We thought the CFP got it right this year, even though we also had Georgia still in fourth place once the weekend’s championships had concluded. But they had their shot. We know what they’re capable of, and apparently it’s not defeating Alabama. We don’t know that about Oklahoma yet. (Or UCF, true, but I just take it as a given that the CFP isn’t going to let them in.)
Nevertheless, here’s our current “meta-ranking” of the top FBS teams, combining the ratings of the top rankings across the nation (not ALL of them, like Massey does…) –
|1||Alabama (ELO-FF rating: -3)|
|2||Clemson (rating: -1)|
|3||Notre Dame (rating: 11)|
|4||Georgia (rating: 9)|
|5||Oklahoma (rating: 10)|
|6||Ohio State (rating: 10)|
|7||Michigan (rating: 11)|
|8||Washington (rating: 14)|
|9||Central Florida (UCF) (rating: 16)|
|10||LSU (rating: 15)|
|11||Penn State (rating: 15)|
|12||Florida (rating: 18)|
|13||Mississippi State (rating: 11)|
|14||Washington State (rating: 16)|
|15||West Virginia (rating: 15)|
|16||Utah (rating: 16)|
|17||Missouri (rating: 14)|
|18||Texas A&M (rating: 21)|
|19||Kentucky (rating: 23)|
|20||Texas (rating: 17)|
|21||Fresno State (rating: 21)|
|22||Syracuse (rating: 20)|
|23||Iowa (rating: 17)|
|24||Boise State (rating: 21)|
|25||Stanford (rating: 20)|
If you go by the ratings, the only feasible outcome is Clemson v Alabama for the title. No one else is within ten points of either team. I believe that, too.
The best ELO-FF rating for a team not in the final meta-rankings belongs to Auburn, which has a rating of 18. They sit in the #26 slot. The only two teams in the CFP committee’s top 25 that aren’t also in the meta-ranking’s top 25 are Northwestern (#29) and Iowa State (#33), whose resumes’ may not be as strong as their accomplishments suggest.
If you like snow games, the Mountain West championship game up here in Idaho was a delight to watch. More importantly, it was painful to watch how Boise’s stubborn insistence on not blocking the speed rusher on kicks cost them the league title: on the third such kick, Fresno’s speed rusher once again blocked their kick, this one being the extra point that would have put them up 14-13 and prevented the overtime they’d lose, 19-16. It was a spectacular failure of coaching unlike anything you’d expect from a BSU staff.
Strangely, that’s how the Pittsburgh Steelers were undone last night as well. I’ve famously sworn off the NFL for this season, as I’ve mentioned many times before, but I have to bring this into the conversation as well. In their attempts to block the potential game-winning field goal by the Chargers, the speed rushers simply ignored the fact that they were leaving the line of scrimmage LONG before the snap, so of course they got to the ball before they could be blocked! It happened twice – the five yard penalty allowed the Chargers to try again – soon it was as close as an extra point – and on the third attempt, karmic justice was given to the offenders: the potential blocker ran past the kicker and missed the kick block. Field goal good, game over, no need for the third offsides penalty. Because the Chargers had scored their first TD after they themselves committed a blatant false start that should have stopped the play, perhaps the Steelers figured they could do the same with impunity.
As far as the rest of the college football world goes, there weren’t any significant upsets. The most surprising game was actually a near upset, a game where Iowa State (a good Power 5 team) was favored over Pioneer League school Drake (a good non-scholarship program). The Cyclones avoided the upset, 27-24, after being favored by well over forty points (ELO-FF had the game at 53 points!)
And I owe the NCAA FCS committee an apology: they obviously knew what they were talking about! I questioned why James Madison and Jacksonville State weren’t seeded, as they have been and “obviously” should have been this year. In answer, the two teams seeded above them in #7 and #8 spots, Colgate and Maine, defeated the “favorites” and moved on into the quarterfinals – which are occupied by ALL EIGHT seeded teams, every one of which won their R of 16 challenge.
In our picks of title games and FCS second round games, we went 7-6 with one push. For the season, we were right 51.2% of the time, with a record of 554-528, with 80 pushes. Our “big picks”, surprisingly, weren’t much better – despite the fact that we were dead sure about those picks,we only hit 52% of those picks, too: 65 out of 124. (The moral of the story: don’t quit my day job!)
