Whatever you were thinking going into ‘Bama/Clemson IV, I can guarantee it wasn’t that the Tide would get blown out the way they were. Every time they had the slightest hint of life, you’d think, “OK, now they start their comeback… ok, NOW… how about now?” and finally, you realized that they were never going to come back on Clemson. It’s been since he was the coach of the Miami Dolphins that Nick Saban had a team dominate his troops like that, and the twelve minute, soul-sapping drive that ended the game was one of the most tour-de-force demonstrations of throat-stomping you’ll ever see.
Mind you, I’ve still got Alabama #2 this year AND next.
Here’s the consensus rankings to end the season (the combination of all the different major systems), along with our ELO-FF final rankings in parentheses:
1 Clemson (1). 2 Alabama (2) 3 Notre Dame (6). 4 Georgia (5). 5 Oklahoma (3). 6 Ohio State (4) 7 Michigan (11). 8 LSU (8). 9 Florida (20). 10 Washington (9) 11 UCF (17). 12 Washington St (16). 13 Texas A&M (21). 14 Penn St (18). 15 Texas (12). 16. Miss St (7). 17 Kentucky (28). 18 W Virginia (22). 19 Fresno St (25). 20 Syracuse (19).
21 Missouri (15) 22 Iowa (13). 23 Utah (23). 24 Auburn (14). 25 Utah St (27). 26 Boise St (26). 27 Stanford (24). 28 Northwestern (32). 29 Appalachian St (37) 30 Iowa St (34). 31 Army (45). 32 Cincinnati (42). 33 NC State (40). 34 Oregon (33). 35 Wisconsin (36) 36 So Carolina (55). 37 Okla State (39). 38 Pitt (38). 39 Michigan St (47). 40 Miami (35).
41 Boston Coll (45) 42 Duke (39) 43 Arizona St (30) 44 Virginia (36). 45 TCU (41) 46 Purdue (53) 47 UAB (70) 48 Minnesota (48). 49 Ohio U (46) 50 Georgia Tech (60).
And as for the bottom of the 130 team list…
The six lowest Power 5 teams were #99 North Carolina (85), #100 Illinois (109), #102 Arkansas (108), #108 Louisville (131), #109 Oregon State (124), and [da-da-DAH!!!] #117 Rutgers (121).
The rest were from the G5 teams, of course:
#110 Akron #111 Colorado State #112 Massachusetts #113 W Kentucky #114 New Mexico #115 Old Dominion #116 Ball State #118 East Carolina #119 Georgia St #120 San Jose St #121 So Alabama #122 Bowling Green #123 Texas St #124 UT-San Antonio #125 New Mexico St #126 Kent State #127 Cent Michigan #128 Rice #129 Connecticut, and #130: UTEP.
The SEC was the best conference in the P5, but although the champ came from the ACC, that conference fell behind both the Big 12 (second) and Big Ten (third) overall because of a weak set of competitors for the Tigers. In the P5, the Mountain West edges the AAC in the metrics we used, although those two were too close to argue if someone has them in a different order. The Sun Belt was definitely better than previously, and passed both the MAC and Conference USA (also too close to argue, although we have the MAC ahead of the CUSA, and two of the bottom three teams are indeed in the CUSA West (plus UTSA in #124, putting three of the bottom seven there).
What about the FCS, you might ask? (Oh, come on!ASK!)
Seven-time national champion North Dakota State once again rang up the points on everybody and secured the #1 ranking as well. Behind them in the MVC, they were competing against teams ranked 3, 12, 16, 24 and 27, so the Missouri Valley was strong once again. Here are the rankings with the ELO-Following Football ratings, rather than rankings, to make comparisons easier:
#1 No Dakota St (14) #2 Eastern Washington (29) #3 So Dakota St (24) #4 Princeton (37) #5 UC Davis (38) #6 Kennesaw St (35) #7 James Madison (33) #8 Colgate (41) #9 Weber St (41) #10 Dartmouth (45) #11 Maine (42) #12 Northern Iowa (36) #13 Nicholls St (45) #14 Wofford (44) #15 Jacksonville St (42) #16 Illinois St (37) #17 Towson (48) #18 Stony Brook (40) #19 Montana St (46) #20 Delaware (46) #21 Elon (48) #22 No Carolina A&T (49) #23 SE Missouri St (47) #24 Indiana St (42)
A couple interesting points to me… the Big Sky had three of the top nine (#2, 5, and 9), plus four more in the top 35. Meanwhile, the Colonial put six teams in the playoffs, except that Maine was the only one advancing to the top eight. In fact, only the eight seeded teams made the top eight! Maine had to fly out to Weber, won, flew straight home, and then flew BACK out to play Eastern Washington on the red turf – no wonder they were exhausted and lost that game so badly! BUT some unknown benefactor paid to ship the entire Maine band out for the Weber State game!… J-State finally had a real challenger in the Ohio Valley – they dropped back a little, while SE Missouri State also managed a 9-4 record this season. Both were in the tournament, and both won one and lost their second….
