2014 VPR Final Standings

26 Jan

osu natl champs 2015

Congratulations to the Ohio St Buckeyes, the 2014 National Champions.  Following outstanding performances over their last three games, I cannot think of a more deserving champ.  As much as I hate to say it about a university that arrogantly prides itself on emphasizing the “The” in their name, Ohio St looked completely dominant in the Big Ten Championship game and their two playoff games.  The team played with an athletic superiority that college football fans have become accustomed to seeing only in the frontrunners of the SEC.  Ezekiel Elliott ran circles around everyone he faced, the line improved as the season progressed, and the receivers made sure the offense remained balanced no matter who played quarterback.  The defense impressively shut down a typically explosive Oregon offense in the National Championship Game.  These Buckeyes looked nothing like the team the Virginia Tech Hokies – my alma mater – crushed in the Horseshoe this September.  No team improved more than Ohio St this season.

The four-team playoff also proved an unqualified success.  I certainly criticized the playoff prior to its inception.  I created this website as a way to vent that frustration.  However, this season did nothing to support my fears.  I worried that a playoff would create a situation like the NFL playoff where a 12-7 team can defeat a 18-0 team in the final game and claim it had the best season.  I worried that a team could win the playoff and still not have a better season than the VPR champion.  As long as the playoff remains at four teams, that remains an impossibility.  College football still only allows 3% of its teams into its playoff, a number I like far more than the NFL’s 38% (and rising).  That means that any of the four teams, after beating two more double-digit win teams, will have more than enough Victory Points to claim a championship no matter what seed they earn. This would likely hold true even if the playoff expanded.  This season, the champion deserved it and the regular season remained as exciting as ever.

My larger worry lay in the possibility of an undeserving team getting hot at the end of the season, making the playoff with three or more losses, and claiming an undeserved championship.  This happens regularly in the NFL, but I must again look at those playoff percentages.  Since 2010, when I first started this website, no three loss team has finished higher than #8 after the conference championship games.  The playoff could easily expand to six without quality issues and could even consider eight without letting a three loss team in more than once or twice a decade.  I hate to concede these points, but I must remain objective about such a successful college football season.  Even at a gaudy sixteen playoff teams, a number I still cannot fathom supporting, college football would only include 13% of its teams in the playoff.  That still keeps the flash-in-the-pan teams from just getting hot at the right time.

Top Five

As mentioned above, #1 Ohio St earned the National Championship following their 42-20 statement win against Oregon.

The Ducks didn’t drop too far though.  On the strength of a Pac 12 championship and a blowout Rose Bowl victory over Florida St, Oregon finished at #2.

Following the Rose Bowl drubbing, the defending national champion Seminoles fell from the top spot to #3.  One loss does not ruin an otherwise successful season.

#4 Boise St won the Fiesta Bowl… again.  This time they won a hard fought struggle, vanquishing #14 Arizona 38-30.  The Broncos jumped out to a 21-point lead, but needed a sack on the last play of the game with Arizona knocking on the Broncos goal line to seal the victory.  Boise St more than validated their status as the VPR’s first team out from the college football playoff.

The VPR did not like Alabama as much as the opinion polls, definitely not a first with their typically soft non-conference schedules, and the Crimson Tide did nothing to dispel that ranking after a 42-35 loss to #1 Ohio St in the Sugar Bowl.  The SEC Champions still had a better season than most of college football, but they did not have a vintage SEC season the likes of which we have become accustomed to.

Biggest Improvements

Rather than looking at great bowl wins, I want to celebrate the teams that improved more than fifty spots in the final rankings over the 2013 VPR.    The Mountain West led the way with three Cinderellas.  #4 Boise St and #22 Colorado St both came from mediocrity to score double digit wins.  #21 Air Force paced all of FBS with a 97 spot improvement, making the turn-around from 2-10 to 10-3.

The other Group of Five conferences all had one surprise of their own.  Memphis shocked all of college football by winning the AAC, landing head coach Justin Fuente in the middle of a number of coaching searches at Power Five schools.  Lousiana Tech bounced back to win the C-USA West Division.  Western Michigan emerged from the dregs of the Bottom Ten to earn eight wins and a bowl berth.  Georgia Southern won the Sun Belt Conference after playing at the FCS level last year! Unfortunately, due to a quirk in NCAA rules, the Eagles could not participate in a bowl game.

Four teams in the Power Five also made the jump despite the increased degree of difficulty.  Arkansas achieved a winning season and a bowl victory for the first time in three seasons and scored a late season victory over #13 Mississippi.  NC State bounced back from an off season to return to their typical home in a mediocre bowl.  #9 Georgia Tech made a trip to the ACC Championship game, a familiar home over the last decade, and won the Orange Bowl.  #8 TCU finally got the hang of the Big XII, won the Peach Bowl in dominating fashion, and caught the attention of the college football playoff committee after finishing 4-8 in 2013.

Disappointing Falls

We saw far fewer teams take precipitous drops than those scaling the mountain.  I would have to look at the numbers from year to year to see if its an actual trend, but perhaps a single transcendent player or coach can take a team to the heights, while losing a single player or coach cannot disrupt the inertia of a quality program as often.  North Texas had the largest drop – 81 spots from a 9-4 record and a bowl win in 2013 to 4-8 in 2014 – but probably also the least interesting.  Fresno St couldn’t get a handle on their “Anyone. Anytime. Anywhere.” motto this season.  Despite a 5-3 conference record and a berth in the MWC Championship Game, the Bulldogs still finished 6-8.  They went 0-3 against the Power Five to start the season, lost to #4 Boise St twice, and faltered in the Hawaii Bowl against Rice.  Fresno St may not have played any worse than many of their other seasons, but the results did not match their typical expectations.

Two teams fell off the pace in the hyper-competitve SEC.  For no obvious reason, South Carolina plummeted from a Top Ten finish in 2013 and 2014 National Championship aspirations to utter mediocrity.  The rapid decline has many questioning whether 69-year-old Head Coach Steve Spurrier has lost a step and if the Gamecocks’ Golden Age has finally ended.  Of course, Vanderbilt would love to have back the kind of season that USC just had.  The Commodores became accustomed to poor football over their decades in the SEC, but after three consecutive bowl appearances and back-to-back 9-4 seasons under Head Coach James Franklin, the Vanderbilt faithful began to believe they could grab something more.  Unfortunately, Franklin left to coach Penn St last offseason and apparently took the magic with him.  In 2014, Vanderbilt crashed to 3-9 and had middle-aged fans throwing their Commodore shirts onto the field and storming out of the stadium in topless disgust.

