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Posts Tagged ‘U. Miami’

2016 Final Conference Rankings

In Bowls, College Football, Conference Reports on January 14, 2017 at 4:05 PM

Bowls

I know what the television sports media does is look at bowl records as if that’s the end-all and be-all of a conference, rarely even giving credit for a large percentage of teams making bowls.

Before people tune me out, I will say upfront that the SEC did not have the best bowl season, but it was a strong second.

How is 50% (I’m not counting the national championship since I think it’s fairer to give each team exactly one bite at the apple) a strong second?

We need to look at how good the opposition is. For instance, not many conferences have their #9 team play the runner-up (who went 6-2 in conference, the third-best conference record) of a Power-5 (P5) conference. It was frustrating that Arkansas didn’t beat Virginia Tech after the Hogs built up a large lead, but even being in the game was an accomplishment.

I decided to break down the P5 conferences by team standings and bowl game. This is based on regular-season conference records. Ties are broken by head to head and, failing that, overall pre-bowl record.

Then I gave a projection of the approximate record a major conference should have had against that schedule. The first one I list is Alabama/Washington. Since it’s champion vs. champion, that’s a tossup. So the SEC should have expected ½ of a win (or .5). The SEC should have expected 0 from Arkansas/Virginia Tech, so that isn’t listed. If the SEC team had a better conference record in any matchup by more than half a game, that game would have projected 1 win. No such game took place.

So there were 6 approximately 50/50 games, and the SEC won 6 games. An average P5 conference would have only won 3.

watch-sec-football-online-e1374758489890

(2) SEC
Alabama #1 8-0 W, Washington #1 8-1
Florida #2 6-2 W, Iowa #5 6-3
Auburn #3 5-3 L, Oklahoma #1 9-0
LSU #4 5-3 W, Louisville #2 7-1
Texas A&M #5 4-4 L, Kansas St. #4 6-3
Tennessee #6 4-4 W, Nebraska #6 6-3
Georgia #7 4-4 W, TCU #5 4-5
Kentucky #8 4-4 L, Georgia Tech #8 4-4
Arkansas #9 3-5 L, Virginia Tech #3 6-2
South Carolina #10 3-5 L, South Florida #2 7-1
Vanderbilt #11 3-5 L, N.C. State #9 3-5
Mississippi State #12 3-5 W, Miami U. #4 6-2

The AAC had a very good year (before the bowls), and South Florida lost only one game in conference with wins over Navy and Houston. The non-conference team who beat the Bulls just won the Orange Bowl. The 10th SEC team losing to them in overtime is not in any way a black mark on the SEC, and I’d say that if it were any other conference.

The rest were all against power-5 opponents. If the SEC were an average conference, it would have only been expected to win about 3 bowl games. See below for explanation.

I would have liked to have seen Vanderbilt and Kentucky do better, but both overachieved by making bowl games at all. As I’ve mentioned before, even the two non-bowl teams had decent resumes that included multiple wins over eventual bowl teams.

SEC 52-34 (.605) #6.5
All 72-30 (.706) #4.17
P5 59-27 (.686) #4.4

Texas A&M wasn’t nearly as good of a team later in the season as earlier, but I put them first among the 4-4 teams because of their early-season overtime win over Tennessee. But no other team had as big of a swing as Miami U., which started 0-6 and entered the bowl game at 6-6. So when projecting how many the SEC should have won, it’s really hard to know how to treat that one, so
I’ll just say that was 50/50.

Hopefully you get the idea when I do this for other conferences below.

Bowl games SEC should have won:
#12 .5
#11 .5
#8 .5
#7 .5
#2 .5
#1 .5
Projected record: 3-9 = 25%
Actual record 6-6 = 50%
Difference +25

acc

(1) ACC
#1 Clemson #1 7-1 W, Ohio St. #2 8-1
#2 Louisville 7-1 L, LSU #4 5-3
#3 Virginia Tech 6-2 W, Arkansas #9 3-5
#4 North Carolina 5-3 L, Stanford #5 6-3
#5 Florida St. 5-3 W, Michigan #3 7-2
#6 U. Miami 5-3 W, West Virginia #3 7-2
#7 Pitt 5-3 L, Northwestern #8 5-4
#8 Georgia Tech 4-4 W, Kentucky #8 4-4
#9 N.C. State 3-5 W, Vanderbilt #11 3-5
#10 Wake Forest 3-5 W, Temple #1 7-1
#11 Boston College 2-6 W, Maryland #10 3-6

#11 .5
#9 .5
#8 .5
#7 .5
#4 .5
#3 1
#2 1
#1 .5
Projected record: 5-6 = 45%
Actual record 9-2 = 82%
Difference +37

(3) Big Ten
#1 Penn St. 8-1 L, USC #3 7-2
#2 Ohio St. 8-1 L, Clemson #1 7-1
#3 Michigan 7-2 L, Florida St. #5 5-3
#4 Wisconsin 7-2 W, Western Michigan #1 8-0
#5 Iowa 6-3 L, Florida #2 6-2
#6 Nebraska 6-3 L, Tennessee #6 4-4
#7 Minnesota 5-4 W, Washington St. #4 7-2
#8 Northwestern 5-4 W, Pitt #7 5-3
#9 Indiana 4-5 L, Utah #6 5-4
#10 Maryland 3-6 L, Boston College #11 2-6

#10 .5
#8 .5
#6 1
#4 .5
#3 1
#2 .5
#1 1
Projected record: 5-5 = 50%
Actual record 3-7 = 30%
Difference -20

(4) Big XII
#1 Oklahoma 9-0 W, Auburn #3 5-3
#2 Oklahoma St. 7-2 W, Colorado #2 8-1
#3 West Virginia 7-2 L, U. Miami #6 5-3
#4 Kansas St. 6-3 W, Texas A&M #5 4-4
#5 TCU 4-5 L, Georgia #7 4-4

#5 .5
#4 1
#3 1
#1 1
Projected record: 3.5-1.5 = 70%
Actual record 3-2 = 60%
Difference -10

(5)Pac-12
#1 Washington 8-1 L, Alabama #1 8-0
#2 Colorado 8-1 L, Oklahoma St. #2 7-2
#3 USC 7-2 W, #1 Penn St. 8-1
#4 Washington St. 7-2 L, #7 Minnesota 5-4
#5 Stanford 6-3 W, #4 North Carolina 5-3
#6 Utah 5-4 W, #9 Indiana 4-5

#6 1
#5 .5
#4 1
#2 1
#1 .5
Projected record: 4-2 = 67%
Actual record 3-3 = 50%
Difference -17

(6) AAC
#1 Temple 7-1 L, Wake Forest #10 3-5
#2 South Florida 7-1 W, South Carolina #10 3-5
#3 Navy 7-1 L, Louisiana Tech #3 6-2
#4 Tulsa 6-2 W, C. Michigan #7 3-5
#5 Memphis 5-3 L, W. Kentucky #1 7-1
#6 Houston 5-3 L, San Diego St. #1 6-2
#7 Central Florida L, Arkansas St. #2 7-1

#4 1
#3 1
#2 1
#1 1
Projected record: 4-3 = 57%
Actual record 2-5 = 29%
Difference -28

For the record, I put the Big Ten third on that list because at least they qualified a large percentage for bowl games. The Pac-12 and Big XII (which is 10 teams) only had half their teams in bowl games.

Overall Conference Rankings

But this doesn’t answer what the best conference is.

Before I talk about my own ratings, I’m going to talk about the consensus of objective ratings. Excluding the three ratings (the two major polls and one computer rating) that only have a fraction of the teams rated, only three out of 92 other ratings have the SEC somewhere outside of the top two.

The ACC got a lot of 2s and 1s as well, but seven were outside of the top 2.

The SEC was on top in 57 ratings to the ACC’s 27 by my count. The other eight systems are nuts, I don’t know what more to say on that.

So in my own rating system, I suppose it comes as no surprise that the SEC is first, but the ACC made it very close, particularly with the national championship game. I don’t give that game any extra weight, but the way my system works is you get extra points for winning an extra game. No other team gets an extra game of that magnitude.

The ACC got some wins over SEC schools to be sure, but some of them were along the lines of Arkansas/Virginia Tech and Florida St./Ole Miss.

One thorn in the side of the ACC was Louisville, which lost both its last regular-season game and its bowl game to SEC teams that on paper the Cardinals should have beaten. The only ACC team to beat Louisville was Clemson, so all the other opponents were weighed down by their loss to the Cardinals, who also lost to Houston out of conference.

On the other hand something that might have given the SEC more of a buffer (at least in my ratings) was the two games that were not played as a result of moving the LSU/Florida game. As I mentioned last week, LSU would have moved up to about #20 with the addition of a win over South Alabama. Beating Presbyterian would have helped Florida in points slightly, but the Gators were too far behind Colorado to move ahead.

