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RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – THE TOP 10!

THE TOP 10!!! These are the cream of the crop in my opinion and the most elite of the elite. What’s interesting about this group is the history they are all chasing. Of the top-10 coaches, there are 5 who have won national championships. Those 5 are Bob Stoops, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. Even though they’ve won national titles, they are chasing history in their own way. For Swinney is the prospect of becoming one of the greatest head coaches of all time. For Fisher it’s to stand side by side with Bobby Bowden in Florida State history. For Stoops it is trying to get back to what he achieve in 2000. For Meyer and Saban, their chase is for the crown of greatest college football head coach of all time. I’m of the opinion that Saban already holds the that crown surpassing Bear Bryant, but if there is a coach who could challenge Saban, it’s Urban Meyer. For the 5 guys on this list that haven’t won a national title, you can be sure they know it’s the last thing they need to accomplish to cement their legacy. The previous rankings can be found in the following links:

#50-#65
#40-#49
#30-#39
#20-#29
#11-#19

#10 – Bobby Petrino – Louisville

While it’s certainly permissible to question his off-field behavior, there is simply no questioning what Bobby Petrino can do on the field. He took Louisville to national championship contender the first go around with the Cardinals. He did the same with Arkansas. Now that he’s back in the ‘Ville, he tied Clemson for the ACC Atlantic division championship and had Louisville not lost to Clemson, then the Cardinals would have been the ones playing for the ACC Championship and the Clemson dream season would never have happened. That was year 3 and he’s already ahead of Florida State! Only Clemson and Florida St. have won more games than the Redbirds the past 3 seasons among ACC teams. Only Clemson & FSU has a better conference record. Recruiting has jumped about 10 spots already from the time Petrino took over until now. His foray into the NFL was a disaster and his questionable conduct at Arkansas was a bit concerning to say the least but Petrino has reinvented himself at Louisville and once again is proving to be one of the very best college football coaches in the nation! With Lamar Jackson returning next year, Louisville should be in the national championship hunt.

#9 – Jim McElwain – Florida

Some might think this is too high for McElwain but in his first two years in Gainesville he’s gone 19-8 with a conference mark of 13-3 winning two SEC East division titles with the Gators finishing the 2016 season ranked 14th! What’s remarkable about Florida in McElwain’s first couple of seasons is that they’ve been winning this much without any QB play. In his first season, McElwain had deal with Will Grier getting injured and then relying upon Treon Harris who should have never been under center. Last season he had to rely on a Purdue transfer who couldn’t find playing time with the Boilermakers! That same Purdue squad who has a record of 8-28 over the last 3 years! McElwain is an offensive guy so my guess is that it’s only a matter of time before Florida starts playing the kind of offense McElwain wants. They’ll always be outstanding defensively because of the athletes the Gators can attract to campus. What McElwain has accomplished with having to build up the program the way he wants it is incredible. Granted, they’ve been dominated in the SEC Championship game and the SEC East hasn’t exactly been fantastic, but I think that is more of a reflection on missed opportunity for teams like Tennessee, Georgia & South Carolina than it is on McElwain taking advantage of a weakened division. McElwain is starting to dominate recruiting too and Gators fans can be rest assured that McElwain won’t leave Gainesville for Ohio.

#8 – David Shaw – Stanford

Frankly this might too low for Shaw. Jim Harbaugh might have laid the foundation for the Cardinal in recent times, but what Shaw has done since taking over the program is nothing short of incredible. In his 6 seasons in Pao Alto, Stanford has won 4 Pac 12 North division titles. They’ve won 3 Pac 12 championships. They are a perfect 3-0 in the Rose Bowl and they’ve been to 4 BCS bowls. Shaw is on a 3-bowl game winning streak and in 5 of this 6 years the Cardinal have never finished below 12th in the final AP Rankings with 3 seasons in the top-10! He’s consistently bringing in top-20 classes which is incredible given the academic restrictions that Stanford is under. Even in his worst season, 2014, Shaw still guided Stanford to an 8-5 season with a bowl victory! Stanford had a little trouble getting started last year but finished the year on a 6-game winning streak to get to 10-3 which was the 5th time in 6 years Shaw had Stanford with double-digit wins. Shaw’s 64 wins in 6-years is Stanford’s greatest run in Cardinal football history! It’s going to be interesting going forward with Stanford and Shaw. The Cardinal lost to both Washington & Washington St. last season and Chris Petersen and Mike Leach aren’t going anywhere. I’m a HUGE fan of Gary Andersen at Oregon St. and the Oregon Ducks bring in a guy in Willie Taggart who at the VERY LEAST will have Oregon as one of the most talented teams in the nation. USC is starting to flex and Mike MacIntyre put the Pac 12 on notice last season. The Pac 12 is changing and it’ll be great to see how Shaw adjusts to the changes.

#7 – Bob Stoops – Oklahoma

Arguably the most underappreciated football coach in America. The last two seasons Bob Stoops has lead the Sooners to a 22-4 mark with a 17-1 conference record. He’s won the Big XII both years. He’s finished #5 in the AP poll both years. Got to the college football playoffs in 2015 and then won the Orange Bowl last year with a convincing 35-19 win over Auburn. All of that winning and Stoops still gets flack for not having Oklahoma where they need to be! What’s hurt Stoops in recent times is his inability to win big time games. It’s unfortunate that Stoops won a national title in Norman in his 2nd year back in 2000 because since then the expectation has been a national championship (as it should be at Oklahoma) but the Sooners have come up empty over the last 16 seasons! That’s a long time to wait when you are an Oklahoma fan. Oklahoma did play for the national title in 2004 and 2008 but the Sooners were hammered in the Orange Bowl in 2004 by USC 55-19, and then in 2008 Tim Tebow got the better of them in Urban Meyer’s 2nd national championship. The other knock on Stoops is that he hasn’t recruited at an extraordinarily high level the past few years (although his 2017 class is a top-10 class) and the Big XII has the perception of being “weak” which hurts Stoops to a degree because he’s the big fish in a relatively small pond. I’m not sure I buy into either excuses, but getting hammered early last year by Ohio State wasn’t a good look and Texas hasn’t given Oklahoma too much competition in the Big XII for quite awhile now. Stoops makes a VERY compelling case to be #3 on this list and #7 does seem a bit low to me, but he ended 2016 on an incredible note and the 2017 recruiting was fantastic. Stoops could very well creep back into top-3 status sooner rather than later.

#6 – Jim Harbaugh – Michigan

The last 3 coaches before Jim Harbaugh had the following first 2-seasons record at Michigan:

Brady Hoke: 19-7
Rich Rodriguez: 8-16
Lloyd Carr: 17-8

Jim Harbaugh in his first two seasons has gone 20-6 with back to back double digit win seasons! The only other Michigan HC in Wolverines football history to begin his career with back to back double digit win seasons was Fielding Yost who posted back to back 11-0 seasons back in 1901-1902! What Harbaugh has done at Michigan is nothing short of spectacular. Rich Rodriguez was a complete mess. Brady Hoke was lost and terrible once he got his own players to Ann Arbor. I’m a big Lloyd Carr fan, but outside of the national championship team Michigan had in 1997 where they went 12-0, Carr never had a team lose less than 2 games. Carr also lost more bowl games than he won and in his last 7 bowl games, Carr’s Wolverines teams were 2-5! Harbaugh has come in to one of the most significant, historically relevant programs in college football history, that hadn’t been relevant in almost 20 years and immediately made them a top-5 team. His last two recruiting classes have both been top-5 classes. Michigan is now competing with Alabama, Ohio St., USC, Florida, Florida St., and Clemson for recruits. Some might think ranking Harbaugh at #6 could be a bit too high too fast, but look at his track record at Stanford. Look what he did at San Francisco? Sure he hasn’t won the Big 10 East yet. He hasn’t beaten Ohio St. yet either, but Harbaugh’s entrance into the Big 10 made the Big 10 East immediately the best division in college football with the best rivalry now being amped up to all time historical levels. He’s a master motivator and is just getting started. If he can post back to back 10-3 seasons without any firm foundation in place, what is Michigan football going to look like when Harbaugh has the program firing on all cylinders?

#5 – Chris Petersen – Washington

I think some people thought Petersen might struggle a bit at Washington after leaving the comfortable confines of Boise. Dan Hawkins couldn’t make it work at Colorado after he left Boise State. Dirk Koetter had a much tougher road at Arizona State after leaving Boise State although Koetter has reinvented himself and is now the HC of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has the Bucs close to playoff contention. The same struggle was thought to follow Petersen to Seattle. Most thought Petersen would turn out well, but that it might take a few years…..yeah it took 3. Petersen’s first two years with the Huskies saw Washington go a combined 15-12 with back-to-back 4-5 conference seasons. In Year 3, Washington would finish the season 12-1 (8-1) with a Pac 12 North division championship, a Pac 12 outright championship and a spot in the college football playoff. The playoff wasn’t spectacular as UW lost to Alabama 24-7, but to be honest, Washington played a pretty tight game against the Crimson Tide despite losing the game. Recruiting is improving under Petersen although it’s always going to be hard to pull kids into dreary Seattle over hot spots like USC, Florida, Florida St., Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Miami-FL, Texas, LSU, UCLA, Tennessee, Arizona State, Arizona and South Carolina. And that isn’t mentioning traditional powerhouse football teams with less than ideal locations such as Penn St., Ohio St., Michigan, and Notre Dame. With that said, Washington should be able to push their recruiting into the top-20 range annually without a problem and that is more than enough talent for Petersen to win and win big with. I think Rick Neuheisel and Don James showed that the Huskies could be relevant on the national stage and Washington is one of those teams that makes college football better when they are winning. The Pac 12 is changing a bit with a lot of incoming young talent as head coaches so Petersen has his work cut out for him, but he’s got Washington ahead of schedule and I don’t think they’ll regress. Washington should be as good or better in 2017 as they were in 2016.

#4 – Jimbo Fisher – Florida State

It’s easy to forget now that Fisher has the Seminoles back at the apex of college football that in Bobby Bowden’s last 5 years as HC, Florida St. posted a combined record of 38-27, finishing outside the final AP-Top 25 in 3 of those 5 seasons and having a losing bowl record of 2-3. Recruiting was way down and some thought that Bobby Bowden was finished and the FSU program along with him. Bowden was finished, but Florida St. wasn’t. Fisher stepped in immediately and led FSU to a 10-4 season, won the ACC Atlantic division title and got a bowl win, giving FSU their first double digit win season in 6 years! Fisher would win the ACC in Year 3. He’d win a national title in Year 4 and play for a another national title in Year 5! Bowden’s last 5 years in Tallahassee saw the ‘Noles go 38-27, but Fisher’s first 5 years in Tallahassee would see FSU post a 58-11 record with a national title and 3 ACC titles! The turnaround was absolutely stunning and put Florida St. back into the ELITE of the ELITE category. Recruiting soared and Fisher has the program humming with no let up in sight. One of the biggest clues that show how good a place FSU is in under Fisher is their last two seasons. Florida St. has had back to back 10-3 seasons finishing #14 in 2015 and #8 in 2016. Those are great if not spectacular seasons, but at this point in Fisher’s tenure, they seem like rebuilding seasons for FSU or disappointing seasons. When you average being a borderline top-10 over a 2-year period and it’s looked at as disappointing, you know you have expectations at an all time high, and Fisher knows he can meet those expectations!

#3 – Dabo Swinney – Clemson

It’s almost impossible to argue Swinney’s success. I’m trying to keep my analysis to the past 5 years and Swinney has enough success those 5 years, but if we stretch Swinney out to his last 6 years, he’s led Clemson to a 70-13 record including a 6-2 bowl record, a national championship, 2 national championship game appearances, 3 ACC championships and 4 ACC Atlantic division titles! It’s a better resume than anyone not named Nick Saban and Swinney can certainly stack up well with Urban Meyer. He has shown he can recruit top-5 classes to Clemson meaning there doesn’t seem to be any weaknesses to Swinney’s arsenal when it comes to head coaching college football. He’s leaped Jimbo Fisher in the ACC Atlantic which is no small feat and he’s keeping Bobby Petrino at bay, which again is no small feat. Swinney was also able to avenge his 2015 championship game loss to Alabama by besting the Tide in 2016 behind QB Deshaun Watson. Swinney has 6 straight 10+ win seasons at Clemson which is a school record. I’d also say that this year Swinney passed Danny Ford as the greatest football coach in Clemson history. The only question now facing Swinney has he moves forward is sustaining that success. The way you become legendary is winning multiple championships the way Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have been able to do. Note that Bob Stoops couldn’t do it. Mack Brown couldn’t do it. Jimbo Fisher hasn’t done it. Jim Tressel couldn’t do it. Steve Spurrier couldn’t do it. Lou Holtz couldn’t do it. It’s not easy. Winning a championship to begin with isn’t easy, but Swinney has about as much momentum going forward as I’ve ever seen and it’ll be interesting going forward to see how much he goes after a historical legacy. He’s a great head football coach. Is he an all-time great?

#2 – Urban Meyer – Ohio State

Speaking of all-time greats……it’s one thing for Dabo Swinney to pass up Danny Ford as Clemson’s best coach of all time. It’s quite another for Urban Meyer to be on pace to make people forget about the legendary Woody Hayes. Meyer has been in Columbus for 5 seasons guiding the Buckeyes after he left a Florida Gators program he won two national championships with. In those 5 seasons, Ohio St. is 61-6 including 3 perfect Big 10 seasons, one perfect season, a national championship, 5 Big 10 division titles and one outright Big 10 championship. In Woody Hayes’s first 5 seasons the Buckeyes were 33-11-2 with one national championship and 2 Big 10 titles. It’s comparable but I’d say Meyer has Woody. It’s hard to knock Meyer’s success. It’s incredible and he’s VERY DESERVING of being #2 on this list. Ohio St. is a machine at this point and there isn’t a team in America that out-recruits Ohio St. other than Alabama, and even then I’d say the Buckeyes Tide have equal talent. The one knock I have on Meyer is that I think he ran from Saban when Saban took over Alabama. I think this is incredible strategy by Meyer, but it also shows to me why you can never put Meyer ahead of Nick Saban unless Meyer just hammers him head-to-head 3-4 times in national championship games. Meyer took over Florida in 2005. Saban’s last year at LSU was 2004 and remember that Saban won a national title in Baton Rouge in 2003. So Meyer came into Florida without Saban at Alabama and the Mad Hatter at LSU. Fullmer goes 5-6 at Tennessee in 2005 and Mark Richt is in Georgia, but he’s not much of a problem for Meyer. Kentucky & Vanderbilt aren’t issues and South Carolina had just hired Steve Spurrier and it’ll take the Ol Ball Coach a little bit of time to get the Gamecocks rolling. Meyer recruits arguably the greatest college football player in history (Tim Tebow) and wins national championships in 2006 and 2008. Saban comes back to Alabama in 2007. Meyer couldn’t have known this. It takes Saban a season to get Alabama rolling but in Year 2, Saban has the Tide at 12-0 and playing for an SEC championship. Tebow is a junior at this time and in the SEC Championship game, Florida beats Alabama 31-20 although Alabama held a 20-17 lead going into the 4th quarter. In 2009, Timmy Tebow is a senior and Florida is expected to win a national championship giving Tebow 3 in 4 years. Florida goes 12-0, but so does Alabama. They meet in the SEC Championship game and instead of Tebow willing Florida to another win, Alabama DESTROYS Florida 32-13 on their way to Saban’s first national title with the Tide. Without Tebow in 2010, Florida slides to 8-5 and takes another beating at the hands of Alabama 31-6 in regular season play. Urban leaves Florida citing health reasons or family reasons or some combination of the two. It’s suspect timing because Alabama would win 2 of the next 3 national championship games with Auburn winning the other. Of course, a year later Urban Meyer takes over the Ohio State team which is conveniently in a conference without Nick Saban.

