The Week That Was–The Big Skakedown
It started last Tuesday with Northern Illinois knocking off unbeaten Toledo. Memphis, Michigan State, TCU, and LSU followed suit, and now it’s down to Clemson, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Ohio State, and Iowa. Five unbeaten teams remain, but at least two of the quintet must lose, because Ohio State and Iowa would meet in the Big Ten Championship Game if they won out, and Baylor and Oklahoma State must play in the regular season.
Does this mean that #1 Clemson’s path is clear and easy? No, because the Tigers may not be the best team in the ACC at the present time. North Carolina had a bump in the road in the opening week of the season, blowing a lead and losing to South Carolina to open the season. Since then, the Tar Heels have dominated on both sides of the ball. The most recent win, a blowout of rival Duke, moves UNC into the driver’s seat in the Coastal Division.
The schedule does not have as many great games this week, but there are many important ones. Not only are conference races still up for grabs, there are about 20 teams competing for the final six to eight bowl bids. As we believed last week, we continue to believe this week that only 79 teams will reach bowl eligibility. That means one 5-7 team will back into a bowl game. The rule states that if it comes down to 5-7 teams, the tiebreaker is the last football APR (academic progress rate) score. In case you were wondering, Nebraska is number one in line with a 985 score, followed by Vanderbilt (983), Army (981), Rutgers (980), Boston College (980), Georgia Tech (978), Virginia Tech (977), Washington (977), and Kansas St. (976) (teams already bowl eligible were not included in the APR rankings.)
Let’s break the conference races down and show you just how dysfunctional the race to the Playoffs could be.
Power Five Conferences
Clemson sits pretty at 6-0/9-0 with little competition in their site in the regular season. However, North Carolina looks to be headed to an 8-0 finish. We believe that the Tar Heels have a better than 50-50 chance of beating Clemson and securing the automatic New Year’s Six Bowl Bid.
Notre Dame is included in the ACC write-up, since the Irish can receive an ACC bowl bid and even jump over an ACC team with one additional win. The Irish must close out the season at Stanford, and as of now, we believe the Cardinal will win a close one. At 10-2, Notre Dame would jump over everybody else in the ACC that isn’t automatically in a NY6 Bowl.
Florida State will look much better if the Seminoles edge Florida in three weeks, while Duke and Pittsburgh will decide who rates ahead of the other when they face off in Durham this week.
Miami, North Carolina State, and Louisville will go somewhere, while Virginia Tech still has a strong chance of getting a sixth win. Syracuse, Wake Forest, Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Virginia are out for now.
Ohio State and Iowa look like they are headed to an epic 12-0 vs. 12-0 battle in the Big Ten Championship Game, but those sneaky PiRates believe there is going to be a little fly in the Buckeye ointment. All season long, we have been looking at the upstart rival up north. Michigan may be repeating history from 1969. If you didn’t read our analogy from October, we compared this season to 1969, when defending national champion Ohio State entered the final game undefeated and ranked number one, while Michigan came into the game with two losses, one to a conference champion from another power conference, and one to Michigan State. In 1969, Michigan’s defense shut down Ohio State in the second half and pulled off a big upset at the Big House to win the Big Ten title. The PiRates believe history can and will repeat itself, and Michigan will win the East by upsetting Ohio State again.
Iowa must lost twice for Wisconsin to pass them in the standings, and the Hawkeyes close with Minnesota and Purdue at home and Nebraska on the road. The Hawkeyes might run the table, but we believe Michigan or Ohio State would beat them in the Big Ten Championship Game. Should Michigan State upset Ohio State and take the East Division flag, then Iowa might take the conference title and advance to the playoffs at 13-0. For now, we say Michigan over Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game. That would leave an Ohio State team at 11-1 probably as the number four seed in the playoffs.
Besides the five teams previously mentioned, Penn State and Northwestern are sure things for bowls. Indiana and Rutgers have the next two best chances to get to 6-6, while Illinois, Minnesota, and Nebraska have minor chances.
TCU can still win the Big 12 Championship, but the Horned Frogs are out of the playoff picture. Oklahoma State and Baylor, remain undefeated, while Oklahoma sits a game back with one loss. Baylor still must play all three of the contenders consecutively, and we believe the Bears are going to lose at least one game and more likely two of the three.
Oklahoma cannot lose another game and win the league, and the Sooners close with the other three contenders, with Baylor and Oklahoma State coming on the road.
Oklahoma State has a winnable road game against Iowa State, and then the Cowboys close with home games against Baylor and Oklahoma. After OSU dismissed TCU, it looks like the boys from Stillwater have the best chance of running the table and entering the playoffs at 12-0.
