The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 31, 2016

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlay Picks–September 1-5, 2016

This just for fun weekly feature turned out to be our most widely read part of the PiRate Ratings last year, because just like a broken clock is correct twice a day, somehow our money line parlays returned 40% on investment last year. People began leaving comments at our sister site, http://www.piratings.webs.com , telling us they were using these picks to wager their hard-earned money. That disappointed us a lot, since we begged them not to do this.

This is a just for fun mathematical experiment. We have no inside information; we have no specialist in Vegas placing wagers anonymously for us like other heavy hitters. In fact, if we were to announce to any book that we would like to play our picks for real, they would bend over backwards to help us do just that. So, that should tell you not to use these picks. Just read what we have to offer. If there is some way to wager just for fun with your friends, by picking X number of teams to win outright, then maybe you can use our selections.

For those not aware of the Money Line, it is a line established to wager on who you think will win the game without having to cover a pointspread. Obviously, if Michigan plays Hawaii, you would take Michigan to win. As Lee Corso says, “Not so fast my friend.” In order to take Michigan to win the game outright over Hawaii, you have to give ridiculous odds to the book. To win just $100 on this proposal, you must put up $75,000! If you want to wager just $100 on Hawaii to win the game in the biggest upset in years, you would win $25,000 if it happened!

Obviously, this is an extreme outlier. Let’s look at a closer game this week. Vanderbilt hosts South Carolina tomorrow night. The current Money Line odds are listed as Vanderbilt -185 and South Carolina +165. This means that if you believe the Commodores will win, you must put up $185 to win $100 ($285, because you get your investment money back as well). If you believe South Carolina will win this game, then by wagering $100, you stand to win $165 ($265 as you will get your $100 back as well if you win) if the Gamecocks win.

A Money Line parlay allows you to combine multiple games in order to raise your total odds. The catch is that if you bet X amount of games as one parlay wager, all X teams must win. It is considered a sucker bet to play this type of exotic wager, but we are not suckers, because we bet $0 every week. We can choose and choose parlays every week, and we will not lose a penny. We hope you will not either.

Here is our plan of attack that worked rather well last year for us. We will select a host of favorites and bunch them into parlays where the odds are better than even money for us should we win the wager. For example, let’s say that you combine three favorites into one parlay wager. Team A is listed at -250. Team B is listed at -235. Team C is listed at -225. The parlay on this three-team wager would be +188, or you would put up $100 to win $188 ($288 because as you know by now, when you win, you get back your investment money as well.)

It is not easy for three teams at -250, -235, and -225 to all win in a given week. That’s the catch. It looks so easy, and there are some nice hotels in Vegas that have been built from funds donated to them by suckers that thought it looked so easy.

Okay, now that you have been warned, let’s get started with our first Money Line Parlays of the 2016 season. We are playing just two parlays this week, and by playing, we mean like it is Monopoly–it is just a fun game.

Parlay #1

This one gives us +167 odds on our $100 fantasy investment. Yep, if we win, we receive $267 from the fake book in fake Vegas.

Tulsa over San Jose St.
Wake Forest over Tulane
LSU over Wisconsin
West Virginia over Missouri

Parlay #2

This one gives us +127 odds on our $100 fantasy investment. So, if we win just one of these two parlays, it will be a profitable week.

Colorado over Colorado St.
Temple over Army
UTEP over New Mexico St.
Minnesota over Oregon St.

Okay, that’s $200 fake invested funds into two parlays. If we lose both, we are out our imaginary $200. If we win #1 and lose #2, we will have a nice profit in week one returning $267 on the $200 wagered (33.5% ROI). If we lose #1 and win #2, we will have a so-so profit in week one returning $227 on the $200 wagered (13.5% ROI). If somehow both parlays win, we will be taking a fake vacation to an imaginary mountain lodge after pulling off a return of $494 on the $200 wagered (147% ROI).

One final warning and plea–please do not wager real money on these picks. Use them for fun only. See if you can come up with your own and see for yourself how easy hard it is.

Happy football holiday weekend.

August 28, 2016

College Football Spreads for September 1-5 ,2016

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:32 am

After a sample taste of Bloomin’ Football Down Under, the college football season begins in earnest this week, kicking off with a host of games on Thursday night and finishing with the annual lone Monday Night Football Game during the regular college season.

 

There are a few things we failed to mention in our college conference previews this year, namely that our preseason ratings failed to produce a clear-cut dominant team or even a small group of dominant teams.  It is our opinions that this will be more of a balanced season with 20-25 teams capable of competing for their conference championships, and as many as 8-12 teams with reasonable beliefs they can earn a playoff spot.

 

There is reason for this parity.  The most recent dominant teams–Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, Baylor, and even Clemson, figure to be a little less powerful than in recent years.  These teams can still win the national title, but they are not likely to go 12-0 in the regular season and outscore their opponents by an average of 40-10.

 

As a whole, the Pac-12 and Big Ten figure to be a couple points weaker this year than in recent seasons, while the Big 12 is about on par with last seasons, but with a minor changing of the guard, as we believe Texas will replace Baylor as one of the championship contenders.  The ACC appears to be on a slight rise, while the SEC remains the SEC.  While Alabama and Florida may be down a bit, LSU and Tennessee are moving up a bit, which should make the top league’s championship race one where the powers beat up on themselves and leaves every team with a league loss.

 

Because only one game involving FBS teams has been played, we will update the 128 teams after this weekend’s games.  Cal dropped a tiny bit while Hawaii rose a tiny bit, so it really does very little to the ratings, and we have already altered the Hawaii-Michigan game this weekend based on Hawaii’s result in Australia.

 

Here are this week’s PiRate Ratings Spreads.

Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Alabama USC 6.8 4.7 7.0
Arizona BYU -1.4 4.3 -2.2
Arkansas Louisiana Tech 34.0 24.7 31.2
Arkansas St. Toledo -5.6 -1.2 -3.9
Auburn Clemson -9.3 0.4 -8.8
Boston College Georgia Tech 0.1 2.4 0.5
Colorado Colorado St. 18.8 11.5 18.0
Florida Massachusetts 42.5 36.3 38.9
Florida Intl. Indiana -16.1 -13.4 -13.6
Florida St. Mississippi 12.3 11.0 12.8
Georgia North Carolina -3.4 6.3 -3.5
Georgia St. Ball St. 0.6 4.0 2.6
Houston Oklahoma -13.5 -11.3 -11.2
Iowa Miami (Ohio) 36.8 31.3 35.7
Kentucky Southern Miss. 10.2 12.7 7.9
Louisiana-Lafayette Boise St. -24.6 -15.4 -24.1
Louisville Charlotte 49.1 34.2 46.9
Michigan Hawaii 45.7 45.1 47.0
Minnesota Oregon St. 10.0 12.8 12.7
Mississippi St. South Alabama 47.0 32.9 45.7
Nebraska Fresno St. 29.8 20.3 30.1
North Texas SMU -18.7 -14.5 -18.5
Northwestern Western Mich. 10.7 5.6 7.2
Ohio Texas St. 22.9 31.7 23.6
Ohio St. Bowling Green 19.6 21.8 19.2
Penn St. Kent 30.7 30.3 29.3
Stanford Kansas St. 21.2 8.3 20.9
Temple Army 19.7 9.7 18.2
Tennessee Appalachian St. 35.7 29.6 34.8
Texas Notre Dame 1.9 10.7 3.3
Texas A&M UCLA 4.2 4.2 4.7
Tulsa San Jose St. 11.7 14.2 11.5
UTEP New Mexico St. 4.3 6.5 4.4
Vanderbilt South Carolina 10.9 4.4 10.0
Wake Forest Tulane 22.6 15.6 22.0
Washington Rutges 24.4 18.2 25.8
West Va. Missouri 7.9 8.6 7.8
Western Kentucky Rice 17.1 1.7 17.4
Wisconsin LSU -17.0 -13.7 -15.8
Wyoming Northern Ill. -11.3 -12.9 -12.3

Every week, we will also reveal what we call estimated spreads for the games involving an FBS team playing an FCS team.  We say this is estimated, because it is simply a score-based formula similar to the original regular PiRate Rating of the 1970’s and 1980’s, before the advent of the Internet making data-mining so easy.  This is a raw estimate based on establishing a crude rating for the FCS team and the regular PiRate Rating for the FBS team.  We update the FBS team very marginally when they play an FCS team because of this.

 

FBS vs. FCS Week 1 Estimated
Home Visitor PiRate
Central Michigan Presbyterian 30.4
Connecticut Maine 26.2
Cincinnati UT-Martin 25.6
North Carolina St. William & Mary 28.1
Utah Southern Utah 32.3
Utah St. Weber St. 24.8
Idaho Montana St. 7.2
New Mexico South Dakota 15.2
UNLV Jackson St. 29.8
Eastern Michigan Mississippi Valley 28.5
Syracuse Colgate 26.2
Buffalo Albany 23.8
Michigan St. Furman 45.1
Baylor Northwestern St. 44.7
Nevada Cal Poly SLO 18.2
Navy Fordham 33.9
Purdue Eastern Kentucky 19.0
Maryland Howard 43.4
Virginia Tech Liberty 32.7
Pittsburgh Villanova 29.0
Air Force Abilene Christian 36.1
Virginia Richmond 18.3
Illinois Murray St. 32.8
Oklahoma St. SE Louisiana 44.1
Oregon UC-Davis 44.3
Duke UNC-Central 35.2
East Carolina Western Carolina 22.0
Florida Atlantic Southern Illinois 6.3
Georgia Southern Savannah St. 53.6
Miami (Fla) Florida A&M 49.0
Troy Austin Peay 32.5
Old Dominion Hampton 17.2
Akron VMI 28.9
South Florida Towson 31.6
Kansas Rhode Island 20.6
UL-Monroe Southern 14.9
UTSA Alabama St. 23.0
Central Florida South Carolina St. 14.8
Middle Tennessee Alabama A&M 43.0
Memphis SE Missouri 32.7
Iowa St. Northern Iowa 9.4
TCU South Dakota St. 31.2
Texas Tech Stephen F. Austin 34.6
Washington St. E. Washington 30.0
San Diego St. New Hampshire 29.9
Arizona St. Northern Arizona 28.6

Coming Wednesday–The PiRate Ratings will issue our initial JUST FOR FUN Moneyline Parlay wagers for week one of the college football season.  Last year, our moneyline parlays caught lightning in a bottle and finished with a hefty 40% return on investment, BUT that does not mean they are usable to throw away your hard earned money.  If you already know what you are doing, then maybe you can look at our selections with an expertise that will allow you to filter out our errors in judgment and find a small silver needle in the Nevada haystack.

 

There will be fewer selections since we normally include the NFL games in this weekly entry, and we do not fool with preseason games.  Beginning the following week, we expect to issue more selections.

 

August 24, 2016

College Football Preview–August 26, 2016

The College Football season kicks off a week earlier than normal this year thanks to the California Golden Bears playing the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia.  The chosen venue is the former site of the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, but in our opinion, this game would have been better placed in the Sydney Cricket Grounds, where the current Australian Football League Sydney Swans play.  48,000 seats are more than enough for these two teams, and ANZ Stadium holds around 80K.  Past games in Australia have drawn fewer than 20,000 fans.

 

Here are the initial PiRate Retrodictive Rankings For 2016.  Retrodictive refers to how teams have done so far to date, trying to rate the teams in order of who they have beaten and who has beaten them; they are not able to be used to predict the future, like our regular Predictive Ratings, which follow below.  Obviously, with no games played to date, these rankings are not yet Retrodictive.  Rather than re-list last year’s final Retrodictive Rankings, we have applied the updates to the 128 teams’ regular ratings to last year’s final rankings.

