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Posts Tagged ‘North Texas’

Week 9 Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 24, 2016 at 5:17 PM

This blog is mostly about the rankings, but I wanted to mention I have updated the LSU/Ole Miss Rivalry blog. LSU earned its 40th win over Ole Miss in Baton Rouge and 60th in the series overall. I hadn’t fully updated it after the last two games, so the last few paragraphs are new. Also, it’s not too early to check out the Alabama Rivalry page.

Western Michigan and Washington (and Baylor)

I know the obvious first criticism a lot of people will have is Western Michigan is in the top 4 and Washington is not even in the top 15.

I’ll talk about Western Michigan first. The only other team that has won 8 games so far is Alabama, and as I’ll get to in the next section, Alabama is such a clear #1 that in all likelihood they’ll be able to take a week off and stay #1. So despite Western Michigan’s having beaten two Big Ten opponents, there is still a significant gap in reward for playing a top schedule.

One of Western Michigan’s weakest wins was over FCS opponent North Carolina Central, but that’s a good FCS opponent. So when some teams would have taken a hit in points for playing an FCS opponent, that didn’t happen here.

Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell led the Broncos to their third consecutive Michigan MAC trophy with the win over Eastern Michigan.

Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell led the Broncos to their third consecutive Michigan MAC trophy with the win over Eastern Michigan.

Although the MAC has several teams that are in the bottom fourth of FBS football, the Broncos have not played many of the particularly weak opponents on their schedule yet. Not to worry though because they don’t play an opponent in the top 100 for the next month, so their point total will not increase very substantially. This will give other teams, particularly those in power conferences, plenty of opportunity to pass them up.

Normally a team like this doesn’t get so high in the first place, but (along with the front-loaded schedule) things happen. They would be a spot lower if Penn St. doesn’t block a field goal and return it for a touchdown against Ohio St. They would be a spot lower if Tennessee scores a touchdown in the first overtime instead of a field goal against Texas A&M.

It’s also worth noting that if you control for number of playing weeks, Boise St. and Texas A&M would both be ahead of Western Michigan. That imbalance will be corrected when the Broncos have a bye nest weekend.

As for Washington, they did play a non-conference game against a Power-5 opponent, but it was Rutgers, one of the worst Power-5 teams. The Huskies’ best win is over Stanford, but that’s by far their best win; and Stanford has two other losses. The second-best win was over Idaho. Third-best was 2-5 Arizona, which has only a single win over an FBS opponent.

I’m convinced that the 16 teams ahead of Washington would also be undefeated against that schedule so far, and I suspect several others would be as well. Basically, it would be anyone who would beat Stanford and have some reasonable level of consistency apart from that.

Western Michigan wins: #55, #57, #62, #68, #70, #99, #115. As I mentioned, they also beat North Carolina Central, which is undefeated (5-0) against FCS opponents and has also lost to Duke.

Even if a good team has an 80% chance to beat numbers 55 to 70 and a 95% chance to beat the other three, that team would only have a 28% chance of going undefeated thus far.

Washington wins: #33, #73, #90, #95, #98, #108. The FCS opponent, Portland St., is only 1-3 within the FCS and also has a loss to San Jose St.

So Western Michigan has beaten five teams that are better than Washington’s second-best win. Washington’s third-best win is only marginally better than Western Michigan’s sixth-best win. I add in FCS games differently, but it’s possible that the latter should be the seventh-best win.

However, unlike Western Michigan, Washington’s schedule the rest of the way is pretty tough. It’s not SEC West, ACC Atlantic, or Big Ten East tough; but @Utah, @Cal, USC, Arizona St., @Washington St. isn’t something against which many teams would go undefeated.

If you were wondering about Baylor, the Bears also only have one win over a top-70 team, but in their case it’s #47 Oklahoma St. Baylor has played 3 teams ranked #119 or worse and has a win over FCS team Northwestern St., which has no wins over any Division I opponent.

#1 This Week and Next

Back to Alabama, the Tide gained about 0.18 in points for beating an undefeated team with a top schedule in Texas A&M. Since Clemson actually lost points during its bye week (I’ll give other examples of how you’re at the mercy of prior opponents during a bye week), the Tide has an advantage of almost 0.20.