There is quite a drop after the top four. We see three additional bowl eligible teams in West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Kansas State. As for Texas, the Longhorns are 4-5 with games at West Virginia, home against Texas Tech, and a finale at Baylor. It looks like 5-7 for the Longhorns, and 5-7 may not allow Coach Charlie Strong to keep his job.
This is an interesting race, and it may be so balanced at this point that no team emerges with just one loss. In the North, Stanford needs one more conference win to clinch the division. The Cardinal can do that this week against Oregon, but if the Ducks win, the race is still alive. The Ducks could then win the division by knocking off USC and Oregon State, if California beats Stanford.
Washington State can still tie for the division crown by winning at UCLA, home against Colorado, and at Washington, if Stanford loses to Oregon and Cal, and Oregon wins out. However, the Cougars have been eliminated from the Pac-12 Championship Game, because Oregon would edge WSU with a better intradivisional record.
California needs one more win to become bowl eligible, and the Bears should get that against Oregon State this week. Washington might finish 5-7 with losses at Arizona State and against Washington State, but the Huskies might be the one lucky 5-7 team to make it to a bowl thanks to their APR score.
The South Division title is still undecided with Utah holding a one game lead over USC and UCLA. The Trojans beat the Utes earlier this year, while Utah and UCLA have yet to play, and of course USC and UCLA have yet to play. Utah is not getting much respect, and the Utes are not totally out of the playoff race themselves. If they beat UCLA and then knock off Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game, a 12-1 Utah team could make a case, especially if USC continues to win.
Arizona State is a wounded team coming in with just one engine, but the Seminoles have the best shot of the rest of getting to 6-6.
Who is going to beat Alabama the rest of the way? The Crimson Tide are supposed to be headed for a trap game at Mississippi State this week, but the Bulldogs do not have enough talent to upset the Tide, unless ‘Bama gives them 14 points in turnovers like they did against Ole Miss.
Ole Miss played themselves out of the conference championship picture with the loss to Arkansas. Facemask penalties can be big. LSU could only win the West if they win out and Alabama loses. It may be even harder for the Tigers to win out than for someone else to beat Alabama.
The rest of this division will also be bowl eligible, an incredible seven out of seven. Because of this, a 12-1 Alabama team might deserve to be the overal number one seed regardless of who else goes undefeated.
Florida has already clinched the East Division, but the Gators might still lose two more games. A team that scores just nine points at home on Vanderbilt could easily lose at South Carolina or at home to Florida State, and they will lose to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
Tennessee was 3-4 two weeks ago, but the Volunteers should win out to finish 8-4 and take second in the division. Georgia has a tough finishing conference game at Auburn, but the Bulldogs finish with two sure things out of conference against Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. If they lose either one, then Mark Richt becomed unemployed.
Kentucky has now lost four games in a row to fall to 4-5, but the Wildcats’ next two games are winnable. This week’s game at Vanderbilt could be tough, but the Commodores’ offense is as weak as any Power Six Conference team, and a couple of scores could be all the Wildcats need to secure a win. The following week’s game against Charlotte should get the ‘Cats bowl eligible if they knock off the Commodores this week.
South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Missouri are out of the bowl race, and Missouri’s team could be looking at one or more forfeit losses to close the season due to racial tensions on the campus leading to a team walkout. Missouri’s proposed finishing schedule includes a game against BYU in Kansas City this weekend, followed by a home game against Tennessee and a road game against Arkansas.
Group of Five Conferences
Navy’s upset of Memphis ruined the big game for this week, when the Tigers go to Houston. Houston is still in control of the New Year’s Six Bowl that goes to the best Group of Five team, but the Cougars have three tough games to go. Besides needing to beat Memphis, they have to beat Navy and then Temple in the AAC Championship Game.
Don’t count out Navy just yet. The Midshipmen’s lone loss is to Notre Dame, and they did not look like the underdog pulling off a surprise in the win at Memphis. Navy could do the same thing to Houston and take the West Division flag.
Tulsa is not in contention in the West, but the Golden Hurricane needs just one more win to become bowl eligible. The season-ended against Tulane ought to give UT that win.
Temple has a two-game lead in the East Division, but they have a tough closing schedule. The Owls play at the hot South Florida Bulls this week, and USF is still alive in the division race. TU then finishes with home games against Memphis and Connecticut. We believe TU will win out and then win the Conference Championship Game to earn the New Year’s Six Bowl bid.
Besides USF, Cincinnati appears to be the only other team headed to bowl eligibility, as Connecticut and East Carolina don’t appear to have enough winnable games left.
