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Monday, December 24, 2007

Bowl Picks 5 - BCS Bowls

Complete Bowl Picks

The Matrix and the folks in Vegas don't seem agree about the BCS matchups. In most cases here, I take the side of the folks in Vegas.


Rose Bowl. Illinois vs. USC

If Illinois were to win this game, they might start next season in the top 5 and Ron Zook would be elected governor of Illinois. The only offense of note in this game is Illinois' run game which will face up against the 2nd most efficient run D in the country. The Illini, though, already beat the 3rd ranked run defense (the Ohio State). Mendenhall is as good of a runningback as any in the country and Juice is another dangerous running back who throws the ball more than most. USC, though, also touts a tough running game that now, in the form of Joe McKnight, is showing a little more explosiveness. USC is the better team and is essentially playing at home, but they don't have the fire power to put Illinois away.

The Matrix - USC by 8.3, 39.8% against the spread

Sugar Bowl. Georgia vs. Hawaii

All season, I wanted this mediocre Hawaii team to lose so they wouldn't get to this point and embarrass the non-BCS fraternity. Hawaii is undefeated because they have played the 105th toughest schedule in the nation - they beat Louisiana Tech by 1, got lucky against San Jose State and have a loss against Nevada in my unofficial record keeping. They are a better team when Colt is on the field, but who's to say Georgia won't get a couple of solid hits and knock him out of the game in the 1st quarter. And QB Colt Brennan will take his shots, because Hawaii has no running game and the Georgia lineman can pin back their ears and speed rush. Georgia's pass D is not spectacular, but it has the speed in the secondary it needs to contain Hawaii's receivers. On the other side, watch RB Knowshon Moreno to have a big game. He is in my RB top five (with McFadden, Charles at Texas, Patrick at OU, and UCF's Kevin Smith). I'm not as impressed with Georgia as others, but I think they have the speed to be where the Hawaii players are and the strength to put them down once they get there.

The Matrix - Georgia by 3.7, 33.1% against the spread

Fiesta Bowl. West Virginia vs. Oklahoma

These two teams would be playing in the national championship game but they suffered freakish upsets when their quarterbacks got knocked out. West Virginia was hit the hardest, because they lost in the very last game to a rival and because they have fewer opportunities to win titles than OU. Now, after being kicked in the gut, Rich Rodriquez has gutted the coaching staff. Pat White will have some time to recover from bruisings, but WVU, a 1-dimensional run offense, will be facing one of the nation's best run defenses. To make matters worse, by the end of the season OU's offense was as effective as as I've seen all year. QB Bradford rarely lets the ball touch the ground or an opponent, and OU's stable of NFL running backs runs through holes opened up by a dominant O-line. And Stoops is a better coach than whoever WVU will be able to pick out from the pee-wee league. Personally, I have loved watching WVU for the last two seasons and hope them the best after Rich jumped ship, so I hope they can at least keep this game close for the first half. If the game stays reasonably close, this will be the game to watch this bowl season.

The Matrix - Oklahoma by 1.2, 35.1% against the spread

Orange Bowl. Virignia Tech vs. Kansas

I agree with everyone else that Missouri, not Kansas, should be in this game. But here's why Kansas is good: QB Todd Reesing has completed more than 60% of his passes for 3200 yards. The human sledgehammer RB Brandon McAnderson has rushed for over 1,000 yards, averaging 6 yards per carry and scoring 16 times. And they have a top 10 defense in adjusted yards per play. Watching the game, I was convinced that Kansas was better than Missouri, but made rare mistakes that cost them the game (and, therefore, Missouri should be in this game). I've only watched two Hokies games in their entirety, and one of those was the slaughtering LSU put on them, so my impressions maybe skewed. But Virginia Tech's "stifling" defense has only managed to stifle two offenses worth noting (BC and Clemson) and Kansas will bring in the best offense they have seen all season. And Virginia Tech will struggle against a Jayhawk defense that has allowed fewer opponent-adjusted yards per play than the Hokies own. It is also significant that Kansas has no significant injuries. On the other hand, Kansas has won all year against inferior opponents with inferior talent and Virginia Tech's speed may be their undoing.

