The Pi-Rate Ratings

December 19, 2014

2014-15 Computer Simulated College Football Playoffs—Final Four

The semifinal round of the 2014-15 College Football Computer Simulated Playoffs has been run through the simulation program, and we now know who will play for the Simper Bowl title. If you have not read our entry from December 8 explaining how and why we perform this computer simulation, read here:

In the first round, seeds 5-12 faced off on the higher seeds’ home fields, while seeds 1-4 received byes. In that opening round, #5 Baylor defeated #12 Kansas State 38-24; #6 Florida St. edged #11 Auburn 30-28; #7 Ole Miss beat #10 Georgia 31-28 in 2 ot; and #8 Mississippi St. trounced #9 Michigan St. 45-17.

In the quarterfinal round, #1 Alabama knocked off #8 Mississippi St. 30-17; #7 Ole Miss upset #2 Oregon 24-22; #3 TCU dismissed #6 Florida St. 42-24; and #5 Baylor won at #4 Ohio St. 40-38/
The format for the Final Four is identical to the actual FBS Playoffs. In today’s simulation, we have #7 Ole Miss facing #3 TCU in the Rose Bowl, followed by #1 Alabama and #5 Baylor facing off in the Sugar Bowl.

Without further adieu, here are the results of those games.
Rose Bowl
#3 TCU 27 #7 Ole Miss 10

First Downs: TC 19 OM 13
Rushing: TC 37-149 OM 32-89
Passing: TC 197 OM 239
Passes: TC 19-33-0 OM 21-39-4
Play-Yds: TC 70-346 OM 71-328
After 1st Qtr: TC 0 OM 0
Half: TC 7 OM 7
After 3rd Qtr: TC 20 OM 7

Sugar Bowl
#5 Baylor 26 #1 Alabama 24

First Downs BA 20 AL 19
Rushing: BA 26-79 AL 35-243
Passing: BA 419 AL 238
Passes: BA 35-53-1 AL 19-34-3
Play-Yds: BA 79-498 AL 69-481
After 1st Qtr: AL 10 BA 3
Half: AL 17 BA 16
After 3rd Qtr: BA 19 AL 17

And lo and behold, look who will be facing off in Simper Bowl VIII? It’s the two Big 12 teams that were not invited to the real inaugural playoffs. The simulator says that TCU and Baylor are the two best teams. As Former Texas Governor Rick Perry might say, “Oops!”

Return to this site on Tuesday, December 23 for the results of the simulation for the National Championship between Baylor and TCU.

December 16, 2014

2014-15 Computer Simulated College Football Playoffs—Elite 8 Round

The quarterfinal round of the 2014-15 College Football Computer Simulated Playoffs has been run through the simulation program, and unlike the first round, there were some surprises.

If you have not read our entry from December 8 explaining how and why we perform this computer simulation, read here:

In the first round, seeds 5-12 faced off on the higher seeds’ home fields, while seeds 1-4 received byes. In that opening round, #5 Baylor defeated #12 Kansas State 38-24; #6 Florida St. edged #11 Auburn 30-28; #7 Ole Miss beat #10 Georgia 31-28 in 2 ot; and #8 Mississippi St. trounced #9 Michigan St. 45-17.

Here is the schedule for today’s quarterfinal round games:
#8 Mississippi State at #1 Alabama
#7 Ole Miss at #2 Oregon
#6 Florida State at #3 T C U
#5 Baylor at #4 Ohio State

Without further adieu, here are the results of those games.

#8 Mississippi State at #1 Alabama
Final Score: Alabama 30 Mississippi St. 17

First Downs: AL 24 MS 16
Rushing: AL 41-209 MS 29-137
Passing: AL 226 MS 168
Passes: AL 20-34-1 MS 19-29-2
Play-Yds: AL 75-435 MS 58-305
After 1st Qtr: AL 6 MS 0
Half: AL 16 MS 7
After 3rd Qtr: AL 23 MS 10


#7 Ole Miss at #2 Oregon
Final Score: Ole Miss 24 Oregon 22

First Downs: OM 19 OR 19
Rushing: OM 28-118 OR 41-189
Passing: OM 309 OR 231
Passes: OM 28-44-1 OR 24-45-1
Play-Yds: OM 72-427 OR 86-420
After 1st Qtr: OM 7 OR 6
Half: OM 21 OR 12
After 3rd Qtr: OM 21 OR 19


#6 Florida St. at #3 TCU
Final Score: TCU 42 Florida St. 24

First Downs: TC 26 FS 18
Rushing: TC 34-177 FS 30-99
Passing: TC 289 FS 308
Passes: TC 25-38-0 FS 26-49-3
Play-Yds: TC 72-466 FS 79-407
After 1st Qtr: TC 14 FS 0
Half: TC 28 FS 14
After 3rd Qtr: TC 42 FS 24


#5 Baylor at #4 Ohio St.
Final Score: Baylor 40 Ohio St. 38

First Downs BA 30 OS 23
Rushing: BA 28-109 OS 45-313
Passing: BA 484 OS 210
Passes: BA 38-51-0 OS 18-29-1
Play-Yds: BA 79-593 OS 74-523
After 1st Qtr: OS 17 BA 10
Half: OS 31 BA 19
After 3rd Qtr: OS 38 BA 26

The Final Four Is Now Set. Moving on to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl, we have #3 TCU and #7 Ole Miss. Facing off in the Sugar Bowl, #5 Baylor challenges top-seeded Alabama.
Return to this site on Friday, December 19 for the results of that simulation.

December 15, 2014

PiRate Picks–Conte/Dawn Are Champions Of Their League

Filed under: News & Views — Tags: , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:36 pm

If I told you today I was going to editorialize on a subject living in the San Francisco Bay area, and I gave you 100 guesses you would not figure out what this editorial would cover.

Some of you know my wife and me from our touring of Route 66, so you would maybe guess I was going to discuss the terminus of the equally famous Lincoln Highway, a trip we shall one day take from Times Square to Lincoln Park. You would be wrong.

Most of you that know me might incorrectly guess I was prepared to discuss whether Jim Harbaugh’s 2015 paychecks will be deposited in a bank in Oakland, CA, Ann Arbor, MI, Miami, or possibly East Rutherford, NJ, maybe even Storrs, CT, home of ESPN.

When given the clue to think professional entertainment and something that has meaning to me, you would quickly guess I was prepared to discuss either Festus Ezeli of the Golden State Warriors or Sonny Gray of the Oakland Athletics, two former Vanderbilt athletes that I covered as a Vanderbilt sports beat writer when I returned briefly for a three-year fling in print journalism following a career in construction.

If I told you this editorial would include something tied to the Stanford Cardinal, you would quickly but incorrectly believe this was an editorial dealing with Vanderbilt football coach Derek Mason, who was the Stanford defensive coordinator prior to coming to Vandy.

If I further gave you the clue to think Stanford and music, you would still guess incorrectly, sure that I was going to discuss their infamous marching band, be it their numerous controversies through the years, or “The Play,” which prevented John Elway from ever appearing in a bowl game and the Cardinal from facing my Commodores in the 1982 Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, AL.

Yes, this is definitely the last editorial you would ever expect me to publish. A certain place has indeed frozen over today. Many of you reading this know me, the founder of the PiRate Ratings. If you don’t, then here is a little something about me that is pertinent to today’s contribution.

I live in Music City, U.S.A., otherwise known as Nashville. I am the outcast of this burg, as I cannot play an instrument, not even a kazoo. Vocally, the song “Hot Cross Buns” is two musical notes outside my singing range. In other words, in a town with a metropolitan population of 1.9 million, I am number 1.9 million when it comes to musical talent of any kind.

I am a math-nerd, ex-coach, sports and financial “stathead,” and maybe number one when it comes to sports trivia prior to the year 1970. You won’t stump me on naming the starting lineup of the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers, or even the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates. I can look at a picture of any Major League baseball park taken between 1904 and 1960 and tell you the name of the stadium and the dimensions of the foul lines, power alleys, and center, even in a place like old Braves Field in Boston, which sometimes changed annually or weekly. When others hung posters of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or other bands, I hung posters of The Polo Grounds, Griffith Stadium, and Forbes Field.

So, what am I doing writing an editorial about an independent music group based out of the San Francisco Bay area?

For starters, my wife is the polar opposite of me in musical talent and knowledge. She has a beautiful soprano voice and has played percussion and keyboard instruments in her past, performing on stage in some big-time locales. She once co-owned a punk rock record label, published a music industry newspaper, and studied sound-engineering in London with Nick Lowe, working in the studio while Elvis Costello’s band, The Attractions, recorded their solo album.

My sweet soul mate has also worked for some country crooner named Garth, so she knows what she is talking about when she comments on music. She also knows what goes into making it financially in the music business, “warts and all.” You could say she would qualify as an expert witness.

Let’s start in autumn of 2010. Autumn is the time of the year where you dare not turn a television set on if you loathe seasonal retail commercials being shoved in your face, even if you only watch news, weather, and sports. By December 1, it is enough to make the average person with a modicum of intelligence ill, or what I call Christmas/Chanukah “ad-nauseum.”

In the past 20 years, I can only think of two commercials where I did not mind being bombarded with seeing it repeated 10-20 times a week. One was the old Norelco Shaver ad where Santa Claus slid down the snowy slope riding on the shaver. The other was this very unique set of three Hyundai automobile ads with the cutest TV couple singing and playing instruments and showing incredible stage presence with Q-ratings that had to be at the top of the profession (unlike my Q-rating which was lower than the old test pattern.)

Three separate ads aired four years ago and featured different Christmas carols—“Up on the Housetop,” “Deck the Halls,” and “Jingle Bells.” Each ad was a breath of fresh air, the anti-establishment auto ad. Normally, both my wife and I would not glance at a TV ad, but we not only watched the 30-second mini-cinemas with total attention, we wanted more. We were sad to see the campaign end.

Thinking the two actors in this ad could not be so incredibly talented and also be the actual artists performing the music, we did what any inquisitive person does in the 21st Century; we did a search online and discovered that this couple was indeed a real couple and had performed the music. What a talented duo these two were!

Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn make up the band known as “Pomplamoose.” Pomplamoose is an Americanized spelling of the French word “pamplemousse,” French for grapefruit (see I did pay attention in Francais 404, Madame Stewart).

We discovered that the boyfriend/girlfriend duo had a couple other interesting videos and played in a few venues near their home on the West Coast. And, then we sort of forgot about them by January.

As the “season” returned again in October of this year, I turned to my wife and noted that it was sad that Hyundai did not use that cute young couple to do their Christmas ads again. So, being old enough that I could no longer remember their names, I searched online to discover Conte and Dawn again.

Here is where good ole PiRate bad luck struck yet again. I performed this search to rediscover Pomplamoose, mostly for my wife, only to find that Conte and Dawn had performed in Nashville the night before! Oy Vey, such a poor Schlimazel I am! It would have been the perfect early anniversary gift to bequeath to my utmost.

Nashville received a dose of early rotten weather soon after, and we stayed indoors a lot. My wife proceeded to find everything Pomplamoose and then what Conte and Dawn performed separately.

Her highly qualified opinion: Pomplamoose is a work of pure genius combined with supreme talent! Dawn’s voice has no equals in the genre. To be more exact, since she sings all her back-up music as well, Dawn has the five best voices in the genre.

Conte and Dawn are the 21st Century equivalent of a combination of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Their mastery of electronics gives their music a unique flair with this incredible ability to borrow from multiple songs and sew them together into what sounds like an original composition. Their own original music is even better than those they cover.

Conte is not satisfied with music alone. He is also part Mark Zuckerberg, part Perry Chen, and part Rob Kalin. He founded “Patreon,” the newest and easiest to use online crowdfunding site.

Let’s return to the present. Since re-acquainting ourselves with Pomplamoose, yours truly, the least musically talented and until recently the least musically knowledgeable resident of Nashville, has become as competent in “Pomplamusic” as he is with Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds.

I can recognize “Get That Body Back,” “Fight Back,” “Centrifuge,” and “Bust Your Kneecaps,” in three notes. Their songs are hypnotic; they dominate your subconscious, so much so that you might wonder if the two Stanford grads might know a bit about Neuro-linguistic Programming, as Stanford excels in all fields of psychology.

This 100% analytical-thinking PiRate normally arises most mornings wondering if the line on the Packers-Bears game needs to be adjusted by a half-point based on the weather forecast or whether Ted Williams was better than Stan Musial, or whether his aged bladder going on its sixth decade will hold out long enough to make the 30-foot dash to the bathroom. Since October, Ted Williams and Stan Musial have been replaced by all the exceptionally creative videos put out by Conte and Dawn.

How talented are these two? They create and construct all the props for their videos. They produce and direct themselves, showing you warts and all. They are incredible actors, better than most of the non-talents in Hollywood today. In fact, their videos are comparable with Silent Movies, and Conte and Dawn could be compared to Buster Keaton and Clara Bow, as Conte can pull off all facial expressions, and Dawn certainly has “It.”

This editorial is not an attempt to throw sugar all over the joint. I chose to write this not because Pomplamoose is a breath of fresh air in the music world; to paraphrase one of their mashups, “It’s all about the cash, no profits.”

As many of you know, I am all about the stats, and the business of music grabs my attention more than the music itself. When Conte recently published an account of their recent tour and how it financially lost money but could be treated as the best possible advertisement for their business as well as a gift to their fans, the music critics of the world piled on their contempt of his breaking down the fourth wall and letting the public know “the inside” of their business.

For what it’s worth, Pomplamoose is part of a new breed of performers relying on the Internet to generate revenue. This is their business, and they are in this business to make money, just like my wife creates and designs jewelry to sell in order to make money so she can then purchase songs online, among other things.

