theknightswhosay

Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

Top 25 after Week 8

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 21, 2018 at 2:44 PM

I decided I would post more detailed reactions to the top games later in the week since I don’t have an LSU preview blog to write this week.  It’s possible I may preview other games though.

By the way, there is a new editing system for this blog that I’m trying out.  

Purdue’s D.J. Knox ran for 128 yards and 3 touchdowns in the upset of the Buckeyes in West Lafayette, IN, on Saturday.

Here is the update to the Mississippi St. Rivalry series, and if you want to read anything about Alabama-LSU, you might want to start here.  

LSU is on top in the computer rankings for the moment, but if you divide score by playing week, the Tigers are only third (after Notre Dame and Clemson).  That’s an indication that LSU will fall in the computer after the bye next week.  In the rankings below, I’m keeping them fourth.

Although Alabama hasn’t faced anything close to the competition LSU has, the Tide doesn’t have a loss and is likely to stay that way for a while (ESPN gives them a 79% chance of beating LSU), which I project will be enough to make put them in the #1 spot in the computer after that game.  Usually the first week of November is when I completely follow my computer rankings, but I’m already doing that for numbers 5 through 25.

Why do I stick with my current computer formula if it would put LSU ahead of Alabama right now?  If at the end of the season a team has the 86th-best schedule and is undefeated (that wouldn’t be a strange number for a team in the American Conference, for instance), I generally wouldn’t want that team ahead of a 1-loss team with the 6th-best strength of schedule (which is often higher than the winners of even the best conferences).  Alabama’s and LSU’s respective schedules will become more similar as the season goes on though.

The basis of my computer rankings is basically an unbiased assessment of a team’s accomplishments against its schedule up until now.  LSU will lose ground in strength of schedule compared to other major teams when it plays Arkansas and Rice in consecutive weeks after the Alabama.game.  The Tide would gain more points by beating Mississippi St. than LSU will by beating Arkansas.  The following week (when LSU plays Rice and Alabama plays the Citadel), other teams will be able to gain on both.  Although a bye doesn’t affect strength of schedule, it could also allow teams to pass up LSU and/or Alabama next week.

I had said if Clemson was #1 after this week I’d move them in front, but those Tigers are only #3 right now.  They’re very close to Notre Dame and I would expect them to pass up the Irish by beating Florida St.  I still wouldn’t want to make them #1 only to potentially move them back out of #1 after the Louisville game (even if they beat Florida St.). 

Clemson WR Hunter Renfrow heads downfield after evading the North Carolina St. defender in Clemson, SC, on Saturday.

ESPN gives Clemson at least an 86% chance to win in each of its remaining games (only a 58% chance to win them all though), but I think Florida St. has a better chance than that.  Although Clemson did all you could ask for last week, they have to get over it and get ready for a road game against the improving Seminoles next week  Ohio St. didn’t really have a big high to get over (they beat Minnesota the week before) last week at Purdue, and look at what happened to them. Purdue had won 3 in a row after a bad start, and Florida St. has won 3 of 4 (with only a one-point loss to U. Miami in the mix) after a bad start.

Notre Dame has a similar schedule to Clemson over the next two weeks (wins over Navy and Northwestern would be similar to wins over Florida St. and Louisville), but I think the Irish have less chance of losing at Northwestern.  So Notre Dame is another possible #1 in the coming weeks.

LSU could be #1 by beating Alabama in two weeks, but I’m not sure if either Florida or Georgia losing would hurt the Tigers enough so that another team could go in front.

Georgia is relatively low in the rankings right now, but they could also be a competitor for #1 by beating Florida and Kentucky.  Florida would probably be less so because the Gators play Missouri the week after that. 

Something else I did out of curiosity was rank the top 25 opponents.  This is not the final top 25, but in order to make the top 25 I have to give each team a score.  The only three teams with two wins against that list are Notre Dame, Clemson, and LSU.  So I really don’t have any doubt that LSU is the best one-loss team (at least on paper) right now.  We could debate how high a one-loss team should be though.

LSU’s loss is to the seventh team on that list, so the Tigers don’t lose enough points to cancel out any win except maybe Southeastern.  Every other LSU win is against a team in the top 45 on the opponents list, so that’s why it’s close enough to put the Tigers ahead if you don’t consider the extra playing week.

LSU’s opponents getting such high marks might be surprising given some of the games Auburn and Ole Miss have played in, but both Ole Miss and Auburn have as many wins against the top 25 opponents as Alabama does (1 each), and both teams are .500 in their other games for winning records against the FBS overall.  Auburn’s loss to Tennessee is the only loss between the two of them to a team outside the top 45.  Auburn counteracts that with a better key win (Washington rates a good bit higher than Texas Tech, which is even lower as a team than as an opponent).

So, as strange as it seems, Ohio St. has lost to a worse opponent (Purdue) than any Ole Miss has lost to (Alabama, LSU, and Auburn).  Mississippi St. has also lost to LSU now of course, but instead of losing to Alabama and Auburn the Bulldogs lost to Florida and Kentucky.

Keep in mind that my projections as to future weeks are only rough guesses because I’m just looking at current record and schedule strength and adding a loss.  Any prior opponent (or opponents’ opponent) losing or winning makes a difference as well.  I think I mentioned all the realistic #1 possibilities for the next few weeks regardless.

Top 25

RankTeamPrev.
1Alabama1
2Notre Dame2
3Clemson3
4LSU4
5Michigan11
6Oklahoma8
7Texas7
8Florida6
9Iowa15
10Kentucky10
11Washington24
12Georgia14
13Ohio St.5
14Stanford12
15NC State9
16Utah25
17Duke 13
18Buffalo
19C. Florida20
20San Diego St.17
21Texas A&M
22Virginia
23Army19
24Wisconsin
25W. Virginia23

Out of Top 25: (16) Cincinnati, (18) S Florida, (21) Maryland, (22) Miss. St.

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Top 25 after Week 7

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 14, 2018 at 2:26 PM

Since the top 25 will be almost purely mathematical from now on (I do have three paragraphs about the changes I made to the top 7), I plan to talk more about what happened on the field Saturday than why I like one team better than another.

LSU-Georgia and Comparisons

I wrote extensively about the 2003 game, LSU’s previous home win over Georgia, in my update to the LSU-Georgia Series Blog (since updated to add the result), so it was interesting to see the Advocate’s Scott Rabalais bring that game up here. That was one of the top games in the rivalry in my opinion because at that time they were the last two SEC champions facing off, and it was the first time either team faced opposing head coaches Nick Saban and Mark Richt, respectively. Also, LSU was one of only two teams to beat the Bulldogs that year (which they did twice). Both teams lost to Florida, who somehow lost 5 games on the season; but LSU would win the BCS national championship in the following January.

