theknightswhosay

Posts Tagged ‘top 25’

Final Top 25 of the 2016 Season

In Bowls, College Football, College Football Playoff, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on January 11, 2017 at 7:36 PM

I’ll keep you in suspense with my conference assessment (although you can find the summary here), but I thought it was interesting that Ohio St. and Washington were able to stay in the top 4. I know the last time I did a blog Penn St. was #4, but they actually fell to #5 after the Army/Navy game and FCS postseason games were added in.

Clemson didn’t win by as much as the champions have won previously in the CFP era, so my only concern is what if a 2-loss team ends up winning the national championship over a previous unbeaten? The winner might not be the best team in my rankings in that scenario; but it would be hard to have an NFL ranking that would put a 10-6 Super Bowl winner first, so I don’t regard that as a huge issue.

Congratulations to Clemson for not only having the best team (at least in the fourth quarter on Monday) but also the best schedule.

Congratulations to Clemson for not only having the best team (at least in the fourth quarter on Monday) but also the best schedule.

I also thought it was interesting that for the first time since I’ve been doing this the team with the best schedule is the national champion. Of course it didn’t hurt that they played three SEC teams and Ohio St. in addition to their ACC schedule.

Back to the other teams… to be fair, if you divide by playing week, Oklahoma and Florida St. would have passed up Washington. Also, Western Michigan (which had a conference championship game) would have fallen to #11.

USC closed the gap with Penn St. pretty well, but they were too far apart to start with for the Trojans to go ahead. USC did finish in the top 10 though, while Michigan fell out of the top 10 for the first time since Week 4.

LSU didn’t squeeze into the top 25 even though they beat the #25 team Louisville, but the Cardinals had built up enough of an advantage over the course of the season. The ACC bowl results didn’t hurt, although as I’ll discuss in the next blog the SEC didn’t do too badly either.

It also hurt the Tigers to have one fewer playing week. If you average ratings by playing week, LSU would have finished 22nd. If you give the Tigers a win over South Alabama (the canceled game), LSU would have probably finished 20th.

Other big movers were Tennessee, Oklahoma St., and Florida, which all improved 4 or 5 spots. Along with the teams that fell out (and Louisville), big movers in the wrong direction were Colorado, Boise St., and West Virginia.

South Florida actually fell a few spots despite beating South Carolina, but that was largely due to a disastrous bowl season for the American Conference (or AAC).

Stanford only had a modest gain after beating North Carolina, but the Pac-12 didn’t have a great bowl season either. It only qualified 6 teams, and only 2 other Pac-12 teams (USC and Utah) won bowl games. Stanford did not play Utah this season and USC was also in the other division, so the other wins didn’t help the Cardinal as much as another Pac-12 North win would have.

Top 25

rank/team/prev
1 Clemson 2
2 Alabama 1
3 Ohio St. 3
4 Washington 5
5 Oklahoma 8
6 Florida St. 10
7 Wisconsin 9
8 Penn St. 4
9 W. Michigan 6
10 USC 13
11 Michigan 7
12 Tennessee 16
13 Okie St. 18
14 Stanford 17
15 Colorado 11
16 Florida 21
17 Boise St. 12
18 S. Florida 15
19 App. St. —
20 U. Miami —
21 Virginia Tech —
22 West Virginia 14
23 W. Kentucky —
24 Georgia Tech —
25 Louisville 19

All 128 Teams

Out of rankings: (20) Nebraska, (22) Temple, (23) Houston, (24) Auburn, (25) Pittsburgh

LSU Keeps Coach O and Week 14 Top 25

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 27, 2016 at 8:42 PM

I’m going to have to do three blogs this week to keep them from being too long. I’m not sure when I will have my SEC material ready, but since there is only one game coming up, I see no need to do that on Wednesday. I also want to talk about bowl games and other conferences.

LSU Sticks with Coach O

I don’t know what to believe about the LSU coaching search and the conversation with Tom Herman and his agent. One story is there never was any kind of final offer, just informal talks. Another story is Herman asked for $6 million per year and LSU rejected it. A third story is all details of the deal were in place and agreeable to both sides, but LSU withdrew its offer and hired Orgeron when Herman or his agent said he wanted to talk to Texas before signing.

