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Statistically Speaking: October 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

College Football Delayed Reaction

I. One team that definitely enjoyed Oregon State's upset of USC was Boise State. If you'll remember, the Broncos trounced the Beavers 42-14 back on a Thursday night in September. That little computation in the computer's formula should be enough to get Boise into the BCS if they win out.

II. Congrats to Temple. The Owls won their first game since 2004 over Bowling Green this past Saturday. The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.

III. The Ohio Bobcats are 6-3 with games remaining against Eastern Michigan (1-7), Akron (3-5), and Miami of Ohio (1-8). With only 1 conference loss, Ohio, under second year coach Frank Solich, has a great chance to win the Eastern Division in the MAC. What of Solich's old team? Nebraska is also 6-3 after an upset loss at Oklahoma State. With game remaining against Missouri and Texas A&M (as well as improving Colorado), the Huskers have a real shot to finish with 5 losses. Wasn't that the kind of mediocrity for which Solich was allegedly fired?

IV. Standing at 6-3, with a home game remaining against Temple, Penn State will almost certainly finish with consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1998-1999.

V. Wake Forest i currently ranked higher than: Nebraska, Penn State, Alabama, Florida State, and Miami. Is Wake better than all those teams? Probably not, though they may be better than two. Still, what were the preseason odds on that happening?

VI. Hawaii is good. With 4 home dates left on the schedule (including games against Purdue and Oregon State), the Warriors actually stand a chance at winning 12 games.

VII. Watch out for Kentucky. Their next three games are all home dates (Georgia, Vanderbilt, and Louisiana-Monroe). Bowl eligibility and a possible 7-win regular season are in the Cats' sights.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Let's Get Bowl Eligible

Last Week: 9-5
Overall: 60-38

Texas at Nebraska
After a few Big 12 exhibitions, the Huskers get to compare themselves to the cream of the conference crop. The Huskers are bowl eligible at 6-1. but their best win is either over Kansas, Kansas State, or Iowa State--three schools that at best will go to forgettable bowls, or at worst finish with 4 or 5 wins. Until the Oklahoma game, Texas didn't have any wins to hang its hat on either (unless you're partial to Rice, North Texas, and Sam Houston). The Horns are coming off a 63-31 win against Baylor; a game in which they played only 3 quarters. A lackluster first period saw them fall behind te Bears 10-0 before flipping the switch. Nebraska's not the team they were under Osbourne or Solich for that matter, but falling behind early would not make for an ideal start.
Winner: Texas

Wisconsin at Purdue
After 3 non-descript wins over mid-major also rans, the Badgers played Michigan relatively tough in the Big House, and then fell off the national radar. Since that Michigan game, the Badgers have won 3 straight Big 10 games by an average of 34.3 points per game. True, none of the victims (Indiana, Minnesota, and Northwestern) are threats to win the league, but the Badgers offense has been dynamic rolling up 141 points in the 3 games. The offense should be licking its collective chops in anticipation of lining up against a Purdue squad currently ranked 101st in scoring defense (29.6 points per game).
Winner: Wisconsin

UCLA at Notre Dame
Is an upset bruin in South Bend? UCLA is 4-0 at home and 0-2 on the road. Ah, the wonders of inexperienced starting quarterbacks. The four teams UCLA has beaten are a combined 9-20. The two teams who have beaten them are a combined 9-4. Notre Dame is 5-1 and playing at home.
Winner: Notre Dame

Washington at Cal
After a 4-1 start, Tyrone Willingham's Huskies have hit a rough patch losing two in a row. One is excusable, a road loss at Southern Cal. The other requires a bit more explanation. At home against a 2-3 Oregon State team, the Huskies managed only 17 points as the usually proficient passing game hit some snags and the team lost 27-17. With a probable home win over Stanford left on the schedule, the Huskies simple need to win one other game out of 4 (at Cal, at Oregon, at Washington State and home against Arizona State) to reach bowl eligibility. While a win here would be nice, the reality is that a bowl bid may come down to the Apple Cup against archrival Washington State. In their 4 home games this season, Cal has not scored fewer than 42 points. They may not get that many, but at least 35 and an easy win are in store for the Bears this weekend.
Winner: Cal

Boston College at Florida State
It's late October, and based on winning percentage, Florida State is tied for the Atlantic Division basement with Maryland. Besides Miami, the Noles have defeated Troy, Rice, and Duke. We'll get a real read on how good Florida State is after this game. After playing 4 nailbiters to start the year, BC has won two games rather handily (although one was against Maine) by a combined score of 44-3. The Eagles own several quality wins (Clemson, BYU, Virginia Tech, and even Central Michigan), but all save one have come at home. Even though they are ranked below Clemson, if BC wins out they will take the Atlantic Division and play in the ACC Championship Game. After this game, they will be halfway to their division title.
Winner: Boston College

Iowa at Michigan
This game looked mmuch better 8 days ago, before the Hawkeyes got ambushed by a fired up Hoosier squad in Bloomington. Iowa has been somewhat of a disappointment this season losing at home to Ohio State in a game that was never in doubt, losing at Indiana, and playing very sluggish against some of the weaker teams on the schedule. Part of the problem for the Iowa offense has been the play of quarterback Drew Tate. After throwing 7 interceptions all of last season, Tate already has 6 this season. If Iowa is to have any chance in the Big House, Tate has to play well. The Wolverines are tops in the nation in run defense allowing just over 32 yards per game. The Wolverines will shut down the run, and it will be up to Tate to lead the Hawkeyes down the field. Ultimately, Tate and the Hawkeyes will play much better than they did last week, but will still fall short.
Winner: Michigan

