in 1999 and when LSU won in 2008 and 2012, the wins came against teams that would finish with losing records and fired head coaches. So in all likelihood, this is one of the best teams to lose at home in the history of the series.

Another historical note: this was the first time since 1993 that LSU won on the road with the other team favored by 10 points or more. That was up the road in Tuscaloosa when a Tiger team that would finish with a losing record (one of six consecutive LSU teams to do so) beat the defending national champions, who had not lost a game in almost 26 months.

I know coaches take things one game at a time, but I don’t have to. I’m not going to pretend to take Louisiana Tech just as seriously as Auburn, so before talking about the next opponent in detail, I wanted to talk more about what I’m looking forward to the rest of the season as a whole. As I said in the last blog, I’m not convinced that LSU is all of a sudden a title contender, even for the SEC title, but I’m confident that the Tigers will return to a bowl game with a winning record already secured. Whether that will be 7 wins or 11 wins, I’m not quite sure. ESPN’s FPI gives LSU a 0.1% chance of winning all of its remaining games. I’m not sure it’s that low, but it’s low enough not to worry about right now.

The Tigers are given a 0.7% chance of winning the conference. That’s about 142:1. I’m not rich, but I’d put down $100 right now if you give me those odds.

Anyway, as to the number of wins, I like LSU’s chances at Arkansas and at home against Ole Miss, Louisiana Tech, and Rice. That’s how I get to 7. Even if we somehow lose one of those, I don’t think every other team (at Florida, Mississippi St., Georgia, Alabama, at Texas A&M) would beat us, so even falling to 7-5 (which would mean a 4-5 finish) probably won’t happen either.

I believe there is value to using computer systems, but I think descriptive ones (where you just value results so far) are better than predictive ones (where you try to calculate odds of winning). Anyway, I think the FPI I mentioned isn’t giving LSU enough credit.

It puts the Florida game as almost 50/50. I did think Florida was going to win that game going into the season, but I was worried about LSU’s inexperience. As I said in the last blog, the Auburn and U. Miami wins show that being young isn’t a huge problem even if those are the only really good wins away from home for the whole season. Florida’s 27-16 home loss to Kentucky shows their experience isn’t quite as helpful as I thought it might be. I’m not sure how the FPI works, but it doesn’t seem to take new information on board as well as it should.

The FPI also gives Mississippi St. a 57.5% chance of winning at Tiger Stadium. I expect a tough game, but I really don’t see Mississippi St. on the road being tougher than Auburn at home. The Bulldogs did beat LSU easily last year, but I think that was an LSU team that clearly wasn’t ready for SEC play in a tough road environment. They weren’t even ready for a good Sun Belt opponent at home. We will learn more about Mississippi St. after the Bulldogs play Kentucky and Florida though.

If Mississippi St. is being held against LSU because of last year, why isn’t last year being held against Texas A&M? The Aggies haven’t beaten LSU since the 1990s, and they’re given about a 63% chance of winning this year. A&M looked good against Clemson (in a loss); but Syracuse looked just as good against Clemson last year (actually better because they won), and where did that get the Orange? Obviously one game isn’t proof of how the whole season is going to go, or LSU’s two big wins are proof that the Tigers will win at least 10 games.

There isn’t too much to say about Louisiana Tech, but I hope we take them seriously. There isn’t much difference between a team like that and a team like Troy. The Bulldogs don’t have as many key wins (last beating an SEC team, Ole Miss, in 2011, after beating Mississippi St. in 2008), but the Bulldogs have made bowl games for 4 consecutive years and qualified for them in 6 of 8 years. They’ve played the following Power-5 teams within one possession, all on the road: South Carolina (2017), Arkansas (2016), Kansas St. (2015), Kansas (2013), Mississippi St. (2011), and LSU (2009). The Bulldogs have also beaten Illinois twice over that span. In 2011, Tech narrowly lost the Pointsettia Bowl to TCU, which finished 11-2 that year. In 2007, Tech lost to Hawaii at home by a single point. That Hawaii team suffered its only loss for the season in the Sugar Bowl.

Louisiana Tech RB Daniel Porter throws a touchdown pass to give the Bulldogs a 13-10 lead as time expires in the second quarter in Baton Rouge in 2009.

This is the first LSU-Louisiana Tech game since the 24-16 LSU win in 2009, which was only the third game in the series since the start of World War II. LSU is 18-1 all time with the only Tiger loss coming in 1904 (one of only five to be played in Ruston; there was one game on a neutral field). LSU has won by as much as 71, which they did in 1930. Since 1914, every game in the series (including this one) has been in Baton Rouge.

Top 25 after Week 3

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 17, 2018 at 6:15 PM

Later this week I may write a little more about the LSU-Auburn game. You can read this for now. And this was an article I liked from the Alabama media. Also, I’ve updated my Rival Series entry about the LSU-Auburn series.