Final Standings

(Scroll to the bottom for conference rankings)

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

Conference Rankings

I thought that despite a strong regular season showing from the SEC West, the SEC as a whole might prove vulnerable.  Maybe this year, the Pac 12 could break the SEC’s run of eight consecutive years as the best conference in football.  We sorely overestimated the demise of the SEC.  The conference took top honors by more than a hundred points.  The second best conference landed closer to the #4 ACC than the SEC.

As for the Pac 12, they couldn’t even overcome a surprisingly strong Big Ten.  Ohio St certainly helped the conference reach such heights, but even if you eliminate the advantage that Ohio St had over Oregon, the clear elite of each organization, the Big Ten still edges by the Pac 12.  More than just the home of a National  Champion, the Big Ten and its ten bowl teams looked impressive from top to bottom.

A clear divide emerged this year between the Big XII and the rest of the Power Five with the Big XII 119 points behind the tight pack of the Big Ten, Pac 12, and ACC.  It makes it that much clearer why #8 TCU and #15 Baylor got left out of the playoff.  They both started with mediocre to poor non-conference schedules and lacked the quality opponents to catch up in conference play.

The MWC once again represents for college football’s middle class.  If you drop UNLV from the conference, the Mountain West jumps into positive victory points, passing the typical dividing line between the power conferences and the mid-majors.  This year C-USA joined them in the middle class, thanks in large part to the impressive showing by #6 Marshall.

At the bottom of the barrel, the AAC, MAC, and Sun Belt can make no excuses for their performances.  Each conference landed three teams in the bottom ten of the standings, with the Sun Belt, this years winner (or loser) for worst conference, claiming the three worst teams in the country: #126 Idaho, #127 Georgia St (2013’s worst team in the country), and #128 New Mexico St.

Conference Victory Points
SEC 387
Big Ten 282
Pac 12 256
ACC 205
Big XII 86
MWC -34
C-USA -62
AAC -157
MAC -232
Sun Belt -259

The VPR and Bowl Game Predictions

I have never claimed any predictive quality in the VPR and I never will.  I intend only to measure which teams have had the most impressive and deserving seasons to date.  However, this year, I decided to try a little experiment.  I entered the VPR into the confidence rankings for ESPN.com Capital One Bowl Mania.  I selected the team with more victory points heading into bowl season to win and I assigned a confidence rating depending on the distance between the two totals.

The results exceeded my wildest expectations.  Of the thousands and thousands of entries, the VPR finished #762, in the top 99.8%.  I entered the Solid Verbal podcast pool and finished in second, behind by a mere two points among hundreds of diehard college football fans.  Strangely enough, I could have performed even better if I had gone against the VPR and selected my Alma Mater to win.  The VPR marked a larger separation between favored Cincinnati and underdog Virginia Tech than any other game this season.  When my inconsistent alma mater pulled off the upset, it cost the VPR 39 points in the confidence pool.  I certainly enjoyed the experiment, but I might want to test the VPR on a few more seasons before I start wagering money on it.


Which Bowl Has the Best Matchup?

16 Dec

peach bowl 2014

With 38 bowls this year, one really must prioritize.  You could watch every game, but at what cost?  We have holidays to celebrate.  Besides, we should quietly put away a couple of these ugly bowl matchups and never speak of them again.  So here comes the VPR to the rescue.  Why can’t I use the point totals from these bowl teams to find which bowls offer the strongest and most equal pairings?

My first thought led me to simply combine the point totals of the two teams in every game.  This really gives us a good understanding of which bowls have the most star power.

Rose Bowl #4 Oregon v #1 Florida St 146
Sugar Bowl #3 Alabama v #2 Ohio St 146
Fiesta Bowl #5 Boise St v #9 Arizona 117
Peach Bowl #7 Mississippi v #6 TCU 105
Orange Bowl #13 Mississippi St v #11 Georgia Tech 99
Cotton Bowl #15 Michigan St v #12 Baylor 95
Alamo Bowl #19 Kansas St v #8 UCLA 89
Boca Raton Bowl #10 Marshall v #20 Northern Illinois 87
Outback Bowl #17 Auburn v #14 Wisconsin 84
Citrus Bowl #16 Missouri v Minnesota 71
Belk Bowl #21 Georiga v #25 Louisville 68
Holiday Bowl #24 Nebraska v USC 64
Las Vegas Bowl Utah v #18 Colorado St 63
Russell Athletic Bowl Oklahoma v #22 Clemson 63
Sun Bowl #23 Arizona St v Duke 52
Music City Bowl Notre Dame v LSU 51
Miami Beach Bowl BYU v Memphis 41
Potato Bowl Western Michigan v Air Force 38
Military Bowl Cincinnati v Virginia Tech 38
St Petersburg Bowl NC State v UCF 37
Liberty Bowl Texas A&M v West Virginia 33
Texas Bowl Arkansas v Texas 30
Foster Farms Bowl Maryland v Stanford 30
Heart of Dallas Bowl Illinois v Louisiana Tech 28
New Orleans Bowl Nevada v UL-Lafayette 25
New Mexico Bowl Utah St v UTEP 25
Pinstripe Bowl Boston College v Penn St 22
Quick Lane Bowl Rutgers v North Carolina 21
Independence Bowl Miami (FL) v South Carolina 17
Birmingham Bowl East Carolina v Florida 17
Cactus Bowl Washington v Oklahoma St 16
Taxslayer Bowl Iowa v Tennessee 15
Godaddy Bowl Toledo v Arkansas St 13
Poinsettia Bowl Navy vs San Diego St 11
Bahamas Bowl Central Michigan v Western Kentucky 11
Hawaii Bowl Fresno St v Rice -1
Camellia Bowl South Alabama v Bowling Green -2
Armed Forces Bowl Houston v Pittsburgh -8

Naturally, the two Playoff Semi-finals outdistance all competitors, followed immediately by the Fiesta Bowl and the rest of the New Year’s Six.  The Alamo Bowl stands as the top outsider and the Boca Raton Bowl should feel very grateful for the two G5 conference champions it managed to land.

Of course, just because two teams have strong resumes doesn’t mean they enter equally matched.  In many of those games, one team carries far more weight than the other.  A simple power ranking also neglects those gems deeper in the bowl schedule that become tense affairs.  A close game likely needs two teams with equal resumes.  This next chart shows the difference between the teams’ point totals.

