NCAA
LSU/Miss. St. Post-Game Reaction
Category: NCAA
Tags: AUBURN COLLEGE FOOTBALL LSU MISSISSIPPI ST. WISCONSIN

I did pick LSU #10 going into the season and #7 most recently, and I had not ranked Mississippi St.; but I canít say Iím shocked by this outcome. I especially wasnít surprised it came down to the last play, but I was surprised by the margin in the visitorsí favor after three quarters.

You can only beat a rival like that so many years in a row. I know theyíve had some bad teams in that stretch, but theyíve also had good teams and LSU has at least had mediocre teams who could have easily lost.

I did think the streak would end in Starkville, so the idea of it being at home and at night gave me some hope. On the other hand, I heard one of the announcers today pick Mississippi St., and I didnít really have an argument with the points he made.

Even though the Bulldogs had not played anyone (which is why I hadnít ranked them, along with the fact that they had just barely qualified for a bowl game last season), I was concerned by the apparent strength and versatility of their offense. The Mississippi St. offense had given LSU problems in the past, although before they had similar plays with a two-quarterback system.

Itís nice to have location and recent history in your favor, but you have to make plays. Too many times, LSU just didnít make them even though opportunities were there. I was disappointed that the players seemed to allow themselves to get discouraged similar to the way they did against Wisconsin. But on the other hand, I have to give some credit for responding late even though, unlike against Wisconsin, it was not enough.

That said, if the coaches want the players to make the right plays, they need to make the right calls are made. You might look at the game summary or whatever and conclude LSU was just never in it until it was too late, but thatís not the case. I would admit they didnít get the offense going the way it should have been until too late though.

There were good calls that gave LSU a first and goal at the 2 (after the opening touchdown by the Dawgs), but I donít consider four runs up the middle good play-calling after that point. You have to do something to spread out the field (pitch, bootleg, play action, something) at some point. You know, kind of like how Mississippi St. gained yards against LSU and how Wisconsin gained yards against LSU despite an almost complete lack of a passing game in Week 1.

This failure would keep the Tigers scoreless until the waning minutes of the first half. Seven points rather than 0 right there would have been huge.

The comeback from 17-0 and 17-3 at the half did not materialize, but it could have. After the LSU defensive touchdown to open the first half, the Tigers had a great chance at a stop on 3rd and 11. So without making it a full blitz, LSU rushed into the backfield (and then just stood there), and the second Mississippi St. got the ball out of the backfield, they just needed one halfway-decent block to get a first down. Then, they drove to the end zone.

That first stop is just huge against this kind of team. LSU would have had so much momentum having the ball (and probably at least satisfactory field position) down by only 7, not counting the missed opportunity for points in the first half.

Then the Bulldogs scored again and would lead by as much as 24, but who knows what would have happened if LSU had gotten the ball back right away before the first State touchdown of the second half? Think about how much of a break the Mississippi St. defense got. LSU had the ball to end the first half, but deep in their own territory, the Tigers decided to let the half expire, so that didnít tax the State defense. Then they had halftime, then Mississippi St. had the ball, then LSU scored on a turnover and gave the Bulldogs the ball back, then a long drive followed that. Even if LSU doesnít score on that possession, that still could have tired the defense somewhat and led to more success (and sooner) later on in the game.

Dak Prescott rolls out on third and 7 before putting the Bulldogs up 31-10.

Dak Prescott rolls out on third and 7 before putting the Bulldogs up 31-10.

(Apologies for the picture. No matter what I did, I couldnít make it larger on Wordpress. I'll try to post it directly on the bottom.)

This was not only Mississippi St.ís first win against LSU since 1999, it was only the second since 1991 (and LSU was terrible all but three years of the 1990s). 1991 was also the last time the Bulldogs won at Tiger Stadium. I believe I was there, actually. I wonder how much the ticket prices have increased since then.

This was also only LSU's second home loss since October 2009 (the other was by four points to Alabama in 2012).

Anyway, hopefully this is a learning experience for the players, but John Chavis and Cam Cameron shouldnít need learning experiences at this point. I hope they learned something anyway. Maybe LSU should just pretend theyíre already down three scores when the game starts from now on. Iím not just talking about the offense. Mississippi St. was held to three points in the final 24 Ĺ minutes

This might not be LSUís year being that the new quarterbacks and mixture of old and new running backs are not coming along as LSU fans hoped, but itís also not over. Auburn lost to a team that finished with three conferences losses early last year and then went all the way to the national championship game. That team was LSU.