While his job seems safe for now, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn (pictured addressing the media after the game) has faced criticism for losing to LSU in consecutive seasons after his team scored 20 or more consecutive points in each game.

I’m still not exactly sold on the long-term success of this LSU team. I think an Alabama or a Georgia (the Tigers will have to play both) would have put LSU to bed had they been up 21-10 instead of Auburn. That said, after three weeks, I think you need to give teams credit for what they’ve done so far; and no team has come close. Two wins away from home over teams who were in the top 10 at the time (and who would probably be in the top 5 without the loss) is something to be proud of if it takes you 13 games to do it, not to mention 3.

It will still take at least a couple more weeks before I will rely just on the results so far, but I’m starting to move in that direction. Since every team has now played at least one FBS opponent, I was able to do a trial run of my computer rankings. Indiana and Army were both in the top 10 through that method, so I felt it necessary to at least put them in the top 25 below. I didn’t want to drop Wisconsin all the way out, but I thought they at least needed to be below the team that beat them. Since BYU has a loss, they should also be behind the team who beat them given that that team is undefeated, so that’s why Cal (UC-Berkeley) is there. Both were in the top 25 of my computer formula as well.

Kentucky was 18th in the trial run—and they did beat a team in my preseason top 25—so I added them as well. There are seven teams who are in that top 25 and not in the top 25 below, but that number will be smaller next week and may be completely eliminated the following week.

For now, I’m still looking at each schedule to make sure a ranking is justified. I’ll use the example of the team that came up #25 in the trial run, Louisiana Tech (which just happens to play LSU next). Although they’ve only played two games, they beat an FBS opponent (South Alabama) who beat another FBS opponent (Texas St.). South Alabama has a really strong strength of schedule for the moment because their only other loss is to Oklahoma St., but obviously beating South Alabama and an FCS team isn’t enough reason for Louisiana Tech to be ranked right now. That’s why it’s too soon to only look at results this season without any context.

I don’t think I did anything too weird in the rest of the rankings. LSU and Oklahoma St. moved up for obvious reasons.

Pitt beat Georgia Tech, which was in some preseason top 25s; so I think they gave some legitimacy to Penn St., which beat Pitt easily. Notre Dame struggled again; and the previous team they struggled against (Ball St.) lost badly to Indiana, so that’s why the Irish are behind Penn St. I’m giving less consideration to margin of victory though. Otherwise Notre Dame would have fallen more. To be fair, Vanderbilt is probably a good bit better than Ball St., so at least the quality of play in Week 3 was better than that in Week 2.

In Waco on Saturday, Duke quarterback Quentin Harris threw for three touchdowns in his first start.

Also, I moved Duke up a bit because they’re one of the best teams on my computer list, and I already thought they deserved the ranking last week. I don’t see a strong argument for anyone lower to be in that spot. I don’t know how good Baylor is, but Duke has now beaten Army (one of the best non-power-conference teams) and went on the road to beat two FBS Power Five opponents (Baylor and Northwestern). Not only that, but (if you care about this sort of thing) they led by at least 14 points at the half in each game and were never ahead by fewer than 10 in the second half.

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Georgia 2
3 Ohio St. 4
4 Oklahoma 5
5 LSU 13
6 Stanford 6
7 Clemson 7
8 Miss. St. 9
9 Auburn 8
10 Okie St. 17
11 Penn St. 15
12 Notre Dame 11
13 UCF 12
14 Michigan 14
15 Duke 23
16 Minnesota 19
17 Iowa 20
18 UC-Berkeley
19 BYU
20 Wisconsin 3
21 Boise St. 10
22 TCU 16
23 Indiana
24 Kentucky
25 Army

Out of Top 25:
(18) USC, (21) Maryland, (22) Arizona St., (24) Va. Tech, (25) W. Virginia

Sly Croom’s Lasting Influence

In College Football, History on October 27, 2017 at 1:36 PM

Since this is a bye week for LSU, I thought I’d reminisce a little. Ed Orgeron’s return to Ole Miss reminded me that he was one of the victims of Sylvester Croom. I don’t just mean his team lost to Mississippi St.’s, but he apparently lost his job in large part because of the 2007 game (the 2005 game didn’t help either).

Sylvester Croom after winning the Egg Bowl in a dramatic comeback in Starkville in 2007.

Losses to Sylvester Croom also factored heavily into Florida’s firing of Ron Zook, Alabama’s firing of Mike Shula, and arguably Auburn’s firing of Tommy Tuberville.

