Week 8 in college football

Gordon P Smith Roar Guru

By , Gordon P Smith is a Roar Guru

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    Welcome to our weekly review of American collegiate football!

    First of all, let’s take a look at the predictions I made last week. Of the 20 significant games we picked, 15 went to the team our “ELO-Following Football” rating system forecast, with Louisville’s last-second victory over Florida State being our highest profile miss.

    Fresno State has become a force in the Mountain West a year after not winning a game, waxing league favourite San Diego State 27-3 Saturday night (we had SDSU by at least a touchdown).

    South Dakota was upset by Illinois State, and we went 0-2 in the Ivy League, missing on Princeton’s 52-17 beatdown of Harvard and Colombia reaching 6-0 for the first time in decades by upsetting undefeated Dartmouth 22-17.

    In the other 15 games, we had varying degrees of accuracy, as is always the case with punting. Some games we nailed the team but underestimated the margin drastically, such as Notre Dame’s 49-14 domination of Southern Cal or Florida Atlantic going 69-31 on upstart North Texas.

    But there were games where we hit the nail on the head – in nine of the games, in fact, we came within one score of predicting the exact margin of victory.

    In a three-way comparison of the consensus Las Vegas oddsmakers, the leading computer predictor (Sagarin) and our ELO-FF rating system, we not only outperformed the other two this weekend (24 where we were closest, versus 19 for Vegas and 16 for Sagarin) but have done so over the course of the season as well (154-150-130).

    Let’s look at the top-rated schools and how the system sees the teams moving forward.

    AP top 20
    1. Alabama (rating of five – first) 8-0, 5-0 SEC.

    The current consensus best team in football, and everyone’s favourite for the national title as of this moment. They were 45-7 winners over Tennessee this weekend.

    2. Penn State (rating of 10 – third) 7-0, 4-0 Big Ten.

    We are equally impressed with the Nittany Lions, but their division rivals are playing as well as anyone in the country right now.

    3. Georgia (rating of 14 – fifth) 7-0, 4-0 SEC.

    Doing their best to squash the notion of Alabama and the 13 dwarves in the SEC. They will get the chance to prove themselves on December 2.

    4. TCU (rating of 17 – 13th) 7-0, 4-0 Big Twelve.

    We have the two Oklahoma schools rated ahead of the Horned Frogs, but we have to admit TCU looked awfully good Saturday, holding Kansas to just 21 yards in total offence, the lowest total in two decades in the FBS.

    5. Wisconsin (rating of 16 – 11th) 7-0, 4-0 Big Ten.

    And this isn’t even the rival we had in mind. UW has a schedule where they really should go 12-0 on their way to the conference title game.

    6. Ohio State (rating of 6 – second) 6-1, 4-0 Big Ten.

    It’s the Buckeyes who suffered a bad loss to #10 Oklahoma and have looked unbeatable ever since. We have them as the closest challenger to Alabama and a favourite against Penn State next Saturday.

    Ezekiel Elliott playing college football for Ohio State.

    (Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

    7. Clemson (rating of 14 – fifth) 6-1, 4-1 ACC.

    Still the favourite in the conference, and unless there are four undefeated teams left in December, winning the ACC should get them back to the national playoff.

    8. Miami-FL (rating of 19 – 15th) 6-0, 4-0 ACC.

    An example of an undefeated record hiding blemishes that playing Clemson in a conference title game will uncover down the road. But human polls always prefer gaudy records over the actual strength of schedule evaluations, which is why Ohio State is only sixth.

    9. Notre Dame (rating of 15 – ninth) 6-1 independent.

    Demolished Southern Cal this weekend 49-14 and has got stronger (and dropped its rating number) every week. Pretty good for a team that only won four games last year and thought about firing its coach.

    10-11. Oklahoma (rating of 16 – 11th) 3-1, 6-1 Big Twelve and Oklahoma State (rating of 12 – fourth) 3-1, 6-1 Big Twelve.

    The loser of their November 4 game is out of luck; the winner can still play for all the marbles with a bit of luck. OU plays TCU on 11 November, so they control their destiny; OSU has one of the top ten strength of schedule records and can still be top two and in the conference title game at 8-1 in conference play.

    12. Washington (rating of 15 – ninth) 6-1, 3-1 Pac-12. The Pac-12 will probably be left out of the college football playoff, with only the two Washington schools under two losses in their cannibalistic conference. 11 of the 12 teams in the conference have sub-30 ratings, placing them in the top 50 teams in the country.

    13. Virginia Tech (rating 17 – 13th) 6-1, 2-1 ACC.

    14. North Carolina State (rating 22 – 21st) 6-1, 4-0 ACC.

    15. Washington State (rating 21 – 19th) 7-1, 4-1 Pac-12.

    16. Michigan State (rating 29 – 43rd) 6-1, 4-0 Big Ten.

    17 (tie). South Florida and Central Florida (both rating 22 – 21st) Both undefeated, both 4-0 in the AAC.

