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Posts Tagged ‘Northwestern’

“Best Conference” Arguments & Final “SEC Wednesday” of 2016

In College Football, Conference Reports, SEC Wednesdays on December 1, 2016 at 7:59 PM

I did take a few paragraphs out of this, so it’s less thorough than it could have been, but it was too long.

sec football

I’ve seen a lot of nonsense about the SEC having an off year even from SEC fans lately. Maybe the SEC has had more dominant years, but there really isn’t any legitimate doubt about the SEC still being the top conference top to bottom.

As has been the case for probably more years than I’ve been keeping track, the SEC is the consensus number 1 in computers top to bottom.

big10_logo_detail

SEC vs. Big Ten

Why are people forgetting that the SEC still has the best overall record? Now I know if you exclude FCS games, the Big Ten has the best record, but I think it matters that the Big Ten lost two games to FCS opponents. I’m not talking about bottom-of-the-barrel teams either. Iowa finished 6-3 in conference, and Northwestern finished 5-4 in conference.

The media talks about how there is only one SEC team in the top 10. That’s true, but why is that? Records. Why are the records the way they are? (1) Opponents like Wisconsin, Clemson, and Florida St., and (2) other SEC teams.
There are a couple of losses that weren’t too pretty by teams who finished .500 and below in the SEC, but that’s not why LSU, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, and Texas A&M aren’t a game or two better and in or nearer to the top 10 as a result.

Apart from the few teams from other conferences I mentioned, the reason for that is simply that if any of that group played one another, both teams had a reasonable chance to win and it evened out over the course of the year. If Alabama does as expected and wins Saturday, all five other teams will go into the bowls with exactly 4 losses. That doesn’t mean the SEC is having a down year, that means Alabama is beating everyone and no one is making a particularly strong claim on second-best in the conference.

I’m going to compare the SEC teams to the Big Ten, just because the Big Ten happens to be the conference were their wins and losses ended up placing four teams in the top 10. It could have happened just as easily in the Pac-12 or ACC.

There is a group of teams of relative parity in the Big Ten as well, but that group is right at the top of the Big Ten. That’s the main reason why the Big Ten has four teams in the top 10. The highest group just isn’t very vulnerable to losing to anyone lower (the only in-conference exception was Iowa over Michigan).

Another thing that helped is big wins were by this top group instead of lower teams. On the other hand, three of the four best SEC wins were by teams that finished 4-4 in conference (Kentucky over Louisville, Tennessee over Virginia Tech, and Georgia over North Carolina).

Imagine the following. LSU beat Alabama and Florida, Tennessee beat Texas A&M, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, and Auburn beat Georgia and Texas A&M. Without changing out of conference results at all, the result is two one-loss teams (Alabama and Tennessee) and two two-loss teams (Auburn and LSU). All four would easily be in the top 10.

We didn’t change how good the SEC was, we just made the lower SEC teams worse and the second-tier (the group below Alabama) better with the exception of Florida. If we add in a couple of Florida conference wins (Arkansas and Tennessee), maybe we could get 5 SEC teams in the top 10. Would anyone say the SEC was having an off year then? Probably not. At least not anyone who doesn’t claim that every year. But the perception of the SEC is ironically hurt by the middle and lower teams being better. It’s nice to have a relatively easy opponent at some point in conference play, but that didn’t really happen.

There was one 2-6 team per SEC division, Missouri and Ole Miss. Missouri beat two bowl-eligible teams, and Ole Miss beat three. There were no 1-7 or 0-8 teams. There were 3 teams in the Big Ten who finished with one conference win or fewer, and those teams had one more chance to pick up a conference win than the SEC teams did. The lone 2-7 team (Illinois) didn’t beat anyone bowl-eligible; the Illini’s only FBS wins were over teams that finished below them in the Big Ten. So all Big Ten teams were guaranteed to have two less-dangerous conference games than anyone in the SEC faced in conference all year. Most had three such games (although Ohio St. to its credit wasn’t one of them).

ACC

SEC vs. ACC

There is one other conference argument I’ll address and that’s, “You just went 1-3 against the ACC [in the final weekend].” Let’s look at that another way.

I’m going to take out the names of teams and just put a list of the records. These are games over the course of the year. I just listed them in order of ACC record.

4-4 SEC beat 7-1 ACC
7-1 ACC beat 3-5 SEC
7-1 ACC beat 5-3 SEC
4-4 SEC beat 6-2 ACC
4-4 SEC beat 5-3 ACC
5-3 ACC beat 6-2 SEC
5-3 ACC beat 2-6 SEC
4-4 ACC beat 4-4 SEC

So the SEC won three games in which the SEC team had the worse conference record, while the ACC only won one game in which the ACC team had the worse conference record. Also, all of these games but two (7-1 ACC vs. 5-3 and 5-3 ACC vs. 2-6) were played by teams in the SEC East, the lesser SEC division. Five of the eight games were played by the top three teams of the ACC Atlantic, the better ACC division.

SEC WED

“SEC Wednesday”

I’ll keep the SEC Wednesday relatively short this time.

I guess I’ll finally give up and take Alabama -24, which probably will make the game close. It seems like Florida is fading. Judging by their games against LSU, it should be a nail-biter, but that’s not how it works. LSU played much worse against Florida, at least for the last 2 ½ quarters. For one analogy, I’m sure Arkansas thought LSU (who beat them by 28) was much better than Florida (whom they beat by 21).

