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Posts Tagged ‘Washington St.’

Week 7 Top 25 and Recent LSU Thoughts

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game on October 13, 2017 at 4:19 PM

I had a long trip out of the country, so I haven’t had much time for blogging and so forth. I only included one picture, so I’m sure this will look like a wall of text in spots.

Troy-LSU

Not that more than a handful of people read what I have to say anyway (I never recovered from losing the free advertising TSN used to provide), but if you’re a regular reader and resorted to listening to mainstream media instead, my condolences.

Why are the most ignorant people who don’t even lift a finger to give themselves the level of knowledge that can be gained by five minutes with a search engine the ones with the biggest voices in national media? A perfect example from the NFL was Skip Bayless pretending Tim Tebow was going to the Hall of Fame, but there are people you can take seriously. I think Skip Bayless is what you get in college if you’re lucky.

Paul Feinbaum never seems to know basic facts. Maybe he’s just feigning ignorance, but if he’s that good of an actor, he should be in Hollywood.

For instance, before last year’s Florida game (the offense had looked good between Les Miles’ last game and Florida), he had no idea who Steve Ensminger was or how he came to be interim OC. He can have good commentary when he does read up on something, but he phones it in when it comes to details and it’s not a big game. Feinbaum also said the chance of Orgeron becoming head coach was infinitesimal. Why is he considered some kind of SEC guru?

Anyway, to get to the point, after Troy, he had on some guy who admitted being preoccupied with college BASKETBALL. Anyone in their right mind would have hung up instead of asking for anything about football. There are probably a million SEC fans who haven’t been distracted one iota by basketball he could have spoken to instead.

So this guy says that Orgeron is responsible for any lack of depth because he was a recruiter (for defensive linemen… for a year and a half) under Les Miles and then proceeds to bash the program in general. Who does that, who says, “I haven’t been paying attention to this sport, but here is my condemnation based on one final score”? A drunk at a bar maybe, and a relatively dumb one at that. I couldn’t keep listening.

We have had good recruiting classes the last couple of years, but that doesn’t magically give you a quality team when the field is loaded with freshmen. Go back to covering basketball, where leaving college early means not playing in college.

So then I listened to Damon Amendolara. At least that’s material I can work with, even though he’s obnoxious. I’ll respond to his points.

>LSU was embarrassed at Mississippi St.

Again, we are talking about a team playing a ton of freshmen, they should have been up 14-7 in the second quarter (but for a bullshit penalty), halftime score ends up 17-7, then the game gets away as offense starts desperation mode during a third quarter that didn’t go well. That’s not being embarrassed. Embarrassing final score maybe, but the performance was not as bad as the score.

>for the first time since 2000, a non-conference team walked into Death Valley…

Gee, who was the head coach then? That guy is probably selling life insurance now if not dead from chronic stupidity. Oh no, that’s one of the best college football coaches in history? Same difference.

You know what else that guy did? Lost his conference opener against a sub-top-20 team. He lost by 17, but it could have been worse had the other team elected to keep up the pressure.

By the way, I made these points to my family after the Troy game. I’m not just saying this because of Florida. By the way, after losing to UAB in 2000, LSU beat a ranked team the next week as well. The Tigers would finish 8-4 on the year, which I would take this year as well. The next season, they won the SEC Championship.

>Troy was up 17-0

They were up more and LSU didn’t quit and nearly came all the way back? That makes it worse if you’re a mainstream media sports guy?

>LSU frankly is a pathetic football team.

They didn’t even lose to a pathetic football team, and it was by 3 points. That’s not rushing to judgment at all. But at least if you say it like you know what you’re talking about…

>[Ed Ogeron] can’t fix the problem.

He clearly improved something being that LSU scored 21 of the last 31 points. I understand if he was arguing that LSU did the same exact things they did against Mississippi St., but this guy’s main gripe was Troy and seemed to be aware of no details of Mississippi St. You don’t see if the problems are fixed until the next game is played.

>Troy is trolling them on twitter (by saying they enjoyed the trip).

What is Orgeron supposed to do? Beat up on whoever controls their twitter? What a nonsensical point to even bring up.

These buffoons count on people to forget their mistakes. Don’t let them get away with it. Be as unforgiving as they are.

LSU struggled against the run, but the Tigers got just enough stops when they needed them.

