The Pi-Rate Ratings

December 4, 2015

Selections Against The Spread: December 4, 2015

Filed under: PiRate Picks_College & Pro — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:05 am

A stopped watch is correct twice a day, and the PiRates’ watch enjoyed one of those moments last week, as we won with our straight selections and our Money Line Parlays.

 

The straight sides selections are still only in the .500 range for the year, but our money line parlays now boast a return on investment above 50% for the year.  We know that some of you are actually now ignoring our advice and are playing our money line parlay selections.  Remember this: even though our ROI is about +52% for the year, unless you play every one, you may lose, because we are making parlays that pay out better than even money.  Thus, we can be correct 35% of the time and make a profit.  If you choose to play just one parlay when we issue five, the odds are greatly against you.  Thus, the smart thing to do is to NOT use our picks as advice in losing your hard-earned money.

 

That said, we do not particularly like this week’s schedules in college and pro football.  Between the two, we like the picks of underdogs more than the parlays, because the schedule is not favorable for making parlays.

 

We are actually going with two one-team money line selections and are picking the underdog in upsets.

 

Read with caution.

Note: Later today, we will reveal the opening round results of the computer simulated NCAA football playoffs using the 24-team format used in FCS Football.

Straight Sides Selections

12/4/2015      
Home Visitor Line Our Pick
Bowling Green (N) Northern Illinois 13.5 Northern Illinois
Georgia Southern Georgia St. 21 Georgia St.
South Alabama Appalachian St. -18 South Alabama
Western Kentucky Southern Miss. 7.5 Southern Miss.
Michigan St. (N) Iowa 3.5 Iowa
Buffalo Houston 3 Houston
Minnesota Seattle -1.5 Minnesota
Oakland Kansas City -3 Kansas City
Pittsburgh Indianapolis 7 Indianapolis

 

Money Line Selections

Money Line Parlay 5 Teams at 8-3   $375 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Chicago San Francisco   Chicago
Cincinnati Cleveland   Cincinnati
Carolina New Orleans   Carolina
Denver San Diego   Denver
New England Philadelphia   New England
       
Money Line 1 Team at +210   $210 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
West Virginia Kansas St.   KANSAS ST.
       
Money Line 1 Team at +185   $185 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Clemson North Carolina   NORTH CAROLINA

 

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November 26, 2015

Selections Against The Spread: November 26, 2015

It’s time to stuff your wallet with money.  And, how best may we recommend that your wallet gets stuffed?  Keep it there and do not use all these picks to lose it all.  There are retailers anxiously waiting to remove all that cash you have saved in the last 52 weeks, so waste it on that cheap drone toy that will be broken by January 10.

 

We have opened the vault and come forward with the most selections of the season for this week’s slate.  Rivalry games, games that are must win contests for bowl eligibility, and teams that are reversing earlier trends lead our selections this week.  A season high six money line parlays anchor 13 straight picks.  Enjoy, but only to look at them.  Don’t be like a certain reader here from the Las Vegas area that informed us three weeks ago that SHE played every money line parlay selection we issued and won a few hundred dollars after losing every week prior during this season by using other information.  Yes, she won some money that week, but if she followed our advice the following week, she gave a chunk back to Vegas.

 

Which brings us to another point:  for some reason, women seem to be following this blog more than men, or at least, they contact us more than the guys.  As some of you know, this site is run by a majority of the fairer sex.  Our founder is the only male contributing here.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American followers.  Happy Autumn/Spring to all our followers on the other side of the pond and on the lower side of the Earth.

 

11/27/2015      
Home Visitor Line Our Pick
Buffalo Massachusetts 6.5 Buffalo
Georgia St. Troy 1 Georgia St.
Tulane Tulsa -6.5 Tulsa
San Jose St. Boise St. -7.5 San Jose St.
Kentucky Louisville -4.5 Kentucky
Michigan St. Penn St. 11 Penn St.
Purdue Indiana -6.5 Indiana
Illinois (@Chi.) Northwestern -3.5 Northwestern
Stanford Notre Dame 3.5 Stanford
Detroit Philadelphia 2 Detroit
Dallas Carolina 1 Carolina
Green Bay Chicago 9 Chicago
Houston New Orleans 3 Houston
       
       
Money Line Parlay 3 Teams at 7-5   $245 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Pittsburgh Miami (Fla)   Pittsburgh
Buffalo Massachusetts   Buffalo
Akron Kent St.   Akron
       
Money Line Parlay 4 Teams at 13-10   $230 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Toledo Western Michigan   Toledo
Tulsa Tulane   Tulsa
West Virginia Iowa St.   West Virginia
Tennessee Vanderbilt   Tennessee
       
Money Line Parlay 4 Teams at 7-3   $325 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Utah Colorado   Utah
Florida St. Florida   Florida St.
Georgia Georgia Tech   Georgia
Clemson South Carolina   Clemson
       
Money Line Parlay 4 Teams at 3-2   $256 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
LSU Texas A&M   LSU
Alabama Auburn   Alabama
Oklahoma Oklahoma St.   Oklahoma
San Diego St. Nevada   San Diego St.
       
Money Line Parlay 3 Teams at 8-3   $358 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Houston New Orleans   Houston
Kansas City Buffalo   Kansas City
New York Jets Miami   New York Jets
       
Money Line Parlay 3 Teams at 13-10   $233 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Cincinnati St. Louis   Cincinnati
Arizona San Francisco   Arizona
New England Denver   New England

 

 

November 13, 2015

Selections Against The Spread–Friday, the 13th of November, 2015

It usually happens once a year–the PiRates decide to go with a slate of underdogs, and this is the week we do it in 2015.

 

We have been looking to this week for the past month believing that there could be trap games galore in college football, and thus the urge to go with some underdogs stimulates us to present you with 11 plays.

 

We have chosen four money line parlays for you with all offering better than even money odds.  Enjoy these picks, but remember, they are worth exactly what you have paid for them.

Straight Sides

11/12/2015      
Home Visitor Line Our Pick
Cincinnati Tulsa 19.5 Tulsa
Syracuse Clemson -30 Syracuse
Rutgers Nebraska -8.5 Rutgers
Old Dominion UTEP 7.5 UTEP
Air Force Utah St. -2 Air Force
Nevada San Jose St. 1 San Jose St.
Idaho Appalachian St. -19.5 Idaho
South Carolina Florida -8.5 South Carolina
Boise St. New Mexico 30.5 New Mexico
Green Bay Detroit 12 Detroit
Vanderbilt Kentucky 3.5 Kentucky

Money Line Parlays

Money Line Parlay 6 Teams at 7-5   $242 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Ohio St. Illinois   Ohio St.
Northwestern Purdue   Northwestern
Louisville Virginia   Louisville
Michigan St. Maryland   Michigan St.
North Carolina Miami (Fl)   North Carolina
Oklahoma St. Iowa St.   Oklahoma St.
       
