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Posts Tagged ‘Nebraska’

Week 12: Not Rivalry Week Yet

In Bowls, College Football, General LSU, History, Me, Preview, Rivalry on November 16, 2018 at 7:42 PM

Apart from some remotely possibly upsets of top teams (I mentioned Clemson and Notre Dame in the Rankings blog), I’m not wildly excited about any of the matchups this week.   I still thought of somethings I’d like to talk about. 

The Former Rivalry Week

I miss the days where this was THE main rivalry week. 

The Big Ten used to finish up for good, but now they have 3 more weeks including the championship.  Tomorrow it will be exactly 11 years since Ohio St. beat Michigan, probably with no suspicion that they were about to be involved in the craziest ending to a college football season in recent memory.  Although the Buckeyes were ranked only #7 going into that final game, they would enter the bowls as the #1 team in the BCS standings.  Despite its second loss coming in the last regularly-scheduled game, LSU would become the surprise #2 after winning the SEC championship on the same day Numbers 1 and 2 in the BCS (Missouri and West Virginia) both lost. 

LSU LB Ali Highsmith gets to the ball before Ohio St. QB Todd Boeckman can throw it in LSU’s 38-24 championship win in New Orleans on January 7, 2008.

Anyway, I bring that up because the normal time of year for Ohio St. to play Michigan going back to the 1930s was between about November 17 and November 24.  2007 just happened to be the last time the game was on the 17th.  The end of the Big Ten season got pushed closer to the end of November in 2010; and then with the start of the Big Ten Championship game in 2011, the Big Ten season now extends into December.. 

Some Big Ten teams finished conference play even earlier.  For instance, in 2005, Wisconsin played its last Big Ten game on November 12.  There were 11 teams in the Big Ten then, so I guess the Badgers were the odd men out for the rivalry week.  Other end-of-season rivalries in the Big Ten were Minnesota-Iowa, Michigan St.-Penn St., Purdue-Indiana, and Illinois-Northwestern.

Althoughit was often played later (and only became the traditional final regular-seasongame in 1977), Florida played Florida St. on November 17 as recently as 2001.  2001 was also the last time UCLA played USC onNovember 17.  Sometimes there was a latergame for one or both schools, but it was the second-to-last Saturday inNovember going back to the 1970s.

17 Nov 2001: Kevin Arbet tackles Craig Bragg as USC upsets UCLA 27-0 to qualify for a bowl game in Pete Carroll’s first year with the Trojans.

Another big rivalry that used to be the second-to-last Saturday in November was Oklahoma-Nebraska.  It was permanently moved to the last Saturday in November in the early 1990s before it stopped being an annual game in 1998.  Of course Nebraska was a much more important team in those days than they are today.  The date would sometimes vary a week or so, but the rivalry had been played around that time of year since the 1940s.

The Iron Bowl was played between November 17 and November 23 every year from 1993 through 2006.  Those were the first 14 seasons in which I had a meaningful interest in college football on the national level, though I followed LSU for about 5 years before that. 

Anyway, so I think that’s enough explanation of why I always feel like something is missing this week, especially since it became the week for the SEC to take it easy. 

How the SEC Schedule for Mid-November Deteriorated

Although it had been done occasionally a few times before (for instance, South Carolina played Middle Tennessee the week before Clemson in 2006; and LSU played Conference-USA opponents before Arkansas a few times in the 1990s), Alabama led the way with a real commitment to this trend. 

Startingin 2007, the Tide has usually had a bye before the LSU game, so since theycouldn’t have another bye before Auburn, they played UL-Monroe.  The ended up losing to LSU, Auburn, and ULMin 2007; but that didn’t deter Alabama from that strategy.  In 2008, the Tide did the opposite (byebefore Auburn, non-conference game before LSU), and it worked.  Alabama only went a combined 3-3 against LSUand Auburn between 2009 and 2011, but they’re a combined 11-2 in regularly-scheduledgames against the two rivals since.

For itspart, LSU played Tulane the week before the Alabama game in 2008 and 2009,which did not work.  Then LSU went to thebye before Alabama (which worked for two years and hasn’t worked since), but theprecedent was already set.  Sometimes it’sin late October instead of November, but the Tigers have had a late-seasonnon-conference game most of the years since. They did not have one in 2016 only because of rescheduling that resultedfrom the hurricane that hit Florida. 

Auburn has been more consistent.  Except for 2013 when the Plains-Tigers were able to use a second bye before Alabama, Auburn has had a non-conference opponent the week before Alabama every year since 2011.

Georgia originally scheduled its late-season non-conference opponent before Auburn, but in 2014 the Bulldogs changed it to the week before Georgia Tech.  I’m not sure why it wasn’t done that way last year, but Georgia is back to that pattern this year. 

A few of the less significant SEC programs are still playing regular games, but the SEC schedule leaves a lot to be desired…

Ole Miss-Vanderbilt Headlines This Week’s SEC Schedule

Anyway, so we are now at the stage where the big SEC rivalry game this week is Ole Miss-Vanderbilt.  I’ll explain why.

Arkansas has played Mississippi St. annually since 1992, but the Bulldogs have won 5 of 6 in the series, and the Hogs are only 2-8 on the season.  Arkansas could back into a single-digit game like they did against LSU last week, but I hardly expect high drama.  So that’s not a game to watch. 

Missouri and Tennessee (the CBS game of the week) have slightly better combined records than Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, but that’s only been a rivalry (of sorts) since Missouri joined the SEC in 2012.  It hasn’t been a very interesting one either.  Missouri ended both 2015 and 2016 really badly and lost to the Vols in the process.  The Tigers won the other games.  The only game of the six decided by fewer than 8 points was in 2012 (when each team would finish 5-7).

Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, however, is a competitive longstanding rivalry between fairly evenly-matched teams. Since 2005, the only SEC team against which the Commodores have a winning record is Ole Miss (7-6).  Vanderbilt won 5 of 6 in the series from 2007 to 2012, but Ole Miss responded by winning the next 3.  The two programs have exchanged home wins over the past two years.  The Commodores have won 4 of the last 6 games played against the Rebels in Vanderbilt Stadium. 

The three touchdowns by Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb (#7) were the difference in Nashville two years ago. The Commodores had ended a 3-game series winning streak by the Rebels.