It’s funny how the start of games can be so different from the way they play out. I almost feel bad for Georgia fans, because I would have been really frustrated. I don’t have to think back very far to recall such a feeling.

After LSU took a 3-0 lead, Georgia took the field and was able to run on LSU almost at will after Florida ran for over 200 yards against the Tigers the week before. I thought it was going to be a long day. Then one running play didn’t work out for the Bulldogs setting up a 2nd and 9, and they largely gave up on the run.

Two incompletions followed, and then on 4th and 9 they ran a fake kick. They gave up on Holyfield and Swift and flipped the ball to Rodrigo Blankenship? That was one of the dumbest set of downs I’ve seen from a major program this year. The Bulldogs didn’t run the ball the next possession either, a three and out. By this time LSU led 13-0. In the next 3 runs the Bulldogs averaged 4.3 yards, but I guess the scoreboard kept them from committing to the run in any kind of consistent way. Georgia ran for 71 yards in the drive that set up the fake field goal (before the lost yardage on the fake) and ended up with only 113 rushing yards for the game, but to be fair a few good runs were canceled out by negative plays.

In LSU’s game at Florida, the Tigers were doing great on both sides of the ball early on. The Tigers had one touchdown drive to start up 7-0. The Gators got one first down on their next drive but stalled immediately afterward. Then LSU took only 5 plays to get down to the Florida 28, and Burrow fumbled it on first down. The Tigers didn’t establish that kind of rhythm again the rest of the game. Even in the only other touchdown drive, it was only four plays and 78 of the 80 yards came on two runs by Nick Brossette, so that’s not really what I’d call a rhythm.

Here is the Mississippi St. rivalry blog if you want to look ahead to that game. It’s not talked about as much as some other series, but LSU has actually played more games against Mississippi St. than any other opponent. Something else I just noticed is LSU’s next three opponents will all be coming off of bye weeks.

Georgia QB Jake Fromm (being pressured by LSU LB Devin White) completed only 47% of his passes, significantly reduced from his previous season average of 73%.

Other Games Saturday

Another thing that had made me a little nervous at the early going of the Georgia game was the way Auburn and Florida had looked against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, respectively. Auburn lost, but Vanderbilt had led Florida 21-3 before losing 37-27.

I guess we’re just at the time of the season that you can’t really take anything from one week to the next as teams get into the heart of their conference schedules. No conference punishes you the way the SEC does if you don’t get up for a given game, but we still saw teams like West Virginia and U. Miami lose road games that on paper they should have won.
I mentioned Auburn and U. Miami, who both lost, but there was another prior LSU opponent who almost lost as well. That was Ole Miss, who really seemed down and out. The Rebels missed a field goal with 13:47 left in the game while down 9.

Arkansas did a good job running the clock and setting up disadvantageous field positions for the Rebels, but the Razorbacks didn’t score again. Ole Miss took advantage with 84- and 97-yard touchdown drives in the final 7 minutes. Arkansas will attempt to end its 6-game losing streak next week against Tulsa before facing Vanderbilt, another victim of a significant comeback. The Razorbacks will have a bye week before hosting LSU on November 9.

Other than the WVU-Iowa St. and U. Miami-Virginia games I referred to earlier, I can’t tell you too much about the non-SEC games. Notre Dame didn’t look very impressive in the quarter or so I watched against Pitt; but as usual the Irish were just good enough to beat a lesser opponent. I only watched Washington-Oregon briefly. I can’t stand watching defenses who can’t tackle.

I was going to turn on Michigan-Wisconsin after the SEC games, but it was already a blowout. I don’t understand how that game was chosen over LSU. The best team Michigan beat was Maryland, the only team Wisconsin beat that wasn’t terrible was Iowa, and both teams had losses (Wisconsin’s was to BYU). At least Lee Corso looks dumb, not that it was the first time.

Top 25 Comments

I’m keeping Alabama #1 for this week, but there is a good chance I will replace the Tide next week if Clemson wins (against N.C. St.) and becomes the computer #1 over idle Notre Dame. It’s not that Bama isn’t playing well; but they haven’t played any of the top 9 teams (in my opinion including non-conference games) in the SEC, and their only game in the next two weeks is against Tennessee. The Vols just beat Auburn; but being that it was their first SEC win since 2016, they’re not one of the top 9 teams in the SEC either. The Tide also don’t have a non-conference win that does them much good: Bama’s three opponents are only a combined 5-11 in FBS play, and two of them play in the Sun Belt.

The only other change from the computer was to move Ohio St. up two spots to be ahead of Texas and Florida. Texas did lose to a Big Ten team after all. I didn’t want to move the Buckeyes higher since they really haven’t played anyone… anyone who didn’t just lose to Michigan St. anyway. Ohio St. belonged ahead of LSU going into the week even though my computer didn’t have them ahead, but with the win (and Penn St.’s loss) LSU is now 3-1 against teams in my top 40 when Ohio St. hasn’t played any of those teams. LSU has beaten 5 teams in the top 65 to Ohio St.’s 2; so however you look at it, I think LSU’s quality wins overcome the one loss at this point. It helps Ohio St. a little bit that the Buckeyes haven’t played an FCS opponent, but still for Ohio St. to be 96th in FBS strength of schedule and for LSU to be 3rd explains how LSU can afford a loss.

Florida did beat LSU and has a better loss than Texas, which is why they’re ahead of the Longhorns; but I didn’t think the Gators had the quality wins to overcome the loss to Kentucky. LSU and Mississippi St. are the only top-50 wins according to my computer rankings. One of those two will lose value next week since they play one another, and Florida will lose value since they have the week off. It just makes sense to keep Ohio St. ahead for now when most likely Florida will fall next week anyway. Texas is off next week as well.

Top 25

rank/team/prev.

1 Alabama 1
2 Notre Dame 2
3 Clemson 3
4 LSU 6
5 Ohio St. 5
6 Florida 7
7 Texas 8
8 Oklahoma 11
9 NC State 10
10 Kentucky 9
11 Michigan 12
12 Stanford 17
13 Duke 15
14 Georgia 4
15 Iowa 21
16 Cincinnati 25
17 San Diego St. 23
18 S Florida 14
19 Army —
20 C. Florida 22
21 Maryland —
22 Miss. St. —
23 W. Virginia 13
24 Washington 16
25 Utah —

Out of Top 25: (18) U. Miami, (19) S Carolina, (20) Penn St., (24) Wisconsin

Top 25 after Week 5

In College Basketball, College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 2, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Before I begin, I know I missed the midweek blog. I had a baseball fantasy team (I won the championship of 10-team league), but that’s obviously over. I had a couple of other obligations last week as well.