LSU-Florida

I’m not going to pretend I knew it would work beforehand, but the important thing is players stepped up after the game to have a players meeting, and LSU maintained its normal routine before the Florida win.

You can say they got lucky with the extra point, but I would say they got unlucky with the officiating. There is no way blocking a guy with your hands around his shoulder pads is what any rules committee has ever meant by targeting even though the penalty was upheld. If that’s so dangerous you need to remove someone from the game, they need to ban blocking and tackling altogether.

There was also an LSU first down that was reversed on a spot judgment call, and yet Florida was given a first down when the guy stepped out a full two yards short of the line to gain. There was a personal foul called for bumping into a player while getting up. There was a roughing the punter that was only called running into. There were other examples, such as clear holdings that were not called, but I’m just saying what stood out. All in all, typical SEC officiating for the home team that had better prospects going into the game.

Both Florida touchdowns were set up by 15-yard LSU penalties. The other one was a correct call by the referee, but it was bad luck in a split-second decision. The defender could have gone in front of the receiver on a crossing route and broken up the pass (if not intercepted it) for a third-down stop. Instead, I think he misjudged the timing of the ball and wrapped up the receiver. Only problem was the ball hadn’t gotten there yet. To be fair, he had a perfectly-timed jump to tip a ball way over his head on the play before.

I mentioned Mississippi St. above and how pivotal the go-ahead touchdown would have been. I also think not going down 7-0 to Troy would have made a huge difference.

Of course that wasn’t the whole story. LSU did very well on third down after going 0-8 (I think a conversion or two was called back) the week before. The Tigers committed four turnovers against Troy and none against Florida. There were times they could have just hanged their heads like when Danny Etling missed wide-open receivers, when three offensive linemen had to leave the game, or when the targeting I mentioned was called and another quality offensive player was ejected. These seemed ominous as a fan, but I think the team has really worked on controlling what’s in their power and shrugging off everything else.

This was Ed Orgeron’s first-ever SEC road win as a permanent head coach. It was the third counting Texas A&M and Arkansas last season though, so he’s 3-1 in such games with the Tigers after going 0-12 at Ole Miss.

I didn’t have time before, but this weekend I will update both the Florida and Auburn rivalry blogs. Jim McElwain had previously done pretty well both in close games and in the Swamp, but LSU has won a fair number of games in both categories in recent years as well.

Top 25

I did calculate the official computer ratings for the first time this season. My top 25 for this blog is a little bit different. Summary of differences: Alabama moved from #3 to #1, Michigan put ahead of Florida (they beat Florida after all), Notre Dame ahead of Michigan St. (same reasoning), and Oklahoma St. #25 instead of South Carolina. I don’t like to remove teams from the top 25 just because they had a bye week, and it’s not like South Carolina has done anything special since Week 1. No team was moved more than two spots, and for the vast majority of teams I just let the chips fall where they may.

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Clemson 2
3 Georgia 3
4 Penn St. 4
5 Wash. St. 9
6 Central Florida 7
7 TCU 6
8 San Diego St. 8
9 USC 11
10 Notre Dame 15
11 Mich. St. 20
12 Ohio St. 16
13 Wisconsin 14
14 U. Miami 18
15 Houston –
16 Iowa –
17 Navy 10
18 Washington 21
19 North Carolina St. –
20 Michigan 5
21 Florida 12
22 Kentucky 22
23 Oregon 19
24 Oklahoma 13
25 Okla St. 17

Out of rankings: (23) UCLA, (24) South Florida, (25) Maryland

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Week 6 Top 25

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 1, 2017 at 1:09 PM

As I mentioned last week, I’m on a trip, so this will be pretty minimal for the next week or so.

The next top 25 will be almost exclusively computer-based. In preparation, I made a rule that all teams had to be within 5 spots of their computer ranking to hopefully ease the transition. This early in the season though, the rankings are still volatile, so there still may be future 15-point swings.

Last week’s ranking listed after team name.