As for this year’s respective teams, both are near .500 and have identical 1-5 conference records.  Nonetheless,Vanderbilt could still guarantee a bowl game by finishing the season with home wins over the Rebels and the Volunteers, their two biggest historical rivals.  The Rebels are still on probation and ineligible for a bowl, but I’m sure there is motivation to avoid a losing record and potentially finish with a winning record (which they could do by beating Vanderbilt and winning the Egg Bowl over Mississippi St.).

LSU and Rice Renew a Rivalry Few Missed

One other rivalry I’d like to mention is LSU-Rice.  It was before my time, but this used to be an annual series.  Other than in-state (former/sporadic) rival Tulane, LSU has played Rice more than any other team that is currently outside of the SEC. LSU and Rice played each other every year between 1932 and 1952 and every year but one between 1955 and 1983.  The only meetings between 1983 and this season were in 1987 and 1995.

Rice has only beaten the Tigers once since 1966.  However, despite LSU winning a national championship in 1958, it was a competitive series between 1955 and 1966.  Rice had a 5-4-2 record against LSU during that span. 

The most notable Rice win was in 1961.  The Owls denied the Tigers a chance at second national championship in four seasons.  After losing the opener to Rice 16-3, LSU would win the next 10 games including the Orange Bowl.  Rice would finish 7-4 and lose in the Bluebonnet Bowl, the Owls’ last bowl appearance until 2006.

Rice made 5 bowl games from 2006 to 2014, winning 3 of them, their only wins in bowl games since 1953 (they also lost the 1957 Cotton Bowl and the 1960 Sugar Bowl). 

The Owls have returned to their prior form since that 2014 bowl win though.  After falling just one win short of qualifying for a bowl for the fourth consecutive year in 2015 (with a 5-7 record), Rice has only won 5 games since the start of the 2016 season.  Two of those wins were over FCS opponent Prairie View A&M, including in the opener this year, which was Rice’s only victory in its last 21 contests.  Two of the other wins since 2016 were over UTEP, which finally ended a 20-game losing streak two weeks ago against Rice. The fifth win was over UNC-Charlotte, which only began playing in the FBS in the past few years.  

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Alabama Offense vs. LSU Defense

In College Football, General LSU, History, Preview, Rivalry on November 2, 2018 at 4:24 PM

For more on what to expect from the LSU offense and general comments, please see Part I published on Wednesday.  This page links the major previous discussions of the LSU-Alabama Series.  LSU seems to have better kickers, but I’m not going to spend any time on that point.

Proposition: Alabama runs away with the game to score 40+ again (Intro)

What made me decide to split this into two blogs was how annoyed I was with how many people were picking Alabama to score 40+ while picking LSU to score <22. I listened to a couple of somewhat credible prognosticators on YouTube who did that based on Alabama’s stats.

One of them (SECfans, which I mentioned before) actually replied to my comment and asked if I thought Alabama’s offense was severely overrated due to the schedule.  I said that I didn’t think they were severely so, but in all the years I’ve been watching college football (I would say I had something like an adult appreciation of it starting in the mid-90s), there hasn’t been a top team who scored over 40 every game.

Historical Precedent in General

In the video, they had mentioned the 2005 Texas team that scored 41 points in the title game against USC.  A neutral-site bowl game isn’t really analogous to Tiger Stadium.  What might be analogous was when the Longhorns went to Ohio St. that year and were held to 25 points.  Also, late in the season the USC team in question had allowed 42 points at home to a Fresno St. team that would finish with 5 losses.

Vince Young runs for a touchdown in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

The best offense I’ve seen through 8 games was probably 2010 Oregon.  They had an even higher average (by less than a point, but still) than Alabama does now at 54.8 points per game.  That was despite having played a top 10 team at home and a top-25 team on the road, neither of which the Tide has done.

The 9th game was consistent with that, but in their 10th game, the Ducks went on the road to play the unranked Cal Bears and only won 15-13.  That was a Cal defense that would allow three different teams to score 48 or more against them.  Cal finished with a losing record that year.  I’d say it’s pretty likely LSU has a better defense this year than that team did then.

The Cal (Berkeley) defense held Oregon to about 40 fewer points than the Ducks’ average in their 2010 matchup.

One of the best SEC offenses was the 1996 Florida. Early on the Gators beat #2 Tennessee on the road, but apart from that game the Gators averaged 54 points per game through the first 8 games.  Then in early November, the Gators escaped Nashville (hardly an intimidating road environment by SEC standards) with only a 28-21 win.  A few weeks later, Florida St. held Florida to 21 for the Gators’ only loss of the season.  Of course Florida would then run away with the national championship against the Seminoles, 52-20.

Florida’s Danny Wuerffel led the Gator offense to over 50 points per game before being brought back down to earth in Nashville and Tallahassee (pictured).

I don’t mind if people are picking Alabama to score 35, for instance.  Maybe this Alabama offense is able to produce points just as well as and just as consistently as 1995 Nebraska, who was only held under 40 twice and never below 35.  That was the only team since World War II that won each game by at least 14, but the team who got within 14 was unranked and playing in Lincoln.  I just need to see this year’s Alabama play a better defense than Texas A&M or Missouri to believe they’re better than that Nebraska team.  Despite the Cornhuskers’ having won the national championship in 1994, the voters in 1995 were skeptical of Nebraska and did not move them up to #1 until the Huskers had beaten top-10 teams in consecutive weeks.

Historical Precedent in LSU-Alabama Series

I can also refer to past games in the LSU-Alabama rivalry. I mentioned the 2013 game in the last blog. LSU didn’t keep Alabama very far below their average, although they were on pace to do so for most of the game. More relevantly to this blog, the Tigers had averaged 40 points per game going in, and Alabama held LSU to less than half of that average.  The Tigers have a lot of work to do if that’s the best their defense can do this year, one reason I think the Tide wins, but 27 points wouldn’t make it an impossible task.

Alabama teams of the last few years probably don’t compare to this one in terms of how strong the respective offenses and defenses are, but I think we may also be able to learn a little from 2011 and 2009.

People act like in retrospect the 2011 regular season game was destined to be in the single digits, but it really wasn’t.  I don’t remember the over/under, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t 16. Alabama was averaging 39 points per game and had only been held below 37 twice (27 @ Penn St. and 34 against Vanderbilt).  LSU had almost the exact same average despite having played Oregon and West Virginia, two eventual winners of BCS bowls. Only Mississippi St. had held the Tigers below 35 (like this year, LSU scored only 19 against the Bulldogs).

