QOTD - 1/30/15
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lege Football, Rankings Commentary on January 24, 2015 at 4:38 PM
The Broncos were the highest finishers among unranked teams in pre-season.
I’m including the Horned Frogs since most people had them even higher at the end.
I haven’t noticed any major media organization that does this. I guess they just want to be able to come out with new preseason rankings in six or seven months and have people accept them. Surely, I suppose they think, people will have forgotten last summer by then; but they might not forget something six months before, so best not to remind them. I think it’s fun though, so I’m doing it.
Some of these differences are owing to differing philosophies. I think Sagarin is just based on accumulating recent rankings. Sports Illustrated and the polls are mostly based on predictions; but sometimes there is deference to teams that did well last year even if maybe they shouldn’t be expected to do well in the coming year.
What I mostly do is look at who I think will be the best teams right away, so I’m a little more interested in returning starters, and of course I also take into account last season. If a 1-win team has 23 returning starters next season, you wouldn’t expect them to finish with a winning record; and if one of the top teams this year had only 10, they might finish in the top 10 again. But when in doubt, I’m going to go with the team that has proven more in the last year or two and has more returning starters. If a team has very few, I count recent seasons for less. That’s why Oklahoma St., for instance, was not a team I ranked.
Final Top 25
Here are my Preseason Rankings. I also did an SEC West Preview.
The teams are listed in order of how they finished in my final rankings.
Preseason ranks: mine, Sports Illustrated, Sagarin, AP, Coaches’
1. Ohio St. 9, 4, 10, 5, 6
Even when I heard about Braxton Miller, I didn’t move the Buckeyes down. I had a feeling this would be a very good team with 12 returning starters and one or two players wouldn’t make a difference. So even though I didn’t put them very high, I think I used sound reasoning. Also, when I do preseason rankings, I have a skeptical stance toward untested players, and it’s not quite as much about potential as how much they have to start the season. The loss came pretty early.
2. Florida St. 1, 1, 3, 1, 1
There just wasn’t a compelling case to drop FSU down after last season. None of the other contenders stood out, and there really wasn’t an impressive team overall on the field either.
3. Oregon 3, 8, 2, 3, 4
I can’t complain about my pick here. The Ducks had the highest number of returning starters among teams that were ranked after 2013, so I was not shocked to see them in the title game.
4. Alabama 4, 2, 1, 2, 2
I didn’t have Alabama first in the SEC, I had Auburn. That’s not how it worked out, but Alabama was actually less dominating in most games than I thought they would be. They just won all but one in conference.
5. Boise St. NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
I thought the Broncos might be done with these seasons given the fact that coaches keep leaving, but few apart from maybe some Marshall fans can argue they weren’t the best non-P5 team this year.
6. TCU NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
I thought the Horned Frogs might bounce back, but I was thinking maybe 7-5 or 8-4 instead. I’m not sure whether to give them credit or the rest of the conference blame.
7. UCLA 7, 5, 21, 7, 7
The Bruins finally had the top-10 season we’ve been promised a few times in the past. I mostly only put them this high because I couldn’t find other teams that were very compelling, but like I said earlier, that turned out to be the case in reality, so that’s why I got this one right.
8. Michigan St. 13, 6, 19, 8, 8
I couldn’t tell how much of the preseason buzz was based on the previous year or based on how good they really seemed. Looking back though, none of the results of their games were different than I projected based on my ratings. I did think they might lose to some lesser team, so I guess I’ll give them credit for surpassing my expectations in that regard.
9. Marshall NR, 25, NR, NR, NR
Credit to SI here for ranking them at all. It didn’t even occur to me to rank a CUSA team, to be honest.
10. Georgia Tech NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
Like I had started to explain with Ohio St., I think to an extent, you have to look at how good teams likely are relative to one another at that point. Georgia Tech really wasn’t that good early in the season. They struggled with Tulane (early on anyway) and Georgia Southern and seemed dead in the water against Virginia Tech, but they kept getting better, and it seemed like they were a much better late-game team than they possibly ever were before under Paul Johnson.
11. Missouri NR, 22, 13, 24, NR
12. Baylor 22, 10, 15, 10, 10
These two are pretty much the same for me, so I’ll cover them together. I just thought they had one-off seasons in 2013. I didn’t anticipate that the two coaches would be able to “reload” so well. Missouri did lose the early game to Indiana and got blown out by Georgia, but they matured in a hurry after those setbacks. Baylor didn’t have early losses like that, but they did only have 9 returning starters, so 22 was high in light of that, at least from my perspective. Usually teams like that don’t come anywhere close to the successes of the previous version even though they get preseason rankings elsewhere.
13. Georgia 6. 12, 16, 12. 12
All the people who had them #12 did pretty well. I was right about how good they could be but wrong about how bad they could be. I would have never expected them to lose to South Carolina and Florida knowing about those two teams what I know now. Even though I had Auburn so high, I mentioned in the preseason that this was one of the games that might cause Auburn to have trouble winning the SEC West. I mentioned the Missouri game, but Auburn was an even more impressive big win at the time.
14. Wisconsin NR, 15, 9, 14, 14
I was surprised that Wisconsin ended up so high. I thought they would be more similar to last year’s team. But in my defense, they didn’t start out so well. On paper, they didn’t have much to start the season, which I think was an accurate understanding.