It’s an interesting story and probably 100% conjecture although it does make some sense. The irony of course is that Meyer comes to the Big 10 East where in 2012, the conference is in turmoil so to speak. Michigan is somewhat of a joke now that they’ve gone through the Rich Rodriguez era and Brady Hoke is screwing up. Penn State is a complete mess due to the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky scandal that is erupting. Bo Pellini can’t get Nebraska figured out and Ohio St. finds itself in the Big 10 Leaders division with Indiana, Illinois & Purdue! Sure Wisconsin is around, but as good as the Badgers are, Meyer has to know that Wisconsin could NEVER keep up with the influx of talent to Columbus with how Meyer recruits. The problem is that it doesn’t stay that way. Two years later the Big 10 welcomes in Maryland & Rutgers and the divisions change. Michigan & Michigan St. come over to the Big 10 East while Wisconsin changes to the Big 10 West. Penn St. rights the ship quick with Bill O’Brien before turning it over to James Franklin. Mark Dantonio is now in the same division as Meyer and lo and behold, Michigan brings in Jim Harbaugh! The Big 10 Leaders division goes from being a laughing stock division that Ohio St. could have dominated for decades to the Big 10 East which is now arguably the most difficult division to play in with 4 of the best head coaches in all of college football.

This bites Meyer a bit. Ohio St. was ineligible for postseason play in 2012, but in 2013 Ohio St. loses the Big 10 championship to Mark Dantonio and Michigan State. In 2014 Ohio St. does manage to win the national championship in the first ever football playoff scenario beating Alabama 42-35 in the semifinals before beating Oregon, but in 2015 they miss the Big 10 title game because of a tie-breaker loss to Michigan St. and last year they miss the Big 10 title game again due to a tie-breaker loss to Penn State! They get to the playoffs last season, but are humiliated by Clemson 31-0 in the semifinal game. Luckily Ohio St. didn’t draw Alabama because shades of 2008-2009 come to mind if that scenario played out again. Saban would have remembered and the outcome for Ohio St., like it was for Florida, wouldn’t have been pretty. I write all of this not to cast doubt on Meyer’s legitimacy. He’s an all-time great legendary coach. Everyone agrees, but I think an overlooked aspect of Meyer’s career is that he’s been fairly strategic in trying to put himself into the best place possible. You can’t knock him on that. Opportunity doesn’t come often and he’s taken advantage of that opportunity by helping it with putting himself in the right situations. That and winning Tebow from Mike Shula during Tebow’s recruitment has done wonders for Meyer’s status.

#1 – Nick Saban – Alabama

G.O.A.T! He’ll eventually tie or pass Bear Bryant’s record of 6 national championships. Saban already has 5 and to be honest he’s probably the greatest coach in Alabama and LSU history. Hell he might be the greatest coach in Michigan State history as well! Saban has been at Alabama now for 10 seasons. In those 10 seasons he’s gone 119-19! The man has averaged 12 wins per season for a decade! He’s won 4 national championships, 6 SEC Championships, 8 SEC West championships and has finished ranked in the AP top-10 for the last 9 consecutive seasons! This doesn’t even account for the national championship he won at LSU, the SEC championship he won at LSU or the 3 SEC West titles he won at LSU. Saban has also won 8 bowl games in this 10 years in Tuscaloosa. Nobody can out-recruit the Tide & Saban. He deals with a lot of coordinator turnover because everyone wants his coordinators to take over their teams! Jim McElwain was his OC. Now he’s the HC at Florida! Kirby Smart was his DC. Now he’s the HC at Georgia! Lane Kiffin was a former HC for USC, Tennessee and the Oakland Raiders and spent the last few seasons as Saban’s OC! Mark Dantonio was on Saban’s staff for 5 years at Michigan St. and he’s now the HC at Michigan State! Jimbo Fisher was on Saban’s staff at LSU. He’s the HC now at Florida State! The one constant is Nick Saban himself. We could go on and on about his accolades but they’ll all point to the same conclusion. Nick Saban is the best football coach in college football right now. He’s also the greatest college football coach to ever live.

May 27, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Alabama, Big 10, Big XII, Clemson, Coaching, Florida, Florida St., Louisville, Michigan, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, Stanford, Washington | Leave a comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #19 to #11

Now we are inside the top-20! What’s interesting about these guys to me is that all of them could make moves that would land them inside the top-10 if they had a championship caliber season, which for most of them is the last hurdle they need to overcome to get into that very elite category. As I wrote previously picking from #19 to #11 is probably based more on preference, but if you keep reading, there are some very interesting story lines with these guys that could affect their rankings going forward. Every coach/team mentioned here definitely has a story line that will be scrutinized in 2017. If you need to catch up, here are the links the previous articles in this series:

#50-#65
#49-#40
#39-#30
#29-#20

#19 – Bill Snyder – Kansas State

Coach Snyder is a tough one to rank because on the one hand you can argue he’s one of the all time great coaches in college football history. He’s unique in that he got the Kansas State job and kept it for as long as he wanted. He even came back after leaving at the conclusion of the 2005 season. In today’s football world, a coach at a school like Kansas St. would have bolted for another opportunity if they had had the success that Snyder has had at KSU. From 1995-2000, Snyder posted a 63-12 record with a 39-8 mark in Big XII play which included 3 Big XII North titles. Any other coach would have bolted for Georgia or Clemson or Auburn or Miami-FL. What keeps Snyder a bit lower is that he hasn’t won a ton at Kansas St. nationally. He’s never won a national championship. He’s only won the Big XII twice in 25 years of coaching. He’s 8-10 in bowl games. That mostly speaks to the ceiling of Kansas St. football. Snyder came back to Manhattan because Ron Prince lowered the standards. Snyder raised them again, but he can’t quite get KSU to national prominence. His hope was that Prince could do it. His hope when he retires is that the Wildcats get it right the 2nd time.

#18 – Mike Gundy – Oklahoma State

Gundy might be underrated by a long shot. Remember that Gundy has to go up against Oklahoma within his own state and Texas in his own region. Those are two college football Goliaths that are almost impossible to beat on the recruiting trail yet Gundy over the last 7 seasons has failed to win at least 10 games only twice. Gundy is coming off back to back 10-3 seasons and has posted 10-3 seasons in 3 of the past 4 years. Gundy almost won a national championship in 2011. If the Cowboys don’t completely blow it late in the year against Iowa St., then they would have played LSU in the national championship game that year instead of Alabama. The Tide beat LSU 21-0 in a revenge game after LSU beat the Tide earlier 9-6 in Tuscaloosa, but you’d have to think Oklahoma St. would have had a good shot at upending the Bayou Bengals. Oklahoma St. finished #3 in the rankings, but you have to wonder where the program could have been catapulted to had they brought home a national championship. What sticks out about Gundy to me as well is that he almost accomplished what Jimmy Johnson thought was impossible with Oklahoma State, namely winning a title. Gundy is about as Oklahoma St. as you can possibly get. He’ll be there forever if he wants and I can’t see him leaving which makes him quite a bit like Bill Snyder. Because of 2011, I’m not sure there is a ceiling to OK State football, so it’ll be interesting to see if Gundy can get over the hump and win a title.

#17 – Gus Malzahn – Auburn

It’s easy to forget that Malzahn led War Eagle to a national championship game his first season as head coach of the Tigers. That was a tall order beating a Jameis Winston led Florida St. squad so you can’t exactly blame him for losing. Malzahn has caught quite a bit of heat the past couple of seasons because he hasn’t replicated the success of that 12-2 squad from 2013. Malzahn is an offensive savant, but people forget just how good Auburn’s defense was in 2013. They didn’t create a lot of turnovers but they got after the ball quite a bit with quite a few sacks and tackles for loss. The O-line was dominant giving Tre Mason & Nick Marshall plenty of room to run. The defense & O-Line took a step back in 2014 and in 2015 Malzahn really didn’t have a QB as Jeremy Johnson wasn’t the answer. He entered 2016 with the same problems and Auburn struggled early, but when Auburn finally settled on Sean White, they reeled off 6 straight wins and won 6 of 7 after starting 1-2. The season didn’t end well with losses to Alabama & Oklahoma, but losing to Alabama in Tuscaloosa is hardly cause for concern and by season’s end Oklahoma was a top-5 team. Malzahn recruits extremely well and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Auburn really take off. Malzahn has his system in place and there is loads of talent here. Sean White is the unquestioned starter now and I”m willing to bet that Auburn gets back to double digit wins. In the SEC West, that is an incredible coaching job.

#16 – Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern

What Fitzgerald has done at Northwestern is nothing short of amazing. Over this last 9 seasons, he’s lead the Wildcats to 7 bowl games. In the 114 seasons before Fitzgerald got to Evanston, Northwestern played in a total of 6 bowl games! It’s almost impossible for Northwestern to recruit on any major level unless some kids simply want to wind up in Evanston or have ties to Northwestern. While the Wildcats might not necessarily have it as bad as Vanderbilt because the Commodores play in the SEC, that might change given how good the coaching in the Big 10 is getting. I guess it could be worse and Northwestern could be in the Big 10 East, but Nebraska, Wisconsin & Iowa are pretty darn good. Lovie Smith is recruiting better to Illinois and Purdue & Minnesota just hired solid young coaches. It’ll be interesting to see how Fitzgerald adjusts to an influx of talent in the coaching ranks. He’s never gotten Northwestern to the Rose Bowl the way Gary Barnett was able to but he’s won 10 games in 2 of the past 5 years. Regardless of what happens around him, I have a feeling that Fitzgerald is going to keep winnings games. One thing I do want to mention about Fitzgerald and Northwestern is that if I had to pick any place for my son to go to college and play football, Northwestern would be in the discussion along with Michigan and Stanford. There really isn’t a better compliment to pay a head coach.

#15 – James Franklin – Penn State

From semi-mess to Rose Bowl in 3-years!? Franklin has more than earned ranking this high even if hadn’t took the Nittany Lions to a Big 10 championship in year 3. Franklin didn’t necessarily inherit the mess that descended upon Happy Valley in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, but Bill O’Brien was never going to be a long term solution and bolted for the NFL the first chance he got. Franklin didn’t shy away from the task of making Penn St. nationally relevant again and in just 3 years he had the Lions playing the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2008 and ranked inside the top-10 in the final AP poll for the first time since 2009! Franklin recruited at a high level immediately when taking the job, but he’s been able to sustain that success despite having a couple of 7-6 seasons to start his tenure. That success would only seem to increase the more Franklin wins because as a football purist, there isn’t many places more special to play than at Penn State! The only wild thing about Frankin’s success will be his ability to keep it going. He’s ranked #15 on this list which is fantastic, but he’s just 4th among coaches in the Big 10 East. That division is without a doubt the most feared and difficult division in all off football with Penn St. emerging as a national threat. Michigan St. isn’t always going to have off years and it’ll be intriguing to see what Franklin can do once Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State are firing on all cylinders. I think Franklin can handle the difficulty.

#14 – Kyle Whittingham – Utah

Did you know that Whittingham is 10-1 in bowl games since taking for Urban Meyer as HC of Utah!? That’s downright amazing and if I’m not mistaken that is the best record of any FBS coach in bowl games that have coached at least 6 of them. All Whittingham does is win football games, but what is most impressive about him is the transition Utah made into the Pac 12. In their last 3 years in the Mountain West, Whittingham guided the Utes to a 33-6 record including their perfect 13-0 year in 2008 which saw Utah finished ranked #2 in the nation! The transition to the Pac 12 was never going to be easy and Utah took some lumps early going 9-18 in conference play in their first 3 seasons. Their next 3 seasons have seen a complete turnaround as Utah has posted a 28-11 record from 2014-2016 with a conference mark of 16-11, winning a share of the Pac 12 South in 2015. A by product of playing in a better conference and winning is that recruiting has massively improved for the Utes since 2014 and the program has a lot more talent on hand to compete with other Pac 12 schools. Last season Utah almost broke through expoentially. The Utes finished 9-4 with a bowl win over Indiana, but their 4 losses came by a total of 19 points! The year before (2015) Utah finished 10-3 with 2 of their losses coming by a combined 15 points. Utah & Whitingham win their fair share of close games as well, but winning a lot more of those games than you lose is a clear indicated of a great coach, which is exactly what Whittingham is.

#13 – Mark Richt – Miami-FL

Richt is another tricky coach because of perception versus reality. There is a lot of sentiment that Richt was somewhat of a disappointment at Georgia despite coaching in Athens for 15 years and averaging 10 wins a season while also averaging a 6-2 conference record during those 15 seasons! Did I mention Georgia plays in the SEC? That’s outstanding but at Georgia that’s only close. During those 15 seasons, Richt won just 2 outright SEC titles and hadn’t one one since 2005 when Georgia parted ways with him after the 2015 season. Richt is a tremendous coach and a tremendous recruiter. There can be no doubt about that, but what’s interesting about Richt’s time in college football is that he got to Georgia in 2001. Urban Meyer got to Florida in 2005. Richt won 2 SEC titles from 2001-2005 and 3 SEC East divisions. It’s also worth noting that Nick Saban was at LSU from 2000-2004 and then at Alabama from 2007 to present. Richt is fantastic. Everyone would agree, but Meyer & Saban and absolute Hall of Fame locks. Saban is arguably the greatest college football coach of all time and Meyer is easily in the top-5 if not #2 behind Saban. Richt’s only real crime is being born at the wrong time, between Saban (9-years later) and Meyer (4-years prior). Richt will do an outstanding job at Miami-FL. Recruiting will be fantastic. He already went 9-4 in his first season and came pretty close to winning the ACC Coastal. He’s not in the Atlantic with FSU & Clemson so the real story here is can Richt take Miami-FL a step further than he took Georgia? Do that and he leaps into the top-10 of these rankings. Stay 10-3 every year and Richt is a top-15 coach for sure, but not quite elite of the elite.

#12 – Gary Patterson – Texas Christian

It took Patterson a couple of years to figure out the Big XII, but once he did, the Horned Frogs started dominating in much the same fashion that destroyed the competition in the Mountain West. From 2014-2015, TCU posted a 23-3 record with a couple of top-10 finishes and a share of the Big XII title in 2014. The 2014 season stung a bit as TCU dropped a 3 points game in Waco to Baylor which nailed their coffin for a shot at the college football playoffs. Florida St. was going to be in as they were 13-0 and defending champions. Alabama was 12-1 and SEC Champs. They weren’t being left out regardless. Ohio St. is Ohio State. At 12-1 they weren’t going to be left out. They had won 11 straight games and was coming off a 59-0 beating of Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship. The one team TCU could have argued against is Oregon, but Baylor might have had a better argument as Baylor beat TCU, but the Bears also lost to West Virginia. The thought was that if TCU can’t win the Big XII outright, should they be in the playoffs? I don’t know who they bump out and I don’t know how TCU would have fared, but that was a tremendous team and Patterson showed that he could take TCU from the Big XII and make them legitimate national title contenders. Last year was a bump in the road for Patterson and the Frogs and you could sense some let down after the Trevone Boykin/Aaron Green/Josh Doctson era ended on offense. TCU has a lot coming back in 2017 and my guess is Patterson jumps back into the top-10 of these rankings.