Like Coach O (or Eaux as some fans spell it) said in the Texas A&M press conference, I really would have liked to have had that Florida game. LSU would be all but a lock for the Sugar Bowl as well as making this decision easier. Should falling short by a foot or so when we had a chance to get that win determine who the next coach should be on a permanent basis? I don’t think it should. I’ll talk more about bowl possibilities later in the week.

Coach Orgeron accepting "the greatest job in the country" Saturday.

Coach Orgeron accepting “the greatest job in the country” Saturday.

I don’t want to belittle the job Steve Ensminger and the offensive staff did in trying to make a productive offense out of the playbook and offense that Les Miles and Cam Cameron left behind. It wasn’t very ideal to have to patch something together like that four games into the season, but offensive inadequacies were still exposed against Alabama and Florida and even in the first half against Southern Miss. I hope Coach Ensminger can stay on to help the new coordinator because I think it did show that he’s not just a run-of-the-mill tight ends coach.

If we get one of the best offensive coordinators like Orgeron says he wants to do and that guy has the whole offseason, that should put us in position to score more than 10 points against Alabama, more than 16 points against Florida, more than 18 points against Auburn, and more than 16 points against Wisconsin. Had we done that this season, we would be undefeated. I don’t know if the defense will be quite as good next year as some of our replacement players struggled on Thursday, but we will not be rebuilding from scratch either.

I’m more skeptical about LSU doing well next year than I was this year because I felt like the array of talent should have been just right this year (which was why starting 2-2 was bad enough to fire the coach), but sometimes you do better when you’re not quite as good on paper. One example was when we had a number of players drafted early and a new offensive coordinator in 2007 and had a better year than the year before.

I mostly agree with the decisions Alleva made, although I would prefer to have that Florida game at home next year.

Oh yeah, and we did a couple of neat things in the game (see bolded areas).

Rankings Comments

Before you have too much of a knee-jerk reaction, remember that Ohio St. and Michigan won’t gain any more points this week. It might benefit them slightly if Penn St. beats Wisconsin instead of losing to the Badgers, but the big points will go to the teams that win this weekend. Regardless of the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions, chances are that both will pass up Michigan. If Clemson wins, it is likely they will pass up Ohio St., but the Buckeyes should be secure in the top 4.

I don’t think Western Michigan would beat any team in the top 10, but I think this shows my system has adequate safeguards against an undefeated team with an easy schedule finishing ahead of a one-loss team or even in some cases a two-loss team with a strong schedule.

The idea is to rank playoff-worthiness. If there were an 8-game playoff (heaven forfend), I do think it would be fairer to include a team like Western Michigan than the fourth Big Ten team or the third ACC or Pac-12 team. If the season ended today, I think Wisconsin should get the 7th seed instead (since we won’t really establish which Big Ten team should be fourth until Saturday), but I’m not going to overhaul my formula over a 0.006-point difference between two teams that will be irrelevant after this weekend anyway.

The next thing I can see people griping about is Oklahoma taking a tumble, but that’s because some teams picked up meaningful points while the Sooners were idle. It also didn’t help the Sooners that Houston lost to Memphis, which is obviously more harmful than Ohio St. beating Michigan was helpful. An oversimplified explanation is that Houston’s FBS winning percentage fell 8 points while Ohio St.’s winning percentage only improved 0.8 points. Oklahoma should be able to recover all the lost ground with a win though.

Normally Boise St.’s loss would have hurt more, but of the Broncos’ four out-of-conference opponents, three of them won. The only loss was by Washington St. to Washington, which didn’t hurt very much. ULL and Oregon St. both got really important wins for them. Oregon was by far the best team Oregon St. beat; and Arkansas St. had been undefeated in the Sun Belt, so that was a big win for the Cajuns, who had only had four wins before that game.

Why is Tennessee still 16th? Well, they beat one conference champion (Appalachian St. of the Sun Belt) and three divisional champions (MAC East, ACC Coastal, and SEC East). That’s in addition to playing Alabama and Texas A&M as non-divisional opponents. Every SEC team is now in the top 75, so while there were only a few good arguments for the top 25, there is still a laundry list of at least somewhat decent teams that the Volunteers beat while none of the losses were catastrophic.

I’ll talk more about conferences later in the week, but because of what I said above, the SEC is still the best top-to-bottom conference in my rankings, although analysis of the top 40 (the part at the top) tells a different story.