I find it an utter outrage that the music critics believe there is something wrong with letting your patrons know exactly where you stand. I believe it is a wonderful act on Conte’s part to reveal this. Whether they want to be or not, Conte and Dawn are mentors for hundreds if not thousands of aspiring independent artists wishing to use the same protocol to become successful at their craft. They are more than artists; they are also leaders by example. Conte and Dawn could easily put all their supportive information that the public can use into an e-book and charge $25 to learn what they are revealing as a courtesy, while also further placing themselves deeper in the hearts and minds of their fans.

Music critics differ from me in only one way. We both have no musical talent. However, I admit my insufficiencies in this realm, while most of the critics try to impress you with their knowledge and make you believe they know what’s what, when in reality, all they want to do is find whatever negative things they can find and retaliate against those that do have the talent they believe they deserved to have and didn’t have bequeathed upon them by our creator, while attempting to make the public believe they actually know what they are talking about.

Because I can in some offbeat way commiserate with Conte and Dawn, I will try to explain why I believe Pomplamoose received all this undeserved consternation from the negative nabobs of the meaningless part of the fourth estate.

Several years ago, while I was a working member in sports radio, I aired my ratings and picks against the spread, performing about as successfully as I do now—picking every college and NFL game and hitting around 75% winners and 55% winners against the spread. A couple of weeks in 1981, when I happened to hit a hot streak and extend that success to hitting around 90% straight winners and 75% against the spread, it was assumed that I was making money hand over fist and milking Las Vegas dry. In truth, I did not then nor have ever wagered actual money on any football game. The only sporting events I have ever wagered real money on were horse races—and then just claiming and allowance races, none of which would ever excite you the reader to develop an interest in reading.

So, in early 1982, I made a remark in passing on air that I loved radio but hated empty refrigerators. You would have thought I admitted to being the man behind the Grassy Knoll in Dallas on 11-22-63. It was just assumed that I was as wealthy then as Jimmy The Greek or today’s Billy Walters. How dare I claim poverty, when I was so successful giving out winners in advance on a clear channel flamethrower AM radio station that reached 28 states plus Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba at night and could even be picked up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, if conditions were cooperative? It was assumed I was making money as fast as Vegas could put out the odds.

To be like Mr. Conte, in 1982, I made exactly $5 an hour working in radio. I made an additional $35 per game serving as a spotter and statistician for the Vanderbilt University football and basketball telecasts, which in those days were on late at night on tape delay.

While I would soon leave the field which I loved to become a general contractor for the next two decades, when I made this quick reference on the radio, I was accused of laundering money, spending the money on a mistress, and many other options of vice. It was 100% truthful; my refrigerator was more empty than full.

The music critic ogres automatically assume that because Pomplamoose has a prior five-year track record that includes successful nationwide commercial advertisement success; millions of hits on their Youtube sites; a loyal following of thousands; and the creation of a large crowdfunding site, they must be quite wealthy.

Wealthy or not, why does it matter if Pomplamoose profits or loses 10 grand on a tour? Let’s look at some facts. First, tickets were quite affordable. In Nashville, I discovered that they only cost $12 for a really nice venue, where everybody in attendance was as close to the stage as the field box seats at Dodger Stadium are to home plate.

Let’s compare this to the cost of the Grand Ole Opry. This Friday, December 19, the Opry will make its annual trek back in time and return to “The Mother Church,” the historic Ryman Auditorium. The Ebbets Field of Nashville is equally cozy, and there is not a bad seat in the house. The special guest Friday night is Clare Bowen, the Australian muse who plays Scarlett O’Connor in the ABC TV show “Nashville.” Her voice is angelic, maybe second to Ms. Dawn’s voice. If you want a ticket to this show, the cheapest you could theoretically find if tickets remained would be $30. If you want to sit close enough to see Bowen’s eyes, it will cost $70. Bowen is quite an entertainer, but Pomplamoose is better.

Pomplamoose spent a lot of money on quality lighting for their show. In Youtube clips where I have seen their concerts, this lighting was an excellent addition, and it served as an excellent catalyst in the success of the shows.

Pomplamoose hired musicians and other crew members to work on this tour and paid them a weekly salary. What I cannot understand is why this caused the music critics to cry out like they had committed a major felony. I know nothing about operations of the music business, but wasn’t slavery outlawed by the 13th Amendment just prior to President Lincoln’s assassination (yes, I also paid attention in American History 505 Ms. Teaff)? The last time I checked, in this country, one is not allowed to contract labor and not compensate them. Yes, there are things called internships, but in reality, interns are compensated in non-monetary ways.

Still, what does it matter if the band profited or lost money on this tour? The critics should shut up and comment only on the performance, the only part of the business for which they are semi-qualified to judge. Maybe Bloomberg TV could break down Conte’s financing and Trish Regan could explain where the tour might have been able to eke out a small profit, but who is Bob Lefsetz to criticize anything in the financial world? His MBA and PhD from Harvard, Wharton, The University of Chicago, Stanford, or my beloved Owen School at Vanderbilt University does not seem to exist. Am I missing something? This bottom of the barrel critic with fewer readers of his blog than my no-frills sites has the chutzpah to try to denigrate the wonderful breaking down of the fourth wall that Conte has allowed us to enter and see the entire process, warts and all?

My conclusion: Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn are superiorly talented in multiple facets of the Independent music production process in the 2010’s. As Conte reports, Pomplamoose has not “made it,” but they are “making it.” There have been numerous successes in six years, and it has allowed Pomplamoose to tour and lose 10 grand without sinking their incredible ship. Think of it as a gift to their fans, or almost the price of one of those 2011 Hyundai Elantra’s that to this day, I can remember thanks to their most unique television ads.

I have but one piece of criticism to offer Mr. Conte—get thy right knee on the Earth and ask for Ms. Dawn’s hand in marriage. It is a myth that becoming betrothed to your beloved ruins the relationship. On the contrary, it takes something great and makes it even better. On this, I can attest to being the expert. I proposed to my soul mate 15 years ago, and it has now been 15 years of bliss. She is the 99.9% that completes me, and I am sure you feel that Nataly must do the same for you.
Find Pomplamoose at:

Reminder: The quarterfinal round of the computer simulated college football playoffs will be published Tuesday at this site.

The PiRate College Football Bowl and Playoff predictions, and the current NFL ratings and prediction for week 15 and the NFL Playoffs will be published at our website Tuesday afternoon—

Chanukah Sameach &
Merry Christmas
From the PiRate Family

December 12, 2014

2014-15 Computer Simulated College Football Playoffs–1st Round

The opening round of the 2014-15 computer simulated college football playoffs has been played, and there were a couple of really close games along with two games that were not all that close.

If you have not read our entry from December 8 explaining how and why we perform this computer simulation, read here:

In the first round, seeds 5-12 face off on the higher seeds’ home fields, while seeds 1-4 receive byes.

Here are the results of those four games.

#12 Kansas State at #5 Baylor
Final Score: Baylor 38 Kansas State 24


First Downs: BU 24, KS 19

Rushing: BU 34-188, KS 41-161

Passing: BU 372, KS 211

Passes: BU 25-38-1, KS 18-33-1

Play-Yds: BU 72-560, KS 74-372

After 1st qtr: Baylor 10-0

Half: Baylor 17-7

After 3rd qtr: Baylor 31-10

#11 Auburn at #6 Florida State
Final Score: Florida State 30 Auburn 28


First Downs: FS 23, AU 25

Rushing: FS: 29-106, AU 48-279

Passing: FS 402, AU 209

Passes: FS 34-46-2, AU 17-27-1

Play-Yds: FS 75-508, AU 75-488

After 1st qtr: Auburn 7-0

Half: Auburn 14-7

After 3rd qtr: Auburn 28-20

#10 Georgia at #7 Ole Miss
Final Score: Ole Miss 35 Georgia 31 2 ot


First Downs: OM 23, GA 20

Rushing: OM 34-152, GA 42-273

Passing: OM 236, GA 171

Passes: OM 21-37-1, GA 15-27-2

Play-Yds: OM 71-388, GA 69-444

After 1st qtr: Tied 7-7

Half: Georgia 14-10

After 3rd qtr: Georgia 14-13

After 4th qtr: Tied 21-21

After 1st OT: Tied 28-28

#9 Michigan State at #8 Mississippi State
Final Score: Mississippi State 45 Michigan St. 17


First Downs: MSS 32, MCH 16

Rushing: MSS 49-265, MCH 25-69

Passing: MSS 217, MCH 221

Passes: MSS 19-32-0, MCH 24-43-2

Play-Yds: MSS 81-482, MCH 68-290

After 1st qtr: Mississippi St. 14-0

Half: Mississippi St. 21-3

After 3rd qtr: Mississippi St. 42-10

The Quarterfinals are now set and will be simulated Tuesday, December 16, 2014. Here are the pairings for the Elite 8.

#8 Mississippi State at #1 Alabama
#7 Ole Miss at #2 Oregon
#6 Florida State at #3 T C U
#5 Baylor at #4 Ohio State

December 8, 2014

2014-15 Computer Simulated Playoffs

Filed under: 2014 Simulated NCAA Playoffs — Tags: , , , — piratings @ 9:31 am

The Road To Simper Bowl VIII

With the dawning of the inaugural NCAA College Football Playoff, the PiRates figured the Simper Bowl would cease to exist now that the title would be more fair. However, the football gods gave us the utmost controversy this year, as six teams definitely deserved spots in the playoffs.

Imagine if the NFL chose not to include the NFC East champion (Philadelphia or Dallas), while taking Detroit due to a big week 17 win over Green Bay? The NFL is the king of all sports because there is consistency. Maybe too many teams qualify for the playoffs, but the qualification for making the playoffs is clear and plain to see. If you win your division, you are one of the top four seeds, and if you have one of the next two best records in your conference (with rules to break ties), you are one of the final two seeds.

Baylor and TCU are like 12-4 teams in the NFL that finished tied for first in a division and then were not allowed in the playoffs. One of these teams might even receive a first round bye and have home field advantage if this were the NFL.

The PiRate Ratings have a website at, where fans can contact us. We usually receive inquiries about the processes we use in constructing our ratings, why our home field advantage is different for every game played, as well as questions about why our format is Green and Gold (members of the family are “owners” of the Green Bay Packers).

We were surprised this week when 14 of you sent us inquiries asking if we would bring back our computer simulation of the college playoffs like in past years. We usually receive 14 contacts from you in one month, so when 14 asked in a three-day period, we knew we had to bring the simulation back.

We saw this travesty being a real possibility just last season, when if the four-team playoff had been in effect, there would have been many teams feeling jilted from their exclusion from the Final Four. In 2013, Florida State, Auburn, and Alabama were definitely the top three teams, but number four was even more cluttered with Baylor, Michigan St., Stanford, Ohio St., Missouri, South Carolina, and Oregon all having legitimate claims to that fourth slot. That meant 10 teams were deserving of making the playoffs. Additionally, Louisville, still a member of the AAC, was in the Top 16 and thus also deserving of a playoff spot, making 11 teams total that deserved a chance to play for the title. This is why we believe the playoffs need to be 12 teams.

So, welcome to the Road to Simper Bowl VIII. In case you are new to this, we started this 12-team simulation in 2007. It has always been our belief that every conference champion of a major conference should automatically qualify for an NCAA Playoff berth. Since there are now five major conferences, that means five teams should receive automatic bids. This hints at an eight-team playoff, but for two reasons, we do not like the idea of having an eight-team playoff. First, in many years, there are teams just outside the top eight that are worthy of making the playoffs. We love history. In 1976, Texas A&M did not finish the regular season among the Top Eight. Yet, our ratings showed the Aggies to be the number one team in the nation by December, even though their record was 9-2. Our ratings showed the Aggies were four points better than actual champion Pittsburgh and more than a touchdown better than the Georgia team Pittsburgh faced in the Sugar Bowl.

The second reason we do not like an eight-team format is we believe the highest-rated teams deserve some reward in the form of a first-round bye (like the NFL).

This is why we have stuck with our 12-team format. While in some years, the ninth best team has an argument that they belong in an eight-team playoff, rarely ever has the number 13 team had any realistic grounds to complain about being left out of a 12-team playoff. This is the equivalent of the first four out of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Yes, a 19-14 team from the Big Ten may be better than the champion of 15 other mid and low-majors, but they only have themselves to blame for going 19-14. This team is not a contender for the Final Four.

Here is our format for our 12-team simulated playoffs. We have adjusted it a little bit from past seasons.

1. This is a 12-team tournament, using home fields for the first two rounds to get from 12 to 8 to 4, and then using the current bowls to play the Final Four and Championship.

2. The champions of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, and Pac-12 receive automatic bids, but not any preference toward receiving byes.

3. The champions of the AAC, CUSA, MAC, MWC, and Sunbelt receive automatic bids if any finish in the top 16 of the Power Rankings, which replaces the BCS. Thus, theoretically, all five of these conferences could field a team in the same season.
What do we use for “Power Rankings?” The PiRate Ratings are part of the Massey Comparison Rankings, a group of the most accurate computer rankings in the nation. For this purpose, we will use the Massey Comparison Rankings as our equivalent of basketball’s RPI. We’d prefer some tiebreaker system to mechanically determine the playoff teams, but for now, that is not possible.

4. We then select the two to seven highest PR-ranked teams (to fill the bracket to make 12 total) not automatically selected and give them berths in the tournament.

5. We seed the teams by Power Ranking from 1-12. The top 4 teams receive a first round bye as a reward for being one of the top four, while seeds 5-12 face off in the first round.
This year, none of the champions of the AAC, CUSA, MAC, Mountain West, or Sunbelt finished in the Top 16. Boise State just missed, coming in at 19. Thus, with five automatic bids, we must invite the next seven highest-rated teams to fill out our 12-team bracket.