I think it’s fair to say this was a relatively weak year for the SEC at the top, but if it’s a weak year and the average team in your conference is better than the average team in any other conference, it’s hard to argue you’re not the best. Here are my averages:
1 SEC 0.441645
2 ACC 0.440546
3 Pac-12 0.314229
4 Big Ten 0.285768
5 Big XII 0.217209
6 AAC (American) 0.106448
7 MWC (Mountain West) 0.029324
8 SBC (Sun Belt) -0.008889
9 Independents -0.038589
10 MAC (Mid-American) -0.095654
11 CUSA -0.131416

Nega-Tiger Time & Head Coach Position

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game on November 20, 2016 at 4:14 PM

A few preliminaries:
Computer ratings of all teams after Week 11
Updated Florida Rivalry Blog
Texas A&M Rivalry Blog

I don’t know where this comes from exactly, but somehow on message boards there developed the concept of “nega-Tigers,” the more skeptical and pessimistic LSU fans, and “sunshine pumpers,” those who were more optimistic and stressed the positives. I try to be accurate and have seen the merits of both sides, but people have called me a sunshine pumper in recent seasons for pointing out that Les Miles had the best winning percentage of any coach of a substantial number of games in LSU history. Nega-Tigers tend to stress things like recent losses to teams like Alabama and Arkansas and the issues I’m about to discuss below.

One of the reasons I didn’t want to talk much about the Arkansas game was I didn’t want to get my confidence up too high. It’s just so disheartening that we can’t win a close game to save our lives. I don’t understand how you score one touchdown, you get a few yards away from another touchdown after driving for 75 yards, and then you can only come up with a single field goal for the last 37 ½ minutes of the game.

Technically, the Tigers beat Mississippi St. in a close game, but LSU was ahead by 17 with five minutes left. So let’s look at it another way:

Close game (<17 points) with 5 minutes left … result
Wisconsin 16, LSU 14 … Wisconsin 16, LSU 14
Auburn 18, LSU 13 … Auburn 18, LSU 13
Alabama 7, LSU 0 … Alabama 10, LSU 0
Florida 13, LSU 10 … Florida 16, LSU 10
Total: 0-4, scored 0 points, gave up 6 points

I don’t see a way out either even with a coaching change. We have to know how to win close games somehow. I know we were one positive play from beating Wisconsin, one second away from beating Auburn, and maybe one foot away from beating Florida, but losing all three is almost unforgivable.

Jimbo Fisher (right) with Nick Saban.  Fisher also coached under Les Miles for two seasons as the offensive coordinator.

Jimbo Fisher (right) with Nick Saban. Fisher also coached under Les Miles for two seasons as the offensive coordinator.

Jimbo Fisher is going to fix it (assuming we can get him anyway)? We had one of our best offenses in 2006 when Fisher was the offensive coordinator, and we lost to Auburn 7-3 and Florida 23-10. We also only managed 20 points in regulation against a pretty sorry Ole Miss team (coached by a guy called Ed Orgeron). You can’t tell me we can rest assured about not having games like this again.

Florida State has 3 losses against an ACC schedule and their best out-of-conference opponent was Ole Miss. If they’d played Wisconsin instead, that likely already puts them at 4 losses right now even if we pretend their conference schedule was just as hard as LSU’s.

Had the Seminoles played SEC opponents instead of North Carolina St. (won by 4) and U. Miami (won by a missed extra point), that could have made 5 or 6 losses.

That’s great that they only had two regular-season losses over the previous three seasons, but again, I think that has a lot to do with schedule. In 2014, there were five games that came down to one possession.

Jameis Winston was a great college football player and 2013 was a great season for the Noles; but we’re not talking about Gene Chizik, and he had a great season with Cam Newton as his QB in 2010. This is not a motivated team who plays to the best of its ability every week either. When you have an off game in the SEC, you lose the majority of the time no matter how good of a coach you are.

One big reason Alabama doesn’t have more losses is they don’t really have off games against teams that can beat them. They have sloppy games sometimes, but they seem motivated and ready to play every time, and the sloppiness is rare in big games. So I don’t mean that you can prevent guys in their late teens and early 20 from having an off night in all cases, but you can have a focused team that responds appropriately when things go wrong.

The Guice fumble was an example of sloppiness, but there is no way in the world Alabama would respond to something like that by shutting down on offense and allowing the other team to get ahead like LSU did. Outside of maybe a bowl game or two, I can’t think of an example of Alabama doing that since Saban’s first season.

Houston's Tom Herman

Houston’s Tom Herman

I’m even less impressed with Houston, led by Tom Herman (who actually beat the Seminoles in the Peach Bowl last year). There is no way Navy or SMU has even close to Houston’s level of talent, but the Cougars lost to both within 3 weeks this season. They had a full month of subpar play. In addition to those two games, they needed overtime to beat Tulsa in between, and then after the SMU game (which they lost handily), they struggled against Central Florida. Tulsa and Central Florida were home games. Houston apparently needed a bye week to snap out of it before easily beating Tulane and Louisville.

Maybe if we get a better offensive coordinator or maybe even if Ensminger is allowed to develop his own offense and playbook over an off-season, Orgeron can still be the guy, but how many chances did Les Miles get to figure out the right combination of coordinators to no avail?

Pretty soon recruits aren’t even going to remember the 2011 regular season, and LSU is going to be that team that gets hyped up every so often only to lose the big games.

I hope we give A&M a serious beat-down, and Orgeron somehow figures out a better plan for the offense and keeps his job, but here we are waiting till next year again. I’m not even talking about a national championship. I’m talking about losing fewer than 3 conference games in a season. 2011 was the last time that happened.

Possible LSU-Florida Resolutions

In College Football, General LSU on October 12, 2016 at 6:45 PM

This is a little bit long. Feel free to browse the headings. SEC Wednesday will be posted tomorrow or possibly Friday and possibly in conjunction with other previews.

First I wanted to mention the passing of Mike VI. His last day outside (meaning outside of his den, not outside of his enclosure) was Saturday. At least there wasn’t much time between him being a seemingly normal happy tiger and the end. Saturday Down South had a nice spread about him as well.

Even though Mike VI didn’t seem to enjoy the stadium much, it will still be sad to have a home game on Saturday without him. He and Mike III (1958-76) both enjoyed national championships in their first football seasons, so maybe whoever Mike VII is will be a good luck charm in his first year as well. Weird that within just a few months, LSU had to get a new head coach, a new Voice of the Tigers, and now a new tiger. Too much change for my tastes.

Les Miles visiting with Mike VI in a picture Miles posted on Twitter in May.

Les Miles visiting with Mike VI in a picture Miles posted on Twitter in May.

I also want to express condolences and/or best wishes for those truly affected by Hurricane Matthew, before I start criticizing.

Background: It was NOT necessary to postpone the game to another weekend.

SB Nation writes: “Nine Floridians died in Hurricane Matthew. The direness of the forecast, combined with Florida’s potential loss of home game revenue, should trump any conspiracy theories about the Gators postponing the game because they’re scared of losing and falling in the standings. (Yes, those theories exist.)”

It’s not a conspiracy theory. It’s the only reasonable explanation the game didn’t get played like the other relevant games. Florida had an insurance policy for the game. I don’t think they lost very much if anything. How much would they gain by playing in the SEC Championship game and potentially a CFP bowl? There was never a “dire” forecast for Gainesville. I don’t know if they think Florida is the size of Connecticut or what.

This was the cone (the area of potential travel) for the hurricane at approximately the time the decision was made on Thursday.

This was the cone (the area of potential travel) for the hurricane at approximately the time the decision was made on Thursday.

How many deaths were there in Gainesville? How many were there in Tampa, where a game was played Saturday? How many were there in Miami Gardens, where a game was played Saturday? How many in Boca Raton, where a game was played Sunday? How many in Columbia, SC, where a game was played Sunday (under what appeared to be partly cloudy skies)? Even if someone did die in one of those places, they didn’t die because a game was going to be put on the next day. People die every day.

The implication that if you played the game Saturday, Sunday, or Monday lives would have been put at risk in a meaningful way is silly. If that is the case, why did all these other schools risk death?

A few thousand in the Gainesville area lost power and there was a light drizzle at some point. In other words, an unremarkable day in the Deep South. If my power were out, I’d be more likely to want to go to a game in my town personally. How is it that the risk to life and limb was so high in Gainesville but not in places that were both closer to the storm and closer to the Atlantic? There could have been a major tempest in Gainesville, and how would that have prevented playing the game on Sunday or Monday?

There was a game scheduled for Orlando (Tulane @ UCF) that was moved to another week, but it happened to be a mutual bye week for the two teams involved. I’m not sure they wouldn’t have played it had that convenient option not been available.

Location of major games and the approximate path of the hurricane.

Location of major games and the approximate path of the hurricane.

The only reasonable conclusion to reach is that Florida didn’t want to play the game. They had major injuries on defense, the starting QB was coming off an injury, and they didn’t want to play LSU and get banged up some more. Also, they got to watch Tennessee lose, and if the Vols lose next week (against Alabama), Florida will be poised to win the East by half a game. There are just too many coincidences for anything else to make sense.