Money Line Parlay 4 Teams at 2-1   $294 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Iowa Minnesota   Iowa
West Virginia Texas   West Virginia
Alabama Mississippi St.   Alabama
Georgia Southern Troy   Georgia Southern
       
Money Line Parlay 4 Teams at 4-3   $228 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Green Bay Detroit   Green Bay
Cincinnati Houston   Cincinnati
New England N.Y. Giants   New England
St. Louis Chicago   St. Louis
       
Money Line Parlay 3 Teams at 2-1   $292 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Philadelphia Miami   Philadelphia
Carolina Tennessee   Carolina
Denver Kansas City   Denver

 

October 29, 2015

Selections Against The Spread–October 29 – November 2, 2015

Well, the three-week hot streak came crashing to an end last week, as our Money Line picks lost a little bit from our account at the Fantasy Island Vegas Book.

This week, we go back to taking some sides in addition to four Money Line parlays with odds better than even money.  Additionally, we are issuing a parlay that includes an underdog to win outright, greatly increasing the odds to produce a windfall IF it wins.  IF is a big word, because not only must the underdog win outright, but another favorite must also win in order to cash this parlay for a big payout.

As always, remember that we do this strictly for fun and do not actually waste hard-earned money on ridiculously entertaining picks.

 

Selections Against The Spread For October 29 – November 2, 2015

10/29/2015      
Home Visitor Line Our Pick
Rice Louisiana Tech -13 Rice
North Carolina St. Clemson -10 North Carolina St.
Washington St. Stanford -11 Stanford
Texas Tech Oklahoma St. -3 Oklahoma St.
Houston Vanderbilt 12.5 Vanderbilt
Florida Atlantic Florida Int’l -2.5 Florida Int’l
SMU Tulsa -3.5 Tulsa
Minnesota Michigan -14 Minnesota
UCLA Colorado 21.5 Colorado
Kansas City Detroit 5.5 Detroit
New Orleans New York Giants 3 New Orleans

 

Money Line Parlay Selections For October 29 – November 2, 2015

Money Line Parlay 4 Teams at 6-5   $220 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
TCU West Virginia   TCU
Louisville Wake Forest   Louisville
Iowa Maryland   Iowa
Texas Iowa St.   Texas
       
       
Money Line Parlay 2 Teams at 5-2   $360 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Central Michigan Akron   AKRON
Idaho New Mexico St.   Idaho
       
Money Line Parlay 4 Teams at 7-3   $330 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
New England Miami   New England
Atlanta Tampa Bay   Atlanta
St. Louis San Francisco   St. Louis
Baltimore San Diego   Baltimore

 

October 22, 2015

Selections Against The Spread: October 22-26, 2015

Okay folks.  Let’s not get carried away.  We welcome your comments here, and especially to our sister site at http://www.piratings.webs.com.  Yes, we know that a certain part of this weekly edition has been destroying the books in theory, theory being if you actually used these picks.

We will not name names, since you guys probably don’t want your name being called out, but we will post here a couple of the comments to our sister site.

From a small city in Georgia: “If you would have played your Money Line picks the last three weeks, you would be rich today.”

 

From Vancouver, BC: “Do you know what your profit margin would have been this week if you wagered that mythical $100 on each of your four parlays?  That $400 would have won you almost $900.

 

From Henderson, NV: “Your money line selections have been killing it.  You should just do Money Line parlays.  I am going to wager on your selections next week.”

 

From Ada, OK: “Do you realize how well you did with those parlays?  You don’t know jackxxxx about the baseball dude.”

 

From Glenarm IL: “You nailed the parlay picks this week.”

 

We get about 40-50 comments a week, and usually they are not as flattering as these.  We read them all and usually get a laugh, because we perpetually remind you to NEVER, EVER, EVER use these fun-only selections to wager real money.  Just because we are having an incredibly hot streak with our money line selections, it does not mean they will continue.  We could easily go 0-4 with the picks we are going to issue today.

 

You have been warned, especially the gentleman in Henderson, NV, who supposedly is going to wager real money this week against our warnings.

Since you guys and gals like these money line parlays with better than even money odds, that’s all we’re going to submit this week.  We have made four selections again, each with a return that will give you more in winnings than you would invest if it were real.

 

Money Line Parlay 4 Teams at 7-5   $242 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
East Carolina Temple   East Carolina
Alabama Tennessee   Alabama
North Carolina Virginia   North Carolina
Southern Miss. Charlotte   Southern Miss.

 

Money Line Parlay 6 Teams at 13-5   $355 Payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Toledo Massachusetts   Toledo
Michigan St. Indiana   Michigan St.
Rice Army   Rice
Cincinnati Connecticut   Cincinnati
Mississippi St. Kentucky   Mississippi St.
Florida St. Georgia Tech   Florida St.

 

Money Line Parlay 3 Teams at 9-5   $277 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
St. Louis Cleveland   St. Louis
New England N. Y. Jets   New England
Carolina Philadelphia   Carolina

 

Money Line Parlay 2 Teams at 6-5   $218 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Buffalo Jacksonville   Buffalo
Miami Houston   Miami

 

 

October 8, 2015

This Week’s Selections: October 8-12, 2015

Filed under: PiRate Picks_College & Pro — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 7:25 am

We told you last week, and it came true last week.  A broken clock is correct twice a day, and the PiRate clock just happened to experience one of those instances where we lucked into a nice winning weekend.

Our straight picks against the side went 4-2-1, and our Money Line parlays returned 70% on investment.  Yes, it was a nice winning week for those that theoretically used our picks as their investment advice.  And, we received positive comments from some of you, two of whom thanked us for supplying research data by commenting at our sister site: http://www.piratings.webs.com.

This disturbs us.  How many times have we warned you readers not to use our picks as your method of choice to wager real money?  How many times can we say that you are getting exactly what you paid for–NOTHING!

