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Posts Tagged ‘Memphis’

Week 4 Top 25

In College Football, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 17, 2017 at 2:36 PM

If you’re looking for my comments about the LSU game, go here.

This week starts the transition to my objective computer system. A couple of disclaimers for those who may not remember. No one is being penalized for a win (if they move down after one), only for not accomplishing good wins. Ranking team A ahead of team B does not necessarily mean I think team A would beat team B.

Once the transition is complete, teams will be in order of their accomplishments (with points subtracted for losses of course). For the moment though, I’m still giving some deference to my subjective rankings.

Auburn and Florida St., for instance, aren’t even in the top 60 of the objective ratings. They’re basically placeholders for right now. I rate them highly enough subjectively to stay in; but as I give less importance to that, they will likely fall out until they can compensate for the respective losses with quality wins.

Apart from those two exceptions, I required all the other teams to at least be better than U. Miami, which hasn’t played a game against an FBS opponent yet and only has a win over Bethune-Cookman. I guess another disclaimer is I don’t BLAME the team for not having played anyone due to weather events, but it’s not a moral judgment. The whole point of my ratings system is to boil it down to what has been shown on the field.

Anyway, a couple of other teams I considered were Iowa and Colorado; but they both have big games next week where they can play their way in (Penn St. @ Iowa and Washington @ Colorado). In addition to those two, some other match-ups of unbeatens will be significant: Alabama @ Vanderbilt, TCU @ Oklahoma St., Mississippi St. @ Georgia, USC @ UC-Berkeley, Toledo @ U. Miami, Texas Tech @ Houston, and UCF @ Maryland.

Something useful to look at if there are questions about some of these teams is wins by opponents. Kentucky’s opponents have a total of four wins (three of those against FBS teams). UC-Berkeley’s opponents have four wins (two of those over FBS teams). Mississippi St.’s are the same as Cal’s (just not quite as good), and so forth.

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Oklahoma 2
3 Clemson 4
4 Penn St. 3
5 Wisconsin 5
6 Okla St. 6
7 Michigan 7
8 USC 8
9 Georgia 12
10 Ohio St. 9
11 Kentucky –
12 UC-Berkeley –
13 Mississippi St. –
14 Vanderbilt –

San Diego St….


… and Vanderbilt scored major wins over ranked teams late on Saturday night.

15 San Diego St. –
16 Florida 17
17 Washington 11
18 South Florida 18
19 Memphis –
20 Louisville 20
21 Wash. St. 21
22 TCU 22
23 Oregon 24
24 Florida St. 10
25 Auburn 15

Out of top 25: (13) LSU, (14) Kansas St., (16) Stanford, (19) U. Miami, (23) Tennessee, (25) S. Carolina

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Cancellations and (later) Game Previews

In College Football, History, NFL, Preview on September 9, 2017 at 11:09 AM

I will not make a habit of posting game previews on Saturday, but it just worked out that way this week. I didn’t look for pictures but may do so later.

Cancellations

First of all, I want to make clear that South Florida (and possibly parts of North Florida, West Florida, South Georgia, etc.) are under very serious threat and nothing about Hurricane Irma should be taken lightly.

But being that hurricanes are storm systems that move methodically and don’t shoot out death rays from hundreds of miles away, I do have some criticism over games that were canceled.

hurricane 0909

I understand South Florida and Miami deciding not to play even though they had road games. There would have been too many distractions on Saturday, and there would have been legitimate concerns about the ability to go back after game activities without getting stuck. Preparing to make a couple of days’ trip for a football game and preparing to evacuate indefinitely are two very different things. Maybe the two games could have been moved up to Friday if the decision had been made earlier in the week, but it’s hard to coordinate that with road games against opponents who aren’t used to hurricanes.

I don’t think Florida and Florida St. needed to cancel their games though. I think they should have done what LSU did with the Appalachian St. game in 2008 and played the games in the early morning on Saturday (10:00 Central was early for me anyway, especially as a West Coast resident). The storm would have still been in Cuba at that time, and it would have allowed plenty of storm preparation to help out evacuees from other places.

