2014 VPR, Week 8

19 Oct

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - Mississippi State v Wake Forest

Top Five

#1 Mississippi St took the week off, but still retained the top spot.  They travel to Kentucky this weekend for one of Week 9’s key matchups.

#2 Mississippi crushed Tennessee 34-3.  The win pushed them into a tie with #1 Mississippi St on victory points, but the Bulldogs retain the top spot because they have played fewer games.  This Saturday, the Rebels travel to Death Valley to play #15 LSU in the game of the week.

#3 Florida St held their spot after winning yesterday’s most intriguing matchup, 31-27 victory over #8 Notre Dame.  Despite the Irish outgaining the Noles 470-323, Florida St rallied in the second half and stopped Notre Dame on fourth and goal in the game’s waning moments to secure the victory.  Florida St needs to avoid a letdown after such a key victory.  They will take this Saturday off as they prepare for their Thursday night showdown at #24 Louisville the day before Halloween.  Will the Cardinals offer a trick or a treat?

Hulk smash.  Perhaps angered by recent performances – a loss at #2 Mississippi and a narrow escape against undermatched Arkansas – #4 Alabama returned to form and obliterated #33 Texas A&M 59-0.  The Tide outgained the Aggies 602-178 in a completely dominating performance.  The current Alabama vintage might not equal past teams – Saban has likely lost one too many assistant coaches – but the Crimson Tide aim to prove they can still make some noise in the National Championship conversation.  Alabama travels to Knoxville next week in an easily winnable game before facing three ranked teams in their final four games down the stretch.

#5 Auburn retained their spot despite taking the week off.  They face a disappointing South Carolina squad in Jordan-Hare this Saturday.

#8 Notre Dame fell from the top five following their heartbreaking loss to #3 Florida St.  However, the Irish still retain playoff hopes.  Four of the seven teams ahead of them play in the SEC West, so we can expect some attrition.  Notre Dame will take this weekend off to regroup.

Big Win

#23 West Virginia leapt into the rankings following a 41-27 victory over #28 Baylor in Morgantown.  The Victory Point Rankings never believed the media hype surrounding Baylor.  Despite a 6-0 record, the Bears had only climbed to #15 after a come-from-behind win against #16 TCU.  The rest of Baylor’s schedule consisted of cream puffs like 0-6 SMU.  Apparently they couldn’t handle legitimate success.  West Virginia QB Clint Trickett  – a great name for a Mountaineers QB – threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns, including the two scores in the final period that decided the margin of victory.  West Virginia crept up on most football fans.  They fell outside the Top 40 in the Week 7 rankings, but their only two losses came in competitive games against #4 Alabama and #21 Oklahoma.  The Mountaineers can further prove themselves with a victory at #35 Oklahoma St on Saturday afternoon.

Hard Loss

Georgia Tech joined this year’s initial Victory Point Rankings as the #7 team in the country, a pleasant surprise at 5-0 and fresh off a victory over #35 Miami (FL).  Two weeks later and the Yellow Jackets have tumbled down the ladder to #32 in the wake of consecutive conference losses.  Historically, the home loss to #27 Duke would have proven more embarrassing, but in these rankings, the more recent loss to 3-4 North Carolina has done more damage.  Despite their pounding triple option attack producing 43 points, the Yellow Jackets defense could do nothing to slow down Carolina’s passing attack.  Heels QB Marquise Williams followed an impressive effort in the loss to Notre Dame with 390 passing yards, 73 rushing yards, and five total touchdowns against Georgia Tech.  On the final drive of the game, Georgia Tech let Williams drive 75 yards in three minutes to score the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds remaining on the clock.  Tech coach Paul Johnson may have his unique triple option offense firing on all cylinders, but his team will continue to struggle until they learn to stop somebody.

Team Record Victory Points
1. Mississippi St 6-0 27
2. Mississippi 7-0 27
3. Florida St 7-0 25
4. Alabama 6-1 22
5. Auburn 5-1 21
6. Marshall 7-0 20
7. Oregon 6-1 20
8. Notre Dame 6-1 19
9. UCLA 5-2 17
10. Arizona 5-1 16
11. Georgia 6-1 16
T12. Michigan St 6-1 16
T12. Minnesota 6-1 16
14. Clemson 5-2 16
15. LSU 6-2 16
16. TCU 5-1 15
17. Nebraska 6-1 15
18. Boise St 5-2 15
19. Ohio St 5-1 14
20. USC 5-2 14
21. Oklahoma 5-2 14
22. Colorado St 6-1 13
23. West Virginia 5-2 13
24. Louisville 6-2 13
25. Kansas St 5-1 12

Key Matchups

Rutgers at #17 Nebraska, Noon
#1 Mississippi St at Kentucky, 3:30 PM
#23 West Virginia at Oklahoma St, 3:30 PM
#2 Mississippi at #15 LSU, 7:15 PM
#19 Ohio St at Penn St, 8:00 PM
#20 USC at Utah, 10:00 PM

2014 VPR, Week 7

12 Oct

msu-logo

The rankings, by virtue of less definitive data, always appear more chaotic in the early part of the season.  This year, however, feels particularly chaotic.  Mississippi St retained the top spot, but the teams that made up the Top 25 behind the Bulldogs these first two weeks exchanged a total of 250 spots in this week’s ranking.  That’s the equivalent of the top team in the country and third worst team in the country trading places.