1 Alabama 1
2 Clemson 2
3 Georgia 3
4 Penn St. 5
5 Michigan 7
6 TCU 8
7 Central Florida 17
8 San Diego St. 15
9 Washington St. 24
10 Navy –
11 USC 4
12 Florida 9
13 Oklahoma 6
14 Wisconsin 18
15 Notre Dame –
16 Ohio St. 10
17 Oklahoma St. 25
18 U. Miami –
19 Oregon –
20 Michigan St. –
21 Washington 19
22 Kentucky 13
23 UCLA –
24 South Florida 14
25 Maryland –

Out of rankings: (11) Virginia Tech, (12) Texas Tech, (16) Wake Forest, (20) Louisville, (21) Memphis, (22) Mississippi St., (23) Vanderbilt

Week 3 Top 25

In College Football, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 10, 2017 at 1:28 PM

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Oklahoma 3
3 Penn St. 4
4 Clemson 5
5 Wisconsin 6
6 Okla St. 8
7 Michigan 9
8 USC 15
9 Ohio St. 2
10 Florida St. 10
11 Washington 11
12 Georgia 12
13 LSU 13
14 Kansas St. 16
15 Auburn 14
16 Stanford 7
17 Florida 17
18 South Florida 18
19 U. Miami 19
20 Louisville 20
21 Wash. St. 22
22 TCU 23
23 Tennessee 24
24 Oregon 25
25 S. Carolina –

Out of top 25: (21) Northwestern

I thought about ranking Virginia Tech instead of South Carolina, but the Gamecocks have a neutral win in a competitive game in Week 1 AND a convincing road win, both against Power 5 teams. Missouri probably will not be a good team at the end of the year, but they have good athletes and have sneaked up on people in recent years with apparently worse teams.

South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst runs for a touchdown in the third quarter in Columbia, Mo.

Ohio St. did something pretty positive in the Indiana game despite the slow start, so even though they looked about as bad as Florida St. did in their loss, I still think Ohio St. deserves to be higher.

It so happens that after #10 I’m a lot more skeptical of the teams so at this point, I’m not moving the teams with losses out, but I anticipate that will happen when I can run preliminary computer numbers. We still have four teams without an FBS result (Air Force, Connecticut, Texas Tech, and U. Miami), so I can’t even do that at this point.

Georgia did about as well as I thought they would, and the only team Notre Dame beat is Temple, so I’m not inclined to move the Bulldogs at this point.

Auburn did a little bit worse than I thought they would against Clemson. They did as well as I thought in the first half, but the offense went away after that. I guess Brent Venables might earn his money in part with halftime adjustments. I didn’t see a need to move the plains Tigers more than one spot down, especially not below teams that didn’t play.

Washington St. and TCU played respectable opponents, but I wasn’t so impressed that I wanted to move them ahead of either Louisville (which has two Power 5 wins) or the teams who didn’t play.

Week 8 Top 25 and Comments

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 16, 2016 at 2:22 PM

Please see here for my blog about the LSU-Ole Miss series, the second-longest football series for LSU.

The conference standings are interesting. The standings on my site are only looking at the top 40.

There are FIVE SEC teams (LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky) in numbers 41-55, however. The winner of LSU and Ole Miss at the very least should join the top 40 next week, which would help the SEC assuming no one else falls out. Although it may help in traditional polls, the unexpected bye weeks did not help LSU and Florida in my ratings.

The ACC is higher in those standings because it has a mass of four teams (Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, U. Miami, and Georgia Tech) between 26 and 37.

This is also useful background for why Clemson came ahead of Alabama in the computer ratings. I am keeping Alabama #1, however, since if the Tide win next week they will certainly be #1. I had said I THOUGHT Alabama would be the natural #1 this week, but beating an undefeated team is better than beating a one-loss team. Also, Alabama isn’t as far from #1 now as they were last week. Clemson is idle next week, so they would be unlikely to remain #1. Texas A&M with a win could be #1, but I can’t be sure.

Alabama will look to continue its success at Tennessee as the Tide return home to host the Texas A&M Aggies.

Alabama will look to continue its success at Tennessee as the Tide return home to host the Texas A&M Aggies.

Given how high Penn St. is right now, Ohio St. may jump Michigan with a win next week; but I would not expect the Buckeyes to compete for #1 just yet. However, since Alabama has a bye week and Texas A&M plays New Mexico St. on the 22nd, Ohio St. could be playing for the #1 spot in the next two or three weeks.