Along the same lines, I don’t know why it was necessary to cancel the Friday game in Orlando (Memphis @ Central Florida). Attendance might have been low with people having difficulty traveling or for whatever reason having more important matters to attend to, but make-up games often have low attendance anyway.

Anyway, if there are hurricane-force winds in Gainesville, it would probably not be until Monday morning, even later in Tallahassee (if at all). I know some of the players would have had family evacuating from South Florida, but South Floridians play at a large number of schools. I think the primary concern should be for the teams whose campuses were under immediate threat.

Also, for the NFL game, there is of course no question that the game should have been moved. It could have been played at a neutral site elsewhere in Florida, but obviously Florida and Florida St. didn’t want to host games this weekend for NFL or college. Maybe Jacksonville could have been a possibility, but I guess that would have been too close to the anticipated path of the storm. There was also the fact that the Dolphins would have only had six home games. (They already gave up one to play the Saints in London.)

Florida International, which is in the Miami area, managed to host a game on Friday, which makes it even more baffling to me that Central Florida canceled their game. FIU beat Alcorn St. 17-10 if you were curious. Maybe FIU has more sense because they have an international hurricane research center on campus. Also, Florida Atlantic, which is in Boca Raton (North of Miami), is playing @Wisconsin now (Wisconsin will win, but it was surprisingly competitive).

Another possibility is that the road teams who were traveling to Florida got nervous, but I hope that wasn’t the case. I would think someone could have explained that although circular winds in this one have been 160 mph or more within the last day a hurricane isn’t going to suddenly start moving across the map at such a speed. I’m pretty sure people in Monroe understood that, but I’m less sure about whatever city Northern Colorado is in.

Another LSU memory I have is of 2005 when LSU didn’t play Tennessee until Monday night because Hurricane Rita was too close for Tennessee and its fans even though that Saturday in Baton Rouge was just a normal fall evening. Rita was a very destructive storm, just not for Baton Rouge and not on Saturday. That game was also notable because it was Les Miles’ first SEC game at LSU. I’d rather not recall the game itself.

One good thing is that other than Central Florida, none of the games were conference games. Those can cause all kinds of issues later in the year. As you might recall, the SEC had to threaten Florida’s possible berth in the SEC championship (which they eventually earned) before the Gators finally decided to play LSU last year.

Today’s Big Games

Anyway, I did want to talk a little bit about the games that will be played. As I mentioned above, the conference games are the most important, and there is an SEC game between residents of the two “Columbias” (South Carolina and Missouri). I decided that instead of picking all games involving SEC teams, I would just do the conference games and maybe a few extras in weeks with few conference games. So in this game, I’m picking South Carolina +3. I just don’t think Missouri is very good despite all the points they scored last week. They scored 61 against Eastern Michigan last year but lost to South Carolina by 10. I don’t see why the same sort of scenario is less realistic this year.

Offensive lineman Mason Zandi hoists the “Columbia Cup” after last year’s game.

Clemson isn’t in the SEC obviously, but they’re playing Auburn. Clemson won by 6 last year with the best team they’ve had in over 30 years and Auburn was relatively mediocre. So I’m taking Auburn and 5. Auburn might even win, but if they don’t, I can easily see them losing by 3 or 4 and not more.

Somehow Notre Dame is favored by 5 over Georgia. I think if anything Georgia will outperform expectations. Notre Dame’s expectations seem to be unjustifiably positive as usual, so I’m taking Georgia and the points there.

I guess I’ll go against the SEC in the early game of interest, which is TCU (-3) @ Arkansas. Arkansas has started slow a few times in recent years. I think TCU has more of the pieces in place even though I think Kenny Hill probably has a lower ceiling than some of the other quarterbacks in the Big XII alone, but he had a pretty good game in the early going in 2014 against an SEC team (Texas A&M @ South Carolina). Not saying he’ll pass for over 500 yards, just enough to win by 3 or more.