The quality of the teams in the Top 25 reflects this chaos.  Many of the traditional powers are missing in action.  Excluding last season’s two National Championship Game participants and dynastic Alabama, no one else in the Top Ten finished last season higher than #20 in the final standings.  The two upstarts from the state of Mississippi finished the season in the thirties.  #6 Marshall, #8 Arizona, and #9 Georgia Tech couldn’t even achieve relevancy – a Top 40 ranking – in 2013.  Where did these teams come from?

If you look through the rest of the Top 25, the Herd, Wildcats, and Jackets have company.  #11 Minnesota finished last year 47th and #23 Boise St finished 58th.  #20 TCU limped to the 90th best season in 2013 and #22 Kentucky struggled to win two games and  fell to 108th!

A lot of the 2014 season still remains.  The traditional powers typically reassert themselves in these situations, but I can’t remember the last time so much new blood challenged at once.  Do they have the staying power to keep the chaos going?  Is this new realm of college football a mere illusion?  One thing I know for sure: I will enjoy watching this season play out.

Top Five

#1 Mississippi St retained the top spot in the VPR after vanquishing the previous #2, Auburn, by a score of 38-23.  The Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.  The Tigers attempted a comeback, but could only get within 8 of the top team.  After three straight games against ranked opponents, Mississippi St gets a week off before they travel to upstart #22 Kentucky.

#2 Mississippi also kept the party going in the Magnolia State.  The Rebels matched State’s 21-0 lead over a ranked opponent en route to a 35-20 road victory against #24 Texas A&M.  Mississippi needs to avoid the let down this Saturday against Tennessee with games looming against #19 LSU and #5 Auburn in the weeks after.

#3 Florida St never trailed against unheralded Syracuse and moved up when other teams faltered.  The Seminoles host the #4 team this Saturday in the clear game of the week.

#4 Notre Dame almost got caught looking ahead to that trip to Tallahassee.  After falling behind irrelevant North Carolina, 14-0 in the first quarter, the Irish woke up to win a 50-43 shutout.  Irish quarterback Everett Golson dueled with Tar Heel quarterback Marquise Williams as both threw for 300 yards in addition to 70+ rushing yards.  Notre Dame will have their hands full with Florida St.  Their 6-0 record has not featured a single team currently in the Top 25.

#5 Auburn didn’t fall too far after their troubles with Mississippi St.  The Tigers remain more than capable of mounting a challenge for the SEC title should the Mississippi schools slip.  They take this Saturday off as they prepare for that journey in the second half of the season.

#8 Arizona said farewell to the Top Five after suffering their first loss of the season, a 28-26 home defeat to #12 USC.  The Wildcats outscored the Trojans 13-0 in the fourth quarter, but they failed to convert both a 2-point conversion attempt with 1:07 left on the clock and a 36-yard field goal attempt with 17 seconds remaining.  Unlike the Mississippi schools, Arizona had more difficulty adjusting to their unexpected rise to the top of the standings.  They get a bye this week before they attempt to chase the Trojans down of the Pac 12 South title in the second half of the season.

Big Win

Until last Saturday, the #16 Georgia Bulldogs had flown under the radar of the VPR.  The Bulldogs had a 4-1 record and a blowout win over #21 Clemson, but a 3-point loss at South Carolina looked worse by the week.  Georgia needed another signature win to show their strength.  Their ability to find that win appeared damaged after Heisman Trophy candidate Todd Gurley received a suspension for violating idiotic NCAA rules. Undaunted, the Bulldogs proceeded to dominate at #39 Missouri by a score of 34-0.  The VPR noticed, and advanced Georgia up 34 spots in the most recent ranking.

Hard Loss

#40 Penn St dropped 22 spots after their second questionable loss in as many games.  The Lions started 4-0 and had reputable strength of schedule rankings placing them in the Top 5.  Two weeks ago they made Northwestern’s defense look like the Steel Curtain in a 29-6 loss.  A bye week and a trip to reeling Michigan seemed like the perfect remedy to right the ship.  Instead, the Wolverines (3-4) held Penn St to 214 yards of offense and won an ugly 18-13 game.  Penn St may have one of the best defenses in the country, but they will continue to struggle until they figure out how to move the football.

Team Record Victory Points
1. Mississippi St 6-0 24
2. Mississippi 6-0 21
3. Florida St 6-0 17
4. Notre Dame 6-0 17
5. Auburn 5-1 17
6. Marshall 6-0 15
7. Alabama 5-1 14
8. Arizona 5-1 14
9. Georgia Tech 5-1 14
10. Oregon 5-1 13
11. Minnesota 5-1 13
12. USC 4-2 13
13. Michigan St 5-1 12
14. Oklahoma 5-1 12
15. Baylor 6-0 11
16. Georgia 5-1 11
17. Nebraska 5-1 11
18. UCLA 4-2 11
19. LSU 5-2 11
20. TCU 4-1 10
21. Clemson 4-2 10
22. Kentucky 5-1 9
23. Boise St 4-2 9
24. Texas A&M 5-2 9
25. Washington 5-1 8

Key Matchups

Kansas St at #14 Oklahoma, Noon
#24 Texas A&M at #7 Alabama, 3:30 PM
Rutgers at Ohio St, 3:30 PM
Oklahoma St at #20 TCU, 4:00 PM
Missouri at Florida, 7:00 PM
#22 Kentucky at #19 LSU, 7:30 PM
#4 Notre Dame at #3 Florida St, 8:00 PM
#25 Washington at #10 Oregon, 8:00 PM
Stanford at Arizona St, 10:30 PM

2014 VPR, Week 6

5 Oct

miss st bull

My alma mater, Virginia Tech, completed the first half of its regular season with a 34-17 victory over North Carolina yesterday.  That means the time has come for me to release the first Victory Point Rankings of 2014.  This early in season, the rankings tend to look a little wild to those used to the polls released by the the media.  That just further demonstrates that the VPR is an objective measurement.