Here are the Dandy Dozen teams, seeded for 2014-15.

1. Alabama 12-1
2. Oregon 12-1
3. TCU 11-1
4. Ohio St. 12-1
5. Baylor 11-1
6. Florida St. 13-0
7. Ole Miss 9-3
8. Mississippi St. 10-2
9. Michigan St. 10-2
10. Georgia 9-3
11. Auburn 8-4
12. Kansas St. 9-3

And here is the bracket for this year’s tournament.

Opening Round
Game 1: #12 Kansas State at #5 Baylor
Game 2: #11 Auburn at #6 Florida St.
Game 3: #10 Georgia at #7 Ole Miss
Game 4: #9 Michigan St. at #8 Mississippi St.

Quarterfinal Round
Game 5: Game 4 Winner (Michigan St./Mississippi St.) at #1 Alabama.
Game 6: Game 3 Winner (Georgia/Ole Miss) at #2 Oregon
Game 7: Game 2 Winner (Auburn/Florida St.) at #3 T C U
Game 8: Game 1 Winner (Kansas St./Baylor) at #4 Ohio St.

Sugar Bowl: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner
Rose Bowl: Game 6 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner

Arlington, TX: Sugar Bowl Winner vs. Rose Bowl Winner

For this computer simulation, games were simulated on a simulator located on a major university campus.
Process: We use a simulation program at a major university computer lab. We will simulate each game just one time, because if we run 100 or 1000 simulations, there will be no chances for upsets, and the top seeds will win every game. By simulating each game just one time, we produce the same chance that each team has to win, be it expected or an upset. If one team has a 75% chance of winning, then the underdog has less than 1% chance of winning if the game is simulated 100 times, but it has a 25% chance of winning if the game is simulated just once.

Home Field advantage is factored into all games, even those played at neutral sites. Alabama never plays a neutral site game, as the Crimson Nation shows up in mass numbers even 2,000 miles away from home.

The simulator uses statistical data much in the same way as popular sports games such as “Strat-O-Matic” and “Paydirt” use to make player and team cards and then simulates a game based on these statistics. Plays are called by artificial intelligence, using tendencies the actual teams use. Generically, these plays are:

Running Plays
1. Power inside
2. Quick inside
3. Power off-tackle
4. Tackle trap
5. Power wide
6. Quick wide
7. Misdirection
8. Draw

Passing Plays
9. Screen
10. Short Play-Action
11. Medium Play-Action
12. Long Play-Action
13. Short Flood
14. Medium Flood
15. Middle Routes
16. Sideline Routes
17. Deep Zone Route
18. Long Bomb

Specialty Plays
19. QB Sneak
20. Trick Play
21. Goalline Fade
22. QB Kneel Down

All forms of special teams are included in this simulation program, and the program generates full stats.


Round One Games will be published on Friday, December 12
Round Two Games will be published in Tuesday, December 16
The Semifinal Round will be published on Friday, December 19
The Championship Round will be published on Tuesday, December 23

December 7, 2014

Introducing PiRate Basketball Ratings

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , — piratings @ 11:15 am

Today, the PiRate Ratings foray back into the college basketball game. Every year, usually starting after the Super Bowl, we begin to devote full time to March Madness using unique formulae to determine which teams will advance in the NCAA Tournament and which teams are pretenders.

For many years, our method was very accurate. We discovered sleepers like George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, and Butler, when these teams made their famous runs deep into the dance. We isolated teams like Georgetown and Vanderbilt as highly vulnerable of becoming upset victims more than one time, and more than one time the Hoyas and Commodores lost to double-digit seeds in the Round of 64.

This method chose eight NCAA Champions in a period of 11 years, but in the last three years, the game seems to have changed just enough so that the formula stopped being as effective. We knew we had to come up with a different formula, and for several months, we tested certain statistical data trying to figure out how to adjust our numbers.

In the end, we chose to totally scrap the old formula and start from scratch. A few years ago, our founder, a mathematical nerd for sure, read an interesting book, at least interesting for him. This book, Basketball on Paper, written by Dean Oliver introduced him to “The Four Factors” that determine what determines the outcome of basketball games.

Oliver used the same statistical parts that any basketball fan would use, but the “All-Star Mathlete” put clout behind the obvious statistics by determining how important each statistical part is. Here is what he determined:

1. Field Goal Accuracy and Defense of the same: 40%
2. Rebounding: 20%
3. Prevention of Turnovers and Ability to Force Turnovers: 25%
4. Free Throws—both getting to the line and making them: 15%

These four factors were tested by Oliver in the NBA over the course of multiple seasons, but it was shown subsequently to be accurate for college basketball as well with a minor adjustment.

Last season, we began trying to take these Four Factors and create an algorithm that “spit out” a pointspread for college games. Obviously, there are two more factors that must be included in college basketball predictions—strength of schedule and home court advantage (also visiting team disadvantage, since some teams play worse on the road than others, while a Kentucky might actually go on the road and receive points if 5,000 Blue Misters get into the gym.)

We are big fans of backtesting. It has shown positive results in stock picking, and it has shown positive results in picking football teams against the spread. You can test as many formulae as you can and find certain tendencies that lead you to higher accuracy.

After months of backtesting over the summer, we began to find three formulae that started to come close to actual pointspreads in past NCAA Tournaments. While we are not going to announce that we have cracked the code and have found a surefire method to become wealthy, we have found what we believe is our least amount of errors when using the Four Factors.

If you know a little about statistics, you must be familiar with means and standard deviations. A mean is simply the average. If you have the numbers 2, 3, 4, 7, and 9, the mean or average of these numbers is 5. The standard deviation is a little more involved, but it basically determines the degree of variation the numbers are from the mean. In the above sample, the standard deviation is 2.9, or on average, the numbers in the sample are 2.9 away from the norm.

When the standard deviation of something is high, then the mean is not all that important in something like picking sides against a basketball pointspread. The lower the standard deviation goes, the more accurate the formula will be. For weeks, we sought a formula that produces the lowest possible standard deviation.

In the end, we found three separate formulae that at certain points in time in the NCAA past were each the lowest standard deviation formula. Thus, we will go with three ratings this year as an experiment to determine winners in college basketball games.

Because there are five of us working full-time jobs doing something else, and because figuring the Four Factors for every NCAA team is something that must be done by typing in an entirely new set of statistics after every game, we cannot possibly pick every college basketball game. Additionally, until every college team has played about 10-12 games, these formulae standard deviations are wildly too high.

Thus, beginning in January, we will start to issue our ratings and picks for select Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference games, as well as other top games including teams like Gonzaga and Wichita State.

Once the season ends, we will select all the March Madness games. Remember, this is strictly an experimental exercise this year as we put these formulae into use in real time.

Here in a nutshell are the Four Factors plus our added strength of schedule and home court advantage. Each set of data is used both in an offensive and defensive subset.

1. Effective Field Goal Percentage
EFG% adds three-point shooting to the equation of accuracy. If you make one three-point shot in three attempts, you have made one point per shot attempt. If you make one layup and miss one short jumper, you have also made one point per shot attempt.

Formula: [Field Goals Made+ (0.5*Three Point Shots Made)]/Field Goals Attempted

Kentucky through 8 games: FG% 222-477 3Pt FG: 41
[222+(.5*41)]/477 = .508 or 50.8%

Kentucky Defensively: FG% 116-412 3Pt FG: 36
[116+(.5*36)]/412 = .325 or 32.5%
North Carolina through 7 games: FG% 188-444 3Pt FG: 34
[188+(.5*34)]/444 = .462 or 46.2%

North Carolina Defensively: FG% 142-423 3Pt FG: 41
[142+(.5*41)]/423 = .384 or 38.4%

Kentucky has a big advantage here on the surface before you look at who the two teams played and where these games were played.

2. Rebounding Rate
Getting offensive rebounds has always been a major factor in basketball success. Offensive rebounds tend to produce higher percentage shots, like tip-ins. Preventing the opponent from getting offensive rebounds is obviously equally important. This formula calculates the rate at which a team gets an offensive rebound or prevents the opponent from getting an offensive rebound.

Formula: Offensive Rebounds/(Offensive Rebounds + Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds)

Kentucky: Offensive Rebounds: 125 Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds: 148
125/(125+148) = .458 or 45.8%

Kentucky Defensively: Opponents’ Offensive Rebounds: 100 Kentucky’s Defensive Rebounds: 214
100/(100+214) = .318 or 31.8%

North Carolina: Offensive Rebounds: 120 Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds: 163
120/(120+163) = .424 or 42.4%

North Carolina Defensively: Opponents’ Offensive Rebounds: 115 North Carolina Defensive Rebounds: 190
115/(115+190) = .377 or 37.7%

Once again, Kentucky has an advantage here all things being equal.

3. Turnover Rate
Turnover rate or turnover percentage is simply the amount of turnovers created per 100 possessions, or defensively, it is the number of turnovers forced per 100 possessions. Obviously, this adds another factor that must be calculated—possessions. There are a couple of sites online that list the average number of possessions per game for each college team, but you can approximate this number rather accurately.

Calculating possessions for each team: FGA+(.475*FTA)-OR+TO
A possession ends with: a field goal attempt that is made or missed and rebounded by the opponent; a free throw that is made or missed and rebounded by the opponent, or a turnover. Because some free throws are the front end of a two-shot foul, not all free throws are counted, thus we use the constant of .475 to multiply (thanks to Mr. Ken Pomeroy at for this bit of data).

Remember that possessions per game can be affected by overtime games, where the game is more than 40 minutes long. For TO rate, this does not matter, but it will when we put pace to the equation in our algorithm.

Formula: TO/100 Possessions

Kentucky Possessions per game: FGA 477, FTA 202, OR 125 TO 87 Overtime minutes: 0
477+(.475*202)-125+87=534.95 =535 in 8 games, this averages to 66.9 possessions per game
Calculating this formula defensively, UK’s opponents show 65.9 possessions per game, which can be attributed to UK winning the tip and finishing the game with the ball more than average.

Turnover Rate: 87/535*100=16.3%
Defensive Turnover Rate: 148/527*100=28.1%

North Carolina Possessions per game: FGA 444 FTA 193 OR 120 TO 90 Overtime minutes: 0
444+(.475*193)-120+90=505.7 =506 in 7 games, this averages to 72.3 possessions per game
UNC’s Opponents’ Possessions=498 or 71.1 possessions per game

Turnover Rate: 90/506*100=17.8%
Defensive Turnover Rate: 112/498*100=22.5%

Once again, Kentucky enjoys the advantage in these two examples.

4. Free Throw Rate
This calculation has multiple mathematical geniuses in a little bit of disagreement, as there are at least three different philosophies on how to calculate this stat. The stat measures both how frequent a team can get to the foul line and how accurate they shoot foul shots, but not all math wizards agree on the proper method.

Oliver, in his original book, set FT Rate at: Free Throws Attempted/Field Goals Attempted. He posited that attempting free throws was all that mattered and getting to the line satisfied this criteria, as it placed the opposing team in foul trouble as fouls added up.

A second school of thought supported the formula as: Free Throws Made/Field Goals Attempted, believing that a made free throw added the obvious point accumulation while still including the fact that a foul was committed by the opponent.

Yet a third school of thought developed later that believed that free throws made per possession was more accurate in determining how important free throws were to the game. In mathematical tests, this metric actually proved to be a tad more accurate, but also a tad more time-consuming.

Accuracy is what we are looking for, so we will use the third option of FT Made per possession and multiply it by 100 to get a rate.

Formula: FT Made/100 Possessions

Kentucky: FT Made 131 Possessions 535
131/535*100= 24.5%

Kentucky Opponents: FT Made 95 Possessions 527

North Carolina: FT Made 133 Possessions 506

North Carolina’s Opponents: FT Made 120 Possessions 498

Kentucky enjoys a slight advantage in this statistic.

And The Rest
Our formula for determining Strength of Schedule as it applies to pointspreads and our formula for determining home court advantage (and visiting team disadvantage) has not changed. How we figure these two sets of data would take much too long to explain, especially the home/visitor advantages, since there are 16 different variables that are possible, and in the end 90% of games will be end up within a two-point swing.

Putting It All Together
Once we have the “Four Factors” calculated, and we have determined how many points to alter the final product based on schedule strength and where the game will be played, we are ready to construct a pointspread.

As previously mentioned, we ended up with three separate algorithms, each of which at some point in the 21st Century past proved to be more accurate than all others tested.

We will call these formulae: PiRate Red, PiRate White, and PiRate Blue, because there is no distinct numerical statistic that really dominates any of the trio. It is simply a rearranging of numbers, so we cannot call one rating a mean rating, another a bias rating, and the other the regular rating like we do in football.

Unlike football, where we must record the scores and stats of every game in order to calculate ratings for the entire season, this rating only requires that we have up to date cumulative statistics and whichever SOS rating we choose to use.

Using our example, since North Carolina visits Kentucky next Saturday, our three ratings show the Wildcats to be favored today by 12.7, 11.9, and 16.3 points in the three algorithms. Of course, both teams play other games prior to their meeting in Lexington, so these stats would be a little different by Saturday morning.

Since this is just an example, we will use this one for you to refer to. Hopefully, it will prove to be somewhat accurate, and the Wildcats will win by about 14 points.

Look for our select basketball predictions to begin in January. In February, we will renew our weekly look at March Madness projections. Last year, we correctly picked 67 of the 68 teams on Selection Sunday morning.

December 1, 2014

PiRate Ratings College Football Playoffs and Bowl Projections

Thanksgiving weekend proved to be the biggest mover and shaker of the FBS standings of any week so far, as the Playoff Four lost one team, multiple Power Five Conference races were affected, and the top two leading contenders in the Group of Five conference race for a Big Six Bowl were upset.

