The blog is in two parts today (this was originally posted yesterday, and I wrote it all before any games took place if you're wondering about the title). The first is about more information I’ve learned about the college football playoff (CFP) and the rankings system, including information the committee will access and conference tiebreakers. The second part is a general response to the constant attacks on SEC schedules. I don’t know how people forget about some of these games just because there is a Sun Belt or FCS team on the schedule in the same season, but I’ll talk more about that in that section.
New symbol for the new system , but no one is quite sure how it will work in practice.
Part I: CFP, tiebreakers, and statistical analysis
I was reading about how the CFP are going to work, and they’re actually going to be over two days, so they won’t have results until Tuesday. Usually you at least had a good idea of the BCS on Sunday, so that will take an adjustment. Maybe more people will look at things like computer ratings while they’re waiting. I was thinking computer ratings might decline drastically without the BCS, but now I’m not so sure. There is, after all, a lot of interest in various RPI and similar measures in college basketball.
You can read this for the voting procedure, but I don’t know how illuminating it is:http://www.collegefootballplayoff.com/press-releases/college-football-playoff-releases-details-of-selection-committee-procedures
One of those adjustments is the SEC will have to look for a different option to determine a divisional champion in the event of a three-way tie. The Mountain West is still apparently planning to use the CFP to determine home-field advantage for its championship, but I’m not sure about tie-breakers. Also, the Big XII will use the final rankings before the bowls to determine who gets the championship designation in the event of a tie. These procedures don’t have to be in place at the start of the season; but if there has been a final decision, I have not seen it. The SEC first decided to use the BCS for a three-way tie in late October, early November one year.
One option the SEC is considering is to compare the strengths of the inter-divisional games. I think this would only be if there is a three-way tie where all three teams beat one of the other teams in the tie, and all three teams had the same divisional record. For instance, let’s say LSU but beats Auburn and Alabama, Auburn loses to Ole Miss, and Alabama loses to Auburn, and all three finish 7-1 in conference. LSU would make the title game both for best divisional record and for winning head-to-head. If you make it so LSU beats Auburn, who beats Alabama, who beats LSU (which is what we had last year, except in this scenario LSU doesn’t lose to anyone else), then they would remain tied through both of the steps I mentioned. So only then would you look at teams outside the division. I would hope they would look at divisional record of the better team first, but it may just be adding up the records of the two teams.
I read something else about things the committee could consider that I found interesting:
“You make more big plays than your opponent, you stay on schedule, you tilt the field, you finish drives, and you fall on the ball. Explosiveness, efficiency, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers are the five factors to winning football games.
• If you win the explosiveness battle (using [points per possession]), you win 86 percent of the time.
• If you win the efficiency battle (using Success Rate), you win 83 percent of the time.
• If you win the drive-finishing battle (using points per trip inside the 40), you win 75 percent of the time.
• If you win the field position battle (using average starting field position), you win 72 percent of the time.
• If you win the turnover battle (using turnover margin), you win 73 percent of the time.”
Something worth reading from the Washington Post. Wonders never cease. Anyway, if you don’t know, success rate is measured by how often you have a successful down. A typical team has about a 40% success rate. A success is getting 50% or more of the required yardage on first down (for instance, 5 yards on 1st and 10), 70% or more on second down (7 yards on 2nd and 10), and 100% on third and fourth down. Success rate stops counting success if a team is up by more than 28 in the first quarter, 24 in the second quarter, 21 in the third quarter, or 16 in the fourth quarter.
That’s a really useful metric. Since teams usually alternate possessions, I don’t think the first one is as helpful in analyzing teams even though it’s a better predictor on average.
For another aside, I found it odd that when I was reading about the playoff, I came across this quote from Lloyd Carr: “I would hope no conference would have two teams in the four.”
Interesting coming from the guy who was all irritated he didn’t get a re-match in the BCS title game against the same team he had just lost to. Could you imagine having had Auburn replay Alabama last year? That would have been ridiculous. I even thought it was questionable when Alabama played LSU, and no, that wasn’t because of the result. At least it wasn’t the final game for either team though.
