The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 13, 2019

2019 American Athletic Conference Football Preview

Today, we wrap up the Group of 5 Conference previews with the American Athletic Conference.  The AAC has seen its champion represent the Group of 5 conferences in a New Year’s 6 Bowl Game three times in the five years of the current rules set in place.  While this league is the strongest Group of 5 league to start 2019, we selected Army to be our predicted G5 team to make an NY6 Bowl bid this year.

This is a league about to undergo some transition.  Connecticut will return to the Big East after in 2020, and there will be an opening for another school to join the AAC.  It could be U Mass, Army, or Liberty, but it could also be somebody like Buffalo from the Mid-American Conference or possibly a new FCS school deciding to jump to FBS, like Villanova.

As for this season, the AAC should be a little more competitive than in the recent past.  Central Florida has dominated the league for two consecutive years, and the Golden Knights will be an excellent team once again this year.  However, teams like Cincinnati, Temple, Memphis, and maybe one or two dark horses will make UCF’s path to a “threepeat” quite difficult.

Here is how the American Athletic Conference Media voted in their preseason poll.

American Athletic Conference Media Poll


East Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall Votes
1 Central Florida 19 169
2 Cincinnati 11 157
3 South Florida 0 107
4 Temple 0 101
5 East Carolina 0 66
6 Connecticut 0 30


West Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall Votes
1 Memphis 15 165
2 Houston 14 162
3 Tulane 0 108
4 SMU 1 87
5 Navy 0 70
6 Tulsa 0 38


Championship Game Winner Overall Votes
Central Florida 12
Cincinnati 8
Memphis 6
Houston 4


Here are our preseason PiRate Ratings.

Preseason PiRate Ratings–American Athletic
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Central Florida 107.7 107.1 108.8 107.9
Cincinnati 106.6 105.0 106.8 106.1
Temple 101.9 101.0 103.2 102.0
South Florida 94.4 95.9 94.9 95.1
East Carolina 85.0 87.6 84.9 85.8
Connecticut 75.9 77.9 74.4 76.1


West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Memphis 104.0 103.3 105.2 104.2
SMU 98.7 98.4 98.9 98.7
Houston 95.0 96.7 97.8 96.5
Tulane 95.4 96.6 95.5 95.8
Tulsa 91.3 91.9 92.3 91.8
Navy 86.3 89.2 85.9 87.2
AAC Averages 95.2 95.9 95.7 95.6

Note:  These preseason ratings are accurate as of August 1, 2019, and subject to change before the first week of the season due to personnel changes prior to the first week of the season.


Predicted Won-Loss Records

The PiRate Ratings were not created to forecast won-loss records like other ratings might attempt.  Our ratings are valid for just the next game on the teams’ schedules, and we have pre-set adjustments built into our ratings on many teams.  For instance, if a team has exceptional starting talent but little depth, their rating has a pre-set reduction per week of the season, so that even if they win or lose a game by the exact expected margin, they will lose some of their power rating due to their depth issues.

If a team has exceptional, but inexperienced talent, their rating will have a pre-set addition per week of the season, and even if their performance may be exactly what was expected, their power rating will rise.

What you see in these predicted won-loss records are our opinion and not calculated from the ratings.  These are the estimated records based on a vote, with the Captain having 50% of the vote and the crew having the other 50%.  The Captain then rounded up or down those teams picked to have an average wins that were not whole numbers.


PiRate Members Predicted Won-Loss
East Division
Pos Team Conference Overall
1 Cincinnati 6-2 9-4
2 Central Florida 6-2 9-3
3 Temple 5-3 9-3
4 South Florida 5-3 6-6
5 East Carolina 2-6 5-7
6 Connecticut 0-8 1-11


West Division
Pos Team Conference Overall
1 Memphis 6-2 10-3*
2 SMU 5-3 8-4
3 Houston 5-3 7-5
4 Tulane 4-4 6-6
5 Navy 3-5 4-8
6 Tulsa 1-7 3-9



Memphis Picked To Win AAC Championship Game


Bowl Predictions
Birmingham SMU
Boca Raton Central Florida
Cure Temple
Frisco Houston
Gasparilla Cincinnati
Hawaii Memphis
Military South Florida

Also Bowl Eligible



Coaches That Could Move To Power 5 Conferences

Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

Josh Heupel, Central Florida

Mike Norvell, Memphis

Willie Fritz, Tulane


Coaches On The Hot Seat

Randy Edsall, Connecticut

Phillip Montgomery, Tulsa


Top Quarterbacks

D’Eriq King, Houston

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Brady White, Memphis


Top Offense

Central Florida




Top Defense





Coming Tomorrow: We start previewing Power 5 Conferences with the ACC

August 11, 2019

2019 Mountain West Conference Football Preview

In the first decade of the 21st Century, the Mountain West Conference was without a doubt the best of the non power leagues.  Slowly, some of the best programs left the league.  Utah went to the Pac-12; TCU left for the Big 12; Brigham Young copied the Notre Dame formula and went independent in football, while joining the West Coast Conference in other sports.  Boise State joined when BYU left, but the Broncos’ best teams were in the old Western Athletic Conference.

You can see this league beginning to reload.  Boise State has begun to recruit like they did in Chris Peterson’s era at the Field of Blue.  Under former Cal coach Jeff Tedford, Fresno State has returned to prominence.  Utah State, Wyoming, San Diego State, Hawaii, and Nevada have gotten a bit stronger in recent years.  Air Force has been down in the last couple of years, but the Falcons have the experience to rebound this year.

With the new strength in so many locations, the unfortunate reality is that it is highly unlikely that any one team will dominate the others and make a run for the New Year’s Six Bowl that goes to the top-rated Group of Five Conference team.