If there were genuine concern about playing it in Gainesville, they should have expressed a willingness to move the game. Instead they delayed and delayed a final announcement until late in the day on Thursday. Before that announcement, they insisted the game would be in Gainesville on Saturday as scheduled.

Baton Rouge was also available.

LSU was available to play the game either at home or away any time (within reason) on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, with or without hotel rooms. LSU also offered to pay the Gators’ travel expenses and provide hotel space had they chosen to play in Baton Rouge.

I get not wanting to play a road game (not that I buy the idea that there was any reason not to play the game in Gainesville on Sunday), but I would imagine at least a few Florida fans would have made the trip. The campuses are about 8 hours apart by car if one obeys the speed limit, but there are a lot of Florida fans in between Gainesville and Baton Rouge. About 5 of the 8 hours of travel are within the state of Florida. It being a large state school, I imagine there are a plenty of supporters and alumni who would have had much more comfortable driving distances. I’m from Louisiana, and it’s not uncommon to come across Florida fans there as well. I say that because I think they could have gotten a lot more Florida fans than normal into Tiger Stadium.

So there is almost nothing LSU wasn’t willing to do to get the game played Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. The only problem was Florida. LSU AD Alleva did say the ultimate decision to postpone the game was made by SEC Commissioner Sankey, so he refused to get too critical in a radio interview I heard, but I’ve also read elsewhere the commissioner doesn’t have authority to schedule an uncooperative team for a different date.

Other examples of rescheduled or moved LSU games

The Tigers didn’t have a great home-field advantage when they played South Carolina in a relocated game last year, and that was a fan base much less likely to make the trip anyway. Not as many people show up to impromptu home games. Given the prices, I don’t blame any season-ticket holder who isn’t willing to pay another penny toward a football game that the season ticket package doesn’t cover.

After Katrina, LSU moved what was supposed to be a home game to Tempe, AZ, to play the Sun Devils. Arizona St. donated the profits, but from the football side of things, it was a definite road game.

There are a couple of other things of note from that season.

The LSU-North Texas game, which was supposed to have been the opener, was rescheduled to October 29. Was that a mutual bye week? No, another team (ULM as I recall) had to move its schedule around.

Also, due to Hurricane Rita, the LSU-Tennessee game (which happened to be the home opener for one Les Miles) was postponed to a Monday. Given all the evacuees from Katrina still in the area, Tennessee had to fly in before the game and fly out after the game.

Like Tennessee did with its 2005 trip, LSU also offered to go to Gainesville without using hotels.

Remaining scheduling options

Since the decision to postpone the game indefinitely, LSU has been less in a mood to bargain with Florida. I’ll talk about where LSU’s position is right or wrong.

One idea was that LSU should cancel South Alabama, Florida should cancel Presbyterian, and LSU @ Florida could be played on 11/19. There is absolutely no reason to buy a team out and lose a home game. It’s ridiculous. It costs the local economy in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to lose a home game, and many businesses desperately need every game given the kind of summer Baton Rouge had. Also, that was supposed to be Senior Night. But I’ll talk below about potential alternatives for LSU keeping the 7 home games (3 of which have already been played and another this weekend).

I do fault Alleva for what he said about playing Florida on 10/29, LSU’s scheduled bye (this would involve moving up the Georgia-Florida game a week, but that decision should have been made already if it’s going to be made). He said he doesn’t want to play if Alabama isn’t going to play on that day. Well, Joe, Alabama isn’t going to play on that day. Georgia doesn’t want to go along with it anyway, not that they have a good excuse other than obstinence. Something about arranging for extra seats to be brought in. I don’t know why that can’t be done on 10/22 instead of 10/29. The Jacksonville Jaguars do have a game, but most stadiums can make changes like that in 24 hours.

Having a bye hasn’t done us much good the last few Alabama games, has it? But I do understand not wanting to play @Florida one week and to host Alabama the next. Not to mention that I don’t think Ole Miss on 10/22 will be a picnic either.

I made a proposal that would allow LSU to play the Arkansas game on 10/29 instead, but I don’t know if that’s too much better.

Brett McMurphy made a proposal that might work. It wouldn’t give Alleva the desired home game on 11/19 or the bye before Alabama, but it would have two good selling points: (1) It would be what should be an easy home nonconference game before Alabama instead of a road conference game the week before Alabama, and (2) LSU would not lose a home game.

However, it would involve some other teams. First, Georgia Southern and Georgia St. would have to move their game from 11/19 to 11/26, when they are both free. This would enable the Georgia St.-South Alabama game to move from 10/29 to 11/19, which in turn would enable LSU to host South Alabama on 10/29. This frees up 11/19 for LSU, when they can play Florida, provided Florida cancels its game with Presbyterian.

There is a similar arrangement that could take place with South Alabama, Georgia State, and ULM switching some games around instead of involving Georgia Southern.

Perhaps some of these teams can be tempted with future schedule considerations (and corresponding substantial financial incentive) with LSU and Florida.

There is another option which seems like it would make Alleva happy but perhaps not Florida. Both the South Alabama-LSU and Florida-Presbyterian games are canceled and LSU plays Florida on 11/19, BUT the game is played in Baton Rouge instead of Gainesville.

Future Years if Game is in Baton Rouge

I know no one would think it’s fair for Florida to go to Baton Rouge three years in a row (although this is their fault), but I have an idea to resolve that. Instead of LSU playing @ Tennessee next year, they host Tennessee and play @ Florida. The scheduled Tennessee @ Florida game would be played in Knoxville instead. That way everyone keeps 4 home games and 4 road games in the conference schedule. Just reset the home and home at that point. So LSU would start playing @ Florida (and Florida @ Tennessee) in odd years, and at home in even years. The non-annual SEC East opponent can be a road game for LSU in even years going forward. Tennessee’s non-annual SEC West opponent can be a road game in odd years going forward.

Changing even to odd is not unprecedented. Mississippi St. went to LSU in 1991 and 1992. Kentucky (which used to be an annual series) went to LSU in 1987 and 1988, and LSU went to Kentucky in 2001 and 2002. Alabama went to LSU in 1991 and 1992. LSU went to Ole Miss (actually Jackson) in 1991 and 1992, and Ole Miss went to LSU in 2001 and 2002. I’m sure there were many such situations that did not involve LSU as well.

Anyway, personally I hope the game gets played even if it involves LSU giving up the bye week and not having a home game on the 19th, but I don’t really want the game to be played if it means LSU having one fewer home game this year. If the game does not get played, something needs to be done about the division championship rules, at least for this season.

Week 6 Top 25 and LSU Comments

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 4, 2016 at 6:46 PM

Orgeron Tenure Weeks 1 and 2

Since I haven’t posted about LSU in a while, I’ll start with just a few comments. Beating Missouri doesn’t mean a whole lot on its own, but the way the Fighting Tigers did it has to mean something. Mississippi St. is a similar team, and LSU could never quite put them away. Granted, LSU was up 17 somewhat late against the Bulldogs, but even despite the onside kick, State would have never been able to make it close had the LSU offense not stagnated.

LSU is given about a 4% chance of running the table in the regular season, but it improves to about 10% if you allow for one loss.

The Fighting Tigers scored their first points of the season in the fourth quarter. Even though the game was over, I think the changes to the play-calling and to the practice schedule are already having an impact on stamina.

I think everyone knows the LSU coaches would be crazy not to call a lot of running plays with the current team, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that if you don’t have a particularly mobile quarterback (although he can pick up 5-10 yards in a pinch), it’s probably a good idea to throw some play-action in there somewhat regularly.

Derrius Guice (left) and Darrel Williams combined for 314 yards and 6 touchdowns against Mizzou.  LSU's total offense of 634 yards was the most in an SEC game in program history.

Derrius Guice (left) and Darrel Williams combined for 314 yards and 6 touchdowns against Mizzou. LSU’s total offense of 634 yards was the most in an SEC game in program history.

A lot of LSU fans have whined about the I formation. If you soften up the defense with the pass effectively and you can tempt the defense into focusing on the wrong part of the line, it can be a great formation. It just doesn’t work very well if it’s play after play with the same blockers and the same running backs doing the same things. You can at least switch up the people in the backfield, which they finally did in this game.

Orgeron talked about using elements of the USC offense (not 100% sure if he meant Kiffin or Chow), and I think there were a few minor things that were adapted, although obviously a major overhaul doesn’t happen in a week. New offensive coordinator Ensminger handled two running backs well, Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams. The full-time fullback J.D. Moore was also helpful.

There was a vertical passing game that was at least credible. It’s a long way from what Matt Leinart did, but the defense at least had to be mindful of the receivers.

I don’t know if Leonard Fournette will play next week, but I’m hopeful. I know sometimes the next day it feels worse, but Fournette was able to play (but limping) toward the end of the game against Auburn. I doubt anything happened since then. Maybe there is something major they’re just not telling us.

I know we’re not short on people in the backfield who can gain yards, but Fournette does have a gear that Guice doesn’t have, and he’s not as likely to slow himself down with stutter steps and hesitations. Being tackled inside the 10 versus scoring a touchdown might make a much bigger difference next week.

