Monday, October 22, 2012

Mid-Season SDPI: ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Conference USA

It's now time for our second rendition of the mid-season SDPI ratings. Last week I clued you in on a number of things, including the fact that Arizona State might be the best team in the Pac-12. Thankfully I qualified that with a comment on their strength of schedule (or lack there of) as they were eviscerated at home by Oregon on Thursday night. This week, we'll take a gander at the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, and Conference USA.

First the ACC standings.
Now the SDPI ratings.
It looks like 1990's in the ACC. Florida State appears head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. And despite rumors of their demise plus two losses in the conference by mid-October, it appears a familiar face is poised to win the Coastal Division yet again.

Boston College: Frank Spaziani is as good as gone. It's not a foregone conclusion that the Eagles lose the rest of their games, but they will likely be underdogs in all five.

Clemson: Tigers still have issues on defense despite the stellar recruiting classes and the addition of coordinator Brent Venables.

Duke: Congrats to the Blue Devils who are now bowl-eligible for the first time since the 1994 season.

Georgia Tech. The defense looked much better in their first game since canning Al Groh. Of course, the competition was Boston College so let's withhold judgement for a few weeks.

Florida State: There are probably too many teams in front of them to pass to get back into national title discussions, but rest assured Florida State is an elite team. At the very least, they may have a shot to ruin their arch-rivals perfect season on November 24th in Tallahassee.

Maryland: The Terps have played seven games, and each one has been decided by 10 points or less.

Miami: Their last three games conference games are all against Coastal Division foes, so the Hurricanes control their destiny in regards to reaching the ACC Championship Game.

North Carolina: If you're into this kind of thing, the Heels are 3-0 Against the Spread (ATS) at home and 0-4 ATS on the road. They host NC State this weekend FYI.

NC State: With a win over Florida State in their back pocket, the Wolfpack actually control their own destiny in the Atlantic Division.

Virginia: The SDPI numbers actually like the Cavaliers. Unfortunately, their -7 turnover margin in conference play has kept them winless. Don't be surprised of they pull off an upset or two in their final four games, especially the home contests against Miami and North Carolina.

Virginia Tech: Very quietly, the defense has improved since their humbling trip to Chapel Hill, culminating with last week's showing against Clemson when they held the Tigers to 295 yards, their lowest offensive output of the season.

Wake Forest: There have been good (the home win over North Carolina), there have been bad (the 52-0 shutout at the hands of Florida State), and there have been ugly (the 16-10 snoozer win over Virginia), but Jim Grobe has the Deacons in familiar territory, in bowl contention. The Deacons will need to beat Boston College at home and steal a win as a likely underdog in Winston versus Clemson or Vanderbilt or on the road at NC State or Notre Dame.

Now the Big 10 standings.
And the SDPI ratings.
The best team in the conference may be one that is ineligible for the postseason. However, it may not be the one that is currently undefeated.

Illinois: Is it me or is Ron Zook still coaching this team? The Illini are now on a nine-game conference losing streak dating back to last season,

Indiana: Speaking of losing streaks, the Hoosiers have lost eleven consecutive conference games and 23 of 24. However, they have shown improvement, at least on the offensive end, under second-year coach Kevin Wilson.

Iowa: Despite the blowout home loss to Penn State, the Hawkeyes still control their own destiny in the Legends Division.

Michigan: SDPI says they have the number one defense in the conference. Of course, they have thus far faced teams that rank last, second-to-last, and eighth in the conference on offense. We'll see how well they hold up in Lincoln this weekend.

Michigan State: Barring a miracle, the Spartans are out of the running for the Legends Division with three losses. However, their losses have come by one, two, and three points, so they remain a dangerous spoiler over their final four games.

Minnesota: The Gophers need to find two wins over their final five games to get to a bowl for the first time since 2009. The most likely candidates? This week at home against Purdue and on November 10th at Illinois.

Nebraska: The SDPI numbers like them, but their conference wins have come by one and three points, while their loss came by 25.

Northwestern: Congrats to Northwestern which is now bowl-eligible for the sixth consecutive season. If they had held on against Nebraska, they could have fancied themselves contenders in the Legends Division for at least one more week. Their offensive numbers are probably a little overrated as 46% of their total offense in four Big 10 games came in the opener against Indiana when they rolled up 704 yards and looked like the second coming of 1995 Nebraska.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes slip by another flawed Big Ten team. Still, a win is a win, and they are halfway home to an unbeaten conference season.

Penn State: Bill O'Brien has done a masterful job, not only of rallying his team after an 0-2 start with nothing of consequence to play for, but of turning Matt McGloin into a bonafide DI quarterback. In his first two seasons as a starting quarterback McGloin completed 54.% of his passes while throwing 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The Nittany Lions averaged 23.5 points in games during which McGloin enjoyed significant playing time. Through seven games in 2012, McGloin has completed 62.5% of his passes with 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. The Lions have averaged 28.6 points per game, while topping 30 four of the past five games.

Purdue: After a solid 3-1 non-conference campaign, including a close loss to Notre Dame, you would be forgiven for talking yourself into Purdue as a Leaders Division contender. Meh, not so much. The Boilers rate out as the second-worst offense and defense in Big 10 and desperately need this weekends game against Minnesota if they want to return to the postseason.