Anyway, Florida seemed to fade toward the end of the last few games (they almost let LSU win after all), and Alabama always seems ready to get that one more score to beat the spread at the end. Alabama just beat a much-improved Auburn team by more than they beat them last year. So it might be Alabama by 14 at the half and they end up winning by 27 or something with a late touchdown or field goal.

Well, that’s it for predictions in this season. Bowl games have too many variables for me to include. I’ve made good bowl predictions in the past, but I’ve also made really bad ones. It’s like flipping a coin.

There might be a lot of this Saturday.

There might be a lot of this Saturday.

So a team favored by 7.5 (Vanderbilt) pulled an upset (over Tennessee), but I picked the wrong one (I picked Florida. Unfortunately, the wrong team scored meaningless points right at the end in multiple games (Florida St., LSU, and Alabama, for instance), which hurt me in the spread. I did not pick the 26.5-point underdog who won (Kentucky), but I did caution it could come down to the end. I did take the points in both upsets though. Too bad I couldn’t use the excess.

Georgia was in great shape up 13 late, but then they lost by 1.

I was wrong about LSU against the spread again. Maybe I should pick the other team more often so LSU plays well more consistently.

The Missouri team who beat Vanderbilt showed back up again against Arkansas, but I admit I didn’t see that coming. That was one reason I didn’t pick Vanderbilt to beat Tennessee. It’s like these teams try to screw with me.

South Carolina didn’t really show up at all, so that was another game that was completely uncharacteristic of the rest of the season. Same with Mississippi St. but for the opposite reason.

I think my readers can add one to either side of these after this weekend, so almost-final records: 85-26 and 42-52-1 against the spread.

Post-Game Comments and Week 3 Top 25

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

Inter-conference Play and LSU Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Final Top 25 and Comments

In Bowls, College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on January 14, 2016 at 6:19 PM

I wanted to get this out of the way first. College football always comes first here. I will post my reaction to the Los Angeles NFL drams that I first covered here.

People are sometimes confused with my rankings after the bowl games. The way I do it is to count the bowls as just another game. So the fact that Iowa, for instance, looked mediocre and Florida looked like a JV team didn’t knock Iowa out of the top 10 or Florida out of the top 25.

I want to congratulate Appalachian St. for making my top 25, although I do think they would lose to more than 25 teams on a neutral field. Why are they so high anyway? I want such a team to be able to move up with a collection of wins. Imagine we had a 16-team tournament and they were included with the teams as the Sun Belt champions (they weren’t, but Arkansas St. lost two more games, so bear with me).

A win over a team like Alabama or Clemson counts as about 2/10 of a point. So one such win would only get 11-2 Appalachian St. to #14, two would get them to #8, three would get them to #6. and four would get them to #3. I think that’s reasonable. Any team they beat would lose points, so some of those would be one or two spots higher, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with a team that only had two losses potentially being #1 (or at least close to #1) if you imagine them beating four of the top teams.

Chad Kelly helped Ole Miss get the most valuable win of the year (0.23 in my system).

Chad Kelly helped Ole Miss get the most valuable win of the year (0.23 in my system).

IF I use a basketball example, someone who makes the NCAA basketball Final Four has won at least four games in the tournament, usually at least three of them against top 25 teams or comparable. In the poll after the 2012-13 season, Wichita St. jumped 22 spots after making the Final Four and narrowly losing to eventual champions Louisville. Appalachian St. was 27th in my rankings before the bowls this season (not that far from where Wichita St. was before that tournament), so if there were a post-season tournament comparable to basketball, I think my projected final rankings would make sense.

I also don’t think it goes too far the other direction and ignores schedule differences. Alabama only lost one fewer game and is 1.3 points and 20 spots ahead. If you subtract 1.3 points from Appalachian St., that would give them a number of points comparable to Maryland, which finished 3-9 against a good schedule. So I think right in between Alabama and Maryland if the Mountaineers had played in a major conference is a fair assessment.

It just so happens there are a lot fewer teams on the Alabama side of Appalachian St. than on the Maryland side. All the 8-5 and 7-6 teams in major conferences are between Maryland and Appalachian St. There are a lot more of them than there are 12-1 and 11-2 teams.

Moving on to other teams… Alabama was a clearer #1 this year than Ohio St. last year, but the Tide’s loss wasn’t as bad and it had a better schedule. I expect teams in the championship game to be comfortably #1 and #2 with the way the playoff system works. Any win is more points even if you played more games than other teams. That used to anger Pac-12 and Big Ten fans when they didn’t have conference championship games, by the way. I think teams deserve credit every time they risk a loss, so I’m not changing that policy.

I like that Michigan St. stayed #3 when their post-season loss was to Alabama, they beat Ohio St., and (unlike Ohio St.) also beat Iowa, the Big Ten runners-up. Had they not played Iowa, I would have been fine with Ohio St. passing them up.