Four times in the past five years, the final BCS standings did have a second SEC team in the top four, just so you know. Not that I’m likely to complain much if another team (especially a conference champion) were selected over a borderline second team from the SEC though.
Part II: Recent SEC Non-conference Schedules
Also, I wanted to talk about SEC non-conference schedules. Why is it that if you play four teams out-of-conference and three of them go to bowl games, people pretend you didn’t play anyone and just mention the fourth team? Something like, “typical SEC, lol, Charleston Southern.”
I also noticed that last year, for instance, SEC teams played 1.5 games out of conference against BCS opponents (the automatic-bid conferences + Notre Dame) to the Pac-12’s 1.25. Granted, the SEC has an additional non-conference slot, but that’s part of the point I brought up last week. Even if you schedule well with your three games, you necessarily hurt competition between conferences and reduce the interesting non-conference games by increasing the conference schedule from 8 games to 9 games. I wonder if that’s part of the reason other conferences want the SEC to do that. There would then be a fewer sample of games to justify the SEC being superior to other conferences, and that assertion would be more subjective.
Anyway, to get to the specific teams, this season is a little unusual in some regards. Vanderbilt and Mississippi St. are both teams that typically have a decent opponent, but they don’t this year. It might be in part to try to ensure bowl eligibility. The Bulldogs had to upset Ole Miss to get it last year.
Since 2002 (just seemed like a good spot, the last dozen seasons), Vanderbilt has played @Michigan, Navy (home and home), Gerogia Tech (home and home), Northwestern (home and home), @TCU, and Wake Forest (seven times, mix of home and away). Since 2002, Mississippi St. has played Oregon (home and home), Houston (three times), @West Virginia, Georgia Tech (home and home), and Oklahoma St. (neutral).
Going forward, I’m going to mention this season, followed by major games since 2002. There might be a couple of sentences after that, which I’m not claiming are great scheduling, but some of them only turned out not to be good due to luck.
Alabama plays West Virginia this year. The Tide has been having an easy time of things outside the division, but either Florida or Tennessee might have a good year. Since 2002, Alabama has played Oklahoma (home and home), South Florida, Northern Illinois (normally wouldn’t count MAC teams, but that might be an exception), Penn St. (home and home), Clemson (neutral), Virginia Tech (twice, both neutral), Michigan (neutral), and Houston. They also played a really good Hawaii team and a couple of winning Southern Miss teams in that stretch, although the Golden Eagles and the Warriors were two of the worst teams last season.
Ole Miss plays Boise St. and ULL, which I normally wouldn’t mention, but they’ve been good the last couple of years. Since 2002, Ole Miss has played Texas Tech (home and home). Texas (home and home), Missouri (home and home), Fresno St. (home and home), @Wake Forest, and BYU.
LSU’s only big non-conference game this year is the opener against Wisconsin in Houston. Since 2002, LSU has played Virginia Tech (home and home), Arizona (home and home), Oregon St., @Arizona St., West Virginia (home and home), Washington (home and home), Oregon (neutral), North Carolina (neutral), and TCU (neutral). They also played Fresno St., but that was a bad year for the Bulldogs in 2006.
As an aside, someone mentioned LSU played “everyone” one year. I’m not sure what season he had in mind. When they won the SEC in 2007, they didn’t play either of the top SEC East teams during the regular season, but they did play Virginia Tech out of conference and three SEC East teams who went to bowl games. In 2011, they beat Oregon and West Virginia, but they didn’t play Georgia until the championship game. Florida was the best regular-season SEC East opponent, but the Gators only went 7-6 that season.
Arkansas has been rightly criticized for some of its schedules lately, but this year they travel to Texas Tech and host Northern Illinois. Since 2002, Arkansas has played Boise St., South Florida, Texas (three times, two on the road), Tulsa (twice), USC (home and home), Texas A&M (home and home), and Rutgers (home and home).
Auburn travels to Kansas St. this year. Since 2002, the plains Tigers have played Syracuse, Georgia Tech (home and home). USC (home and home), Washington St. (twice), South Florida, West Virginia (home and home), Clemson (home and home and a third, neutral game), and the other leg of the Kansas St. home and home.