The #1 spot is the only change I’ve made to the formula and the only change I plan to make going forward. I anticipate that regardless of what happens, I will follow my formula for #1 at the latest after the games of November 5 when Ohio St. will play Nebraska. Also on that date Alabama plays LSU, Texas A&M plays Mississippi St., Michigan plays Maryland, and Clemson (after playing Florida St. the week before) plays Syracuse.

I know Tennessee is oddly high for a two-loss team, but the Vols have had the best schedule by far to this point after playing four ranked teams in consecutive weeks. However, none of their future opponents are currently ranked and none have been ranked since early last season. Tennessee’s next three weeks are South Carolina, bye, and Tennessee Tech. Many teams will have the opportunity to pass them up during this time. I don’t envy the Tennessee coaching staff’s job in trying to keep the team motivated, so a loss in one of the remaining games is quite possible (November SEC opponents are Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt). Despite that, there aren’t huge point opportunities.

I’m still waiting on someone else to surpass the three-team “mid-major” group, but it may take a couple of weeks. The absence of another major team is one reason Tennessee did not lose a spot on this blog (although they were one spot higher in the computer last week). This could change on October 29, when Nebraska will play Wisconsin, Florida St. will play Clemson (as mentioned), and Washington will play Utah.

West Virginia, the Big XII’s best hope (in the near future anyway), may help itself with wins in the next two weeks, and the winner of Arkansas and Auburn should move up into that range as well.

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

Full 128

Out of rankings: (10) Wake Forest, (14) Arizona St., (16) Wisconsin, (18) Virginia Tech, (23) Air Force

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.

Week 2 SEC Preview and Other Key Games

In College Football, History, Preview, SEC Wednesdays on September 9, 2016 at 8:38 AM

I added a note to my rankings blog about why this was delayed until today. It’s partly because the playing week hasn’t started yet.

SEC WED

In my first round of SEC predictions, I only got two wrong in each category, with the spread and without. Florida St. and Alabama beat the spread, and obviously LSU and Mississippi St. lost. So the total is 9-2 against the spread and 11-2 overall (I picked the winners for the Thursday games but did not consider the spread).

ESPN doesn’t publish a spread for FCS opponents, and I skip those anyway. Obviously I pick LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M to win.

Florida only beat UMass by 17, and Kentucky usually makes it interesting against the Gators, so I’ll take the Wildcats and the 16.5 points but Florida to win.

I have a feeling Alabama will be high-energy for their home opener, so I would give the 28.5 points there.

Vandy-Middle Tennessee is a good line. I’ll pick Vandy to win but take the 5 points. They may win by a touchdown. They may win by 1 or even lose. I just think the five points roughly reverses the likelihood.

I think South Carolina was lucky to win, while Mississippi St. was very unlucky and has more potential. Another good line, but for this one I’ll give the 6.5 points and pick the home team.

Neither Arkansas nor TCU did very well in their opening games. I’ll give TCU the edge because it’s a home game for the Horned Frogs, but Arkansas could make it very close or win, so I’ll take the 7.5 points. I was tempted to pick the upset, but then I remembered what happened with Texas Tech. The Hogs may be repeating their pattern from last year.

If Auburn can give Clemson trouble the way they did, I see no reason they can’t put Arkansas St. away easily. So I’ll give the 19 points there.

I know Eastern Michigan is bad, but from the game they gave LSU last year and Missouri’s general ineptness the last 11 months, I’ll take the 25 points.

Tennessee will be motivated to redeem itself from Week 1 against Virginia Tech, but I think the setting will motivate both teams and Tennessee has some things to work out. 11.5 is just too many, so I’ll take the points.

Week 2 Preview

It’s sort of a poor man’s rivalry week, but I know it isn’t the most thrilling collection of games. A lot of these teams are not ranked and don’t deserve to be, but some of the teams might treasure obscure- or latent-rivalry wins when we get to bowl season. They are also games that matter with recruiting.

In addition to the Arkansas and Tennessee games, another interesting close interstate game is Washington St. and Boise St. Washington St. lost to Eastern Washington, a very good FCS team, but I wouldn’t count them out. Boise St. is trying to return to being the top Cinderella of the land on the blue field. Had the Cougars gone to Eastern Washington instead of hosting the Eagles, they would have played on a red field last week.

Will the formerly intimidating Smurf Turf return to its past glory?