15. Ole Miss 16, 18, NR, 18, 19
I did a good job on this one. I didn’t expect them to make an appearance in the top 5 in the first place. This is an improving program though, so I don’t expect them to be an easy win in the SEC very often going forward either.
16. Mississippi St. NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
They were too mediocre in 2013 for me to seriously consider them for the top 25, but as I had mentioned in my SEC West preview, I thought they could beat some of the better SEC teams, which they did. So I wouldn’t say I was shocked here, I was just more reserved in the preseason.
17. Arizona NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
I honestly didn’t even consider the Wildcats. They had a number of teams with potential in the recent past and they all tended to fizzle, so I was most surprised to see them in the top 20.
18. Clemson 12, 16, 17, 16, 16
I thought there would be a second ACC team in or near the top 10, but I was wrong about which one.
19. Arizona St. NR, 19, 14, 19, 18
I remained skeptical about the Sun Devils based on so many seasons where they were supposed to have a good team and either didn’t at all or were wildly inconsistent. They were among the last teams I eliminated though.
20. USC 11, 17, 12, 15, 15
Where I picked them was a little ambitious, but where I dismissed teams with potential before, I thought USC would be more immediately good. This was not a good team to start the year though.
21. Auburn 2, 7, 24, 6, 5
Auburn was a disappointment in the end, but they were one of the best teams in the early going. They really should have beaten Alabama and Wisconsin later in the year. I think sometimes what happens is a team goes from competing for a national title to just trying to make a decent bowl and it’s deflating. Whereas another team that was mediocre the previous season would be excited to be ranked and so forth.
22. Colorado St. NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
Like Marshall, this wasn’t a team I looked at or considered.
23. Kansas St. NR, 21, 18, 20, 21
I think I was justifiably cautious about the Wildcats. Had the Big XII been more than a couple of teams deep, I don’t think they would have finished this high.
24. Northern Illinois 25, NR, NR, NR, NR
For some reason, you get a bunch of flak for picking a small-conference team to perform similarly as in recent years, whereas other teams who have very little coming back are ranked with no one batting an eye. I have to admit I feel somewhat vindicated here.
25. Memphis NR, NR, NR, NR, NR
See Marshall and Colorado St.
Top 5 Unranked Busts
36. Oklahoma 5, 3, 6, 4, 3
The Sooners made the cover of Sports Illustrated for the preview issue and received 4 first-place votes between the two major polls. They did look a little bit better early, but they just didn’t seem to improve from how good they were in September.
49. South Carolina 8, 11, 8, 9, 9
They only showed a glimpse of the team they were supposed to be when they beat Georgia. This is a reminder going into next season that if you don’t have leadership (they lost their top defensive and offensive players after 2013), you don’t have much.
32. Stanford 15, 9, 4, 11, 11
Maybe I should have been more pessimistic here, but they didn’t finish that far outside the top 25. Still, I’m glad I wasn’t tempted to rank the Cardinal in the top 10. I looked at them as a similar team to Baylor, and for whatever reason, Baylor had a great season and Stanford didn’t.
30. LSU 10, 14, 7, 13, 13
In my defense, I had LSU fifth in the conference. I had trouble judging which SEC teams would be better than which other teams. I was very disappointed with both coordinators overall. I don’t want to be sour grapes about former DC Chavis, but I expected better based on his very good years at LSU, especially before 2013. I think OC Cam Cameron may have forgotten how to develop a teenage quarterback rather than one well into his 20s as NFL starting quarterbacks typically are. LSU could have very easily won 11 games this year based on talent, but they also could have missed out on a bowl game entirely due to failures to close out games. I said the winner of LSU/Alabama would be the most likely SEC champion, so at least that part was true. Had LSU closed out that one and beaten Arkansas, they would have at least tied for the West title.
33. Notre Dame NR, 13, 20, 17, 17
I haven’t addressed the Music City Bowl in depth yet, but people who think that justified a top-25 ranking for the Irish are insane. Arkansas beat LSU 17-0 late in the season and since then beat up on Ole Miss and Texas, losing only to Missouri in a close game. Arkansas didn’t have a defensive stop over a touchdown gifted to them against LSU, and LSU’s defense didn’t just roll over on third downs time and time again. Also, somehow, Notre Dame made LSU look like a point-scoring machine at times. Anyway, I feel very justified in not ranking the Irish in preseason and in recognizing them as a bust now.
Mine: (14) Central Florida, (19) Texas, (20) Michigan, (21) Louisville, (23) Florida, (24) Duke
Michigan was the only bad team of the group, but they shouldn’t have been a bad team at all. I think Texas is improving but will take another year. Florida and Duke were good teams at times but inconsistent. Central Florida nearly beat Penn St. for the second consecutive season but somehow lost to Connecticut for their only conference loss. Louisville may have been about right had they won the bowl game.
SI: (20) Texas A&M, (23) Oregon St., (24) Nebraska
Nebraska and Texas A&M were by no means horrible and might have been a couple of bounces of the ball from being ranked, but I don’t know where Oregon St. came from. I know they beat Arizona St., but that was one bright spot in dismal year. In fact, it was the Beavers’ only win of their last 7 games. Their BEST win was at home over San Diego St. I still don’t understand Nebraska’s hiring of Mike Riley, by the way.