Alabama's Jonathan Allen helped put Texas A&M away by returning a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Alabama’s Jonathan Allen helped put Texas A&M away by returning a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter.

So even if Clemson beats Florida St. (which has had a very good schedule as well), giving a team its third loss doesn’t help you at as much as giving a team its first loss. Unless it’s just a terrible day for Alabama’s previous opponents and a great day for Clemson’s, I don’t think it’s possible for Alabama go get passed up.

Michigan plays Michigan St., which isn’t a big opportunity for points.

Bye Weeks, Florida, and North Texas

Most teams do lose ground during bye weeks. Tennessee fell one spot, but when you get in an area where the teams are packed closer together, you can fall six spots like Florida St. did. Of course it also depends on teams around you and prior opponents.

Florida actually gained ground as Stanford, Arkansas, and South Florida all lost. The Gators were also assisted by wins by North Texas and to a lesser extent Vanderbilt. They also had prior opponents who lost, but sometimes an opponent with fewer wins has its point total increase more rapidly with a win. For instance, Alabama’s quality as an opponent didn’t change as much because Alabama’s winning percentage didn’t change.

North Texas’s quality as an opponent more than doubled. The Mean Green got a quality win over Army, and the two other teams who had beaten them had huge wins (for them anyway). SMU beat Houston, and Middle Tennessee beat Missouri.
Anyway, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest also had byes, but since none of their prior opponents’ ratings improved so much, they were also passed by Florida.

SEC

So the SEC reclaimed its #1 spot in my conference standings and also has the best average ranking. There are now 5 SEC teams in the top 25, 7 SEC teams in the top 40, and 11 SEC teams in the top half of FBS (or top 64). The ACC has more top-40 teams with 8, but half of them are not in the top 25.
LSU is still not in the top 25, but I suspect the Tigers would make it in with a win over Alabama in two weeks.

Arkansas is also idle next week, so it’s possible Arkansas and/or LSU could fall out of the top 40 simply as a result of not playing. On the other hand, losses in the 35 to 50 range are not uncommon, so they could also get lucky and move up slightly. Arkansas’s next opponent is Florida (who plays Georgia in Jacksonville this weekend), and then the Hogs play LSU.

Top 25

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

All 128 teams

Out of rankings: (18) Pittsburgh, (20) Stanford, (22) Arkansas, (25) South Florida

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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.

SEC Wednesday #7

In College Football, SEC Wednesdays on November 11, 2015 at 1:04 PM

Last Week

A little earlier than usual today thanks to Veterans Day.

I was right about Missouri thankfully. Maybe they were distracted with their pending protest over nothing; but along with Kentucky, they don’t seem very focused on football at this point.

Dak Prescott had a successful game despite the rain in Columbia but will have a different challenge when the Bulldogs host the Tide.

Dak Prescott had a successful game despite the rain in Columbia but will have a different challenge when the Bulldogs host the Tide.

I was also right about Kentucky going downhill worse than Georgia.

Florida was a miserable failure in the point spread department, but at least the Gators won. I don’t know how you beat Ole Miss by 14 times the amount you beat Vandy, but that’s college football.

Speaking of Ole Miss, I was wrong about the winner (so close); but at least in this overtime game, I was right about the point spread. Ole Miss would have struggled to win by more than 10 in overtime anyway.

South Carolina lost but obliterated the point spread again. LSU and Georgia were the only two teams all season to beat them by more than two touchdowns, but other teams keep being favored by between 15 and 20. Of course, the former point might change with Florida and Clemson coming up.

I was still wrong both ways with LSU-Alabama of course.

Finally, Auburn still haunts me. It’s like they read this to decide whether they’re going to try this week or not.

I was over .500 in both categories for the week, but 4-3 in picking winners isn’t very good.

My overall record falls to 36-14, but my record against the spread improves to 20-27.

SEC WED

Next Week

I’ll take Arkansas and the points, but I think LSU will redeem itself slightly at home and manage to win.

Georgia fans should be happy to know I will be picking Auburn to win and -1.5.