Both divisions should see competitive races this year, and when November comes,  at least five teams should still have a legitimate chance to make the conference championship game.


Here is how the Mountain West Conference media voted in the preseason poll

Mountain West Conference Media Poll
Mountain Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall Votes
1 Boise St. 15 120
2 Utah St. 6 108
3 Air Force 0 73
4 Wyoming 0 66
5 Colorado St. 0 52
6 New Mexico 0 22


West Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall Votes
1 Fresno St. 17 122
2 San Diego St. 3 106
3 Nevada 0 74
4 Hawaii 1 67
5 UNLV 0 51
6 San Jose St. 0 21


Championship Game Winner
None Chosen

The PiRate Ratings offer a little bit of a variation from the Media Poll.

Preseason PiRate Ratings–Mountain West
Mountain Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Utah St. 105.4 104.3 106.8 105.5
Boise St. 105.0 104.3 105.3 104.9
Air Force 96.5 98.0 97.3 97.3
Wyoming 94.4 96.6 95.2 95.4
New Mexico 83.0 86.3 82.4 83.9
Colorado St. 79.2 84.2 79.3 80.9


West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Fresno St. 99.8 100.2 100.6 100.2
Hawaii 95.5 97.7 94.8 96.0
San Diego St. 94.4 96.2 94.1 94.9
Nevada 92.9 93.9 92.5 93.1
U N L V 85.8 88.9 85.9 86.9
San Jose St. 83.6 86.0 82.7 84.1


MWC Averages 93.0 94.7 93.1 93.6


Note:  These preseason ratings are accurate as of August 1, 2019, and subject to change before the first week of the season due to personnel changes prior to the first week of the season.


Predicted Won-Loss Records

The PiRate Ratings were not created to forecast won-loss records like other ratings might attempt.  Our ratings are valid for just the next game on the teams’ schedules, and we have pre-set adjustments built into our ratings on many teams.  For instance, if a team has exceptional starting talent but little depth, their rating has a pre-set reduction per week of the season, so that even if they win or lose a game by the exact expected margin, they will lose some of their power rating due to their depth issues.

If a team has exceptional, but inexperienced talent, their rating will have a pre-set addition per week of the season, and even if their performance may be exactly what was expected, their power rating will rise.

What you see in these predicted won-loss records are our opinion and not calculated from the ratings.  These are the estimated records based on a vote, with the Captain having 50% of the vote and the crew having the other 50%.  The Captain then rounded up or down those teams picked to have an average wins that were not whole numbers.


PiRate Members Predicted Won-Loss
Mountain Division
Pos Team Conference Overall
1 Utah St. 7-1 10-3*
2 Boise St. 7-1 9-3
3 Air Force 5-3 7-5
4 Wyoming 4-4 6-6
5 New Mexico 1-7 3-9
6 Colorado St. 0-8 1-11


West Division
Pos Team Conference Overall
1 Hawaii 6-2 9-5
2 Fresno St. 6-2 8-4
3 San Diego St. 5-3 7-5
4 Nevada 4-4 6-6
5 UNLV 2-6 3-9
6 San Jose St. 1-7 2-10



Utah State picked to win MWC Championship Game


Bowl Predictions
Las Vegas Utah St.
Arizona Fresno St.
Armed Forces Boise St.
Idaho Potato Air Force
New Mexico San Diego St.


Alternate Bowl
Cheez-it Hawaii


Also Bowl Eligible


Coaches That Could Move to Power 5 Conferences

Bryan Harsin, Boise St.

Craig Bohl, Wyoming

Nick Rolovich, Hawaii

Jay Norvell, Nevada


Coaches On The Hot Seat

Mike Bobo, Colorado St.

Bob Davie, New Mexico

Brent Brennan, San Jose St.

Tony Sanchez, UNLV


Top Quarterbacks

Jordan Love, Utah St.

Cole McDonald, Hawaii

Armani Rogers, UNLV


Best Offense

Utah St.

Boise St.



Best Defense

Utah St.

Boise St.

Fresno St.


Coming Tomorrow: The FBS Independents, including Notre Dame and BYU.





August 9, 2019

2019 Mid-American Conference Football Preview

The Mid-American Conference has been quite competitive in recent years with multiple teams competing in both divisions for their division title.  2019 should be no different in the West Division, but this could be a year where Ohio easily wins the East.  After the Bobcats, the other five teams have glaring weaknesses that can easily be exploited by a roster and coaching staff at Ohio, and the Western Division competitors.

The West Division is a four-team race.  Western Michigan returns more starters than any other team in the FBS Football.  The Broncos finished a game behind division winner Northern Illinois, and WMU is the team to beat in the West.  However, Toledo, Eastern Michigan, and Northern Illinois have enough talent to get a piece of the division flag, and all four teams could finish at 6-2 or 5-3 if they beat up on each other.

Here is the way the MAC Media representatives voted at the preseason media poll.


Mid-American Conference Media Poll


East Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall Votes
1 Ohio 24 144
2 Miami (O) 0 107
3 Buffalo 0 100
4 Kent St. 0 62
5 Akron 0 54
6 Bowling Green 0 37


West Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall Votes
1 Toledo 15 127
2 Western Michigan 5 112
3 Northern Illinois 3 103
4 Eastern Michigan 0 83
5 Ball St. 0 43
6 Central Michigan 1 36


Championship Game Winner
Ohio 13
Toledo 7
Western Michigan 2
Northern Illlinois 1
Central Michigan 1


Here are our preseason PiRate Ratings for the MAC.

