The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 15, 2016

2016 Sun Belt Conference Football Ratings Preview

The PiRate Ratings kick off its 2016 college football coverage today with the first of 11 previews. We will preview conferences in order of lowest overall average rating to highest, so as we have every year since this league’s inception, we begin with the Sun Belt Conference today.

Last year, Arkansas State ventured to Appalachian State to decide the conference championship in early November. Both teams were undefeated in conference play at the time, and Appy State was a 10-point home favorite. The Mountaineers led 21-14 just before the half, but the Red Wolves scored 26 straight points and won 40-27 and ran the table to finish 8-0 in the league.

This year, the same two teams, plus third place Georgia Southern will contend for the 2016 SBC crown. The PiRates believe four additional teams will compete for bowl eligibility, with three becoming successful, and four teams will try to stay out of the basement and go winless in the league, and possibly winless overall.

With the more favorable FBS vs. FCS schedules this year, it is our opinion that considerably more than the needed teams will be bowl eligible, so this league is likely to see at least one team end the season bowl eligible and not receive a bowl invitation.

Here is how the Sun Belt Media predicted the order of finish in the pre-season media roundup.

2016 Sun Belt Conference Media Poll
# Team 1st Pl. Total
1 Appalachian St. 5 114
2 Arkansas St. 5 110
3 Georgia Southern 1 98
4 Georgia St. 0 73
5t UL-Lafayette 0 70
5t Troy 0 70
7 South Alabama 0 62
8 Idaho 0 48
9 New Mexico St. 0 37
10 Texas St. 0 30
11 UL-Monroe 0 14

The Beginning PiRate Numbers differ very little from the official poll.

Sunbelt Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Appalachian St. 95.5 95.7 97.1 96.1
Arkansas St. 91.9 94.2 94.4 93.5
Georgia Southern 93.0 91.7 95.5 93.4
Troy 83.6 90.2 85.2 86.4
Georgia St. 81.7 87.1 83.9 84.2
Idaho 78.1 85.2 79.7 81.0
UL-Lafayette 76.3 86.8 78.7 80.6
South Alabama 75.3 85.2 76.2 78.9
New Mexico St. 73.7 76.5 74.9 75.0
UL-Monroe 67.9 73.3 68.3 69.8
Texas St. 68.8 69.5 69.5 69.3
         
Sun Belt Averages 80.5 85.1 82.1 82.6

The PiRate Ratings are best used just to look forward to the next week game schedule.  These ratings cannot really be used to predict won-loss records, so with that caveat, here are the projected won-loss records based on the ratings above.

Sun Belt Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Arkansas St. 8-0 9-3 New Orleans
Appalachian St. 7-1 9-3 GoDaddy
Georgia Southern 7-1 8-4 Cammelia
Troy 5-3 7-5 Cure
UL-Lafayette 5-3 6-6 [Independence] *
Idaho 5-3 6-6 Bowl Eligible
Georgia St. 3-5 5-7
South Alabama 2-6 3-9
UL-Monroe 1-7 2-10
New Mexico St. 1-7 1-11
Texas St. 0-8 1-11

*  This is an at-large bowl bid

Next Preview: Tuesday, August 16–Conference USA

Advertisements

August 18, 2013

2013 FBS Independents Preview

2013 FBS Independents Preview

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

New Independents: Idaho and New Mexico St.

Departed Teams: None

 

2014 Additions: None

 

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

 

Pre-season PiRate Ratings

Independents

Team

 

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Notre Dame

 

0-0

121.6

115.0

120.5

B Y U

 

0-0

108.2

107.8

108.9

Navy

 

0-0

91.7

94.5

91.4

Army

 

0-0

85.7

91.8

86.4

New Mexico St.

 

0-0

75.4

86.4

75.3

Idaho

 

0-0

71.3

80.6

69.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Avg’s.

 

 

92.3

96.0

92.1

 

 

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

 

Massey College Football Ranking Composite

(as of Sunday, August 18, 2013)

 

Pos

Team

Ranking

1

Notre Dame

6

2

B Y U

33

3

Navy

76

4

Army

111

5

Idaho

122

6

New Mexico St.

123

 

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

 

Army

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

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

Ryan Powis, Stephen Shumaker, and Michael Kime—OL

Robert Kough—DL (9.5 TFL)

Alex Meier—LB (71 tackles)

Geoffrey Bacon—DB (136 tackles)

 

B Y U

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

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

Cody Hoffman—WR (100-1,248/11 TD)

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

Manaaki Vaitai, Solomone Kafu, and Ryker Mathews—OL

Bronson Kaufusi—DL (4.5 sacks)

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

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

 

Idaho

Najee Lovett—WR (50-543/6 TD)

Jahrie Level—WR (46-538)

Mike Marboe—OL

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

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

 

Navy

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

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

Shawn Lynch—WR (14-281 20.1 ypc)

Tanner Fleming, Jake Zuzek, Graham Vickers—OL

Barry Dabney & Evan Palelei—DL

Cody Peterson—LB (67 tackles)

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

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

 

New Mexico St.

Germi Morrison—RB (767 rush/4.8 avg)

Austin Franklin—WR (74-1,245/9 TD)

Andy Cunningham & Davonte Wallace—OL

Matt Ramondo—DL (transfer from Michigan St.)

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

Davis Cazares—DB (116 tackles)

George Callender—DB (86 tackles)

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

 

Notre Dame

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

T. J. Jones—WR (50-649/4 TD)

DaVaris Daniels—WR (31-490)

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

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

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

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

Dan Fox—LB (63 tackles)

Danny Spond—LB (39 tackles)

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

KeiVarae Russell—DB (58 tackles)

Matthias Farley—DB (49 tackles)

 

 

     

PiRate Ratings Summary

 

About Grades

93-100    A+

86-92      A

79-85      A-

72-78      B+

65-71      B

58-64      B-

51-57      C+

44-50      C

37-43      C-

30-36      D

0-29        F

 

About Predictions

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

 

Team

Army Black Knights

               
Head Coach

Rich Ellerson

               
Colors

Black and Gold

               
City

West Point, NY

               
2012 Record              
Conference

 

Overall

2-10

               
Grades              
Run Offense

90

Pass Offense

22

Run Defense

40

Pass Defense

58

               
Ratings              
PiRate

85.7

Mean

91.8

Bias

86.4

               
Rankings              
PiRate

105

Mean

97

Bias

102

               
Prediction              
Conference

 

Overall

3-9

 

 

Team

B Y U Cougars

               
Head Coach

Bronco Mendenhall

               
Colors

Dark Blue and White

               
City

Provo, UT

               
2012 Record              
Conference

 

Overall

8-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

61

Pass Offense

79

Run Defense

74

Pass Defense

76

               
Ratings              
PiRate

108.2

Mean

107.8

Bias

108.9

               
Rankings              
PiRate

39

Mean

36

Bias

39

               
Prediction              
Conference

 

Overall

9-3

 

 

Team

Idaho Vandals

               
Head Coach

Paul Petrino

               
Colors

Black, Silver, and Gold

               
City

Moscow, ID

               
2012 Record              
Conference

1-5 (in WAC)

Overall

1-11

               
Grades              
Run Offense

30

Pass Offense

54

Run Defense

42

Pass Defense

19

               
Ratings              
PiRate

71.3

Mean

80.6

Bias

69.9

               
Rankings              
PiRate

123

Mean

123

Bias

124

               
Prediction              
Conference

 

Overall

0-12

 

 

Team

Navy Midshipmen

               
Head Coach

Ken Niumatalolo

               
Colors

Navy, Gold, and White

               
City

Annapolis, MD

               
2012 Record              
Conference

 

Overall

8-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

77

Pass Offense

45

Run Defense

49

Pass Defense

59

               
Ratings              
PiRate

91.7

Mean

94.5

Bias

91.4

               
Rankings              
PiRate

89

Mean

84

Bias

89

               
Prediction              
Conference

 

Overall

5-7

 

 

Team

New Mexico St. Aggies

               
Head Coach

Doug Martin

               
Colors

Crimson and White

               
City

Las Cruces, NM

               
2012 Record              
Conference

0-6 (in WAC)

Overall

1-11

               
Grades              
Run Offense

22

Pass Offense

60

Run Defense

32

Pass Defense

41

               
Ratings              
PiRate

75.4

Mean

86.4

Bias

75.3

               
Rankings              
PiRate

121

Mean

111

Bias

121

               
Prediction              
Conference

 

Overall

2-10

 

 

Team

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

               
Head Coach

Brian Kelly

               
Colors

Navy and Gold

               
City

South Bend, IN

               
2012 Record              
Conference

 

Overall

12-1

               
Grades              
Run Offense

 

Pass Offense

 

Run Defense

 

Pass Defense

 

               
Ratings              
PiRate

121.6

Mean

115.0

Bias

120.5

               
Rankings              
PiRate

8

Mean

11

Bias

10

               
Prediction              
Conference

 

Overall

11-1

 

 

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

Teams Transitioning From FCS to FBS

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Transitioning Teams

Team

 

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Georgia Southern

 

0-0

85.0

86.1

92.1

Old Dominion

 

0-0

81.5

82.6

88.6

Appalachian St.

 

0-0

81.4

82.5

88.5

Charlotte

 

0-0

55.0

56.1

62.1

           
Not figured in regular averages to 100      

 

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

 

Here is the schedule for the remaining previews:

 

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

 

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

 

&

 

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

http://www.thepredictiontracker.com/

 

August 18, 2011

2011 Western Athletic Conference Preview

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 11:46 am

2011 Western Athletic Conference Preview

 

The WAC as we know it has been victimized by the Mountain West Conference.  In a move akin to the American League East losing the New York Yankees, the MWC stole Boise State.  Next year, Nevada, Hawaii, and Fresno State will join the Broncos in the Mountain West, leaving this conference a mere shell of itself.  The future of this league is in serious jeopardy, and the addition of two new teams to FBS football in 2012 (Texas State and Texas-San Antonio, may not be enough to save this league.

 

Without Boise State, the WAC race will be more open this season.  Four teams have the talent to contend for the conference championship, while a fifth has the capability of finishing over .500.

 

Nevada finished in a three-way tie for first with Boise State and Hawaii, and the Wolf Pack finished #11 in the final poll.  Gone from the school’s best ever team are stellar quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the WAC’s leading rusher Vai Taua, receiver Virgil Green, 1st Team All-WAC tackle Jose Acuna and four of the top tacklers.

 

All is not gloomy in the biggest little town in America.  Coach Chris Ault will simply reload rather than rebuild, and with the absence of a blue turf in league play, Nevada will contend for a second consecutive WAC title.  

 

Tyler Lantrip is not the runner Kaepernick was, but he has a better arm.  Lantrip should pass for more yards this year than Kaepernick did last year (3,022).  He will get a Baptism under fire when the Wolf Pack play their first four games away from Reno.

 

Mike Ball is the new tailback in the Pistol Offense. Ball has speed and quickness to excel in this offense.  He averaged 6.8 yards per carry last year in limited action.  Lampford Mark will get his shares of touches and could challenge for a starting bid.

 

The top receiver in the WAC this year will be Rishard Matthews.  He may not lead in catches or yards, because those stats belong to Hawaii receivers, but Matthews is the best at his position.  The former Oregon recruit led Nevada with 56 receptions and averaged 15.7 yards per catch.  The unexpected loss of Brandon Wimberly, who was shot in the off-season, will force Matthews to face more double teams and combo defenses.