#11 – Mark Dantonio – Michigan State

I think we can all agree that Dantonio is a helluva football coach and is deserving of this ranking and maybe #11 is too low, but I do think there is a trend here that needs to be looked at because it involved Dantonio going forward. Dantonio really started to up his value as a HC starting in 2010 when he led the Spartans to an 11-2 record with a share of the Big 10 title. From 2010 to 2015, Michigan St. went 65-16 (39-9) with 3 Big 10 titles and 3 Big 10 division titles. Sparty won the Rose Bowl in 2013 and finished ranked in the top-14 in five of the 6 seasons and in the top-6 from 2013 to 2015! The 2010 to 2014 era is significant because of what was going on at Michigan during this time. From 2010-2014, the Wolverines were 38-26 (21-19). Michigan wasn’t Michigan in those 5 seasons and historically speaking, Michigan St. took on the role of Michigan while Michigan took on the role of Michigan State. What happened in 2015? Jim Harbaugh showed up in Ann Arbor! You could argue that the 2015 season showed that Dantonio could handle both Ohio State and Michigan, but that is tough because Michigan St. won a road game over Michigan when the Wolverines game it away. They also beat Ohio St. in Columbus in a game they shouldn’t have and then beat Iowa in the Big 10 championship in a game Iowa should have won. The playoffs exposed Michigan St. a bit when Alabama beat them 38-0, but maybe the Tide would have beat Ohio St. and Michigan by 40 points too! The proof might have come in 2016 when Michigan St. fell off considerably and finished 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in Big 10 play which included losses to Indiana, Northwestern, Maryland and Illinois. Winning those games would have pushed MSU to 7-5 potentially which would have gotten them bowl eligible at least with a shot at 8-5.  Maybe Connor Cook was that important!? Recruiting was down in 2017 for the Spartans while Michigan dominated. The trick with Dantonio is staying relevant while Michigan starts to dominate under Harbaugh. I think geography plays a role here. Auburn and Alabama can coexist as superpowers because they are in Alabama and the southeast. Florida and Florida St. can exist because they reside in Florida. The state of Michigan can’t resemble that type if relationship between it’s two football powers. Is Dantonio an outstanding head coach who can weather a bad year and get right back to the top of the Big 10 East or is he merely a solid head coach who took advantage of Michigan being down?

May 20, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Auburn, Big 10, Big XII, Coaching, Kansas St., Miami-FL, Michigan St., Northwestern, Oklahoma St., Pac 12, Penn St., Rankings, SEC, TCU, Utah | 1 Comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #29 to #20

We are now over half way done with the rankings with 36 college coaches in the books. You can probably say this with some certainty about any particular range of coaches ranked thus far, but I especially thought at this point that putting a coach here or there was especially difficult because it probably comes down to preference. I thought this was interesting in terms of recruiting because at this point in the rankings from #16 or #17 to #29 or #30, it probably comes down to a recruit’s willingness to buy into the system and his potential relationship with the coaching staff. At this point we aren’t talking about a recruit choosing between Alabama & Rutgers. It’s more choosing between Iowa and Mississippi State. There probably isn’t a wrong answer. To get you caught up, here are the links from the coaches ranked lower than #29:

#65-#50
#49-#40
#39-#30

Now let’s kick off with #29!

#29 – Kirby Smart – Georgia

Some might think this is a little too high for Smart given that he just came off his first year as a HC in Athens where the Georgia Bulldogs finished a pedestrian 8-5 with a 4-4 SEC record in an SEC East that was far from stellar, but I’d take the opposite approach and say Smart accomplished a tremendous amount in Year 1. Georgia did drop 3 home games it shouldn’t have (Tennessee, Vanderbilt & Georgia Tech), but those 3 losses turn to wins and UGA is 11-2 and not 8-5. That’s a rough argument because it cuts both ways, but I don’t think Georgia is going to have problems winning home games moving forward. The team played extremely well on the road even with Smart instituting his new defensive schemes with an offense that never really had a settled QB position. Throw in Nick Chubb coming back from injury and 8-5 doesn’t look too bad for a first year guy heading up one of college football’s elite blue bloods.

#28 – Clay Helton – USC

Helton may not have been the obvious pick to take the reigns in Troy, but he’s the right pick. It’s difficult to get a feel for Helton, but how can you argue with the results thus far? USC by year’s end was arguably one of the three best teams in football along with Alabama & Clemson. The Trojans ended the year on a 9-game winning streak that saw them finish the season with a 52-49 win over Penn St. in the Rose Bowl. Washington was fortunate that USC lost out on the Pac 12 South because I thought USC would have beat them in the Pac 12 championship game. All Helton has done over the last 2 seasons is go 15-7 with a conference record of 12-3! USC is also back to full scholarship strength for the most part and Helton is making no bones about cashing in. He’s recruiting at an exceptionally high level. High level recruiting. High level coaching. We are about ready to see some incredible wars between USC & Washington. The Pac 12 is bananas and Helton will climb this list by leaps and bounds after 2017.

#27 – Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech

I feel like this is too low for Johnson because he’s an incredible coach but he has a couple of things working against him. He’s a system guy because he runs that triple option on offense and that is going to have a tendency to play poorly when a new crop of players come in. This is essentially what happened in 2015 when GT finished 3-9. QB Justin Thomas returned, but their two leading RBs were freshman. That changed in 2016 when Marcus Marshall & Clinton Lynch returned, but RB Dedrick Mills turned out to be outstanding which gave Johnson quite a bit to work with. That improved the team and GT went 9-4 with a 6-1 record in their last 7 games including road wins over Virginia Tech & Georgia. Johnson doesn’t recruit the kinds of players that a lot of other schools are able to. He’s still won two ACC Coastal division championships in the last 5 years and the Yellow Jackets are a team nobody wants to face.

#26 – Kirk Ferentz – Iowa

Ferentz is probably underrated here, but you can’t help but be a little disappointed in Iowa every time they look like they are going to turn a corner. In 2015, Iowa had a tremendous year finishing with a perfect regular season but lost the Big 10 championship game to Michigan St. and the Rose Bowl to Stanford to put a black mark on an otherwise outstanding season. They followed that up last year with an 8-5 campaign that should have been 10-3. But we’ve seen this before from Ferentz. Iowa was 31-7 from 2002-2004 but followed those 3-years with a 3-year record of 19-18 from 2005-2007! The Hawkeyes finished 11-2 in 2009 but followed that up with an 8-5 season. Iowa has spurts of greatness but they are never sustained. Given the talent disparity between an Iowa and say a Michigan/Ohio State, what Ferentz has done in Iowa City is spectacular, but for some reason it always seems a bit disappointing. Iowa should win 10 games a year.

#25 – Paul Chryst – Wisconsin

The jury is still out on Chryst at this point, but the early returns are nothing short of incredible. Chyrst took over for Gary Andersen once Andersen bolted for Oregon State and the Badgers haven’t missed a beat. In his two seasons in Madison, Chryst is 21-6 with a Big 10 record of 13-4 with a Big 10 West division title in 2016. Chryst hasn’t had the most stable offensive game plan the last couple of seasons. In 2015 he had to deal with the loss of RB Corey Clement. Last he had to break in a new starting QB when Joel Stave graduated. What has been constant for Chryst is having a TREMENDOUS defense led by great coordinators. Dave Aranda was DC for Chryst in 2015 before bolting for LSU in 2016. In 2016, Chyrst hired Justin Wilcox to be DC, but Wilcox is now the HC for Cal. This year, former Badger Jim Leonard, takes over after having studied under both Aranda & Wilcox. If Chryst turns in another 11-win season, he’ll shoot up these rankings.

#24 – Dana Holgorsen – West Virginia

I’m a big fan of Holgorsen and he has the Mountaineers trending in the right direction. In 2014 WVU went 7-6. They improved to 8-5 a year later before having somewhat of a coming out party last season when they finished 10-3 (7-2) which was the best record West Virginia has had in the Big XII under Holgorsen. The interesting thing to see with Holgorsen is if he can continue the trend. Recruiting has dropped just a bit the last couple of years and it won’t be easy with the Mountaineers losing their starting QB along with a couple of their best defenders. It’s always going to be hard to compete with Oklahoma & Texas in conference play, but Holgorsen should have WVU set up enough that if one of the powers slip up, West Virginia should be right there to take advantage. That’s the key at this point. When does WVU get home games against Oklahoma & Texas in the same year and can they be primed to beat both of them?

#23 – David Cutcliffe – Duke

Last year’s 4-8 (1-7) team was disappointing but the 4-years prior to 2016 saw Duke finish 33-20, win the ACC Coastal once and get to 4-straight bowl games culminating in 2015 with their first bowl win since 1960! Before Cutcliffe came along the Blue Devils had never made it to a bowl game in back-to-back years. Cutcliffe did in back-to-back-to-back-to-back! He’s also been able to sell the football program as Duke has climbed out of the 50s and 60s recruiting rankings into the 30s and 40s. Duke is never going to out-talent anybody and the football team will always play second fiddle to the basketball team, but you can’t dismiss Cutcliffe’s coaching chops at all. Putting this guy at a place like Oregon or Florida would be scary given the resources he’d have to run the program. The ACC is getting tougher, but keep in mind Duke was a bit young last year. Cutcliffe is going to have more experience in 2017 and he’ll get the most out of it.

#22 – Mike Leach – Washington State

The Cougars were a completely mess under Bill Doba and Paul Wulff before the PIRATE took over. All Leach has done is get Wazzou back to a bowl game in his 2nd year and then come within a win over Washington of winning the Pac 12 North in year 5 last season. We shouldn’t be surprised. Leach spent 10 years in Lubbock at Texas Tech where he never posted a losing season and won 8-9 games per season. It took him 3 years to get Washington St. headed in the right direction, but over the last two seasons the team is 17-9 with a conference record of 13-5! Imagine if Leach wasn’t giving away games each season to FCS opponents!? Leach is still having trouble selling Pullman to potential recruits, but he never recruited exceptionally at Texas Tech either and it didn’t seem to matter. You can make a legitimate argument Leach should be much higher. Are there really 21 other coaches you’d rather have than the PIRATE himself?

#21 – Dan Mullen – Mississippi State

I’m only looking at the last 5 years of data for each coach, but it’s impossible ignore what Mullen has done over his team at Mississippi State. His only losing regular season was his first and he’s guided the Bulldogs to 7 straight bowl games. It was amazing how good Dak Prescott ended up for the Cowboys this past season, but what might have been even more impressive is Mullen getting the MSU to a bowl game in the year after Prescott left! Those were enormous shoes to fill and Mullen was still able to get MSU to 6 wins. While he’s never really had Hail State close to competing for a national championship, there have been glimpses. The Bulldogs started the 2012 season off 7-0 and reached #13 before faltering. In 2014, Mississippi St. started the season 9-0 and was ranked #1 before losing at Alabama 25-20. He’s never outrecruited anyone in the SEC West, but MS State keeps winning. There is a reason his name ALWAYS comes up when there is a big time coaching vacancy.

#2o – Brian Kelly – Notre Dame

One thing that stands out about Kelly against his recent predecessors in South Bend was his ability to avoid the bad season. Charlie Weis went 3-9 in 2007. Ty Willingham went 5-7 in 2003. Bob Davie 5-6 in 2001, his last season. But then it happened. Kelly turned in a 4-8 performance last year with HORRIFIC losses to Texas, Duke, NC State, Navy and Virginia Tech. All games the Irish should have won which would have made that 4-8 season a 9-3 season with the potential to get a solid bowl win to finish 10-3. Kelly has to be feeling tremendous heat as HC of the Irish. He’s recruited well, but the on-field results haven’t been good. Notre Dame really hasn’t beaten anyone of note and the championship game they played in against Alabama was a complete and total embarrassment! If Kelly can defend Notre Dame Stadium this fall, the Irish have a real shot at 11-1. Kelly needs it or else ND could be looking elsewhere for a head coach.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Big 10, Big XII, Coaching, Duke, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Mississippi St., Notre Dame, Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, USC, Washington St., West Virginia, Wisconsin | 2 Comments

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE COACHES – #39 to #30

Here are the links for the first two installments:

#50 – #65
#49-#40

if you need to catch up. Today we hit the thirties and I think the rankings start to become quite a bit more interesting as we start to hit some pretty big names in the coaching world. Let’s get to it.

#39 – P.J. Fleck – Minnesota

Yeah I’m rowing the boat! It’s difficult to argue Fleck’s track record as a first time head coach at Western Michigan. In his first year he led the Broncos to an 1-11 season. By his 4th year, WMU finished with a perfect 13-0 season before losing to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl 24-16. Western finished 29-11 (20-4) in Fleck’s last 3 years as HC. Fleck brings an excitement to Minnesota that Gophers fans haven’t experienced since Murray Warmath led Minnesota to back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1960-1961! You probably don’t even remember those teams unless you were born in the 1940s or early 1950s! It’s hard to argue with his success, but Fleck faces a completely different animal in the Big 10. Iowa, Nebraska & Wisconsin aren’t Ball St., Kent St. and Bowling Green. It’ll be interesting to see if Fleck can raise the ceiling for Gopher football.

#38 – Tom Herman – Texas

The hottest coaching prospect last season who happened to have deep roots in Texas wound up as the new HC for the Longhorns after the university had had enough of Charlie Strong’s leadership. As with Fleck, it’s almost impossible to deny Herman’s track record. He was Urban Meyer’s OC at Ohio State before jumping to the head coaching job at Houston where in his first season, Herman led the Cougars to a 13-1 record and a final ranking inside the top-10! I think Herman is a better fit within the Texas culture than Strong was and he’ll do well. He’s a good solid coach that connects with players and it won’t be long before he’s tearing it up on the recruiting trail once he gets the foundation of the program built. As with Fleck, the road will be a bit tougher. Playing in the American isn’t the Big XII and instead of Tulane, East Carolina and Memphis, Herman will go up against Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., TCU, Baylor and Kansas State.

#37 – Willie Taggart – Oregon

Taggart was an interesting hire for Oregon, but once it was known that Chip Kelly wasn’t coming back to college football, the Ducks had to move on and all Taggart has done as his time as a college football coach is build winners. Taggart played prep ball in Florida and then played his college ball at Western Kentucky where he was an assistant for 8 years before taking the RB coaching job at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh. From there he came back to his alma mater to be HC. He inherited a WKU team that went 0-12 the year before Taggart arrived, but in Taggart’s 2nd year, he had WKU at 7-5. In his 3rd and final year he had WKU bowling. Taggart left WKU to return to his home state of Florida and coach USF where he took over a Bulls team that went 3-9 before he arrived. By year 4 the Bulls were 11-2. Now he is going to attempt to bring Oregon back to the heights reached by Chip Kelly. Unlike Herman & Fleck above, Taggart has hit the recruiting trail hard and it is paying off early. It’ll be interesting to see how Taggart does at an elite program with massive resources. His track record speaks for itself.

#36 – Bret Bielema – Arkansas

The decision to leave Wisconsin for Arkansas was an interesting one for Bielema a few years ago and after the Hogs 2016 campaign, the shine is off of Arkansas’s head coach. Bielema took over a program that was in pretty bad shape after a year of John Smith as HC coming off the Bobby Petrino scandal. Bielema’s first year wasn’t pretty as Arkansas went 3-9 without a win in conference play, but by year 3 (2015), Arkansas 8-5 (5-3) and poised to potentially step into the role of challenger to Alabama in the SEC West. It wasn’t meant to be as Arkansas regressed last season to 7-6 (3-5) with a bowl loss. The 7-6 isn’t completely awful, but the losses were terrible. Arkansas was blown out in all of their losses except a close loss to Missouri which itself was inexcusable. I’m not completely sold on Bielema’s style of offense working in the SEC West, and truth be told, the worst thing for Bielema is having to live up the incredible expectations Bobby Petrino set when he was in Fayetteville. LSU has been dealing with a similar situation after Nick Saban took the Tigers to top-5 status.

#35 – Gary Andersen – Oregon State

Andersen is one of my favorite head coaches in college football and Oregon St. is one of my favorite teams. The two coming together was great for me as I think college football is better when Oregon State is relevant. That’s probably just me, but so what! It’s interesting that I ended up with Bielema and Andersen together as both left Wisconsin for other jobs. Andersen is a helluva head coach. He turned Utah State into an 11-win team with a WAC championship in 4 season. He took Wisconsin to a Big 10 West title in his 2nd year. When Mike Riley left Oregon St. for Nebraska, their was quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the Beavers program. Andersen came in and struggled his first year going 2-10 (0-9) but in his 2nd season last year, the Beavers improved to 4-8 (3-6) with conference wins over California, Arizona and hated rival Oregon! The scoring defense and scoring offense were also improved by 7 points each. The Pac 12 North is getting scary good with Chris Petersen doing work at Washington, Mike Leach winning at Washington St. and Willie Taggart taking over at Oregon, but something tells me Andersen is going to make life hard for those guys.