Speaking of Iowa, Stanford, the team who beat them in the Rose Bowl, moved up to fifth. Both Ohio St. and Stanford moved ahead of Oklahoma, who lost to Clemson in the semifinal. Since the final regularly-scheduled game (a win over Oklahoma St.), Oklahoma is 0-1, Stanford is 2-0, and Ohio St. is 1-0; so I don’t think that’s unfair. I felt the Sooners rightly stayed ahead of Houston, Iowa, Ole Miss, and TCU.

LSU would be in the top 10 if I averaged by week and likely would be had they played McNeese St., but if you consider that two of the three losses were to top 10 teams (Alabama and Ole Miss), 9-1 against the rest is pretty good.

One of the wins was over Western Kentucky, who finished 12-2 and #12. The Hilltoppers’ only other loss was to Indiana, a bowl team from the Big Ten. It wasn’t a good bowl, but Texas wasn’t in any bowl and they beat Oklahoma (for instance), so I don’t think that should be fatal.

Michigan started out six spots below Florida and ended up five spots ahead, so I think that’s a reasonable shift for one game. I don’t see anything controversial about Notre Dame, Northwester, Navy, or Utah.

I admitted that Arkansas’ loss to Toledo was one of the negatives of the conference’s non-conference campaign, but the Rockets finished 10-2 (they had a canceled game like LSU did), so nothing to be too embarrassed about. They beat one of the best G5 teams in Temple in the bowl game.

The other bad SEC loss (by a good SEC team anyway) was Ole Miss’ loss to Memphis, but Memphis might be ranked had they not lost to another SEC team Auburn in the bowl game. I’ll discuss conference results more in the next college football blog probably early next week.

Oklahoma St. stayed in the top 20 despite three losses in a row to end the season, so it’s not some special SEC privilege, although rightly the Gators stayed ahead of the Cowboys. Florida played the best three SEC West teams by overall record.

Mississippi St. and Georgia also benefited by the improvement to their opponents combined with bowl wins of their own.

The Big XII didn’t have the best time of the bowls, but Baylor’s bowl win over North Carolina was strong enough on its own to put them back in the top 25.

The same could be said of the Big Ten West and Wisconsin.

Top 25

1 Alabama 1
2 Clemson 2
3 Mich. St. 3
4 Ohio St. 5
5 Stanford 7
6 Oklahoma 4
7 Houston 8
8 Iowa 6
9 Ole Miss 13
10 TCU 14
11 LSU 16
12 WKU 15
13 Michigan 17
14 Notre Dame 9
15 N’western 10
16 Navy 18
17 Utah 21
18 Florida 11
19 Toledo 23
20 Okie St. 12
21 Appy St. —
appalachian st
22 Miss. St. —
23 Baylor —
24 Georgia —
25 Wisconsin —

Here are the previous rankings blogs:

Preseason

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

Week 11

Week 12

Pre-Bowl

2015 Pre-Bowl Rankings

In Bowls, College Football, Preview, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on December 13, 2015 at 6:46 PM

Top 25

Rank Team Previous

1 Alabama 1
2 Clemson 2
3 Mich. St. 3
4 Oklahoma 5
5 Ohio St. 6
6 Iowa 4
7 Stanford 7
8 Houston 11
9 Notre Dame 8
10 N’western 10
11 Florida 9
12 Okie St. 12
13 Ole Miss 13
14 TCU 14
15 WKU 23
16 LSU 16
17 Michigan 17
18 Navy 19
19 Oregon 18
20 N. Carolina 15
21 Utah 21
22 Florida St. 24
23 Toledo 25
24 Memphis —
25 Temple 20

Full list of 128 teams

Out of rankings: (22) Baylor

RANK CFP 2014 KNT 2014 CFP 2015 KNT 2015
#1 Alabama Florida St. Clemson Alabama
#2 Oregon Alabama Alabama Clemson
#3 Florida St. Ohio St. Michigan St. Michigan St.
#4 Ohio St. Oregon Oklahoma Oklahoma

I’m 2/2 in agreeing with the CFP committee on the top 4 even though I disagreed with the order again. Even though I didn’t do a rankings blog last week, the top 4 wasn’t changed by Army/Navy. I agree with Michigan St. being ahead of Oklahoma, but I don’t agree with Clemson being ahead of Alabama. I think the Tide just played too many top-40 teams not to be ahead.

Last January, my #3 (also of the Big Ten) beat my #4 for the CFP national championship.

Last January, my #3 (also of the Big Ten) beat my #4 for the CFP national championship.

Last blog I mentioned how I felt about Florida, but not surprisingly, they ended the season too badly for an “NY6” bowl (meaning one of the bowls that the committee selects even though the semifinal bowls are actually on New Year’s Eve).

I can’t hate on the committee too much though, because they’re not that far away from me. The rules forced them to put Houston in one of the NY6 bowls, but still, my first 9 teams all made the major bowls.

Florida St. made it in (I guess) because they lost to the committee-s #1 and only one other. Two of the top 4 also have losses to losing teams, so I guess they thought it made sense not to penalize that. The difference is Florida St. only had one good win, which was Florida at the end of the year. The whole reason Florida isn’t in an NY6 bowl is that “Florida at the end of the year” hasn’t been very good, but you can’t expect every team to make perfect sense.

LSU, another team that didn’t finish well, ends up behind two teams it beat, but Western Kentucky won three more games than LSU did despite only one fewer loss. Florida also played a couple more games. LSU’s average score per playing week is still better than both Western Kentucky and Florida.