Preseason PiRate Ratings–Mid-American Conference
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Ohio U 96.3 95.2 97.8 96.5
Miami (O) 90.5 89.0 90.9 90.1
Buffalo 88.0 89.0 89.0 88.6
Kent St. 84.8 85.5 85.0 85.1
Akron 83.1 83.4 83.3 83.2
Bowling Green 78.3 78.5 78.7 78.5


West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Michigan 99.4 98.2 99.7 99.1
Northern Illinois 94.3 93.2 94.4 94.0
Toledo 91.2 90.8 92.3 91.4
Eastern Michigan 88.8 89.2 89.6 89.2
Ball St. 85.6 85.4 85.1 85.4
Central Michigan 78.3 79.2 78.4 78.6


MAC Averages 88.2 88.1 88.7 88.3

Note:  These preseason ratings are accurate as of August 1, 2019, and subject to change before the first week of the season due to personnel changes prior to the first week of the season.

Predicted Won-Loss Records

The PiRate Ratings were not created to forecast won-loss records like other ratings might attempt.  Our ratings are valid for just the next game on the teams’ schedules, and we have pre-set adjustments built into our ratings on many teams.  For instance, if a team has exceptional starting talent but little depth, their rating has a pre-set reduction per week of the season, so that even if they win or lose a game by the exact expected margin, they will lose some of their power rating due to their depth issues.

If a team has exceptional, but inexperienced talent, their rating will have a pre-set addition per week of the season, and even if their performance may be exactly what was expected, their power rating will rise.

What you see in these predicted won-loss records are our opinion and not calculated from the ratings.  These are the estimated records based on a vote, with the Captain having 50% of the vote and the crew having the other 50%.  The Captain then rounded up or down those teams picked to have an average wins that were not whole numbers.


PiRate Members Predicted Won-Loss
East Division
Pos Team MAC Overall
1 Ohio 7-1 9-4
2 Miami (O) 5-3 6-6
3 Buffalo 5-3 6-6
4 Akron 3-5 4-8
5 Kent St. 3-5 4-8
6 Bowling Green 1-7 2-10


West Division
Pos Team MAC Overall
1 Western Michigan 7-1 10-3*
2 Toledo 6-2 8-4
3 Eastern Michigan 5-3 7-5
4 Northern Illlinois 5-3 6-6
5 Ball St. 1-7 2-10
6 Central Michigan 0-8 2-10



Western Michigan picked to win MAC Championship Game


Bowl Predictions
Bahamas Western Michigan
Boca Raton Ohio
Camellia Eastern Michigan
Dollar General Northern Illinois
Idaho Potato Toledo


Also Bowl Eligible
Miami (O)


Coaches That Could Move To FBS Power 5 Conferences

Lance Leipold, Buffalo

Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan

Jason Candle, Toledo

Tim Lester, Western Michigan


Coaches On The Hot Seat

Mike Neu, Ball St.


Top Quarterbacks

Nathan Rourke, Ohio

Jon Wassink, Western Michigan

Mitchell Guadagni, Toledo


Best Offense

Western Michigan



Best Defense

Northern Illinois




Coming Tomorrow: The Sun Belt Conference






August 18, 2015

2015 Big 12 Preview

A year ago, TCU and Baylor were both within striking distance of making the playoffs late in the season.  Both teams had offenses that could not be stopped and could rarely be slowed.  The Horned Frogs were one of those rare teams that could run for 200+ yards and pass for 300+ yards per game, while their defense was tough against the run and the pass.  Their only blemish was a three-point loss at Baylor, on a field goal on the final play of the game; the Bears were undefeated and ranked number five at the time.  Heading into the final week of the regular season, TCU was one of the Final Four teams in the second-to-last selection poll.  The Horned Frogs then played Iowa State and won 55-3 in a game that could have been 76-3 had Gary Patterson left his starters in the game.  The Frogs amassed more than 700 total yards, apparently wrapping up a playoff bid.
So what happened?  Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game, while Oregon beat Arizona 51-13 in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  Defending national champion Florida State barely held off Georgia Tech to win the ACC Championship Game by two points, and at 13-0, the Seminoles basically had to be included in the playoffs, even if they did not appear to be nearly as talented as either Big 12 team.  And, then there was Alabama.  At 12-1, following an SEC Championship Game blowout of Missouri, and with a lone loss to a then undefeated Ole Miss team in Oxford, there would have been a new Civil War had the Crimson Tide been excluded.
TCU, who at the time was our PiRate Ratings clear number one team at the close of the 2014 regular season did not benefit from having a Big 12 Championship Game to boost their strength of schedule at the end.  And, the Horned Frogs actually would have finished behind Baylor in the standings had the two teams been in the same division of a 12-team Big 12, figuring that the schools are in proximity to each other.

In the Peach Bowl, TCU showed the nation who the real best team in the nation was last year.  The Horned Frogs blew Ole Miss off the field, winning 42-3 in a game that was out of hand midway through the second quarter.
Baylor was in the driver’s seat for a playoff berth when they came from behind to beat TCU.  The Bears were 6-0 and ranked in the top four when they ventured to Morgantown, West Virginia to take on a 4-2 Mountaineers team the following week.  Maybe, the Bears overlooked WVU or maybe they were still celebrating their big win the week before, but BU could not get their offense on track against an average WVU defense.  The 41-27 loss could not be overcome, even after the Bears knocked off Oklahoma  by 34 points.  In the Cotton Bowl, Michigan State came from down 20 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Bears 42-41.

The biggest problem the two top Big 12 teams faced last year was strength of schedule.  The league plays a nine-game conference schedule with every team playing all the other teams.  That leaves just three non-conference games for each team, and most of those non-Big 12 games come against the likes of teams that do not strengthen a resume.  Last year, TCU played one slightly above average non-conference foe in Minnesota.  Their other two games came against FCS Samford and 1-11 SMU.  Baylor’s three non-league foes were SMU, FCS Northwestern State, and Buffalo.
In contrast, Ohio State’s non Big Ten foes were Navy, Virginia Tech, Kent State, and Cincinnati (three bowl teams out of four).  Oregon’s non-Pac-12 slate included two clunkers in South Dakota and Wyoming, but the Ducks’ other game came against #7 Michigan St.