 

The offense will click because the blocking corps is the best in the league.  Junior Chris Barker is the best guard in the league, while center Jeff Meads is one of three really good snappers in the WAC.

 

Nevada averaged 41 points and 519 yards per game last year.  Those numbers will decline a little this year.  The Wolf Pack will not be able to move up and down the field at will, but in the new WAC, they can win the title with a 35 point and 450 yard performance.

 

Nevada’s defense was just as responsible for last year’s title run as the offense.  It surrendered just 21 points per game in a league where 28 points was average.  Seven starters return, including three with all-star accolades in 2010.

 

Up front, tackle Brett Roy is poised to contend for 1st Team All-WAC honors.  He introduced enemy QBs to the turf eight times last year.  The loss of 3rd round draft pick Dontay Moch will hurt.

 

Middle linebacker James-Michael Johnson should repeat as a 1st Team All-WAC defender.  He led the Pack with 88 tackles last year.  In the back line of defense, Isaiah Frey is one of the best cover corners in the league.  He batted away 14 passes and picked off another last year.

 

The non-conference schedule is tough this year.  Nevada opens at Oregon and plays at Texas Tech and at Boise State, all in the first four games.  The schedule gets easier from there with home games against rival UNLV and helpless New Mexico.  In WAC play, Nevada hosts the other three contenders, and this should help the Wolf Pack claim another conference championship.

 

Hawaii recovered from a subpar 2009 with a 10-win season last year.  Once again, it was an aerial circus on the island, as the Warriors averaged 394 yards through the air to lead the nation.  The Run ‘n’ Shoot offense took a major hit with the loss of eight starters, but we would be surprised if Hawaii did not average more than 300 passing yards again this season.

 

One of those trio of returnees is quarterback Bryant Moniz.  Moniz topped 5,000 passing yards last year and threw 39 touchdown passes.  He tends to hold onto the ball a little longer than an average run ‘n’ shoot passer, and he went down 40 times last year, seven against Boise State in the lone game that UH failed to score in double digits.

 

Moniz lost his top two receivers, and they combined for 207 receptions and almost 3,200 yards.  Royce Pollard will be the new 100+-reception receiver for the Warriors.  There are questions at the other receiver positions, as two players figured to be starters are ailing and missing practice.

 

As pass happy as Hawaii is, they still run the ball with authority.  Alex Green rushed for almost 1,200 yards last year, but he must be replaced.  Sterling Jackson will be the new starter, but he lacks the speed and quickness of Green.  He will be more of a between the tackles pounder.

 

The offensive line was above average but not great last year, and four starters have used up their eligibility, including the two best blockers.  It will take a few weeks for the newly rebuilt line to come together, so Moniz may be facing a lot more pressure than last year.

 

The Warriors never get much credit for their defensive play.  They gave up a respectable 25.5 yards per game last year, only 20 in league play.  Coach Greg McMackin believes in aggressive attacking defenses, and he has the players to cause a lot of disruption to enemy offenses.

 

The front seven is the best in the WAC by far, and Hawaii should lead the conference in sacks and in lowest rushing average allowed.  Up front, tackles Vaughn Meatoga and Kaniela Tuipulotu are the best tandem in the conference.  Few teams will find success running line plunges up the gut against Hawaii.

 

The Warriors make hay at the linebacker position with multi-tool players.  Corey Paredes is a WAC Player of the Year candidate.  He led the conference with 151 stops, and he picked off four enemy passes last year while knocking away five others.  Aaron Brown is another linebacker who is strong against both the run and pass.

 

The back line of defense is the vulnerable unit on this side of the ball.  The two starters lost combined for 12 interceptions and 27 total passes defended.  Safety Richard Torres will need to step up and break out with a big year.

 

As usual, Hawaii plays a 13-game schedule, which means they will play six non-conference games this year.  The Warriors should beat UNLV, UC-Davis, and Tulane.  The opener against Colorado is a toss-up, but we believe Hawaii will have several intangible factors in their favor in this one.  Games with Washington and BYU should be losses.  The Warriors will only need to go 3-4 in the league to get back to the Hawaii Bowl.  They could double that amount.

 

Louisiana Tech is not far away from being a serious title contender.  Second year head coach Sonny Dykes has not been able to fully implement his version of Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense.  He believes the Bulldogs are ready to start making the offense click.

 

If the offense is going to start putting up numbers similar to Texas Tech in the Leach years. New quarterback Colby Cameron is going to have to improve by a great amount.  Last year, in limited action, Cameron could not complete longer passes, unless you count the high percentage of passes completed to the wrong colored jersey.  He ended up with five picks in just 91 attempts.

 

The Bulldogs took a hit with the dismissal of projected starting receiver Ahmad Paige and Tim Molton.  The Bulldogs still have their two leading receivers from last year; Taulib Ikharo and Richie Casey combined for 92 receptions and 962 yards.

 

Lennon Creer is another pass catching threat coming out of the backfield.  He caught 25 passes last year, but his running acumen is what made him a 2nd Team All-WAC performer.  He gained 1,181 yards and scored 10 touchdowns.

 

The offensive line is not the best in the league, but it is not far from it.  The Bulldogs will be nearly lethal inside with excellent guards Kevin Saia and Oscar Johnson (Saia is nursing an injury) and center Stephen Warner.

 

Will this be the year LT breaks out with scary offensive numbers?  Probably not, but their numbers will head north.  Call it 270 passing yards and 425+ total yards with a scoring average of 30-32 points per game.

 

If the Bulldogs are to make an unexpected run for the conference title and earn a bowl bid for the first time in four seasons, their defense must improve.  Tech gave up 31 points and 460+ yards per game in 2010.

 

One area where there will be improvement is up front in the trenches.  The Bulldogs have an excellent pair of ends in Matt Broha and IK Enemkpali.  Broha has developed into a great pass rusher and led LT with nine sacks last year. 

 

Two starters return to the second line of defense.  Linebackers Jay Dudley and Adrien Cole combined for 174 tackles but only 6 ½ for minus yardage.  This number needs to go up, for it will not help improve the defense if too many of those tackles come at the end of five yard gains.

 

The secondary is loaded with depth, and this should be the unit that shows the greatest improvement in 2011.  Look for more interceptions and passes defended this season. 

 

Louisiana Tech hosts Hawaii, so the Bulldogs will play a 12-game schedule.  Four of their five non-conference games will be tough to win, so the Bulldogs will need five conference wins at the least to become bowl eligible.  They are capable of achieving that feat this year.  

 

Fresno State has been so good for so long, it is hard to believe the Bulldogs have never won the WAC.  You have to go back to the days of the old Big West Conference to find FSU’s last title, when the Bulldogs finished 11-1-0 and clobbered Ball State in the old California Bowl.

 

The WAC is down, so Fresno State will benefit, because this will not be Coach Pat Hill’s best Bulldog team.  Too many good players are missing from both sides of the ball.  One of those is quarterback Ryan Colburn, who completed better than 63% of his passes with a 23/9 TD/Int ratio last year.  The new QB has a familiar name on campus.  Derek Carr is the younger brother of former FSU great David.  Carr has five games of experience from 2009, but he missed all of last season.  Look for Carr to struggle early but begin to live up to his family name as the season progresses.

 

Running back Robbie Rouse returns after enjoying a big season in 2010.  He rushed for 1,129 yards and eight scores.  Former UCLA Bruin Milton Knox should see some action as well.

 

Jalen Saunders is the best FSU has at the receiver position, but he is not a threat to crack the 1st or 2nd team all-conference roster.  Saunders caught 30 passes and scored three times.

 

The offensive line is not a team strength.  It could actually be the weakest in the league.  Two starters return, and the three that departed were all-league players.  Expect a considerable retreat in sacks allowed and rushing yards per carry this year.

 

The defense gave up 30 points per game last year, but the Bulldogs allowed just 367 total yards per game.  Their 37 sacks topped the league charts, as Bulldog players finished one-two in the league.  One of those players returns this season.  Tackle Logan Harrell is back after recording 10 ½ sacks and 14 total tackles for loss.    Three new starters will line up in the trenches, so Harrell will see more double team blocks this year.

 

Travis Brown and Kyle Knox are back to wreak havoc from their linebacker positions.  The two teamed up for 153 tackles last year.

 

There are some concerns in the secondary, and if the pass rush is not as good as last year, it will be exploited.  Free safety Phillip Thomas is the star of this unit.  He intercepted three passes and knocked away nine others.

 

Fresno State has a 13-game schedule since they play at Hawaii.  It will be difficult to match last year’s eight wins, but the Bulldogs have a chance to compete in the weaker WAC.  We still see this team becoming bowl eligible.

 

San Jose State has fallen on hard times in the last two seasons, finishing 2-10 and 1-12.  Second year coach Mike MacIntyre has a lot of experience returning from a team that took its lumps early but became much more competitive in the second half of the season.  With 18 starters returning, we see the Spartans could win more games in 2011 than they won in 2009 and 2010 combined.

 

The big bugaboo is at the most important position on the team.  As of this writing in mid-August, MacIntyre has yet to choose a starter, or even a leader of the pack, from among three candidates.  Senior Matt Faulkner has limited experience, but that limited experience is the most on the squad.  Contending with Faulkner are sophomore Dasmen Stewart and redshirt freshman Blake Jurich.  Too bad former Michigan starter Tate Forcier will not be eligible until 2012.

 

SJSU has a nice stable of receivers, and if a quarterback can emerge and at least be decent, this unit could shine in 2011.  Noel Grigsby is a breakaway threat.  He can get open deep and has good hands.  The sophomore could emerge as a 1st Team All-WAC player.

 

The running game has been nonexistent for four years, as the Spartans have averaged 84, 87, 77, and 79 yards per game and less than three yards per carry.  Starter Brandon Rutley had one big run as a freshman when he broke free for a long touchdown against Boise State.  He has yet to show any flashes since then.  Actually, Rutley has been a better pass receiver than runner.  He did break off a long breakaway with a reception last year.  

 

The offensive line will be improved this season, but it will still be an overall liability.  Tackle Andres Vargas is the best of the quintet.

 

SJSU averaged just 16 points per game last year, but in four of their final five games, they averaged better than 30 points per game.  We see the Spartans scoring about 23-25 points per game this year.

 

The good news is that more than 11 (several saw more than 6 starts) defensive starters return in 2011; the bad news is that those starters were not all that good last year, as SJSU surrendered 464 yards per game (502 in league play) and nearly 35 points per game.

 

All joking aside, this defense will be much better this season.  In fact, the Spartans could easily shave 100 yards off what they allowed in WAC games.  It isn’t impossible that they could go from last to first in yards allowed!

 

Start in the secondary, where the four holdovers just might make up the best unit in the league.  The name “Peyton” is an important name in football, and SJSU has one of their own.  Peyton Thompson is the top cover corner in the league.  In 2010, he recorded 12 passes defended, and quarterbacks tended to throw away from him.  Safety Duke Ihenacho missed all of last year, but he should regain his starting job after earning 1st Team All-WAC honors in 2009.

 

The secondary will benefit from an improved pass rush this year.  End Travis Johnson led the Spartans with 7 ½ sacks as well as four QB hurries.  He leads a two-deep of experienced players in the trenches.

 

The second line of defense features the reigning WAC Freshman of the Year.  Keith Smith earned that award after leading the Spartans with 116 tackles and 14 tackles for loss.  