Any chance that a C-USA team could make it to the New Year’s Six Bowl was lost when Marshall lost at Middle Tennessee this past weekend. Western Kentucky already had two losses, and even if the Hilltoppers win out, they will not jump over every AAC team.
The Middle Tennessee win virtually locked up a bowl bid for the Blue Raiders, while Old Dominion and Florida International still hold slim chances of making it to six wins.
In the West, Louisiana Tech looks invincible at this point, but Southern Miss. still has a shot. We believe the winner of that game will eventually emerge as the overall conference champion and have first dibs on which of seven contracted bowls they wish to accept, or in other words accepts the Bahamas Bowl.
Rice and UTEP still have even money odds’ chances of finishing 6-6.
BYU has already clinched a bowl, and they will be invited to either the Las Vegas or Hawaii Bowl.
Army already has seven losses, but if the Black Knights beat Tulane, Rutgers, and Navy, they could still earn a bowl bid with a superior APR score. We think West Point will lose an eighth, ninth, and tenth game, so it is a moot point.
Bowling Green is up two games with three to play in the East, and the Falcons would have to lose all three for Buffalo to surpass them. The Bulls need just one more win to become bowl eligible, and that should happen with a game against UMass on November 27, if not at Akron the week before.
Akron needs two more wins, and the Zips still have Miami of Ohio and Kent State on their schedule. Call it 6-6 for Terry Bowden’s crew, as Akron makes it to a bowl for the second time ever.
Ohio needs one more win to earn a bowl bid. The Bobcats were once a leading contender to win the division, but the season soured at the halfway point. Weak opponents in consecutive weeks against Kent State and Ball State should get Ohio to 7-5.
The West Division is a mess thanks to last week’s results. Western Michigan is now alone in first place at 5-0, but the Broncos have a killer finishing schedule against Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, and Toledo, the latter two on the road.
Toledo, Northern Illinois, and Central Michigan are in a three-way tie at 4-1. TU has a schedule the equal of WMU with games at CMU, at BGU, and at home against WMU. NIU has it a little easier with games at Buffalo, and home against WMU and Ohio. CMU closes with Toledo at home but their final two games are easy wins against Kent State and Eastern Michigan. The Chippewas were a consensus 5th place choice in the preseason, and first year coach John Bonamego will draw a lot of attention from bigger schools after spending most of his career coaching in the NFL.
It was supposed to be a slam dunk 13-0 season for Boise State, but the Broncos stumbled early against BYU and lost at Utah State. Still, BSU can win the Mountain Division with a closing schedule of New Mexico, Air Force, and San Jose State. The Broncos will not be the favored team in the conference championship game if they win the division title.
Air Force still controls its own destiny in the Mountain Division, and hiding in the bushes, New Mexico also controls its own destiny. Bob Davie’s Lobos may not win out and take the division flag, but UNM needs just one more win to earn their first bowl bid since 2007. Utah State needs help to win the division and appears headed to a 6-6 finish.
Colorado State must win two more games to get to six wins, and the Rams should do it by defeating UNLV and Fresno State. That would mean five of the six Mountain teams would earn a bowl bid.
The West Division is not so fortunate. Only San Diego State is assured of earning a bowl bid at this point, and the Aztecs appear to be the class of the entire league this year.
Nevada should finish 6-6, but there is no guarantee that the Wolfpack will win another game with San Jose State, Utah State, and San Diego State left to play. As for San Jose State, the Spartans are 4-5 after a close loss to BYU, and they close with Nevada, Hawaii, and Boise State. The winner of the Nevada-San Jose State game should finish 6-6, but that is not for sure.
In a weeknight surprise, Arkansas State upset Appalachian State to take command in the SBC. The Red Wolves have three easy marks in their way to the SBC title in Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, and Texas State. The fans in Jonesboro might be getting nervous, not because ASU could be upset, but because someone may come calling for Coach Blake Anderson.
Appalachian State will still go bowling this year, as will Georgia Southern and Louisiana-Lafayette.