Our selections are strictly for fun, much in the way you might play a game of Strat-o-Matic baseball against a friend.  Your 1927 Yankees may beat your friend’s 1954 Indians 5-3, and 15 minutes later, it is forgotten (unless you live in a make-believe world).  These picks should be considered Strat-o-Matic wagering.  Use your Monopoly money to make wagers; please do not use these picks for real.  We have no experts here.  We lose nothing, and we do not regret doing it just for fun when we have a successful week like the last one.

Don’t be like the poor soul that took his pickup truck in the high waters in South Carolina after failing to heed the warnings not to attempt to drive through the flooded street.  We cannot bail you out if your financial pickup truck takes on too much water and flips over.

Please read the above paragraphs once more before skipping down to this week’s picks.

Okay, here are this week’s Pretend Picks.  We are going with what worked last week and sort of worked the week before–13 straight side picks against the spread and four money line parlays where the odds give us a payout better than 1-1.

Straight Selections Against the Spread

10/8/2015      
Home Visitor Line Our Pick
Purdue Minnesota -2.5 Minnesota
Army Duke -12.5 Army
Iowa Illinois 11 Illinois
Northern Illinois Ball St. 10.5 Ball St.
Georgia St. Appalachian St. -15.5 Appalachian St.
Tennessee Georgia -2.5 Georgia
Michigan Northwestern 8 Northwestern
Houston Indianapolis -2.5 Indianapolis
Kansas City Chicago 10 Chicago
Cincinnati Seattle 3 Cincinnati
Oakland Denver -4.5 Denver
N.Y. Giants San Francisco 7 N.Y. Giants
San Diego Pittsburgh 3 San Diego

Money Line Parlays

Money Line Parlay 5 teams at 6-5   $216 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Oklahoma Texas   Oklahoma
Akron Eastern Michigan   Akron
Temple Tulane   Temple
Alabama Arkansas   Alabama
Oregon Washington St.   Oregon
       
Money Line Parlay 5 teams at 6-5   $222 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Notre Dame Navy   Notre Dame
Arizona St. Colorado   Arizona St.
Boise St. Colorado St.   Boise St.
Texas Tech Iowa St.   Texas Tech
Michigan St. Rutgers   Michigan St.
       
Money Line Parlay 3 Teams at 6-5   $218 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Baltimore Cleveland   Baltimore
Atlanta Washington   Atlanta
Green Bay St. Louis   Green Bay
       
Money Line Parlay 3 Teams at 3-2   $246 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
New England Dallas   New England
Denver Oakland   Denver
N.Y. Giants San Francisco   N.Y. Giants

October 1, 2015

Selections Against the Spread–October 1-5, 2015

Have you not had enough angst in your life?  Do you have to come visit this addictive weekly exercise in futility?  Why is it that this no-frills weekly submission is our most read regular post?  Are we doing that well that you must look at our picks before losing your rent money?

We have told you time and again that you should not use these picks to make real wagers, because we sure don’t.  So, why is it that we have dozens of visits from web addresses in Nevada, Delaware, Ontario, and Europe, the places where there are legal storefront sports books?

We have figured out the answer.  Something in the way we select teams has been tipping off the smart bettors.  They know something about our picks we ourselves do not know.  Maybe when we select an NFC West game, and they believe the opposite will be true, they wager more knowing they will be correct, and we will not.  Or, maybe when we select a money line parlay, they take each of the individual components and wager against our selection?

Our more likely, a couple dozen poor souls do not heed our advice and go ahead and use this site as their reference.  When we say “poor” souls, we are hiting the nail on the head, because our picks have been mediocre to this point.

With that in mind, remember that a broken clock is still correct twice a day, and we figure that eventually our broken clock will tell the correct time this year–maybe this week.

We are expanding our picks this week, because in our crazy mixed-up brains, the five of us believe we know things that the books do not.  We believe we have isolated some decent picks this week.  For your sake, we hope you know better.

Sides

10/1/2015      
Home Visitor Line Our Pick
Cincinnati Miami -6.5 Miami
Oklahoma West Virginia 7 Oklahoma
Florida Ole Miss -7.5 Florida
Middle Tenn. Vanderbilt 1.5 Middle Tenn.
New Mexico N. Mexico St. 12.5 New Mexico
Pittsburgh Baltimore -3 Pittsburgh
Carolina Tampa Bay 3 Carolina

10-Point Teasers

Home Visitor Teaser Pick
1
Charlotte Temple -12.5 Temple
Penn St. Army 15 Penn St.
Kent St. Miami (O) 0.5 Kent St.
         
2
Northwestern Minnesota -6 Northwestern
Wisconsin Iowa 16.5 Iowa
Oklahoma St. Kansas St. 17.5 Kansas St.
         
3
Georgia Alabama 12 Alabama
Duke Boston College 17 Boston College
Middle Tennessee Vanderbilt -8.5 Middle Tennessee
         
4
Missouri South Carolina 12.5 South Carolina
Tennessee Arkansas 16.5 Arkansas
Maryland Michigan -6 Michigan
         
5
Miami (@London) N. Y. Jets -11.5 Miami
Arizona St. Louis -3 Arizona
Seattle Detroit Pk. Seattle

Money Line Parlays

Money Line Parlay 5 teams at 43-20   $315 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Indianapolis Jacksonville   Indianapolis
San Diego Cleveland   San Diego
Denver Minnesota   Denver
Arizona St. Louis   Arizona
Seattle Detroit   Seattle
       
Money Line Parlay 4 teams at 11-10   $210 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
BYU Connecticut   BYU
Kent St. Miami (O)   Kent St.
Oklahoma West Virginia   Oklahoma
Michigan Maryland   Michigan
       
Money Line Parlay 3 teams at 1-1   $200 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Iowa St. Kansas   Iowa St.
Northwestern Minnesota   Northwestern
Southern Miss. North Texas   Southern Miss.

 

September 24, 2015

Selections Against The Spread–September 24-28, 2015

Today, we expand our fun nonsense with three different types of selections to lose you money quicker than if you throw it away playing one weekend fantasy games.  Before you throw away good money thinking you can be that one person in 20 million that makes a million dollars, and before you decide to lose it in the conventional way by playing the stock market, consider losing it this much more entertaining way.

Pardon us whilst we remove tongues from cheeks.

Seriously, just remember that these selections are worth less than what you pay for them.  Use these only as something to either endorse your prior beliefs of convince you to pocket that extra change in your wallet and buy some nice flowers for your utmost.

Today, we have decided to go with five sides picks, seven 10-point teasers, and one stupendous Money Line parlay.

Did we mention this: DO NOT use these picks as your guide to lose all your money this weekend.  How much will the PiRates wager this weekend?  A big fat 0.  We have chosen to go the flowers route; the payoff is so wonderful.