 

San Jose State starts off the season with three tough games, and the Spartans will begin in an 0-3 hole after facing Stanford, UCLA, and Nevada.  Road games with Colorado State and BYU will leave SJSU at no better than 1-5, so 2011 will not be the year the Spartans get back to the plus side of .500.  They can win three or four games though.

 

Utah State has endured losing season after losing season with false expectations of an end to that skein.  Last year looked like ‘the year” when the Aggies upset BYU to open the season 3-2.  A 1-6 finish doomed them to yet another sub-.500 year, as the offense failed to ignite.

 

Coach Gary Andersen will choose between Adam Kennedy and Chuckie Keeton as his starting quarterback.  Thus far, neither has emerged as a primetime player.  The Aggies had poor play at this position last year, so it will not take much to surpass the production of 2010.

 

The rest of the skilled positions are in good shape.  Former all-conference running back Robert Turbin missed last season with an ACL injury, but he appears to be ready to pound his way through defenses.  He rushed for almost 1,300 yards two years ago.

 

Seven of the top eight pass catchers are back for more this year, but it’s the return of two 2009 starters that missed last season that will make this unit much better this season.  Stanley Morrison could top 1,000 receiving yards.

 

The offensive line returns four starters and will be the best this unit has been under Andersen.  Center Tyler Larsen and guards Fuanki Asisi and Philip Gapelu will contend for some all-conference recognition.  Larsen made the 2nd Team Freshman All-American Team last year.

 

Utah State should improve its offensive number back to where they were prior to all the 2010 injuries.  We believe the Aggies could top 27 points and 380 yards per game.

 

Unfortunately, the outlook on the other side of the ball is a bit gloomy.  USU is a little suspect in the front line and only average in the secondary.  One area that will be a team strength is the linebacker position.  Bobby Wagner and Kyle Gallagher are studs.  Wagner is on NFL scouts’ radar.  He led USU with 135 tackles including eight for losses.

 

The secondary took a major graduation hit, but it returns its top player in safety Walter McClenton.  McClenton made 62 tackles, but Andersen would like to see him make less this year; too many of those tackles came about because opposing teams had already defeated the other 10 defenders on the field.

 

Up front, The Aggies were abysmal in 2010.  They recorded just 13 sacks and allowed opposing backs to gain five yards per carry.  Ends Quinn Garner and Levi Koshan are the lone holdovers from the two-deep, and Andersen is switching to a 3-4 defense to try to disguise this weakness.

 

USU surrendered 34 points and 430 yards per game last year.  We do not see much improvement if any this year.  To make matters worse, the Aggies lose both their punter and place kicker from last year.

 

The schedule includes non-league tilts against defending champ Auburn, BYU, and Wyoming.  Unfortunately, the easiest conference opponents, Idaho and New Mexico State, must be faced on the road.  It looks like another long year in Logan.

 

Idaho took a step back last year after earning and winning the most exciting bowl game of 2009.  The Vandals could be looking at a major rebuilding project on the attack side of the ball with the departure of quarterback Nathan Enderle and three of the top four receivers.  However, there is cautious optimism that the newcomers are as talented as those they will replace.

 

The new signal caller is senior Brian Reader.  Reader looked sharp in limited action last year and appears to be primed to equal Enderle’s production.

 

Reader’s passing targets are not the most talented players in the league, but there are a lot of options.  Preston Davis figures to be much improved now that he is fully recovered from an ACL injury in 2010.  Walk-on junior college transfer Mike Scott could emerge as a key contributor.

 

The running game did not show much in 2010, and it will be a liability again this year.  Four backs should split time at this spot, led by former Arizona State Sun Devil Ryan Bass and Kama Bailey.

 

The offensive line is strongest at the terminals, where Matt Cleveland and Tyrone Novikoff are big and strong.  Cleveland should contend for 1st Team All-WAC honors.

 

Idaho averaged 27 points last year, and we expect the Vandals to replicate that number this season. 

 

Even though the Vandals fell from 8-5 to 6-7 last year, the defense showed great improvement, shaving almost eight points off their average allowed.  Some of that had to do with an improved turnover margin.  The news is not all that good on this side of the ball.  UI was going to be strong at linebacker, but their top player, Robert Siavii suffered a season-ending knee injury in Spring practice.

 

The Vandals will rally around middle linebacker TreShawn Robinson, who recorded 10 total tackles for loss last year.  Homer Mauga returns to start at the other linebacker spot.

 

Up front, Idaho had a strong pass rush last year, but the chief instigator of mayhem is gone.  Aaron Lavarias departs after leading the team with 10 sacks.  Tackle Michael Cosgrove is the best of the holdovers.

 

The secondary returns three 2010 starters, but none of the trio figures to make 1st Team All-WAC accolades this year.  If the pass rush is weaker, this group will be exposed and give up more than 250 passing yards per game.

 

Idaho has a fair schedule.  Non-league games with Texas A&M, Virginia, and BYU figure to be automatic losses.  North Dakota figures to be an easy victory.  The season opener with Bowling Green is a rematch of that great 2009 Humanitarian Bowl, and we consider this game a must-win affair for the Vandals.  If they win, and Reader proves to be as capable as Enderler, this team could make this prediction look silly.  If they lose, then Coach Robb Akey could become achy over his future.

 

New Mexico State has been one of the five weakest teams in FBS football in recent years, but luckily for them, the worst team has been in-state rival New Mexico.  Third year coach DeWayne Walker must show some form of improvement this year, or he could be headed away from the Land of Enchantment.

 

The offense scored 14 or fewer points five times last year and averaged less than 16 for the season.  Former Kent State coach Doug Martin takes over as the new offensive Coordinator.  Martin hopes quarterback Andrew Manley can solve the problem at quarterback.  Manley completed just 52% of his passes with a 1/6 TD/Int ratio last year as a true freshman.  Former starter Matt Christian completed just 48% of his passes but had a much better 8/2 TD/Int ratio.  There is only one way to go for this position.

 

The big problem with the passing game is the receiving corps.  Not only are the top two pass catchers from last year missing, those that are returning do not offer much in the area of quickness or mobility.  Taveon Rogers is the closest thing to a star, and he only caught 18 balls last year.  Juco Transfer Kemonte Bateman could emerge as the leader here.

 

Robert Clay figures to start at running back with 2010 leading rusher Kenny Turner at H-back.  The tandem rushed for just 687 yards and two touchdowns.

 

The one bright spot on the offense is an experienced and improving offensive line.  Sioeli Fakalata can play center or guard, and he is the best man in the front line.

 

The Aggies should see improved numbers all around this season.  Look for about 21 points and 325 yards.  However, that will not be enough to move them out of the WAC basement.

 

The defense figures to take another step backwards after giving up 40 points and 450+ yards per game last year.  It doesn’t help when two of your top players are declared academically ineligible.  Those two, tackle Augafa Vaaulu and end Donte Savage figured to be the stars of the front four.  Now, the Aggies are hurting in the trenches.

 

The linebackers are more of a liability than an asset, even though two starters return from last season.  B. J. Adolpho was a 3rd Team All-WAC player last year, but he cannot make plays for the other six players in the front seven.

 

Any hope for defensive improvement must come from the secondary.  We fear that with little or no pass rush, the back four will eventually break down and give up too many big plays.  The Aggies may have the best tandem at cornerback with Donyae Coleman and Jonte Green.  Last year, the pair teamed for 166 tackles, many times being the last hope to prevent breakaway plays.

 

Things do not look hopeful for Walker and his Aggies.  At least they have a game with New Mexico, but that is not a given win.  Even though NMSU’s offense is much improved, they will not be able to outscore the other teams in the WAC.  It will be another long year in Las Cruces.

 

2011 WAC Preseason Media Poll

Team

1st Place Votes

Points

Hawaii

18

292

Fresno State

11

284

Nevada

11

264

Lousiana Tech

 

184

Utah State

 

166

Idaho

 

141

San Jose State

 

85

New Mexico State

 

60

 

 

2011 WAC PiRate Ratings

Team

PiRate #

Prediction

Nevada

101.4

7-1/8-4

Hawaii

98.4

5-3/8-5

Louisiana Tech

93.5

5-3/5-7

Fresno State

93.0

6-2/7-6

San Jose State

91.1

2-6/2-10

Utah State

90.2

2-6/3-9

Idaho

88.2

4-4/5-7

New Mexico State

78.8

1-7/1-11

 

Next: A look at the four independents, Friday, August 19

 

August 14, 2010

2010 Western Athletic Conference Preview

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

 

2010 Western Athletic Conference Preview

 

No team has dominated a conference for an entire decade the way Boise State has dominated the WAC since Alabama toyed with the SEC for 10 years after Bear Bryant went to the wishbone.  The Broncos last eight years in conference play have produced a league mark of 62-2!  Things will change next year, when BSU moves to the Mountain West.  It appears impossible for the Broncos to top last year’s 14-0 record, but this year’s team might be considerably stronger.

Nevada is the clear-cut second best team, and Fresno State is the clear-cut third best team.  After those two, there are three teams that are equally mediocre and three teams that will be fodder for the top six.  With Boise primed to make a run for a National Championship, there is a legitimate possibility that there will not be enough bowl eligible teams for the allotted bowl spots.

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

Predictions

Pos Team WAC Overall
1 Boise State 8-0 12-0
2 Nevada 7-1 10-3
3 Fresno State 6-2 9-3
4 Utah State 4-4 5-7
5 Hawaii 4-4 6-7
6 Louisiana Tech 4-4 5-7
7 Idaho 2-6 3-10
8 New Mexico State 1-7 2-10
9 San Jose State 0-8 2-11

 

BCS Bowl: Boise State (possible National Championship Game)

Humanitarian Bowl: Fresno State

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Nevada

Hawaii Bowl: Will need an at-large team

New Mexico Bowl: Will need and at-large team

 

Hawaii is guaranteed a spot in the Hawaii Bowl if they have seven or more wins.  If not, this bowl gets the third choice after the Humanitarian and Kraft Bowls select.

 

Team By Team Breakdown

 

Team Boise State Broncos
               
Head Coach Chris Petersen
               
Colors Blue and Orange
               
City Boise, ID
               
2009 Record              
Conference 8-0
Overall 14-0
               
PiRate Rating 121.7
               
National Rating 8
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 8-0
Overall 12-0

 

Offense: Better?  You betcha.  The Broncos return 10 starters on this side of the ball as well as every player that ran the ball and every receiver that caught a pass!

Let’s start with the nation’s number two quarterback in passing efficiency in 2009, trailing only some guy named Tebow.  Kellen Moore made 3rd Team All-American last year, and he could move up two spots if his team runs the table this year.  We expect him to be making a trip to the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan in December.  Moore completed 64.3% of his passes for 3,536 yards.  His TD/Int ration was an astonishing 39/3.  He was a down-the-field passer, so those stats were not inflated by having some speedster frequently turning a two-yard pass into a 65-yard touchdown.

Moore’s only problem may be trying to decide which open receiver to throw the ball.  His top two options are 2009 1st Team All-WAC Austin Pettus and Titus Young.  Those two combined for 142 receptions and 24 touchdowns.  Tyler Shoemaker is the bruiser of this group, and he can go across the middle and make the tough catch in a sea of defenders.

When Boise runs the ball, they will have a trio of special backs toting the pigskin.  Jeremy Avery ran for more than 1,150 yards, and Doug Martin added 765.  Martin led the ground contingent with 15 touchdowns.  Third back D. J. Harper accounted for just 285 yards, but he is the best breakaway threat of the three.  He averaged 6.5 yards per rush a year ago.