I’m not going to pick any more games against the spread, but there was another early game I’m very eager to follow, which is Pitt at Penn St. It was a great finish last year and probably kept the Nittany Lions out of the playoff in hindsight.

A few other big evening games I haven’t mentioned: Oklahoma @ Ohio St. (two of my top 4, hopefully better than Alabama/Florida St. game), Stanford @ USC (the Trojans were underwhelming last week, but maybe WMU is good), and Boise St. @ Washington St. (I’d take the over, although both struggled offensively in the last couple of games last season).

2015 Pre-Bowl Conference Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY THE SEC REMAINS THE TOP CONFERENCE

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

ACC-SEC Rivalry games

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why the SEC Led before Rivalry Week

Watch-SEC-Football-Online-e1374758489890

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

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

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

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

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

The numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strength of schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OTHER P5 CONFERENCES

big10_logo_detail

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

pac-12

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

big12logo

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

ACC

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

G5 DISCUSSION AND BEST WINS

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

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

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

The winning percentages tell you pretty well who belongs where.

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

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

Full blog

SEC Wednesday #4 and LSU Midweek

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Preview, Rivalry, SEC Wednesdays on October 21, 2015 at 7:03 PM

Last Week

Some weeks, I feel like I should have just flipped a coin for all the games. This was one of them.  Previous weeks convinced me not to pick Auburn, Mississippi St., or South Carolina against the spread.  All three have been huge disappointments against the spread on multiple occasions, so I finally got the tipping point where I didn’t want to pick them anymore.  So of course they all decided to play well.  If I had known nothing about what happened earlier this season, I might have picked all three.

Texas A&M, on the other hand, convinced me to pick them and the points over Alabama.  I thought they would at least be in the game in the fourth quarter at home.  Maybe Alabama is just going to have a new tradition of losing to Ole Miss and then stomping everyone else, although I’m not quite sure why the Tide didn’t win by more against AR-Kansas if that is the case.

SEC WED

Speaking of Ole Miss, unlike last year, it’s like the season ended for them immediately after the Alabama game.  It’s like they didn’t even show up against Florida, and then I guess they thought since it was Memphis, it didn’t matter that it was a road game against a bunch of players who get less respect than Rodney Dangerfield did and wanted to take it out on an SEC opponent.  I thought the Rebels would just barely beat the line, but they were about four touchdowns away from doing so.

LSU-Florida and Georgia-Missouri were the two bright spots that went exactly as I anticipated.  Wins by the favorites but within the spread.  I mentioned that I was wrong about five of them against the spread.

I did pick Mississippi St. and Alabama to win, so at least both of those happened.  This at least gave me a winning record (4-3) for the week in picking the winners.

My overall records fall to 22-9 “straight up” and 13-16 against the spread.

Upcoming Week

I will discuss LSU at the end because I don’t want to bury my coverage of other teams.

Arkansas is favored by six at home against Auburn even though their only home win is over UTEP.  I’ll pick the Hogs to win since as mentioned they did all right with Alabama and are coming off a bye week.  However, I’ll hope it’s a small margin since I’ll take Auburn and the points.  The plains Tigers won at Kentucky by three, so losing at Arkansas by a slim margin seems fairly consistent with that.

As mentioned earlier, Alabama didn’t win by that much against Arkansas at home (13 points).  So I’ll take Tennessee and the 15.5 even though the game will be in Tuscaloosa.  Arkansas did beat Tennessee, but I think that will be viewed as an upset at the end of the year. This is still enough of a rivalry that it may be close.  Alabama to win.

Vanderbilt lost to South Carolina by nine last week, and Missouri lost to Georgia by three.  I’m thinking Missouri can win by more than 2.5 even though the game is in Nashville.  It may be another baseball score though. (Earlier in the year, Mizzou beat Connecticut by the same score it just lost to Georgia, 9-6.)