Top 25

rank/team/prev
1 Alabama 1
2 Ohio St. 3
3 Clemson 2
4 Michigan 4
5 Washington 8
6 Penn St. 5
7 W. Michigan 10
8 Wisconsin 9
9 Colorado 12
10 Florida St. 14
11 Boise St. 7
12 Oklahoma 6
13 USC 22
14 S. Florida 21
15 Okie St. 16
16 Tennessee 11
17 Stanford 23
18 Florida 18
19 Nebraska 15
20 Louisville 13
21 West Virginia —
22 Auburn 19
23 Houston 17
24 Virginia Tech 24
25 Navy —

All 128 Teams

Out of rankings: (20) Texas A&M, (25) N. Carolina

Week 13 Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, College Football Playoff, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 22, 2016 at 8:38 PM

Since I didn’t get a chance to post my rankings blog until today, I’m delaying the SEC Wednesday blog to Thursday. Of course I will try to release it by game time on Thursday, but you may want to check the blog directly in case I’m delayed in one of the various ways I share this.

Before I get to the teams, I wanted to note that the SEC fell out of the top spot of the top-40 conference rankings but not the top-to-bottom ones. There is only one SEC team in my top 10 now, and of course LSU fell out of my top 40. The middle-of-the-pack SEC teams do enough to hurt the higher teams but don’t do enough to put themselves in the top 40.

It’s been strange to have the top-to-bottom so at odds with the top-40 rankings this season.

Top 40:
1. ACC
2. Big Ten
3. SEC
4. Pac-12

Top to Bottom:
1. SEC
2. ACC
3. Pac-12
4. Big Ten

The Big Ten East takes top division in my standings. It did so with its top three teams alone even though both the SEC West and ACC Coastal have more top-40 teams apiece. I don’t average out the divisions, but I would guess the SEC West would be #1 if I did. Maybe I’ll add room for that in the off-season.

The only thing I have to contribute to the playoff conversation is that the first three spots look pretty straightforward (Alabama by winning 2 games, Clemson by winning 2 games, and a 1-loss Big Ten champion or 1-loss non-champion Ohio St.). Even though they’re ahead now, the Sooners have a disadvantage against the Huskies because Washington potentially has two games left instead of one.

If Ohio St. beats Michigan, there is also a strong possibility that the Big XII would be shut out even if Washington were to lose. It would be hard to put the Sooners ahead of a two-loss Big Ten champion (which would be inevitable if Penn St., Ohio St., and Wisconsin all win this weekend). It’s worth noting that one of the teams to beat Oklahoma was Ohio St.

In addition to Oklahoma and Washington, Colorado also make a significant move upwards. The bad news for Washington and Colorado is that now both of their rivalry opponents are damaged as Utah also lost to Oregon. Colorado has not clinched the South, but obviously that should be the opponent that Washington should hope for.

The Pac-12 South will be decided in Boulder, where Colorado has not beaten Utah since 1957.

The Pac-12 South will be decided in Boulder, where Colorado has not beaten Utah since 1957.

I was surprised a little bit by how high Florida climbed in the top 25, but I expected them to make the top 25 with a win. LSU has a long way to go to make the top 25, but it’s not impossible with two quality wins (A&M and a bowl game).

Stanford, USC, and Virginia Tech garnered wins over losing teams who weren’t too terrible, but their progress had more to do with losses by others. The Hokies are one win away from getting the honor of playing Clemson for the ACC title, and USC makes the Pac-12 title game if Utah beats Colorado.

Top 25

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

All 128 Teams

Out of rankings:
15 Wash. St.
18 West Virginia
22 Utah
25 Troy

Week 12 Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, College Football Playoff, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 13, 2016 at 7:32 PM

I’ll talk about the game more in the SEC Wednesday blog, but I’ve updated the LSU-Arkansas rivalry entry.

Here is the one for Florida if you wanted to see that.

Going into this week, there was only really one team within striking distance of Clemson, and that was Michigan. We know what happened there.

Next was Ohio St., but in order to have enough points to move up to #2, the Buckeyes would have had to beat a better opponent than Maryland. Had they played Minnesota, for instance, it might have done the trick.

It doesn’t happen often among the higher teams, but it is possible to maintain a ranking despite a loss if you have a sufficient lead over some teams and you have nearby teams lose.

It also helped the Tigers that Troy got a quality win over Appalachian St. and Georgia Tech beat Virginia Tech. Clemson lost points overall, but they could have lost those points for the loss without gaining any for prior opponents.