The offensive line returns four starters a year after allowing just five QB sacks, only three after the first game.  The entire second team has some starting experience, so Coach Chris Petersen can feel confident relieving his starters for a series.

Boise State averaged 42.2 points and 450 total yards last year, and those numbers should be eclipsed by this veteran squad.  Look for 45-50 points and 450-475 yards per game this season.

Defense: Now the bad news: Uh, the only bad news is for the rest of the league, because Boise State will be more improved on this side of the ball than on offense!

The Broncos gave up 17 points and 300 yards per game last year, and 10 starters also return on this side of the ball.  Almost the entire second team returns as well, and it would not surprise us to see BSU finish in the top five in both total offense and total defense.  We’re talking 1997 Nebraska-type dominance if that happens.

If there is a liability of any kind with this defense, it is at linebacker.  Boise uses a 4-2-5 defense, and the two linebackers get lost among all the stars on the stop side.  Aaron Tevis and Daron Mackey combined for just 90 stops a year ago, and they were merely above-average players in the WAC.

In the trenches, the Broncos can rely on four experienced upperclassmen, including a sure future NFL (assuming the NFL plays in 2011 or 2012) end.  Ryan Winterswyk made 17 tackles on the other team’s side of the line—nine sacks and eight tackles of runners.  Tackle Billy Wynn is just as potent at causing teams to lose yardage.

The secondary is even stronger this year.  Nickel back Winston Venable is a monster against both the run and the pass, and when he is on the field, opposing teams may think there is more than one #17 running around.  Cornerback Brandyn Thompson and strong safety Jeron Johnson should both make 1st Team All-WAC after teaming for 10 interceptions last year.

Schedule: It all comes down to the first game of the season.  Boise travels over 2,000 miles across two time zones to face Virginia Tech at the Washington Redskins’ stadium on Monday night, September 6.  The Broncos proved they could beat a BCS conference champion last year when they completely shut down Oregon in the opener.  That game was at home.  If the Broncos beat the Hokies, we don’t see anybody else threatening them.  A home game with Oregon State and a road game against Nevada might be the only other games where they cannot win by three touchdowns or more.  It will be either 1-0 on the way to 12-0 or 0-1 on the way to maybe 10-2.  At 12-0, they would be riding a 26-game winning streak and deserve to go to Glendale, Arizona, on January 10.

Team Fresno State Bulldogs
               
Head Coach Pat Hill
               
Colors Cardinal and White
               
City Fresno, CA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 99.6
               
National Rating 60
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 9-3

 

Offense: Fresno State has always fielded exciting, well-balanced offenses under Coach Pat Hill.  This year will be no different.  The Bulldogs may have lost their top player on this side of the ball, but they return eight starters and should have another successful season moving the ball.

It will be hard to replace running back Ryan Mathews after he led the league with more than 1,800 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns.  We expect Robbie Rouse to step in and rush for 1,000+ yards in his first year as a starter.  He showed flashes of brilliance last year in a backup role.

In a league of outstanding quarterbacks, Ryan Colburn rarely gets a mention in the press outside of Fresno.  Colburn is a capable, but not flashy passer.  He completed 61% of his tosses for 2,459 yards last year, but he needs to cut down on his 3.7% interception rate.

The Bulldogs lost three of their top four receivers, but there is good talent left.  Jamel Hamler and Devon Wylie can turn a short pass into a long gain.

The offensive line welcomes back all five starters.  This unit could be a little better than Boise State’s interior line.  Best among this quintet are center Joe Bernardi and tackle Kenny Wiggins, two seniors that should have a chance to play professionally (maybe in Canada).

Fresno State may take a small step backward on this side of the ball, but the Bulldogs will still be an offensive threat in every game.  Look for about 28 points and 400 yards per game.

Defense: FSU surrendered 214 rushing and 200 passing yards last year, and we see that problem continuing in 2010.  The Bulldogs return the majority of their contributors from 2009, but we see only three really good players on this side of the ball.

One of those three is end Chris Carter.  The 1st Team All-WAC performer accounted for almost half of the team’s sacks (5 out of FSU’s poor 11) and added eight other tackles for loss.  He’s the only star player in the trenches, and he will see double teams on most plays this year.  The Bulldogs gave up a profane six yards per rush last year, so teams will run the ball at them until they can prove they can slow it down.

The second line of defense is much better than the first and considerably better than the unit behind them.  Linebacker Ben Jacobs led FSU with 106 tackles last year, but too many were five or more yards down the field.  Neither he, nor outside linebacker Kyle Knox recorded a sack.

The secondary is pedestrian, but it was hard to cover the WAC’s receivers when there was no pass rush.  Strong safety Lorne Bell earned 2nd Team All-WAC honors, but he is better in run support than in pass coverage.

Fresno State will give up a lot of points again this season, and it will prevent the Bulldogs from contending with the big two in the league.  Look for 26-30 points and 400-425 yards allowed—about the same as last year.

Schedule: Outside of the WAC, Fresno plays its usual contingent of BCS schools.  This year, they host Cincinnati and Illinois and visit Ole Miss.  They get a breather with FCS member Cal Poly.  Boise State is a road game, and they have no chance in that one.  They get Nevada at home and could sneak up on the Wolf Pack.  6-2 in the league is a strong possibility, and we believe the Bulldogs can upend two of the three BCS conference teams they play.  Call it nine wins and a bowl in 2010.

Team Hawaii Warriors
               
Head Coach Greg McMackin
               
Colors Green, Black, and White
               
City Honolulu, HI
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 6-7
               
PiRate Rating 85.0
               
National Rating 97
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 6-7

 

Offense: Hawaii has once again become a great vacation trip for BCS schools.  Since June Jones left for SMU three years ago, the Warriors have fallen on hard times.  The UH offense went from a 40+ per game juggernaut to a 20-point per game patsy.

Don’t look for any improvement on this side of the ball in 2010.  Coach Greg McMackin has too many holes to fill to expect a better showing.  In fact, things could get worse.  Only five starters return, but only one of them is from the offensive line.  Tackles Austin Hansen and Laupepa Letuli give the Warrior a good couple of anchors.

Quarterback Brian Moniz returns to pilot the attack after starting eight times last year.  He is a good runner as well as passer, but he won’t be confused with Colin Kaepernick.

Moniz will benefit from the return of receivers Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares.  The two combined for 172 receptions and 2,280 yards.  Speedy Rodney Bradley gives Moniz a third good option.

The running game has not been much of a factor in recent years.  As long as the back in the game can block for the quarterback, run a good safety valve route and cut on a draw play, he has done his job.  Alex Green should fit the bill nicely, and he should catch 25-30 passes this year.

With the troubles up front, we just cannot see Hawaii topping 24 points per game this season.  Look for 21-24 points and 375-400 yards.  The Warriors turned the ball over a lot last year, and that trend may continue in 2010. 

Defense: There should be improvement on this side of the ball, but it may not show up that much in the stats.  If the offense gives up the ball quickly due to incompetence, the defense will stay on the field longer.

Seven starters return on this side of the ball, but the top two tacklers from a year ago are gone.  One area that should not be a problem is the secondary.  All four starters return after giving up just 203 passing yards per game (low for this league).  All four (corners Jeramy Bryant and Lametrius Davis and safeties Mana Silva and Spencer Smith) proved to be excellent pass defenders, combining for 10 interceptions and 24 passes batted away.

The front seven is more of a problem.  Hawaii did a poor job against the run last year, and it could continue this season.  Two starters must be replaced up front, and two starters must be replaced at linebacker.  None of this year’s front seven will contend for even honorable mention all-conference.

Hawaii will give up 30-35 points and 400-425 yards per game.  

Schedule: The opener should draw a lot of national attention.  UH entertains bad boy Lane Kiffin and his Southern Cal Trojans on Thursday night, September 2.  They follow it up with a trips to West Point to face Army on 9/11 and to Boulder to take on the Colorado Buffaloes on 9/18.  It could actually be snowing in the Front Range on that date.  The Warriors return home to face Charleston Southern, which should be their first win.  UH concludes the season with UNLV.  The Rebels could possibly be playing for bowl eligibility in that game.  In league play, UH has road games with Fresno State and Boise State and will come home with their tails beneath their legs. 

We believe the Warriors will break even in league play, but they will fall one game short of bowl eligibility again.

Team Idaho Vandals
               
Head Coach Robb Akey
               
Colors Black and Gold
               
City Moscow, ID
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 90.3
               
National Rating 88
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 2-6
Overall 3-10

 

Offense: 2009 was one of those years when the stars aligned just right for Coach Robb Akey’s Vandals.  Idaho won five close games, including a 43-42 Humanitarian Bowl thriller over Bowling Green, on its way to its first winning season of the century.  With the graduation of most of their offensive line, their top running back, and their top receiver, it looks like the one year recovery will be an anomaly. 

The one bright spot on this side of the ball is the return of quarterback Nathan Enderle.  After the big two, he may be the third best QB in the WAC.  Last year, he passed for 2,906 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Enderle’s top target has graduated, and Max Komar was vital to this team’s success.  Maurice Shaw returns after averaging more than 20 yards on his 32 receptions.  He should form a solid trio with Preston Davis and tight end Daniel Hardy, but Komar will be sorely missed.

Idaho used a platoon at tailback, and two of the three principle members of that platoon return.  Princeton McCarty and Deonte Jackson combined for 1,108 yards, so the Vandals’ running game is in good hands this year.

Because the rebuilding blocking wall will be a liability this year, expect both the rushing and passing yardage to fall back in 2010.  Call it about 23-26 points and 380-420 yards per game.  

Defense: Idaho didn’t win because of great defensive play in 2009.  They gave up 36 points and 433 yards per game!  With 10 starters returning, there should be some improvement, but we don’t see enough improvement to justify picking Idaho to return to a bowl.

The entire front seven returns intact.  They were not particularly strong against the run or the pass.  While the Vandals gave up just a tad over 150 rushing yards per game, opponents averaged 4.7 yards per rush.  They were too busy picking the secondary to shreds to run the ball much more than 30 times per game.

The strength of the front seven is on the outside where end Aaron Lavarais and outside linebacker Jo Jo Dickson will contend for all-conference honors.

The secondary will not fare much better than their dismal performance last year after giving up 278 passing yards per game and allowing better than 66% completions.  Without a much better pass rush, look for the Vandals to maybe give up 300 yards per game through the air.

Idaho will once again give up 30+ points per game, but maybe it will be less than last year’s 36.  Let’s go with 32-35 points and 425-450 yards allowed.

Schedule: The Vandals should start off the season on a winning note when they open with North Dakota at home.  Then, they must play at Nebraska, where they could lose by six touchdowns.  A home game with UNLV should tell the fans whether they have any reason to remain optimistic, and we believe the Rebels will leave Moscow with a win.  A trip to Colorado State the following week will either put the nail in the coffin for the 2010 season or give the Vandal hope.  The Rams will treat that game as a must-win contest.  A final non-conference game at Western Michigan won’t give them a win.  Idaho hosts both Nevada and Boise State, which should be considered a curse this year.  They cannot compete with either, and it would be better for the Vandals to have two other home games.  At least, UI gets New Mexico State and San Jose State at home—those are their two conference wins for 2010.