#34 – Justin Fuente – Virginia Tech

Absolutely love what Fuente did with the Hokies last season. Fuente had a lot of success at Memphis before taking the Virginia Tech job, but he’s been nothing but spades since landing in Blacksburg. Keeping Bud Foster on staff as DC was a genius move and speaks volumes as to the kind of man Foster is. Fuente also brought a run heavy attack to Virginia Tech which I think works in their favor. The Hokies have always been known under Bud Foster for having a very intimidating, turnover causing, very fast defense that hits exceptionally hard. Keeping those guys fresh and healthy by dominating time of possession is outstanding strategy that Fuente used last year to win the ACC Coastal in his first season where VT finished the year 10-4 and ranked #16 in the AP. Fuente is making deep strides in recruiting already and once the talent is assembled, Virginia Tech is going to be extremely difficult to handle.

#33 – Hugh Freeze – Mississippi

Like Bielema, the shine has dulled a bit on Freeze’s tenure in Oxford. After improving by a win each year for 3 straight years after a 7-6 campaign in 2012, Freeze and the Rebels took a tremendous step back last season finishing 5-7 (2-6). The overall records can also be a bit misleading as Freeze’s 5-year record in SEC play is not even .500 at 19-21. The bigger problem is the controversy surrounding the Ole Miss program and the NCAA violations. Ole Miss has taken a hit in recruiting already and if recruiting dries up for the Rebels then that spells disaster in arguably the most competitive division in all of college football. There is no question that Freeze can make Ole Miss great. He proved that in 2015, but how he deals with a potential fall out from these mistakes will be telling. The best news for Freeze at this point is that he’s still head coach and that QB Shea Patterson decided to stick around. With no bowl eligibility this season, Ole Miss should be playing like a teach with a chip on their shoulder.

#32 – Mike MacInytre – Colorado

You knew it was only a matter of time before Coach Mac had Colorado on the cusp of greatness. When MacIntyre got his first job as a HC at San Jose State, he finished 1-12 (0-8) in his first season as the Spartans leader. In year 3, San Jose St. went 10-2 (5-1) and beat Bowling Green in the Military Bowl! MacIntyre used that success to grab the Colorado job and what he did in Year 4 in Boulder almost defies reality. The Colorado rebuild wasn’t going to be easy. Not by a long shot. MacIntyre’s first 3 years as HC witnessed Colorado post a combined record of 10-27 with a conference record of 2-25!!!! Those were 3 straight last place finishes in the Pac 12 South! Last season, MacIntyre broke though HUGE as Colorado went 10-4 (8-1), won the Pac 12 South and drew Oklahoma St. in the Alamo Bowl. The Buffs posted wins over Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona, Utah, and Washington State! It was a BANNER year that was dampened a bit by losing 41-10 to Washington in the Pac 12 championship and 38-8 to Oklahoma St. in the Alamo Bowl. Was the breakthrough real, or did Coach Mac take advantage of an unusually weak Pac 12? Oregon was way down. UCLA was down. Arizona St. & Arizona were down. They beat Stanford 10-5 in an ugly contest and drew Utah & Washington St. in Boulder. I’m betting on MacIntyre. I think Colorado is good, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Buffaloes regressed just a bit in 2017.

#31 – Larry Fedora – North Carolina

This feels low considering it was just two years ago that Fedora led the Tar Heels to an 11-3 (8-0) record that saw the UNC win the ACC Coastal relatively easy. A deeper look though and you come away disappointed just a bit. That 2015 season was smoke and mirrors as UNC finished the regular season 11-1 but didn’t play a ranked opponent all season. They lost to Clemson in the ACC Championship game and then lost to Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Last season, the Coastal was again ripe for the taking but UNC gags at home to NC State in the season finale 28-21 and loses to Duke in Durham two weeks before 28-27! That seems ridiculous when you consider just how much offensive firepower the Heels had last season. Fedora has had some good seasons in Chapel Hill but no great ones and that task is going to get tougher and tougher now that Virginia Tech is in seemingly good hands with Justin Fuente and Miami-FL now has one of the best coaches in all of college football in Mark Richt. I really like Fedora and believe he can climb the rankings, but at this point it seems as if UNC has missed a couple of opportunities.

#30 – Mike Riley – Nebraska

The problem with Nebraska is that haven’t found anyone that can take the program to the heights that Tom Osborne did. Frank Solich wasn’t horrible actually and had a few top-10 squads in Lincoln, but not enough big time wins against bit time teams. The hiring of Bill Callahan was a disaster and Bo Pelini couldn’t quite get Nebraska past the 9-4/10-4 mark. Now Mike Riley gets his chance. Riley did wonderful things at Oregon St., and I was a bit surprised that he took the Cornhuskers job, but Oregon St. isn’t Nebraska and Riley now has every resource available to him. In his first season Nebraska wasn’t great at 6-7 (3-5) but last year Riley improved to 9-4 (6-3) with a perfect 7-0 record at home. Nebraska was even ranked #7 in the nation at one point after starting 7-0! It wouldn’t last as Nebraska would go on to lose games to Iowa, Ohio St., Wisconsin & Tennessee, but the season was a win. Riley is making big strides in recruiting and I think he’s putting an emphasis on the Black Shirts which is getting back to Nebraska football.

May 17, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arkansas, Big 10, Big XII, Coaching, Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Oregon St., Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, Texas, Virginia Tech | 3 Comments

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #49 to #40

If you missed the rankings for the coaches ranked #65 to #50, you can find it here or just keep scrolling and it’s the post directly after this one. We left off with Arizona HC Rich Rodriguez at #50 so let’s take a look at the coaches landing in the forties.

#49 – Kliff Kingsbury – Texas Tech

I’m not as down on Kingsbury as some people are. He’s heading into 2017 on the hot seat to be certain, but I don’t think it’s been all bad. Texas Tech isn’t the easiest place to win and so far in his 4 years in Lubbock, Kingsbury is 24-26 overall and 13-23 in conference play. Those aren’t tremendous numbers, but if you look at the league historically, the Red Raiders are following Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma St., TCU, Kansas St. and West Virginia. That makes them 7th in the league and a good coach at Baylor puts Tech 8th. Kingsbury has yet to record a winning record in conference play, but he recruits fairly well and I think he’s good for the university and the program. If trends hold, he should be in for a 7-9 win season in 2017.

#48 – Dave Doeren – North Carolina State

Doeren didn’t walk into a great situation given how NC State AD Debbie Yow dismissed his predecessor Tom O’Brien. Yow essentially cited lack of enthusiasm for the football program as justification for canning O’Brien, but in O’Brien’s last 3 seasons, NC State went 24-14 (13-11). In Doeren’s last 3 seasons as HC, the Wolfpack have went 22-17 (9-15). Yow wanted a football coach who could bring in Top-25 classes. Doeren hasn’t done that either. With that said, Doeren has been consistently 7-6/8-5 in his last 3 years, but he’s also went 3-5 in conference play those same three seasons. I think a coach can win at NC State & Doeren is doing just that, but he needs a breakthrough season with 9-10 wins.

#47 – Todd Graham – Arizona State

A lot of what I wrote about Rich Rodriguez can be written about Todd Graham as well. Graham is better than this but the Sun Devils have been regressing for a couple of year now. In 2013-2014, the Sun Devils posted a 20-7 record. The last two years that total has dropped to 11-14. Graham has been better than Rodriguez in conference play, but only marginally so. ASU went 8-1 in the Pac 12 South in 2013 and won the division. Just 3 years later they finished 2-7 and this is with USC still somewhat regrouping. Graham has recruited top-25 level classes to Tempe and Sun Devil Stadium can be a bear to play in for opposing teams. ASU was pretty young last year and I think 2017 will see a much improve Sun Devils squad.

#46 – Kevin Sumlin – Texas A&M

Sumlin’s star could have been any brighter after the 2012 season when he took the Aggies to an 11-2 record and a final ranking in the top-5. A&M would beat a #1 ranked Alabama team that year and then go on to humiliate a solid Oklahoma team in the Cotton Bowl. QB Johnnie Manziel wasn’t quite as spectacular in 2013 and the Aggies dropped to 9-4. Life after Manziel hasn’t been promising either as Sumlin has turned in 3 consecutive 8-5 seasons with a slew of QB transfers that can’t help morale down in College Station. Making matters worse is that Texas A&M is 15-17 in SEC play over the last 4 years & Alabama isn’t going away. Life in the SEC West isn’t easy and Sumlin probably enters 2017 on a seat that is heating up.

#45 – Derek Mason – Vanderbilt

Mason has to deal with some of the difficulties of being a HC at a school like Vanderbilt in much the same way that Northwestern, Duke, Stanford and even possibly Virginia has to deal with. Stanford is somewhat of an exception, but Vanderbilt is the only one of those schools playing the SEC which makes their ceiling quite a bit lower. You can’t help but be impressed with Mason so far in taking over for James Franklin. Mason cut his teeth under Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw at Stanford so he knows the drill. His first year in Nashville saw Vandy post a 3-9 (0-8) record. Last year, Mason’s 3rd, Vandy improved to 6-7 (3-5) with a bowl appearance. The rebuild wasn’t as fast as James Franklin coming in, but the Commodores are in good hands.

#44 – Mark Stoops – Kentucky

Like Mason, you can’t help but be impressed by the work Stoops is doing in Lexington. Stoops took over a disaster of a program left behind by Joker Phillips and turned them into a bowl team 4 years later. In Stoops’s first year (2013), UK was terrible going 2-10 (0-8) but last year the Wildcats jumped to 7-6 (4-4) and got a rivalry win over Louisville! Stoops has shown the ability to recruit top-25 level classes to Kentucky which is borderline amazing considering they are surrounded by football blue bloods which is another feather in Stoops’ cap. UK was smart to stick with their HC despite back-to-back 5-7 (2-6) seasons. It paid off in spades last year with UK having their best season since 2009. The talent is there for UK to be even better in 2017.

#43 – Dave Clawson – Wake Forest

Wake Forest hasn’t been relevant since the days of Riley Skinner and Aaron Curry. When Clawson took over in 2014, the Demon Deacons hasn’t had a winning season since 2008 nor had they had a bowl win since 2008. Winning in Winston-Salem isn’t exactly easy which is why it was so amazing what Jim Grobe was able to accomplish with Wake. He couldn’t sustain that and eventually Wake ended up being a sub-.500 team which led to Clawson’s hire. Clawson had to do some rebuilding his first two seasons which saw WF finish with back-to-back 3-9 (1-7) seasons, but the Deacons broke through last year finishing 7-6 (3-5) including a bowl win over a very good Temple squad. That’s solid progress for this program.

#42 – Butch Jones – Tennessee

This is probably too low for Jones. I’m of the opinion that the Vols should have never fired Fulmer, but I’m also not sure Fulmer was going to get Tennessee another national title which should always be the goal in Knoxville. Tennessee made a couple of bad hires in Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley and Jones was hired to clean up the mess. In his first season UT went 5-7. In his 2nd the Vols went 7-6 followed up by back to back 9-4 seasons. That’s progress, but to a degree Jones’s tenure at Tennessee has been marked by disappointment. In and SEC East where Missouri won a couple of division titles, Tennessee has come up empty despite SC not being very good and Florida being in a holding pattern until McElwain showed up. Is that a missed opportunity? It sure seems like it. Throw in the fact that UT is 14-18 in SEC play during Jones’s stay and he doesn’t look so good.

#41 – Jim Mora – UCLA

Like Jones, I think Mora is somewhat disappointing which is why he’s ranked in the 40s instead of the 20s. Last season was depressing with expectations that weren’t close to being met. The Bruins entered the 2016 season as the odds on favorite to win the Pac 12 South. With Washington thought to still be a year away, with USC still in rebuilding mode and with Oregon headed towards disaster, the conference and potential playoff spot was ripe for the taking. Instead, UCLA turned in a 4-8 season that saw star QB Josh Rosen miss half the season and potential 1st round NFL Pick DT Eddie Vanderdoes turn in an underwhelming season. The talent is here & Rosen is great so there is time for Mora to improve his stock in 2017.

#40 – Pat Narduzzi – Pittsburgh

Narduzzi was a tough one to figure out. On the one hand it seems as if he’s a little underrated. Since coming to Pittsburgh, he’s led the Panthers to a 16-10 overall record with an 11-5 mark in conference play. Last year’s Pitt squad was the best they’ve fielded since Dave Wannstedt took Pitt to a 10-3 final record back in 2009. On the other hand, the team under Narduzzi has also been puzzling. The 16-10 record is nice, but if you have watched Pitt the last two years, it could have been so much more. Last year the Panthers lost 4 games by a total of 18 points! The year before they lost 4 games by a total of 27 points. If Narduzzi can figure out how to win close games, we might be looking at a dominant Panthers team. However, Pittsburgh is also 0-2 in bowl games under Narduzzi’s watch & the defense got worse from 2015 to 2016 despite Narduzzi’s reputation as a defensive wizard. Narduzzi loses a truck load of talent so we’ll see how he responds in 2017.

May 15, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arizona St., Big XII, Coaching, Kentucky, NC State, Pac 12, Pittsburgh, Rankings, SEC, Tennessee, Texas AM, Texas Tech, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest | 4 Comments

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #50 to #65

Let’s get back into action with some college football talk. This marks the beginning of my ranking the 65 Power college football coaches in the nation. I looked all the head coaches from the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Notre Dame. I took the last 5 years and looked at their records, conference records, history, recruiting efforts, bowl records and the overall trends of their team over these past 5 seasons. I’ll go in reverse order starting at the bottom and working my way up by 10 spots. This beginning post will start with the bottom 15. Here we go!

#65 – Chris Ash – Rutgers

Ash didn’t exactly walk into the best situation given the Kyle Flood controversy but in his first year in New Brunswick, the former Ohio St. DC finished 2-10 with a conference record of 0-9. His 2016 recruiting class also ranked #78 according to Rivals meaning talent isn’t pouring into New Jersey either. Most of Rutgers games weren’t even that competitive. In their games against Ohio St., Michigan, Michigan St. and Penn St., the Scarlet Knights were outscored 224-0! The Big 10 East isn’t the easiest division to play in, but good grief Rutgers can’t get HAMMERED like that. Ash probably has a little more rope but another 2-10 (0-9) season might spell disaster.

#64 – David Beaty – Kansas

Beatty has gone 2-22 in his first two seasons in Lawrence with a Big 12 record of 1-17. There has been improvement. Beatty went 0-12 his first season at the helm and improved by 2 games last season to 2-10. He also improved his conference record from 0-9 to 1-8. The powers that be at KU thought enough of that improvement to give Beaty a contract extension through 2021! Beaty did lead Kansas to their first win over Texas since 1938 and they came pretty close to beating Iowa St. and TCU! Recruiting it up a bit and Beaty has a chance to improve this ranking quite a bit. Sure Kansas only won 2 games, but in 2015, their average margin of defeat was 30.8 PPG. In 2016 it was 17.0!

#63 – Barry Odom – Missouri

Almost impossible to replace a HC like Gary Pinkel who had tremendous success at Missouri, but if there is anyone that knows Pinkel it’s Odom. Another positive about Odom is that there can’t possibly be a more dyed in the wool Mizzou Tiger than Odom himself. There will never be a lack of passion for Missouri football coming from the head coach! Odom’s first year as HC wasn’t a great one as the Tigers went 4-8 (2-6). That was the worst record the Tigers have had since 2000 when Missouri went 3-8 the year before Gary Pinkel was hired. Pinkel’s worst record in 15 years was 4-7. Odom has his work cut out for him and he needs to recruit better, but Pinkel did more with less so maybe he can too.

#62 – Bronco Mendenhall – Virginia

Mendenhall is a tough one to evaluate. His first year in Charlottesville was a disaster as the Cavaliers went 2-10 with a 1-7 conference record. I don’t think much was expected of Virginia in Mendenhall’s first season, but Virginia should have been at least comparable to their 2015 version which went 4-8. Instead, they regressed. Sometimes seasons can go sideways and that seems to be the case with Virginia. They shouldn’t have lost to FCS Richmond to open the season. They let road games at UConn and Wake Forest get away from them as well. Those 3 games turning to wins would have at least allowed UVA to get to 5-7. There is a lot of room to move up this season for Mendenhall.