Granted the points given up were lower in both cases in 2011 but not ridiculously so. LSU has only allowed one team to score over 21 this year (but two right at 21).  They’d allowed two to score over 11 in 2011.  Alabama has only allowed two teams to score more than 14 points this year.  In 2011, they’d allowed double digits 3 times. So maybe not 9-6, but 20-17 wouldn’t be a shockingly low score.

I want to mention one other Alabama team, and that’s 2009.  That was Saban’s third year and his first team there that really tipped the SEC off about what was to come.  The Tide opened against #7 Virginia Tech and then played four unranked opponents, two in SEC play and one on the road. That’s not a body of work similar to what they have now, but in those five games the Tide scored at least 34 points in each one and averaged 40 points.

Patrick Peterson grabs an apparent interception in Tuscaloosa in 2009. The pass was ruled incomplete. LSU may not have won the game in Tuscaloosa, but a different call here could have changed the score.

The Tide went to #20 Ole Miss and point production fell by 45% as they only scored 22. A similar reduction in this case would result in the Tide only scoring 30. Ole Miss had a good defense in 2009, but maybe LSU’s is better this year. The Rebels did allow 33 to Auburn and 41 to Mississippi St. that year. I don’t envision LSU giving up that many to an unranked team this year.

Comparison to Other Games This Season

It’s odd for two teams in the same division to have only one common opponent at this point, but in this case it doesn’t tell us very much.  It was Ole Miss, who really didn’t have much of a chance in either game.  I think the games worth considering are ones where either LSU or Alabama had to get out of their comfort zone in some way.  The Rebels did not force either team to do that.

Again, the best team Alabama has played is Texas A&M, who I believe is justifiably outside of the top 25 in the coaches poll.  The Texas A&M defense, which made Mississippi St.’s Nick Fitzgerald look like a Heisman contender doesn’t compare favorably to LSU’s defense at all.  Mississippi St. scored a combined 16 points against LSU, Florida, and Kentucky, 12 less than A&M gave up.  The point being that we really don’t have a model when it comes to how Alabama does against a defense that can really affect an offense the way LSU’s affected Fromm of Georgia and Fitzgerald.

If it’s a similar game with Alabama holding the opposing offense in the low 20s, LSU will likely take at least one touchdown opportunity away that A&M couldn’t, especially given that A&M was playing in Tuscaloosa.

I haven’t seen anyone suggest this, but I did want to add a caveat. I wouldn’t be upset if someone thinks Alabama wins 41-34. That wouldn’t show LSU’s defense is almost as bad as A&M’s; it would show Alabama’s offense had to keep going in high gear the whole game when it could pretty much relax in the second half against A&M. I’d be surprised to see that much offense from LSU, but they did score 36 against Georgia despite settling for field goals 5 times and despite a quarterback who could only complete half of his throws.

A better measuring stick for Alabama offense (though the Tide defense did extremely well) is the Missouri game. That was the best comparison I could find to a tough game Georgia had to play (partly because it was on the road) before coming to Baton Rouge. Missouri had been the only team to score more than 17 against the Bulldogs (they scored 29) and the only team to come within 14 points (and that was despite a defensive touchdown by Georgia).

Tua Tagovailoa is sacked by Missouri’s 
Kobie Whiteside in Tuscaloosa on October 13.

For Alabama vs. Missouri, I’m more going to look to see what we can gather about things LSU might be able to do on defense.  Missouri did have the second-closest game with the Tide so far (after A&M), but more impressively (and more relevantly to this blog) the Tigers are the only team to hold Alabama below 40, and they did this in Tuscaloosa.

Giving up 39 isn’t that impressive on its own (unless LSU really does give up 41 without producing much on offense); but as I’ve said before, you can score into the 40s against almost anyone if you’re given easy points. Twice while the game was still competitive, Missouri committed a turnover deep in their own territory. So where it was 27-10 with 10 minutes left in the half, it probably would have been Missouri ball down only 17-10. I’m not that Alabama didn’t deserve to beat them like they did, but what I am saying is the Missouri defensive unit did even better than Alabama’s point total indicates.

It’s also somewhat impressive that Mizzou limited Tua to only 2 of 5 on third downs and 12 of 22 overall (though it was still an average of over 10 yards per attempt) with only one positive run. Missouri has neither a good pass rush nor a good secondary. I couldn’t get the stats on how many sacks and hurries they had against Bama, but I know they had one sack and no hurries against Georgia. That’s one reason LSU was able to limit Georgia to fewer scoring drives than Mizzou had.

LSU was able to improve significantly on what Missouri did with Georgia. Even if we cut out the defensive score, LSU roughly cut Georgia’s point-scoring in half. So I think the low end of Alabama’s point total (barring a disaster or freakishly low-scoring game) is a lot lower than some people have it. I would put it in the low 20s. So I think the route for LSU to win would most likely be LSU scoring between 24 and 31 and Alabama scoring 1-7 points fewer.

Prediction

My prediction is that LSU holds Alabama to 31, which is two touchdowns fewer than Texas A&M allowed, and that the Tigers score 24. I think chances are the Tigers score closer to their point total against Auburn and Florida than the point total against Georgia. Most other people seem to be picking either a narrow LSU upset or a complete blowout by the Tide, either of which could happen of course, but I think these are two really good teams and LSU is just slightly outmatched.

Week 10 Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, College Football Playoff, General LSU, History, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 30, 2016 at 5:11 PM

Housekeeping

I haven’t been been doing my weekend blog with everything going on with the election. I don’t want to say anything about my political leanings here, although I would mention that since 1984 the LSU/Alabama game has corresponded with the party that won the presidential election. When a Republican won, LSU beat Alabama; and when a Democrat won, Alabama beat LSU. For more on the series see here and this is a list of other related blogs.

LSU-Alabama Rivalry since 2000.

LSU-Alabama Rivalry since 2000.

Anyway, my weekly schedule may change slightly if I have a reaction to the first College Football Playoff rankings, which will be released on Tuesday afternoon. If I post on Tuesday, I most likely will not post on Wednesday. One reason I’m posting today is so the blogs can be more spread-out.

Contrast with Other Rankings

I usually ignore the polls, but I think there are some important things to address with the losses that took place over the weekend.