 

Sides

Home Visitor Line Our Pick
Syracuse LSU 24.5 Syracuse
Carolina New Orleans 3 Carolina
N. Y. Giants Washington 3 N. Y. Giants
Baltimore Cincinnati 2.5 Baltimore
Cleveland Oakland 3 Cleveland

10-Point Teasers

Home Visitor Teaser Pick
1
Washington California -14 Washington
Baylor Rice 44.5 Rice
Charlotte Florida Atlantic -21.5 Charlotte
         
2
Syracuse LSU -34.5 Syracuse
Michigan BYU 15.5 BYU
Kentucky Missouri 12.5 Missouri
         
3
Virginia Boise St. 7.5 Boise St.
Notre Dame Masachusetts 19 Notre Dame
Ole Miss Vanderbilt 15 Ole Miss
         
4
Dallas Atlanta 10 Atlanta
Carolina New Orleans -7 Carolina
St. Louis Pittsburgh 10 Pittsburgh
         
5
Miami Buffalo 12.5 Buffalo
N. Y. Giants Washington -7 N. Y. Giants
Houston Tampa Bay -3 Houston
         
6
Seattle Chicago 25.5 Chicago
New England Jacksonville 4.5 New England
Baltimore Cincinnati 12.5 Cincinnati
         
7
Cleveland Oakland -7 Cleveland
Green Bay Kansas City -2.5 Green Bay
Minnesota San Diego 11 San Diego

Money Line Parlay

For those two or three of you that have read this far and do not know what a Money Line parlay is, we will tell you, but we will also wonder why you have read this far in the first place.

The Money Line allows you to select the winner of a particular game without having to worry about a point spread.  However, since it is obvious that the favorite has a better chance to win the game than the underdog, you must pay a premium when you select the favorite to win the game.  For example, this week New England is an overwhelming favorite to beat Jacksonville.  The Money Line allows you to wager on New England to win the game by just one point and return money to you.  However, the Money Line odds for this game at most Las Vegas books is: New England -1400 and Jacksonville +800.  What this means is for every $1,400 you wager on New England at -1400, you can win $100 more than you wager.  So, if you put down $1,400 on New England on a Money Line wager, you receive $1,500 if New England wins (Your original $1,400 plus $100 profit, which is a return on your investment of 7.1%).  If you believe Jacksonville will upset the Patriots in Foxboro on Sunday and wager just $100 on the Jaguars to win the game, you stand to receive $900 (Your original $100 plus $800 profit) if Jacksonville wins.

A Money Line Parlay allows you to combine multiple games into one wager.  Let’s say that you have 3 favorites you believe will all win and feel confident enough to lay down cash for one combined wager.  For an example let’s use a possible 4-team Money Line Parlay for Sunday.

Houston is currently -280 vs. Tampa Bay

New England is currently -1400 vs. Jacksonville

Seattle is currently -1600 vs. Chicago

Green Bay is currently -320 vs. Kansas City

If you believe Houston, New England, Seattle, and Green Bay are certain winners and combine these four games into one wager, our parlay calculator says that for every $100 you wager, you will get back $203 (Your original $100 plus $103 profit) if the four teams all win.  If just one of the four loses or ties, then you lose your $100.

Just for fun, what if you think New England and Seattle will win with 100% belief in your mind?  What if you combine -1400 and -1600 into one wager?  The payout on $100 wagered would be just $114.  That is obviously a 14% return on your investment.  Now remember that in your mind this is 100% winnable.  Where else can you return 14% on an investment in one weekend?  Ah, this is why there are so many broke individuals in Las Vegas, and why the books and casinos can build new and improved versions every few years.  Who do you think wins the majority of these wagers?

Now that you have been warned, here is our super-duper 8-team Money Line Parlay for this week.  This returns at a rate slightly better than 3-2 if it wins.  For every $100 you wager on this parlay, if all eight teams win, your return is $251 (Your original $100 plus $151 profit).

And, here it is:

Money Line Parlay 8-team Parlay
3-2 odds
$151 payout for $100
Favorite Underdog  Odds Must Win
Nebraska Southern Miss.  -1400
Nebraska
Houston Texas St.  -800 Houston
Penn St. San Diego St.  -800 Penn St.
Western Kentucky Miami (O)  -1150 West Virginia
Georgia Southern Idaho  -750 Georgia Southern
South Carolina Central Florida  -650 South Carolina
Oregon Utah  -500 Oregon
Northwestern Ball St.  -1200 Northwestern

Did we mention that we strongly advise you not to wager real money on any of our recommendations?  Consider how much you paid for this information.  The sharpest of the sharp bettors make consistent profit during football season.  Do they look at our recommendations?  Okay, Billy, if you are reading this, please let us know.

August 16, 2015

2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Preview

The Atlantic Coast Conference has undergone more changes than any other Power Five conference.  Here’s how it once looked:
Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina St., South Carolina, Virginia, and Wake Forest.  South Carolina left more than 40 years ago, while Maryland left just two years ago.  Georgia Tech, Florida St., Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Louisville, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh have joined the league throughout the period, meaning that of the 14 teams (15 if you include Notre Dame, which plays in all other sports while facing an ACC football slate of six games), only six remain from 1970.

Florida State’s recent three year return to greatness, and Clemson’s recent three year ressurection gave the league a shot in the arm, but 2015 may see the prestige take a small hit.  It’s not that the league has weakened.  No, it’s the other way around.  Both divisions should be wide open this year, and unlike the SEC where seven competitively balanced teams means seven teams in the top 15 of the nations, in this league, it will bring the top teams down far enough to be out of the playoff picture this season.

The PiRates stand strong in their support that if the FBS is going to crown a champion through a playoff, then every Power 5 Conference champion should have a guaranteed spot in those playoffs.  The NFL is the king of the sports universe because every team in the league has an equal opportunity to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl.  Imagine what would happen if the 11-5 Pittsburgh Steelers were not given a bid to the NFL playoffs after edging out 10-6 Cincinnati and 9-7 Baltimore, while 12-4 Denver made the playoffs when their schedule included two games against 2-14 Oakland, 6-10 San Diego, and 8-8 Kansas City.  Could you see Condaleeza Rice going on ESPN toexplain to Steeler Nation that their team should have won that week 17 game over Cleveland?

Back to the ACC, we have plugged our preseason numbers into the computers, and both divisions show ties in the predicted standings.  It was not this way earlier in the summer, but the team we had pegged to be the clear-cut favorite lost two key players and came back to the pack.