#61 – Lovie Smith – Illinois

Before last season, the last time Lovie Smith coached in the college ranks was 1995 when he was DB coach for Ohio State. He was the head coach for the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 11 years leading the Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006, so it was quite an odd move that Smith would leave the NFL for collegiate football and all the headaches involved with recruiting 16 and 17 year old boys. Smith got a rude awakening his first season. The Illini finished 3-9 (2-7) with one of their wins coming against Murray State. The games weren’t even that competitive and Smith didn’t exactly tear it up on the recruiting trail. With Jeff Brohm and PJ Fleck joining the Big 10 West, it’s not getting any easier.

#60 – Dino Babers – Syracuse

Babers was an assistant coach for almost 30 years before he finally got his shot at Eastern Illinois and made the most of it. He went 19-7 with EIU winning back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championships. He parlayed that job into the head coaching gig at Bowling Green and did well there too. Babers posted an 18-9 record with the Falcons, winning the MAC East in both years and the MAC championship in 2015. He traded that job for a Power-5 conference job with Syracuse. Unfortunately for Babers, he didn’t do as well at Syracuse as he did with EIU and BG. A 4-8 (2-6) record wasn’t fantastic and Babers didn’t kill it on the recruiting trail either. He still has plenty of time left.

#59 – Justin Wilcox – California

Wilcox has never been a head coach but for the last 11 years he’s been the defensive coordinator for Boise St., Tennessee, Washington, USC & Wisconsin. In those seasons here is how his defenses ranked in scoring defense:

2006: #20 (Boise St.)
2007: #26 (Boise St.)
2008: #3 (Boise St.)
2009: #13 (Boise St.)
2010: #56 (Tennessee)
2011: #36 (Tennessee)
2012: #39 (Washington)
2013: #29 (Washington)
2014: #46 (USC)
2015: #50 (USC)
2016: #4 (Wisconsin)

Clearly Wilcox has a track record of success which is good for Cal because the Bears haven’t had anything resembling a decent defense these past 5 seasons. Losing QB Davis Webb will be tough, but Wilcox will do a good job if he can keep Cal from giving up 40PPG.

#58 – Tom Allen – Indiana

Allen did a stellar job as a defensive coach at Ole Miss and South Florida before coming onto Kevin Wilson’s staff last season as the defensive coordinator. Allen didn’t disappoint, improving the Hoosiers’ scoring defense by 10PPG! That’s good news for Indiana as their problem has always been on the defensive side of the football. Allen has never been a head coach and his ascension to the throne was somewhat odd in light of the dismissal of former HC Kevin Wilson, but I think Indiana is in a much better place with Allen leading the charge than with Wilson, even if Wilson guided the Hoosiers to back-to-back bowl appearances. It doesn’t get any worse than the Big 10 East, but Allen has started recruiting well which is a good beginning.

#57 – D.J. Durkin – Maryland

Durkin’s first year in Maryland doesn’t look horrible when you consider the Terps were 6-6 during the regular season and getting bowl eligible before losing the bowl game to finish 6-7. A deeper look is a little more rough as Maryland started the season 4-0 against garbage competition and then finished 2-6 in their final 8 with wins over Rutgers & Michigan State, two team who combined for a 1-17 conference record. That’s hardly awe inspiring. Maryland also lost to Ohio St., Michigan and Nebraska by a combined score of 149-13. That’s not Rutgers territory, but it’s not great either. Durkin is recruiting well in College Park and he’s in a fertile recruiting ground which makes it easier. Still a lot of room to make up on Ohio St., Michigan & Penn State.

#56 – Ed Orgeron – LSU

I get the pull of Orgeron being a Louisiana native and who in their right mind isn’t in love with the guy, but I wonder if LSU made the right call in bringing their native son back home to head up the Bayou Bengals? For Orgeron, this is a shot at redemption. There is no question that Orgeron can recruit with the best of them and he’s in a prime spot to bring in a top-5 class annually. There is also no question that Orgeron is a helluva defensive coach as well and the Tigers will most certainly have his fingerprints all over their defensive identity. The question will be whether or not Orgeron can pull it all together. He’ll need a strong staff around him, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Orgeron will get it done.

#55 – Matt Campbell – Iowa State

It wasn’t a banner year in Matt Campbell’s first year in Ames has head coach of the Cyclones, but the 3-9 record hid some exciting trends. The Cyclones let a close to Northern Iowa get away from them but they also played Oklahoma, Kansas St., Oklahoma St., and Baylor very close. ISU picked up conference wins over Kansas & Texas Tech, even beating the Red Raiders 66-10 which was Iowa St., most lopsided win since the Cyclones beat Colorado St. 69-0 back in 1980! Campbell is young and energetic. He had tremendous success at Toledo and he has recruiting trending the right direction. There is no reason to believe that Iowa St. can’t be a bowl eligible team on a yearly basis under his watch.

#54 – Matt Rhule – Baylor

Hard to argue with Rhule’s bonafides. His first year at Temple was 2-10. His 3rd year the Owls were 10-4 and AAC East champions. His 4th year they were 10-3 and AAC Champions! The only thing that was tough to argue about Rhule was his taking the Baylor job to begin with. Rhule is a Penn St. graduate and all of his experience is just not east, but east of Ohio! Now he’s smack in the middle of Texas against some HEAVY HITTERS in Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That’s not easy, and I’m not even mentioning the inroads that places like Notre Dame, Alabama and LSU have made the Lone Star State. Rhule will definitely have the Bears playing outstanding defense early.

#53 – Will Muschamp – South Carolina

I’m probably being a little hard on Muschamp here seeing how in his first season he took the Gamecocks to bowl eligibility when nobody except the most dedicated Gamecocks fans though SC would do anything but finish in the basement of the SEC East. My only caveat is that South Carolina and Muschamp worked the schedule which allowed SC to finish 6-6 and get to a bowl. Their non-conference wins included those against East Carolina, UMass and Western Carolina. Missouri was in the tank last year and Vanderbilt wasn’t great so there is 5 wins there. An upset win, which they got over Tennessee, was all SC needed. Muschamp will recruit well enough. Let’s see how his 2nd stint through the SEC East goes.

#52 – Jeff Brohm – Purdue

Brohm wasted little time building off of what Willie Taggart and Bobby Petrino did before him at Western Kentucky. Brohm finished his time in Bowling Green with a 30-10 record with a 19-5 mark in Conference USA play. In his last two seasons at WKU, Brohm led the Hilltoppers to a 22-5 mark including 2 bowl wins and a CUSA record of 15-1 which led to back-to-back conference championships. Brohm had Western Kentucky’s offense flying and the Hilltoppers actually led all of FBS in scoring offense in 2016. Brohm inherits a mess at Purdue, but he’ll get the offense rolling and if the defense follows suit, the Boilermakers could definitely start making noise in the Big 10 West.

#51 – Steve Addazio – Boston College

Addazio’s a tough one to figure out. I think what you have to wonder is what kind of ceiling does a program like Boston College really have? Addazio has went 7-6 in 3 of his 4 years on Chestnut Hill and is 1-2 in bowl games. That’s isn’t terrible when you consider that BC plays in the same division as Clemson, Florida St., and Louisville. In reality, BC is probably looking at a ceiling like 8-4/9-3 and Addazio is pretty close to having the Eagles at this mark with some aspect of sustainability. I think he could recruit better to be sure. Boston College should be able to get better players than what they have. Matt Ryan & Doug Flutie showed how good BC can be when they get elite level talent on the roster.

#50 – Rich Rodriguez – Arizona

Rodriguez is better than this but his teams certainly aren’t playing like it. Rodriguez had somewhat of a breakthrough in 2014 when the Wildcats went 10-4 and won the Pac 12 North, but it was colored a bit by a 51-13 loss to Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship game followed up by a 38-30 loss to Boise St. in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2015 the Wildcats dropped to 7-6 and last year Arizona completely collapsed finishing 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in conference play! Arizona’s conference record over the past two seasons is 4-14 and Rodriguez’s recruiting classes have been trending downward. USC seems to be stabilizing under Clay Helton. Colorado is emerging. That doesn’t play well for RichRod in the Pac 12 South.

May 14, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arizona, Baylor, Big 10, Big XII, Boston College, California, Coaching, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa St., Kansas, LSU, Maryland, Missouri, Pac 12, Purdue, Rankings, Rutgers, SEC, South Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia | 5 Comments

2014 AAC: A Look At Predictive Analytics From 2013

It’s always fun to look at the big picture when evaluating college football teams to get an idea of where their season might be headed. There are some advanced metrics that can give us some insight into some of the “luck” that teams will have in the coming season based on these particular stats regression to the mean in most cases. For the discussion below, I use the following:

CLOSE GAMES: Games decided by 7 points or fewer
TURNOVER MARGIN (TO Margin)
PYTHAGOREAN: A theoretical winning percentage based on points scored & allowed; (PS*PS)/((PS*PS)+(PA*PA))
LUCK: The difference between Pythagorean & a team’s actual record

This doesn’t always mean that teams will trend opposite of what they did the previous year. You have to look at context and previous years to get a sense of where a team might be headed in the upcoming season. It also doesn’t mean that regression to the mean will be reflected in the overall record. A team could be 0-7 in close games with a TO margin of -25 and a Pythagorean suggesting they were 2.62 wins better than their win total from the previous season, but if the team is short on talent and has an extremely difficult schedule ahead without many opportunities for home wins, regressing might not mean that much in the win column.

Moving on to the AAC here are the overall trends for each team. Discussion follows:

TRENDING UP: Houston, Memphis, Temple, Tulsa
TRENDING DOWN: Central Florida
TREADING WATER: Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, Southern Methodist, South Florida, Tulane

The AAC is definitely a conference in flux as it welcomes some new members and sees others go to other conferences. Louisville jumped to the ACC while Rutgers jumped ship to the Big 10. In their stead, the conference welcomes in East Carolina, Tulsa, & Tulane. Losing a team like Louisville hurts the image of the conference to be sure but the AAC still looks to be a pretty good conference as teams like Central Florida, Cincinnati, and Connecticut have actually been to BCS bowls with Central Florida winning the Fiesta Bowl last season! The real issue here with the AAC is that they no longer have an automatic berth into the BCS because the BCS no longer exists. With college football implementing a playoff system we get 6 bowl that are quasi-BCS in nature, but basically the AAC has to essentially get a team undefeated if it wants to get a chance to play in a “BCS” type of bowl. It will be almost impossible for a team from this conference to get into the playoffs.

In some ways I think it’s interesting because at a certain point the conference championships start to mean something. For conferences like the Mountain West, AAC, MAC, CUSA and Sun Belt the league championship makes things a lot more interesting.

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 UCF had their best season in school history & you don’t achieve a 12-1 record & a BCS Bowl win without a little luck going your way. The Knights were a RIDICULOUS 7-1 in close games with a +5 TO Margin. Their Pythagorean of .725 suggested they actually were 2.57 wins worse! That is the best mark in FBS football in 2013! All of this of course points towards big time regression & losing star QB Blake Bortles doesn’t make things any easier. The good news is that UCF has 9 returning starters back on a defense that allowed only 21.3PPG! The coming regression might not have a huge impact on UCF. They avoid Cincinnati who is probably their equal. They do have tough road games against ECU & Houston which could cause them to stumble. They also get Mizzou on the road & non-conference games against Penn St. & BYU. They’ll be good but not 12-1 like last year.
#2 ECU had a great year last year at 10-3, and it’s even better when you consider that ECU’s Pythagorean was just one point less than UCF’s, .725 to .724. That Pythagorean suggests ECU was actually 0.58 games better than their final 10-3 record! The Pirates were 1-2 in close games and +8 in TO margin. For the most part, East Carolina was who they were and their record reflected not much attention from Lady Luck. In 2013 ECU brought back 17 starters. In 2014, the Pirates will have just 9 with 4 coming back on defense. The last time ECU brought back less than 6 starters on defense was 2010 when they allowed 44.0PPG in HC Ruffin McNeill’s first season in Greenville. Lady Luck could break either way but ECU has games against South Carolina, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Cincinnati, UCF, SMU & Tulsa! Even with QB Shane Carden coming back, it looks like a rough year.
#3 If there is a team treading water in the AAC it’s Cincinnati. The Bearcats were 2-2 in close games last year with a -7 in TO margin. Their Pythagorean of .700 suggests they were 0.01 games better than their final 9-4 record indicated. You could point towards the -7 in TO margin & think UC might be in for a little luck, but note that the Bearcats were +9 in TO margin in 2012 so regression actually hit them last season. In fact, over the last 6 seasons Cincinnati has a ZERO TO margin! It’s anyone’s guess as to how Lady Luck will go for Cincinnati this season but the Bearcats lucked out when Tommy Tuberville bolted Texas Tech for this gig once Butch Jones took over at Tennessee. Cincinnati’s last 4 coaches have been Mark Dantonio (Michigan St.), Brian Kelly (Notre Dame), Butch Jones (Tennessee) and Tommy Tuberville! Talk about an amazing run of coaches! That’s awesome!
#4 Speaking of former HCs, the last 2 HC at Houston have been Art Briles (Baylor) & Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M)! This year current HC Tony Levine could be in line for this first double digit win total! The Cougars are somewhat of a mixed bag. They were 1-4 in close games & their Pythagorean of .699 suggests they were 1.04 wins better than their final 7-6 record. The puzzling aspect to Houston’s 2013 season is their +25 TO margin!! They didn’t win close games so it makes you wonder what happened here. Either way, Houston draws a good schedule & combined with 17 starters returning, Houston should do very very well. They get Tulsa & UCF at home. They do get a non-conference road game against BYU, but if they win that then Houston could very well be heading into Cincinnati at 11-0 for the season finale. I don’t know how luck will go this year, but that +25 won’t repeat.
#5 Tulane has a similar year to Houston. They were 3-4 in close games & their .573 Pythagorean showed they were 0.45 wins better than their 7-6 record but muddying up “luck” is the fact they were +11 in TO margin! For the most part Tulane is treading water. The 3-4 record & .573 Pythagorean doesn’t mean too much and over the past 3 years Tulane is actually -5 in TO margin so if anything Tulane could be a tad more lucky in 2014. The problem however is that the Green Wave return just 13 starters to play a brutal schedule. Non-conference games against Georgia Tech, Duke & Rutgers won’t be pleasant. They draw Tulsa, UCF, Houston & Cincinnati all as conference road games. They get Cincinnati & Memphis at home, but Tulane could seriously be looking at potentially 9 losses! Like ECU, the move from CUSA to AAC is a bitter one when it comes to scheduling.
#6 Temple was as unlucky as Central Florida was lucky! Temple was a staggering 0-5 in close games with a -5 in TO margin. Their Pythagorean of .411 suggests they were 2.93 wins BETTER than their 2-10 record. THREE WINS! Lady Luck should trend huge in Temple’s favor in 2014, but conference affiliation has been painful for the Owls. Their last season in the MAC resulted in a 9-4 record. Temple moved to the Big East in 2012 where they went 4-7. Last year the move to the AAC resulted in a 2-10 record. The Owls should be better especially defensively where they return 8 starters, but they return just 5 on offense from a unit that averaged just 25PPG. Road games against Vandy, Penn St., Houston & UCF don’t help the cause. Neither do home games against Navy, ECU, Cincinnati & Tulsa. Temple will be luckier & win more than 2 games, but it won’t be significant gains.
#7 Another team somewhat treading water, SMU was 2-3 in close games with a -7 in TO margin. Their Pythagorean of .392 suggests the Mustangs were actually 0.30 games worse than their 5-7 record. I’m not sure June Jones has been as successful as he thought he might be when he left Hawaii. After 4 straight bowl seasons SMU didn’t play in the postseason & unfortunately that might happen again. SMU’s schedule is NASTY & they return just 12 starters. Non-conference games against Baylor, Texas A&M & TCU are losses. They draw road games against ECU & UCF. They also have to play Cincinnati, Memphis & Houston. According to Phil Steele, SMU plays the toughest schedule of any team in the AAC. They’ll be better defensively but that unit gave up 33PPG last season. June Jones has never had back to back losing seasons at SMU but there is a 1st time for everything.
#8 Memphis hasn’t had a winning season since 2007 & that’s about to change. Lady Luck should swing dramatically towards the Tigers as they went 0-4 in close games last year with a -8 in TO margin. Their Pythagorean of .386 suggests they were 1.63 wins better than their 3-9 record shows. The Tigers return 17 starters including QB Paxton Lynch who is 6’7/225lbs! Memphis also plays a much easier schedule. They avoid UCF and East Carolina while getting Tulsa & Houston at home. They get a couple of brutal non-conference road games against UCLA & Ole Miss, but those will be interesting tests to see how formidable Memphis can be. They’ll lose but by how much will be the question. If Lady Luck swings towards Memphis this, then there are definitely 9 wins on the schedule which would be more wins they’ve had since 2004! This is definitely a bowl team on the rise.
#9 Randy Edsall took UConn to the BCS before leaving for Maryland. Edsall was a tough act to follow & although I thought Paul Pasqualoni would do well, he managed just a 13-23 record over 3 seasons. In comes former Notre Dame DC Bob Diaco to try & get the Huskies back to the heights that Edsall achieved. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to go off when it comes to luck. UConn was 1-2 in close games and just -1 in TO margin. Their .316 Pythagorean shows they were 0.80 games better than their 3-9 record. UConn has 13 starters returning & the schedule isn’t awful. They do have 2 non-conference home games against BYU & Boise St., but get ECU & Memphis on the road. They draw UCF & Cincinnati which wont’ be easy. The defense is going to get better under Diaco & if they get crazy lucky they could get to 6 wins which would be their 1st bowl since Edsall left.
#10 After a disastrous season last year, the Golden Hurricane should be in line for a little more luck. They were 1-2 in close games with a -10 TO margin. Their .279 Pythagorean suggested they were 0.34 wins better than their 3-9 record. From 2005-2012 Tulsa was 72-34 with 7 bowl appearances which averages to a 9-4 record. Their win total decreased by 8 wins from in ’13 so expect a healthy regression in 2014. Tulsa returns just 5 starters on offense although that might be a good thing & get 10 starters back on defense which should be a vastly improved unit after allowing 34PPG in ’13! They draw Temple, Colorado St., Memphis, UCF & Houston on the road. They also get Oklahoma, SMU & ECU at home. The schedule is a bit daunting given the inexperience on offense but Tulsa with luck turning towards them should at least get back to being bowl eligible.
#11 Unfortunately for South Florida, they were definitely a team treading water despite their brutal 2-10 record in Willie Taggert’s 1st year as HC. The Bulls were 2-1 in close games with a -3 TO margin. Their Pythagorean of .188 suggests they were 0.26 wins better than their final record shows, but all of those numbers don’t add up to much to be honest. Luck could break either way & if you look at the last 2 seasons, USF is 4-4 in close games with a -22 TO margin so they could get lucky this year, and the schedule seems easier. They return just 5 starters on defense but get 10 back on offense. This is a much better South Florida team, but they have a rough go. They have: Maryland, NC State, @Wisconsin, ECU, @Tulsa, @Cincinnati, Houston, @SMU, @Memphis & UCF! Home games against W.Carolina & UConn look like the only sure things, but who knows with luck?