Ole Miss and Oklahoma St. were mostly deserving even though they finished behind Florida and Northwestern. I would have liked to have seen Florida play Northwestern, but that would have made the Citrus Bowl less money. To be fair, Michigan did beat Northwestern fairly easily and also had the freak loss to Michigan St. The Wolverines probably did play better overall than the Wildcats did. With my system, if the rules say you won, you won. Apart from one minor situation (home team winning by a field goal or less or in overtime), there isn’t even a slight change to the point value you gain or lose.

The main difficulty I had in producing the formula I use was balancing record with strength of schedule. I could value strength of schedule higher, and then teams like Houston and Western Kentucky would be lower. The reason I haven’t changed it is it should be very difficult for someone to be ranked ahead of a team like Clemson, an undefeated major-conference team. They’re only 0.01 ahead of Michigan St. So if I valued record just a little bit less, Western Kentucky or Houston might fall a spot, but so would Clemson.

I’d rather focus on getting the right teams at the top than giving three- and four-loss teams more representation in the top 10 or top 25 even though they would likely beat some of the teams with one or two losses.

Week 4 Rankings and Commentary

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 28, 2015 at 5:23 PM

Here are the previous rankings blogs:

Preseason

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

I mentioned previously I started doing my preliminary computer calculations.  They account for approximately 50% of the top 25 below.  After the top four (two of which, LSU and Michigan St., were also in the computer top four), what I did was pick the rest of my top 25 and put them in the order I wanted them without looking at the computers.  Then I averaged where I wanted to put them with the ranking the computer gave them.

For instance, I had UCLA sixth, but the computer had them eighth.  That averages to seventh.  I had TCU fifth, but the computer had them fourth, so that averages to 4.5.  4.5 is a smaller number than 7, so TCU went ahead.

TCU might play better games this season, but right now they get a lot of computer points for Saturday’s win at Texas Tech. (no idea what that white stuff is)

There were some teams in the computer top 25 and not in my top 25, but I didn’t rank any of those teams.  I don’t think teams like Indiana and North Carolina St. have proven they should be ranked yet; but if they’re ranked two weeks from now by the computer, they will be ranked in my top 25 list as well.

So I did not allow the computer to take any teams out of the top 25 I had on my own, but the computer does not have a high opinion of either USC or Wisconsin.  I gave them a reprieve for this week at least though.

I think they’re both in the top 20 toughest teams to beat, it hasn’t really shown on the results (meaning wins and losses) against their respective sets of opponents so far.  I don’t think many people would take Indiana to beat either one on a neutral field.

Again, that won’t matter in a couple of weeks, but I think it should matter at least for now.

I usually don’t take a team from outside the top 25 and put them in the top 10, but I only put Florida 19th.  Three decent wins in four weeks, however, puts them among the best teams in the computers, so that’s just where the average takes them.

Utah was closer to where I had in mind originally.  I had them 12th.  Not only was I considering the win over Oregon, but I was also considering the fact that Michigan just beat a ranked team (BYU) and has not lost since playing the Utes.

I ranked Temple after Week 2 and only wanted to put them back to #25 this week, but Penn St. and Cincinnati still give the Owls a decent amount of points.

I mentioned Wisconsin hasn’t done much to impress the computers, and that was by far Alabama’s best win, so that explains why they’ve fallen so far.  In my formula, every loss is a negative, so some teams without losses are higher even though I understand many of them haven’t played a team as good as Ole Miss.

Northwestern is a bit higher in the computers of course, but they beat Stanford, and Stanford looks good otherwise.  Subjectively, I would move the Wildcats up more gradually, but the best they could have possibly done against their three FBS opponents is beat all of them and for those opponents to be a combined 9-3.  They beat all of them, and those opponents are a combined 8-4.  The only extra loss was by Ball St. to Texas A&M, an undefeated team.

Northwestern doesn’t have any points for their win over winless Eastern Illinois, but the other games are good enough to give them a higher computer rating than anyone else right now.

The only other team that doesn’t match up fairly well to last week’s ranking is Oklahoma St., who falls eight spots.  The Cowboys’ four opponents have only one win combined over FBS opponents (Texas over Rice).  Even though they are undefeated, Oklahoma St. will fall out of the top 25 unless they beat Kansas St. on Saturday.

No one else changed more than five spots, so I think they align pretty well for a transition week.

I reserve the right to make a couple of changes to the computer ratings for next week when I publish this list (the list I publish on the computer rating site is always 100% objective), but after that it will follow the computer ratings almost completely.

After next week, the only team you can expect me to change is the #1 team.  In the first four computer weeks last season, there were four different #1 teams.  I don’t like to change them that often.  The latest playing week where I have ever had a different #1 than the computer was after the last playing week in October in 2009 (I was rightly reluctant to make Iowa #1, and they fell to #6 the following week.)

So basically whoever is the computer #1 after Halloween can expect to be #1 on this list.