I think part of it was the perception of Mississippi St. up until then. Overall from 2001 to 2003, the Bulldogs went 8-27 and only 3-21 in the SEC. So with how competitive the SEC was, that just wasn’t a team you entertained losing to, especially since they were given heavy sanctions stemming from the Jackie Sherrill era.

In fact I remember a Florida fan (ironically) complaining that the SEC West teams got to play “the Mississippis” ever year.

So I’m not even saying it was altogether fair for Croom that losses to his teams were met with such hostility since he did improve the situation from how he found it.

Ron Zook was the only head coach to defeat Nick Saban’s Tigers in 2003; but that didn’t help him much after the loss to the Bulldogs in 2004.

The Bulldogs’ win against Florida in 2004 (Croom’s first year) was only the second SEC win in three seasons. It didn’t seem to help Zook that Mississippi St. won the next week against Kentucky. The damage had been done, and the fans wanted blood. Without Zook’s firing, who knows how Urban Meyer’s career would have developed?

Mississippi St. would only go 4-20 in SEC play from 2004 to 2006, but all but one of those wins (the one over Kentucky) resulted in a firing. Orgeron wasn’t fired until 2007, but maybe that loss would have been less fatal had he beaten the Bulldogs in his first season in 2005.

Orgeron’s one win over the Bulldogs came in 2006, but Croom did beat Mike Shula’s Tide. The fact that it was in Tuscaloosa couldn’t have helped matters. No only was it the only SEC win for the Bulldogs that year, it was the only win over a I-A (now FBS) opponent in regulation. Alabama lost six games in that regular season, but one of them was by one point in overtime at Arkansas, and the other four (apart from Mississippi St.) were against teams that were in the top 15 at the time of the game. Without that loss, there is a good chance Nick Saban never coaches Alabama. Even if he started a year later, does the Tide win the West in 2008? Do they win the national championship in 2009? Probably doubtful in both cases.

Croom with Mike Shula after a game.

In 2007, the Bulldogs went a respectable 4-4 in conference and won the Liberty Bowl to finish 8-5 overall. (The non-conference loss was to West Virginia, who won the Big East and nearly played for the national championship that year.)

Nonetheless, rivalry games can be funny things (as that same West Virginia team found out against Pitt), and Orgeron was seen as responsible for giving up a late lead (see the link in the first sentence for more details).

Had Ole Miss won, it’s possible that the administration could have held out for that fourth year, which was when Croom finally had a decent year.

It’s arguable that there was another victim, and that was Tommy Tuberville. Had Auburn beaten the Bulldogs in 2007, that would have been four consecutive seasons of two conference losses or fewer after Tuberville had only accomplished the feat once in his first five seasons on the Plains.

Tuberville recently took credit for Shula’s firing (and indirectly for Saban’s hiring) as a result of beating Shula every year, but Croom likely also played a role in his own demise.

Also, one of the two SEC wins in Tuberville’s (and Croom’s) final season of 2008 was a 3-2 win over the Bulldogs. I know that in the minds of some fans, that didn’t count as a win, at least not for the football team. Especially since the offense was under fire at that time, that score was an easy one to recall and complain about. The other SEC win was 14-12, and there were SEC losses of 14-13, 17-7, and 17-13.

It’s hard to argue the decision in hindsight (I don’t think anyone would argue that Dan Mullen hasn’t proven himself better-suited to the position), but I wasn’t that fond of Croom’s firing at the time. He did take a step back in his final season in only going 4-8, but that was still better than any team there between 2001 and 2006. The loss to Auburn was one of two one-point losses that year (the other to Kentucky). Had they won both, they would have been bowl-eligible. They also played fairly close road games against Louisiana Tech (a loss by 8) and then-#5 LSU (a loss by 10). Louisiana Tech had one of its better seasons going 8-5 and winning a bowl game under head coach Derek Dooley, so that was not an embarrassing loss by any means.

Croom coaching at the Titans minicamp in 2014.

If you were curious, Croom went back to being an NFL running backs coach, a position he still occupies today with the Tennessee Titans. Apart from his stint at Mississippi St. and a four-year term as Offensive Coordinator of the Detroit Lions, Croom has been an NFL running backs coach since 1987. Before that, he coached linebackers at Alabama, his alma mater, under Bear Bryant and Ray Perkins. Alabama and Mississippi St. were his only two college coaching stops.

Week 1 Preview and SEC Outlook

In College Football, General LSU, History, Preview, Rankings, SEC Wednesdays on September 2, 2016 at 1:23 PM

SEC Wednesdays

SEC WED

Looking back at last year, I did not do a good job at picking against the spread in non-SEC games, so I’m not planning on including those in my totals. If I do really well with them early on, I may change my mind. I was already excluding FCS opponents from my spread games, so I’ll just have more even spread and non-spread categories this way.

