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Posts Tagged ‘UCLA’

LSU-Florida Reaction, Previews, & SEC Wed. #7

In College Football, General LSU, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on October 14, 2016 at 7:35 PM

LSU-Florida

So if you haven’t heard, the LSU-Florida game got resolved. The downside is LSU loses a home game next year (and will have FIVE SEC road games) and will play one fewer game this season.

I understand the SEC insurance policy will kick in for the South Alabama buyout. Reportedly South Alabama offered to play on the LSU bye week of 10/29, and LSU was not interested. So far the Texas A&M game is still scheduled for 5 days after the Florida game (the date when LSU was originally going to play South Alabama).

The upside is LSU still keeps the 7 home games for this season, Although the Tigers now finish with five consecutive opponents who are currently ranked, two will be separated by a bye week and only two of those five will be on the road. LSU has not played a ranked team yet this season, although Wisconsin and Auburn are currently ranked.

I doubt it will be two top-10 teams at game time like it was back then, but I think of the 2007 match-up every time Florida @ LSU is brought up.

I doubt it will be two top-10 teams at game time like it was back then, but I think of the 2007 match-up every time Florida @ LSU is brought up.

Also, despite all the road games next season, LSU also avoids having to go on the road in consecutive weeks next season. There will be two potentially brutal stretches though: @Florida/Auburn/@Ole Miss and @Alabama/Arkansas/@Tennessee/Texas A&M. At least that A&M game will be on a Saturday.

Florida loses two home games this year in the process (for a loss of one net, same as LSU), but let that be a lesson to them. When a program used to reacting to hurricanes calls you and tells you that you need a better backup plan than “we’ll delay the game a few hours,” listen.

I thought this was a pretty good take on what happened. It suggests that Florida reacted to LSU with paranoia, and that was part of the problem: http://www.outkickthecoverage.com/what-really-happened-with-lsu-and-florida-101316

SEC Wednesday #7

Last Week

I mentioned my aggravation with the Tennessee/A&M ATS “loss” in the rankings blog. You shouldn’t ever have to cheer for the team that you didn’t pick to score. If A&M wins in regulation with a field goal, I win. If they win in the first overtime with a touchdown, I win. But since they win in the second overtime with a touchdown, which means Tennessee played even better, I lose.

Kentucky likes to just barely beat the spread, so at least I won that one. I think they beat it by 4, but Vandy was close to sending that game into OT.
I was somewhat reluctant about Auburn, but they’ve been doing quite well on offense. Random stat I noticed: Sean White completed 14 passes for 204 yards with only 4 incompletions.

I was just plain wrong about Alabama. I could have backed into it with another late TD, but it was not to be. Maybe LSU will be able to get the Golden Boot back this year even though the game is in Fayetteville.

Most of the game Georgia was ahead either 14 or 7, but thankfully time expired with them ahead by 14.

I am finally back to a winning record against the spread. I was not hopeful about that happening again a couple of weeks ago. My records are now 49-8 picking winners and 25-24 against the spread.

SEC WED

Next Week

I guess for next week I’ll start out with the non-conference games. Lines were taken from the ESPN site on Wednesday to be consistent with other weeks.

BYU is kind of a tough nut to crack. I don’t understand beating Toledo by 2 at home and then running away with a game at Michigan St. Missouri beat BYU last year despite having an awful season, but the game was in Kansas City. I’ll take the Bulldogs and the points, but I’ll pick the Cougars to win.

I think the line has gotten out of control for LSU/Southern Miss. I think it opened at 21. It’s now 25.5. So 31-7, for instance, wouldn’t be good enough. I’ll take the Golden Eagles. LSU has some serious injuries on offense. If they’re up by between 17 and 21 at halftime, I don’t think they’ll be trying too hard to outscore the opponent in the second half.

USM is coming off an ugly road loss, which may have helped to inflate the line, but they did win by 9 at Kentucky earlier in the year. In the other road game a couple of weeks ago, the Golden Eagles beat UTEP 34-7, so last week may have just been an aberration. It could be a blowout, but I think the unnecessary bye week could have put a damper on LSU’s momentum.

Georgia by 14 hosting Vandy is a good line. Vandy is roughly equivalent to South Carolina and this will be between the hedges. I’ll take the Dawgs, who I think have been improving overall.

Alabama is favored by 12.5. I’m thinking they’ll win by 3 to 10 points, somewhere around there.

Florida has looked shaky and as mentioned is banged up. Despite the manhandling LSU gave them, Missouri should be able to keep it much closer. I’ll take the Tigers +13.5.

As mentioned, Arkansas has been a bit flat. Ole Miss was playing very well before the bye week. I think they can win by more than 7.5. I’m sure they want revenge from the last two years. I don’t really understand how in both 2014 and 2015 they lost to Arkansas but beat Alabama, but anyway.

Other Games

I was going to do some kind of preview of other games, but the only thing outside of the SEC that excites me much is Ohio St. @ Wisconsin. So far Ohio St. hasn’t shown any symptoms of having a young, mostly inexperienced team, but the only thing that looked like a major challenge previously was Oklahoma. The Sooners are not nearly as good as they were projected to be though.

Of course Wisconsin beat LSU, although both teams are a lot different now from what they were then. The Badgers had a surprisingly easy victory over Michigan St., another team that has proven not to be very good after making the Playoff last year. The Badgers’ only loss was by 7 @Michigan. The home field may make the difference here as well.

ESPN’s FPI gives the Buckeyes a 71% chance to win. I’d put money on Wisconsin if you gave me 7:3 odds.

The only other non-SEC game I plan to watch is UCLA @ Washington St. Both teams can have fun offenses, although as an SEC fan, I may get frustrated with some of the defensive play. There may be good defensive players, but it’s hard to keep up they barely have time to catch their breath between opponents’ possessions.

Conference Summary and Week 4 Preview

In College Football, Conference Reports on September 23, 2016 at 6:13 PM

Guess which conference has the fewest losses in non-conference play? (discussion of conference losses will mean non-conference play below)

140812_EYE_SEC1.jpg.CROP.original-original

The SEC has only lost one (Vanderbilt to Georgia Tech) since opening weekend. Five of its 7 losses were against Power-5 opponents. Only the Mississippi St. upset at the hands of South Alabama and Kentucky’s loss to Southern Miss were not to that group.

big10_logo_detail

The Big Ten still has a higher overall average winning percentage, but it has faced twice as many FCS opponents, two of which were victorious. Also, although there are many Power-5 wins, they’re often not against quality opponents. Four of the wins were Duke, Iowa St., Oregon St., and Colorado.

In the SEC, on the other hand, four of the five wins against the Power-5 were against teams that were ranked in the preseason. 78% and 75% aren’t far enough apart to overcome the strength of schedule disparity, so I’d give the SEC a slight edge at this point, but it will depend on some future games, and the SEC will have more of them.

ACC
Pac-12

For #3, I’m going to go with the ACC. They played five SEC opponents as well as Oklahoma St. and Oregon. The Pac-12 has similar records against slightly worse teams.

american
big12logo

The Big XII is only 15-11 right now. The best wins were over Notre Dame and Pitt. Not only would I put them last among the Power-5, I would also argue the American (AAC) should go ahead.

The bottom tier of conferences is harder to rank. I would say the MAC and MWC are roughly even. The MAC would be ahead if it weren’t for the three FCS losses. The Sun Belt is a little better than CUSA. Mississippi St. is a better key win than Kentucky, and Southern Miss and Ohio are better than Bowling Green and Miami U.