Peach Bowl #7 Mississippi v #6 TCU 1
Camellia Bowl South Alabama v Bowling Green 2
Armed Forces Bowl Houston v Pittsburgh 2
St Petersburg Bowl NC State v UCF 3
Liberty Bowl Texas A&M v West Virginia 3
Orange Bowl #13 Mississippi St v #11 Georgia Tech 3
Holiday Bowl #24 Nebraska v USC 4
Belk Bowl #21 Georiga v #25 Louisville 4
Foster Farms Bowl Maryland v Stanford 4
Sugar Bowl #3 Alabama v #2 Ohio St 4
New Orleans Bowl Nevada v UL-Lafayette 5
Miami Beach Bowl BYU v Memphis 5
Quick Lane Bowl Rutgers v North Carolina 5
Cotton Bowl #15 Michigan St v #12 Baylor 5
Birmingham Bowl East Carolina v Florida 5
Russell Athletic Bowl Oklahoma v #22 Clemson 6
Cactus Bowl Washington v Oklahoma St 6
Taxslayer Bowl Iowa v Tennessee 7
Outback Bowl #17 Auburn v #14 Wisconsin 8
Music City Bowl Notre Dame v LSU 9
Pinstripe Bowl Boston College v Penn St 10
Texas Bowl Arkansas v Texas 10
Rose Bowl #4 Oregon v #1 Florida St 10
Las Vegas Bowl Utah v #18 Colorado St 11
Independence Bowl Miami (FL) v South Carolina 13
Fiesta Bowl #5 Boise St v #9 Arizona 13
Heart of Dallas Bowl Illinois v Louisiana Tech 14
Boca Raton Bowl #10 Marshall v #20 Northern Illinois 15
Alamo Bowl #19 Kansas St v #8 UCLA 15
Sun Bowl #23 Arizona St v Duke 16
Hawaii Bowl Fresno St v Rice 17
Citrus Bowl #16 Missouri v Minnesota 17
New Mexico Bowl Utah St v UTEP 19
Bahamas Bowl Central Michigan v Western Kentucky 19
Godaddy Bowl Toledo v Arkansas St 19
Potato Bowl Western Michigan v Air Force 20
Poinsettia Bowl Navy vs San Diego St 21
Military Bowl Cincinnati v Virginia Tech 24

The Peach Bowl showdown between former championship contenders Mississippi and TCU still performs very well, but we see the potential in slugfests like the Camellia Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl.  The Liberty Bowl could also provide a lot of fun.  West Virginia and Texas A&M both enter as middling teams from power conferences with great offenses and questionable defenses.  Expect points.

Of course a close game doesn’t equal transcendence.  See: Wake Forest 6, Virginia Tech 3 in 2OT for an analog to six-year-olds wrestling in the mud.  For my last trick I will combine my two measurements for the ultimate bowl ranking!  I simply divide the power total by the equality measure.  While not perfect, this measure still gives us a pretty good rough estimate.

Peach Bowl #7 Mississippi v #6 TCU 105.0
Sugar Bowl #3 Alabama v #2 Ohio St 36.5
Orange Bowl #13 Mississippi St v #11 Georgia Tech 33.0
Cotton Bowl #15 Michigan St v #12 Baylor 19.0
Belk Bowl #21 Georiga v #25 Louisville 17.0
Holiday Bowl #24 Nebraska v USC 16.0
Rose Bowl #4 Oregon v #1 Florida St 14.6
St Petersburg Bowl NC State v UCF 12.3
Liberty Bowl Texas A&M v West Virginia 11.0
Russell Athletic Bowl Oklahoma v #22 Clemson 10.5
Outback Bowl #17 Auburn v #14 Wisconsin 10.5
Fiesta Bowl #5 Boise St v #9 Arizona 9.0
Miami Beach Bowl BYU v Memphis 8.2
Foster Farms Bowl Maryland v Stanford 7.5
Alamo Bowl #19 Kansas St v #8 UCLA 5.9
Boca Raton Bowl #10 Marshall v #20 Northern Illinois 5.8
Las Vegas Bowl Utah v #18 Colorado St 5.7
Music City Bowl Notre Dame v LSU 5.7
New Orleans Bowl Nevada v UL-Lafayette 5.0
Quick Lane Bowl Rutgers v North Carolina 4.2
Citrus Bowl #16 Missouri v Minnesota 4.2
Birmingham Bowl East Carolina v Florida 3.4
Sun Bowl #23 Arizona St v Duke 3.3
Texas Bowl Arkansas v Texas 3.0
Cactus Bowl Washington v Oklahoma St 2.7
Pinstripe Bowl Boston College v Penn St 2.2
Taxslayer Bowl Iowa v Tennessee 2.1
Heart of Dallas Bowl Illinois v Louisiana Tech 2.0
Potato Bowl Western Michigan v Air Force 1.9
Military Bowl Cincinnati v Virginia Tech 1.6
New Mexico Bowl Utah St v UTEP 1.3
Independence Bowl Miami (FL) v South Carolina 1.3
Godaddy Bowl Toledo v Arkansas St 0.7
Bahamas Bowl Central Michigan v Western Kentucky 0.6
Poinsettia Bowl Navy vs San Diego St 0.5
Armed Forces Bowl Houston v Pittsburgh -4.0
Camellia Bowl South Alabama v Bowling Green -1.0
Hawaii Bowl Fresno St v Rice -0.1

The Peach Bowl absolutely runs away with it.  No other bowl comes close to matching the power of a New Year’s Six bowl with team resumes separated by only a single point.  If I wasn’t looking forward to this game before, I am now.  The Sugar Bowl – the national semi-final between Alabama and Ohio St –  and the Orange Bowl also fare exceptionally well.  In all, five of the New Year’s Six land in the top seven.  Only the Fiesta Bowl lags behind in twelfth.  The VPR has a lot more respect for Boise St right now than Arizona.

I must send respect to the Belk Bowl and the Holiday Bowl for managing to produce really intriguing games without selecting a Top 2o team.  They made the most of their P5 conference affiliations.  The St. Petersburg Bowl also did quite well, earning a Top Ten ranking without a single Top 25 team.  That earns them true sleeper status.

As for bowls to avoid, it seems that my fellow Hokies and I must suffer through another torturous watch.  The Millitary Bowl rates #30 out of 38 bowls.  Neither of us are very good, but Cincinnati has a significantly better resume than Virginia Tech.

The distinction of the worst bowl matchup this year goes to the Hawaii Bowl, however.  Do not watch this game unless you happen to have attended Fresno St or Rice.  The Bulldogs scored as the worst team invited to a bowl this year.  Thanks to a MWC Championship game loss, they don’t even have a winning record.  To make matters worse, they face an Owls team with a significantly better resume – though that isn’t really saying much.  The resumes suggest an easy Owls victory and some ugly football.  Just keep walking.

No matter which games you choose to watch, just make sure to enjoy bowl season while it lasts.