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

Here are the regular PiRate Ratings for the opening week of the season.  In some cases, these ratings differ slightly from the ratings given during the conference previews of the last 10 days, the reason being that players have quit, been injured, or transferred since the data was first compiled.

PiRate Ratings
# Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
1 Tennessee 127.7 121.8 128.4 126.0
2 LSU 127.6 121.1 126.8 125.2
3 Oklahoma 125.6 122.1 125.6 124.4
4 Alabama 126.5 119.0 125.0 123.5
5 Clemson 126.8 116.4 125.7 123.0
6 Florida St. 122.9 115.4 121.9 120.1
7 Michigan 120.0 118.0 120.4 119.5
8 Mississippi St. 120.1 115.9 119.7 118.6
9 Stanford 121.3 112.8 120.4 118.2
10 Oklahoma St. 117.5 118.8 117.5 117.9
11 USC 119.7 114.3 118.0 117.3
12 Washington 119.4 110.4 119.1 116.3
13 Louisville 118.6 111.8 118.0 116.1
14 Texas 114.4 118.0 114.4 115.6
15 Pittsburgh 117.1 111.7 116.4 115.1
16 North Carolina 117.4 109.2 117.1 114.6
17 Auburn 114.5 113.8 113.9 114.1
18 TCU 113.3 115.6 113.2 114.0
19 Notre Dame 116.2 111.0 114.8 114.0
20 Florida 113.5 116.8 111.1 113.8
21 Arkansas 116.4 110.3 114.2 113.7
22 Miami 116.6 108.0 115.9 113.5
23 Ohio St. 113.3 113.5 113.5 113.4
24 Iowa 114.6 110.9 114.2 113.2
25 Georgia 112.5 114.0 112.1 112.9
26 Michigan St. 113.1 112.4 111.1 112.2
27 Oregon 112.8 111.8 111.7 112.1
28 Texas A&M 112.1 111.4 112.0 111.8
29 Virginia Tech 111.0 110.8 111.5 111.1
30 Ole Miss 113.6 107.4 112.1 111.0
31 Washington St. 112.3 107.6 112.0 110.7
32 UCLA 110.9 110.2 110.3 110.5
33 Houston 110.1 108.3 111.9 110.1
34 Baylor 109.4 109.7 110.6 109.9
35 Penn St. 109.5 111.3 108.0 109.6
36 Nebraska 110.4 105.9 110.5 108.9
37 Arizona St. 108.7 109.2 107.7 108.6
38 Utah 111.4 105.3 108.9 108.5
39 Wisconsin 109.1 105.9 109.5 108.2
40 BYU 110.6 102.9 110.3 107.9
41 South Florida 108.3 105.7 109.5 107.8
42 Northwestern 109.7 103.5 108.1 107.1
43 North Carolina St. 108.0 104.7 107.6 106.8
44 Georgia Tech 108.1 104.2 107.4 106.6
45 West Virginia 106.6 106.1 106.0 106.2
46 Arizona 107.2 105.2 106.1 106.2
47 Boise St. 104.4 105.7 106.3 105.5
48 Colorado 107.0 102.1 107.0 105.4
49 San Diego St. 104.9 102.2 108.2 105.1
50 Boston College 105.1 103.6 104.9 104.5
51 Kansas St. 103.1 107.5 102.5 104.4
52 Vanderbilt 106.9 100.7 105.1 104.3
53 Minnesota 104.8 102.8 104.7 104.1
54 Texas Tech 104.9 102.3 102.7 103.3
55 Virginia 104.4 101.2 103.8 103.1
56 Syracuse 105.2 101.0 103.1 103.1
57 Indiana 101.5 106.0 100.9 102.8
58 Missouri 103.0 101.8 102.5 102.5
59 Western Michigan 102.0 100.9 103.9 102.3
60 Cincinnati 101.5 102.7 102.5 102.3
61 Temple 102.2 101.2 103.1 102.2
62 Maryland 100.9 104.2 98.1 101.1
63 Wake Forest 102.3 99.2 101.5 101.0
64 Tulsa 99.7 102.2 100.4 100.8
65 Kentucky 100.4 102.3 99.2 100.6
66 Toledo 101.0 98.9 101.8 100.6
67 Memphis 102.7 97.8 100.8 100.5
68 Central Michigan 98.9 101.9 99.9 100.2
69 Air Force 99.9 100.2 100.1 100.1
70 California 104.7 93.3 101.0 99.7
71 Duke 99.4 100.7 98.0 99.4
72 Iowa St. 99.8 99.2 98.7 99.2
73 Illinois 100.6 97.2 99.8 99.2
74 Navy 99.2 99.0 98.6 99.0
75 South Carolina 99.0 99.3 98.1 98.8
76 Northern Illinois 97.3 98.9 98.4 98.2
77 Purdue 99.4 96.6 98.3 98.1
78 Connecticut 98.3 96.1 98.6 97.7
79 Western Kentucky 99.3 93.3 100.0 97.5
80 Rutgers 99.0 96.2 97.3 97.5
81 Bowling Green 96.7 94.7 97.3 96.2
82 Appalachian St. 95.5 95.7 97.1 96.1
83 New Mexico 94.3 97.6 95.6 95.9
84 Oregon St. 97.8 93.0 95.0 95.3
85 Marshall 92.5 96.9 94.3 94.6
86 Utah St. 93.2 97.1 93.0 94.4
87 Nevada 92.3 95.6 93.6 93.9
88 Arkansas St. 91.9 94.2 94.4 93.5
89 Georgia Southern 93.0 91.7 95.5 93.4
90 SMU 93.7 92.1 93.2 93.0
91 Southern Mississippi 92.7 92.1 93.8 92.9
92 East Carolina 91.6 94.6 91.7 92.6
93 Middle Tennessee 91.2 93.8 92.3 92.4
94 Ohio 88.7 98.2 90.1 92.4
95 San Jose St. 91.0 91.0 91.9 91.3
96 UNLV 89.0 93.6 89.1 90.6
97 Kansas 88.3 96.1 85.9 90.1
98 Colorado St. 88.2 90.6 89.0 89.3
99 Army 84.2 93.2 86.6 88.0
100 Rice 84.7 94.1 85.1 88.0
101 Akron 84.8 92.6 86.5 88.0
102 Old Dominion 85.8 89.2 86.4 87.1
103 Central Florida 85.9 88.6 85.9 86.8
104 Florida Atlantic 84.9 88.6 86.8 86.8
105 Louisiana Tech 85.4 88.6 86.0 86.7
106 Troy 83.6 90.2 85.2 86.4
107 Florida International 82.4 89.6 84.3 85.4
108 Buffalo 80.8 90.1 82.2 84.4
109 Ball St. 83.6 85.6 83.8 84.3
110 Georgia St. 81.7 87.1 83.9 84.2
111 Fresno St. 82.1 87.1 81.9 83.7
112 Tulane 82.2 86.1 82.0 83.4
113 Miami (O) 82.2 84.0 82.9 83.0
114 Kent St. 82.3 84.5 82.2 83.0
115 Wyoming 82.5 82.5 82.6 82.6
116 UTSA 78.4 87.1 80.9 82.2
117 Idaho 78.1 85.2 79.7 81.0
118 UL-Lafayette 76.3 86.8 78.7 80.6
119 Eastern Michigan 78.1 83.6 79.5 80.4
120 South Alabama 75.3 85.2 76.2 78.9
121 Massachusetts 75.0 84.5 76.2 78.6
122 UTEP 74.5 79.5 75.8 76.6
123 Hawaii 77.0 76.5 75.7 76.4
124 Charlotte 73.0 81.1 74.6 76.2
125 New Mexico St. 73.7 76.5 74.9 75.0
126 North Texas 74.0 76.6 73.7 74.8
127 UL-Monroe 67.9 73.3 68.3 69.8
128 Texas St. 68.8 69.5 69.5 69.3

 

PiRate Ratings By Conference

American Athletic Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
South Florida 108.3 105.7 109.5 107.8
Cincinnati 101.5 102.7 102.5 102.3
Temple 102.2 101.2 103.1 102.2
Connecticut 98.3 96.1 98.6 97.7
East Carolina 91.6 94.6 91.7 92.6
Central Florida 85.9 88.6 85.9 86.8
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Houston 110.1 108.3 111.9 110.1
Tulsa 99.7 102.2 100.4 100.8
Memphis 102.7 97.8 100.8 100.5
Navy 99.2 99.0 98.6 99.0
SMU 93.7 92.1 93.2 93.0
Tulane 82.2 86.1 82.0 83.4
         
AAC Averages 98.0 97.9 98.2 98.0
         
Atlantic Coast Conference
Atlantic Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Clemson 126.8 116.4 125.7 123.0
Florida St. 122.9 115.4 121.9 120.1
Louisville 118.6 111.8 118.0 116.1
North Carolina St. 108.0 104.7 107.6 106.8
Boston College 105.1 103.6 104.9 104.5
Syracuse 105.2 101.0 103.1 103.1
Wake Forest 102.3 99.2 101.5 101.0
         
Coastal Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Pittsburgh 117.1 111.7 116.4 115.1
North Carolina 117.4 109.2 117.1 114.6
Miami 116.6 108.0 115.9 113.5
Virginia Tech 111.0 110.8 111.5 111.1
Georgia Tech 108.1 104.2 107.4 106.6
Virginia 104.4 101.2 103.8 103.1
Duke 99.4 100.7 98.0 99.4
         
ACC Averages 111.6 107.0 110.9 109.9
         
Big 12 Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Oklahoma 125.6 122.1 125.6 124.4
Oklahoma St. 117.5 118.8 117.5 117.9
Texas 114.4 118.0 114.4 115.6
TCU 113.3 115.6 113.2 114.0
Baylor 109.4 109.7 110.6 109.9
West Virginia 106.6 106.1 106.0 106.2
Kansas St. 103.1 107.5 102.5 104.4
Texas Tech 104.9 102.3 102.7 103.3
Iowa St. 99.8 99.2 98.7 99.2
Kansas 88.3 96.1 85.9 90.1
         
Big 12 Averages 108.3 109.6 107.7 108.5
         
Big Ten Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Michigan 120.0 118.0 120.4 119.5
Ohio St. 113.3 113.5 113.5 113.4
Michigan St. 113.1 112.4 111.1 112.2
Penn St. 109.5 111.3 108.0 109.6
Indiana 101.5 106.0 100.9 102.8
Maryland 100.9 104.2 98.1 101.1
Rutgers 99.0 96.2 97.3 97.5
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Iowa 114.6 110.9 114.2 113.2
Nebraska 110.4 105.9 110.5 108.9
Wisconsin 109.1 105.9 109.5 108.2
Northwestern 109.7 103.5 108.1 107.1
Minnesota 104.8 102.8 104.7 104.1
Illinois 100.6 97.2 99.8 99.2
Purdue 99.4 96.6 98.3 98.1
         
Big Ten Averages 107.6 106.0 106.7 106.8
         
Conference USA
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Kentucky 99.3 93.3 100.0 97.5
Marshall 92.5 96.9 94.3 94.6
Middle Tennessee 91.2 93.8 92.3 92.4
Old Dominion 85.8 89.2 86.4 87.1
Florida Atlantic 84.9 88.6 86.8 86.8
Florida International 82.4 89.6 84.3 85.4
Charlotte 73.0 81.1 74.6 76.2
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Southern Mississippi 92.7 92.1 93.8 92.9
Rice 84.7 94.1 85.1 88.0
Louisiana Tech 85.4 88.6 86.0 86.7
UTSA 78.4 87.1 80.9 82.2
UTEP 74.5 79.5 75.8 76.6
North Texas 74.0 76.6 73.7 74.8
         