Week 4 Preview

There are a few major inter-conference games this weekend. I already covered the SEC games.

I’ll address the ones going on right now first. If Eastern Michigan beats Wyoming, that could arguably break the MWC/MAC deadlock. TCU vs. SMU is another chance of an upset by the AAC over the Big XII.

Similar to TCU, Boise St. is only a story if they lose, but it’s still good to get a road Pac-12 win even if it is against Oregon St. Central Michigan is another G5 (meaning not in the Power-5 of ACC, Big XII, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC) team on the road that should probably win, at Virginia in their case.

Another game in the state of Virginia is East Carolina against Virginia Tech. The Pirates were able to beat North Carolina St. but were not so lucky against South Carolina. The Hokies have a chance to rehabilitate somewhat from their previous non-conference game against Tennessee.

BYU will play its fourth Power-5 opponent, this time traveling to West Virginia. The Cougars beat Arizona before losing to Utah and UCLA in close games.

I’ll be very interested in the Wisconsin-Michigan St. game, the big game between two ranked teams.

The Pac-12 has a couple of big games involving Southern California teams. USC is playing Utah right now, and UCLA plays Stanford tomorrow Of course Stanford beat USC last week, so they’re trying to sweep L.A.

I also wanted to mention there is a big game in the ACC Coastal between North Carolina and Pitt in conference openers for both.

Week 1 Preview and SEC Outlook

In College Football, General LSU, History, Preview, Rankings, SEC Wednesdays on September 2, 2016 at 1:23 PM

SEC Wednesdays

SEC WED

Looking back at last year, I did not do a good job at picking against the spread in non-SEC games, so I’m not planning on including those in my totals. If I do really well with them early on, I may change my mind. I was already excluding FCS opponents from my spread games, so I’ll just have more even spread and non-spread categories this way.

I was too busy the last couple of nights to post anything. You’ll have to take my word that I picked South Carolina to win, but I didn’t even look up the point spread before the game, so I’ll score that as a non-spread game. You don’t really have to take my word on Tennessee-Appalachian St., because if I thought they would lose at home to Appalachian St., I certainly would not have ranked them so high.

They can expect to fall a few spots. However, you might remember Michigan’s loss to Appalachian St. in 2007. The Wolverines went on to finish in the top 20 in both polls after beating a very good Florida team in the CapitalOne Bowl. Make the Appalachian St. game a close win rather than a loss, and maybe they finish in the top 10. Also, I suspect Appalachian St. recruiting has improved a bit since that Michigan upset, so this is probably a much better team than the one Michigan faced. Let’s not forget that Appalachian St. won 11 games last season.

Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs fumbles in OT.  The ball was recovered for what turned out to be the winning TD.

Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs fumbles in OT. The ball was recovered for what turned out to be the winning TD.

Yes, it was a fluke that Tennessee got that winning touchdown, but the Volunteers had some bad luck too. A muffed punt set up the first Mountaineer touchdown, and Tennessee also had a drive deep into Mountaineer territory that ended in an interception. Take out either of those events, and the overtime touchdown probably wouldn’t have been necessary because there wouldn’t have been an overtime. Of course the Vols do need to improve in a hurry (including eliminating those key mistakes) to have a good season, but I don’t think their struggles were due to any talent deficit as compared to expectations.

Obviously today isn’t a Wednesday, but this will be a weird week anyway since all the games won’t be completed until Monday. I will have my rankings on Tuesday, god willing, and I like to have separate them by a day. So next time expect the big SEC post to be on Thursday, and afterward, I’ll plan to transition to Wednesday.

On to the predictions for upcoming games…

Wisconsin should test LSU’s 52-game non-conference regular-season winning streak. I would probably take the Badgers with the points though.

Arkansas to beat Louisiana Tech. Not much to say there, although I would probably take the points there as well.

Mississippi St. might struggle with South Alabama similar to Tennessee’s performance, but again I have to go with the SEC team at home. I would definitely take the 28 points though.

I won’t do that with Missouri-West Virginia though. The Tigers looked pretty bad at the end of last year despite the BYU win (they lost the rest of the final 7 games of the year). West Virginia hasn’t been abundantly consistent under Dana Holgorsen, but inconsistent is better than consistently weak. It’s a good line, but I think the chances are the ‘eers will beat it.

UCLA didn’t end last season particularly well. Neither did Texas A&M, but I’ll give the edge to the home team and pick the Aggies. Might as well give the three points.

Georgia will be playing a “neutral” game in the Georgia Dome, but the SEC team usually wins there even if they’re not from northern Georgia. Give the three points as well.

Kentucky beat ULL by a touchdown and needed overtime to beat Eastern Kentucky last year. USM had a six-game winning streak before they ran into Western Kentucky and Washington last year. Kentucky and USM have similar numbers of returning starters. I’ll pick the Golden Eagles. The bottom of the SEC will likely have a loss or two out of conference to someone, so this looks like one of the more likely ones.

Florida should cruise against UMass, but given their struggles with Florida Atlantic last year, who knows? I would not give that many points (36.5).

Alabama seems like an easy pick against USC, but it could be interesting. I picked the Trojans to do well the past two seasons, so maybe the fact that I didn’t this preseason means they’ll be good. I’d take the points there too.

Although Auburn had a disastrous 2012 campaign, the season-opening win for Clemson was huge.

Although Auburn had a disastrous 2012 campaign, the season-opening win for Clemson was huge.

I’ll predict another SEC loss on the Plains. Auburn has to be so much better than they were last year and Clemson has to be so much worse than they were last year in order for the home team to win this one, I just don’t see it happening.

Ole Miss has a good quarterback but not much returning support. I don’t see them knocking off the ’Noles either. Maybe take the points on those last two games though.

So in my preseason rankings, I didn’t show the ranking changes since last year. I’m going to do the adjusted rankings below as the prior rankings, but you can always check out my official un-adjusted ones here.

Ranking/team/prev./opponent
1 Alabama 1 – #15 USC (Arlington)
2 LSU 11 – #21 Wisconsin (Green Bay)
3 Florida St. 27 – #23 Ole Miss (Monday, Orlando)
4 Oklahoma 6 – @ #18 Houston
5 Clemson 2 – @Auburn
6 Michigan 13 – Hawaii
7 Okie St. 21 – SE Louisiana
8 Utah 10 – Beat Southern Utah, 24-0
9 Iowa 9 – Miami U.
10 Stanford 4 – Kansas St. (today)
11 Tennessee 26 – Beat Appalachian St., 20-13 in OT
12 Georgia 29 – #13 N. Carolina (Atlanta)
13 N. Carolina 24 – #12 Georgia (Atlanta)
14 Arkansas 25 – La. Tech
15 USC 28 – #1 Alabama (Arlington)
16 Wash. St. 30 -E. Washington
17 Miss. St. 20 – S. Alabama
18 Houston 7 – #4 Oklahoma
19 Florida 15 – UMass
20 Mich. St. 3 – Furman (today)
21 Wisconsin 32 – #2 LSU (Green Bay)
22 Oregon 22 – UC-Davis
23 Ole Miss 8 – #3 Florida St. (Monday, Orlando)
24 Ohio St. 5 – Bowling Green
25 TCU 14 – S. Dakota St.

Out of rankings: (12) W. Kentucky, (16) Northwestern, (17) Notre Dame, (18) Navy, (19) Toledo, (23) Baylor

Week 12 Rankings and Les Miles

In Bowls, College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 24, 2015 at 3:47 PM

I’m going to warn you now this will be longer than usual. I’ll keep the Les discussion to about 500 words though.