Since there is one in each division, I’ll address the two new teams in the transition between the divisions.Texas A&M isn’t playing anyone to speak of, but they did recently schedule Arkansas when they were in the Big XII. Also, I think they’ve been more than willing to continue their series with Texas, so I don’t completely blame them. But I will leave out their other recent opponents since they weren’t SEC at the time. Missouri’s game against Central Florida could be very interesting. The black and gold Tigers didn’t really play anyone last season, but they did play Arizona St., Central Florida, and Syracuse in 2012, their first year in the SEC.
Tennessee travels to Oklahoma, and they shouldn’t be expected to do much else, although their Utah St. (the opener) hasn’t been bad. Since 2002, the Vols have played Miami (home and home), Fresno St., Notre Dame (home and home), Cal (home and home), UCLA (home and home), Oregon (home and home), Cincinnati, and North Carolina St. (neutral).
Other than Clemson, South Carolinaplays East Carolina this year. Since 2002, the Gamecocks have played Clemson (every year), Virginia (home and home; they weren’t so bad 12 years ago), Central Florida (home and home), North Carolina (home and home), North Carolina St. (home and home), Navy, and East Carolina.
Kentucky’s only big non-conference game is Louisville, whom they have played every year. I think they’re another program that doesn’t want to miss out if they do have a shot at bowl eligibility. Since 2002, the Wildcats have only played Indiana (three times) to go along with the Cardinals. The Wildcats did draw a couple good “Group of Five” teams, Kent in 2012 (finished with 11 wins), Central Michigan (finished with 10 wins in 2006), and Western Kentucky (finished with 8 wins in 2013 and with 7 in 2011).
Georgia’s big games out of conference are the opener against Clemson and Georgia Tech to end the regular season. Since 2002, in addition to Georgia Tech every year, they have played Clemson (three times), Boise St. (twice), and Oklahoma St. (home and home). They played four Pac-12 teams that finished with losing records: a pair of games (home and home) with both Arizona St. and Colorado. They also played two teams I notice that finished with 8 wins, Central Michigan and Troy.
This year, Florida’s only meaningful game is against Florida St., whom they’ve played every year as long as I remember. But I don’t really blame the Gators, being that they have to play the SEC East, Alabama, and LSU. Alabama might be overrated and LSU might just be a regular top 25 sort of team, but I doubt Alabama, LSU, and Florida St. will all be disappointing. That’s not to mention Georgia, South Carolina, and Missouri.
Since 2002 (in addition to Florida St.), Florida has played Miami (four times, not counting the bowl game of course, two home and homes), South Florida, and Bowling Green. In almost every year, Florida also ends up playing another winning team. I’ll give a few examples. Louisiana Tech went 7-4 in 2005, Southern Miss went 9-5 in 2006, Troy went 8-4 in 2007 (and 9-4 in 2009), Hawaii went 7-7 in 2008, and ULL went 9-4 in 2012.
Some of those lists are pretty impressive, some aren’t so much; but I think the four teams who have annual rivalry games out of conference (South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky) deserve a little bit of slack. Also, I’ll admit that even the teams that have scheduled well will still typically have a couple easy wins per year. But the idea that the SEC is en masse avoiding all competition is mostly based on people trying to brush aside how strong the SEC is from year to year.
Good Morning y'all, and I hope that you are enjoying your Labor Day Weekend. I wanted to drop a few notes off here and see what you thought, so let's get to it:
Aldon Smith. Piss on San Francisco Football for whining that this cat got a NINE game suspension - he deserved a year and should have gotten that. You want the guy to stay on the field 49ers, then it's your responsibility to make sure he's not making stupid decisions like DUI (twice), possessing weapons, rollin w/gangstas, screaming bomb at an airport, and whatever the hell else he was doing that we don't know about - and I'm sure there's plenty. If he's that busy being a public menace, then that means the team isn't keeping him busy enough...
Now SF, your bluff has been called, he can attend meetings and is allowed to be in the complex, he just can't practice and play. Now let's see how committed you are to keeping this kid on the straight and narrow.
NFL Network. There's a lot of good to this network if you can cut through the obnoxiousness of Rich Eisen, and the buffoonery of Michael Irvin. I highly encourage you if you have the Network to watch them, especially their football show "A Football Life". I absolutely loved the two part show on Vince Lombardi.
