The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 19, 2017

2017 Independents Preview

At one point in the 1960’s and 1970’s there were in excess of 30 college football teams not affiliated with a conference. Schools did not need a conference affiliation to succeed. Penn State, Notre Dame, Florida State, Miami, and other big name schools were power teams that frequently competed for national titles. Michigan State was actually an independent that won a national title prior to becoming the final member of the original Big Ten. There was even a five-year period where Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington State left the Pacific Coast Conference and played as independents, as the forerunner to today’s Pac-12 almost dissolved.

Today, the independent ranks are close to dissolving, but they are hanging on by a thread, or should we say four threads. Army, BYU, Massachusetts, and Notre Dame are what’s left, althought New Mexico State will join this group next year, more because they are being evicted from the Sun Belt. and the MWC has no vacancies for them at this time.

Notre Dame is only a quasi-independent. They belong to the ACC in many ways–they play a five-game schedule of ACC teams, and they can qualify for any ACC Bowl, as long as they are within one win of the next available team.

BYU is a tough fit as a full member in any conference, because the Cougars will not play any athletic competition on Sunday. In basketball, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee seeds them in brackets that keep them away from a Friday-Sunday schedule. They would be a perfect fit with New Mexico State in the Mountain West or even with New Mexico or Utah State in the Big 12, with New Mexico State replacing whichever school left.

Army is okay as an independent, although the West Pointers could fit right into the American Athletic with rival Navy. Massachusetts could easily fit in this league as well, and the independents would be history.

Since there are no preseason media polls, we will start by showing you our own PiRate Retrodictive Ratings for the four schools. You might ask how there could be retrodictive ratings, when no games have been played yet. How can we rate them on their results thus far? Obviously, this is not possible, but we begin each season adjusting the previous season’s final retrodictive ratings just like we do our regular PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings. By the fourth week of the season, the retrodictive ratings are 100% based on the current year’s results.

PiRate Retrodictive Ratings (Independents)

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

 

Here are our regular predictive PiRate, Mean, and Bias preseason ratings.

Independents
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Notre Dame 109.7 107.8 109.6 109.0
B Y U 103.0 101.9 103.6 102.8
Army 94.6 94.2 95.5 94.8
Massachusetts 86.0 84.4 86.0 85.5
         
Independents Averages 98.3 97.1 98.7 98.0

And, here are our not-so-scientific predictions for won-loss and bowl projections.

Independents Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
BYU x 9-4 [Military]
Notre Dame x 8-4 Pinstripe
Army x 8-4 Armed Forces
Massachusetts x 3-9  

BYU’s bowl bid is an at-large bid.

 

Trivia: Nobody could come up with the answer to yesterday’s trivia question. Rather than show all the incorrect replies, since we don’t want to embarrass anybody, we erased them from the responses.
Here it is again: Who are these two legendary coaches? Coach number one was a college head coach who won 70% of his games at his first Division 1 school, a team that played in a now defunct conference. He moved on to be a college head coach at two additional schools, the second of which he was replaced by a second coaching legend who won more than 200 games at the college level and more than 250 when his NFL wins were added. Four decades after winning 70% of his games at the first school, Coach number one was still coaching, now the head coach of an NFL team which he guided to the playoffs multiple times. Coach number two was still coaching four decades later after he replaced coach number one. Coach number two won a national championship during his career.
Name the two coaches. If nobody gets the answer by the time we go to press with tomorrow’s preview, we will give the answer, but we know that our readers tend to be among the most knowledgeable football fans and analytical geniuses, so we expect somebody to come up with the correct answer.

We had several guesses, and some of you actually guessed coach number two as coach number one. Nobody guessed correctly on coach number one. He is Marv Levy, who coached at New Mexico in 1958 and 1959, going 7-3 both years. New Mexico played in the defunct Border Conference, a pre-WAC establishment. Levy moved on to an unsuccessful stint at UC-Berkeley, and then to William & Mary. Levy led the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls four decades later.

Coach number two, who succeeded Levy at William & Mary was Lou Holtz. Holtz won 249 games at the collegiate level and another three in the NFL with the Jets.

Coming later today–The American Athletic Conference

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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?

 

August 14, 2015

2015 FBS Independents Preview (including in-depth Notre Dame coverage)

At one time, there were more than 30 major college football teams playing as independents not affiliated with a conference.  45 years ago, a look at the top-ranked teams found independents dominating the polls with teams like Penn State, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Air Force, Houston, Florida State, and Boston College competing at the top level of the NCAA.
With Navy joining the American Athletic Conference this year, the number of independents has dwindled to just three.  Notre Dame, BYU, and Army (West Point) are all that remain.  There is a rising trend amongst the coaches and athletics directors of the other schools to mandate that all teams that wish to be eligible for the postseason playoff must be a member of a conference.  This is a direct stab at Notre Dame and their plum TV deal with NBC.
The only other news item among the Indies this year involves a name change.  Army is now to be called “Army West Point.”

Because there is no official media poll or All-Independent team, and because it is obvious that Notre Dame is the top of the trio and Army West Point is at the bottom, we will dispense with these parts of the preview and give you an in-depth look at the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame
Coach Brian Kelly is in an advantageous position this year.  Notre Dame is sitting on a potentially big season with the return of 10 defensive starters and seven offensive starters.  A team that went 8-5 with three close losses last year is considerably more talented in 2015.  The schedule is more favorable than last year’s as the Irish host Texas and USC.  Road games against Clemson and Stanford are the only roadblocks between a 12-0 slate that would put this team in the playoffs.

New starting quarterback Malik Zaire auditioned for the job last year by making his first start in the Music City Bowl.  Against a tough LSU defense, he guided the Irish offense on a 15-play touchdown drive that consumed nearly eight minutes off the clock, capping it off with a 12-yard scoring pass to William Fuller.  The drive looked similar to how the Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers frequently started games.  Removing the sacks, Zaire topped 100 yards rushing in that game, and he completed 12 of 15 pass attempts for 96 yards and a score.  Look for the sophomore to have a break out season this year.  If Zaire suffers and injury, there is no experienced depth behind him, but Kelly has recruited this position well.  Two former 5-star recruits will vie for the backup spot.
The running game is talented but not that deep but with a wildcard.  Tarean Folston led the team with 889 yards last year, and it looked as if he would split time with Greg Bryant until academic ineligibility sent him to junior college in Florida.  The wildcard here is slot receiver C. J. Prosise.  Prosise was the star of Spring Practice as both a receiver and a ball carrier.  True freshman Dexter Williams may now see appreciable playing time.  With Zaire’s ability to excell in the zone read, the running game is going to be much better this year, and the Irish could top 200 rushing yards per game.

The passing game may not be as fruitful as last year, but it could be just as effective, albeit less utilized.  Fuller is back after leading the team with 76 catches and 1,094 yards.  Prosise will get his reps in the slot.  Chris Brown is almost as talented as Fuller.  Corey Robinson would start for at least half of the Big Ten teams.  Additionally, there are four or five other players capable of contributing to this deeply talented unit.  Kelly was pleased in the Spring with new starting tight end Durham Smythe.  Smythe will not replicate the numbers put up by last year’s star tight end Ben Koyack, who now plays in the NFL.

The offensive line returns four players with significant starting experience, and this unit is strong and agile.  Notre Dame will control the line of scrimmage in most of its games, and Kelly will pound the ball between the tackles more like he did in 2012.  Center NIck Martin and tackle Ronnie Stanley both have NFL potential.  The Irish can go two deep here and not see much of a drop in production.

The Irish defense was not up to par for Notre Dame standards last year, but with most of the starting lineup returning, things promise to improve in 2015.  It won’t be a repeat of 2012, but if Notre Dame can give up just 20 points per game this year, they stand to be quite successful.

Defensive tackle Sheldon Day decided to forego an early admission to the NFL and come back for his senior year.  He will team with Jarron Jones to give the Irish possibly the best tackle tandem in the nation.  Opponents will not exploit Notre Dame with inside running plays.  Both of last year’s starting ends return as well.  Isaac Rochell and Romeo Okwara provided an excellent outside pass rush last year.  Look for Notre Dame to surrender 30 to 40 fewer rushing yards per game this year as well as giving up less than four yards per attempt.  Also, look for the sack total to go up by more than 50% from 26 to more than 40.

Seldom can a team go three-deep at a defensive unit, but the Irish have 10 linebackers good enough to play in the top level of college football.  The key player is middle linebacker Joe Schmidt.  When Schmidt was in the lineup, the Irish looked like a typical defense in their storied history.  With Schmidt injured, Notre Dame played defense more like a matador.  Jaulon Smith is a tackling machine, but without Schmidt, those tackles occur too far downfield.  Who the third starter will be is still to be determined, but Kelly can choose from four or five experienced players and sleep peacefully at night.  Nyles Morgan and James Onwualu are the leading contenders.

There was a vulnerability in the secondary last year, but injuries and suspensions were the cause.  Look for things to get a lot better this year.  KeiVarae Russell returns to the club after missing all of last year due to the academic scandal of 2013.  Russell is a game changer at cornerback, and he will team with Cole Luke to make it rather hard for opponents to succeed on the outer perimeter.  Safeties Elijah Shumate and Max Redfield are not as talented as the cornerback duo, but they are competent and intelligent and should show improved play this year.

The Irish Achilles’ Heel this year is their special teams.  Gone is supertoe Kyle Brindza, who hit 51-52 PATs and 14-24 field goals last year, while punting for an average of 41.5 yards per attempt.  Two freshmen will replace him.  True freshman Justin Yoon had thoughts of becoming an NHL hockey star.  Years of playing hockey strengthened his kicking leg, and Yoon may turn out to be a better scorer than Brindza was.  However, as a freshman, Yoon may not replicate what Brindza produced last year.

The schedule begins with a visit from the Texas Longhorns.  Notre Dame should win this game by a touchdown or more.  A week two trip to Virginia could be a trap game, but the Cavaliers don’t have the talent to upset the Irish this year.  Week three brings an interesting match against Georgia Tech, and you should mark this one down on your calendar to tune into NBC for this one.  The Irish should be favored by about 4 or 5 points in this game, a if they come out of this one at 3-0, they should move into the top 5 in the polls.

After a breather home game against an improving UMass, the Irish have a tough assignment at Clemson on October 3.  The Tigers will have a bye week to prepare for this game, and CU is 26-2 at home in the last four years.  Navy comes to South Bend on October 10, and because the Irish will have already played Georgia Tech, they should fare rather well against the spread option.

The following week is the big game against rival USC.  It is possible that these teams will both still be undefeated and ranked in the top five for the first time since 1988.  Notre Dame will be out for revenge against the Trojans after losing by 35 points in the regular season finale last year.

After a welcome week off, the Irish play Temple in Philadelphia, and while the Owls will be flying with a possible 5-2 record by then, this game should not be much of a contest.  The Irish stay in the Keystone State the following week against Pittsburgh, and the Panthers don’t have the horses to pull off the upset this year.  After a home visit from Wake Forest that should not be much trouble for Kelly’s troops, Notre Dame plays Boston College in what should be a very memorable game.  The contest will be played at Fenway Park, and this is one game you won’t want to miss if you are a real football fan.

The regular season concludes on the Left Coast with a visit to The Farm against Stanford.  If Notre Dame comes out of this game with at least 11 wins, they very well could be in the FBS Playoffs.  10 wins will still guarnatee them a Big Six bowl bid.

BYU
Brigham Young coach Bronco Mendenhall welcomes back enough talent from his 8-5 team last year to guarantee that the Cougars will once again be bowl eligible and earn a bid to the Las Vegas (or Hawaii) Bowl.  Quarterback Taysom Hill was off to a spectacular year last season until an gruesome injury ended his season early in the fifth game (when BYU was 4-0).  Hill returns to take his QB spot back, but there is no way he can be as effective as he was prior to the devastating knee injury that was worse than anything Joe Namath experienced.

The loss of expected running back starter Jamaal Williams is going to hurt, and BYU doesn’t have a back that can replace him.  With Hill not expected to use his legs like he did before the injury, the Cougar offense may become more one dimentional.  There are talented receivers, so BYU may still succeed on this side of the ball.  Mitch Mathews, Terenn Houk, Colby Pearson, and Mitchell Juergens provide Hill with four quality targets.

An offensive line that averages 310 pounds per man should provide Hill with enough pass protection to allow him to top 300 passing yards per game, and if this is so, then BYU should top 35 points per game for the second consecutive season.

The defense is not strong enough to allow BYU to compete for the one allotted Big Six bowl bid, as there are a lot of holes to plug.  The secondary will be vulnerable with the loss of three starters including star defender Robertson Daniel.

BYU is also thin at linebacker where three of four 2014 starters are missing.  Only up front, where all three 2014 starters return is above average for a FBS team.  End Bronson Kaufusi could play in the NFL next year.
The schedule is tricky this year, and the Cougars could have to play catchup in the second half of the schedule to gain bowl eligibility.  Among the first six games, BYU plays at Nebraska, UCLA, and Michigan, and they host Boise St.  A 2-4 start is not out of the question.  In the second half of the season, BYU plays Missouri in Kansas City and closes the season out against Utah State in Logan, so there is very little wiggle room for the Cougars this year.

Army West Point
To those fans of the Black Knights on the Hudson, it has been a long time since their team has been good enough to compete against teams from big conferences.  To all other football fans, it is somewhat of a blessing that this school has not fielded exceptional teams.  Why?  Because throughout its history, The Academy becomes a juggenaut when the world, or a large segment of the world, is at war.  A record of 30-4-1 during World War I included two undefeated seasons.  During World War II, Army 31-5-1 with what many believe was the best team ever.  During the Korean Conflict, the team had 8-1 and 7-1-1 seasons.  Even during the Vietnam years, Army enjoyed its last dominant years against big time opposition, going 8-2, 8-2, and 7-3 over a three-year period that included wins over Penn State, Pittsburgh, California, and Stanford.

2015 does not find the country involved in a World War, and the Black Knights do not figure to contend for a bowl bid.  Just beating Navy after losing 13 in a row in the rivalry would be considered a major success.
Second year coach Jeff Monken uses the very familiar spread option offense that the other service academies rely on, as well as Georgia Tech.  A. J. Schurr has the potential to run this offense with some success, but injuries have kept him off the field.  The senior has the experience to make the offense go, but he did not participare in Spring drills.  He is a question as the season begins, and there is little experience behind him.

