theknightswhosay

Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico St.’

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

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SEC Wednesday #9

In College Football, General LSU, SEC Wednesdays on October 26, 2016 at 5:36 PM

Last Week

The line I saw had Alabama favored by 19 even, so I guess that’s the first tie. There were some bookies that had Alabama a 19.5-point favorite briefly, but I’m not going to claim that I decided based on that.

I was right about UMass again. I guess people just keep looking at their record and figuring they’ll get blown out. It seems like someone would catch on. Sometimes I wish I lived in Las Vegas.

I got Missouri clearly wrong. I knew they might allow some points, but I’m a bit shocked by how many. Vanderbilt scored 47 against the Blue Raiders, and the Commodores usually have a much less productive offense than the Tigers, so I thought Mizzou could win a shootout by at least a touchdown.

Arkansas keeps me guessing too. I didn’t think Auburn was that much better than Ole Miss, but sometimes Auburn just knocks you down early and keeps going. That happened to LSU a couple of years ago on the Plains. I was confident Auburn was going to lose another conference game after they beat LSU, but now I’m less confident. If someone manages to beat Alabama, we could have a very interesting SEC West race.

I beat the spread either way with Kentucky, but it was nice to be right about the win as well when the Wildcats hit the winning field goal. Some LSU fans wanted to hire Dan Mullen a couple of years ago, but he’s having all kinds of trouble this season. The Bulldogs were lucky to even have a chance to win really, because Kentucky had a first and goal up 10 in the fourth quarter before a fumble was returned all the way to the other end zone for a State touchdown.

I’m going to be interested to see how many SEC teams can make bowl games. Kentucky and Vanderbilt are only two wins away from bowl eligibility apiece. It’s not looking good for Mississippi St. or Missouri, but South Carolina might still have a chance.

Vanderbilt won. It wasn’t pretty, but it counts as a win. I don’t pick a line for FCS opponents.

Once again, I felt pretty good about my LSU pick at halftime. I guess I’ll have to take the points in two weeks, although I certainly lived to regret doing that with Alabama last year. LSU and Alabama have each beaten the game-time spread in three consecutive games.

I didn't get a shot of the live stats, but this was the peak of Fournette's yards per carry on a school-record-breaking night.  This is also potentially relevant to the Ole Miss-Auburn game next week.

I didn’t get a shot of the live stats, but this was the peak of Fournette’s yards per carry on a school-record-breaking night. This is also potentially relevant to the Ole Miss-Auburn game next week.

I’m not shocked that LSU had some long TD plays, but I am shocked that we shut them out in the second half. Last year was so brutal when they had the ball, and having watched the Alabama game, I knew they were capable again this year. We were lucky to hold them to field goals a couple of times in the first half. I don’t know where our second half on defense came from, but maybe it’s the new practice schedule. We are much fresher in the late third and early fourth quarter than we used to be. (I don’t know about the late fourth since the second string was in, but I’m guessing we’ll see next game.)

So I was 2-3-1 against the spread. The only winner I didn’t get was Middle Tennessee, so 6-1 in that category. My records are now 59-11 and 28-32-1 against the spread.

SEC WED

Next Week

I think Kentucky has been playing with a bit of an edge, and Missouri has been playing poorly, so I don’t understand Missouri being favored by 5.5. Like last week, I’m going to take the points and Kentucky to win. All of Kentucky’s SEC wins have been close, so I don’t expect it to be a runaway though.

Florida is favored by 7.5 against Georgia. Georgia has been very up and down, but I think they play up and down depending on the opponent. I’m taking the Bulldogs and the points, but I guess Florida is more likely to win.

I’m picking Mississippi St. to beat Samford, but it could be close. Samford plays in a good FCS conference and is 6-1. No line.

Ole Miss is playing at home, and of course that’s an advantage. I don’t think they stay within 4.5 points of Auburn though. I don’t think Auburn accomplishes anything close to last week, but winning by 7 or more seems very likely. Before LSU, Ole Miss lost to Arkansas, Auburn’s victim last week. Auburn may not have someone to run for 70 yards at a time (although WR Eli Stone did run for 78 in one play), but I don’t see the Rebel defensive front showing up all of a sudden to stop all the weapons Auburn has on the ground.

Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway runs over an Arkansas defender on the way to the goal line.  Pettway rushed for 192 of the Tigers' 543 rushing yards on Saturday.

Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway runs over an Arkansas defender on the way to the goal line. Pettway rushed for 192 of the Tigers’ 543 rushing yards on Saturday.

Georgia won @ South Carolina by 14, albeit after running back an onsides kick after a touchdown. I don’t see why Tennessee shouldn’t do as well or better after a bye week. The line is 13.5.

It’s really hard to judge the Texas A&M/New Mexico St. line of 43.5. The NMSU Aggies aren’t good, but I think they’re a good bit better than Prairie View, which lost 67-0. (Prairie View is an A&M school as well; this is all very confusing.) I expect the margin of victory to be somewhere between the 21 points by which TAMU beat Arkansas and the 67 points by which they beat Prairie View; but that doesn’t help, so I have to look more at the opponent.

Since upsetting New Mexico and nearly beating the 19.5-point spread against Kentucky, NMSU has had a couple of bad losses, to Troy by 46 and to Idaho by 32. So my guess is TAMU will beat the spread even though there are a variety of things than can stop a team from winning by over 40. Recent years don’t always help, but I think it’s also instructive that NMSU lost to Florida by 48 and Ole Miss by 45 last year. Also, LSU won by 56 two years ago. For perspective, LSU only scored 10 points in their win over Ole Miss that season.