Once again, the non-conference schedules for the two league powers are weak, and this could become a factor once again this season.  However, as you will see in the final two previews, the top two leagues are so balanced, we do not believe any team will come through those wars unscathed.  Therefore, there is a chance that rather than having no team invited to the Playoffs this year, the Big 12 could get two!  If the winner of the TCU-Baylor game finishes 12-0, and the loser finishes 11-1, then we believe that the Selection Committee would feel pressured to find some justification that would compel them to take both teams over a two-loss Pac-12 and a two-loss SEC team.
As we have stated previously, the four-team playoff is ridiculous when you have five power conferences.  The champions of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC should have automatic entries into any postseason playoff.  The other 50% of FBS should have some legitimate shot of earning a spot.  So, until there is an eight-team playoff, there will always be a deserving team or teams left out.  If the SEC is the league that gets jilted this year, that eight-team playoff may become reality sooner than expected.

There are additional quality teams in the Big 12 this year besides TCU and Baylor.  Oklahoma returns a bevy of talent and should improve on their 8-5 record from last year.  West Virginia, Texas, and Oklahoma State all have enough talent to pull off a major upset and even get into contention in this league.  Kansas State always surprises handicappers at least once a year.  Texas Tech had a down year in 2014, but they look to be 10 points better this year than last.

The bottom two of this league may be the one liability that makes it hard for two teams to make the playoffs.  Iowa State comes off a 2-10 season that included a loss to FCS North Dakota St and an 0-9 conference record.  Kansas faces the biggest rebuilding job of the 10 teams, and going backward from 1-8/3-9 forecasts some very long Saturdays in Lawrence before Rock Chalk Jayhawk comes to life indoors in November.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Big 12 Media Poll

Big 12 Conference Media Poll
Pos. Team 1st Place Total
1 TCU 32 408
2 Baylor 10 384
3 Oklahoma 0 312
4 Oklahoma St. 0 289
5 Texas 0 245
6 West Virginia 0 204
7 Kansas St. 0 201
8 Texas Tech 0 139
9 Iowa St. 0 83
10 Kansas 0 45

Big 12 Media Preseason All-Conference Team

Big 12 Preseason All-Conference Team
Offense Player School
Quarterback Trevone Boykin TCU
Running Back Shock Linwood Baylor
Running Back Samaje Perine Oklahoma
Fullback Glenn Gronkowski Kansas St.
Wide Receiver Corey Coleman Baylor
Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard Oklahoma
Wide Receiver Josh Doctson TCU
Tight End Tre’Von Armstead Baylor
Offensive Line Spencer Drango Baylor
Offensive Line Cody Whitehair Kansas St.
Offensive Line Joey Hunt TCU
Offensive Line Halapoulivaati Vaitai TCU
Offensive Line Le’Raven Clark Texas Tech
Defense Player School
Defensive Line Andrew Billings Baylor
Defensive Line Shawn Oakman Baylor
Defensive Line Emmanuel Ogbah Oklahoma St.
Defensive Line Davion Pierson TCU
Defensive Line Pete Robertson Texas Tech
Linebacker Eric Striker Oklahoma
Linebacker Ryan Simmons Oklahoma St.
Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski West Virginia
Defensive Back Orion Stewart Baylor
Defensive Back Dante Barnett Kansas St.
Defensive Back Zack Sanchez Oklahoma
Defensive Back Kevin Peterson Oklahoma St.
Defensive Back Duke Thomas Texas
Defensive Back Karl Joseph West Virginia
Special Teams Player School
Punter Taylor Symmank Texas Tech
Kicker Josh Lambert West Virginia
Return Specialist Alex Ross Oklahoma

PiRate, Mean, Bias, and Average Ratings

Big 12 Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
TCU 131.4 118.6 133.1 127.7
Baylor 125.2 120.6 125.9 123.9
Oklahoma 121.3 117.6 121.7 120.2
Oklahoma St. 113.4 113.1 113.9 113.5
West Virginia 115.2 109.1 114.3 112.9
Texas 111.6 110.6 112.0 111.4
Kansas St. 111.0 94.6 109.3 105.0
Texas Tech 107.2 96.6 106.4 103.4
Iowa St. 95.0 91.2 93.7 93.3
Kansas 80.8 73.8 78.7 77.8
B12 Averages 111.2 104.6 110.9 108.9

PiRate Won-Loss Predictions and Bowl Projections

PiRate Ratings Predicted Records
Pos Team Conf. Overall Bowl
1 TCU 9-0 12-0 Playoffs
2 Baylor 8-1 11-1 Playoffs
3 Oklahoma 7-2 9-3 Sugar
4 West Virginia 5-4 8-4 Russell Athletic
5 Texas 5-4 7-5 Alamo
6 Oklahoma St. 4-5 7-5 Texas
7 Kansas St. 3-6 6-6 Liberty
8 Texas Tech 3-6 5-7 None
9 Iowa St. 1-8 2-10 None
10 Kansas 0-9 1-11 None

Note: The Big 12 will not have eligible teams for the Cactus and Armed Forces Bowls.