I’ll take South Carolina and 8 at home but Florida to win. The Georgia and LSU games I mentioned were not played in South Carolina (theoretically LSU was a home game). I think Florida may be having some problems that will carry over. This is the Gators’ SEC finale, and Florida has already clinched the East, so the motivation may be lower than usual.

I’ll pick North Texas +41.5. The Vols did beat Western Carolina by more, but the Mean Green does have an offense even though I realize they’re REALLY not a good team. I think it may go something along the lines of the LSU/Eastern Michigan game. Western Kentucky, probably the most similar team that has faced North Texas, won 55-28. Tennessee may hold them to 17 or 20 or something like that but probably won’t score more than the Hilltoppers did. Of course I don’t think it’s much of a question of the winner.

I’ll take Mississippi St. +8. The last game the Tide played that wasn’t after a bye resulted in a close final score against that Volunteer team I mentioned. Mississippi St. hasn’t faced stellar competition, but the Bulldogs seem to be firing on all cylinders. I think they’ll get up for the game better. Starkville can be a weirdly difficult place to play if you don’t take control early.

Kentucky has played so badly Vanderbilt is actually favored and deservedly so. I’ll even give the Wildcats the three points.

Usually there isn’t a line for FCS games, but I’ll play along. A&M is favored by 35.5, probably due to scant point-scoring recently. I think they’ll wake up at least for this game though, so I’ll take them minus the points.

I shy away from road favorites and from picking other teams to win in SEC stadiums, but I’ll make an exception for BYU at Missouri. The Cougars do have a common opponent with the Tigers, and that was Connecticut. BYU played terribly in that game and still won by 17, whereas Missouri only beat the Huskies by 3. Those games were very early in the season admittedly, but I also mentioned that the Tigers haven’t come across as very competitive in their last few games.

Previous entries

Week 4 Preview (predictions only)

SEC Wednesday #1

SEC Wednesday #2

SEC Wednesday #3

SEC Wednesday #4

SEC Wednesday #5

SEC Wednesday #6

SEC Wednesday #4 and LSU Midweek

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

Last Week

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

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

SEC WED

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

LSU Midweek Comments and Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous entries

Week 4 Preview (predictions only)

SEC Wednesdays #1

SEC Wednesdays #2

SEC Wednesdays #3

#2 Debate Redux

In General LSU, Rankings Commentary on September 27, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Note after UW-Stanford: The last time the Huskies defeated a top 10 team was in 2009 over USC, just a couple of weeks after losing to LSU.

I’m glad I post things in places where I get some feedback. It reminds me that the opinions of even dedicated sports fans don’t always take into account hard facts but rely in large part on perceptions.

I didn’t have anything special to post this week in addition to my rankings blog and my update to the LSU/Auburn series, so I’ll talk a little more about the change at #2 in the major polls.

Again, let me reiterate that I’m not upset with people having seen the Auburn game or having seen how close the Auburn game was having less confidence in LSU. But I am annoyed with not looking at all the facts and being consistent.

Oregon deserves to be #2, the logic goes, because they beat Arizona. Arizona is good because they were ranked. (this leaves out that Arizona was ranked because they beat Oklahoma St., which was ranked because they were good last year… might as well rank LSU higher for beating Oregon last year, but I digress.)

LSU beat Auburn, who had two prior losses (by 7 on a neutral field against Clemson and by 18 @ Mississippi St.) and was not ranked. LSU does not have a good schedule, people claim, because the week before Auburn, they played Idaho and in the following week, they play Towson.

I think this analysis is extraordinarily flimsy, but it seems enough for a lot of people.

The schedule portion is the most problematic, so I’ll address that first. I ask this. Which of the following is more difficult to navigate undefeated?

Schedule A
North Texas
Washington
Idaho
@Auburn

Schedule B
Arkansas St.
Fresno St.
Tennessee Tech
Arizona

Schedule A belongs to LSU. I don’t think it’s even close. And that’s without mentioning that North Texas seems to be a not-terrible team this year since Kansas St. (which won @Oklahoma by 5 and beat Miami by 39) only beat the Mean Green Eagles by 14 in Manhattan. It’s also without mentioning that Arizona needed overtime to beat Toledo in Week 1 before beating Oklahoma St. in Week 2.