Texas Tech at Iowa State
I hereby dub this game 'The Disappointment Bowl'. After a 9-3 season, Texas Tech is 4-3 with losses to TCU and an improving, but still bad Colorado team. After a 7-5 season, Iowa State stands 3-4 (0-3 in the Big 12) and is in danger of missing out on postseason play. The Cyclones 3 wins have come by 6 points or less against teams that are mediocre at best. Their 4 losses, while all to good teams, have not been close. What is prime culprit for each teams decline? After averaging over 39 points per game last year, the Red Raiders are down to 28 points per game. After averaging nearly 8 yards per pass in 2005, their average yards per pass has dropped by a full yard to 6.8 per attempt. The culprit is not completion percentage as it has slightly improved (from 66% to 67%), but yards per completion. Last season, the Red Raiders averaged about 12 yards per completion. That number is down to 10 yards this season. The Red Raiders have always utilized a short, high percentage passing attack, but this year their receivers are breaking fewer tackles and making fewer big plays. What about the Cyclones? Last year they averaged over 28 points per game. This season, that number is down to a shade over 20 per game. This includes an overtime affair against Toledo where the Cyclones managed 45 points in 3 extra periods. They have scored less than 20 in every other game except against Northern Iowa. Like Texas Tech, the culprit is the passing game. Cyclones quarterbacks threw 10 interceptions last season and already have 7 so far in 2006. So who gets out of Ames with a W and some momentum on Saturday? Take the home team.
Winner: Iowa State

Alabama at Tennessee
There are very few sure things in sports, and in life in general. But I guarantee this game will have more than the 9 combined points last year's game featured. 4 easy steps to picking the winner of this game.
1) Alabama won by 3 last year
2) Tennessee's offense is better this season
3) Alabama's defense is worse than last seson
4) The games in Knoxville instead of Tuscaloosa
Winner: Tennessee

Oregon at Washington State
In a bit of a coup, the Cougars get the Pac 10's top 3 teams (Southern Cal, Cal, and Oregon) in Pullman. Unforunately, having already lost to 2 of those teams, the Cougars appear to be on the road to pissing away that advantage, And then, gulp, they have to go on the road to return the favor next sseason. Give the Cougars credit, they do seem to be able to hold pretty good offenses down in Pullman. The Bears have averaged 39.5 points in their other games, but managed only 21 at Washington State. The Trojans averaged 30.4 points in their other 5 games, but only scored 28 at Washington State. Oregon is currently averaging 35.8 points per game. Put they down for either 21 or 24 and a hard fought Pac 10 win.
Winner: Oregon

Rutgers at Pitt
The winner of this game is a darkhorse contender for the Big East title. This is easily Rutgers biggest game since they played the first college football game against Princeton in 1869. There hasn't been much to get excited about in the following century and a quarter, but things seem to be changing in Jersey. They travel to Pennsylvania to face a Panthers team that has already surpassed last season's win total. Before the beatdown of Navy, Rutgers had struggled on the road, barely surviving North Carolina and South Florida. Pitt is the best team Rutgers has faced, and Tyler Palko is the best quarterback they have faced. Pitt gets the win and stays on track for a mid-November showdown with West Virginia.
Winner: Pitt

UTEP at Houston
The winner of this game will be Tulsa's biggest challenger in Conference USA's Western Division. The loser is likely out of title contention. Since upsetting Oklahoma State 4 weeks ago, the Cougars have lost 3 close games in a row to Miami, Louisiana-Lafeyette, and Southern Miss--alll likely bowl teams. The Miners have won 3 in a row since starting the season 1-2. If nothing else, this should be an entertaining game as both teams can put points on the board. Kudos to Mike Price and Art Briles for their respective rebuilding jobs in college fooball outposts.
Winner: Houston

South Carolina at Vanderbilt
Steve Spurrier has coached against Vanderbilt 13 times and has 13 victories. Surprisingly though, 5 times the Commodores have come within one score of upsetting Spurrier's team. In chronological order.
1987: In Spurrier's first season at Duke, the Blue Devils beat the Commodores 35-31 in Vanderbilt.
1988: The Blue Devils won 17-15 in Nashville.
1996: I watched this game as a freshman in high school as Vanderbilt played a spectacular defensive game against the eventual national champion Florida Gators before falling 28-21 in Nashville. The only team to hold the Gators to fewer points that season was Florida State (in the first game between the two).
1999: Spurrier's worst (record wise at 9-4) team in Gainesville, survived a defensive struggle in the Swamp 13-6.
2005: Spurrier's first Gamecock team held on to defeat the 'Dores 35-28 in Columbia.
Spurrier will get his 14th win over Vandy, but it won't be easy.
Winner: South Carolina

Southern Miss at Virginia Tech
Despite their reputation as giant killers, this game looked like a good mid-season break for the Hokies. Now, Beamer's boys look to be in for a real fight. Quick, what's Virginia Tech's best win? Cincinnati? Not a lot to hang your hat on. VT will get the win most expected before the season began, but it won't be easy.
Winner: Virginia Tech

Georgia Tech at Clemson
Since Florida State joined the league in 1992, only one ACC old-timer has won an outright title. And you could make the argument the winner wasn't the leagues best team that season (the Terps lost to FSU by 21 in their title season). Now barring some unforeseen events, an old-timer will at least play for the title this season. I still think Miami has a chance to win the Coastal division, especially if the Jackets fall in this game. Death Valley will be rocking with the Gameday crew in town, and the Tigers won't choke this game away like they did two years ago.
Winner: Clemson

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Rebuilding the Temple

Ask any college football analyst or casual fan who the worst team in Division IA is and the near unanimous answer you’ll get is Temple. Barring a major upset, Temple will go winless for the second season in a row. Does Temple have a prayer of being competitive in the future or should they drop football altogether? To answer that question, it’s a good idea to examine other winless programs. Since 1996, there have been 18 winless Division IA football teams. They are listed below in chronological order along with a few statistics about their winless season and what they did in the following seasons.