I was too busy the last couple of nights to post anything. You’ll have to take my word that I picked South Carolina to win, but I didn’t even look up the point spread before the game, so I’ll score that as a non-spread game. You don’t really have to take my word on Tennessee-Appalachian St., because if I thought they would lose at home to Appalachian St., I certainly would not have ranked them so high.

They can expect to fall a few spots. However, you might remember Michigan’s loss to Appalachian St. in 2007. The Wolverines went on to finish in the top 20 in both polls after beating a very good Florida team in the CapitalOne Bowl. Make the Appalachian St. game a close win rather than a loss, and maybe they finish in the top 10. Also, I suspect Appalachian St. recruiting has improved a bit since that Michigan upset, so this is probably a much better team than the one Michigan faced. Let’s not forget that Appalachian St. won 11 games last season.

Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs fumbles in OT.  The ball was recovered for what turned out to be the winning TD.

Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs fumbles in OT. The ball was recovered for what turned out to be the winning TD.

Yes, it was a fluke that Tennessee got that winning touchdown, but the Volunteers had some bad luck too. A muffed punt set up the first Mountaineer touchdown, and Tennessee also had a drive deep into Mountaineer territory that ended in an interception. Take out either of those events, and the overtime touchdown probably wouldn’t have been necessary because there wouldn’t have been an overtime. Of course the Vols do need to improve in a hurry (including eliminating those key mistakes) to have a good season, but I don’t think their struggles were due to any talent deficit as compared to expectations.

Obviously today isn’t a Wednesday, but this will be a weird week anyway since all the games won’t be completed until Monday. I will have my rankings on Tuesday, god willing, and I like to have separate them by a day. So next time expect the big SEC post to be on Thursday, and afterward, I’ll plan to transition to Wednesday.

On to the predictions for upcoming games…

Wisconsin should test LSU’s 52-game non-conference regular-season winning streak. I would probably take the Badgers with the points though.

Arkansas to beat Louisiana Tech. Not much to say there, although I would probably take the points there as well.

Mississippi St. might struggle with South Alabama similar to Tennessee’s performance, but again I have to go with the SEC team at home. I would definitely take the 28 points though.

I won’t do that with Missouri-West Virginia though. The Tigers looked pretty bad at the end of last year despite the BYU win (they lost the rest of the final 7 games of the year). West Virginia hasn’t been abundantly consistent under Dana Holgorsen, but inconsistent is better than consistently weak. It’s a good line, but I think the chances are the ‘eers will beat it.

UCLA didn’t end last season particularly well. Neither did Texas A&M, but I’ll give the edge to the home team and pick the Aggies. Might as well give the three points.

Georgia will be playing a “neutral” game in the Georgia Dome, but the SEC team usually wins there even if they’re not from northern Georgia. Give the three points as well.

Kentucky beat ULL by a touchdown and needed overtime to beat Eastern Kentucky last year. USM had a six-game winning streak before they ran into Western Kentucky and Washington last year. Kentucky and USM have similar numbers of returning starters. I’ll pick the Golden Eagles. The bottom of the SEC will likely have a loss or two out of conference to someone, so this looks like one of the more likely ones.

Florida should cruise against UMass, but given their struggles with Florida Atlantic last year, who knows? I would not give that many points (36.5).

Alabama seems like an easy pick against USC, but it could be interesting. I picked the Trojans to do well the past two seasons, so maybe the fact that I didn’t this preseason means they’ll be good. I’d take the points there too.

Although Auburn had a disastrous 2012 campaign, the season-opening win for Clemson was huge.

Although Auburn had a disastrous 2012 campaign, the season-opening win for Clemson was huge.

I’ll predict another SEC loss on the Plains. Auburn has to be so much better than they were last year and Clemson has to be so much worse than they were last year in order for the home team to win this one, I just don’t see it happening.

Ole Miss has a good quarterback but not much returning support. I don’t see them knocking off the ’Noles either. Maybe take the points on those last two games though.

So in my preseason rankings, I didn’t show the ranking changes since last year. I’m going to do the adjusted rankings below as the prior rankings, but you can always check out my official un-adjusted ones here.