NFL Cutdown Day. Otherwise known as Michael Sam day. And yes NFL Network, when it comes to Sam - you may not have been as outrageous as the four-letter TMZ, but your coverage is obnoxious as well. It would seem the chances are that this kid will make a squad, but more likely he'll remain on the St. Louis practice squad.
Washington @ Seattle Baseball Series. I'm guilty of paying top dollar to attend games in 2014, and if I had cash and wasn't busy this weekend, I'd seriously think about flying the 800 miles north to catch a game this weekend and enjoy the natural beauty of Seattle. By the way Seattle, props to you for getting 35,000 plus up there to go to the game last night - MLB is better when your fans show up loud and proud.
How is it that the #1 and #2 pitching teams in all of MLB get together on Labor Day Weekend, both in good playoff runs, and we hear almost nothing about this matchup? To me this is quality baseball and a matchup you don't see frequently, so take a tip from Uncle B.O.B. and watch a game or two of this one - I don't think you'll be disappointed, though Washington got to King Felix last night and chased him...
We here at the Gab, with the exception of Sun Tzu have been kind of igorning this one team from the NL East who just keeps winning all of a sudden and right now could be the best team in the NL - Washington. Everybody can talk about the payroll of LA, and the surprise that is Milwaukee, but if you're looking at a favorite to come out of the NL - look at DC.
Speaking of Seattle Baseball. Hey Jesus Montero, there's a reason you are wearing #63...
A few years ago when Seattle and the Evil Empire had that trade that involved Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda, I didn't like it and as it turns out, I was right, Seattle got ripped off. Now two years later, this dude is getting into arguments with scouts in the stands in Single-A over an ice cream sandwich? After he got suspended 50 games for PED's then came to camp this spring fat and out of shape? He's been sent home, and the big club will not be bringing him up as originally planned - apparently he's had a string of "incidents". Good Lord Montero, way to piss away your talent. You're 24 years old and now this? Nice going, now go bag my groceries and don't screw up my order at Carl's, Jr.
Oakland @ Anaheim Baseball Series. Hey Oakland, Erick Aybar IS NOT Tony Gwynn. Can you at least slow him down? Jeez...
College Football. With all due respect to our friend who comes in to drop CFB knowledge on us, I'm not trying to hear about a pre-season Top 25. Let's get six games into the season and have teams build up a resume then we can talk about rankings, you know when actual football games are played both in and out of conference. By the way, do you all think this new bowl selection system makes rankings pretty irrelevant? I do...
I can only say one thing about today's action: GO NAVY!!!
Texas A&M did South Carolina dirty Thursday Night, but I would suggest to you that South Carolina could be an SEC spoiler come November, and possibly the first Saturday in December too...
UFC 177. Sacramento is going nuts today because we are hosting UFC 177. I guess MMA is a hotbed here and OK I guess, but all its gonna do is increase the idiots at all the local gyms wearing their Tapout gear and talk tough in the gym.
Grilling. Yep, it's Labor Day Weekend folks, so I'm gonna keep this short, and wouldn't mind reading some good recipes on the grill that I can steal from you all. For me, it's once again our favorite, Marinated Kona (Hawaiian) Tri-Tip with BBQ beans (Bacon, green onions, brown sugar, mustard, molasses, and four different types of beans), and bacon-wrapped pineapple sausages...Yum...
Well folks, it’s that time of week once again… time for another grumble from IHM.
Back in 2007, the college football season opened just as it does every year; a few solid match-ups, but mainly bigger brothers going up against the weaker sisters of the world. #3 Michigan was all set for another run at a national championship… they returned star, future NFL players such as Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Mario Manningham, and future #1 pick Jake Long, as well as a host of other future NFL players on either side of the ball. Enter Appalachian State, a FCS team that had won and won often at their level… but was never expected to go into “The Big House” and have a snowball’s chance in hell of beating the Wolverines… in fact, the game was probably going to be over by halftime. Well, somebody forgot to tell the Mountaineers that, as they went on defeat the maize and blue 34-32 in an absolute stunner… the first time an FCS school had ever beaten a ranked FBS opponent.