I have absolutely no idea which Rebel and Aggie teams will show up in Oxford. I’ll do the same thing I did with Arkansas-Auburn and pick the favorite (Ole Miss) to win by fewer than 6 points.

Kentucky narrowly beat such luminaries as ULL and Eastern Kentucky.  The four-point win over South Carolina has lost a bit of its lustre too.  However, the Wildcats kept the Gators close and beat Missouri by 8.  What convinced me to take them in the points is the fact that I think Mississippi St. is a good enough team that Kentucky will step up its play enough to make it close.  I have no reason to believe Kentucky is worse than last year, and Mississippi St. is a fair bit away from how good they were last year. The Bulldogs only won by 14 last year, so I’ll take Kentucky and the 11.5 with State to win.

LSU Midweek Comments and Projection

Inspired by Les Miles, I’m going to take a huge gamble and pick LSU to actually beat the spread of 17 this week. Western Kentucky seemed a bit distracted by the crowd in NASHVILLE. Even a substandard crowd in Baton Rouge would probably be intimidated by comparison.  I don’t know if it will be though.  It will be at night, the weather should be in the 70s, and LSU does not return home until November 14 against Arkansas, one of only two remaining home games after this one.

The Hilltoppers have the ability to hang in there if LSU does stupid things like fumble a punt in the first few minutes and allow a kick-return TD, both of which the Tigers did against Florida.  However, I don’t think the talent and preparation for the environment will the the same, so even if there are some LSU mistakes, WKU may not take advantage as well.

If LSU managed to run away with it on Will Muschamp’s Auburn defense (which isn’t good statistically but still held Mississippi St. to 17, for instance), I can see the same thing playing out against Western Kentucky’s defense, which gave up 38 to both Indiana and Louisiana Tech.  Last week, WKU gave up 28 points to North Texas, one of the worst FBS teams.  The Mean Green scored 14 in the first half, so they weren’t all window dressing after the game was decided either.  That was UNT’s highest point total for the season and came just a week after a 66-7 loss to Portland St.

Trent Domingue himself actually brought this picture with the unhappy mascots to my attention when he mentioned it in an interview.

Anyway, while I’m talking about LSU I wanted to mention a couple of things about the Florida series I forgot about previously.  This is only the second time LSU has won three home games in a row against the Gators.  The previous time was three games spread out over 18 seasons ending in 1957.  This was also the third time and first since 1982 that LSU has won five times in six contests against the Gators.

Also, since 2007, LSU is 12 for 16 on fourth downs against the Gators with at least four successful fakes, three of them fake field goals.  LSU has converted its last six fourth-down-conversion attempts against Florida.

Also significant to me was the fact Florida no longer leads the series in Baton Rouge.  Tennessee (which never played LSU very often) and Alabama are the only two SEC programs with more wins than losses in Baton Rouge.

Previous entries

Week 4 Preview (predictions only)

SEC Wednesdays #1

SEC Wednesdays #2

SEC Wednesdays #3

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.

Week 5 Rankings and Commentary

In College Football, Preview, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 5, 2015 at 5:01 PM

Skip to the bottom for the top 25 or click here or use the tab at the top to access my full computer ratings.

Ohio St. was once again underwhelming, but once again there was no clear successor.  I sometimes look at other computer rankings to see if it’s just something weird about mine, but it isn’t.  Ole Miss and UCLA were in the consensus computer top 5 and of course both lost to teams they were supposed to beat and neither game was close.

Anyway, so I’m keeping Ohio St. #1.  The protected top four from last week has been reduced to three with the Ole Miss loss.  I’m putting LSU ahead of Michigan St. because they are higher in the formula.  Ohio St., LSU, and Michigan St. are all in the top 10 of the formula, so I don’t feel like this is an inappropriate departure.