The entire running back corps is raw and inexperienced.  Fullbacks Aaron Kemper and Matt Giachinta combined for just 71 rushing attempts and 310 yards, while no other back on the roster ran the ball at least 20 times.  While there is more returning experience in the receiver unit, this team seldom passes the ball with a run-pass ratio of close to 9 to 1.

The offensive line is the stong point of the offense, but in the spread option, the linemen are not the key.  Reading and reacting with quickness is what makes this offense go, and it is questionable whether this edition of Cadets can do that consistently.

The defense has some promise with the return of the top five tacklers, including linebacker Jeremy Timpf, who made close to 10 tackles per game last year and registered 14 1/2 stops behind the line of scrimmage.  A weak pass defense made it hard for Army to get its defense off the field last year.  Three starters return, which may or may not be a plus.
The Schedule offers a few weak opponents, a few opponents that are beatable but better than this team, and the rest of the slate comes against teams that will easily defeat the Black Knights.

PiRate, Mean, Bias, and Average Ratings For The Independents

FBS Independents
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Notre Dame 121.7 117.7 121.6 120.3
BYU 103.8 102.4 105.1 103.8
Army (West Point) 77.0 88.1 78.4 81.2

Here are our predicted Won-Loss records and bowl projections for the trio.

PiRate Ratings Predicted Records
Pos Team Conf. Overall Bowl
1 Notre Dame 6-0 * 11-1 Big Six
2 BYU 0-0 7-5 Las Vegas
3 Army (West Point) 0-0 3-9 None
* 6-0 Represents Notre Dame’s slate against the ACC

Coming Next: We begin our coverage of the five major conferences with our preview of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

March 15, 2015

Bracketology Update for Sunday Morning, March 15, 2015

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 7:16 am

Sunday, March 15, 2015.  Note to Ole Miss, Indiana, Boise St., Temple, UCLA, Miami, and even Murray St.: BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH!

The 21st Century Roman-like Senate meets today to decide your fate, and it looks like most if not all of you will be judged by a modern day conspiratorial conclave led by today’s Brutus and Cassius.  Your fate will be a stabbing in the back, and this day will launch the great Civil War known as the NCAA Tournament, where the next Augustus could be sitting in a chair in the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville this afternoon, wearing Royal Blue with the letter “K” emblazoned upon it.

We are down to just five games before the Selection Committee reveals the official brackets at 6PM EDT today.  The Sun Belt Conference Championship Game features top seed Georgia State and top challenger Georgia Southern.  If State wins, their seed could be as high as 13, while Southern would receive a 14 or 15 seed if they pull off the upset.

The Atlantic 10 Championship Game could be the most exciting of the quintet today, with Virginia Commonwealth and Dayton facing off in Brooklyn.  When these two played a couple weeks back, a missed VCU crip shot off an offensive rebound was all that separated the combatants from going to overtime.

Kentucky and Arkansas face off in the SEC Championship Game.  A Wildcat win leaves everything the same as it is now, while an Arkansas upset would only life the Razorbacks up one seeding slot if anything.

Wisconsin looks to wrap up a number one seed, as the Badgers face Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.  The Spartans are starting to look like some of Coach Tom Izzo’s better teams that played volleyball on the backboards until the ball went in the hoop.  Wisconsin has a habit of playing 10 minutes where they could outscore not even Kentucky, but also the Atlanta Hawks, but then they have a five-minute stretch where they would be outscored by not only Maine but by La Follette High in Madison.

The fifth game is the key game for the Selection Committee, because two teams stand to be affected by the outcome.  Connecticut faces SMU in the American Athletic Conference Championship in Hartford, and the Huskies are tough to beat at home and in March.  Should U Conn come through and win another tournament title when they were a middle of the pack team, then one team currently penciled into the dance will see the eraser remove their name and send it over to the NIT Selection Committee.

It is still early on Sunday morning, so I apologize that I have not heard from all my bracketologist friends that send me their data.  They are entitled to a late Saturday night, and if they were like most of us, they were up late watching the Pac-12, Big West, and WAC Championship Games.

Before we show you our current Bracketology, here are the PiRate Ratings for today’s five games.

Team               Team                         Red    White    Blue
Kentucky         Arkansas                     14        11        15
Wisconsin       Michigan St.                  7          6          4
Connecticut     SMU                            -4        -1          1
Georgia St.     Georgia Southern        10         5          8

VCU                Dayton                           1         1         -1

The Bubble

We do not have all our bracketologists reporting this morning, but from what we do have, it all boils down to four teams.  Connecticut is the key here.  If the Huskies win today, then two of the other three in this list see their bubble burst.  If SMU defeats U Conn, then only one bubble bursts, thanks to Wyoming winning the MWC title last night.

We will offer our opinion of what information we have from the 11 geniuses that have sent in their data.

The teams in trouble are Indiana, Ole Miss, BYU, and Temple in that order.  The consensus among the group of 11 is that Indiana was ousted by Wyoming’s win last night and Ole Miss stands to go bust should Connecticut win today.  One caveat: the three most accurate of our 26 experts have yet to send in their information today.

Here are the consensus seeds according to the 11 Bracketologists we do have this morning.

1 Kentucky
1 Villanova
1 Wisconsin
1 Duke
2 Virginia
2 Arizona
2 Gonzaga
2 Kansas
3 Iowa St.
3 Maryland
3 Notre Dame
3 Baylor
4 Oklahoma
4 North Carolina
4 Northern Iowa
4 Louisville
5 Arkansas
5 West Virginia
5 Wichita St.
5 SMU
6 Utah
6 Providence
6 Georgetown
6 Butler
7 Michigan St.
7 VCU
7 San Diego St.
7 Oregon
8 Xavier
8 Iowa
8 St. John’s
8 Ohio St.
9 Cincinnati
9 N. C. St.
9 Dayton
9 Oklahoma St.
10 Davidson
10 Georgia
10 Texas
10 Colorado St.
11 LSU
11 Purdue
11 Wyoming
11 Boise St.
11 BYU
12 Temple
12 Ole Miss
12 Buffalo
12 S. F. Austin
12 Wofford
13 Valparaiso
13 Harvard
13 Georgia St.
13 UC Irvine
14 Northeastern
14 Albany
14 New Mexico St.
14 E. Washington
15 N. Dakota St.
15 Belmont
15 UAB
15 Coastal Carolina
16 Texas Southern
16 Lafayette
16 North Florida
16 Manhattan
16 Robert Morris
16 Hampton

First 4 Out
Indiana
UCLA
Miami
Murray St.

August 18, 2013

2013 FBS Independents Preview

2013 FBS Independents Preview

 

The number of independents in Division 1 FBS has expanded to six teams this year, the most this century.  With the Western Athletic Conference closing for football business, not all former members found homes in conference subdivisions.

 

Of course, it wasn’t so bad for this group last year.  Brigham Young and Navy enjoyed eight-win seasons, while Notre Dame made it to the National Championship Game with a 12-0 regular season mark before experiencing the drowning in the sea of Crimson Tide.

 

Into Spring, it looked like Notre Dame had a decent chance to repeat their regular season success of last year, but that chance disappeared when starting quarterback Everett Golson became academically ineligible.  The Fighting Irish schedule has some easy victories wrapped around several tough games, and this team cannot win all the tough games in 2013.

 

BYU must incorporate a new quarterback into an offense that otherwise returns a lot of talent, but the Cougars’ defense will be a work in progress, as just three starters return to one of the top stop units in the country last year.  Still, they should return to a bowl this year.

 

Navy returns enough talent to continue to cause headaches for opposing defensive coordinators.  With experience at quarterback and fullback, and with more than usual experience returning in the blocking corps, the Middies should continue to move the ball on the ground and possibly top 300 rushing yards per game this year.  Once again, the defense will be the unknown factor.  Last year, Navy surrendered more than 400 yards per game on average with the ration about equal between rushing and passing yards allowed.  Add to this that the top four tacklers from last year are now Lieutenants in the Navy, and it could be a problem.

 

Army has been forced to retreat the last two years, winning just three and two games with a couple of very tough losses to their arch-rival.  Who can forget the look on former QB Trent Steelman’s face when he fumbled the ball at the end of last year’s Army-Navy game.

 

The Cadets led the nation with 370 rushing yards per game last year, but they finished last in passing with just 66 yards per game.  Expect the rushing yards to take a considerable hit this year, but we expect Army’s passing numbers to improve, maybe even approaching the triple digit mark for the first time since they went back to the triple option philosophy.

 

 

New Mexico St. starts over yet again with its fourth head coach in the last 10 years.  Doug Martin was the offensive coordinator here two years ago, and the Aggies had their most successful output since Hal Mumme’s Air Raid offense of 2006.  It won’t take much to improve upon last season’s disastrous 1-11 record (lone win over Sacramento St.), but the schedule is a bit tougher this year.

 

Idaho fans are excited with Paul Petrino coming to the Kibbie Dome.  Vandal fans should be treated to several exciting ball games in year one, but their team is going to be on the losing end of almost every contest.  Still, it should be fun to play in one of the most interesting stadiums in America.

 

New Independents: Idaho and New Mexico St.

Departed Teams: None

 

2014 Additions: None

 

2014 Departures: Idaho and New Mexico St. will join the Sunbelt.  Navy is scheduled to join the American Athletic Conference in 2015.  Notre Dame’s working agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference begins in 2014, but the Fighting Irish will remain football independents.

 

Pre-season PiRate Ratings

Independents

Team

 

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Notre Dame

 

0-0

121.6

115.0

120.5

B Y U

 

0-0

108.2

107.8

108.9

Navy

 

0-0

91.7

94.5

91.4

Army

 

0-0

85.7

91.8

86.4

New Mexico St.

 

0-0

75.4

86.4

75.3

Idaho

 

0-0

71.3

80.6

69.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Avg’s.

 

 

92.3

96.0

92.1

 

 

There are no official media polls or preseason all-Independent teams.  Instead, here is a consensus ranking of the five independents according to the current conglomerate of Mathematics Professor Ken Massey’s College Football Ranking Composite (of which the PiRate Ratings are a contributor).  You can find his site at: http://masseyratings.com/cf/compare.htm

 

Massey College Football Ranking Composite

(as of Sunday, August 18, 2013)

 

Pos

Team

Ranking

1

Notre Dame

6

2

B Y U

33

3

Navy

76

4

Army

111

5

Idaho

122

6

New Mexico St.

123

 

Here is a list of key players for each of the six independents values in parentheses represent 2012 statistics:

 

Army

Raymond Maples—RB (1,215 rush yds/5.4 avg)

Larry Dixon—RB (839 rush yds/6.0 avg/6TD)

Ryan Powis, Stephen Shumaker, and Michael Kime—OL

Robert Kough—DL (9.5 TFL)

Alex Meier—LB (71 tackles)

Geoffrey Bacon—DB (136 tackles)

 

B Y U

Taysom Hill—QB (59.2%/6.0 ypa/4TD-2Int) [was 3rd string QB in 2012]

Jamaal Williams—RB (775 rush/4.7 avg/12 TD & 27 receptions/11.1 avg)

Cody Hoffman—WR (100-1,248/11 TD)

Kaneakua Friel—TE (30-308/5 TD & good blocker)

Manaaki Vaitai, Solomone Kafu, and Ryker Mathews—OL

Bronson Kaufusi—DL (4.5 sacks)

Kyle Van Noy—LB (13 sacks/22 TFL/8 QB hurries/7 Passes Defended)[1st rd. potential]

Daniel Sorensen—DB (3 Int./8 Passes Defended)

 

Idaho

Najee Lovett—WR (50-543/6 TD)

Jahrie Level—WR (46-538)

Mike Marboe—OL

Maxx Forde—DL (4 sacks/4 QB hurries/4 Passes Defended)

Solomon Dixon—DB (3 Int./6 Passes Defended)

 

Navy

Keenan Reynolds—QB (749 rush/5.1 avg [sacks removed]/56.5% comp/8.3 ypa)

Noah Copeland—FB (738 rush/4.6 avg/5 TD)

Shawn Lynch—WR (14-281 20.1 ypc)

Tanner Fleming, Jake Zuzek, Graham Vickers—OL

Barry Dabney & Evan Palelei—DL

Cody Peterson—LB (67 tackles)

Parrish Gaines—DB (69 tackles/4 Passed Defended)

Pablo Beltran—P (43.6 avg/37.8 net/41% inside 20 yard line)

 

New Mexico St.

Germi Morrison—RB (767 rush/4.8 avg)

Austin Franklin—WR (74-1,245/9 TD)

Andy Cunningham & Davonte Wallace—OL

Matt Ramondo—DL (transfer from Michigan St.)

Trashaun Nixon—LB (96 tackles/3 sacks/9.5 TFL/5 QB hurries/5 Passed Defended)

Davis Cazares—DB (116 tackles)

George Callender—DB (86 tackles)

Cayle Chapman-Brown—P (44.3 avg/37.3 net)

 

Notre Dame

George Atkinson—RB (7.1 yards per rush as backup)

T. J. Jones—WR (50-649/4 TD)

DaVaris Daniels—WR (31-490)

Chris Watt, Christian Lombard, & Zack Martin—OL (All NFL prospects)

Louis Nix—DL (50 tackles/7.5 TFL/5 Passes Defended)

Stephon Tuitt—DL (47 tackles/12 sacks/9 QB hurries)

Prince Shembo—LB (7.5 sacks/10.5 TFL/12 QB hurries)

Dan Fox—LB (63 tackles)

Danny Spond—LB (39 tackles)

Bennett Jackson—DB (65 tackles/4 Int./8 Passed Defended)

KeiVarae Russell—DB (58 tackles)

Matthias Farley—DB (49 tackles)

 

 

     

PiRate Ratings Summary

 

About Grades

93-100    A+

86-92      A

79-85      A-

72-78      B+

65-71      B

58-64      B-

51-57      C+

44-50      C

37-43      C-

30-36      D

0-29        F

 

About Predictions

Predictions are based on the PiRate Ratings with home field advantage factored in.  The PiRate Ratings use different home field advantages for every game, since the opponent factors into the equation.