For me, it was an absolute thing of beauty. I have hated Michigan my entire life… and being stuck here in Wolverine country, it was a moment I will cherish forever. The sadness, anguish, and humiliation on the faces of every Walmart Wolverine fan in this area was enough to tide me over for a lifetime. Seven years later, the Wolverines have their shot at revenge, as Appalachian State returns to the Big House, now a member of the FBS from the Sun Belt conference. Sure, it is unlikely that history will repeat its self, but I can dream, right? Either way, college football is back and I couldn’t be happier!
Aside from the games slated for this weekend, there is also all the drama coming out of USC this week. First, there was AD Pat Haden being hospitalized twice earlier in the week. Next, senior corner Josh Shaw was caught in a lie… first saying he sprained both ankles jumping out of a window to “save his drowning nephew”, then changing the story when bullshit was called. Finally, in the final act of the week, running back Anthony Brown quit the team while accusing coach Steve Sarkisian a racist. After quitting the team, he posted on Instagram “Sark treated me like a slave in his Office… Can’t play for a racist MAN!!!!! #Fighton” The post was deleted soon after it was posted, but the damage was already done.
Sarkisian refuted the claims, and many players have come to his defense since, but the fact remains that the allegation is out there now. The question is, does this adversely affect the USC program with Sarkisian at the helm? Does it hurt his ability to recruit players in the future, or in essence, to do his job? Assuming the allegations are complete and total bullshit, what kind of accountability does Brown have as a result of any damages done to the program and to Sarkisian? People pull the race card all the time for no real reason these days… but the question is, where is the accountability? What are the consequences for damaging someone’s reputation in that manner? Right now, there are none, and that is something that needs to change.
Shelly Sterling claims that Steve Ballmer got a “deal” in buying the Clippers at two billion dollars! Evidently there were still offers rolling in when his offer was accepted, including David Geffen and an Egyptian princess. She also adds that there is “no point” in divorcing Donald at this point… saying it is of no benefit, according to lawyers.
The LA Clippers also decided, for some reason, to pay Doc Rivers ten million dollars per year, extending the former Celtic coach through the 2018-19 season. He also received the title of VP of basketball operations.
The NFL continued its erratic designation of suspensions this week, as Vikings WR Jerome Simpson was suspended three games to start the year stemming from a DUI arrest. As you may recall, Simpson was arrested back in 2012 for having over two pounds of marijuana to his home in Kentucky… and somehow only got fifteen days in jail and another three game ban for it. Good thing he isn’t just a “regular person”… otherwise he’d still probably be in prison over a bust like that. But, evidently that break didn’t prevent him from doing anything else idiotic in the future… hell, he couldn’t even make it two years. Still, you have to wonder how Gordon gets a full year, yet this idiot gets away with just three games again.
How about some congratulations to Yusmerio Petit of the San Francisco Giants, who set a Major League record by retiring 46 consecutive batters, breaking the record set by Mark Buehrle of 45 in 2009. The record was set over an eight game period. The very next hitter, Jordan Lyles, doubled to left field.
That’s all I’ve got for today folks. Thanks, as always, for reading and for any comments you leave on the way out. Have a great weekend, and enjoy your football!
Hello folks, and welcome to Friday... where we get to enjoy the longest period of time between work and more work (aside from the folks that work on weekends... God bless ya all!). We've got some big stories brewing this week, so let's get to it!
Two of the biggest blow hards in the world of sports admitted guilt this week... the four letter network and the Sherriff himself! First, ESPN issued an apology for choosing to report on Michael Sam's shower habits earlier in the week. No word yet on any potential punishment for reporter Josina Anderson, who had the misfortune of reading the teleprompter during the episode of SportsCenter on which it aired. Either way, good to see ESPN taken to task for the stupid things they do, and for the irresponsible way they rush to report things that are normally better left unsaid.
Late Thursday, the Sherriff Roger Goodell issued an apology of his own... admitting that the penalty for Ray Rice was weak, and sent a pretty shitty message about the NFL's policies towards violent acts towards women. The new rules state that any NFL employee...from players to front office personnel... will get a minimum six game ban for a first infraction, and a lifetime ban (with appeal) for a second incident. The even better part; it not only covers domestic violence but sexual assault as well. Looks like Jaemis is sunk before he even gets started!