Ranking/team/prev./opponent
1 Alabama 1 – #15 USC (Arlington)
2 LSU 11 – #21 Wisconsin (Green Bay)
3 Florida St. 27 – #23 Ole Miss (Monday, Orlando)
4 Oklahoma 6 – @ #18 Houston
5 Clemson 2 – @Auburn
6 Michigan 13 – Hawaii
7 Okie St. 21 – SE Louisiana
8 Utah 10 – Beat Southern Utah, 24-0
9 Iowa 9 – Miami U.
10 Stanford 4 – Kansas St. (today)
11 Tennessee 26 – Beat Appalachian St., 20-13 in OT
12 Georgia 29 – #13 N. Carolina (Atlanta)
13 N. Carolina 24 – #12 Georgia (Atlanta)
14 Arkansas 25 – La. Tech
15 USC 28 – #1 Alabama (Arlington)
16 Wash. St. 30 -E. Washington
17 Miss. St. 20 – S. Alabama
18 Houston 7 – #4 Oklahoma
19 Florida 15 – UMass
20 Mich. St. 3 – Furman (today)
21 Wisconsin 32 – #2 LSU (Green Bay)
22 Oregon 22 – UC-Davis
23 Ole Miss 8 – #3 Florida St. (Monday, Orlando)
24 Ohio St. 5 – Bowling Green
25 TCU 14 – S. Dakota St.

Out of rankings: (12) W. Kentucky, (16) Northwestern, (17) Notre Dame, (18) Navy, (19) Toledo, (23) Baylor

Week 7 Rankings with LSU Comments

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

Blog updates/LSU

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memphis

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

pittsburgh_panthers-primary-1980

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

16 Penn St.
24 UCLA
25 Ole Miss

Here are the previous rankings blogs:

Preseason

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

SEC Wednesday #3

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on October 14, 2015 at 5:51 PM

Sorry for the delay. I’ll mention it briefly below, but I was caught a little bit offguard when I read about the Spurrier resignation/retirement.  Naturally, I wanted to know more details.  As I mentioned, I thought he was on his way out in the near future; but I thought that was a couple of months to a couple of years away.

Steve Spurrier and Les Miles after what turned out to be Spurrier's last game as

Steve Spurrier and Les Miles after what turned out to be Spurrier’s last game as “head ball coach”. Miles now has the second-longest tenure with one school in the SEC (after Georgia’s Mark Richt).

He was basically a childhood villain of mine, but I’ve learned to enjoy him enough that I think I’ll always have a bit of a smile when remembering him. Even the blowouts against LSU in the Florida years were good in a way.  He reminded us we had a way to go.  I may elaborate more later in the week.  For now, you can revisit my two rivalry blogs: South Carolina and Florida.

Last Week

Ole Miss beat the spread of 43.5.  I thought that was pushing it, but I was glad to get one back after LSU came nowhere close to a similar line against lesser competition the previous week.

However, for the second week in a row, I was wrong about LSU.  The Tigers’ fourth-quarter touchdown made the difference against South Carolina.

It looked like the same exact thing would happen in the Troy-Mississippi St. game, but I was saved by a late Trojan field goal to win by just two points.

I felt good about my Georgia pick until about two minutes left in the first half with the Bulldogs up by 21.  Looks like Georgia has another up-and-down season in store for us.

Speaking of inconsistent (at least against the spread [ATS]), I didn’t think Alabama would let Arkansas hang around, but the Tide needed 17 points in the fourth quarter just to win by 13.

After barely getting by East Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee, Florida dominated its last two opponents, so the Gators’ big win gave me my second losing record in three weeks and drops me to .500 ATS overall (11-11).  I picked the wrong favored road team; but at least I picked the Gators to win, so I was 5-1 for the week in that category to bring my overall record to 18-6.

I'm hardly a visual computer artist, but you get the idea.

I’m hardly a visual computer artist, but you get the idea.

This week

Given the above, I was on the fence about LSU winning until I found out that the quarterback and now a defensive back have been suspended.  Apart from their Week 2 opener in Starkville where they seemed to let off the gas a little too early, LSU seems to do enough to win without making it too dramatic regardless of opponent.  So I have to lean toward my Tigers at home at night.  It takes a pretty good team to go there and win.  The Florida we saw last week or the week before might have qualified.

Treon Harris isn’t a pushover though.  I think he gave them a bit of a spark last year at times.  Florida has come a long way since last year in other areas though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Harris did about as well as Jeff Driskel did against the Tigers last year (14/25, 183, 1 TD, 2 INT).  Florida nearly won that game.  I had wondered if one of these Florida/LSU games would be Harris vs. Harris, although neither played in the game in Gainesville last season.

Maybe if I pick LSU not to beat the spread (9.5 in this case) two weeks in a row, I’ll be right once.  This has been frustrating so far.  I picked them not to do it against Auburn or South Carolina and then to do it against Eastern Michigan. The only LSU game I’ve been right about ATS so far was Syracuse.

I’ll return to my regular order of discussing games as they are scheduled.

Auburn is a favored (by 2.5) road team in Lexington. I’ll take Kentucky to win.  People are saying the Tigers will benefit from a few extra days off, but why won’t the Wildcats?

I don’t understand Ole Miss.  They beat Alabama by almost as much as they beat Vanderbilt (6 points instead of 11), but then they’ve won three games by 49 or more.  Memphis hasn’t won its games very comfortably—apart from the game against Kansas, who just seems to be killing time before basketball season—either.  It may be close early, but my guess is Ole Miss by a couple of touchdowns (the line is 10.5).  Don’t bet the farm on it though.