Two 5-0 teams illustrate the difference between this mathematically based ranking and the national opinion rankings.  The USA Today Opinion Poll and the ESPN “Power” Rankings have Baylor ranked #3 and #6, respectively.  Conversely, Georgia Tech just entered the media polls at #23 and #25.  Baylor began the season ranked highly in their preseason polls, while Georgia Tech did not. I would believe more in a Baylor victory if the two teams met on a neutral field.  The Bears have a high-flying offense.  The Yellow Jackets have played sloppy football while just finding a way to win.  But a ranking determining the most deserving team should not rely on belief.  It should trust in the results on the field thus far.  Baylor has yet to play a team with a winning record.  Georgia Tech has vanquished the team currently leading the Sun Belt Conference and won a tight game on the road at #26 Virginia Tech.  As the season plays out, I could expect Baylor to pass Georgia Tech in the ranking, but based on the season thus far, the VPR ranks the Yellow Jackets #7 and the Bears #28.

The best conference in college football the last eight years running, the mighty SEC, has started strong once again.  After feasting on non-conference opponents, the SEC has landed seven teams in the initial Top-25 and three more just outside.  Most impressively, the top three teams in the ranking – #1 Mississippi St, #2 Auburn, and #3 Mississippi – all hail from the conference.  We shall see if any of them can keep their lofty position though.  Conference cannibalization has already begun as #10 Alabama, #19 Texas A&M, and #21 LSU all suffered tough conference losses this weekend.  At least one more team will fall this weekend as college football fans take in the treat of a #1 vs #2 matchup when Auburn travels to Mississippi St.

Top Five

#1 Mississippi St cruised to an easy win over #19 Texas A&M one week after dispatching #21 LSU in Death Valley.  The Bulldogs look legitimate but they’ll have plenty of chances to prove it before the end of the SEC slate.

#2 Auburn blew out #21 LSU.  Two weeks ago the reigning SEC champions also landed an impressive road win over #36 Kansas St. A win in Starkville this weekend will put them on the inside track for a second consecutive National Championship Game appearance.

#3 Mississippi scored 13 in the fourth quarter to come from behind against #10 Alabama.  The Rebels kicked off their season with a 22-point victory over #14 Boise St in Atlanta.

#4 Arizona won on the road against media darlings Oregon on Thursday night.  Two weeks ago, the Wildcats edged #23 Cal by scoring 36-points in the fourth quarter.  They trailed by 22 at the half, but followed Anu Solomon’s 520 passing yards to victory.

#5 Florida St devoured cupcake Wake Forest this weekend.  In the two weeks prior they needed second half surges to overcome #39 Clemson and #27 NC State.

Team Record Victory Points
1. Mississippi St 5-0 17
2. Auburn 5-0 16
3. Mississippi 5-0 14
4. Arizona 5-0 13
5. Florida St 5-0 13
6. Notre Dame 5-0 12
7. Georgia Tech 5-0 12
8. UCLA 4-1 12
9. Marshall 5-0 10
10. Alabama 4-1 10
11. Nebraska 5-1 10
12. Oregon 4-1 9
13. Oklahoma 4-1 9
14. Boise St 4-2 9
15. TCU 4-0 8
T16. Michigan St 4-1 8
T16. Minnesota 4-1 8
18. Penn St 4-1 8
19. Texas A&M 5-1 8
20. Louisville 5-1 8
21. LSU 4-2 8
22. Missouri 4-1 7
23. Cal 4-1 7
24. BYU 4-1 7
25. USC 3-2 7

Key Matchups

Northwestern at #16 Minnesota, Noon
#2 Auburn at #1 Mississippi St, 3:30 PM
#12 Oregon at #8 UCLA, 3:30 PM
#15 TCU at Baylor, 3:30 PM
#20 Louisville at Clemson, 3:30 PM
#10 Alabama at Arkansas, 6:00 PM
#21 LSU at Florida, 7:30 PM
#3 Mississippi at #19 Texas A&M, 9:00 PM
#25 USC at #4 Arizona, 10:30 PM

We Need a Professional College Football League

27 Jan

I believe the current university-athlete-money relationship in college football has become unjust.  Major college football needs to evolve in such a way that it can rectify this imbalance.  Read my full column on the subject at the Fifth Quarter.

2013 VPR, Final Standings

11 Jan

National_Championship_Trophy_Florida_State_Seminoles_20140107013324_320_240

Congratulations to the Florida St Seminoles.  The luck of the Auburn Tigers finally ran out as the Noles won the BCS National Championship 34-31 on a last minute touchdown pass.  The pass capped an incredible comeback from an 18-point first half deficit.  Florida St ends the BCS era as they began it, with an uncontroversial BCS National Championship.  The win also pushed Florida St past the Tigers in the Victory Point Rankings and earned the Seminoles their third VPR National Championship.

Despite the clear cut championship and an undefeated season, the Seminoles have little to no claim on legendary status.  They had only the seventh strongest season among the last ten VPR national champions, besting only a 2012 Notre Dame team that fell apart in its bowl game, the 2007 LSU Tigers that lost two games, and the 2004 USC Trojans that lacked a conference championship game.  The Seminoles only had 85 points.  By comparison, the 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide and the 2010 Auburn Tigers, the two best champions of the last decade, both finished the season with 101 points.