The Matrix - Virginia Tech by .8, 43.1% against the spread

National Champion Game. Ohio State vs. LSU

I was thinking I would make a special blog entry for this game or do something to set it apart until I remembered that I don't actually care all that much about this game. These two teams deserve to be in this game, but this season will go down with 1990 and 1984 as seasons in which a national champion was named only because we feel compelled to name a national champion - not because any team merited the title.

This hogwash about Ohio State not being able to deal with a mobile quarterback is, well, hogwash. Ohio State has a solid defense with real athletes. Only one team broke 20 against the Buckeyes this year, and Illinois (who managed 28, 32 less than Arknasas against LSU) are not similar to LSU in style. And Tressel & Co. can have the athletes to game plan in the two weeks they have running up to the game - and they can watch film on what 13 other teams have tried to stop Crowton's very undynamic offense.

The real story, in my opinion, for this game is going to be the health of LSU. Here is the injury report for LSU from NOLA.com:

Linebacker Darry Beckwith (12/3, right ankle) is probable for the BCS National Championship on 1/7 against Ohio State. Running back Trindon Holliday (12/3, ankle) is probable for the BCS National Championship on 1/7 against Ohio State. Wide receiver Early Doucet (12/3, shoulder) is probable for the BCS National Championship on 1/7 against Ohio State. Quarterback Ryan Perrilloux (12/3, finger) is probable for the BCS National Championship on 1/7 against Ohio State. Quarterback Matt Flynn (12/3, shoulder) is probable for the BCS National Championship on 1/7 against Ohio State. Defensive tackle Charles Alexander (12/3, knee) will miss the BCS National Championship on 1/7 against Ohio State. Guard Will Arnold (12/3, viral infection) is questionable for the BCS National Championship on 1/7 against Ohio State. Left tackle Mark Snyder (12/3, knee) will miss the BCS National Championship on 1/7 against Ohio State.

That's a long list and includes a lot of critical contributors. LSU has better athletes and was dominant before injury slimmed their ranks, and will win if they have their team back.

The Matrix - Ohio State by 1.9, 73.3% against the spread

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bowl Picks 4

Sun Bowl. Oregon vs. USF

Oregon at one time claimed the best offense in the country, but USF finished only scoring 10 total fewer than Oregon this season. Oregon finally found in Justin Roper a QB that had some post-Dixon success, but against USF's pass D, the real weight on offense will be carried by RB Stewart. USF held WVU to 13 points and has the potential to do the same against Oregon as well. The fate of the Bulls will lie on QB Grothe, who also leads the team in rushes and rushing yards. Oregon's run D is good enough that USF will need to have success throwing the ball (and not throwing interceptions) to win.

The Matrix - USF by 3.1, 40.4% against the spread

Music City Bowl. Kentucky vs. Florida State

Kentucky did not have a late season meltdown. They had two bad games against Vandy (which they won) and Mississippi St (and lost). They outperformed Georgia and Tennessee, but lost both of those games. Earlier in the season, Kentucky got shambloozoled by South Carolina and barely beat Louisville in far worse performances then they put up against the best teams of the SEC East late. Here are the real story lines for this game: 1) Florida State is going to need to pick up some folks from intermurals to field a team, 2) Florida State's offense could only make a mother proud (they're scoring 22 points a game), and 3) Florida State makes two many mistakes in the secondary against a quality passing team and NFL quality quarterback. Florida State is still athletic - every school in Florida, including St. Mary's Girls College, has athletes - but, much like the University of Texas, bad coaching shows up in poorly performing offenses and/or in lots of mistakes in the secondary.

The Matrix - Kentucky by 1, even odds against the spread (but it did not predict that half the Seminoles were changing grades)

Insight Bowl. Oklahoma St vs. Indiana

OSU was supposed to have the best offense in the universe, so they're probably a little disappointed to have the 28th scoring offense in the country. But they do have a very efficient offense (even in the last two games without superhuman Adarius Bowman) and have lost six games because my junior high football team could have thrown for 200 yards against the 106th ranked pass D in efficiency. Indiana and QB Kellen Lewis will have a field day, but Oklahoma St will score points as well. I think this game will come down to the fact that a less talented Hoosier team has been motivated all season by "Play 13" but not "Win the 13th", and Oklahoma State has some incredible athletes on offense that can kill you.