1996 Duke
Outscored by 19.7 points per game
Closest they came to a victory was a one point defeat at Wake Forest
The Blue Devils had a pretty tough schedule in 1996 as three of the also-rans on their schedule (Army, Navy, and Northwestern) all won at least 9 games. Since that season, not a lot has gone right. The Blue Devils have had two more winless seasons and never finished better than 4-7.

1997 Illinois
Outscored by 22.6 points per game
Closest they came to a victory was a 10 point loss to Michigan State
The Illini were not competitive at all. Their closest defeat was 10 points and they lost to a Louisville team that went 1-10. Illinois has had some success since 1997, going to a bowl game in 1999 and winning the Big 10 in 2001. However, now they appear to be back to their low-brow status having not posted a winning record since 2001.

1997 Northern Illinois
Outscored by 23 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a five point home loss to Ohio
The Huskies scored more than 14 points only once, in the aforementioned loss to Ohio. Northern Illinois has been highly successful since 1997 posting 6 winning seasons in a row from 2000-2005 under Joe Novak, including a 10-2 season in 2003.

1997 Rutgers
Outscored by 27.7 points per game
Closest they came to a victory was a two point loss at Army
Rutgers did not face a team that won more than 9 games all season and still got waxed by more almost 28 a game. They jumped to a 5-6 record in 1998 before falling back into the gutter. Then Greg Schiano came and slowly but methodically Rutgers began to improve culminating in last season’s bow appearance and this year’s 6-0 start.

1998 Hawaii
Outscored by 22.8 points per game
Closest they came to a victory was a nine point loss at Utah
Hawaii averaged about 12 points per game and never seriously threatened any team they played. Then June Jones arrived. The Warriors more than doubled their offensive output in 1999 and went to a bowl game. Since the lost 1998 season, Hawaii has had 5 winning seasons in 7 years and gone to 4 bowl games.

1998 Kent State
Outscored by 27.7 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a nine point loss to Eastern Michigan
The Golden Flashes lost at home by 14 to Division IAA Youngstown State. Since 1998, Kent State has been pretty awful, although they did post a 6-5 record in 2001. However, they are currently in first place in the MAC at 5-2 overall and 4-0 in MAC play under third coach Doug Martin.

1998 UNLV
Outscored by 21.2 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a pair of three point losses to Wyoming and at SMU
The Running Rebs lost by 34 to a 3-9 Northwestern team. Since then they have managed a bowl appearance in 2000 and a 6-6 record 2003. Other than that, it’s been slow going. Even Hall of Famer John Robinson couldn’t make the Rebs a consistent winner.

1999 Buffalo
Outscored by 26.9 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a pair of seven point home defeats to Akron and IAA Hofstra
The Bulls lost to a pair on IAA teams in Hofstra and Connecticut. The Bulls have not won more than 3 games since and have finished with 1 win three times.

1999 South Carolina
Outscored by 17.4 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a one point home loss to Vanderbilt
The Gamecocks had one of the worst offenses in recent memory scoring only 87 points for the entire year. Under Lou Holtz South Carolina would rebound quickly, going to consecutive bowl games in 2000 and 2001 before falling back to mediocrity.

2000 Duke
Outscored by 25 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a two pint loss at Wake Forest
Duke was bad in 2000 and they have been bad since.

2001 Duke
Outscored by 25.4 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a two point loss at Rice
Duke’s offense was little better in 2001 and their defense was a little worse. It adds up to pretty much the same season.

2001 Houston
Outscored by 22 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a one point loss at home to Cincinnati
The Cougars only played two teams with losing records in a relatively strong Conference USA. They improved to 5-7 in 2002, went to a bowl in 2003, regressed to 3-8 in 2004, and went to a bowl in 2005.

2001 Navy
Outscored by 14.6 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a one point loss at Toledo.
The Midshipmen actually played a number of close games, losing to Air Force by 6, Rice by 8, Rutgers by 6, Toledo by 1, and Army by 9. They hired Paul Johnson after the season and struggled through a 2-10 season in 2002 before going to 3 (soon to be 4) consecutive bowl games.

2003 Army
Outscored by 20.8 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a four point loss at Cincinnati
The Black Knights have the worst record of any team on this list finishing up at 0-13. They hired Bobby Ross after this debacle and have improved each succeeding season )2-9 in 2004, 4-7 in 2005, and 3-4 so far in 2006).

2003 SMU
Outscored by 21 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a two point loss at home to UTEP
In 12 games, the Pony Express scored in single digits 5 times. Phil Bennett has improved the Mustangs’ fortunes each season since and they have a chance to finish bowl eligible this year.

2004 Central Florida
Outscored by 17 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a two point loss to Northern Illinois
In George O’leary’s first season, the Golden Knights were a hard luck 0-11. They were 0-4 in games decided by 8 points or less. In 2005, they were 4-1 in such games and finished 8-5. At 2-4 in 2006, a bowl game will be hard to come by, but the Knights are still in much better shape than they were in 2004.

2005 New Mexico State
Outscored by 22.3 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a one point loss to Idaho
In Hal Mumme’s first season, the conversion from option attack to air raid fun n’ gun was tough. The Aggies averaged only 16.5 points per game. Thus far in 2006, the Aggies are only 2-4, but they are averaging 32 points per game and are much more competitive.