On another positive note, this is by far the most traffic my site has ever gotten in a single day. There are three hours left in the day here on the West Coast, and Iíve almost tripled my previous record.

Related:
LSU/Mississippi St. Rivalry blog (now updated)
LSU/Mississippi St. Notes and Week 3 Top 25
LSU Adds to Winning Streaks in Opener (Wisconsin post-game)

...For earlier access to my blogs, archives, etc., you can follow my†wordpress site†or my page on†facebook.

Week 3 Top 25 + LSU/MSU Notes
Category: NCAA
Tags: ALABAMA ARIZONA AUBURN BOSTON COLL COLLEGE FOOTBALL ECU Virginia FLA ST. LSU MISS ST. MISSOURI OKLA OKLA ST. UTSA OREGON

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

Les Miles isnít exactly on the hot seat right now, but Glenn Guilbeau had an interesting take on what losing to Mississippi St. has meant for coaching careers at LSU.

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

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

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

Week 3 College Football Rankings 2014

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

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

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

I havenít become too much of a purist this week (although you can check out my completely objective top 10 here), but I decided you actually have to have beaten somebody of substance to be on this list. I was a little bit liberal with that, especially in the case of Oklahoma St., but UTSA nearly beat Arizona and had a 6-game winning streak going into the Arizona game. This policy will help ease the transition into the computer system.

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

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

Earlier rankings:
Preseason
Week 1
Week 2

...For earlier access to my blogs, archives, etc., you can follow my†wordpress site†or my page on†facebook.

Preliminary Computer Top 10 and Explanation
Category: NCAA
Tags: ALABAMA ARIZONA COLLEGE FOOTBALL MISSISSIPPI ST. NOTRE DAME OKLAHOMA OLE MISS OREGON SEC TEXAS A&M UCLA WASHINGTON College Football

As you probably know, I stop doing subjective rankings of the team and replace those with computer ratings starting in October each season. Usually people do not receive my first few computer ratings very well, and they canít make sense of them until later. Of course, someone can get upset with any list of teams you come up with, but most people who give serious thought to it can at least make peace with my later computer rankings.

Disclaimer: THIS IS NOT MY CURRENT TOP 10. I did a trial run of my computer rankings this week just to make sure itís set up properly and so forth. I used to have to do a lot of work the first week I went to the computers, but Iím trying to be as prepared as possible this year. Anyway, while normally I would keep this to myself, I wanted to share the top 10 just for the purpose of explanation. Itís easiest to explain with a small number of games.

I am well-aware that a team may be great and have great teams theyíre going to play later, but maybe theyíve had a bye week and/or an FCS win and/or another win over a win-less team whoís going to be good (which may be true of Central Florida, for instance). So Missouri (who beat two FBS teamsóToledo, who has only beaten an FCS team, and Central Floridaóand one FCS team) might well be one of the best teams in the country, but theyíre not even in the top 20 of my computer ratings because Central Florida wonít count as a meaningful win until they beat some teams.

The best my system will consider an FCS team is average. North Dakota St., who went 14-0 and beat FBS bowl team Kansas St., was considered about equivalent to low-level bowl teams like Tulane and North Carolina. Even Kansas St. was considered better because I think 7 FBS wins should count for more than 13 FCS wins (one FBS win for each cancels out). Kansas St. was probably a much better team at the end of the year than it was at the beginning, so maybe had they played each other at the end of the season instead of at the beginning, Kansas St. would have proven my formula accurate. The only two ways the Bison could have been considered better were (1) to beat a better FBS team or (2) to beat more than one FBS team.

Of course itís impossible to put teams in perfect order of who would (or did) beat whom anyway. There are always circular win chains at the end of the year. It seems like this happens in the SEC West every year. In 2013, LSU beat Auburn, who beat Alabama, who beat LSU. In 2012, LSU beat Texas A&M, who beat Alabama, who beat LSU. Thatís actually another good reason for me to do this now. There arenít so many dilemmas to get hung up on.