Despite the disappointment of a second place finish, Auburn has an upward trajectory.  After finishing #91 last year, their fans should feel excited by the quick turnaround.  Offensive wizard and Head Coach Gus Malzahn has the Tiger offense again looking as dangerous as it did during the 2010 championship.  He should give those tough SEC defenses fits for years to come.

#3 Missouri also shocked fans, viewers, and pundits alike.  They leapt from a thoroughly mediocre and injury-riddled 2012 season to an SEC Championship Game appearance and Cotton Bowl victory in 2013.  They enjoyed proving everyone wrong who suggested that the Tigers could not compete in the stacked SEC.

#4 Stanford had the most opportunity this year to become that legendary champion, but they let it slip away.  Despite three losses, including a close loss in the Rose Bowl, the Pac 12 champions finish in the top five for the second season in a row thanks to a quality schedule.  The Cardinal have become a card carrying member of college football’s nouveau riche, non-traditional teams like Oregon and Virginia Tech that have routinely put up exceptional seasons in the last twenty years but just can’t seem to win the big one.

#5 Michigan St offers an example of the anti-Stanford.  A traditional power that lacked great success over the last two decades, the Spartans played a weak schedule in the mediocre Big Ten, but they won when it mattered most, vanquishing the favored Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game and coming from behind to beat the aforementioned Cardinal in the Rose Bowl.  They won the eldest Bowl for the first time in a quarter century.

#24 Duke joins Auburn on the list of surprising turnarounds.  Head Coach David Cutcliffe has done a masterful job with the Blue Devils.  The upperclassmen on this team still have vivid memories of final rankings close to a hundred only a couple years ago (#99 in both 2010 and 2011).  This year Duke won Coastal Division of the ACC and  only an electrifying performance by Johnny Manziel kept the Blue Devils from winning the Peach Bowl.

My Hokies had another disappointing season, finishing 8-5 and outside the Top 25.  #28 Virginia Tech only salvaged a respectable season thanks to wins over #27 East Carolina and #29 Miami (FL).  They went 0-3 against the Top 25.  Last year the Hokies finished outside the Top 25 for the first time in nine years.  However, the Hokies haven’t finished outside the nation’s elite in consecutive seasons since before their string of dominance began way back in 1992.

I believe we have seen the beginning of Head Coach Frank Beamer’s Bowden/Paterno years.  We won’t win a National Championship as long as he remains the head coach.  For the foreseeable future we can expect stretches of mediocrity punctuated by one or two surprising major bowl runs.  A proud program, Hokies have come to expect  much more than that.

#126 Georgia St claims the title of the worst team in FBS this year, narrowly edging #125 Miami (OH) and #124 Southern Miss.  I expect such futility from Georgia St; they started the football program only four seasons ago and they played at the FBS level for the first time this season.  However, Miami and Southern Miss both have great success in recent memory.  The Redhawks claimed a shocking VPR National Championship behind QB Ben Roethlisberger in 2003.  Southern Miss won the C-USA Championship in 2011, but have gone 1-23 in the two years since as they struggle to replace former Head Coach Larry Fedora.

The SEC claimed the title of top conference for the eighth consecutive season.  The other conferences closed the enormous gap from last season, but SEC still beat its nearest competitor by over a hundred points.  The conference finished with six teams in the Top 25, including an incredible three in the Top 6 (#2 Auburn, #3 Missouri, #6 South Carolina, #11 Alabama, #19 Texas A&M, #22 LSU).

The Pac 12 had its best season in over a decade.  They failed to produce a late season contender for the National Championship only because they spent all year beating each other up. They equalled the SEC’s mark with six teams finishing in the Top 25 (#4 Stanford, #13 Arizona St, #15 UCLA, #16 Oregon, #18 USC, #25 Washington).  With so many emerging teams and coaches, the future of the Pac 12 excites me.

The ACC also had a bounce back season, its best in five years.  However, while previous vintages tried to get by on top-to-bottom depth, the conference finally produced a true contender this year –  National Champion Florida St – and a second BCS winner in Orange Bowl Champion Clemson.  The ACC only placed three teams in the final Top 25 (#1 Florida St, #12 Clemson, #24 Duke), but they had three more teams that just missed the cut (#28 Virginia Tech, #29 Miami, #36 Pittsburgh).

The Big Ten finished fourth, probably a little better than its critics would lead you to believe, but worse than the Spartan and Buckeye fans hoped for.  In its first season, the AAC finished with negative victory points and tied for sixth with the Sun Belt Conference.  Had the BCS survived, the AAC could not have justified the automatic bid it inherited from the Big East.  Conversely, the Sun Belt must take great encouragement from the season as they look for national respect.  Last year the conference finished outside the bottom two for only the second time in its brief history.  This season they set a new high water mark as the Sun Belt bested every other mid-major conference.