2014 VPR, Week 15 and Bowl Pairings

8 Dec

fsu noles

When the powers in college football decided to migrate from the Bowl Championship Series to the new College Football Playoff, they made the same mistake the sport has made for decades.  They subjected the selection of the sport’s championship teams to a group of their own elite opinion makers.  So truly nothing has changed.  We the fans still sit at the mercy of the college football aristocracy.  On the bright side, most of the time the aristocracy gets it right.  Today was no exception.  The college football selections committee got it right.  While I disagree with their seeding, the Victory Point Rankings even agree with their parings.  #1 Florida St should play #4 Oregon and #2 Ohio St should play #3 Alabama.

I know TCU and Baylor fans must feel disappointed, but they simply did not have the strength of schedule. Just look at the blind comparison:

Team A Team B Team C Team D Team E
vs Top 40 4-0 4-1 2-2 3-1 3-0
vs Bowl Eligible 9-1 6-1 8-2 6-1 5-1
Colley SOS 29 34 64 71 78
Victory Points 74 68 65 53 50

Team A is Ohio St.  Ten of their thirteen games came against Bowl Eligible teams and they had a perfect 4-0 record when it mattered against the top third of college football.  Oregon, Team B, dodged much of the Pac 12 South, but they played enough of that tough conference to have a very respectable resume.  Baylor, Team E, has no chance in a blind comparison.  Half of their games came against teams that couldn’t even get to .500.  The Bears always hoped that the committee would only look at their win over TCU and ignore the rest of their resume.

TCU has the best argument, but against Oregon, not Ohio St.  The Horned Frogs and the Ducks have similar records against both the Top 40 and all Bowl Eligible teams.  Unfortunately, TCU gets sunk by having FCS Samford and SMU (1-11) dragging down their strength of schedule.  Perhaps this will serve as one more lesson to athletic directors that they must play the best if they want to become the best.

To illustrate just how far from the mark the Frogs and Bears came, I included Boise St as Team C.  Like Ohio St, the Broncos played ten of their thirteen games against Bowl Eligible teams and had a stronger strength of schedule than either TCU or Baylor.  And I know that Baylor and TCU lacked the conference championship game of the five teams I have mentioned thus far, but it would not have helped.  Assuming a best case scenario where either TCU or Baylor beat a hypothetical 12-0 team in a conference championship game, it still would have only elevated TCU to #5 or Baylor to #6.  The Big XII and their non-conference schedules just didn’t measure up this year.

As for the other bowls, let me explain my bowl methodology first.  As much as I love all of the bowl games, we have too many for them all to have meaning.  I really only want to see the most deserving teams play, not my lousy 6-6 alma mater (Military Bowl here we come).  Thus why I created my own objective measurement.  Therefore, I pair down the games from the dozens that exist to just twenty: the six New Year’s bowls, the nine other Bowls that began prior to 1990 and five more of my choosing based on conference affiliation, prestige, and location (no one wants to go to Detroit).  Only the Top 40 teams in this VPR ranking achieve eligibility.  My fantasy booking:


Sugar Bowl #1 Florida St v #4 Oregon
Rose Bowl #2 Ohio St v #3 Alabama
Orange Bowl #7 Mississippi v #11 Georgia Tech
Cotton Bowl #6 TCU v #9 Arizona
Fiesta Bowl #5 Boise St v #8 UCLA
Peach Bowl #10 Marshall v #12 Baylor
Sun Bowl #25 Louisville v Utah
Gator Bowl #17 Auburn v Minnesota
Liberty Bowl LSU v Oklahoma
Citrus Bowl #13 Mississippi St v #14 Wisconsin
Independence Bowl Duke v Georgia Southern
Holiday Bowl #24 Nebraska v USC
Outback Bowl #15 Michigan St v #16 Missouri
Cactus Bowl Utah St vs UCF
Russell Athletic Bowl #22 Clemson v Cincinnati
Las Vegas Bowl #18 Colorado St v Arkansas
Alamo Bowl #19 Kansas St v #23 Arizona St
Hawaii Bowl Air Force v Memphis
Bahamas Bowl #20 Northern Illinois v Louisiana Tech
Music City Bowl #21 Georgia v Notre Dame


Outside of the Top 4, one of these bowls actually came to fruition this year.  Nebraska will actually play USC in the Holiday Bowl this year (a nice break from playing Georgia).  The rest offer some fun what-ifs like squaring off traditional heavyweights like Oklahoma v LSU or Georgia v Notre Dame (I do appreciate Notre Dame’s actual matchup in the Music City Bowl with LSU).  I want to see Marshall play Baylor so we can determine that at least one of these teams is for real.  If Colorado St coach Jim McElwain really wants to take on SEC teams, let’s see how he does against frisky Arkansas –  a good team that had to claw to a 6-6 record in the vaunted SEC West.  And I just really want to give some respect to Memphis for the way Coach Justin Fuente has turned that program around.  Like wanting every game in the regular season to matter, I want every game in Bowl season, or at least the Top 20 bowls, to feature the best that college football has to offer.  Regardless, bring on the Bowls.


Team Record Victory Points
1. Florida St 13-0 78
2. Ohio St 12-1 74
3. Alabama 12-1 71
4. Oregon 12-1 68
5. Boise St 11-2 65
6. TCU 11-1 53
7. Mississippi 9-3 52
8. UCLA 9-3 52
9. Arizona 10-3 52
10. Marshall 12-1 51
11. Georgia Tech 10-3 51
12. Baylor 11-1 50
13. Mississippi St 10-2 48
14. Wisconsin 10-3 46
15. Michigan St 10-2 45
16. Missouri 10-3 44
17. Auburn 8-4 38
18. Colorado St 10-2 37
19. Kansas St 9-3 37
20. Northern Illinois 11-2 36
21. Georgia 9-3 36
22. Clemson 9-3 36
23. Arizona St 9-3 34
24. Nebraska 9-3 34
25. Louisville 9-3 32
Cincinnati 9-3 31
LSU 8-4 30
USC 8-4 30
Air Force 9-3 28
Minnesota 8-4 27
Oklahoma 8-4 27
Utah 8-4 26
Memphis 9-3 23
Utah St 9-4 22
Louisiana Tech 8-5 21
UCF 9-3 20
Notre Dame 7-5 20
Arkansas 6-6 20
Duke 9-3 18
40. Georgia Southern 9-3 18

2014 VPR, Week 14

1 Dec


Top Five

#1 Florida St takes the top spot for the second week in a row.  The Seminoles finished the regular season with another close win, this time a 24-19 win over arch-rival Florida (6-5).  Despite the many close calls, Florida St emerged as the last team standing this week, the only undefeated squad in the FBS.  I look forward to their ACC Championship showdown this weekend against #8 Georgia Tech.  The Yellow Jackets have beaten ranked teams in consecutive weeks and look nothing like the team I watched in person against the Hokies in September.  Virginia Tech came within a last second field goal of beating those Jackets.  The Seminoles haven’t faced anyone currently ranked higher than #21 Clemson.  In typical Noles fashion, they required overtime to pull that one out.

