Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 - 2012 Bowl Previews: Part VI

Today is Part VI of our 2011 - 2012 bowl preview series. Today we'll examine the
  • TicketCity Bowl
    Houston Cougars vs Penn State Nittany Lions
  • Gator Bowl
    Florida Gators vs Ohio State Buckeyes
  • Capital One Bowl
    Nebraska Cornhuskers vs South Carolina Gamecocks
  • Discover Orange Bowl
    Clemson Tigers vs West Virginia Mountaineers
  • Champs Sports Bowl
    Florida State Seminoles vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Full previews after the jump ....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 - 2012 Bowl Previews: Part V

Today is Part V of our 2011 - 2012 bowl preview series. Today we'll examine the
  • Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
    California Golden Bears vs Texas Longhorns
  • Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
    Toledo Rockets vs Air Force Falcons
  • Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
    BYU Cougars vs Tulsa Golden Hurricane
  • Hyundai Sun Bowl
    Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs Utah Utes
  • AT&T Cotton Bowl
    Arkansas Razorbacks vs Kansas State Wildcats
Full previews after the jump ....

Ask an Expert: Mike Leach Responds, Part IV

This is the fourth and final part of our interview with former Texas Tech -- and future Washington State -- football coach Mike Leach. Previously we posted part Ipart II and part III.

Q: "In your opinion, which was more thrilling? Harrell to Crabtree or the Insight Bowl against Minnesota?"

A: Well, you know, Harrell to Crabtree, there’s a lot of moments like that. Plays that just didn’t have that timing in the game that that one did. That was a reasonably well executed play we work on every day. That was rewarding from that standpoint.

The Minnesota win, though I have to say, was more. It was the greatest comeback in bowl game history. I forget how many points. You’ll have to look it up: 31 or 35.  [It was 31 points. -Eddie] At any rate, so we came back that many points late in the third.

What’s more gratifying about the Minnesota win is that it was a team effort. We got contributions on all sides of the ball. It was the entire team involved with nobody really giving up hope. Harrell to Crabtree, I mean, that was a great team win, too, don’t get me wrong, but just isolated on that play, it doesn’t personify the entire efforts of the team. Minnesota, we had a ton of effort from all kinds of people all over the place, and that was gigantic.

Q: "One of the most striking things I've read about your practices is how every activity focused on the pass. How much do you credit to the number of repetitions versus the defensibility of the scheme itself?"

A: Well, I don’t, that’s not true. We work on the pass. First of all, we spend a lot of time working on the run, as well. We spend more time working on the pass.  You want to spend your time based on what you’re going to do and how often you’re going to do it. You say, in a game plan -- I mean, this isn’t a perfect answer -- in a game plan, if you’re going to run a play 10% of the time, that’s about what you have to work on about 10% every day. You may not be able to get those numbers, and stuff like that figured out exactly.

Vertical routes, for example, we need to have more time spent on them. They’re difficult to execute, and the quarterback and receiver all need to be on the same page, so I think they require a little more execution.

We probably emphasize the run more than we actually ran it just because we have a lot of time to work on the pass but the thing is if you call 70% passes, you need to work on throwing the ball 70% of the time.

With the linemen, a lot of times, especially early on when they got there, there would be a real emphasis on pass protection. About ten years ago, you’d get a high school offensive lineman and he wouldn’t have much experience pass protecting. He’d have plenty of experience run blocking but not anything significant pass protecting. You’d really have to develop his skills there, and there’d maybe be an imbalance working on pass protection because of his inexperience. Now, a lot of kids are coming out having pass protected in high school.

I would say that I’d like to think -- and again, it’s not perfect -- that it was in proportion to what plays we called. Sometimes you have deficiencies and it just requires more time on those.

Coach Leach is also the author of "Swing Your Sword" and "Sports for Dorks".

Follow us on Twitter @TFGridiron

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 - 2012 Bowl Previews: Part IV

Today is Part IV of our 2011 - 2012 bowl preview series. Today we'll examine the
  • AutoZone Liberty Bowl
    Cincinnati Bearcats vs Vanderbilt Commodores
  • Insight Bowl
    Iowa Hawkeyes vs Oklahoma Sooners
  • AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl
    Missouri Tigers vs North Carolina Tar Heels
  • Valero Alamo Bowl
    Baylor Bears vs Washington Huskies
  • Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
    Nevada Wolf Pack vs Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Full previews after the jump ....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ask an Expert: Mike Leach Responds, Part III

This is part III of our interview with former Texas Tech -- and future Washington State -- football coach Mike Leach. Previously we posted part I and part II.