Thus, a majority of the bowls see new teams gracing their predicted path. Let’s review all the changes from the weekend.

The ACC showed the SEC for one weekend who their daddy was, as the league went 4-0 against the bully. Georgia Tech may have earned a slot in a Big Four bowl even if the Yellow Jackets lose to Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. Louisville and Clemson both could have moved ahead of Duke in the selection order with wins over their in-state rivals.

Pittsburgh won at Miami to become bowl eligible, and the ACC now has 11 bowl eligible teams. Unless two ACC teams receive Big Six Bowl invitations, the league will have one too many bowl eligible teams. Miami and Boston College will be the two contenders to not receive a bid, if Georgia Tech fails to earn a Big Six Bowl.

The Big Ten saw Wisconsin defeat Minnesota to win the West Division flag, but two other major news items will affect the bowl bids from this league. Ohio State dismissed rival Michigan, but it came at a very costly price. Losing quarterback J. T. Barrett for the season in the final half is something the Buckeyes probably won’t be able to overcome with one week to prepare for the Badgers. Cardale Jones has limited playing experience, mostly in a mop-up role, and the sophomore was passed on the depth chart by the freshman Barrett.

Additionally, the Buckeye nation will deal with the tragic suicide of Kosta Karageorge.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was served his walking papers Sunday, and he will not be around to coach his team in the Cornhuskers’ bowl. The home loss to Minnesota was unforgivable to NU fans that believe that the days of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne can be replicated in the 21st Century. A 66-27 record was not good enough. Frank Solich left Nebraska with a 58-19 record, as the fans in Lincoln felt that was not good enough. Remember Bill Callahan? He replaced Solich and took NU to a 27-22 record, including memorable losses to Texas Tech by 60 points and surrendering 76 points to Kansas.

Rumors have it that the Nebraska football players are quite agitated over this move, and there could be implications in the postseason. Interim Head Coach Barney Cotton will not have a chance to become the ne head coach, but Cotton should not be unemployed for long. He is one of the best offensive line coaches and a very credible offensive coordinator, producing great results everywhere he has been, including producing very successful offenses at schools like New Mexico State and Iowa State. When even your punter is making public statements against this firing, you know there is fire. Rumor also has it that many committed recruits are now backing out of their commitment, and the program could be on the verge of other programs that saw negative reactions like this bring a program down for a decade.

Baylor’s narrow win over a weak Texas Tech team may keep the Bears out of the Final Four, even though they beat TCU and will be the Big 12 Champions if they defeat Kansas State in Waco this week. The Horned Frogs demolished Texas doing what the selection committee calls “controlling the game for 60 minutes.”

Arizona emerged as the Pac-12 South winner after UCLA’s offense stagnated against Stanford, while the Cardinal offense accumulated plus 200 yards both on the ground and through the air. California and Oregon State both failed to win their sixth game, leaving the conference with eight bowl eligible teams. Since the Pac-12 Championship Game loser should still earn a Big Six Bowl bid, this league will not have an extra team available to go elsewhere as an at-large bowl substitute.

The SEC came away the loser of the weekend. With Mississippi State losing to Ole Miss, the SEC now can only hope to put one team in the Playoffs. Should Missouri upset Alabama in the conference title game, the SEC could actually be shut out of the Playoffs if Florida State, Oregon, TCU, and Baylor win.

With Tennessee defeating Vanderbilt, the league finishes with 12 bowl eligible teams. There will most likely be one extra team remaining after bowl bids go out, and obviously any SEC team still without a bowl will become the leading at-large candidate, regardless of any secondary bowl agreements with lesser leagues.

The Group of Five conferences now looks to Boise, Idaho, this weekend. If Boise State takes care of business and dismisses a 6-6 Fresno State team in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game, the Broncos will most likely head to the Fiesta Bowl. Should the Bulldogs pull off the big upset, then Memphis might be the leader in the clubhouse for a possible Peach Bowl bid. The Tigers finished up their regular season with a 9-3 record and share of the AAC Championship.

Our conference-by-conference bowl look continues. Won-loss records shown are our projections.

[  ] indicates a team is an at-large selection for the bowl for which we have projected.

Group of Five Conferences

American Athletic Conference
As mentioned previously, Memphis concluded the regular season with a 41-10 romping over Connecticut. The Tigers are assured of a tie for the AAC title with a 7-1 mark. If Boise State beats Fresno State, the Tigers’ reward might be a trip to Birmingham. The league champion deserves a better fate than playing in a run-down, falling apart stadium. What’s worse is that Coach Justin Fuente might be leaving the Bluff City for ritzier football climes, like Lincoln, Nebraska for instance.

Cincinnati, Central Florida, East Carolina, and Houston will earn bowl bids, while Temple must beat Tulane in New Orleans to become bowl eligible. We believe the Owls will win but find no bowl invitations forthcoming.

1. Birmingham Bowl: Memphis 7-1/9-3 (vs. Florida)
2. St. Petersburg Bowl: Central Florida 6-2/8-4 (vs. Miami)
3. Miami Beach Bowl: Cincinnati 7-1/9-3 (vs. BYU)
4. Military Bowl: East Carolina 6-2/9-3 (vs. Pittsburgh)
5. Armed Forces Bowl: Houston 5-3/7-5 (vs. [ South Carolina ])

Also Bowl Eligible: Temple 4-4/6-6

Conference USA
What a losing week for CUSA! First, Marshall’s upset home loss to Western Kentucky rearranged the entire bowl order for this league. The Thundering Herd will not move up to a Big Six Bowl, and now there will be a glut of bowl eligible teams for this league’s guaranteed five bowl bids. With eight bowl eligible teams, three will most likely be left out of the postseason bonanza. Definitely, one of that sad trio will be UAB, as the Blazers will be shutting down their football program this week, the first FBS school to do so since Pacific almost 20 years ago.

1. Hawaii Bowl: Marshall 7-1/12-1 (vs. Air Force)
2. Bahamas Bowl: Louisiana Tech 7-1/8-5 (vs. Northern Illinois)
3. Boca Raton Bowl: Rice 5-3/7-5 (vs. Toledo)
4. New Mexico Bowl: UTEP 5-3/7-5 (vs. Utah St.)
5. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Western Kentucky 4-4/7-5 (vs. [ Texas St. ])

Also Bowl Eligible: Middle Tennessee 5-3/6-6, Old Dominion 4-4/6-6, UAB 4-4/6-6

Mid-American Conference
Northern Illinois won at Western Michigan to clinch the West Division title, while Bowling Green was the only East Division team with a plus .500 conference mark. The West has the top four teams in NIU, Toledo, WMU, and CMU.

Ohio was a leader for an at-large bowl bid until the SEC’s lost weekend more than likely created an extra at-large bowl bid for the top league.

The Huskies would be 11-2 with a win over BGU in the MAC title game, but that probably would not be enough to move NIU into the Big Six Bowl picture.

1. Bahamas Bowl: Northern Illinois 7-1/11-2 (vs. Louisiana Tech)
2. Boca Raton Bowl: Toledo 7-1/8-4 (vs. Rice)
3. Idaho Potato Bowl: Western Michigan 6-2/8-4 (vs. Fresno St.)
4. Camellia Bowl: Central Michigan 5-3/7-5 (vs. Appalachian St.)
5. Bowl: Bowling Green 5-3/7-6 (vs. Arkansas St.)

Also Bowl Eligible: Ohio 4-4/6-6

Mountain West Conference
Of the Group of Five teams, Boise State now has the most spectacular resume. The Broncos lost to Ole Miss and Air Force, two definite bowl teams. So, if BSU defeats Fresno State this week in the league title game, Boise should be headed to Tempe, Arizona, for the Fiesta Bowl, or possibly Arlington, Texas, for the Cotton Bowl. If this happens, then all seven bowl eligible teams will go bowling.

If Fresno State loses at Boise, the Bulldogs will finish 6-7, but it appears that FSU would still be bowl eligible in this case, as has happened in the past with other teams, most notably UCLA in 2011.

1. BIG SIX—Fiesta Bowl: Boise St. 7-1/11-2 (vs. Arizona)
2. Las Vegas Bowl: Colorado St. 6-2/10-2 (vs. Stanford)
3. Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego St. 5-3/7-5 (vs. Navy)
4. Hawaii Bowl: Air Force 5-3/9-3 (vs. Marshall)
5. New Mexico Bowl: Utah St. 6-2/9-4 (UTEP)
6. New Orleans Bowl: Nevada 4-4/7-5 (vs. Louisiana-Lafayette)
7. Idaho Potato Bowl: Fresno St. 5-3/6-7 (vs. Western Michigan)

Sunbelt Conference
The SBC finished with five bowl eligible teams for three bowl tie-ins. We believe that one of the extra bowl eligible teams will garner the last available at-large bid.

Georgia Southern technically is the sixth bowl eligible team, but the Eagles are in their final transition season before earning total FBS membership. GSU won the SBC title, but they failed to receive a waiver to become bowl eligible. An appeal was filed, but don’t count on this team getting into a bowl, even though they are clearly the titan of the league this year with near wins over bowl eligible Georgia Tech and North Carolina State teams.

Louisiana Lafayette is the top actual bowl eligible team, and the Ragin’ Cajuns have appeared in three consecutive New Orleans Bowl games. Technically, the GoDaddy bowl gets first choice of SBC teams, and they have selected Arkansas State three years running. We had switched the teams last week, but we are going back to selecting the trend to continue.

1. Bowl: Arkansas St. 5-3/7-5 (vs. Bowling Green)
2. New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette 7-1/8-4 (vs. Nevada)
3. Camellia Bowl: Appalachian St. 6-2/7-5 (vs. Central Michigan)
4. Heart of Dallas Bowl: [ Texas St. ] 5-3/7-5 vs. (Western Kentucky)

Also Bowl Eligible: South Alabama 5-3/6-6

Independents (not including Notre Dame)
Not much changed here this week. BYU had already clinched their Miami Bowl berth. Navy officially clinched their Poinsettia Bowl bid, while Army had already been eliminated from bowl eligibility.

1. Miami Beach Bowl: BYU 8-4 (vs. Cincinnati)
2. Poinsettia Bowl: Navy 7-5 (vs. San Diego St.)

Power Five Conferences

Atlantic Coast Conference
Florida State’s resume gained a little clout this week with Louisville, Clemson, and Georgia Tech defeating SEC rivals. Should the Seminoles beat the Yellow Jackets in this week’s conference title game, FSU is without a doubt in the initial College Football Playoffs.

With Georgia Tech at 10-2 and Louisville, Clemson, and Duke at 9-3, odds are very good that the ACC will receive the Gator Bowl bid over the Big Ten, while the Big Ten is stuck with the Music City Bowl.

It will be interesting to see how far Notre Dame falls in the bowl pecking order, as they concluded the season on a four-game losing streak and 1-5 in the second half of the season. It figures the Irish will get into a tier 2 ACC bowl, but it will be a lower tier 2. They cannot pass any 9-3 team in bowl selections.

1. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Florida St. 8-0/13-0 (vs. Oregon)
2. BIG SIX—Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech 6-2/10-3 (vs. Wisconsin)
3. Russell Athletic Bowl: Clemson 6-2/9-3 (vs. Kansas St.)
4. Gator Bowl: Louisville 5-3/9-3 (vs. Georgia)
5. Belk Bowl: Duke 5-3/9-3 (vs. Auburn)
6. Sun Bowl: Notre Dame 7-5 (vs. Washington)
7. Pinstripe Bowl: North Carolina St. 3-5/7-5 (vs. Rutgers)
8. Military Bowl: Pittsburgh 4-4/6-6 (vs. East Carolina)
9. Independence Bowl: North Carolina 4-4/6-6 (vs. Texas A&M)
10. Quick Lane Bowl: Virginia Tech 3-5/6-6 (vs. Illinois)
11. St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami 3-5/6-6 (vs. Central Florida)
12. Texas Bowl: [ Boston College ] 4-4/7-5 (vs. LSU)

Big Ten
Ohio State has now had three significant quarterback injuries in two seasons. In 2013, Braxton Miller missed time early in the season. Kenny Guiton filled in and performed like an All-American with an even higher QB rating than Miller and an ability to run the ball almost as competently as the Heisman Trophy contender.

Once again, Miller sustained an injury this season, missing the entire campaign. Guiton was no longer around, so the backup roll fell in the hands of redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who merely came in and performed like an All-American just like Guiton last year.

Now, Barrett is out for the season. Can Coach Urban Meyer find All-American quarterback play in a third stringer that was passed on the depth chart by Guiton last year and Barrett this year? Cardale Jones is not an All-American caliber signal caller. He is better than the average sub, but in baseball terminology, his value over a replacement player is small.

Wisconsin is playing its best ball in November, dismissing their top three contenders in consecutive weeks to earn the West Division crown. A punishing ground game makes the mediocre passing game a little more potent, while the defense is better than average but not great. The difference in this game is that Joel Stave has significant big game experience, and we believe the Badgers will win the game this week and earn a trip to the Orange Bowl, beating out an SEC team for the privilege.

Illinois earned bowl eligibility while preventing rival Northwestern from earning that honor, while Michigan came up short in their upset bid over Ohio State.