 

Team

Army Black Knights

               
Head Coach

Rich Ellerson

               
Colors

Black and Gold

               
City

West Point, NY

               
2012 Record              
Conference

 

Overall

2-10

               
Grades              
Run Offense

90

Pass Offense

22

Run Defense

40

Pass Defense

58

               
Ratings              
PiRate

85.7

Mean

91.8

Bias

86.4

               
Rankings              
PiRate

105

Mean

97

Bias

102

               
Prediction              
Conference

 

Overall

3-9

 

 

Team

B Y U Cougars

               
Head Coach

Bronco Mendenhall

               
Colors

Dark Blue and White

               
City

Provo, UT

               
2012 Record              
Conference

 

Overall

8-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

61

Pass Offense

79

Run Defense

74

Pass Defense

76

               
Ratings              
PiRate

108.2

Mean

107.8

Bias

108.9

               
Rankings              
PiRate

39

Mean

36

Bias

39

               
Prediction              
Conference

 

Overall

9-3

 

 

Team

Idaho Vandals

               
Head Coach

Paul Petrino

               
Colors

Black, Silver, and Gold

               
City

Moscow, ID

               
2012 Record              
Conference

1-5 (in WAC)

Overall

1-11

               
Grades              
Run Offense

30

Pass Offense

54

Run Defense

42

Pass Defense

19

               
Ratings              
PiRate

71.3

Mean

80.6

Bias

69.9

               
Rankings              
PiRate

123

Mean

123

Bias

124

               
Prediction              
Conference

 

Overall

0-12

 

 

Team

Navy Midshipmen

               
Head Coach

Ken Niumatalolo

               
Colors

Navy, Gold, and White

               
City

Annapolis, MD

               
2012 Record              
Conference

 

Overall

8-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

77

Pass Offense

45

Run Defense

49

Pass Defense

59

               
Ratings              
PiRate

91.7

Mean

94.5

Bias

91.4

               
Rankings              
PiRate

89

Mean

84

Bias

89

               
Prediction              
Conference

 

Overall

5-7

 

 

Team

New Mexico St. Aggies

               
Head Coach

Doug Martin

               
Colors

Crimson and White

               
City

Las Cruces, NM

               
2012 Record              
Conference

0-6 (in WAC)

Overall

1-11

               
Grades              
Run Offense

22

Pass Offense

60

Run Defense

32

Pass Defense

41

               
Ratings              
PiRate

75.4

Mean

86.4

Bias

75.3

               
Rankings              
PiRate

121

Mean

111

Bias

121

               
Prediction              
Conference

 

Overall

2-10

 

 

Team

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

               
Head Coach

Brian Kelly

               
Colors

Navy and Gold

               
City

South Bend, IN

               
2012 Record              
Conference

 

Overall

12-1

               
Grades              
Run Offense

 

Pass Offense

 

Run Defense

 

Pass Defense

 

               
Ratings              
PiRate

121.6

Mean

115.0

Bias

120.5

               
Rankings              
PiRate

8

Mean

11

Bias

10

               
Prediction              
Conference

 

Overall

11-1

 

 

********************************************************

Teams Transitioning From FCS to FBS

 

Four teams are in the process of becoming FBS schools.  Old Dominion is in its transition season before becoming a member of Conference USA.  Appalachian St. and Georgia Southern are in transition to the Sunbelt Conference.  Charlotte will entertain its first season of football this year, and the 49ers will play two seasons as a FCS Independent before joining Conference USA in 2015.

 

We do not have detailed information on these four schools, but we have rated them.  We used as much of our PiRate formulas as we can for these schools.  However, for Charlotte, since the 49ers have never played a game, we are interpolating data from other first-year programs to arrive at a very basic opening rating.

 

We will follow these four teams all season, so as to better judge them when they move to FBS.

 

Transitioning Teams

Team

 

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Georgia Southern

 

0-0

85.0

86.1

92.1

Old Dominion

 

0-0

81.5

82.6

88.6

Appalachian St.

 

0-0

81.4

82.5

88.5

Charlotte

 

0-0

55.0

56.1

62.1

           
Not figured in regular averages to 100      

 

This submission concludes the previews of the non-automatic qualifying conferences.  Beginning tomorrow, we preview the six big conferences, starting with the new American Athletic Conference (former Big East).  Many argue that this league does not deserve an automatic bid to the FBS bowls, and it figures that the league champion will be the last team selected, but at least this lasts for just one more season.

 

Here is the schedule for the remaining previews:

 

Date Conference
Tuesday, August 20 American Athletic Conference
Wednesday, August 21 Atlantic Coast Conference
Thursday, August 22 Big Ten Conference
Friday, August 23 Big 12 Conference
Saturday, August 24 Pac-12 Conference
Sunday, August 25 Southeastern Conference
Monday, August 26 AFC West
Tuesday, August 27 AFC South
Tuesday, August 27 Week 1 College Football Report
Wednesday, August 28 AFC North
Thursday, August 29 AFC East
Friday, August 30 NFC East
Saturday, August 31 NFC North
Sunday, September 1 NFC South
Monday, September 2 NFC West
Tuesday, September 3 NFL Week 1 Report
Wednesday, September 4 Week 2 College Football Report

 

And, remember:  The PiRate Ratings are part of Ken Massey’s College Football Ranking Composite at: http://masseyratings.com/cf/compare.htm

 

&

 

Todd Beck’s College and Pro Football Prediction Tracker at:

http://www.thepredictiontracker.com/

 

March 8, 2013

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments Update–Friday, March 8, 2013

Today’s Conference Tournaments in Action

Atlantic Sun—Semifinal Round 

Horizon—Quarterfinal Round

Metro Atlantic—Opening Round

Missouri Valley—Quarterfinal Round

Ohio Valley—Semifinal Round

Southern Conference—Opening Round

Sun Belt Conference—Opening Round

West Coast—Quarterfinal Round

 

America East Conference

 

Seed

Team

Conference

Overall

RPI

1

Stony Brook

14-2

23-6

71

2

Vermont

11-5

19-10

128

3

Hartford

10-6

17-12

171

4

Albany

9-7

21-10

164

5

Maine

6-10

11-18

273

6

U M B C

5-11

7-22

312

7

N. Hampshire

5-11

9-19

293

8

Binghamton

1-15

3-26

338

 

Conference Tournament—Albany, NY  (Championship Game at Higher Seed)

 

Game #

Day 1 – Quarterfinals

Time

TV

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

1

2-Vermont vs. 7-New Hampshire

12:00 Noon

ESPN3

2

3-Hartford vs. 6-U M B C

2:00 PM

ESPN3

3

1-Stony Brook vs. 8-Binghamton

6:00 PM

ESPN3

4

4-Albany vs. 5-Maine

8:00 PM

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Semifinals

 

 

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 10

 

 

5

Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2

5:00 PM

ESPN3

6

Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4

7:00 PM

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 –Finals

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 16

 

 

7

Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6

11:30 AM

ESPN2

 

at Higher Seeded Winner’s Home Court

 

 

 

Online Site: www.americaeast.com

 

Atlantic Sun Conference

 

Seed Team Conference Overall RPI
1 Mercer 14-4 22-10 131
2 Florida Gulf Coast 13-5 22-10 109
3 Stetson 11-7 15-15 223
4 SC Upstate 9-9 16-16 228
5 Jacksonville 9-9 14-18 268
6 North Florida 8-10 13-19 220
7 East Tennessee St. 8-10 10-22 263
8 Lipscomb 7-11 12-18 235

 

Conference Tournament—Macon, GA (Mercer)

Game #

Day 1 – Quarterfinals Time TV

 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 06, 2013    

1

#2 Florida Gulf Coast  73  #7 N. Florida  63    

2

#1 Mercer  82  #8 Lipscomb  48    

 

     

 

Day 2 – Quarterfinals    

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 07, 2013    

3

#3 Stetson  67  #6 East Tennessee St.  46    

4

#5 USC-Upstate  76  #4 Jacksonville  62    

 

     

 

Day 3 – Semifinals    

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 08, 2013    

5

#2 Fla. Gulf Coast vs. #3 Stetson 5:30 p.m. ESPN3 & CSS

6

#1 Mercer vs. #5 USC-Upstate 8:00 p.m. ESPN3 & CSS

 

     

 

Day 4 – Finals    

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 09, 2013    

7

Semifinal Winners 12:00 p.m. ESPN2

 

Online Site: http://www.atlanticsun.org

 

Big South Conference

 

Seed Team Conference Overall RPI
1 Charleston Southern 12-4 18-11 186
2 High Point 12-4 17-13 248
3 Gardner-Webb 11-5 21-11 185
4 UNC-Asheville 10-6 16-16 202
5 Coastal Carolina 9-7 14-15 246
6 V M I 8-8 14-16 311
7 Campbell 7-9 13-20 293
8 Radford 7-9 13-19 313
9 Winthrop 6-10 14-17 275
10 Liberty 6-10 13-20 324
11 Presbyterian 4-12 8-24 339
12 Longwood 4-12 8-24 336

 

Conference Tournament—Conway, SC (Myrtle Beach Area) (Coastal Carolina)

Game #

Day 1 – First Round

Time

TV

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 5

 

 

1

5S Winthrop  60  4N Radford  58 ot

 

 

2

6N Longwood  87  3S UNC-Asheville  72

 

 

3

3N Campbell  81  6S Presbyterian  73

 

 

4

5N Liberty  78  4S Coastal Carolina  61

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Quarterfinals

 

 

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 7

 

 

5

1S Charleston Southern  54  5S Winthrop  47

 

 

6

2N V M I  90  6N Longwood  86

 

 

7

2S Gardner-Webb  71  3N Campbell  57

 

 

8

5N Liberty  61  1N High Point  60

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Semifinals

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

9

1S Charleston Southern vs. 2N V M I

12 Noon

ESPN3

10

2S Gardner-Webb vs. 5N Liberty

2:00 PM

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4-Finals

 

 

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 10

 

 

11

Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10

12 Noon

ESPN2

 

Online TV Site: www.bigsouthsports.com

 

Colonial Athletic Association

 

Seed

Team Conference Overall RPI
1 Northeastern 14-4 19-11 160
2 Delaware 13-5 18-13 127
3 James Madison 11-7 17-14 207
4 George Mason 10-8 17-13 155
5 Drexel 9-9 13-17 205
6 William & Mary 7-11 13-16 265
7 Hofstra 4-14 7-24 321

 

Conference Tournament—Richmond, VA

Game #

Day 1 – Quarterfinals

Time

TV

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

1

4-George Mason vs. 5-Drexel

3:30 PM

Online

2

2-Delaware vs. 7-Hofstra

6:00 PM

Online

3

3-James Madison vs. 6-William & Mary

8:30 PM

Online

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Semifinals

 

 

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 10

 

 

4

1-Northeastern vs. Winner Game 1

2:00 PM

NBCSN

5

Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3

4:30 PM

NBCSN

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3-Finals

 

 

 

MONDAY, MARCH 11

 

 

6

Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5

7:00 PM

NBCSN

 

Online Site: http://www.caasports.com

 

Horizon League

 

Seed

Team Conference Overall RPI
1 Valparaiso 13-3 24-7 63
2 Detroit 12-4 20-11 58
3 Wright St. 10-6 19-11 166
4 Green Bay 10-6 17-14 167
5 Illinois-Chicago 7-9 17-14 164
6 Youngstown St. 7-9 17-14 190
7 Loyola (Chi) 5-11 15-16 218
8 Cleveland St. 5-11 14-18 196
9 Milwaukee 3-13 8-24 301

 

Conference Tournament—1st Round & Championship @ Higher Seed, Quarterfinals & Semifinals at Valparaiso

 

Game #

Day 1 – 1st Round

Time

TV

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 5

 

 

1

4-Green Bay  62  9-Milwaukee  46

 

 

2

5-Illinois-Chicago  82  8-Cleveland St.  59

 

 

3

6-Youngstown St.  62  7-Loyola (Chi)  60

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Quarterfinals

 

 

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 8

 

 

4

3-Wright St. vs. 6-Youngstown St.

6:00 PM

ESPN3

5

4-Green Bay vs. 5-Illinois-Chicago

8:30 PM

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Semifinals

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

6

2-Detroit vs. Winner Game 4

6:00 PM

ESPNU (10:30)

7

1-Valparaiso vs/ Winner Game 5

8:30 PM

ESPNU

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Finals

 

 

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 12

 

 

8

Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 7

9:00 PM

ESPN

 

Online Site: http://www.horizonleague.org

 

M A A C

 

Seed Team Conference Overall RPI
1 Niagara 13-5 18-12 123
2 Rider 12-6 18-13 135
3 Loyola (MD) 12-6 21-10 98
4 Iona 11-7 17-13 117
5 Canisius 11-7 18-12 110
6 Manhattan 9-9 12-17 200
7 Fairfield 9-9 17-14 170
8 Marist 6-12 10-20 250
9 Siena 4-14 7-23 297
10 St. Peter’s 3-15 9-20 283

 

Conference Tournament—Springfield, MA

Game #

Day 1 – 1st Round

Time

TV

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 8

 

 

1

8-Marist vs. 9-Siena

7:30 PM

Online

2

7-Fairfield vs. 10-St. Peter’s

9:30 PM

Online

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Quarterfinals

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

3

1-Niagara vs. Winner Game 1

2:30 PM

ESPN3

4

4-Iona vs. 5-Canisius

4:30 PM

ESPN3

5

2-Rider vs. Winner Game 2

7:30 PM

ESPN3

6

3-Loyola (MD) vs. 6-Manhattan

9:30 PM

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Semifinals

 

 

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 10

 

 

7

Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4

2:00 PM

ESPN3

8

Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6

4:30 PM

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Finals

 

 

 

MONDAY, MARCH 11

 

 

9

Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8

9:00 PM

ESPN2

 

Online Site: http://www.maacsports.com

 

Missouri Valley Conference

 

Seed Team Conference Overall RPI
1 Creighton 13-5 24-7 36
2 Wichita St. 12-6 24-7 40
3 Northern Iowa 11-7 18-13 79
4 Evansville 10-8 18-13 96
5 Indiana St. 9-9 17-13 78
6 Illinois St. 8-10 17-14 120
7 Missouri St. 7-11 11-21 211
8 Bradley 7-11 16-16 181
9 Drake 7-11 15-16 150
10 Southern Illinois 6-12 14-17 177

 

Conference Tournament—St. Louis (Arch Madness)

 

Game #

Day 1 – Opening Round

Time

TV

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 7

 

 

1

9-Drake  81  8-Bradley  66

 

 

2

7-Missouri St.  61 10-Southern Illinois  53

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Quarterfinals

 

 

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 8

 

 

3

1-Creighton vs. 9-Drake

1:05 PM

ESPN3

4

4-Evansville vs. 5-Indiana St.

3:35 PM

ESPN3

5

2-Wichita St. vs. 7-Missouri St.

7:05 PM

ESPN3

6

3-Northern Iowa vs. 6-Illinois St.