LSU’s next opponent, as mentioned, is Towson. That’s not intended to be a fierce competition and I don’t expect it will be, but why punish LSU after 4 weeks for its Week 5 opponent? Oregon’s next opponent is Washington St., which just lost to Colorado at home. I still don’t think Oregon has a better schedule after 5 weeks, but I do admit reasonable minds can differ on this.

Before anyone accuses me of quibbling with the below, those who moved LSU down are already quibbling by complaining about the close score against Auburn, so we might as well take a closer look at the other major-conference game LSU played and the sole major-conference game Oregon played.

Except for taking over after LSU fumbled the opening kickoff (this exchange netting the Huskies’ only points of the game), Washington did not go past the LSU 46 until mid-way through the third quarter when the score was already 27-3 LSU.

Contrast that with Arizona/Oregon. Oregon didn’t take a 3-possession lead until mid-way through the third quarter, 21-0. That the Ducks then went on to score 4 more touchdowns isn’t that impressive to me. But OK, 27-3 and 21-0 at similar points in the game isn’t a big difference. I mentioned Washington’s drive progression for a reason though, so let’s talk about the opportunities Arizona had had by that point. In the first quarter, the Wildcats had the ball at the Oregon 4 (went over on downs), the Oregon 18 (interception), and the Oregon 2 (went over on downs). Those were the only 3 first-quarter possessions for Arizona. Three possessions in a row in the red zone in one quarter is generally pretty good, especially when your opponent only scores 13 in the whole first half. Not in this case, but it’s not sufficient evidence we should be wowed by Oregon’s defense (which gave up 34 to Arkansas St. and 25 to Fresno St.) as well as its offense. In the first two possessions of the second quarter, Arizona had two more opportunities, with the ball at the Oregon 13 (blocked field goal) and the Oregon 30 (fumble). At the time or that fumble, the Ducks had only scored 7 points (in the drive that immediately succeeded the interception mentioned earlier).

So even if Arizona is a little better than Washington (which is not in line with pre-season projections), I still give LSU a little more credit for the way they won their game against a Pac-12 team. Auburn isn’t having a good season, but at this point, I’m still going to regard them as better (especially at home) than Fresno St. or any Oregon opponent who wasn’t Arizona (especially since all were home games for Oregon).

Just to refresh people’s recollections, last year Auburn was 8-5 (losses @Clemson, @Arkansas, @LSU, @Georgia, @Alabama), Washington was 7-6 (losses to the top 3 Pac-12 teams as well as @Nebraska, @Oregon St., and to Baylor in the bowl game), and Arizona was 4-8 (wins against Northern Arizona, UCLA, ULL, and @Arizona St.)

After Week 6, LSU will have played Washington, @ Auburn, and @ Florida. Oregon will have played Fresno St. (I’m guessing they’re better than WSU, which just lost at home to Colorado), Arizona, and Washington. I’m really going to be annoyed if at that point I hear Oregon has had the better schedule so far.

How I Would Reorganize College Football….. Part I: Intro

In College Football, Realignment on October 9, 2011 at 12:36 AM

I started writing this for suggestions of some additional changes to the conference “alignments”. But with this interest that many seem to have in the idea of 16-team conferences, I wondered how popular this idea could get. I know there are a variety of interests at play here, and it would be hard to get them to work together, but I’m mostly just imagining what I would do if I were appointed czar of college football.

I know that’s not going to happen, but as someone who frequently criticizes the powers that be, I thought I would put my own proposal out there. It comes across as cynical grumbling otherwise. But I’m not complaining because I like complaining, I’m complaining because I’d sincerely like there to be a better system, and I know I’m not alone.

For the record, I’m opposed to most of the expansion ideas because one wouldn’t really be in a conference with teams in the other division. It would just be a guaranteed quasi-playoff opponent at the end of the season. But as czar of college football, I would be an enlightened despot. If the people petitioned me through their AD’s and college presidents, I would listen.