So this is my computer top 10. I will release my subjective top 10 later this week. There will be a couple of teams in common, but I will not rely on this by any means.

Oklahoma has gotten out to a fast start by beating 3 FBS teams with a combined 5 FBS wins of their own.

Oklahoma has gotten out to a fast start by beating 3 FBS teams with a combined 5 FBS wins of their own.

1. Oklahoma Ė What does it take to be #1 after three weeks? It wasnít even close, by the way. Being 3-0 by itself puts you pretty close to the top (I donít count FCS wins in my records, but I give teams credit separately), but Iíll go deeper into this. Oklahoma has beaten two teams who themselves have two wins apiece (Tennessee and Louisiana Tech). The third team, Tulsa, is 1-2. So being 3-0 and having opponents with a combined 5 (FBS) wins right now is why Oklahoma is a clear #1.

2. Ole Miss Ė Most importantly, the Rebels are also 3-0. Also important is the fact that Boise St. has two wins. Vanderbilt has an FBS win. Ole Miss got zero points for beating UL-Lafayette apart from the influence on its overall strength of schedule. Losing to an undefeated team and a 2-1 team (Louisiana Tech) gives ULL a decent strength of schedule.

3. UCLA Ė I think luck will catch up to the Bruins like it did to the cross-town rival Trojans, but hear me out. Like Ole Miss, they are 3-0 with a win over an otherwise unbeaten team (although Virginia has one FBS and one FCS win) and a second win over a team with a BCS win. The third team, Memphis, has a good strength of schedule because the only FBS team theyíve played is undefeated. I know that seems like circular logic, but when Memphis has played a few other FBS teams strength of schedule will begin to be more meaningful. This is another reason to wait for time to pass before I officially use these.

4. Notre Dame Ė The Irish are 3-0, and Michigan is 2-1, so thatís a good start this early. Purdue also has an FBS win. Rice has no wins, but being that theyíve only played Notre Dame and Texas A&M, that gives them a pretty good strength of schedule.

5. Mississippi St. Ė Two Mississippi schools in the top five. Can you tell yet why weíre still in the preliminary stages? Guess the Bulldogsí record. The rest will also generally follow the above script. Mississippi St. is the only team to beat UAB, who has an FBS win and an FCS win. South Alabamaís other two weeks are an FBS win (albeit over a winless team) and a bye. Mississippi St. also beat Southern Mississippi, whose only FBS games have been against 3-0 teams.

6. Arizona Ė A real top 10 team probably would have won by more against Nevada and UTSA, but as a reminder, this does not factor in margin of victory, which I think you need to do after only three weeks. Arizona is also 3-0, that Nevada team I mentioned has an FBS win and no other losses, and Arizona also beat Texas-San Antonio (again by a small margin), who has an FBS win. UNLV, whose only win is over an FCS team, does not really help except for Arizonaís record of course.

7. Oregon Ė So the next three are all teams youíll see in the top 10 of pretty much any major rankings at this point. Oregon is the first team on this list that does NOT have 3 FBS wins (one was over an FCS team). Wyoming, whom the Ducks just beat, has one win over an FBS team and one over an FCS team. Michigan St. only has an FCS win, but at least they donít have any other losses.

8. Texas A&M Ė Should be no surprise here. Of course, South Carolina has won two games over otherwise-undefeated teams since losing to the Aggies. East Carolina in turn beat Virginia Tech (who had beaten Ohio St.) after losing to the Gamecocks. I mentioned Rice in reference to Notre Dame. The Aggies have also beaten North Texas, who is 1-2, and an otherwise-unbeaten FCS team.

9. Alabama Ė Weíre back to another 3-0 team, but obviously they wouldnít be behind two 2-0 teams (with FCS wins) if they had great wins. West Virginia does have an FBS win and an FCS win though. Florida Atlantic is 1-2, and Southern Mississippi (common opponent with Mississippi St.) just has an FCS win.

10. Washington Ė I took the Huskies out of my subjective top 25 afer struggling to beat Hawaii (who was barely able to beat Northern Iowa last night/this morning) and Eastern Washington, an FCS team. Washington does have another FBS win now, over Illinois, who itself has FBS (over Western Kentucky) and FCS wins. Also, Eastern Washington is 1-0 against the FCS.