Q: "If you had to rank the reasons for your success, how would you compare the offensive scheme itself, player development, and identifying overlooked raw talent? Or was there something else that helped you win?"

A: I think it’s all of the above. It’s all very important. I think you try to do all of it. As far as, I can’t really rank the reasons.

I think our scheme is very good and constantly being polished. Our scheme, what is important to me scheme-wise is to utilize all the skill positions so the defense has to account for every skill position. Second is to make sure that our scheme respects all the space sideline to sideline and the downfield. Then, uh, and you don’t need, say, 10 different ways to attack the flat. You need three you can execute really well so you can develop your skill specifically at what you’re going to do. And then, I think somebody may have a better way to attack the flat than us, and I might take their play and take out a couple of mine so we don’t lose ground on the execution level with that.

Player development, I think that’s constant. I think that it means different things. One thing you find when new players come in, no player really knows how hard they can work. You know, everybody has worked at whatever level they’re at, and everybody can work harder. Then, they discover that they, and then they start pushing onto another plateau working hard. Some need to work on focus. Some need to relax. You’d be surprised how many players I get that need to relax. They put too much pressure on themselves.

Then, raw talent, I think you can constantly develop. You look for, sometimes with raw talent there’s just a role. You know, the guy might not be a complete player, but in this role and this situation, he’d be great. You might have some raw defensive linemen -- not very disciplined, not real good against the run maybe -- but great as far as a pass rush. You put him in there on third and long and turn him loose and you get great results. As he develops in that role, he can expand on it and improve.

Then, the other thing that is everybody pulling in the same direction? You know, our number one goal is always to be a team, and I think that’s very important. Be a team.

Q: "The 2003 Houston Bowl between Navy and Texas Tech was the biggest clash of styles I can think of, have you ever talked with Paul Johnson after that game and laughed at the absurdity of it? Also, is that one kid still ringing his bell?"

A: Aw, shoot, I remember that video, and I’m not even going to comment on that because there are several connotations to that on the bell.

Paul Johnson is a friend of mine. Paul Johnson and I did laugh about it. We were the number one offense in the nation. They were the number two. We were the number one passing team in the nation. They were the number one rushing team in the nation. Everybody said that we were totally opposite, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Very similar teams. The only dissimilarity was that we threw it, they ran it, because our philosophy as far as attacking the field with lots of personnel came from the wishbone. Even though the wishbone ran it all the time, the wishbone made sure all the skill positions touched the ball and made the defense have to account for everybody. In other words, distribution was very important to them.

Their idea of balance wasn’t 50% run, 50% pass. Their idea of balance was distribution. They made sure you were getting contributions out of all the offensive positions, and that’s exactly what’s important to us.  We got that from the wishbone, and uh, Paul Johnson running a form of the wishbone -- we were incredibly similar.

We wanted to attack the field. For example, they’re very good sideline to sideline. When you run the option like they do, it kind of layers up as you go upfield because you get overlaps at other levels. Things like that.  But, in both cases, we were the two best -- I’m proud to say this and proud to be in the company of Paul Johnson -- we were the two best offenses in America at distributing the football, and that’s why we had the results we did.

Coach Leach is also the author of "Swing Your Sword" and "Sports for Dorks".

Follow us on Twitter @TFGridiron

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 - 2012 Bowl Previews: Part III

Today is Part III of our 2011 - 2012 bowl preview series. Today we'll examine the
  • Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
    UCLA Bruins vs Illinois Fighting Illini
  • Belk Bowl
    Louisville Cardinals vs North Carolina State Wolfpack
  • Bowl
    Arkansas State Red Wolves vs Northern Illinois Huskies
  • New Era Pinstripe Bowl
    Iowa State Cyclones vs Rutgers Scarlet Knights
  • MAACO Las Vegas Bowl
    Arizona State Sun Devils vs Boise State Broncos
Full previews after the jump ....

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ask an Expert: Mike Leach Responds, Part II

This is Part II of our interview with former Texas Tech -- and soon-to-be Washington State -- football coach Mike Leach. Part I can be found here.

Q: "Did you set up all your pirate gear in another location after leaving Tech?"