Rank Team Previous
1 Ohio St. 1
2 Ole Miss 2
3 Mich. St. 3
4 LSU 4
5 TCU 6
6 UCLA 9
7 N’western 18
8 TX A&M 7
9 Utah

10 Florida

florida_gators_logo

11 Oklahoma 16
12 Clemson 10
13 Baylor 5
14 Georgia 14
15 Notre Dame 12
16 Florida St. 11
17 Temple
18 Stanford 20
19 Alabama 8
20 U. Miami 24
21 Kansas St. 22
22 Michigan

Michigan_Wolverines_Block_M

23 Okie St. 15
24 USC 21
25 Wisconsin 17

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

13 Oregon
19 Arizona St.
23 Ga. Tech
25 BYU

Early Preview of Computer Ratings

In College Football, General LSU, Preview, Rankings Commentary on September 22, 2015 at 3:36 PM

I decided to do my first preliminary computer rankings now that most teams have actually played someone in the FBS who in turn played other teams who have played FBS opponents and it’s possible to get a computer rating on everyone.

Before I reveal more, a couple of disclaimers: I don’t start using a full or almost full computerized system until early October, so my official rankings are still the ones that were posted on Sunday; but I thought it would be interesting to see how the teams shaped up at this point. I like to try to get a smooth transition from subjective to objective. Usually I will still move a couple of teams for the first or second top 25 list (although the ratings on my ratings site are always 100% objective).

The transition is not always easy. I got someone mad at me when my attempted transition backfired with Missouri in 2013. I kept thinking the Tigers would lose (and I also thought the added points they got for beating Vanderbilt would go away, but Vandy had one of their best seasons in recent memory instead), so I kept them down around #20. Then the weekend where I fully moved to the computer rankings, they got another big win (this time over previously unbeaten Georgia, who had already defeated four P5 opponents in the first five weeks) and shot up to #2. So the transition process involves some guessing and gambling, but I still think it’s better than going from 100% subjective to 100% objective in one week.

This was really surprising to me since they usually don’t align early on, but the prelimary #1 is Ohio St., the same as my subjective #1. The prelimary 24th and 25th teams are BYU and U. Miami, the last two teams in my subjective top 25 (but in different order). So to that extent I’m encouraged with my attempts at objectivity.

There many discrepancies in the middle of the two rankings though. One example is Florida St., who is 11th in my rankings but is tied with Arizona, Clemson, and Houston for 48th  in my computer system.  This is because although the Seminoles have beaten three FBS opponents, none of THOSE have beaten an FBS opponent. Boston College did beat a couple of FCS teams, and that would normally result in FSU getting points by extension, but it doesn’t because those FCS teams haven’t beaten ANYONE in FBS or FCS.

In the next month, the Eagles will play Northern Illinois, Duke, and Clemson, so they may turn out to be a strong win for FSU in the near future; they just aren’t now. For its part, FSU only plays Wake Forest in the next two weeks, so they mostly have to rely on teams they’ve already played to win to pick them up or they may fall out of the top 25 when I move to the purely objective system.

Northern Illinois fumbled away a chance at a huge upset in a sloppy game on Saturday, but the Buckeyes still look good on paper.

The top four in total rating are:

Ohio St.

Michigan St.

Texas A&M

Notre Dame

However, it looks a little different when you divide the teams by playing weeks:

Ohio St.

LSU

Michigan St.

West Virginia

Anyway, without further ado, here is the full computer top 25 as it would look if I did the fully objective system now:

Team rating rating/week subjective
1 Ohio St. 0.3874 0.1291 1
2 Mich. St. 0.3615 0.1205 3
3 Notre Dame 0.3309 0.1103 12
4 Texas A&M 0.3294 0.1098 7
5 N’western 0.3032 0.1011 18
6 Oklahoma 0.2908 0.0969 16
7 TCU 0.2890 0.0963 6
8 Iowa 0.2797 0.0932
9 Alabama 0.2669 0.0890 8
10 LSU 0.2583 0.1291 4
11 Utah 0.2468 0.0823
12 Indiana 0.2362 0.0787
13 Ole Miss 0.2335 0.0778 2
14 W. Virginia 0.2245 0.1123
15 Florida 0.2237 0.0746
16 Missouri 0.2121 0.0707
17 UCLA 0.2045 0.0682 9
18 Syracuse 0.1980 0.0660
19 Temple 0.1898 0.0633
20 N.C. St. 0.1879 0.0626
21 Texas Tech 0.1738 0.0579
22 Ohio U. 0.1561 0.0520
23 Toledo 0.1437 0.0718
24 BYU 0.1431 0.0477 25
25 U. Miami 0.1333 0.0444 24

Obviously LSU is higher (they’re 10th the other way) because their Week 1 game was cancelled, but the difference between 2 games and 3 games is statistically much larger than the difference between 12 games and 13 games will be. So right now, I think that’s definitely worth considering. Also, just to note, you have to go down five decimal places to separate tOSU and LSU under the average-week calculation. Almost every other pair of consecutive teams is separated in the second or third decimal place.

West Virginia is sort of a statistical fluke at the moment. That’s the short version anyway. They beat Georgia Southern, who beat Western Michigan. I don’t think Ga. Southern or Western Michigan are good teams, but the former looks like a good win for WVU right now. Western Michigan is the only FBS opponent the Eagles (that’s Ga. Southern’s mascot) have played, and the Broncos played Michigan St., one of the best teams, so they seem to have a really good strength of schedule.

I will mostly be discussing the overall score though.