Montana had their rivals from Bozeman down three TDs, when MSU came from behind and won 29-25 in one of the great games of the year – thereby knocking the Grizz (a) below them in the Big Sky standings, (b) in record, (c) in the rankings, (d) and in the opportunity to progress into the national tournament. No pain there… The Ivy League seems to be strong, but they don’t play everyone else so there’s no real way to be sure. Princeton was ranked anywhere from sixth up to first nationally, with Dartmouth and Harvard and Penn and Columbia and Yale all showing up in different top 25s for the year. Hard to imagine Princeton staying with NDSU, but I’d watch the game!… Colgate was probably the most dominant team in its conference, with six bad teams playing alongside them in the Patriot. Even Kennesaw had Monmouth around… The two worst teams were both in the SWAC, although Alcorn and a few others had good seasons there: Arkansas-Pine Bluff was #124, and Mississippi Valley State was dead last at #125. (Our numbers had Morehead State of the Pioneer League with the highest rating at 92, four points about the two SWAC teams. The Pioneer did have three of the six worst in FCS, and five teams (half the league) were in the bottom fifteen.)
The top ten UPSETS of the season:
10 Florida A&M def NC A&T 22-21, wk 7. At least A&M was good. This was a 21-point spread on the ELO-FF chart, but the next nine are worse.
9 Oregon State def Colorado 41-34 in OT, wk 10. 22 point spread. Oregon St was down 28 points in the third quarter, 31-3, and came all the way back with a chance to win in regulation. Instead they won in OT with a touchdown and a defensive stop. It was one of the biggest comebacks ever.
8 New Hampshire def James Madison, 35-24, wk 10. 22 point spread. This was the defining defeat in the downfall of the Dukes as a national title contender.
7 Stetson def Drake, 23-21, wk 7, 23 point spread.
6 Akron def Northwestern 39-34, wk 4, 23 point spread. NW won some amazing games, but their highest appearance on this list is as an amazing lose, losing to a MAC team which had famously never beaten a “Big Ten” team since before that name was coined. It portended nothing for the season.
5 BYU def Wisconsin. 24-21. wk 4, 27 point spread. The last second field goal technically did nothing to hurt the Badgers chances in the Big Ten, but it sure felt like the damage was irreparable.
4 Portland State def Montana, 22-20, wk 6, 32 point spread. These four games are the HUGEST upsets of the year, and we start with this Big Sky win for PSU, coming from behind to secure their biggest win in years over the traditional powerhouse Grizzlies with a last-second FG.
3 Butler def Youngstown State, 23-21, wk 1, 33 point spread. This may have in reality been the most unexpected upset of the year: the non-scholarship Bulldogs beating the 65-scholarship Penguins. YSU had chances to win, and would probably tell you they should’ve won anyway. We did a piece on this game when it happened…
2 Morgan State def No Carolina A&T, 16-13. wk 4, 36 point spread. This got lost behind the #1 upset happening the same week, but it was remarkable for several reasons – Unlike FAM, Morgan St really wasn’t good: they ended the year as the #94 FCS team. They were underdogs by a huge margin, but A&T couldn’t score even half of the predicted spread, let alone win by it. After dominating wins (including over G5’s East Carolina and JSU), NCAT was on a fifteen game win streak and looking forward to this breather in the conference opener. Whoops…
And the #1 upset of the year, of course: Old Dominion def Virginia Tech, 49-35, wk 4, 40 point spread. ODU was 0-3. VaTech was still ranked nationally (#15, I think) at the time, and the Monarchs were rightfully gargantuan underdogs to a team they’d never beaten. Their last three touchdowns were things of beauty and the kind of scores that looked God-orchestrated.
