Handicapping the Nation's top 15
I am a lifelong hockey fanatic, and have only recently taken an interest in NCAA football during the past three years. Primarily, I am a Michigan Wolverines fan, and I am mostly only familiar with the Big 10. Given the fact that the NHL is locked out this season, I have had a chance to more closely follow the college football schedule this year.
In an effort to familiarize myself with the rest of the nation's conferences, I decided to take a look at each of the top 15 teams in most recent national poll. Since the ESPN/USA Today poll was the first one out this morning, I based my rankings on those.
For each team listed, I took a look at the remaining games, and listed the games that were most likely to be upsets. From the listed games, I selected the one that I thought was most likely to be an upset, and placed an asterisk next to that game. Using the list of tough games remaining, I put together a predicted final overall and conference record, along with a predicted pre-bowl ranking. I also offered a brief description of the team's performance, and how I thought the team's remaining schedule would play out.
Again, I want to emphasize that I am a relatively new fan, and am by no way an authority on NCAA football. Every week there are upsets -- witness UNC/Miami, Maryland/Florida State, Baylor/Texas A&M, Northwestern/Purdue, and Indiana/Minnesota -- all in one week. Given that fact, I will be surprised if my final predicted rankings are anywhere near the final results :)
(8 - 0, 5 - 0 PAC-10)
(PREDICTION: 12 - 0, 8 - 0 PAC-10, Final Rank #1)
November 6th at Oregon State 4:00 PM (4 -4, 3 - 2 PAC-10)
November 27th vs Notre Dame 8:00 PM (5 - 3)
*December 4th at UCLA 4:30 PM (5 - 3, 3 - 2 PAC-10)
USC currently looks like the strongest team in the country. They have put together big wins vs. Virginia Tech and California this season. USC Will most likely finish the season undefeated, although they do have a couple tests remaining, including a tough road game at UCLA in the final weak of the season.
(8 - 0, 5 - 0 Big 12)
(PREDICTION: 11 - 0, 8 - 0 Big 12 + 1 Post Season Win, Final Rank #2)
*November 6th at (22)Texas A&M TBA (6 - 3, 4 - 1 Big 12 South)
November 13th vs Nebraska TBA (5 - 3, 3 - 2 Big 12 - North)
Oklahoma dodged a bullet this week, narrowly escaping with a 38-35 victory over Oklahoma State, as a last second, tying field goal tailed just wide of the upright. Oklahoma will most likely go undefeated, although they will face a big challenge on the road at Texas A&M next weekend.
(9 - 0, 6 - 0 SEC)
(PREDICTION: 11 - 0, 8 - 0 SEC + 1 Post Season Win, Final Rank #3)
*November 13th vs (5)Georgia TBA (7 - 1, 5 - 1 SEC)
November 20th at Alabama TBA (5 - 3, 2 - 3 SEC)
Auburn has a bye next week, and then a huge test at home vs. (5)Georgia. At home, I'll pick Auburn to win out the season. Even if they finish the season undefeated, they will still need to face the SEC East Champion in the SEC Championship, which will be against either be (11)Tennessee or (5)Georgia.
(8 - 0, 5 - 0 Big Ten)
(PREDICTION 10 - 1, 7 - 1 Big Ten, Final Rank #11)
November 6th vs Minnesota 3:30 PM (6 - 3, 3 - 3 Big Ten)
November 13th at Michigan State TBA (4 - 4, 3 - 2 Big Ten)
*November 20th at (20)Iowa TBA (6 - 2, 4 - 1 Big Ten)
Wisconsin has put together an impressive 8-0 start to their season, but it is unlikely that they will finish the season undefeated. Other than the narrow 20-17 victory over Purdue, and a victory over a seemingly-weak Ohio State, this team has not been tested so far this season. I do not think this team is capable of back-to-back road wins over a resurgent Michigan State team, and Iowa.
(7 - 1, 5 - 1 SEC)
(PREDICTION 9 - 2, 6 - 2 SEC, Final Rank #12)
*November 13th at (3)Auburn TBA (9 - 0, 6 - 0 SEC)
November 27th vs Georgia Tech TBA (4 -3 , 3 - 3 ACC)
The matchup on the road vs (3)Auburn is pretty much a tossup, but I'll give the edge to Auburn at home. I think Tennessee is going to win out their season, which will allow them to edge out Georgia for the SEC East Championship.