CUSA Averages 84.5 88.5 85.7 86.2
         
FBS Independents
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Notre Dame 116.2 111.0 114.8 114.0
BYU 110.6 102.9 110.3 107.9
Army 84.2 93.2 86.6 88.0
Massachusetts 75.0 84.5 76.2 78.6
         
Independents Averages 96.5 97.9 97.0 97.1
 
Mid-American Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Bowling Green 96.7 94.7 97.3 96.2
Ohio 88.7 98.2 90.1 92.4
Akron 84.8 92.6 86.5 88.0
Buffalo 80.8 90.1 82.2 84.4
Miami (O) 82.2 84.0 82.9 83.0
Kent St. 82.3 84.5 82.2 83.0
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Michigan 102.0 100.9 103.9 102.3
Toledo 101.0 98.9 101.8 100.6
Central Michigan 98.9 101.9 99.9 100.2
Northern Illinois 97.3 98.9 98.4 98.2
Ball St. 83.6 85.6 83.8 84.3
Eastern Michigan 78.1 83.6 79.5 80.4
         
MAC Averages 89.7 92.8 90.7 91.1
         
Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Boise St. 104.4 105.7 106.3 105.5
Air Force 99.9 100.2 100.1 100.1
New Mexico 94.3 97.6 95.6 95.9
Utah St. 93.2 97.1 93.0 94.4
Colorado St. 88.2 90.6 89.0 89.3
Wyoming 82.5 82.5 82.6 82.6
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
San Diego St. 104.9 102.2 108.2 105.1
Nevada 92.3 95.6 93.6 93.9
San Jose St. 91.0 91.0 91.9 91.3
UNLV 89.0 93.6 89.1 90.6
Fresno St. 82.1 87.1 81.9 83.7
Hawaii 77.0 76.5 75.7 76.4
         
MWC Averages 91.6 93.4 92.3 92.4
         
Pac-12 Conference
North Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Stanford 121.3 112.8 120.4 118.2
Washington 119.4 110.4 119.1 116.3
Oregon 112.8 111.8 111.7 112.1
Washington St. 112.3 107.6 112.0 110.7
California 104.7 93.3 101.0 99.7
Oregon St. 97.8 93.0 95.0 95.3
         
South Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
USC 119.7 114.3 118.0 117.3
UCLA 110.9 110.2 110.3 110.5
Arizona St. 108.7 109.2 107.7 108.6
Utah 111.4 105.3 108.9 108.5
Arizona 107.2 105.2 106.1 106.2
Colorado 107.0 102.1 107.0 105.4
         
Pac-12 Averages 111.1 106.3 109.8 109.1
         
Southeastern Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Tennessee 127.7 121.8 128.4 126.0
Florida 113.5 116.8 111.1 113.8
Georgia 112.5 114.0 112.1 112.9
Vanderbilt 106.9 100.7 105.1 104.3
Missouri 103.0 101.8 102.5 102.5
Kentucky 100.4 102.3 99.2 100.6
South Carolina 99.0 99.3 98.1 98.8
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
LSU 127.6 121.1 126.8 125.2
Alabama 126.5 119.0 125.0 123.5
Mississippi St. 120.1 115.9 119.7 118.6
Auburn 114.5 113.8 113.9 114.1
Arkansas 116.4 110.3 114.2 113.7
Texas A&M 112.1 111.4 112.0 111.8
Ole Miss 113.6 107.4 112.1 111.0
         
SEC Averages 113.9 111.1 112.9 112.6
         
Sunbelt Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Appalachian St. 95.5 95.7 97.1 96.1
Arkansas St. 91.9 94.2 94.4 93.5
Georgia Southern 93.0 91.7 95.5 93.4
Troy 83.6 90.2 85.2 86.4
Georgia St. 81.7 87.1 83.9 84.2
Idaho 78.1 85.2 79.7 81.0
UL-Lafayette 76.3 86.8 78.7 80.6
South Alabama 75.3 85.2 76.2 78.9
New Mexico St. 73.7 76.5 74.9 75.0
UL-Monroe 67.9 73.3 68.3 69.8
Texas St. 68.8 69.5 69.5 69.3
         
Sun Belt Averages 80.5 85.1 82.1 82.6

 

 

PiRate Ratings By Conference
# League PiRate Mean Bias Average
1 Southeastern 113.9 111.1 112.9 112.6
2 Atlantic Coast 111.6 107.0 110.9 109.9
3 Pac-12 111.1 106.3 109.8 109.1
4 Big 12 108.3 109.6 107.7 108.5
5 Big Ten 107.6 106.1 106.7 106.8
6 American 98.0 97.9 98.2 98.0
7 Independents 96.5 97.9 97.0 97.1
8 Mountain West 91.6 93.4 92.3 92.4
9 Mid-American 89.7 92.9 90.7 91.1
10 Conference USA 84.5 88.5 85.7 86.3
11 Sunbelt 80.5 85.1 82.1 82.6

 

PiRate Ratings Spreads For August 26, 2016

Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Hawaii California -27.6 -16.8 -25.2

Bowl Projections

We erred when issuing bowl projections in our conference previews, completely forgetting that the current Rose Bowl tie-in calls for the Pac-12 and Big Ten to supply the highest rated teams not in the playoffs, rather than using the old BCS formula rules.

 

Therefore, we have moved Ohio State into the Rose Bowl in lieu of Alabama, which in turn caused us to rearrange several other bowls once Alabama was moved to an SEC only bowl.

 

We are sorry for the error.  Here are the updated Bowl Projections.

Bowl Conferences Team vs. Team
New Mexico MWC CUSA New Mexico vs. Rice
Las Vegas Pac-12 MWC Arizona St. vs. Boise St.
Cure AAC SBC [Army] vs. Troy
Camellia MAC SBC North. Illinois vs. Ga. Southern
New Orleans CUSA SBC W. Kentucky vs. Arkansas St.
Miami Beach AAC MAC Tulsa vs. West. Michigan
Boca Raton AAC CUSA [Cent. Michigan] vs. Southern Miss.
Poinsettia MWC BYU San Diego St. vs. BYU
Idaho Potato MAC MWC Bowling Green vs. UNLV
Bahamas AAC/CUSA MAC/CUSA Memphis vs. Toledo
Armed Forces Navy Big 12 Navy vs. [Arizona]
Dollar General MAC SBC Ohio U vs. Appalachian St.
Hawaii CUSA MWC Marshall vs. Air Force
St. Petersburg AAC ACC/ND Houston vs. [Colorado]
Quick Lane ACC/ND Big Ten Boston College vs. Wisconsin
Independence SEC ACC/ND [UL-Lafayette] vs. Georgia Tech
Heart of Dallas Big Ten CUSA Indiana vs. Middle Tenn.
Military ACC/ND AAC N. Carolina St. vs. Temple
Holiday Big Ten Pac-12 Penn St. vs. Oregon
Cactus Big 12 Pac-12 [Maryland] vs. Utah
Pinstripe ACC/ND Big Ten Virginia Tech vs. Northwestern
Russell Athletic ACC/ND Big 12 Louisville vs. TCU
Foster Farms Big Ten Pac-12 Minnesota vs. Washington St.
Texas Big 12 SEC Baylor vs. Mississippi St.
Birmingham AAC SEC Cincinnati vs. Texas A&M
Belk ACC/ND SEC Miami (Fla) vs. Florida
Alamo Big 12 Pac-12 Oklahoma St. vs. USC
Liberty Big 12 SEC West Virginia vs. Ole Miss
Sun ACC/ND Pac-12 Pittsburgh vs. UCLA
Arizona CUSA/SBC MWC/SBC Louisiana Tech vs. Utah St.
Music City ACC/ND/B10 SEC Nebraska vs. Auburn
Orange ACC/ND B10/SEC Florida St. vs. Notre Dame
Citrus ACC/ND/B10 SEC Iowa vs. Alabama
TaxSlayer ACC/ND/B10 SEC North Carolina vs. Arkansas
Peach Semifinal Semifinal Tennessee vs. Stanford
Fiesta Semifinal Semifinal Michigan vs. Oklahoma
Outback Big Ten SEC Michigan St. vs. Georgia
Cotton At-Large At-Large Clemson vs. South Florida
Rose Big Ten Pac-12 Washington vs. Ohio St.
Sugar Big 12 SEC Texas vs. LSU
Nat’l Championship Semifinal Winners Tennessee vs. Michigan

Teams in [Brackets] are at-large selections because the contracted conference will not have a bowl eligible team able to fill the slot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Southeastern Conference Football Preview

Our final conference preview has become an annual conclusion to this 10-day preseason opening to the PiRate Ratings’ football coverage. In every instance since moving from radio to print, the Southeastern Conference has been our preseason number one league, and in most years, the top-rated team has been the overall number one team in the nation. This year, our PiRate Ratings show the top two teams in the league to be number one and number two nationally to begin the season, and the third best team is number four nationally.

In recent seasons, the West Division has been several points better than the East Division. While overall, the West is still better than the East, the difference is not as obvious as in past seasons. In fact, the number one team to begin the 2016 season is the Tennessee Volunteers from the East Division. Coach Butch Jones has been quietly building the Big Orange back to a point where they were in the late 1990’s, the late 1960’s, and during the reign of the great General Robert Neyland.

In 2015, Tennessee lost four times in games they could have won with a little better offensive line and a little more depth in the defense. The Vols have that this year. The team that won its last six games by an average of 22+ points per game is about a touchdown better this season. A four-game stretch between September 24 and October 15 will determine if this team can run the table and play for the SEC Championship. The Vols begin this tricky trek by hosting Florida, a team that Tennessee finds a way to lose to every year. Then, back to back road trips to Georgia and Texas A&M should be the two easier games of the four. FInally, the annual rivalry game against Alabama comes at home this year, and Tennessee would be a 3-6 point favorite if that game were to be played this weekend. After a week off, the road to the finish presents no major impediments with five games that could be won by an average in excess of 30 points per game.

Tennessee has powerful talent in every unit. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs will be one of the top 10 players at his position in the next NFL Draft. Dobbs completed 60% of his passes with a 15/5 TD-Interception ratio, but he averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt. That number needs to go north of 7.0 this year. Dobbs will have some famiiar receviers returning this year, led by the Josh’s (Malone and Smith), who teamed for 13.2 yards per reception on 54 catches last year. There is depth behind this duo, plus the Vols have talent at tight end in Ethan Wolf.

The running game will be solid with the return of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. Hurd gained close to 1,300 yards and Kamara added almost 700 last year, and if the two stay healthy, Tennessee could top 225 yards rushing and passing this year.

Making the offense more efficient this year is a no-name blocking corps. There is experience and depth here, but it is the one potential fly in the offense’s ointment.

The Orange have star talent in the defensive trenches, at linebacker, and in the secondary. Up front, end Derek Barnett was one of five SEC defenders to record double-digit sacks last year. He will team with Corey Vereen on the other side of the line, and the two should team for at least 15 sacks and another 15 hurries.

Jaleen Reeves-Maybin led UT with 105 tackles last year, including six sacks and 14 total tackles for loss. The weakside linebacker will team with Darrin Kirkland to form a dynamic duo in the second line of defense.