SEC Wednesday #4: Recap and Predictions

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on September 21, 2016 at 8:37 PM

I know this is late, but it’s SEC Wednesday, not Thursday. For reference, here is the previous edition.

Finally doing this on an actual Wednesday.

Finally doing this on an actual Wednesday.

Two of the games were looking really good factoring in the spread, but as I mentioned previously, LSU had a late fourth-down conversion that was controversially reversed on replay. This led to a Mississippi St. touchdown, which led to an on-sides kick for 30 yards, which led to another touchdown. The other Mississippi team did something similar with scoring after an on-sides kick to beat the spread as well. So without that I’m .500 against the spread, which is where you want to be. A lot of these bets are not ones I would actually take. Maybe I should try just doing a selection of them if this doesn’t turn around.

I did get a little lucky on one when Kentucky decided to play defense in the fourth quarter against New Mexico St. The Wildcats only beat the spread by half a point.

I got Tennessee right. I thought they were going to have a bit of a letdown against Ohio U. after the strong win over Virginia Tech, and that looks like exactly what happened.

Otherwise, the only one I got right was Florida. North Texas can’t do much against SEC defenses, but I guess their defense can do all right (at least if all right means giving up fewer points than the entire spread is). The Mean Green has been outscored 56-0 over the last two games against the SEC though. North Texas has been shut out 3 times since 2011, all at the hands of SEC opponents.

Auburn haunted me last year and tripped me up last week.  I hope they take a day off.

Auburn haunted me last year and tripped me up last week. I hope they take a day off.

I still can’t make much sense of Auburn. Other than the two fluke good seasons (and if I recall correctly even those were not easily predictable against the spread), they’re consistently inconsistent. John Chavis (now at Texas A&M) won the battle of former LSU defensive coordinators, but next week current LSU DC Dave Aranda gets a crack at his immediate predecessor on the Plains. He’s had an interesting September.

Another former LSU coordinator is head coach at South Carolina now, and I was surprised they managed to beat East Carolina. I guess the Gamecocks have done pretty well against other teams from the Carolinas in recent years. It’s nice when an SEC team who hasn’t been doing very well in conference can win a game like that, but it’s even nicer when you see it coming.

The only game I didn’t touch on was Arkansas against Texas St. Like I said last week, it’s hard to predict when a blowout is coming. They could have just as easily had a close game against Texas St. and won easily over Louisiana Tech.

I was 8-2 in picking winners but only 3-7 against the sprea. So now I’m 30-5 in picking winners and 14-15 against the spread for the season.

I was initially unsure what to do with Alabama against Kent St. since I think they’re overdue for a solid game in all aspects.  It is Nick Saban’s alma mater. I wonder if that might allow him to take the foot off the gas in the second half. I’m not a fan of his, but he had a very humanizing moment this week in talking about the Kent St. shooting in 1970 that left four students dead. He wasn’t present at the scene, but he was on campus around that time. The Golden Flashes lost to a really bad team in Week 2 but had respectable showing against Penn St. in Week 1. Maybe they get up for the challenge. 44 points is a lot, so I’ll take Kent St. Alabama to win obviously.

Ole Miss is favored by 7 over Georgia in an intriguing inter-divisional matchup. Georgia has been disappointing, but they like to play close games. I don’t expect Ole Miss will be very well-rested and energetic after Saturday, so against my first inclination, I’ll take the Bulldogs and the points. Ole Miss to win though. Kirby can only dodge so many bullets, right?

I almost feel sorry for Tennessee fans and their struggles with Florida. If not now, when? But that’s what I said about LSU-Alabama and Florida-Kentucky in the last couple of years. I think Tennessee will benefit from having played a tough opponent already, and I think the crowd will be in full force (it was lackluster most of the time in the first two home games), so I think they will defeat the curse this time. I have to take the points though. I’m almost always for Tennessee in this rivalry, but part of me hopes Tennessee loses just to diffuse the hype and perhaps allow them to sneak up on Alabama. Also, it would look much better for LSU to beat Florida if Florida wins this game.

Mississippi St. @ UMass. Do I look back at South Alabama or will State do what Arkansas did and have a completely different non-conference personality for this one? UMass has played surprisingly well this season. If they only lost by 17 at the Swamp, I struggle to see them losing by 22+ at home. The Bulldog backup QB did well last week, but it usually takes a little luster off when the defense prepares for you.

Missouri is a weird team, but I don’t do point spreads for FCS games. I pick Mizzou to win.

Vandy played Western Kentucky really close last year only losing by 2 at the end. I think they’re at least marginally better this year even though they were terrible against Georgia Tech last week. The ’Dores beat Middle Tennessee by 23. I don’t think the Blue Raiders and Hilltoppers are that far apart. I will pick the Hilltoppers to win since they’re at home though.

3.5 isn’t enough to try to split the difference with LSU. I can’t even countenance LSU losing the game right now, although I never expect an easy time @Auburn. This is Danny Etling’s first road SEC start, but he had several starts in hostile environments when he was at Purdue and doesn’t seem very easily shaken. It was Brandon Harris’s first start period two years ago.