#2 Ohio St took care of business against “That School Up North.”  Unfortunately, the Wolverines knocked out Buckeye starting QB JT Barrett for the remainder of the season with a broken ankle.  For many pundits, this serves a death blow to their national title aspirations, but the VPR only looks at resume.  If Ohio St can dispatch #12 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, then they still deserve inclusion in the four team playoff.

#3 Alabama secured that conveyed invitation to the SEC Championship Game.  The Tide avenged last year’s miracle Kick Six with a victory in the highest scoring Iron Bowl of all time.  Surely, Head Coach Nick Saban would have preferred a better performance from his defense, but they will still gladly take the win.  From the eyeball test, Alabama looks like the favorite to win a four team playoff.  However, they cannot afford to look past #14 Missouri.  The Tigers may have had an easier path to the conference title game, but they have a respectable defense of their own and they won’t hesitate to play spoiler.

#4 Oregon opened up a four touchdown halftime lead on Oregon St (5-7) in the Civil War and just never looked back.  The Ducks simply outclassed the Beavers.  College football fans will show far more interest in their Pac 12 Championship Game rematch with #6 Arizona.  The Wildcats handed the Ducks their only loss in Autzen in early October.  Arizona may even still harbor an outside shot at the National Championship if they can pull the upset for the second time.  If Oregon wants to win a championship, they must avenge their sole defeat.

#5 Boise St enters the Top Five for the first time this season.  The Broncos have put together the best season that no one talks about.  Their only two losses came at the hands of #9 Mississippi and (9-3) Air Force.  They’ve beaten five teams with winning records including #19 Colorado St, #38 BYU, and, most recently, #34 Utah St.  Unfortunately, they face the weakest conference championship game opponent: (6-6) Fresno St, a team they already beat back in mid-October.

#7 UCLA fell hard from the Top Five and ended any hopes of a National Championship.  The Bruins suffered an embarrassing 31-10 loss at home to Stanford (7-5).  It seems like every time UCLA starts to gain some momentum and acquire real expectations, they fall apart.  Now, they just get to sit at home and wait for a bowl invitation while #8 Arizona runs off with their Cinderella slippers.

Big Win

Just last week, #9 Mississippi featured as the Hard Loss.  They had just fallen to Arkansas (6-6) and suffered their third consecutive SEC loss. Funny how a win over your rival can work wonders.  It completely changes the complexion of the season.  The Rebels won The Egg Bowl 31-17 over #11 Mississippi St.  In a hard fought game, the Rebels just made more big plays.  The victory must feel especially sweet for Mississippi fans knowing that they ended any remaining hopes that the bulldogs had of a National Championship this season.

Hard Loss

#15 Marshall and #20 Georgia share the misery this week.  Marshall suffered their first loss of the season.  Despite getting zero respect from the playoff selection committee, Thundering Herd fans at least hoped they could finish 14-0 and keep their argument for injustice.  In a game with scoring more reminiscent of a basketball game than a football game, Marshall erased a ten-point deficit with six minutes left to take upstart Western Kentucky (7-5) to overtime.  The Herd scored first in overtime only to watch  – and really the defenses did little in this game more than watch – the Hilltoppers return the favor.  Instead of going for the extra point and sending it to a second OT, Western Kentucky opted for the two-point conversion and the win.  With the successful try, they beat Marshall 67-66 and secured the programs most notable victory since moving up from FCS.

The Bulldogs suffered similar heartbreak against #8 Georgia Tech in the game of “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.”  When Georgia QB Hutson Mason connected with Malcom Mitchell on a 3-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulldogs up 24-21 with only 18 seconds left in the game, the Yellow Jackets had a less than one percent chance of winning.  Bulldogs fans must still be shaking their heads.  A squib kick, a 21-yard scramble, and a career best 53-yard field goal by Harrison Butker later and Georgia Tech sends the game to overtime.

The Bulldogs still had a chance though.  Even after Georgia Tech scored on their opening possession of OT, Georgia managed to block the PAT.  Now seven would win it.  It feels like the college football gods wanted to give Bulldog fans that little sliver of hope before crushing them again.  On offense, Hutson Mason completed a pass to someone in the wrong jersey and finished his transformation from hero to heel as the full weight of misery swept over Sanford Stadium.  With the victory, Georgia Tech broke a streak of five straight losses to their most hated rival.

Team Record Victory Points
1. Florida St 12-0 67
2. Ohio St 11-1 63
3. Alabama 11-1 61
4. Oregon 11-1 59
5. Boise St 10-2 59
6. Arizona 10-2 52
7. UCLA 9-3 52
8. Georgia Tech 10-2 51
9. Mississippi 9-3 50
10. TCU 10-1 49
11. Mississippi St 10-2 48
12. Wisconsin 10-2 47
13. Michigan St 10-2 45
14. Missouri 10-2 44
15. Marshall 11-1 43
16. Baylor 10-1 38
17. Auburn 8-4 38
18. Kansas St 9-2 37
19. Colorado St 10-2 37
20. Georgia 9-3 37
21. Clemson 9-3 37
22. Arizona St 9-3 35
23. Nebraska 9-3 35
24. Oklahoma 8-3 34
25. Louisville 9-3 32

Key Matchups

#6 Arizona vs #4 Oregon, Friday, 9:00 PM
Louisiana Tech at #15 Marshall, Noon
#3 Alabama vs #14 Missouri, 4:00 PM
#18 Kansas St at #16 Baylor, 7:45 PM
#1 Florida St vs #8 Georgia Tech, 8:00 PM
#12 Wisconsin vs #2 Ohio St, 8:17 PM

2014 VPR, Week 13

24 Nov


fsu noles

We have a new #1 this week.  Not because Alabama lost, but because three teams in the old Top Five played cupcakes.  The Tide brought about their own demise by scheduling an FCS cupcake, an unfortunate habit among SEC teams late in the season.  I understand playing in the toughest conference in football has its share of difficulties, but at least schedule somebody from the Sun Belt.  Surely, Alabama could beat Georgia Southern or UAB and they would have earned a measure of respect for doing so.

Oregon and Mississippi St simply had the misfortune of playing the worst teams in their respective conferences this week.  The Victory Points won’t reward them for such easy targets, but it all evens out in the end.  Unless you play in the SEC West, you must play at least one conference pushover.