I also mentioned in my last rankings blog that looking at this year’s results alone, not factoring in last season or any personal perceptions, Texas A&M should be in the top five, so I’ve confirmed that as well.

I’ve laid out several reasons I’m skeptical of the Aggies, but they won’t get a ton of points before playing Alabama in about a month, so their computer rating should come closer to aligning with the subjective ranking anyway.

I know I don’t have Notre Dame nearly that high, but as far as my ratings know, the Irish beat Virginia by 70 instead of 7, so that’s one reason I have them a good bit lower. Maybe they’re even better with their third QB in just a handful of games going back to the end of last regular season. Sort of like Ohio St. was in the playoff in January.

Notre Dame-UMass SHOULD be dull, but that Notre Dame-Clemson game in two weeks will be huge in determining who goes where in the first computer ratings.

There is a bit of an issue with certain FCS opponents counting for too many points right now, but I’ll discuss that immediately afterward and then add some further comments.

Something else worth considering is that wins over unbeaten FCS teams (who have actually beaten a Division I opponent anyway) count for a good bit of points right now. The only teams that show up in the top 25 who are influenced by this are West Virginia (so that’s another reason WVU is so high in the weekly average), Iowa, North Carolina St., Ohio U., and U. Miami. This also helps #26 Baylor.

Cal-Berkeley and Missouri also get high points from their FCS opponents that will diminish over time. So if you just want take out those points, the top 25 would conclude thusly:

10 Iowa
11 Utah
12 Indiana
13 Ole Miss
14 Florida
15 UCLA
16 Missouri
17 Syracuse
18 W. Virginia
19 Temple
20 Texas Tech
21 N.C. St.
22 Toledo
23 BYU
24 Ohio U.
25 Penn St.

I swear I didn’t rig the system to make LSU’s upcoming opponent (Syracuse) look good this week. Wake Forest is otherwise undefeated, and Central Michigan has a very strong schedule right now having played Oklahoma St. as well.

As an aside I found amusing, Les Miles made a point of talking up Central Michigan (and the MAC in general) during his Monday press conference because apparently his wife is a graduate of CMU. After Syracuse, who beat the Chippewas in overtime last week, LSU will play MAC opponent Eastern Michigan, so that may have been a secondary motivation of bringing up the MAC’s success.

These things will sort themselves out though. If Wake Forest wins more than a few games, I’ll be surprised, and it’s hard to have a good strength of schedule out of the MAC. This year might be an exception for the MAC though after the way teams like Toledo, Northern Illinois, and Bowling Green have performed against major programs.

Just to go down the list though, Oklahoma and TCU are about right. Waiting for TCU to do something though. Oklahoma may go down a bit if Tennessee loses to Florida, so we’ll see about that. The Sooners also have a bye this coming week, so that will allow some teams to pass them up so that should help make it a more natural transition.

The Horned Frogs play Texas Tech, which looks good statistically right now due to some early competition.

I’m not a believer in Iowa. They’re getting a lot of points for their FCS win. Iowa St. probably will never count as a good win this year (likely a very weak one since the Cyclones went winless in the Big XII last season), and Pittsburgh will probably be mediocre.

Alabama and LSU are about right, with the proviso I mentioned about the latter having only had two playing weeks.

Utah has a good-looking schedule right now, and Michigan helped them out by beating two FBS opponents. The Wolverines are just out of the top 25 at #29.

Indiana is another fluke. The SIU and FIU wins will lose the lustre, I’d expect. Western Kentucky might be all right though.

Then we get to Ole Miss. It’s not exactly a secret that the Rebels didn’t play anyone before Alabama. Again, the fact that they won 70-7 or whatever doesn’t matter.

Unbeaten Florida knocked off unbeaten Kentucky on Saturday. No guarantee that will mean anything in a couple of weeks, but congrats to the Gators.   It’s something to have a 29-game winning streak over another SEC program regardless.

Missouri, UCLA, and Temple are other teams who got away with getting close wins, although there is a very small adjustment when you win a close game (≤3) at home.

North Carolina St. is another fluke. I don’t think we’ll look back at the end of the season and remark at the greatness of their non-conference wins over Troy and Old Dominion. Same thing with Ohio U.’s wins over Marshall and Idaho. Old Dominion and Marshall may turn out to be all right, but they may lose to a few more teams apiece instead of staying otherwise undefeated.

I think it’s fairly clear why Toledo, BYU, and Miami are there. Arkansas does have two losses now, but they got that FBS win and the Hogs’ losses are to two undefeated teams (I mentioned Texas Tech earlier). Nebraska also has two losses from apparently good teams (BYU and U. Miami).

Upcoming blogs

Finally, I wanted to announce something.  Other than the weekly rankings, this blog hasn’t had too much structure to it.  I believe next week I’m going to start a series called “SEC Wednesdays”.  This will be a time when I will go into more detail about past and upcoming SEC games rather than having it clog up space in more general blogs.  Of course there were a few big games last weekend and I mentioned them already.   But after the games this week, I will keep my comments short when it’s an SEC game until the SEC Wednesday blog.

The basic structure of the week will be Sundays (starting in October) the new ratings will come out, with the top 25 rankings and discussion blog coming out Monday generally.  Then on Thursday or Friday I usually do some kind of preview of the upcoming week for other teams or perhaps I might do something specific to LSU.