Team Record Victory Points
1. Florida St 14-0 86
2. Auburn 12-2 80
3. Missouri 12-2 71
4. Stanford 11-3 70
5. Michigan St 13-1 69
6. South Carolina 11-2 64
7. UCF 12-1 63
8. Oklahoma 11-2 62
9. Ohio St 12-2 60
10. Baylor 11-2 59
11. Alabama 11-2 56
12. Clemson 11-2 55
13. Arizona St 10-4 53
14. Louisville 12-1 52
15. UCLA 10-3 51
16. Oregon 11-2 49
17. Oklahoma St 10-3 47
18. USC 10-4 46
19. Texas A&M 9-4 45
20. Notre Dame 9-4 44
21. Fresno St 11-2 42
22. LSU 10-3 41
23. Northern Illinois 12-2 37
24. Duke 10-4 35
25. Washington 9-4 34
26. Georgia 8-5 34
27. East Carolina 10-3 31
28. Virginia Tech 8-5 31
29. Miami (FL) 9-4 29
30. Mississippi 8-5 28
31. Wisconin 9-4 27
32. Rice 10-4 27
33. Texas 8-5 26
34. Nebraska 9-4 24
35. North Texas 9-4 24
36. Pittsburgh 7-6 24
37. Brigham Young 8-5 23
38. Mississippi St 7-6 23
39. Iowa 8-5 22
40. Vanderbilt 9-4 21
41. Navy 9-4 21
42. Utah St 9-5 21
43. Arizona 8-5 20
44. Houston 8-5 20
45. North Carolina 7-6 20
46. Ball St 10-3 19
47. Minnesota 8-4 19
48. Michigan 7-6 19
49. Bowling Green 10-4 18
50. Texas Tech 8-5 18
51. Marshall 10-4 17
52. Kansas St 8-5 17
53. UL-Lafayette 9-4 16
54. Penn St 7-5 15
55. Toledo 7-5 14
56. Arkansas St 8-5 14
57. Western Kentucky 8-4 11
58. Boise St 8-5 10
59. Syracuse 7-6 10
60. UTSA 7-5 9
61. San Diego St 8-5 8
62. Georgia Tech 7-6 7
63. Oregon St 7-6 6
64. Boston College 7-6 4
65. Cincinnatti 9-4 3
66. Middle Tennessee 8-5 3
67. Maryland 7-6 3
68. Tulane 7-6 3
69. San Jose St 6-6 2
70. Tennessee 5-7 2
71. Utah 5-7 1
72. Buffalo 8-5 0
73. UL-Monroe 6-6 0
74. Ohio 7-6 0
75. Indiana 5-7 -2
76. Washington St 6-7 -2
77. UNLV 7-6 -3
78. South Alabama 6-6 -4
79. Florida Atlantic 6-6 -7
80. Troy 6-6 -8
81. Colorado St 8-6 -12
82. Rutgers 6-7 -12
83. Florida 4-8 -13
84. Northwestern 5-7 -14
85. Akron 5-7 -14
86. Texas St 6-6 -17
87. Wake Forest 4-8 -19
88. Old Dominion 8-4 -20
89. Central Michigan 6-6 -22
90. TCU 4-8 -22
91. Nevada 4-8 -23
92. SMU 5-7 -24
93. Illinois 4-8 -24
94. Colorado 4-8 -26
95. Wyoming 5-7 -27
96. Kent St 4-8 -27
97. Tulsa 3-9 -27
98. West Virginia 4-8 -29
99. Arkansas 3-9 -29
100. NC State 3-9 -31
101. Iowa St 3-9 -35
102. Kansas 3-9 -35
103. Memphis 3-9 -36
104. Virginia 2-10 -36
105. Connecticut 3-9 -39
106. South Florida 2-10 -39
107. New Mexico 3-9 -41
108. Kentucky 2-10 -41
109. Purdue 1-11 -46
110. UAB 2-10 -50
111. Idaho 1-11 -50
112. Louisiana Tech 4-8 -51
113. Eastern Michigan 2-10 -51
114. California 1-11 -51
115. Army 3-9 -53
116. Temple 2-10 -53
117. New Mexico St 2-10 -56
118. Air Force 2-10 -56
119. Hawaii 1-11 -56
120. UTEP 2-10 -57
121. Western Michigan 1-11 -61
122. FIU 1-11 -63
123. Massachusetts 1-11 -64
124. Southern Miss 1-11 -75
125. Miami (OH) 0-12 -76
126. Georgia St 0-12 -77
Conference Victory Points
SEC 382
Pac 10 251
ACC 218
Big 10 169
Big 12 108
AAC -65
Sun Belt -65
MWC -135
C-USA -216
MAC -227

2013 VPR, Week 15, and Bowl Selections

8 Dec

auburn2

The National Championship game is set.  For the first time in four years the BCS and the Victory Point Rankings will most likely agree on the two teams that deserve to play in the game without controversy: the #1 Auburn Tigers and the #2 Florida St Seminoles.  What?  The BCS has the Seminoles #1 despite playing a schedule that got progressively weaker as the season went along, one that didn’t feature a single team that finished with a winning record in the Noles last four regular season games?

Okay, so we have a little disagreement.  Still, the VPR doesn’t face the difficulties it had with the BCS in years past, like teams that would still win the Championship even if they lost to their inferior BCS opponent (2010 Auburn, 2012 Notre Dame) or a champion forced to play a team ineligible for the VPR National Championship altogether (2011 LSU).  2013 has a straightforward championship scenario.  The two most deserving teams will play in the BCS Championship Game and the winner will undoubtedly crown the final standings of the Victory Point Rankings.  In the final season of the BCS it finally worked like its creators intended.

Top Five

Auburn and Florida St both made it to the BCS title game, but they had vastly different degrees of difficulty in accomplishing the feat.  #1 Auburn had to knock #6 Missouri out of the top five in the SEC Championship Game to earn their ticket.  Defense need not apply for this matchup.  The two Tigers lit up the scoreboard in the highest scoring championship game in SEC history, a 59-42 Auburn win.  The teams combined for over 1200 yards of total offense and the more southern Tigers accounted for a video game-like 545 rushing yards.  Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn once again looked an offensive genius as his team scored 50 in the SEC title game en route to a BCS Championship Game appearance for the second time in four years.