The Matrix - Oklahoma State by 4.8, 50.8% against the spread

Chick-fil-a Bowl. Clemson vs. Auburn

Horrible name for a bowl, but a very interesting bowl matchup all the same. Auburn's defense is as efficient as any (10th against the pass and 25th against the run), but they're offense needs improvement (although it is not as bad as it appears in unadjusted statistics). That Auburn's defense is 6th in scoring defense despite spending more time than they would like on the field is really quite impressive. Clemson plays on both sides of the ball, but is not as efficient as the raw numbers suggest - in fact, these two teams are pretty equally matched once we account for opponent strengths. This game could be decided by the first team to 10, and with a couple of key Clemson defenders ineligible for the game, Auburn has, in my opinion, a slight advantage.

The Matrix - Clemson by 2.1, 48.9% against the spread

Outback Bowl. Wisconsin vs. Tennessee

If the SEC is going to keep up this campaign that the SEC is so much better than everyone else then Tennessee really needs to win this game. Despite being the better team in terms of talent, the Vols inconsistency leaves this game open for question.

The Matrix - Tennessee by 3, 48.3% against the spread

Cotton Bowl. Missouri vs. Arkansas

Missouri was one win from playing for the national championship and instead get a middle of the pack SEC team. These are two teams that have scored points, Missouri through the air and Arkansas on the ground. Arkansas also has the 17th ranked pass D in efficiency, which should keep them in the game. If Missouri can't handle McFadden and the folks at Arkansas aren't two distracted by the arrival of Bobby Petrino, Arkansas might pull of the upset. The Matrix, though, does not see that as being too likely.

The Matrix - Missouri by 7.5, 60.7% against the spread

Capital One Bowl. Michigan vs. Florida

Poor Michigan. At least you have something to look forward to in your new coach, but the New Year won't start well for you. Not only does Florida have the most efficient offense in the country, but it also boasts the 9th most efficient Run D in the country - it could be a rough day for Mike Hart. Two things could influence the outcome of this game - 1) Tebow could have post-Heisman-itus and 2) Michigan will be healthy again, but then on the other hand, Meyer is such a better coach than the Wolverine abiss I just can't see Michigan winning.

The Matrix - Florida by 11.3, 51.6% against the spread

Gator Bowl. Texas Tech vs. Virginia

I would love to see Tech against Navy - the nation's best pass (and worst run) offense against the best run (and worst pass) offense. Tech was supposed to have a rebuilding year until Crabtree turned out to be the best receiver since Randy Moss. Virginia has been led by Chris Long to a lot of close victories in which they were outgained but somehow pulled out the W. Chris Long, though, will be neutralized against Tech who has mastered the 3 step drop and wide splits (so Chris will be starting his rush while holding the coaches hand). Of course, Tech isn't playing OU or A&M, so they will come out flat and will need to score 21 in the 4th quarter to win.

The Matrix - Texas Tech by 3.5, 44.4% against the spread

International Bowl. Rutgers vs. Ball State

That Rutgers ending the season in Canada is a sign that things in the Big East are returning to normalcy. Quite simply, Ball State is not a very good team. Only their pass efficiency is better than the national average - QB Davis has put up some decent numbers - and they will be a facing a very efficient Rutgers pass defense. Regardless, at least Ray Rice is worth watching.

The Matrix - Rutgers by 6.2, 40.9% against the spread

GMAC Bowl. Tulsa vs. Bowling Green

Only Tulsa has a winning record against BYU this year, something they can be proud of. QB Smith is second only to Tech's Harrell is passing yards but, since Tulsa also has a running game, they have led the nation in total yards. Bowling Green has essentially abandoned the whole concept of defense and will need to exploit a weak Tulsa pass D to stay in the game. These two teams might break 100 - individually.