The secondary is deep and talented, with four returnees from last year that teamed to 34 defended passes. Opponents barely completed 50% of their passes last year, on par with Alabama’s defense.

When Tennessee was a dynasty in the 1930’s through the 1950’s special teams were very special indeed. General Neyland’s teams were noted for blocking punts, punting the ball a long distance with excellent coverage, and a high kick and punt return average. The Vols may have the number one special teams unit in the land this year with a top-rated punter, kicker, kick returner, and punt returner.

The race for second place in the East should come from the other two annually successful teams in the division. Georgia returns a lot of talent, especially on the attack side, but they begin anew with Coach Kirby Smart. Smart has never been a head coach, but former Alabama assistant coaches have a rather good history of success. The Bulldogs have some issues, namely a quarterback issue where a true freshman, an inexperienced junior, and a senior, who has started at two Power 5 schools are competing for the starting job. Top high school recruit Jacob Eason may be a major star in a couple years, but he may not be the best fit to lead this team as a true freshman. Junior Brice Ramsey has a rocket thruster on his throwing arm, and he can throw the ball down the field quickly, but not always where it should go. Senior Greyson Lambert is more of a game manager with experience, and he is likely to get the nod to start the first game.

The Bulldogs have two running backs capable of topping 1,000 yards rushing when healthy, but the problem has been that neither has been healthy. Nick Chubb may be ready to start the season, but he might not be 100%, while Sony Michele may not be ready. Coach Smart is preparing for the opener as if neither will be able to play, and that makes Georgia 7-10 points weaker than if the two stars were totally healthy.

Smart is a defensive genius, and he will mold the Bulldogs into a strong and cohesive unit this year. However, they may not gel until the second half of the schedule, and with North Carolina, Ole Miss, and Tennessee coming in the first half, UGa may be out of the race early.

Florida won the East Division in Coach Jim McElwain’s first season. McElwain, the former offensive coordinator at Alabama and head coach at Colorado State, has less experience returning to Gainesville this year than his friend and former co-worker has in Athens, but the Gators have a year of experience in his system, which equalizes the two rivals. The winner of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is likely to decide second place with a better than small chance of besting Tennessee for the top spot. The Gators will go as far as new quarterback Luke Del Rio (Jack’s son). The Gators should have a decent passing game with three capable receivers, led by Antonio Calloway, who averaged nearly 20 yards per pass reception last year.

The Gators may be a little weaker in the defensive line this year, but the back seven is strong. How well they can stop the stronger running games will determine if they can contend for the division crown.

After the top three, the other four are fairly evenly matched, and they could finish in any combination. Of the four teams, Vanderbilt has the highest initial PiRate Rating, but the Commodores have an unfavorable schedule this year with road games against Kentucky and Missouri probably leading to losses, and leaving the Commodores with just one winnable SEC game. Third year coach Derek Mason should field another competent defense, but once again a weak offense will prevent the Commodores from winning consistently.

Missouri has had so many issues on and off the field in the last 16 months, and now the Tigers start over with a new coach in Barry Odom. Odom is a defensive wizard, having improved defenses at every stop, and he has brought in former Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel to run the offense. Because the Tigers’ roster has changed a lot since the end of Spring Practice, it is hard to get a real gauge on their true identity this year. What figured to be one of the strongest defensive lines in the league took a major blow when two expected starters were dismissed. The offensive line took a hit with the unexpected loss of their only experienced lineman, but then Missouri picked up a “free agent” from Memphis in Michael Stannard, who should start immediately at guard.

Kentucky begins the season with the sixth best rating in the East, but the Wildcats have the best chance of the four second division teams of breaking through with a bowl eligible season for fourth year head man Mark Stoops. If they cannot get to six wins, there may not be a year five for Stoops. The concern is finding a capable passer to throw to a stable full of quality receivers so that defenses will play running back Boom Williams more honestly. Drew Barker has to prove he can be an SEC quarterback, as the Wildcats have not had consistency here since Andre Woodson played a decade ago. Kentucky will have to outscore opponents to win, because their defense is somewhat suspect to start the season.

South Carolina begins the year as the obvious choice for number seven in the division and number 14 overall. The Gamecocks went 3-9 last year with just one conference win, and they face a bigger rebuild than any team in the league. First year head coach Will Muschamp did not fare well in his final two years at Florida, going 7-12 in his last 19 games after beginning his career 22-9. The Gamecock offense could struggle to score 20 points per game and gain 350 yards, and their defense might regress from last year’s 28 points and 430 yards allowed. If USC drops the opener at Vanderbilt, they may struggle to win a conference game. There are some gimme non-conference games on the schedule, which should allow Carolina to win three times without a conference opponent going down.

Now to the West. Usually, this is the spot where we tell you how easy the path will be for Alabama to win the division, the league, and the national title. This year, we thought we would offer you something different, as we have another team to place that burden upon. It surprised us too when we placed all our data into our algorithmic equations, and the computer spit out somebody other than the Crimson Tide as the top team in the division. That honor goes to LSU this year.

The Tigers could have begun this season with a new coach, as Les Miles was on a very warm seat last December. The Tigers’ big guys decided to stick with him for another season, as they knew the Bayou Bengals had a stockpile of quality talent returning. When you have Leonard Fournette at running back, the tendency is to hand him the ball 35 times a game and take your chances, and then when you throw the ball, look for Fournette in the flats or short zones. This gave the Tigers 23 touchdowns last year, but somebody else must help take off some of this load. It’s one thing to have a back carry the ball 300 times in the Pac-12, but against the brutal defenses in the SEC week after week, that method doesn’t do so well.

That’s where having two highly skilled wide receivers come in, and Miles must remember that Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural are eligible to receive passes. This tandem averaged more than 17 yards per catch last year, but they need to see more passes thrown their way, as they combined for just 71 receptions.

Therein, lies the rub. Somebody has to throw the ball relatively close to these guys’ hands, and in recent years, finding a quarterback to do just that has been somewhat difficult. Junior Brandon Harris has the potential to be that guy. Harris played injured in the second half of 2015, and his production fell off the table. He is healthy once again, and his passes look sharp so far in August. Backing him up will be former Purdue starter Danny Etling, who could challenge for playing time if Harris takes a step back.

Defensively, LSU could look more like their great 2011 team. The Tigers are loaded in the line, at linebacker, and in the secondary. New Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda made Wisconsin the best defensive team in the Big Ten, and he has more than enough players with J.J. Watt’s collegiate talent level to guide the Purple and Gold to the top of the stop charts in the top league in the land. Up front, Gavin Godchaux forces more than one offensive lineman to keep him from penetrating into the backfield, and this frees up the linebackers. End Lewis Neal is a multi-tool defender, able to put QBs on the turf and able to cover the short passing zones. He is a potential All-American this year.

Aranda’s starting Wisconsin linebackers recorded 229 tackles last year, and he didn’t have a player the equal of Kendell Beckwith or Arden Key. Look for these two stars to record crazy defensive numbers this year, and Key might become one of the best blitzing ‘backers in the nation.

We’ve saved the best for last. There is not another secondary outside of the NFL that can match the quartet in Baton Rouge. It begins with Jamal Adams, who led the Tigers with four interceptions last year from his safety spot. Cornerbacks Kevin Tolliver and Tre’Davious White cover receivers like gloves. Free safety Rickey Jefferson covers a lot of real estate between the sidelines, and this group should give the Tigers the extra impetus to get over the hump this year and edge out the big crimson-colored rival.

Don’t count Alabama out, just because they lost enough talent to start an expansion franchise in the NFL. The Tide does not rebuild; they reload, and Coach Nick Saban has enough talent to win the national title again if the younger players play mistake-free.

Alabama still plays somewhat old fashioned, blood and guts football, so the running game is very important to the overall offense. Without Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and top backup Kenyan Drake, there is no way this year’s team can come close to matching last year’s production, even with a strong offensive line opening holes. Those 50-yard touchdown bursts last year will become 7-12 yard excellent gains this year, and that will keep the offense from matching the 35 points per game of last year.

Add to the minor troubles the fact that a new quarterback must replace the highly underrated Jake Coker, who completed 67% of his passes last year and averaged almost eight yards per attempt. Cooper Bateman started just one game last year, and it was the only one ‘Bama lost. He may not be the eventual starter, as true freshman Jalen Hurts has impressed offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin enough to be considered a co-number one at this point in the preseason.

It is imperative that a QB emerges that can throw the ball, because the Tide has the best wide receiver group in the league, and they are going to need to throw the ball more this year in order to open up holes for the running game. Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart, and Robert Foster should all play for pay one day, and they make the receiving corps one of the best in the nation. What may keep them from teaming for 200 receptions is lackluster quarterback play.

One need never worry much about the Alabama defense. It has been a long time since the Crimson Tide surrendered 20 points per game or 350 yards per game. As long as they don’t have to face DeShaun Watson, look for the Tide to give up about 15-17 points and 275-300 yards per game even with four of the top five tacklers missing from last year.

One of those returnees led the TIde with a dozen QB sacks last year, and end Jonathan Allen could be a first team All-American this year. Middle linebacker Reuben Foster returns after making eight stops behind the line of scrimmage and breaking up nine passes a year ago. On the back line, it starts with All-American Eddie Jackson at the strong safety position. Jackson tied for the league lead with six interceptions last year.

Alabama’s schedule presents the young Tide player with a challenge that will be a little too much to completely conquer. A neutral game with USC to start the season could give the Tide some confidence, as we believe they can win this one. However, road games against Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU will not be easy, and we feel like this team may split these four games. Still, 10-2 isn’t that bad when you consider that most other schools replacing this much talent would be lucky to win three or four games.

After the top two, there really isn’t a lot of distance between the numbers three through seven teams in the West Division. The parity is incredible, and all five of these teams should end up with six to eight wins each. We feel at this point that no team will exceed 4-4 in conference play, and maybe four of the five will come in at exactly 4-4.

The initial PiRate Ratings shocked us by placing LSU so high, but they shocked us even more when the computer spit out Mississippi State as the third highest preseason rating. Personally, all of us here figured the Bulldogs would be picked last in the division, which is what the media gurus said when they voted at SEC Media Days. We cannot obviously tell you why the algorithm gave the Maroon Bullies the nod as the third best East Division team to start 2016, because Coach Dan Mullen has to replace his star quarterback, top two receivers, three excpetional offensive linemen, and six quality defensive starters. Mullen is possibly one of the two or three most underrated coaches in college football, and when faced with a similar rebuilding project three years ago, the Bulldogs managed to win seven games. Their schedule takes Mississippi State to LSU, Kentucky, Alabama, and Ole Miss, four games they could easily lose. Even if they win one of those four, there is no guarantee they will hold serve at home against Auburn, Texas A&M, and Arkansas, so the Bulldogs are just one of a quartet we believe will split their conference games.

We believed that Ole Miss would be the clear choice for third best in the league, but the computer says they are fourth best this year. As long as quarterback Chad Kelly stays healthy and doesn’t try to force the ball in tiny spaces, the Rebels’ offense should do just fine, even without an SEC-caliber running back or a highly-rated offensive line. When Kelly gets the time to throw, he will have some good receivers getting open. Quincy Adeboyejo and Damore’ea Stringfellow will see their numbers inflate by at least 50%, as the Rebels try to replace All-American Laquon Treadwell’s 82 receptions and 1,153 yards. The Rebels averaged 41 points per game last year, but that number will drop by as many as 7-10 points in 2016.