I mentioned Jeff Driskel above.  He’s now at Louisiana Tech.  The Bulldogs of Ruston took Kansas St. to overtime, and Mississippi St. hasn’t been impressive in the past few weeks.  So I’ll take Tech and the points (13.5), with State to win.

Alabama is the favored road team in College Station.  I’ll take the Aggies and four points, but I think Alabama finds a way to win.  I don’t think either team will crack 40 like both did in their last contest in College Station two years ago, but I think Alabama wins by about one possession like they did in that game.  I just think there is a slightly better than even chance that one possession will be four points or fewer.

I have a feeling Vanderbilt will want it more against South Carolina. The Gamecocks played respectably in LSU’s stadium (although it didn’t quite measure up to a typical LSU home game, and they still failed to beat the spread), but I don’t know if we will see a rejuvenated team so soon after the abrupt departure of Spurrier.

The Commodores haven’t really had a bad final score yet, although Georgia did pull away late to win by 17 in Nashville. The Bulldogs have gone downhill since then, and Vanderbilt has gone on to play a good game at Ole Miss, followed by a win over Middle Tennessee on the road.  South Carolina is more talented than Middle Tennessee, but I wonder what (or whom) they’re even playing for at this point.  ESPN gives two different lines depending on where you look.  I’ll take Vandy to win but the +4 just in case.

Finally, Georgia is picked to beat Missouri by 18 between the hedges.  I know Mizzou didn’t do well against Florida (unless Ole Miss is really good after all), but 18 points seems excessive.  Remember, Georgia didn’t even beat Vandy by that much.  Also, in their last home game, Georgia was favored against Alabama but lost by 28.  The Tigers and the points but the Bulldogs to win.

Previous entries

Week 4 Preview (predictions only)

SEC Wednesdays #1

SEC Wednesdays #2

By the way, I was notified that I have now been with WordPress for five years.  Time moves so quickly sometimes it’s scary.

Ranking the Conferences, Part III: Overall Bowl Performance

In Bowls, College Football, Conference Reports on January 10, 2015 at 3:08 PM
The Pac-12 edged the SEC for #1.  I cover the remaining conferences below.

The Pac-12 edged the SEC for #1. I cover the remaining conferences below.

Part I: Frame of Reference
Part II: King of the Bowls

1. Pac-12
2. SEC

3. Big Ten

The B1G finishes with one more win than the ACC, which had qualified one more team, so even if you prefer looking at percentages, they would come out on top.

Ohio St. was of course matched with another conference’s #1. Michigan St. still gets credit for beating Baylor even though the way they did it was kind of ridiculous. That was another evenly-matched game. I think TCU should have been regarded as the tougher team to beat out of the Big XII. Wisconsin barely held on in overtime in what should have been a win anyway over Auburn, the SEC #6.

The next couple of teams, the ones who unsuccessfully competed for the Big Ten West, lost. Minnesota lost to Missouri, but if anything Missouri was a spot higher in the SEC. (I don’t think Missouri should have been considered the SEC #2 though since the best SEC team they beat during the regular season was Florida.) Nebraska played respectably despite getting rid of Pelini but fell short to USC, another fair match-up.

Maryland was a little higher in the Big Ten than Stanford was in the Pac-12, but Stanford basically had a home game, so they should have been expected to win, which they did easily.

That still gives the top six of the Big Ten a 3-3 record. That’s one game better than the top six of the SEC, but the other teams went 2-2 rather than the SEC’s 5-1 in other games. Had they gone 4-0 to give the Big Ten a total of record of 7-3, the Big Ten could have had an argument for #2.

I mentioned in the previous blog that if the conferences were equal, Iowa (the #7) should have been better than Tennessee, but they weren’t. On the other hand, North Carolina probably should have beaten Rutgers and Boston College probably should have beaten Penn St., so these results help me determine SEC, Big Ten, ACC in that order.

Northwestern might have been a better bowl team than Illinois judging by the good teams they beat (Notre Dame and Wisconsin), but like Maryland, Illinois didn’t get a geographically beneficial game, so I don’t treat them too harshly for losing to Louisiana Tech.

4. ACC

Since it didn’t make the cut for #3, the ACC was the obvious #4. It got four wins, twice as many as the Big XII. They also qualified four more teams. I covered most of the games already. I didn’t mention Pitt losing to Houston in the most ridiculous conclusion this year. I don’t think it was bad enough to drop the ACC lower than #4.

5. Conference USA
6. Big XII

Conference USA went 4-1. The Big XII should have won both of the games they won anyway. #1 vs. #4, and #7 vs. #8.