The Matrix - Tulsa by 3.4, 48.4% against the spread

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bowl Picks 3

I apologize about the extra ads at the end of my posts. I'm not exactly sure what I did to get them there or how to get rid of them. Now, back to bowl talk:

Meineke Car Care Bowl. Wake Forest vs. UConn

Coaches Edsall and Grobe both deserve credit for leading their very small programs to relatively big-time success, but UConn’s co-championship this season is even more impressive considering that Wake’s Grobe can see more talent when he makes a trip to the grocery store than Edsall could find in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine combined. UConn has been stingy – in the top 25 in the nation in fewest interceptions (2nd), fewest total turnovers (7th), turnover margin (7th), penalty yards (23rd), and Pass D efficiency (6th) – but WVU exposed a bad run defense. I don’t think Josh Adams is good enough to exploit that weakness.

The Matrix – UConn by 2.3, 69.4% against the spread

Liberty Bowl. Mississippi St. vs. UCF

Quoting Kevin Smith’s yardage understates his achievement this season. Some may argue that the yards are overstated by his 415 rushing attempts against the nation’s 91st toughest schedule. But if Arkansas had played UCF’s schedule and McFadden had gotten those 111 additional carries, ceteris paribus, he would have finished with only 87 more yards than Smith – and McFadden is one of the more talented athletes to ever strap it up for a college football game (of course, ceteris are never paribus). The Bulldogs kept McFadden under 100 yards on 28 carries, a Herculean achievement, but have been too unpredictable this season for us to expect a similar performance against Kevin Smith.

The Matrix – UCF by 2.6, 48.9% against the spread

Alamo Bowl. Texas A&M vs. Penn State

I had the opportunity to watch the last match-up of these two teams in the Alamo Bowl and even got a live sighting of JoePa on the Riverwalk. As in ’99, Penn State is showcasing the nation’s best linebackers and one really old coach. Like the Texas team A&M beat to end the regular season, Penn State has been very efficient against the run and softer against the pass. If Penn State is not better prepared for the Aggie passing game than the Longhorns were, A&M could pull off another upset – or the Aggies might run it 30 times with their slow quarterback and not score until the 4th quarter, but that’s less likely now that Fran has packed his bags.

The Matrix – Penn St. by 3.4, 42.9% against the spread

Independence Bowl. Alabama vs. Colorado

If the Saban-overhype hasn’t killed all the momentum in Alabama, these two 6-6 teams could be powerhouses again soon. But, for now, this game is terribly uninteresting. Both teams are relatively unremarkable on both sides of the ball and very unpredictable overall. I think they’d both be best to take a tie and not risk the sub .500 season. (Some of you may remember the "Strip Play". If you don't know it, look it up - that was a defining moment of may childhood.)

The Matrix – Alabama by 3.0, 48.6% against the spread

Armed Forces Bowl. California vs. Air Force

This is the bowl season’s most lopsided match-up in terms of talent – and in terms of attitude. If Jackson and Longshore are healthy, and Tedford can play a good shrink, Cal could win another bowl game by 30+. On the other hand, Air Force is 2nd in rushing yards (behind only Navy), one of the nation’s most effective offenses (12th and 28th opponent-adjusted run and pass efficiencies), and has averaged 37 points per contest over their last 6, compared to 19 for Cal, because there is natural ability behind the execution – and if you think the MWC is devoid of talent, just watch BYU/Oregon from last year.

The Matrix – Air Force by .2, 63.8% against the spread (and unaware of Longshore’s chipped ankle)

Humanitarian Bowl. Fresno St. vs. Georgia Tech

After the beatdown Georgia Tech gave to Notre Dame to start the season, I thought Georgia Tech was again going to be a force. To their credit, only two losses came against opponents that are currently unranked. Now headless and playing on blue turf, Georgia Tech yields the emotional initiative to Fresno State, who has played many of its biggest games of the Pat Hill era on that field.

The Matrix – Georgia Tech by 3.0, 45.5% against the spread

Quote of the day: I was taking a look at The Wizard of Odds and was directed to Tim Tebow Facts. One of the many factoids it offers: "There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Tim Tebow lives in Florida."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bowl Picks 2

Hawaii Bowl. Boise State vs. East Carolina

The talk of the town is that Boise State will have a letdown in this game and started slowly after the BCS miracle last season. Obviously, these people have never been to Boise or played in the WAC. East Carolina's trips to Virginia Tech and West Virginia received much more national attention than any game Boise State has played in this season (including at Hawaii). The Pirates' Chris Johnson is a stud, averaging an opponent-adjusted 5 yards per carry, but Boise State is definitely the better team in this game.