This Week’s PiRate Ratings
|34||North Carolina St.||110.4||112.2||109.4||110.7|
|53||San Diego St.||104.0||108.4||105.5||106.0|
|89||San Jose St.||91.7||94.4||91.9||92.7|
|127||New Mexico St.||71.6||73.3||71.7||72.2|
|49||North Carolina St.|
|53||San Diego St.|
|85||San Jose St.|
|122||New Mexico St.|
|PiRate Ratings By Conference|
|American Athletic Conference|
|Atlantic Coast Conference|
|North Carolina St.||2-3||6-3||110.4||112.2||109.4||110.7|
|Big 12 Conference|
|Big 12 Averages||110.6||105.1||110.4||108.7|
|Big Ten Conference|
|Big Ten Averages||107.0||105.7||106.5||106.4|
|Mountain West Conference|
|San Diego St.||5-0||6-3||104.0||108.4||105.5||106.0|
|San Jose St.||3-2||4-5||91.7||94.4||91.9||92.7|
|New Mexico St.||2-3||2-7||71.6||73.3||71.7||72.2|
|Sun Belt Averages||81.6||84.0||82.4||82.7|
|NCAA Playoff Projections|
|Group of 5 Contenders For Automatic New Year’s Six Bowl Bid|
|Power 5 Conferences Bottom 10|
|FCS Top 10|
|3||North Dakota St.||91.9|
|8||South Dakota St.||90.0|
|This Week’s Games|
|Tuesday, November 10|
|Wednesday, November 11|
|Western Michigan||Bowling Green||-2.5||-6.6||-4.2|
|Thursday, November 12|
|Georgia Tech||Virginia Tech||5.5||3.4||4.3|
|Friday, November 13|
|Saturday, November 14|
|Florida Atlantic||Middle Tennessee||-8.5||-4.4||-7.3|
|Florida St.||North Carolina St.||6.7||5.6||7.0|
|Air Force||Utah St.||0.1||4.0||-0.5|
|North Carolina||Miami (Fla.)||19.1||19.1||18.5|
|Notre Dame||Wake Forest||30.9||24.7||31.6|
|Iowa St.||Oklahoma St.||-16.6||-17.7||-17.4|
|Texas Tech||Kansas St.||4.0||5.6||4.4|
|Nevada||San Jose St.||-0.1||1.1||-0.5|
|Texas St.||Georgia St.||1.8||4.8||0.7|
|Boise St.||New Mexico||26.4||22.0||26.9|
|San Diego St.||Wyoming||26.9||29.8||29.6|
|FBS vs. FCS||Week 11||PiRate|
|Texas A&M||Western Carolina||29|
|* Ongoing Strike of Missouri Football Team May Force Forfeiture Of This Game In Kansas City|
|New Mexico||MWC||CUSA||New Mexico||vs.||Rice|
|Las Vegas||Pac-12||MWC/BYU||Washington St.||vs.||San Diego St.|
|Camellia||MAC||SBC||Western Michigan||vs.||Georgia Southern|
|New Orleans||CUSA||SBC||Southern Miss.||vs.||Louisiana-Lafayette|
|Miami Beach||AAC||CUSA||South Florida||vs.||Western Kentucky|
|Idaho Potato||MAC||MWC||Central Michigan||vs.||Utah St.|
|Boca Raton||AAC||MAC||Washington * ^||vs.||Northern Illinois|
|Poinsettia||MWC||Army||Boise St.||vs.||California *|
|GoDaddy||MAC||SBC||Bowling Green||vs.||Arkansas St.|
|Heart of Dallas||Big 12||CUSA||Akron *||vs.||UTEP|
|Pinstripe||ACC||Big Ten||North Carolina St.||vs.||Rutgers|
|Foster Farms||Big Ten||Pac-12||Indiana||vs.||UCLA|
|Quick Lane||ACC||Big Ten||Ohio *||vs.||Nevada *|
|Armed Forces||Big Ten||MWC||Buffalo *||vs.||Air Force|
|Russell Athletic||ACC||Big 12||Florida St.||vs.||Oklahoma|
|Arizona||CUSA||MWC||Middle Tennessee||vs.||Colorado St.|
|Texas||Big 12||SEC||Texas Tech||vs.||Texas A&M|
|Music City||ACC/Big Ten||SEC||Penn St.||vs.||Georgia|
|Peach||N. Y. 6||N. Y. 6||North Carolina||vs.||Michigan|
|Citrus||Big Ten||SEC||Michigan St.||vs.||Florida|
|Rose||Big Ten||Pac-12||Iowa||vs.||Notre Dame|
|Fiesta||N. Y. 6||N. Y. 6||Clemson||vs.||Temple|
|TaxSlayer||ACC/Big Ten||SEC||Louisville||vs.||Mississippi St.|
|Liberty||Big 12||SEC||West Virginia||vs.||Ole Miss|
|Cactus||Big 12||Pac-12||Kansas St.||vs.||Arizona St.|
|* = At-large selection due to contracted conference not having an eligible team for this slot|
|^ = Washington qualifies for a bowl at 5-7 with highest APR score of 5-7 teams|