Team Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
               
Head Coach Sonny Dykes
               
Colors Red and Blue
               
City Ruston, LA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 4-8
               
PiRate Rating 96.5
               
National Rating 66
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 5-7

 

Offense: After half of the coaches in FBS football turned down the Tennessee job last year, Tech coach Derek Dooley took the job.  Welcome new coach Sonny Dykes.  Dykes turned around the Arizona Wildcats’ offense after learning the “Air Raid” Spread offense at Texas Tech under Mike Leach.  Expect a complete overhaul of the offense this year, as the Bulldogs return to a wide open offense like teams of yesteryear in Ruston.

Unfortunately, Tech won’t have Tim Rattay, Luke McCown, or Terry Bradshaw lining up at quarterback.  Actually, neither Dooley nor offensive coordinator Tony Franklin know who will be lining up at quarterback in the opener.  As August practices began, it was a four-way race between incumbent Ross Jenkins, Auburn transfer Steven Ensminger, last year’s backup Colby Cameron, and junior college transfer Tarik Hakim.  Whoever wins the battle will be throwing the ball anywhere from 40 to 60 times a game.

Tech has a fine stable of pass receivers thanks to the school that stole their prior coach.  Tennessee transfer Ahmad Paige left Orangeville last year to escape the tornado known as Lane Kiffin.  Paige will join holdovers Cruz Williams and Phillip Livas to form a solid first team.  In this offense, expect at least five other receivers to catch more than 25 passes. 

Another escapee from the Kiffin asylum is tailback Lennon Creer.  We expect Creer to step in and start from day one, but the Bulldogs backs will not match the production of graduated star Daniel Porter.

The offensive line returns four starters, but there could be some rough times in the transition from a predominantly running attack to an offense that will pass the ball at least 60% of the time and as much as 80-85% of the time.

LT averaged 29 points per game last year, and we think the Bulldogs will shatter that mark this season.  Look for 31-35 points and 400-425 yards per game in year one of the “air raid.”

Defense: This is the reason Dykes won’t turn things around in year one.  Tech gave up 26 points per game last year, and the defense is noticeably weaker this season.

The problems start up front where only one starter returns to the four-man trench.  Included in the graduation losses was two-time All-WAC star D’Anthony Smith.

The three-man linebacking corps returns two starters, including 2009 1st Team All-WAC Mike linebacker Adrien Cole.  Cole led the Techsters with 93 tackles last year.

The secondary is better than average and returns three starters, but they may have trouble matching last year’s numbers due to the weaker pass rush. 

We expect LT to give up more than 28 points and maybe as much as 33 points per game to go along with 375-400 yards per game.

Schedule: Finally it will happen!  Louisiana Tech will play Grambling for the first time ever to kick off the 2010 season.  The schools are within walking distance, but they have been separated by mountains of Southern philosophical opinion for years.  It should be an interesting game, but any chance for Grambling to pull off the upset disappeared when they weren’t able to gain approval for a medical hardship redshirt for their starting quarterback.  Tech will be 1-0 when they venture to Aggieland to take on Texas A&M, and that game should be a shootout.  Ditto the following two weeks’ games with Navy and Southern Miss.  When Tech enters WAC play, they may be just 1-3, but they could be averaging 40 points per game.  We see them splitting their league games, coming up one win short of bowl eligibility.

Team Nevada Wolf Pack
               
Head Coach Chris Ault
               
Colors Blue and Silver
               
City Reno, NV
               
2009 Record              
Conference 7-1
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 102.6
               
National Rating 51
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 7-1
Overall 10-3

 

Offense: Coaltown, Alydar, Sham, the 1961 Detroit Tigers, the 1962 Detroit Lions—what do these have in common?  Coaltown, Alydar, and Sham were great horses that might have won the Triple Crown in their three-year old campaigns, but they happened to race against Citation, Affirmed, and Secretariat.  The 1961 Tigers won more than 100 games and was probably better than the 1968 World Champions.  The 1962 Lions were probably the best ever in the Motor City.  Those Tigers played second fiddle to the Maris and Mantle Yankees.  Those Lions played second fiddle to the greatest NFL team in history—the 1962 Green Bay Packers.

Nevada is this year’s Coaltown.  The Wolf Pack is clearly the second best team in the WAC and one of the best teams in WAC history (in the current alignment) not wearing an orange and blue uniform.

Coach Chris Ault’s team ran the pistol offense to near perfection a year ago.  Nevada outpaced Georgia Tech and the three service academies that run triple option and averaged a nation’s best 345 yards rushing per game.  They had three players top 1,000 rushing yards.  Not even the great Oklahoma teams of the 1970’s that rushed for more than 400 yards a game had such a trio.

Two of those three stars return this season.  One is quarterback Colin Kaepernick.  He rushed for almost 1,200 yards (actually well over 1,300 when you factor out sacks) and 16 touchdowns.  He tossed another 20 touchdown passes on his way to 2,052 yards passing.

Joining Kaepernick in the pistol backfield will be Vai Taua, the other 1,000 yard back.  He totaled 1,345 yards with 10 touchdowns.  Backup Mike Ball will take over as the number two running back.  He averaged almost 10 yards per try in limited action last year, so he could replace Luke Lippincott as the third 1,000-yard rusher this year.

The receiving corps isn’t exactly chopped liver.  The four main receivers return after combining for 130 receptions and 14 touchdowns.  Brandon Wimberly was the WAC Freshman of the Year after grabbing 53 passes for 733 yards.

The offensive line lost two All-WAC performer, but we think this unit will be close to last year’s unit in blocking ability. 

Unless one of the option teams has an incredible season, there is no reason not to believe that Nevada will top the rushing charts again this season.  Look for another 325-350 effort on the ground with an additional 175-200 yards through the air.  The Wolf Pack should top 40 points per game after threatening that mark the last two seasons.

Defense: This side of the ball is missing just enough to prevent Nevada from competing with Boise State for the title.  As it is, the Wolf Pack is still the second best team by far.  Three of the top four tacklers must be replaced, so it is likely that Nevada will have to outscore opponents this season.

Up front, one of the returning starters is end Dontay Moch, who earned WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009.  Moch registered 20 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including  6 ½ sacks.  At 6-1, he may be on the small side to be a star at the next level.

Brandon Marshall gives Nevada an outstanding strong-side linebacker.  Marshall dumped defenders for loss 9 ½ times in 2009, and he batted away four passes as well.

It is the secondary where Nevada cannot stop Boise State and thus cannot win the WAC this year.  The ‘Pack surrendered almost 300 yards through the air and 61.5% completions in 2009, and no starter had more than one interception.  Former Utah quarterback Corbin Louks has been brought to Reno to anchor the secondary at free safety. 

Nevada will once again give up more than four touchdowns per game.  Look for about 30 points and 425 yards allowed per contest.

Schedule: Nevada gets two breathers to open the season.  They host Eastern Washington and Colorado State.  A third consecutive home game against California could give the Wolf Pack a good chance to pull off the minor upset and crack the polls.  The following week finds them venturing to BYU for a potentially great shootout.  A week later, Nevada plays at UNLV.  They could be 5-0 when WAC play starts, and they will be no worse than 3-2.  They should be 4-0 in conference play when they go to Fresno State on November 13.  After a breather with New Mexico State, they host Boise State on Friday, November 26.  It isn’t impossible, but highly improbable they will win this game unless Boise State falls apart with numerous injuries.  Still, this should be Ault’s best team in Reno since he returned for the third time in 2004.  Call if a double-digit winning year.

Team New Mexico State Aggies
               
Head Coach DeWayne Walker
               
Colors Crimson and White
               
City Las Cruces, NM
               
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 3-10
               
PiRate Rating 78.4
               
National Rating 109
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 1-7
Overall 2-10

 

Offense: One word can best sum up the Aggies’ offense—offensive.  NMSU scored just 11.5 points per game and tallied just 229 total yards per game.  That looks like stats you would see from a college team in the days when players went both ways.  The Aggies had no passing game whatsoever, and they were not an option team.  They averaged just 88 yards per game and completed less than half of their passes.

Quarterback Jeff Fleming might do better if he could throw to himself.  He just doesn’t have much talent in which to throw the ball.

Things are much better with the running game.  Seth Smith ran for more than 1,000 yards even though defenses placed an extra defender and sometimes two extra defenders up close to stop the run.

The offensive line returns three starters, but the Aggies pick up a plum in former Texas Longhorn tackle Aundre McGaskey.

With stats like last year, there is only one way to go for Coach DeWayne Walker’s offense, but we don’t expect State to fool many defenses this year.  Look for a slight improvement to 14-17 points and 250-275 yards per game. 

Defense: When your offense cannot sustain many drives and convert first downs, your defense will be on the field much longer than average.  Opponents ran an average of eight more plays per game against the Aggies last year, and more of the same will happen this season.

One unit that will be better is the back line.  All four starters return to the secondary.  This quartet of Stephon Hatchett, Alphonso House, Jonte Green, and Davon House teamed up for 32 batted passes and five picks.

The defensive line will be a little better this year, and that will make the secondary that much better.  Ends Pierre Fils and Donte Savage teamed up to make 13 QB sacks.

It’s at linebacker where there will be difficulties this year.  The Aggies must break in three new starters, only one of whom saw any real action last year.

The Aggies will give up 28-32 points and 400-425 yards again this season.  They are still a long way from competing for bowl eligibility.

Schedule: The one plus for New Mexico State is that as weak as they are, their in-state rival is weaker.  The Aggies should beat New Mexico.  They won’t be so lucky with San Diego State, UTEP, or Kansas.  NMSU gets upstart San Jose State at home, so we believe they will win twice this season.  That is one less than last year.

Team San Jose State Spartans
               
Head Coach Mike MacIntyre
               
Colors Dark Blue and Gold
               
City San Jose, CA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 2-10
               
PiRate Rating 82.7
               
National Rating 101
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 0-8
Overall 2-11

 

Offense: New Spartan head coach Mike MacIntyre takes over at San Jose after earning the national Assistant Coach of the Year award as the defensive coordinator at Duke.  Too bad he won’t get to defend against his own offense.  The Spartans scored just 13.8 points and produced 284 yards of total offense in 2009. 

Quarterback Jordan La Secla returns after passing for 1,926 yards at a 60% completion rate.  He tossed more interceptions than touchdown passes.

La Secla will have to make do without the top two receivers from last year.  Kevin Jurovich graduated, while Marquis Avery was declared academically ineligible.  Throw in the sudden departure of offensive coordinator Hugh Freeze to Arkansas State, and it looks like another long season on this side of the ball.

The running game was abysmal last year; don’t expect much improvement, after the Spartans averaged a meager 77 yards per game.

The offensive line is probably the strongest component of the offense, but it is still below average in the WAC. 

If MacIntyre can squeeze 17 points and 300 yards out of this offense, it will be a huge success.

Defense: San Jose State must replace four of their front seven defenders, so there won’t be much improvement on this side of the ball.  The Spartans didn’t fare much better on defense than offense last year. 

SJSU surrendered 259 rushing yards (6.1 yds./rush) last year, and with three of the front four having to be replaced against a slate of teams that can pound the ball down the field, the Spartans might actually fare worse this year.

All four starters return to the secondary.  Unfortunately, this quartet had to stop a lot of running plays last year and didn’t face many passing plays, as opponents ran the ball almost 65% of the time.

After giving up 35 points and 443 yards per game last year, the numbers could actually head south this year.  Look for maybe 36-40 points and 450-475 yards allowed.

Schedule:  By the time San Jose State faces a team they can beat, their players will be demoralized after beginning the season on the road with Alabama and Wisconsin. The Spartans will be 0-2, nursing a lot of bumps and bruises, and facing a scoring deficit of about 90-10!  They should find a way to beat Southern Utah in game three.  The following week finds them heading to Utah, where the Utes will remember the scare this team gave them last year.  Look for another blowout loss.  Then, SJSU faces UC Davis.  They should get a nice win in that one, but that will be their last of the season.  We see them losing all eight league games.