Apparently, because some teams lost, Nebraska essentially gets a mulligan. The best team the Huskers have beaten is Wyoming, but they stay in the top 10 despite a loss. I can’t even take that seriously. LSU lost to Wisconsin by 2 points and fell 16 spots, but now losing a close game to Wisconsin is like losing to Alabama I guess despite the Badgers’ two losses.

Other than now-#22 (my #30) Oklahoma St., Baylor has beaten NO ONE and now has a loss to a Texas team that didn’t even get a single top 25 vote THIS WEEK. But the Bears stay 13th.

I understand Western Michigan being a lot lower than I have them because for me they’ll keep going down while for the polls (assuming wins) they’ll keep going up despite not having any tough opponents coming up, whereas the only way a team like Baylor, West Virginia, or Nebraska fails to get quality wins in the coming weeks is if they lose again and fall below Western Michigan anyway. Nebraska might have to lose twice though.

I’m hoping the college football rankings exercise some greater degree of sense, but I suspect they’ll give the three Power-5 teams I just mentioned the benefit of the doubt more than they deserve.

Discussion of My Rankings

I didn’t have the time and energy to look it up for my last rankings blog, but I wanted to mention that last week is the first time Colorado has been ranked in my top 25 since September 30, 2007. The Buffs finished that season 6-7 after losing to Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide in the Independence Bowl.

Colorado QB Cody Hawkins throws a pass in the upset of Oklahoma in September 2007.

Colorado QB Cody Hawkins throws a pass in the upset of Oklahoma in September 2007.

Due to the large number of losses, Colorado just barely remains in the top 25 this week despite the bye.

As I anticipated, Alabama remained #1 despite the Clemson win (while the Tide was idle). It also helped Bama that USC and Kent St. won.

Clemson had another close call, but being that the game was on the road, this does nothing to diminish how many points they get. I only lower the reward or penalty if the home team wins a close game (defined as overtime or within 3 points) since home field accords an advantage or about 3 points. The Tigers were just too far behind to surpass the Tide in one week.

Ohio St. won of course, but it also helped that Wisconsin (the Buckeyes’ best win) won. Texas A&M’s best win had been Tennessee, which lost. The Aggies also didn’t gain very much by beating New Mexico St.

Western Michigan fell two spots during the bye week, but this fall will probably continue as the Broncos will play the lower-rated MAC teams in the coming weeks.

Tennessee still has the best schedule, which is why they remain so high; and again, it also helps that so many other teams lost.

The Power-5 teams between 7 and 21 are well-positioned to move up into the top 5 or top 10 with quality wins. I don’t have some vendetta against the teams in that range, but some of them haven’t played the better teams in their respective conferences yet.

One example was Washington, who hadn’t really played anyone before this week. But they beat a good team this week, so they move up. Baylor lost to a mediocre team, so they remain un-ranked. The Bears still have chances for quality wins though.

Boise St. is another team that I expect will fall in the coming weeks since the Broncos do not play anyone better than #100 Hawaii until November 25.

Boise St. was upset by Wyoming, which as I mentioned played Nebraska earlier in the season. So this is one reason why the Huskers didn’t fall lower.

The conference standings tightened because Minnesota joined the top 40 while the number of SEC teams in the top 40 remained the same. Arkansas fell out as a result of its bye week, but Kentucky moved into the top 40.

South Carolina’s upset of Tennessee also hurt the SEC because it knocked the Vols out of the top 10 but did not add South Carolina to the top 40 (the Gamecocks are now #50). It may increase the number of bowl-eligible SEC teams when we get to that point though.

The ACC was hurt slightly by Clemson’s win over Florida St. since it knocked the Seminoles out of the top 25, while a loss may have put both in the top 10. Also, Wake Forest loss to Army, which took the Demon Deacons out of the top 40.

Top 25

rank/team/prev
1 Alabama 1
2 Clemson 2
3 Michigan 3
4 Ohio St. 8
5 Texas A&M 5
6 W. Michigan 4
7 Penn St. 10
8 Washington 17
9 Boise St. 6
10 Louisville 9
11 Tennessee 7
12 Wisconsin 18
13 Auburn 15
14 Nebraska 11
15 Houston 21
16 Virginia Tech —
17 Wash. St. 20
18 Florida 23
19 Oklahoma 19
20 South Florida —
21 West Virginia 13
22 N. Carolina 12
23 App. St. 25
24 Utah 14
25 Colorado 22

All 128 teams

Out of rankings: (16) Florida St., (24) Navy

Week 8 Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 16, 2016 at 2:22 PM

Please see here for my blog about the LSU-Ole Miss series, the second-longest football series for LSU.

The conference standings are interesting. The standings on my site are only looking at the top 40.

There are FIVE SEC teams (LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky) in numbers 41-55, however. The winner of LSU and Ole Miss at the very least should join the top 40 next week, which would help the SEC assuming no one else falls out. Although it may help in traditional polls, the unexpected bye weeks did not help LSU and Florida in my ratings.

The ACC is higher in those standings because it has a mass of four teams (Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, U. Miami, and Georgia Tech) between 26 and 37.

This is also useful background for why Clemson came ahead of Alabama in the computer ratings. I am keeping Alabama #1, however, since if the Tide win next week they will certainly be #1. I had said I THOUGHT Alabama would be the natural #1 this week, but beating an undefeated team is better than beating a one-loss team. Also, Alabama isn’t as far from #1 now as they were last week. Clemson is idle next week, so they would be unlikely to remain #1. Texas A&M with a win could be #1, but I can’t be sure.

Alabama will look to continue its success at Tennessee as the Tide return home to host the Texas A&M Aggies.

Alabama will look to continue its success at Tennessee as the Tide return home to host the Texas A&M Aggies.

Given how high Penn St. is right now, Ohio St. may jump Michigan with a win next week; but I would not expect the Buckeyes to compete for #1 just yet. However, since Alabama has a bye week and Texas A&M plays New Mexico St. on the 22nd, Ohio St. could be playing for the #1 spot in the next two or three weeks.

The #1 spot is the only change I’ve made to the formula and the only change I plan to make going forward. I anticipate that regardless of what happens, I will follow my formula for #1 at the latest after the games of November 5 when Ohio St. will play Nebraska. Also on that date Alabama plays LSU, Texas A&M plays Mississippi St., Michigan plays Maryland, and Clemson (after playing Florida St. the week before) plays Syracuse.