(6 - 1, 4 - 1 PAC-10)
(PREDICTION 9 - 2, 7 - 1 PAC - 10, Final Rank #13)
November 6th vs Oregon 3:30 PM (5 - 3, 4 - 1 PAC-10)
*December 4th at (21)Southern Miss 3:00 PM (5 - 1, 4 - 0 CUSA)
California's biggest remaining test will be a non-conference road game versus (21)Southern Miss on December 4th, which was rescheduled after being postponed on the originally scheduled September 16th.
(7 - 1, 4 - 1 Big Twelve)
(PREDICTION 10 - 1, 7 - 1 Big Twelve, Final Rank #5)
November 6th vs (19) Oklahoma State TBA (6 - 2, 3 - 2 Big Twelve)
*November 26th vs (22) Texas A&M 3:30 PM (6 - 2, 4 - 1 Big Twelve)
Texas has two big games remaining, although both are at home. Oklahoma State had Oklahoma on the ropes this weekend, and just missed a last second field goal that would've sent the game into overtime. A final weekend outing at home vs Texas A&M will be another big test. At home, I will pick Texas to win both, but I wouldn't be surprised to see an upset in either of these matchups.
(8 - 0, 4 - 0 MWC)
(PREDICTION: 11 - 0, 7 - 0 MWC, Final Rank #7
*November 13th at Wyoming (5 - 3, 2 - 2 MWC)
November 20th vs BYU (4 - 4, 3 - 1 MWC)
Utah will most likely win out the season, with a perfect 11-0 record. Unfortunately, Utah didn't have the toughest schedule, so they really shouldn't move into the nation's top six.
I believe Utah should work hard to secure a matchup against one of the nation's top schools next year. A victory against a top tier school would go a long way to validating this program's place in the national rankings. It is unfortunate that the strength-of-schedule facet of the BCS ranking was removed, because many schools may be reluctant to schedule a matchup against a team like Utah or Boise State during their non-conference schedule.
(8 - 1, 6 - 0 Big Ten)
(PREDICTION, 10 - 1, 8 - 0 Big 10, Final Rank #4)
November 13th vs Northwestern TBA (4 - 4, 3 - 2 Big Ten)
*November 20th at Ohio State 1:00 PM (5 - 3, 2 - 3 Big Ten)
Michigan will most likely win out the season, although a road game vs. perennial rival Ohio State in the final week of the season is always a challenge. I believe Wisconsin will most likely lose a game vs. Either Michigan State or Iowa, which will give the Big Ten championship to Michigan.
(6 - 1, 3 - 1 ACC)
(PREDICTION 10 - 1, 7 - 1 ACC, Final Rank #6)
*November 13th at (13) Virginia TBA (6 - 1, 3 - 1 ACC)
December 4th vs (18) Virginia Tech 1:00 PM (6 - 2, 3 - 1 ACC)
Miami fell pretty dramatically this week with the loss to unranked North Carolina. This team has two huge tests remaining, with a road game versus (13)Virginia on November 13th, and a home game versus (18)Virginia Tech. I think Miami is too good of a team and will prevail in both, and crawl back up to #6 in the national rankings.
(7 - 1, 5 - 1 SEC)
(PREDICTION: 10 - 1, 7 - 1 SEC + 1 Post-Season Loss, Final Rank #12)
*November 6th vs Notre Dame (5 - 3)
I believe Tennessee will most likely win out the season. Coupled with a Georgia loss to Auburn, this will make Tennessee the SEC-East Champion. A post-season loss to Auburn will likely knock Tennessee back close to where they started.
#12 West Virginia
(7 - 1, 3 - 0 Big East)
(PREDICTION: (9 -2, 5 - 1 Big East, Final Rank #13)
November 13th vs (25)Boston College (5 - 2, 1 - 1 Big East)
*November 25th at Pittsburgh (5 -2, 3 - 1 Big East)
West Virginia could possibly win out the season, to go 9-1 overall, although a loss to either Boston College or Pittsburgh is possible. I'm guessing there will be an upset in one of these two matchups, pushing West Virginia back to #13.