The last couple of weeks I did “conference reports”.  I will probably do that one more time next week before that series will go on hiatus.  There aren’t enough inter-conference games to sustain it after the first few playing weeks.  I try to do a final one for the regular season before the conference championship games and then another after the bowl games.

Week 2 Rankings and Commentary

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 14, 2015 at 1:50 PM

I’ll just start by mentioning a couple of other blogs and then get to the rankings.

Recap and reaction to the LSU-Mississippi St. game

Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Auburn

Week 1 top 25

 

New Top 25

Rank Team Previous
1 Ohio St. 1
2 Alabama 2
3 TCU 4
4 Mich. St. 5
5 Baylor 3
6 USC 6
7 UCLA 8
8 Clemson 9
9 Ole Miss 11
10 Oregon 7
11 LSU 10
12 Florida St. 12
13 Ga. Tech 13
14 TX A&M 16
15 Georgia 15
16 Notre Dame 14
17 Okie St. 23
18 Oklahoma 24
19 Kansas St. 25
20 Wisconsin 19
21 Arizona St. 22
22 BYU

BYU_Logo_1969-1998

23 Missouri 20
24 Temple

temple

25 Northwestern

nu_old_logo

Out of rankings

(17) Auburn
(18) Boise St.
(21) Arkansas

I don’t think I’m the only person surprised by some of the results and final scores from over the weekend, but mostly I feel like I made some good choices in the early rankings.

I did have Arkansas ranked, but I didn’t have them in the top 20 like the major polls did.

I also had Auburn ranked (at 17th last week), but they were picked by voters to win the SEC.  They were also picked #3 in preseason by ESPN the magazine.  I think I’ve been rightly skeptical about both teams.

I’m glad I picked Michigan St. above Oregon, but I was right to only put them a few spots apart in the preseason.

I know their quarterback got hurt (and the other one from last year is now at Florida St.), so I don’t want to be too harsh, but I’m also glad I didn’t put Notre Dame in the top 10.

Georgia is another team I’m glad for the moment I kept out of the top 10.  They didn’t even look like a top-25 team against Vanderbilt.

I also made the right call to rank Oklahoma but not Tennessee in preseason.

Obviously a lot can change throughout the season.  Like I tried to explain in preseason, however, the idea is mostly to rank how the teams start out rather than the projected finish, so overall I think I did a pretty good job based on what I’ve seen.

I kept Missouri in and not Auburn because they weren’t playing an FCS team and they won in regulation.  Also unlike Auburn, they were on the road and they took the lead for good in the third quarter.

Arkansas and Boise St. had losses to unranked teams, so the decisions to remove them were easy.  I decided to rank BYU, who also won at Nebraska.  They had the Hail Mary to win, but they were only down by one point before that.  Tell me what other team has a combination of two defeated opponents that looks better right now.

I did not decide to rank Toledo, partly because Arkansas was their opening game, so there is nothing else on which to judge.  I think it’s much more likely that Arkansas isn’t deserving than that Toledo is really good.

Another team with a respectable combination of wins is Temple.  They beat Penn St. and won at Cincinnati.  You might laugh at them as a ranked team, but if they were named Alabama or Michigan or something of that nature, they would almost certainly be ranked.  They may not last, but it’s still a pretty respectable start.

I also decided to go ahead and rank Northwestern given their win over Stanford.  They played Eastern Illinois, an FCS team this week; but I don’t think many other teams could play Stanford and Eastern Illinois and give up fewer than 7 points combined.  Northwestern beat the Panthers by 41, whereas last year Minnesota only beat them by 22 and Ohio U. only beat them by 15.  Eastern Illinois went .500 against other FCS teams last season.

A few interesting games next week, including Ole Miss going to Tuscaloosa.  It will be interesting to see if Ole Miss dictates the tempo, not that that would guarantee a Rebel victory anyway. It could be like the 49-42 Alabama win over Texas A&M exactly two years ago.

Two big games in Los Angeles (although the home teams should win) as Stanford goes to the Coliseum and BYU visits the Rose Bowl.

A few other games of potential interest:

(12)Florida St. @ Boston College

(13) Georgia Tech @ (16) Notre Dame

South Carolina @ (15) Georgia

(25) Northwestern @ Duke

I don’t expect Northern Illinois @ (1) Ohio St. to be too interesting; but the Buckeyes were only up 17 after three quarters against Hawaii, so the early going could be close.

Every other game should be boring, although it’s possible Louisville can finally play a good game when (8) Clemson comes to town.

Conference Report Week 1

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

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

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

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

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

Also, records are against FBS opponents unless otherwise indicated.

I always liked this version of the logo.

I always liked this version of the logo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preseason Full Top 25

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on August 29, 2013 at 1:29 PM

For top 10 reasoning, go here.

Rank/Team/Previous/Reasoning
1 Alabama 1
2 Ohio St. 3
3 Georgia 8
4 Stanford 5
5 Oregon 4
6 LSU 14
7 Clemson 11
8 Louisville 17
9 S Carolina 7
10 TX A&M 9

11 Boise St. 19 – Chris Petersen is 51-2 with a returning quarterback. The Broncos don’t have an impressive schedule at all. I don’t factor that in though, or I would be ranking them even higher. They return 10 other starters as well, mostly on offense, so the defense should have some openings for the likes of Washington to exploit. That is why BSU is not in the top 10.