9:35 PM

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Semifinals

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

7

Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4

2:35 PM

ESPN3

8

Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6

5:05 PM

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Finals

 

 

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 10

 

 

9

Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8

2:05 PM

CBS

 

 

Online Site: http://www.mvc-sports.com

 

 

Northeast Conference

 

Seed Team Conference Overall RPI
1 Robert Morris 14-4 24-9 114
2 Wagner 12-6 20-11 124
3 Long Island 12-6 19-13 195
4 Bryant 12-6 19-12 146
5 Mt. St. Mary‘s 11-7 18-13 156
6 Quinnipiac 11-7 15-17 191
7 Central Connecticut 9-9 13-18 197
8 St. Francis, NY 8-10 12-19 216

 

Conference Tournament—Games at Campus Sites.  Higher Seeds Host All Games.  Teams Will Be Re-Seeded After Quarterfinals

 

Game #

Day 1 – Quarterfinals

Time

TV

 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6

 

 

1

1-Robert Morris  75  8-St. Francis (NY)  57

 

 

2

2-Wagner  72  7-Central Connecticut  50

 

 

3

3-Long Island  91  6-Quinnipiac  83

 

 

4

5-Mt. St. Mary‘s  75  4-Bryant  69

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Semifinals

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

5

5-Mt. St. Mary’s at 1-Robert Morris

2:30 PM

ESPN3

6

3-Long Island at 2-Wagner

12:00

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Finals

 

 

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 12

 

 

7

Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6

7:00 PM

ESPN2

 

Online Site: http://www.northeastconference.org

 

Ohio Valley Conference

 

Seed Team Conference Overall RPI
1 Belmont 14-2 24-6 24
2 Murray St. 10-6 20-9 128
3 Eastern Kentucky 12-4 24-8 65
4 Tennessee St. 11-5 18-13 111
5 Morehead St. 8-8 15-18 172
6 Southeast Missouri 8-8 17-16 224
7 E. Illinois 6-10 11-21 272
8 UT-Martin 5-11 9-21 306

 

Conference Tournament—Nashville

 

Game #

Day 1 – 1st Round

Time

TV

 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6

 

 

1

5-Morehead St.  73  8-UT-Martin  66

 

 

2

6-Southeast Missouri  78  7-E. Illinois  68

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Quarterfinals

 

 

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 7

 

 

3

4-Tennessee St.  88  5-Morehead St.  75

 

 

4

3-Eastern Kentucky  84  6-S E M O  69

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Semifinals

 

 

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 8

 

 

5

1-Belmont vs. 4-Tennessee St.

7:00 PM

ESPNU

6

2-Murray St. vs. 3-E. Kentucky

9:00 PM

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Finals

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

7

Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6

7:00 PM

ESPN2

 

Online Site: http://ovcsports.sidearmsports.com

 

Patriot League

 

Seed Team Conference Overall RPI
1 Bucknell 12-2 26-5 52
2 Lafayette 10-4 18-14 173
3 Lehigh 10-4 21-8 105
4 Army 8-6 16-14 213
5 American 5-9 10-20 261
6 Colgate 5-9 11-21 255
7 Holy Cross 4-10 12-18 249
8 Navy 2-12 8-23 314

 

Game #

Day 1 – Quarterfinals

Time

TV

 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6

 

 

1

1-Bucknell  58  8-Navy  42

 

 

2

4-Army  65  5-American  44

 

 

3

2-Lafayette  77  7-Holy Cross  54

 

 

4

3-Lehigh  71  6-Colgate  64

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Semifinals

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

 

Games at Higher Seed

 

 

5

4-Army at 1-Bucknell

4:30 PM

CBSSN

6

3-Lehigh at 2-Lafayette

2:00 PM

CBSSN

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Finals

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13

 

 

 

Game at Higher Seed

 

 

7

Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6

7:30 PM

CBSSN

 

Online Site: http://www.patriotleague.org

 

Southern Conference

 

Seed Team Conference Overall RPI
1 Davidson 17-1 23-7 82
2 College of Charleston 14-4 22-9 147
3 Elon 13-5 20-10 176
4 Appalachian St. 10-8 14-15 270
5 Western Carolina 9-9 13-18 251
6 Samford 9-9 11-20 281
7 Chattanooga 8-10 13-18 276
8 Wofford 7-11 13-18 240
9 Georgia Southern 7-11 13-18 277
10 UNC-Greensboro 6-12 8-21 330
11 The Citadel 5-13 8-21 327
12 Furman 3-15 6-23 342

 

Conference Tournament: Asheville, NC

Game #

Day 1 – 1st Round

Time

TV

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 8

 

 

1

8-Wofford vs. 9-Georgia Southern

11:30 AM

ESPN3

2

5-Samford vs. 12-Furman

2:00 PM

ESPN3

3

7-Chattanooga vs. 10-UNC-Greensboro

6:00 PM

ESPN3

4

6-Western Carolina vs. 11-The Citadel

8:30 PM

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Quarterfinals

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

5

1-Davidson vs. Winner Game 1

12:00 PM

ESPN3

6

4-Appalachian St. vs. Winner Game 2

2:30 PM

ESPN3

7

2-Elon vs. Winner Game 3

6:00 PM

ESPN3

8

3-College of Charleston vs. Winner Game 4

8:30 PM

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Quarterfinals

 

 

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 10

 

 

9

Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6

6:00 PM

ESPN3

10

Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8

8:30 PM

ESPN3

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Finals

 

 

 

MONDAY, MARCH 11

 

 

11

Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10

7:00 PM

ESPN2

 

Online Site: http://www.soconsports.com

 

Summit League

 

Seed Team Conference Overall RPI
1 South Dakota St. 13-3 22-9 75
2 Western Illinois 13-3 21-7 126
3 North Dakota St. 12-4 22-8 81
4 Oakland 10-6 16-15 132
5 I P F W 7-9 15-16 264
6 Mo.-Kansas City 5-11 8-23 287
7 South Dakota 5-11 10-19 242
8 I U P U I 1-15 6-25 325

 

Conference Tournament—Sioux Falls, SD

 

Game #

Day 1 – Quarterfinals

Time

TV

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

1

1-South Dakota St. vs. 8-I U P U I

7:00 PM

FOXCS

2

2-Western Illinois vs. 7-South Dakota

9:30 PM

FOXCS

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Quarterfinals

 

 

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 10

 

 

3

4-Oakland vs. 5-I P F W

7:00 PM

FOXCS

4

3-North Dakota St. vs. 6-UM-Kansas City

9:30 PM

FOXCS

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 –Semifinals

 

 

 

MONDAY, MARCH 11

 

 

5

Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 3

7:00 PM

FOXCS

6

Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 4

9:30 PM

FOXCS

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Finals

 

 

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 12

 

 

7

Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6

9:00 PM

ESPN2

 

Online Site: http://www.thesummitleague.org

 

Sun Belt Conference

 

Seed Team Conference Overall RPI
1 Middle Tennessee 19-1 27-4 23
2 South Alabama 14-6 17-11 149
3 Arkansas St. 12-8 18-11 154
4 Florida Int’l 11-9 16-13 137
5 Arkansas-Little Rock 11-9 17-14 163
6 Western Kentucky 10-10 16-15 178
7 Florida Atlantic 9-11 14-17 209
8 Louisiana-Lafayette 8-12 12-19 229
9 North Texas 7-13 12-19 233
10 Troy 6-14 11-20 271
11 Louisiana-Monroe 3-17 4-22 299

 

Conference Tournament—Hot Springs, AR

Note: This Tournament Uses Two Courts— S=Summit Arena, C=Convention Center Court

 

Game #

Day 1 – 1st Round

Time

TV

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 8

 

 

1

6-Western Kentucky vs. 11-UL-Monroe

7:00 PM  S

Online

2

8-UL-Lafayette vs. 9-North Texas

7:30 PM  C

Online

3

7-Florida Atlantic vs. 10-Troy

9:30 PM  S

Online

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Quarterfinals

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

4

4-Florida Int’l vs. 5-Ark.-Little Rock

7:00 PM  C

Sun Belt Network

5

1-Middle Tennessee vs. Winner Game 2

7:30 PM  S

Sun Belt Network

6

3-South Alabama vs. Winner Game 1

9:30 PM  C

Sun Belt Network

7

2-Arkansas St. vs. Winner Game 3

10:00 PM  S

Sun Belt Network

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Semifinals

 

 

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 10

 

 

8

Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5

7:30 PM  S

Sun Belt Network

9

Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 7

9:00 PM  S

Sun Belt Network

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Finals

 

 

10

Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 9

7:00 PM  S

ESPN

 

Online Site: http://www.sunbeltsports.org

 

West Coast Conference

 

Seed Team Conference Overall RPI
1 Gonzaga 16-0 29-2 10
2 St. Mary’s 14-2 26-5 41
3 B Y U 10-6 21-10 62
4 Santa Clara 9-7 21-10 90
5 San Francisco 7-9 14-15 152
6 San Diego 7-9 14-17 180
7 Pepperdine 4-12 12-17 204
8 Portland 4-12 11-21 219
9 Loyola Marymount 1-15 9-22 253

 

Conference Tournament: Las Vegas

 

Game #

Day 1 – 1st Round

Time

TV

 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6

 

 

1

9-Loyola Marymount  65  8-Portland  54

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – 2nd Round

 

 

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 7

 

 

2

9-Loyola Marymount  61  5-San Francisco  60

 

 

3

6-San Diego  62  7-Pepperdine  59

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Quarterfinals

 

 

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 8

 

 

4

4-Santa Clara vs. 9-Loyola Marymount

8:00 PM

ESPNU

5

3-B Y U vs. 6-San Diego

10:30 PM

ESPNU

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Semifinals

 

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

 

 

6

1-Gonzaga vs. Winner Game 4

8:00 PM

ESPN2

7

2-St. Mary’s vs. Winner Game 5

10:30 PM

ESPN2

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5 – Finals

 

 

8

MONDAY, MARCH 11

8:00 PM

ESPN

 

Online Site: http://www.wccsports.com

 

As The Bubble Blows

Pop goes the bubble for a couple of major conference schools.  Kentucky lost by double digits for the third consecutive time away from Rupp Arena, and the Wildcats face a must-win game at home against Florida tomorrow.  You have to figure that politics will play a large role when their resume comes forth by the Selection Committee.  Like the heavyweight champion of the world, you have to have a knockout to knock the champ off the throne, especially when that champ is the Joe Louis of basketball.  If the Cats lose to Florida and then fail to make it to at least Saturday in the SEC Tournament, then you have your knockout.

 

Virginia’s loss to Florida State moves the Cavs from definitely in to possibly out if they fail to beat Maryland and depart early in the ACC Tournament.

 

Butler’s win over UMass insured the Bulldogs’ ticket to the Dance and forced the Minutemen to win the A-10 Tournament to get in.

 

Colorado moved to the top level of the bubble with a 23-point win over Pac-12 Conference leader Oregon, sweeping the Ducks.  They did so without the services of the nation’s leading scorer Andre Roberson, who sat out with a virus.  The Buffs are now 4-2 against Top 25 teams, and if their jerseys said, “Kentucky,” CU would be looking at a 6-seed.

 

It wasn’t a bad loss since it came to a team that was 12-4 in league play entering the night, but Louisiana Tech’s loss to New Mexico ended any possible at-large possibilities for the Bulldogs.

 

Other Big Games of Note for Friday, March 08, 2013

Princeton at Yale:  The Tigers lost at home to Yale and cannot afford to get swept.  Princeton holds a half-game lead over Harvard for the Ivy League title, and the Tigers close with three road games.  They must sweep the weekend tilts at Yale and Brown, because the finale at Penn will be much more difficult, even though the Quakers have a worse record than either of this weekend’s opponents.

 

Columbia at Harvard:  The Crimson have a much easier path to close out the regular season.  They host Columbia and Cornell, the sixth and seventh place teams in the Ivy.  Count on Harvard winning both to finish Ivy League play at 11-3.  One Princeton loss means there will be a playoff for the NCAA bid.

 

Kent State at Akron: The Zips have the regular season MAC title already in their pockets, but they have major troubles at the wrong time.  Point guard Alex Abreu, the quarterback on the floor, has been suspended indefinitely following his felonious arrest for traffic marijuana.  The Zips have won 20 of 21 games and appeared to be safe as an at-large team if they did not win the MAC Tournament.  KentState provides Akron with stiff competition, and the Golden Flashes have enough talent to pull off the upset tonight and to also win the conference tournament.  Losing Abreu is like the Denver Broncos losing Peyton Manning.  Expect the Zips to be about 12-15 points weaker per game without him.

 

 

February 3, 2012

PiRate Ratings NCAA Basketball Report for February 3, 2012

This week’s Low and Mid-Major Conference Teams in the RPI Top 50

  8: U N L V

16: Creighton

18: Colorado State

21: Gonzaga

22: San Diego State

28: St. Mary’s

30:WichitaState

33:Long BeachState

36:MurrayState

37: Brigham Young

38:New Mexico

47: Harvard

48: MiddleTennessee

 

This week, we look at the upper echelon of the non-power conferences, the so-called Mid-Majors.  We list seven conferences in this group that is just below the top eight leagues.

 

Colonial Athletic

1 bid only

Virginia Commonwealth made it to the Final Four last year, and George Mason has been there in recent times, but this league is down in 2012.  Only the conference tournament champion will play in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Virginia Commonwealth (10-2/19-5 RPI 94), Drexel (10-2/18-5 RPI 82), George Mason (10-2/18-6 RPI 113), and Old Dominion (10-2/15-9 RPI 130) are tied for first, well ahead of the rest of the pack.

 

Drexel may be the league’s best representative this year.  The Dragons can rebound with the power conference teams.  Samme Givens, Daryl McCoy, and Dartaye Ruffin team up for about 18 boards per game, and seven players contribute in a balanced scoring load.  Drexel holds opponents under 40% from the field.

 

Virginia Commonwealth still plays a helter-skelter style of ball, but the Rams cannot shoot the ball well.  VCU’s field goal accuracy is barely 40%.  Leading scorer Bradford Burgess shoots just 33.6% from the field.  Coach Shaka Smart has to find a way to get Juvonte Reddic the ball more.  Reddic, who averages 10.9 points per game, connects on better than 50% of his shots.

 

Horizon

1 bid with very slim chance at 2

 

Cleveland State (8-2/18-4 RPI 58) owns a double-digit win at Vanderbilt.  However, the Vikings have fallen in the RPI rankings to a point where they would need to win out and lose in the semifinals or finals of the Horizon League in order to earn an at-large bid.

 

Valparaiso (9-3/16-8 RPI 110)  is close to being as good as they were during their winning years in the early 1990’s.  However, they will not make it to the Big Dance unless they earn an automatic bid.