Sagarin: (5) Oklahoma St., (11) Texas A&M, (22) Washington, (23) Texas, (25) Florida
I’m not sure how Saragin’s preseason rankings work, but I think it’s mostly based on performances in recent years. Texas and Florida in particular would not have been surprising had the finished with those rankings. Oklahoma St. of course is ridiculous looking back, but it wasn’t too long ago that the Cowboys nearly made the title game, and in 2013 they were again one of the best teams in the country before dropping the last two games (Bedlam and the Cotton against Missouri). Like I said above, having A&M ranked wasn’t far-fetched, but of course #11 was a bit high to say the least. Washington never really clicked, but there was no shame in having them near the bottom of the top 25 in preseason. They made a bowl at least and played some competitive games against good teams. In fact, their only regular-season losses were to teams that were ranked at the time. Among those, only Stanford finished unranked.
Polls: (21, 20) Texas A&M, (22, 22) Nebraska, (23, 23) North Carolina, (25, 25) Washington, (NR, 24) Texas
I covered everyone but North Carolina above. I have no idea why they were ranked.
For the record, here are my final rankings of the teams in this section:
31. Texas A&M
58. Oklahoma St.
59. Central Florida
70. North Carolina
89. Oregon St.
Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have upcoming posts about other sports and sporadically football, but like I referenced above, we’re about halfway to the next preseason rankings, so I plan to have a lot to say then.
Just as a reminder, my blog homepage (where I first post my blogs) can be found above and I'm also on Facebook and Twitter @TheBayouBlogger.
I believe these are all of this season’s bowl games. Apologies if I missed something.
Part I: Frame of Reference
This went long enough just covering the top two conferences, so I plan at least one more blog to finish off the bowl list and another for the overall list.
Before assessing the overall strength of conferences, we should discuss the bowl games, since that’s often the first place people go when talking about conference strength.
I’m skeptical about the bowls being very decisive because all but four teams (until 2014, all but two teams) aren’t really playing for anything but a nice trophy that few people really care about. Not only that, but there is a month layover after the games that really count.
Granted, anyone who lost more than a game or two was out well before the season ended, but there were few teams who didn’t at least have a rivalry game to get excited about in the last couple of weeks of the season. Also, what often happens is a team will be disappointed or disinterested in a bowl game.
There is a lot of talk about let-down games during the season, but a fair percentage of the time the better team ends up winning games like that. It’s a little bit different in bowl games. A relative lack of interest and motivation over a month makes a bigger difference than over a week. Also, you’re pretty much guaranteed an opponent who will beat you if they have a fairly good game by their standards and you have a fairly poor game by your standards.
Nonetheless, if you take the bowl games as one week, that’s still the most important playing week of the season when determining relative conference strength.
The most important consideration for me is how many wins a conference has. I think this is more important than winning percentage, because winning percentage is based more on who your competition is and which teams you have qualify. If only your best five teams are put to the test in a bowl game, what about the other half or more of your conference? They wouldn’t likely have won bowl games. Also, you have to look at who the wins came against.
The SEC, the #1 conference going into the bowl season, had the most wins with 7, 6 of which were against Power 5 conferences. The SEC had 12 teams qualify (and was very close to a 13th). The ACC was second with 11, but the ACC only won a total of 4 bowl games, two of which were not against other Power 5 conferences.
The Pac-12, the #2 conference going into the bowl season, did very well with 6 wins (5 over Power 5 conferences) out of 8 bowl teams. As a result, discussion of the best conference of the bowl season should rightly center in on the SEC and the Pac-12
Where I may part with some is I believe strength of schedule should not only be evaluated in the abstract (how good the opponents are on their own) but also by how difficult the opponent is in light of how highly ranked the conference member.
For instance, the most impressive non-conference win of the season in my opinion was by the ACC when Virginia Tech beat Ohio St. Virginia Tech was about #10 in the ACC, and they beat a team that made the championship game. If Florida St. had beaten Ohio St. instead, it would have been a lot less impressive.
All of the Pac-12 bowl games were fairly even match-ups. I think the combination of Arizona and Utah was a fair match for Boise St. and Colorado St. of the MWC. Each conference won one of the two. The combination of UCLA and Washington was also a fair match for Kansas St. and Oklahoma St., and again each conference won one of the two.
Since there were no other losses, everything else goes in the plus column for the Pac-12. Of course, Oregon beat Florida St. going away. Arizona St. was #4 in the Pac-12 and beat the ACC #5 Duke. Stanford was #7 in the Pac-12 and beat Big Ten #6 Maryland. USC was #5 and beat Big Ten #5 Nebraska.
Returning to the SEC, the results were contrary to what one would have expected. Most of the season, the top five teams of the SEC West beat all the other teams. It wasn’t until the last few weeks that that group lost to ANYONE else. Auburn lost to Texas A&M and Georgia, and Ole Miss and LSU lost to Arkansas. Still, it was interesting that three of those losses were still inside the SEC West. Also, despite the fact that the SEC lost more inter-conference games in rivalry week than it had lost the entire rest of the season combined, not a single one of those losses were by the SEC West.
Those five top SEC West teams were curiously the only teams to lose bowl games though. I think part of it was that disappointment, letdown sort of phenomenon I mentioned, but obviously that wouldn’t apply to Alabama. I think what happened there is the Tide defense got worn down, and then the Tide offense couldn’t keep up with the Buckeyes. That’s not the kind of game Alabama is accustomed to having to win, although they did manage to win a similar game against Auburn.