I also should mention that I was sad to hear the news about LSU basketball player Wayde Sims. It’s going to hurt the team, but that’s a small consideration compared to a life cut short like that. I’ve lost a couple of other people prematurely who were important in different ways to my sports fandom in other Septembers, so I’m always glad for September for the cooler weather to commence.

Speaking of cooler weather, that’s usually when the Ole Miss game is played, but it was early this year. Here is the updated information about the LSU/Ole Miss series. I don’t have a whole lot to say about the game though. It was sloppy on both sides, but LSU just has a lot more talent. There were a couple of fumbles, but Ole Miss had a lot more penalties than LSU did (one of which negated a fumble), so it balanced out. It was nice for Burrow to do well statistically, although I’m not sure how well the land plankton compare to other SEC defenses. I plan to talk about the upcoming Florida game later this week. I heard an interesting discussion about it today that I’ll talk about as well.

LSU QB Joe Burrow accounted for 388 total yards against Ole Miss.

If you didn’t notice, I did complete my first official computer rankings of the year. I’m obviously not following them exactly in this list, but there were only two teams below whom I moved more than 4 spots. The first was Auburn, which I thought belonged one spot ahead of Washington, which it beat. The Plains Tigers just have low-value wins like Alabama St., Southern Miss, and Arkansas that makes their computer numbers look relatively bad. The second was Central Florida, who has a 17-game winning streak and lost out on potential points due to the hurricane. I will not move either team as much next week or in future weeks though.

There will probably be only a handful of deviations overall from the computer order next week. Some people have been confused about why I change the approach from week to week, but I just think people don’t realize the transition in other mediums. You start with preseason, which is only about how good you think teams will be, maybe with a little bit of consideration for how good they were in prior years. Then when it comes to bowls and the playoff, you want to exclusively base it on how well a team did this season.

You can’t make that transition and approach each week the exact same, but the polls tend to have this arrested development where they try to do that. I imagine them thinking, “I moved team A up 5 spots because they beat team B last week, and team B was in the top 10.” They’ll do that just as much in November as in September. They don’t think back and wonder if team B was only in the top 10 because of what they did this season or not, and then if team B loses to several other teams they don’t take away the extra credit they gave team A. They only reevaluate when it gets right to the end. I don’t understand what they’re waiting for.

I won’t have as much to say about my decision-making process going forward. Where I do make decisions I’m mostly just trying to provide a smooth transition from subjective to objective. It’s going to be more about why the computer formula reacts to input the way it does.

I will talk about the top teams a bit. I didn’t want to move LSU up another spot until they do something more impressive than beating Ole Miss at home. Ohio St. had a better win than Clemson did Saturday, but I’m no longer holding the closeness of the win over Texas A&M against them. The computer had the orange Tigers a good bit higher, so I followed that. Notre Dame is playing well just in time (and I believe Stanford is also better than Syracuse), so I’m now willing to look past the close final scores early on. Those are two examples of how margin of victory won’t really factor in going forward.

I’ve talked about Army and Duke in the last couple of weeks. Duke beat Army, so even though the Blue Devils lost and the Cadets won in big games last week, I decided they were close enough to put the winning team (especially with one fewer loss) ahead.

I’ll just briefly address the other new teams on this list. West Virginia held on in Lubbock to remain undefeated, which I considered in giving them an extra boost here. Florida had a good win in Starkville. I’m still skeptical of North Carolina St. and Indiana, but as I explained objective numbers are taking more of a role now. Indiana doesn’t get much credit for beating Rutgers, but it has moved up as other teams have lost or are no longer receiving extra subjective credit and did too well in the computer ratings to put lower. North Carolina St. got a numerically helpful win against Virginia and is undefeated. The Wolfpack and the Hoosiers are the only two teams to beat the Cavaliers, but we will see if that means anything soon (when Virginia plays U. Miami and Duke in the next two weeks).

Apart from Michigan, all the teams who fell out lost. The Wolverines are getting a lot of credit in other places for beating winless Nebraska (partly due to margin of victory). That doesn’t count for much here. Northwestern, the team they barely beat on Saturday, is 1-3 and lost to Akron. By the way, that’s an example of margin of victory the other direction. One reason I’m not that far away from many rankings who consider margin of victory is it tends to balance out. Anyway, I just didn’t see the logic in putting Michigan ahead of any team on this list, but they’re still close to the top 25.

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Notre Dame 8
3 Clemson 7
4 LSU 4
5 Georgia 2
6 Ohio St. 3
7 Oklahoma 6
8 Kentucky 12
9 Stanford 5
10 NC State —
11 W. Virginia —
12 Auburn 10
13 Washington 21
14 Penn St. 9
15 Duke 11
16 Texas 22
17 Indiana —
18 Army —
19 S Florida —
20 Okie St. 24
21 Wisconsin 15
22 Florida —
23 U. Miami 20
24 Maryland 25
25 C. Florida 16

Out of Top 25: (13) UC-Berkeley, (14) BYU, (17) Michigan, (18) Miss. St., (19) S Carolina, (23) Texas Tech

Top 25 after Week 4

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game on September 23, 2018 at 1:21 PM

LSU had a good first 22 minutes and a good fourth quarter against Louisiana Tech, but it’s concerning to give up 21 consecutive points to two opponents in a row.

Apart from the touchdown drive at the end of the first half against Southeastern (SLU), LSU has not played well around halftime and the third quarter in any of its first four games.

The Tigers were way out in front of U. Miami and SLU; but in the case of U. Miami, ending a game with no touchdowns in your last 8 drives (not counting the kneel-down at the end) isn’t desirable in my opinion no matter what the score is. LSU may have been shut out in the second half against SLU if they had not recovered a fumble at the SLU 18 late in the fourth quarter.

The troubles started against Auburn after about a quarter and a half instead of two quarters, and that’s the same thing that happened against the Bulldogs on Saturday. We were up 24 against the Bulldogs instead of the 10-point lead at Auburn, but the play from that point until the fourth quarter was similar with identical results (outscored 21-0 in both instances). So there is a wide range of teams that could blow out LSU if the Tigers were to play like that for a full game. To look on the bright side, LSU could probably beat anyone if they eliminate that mid-game lag.