 

UW-Milwaukee (7-5/14-10 RPI 137), Youngstown State (7-5/12-10 RPI 147), and Butler (7-5/13-11 RPI 125) are the best of the rest. Butler appears to be in danger of missing out on post-season play this year.

 

Mid-American

1 bid only (remote chance for 2)

 

The MAC is not what it once was.  No team in the Western Division can even sniff a double digit RPI.  In the stronger Eastern Division, there are three teams that could compete in an opening round NCAA Tournament game.

 

Akron (7-1/15-7 RPI 56) is on the precipice of being an at-large bubble team.  The Zips are a balanced scoring teams with five players scoring between eight and 11 points per game. Akronis not all that strong on the boards, but the Zips shoot better than 48% from the field.

 

Ohio U (6-2/18-4 RPI 78) has a very tough closing schedule, and the Bobcats are likely to lose as many as they win from here on out.  Poor shooting will doom them in on the road.

 

Buffalo (6-2/13-6 RPI 92) holds opponents well under 40% from the field, and the Bulls can compete with anybody on the boards.  Javon McCrea and Mitchell Watt team for better than 31 points per game. Buffalomight be the most competitive of the three leaders in an opening round NCAA Tournament game.

 

Missouri Valley

2 for sure and possible 3 bids

 

The Valley is fertile in 2012.  Creighton (11-1/21-2 RPI 16) and WichitaState(10-2/19-4 RPI 30) are sure things to earn at-large bids to the Big Dance if they do not win the MVC Tournament. Northern Iowa (5-7/15-9) has the talent to pull off a conference tournament upset. 

 

Creighton has the 21st century version of Larry Bird leading the team.  Doug McDermott averages almost 24 points per game and more than eight rebounds per game.  He connects on better than 62% of his shots, about 52% from behind the three-point line, and 82% at the foul line. 

 

The Blue Jays own wins over San Diego State and Northwestern, and they won at WichitaState.

 

Wichita State defeated UNLV, and the Shockers are a little stronger defensively than Creighton, but a little weaker offensively.

 

Mountain West

3 bids with a chance for 4

 

Even with the defection of BYU, this league is quite strong, perhaps the strongest of this group.

 

Five teams are still in contention for at-large bid status.  UNLV (5-1/21-3 RPI 8) is a sure thing.  The Runnin’ Rebels can score (80+ points per game), defend (9 steals per game and +15 scoring margin), and rebound (+5.4).  Mike Moser averages a double-double (14.7/11.6).

 

San Diego State (5-1/19-3 RPI 22) is only marginally weaker this year than last.  The Aztecs are still talented enough to advance deep into the tournament.  Coach Steve Fisher has two legitimate stars in Chase Tarpley and Jamaal Franklin.  SDSU owns wins over Arizona, California, UNLV, and Long BeachState.

 

New Mexico (4-2/18-4 RPI 38) may be the best of the top three in this league.  The Lobos can slaughter a team in a matter of minutes with deadly accurate shooting and strong defense.  Coach Steve Alford has this team playing like an oldIndianateam.  UNM defeated St. Louis, Wyoming, and ColoradoState, but there is a question about their strength of schedule.

 

Colorado State (3-3/14-7 RPI 18) and Wyoming(3-3/17-5 RPI 91) both have enough talent to win the MWC Tournament.

 

West Coast Conference

3 bids (possibly 4)

 

If the Mountain West is not the strongest Mid-Major, then this league is.  Three teams stand to make the NCAA Tournament, and if someone else can pull off the conference tournament upset, there is a chance that four could receive invitations.

 

St.Mary’s (11-0/22-2 RPI 28) continues to remain among the nation’s elite thanks to Coach Randy Bennett’s ability to recruit all over the planet.  This Gael team has the talent to make it to the Final Four.  They can score from the perimeter and in the paint.  The Gaels are accurate shooters, tenacious defenders, and tough rebounders.  They have defeated Gonzaga and already swept BYU.

 

Gonzaga (7-2/17-4 RPI 21) has defeated Notre Dame, Oral Roberts, Arizona, and Xavier this year.  The Zags lost to BYU last night.

 

BYU (7-3/19-6 RPI 37) moved to within half a game of Gonzaga.  The Cougars have four double figure scorers, led by Noah Hartsock at 17.8 points per game.

 

Western Athletic

1 or 2 bids

 

Nevada (8-0/19-3 RPI 55) is on the at-large bubble.  If the Wolf Pack wins the WAC regular season title with no more than one loss, they could sneak into the Big Dance as one of the final at-large teams if they lost in the conference tournament finals. Nevada owns a win over Washington, and they lost at UNLV by just four points.

 

New MexicoState (5-2/16-7 RPI 89) is strong enough to win the WAC Tournament and earn an automatic bid.  The Aggies will not qualify as an at-large under any circumstance this year, even though they beat New Mexico.

August 19, 2011

2011 FBS Independents Preview

2011 FBS Independents Preview

 

While not a conference, there has been expansion in the ranks of the FBS Independents.  In fact, it has expanded by 33.3%.  Okay, that just means that one new team has been added to the ranks this year.  Brigham Young has left the Mountain West Conference to go out on their own.

 

All four independents have bowl guarantees if they become bowl eligible, so it is not such a bad deal to be unaligned with a conference—for now.  If for some reason, this group were to grow by one next year, and that team hails from Austin, Texas, then the Independents will have major relevance again.  At one time, the best teams in the nation were independent.  Remember Florida State, Miami, Syracuse, Penn State, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame were all independents in the 1980’s, when they dominated nationally.

 

Notre Dame

Coach Brian Kelly has the Irish faithful “drinking the Kool-Aid.”  After a 4-5 start last year, the Irish won their last four games against three bowl teams and a Southern Cal team that would have been eligible for a bowl by an average score of 27-10.

 

Now those fans are expecting a return to a BCS Bowl Game and a possible run to the big game.  It isn’t impossible; Notre Dame is loaded and has only three tough games.  They should be favored to beat two of them.

 

Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees are back to battle for the starting quarterback job.  Crist has the stronger arm, but Rees has a more accurate arm.  The two combined for 3,100+ yards and 27 touchdowns and should top those numbers this season.  Rees started the final four games when the Irish went 4-0.

 

Most of the top receivers return from last year.  Michael Floyd is one of the best in the nation.  He caught 79 passes for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, and with the rest of this unit having quickness and great hands, defenses will not be able to double up on him all that often.  Theo Riddick is one of the best out of the slot; he finished second on the team last year with 40 receptions.  Tight end Tyler Eifert should compete for the Mackey Award.  He should top 30 receptions this season.  T.J. Jones and John Goodman give the Irish more weapons at this position.

 

Notre Dame has not been a scary running team since Lou Holtz was the coach, but they started to show signs of returning to a more daunting ground team.  In that four game winning streak to end the season, the Irish averaged 4.3 yards per rush and 156 yards per game.  Cierre Wood may not be the next Allen Pinkett, but he could approach the 1,000 yard mark this season.

 

Making the offensive efficient and consistent is a strong and somewhat quick offensive line with four experienced starters returning as well as several quality backups. Center Braxton Cave, guard Trevor Robinson and tackle Zack Martin could all contend for some form of national honors.

 

Notre Dame scored just 26 points per game in 2010, and we can see that number jumping by as much as 10 points this year.  Expect more than 400 total yards per game out of this offense.

 

Kelly’s biggest footprint on this team last year was the defensive improvement, as the Irish allowed just 20 points and 360 yards per game after giving up 26 points and 400 yards the year before.  With most of the key players from last year returning this season, expect more improvement in those numbers.  All three units are top notch.

 

The strongest of these strong units is the quartet of linebackers.  Inside, the tandem of Manti Te’o and Carlo Calabrese have no equals from among the 3-4 defenses in college football.  Te’o will be a high draft pick if he decides to come out after his junior season.

 

Up front, nose guard might be the only question mark in the defense.  The 3-4 needs a big, beefy guy who can control two gaps, and this may be the only weakness in this defense.  Teams with big beefy backs that can hit between the tackles may be able to find occasional success.  Ends Kapron Lewis-Moore and Ethan Johnson both have the potential to become NFL draft choices.

 

The secondary is sound thanks to the return of three starters.  Harrison Smith has few peers at the free safety position.  He intercepted seven passes and knocked away seven others last year.  Cornerback Gary Gray is a multi-talented defender.  He covers well and provides an excellent force against the run.

 

The schedule should give the Irish their first route to a BCS bowl game in five years.  Notre Dame plays no cupcakes this year, but most of the opponents are beatable.  A road game with Michigan in week two should be interesting, and a road game in the season finale against Stanford could be another “Game of the Year.”  Of course, there are the additional rivalry games with Michigan State, Purdue, and Southern Cal.  We tend to believe Kelly’s heroes will prevail in most if not all of these games.  In fact, we would not be surprised if the Irish were 11-0 when they head to Palo Alto.

 

Brigham Young

To many teams, winning seven games including a 52-24 bowl victory would be considered a successful season.  In Provo, it is considered an off year.  Relax Cougar fans; your team will improve this season as an independent.  Your schedule is tough, but your offense will be explosive once again.

 

Every skill position player that contributed for more than a play or two will be back.  Start at quarterback, where BYU has been known to produce a few good ones over the last 45 years.  The current future NFL player is Jake Heaps.  As a freshman, Heaps completed 57.2% of his passes for 2,300+ yards and 15 touchdowns.  We believe his numbers will top 3,300 yards and maybe 3,500 yards with 25+ touchdowns in 2011.

 

On the other end of Heaps’ missiles, the Cougars have two specialists in getting open nine yards deep when it is 3rd and 8.  Cody Hoffman and McKay Jacobson will not average 15 yards per reception, but they will convert a lot of third downs with receptions against pressure.  Tight end Devin Mahina provides a mighty big target at 6-06, and he should top his totals of last year (11-118).

 

In the past, BYU’s backs were noted for exceptional pass blocking and route running out of the backfield.  Unlike most teams, the Cougars have kept a split back alignment to run the original West Coast Offense.  The running game does not get the credit it deserves, but this team is capable of running the ball 50-60 times and gaining 300 yards.  J.J. DiLuigi and Bryan Kariya combined for more than 1,450 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, while Joshua Quezada added more than 500 yards and five touchdowns.  All three return.  DiLuigi caught 45 passes, and Kariya added 21, so the tradition continues in that respect.

 

Four starters return to a very capable offensive line that allowed just four sacks in the final six games.  Tackle Matt Reynolds may be the best player on the team, and he could be starting in the NFL next year.  Tackle Braden Brown and guard Braden Hansen were 2nd Team All-MWC choices last year.

 

Look for BYU to average more than 35 points and 425 yards per game this season.  Don’t be surprised if there are games in which the Cougars top 200 yards on the ground and 300 through the air, or 250 both ways.  It will be difficult if not impossible to stop them.

 

It is another story on the defensive side of the ball, where there is rebuilding to do.  The top three tacklers will not be around, and six starters are missing.  Coach Bronco Mendenhall took over the defensive coordinator duties last year, and he will remain in that position this year.

 

Mendenhall will need to work magic to come up with a championship-caliber secondary.  The Cougars lost three starters including the number one and three tacklers, who accounted for 22 passes defended.  After limiting opposing passers to a low 53% pass percentage and just 192 yards in a league where quarterbacks routinely pass for 250, BYU will give up more than 200 yards and allow as much as 60% completion percentages this season.

 

BYU is in better shape at linebacker.  The return of a healthy Jordan Pendleton  along with Brandon Ogletree gives the Cougars two quality players at this position.  Uona Kaveinga began his career at USC, and he is eligible this year and could start from day one.

 

Another former Trojan, nose guard Hebron Fangupo is perfect for a 3-4 defense.  He should control the A-gaps and give the linebackers the freedom to pursue aggressively.  Ends Eathhyn Manumaleuna and Matt Putnam need to improve and provide more pass rushing to their repertoire, as the Cougars did not disrupt enemy quarterbacks enough last year.

 

BYU gave up 21 points per game last year, but it was a “Tale of Two Cities.”  In the first seven games, they allowed 28 points and 400+ yards per game.  In the final six games, they gave up 14 points and less than 250 yards per game.  We have confidence in Mendenhall; he is a terrific defensive coordinator, and hiring himself for that position verifies he is a smart head coach.  However, the Cougars will take a step backwards on this side of the ball in 2011.  Call it 24-26 points allowed per game.

 

BYU’s schedule is tough.  The Cougars keep Utah and TCU from their old conference.  They go on the road to face Ole Miss, Texas, Oregon State and Hawaii.  They should dominate all the other teams on the schedule.  We believe they can win two or three of those tough games, so call it an 8-9 win season with a trip to the Armed Forces Bowl.

 

Navy

For a short time after the end of the 2010 season, it looked like Coach Ken Niumatalolo might be headed to an AQ school in a big conference, but in the end, he stayed in Annapolis.  After winning 27 games in his three years at the Naval Academy, look for the Midshipmen to take a small step backward for Coach N.

 

When an option team loses an experienced quarterback, they almost always regress a little.  Ricky Dobbs led Navy in rushing while passing for more than 1,500 yards as a senior.  His replacement, Kriss Proctor, threw a total of five passes last year, but he will be a better runner than Dobbs.  Proctor started against Central Michigan, a game in which Navy won 38-37.  He rushed for 201 yards in that game.  In 2009, he ran for 89 yards, including the decisive 40-yard touchdown jaunt to beat Wake Forest.  Proctor could rush for more than 1,000 yards this year, but he may find it hard matching his rushing output with his passing output.

 

Two of the three starting backs return this year, led by fullback Alexander Teich.  Teich is hard to bring down with just one defender, and that makes the spread option go.  He averaged almost six yards a try in 2010 and rarely lost yardage.  B-Back Gee Gee Greene rushed for almost 500 yards caught 18 passes at a 16-yard clip.

 

The receivers will be called on to block more than ever this season.  Brandon Turner has big play potential, especially when the opposing safeties begin to think Navy will never pass.  He averaged 28.2 yards on his four receptions last year.  He could catch as many as 25 passes this year, and if he can average “just” 20 yards per catch, he could take enough pressure off the running game.

 

The offensive line should be a strength this year.  In this offense, offensive lines do not need much time to gel.  With center Brady DeMell and guard John Dowd, Navy has a couple of blockers that will open some holes for Teich.  That will force an extra defender to cover inside, and that will allow Proctor more room to attack the perimeter.