1. BIG SIX—Orange Bowl: Wisconsin 7-1/11-2 (vs. Georgia Tech)
2. BIG SIX—Cotton Bowl: Ohio St. 8-0/11-2 (vs. Baylor)
3. BIG SIX—Peach Bowl: Michigan St. 7-1/10-2 (vs. Mississippi St.)
4. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Nebraska 5-3/9-3 (vs. Missouri)
5. Outback Bowl: Minnesota 5-3/8-4 (vs. Ole Miss)
6. Holiday Bowl: Iowa 4-4/7-5 (vs. UCLA)
7. Music City Bowl: Maryland 4-4/7-5 (vs. Tennessee)
8. San Francisco Bowl: Penn St. 2-6/6-6 (vs. USC)
9. Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers 3-5/7-5 (vs. North Carolina St.)
10. Quick Lane Bowl: Illinois 3-5/6-6 (vs. Virginia Tech)

No League Team Available for the final bowl tie-in (Heart of Dallas or Armed Forces)

Big 12 Conference
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is adamant that he will play against Kansas State this week after suffering a mild concussion against Texas Tech, said injury causing headaches, double vision, and other issues. Even if Petty plays, Kansas State is not a pushover, and this game could be close with the visiting Wildcats definitely in contention.

TCU has conference bottom feeder Iowa State in Ft. Worth, and the Horned Frogs have two extra days preparation for this game, so it figures that TCU will win with ease to finish 11-1.

Oklahoma State still has slim bowl eligibility chances, but the Cowboys must win at Oklahoma this week. If the Sooners win, the Big 12 will definitely come up shy in its obligations to supply teams to at least seven bowls, and realistically eight bowls, since two league teams will be in Big Six Bowls.

1. PLAYOFFS—Sugar Bowl: TCU 8-1/11-1 (vs. Alabama)
2. BIG SIX—Cotton Bowl: Baylor 8-1/11-1 (vs. Ohio St.)
3. Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma 6-3/9-3 (vs. Arizona St.)
4. Russell Athletic Bowl: Kansas St. 7-2/9-3 (vs. Clemson)
5. Liberty Bowl: Texas 5-4/6-6 (vs. Arkansas)
6. Cactus Bowl: West Virginia 5-4/7-5 (vs. Utah)

No League Team Available for the final two bowl tie-ins (Texas and Heart of Dallas or Armed Forces)

Pac-12 Conference
Oregon has lost three games in two seasons. Two of those three losses came at the hands of Arizona, the Ducks’ Pac-12 Championship Game opponent. If OU can figure out how to beat the Wildcats, the Ducks will be swimming in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. If Arizona wins again, the Wildcats have an infinitesimal chance of moving into the Final Four, needing Ohio State, Baylor, and Florida State or Alabama to lose.

Oregon State and California were eliminated from bowl eligibility, and with chances likely that the loser of the Championship Game will end up in Tempe, this league no longer appears to have an extra team for at-large bowl possibilities.

1. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Oregon 8-1/12-1 (vs. Florida St.)
2. BIG SIX—Fiesta Bowl: Arizona 7-2/10-3 (vs. Boise St.)
3. Alamo Bowl: Arizona St. 6-3/9-3 (vs. Oklahoma)
4. Holiday Bowl: UCLA 6-3/9-3 (vs. Iowa)
5. San Francisco Bowl: USC 6-3/8-4 (vs. Penn St.)
6. Sun Bowl: Washington 4-5/8-5 (vs. Notre Dame)
7. Las Vegas Bowl: Stanford 5-4/7-5 (vs. Colorado St.)
8. Cactus Bowl: Utah 5-4/8-4 (vs. West Virginia)

Southeastern Conference
The SEC West cannibalized itself this season, as all seven teams went undefeated outside of conference play but beat each other up to the point where only Alabama emerged with a chance to make the Final Four. If the Crimson Tide do the unthinkable and lose to Missouri, then the SEC just might be left out of the first Big Dance on the gridiron.

Mississippi State should still receive a Big Six Bowl, probably in Atlanta, where the Bulldog fans hopefully will show up and not take it as a door prize. If Missouri beats Alabama, the Tigers will then knock Wisconsin out of the Orange Bowl, but we are sticking with the Tide to win.

There are going to be excellent opportunities to make some very interesting and competitive bowl games with all the bowl eligible teams. Because the league wants no part of pairing Texas A&M and Texas, the Aggies will be placed in a bowl where Texas cannot be the opponent. However, in doing so, it may open up the chance to pit old rivals Texas and Arkansas against each other. Also, Missouri could be paired against Nebraska in an old rivalry game.

There is going to be one extra bowl eligible team from the SEC, but that team will be the number one choice when the at-large invitations are doled out.

1. PLAYOFFS—Sugar Bowl: Alabama 7-1/12-1 (vs. TCU)
2. BIG SIX—Peach Bowl: Mississippi St. 6-2/10-2 (vs. Michigan St.)
3. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Missouri 7-1/10-3 (vs. Nebraska)
4. Outback Bowl: Ole Miss 5-3/9-3 (vs. Minnesota)
5. Gator Bowl: Georgia 6-2/9-3 (vs. Louisville)
6. Belk Bowl: Auburn 4-4/8-4 (vs. Duke)
7. Texas Bowl: LSU 4-4/8-4 (vs. [ Boston College ])
8. Music City Bowl: Tennessee 3-5/6-6 (vs. Maryland)
9. Liberty Bowl: Arkansas 2-6/6-6 (vs. Texas)
10. Independence Bowl: Texas A&M 3-5/7-5 (vs. North Carolina)
11. Birmingham Bowl: Florida 4-4/6-5 (vs. Memphis)
12. Armed Forces Bowl: [ South Carolina ] 3-5/6-6 vs. Houston

November 25, 2014

PiRate Ratings College Football Playoffs and Bowl Projections

This will be the penultimate week of College Football’s regular season. The current top 4 teams, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and Mississippi State, will probably not be the same top four teams by the time the committee meets again and issues the actual four teams in the playoffs in December, maybe more than a little different thanks to games this week.

There are numerous teams with 5-6 records needing to win their final game; some will lose and miss out on a bowl. Some will win and earn a trip to an “also-ran” bowl. Yet others will win but not be selected for a bowl.

The race to see which Group of 5 Conference top team will receive a bid to a Big Six Bowl could be decided this week, as Marshall hosts improving Western Kentucky, while Colorado State plays at in-state rival Air Force. Boise State clings to life hoping that the Thundering Herd and Rams both lose. Should Marshall lose either this week or next week in the Conference USA Championship Game, and both Colorado State and Boise State lose, then the door might be slightly ajar for a Cincinnati or Memphis to back into the Peach Bowl.

There are still playoff spots up for grabs in the conference championship game races.

In CUSA, the winner of this week’s Louisiana Tech-Rice game in Ruston, LA, will get the privilege of facing Marshall for the conference title.

There are still three teams alive in the MAC-West trying to advance to the conference championship game against Bowling Green. If Northern Illinois beats Western Michigan, the Huskies earn the nod. Should Western Michigan prevail, then Toledo would win the division if the Rockets take care of lowly Eastern Michigan. If EMU upsets Toledo, then Western Michigan would earn the spot if the Broncos beat NIU.

Both divisions of the Mountain West Conference are up for grabs. In the Mountain Division, Boise State controls their destiny. The Broncos win the division title with a win at home over Utah State. If the Aggies upset the Broncos, then they would take the division if Air Force beats Colorado State, but the Rams would win the division title if they beat the Falcons in Colorado Springs.

In the West Division, it’s almost ashamed that any team can still win this race, when CSU could finish 11-1 and not get into the championship. San Diego State and Fresno State are currently tied at 4-3 in league play. If both win this week, Fresno State would claim the division flag with a 6-6 overall record. Obviously, if one wins and one loses, the winner goes to the MWC Championship Game.

If the Aztecs and Bulldogs both lose to finish 4-4, then Hawaii will also be 4-4 by virtue of defeating Fresno State. Nevada can also get to 4-4 with a win over rival UNLV. In a four-way tie like this, Nevada would win the division based on best head-to-head record among the four tied teams. If Nevada loses to UNLV, and Hawaii wins over Fresno State, then the flag goes to Fresno due to their win over Nevada (and filtering through three prior tiebreakers to get to this point).

The Big Ten West goes to the team that claims Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Babe the Blue Ox wears number 25 for Wisconsin, and Minnesota may need axes to beat the Badgers in Madtown.

The Big 12 is still a three-team race. Baylor plays Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Bears control their own destiny and finish the regular season at home against Kansas State.

TCU plays a real trap game in Austin against Texas, and the Longhorns are a team nobody looks forward to playing in late November. TCU closes with a home game over Iowa State the following week.

Kansas State needs a little help to win the Big 12. The Wildcats should dismiss Kansas this week, and they need a Texas win over TCU. If that happens, then their game at Baylor would decide the Big 12 title.

The Pac-12 South is still a three-team race. USC and Utah were eliminated last week. If UCLA defeats Stanford in Pasadena Friday, the Bruins win the division. If Stanford wins, then the winner of the Arizona-Arizona State game Friday in Tucson advances to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Remember that Arizona penned the lone loss on North Division champion Oregon.

Finally, in the Southeastern Conference, both division races are yet to be decided. In the East, if Missouri beats Arkansas, the Tigers win the East with a 7-1 record. If Arkansas wins, then Georgia claims the title. In the West, if Alabama beats Auburn or Ole Miss beats Mississippi State, the Crimson Tide wins the division crown. If Auburn beats Alabama and Mississippi State wins The Egg Bowl, then Mississippi State wins the division title.

Should the West Division champion lose to Missouri or Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, the committee will have a difficult time selecting a two-loss SEC champion over any of the one-loss teams in the other Power 5 conferences.

Here is our current look at Playoff and Bowl Projections by conference.

If a team is bracketed thusly, [ Team ], they are an at-large selection.

Group of 5 Conferences

American Athletic Conference

Central Florida has a tough game at East Carolina remaining, and we believe the Pirates will prevail. Cincinnati has a tough game at Temple remaining, but we believe the Bearcats will win in Philly. Memphis has just one game left to play, at home against Connecticut. A win over the lowly Huskies gives the Tigers the AAC Championship. Unfortunately, winning the AAC Title may only get the Memphians a trip down US 72 to Birmingham.

Temple is likely headed to a 6-6 record, and there will not be a contracted spot for the Owls. We believe Temple has little chance to earn an at-large bowl invitation, as the bowls most likely to need a replacement team are all several hundred miles away from the Keystone State.

1. Birmingham Bowl: Memphis (7-1/9-4) vs. South Carolina
2. St. Petersburg Bowl: Central Florida (6-2/8-4) vs. Miami (Fla.)
3. Miami Beach Bowl: Cincinnati (7-1/9-3) vs. B Y U
4. Military Bowl: East Carolina (6-2/9-3) vs. North Carolina St.
5. Armed Forces Bowl: Houston (5-3/7-5) vs. [ Ohio U ]

Bowl Eligible but no bowl: Temple (4-4/6-6)

Conference USA

Marshall fans were nervous for awhile last week as UAB gave the Thundering Herd all they could handle. A home finale against Western Kentucky might be an interesting high scoring game, but we believe MU will win by double digits. The CUSA Championship Game might be interesting for a quarter to a half, but MU looks to strong for any league opponent. We are sticking with Doc Holliday and his troops to be the initial Group of 5 Conference team to earn a Big Six Bowl bid.

1. Big Six—Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Marshall (8-0/13-0) vs. Georgia
2. Hawaii Bowl: Louisiana Tech (7-1/8-5) vs. Utah St.
3. Bahamas Bowl: Rice (5-3/7-5) vs. Toledo
4. New Mexico Bowl: U T E P (5-3/7-5) vs. Air Force
5. Boca Raton Bowl: Middle Tennessee (5-3/6-6) vs. Northern Illinois
6. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Western Kentucky (3-5/6-6)

Bowl Eligible but no bowl: Old Dominion (4-4/6-6), UAB (4-4/6-6)

Mid-American Conference

Fortunately, the Buffalo-Kent State game had no postseason implications as both teams had already been eliminated from bowl eligibility. It appears that there will be seven bowl eligible teams from the MAC for five guaranteed bowl bids. We believe one of the two other teams will earn the last bowl invitation. The MAC has been a little down this year, but it would not surprise us if the league goes 5-1 or even 6-0 in the bowls.

1. Bahamas Bowl: Toledo (7-1/9-4) vs. Rice
2. Boca Raton Bowl: Northern Illinois (6-2/9-3) vs. Middle Tennessee
3. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Bowling Green (6-2/8-5) vs. Nevada
4. Camellia Bowl: Western Michigan (7-1/9-3) vs. South Alabama
5. Bowl: Central Michigan (5-3/7-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
6. Armed Forces Bowl: [ Ohio (4-4/6-6) ] vs. Houston

Bowl Eligible but no bowl:Akron (4-4/6-6)

Mountain West Conference
We are going to go with Boise State over Utah State this week to secure the Mountain Division title, and then take the Broncos to win the Conference Championship Game the following week. We also believe Colorado State will win at Air Force. Regardless these four teams are the top quartet in the league and will receive the four

1. Las Vegas Bowl: Boise St. (7-1/11-2) vs. Arizona St.
2. Poinsettia Bowl: Colorado St. (7-1/11-1) vs. Navy
3. Hawaii Bowl: Utah St. (6-2/9-4) vs. Louisiana Tech
4. New Mexico Bowl: Air Force (4-4/8-4) vs. U T E P
5. New Orleans Bowl: San Diego St. (5-3/7-5) vs. Arkansas St.
6. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Nevada (4-4/7-5) vs. Bowling Green

Note: Fresno State is projected to win the West Division and lose to Boise State to finish 6-7. In the past, special waivers have been made for 6-7 teams like this to accept a bowl invitation. Fresno could trump Ohio for an at-large bowl invitation in this instance, but we will leave the Bulldogs out this week.

Sunbelt Conference

Georgia Southern could win the Sunbelt with a perfect 8-0 conference record and a 9-3 overall record, but the Eagles will not get a bowl invitation. GSU can only earn a bowl bid if there are not enough bowl eligible teams to fill all the bowls, and their will be more than enough teams this year.