This was the only picture I could find of Danny Etling during his last road start.

This was the only picture I could find of Danny Etling during his last start outside of his home stadium.

That was the only convincing loss by LSU in the series since 2002 (rivalry series blog). LSU lost two controversial games, 10-9 in 2004 and 7-3 in 2006. Then Cam Newton was just a little too good in 2010. Those were vastly different Auburn teams though. So my guess is the game two years ago was an aberration and LSU can do well this time. The Fighting Tigers dominated at home last year.

Kentucky is favored by 2 somehow. I don’t see it. Gamecocks +2 all day long. Sometimes there is some unique bookie insight I’m not privy to, but I’d rather risk suffering in ignorance than outsmart myself out of a win.

The night game is Arkansas @ Texas A&M. The Aggies are coming off a decent win on the Plains, but the Hogs usually play them close and then had a bit of a breather last week. Arkansas with the points but the Aggies to win. I still expect the Aggies to lose a few this year, but not this one. The game went to overtime each of the last two years with A&M winning both. If that happens again, hopefully they only win by 3. I hate when you take a team with the points, they tie over 60 minutes, and then you get screwed in overtime.

SEC Wednesday #3: Recap and Predictions

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on September 14, 2016 at 7:05 PM

The SEC East has me all confused, but at least I picked the right teams to win. I thought Vanderbilt would be the doormat this season, but right now it looks like it will decidedly be Kentucky.

I’m not sure if South Carolina, which beat Vanderbilt in week 1, turned in a poor game or Mississippi St. turned in a good one, but I thought the Gamecocks with the points were a good bet. Nope.

Missouri showed more life than I thought they would, so they’re not looking so doormat-like either. Speaking of the SEC East, I felt really good about my Virginia Tech pick with the points for a quarter or so, but they got destroyed after that.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t pick a Georgia spread.

I predicted the SEC West better even though the numbers were not much better. I was not surprised about Arkansas taking the game into overtime, I just didn’t think they’d win there. Actually, I picked Arkansas to win in a pick ‘em game with some other bloggers, but I didn’t actually pick them to win on here.

I wasn’t really wrong about Alabama, but I got bitten by that last .5.

I made the right pick in Auburn, and of course I got the winning team right in that one too.

Finally doing this on an actual Wednesday.

Finally doing this on an actual Wednesday.

So I was 11-1 in picking winners last week, but only 2-6 against the spread. This brings my totals to 22-3 and 11-8.

I really don’t know about LSU. Etling showed some promise, but his anticipated first game as a starter (although Les doesn’t want to call him that) could be tricky. We don’t really know how Fournette will respond, even if he is fully recovered.

The team who will be on the other sideline, Moo State, had one awful week and one respectable one. If it were LSU vs. a consistent SEC team, I’d pick the other team. I guess since both of Bulldog games were at home and they’re still pretty inexperienced, I’ll pick LSU to win -14.

Dak Prescott converts a key third-down play in 2014 as State got its first win in Baton Rouge since  1991.

Dak Prescott converts a key third-down play in 2014 as State got its first win in Baton Rouge since 1991.

The SEC home opener went pretty well last year after all (even though I swore it would be close before), 45-21 over Auburn; but LSU also had that lead at the half. Mississippi St. may be better than that Auburn team, but LSU should be better than they were last year.

Tennessee has already had its home opener and probably won’t have their peak motivation this week, so I’ll take the Ohio Bobcats and 27.5. Watch the Vols win by 28 just to annoy me. Ohio beat Kansas fairly comfortably, although Lawrence is no comparison to Knoxville.

Georgia Tech beat Mercer by 25 and only beat Boston College by 3. I think BC and Vandy are similar, so I’ll take the ’Dores +6.5, but the Wreck to win at home. I was pleasantly surprised by Vandy’s level of play the first two weeks, but they still don’t look like winners yet.

Ole Miss hasn’t impressed me for the last 93 minutes of game play, and Alabama isn’t a good team to find your footing against. It’s a good line, but I’m thinking 11+ points is more likely than 10 or less, so I have to pick Alabama -10.5. I hope I’m wrong. Saban was in an “ass-chewing” mood after last week’s performance, so I expect they’ll tidy (get it, Tide-y) things up this week. The motivation is there.

East Carolina looked pretty good, and South Carolina certainly did not. I have to pick the Pirates +3, although second-tier SEC teams at home are usually good bets.

Kentucky disappointed me last week, but the NMSU Aggies will probably have a hangover from the exciting win over the Lobos. It is at Kentucky, so I’ll take the Wildcats -19.5. I think they’ll want to let out some frustration. If it’s close, Mark Stoops needs to quit during the post-game press conference to give someone else a chance. Alabama in two weeks could be embarrassing.

Thirty-six-and-a-half is just too many for Florida against North Texas. I expect the Gators will not be particularly up for the game. North Texas only won a single game last year, but they only lost to Tennessee by 24. I expect similar, but even an extra touchdown and field goal wouldn’t cover the spread.

I feel the same about Arkansas-Texas St. TSU won the battle of bobcats in Week 1 and had a week off to prepare while Arkansas played the aforementioned crazy game against TCU. Arkansas only beat Louisiana Tech by 1. They could go undefeated with close wins at this rate, but beating a not-terrible team by 31 I’m not so sure about. The kinds of lines drive me crazy though. It’s just hard to predict whether a team is in the mood to beat down an inferior team.