2005 Temple
Outscored by 35.5 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a three point loss to Western Michigan
Temple was easily the worst winless team in a decade last season. The offense and defense were equally bad

Now, what about this year’s Temple squad? The Owls are 0-7 and have been outscored by 37.9 points per game. Their closest game was a six point OT loss to Buffalo on August 31st. The Owls have been dominated in every game since. So is there any hope for Temple? You bet. The Owls are set to join the MAC next season. The MAC is hardly a BCS conference and has its share of bottom feeders, so Temple won’t have to play Louisville, Minnesota, and Clemson on a regular basis as it has had to do this season. Secondly, the Owls have a new coach in Al Golden. While it remains to be seen how good Golden is, the biggest reason for the Phoenix-like rise of the winless teams on this list is coaches. June Jones, Lou Holtz, George O’Leary, Bobby Ross, Greg Schiano, and Hal Mumme are a few examples of good coaches who helped raise these teams to respectability and more. So while things may look dire this season, especially if Temple continues to be dominated by every team it plays, winless teams have nowhere to go but up, and have proven that a turnaround can happen even in the most unlikeliest of places.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Blog Poll Week VIII

1 Ohio State-- #1 until further notice (LW 1)
2 Michigan-- late screen pass by Penn State notwithstanding, that defense was quite impressive (LW 4)
3 Southern Cal-- gotta crush some of those inferior opponents (LW 2)
4 Louisville-- survived a big scare against Cincy (LW 5)
5 Texas-- anyone else shocked Baylor went up 10-0? me too. anyone else worry? me neither. (LW 6)
6 Auburn-- big win to stay alive in the SEC (LW 11)
7 Florida-- Leak didn't fumble (LW 3)
8 Tennessee-- quietly sneaking around should the Gators stumble (LW 7)
9 Cal-- waiting on the Trojans (LW 8)
10 Arkansas-- peaking I do believe (LW 19)
11 West Virginia-- when do they play anybody? (LW 9)
12 Clemson-- adding to Temple's woes (LW 10)
13 Notre Dame-- be wary of the Bruins (LW 12)
14 LSU-- scored over 40 in every game except the 2 big ones (13 combined in those) (LW 15)
15 Georgia Tech-- can they continue their roll in Death Valley? (LW 16)
16 Nebraska-- leg up in the North race (LW 14)
17 Pitt-- big game against Rutgers this week (LW 23)
18 Wisconsin-- only loss in The Big House (LW 25)
19 Oregon-- chance for consecutive 10-win seasons (LW 21)
20 Rutgers--whipped Navy (LW 24)
21 Oklahoma-- how will they do without AP? (LW NR)
22 Boise State-- game against New Mexico State much more entertaining than the NFL game at the same time (LW 22)
23 Texas A&M-- big win against Missouri (LW NR)
24 Missouri-- still alive to win the North (LW 18)
25 Boston College-- dominated Virginia Tech (LW NR)

Dropped out:
13 Iowa-- inexcusable loss to Hoosiers
17 Georgia-- matter of time before Steve Martin got Vandy a big win
20 Virginia Tech-- no good wins

Creeping around:
Wake Forest-- bowl-eligible before Halloween
Miami-- offense terrible, but defense still good
Hawaii-- losses to Boise and Bama

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Lines of the Night 10/14

After a brief hiatus the lines of the night are back. Get excited.

Quarterback

Pat White, West Virginia
Passing: 12-19 passing, 97 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception
Rushing: 14 attempts, 235 yards, 3 touchdowns

What he lacked in the air, White certainly made up for on the ground in helping the Mountaineers thrash the Orange. As a team, West Virginia ran for over 400 yards and averaged over 10 yards per carry.

Running Back

Javarris James, Miami (Fla)
Rushing: 11 attempts, 36 yards, 0 touchdowns
Receiving: 1 catch, -1 yards, 0 touchdowns

Cousin of Edgerrin and starting running back for Da U, put up these numbers, not against the Ohio State Buckeyes, but against Florida International. As a team, Miami rushed for 91 yards and averaged 3.3 per carry.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State
Rushing: 0 sttempts, 0 yards, 0 touchdowns
Receiving: 13 catches, 300 yards, 4 touchdowns

That's not a misprint. 300 yards. Bowman's 4 touchdowns went for 64, 55, 54, and 25 yards respectively. After spotting the Jayhawks a 17-0 lead, the Cowboys came alive early in the 3rd quarter outscoring Kansas 42-15 from then on.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Shake-Off Saturday

This week presents several teams the opportunity to shake off tough defeats (Wake Forest, Michigan State, Oregon, Fresno State, Auburn, etc.) from last week and possibly turn their season around.

Last Week: 8-6
Overall: 51-33

Wake Forest at NC State
After playing flawless football for 3 quarters the Deacons imploded against Clemson beginning with a bad snap on a field goal that led to a fumble return for a touchdown. What will the Deacons psyche be after such a tough and harrowing loss? We'll find out very early on Saturday as kickoff is set for Noon EST. On the other side of the field, NC State has won two in a row after a shaky start. Chuck Amato made the bold decision of replacing veteran Marcus Stone with freshman Daniel Evans. The results have been dramatic. Under Stone, the Pack own a listless victory over Appalachian State, a home loss to Akron, and a road loss to Southern Miss. With Evans under center, the Pack have knocked off Boston College and Florida State at home. After their poor start, the Pack actually control their own destiny in the ACC race. They'll win a close won against a somewhat disheartened Wake Forest squad.
Winner: NC State

Iowa State at Oklahoma
After back to back 7-5 seasons, I have to say I was expecting more from the Iowa State Cyclones. With their quarterback, running back, and number one receiver returning I thought they would be in contention for the Big 12 North title. Thus far, the Cyclones are 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12. Their victories are over Toledo (2-4), UNLV (1-4), and Northern Iowa (non-Division IA). To be fair, their losses have all come to good teams (Iowa, Texas, and Nebraska), but against those bad to mediocre teams, Iowa State is winning by razor thin margins. Those 3 wins have come by a combined 9 points. Maybe they put it all together and beat a humbled Oklahoma team. Maybe, but I doubt it.
Winner: Oklahoma

Rutgers at Navy
A few seasons ago this battle between teams in the dumpster would have allowed the winner to finish with 3 wins and the loser with 2. Now the winner of this game will be bowl eligible before Halloween. Both Schiano and Johnson have done a fine job in rebuilding these atrocious programs (Johnson got things done a little faster). If you get the chance, you may want to check this game out. You may see about 500 combined yards rushing. Navy leads the nation in rushing offense (over 350 per game) and Rutgers is 10th (over 208 yards per game). Amos Alonzo Stagg would love this battle in the trenches.
Winner: Navy