Hopefully thatís somewhat enlightening about how the system works. The above does not use any reference whatsoever to preseason rankings or prior seasons. Itís as if the entire FBS started from scratch this year. So itís completely about what youíve proven, and if a team has played and won every week and their opponents are in the FBS (especially if such opponents also have a number of FBS wins), that team will have a huge advantage whoever they are.

So when you look at other ratings, like Sagarin for instance, they might be more the teams you expect to see, because they do include reference to prior seasons. That said, his top four teams are all in my top 10, and there are 10 teams in common in our respective top 15 teams. The ones in my top 15 that are not in his are all ones that you would rightly be suspicious of due to recent seasons: Mississippi St., Arizona, Pittsburgh, Washington, and Syracuse.

In fact, apart from UCLA, I think Iíll use those teams in common as my top 9 when I make my subjective rankings for this week. I like to start making it largely results-based at this point, although there will still be at least a bit of a subjective and predictive element, which will be true until I rely exclusively on the computer formula.

This was also a good week to at least look at it this way since itís already getting difficult to try to fairly rank teams without a major overhaul. South Carolina beat East Carolina who beat Virginia Tech who beat Ohio St. They also beat Georgia, who beat Clemson. So how good must that make Texas A&M for annihilating South Carolina? Then you have Pittsburgh, who beat Boston College, who beat USC, who beat Stanford. As I mentioned, it will only get more confusing once teams lower down the chain beat teams higher up.

I thought†B.O.B. would want†me to explain†why there†are only four SEC teams in the top 10 list above.† LSU's win over Wisconsin counts for very little right now because Wisconsin has yet to record an FBS win.† Wisconsin is one of two FBS wins for LSU.† Auburn has had a bye week already, and one of their wins was over San Jose St., which is in the same situation as Wisconsin.††Obviously, I would expect the Wisconsin win to be worth more later into the season than the San Jose St. win will be worth, but right now they're pretty similar.† On the other hand, LSU does not play another apparently competitive non-conference game.† Auburn does have a respectable opponent next week in Kansas St.†

There ARE a total of six SEC teams in the top 15 (the ones I mentioned above, including LSU and Auburn), seven in the top 20, and ten in the top 30. The West should be interesting this year, by the way. Iíve mentioned everyone but Arkansas, and the Hogs just ran wild all over Texas Tech on the road. So the sixth-best team in the division is 13th and the seventh-best is 34th! I know that will change (Itís impossible not to since they will start playing each other more, and there are bye weeks and FCS opponents coming up later in the season for some SEC teams), but Iíll probably get more into out-of-conference play so far later this week.

Better Late than Never: 2013 Conference Report
Category: NCAA
Tags: AAC ACC BIG EAST BIG TEN BIG XII COLLEGE FOOTBALL CUSA MAC MWC NOTRE DAME PAC-12 SEC SUN BELT

Iíll start with the records. I tabulate these myself, so they could be a game or two off for each conference (especially the ďgroup of fiveĒ conferences, due to membership changes). If there is a reliable database somewhere, let me know though.

Best records overall
SEC 53-11
Pac-12 37-9
Big Ten 38-16
ACC 46-21
Big XII 25-11

Best records vs. FBS
SEC 40-10
Pac-12 28-8
Big XII 19-9
Big Ten 29-16
ACC 33-21

Best records vs. BCS-conference*
SEC 17-9
Pac-12 10-7
Big XII 7-7
ACC 12-14
Big Ten 11-13

Notre Dame went 9-4 against the FBS and 6-4 against the BCS conferences, although Temple really shouldnít count.

*This includes Notre Dame since special provisions were made for them under the BCS. The American (AAC) was an automatic bid conference last season, so they still qualified. The AAC was the only conference outside of the ďBig FiveĒ (ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12, SEC) that won more than 1/4 of its games against ďBig FiveĒ teams last year. Being that its membership continues to change and is now essentially what the CUSA was a few years ago, I did think it was fair to remove them starting this year. The new Playoff contract also treats them along with the CUSA, MAC, MWC, and Sun Belt (referred to as Group of Five).