PYTHAGOREAN WINNING PERCENTAGE

Central Florida: .725
East Carolina: .724
Cincinnati: .700
Houston: .699
Tulane: .573
Temple: .411
Southern Methodist: .392
Memphis: .386
Connecticut: .316
Tulsa: .279
South Florida: .188

LUCK

Central Florida: +2.57
East Carolina: +0.58
Southern Methodist: +0.30
Cincinnati: -0.01
South Florida: -0.26
Tulsa: -0.34
Tulane: -0.45
Connecticut: -0.80
Houston: -1.08
Memphis: -1.63
Temple: -2.93

TURNOVER MARGIN

Houston: +25
Tulane: +11
East Carolina: +8
Central Florida: +5
Connecticut: -1
South Florida: -3
Temple: -6
Cincinnati: -7
Southern Methodist: -7
Memphis: -8
Tulsa: -10

RECORD IN GAMES DECIDED BY 7 POINTS OR FEWER

Central Florida: 7-1
South Florida: 2-1
Cincinnati: 2-2
Tulane: 3-4
Southern Methodist: 2-3
Connecticut: 1-2
East Carolina: 1-2
Tulsa: 1-2
Houston: 1-4
Memphis: 0-4
Temple: 0-5

July 21, 2014 Posted by | AAC, Analytics, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Predictions, Previews, Rankings, SMU, Statistics, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa, UCF | Leave a comment

2014 Big 12: A Look At Predictive Analytics From 2013

It’s always fun to look at the big picture when evaluating college football teams to get an idea of where their season might be headed. There are some advanced metrics that can give us some insight into some of the “luck” that teams will have in the coming season based on these particular stats regression to the mean in most cases. For the discussion below, I use the following:

CLOSE GAMES: Games decided by 7 points or fewer
TURNOVER MARGIN (TO Margin)
PYTHAGOREAN: A theoretical winning percentage based on points scored & allowed; (PS*PS)/((PS*PS)+(PA*PA))
LUCK: The difference between Pythagorean & a team’s actual record

This doesn’t always mean that teams will trend opposite of what they did the previous year. You have to look at context and previous years to get a sense of where a team might be headed in the upcoming season. It also doesn’t mean that regression to the mean will be reflected in the overall record. A team could be 0-7 in close games with a TO margin of -25 and a Pythagorean suggesting they were 2.62 wins better than their win total from the previous season, but if the team is short on talent and has an extremely difficult schedule ahead without many opportunities for home wins, regressing might not mean that much in the win column.

Moving on to the Big 12 here are the overall trends for each team. Discussion follows:

TRENDING UP: Kansas St., Texas Tech, TCU, Iowa St.
TRENDING DOWN: Oklahoma St., Oklahoma, Texas
TREADING WATER: Baylor, West Virginia, Kansas

The Big 12 is really an interesting conference for what could have been. Given how Nebraska & Colorado have fared in the Big 10 & Pac 12 respectively, you wonder if those programs wouldn’t have been better off just staying in the Big 12? You can throw in Missouri here too. Given what Missouri did last year in the SEC, you’d have to think they might have won the Big 12 outright & potentially went 13-0 which would have set up a date with Florida St. in the national championship game! If the Big 12 was making a grab, why not keep their teams & go out and add TCU & West Virginia moving them to 14 teams in some variation. It’s an interesting though made all the more interesting because the Big 12 has quietly become a better conference than the Big 10 & ACC even though at first glance you wouldn’t think so largely because of defections and the downward spiral of Texas over the last couple of seasons. Even Phil Steele rates the Big 12 as the 3rd toughest conference behind the SEC & Pac 12 for 2014!

How did this happen? Mike Gundy showed you can compete for a national championship at Oklahoma St. back in 2011. Art Briles showed you could compete for one at BAYLOR OF ALL PLACES last season! Bill Snyder came back to Kansas St. and Kliff Kingsbury looks like a perfect fit at Texas Tech! If Texas can surge under Charlie Strong then all of a sudden the Big XII is top to bottom a great conference with their only one real weakness being Kansas, but even the Jayhawks should be a pretty good team this year although you might not see it in the W-L column. Can a conference lose some pretty heavy hitters (Nebraska & Missouri) & yet come out ahead? The Big 12 has seemingly done so.

Couple of points to talk about with respect to the trends. Baylor is an interesting team to watch because they are basically treading water yet went 11-2 last season! It’s hard to think Baylor will be as good as they were a season ago, but if Lady Luck has a big year in Waco, Baylor could actually be in the playoff hunt. TCU is the one I’d really keep my eye on. They had horrific predictive metrics last season showing they could be in for a huge step forward in 2014. This is Gary Patterson’s best team in Ft. Worth since joining the Big 12 and the schedule looks favorable. Oklahoma reminds me a bit of UCLA. They have an even better team than their 11-2 2013 squad but their metrics point towards regression. This is true for UCLA and you almost wonder if Oklahoma won’t have a solid 2-year spike in Lady Luck propelling them to a potential national championship in 2014 before the big regressions come in 2015 & 2016.

Teams are listed in descending order of their Pythagorean winning percentage. Following the chart are the raw numbers in each category.

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 It’s hard to finish the season 11-2 with a conference championship & not get a little bit lucky but the Bears weren’t as lucky as you would thing. Yes they were +13 in TO margin but they were just 1-0 in close games & their Pythagorean .832 suggests they were only 0.18 wins worse than their final record. Baylor shows trends of vacillating between TO margins from year to year so I’d expect some regression there, but the luck factor isn’t overwhelming. Baylor really was that good & the defense had A LOT to do with that. The defense will be down this year with just 4 starters back, but I don’t think Baylor will take a step back offensively with QB Bryce Petty under center again. Unfortunately Baylor drew both Texas & Oklahoma on the road so a repeat performance as Big XII champ might not be in the cards, but they could still win 10 games even with regression in TO margin.
#2 The Cowboys had another year dashed because of an unexpected loss. In 2011 the Cowboys were 10-0 when they went into Ames as 27-point favorites over Iowa St. only to come out with a 37-31 2OT loss! That killed their national championship hopes & they ended up 12-1 & ranked #3 in the nation! Last season OSU was a 19-point favorite going into Morgantown & came away with a 30-21 loss! It was only the Cowboys 4th game of the year so who knows how the season would turn but OSU had a chance to win the Big XII title & get to the Fiesta Bowl if they had beaten Oklahoma at home as 10-point favorites. They lost 33-24. OSU should regress this year. They were +15 in TO margin, 1-0 in close games & their Pythagorean of .766 shows they were 0.05 games worse than record. TO margin is key here but OSU returns 8 starters & the schedule is brutal. They could finish 6-6!
#3 Oklahoma is a pretty interesting squad. They look towards significant regression as their TO margin was +9 while their Pythagorean of .689 suggests they were 2.05 wins WORSE than their final 11-2 record. They were the luckiest team in the Big XII according to point differential. They were just 1-0 in close games. Normally you’d think significant regression here & you can’t help but think Oklahoma will regress down, but what’s interesting is that Oklahoma has a better team in 2014 than they did in 2013 and the schedule is a lot more forgiving. The Sooners draw Kansas St., Baylor, Oklahoma St., & Tennessee at home while the game against Texas is neutral. Their toughest road game will be at TCU. What stands out too about Oklahoma is they return 9 starters on defense so expect it to be one of the top units in the nation. Even with regression, this team will dabble with 12-0!
#4 Kansas St. is a team that could rebound in 2014. While the TO margin isn’t significant at ZERO, KSU was 1-2 in close games & their Pythagorean of .678 suggests they were 0.81 wins better than their final 8-5 record. Here is an interesting stat, since Bill Snyder came back to Manhattan, the Wildcats are 13-16 in games they are dogs in! Kansas St. is 12-3 against the spread when they are road dogs! Kansas St. might not be the kings of the Big 12, but they play HARD. Despite the possibility of an uptick in luck in 2014, the schedule hurts K-State quite a bit. They drew Oklahoma, TCU & Baylor as road games & have a non-conference game against Auburn! In the middle of their schedule they a 4-game stretch of @Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma St. & TCU! There are 7 wins here & if they can get a couple of upsets & play well at home, Kansas St. could pull an 8-9 win season.
#5 Texas Tech is another team that could benefit from Lady Luck in 2014. Texas Tech was just 1-0 in close games & their Pythagorean of 0.578 suggested they were 0.48 wins worse than their 8-5 final record. Those numbers are pretty inconsequential, but what sticks out is TT was -14 in TO margin. Even more predictive for regression is the fact they are -27 over the last 2 seasons in TO margin! The schedule also works well for the Red Raiders as they draw Texas & Oklahoma as home games & get Baylor on a neutral field. Their toughest game will be a road date at TCU. The offense returns 9 starters including QB Davis Webb from a unit that averaged 36PPG. They’ll be weak again defensively, but Texas Tech just wants to outscore teams. Texas Tech has a chance to start the year 7-0 like they did in 2013, but I think this year they won’t stumble & lose their final 5 games.
#6 Texas is one of the more interesting teams in the nation. The Mack Brown resignation to Charlie Strong entering the foray in Austin is interesting enough but Texas would seem to be a prime candidate for regression. They were 2-0 in close games & +4 in TO margin while their Pythagorean of 0.563 suggests they were 0.69 games WORSE than their final 8-5 record. The problem with saying the Longhorns will regress down is that those numbers aren’t huge in any direction & Texas brings back 15 starters & gets a very serious jolt of enthusiasm with Strong taking over. Texas ALWAYS has incredible talent so that won’t be an issue. Over the past 4 years UT is -3 in TO margin & 8-6 in close games so maybe regression looks a little shaky. The schedule is tough. Non-conference games against BYU & UCLA. Road dates with KSU & OKST. There are 10 wins especially with luck!
#7 If you are looking for a team primed to breakout in 2014 then look no further than TCU. The Frogs suffered bad luck last season going 1-4 in close games with a -2 in TO margin. Their .497 Pythagorean suggests they were 1.96 wins BETTER than their final 4-8 record! All of these signs point up for TCU, but what really helps them is their schedule & who they have coming back. This is HC Gary Patterson’s best team since joining the Big XII with 8 starters returning on both offense & defense. The schedule is decent, getting Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Texas Tech, & Kansas St. all in Ft. Worth! Baylor & Texas are the two tough road games, but keep in mind TCU was THIS CLOSE to Oklahoma & Kansas St. on the road last year. The final 4-8 record could have been 8-4 & TCU is better this season. Lady Luck is coming & Gary Patterson is a TREMENDOUS HC. They’ll contend.
#8 West Virginia has a mixed bag when it comes to predictive analytics from 2013. They were 2-1 in close games but -4 in TO margin. Their .384 Pythgorean suggests they were 0.61 wins better than their final 4-8 record. None of these really show much & WVU has been fairly stable in recent years. I don’t think things in Morgantown have gone like HC Dana Holgorsen envisioned. The Mountaineers have decreased their win total by 3 games in each year from when Holgorsen took the 2011 team to a 10-3 record. The WVU fan base needs to be patient because this year could be a long one. WVU has non-conference games against Alabama & @Maryland! They draw OU, Baylor, TCU & KSU at home! Potential wins against ISU & TT are road games. This is a superior team to the ’13 version but that schedule is BRUTAL. They’ll need a huge swing in luck to get to 4-5 wins.
#9 Lady Luck should be trending in the right direction for Iowa St. this season, but much like West Virginia, the schedule is set up in a way that the Cyclones might not be able to capitalize on it. ISU was -1 in TO margin & 0-4 in close games. Their Pythagorean of .322 suggests they were 0.87 wins BETTER than their final 3-9 record. These are similar numbers to what TCU brings back. Paul Rhoads is an excellent HC & will get the most out of this steam. With 10 returning starters on offense, ISU should average 30PPG & the defense has nowhere to go but up even with 5 starters returning. What gets ISU is the schedule. They draw Iowa, OSU, Texas & TCU on the road with Oklahoma & Baylor coming to Ames. This team plays extremely hard & even with the schedule could easily get back to a bowl game especially if Lady Luck shines on them, which I think happens for 7-8 wins.
#10 The Jayhawks are a squad treading water. In 2013, Kansas was +1 in TO margin & 1-0 in close games. Their Pythgorean of .188 suggests they were 0.74 games worse than their final 3-9 record. All of these numbers basically show us nothing because they aren’t extreme on any level. With 8 starters back on offense & 9 on defense, this will be the best team HC Charlie Weis has had in Lawrence. The problem for the most part though is that Kansas isn’t up to par with the rest of the talent in the Big 10 and their schedule isn’t kind either. Potential wins against Texas Tech & West Virginia are on the road. They even get a non-conference road game against Duke. Iowa St. does come to Lawrence but unless Kansas can pull some road upsets, this is looking like a 3 win team. This is a senior laden team & Lady Luck could shine making KU primed for delivering upsets.