A: I kind of miss some if it, you know. The pirate thing started when Michael Lewis wrote the article on me in the New York Times magazine, which is worldwide. He talked about a speech. He interviewed several players who talked about a speech I gave where I had a museum replica sword. The gist of it is that we talked about pirates, mixed cultures, and demographics working together for one cause.

In football, your body is your sword. Pirates would sharpen their swords, take care of their swords, and were fully prepared for battle.

And in football, your body’s your sword depending on your weight shifts. To sharpen your skills, you run drills. You run play after play and execute what you can. So then, I start swinging the sword around the room.

So how are you going to swing your sword? You know, I put it over my head and kind of swung it tentatively.  Are you going to swing it like this because you’re afraid? You’ll get stabbed because you can’t see what’s going on, and you’re ineffective that way. Are you going to be frantic and not execute well? Are you going to swing it very aggressively where you’re exposed? Somebody that is controlled and calm and executes well kills you. Are you going to have good execution or are you going to swing it like this?

So, it got to be part of a model to swing your sword.  After that happened, I got pirate stuff from everywhere.  [Laughing.] You know, books, shirts, hats, eye patches, skull and crossbones. [Texas Tech basketball coach] Pat Knight gave me a six-foot tall skeleton dressed up as a pirate in pirate gear. You’d walk by it, and it had a motion sensor, and it would talk.  [Laughing.]

Oh, so this is hilarious. So our film room was right next door to my office. That skeleton was in my office. This cleaning lady would come in. She’d come into the office, and we’d be in the other room watching film, and she’d walk in, and the motion would make the thing go off. His eyes would flash, too. "Oy, matey! Who goes there!" and all this stuff, and you’d hear her start screaming in Spanish. [Laughing.]

And so I got a bunch of really cool pirate gear, costumes, flags start showing up at the stadium. The band got involved in a bunch of pirate stuff out there. I only saw the video of it because I was in the locker room at the time for halftime.

Now all that stuff is stored in storage in Lubbock because [...] it doesn’t all fit in [my house].

Q: "When you watch other teams playing and they do the same-old predictable thing (e.g., "establishing the run" on 1st down and, lucky if they gain yardage), do you sometimes feel like throwing heavy objects at the television? Will this ever change?"

A: Well, I don’t throw heavy objects. I’m not really, uh, I’m more of a guy who looks at the T.V. and analyzes while thoughts roll through. Some people explode, like my wife might throw stuff. [Laughing.] She’s like the most excited football fan ever. Nah, I really don’t.

I mean, they’re a different point of view. I guess part of it is I’ll look at what they do. You know, sometimes you see things that illustrate what not to do. I’m trying to constantly sort of shape my point of view at the velocity of things.

Somebody might do something and it will occur to me, "Well, they didn’t utilize the space well."  Or, you know, I need to make sure I don’t do that or fall in a rut. I might even look at a team that doesn’t do things well and see some little aspect and think, "Well, I could incorporate that." Then, the other thing is you see teams do things really effectively and really add some things where I’ve been kind of a, you know I could learn something here.

So, I just try to analyze it. I try to follow teams that I’m kind of excited about what they do scheme-wise.  You know, I don’t want to make football sound boring. It’s certainly not at any level, but I don’t really root for teams as much as I do kind of coaches, schemes that I am interested in, you know?

Coach Leach is also the author of "Swing Your Sword" and "Sports for Dorks".

Follow us on Twitter @TFGridiron

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011 - 2012 Bowl Previews: Part II

Today is Part II of our 2011 - 2012 bowl preview series. Today we'll examine the
  • Chick-fil-A Bowl
    Auburn Tigers vs Virginia Cavaliers
  • Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl
    Northwestern Wildcats vs Texas A&M Aggies
  • Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
    Ohio Bobcats vs Utah State Aggies
  • Little Caesar's Bowl
    Purdue Boilermakers vs Western Michigan Broncos
  • San Diego Country Credit Union Poinettia Bowl
    Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs TCU Horned Frogs
Full previews after the jump ....

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ask an Expert: Mike Leach Responds, Part I

We've finally got the answers to the questions you posed to Mike Leach, even if they were a bit late. We had a pretty long conversation with him, so we've decided to break up the content into four parts. Today is Part I.

Q: Do you think that fans and the college football media will ever become fully accepting of coaches who coach to win by doing things like going for it on fourth down and not punting as often, as opposed to conservative coaches that simply try not to lose?