So it seems that with the additional loss since I last wrote on the topic, the rumblings about Les Miles being pushed out are more serious now.

There is supposedly consensus in the Tiger Athletic Foundation that we need a new coach, regardless of how expensive the buyout of the contracts for both Les and his assistants would be. (Although I would note that Cam Cameron’s contract is up at the end of the year anyway.)

The media has been wrong about Les's departure before.  "Have a great day!"

The media has been wrong about Les’s departure before. “Have a great day!”

The assumption seems to be that LSU will suffer at least one more loss. Few seem to be suggesting that Les would not be allowed to coach the bowl game at this point, and of course preparations for Texas A&M, which has not beaten LSU since 1995, are in full swing. The source I read about (I’m not linking the article out of principle) said that it would become a more complicated issue if Miles were to win both remaining games.

I will say that if we lose this one, especially if it’s not competitive, there would no longer be a good argument for keeping Miles. Even though I don’t think Cam Cameron has done all that much for LSU and I understand there are young players making mistakes, I think it would show that Miles no longer has the ability to properly intervene in problem areas. LSU has only had back-to-back losses a couple of times before this in Miles’ tenure. One of them was when LSU struggled to settle on a QB the entire season in 2008. Another was last year’s loss to Arkansas, which came after the Tigers got beaten up against Ole Miss and Alabama.

Losing four in a row, regardless of the reasons, I think would show more clearly that Miles is losing his touch and may not be able to make mid-season corrections in the future even if he were to improve his coaching staff for next season.

I think discussing alternative coaches in depth is premature, but I mentioned last time that the only coaches I would feel comfortable with from a win-loss perspective (even though I don’t really care for any of them personally) aren’t available. Jimbo Fisher has been mentioned, but I’m only lukewarm about him given the kind of season the Seminoles have had and his struggles with offense production at times when he was at LSU (under both Saban and Miles).

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.

That’s all I want to say about that. I hope we get some resolution before the bowl game (such as it’s Les’ last game, Les is coming back but Cam isn’t, whatever) even though Miles and AD Joe Alleva have stressed that evaluation time is after the whole year is over. As I think most fans know, a lot of personnel changes are decided in that time even though sometimes they’re not announced until later.

LSU is still a top 25 team according to many computers and voters, by the way. So I’ll move on to those.

Top 25

Rank Team Previous

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

Full list of 128 teams

Out of rankings: (17) Memphis, (23) Bowl Green, (24) USC, (25) Wisconsin

So at least according to my rankings, IF things go according to plan, it would be Alabama vs. Notre Dame in a rematch of the 2012 title game and Clemson vs. Michigan St.

Notre Dame does have to beat Stanford, however. Also, Michigan St. lost to Nebraska, so of course they could just as easily lose to Penn St. or Iowa.

Although they’ve looked terrible (Notre Dame didn’t look great either), I guess Florida could still make an argument by winning out.

That loss to Texas is dragging down Oklahoma right now, but if Iowa, Notre Dame, and Florida lose, it seems like they would be a good pick… assuming they can win Bedlam. Oklahoma St. would also have an argument if the above scenario plays out except for them winning Bedlam instead.

Bedlam, the annual game between Oklahoma and OK St., may be even more intense than usual.

Bedlam, the annual game between Oklahoma and OK St., may be even more intense than usual.

More remote opportunities exist for Stanford or the winner of Ohio St./Michigan.

Utah was finally taken out for sure by UCLA, which has a chance to win the Pac-12 South and derail Stanford the next two weeks. USC could also try to do the same. Stanford has beaten both teams already.

Navy, whose only loss was against Notre Dame, looks like the best G5 candidate for a CFP bowl.

Oregon, Mississippi St., and Temple all won games against teams at the periphery of the top 25.

Here are the previous rankings blogs:

Preseason

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

Week 11

Week 5 Rankings and Commentary

In College Football, Preview, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 5, 2015 at 5:01 PM

Skip to the bottom for the top 25 or click here or use the tab at the top to access my full computer ratings.

Ohio St. was once again underwhelming, but once again there was no clear successor.  I sometimes look at other computer rankings to see if it’s just something weird about mine, but it isn’t.  Ole Miss and UCLA were in the consensus computer top 5 and of course both lost to teams they were supposed to beat and neither game was close.

Anyway, so I’m keeping Ohio St. #1.  The protected top four from last week has been reduced to three with the Ole Miss loss.  I’m putting LSU ahead of Michigan St. because they are higher in the formula.  Ohio St., LSU, and Michigan St. are all in the top 10 of the formula, so I don’t feel like this is an inappropriate departure.

I also am replacing Temple with TCU in the top 10.  They were ninth and 11th, respectively, so I don’t think switching them is a big deal.  I also decided to put TCU instead of Iowa, who is new to my top 25.

The only other change was a group of teams who were in the top 15 last week and who I made numbers 22 to 25 this week.  Ole Miss, UCLA, Georgia, and Notre Dame were the four teams.  I thought Ole Miss in particular should not fall from #2 on my list (which had been slightly higher than the computer ranking) to outside of the top 25.

Florida WR Brandon Powell outruns the Rebel defense for a 77-yard touchdown.

Florida WR Brandon Powell outruns the Rebel defense for a 77-yard touchdown.

Memphis and Navy have no wins over the former BCS teams/conferences, but they have chances coming up, so they will move in if they win those.  Penn St. and Kentucky have losses that I don’t think their wins quite overcome yet.

I went ahead and left Houston in because they beat Louisville, a major-conference bowl team from last season.  Louisville didn’t have a good first week in losing to Auburn, but they played Clemson close and had a good road win over previously undefeated North Carolina St. on Saturday.

So I shuffled around the top 11 a bit, and I switched four computer top 25 teams with four non-top-25 teams.  Those four teams are in the order the computer gave, and all the teams in between are also in the exact order from the computer formula.

I may tinker slightly in the next couple of weeks, but in the ratings in two weeks, the current computer ratings will either be validated or the cream will better rise to the top.

Some key games two weeks from now that should make this easier:

Florida @ LSU

UCLA @ Stanford

Arizona St. @ Utah

Missouri @ Georgia

Alabama @ Texas A&M

Boston College @ Clemson

West Virginia @ Baylor

Oklahoma @ Kansas St.

Michigan @ Michigan St.

Iowa @ Northwestern

USC @ Notre Dame

Penn St. @ Ohio St.

Ole Miss @ Memphis

I think just about everything should be sorted properly on its own between now and then.  I’m not saying there aren’t any big games this coming week, but nothing like that lineup of decisive games.

Anyway, here is my current top 25.

Rank Team Previous
1 Ohio St. 1
2 LSU 4
3 Mich. St. 3
4 Florida 10
5 Northwestern 7
6 TX A&M 8
7 Utah 9
8 Oklahoma 11
9 TCU 5
10 Iowa

iowa

11 Temple 17
12 Okie St. 23
13 Clemson 12
14 Toledo

toledo

15 UC-Berkeley

cal

16 Michigan 22
17 Stanford 18
18 Alabama 19
19 Baylor 13
20 Houston

Houston

21 Florida St. 16
22 Ole Miss 2
23 UCLA 6
24 Notre Dame 15
25 Georgia 14

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

24 USC
25 Wisconsin

Week 3 Rankings and Commentary

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 20, 2015 at 2:43 PM

Like last week, I’ll start by mentioning a couple of other blogs and then get to the rankings.