If the Tigers don’t play better, they may well lose the next game against Ole Miss. See here for more about that rivalry.

That said, I don’t see anyone other than LSU I want to put #4. Clemson’s game against Texas A&M and Oklahoma’s game against Army were more concerning, and no one has the pair of top-10 wins the Tigers have.

I thought about dropping Ohio St. due to not having played anyone except a team that just got beaten soundly by Texas, but I may have gotten some flak if the first three teams were all in the SEC. The Buckeyes’ strength of schedule should improve significantly in the next two weeks though, so I’ll leave them where they are for now.

Army’s ground game and ball control were almost enough to beat Oklahoma in Norman on Saturday.

I know I ranked Army #25 last week, but that’s not really a good excuse for Oklahoma to go into overtime against the Knights/Cadets at home. After an uninspired win at Iowa St. the week before, I’m not really feeling the Sooners right now. I’m phasing out the feeling element of this as I always do in late September, but going solely by the numbers wouldn’t even put OU in the top 10. I haven’t been impressed with other Big XII teams either, but the toughest games may be away from home: TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia, and Texas (in Dallas). The remaining home schedule is Baylor, Kansas St., Oklahoma St., and Kansas.

Auburn didn’t do anything wrong; but even assuming they win next week, 3 of their four wins will be Alabama St. (who has lost by at least 34 to every Division I opponent), Arkansas (who probably still won’t have any FBS wins), and Southern Mississippi (whose only FBS win is over Rice). It’s just time to start factoring in strength of schedule more. Auburn has Georgia and Alabama later of course, but they won’t get credit until they play one of them.

Central Florida, the (AU) Tigers’ opponents in the Peach Bowl, and Michigan were even further from a ranking in my formula, so they dropped more.

Mississippi St. lost to a team I already had ranked, so I thought a 10-spot drop was enough even though the Bulldogs are also not on my computer list.

After that, I knew which teams I wanted to rank (they were all selected from the top 25 of my computer), but when I couldn’t decide the order, I just ranked them by how good the teams who beat them are. For instance, Texas Tech and Maryland (which beat Texas before the Longhorns’ big wins of the past two weeks) had lost to unranked teams. Ole Miss (which beat Texas Tech) has only lost to Alabama, and Temple (which beat Maryland) lost two games, one of which was to Villanova—and it wasn’t in basketball—so that was pretty easy to sort out. I think Oklahoma St. lost to a better team than Texas Tech did, but I couldn’t put the Cowboys ahead of a team who just beat them 41-17 in Stillwater.

The five teams that are in the computer top 25 but not in this one are (in order): Buffalo (beat Temple; see above for discussion about Maryland and Texas), Indiana (lost to Michigan St. but is the only team to beat Virginia), Michigan St. (beat Indiana, although the Spartans lost to Arizona St.), San Diego St. (beat Arizona St., only loss is to Stanford), and North Carolina St. (nothing too special, but they are the only team to have beaten James Madison or Marshall; they play Virginia next).

San Diego St. has a bye week, so they will be staying out; but any of the others could make it in by winning. I know it sounds silly, but this is especially true of Buffalo, which plays Army. Who knew New York could field decent college football teams, not to mention (possibly) three of them? The third is undefeated Syracuse, who fell just a few spots outside of the top 25 and will attempt to beat Clemson for the second year in a row on Saturday.

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Georgia 2
3 Ohio St. 3
4 LSU 5
5 Stanford 6
6 Oklahoma 4
7 Clemson 7
8 Notre Dame 12
9 Penn St. 11
10 Auburn 9
11 Duke 15
12 Kentucky 24
13 UC-Berkeley 18
14 BYU 19
15 Wisconsin 20
16 UCF 13
17 Michigan 14
18 Miss. St. 8
19 S Carolina —
20 U. Miami —
21 Washington —
22 Texas —
23 Texas Tech —
24 Okie St. 10
25 Maryland —

Out of Top 25:
(16) Minnesota, (17) Iowa, (21) Boise St., (22) TCU, (23) Indiana, (25) Army

Another Tradition Lost; Week 1 Plans

In College Football, General LSU, History, Preview on August 27, 2017 at 2:57 PM

(After I wrote this, I found out I lost the ability to use my Facebook account, so I made a new one: https://www.facebook.com/TheBayouBlogger)

I usually try to use sports as an escape from real-world issues including personal problems and politics. I won’t bore you with any personal problems, but unfortunately politics has been intruding into college football and its traditions, so I feel obliged to talk about it.

The new resident of the LSU athletic complex

LSU will have a new live tiger mascot to replace Mike VI, now known as Mike VII (he was previously known as Harvey when he lived in Florida), but not only will he not be brought to the stadium if he doesn’t feel like it (which had been the policy), he won’t be brought into the stadium EVER, which seems to be a move to placate animal rights activists.

The last time a live Tiger will have been brought to a game was when Mike VI witnessed the beginning of a game against McNeese St., which went down as a cancellation. Mike VI, who had taken over the job in October 2007, declined to get in the cage pictured above for all the subsequent home games while he was still alive. He was euthanized on October 11, 2016, after battling cancer which had been diagnosed in June.

This is a 2015 picture of the late Mike VI during his traditional trip to the stadium on game day. He seems relaxed in the picture, but the various “Mike the Tigers” would at times roar or otherwise express hostility toward opposing players.

I AM grateful LSU isn’t Ole Miss, which had its main mascot replaced by a guy dressed as a bear (a rebellious bear I suppose), but I still find it ridiculous. I’m also glad the flag of Louisiana isn’t banned like the flag of Mississippi apparently is from the University of Mississippi, but that’s another conversation.

The old and new mascots of Ole Miss

The live tiger at LSU is one of the best cared-for tigers in the country, but it’s now unconscionable for him to earn his keep by spending 7 or 8 evenings a year in a cage inside the stadium? He lives in the tiger equivalent of a mansion and is well-fed with excellent medical care. Even if one didn’t like football, what person wouldn’t take that deal?

What about all the police dogs that are compelled to sniff out drugs somewhere? Wouldn’t they be better off if they were given a huge habitat to hang out in all day? Why is that any different?

At least there will still be an eye of a tiger on the field.

I don’t even want to talk about why a guy named Robert Lee can’t do a football game in Virginia. I’ll just try to move on, but this stuff needs to stop intruding into my sports.

I know the major polls came out before the games that just took place. South Florida and Stanford didn’t experience what would have been shocking upsets, but I didn’t think that small possibility was worth doing the rankings early.