Team Utah State Aggies
               
Head Coach Gary Andersen
               
Colors Navy and White
               
City Logan, UT
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 4-8
               
PiRate Rating 95.3
               
National Rating 72
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 5-7

 

Offense: Coach Gary Andersen was a defensive genius as Utah’s defensive coordinator.  In his first year in Logan, he looked more like Urban Meyer.  If it wasn’t for a couple of key injuries, Utah State might have been looking at a winning season and bowl bid this year for the first time since 1997.

Running back Robert Turpin tore his ACL earlier this year and appears to be out for the season.  He led the Aggies with close to 1,300 rushing yards.  In his place, Michael Smith will carry the load.  Don’t expect 1,300 yards, but Smith has breakaway speed and can turn a small hole into a big gain.

Quarterback Diondre Borel ranks with Nathan Enderle as one of the WAC’s two best passers not named Moore or Kaepernick.  Borel had a splendid junior season in 2009 passing for 2,885 yards with 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions. 

The Aggies had a lot of options in the passing game, but they have been henpecked with injuries.  Turpin was a great receiver out of the backfield.  2009’s top receiver, Stanley Morrison, caught 33 passed and averaged 19 yards per catch.  He is gone for the season with a broken foot.  Then, just before practice began, wide out Eric Moats dropped a refrigerator on his foot.  He needed stitches, and as of this writing, he has yet to practice.  Junior college star Matt Austin was supposed to be a starter last year, but he missed the entire season.  He returns and will have to live up to his potential immediately.

The offensive line returns four starters, so if Borel has any talent running routes, he will have time to find them. 

Even with all the injuries, we believe USU will move the ball and score points this year, just not enough to move from middle of the pack to within shouting distance of Fresno State.  Look for 25-30 points and 400-425 yards per game.

Defense: Defense was a major problem last year, as USU gave up 34 points and 455 yards per game.  They could not stop the run or the pass.  With eight starters returning, expect some form of improvement.

The three linebackers are as good as any other WAC unit short of Boise State.  Bobby Wagner, Kyle Gallagher, and Junior Keiaho should team for more than 200 tackles.  Hopefully, not too many will be more than five yards downfield.

The defensive line returns three starters, but there is nothing special up front.  Actually, new starter Levi Koskan recorded more three more sacks than the three returning starters, who recorded ZERO SACKS!

The secondary had no chance last year with no pass rush.  Two starters return, and the two new starters saw considerable action last year.

If the Aggies can trim a touchdown off their defensive scoring average, they have a shot to emerge as the fourth bowl eligible WAC team.  Look for the defense to yield 26-31 points and 425-450 yards.

Schedule: The Aggies start the season at Oklahoma.  Assuming they have any depth left after that game, they should slaughter Idaho State.  If they are relatively healthy, game three could determine whether or not they can get over the hump and become the Idaho of 2009.  The Fresno State game in Logan is a make or break game.

Following that game, USU plays at San Diego State and then hosts BYU on Friday, October 1.  They should go 1-3 out of league play, so they will need five WAC wins to become bowl eligible.  They will have to beat either Fresno State or Louisiana Tech plus Hawaii to get there.  We believe they will come up one win short.

 

Coming Tomorrow: The Mountain West Conference—Can anybody beat TCU?  Are there six bowl eligible teams?

December 7, 2009

PiRate Ratings and Spreads For College Football–Regular Season Final

NCAA 2009 College Football Playoff Simulation

The Playoffs You Wished For 

Welcome to season number three of the NCAA College Football Playoff Simulation.  For those reading this blog for the first time, the PiRate College Football Playoffs take the champions of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC as automatic qualifiers.  Any of the remaining conference champions (including the top independent) that finish in the top 16 in the final regular season BCS Standings also qualify automatically.  At-large teams are then selected in the order of BCS finish until 12 total teams have been selected.  The 12 teams are then seeded by BCS ranking with no maximum number of teams per conference.

 

Here is how the 12 teams were selected for the 2009 playoffs.

 

Top Six Conference Champions

ACC–Georgia Tech 11-2           #9 Seed

Big East–Cincinnati 12-0                   #3 Seed

Big Ten–Ohio State 10-2         #8 Seed

Big 12—Texas 13-0                    #2 Seed

Pac-10—Oregon 10-2                #7 Seed

SEC—Alabama 13-0                             #1 Seed

 

Automatic Qualifiers By Virtue Of Top 16 In BCS

MWC—T C U 12-0                       #4 Seed

WAC—Boise State 13-0             #6 Seed

 

Top Four At-Large To Fill Out 12-Team Field

Florida 12-1                                 #5 Seed

Iowa 10-2                                    #10 Seed

Virginia Tech 10-2                     #11 Seed

L S U 9-3                                      #12 Seed

 

The PiRate Playoff System uses the top 11 bowl games to play the four rounds.  The 5th through 12th seeds must play in the first round, while the top four seeds receive byes to the quarterfinals.

Opening Round

 

Outback Bowl    #5 Florida vs. #12 L S U  Dec 17

Alamo Bowl       #6 Boise State vs. #11 Virginia Tech  Dec 18

Holiday Bowl     #7 Oregon vs. #10 Iowa  Dec 19

Gator Bowl         #8 Ohio State vs. #9 Georgia Tech  Dec 19

 

Quarterfinal Round

 

Cotton Bowl                #4 T C U vs. Outback Bowl Winner  Jan 1

Capital One Bowl       #3 Cincinnati vs. Alamo Bowl Winner  Jan 1

Rose Bowl                             #2 Texas vs. Holiday Bowl Winner  Jan 1

Sugar Bowl                  #1 Alabama vs. Gator Bowl Winner  Jan 1

 

Semifinal Round

 

Fiesta Bowl        Sugar Bowl Winner vs. Fiesta Bowl Winner Jan 9

Orange Bowl     Rose Bowl Winner vs. Capital One Bowl Winner Jan 9

 

National Championship Game

 

Fiesta Bowl Winner vs. Orange Bowl Winner  Jan 23

 

1. This system awards the four best teams with byes.

2. This system not only keeps the bowls alive, but it gives them more importance and prestige, as 11 bowls decide the title.

3. Instead of undefeated Cincinnati, TCU, and Boise State getting left out of the national championship picture, number 13 Penn State is the first team left out.  This is much more fair, as this system will always allow a 12-0 team to have a chance regardless of whether it is Alabama or Boise State.

4. The remaining bowls would not have to settle for 6-6 teams.  The rules could demand at least 7 wins as a minimum.

5. Three of the four rounds would occur during winter break for the schools, thus quashing the myth that players would miss too much time.

 

Check back on December 20 for simulated results of the first round games.

 

Final Regular Season PiRate Ratings

 

The Army-Navy game must still be played, but that game doesn’t warrant an extra week’s worth of ratings.  Neither team can break the top 25 even if they win 222-0.  The game still has bowl implications.  If Army wins, the Cadets will advance to the Eagle Bank Bowl to face Temple.  If Navy wins, then UCLA takes Army’s place in Washington, DC.

NCAA Top 25 For December 7, 2009
Rank Team PiRate Won Lost
1 Alabama 133.0 13 0
2 Texas 131.4 12 0
3 Florida 128.2 12 1
4 T C U 125.4 12 0
5 Oklahoma 124.0 7 5
6 Boise State 120.9 12 0
7 Virginia Tech 120.5 9 3
8 Oregon 119.8 10 2
9 Georgia Tech 119.4 11 2
10 Nebraska 118.8 9 4
11 Texas Tech 117.9 8 4
12 Penn State 117.7 10 2
13 Ohio State 117.6 10 2
14 Miami (Fla) 117.4 9 3
15 Stanford 116.9 8 4
16 Arkansas 115.5 7 5
17 Southern Cal 115.1 8 4
18 Cincinnati 114.9 12 0
19 Iowa 114.8 10 2
20 Arizona 114.0 8 4
21 Oklahoma State 113.9 9 3
22 Pittsburgh 113.7 9 3
23 Ole Miss 113.2 8 4
24 L  S  U 112.5 9 3
25 Oregon State 112.0 8 4
         
Note: Ratings rounded to one decimal point
even though I rank them to two decimal points

 

Atlantic Coast Conference
Atlantic Division      
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Clemson 6-2 8-5 111.7
Florida State 4-4 6-6 107.6
Boston College 5-3 8-4 107.1
Wake Forest 3-5 5-7 104.8
North Carolina State 2-6 5-7 102.7
Maryland 1-7 2-10 93.0
       
Coastal Division      
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Virginia Tech 6-2 9-3 120.5
Georgia Tech 7-1 11-2 119.4
Miami-FL 5-3 9-3 117.4
North Carolina 4-4 8-4 110.9
Duke 3-5 5-7 98.4
Virginia 2-6 3-9 94.8

 

Big East Conference
       
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Cincinnati 8-0 12-0 114.9
Pittsburgh 5-2 9-3 113.7
West Virginia 5-2 9-3 106.0
Connecticut 3-4 7-5 105.8
Rutgers 3-4 8-4 102.1
South Florida 3-4 7-5 101.8
Syracuse 1-6 4-8 93.9
Louisville 1-6 4-8 90.5

 

Big Ten
       
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Penn State 6-2 10-2 117.7
Ohio State 7-1 10-2 117.6
Iowa 6-2 10-2 114.8
Wisconsin 5-3 9-3 108.5
Michigan State 4-4 6-6 101.5
Northwestern 5-3 8-4 99.3
Purdue 4-4 5-7 99.0
Minnesota 3-5 6-6 97.9
Michigan 1-7 5-7 96.6
Illinois 2-6 3-9 96.0
Indiana 1-7 4-8 90.9

 

Big 12
North Division      
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Nebraska 6-2 9-4 118.9
Missouri 4-4 8-4 104.8
Kansas 1-7 5-7 103.9
Kansas State 4-4 6-6 99.4
Colorado 2-6 3-9 97.4
Iowa State 3-5 6-6 94.9
       
South Division      
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Texas 8-0 13-0 131.4
Oklahoma 5-3 7-5 124.0
Texas Tech 5-3 8-4 117.9
Oklahoma State 6-2 9-3 113.9
Texas A&M 3-5 6-6 103.4
Baylor 1-7 4-8 96.6

 

Conference USA
East Division      
Team Conf. Overall Rating
East Carolina 7-1 9-4 105.2
Central Florida 6-2 8-4 104.1
Southern Mississippi 5-3 7-5 100.9
Marshall 4-4 6-6 92.4
U A B 4-4 5-7 91.0
Memphis 1-7 2-10 83.4
       
West Division      
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Houston 6-2 10-3 107.4
Tulsa 3-5 5-7 91.6
U T E P 3-5 4-8 90.8
S M U 6-2 7-5 88.4
Rice 2-6 2-10 76.4
Tulane 1-7 3-9 71.1

 

Independents
       
Team   Overall Rating
Notre Dame   6-6 105.9
Navy   8-4 100.6
Army   5-6 82.0

 

Mid American Conference
East Division      
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Temple 7-1 9-3 100.7
Ohio U 7-1 9-4 94.9
Buffalo 3-5 5-7 92.4
Bowling Green 6-2 7-5 91.4
Kent St. 4-4 6-6 84.7
Akron 2-6 3-9 81.5
Miami (O) 1-7 1-11 76.3
       