I know Tennessee is oddly high for a two-loss team, but the Vols have had the best schedule by far to this point after playing four ranked teams in consecutive weeks. However, none of their future opponents are currently ranked and none have been ranked since early last season. Tennessee’s next three weeks are South Carolina, bye, and Tennessee Tech. Many teams will have the opportunity to pass them up during this time. I don’t envy the Tennessee coaching staff’s job in trying to keep the team motivated, so a loss in one of the remaining games is quite possible (November SEC opponents are Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt). Despite that, there aren’t huge point opportunities.

I’m still waiting on someone else to surpass the three-team “mid-major” group, but it may take a couple of weeks. The absence of another major team is one reason Tennessee did not lose a spot on this blog (although they were one spot higher in the computer last week). This could change on October 29, when Nebraska will play Wisconsin, Florida St. will play Clemson (as mentioned), and Washington will play Utah.

West Virginia, the Big XII’s best hope (in the near future anyway), may help itself with wins in the next two weeks, and the winner of Arkansas and Auburn should move up into that range as well.

rank/team/prev
1 Alabama 1
2 Clemson 4
3 Texas A&M 3
4 Michigan 2
5 Ohio St. 5
6 Tennessee 6
7 W. Michigan 9
8 Boise St. 8
9 Houston 13
10 Florida St. 15
11 Nebraska 20
12 N. Carolina 22
13 Washington 7
14 Louisville 24
15 West Virginia 17
16 Penn St. 11
17 Utah 21
18 Pittsburgh —
19 Oklahoma —
20 Stanford 19
21 Navy 12
22 Arkansas —
23 Auburn 25
24 Washington St. —
25 South Florida —

Full 128

Out of rankings: (10) Wake Forest, (14) Arizona St., (16) Wisconsin, (18) Virginia Tech, (23) Air Force

Post-Game Comments and Week 4 Top 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 3 College Football Preview

In College Football, Preview on September 16, 2016 at 6:54 PM

Mississippi St. cowbell from the days when they regularly beat LSU.

Mississippi St. cowbell from the days when they regularly beat LSU.

LSU-Mississippi St. Rivalry blog (updated annually). Reminder that this is LSU’s most-played series.

So there are a couple of big games in the middle of the country – Michigan St.-Notre Dame and Ohio St.-Oklahoma – and one on either coast – USC-Stanford and Florida St.-Louisville.

FSU
lu
This is probably Florida St.’s toughest road test all year in their first ACC game. I’ve been a Louisville skeptic to this point; but the Cardinals were up 21-0 at one point two years ago, so good teams can have trouble visiting Louisville.  This would make a good baseball match-up too, come to think of it.

ohio st
okla
Ohio St. isn’t in conference, but the Buckeyes will have one of a few big tests in Norman. Later in the season, they will have trips to Wisconsin, Penn St., and Michigan St. This is why I thought they might have a few losses this season. I certainly suspected going into the year that this game would be one of them, but now I’m not so sure. Chances are inexperienced teams lose such games, but on paper Oklahoma should have beaten Houston, so who knows?

michsu
notre-dame1
I’ve also been a Notre Dame skeptic, and I’m not quite sure why they’re ranked, but at least for a few hours maybe they’ll be ranked roughly correctly if they win. The Irish are playing at home though, so you can’t say they don’t have a chance even though I believe Michigan St. has the better team.

usc
stanford
USC has had trouble with Stanford over the years even when they’ve had a better team, and going to Stanford is an additional challenge. The Trojans did win there two years ago despite themselves, but they lost the previous two games there. USC also lost to Stanford last year, so this is an opportunity to take a big step forward. The Trojans have been expected to return to the glory days many times in recent years, but it hasn’t materialized.

There are a couple of other interesting games involving Pac-12 teams, but not quite as compelling and not conference games. Oregon-Nebraska is a top-25-adjacent matchup. Oregon was near the top of football a bit more recently, but this would also be a really strong win for them in the effort to go back. Another is Texas-Cal. I don’t think Cal is a good team, but Texas needs to do well to back up its ranking.

I think the SEC (see my SEC Wednesday entry for more) will continue to have more unknowns than knowns. For instance, if LSU wins, it won’t really prove much. If Miss St. wins, then they’re just inconsistent; although 2-0 in conference is always a good way to start.

If Ole Miss beats Bama (the only game between two ranked teams), it would be a big deal; but I’d be pretty shocked by that. A&M at Auburn is a good test for both teams, but they both have so far to go from last season, it won’t prove either is going to compete for the West.

Post-Game Comments and Week 3 Top 25

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

Inter-conference Play and LSU Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conference Report Week 1

In College Football, Conference Reports on September 11, 2015 at 3:07 PM

The new inter-conference week doesn’t start until Utah/Utah St. tonight.  A formerly WAC and Mountain West and currently Pac-12 team against a formerly WAC and Sun Belt and currently Mountain West team.

Louisiana Tech, a former WAC team, is now in the same conference as Western Kentucky, a former Sun Belt team, so that was not an interconference game last night.

A couple of disclaimers and reminders.  In these conference reports, I basically evaluate each conference as if it were a team.  For instance, “team SEC” beat Wisconsin when Alabama beat Wisconsin, and “team Big Ten” lost to Alabama.  So the SEC gets credit for beating Wisconsin just like a team would.  I don’t treat them as “generic Big Ten team”.  So even though only one week has passed, it’s almost like evaulating one season for a team against another since I believe only one conference game has been played.

Another thing to point out is this is NOT picking the conference who has the best team on average.  Alabama can go 0-8 in the SEC, and the important thing is it got that big non-conference win.  Baylor is apparently a very good team, but how good they are won’t matter too much in these because they don’t appear to have any quality non-conference opponents.

Also, records are against FBS opponents unless otherwise indicated.

I always liked this version of the logo.

I always liked this version of the logo.

The SEC was the unquestionable top conference of week 1, going 10-1 with wins over Wisconsin, Arizona St., Louisville, and North Carolina.  The only loss was to that Western Kentucky team I just mentioned.  The Hilltoppers beat Vanderbilt by two points after the SEC ’Doremats failed on a late two-point conversion attempt.  According to most gambling sources, Vandy either beat the spread or came out even, so while it would have been nice for the SEC to get that win, it’s not a huge problem that it didn’t.