The Matrix - Boise State by 8.8, 46.3% against the spread

Motor City Bowl. Central Michigan vs. Purdue

What a miserable bowl to be forced to play in - how can you recruit to a school where a conference championship and decent season is capped off with a trip to Detroit in late December? Central Michigan has played three BCS conference teams this years, losing by 45, 23 and 56 points. If there is greater parity in college football, it ain't coming from the MAC. We may expect a different outcome this time from the previous meeting (when Purdue won by 23) after the dismissal of Lymon, but losing an athlete for conduct detrimental is not as bad as losing a leader to injury and, in some cases, can be a real blessing if his conduct was really detrimental. The critical point is that Central Michigan plays poor pass D (114th in the nation according to the Matrix) and Purdue will throw the ball 40 to 50 times.

The Matrix - Purdue by 6, 42% against the spread

Holiday Bowl. Arizona St. vs. Texas

These are two teams that, in my opinion, are meeting at a crossroads as they move in opposite directions. Two years ago from now, Texas had one of the best college football teams the world has ever known. Arizona St was struggling on the bowl eligibility bubble. Texas is losing more recruiting battles to LSU, OU, A&M, OSU, and even Tech (but not Baylor), has placed too many athletes in Austin's prisons recently, and has lost its last 3 games against rivals A&M and OU. Texas is still among the toughest against the run, but ASU has the better overall opponent-adjusted defensive efficiency and won't be all that interested in running the ball anyway.

The Matrix - ASU by 2.5, 61.8% against the spread

Champs Sports Bowl. Michigan St. vs. Boston College

Where the Purdue/Central Michigan game is a no win situation for the Big 10 - no one's impressed when you beat the Chippewa's - the Spartans could knock off BC, the ACC runner-up and former national title contender, and win back some Big 10 pride. Don't believe the hype about Ryan and BC's efficient offense - Michigan St is more efficient on the ground and in the air than the Eagles. Michigan State could pull off the upset in a shootout.

The Matrix - Boston College by 5.3, 55.9% against the spread

Texas Bowl. TCU vs. Houston

Who's going to get excited about this game? Houston doesn't have fans and TCU fans were expecting a BCS bowl berth when the season kicked-off. Houston is headless and TCU has been stumbling around all season. When Houston has the ball, we will be seeing a top 20 offense against a top 20 defense and should be, for college football fans, fun to watch.

The Matrix - TCU by 4.8, 54.3% against the spread

Emerald Bowl. Maryland vs. Oregon State

It's been a tough year for the Terps. After losing half the starting roster and losing to North Carolina, Maryland needed 2 wins in 3 games to go bowling - and beat Boston College and North Carolina State (37-0) to punch their ticket. Oregon St. has had the nation's most efficient run defense and Friedgen needs to run the ball to take pressure off of Turner.

The Matrix - Oregon St by 5.8, 53.2% against the spread

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Bowl Picks 1

For complete bowl picks, find "Bowl Picks" under "Predictions" in the right hand menu.

Poinsettia Bowl. Utah vs. Navy

Utah's tough pass defense kept Max Hall in check and almost helped Utah pull off the upset against BYU in Provo, but that tough pass defense won't be much help against Navy. From the option. Navy leads the nation in rushing yards per game and is 120th (dead last) in D1A in passing yards. Paul Johnson's departure could leave the Midshipmen a little flat, but Niumatalolo will have the offense clicking as always - and I am jittery with anticipation to see what Johnson will be able to do at Georgia Tech. Utah, for their part, is as good as any team in the MWC right now. This may be the most interesting game left in 2007 - Navy is always fun. Expect Navy to score 30 to 40 points and Utah to score a field goal and a touchdown more.

The Matrix - Utah by 8.1, 48.2% against the spread

New Orleans Bowl. Memphis vs. Florida Atlantic

I've heard this called the least interesting bowl game of the bowl season. They are coming out of weak conferences with 5 losses a piece, and that does not get me excited. On the other hand, both teams can throw the ball, and Florida Atlantic has only held three opponents under 30 all season so it could be fun in that respect. I have seen Florida Atlantic twice all season - putting up a fight against Florida (until halftime) and beating Troy, a mid-major that has earned some respect this season. With Schnellenberger at the helm, my money is on FAU.