Georgia RB Nick Chubb fumbles against Nicholls St.

Georgia RB Nick Chubb fumbles against Nicholls St.

Speaking of playing inferior teams, Georgia (who only beat Nicholls St. by 2) was much worse than I expected while Mizzou was better than I expected, but I think that’s factored into the line of only 6.5. I would predict Georgia to win by some number in the teens.

I actually forgot Texas A&M-Auburn.  I’ll pick Auburn to win.  Three-and-a-half isn’t enough to change that, although it very well could make the difference on the field.  I think A&M beat UCLA because it was in Texas, and this is a team of similar quality at home.  Auburn has played two decent games.

Week 2 SEC Preview and Other Key Games

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

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

SEC WED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 2 Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEC Wednesday #2

In College Football, Post-game, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on October 7, 2015 at 5:21 PM
I'm hardly a visual computer artist, but you get the idea.

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

Last week’s results and comments

I had a much better week this time.  I was 7-2 in picking results and 6-2 against the spread.  This brings my overall records to 13-5 and 9-7.

I’ll start with the ones I got wrong.  I should have gone with my gut on LSU.  Instead, I looked up a bunch of results from this year and last year and convinced myself LSU would suddenly score a bunch of points like they did against teams like New Mexico St. last year.

The only other one I got wrong was Texas A&M-Mississippi St.  I thought the Bulldogs were good enough to keep it close like Arkansas did.  But I was mildly surprised by Arkansas’s win over Tennessee, so the Hogs may not be so bad after all.  Tennessee is apparently awful at winning close games though.

Other than Arkansas, the only winner I got wrong was Florida.  I thought they got a bit lucky to beat Kentucky and Tennessee, but they didn’t let luck even come into play against Ole Miss.  Maybe the Rebels shouldn’t have left their powder-blue helmets at home this time.

South Carolina and Georgia were significantly worse than I thought they would be.  The Gamecocks usually have at least one good game by this point. Other than a close win over North Carolina and beating the spread against Central Florida (and even in that game it looked pretty bad early), it has been a dismal year for Darth Visor (click the link for the “Rivalry Series” post).

I thought top 10 was a reach for Georgia going into the year, but I thought they would have a good chance in the division. Not if they keep playing like they did against Alabama though.  Last year Florida derailed what looked like a straightforward path to the conference title for the Bulldogs.  It will be interesting to see if UGA turns the tables on the Gators.  If not, I don’t think the SEC championship game will be in the cards.  I’m still not looking past Missouri in the SEC East.  I learned my lesson the last two years.

The other correct pick that surprised me a bit was Kentucky.  I know a little bit about FCS teams, and Eastern Kentucky did not strike me as one capable of pulling off an upset of even a low-tier SEC team. Given that they needed overtime, the Wildcats have to be concerned after the late-season collapse last year that things may be doing downhill again.

Predictions for this weekend

I hate to do this again, but I’m picking a Ole Miss minus 6 touchdowns (43.5 to be exact).  I do not believe that New Mexico St. is good at all.  I mentioned they lost to LSU by 8 touchdowns last year.   Being that Ole Miss beat Fresno St. (most likely a better team, at worst a similar team) by over 50, I have to expect a similarly high number.

Spurrier in Columbia, Mo., last week attempting to encourage his team, which he will have to take back on the road Saturday,

Steve Spurrier in Columbia, Mo., last week attempting to encourage his team, which he will have to take back on the road Saturday.

Now back to LSU.  This would have been an easier pick at South Carolina, but still there is no way I’m giving 18.5 points after what happened with Syracuse.  Eastern Michigan was even on the verge of finishing within that margin in Baton Rouge last Saturday night.  LSU could run away with it like they did with the Auburn game; but unless South Carolina has no fight in them at all this season, I have to consider that unlikely.  I will pick LSU to win, however.  A loss would be embarrassing given the Gamecocks’ prior performances this season, especially with the change of venue.

I will go ahead and side with the favored road team in Knoxville, but Georgia is only favored by three.  I see no reason the Dawgs can’t beat the Vols just as well as the Hogs just did.  The Alabama game wasn’t pretty, but a couple of big plays at the end of the half broke that open.  I don’t see Tennessee getting a long passing play and a punt block like that.

Next, Troy travels to Mississippi St.  Troy’s prior games against P5 teams were losses by 28 (North Carolina St.) and 25 (Wisconsin), respectively.  Troy to lose but by fewer than 30 points.

I’m a little leary about this one, but I’ll take Alabama -16.5.  The Tide beat Wisconsin on a neutral field by 18.  I don’t think Bret Bielema’s current team is better than this former team, and let’s not forget the Hogs lost 52-0 there two years ago.

Finally, I don’t really like the five-point window in Columbia (the Columbia that actually will be having a game), but it’s too many points to take from Florida.  I don’t know how the Gators came up with so many points against Ole Miss, but I am skeptical we’ll see a repeat performance against a good defense on the road.  Florida won at Kentucky by five, so I think they’ll win this one but by fewer than five.

Texas A&M and Vanderbilt shall be resting on their laurels this week after exceeding the oddsmakers’ expectations last week.  Kentucky and Auburn, who have both now needed overtime to beat Ohio Valley Conference (FCS) opponents, are also idle.