The only record by a P5 conference (those are SEC, Big Ten, Big XII, ACC, and Pac-12) that came close was that of the 5-1 Big XII.  But the ten teams of the XII only combined to beat one major-conference opponent.  This was TCU’s win over Minnesota.  The other major opponent was when Texas lost to Notre Dame.  The other four wins were nothing special: SMU, Central Michigan, Akron, and Georgia Southern (which just became a full member of the Sun Belt after being in FCS and a transitional year).  Also, that record is not counting the fact that Kansas lost to FCS South Dakota St.  So even if Kansas is the Vanderbilt equivalent, losing to Western Kentucky is probably better than losing to South Dakota St.

The Mountain West went 2-1 with wins over Washington, and Colorado, but they also lost to an FCS team (Wyoming to North Dakota).  I can’t fault UNLV (another possible worst-in-conference team) much for losing to Northern Illinois.

The only other conference with a winning record was the CUSA at 5-4.  The CUSA did not beat any impressive teams, although it was a surprise that FIU beat Central Florida (which is now and American Conference [AAC] team).  The two wins over P5 teams were over Purdue and Vanderbilt, who are possibly the worst teams in their respective conferences.

The ACC is last among the power conferences, although it didn’t really do anything wrong, but there should have been a toss-up or something close where they won.  The only one where the ACC should have had a chance was North Carolina vs. South Carolina (in Charlotte); and the Tar Heels were respectable competition, but they didn’t win.  I can’t hold the losses by Virginia to UCLA, by Virginia Tech to Ohio St., and by Louisville to Auburn against the conference to any large extent.

The Pac-12 was relatively disappointing.  Arizona St. was supposed to be one of the best teams in the conference (based on returning starters anyway), and Stanford was supposed to be a sleeper team in the North Division.  So those losses (to Texas A&M and Northwestern, respectively) are worse than the ACC losses.  As for the wins, they are: Michigan (Utah probably isn’t great, so this is a positive), Virginia (which UCLA should have won easily anyway), UTSA (which Arizona should have won easily and didn’t), and Arkansas St. (by USC in a blowout that was expected).  Colorado might be the worst team in the Pac-12, but Hawaii was certainly a winnable game.  Also, another contender for worst in the Pac-12 is WSU, which certainly should have beaten Portland St.

So I mentioned two big wins by the Big Ten above, but there were somehow six losses.  They were all fairly excusable though.  Michigan and Minnesota put up a good fight in games few expected them to win (I picked Michigan, but hard to win on the road against a P5 opponent with four turnovers), and Nebraska of course lost the heart-breaker to BYU.  The other two wins were against MAC teams that probably won’t even be competitive in that conference, but still I think there were more positives than negatives despite the losing record.

Since we’re down to three independents, I’m not going to go into those as a category this year.  They don’t even play one another, so it’s hard to take pride in each other’s accomplishments, which is kind of the point of this. You might not be happy if your team goes 8-5, but you can take some pride in playing a lot of good teams that did well against other conferences and still making a bowl game.  It was different when Navy was there and played Army and Notre Dame annually, and Notre Dame has also played Army and BYU in recent years (I consider 2010 a recent year anyway).

The rest is mostly just a matter of who had the ugliest losses.  The good news is I mentioned the three relevant FCS losses already.  I’m just going to call it a tie between the MAC and AAC.  On the one hand, the AAC beat Penn St., but on the other hand (as mentioned) it lost to FIU.  The MAC just had vanilla results up and down the line.  Idaho and UNLV are possibly two of the worst teams in the FBS, and I can’t blame them for losing to teams that will likely make bowls.  Illinois and Old Dominion may not, but if the MAC is to beat such teams, EMU (I always wondered why their mascot wasn’t the emus) and Kent St. are probably not going to be the ones to do it.

The Sun Belt went winless (apart from against the FCS), so you can’t really do worse.

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

Week 10 College Football Rankings 2014

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 3, 2014 at 5:05 PM

I’m not waiting for the committee this time. It’s LSU/Alabama week, so I want to give my rankings and move on. I’m going to include the mock BCS standings as I calculate them. They will be the number in parentheses. There are no team logos below because there is only one “new” ranked team (Missouri, which replaces West Virginia), and they were ranked earlier this season.

LSU/Alabama is just one of the big games before the Iron Bowl, but there is a good chance it will be an important game for the national-title race once again.

LSU/Alabama is just one of the big games before the Iron Bowl, but there is a good chance it will be an important game for the national title race once again.

My Top 25
My Rank/BCS/team/prev
1 ( 1 ) Miss. St. 1
2 ( 3 ) Auburn 3
3 ( 2 ) Florida St. 4
4 ( 10 ) Ole Miss 2
5 ( 5 ) Oregon 6
6 ( 4 ) Alabama 5
7 ( 16 ) UCLA 14
8 ( 12 ) Arizona St. 19
9 ( 15 ) Nebraska 8
10 ( 11 ) LSU 7
11 ( 7 ) Kansas St. 18
12 ( 6 ) TCU 17
13 ( 8 ) Notre Dame 11
14 ( 26 ) Colo. St. 16
15 ( 13 ) Ohio St. 13
16 ( 9 ) Mich. St. 10
17 ( 22 ) Marshall 9
18 ( 30 ) Boise St. 21
19 ( 17 ) Oklahoma 23
20 ( 19 ) Clemson 20
21 ( 20 ) Arizona 15
22 ( 14 ) Baylor 22
23 ( 23 ) Duke 24
24 ( 25 ) Missouri —
25 ( 18 ) Georgia 12

Full 128 computer ratings

Other teams who would have at least some BCS points:
42 ( 21 ) Utah —
31 ( 24 ) W. Virginia 25
29 ( 27 ) Wisconsin —
32 ( 28 ) TX A&M —
28 ( 29 ) USC —
26 ( 31 ) Ga. Tech —
33 ( 32 ) Florida —
30 ( 33 ) Minnesota —
35 ( 34 ) Louisville —
43 ( 35 ) Iowa —
49 ( 36 ) Stanford —
48 ( 37 ) E. Carolina —
50 ( 38 ) Cincinnati —
27 ( 39 ) U. Miami —

Earlier rankings:
Preseason
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9

Comments
Once again, I’m going to have to ask for some patience in Ole Miss going down in the rankings. They have Presbyterian next week and a bye the week after that, so they’ll possibly fall several spots in that time. (LSU, for instance, fell three spots after taking off this past weekend alone. Marshall and Michigan St. fell much more.) The following week, the Rebels play Arkansas, so someone else could also pass them after that week as well.