Also, those teams gave each other a beating. The most notable injury in an inter-SEC West game was to Laquon Treadwell, but I know LSU lost a lineman in the Alabama game, and some other players (such as Kenny Hilliard) were banged up as well.
Out of the five games lost, there was only a game and a half that was bad. Auburn took Wisconsin to overtime, LSU lost in the last second, Alabama was alive in their game until the final minute. The second half by Mississippi St. and the whole game by Ole Miss were pretty ugly though.
I believe I counted accurately that despite those five teams not winning any bowl games of their own, they got a total of 18 wins over teams that won bowl games. That’s more than the top five of any other CONFERENCE. The only one that comes close is, of course, the Pac-12.
I was a bit surprised that with Arkansas playing Texas in Texas (#10 SEC vs. #6 of the Big XII), Texas A&M playing West Virginia (#9 SEC vs. #5 of Big XII), South Carolina playing U. Miami (#12 SEC vs. #10 of the ACC), and Tennessee playing Iowa (#11 SEC vs. #7 of the Big Ten), no other SEC team lost a game. I won’t pretend I was at all surprised by Missouri, Georgia, and Florida winning all of theirs, but that doesn’t make them count for less.
It’s frustrating that there were no games between the SEC and the Pac-12 of course, but there are a few different ways to look at this.
There were four bowl wins by the Pac-12 over teams in the top 5 of power conferences and two losses to other teams. If we limit that to the top 4, the Pac-12 had two wins inside and two losses outside.
The SEC had three bowl wins over teams in the top 5 of power conferences, and Notre Dame was the only loss outside of that group. Notre Dame barely had a winning record against Power 5 opponents (even though they generally played pretty good ones), but we don’t have to count them as of that quality. Of course, if we discount the Irish too much, that devalues the season as a whole for the Pac-12 (three games against them vs. only one by the SEC). If we limit it to the top 4, it’s two wins and one loss. These are both better ratios than the Pac-12 had. I would also note that the Pac-12 didn’t have a sub-top-5 team beat a top-5 team of another conference.
Here’s another way to look at it. The Pac-12 wasn’t really over- or under-matched in any of their games, so they’re 6-2 in games in which they weren’t over-matched or under-matched.
The SEC was 3-2 in games in which they were over-matched. The wins I mentioned were by Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Tennessee; the losses were by Ole Miss (#4 SEC vs. #1 [tie] in the Big XII) and Auburn (#6 SEC vs. #3 in the Big Ten).
You could argue Florida was under-matched by East Carolina (#8 SEC vs. #4 American/AAC), but even though they struggled against the top of their own conference, East Carolina did beat ACC #6 North Carolina 70-41, so I think it’s fair to say that was basically even as well.
If the SEC and Pac-12 had the same number of teams, I would honestly struggle to pick a better conference despite the Pac-12’s 75 winning percentage in bowls vs. the SEC’s 58.3%. But since ½ of each conference won bowl games, I think it’s fair to give the Pac-12 a little slack for not being over-matched in any games and for having a smaller percentage of teams qualify. So they’re my #1 for the bowl “week”.
I do want to note that I don’t blame the Pac-12 for not having better bowl opponents. There aren’t that many great bowls out west that the other major conferences really want to play in. Also, the bowls in the East aren’t particularly disposed to trying to get Pac-12 opponents. Just because they’re good teams doesn’t mean a large group of fans want to travel two or three thousand miles to go to the game. But just like with my team standings, I can only judge on the games that actually take place.
College football season is already half-done…DAMN!!!
(Yeah, this is my ex-wife when she saw my dick for the first time…I wish!)
…And so comes Irish Shu with his mid-season review to look back at the first 6 games for his beloved Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
The short version? Well, they’re undefeated and ranked number 5 after their first 6 games, which is one win better than I had predicted by this point. WELL DONE, INDEED!
The biggest and best surprise has been a young-and-inexperienced, but very aggressive and game defense.
New D-coordinator Brian Van Gorder (yeah, he DOES look like “Uncle Rico” from Napoleon Dynamite, doesn’t he?) loves to be aggressive and send the house on D, and the strategy has paid-off more than it has hurt the Irish. The D did have an “off day” against North Carolina last weekend and was gashed for 43 points and over 500 yards in a game the Irish still won, but other than that, they’ve been solid. Nationally, the D ranks 34th in total Defense with 348.3 yards per game and 8th in scoring D with 17.2 points per game (tied with Marshall)…VERY impressive when one considers the youth, plus the sloppy Carolina game being factored into that.
Offensively they have also been lighting it up…at least where the passing game is concerned.
Quarterback Everett Golson has had a very good season overall thus far, going 135 of 216 on his passes for a 62.5% completion rate with 1,683 yards and 16 touchdowns against 4 interceptions. Midway through the season he’s already thrown for 4 more touchdowns than he did in his entire freshman year when the Irish made it to the national championship game. He’s been sharing the wealth with most of his receivers, although Will Fuller has been the closest thing to his “go-to guy” with over 500 yards of receptions and 7 touchdowns…
However, Golson has also taken his lumps. After being nearly-flawless in the first 3 games, he’s been doing an impression of “Turnover Tommy” from last year in the last 3 games. His 4 interceptions all came in the last 3 games and 2 of those were pick-6’s, he has also fumbled 5 times in those same 3 games. Against Carolina, his turnovers were especially costly as the Tar Heels cashed them in for 21 of their points, so the Irish were fortunate to win that one.