What Happened: LSU-Auburn Reaction

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rivalry on October 4, 2014 at 8:00 PM

I’ve added to and updated my LSU-Auburn Rivalry blog.

I guess I should start by giving credit to someone I talk to who goes by scurds. He predicted Auburn would win easily. I’m glad no one offered me LSU +21 (that was his predicted margin of victory for Auburn), because I would have taken it. There is a bit of a caveat to that: he seems to enjoy picking LSU to do poorly, and as you might guess has been wrong a few times. Broken clocks should be congratulated when they are nonetheless correct.

I’m disappointed. Not because it was a loss, which I expected. I ranked Auburn #1 for good reasons, and they were playing at home against a young team that hadn’t really traveled before. I was disappointed that the young men on the field from LSU weren’t given a fair chance to at least make it interesting.

I’m mostly just going to talk about the first half, because Auburn was able to kind of cruise through the second half; and to be honest, I skipped parts of it anyway. Other than losses to Alabama in January 2012 and November 2013, this was the first game where LSU lost by more than 10 since November 2008 against Ole Miss.

I was hopeful after seeing a couple of the upsets and especially seeing how well Mississippi St. handled Texas A&M. At kickoff though, they mentioned that four top-six teams had already lost. This made me even more skeptical about a fifth.

I thought LSU would play a bit better early on. There were a couple of minor mistakes typical in any college game, but the only real criticism I have of the early going (which was mostly just good plays by Auburn) was I thought LSU should have been more aggressive on offense.

They tried all these different looks and were able to execute the previous week (I know it wasn’t a good team, but you could tell the plays had been practiced well), but then they didn’t carry forward anything interesting into this game. What’s the worst that could have happened? Falling behind early and the game being over at halftime? The runs were less up-the-middle and there were a couple of different blocking schemes, but it wasn’t anything creative.

You don’t give a team like that easy running plays to defend. Harris had some early jitters to put it mildly, so I’m not sure if different plays would have kept it from being 17-0 at some point. On the other hand, had they worked, he might have lost those jitters. I just thought they could have tried to use an element of surprise. Playing conservative in the first few possessions hadn’t worked in the games against Wisconsin and Mississippi St. and didn’t work yet again. It was also more of a problem since this was a road game. Auburn, on the other hand, did call plays to keep LSU unbalanced, such as the flea-flicker, which was successful.

Other than that, I don’t blame LSU much for having trouble out of the gate against Auburn (one touchdown resulted from basically a jump ball that Auburn caught; I mentioned the flea-flicker). After LSU scored to get on the board, it was a manageable 17-7 score.

There were then two crucial defensive errors after the LSU kickoff. One was an easy interception that the average senior citizen in a walker could have caught that was dropped. LSU would have most likely gotten at least a field goal had the pass been intercepted (defenses on quick turnarounds after a touchdown drive usually don’t have a three and out). So instead of maybe 17-10, it was 24-7 after a few more plays. Another error was a defensive hands to the face that gave Auburn first and goal around the 5 instead of 3rd and 10 at the 11. That may have made the difference between a field goal for Auburn and the touchdown.

The pieces to the puzzle seem to be on the field, but they’re just not being put together very well, at least not where it does any good. When there is a sense of urgency, Harris has done well. So there needs to be some kind of tempo on the field, but they just can’t get out of the traditional pocket passing type of setup, along with this thing that colleges do way too much where they look to the sidelines for directions and use almost the entire play clock before each play.

For instance, Harris completed a few passes (one was called back) and also ran for 32 yards to put LSU in field goal range at the end of the first half. Don’t ask me why they didn’t call a timeout or try a field goal, but playing like that makes him about 10 times better for some reason. It also seemed to help Jennings both in this game and against Wisconsin. It wasn’t a hurry-up when they put Jennings in this game (late in the third quarter), but they did play with a focus on looking for openings downfield. I continued to be baffled as to why the coaching staff waits for there to be a significant deficit before changing the style of play.

The final Auburn touchdown of the half was poorly defended, but it wasn’t drawn up poorly. I think that’s entirely the result of the defense not getting off the field. In both the Wisconsin and Mississippi St. games, when LSU established a productive offense, the defense shut everything down. Also, even in this game, Auburn only scored 3 points in the first 20+ minutes of the second half. They were trying to get that final touchdown at that point, so I think that’s relevant.

Anyway, LSU should have been behind no more than 14 going into the half and instead they were behind 24. That’s a dramatic difference. Look how quickly Ole Miss came up with the last two touchdowns against Alabama. That’s no joke of a defense either, but three or four scores? That’s not even a game really. (People say it’s three scores, but who goes 3/3 in two-point conversions?)

I knew we had a young team this year, and I’ve expressed disappointment (but not shock) in how slowly both quarterbacks are coming along. It happens though. Experience can do a lot of good and its absense can be clear. The coaches have to give the team a better chance to win though, even if a win still would have been unlikely had things been done well. The halftime score was ultimately the result of a lack of good strategy and leadership.

LSU did have scoring opportunities in the second half, but rather than kicking field goals, they went for it on fourth downs. I would have probably kicked field goals personally just to try to build some momentum, but that’s the least of my complaints.

Trivia and Looking Ahead

Tommy Tuberville remains an unpopular person in Baton Rouge for smoking a cigar on the field after the big Auburn win in 1999.

Tommy Tuberville remains an unpopular person in Baton Rouge for smoking a cigar on the field after the big Auburn win in 1999.