Will the formerly intimidating Smurf Turf return to its past glory?

There are also some intra-state games to look forward to as well: BYU-Utah took place a couple of playing weeks ago, but it was surprisingly close and may be again. Pitt hasn’t played Penn St. in 16 years. That’s a big inter-conference game as well as a game for bragging rights. I don’t know why some of these games don’t take place more often.

There are some less compelling intrastate games, but they still might have close final scores. Games like New Mexico-New Mexico St. They are both usually terrible, and I have no contrary information, but football games can be like movies. There is a level of badness you get to where the entertainment value starts to improve.

One that may be lopsided is Iowa-Iowa St., but the Cyclones are good for one or two good games a year, and that game is often one of them. I wonder if they’ve given any thought to bringing Gene Chizik back. Speaking of which, North Carolina (where Chizik is an assistant now) travels to Champaign to play the Illini. It wasn’t close last year, but these things can turn on a dime. For instance, you might remember LSU losing in triple-overtime to Kentucky in 2007, but people forget that the year before LSU beat them 49-0.

Another compelling intra-state game is Cal-San Diego St. Sports Illustrated actually picked San Diego St. for the top 25, so that could be a good matchup in hindsight at the end of the year.

Texas Tech and Arizona St. dominated the old Border Conference.

Texas Tech and Arizona St. dominated the old Border Conference.

Finally, lest we forget, old Border Conference rivals Texas Tech and Arizona St. will square off in Tempe. They combined for 16 Border Conference championships. All other members of the Border Conference combined for only 11 championships (3 were shared). That conference disbanded during the Kennedy administration, but there you go. Another fun fact: Les Miles’ first win at LSU was against Arizona St., and as of right now his last win was over Texas Tech.

Week 9 Rankings and Comments

In College Football, Post-game, Preview, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 2, 2015 at 7:12 PM

Before I begin, I wanted to refer people to my Alabama blogs.  Most of my hits this week have already been the main rivalry blog.

On Friday, I wrote specifically about LSU’s meetings with Alabama while undefeated.

LSU will hope to reverse its recent fortunes against Alabama. In his weekly press conference, Nick Saban referred to this play as a counter to the idea that LSU-Alabama games are won by playing conservatively.

LSU will hope to reverse its recent fortunes against Alabama. In his weekly press conference, Nick Saban referred to this play as a counter to the idea that LSU-Alabama games are won by playing conservatively.

Also, these are the completely objective numerical results in my full computer ratings.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about last week’s games.  We seem to have had a bit of a lull in anticipation of this week.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a Saturday with so few top teams in action.

Obviously, a couple of them had interesting endings though.  I picked WSU to win, so that was a tough late disappointment, especially combined with the late innings of the last two World Series games.

I also would have felt vindicated had Temple won, but I make no apologies for having an undefeated team ahead (by just one spot in that case) as long as that team remained undefeated.

Another example may play out this week when LSU plays Alabama.  Alabama is favored and while I definitely lean toward taking LSU and the points (though I would remind gamblers of the possibility of Alabama winning by 7 in overtime… again), it’s very difficult to pick the Tide to lose that one.  If Alabama wins, the rankings will reflect that at that time.  I don’t believe they should now no matter how one thinks the game will unfold.

I’ll give additional LSU and Alabama examples.  I thought LSU would win all along in the 2007 championship and felt the same way about Alabama in 2012.  I still thought it was right to put the team with fewer losses (Ohio St. And Notre Dame, respectively) higher.  Of course a prerequisite to that is similar schedules, so that’s a factor for certain undefeated teams below.

I’m expecting that with a win LSU will be on top, but I’m not sure.  It may be that if Clemson wins and some of their prior opponents such as Notre Dame also win, they could move up.  I think Alabama would have too far to go.  Current computer #1 Michigan St. would have a win over what would become a 3-7 (FBS) Nebraska team, so I don’t know if Sparty can hold on.  Even Iowa could possibly move ahead.

If LSU loses, there is a very high chance that I’ll have a number one in this list for the first time.  I have not put Michigan St., Clemson, or Iowa first in this list before.  I nearly put Iowa in 2009 when they were the computer #1, but they didn’t make it past this week of play before a loss.