Ohio State at Michigan State
A win here would turn Sparty's entire season around. Since opening the season 3-0, in typical Sparty fashion, Michigan State has now lost 3 straight including blowing a large fourth quarter lead against Notre Dame and getting beaten at the gun by lowly Illinois. In cases like this, one has to blame the coaches. Its not like the Spartan players all have polio. There is talent on this roster. Will it come together and upset the number one team in the country in East Lansing on Saturday? Doubtful.
Winner: Ohio State

Missouri at Texas A&M
Last week Missouri opened up a 24-0 lead on Texas Tech in Lubbock only to see the red Raiders cut the lead to 3 in the second half. How did the Tigers respond? By scoring the last 14 points of the game to win going away. Now they face their second tough road test in as many weeks. Last week, the Aggies got a much needed road win over a solid (especially at home Kansas team). Now the Aggies seek to become bowl eligible and get themselves back in the Big 12 South race. The difference in this game will be 3rd downs. Missouri converts 3rd downs at a fantastic rate (nearly 53%, good for 6th in the nation). Texas A&M is 7th nationally in 3rd down defense holding teams to a 27% conversion rate.
Winner: Texas A&M

UCLA at Oregon
After a flukish 10-2 season, UCLA is quietly humming along under the radar with a solid 4-1 start. Unfortunately, with an inexperienced quarterback, the Bruins are not road tested having lost their only road contest to the Washington Huskies. Starting your second ever road game in Autzen Stadium is not an enviable task for UCLA quarterback Ben Olson. The Ducks will capitalize on several Olson turnovers and send the Bruins back to hibernation.
Winner: Oregon

Cal at Washington State
Since soiling themselves on national television against Tennessee, Cal has been nothing short of spectacular scoring over 40 points in each of their last 5 games. Not surprisingly, the Bears are 5-0 in those games and have won by no fewer than 21 points. Be wary of the Cougs at home though. Two weeks ago, they gave the Trojans all they could handle in Pullman. They'll do the same to Cal. The Bears won't get to 40, but they'll stay undefeated in Pac 10 play.
Winner: Cal

Hawaii at Fresno State
As detailed earlier this week, The Bulldogs have struggled mightily since pushing the Trojans to the limit 11 months ago. At 1-4, they are in serious jeopardy of missing out on postseason play. Both sides of the ball bear equal blame for the Bulldogs struggles. The offense ranks 80th in points per game and the defense 78th in points allowed per game. On offense, the prime culprit is sophomore quarterback Tom Brandstater who is completing about 50% of his passes. On defense, there are multiple culprits. Now a confident Hawaii squad rolls into Silicon Valley with a 3-2 record and an outside chance at winning the WAC if Boise stumbles. In an unusual occurrence, the Warriors have become road warriors this season. They haven't won on the road yet, but their losses have been to Alabama (4-2) by 8 and Boise State (6-0) by 7. Unfortutnately, those road travails will continue. The Bulldogs will pull out a close game and get back on track (a little).
Winner: Fresno State

Florida at Auburn
Despite one of the nation's toughest schedules, Florida stands 6-0 with wins over Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, and Kentucky (better this year) already in their back pocket. Auburn comes into this game fresh off an embarrassing performance in a home loss to Arkansas. A loss here would pretty much doom any BCS and conference title hopes for Auburn. A loss for Florida would probably end their national title hopes (maybe Meyer would jump on the playoff bandwagon), but with the aforementioned victory over Tennessee they have the tiebreaker over their closest rival. The hostile environment and increasingly difficult schedule will finally get to the Gators.
Winner: Auburn

Arizona State at Southern Cal
Excluding Houston Nutt, this has not been a good season for former Boise State head coaches. Dan Hawkins is winless at Colorado and Dirk Koetter is winless in the Pac 10 at Arizona State. Not only is Koetter winless, but the Sun Devils have been outscored by 28 and 35 points respectively in their 2 conference games. Things won't get better this week with a pissed off Trojans team that has struggles somewhat in its last two games. The Trojans rout the Sun Devils and gain some much needed style points.
Winner: Southern Cal

Maryland at Virgina
Who's afraid of Virginia? No one really. Absent the 37-0 beat down of Duke, the Cavs have lost to Pitt, Western Michigan, Georgia Tech, and East Carolina. Their other win was a one point defeat of Wyoming. Remember when Al Groh was set to take UVA to the level of Florida State and Miami. Well, he's almost there. The Noles and Hurricanes are both 3-2. Give him another year or two and he'll have the Cavs back to ACC mediocrity. Speaking of mediocrity, whatever happened to Ralph Friedgen--offensive genius. The Terps haven't scored 30 points in 8 games, and 3 of the games in the interrim have been against William and Mary, Middle Tennessee, and Florida International. The Terps won't get 30, but they will get their fourth win of the season.
Winner: Maryland

Army at Connecticut
In they didn't blow the opener to Arkansas State and then inexplicably get blown out by Rice two weeks ago, the Knights would be 5-1 and in prime position for a bowl bid. As it stands, they are 3-3 and still have a decent shot at going to a bowl. To get their, they must win this game against a disappointing Connecticut team. The Huskies are 2-3 and have been blown out by the likes of Navy and South Florida. Now truth be told, those are solid teams, but BCS teams should not lose to Navy by 24 points at home.
Winner: Army

Kentucky at LSU
Don't laugh, this game will be tougher than you think for the Tigers. The Wildcats have a solid offense, but unfortunately for them, this game is in Baton Rouge and not Lexington. Kentucky is still fighting for bowl eligibility and with games left against Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Louisiana-Monroe they certainly have a shot. Still a win here would do wonders for their bowl hopes. LSU has lost both their road games, but at home they are just bludgeoning teams, winning by no fewer than 31 points. The difference won't be that large here, but 3 touchdowns seems about right.
Winner: LSU