12 Texas — – Even with 19 returning starters, it was hard to put the Longhorns any higher based on the last couple of seasons. On defense, some of the returning starters apparently aren’t even good enough to start again. Defensive backs should be strong though, and there are no glaring weaknesses on offense.

13 Florida 6 – The Gators have 10 returning starters from a team that at least for most of last season greatly exceeded expectations. The running game will be a major question mark, but another solid defense can be expected. They could be something like LSU was in 2010 when there wasn’t much of a passing game either (at least not reliably), but other areas were strong enough that the team still finished #8. With the right combination of wins, Florida could end up representing the East after all. The downside possibility is that the Gators could finish around .500 in conference and maybe even lose to Florida St.

14 Oklahoma 15 – The Sooners need to replace a quarterback, but the 7 offensive returning starters should help out. There will also be considerable depth at receiver that is not reflected in that number. Run defense and pass rush can be very suspect being that the team had trouble in this area last season and does not return anyone on the defensive line.

15 Oregon St. 24 – The Beavers return 15 starters from a 9-4 team last year. They always seem to be a team that can knock off a top team in conference even though this OSU rarely has the talent to win the conference, which should be tilted toward the North once again. They should be able to do better with running the ball, but throwing it may be more suspect. The defense should be solid overall, but there will be some holes to fill on the line.

16 USC — – Staying with the Pac-12 (and this is a team that will have to travel to Corvallis), I don’t quite understand why so many are overlooking the Trojans. They were a top-3 (if not top 1) pick going into last year. While calling last year a disappointment is an understatement, much of the team has another chance at it, and they’re certainly not worse than a year ago. Although there is some chatter about Arizona St. potentially winning the South, there are five pretty win-able divisional games for USC, which also does not face Oregon. They will have a new QB, but I was never impressed by Barkley anyway. I don’t expect anything like 12-1, but the 2003 team did pretty well with a first-year quarterback, as did the 2008 team in Mark Sanchez’s only full season.

17 Notre Dame 2 – All of the easily-recognizable names from last year are gone, but 13 returning starters were enough to put the Irish a good number of spots into the top 25. The pressure will be on Brian Kelly to show that he can keep the team together despite some significant challenges and that last year wasn’t just a combination of lucky breaks. Like last season, the defense should be good enough to keep the Irish in games even if the offense doesn’t perform.

18 TCU — – Lest anyone think that I’m looking past LSU’s first opponent coming up in a few days… The Horned Frogs return almost the entire defense from last year and 6 returning starters on offense. There could be a quarterback controversy and the running game will be an unknown element, but the rest of the offense seems to be solid.

19 Nebraska 18 – Taylor Martinez is one of 12 returning starters on what momentarily looked like a sure Rose Bowl team last season. He will have a running back and a couple returning receivers to accompany him. Sometimes the defense just hasn’t shown up, so it may not be entirely bad that only 5 starters return.

20 Florida St. 12  – It’s not just THAT the Noles only have 10 returning starters, it’s where they are. Only two will be throwing targets, none in the backfield. On defense, the only returning starter outside of the secondary is a single middle linebacker. FSU has five games to get off its feet before traveling to Clemson, so despite the problems, I would not expect a loss before then.

21 Michigan St. — – Despite 6 total losses last season, the only team that beat the Spartans by more than 4 points went to the BCS Championship game. A little bit of maturity might be the only missing ingredient. Eight starters return on offense, where MSU needs to focus on finding running backs. A couple of players on the defensive line will need to be replaced, but the defense may challenge for best in the Big Ten.  They may well turn out to be a bit better than this, but I believe in making a team like this prove it.

22 Ole Miss — – This is the other extreme from Florida St.: 20 starters return to a team that finished barely above .500 last season (although playing in the SEC West was a good reason it didn’t have a better record). The defense wasn’t up to par last season, but that is the side with more returning starters. Other than two kickers, the Rebels only need to replace a tight end, an offensive guard, and a middle linebacker as starters.

23 N’western 20 – Both lines will have significant new starters, but 15 starters return from a 10-win team last year. Like Ole Miss, the defense wasn’t always reliable, especially not in the secondary, but we’re not talking about BCS-bowl teams at this point, so there can be such weaknesses.

24 Wisconsin — – The Badgers finished strong and won the Big Ten, but not before a lot of losses that would have normally made that impossible. So I’m not picking them particularly high despite returning 14 starters from that team. The offense should be pretty similar, if it can find a good running back; but beyond the line, there could be trouble on defense, where only 6 starters return.

25 Oklahoma St. — – The weakness with the Cowboys seems to be the running game, although a quarterback rotation can also be problematic. Three starters on the offensive line need to be replaced, and there is no returning starter at running back. Both sides of the ball return 7 starters, but on defense, the players lost from last year seem a lot more balanced.

Out of Rankings: (10) Kansas St., (13) SJSU, (16) Utah St., (21) Ark. St., (22) N. Illinois, (23) Michigan, (25) Cincinnati

Top Bowls to Watch and Other Reactions

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

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

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

Bowls To Watch

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

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

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

Seeing Red

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

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

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

Louisiana Teams Slighted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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