The Matrix - FAU by 7.1, 64.6% against the spread

PapaJohns.com Bowl. Southern Miss vs. Cincinnati

Maybe its just me, but I think this is a terrible match-up. Cincinnati is a real football team. In their last 4 games, they've beaten then #18 South Florida and #13 UConn, gave West Virginia a scare and beat down Syracuse. Southern Miss, on the other hand, lost 5 games against the 103rd toughest schedule in the country and finished 4th in their division. Their Division! This "bowl" game is nothing more than a really early preseason game as Cincinnati gets ready for next season - but Southern Miss has been as unpredictable as any team this year and just might keep the final margin in single digits.

The Matrix - Cincinnati by 17, 59.6% against the spread
Las Vegas Bowl. BYU vs. UCLA

Passing Yards: BYU 391, UCLA 126. First Downs: BYU 23, UCLA 15. Total Yards: BYU 435, UCLA 236. And BYU lost by 10. Expect the better team to win this time around. A big win here could start BYU's campaign next season for a BCS berth.

The Matrix - BYU by 3.5, 44.9% against the spread

New Mexico Bowl. New Mexico vs. Nevada
I here it is surprisingly inexpensive (relatively speaking of course) to sponsor a bowl, but this is ridiculous. Nevada has been the epitome of the balanced offense that commentators love to talk about, averaging about 250 yards running and passing a game. Their pass efficiency is among the best in the country and their rush efficiency is in the top quintile. They have lost 6 games, but most of these were against tough teams. New Mexico has also been decently tough this season and is essentially playing a home game.

The Matrix - New Mexico by 3, 50% against the spread

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Week 15 Rankings

Complete Week 14 Ratings Table Here

According to the Matrix, the national championship game already took place, in San Antonio, on Saturday, and Oklahoma won.

I mentioned yesterday how Stoops was trying to manipulate the national championship game with his vote. Well, this is how that kind of manipulation occurs statistically. It is a bootstrap technique. Missouri's rating is dependent on OU's rating because both of Missouri's losses came at the hands of the Sooners. Oklahoma's rating, likewise, depends on Missouri's, because Oklahoma's two biggest wins came against Missouri. When Missouri loses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma's stock is boosted, which lessens the penalty levied on Missouri for losing twice to them, which, again, boosts Oklahoma's stock for having beaten them, etc.

That, of course, does not mean the system is flawed. If you look at the way these two teams have performed, with the exception of Oklahoma's games against Colorado and Tech, you will not find a more impressive record in the country.

Missouri, though still #1, took a hit. Last week, it was consensus number 1 (in all three polls the Matrix generates) with huge leads over everyone but West Virginia. If West Virginia had not managed to choke as no other team has ever choked before or ever will again (Pitt is now the nation's second hottest team according to the Recent rating), Missouri would have dropped to 2 and, in fact, could have potentially dropped below Oklahoma in the Hybrid poll as well.

USC and Ohio State still sit comfortably at #1 and #2 with the nation's best defenses. Florida still has the highest performing offense, but Navy (from the wishbone, no less) is now nipping at the heels of the Gators.

The Vandals have made a strong move to the bottom of the list as the nation's worse team, claiming a title Florida International had been coveting all season. The Gophers are the worst team from a BCS conference - Brewster's really taking things a whole new direction. The amazing thing about the 1-11 season is that it should never happen. Minnesota actually has a history of success in the game, a massive student body (=fans in the stadium and revenue for financing facilities), and is in the Big 10. Ironically, Minnesota payed Brewster more per win than any other team in the country.

That is not the case with football failures SMU and Rice. They were almost competitive for years in the SWC but, like Baylor, cannot compete with the larger schools in Texas - especially since SMU can't get away with putting together the best team money can buy anymore. Despite all the talent in that fine state, Texas has three of the nation's six worst teams (with the Mean Green joining the others at 118). At the other end, Texas has no teams in the top 25 according to the Matrix.

Before moving on, I would like to congratulate Washington for scoring this season's most difficult schedule. Unfortunately, the strength of that schedule is very visible in their record this season.

I thought I would end this with a brief discussion of the rating measures you can find on the table.

