The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 23, 2017

2017 Southeastern Conference Preview

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:54 am

The old adage goes that a southern gentleman’s three favorite professional sports leagues are, the NFC, the AFC, and the SEC.  Others see SEC football as a religion, and whoever is the head coach at Alabama, as the reigning Moses with direct communication to the Great Bear in the Sky.

For those that have not followed college football more than a few years, this league has been around for almost 85 years, but even before then, the league members were “killing it” on the gridiron.  As far back as 1904, the Crimson Tide played excellent footbal, and under Hall of Fame Coach Wallace Wade, the 1925 Alabama football team won the Southern Conference, the Rose Bowl, and finished 10-0 as the nation’s best team.

What is the top annual college football award? Easy: it’s the Heisman Trophy, named for John Heisman.  Heisman coached at two different schools that would become charter members of the SEC–Georgia Tech and Auburn.

General Robert Neyland led Tennessee from 1926 to 1952 with a couple of breaks to serve in the military.  Neyland was considered the best defensive coach in the history of the game, and one of his Volunteer teams shut out every opponent on the schedule.  Even at what is considered the bottom feeder programs of the league, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, both schools have pasts where they were not only great, they were the best in the nation.  Bear Bryant guided the 1950 Wildcats to an 11-1 season and major upset victory over number one Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.  Dan McGugin led the Commodores from 1904 to 1934, finishing with a record of 197-55-19 and winning multiple national championships at Vandy (retroactively according to recognized computer polls).  So, when you see the 14 SEC teams fighting it out week after week this year and think that they all of a sudden became the behemoths of the college football world, recall that this is not a new phenomenon.  The SEC is as storied as Major League Baseball.

2017 figures to be another great year in this league with four or five teams capable of making the Playoffs.  It is higher than an average chance that this season could see two SEC teams making the Playoffs.

Here is how the SEC Media voted in the preseason.

SEC East Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Georgia 138 1,572 6
2 Florida 96 1,526 3
3 Tennessee 3 998 0
4 South Carolina 5 897 1
5 Kentucky 0 869 0
6 Vanderbilt 1 554 1
7 Missouri 0 388 0
         
SEC West Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Alabama 225 1,683 217
2 Auburn 13 1,329 11
3 LSU 4 1,262 3
4 Arkansas 1 796 1
5 Texas A&M 0 722 0
6 Mississippi St. 0 633 0
7 Ole Miss 0 379 0

The PiRate Ratings are a tad different, but you can see there are several highly-regarded teams, as all 14 teams rate above 100.0.

Southeastern Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Georgia 116.3 117.6 116.4 116.8
Florida 115.3 114.6 114.6 114.8
Kentucky 111.7 110.2 111.2 111.0
Tennessee 111.4 109.6 109.5 110.2
Vanderbilt 110.2 108.5 109.2 109.3
S. Carolina 106.4 106.1 105.6 106.0
Missouri 104.7 101.3 103.4 103.1
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Alabama 133.4 128.6 132.4 131.5
Auburn 124.0 121.9 123.9 123.3
L S U 120.3 118.5 121.0 119.9
Arkansas 109.5 109.1 109.5 109.4
Ole Miss 107.6 106.2 106.0 106.6
Texas A&M 107.6 105.2 106.2 106.3
Mississippi St. 104.4 105.1 104.6 104.7
         
SEC Averages 113.1 111.6 112.4 112.4

And, take a look at our unscientific won-loss predictions and bowl projections.  You will notce that we believe there will be a surprise this year.

Southeastern Conference Projected Standings
East Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Georgia 6-2 10-3 Orange
Florida 6-2 8-4 Taxslayer
Kentucky 5-3 9-3 Outback
Tennessee 4-4 7-5 Belk
Vanderbilt 3-5 7-5 Music City
South Carolina 3-5 5-7  
Missouri 1-7 5-7  
       
West Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Auburn 7-1 12-1 PLAYOFFS
Alabama 7-1 11-1 PLAYOFFS
LSU 5-3 9-3 Citrus
Arkansas 3-5 7-5 Texas
Texas A&M 3-5 6-6 Liberty
Mississippi St. 2-6 6-6 Birmingham
Ole Miss 1-7 5-7  
       
Auburn to win SEC Championship Game

What the PiRate Ratings think at the start of this season:  Yes, you see that correctly above!  We have Alabama rated number one in the nation to begin the season, but we have Auburn picked as the SEC West Champion.  The two rivals play in Auburn this year, and our preseason belief is that Alabama will enter that game 11-0, while Auburn is 10-1.  We then show Auburn winning the game to take the West Division, while Alabama finished second with an 11-1 record, probably falling to third in the playoff seeding.