I also am replacing Temple with TCU in the top 10.  They were ninth and 11th, respectively, so I don’t think switching them is a big deal.  I also decided to put TCU instead of Iowa, who is new to my top 25.

The only other change was a group of teams who were in the top 15 last week and who I made numbers 22 to 25 this week.  Ole Miss, UCLA, Georgia, and Notre Dame were the four teams.  I thought Ole Miss in particular should not fall from #2 on my list (which had been slightly higher than the computer ranking) to outside of the top 25.

Florida WR Brandon Powell outruns the Rebel defense for a 77-yard touchdown.

Florida WR Brandon Powell outruns the Rebel defense for a 77-yard touchdown.

Memphis and Navy have no wins over the former BCS teams/conferences, but they have chances coming up, so they will move in if they win those.  Penn St. and Kentucky have losses that I don’t think their wins quite overcome yet.

I went ahead and left Houston in because they beat Louisville, a major-conference bowl team from last season.  Louisville didn’t have a good first week in losing to Auburn, but they played Clemson close and had a good road win over previously undefeated North Carolina St. on Saturday.

So I shuffled around the top 11 a bit, and I switched four computer top 25 teams with four non-top-25 teams.  Those four teams are in the order the computer gave, and all the teams in between are also in the exact order from the computer formula.

I may tinker slightly in the next couple of weeks, but in the ratings in two weeks, the current computer ratings will either be validated or the cream will better rise to the top.

Some key games two weeks from now that should make this easier:

Florida @ LSU

UCLA @ Stanford

Arizona St. @ Utah

Missouri @ Georgia

Alabama @ Texas A&M

Boston College @ Clemson

West Virginia @ Baylor

Oklahoma @ Kansas St.

Michigan @ Michigan St.

Iowa @ Northwestern

USC @ Notre Dame

Penn St. @ Ohio St.

Ole Miss @ Memphis

I think just about everything should be sorted properly on its own between now and then.  I’m not saying there aren’t any big games this coming week, but nothing like that lineup of decisive games.

Anyway, here is my current top 25.

Rank Team Previous
1 Ohio St. 1
2 LSU 4
3 Mich. St. 3
4 Florida 10
5 Northwestern 7
6 TX A&M 8
7 Utah 9
8 Oklahoma 11
9 TCU 5
10 Iowa

iowa

11 Temple 17
12 Okie St. 23
13 Clemson 12
14 Toledo

toledo

15 UC-Berkeley

cal

16 Michigan 22
17 Stanford 18
18 Alabama 19
19 Baylor 13
20 Houston

Houston

21 Florida St. 16
22 Ole Miss 2
23 UCLA 6
24 Notre Dame 15
25 Georgia 14

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

24 USC
25 Wisconsin

2014 Final College Football Top 25

In Bowls, College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on January 14, 2015 at 3:45 PM

My Top 25
My Rank/team/prev
1 Ohio St. 3
2 Florida St. 1
3 Oregon 4
4 Alabama 2
5 Boise St. 6
6 TCU 5
7 UCLA 11
8 Mich. St. 13
9 Marshall 12
10 Ga. Tech 14
11 Missouri 16
12 Baylor 7
13 Georgia 17
14 Wisconsin 15
15 Ole Miss 8
16 Miss. St. 9
17 Arizona 10
18 Clemson 21
19 Arizona St. 23
20 USC —
21 Auburn 18
22 Colo. St. 20
23 Kansas St. 19
24 N. Illinois 24
Memphis
25 Memphis —

Full Rankings 1-128

Out of top 25: (22) Nebraska, (25) Louisville

Earlier top-25 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
Week 13
Week 14
Pre-Bowl

Comments
I guess I’ll start with some good news. I like how the top four stayed in place. If after the Alabama game anyone still believed Ohio St. didn’t belong in the top four, I’m sure they do now. Other than that, pretty much everyone agreed with the other three teams.