Coming Next: The Pac-12 Conference

August 17, 2015

2015 Big Ten Preview

The Big Ten was once referred to as the Big Two and Little Eight during the late 1960’s and 1970’s.  For more than a decade, either Ohio State or Michigan won the conference championship and played in the Rose Bowl, and in most seasons, the participant was chosen in the season finale between the two schools.
In 1968, Ohio State defeated Michigan 50-14 to earn the conference championship and Rose Bowl bid.  After beating O.J. Simpson’s USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes won the National Championship as well.  In 1969, Ohio State had a team similar to the Buckeye team of this season.  Considered unbeatable, the Buckeyes destroyed eight consecutive opponents before facing a 7-2 Michigan team in the season finale.  Michigan had a first year head coach in Bo Schmebechler, a fiery sort who would suffer a heart attack just a month later.  Ohio State began the game looking like they would win and go on to defend their national title in the Rose Bowl, but something happened.  Michigan’s defense toughened, and All-Conference quarterback Rex Kern began throwing interceptions.  Michigan capitalized and pulled off the big upset to win the league crown and Rose Bowl berth.

The following year, Ohio State ran the table in the regular season, getting revenge over the 9-0 Wolverines, and entering the Rose Bowl with a chance to cop another national title, with Texas losing earlier in the day in the Cotton Bowl.  However, Stanford and Heisman Trophy winning QB Jim Plunkett was too much for the conservative Buckeyes.

Michigan went undefeated in the regular season in 1971, and the Wolverines lost to Stanford in the Rose Bowl.  1972 was Ohio State’e turn to ruin Michigan’s national title hopes.  The Wolverines had the best defense in college football in six years, but the Buckeyes pulled off the 14-11 upset to foil the Rose Bowl Game of The Century between #1 USC and #2 Michigan.

1973 once again saw both powers enter the big game undefeated, and in this case, they  still were both undefeated after the game, following a 10-10 tie.  Ohio State was voted to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl, and the Buckeyes defeated USC.  Ohio State won the big game in 1974 but lost the Rose Bowl to USC.

1975 was supposed to be Ohio State’s best year in the Woody Hayes era.  The Buckeyes returned the bulk of the team from the year before.  Michigan was down just a tad with a younger than average squad.  The Buckeyes ran the table against a strong schedule that included non-conference wins over Penn State (an independent then) and UCLA (by 21 points).  They knocked off an 8-0-2 Michigan squad to head to Pasadena to face the Bruin team they blew off the LA Coliseum field in September.  The Bruins got their revenge, and the Buckeyes did not get that final title for Woody.

1976, 77, and 78 were Michigan’s years to shine.  The Wolverines appeared to be primed to compete for three consecutive national titles.  They would beat Ohio State all three seasons, but letdowns in one game each year and then Rose Bowl losses each year spoiled their national title hopes.  During this time, Ohio State began to fade, and Coach Hayes was let go after an embarrassing incident that occured at the end of the 1978 Gator Bowl.

In 1979, Ohio State returned to glory with new coach Earl Bruce.  The Buckeyes ran the table with a close 18-15 win over the Wolverines, and they appeared to be in control of the Rose Bowl, until USC scored late to win 17-16.
In 1980, neither team was as strong as it had been in the 1970’s, but Michigan went undefeated in league play to enter the Rose Bowl at 9-2.  It was Coach Schembechler’s weakest Rose Bowl team yet, and he was 0-5 in previous Rose Bowls.  This time, the Wolverines upset Washington to finally give Bo his Roses.

13 years of dominance between the Big Two came to an end in 1981, as Iowa became the first “Little 8” team to appear in the Rose Bowl since the Cardiac Kids of Indiana won the 1967 Big Ten Championship.

Which brings us back to the current time: The Buckeyes appear to be on the cusp of becoming as dominant as they were in the past.  Urban Meyer pulled off the big surprise last year, and now Ohio State looks to be 7-10 points better this year than last.  Once again, Michigan has a fiery new coach in Jim Harbaugh.  But, there are differences this year compared to 1969.  First, Michigan State is the team most likely to play the role of 1969 Michigan.  The Spartans are talented enough this year to win the national title themselves.  Penn State is sitting pretty with a loaded team needing a potentially star quarterback to “get it” and put it all together.  Michigan went 5-7 last year and will be pleased with any forward movement.  8-4 might earn Harbaugh Coach of the Year honors.

The West Division has its intrigue as well.  Wisconsin has a new coach.  Former Badger offensive coordinator Paul Chryst returns to Madison after a three-year sojourn in Pittsburgh.  He will continue the Barry Alvarez/Bret Bielema/Gary Andersen philosophy of pounding the ball and throwing to twin tight ends, but UW has some reloading to do.

Nebraska also has a new coach, but Mike Riley will bring a new philosophy to the plains.  The Cornhuskers will rely more on a wide-open offense with more balance, something Bill Callahan tried to install in Lincoln a decade ago and failed miserably.

Iowa and Northwestern have talent but not enough to compete for a division title, which opens the door for the one team with both talent and the same coach that has been there long enough to establish his system.  Our surprise pick to win the West Division this year is the Minnesota Golden Gophers.  In what appears to be a minor rebuilding year at TCF Bank Stadium, we believe Coach Jerry Kill’s squad will benefit from a favorable schedule where the Gophers will face Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin at home while having enough talent to win at Iowa, Northwestern, and Purdue to win the division in a tiebreaker over the Badgers.

Here is the Big Ten Media’s Preseason Poll.  It is no surprise who their pick is to win, but notice that it is unanimous, and that the second best team is also unanimous.

Big Ten Conference Media Poll
Pos. Team 1st Place Total Champ. Votes
East Division
1 Ohio St. 40 280 40
2 Michigan St. 0 240 0
3 Penn St. 0 186.5 0
4 Michigan 0 163.5 0
5 Maryland 0 95.5 0
6 Rutgers 0 78 0
7 Indiana 0 76.5 0
West Division
1 Wisconsin 32 272 0
2 Nebraska 5 231.5 0
3 Minnesota 3 197 0
4 Iowa 0 158.5 0
5 Northwestern 0 125 0
6 Illinois 0 77 0
7 Purdue 0 59 0

The Big Ten has never polled a preseason all-conference team, but they do vote on offensive and defensive players of the year.  We have substituted our top-rated players at each position in place of the All-Big Ten and then included the players of the year voting below.