I’ll just release the “Preseason”/Week 1 rankings by kickoff on the Thursday before Labor Day as usual. I may release the top 10 before that, but it just depends on how quickly I get things ready. I already have my top 25 picked out, but I’m not sure about the exact order or presentation yet.

Also, best wishes to South Texas and the Houston area (where LSU is still scheduled to play its opener against BYU in less than a week) in the recovery from Hurricane Harvey.  (Reports indicate that a different venue may be chosen during the day on Monday.)

Week 2 Conference Report & SEC Detractors

In College Football, Conference Reports, Rankings Commentary on September 17, 2015 at 2:55 PM

Before I begin, I wanted to give the link again to the LSU-Auburn Rivalry Blog.

SEC Less Dominant, But Still Best

Once again, rumors of the demise of the SEC have been greatly exaggerated. The conference has a total of three losses in intereconference play.  This is one fewer than the Big XII, which has four fewer teams.  No other conference has fewer than six losses.

Also, the Big XII has half the number of wins over other Power 5 conferences. The only wins have been TCU’s close win over Minnesota in Week 1 and Oklahoma’s overtime win over Tennessee on Saturday.  The SEC has wins over Wisconsin, Arizona St., Louisville, and North Carolina.   On the other hand, it is a plus for the Big XII that three of the losses were by the apparently two worst teams, Iowa St. and Kansas.

The three SEC losses were by teams with a combined conference record of 5-19 last season though, so that’s not a huge disparity.  The opponents had a 64% combined overall winning percentage.  So I don’t think that even though Western Kentucky and Toledo aren’t in Power 5 conferences that somehow that reflects horribly upon the whole conference when they each beat a team which finished last in an SEC division last season.

I have a couple of comments about the Toledo game below.

The Vols celebrated early, but Tennessee's 4th-quarter collapse gives the Big XII #1 for the week.

The Vols celebrated early, but Tennessee’s 4th-quarter collapse gives the Big XII #1 for the week.

I will give the Big XII credit for having a slightly better week.  The only interconference SEC win of note was East Carolina, and of course Tennessee lost the heart-breaker to Oklahoma.  If that goes the other way, it’s another clear SEC win on the week.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re the best though.  You’re supposed to be clearly superior every week or people are going to try to bring you down.  (See “Conference Report” section at the bottom for more on the conferences.)

Auburn and Notre Dame In the Polls

I didn’t address this in my rankings blog, because I had barely looked at the polls when I wrote it.

This is sort of along the same theme of the SEC detractors being a bit off.  This may just be pro-Notre Dame bias, so the affect upon an SEC team might be incidental, but it’s ridiculous to me to not only have Notre Dame in the top 10 to start with but to move them up after they trailed Virginia in the final two minutes.

Then Auburn, which also won a close game over a team it should have been expected to beat comfortably, fell 12 spots in the AP poll.  How does that make any sense?

Granted, I moved Auburn out of my top 25, but I only had them 17th last week and 20th to start the season, so the game really only made a few small difference in my opinion of the Plainsmen.

Likewise, I moved Notre Dame down slightly.

One difference between the two for me is that Louisville lost to Houston, which significantly devalues Auburn’s win over Louisville.  That game was also closer than it should have been in hindsight.  The polls typically rely on how good the opponent SEEMED to be at the time and never give any consideration to prior games again.

Another thing is that I value overtime wins less than wins in regulation; but this does not seem to be considered very often, at least not unless it was a controversial game everyone saw like LSU/Alabama last year.

But for one to move up a spot and the other to fall 12 spots in one poll and 8 spots in the other means they’re not playing by the same rules.  Part of it might have been the difference between FBS and FCS, but Jacksonville St. has given a number of good teams close games and even beat Ole Miss in 2010. On the other hand, since 2009, Virginia has as many losses to FCS teams as bowl appearances (1).  I mention prior seasons because last week isn’t much basis to judge; but regardless, there is no reason to assume Virginia must be that much better to justify such different treatment.

Arkansas-Toledo Comments

It might seem like a silly thing to say, but Arkansas was pretty dominant until it came time to score thoughout the game.  They reached the red zone five times and only had three points to show for it.

It won’t happen very often that one team out-gains the other team 515-318 and loses 16-12. The Hogs only turned the ball over once, so that wasn’t the problem either. Arky also had possession for more than 15 minutes more than the Rockets did and had twice as many first downs.

The key was the red zone offense, which I mentioned above.  It’s like if a basketball team can run its offense perfectly fine and get open looks but just has a terrible night of shooting.  As Les Miles would say, Arkansas is still a capable team that has a want to compete, but if you’re playing an opponent that went 7-1 in its conference the season before, they might just take advantage when you’re that incapable of scoring points at key times.

Toledo’s one conference loss last season was to Northern Illinois, which Arkansas destroyed last year… on the scoreboard.  I thought it would be interesting to compare the stats of that game.  The Hogs only out-gained the Huskies 427-303.  Instead of having 15 more first downs, they only had 7 more first downs.  Instead of having a 15-minute edge in time of possession, they had only a 9-minute edge.  Final score: Arkansas 52, Northern Illinois 14.  Amazing how a blowout win can compare statistically to a loss in this way.

Conference Report

I mentioned #1 and #2, but the bottom two were also pretty easy.  The Mountain West went winless this week, and the Sun Belt beat its first FBS opponent of the season when Georgia Southern beat Western Michigan.  So now we just have to rank the remaining 6 conferences.

The Big Ten did well despite not finishing with a good record last week.  The record improved this week, but the conference suffered two losses that don’t look so good.  Maryland made a bowl game last year, so they shouldn’t be losing to Bowling Green even though that’s a MAC team that often makes bowl games (they’re not called “home for the holidays Green”).   Also, Rutgers losing to Washington St. at home is embarrassing.  If a team from the other coast comes to visit after they lose to an FCS opponent, you should win.  Rutgers hardly appears to be a conference bottom-dweller either.  The two Michigan teams beat the two Oregon teams though, so that’s a positive.

Speaking of the teams from Oregon, their conference (the Pac-12) didn’t really do anything to be proud of apart from one of their worst teams getting that win I mentioned in Piscataway.  So I rate the Big Ten slightly better again.

The AAC (American) knocked off Louisville (which lost to Houston) and Kansas, which counts for two more Power 5 wins than the ACC has all season.  Added to the Temple win over Penn St. in Week 1, this brings the total to three.

The MAC also had a good week with the wins over Arkansas and Maryland.  Marshall wasn’t a bad win either.  Even Eastern Michigan, typically one of the worst MAC teams, got a win over Wyoming.  Losing to Colorado and Georgia Southern caused them to lose out to the AAC though.