I almost always enjoy this rivalry though. This isn’t the best game on paper, but I think it’s much more likely to have a stereotypical SEC final score. 21-17 would not surprise me a bit. A lot of these games have been very close over the years. Click here for more on the rivalry.

Rankings Commentary

LSU still has a long way to go before they’re relevant here.

I don’t like to alter what the computer tells me, but for the first couple of weeks of the computer ranking, I think it’s OK to substitute my own #1 and perhaps include a team over another in the top 10 or top 25.

I need to say upfront that I messed up by ranking Louisville so high the last two weeks. When they beat Florida St. so easily, I thought they would also beat Clemson. Before the Florida St. game, I had them #23; so keep in mind they’re only one spot lower now.

Most of the new additions are just teams lucky enough not to have a loss or it’s fairly obvious that they beat a team who fell out. An exception is Air Force, which beat an undefeated Navy team (easily) and moving into the driver’s seat for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy. Navy would have been ranked last week had it been an objective system last week, so the Midshipmen may make it back at some point.

Although he completed only 8 passes, Air Force quarterback Nate Romine led the Falcons to a 28-14 win over Navy.

Although he completed only 8 passes, Air Force quarterback Nate Romine led the Falcons to a 28-14 win over Navy.

I realized that with my new formula, losses aren’t going to subtract enough points this early, so I modified the formula slightly for the purposes of this blog (I did not change my mind about the formula on the ratings site). I tried to rely on objective numbers as much as possible though. I’ll explain how I did that.

I am keeping Alabama #1 (I don’t like to change #1 without a clear problem with the current #1, and I especially don’t like to do this if the computer #1 will play the current #1 soon), and I’m making Western Michigan #11 for now (I’m a little bit skeptical of how good they are, and it just a little bit too far on one week; U. Miami moved farther, but it was justified). Then for #17 to #23, I actually like the order better in the formula on the site. It is somewhat objective, but I chose one objective order of teams over another.

I’m hoping I won’t feel the need to do anything like this next week. If Alabama loses, I plan to follow the site from beginning to end. If Alabama wins, they stay #1; and if Tennessee wins as well, I expect the winner of the game between Tennessee and Alabama will be the computer #1 in two weeks. Their respective opponents on Saturday are no joke though.

I know Western Michigan is a weird one, but they keep beating teams with decent records. It also doesn’t hurt that they don’t have a bye week yet. Also, their FCS opponent hasn’t lost a game against the FCS. It’s kind of a quirk in my system at this point if you’ve played an FCS team like that because very few (if any) of these teams will finish that way.

The system as a whole is designed to be ideal at the end of the year of course, not now. But I still like to know how far along teams are.

Tennessee and Louisville

It makes perfect sense that Tennessee is #1 in my system because they’ve had a big game almost every week. This means they’re the farthest along toward a national championship. If they were to have 3 more intervals that were just as strong, they’d probably have twice as many points as Alabama had last season.

Tennessee celebrating the win at Georgia.

Tennessee celebrating the win at Georgia.

But of course that won’t happen. They’ll play Tennessee Tech, Missouri, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina. So far, the only somewhat easy opponent statistically was Ohio, which nonetheless has a winning record. The non-conference opponents may lose ground as the season goes on. If Florida loses to LSU, that would hurt the quality of that win and the quality of the East as a whole. Same thing if Georgia were to lose to Auburn, for instance.

I know things are unstable right now, which is part of why Louisville fell so dramatically (as I mentioned, it was also partly my fault). All their opponents lost. Adding four opponents’ losses makes a big difference at this stage.

You might notice Maryland up there. They have no losses, and the teams they beat also have the same number of combined FBS wins as the teams Louisville beat (but Maryland has no losses).

Anyway, Louisville may fall out of the top 25 next week as they are idle; but if it comes down to Florida St. or Louisville, I will give the Cardinals the edge for about 43 reasons. That being said, my formula is win/loss (although close home wins only count only get 9/10 of the credit and close away losses only count as 9/10 of the normal “debit”), so it would arguably just be one reason. It will be a long time before Louisville has another shot at a strong win, possibly not until Houston in November. Until then, 1-1 against good teams (provided Florida St. even qualifies as a good team after next week) only takes them so far.

Top 25

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

Out of rankings: (14) Ga. Tech, (17) Utah, (18) San Diego St., (20) Florida St., (23) Arizona St.

Full ratings 1-128

Rumors of Miles’ Demise Greatly Exaggerated

In College Football, General LSU on November 20, 2015 at 9:38 PM

I know it’s late, but I had to get this out there. Before I forget, here is the LSU-Ole Miss Rivalry blog again. I also recently uncovered a blog I wrote about former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt before his last game against LSU. I’ll talk about him a bit below.

Les Miles is the most successful coach in LSU history.

Charles McClendon won more games, but let’s look at what it took to push him out. LSU lost four games or more in McClendon’s final six seasons. In 1973, his last year in which the Tigers only lost three games, LSU got out to a 9-0 start before dropping the final three. Tulane was one of the three teams to bear the Tigers that season.

So all of a sudden Miles is coaching for his job after a 7-game winning streak (should have been 9 games considering the Norte Dame debacle) turns into 7-2 record? I’m sorry, I don’t buy it.

Miles taking responsibility after the Arkansas loss.

Miles taking responsibility after the Arkansas loss.

Yes, the 1970s were a different era, but we aren’t suddenly in an age where a coach who wins 78% of his games over 10 years is on the hot seat because of two games, one of which was played against the #4 team in the country.

Let’s look at what had to happen to other coaches to get fired.

I’ll just stay in the SEC because some fans will claim anything else is apples to oranges.

Will Muschamp was only 18-8 in his first two seasons, yet he survived a 4-8 year before finally being fired after a 5-5 start the following year. Florida is pretty similar to LSU being that they won BCS titles in 2006 and 2008 under urban Meyer. 2008 of course was just one year after LSU last won. We’re not talking about a patient group of fans and boosters since the Spurrier years.

Spurrier’s successor Ron Zook was only allowed two 5-loss seasons, the most LSU can possibly lose this year, but that was out of only three.

Auburn-LSU was THE GAME in the SEC West before Saban first won the division with the Tide in 2008.

Tommy Tuberville was nearly fired after an 8-5 season in 2003, but Tuberville’s best mark up to that point was only 9-4, a record he had reached twice in five seasons. Of course, he redeemed himself with an undefeated year. I’ll go into why that might be relevant for Miles below. What actually got Tuberville fired was a 14-11 mark over two years in 2007 and 2008. The worst Miles will do is 15-10 over two seasons, but Tuberville only had two seasons with double-digit wins in 10 seasons. Miles has had six.

Staying with Auburn, Gene Chizik was of course fired a couple of years ago despite having won the national championship in 2010. Chizik only went 11-14 over his final two seasons. The team had apparently given up on him in the final season during a five game losing streak and finished only 3-9.

At Alabama, Mike Shula was fired after going exactly .500 over two consecutive regular seasons.

That takes care of the other relevant national-championship-level programs in the SEC being that of course Urban Meyer left voluntarily.

Georgia came close to the national title game in 2012, so maybe you could argue that’s a similar program, but of course Richt has been at Georgia for years longer than Miles has been at LSU and still has his job. Richt survived a 14-12 stretch in 2009 and 2010, by the way.

Is Miles the new Houston Nutt?

So nothing like firing Les Miles has happened.

There is some precedent for firing a generally successful coach after a 5-loss season, and that was when Houston Nutt was fired at Arkansas. Nutt of course was never a national-championship-level coach, although the Hogs were briefly in the conversation in 2006. However, his tenure in Fayetteville was a significant step forward from the years prior to his arrival.

Arkansas went from one winning season between 1990 and 1997 to seven in Nutt’s 10 seasons there.

There are two good reasons for this though. 2007 was the last year of Felix Jones and Darren McFadden, so not only was that season disappointing, but Arkansas was not looking at a good 2008. Bobby Petrino is not without his personal issues, but I don’t think many coaches including Nutt would have done better than his 5-7 mark in 2008.

The other good reason was the fact that Nutt had already survived a bad stretch and was given the benefit of the doubt. Arkansas had gone a total of 9-13 in 2004 and 2005 before surprising everyone with a 10-game winning streak in 2006.

What does 78% as a coach mean?

I also wanted to take a moment to consider how good 78% is as compared to others.

At LSU, Nick Saban only won 75%. Joe Paterno’s overall winning percentage at Penn St. was almost identical depending on how you count ties.

Lou Holtz won 76.5% at Notre Dame and 78.6% at Arkansas.

Woody Hayes only won just over 76% at Ohio St.

Miles does fall a bit short of Hayes’ rival (and Miles’ mentor) Bo Schembechler though. Schembechler won 79.6%.

At Ole Miss, John Vaught only won 74.6%.

At Texas, Darrel Royal won 77.4%.

At USC, John McKay won 74.9%.

At Florida St., Bobby Bowden won 75.6%

At Army, Red Blaik won 76.8%.