Louisiana-Lafayette lost to a very hot Appalachian State team last week, but the Ragin’ Cajuns will still receive the top bowl offer from the SBC, due to Georgia Southern’s ineligibility. The New Orleans Bowl has selected ULL three years in a row, while the Bowl has become Arkansas State’s annual 13th game. This year, we believe the bowls might like to have a little variation. There will be two extra bowl eligible teams, and we are certain that at least one bowl needing an at-large representative will choose a team from this league.

1. Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette (7-1/8-4) vs. Central Michigan
2. New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas St. (5-3/7-5) vs. San Diego St.
3. Camellia Bowl: South Alabama (5-3/6-6) vs. Western Michigan
4. Heart of Dallas Bowl: [ Texas St. (5-3/7-5) ] vs. Western Kentucky

Bowl Eligible but no bowl: Appalachian St. (6-2/7-5) and very deserving


Notre Dame is included in the Atlantic Coast Conference bowl tie-ins, and the Irish are dropping fast. A loss to USC could place Notre Dame in El Paso or Nashville in December.

BYU is the first team to know for sure where they are headed. The Cougars will play in the Miami Beach Bowl won or lose against California.

Navy needs one more win and has two chances. We believe the Middies will win out and finish 7-5, and their reward will be a possible Top 15 opponent.

1. Miami Beach Bowl: B Y U (8-4) vs. Cincinnati
2. Poinsettia Bowl: Navy (7-5) vs. Colorado St.

Power 5 Conferences

Atlantic Coast Conference

Florida State is creeping closer and closer to the edge on slippery ground. The Seminoles cannot keep winning ugly like this and expect to remain in the Top Four if Baylor, TCU, and even Ohio State win big. A regular season finale against rival Florida is going to be a real fight, and the Seminoles then have to deal with Georgia Tech’s option offense in order to get to the Playoffs.

The Orange Bowl might prefer Florida State to lose to Florida and win the ACC Championship Game, because the Seminoles would head to Miami instead of the Playoffs and sport a 12-1 record. If FSU makes the Playoffs at 13-0, then a possible four-loss Georgia Tech team could end up in the Orange Bowl over three-loss Duke and Louisville teams and possible four-loss Clemson team.

Pittsburgh can still gain bowl eligibility with a mild upset win at Miami, while the Virginia-Virginia Tech game is a bowl qualifier for the winner and eliminator for the loser.

1. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Florida St. (8-0/13-0) vs. Oregon
2. Big Six—Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech (6-2/9-4) vs. Wisconsin
3. Russell Athletic Bowl: Duke (5-3/9-3) vs. Kansas St.
4. Gator Bowl: Louisville (5-3/9-3) vs. Ole Miss
5. Belk Bowl: Clemson (6-2/8-4) vs. Florida
6. Sun Bowl: Notre Dame (7-5) vs. Washington
7. Pinstripe Bowl: North Carolina (5-3/7-5) vs. Penn St.
8. Military Bowl: North Carolina St. (2-6/6-6) vs. East Carolina
9. Independence Bowl: Virginia (4-4/6-6) vs. Texas A&M
10. Quick Lane Bowl: Boston College (4-4/7-5) vs. Rutgers
11. St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami (Fla.) (4-4/7-5) vs. Central Florida

Big Ten

While we do not project Ohio State to make the Playoffs, mainly because we have the Buckeyes losing to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, we do believe that three league teams will receive Big Six Bowl invitations.

Not much has changed in the bowl pecking order here. We have removed Michigan from the bowl list, because a loss to Ohio State will leave the Wolverines at 5-7. The winner of the Illinois-Northwestern game in Evanston will decide the last league bowl representative.

1. Big Six—Orange Bowl: Wisconsin (7-1/11-2) vs. Georgia Tech
2. Big Six—Cotton Bowl: Ohio St. (8-0/11-2) vs. T C U
3. Big Six—Fiesta Bowl: Michigan St. (7-1/10-2) vs. Baylor
4. Buffalo Wild Wings (Citrus) Bowl: Iowa (5-3/8-4) vs. Missouri
5. Outback Bowl: Nebraska (4-4/8-4) vs. Auburn
6. Holiday Bowl: Minnesota (5-3/8-4) vs. Arizona
7. Music City Bowl: Maryland (5-3/8-4) vs. Tennessee
8. San Francisco Bowl: Northwestern (4-4/6-6) vs. U S C
9. Pinstripe Bowl: Penn St. (2-6/6-6) vs. North Carolina
10. Quick Lane Bowl: Rutgers (2-6/6-6) vs. Boston College

Big 12

Should Texas beat TCU and Kansas State beat Baylor, the Big 12 will lose all chances to place a team in the Playoffs. If both TCU and Baylor win out, then there is a chance one or even both could end up playing for all the marbles. What hurts the Big 12 is not having a conference championship game (which could hurt an 11-1 Mississippi State team if Alabama wins the SEC West).

Because of the likelihood that both Baylor and TCU will at least earn Big Six Bowl bids, and because four league teams, instead of the usual two or three, will fail to earn bowl eligibility, the Big 12 will not meet its obligations to supply enough teams to the contracted bowls. In fact, we believe two bowls will be forced to find alternatives.

1. Big Six—Cotton Bowl: T C U (8-1/11-1) vs. Ohio St.
2. Bix Six—Fiesta Bowl: Baylor (8-1/11-1) vs. Michigan St.
3. Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma (6-3/9-3) vs. U C L A
4. Russell Athletic Bowl: Kansas St. (7-2/9-3) vs. Duke
5. Liberty Bowl: Texas (5-4/6-6) vs. Arkansas
6. Cactus Bowl: West Virginia (5-4/7-5) vs. Utah

Pac-12 Conference

Oregon slipped in November last year with a loss to Arizona that cost the Ducks any chance to finish in the top two of the final BCS standings. This year, they are playing for their Playoff lives. The Ducks should win their Civil War battle against Oregon State, but the game is at Reser Stadium, where the Beavers can be tough. The Pac-12 Championship Game then must be won to guarantee Oregon a spot in the Final Four.

U C L A was supposed to contend for a Playoff spot, but the Bruins lost one too many games to stay in the chase. Even if the SEC finishes with four two-loss teams, and Ohio State loses to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, it will be difficult for an 11-2 Bruins team to sneak into the Final Four.

California is 5-6 with a home game against BYU this week. The Bears have a chance to get to 6-6 and take the final at-large bowl bid away from Ohio, but we believe the Cougars will score 35-40 points and keep the Bears out of a bowl.

1. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Oregon (8-1/12-1) vs. Florida St.
2. Alamo Bowl: U C L A (7-2/10-3) vs. Oklahoma
3. Holiday Bowl: Arizona (7-2/10-2) vs. Minnesota
4. San Francisco Bowl: U S C (6-3/8-4) vs. Northwestern
5. Sun Bowl: Washington (4-5/8-5) vs. Notre Dame
6. Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona St. (6-3/9-3) vs. Boise St.
7. Cactus Bowl: Utah (5-4/8-4) vs. West Virginia
8. Texas Bowl: [ Stanford (4-5/6-6) ] vs. L S U

Southeastern Conference

There are three questions this week with the SEC. The first one is the more important one. What happens to Mississippi State if the Bulldogs beat Ole Miss, while Alabama beats Auburn to earn the West Division flag? The Committee has indicated that conference champions will be given higher priority over non-conference champions. Mississippi State is still number four, but The Committee cannot place another team past the Bulldogs with the understanding that Baylor, TCU, or Ohio State could be a conference champion. Might the Big 12 Champion or Ohio State pass an idle Bulldog team in the final poll?

Question number two involves two teams still attempting to become bowl eligible. Tennessee is 5-6 with what amounts to a home game on their rival’s home field. The Volunteers should handle Vanderbilt easily to earn a bowl bid. Kentucky was once 5-1 and the sexy choice for contention for a Big Six bowl. At 5-1, we wrote that the Wildcats could easily lose their final six games and not go to a bowl. UK is one loss to Louisville away from making us soothsayers.

Question number three involves the SEC not wanting to give the Big 12 a chance to move Texas into the Texas Bowl against Texas A&M. The SEC most definitely will arrange for the Aggies to go to a bowl that cannot invite a Big 12 team. Thus, we believe another interesting matchup is possible. Look below at our Liberty Bowl projection.

1. PLAYOFFS—Sugar Bowl: Alabama (7-1/12-1) vs. Mississippi St.
2. PLAYOFFS—Sugar Bowl: Mississippi St. (7-1/11-1) vs. Alabama
3. Big Six—Peach Bowl: Georgia (6-2/10-2) vs. Marshall
4. Buffalo Wild Wings (Citrus) Bowl: Missouri (7-1/10-3) vs. Iowa
5. Outback Bowl: Auburn (4-4/8-4) vs. Nebraska
6. Gator Bowl: Ole Miss (4-4/8-4) vs. Louisville
7. Texas Bowl: L S U (4-4/8-4) vs. [ Stanford ]
8. Belk Bowl: Florida (4-4/6-5) vs. Clemson
9. Music City Bowl: Tennessee (3-5/6-6) vs. Maryland
10. Liberty Bowl: Arkansas (2-6/6-6) vs. Texas
11. Birmingham Bowl: South Carolina (3-5/7-5) vs. Memphis
12. Independence Bowl: Texas A&M (3-5/7-5) vs. Virginia

November 17, 2014

PiRate Ratings College Football Playoffs and Bowl Projections

See the PiRate Ratings and Spreads for college and pro football at:
How many points is Alabama worth in home field advantage at Bryant-Denny Stadium? Would you say that five points is about right? If so, then The Crimson Tide and Mississippi State are dead even on a neutral field, correct?

The brains that vacuum large pots of money out of the books in Las Vegas, Reno, and offshore would tell you this is true, but the elite that select the teams for the playoffs may not see it that way. There is precedent for not seeing the forest for all the trees.

Let’s go back to 2006. Number one Ohio State, 11-0, hosted number two Michigan, also 11-0, at the giant horseshoe in Columbus. Ohio State’s home field advantage was worth at least four and as much as six points, and the Buckeyes had to hold on to edge the Wolverines by three points. In essence, on a neutral field, Michigan figured to be marginally better than Ohio State, and these two teams should have been slotted to face each other for the national championship a month and a half later. It would have been the greatest National Championship Game of the BCS era, but the BCS rankings dropped Michigan down and elevated Florida up into the number two slot.

Florida exploded to embarrass Ohio State in the title game, while a dejected Michigan team failed to show up in the Rose Bowl against a quality USC team. Had there been a playoff that year, these would have been the four teams, so in the end, Florida and USC would have advanced to the title game.

Back to 2014, what say the college football nation should Mississippi State and Alabama both win out? The Bulldogs are most likely going to edge out any 11-1 Big 12 team, as well as a possible 12-1 Ohio State team. In our opinion, any one-loss SEC West team must be in the playoffs, especially since Arkansas is now one win away from making all seven SEC West teams bowl eligible. There are no Iowa State’s, Kansas’s, or Texas Tech’s in the SEC West. There are no Purdue’s, Illinois’s, or Indiana’s in the SEC West. There are no Colorado’s or Washington State’s in the SEC West.

There are still a bevy of tricky games left that could shake up both the playoff race and the bowl projections.

In the ACC, Georgia Tech is one Duke loss away from facing Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. The Seminoles want no part of the spread option of the Yellow Jackets, as one or two breakdowns on defense could be the difference of 14 points. What if GT got an early lead? Can FSU come from behind against the best time-consuming offense there is?

In the Big Ten, Wisconsin might be strong enough to beat Ohio State in a possible conference championship game. The Badgers still have tough games left against Iowa and rival Minnesota.

In the Big 12, Baylor faces an Oklahoma State team this week that must win this game or upset Oklahoma to become bowl eligible. The Cowboys are probably looking at 5-7, but they may force the Bears to extend themselves. Baylor still has a date with Kansas State in December.

TCU has an even tougher assignment coming up on Thanksgiving. The Horned Frogs face a coming-on-strong Texas Longhorns team in Austin. We see that as a tossup as of today.

The Pac-12 could be interesting as well. The South Division is a mess with six of the seven teams still in contention for the division flag. UCLA controls its own destiny, and the Bruins will face Oregon in the conference championship game if they down USC and Stanford, both games to be played at the Rose Bowl. There is a chance for a five-team tie at 6-3, in which case Utah would emerge as the division champion.

In the race for the one Big Six Bowl invitation guaranteed to a Group of Five team, it is Marshall’s to lose. The Thundering Herd has a little bit of a tricky game this week at UAB, but we believe MU will come through. The likely opponent in the Conference USA Championship Game is Louisiana Tech, but Marshall looks like the class of this league, and coach Doc Holliday will be on the short list on many head coaching openings. Should Dana Holgersen get the offer at Florida or Michigan, or any other school that will get him out of West Virginia, then Holliday will be the next coach in Morgantown. If Marshall finishes 13-0, look for the Herd to play in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Should Marshall fall, Colorado State is the team in waiting, but only if the Rams can win at Air Force. At 11-1, the Rams would likely be in the Fiesta Bowl against a Baylor or TCU.

Here is a look at each conference and where we project the teams to go.

Records shown are our projections for where the teams will finish.

[ Team ] Indicates an at-large invitee

Group of 5 Conferences

American Athletic Conference
Coach Justin Fuente has greener pastures in his future after he has brought the Memphis Tigers back from the lowest of the lows to within two wins of a conference championship. The Tigers have home games against South Florida and Connecticut, and they figure to win both games by double digits. Unfortunately, at 9-3, Memphis has no real chance of falling into a Big Six bowl.