Big Ten Preseason All-Conference Team
Offense Player School
Quarterback Connor Cook Michigan St.
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott Ohio St.
Running Back Corey Clement Wisconsin
Wide Receiver Leonte Carroo Rutgers
Wide Receiver DaeSean Hamilton Penn St.
Wide Receiver Braxton Miller Ohio St.
Tight End Josiah Price Michigan St.
Tackle Taylor Decker Ohio St.
Tackle Jack Conklin Michigan St.
Guard Pat Elfein Ohio St.
Guard Josh Campion Minnesota
Center Jack Allen Michigan St.
Defense Player School
End Joey Bosa Ohio St.
End Shilique Calhoun Michigan St.
Tackle Anthony Zettel Penn St.
Tackle Adolphus Washington Ohio St.
Linebacker Darron Lee Ohio St.
Linebacker Vince Biegel Wisconsin
Linebacker Ed Davis Michigan St.
Cornerback William Likely Maryland
Cornerback Nick VanHoose Northwestern
Safety Vonn Bell Ohio St.
Safety Jordan Lucas Penn St.
Special Teams Player School
Punter Peter Mortell Minnesota
Kicker Brad Craddock Maryland
Return Specialist Janarion Grant Rutgers
Return Specialist De’Mornay Pierson-El Nebraska

Note in the offensive player of the year that “Ohio State quarterbacks” received 2 first place votes and 9 votes overall.  We don’t know if this included Braxton Miller as one of three, but all three Ohio State players finished in the top 10 of the voting.

Preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year voting (1st Pl.)
1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State RB, 105 (31)
2. Connor Cook, Michigan State QB, 57 (3)
3. Cardale Jones, Ohio State QB, 19 (2)
4. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB, 15 (1)
5. Corey Clement, Wisconsin RB, 15
6. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State QB, 9
6. Ohio State quarterbacks 9 (2)
8. Braxton Miller, Ohio State H-back, 3
9. Wes Lunt, Illinois QB, 2
Preseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year voting (1st Pl.)
1. Joey Bosa, Ohio State DE, 111 (37)
2. Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State DE, 50
3. Anthony Zettel, Penn State DT, 25
4. Darron Lee, Ohio State LB, 18
5. William Likely, Maryland CB, 8 (1)
6. Maliek Collins, Nebraska DE, 5
7. Vince Biegel, Wisconsin LB, 2
7. Ed Davis, Michigan State LB, 2
7. Vonn Bell, Ohio State S, 2
10. Joe Bolden, Michigan LB, 1
10. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan S, 1
10. Darius Hamilton, Rutgers DT, 1
10. Eric Murray, Minnesota CB, 1
10. Michael Caputo, Wisconsin S, 1

Here are our PiRate, Mean, Bias, and Average ratings to start the season.  More about Ohio State’s preseason PiRate Rating follows below.

Big Ten Conference
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Ohio St. 137.2 % 125.6 138.4 133.7
Michigan St. 123.2 116.6 123.8 121.2
Michigan 113.5 109.6 112.6 111.9
Penn St. 111.0 112.6 111.6 111.7
Indiana 97.4 98.8 97.3 97.8
Rutgers 98.5 95.9 96.9 97.1
Maryland 98.7 94.6 97.3 96.9
West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Wisconsin 113.0 113.6 113.0 113.2
Minnesota 110.3 109.6 110.4 110.1
Nebraska 110.7 106.9 110.0 109.2
Northwestern 103.2 104.6 102.3 103.4
Illinois 104.7 101.6 103.2 103.2
Iowa 100.4 103.6 100.5 101.5
Purdue 100.6 100.6 98.8 100.0
B10 Averages 108.7 106.7 108.3 107.9

% Ohio State’s 137.2 preseason PiRate Rating is the highest to start a season since Nebraska in 1995.  No Mean or Bias ratings date back that far, so only the PiRate Rating has been considered.  Because the ratings have undergone a little bit of tweaking in recent years, the 137.2 rating would equate to a 140.8 rating using the old calculations.  Nebraska in 1995 began the season at 142.6.  Other teams rated higher than 140 to begin the season were: Alabama in 1979, USC in 1972, and Nebraska in 1971.  We began this rating system in October of 1969, so Ohio State’s preseason rating did not exist.  We guess that their rating would have been the highest ever had it existed, and we do not have any saved data prior to 1971.

Predicted Records & Bowl Projections

The Big Ten has tie-ins with nine different bowls, not counting any possible playoff spots.  Because, we believe that the conference will comprise half of the 2015-16 playoff spots this year, it means the league will have 11 slots to fill.  We only believe nine teams will become bowl eligible, so the bottom tier bowls, Quick Lane and Heart of Dallas, will need to find at-large teams to replace the Big Ten representative.  Here are our won-loss predictions and bowl projections for the league.

PiRate Ratings Predicted Records
Pos Team Conf. Overall Bowl
East Division
1 Ohio St. 8-0 13-0 * Playoffs
2 Michigan St. 7-1 11-1 Playoffs
3 Penn St. 6-2 10-2 Rose
4 Michigan 4-4 7-5 Pinstripe
5 Rutgers 1-7 5-7 None
6 Maryland 1-7 4-8 None
7 Indiana 1-7 4-8 None
West Division
1 Minnesota 7-1 10-3 ^ Holiday
2 Wisconsin 7-1 10-2 Citrus
3 Nebraska 5-3 8-4 Outback
4 Iowa 4-4 7-5 Music City
5 Northwestern 3-5 6-6 Foster Farms
6 Purdue 2-6 4-8 None
7 Illinois 0-8 3-9 None
* Wins Title Game
^ Loses Title Game

Coming Next: The Big 12 Conference

August 14, 2015

2015 American Athletic Conference Preview

2015 brings changes to the American Athletic Conference.  Navy joins the league, giving the AAC 12 teams, and with 12, you get a championship game.  The league has now been divided into divisions with Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, South Florida, and Temple placed in the East, and Houston, Memphis, Navy, SMU, Tulane, and Tulsa placed in the West.