Performance - A rating based only on margin of victory and opponent strength.
Potential - Based on the performance rating, but tries to take into account match-ups and "luck" that might have distorted a teams performance rating.
Elo - A rating based on wins and losses and opponent strength.
Hybrid-2 - A combined rating that takes into account the first three rating approaches.
Strength of Schedule (SOS) - this is the mean of a team's opponents' ratings. I have included it as an additional piece of information - it is not used in the calculations of any ratings.
Recent - A rating of a team's recent performance relative to its average performance - a Recent rating does not mean that a team is good, only that it is playing better than before.
Consistent - the consistency rating is read like a golf score - a low number means the team has been relatively predictable.
Efficiencies - These are relatively self-explanatory. A higher number means that a team has demonstrated a higher level of efficiency in that area.

Complete Week 14 Ratings Table Here

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Historic Rankings: 2003 - 2006

2006 Ratings
2005 Ratings
2004 Ratings
2003 Ratings

With the season beginning to wrap up, I decided it was time to start adding historic polls to the site. These polls use the same methodology that I have developed this season, but, due to a lack of data, I cannot (yet) do the potential, offensive and defensive ratings that I post for the current season. I have added a strength of schedule rating and a hybrid ranking (a slightly altered version of the combined rating). The Elo rating is the win/loss rating, but Elo just makes for a shorter name and pays homage to the fellow that developed the basic methodology that I have borrowed.

I have finished preparing results for 2003 to 2006. The results are similar to the BCS and AP final rankings. Initially, it looks like the Matrix gives less credence to bowl game outcomes than the human polls and more credit to mid-majors than the computer polls. The Matrix even had the audacity to rank Utah #1 in the performance poll for 2004 - I watched that team live several times and would have given them even odds against anyone in the country outside of the Coliseum. In fact, 3 teams were rated over 50 in the performance rating in the 4 year period - Texas 2005, Utah 2004 and USC 2004.

I have done my best to identify errors, but let me know if you find any. I am indebted to James Howell for making this data available.

Footnotes: I stumbled on this little chart - the final coach's ballot - while perusing through The Wizard of Odds. Obviously, coaches tried to sneak their team in the championship game. Beamer puts the Hokies at #2, with LSU at #1 (he couldn't put his team ahead of LSU after the beat down they gave them). And Richt put Georgia at #2 - I'd like to hear his explanation of how Georgia is more deserving than their conference champions (LSU).

But Bob Stoops wins the "I did my best to manipulate the polls and get my team in the championship game" award. First, he had the guts to put his two-loss Sooners at #1 - no surprise there. And Ohio State was #2 in the Stoops poll. Where did LSU fall? #6! No other coach ranked LSU lower. Georgia came in 8th, again among the lowest in the country. It looks to me like Stoops identified and dropped his toughest competition - to no avail.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I Think I’m Going to be Sick

I’m not a WVU fan. In fact, as a BYU alum, I hate the fact that the Big East gets an automatic BCS bowl bid while the MWC champion gets PAC-10 4/5. The largest stadium in the Big East holds 65,050 – which they borrow from the Steelers - and the mighty Panthers pack 43,000 in there for home games – not exactly big time football – but that’s not the point.

I’m not a WVU fan, but Saturday night’s loss to Pitt made me sick to my stomach. After a disastrous season of freakish upsets – not parity, but freakish upsets – I thought we just might get two one loss teams, with dynamic offenses, in the national championship game. Instead, we get the Buckeye Pansy Killers against a two loss team.

So, to avoid this kind of outcome in the future, I offer the NCAA and college football teams a few free suggestions (but I will accept donations).

1. Go Two Deep at QB

Longshore goes down - Cal loses. Dixon goes down – Oregon loses. Pat White goes down – WVU loses. Bradford goes down – Oklahoma loses. Booty goes down – USC loses. Defensive ends these days are more athletic and hit harder than ever before, and quarterbacks are more vulnerable running the spread offense. They are going to get hurt – and you need to have someone that can step up and play when that happens.

And you need to have someone that can run your offense. Jarrett Brown has his talents, but they are not the same as Pat White’s. Yet WVU kept trying to run the same offense and amassed 190 total yards. They have two running backs that are either former or future Heisman candidates in Slaton and Devine, but Brown keeps it play after play. Theoretically, Leaf also has talents (well-hidden?), but Oregon would have to run a completely different style of offense to exploit them.