Sometimes there is an even lower team that can pass up a losing team like Clemson, but not this week.

After Ohio St., the next team was 2-loss Penn St., who also has a loss to Pitt. That would have made zero sense. Three of the next four after Penn St. were Auburn, Washington, and Texas A&M. You don’t pass up #2 by losing. To round out last week’s top 10, we had Western Michigan, who beat a bad Kent St. team on Tuesday, and Louisville, who has lost to Clemson.

Although Ohio St. may not even make the Big Ten title game with a win, I think we can expect another classic Ohio St.-Michigan game.

Although Ohio St. may not even make the Big Ten title game with a win, I think we can expect another classic Ohio St.-Michigan game.

So the gap between Clemson and Ohio St. did narrow from about 0.18 to about 0.01. So beating Michigan, for instance, on the same day the other team beats South Carolina counts for a lot more than 0.01, but I don’t project into the future; I just provide a snapshot of where things stand right now.

There is a simple argument for Louisville being ahead of Clemson: they play in the same division as Clemson and lost to a better team. Even assuming equal conference schedules (which isn’t really the case since Louisville didn’t play Pitt), Clemson also beat Auburn. The best non-conference win Louisville can hope for is Kentucky, which will most likely enter the game 6-5; but even then you shouldn’t get credit for a win until you play the game.

Just as before, I can’t come up with a good reason to put Michigan ahead of Clemson. I hope the CFP committee does better than the polls.

I mentioned Western Michigan should generally be going downward, but when you have four teams in front of you lose and you only gain one spot, that’s still evidence that they’re not accumulating many points.

Colorado did gain some points, but several other nearby teams gained more points; and the losses by good teams weren’t damaging enough to help.

Assuming only one team gets in from the Big Ten and the ACC, there is still another opening even though you have to go down to #7 in the polls before you get to the team. That team is Washington, which also lost of course (although I have them 12th). This was the first time since 1985 that numbers 2 through 4 all lost in the same weekend.

As more relevant games are being played, the Big XII teams are all moving up. It will be interesting to see if the Big XII champion is in the mix by the end.

Top 25

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

All 128 Teams

Out of rankings: (15) Virginia Tech, (22) App. St., (23) Wyoming

Week 10 Top 25 and Comments

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

Housekeeping

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

LSU-Alabama Rivalry since 2000.

LSU-Alabama Rivalry since 2000.

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

Contrast with Other Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion of My Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 25

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

All 128 teams

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

Week 5 Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 26, 2016 at 8:25 PM

This is later than I like to post, but I thought maybe with the combination of Monday Night Football and the debate people might be up late. I don’t have much to add about the LSU coaching change right now, but since Les was the longest continuous SEC coach, I will include just a little bit more along with the “SEC Wednesday” feature.

I did want to mention briefly that I understand Les Miles spoke with the team, expressed support for them going forward, and told them to “run the table” this season. Miles, AD Alleva, and Interim Head Coach Ed Orgeron met with the players yesterday evening. Orgeron had a press conference today, but I did not watch it yet. Former Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron apparently left without speaking to anyone (unless he informally talked to a few players) before leaving campus.

I’ve done the first full round of my computer ratings, although I opted not to publish them since I’m not using them exclusively yet. I also need to write a blog on that site to explain the changes.

This is very results-based though. So although I think LSU and Ole Miss, for instance, are very good teams despite two losses apiece, they’re not ranked here. Two teams that probably aren’t very good, Western Michigan and Wake Forest, beat undefeated teams over the weekend and are themselves undefeated. Right now, that counts for something.

It might not have been the game of the century, but undefeated Wake Forest is still undefeated after traveling to play formerly undefeated Indiana.

It might not have been the game of the century, but undefeated Wake Forest is still undefeated after traveling to play formerly undefeated Indiana.

Except for just a couple of changes, all I did was rank the following teams 1-25, and then I averaged my rating with the computer rating. I determined the 25 teams on a subjective basis; but like I said, I still focused on results rather than which teams I think are actually the 25 best.

Tennessee actually came out first, but I thought it was not appropriate to make a change at #1. Absent an Alabama loss or really poor performance, I don’t anticipate making a change to #1 on here for a while even if the formula ranks someone else #1. The only other deviation from what the average of the two ratings gave me was that I broke ties by keeping whatever team was higher last week ahead.

Next week, apart from #1, I plan on simply transcribing the rankings from my ratings site.