That team that took a direct hit across the bough was Clemson.  The Tigers would have been our pick to win the Atlantic Division and the overall conference championship, but the Tigers will go to battle without key stars on both sides of the ball.  Defensive back Korrin Wiggins tore his ACL and is out for the season, while dominating offensive left tackle Isiah Battle decided to make himself available for the NFL Supplemental Draft and was selected by the St. Louis Rams.  Those two player losses is enough to drop CU back into a four-way logjam in the Atlantic.
Coach Dabo Swinney still has top notch talent.  Quarterback Deshaun Watson returns after missing time with a torn ACL last year.  If healthy, the true sophomore has the potential to be the top offensive player in the league.  He has a talented crew of receivers led by the outstanding duo of Mike Williams and Artavis Scott.  Last year, this pair of speedsters with flypaper hands combined to catch 133 passes for almost 2,000 yards.

The biggest unknown in the offense is in its leadership.  Former offensive coordinator guru Chad Morris has now pulled up stakes in Dallas at SMU.  As a comparison, after Gus Malzahn left Auburn to become the head coach at Arkansas State in 2012, the War Eagles dropped to last place in the SEC with an incompetent offensive attack.  We don’t see Clemson’s offense dropping off like this, but we do believe there will be some effect.

Defensively, CU must rebuild with only two returning starters from last year.  The front seven begins anew with all new starters, and this is enough cause for concern to bring Clemson back to the pack.

If Clemson is not our choice to win the Atlantic Division, then most people would quickly predict that Florida State would be our clear-cut choice.  These people are right and wrong.  Yes, they are our choice, but no they are not clear-cut.  In fact, as you will see in our predictions below, we believe a tiebreaker will put the Seminoles back in the ACC Championship Game.

While Clemson will be dealing with an inexperienced defense, FSU will be rebuilding on the attack side.  Losing the first pick in the NFL draft usually means the replacement for that player will never replicate what the team lost.  However, the Seminoles got the top “free agent” in the market when former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson ended up in Tallahassee.  Golson is not another Jameis Winston and most likely will not be an NFL QB, but as a college quarterback, he has the talent to lead FSU to a New Year’s Six Bowl and even a playoff spot.

The Seminoles lost their top two receivers from last year, but Golson will have some exceptional talent on the other end of his passes this year.  Keep an eye on the player we believe will become a breakout superstar in Ermon Lane.  As a true freshman, Lane showed flashes of greatness in a backup role.  Watching him catch a short pass in the flat against Miami and then putting a move on Hurricane DB Deon Bush, leaving him in his dust was enough to make our PiRate scouts move him up into the company of receivers like LaQuoun Treadwell at Ole Miss.

Defensively, Florida State returns enough talent to believe that their 2015 defense will come in statistically somewhere in between the numbers the 2013 and 2014 defenses put up.  Jalen Ramsey is a complete defensive back.  The cornerback is equally strong containing an outside run, blitzing into the backfield to break up a play, breaking up a pass in the short zone, and shutting down the deep threat on the perimeter.  Reggie Northrup and Terrance Smith should both hear their names called in the 2016 NFL Draft.  The defensive line is the only question on this side of the ball.

In times of yore, Florida State lost key games with poor placekicking.  It can be said that missed short field goal attempts kept this school from winning two national championships.  This will not be a problem in 2015, as the ‘Noles have one of the best kickers in America.  Roberto Aguayo has few peers.  If we were asked to name a better placekicker, we might have to go with Adam Vinatieri of the Indianapolis Colts.

Two additional teams should contend for the Atlantic Division title this year, Louisville and North Carolina State.
Bobby Petrino’s return to Derby City resulted in Louisville’s competing immediately in their first year in the ACC.  The Cardinals had to replace an NFL caliber QB and a majority of its top flight defense from 2013, but Petrino has UL just a few precious points away from winning the division and running the table in the regular season.  Against Virginia, the Cardinals had the lead late before UVa kicked the winning field goal.  They were about five feet away from the winning touchdown when time ran out against Clemson, and they blew a large lead against Florida State in their other loss.

The Cardinals lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but Petrino has a lot of talent returning.  Quarterback Will Gardner looked like the next star to play at Papa John’s Stadium before an injury cut his season short.  A healthy return gives UL a chance to shine.  The offensive line and receiving corps will be green this year, but there is enough talent there to forecast offensive success.

Defensively, the secondary is brand new, and this will probably be the liability that keeps UL out of the ACC Championship Game.  The front seven is competent enough to put pressure on enemy passers and try to limit the liability of the back four.

A killer schedule might be the nail in the Cards’ coffin.  UL starts with a kickoff classic game against Auburn and continues with home games against Houston and Clemson (played with just four days off).  The first half of the schedule concludes with back-to-back road games against North Carolina State and Florida State (with a bye week in between).  If the team comes out of the first half without a lot of injuries, then the Cards could easily run the table in the second half.

North Carolina State is our surprise team in the Atlantic this year.  The Wolfpack have steadfastly improved under third year coach Dave Doeren, and after an 8-5 season that saw NCSU improve by a good 10-14 points by November, this team is ready to growl on the hunt in 2015.

Former Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett was a different player in November, when he began to scramble and add the threat of the run to his passing.  It led to the ‘Pack scoring 121 points and gaining 1,376 yards in their final three games.  Brissett may not have an all-star contingent of receivers, but there is quality and depth here.  The same can be said about the running attack, as Doeren can call on a double-headed monster in Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes.  NCSU will pound the ball inside to set up the passing game.

Defensively, look for State to continue to shave off points and yardage from what they gave up last year.  This team could give up as little as 24-25 points per game and 350 yards per game, which will put the Wolfpack in the race in the Atlantic.  End Mike Rose will force opponents to double team him after the big and quick pass rusher made 14 stops behind the line last year.  Safety Josh Jones makes it hard for opponents to throw the skinny post pass, and he led the team with four interceptions last year.

NCSU has an easier schedule than Louisville, as the Wolfpack’s September slate should allow the team to host the Cardinals on October 3 while sporting a 4-0 record.  The following week sends the ‘Pack to Virginia Tech, where an upset could possibly put State in the driver’s seat in the division. The second half of the schedule brings Clemson to Raleigh, while State faces Florida State on the road in November.  This should be North Carolina State’s best season since 2010 and maybe best since the 1990’s.