A: I think the fans are in favor of going for it on fourth down and have been for a long time. I mean, you know, it’s funny. There’s two things fans want, and it’s a little bit like if you go up to a kid and say, "I’ll give you an ice cream cone right now or $50 later," typically they’ll take the ice cream cone.

By that same token, fans are result-oriented, too. If you get it, it’s brilliant. If you don’t get it, you should have punted, but I’ve been in some situations where I wouldn’t even dare go for it on fourth down. I mean, the fans are screaming, "Go for it!  Go for it!" You know what I mean?

So I doubt that they're not going to complain about the results if it doesn’t come out right, but I think the fans are wholeheartedly in favor of going for it on fourth down.

Not all of them, obviously, but I think most are. I mean, some of it’s just the euphoria. The games provide surprise and opportunity, I think going for it on fourth down is part of it.

Q: Moneyball revolutionized professional baseball. There exists a similar economic imbalance in college football. Do you think college football will ever embrace a quantitative approach to recruiting, and if so, do you think it could be as successful?

A: I think they’re trying to, as we speak. They’re trying to figure it out. You know, you range from open-minded totally zany ideas where you don’t have core beliefs and you’re trying everything and some of the bizarre stuff too. And stuff like, you know where this is how we’ve always done it and this is the good old days and all that. I think it’s mixed.

But I think football is trying to embrace stuff like that. You don’t know quite how to do it. Baseball lends to itself better because you have a lot of numbers. Now football has all the numbers you need. They may not be measuring the right things and should measure more stuff, like obviously time of possession is ridiculously overrated and the rest, but there’s plenty of numbers.

And nobody ... it’s the most technological sport in the world, football. So they don’t lack in technology and numbers. What they lack is baseball, you know, there are standing, static situations. A batter is up to bat. A pitcher pitches. Okay, and then what happens? And then you measure it. The trouble with football is you’ve got twenty-two moving parts on any given play. I mean, there’s twenty-two people moving at once. A variance switch could affect the outcome.

I think being able to bottle that up and measure that I think presents a different set of problems and I think it’s more difficult.  We just release a book called "Sports for Dorks" for football -- make sure you blog "Sports for Dorks" for football and "Swing Your Sword" -- but at any rate, uh, yeah, [laughing] because many people will buy them in Boston. [Editor’s note:  For the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.] The first book is "Swing Your Sword," which is on my path into coaching and kind of some of my influences.

Yeah, I just don’t want to belabor the point. If you hadn’t heard of it, I was going to tell you -- if you haven’t heard of it -- to just stop me. But "Sports for Dorks for Footbal" is inspired by "Moneyball," "Freakonomics," and the Malcolm Gladwell books. What we did is we reached out to mathemeticians, statisticians -- in fact you should write an article for our next one when we do one again -- statisticians, mathemeticians, an astrophysicist, a world backgammon champion, an expert on the history of the spread offense, and a face reader for the FBI. He talks a little bit about recruiting and measuring individuals, and what’s revealed in expression and things on their face. So there’s a lot of dimension to that question.

You know, football has rating systems, a lot of them are effective and some of them are ineffective. The most ineffective, of course, are the recruiting services. You know, the kids have this many stars and so many stars, and it’s based on the media being involved, and obviously if you cover a team all the time, you put recruits on their list that you’re recruiting, and all of a sudden, they’ll get more stars and whatever. So, a lot of that is pretty artificial and ineffective.

I think that football is trying to. But the challenges are that they are so many people moving so many different directions and different variables. They are trying to capture it, and I think they’re going to make progress.  I do think it's going improve recruiting, and I just hope I’m at the top of the curve when it happens.

Part II will be available on Monday the 19th.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Final Pick'em Standings, Bowl Pick'em Announcement

Congratulations to georgehr3 for winning the 2011 Tempo-Free Gridiron regular season pick'em!

Rank Selection W-L Pts
1 georgehr3  95 - 40 646
2 ed315  89 - 46 638
3 TFG (Justin)  92 - 43 634
4 nobiology  89 - 46 627
5 RBA (Eddie)  82 - 53 559
6 tommyallenn  80 - 55 547

And compared to our original projections?

TFG (Justin): 634 (-21)
RBA (Eddie): 559 (-106)

To be fair to Eddie, he did miss week 9 and that cost him about 45 points. Still, I'm relatively happy with how things turned out. Twelve weeks ago we made predictions about how we'd each do, and I came within about 3% of that projection. Unfortunately those 21 points ended up being the difference between winning and coming in third, but it was a learning experience. Look for this again next year.