If you’re wondering what happened to Ohio St., other teams can pass you up when they score points and you don’t. If they keep winning, they’ll pass other teams back up as they have more bye weeks. Also, that Bowling Green win looks less impressive every week. I still ranked the Buckeyes #3 subjectively; but except for the Alabama/Tennessee thing I mentioned, they went through the same process as everyone else.

rank/team/previous
1 Alabama 1
2 Tennessee 4
3 Louisville 8
4 Clemson 10
5 Wisconsin 2
6 Texas A&M 7
7 Houston 5
8 Michigan 12
9 Ohio St. 3
10 Stanford 9
11 Arkansas 6
12 Wake Forest —
13 Boise St. 21
14 Ga. Tech —
15 Florida 15
16 Nebraska 18
17 Utah 13
18 San Diego St. 17
19 Washington 22
20 Florida St. 14
21 W. Virginia —
22 Va. Tech —
23 Arizona St. —
24 W. Michigan —
25 N. Carolina —

Out of rankings: (11)LSU, (16) Iowa, (19) Georgia, (20) Michigan St., (23) Oklahoma St., (24) Central Michigan, (25) Cal (Berkeley)

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

Week 2 Rankings with Recap and LSU Thoughts

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 6, 2016 at 10:01 PM

NOTE: Since I did not post this until late Tuesday and did not share widely until midday Wednesday, I’m delaying my SEC Review/Preview to Friday.  When I said it would be on Thursday, I did not realize there were no games on Thursday this week.

I know this isn’t the optimal time to post this, but I promised to get it done tonight.

On one of the sites where I post my blogs, I got a request to compare my preseason rankings (which, just to avoid confusion, are not part of my formula and on which I generally only spend two to three hours every offseason, especially in recent years) to results. I’ve added into my last blog a summary of the post-2014 blog and also a short comparison between my 2015 preseason top 25 and the AP preseason top 25. I didn’t do a blog with any such comparisons after last season. I meant to, but I wrote a series of blogs about the NFL relocating to Southern California and did not get around to it.

While on the subject, I am also glad, at least for the moment, that I did not rank Notre Dame in my preseason top 25. So I’m happy with the results of the two Texas games. Also, I thought I’d mention again that I did rank Wisconsin in the preseason top 25. I think it’s silly that 2 points better than LSU on the field puts them 12 spots ahead of LSU in the polls now after LSU was 20+ spots ahead in preseason though. But I’ll get to my new top 25 at the end.

I’ll give details in my next blog on Thursday, but I also did very well with my predictions on SEC teams. The only real surprises were the LSU and Mississippi St. losses (though I picked those to be close, so I wasn’t completely shocked) and the margin of the Alabama win (I thought maybe somewhere between 7 and 21 points). Yesterday, I was surprised Ole Miss went out to such a big lead, but I was not surprised by the final score.

The SEC did have some losses, but Auburn, Ole Miss, and Missouri had no business beating their respective opponents. Kentucky should have been somewhat evenly matched, but you can rarely count on Kentucky to win a football game, especially not against a team who won 9 games last season.

sec football

Although the SEC only went 6-6 overall out of conference, it faced SEVEN non-conference Power-5 opponents (just as a reminder for the casual fans: those conferences are the ACC, Big XII, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC… with Notre Dame thrown in) and zero FCS opponents. Only three other conferences even faced 4 Power-5 opponents: the Pac-12 (2-2; lost to two SEC teams), the MAC (1-3; Western Michigan beat Northwestern for the only win), and the MWC (0-4).

If you’re wondering what happened to the other two SEC teams, Vanderbilt played South Carolina for the first intra-conference game, so in total 9 of the 14 SEC teams faced a Power-5 opponent in the first week.

I don’t want to talk about LSU too much since I covered them in the last blog and there are still my rankings to get to.

Les Miles mentioned that Ohio St. lost its first game a couple of years ago before winning the national championship. The SEC is harder to win than the Big Ten (at least in recent years), but I think this Wisconsin team is a lot better than that Virginia Tech team (and it was a much closer game), so you can’t count out LSU or some of the other teams with losses out.

ohio-st-virginia-tech

A late Va. Tech touchdown helps put away Ohio St. in Columbus in the opening game of the 2014 season.  The Buckeyes did not lose again until 11/21/2015.