So we need to start talking about depth at quarterback and realize that a team’s success over the course of the season will generally rely on its ability to overcome injuries with its second string qb. LSU won and West Virginia lost Saturday because the former has two quarterbacks while the latter has just one.

2. Give Pac-10 Coaches a Clock Management Workshop

If I’m not a WVU fan, then I’m definitely not a Cal fan, but their first of many losses still made me ill. Throw the ball away, get out of bounds, run faster than my grandmother and get the first down – just don’t get tackled in the middle of the field.

But Oregon’s blunder was even worse, because their blunder was premeditated. The game was tied. They've got first down and a chip shot field goal to win. They squatted on the ball to run off some clock and down the ball in the middle of the field. But then they run out the field goal team instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock, miss the rushed field goal, and lose in overtime (because they can’t convert on 4th and 1).

Cal managed a heroic collapse after their time-management disaster against Oregon State, and Oregon completed a three game losing streak by failing to get off a good field goal attempt against their in-state rival, Oregon State. I guess their coaches are so busy dreaming up creative offensive schemes they can't bother to worry about finishing games.

3. Hit a Field Goal

A reliable field goal kicker misses two close range attempts. The team is down by 6 (=3+3) late in the game until a safety ends any hope of a comeback. And national title hopes are lost. If Kansas’ and West Virginia’s kickers go in together, they might be able to afford the services of Blackwater USA long enough to get a chance at redemption next season.

4. Define the National Championship

The wonderful thing about college football is that every game counts. Even week 1 against Appalachian State. Any definition of a national champion that does not preserve this tradition in college football would ruin the sport.

First, this means that we should not have a tournament. If we did have a tournament this year, USC and OU (maybe Georgia) would end up playing for the national championship. USC lost twice, including at home against Stanford, and only won their conference because Dixon was attacked by a turf monster. Oklahoma lost twice on the road to Colorado and Tech. A tournament would discount those losses – and, therefore, make those games unimportant.

Second, I think it is also important to require a national champion win its conference championship. We made the mistake a few years ago of allowing Oklahoma to play for a title after getting a beat down in its conference championship game. The same goes for Georgia this year - and I don't care how well they've played recently. If we must have a tournament, allow only the 8 conference champions from the SEC, Big East, Big 10, Big XII, PAC-10, MWC, WAC, and ACC. This would have the nice externality of forcing Notre Dame to join a conference like everybody else.

A national championship game should include the two teams that have performed the best over the course of the season and also won their conference championships. This year, the natural selection would be LSU – who only lost twice, both times in 3OT and against tough competition – and Ohio State, the only one loss champion. If you lose to a team that is not bowl eligible, or lose by 25+ points, in my book, your disqualified.

5. Recognize that LSU's coaches are very mortal

First, Crowton. He was run out of Provo, and quickly after BYU becomes a power. Last year, they had one of the top 3 offenses in the country by the end of the season (just ask the Ducks). He goes to Oregon and their offense is a disaster (just ask the BYU defense). LSU picks him up - and I can only assume they did it to have a scapegoat in case they didn't win a championship. Oregon has the best offense in the world outside of Massachusetts after he leaves (until Dixon is injured), and LSU's offense is a little above average.
Bo - He had amazing success with the Blackshirts - 15 guys juiced out of their minds. Fine. At LSU, the defense is good, but their are better defenses in the country with less talent. I'm not impressed. If Nebraska fans think he will be their savior, suicide rates could be climbing over the next few years in that fine state.

and Les - Not impressed. Of course, I'm not at all impressed with Michigan and that program, either. Their football team's loss to App. State has been resoundingly outclassed by the basketball team losing to Harvard. It would be a better fit for Les at Michigan - less money, less recent succes, worse future prospects. But instead LSU offers him a raise? Ridiculous - even if he does give the world's second best press conferences (with Gundy at #1).

P.S. Shame on Pitt players and the program for dancing on the midfield logo. If Pitt actually had fans I would hope that they are embarrased for that performance.

P.P.S. The #2 curse lives on