 

Navy’s offense will be potent this year.  Last year, they averaged 30 points and 405 yards per game.  They may not equal those numbers this year, because the Midshipmen will try to control the clock more to keep a green defense off the field.  We can see this team leading the nation in rushing with about 325-350 yards per game, while throwing for only 60-75 yards per game.  It adds up to about 28 points per game.  If the offense can control the ball for about 68 plays and allow only 60-64, Navy can go bowling yet again.

 

Now, for the defense.  Navy’s best defense will be a ball-controlling offense, because the Midshipmen lost too much on this side of the ball.  Eight key players used up their eligibility, including six of the top eight tacklers.

 

Among the holdovers, end Jabaree Tuani is the one real star.  He registered 15 ½ total tackles for loss last year.  Navy was generous against the run last season, giving up 4.6 yards per attempt, and we cannot see any improvement here this year.

 

The four-man linebacker unit returns one starter and one top reserve.  Max Blue  is a little better against the pass than the run.

 

The secondary was not exactly terrific, as it gave up close to 70% completions.  With only one starter returning, teams may pass Navy dizzy this year.

 

An easy schedule will give the Midshipmen enough sure thing wins to propel them back to a bowl, but this team will not win as many games as last year.  If they should happen to lose to Delaware in the opener, then all bets are off.  Navy’s nine-game winning streak over Army could be in jeopardy.

 

Army

Coach Rich Ellerson guided the Knights to a bowl game in just his second season in West Point.  Army finished with a winning record for the first time in 14 years.  In order for the Black Knights of the Hudson to go back to a bowl in 2011, the offense may have to ignite and look somewhat like it did in the days of Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard.  The defense is going to leak like a sieve this year.

 

Trent Steelman returns for his third year as a starter at quarterback.  He rushed for more than 800 yards when you factor out sacks, and he scored 11 rushing touchdowns.  While he was not called on to pass very often, he held his own as a passer, completing 53.4% of his passes for 995 yards and seven touchdowns against just three picks.

 

Fullback Jared Hassin is the best at his position from among the handful of teams that run the option.  He rushed for 1,013 and nine touchdowns last year.  At 6-3 and 235, he is a downhill runner with the ability to run for an extra yard or two after contact. 

 

Malcolm Brown and Brian Cobbs will be dangerous open-field runners when Steelman is force to pitch.  The two combined for 5.7 yards per rush and nine scores in 2010, and we expect more breakaway runs this season.

 

The two starting wide receivers from last year are back for more.  Austin Barr and Davyd Brooks were the leading receivers, but their combined efforts only produced 29 receptions and 453 yards.  Ellerson would probably like to use Brown and Cobbs more in the passing game.

 

Only one starter returns to the offensive line, but in the spread option, it is much easier to break in new linemen.  While there could be a bump or two in the road early in the season, the line should perform fine by the third or fourth game.

 

Army scored 27 points per game last year, while rushing for more than 250 yards per game.  They finished dead last in passing with just 78 yards per game.  Army games take a lot less time to play, and the total number of scrimmage plays in their games last year was less than 125.  That is how the Black Knights have to play to win—control the clock and use long drives to keep the defense on the sidelines.  It worked for Vince Lombardi, and it works for Ellerson.  Look for Army to take the air out of the ball even more this year.  We could even see their games going for just 120 plays.  Thus, we forecast Army to maybe score a couple points less this year but be just as efficient if not more so.

 

The defense is a major problem.  To start off, only five starters return to the fold.  Army runs the old “Desert Swarm” defense (Double Eagle Flex) used by Dick Tomey at Hawaii and Arizona (Ellerson was an assistant), and this defense requires more thinking than most NFL defenses.  New players sometimes get confused themselves, and it only take one missed assignment to create a huge running lane or wide open receiver.  We see this happening more this year than in Ellerson’s first two seasons.

 

Another major problem is the size of the defensive line.  In this defense, size is not as important as quickness and intelligence, as the linemen almost always stunt and switch positions.  However, this leads to a lot of lateral movement at the time of the snap.  Smaller players moving laterally can be annihilated by larger offensive linemen moving north.  One player who should shine is end Jarrett Mackey.  Mackey recorded four sacks in 2010.  Army will sorely miss Josh McNary, who led the team with 10 sacks.

 

The linebackers do a lot of blitzing in this defense.  Middle linebacker Steven Erzinger finished second on the team with 76 tackles, but leading tackler Stephen Anderson is now a commissioned officer.

 

The secondary returns both starting cornerbacks in Richard King and Josh Jackson.  King successfully defended seven passes with four interceptions.

 

Army gave up 24 points and just 338 yards per game last year.  Although undersized, they were able to pester opposing offenses and cause a lot of confusion.  This year, those opponents may not be quite so confused, and the Knights could have a difficult time stopping good running teams.  We look for a step backward here.  However, the schedule includes a bunch of teams that will not be able to exploit Army’s size liabilities.  This will give the Black Knights a chance to challenge for another bowl game.  It could come down to breaking the nine-game losing streak to that team with the goat.

 

Note: There is no official media poll for the FBS Independents.  What we have included here is an average of seven different print magazines and online sources (ours not included).

 

Average of 7 Online and Magazine Predictions

 

Team

Predicted Won-Loss

Notre Dame

10-2

Brigham Young

8-4

Navy

6-6

Army

6-6

 

2011 Independents PiRate Ratings

 

Team

PiRate #

Prediction

Notre Dame

123.9

11-1

Brigham Young

108.5

8-4

Navy

96.1

7-5

Army

86.3

5-7

 

Next: The Mountain West Conference Preview—Monday, August 22

December 16, 2010

PiRate Ratings College Football Bowl Preview, Part One

We will be posting three bowl previews this year.  We will give you the current odds for each game, the PiRate, Mean, and Bias spreads for each game, and our 100 times computer simulation for each game.

Today, we cover the bowls before Christmas Day.  Next week, we will preview the bowls from December 26 through New Year’s Day. Finally, we will preview the bowls after January 1.  Three bowls kick off Saturday, and four more will be played next week.  

Saturday, December 18

New Mexico Bowl

Albuquerque, NM

1 PM EST on ESPN

Brigham Young Cougars 6-6  vs.  Texas-El Paso Miners 6-6

Vegas: BYU by 11 ½

Totals: 50 ½

PiRate: BYU by 18.8

Mean: BYU by 12.3

Bias: BYU by 14.8

100 Sims: BYU 89  UTEP 11

Avg. Sim Score: BYU 33.7  UTEP 20.2

Outlier A: BYU 45  UTEP 17

Outlier B: UTEP 29  BYU 23

 

Humanitarian Bowl

Boise, ID

4:30 PM EST on ESPN

Fresno State Bulldogs 8-4  vs.  Northern Illinois Huskies 10-3

Vegas: Northern Illinois by 1

Totals: 59

PiRate: Northern Illinois by 4.4

Mean: Northern Illinois by 4.1

Bias: Northern Illinois by 9.6

100 Sims: Northern Illinois 58  Fresno State 42

Avg. Sim Score: Northern Illinois 34.6  Fresno State 30.1

Outlier A: Northern Illinois 42  Fresno State 23

Outlier B: Fresno State 37  Northern Illinois 27

 

New Orleans Bowl

New Orleans, LA

8:00 PM EST on ESPN

Troy Trojans 7-5  vs. Ohio U Bobcats 8-4

Vegas: Troy by 2 ½

Totals: 58

PiRate: Ohio U by 3.6

Mean: Ohio U by 2.1

Bias: Ohio U by 16.2

100 Sims: Ohio U 61  Troy 39

Avg. Sim Score: Ohio U 35.1  Troy 29.8

Outlier A: Ohio U 41  Troy 17

Outlier B: Troy 38  Ohio U 27

 

Tuesday, December 21

Beef O’Brady Bowl

St. Petersburg, FL

7:00 PM EST on ESPN

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles 8-4  vs. Louisville Cardinals 6-6

Vegas: Louisville by 3

Totals: 57

PiRate: Louisville by 5.7

Mean: Louisville by 1.2

Bias: Louisville by 10.5

100 Sims: Louisville 60  Southern Miss 40

Avg. Sim Score: Louisville 31.1  Southern Miss 27.9

Outlier A: Louisville 35  Southern Miss 13

Outlier B: Southern Miss 40  Louisville 21

 

Wednesday, December 22

MAACO Las Vegas Bowl

Las Vegas, NV

7:00 PM EST on ESPN

Utah Utes 10-2  vs. Boise State Broncos 11-1

Vegas: Boise State by 17

Totals: 61

PiRate: Boise State by 17.7

Mean: Boise State by 14.0

Bias: Boise State by 16.6

100 Sims: Boise State 76  Utah 24

Avg. Sim Score: Boise State 40.3  Utah 24.1

Outlier A: Boise State 51  Utah 20

Outlier B: Utah 38  Boise State 31 (two different results gave Utah a 7-point win)

 

Thursday, December 23

Poinsettia Bowl

San Diego, CA

7:00 PM EST on ESPN

San Diego State Aztecs 8-4  vs. Navy Midshipmen 9-3

Vegas: San Diego State by 4 ½

Totals: 60

PiRate: San Diego State by 5.6

Mean: San Diego State by 0.8

Bias: San Diego State by 4.3

100 Sims: San Diego State 55  Navy 45

Avg. Sim Score: San Diego State 32.8  Navy 30.7

Outlier A: San Diego State 44  Navy 24

Outlier B: Navy 38  San Diego State 26

 

Friday, December 24

Hawaii Bowl

Honolulu, HI

7:00 PM EST on ESPN

Hawaii Warriors 10-3  vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane 9-3

Vegas: Hawaii by 10

Totals: 73 ½

PiRate: Hawaii by 14.6

Mean: Hawaii by 6.2

Bias: Hawaii by 9.9

100 Sims: Hawaii 58  Tulsa 42

Avg. Sim Score: Hawaii 46.4  Tulsa 40.2

Outlier A: Hawaii 59  Tulsa 35

Outlier B: Tulsa 47  Hawaii 38

August 15, 2010

2010 Mountain West Conference Preview

Go to www.piratings.webs.com where we beat the spread 60.4% in 2009!

 

2010 Mountain West Conference Preview

 

The best of the non-BCS conferences will undergo a change next year, as Utah leaves for the newly named Pac-12.  Boise State will move here from the WAC and continue a great rivalry with TCU.  It wouldn’t shock us to see the Horned Frogs and Broncos meeting for a third consecutive season in a bowl, and it isn’t impossible for that bowl game to be the last one of the year!

The only mystery for this season’s race is who will finish second.  TCU will win the league and should go undefeated in the regular season for the second year in a row.  There is no clear-cut second best team as five teams could wind up in the runner-up spot.

Note: The PiRate Ratings are not meant to be used to predict the outcome of future games.  They are usable only as a basis for the current week’s games.  We do not use these ratings to make our selections.  They are only a starting point.  The predictions given below, as for every college conference and NFL division, are not taken from the ratings themselves.

Predictions

Pos Team MWC Overall
1 T C U 8-0 12-0
2 Utah 6-2 8-4
3 Air Force 5-3 7-5
4 B Y U 5-3 7-5
5 Wyoming 4-4 6-6
6 San Diego State 4-4 7-5
7 U N L V 3-5 5-8
8 Colorado State 1-7 2-10
9 New Mexico 0-8 1-11

 

BCS Bowl—T C U

Las Vegas Bowl—Utah

Poinsettia Bowl—B Y U

Independence Bowl—Air Force

New Mexico Bowl—San Diego State

Armed Forces Bowl—Wyoming

 

Team By Team Breakdown

 

Team Air Force Falcons
               
Head Coach Troy Calhoun
               
Colors Royal Blue and Silver
               
City Colorado Springs, CO
               
2009 Record              
Conference 5-3
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 102.0
               
National Rating 52
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 5-3
Overall 7-5

 

Offense: The Falcons have a feast/famine tug of war on this side of the ball.  Coach Troy Calhoun has molded three fantastic offenses in his first three seasons in Colorado Springs, and we believe the string will continue despite Calhoun having to start almost from scratch up front.

Right guard A.J. Wallerstein started one game at left guard last year, and that represents all of the starting experience for this season’s offensive line.  It isn’t a complete disaster though.  Air Force frequently has a lot of turnover because traditionally, there has been a reliance on seniority.  Also, because the Falcons utilize the option offense, the blocking schemes rely heavily on double team blocks and leaving other defenders unblocked so the quarterback can read and option them.  We are not concerned with the new starters, but there is an issue of depth.  None of the next five are ready to play at this level.

The rest of this offense is loaded and lethal.  Returning quarterback Tim Jefferson went 4-1 as a starter last year.  He connected on 57% of his passes with five touchdowns against two interceptions.  Jefferson connected on longer passes than the two other quarterbacks, and his ability to throw the ball downfield will open more running lanes for a great stable of back.

All the contributing ball carriers return this season.  Fullback Jared Tew and tailback Asher Clark teamed for 1,835 rushing yards and 16 scores.  Z-receiver Jonathan Warzeka added 267 yards on the ground running misdirection plays.

Kevin Fogler benefitted greatly from having Jefferson under center.  He averaged 22.7 yards per catch and scored a touchdown every fifth time he caught a pass.  Warzeka added 18 more catches.

Air Force has averaged 29 points and 380 yards per game in Calhoun’s tenure.  There is no reason to believe those stats won’t be continued again this year.

Defense: The defensive line is a cause for concern with just one of the three regulars from last year returning.  AFA is a little small at Defensive tackle in their 3-4 alignment, so opponents will be able to run the ball up the gut on them. 

The four-man linebacking crew welcomes back both of the outside defenders, Andre Morris and Wale Lawal.  The two combined for 9 ½ stops for loss, but the Falcons will have troubles replacing their two excellent inside linebackers.  John Falgout and Justin Moore finished one-two in tackles.

Only TCU has a better MWC secondary than Air Force, and the Falcons may have a better pair of cornerbacks than the Horned Frogs.  Anthony Wright and Reggie Rembert picked off 10 passes and knocked away six others.

Air Force gave up just 15.7 points and 288 yards per game in 2009.  Those numbers will go up this year.  Expect the Falcons to give up 21-24 points and 320-350 yards per game.

Schedule: The schedule gives the Falcons a leg up on competing for number two in the league.  After an easy opener with Northwestern State that should allow the new offensive line to gain confidence, AF hosts BYU.  The Cougars have run defense issues this year, and we believe Air Force will win that game.  The following week, the Falcons visit Oklahoma, who is loaded this year. 