Temple appears to be in serious trouble in the bowl hunt. The 5-5 Owls must win out to have any chance to earn a spot, because at 6-6, their fan base is not strong enough to earn an at-large bid, as they cannot average 30,000 per game at Lincoln Financial Field.

1. Birmingham Bowl: Memphis (7-1/9-3) vs. Florida
2. St. Petersburg Bowl: Central Florida (6-2/8-4) vs. Miami (Fla.)
3. Miami Beach Bowl: Cincinnati (7-1/9-3) vs. B Y U
4. Military Bowl: East Carolina (6-2/9-3) vs. Virginia Tech
5. Armed Forces Bowl: Houston (5-3/7-5) vs. [ California ]

Also Bowl Eligible—Temple 4-4/6-6

Conference USA
As we mentioned above, Marshall has a clear path to a 13-0 finish, which will secure the automatic Group of Five bid to a Big Six Bowl. CUSA will get an extra bowl spot because of this, and the league will still have a surplus of bowl eligible teams. There is a secondary bowl tie-in, but we believe the bowl in question will choose to take a much more prestigious school from out West rather than a 6-6 CUSA team that averages less than 10,000 fans per home game in attendance.

In the West Division Louisiana Tech is not a lock for the top spot. The Bulldogs play at Old Dominion this week, and the Monarchs are in a must-win situation to become bowl eligible. If ODU wins, then LT must defeat Rice in two weeks to win the division title. If Rice beats UTEP this week, and ODU beats LT, then the November 29 game between the Owls and Bulldogs would decide the division title.

1. Big 6—Peach Bowl: Marshall (8-0/13-0) vs. Georgia
2. Hawaii Bowl: Louisiana Tech (8-0/9-4) vs. Air Force
3. Bahamas Bowl: Rice (5-3/7-5) vs. Bowling Green
4. Boca Raton Bowl: Middle Tennessee (5-3/6-6) vs. Northern Illinois
5. New Mexico Bowl: U T E P (5-3/7-5) vs. Utah St.
6. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Western Kentucky (3-5/6-6) vs. Maryland
Also Bowl Eligible: UAB 4-4/6-6

Mid-American Conference
Northern Illinois’s win over Toledo throws the West Division up for grabs with four teams still in the race. Western and Central Michigan join the other two in contention for the division crown. In the East, Bowling Green has already clinched the division title. The Falcons have a tough road game against an angry Toledo team Wednesday night. BGU’s lone conference loss came against Western Michigan, and the Broncos totally shut down the Falcons’ offense in the second half of that game.

The MAC figures to have two extra bowl eligible teams, both at 6-6, and neither will be lucky enough to earn an at-large invitation.

1. Bahamas Bowl: Bowling Green (6-2/9-4) vs. Rice
2. Boca Raton Bowl: Northern Illinois (6-2/9-3) vs. Middle Tennessee
3. Idaho Potato Bowl: Toledo (7-1/8-5) vs. San Diego St.
4. Camellia Bowl: Western Michigan (6-2/8-4) vs. South Alabama
5. GoDaddy Bowl: Central Michigan (6-2/8-4) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

Also Bowl Eligible: Ohio 4-4/6-6 & Akron 4-4/6-6

Mountain West Conference
For awhile Saturday night, it looked like the Mountain Division representative in the MWC Championship Game was about to be Colorado State, as San Diego State shot out to a nice lead over Boise State, before the Broncos charged back to win. The top four teams remain Mountain Division schools, as the West Division currently has a three-way tie at 3-3, with one of the co-leaders, Fresno State, mired at 4-6 overall.

The league has six bowl tie-ins and will produce six bowl eligible teams. Should Colorado State edge out Marshall for the Big Six bowl bid, it will force a the Idaho Potato Bowl to search for an at-large team, which most likely would come from the Pac-12.

1. Las Vegas Bowl: Boise St. (7-1/11-2) vs. Utah
2. Poinsettia Bowl: Colorado St. (7-1/11-1) vs. Navy
3. Hawaii Bowl: Air Force (5-3/9-3) vs. Louisiana Tech
4. New Mexico Bowl: Utah St. (6-2/9-4) vs. U T E P
5. New Orleans Bowl: Nevada (5-3/8-5) vs. Arkansas St.
6. Idaho Potato Bowl: San Diego St. (4-4/6-6) vs. Toledo

Sunbelt Conference

Louisiana-Lafayette clinched the top seed in the bowl order, but the Ragin’ Cajuns have not clinched the conference championship. Georgia Southern is also undefeated in conference play, but the Eagles are not bowl eligible this year unless there are not enough bowl eligible teams (which there will be by quite a few). ULL has been in a rut, playing in three consecutive New Orleans Bowl games. We think it is about time, they leave the state in December.

This will be an interesting bowl race among the rest of the field. Arkansas State and South Alabama are already bowl eligible, while Texas State and Appalachian State are one win away.

1. GoDaddy Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette (8-0/9-3) vs. Central Michigan
2. New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas St. (5-3/7-5) vs. Nevada
3. Camellia Bowl: South Alabama (5-3/6-6) vs. Western Michigan

Also Bowl Eligible: Texas St. 5-3/7-5

Independents (Notre Dame included in ACC bowl tie-ins)
Army’s loss to Western Kentucky officially eliminates the Black Knights from their Armed Forces bowl tie-in. BYU clinched their Miami Beach Bowl berth with a win over UNLV, while Navy has two chances left to win one more game and earn their Poinsettia Bowl invitation.

1. Miami Beach Bowl: B Y U (7-5) vs. Cincinnati
2. Poinsettia Bowl: Navy (7-5) vs. Colorado St.

Power 5 Conferences

Atlantic Coast Conference
Whew! That’s what ACC Commissioner John Swofford must have mouthed late Saturday night when Florida State pulled out yet another dramatic finish to stay undefeated. The Seminoles will not make the playoffs if they lose any remaining game, and Swofford needs something positive for his conference with an academic fraud investigation hanging over his head at North Carolina (he was formerly the AD at UNC), as well as numerous rumors about the Florida State program.

Virginia Tech’s upset of Duke opens the door for Georgia Tech to win the Coastal Division title, and the Yellow Jackets will back into that game should North Carolina beat Duke this weekend. FSU will be rooting heavily for the Blue Devils to win that game.

1. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Florida St. (8-0/13-0) vs. Oregon
2. Big 6—Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech (6-2/9-4) vs. Wisconsin
3. Russell Athletic Bowl: Duke (5-3/9-3) vs. West Virginia
4. Gator Bowl: Clemson (6-2/8-4) vs. Ole Miss
5. Belk Bowl: Notre Dame (8-4) vs. L S U
6. Sun Bowl: Louisville (5-3/8-4) vs. Arizona St.
7. Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College (4-4/7-5) vs. Rutgers
8. Military Bowl: Virginia Tech (4-4/7-5) vs. East Carolina
9. Independence Bowl: North Carolina (5-3/7-5) vs. South Carolina
10. Quick Lane Bowl: North Carolina St. (2-6/6-6) vs. Northwestern
11. St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami (Fla.) (5-3/8-4) vs. Central Florida

Big Ten Conference

Ohio State is still squarely in the playoff race, but after this past Saturday’s games, we now seriously doubt that they can win the Big Ten Championship. After watching Wisconsin run through Nebraska, and remembering what happened the last time OSU and UW faced off, we believe the Badgers might be a little too strong for Ohio State’s run defense if these two face off for the title.

Wisconsin still must earn their spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, and that will be no easy task. The Badgers have a road game against Iowa and a home game for Paul Bunyan’s Axe against Minnesota. Weather could easily play a factor in both games, so it is not guarantee that UW will even make it to Indianapolis.

We have made one change in the bowl eligibility list this week. With Northwestern’s comeback win at Notre Dame, we now move the Wildcats over Illinois.

1. Big 6-Orange Bowl: Wisconsin (7-1/11-2) vs. Georgia Tech
2. Big 6-Cotton Bowl: Ohio St. (8-0/11-2) vs. T C U
3. Big 6-Fiesta Bowl: Michigan St. (7-1/10-2) vs. Baylor
4. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Nebraska (5-3/9-3) vs. Missouri
5. Outback Bowl: Iowa (5-3/8-4) vs. Auburn
6. Holiday Bowl: Minnesota (4-4/7-5) vs. Arizona
7. Music City Bowl: Penn St. (2-6/6-6) vs. Tennessee
8. San Francisco Bowl: Michigan (4-4/6-6) vs. U S C
9. Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers (2-6/6-6) vs. Boston College
10. Quick Lane Bowl: Northwestern (4-4/6-6) vs. North Carolina St.
11. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Maryland (4-4/7-5) vs. Western Kentucky

Big 12 Conference

It has been quite apparent for some time that the Big 12 will not supply enough bowl eligible teams to meet all of its bowl obligations. This will be a certainty if both Baylor and TCU win out. Oklahoma State is now on the outside looking in, as the Cowboys are 5-5 with games remaining against Baylor and Oklahoma.

Texas is the key to this league’s bowl projections. The Longhorns have a legitimate chance to knock off TCU and throw a large monkey wrench into the works. For now, because it makes things much too difficult to rearrange, we are going to go with TCU and Baylor to win out.

1. Big 6-Cotton Bowl: T C U (8-1/11-1) vs. Ohio St.
2. Big 6-Fiesta Bowl: Baylor (8-1/11-1) vs. Michigan St.
3. Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma (6-3/9-3) vs. U C L A
4. Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia (6-3/8-4) vs. Duke
5. Liberty Bowl: Texas (5-4/6-6) vs. Arkansas
6. Cactus Bowl: Kansas St. (6-3/8-4) vs. Washington

Pac-12 Conference

Oregon has already clinched the North Division title, but the Ducks have two tough games that must be victories if they are going to make the playoffs. They end the regular season at rival Oregon State, and the Beavers will probably be 5-6 needing a win to earn a bowl bid. Of course, the Pac-12 Championship Game will be tough, and the Ducks will not know their opponent until late on November 29.

We have already written about the South Division title race. If UCLA wins out, the Bruins are in the title game. However, if UCLA loses to either USC or Stanford (or both), there are numerous tie-breaker possibilities that can give USC, Arizona, Arizona State, or Utah the flag.

There are seven teams already bowl eligible, and three teams need just one more win to get there. We believe two of the three will get that sixth win, meaning nine teams will be bowl eligible. We project two of the nine will have to sweat out at-large invitations, and being the top two available at-large candidates, they will secure the projected two at-large available spots.

1. PLAYOFFS-Rose Bowl: Oregon (8-1/12-1) vs. Florida St.
2. Alamo Bowl: U C L A (7-2/10-3) vs. Oklahoma
3. Holiday Bowl: Arizona (6-3/9-3) vs. Minnesota
4. San Francisco Bowl: U S C (6-3/8-4) vs. Michigan
5. Sun Bowl: Arizona St. (6-3/9-3) vs. Louisville
6. Las Vegas Bowl: Utah (6-3/9-3) vs. Boise St.
7. Cactus Bowl: Washington (4-5/8-5) vs. Kansas St.
8. Texas Bowl (at-large): [ Stanford ] (4-5/6-6) vs. Texas A&M
9. Armed Forces (at-large): [ California ] (3-6/6-6) vs. Houston

Southeastern Conference

If Kentucky can beat rival Louisville, and if Arkansas can beat either Ole Miss or Missouri, the SEC will end up with an amazing 13 bowl eligible teams. We are going with 12, and this will be just enough to satisfy all the bowl tie-ins for the king of college conferences.

Read above to reinforce why we believe the SEC will win out over the Big 12 and Big Ten in the one-loss race to the playoffs.

If, by chance, Ole Miss wins the Egg Bowl and Georgia knocks off Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, then it is going to be a very difficult choice for the Playoff Committee to take any SEC team if there are still four teams that have zero or one loss. Imagine if Georgia wins out to finish 11-2. How could the Bulldogs jump over TCU and Baylor, if both finish 11-1? Even a 12-1 Ohio State team would finish ahead of UGA.

Now, let’s say there are five two-loss SEC teams (Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Missouri), and then losses to TCU, Baylor, and Ohio State leave a dozen two loss teams in the mix. The real winner in this scenario would be Novartis, the owner of Maalox, because 12 influential elites would come down with the first case of mass heartburn.

For the sake of Condaleeza Rice’s stomach, let’s stick with the Tide and Bulldogs winning out.

Note—with the SEC’s decision to place conference teams where they can best capitalize on the bowl matchups, we have made some very interesting bowl games thanks to maneuvering like we expect the league will do.

1. PLAYOFFS-Sugar Bowl: Alabama (7-1/12-1) vs. Mississippi St.
2. PLAYOFFS-Sugar Bowl: Mississippi St. (7-1/11-1) vs. Alabama
3. Big 6-Peach Bowl: Georgia (6-2/10-3) vs. Marshall
4. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Missouri (5-3/8-4) vs. Nebraska
5. Outback Bowl: Auburn (4-4/8-4) vs. Iowa
6. Gator Bowl: Ole Miss (4-4/8-4) vs. Clemson
7. Belk Bowl: L S U (4-4/8-4) vs. Notre Dame
8. Music City Bowl: Tennessee (4-4/7-5) vs. Penn St.
9. Texas Bowl: Texas A&M (3-5/7-5) vs. [ Stanford ]
10. Liberty Bowl: Arkansas (3-5/7-5) vs. Texas
11. Independence Bowl: South Carolina (3-5/7-5) vs. North Carolina
12. Birmingham Bowl: Florida (4-4/6-5) vs. Memphis

November 11, 2014

PiRate Ratings College Football Playoffs and Bowl Projections

The College Football Playoff Committee had a couple of surprises in their release of their rankings Tuesday night, when they moved Oregon ahead of Florida State and TCU ahead of Alabama.