While the passing game is going well despite the turnovers, the running game could also be better. The running-back-by-committee approach has gotten the Irish only 983 yards this year. Granted, it could be worse, but more than half the nations’ teams are doing better in that category.
In Notre Dame’s defense, though, it’s not all on Golson or the halfbacks. The O-line has had a tough time with consistency on both pass protection and opening the running lanes, so there has been some shuffling with the O-line that has played-into that inconsistency. They’ll need more time to gel.
With that, let’s recap the first half game-by-game:
RICE: As far as season openers go, I could not have asked for better. The Irish came-out firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball and routed the Owls 48-17.
Everett Golson started his season with a bang, throwing 2 long touchdown passes to Fuller and CJ Prosise and running for 3 scores himself in what was his thus-far best played game. The Irish D did allow the Owls to score on 2 long passes, but otherwise kept them in check and forced 2 turnovers to their none. It was a good start over a Conference USA team which has quietly been putting a decent season together after their 0-3 start. They’ve won their last 3 games since and have a manageable schedule left, so they could make it to a bowl game.
MICHIGAN: So, Notre Dame “chickened out” by taking your team off the schedule, eh, Coach Brady Hoke?...they handed your teams’ ass to you 31-0, pal, that don’t sound like chickening out to me.
In doing so, the Irish shut-out the hapless Wolverines for the first time since 1985, ending their NCAA-record streak of games without being shut out at 365. Golson threw for 3 TD’s and 226 yards and the only Michigan player who had any success was receiver Devin Funchess who caught 9 passes for 107 yards…and has struggled with injuries since. Michigan QB Devin Gardner otherwise screwed the pooch as he was responsible for 4 turnovers including 3 interceptions and a fumble. He also threw a pick-6 in the closing seconds of the game that should have counted for 6 more points for ND, but didn’t due to a bullshit blocking call for a legal hit on Gardner after the threw the pick. Since then? Nothing but trouble for Meat Chicken: Hoke’s head is being called for as-is that of athletic director Dave Brandon, not only for his teams’ poor performance (the ND loss started a 4-game losing streak) but for his failure to protect QB Shane Morris after Morris took a shot to his head in the Minnesota game, got up woozy and was allowed to stay in the game…don’t even get my pal, the Beezer, started on that!
PURDUE: The Boilermakers always seem to play tough against Notre Dame even in years where they play shitty against everyone else, and they did this time, as well.
Wearing the coolest-looking “Shamrock Series” uniforms I’ve seen in years, the Irish did win 30-14, but started to look vulnerable when they let Purdue hang around for the first half before putting them away in the 2nd. Golson was sacked 4 times, and the secondary started coming apart at the seams when safety Max Redfield was ejected for targeting, and 2 other backfield players left with injuries. Still, the Irish got the win over a Purdue team that now sits at 3-4 and will be lucky to finish at .500 with the bulk of their Big Ten schedule left to go.
SYRACUSE: An UGLY game, and not just because ‘Cuse wore those ugly gray uniforms, either.
This was where Golson started his current struggles to maintain possession of the football as he threw his first 2 interceptions of the season and also lost 2 fumbles, but he also offset those mistakes by completing 82% of his passes, including a school-record 25 in a row at one point (one short of tying the NCAA record) and the Irish won 31-15. 5-star sophomore receiver Torii Hunter Jr. FINALLY recovered from his injuries and saw his first action as an Irish player as he caught his first TD pass in the win. Will Fuller, being a rock for Golson, caught 2 other scores. Syracuse, meanwhile, has struggled since then as they lost their starting QB in Terrell Hunt to a broken leg and have lost their last 4 games. With the bulk of their ACC schedule left, they’ll be lucky to finish at .500.
STANFORD: Thus far, this has been the biggest game the Irish have played this year…and man, they really came through! Both teams struggled on offense against each other’s tough D units and some very wet weather, and Notre Dame left some points off the board via 2 missed field goals and a Golson fumble on Stanford’s 10-yard-line, but the Irish D did just enough for the team to come away with a 17-14 win. The highlight of the game was Golson’s 4th-and-11 touchdown pass to tight end Ben Koyack with a minute left to clinch the win.
The Irish won’t face a stronger defense for the rest of the regular season, but it may not matter if the O keeps turning the ball over. We shall see. As for the Cardinal? They did bounce-back to beat Wazzu last week and snow sit at 4-2 and back in the rankings at #23, but with #17 Arizona State, #9 Oregon, #20 Utah and a very good UCLA team still left for them to play, an appearance in the Pac-12 championship game and another Rose Bowl may be too much to ask of them.
NORTH CAROLINA: PUKE!!! Sloppiest, ugliest game the Irish have played this year.
Golson remained turnover-prone with 4 of them and the Defense had their worst game in years as they yielded 43 points and 510 yards…however, it should be pointed out that the Tar Heels, with QB Marquise Williams running for a career-high 132 yards, really threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Irish, including a few Wildcat and gadget plays. They also did some up-tempo no-huddle offense to keep ND from rotating defensive players in…it was an Irish win, though, 50-43, and also the highest-scoring game ever played at ND Stadium. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, stand at 2-4 but the good news for them is that don’t play another ranked team for the rest of the season and, if they play anything like they did against Notre Dame (A BIG IF), most of those games are winnable for them.