Last year, Memphis, Cincinnati, and Central Florida tied for first with East Carolina, Houston, and Temple finishing bowl eligible.  Only Temple failed to earn a bowl bid.  This year, as many as eight teams could wind up bowl eligible, but the league will probably just send seven teams to bowls.  Not having the planned Austin Bowl this year will be a major bummer to one possible 6-6 team.

The clear-cut media favorite in the East Division is Cincinnati.  Coach Tommy Tuberville’s first two Bearcat teams ended with identical 9-4 records, which followed consecutive 10-3 records by his predecessor Butch Jones.  Tuberville welcomes back the vagabond quarterback Gunner Kiel, who when he finally settled on Nippert Stadium as his home field, instantly became the top passer in the league last year.  Kiel helped Cinti top 300 passing yards per game in 2014, and 2015 should be more of the same, as the top six receivers are back in the fold.  The Bearcats must rebuild in the defensive front seven, but they have a seasoned and talented secondary, so don’t expect much falloff on this side of the ball.

Temple began to turn the corner last year under Coach Matt Rhule, as the Owls finished 6-6 after going 2-10 the year before.  Rhule welcomes back a league high 19 starters as well as better than 80% of the letterwinners from 2014, and this TU team is talented enough to edge out Cincinnati for the East Division title.  The Owls must play the Bearcats in the Queen City, and that game will take place early in the season on September 12.  Temple must play Penn State the week before, while UC gets a patsy in Alabama A&M.  If the Temple front seven can stay healthy in week one, the Owls can slow down Cinti’s offense and have a chance to get the upper hand in the division race.

The drop from number two to number three in the East is steep.  Central Florida must rebuild on both sides of the ball, as Coach George O’Leary lost all of his key pass catchers on offense and all of his starting secondary and his top five tacklers from last year.  There is enough talent remaining for UCF to post a winning record, but the Knights will be fighting off East Carolina for third and not the top two contenders.

Speaking of East Carolina, the Pirates also face a minor rebuilding reclamation.  Shane Carden graduated as the top passer in school history and Justin Hardy left as the top receiver in school history, and it will be impossible to replace their contributions.  A better than average offensive line will make it a bit easier for new skill position players to have some success, but the offensive points per game is going to take a hit.  Defensively, ECU is thin on the front line, so the rushing defense could weaken as the season wears on.

Willie Taggart maybe has one more season to resurrect the South Florida program.  Coach T doubled the wins from two to four in year two, but Bulls fans believe this team should dominate the league, and they may look to make changes if USF doesn’t double the win total again this year.  That is not going to happen, as the Bulls must start anew on the offensive end.  Taggart is switching to a faster-paced offense, and breaking in a new quarterback with a new offense is a recipe for many mistakes, mistakes which lead to losses.  The USF defense should be improved, but the offense may not give the stop troops a lot of rest.

Connecticut has not enjoyed a good season since 2010, when former coach Randy Edsall took the Huskies to the Fiesta Bowl.  Second year coach Bob Diaco went 2-10 in his first year in Storrs, and this year’s team is more talented.  However, more talented may only lead to closer losses, as both sides of the interior line are not yet up to AAC standards.

The race in the West Division should be a three-team affair.  Memphis, Houston, and Navy all have the horses to take the division crown, while Tulane, Tulsa, and SMU should fight for fourth.
Memphis was the big surprise in the league last year.  Coach Justin Fuente began his coaching career with 4-8 and 3-9 records, and the Tigers were not expected to do any better in 2014.  After beginning the season 2-2 with expected wins over Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee with competitive losses to UCLA and Ole Miss, Memphis blew Cincinnati off the Liberty Bowl field.  Following a close loss to Houston, the Tigers then ran the table to finish 10-3, including a bowl win over BYU.

This year, Memphis has the bulk of its offense returning, and the Tigers could threaten to average 40 points per game.  They are going to need those points, because the defense was decimated by graduation losses.  Only one starter from the back seven returns, and the pass defense will get a Baptism under fire with early games against pass happy Bowling Green, Cincinnati, and Ole Miss.

Houston welcomes a new coach after firing a coach that went 8-5 in back-to-back seasons.  There are many examples in the past where schools got too stingy and replaced a better than average coach with what they thought was an even better coach, only to experience many disappointing seasons.  Can Tom Herman bring the Urban Meyer magic to Houston?  Herman was Ohio State’s offensive coordinator, but Herman couldn’t bring along Cardale Jones, J. T. Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott, or Braxton Miller.  He’ll have to make do with better than average Greg Ward at quarterback, talented Kenneth Farrow at running back, and a group of credible but not flashy wide receivers.  His offensive line won’t remind him of the Buckeye line he had last year.  Defensively, the Cougars return the bulk of the two deep secondary, and this will be the best pass defense in the league.

Navy brings the spread option offense to the league, and because none of their conference foes faced this offense last year, the Midshipmen will benefit from the lack of experience facing the regular and triple option.  Coach Ken Niumatalolo typically starts as many seniors as he can, so every year, Navy must break in a batch of new starters.  However, one player that returns to his spot is quarterback Keenan Reynolds.  An experienced option quarterback is like a Major League baseball team having three 20-game winners in its starting rotation.  Reynolds should leave Navy as the all-time leading rusher, and he is going to set a mark for career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback that may not be topped for decades.