There are coaches with better records, such as Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer. Of course, factoring in Alabama puts Saban higher. Are any of them coming (back in Saban’s case) to LSU? I wouldn’t bet on it. Maybe if LSU offers $10 million a year or something ridiculous like that.

I was thinking about photoshopping Carroll in purple and gold, but then I found this.

I was thinking about photoshopping Carroll in purple and gold, but then I found this.

Here are some others that Miles doesn’t quite live up to: Spurrier, Parseghian, Byrant, Osborne, Devaney, Wilkinson, Switzer, Neyland.

So if you’re not of those, you don’t get a job at LSU? Those are absurd standards to live up to.

Young players represent an opportunity, not an “excuse”

There was one other thing I wanted to mention. I made some reference to it above. This is not Leonard Fournette’s last season with next season being some abyss we’re staring into. Brandon Harris is also a sophomore.

I’m not just selectively picking two examples. Look at this depth chart.

Three of the top four receivers are underclassmen. There is only one guard who is older than a sophomore. There is one junior and one senior tackle on the depth chart, the rest are underclassmen. Actually, that’s true on both offense and defense. The #2 tight end right now is a true freshman. Two junior defensive ends, the rest underclassmen. Both strong safeties are sophomores.

I think anyone looking at this team and saying it’s a failure and we need to give up and start over next year with a new head coach is just insane.

Few people expected this to be the year for LSU until they surpassed expectations by starting 7-0. Of course, it almost certainly would have been 8-0 had the first game not been cancelled. Why are the problems that have emerged since then insurmountable because we have some younger players in key positions and it looks like the national semifinals are off the table? That could very well jeopoardize a great year like the one Auburn had in 2004.

Even if some other coach comes in and wins a national championship next year, maybe that same coach leads us to a 3-9 season a few years later like Chizik did. `There is no guarantee of being able to replace and develop talent as well as Miles has even though we can probably find a coach better at calling plays (which I don’t think Miles actually does that often). You might remember a coach named Larry Coker. He went undefeated at U. Miami in 2001 and nearly went undefeated in 2002 before a controversial overtime loss to Ohio St. The ‘Canes have been mediocre for 10 years now.

That said, if we go 8-5 next year with a healthy Fournette in what would almost certainly be his last season, I might see their point.

Edit: Given the third loss in a row which came after this was written, I might see their point with a fourth loss in a row.

LSU-Syracuse Comments and Notes

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game on September 27, 2015 at 12:29 PM

Historical context

LSU got its first road win over an ACC opponent since North Carolina in the 1985 season.  There were only two attempts against current ACC teams since then.  LSU lost @ Virginia Tech in 2002 and @ Florida State in 1990.  Both games were before the opponent had joined the ACC though.

The Tigers have now won 50 consecutive regular-season non-conference games to increase their own record.  That 2002 Virginia Tech game I mentioned was the last time LSU lost such a game.

In the only regular-season games against ACC opponents since 1985, LSU played Virginia Tech at home (2007) and North Carolina at a neutral site (2010), both wins for the Tigers.  There have also been five contests against ACC teams in bowl games over the last 20 years: Clemson (1996 and 2012), Georgia Tech (2000 and 2008), and U. Miami (2005).  LSU did play home games against Florida St. and U. Miami at home (before either joined the ACC) in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

LSU’s last game against Syracuse had been the 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl (now known as the Outback Bowl), but the Orangemen were independent at the time.  LSU’s only contest against Syracuse before that had been the Sugar Bowl after the 1964 season.

Leonard Fournette runs for the only touchdown of the fist half in the Carrier Dome.

Leonard Fournette runs for the only touchdown of the fist half in the Carrier Dome.

Game comments

LSU only won by 10 points, but that’s not what bothers me.  The Tigers could have probably scored a touchdown with just a couple more handoffs at the end of the game.  Also, Syracuse only got within 10 by scoring a touchdown in the last two minutes.

I don’t think that’s anything to be ashamed of when you’re on the road against a major-conference opponent (especially one who hadn’t lost yet).

What bothers me is the way we kept them in the game.  Without penalties, this could have been a shutout or close to it.  I don’t know if we would have scored more necessarily — we might not have tried to score as much in the second half — but there was definitely one touchdown and possibly a field goal or two that didn’t happen because of penalties.

Between two plays — the first one a decent play that was called back by a hold — LSU lost 40 yards of field position.

After going out to a 7-0 lead, the Tigers had a third and three at their own 47.  Fournette runs to just outside the LSU 30 for an apparent first down.  But the tight end is called for a hold.  Not saying it wasn’t  hold, but I don’t believe it was necessary to allow Fournette to evade the tackle.  It would have been at best an attempt at an arm tackle from a weak position.  Instead of a first and 10, it’s a third and 14.  Harris gets sacked and fumbles (recovered by LSU) at the 27.  So it was actually slightly more than 40 yards.

Maybe LSU has to settle for a field goal and misses and there isn’t much difference, but that’s still a huge opportunity wasted, not to mention keeping the defense off the field.  Syracuse would take over around their own 40, so that’s pretty good field position to set up a field goal try, which was successful.

Syracuse should have faced a third and 14 from inside their own 30 before their first touchdown play in the second half, but an LSU player who had lost his helmet helped push the quarterback out of bounds after he was already wrapped up.  Personal foul, first and 10 at the 49 instead.  The 40-yard touchdown came a couple of plays later.  This made the score 17-10 in the third quarter.

In the first 40 minutes of play, LSU had already been penalized 8 times for 69 yards.

At that point LSU had out-gained the Orange 225-150.  That 150 counts the 40-yard Syracuse touchdown I mentioned.

Still in the third quarter, LSU gets the ball back up 24-10.  Fournette runs for 87 yards to the end zone.  If the play stands, the game is essentially over then.  But it doesn’t.  LSU is flagged again, this time for illegal formation.  One of the receivers was a full two yards behind the line and another was about five feet behind the line (some LSU fans contested this, but the angle of the camera made it look like the closer receiver was at the line of scrimmage when he wasn’t).  LSU is eventually forced to punt.

Two more penalties set up the second Syracuse touchdown as well.  The orange earned a first down in LSU territory, but just barely.  Then, there was an unnecessary horse collar penalty, and then right afterward an interference penalty.  The ball was not catchable, but I guess the contact was so early in the play, that didn’t cancel out the interference.  This resulted in a 24-17 score, the last time Syracuse would get within 7.

The third touchdown was a result of LSU playing a sort of  soft zone/prevent mostly (it was 34-17 with just a few minutes left), but this time there was a complete nonsense penalty.  The Syracuse quarterback was running toward the sidelines nowhere near the first-down marker.  The LSU defender made contact as the quarterback approached the hash mark along the sidelines; but I guess because he bumped him to get him out of bounds rather than giving him a big hug or raising his arms up like a basketball player, it was a personal foul.

Then, as I mentioned, LSU got the ball back and ran out the clock even though they were in possible position for a score.

In total, LSU was penalized 14 times for 120 yards.  There were another 120 yards or more that were negated by penalties.

LSU out-gainted Syracuse 425 to 281, so I wasn’t unhappy about that.  Again, could have been a larger margin than that had LSU made it easier for the Syracuse offense to get off the field, but the defense responded pretty well to the pressure it was put under.

Syracuse also had really good field position for most of the game.  This was partly due to a generaly better kicking game.

The Orange had a better night punting than LSU did (5 punts apiece, 228 yards vs. 188 yards), but LSU’s Tre’Davious White ran back a punt for a touchdown, so I guess that helped to even it out.

Syracuse had the advantage in kick returns: 176 yards (7 returns) to 57 (3 returns).

The good news on offense (other than the obvious) was LSU did not turn the ball over, and Brandon Harris had more passing yards in this game (157) than in the previous two games combined.

I mentioned the Tigers got a pretty good amount of yards, but of course Leonard Fournette contributed a good bit to that with 244 rushing yards.  Alley Broussard still holds the LSU record (at 250), but it was put in danger for the second game in a row.  Fournette does now have the LSU road record and is the first Tiger to rush for over 200 yards in consecutive games.

For what it’s worth, Broussard seems to be enjoying the renewed interest in his career with the Tigers.  http://www.nola.com/lsu/index.ssf/2015/09/leonard_fournette_lsu_record.html

 

My Top 25 Week 14

In Bowls, College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on December 1, 2013 at 6:08 PM
Very little separates the top four, especially the top two.

Very little separates the top four, especially the top two.

In case you missed it, I wrote a blog yesterday about the changes to the Thanksgiving rivalries.

Top 25

rank / team / prior

1 Florida St. 1
2 Auburn 3
3 Ohio St. 4
4 Missouri 5
5 Arizona St. 7
6 Alabama 2
7 Stanford 11
8 N. Illinois 6
9 Mich. St. 13
10 Baylor 10
11 S Carolina 16
12 Okie St. 8
13 UCF 14
14 Oregon 20
15 Clemson 9
16 Oklahoma 15
17 Duke 21
18 UCLA 25
19 Fresno St. 12
20 Louisville 18
21 LSU 23
22 Wisconsin 17
23 Georgia —
24 Notre Dame 19
25 U. Miami —

Out of rankings: (22) USC, (24) TX A&M

All 126 teams

Prior rankings:
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
Week 13

The first part of this is based on the national-championship race, then I’ll get into the other changes to the rankings.