So with the first 6 games in the books, we look ahead to the last 6…this is where the real test starts.
Of course, the biggest game of the year looms as the Irish face the #2-ranked Seminoles at Florida State this Saturday night. Can the Irish win it? Hell yes!...but only if Golson stops turning the ball over and the defense goes back to playing the way they did before Carolina came to town. After that, it doesn’t get much easier as the Irish have to then face 2 currently-ranked Pac-12 teams in Arizona State and USC, as well as a pretty good Louisville team and a Navy team which has been challenging in recent years. It’s possible that Notre Dame could lose one of these games and still make the 4-team playoff, but I like their chances better if they finish undefeated…clean up the mistakes of the last 3 games, and they can. If not, they’ll lose a couple. We shall see.
Team health is not bad for this stage of the game – it does suck that their defensive captain in safety Austin Collinsworth has had trouble staying healthy and will miss the next 4 games with a shoulder injury – this after he missed the first couple of games with a bad knee. Last years’ leading tackler in Linebacker Jarrett Grace has also not been able to return from his leg injury from last year, but other than that, they seem healthy overall.
And last, there has FINALLY been some finality regarding the 5 players on academic suspension which I referred to in my recent “Shit or get off the Pot” blog, as such:
- Cornerback KeiVarae Russell and d-lineman Ishaq Williams both will not play the rest of this season, but hope to be back next year.
- Safety Eliar Hardy has been invited to return to the team and hopes to return to practice after the Florida State game.
- Receiver DaVaris Daniels and linebacker Kendall Moore both Tweeted that they are “done” at Notre Dame.
So now, at least, we can start to close the book on that one.
We’ll see how the last 6 games play out! GO IRISH!!!
First off, there needs to be a better way to describe this. The “playoff” is four teams, but there was a championship game under the BCS and you could describe the other major bowls as “BCS bowls” without confusion. CFP (college football playoff) bowls maybe? I guess I’ll call them that.
If you’re not aware, there is a three-year rotation for the semifinals. Year 1: Rose and Sugar. Year 2: Orange and Cotton. Year 3: Fiesta and Peach. So I’m going to go through all three possibilities using last year’s pre-bowl rankings.
The Top Four
Going by the BCS standings, this is how the semifinal would have looked last year:
Rose: Florida St. vs. Michigan St.
Sugar: Auburn vs. Alabama
However, I don’t think it would have happened that way. I think given that Alabama did not have a particularly strong non-divisional schedule (Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Colorado St., Georgia St., Chattanooga), did not win the conference, and lost its final game, they would have been seeded no higher than 4th. When the loss takes place isn’t stated as a criteria, but I can’t imagine that wouldn’t influence the results.
I don’t think Stanford, which had the toughest schedule according to many and which won its conference, would have gone ahead of Alabama, but that’s another possibility. I would have picked Stanford myself.
I’ll just go with Alabama though for this exercise. I think making them #4 instead of #3 would have been a significant enough departure from all the major polls.
Year 1: Semifinal
So this is what I think the semifinal actually would have been:
Rose: Auburn vs. Michigan St.
Sugar: Florida St. vs. Alabama
Year 1: Other CFP Bowls (those bowls in the rotation but not semifinals in Years 1, 4, 7, etc.)
The Orange Bowl is the only one where we have any guidance really since the ACC #1 goes to the Orange Bowl if it’s a year where the Orange Bowl is not a semifinal. In this case, it’s actually the ACC #2 since the ACC #1 obviously would have made the semifinal. I think with a fairly highly-ranked alternate of the same conference, the Orange Bowl still would have picked Clemson. The other Orange Bowl spot is for and SEC or Big Ten #2 or Notre Dame. I don’t think they would have fought the Cotton Bowl over Missouri, and Ohio St. was a very attractive pick, so actually, that’s the one relevant bowl that I don’t think would have changed.
Orange: Clemson vs. Ohio St. (actual match-up)
Cotton: South Carolina vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta: Stanford vs. Baylor
Peach: Central Florida vs. Missouri
Year 2: Semifinal
Cotton: Auburn vs. Michigan St.
Orange: Florida St. vs. Alabama
Year 2: Other CFP Bowls (those bowls in the rotation but not semifinals in Years 2, 5, 8, etc.)
It’s a little more straightforward not to have the Rose and Sugar as part of the semifinals. My understanding is that in Years 2 and 3, the SEC takes the highest non-semifinal Big XII and SEC teams no matter what, and the Rose Bowl takes the highest Big Ten and Pac-12 teams no matter what.
To editorialize for a moment, I don’t know why the Rose and Sugar would be paired as semifinals. It should be like Sugar Fiesta one year, Rose Peach the next, and Orange Cotton the next. That way you’re only disrupting one major bowl arrangement at a time. In the years that the Pac-12/Big Ten game doesn’t take place, there should still be the SEC/Big XII game and vice versa.
Sugar: South Carolina vs. Baylor
Rose: Stanford vs. Ohio St.
Orange: Clemson vs. Missouri
Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Central Florida
Year 3: Semifinal
Fiesta: Auburn vs. Michigan St.