(6 - 1, 3 -1 ACC)
(PREDICTION 8 - 2, 5 - 1 ACC, Final Rank #15)
*November 13 vs (10)Miami TBA (6-1, 3-1 ACC)
November 27 at (18)Virginia Tech
Virginia has their work cut out for them, with a home game versus (10)Miami on November 13th. If they manage to escape that one, they have a tough road game versus (18)Virginia Tech on November 27th to close out the season. I'm guessing they will lose against Miami
#13T Florida State
(6 -2, 4 - 2 ACC)
(PREDICTION 9 - 2, 6 -2 ACC)
*November 20 vs Florida TBA (4 - 4, 2 - 4 SEC)
Florida should win out the season, but I don't think they really deserve to move up much in the standings, given the loss to Maryland, and the relatively easy end-of-season schedule.
#15 Boise State
(8 - 0, 5 - 0 WAC)
(PREDICTION 11- 0, 8 - 0 WAC)
*November 20th vs Louisiana Tech (4 - 4, 3 - 1 WAC)
Boise State should end up undefeated, but it is tough decide how they should be ranked, due to a fairly easy schedule. Boise State's toughest challenges came against Oregon State, BYU, and UTEP. Although Boise State has put together a very impressive season, including a 69-3 assault vs. Hawaii, they failed to play a single game against a nationally ranked team. The failure to include such a matchup means that it is impossible to provide a measuring stick to compare this program against the nation's top ranked schools. As such, I don't believe Boise State should finish any higher than #8. Boise State's situation is similar to that of Utah, although Utah did have a tougher schedule than Boise State.
The game vs. Louisiana Tech will not be automatic. Although a 4-4 record for Louisiana Tech doesn't look so hot, you should take note that three of those loses came against ranked teams: (10)Miami, (11)Tennessee, and (3)Auburn.
Final Predicted Pre-Bowl Rankings
#1. USC (12-0, 8-0, PAC-10)
#2. Oklahoma (11-0, 8-0 + 1 Post Season Win, Big 12)
#3. Auburn (11-0, 8-0 SEC + 1 Post Season Win) + 1 Post Season Win
#4. Michigan (10-1, 8-0 Big 10)
#5. Texas (10-1, 7-1, Big 12)
#6. Miami (10 - 1, 7 - 1 ACC)
#7. Utah (11 - 0, 7 - 0 MWC)
#8. Boise State (11 - 0, 8 - 0 WAC)
#9. Iowa (9 - 2, 7 - 1, Big Ten)
#10. Georgia (9 - 2, 6 - 2 SEC)
#11. Wisconsin (10 - 1, 7 - 1 Big Ten)
#12. Tennessee (10 - 1, 7 - 1 SEC) + 1 Post Season Loss
#13. Virginia (9 - 2, 5 - 1 ACC)
#14. Florida State (9 - 2, 6 - 2 ACC)
#15. West Virginia (9 - 2, 5 - 1 Big East)
-Given the important late season game between Auburn and Georgia, along with the SEC Championship game, we know that two of the following three teams will drop in the standings: Auburn, Georgia, and Tennessee. My money is on Auburn beating Georgia in the regular season, allowing Tennessee to take the SEC East.
-Given the remaining schedules, I am guessing that we will see five undecided teams: USC, Oklahoma, Auburn, Boise State, and Utah. Auburn has the toughest road ahead, with a regular season game vs. Georgia, along with the SEC Championship game.
-Even though Boise State and Utah will both most likely finish their seasons undefeated, I don't believe either team deserves to play in a BCS championship game. Neither of these teams faced a true national power during their entire schedules, so it simply impossible to measure the caliber of these clubs against the other nationally ranked teams.
I truly believe the strength of schedule component should not have been removed from the BCS calculations. I think all teams should work towards developing stronger non-conference schedules, playing against teams of the same caliber.
Personally, I would much rather see Michigan play Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, and Boise State in their non-conference schedule, finishing with a 9-2 mark, than see a non-conference schedule involving teams like Central Michigan, Miami (OH), and San Diego State.
The only way we would ever see these types of matchups would be to completely remove the computational aspect of the BCS rankings. The only true way to do this would be to use the Coach's poll as the final set of rankings. Only a human is able to look at a team's performance over the entire season to determine how they should be ranked, automatically taking into account intangibles such as a team's strength of schedule, and the quality of the team's victories.
The problem is that there is simply no way to measure a team like Boise State's performance unless they add games like Texas, Georgia, and Michigan to their schedule. Adding a requirement for a quality non-conference schedule for national title consideration would go a long way to making the non-conference schedule more interesting, and ensuring that the national rankings are measurable and fair.