Why are they so high right now? Other than only having had one bye week, Ole Miss has the 4th-best schedule right now.

The Rebels beat Alabama, which rates as the second-best win by any team this season right now. The best win is Mississippi St.’s win over Auburn. As you might guess, apart from Mississippi St., the best (or least-bad) team to lose to is Auburn.

Speaking of Auburn, if you’ve ever said to yourself, “I’d like to watch Gus Malzahn break dance,” today is your lucky day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFvqdQnWu9I

Anyway, if I were just making it up from scratch, Ole Miss would be somewhere around #10, so I’m going to go through the top 10 and explain why Ole Miss is higher than each team in my ratings at the moment.

I’m not going to comment on every team’s prospect for moving ahead of Ole Miss, but the first two are particularly relevant.

LSU isn’t one of the top few teams to lose to, but they’re much better than Arizona, which beat #5 Oregon. Oregon is very close to Ole Miss in points though, so I would expect them to easily pass up the Rebels with a win next week.

#6 Alabama has beaten none of the top 5 teams of the West yet, so that’s why they can’t be ahead of Ole Miss right now. Beating LSU would change that. Not only would it be a decent increase in points, but it would hurt Ole Miss more for losing to LSU. (Losses hurt more than wins help.)

#7 UCLA also has two losses (one of them to Utah), so they certainly don’t have a strong argument to be ahead of Ole Miss.

#8 Arizona St. only has one loss, but when your best win is over USC, you don’t belong ahead of a team with Ole Miss’s résumé.

#9 Nebraska is another one-loss team that just doesn’t have the wins to compete with Ole Miss right now. The Huskers did beat Miami (which is no Alabama), but the quality of wins decreases rapidly from there.

#10 LSU needs another big win. They have Ole Miss (which counts for less than Alabama) and Wisconsin (which counts for less than Boise St.) but really not much after that. Kentucky and Florida don’t rate very highly due to their records, and it’s harder to have the same strength of schedule playing in the East, especially when neither team has played a good out-of-conference opponent yet. Ole Miss beat Texas A&M, for instance, which has a better record than either of LSU’s SEC East opponents and rates a good bit higher. The Aggies wouldn’t necessarily beat the Wildcats or Gators, but it makes sense that they have a higher rating right now.

Ole Miss went from being ahead of Mississippi St. in my ratings to being 0.25 behind the Bulldogs in the last two weeks, it just so happens there weren’t many teams in between ready to move up. Rating-wise, they’re as close to Mississippi St. as they are to Colorado St. now. It’s just not translating from ratings to rankings yet.

Along with the top teams of the Pac-12 (mentioned above), the top teams of the Big XII are moving up. Kansas St. plays TCU next week, so the winner will probably find itself well into the top 10. The Big XII doesn’t have that much depth in my formula though, so if it’s TCU, they’ll probably go down from there (Kansas, bye, Texas, Iowa St.). Kansas St. can still finish undefeated in the Big XII (they lost to Auburn out of conference) and still has WVU and Baylor to play, so I believe they would be the stronger candidate for the top 4 by winning out.

Notre Dame finally has a chance to make a move by beating Arizona St. Louisville and USC (later this month) won’t be bad additions to the resume either.

Everyone lower down lacks a great schedule at this point. I know this because there are no 3-loss teams in my top 25.

Colorado St. has a better rating than Marshall or Boise St., but the Broncos (with two losses overall) hold the tie-breaker in the Mountain West, so picking the “best of the rest” team might be tricky.

Like the TCU/KSU game, Ohio St. and Michigan St. should produce a team that can move up and do well. Unlike that game, both teams have competitive opponents coming up and neither has a bye week. If Nebraska keeps winning, that would help the winner of the Big Ten East even more down the road if they end up winning the Big Ten title game.

Oklahoma would get a big boost by beating Baylor, but there is not much left for the Sooners points-wise after that.

I don’t expect a big move upward by Clemson. Other than Florida St., the ACC Atlantic doesn’t have much to offer as far as potential points. Georgia Tech and a South Carolina team that will probably finish .500 are the best left on the purple and orange Tigers’ schedule. I certainly don’t see Florida St. losing twice, which Clemson would need to happen to make the ACC title game.
Arizona can still influence things with game against Washington, Utah, and Arizona St. Making the Pac-12 title game certainly isn’t out of the question. It seems like apart from Colorado, anyone in the Pac-12 South can easily beat anyone else.

I mentioned Baylor. The Bears still have Oklahoma and Kansas St. left, so they can still win the Big XII.

Duke looks like a good-but-not-great divisional winner again.

Lastly, no one wants to win the SEC East, it seems, but Missouri has a one-game advantage right now. The black and gold Tigers would lose the tie-breaker if it’s a two-way tie with the Bulldogs though. Texas A&M appears to be Missouri’s toughest test left, while Georgia still has to play Kentucky (on the road) and Auburn before closing the regular season with non-conference games.

This has nothing to do with anything, but I get multiple hits every day from some guy who obviously has poor internet searching skills and wants to know about what Texas A&M did in 1965 (something about their only conference win), so I’m just going to paste that whole season. Houston wasn’t in the SWC yet, so I guess it was Rice.
9/18 @ Louisiana State (8-3) L 0 10
9/25 @ Georgia Tech (7-3-1) W 14 10
10/2 @ *Texas Tech (8-3) L 16 20
10/9 vs. Houston (4-5-1) W 10 7
10/16 @ *Texas Christian (6-5) L 9 17
10/23 vs. *Baylor (5-5) L 0 31
10/30 vs. *Arkansas (10-1) L 0 31 @ Little Rock, AR
11/6 vs. *Southern Methodist (4-5-1) L 0 10
11/13 @ *Rice (2-8) W 14 13
11/25 vs. *Texas (6-4) L 17 21

Week 9 College Football Rankings 2014

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 28, 2014 at 6:17 PM

I’m going to do things a little differently this week. To avoid confusion, I’m omitting last week’s rankings from the chart (I will discuss movement of teams in the discussion below). I’m listing my top 25 in order and to the right, I’m first listing the college football playoff top 25, followed by a mock BCS (I’ll just call it BCS from now on since there is no “real” BCS ranking anymore) ranking.