With games as significant as Alabama-LSU, Clemson-Florida St., and Notre Dame-Pittsburgh, and TCU-Oklahoma St., I think that affords a suitable enough occasion to just let the numbers do the talking going forward.

Texas A&M, Mississippi St., and Ole Miss are also playing important conference games that could bolster the winner of the game in Tuscaloosa.  In other conferences, there are games like Penn St.-Northwestern and Duke-North Carolina than can have effects throughout those respective conferences.  Also, TCU would get a big boost to its résumé if Minnesota can upset Ohio St.

So for a number of reasons, I really think this is the big week that will tell us who belongs where in the conversation.  I wouldn’t make a big deal out of the playoff rankings tomorrow whatever they are.

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

Out of rankings: (25) Pittsburgh

Here are the previous rankings blogs:

Preseason

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Trojan Horse of Misinformation

In Bowls, College Football, History, NFL on October 23, 2015 at 2:43 PM

I watched the “30 for 30” about the USC “dynasty”.  They won a lot of games in a row, but that’s not my definition of a dynasty.  Overall, it wasn’t bad, but there were so many misleading or outright false things in there.  That detracts from the quality and entertainment value.

The first thing was the comparison between Paul Hackett and Pete Carroll.  I wasn’t in the L.A. area at the time, so I don’t know know what the conventional wisdom was around here, but it just doesn’t match reality.  Hackett’s previous head coaching job was with the Pittsburgh PANTHERS (not in the NFL like the documentary said).  How is that like the New England Patriots at all?  Hackett’s previous job was in the NFL, but offensive coordinator isn’t the same thing.

The Chiefs did make the playoffs all but one year while Hackett was there, but after his first season, they failed to win any playoff games under head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

The Jets never gave Carroll a chance and have been a poorly run organization for a long time, so I don’t blame him for their 6-10 mark in the one season he was there.  Jimmy Johnson went 1-15 his first season with the Cowboys.  Speaking of the Cowboys, Tom Landry went 0-11-1 in his first season there.  It’s ridiculous to judge anything based on a head coach’s first year with no chance to follow up (Carroll didn’t do much better his first couple of years in Seattle either), so I’ll focus on his time in New England.

Carroll coached the Patriots for three seasons and made the playoffs twice with an overall record of 28-23.  He followed Bill Parcells, who had coached there for four seasons and also made the playoffs twice, going exactly .500 in his time there.

I really don’t understand the view that Carroll was a failed NFL coach who was going to do poorly at USC; and as someone who followed the NFL closely in the 1990s, I did not have that expectation at all.  I’m not saying I thought USC was going to be one of the top four teams seven years in a row though.  I don’t think anyone could have reasonably expected that.

We can also contrast Carroll’s prior NFL record with that of Bill Belichik, who coached a total of five seasons in the 1990s and only made the playoffs once with a total record with the Browns of 37-45.

Next, they acted like USC looked so bad in early 2002 to for losing to Washington St.  You have to hear the way they say it.  The tone suggested they had lost to a Cougar team from 2008-2010.  The loss was in overtime in Pullman, and Wazzu had won 10 games the season before and went on to win 10 games again that season before losing in the Rose Bowl.

Washington St. completes a long pass against USC in October 2002. The Trojans won 46 of their next 47 games after this loss.

Then they acted like the win at Auburn in 2003 was a monumental victory, calling them “one of the best teams in the country”.  The Tigers went 9-4 in 2002 and would finish 8-5 in 2003, infamously resulting in Tommy Tuberville nearly being replaced by Bobby Petrino.

The documentary ignored the Trojans’ last loss before the streak, which was in Berkeley against a similar team.   Winning 34 in a row and 45 of 46 doesn’t really need to be embellished, does it? So why completely ignore the one loss in those 46 games?

Cal’s Tyler Fredrickson kicks the winning field goal in overtime against USC in 2003.

I guess it was to avoid mentioning the three-team race at the end of that year.  No mention was made of the fact that Oklahoma was the unanimous #1 going into the conference championships (which of course the Pac-10 didn’t have) or that the Trojans finished third in the BCS standings behind the eventual winners of the BCS LSU.

I did note that at one point Matt Leinart used the singular when referring to the USC national championship, although the narrator repeatedly talked about how the Trojans were a minute away from winning a third in a row.  USC did beat Michigan at the end of that year, but when the team you’re playing is just playing for a nice bowl win, that’s not the same as actually playing a team who’s also trying to win a national championship.