I hope that #6 Missouri does not get lost in the bowl shuffle.  By BCS rules, no conference can place more than two teams in the major bowls.  The SEC has three teams in the VPR top nine.  The Tigers deserve Auburn’s vacated spot in the Sugar Bowl, but I fear the bowl runners will select the less deserving – but more prestigious – #9 Alabama instead.

#2 Florida St blew the doors off #20 Duke in the ACC Championship Game, 45-7.  Duke has won twelve of their thirteen games by 27 points or more.  I doubt #1 Auburn will roll over for the Seminoles as the rest of their schedule has.  I look forward to seeing how Florida St responds the first time they get punched in the mouth.  Will they wilt under the pressure like a challenged bully or will the rush of real competition push them to even greater heights?

Every time I look at #3 Stanford, I wonder what could have been.  The Cardinal ran through #8 Arizona St for the second time this season, vanquishing the Sun Devils 38-14 in the Pac 12 Championship game.  Stanford looked great for much of the season as they conquered a resurgent Pac 12 and conquered top teams like #18 UCLA, #19 Oregon, and #23 Notre Dame.  If not for a lapse of concentration against 5-7 Utah and a tough road loss at #26 USC, the Cardinal would find themselves in the BCS title game; I would most likely endorse this tough, gritty team to win.  Alas, those of us among college football’s nouveau riche must wait another year for one of our own to crash the glass ceiling.

#8 Arizona St fell from the top five and now find themselves in the same situation as Missouri.  The Sun Devils deserve a spot in the BCS, but they may get passed over for the second Pac 12 slot by the overrated – but more well known – #19 Oregon Ducks.  I usually try to support other nouveau riche teams, but I feel like Oregon has gone to the dark side with all of that Phil Knight money.  I get the feeling that they have sold out to the establishment without changing the way the old aristocracy operates.  I am likely reading more into this than what is really there.

#4 Ohio St didn’t get the same benefit of any easy foe that Florida St did.  After a fairly easy regular season schedule the Buckeyes finally had to put up or shut up against #7 Michigan St and the toughest defense in the country.  The competition found Ohio St lacking.  Sparty jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half.  The Buckeyes fought back to take the lead late, but they couldn’t close it out.  Michigan St came up smelling roses with two fourth quarter touchdowns and a 34-24 victory.  Maybe now we can put to rest some of Ohio St’s misguided sense of superiority and entitlement.

#5 Baylor has achieved one of the best seasons in team history.  They clinched the Big XII Championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl by defeating Texas, 30-10.  The game became the de facto Big XII Championship game after #12 Oklahoma beat arch rival #13 Oklahoma St earlier in the day.  This season the Bears have set the record for most wins in team history and won their first outright conference title since they won the SWC in 1980.  Their appearance in the Fiesta Bowl also signifies their first trip to a major bowl since the Cotton Bowl loss after that 1980 season and their first trip to a bowl currently in the BCS since a win over Tennessee in the 1956/57 Sugar Bowl.

Big Wins

#16 Louisville catapulted into the Top 25 with a victory over AAC conference rival Cincinnati, 31-24.  The Cardinals needed overtime to overcome the Bearcats, but they finish the regular season with an impressive 11-1 record.  Unfortunately, the Cardinals blew their shot at the BCS and a dark horse run for the national title when they lost to UCF in October.  The Golden Knights will get the money and recognition of the BCS, while the Cardinals will have to slog it out in a December bowl.

#21 Rice completed an unexpected run into the Top 25 with a comfortable 41-24 win over Marshall in the C-USA Championship Game.  This season marks only the third ten-win season in Owls history, but the second since head coach David Bailiff took over in 2007.  He took over a team that had gone 1-10 two years before and had only made one bowl game in the previous 45 years.  This year Bailiff will take Rice to a bowl game for the third time in his seven year tenure.  The Owls have always had the advantage of Texas recruiting base, but it appears Bailiff has finally made good on that promise.

Team Record Victory Points
1. Auburn 12-1 75
2. Florida St 13-0 71
3. Stanford 11-2 66
4. Ohio St 12-1 61
5. Baylor 11-1 58
6. Missouri 11-2 58
7. Michigan St 12-1 57
8. Arizona St 10-3 55
9. Alabama 11-1 54
10. UCF 11-1 51
11. South Carolina 10-2 50
12. Oklahoma 10-2 50
13. Oklahoma St 10-2 46
14. Fresno St 11-1 44
15. Northern Illinois 12-1 43
16. Louisville 11-1 42
17. Clemson 10-2 42
18. UCLA 9-3 41
19. Oregon 10-2 39
20. Duke 10-3 37
21. Rice 10-3 36
22. Georgia 8-4 36
23. Notre Dame 8-4 36
24. Texas A&M 8-4 34
25. Virginia Tech 8-4 34
USC 9-4 34
LSU 9-3 33
Wisconsin 9-3 31
Miami (FL) 9-3 28
Texas 8-4 28
Iowa 8-4 27
Minnesota 8-4 27
BYU 8-4 27
Washington 8-4 26
Houston 8-4 26
Ball St 10-2 25
East Carolina 9-3 25
Michigan 7-5 25
Bowling Green 10-3 24
40. Mississippi 7-5 21
60. UL-Lafayette 8-4 8

Bowl Game Selections

If you have read this column in the past, you know that I have my own peculiar selection process for bowl season.  First, I prefer to pare down the bowl schedule to only twenty games.  The proliferation of bowls over the last two decades has reduced the meaning of the postseason and allowed a number of undeserving teams to hurt our eyes in December.  Only the rarest 6-6 teams and occasional 7-5 teams have any business playing in late December.  I select the five BCS Bowls and fifteen of the oldest and most respected bowl games, nothing under a decade old.