Why does the fact that teams won these games mean that suddenly some of them aren’t in the top four? It doesn’t. If we made 5-8 play each other and then the winners of those games play each other, that would leave three teams in that group with one more loss than they had before the bowls as well.

I am also pleased with my rankings before the bowls. Eleven of my top 17 (including Oregon) won their bowl games. All of the top 19 either won their bowl game or lost to another top-19 team. Colorado St. and Nebraska were the only top-25 teams to lose bowl games to other teams.

Obviously, some people will criticize where TCU is, but only one team they played all year won a bowl game, and the Horned Frogs don’t get a lot of points from Oklahoma St.’s win over Washington. The margin of victory over Ole Miss doesn’t help in my ratings, but like most fans, I would have liked to have seen TCU play one of the top four. (I still don’t want another round of playoffs though, at least not without a major overhaul.)

I know Boise St. lost to Ole Miss, but losing to Baylor doesn’t hurt that much less. Boise St. also played an extra game. The Broncos were one of four 10-win teams in the Mountain West (all in the same division), while only two teams in the Big XII won 10 or more.

This might be boring, but it might also be a way of explaining my rankings, so bear with me. On 11/23, TCU led Boise St. by about 0.12 (which was the approximate distance from Ohio St. to Oregon before the bowls). Boise St. won three games between 11/23 and the bowls (Wyoming, Utah St., and Fresno St.) while TCU only won two (Texas and Iowa St.). This cut TCU’s lead to 0.006.

All things being equal, the TCU lead should have increased to 0.017 because Ole Miss counts for more points than Arizona does. So the 1-6 performance in bowl games by TCU opponents cost the Horned Frogs 0.021 by comparison since they ended up 0.004 behind the Broncos. Only three of Boise St.’s, but of the 13 games they played, 10 were against teams that went to bowl games (they played Fresno St. twice, Ole Miss, Colorado St., ULL, Air Force, Nevada, BYU, San Diego St., and Utah St.).

For a non-mathematical argument, a lot of people thought I had Boise St. way too high and they shouldn’t have been ahead of Arizona. I think they corrected that perception.

This is the fifth time since 2008 (when I started my current system) that Boise St. has finished in the top 6. By comparison, this is only Alabama’s fourth time in that time frame. Florida, Ohio St., and Oregon have finished in that group three times apiece. Not apropos of anything, but every time Ohio St. has been in that group, so has Oregon.

I would have liked to have seen Marshall play a P5 team, but they did about as well against then-11-2 Northern Illinois as Arkansas had back in September.

I do think Georgia Tech would have likely beaten them, but remember the point of my formula is so that teams with few losses end up near the top. Georgia Tech obviously had a much better schedule, but you have to have a much better schedule to account for two extra losses.

I’m sure most of you remember when LSU had two losses and made the BCS Championship ahead of one-loss Kansas. That was a huge difference in schedule, but if LSU had three losses or Kansas had no losses, LSU would not have gone ahead of Kansas. I first started working on my current formula after the 2007 season, so that’s probably something I considered when I decided how much winning percentage counts and how much strength of schedule counts. I also think LSU would have beaten Kansas even if the Jayhawks had gone undefeated in 2007, but that doesn’t mean LSU would have deserved to play in the game ahead of them.

Anyway, Marshall is in the CUSA, which went 4-1 in the bowls. Compare that to the 4-7 mark of the ACC. Also, bad losses hurt more in my formula than good wins help. The one team that beat Marshall (Western Kentucky) won its bowl game, but all three teams that beat Georgia Tech lost theirs.

The top two teams of the SEC East (Missouri and Georgia) got into the top 15, finally passing up Ole Miss and Mississippi St., but they had too far to go to make it into the top 10. I think 19 of the top 21 being in P5 conferences is about right. I don’t mind giving some credit to the better teams of the other conferences at the bottom of the top 25.

USC made a pretty decent jump forward after they beat Nebraska and several teams in the group immediately ahead of them lost.