As usual, AF plays Army and Navy, and we feel that they will win at least one of those games.  The key to the season comes in back-to-back weeks in October.  They face TCU in Ft. Worth on the 23rd, and then they host Utah a week later.  If they have anything left after the TCU loss, they could give the Utes a great game.  We feel that as the season progresses, the lack of depth in both trenches will hurt them.  Call it a repeat of 2009: 5-3 in league play and 7-5 overall before the bowl.

Team Brigham Young Cougars
               
Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall
               
Colors Navy and White
               
City Provo, UT
               
2009 Record              
Conference 7-1
Overall 11-2
               
PiRate Rating 103.2
               
National Rating 50
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 5-3
Overall 7-5

 

Offense: 2010 will be a rebuilding season in Provo.  Brigham Young lost too much talent on this side of the ball, and there will be a substantial drop in production.  The Cougars lost a multi-year starting quarterback (Max Hall) who finished second all-time in passing yards at a school with a dozen excellent former QBs.  Also gone is the school’s career leader in rushing yards; Harvey Unga rushed for almost 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns.  He was dismissed from school and became a supplementary NFL pick.  2009’s top receiver, tight end Dennis Pitta, is now in training camp with the Baltimore Ravens after he led the team with 62 receptions (30 more than any other player).

It could be a blessing or a curse that BYU has two quarterbacks still competing for the starting nod this close to the first game.  They have totally different styles, and according to Coach Bronco Mendenhall, neither player has separated himself from the other.  Jake Heaps is the prototypical straight drop-back passer in the Peyton Manning mode.  He has all the physical tools to be the next in a long line of great passers here.  However, he is a true freshman.  Riley Nelson is more of a scrambler who can pass well on the run.  He saw very limited action last year, but he has starting experience from his days at Utah State.

BYU has no answer at tailback with the loss of Unga.  Unga rushed the ball 208 times last year, and the top reserve ran the ball just 55 times.

Without Pitta, BYU will once again concentrate on throwing the ball to wide outs and less to tight ends.  We believe O’Neil Chambers will emerge as the breakout star of this group.  Chambers caught 32 passes last year.

The one ray of sunshine on this side of the ball is the return of four starting offensive linemen.  Tackle Matt Reynolds has first round NFL draft potential.

BYU has topped 30 points and 425 yards per game for five straight years, but this streak will more than likely end this year.  Call it 25-28 points and 380-420 total yards per game.

Defense: There is more rebuilding to do on this side of the ball than on the other side.  The Cougars lost seven of their top 11 tacklers from 2009, including six starters.  Just two of the front seven return, so BYU will have a tough time against the run and rushing the passer.  It wouldn’t surprise us to see the Cougars give up 150 points in the first four games this year (see schedule below).

The one bright spot on this side of the ball is an experienced secondary.  Three starters return including leading tackler, free safety Andrew Rich.  Rich also tied for the team lead with four interceptions.

The Cougars lost their two best pass rushers, leaving outside linebacker Jordan Pendleton as the only quality sack man.  Pendleton had three sacks and three other tackles for loss.  He is a quality pass defender in the short zones as well.

Up front in the 3-4 alignment, BYU has a decent space-occupier in nose tackle Romney Fuga.  He won’t make 50 tackles, but he will command double team blocks, giving the linebackers a chance to be heroes.

BYU may not give up too many more points this year than last, because opponents will eat the clock running the ball much better this year against them.  Expect the Cougars to yield 22-25 points and 325-350 yards per game.  However, also expect the defense to be on the field for more plays this year.

Schedule: The month of September will be a back-breaker for the defense.  BYU opens with Washington and Heisman Trophy frontrunner Jake Locker.  Then, they must travel to Air Force, where their newly rebuilt defensive front seven will struggle against the option.  A week later, they will melt in Tallahassee against Florida State.  They close out the month with Nevada coming to Lavell Edwards Stadium.  It looks like a 1-3 start for this team.  After the annual first October Friday game (precedes the Church’s National Conference) with Utah State, BYU faces three of the league’s other four expected bowl-eligible teams—San Diego State, at TCU, and Wyoming.  By this point, we expect the Cougars to be out of the conference race just trying to salvage a winning season.  November gives them a chance for three quick wins before closing the season at Utah.  We will call it a seven-win ceiling this year.  And, you can take the Las Vegas bowl off the schedule for the first time in six years.  A trip to San Diego might be a nice alternative.

Team Colorado State Rams
               
Head Coach Steve Fairchild
               
Colors Green and Gold
               
City Ft. Collins, CO
               
2009 Record              
Conference 0-8
Overall 3-9
               
PiRate Rating 85.8
               
National Rating 96
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 1-7
Overall 2-10

 

Offense: After starting the season 3-0 with wins over Colorado and Nevada, it looked like the Rams were primed to make a bid for a second consecutive bowl game.  Then, the bottom fell out.  CSU lost their final nine, including an embarrassing loss to a New Mexico team that went 1-11.  With only four starters returning on this side of the ball, don’t expect the Rams to match last year’s three-win season.  They will take a step backwards this year.

CSU lost both of their contributing quarterbacks, and the replacement will be one of two freshmen competing for the job.  There is a third quarterback on the roster that could eventually emerge as the starter sometime during the season; Junior Klay Kubiak is the son of Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak.  Klay missed all of last season with an injured shoulder that required surgery.

The quarterbacks won’t have much opportunity to star, because there is very little talent at receiver.  CSU lost its top two pass catchers, who combined for 74 receptions.  Additionally, the Rams lost three receivers since spring that were expected to contribute including a possible starter.  Expect true freshman tight end Crockett Gilmore to see immediate action.

Things look rosier at the running back position.  CSU has enough quality backs to flirt with running an old-fashioned two-back pro-set. 

Raymond Carter was a highly-touted recruit at UCLA.  He becomes eligible here this year and could supplant last year’s two-man platoon of Leonard Mason and John Mosure (a combined 1,416 rushing yards and nine scores).  Watch out for true freshman Tony Drake, who we believe could be a difference maker with his breakaway speed.  His size will keep him from being an every down back.

The offensive line lost four starters.  There is a little starting experience returning, but the Rams will field the weakest interior in the conference.

With a raw quarterback passing to inexperienced receivers and having to run for his life due to weak pass protection, expect Colorado State to struggle to score points and to turn the ball over more this season.  A negative turnover margin is a virtual given.  Look for about 14-18 points and 300 total yards from this side of the ball.

Defense: CSU had a lot more experience scheduled to return on this side of the ball, but the Rams lost both returning defensive ends (one to injury/one to academics), a defensive back expected to see a lot of time, and several reserves in the back seven.  This looks like a train wreck waiting to happen.

The one bright spot is at linebacker.  Will linebacker Mychal Sisson will compete for 1st team All-MWC honors after leading the Rams with 91 tackles, six sacks, and 9 ½ other tackles for loss.  He knocked down five passes too.  Coach Steve Fairchild welcomes back Sam linebacker Ricky Brewer who was suspended last year.

The front four will now have four new starters, and it will be the weakest in the conference.  Expect teams to run the ball at will on the Rams and exploit their lack of a pass rush with play-action passes to keep Sisson occupied.

The secondary will be overwhelmed due to the fact that there will be so little pass rush.  Free safety Elijah-Blue Smith led the Rams with three interceptions and knocked down five others, but teams will throw away from him. 

The statistic is not kept, but we have a suspicion that CSU will finish dead last number 120 in scrimmage play differential.  They were -6 last year, and they could easily be -10 to -15 this year.  Expect this defense to give up 200+ yards rushing and 200+ yards passing while surrendering 31-35 points per game.

Schedule: By the time UNLV comes to Ft. Collins for homecoming on October 16, the Rams could be 0-6 and figure to be no better than 1-5.  Outside of league play, they face Colorado at Invesco Field in Denver, play at Nevada and Miami of Ohio, and host Idaho.  They open MWC play with TCU at home and Air Force on the road.  They have two chances to win a conference game—the homecoming game with UNLV and the revenge game at home with lowly New Mexico.  We will call for a 1-7 league finish and 2-10 overall.  If Fairchild can coax four wins out of this team, he deserves a raise.

Team New Mexico Lobos
               
Head Coach Mike Locksley
               
Colors Cherry and Silver
               
City Albuquerque, NM
               
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 1-11
               
PiRate Rating 81.3
               
National Rating 107
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 0-8
Overall 1-11

 

Offense: Lobo fans wanted someone else to coach this team after watching Rocky Long’s teams play conservative football and simply go to bowl game after bowl game.  So, they forced him out.  They got Mike Locksley’s new offense—the one that gained 315 total yards and scored 16 points per game.  We hope they enjoyed what they got.

Locksley may only last one more season in Albuquerque, because this year’s offense could make last year’s look like Boise State.

A true freshman will open up at quarterback.  Tarean Austin is a speedy multiple-threat player who could lead the team in rushing as well as passing.  Let’s hope he can run enough to avoid the oncoming slew of defenders shooting through the line.  Austin’s backup will be another freshmen—Darain “Stump” Godfrey.

New Mexico returns their top three running backs from last year.  None of them will be confused for DonTrell Moore.  The trio combined for 987 yards and five touchdowns last year, and with an even weaker offensive line, they may not equal that mark this season.

The receiving corps has some experience returning, but like the running game, Hank Baskett won’t be walking out on the field.  Ty Kirk led the Lobos with 36 receptions and 427 yards. 

The offensive line will struggle.  Two starters return, and there is much less experience here, but last year’s regulars were not world-beaters.  This year’s unit cannot be much worse.

Look for UNM to average about 14-18 points and 280-320 yards.   

Defense: As weak as the offense was last year, the defense was worse.  Without the defensive genius of Long, the Lobos gave up 13 more points and 83 more yards per game in 2009.  If the offense could hold onto the ball, the defense could show a little improvement this year.

The Lobos have strength in numbers up front.  Three starters return to the four-man line, including one of UNM’s two potential 1st Team All-MWC performers.  End Johnathan Rainey finished second in the league (to the great Jerry Hughes) in sacks with 9 ½.  He added six more tackles for loss for good measure.  When he was busy dealing with double teams, counterpart Jaymar Latchison found time to pick up 4 ½ sacks and four other tackles for loss.

The other potential 1st Team All-MWC performer would be repeating that feat if he made it again this year.  Middle linebacker Carmen Messina led the country with 162 tackles and eight for loss.  He will have two new partners on either side of him.

The secondary gave up 254 yards per game and 63% completions last year, even with the great press rush.  The Lobos need to find two new safeties.  Both cornerbacks return, but they were the two weakest corner starters in the league.

The defense will be a little more talented, but it may not show in the stats.  Because opponents emptied the bench early in five of their games last year, and New Mexico figures to be in these games a little longer this year, expect opponents to leave their starting offense in deeper into the game.  The result—opponents will still score a lot of points.  Expect 31-35 points and 400-425 yards allowed once again.

Schedule: The Lobos have a chance in two of their non-conference games, and we think they will win one of the two.  Expect an 0-2 start with a road game against Oregon and a home game with Texas Tech.  After losing at home to Utah and on the road at UNLV, the Lobos get UTEP at home and travel to New Mexico State.  If they are 0-6 at this point, then they will end up 0-12.  We believe they will be lucky once and finish 1-11 again this year.  Locksley won’t be so lucky.

Team San Diego State Aztecs
               
Head Coach Brady Hoke
               
Colors Scarlet and Black
               
City San Diego, CA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 2-6
Overall 4-8
               
PiRate Rating 92.8
               
National Rating 80
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 7-5

 

Offense: Second year head coach Brady Hoke has the Aztecs on the right path, and he could soon replicate here what he did at Ball State.  Hoke’s 2010 Aztecs are going to be much improved on this side of the ball, and with a little bit of help from the other side of the ball, San Diego State could be playing a 13th game in December.

Look for SDSU to move to a two-back pro-set and use the West Coast Offense this year.  The Aztecs are stocked anew in the backfield, and they will force defenses to stop the run first.  Brandon Sullivan moves from tailback to fullback after leading the team in rushing in 2009.  Last year’s number two rusher, Walter Kazee, may have trouble getting on the field this year.  Two outstanding freshmen may get most of the reps at halfback.  Ronnie Hillman is a blazing runner who can take a simple pitch and turn it into a long gain.  Ezell Ruffin moves to halfback from wide receiver in high school.  He is almost as speedy as Hillman, but at 205 pounds, he packs some brute force punch in his game.  The Aztecs could double their running production after rushing for less than 80 yards per game.

If the running game takes some heat off the passing game, then SDSU will have a potent attack.  Quarterback Ryan Lindley could challenge for 1st Team All-MWC accolades.  With very little running game to supplement last year’s offense, Lindley passed for 3,054 yards and 23 touchdowns.  If he can cut down on his 16 interceptions of a year ago, he could challenge Andy Dalton for top honors in the league.

Lindley has a surplus of talent at receiver where two fine wide outs return.  DeMarco Sampson caught 62 passes for 851 yards and eight touchdowns, while speedy Vincent Brown added 45 receptions for 778 yards (17.3 avg.) and six scores.  There is depth behind these two.  For a West Coast offense to click, the tight end must be a pass catching weapon, and Alston Umuolo is that.  He grabbed 22 throws a year ago, and that number will improve to 30+ this year.

SDSU’s offensive line welcomes back four starters, and the new starter is a quality junior college transfer.  Expect much improved numbers in the running game and better protection for Lindley.

We believe San Diego State can improve from 23 to 28-31 points per game this season and from 342 to 375-400 yards of offense.

Defense: New Mexico’s loss was the Aztecs’ gain.  Rocky Long took over as defensive coordinator last year, and SDSU improved on defense by almost as many points and yards as New Mexico worsened.  With the entire three-man line returning up front, look for improved play against the run and a better pass rush.

Neither B J Williams nor Ernie Lawson proved to be a dominant pass rushing end last year, but with a better secondary this year, quarterbacks could be forced to hold onto the pigskin a bit longer.  Expect their sacks totals to rise.

The one suspect part of this defense is at linebacker, where two of last year’s three starters are gone and one other linebacker has been moved back one level. 

The back line of the 3-3-5 defense is loaded with talent and experience.  The aforementioned player that moved from linebacker is Andrew Preston.  He will man the “Aztec” position, a third safety that plays closer to the ball than a regular safety.  Preston played enough last year to record 46 tackles with four for loss. 

Expect more defensive improvement in the stat sheet this year.  We anticipate this team giving up 22-26 points and 350-375 yards per game.