Likely due to those decisions, this is LSU’s worst loss since… Auburn in 1999. LSU lost by an identical score that year when the Fighting Tigers started 0-7 in conference before Gerry DiNardo was relieved of his duties (leading to the hiring of Nick Saban in the following offseason). LSU won by 35 in 2011, so that’s still the biggest win in the series by either team. This is the fifth time Auburn has beaten LSU by more than 20 (49 games dating back to 1901), but it is only the third time since 1938. The closest of the three was by 24 in 1993.

LSU did have five losses of 28 or more since then, but only once was under Les Miles. They were Florida 2000, Florida 2001, Alabama 2002, Georgia 2004, and Florida 2008.

Miles will try to win his 100th game since coming to LSU at Florida next Saturday.

Since the SEC expanded to 12 teams in 1992, LSU has traveled to both Auburn and Florida in every even year. LSU has never won both games and not coincidentally has never won the SEC West in an even year, so this pretty much assures it won’t happen this year either.

Auburn is now the only undefeated SEC team outside of Mississippi, but they have what should be an interesting trip to Starkville next week. Ole Miss will travel to Texas A&M, so there may be only one SEC undefeated after next week.

LSU’s “Scrimmage” Game in Preparation for Auburn

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Preview on September 30, 2014 at 1:12 PM

Before I get to the main topic, I’ll mention a couple other things. Once again, please check out my LSU-Auburn Rivalry blog. I’m apprehensive another streak will come to an end. It’s much shorter than Mississippi St. was though: LSU has won three in a row and six of seven. Also, I had an observation about the computer ratings that I didn’t notice at first. Even though Nebraska is #3 right now, if you average it by playing week, the Huskers fall to 8th. So when Nebraska has a bye week on the 11th, they’ll have a more accurate rating after that point. Not that I expect they’ll have an easy time of things this weekend.

I’ll start with the good news from the LSU-NMSU game.

Brandon Harris didn't have a lot of rushing yards, but he took advantage of his opportunities.

Brandon Harris didn’t have a lot of rushing yards, but he took advantage of his opportunities.

Brandon Harris obviously came in and did very well for the second week in a row. 11/14 for 178 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions. He also had five rushes for 36 yards and two touchdowns. His yards per carry probably would have been better without the touchdown runs, but I like how he showed he can run into a guy bigger than him and keep going. I think Les Miles admires that ability more than anything, so hopefully Harris made a persuasive enough case to start the next game.

Other freshmen of note were RB Leonard Fournette, WR Malachi Dupre, and WR/PR Trey Quinn.

Not much to say about special teams, but just about all the kickoffs went through the endzone (and no miscues on extra points), and our punter had 147 yards in three kicks. We only allowed 7 yards in punt returns.

The defense was put under a lot of pressure with four turnovers and a three-and-out in the first quarter. Kendall Beckwith’s interception return for a TD (while a good thing) also added to pressure on the defense. They didn’t allow any points during that stretch (until the final minutes of the second quarter, which I’ll get to).

New Mexico St. did miss a 40-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter, but that was when the Aggies had good field position after a turnover (and then a 15-yard penalty). They only obtained one first down in that drive.

I liked some of the different looks on offense. LSU HAS to be able to get the ball outside for short-yardage situations. When it’s a run and everyone knows it’s a run and they go up the middle, it’s not happening. It didn’t even happen against New Mexico St., which isn’t a good team in general and is especially bad against the run.

So even though the diamond formation resulted in a fumble, it wasn’t the fault of the formation, it was a good hit/bad holding onto the ball after the line of scrimmage. There was nothing wrong with the play itself. I would not be surprised if they at least tested it on Auburn once or twice.

There were also a couple of good (more conventional) option and pitchout plays that LSU understandably got away from with Mettenberger in the last couple of years, but why they weren’t there against Mississippi St. I have no idea. I think if LSU had just one of those plays and executed it (either for a touchdown or for the purpose of spreading out the field) during that goal-line stand, they would have won the game against the Bulldogs.

Three-and-outs are nice, but something else I like to see is a stop after giving up a first down or two. Against Wisconsin and Mississippi St. at times, it seemed like if they got that first first down, it was all over. I mentioned the missed field goal, but there were too additional stops at the LSU 47 in the first half while it was still only 14-0. The LSU offense had a three-and-out of its own between those two drives.

So there were a couple of situations that you don’t like to happen, but I like how they responded anyway.

Say what you will about the defense (although I noted they can catch the ball when you throw it to them and can also pick it up when it’s on the ground), New Mexico St. does have an offense that can produce points and yardage, so to keep them from even having scoring opportunities on all but two plays the whole game is good work.

There were some bad things, especially in the early going. It was another slow start on offense. Seven offensive points in the first quarter… no wonder they had zero for the first 20 minutes against Mississippi St. and only 7 for the first 2 ½ quarters against Wisconsin.

Of course, a big contributing factor to that was turnovers. You just can’t do that. In this case, you can’t give hope to the other team when they’re in a hostile environment with the odds stacked against them. Next week, when LSU is in that situation, it’s just asking to lose by 30 points or more if you start turning it over early. I’m not just talking about field position and points off of turnovers. Even if you don’t give the other team good field position, that means you had good field position yourself and squandered the field position and the momentum you were lucky to have.