I mentioned Louisiana Tech beating Illinois, the only P5 opponent. Marshall beat Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois is not a P5 opponent, but I think they’re a serious enough program to be considered in the same category as a low-level P5 bowl team. The only loss was by UTEP to Utah St., which beat BYU and Air Force during the season, so they’re no joke either.

The Western Kentucky and Rice wins weren’t impressive, but it was too hard for me to put a 2-win conference ahead of a 4-win one. Obviously the Big XII will still be much better overall.

TCU did a good job, I have no problem with them being in the top 5. Whatever happens with my objective system, that’s how I would have voted them, but their conference just didn’t impress me enough to be #5 in the bowls.

7. Mountain West (MWC)

The MWC went 3-4, but also in that conference, there was a steep drop from #1 to everyone else, so that’s why I kept them behind the Big XII. I mentioned the Utah St. win. Air Force also beat Western Michigan. It would have been embarrassing to lose either of those games. Colorado St. and Nevada barely showed up (losing a combined 61-13), and San Diego St. basically lost a home game against Navy (although I do realized there are plenty of Navy people in the area).

8. Independents

The independents went 2-1. They qualified three of the four teams in that category, the only loss was to a conference co-champion. There were wins over SEC #7 and MWC #6.

9. American (AAC)

The AAC went only 2-3 even with Houston’s miraculous win. The losses to N.C. State and Cincinnati showed pretty clearly that they don’t belong in consideration for a power conference. Even Memphis, the only of the three co-champions to win, needed two overtimes to beat BYU. BYU, who at one time was predicted to go undefeated, had continually gotten worse as the year went on. East Carolina was respectable in a loss, but that’s not much to go on.

10. Mid-American (MAC)

The MAC went 2-3, but Bowling Green (who beat South Alabama) beat one of the worst bowl teams in history, and Arkansas St. (who lost to Toledo) wasn’t much better. The MAC #1 got blown out, Western Michigan lost by a couple of touchdowns to Air Force, and Central Michigan lost to Western Kentucky.

11. Sun Belt (SBC)

Last is the SBC. I mentioned it got two awful teams into bowl games. It’s a shame Georgia Southern and Appalachian St. couldn’t get those spots or maybe the SBC could have gotten a spot or two higher. The only other team the SBC got into a bowl is ULL, but they only had to travel a couple of hours (by car) in what has become an annual New Orleans Bowl tradition to play Nevada, who came from half a continent away and was #7 in their conference.

Bring Back the Big West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-Navy is already set to join in 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Bowls to Watch and Other Reactions

In Bowls, College Football, General LSU on December 6, 2012 at 6:38 AM

(Please note that my links are red and not underlined; advertising links are red and underlined.)

There are many more reminders of why this system needs to be put out of its misery than there are positives in the bowl match-ups, but there are four games I’m looking forward to.

Bowls To Watch

The only BCS game I’m even somewhat excited about is Kansas St. vs. Oregon (though the runaway offenses will probably become tiresome). Neither Texas/Texas A&M nor the Backyard Brawl worked out as bowl games. Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M should be a good substitute for the former though. That gets top billing in my mind for best non-BCS contest. The second and third choices are probably Georgia-Nebraska (CapitalOne [which you might remember as the Florida Citrus Bowl]) and LSU-Clemson (Chik-fil-A, aka Peach). But I’m still going to complain about LSU’s treatment shortly.

A brief aside about the Cotton. Maybe it’s because I’m not Texan, but I really don’t understand why someone was going to veto Texas/Texas A&M. I get that Texas had its schedule set, and the non-conference schedule is also curtailed by the fact that the Big XII schedule is now 9 games, and they weren’t going to bend over backwards to accommodate a rival who decided to go to the SEC instead. But how is any of that a reason not to play that rival in a bowl game, especially one with such historic ties to both programs? Just for spite someone had to put a stop to it?

I know the non-BCS bowls I mention all involve SEC teams, but the SEC has the best non-BCS teams. Clemson and Nebraska are two of the best non-champions. Nebraska would have easily been regular-season champions of a combined Big Ten (but got creamed by a Wisconsin team that didn’t even really belong in the title game), and Clemson tied in the ACC Atlantic (the one with the only ACC teams worth a whole lot) with Florida St. but lost the head-to-head tie-breaker. Oklahoma actually tied for the Big XII championship but didn’t get the Fiesta invite for losing head-to-head (not to mention out of conference to Notre Dame).

Seeing Red

I’m still annoyed that Northern Illinois was forced into a BCS game, but they still may be better than Louisville. I have never understood why they made it top 16 rather than top 12. Any undefeated team is almost guaranteed to be in the top 12, as will many strong one-loss non-major-conference teams. But Northern Illinois has played probably the easiest schedule in FBS. They’re in 2007 Hawaii vicinity with how bad it was, and we all remember how that turned out. And that was an undefeated Hawaii team. As mentioned, at least there is some solace in the fact that this system will be replaced.