    The two directional Floridas are far and away the leaders in the Group of Five race for the one New Year’s Six berth, both in the human polls and in the ELO-FF ratings – the closest club in the ratings is Boise State at 28, and Memphis at #24 is the only other AP top 25 club from outside the Power Five conferences.

    19. Auburn (rating 14 – fifth) 6-2, 4-1 SEC. The highest two-loss team, and while that will probably knock them out of the CFP, they still control their own destiny in conference when they go to Alabama on November 25.

    20. Stanford (rating 14 – fifth) 5-2, 4-1 Pac-12. The highest rated and often most impressive team out west, their rout against USC will probably keep them out of most of their desired goals.

    Teams in the ELO-FF top 20 that aren’t in the AP list include Florida State (2-4, 2-3 ACC, rating of 19 – 15th), Southern Cal (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12, rating of 20 – 17th), LSU (6-2, 3-1 SEC, rating of 20 – 17th) and Mississippi State (5-2, 2-2 SEC, rating of 21 – 19th).

    On the bottom end of the FBS, starting from the highest rating on the ELO-FF scale:

    130. Texas State (rating of 53, 1-6, 0-3 Sun Belt).

    126 (Tie). Charlotte (rating of 52, 1-7, 1-3 C-USA); Rice (52, 1-6, 1-2 C-USA); UTEP (52, 0-7, 0-3 C-USA), and San Jose State (52, 1-7, 0-4 Mountain West).

    125. Kent State (rating of 51, 2-6, 1-3 MAC).

    122 (Tie) Ball State (rating of 50, 2-5, 0-3 MAC); Georgia Southern (50, 0-6, 0-3 Sun Belt), and Coastal Carolina (50, 1-6, 0-4 Sun Belt).

    121. Bowling Green (rating of 49, 1-7, 1-3 MAC).

    Behind those ten schools, sit five more with a rating of 47, including Kansas, the lowest-rated Power Five school by six full rating points.

    Meanwhile, in the FCS, the ratings tell a very simple story. Two schools, the last two FCS national champions, are tied with a phenomenally low rating of 24 – defender James Madison (7-0, 4-0 Colonial) and five-time champ North Dakota State (7-0, 4-0 Missouri Valley).

    The next closest team to those two is Ohio Valley leader Jacksonville State (6-1, 4-0) with a rating of 33. Other teams in the low to mid-30s in ratings include six Missouri Valley clubs (the best are South Dakota State and Youngstown State, both at 34) and three in the Southland (led by Central Arkansas at 35).

    The Big Sky, Southern conference, MEAC and Colonial contribute ten more clubs with ratings of 38 or 39.

    The highest ratings in the FCS are Mississippi Valley State (70), Davidson (69), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (68), and then Stetson and Morehead State (both 67), which played in Pioneer League action Saturday; Morehead came from behind to win at home by three, 29-26.

    American Football players line up Canadian football. CFL. Image: Wikicommons generic

    Image: Wikicommons

    What about Week 9? What does our system say about key games, and how does that compare to the professional oddsmakers?

    The biggest game of the week and maybe the season so far would be in the Big Ten: Ohio State vs Penn State. Vegas has OSU as a six-point favourite; we think it should be around nine.

    In the ACC, Clemson hosts Georgia Tech, and is either a 12 (ELO-FF) or 14 (Vegas) point favourite, depending on your point of view.

    The most relevant game in the Big Twelve this week is Oklahoma State travelling to West Virginia. We agree on the seven-point line in OSU’s favour there.

    We disagree, however, on the line for the “World’s Biggest Cocktail Party”, the annual neutral-site game between SEC powers Florida and Georgia. As dominant as Georgia is, we don’t see more than a nine-point spread in their favour; Vegas gives them 14.

    The leading powers in each AAC division square off Saturday when Houston goes to South Florida. We have a 12-point gap in USF’s favour; the oddsmakers give them 10.5 instead.

    In Conference-USA, the East may be decided Saturday when Florida Atlantic takes its unbeaten conference record to defending champion Western Kentucky, whom we favour by one. Vegas disagrees vehemently, picking FAU by 7.5 points.

    There are two critical games in the FCS Southland conference this Saturday. McNeese State travels to conference leader Central Arkansas, whom we have as a four-point favourite (Vegas only publishes odds on FBS games), and pre-season favourite Sam Houston State has the unusual feeling of being a one-point underdog at Southeast Louisiana Saturday night.

    Finally, Colombia (fresh off an upset at Dartmouth) has to defend its undefeated record by going to traditional Ivy League powerhouse Yale, which we have as an eight-point preference.

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