My favorite games of 2018…
Kennesaw State over Jacksonville State, 60-52 in five OT, wk 12. It was undoubtedly the difference between a seed or no seed in the FCS playoffs…. Alabama def Georgia, 35-28, wk 14 (SEC title game). Beautiful for the symmetry and karma of Jalen Hurts coming into the game in relief of the QB who came in last winter in relief of him… Texas A&M over LSU, 74-72 in SEVEN OT, wk 13. The legendary game which the Tigers had won in regulation, or so they thought…. West Virginia over Texas, 42-41, wk 10. “Let’s go win this thing…” with a two-point conversion on the last TD… Ohio State def Penn State 27-26, wk 5. The controversial 4th and 5 haunted coach Franklin the rest of the year… Notre Dame def Michigan, 24-17, in wk 1. It turned out to be a critical game for each team, the game strengthening the argument for both teams… Kansas over Rutgers, 55-14, wk 3. Not that the game was particularly beautiful, but watching the joy for the Jayhawk players getting to rout a Power 5 team…think also VMI beating Tusculum College 20-11 to break their 20-game losing streak… North Dakota St def So Dakota St, 21-17, wk 5. The toughest test all season for the Bison, and a great game in its own right against the eventual #3. … Old Dominion v Western Kentucky, 37-34 final, wk 8. The most insane ending short of the 1982 Cal/Stanford game I’ve ever seen. Watch it online, including THREE plays after the clock ran out… Kentucky over Missouri, 15-14, wk 9. Kentucky had one of THOSE seasons, where everything went right for them this year, and the ending to this game is the prime example.
Other fun and memorable games: Wazzu over Stanford, 41-38 in wk 9; and Stanford over Oregon in OT, 38-31, wk 5; Colorado def Nebraska, 33-28, wk 2; Alabama over (Louisville? Ole Miss? LSU?). whichever game made you realize that the Tide had a devastating offense, too…; Clemson def Texas A&M, 28-26 in wk 3; LSU d. Auburn, 22-21, wk 3; LSU over Georgia, 36-16, wk 7; Oklahoma def Okla State, 48-47, wk 11; Texas over OU, 48-45, in wk 6; Ohio St over TCU 40-28, wk 3; Maryland lost to Ohio St, 52-51 in OT; and my favorite bowl games, OkSt over Mizzou 38-33 and Texas over Georgia 28-21.
Finally, here are some Top Five lists from the upcoming non-con schedule –
Top Five Powerful (possible CFP determining) Matchups: (1) Notre Dame @ Georgia, Sept 21. (2) LSU @ Texas, Sept 7. (3) Notre Dame @ Michigan, Oct 26. (4) Oregon v Auburn, @ Dallas, Aug 31. (5) Texas A&M @ Clemson, Sept 7.
Five Most Intriguing (as in, what are these teams LIKE this year) Matchups: (1) Stanford @ UCF, Sept 14. (2) Cincinnati @ Ohio State, Sept 7, (3) Boise State “@” Florida State (in Jacksonville), Aug 31. (4) Houston @ Oklahoma, Aug 31. (5) USC @ BYU, date TBA.
And finally, Five Fascinating and possibly informative Non-Conference Rivalry Matchups: (1) Miami v Florida (in Orlando), Aug 31. (2) Utah @ BYU, Aug 31. (3) Pitt @ Penn State, Sept 14. (4) South Carolina v North Carolina (in Charlotte), Aug 31. (5) Nebraska @ Colorado, Sept 7.
Overall this year, we went 554 up and 528 down on our picks against the Vegas spread this season, before the bowls, which is an average of 51.2% correct – good enough to keep from going broke but not good enough to make any money. On our “big picks” we did a little better: 65 and 59, or 52% even. In terms of our straight up (or “money line”) picks, we did slightly better than Vegas (or Sagarin, BTW) in picking outright winners – we hit on 74.6% of all games this season, while Vegas got 74.0% right and Sagarin hit on 73.4%.
As for the bowl season, we compared our guesses against not only Vegas and Sagarin, but also Massey, FPI, Athlon, Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Pat Forde of Yahoo, Adam Rittenburg of ESPN, Bleacher Report, and the S&P+ from Bill Connelly. The ELO-Following Football predictions outperformed every single one of them at 24 and 16. Vegas went 21 and 17 with two “evens”. The Sagarin ratings were under .500, but the “Recent” Sagarin ratings came close, at 23-17 (as did the Sporting News). SI.com, Pat Forde, and Bleacher Report were all above even, and the FPI was 22-18.
Can’t wait for next season! (We like Clemson/Alabama V for the finals next year!)