And now ....

The 2011-2012 Tempo-Free Gridiron Bowl Pick'em Challenge

We have a public pick'em on Yahoo's College Bowl Pick'em. Go, join the group, create a pick set, and test yourselves against the computers (again). As with the regular season pick'em, we're throwing down the gauntlet to see who thinks they can keep up with us. Our projections for the pick'em:

RBA (Eddie): 22.2 games correct, for 430.2 points
TFG (Justin): 21.7 games correct, for 422.7 points

And while they'll come too late to help you select winners in the pick'em, see our bowl previews for all 35 bowl games.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 - 2012 Bowl Previews: Part I

Today is Part I of our 2011 - 2012 bowl preview series. Today we'll examine the
  • Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl
    FIU Golden Panthers vs Marshall Thundering Herd
  • Gildan New Mexico Bowl
    Temple Owls vs Wyoming Cowboys
  • R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
    San Diego State Aztecs vs Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
  • Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
    Mississippi State Bulldogs vs Wake Forest Demon Deacons
  • BBVA Compass Bowl
    Pittsburgh Panthers vs SMU Mustangs
Full previews after the jump ....

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Week 15: Saturday Recap

This post is a bit late, but we've been busy getting our bowl previews ready and a whole slew of other features for the end of the year. Hold on, because it's about to get really busy around here.

Week 15
System Expected Actual
W - LWin % W - LWin %
TFG   0.7 -   0.3 71.4   1 -   0 100.0
RBA   0.7 -   0.3 66.3   1 -   0 100.0

Game of the Week
Navy Midshipmen 27, Army Knights 21; 144 plays

(61) Navy 39, (94) Army 32 (71.4%); 157 plays

(69) Navy 31, (92) Army 27 (66.3%); 160 plays

As with all football involving the military academies, this was a slow and deliberate affair. We both overestimated the pace (and therefore the scores), but Eddie did a much better job predicting the efficiencies of each time.

Moving on to the end of the regular season tallies, I'm pretty happy with how the results stacked up to my expectations. I projected I would get 503 correct, and I'm actually at 501. Eddie was also within a percentage point, but just barely. I've looked at the bowl game projections coming up, and there are a number of places where we disagree. Clearly that means there's still more time for me to be even more correct than Eddie.

2011 - 2012 Season
System Expected Actual
W - LWin % W - LWin %
TFG 503.1 - 176.9 74.0 501 - 179 73.7
RBA 500.0 - 180.0 73.5 494 - 186 72.6

Follow us on Twitter @TFGridiron.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Week 15: Saturday Matchups

Only one game this week and it's the traditional Army/Navy year-end game. Summary for both Eddie and I: it'll be slow, and Navy will probably win.

Soon we'll have some year-end wrap-ups, including bowl previews, our pick'em final standings, and many many words from Mike Leach.

Game of the Week
Navy Midshipmen vs Army Knights
GUGS Score: 24.3


Team WinPct SoS Off. Def. Pace
94 Army 0.292 0.428 76 18.4 67 26.3 105 155.5 116
61 Navy 0.507 0.471 70 23.7 23 23.4 91 158.6 108

Navy 39, Army 32 (71.4%); 157 plays


Team WinPct SoS Off. Def. Pace
92 Army 0.232 0.457 99 13.4 88 20.0 93 162.1 104
69 Navy 0.432 0.441 107 17.5 42 19.1 86 159.3 115

Navy 31, Army 27 (66.3%); 160 plays

W - L
% Correct
TFG  0.71 -  0.29 71.40%
RBA  0.66 -  0.34 66.30%

Monday, December 5, 2011

Week 15: Full Rankings -- RBA

Biggest jumps: Baylor (0.096); North Texas (0.064); Clemson (0.041); Connecticut (0.041); BYU (0.025)

Biggest drops: Virginia Tech (-0.042); Houston (-0.037); Middle Tenn. (-0.036); UCLA (-0.032); Troy (-0.026)

Full rankings after the jump.