I’ve updated by Auburn Rivalry blog.  Not too much to say about this game, although it was the highest-scoring of the 50 games of the series.

Here are the previous ranking blogs:

Preseason

Week 1

Week 2

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

Out of rankings: (23) Missouri, (24) Temple

Last week, I talked about LSU in one blog and about the prominent national teams in another; but for the moment, I feel like that’s the same conversation.

I was concerned that Mississippi St. was allowed to get within two and had a chance to win at the end in Week 2 (the Tigers’ first game), so I thought LSU didn’t deserve to be a top 10 team.  But if that were true now, almost no one deserves to be a top 10 team, so I’ve significantly re-evaluated this position.

I’ll give a brief summary of the rest of my new top 12 for comparison of such games.

Ohio St. just won a home game against a MAC opponent by only a touchdown.  The Buckeyes only managed 13 offensive points before a defensive score late in the third quarter and did not score in the fourth.

Michigan St. only led Western Michigan by 10 points for part of the fourth quarter in Week 1 before kicking a field goal with 8 minutes left.  Still, the margin was less than two possessions (37-24).  Western Michigan was blown out by Georgia Southern.

Midway through the fourth quarter yesterday, TCU only led SMU by five points.

Baylor has only played SMU and Lamar, so no close games yet, but allowing a combined 52 points in those two games has to be concerning.

UCLA only beat BYU by a single point yesterday after taking the lead with just over 4 minutes remaining.

Clemson beat Louisville by a field goal after the Cardinals lost a neutral-site game to Auburn and also lost to Houston at home.

Florida St. only managed one offensive touchdown against Boston College and led only 7-0 going into the fourth quarter.  The defense scored in the fourth quarter, but the offense only scored on its first drive.

Notre Dame trailed Virginia in the final two minutes in Week 2.

There are three SEC teams not mentioned above.  Alabama lost to Ole Miss (and for that reason I’m moving the Rebels up to #2 and moving Alabama down 6 spots).

There is also Texas A&M.  I’m still a little skeptical about the Aggies, who have yet to go on the road (although technically Houston was a neutral site), and perhaps they just got a little lucky in Week 1 when they pulled away from Arizona St. late.  Really though, if Arizona St. is anywhere close to how good they’re supposed to be, A&M should be in the top 5 if we only looked at what’s happened on the field so far.

Going back to LSU, of course it also didn’t hurt to have such a dominating conference win.  The Fighting Tigers were lackluster at a couple of points in the second half, but it was a 24-point lead at the half, and LSU won by 24.

The rest of the top 25…

Oregon is the #2 team with a loss now, so I don’t think 13th is too bad even though it’s worse than last week. I’m concerned about their defense though.

Georgia, the Oklahomas, and Wisconsin just moved ahead of teams that lost or that I moved down.

I moved Northwestern up on the strength of Stanford’s win at USC, then I go to some teams with “good” losses.

Kansas St. needed three overtimes to beat Louisiana Tech, so they moved down, but I put them ahead of Georgia Tech, which lost to Notre Dame.

BYU was only 22nd last week, but I still kept them in because going to the Rose Bowl and losing by a point doesn’t tell me they’re not a top-25 team.

Finally, I put U. Miami in because they had a close win over Nebraska too, but they’re ahead of BYU because they haven’t lost.

U. Miami players celebrate the winning field goal in overtime after the ‘Canes blew a 23-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Missouri and Temple were removed for barely beating basketball schools UConn and UMass.

Starting next week, however, I will no longer consider margin of victory.  It gets too tricky to keep track of who almost beat whom or should have scored more points and the circumstances, but you have to do that early to separate otherwise similar teams.

Week 2 Rankings and Commentary

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

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

Recap and reaction to the LSU-Mississippi St. game

Rivalry Series: LSU vs. Auburn

Week 1 top 25

 

New Top 25

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

BYU_Logo_1969-1998

23 Missouri 20
24 Temple

temple

25 Northwestern

nu_old_logo

Out of rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few other games of potential interest:

(12)Florida St. @ Boston College

(13) Georgia Tech @ (16) Notre Dame

South Carolina @ (15) Georgia

(25) Northwestern @ Duke

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

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

2015 Full Preseason Top 25

In College Football, General LSU, Preview, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on August 31, 2015 at 2:00 PM

I’ve already elaborated on these in my top 10 blog, but here they are again, with last year’s final rankings:

  1. Ohio St.           1
  2. Baylor             12
  3. TCU                6
  4. Alabama         4
  5. Michigan St.   8
  6. USC                20
  7. Oregon          3
  8. UCLA             7
  9. Clemson          18
  10. LSU                 (30)

I did want to comment on LSU briefly being that both Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit picked the Tigers to make the NATIONAL championship game (I recognize this may be bad news for the Tigers). Desmond Howard picked Texas A&M to win the SEC. I’ll talk more about the Aggies later, but his basis for that was adding John Chavis as the DC to Sumlin’s offense, so I’ll respond to that briefly. Chavis did a good job overall at LSU, but this past year was one of his poorest performances. Even if he’s not losing his touch, I don’t think he’ll suddenly conjure up a good defense in College Station. The panel was unanimous about someone from outside of the state of Alabama winning the SEC West, so I hope they’re right (but if it comes down to Auburn and A&M, I’ll be for Auburn).

Lee Corso (center) picked LSU as the national championship, and Kirk Herbstreit (to his left) picked LSU as runners-up to Ohio St.

Lee Corso (center) picked LSU as the national champions, and Kirk Herbstreit (to his left) picked LSU as runners-up to Ohio St.

11-25

11. Ole Miss         15 – staying in the SEC with this one. Even if LSU does fine the rest of the season, it’s going to be awfully hard to win the divisional road games at Oxford and Tuscaloosa. The Rebels have never won the SEC West (unless losing the head-to-head tiebreaker in 2003 counts), but with 16 starters back from a contending team last year, this could be the year. It’s also quite conceivable there could be some sort of tie with the Rebels making the SEC title game this time. Bo Wallace does not return, but that could be a blessing as much as a curse.

12. Florida St.       2 – I don’t know if this is too high for the ’Noles given my deep skepticism of both sides of the ball (as noted in the top 10 blog), but a fall in more than 10 spots for a team that’s been near the top of college football for a couple of years seemed like too much. Don’t be surprised if they finish a bit lower though.

13. Georgia Tech  10 – I had the Wreck as a top 10 team at the end of last year.       While they don’t have an overwhelming number of returning starters (13), they were right there with Florida St. last year, so I see no reason to expect otherwise this year.

14.Notre Dame    (33)– The Irish will have to play three teams mentioned above (USC, Ga. Tech, and Clemson) as well as Stanford, but I don’t hold schedules against teams in preseason. I don’t think they were actually better than LSU last year, but they did show significant improvement that made the bowl win possible. Also, almost their whole team (19 returning starters) is coming back. I can easily see the Irish in the top 4 even with a loss, but this may depend on the perceived strength of the Pac-12 and the ACC at the end of the year.

15. Arizona St.      19 – The Sun Devils have nearly as good of a chance to win the Pac-12 South as UCLA and USC do, but they never quite seem to have the consistency to do such things. They did make the Pac-12 championship in 2013, but the highest-ranked team they had to beat to do so was #14 UCLA. I don’t think it will be the same type of thing this year. They haven’t beaten a team ranked higher than that since 2002, and they also can’t do things like lose to Oregon St. (as they did last year). ASU does return 16 starters from a top-20 team, however.