But the biggest win of the whole thing has to be the fact that the Sherriff finally took culpability for something. Sure, the word "we" was prominent in his statement, but we all know who runs the show at the NFL offices. But honestly, we all also know that Goodell is nothing more than a mouthpiece, albeit a high paid mouthpiece, for the owners. But to see him admit to fucking up in a public forum is a thing of beauty.
The San Diego Padres made what I would consider a pretty idiotic decision when they announced they were going to dedicate the stadium plaza to Bud Selig, changing the name from the Palm Court Plaza at Petco Park to the Bud Selig Hall of Fame Plaza. Bad move, especially considering the numerous slights the Padres have dealt with at the hands of the commissioner. During Selig's years running the league, he essentially approved of a fire sale when the Padres were just 4 and a half games out of contention, did nothing to help the team build thier new park, had a labor stoppage on his watch during a season in which Tony Gwynn was close to batting .400 for the first time since Ted Williams, botched a team sale, never awarded an All-Star game to San Diego despite their new stadium, and of course his absence for the memorial for Tony Gwynn. Despite all of that, the Padres made the decision to pay tribute to perhaps baseball's worst modern era commissioner... and you really have to wonder what the hell they were thinking!
The NFL wrapped up its' preseason yesterday, and the regular season kickoff is now just six days away when the Packers travel to Seattle to face the defending champs. As for college football, their regular season kicked off Wednesday with Abilene Christian being edged out by Georgia State 38-37, and 14 games last night, the biggest of which being Texas A&M traveling to South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks. The Cocks came in ranked #9, while the Aggies were ranked #21, but the final score didn't reflect that at all. The Aggies wound up blowing the Cocks out in their house, 52-28 behind an impressive performance from Kenny Hill. Hill broke Johnny Football's team record for passing yards in a single game by throwing for 511 yards, and the SEC Network broke several records once held by ESPN for the number of times mentioning Johnny Manziel in a three hour period.
But the big question that comes out of this game is this; was Johnny Football simply the product of a system? Judging by the immediate success of a guy who never played a down of college level football taking his place, you might just end up having to say yes to that. Especially with as bad as Manziel has looked so far at the professional level (against second and third stringers no less).
Another big question from last night's games... is this the end of the line for Boise State? Sure, they came in unranked and faced the #18 team in the country, but they failed to get into the end zone until the 4th quarter (garbage time), and lost 35-13 to Ole Miss, despite three interceptions thrown by the Rebs' Bo Wallace. So is this just an off year for the Broncos, or is their run as college football's Cinderella over?
Well, that's all I've got for today folks... I'll be back tomorrow morning in the next slot over with my usual Saturday Grumble. Thanks for reading and for any comments you leave on the way out.
I meant to post this here on Wednesday. Sorry about that.
The AP and coaches poll each put 5 SEC teams in the top 13 (Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, and LSU). I don’t happen to think teams with 11 starters or fewer (such as Stanford, Michigan St., or Baylor) belong ahead of any of the five, so I’m putting all 5 in the top 10. I’d expect one or two of them not to finish in the top 10, maybe not even the top 25, but it won’t be because of a big difference in talent.
I should probably mention a couple other things. If I expect a team to have a significant drop-off, I ranked them accordingly. I didn’t decide not to rank Wisconsin because I think LSU will beat them easily (I don’t… I didn’t expect LSU to beat Ole Miss easily last year even though Ole Miss wasn’t ranked before the game, for instance). But I didn’t have Wisconsin ranked after last season, and it’s hard to improve when less than half of your team comes back. It’s not hard for a team like LSU to lose to a team that might be 30th or 40th if they have a bad game though. Even Florida St. could very well lose such a game.
I consider Missouri to be in about the same category as Florida last season (which I didn’t drop nearly far enough, although I did get criticized by many for ranking them third in the East) or Cincinnati a few years ago after the Bearcats finished in the top 5. I just don’t see the makings of a ranked team coming back. The other teams that fell out weren’t near the top and don’t seem to have a lot coming back. Fresno St. is an exception, but they have a lot coming back on a porous defensive unit, so I’m not too confident in them doing particularly well. I suppose they may be a candidate in the Mountain West though.