Only the ten conference champions and the next thirty best non-champions in the VPR achieve bowl eligibility.  This makes sure that only the best teams earn the postseason while still rewarding the champions of inferior conferences like the Sun Belt.  For the selection process, I try to maintain the official conference ties, but as well as the SEC plays, even they can’t fill out the nine ties they have in these twenty elder bowls.  The surprising upstarts from lesser conferences tend to fill in the gaps.

#40 Mississippi ended up as the last team out this year.  Heading into conference championship week, the Rebels held the final spot in the ranking at #39.  The inferior Sun Belt champion had already reserved the fortieth and final slot in the postseason.  However, when Bowling Green upset Northern Illinois to claim the MAC championship, Mississippi fell out.  Northern Illinois had a strong enough resume to earn a bowl spot regardless, but the Falcons required the win to slip in.  They stole Mississippi’s bid.

BCS National Championship #1 Auburn vs #2 Florida St
Rose Bowl #3 Stanford vs #7 Michigan St
Sugar Bowl #6 Missouri vs #12 Oklahoma
Orange Bowl #4 Ohio St vs #8 Arizona St
Fiesta Bowl #5 Baylor vs #10 UCF
Sun Bowl #25 Virginia Tech vs USC
Cotton Bowl #11 South Carolina vs #13 Oklahoma St
Gator Bowl LSU vs Michigan
Liberty Bowl #21 Rice vs Houston
Tangerine Bowl #9 Alabama vs Wisconsin
Peach Bowl #17 Clemson vs #24 Texas A&M
Independence Bowl Ball St vs East Carolina
Holiday Bowl #19 Oregon vs BYU
Hall of Fame Bowl #22 Georgia vs Iowa
Copper Bowl #23 Notre Dame vs Minnesota
Sunshine Classic #16 Louisville vs #20 Duke
Las Vegas Bowl #14 Fresno St vs Washington
Alamo Bowl #18 UCLA vs Texas
Music City Bowl #15 Northern Illinois vs Miami (FL)
Humanitarian Bowl Bowling Green vs UL-Lafayette

2013 VPR, Week 14

2 Dec

auburn1

I had more fun watching football yesterday than any saturday in a long time.  Rivalry weekend always feels great when your team takes home the cup.  #21 Virginia Tech vanquished a particularly poor vintage of UVA 16-6.  I would have preferred more sharpness from the Hokies – we looked more than a little sloppy at times, missed passes and missed assignments that could have continued a drive or stopped an enemy drive – but we made enough big plays to prevent the upset in a defense-first game in Charlottesville.  I especially loved the passion that both teams played with.  Rivalry games should not pass with the stoic demeanor of any other saturday.  Both the Hokies and the Cavaliers showed a bit of fire, getting involved in a little extracurricular activity after the whistle.  To their credit, the refs let both teams burn off steam, but the game never seemed in danger of getting out of hand.

With the victory, the Hokies take home the Commonwealth Cup for the tenth year in a row.  The trophy is far from the best or most interesting rivalry trophy – even the Black Diamond trophy we took from West Virginia has more character – but it’s ours.  Our continuous possession of the cup shows the dominance we have maintained over our in-state rival since my freshman year.  It almost feels like we’re in danger of becoming the bullies of the rivalry rather than the upstart underdogs we have typically represented.  Regardless, it always feels good to beat UVA.

Following the conclusion of the Commonwealth’s rivalry, I immediately switched to the final moments of the Iron Bowl, the classic rivalry between Auburn and Alabama.  The Tigers had spent most of the game clawing back against the Crimson Tide.  Alabama took a 21-7 lead late in the second quarter, but Auburn added a touchdown right before the half and scored again in the third to make a tie game going into the fourth quarter.  Alabama broke the game open again with a 99-yard touchdown pass early in the final period, but Auburn got a  much needed defensive stop and again put together a valiant drive to tie it at 28 all with 32 seconds to go.  Overtime appeared imminent.

Alabama would fall under their special teams.  Their starting kicker missed three field goals early in the game or else Auburn never would have had a chance to begin with.  Alabama QB AJ McCarron engineered a quick drive into Auburn territory with the half minute remaining.  There Tide coach Nick Saban elected to attempt a 57-yard field goal.

I had placed my allegiance with Auburn throughout the game.  I have always respected the Tigers as a tough opponent and a smart fan base.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the Tide fans I met in Atlanta a few years back and I respect Nick Saban as the greatest coach in college football, I feel Alabama has taken advantage of the system to garner more acclaim than they deserve.  The BCS has awarded Alabama three of the last four national championships, but the Victory Point Rankings believe they only deserve one.  The Tide got an undeserved second chance against LSU, the champion of the SEC, two years ago and last year they rode a cream puff schedule to a title game appearance while Notre Dame ran the gauntlet.  In both cases Nick Saban used his superior preparation skills to outcoach his opponent.  That’s great for Alabama, but it’s not an advantage a team gets during the regular season where real champions grow.  I felt an Alabama loss would be karmic.