Top Five

#1 Florida St may not score a lot of style points.  They alway seem to play from behind; it took a last second field goal to beat Boston College (6-5) this  week.  But they always win, as in 27 in a row.  The beauty of Florida St lies not in the occasional dominating performance but in their stellar endurance.  No matter the score, no matter how far behind they fall, Seminoles fans have always come to expect a win.  If that doesn’t mark a champion, what does?  The Seminoles face in-state rival Florida (6-4) this Saturday.

#2 UCLA has come out of nowhere.  Honestly, given the eye test earlier in the season and the two losses, I could never put them here by my own judgement.  Still, the Bruins have the resume.  Their non-conference schedule featured three teams that still have bowl hopes and zero cupcakes.  Their losses both came in conference to teams in the Top 40.  They now have four wins over teams in the Top 40 following a 38-20 beatdown of arch-rival #31 USC.  Considering the depth of the Pac 12 South, no one has faced a more difficult schedule outside of the SEC West and with that division’s propensity for scheduling cupcakes, the Bruins may have them beat as well.  If UCLA wins out and takes revenge at #5 Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship Game, then they more than deserve a spot in the final four.  The Bruins close the regular season at home against Stanford (6-5).

Indiana doesn’t scare many people (except #17 Missouri), but #3 Ohio St still dispatched a tougher foe than the two teams they passed.  If the Buckeyes keep winning like this then I believe we can look past their earlier failings against a mediocre-at-best Virginia Tech team.  After all, only #1 Florida St and #7 Marshall have stayed perfect so far this year.  The Buckeyes aim to crush arch-rival Michigan this Saturday and eliminate the Wolverines from bowl eligibility.

#4 Alabama falls three spots after choosing their pseudo-bye week against an FCS cupcake.  I doubt the Tide will worry though.  With #13 Auburn this weekend and a potential spot in the SEC Championship Game afterwards, Alabama has more than enough opportunity to return to the top of the pile.

#5 Oregon faces a momentary wane in the weakest part of their Pac 12 schedule.  They slid down a spot after defeating hopeless Colorado 44-10.  The Ducks play the “Civil War” next and can eliminate arch-rival Oregon St from bowl eligibility with a win.

Big Win

I have to mention Sooner true freshman running back Samaje Perine.  He broke MELGOR’s week old rushing record with 427 rushing yards.  Unfortunately, he did it against poor Kansas and #22 Oklahoma actually slid down two spots in the ranking.

#2 UCLA probably had the victory with the most impact on the championship race with a four spot jump near the top.

However, #24 Minnesota proved more than anybody last week in a 28-24 victory over #26 Nebraska.  The Gophers have had a Cinderella season.  Last season they finished #47.  Minnesota hasn’t finished in the Top 40 since 2005.  Despite the rise, their resume lacked a signature victory.  Prior to Saturday they had gone 0-2 against Top 40 teams and even suffered a loss to (5-6) Illinois.  The win over the Cornhuskers finally proved that Minnesota belonged in the Top 25.  They won by rushing for 281 yards, playing mistake free, and out-scoring Nebraska 21-7 in the second half.  Now that the Gophers know they belong, they have a chance to thrive.  A win at arch-rival #15 Wisconsin this Saturday secures the Big Ten West title and earns Minnesota a chance for redemption against #3 Ohio St in the Big Ten Championship game.  Can they handle the pressure?

Hard Loss

Lately, #16 Mississippi has looked nothing like a team that once held championship aspirations.  The Rebels have lost three of their last four.  The first two losses came by one score to teams still in the Top 40.  Their most recent loss hurt a bit more.  In Fayetteville, #33 Arkansas ripped out Mississippi’s heart 30-0 and climbed into the Top 40 for the first time all season.  Mississippi’s loss legitimized the Razorbacks.

Truly, the Rebels have shot themselves in the foot.  They gave the ball away six times including an interception returned 100 yards for a touchdown.  It seemed like every time Mississippi got into a position to make it a game, Arkansas got the ball back.  The Rebels nation leading defense has also forgotten how to stop the run in their three losses.  They surrender 96 rushing yards per game in their wins and 224 rushing yards per game in their losses.

The Rebels can redeem all of the sins of their recent swoon with a victory in the Egg Bowl.  At this point the Rebels just want to ruin the championship hopes of their arch-rival, #6 Mississippi St.

Team Record Victory Points
1. Florida St 11-0 57
2. UCLA 9-2 53
3. Ohio St 10-1 51
4. Alabama 10-1 50
5. Oregon 10-1 50
6. Mississippi St 10-1 49
7. Marshall 11-0 45
8. Boise St 9-2 44
9. TCU 9-1 41
10. Arizona 9-2 39
11. Georgia 9-2 38
12. Georgia Tech 9-2 38
13. Auburn 8-3 38
14. Colorado St 10-1 37
15. Wisconsin 9-2 37
16. Mississippi 8-3 37
17. Missouri 9-2 36
18. Michigan St 9-2 36
19. Kansas St 8-2 33
20. Baylor 9-1 32
21. Arizona St 9-2 31
22. Oklahoma 8-3 31
23. Clemson 8-3 29
24. Minnesota 8-3 29
25. Louisville 8-3 26

Key Matchups

LSU at Texas A&M, Thursday, 7:30 PM
Arkansas at #17 Missouri, Friday, 2:30 PM
#21 Arizona St at #10 Arizona, Friday, 3:30 PM
#12 Georgia Tech at #11 Georgia, Noon
#6 Mississippi St at #16 Mississippi, 3:30 PM
#24 Minnesota at #15 Wisconsin, 3:30 PM
Notre Dame at USC, 3:30 PM
#13 Auburn at #4 Alabama, 7:45 PM
Utah St at #8 Boise St, 10:15 PM

2014 VPR, Week 12

16 Nov

Alabama logo

I have had my doubts with this vintage of Alabama.  You can’t lose that many good coaches, coordinator after coordinator, and that many pro prospects and expect to stay invincible forever.  After they lost to Auburn late last season in miraculous fashion, I thought the shine had come off their dynasty.  While they can still compete in the SEC, nothing lasts forever.  I imagined we would look back on that heartbreak and mark it as the beginning of the end.

Alabama does have weaknesses now.  They have lost their aura of invincibility.  That appeared obvious in their loss at #7 Mississippi earlier this season.  Yet they continued lurking just behind the playoff favorites. They hung around, waiting for their opportunity to strike.  The Crimson Tide showed their class and their championship pedigree on Saturday when the formerly undefeated Mississippi St traveled to Tuscaloosa.  They cooly jumped out to a 19 point lead.  The nerves of the moment never seemed to affect them.  Even when the Bulldogs roared back to life in the fourth quarter, Alabama calmly performed and clinched the victory.

