Hack Poll College Football Ratings

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Three years ago, Arizona beat Cal the week before Big Game, a result that (when UCLA upset USC) prevented Cal from going to its first Rose Bowl in 47 years. This past Saturday, Cal hopes that it returned the favor, surviving a 24-16 victory over the increasingly impressive Wildcats. Arizona is not out of the running for the Pac-10 title by any means, but they will likely have to beat Oregon, Arizona St, and USC in succession over the next three weeks in order to get there – a feat that has been equaled this season only by (*gulp*) Stanford!

The weekly awards:

Upset of the week: Not that I thought that they were incapable of the feat, but the sheer nature of Stanford’s beatdown of USC earns them this week’s trophy. The Cardinal scored 27 4th-quarter points to cruise to a 55-21 win in Los Angeles, scoring more points than USC had ever given up in a single game. A week before Big Game, and Stanford is the hottest team in the country.

Comeback of the week: Wyoming over San Diego St, 30-27. The Cowboys trailed 27-6 in the 4th quarter before scoring 4 times, including getting a field goal in the final minute, to win. With the win, Wyoming won’t have to beat TCU next week to gain bowl eligibility – they can do it against Colorado St.

Yawner of the week: UCLA over Washington St, 43-7, in a game where the halftime score was 27-0. The Cougars are abysmal this year, having scored no more than 17 points while having allowed no less than 27 points in any conference game this year. Inexplicably, Wazzu’s only win came over SMU, which now has a good shot at the Conference-USA title.

Game of the week: It kills me to have to say this, but the award goes to Ohio St’s 27-24 overtime win over Iowa. And the reason that it kills me, of course, is that the game was an overtime game, and the college football overtime system is so ridiculous it should never be allowed to decide any game, let alone a de facto conference title game. Ohio St and Iowa matched up pretty evenly – both teams that rely on physical play, smashmouth rushing offenses, and aggressive and disciplined defenses. Both teams had young quarterbacks at the helm, capable of leading a team but prone to the occasional mistake. Both teams had suspect place kickers. When Ohio St scored in the 4th quarter to take a 24-10 lead, it seemed like an insurmountable edge for the Hawkeyes to clear. But Iowa turned things around with a kickoff return for a touchdown and a (mostly) brilliant drive led by backup quarterback Vandeberg resulting in a tying touchdown. Ohio St was stopped on its next possession, and after receiving the punt Iowa elected to run out the clock and take its chances with overtime. But it’s a crime that overtime automatically puts both offenses in the “Red Zone”, when both Ohio St and Iowa are built around preventing their opponents from reaching said zone in the first place (even the TV commentators admitted that some people don’t like the college overtime for that very reason). After a sack of the Iowa quarterback pushed the Hawkeyes out of field goal range, Ohio St simply ran the ball three times and kicked a field goal, even though they did nothing to earn the field position that allowed them to do that. Grr. I do, however, think that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz played a little too conservatively at the end of regulation. Iowa got the ball at their own 30-yard-line with about a minute to go. They ran one running play for just a couple of yards, but after the first play did not produce a great result, they just ran out the clock to go to overtime. I would endorse that strategy if they had been deeper in their own territory, but from the 30 with that much time on the clock, you have to take a couple of shots downfield to try to get a couple of first downs and set up a field goal. Especially on the road in a place like the Horseshoe, it’s important to play aggressively to win, rather than just trying to avoid mistakes in losing.

Conference Title Updates:

SEC: Florida and Alabama have already clinched berths in the SEC championship game. The winner of that game will almost certainly play in the national championship game.

Big-12: Nebraska and Kansas St will play this weekend, the winner going to the Big-12 championship. Texas needs to win one of its two remaining games (vs. Kansas and Texas A&M) or have Oklahoma St lose one of its two (vs. Colorado and Oklahoma) in order to be the other entrant in the Big-12 championship. If Texas wins all three remaining games on its slate, it will go to the national championship.

Mountain West: As a conference, the Mountain West is trying to earn an automatic bid for future BCS’s. TCU has its eyes on a more immediate goal: win one of its remaining games (over Wyoming and winless New Mexico) to win the conference title, and win both to get to the BCS this year.

Big East: The conference schedule makers should pat themselves on the back for scheduling Cincinnati at Pittsburgh on the last week of the season – the winner will be the Big East champion. Cincinnati, meanwhile, is rooting for Texas and TCU to lose a game between now and then so that they can sneak into the national title game.