The Ole Miss defense has a lot of holes to fill, but Coach Hugh Freeze has recruited well, and the Rebels have some talented, albeit inexperienced players to fill these gaps. End Marquis Haynes might be the top defensive player in a lower-rated conference, but in the SEC, he’s just above average. Haynes registered 10 sacks and 16.5 total tackles for loss last year, while adding eight QB hurries. Fadol Brown gives Ole Miss a fine bookend to compliment Haynes. The other defensive star is cornerback Kendarius Webster, but the Rebels lost a lot of talent from the secondary. It adds up to another 4-4 team from the West.

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn began his tenure on the plains with a 12-win season and came within a whisker of winning the national championship. Since then, his Tiger teams have endured through 8-5 and 7-6 seasons, and if the fortunes don’t begin to turn this year, Malzahn could be interviewing for a new situation. The prospects for this year’s team being much improved are slim, because like all five of the little brothers in the West Division, Auburn has too many holes to plug, and at best the Plainsmen will only top last year’s seven-win record by a game. Whether 8-5 is good enough to keep Malzahn’s job is a question to be answered in the early Winter. As of this writing on August 23, Malzahn has yet to decide on a starting quarterback from among three, and the eventual starter will need a lot of first team reps to be ready for the opening game against Clemson. Add the issue of having to replace the running back that was expected to start with three inexperienced and pedestrian candidates, plus the loss of the top two receivers, and Auburn could struggle to score enough points against the teams that score in rapid succession.

Arkansas should have an improved defense in year four of the Bret Bielema era in Fayetteville. However, the offense lost its quarterback, star running back, and one of its two star receivers. Bielema usually produces an incredible offensive line, so we feel like the Razorbacks have the best potential of the bottom five of pulling some surprises and sneaking into the three-hole. However, if the new quarterback cannot get the job done, the Razorbacks also have the most risk of falling into the pit in this division.

Texas A&M has been through some tough times in the last several months. Not one, but the top two quarterbacks left College Station after the final regular season game last year. Two assistants were suspended without pay for making sexually explicit comments to a group of women fans.

Then, the top-rated quarterback in the high school ranks, Tate Martell, who outdueled UCLA QB Josh Rosen two years ago when their high school teams met, decommitted from Aggieland to sign with Ohio State. This led receiver’s coach Aaron Moorhead to issue an ill-advised Tweet, which then forced Head Coach Kevin Sumlin to discipline yet another assistant.

All this dissension cannot be good for Sumlin, who begins the season on a hot seat, and if the Aggies lose the opener at home to UCLA, it could snowball into something much worse. Games at Auburn, against Arkansas in Jerryworld, at home with Tennessee, at Alabama, at Mississippi State, and at home with LSU would then put the Aggies in jeopardy of getting to six wins should the Bruins come to Kyle Field and get the “W” on September 3.

Here is how the SEC Media picked the order of finish at Media Days in Birmingham last month.

SEC East Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Tennessee 225 2,167 29
2 Florida 57 1,891 5
3 Georgia 45 1,860 7
4 Kentucky 0 933 0
5 Vanderbilt 2 810 1
6 Missouri 0 807 0
7 South Carolina 2 800 1
         
SEC West Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Alabama 246 2,220 223
2 LSU 76 1,984 59
3 Ole Miss 5 1,479 4
4 Texas A&M 3 1,130 1
5 Arkansas 1 1,047 1
6 Auburn 0 890 0
7 Mississippi St. 0 518 0

 

Here are our initial PiRate Ratings for the top league.

Southeastern Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Tennessee 127.7 121.8 128.4 126.0
Florida 113.5 116.8 111.1 113.8
Georgia 112.5 114.0 112.1 112.9
Vanderbilt 106.9 100.7 105.1 104.3
Missouri 103.0 101.8 102.5 102.5
Kentucky 100.4 102.3 99.2 100.6
South Carolina 99.0 99.3 98.1 98.8
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
LSU 127.6 121.1 126.8 125.2
Alabama 126.5 119.0 125.0 123.5
Mississippi St. 120.1 115.9 119.7 118.6
Auburn 114.5 113.8 113.9 114.1
Arkansas 116.4 110.3 114.2 113.7
Texas A&M 112.1 111.4 112.0 111.8
Ole Miss 113.6 107.4 112.1 111.0
         
SEC Averages 113.9 111.1 112.9 112.6

The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point. Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.
Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then. So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls.

Southeastern Conference Projected Standings
East Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Tennessee 8-0 13-0 * Playoffs–Peach
Georgia 5-3 8-4 Citrus
Florida 5-3 8-4 Outback
Kentucky 2-6 5-7  
Missouri 2-6 5-7  
Vanderbilt 1-7 4-8  
South Carolina 1-7 4-8  
       
West Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
LSU 8-0 12-1 NY6–Sugar
Alabama 6-2 10-2 NY6–Rose
Mississippi St. 4-4 8-4 Texas
Ole Miss 4-4 7-5 Liberty
Auburn 4-4 7-5 Music City
Arkansas 4-4 7-5 Taxslayer
Texas A&M 2-6 6-6 Belk

 
This wraps up the conference previews. Coming later today, we will be posting the updated PiRate Ratings and debut the Retrodictive PiRate Rankings, which is sort of comical, since no games have been played. Our first Retro Rankings of the season are actually predictive in nature, because we simply update last year’s final Retro Rankings in a similar manner to how we update our Predictive Ratings. Nevertheless, the Rankings will make their 2016 debut in this post.

Also, by this evening in the Eastern Time Zone, our webpage will be updated with the latest ratings and rankings as well. You can find this at piratings.webs.com. It is a no-frills just the stats ma’am site with stats and no commentary.

Our regular college schedule once the season begins in earnest is to have the updated ratings posted by Monday afternoon and the predicted spreads of the next week’s games online by Tuesday evening.

For those of you interested in our NFL data, we will have our NFL ratings and predicted spreads for the following week by Wednesday evening.

And, for those of you that promise, and we mean PROMISE, not to use our data to bet and lose your house, car, and family at the betting windows in Vegas, we will issue our JUST FOR FUN money line parlays this year. In theory only, if you actually did use just our parlay predictions last year, you might have come out ahead with a 40% return on investment, but this was most likely an anamoly. If we can convine you any more to this fact, we would not bet one dollar on these fun only parlay predictions. It’s simply all about the math for us analytics nerds. After all, we are a team of professional baseball scouts and sports metric analysts that just happened to play one or more of the big three sports. Our parlay predictions are more like how many play fantasy football just for fun not expecting to win anything.

Did you see the part above about NOT using our free predictions to lose your hard-earned, or even easy-earned money?

August 23, 2016

2016 Atlantic Coast Conference Football Preview

Just five seasons ago, the old Big East Conference could make an arguable case that their league was more powerful than the Atlantic Coast Conference. No ACC Team made the final top 20 in the AP Poll that year. Conference champion Clemson fell to Big East Champion West Virginia 70-33 in the Orange Bowl.

There was talk among some that the Big East should be the fifth power conference, as the ACC had not enjoyed a powerful team that competed for a national champion for the past 11 seasons.

It started with Clemson and Florida State becoming strong once again, but it did not end there. North Carolina and Georgia Tech challenged for top 10 finishes. Louisville and Pittsburgh joined the league bringing quality football. Duke, long the doormat, enjoyed a resurgence not seen in Durham for more than 50 years.

Now, the ACC begins the season as the PiRate Ratings’ number two conference. The difference between number two and number five is small, but it is a first for this league. With quality teams from top to near bottom, this league should produce several quality bowl-eligible teams this year, and if the ball bounces right for one team, which could be any of four or five in this league, it would not be surprising to see another Playoff representative, making it three for three.

In the past three seasons, Florida State won the national title, then the Seminoles lost to Oregon in the semifinals of the NCAA Playoffs, and last year, Clemson handily defeated Oklahoma before falling in a great final to Alabama. Tallying 40 points and more than 500 yards against Alabama is a rarity about as frequently seen as Sir Edmund Halley’s Comet.

2016 looks to be another big season for this league. Three teams in the Atlantic Division have the talent to run the table and earn a playoff spot, but because there are three, more than likely, they will beat each other with Clemson playing at Florida State, Florida State playing at Louisville, and Louisville playing at Clemson.

Boston College and North Carolina State have better talent this season than last, but it will be hard for either team to steal a victory over the big three. The Eagles must play the Wolfpack in Raleigh on Homecoming, so NCSU has a leg up for the four-spot.

Syracuse begins anew with famed offensive wizard Dino Babers coming to the Carrier Dome from Bowling Green. He inherits a squad not ready to speed up the game and average more than 80 scrimmage plays per game. The Orangemen averaged 20 fewer plays per game than that last year, and the talent is not there for Syracuse to spread the field and run and throw like Baylor.

Wake Forest may be a touchdown better team this year than they were last year, and third-year head coach, and predeccesor to Babers at Bowling Green, Dave Clawson should see his Demon Deacons compete for bowl eligibility. We think the Deacs will come up a game or two short, but opponents will not consider playing WF as a breather game. Florida State and Louisville almost fell last year, and we believe some higher-rated team will go down in 2016. There are six or seven winnable games, so Clawson’s crew could get a 13th game in December.

The Coastal Division could be a four or five-team race this year. Pittsburgh begins the season as the highest ranked team in the division, but the Panthers’ schedule is unfavorable, and depth issues could become a concern quite early. Pitt hosts Penn State in week two and then plays at Oklahoma State and North Carolina on the road the following two weeks. Then, beggining October 27, the Panthers host Virginia Tech and play back-to-back road games against Miami and Clemson. We believe that the highest rated Coastal team could actually end up in fourth place in the standings.

The three teams that could finish ahead of Pitt are North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Miami. Of the trio, Miami has the most favorable schedule for tiebreaking purposes. We expect the Tar Heels, Hokies, and Hurricanes to possibly finish in a three-way tie for first, as none of the top four teams are solid enough to run the table.

Georgia Tech and Duke are headed in opposite directions this year from last year, but not by a lot. The Yellow Jackets are a dark horse team this year after finishing 3-9 last year while losing pretty. Close losses to Notre Dame, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Georgia made the Yellow Jackets a 9-3 team with just a tad more talent and fewer turnovers. With an experienced quarterback returning to run the spread option offense, and with power and speed in the skill positions, look for the Techsters to engineer a much better offense this season, adding 5-7 points per game to their average. A potentially porous defense may be the only thing keeping Coach Paul Johnson’s team from competing for the division flag, something Tech won just two seasons ago.

Coach David Cutcliffe deserves a lot of credit for guiding Duke to four consecutive bowl games and three consecutive winning seasons. The last time the Blue Devils finished with three consecutive winning seasons was 1961-62-63. This year, the Blue Devils have a lot of talent to replace on both sides of the ball, but there is still enough talent to contend for a fifth consecutive bowl eligible season. At this point, we think they will come up a bit short.

Virginia begins a new philosophy with first year head coach Bronco Mendenhall. The former BYU head coach brings a history of winning with whatever talent he has available. Mendenhall has won with a predominant passing game and with a three yards and cloud of dust running team. Mendenhall is a defensive coach by trade, so he brought along former East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeal to run the Cavaliers’ offense. Look for UVa to be more exciting this year, but the record may be about the same.

Here is how the ACC Media selected the order of finish for this season.