I think itís fair to say the major teams have consolidated themselves into the Big Five conferences. There were 10 fewer teams in the Big Five overall just 11 years ago, so what used to be a competitive Big East has been absorbed by the other conferences (Temple is an exception, but they were removed from the Big East effective in the 2005 season before being invited back to join what became the AAC) . There were a couple of teams that competed in the Big East recently there were not absorbed (such as Connecticut, South Florida, and Cincinnati), but South Florida and Connecticut are still fairly new to the FBS (with transition years in 2002 and 2003, respectively). Cincinnati was in the CUSA as recently as 2004, but Iíll admit they would probably fit in playing in a Big Five conference. There have always been a few outliers since the BCS started though.

Overall rankings and reasoning

sec-pinwheel-logo

Anyway, no surprise, but #1 goes to theSEC. Itís really no contest whatsoever based on those numbers alone. 16 more wins than the Pac-12 versus only two more losses. Even if you whittle it down to BCS-conference opponents, itís 7 more wins versus two more losses.

It gets a little better when the AAC teams are eliminated, but one of those SEC wins was over Central Florida. Thatís better than the Pac-12ís best out-of-conference wins Notre Dame and Wisconsin (which South Carolina also beat). Oklahoma St. (beaten by Missouri in the Cotton Bowl) was also better than those two teams.

Being that the they were the only other conference worth discussing for #1, the Pac-12 takes #2.

Iím actually going to award #3 to the ACC. Theyíre behind the Big XII in winning percentage against the Big Five, but look how many more games. There are more teams, but itís approximately an average of one more opponent for every two teams. Ohio St., Georgia, and Auburn are a pretty good top of the list. Of course, LSU was the only team other than Florida St. to beat Auburn all year. Georgiaís only other out-of-conference loss was to Nebraska in the bowl game, and of course Ohio St.ís only other loss was in the Big Ten championship game.

Also, the ACCís losses are pretty solid. The only bad ones were Northwestern (which beat Syracuse), Ball St. (which beat Virginia) and ULM (which beat Wake Forest).

Despite not having the best strength of schedule, Iím going with the Big XII as #4. Except for the FCS losses, every other loss was to a bowl team. North Dakota St. (one of the FCS losses; the other was Northern Iowa) probably could have been a bowl team had the Bison played in the FBS. Iím not going to pretend Maryland and Rice were very good but these are the rest of the FBS losses: Central Florida, Iowa, Oregon, LSU, Ole Miss, Missouri, and BYU. The wins were similar in strength to those of the Big Ten, who Iíd put 5th.

As mentioned, the AAC was #6, due largely to Louisville and Central Florida.

#7 is a bit of a surprise. Iím going with theSun Belt (SBC), which had a winning record in non-conference games. The only thing the Sun Belt got seriously wrong was letting in Georgia St., which lost to three FCS teams. There were a total of 12 combined losses to the SEC and Big XII, and all but a couple of those were to bowl teams. There werenít any huge wins, but the SBC represented itself well against the other conferences: 4-2 against CUSA, 3-0 against the MAC, 1-0 against the MWC, and 5-1 against independents.

Speaking of Independents, I would put theindependents apart from Notre Dame after the Sun Belt, but since theyíre not really a conference we can call them #7.5. The main reason theyíre not even higher is because Idaho, New Mexico St., and Old Dominion were included last season.

CUSA is #8. North Carolina (lost to East Carolina) and Maryland (lost to Marshall) were decent wins, but there wasnít much else to write home about. There were a very high number of losses, include two to South Alabama, which had just fully joined the FBS. There were three other losses to Sun Belt teams, three losses to MWC teams, and four to MAC teams.

#9 is the MWC. Most of Big-Five-conference opponents were in the Pac-12, but there was only the one win over Washington St. The only other FBS win was over Rutgers. There was one other win of substance by Utah St. over Northern Illinois in the bowl game, but I think that was mostly the Huskies being let down by the loss to Bowling Green for the MAC title. There were also some bad losses to Utah, Colorado, UTSA, and Texas St.

The #10 MAC only won 11 games over the FBS. It won 10 games over the FCS but lost two. Northern Illiniois beat a decent Iowa team, but the other three wins over BCS conferences were Connecticut, Virginia, and Purdue. Ohio had three wins over the CUSA, and Bowling Green had one. Also, Toledo beat Navy. Not really an impressive group of wins there.