16. Boise St.         5 – I always have to remind people that unlike the human polls, I do not routinely just move teams up for not losing. This makes it less problematic to put a team like this in the top 20. The Broncos return 16 starters from what I had as the #5 team last year.       Teams like this have been ranked in the top four at the end of the year in the BCS era; and now that four is the magic number, it may just be a matter of time. They do have a new quarterback, but that was also the case in 2012 (11-2) and 2008 (12-1).

17. Georgia           13 – The Bulldogs did well enough at the end of last season to earn this spot even though they don’t have a huge number of returning starters (12). I’m still not quite sure how they managed to lose to Georgia Tech, but the Auburn game and the bowl game were very impressive. They couldn’t win the SEC East in the last couple of years, and it won’t exactly be easy considering they play Alabama and Auburn, but I still give them a slight edge over Missouri.

18. Wisconsin       14 – I see the Badgers as a potential spoiler in the Big Ten championship (Ohio St., Michigan St., and Michigan – none of whom they play in the regular season – are all in the other division). They’ll have a new running back or two, but that’s one area they never seem to struggle in finding new talent. The defense should be strong with 8 returning starters on that side. They might not be fun to watch, but 10 wins or more seems probable.

19. Missouri         11 – The Tigers were a better team overall last year (still not sure what happened with Indiana) than the Badgers, but I don’t know if 13 returning starters is enough. I’ll talk about this more below when I discuss teams that didn’t make the cut.       That being said, they could easily go into the season-ending Arkansas game with a chance to make the SEC title game once again.

20. Auburn            21 – Once again with this section of teams, the question is going to be consistency. They had great games (41-7 win over LSU, for instance) and not so great games (34-7 loss to Georgia). I don’t know if that’s suddenly going to turn around with a mediocre number of returning starters, which I mentioned in the top 10 blog.  The Plainsmen do supposedly have a good new quarterback, but he’ll have ample opportunity to prove it.

21. Arkansas         (38) – Staying in the SEC West, the Hogs seemed to turn the corner late last year and had an excellent chance to finish the SEC schedule with a third straight win after shutting out LSU and Ole Miss. Mizzou upended them late, but I certainly expect the Razorbacks to win some similar games this year with 15 returning starters.

22. Stanford          (32) – The Cardinal were supposed to have a great offense line last year, and I didn’t even rank them in the top 30 and the end of the year, so I’m more tepid about them than a lot of the preseason ratings are. They should have a strong offense with 9 returning starters though. I’ve seen some hand-waiving over the lack of experience in the defense, but look at the Pac-12 teams I’ve mentioned above and Notre Dame. I could easily see several games where the defense struggles to keep up.

23. Oklahoma St.  (58) – The Cowboys weren’t very good last year, but they won 10 games two years ago and 12 games two years before that. Maybe they just like odd years. They certainly showed flashes of talent last season, and they do return 16 starters. They could be a sleeper/spoiler team in the Big XII. Don’t forget that TCU’s performance last year was after a 4-win season in 2013.

24. Oklahoma       (36) – While we’re talking about the Sooner state, why not talk about the Sooners? They were a disappointment to the faithful last season, I’m sure, but nearly beat TCU and Kansas St. and had other good games. Again, it’s just another team that struggled with consistency though. A more modest number of returning starters though (13), so they might not be able to hang in so well against TCU and Baylor and so forth.

25. Texas A&M    (31) – The former divisional rivals of those Oklahoma teams will probably struggle to contend in their current division, but they have 15 returning starters evenly distributed on both sides of the ball and apparently some stability at quarterback, so they could be dangerous.

Out of top 25: (9) Marshall, (16) Mississippi St., (17) Arizona, (22) Colorado St., (23) Kansas St., (24) N. Illinois, (25) Memphis

I would understand if people want to stop reading there, but I thought it was worth addressing why certain teams do not appear above.

Despite being a top-10 team most of last season, Mississippi St. only has 9 returning starters, which puts them among the lowest in FBS football. I don’t think they’re a good candidate for the preseason top 25. Just because they had a good year doesn’t mean they had Ohio St. and Alabama level backups standing on the sidelines waiting their turn, but I guess we’ll see against LSU in a couple weeks.

Marshall only had a couple more with 11, and I’m really skeptical they had a great second squad last season.

Another team I wanted to mention who didn’t make the cut is Arizona. I just them as fading at the end of the season, and they don’t have impressive numbers coming back. They could be in the top three of their division with some luck, but I don’t see the upside for them being much better than that. The downside is they could be a low-level bowl team (or worse) who struggles with the likes of Utah.

Kansas St. is pretty much in the same boat. The Wildcats also have 12 returning starters and finished in the top 25 last season, but it’s a similar profile. I don’t think the upside is all that strong even if things go well. The teams I have ranked can win their respective conferences if things fall into place. I just don’t see that with this group.

Colorado St., Northern Illinois, and Memphis were also in my final top 25.  Even if they had a lot of returning starters, I probably would not have ranked them. This is a bit of a tangent, but I’ll explain why below.

I don’t think they were better than many of the 26-40 teams that were in major conferences. It’s more that the philosophy of my rankings focuses on top teams so it is set up to remove those with four or five losses from consideration more than a team with a small number of losses who doesn’t play anyone.

I’ll give an example. Team A is in a major conference and is 7-4.   Team B is in the MAC and is 10-1. There is a good chance Team A is better than Team B. Two slightly worse teams last year demonstrate that. Northern Illinois lost to Arkansas, 52-14. Arkansas finished 7-6, and NIU finished 11-3.

Going back to the hypothetical, what if the following happens? Team A then beats two top ten teams and goes to 9-4. Team B then beats two top ten teams and goes to 12-1. Team B would be ranked higher for sure. Even though the season will almost never end like that, I still don’t want it to penalize easy schedules so harshly that if you do add a couple of really good wins that the team can’t then be in the top 10.

Anyway, the point is that such a team being ranked last year doesn’t mean they actually would have beaten Stanford, Notre Dame, LSU, Oklahoma, etc.

Finally, Tennessee wasn’t ranked last year and barely made the top 50, but they have almost their whole team back with 18 returning starters. I just think you need to have a better team to start out with for that to matter enough. The Vols were very fortunate to play in a bowl game at all.

The same is technically true of Arkansas; but like I mentioned, Arkansas dominated their last two SEC West opponents and nearly beat the SEC East champions. If Tennessee had played in the West, they probably would have finished last and not made a bowl game. About a month before Arkansas beat Ole Miss 30-0, Tennessee lost to the Rebels 34-3. Also in the last month of the season, the Vols only beat South Carolina by three (in overtime) and Vandy by 7. Tennessee had a respectable performance against Alabama (losing by 14) and dominated Kentucky before beating Iowa in the bowl game, but that’s not enough to change my perception that they’re still an unproven collection of players.

The Week 1 top 25 won’t be until Tuesday, that’s one reason I waited until today; but after that, it should be on Sundays pretty regularly.

2015 Preseason Football Top 10

In College Football, General LSU, Preview, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on August 21, 2015 at 3:06 PM

There has been some confusion on this in the past, so I wanted to start with my general philosophy on pre-season rankings.

I do use a formula starting around the beginning of October for ratings, but that has nothing to do with pre-season. Everyone starts fresh in that formula when we get around to it.

What I start with is a subjective evaluation of how good the team was last year and how many good players are coming back. If 17 of 22 offensive and defensive starters are coming back from a top-10 team, that’s probably going to be a good team, at least they’ll be well-positioned. It might not be the best team, but to me that’s a preseason #1 candidate. That team would go ahead of a more talented but unproven team.