The ACC didn’t do much to help its cause.  Louisville lost, like I just mentioned.  I’ll still give them the edge for the week over the CUSA since at least none of their teams lost to Indiana and their champion from last season didn’t lose to Ohio U.

Below are the weekly and overall rankings.  The MWC might not seem logical on first blush, but #4 through #9 were not that far apart in week 1, so the MWC was really hurt in week 2.  It was close for overall #8, but the CUSA got the edge basically for not having Wyoming, which has lost to Eastern Michigan and North Dakota.

Rank Week 2 Previous Total
1 Big XII SEC SEC
2 SEC Big XII Big XII
3 Big Ten Big Ten Big Ten
4 Pac-12 MWC Pac-12
5 AAC Pac-12 AAC
6 MAC CUSA ACC
7 ACC ACC MAC
8 CUSA (t) AAC CUSA
9 Sun Belt (t) MAC MWC
10 MWC Sun Belt Sun Belt

Good News and Bad News for SEC Sports

In College Baseball, College Basketball, College Football, Other NCAA Sports, Track on June 28, 2015 at 3:06 PM

No championships, but some good performances in major men’s sports

If you missed it, this was my blog about LSU sports in particular over the 2014-15 academic year.

This section will discuss the SEC’s performance in the four traditional major men’s sports, which are football, basketball, outdoor track, and baseball in 2014-15. I made a chart dating back to the 2006-07 academic year when I wrote this blog on the same topic last year. Below is just a small version of the chart containing only this (academic) year’s results.

SPORT Title Runner-Up Semi #1* Semi #2
FOOTBALL Ohio St. Oregon Alabama Florida St.
BASKETBALL Duke Wisconsin Kentucky Mich. St.
TRACK Oregon Florida Arkansas LSU
BASEBALL Virginia Vanderbilt Florida TCU

*- For track, this is simply the #3 team. For baseball, it is the last team eliminated before the championship series. For basketball and football, it is the higher-seeded of the two semifinal losers.

I’ll start with the bad news for SEC fans and the good news for people who don’t like the SEC. This is the first academic year since 1987-88 in which the SEC did not win a championship (just assume when I say this in this section I’m talking about the major men’s sports).

Virginia baseball got revenge over Vandy and ended the 26-year streak of at least one major men's title per academic year for the SEC.

Virginia baseball got revenge over Vandy and ended the 26-year streak of at least one major men’s title per academic year for the SEC.

When LSU won the 1989 men’s outdoor track championship to begin the streak, that was actually the first major championship for the SEC since Georgia had won in football after the 1980 season.

That had been the SEC’s first men’s outdoor title since 1974 (Tennessee). The SEC did not win in baseball for the first time until 1990 (Georgia) but has been the clear leader among conferences since then. This also overlapped with droughts in basketball from 1978 (Kentucky) to 1994 (Arkansas) and in football from 1980 to 1992 (Alabama).

Arkansas and South Carolina football did not join the SEC until the 1992-93 year, but the winter and spring sports began SEC competition in the previous academic year. This was just in time for Arkansas to win its first of 8 consecutive track championships, and it saved the SEC from going 0/4 in the 1991-92 academic year.

There was also a two-week period in June of 2000 where the SEC was not the reigning champion of any of the four sports, but then LSU won the baseball title (by a run over Stanford) that year.

LSU won the CWS with a walk-off single in 2000 to keep the streak going.

LSU won the CWS with a walk-off single in 2000 to keep the streak going.

This year, the SEC had what was expected to be the superior team that went into both the College World Series and the Final Four but just couldn’t get it done. Of course, Kentucky had its only basketball loss the season in that semifinal game. In baseball, LSU only won a single game in the CWS, but both Vanderbilt and Florida made the semifinals.

Baseball was a bit of bad luck as well. I’m not saying Virginia didn’t deserve it, but in the formats of past years, Virginia would have been out with its second loss (which took place in the first game of the championship series). Until 2003, it was impossible to lose twice in the CWS without being eliminated. The Cavaliers had lost to Florida before the championship series began. So although the SEC didn’t win the CWS, they did get two wins against the champion. Also, had the Gators won their second game against the ’Hoos (which they lost by one run), there would have been an all-SEC final.

Still, having one of the top four football teams, one of the top four basketball teams, two of the top four baseball teams, and three of the top four track teams isn’t a bad year even without a championship. That would most probably be the best if there were three major conferences, and there are five.

Also, there were two other top-8 baseball teams (LSU and Arkansas), and two other top-8 track teams (Texas A&M and Mississippi St.). Football had two additional teams (Georgia and Missouri) finish in the top 14 of the final AP poll. Basketball didn’t have any other teams of note with only two wins (one of them a “first four” game) in the whole tournament not by Kentucky.

Successful year in other sports

The SEC did have some success worth commenting on in other sports.

The LSU baseball team had a disappointing CWS, but the golf championship was some consolation.

LSU baseball had a disappointing CWS this year, but the golf championship was some consolation.

The LSU men won in golf for their first championship in the sport since 1955, but Alabama had won the previous two titles. In total, the SEC has won four titles since the “stroke and match play” format was introduced in 2009.

In women’s basketball, South Carolina lost in the Final Four, and Tennessee reached the Elite Eight. South Carolina was the first SEC team to make the Final Four since 2008, which was the last time Tennessee won. At least one SEC team had made it every year from 2002 to 2008, when both LSU and Tennessee were regular participants.

Florida celebrates its second consecutive NCAA softball championship.

Florida celebrates its second consecutive NCAA softball championship.

In softball, the SEC did extremely well. Eleven teams made the tournament, eight made the super regionals, and five made the Women’s CWS. Florida won in the championship over Michigan, but the SEC had two other semifinalists (Auburn and LSU). Three of the last four softball championships have been won by SEC teams (Florida also won last year, and Alabama won in 2012).

As in men’s outdoor track, Oregon beat out several SEC schools for #1 in women’s outdoor track. SEC teams finished second (Kentucky), third (Texas A&M), fourth (Arkansas), fifth (Georgia), and eighth (Florida). SEC teams had won in 2012 and 2014 (Texas A&M), although LSU’s 2012 title was revoked.