Then, we show Auburn winning the SEC Championship, earning the number two playoff seed.  You will see tomorrow that we have only one team picked to go undefeated, and that will be Ohio State (or in other words the winner of the Ohio State-Penn State game).  We previously showed you that we believe USC at 10-2 will knock off 12-0 Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

We then foresee USC sneaking into the #4 seed in the Playoffs, with Ohio State the top-seed.  Do you know what would happen if the seeding goes Ohio State, Auburn, Alabama, and USC?  The rules for the playoff state that the overall number one seed must have the bowl site advantage over the number four seed.  Since the two playoff semifinal games are the Rose and Sugar Bowls, Ohio State could not possibly play USC in the Rose Bowl.  It would make for a very interesting Sugar Bowl matchup between the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions.

But, then look what the Rose Bowl would get.  How about the crazy rematch of Alabama and Auburn in the Rose Bowl?  Can you imagine the insanity of a week in the L.A. area between the fans of the two schools?  In addition, the City of Angels likes its epic productions, and this would be the Rose Bowl for the ages.  Imagine the Tournament of Roses Parade with all the crimson and white and burnt orange and navy.  Yea, Alabama versus War Eagle.  Los Angeles hasn’t seen anything like this since Cecile B. Demille last made movies–the 10 Commandments of Football become the Greatest Show on Earth!

 

Coming tomorrow: It’s here.  The college football season kicks off Saturday, and we will commence with our regular weekly format.  This is our plan for 2017.

1. A weekly college forecast with our PiRate, Mean, and Bias ratings for all 130 FBS teams, and our spreads for the week’s games.

2. A weekly NFL forecast with the same ratings and spreads

3. A weekly Money Line Parlay edition in which we attempt to go for a third consecutive year where we make a large return on investment (just for fun, as we do not wager actual money on games).4. Returning this year on Friday afternoons: During the last three years, we have been a little too busy to devote time to the retro-football league that we enjoyed performing.  Many of you have asked about this in this time, and we are happy to announce it is coming back.

Many of you reading this may know that Sports Illustrated and Avalon Hill put out a couple of excellent and fun tabletop football games several decades ago.  The college version was called, “Bowl Bound,” and the NFL version was called, “Paydirt.”  The games are no longer made, but many football and math lovers have continued making the teams for this game.  The codes were not that hard to crack, and actually, some of the more advanced analytics experts were able to improve on these games.  What we will use for our recreations is an advanced version of this game.  The teams have updated charts to more closely match what these teams’ results.  We must admit that the originator of these games did not have access to an Internet that did not exist.  Enough information is out there to more accurately estimate a teams’ strengths and weaknesses and then to normalize it so that an average team in 1950 and an average team in 1975 should approach a mean score of 21-21 with both teams winning 50 of 100 games.

Thus, if a team is 12 points better than average in 1950, they are as strong as a team that is 12 points better than average in 1975.

This is how it will work this year.

A. We are using 14 NFL teams from the period between 1950 and 1975, using the rules and schedule of 1965.  Kickoffs will be from the 40 yard line; the goalposts will be on the goal lines and not on the end lines (shouldn’t they be called end posts now?); there will be no 10-yard penalties.  Holding and other current 10-yard penalties will be 15-yard penalties like in the “good ole days;” there will be no overtime for regular season games.

B. We are also using the 10 AFL teams from the period between 1960 and 1975, using the rules, and the schedule from the 1968 season.

C. There will be an NFL Championship Game and AFL Championship Game and then a Super Bowl between the two champions.

Here are the 24 teams that will be used for this event.

NFL East

Cleveland 1950

Dallas 1971

NY Giants 1959

Philadelphia 1960

Pittsburgh 1975

St. Louis 1975

Washington 1972

NFL West

Baltimore 1958

Chicago 1963

Detroit 1954

Green Bay 1962

Los Angeles 1967

Minnesota 1975

San Francisco 1970

AFL East

Boston 1964

Buffalo 1964

Houston 1961

Miami 1972

NY Jets 1968

AFL West

Cincinnati 1973

Denver 1973

Kansas City 1969

Oakland 1967

San Diego 1963

The games will be played using a computer-assisted play-calling system based on the tendencies of the teams in question.  For instance, Miami will have more fullback power runs inside the tackles.  Minnesota will feature more passes with the quarterback moving out of the pocket.  The NY Jets and Oakland will feature more of a vertical passing game, while Cincinnati relies more on the precursor to the West Coast Offense.  On defense, teams like the Rams will be tough to run on and trouble for quarterbacks without strong offensive lines.

The teams will play a 14-game regular season schedule with the champions of each division only making the playoffs–no wildcard teams.

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