As Alabama lined up for the field goal, I noticed Auburn place a return man in their own end zone.  The long field goal could run short and Auburn would get a chance to run it out, but could I actually dare to hope that Chris Davis could score?  Then this happened:

Even if you have seen it a hundred times, it still thrills.  I jumped off the couch in my excitement as I watched in real time, but I can only imagine how Auburn diehards reacted.  They still might not have stopped celebrating.  As I perused reddit afterwards it looked like that return broke the internet.  College football fans will not forget that finish for a long time.

Top Five

I expected Auburn would get a boost from the victory, but I did not expect this.  Showing a clear preference for the strong schedules of the SEC (and the Pac 12 for that matter) over the Big Ten and ACC, the VPR formula catapulted the Tigers up three spots to the top of the rankings.  If #1 Auburn wins the SEC Championship Game this saturday, I expect the formula will endorse them for the National Championship Game.  War Eagle indeed.

#2 Ohio St held steady this week.  They needed an interception on a Michigan two-point conversion attempt at the end of The Game to survive the regular season unscathed.  The Buckeyes deserve their place in the national title conversation, but it surprised me that they passed Florida St this week.  The #3 Seminoles had likely hoped for a stronger boost to their strength of schedule from saturday’s victory over Florida when the season began, but the Gators have proceeded to self destruct over the course of the season.  Still, the Noles remain only a point behind the Buckeyes. Ohio St plays the better team in their respective championship game, a match against #13 Michigan St, but that also means a higher likelihood of failure.  Florida St should easily dispatch #18 Duke if they play to their full potential.

#4 Missouri also raised the profile of the SEC as they jumped into the Top 5.  They took care of business at home against #24 Texas A&M to advance to the SEC Championship Game.  It seems fitting to me that they should face #1 Auburn.  For two or three weeks this season the VPR could not separate the two teams.  I had them in a dead heat.  Now they get the opportunity to answer the question on the field in Atlanta.  I look forward to the game.

#5 Arizona St held their spot as they obliterated arch-rival Arizona, 58-21.  With the victory, the Sun Devils earned the right to host this saturday’s Pac-12 Championship Game against #6 Stanford.  The winner still has an outside shot at the VPR National Championship.

#7 Alabama dropped out of the top five following the heartbreak of the Iron Bowl.  The Tide likely slid so far because they avoided the teeth of the SEC East – they played 2-10 Kentucky and 5-7 Tennessee – and played a mediocre non-conference schedule for the second consecutive year.  The Crimson Tide have completed their regular season and await their likely selection to a major bowl.

Big Wins

#9 South Carolina, #14 UCLA, and #19 Georgia made the largest leaps this week at the expense of their most hated rivals.  The Gamecocks defeated #16 Clemson, 31-17, with a dominating fourth quarter.  With the victory, South Carolina landed a blow to ACC prestige and likely prevented Clemson from attending a major bowl.

#14 UCLA took the lead against cross-town rival #24 USC in the first quarter and never relinquished it.  The Bruins hold onto the Victory Bell for back-to-back seasons for the first time in fifteen years.

#19 Georgia returned to the Top 25 after a 41-34 double overtime victory over Georgia Tech.  The Bulldogs showed a lot of promise at the beginning of the season but have faced arguably the toughest schedule in the country while their roster has disintegrated into a trauma ward.  They beat Georgia Tech without their starting quarterback.  Despite a disappointing season, the Bulldogs still have bragging rights in their state for the next year.

Hard Losses

As if the sting of losing to UCLA wasn’t enough, the Trojans dropped six spots in the rankings.  The #25 Wisconsin Badgers joined them in their slide.  Wisconsin had steadily crept up the rankings in recent weeks by winning six in a row, but an upset loss to a Penn St team outside the Top 40 threatened to undo their progress.

The hardest loss of the week, however, goes to #20 Fresno St.  The Bulldogs slid down eight spots after their loss 62-52 at San Jose St.  No one played defense.  The game set the mark for most combined points in the first half this season.  Fresno St entered the game with a perfect record and knew they had to stay that way to earn a spot to a major bowl.  The loss to a 6-6 Spartans team ended all hopes of the BCS and sent them tumbling down the VPR as well.  The Bulldogs can still salvage a championship season with a win over Utah St this weekend in the MWC Championship game.

Team Record Victory Points
1. Auburn 11-1 64
2. Ohio St 12-0 62
3. Florida St 12-0 61
4. Missouri 11-1 59
5. Arizona St 10-2 57
6. Stanford 10-2 56
7. Alabama 11-1 54
8. Baylor 10-1 50
9. South Carolina 10-2 49
10. Oklahoma St 10-1 48
11. UCF 10-1 48
12. Northern Illinois 12-0 46
13. Michigan St 11-1 45
14. UCLA 9-3 42
15. Oklahoma 9-2 41
16. Clemson 10-2 41
17. Oregon 10-2 39
18. Duke 10-2 37
19. Georgia 8-4 37
20. Fresno St 10-1 35
21. Virginia Tech 8-4 35
22. Notre Dame 8-4 35
23. Texas A&M 8-4 34
24. USC 9-4 34
25. Wisconsin 9-3 33

Key Matchups

This week’s games featuring two Top 40 opponents:

#15 Oklahoma at #10 Oklahoma St, Noon
Texas at #8 Baylor, 3:30 PM
#4 Missouri vs #1 Auburn, 4:00 PM
#6 Stanford at #5 Arizona St, 7:45 PM
#18 Duke at #3 Florida St, 8:00 PM
#2 Ohio St vs #13 Michigan St, 8:17 PM
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