# Atlantic Division 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Clemson 148 1,293 144
2 Florida St. 42 1,176 39
3 Louisville 1 961 1
4 North Carolina St. 0 704  
5 Boston College 0 441  
6 Syracuse 0 426  
7 Wake Forest 0 347  
         
# Coastal Division 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 North Carolina 121 1,238 7
2 Miami (Fla) 50 1,108  
3 Pittsburgh 14 859  
4 Virginia Tech 3 697  
5 Duke 2 597  
6 Georgia Tech 1 588  
7 Virginia 0 261  

Here are the initial PiRate Ratings for the ACC

Atlantic Coast Conference
Atlantic Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Clemson 126.8 116.4 125.7 123.0
Florida St. 122.9 115.4 121.9 120.1
Louisville 118.6 111.8 118.0 116.1
North Carolina St. 108.0 104.7 107.6 106.8
Boston College 105.1 103.6 104.9 104.5
Syracuse 105.2 101.0 103.1 103.1
Wake Forest 102.3 99.2 101.5 101.0
         
Coastal Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Pittsburgh 117.1 111.7 116.4 115.1
North Carolina 117.4 109.2 117.1 114.6
Miami 116.6 108.0 115.9 113.5
Virginia Tech 111.0 110.8 111.5 111.1
Georgia Tech 108.1 104.2 107.4 106.6
Virginia 104.4 101.2 103.8 103.1
Duke 99.4 100.7 98.0 99.4
         
ACC Averages 111.6 107.0 110.9 109.9

The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point. Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.
Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then. So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls.

Atlantic Coast Conference Projected Standings
Atlantic Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Florida St. 7-1 12-1 * NY6–Orange
Clemson 7-1 11-1 NY6–Cotton
Louisville 6-2 10-2 Russell Athletic
North Carolina St. 4-4 7-5 Military
Boston College 2-6 6-6 Quick Lane
Wake Forest 2-6 5-7  
Syracuse 1-7 3-9  
       
Coastal Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Miami (Fla) 6-2 9-4 Belk
North Carolina 6-2 10-2 Taxslayer
Virginia Tech 6-2 8-4 Pinstripe
Pittsburgh 5-3 8-4 Sun
Georgia Tech 3-5 6-6 Independence
Duke 2-6 4-8  
Virginia 0-8 3-9  

Coming Tomorrow–It has been said that there are three equally tough conferences in American Football–the AFC, the NFC, and the SEC.  Once again, the Southeastern Conference begins the year as the clear-cut best league in college football, and three teams have legitimate National Championship aspirations.

 

Also Coming Tomorrow–Our updated ratings and selections for week one of the college football season–all one game.  California and Hawaii kick off the college season Friday night in Australia (Saturday Australia Time).  Then, one week from Thursday, the season begins in earnest.

August 22, 2016

2016 Pac-12 Conference Football Preview

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 5:45 am

The Pac-12 was the odd league out last season in the NCAA Playoffs, as league champion Stanford saw their chances to earn a bid end before they started last year. An opening week loss at Northwestern in which the Cardinal could not run the ball and could not average even 4.5 yards per pass attempt. After that game, Stanford averaged more than 40 points per game the rest of the season and almost 10 yards per pass attempt. It culminated with a blowout win over Iowa in the Rose Bowl.

This season, Stanford begins the year as our choice to be the fourth seed in the 2017 FBS Playoffs, but their path to the conference championship is cluttered by nine additional teams fully capable of beating anybody else in this league. The Pac-12 will be as competitive as it has ever been, and the PiRate believe that 10 teams will earn bowl elibility this season, including the entire South Division. Yes, even Colorado is improved enough to go 6-6 and earn its first bowl bid in nine years.

The North Division has the two bottom-feeding teams to begin the 2016 season. California must start over with a major rebuild after losing top draft selection Jared Goff and the top six pass receivers on offense and their top three defensive stars. The Golden Bears and Oregon State, which has returned to their familiar position of the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s, will fight it out in Corvallis in early October to see which team will avoid a possible 0-9 conference record.

The other four teams in the North Division will make for an excellent race this year. Stanford is the favorite to begin the season, but the Cardinal are not a shoo-in to win their division, much less the overall league championship. A new quarterback must be found to replace Kevin Hogan, but Coach David Shaw has a happy decision to make in replacing him. Both Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns are highly talented and able to put up better overall stats than Hogan.

Of course, whoever wins the starting job, or even if it becomes a platoon, the number one job for the QBs will be handing the ball off to Christian McCaffrey 25 times a game and getting out of the way. McCaffrey begins the season as one of two top candidates for the Heisman Trophy (Clemson’s DeShaun Watson being the other). McCaffrey led the Cardinal with more than 2,000 rushing yards in 2015, and he also led the team in receptions and receiving yards. A reloaded offensive line should allow SU to stay consistently strong all year, and hopefully for fans on The Farm, the team will not lay an egg in September, when most of the difficult games will be played.

Washington is the sexy pick of many pundits to win the North this year, as the Huskies return a lot of talent from a 7-6 team, including two capable quarterbacks and a running back that scored 14 rushing touchdowns and who will be running behind an experienced and talented offensive line.

The Huskies have a chance to be 4-0 when they face Stanford on Friday night, September 30, but they could also be 0-1 in the league and looking at elimination with a loss to SU.

Oregon missed Marcus Mariota enough to lose four games for the first time since 2007. The Ducks look to be in the same boat again this year, lacking enough offensive consistency to win games 52-42 every week, while having a defense that could give up 40 points per game in conference play. Adding a road game in Lincoln against Nebraska plus facing USC and Utah on the road from the other division means the Ducks are likely to lose four games again this year.

The Pirate worked his magic again last year. Coach Mike Leach guided Washington State to its first nine-win season in a dozen years. The Cougars shaved 11 points per game off their 2014 defensive average, while continuing to pass the ball better than any other team in the land. Luke Falk completed nearly 70% of his passes in his first year as a starter in Pullman with a TD/INT ratio of 38 to 8. Most of Falk’s receivers are back, and the pass blockers are talented enough to allow Falk time to find them. The WSU offense should be even better this year, and after averaging around 31 points per game for three years running, this team should top 35 per game this season. Keep an eye on this team: they could be the dark horse to challenge Stanford.

There is no clear-cut favorite in the South Division, and it would not be at all surprising if multiple teams finished tied for first at 6-3 or even 5-4. Home field advantages in Boulder, Salt Lake City, Tempe, Tucson, and Los Angeles are enough to turn underdogs into favorites, and no team in this division has the talent to be a prohibitive favorite over another team.

Somebody has to win a trip to the Conference Championship Game, and our choice from among the six fairly equal teams is USC. The Trojans must replace Cody Kessler at QB, but their offense is deep and talented, albeit not dominating everywhere else. Max Browne is the new starting quarterback. He has played sparingly in two seasons, but the former top QB in the 2012 class has a rifle arm and can throw the ball 50-60 yards with ease.

The Trojan defense will be suspect at the start of the season, especially up front where there will be an entirely new starting defensive line and two new linebackers. If any type of pass rush can be generated, the secondary could lead the league in interceptions, as the Trojans are loaded in the back of the defense.

UCLA has the missing the experienced quarterback in Josh Rosen, but the Bruins have a lot of holes to plug everywhere else on the offense. The Bruins lost their star running back and top two receivers, as well as three star offensive linemen. Rosen might be running for his life a bit too much for the Bruin offense to excel this year.

Defensively, The Sons of Westwood could lead the division in fewest points and yard allowed. 15 of the top 17 tacklers from 2015 are back including the entire front four and six of the front seven.

Arizona State, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado could play each other 100 times each and all win 50 times. There is very little separating these four teams, as each has its own strengths and exploitable weaknesses. Home field advantage should allow the quartet to pick up key conference wins in their paths to bowl eligibility. Other than Colorado’s September 17 game at Michigan, these teams should win all their remaining non-conference games this year. Hosting Oregon State, Arizona State, UCLA, Washington State, and Utah should give the Buffaloes a 50-50 chance at finding four additional wins after securing two against Colorado State and Idaho, so CU has a fighting chance to give 4th year coach Mike MacIntyre his first bowl team in Boulder.

Here is how the Pac-12 Media predicted the standings.

Pac-12 North Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Stanford 24 186 20
2 Washington 8 163 4
3 Oregon 1 132  
4 Washington St. 0 112  
5 California 0 67  
6 Oregon St. 0 33  
         
Pac-12 South Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 UCLA 19 180 3
2 USC 12 173 5
3 Utah 2 127 1
4 Arizona 0 87  
5 Arizona St. 0 85  
6 Colorado 0 63  

Here is how the PiRate Ratings show the league at the start of the season.

Pac-12 Conference
North Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Stanford 121.3 112.8 120.4 118.2
Washington 119.4 110.4 119.1 116.3
Oregon 112.8 111.8 111.7 112.1
Washington St. 112.3 107.6 112.0 110.7
California 104.7 93.3 101.0 99.7
Oregon St. 97.8 93.0 95.0 95.3
         
South Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
USC 119.7 114.3 118.0 117.3
UCLA 110.9 110.2 110.3 110.5
Arizona St. 108.7 109.2 107.7 108.6
Utah 111.4 105.3 108.9 108.5
Arizona 107.2 105.2 106.1 106.2
Colorado 107.0 102.1 107.0 105.4
         
Pac-12 Averages 111.1 106.3 109.8 109.1

 

The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point. Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.

Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then. So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls.

Pac-12 Conference Projected Standings
North Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Stanford 8-1 12-1 * Playoffs–Peach
Washington 7-2 10-2 Rose
Oregon 6-3 8-4 Holiday
Washington St. 5-4 8-4 Foster Farms
California 1-8 2-10  
Oregon St. 0-9 1-11  
       
South Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
USC 7-2 9-4 Alamo
UCLA 6-3 7-5 Sun
Arizona St. 4-5 7-5 Las Vegas
Colorado 4-5 6-6 [St. Petersburg] *
Arizona 3-6 6-6 [Armed Forces] *
Utah 3-6 6-6 Cactus
       
* Colorado’s and Arizona’s bowl bids are at-large invitations

 

Coming Tomorrow: The Atlantic Coast Conference was once the weakest of the Power 5 leagues and arguably only on par with the old Big East Conference.  Now, the ACC is number two for the first time ever.

August 21, 2016

2016 Big 12 Conference Football Preview

The Big 12 has been teetering on the brink of unplanned obsolescence for the last couple of years. As the only Power 5 Conference without a postseason Conference Championship Game, the league powers have been a little paranoid that other predators from the West Coast, the Deep South, and the Upper Midwest, might pillage them and leave them without a job. The Pac-12 is anxious to change its name to the Pac-16. The SEC and Big Ten realize that it is easier to work with 16 rather than 14 teams. The ACC has 15 in all sports except football, but even in football, Notre Dame plays basically five conference games per year.

What does a league do with just 10 members? It cannot play a conference title game until it has 12. Obviously, the league must expand by two to six teams, or else, their members will be searching for greener futures and high payouts.

In the meantime, the Big 12 continues to provide some of the most exciting football on the planet. The quasi-renegade league provides the alternative to the SEC’s and Big Ten’s blood and guts play, just like the old American Football League of the 1960’s sold itself as the more entertaining league to the NFL. The AFL had all the razzle dazzle stars like Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Daryle Lamonica, John Hadl, Cookie Gilchrist, Lance Alworth, and others, while the NFL was all about bruising fullbacks running between the tackles and halfbacks running power sweeps behind pulling guards.

The Big 12 is the pass-happy league with wide open offenses, blitzing and gambling defenses, and no game secure even if a team has scored over 50 points. Who can forget the day in 2014 when undefeated TCU led undefeated Baylor by 18 points in the fourth quarter and lost 61-58? You could have watched Alabama beat Arkansas 14-13 that day. Michigan beat Penn State 18-13.