When in doubt, I kept teams in. I find it interesting that teams like Texas, Michigan, and Florida will soar in the rankings if they win a couple of games, but people don’t want to rank them preseason. I will show the previous rankings below. I have some other comments about things that I’ve read and discussed in the last week, but I will post those on Thursday or Friday.
1. Florida St. – I don’t think the Seminoles are likely to repeat, to be honest; but they are the defending champions, and there is no other strong candidate for preseason #1.
2. Auburn—similar logic here. I did mention that the Tigers of the plains have a difficult schedule in my SEC West preview (they will have to play all four of the other highly-ranked SEC teams), but that doesn’t mean they’re not among the best teams.
3. Oregon—The Ducks have one more returning starter than Auburn has, which gives them among the highest numbers of returning starters among teams that finished ranked last season. We’ve gotten used to the Ducks being a top 5 team, so I would expect better than another mid-top-25 season.
4. Alabama—This is another team that we’ve gotten used to competing for the top spot no matter what you say about returning starters, so that’s why even with 12 returning starters, the Tide still have a place in the conversation. We don’t know how the quarterback and defense will come along, but it’s safe to say a Saban defense will be more than adequate in most games.
5. Oklahoma—I hate picking Oklahoma to be in the top 5 because that never seems to be what happens (at least not since 2008), but again, it’s hard to pick someone else here. The Sooners do return 14 starters, most of them on defense.
6. Georgia—The Bulldogs were rather mercurial last season, scoring wins over LSU and South Carolina, then coming so close to beating Auburn. Two mid-season losses in a row in the division were devastating though. By the standards of this season, 15 returning starters is a lot, and although the quarterback is not a returning season starter, he seems ready to go based on his play last year.
7. UCLA—The Bruins have a ton of returning starters, but they haven’t been quite able to turn the corner into being a nationally competitive team. Could this finally be the year? They could even be this year’s Florida St., although I remember Florida St. winning national championships before.
8. South Carolina—It could be interesting outside of the division for the Gamecocks as they will face Auburn and Clemson, but Georgia will have to do the same, so with 14 starters, this is a team with a respectable chance to win the SEC. They may have to do it with a loss or two though.
9. Ohio St.—The Buckeyes should still be hanging around with another strong chance to win the conference. It wasn’t long ago that they won 24 games in a row, so 12 returning starters still seems formidable.
10. LSU—As I said in the SEC West preview, I do think the winner of the LSU/Alabama game is the most likely SEC West champion. I expect Alabama to be favored of course, but like with South Carolina, that still leaves a reasonable chance for the Bayou Bengals.
11. USC—I don’t think the Trojans have lagged all that far behind the major teams in recent years. They’ve just had some difficulty in striving for consistency at times. Maybe a stable head coaching position and 14 returning starters will provide just that.
12. Clemson—The other ACC team and the other South Carolina team is tempting to overlook, but these Tigers did beat every team they played apart from the Gamecocks and Seminoles on their way to an Orange Bowl win, their second appearance in a BCS bowl in three seasons.
13. Michigan St.—Sticking with BCS bowl winners from last season, Michigan St. should compete for a spot in the Big Ten title game again; but it might be just a bit more challenging with 11 returning starters, only four of whom will be on defense, the Spartans’ strong suit. The Spartans will now be in the same division as the Buckeyes, by the way, so I’d say the chances of making the Big Ten title game are reduced.
14. Central Florida—I’ll throw in one more to make it three in a row. It’s difficult to be the best mid-major/“Group of Five” team two years in a row, but the Knights appear to be in good shape coming off the Fiesta Bowl win last season. In fact, they’re the only team from my top 10 last season to return 15 starters or more. The Knights have only lost three games since September 2012, very close ones at that.
15. Stanford—The Cardinal have earned a top-10 spot four seasons in a row, but I think that may come to an end this season. USC and UCLA both seem to be getting stronger, and it will be difficult to get past Oregon in the Pac-12 North. Eleven returning starters may not be enough.