This is the completion of my 20th year ranking teams (although it was purely subjective before 2004), and this is the very first time I am ranking Memphis. Memphis is the 101st team I have ranked.

Note on conferences

This is slightly different analysis from my “conference report” series. In this blog, I’m commenting upon the rankings of the various teams rather than strictly looking at games between conferences. I do a summary of this with every ranking (except for the one after the Army-Navy game). You can see my chart here.

The SEC finishes with only one team in the top 10, but six in the top 25, nine in the top 40, and twelve in the top 50 (the chart linked to above does not give any credit for the top 50, just the top 40). Even #13 Kentucky finished 68th, just four spots behind Virginia Tech (who, as I think most people know, beat Ohio St.). Although like most of the country, I was a little surprised by WHICH SEC teams won, I think the above shows how tough it was to go undefeated if 13/14 teams in the conference were good enough to beat who turned out to be the best team in the country.

The SEC has 14 teams, and only 8 of them got to play Vanderbilt. The SEC might not have the best top teams (as was thought for much of the season), but if you think any other conference schedule was tougher, you’re kidding yourself.

Kenneth Massey lists about 90 top-to-bottom computer rankings of teams on his comparison site. Every one of them has the SEC as the top conference (at least based on average ranking of the teams). I know people want to call me a homer, but until I’m not part of the overwhelming consensus (even if one or two come out that disagree, that’s still true), I won’t take that allegation seriously.

The only rankings he lists on there that put the SEC second are the two (subjective) polls, but only the top 25 of each one is considered. Since the SEC has six teams between #26 and #50 in my ratings compared to only two in that range for the Pac-12, that’s ignoring a lot of the SEC’s relative strength toward the middle and below the middle of the 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.

My take on the NCAA Selection Committee

In College Basketball on March 17, 2011 at 2:43 PM

In giving itself a chance to beat West Virginia, Clemson confirmed again (as they did initially in the UNC game and again in the UAB game…I will discuss some of the other controversial inclusions and exclusions below) that they do have skills necessary to win games in this tournament, but my feeling is if you don’t beat an RPI top-50 team before the tournament, you don’t belong in the tournament as an at-large.

For the record, I began writing this when Clemson was ahead by 9 points, and it was partly written in my head before the game started. I just haven’t had time earlier this week to either watch the tournament reaction or write a blog, especially since I filled out around 30 brackets (I have two ESPN accounts, and I filled out all the ones I came across, as many as I could. It’s partly to cover my bases from not having watched enough games this year, but it’s also because I’m much better at individual match-ups than I am at, “This team is going to win this region”…of course most people who show confidence at the latter effort are frequently wrong.)

As for Clemson and its athleticism, I don’t care if they look like Bill Russell’s Celtics if they don’t beat anyone of note. There are few phrases more annoying in the football context where less than 2% of the teams can play for the BCS title at the end of the year, but in basketball, the “eye test” is arguably appropriate as an argument when it’s a close call for #40-something. But not when you can plainly rule out a team based on a lack of accomplishments. Being unable to keep a convincing lead against North Carolina was repeated against West Virginia. So maybe that game was a cause for concern as much as it was a credit to Clemson. (Roy Williams isn’t a particularly good conference-tournament coach anyway. Even his national-championship teams lost in the second game of their respective conference tournaments.)

I know the RPI is flawed, but come on. I wouldn’t require beating a top-25 or top-30 RPI team, but I think counting #50 and above gives enough leeway to factor in the RPI’s weaknesses.

Even Alabama, who had an RPI of 80, beat a top-50 team, Georgia, twice in a row right at the end. I have no reservations about leaving Alabama out, by the way. They didn’t beat anyone worth much out of conference, and they played in the SEC West, so I don’t care if they did beat Georgia twice, their 12-4 SEC record isn’t really better than Georgia’s 9-7 without even looking out of conference.