Tulane represents the best of the rest in the West.  The Green Wave should be much improved over last year’s 3-9 mark, and it would not surprise us if Coach Curtis Johnson guides TU back to bowl eligibility.  Last year’s offense actually outgained the 2013 offense in yardage but scored eight fewer points per game.  Look for TU to return to the 2013 scoring rate.  The Green Wave defense is not strong enough to stop the top teams in the league, so fourth is the best this team can hope for in the division.

There was a time when Tulsa would have dominated the West Division if not the entire league.  In 2008, the Golden Hurricane offense led the nation with 47.2 points per game and 570 total yards per game.  In 2012, TU won the Conference USA championship and then knocked off Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl.  Since then, TU has won just five of 24 games, and that has brought a coaching change.  Enter Phillip Montgomery, the former Baylor assistant who mentored RGIII and Bryce Petty.  There is good news and bad news for TU fans this year.  The good news: expect Montgomery’s air show to light up the scoreboards and bring a lot of  excitement to Champan Stadium.  With 10 starters returning, including a fine quarterback in Dane Evans and a potential NFL receiver in Keevan Lucas, the Hurricane should top 30 points per game and maybe even 35 with the new wide open passing game.  The bad news: the defense is going to give up points just as quickly as the offense and maybe even a bit quicker.  It adds up to a season where there won’t be a lot of kicks on Route 66 down in T-Town.

SMU is almost back in the same position as they were when they returned from the Death Penalty in the 1980’s.  Following a 1-11 season where the Mustangs played like more like Shetland Ponies, the school has made sweeping changes.  Gone is Coach June Jones and his run and shoot offense.  Enter former Clemson offensive guru Chad Morris and his spread offense.  Morris is highly connected in the Lonestar State, and he will eventually bring enough talent to return SMU to some of its former glory, but it isn’t going to happen in year one.  SMU can hope to double its win total this year, but 2-10 is not much to get excited over.  There is a long way to go to return to respectability.

Here are the AAC Media’s preseason predictions.

American Athletic Conference Media Poll
Pos. Team 1st Place Total
East Division
1 Cincinnati 29 179
2 Central Florida 1 135
3 Temple 0 116
4 East Carolina 0 105
5 South Florida 0 53
6 Connecticut 0 42
West Division
1 Memphis 13 153
2 Houston 10 149
3 Navy 7 148
4 Tulane 0 74
5 SMU 0 59
6 Tulsa 0 47
Overall Champion
Cincinnati 22, Memphis 5, Houston 2, UCF 1

The media did not select a preseason All-AAC team, so we are posting our own preseason team based on highest individual PiRate Ratings, the basic component for our PiRate and Bias team ratings and a key component of the Mean Rating.

Conference USA Preseason All-Conference Team
Offense Player School
Quarterback Gunner Kiel Cincinnati
Running Back Marlon Mack South Florida
Running Back Kenneth Farrow Houston
Wide Receiver Keevan Lucas Tulsa
Wide Receiver Mekale McKay Cincinnati
Tight End Alan Cross Memphis
Offensive Line Kyle Friend Temple
Offensive Line J. T. Boyd East Carolina
Offensive Line Ike Harris East Carolina
Offensive Line Parker Ehringer Cincinnati
Offensive Line Garrett Stafford Tulsa
Defense Player School
Defensive Line Silverberry Mouhon Cincinnati
Defensive Line Thomas Niles Central Florida
Defensive Line Praise Martin-Oguike Temple
Defensive Line Royce Lafrance Tulane
Linebacker Tyler Matakevich Temple
Linebacker Zeek Bigger East Carolina
Linebacker Nigel Harris South Florida
Defensive Back William Jackson Houston
Defensive Back Adrian McDonald Houston
Defensive Back Josh Hawkins East Carolina
Defensive Back Zach Edwards Cincinnati
Special Teams Player School
Punter Spencer Smith Memphis
Kicker Jake Elliott Memphis
Return Specialist Shaq Washington Cincinnati

Here are the preseason PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings and average of the three.

American Athletic Conference
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Temple 103.5 106.6 104.5 104.9
Cincinnati 104.2 104.6 105.7 104.8
Central Florida 94.7 99.6 96.3 96.9
East Carolina 93.3 99.2 93.7 95.4
South Florida 86.0 93.9 85.8 88.6
Connecticut 79.3 85.9 79.1 81.4
West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Memphis 101.3 101.6 102.6 101.8
Houston 94.2 102.6 96.8 97.9
Navy 96.8 99.6 96.8 97.7
Tulane 92.4 95.6 92.2 93.4
Tulsa 86.9 94.1 88.1 89.7
SMU 84.1 89.8 83.2 85.7
AAC Averages 93.1 97.8 93.7 94.9

And, here are our won-loss predictions and bowl projections.

PiRate Ratings Predicted Records
Pos Team Conf. Overall Bowl
East Division
1 Cincinnati 7-1 10-3 * Birmingham
2 Temple 6-2 8-4 Military
3 Central Florida 5-3 7-5 Miami Beach
4 East Carolina 5-3 6-6 St. Petersburg
5 South Florida 2-6 3-9 None
6 Connecticut 0-8 2-10 None
West Division
1 Memphis 7-1 10-3 ^ Cure
2 Navy 6-2 9-3 Boca Raton
3 Houston 5-3 8-4 Hawaii
4 Tulane 4-4 6-6 At-Large
5 Tulsa 1-7 3-9 None
6 SMU 0-8 2-10 None
* Wins Title Game
^ Loses Title Game

Coming Later Today: The FBS Independents (what’s left of them).


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