Wisconsin: Has the old Wisconsin returned? The Badgers have bludgeoned three straight Big 10 opponents rolling up 977 yards on the ground in those games. Keep in mind though those games were against Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota. We'll know if their offense has found its footing after they face a still stout Michigan State defense this weekend. At worst, they have pretty much already locked up the Leaders Division thanks to the postseason ban in Columbus and State College.

Onto the Big 12 standings.
And the SDPI ratings.
Looks like we're in for one heckuva a conference race. Fully half of the conference has an SDPI rating approaching one standard deviation above average. If Kansas State runs the table, they will have survived the deepest conference, top-to-bottom, in college football.

Baylor: The best offense and worst defense in the conference. The Bears have already lost two games in which they gained a combined 1307 yards and scored 113 points.

Iowa State: The Big 12 is not a good conference to be sans an offense. When they aren't drastically winning the turnover margin, as they were against TCU (+5 in the upset win), the Cyclones have a very hard time scoring. The home game against Baylor this weekend is huge for their bowl aspirations.

Kansas: The numbers like them better than I would have thought. The Jayhawks have played their first two home conference opponents tough (lost by 14 to TCU and by 6 to Oklahoma State). Maybe Texas has something to worry about this weekend.

Kansas State: A year after winning games despite weak numbers on both sides of the ball, the Wildcats have great defensive and decent offensive SDPI numbers. I think SDPI is overrating their defense and underrating their offense thanks to their pace. The Wildcats have run just 441 plays in seven games (63 per game) which ranks 120th (out of 124 teams) in the country. Meanwhile, their defense has faced 475 plays (67.9 per game). Only 29 defenses have faced fewer plays. They have already won three conference games on the road meaning three of their last five are at home. Can Bill Snyder finally get the Wildcats to the national championship game after coming oh so close in 1998?

Oklahoma: I think their performance against Texas may have fooled the nation into thinking their offense is elite. Outside of that outburst, the Sooners have averaged 391 yards in their other three conference games. That number would rank just eighth in the Big 12. Keep that in mind if you have the urge to take Oklahoma laying a large number against Notre Dame this weekend.

Oklahoma State: The turnover-fest in the desert, and the close loss to Texas have removed them from the national conscience, but the Cowboys are still a very dangerous team.

Texas: Last season, Texas gave up 24 offensive touchdowns in Big 12 play (in nine games) and allowed 334 yards per conference game. This season, through four games, Texas has already given up 24 offensive touchdowns and are allowing 580 yards per game to their Big 12 opponents. I will be shocked if Manny Diaz is coordinating the defense next season.

TCU: In their final four seasons in the Mountain West, the Horned Frogs lost one conference game. They have lost two of their first four Big 12 games. TCU is still a good team, but the Big 12 has a ton of depth and after Saturday, either them or the Cowboys will have three total losses.

Texas Tech: The defense is light years ahead of where it was last season. The Red Raiders have a chance to shake up the BCS standings for the second straight year by winning on the road against a Big 12 power this week when they travel to Manhattan, Kansas.

West Virginia: A great deal of their offensive notoriety can probably be explained by the fact that they opened conference play against Baylor and Texas, the two worst defenses in the conference.

Finally, the Conference USA standings.
And the SDPI ratings.
An old familiar face tops the SDPI ratings, if not the actual conference standings.

East Carolina: The Pirates have already banked four league wins, but with their loss to UCF, will need help if they play to return to the Conference USA Championship Game for the first time since 2009.

Houston: How can a team that just lost to a division rival by 30 somehow rate as the best team in the conference by a wide margin? Turnovers. Houston outgained SMU by nearly 180 yards, but committed nine turnovers. The Cougars are very much alive in the West Division.

Marshall: The Thundering Herd boast the best offense in Conference USA. They have scored at least 38 points in their first three conference games and have topped 50 in two. Set your DVRs when they host Houston on November 17th when the league's two best offenses get together.

Memphis: The Tigers have shown some teeth on defense under first-year coach Justin Fuente. Are they the best defense in Conference USA? Probably not, but after just five total wins in the preceding three seasons, its all about minor victories.

Rice: Oh, what might have been. The Owls knocked off Kansas early in the season, but have lost three of their four conference games by 11 total points, likely dooming them to a fourth straight losing season.

SMU: The Mustangs rebounded from an inexplicable loss at Tulane to get back in the West Division race with a blowout win over Houston. Despite not even being assured of a bowl bid yet with a 3-4 overall record, they control their own destiny in getting to the Conference USA Championship Game.

Southern Miss: After winning the conference and 12 games in 2011, the 2012 season can't end fast enough. The Golden Eagles are 0-7 and have clinched their first losing season since 1993. Just a note, Ellis Johnson was 17-28 as a head coach before he got his hands on what was a solid mid-major program. Bad hire anyone?

Tulane: The Green Wave have played better as of late, upsetting SMU two weeks ago and losing to UTEP by four last weekend.

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane have not been dominating, but they are 5-0 in the conference and at 7-1 overall, are the league's only hope of sending a team into the polls. They have a bye this weekend before traveling to Arkansas While they will certainly be underdogs in that game, they have to like their chances now much more than they did in the summer.

UAB: The Blazers are seeking their first conference win under first-year coach Garrick McGee.

UCF: The Knights have the inside track to the East Division title, and their game with Marshall this weekend will go a long way toward deciding the division race.

UTEP: The Miners continue their mediocre to-below average play under Mike Price. After taking the Miners to surprise consecutive bowls in 2004 and 2005, the Miners are just 18-34 versus conference opponents since. I think its time for a change.

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