West Division      
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Central Michigan 8-0 11-2 109.0
Northern Illinois 5-3 7-5 95.1
Toledo 3-5 5-7 87.1
Western Michigan 4-4 5-7 86.2
Ball State 2-6 2-10 83.0
Eastern Michigan 0-8 0-12 74.2

 

Mountain West Conference
       
Team Conf. Overall Rating
T C U 8-0 12-0 125.4
B Y U 7-1 10-2 111.1
Utah 6-2 9-3 107.7
Air Force 5-3 7-5 100.7
Wyoming 4-4 6-6 87.9
UNLV 3-5 5-7 86.8
Colo. State 0-8 3-9 86.1
S. D. State 3-5 5-7 85.2
New Mexico 1-7 1-11 77.8

 

Pac-10 Conference
       
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Oregon 8-1 10-2 119.8
Stanford 6-3 8-4 116.9
Southern Cal 5-4 8-4 115.1
Arizona 6-3 8-4 114.0
Oregon St. 6-3 8-4 112.0
California 5-4 8-4 108.6
U C L A 3-6 6-6 105.3
Arizona St. 2-7 4-8 102.1
Washington 4-5 5-7 103.6
Wash. St. 0-9 1-11 70.8

 

Southeastern Conference
East Division      
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Florida 8-0 12-1 128.2
Tennessee 4-4 7-5 110.9
South Carolina 3-5 7-5 110.9
Georgia 4-4 7-5 110.4
Kentucky 3-5 7-5 104.4
Vanderbilt 0-8 2-10 93.1
       
West Division      
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Alabama 8-0 13-0 133.0
Arkansas 3-5 7-5 115.5
Ole Miss 4-4 8-4 113.2
L S U 5-3 9-3 112.5
Auburn 3-5 7-5 107.7
Mississippi State 3-5 5-7 104.2

 

Sunbelt Conference
       
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Troy 8-0 9-3 99.0
Middle Tennessee 7-1 9-3 96.2
Louisiana-Monroe 5-3 6-6 86.8
Arkansas State 3-5 4-8 85.8
Florida Atlantic 5-3 5-7 84.6
U. of Louisiana 4-4 6-6 83.7
Florida International 3-5 3-9 80.3
North Texas 1-7 2-10 76.4
Western Kentucky 0-8 0-12 73.7

 

Western Athletic Conference
       
Team Conf. Overall Rating
Boise State 8-0 13-0 120.9
Nevada 7-1 8-4 108.6
Louisiana Tech 3-5 4-8 99.8
Fresno State 6-2 7-4 99.0
Utah State 3-5 4-8 91.9
Idaho 4-4 7-5 89.6
Hawaii 3-5 6-6 87.7
San Jose State 1-7 2-10 78.5
New Mexico State 1-7 3-10 71.0

 

Bowl Lineups

Day Date Time EST Bowl Team   Team
Sat 19-Dec 4:30 PM New Mexico Wyoming vs. Fresno State
Sat 19-Dec 8:00 PM St. Petersburg Rutgers vs. Central Florida
Sun 20-Dec 8:15 PM New Orleans Middle Tenn vs. Southern Miss
Tue 22-Dec 8:00 PM Las Vegas B  Y  U vs. Oregon State
Wed 23-Dec 8:00 PM Poinsettia Utah vs. California
Thu 24-Dec 8:00 PM Hawaii Nevada vs. S  M  U
Sat 26-Dec 1:00 PM Little Caesar’s Pizza Marshall vs. Ohio U
Sat 26-Dec 4:30 PM Meineke Car Care North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh
Sat 26-Dec 8:00 PM Emerald Southern Cal vs. Boston College
Sun 27-Dec 8:15 PM Music City Kentucky vs. Clemson
Mon 28-Dec 5:00 PM Independence Georgia vs. Texas A&M
Tue 29-Dec 4:30 PM Eagle Bank Temple vs. Army/UCLA
Tue 29-Dec 8:00 PM Champs Sports Miami-Fl vs. Wisconsin
Wed 30-Dec 4:30 PM Humanitarian Idaho vs. Bowling Green
Wed 30-Dec 8:00 PM Holiday Nebraska vs. Arizona
Thu 31-Dec 11:00 AM Armed Forces Houston vs. Air Force
Thu 31-Dec 2:00 PM Sun Stanford vs. Oklahoma
Thu 31-Dec 3:30 PM Texas Missouri vs. Navy
Thu 31-Dec 6:00 PM Insight.com Iowa State vs. Minnesota
Thu 31-Dec 7:30 PM Chick-fil-A Tennessee vs. Va. Tech
Fri 1-Jan 11:00 AM Outback Auburn vs. Northwestern
Fri 1-Jan 1:00 PM Capital One Penn State vs. L  S  U
Fri 1-Jan 1:00 PM Gator West Va. vs. Florida State
Fri 1-Jan 5:10 PM Rose Oregon vs. Ohio State
Fri 1-Jan 8:00 PM Sugar Florida vs. Cincinnati
Sat 2-Jan 12:00 PM International South Florida vs. Northern Illinois
Sat 2-Jan 2:00 PM Cotton Oklahoma St. vs. Ole Miss
Sat 2-Jan 2:00 PM Papajohns.com Connecticut vs. South Carolina
Sat 2-Jan 5:30 PM Liberty Arkansas vs. East Carolina
Sat 2-Jan 9:00 PM Alamo Texas Tech vs. Michigan St.
Mon 4-Jan 8:00 PM Fiesta Boise State vs. T C U
Tue 5-Jan 8:00 PM Orange Georgia Tech vs. Iowa
Wed 6-Jan 8:00 PM G M A C Troy vs. Central Mich.
Thu 7-Jan 8:00 PM Nat’l Championship Alabama vs. Texas

Coming This Week–What you can do to help bring about a college football playoff

August 28, 2009

2009 Western Athletic Conference Preview

2009 Western Athletic Conference Preview

A PiRate Look

In the fourth in our series of conference previews, we take a look at the Western Athletic Conference, where Boise State has dominated this loop like no other team has dominated their conference in the 21st Century.  The Broncos have never lost a home game in the WAC, and they have won six of seven conference titles.  It took a 12-0 Hawaii team in 2007 to edge them in Honolulu to prevent them from a total skunking of the league.  The 2009 WAC preview was the first conference where the staff at the PiRate Ratings had to discuss at length before issuing predictions.  The raw preseason ratings gave Utah State the third best beginning rating, but none of us believed the Aggies will finish there, even though we all agree they are very much improved this year.

Here are the preseason PiRate ratings for the league.  The ratings have been rounded to the nearest whole number even though we calculate them to two decimal places.  Thus, when you see multiple teams with the same rating, they are not actually exactly even.  To understand what the rating means, it is set so that 100 is average.  Thus, a rating of 90 means the team is 10 points weaker than the average team in the FBS.  The average of all 120 FBS teams should round to 100 if the math has been successfully calculated.

For those who have not followed the PiRate Ratings before and wonder about the home field advantage, we do not assign set in stone advantages.  These are assigned on a game-by-game basis.  For instance, if New Mexico State was to get really lucky and host Texas or Oklahoma, it would be expected that the Longhorn or Sooner fans would find a way to get to Las Cruces and make it a home game for the visiting team.  However, if that same Aggie team hosted Army a week after Army played at Air Force, then the Aggies could enjoy as much as five points in home field advantage.  The PiRates think it’s ridiculous to issue a blank home field advantage for all teams or even assign a range of set home field advantages.

   

Western Athletic Conference Preseason Ratings

     

 

Prediction *

 
    Team

PiRate

WAC

Overall

 
    Boise State

109

7-1

10-2

 
    Nevada

98

7-1

9-3

 
    Utah State

96

4-4

5-7

 
    Fresno State

95

6-2

7-5

 
    Louisiana Tech

94

5-3

7-5

 
    San Jose State

92

4-4

5-7

 
    Hawaii

86

1-7

3-10

 
    New Mexico State

78

1-7

2-10

 
    Idaho

75

1-7

1-11

 
     

 

 

 

 
    *  Predictions not based on PiRate Rating but  
    on expected changes to rating during the year  

 

Boise State: Can the Broncos run the table in the regular season yet again?  This year, we think that won’t happen for two reasons.  They have non-conference games against Oregon and Tulsa, and we think they will lose one of them.  Also, we believe Fresno State has an excellent shot to pull off the upset in conference play.  Now, we’re still picking BSU to win the conference, but we think it will be with one conference loss.

Quarterback Kellen Moore is already the second best passer in the WAC as a sophomore, and he should top 3,000 yards passing with 25-30 touchdown passes this year.  His percentage (69.4% in ’08) could drop a little because his receiving corps has less experience this season.  The running game could regress without former star Ian Johnson and with a question mark in the offensive line.

Defensively, there is a great deal of rebuilding to do in the front seven, where only two starters return.  The secondary is the strength of the team with safeties Jeron Johnson and George Iloka and cornerbacks Brandyn Thompson and Kyle Wilson leaps and bounds more talented than the next best WAC secondary.

Nevada: The Wolf Pack could play at Boise State on Black Friday with a chance to steal the conference championship.  If the game was played at Mackay Stadium, it might be a 50-50 proposition.  Nevada should have its best team this decade with most of the key elements returning to the defending top offense in the league and one of the best in the nation (509 total yards per game in ’08).

It all starts under center where quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the king of the WAC.  Last year, he rushed for 1,130 yards and passes for 2,849 yards, accounting for 39 touchdowns!  Factor out quarterback sacks, and he averaged over eight yards per rush.  He may rush less and pass more this year because Nevada returns the WAC’s top running back, a sure-handed wide receiver, and a tight end with great hands.  Add to it a strong recruiting class where one or two freshmen receivers could supply great depth.

That top running back is Vai Taua, who rushed for 1,521 yards with 15 touchdowns last year.  Taua reminds us some of Green Bay Packer Ryan Grant.  Behind Taua is a stable of able backs, so the Wolfpack should rush for 275-300 yards per game and could easily top six yards per rush again this season.

There are some new receivers this year, but they will be greatly aided by the fact that defense must try to stop or slow down the run first.  Look for Kaepernick to pass for around 250 yards per game.

The offensive line returns two excellent tackles.  Mike Gallett and Alonzo Durham both earned 2nd team All-WAC honors last year and both could make it to the first team this year.

Defensively, Nevada has liabilities, but they should be able to hold most opponents under 35 points.  With a team capable of easily topping 40 points per game, giving up 30 could be enough to challenge for the league crown.  The strength lies in the terminals as ends Kevin Basped and Dontay Moch combined for 36 tackles behind the line of scrimmage (21 ½ sacks).

The schedule may keep Nevada from a top 25 finish.  The Wolf Pack play at Notre Dame to open the season, and this game could be interesting for most of the day.  A road game at Colorado State could be the pivotal game.  Nevada can still have a decent year if they start 0-2, but they won’t challenge for the conference title after that.  A home game with a rebuilding Missouri team gives them a good shot at an upset, and the following game against UNLV should be exciting.  Unfortunately, the game with Boise State is on the field of blue, and we don’t believe Nevada is up to the task.  It looks like a second place finish and nine regular season wins.

Utah State: We double and triple-checked our statistical formula to make sure this rating was correct; it was.  The PiRate formula believes USU will be one of the five most improved teams in FBS football.  Personally, we believe they will be a better team, but not the third best in the WAC.