Week 15: Top 25 -- RBA

Rank +/- Team WinPct SoS Adjusted
Off. Def. Pace
1 -- Alabama 1.000 0.549 14 26.1 5 5.1 1 156.9 120
2 -- LSU 1.000 0.549 17 26.8 4 6.5 2 160.2 113
3 -- Oregon 0.983 0.531 45 25.5 7 10.7 11 176.2 3
4 +2 Oklahoma St. 0.975 0.550 12 27.0 3 13.7 39 173.3 7
5 -1 Wisconsin 0.975 0.533 42 28.7 1 11.4 19 161.5 108
6 +1 Stanford 0.958 0.543 23 27.5 2 10.8 12 167.0 53
7 -2 Oklahoma 0.957 0.543 25 23.1 10 10.3 7 171.7 14
8 -- Boise St. 0.949 0.462 95 25.7 6 11.6 21 168.8 35
9 +1 Arkansas 0.940 0.566 1 23.7 9 11.5 20 165.5 78
10 -1 South Carolina 0.931 0.544 22 20.9 21 10.0 5 157.9 119
11 -- Florida St. 0.930 0.549 15 19.2 33 9.7 4 165.8 75
12 -- Georgia 0.921 0.550 11 22.8 11 10.7 10 159.6 114
13 -- USC 0.913 0.533 41 22.0 17 10.6 8 166.8 59
14 -- TCU 0.903 0.464 92 24.1 8 13.3 35 167.7 45
15 +4 Southern Miss. 0.893 0.482 76 21.3 18 14.5 50 168.9 33
16 -- Texas A&M 0.886 0.555 9 22.6 13 12.0 23 172.7 11
17 -2 Michigan 0.886 0.542 29 22.8 12 12.0 26 167.8 44
18 -1 Florida 0.885 0.556 8 20.4 24 7.9 3 161.3 109
19 -1 Michigan St. 0.878 0.542 27 20.7 22 11.4 18 167.1 52
20 +1 Notre Dame 0.852 0.565 2 18.8 35 11.9 22 165.0 85
21 +2 Ohio St. 0.841 0.531 46 18.6 37 12.0 25 159.1 116
22 -- Texas 0.825 0.522 60 19.7 26 11.4 17 168.3 41
23 -3 Virginia Tech 0.817 0.526 58 17.7 41 11.2 15 158.2 118
24 NA Missouri 0.812 0.527 56 16.8 52 11.2 14 174.4 5
25 -- Nebraska 0.811 0.532 43 19.3 30 12.5 32 166.8 61
Rankings through games of 2011-12-04

New entries: Missouri.

Dropped out: Houston.

Here we are at the end of the 2011 regular season with the final RBA poll. Regular readers will find no surprises here. (1a) Alabama and (1b) LSU reign supreme over the rest of the poll. RBA still expects the two teams to play to a tie on a neutral field (in regulation). Furthermore, RBA expects either team to beat Oklahoma State, Stanford, or Boise State, if they had matched up. On that note, it's hard to argue with the BCS outcome.

That said, let's break the fourth wall a bit here and discuss the BCS. There's been quite a discussion about the injustice of Alabama passing Oklahoma State. Remember that the BCS is composed of three components: the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Harris Poll, and six computers. The computers ranked Oklahoma State over Alabama. If you don't like the outcome, check out this visualization to figure out who to blame. The most likely suspects? Let's start with Troy Calhoun, who ranked Oklahoma State at #5. (Alabama, Stanford, and Arkansas were his 2-4 spots.) Nick Saban and David Shaw are a little suspicious, voting the Cowboys at #4 instead of #3, and Gary Pinkel gave the Big XII the finger on the way out with his #4 vote.

Regardless of how it happened, we have an Alabama-LSU rematch. Deal with it.

Follow us on Twitter @TFGridiron

Week 15: Top 25 -- TFG

With just the annual Army/Navy game next week to close out the season, here are the final regular season standings for 2011-2012.