In the comments on my blog, someone gave a website that breaks down records against teams ranked at the time, teams that finished the season ranked, wins against teams that won 7 or more, wins against teams that won 10 or more, etc.† It looks like my numbers above are accurate, at least from the ones I compared.† The only thing the site doesn't do as compared to the chart I keep is break down the matchup of one conference to another, which I think is useful in my analysis.† The site also gives an overall strength of schedule (for last season, the SEC was first and the Big XII was second), but I'm not sure how that's computed.† I think that's just averages.† I look a little bit more at the extremes: marquee wins and embarrassing losses.† I also consider who the teams are and where they fall in the conference.† There is an example this weekend when Tennessee plays Oklahoma.† That won't be a mark against the SEC if Tennessee (who was 12th in the SEC last year) loses.† It's not the same as if Alabama or Auburn were playing Oklahoma (who finished tied for second last season in the 10-team Big XII) or if Tennessee were playing Iowa St. (who finished tied for 7th with two conference wins).†

More on LSUís Start and Understanding FCS Games
Category: NCAA
Tags: APPALACHIAN ST. COLLEGE FOOTBALL EASTERN KENTUCKY FURMAN LES MILES LSU MCNEESE ST. NEBRASKA SAM HOUSTON ST. TOWSON UL-MONROE

I partly thought of some of the points of discussion below based on reading a blog from B.O.B. here.† There is a group of FCS teams that deserves respect. He singled out one of them in his blog, but I elaborate on a few more examples.† LSU used to avoid playing any FCS opponents, and I'm certainly in favor of avoiding the mediocre or bad ones, but I think it can be a really good experience to play ones that are among the best of their subdivision. So that's what I meant in the comments about the teams being better to play than the likes of Southern and Grambling.† I wasn't talking about seeking out some recruting edge.† LSU has routinely played in-state FBS opponents (they play one on Saturday, in fact), so I really don't think they're more worried about Southern and Grambling.† The better FCS teams give different looks and expose weaknesses.† I think they're more difficult to plan for in some ways.† In LSU's case, there is usually not a serious risk of losing, but all it takes is a bad game and for the FCS team to be particularly good and it could happen.† Michigan was a program in much better shape than it is now and had an otherwise successful year when it lost to Appalachian St.

Before I post my other thoughts on that topic, I gave some more thought to his divisions there.† Most of them are good, but I wouldn't put the Texas teams with the Southern California teams.† That doesn't make sense tradtionally or geographically.† The traditional teams to group together are the Pac-8.† So that's the Pac-12 minus Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona St., all of whom are much closer to Texas than the Southern California teams are. Utah is the only one that comes within a couple hundred miles of being as far.† The four relatively new Pac-12 teams also in general have more experience playing the relevant Texas teams.† I can also tell you that the Southern California teams want it the way I'm suggesting as well because they would not agree to the Pac-12 divisional alignment unless it was guaranteed they would both play all three of the other California teams every year.† I don't think they really care whether they play Arizona or Washington teams, but it even seems to me (at least if you talk to USC fans) that the Oregon opponents are a bigger deal than the Arizona ones.† Anyway, here's my regularly scheduled blog...

This isnít the main thing Iím going to write about, but I heard it after I published my blog about the LSU-Wisconsin game. Since Les Miles took over at LSU, the Tigers are 22-21 when trailing in the fourth quarter, the only team in the FBS to have a winning record during that span (apparently, they donít count the last-second loss to Clemson as ďtrailing in the fourth quarterĒ; but no one else comes close regardless). Miles is also back above the 80% mark as head coach of the Tigers. After winning 85% in his first three seasons, Milesí winning percentage had fallen to 77.3% after the 2009 season. The Tigers are attempting to finish with double-digit wins for the fifth consecutive year since then. It would be Milesí 8th overall in 10 seasons.

By comparison, Nick Saban won 75% of his games at LSU and had two double-digit-win seasons in five years, falling just short of a third on the last play of his stint at LSU. I understand Saban didnít take over a program in the same shape; but he was still considered a strong success overall, so building on his tenure is still something to be proud of. Not many coaches can step into a situation like that and improve it, so Miles deserves a good deal of credit.

I donít have too much to say about the Sam Houston St. game itself, but although LSU won extremely easily, that was not necessarily the expected result.