Not that NIU is sure to be embarrassed. If North Carolina St. can beat Florida St., why not the Huskies? I’ve already mentioned Wisconsin winning a game it didn’t belong in (and actually doing the embarrassing in the process).

And Wisconsin is still an example of why you don’t put the wrong team in a match-up, they can always win. I’m not saying the Big Ten had a choice here (I understand the probations of both Ohio St. and Penn St.), but it just didn’t work out well for neutral fans here.

Louisiana Teams Slighted

It’s nice that LSU and two of the lesser Louisiana teams made bowl games, but I’m disappointed that Louisiana Tech isn’t one of them. All the weak bowl teams around, and they couldn’t find a place for a 9-win team with three respectable losses?

The AD explained that they were hoping the Liberty Bowl (which he would later say misled him into believing there would be an invite regardless) would invite the team and had simply asked the Independence Bowl to await the outcome of other invitations. It seems that Oklahoma being in a non-BCS bowl trickled all the way down to Iowa St. getting the Liberty invite instead. (9 of the 10 Big XII teams got invites.) I know in hindsight this was a terribly unfortunate decision, but Louisiana Tech deserved better than playing in its own back yard against a local team, so I don’t blame him for thinking that was a strong possibility.

I don’t think it was hostility for the potential opposition at all. I can almost assure you there is more excitement in that area for the average Ruston-West Monroe high school football game than there would have been for La. Tech vs. UL-Monroe, but it would have been better than nothing. Speaking of high school football, it would have been good for recruiting in the area for players and their families to be able to watch both teams at the same time. It also would have probably been a better business decision for the Independence Bowl. I doubt the Ohio Bobcat faithful will travel to Shreveport in droves, nor was that a team that needed to be secured with any urgency. It seems like they would want good will with a team that sometimes plays at Independence Stadium (including this year against Texas A&M) and will likely be a team of interest in the bowl in the future.

I had said in comments elsewhere that the WAC had terrible bowl tie-ins, but now that I’ve read up on it, I guess the WAC didn’t have any bowl tie-ins. Furthermore, we may have seen the last down of WAC football, but I’ll get into the conference cluster**ck with my next blog.

A few hours to the South, LSU’s placement in the Peach Bowl provoked a Rodney Dangerfield headline in the Baton Rouge Advocate.

I’m also not happy LSU took what is supposed to be the sixth SEC slot with the Peach bowl (the fifth spot if there aren’t two SEC teams in BCS bowls). How many times will South Carolina go to the Outback Bowl? I thought they might want to mix it up for once. LSU vs. Michigan would have been a great match-up, and LSU hasn’t been to Tampa since 1988. I have read that LSU may have been preferred to Georgia by the CapitalOne Bowl, but the SEC insisted that as the runners-up Georgia should be given the spot.

Funny that I don’t remember LSU receiving similar consideration when it ended up in the Peach Bowl after losing to Georgia in the SEC title game in 2005. Just like Georgia this year, that LSU team suffered only its second loss in the title game in question.

Unlike Scott Rabalais (who wrote the article linked to above), I don’t begrudge the Cotton its pick of Texas A&M, but it doesn’t seem like someone was looking out for LSU like the SEC was looking out for Georgia, and someone should have been. LSU lost a bitterly close game to Alabama, as did Georgia, but LSU’s other loss was a respectable 8-point road loss to Florida. No comparison to a 35-7 humiliation at the hands of South Carolina. While of course Georgia’s big win was over Florida, that doesn’t trump LSU’s wins over South Carolina AND Texas A&M.

I do understand that South Carolina shouldn’t have have to play Clemson again though, and I guess the Gator is a second-rate SEC bowl now, so they didn’t want to send South Carolina there either. Still, I think they could have put that logic aside especially considering that’s a good SEC venue, it’s the most convenient to South Carolina apart from the Chik-fil-A, and it’s not a step down in terms of opponent from the Outback (Michigan beat Northwestern in overtime to finish one game ahead in the Big Ten standings, but Northwestern was undefeated out of conference including a win over Vanderbilt, so the Wildcats have a better record).

To go full circle back to what I mentioned early on here, Clemson is a better opponent than Northwestern or Michigan, so at least there’s that to be happy about if LSU wins. Also, this should be a game serious fans are interested in even though it’s not the flashiest bowl to be in.

Conclusion

Anyway, good thing there aren’t so many early bowl games, because I don’t see much else worth getting out of bed to watch. I may get a head start on watching college basketball this year. I may even blog about it.