Here we are in early November, and finally the Big East has played enough conference games to get a decent idea about how their teams are faring. There is a surprise contender in the mix, which we'll get to in a second. In addition, in this week's SDPI mid-season report, we'll preview the titanic clash of mid-majors in the Mountain West and see if either Hawaii or Nevada has a ghost of a chance at knocking off Boise in the WAC. How did the SDPI ratings do in handicapping the Big 10, Big 12, and Pac-10 last week? They did pretty well overall (12-4) and ATS (9-6-1), but missed on predicting the biggest games, calling for Michigan State to upset Iowa and Southern Cal to end Oregon's unbeaten reign. Next week, we'll finish our mid-major rounds with Conference USA, the MAC, and the Sun Belt SDPI ratings.
Big East The Cuse is Loose
The surprise contender at the top of the Big East standings is none other than the Orange of Syracuse University. The Orange have 3 Big East wins this season. That is the same number of league games they won in 4 seasons under Greg Robinson. Doug Marrone better clear off his mantle for some postseason awards. After all, who in their right mind would have predicted a bowl appearance for the Orange? How are the Orange doing it? Actually, according to the SDPI numbers they have regressed a bit in their down-to-down performance. Last year the surprisingly boasted the second best defense in the league, but paired that with the sixth ranked defense. This year, both the offense and defense have gotten a little worse, the offense is still sixth, but the defense has fallen to third. So how are the Orange winning? Turnovers. Last season, Syracuse, committed 18 turnovers in their 7 Big East games (thanks Greg Paulus), and forced only 9 turnovers for a league-worst margin of -9. This season, the Orange have protected the ball a little better, committing only 8 turnovers through 4 games. However, they have also already forced 8 turnovers for an even turnover margin. In fact, the Orange have in the proverbial turnover black in their 3 league wins (+4), and their loss to Pitt represented their only game in the red (-4).
Here are the Big East standings through Saturday's games.Now here are the SDPI standings. Overall rank in Offense, Defense, and Total SDPI is parentheses.Cincinnati-The Bearcats are in danger of missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2005 despite their solid SDPI numbers thanks to a -5 turnover margin in Big East play.
Connecticut-The win over West Virginia may have done wonders for morale, but the Huskies appear to be the worst team in the conference.
Louisville-Welcome back to the land of the living. Hard to believe a split in their final two games would put Louisville in a bowl for the first time since 2006.
Pittsburgh-Can Wannstedt finally lead the Panthers to that elusive BCS berth? And can they avoid embarrassing themselves if they get there?
Rutgers-The offense has improved from last year's miserable showing, but unfortunately the defense has fallen off.
South Florida-The perennial under-achievers are at it again. At least they have the whole regime change as an excuse this time.
Syracuse-Still an outside shot to win the league, but Pitt must lose twice and the Orange must win out. In an interesting finale, they have a chance to keep former conference mate Boston College home for the holidays.
West Virginia-The Mountaineers are wasting a fantastic defensive effort with a slew of offensive mistakes (7 turnovers in their last two games).
Mountain West A Cut Above
Saturday night, if you are one of the fortunate ones, you will be able to see perhaps the biggest regular season mid-major showdown of all time. #4 TCU visits #6 Utah in a game that should not only decide the Mountain West title, but also has massive national implications. TCU and Utah are a combined 10-0 versus the rest of the Mountain West, with only Utah's recent win over Air Force being the only game ever in doubt in the second half. TCU has won each of their conference games by at least 27 points and has only allowed a pair of touchdowns in 5 games. Utah has been a little less dominant, but outside of their 5 point road win over Air Force, their other conference wins have come by at least 24 points. Utah has allowed only 6 offensive touchdowns through 5 league games. If it weren't for the performance of the Horned Frogs, we would be talking about how dominant Utah has been in their conference games.
Here are the Mountain West standings through Saturday's games.Now here are the SDPI standings. Overall rank in Offense, Defense, and Total SDPI is parentheses.Air Force-Despite their 5-4 record, the Falcons could easily be 8-1 if a few bounces had gone their way (a 3-point loss at Oklahoma, 2-point loss at San Diego St, and 5-point loss versus Utah).
BYU-It's certainly not a sure thing, but with games left against UNLV, Colorado St, and Wyoming, the Cougars have a chance to be bowl-eligible despite a horrific 1-4 start.
Colorado State-The Rams have to win out to get to a bowl (not likely with San Diego St, BYU, and Wyoming left), but after going winless in the conference last season, this marks improvement.
New Mexico-The pillow fight at home this week versus Wyoming should determine who finishes dead last in the Mountain West, and is also the Lobos last legitimate shot at a win.
San Diego State-The Aztecs have yet to play the Big 2, but even with those games remaining, 8 regular season wins seems likely.
TCU-Believe it or not, the Horned Frogs were even more dominant last season. Their cumulative SDPI was 3.99 in 2009, more than double that of second place BYU (1.45).
UNLV-On the surface, coach Bobby Hauck has not improved the program, but according to SDPI, the Rebels were the worst team in the conference last season.
Utah-Even if by some miracle the Utes get by TCU, there are still several landmines left on the schedule (@Notre Dame, @San Diego St, versus BYU).
Wyoming-Last season, a bad Wyoming team qualified (and won) a bowl because they were unstoppable in close games (6-0 in one-score games). This season, a bad Wyoming team has won a few close ones (2-2 in one-score games), but looks destined for the basement.
WAC Boise's Biggest Challengers
Unfortunately for Boise haters, the biggest contender to Boise's throne in the WAC appears to be Hawaii. I say unfortunately because the Warriors must travel to Idaho for that game. If the game were on the islands, an upset could have been a possibility. As for Nevada, they appear to be Boise's second biggest challenger, and that game is in Reno. However, Nevada appears to be a cut below Hawaii, and several cuts below Boise. An undefeated season for the Broncos seems all but assured.
Here are the WAC standings through Saturday's games.Now here are the SDPI standings. Overall rank in Offense, Defense, and Total SDPI is parentheses.Boise State-Surprise, surprise. In their last season in the WAC, Boise is once again dominating their conference competition.
Fresno State-Their conference schedule is back-loaded with road games against Louisiana Tech and Boise and a home game against Nevada.
Hawaii-The Warriors have dominated their WAC competition and could be the league favorite next season with no Boise to contend with.
Idaho-The Vandals aren't necessarily good, but they have a chance to qualify for their second consecutive (and third overall) bowl game.
Louisiana Tech-The Bulldogs have rebounded nicely from their 1-4 start, but must still win 3 of their final 4 games to qualify for the postseason.
Nevada-After their solid non-conference performance, the Wolfpack have been a little disappointing once conference play began.
New Mexico State-The Aggies have beaten their in-state foe, New Mexico, and San Jose State. Those teams have combined for one overall win and zero wins over IA foes.
San Jose State-The Spartans last best chance for a IA win comes this week against Utah State.
Utah State-A season that began with such promise (a close loss at Oklahoma and a win over in-state bully BYU), has fizzled into yet another losing season.