Ameer Abdullah's great run with 20 second left saved Nebraska from potential embarrassment.

Ameer Abdullahís great run with 20 seconds left saved Nebraska from potential embarrassment.

After the Nebraska-McNeese St. game (if you missed it, Nebraska scored the winning touchdown with 20 seconds left with the Cowboys essentially one tackle away from forcing overtime), I want to talk a bit about FCS opponents. They really vary. A number of the scores were pretty close. Of course, you also have your 70-point wins against such opponents as well.

Sam Houston St. went to the FCS championship game in the 2012 season, so they could have been among the best teams this season. I was looking at the margins Sam Houston St. won by that season. They won seven games by 35 points or more and beat Southeast Louisiana, 70-0. I think there is as much of a gap between the top and bottom of FCS as there is of FBS. Maybe Sam Houston isnít as high on the scale this season; but the team they lost to in that championship game, North Dakota St., seems to be about the same after the Bisonís 34-14 win over Iowa St. So I donít think there is a real appreciation of that.

Most people dismiss the opposition right off the bat. I know a Kansas St. fan who just assumed North Dakota St. was nothing to worry about last year, for instance. There is a general lack of appreciation of the fact that if you play a playoff-level FCS team, there is a good chance that team will be clearly better than a low-level FBS team.

One of those teams that is routinely toward the bottom of the FCS is Nicholls St. (which just lost to Arkansas , 73-7), but even they have a recent win over an FBS school. They beat Western Michigan last year, but when they played would-be bowl teams, the results were more predicable: losses to Oregon, 66-3, and to ULL, 70-7.

Anyway, Iíve noticed the quality of FCS opponents on LSUís schedule of late. The Tigers played Furman last year, and while thatís not typically one of the top FCS teams (although they are competitive in one of the top FCS conferences), they still did a decent job. LSU only led by four at halftime and didnít lead by more than 11 until less than 17 minutes remained in the game. The Paladin defense folded after that, and LSU ended up winning by 32; but that was still a better exercise than Kent St., whom LSU led 31-7 in the second quarter, or UAB, whom LSU led 35-7 in the second quarter last season. LSU let both teams back into the game a little bit before pulling away, but I donít think thatís the same kind of pressure.

In 2012, LSU blew out Idaho, 63-14, but then struggled to beat Towson, 38-22, two weeks later. Towson failed to make the playoffs that year despite only losing twice in FCS play, but they advanced to the FCS finals last year (they also lost to the Bison of NDSU) after again only losing two games in FCS play. They played no FBS opponents last season, however.

A similar combination of results took place in 2010 when LSU beat McNeese St., 32-10, after trailing in the second quarter and leading only 16-10 after halftime. The Tigers then went on to beat ULM, 51-0, later that season. LSU plays ULM next week, by the way.

LSU had only played an FCS opponent twice in the previous six seasons, both times being against Appalachian St. In the first meeting in 2005, the Tigers, who would win the SEC West, only led the Mountaineers 14-0 after three quarters before pulling away slightly in the fourth to win, 24-0. Appalachian St. at one point drove to the LSU 15 while it was still 14-0 (before missing a field goal), so the game was in doubt for a long time despite the lack of points. The Tigers had easier wins that season @Mississippi St., @Vanderbilt, @Ole Miss, and in the bowl game against Miami. LSU also blew out North Texas at home by more than twice that margin in that season.

So if I wanted to give LSU a test in a given year, Iíd pick a top-20 FCS team over a bottom-20 FBS team every time. Just something to keep in mind.

Also, McNeese wasnít the only team with a good result last week. Eastern Kentucky got the only win (over Miami U.), but there were some others that were in doubt fairly late. Stony Brook gave Connecticut all they could handle. Rutgers only beat Howard by 13. Eastern Washington was neck-and-neck with Washington the whole game, falling short by only 7 points. Southern Mississippi only beat Alcorn St. by 6, and UNLV only beat Northern Colorado by a single point.

Finally, I donít think Missouri St. made Oklahoma St. too nervous, but I thought it was interesting that the Bears only lost by 17 after the Cowboys were a touchdown short of beating Florida St. in Week 1.

By the way, LSU plays McNeese St. and Eastern Michigan next season. I would not be surprised if they had more trouble with McNeese St.

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