Peach: Florida St. vs. Alabama
Year 3: Other “Playoff” Bowls (those bowls in the rotation but not semifinals in Years 3, 6, 9, etc.)
These years will be the most restrictive since there are three bowls with pretty specific formulas.
Sugar: South Carolina vs. Baylor
Rose: Stanford vs. Ohio St.
Orange: Clemson vs. Missouri
Cotton: Oklahoma vs. Central Florida
All years: Other Bowls (rough guess)
I looked at the anticipated bowl lineup and used my best guess as to how it would have worked had next year’s bowls all been in place last year. Keep in mind that there were two more bowl slots among the major bowls since last season, there was a national championship game made up of two separate teams, but this season it will be made up of winners of bowl games. Oklahoma St. would have been bumped in my estimation so it would not have played in the Cotton Bowl. The Peach Bowl will be very different, so neither Duke nor Texas A&M would have been under consideration for the new CFP bowls. In the case of Texas A&M, however, I think their spot in what will be a major bowl would have been taken by another SEC team: in this case South Carolina. So that would leave the Big XII and the ACC with another team for the remaining bowls, pushing the other teams of that conference down the ladder.
I do think some of the bowls would have been the same due to regional interests. It made sense to have two Louisiana teams in the New Orleans Bowl, for instance. It made sense to have Maryland playing in Maryland and North Carolina playing in North Carolina. The bolded teams are those who were bowl-eligible but did not actually play in bowls last season. There were a record number of bowl-eligible teams last year, so I’m not entirely sure there will even be enough bowl-eligible teams next year. I guess the NCAA will cross that bridge when it comes to it.
This is just an informal sort of exercise, so don’t make a big deal out of it. I’m going by what I’m told the rules will be next year as far as the preferred conferences, etc. Most conferences do not fill all their contractual slots though. I wasn’t always sure which bowls would have gotten the #8 team from a given conference and which would have had to find another team.
New Orleans: Tulane vs. ULL
New Mexico: Washington St. vs. Colorado St.
Las Vegas: USC vs. Fresno St.
Idaho Potato: San Diego St. vs. Buffalo
Camelia (new; Montgomery, AL): Ohio vs. Troy
St. Petersburg: Middle Tennessee vs. South Alabama
Boca Raton: Toledo vs. Florida Atlantic
Miami Beach (new): BYU vs. Texas St.
Poinsettia (San Diego): Utah St. vs. Navy
Bahamas (new): Northern Illinois vs. Boston College
Hawaii: Oregon St. vs. Boise St.
Russell Athletic (Orlando): U. Miami vs. Ball St.
Armed Forces (Ft. Worth, TX): East Carolina vs. Louisville
Heart of Dallas: North Texas vs. UNLV
Military (Annapolis, MD): Marshall vs. Maryland
Pinstripe: Notre Dame vs. Rutgers
Sun (El Paso): UCLA vs. Texas
Holiday (San Diego): Nebraska vs. Arizona St.
Liberty (Memphis): Rice vs. Western Kentucky
Texas: Texas Tech vs. Mississippi St.
Detroit: Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota
Independence (Shreveport, LA): Arizona vs. ULM
Music City: Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech
Belk (Charlotte): North Carolina vs. Cincinnati
San Francisco: Washington vs. San Jose St.
Outback (Tampa, FL): Iowa vs. Georgia
CapitalOne (Orlando): LSU vs. Wisconsin*
Tax Slayer (formerly Gator; Jacksonville): Duke vs. Texas A&M
Alamo: Oklahoma St. vs. Oregon
Valley of the Sun (Tucson, AZ): Michigan vs. Kansas St.
Birmingham (formerly BBVA Compass): Vanderbilt vs. Houston
GoDaddy (Mobile, AL): Bowling Green vs. Arkansas St.
*It may have been the case that due to the fact that LSU plays Wisconsin to start this season, this match-up would not have been made. It’s possible that Georgia would have leapfrogged LSU, leaving the Tigers playing Iowa anyway. But as I said at the top of the section, it’s just sort of a rough guess. I left LSU there because they were apparently seen as the more desirable team. Also, some may recall Miami played Florida St. in a bowl game in 2003 only to play them again at the start of the 2004 season.
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By turkey, of course I mean football and the coming bowl season. The bird isn’t anything to get excited about really, but it can make an excellent sandwich to accompany football-watching.
LSU-Arkansas (Friday on CBS) will be an afterthought among all the interesting games in the next few days, but I originally wrote this blog back in 2006, and it’s what touched off my successful (for me, anyway) Rivalry Series. So if you have any interest at all, please check it out.
Sometimes I wonder if articles are written for Bleacher Report just to annoy me. I used to suspect the same thing of Sporting News. Not me in particular, but they want to get under fans’ skin to get more hits. Brian Pedersen is a “Featured Columnist” on the site, and based on the way his “Which Teams Got Screwed in Week 14 Standings?” column is written, he doesn’t understand how the BCS rankings work after 15 years. The rankings will cease to exist in a couple of weeks. Have some respect.