Western Athletic Conference: Boise St has won 10 in a row, but they have not yet wrapped up the conference title. That’s because, after an 0-3 start, Nevada has rolled off seven straight victories, including going 6-0 in conference, most recently beating Pat Hill’s Fresno St Bulldogs, 52-14. The Wolfpack travel to Boise in two weeks in what will be a de facto conference championship.

ACC: Georgia Tech has clinched one berth in the conference championship. Clemson needs only to beat Virginia this weekend to clinch the other berth. If Virginia pulls off the upset, though, Boston College can sneak in ahead of Clemson by winning its last two conference games against North Carolina and Maryland.

Pac-10: Here’s where it gets confusing. For the sake of simplicity, I’m considering only contingencies where the Pac-10 champion has 2 or fewer losses (which is not a stretch – for the conference champion to have 3 losses, Washington St would have to beat Oregon St this weekend, and that IS a stretch). Here’s how it shakes down: If Oregon wins its last two games (against Arizona and Oregon St) they go to the Rose Bowl. If Arizona wins its last three games (against Oregon, Arizona St, and USC) they go to the Rose Bowl. Oregon St wins the trip to Pasadena if they win their last two games (against Washington St and Oregon) AND Arizona suffers a loss along the way. And unbelievably, Stanford still has a shot IF (a) they beat Cal, (b) Arizona beats Oregon, (c) Oregon St loses to Oregon or Washington St, AND (d) Arizona loses to Arizona St or USC. I’ve run some probabilities on these scenarios and have come up with the following:
Oregon: 41% chance of going to the Rose Bowl
Arizona: 11%
Oregon St: 29%
Stanford: 7%
Other contingencies requiring a Wazzu upset of Oregon St: 12%

Conference-USA: After beating Oklahoma St, Houston was thought to be a potential BCS-buster. Now, after losses to UTEP and UCF, the Cougars may not even make their conference title game. The leading candidates for that game are SMU (needing only to beat Marshall and Tulane) and East Carolina (needing only to beat UAB and Southern Miss).

MAC: Of the two teams undefeated in conference play, one is a surprise and one isn’t. The non-surprise is the Central Michigan Chippewas, who can clinch a trip to the MAC championship by beating Northern Illinois in two weeks. The surprise is Temple, former doormat of the Big East, resurging under new coach Al Golden. The Owls can clinch a trip to the MAC championship with a win over Ohio in two weeks.

Sun Belt: The Troy Trojans were blown out by the two SEC teams they played this year, but in conference they have been lights out. They can clinch the conference championship by winning one of their two remaining games against Florida Atlantic and Louisiana Lafayette.

Your patience in reading all of that is admirable. Your reward: this week’s rankings:

Rank Team W-L Value STR Last Week AP
1 Alabama 10-0 7.373 STR-9 Last-1 AP-2
2 Texas 10-0 7.034 STR-25 Last-2 AP-3
3 Florida 10-0 6.883 STR-38 Last-3 AP-1
4 TCU 10-0 6.582 STR-47 Last-5 AP-4
5 Cincinnati 10-0 6.495 STR-51 Last-4 AP-5
6 Boise St 10-0 5.411 STR-104 Last-7 AP-6
7 Georgia Tech 10-1 5.144 STR-55 Last-8 AP-7
8 Ohio St 9-2 4.792 STR-14 Last-13 AP-9
9 Pittsburgh 9-1 4.777 STR-65 Last-11 AP-8
10 Oregon 8-2 4.722 STR-12 Last-9 AP-11
11 Iowa 9-2 4.611 STR-24 Last-6 AP-15
12 LSU 8-2 4.366 STR-30 Last-10 AP-10
13 Wisconsin 8-2 4.277 STR-32 Last-15 AP-17
14 Virginia Tech 7-3 4.270 STR-2 Last-14 AP-16
15 Oklahoma St 8-2 4.243 STR-37 Last-19 AP-12
16 Penn St 9-2 3.931 STR-60 Last-18 AP-13
17 Utah 8-2 3.365 STR-78 Last-20 AP-23
18 Miami FL 7-3 3.322 STR-15 Last-17 AP-21
19 Houston 8-2 3.315 STR-73 Last-12 AP-24
20 Oregon St 7-3 3.144 STR-27 Last-24 AP-20
21 USC 7-3 3.135 STR-19 Last-16 AP-22
22 Clemson 7-3 3.095 STR-22 Last-25 AP-18
23 BYU 8-2 3.050 STR-98 Last-22 AP-19
24 Rutgers 7-2 3.024 STR-92 Last-33 AP-25
25 Navy 8-3 2.615 STR-74 Last-28 AP-31
26 Nebraska 7-3 2.595 STR-45 AP-27
27 Boston Coll 7-3 2.558 STR-53 AP-38
28 Arizona 6-3 2.518 STR-39 Last-21 AP-29
29 West Virginia 7-3 2.506 STR-56 Last-23 AP-35
30 Cent Michigan 8-2 2.484 STR-110
31 Stanford 7-3 2.462 STR-59 AP-14
32 California 7-3 2.433 STR-66 AP-28
33 North Carolina 7-3 2.415 STR-57 AP-26
34 Arkansas 6-4 2.157 STR-10
35 South Florida 6-3 2.024 STR-69
36 Georgia 6-4 2.018 STR-17 AP-33
37 Troy 7-3 2.009 STR-90
38 Oklahoma 6-4 1.927 STR-18 AP-36
39 Mississippi 7-3 1.922 STR-96 AP-30
40 Notre Dame 6-4 1.915 STR-21
41 Auburn 7-4 1.767 STR-54 AP-33
42 Nevada 7-3 1.700 STR-99 AP-39
43 Missouri 6-4 1.628 STR-40
44 Temple 8-2 1.546 STR-119 AP-32
45 Fresno St 6-4 1.497 STR-44
46 Kentucky 6-4 1.342 STR-52
47 Air Force 7-4 1.335 STR-81
48 Texas Tech 6-4 1.309 STR-58 AP-37
49 Idaho 7-4 1.241 STR-88
50 South Carolina 6-5 1.121 STR-31
51 Minnesota 6-5 1.112 STR-28
52 Florida St 5-5 1.092 STR-5
53 UCF 6-4 1.081 STR-72
54 Middle Tenn St 7-3 0.962 STR-117
55 Michigan St 6-5 0.877 STR-42
56 Tennessee 5-5 0.874 STR-11
57 Northwestern 7-4 0.772 STR-107
58 SMU 6-4 0.724 STR-91
59 UCLA 5-5 0.582 STR-29
60 Northern Illinois 7-3 0.573 STR-120
61 Iowa St 6-5 0.547 STR-64
62 Connecticut 4-5 0.438 STR-4
63 East Carolina 5-4 0.393 STR-85
64 Southern Miss 6-4 0.351 STR-108
65 Ohio 7-3 0.343 STR-121
66 Mississippi St 4-6 0.294 STR-1
67 Bowling Green 5-5 0.073 STR-61
68 LA Monroe 6-4 0.063 STR-111
69 Kansas St 6-5 -0.033 STR-103
70 Texas A&M 5-5 -0.138 STR-71
71 Kansas 5-5 -0.261 STR-79
72 Marshall 5-5 -0.274 STR-83
73 Wyoming 5-5 -0.316 STR-80
74 UAB 5-5 -0.543 STR-101
75 Baylor 4-6 -0.597 STR-20
76 Louisville 4-6 -0.671 STR-23
77 Purdue 4-7 -0.728 STR-7
78 Duke 5-5 -0.773 STR-105
79 Michigan 5-6 -0.774 STR-75
80 Arizona St 4-6 -0.852 STR-41
81 Washington 3-7 -0.945 STR-3
82 LA Lafayette 5-5 -1.145 STR-114
83 Wake Forest 4-7 -1.170 STR-34
84 Kent St 5-5 -1.258 STR-118
85 NC St 4-6 -1.447 STR-93
86 UNLV 4-7 -1.478 STR-46
87 Tulsa 4-5 -1.493 STR-109
88 San Diego St 4-6 -1.538 STR-89
89 Indiana 4-7 -1.588 STR-50
90 Toledo 4-6 -1.631 STR-95
91 W Michigan 5-6 -1.683 STR-115
92 Syracuse 3-7 -1.769 STR-13
93 Hawaii 4-6 -1.874 STR-106
94 Virginia 3-7 -1.959 STR-26
95 Colorado St 3-7 -1.979 STR-33
96 Colorado 3-7 -1.988 STR-36
97 Illinois 3-7 -2.216 STR-48
98 Louisiana Tech 3-7 -2.235 STR-43
99 Florida Atlantic 3-6 -2.242 STR-87
100 Army 4-6 -2.316 STR-116
101 Buffalo 3-7 -2.499 STR-68
102 UTEP 3-7 -2.574 STR-82
103 Florida Intl 3-7 -2.639 STR-76
104 Tulane 3-7 -2.810 STR-97
105 Utah St 3-7 -2.911 STR-102
106 New Mexico St 3-7 -3.373 STR-113
107 Maryland 2-8 -3.496 STR-62
108 Arkansas St 2-7 -3.601 STR-77
109 Vanderbilt 2-9 -3.658 STR-35
110 Akron 2-8 -3.720 STR-70
111 Memphis 2-8 -3.809 STR-86
112 North Texas 2-8 -4.069 STR-100
113 Washington St 1-9 -4.265 STR-8
114 San Jose St 1-8 -4.398 STR-16
115 Miami OH 1-10 -4.456 STR-6
116 Rice 1-9 -4.899 STR-63
117 Others-Normal -5.422 STR-49
118 Ball St 1-9 -5.562 STR-112
119 New Mexico 0-10 -6.275 STR-67
120 East Michigan 0-10 -6.362 STR-84
121 West Kentucky 0-10 -6.476 STR-94