I wanted to say a couple of things about returning starters. I know how many returning starters you have in August aren’t always great predictors of how well you do in November, December, and January, but I still think they’re a good place to start. A preseason top 25 should be the teams you expect to be strongest based on what the teams have to start the season.

Likewise, when you get to the end of the season, subjective polls will reflect who’s good at the time and might not count those early-season games (such as the one Ohio St. played against Virginia Tech last year) for much.

I guess the best analogy for my preseason approach is seeding or pole position. It’s an earned status to a degree, but it’s not necessarily a prediction of results. An example from the NCAA basketball tournament a few months ago was Villanova. I didn’t really have a problem with them being a #1 seed, but I still thought there was a good chance they’d lose in an early round and they did. The previous year, that’s how I felt about Wichita St.

When I do talk about returning starters below, I am just referring to Phil Steele’s list of returning starters and not counting kickers… not that I don’t respect kickers, but few championships are decided by having an experienced punter or kicker rather than just having a good one.

I wouldn't bet Ohio St. over the field, but if someone wants to finish #1, they might just have to take it from the Buckeyes themselves.

I wouldn’t bet Ohio St. over the field, but if someone wants to finish #1, they might just have to take it from the Buckeyes themselves.

Without further ado, here’s my top 10, and I’ll give my reasoning below:

  1. Ohio St.
  2. Baylor
  3. TCU
  4. Alabama
  5. Michigan St.
  6. USC
  7. Oregon
  8. UCLA
  9. Clemson
  10. LSU

I have a couple of guidelines for preseason #1. One of these guidelines is that it has to be a team that I’ve previously ranked #1 in my 20 years (this is actually year 21) of ranking college football teams. So while either TCU or Baylor could emerge from the Big XII and win it all, I can’t really pick either one.

I do want to say one other thing about the Big XII upfront. I think there will likely only be one of the two in the playoff (same thought about the Big Ten, by the way), and the likely fourth team I would guess will come from the Pac-12, but I obviously don’t think any Pac-12 team looks good enough for the top four just yet.

Unlike some, I don’t necessarily gravitate toward last year’s #1; but I just don’t see any other good choices.  For the record, this is the fourth time I have made the Buckeyes my preseason #1.

ESPN’s #3 is Auburn. I wouldn’t be surprised if Auburn finished #3 (or maybe even #4) in their DIVISION. Alabama, Georgia (who Auburn plays every year despite being in another division), LSU, Arkansas, and Ole Miss are not exactly strolls through the park when you return only 12 starters from a four-loss team.

Alabama has been a safe high pick in recent years, but another new quarterback (and not an experienced veteran new QB like last year) is a concern.

Also, this has happened a few times, but Alabama was lucky it finished with the record it did. Whether you fault LSU or the refs for the outcome, Alabama’s talent did not really win that game. I also felt Auburn played a better game, at least between their own goal line and about the Alabama 10. So I wasn’t shocked when the Tide lost to Ohio St. I didn’t pick Ohio St. to win, but I wasn’t shocked.

The other two teams from the top 4 last year were Oregon and Florida St.

Oregon only returns 12 starters and only 5 on defense. I think defensive returning starters are often underrated in preseason rankings. Offensive returning starters depend a lot more on position and player. A tight end or guard might not be missed, especially if there is someone else there who had significant playing time before; but any weak link in a defense, even if it’s only week for a couple plays in the game, will be noticed.

Florida St.’s offense will be gutted. If the 4 starters were Winston, a couple of linemen and a good wide receiver, that would be one thing, but Winston is gone and the ’Noles replace four linemen. Defensive starters are underrated as I said, but it helps to have a defense less pourous than their was. FSU only had 11 returning starters two years ago, but I think we know enough about Everett Golson at this point to know he’s no Jameis Winston. I haven’t followed the team that closely, but I certainly don’t think the other candidates are clearly better than he is.

There may be a potential top-four team I haven’t mentioned that could surprise and win both games (like Ohio St. did last year), but to go along with what I said earlier I don’t see preseason rankings as the time to make longshot predictions.

ESPN also has USC, Michigan St., and Georgia in the top 10. USC can beat Notre Dame and they can beat Oregon, but I’d be pretty surprised by both, especially given that both are on the road and USC hasn’t won anything major in a while. Also, there is that whole conference championship thing, and UCLA and Arizona St. won’t be cakewalks either.

Michigan St. is interesting. They were a top-4 team a couple of years ago. I don’t think they’ll play anyone overpowering with the possible exceptions of Ohio St. and Oregon; but I don’t know if their QB will have anyone to throw to, and they also fail the #1 test I mentioned above.

Their #10 is Georgia. They play those Alabama and Auburn teams I discussed (pretty tough inter-divisional slate), not to mention that Missouri team that keeps winning their division and an improving Tennessee team (also the man in the visor isn’t a pushover either). They also have 12 returning starters.

Now I think the SEC will have at least five top 25 teams, possibly even two or three more, but I don’t see a team that jumps out much.

If I’m anywhere close to correct about the SEC, it would take the best coaching performance Saban has ever had for Alabama to get through undefeated, so I don’t think that’s going to happen, especially given that game against Georgia. On the other hand, since they found a way to win all but one last year (before the playoff), they can probably do the same this year and end up in the top four. Of course LSU lost two games in 2007 and ended up in the top two, so top four certainly isn’t out of the question with two losses.

Baylor is #2 because look how good they were last year with single-digit returning starters. They have almost twice as many this year. They really are one of the top two teams I wouldn’t want to play, especially early on. The main worry with the Bears is they could get in one too many shootouts, and it could backfire, like that WVU game that got away from them last year. The defense should be improved, but there is a lot of room to improve.

I was going to pick Oregon as my top Pac-12 team again, but Phil Steele convinced me otherwise. I think I jumped the gun by picking USC to do so well last year (#11 was my preseason ranking), but that doesn’t mean they won’t move up this year. They have better pieces in place, it’s just a matter of how quickly the team gels and learns how to be champions. The Trojans may not even beat Oregon (on the road), but even if they don’t, they could get a second chance. Both could easily have out-of-conference losses as well (to Michigan St. and Notre Dame, respectively), so the Pac-12 should be less confident about landing a playoff team than the SEC, Big XII, or Big Ten.

I also don’t think UCLA is far behind. Like with USC, I wonder if they can go from challengers to champions, but I also think the talent and potential are there. The quarterback is a question mark, but he’ll have enough support staff around him that by the time they play the likes of Stanford and especially USC, they could be a very good offense.

Clemson has three tough games: Notre Dame, @Miami, and Florida St. If they win all three and the ACC championship, they should be in the top four. I don’t think they will, but top 10 isn’t too much to ask. The defense (4 returning starters) may have a rough time of things, but I don’t think Florida St. and Miami will have the kind of punishing offenses to take advance of it too badly.

LSU is a good place to end because for one I honestly think they’ll be more competitive in the SEC this year, and because I can finish this blog by talking more about them without detracting from other teams.

I really tried to look for reasons not to put LSU in the top 10, but my main concern with the defense is depth in the secondary, I’m not concerned with the whole unit like I am with Clemson. Clemson may have a more solid offense and a better QB situation, that’s why they’re higher, but I don’t see much distance there. I think LSU is still too young to do something like win the SEC (though to be fair I didn’t see that coming in the preseason in 2001 or 2003), but returning starters are returning starters even if they were freshmen starters last year. As the cliché goes, they weren’t freshmen when last season ended. If they can do something like, I don’t know, beat Alabama, that could be a springboard to something really special in 2016.