I’ll just get to the point. If there weren’t championship games, I would absolutely want Florida St. to play Auburn for the title. If Auburn beats Missouri, I’m not changing my mind about that one, but I’ll wait and see on Ohio St. I don’t factor in margin of victory in my ratings; but as a fan, I lean heavily toward Florida St. because no one has given them a game yet. It would be a shame to do everything they could be expected to do and not get to play for a title, assuming they beat Duke.

The main thing I wanted to do was just to give a summary of where the big opponents (defined as the top 60 teams in the FBS) of the four major title competitors rank in my new ratings.

(1) Florida St. (undefeated):
(15) Clemson
(25) Miami
(57) Boston Collegte
(58) Pittsburgh

(3) Ohio St. (undefeated):
(22) Wisconsin
(35) Iowa
(37) Michigan
(50) Penn St.
(54) Buffalo

Ohio St. has more wins from #30 to #60, but I think based on what I’d call good opponents (top 30), there are more teams that can go undefeated against Ohio St.’s schedule than Florida St.’s schedule. I think even 7-5 Michigan was perfectly capable of going undefeated against Ohio St.’s schedule so far. Ohio St. didn’t play Michigan St. (the only team to beat Michigan convincingly) or Nebraska (who beat Michigan by 4), and Michigan only lost by a field goal apiece to Penn St. (in OT) and Iowa. Michigan did beat Notre Dame, which I think is about as good as Wisconsin, Ohio St.’s best win.

Onto the two one-loss teams:

(2) Auburn:
(6) Alabama
(21) LSU – LOSS
(23) Georgia
(28) Texas A&M
(38) Ole Miss
(56) Mississippi St.

(4) Missouri:
(11) South Carolina – LOSS
(23) Georgia
(28) Texas A&M
(38) Ole Miss
(40) Vanderbilt

You can see why I wouldn’t necessarily endorse Missouri over an undefeated team. Even with the win over Auburn, that’s still just one top-20 win. Two top-25 wins, but Florida St. would have three. If you start talking about teams below the top 25, that might be an advantage in arguing against Florida St., but it would be a disadvantage in arguing for Missouri against Ohio St. I just think it should be a clearer case before you put a team with a loss in instead of an undefeated team. Auburn qualifies; Missouri probably doesn’t.

This is another way of looking at it that I saw on another blog.

Source: CollegeFootballTalk on WordPress

Source: CollegeFootballTalk on WordPress

I had a feeling I was going to end up regretting that the 4-team playoff didn’t start this year (Alabama would be the natural fourth, although I have to admit I’m personally glad they seem to be out of the running); but if Ohio St. or Florida St. ends up losing, then it would be the perfect two-team outcome. If they both lose, then maybe we can get another all-SEC championship.

To get to the rest of the top 10, Alabama stayed in the top 4 in the major polls, but computer formulas treat a loss as just a loss. It also doesn’t help that the Tide’s SEC East opponents were Tennessee and Kentucky. Arizona St. also edged in front by beating Arizona. It’s likely that Stanford would take Arizona St.’s place in front of Alabama with a win. Northern Illinois could pass up one or two of the conference-championship losers. Michigan St. of course could gain a few spots by beating Ohio St. Baylor can also capitalize on others’ losses if they get past Texas.

Below the top 10, Oklahoma St. fell a few spots by being idle. The same principle applies to them as to Baylor except that OSU plays a btter team. One team they may pass up is South Carolina, which jumped five spots by beating Clemson, which went down six spots. Oregon went up six spots after beating Oregon St. UCLA and Duke also went up considerably after winning their rivalry games.

Fresno St., Wisconsin, and Notre Dame all fell a bit by losing. USC and Texas A&M were in the last few teams last week, so they couldn’t stay in the top 25 with their losses. Georgia beat Georgia Tech, and it also helped out that Auburn and Missouri won. Miami’s win over Pittsburgh, combined with with losses by others, put the Hurricanes back into the top 25.

I did make a small adjustment to how losses to FCS teams are treated, but of course all the revelant teams are outside of the top 25.

Pre-BCS Top 10 and Comments (+ Last Call for Rankings)

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings Commentary on October 15, 2013 at 1:37 PM

A couple of preliminary things. First, another reminder to get those top 25s in. I only have three in addition to my own so far. Second, check out the LSU/Ole Miss Rivalry blog.

I also wanted to mention that LSU is bowl-eligible for the 14th season in a row. This was after only qualifying for a bowl three times (the first three years of DiNardo) from 1989 to 1999. I like to recall how much better things are than they used to be, even though I think most LSU fans feel overdue for another national championship.

I’ve done preliminary calculations of the BCS ratings. Keep in mind that one of the computers (Wolfe, which usually treats the SEC fairly well) is not in operation yet. I only looked at the teams that were in the top 14 of the relevant polls. Texas Tech was #15, and I knew they weren’t high enough in the computers to move them into the top 10.

1 Alabama
2 Oregon
3 Clemson
4 Fla. St.
5 Ohio St.
6 LSU
7 Texas A&M
8 UCLA
9 Louisville
10 Baylor

Miami and Missouri were 11th and 12th, respectively. Stanford and South Carolina were far enough back that it’s possible other teams whose BCS ratings I didn’t approximate could be ahead of either or both of them.

The deck may look stacked against LSU making it as a one-loss team at first blush, but keep in mind that only one ACC team will be left standing, and for LSU to finish with one loss, they have to beat #1 Alabama anyway. I’ll elaborate more about the potential avenues to the title game for undefeateds (for non-BCS or AAC undefeateds, it’s realistically about making a BCS bowl game) and one-loss teams below. It could be awfully interesting if voters have to choose between undefeated Ohio St. and one-loss LSU at the end of the season, but chances are one of them will lose between now and then.

After the LSU/Georgia game, Lou Holtz and Mark May talked about whether we would have a one-loss team in the national championship game. Holtz seemed pretty confident that we would not, but as May rightly pointed out, people seem to have that idea at that point every year. I tend to think at least one team will have a loss, and the results of the games this week supported that idea.

Last year, we were about another month into the season when LSU played Alabama, and conventional wisdom was that SEC fans should cheer for Alabama since if Alabama lost, there would be no SEC team in the BCS title game. Not only would LSU had made the BCS title game by winning out in hindsight, Alabama actually lost in the FOLLOWING week (over a month after LSU’s first loss) and still stayed high enough and rebounded to make and win the BCS title.

Part of the reason I like waiting until this point in the season before I do computer ratings (other than them being easier to reasonably calculate) is there is a lot more to consider and be said at this point. It’s more important to have something objective to fall back on.

Another reason is what I started off with, the BCS, but of course this is the last time we have that week of anticipation before the first BCS standings.

As an aside, I hope there will be some sort of guideline given out by the new committee. There seems to be a consensus that there needs to be something to let people know the approximate places of the teams rather than blindsiding everyone in December, but the form that will take and the timing is anyone’s guess. I hope it’s something a little more helpful than the college basketball RPI. The recommendation could just be to look at the current BCS formula or a modified version (doubling the coaches’ poll, adding in the AP poll, something of that nature, since I don’t know if Harris will even exist anymore).

So here are the undefeated teams by conference, with notes on opponents left:

AAC – Houston and Louisville (play one another on 11/16). Both also still have to play UCF and Cincinnati. Houston plays BYU out of conference.

ACC – Clemson and Florida St. from the Atlantic (play one another next week); Miami from the Coastal (will play Florida St. and Virginia Tech). Also obviously, the ACC has a championship game that could provide a loss. Miami beat Florida, but Clemson and Florida St. still have their big SEC rivals yet to play.

Big XII – Texas Tech and Baylor (play one another on 11/16). Both teams also still have to play Oklahoma, Texas, and Oklahoma St.

Big Ten – Only Ohio St. remains undefeated and is expected to be widely favored in the remaining regular-season games. If they get through that, their likely opponent in the Big Ten championship game will be the winner of Michigan St. and Nebraska.

MAC – Only Northern Illinois remains undefeated. The Huskies will play Ball St. later in the season, and possibly Bowling Green in the MAC championship game. Both Ball St. and Bowling Green are undefeated in conference so far, as is Buffalo.

MWC – Only Fresno St. remains undefeated. Their toughest remaining game may be a rematch with Boise St., whom they beat earlier by a single point, in the MWC championship game; but three other teams (Fresno St. will play all of them) are undefeated in conference.

Pac-12 – Oregon and UCLA (play one another on 10/26 and may meet again in the Pac-12 championship). Oregon also still must play Stanford and Oregon St., which are the most likely opponents for UCLA if the Bruins are undefeated going into the Pac-12 championship and the Ducks are not. UCLA also has to play Washington.