PYTHAGOREAN WINNING PERCENTAGE

Baylor: .832
Oklahoma St.: .766
Oklahoma: .689
Kansas St.: .678
Texas Tech: .578
Texas: .563
TCU: .497
West Virginia: .384
Iowa St.: .322
Kansas: .188

LUCK

Oklahoma: +2.05
Kansas: +0.74
Texas: +0.69
Texas Tech: +0.48
Baylor: +0.18
Oklahoma St.: +0.05
West Virginia: -0.61
Kansas St.: -0.81
Iowa St.: -0.87
TCU: -1.96

TURNOVER MARGIN

Oklahoma St.: +15
Baylor: +13
Oklahoma: +9
Texas: +4
Kansas: +1
Kansas St.: 0
Iowa St.: -1
TCU: -2
West Virginia: -4
Texas Tech: -14

RECORD IN GAMES DECIDED BY 7 POINTS OR FEWER

Texas: 2-0
Baylor: 1-0
Kansas: 1-0
Oklahoma: 1-0
Oklahoma St.: 1-0
Texas Tech: 1-0
West Virginia: 2-1
Kansas St.: 1-2
TCU: 1-4
Iowa St.: 0-4

July 14, 2014 Posted by | Analytics, Baylor, Big XII, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Predictions, Previews, Rankings, Statistics, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia | Leave a comment

2014 ACC: A Look At Predictive Analytics From 2013

It’s always fun to look at the big picture when evaluating college football teams to get an idea of where their season might be headed. There are some advanced metrics that can give us some insight into some of the “luck” that teams will have in the coming season based on these particular stats regression to the mean in most cases. For the discussion below, I use the following:

CLOSE GAMES: Games decided by 7 points or fewer
TURNOVER MARGIN (TO Margin)
PYTHAGOREAN: A theoretical winning percentage based on points scored & allowed; (PS*PS)/((PS*PS)+(PA*PA))
LUCK: The difference between Pythagorean & a team’s actual record

This doesn’t always mean that teams will trend opposite of what they did the previous year. You have to look at context and previous years to get a sense of where a team might be headed in the upcoming season. It also doesn’t mean that regression to the mean will be reflected in the overall record. A team could be 0-7 in close games with a TO margin of -25 and a Pythagorean suggesting they were 2.62 wins better than their win total from the previous season, but if the team is short on talent and has an extremely difficult schedule ahead without many opportunities for home wins, regressing might not mean that much in the win column.

Moving on to the ACC,  here are the overall trends for each team. Discussion follows:

TRENDING UP: Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia
TRENDING DOWN: Florida St., Louisville, Clemson, Miami-FL, Duke, Notre Dame, Boston College, Pittsburgh
TREADING WATER: Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Wake Forest, NC State

The ACC is the first conference we come to where the overwhelming favorites for the conference title are teams that are actually trending down given their predictive analytics from a season ago. Florida St. & Clemson are the two most talented teams in the conference and you can really never count out a Bobby Petrino led football program. Even teams like Miami-FL & Notre Dame are tricky because while they might be regressing from a predictive standpoint, the overall ability of the teams in question might actually have increased from a season ago. The team to really keep a look out for is North Carolina. Larry Fedora is in his 3rd year and the Tar Heels are the best they’ve been since he took over in Chapel Hill. The schedule is favorable and UNC avoids Florida St. during the regular season which could set us up for shades of 1997 when UNC & Florida St. hooked up in a HUGE battle for ACC supremacy at Kenan Stadium as the #2 Seminoles beat the #5 Tar Heels 20-3. It was also the last season Mack Brown coached at North Carolina before bolting for the Texas job. This could definitely make for an interesting year in the ACC. Don’t forget about Virginia Tech either. The Hokies are always good but the last 2 years have been a bit tortuous for the fans in Blacksburg. While their predictive measures suggest they are treading water, it’s not a bad spot to be in if Lady Luck comes calling.

Teams are listed in descending order of their Pythagorean winning percentage. Following the chart are the raw numbers in each category.

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 It’s almost impossible to run the table at 14-0 & win a national championship without a little luck. Florida St. was no different as the Seminoles benefited from a +17 in TO margin, a 1-0 record in close games and a Pythagorean of .948 which suggests they were 0.73 wins worse than the 14 wins they eventually ended up with. All this points to regression but Florida St. is so good it might not matter. They get Clemson, Notre Dame & Florida at home. Granted they Miami-FL & Louisville on the road & they have a non-conference game against Oklahoma St. but really FSU didn’t have much luck when it came to close games or Pythagorean. While they lost a lot, they return a lot & the talent at FSU is arguably the best in the nation. Even with a regression to the mean with TO margin, Florida St. has a real chance to go undefeated in the regular season for a second year!
#2 Charlie Strong went out with a bang at Louisville & had a little help from Lady Luck as the Cardinals finished 3-1 in close games with a +17 TO margin! Louisville’s Pythagorean of .893 suggested they were .39 wins worse than their final 12-1 record would show. All of this points towards regression & L’Ville might be in for a rough year. They lose QB Teddy Bridgewater & the defense loses 7 starters & 7 of their top-9 tacklers from a unit that allowed 12.2PPG which ranked #2 nationally! The ACC isn’t the AAC and that’s reflected in the schedule. Louisville has road games against Clemson & Notre Dame. They have a non-conference game against Kentucky & also draw Miami-FL from the Coastal. There is still a lot of talent here & Bobby Petrino can coach some serious football, but taken together as a whole, it’s hard to see Louisville not taking a step back from 12-1 a year ago.
#3 After having back-to-back 11-2 seasons & a 32-8 record over the last 3, it’s about time for Clemson to step up & challenge for a national title. Unfortunately Lady Luck could be swinging the other way. Clemson benefited from a +6 TO margin & a 2-0 record in close games. Their Pythagorean of .767 showed they were 1.03 win worse than their 11-2 record, the 4th luckiest mark in the ACC! This points towards a step back in 2014 & the schedule suggests this too. It doesn’t help that Clemson plays Georgia & South Carolina as non-conference games! That’s ridiculous. They get Florida St. & Georgia Tech on the road. They drew North Carolina from the Coastal. They return only 12 starters & will likely have true frosh Deshaun Watson playing QB. This is still Clemson so talent is abundant, but if Luck goes the other way this could easily be a 6-8 win team by year’s end.
#4 It’s amazing to think Georgia Tech had the 4th best Pythagorean in the ACC & somehow managed to finish 7-6. Lady Luck hated the Yellow Jackets last year as GT suffered through a -4 in TO margin along with an 0-2 record in close games. Their .702 Pythagorean suggests GT was 2.13 wins BETTER than their actual record which was by far the unluckiest mark in the conference. All of this points towards serious regression towards winning for the Ramblin’ Wreck! Paul Johnson runs the triple option system which is extremely difficult to defend & doesn’t depend on so much continuity to succeed so GT returning 6 starters on offense isn’t crushing. It doesn’t help they return 4 on defense though. They avoid FSU & L’Ville out of the Atlantic but get VT, UNC, Pitt, & Georgia on the road. They also draw Clemson. Luck should be on GT’s side & they can win big if they win at home.
#5 The Tar Heels are another team trending upwards for 2014. The +2 in TO margin isn’t that significant, but UNC went 1-2 in close games & their Pythagorean of .641 suggests they were 1.33 wins better than their final record of 7-6. Larry Fedora runs a high octane offense & Carolina hasn’t disappointed here averaging 41PPG in 2012 & 33PPG in 2013. This season should be UNC’s best yet offensively as they return 8 starters on offense including QB Marquise Williams who won’t be a new starter. The defense should be better too with 7 starters returning along with 9 of their top-12 tacklers. UNC avoids FSU & L’Ville from the Atlantic & get VT, GT & Pitt at home. Road dates at Notre Dame, Clemson & Miami-FL are daunting but could be wins for the Tar Heels. With no Florida St. and Lady Luck looking to turn towards UNC, it’s not out of the question for UNC to run the table!
#6 I love what Al Golden is doing in Coral Gables but this could be a tough season for the Hurricanes. Miami was 3-0 in close games last year & had a +5 TO margin which actually bumps up to +12 if you look at the past 2 seasons. Their .615 Pythagorean suggests Miami was a 1.00 games worse than their 9-4 record shows. This all points towards Miami-FL regressing a bit in 2014, but what makes Miami-FL interesting is that Golden has improved his win total every season since his first & this is the best team he’s had, but the schedule isn’t kind. They draw L’Ville & Florida St. from the Atlantic & have to play Georgia Tech & Virginia Tech on the road. They even have a non-conference road game against Nebraska & another with Cincinnati. Looking at the schedule combined with how Lady Luck is likely to shy away from “THE U” this year, a down year is more than likely.
#7 Duke is another interesting team out of the ACC. They are coming off arguably the greatest season in school history, going 10-4 & winning the ACC Atlantic division! They couldn’t finish well losing to Florida St. in the ACC title game & then dropping a close one to Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but Duke going 10-4!? It’s unheard of. They did get lucky benefiting from a 4-2 close games record & being +1 in TO margin. The TO margin doesn’t mean much but Duke’s Pythagorean of .602 shows they were 1.57 wins worse than their final record which was the luckiest mark in the ACC! What’s interesting is that Duke actually returns quite a bit & the schedule isn’t brutal as they avoid FSU, L’Ville & Clemson from the Coastal! They get VT & UNC at home & Duke beat both of them on the road last season. They’ll regress with respect to luck, but Duke could still win some games.
#8 The Irish aren’t in the ACC but I’m placing them here because ND is an ACC team in every respect except football & they’ll start playing an ACC-centric schedule. The Irish don’t show any luck when it comes to their TO margin which was ZERO but Notre Dame did enjoy a 5-2 record in close games & their Pythagorean of .597 shows they were 1.24 wins worse than their 9-4 record indicates. All of this points towards regression & let’s not forget just how much talent the Irish lost to the 2014 NFL Draft. The schedule doesn’t do ND any favors as they have road games against Florida St. & USC not to mention home dates against Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina, Northwestern & Louisville! HC Brian Kelly has a massive amount of talent in South Bend & Everett Golson returns as QB so this is probably a better team than last year’s but regression & schedule kill Notre Dame.
#9 Virginia Tech is the first team we come to that is essentially treading water. The Hokies were +7 in TO margin last year but 2-3 in close games. Their Pythagorean of .577 shows they were 0.50 games worse than their final 8-5 record would show. Things haven’t been easy in Blacksburg of late as the Hokies are an uncharacteristic 13-11 over the last 2 seasons finishing outside the top-25 in both years. This year luck could run either way but the schedule is favorable for a good run. They avoid FSU, Clemson & L’Ville from the Atlantic & get GT & Miami-FL at home. They do play at UNC & have a road game against Ohio St., but if luck swings their way & VT takes care of business in Lane Stadium, there is no reason to think Virginia Tech couldn’t get back to double-digit wins. It sounds crazy, but I think Logan Thomas graduating actually helps their prospects quite a bit.
#10 Pittsburgh is another team somewhat treading water. They were -1 in TO margin although they were 4-2 in close games. Their Pythagorean of .484 suggests they were 0.78 wins worse than their 7-6 final record would indicate. You could argue the Panthers are in line for regression & that wouldn’t be too far off considering they are +20 in TO margin over the past 5 seasons! Pitt actually draws a pretty decent schedule managing to avoid FSU, Clemson & L’Ville out of the Atlantic & getting GT & VT at home. They return 8 starters on offense although they do lose QB Tom Savage. A bigger loss is DT Aaron Donald but the defense might actually be better considering Pitt gave up 27.2PPG last season! They have a very favorable schedule & if Pittsburgh can win home games & not get killed by regression, they could be one of the more surprising teams during the ’14 season.
#11 Boston College could be in for a rough season in Steve Addazio’s 2nd year at the helm. The Eagles benefited from a +3 TO margin along with a 2-1 record in close games. Their Pythagorean of .478 suggests they were 0.78 wins WORSE than their final 7-6 record. This is likely to mean regression for BC, but what compounds the issue is how inexperienced this team is going to be. They lose RB Andre Williams (2177yds!) & QB Chase Rettig along with both OTs and their top-4 receivers. They only have 3 starters returning on offense. Just 6 come back from a defense that allowed 29PPG! The Atlantic is no easy division at the top & BC has a road game against VT. USC is a brutal non-conference game but Colorado St. won’t be easy. Given the schedule, regression & the youth of this team, Boston College could suck, but Adazio will get the most out of this group.
#12 Syracuse is another ACC team treading water. They were +2 in TO margin in 2013 but were -2 in 2012 making it mostly a wash and they haven’t seen much variation in TO margin over the last few seasons. They were also 2-2 in close games. What is interesting about the Orange is that their Pythagorean of .444 suggests they were 1.23 wins WORSE than their final 7-6 record. That shows some potential for regression for Syracuse which isn’t good news as it was the 3rd luckiest mark in the conference! Given the TO margin & the record in close games I’d say Syracuse is treading water, but the schedule could conspire against the Cuse. They get Wake Forest, Pittsburgh & Boston College, all winnable games normally, on the road which will make them tougher. They do avoid UNC, VT & Miami out of the Coastal, but Syracuse will need Lady Luck to shine to get back to a bowl.
#13 Wake Forest is another team that is basically treading water. While the 0-4 record in close games would suggest a big turnaround, Wake Forest was -2 in TO margin in ’13 after being +17 in TO margin from 2011-2012! Their Pythagorean of .367 suggests they were 0.40 wins better than their final 4-8 record which doesn’t indicate much of anything. Like Duke, Indiana & Kansas, Wake Forest just has a hard time winning football games given their situation. New HC Dave Clawson takes over for Jim Grobe who was a helluva head coach. Clawson did great things at Bowling Green & he’ll have his work cut out for him. Wake brings back just 5 starters on offense & defense. For the most part Wake Forest didn’t do too bad on their schedule avoiding UNC & Miami-FL from the Coastal, but did draw Virginia Tech. Maybe if Lady Luck shines BRIGHT they can win a few games.
#14 NC State enters the 2014 season basically treading water when it comes to predictive measures. They were ZERO in TO margin last year & 1-0 in close games. Their Pythagorean of .367 suggests they were 1.37 wins better than their final record of 3-9 in HC Dave Doeren’s first season Raleigh. What you have to look at is the environment NC State will play in this season to see if they can capitalize on Lady Luck. The team as a whole should get better as 7 starters return on both offense & defense. The Atlantic is a tough division but the Wolfpack have 4 winnable non-conference games. They avoid VT & Miami-FL out of the Coastal & get teams like Boston College & Wake Forest at home. Those 6 games right there get NC State bowl eligible at 6-6. If Lady Luck swings their way with close wins & a positive TO margin then there is no reason NC State can’t get to a bowl in ’14.
#15 There is a lot to like about Virginia coming into 2014. Their predictive measures show UVA to be regression towards the winning side of the ledge as they were -5 in TO margin & 1-1 in close games while their Pythagorean of .261 suggests they are 1.13 games BETTER than their 2-10 final record would show. It’s also worth mentioning that Mike London’s Cavaliers squads are -33 in TO margin in the 4-years he’s been head coach in Charlottesville. At some point the ball has to bounce Virginia’s way. Virginia brings back 17 starters so things look good. The problem is the schedule! Virginia draw both Louisville & Florida St. out of the Atlantic & have non-conference games against UCLA & BYU! Potential wins against Duke & GT are on the road while UNC & Miami-FL comes to Scott Stadium. Even a huge boost from Lady Luck might not help London keep his job for 2015.