Rank +/- Team WinPct SoS Adjusted
Off. Def. Pace
1 -- Alabama 0.963 0.621 13 33.5 2 9.1 1 152.2 120
2 -- LSU 0.946 0.656 5 33.4 3 10.6 2 156.1 115
3 +1 Boise St. 0.900 0.426 77 30.6 5 12.7 5 164.7 70
4 -1 Wisconsin 0.883 0.535 57 35.0 1 15.6 26 157.9 110
5 +1 Stanford 0.873 0.552 53 30.8 4 14.3 13 162.5 88
6 +1 Oregon 0.861 0.598 22 26.9 10 13.0 6 185.4 1
7 +1 TCU 0.856 0.408 88 29.6 7 14.5 15 162.0 91
8 -3 Oklahoma 0.847 0.594 25 25.1 16 12.7 4 178.7 7
9 +3 Oklahoma St. 0.826 0.559 47 28.4 9 15.2 22 180.4 5
10 -- Florida St. 0.807 0.553 51 25.0 19 14.1 10 157.8 111
11 -- Arkansas 0.804 0.634 7 30.3 6 17.2 38 169.5 38
12 +1 Michigan 0.798 0.567 45 28.7 8 16.6 34 160.4 100
13 +2 Michigan St. 0.798 0.597 23 23.7 24 13.7 7 163.8 79
14 -- USC 0.795 0.584 31 25.6 14 14.9 19 168.2 46
15 +1 South Carolina 0.780 0.622 11 25.0 17 15.0 20 159.5 103
16 -7 Virginia Tech 0.779 0.515 64 23.3 25 14.1 9 158.8 106
17 +1 Notre Dame 0.766 0.620 14 22.3 31 13.9 8 168.6 44
18 +1 Florida 0.756 0.656 4 22.8 27 14.5 16 160.4 99
19 +1 Ohio St. 0.750 0.563 46 23.0 26 14.8 18 158.6 107
20 -3 Georgia 0.750 0.605 20 25.2 15 16.2 29 162.9 85
21 -- Texas A&M 0.745 0.596 24 22.4 29 14.6 17 183.7 2
22 -- Nebraska 0.736 0.591 26 21.4 37 14.2 12 168.7 43
23 +2 Missouri 0.706 0.569 44 20.6 48 14.5 14 170.5 31
24 -1 Houston 0.704 0.359 108 26.0 13 18.4 55 181.0 4
25 -1 Texas 0.686 0.569 43 21.3 41 15.6 25 161.9 93
Rankings through games of 2011-12-04

New entries: none.

Dropped out: none.

Alabama and LSU reassert their stranglehold on the top two spots. Boise State is still out of contention thanks to being a 1-loss non-BCS team, the Badgers gave up 39 to Michigan State (the #24 offense in FBS), Stanford never had a shot after losing to Oregon, and Oklahoma State is a good team but just not on the same level as LSU or Alabama. And no, it has nothing to do with what conference they play in. TFG says that if the Cowboys and Tigers met on a neutral field, the Cowboys would have at best about a 1-in-5 shot of winning. I enjoy Matt Hinton's take on Alabama and LSU:
"If Alabama's defense is a boa constrictor, slowly sucking the life out of opposing offenses, LSU's is more like a goon that throws the offense into a burlap sack and starts beating it with a stick. It is not a subtle business. But it is very, very effective."
What's not widely acknowledged is that these teams have extremely efficient offenses, too. Take Arkansas; both Texas A&M and Alabama put up 38 against the Razorbacks, while LSU managed 41. The difference is that the Aggies needed 208 plays (18.3 PPH); the Crimson Tide only needed 145 plays (26.2 PPH), and LSU used 149 plays at 27.5 PPH.

This isn't to take anything away from Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are very good, and upsets are always possible. I've also been on record as a big supporter of teams from outside the BCS conferences and argue for more inclusion of legitimate teams into the BCS bowls and less funny business to keep them segregated. But this is one year where the two best teams are so much better than the rest of the field that to deny it would be crazy talk. It sucks that it has to be a rematch, but if you actually want the two best teams to play in the title game, you have no choice but to pit LSU against Alabama.


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Week 15: Full Rankings -- TFG

Biggest jumps: North Texas (0.060); Nevada (0.049); Clemson (0.047); LA-Monroe (0.044); Baylor (0.032)

Biggest drops: Virginia Tech (-0.037); Texas (-0.035); Middle Tenn. (-0.034); Idaho (-0.032); Oklahoma (-0.028)

Full rankings after the jump.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 14: Saturday Recap

Week 14
System Expected Actual
W - LWin % W - LWin %
RBA  14.9 -   6.1 71.1  18 -   3 85.7
TFG  15.2 -   5.8 72.6  17 -   4 81.0

Game of the Week

Oklahoma State Cowboys 44, Oklahoma Sooners 10; 181 plays

(5) Oklahoma 38, (12) Oklahoma St. 35 (63.7%); 180 plays

The stories of this game were turnovers and field position. Oklahoma State scored 44 points -- 5 touchdowns and 3 field goals -- off of drives of 40, 43, 68 and 1 yard (for touchdowns) and 57, 60, and 92 (for field goals). Throw in a touchdown directly off a turnover and the Sooners turned what could have/should have been a coin toss into a romp for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys managed 44 points in 181 plays for an offensive efficiency of 24.3 PPH against one of the best defenses in FBS. Oklahoma State is peaking at the right time, but it might be too late to make a serious case for the title game.