Boston College faces an uphill battle trying to become bowl eligible for the third consecutive year.  Third year coach Steve Addazio has a rebuilding job to do on offense, and we believe the Eagles will take a step back in 2015.  Only three starters return on the attack side, none of whom are on the interior line.  None of the quarterbacks on the roster have the talent of the top four teams in the division, and in this day and age of college football, teams do not succeed without exceptional QB play.

Defense has been the key for BC in the Addazio years.  The Eagles were not very generous last year, giving up just 21 points and 325 yards  per game.  However, it was a feast or famine affair on this side of the ball.  BC stopped cold teams like Maine and Syracuse, while Louisville and Penn State found little resistance moving the ball.

Because the Eagles bring Notre Dame back on the schedule, it is like playing nine ACC games.  The Eagles must win three to gain bowl eligibility, and one of those other three non-conference games comea against MAC power Northern Illinois.  BC must win this game and win at Duke to have any shot of going 6-6, but we believe the team will come up short.

Wake Forest has seen its win total drop by one from six to five to four to three over the last four seasons.  Dave Clawson came on board last year, and the Demon Deacons found the going tough trying to implement a very complicated offense.  The results in year one were less than stellar, as Wake averaged less than 15 points per game and just 216 yards per game.  Considering the offense was on the field for just 50 plays per game, the defense did an admirable job, giving up 26 points and 369 yards per game.  Enough starters and backups return on both sides of the ball to believe that the Deacons will show some improvement in 2015.  John Wolford has a year of the Clawson offense in his mental databanks, and he should perform much better in year two, as the game begins to slow down for him.  It isn’t impossible that the Deac could sneak up on a team or two and flirt with bowl eligibility this year, but we believe they are a year away.

Syracuse brings up the rear this year in our PiRate Ratings.  The Orangemen did not compete in the ACC last year, and the team looks to be a little weaker to start this season.  The offense has gone the wrong way since Ryan Nassib graduated in 2012.  Last year, the ‘Cuse averaged just 17 points and 330 yards per game, while the defense played above their talent level and prevented games from becoming major blowouts.  This year, the defense has been decimated by graduation, and the offense is not going to be much better if at all.  An early game against Wake Forest is vital to this team’s hopes of competing for bowl eligibility, but we cannot see a situation that will bring six wins to this team this year.  Repeating last year’s 3-9 record will be an accomplishment with this squad.

The Coastal Division promises to be just as competitive as the Atlantic.  No team is a clear-cut favorite.  Georgia Tech is a nightmare for other ACC foes to prepare for in one week, as the Yellow Jackets’ offense is completely different than all other offenses among the Power 5 conferences.  Coach Paul Johnson’s spread option offense (the 21st Century Wishbone) is a throwback to the 1970’s, where teams ran and ran and ran the same basic series over and over until surprising defenses with a quick long pass to a wide open receiver.  Last year, Tech ran this offense like clockwork, rushing for more than 340 yards per game and averaging north of nine yards per pass attempt.  The keys to making this offense unstoppable are a quarterback who can read and react on the move, and a receiver contingent that forces defenses to keep four secondary players guarding against the pass first.  If defenses cannot bring a dedicated eighth player into the box to play the option, then theoretically, this attack cannot be stopped.

Quarterback Justin Thomas can handle the first key.  He is an expert at reading defenses on the run.  Thomas topped 1,000 yards rushing last year, while throwing for more yards and touchdowns than any Johnson-coached QB.
The question this year is whether there will be receivers that can keep that eighth defender out of the box.  DeAndre Smelter was that man last year.  This may be what keeps the Jackets from competing for a playoff spot in 2015.

Defensively, look for GT to be better this year than last when they surrendered more than 400 yards per game.  A 30-50 yard drop in yardage allowed could lead to Tech giving up around 22-24 points per game, putting them in contention to cop the Coastal.

What hurts Tech’s chances to compete for a playoff spot is their schedule.  Road games against Notre Dame, Clemson, and a home game against Georgia means this team will have no fewer than two losses and probably three in the regular season.

Virginia Tech was less than two minutes away from suffering its first losing season in eons last year.  A late comeback win over Virginia followed by a Military Bowl win allowed the Hokies to finish 7-6.  Of course, VT pinned the only loss on Ohio State last year, holding the Buckeyes to just a hair over 100 rushing yards.  Coach Frank Beamer is ready to return this team to glory with talent and depth on both sides of the ball, but that opening game on Labor Day brings the defending national champs to Blacksburg looking to punish the Hokies for 2014.

Inconsistent offense has been VT’s thorn since Tyrod Taylor departed Lane Stadium in 2010.  Michael Brewer is not a Taylor or a Logan Thomas, but the second year starter should cut down on his picks and become a better game manager.  Brewer has capable receivers at his disposal, including the league’s best tight end.  Bucky Hodges grabbed 45 passes and scored seven times last year and should top 50 this year.

The only possible thorn in the offense’s side this year is an offensive line that lacks the experience of last season’s line.  This could also slow down the running game and once again cause the offense to be inconsistent, or more correctly, to do okay against weaker defenses and bog down against better defenses.

The Hokie defense has consistently surrendered 17-22 points and 300-350 yards per game under famed coordinator Bud Foster.  Foster is to Beamer what Bill Gutheridge was to Dean Smith on the hardwoods at North Carolina.  Look for the 2015 edition of stop troops to be among the best in the nation once again.

Up front, VT has the best interior in the league, led by end Dadi Lhomme Nicolas and tackle Luther Maddy.  Nicolas posted nine sacks and 18 1/2 total tackles for loss last year, but those numbers do not accurately reveal how good he was.  He might have registered 15 sacks had his partner on the other side had not also recorded Ken Ekanem had not been just as successul dropping QBs on their tushes.  Ekanem had 9 1/2 sacks and 19 QB hurries.  While different stats-keepers may have different interpretations about QB hurries, Nicolas’s 36 hurries looks like a pitcher winning 30 games in today’s Major Leagues.  Maddy was not used for rushing the QB; he shone by plugging the middle and keeping blockers away from the linebackers.

The back seven of the Tech defense is almost as talented as the front four, with free safety Chuck Clark leading the way.  He plays all over the field, stuffing the run and clogging the middle of pass protection.
The only reason we are selecting Georgia Tech over Virginia Tech is because when these top two contenders face off for what should decided the division winner, it will be in Atlanta on Thursday night, November 12.  Both teams will have byes the week before, and as of today, we show GT winning a very close game.