PYTHAGOREAN WINNING PERCENTAGE

Florida St.: .948
Louisville: .893
Clemson: .767
Georgia Tech: .702
North Carolina: .641
Miami-FL: .615
Duke: .602
Notre Dame: .597
Virginia Tech: .577
Pittsburgh: .484
Boston College: .478
Syracuse: .444
Wake Forest: .367
NC State: .364
Virginia: .261

LUCK

Duke: +1.57
Notre Dame: +1.24
Syracuse: +1.23
Clemson: +1.03
Miami-FL: +1.00
Boston College: +0.78
Florida St.: +0.73
Pittsburgh: +0.71
Virginia Tech: +0.50
Louisville: +0.39
Wake Forest: -0.40
Virginia: -1.13
North Carolina: -1.33
NC State: -1.37
Georgia Tech: -2.13

TURNOVER MARGIN

Florida St.: +17
Louisville: +17
Virginia Tech: +7
Clemson: +6
Miami-FL: +5
Boston College: +3
North Carolina: +2
Syracuse: +2
Duke: +1
NC State: 0
Notre Dame: 0
Pittsburgh: -1
Wake Forest: -2
Georgia Tech: -4
Virginia: -5

RECORD IN GAMES DECIDED BY 7 POINTS OR FEWER

Miami-FL: 3-0
Clemson: 2-0
Florida St.: 1-0
NC State: 1-0
Louisville: 3-1
Notre Dame: 5-2
Duke: 4-2
Pittsburgh: 4-2
Boston College: 2-1
Syracuse: 2-2
Virginia: 1-1
Virginia Tech: 2-3
North Carolina: 1-2
Georgia Tech: 0-2
Wake Forest: 0-4

July 13, 2014 Posted by | ACC, Analytics, Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida St., Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami-FL, NC State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Predictions, Previews, Rankings, Statistics, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest | Leave a comment

2014 SEC: A Look At Predictive Analytics From 2013

It’s always fun to look at the big picture when evaluating college football teams to get an idea of where their season might be headed. There are some advanced metrics that can give us some insight into some of the “luck” that teams will have in the coming season based on these particular stats regression to the mean in most cases. For the discussion below, I use the following:

CLOSE GAMES: Games decided by 7 points or fewer
TURNOVER MARGIN (TO Margin)
PYTHAGOREAN: A theoretical winning percentage based on points scored & allowed; (PS*PS)/((PS*PS)+(PA*PA))
LUCK: The difference between Pythagorean & a team’s actual record

This doesn’t always mean that teams will trend opposite of what they did the previous year. You have to look at context and previous years to get a sense of where a team might be headed in the upcoming season. It also doesn’t mean that regression to the mean will be reflected in the overall record. A team could be 0-7 in close games with a TO margin of -25 and a Pythagorean suggesting they were 2.62 wins better than their win total from the previous season, but if the team is short on talent and has an extremely difficult schedule ahead without many opportunities for home wins, regressing might not mean that much in the win column.

Starting with the SEC here are the overall trends for each team. Discussion follows:

TRENDING UP: Florida, Arkansas, Kentucky
TRENDING DOWN: Missouri, South Carolina, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Mississippi St.
TREADING WATER: Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia, Ole Miss, Tennessee

From this perspective you wouldn’t expect much fluidity between the seasons. No matter how much Kentucky or Arkansas improves, they aren’t going to contend for division championships. You would expect Auburn & Missouri to trend down a bit. They are coming off remarkable years. While every now & then you will get a perfect balance of a team with extreme talent regressing towards the winning side of the ledge, what is also interesting is looking at the teams treading water. These are the teams that could go either way. On the one hand, they could be in for a year in which everything goes wrong in which case we’d expect them to regress towards winning in 2015, but for those that everything breaks right for, you can expect serious runs to a national championship. In the SEC we definitely could see that with Alabama, LSU, Georgia & even Ole Miss.

Teams are listed in descending order of their Pythagorean winning percentage. Following the chart are the raw numbers in each category.

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 You can’t quarrel too much with an 11-2 record and Alabama was essentially what they were last season. They were 1-1 in close games & +2 in TO margin. Their Pythagorean was .882 so their luck was a -0.47 which is nothing when you round off. Alabama returns 8 starters on offense & 4 on defense. They ranked 17th in scoring offense last year & 4th in scoring defense. They’ll have to replace QB AJ McCarron, but Phil Steele ranks them as the 2nd most talented team in the land. The Crimson Tide don’t trend in either direction so there is no regression to be seen in either direction. They get 4 home games & a bye week for new QB Jake Coker to get his feet wet but Alabama travels to Oxford to take on an good Ole Miss team. The kinks should be worked out by then & even with only 4 starters returning on defense, this is Alabama. They’ll be plenty good.
#2 Missouri is coming off a great season going 12-2, winning the SEC East & winning the Cotton Bowl. Unfortunately Missouri got REALLY lucky in a couple of areas that spell significant regression for 2014. Their Pythagorean of .742 gives them a luck value of +1.61 meaning they were 1.61 wins worse given their points scored & points allowed than their record indicates. The Tigers were also +16 in TO margin which regresses, but not always in the follow up year. Missouri is also +35 in TO margin over the past 5-years! Some of that is attributable to the excellent HC Gary Pinkel & his staff. Mizzou was 1-1 in close games which is insignificant. What compounds this even more are the losses suffered on both sides of the ball for Mizzou. They return just 4 starters on offense & defense and lost every significant contributor from 2013 save Braylon Webb. A 7-8 win season is due if that!
#3 You could make an argument that South Carolina was even luckier than Missouri. The Gamecocks were 4-1 in close games with a +13 in TO margin! Their Pythagorean of .738 suggests they were 1.41 wins worse than their 11-2 record would indicate. Unlike Missouri, however, South Carolina has quite a bit coming back. Granted they took on significant losses on defense (Clowney, Hampton, Quarles, Sutton, Legree) but they return 6 starters & some incredible JUCO D-Linemen to a defense that ranked 12th in the nation in points allowed. Like Alabama they’ll have to replace their QB, but almost everyone else on offense returns outside of WR Bruce Ellington. The schedule is more favorable too with SC’s 2 toughest games being road dates against Auburn & Clemson. Regression is in store based on the numbers but winning 9-11 games would still be possible oddly enough.
#4 Like Alabama, the 10-3 LSU Tigers were pretty much who they were. They were 2-2 in close games and had a ZERO in TO margin. Their Pythagorean of .726 gave them a luck factor of +0.57, hardly significant. The Tigers return 5 starters on offense & 7 on defense. They ranked 23rd in scoring offense & 21st in scoring defense. Unfortunately they lost a lot on the offensive side of the ball, losing their QB, their top rusher & their 3 top receivers. The O-Line should be awesome & the defense should go back to being a top-10 level unit. Oddly enough the last time LSU had a similar situation in 2007 and the Tigers went on to finish 12-2 and national champions! New QB Brandon Harris has to hit the ground running (LSU opens up against Wisconsin!), but if he plays well LSU could get to 10-12 wins. They get Alabama at home but travel to Auburn. No trending here.
#5 According to Pythagorean, Auburn was the luckiest team in the SEC last year with a +1.94 mark! Their Pythagorean of .719 was only 5th best in the league and suggests a 10-4 squad rather than a 12-2 national finalist & SEC Champion! Auburn also had the best close game record in the SEC at 5-1! Their TO margin was ZERO. These numbers would suggest some regression for War Eagle, but Auburn returns quite a few players (8 starters on offense & 6 on defense) & will be in HC Gus Malzahn’s 2nd year. What’s interesting is 2012. In that season Auburn was -12 in TO margin & 1-2 in close games Pythagorean showing they were 1.13 games better than their record indicated. It was still a bad season but 2013 could easily be seen as a regression from 2012 so I’m not sure we’ll see a regression from Auburn. What’s scary is that this team could be even better in 2014!
#6 After going 11-2 & finishing as a top-5 team in 2012, the 9-4 spot Johnny Football & the Aggies put in 2013 would seem disappointing. On the other hand, A&M’s defense was atrocious & they were who they were. Texas A&M was 2-3 in close games with a TO margin of +1. Their Pythagorean suggests they were 0.51 games worse than their record but that is hardly substantial. HC Kevin Sumlin has enjoyed a 20-6 record over his first 2 seasons in College Station, but he’s in for a bumpy ride this year. Road games against South Carolina, Mississippi St., Alabama & Auburn don’t help the cause while Ole Miss, LSU & Missouri are also on the schedule. Rice & SMU won’t be pushovers. There is no trending here but what would have been nice for 2014 is if 2013 had a lot of data that would suggest a significant rebound for A&M. It doesn’t & it could spell a tough year ahead.
#7 In his last 5 seasons HC Mark Richt is 44-23. That doesn’t seem right at Georgia. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Georgia was pretty much their 8-5 record last season. They were 4-4 in close games and amazing enough their Pythagorean of .616 pegged them at 0.00 wins better than their record would indicate. Georgia’s TO margin was -7 but it was +11 in 2012 so there is nothing there to really say Georgia will see a big different in TO margin. UGA ranked 21st in points scored & a very uncharacteristic 79th in points allowed! Todd Grantham is out as DC with Jeremy Pruitt taking over. Pruitt was Florida St.’s DC last season & before that spent 3-years under NIck Saban. With 8 starters returning, expect the DAWGS to get stingier on defense. If QB Hutson Mason can produce, this could be a significant year for Georgia. Their toughest road game is against South Carolina.
#8 With 19 returning starters back in Hugh Freeze’s 2nd season as HC, I think the 8-5 mark in Oxford was somewhat disappointing. Unfortunately for the Rebels, the advanced metrics work out. Ole Miss was 2-2 in close games and just +1 in TO margin. Their Pythagorean suggested Ole Miss was 0.01 wins better than their record. The Rebels return 6 starter on offense & 9 on defense. They ranked 57th in scoring offense & 27th in scoring defense in 2013. With no trends either way this could be a year that goes either way for Ole Miss. With that said, the odds are in their favor. Another year under Freeze. QB Bo Wallace returns. The defense is going to be absolutely filthy & their schedule is manageable. They get Auburn & Alabama at home & draw Vandy & Tennessee out of the East. It’ll be interesting to see which way Lady Luck shines on Ole Miss in 2014.
#9 You can’t post 9 win seasons at Vanderbilt without getting a little bit of help. Vanderbilt was one of the luckier teams in the SEC last year going 3-1 in close games with a +7 in TO margin. Their Pythagorean of .599 suggested Vandy was 1.21 wins worse than their actual record would indicate. All of his suggests regression and there is nothing in prior years to suggest 2013 was a progression from a bad 2012. That doesn’t bode well for new HC Derek Mason, but therein lies the rub. While all indications point to Vandy having a tough time, what compounds the problem is the losses suffered. They lose their HC, QB, top-3 receivers, 6 of their top-8 tacklers and an offensive lineman. Drawing Ole Miss & Mississippi St. out of the West doesn’t help & Mason having come from Stanford knows what it’s like at rigorous academic schools, but Vandy is in for a rough season.
#10 An odd type of year for Mississippi State. They were 4-1 in close games with a +7 in TO margin but their Pythagorean of .592 suggests they were 0.59 games better than their 7-6 record would indicate. Looking at these trends you’d expect MSU to trend downwards and this is especially true given that over the last 4 years MSU is +30 in TO margin and 11-4 in close games! On the other hand MSU returns 8 starters on both defense & offense from a pretty decent team. The Bulldogs ranked 33rd in scoring defense last year & should move into the top-20 range in 2014. The schedule is also soft with a weak non-conference slate while drawing Kentucky & Vandy from the East. They get Texas A&M & Arkansas at home. MSU has 8 wins on the schedule & if Lady Luck turns up due to Pythagorean regression this team could get to 9-10 wins, Mullen’s best season to date.
#11 Will Muschamp is feeling the heat after turning in a 4-8 season in Gainesville which is not even Ron Zook accomplished. In his favor however is the fact the Gators were very unlucky. They were 0-4 in close games, the worse mark in the SEC and -2 in TO margin. Their Pythagorean of .444 has them being 1.33 wins better. It’s not much but 5-7/6-6 is a lot better perception wise than 4-8. It’s interesting to note that Florida’s TO margin in 2011 was -12 & they went 7-6. In 2012 it was +15 & they went 11-2! There isn’t much in way of regression for the Gators in that respect but you’d expect some rebound given the close games & Pythagorean. It could go either way with the Gators but I’d expect a bounce & they return 7 on both offense & defense. The schedule isn’t forgiving however. They draw LSU & Alabama from the West & get Florida St. in Tallahassee.
#12 I like what Butch Jones is doing at Tennessee but the Vols were what their 5-7 record suggested in 2013. They were 2-2 in close games with a +1 TO margin on the season. UT’s Pythagorean of .403 suggested they were 0.16 games worse than their record which isn’t even worth mentioning. It all essentially points to Tennessee having a year in which they could go either way. The Vols are sort of interesting because they haven’t had much variance over the past 7 seasons. Typically a team will have one of those years in which they are 5-1 in close games with a +19 TO margin, but UT hasn’t had that kind of luck. Conversely their luck hasn’t been all that bad either, but these numbers represent some opportunity for the teams. Tennessee is a sleeping giant & with a little luck they could catapult themselves back onto the national stage. The schedule is MURDER so……….
#13 Things could get fairly interesting at Arkansas. In 2012 the Razorbacks were -19 in TO margin & 1-3 in close games. In 2013, Arkansas was -9 in TO margin & 0-3 in close games! Pythagorean indicated that Arkansas was 0.49 wins better than their record in 2012. Last year Pythagorean had the Hogs at 0.73 wins better! There looks to be significant regression to the winning side of things for Arkansas if things average out. The problem is that Arkansas isn’t THAT talented and their schedule is a BEAST. They play at Auburn, at Texas Tech & at Missouri. They have Georgia. Heck, even a home game against Northern Illinois won’t be easy. A 2-10 season is very possible for Arkansas & if Lady Luck hits it might be only 3-4 wins. This is a season where Arkansas is greatly improved but the record won’t look good, but this is more out of circumstance. The SEC West ain’t easy!
#14 Like Arkansas, Kentucky is another team that should be much improved but might not show much in the standings. They were 0-2 in close games last year and their Pythagorean shows them to be 1.62 games better than their final 2-10 mark in 2013, but what’s interesting is their TO margin which was ZERO! Kentucky was the unluckiest team in the SEC regarding their point differential but for some reason they were able to keep turnovers in check. The Wildcats return quite a bit & Mark Stoops enters his 2nd year in Lexington so regression towards winning could really happen for UK this season. The problem, like for most of the bottom tier SEC schools, is schedule. Kentucky draws LSU & Mississippi St. from the West and plays Florida, Missouri & Tennessee on the road. They should get to 4-8 which is a 2-game improvement. Maybe 5-7 if they catch regression from 2013.

PYTHAGOREAN WINNING PERCENTAGE

Alabama: .882
Missouri: .742
South Carolina: .738
LSU: .726
Auburn: .719
Texas A&M: .653
Georgia: .616
Mississippi: .616
Vanderbilt: .599
Mississippi St.: .592
Florida: .444
Tennessee: .403
Arkansas: .311
Kentucky: .302

LUCK

Auburn: +1.94
Missouri: +1.61
South Carolina: +1.41
Vanderbilt: +1.21
LSU: +0.57
Texas A&M: +0.51
Tennessee: +0.16
Georgia: +0.00
Mississippi: -0.01
Alabama: -0.47
Mississippi St.: -0.69
Arkansas: -0.73
Florida: -1.33
Kentucky: -1.62

TURNOVER MARGIN

Missouri: +16
South Carolina: +13
Mississippi St.: +7
Vanderbilt: +7
Alabama: +2
Mississippi: +1
Tennessee: +1
Texas A&M: +1
Auburn: 0
Kentucky: 0
LSU: 0
Florida: -2
Georgia: -7
Arkansas: -9

RECORD IN GAMES DECIDED BY 7 POINTS OR FEWER

Auburn: 5-1
Mississippi St.: 4-1
South Carolina: 4-1
Vanderbilt: 3-1
Georgia: 4-4
LSU: 2-2
Mississippi: 2-2
Tennessee: 2-2
Alabama: 1-1
Missouri: 1-1
Texas A&M: 2-3
Kentucky: 0-2
Arkansas: 0-3
Florida: 0-4

July 10, 2014 Posted by | Alabama, Analytics, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi St., Missouri, Predictions, Previews, Rankings, SEC, South Carolina, Statistics, Tennessee, Texas AM, Vanderbilt | Leave a comment