SEC – Alabama and Missouri (would not play one another until championship game). Alabama also has LSU and Auburn, who each have one loss, remaining. Missouri has Florida and South Carolina in just the next two weeks and will end the regular season against Texas A&M.

So other than Ohio St., who was known to lose to second-tier conference opponents before Meyer showed up anyway, I don’t see a second team I would characterize as likely to finish undefeated. Oregon or Alabama may finish undefeated, but I would not bet on it (at least not without something like 3:1 odds). Some have mentioned the possibility of the BCS snubbing Ohio St., but I wouldn’t bet on that either.

Fresno St., Northern Illinois, and possibly an AAC team may finish undefeated though. The AAC does have an automatic bid to a BCS bowl in (mercifully, in my opinion) the final year of the BCS contract.

Threatening one-loss teams

I’ll start with the SEC, where such a team is most likely to make the BCS championship.

In the SEC West, LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn each have one loss; but the best avenue to the SEC championship is LSU’s. Texas A&M would lose a tiebreaker to Alabama; and Auburn would lose a tiebreaker to LSU, not that I would expect the two to tie for the SEC West anyway.

South Carolina only has one loss, but they would need Georgia to lose at least one more conference game to control their own destiny in the conference.

Oregon St. and Stanford control their respective destinies in the Pac-12, and the Beavers are still undefeated in conference. Stanford also has the big non-conference game against Notre Dame yet to play.

There are several ways a Big XII team could finish with one loss. There is no championship game there to complicate things. Oklahoma (or even Oklahoma St.) could win out; and as mentioned, there are many ways Baylor and Texas Tech can lose a single game apiece. Texas, which has not lost in conference yet, could be a spoiler.

Virginia Tech controls its own destiny in the ACC Coastal. I don’t think Maryland is much of a threat in the Atlantic, but if they beat Clemson and Florida St. loses twice, winning the division could happen.

Michigan, the one-loss team I didn’t mention earlier from the Big Ten Legends, is unlikely to factor into any national-championship discussion, but if they run the table, possibly beating Ohio St. twice, they may have a chance. The Wolverines also will have to play Northwestern, Nebraska, and Michigan St.

I plan to write what I call “ rankings commentary” blogs like this one more often—now that the season is at this point—as kind of a supplement to my computer ratings.

The Mad Hatter’s Mad Accomplishments (so far)

In College Football, General LSU, History on October 27, 2012 at 4:31 AM

I was talking to a Florida fan the other day, and shortly after we talked about Spurrier, he mentioned that Miles wasn’t doing a very good job at LSU.

I’m as frustrated as a lot of LSU fans with some issues. Clock management at the end of certain games against Ole Miss and Tennessee, refusing to give Jarrett Lee a chance in the BCS championship game in January, sticking with former OC Gary Crowton as long as he did, and so on.

But the man wins games and somehow finds a way to take teams that don’t seem particularly strong and have them win 7 of 8 or 6 of 7 and so forth. There was sort of a 2-year rebuilding process after the national championship, but take away Lee’s interception affliction in 2008 and a couple two-point losses in 2009, and those teams have similar records to the teams in Miles’ other 5 full seasons before this one.

The gold standard in recent coaching stints is Pete Carroll at USC, who went 110-20. I think Miles would have to have a few 1- or 0- loss teams in a row to even come close to 85% (Carroll won 84.6%), but he’s competitive with or ahead of other recent luminaries, particularly if you limit it to tenures in the last 10 years or those that (have) lasted longer than his. I’m not looking at career winning percentage but only at a particular school.

Saban (Ala.) 62-12 (83.8%)*
Spurrier (Fla.) 122-27-1 (81.7%)
Meyer (Fla.) 65-15 (81.3%)
Tressel (Ohio St.) 94-22 (81.0%)
Miles (LSU) 71-17 (80.7%)*
Stoops (Okla.) 144-35 (80.4%)*
Brown (Texas) 146-41 (78.1%)*
Richt (Ga.) 122-39 (75.8%)*
Carr (Mich.) 122-40 (75.3%)
Saban (LSU) 48-16 (75.0%)

*=active; record and percentage as of Week 8

Before I continue, I wanted to mention that of course I realize winning 70 games is nothing like winning 150 or 400. Being able to keep ahead of the other great programs over a decade or more is no easy task. Urban Meyer seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown after 6 seasons at Florida.

But nonetheless, this is pretty good company to be in as far as how often your team wins games, and any fan of these teams will tell you that.

These are some historically great coaching tenures that had lower winning percentages (ties counted as half a win) than Miles has had so far:
Schembechler (Mich.) 194-48-5 (79.6%)
Holtz (Ark.) 80-21-2 (78.6%)
Royal (Texas) 167-47-5 (77.4%)
Blaik (Army) 121-33-10 (76.8%)
Holtz (N.D.) 100-30-2 (76.5%)
Hayes (Ohio St.) 205-61-10 (76.1%)
Bowden (FSU) 304-97-4 (75.6%)
Paterno (PSU) 409-136-3 (74.91%) {record includes 111 vacated wins}
McKay (USC) 127-40-8 (74.86%)
Vaught (Miss.) 190-61-12 (74.5%)

If you’re wondering where guys like Dooley, Robinson, Broyles, Dodd, Jordan, and even LSU’s McClendon are, I cut this off at 74.5%. But let me know if I miss a notable with a better record than 74.5% who coached, let’s say, over 100 games and isn’t mentioned by the end of this.

There are a few coaches I put into the somewhat-untouchable (at least without a good few years elapsing) Pete Carroll category. I thought of Jimmie Johnson and Dennis Erickson of Miami and Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy of Notre Dame. But I came up with a lot more where Miles is at least within about 3%. These include Parseghian (N.D., 83.6%), Bryant (Ala., 82.4%), Osborne (Neb., 83.6%), Devaney (Neb., 82.9%), Wilkinson (Okla., 82.6%), Switzer (Okla., 83.7%), and Neyland (Tenn., 82.9%).

When you’re in the same conversation with several people after whom stadiums are named, I think that’s a pretty good sign, at least as far as percentages. Coaches with short tenures don’t generally get that kind of treatment. Just looking at LSU, there isn’t a good comparison, at least not in the modern era, to what Miles has done. The only coaches who had winning percentages similar to Miles’ didn’t stay very long. Saban lasted 5 years, and Bill Arnsparger lasted 3 (each is credited with exactly 75%). Going back to the late 1950s/early 1960s, Paul Dietzel won 82.6% in his last four seasons (better than any four consecutive seasons under Miles), but combined with his first three seasons, that only amounts to 65.1% overall. If you were curious, McClendon (who coached 18 seasons, with a winning percentage of 68.2) has had a practice facility named after him, but the stadium is still known as Tiger Stadium (and sometimes Death Valley).

Playoffs: Are You Kidding Me?

In College Football, General LSU, History, Me, Rankings Commentary on July 6, 2012 at 5:16 PM

There has been some big news in how college football is going to handle the end of the season starting in a couple of years (Also check out this post on my ratings site with top 4 lists from the past few seasons), but I can’t help but think about the end to the most-recent season.

As you might have guessed, I’m still slightly traumatized by the way college football ended 6 months ago. At first, I couldn’t even listen to “Sweet Home Alabama”. While I’ve gotten over that, I was still moderately offended by what appeared to be a houndstooth wall in a hotel room I stayed in recently, for example.

I also don’t like that Monarchy of Roses song by Red Hot Chili Peppers (which mentions a “crimson tide is flowing”), but that might just be because it’s not a good song.

It’s not just because I’m an LSU fan. It’s also because of the special regard I have for the University of Alabama. I’ll explain. Unlike most other teams, LSU does not have an unquestionable #1 rival. The most equally reciprocated rivalry is probably that with Arkansas, but I think Hogs fans would still rather beat Texas despite that being an irregular rivalry in the last couple of decades. Texas of course seems more interested in their rivalries with Texas A&M and Oklahoma (or I guess I should use past tense in the former case). I don’t know if I’m representative of most LSU fans, but if the Tigers could only beat one team all year, I would choose Alabama. I don’t really care if Alabama regards its rivalries with Tennessee and Auburn as more important. I’m generally happy to cheer for them to lose to the Vols or to those other Tigers too.

Something else that bothered me was that LSU had successfully navigated the great SEC without a single loss. This included 8 regular-season conference games and a game against a ninth team in the SEC championship. Also, the Fighting Tigers had beaten Oregon and West Virginia, who each went on to win BCS bowls, and had not lost out of conference.

Despite the change of heart by the voters in 2006 to avoid a rematch scenario, I knew it would happen one of these years, but for this team, my team, to have to play a team they had already beaten on the road in order to claim a championship, that especially wasn’t right, even before knowing the result. If LSU had lost a game to another team, then I would have had absolutely no problem with it. But in the ONE game to win a national championship (after already winning 13), they had to line up against this same team again? You can’t pretend that’s the same thing as playing and beating a new opponent.