(6) Oklahoma St. 31, (5) Oklahoma 28 (54.7%); 172 plays

Okay, nobody saw 44-10 coming. I'll take a little credit for RBA picking the winner, but otherwise, this game was very far from the predictions. Justin hit the nail on the head; this game was all about field position and turnovers.

Coin Toss Record: TFG 6, RBA 6.

Unstoppable Force/Immovable Object Game

Wisconsin Badgers 42, Michigan State Spartans 39; 154 plays

(4) Wisconsin 31, (18) Michigan St. 24 (65.6%); 164 plays

"You keep saying that word. I don't think it means what you think it means." Maybe it's just Wisconsin, but Michigan State shouldn't be performing this well offensively. The Spartans exceeded offensive expectations for the second time against the Badgers and nearly won this game.

(3) Wisconsin 38, (15) Michigan St. 30 (68.0%); 160 plays

Regardless of the outcome, you can't say that Michigan State doesn't have a flair for the dramatic. Unlike the last time these teams met, Michigan State racked up more yards, more first downs, and (crucially) more turnovers. Unfortunately for the Spartans, this didn't translate to an even larger victory. Even up by only a touchdown, Wisconsin seemed to have this one locked up going into the second quarter (TFG had the Badgers as 81% likely to win just before the Spartans pulled off their ballet lateral play). By the time the second quarter ended, though, it was a dead-even coin toss. In the end, though, Wisconsin just had a bit more offense than Michigan State could handle.

Unstoppable Force 9, Immovable Object 3

Shootout of the Week

Southern Miss Golden Eagles 49, Houston Cougars 28; 205 plays

(23) Houston 39, (43) Southern Miss. 35 (63.2%); 177 plays

Can I get an "I told you so"? We're just lucky that Houston got exposed here instead of in a BCS bowl. Houston's offense was never quite as ferocious as some claimed, but here it was exposed for all to see. However even down 28-21 with 3:30 to play in the third quarter, the Cougars had about a 1-in-3 shot to win. Before the end of the quarter, though, they surrendered 14 points and their odds dropped to 1-in-12. Each team tacked on a meaningless touchdown to get our final score. Houston's loss, though, clears the way for TCU or USM, or some other similarly worthy non-BCS school to claim an at-large bid (thanks, hapless Big East!).

(24) Houston 31, (19) Southern Miss. 28 (52.0%); 171 plays

You could argue that Southern Miss has been overrated by RBA for most of the season, but it's been right about Houston. The Cougars' offensive inconsistency showed up at the worst possible time to the tune of 13.7 PPH. USM just kept scoring and scoring, and Houston kept playing fast. When you run 205 plays, small differences in efficiency turn into huge differences on the scoreboard. At 20.3 PPH, the Golden Eagles should have hung 42 on the Cougars, so they only slightly exceeded expectations. RBA missed the pick, but the analysis was pretty accurate.

2011 - 2012 Season
System Expected Actual
W - LWin % W - LWin %
TFG 501.6 - 176.4 74.0 499 - 179 73.6
RBA 498.5 - 179.5 73.5 492 - 186 72.6

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Week 14: Saturday In-Game Win Probabilities

Games for 2011-12-03

Last updated: Wed Aug 15 22:13:50 2012

Week 14: Saturday Predictions

 67Arkansas St.35
 71Arkansas St.34


  4Boise St.49
120New Mexico17
  8Boise St.63
115New Mexico6


  9Virginia Tech34
 20Virginia Tech28

110Colorado St.29
111Colorado St.24




 43Southern Miss.35
 19Southern Miss.28

 32Kansas St.37
 70Iowa St.30
 28Kansas St.38
 74Iowa St.21

 15Michigan St.30
 18Michigan St.24


115New Mexico St.32
 79Utah St.42
104New Mexico St.27
 79Utah St.35

106North Texas35
109Middle Tenn.33
106North Texas31
108Middle Tenn.27

 12Oklahoma St.35
  6Oklahoma St.31


 86Fresno St.32
 85Fresno St.24



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