2016 promises to be an interesting season in the Southwest. Oklahoma represented the league in the NCAA Playoffs, after two 11-1 teams failed to earn a spot the year before. The Sooners quickly bowed out in a semifinal loss to Clemson, but OU is loaded this season and in contention for the top overall spot.

The Sooners will not receive a free pass to the playoffs this year. Their schedule is tricky with a pre-conference matchups with Houston at NRG Stadium to start the season and Ohio State on September 17. Then following a bye week, OU has a road game with TCU, and the annual Red River Shootout with Texas the following Saturday. If Coach Bob Stoops can guide his squad to a 5-0 start, a 7-0 finish is very likely.

A group of four teams figure to be the main challengers to the Sooners, or in a probable case, a quartet fighting for a Sugar Bowl berth as the league runnerup. Oklahoma State, TCU, and Baylor figure to be on most pundits’ lists, but the PiRates believe that Coach Charlie Strong will bring the Texas Longhorns back to near the top of the standings this year and even give Oklahoma a run for its money. If he doesn’t, the UT alumni may be advertising for a new coach in 2017.

For the Longhorns, the season kicks off with a Sunday tilt at home against Notre Dame, and a win in the opener could give the burnt orange a shot in the arm. A road game against Oklahoma State precedes the fight with the Sooners at the Texas State Fair the following week, and pulling off back-to-back wins over their rivals to the north is most unlikely. Thus, we believe that Texas can win 10 games and vie for the Sugar Bowl bid, but they cannot win 11 or 12 and contend for a playoff spot.

TCU begins the season ranked ahead of Texas in our ratings and actually within shouting distance of Oklahoma, but the Horned Frogs have to rebuild on offense due to heavy losses, including their star quarterback, running back, and wideout. The defense is still solid, but they may be on the field for too many plays in crucial games. Road games at Baylor and Texas could eliminate any gain made by possibly upsetting Oklahoma ar Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Oklahoma State is flying a little under the radar to begin the season. The Cowboys were 10-0 last year, before losing to Baylor, Oklahoma, and Ole Miss to end the year at 10-3. Their offense could top 42 points per game this year with experience and depth returning, while the defense should be on par with last year’s defense. OSU wins games by outscoring opponents, so scores like 45-31 are frequent happenings, and this team can win double digit games again while giving up 30+ points per game.

Baylor faced a minor rebuilding project heading into this season, but off the field events have wounded the Bears enough to where second half of the season depth issues could cause a minor fold. We do not expect BU to contend for the Big 12 crown, and we would not be shocked if the losses began to mount beginning with a trip to Austin on October 29.

Kansas State, West Virginia, and Texas Tech represent the next wave. In most years, KSU plays one of the softest non-conference slates, guaranteeing themselves of three wins before taking the field, and thus needing just a 3-6 conference mark to earn a bowl bid. However, the Wildcats will begin the season 0-1 with a Friday night game at the Farm against Stanford. The likely 3-6 conference record will leave the guys from the Little Apple home for the holidays.

Texas Tech faces a similar situation. The Red Raiders are looking at 3-6 or even 2-7 in league play, as they must play Kansas State and Iowa State on the road. Playing at Arizona State in September could prevent TTU from going bowling as well.

West Virginia may actually be a tad weaker than the previous two teams, but the Mountaineers have the favorable schedule that could give them the three wins they need to pair with a 3-6 conference mark and finish 6-6.

Iowa State is not ready to compete for bowl eligibility this year, but the Cyclones are moving upwards slowly. They could even sneak into a tie for 7th if the ball bounces their way, but they should win more than one conference game this year.

Kansas still has basketball season to await. The Jayhawks are likely destined for yet another last place finish, but this year KU should at least win a game after finishing 0-12 in 2015. The season opener with Rhode Island is the only for sure winnable game, but the Jayhawks might be confident enough to pull off the mild upset over Ohio the following week. It looks like another 0-9 league mark for the Jayhawks, but then by the time they host Texas on November 19, all will be okay with the Rock Chalkers at Allen Fieldhouse.

Here is how the Big 12 Media predicted the 2016 order of finish.

2016 Big 12 Conference Media Poll
# Team 1st Pl. Total
1 Oklahoma 24 258
2 TCU 2 222
3 Oklahoma St. 0 202
4 Baylor 0 156
5 Texas 0 151
6 Texas Tech 0 141
7 West Virginia 0 126
8 Kansas St. 0 88
9 Iowa St. 0 59
10 Kansas 0 27

Here are the initial 2016 PiRate Ratings for the league.

Big 12 Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Oklahoma 125.6 122.1 125.6 124.4
Oklahoma St. 117.5 118.8 117.5 117.9
Texas 114.4 118.0 114.4 115.6
TCU 113.3 115.6 113.2 114.0
Baylor 109.4 109.7 110.6 109.9
West Virginia 106.6 106.1 106.0 106.2
Kansas St. 103.1 107.5 102.5 104.4
Texas Tech 104.9 102.3 102.7 103.3
Iowa St. 99.8 99.2 98.7 99.2
Kansas 88.3 96.1 85.9 90.1

The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point. Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.

Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then. So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls, and notice that this league will not provide the needed number to fill all of its obligations, thus benefiting other leagues like the Big Ten and Pac-12, who both may have extra bowl eligible teams this year.

Big 12 Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Oklahoma 9-0 12-0 Playoffs/Fiesta
Oklahoma St. 7-2 10-2 Alamo
Texas 7-2 10-2 Sugar
TCU 6-3 9-3 Russell Athletic
Baylor 6-3 9-3 Texas
West Virginia 3-6 6-6 Liberty
Kansas St. 3-6 5-7  
Texas Tech 2-7 4-8  
Iowa St. 2-7 4-8  
Kansas 0-9 2-10

Coming Monday, August 22: The Pac-12 Conference with wide open races in both divisions.  Is there a surprise team ready to emerge as the new league beast, or is it more of the same old fare?

August 20, 2016

2016 Big Ten Conference Football Preview

The Power 5 Conference previews begin today, and in the unusual spot of lowest ranked of the Big 5 stands the 14-member Big Ten. In actuality, just three points separates the fifth best conference from the second best this year, so the Big Ten is basically in a four-way tie for second best conference this year.

Being the fifth best league does not mean the Big Ten will not have a team in the third FBS College Football Playoffs. In fact, three teams have the talent to run the table and earn one of the four coveted spots. And overall, the PiRates believe 11 teams could be bowl eligible this year. This means that at least one and probably two teams will fill vacant spots as at-large candidates.

The power once again rests in the East Division, where six of the seven members have a chance to get to six wins. In recent years, it has come down to the Ohio State-Michigan State game, but this year we believe a third team will crash the party. Second year head coach Jim Harbaugh has quickly rebuilt the Michigan Wolverines to a point where the Maize and Blue are ready to return to greatness not seen in a decade. The Wolverines improved immediately in year one, becoming tougher on both sides of the ball and doubling their wins from the year before from five to ten.

The same improvement in year two could make Michigan a national title contender. The offense loses a good quarterback in Jake Rudock, who was drafted by the Detroit Lions, but unlike recent years, there is a competition among multiple quality quarterbacks, and whoever wins the battle will be a talented and competent leader. Expect Michigan’s passing game to remain as strong as last year, whether former Houston QB John O’Korn or Wilton Speight wins the job.

Whoever winst that job will have a bevy of highly-talented receivers catching the passes. Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh combined for 108 catches and 14 touchdowns as the starting wideouts last year, while tight end Jake Butt added 51 catches.

Running back De’Veon Smith is another pass-catching weapon, but his main goal is continuing to improve as a multi-talented runner who can plunge forward up the middle for an extra yard or two and break a long run to the outside. Backup Ty Isaac is capable of taking over a game if he can become more consistent.

Where Michigan should win most games this year is up front, as their offensive line has no peers inside the league. There is talent throughout the two-deep, led by center Mason Cole, guard Kyle Kalis, and tackle Erik Magnuson.

The other side of the ball is strong and potentially dominating up front, as the defensive line has a quartet of brick walls. Opponents will run away from the side end Chris Wormly lines up on, and quarterbacks will worry about his rushing when dropping back to pass. Taco Charlton will see improved stats this year, as he faces more plays to his end of the line.

The pass defense was a little vulnerable at times, but the back seven should be better this year, led by potential All-American cornerback Jabrill Peppers.

If it wasn’t for a schedule that includes road games with Michigan State, Iowa, and Ohio State, the media and other experts might be calling for a 12-0 regular season. Maybe, just the Pirates believe it is possible this year.

Ohio State looks to be in a rebuild season, but in Columbus, rebuilding means a possible 9-3 season. The Buckeyes lost so much from last year’s 12-1 season on both sides of the ball. Sure, there is still a ton of talent left on this squad, but we believe OSU will be about a touchdown weaker overall.

J.T. Barrett returns at quarterback after splitting the job with Cardale Jones, who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills. Barrett is a better fit in Coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense, but defenses might be able to sneak defenders toward the line without worrying as much about being beaten deep by the arm of Jones.

The biggest replacement Meyer must make is at running back, where Ezekiel Elliott might be the leading candidate for NFL Rookie of the Year in Dallas. Finding capable receivers to replace Michael Thomas, Jalen Marshall, and Braxton Miller will be nearly as difficult.

The offensive line must replace three starters, but there was a lot of talented depth here last year, and we don’t see this becoming much of a problem this year.

Defensively, the Buckeyes return one starter to the line, one at linebacker, and one in the secondary. Middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan and end Tyquan Lewis could both become All-Americans, while end Sam Hubbard has all-league potential.

Road games with Oklahoma and Michigan State should be too much for the inexperienced Buckeyes to handle this year, so it could be a bowl other than the New Year’s 6 this year.

Michigan State faces a similar but less rebuilding effort this year after making the NCAA Playoffs in 2015. Coach Mark Dantonio’s Spartans won a lot of close games last year in their road to the Big Ten title, and a small rebuild should mean that some of those close wins last year could become close losses this year. Replacing quarterback Connor Cook may be the toughest replacement in the entire league, and number two might be finding one or more players to replace the production of defensive star Shilique Calhoun.

Penn State coach James Franklin is 14-12 in his first two seasons in Happy Valley, and another 7-6 year will leave Nittany Lion fans very unhappy. Although most of the offense returns this year, one player missing is quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Although Hackenberg had issues with the Franklin offense, he still was good enough to become an NFL Draft pick, and nobody on the current roster has his skills.

The Defense loses a lot of talent, but possibly more important is the loss of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, who will be directing the defense at Tennessee this year. September 10 could be an important Saturday for Franklin’s future in State College. A loss at Pittsburgh could get the alumni moving to find a replacement.

Indiana and Maryland don’t figure to contend for an upper division spot this year, but both teams have enough talent to go 3-0 outside of league play and find three more wins to get to 6-6. Rutgers is not in that same boat. The Scarlet Knights will be fortunate to avoid double digit losses.

Although the West Division is not as strong, the competition might be fiercer. Four teams have the potential to end up in the Big Ten Championship Game, while a fifth should be bowl eligible.

Iowa is the slight favorite to repeat as division champions, but Nebraska might be the most improved team in the division. The two rivals meet in Iowa City on Black Friday.

Wisconsin has the talent to win double digit games in most years, but not this year with a schedule that only a masochist could design. The Badgers face the two Michigan schools on the road and must face Ohio State at home, and then add a game at Lambeau Stadium against national title contender LSU. They also play at Iowa, and all of these games occur by October 22.