I mentioned how LSU should try to spread out the field when they have the ball. If Cam Cameron would watch the LSU defense, maybe that would register in his mind a little more clearly. They gave up a play of almost 80 yards for a touchdown because they had too many people spread from sideline to sideline and no one had an angle after the runner went through the line of scrimmage. There were at least three similar plays between the Wisconsin and Mississippi St. games. A couple of them might have been short passes, but it was a similar issue with no one having any kind of angle on the ball-carrier. I know, one scoring play, but I think the Auburn offensive line might just be able to create more openings for plays of that nature.

New Mexico St. still had 274 yards (although it would have been fewer than 200 without the touchdown play), still completed more than almost half of its 33 passes, and still gained 4.6 yards per rush. That’s not as good as I was hoping for. The final score was great, but it does matter somewhat how you got there.

Also, third-down defense in the first half was not satisfactory. In two of the Aggies’ first three drives, they converted from 3rd and 6. There was another third-down conversion in the second quarter (from 1 yard) and nearly a fourth for the half before a fumble on that same down.

There is no excuse for LSU to have had five penalties in this game. They were only for 35 yards, but it creates similar types of issues to the turnovers I mentioned. I didn’t see the hands to the face. I saw the hand to the LSU player’s face on the same play, but there was some unnecessary sloppiness. Giving them a first and 5 toward midfield (for example) was not good.

I touched on this with the turnovers, but Jennings was bad. He ran himself (first drive only) and set up a couple of good running plays, but that was it. He only completed two passes for 11 yards, and none of the incompletions looked like good passes that I remember. One of the passes was for 7 yards and a first down, so it was really just one good passing play. Jennings threw two interceptions, was sacked once, and lost a fumble (on a separate play from the sack).

Conclusion

The hesitation with Harris was that he was liable to commit turnovers. Well, I think this should settle that (since I originally wrote this, Harris was named the starter). I know they want to give Jennings respect for his hard work as a backup and for practicing better and so forth, but next game will be game 6 of the season and most importantly game 2 of the SEC season.

I wish Jennings all the best and I hope he’s able to contribute to the team, but we’re past the time to be nice. He doesn’t need to start the next game, and I don’t think you even take Harris out unless he’s proven to be overall ineffective or mistake-prone in multiple possessions (or, God forbid, hurt). If Jennings can’t handle the pressure at home against New Mexico St., I don’t want to see him in the early going at Auburn. He’s a capable athlete, but I’m not comfortable with him at this point.

I want to say something about the boos. Someone said this about the NFL once: “We boo because we care.” If I’m in a stadium, especially paying an arm and a leg to be there, I’m going to voice my displeasure with certain coaching decisions. Everyone understands that when you want the coach to go for it and he sends out the punter, no one is booing the punter as a person. But somehow where quarterbacks are involved, people don’t seem to get it. There probably were some people who wanted to express displeasure to Jennings for the turnovers, but I believe the majority of the people were making clear that they didn’t like seeing the same guy come out and throw the same type of pass with the same result. The message wasn’t, “We don’t support you.”

I’m sure Auburn worked on improving some areas this week as well, so I’m still expecting it to be very difficult for LSU to win the game next week. I’ve been surprised by enough Les Miles teams in the past not to despair too much until the game is over and we have fewer points though. Or at least until we’re more than 20 points behind midway through the fourth quarter.

Also, no matter what happens, I don’t envy Auburn fans too much. Their next five games after LSU are Mississippi St., South Carolina, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Georgia. Every other one of those is on the road. I didn’t even mention the game in Tuscaloosa the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

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.

More Conference Changes? + My Bowl Projections

In College Basketball, College Football, Realignment on November 29, 2010 at 6:19 PM

Surprise, surprise, TCU is changing conferences again.

The Horned Frogs will join their fourth conference since the dissolution of the SWC in 1996. First, it joined the WAC superconference. Shortly after the MWC teams left the WAC, it moved to the CUSA. Then it jumped to the MWC. Now it will be in the Big East, starting in 2012.

I understand that football teams must start in a new conference by 2012 in order for its statistics to count in the new conference for BCS purposes. The current evaluation period is between 2008 and 2011.

It has driven me crazy that a team in Fort Worth, TX, belonged to the Mountain West Conference since they joined, but they’re moving to a conference that, at least as compared to the current MWC, makes even less sense geographically.

Plus, TCU has a basketball team, so that will be 17 members of the Big East. That’s beyond ridiculous. I think they should make it two separate conferences for the purposes of other sports. Will there now be a play-in game to reach the 1st round of the basketball tournament, where the four winners then get a chance TO PLAY FOR a spot in the quarterfinals?

The travel times listed below are based on Google Maps driving directions.

TCU will leave a conference whose closest rival was 10 hours, 19 minutes away to join one whose closest rival will be 13 hours, 48 minutes away. (South Florida, in Tampa, may be closer in the air than Louisville, but I’m not sure.)

The longest trip will be 28 hours away (it doesn’t give minutes when you go over 24 hours). In the MWC as currently constituted, the longest trip (San Diego St.) was 21 hours, 19 minutes.

But to be fair, it could have gotten worse had TCU stayed. Boise will be 26 hours away, but Hawaii (if they choose to join the MWC) would have been even farther away, about 2900 miles, almost 1200 more than the distance to Connecticut. There is of course no driving time to Hawaii. Confirmed new additions to the MWC, Nevada and Fresno St., would have also been farther away than any current MWC team.