The Crimson Tide will move into the top four next week, possibly jumping the rest of the field to number one if they shellac Mississippi State this weekend. Of course, a loss to the Bulldogs probably puts Alabama into the Orange Bowl or even Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, depending on what happens in the Iron Bowl.

The sixth-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils sit pretty as well. If ASU wins out, which is a tough if with a home finale at Arizona needing to be won before a Pac-12 Championship Game against Oregon, they will most certainly be one of the top four.

Ohio State and Baylor need a lot of help, and Nebraska and Duke are one-loss teams with no chance at making it to the playoffs.

The race for the best Group of Five team and recipient of a Big Six bowl invitation is a three-team race between Marshall, Colorado State, and Boise State. The Rams have been moving up every week, but it with New Mexico and Air Force left on the schedule, CSU cannot leapfrog over an undefeated Marshall team.

Here is our bowl outlook per conference. Note, that this outlook was written before Tuesday night’s games were played.

Note: Records shown are projected final regular season records, with conference record followed by total record.

Group of Five

American Athletic Conference
Memphis won at Temple last week, and the Tigers now have the championship in their site. Cincinnati, East Carolina, and Central Florida are still in contention, while Houston suffered a big loss at Tulane.

Since the champion of this league is not guaranteed any particular bowl, the probably bowl teams are merely playing for the trophy. The bowl bids will go to the teams that make the most sense for each bowl.

With Temple’s loss last week, the Owls are likely looking at being left out of the bowl picture unless they upset Penn State or Cincinnati.

1. Birmingham Bowl: Memphis 7-1/9-3 (vs. Florida)
2. St. Petersburg Bowl: Central Florida 6-2/8-4 (vs. Miami)
3. Miami Beach Bowl: Cincinnati 7-1/9-3 (vs. BYU)
4. Military Bowl: East Carolina 6-2/9-3 (vs. Virginia Tech)
5. Armed Forces Bowl: Houston 5-3/7-5 (vs. South Alabama [at-large])

Also Bowl Eligible: Temple 4-4/6-6

Conference USA
Marshall will get a bit of a test at home this week against a hot Rice team, and they could have a trap game at UAB a week later, but the Thundering Herd appears to be somewhat safe in getting into the CUSA Championship Game with a 12-0 record. Louisiana Tech could be a tough opponent, but MU should be able to sneak by and earn a Big Six Bowl bid. One loss will probably doom those chances.

Louisiana Tech must get by Rice on November 29 to win the West Division, but that game is in Ruston, so the Bulldogs will be a hefty favorite.

1. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Marshall 8-0/13-0 (vs. Michigan St.)
2. Hawaii Bowl: Louisiana Tech 8-0/9-4 (vs. Utah St.)
3. Bahamas Bowl: Rice 5-3/7-5 (vs. Toledo)
4. Boca Raton Bowl: Middle Tennessee 6-2/7-5 (vs. Northern Illinois)
5. New Mexico Bowl: U T E P 5-3/7-5 (vs. Air Force)
6. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Western Kentucky 3-5/6-6 (vs. Michigan)
7. Independence Bowl (at-large): U A B 4-4/6-6 (vs. North Carolina)

Mid-American Conference
Reminder: This review was written prior to kickoff of the two MAC games Tuesday night.

The MAC is out of the Big Six Bowl picture this year. The Toledo-Northern Illinois winner will still be too far behind the other contenders from the AAC, CUSA, and Mountain West.

As of this writing, it looks like seven MAC teams will be bowl eligible, but only five teams will receive invitations.

1. Bahamas Bowl: Toledo 8-0/10-3 (vs. Rice)
2. Boca Raton Bowl: Northern Illinois 5-3/8-4 (vs. Middle Tennessee)
3. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Bowling Green 6-2/8-5 (vs. Nevada)
4. Camellia Bowl: Central Michigan 6-2/8-4 (vs. Texas St.)
5. Bowl: Western Michigan 6-2/8-4 (vs. Louisiana-Lafayette)

Also Bowl Eligible: Akron 5-3/7-5 & Ohio 4-4/6-6

Mountain West Conference
Boise State and Colorado State are two MWC teams that nobody in a Power Five conference wants to play at this point. The Broncos and Rams are capable of defeating a 9-3 team from any of the big conferences.

All of the strength in this league lies in the Mountain Division, as the West Division should be won with a 5-3 conference mark, while three from the other division will be 6-2 or better. With the top two teams headed to possible 11-win seasons, this league deserves better bowl destinations, but they probably will not get them.

1. Las Vegas Bowl: Boise St. 7-1/11-2 (vs. Stanford)
2. Poinsettia Bowl: Colorado St. 7-1/11-1 (vs. Navy)
3. Hawaii Bowl: Utah St. 6-2/9-4 (vs. Louisiana Tech)
4. New Mexico Bowl: Air Force 4-4/8-4 (vs. UTEP)
5. New Orleans Bowl: San Diego St. 5-3/7-5 (vs. Arkansas St.)
6. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Nevada 5-3/8-5 (vs. Bowling Green)

Sunbelt Conference
We erred in recent weeks. Georgia Southern is not eligible for a bowl this season unless there are not enough FBS teams bowl eligible. There will be more than enough, so GSU is playing simply for the pride of becoming co-champs of the SBC.

Louisiana-Lafayette figures to be the other co-champ, and the Ragin’ Cajuns have been to the New Orleans bowl so many years in a row, the Sports Information Department in Lafayette can almost place this game on the schedule on their media guide.

Because we believe ULL would like to go somewhere else this year, we are placing them in another bowl.

1. Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette 8-0/9-3 (vs. Western Michigan)
2. New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas St. 6-2/8-4 (vs. San Diego St.)
3. Camellia Bowl: Texas St. 5-3/7-5 (vs. Central Michigan)
4. Armed Forces Bowl (at-large): South Alabama 5-3/6-6 (vs. Houston)

Independents (not including Notre Dame)
BYU is a lock to become bowl eligible, while Navy should get there as well. Army is not yet eliminated from bowl eligibility, but the Black Knights must eliminate Western Kentucky from bowl eligibility this week, or else the season will end against Navy.

1. Miami Beach Bowl: B Y U 7-5 (vs. Cincinnati)
2. Poinsettia Bowl: Navy 7-5 (vs. Colorado St.)

The Power Five Conferences
Atlantic Coast Conference
Florida State looks less and less impressive every week, and another poor first half performance this week against Miami could be too difficult to overcome. The Seminoles falling to number three in the Playoff rankings should wake the team up, and FSU could go out and play their best game of the season this weekend.

Duke is not getting any respect at 8-1, and even ACC pundits believe Virginia Tech could upset the Blue Devils this week.

Clemson remains in contention for a Big Six Bowl, but if Duke goes 11-2, the Tigers will have to settle for the best of the rest.

Virginia, Syracuse, and Wake Forest figure to miss out on bowls, while the loser of this week’s North Carolina-Pittsburgh game will probably join that trio.

1. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Florida St. 8-0/13-0 (vs. Mississippi St.)
2. Orange Bowl: Duke 7-1/11-2 (vs. Ohio St.)
3. Russell Athletic Bowl: Clemson 7-1/10-2 (vs. Kansas St.)
4. Gator Bowl: Notre Dame 9-3 (vs. Ole Miss)
5. Belk Bowl: Georgia Tech 5-3/8-4 (vs. LSU)
6. Sun Bowl: Louisville 5-3/8-4 (vs. Arizona)
7. Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College 4-4/7-5 (vs. Rutgers)
8. Military Bowl: Virginia Tech 3-5/6-6 (vs. East Carolina)
9. Independence Bowl: North Carolina 4-4/6-6 (vs. UAB [at-large])
10. Quick Lane Bowl: North Carolina St. 2-6/6-6 (vs. Illinois)
11. St. Petersburg Bowl: Miami 5-3/8-4 (vs. Central Florida)

Big Ten Conference
Ohio State might be a contender for national champion if they had not fallen to a mediocre Virginia Tech team. We believe the Buckeyes are strong enough today to compete against any of the four top teams.

If Michigan State wins out to finish 10-2, the Spartans should be in good shape for a Big Six bowl. If Sparty falls again, then either Nebraska or Wisconsin could sneak into the bonanza.

If Nebraska goes 10-2, the Cornhuskers could bully their way over many others into a Big Six Bowl.

Michigan is now just one win away from bowl eligibility, and the Wolverines must beat Maryland to get that bid, because upsetting Ohio State does not look possible. So, this Saturday’s game with the Terps could be Brady Hoke’s last win in Ann Arbor.

Illinois is just 4-5 with three games to go, but we believe the Illini will win two more games to give this league 11 bowl eligible teams.

1. Orange Bowl: Ohio St. 8-0/12-1 (vs. Duke)
2. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Michigan St. 7-1/10-2 (vs. Marshall)
3. Cotton Bowl: Nebraska 6-2/10-2 (vs. TCU)
4. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Wisconsin 7-1/10-3 (vs. Auburn)
5. Outback Bowl: Iowa 4-4/7-5 (vs. Georgia)
6. Holiday Bowl: Minnesota 4-4/7-5 (vs. USC)
7. Music City Bowl: Penn St. 2-6/6-6 (vs. Tennessee)
8. San Francisco Bowl: Maryland 4-4/7-5 (vs. Washington)
9. Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers 2-6/6-6 (vs. Boston College)
10. Quick Lane Bowl: Illinois 3-5/6-6 (vs. North Carolina St.)
11. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Michigan 4-4/6-6 (vs. Western Kentucky)

Big 12 Conference
TCU has moved into the top four of the most recent rankings, and we believe the Horned Frogs will win out to finish 11-1, but we do not have TCU in our playoff predictions. We also believe Baylor will finish 11-1 and not get into the playoffs. Alabama can beat Mississippi State and Auburn to win the SEC West, and then after dismissing Florida in the SEC Championship Game, the Tide could actually end up ranked number one. Losing on the road against the top team would not be enough to drop Mississippi State out of the playoff race, and if Oregon and Florida State keep winning, we believe TCU will be the team falling out of the top four.

We have moved Texas into the bowl probables at the expense of Oklahoma State. Texas Tech, Iowa State, and Kansas are not in the picture.

1. Cotton Bowl: T C U 8-1/11-1 (vs. Nebraska)
2. Fiesta Bowl: Baylor 8-1/11-1 (vs. Arizona St.)
3. Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma 6-3/9-3 (vs. UCLA)
4. Russell Athletic Bowl: Kansas St. 7-2/9-3 (vs. Clemson)
5. Liberty Bowl: West Virginia 5-4/7-5 (vs. Missouri)
6. Cactus Bowl: Texas 5-4/6-6 (vs. Utah)

Pac-12 Conference
Arizona State’s win over Notre Dame was a shot in the arm for the entire conference. If the Sun Devils don’t overlook a weakening Oregon State team in Corvallis and then take care of business against Washington State, the regular season finale at Arizona will be the most important game for this team since the 1997 Rose Bowl or 1975 Fiesta Bowl.

Arizona State is not automatically going to win the Pac-12 South. UCLA, USC, and Arizona still have shots to get into the conference championship game.

In the North, Oregon is already assured of the division title, and if they win out, they will get a chance to play for the national title for the second time in five seasons.

We have dropped Oregon State from the bowl probable list this week. The Beavers would have to win two out of their final three to get to 6-6, and their final three come against Arizona State, Washington, and Oregon. We believe 0-3 is likely.

1. PLAYOFFS—Sugar Bowl: Oregon 8-1/12-1 (vs. Alabama)
2. Fiesta Bowl: Arizona St. 8-1/11-2 (vs. Baylor)
3. Alamo Bowl: U C L A 7-2/10-2 (vs. Oklahoma)
4. Holiday Bowl: U S C 6-3/8-4 (vs. Minnesota)
5. San Francisco Bowl: Washington 4-5/8-5 (vs. Maryland)
6. Sun Bowl: Arizona 6-3/9-3 (vs. Louisville)
7. Las Vegas Bowl: Stanford 5-4/7-5 (vs. Boise St.)
8. Cactus Bowl: Utah 4-5/7-5 (vs. Texas)
9. Texas Bowl (at-large): California 3-6/6-6 (vs. Texas A&M)

Southeastern Conference
If Alabama wins this week against Mississippi State, which we believe they will, and if Mississippi State recovers to beat Ole Miss, while the Crimson Tide beat Auburn and win the SEC Championship Game, we cannot see how the committee cannot take both teams.

Nobody else in the league has a chance to sneak into the top four without about seven or eight other teams losing. Auburn and LSU played their way out of the tournament last week, while Georgia did so the week before.

Kentucky was once 5-1 and looking like a lock to make it to a bowl game for the first time in four seasons. But, four consecutive losses have UK at 5-5 with Tennessee and Louisville remaining on the schedule. We have the Wildcats out.

South Carolina must beat either Florida or Clemson to earn a bowl bid, and we do not see the Gamecocks doing so.

1. PLAYOFFS—Sugar Bowl: Alabama 7-1/12-1 (vs. Oregon)
2. PLAYOFFS—Rose Bowl: Mississippi State 7-1/11-1 (vs. Florida St.)
3. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Auburn 5-3/9-3 (vs. Wisconsin)
4. Outback Bowl: Georgia 5-3/9-3 (vs. Iowa)
5. Gator Bowl: Ole Miss 5-3/9-3 (vs. Notre Dame)
6. Belk Bowl: L S U 5-3/9-3 (vs. Georgia Tech)
7. Texas Bowl: Texas A&M 4-4/8-4 (vs. California [at-large])
8. Liberty Bowl: Missouri 5-3/8-4 (vs. West Virginia)
9. Music City Bowl: Tennessee 4-4/7-5 (Penn St.)
10. Birmingham Bowl: Florida 5-3/7-5 (vs. Memphis)

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