With all of the story lines that have popped up this season – the rise of the Magnolia State and the intrigue of the playoff just to name two – we have a fairly familiar face at the top of VPR.  It’s mid-November and Alabama once again looks like the best team in the country.

Top Five

#1 Alabama took care of business at home with a 25-20 victory over #3 Mississippi St.  The Tide handed the Bulldogs their first lost and took their spot in the ranking.  Alabama plays an FCS cupcake this Saturday before preparing for the Iron Bowl.

#2 Florida St reclaimed its place on the outside poll.  The Seminoles launched another come-from-behind win, this time a 30-26 triumph at arch-rival #28 Miami (FL).  I wonder what Florida St could do if they ever played a full four quarters.  They need to avoid the letdown this saturday against competitive Boston College.

#3 Mississippi St may not have lived up to the challenge of a tough road game, but they still possess one of the best resumes in the country.  A slip from Alabama in the Iron Bowl and the Bulldogs can leap right back into the SEC title race.  Even if they don’t win the SEC, an 11-1 Mississippi St will make life hard on the Playoff selection committee.  The Bulldogs host SEC East basement dweller Vanderbilt this weekend.

#4 Oregon took the week off and got passed by the strong showings from #1 Alabama and #2 Florida St.  They remain in the national conversation, but their home clash in six days with Colorado, the worst team in the Pac 12, won’t help their case much.

#5 Ohio St has certainly rebounded from an ugly loss to a mediocre Virginia Tech in September.  They have jumped eleven spots in the last two weeks.  A full third of their victory points come from their last two games, commanding wins over #17 Michigan St and #33 Minnesota.  Against the Gophers, QB JT Barrett accounted for 389 yards and four touchdowns.  On the other side of the ball, the Buckeye defense held Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner to 85 yards, a 36% completion percentage, and two interceptions.  The road warrior Buckeyes have made their best case for the selection committee.  They invite last place Indiana into the Horseshoe next.

Big Win

I usually laud the performance of an entire team here, but you’ll forgive me if I focus on one outstanding player this week.  Melvin “MELGOR” Gordon, the Heisman candidate RB for the #18 Wisconsin Badgers, set a new FBS single game rushing record as he obliterated #21 Nebraska to the tune of 408 yards and four touchdowns… in only three quarters.  Most running backs would love to have those totals over the span of three games.  MELGOR pulled it off in 45 minutes.  In the process, Wisconsin erased a 14-point deficit in route to a 59-24 win.  With the conquest, the Badgers scored their first signature win and leapt a dozen spots up the rankings.  I don’t particularly care for the Heisman; it fails to recognize transcendent performances from non-offensive skill players.  But if MELGOR doesn’t get an invitation to New York following the season, we will have a serious miscarriage of justice.  MELGOR and the Badgers get to feast on Iowa next.

Hard Loss

I could put at least four different teams in this space this week.  #16 Arizona St saw their playoff hopes evaporate at Oregon St.  #29 LSU let Arkansas end a 17-game SEC losing streak.  #30 Duke threw away a home game against a Virginia Tech squad that had lost three straight.  All three losers fell at least eight spots.  But at least they lost to talented 5-5 teams.

#26 Notre Dame dropped a dozen places after losing to disjointed Northwestern.  The Wildcats hadn’t scored more than 29 points all season.  Last week, they lost at home to headless Michigan, 10-9.  The Irish let the Wildcats come into Notre Dame Stadium and score 40 in regulation.  Did we really think Notre Dame could win a national championship only a month ago?

Both teams played sloppy football, turning the ball over four times each.  Notre Dame kicker Kyle Brindza really let the team down by missing an extra point and two field goals, the last one in overtime.  Still, a team with Notre Dame’s talent should never have let Northwestern get that close to begin with.  If the Irish play even a drop of defense, they win this one easily in regulation.

Notre Dame will try to regroup this weekend against #34 Louisville.  With a win there and at #27 USC the following week, the Irish might still salvage a respectable bowl bid, though an appearance in one of the six major bowls will likely remain out of reach.

Team Record Victory Points
1. Alabama 9-1 48
2. Florida St 10-0 47
3. Mississippi St 9-1 44
4. Oregon 9-1 44
5. Ohio St 9-1 44
6. UCLA 8-2 42
7. Mississippi 8-2 39
8. Boise St 8-2 38
9. TCU 9-1 37
10. Marshall 10-0 36
11. Georgia Tech 9-2 36
12. Auburn 7-3 35
13. Georgia 8-2 34
14. Colorado St 9-1 32
15. Arizona 8-2 31
16. Arizona St 8-2 30
17. Michigan St 8-2 29
18. Wisconsin 8-2 28
19. Baylor 8-1 27
20. Oklahoma 7-3 27
21. Nebraska 8-2 26
22. Kansas St 7-2 25
23. Clemson 7-3 25
24. Missouri 8-2 25
25. Utah 7-3 24

Key Matchups

#22 Kansas St at West Virginia, Thursday, 7:00 PM
Minnesota at #21 Nebraska, Noon
#15 Arizona at #25 Utah, 3:30 PM
Louisville at Notre Dame, 3:30 PM
USC at #6 UCLA, 8:00 PM

2014 VPR, Week 11

10 Nov

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

A number of upsets and statement wins really shook up the rankings this week.  The previous #2 fell from grace and the Big XII and Big Ten finally have definitive contenders.  At this point of the season though, I would expect the rankings to start solidifying.  We have enough data on these teams now that a single win or loss can only move the needle so much.

Despite all of the shuffling, the top seven teams in the country remained the same.  They jockeyed positions, but they have formed a clear breakaway from the rest of the pack.  If the playoff committee followed the VPR, they would not welcome this top tier.  The committee appears dedicated to only sending conference champions to the playoff.  However, only three conferences have representation in the group of contenders.  The ACC hopes Florida St wins out,  Oregon bears the standard for the mighty Pac 12, and the dominant SEC West should send one of its four contenders through the hapless SEC East challenger and into the playoff.

The fourth spot in the playoff has far more intrigue and, as with any subjective selection, will certainly leave someone feeling left out.  Right now between #9 and #13, the VPR has five teams within five points of each other that all currently contend for their respective conference championships.  This week #9 TCU and #10 Ohio St both dispatched their most dangerous conference foe to take clear command of their conference (at least in the rankings).  I would likely give the edge to the Horned Frogs right now.  Despite a relatively easy schedule for the remainder of the season, they should take advantage of the a stronger overall conference and a better loss.  Behind the two P5 conference, I find a few smaller teams representing the MWC and C-USA very well.  If #11 Boise St or #12 Colorado St win out, they would have as fine a resume as the Big XII or Big Ten champion, but I doubt the selection committee wants to face the wrath of their biggest financial supporters.