Michigan at Penn State
Can the Nittany Lions ruin the nation's hopes for an undefeated matchup of Buckeyes and Wolverines in late Novemeber? Penn State has not beaten Michigan in a decade (1996) going 0-7 in that span. But, Happy Valley will be rocking Saturday night. But. Mario Manningham will miss the game. Against my better judgement, I'll go with Penn State to get a modicum of revenge in ruining Michigan's perfect season as the Wolverines did to the Lions last year.
Winner: Penn State

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Blog Poll Week VII

1 Ohio State--'only' beat Bowling Green by 28 (LW 1)
2 Southern Cal-- different team without Dwayne Jarrett (LW 2)
3 Florida-- if they beat Auburn this week, will be #2 (LW 6)
4 Michigan-- Super Mario out against Penn State (LW 4)
5 Louisville-- rolling along (LW 5)
6 Texas-- 2 in a row for Mack (LW 8)
7 Tennessee-- hung 51 on a good defense (LW 12)
8 Cal-- Pac 10 silver medalist (LW 13)
9 West Virginia-- flying under the radar (LW 9)
10 Clemson-- lucky to survive Groves Stadium (LW 10)
11 Auburn-- no one saw that coming (LW 3)
12 Notre Dame-- beat a bad Stanford team (LW 15)
13 Iowa-- nice bounce back over Purdue (LW 16)
14 Nebraska-- won easily in Ames (LW 18)
15 LSU-- lost both games against teams with a pulse (LW 7)
16 Georgia Tech-- is this the year they avoid the bad loss? (LW 19)
17 Georgia-- 2 special teams TDs and the lose by double digits (LW 11)
18 Missouri-- North favorites? (LW 21)
19 Arkansas-- 33 to 1 odds to win the SEC in July (LW NR)
20 Virginia Tech-- hard to get a read on the Hokies this year (LW 20)
21 Oregon-- not even close against Cal (LW 14)
22 Boise State-- half way to unbeaten season (LW 23)
23 Pitt-- bounced back since loss to Spartans (LW NR)
24 Rutgers-- tough game against Navy this week (LW 24)
25 Wisconsin-- rolling along without Alvarez (LW NR)

Dropped out:
17 Oklahoma-- Stoops' troops lost two in a row in the shootout
22 Florida State-- how the mighty have fallen
25 Washington-- acquitted themselves in LA, but Badgers, Panthers, and Hogs had big wins so they fall out

Creeping around:
Navy-- showdown with Rutgers this weekend
Wake Forest-- need to rebound against rejuvenated NC State team
BYU-- Cougs probably win Mountain West

Monday, October 09, 2006

College Football Delayed Reaction

I. I don't know that I've ever been more emotionally invested in a game than the one I was at Saturday. Through 3 quarters my Deacons could do no wrong, and then on the first play of the 4th quarter it all went away faster than the career of Men Without Hats. Hopefully the teams emotional status is better than mine with a tough road game against a seemingly rejuvenated NC State squad this weekend.

II. Speaking of NC State, are they a different team under Evans or is their 2-0 conference start a fortuitous combination of luck (Boston College) and emotion (NC State always gets up for FSU)?

III. What has happened to Fresno State? With their loss to Utah State (1-5) the Bulldogs drop to 1-7 since nearly shocking the world in Los Angeles last November.

IV. Congrats to Louisiana-Lafayette. In a win that definitely flew under the radar the Rajun Cajuns defeated Houston 31-28 (in Houston) to run their record to 3-2. Since becoming head coach in 2002, Ricky Bustle, has helped the Rajun Cajuns improve their winning percentage each season, culminating with their 6-5 Sun Belt Co-Championship last season. Don't expect them to compete with the big boys any time soon (witness their beatdowns to LSU and Texas A&M to start the year), but beating a team on the road that came within one point of beating Miami in the Orange Bowl is a pretty big deal for the Sun Belt favorite.

V. The NCAA's best coach (Paul Johnson) has Navy sitting at 5-1 after a victory over Air Force. The Midshipmen are a missed extra point away from being unbeaten. The talent differential is probably too great for the Mids to hang with Notre Dame, but no coach in the country gets more out of his players than the Navy head man.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

October Fest

The first Saturday in October brings fans of college football a glut of quality action. Key conference games could eliminate some teams (LSU and Iowa) from contention while serving as springboards (Wake Forest and Missouri) for others.

Last Week: 8-6
Overall: 43-27

Arkansas at Auburn
Both these teams enter the game undefeated in the SEC. However, a quick glance at point differential will reveal the better team. In two conference games, Arkansas has outscored its opponents by 3 points. In three conference games, Auburn has outscored its opponents by 45 points. The Tigers also have a win over perhaps the conference's second best team (LSU) in their back pocket. A win here sets the Tigers up for a national title shot as they only have to leave the state of Alabama once more before a possible SEC Championship Game appearance. Both teams want to pound the ball with quality backs, but while Arkansas starts a true freshman, Mitch Mustain, at quarterback, Auburn counters with experience in Brandon Cox. For Arkansas to have a shot, they must win the turnover battle. However, the Hogs are last in the NCAA having forced only one turnover all season. Brandon Cox will avoid making mistakes and the Tigers will win rather easily.
Winner: Auburn