16. Ole Miss—Going back to the SEC, the Rebels may actually play a role in the SEC West this season. They’re most likely to try to be spoilers, but if LSU, Auburn, and Alabama all beat each other (or maybe if Auburn loses to Ole Miss and wins the rest in the division), that may provide an opening. Fifteen starters return from last season, which saw the Rebels in the top 25 before losses to eventual SEC East champion Missouri and rival Mississippi St. (in overtime) to end the regular season.
17. Washington—The Huskies are an improving team with 12 returning starters. They may not win the Pac-12 North, but a strong second would not be a surprising result. The Huskies should be in good hands with former Boise St. head coach Chris Petersen. Like Georgia and a couple of other teams, there is an experienced quarterback, just not last season’s starter, “off-the-field issues” notwithstanding.
18. Arizona St.—Staying in the Pac-12, the Sun Devils won 10 games against a very tough schedule last season but return only 10 starters in what should be a challenging Pac-12 season. The offense should be strong, but the defense will remain a question mark until conference play begins.
19. Texas—The Longhorns return 13 starters, not even including David Ash, who played well in two out of three games last year before injury and very respectably in 2012. I just don’t see Texas staying down and out for long. The Horns may not challenge Oklahoma, but they did beat the Sooners last season. I’ll mention Baylor, but I don’t see another strong competitor in conference.
20. Michigan—I’m surprised the Wolverines haven’t shown up in more top 25s. I see them similar to how I saw their rivals from East Lansing going into last season. They had a high loss total last season, but upon closer inspection, most were very “good” losses. One point to Ohio St., three points to Iowa, four points to Nebraska, and three points (in four overtimes) to Penn St. They didn’t really show up to the bowl game, but the only other loss that wasn’t close was to that Spartan team I mentioned. The increase in experience (15 returning starters) may help turn many close losses into wins.
21. Louisville—The Cardinals’ main problem is being put into the same division as Florida St. and Clemson, but they should still have another solid season. They won all but one game last year (a three-point contest against Central Florida) and will have 13 returning starters.
22. Baylor—You may wonder why they’re so low (at least before I explained above), but with 9 returning starters, I debated taking the Bears out entirely. At least they have a returning starter at quarterback and the other returning starters are evenly distributed on both sides of the ball. Still, the Bears haven’t been big enough players on the national scene of late for one to expect an abundance of talent just waiting to move into key positions.
23. Florida—I thought at least one more SEC team might be appropriate. Florida appeared out of nowhere two seasons ago to compete for a national championship, although they ultimately fell short of even making the SEC championship game. But then the Gators disappeared just as fast last season. It might be another quick turnaround with 14 returning starters though. I’m not picking them for the top 5, but I think top 25 is a good bet.
24. Duke—Another team with 14 returning starters (I guess that’s down to 13 now) that used to be led by a certain be-visored ball coach. Duke had an outstanding year by its standards last year though. I had them in my final top 25, so I’m not seeing a strong reason to keep them out of the preseason top 25.
25. Northern Illinois—Two teams that would fall outside of the original BCS contract in the top 25 (Louisville is in the ACC now) seems like a realistic expectation, and as I said, a lot of the big programs seem a little thin, so I thought, “why not”? Of course the Huskies won the MAC a couple of years ago, followed up by winning the first 12 games of last season; and they return just about everyone but the quarterback on offense and approximately half of their defense.
I will show all the top 25 relative to the previous one below. I put symbols for the teams that were previously unranked. I tried to make them similar sizes to one another.
1 Florida St. 1
2 Auburn 2
3 Oregon 13
4 Alabama 11
5 Oklahoma 8
6 Georgia –
7 UCLA 16
8 S Carolina 7
9 Ohio St. 9
10 LSU 17
11 USC 19
12 Clemson 12
13 Mich. St. 3
14 UCF 5
15 Stanford 6
16 Ole Miss –
17 Washington 24
18 Arizona St. 15
19 Texas –
20 Michigan –
21 Louisville 14
22 Baylor 10
23 Florida –
24 Duke 25
25 N. Illinois 20
Out of rankings: (4) Missouri, (18) Okie St., (21) Fresno St., (22) TX A&M, (23) Notre Dame
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