Despite their horrible schedule, #13 Marshall might have the best opportunity to crack the Big Boys Club.  Any undefeated record will draw at least a minority of support, regardless of the level of competition.  That provides the committee with a basic justification for selecting the Herd.  From a PR standpoint, selecting Marshall helps differentiate the playoff from the unpopular BCS.  They can give the little guy a chance and when Marshall promptly gets obliterated by whatever SEC West team they play in the opening round, the committee then has justification for ignoring whatever the Group of Five schools do for the next decade.  That said, with Marshall not even making the committee’s initial rankings, and with the under-ranking of Colorado St and Boise, I believe they want avoid the Group of Five question altogether this year.

Top Five

#1 Mississippi St ate their FCS Cupcake this week.  While I understand their desire for a break in that brutal SEC West schedule, the VPR won’t reward them for a glorified scrimmage.  They kept the top spot, but they watched their lead over #2 decrease from four points to one even with last week’s #2 losing.  The Bulldogs can reestablish their lead if they manage to win at #5 Alabama next Saturday, but the game certainly brings their toughest challenge to date.

#2 Oregon leapfrogged Florida St into the outside pole position.  The Ducks ran over #31 Utah on the road, 51-27, as they continue to lead the nation’s second strongest conference.  Oregon has now won five straight games against teams with winning records.  They have earned their upcoming bye week.

#3 Florida St held serve with a win over Virginia.  The Seminoles once again surrendered an early lead, but the Cavaliers, like so many others, couldn’t keep up for four quarters.  Florida St faces a dangerous opponent this weekend.  They must travel to arch-rival #26 Miami (FL).  Surely, the Canes would love nothing more than to spoil another potential championship run for the Noles.

#4 UCLA joined the Top Five this week.  The Bruins vanquished Washington (6-4) by two scores.  The hype train loved UCLA at the start of the season, but jumped off after they lost back-to-back conference games against #2 Oregon and #31 Utah in early October.  The VPR likes their resume, however, because of a non-conference schedule devoid of cupcakes – all three teams could still reach bowl eligibility – and wins against #21 Arizona and at #8 Arizona St.  UCLA still needs someone to beat the Sun Devils before they can sneak back into the Pac 12 race, but they can start taking care of their part of the equation with a victory over arch-rival #32 USC in two weeks.

#5 Alabama returned to their familiar home in the Top Five thanks to a 20-12 OT win in Death Valley over #16 LSU.  QB Blake Sims, despite struggling for most of the game against a hungry LSU defense, led Alabama to a game-tying field goal in their final drive of regulation and then threw the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime.  Alabama plays host to the game of the week in Tuscaloosa as #1 Mississippi St comes to town.  The game will determine the clear front-runner in the SEC West.

#6 Auburn tumbled four spots and lost their inside track to the playoff with an upset loss at home to #27 Texas A&M.  The Tigers rushed for 363 yards, but turned the ball over three times, including two costly fumbles in the fourth quarter.  Auburn’s vaulted offense will certainly feel that it beat itself.  Auburn now needs help if they want to keep their National Championship hopes alive.  They can bounce back if they manage to win in Athens against #20 Georgia Saturday night.

Like cross-state rival Mississippi St, #7 Mississippi slipped, not because they didn’t play, but because they feasted on an FCS cupcake.  The slide likely continues as they take their bye week before returning to SEC play.

Big Win

#22 Baylor has fought a strength of schedule problem in these rankings all season long.  Their non-conference schedule features a winless AAC team, an FCS cupcake, and a 3-6 MAC team.  The Bears did beat #9 TCU, but they immediately threw away their gains the following week in a loss to #35 West Virginia.  For a team with championship aspirations, Baylor had a paper thin resume.  That resume got a little beefier yesterday with their utter shellacking of #25 Oklahoma in Norman.

The Bears racked up 544 yards of offense and surrendered zero turnovers in the 48-14 win.  Bears’ receiver Corey Coleman shredded the Sooners with 15 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving).  QB Bryce Petty, Coleman, and the rest of the Bears just clearly wanted the win more than the Sooners.

Baylor gets the week off before returning to mediocre competition when Oklahoma St (5-4) travels to Waco.  I enjoyed seeing the Bears against talented competition, something that has happened too little this season.

Hard Loss

#14 Notre Dame saw their championship hopes evaporate over the weekend.  The Irish lost to #8 Arizona St 55-31 in a seesaw game.  The Sun Devils jumped out to a 31-point lead only to watch it disappear in the second half.  Notre Dame got within three points of Arizona St with only six minutes left in the game.  The Sun Devils scored three more times late to produce the final lopsided score and keep their victory.

For Notre Dame, QB Everett Golson became both their almost savior and their certain downfall.  Golson threw for 446 yards and two touchdowns, but he also turned over the ball an unthinkable five times.  Arizona St returned two of his interceptions for touchdowns from midfield.  If those scores – and the momentum swings they provided – get erased and possibly even turned into Irish scores, then the fans watch a completely different game at the end.  Golson has talent and can often take advantage of Brian Kelly’s offensive system, but he has to cut down on the mistakes.  The Irish live and die on this arm.

Notre Dame should feast on Northwestern in South Bend on Saturday.  The Irish won’t have a chance to play inferior competition in any of their games afterwards.

Team Record Victory Points
1. Mississippi St 9-0 43
2. Oregon 9-1 42
3. Florida St 9-0 40
4. UCLA 8-2 39
5. Alabama 8-1 37
6. Auburn 7-2 37
7. Mississippi 8-2 36
8. Arizona St 8-1 33
9. TCU 8-1 33
10. Ohio St 8-1 32
11. Boise St 7-2 31
12. Colorado St 9-1 30
13. Marshall 9-0 29
14. Notre Dame 7-2 29
15. Georgia Tech 8-2 28
16. LSU 7-3 27
17. Nebraska 8-1 26
18. Clemson 7-2 25
19. Duke 8-1 24
20. Georgia 7-2 24
21. Arizona 7-2 24
22. Baylor 8-1 23
23. Michigan St 7-2 23
24. Kansas St 7-2 23
25. Oklahoma 6-3 22

Key Matchups

#10 Ohio St at Minnesota, Noon
#18 Clemson at #15 Georgia Tech, Noon
#1 Mississippi St at #5 Alabama, 3:30 PM
#17 Nebraska at Wisconsin, 3:30 PM
#6 Auburn at #20 Georgia, 7:15 PM
Missouri at Texas A&M, 7:30 PM
#3 Florida St at Miami (FL), 8:00 PM
#23 Michigan St at Maryland, 8:00 PM

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