Obviously, there are other reasons, but it’s interesting that three teams have now left the MWC since it was announced that Boise St. was joining. No one wants to play them, unless it’s another team that wants to go out its way to prove itself (I’m sure Fresno St., for instance, was happy to follow them to the MWC).

As I referenced in the second paragraph, I also read that apparently these moves are all about jockeying for automatic qualifier status. TCU’s BCS appearance last year will count toward the Big East, Boise’s will count toward the Mountain West, and Utah’s in the 2008 season will count toward the Pac-10.

Hawaii’s BCS appearnce in the 2007 season apparently doesn’t matter, so the WAC could really be deprived even if Hawaii stays. The WAC might be the new Sun Belt when all is said and done. Idaho, Utah St., and New Mexico St. were all Sun Belt teams at one point, incidentally. San Jose St. isn’t much better. Louisiana Tech (another severely out-of-place team) actually won the WAC in their first season in the conference, but it’s been pretty much downhill since then. Those five teams are the only ones left if Hawaii also leaves. Maybe they’ll add some California FCS teams, but I think the last thing we need is more FBS teams. The Sun Belt is getting bloated, maybe a some of them will go out West (there are two Louisiana teams and one Texas team who might go well with Louisiana Tech).

The Sun Belt is currently scheduled to have 10 football teams with the addition of South Alabama in 2013. I don’t know if Denver plans to field a football team, but they are moving to the WAC, where BYU will also play in sports other than football.

The Big East is also considering adding Central Florida and Villanova, should the latter choose to move up to FBS. Central Florida would increase the number of basketball teams to 18.

I don’t know if there is any interest in bringing Temple back to the Big East, but that would be a more logical fit than the MAC, especially since the Owls have been improved in the last couple of years. It would also be a good basketball program to add, though its previous membership in the Big East was football-only. Temple would also of course be a natural rival with Villanova. The teams have already played each other multiple times in recent years and have an intense basketball rivalry.

Bowl projections

National championship:
Oregon vs. Auburn

I don’t think either team will have it easy this week, but I expect both to come out on top. I just don’t think the opposition is good enough. On the other hand, just ask Bobby Bowden how tough it is to face a rematch with Steve Spurrier.

A Pac-10 or Big Ten national-championship-game team would automatically send TCU to the Rose Bowl. It’s not right for Stanford, but that’s the breaks. So the Rose Bowl doesn’t really get to pick a team.

So there is the second match-up: Wisconsin (projected Big Ten champion based on BCS standings) vs. TCU.

This would probably leave an automatic #4, probably Stanford, Oklahoma or Nebraska as the Big XII champions, Virginia Tech or Florida St. as the ACC champions, and probably either Connecticut or West Virginia (Pitt would only make it if both lose) as the Big East champions. This leaves open the possibility of two non-automatic at-large teams.

The Sugar Bowl gets the first two real picks, the replacement for Auburn and the regular first pick. I think they’d definitely pick Arkansas (leaving only one other non-automatic slot). They might like to pick the Big XII champion, but they’re contractually obligated to the Fiesta Bowl, so my guess is they knock out that last non-automatic spot and pick Ohio St. The Buckeyes were in a New Orleans bowl game in 2007 (the national championship game), but I still think the team and fan base are the most attractive option. I don’t think there is enough of a gap between Stanford and Ohio St. to ignore all the other positives for Ohio St.

So there is our third match-up: Ohio St. vs. Arkansas

The Orange Bowl will have the ACC champion automatically, and they’ll get to pick a second team. Especially if it’s Connecticut, I don’t think they’d want the Big East team instead, so my guess here would be they’d take Stanford. Even if WVU wins the Big East, I don’t know if you pick a team that’s 20 spots worse because their fans are better.

So the fourth match-up: ACC vs. Stanford

The Fiesta Bowl will automatically get the Big XII champion, and they’d be stuck with the Big East Champion, assuming no one else selects that team.

Fifth match-up: Big XII vs. Big East

Select other bowl projections:
CapitalOne: LSU vs. Michigan St.
Cotton: Oklahoma St. vs. Alabama
Outback: South Carolina vs. Penn St.
Peach: Virginia Tech vs. Florida or Florida St. vs. Mississippi St.
Gator: Florida or Mississippi St. vs. Illinois or Iowa (The Ron Zook Bowl sounds interesting, but if it’s Mississippi St., they might go with Iowa instead)
Alamo: Texas A&M vs. Arizona
Insight Bowl: Nebraska vs. Michigan
Texas Bowl: Baylor vs. Illinois or Iowa
Holiday Bowl: Missouri vs. Washington
Champs Sports Bowl: Notre Dame vs. U. Miami (I don’t know why they’d pass that game up, I don’t care how bad Miami looked against South Florida)

I also think it would be interesting if maybe the Sun Bowl (which used to be somewhat important) matched Notre Dame and Boise St., since there aren’t enough Pac-10 teams and Notre Dame can go to the Big East bowls, but Notre Dame would probably prefer not to play Boise St. anyway. It would be a shame for Boise St. to have to play a team that’s even worse than that. Boise St./Utah would be a good out-west game (the Las Vegas Bowl would be a possibility, since that’s another open Pac-10 spot), but Boise might be possessive and the Broncos could be stuck on the blue field for the Humanitarian Bowl.