The message boards would have a meltdown if they see me blame OC Cam Cameron instead of Les Miles, but I thought Cam needed to go last year, and I don’t think he could have supported my point better if he’d tried. They’re moving him back to the press box, but I think that’s just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic if the offense turns in another performance like this. At the end of last year, they thought putting him on the field was a great solution.

In my opinion, Cam just can’t develop a quarterback. He did well with Mettenberger, but that was a senior quarterback who had been through a couple of major SEC camps before (he started at Georgia). Anthony Jennings, since transferred, didn’t seem to improve much either. Part of it was the offensive line, but Harris didn’t look much better than he looked at Auburn in his first start a couple of years ago.

Les mentioned there were two drops that worsened Harris’s stats this time, but there were also a few passes that required an athletic play to catch. Also, I’m not sure if Les is counting as a drop one of the balls that was over the receiver’s head. Harris also threw a lot of two- and three-yard passes when a better quarterback might have completed 20- and 30-yard passes on the same plays.

Obviously, Cameron’s quarterbacks in the NFL weren’t anything close to high-school-level. It’s like taking a college professor and trying to put him in an eighth-grade classroom. It might not work too well even if he’s good at his job (the Ravens fired Cameron, but he did help get them to the playoffs en route to winning the Super Bowl, so make of that what you will).

There was also a problem with missed blocks on the offensive line – and Les is knowledgeable in that area – but I think a good coordinator will take some initiative. I doubt Les would have intervened if Cam had an idea of personnel changes or of plays to avoid because they weren’t being executed properly. There will be at least one change in the personnel as Josh Boutte is suspended for his late hit/cheap shot. I know what it is to be frustrated (and he possibly thought the play was still alive), but risking an injury to someone is a completely unacceptable way to express that, so I agree with the suspension.

linemen-wisc

LSU linemen barely even slow down the Wisconsin defense on a screen during a key third-down play.

Cameron is largely responsible for the presence of LSU’s backup Danny Etling, a Purdue transfer who started five games for the Boilermakers in 2014, so maybe if Etling starts playing, Cameron can finally prove me wrong. Of course that 2014 Ohio St. team I mentioned (they didn’t play Purdue that year) had to get a quarterback or two off the bench as well.

Harris dropped back 23 times, and there were 8 pass-blocking misses according to the Advocate’s Ross Dellenger. Watch the highlights (mostly Wisconsin highlights) on his Twitter feed, by the way. So many blocks and tackles that just weren’t made. The LSU players were in the right position most of the time, they just didn’t make the plays.

It reminds me of a Bear Bryant comment after a loss. A homer announcer said, “The Lord just wasn’t with us.” Bear said, “The Lord expects you to block and tackle.” (source)

So the defense doesn’t completely get off the hook. Wisconsin was in position to score a lot more points than they did due to some missed tackles, 10 of them in the first half. However, given the offensive ineptitude, they did an amazing job when they were backed up to get the game into halftime down only 6-0 and to give the offense a chance to win at the end.

Anyway, unlike the polls, I don’t like to move teams more than 10 spots unless they lost to someone completely off the board, which didn’t happen to anyone in my top 15. One of many boneheaded plays could have kept LSU from losing to Wisconsin, and a slight breeze or bump in the turf or holding error could have caused Wisconsin to miss the winning field goal. So I think separating them by one spot is reasonable at this time anyway.

I did give Ohio St. the full 10 spots even though as I said I’m not inclined to reward running up the score. I would have put the Buckeyes in the same spot had neither team scored after halftime when it was 35-10. I think a lot of teams who are up 35-10 at the half can score 70 if they really want to.

It’s just that many teams in the 10 spots above them did not play well at all. Arkansas won by 1 over an inexperienced Louisiana Tech team, USC got annihilated, Washington St. and Mississippi St. lost to directional teams most people haven’t heard of, and Michigan St. and Florida failed to impress against two teams that Bowling Green (Ohio St.’s opponent) probably would have been beaten comfortably. Akron finished 8-5 a year ago and lost to Bowling Green, 59-10. UMass, Florida’s opponent, lost to Bowling Green, 62-38, last year.

The two Texas teams beat in my opinion deserving top-30 teams (the pollsters thought they were a whole lot better than that), so that’s good enough for now. They jumped over the same teams Ohio St. jumped over.

Ole Miss didn’t really move because my estimation of the Rebels has not changed at all. I just wanted to give credit to those three teams, and three other teams fell below for obvious reasons.