I just want to mention something that’s bothering me. People are saying Saban has Les Miles’ number, but two of the past three years, Alabama did not have a good game against LSU. Instead of continuing to run over the defense, LSU played for a field goal in 2012 (which they missed and which started Alabama’s game winning drive).

I touched on last season earlier, but LSU had the ball with goal to go and under two minutes left in a tie game. A little mutual physicality after a play somehow got LSU a personal foul (but not Alabama) and stopped the clock. LSU had little choice but to play for a field goal to take the lead. Then LSU’s squib kick on a kickoff (which they might have kicked deep had there been less time on the clock) was a little too diagonal and bounced out of bounds, eventually setting up the tying field goal. I’m not saying not to give Alabama credit for their respective winning and tying drives, but that’s not Alabama or Nick Saban having LSU’s or Les Miles’ number. Now if by “has his number” they mean he’s been getting the breaks, then absolutely; but that type of thing doesn’t typically last forever. The shoe was on the other foot not too long ago.

Let’s not forget that last year Alabama had a top-four team and LSU didn’t even have a top-25 team. The game this year is at Alabama, but the road team has a consistent historical edge in the series. LSU last won in Tuscaloosa in 2011 before losing to the Tide in the rematch two months later. So the Alabama win in 2013 was the only win by a home team in the series since 2010. LSU could also easily lose a revenge game to Ole Miss or Texas A&M or possibly lose again to one of the teams who beat the Tigers last year. That type of thing is less likely for Alabama even if they finally do lose one to LSU.

Ranking the Conferences, Part IV: Full Season 2014

In College Football, Conference Reports on January 17, 2015 at 5:29 PM

sec-pinwheel-logo

Part I: Frame of Reference
Part II: King of the Bowls
Part III: Overall Bowl Performance

1. SEC
2. Pac-12

I’m going to start with acknowledging that if you look solely at winning percentages against the P5 or even against the FBS, the Pac-12 has a better winning percentage than the SEC. In overall winning percentages, the SEC and Pac-12 are in a virtual tie (I will discuss that more below).

I’m going to give some records below. Since I’m trying to get this out before it’s too late in the day (I’m on the West Coast), I haven’t checked them with other sources since the bowl games, so if I missed one or two games, I apologize in advance.

I also want to mention that while this is my last entry about the conferences, I do plan at least one more blog about the rankings (comparing my pre-season list to the current list) and something about LSU. Apart from the Notre Dame “Rivalry” blog. I haven’t done an LSU-specific blog since Thanksgiving weekend.

My philosophy for ranking conferences in my “conference report” series is as close as I can get to my philosophy for ranking teams. From watching the playoff games, the overwhelming consensus is that the team who entered those undefeated (Florida St.) was the worst of the four teams. So much so that they finished 6th in the coaches’ poll and in a tie for 5th in the AP poll.

You can’t get better than 100%. A lot of reasonable people had Alabama, who had only won 92.3%, ahead. The committee (and a few individuals) had Oregon (same winning percentage as Alabama) ahead. That winning percentage was also shared by Ohio St.

Oregon, the loser of the title game, won 86.7%, about 6 points below Florida St.’s current winning percentage.

In Part III of this series, I determined that the Pac-12 had a better bowl season than the SEC. The overall records of the conferences also reached a tipping point, as the Pac-12 record against other FBS conferences surpassed the SEC record against other FBS conferences for I believe the first time this season.

There is only a gap of 3.7% though. I think based on the discussion above, when it’s a winning percentage that close, you need to look a bit deeper.
When you go down the line, the SEC’s opponents are consistently better though. Judge for yourself though. I’ll start with how they did against the ACC, Big Ten, and Big XII, respectively. I think the top four teams of each conference are fairly easy to determine, so I’ll separate it there. Unfortunately, there were no games between the SEC and the Pac-12.

After giving the records, I will list the wins over the top four, followed by other losses to teams outside of the top four. “Good” losses don’t prove as much and neither do wins over mediocre teams.

Pac-12 vs. ACC: 1-0 vs. top 4 , 2-1 vs. others
SEC vs. ACC: 2-5 vs. top 4, 1-0 vs. others

Oregon beat Florida St.
Boston College beat USC

Georgia beat Clemson
Georgia beat Louisville.

Pac-12 vs. Big Ten: 1-1 vs. top 4, 5-1 vs. others
SEC vs. Big Ten: 2-2 vs. top 4, 1-1 vs. others

Oregon beat Michigan St.
Rutgers beat Washington St.

LSU beat Wisconsin
Missouri beat Minnesota
Indiana beat Missouri

Pac-12 vs. Big XII: 1-0 vs. top 4 (UCLA), 1-1 vs. others
SEC vs. Big XII: 1-2 vs. top 4 (Auburn), 4-0 vs. others

UCLA beat Kansas St.
Oklahoma St. beat Washington

Auburn beat Kansas St.

So the SEC played 14 games against top-4 opponents of the other power conferences against only 4 for the Pac-12. You can’t tell me that’s not a disproportionate ratio. It happened to be that the team who played two of three was the best team in the Pac-12, and the one who won the other was arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, UCLA. UCLA beat the same team SEC #6 Auburn beat.

The Pac-12 makes up some ground with Notre Dame, but I don’t believe they would have been a top-4 team in any power conference apart from possibly the Big XII (unfortunately, their recent games with Oklahoma didn’t take place this year to let us know more clearly). Arizona St. and USC beat Notre Dame. The Irish beat Stanford of the Pac-12 and LSU of the SEC. LSU and Stanford were similarly ranked in their respective conferences, and Notre Dame beat both by a field goal.

LSU was also denied what could have been a game-changing touchdown right before halftime. I don’t bring that up to say LSU is better than Stanford or their loss is more excusable, but I think we can infer that if Notre Dame played two higher teams in the SEC like they did in the Pac-12 (Arizona St. and USC were higher in the Pac-12 than Stanford), they most likely would have lost both games.

Anyway, the differences in schedules don’t end there. I think CUSA, MAC, and Sun Belt only have two teams worth considering apiece, but I’ll go with the top 4 for the MWC and AAC. Neither of those are very deep, but they’re centered around a few serious teams. The MWC had four teams who each won at least 10 games, so I think they’re all worth considering strongly (though not as strongly as the top 4 of the power conferences of course). The AAC had three teams tie for first. East Carolina was not in that tie, but I think they made up for having a couple more losses (two to teams in that tie) with their wins over North Carolina and Virginia Tech out of conference, so I’ll give them credit for 4 too. I’ll break these down collectively.

Pac-12 vs. G5: 2-3 vs. top teams, 16-1 vs. others
SEC vs. G5: 10-0 vs. top teams (Auburn), 18-1 vs. others

UCLA beat Memphis
Utah beat Colorado St.
Nevada beat Washington St.

South Carolina beat East Carolina
Florida beat East Carolina
Missouri beat Central Florida
Missouri beat Toledo
Ole Miss beat Boise St.
Ole Miss beat Memphis
Ole Miss beat ULL
Auburn beat Louisiana Tech
Arkansas beat Northern Illinois
Tennessee beat Utah St.
Temple beat Vanderbilt

Despite winning 11 games over the Mountain West, the Pac- 12 only won the bowl game against a 10-game winner. The Pac-12 was 0-2 against those teams otherwise and also lost to Nevada, the #6 MWC team. The Pac-12 also suffered a loss to BYU, who I included as one of the good G5 teams even though they’re independent.