There are 36 teams that got at least some level of points under this approximated BCS system, so I’ll mention those who aren’t in my top 25 afterward.

The BCS formula can’t be completely replicated because there is no longer a Harris poll, and one of the computer systems (Massey) no longer lists ratings that comply with BCS rules, which included a ban on any consideration for margin of victory. I think I’ve made a pretty good approximation by using the AP poll and Massey’s “normal” ratings.

At least we can all agree on #1.

At least we can all agree on #1.

My Top 25
Rank/team/CFP/BCS

1 Miss. St. 1 , 1
2 Ole Miss 4 , 6
3 Auburn 3 , 4
4 Florida St. 2 , 2
5 Alabama 6 , 3
6 Oregon 5 , 5
7 LSU 19 , 13
8 Nebraska 15 , 17
9 Marshall — , 23
10 Mich. St. 8 , 8
11 Notre Dame 10 , 7
12 Georgia 11 , 9
13 Ohio St. 16 , 15
14 UCLA 22 , 24
15 Arizona 12 , 16
16 Colo. St. — , (27)
17 TCU 7 , 11
18 Kansas St. 9 , 10
19 Arizona St. 14 , 12
20 Clemson 21 , 20
boise-state-logo
21 Boise St. — , (31)
22 Baylor 13 , 14
23 Oklahoma 18 , 19
24 Duke 24 , 25
WVU
25 W. Virginia 20 , 21

Out of my top 25: (11) Minnesota, (21) USC

My full list of FBS teams

These are all other teams that would have received some level of points in the BCS system (same format as above; if they’re completely unranked, they’re omitted):

26. Missouri –, 29
27. Ga. Tech –, 34
28. Minnesota –, 33
29. USC –, 28
30. Louisville 25, 35
31. East Carolina 23, 22
34. Wisconsin –. 30
36. Texas A&M –, 26
38. Stanford –, 32
40. Okla. St. –, 36

Explanation and future rankings

I don’t have time for too much editorializing, but before seeing these I already thought it was an oversight not to have a system that was at least partially objective. I’m not going to judge the whole thing on one rankings list, but based on what I see here, I would have preferred to keep something like the BCS formula and pick the top four from that.

I know people who don’t understand how my system works won’t be happy with these. Last week, Ole Miss was technically #1, but I just didn’t rank them as such on my blog because I wanted to see if they would beat LSU before taking that step. I’m glad I made that choice.

Anyway, the question remains: how do they only lose one spot? I even thought I might have made a mistake, but I’ll explain.

The first thing I wanted to mention is they’re actually #4, behind Auburn and Florida St. (who have had two byes apiece) if you divide the overall rating by playing weeks.

It also helps that Ole Miss started out a large distance over #3. A normal distance from one team to the next is about 0.02. Ole Miss was 0.12 ahead of last week’s (computer) #3, Florida St. Losing to LSU only subtracts 0.09 from Ole Miss’s score. Ole Miss still goes from 0.04 ahead of Mississippi St. to 0.14 behind. For context, in last week’s ratings, 0.14 was approximately the distance between #6 Oregon and #16 LSU. There just aren’t teams between the two in this case.

Just as an aside, this week LSU was only 0.04 short of the Ducks.

With Florida St.’s bye week (most teams lose at least one spot in a bye week), Ole Miss was able to stay ahead and Auburn was able to pass them up. I understand one may object to two one-loss teams being ahead of Florida St., but at the end of last regular season there was just one, and at the end of this year there will likely be one. Someone has to lose Auburn-Ole Miss next week. It’s not guaranteed Mississippi St. will get past Alabama and Ole Miss. Also, someone has to lose between Alabama and Auburn. Auburn also has to play Georgia. So there are plenty of future opportunities on here for Florida St. to move back up.

Even if Ole Miss beats Auburn next week, they will then have a lull in points. They play Presbyterian College the following week, followed by a bye. Florida St.’s opponents of Louisville, Virginia, and U. Miami should pick them up a bit relative to Ole Miss.

Alabama plays LSU and Mississippi St. on the 8th and 15th, respectively, but next week they have a bye week, and on the 22nd they play Western Carolina (while Florida St. will play Boston College that week).

Once again, Auburn is a potential one-loss team that Florida St. may have trouble catching. Florida St. could be no better than third if both Auburn and Mississippi St. win out. Auburn would have a bye week during the championships in that scenario, but a win over Georgia to go along with the SEC West wins would still be difficult to overcome. If South Carolina and Kansas St. win the rest of their games, Auburn would have a very large number of points from those as well.

My computer ratings are a lot more fluid than the polls. I’ll give a couple of examples.

When I had Alabama ahead of Auburn last week, that clearly did not mean that if both won they’d remain in the same positions. The teams are basically in a race. If you’re ahead in a race and neither you nor your opponent fall down, you’re not guaranteed to finish ahead.

Also, I said that teams playing tough opponents can pass up Marshall. Even though LSU was 9 spots behind, they did just that with the win over Ole Miss. Granted, many teams would have to win two games instead of one to make that distance, but it’s not as difficult to move up as it would be in the polls. Nebraska was 7 spots behind Marshall and also passed up the Herd by beating Rutgers.

Marshall has a bye next week so will most likely be passed up by even more teams. Michigan St. is also idle, but then Sparty will have a good chance the next week against the Buckeyes.
In addition to Kansas St., it’s also helped the SEC West that Boise St. (beaten by Ole Miss) and West Virginia (beaten by Alabama) have continued to move up. Both are now in the top 25. Wisconsin (beaten by LSU) is one of the next 10 teams out.

Also, SEC West teams have now swept three of the top five SEC East teams, Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina. Georgia has the only win against the SEC West by any team in college football from outside of the SEC West, but the Bulldogs will play Auburn in a couple of weeks. Missouri has yet to play an SEC West team. Not that it helps much, but Tennessee was also swept by the SEC West, and Vanderbilt lost one and has one to play (against Miss. St.).

The top five teams of the SEC West are still undefeated against all outsiders. As mentioned, there are some really quality wins over those outsiders. LSU is the only one of the five who has lost twice within the group, but that’s about to change with the Auburn-Ole Miss game.

Earlier rankings:
Preseason
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8

I almost forgot to mention I’m now on twitter @TheBayouBlogger