Anyway, it’s even getting to many people’s bedtimes where I am now, so I’ll leave it at that. If you’re reading this in the morning, I may add pictures later.

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

Out of rankings: (16) Wash. St., (17) Miss. St.

2016 College Football Preseason Projections

In College Football, Preview on August 28, 2016 at 11:47 AM

It’s always a bit of a challenge to take last year’s results and even make an educated guess as to what that means in light of returning players, but it is a useful guide.

Alabama as well as the teams they beat in the SEC and national championship games, respectively, had relatively few returning starters last year. Alabama and Clemson had 11 apiece, and Florida had 10.

Alabama hasn't seemed to need too many returning starters, but returning starters are still a good indicator of which teams will and will not improve.

Alabama hasn’t seemed to need too many returning starters, but returning starters are still a good indicator of which teams will and will not improve.

On the other hand, it’s not hard to find disappointments among the teams who had relatively few returning starters. Many expected Auburn, for instance, to compete for championships. Their results were much less disappointing when you realize they only had 12 returning starters from an 8-5 team in 2014.

Georgia, which started last season in the top 10, had the same number. The Bulldogs finished outside the AP top 25 and barely made the final coaches’ top 25.

Mississippi St., which had one of the smallest numbers of returning starters (9), was less surprising but still went from 11 and 12 at the end of 2014 to unranked (in the national polls anyway) at the end of last year.

Oregon fell from #2 in the final poll in 2014 to about #20 at the end of last year after having 12 returning starters. Arizona was also a strong team out of the Pac-12 in 2014, finishing #10 in the CFP standings before the bowls. The Wildcats only had 12 returning starters and didn’t receive even a vote in either poll after last season.

Another team with very few returning starters was Boston College (9). They went from a bowl game in 2014 (and nearly a huge upset of then-undefeated Florida St. in late November of that season) to finishing 3-9 last season. Two of those three wins were over FCS opponents.

According to Phil Steele, other than the ones I mentioned at the beginning, no other teams with 11 or fewer returning starters posted improved records over the prior year. Of the 26 teams with 16 or more returning starters, 19 had improved records and only two had worse records.

So a program that traditionally has depth and does a good job recruiting can maintain the same basic level of play with 12 or fewer returning, but few very can improve, especially not substantially. For instance, no team with 12 or fewer returning starters finished in the top 10 last season after finishing outside the top 10 in 2014. Stanford, Iowa, Houston, and Oklahoma all had 13 though, so it doesn’t have to be among the highest numbers. All four returned their respective starting quarterbacks last year.

Going back to Alabama, I don’t normally do this with returning champions with 11 returning starters, but I consider them #1 until proven otherwise. It also doesn’t hurt that the Tide was in the top 4 after the regular season (including conference championship games) the last five years in a row. I hate when people say a team “reloads”; but if it ever fit a team, it fits them.

In the first of those seasons, there was an interesting situation wherein the Tide lost during the regular season and did not make the SEC championship game yet won the national title. There might just be a similar predicament this year since the 18 returning starters of LSU could do some damage in the SEC as well.

LSU has not beaten Alabama since November 2011 but seems to have all the pieces in place, with the possible exception of the quarterback position.

LSU has not beaten Alabama since November 2011 but seems to have all the pieces in place, with the possible exception of the quarterback position.

So that’s my top 2. Had LSU won maybe one more game and had Alabama not won the national championship, the two teams might have been reversed, but I’m more comfortable with Alabama anyway since they’ve obviously been more likely to win the key games toward the end in recent years. Also, I don’t think the Tide’s early-season nemesis Ole Miss is going to beat them again with their 10 returning starters. Also, I’ll probably get enough harassment from having LSU #2.

Apart from Alabama, I was skeptical of other teams with 11 or fewer returning starters, but those that were good enough to finish ranked last year I placed in the 18-25 range. Three teams that I really liked last year (Clemson, Iowa, and Stanford) had 12 returning starters apiece, so I put those in the top 10, but I’m not expecting those to make national semifinals.

The ACC may come down to Florida St. vs. Clemson for the sixth straight season, and the Seminoles look to take back control of the rivalry.

The ACC may come down to Florida St. vs. Clemson for the sixth straight season, and the Seminoles look to take back control of the rivalry.