Most overrated team: Stanford (7-3, AP#14, Hack#31) I’m gritting my teeth saying this, as the Cardinal takes on my beloved Bears this weekend in Palo Alto. But the truth is, Stanford’s high rank is based only on their last two games, and their whole body of work is not as impressive as some other 7-3 teams. Take Virginia Tech, for example. They are ranked 2 spots below Stanford in the current AP-poll. V-Tech’s three losses are to #1 Alabama, #7 Georgia Tech, and #33 North Carolina, and they have wins over #18 Miami, #26 Nebraska, and #27 Boston College. Stanford’s three losses came to #20 Oregon St, #28 Arizona, and #83 Wake Forest, and their best win other than #10 Oregon and #21 USC is over #59 UCLA. Stanford is the hottest team in the country right now, but don’t tell me that they are a better team overall this year than Virginia Tech, or Nebraska, or even Oregon St (ranked 6 spots lower than Stanford in the AP-poll).

Most underrated team: Navy (8-3, AP#31, Hack#25) The Midshipmen have quietly put together an impressive year. Their only losses have come to Ohio St, Pittsburgh, and Temple – likely conference champions. And they have wins against Notre Dame, Air Force, and SMU – none spectacular, but all respectable.

Wishful thinking playoff scenario (assuming an 8-team bracket, see my Nov. 10 post for the format details):
First round:
Georgia Tech at Alabama
Ohio St at Cincinnati
Boise St at Texas
Oregon at TCU
Second round:
Orange Bowl: Alabama and TCU winners
Sugar Bowl (MMM#1): Florida vs. Pittsburgh
Fiesta Bowl: Texas and Cincinnati winners
Rose Bowl (MMM#2): Iowa vs. Virginia Tech
At Rose Bowl, Pasadena: Orange and Fiesta Bowl winners

BCS Pie-in-the-sky projections:
Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Penn St
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Pittsburgh
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma St vs. TCU
Rose Bowl: Ohio St vs. Oregon
Championship: Florida vs. Texas

Interesting games next week:
(12) LSU vs. (39) Mississippi [Once highly-touted Rebels try to end their season on a positive note]
(69) Kansas St vs. (26) Nebraska [For a berth in the Big-12 championship, AND if K-St loses they are not even bowl eligible]
(4) TCU vs. (73) Wyoming [Boise St fans rooting for Cowboys to pull off the upset]
(62) Connecticut vs. (40) Notre Dame [Charlie Weis tries to save his job coaching the Fighting Irish, but it might be too little, too late]
(6) Boise St vs. (105) Utah St [It’s teams like Utah St that hurt Boise’s strength-of-schedule, which may keep the Broncos out of the BCS]
(94) Virginia vs. (22) Clemson [Tigers try to clinch a trip to the ACC championship; Boston College is rooting for Virginia]
(8) Ohio St vs. (79) Michigan [Always a big matchup, no matter how the respective teams are faring]
(10) Oregon vs. (28) Arizona [It’s nice to see a big late season Pac-10 game with the Rose Bowl on the line, with USC no where in sight!]
(32) California vs. (31) Stanford [Let’s hope I didn’t jinx it by saying that the Cardinal were overrated…]