North Carolina has been overlooked in the preseason of many other publications.  We do not agree with this assessment.  The Tar Heels have gone from eight to seven to six wins in Larry Fedora’s three years in Chapel Hill, but that trend will cease in 2015.  UNC has a scary offense with the return of 10 starters to an attack that averaged more than 33 points and 430 yards per game.  Quarterback Marquise could contend for All-ACC honors after putting up some gaudy numbers last year (3,000+ yards passing, 21 TD, leading rusher with 13 TDs).  There is depth behind Williams, as Mitch Trubisky may be the top backup in the league.

Williams well recognize his receiving corps, as his top five targets from 2014 are back to give pass defenses nightmares. The tandem of Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins ranks only behind Williams and Scott of Clemson.  Throw in Quinshad Davis and Bug Howard, and UNC probably has the best quartet in the league.
Now, add the return of the entire starting offensive line and most of the second five, and it is obvious that the Tar Heels are going to score a lot of points this year, maybe close to 40 per game.

Can their be a problem with scoring 40 points per game?  Unfortunately for this team, yes it can.  Last year, UNC gave up 39 points and almost 500 yards per game, but we will go on record and state that this will not happen again if for no other reason than the fact that offensive juggernauts Clemson, Notre Dame, and East Carolina are off the schedule (UNC gave up 170 points and 1,833 yards in these three games).

When a defense has one possible star, it is advantageous for that star to be the Mike linebacker, and UNC’s lone star player is Jeff Schoettmer, who led the Heels with six tackles for loss while adding six passes defended.  The defensive backfield is average at best, while the front line leaves a lot of room for improvement.  Carolina may still surrender more than 30 points and 400 yards per game this year, but this team can go 8-4 with that lack of production.  And, if the ball bounces their way, it would not surprise us if Fedora’s troops pull off an upset of one of the two teams picked ahead of them in the ratings.

Pittsburgh has consistently been better than average but not great for several years.  The Panthers have earned seven consecutive bowl bids, but in this day and age where a big school gets a bid with a 6-6 record, this is not a major accomplishment.  Regular trips to December bowls does not lead to great rewards, especially when you lose to Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl and to SMU in the Birmingham Bowl.

The Panthers might have been our darkhorse pick to contend for the Coastal Division title this year, but Coach Paul Chryst return to Badgerland to take command of Wisconsin, and his replacement, Pat Narduzzi, has zero head coaching experience.  While Narduzzi is one of the best defensive coordinators in the game, we frequently see defensive coordinators needing a year or two of learning when making that step up to the head job of a major program.  Thus, we have dropped Pitt a few points in their ratings, as opposed to new head coaches that were offensive coordinators (Chad Morris, Tom Herman, and Mike Bobo).  Oftentimes,  defensive masterminds tend to play too conservatively, believing their defense will eventually win the game, when in actuality, this has not been true in college football in decades.

Pitt actually has enough talent on hand to win eight regular season games.  The Panther offense returns its chief weapon in bruising tailback James Conner.  Conner led the ACC in rushing with 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns last year, while averaging close to six yards per carry.  Having a quarterback that can fake the handoff and keep the ball for a nice game helps keep defenses from totally focusing on Conner, much like the fullback in the I-formation of the 1980’s and 1990’s did for the I-Back.  QB Chad Voytik is just that man.  As a passer, he is serviceable, but add his running ability, and you have an effective signal caller.

Look for Conner to run to his left a lot this year, as the Panthers’ left side of the blocking wall features stars in guard Dorian Johnson and tackle Adam Bisnowaty.

Pitt’s receiving unit is not among the tops in the league, but the Panthers do have one star. Tyler Boyd caught 78 passes for 1,261 yards and eight touchdowns last year, while earning 1st team All-ACC honors.
Defensively, you would expect Pitt to make forward strides under Narduzzi’s watch, but that has not always been the case when defensive coordinators take over as head coach, especially if they do not remain the defensive coordinator.  We expect the Pitt defense to stay in the same range it has been for the last few years, giving up about 25-27 points per game and less than 375 yards per game.  It’s impossible to identify the star of this side, as the sum of Pitt’s parts is not equal to the whole.  All three Panther units are credible but not sensational, but the team plays hard on this side of the ball and seldom gets embarrassed, except when facing Georgia Tech’s offense.

You can gauge Pitt this year on how the Panthers perform in game three at Iowa.  This should be a blue collar type of game like two big heavyweights going at it in the ring.  If Pitt can leave Kinnick Stadium with a win, the Panthers will believe they can take out Virginia Tech, especially since they will have an extra week to prepare.  If they lose this game, then Narduzzi may have a tough time keeping the team on track to remain bowl eligible.  It is one of those truly critical non-conference games this year.

Al Golden proved his competency as a head coach by leading Temple back to respectability after inheriting a winless program.  At Miami, he has been tasked with trying to bring the Hurricanes out of a major probation with numerous penalties.  His four year record is 28-22 with consecutive bowl appearances  once bowl eligibility was restored.  However, Miami fans and alums expect the Hurricanes to always be in contention for national honors, and Golden’s seat has been pre-heated for this season.  Unfortunately, we do not see a turnaround for this program in 2015, just more mediocre results.  And, another season similar to the previous four will probably send Golden out of Coral Gables.

The UM offense lost its big star when Duke Johnson left early for the NFL.  Johnson led the ‘Canes and finished second overall in the ACC with 1,652 yards, while averaging close to seven yards per carry and scoring 10 times last year.  New starter Joseph Yearby has talent but will not approach 1,600 rushing yards.

Quarterback Brad Kaaya returns, but his top three receivers must be replaced (Johnson was #3).  There are no adequate replacements for Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford.

Defensively, Miami has improved for three consecutive seasons, but too much talent was lost to expect further improvement in 2015.  The strength of this unit is at linebacker where Raphael Kirby and Jermaine Grace return after combining for 114 tackles a year ago.  The secondary has experience but tends to get beaten a few too many times.

The ‘Canes will have a tough road staying bowl eligible this year, but we actually rate Golden as one of the most affective coaches at winning close games.  Thus, we are going to move his expected wins total up to six to give Miami bowl eligibility.  Having to play Nebraska and Cincinnati outside of the league, as well as both Clemson and Florida State from the Atlantic Division immediately eliminates the 2015 Hurricanes from returning to their glory days.  Our advice to Miami fans: would you rather have Larry Coker as your head coach?  Stick with Golden like Virginia Tech stuck with Beamer, or your 2016 team may look more like the other Miami playing in the MAC.