Speaking of 9-7, that’s how Clemson finished in the ACC, and given their givens, I think they had to distinguish themselves better than that. I’m definitely more impressed with Harvard (especially considering their out-of-conference accomplishments) tying Princeton for the Ivy League crown than I am with 9-7 in the ACC this year.

The other “first four” at-large winner, VCU, is a team I wanted to see in this tournament. They had three wins over top-50 teams going in. People talk about recent losses in criticism of VCU’s selection. They had 6 losses since January 3, including one to George Mason and two to Old Dominion. During that time, they also beat Old Dominion and George Mason. The win over Old Dominion was on the road.

Maybe this doesn’t make up for losses to Northeastern, Drexel, and James Madison, but that’s a different argument. It’s still true that they finished the seaon on an overall upswing despite the losses.

I would also give them credit for playing the non-conference schedule they played. That probably contributed to making them the team they are now, even though again there were some losses to non-tournament teams. Winthrop and Wake Forest have had better years (one neutral-court win, one road win), but it was clear they were not dodging competition. These are the other non-conference highlights: loss to Tennessee (neutral), win over UCLA (neutral), loss to South Florida (road), win over VMI (home), loss to UAB (road). The loss to Tennessee was by 5, the loss to South Florida was by 1 in overtime, and the loss to UAB was by 3.

I heard it said in watching the ODU game that VCU would not get an automatic bid (I had not been following “Bracketology,” which I think is silly until the last week), and although I normally am for ODU, I said aloud, “That’s a shame” that VCU lost because I felt that the tournament would be missing something without them.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that because they looked really good in this game, that they deserved an at-large bid. I’m not discussing them to the exclusion of any contender who did not make the field. I’m not here to argue that they belonged ahead of Colorado, Virginia Tech, and St. Mary’s. Certainly had those three made it and VCU went to the NIT along with UAB and Clemson, VCU would not have had a right to complain. As a side note, from the two St. Mary’s games I’ve seen recently, VCU looked better even in the loss to ODU than the Gaels did during the WCC tournament. My objection is to the statements made on ESPN (by Jay Bilas for example) that VCU doesn’t pass the laugh test. I think dismissal of VCU to that extreme is a continuation of the bias against mid-majors. I don’t know how many Butlers or George Masons or Bradleys these people need. Incidentally, VCU’s profile is not a whole lot different from that of the George Mason team that went to the Final Four. Granted, that team making the Final Four was a bit of a fluke, but George Mason could have easily been excluded from the tournament that year, and few would have been outraged or even moderately annoyed.

It is not an aberrant event for a team to look like a tough out in losing a conference title game and having that team end up in the tournament. About 7 years ago, Utah St. barely lost in the final and surprised most (including Lunardi, if I remember correctly) by making the field. The defense from the committee (which used to take more questions, by the way) was the type of game they played, and obviously some consideration was given for the quality of the WAC and the narrow loss of an automatic opportunity. The committee did seem to move away from that in recent years (Mississippi St.’s snub after the 1-point overtime loss to Kentucky in the SEC tournament final last year, for instance), but I don’t believe they should have. In the case of VCU, I think it’s worthwhile to consider that losing in a rubber match to a clear tournament team (ODU is seeded 9th, and you could easily argue they should be higher) by five points is a good showing even though obviously it does not result in an automatic bid.

I think UAB’s inclusion was a somewhat misguided show of respect for winning (in the regular season of course) a Conference USA that has highly respectable programs including UTEP and Memphis, and a recognition of the type of program at UAB in recent years. However as far as this season, there is no way one top-50 win goes ahead of the six that Colorado had. I don’t care if Colorado played no non-conference games or if they were the ugliest six games since the shot clock was implemented, that’s still more impressive. So I think I’m with the UAB critics, but the people outraged about VCU (especially if they’re not also complaining about Clemson) didn’t give this a fair hearing, they just over-reacted due to having assumed VCU was not on the committee’s menu. The committee got this one wrong, but I think I understand where their impression of UAB came from at least.