Let’s look at some other top and bottom lists…
TOP GROUP of FIVE TEAMS (by ELO-Following Football ratings)
- Central Florida (ELO-FF rating: 16)
- Boise State (rating: 20)
- Fresno State (rating 21)
- Utah State (rating: 23)
- Cincinnati (rating: 24)
- Appalachian State (rating: 25)
- Temple (rating: 25)
- Memphis (rating: 26)
- Ohio University (rating: 27)
- Army-West Point (rating: 28)
Four AAC teams, including #1; three Mountain West (specifically, 3 of the top 4!); one Sun Belt at #5, one MAC at #9, and one independent at #10. The second ten (in order) are Houston, BYU, Toledo, Arkansas State, Miami-OH, Nevada, Wyoming, UAB, North Texas, and Air Force. One AAC (#11), three more MW teams, two MAC teams, the first two Conference-USA teams in #18 and #19, one Sun Belt and one more independent (BYU).
On the other end, here are the BOTTOM FIve for the Power Five and the Group of Five:
Power Five BOTTOM Five Group of Five BOTTOM Five
1 Louisville (rating: 46) – ACC 1. Connecticut (rating: 59) – American
2. Oregon State (rating: 44) – Pac 12 2. Texas-El Paso (rating : 57) – C-USA
3. Rutgers (rating: 42) – Big Ten 3. New Mexico State (rating: 54) – independent
4. Illinois (rating 40) – Big Ten 4. South Alabama (rating: 53) – Sun Belt
5. Arkansas (rating: 39) – SEC 5. Texas-San Antonio (rating: 53) – C-USA
ALSO: Kansas (34), UNC, Florida ALSO: Kent State (52), CMU, Rice, Ball
State, Tennessee, Colorado (32) State, Texas State (50).
What about the FCS schools? We’re down to the final eight in that tournament, the eight schools who were seeded by the brilliance of the NCAA committee (who, as it was pointed out earlier, were much smarter than I was about this!). Let’s look at the upcoming games and what the ratings say. [NOTE: we will do the bowl games as well, but probably not until next week – at least wait until after the ARMY/NAVY clash ends the regular season (Go Army!)]
#6 UC Davis (rating: 38) at #3 Eastern Washington (rating: 30). Once you include the three-point hfa – and on that blood red field? I’ll bet it’s more than three! – Eastern is an 11 point favorite. Vegas doesn’t generally put lines on FCS games for some reason, but Sagarin has the spread at 10.4 and Massey at 9.5. It’s going to be a tough intra-conference game for the Davis Aggies (and coach Dan Hawkins, formerly of BSU fame and Colorado infamy).
#7 Maine (rating: 43) at #2 Weber State (rating: 39). Weber won the Big Sky despite a mid-season blow-up that allowed them to reassemble stronger than ever. We have them as a seven-point favorite, although Massey and Sagarin’s numbers indicate more of a blowout, up to two touchdowns.
#8 Colgate (rating: 40) at #1 North Dakota State (rating 16). Colgate’s good enough to defeat James Madison, so the Patriot League champ’s no chump. But playing the Bison in the FargoDome is something completely different. NDSU by 27 points, although Massey and Sagarin both have the spread closer to 22.
The best game of the weekend is probably going to be #5 South Dakota State (rating: 23) at #4 Kennesaw State (rating 35). SDkSt should win by nine, according to our numbers, but Massey and Sagarin think it’ll be closer than that – and really, so do I. The “Jackrabbits and the Owls” sound like a natural combination for an all-our war! It’s hard to envision either team losing – the Rabbits lost to #1 NDSU in the last few minutes, and Kennesaw outlasted their budding rival J’ville State in FIVE overtimes on the last weekend of the season to earn their seed. Both teams “never say die”, as they say. (Whoever “they” are.)
Finally, the FBS schedule is dark except for perhaps the most important game of any season: the Army/Navy Game in Philly on Saturday. Army is favored by seven in Vegas, although the ELO-FF says nine and Sagarin says twelve. It feels like it’l be an Army rout, but this game is classically unpredictable. We’ll just have to wait and see…
There’s more that I want to share, but my body is starting to betray me and my need for sleep is overwhelming….