I thought about putting Clemson higher, but they had a pretty close game with Florida St. last year. They were tied going into the fourth quarter, and I think part of the reason they won was better relative experience last year (they had the same number of returning starters, but most of the Seminoles’ returning starters were on a defense that wasn’t very good). When it’s 17 returning starters to 12, I think we can expect the script to flip.

Last year saw the Sooners return to national -championship contention for the first time in several years, and they are still the team to beat in the Big XII.

Last year saw the Sooners return to national -championship contention for the first time in several years, and they are still the team to beat in the Big XII.

There were a lot of teams who finished in the 20-32 range last year with substantial numbers of returning starters, but they have to prove more before I put them in the top 10, so that describes teams 11-17. It’s going to be interesting to see how 11-17 compares with 18-25 (except for Wisconsin) and with the three 12-returning-starter teams.

After the top 25, I list teams I left out by number of returning starters and last season’s adjusted rank. I’ll talk about this more later, but I decided to alter my formula slightly, and I looked at the adjusted ratings for last season when deciding the preseason rankings below. In short, it works the same basic way, I just gave a little more credit for quality wins, so when I start using computer ratings again (likely in early October), the teams you beat will be a little more important and the teams you lost to will be a little less important.

I’ll do my full rankings chart and mention the Week 1 match-ups later in the week.

rank/team/returning starters
1. Alabama 11
2. LSU 18
3. Florida St. 17
4. Oklahoma 13
5. Clemson 12
6. Michigan 13
7. Oklahoma St. 16
8. Utah 14
9. Iowa 12
10. Stanford 12
11. Tennessee 17
12. Georgia 14
13. North Carolina 14
14. Arkansas 14
15. USC 15
16. Washington St 14
17. Miss. St. 13
18. Houston 11
19. Florida 11
20. Michigan St. 10
21. Wisconsin 13
22. Oregon 11
23. Ole Miss 10
24. Ohio St. 6
25. TCU 10

18 returning starters (final adjusted 2015 rank)
Louisville (50)

16 returning starters (final adjusted 2015 rank)
Miami (43)

15 returning starters (final adjusted 2015 rank)
Washington (48)

13 returning starters (final adjusted 2015 rank)
Texas A&M (40)
WVU (49)
Boise St. (53)

11 returning starters (final adjusted 2015 rank)
Northwestern (16)

10 returning starters (final adjusted 2015 rank)
Notre Dame (17)
Toledo (19)
Baylor (23)

8 returning starters (final adjusted 2015 rank)
Navy (18)

College Football Week 1 Top 25

In College Football, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 8, 2015 at 1:02 PM

Rank- Team-Previous

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

k state
25 Kansas St. —

Out of rankings: (22) Stanford

Not too much to say this week.  Alabama did a good job controlling the game against what I believe is a good Wisconsin team.  Baylor and TCU didn’t do such great jobs against SMU and Minnesota, respectively.  Baylor’s defense did not seem like that of a title contender, and TCU didn’t put the Gophers away until the clock ran out.

Everyone else in the top 14 just stayed where they were.

I did move Boise down a couple of spots after being shut out in the second half against Washington.  The Broncos could have probably scored at least 30 by the middle of the third quarter, but instead they almost allowed the game to go into overtime.

Texas A&M impressed me late, and Auburn looked better than I thought they would.   Auburn could definitely be dangerous later in the year when the offense settles in a little better.

Georgia had an impressive margin of victory in only 50 minutes of play, but they only moved up because of Boise and Arizona St. moving down.

I could have put Wisconsin below Missouri, but I don’t think the Tigers would have done any better.

Oklahoma St. had a dubious performance, but it was on the road, and maybe Central Michigan isn’t so bad.  We’ll see.

Kansas St. wasn’t playing a good team even by FCS standards, but they won in a shutout, and it was 24-0 at halftime.  I can’t find any fault there.  As I mentioned in preseason, they were one of the strong considerations I had for the top 25 that just narrowly missed.

The coming week may be even more uneventful, although there are some potential revenge games to highlight.  LSU (who as I mentioned didn’t end up playing in opening week) will go on the road against Mississippi St., and Oregon visits Michigan St.  Also, Boise St. travels to BYU (which won on a Hail Mary to spoil Mike Riley’s debut at Nebraska), and Oklahoma travels to Tennessee.  I considered the Vols for the rankings above, but giving up 30 to Bowling Green was too much of a cause for concern in my view.