Northwestern is a mystery team this year to some extent. The Wildcats return a lot of talent from a 10-3 team, but overall that talent is not as strong as the other contenders. Coach Pat Fitzgerald finds a way to squeeze every yard and point out of his offense, while the defense always plays better on the whole than the sum of its parts.

Minnesota begins its first full season under Coach Tracy Claeys, who took over after Jerry Kill retired after the season began last year. The Gophers should be about as good this year as last, which means a probable lower-tier bowl.

Illinois and Purdue do not have the talent to compete for bowl eligibility, but both teams are capable of pulling off an upset. Last year, they both upset Nebraska and could have knocked the Cornhuskers out of a bowl.

The Big Ten does not sanction an official media preseason poll, but the Cleveland Plain Dealer does the job for the league in an unofficial capacity. Here is that Cleveland.com poll.

Big Ten–East Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Ohio St. 31 260.5 27
2 Michigan 14 241 11
3 Michigan St. 1 195.5  
4 Penn St. 0 155.5  
5 Indiana 0 110  
6 Maryland 0 81.5  
7 Rutgers 0 52  
         
Big Ten–West Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Iowa 33 265 1
2 Nebraska 3 206  
3 Wisconsin 2 194.5  
4 Northwestern 1 171.5  
5 Minnesota 1 132  
6 Illinois 0 76.5  
7 Purdue 0 46.5  

 

Here are our initial PiRate Ratings for the league.

Big Ten Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Michigan 120.0 118.0 120.4 119.5
Ohio St. 113.3 113.5 113.5 113.4
Michigan St. 113.1 112.4 111.1 112.2
Penn St. 109.5 111.3 108.0 109.6
Indiana 101.5 106.0 100.9 102.8
Maryland 100.9 104.2 98.1 101.1
Rutgers 99.0 96.2 97.3 97.5
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Iowa 114.6 110.9 114.2 113.2
Nebraska 110.4 105.9 110.5 108.9
Wisconsin 109.1 105.9 109.5 108.2
Northwestern 109.7 103.5 108.1 107.1
Minnesota 104.8 102.8 104.7 104.1
Illinois 100.6 97.2 99.8 99.2
Purdue 99.4 96.6 98.3 98.1

 

The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point. Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.

Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then. So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls.

Big Ten Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
East Division      
Michigan 9-0 13-0 * Playoffs–Fiesta
Ohio St. 7-2 9-3 Citrus
Michigan St. 7-2 9-3 Outback
Penn St. 6-3 8-4 Music City
Indiana 3-6 6-6 [Cactus] *
Maryland 3-6 6-6 [Birmingham] *
Rutgers 1-8 3-9  
       
Team Conference Overall Bowl
West Division      
Iowa 7-2 10-3 Holiday
Nebraska 5-4 8-4 Pinstripe
Northwestern 5-4 8-4 Foster Farms
Wisconsin 5-4 7-5 Quick Lane
Minnesota 4-5 7-5 Heart of Dallas
Illinois 1-8 3-9  
Purdue 0-9 3-9  
       
* Indiana’s Cactus Bowl Bid is an at-large selection
* Maryland’s Birmingham Bowl Bid is an at-lerge selection

Coming up tomorrow: The Big 12 Conference was close to going on life support until Oklahoma made the playoffs last year.  Now, with the possibility of new blood coming soon, and the likelihood that the Sooners could be better this year, there’s hope for the league.  Find out which teams are contenders, which are pretenders, and what team could surprise a lot of people this season.

 

August 19, 2016

2016 FBS Independents Football Preview

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , — piratings @ 7:40 am

At one time, there were 30 college football teams at the highest level playing as independents not affiliated with any conference. There was a veritable who’s who of college football members that lived a nomadic existence. Notre Dame, Penn State, Miami, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Air Force, Houston, Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and others once made hay in the sunshine of the independent ranks.

In 2016, one new team has been added to the independent ranks, bringing the total to just four. With conferences scrambling to add conference games to their schedules (Big Ten moved up to 9 this year, while Big 12 and Pac-12 already play 9), it could be tough for these teams to make future schedules, or at least schedules strong enough to sell tickets.

Notre Dame is fortunate. The Irish can participate in the ACC in all other sports, plus they get the benefit of having five guaranteed games against ACC football members, and they can also take one of the ACC’s automatic bowl bids, even with one-fewer win than the ACC regular team. Let’s see: A 6-6 Notre Dame team or a 7-5 Wake Forest team: which one would the next bowl in the pecking order take?

BYU is almost as fortunate as Notre Dame. The Cougars still have enough prestige based on a gloried past to sell seats on the road, while their home base is very loyal. BYU could be a future member of the Big 12, but the Cougars do not want to play Sunday games, and it could be a problem for some sports like baseball. Our guess is that the Big 12 will find a way to play Thursday-Saturday games against BYU.

Army West Point remains the lone service academy not in a conference. The Black Knights are no longer a power player like they once were in the days of Colonel Earl “Red” Blaik, who went 121-33-10 in 18 years at West Point, including three national championships and three more seasons where Army kept a goose egg in the loss column.

Today, Army must rely on scheduling games against FCS schools, MAC teams, and the two service academy rivals. Still, the Cadets cannot manage a winning record and bowl eligibility. Worse, their losing streak to Navy has now reached 14, and the chances for that number hitting 15 are better than 50%.

Army fans should cheer up some, because the PiRates believe the Black Knights have a decent shot at getting to six wins and taking an at-large bowl bid this year, even if Navy is not one of those wins. Coach Jeff Monken has two experienced quarterbacks, and enough talent returning to make the offense add a few points per game to the average, while the defense should see major improvement this year, shedding at least a field goal off the generosity of last year. Nine of their 12 games are winnable, so getting to 6-6 is quite possible this year.

Massachusetts was not a great fit in the Mid-American Conference. The Minutemen may be a better option one day in the AAC, but UMass must first become respectable on the gridiron. Their record for the last four seasons is just 8-40, and it’s not like they have been playing a difficult schedule. The biggest loss for this school is not having Eastern Michigan, Miami of Ohio, and Kent State on their schedule. Other than weak FCS member Wagner, there are no other guaranteed wins on the Minutemen’s 2016 slate.

There is no pre-season media polls for the four independents. Therefore, here is the consensus of computer ratings (including the three PiRate Ratings) for the teams to start the season. There are no surprises.

Independents
# Team
Includes PiRate Retrodictive
1 Notre Dame
2 BYU
3 Army
4 Massachusetts

Here are the initial PiRate Ratings for the quartet.

Independents
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Notre Dame 116.0 110.8 114.6 113.8
BYU 110.4 102.7 110.1 107.7
Army 84.7 93.7 87.1 88.5
Massachusetts 74.9 84.4 76.1 78.5
         
Independents Averages 96.5 97.9 97.0 97.1

The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point. Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.

Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then. So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls.

Independents Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Notre Dame x 9-3 Orange
BYU x 6-6 Poinsettia
Army x 6-6 [Cure]*
Massachusetts x 1-11  
       
* Army fills in as an at-large team in the Cure Bowl

Starting Saturday, August 20: The PiRates begin previewing the Power 5 Conferences.  First up–The Big Ten.  Can a new team emerge as the team to beat in 2016, or will it be a repeat?

 

2016 American Athletic Conference Football Preview

Today, we conclude with our previews of the Group of 5 conferences and throw in the four independents to boot. The American Athletic Conference produced the Group of 5 at-large representative to the New Year’s 6 Bowls last year. Houston represented the little brothers well last year, when the Cougars bested Florida State in the Peach Bowl last year.

Houston should be right in the thick of the AAC and NY6 Bowl race this year, but we believe that another league member is talented enough to take this year’s automatic NY6 Bowl bid, and if they can pull off one upset, maybe even challenge for the #4 seed in the playoffs.

Coach Willie Taggart has his South Florida team ready to make a run toward an undefeated season this year. The Bulls must pull off the upset against Florida State, but USF gets to host the Seminoles in that game a week after FSU must face Louisville on the road.

USF returns an exceptional dual threat quarterback in Quinton Flowers. Flowers topped 1,000 yards rushing (not counting QB sacks, or if NFL statistic rules were used) last year, while averaging more than 8 yards per passing attempt. Seven of his top eight targets from last year return to give the Bulls an improved passing attack. That should allow multi-talented running back Marlon Mack to see less eight-man defensive fronts and give him a chance to improve on his 1,381 rushing yards from a year ago.

Defensively, USF 10 of their top dozen tacklers from a year ago, including potential All-American Deatrick Nichols as a cover cornerback. USF should trim about 5 points and 30-50 total yards off what the defense allowed last year, and that should give the Bulls a fighting chance to conquer that one great matador in their path to a perfect season.

Houston is still the class of the West Division. The Cougars came within an upset loss against Connecticut in November last year of possibly getting into the Playoff picture. Second year head coach Tom Herman proved to be a talented protege of his mentor Urban Meyer, as he guided the Cougars to a 13-1 season. Only a few questions on the defensive side keep us from making UH our clear-cut favorite for the NY6 Bowl, but they only trail USF by a tiny margin as the season begins. What hurts the Cougars is an opening game against Oklahoma at NRG Stadium, and we cannot see the Cougars’ defense being ready to stop the Sooners’ offense. Starting 0-1, Houston will be behind the eight-ball all season. Road games against Cincinnati, Navy, and Memphis may be more than UH can handle, so the Cougars could be a two-loss team heading into the AAC Championship Game.

Here is how the Media picked this year’s AAC race.

American Athletic Conference–East Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 South Florida 15 164 2
2 Temple 9 144 1
3 Cincinnati 6 130  
4 Connecticut 0 89  
5 East Carolina 0 55  
6 Central Florida 0 48  
         
American Athletic Conference–West Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Houston 30 180 27
2 Navy 0 128  
3 Memphis 0 124  
4 Tulsa 0 92  
5 SMU 0 65  
6 Tulane 0 41  

And, here are how our PiRates rate the teams to begin the 2016 season.

American Athletic Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
South Florida 108.3 105.7 109.5 107.8
Cincinnati 101.5 102.7 102.5 102.3
Temple 102.2 101.2 103.1 102.2
Connecticut 98.3 96.1 98.6 97.7
East Carolina 91.6 94.6 91.7 92.6
Central Florida 85.9 88.6 85.9 86.8
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Houston 110.1 108.3 111.9 110.1
Tulsa 99.7 102.2 100.4 100.8
Memphis 102.7 97.8 100.8 100.5
Navy 99.2 99.0 98.6 99.0
SMU 93.7 92.1 93.2 93.0
Tulane 82.2 86.1 82.0 83.4
         
AAC Averages 98.0 97.9 98.2 98.0

The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point.  Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.

 

Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then.  So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls.

American Athletic Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
East Division      
South Florida 8-0 12-1 * Cotton–NY6
Temple 6-2 9-3 Military
Cincinnati 4-4 6-6 Birmingham
Connecticut 3-5 4-8  
East Carolina 2-6 3-9  
Central Florida 1-7 2-10  
       
Team Conference Overall Bowl
West Division      
Houston 8-0 10-3 St. Petersburg
Navy 6-2 8-4 Armed Forces
Tulsa 5-3 8-4 Miami Beach
Memphis 4-4 7-5 Bahamas
SMU 1-7 3-9  
Tulane 0-8 3-9  
       
* South Florida to win AAC Title and automatic NY 6 Bowl Bid

Coming Later Today–A look at the four independents.

 

 

 

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