Schedule: San Diego State scheduled well this year.  They should win three non-conference games, and they could stay surprisingly close in the one they lose.  Nicholls State will provide SDSU with an excellent chance to work out the kinks in game one.  A trip to New Mexico State should move the Aztecs to 2-0.  The following week, they could put a scare in Missouri at Columbia, but we expect them to lose by less than two touchdowns.  A home game with Utah State should give them a third win before MWC play begins.

The Aztecs host Air Force, Colorado State, Utah, and UNLV, while they go to BYU, New Mexico, Wyoming, and TCU.  They could be as good as 6-2 in the league or as bad as 3-5.  We’ll call for them to go 4-4, which will make them bowl-bound for the first time since 1998.

Team T C U  Horned Frogs
               
Head Coach Gary Patterson
               
Colors Purple and White
               
City Ft. Worth, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 8-0
Overall 12-1
               
PiRate Rating 124.1
               
National Rating 6
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 8-0
Overall 12-0

 

Offense: Nine starters return to an offense that amassed 38.3 points and 457 yards per game last year.  That offense was quite balanced, churning out 240 rushing and 217 passing yards.  TCU will be virtually unstoppable on this side of the ball this year, and it wouldn’t surprise us any if the Horned Frogs challenged for 45-50 points and 500+ yards per game!

It all starts with the league’s top quarterback.  Andy Dalton will compete for the Heisman Trophy in his senior year.  As a junior, Dalton completed 61.6% of his passes for 2,756 yards and 23 touchdowns, while rushing for 512 (600+ without the sacks) yards and three more scores.

The leading rusher from last year has graduated, but TCU uses a running back-by-committee approach, and the Horned Frogs return several quality backs this year.  Expect another season of 200+ yards per game running, maybe as much as 275.

The receiving corps is downright scary and could be as good as Houston’s group of stars.  The top four receivers are back.  Jermey Kerly led with 44 catches and 532 yards.  Jimmy Young had 33 receptions for 517 yards.  Antoine Hicks caught just 23 passes, but he averaged an eye-popping 20.8 yards per catch with six scores.  Bart Johnson caught 33 more.  To this fine quartet, add two exceptionally talented youngsters.  Redshirt freshman Josh Boyce and sophomore Skye Dawson will see considerable playing time, and it wouldn’t surprise us if both finished with more than 25 receptions.  Dawson is even faster than Hicks and can turn a line of scrimmage bullet into a 75-yard touchdown.

Throw in the best offensive line in the league and possibly one of the five best in the nation, and you have an offense that will move the ball in every game.  Tackle Marcus Cannon has first round NFL draft potential.  Center Jake Kirkpatrick should make it to a pro roster next year as well (assuming there is a next year in the NFL).

The only drawback in trying to predict the points and yardage for this team is determining how often the bench warmers will be playing for long stretches in their games.  We’ll go with 42+ points and 500+ yards per game.

Defense: Here is the even scarier news: TCU’s defense is even better than their offense.  There is no weakness anywhere on this side.  All three units rank among the best in the nation.  Coach Gary Patterson’s Frogs have given up 12.3, 18.7, 11.3, and 12.8 points in the last four seasons, and it is not impossible for this year’s team to give up single digits in points per game.  The Horned Frogs led the nation in total defense last year by holding teams to 80 yards rushing and 159 yards passing. 

TCU utilizes a 4-2-5 defense, and they have both quality and depth at every position.  Up front, three starters return including two all-conference performers, tackle Cory Grant and end Wayne Daniels.  Even with the loss of All-American Jerry Hughes, this team won’t miss a beat.  His replacement, either Braylon Broughton or Stansly Maponga, will not record 11 ½ sacks, but the other three starters will make up for that lost amount.

The linebacking duo features 1st Team All-MWC Tank Carder.  Carder is one of the best all-around linebackers in college football.  In 2009, he made 89 tackles with 10 for loss.  In pass coverage, he batted away 10 passes and picked off one.  Look for him to compete for a spot on the All-American team this season.

The back five feature a trio of great safeties, but it is the two new cornerbacks that could be the best defenders in the secondary.  Greg McCoy and Jason Teague saw a lot of action last year and combined for four interceptions and seven knocked down passes.

It is tough to improve on number one, but TCU can get better statistically on this side of the ball.  We are going to guess they will give up 10-12 points and 185-225 yards per game.  They could lead the nation in both categories.

Schedule: TCU opens with Oregon State on September 4 at the Cowboys’ Stadium in nearby Arlington.  The Beavers are good and could contend for a Rose Bowl berth, but they are usually a slow-starting team.  We believe TCU will win this game by double digits and continue to roll from there.  They could lead Tennessee Tech by 50 points before halftime.  Game three at home with Baylor will be interesting, and the Bears will be pumped for this game, but the Horned Frogs should score a 17 or more point win.  Game four at SMU comes on a Friday night, and the battle for the Iron Skillet will be heated.  The Mustangs need a little more defense before they can make a game of it with TCU.  The only conference team that could give them a scare is Utah.  The game comes November 6, and it will be at Salt Lake City.  We expect the Horned Frogs to win convincingly in a game that should be on national TV, and it just could propel them into one of the top two spots in the BCS.

We believe there is an outside chance that TCU and Boise State could hook up for a bowl rubber match.  Two years ago, it was the Poinsettia Bowl, and TCU won 17-16.  Last year, it was the Fiesta Bowl, and Boise State exacted revenge with a 17-10 win.  This year, both could return to Glendale, but this one would be for all the marbles.  The SEC, Big 12, and Big Ten champions must all lose one game after October 1 for this to happen, but if it does, it should be the most talked about national championship game in decades.  It could do for the NCAA what the New York Jets’ Super Bowl victory over Baltimore did for the NFL.

Team U N L V  Rebels
               
Head Coach Bobby Hauck
               
Colors Scarlet and Gray
               
City Las Vegas, NV
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 94.1
               
National Rating 78
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 3-5
Overall 5-8

 

Offense: New head coach Bobby Hauck comes to Las Vegas from Montana, where he guided the Grizzlies to the FCS Championship Game three times.  His arrival in Vegas comes at the right time, because former coach Mike Sanford left him a full cupboard on this side of the ball.

UNLV will transition from a shotgun spread offense to an old-fashioned quarterback under center offense.  Senior quarterback Omar Clayton, a former walk-on, comes back for his third season as starter after topping 60% in completions last year.  We believe he will improve his yards per attempt and cut down on interceptions this year.  Backup Mike Clausen saw a lot of action last year, as he is a better runner than Clayton.  Clausen suffered an ankle injury in early fall practice, but he should be okay for the season.

The Rebels had three productive receivers last year, and two of them return this season.  Phillip Payne and Michael Johnson teamed for 101 catches and eight scores.

UNLV returns the two running backs that saw most of the game action last year.  While neither is a threat to rush for 1,000 yards, C J Cox  and Channing Trotter will get the tough yards—three yards on third and two.  Redshirt freshman Bradley Randle is more of an outside threat, and we believe he will become part of the rotation this year.

Four starters return to the offensive line.  The tackles, Matt Murphy and Evan Marchal, rank near the top in the league.

Hauk’s first Vegas attack should average 25-28 points and 360-380 yards per game.  If the Rebels can cut down on turnovers, they could surprise a few teams.

Defense: This is the reason Mike Sanford was let go.  He could never mold together a decent defense, as UNLV gave up more than 32 points per game the last two seasons, while falling one win short of bowl eligibility both times.

The Rebels will be more of an attacking defense this year.  They may give up an occasional big play, but they should force more turnovers as well.  Six of the two-deep from the defensive line return this season.  Tackle Ramsey Feagai tips the scale at 350 pounds!  He won’t get to the quarterback, but he should plug the inside just by holding his ground.  His counterpart at the other tackle is “puny 300-pounder”  Isaako Aaitui.  Opponents will not run many line plunges between their tackles, but the Rebels will continue to search for pass rushing answers, and they will probably resort to a lot of blitzing on passing downs.

Two linebackers return to the starting lineup, and they could finish one-two in tackles this year.  Starr Fuimaono and Ronnie Paulo teamed up for 126 stops a year ago.

The secondary is the strength of this unit.  All four starters come back for another season, and they absolutely must improve on last year’s poor showing when they gave up 236 yards and 65% completions.  They combined for just two interceptions.

Expect immediate improvement in this defense, especially in yards allowed.  We’re looking for the Rebels to give up 25-30 points and 380-420 yards.

Schedule: If they had a couple more patsies, we might be inclined to call UNLV a sleeper team.  The out-of-conference schedule is too difficult.  The Rebels host Wisconsin and Nevada and play at Idaho, West Virginia, and Hawaii.  They should be 2-3, 3-2 at best.  They are better than Colorado State and New Mexico and should win those two games.  We think they could pull one upset, maybe over Wyoming or Air Force and finish with five wins for the third consecutive season.

Team Utah Utes
               
Head Coach Kyle Whittingham
               
Colors Crimson and White
               
City Salt Lake City, UT
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 10-3
               
PiRate Rating 104.0
               
National Rating 47
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-4

 

Offense: This will be Utah’s last year in the Mountain West, as they move to the Pac-12 next year.  They should go out with a bang and not a whimper thanks to a strong offense.

Coach Kyle Whittingham welcomes back two experienced quarterbacks this season.  Jordan Wynn will get the nod over Terrance Cain.  Wynn started the final five games of the year, and Utah averaged 34 points in those games. 

Wynn lost his top receiver, David Reed and his 81 receptions for 1,188 yards.  Jereme Brooks caught 56 passes and led with seven touchdowns, while earning 2nd Team All-MWC last year. 

The running game will be special this season with the return of Eddie Wide.  Wide rushed for 1,069 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning 1st Team all-league honors.

Like several of the other top teams in this league, the Utes have a talented and experienced offensive line returning.  Four starters are back including two who made all-conference.  Center Zane Taylor and guard Calb Schlauderaff will hear their names called early in the next NFL draft.

Utah averaged 30 points per game for the season, and we expect that number to top 35 this year.  We also expect total yards to top 400.

Defense: Here is the reason Utah will not give TCU a serious challenge for the title.  The Utes regressed on this side of the ball last year, and they don’t look any better this year.  In fact, we expect them to be even more generous with the loss of their top four tacklers.

Three of four defensive line starters are back.  Tackle Sealver Siliga had 49 tackles with 6 ½ for loss, while getting his hand on four passes.

The linebacking corps has been decimated by graduation.  Rover J J Williams had one start last year and made 20 tackles.  Keep an eye on true freshman V. J. Fehoko, who could emerge as a starter at some point in the season.  He is one of the highest-rated recruits Utah has had.

The secondary has just one starter returning, and that is lightning fast cornerback Brandon Burton.  Burton knocked down 10 passes and intercepted one other last year.  Justin Taplin-Ross saw considerable action at strong safety last year, but he has been shifted to free safety.

Utah will surrender 20-24 points and give up 320-340 yards per game this year, and that will be just enough to keep them from competing with TCU. 

Schedule: Utah opens the season with Big East runner-up Pittsburgh on a Thursday night at Eccles Stadium.  Other non-conference games include road games at Iowa State and Notre Dame and a home game with San Jose State.  The Utes could win all four games, which would help TCU’s strength of schedule when the Frogs come to SLC.  Utah could also lose three of those four and struggle to reach eight wins in their final go around in the conference.  We will call for a 2-2 non-conference record and 6-2 league mark.

Team Wyoming Cowboys
               
Head Coach Dave Christensen
               
Colors Brown and Prairie Gold
               
City Laramie, WY
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 7-6
               
PiRate Rating 95.6
               
National Rating 71
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 6-6

 

Offense: Dave Christensen inherited a veteran club from Joe Glenn and guided the Cowboys to a 7-6 record and bowl win in his first season in Laramie.  His second team should be as good as his first, and his second attack squad should be better.

Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels earned MWC Freshman of the Year honors last year.  He completed 59% of his passes for more than 1,950 yards and ran for more than 600 yards when you factor out almost three dozen sacks.  His specialty was pulling victory out in the last minutes of games.  Christensen developed Chase Daniel at Missouri, and he Carta-Samuels should rapidly improve in his second season.

The Cowboys had one great receiver and six average ones last year.  Fortunately, the great one returns for his senior year.  David Leonard grabbed 77 passes last year, many of them in tight quarters, as Wyoming was a five yards and cloud of dust passing team.

The running attack had a freshman leading the way in 2009, as Alvester Alexander ran for 640 yards and seven scores. 

The offensive line lost two seasoned veteran starters last year, but two of the three returnees could earn postseason honors.  Guard Sam Sterner is the second or third best in the league at his position, while tackle Clayton Kirven could sneak onto the All-MWC team.

The Cowboys should top 20 points per game for the first time in four years and 325+ yards per game for the first time in five years.

Defense: Seven of the team’s top eight tacklers return this year, so Wyoming’s defense should improve more than the offense.  The strength on this side is the secondary, where all four starters return.  The quartet of Marcell and Tashaun Gipson at cornerback and Shamiel Gary and Chris Prosinski at safety combined for six interceptions and 22 passes broken up.  Prosinski led the Cowboys with 140 tackles, and I am sure Christensen would prefer he wouldn’t have to make so many this season.

Christensen has made a courageous move up front.  Because all three defensive linemen graduated, he took his two outside linebackers and moved them to end and switched to a 4-3.  Gabe Knapton and Josh Biezuns recorded 193 tackles with 14 recorded for lost yardage. 

Middle linebacker Brian Hendricks becomes the lone holdover in the second line with the moving forward of his two comrades.  Hendricks made 116 stops last year.  Ghaali Muhammad made 21 tackles in a reserve role last year and will start at one linebacker spot.  The other will probably go to Keith Lewis, who has three years of reserve experience.  Freshman Devyn Harris could see as much time at that spot.

Look for a little more consistency out of the Wyoming defense this year.  We believe they will give up around 25-27 points and 375-400 yards again this season, but they play a tougher schedule.

Schedule: The Cowboys face three teams that went undefeated in the regular season last year—Boise State at home and Texas and TCU on the road.  Other non-league games include Southern Utah at home and Toledo on the road.  The key to the season are the two games that come after Texas and Boise State and precede TCU.  Wyoming hosts Air Force on September 25 and goes to Toledo the next week.  They must win both of these games and sit at 3-2 at this point in order to get to six wins.  We believe they can do it.  Their two new defensive ends with past linebacker experience just may be able to shut down the option game, and their improving offense should be able to score enough points at the Glass Bowl.

Coming Tomorrow: We begin breaking down the BCS conferences.  First up: The Big East Conference—Five teams have a shot at the conference title.

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