Week 3 Top 25 + LSU/MSU Notes

In College Football, General LSU, History, Post-game, Preview, Rankings, Rankings Commentary, Rivalry on September 16, 2014 at 3:06 PM

I’ll get my few comments about the LSU/Mississippi St. series out of the way. If you haven’t yet, please check out my Rivalry post about the series, which despite being played annually (in fact, it is LSU’s most-played series) has not resulted in a win for the Bulldogs since 1999. Even in the bad LSU years that preceded that game (such as the 2-9 team in 1992), the Tigers won, usually in convincing fashion. That is my most popular post over the last year. Judging by search teams such as “has mississippi state ever won against lsu” (now that would be a streak if the answer were no), “mississippi state losing streak against lsu”, etc., it’s at least in part due to interest in how well the Tigers have done over the last 20-25 years in the series.

Les Miles isn’t exactly on the hot seat right now, but Glenn Guilbeau had an interesting take on what losing to Mississippi St. has meant for coaching careers at LSU.

Speaking of Les, he mentioned a couple fun facts during his press conference. When the Tigers held ULM scoreless with less than 100 yards of offense, that was the first time since 1941 that the Tigers recorded consecutive shutouts at Tiger Stadium. In 1985, the Tigers had consecutive shut-outs during conference play; but the two games were separated by a bye week, and the second game was on the road. LSU finished in second place in the SEC the latter year (among teams eligible for the title), just a half-game behind Tennessee.

Gerry DiNardo (left) could no longer figure out how to beat anyone in 1999 but nearly upset one of Jackie Sherrill's best teams anyway. LSU has not lost to the Bulldogs since.

Gerry DiNardo (left) could no longer figure out how to beat anyone in 1999 but nearly upset Jackie Sherrill’s Bulldogs anyway. LSU has not lost to Miss. St. since.

Week 3 College Football Rankings 2014

(Teams new to the rankings have logos posted below. I was in more of a retro mood today, especially given some of the teams below.)

Rank/team/previous
1 Auburn 1
2 Oregon 2
3 Oklahoma 3
4 Florida St. 4
5 Alabama 6
6 TX A&M 8
7 LSU 7
8 Notre Dame 10
9 Ole Miss 12
10 BYU 11
11 S Carolina 18
12 Penn St. 24
13 Georgia 5
pitt
14 Pittsburgh —
ECU
15 E. Carolina —
BC
16 Boston Coll. —
UCLA
17 UCLA —
18 Va. Tech 9
UVA
19 Virginia —
20 USC 14
21 Louisville 15
22 Ohio St. 19
arizona-logo
23 Arizona —
Missouri_Tigers_Helmet
24 Missouri —
9159_oklahoma_state_cowboys-mascot-2001
25 Okie St. —

Out of rankings: (13) Clemson, (16) Mich. St., (17) Stanford, (20) Arizona St., (21) Baylor, (22) Florida, (23) Duke, (25) N. Illinois

I haven’t become too much of a purist this week (although you can check out my completely objective top 10 here), but I decided you actually have to have beaten somebody of substance to be on this list. I was a little bit liberal with that, especially in the case of Oklahoma St., but UTSA nearly beat Arizona and had a 6-game winning streak going into the Arizona game. This policy will help ease the transition into the computer system.

I also opted against ranking any team ahead of a team that beat them. I think that makes sense this early. The likes of East Carolina, Boston College, and Virginia might be flukes, but if we find that out later, so be it. When teams down the win chain start to beat the higher teams (for instance, maybe Louisville beats Boston College and USC beats UCLA) is when it gets tricky, and that’s when I resort to my objective system.

If you’re a little hazy, I’ll go through the main ones (best wins of the lowest ranked team in parentheses):
Texas A&M > S. Carolina > Georgia (> Clemson)
Pittsburgh > Boston College > USC (> Stanford)
UCLA > Virginia > Louisville (> U. Miami)
East Carolina > Virginia Tech > Ohio St. (> Navy)

Earlier rankings:
Preseason
Week 1
Week 2

Vanderbilt CWS win caps great academic year for SEC

In College Baseball, College Basketball, College Football, Track on June 27, 2014 at 3:52 PM

I know it’s been a while, but often in the summer I’m too busy watching sports to blog much about them. College football is just the perfect sport for me to blog about since you have all your games finishing up on Saturday night, and (even with the national semifinal system) each game is much more important than an NFL game. Then, aside from the mostly irrelevant early-week games, there are a good few days at least to ponder the results and the upcoming week with no new results coming in.

Anyway, what I’ve mostly been doing lately in my spare time is watching the World Cup and the College World Series (I’m about to replace the latter with Wimbledon). I’ll probably have something to say about the World Cup when it’s over, but for now I just want to sort of sum up the academic sports year, which ended with Vanderbilt winning its first ever national title in a men’s sport, and (surprise surprise) talk about the SEC.

In some respects, you could consider the year a disappointment for the SEC. Obviously, the SEC’s streak of BCS titles came to an end at 7 after Auburn’s loss to Florida St. in January. When Oregon won the men’s outdoor track title a couple of weeks ago, it marked the fourth consecutive major men’s sports title (I’ll just call them the four sports from now on) NOT won by the SEC. Had Virginia won the CWS, this would have matched the drought from January 2004 (LSU’s first BCS title) to June 2005 (when Arkansas last won the national title in track).

On the other hand, going into the CWS final, the SEC had been reigning runners-up in all four of those sports (that’s not really “reigning”, but you get the idea). In three of those four sports, the SEC had at least one additional team in the top four. Also, I mentioned the BCS title streak that came to an end, but it’s still 8 years in a row that the SEC had a team play in the championship game. In baseball, it’s now 7 years in a row than an SEC team has been in the championship series (4-3). The SEC only had two finalist in the seven prior seasons. Both lost.

This is actually kind of incredible, but this academic year, the SEC had 10 different programs finish in the top four of the major sports: Auburn football, Alabama football (I’ll explain), Kentucky basketball, Florida basketball, Florida track, Texas A&M track, LSU track, South Carolina track, Vanderbilt baseball, and Ole Miss baseball. I would be very surprised if any conference had ever done that before in those sports.

I know most have said good riddance to the BCS already, but there is an important thing to clarify in the way it worked. In short, the number 3 and 4 teams in the final BCS standings are the closest approximation to semifinalists. I’ll elaborate in the next paragraph, but feel free to skip it if you understand.

It did not narrow down the field to two teams after the bowl games. So in basketball, for instance, you got eliminated from title contention when games were played and you lost to the title team. But you got eliminated from BCS title contention after championship week and before the bowl games. If Florida and Wisconsin went and lost some kind of exhibition after the basketball season, that would not alter their status as basketball semifinalists. For BCS purposes, the bowl games were exhibitions for all the other teams. I know the AP title was theoretically still in play, but the BCS was the only championship system. You don’t have to remind me USC won the AP trophy after the 2003 season, but in the bowl game they were playing a team (Michigan) which was not vying for any kind of championship, so that’s not really a system where you must beat other teams that are trying to be champions. A team like Alabama last year made a really good run at the title and understandably only one team separated them from a berth in the championship game when it came time to decide who was to play in that game.