The only SEC loss to a non-P5 team was by the worst team in the SEC, Vanderbilt. They lost to Temple.

I mention who won the games because I have no problem with Oregon and UCLA both being in the top 10. You can even put them both ahead of Alabama if you want to, but they got all the major wins for the Pac-12, except for the two over Notre Dame and the one over Colorado St.

I just don’t think the accomplishments of those two teams put the Pac-12 as a whole ahead of the SEC. The fact that teams so far down the SEC won major games, not to mention that 5 teams that weren’t even in the top half of the SEC won bowl games. These are not the games mentioned above, except for the Florida win over East Carolina.

If you evaluate conferences anything like teams are evaluated in the main, you’d have to acknowledge that the SEC was far more tested in terms of opposition, and that how tested they were overcomes the slight deficit in winning percentages.

Some people only want to look at performance among the top teams or don’t care at all (win or lose) what happened against non-P5 opponents, but that’s not how anyone I know of looks at teams. The concepts overlap, but I’ll give analogies.

Regarding the former outlook, West Virginia and LSU looked like two of the best teams when they played top teams. WVU was within a possession of Alabama for 50 minutes (losing by 10), beat Baylor, and lost by a single point to TCU. LSU beat Wisconsin, beat Ole Miss, and lost to Alabama in overtime. No one I know of is going to ignore that LSU lost to Arkansas and Notre Dame or that West Virginia lost to Texas and Texas A&M though.

Regarding the latter outlook, the problem many people had with Ohio St. was that they lost to Virginia Tech, who barely even qualified for a bowl game. Imagine they had lost to Navy instead. That wouldn’t count against them? So when the Pac-12 loses to BYU and Nevada, that should count against them.

Still others might say that you look at the performance at the end. So between the last week of the season and the bowls, the SEC lost nine games to other conferences (even all of those were either the best independent team [Notre Dame] or in the top 4 of P5 conferences).

Anyway, as I indicated at the beginning, I’ll grant that there are ways of looking at this that would not put the SEC first, but not the way I’ve ever approached this discussion.

The demise of the SEC West was also greatly exaggerated. Even counting the bowl losses, the SEC West won 85.7% of its non-conference games. Granted, the Pac-12 South won 86.9%, but refer back to what I said about strength of schedule. Most of those quality SEC wins were by the West. Then take out the Oregon wins when you consider the Pac-12. It’s not even close.

Also, it’s been overlooked that the SEC East went 5-0. They got a lot closer to the SEC West in the process. The SEC East won a total of 78.8% of their non-conference games. The Pac-12 North, on the other hand, won only 73.9% of their non-conference games.

The numbers I just gave count FCS opponents, so that’s where some of the discrepancy is, but I excluded those games initially because strength of schedule matters.

Including the FCS games, the Pac-12 was only 0.4 percentage points ahead, and there wouldn’t even be that difference had the Florida/Idaho game not been canceled. Even if you don’t place a high premium on it, if you don’t think strength of schedule can change the outcome of just one game out of dozens, then I guess this just isn’t for you. Also, I guess Marshall should have been in the top 2 going into Thanksgiving, and Florida St. was the best team going into the playoff games despite how those games turned out.

I think the bowl results are pretty conclusive as to the rest of the Power 5 conferences and many of the others, so rather than trying to fill up another blog with that, I’ll just list the teams and mention any highlights briefly.

3. Big Ten

Like the SEC/Pac-12 discussion, the B1G had a slightly worse record than the ACC against the P5, but the level of competition was higher. For instance, it played six games against the top half of the SEC compared to only four by the ACC. The ACC had a better record against the SEC than the B1G did, but mostly because they played Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky. Also, the Big Ten had fewer losses overall, meaning they had fewer bad losses. It also helps that the B1G went 5-1 against the ACC, the only loss to Virginia Tech by Ohio St.

If you’re not convinced, this is the list of their P5 wins to compare with the others: Pitt, Syracuse, Miami, Boston College, North Carolina, Baylor, Washington St., Oregon, Missouri, Alabama, Auburn.

4. ACC

This is more a symptom of the weakness of the Big XII, who went only 6-11 against P5 conferences compared to the mark I mentioned by the ACC (nearly .500).

P5 wins by the Big XII: Maryland, Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, Tennessee, Ole Miss. Two were against top teams of those conferences, but both were wins by TCU. Not a lot of depth.

P5 wins by the ACC: Ohio St., Oklahoma St., Kansas, Oklahoma, USC, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi St.

Also, if you didn’t notice, the ACC went 3-0 against the Big XII.

5. Big XII

Even though 6-11 vs. the P5 isn’t great, it beats the 5-18 mark of the MWC by far enough that we don’t really have to look into the specifics much. The other four conferences went a combined 10-79. I did give the CUSA credit for having a better bowl season, but the bowl win by Louisiana Tech over Illinois was the only win of the season by the CUSA over a P5 opponent. Also, the Big XII only lost two games to a non-P5 opponent compared to the MWC’s nine losses against that group.

6. Independents

Notre Dame, BYU, and Navy were all a bit above average (at least in records) while Army was a bit below. They went just under .500 against P5 opponents, and a few games over .500 against the FBS. Most of the big wins were by Notre Dame, but BYU beat Texas, Cal, and Houston. Navy didn’t do anything spectacular, but they did beat three teams with winning records: Texas St., Georgia Southern, and San Diego St. The only somewhat bad losses were by Army: Yale, Kent St., and Wake Forest.

7. Mountain West (MWC)

The MWC, as usual, was clearly the best of the rest. It was competitive with many P5 opponents and had the best record of the G5 conferences against them. Also, it suffered no embarrassing losses. It went undefeated against FCS opponents (unlike the Big XII, by the way). There were only three losses to non-bowl teams. Colorado and Oregon St. beat Hawaii, and Oregon St. beat San Diego St. Colorado was a bad team, but they didn’t beat one of the MWC’s seven bowl teams. As to the Oregon St. win over San Diego St., it’s not shameful in any way for a low-level G5 bowl team to lose to possibly one of the best P5 non-bowl teams. If there were a losing-record championship game, I probably would have liked to have seen Oregon St. vs. Kentucky.

8. CUSA
9. AAC

The CUSA has to have been happy with how well it fared given the defection of so many teams to the American (AAC), who I believe it just barely edged out. I mentioned the CUSA only had the one win over a P5 conference, and while that was certainly a negative, as were the two FCS losses. The CUSA had better games against everyone in between, however. 21-25 vs. the FBS is a lot better than the 10-31 mark of the AAC. The CUSA went 3-1 against the AAC (losing only to Memphis), it beat three of the MAC bowl teams (compared to only one such win by the AAC), and it beat three MWC teams (compared to only one). The wins over ULL and Navy roughly cancel out the two AAC wins over BYU.

10. Mid-American (MAC)

Like the AAC, the MAC only had 10 wins, but unlike the AAC, the MAC didn’t beat teams like North Carolina and Virginia Tech and did lose to two FCS teams. The MAC only beat three bowl teams: Pitt, South Alabama, and Arkansas St. The last two were wins in bowl games.

11. Sun Belt (SBC)

The Sun Belt won only 5 FBS games, two over bowl teams. ULL beat Nevada, and Arkansas St. beat Utah St. It did get one P5 win, but Wake Forest (who lost to ULM) barely counts.