Penn State at Minnesota
This game will go a long way towards determining how good these teams are. Neither team has a real impressive win (Kent State, Temple, Akron, Youngstown State, and Northwestern rresent the sum of their scalps), and each team has faltered against superior competition. Since throwing 3 touchdowns against Akron on Labor Day Weekend, Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli has managed just 1 touchdown pass on the year. That does include one game against Ohio State, but also contests against Notre Dame, Youngstown State, and Northwestern--teams with pourous at best defenses. Minnesota has been doing what they always do under Glenn Mason--run the football. They rank 15th nationally in rushing offense averaging over 200 yards per game. The Gophers will continue to do what they do under Mason--beating mediocre conference opponents at home. In Mason's tenure, the Gophers are 18-5 at home against conference opponents with 7 wins or less. Make it 19-5.
Winner: Minnesota

Clemson at Wake Forest
This is easily the biggest game for Wake Forest football during my fanhood. Wake is 5-0, but is without the quarterback and running back they began the season with. A relatively soft early schedule coupled with a defense that returned 10 starters has the Deacons at 5-0 for the first time since 1987. This weekend, they get possibly the ACC's top team in Groves Stadium, a place that has been a house of horrors for Clemson recently (lost last 2 there). Unfortunately, the Deacs are a bit out of their league in this game. Their only hope is to dramatically win the turnover battle (+3 or more) and take advantage of some likely Clemson special team's gaffes. In other words, the only way Wake wins if if Clemson pulls a George Strait and just gives it away.
Winner: Clemson

Purdue at Iowa
Believe it or not, Purdue still has an outside shot at the Big 10 title. They avoid both the heavyweights, Michigan and Ohio State, this season. Already standing 1-0 in conference play, the only thing separating Purdue from a trip to Pasadena is an atrocious defense. But hey at least its consistent. The Boilers have allowed 35, 31, 28, 21, and 35 points in their five games this season. Expect at least 31 more in this game. Iowa has not been the top-10 caliber squad many expected this season, but they are good enough to take out Purdue at home.
Winner: Iowa

Washington at Southern Cal
Things are looking up in Tyrone Willingham's sophomore campaign. The Huskies have already doubled last season's win total and exceeded the total for the past two seasons. Saturday though, they will find out just how far they have left to go. The Trojans got tested last week in Pullman, and will be playing just their second home game on Saturday. The offense is far from the uber-touchdown machine it was last year, but the defense has improved dramatically. Last year's dynamic offense masked most of the defenses struggles. Consider this: Last season, the Trojans held one team to 10 points or fewer (Cal). This year, they've already held two teams to 10 points or fewer. Make it 3.
Winner: Southern Cal

LSU at Florida
We'll learn a lot about the Tigers after this weekend. They have crushed all their opponents thus far save Auburn. Those four wins have come against Arizona (2-3), Louisiana-Lafayette (2-2), Tulane (1-3), and Mississippi State (1-4). In addition, all those wins have come at home. In their lone road trip, the Tigers stumbled in a defensive struggle at Auburn. Conversely, the Gators have done two things the Tigers have yet to do.
1) beat good teams--Tennessee and Bama, and heck even Kentucky and Southern Miss
2) win on the road--Tennessee
Still, I think Vegas has it right in making LSU the favorite. The Tigers have a stout fast defense that will shut down the Gators spread option attack.
Winner: LSU

Texas versus Oklahoma at Dallas
Texas has destroyed every team it has played save for Ohio State. Their best scalp thus far has been Iowa State (3-2, but 3 wins by a combined 9 points over Toledo, UNLV, and Northern Iowa). Oklahoma on the other hand has occasionally looked less than impressive in winning (by 7 over a 2-3 UAB team) and lost a tough road contest that they may not have lost had rules been interpretted correctly. In their most recent scrimmage, the Sooners looked like the vintage 2000-2004 version in stomping Middle Tennessee State 59-0. This should be one of the more competitive Red River Shootouts in recent memory. I'll give the nod to the boys from Norman believing they have something to prove after the Oregon debacle.
Winner: Oklahoma

South Carolina at Kentucky
If ever a game had trap written all over it, this is it. Fresh off a nationally televised near win over the #2 team in the country, the Gamecocks head to Lexington where Kentucky has yet to lose this season. In addition, the last 3 games between these teams in Lexington have all been close with South Carolina taking each one (20-17 in 2000, 16-12 in 2002, and 12-7 in 2004). Let's also not forget that those bookend Kentucky teams (2000 and 2004) were awful (both 2-9). The Cats have been able to put points on the board this season, especially at home where they have yet to score fewer than 30. Quarterback Andre Woodson has been particularly efficient this season completing better than 60% of his passes and tossing 14 touchdowns against 2 interceptions. I think the Cats eek out a win here. I'm not extremely confident in picking the winner, but I'm pretty confident the over is a pretty safe bet in this game.
Winner: Kentucky

Tennessee at Georgia
The last in a glut of key SEC games this weekend. Georgia has been this season's Alabama--scraping by in each game thanks to a great defense and equally inept offense. Pair DJ Shockley or David Green with this defense and the Dawgs would be national championship contenders. As it stands, most are just waiting for the inevitable--a game where Georgia's defensive prowess simply cannot overcome its poor offense. This is that game. After a one year hiatus, Tennessee is back.
Winner: Tennessee

Michigan State at Michigan
If this is truly the Michigan State team we all know and love, there are only two possible outcomes to this game.
1) Sparty comes out strong and hangs on to stun Michigan ending their national and possibly their Big 10 title hopes.
2) Sparty comes out strong and chokes away a chance for a marquee upset win.
Amazingly, I think Michigan wins this game rather handily. Losing at home to Illinois is simply inexcusable. The Wolverines will roll here.
Winner: Michigan

Oregon at Cal
After everyone wrote them off following their disastrous opener in Knoxville, the Bears have won 4 straight and have scored at least 41 points in each game. After winning the controversial Oklahoma game, the Ducks went into the desert and dismantled the Arizona State Sun Devils. In this battle for the pac 10 silver medal, take the home team.
Winner: Cal