I also wasn’t a stranger to history. I knew that although LSU beat Ole Miss in 1959 on Billy Cannon’s historic punt return, Ole Miss would win the Sugar Bowl (by a score of 21-0) in a rematch.

Billy Cannon on his way to the end zone on October 31, 1959.

But at least LSU had lost to Tennessee, so they weren’t playing for a national championship anyway. The two teams were on equal footing. Yes, they had played one another, but each had finished with one loss against a similar schedule before that Sugar Bowl game. It wasn’t 9-0 in conference play vs. 7-1 with at 6 common conference opponents like it was last year.

And not just looking at it from LSU’s perspective, shouldn’t another team who wasn’t on LSU’s schedule get the opportunity to be the one team to knock them off?

Getting to the point, I hope there is a silver lining in that LSU fans aren’t the only people with a bad taste left in their mouths from this game and that this game helped lead to the 4-team playoff. I’m a big SEC fan, I will demand that the SEC gets every bit of credit it deserves; but it can’t be good for college football to claim a championship of 120 teams should simply be two teams of the same division of the same conference playing one another for the second time. I don’t believe it was right to tell Oklahoma St. (a team I thought should have gone ahead of Alabama anyway) that in order to go ahead of a team who didn’t even win its division that they should have gone undefeated. The sport should demand at a minimum access to a championship for other teams. Even though only 9 teams did, all 11 SEC teams had a chance to play LSU. The other SEC East teams (Vanderbilt and South Carolina) should have beaten Georgia or at least finished with a better record than Georgia did. No one should have been concerned about SEC teams having a fair chance but about the 100+ teams that didn’t have even a theoretical chance to play LSU outside of a national championship game last season.

There are going to be some people who want to say that based on the results Alabama must have been the right choice. What happened after the fact does not go back in time and change the arguments. But even if that were valid, assuming LSU’s offense was similarly inept, maybe the first five scores by Oklahoma St. would have had some touchdowns mixed in, so the result could have easily been worse.

I didn’t even notice this development with the semifinal format until the last couple of days. I guess it’s the fact that while I mostly only blog about football, I have been a bit distracted by the European “Football” Championships, Wimbledon, and baseball, not to mention certain recent political developments and having a job.

Reflections on non-playoffs

My feelings about Alabama precede the arrival of Nick Saban by the better part of a decade, although he did increase my desire for LSU to win this annual game. It’s also the fact that for the first time since the early 1990s Alabama seems to have a good team every year once again. 1992, Alabama’s last pre-Saban championship, was actually the year where I didn’t feel slightly cheated by not having a playoff. Although I was new to the sports word at that time (1988 was basically the first year I understood and remembered what was going on for any sport) I was aware of there being some controversy between Miami and Notre Dame. But I didn’t worry about them playing one another because, as I’m sure someone explained to me, they did play one another, so voters had information from that game to inform them. 1988 had also been a presidential election year, so some aspects of voting had also been explained to me. It didn’t seem to be a problem that this is how it was done in college football.

1990 and 1991 showed that voting wasn’t good enough. The two teams that claimed national championships should have played one another. Georgia Tech should have played Colorado, and then Miami should have played Washington the next year. But these were just two-team controversies.

In 1992, Miami did play Alabama. Unlike their games against Notre Dame in the prior years, this was actually played at the end of the season in the Sugar Bowl. While I didn’t particularly care about that outcome either way (to me, Miami seemed like the more dominant team and this was before I heard talk of Alabama’s dozen national championships or whatever it was at that point), it was nice to have it decided on the field once and for all. So if someone had told my 11-year-old self at that point that we’re going to have the best two teams play each other for the championship every year, I probably wouldn’t have thought of any objection to this.

Then came 1993. There were two extremely good undefeated teams, Auburn and Nebraska. Auburn wasn’t eligible for a bowl game, but I still wanted to know whether they were as good as those other teams. Florida St. had lost at Notre Dame before the Irish lost to Boston College. So Boston College was the only team from outside of the top 4 to have beaten a top-4 team, and I believe they did so by a single point. Florida St. would narrowly beat Nebraska in a bowl game and Notre Dame won their bowl game as well. Nebraska playing Florida St. didn’t seem to really solve anything. It just made it so that, along with undefeated Auburn who wasn’t in any bowl game, we had a team who lost to Notre Dame, a team who (beat Florida St. but) lost to Boston College, and a team who lost to Florida St. Contrary to the apparent opinion of Notre Dame fans, I did not believe the bowls strengthened the Irish’s position. They beat Texas A&M while Florida St. beat Nebraska. Had Notre Dame beaten Auburn, then I might have given more credence to the idea that you knock it down to the top two and pick the winner. But even that wouldn’t have been satisfactory. Losing to Boston College was certainly worse than losing to Notre Dame.

So we really would have needed another game. This is what I touched on earlier, there can be a circumstance where such a rematch makes sense.

Florida St. should have played Auburn (assuming Auburn didn’t deserve to be higher) and Notre Dame should have played Nebraska. If Florida St. and Notre Dame had both won, so be it.

After nothing too unusual happened in 1994 (the then-common two-team dispute, when Penn St. should have played Nebraska) and 1995 (when Nebraska beat Florida), another situation, also involving Florida St., took place in 1996. Florida, despite the big loss at the end of the 1995 season, looked like the #1 team (almost) all year until they lost a close game in Tallahassee. Ohio St. looked on its way to perhaps an undefeated season when the Buckeyes lost to archrival Michigan by 4 points the week before. There were two undefeated teams, Florida St. and Arizona St. What actually happened was Ohio St. beat Arizona St. in the Rose Bowl, and Florida beat Florida St. in the Sugar Bowl. Florida, like Alabama did last year, took a close loss and made it into a big win in the rematch. But Florida St. should have played Ohio St., and Florida should have played Arizona St. This was another instance where the solution was clear, there should have been a way to have these four teams play to decide the championship.

Regardless, it has seemed to me since that time that four should be the minimum number involved. Of course, there have been other times since then when two wasn’t enough (2001 and 2003 come to mind), but all that did was confirm what I already believed.

Conclusion

I would mention one proviso that I think should be added regarding possible rematches. In 2009, my ratings suggest that Alabama should have played Florida in the semifinal. I think college football should adopt a modified version of the baseball rule where two teams in the same division could not play one another in the first round. Except I would say that in the semifinals two teams that played one another already should not play again. If a rematch of some type is unavoidable, then you have a non-conference rematch rather than an intra-conference rematch. So I think it should avoid rematches but obviously not forbid them entirely.

I wouldn’t have had any problem at all last season with Alabama being included in the top 4 and settling the question of which team should be in the title game with Oklahoma St. on the field. I think some of LSU’s problems stemmed from having played Alabama, but if the LSU offense played just as poorly and the coaching staff failed to make adjustments similarly, LSU could have lost to a number of teams in the semifinal. But none of those teams would have had an advantage the way Alabama did, so I think the loss would have been easier to take. And from a more neutral fan perspective, it would have also been better to let other teams see what they can do against these two great SEC teams.

One criticism that is always going to take place is, no matter what number we get to, someone will always say they should be #4 instead of #5, #8 instead of #9, #68 instead of #69, whatever. (I’ve forgotten how many at-larges there are in college basketball, but apparently at-larges can be as bad as 14-seeds, which is a tie for 53rd.)

I can’t think of a #5 team that I really thought should have been a national champion or strongly considered for a championship. The best team I can think of that wouldn’t have made any of the top 4 lists was Utah in 2008, but I didn’t think they were so good until they beat Alabama the way they did. But maybe that was more a reflection of Alabama than it was of Utah, like I think LSU’s performance in the 2011 championship was more a reflection of LSU failing to execute, well, anything offensively than it was of Alabama having an overwhelming performance on either side of the ball.

So let’s say Alabama gets blown out by Oklahoma instead of by Utah (and Oklahoma then went on to lost to Florida as they did in the real championship game that year), and Utah had beaten the ACC or Big East champion. Although Utah would have still been undefeated, I don’t think their case looks the same.at the end of the day.

So far, the Boise St.’s and TCU’s and Utahs haven’t been able to play for a championship. That’s a far different dynamic, but the fact that, as mentioned on my rating site, one of those teams might have had a chance just about every year, that’s a lot better even if there may be a situation where there are two such teams in the mix and a committee has to pick just one. Even if they lose out to someone like the 2009 Florida team, that team went 12-0 to start out too. You can’t really argue they had a tougher road, they just suffered the inconvenience of having to play a championship game which those other teams did not. So I can’t imagine feeling that bad for a #5 team.

But on the other hand, if that Florida team had been left out, I wouldn’t have had a problem with the argument of, “You had your chance and you lost.” Same thing if somehow this year LSU had lost to Georgia and was not included in the semifinals.

Putting all the technicalities and arguments aside, this is exciting. So when this is implemented in 2014, I’ll have been waiting for about 20 years. Even though I have time to prepare myself, I don’t quite believe it right now and probably won’t quite believe it then. I just hope nothing too silly happens in the next two seasons.