So while the SEC ONLY had one national championship in the four sports this year, the first time it hasn’t had multiple championships since 2007-08, having ten programs that high is an impressive feat, arguably even more impressive than 2011-12 when the SEC had 3 national titles, 3 runners-up and a seventh top-four team. As mentioned, three of the relevant programs were also runners-up this academic year.

Below is the chart of all these top fours beginning with the 2006-07 academic year, the beginning of the BCS-championship streak. 2005-06 was a good year for LSU (Final Four in basketball [won by Florida] and national runner-up in track), but I had to cut it off somewhere. If someone wants to compile results for other conferences, feel free. The only reason a fifth track team is included for this year is there was a tie in points for fourth, which obviously isn’t really possible for the other sports. The BCS has too many decimal places to tie, and in basketball and baseball, you’re only going to get four semifinalists no matter what you do. From now on, I will use the same format for football and just consider the losing semifinalists as tied for third.

SEC 2006 to present

Alabama/Texas A&M Pre-Game; W(h)ither Texas and USC?

In College Football, Rankings Commentary on September 13, 2013 at 8:24 PM

Before I start, I wanted to share a couple of things.

Even non-LSU and non-ESPN fans seem to be highly amused by this video. Apparently, this was released at least two weeks ago, but I happened to catch it while watching SportsCenter yesterday while my car was in the shop and found it hilarious.

This isn’t really relevant to anything, but it was a game in Texas on Thursday (TCU @ Texas Tech). I wasn’t interested enough to turn the game on, but this was different.
foxtech_medium

large_white_box_grayborder

Alabama/Texas A&M Pre-Game

Getting to more serious matters, the first thing on everyone’s mind at the moment is Alabama/A&M, and I’m glad LSU doesn’t have to play either this early in the season. Not that this makes up for the uneven scheduling as far as inter-divisional games.

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but I’m picking Alabama. In short, I’ll take competent offense + really good defense over really good offense + seemingly non-existent defense.

Restricting my comments to his abilities on the field, the main problem I see with Manziel is he’s not a two-way player. The offensive prowess of Rice and Sam Houston St. notwithstanding, you can’t justify giving up a combined 59 points and 899 yards of total offense in those two games.

As an aside, I’m not sure what’s going on with SEC defenses. Georgia and South Carolina don’t seem to have any defenses to speak of either. That’s half of the top 6 SEC teams from last year.

McCarron is over-rated (there are several quarterbacks that I believe could have the same or better record based on Nick and the teams he’s had recently), but I would venture to say Florida’s offense might even look competent against the Aggie defense.

Speaking of Saban, I saw his grumpy press conference. Sorry to ask about how the preparation is going, your highness. That’s the kind of question that can even be asked as a head coach is walking onto the field. “We’re going to put the distractions behind us and be ready to play.” I don’t understand what’s so difficult about that.

The game will be in College Station, but no one other than Les Miles has beaten Alabama two games in a row over the past few seasons; and he needed overtime to do it in 2011. Don’t remind me about anything that happened after that.

Also, I think Texas A&M is particularly vulnerable to the adjustments I would expect Saban to make. No one could quite prepare for the Aggies by game time last year, but there shouldn’t be the same adjustment period this year, at least not for the players who played defense last year. After the first half, the Aggies lost to Florida 10-0. After the respective first quarters, they lost to LSU 24-10 and to Alabama 24-9.

Yes, Alabama had more trouble initially than LSU or Florida did last year (hence the loss), but Texas A&M will probably be more reliant on the run than last year, and that’s good news for the Tide as well.

Compare the Sam Houston St. game this year with the one last year. Manziel had 13.4 yards per pass last season and only 10.1 yards per pass this season. The only reason I thought to look for that number was the fact that 4 of the Aggies’ top 6 receivers from last season are no longer on the team. Maybe the new receivers will be just as good at some point this season, but September 14 is a little early to expect that.

However, I’d be perfectly happy to see Alabama lose as usual. I don’t think they have anyone to realistically lose to apart from A&M and LSU. I hope I’m wrong.

W(h)ither Texas and USC?

Just to mention a couple of other teams, I’m not sure how to explain Texas and USC in recent years. They sure have fallen a long way from the 2005 BCS title game.

Mack Brown was always a better recruiter than coach, in my opinion, but I don’t know how the original McCoy/Shipley team didn’t lead to the recruits necessary to succeed since then. Maybe it’s not having Muschamp around on the other side of the ball. Something has gone terribly wrong if you give up 40 points to a team Virginia held to 16, especially when you’re loaded with returning starters. The Cavaliers gave up 59 to Oregon, by the way.

USC was the opposite problem. They only managed 7 points against Washington St. at home. Auburn (which didn’t even receive a vote in either major poll to start the year) scored 31 points against the Cougars. The Trojans’ average in this series the last 7 meetings had been 45.4 points. It seems there is something going on there that can’t just be chalked up to probation.

Now it’s easy to say Kiffin just isn’t a good head coach (living in Southern California, I might have heard that once or twice), but they went 10-2 in 2011 and finished even better than they started: after the bye week, they looked great for the remaining seven games, winning all but the one against Oregon by at least 2 touchdowns and only losing to Stanford after three overtimes. That doesn’t happen if you can’t coach.

Kiffin’s performances at Tennessee and the Raiders were actually underrated in my opinion. He won two more games than the Vols had won in Fullmer’s last year, and Dooley wasn’t able to match that win total in any of his three seasons.

Kiffin didn’t do very well with the Raiders, winning only ¼ of the games while head coach there (5-15), but in the shape that team was in after trying to bring back the early 1990s with Art Shell, I thought there was more improvement than the record indicated. Seven of Kiffin’s losses with the Raiders were by a touchdown or less. When Shell went 2-14 in 2006, only four of his losses were by a touchdown or less.

All I can think is that Kiffin has difficulty planning for the long-term as head coach. I think this is more vital in college than in the NFL. There is no guarantee you’re going to have a large number of known quantities from one season to the next in the NFL. I never see this printed anywhere, but I’d like to see the number of returning starters that NFL teams have from year to year. Anyway, even though offensive coordinators are often more involved than a defensive head coach, maybe Pete Carroll kept tabs on long-term recruiting goals at USC.