The famous “Bush push” to win against Notre Dame.

Apart from the last-second controversial win over Notre Dame, the documentary also acted like USC was untouchable in 2005.  A lot of mention was made of how many yards the Trojans (Reggie Bush in particular) put up against Fresno St. in the second-to-last game of the regular season, but somehow the fact that they gave up 42 points and only beat the Bulldogs by 8 wasn’t mentioned at all.  You would have guessed from the information provided that USC won by several touchdowns.

The point being that there were some cracks in the façade.  USC was not seen as unbeatable by any sports fan I remember talking to that year, and I talked to a lot more people about sports back then.  They were in 2004 by some but not in 2005.  It was similar to the difference between the perception of the 2013 Florida St. team and the 2014 edition.  They were still expected to win every game during the regular season, but they weren’t seen as invincible.

I remember going to Louisiana for Christmas in 2005 and people asked me how close USC would make it, implying Texas was going to win and the only question was the margin.  Of course, I insisted USC was in fact a very good team even though I picked Texas myself.

Vince Young scores the winning touchdown against USC, ending the Trojan’s 34-game winning streak and giving Texas its only national championship since 1970.

I know that’s an indication of regional bias, but there were people in other areas who saw USC as vulnerable.  Based on the Notre Dame performance, there were also some Midwesterners (and Notre Dame fans from other regions) who saw the same thing.

Anyway, I had a lot of respect for Pete Carroll even going back to the Patriots and I still do.  I wanted him to lose once USC became a prominent team in 2003, but when I cheered for other teams to beat him I knew they were facing a prepared and formidable opponent.  It just bothers me not to correctly characterize what actually went on, and not just trying to bolster a simplistic cardinal-and-gold-tinted recollection of events.

I’m not even saying this as a USC detractor.  Why not give Carroll some credit for not being a bad coach (though I guess you could say he was mediocre) in the NFL?  Why not give the 2002 team credit for only losing a couple of early games to good teams (the other was to Kansas St., who would finish 11-2) and then finishing strong?  According to Jeff Sagarin, that was the best team in the country that year despite the losses.  I thought they at least had the best second half of the season.

I understand you can always highlight some things and not other things to tell the story a certain way, but don’t pick a game that’s a bad example of what you’re talking about and distort what happened and who the other team was.

One thing I was glad they didn’t do was mention whether Vince Young’s knee was down in the second quarter.  I think the ball was already coming loose from his hands when the knee touched (if we were evaluating a fumble rather than a lateral, I don’t think it would even be very controversial); but even if he were down, he already had a first down on the play.  Texas would have had first and goal at the 10.  The game was decided by who did (or didn’t do) what in the fourth quarter, not by that call.

I just think getting it right is more important than telling a dramatized story, which was compelling enough on its own in reality.

Rankings Reminder and Discussion

In Blogger Poll, College Football, Rankings Commentary on October 21, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Once again, please submit your top-25 rankings, by Wednesday if possible. I may not post them until Thursday evening though. If you’re like me and most of your sports time is reserved for the weekend, feel free to leave a comment on my most-recent rankings blog (once all the games are finished) on any of the various sites I post it. I haven’t had anyone (that I know of) contact me through intheneutralzone.com, which I allow to republish my WordPress blog automatically, but that’s the only place where I might not get it.

I will post my full rankings tomorrow, but in the mean time, you can view my computer ratings. I haven’t gotten many views this week, I guess because Kenneth Massey didn’t get around to posting most of the ratings until right around the time the BCS standings were released. I will vote Alabama #1, for what it’s worth; but for the time being, Missouri is ahead slightly in my formula.

If you don’t want to post your personal rankings publicly, that’s fine. Send a message. If you do post them publicly, I’ll take that as an invitation to discuss your list (and I think anyone else should be able to discuss it). For the vast majority of teams, I don’t have a comment. For instance, the team I primarily cheer for is LSU. An argument could be made that LSU is a top-10 team. Another argument could be made that because LSU has two losses, particularly combined with the fact that the two teams that beat LSU each have multiple losses, LSU should not be in the top 25. I don’t have a problem with either. Just please try to be aware of major results and treat similarly situated teams similarly. If you don’t, I’m still going to accept your list, at least for the foreseeable future; but I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request.