Gary Andersen takes over as head coach after serving as the defensive coordinator at Utah for five years.  The Aggies will shift to a no-huddle spread offense from the shotgun, and they have the talent on offense to make it go. 

Quarterback Diondre Borel isn’t as talented as the top passers in this league, but he should be able to approach 2,500 yards and 15-20 touchdowns.  A poor man’s Colin Kaepernick, Borel could approach 800 yards rushing as well.

Borel will have a boatload of average receivers at hand.  While none of them will be all-conference performers, the depth will allow Andersen to shuttle them in and keep them fresh.  Borel will need three of the receivers to step up because he has very little help in the backfield.

The offensive line will be stronger this season, and center Brennan McFadden will receive first place votes for all-WAC.  Look for the Aggies to rush for about 125 yards per game and pass for about 225.  It should give them a great shot at averaging more than 25 points per game for the first time in eight years.

The defense was really weak in 2008, and they face an added obstacle trying to improve this year.  USU games averaged 136 plays per game last year, and with the new offense, they will probably average close to 150 plays this year.  That should lead to about seven more defensive plays, so the Aggies will yield 30-35 points and 400 total yards per game again this year.

What will keep State from posting a winning record is their killer schedule.  Out of conference, they travel to Utah, Texas A&M, and BYU.  Only a home game with Southern Utah will give them a win prior to conference play.  What hurts more is that the weakest conference opponents host the Aggies, while the strongest teams come to Logan.  USU will not upset Boise State or Nevada at home, but Idaho, Hawaii, and New Mexico State cannot be counted as automatic wins.  It adds up to another losing season, but the Aggies could pull off an upset along the way.

Fresno State: The Bulldogs are almost always a tough team to beat, but they always lose to somebody they should have beaten.  That’s why FSU has always been the bridesmaid and never the bride in the WAC.  This year, Coach Pat Hill has enough talent on hand to play head-to-head at home with Boise State, but they could also lose to teams like San Jose State, Louisiana Tech, and even Utah State.

What’s keeping the Bulldogs from seriously challenging Boise State is an experienced quarterback.  Hill has stated that three different players will see playing time early in the season.  Whoever ends up as the regular will have one of the league’s top receivers as well as three other really good receivers at the other end of those passes.  Look for Seyi Ajirotutu to appear on the nation’s receiving leaders.  He could top 1,000 yards in receptions.

Three running backs who each topped 600 yards rushing return this year.  Anthony Harding, Lonyae Miller, and Ryan Matthews combined for 2,250 rushing yards and 19 scores, and they should top that mark this year.

The offensive line needs two new tackles, and with a new quarterback, that could mean a few extra sacks and interceptions. 

The Bulldog defense surrendered 31 points and 411 yards per game in 2008, and those figures are going to drop this season.  We see them coming in at 26 points and 380 yards.  The top four tacklers return from last year, as well as the top two pass defenders.  Look for middle linebacker Ben Jacobs to play for pay in two years.  He made 113 tackles and broke up five passes in 2008.  He’ll be an excellent Tampa 2 defender.

The schedule is manageable, and if the ball bounces the right way, Fresno could pull off a couple of road upsets against teams from BCS conferences.  We don’t see them winning at Illinois, but Cincinnati and Wisconsin are not impossible this year.  UC Davis provides an easy opening win, and all three quarterbacks could get some positive game experience.  The Boise State game is at Bulldog Stadium on Friday night, September 18.

Louisiana Tech: Long-time Georgia football coach Vince Dooley won more than 200 games in a quarter century in Athens.  Most of those teams moved the football by the rush.  Now, his son Derek is following in his footsteps.  Louisiana Tech may line up in the one back offense like most teams these days, but they still deliver the goods by running the ball more than 60% of the time.  Running back Daniel Porter rushed for 1,164 yards and nine touchdowns last year, and he’ll be running behind an offensive line that returns intact from last year.  He could top 1,500 yards this year.

The Bulldogs will not challenge for the WAC title this year unless the passing game improves by 50% or more.  Returning quarterback Ross Jenkins completed just 52.9% of his passes last year for only 1,155 yards and seven scores.  He needs to increase that number to 1,700 yards or more or else the offense will bog down against the WAC teams with good run defenses.  Phillip Livas is the best receiver on the team, but he will need some support.

Defensively, the Bulldogs will be tough again up front.  After allowing just 104 rushing yards per game in 2008, there’s a good chance that number will drop to double digits this season.  All four starting defensive linemen return as does three of the second team quartet.  The problem for LT is that they couldn’t stop an average passing attack last year, and unless some new secondary members become stars, the Bulldogs could give up 275 passing yards per game again this year.

The schedule begins with road games against Auburn and Navy.  The Bulldogs could start 0-2 and just as easily could start 2-0.  If they upset the Tigers and handle the Midshipmen, they should be 4-0 when they play Nevada in Reno on Friday night, October 9.  Boise State is a home game also played on a Friday night.  The only certain loss on the schedule this year is a game at LSU on November 14.  If the Bulldogs come up with any semblance of a passing game and pass defense, they could contend for the conference title.  Of course, conference titles are rather common in the Dooley family, with papa Vince and Uncle Bill owning a bundle of them.

San Jose State: Until the Spartans learn how to move the ball and score points, they will remain in the middle of the pack in the WAC.  SJSU averaged a paltry 283 total yards per game last year and less than 20 points per game.  The defense stayed on the field too long, and it collapsed late in the season.

The Spartans could only gain 87 rushing yards per game in 2008, and to make matters worse, they lost their only decent rusher.  That number should move into triple digits this year, even with a raw set of backs toting the pigskin.  All five starting offensive linemen from last year return.

Quarterback Kyle Reed could be one of the most improved quarterbacks in the league this year.  If a couple of competent receivers can be found, and if tight end Terrance Williams can continue to improve, we project that Reed could pass for more than 200 yards per game with a better TD/INT ratio this year (9/6 in ’08).  If the receivers don’t come through, then SJSU will continue to falter with an anemic offense.

The Spartan defense returns a top-flight front seven, but the back four could be suspect.  End Carl Ihenacho will compete for 1st team All-WAC honors this year after recording 18 ½ tackles behind the line with seven sacks last year.  Brother Duke Ihenacho anchors the second line of defense.  He recorded 5 ½ tackles behind the line, intercepted five passes, and broke up six others.

The secondary surrendered just 170 passing yards last year, but with three new starters, that number could inflate by 35-50 yards per game.

The schedule is the big bugaboo for the Spartans.  An opening game at Southern Cal, followed by a home game with Utah and a game up the road at Stanford could leave them at 0-3.  Fresno State, Boise State, and Louisiana Tech are also road games, so San Jose State would have to beat everybody else on their schedule to repeat the 6-6 record of last year.

Hawaii: June Jones is now two seasons removed from Hawaii, and the downslide in Honolulu will continue.  The Warriors no longer have the devastating passing game that can outscore opponents regardless of how porous the defense might be.  Now, the defense will be even weaker, while the offense is run of the mill.  It all adds up to a major drop in the standings.

The Warriors return just a pair of starters from a defense that yielded 29 points and 361 total yards per game.  Expect those numbers to climb to 35 points and 425 yards allowed.  The secondary will be torn to shreds by Moore, Kaepernick, Borel, and a few others.  Nary a player on the roster has ever started a game in the defensive backfield.

The front seven is only marginally more experienced as end John Fonoti and linebacker Brashton Satele return, but they were not major contributors last season.

The offense is pedestrian at best.  Without Jones and the great passing of Colt Brennan, Hawaii’s numbers fell from 43 to 25 points and 512 to 346 total yards per game.  Quarterback Greg Alexander returns after sharing starting duties last year.  Alexander has experience and depth in his receiving unit, so the Hawaii passing numbers should jump from about 250 to near 300 yards per game this year.

The running game needs improvement, but it’s doubtful those numbers will increase this year.  We figure Hawaii will be forced to pass more due to having to attempt to come back from deficits, and the offensive line may not be up to the task to open enough running lanes.

Another major problem this year are the special teams.  UH couldn’t keep a kicker on campus and didn’t know who would start until Scott Enos arrived late from a junior college.  A true freshman will be the punter.

The schedule is always tough when every road game travels from two to five time zones.  The road games this year find Hawaii travelling to Washington State, UNLV, Louisiana Tech, Idaho, Nevada, and San Jose State.  We believe they will go 0-6 in these games.  Navy, Wisconsin, and Central Arkansas visit Honolulu, as well as conference foes Fresno State, Boise State, Utah State, and New Mexico State.  It looks like the Warriors could be headed to double digit losses this year.

NOTE: Satele out for the season with a shoulder injury

New Mexico State: The Hal Mumme era is over in Las Cruces, and the Aggies could do no better than 4-8 during his tenure.  Enter DeWayne Walker, the former defensive coordinator at UCLA.  Walker’s Bruin defense held Southern Cal to nine points in a 2006 upset, and he coached UCLA in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl after Karl Dorrell left.

Walker made some major changes when he assumed control.  Gone is the spread passing formation replaced by a more balanced attack.  With NMSU career passing leader Chase Holbrook gone, the job will be inherited by junior college transfer Jeff Fleming.  Expect the Aggie passing attack to shrink from over 300 passing yards per game to just over 200 yards per game.  Running backs Marquell Colston, Tommy Glenn, and Ronald Opetaia will get more carries this year after combining for 683 yards last year.  They will be running behind a line with about the same experience as last year’s line, but the extra rushing attempts (and the reduction in sacks from 44 by almost half) should add up to about 100 rushing yards per game compared to an NCAA 2nd worst 55.

The defense will begin to make strides toward respectability this year.  After surrendering 34 points and 380 yards per game last year, even with massive losses on the stop side.  A fine duo at linebacker returns in Jason Scott and Nick Paden.  The front four has no returning starters, so the pass rush and defense against the run should suffer some early until Walker can “coach ‘em up.”

The schedule gives NMSU a chance to get off to a fast start, and the Aggies could gain some confidence early.  They open at home against Idaho, and that game should be a toss-up.  Next, they host Prairie View.  That will be the last game where they will be favored to win.  Road trips to Ohio State, Boise State, and Louisiana Tech should be unpleasant.

Idaho: Coach Robb Akey’s Vandals doubled their win total last year from the year before, but unfortunately that meant a 2-10 record after a 1-11 record in 2007.  Idaho has not finished over .500 since 1999, and that streak will not end this year.

Quarterback Nathan Enderle returns this year after passing for more than 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns last year.  He also tossed 17 interceptions, but he often had to run for his life due to poor pass blocking.  The pass blocking may actually be weaker this year, so expect another year of turnovers.

The running backs may take some of the heat off the passing game.  Donte Jackson and Princeton McCarty combined for 1,176 yards, and Jackson has the potential to be a 1,000 yard rusher.

The passing game could suffer due to the loss of top receiver Eddie Williams, who had more than double the receptions of anybody else on the squad.

The defense was horrible last year, giving up 43 points and 472 yards per game!  Don’t expect much improvement this year, because three of the five decent defenders from last year have graduated.  The defensive line has no pass rushing threats, and the linebacking unit took a major hit.  The secondary returns three starters, but none of them would start at most of the other WAC schools.

The schedule is a killer for this team, and if the Vandals fail to win at New Mexico State in the season opener, it’s going to be a hard road to find a win on the schedule.  A home tilt against Hawaii could be the only other winnable game this year.

Next up: A look at Conference USA. Can this conference finally supply an at-large participant in a BCS Bowl?

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.