Missouri at Texas Tech
Are the Tigers for real? The next two weeks will let us know. They travel to Texas Tech this week and then to Texas A&M next week. A sweep and they are North Division favorites. A split, and they're in the conversation. A sweep, and well, Shreveport is nice this time of year. The key here will be how well Missouri performs on third down. They have been absolutely deadly so far this season converting over 52% of their 3rd downs (9th nationally). In their lone road trip, the Tigers were tested by a mediocre at best New Mexico team. I'm tempted to take the Red Raiders, but they just don't seem to be as strong as they were last season.
Winner: Missouri

Nebraska at Iowa State
Maybe the Black Shirts aren't back just yet. Nebraska got shredded by Kansas in the second half and nearly blew a big lead...at home. Now they go on the road for only the second time all season. Iowa State has treated its home fans to 3 thrillers thus far. They beat Toledo by 2 in triple OT, UNLV by 6, and Northern Iowa by 1. Under Callahan, Nebraska is 3-7 on the road. Iowa State has won their last 2 home games against the Huskers. In a mild upset, they make it 3 in a row.
Winner: Iowa State

Washington State at Oregon State
This may be the most important game of the season for both these teams (excluding the Apple Cup and the Civil War). The winner is likely bowl bound, and the loser is likely home for the holidays. Washington State particularly needs this game, as another bowl-less season would make 3 in a row. They'll be one step closer to bowl eligibility after this weekend.
Winner: Washington State

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Revised Similarity Scores: Pitt

The team similarity scores have been revised thanks to some input from Sam. As always if you have any suggestions feel free to let me know in the comment section. The new methodology is detailed at the end of this post. The team I'm going to examine today is a team that both I and Phil Steele believed to be a Big East sleeper in the preseason: the Pitt Panthers.

The most similar teams to Pittsburgh (2006) from last season--similarity score in parentheses and final record following

1. Michigan State (861.2) 5-6
2. Oregon (839.4) 10-2
3. Nebraska (802.2) 8-4
4. Kansas State (793.2) 5-6
5. Minnesota (684.4) 7-5
6. Colorado (681.6) 7-6

Michigan State may be the most similar team, but I wouldn't expect Pitt to end the season with a losing record. For all the absurd supernatural and endemic qualities sportswriters tend to assign to teams, I think they are on to something in the case of the Spartans. Michigan State seems to just not be able to rebound from tough defeats whether the coach is John Smith, Bobby Williams, or Nick Saban. I don't think they are bound for Oregon near-BCS territory (not with both Louisville and West Virginia left on the schedule), but I think Nebraska is a pretty good comp. A regular season finish of somewhere between 7-5 and 9-3 depending on how well they play on the road seems about right.

Here's the methodology.

1. Start with 1000 points

2. Through 'x' number of games take the difference in winning percentage multiply by 1000 and subtract from 1000example: Team A is 4-0 and Team B 3-1, then the difference in winning percentage would be 1-.75=.25, multiplying this by 1000=250, subtract this number from 1000

3. Multiply the difference in points scored per game by 3 and subtract this amount (similar teams should score similar amounts)

4. Multiply the difference in points allowed per game by 3 and subtract this amount (similar teams should allow a similar amount of points)

5. Multiply the difference in average opponents' Sagarin Rating (I think its a pretty good measure of schedule strength) by 2 and subtract this amount

6. Subtract the difference multiplied by 1000 in previous year's record (we need to know how good the team's were in the previous season)

7. Subtract the difference multiplied by 1000 in previous year's Pythagorean Winning Percentage (a better indicator of team strength than actual record)

8. The remaining points are the teams' similarity score (the higher the better)

The home/road inequality has been eliminated in order to increase the sample of possible similar teams. I think similar record is more important than similar schedule when prospecting forward.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Blog Poll Week VI

1 Ohio State-- new number 1 after their relatively easy win in Iowa (LW 2)
2 Southern Cal-- Kirk Herbstreit almost got it right (LW 1)
3 Auburn-- held the ball the entire 3rd quarter against South Carolina (LW 3)
4 Michigan-- the Dome is their second home (LW 4)
5 Louisville-- blowout in the Cards this weekend (LW 5)
6 Florida-- two toughest games come the next two weeks (LW 6)
7 LSU-- wouldn't be surprised if they walked out of The Swamp with a win (LW 7)
8 Texas-- Red River Shootout (LW 8)
9 West Virginia-- slowly moving up (LW 12)
10 Clemson-- ACC's best team (LW 15)
11 Georgia-- they play some defense (and thank goodness), because the offense is pretty bad (LW 10)
12 Tennessee-- big game in the conference race at Athens (LW 13)
13 Cal-- battle for second in the Pac 10 this week (LW 14)
14 Oregon-- rolled over the Sun Devil's defense (LW 19)
15 Notre Dame-- let's give Quinn the Heisman for schredding one of the worst defenses in Division I (LW 15)
16 Iowa-- still have a chance for a very good season (LW 11)
17 Oklahoma-- Adrian Peterson is the reason God made Oklahoma (LW 20)
18 Nebraska-- vaunted Husker defense struggled against a mediocre at best Kansas O (LW 18)
19 Georgia Tech-- impressive victory over Virginia Tech, now which winnable game (Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, or Duke) will they blow (LW NR)
20 Virginia Tech-- warning signs were there (LW 9)
21 Missouri-- deadly on third down (LW 17)
22 Florida State-- need to get ahold of some Amato Gellato (LW 22)
23 Boise State-- impressive win over Utah, but I just think teams ahead of them are better (LW 25)
24 Rutgers-- will Schiano bolt after the season? (LW NR)
25 Washington-- same record as Notre Dame (LW NR)

Teams that dropped out:
21 Michigan State-- meltdown on
23 TCU-- BCS hopes dashed
24 Texas A&M-- why did they fire RC Slocum?

Teams creeping around:
Wake Forest-- in with a win this weekend
Wisconsin-- haven't missed a beat so far
Arkansas-- big game against Auburn this weekend
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