• explain why Clemson (10-1) got passed by Missouri in the latest standings, despite both teams winning? Yes, Clemson moved up from seventh to sixth
> So let me get this straight. Getting “screwed” means not moving up ENOUGH after beating an FCS opponent? Does it not occur to him that Missouri beat a ranked Ole Miss team. Maybe there are times when beating a ranked team should move you ahead of someone even if that other team doesn’t lose. Is that so hard to imagine? I know a few other teams beat Ole Miss, but let’s review who they were: Alabama, Auburn, and Texas A&M. Ole Miss has beaten LSU, Texas, and Vanderbilt. Even if you’re not convinced Ole Miss is a good win, let me float this idea: Maybe Clemson shouldn’t have been ahead of Missouri in the first place. This doesn’t convey a highly fundamental misconception of the BCS. Maybe he figured the pollsters would penalize Missouri for what they knew would be a boost in the computers, I don’t know. But wait for it.
> He then mentions South Carolina didn’t lose ground after a similar game. NEITHER DID CLEMSON! He also mentions LSU climbed after beating an FCS opponent “and not just because teams above it lost”. Staying at 13th isn’t climbing. Missouri lost to a team called South Carolina. Guess what Clemson can do if they belong ahead of Missouri?
• But did the (Baylor) Bears‘ loss to Oklahoma State—arguably the hottest team in college football right now and currently ranked seventh—justify dropping from fourth to ninth?
>> Falling 5 spots after being blown out seems reasonable to me. LSU was in the Alabama game until the fourth quarter, and they fell 8 spots. This is the same guy who tries to argue there is a double standard in favor of the SEC. If anything, if you’re further down to begin with, losing to a top team shouldn’t hurt you as much.
>> Another big complaint seems to be that Stanford—which beat Arizona St., Washington, UCLA, and Oregon—passed up the Bears. Let’s review Baylor’s best four wins: Oklahoma… Texas Tech, Buffalo, Kansas St. Utah went downhill since beating Stanford, but they’ve played all the best teams of both divisions (not to mention BYU and Utah St., both of whom they beat) and some of the losses were very close. Stanford just happened to be their lucky game. South Carolina might pass Baylor if they beat Clemson (which would at worst be their second win over a 2-loss team). I think that MAYBE trumps Oklahoma and Texas Tech perhaps?
• Michigan State (10-1) is locked into the Big Ten title game, where it will have a chance to earn an automatic BCS bid if it were to beat Ohio State in Indianapolis in two weeks.
>>> And best of luck to them. What’s the problem? Oh, they DIDN’T pass up the likes of Clemson and Baylor. So, the team that stays behind Clemson and Baylor got screwed. Clemson and Baylor also got screwed by not staying ahead of all the teams they had been ahead of. Wow. South Carolina is also ahead. He then mentions how Michigan St. should get more credit for winning its division. Baylor isn’t in a division. Michigan St., unlike Clemson, isn’t in a division with Florida St. Maybe he has a point with South Carolina (which won’t win its division unless Missouri loses to Texas A&M), but not if South Carolina beats Clemson.
• Fresno State (10-0) gave its home crowd a powerful sendoff by putting up 69 points against New Mexico on Saturday, getting 820 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns from superstar QB Derek Carr [but fell behind Northern Illinois]… You can probably chalk that up to NIU getting ESPN exposure on weeknights the past two weeks, while FSU was on the lesser-watched CBS Sports Network.
>>>> This is that one shining moment you’ve been waiting for. I seriously doubt a whole lot of voters dropped Fresno St. In fact, their points in both of the BCS polls went UP (maybe a little less than Northern Illinois’); but you know those computers? They don’t get impressed by scores, because the NCAA mandated that the computers couldn’t factor that in. They also don’t care what channel the games were played on. They care that Northern Illinois beat a team with only one other loss (Ball St.) and then another (Toledo) who had been 7-3. Before beating New Mexico (3-8), Fresno St. had a bye week. Those mean computers want you to prevail over actual competition. For shame!
There was some griping about Central Florida and Duke, not completely without merit. But it’s just reality that when it’s 2/3 human polls, they’re not going to start supporting teams that have been out of the spotlight as quickly as you might like.Central Florida wasn’t realistically going to go ahead of undefeated Northern Illinois and Fresno St., but they don’t have to worry about that since all they have to do is win their conference anyway. Duke (with two losses) is behind a few teams with three losses. Maybe they have an argument to be ahead of USC, UCLA, or both; but do we have to pretend the SEC West is roughly equivalent to the ACC Coastal?
Finally, he complains about Cincinnati, with the worst schedule in college football other than possibly Old Dominion, which played mostly FCS schools. Cincinnati was absolutely destroyed by Illinois. The Illini have three other wins, but none of those victories were against teams with a single FBS win of their own. The Bearcats also lost to South Florida, whose one other FBS win was over Connecticut. Cincinnati did beat SMU, Rutgers, and Houston in consecutive weeks, but that doesn’t make up for those losses. The best win before those? 3-7 Memphis.
The same guy also did the bowl projections for this week. I know this will come as a shock to fans of the Stanford Cardinal, but even if they beat Notre Dame, the chances of playing for a national championship are approximately 0. He also assumes Texas will beat that great Baylor team he complains about and play Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl since LSU has three losses. Uhhh, Texas A&M does too; and furthermore, he projects Missouri to beat the Aggies! I had been wondering who to cheer for in this game since I think I might like to see South Carolina play Auburn or Alabama more than Missouri, but it’s clear now. The thought of LSU getting passed up for the Cotton Bowlagain despite beating A&M again is a bit frustrating for me, so I’ll be cheering for all three SEC Tiger teams.
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