The job that Duke coach David Cutcliffe has done in Durham cannot be overstated.  This was a program basically given up for dead in the ACC prior to his arrival at Wallace Wade Stadium.  It had been 18 years since Duke’s last bowl game when he broke through with the Belk Bowl bid in 2012.  It had been 24 years since the Blue Devils had owned a title when Duke won the Coastal Division in 2013.  Duke was not expected to come close to replicating that 2013 season last year, but Cut produced a nine-win season, missing out on another division crown by one game.
2015 brings another situation that looks like Duke will take a step back to the wrong side of .500, but you can never count out Cutcliffe to find a way to win a few games Duke should not win.  What gives us cause for concern with this Devil edition is the breaking in of a new quarterback combined with the loss of the top two receivers and a pedestrian running game.  We cannot see how Duke can replicate or closely approach their offensive successes of the last three years, where they topped 30 points per game each year.  A return to 21-24 points per game is possible, while 25-27 is probable.  And, that little drop is enough to turn nine regular season wins into five.  A win over Northwestern in September is a must if Duke is to find a way to scratch and claw its way to six wins without signing a pact with that other Devil.

Pity poor Mike London.  The Virginia Cavaliers’ head coach is a dead man walking on the Charlottesville campus.  In a year, where he must win over face dismissal, he must face a non-conference schedule that opens at UCLA, hosts Notre Dame and then after a supposed breather that could be anything other than that  against William & Mary, Boise State comes to town for a Friday night game.  UVa will be 1-3 at the best by this time, and if the Tribe upsets the Cavs (they did so in 2009, 26-14), London might not make it to October.  Virginia has a week off on October 3, and it isn’t out of the realm that London would not make it to the October 10 game at Pittsburgh with homecoming coming the following week.

London is a quality coach, but recruiting to Virginia has never been easy.  With the ACC getting tougher every year, it is hard for this school to keep up with the Clemson’s, Florida State’s, and Louisville’s, let alone having a powerhouse in-state rival in Virginia Tech.

The fact that a quarterback that will be attending his fourth college in four years (Connor Brewer) could compete for a starting bid shows how far this program has to go to catch up with its rivals.  Another experienced player transfering in is running back Albert Reid who could help the Cavs in power running plays up the gut. something this team has lacked in the past.

Defensively, there are not many stars, and because this team competed with talent on this side of the ball last year, you can expect a regression to a statistical result more similar to 2013 (33 ppg) than 2014 (24 ppg).

Here is how the ACC Media predicted the league for 2015.

Atlantic Coast Conference Media Poll
Pos. Team 1st Place Total Champ. Votes
Atlantic Division
1 Clemson 101 1032 84
2 Florida St. 56 992 41
3 Louisville 1 746 0
4 North Carolina St. 0 673 1
5 Boston College 0 473 0
6 Syracuse 0 291 0
7 Wake Forest 0 217 0
Coastal Division
1 Georgia Tech 96 991 20
2 Virginia Tech 44 841 7
3 Miami 7 632 2
4 Duke 4 615 0
5 North Carolina 4 590 3
6 Pittsburgh 3 535 0
7 Virginia 0 220 0

Here is the Media’s preseason All-ACC team.

ACC Preseason All-Conference Team
Offense Player School
Quarterback Deshaun Watson Clemson
Running Back James Connor Pittsburgh
Running Back Shadrach Thomas North Carolina St.
Wide Receiver Tyler Boyd Pittsburgh
Wide Receiver Mike Williams Clemson
Wide Receiver Artavis Scott Clemson
Tight End Bucky Hodges Virginia Tech
Tackle Roderick Johnson Florida St.
Tackle Adam Bisnowaty Pittsburgh
Guard Landon Turner North Carolina
Guard Eric MacLain Clemson
Center Matt Skura Duke
Defense Player School
End Dadi Lhomme Nicolas Virginia Tech
End Shaq Lawson Clemson
End Sheldon Rankins Louisville
Tackle Adam Gotsis Georgia Tech
Tackle Luther Maddy Virginia Tech
Linebacker Terrance Smith Florida St.
Linebacker Brandon Chubb Wake Forest
Linebacker James Burgess Louisville
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey Florida St.
Cornerback Kendall Fuller Virginia Tech
Safety Jeremy Cash Duke
Safety Quin Blanding Virginia
Special Teams Player School
Punter Alex Kinal Wake Forest
Kicker Roberto Aguayo Florida St.
Return Specialist Ryan Switzer North Carolina

Here are the PiRate Ratings beginning ratings and averages for 2015.

Atlantic Coast Conference
 Atlantic Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Clemson 113.5 114.6 113.4 113.8
Florida St. 114.4 114.1 112.9 113.8
Louisville 109.6 112.1 110.0 110.6
North Carolina St. 109.7 112.1 108.8 110.2
Boston College 100.9 106.0 99.4 102.1
Wake Forest 97.1 101.9 96.7 98.6
Syracuse 94.1 98.1 93.0 95.1
Coastal Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Georgia Tech 119.2 110.4 118.6 116.1
Virginia Tech 114.2 111.1 114.3 113.2
North Carolina 112.1 112.1 111.5 111.9
Miami 108.2 109.1 108.7 108.7
Pittsburgh 105.3 107.1 106.8 106.4
Virginia 102.3 99.6 101.4 101.1
Duke 100.0 100.4 99.7 100.0
ACC Averages 107.2 107.8 106.8 107.3

These are our preseason won-loss predictions and bowl projections.

PiRate Ratings Predicted Records
Pos Team Conf. Overall Bowl
Atlantic Division
1 Florida St. 6-2 10-3 * New Year’s 6
2 Clemson 6-2 9-3 Gator
3 Louisville 6-2 9-3 Sun
4 North Carolina St. 6-2 9-3 Pinstripe
5 Boston College 2-6 5-7 None
6 Wake Forest 2-6 5-7 None
7 Syracuse 0-8 4-8 None
Coastal Division
1 Georgia Tech 7-1 9-4 ^ Belk
2 Virginia Tech 7-1 10-2 Russell Athletic
3 North Carolina 4-4 8-4 Independence
4 Pittsburgh 4-4 7-5 Military
5 Miami 2-6 6-6 Quick Lane
6 Duke 2-6 5-7 None
7 Virginia 2-6 3-9 None
* Wins Title Game
^ Loses Title Game

Coming Next: The Big Ten

How high up will the obvious preseason number one team begin the 2015 season?  Where will this rank in the annals of the PiRate Ratings?

 

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.

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