For instance, if team A (one loss) beats team B (only loss), and team B beats team C (only loss), and your ranking looks like this:
10. Team A
11. Team C

18. Team B

I might say something resembling, “Say, kind sir, were you aware that Team B beat Team C?” I would be especially inclined to ask that if Team C didn’t beat anyone ranked #25 or higher and obviously Team B did. We can also add in the fact that Team B beat Team D, who beat Team A.

Turning to the first release of the BCS ratings, I predicted Florida St. to come out ahead of Oregon, and they did. They deserve it. They probably won’t deserve to be #2 in December, but why don’t we put off talk about who deserves what in December at least until late November? I’m not going to do that right now though, because the talking heads on ESPN have already opened the door to that discussion.

ESPN suggested that Florida St.’s rating was “a mirage” and that Oregon would surpass the ’Noles. They may well be right about the latter, but I don’t understand why people insist on looking at it that way. Being #2 at the moment in no way suggests that you should remain #2 or higher as long as you don’t lose. In recent history (the last 10 years) there have been Michigan, Cal, and USC fans, among others, who never seemed to understand this; and I think the failure to address this was part of the problem with the public perception of the BCS.

If voters maintain the same confidence in Oregon that they have currently, I do think Oregon will surpass Florida St., but it won’t be because Florida St. isn’t more deserving at this moment.

I don’t see a legitimate dispute there. Florida St. is the only team to beat Clemson, one of two teams to beat Maryland, and one of two teams to beat Pittsburgh. That should count for more than being one of three teams to beat Washington and one of three teams to beat Tennessee. To be clear, I do think beating Washington is more impressive than beating Pittsburgh and beating Tennessee is more impressive than beating Maryland, but Oregon hasn’t had a third big decent win yet. Washington St. isn’t terrible, but they’re no Clemson. Florida St.’s best three wins certainly should put them above Oregon.

B-but Florida St. plays in the ACC and Oregon plays in the Pac-12 North!

I didn’t make the schedule. Oregon does have quite a remaining slate, but they shouldn’t get credit for the teams they’re GOING TO play, only the ones they’ve played so far. I don’t think rankings (especially not computer rankings, which comprise 1/3 of the formula) should assume when picking teams that they’re all going to win their remaining games. But I definitely anticipate being on the Oregon bandwagon (at least as a proponent of them being in the title game) if they beat UCLA next week and then after the following bye week win the following games in consecutive weeks: @Stanford, Utah, @Arizona, Oregon St., and the Pac-12 South champion (Most likely, the winner of UCLA and Arizona St.).

However, if they can’t do it and Florida St. keeps winning, then the current BCS standings will be vindicated. In my view, the reason a team derives more credit for a more difficult schedule is it overcame greater odds of losing. So it’s not a knock on Florida St. that I think any given team has greater odds of losing a game against Oregon’s future schedule than it would against Florida St.’s. Nor is it a knock on Oregon that I think any given team would have had greater odds of losing against Florida St.’s schedule to this point than it would have against Oregon’s. I think it makes more sense if you consider the BCS computers from the same perspective. You don’t get credit for overcoming those greater odds of losing until you’ve faced them.

I don’t know why this is the case, but it’s always seemed to me that voters usually have in the back of their minds, “What’s going to happen if both teams keep winning?” One time they didn’t necessarily do that was when Michigan was ranked #3 after losing to Ohio St. in 2006. They didn’t think #3 was going to be a BCS championship team until #2 USC lost, then they thought about who should be in that game and selected previously #4 Florida to “jump” Michigan.

The exception proves the rule in a way. They don’t want someone to feel cheated because they held serve, so to speak, and fell in the rankings anyway. So some of them are putting Oregon ahead because they know the Ducks will eventually be tested enough to substantiate a #2 ranking even if all of the top 4 go undefeated. Others are putting them ahead because they had a higher opinion of Oregon going into the year (and perhaps factored in the schedule at that point), something else that the computer formulas don’t contemplate.

So it’s not that one is right and the other is wrong, but the computers and the voters have different perspectives, and they’re both right from those respective points of view. Despite what I said above about Florida St. deserving #2, I would pick Oregon to beat Florida St. on a neutral field.

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

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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.