Besides, if you did it for all of the guaranteed BCS/playoff spots, it could be good because (1) there would be fewer such spots, (2) more teams could play for those spots, and (3) there would be a more uniform process of playing for those spots.

I think the first two arguments are evident, but I’ll give some more explanation for the third. The Big East is an 8-team conference and the team with the best record in the seven conference games is named the champion. 12-team conferences play either 8 or 9 games just to determine the division winners, and then an additional game is played between the division winners. There are more hurdles in getting there from a 12-team conference, even if you assume equal competition.

Something else I dislike about the expansion/realignment talk is the idea that a conference should add one or two teams in another region in order to generate great recruiting and revenue. Meanwhile, the argument seems to go, natural and traditional rivals should be discarded if they conflict. So for instance, the Big East can have teams from Connecticut to Florida to Texas (thankfully it looks like Texas won’t happen after all), the formerly Big XII can have teams from Kentucky (suggested) to Utah (suggested) to Iowa, and the ACC can teams from Boston to Miami to somewhere inland yet to be determined (Pittsburgh, but maybe farther West). Who cares if it makes sense for the team from Boston to play the team from Connecticut or the team from Miami to play the team from Tampa? They’ll just have to try to squeeze it into the ever-dwindling non-conference schedule. I didn’t even mention the WAC (Manoa, HI, to Ruston, LA, to Moscow, ID), the CUSA (El Paso to Huntington, WV, to Orlando), the Mountain West (San Diego to Boise to Ft. Collins, CO), or the Sun Belt (Denton, TX, to Bowling Green, KY, to Miami).

There is sometimes some conflict between traditional and natural rivalries. South Florida (the Tampa team I mentioned) and Connecticut haven’t had major football programs for very long. Even though they’re about as far away in terms of latitude as any two teams are, there is some history between Boston College and U. Miami. But I tried to balance those concerns. I don’t know the history of every individual rivalry but in an effort to be comprehensive, I put each team somewhere.

What I’ve done is put 80 teams into one of 5 16-team BCS-like conferences. The remaining 40 teams (ones that aren’t as good) have been put into one of 4 10-team conferences.

Producing a playoff

My ideal would be to find a way to turn that into 8 playoff teams. The 10-team conferences could either produce one or two of those teams, and there could be one or two at-large teams.

I would not only have a way for those bottom 40 programs to win the national championship, but I would also come up with a system where the best of those teams, at least the top two would be allowed to move up and two other teams would be allowed to move down, sort of a European soccer league arrangement.

The catch is having so many potential playoff games after a 9-game schedule. My solution would be that there wouldn’t be any extra games for those teams, or there might be one. Even if there is a 4-team play-in system to be the best of the worst followed by three more potential playoff games, that would be a total of 5 post-season games. 5 + 9 =14, which is accepted as appropriate (most teams already play up to 14 games, factoring in possible conference championship, bowl games, and trips to Hawaii {I’m not being facetious, that’s actually an exception to the 12-game limit}). There could also be an 8-game conference schedule instead (the team that isn’t played can be drawn out of a hat), and maybe just one play-in game, so that would allow two additional teams to be played. And since that 14th game is so unrealistic, a third game outside of the system could also be allowed.

The schedules for the top 80 teams wouldn’t really change much. My proposal would be that they play the 7 other divisional opponents, along with one inter-divisional rival (I think an even number of home and away games is fairer; the tie-breaker system could be adjusted for inequalities that might result). And playing 8 such games instead of 9 allows three games outside of the system without risking a team having to play more than 14 games. I wouldn’t prohibit other inter-divisional games, they just wouldn’t count toward the division title.

As to which teams move down from the top 80 after the season, there could be anything from something completely objective, like a combination of computer formulas or something more transparently mathematical, to something completely subjective like a NCAA-basketball-like committee that evaluates strengths and weaknesses. There could even be a short playoff to determine who those teams are.

Next Blog… Part 2: SEC/Southern Conference

I’ll try to write these weekly until completion, but I’ve only really had time for one non-rankings blog a week, so if other things come up, they might cause me to spread it out a little more. I’ve done the second part already, but I knew the blog had gotten too long for many people to realistically read everything I’ve written so far on this topic.