The Pi-Rate Ratings

October 10, 2019

PiRate Ratings Special Money Line Plays

We had an upset pick at +200 a couple nights ago, but since we isolated on this one, a bunch of Sharps obviously saw the same value we did.  So, our upset pick is only going off at +195 for now.  We have three Money Line plays to show you this week, two of which are parlays.

Money Line Play #1

Temple +195 vs. Memphis

It’s true that Temple doesn’t enjoy the best home field advantage, but Memphis has a considerable road team disadvantage.  The Tigers have not been tested on the road, and their stats on both sides of the ball are not Boise State worthy at the moment.

Temple dropped a game at Buffalo, but the Owls would beat the Bulls seven times out of 10.  TU’s defense should be just strong enough to hold the Tigers under 28 points, while the Owl offense has a good chance at 30+.  Thus we have strong feelings that Temple will win this game outright.  If you can find this game anywhere at +200, then play it as a gamble.  Our ratings show this a toss-up game, so +200 is quite a bargain if you can find it.

 

Money Line Play #2

Two-game Parlay at +138

 

Eastern Michigan over Ball St.

Central Michigan over New Mexico St.

 

 

Money Line Play #3

Three-game Parlay at +155

Wake Forest over Louisville

Ohio U over Northern Illinois

Baylor over Texas Tech

 

Remember–We do not charge for our selections, and you should consider this information worth what you pay for it.  Please do not lose your mortgage payment because of something you read on this site.  We NEVER wager real money on sporting events.

August 13, 2019

2019 American Athletic Conference Football Preview

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

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

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

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

American Athletic Conference Media Poll
 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Here are our preseason PiRate Ratings.

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

 

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

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

 

Predicted Won-Loss Records

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

*

 

Memphis Picked To Win AAC Championship Game

 

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

Also Bowl Eligible

Tulane

 

Coaches That Could Move To Power 5 Conferences

Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

Josh Heupel, Central Florida

Mike Norvell, Memphis

Willie Fritz, Tulane

 

Coaches On The Hot Seat

Randy Edsall, Connecticut

Phillip Montgomery, Tulsa

 

Top Quarterbacks

D’Eriq King, Houston

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Brady White, Memphis

 

Top Offense

Central Florida

Memphis

Houston

 

Top Defense

Temple

Memphis

Cincinnati

 

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

August 15, 2018

2018 American Athletic Conference Preview

Note: The preseason ratings you see in the previews may not be the same as the ratings you see for the first game. We update every team’s rating based on player injuries, changes to the depth charts, and other factors that may change during preseason practice.

Some of our Group of 5 Conference won-loss predictions were figured before the beginning of August preseason practices. Thus, it could be that a player or players on some teams have already suffered season-ending or multiple game injuries or have left their teams, and these won-loss predictions no longer accurately reflect our ratings. We hope that by the time we preview the Power 5 conferences, we will know who is not going to be available (players and head coaches).

This American Athletic Conference believes the number one team in the nation played within its jurisdiction last year. No, Alabama did not have some type of adjunct relationship with the league. Central Florida was the lone unbeaten team in the nation in 2017. In addition, the Knights did something Alabama was unable to do–beat Auburn.
The PiRate Ratings not only said that UCF was not the top team in the nation, we believed there were four better teams last year. UCF’s running the table reminded us a lot of Penn State in 1968, when the Nittany Lions went 11-0 and beat Kansas in the Orange Bowl. So what did that Penn State team do for an encore in 1969? They merely went 11-0 again with one of the most aggressive defenses and special teams in college football history.
UCF just might run the table again this year, just like that great Penn State team.

However, they will have an extra impediment that Penn State did not have in 1969. Coach Scott Frost took his marbles and went home to alma mater Nebraska. The Knights will try to become the first team since Toledo in 1970 and 1971 to go undefeated in back-to-back seasons with different head coaches. That Toledo team actually ran the table for three consecutive years.
UCF returns a talented quarterback in McKenzie Milton, two talented running backs in Adrian Killins and Otis Anderson, and two highly-skilled receivers Dredrick Snelson and Gabriel Davis that helped team up for 530+ yards and 48+ points per game. The Knights should continue to pile up yards and points again this year, and if the defense can hold serve and put up similar numbers to last year, UCF has a chance to repeat at 13-0. The toughest roadblocks will be road games with North Carolina and Memphis and a home game with Pittsburgh. The regular season finale at South Florida could be a trap game.

Speaking of South Florida, the Bulls are not quite up to UCF’s talent level, and they undergo a slight rebuilding project this year. A splendid offensive team in 2017, USF must break in a new quarterback, a new running back or backs to replace two highly talented backs, and their leading receiver. Things are not all that rosy on the defensive side of the ball, but the Bulls had a lot of talented depth and should be okay on this side of the ball, especially with a defensive mastermind like Charlie Strong as head coach.

Temple continued to win with new coach Geoff Collins taking over for Matt Rhule last year. Collins might have a hard time topping last year’s seven wins, but the rest of the division is not ready to move up, so the Owls might have a shot at another bowl-eligible season. Temple has some stars on both sides of the ball, foremost being rush end Quincy Roche, who recorded seven sacks as a freshman. He’ll join the finest trio of linebackers in the league, and Temple should hold opponents to 21 to 24 points per game this year. If the offense can take a small move forward, Temple can contend with South Florida for second in the division.

The bottom three teams in the East Division fall far short of the top three. Cincinnati appears to be nearing the end of the Luke Fickell era. After a 4-8 season in 2017, the Bearcats look like a team that will find it hard to even equal that mark this year. Pass defense will be a major issue, and even if the pass rush improves this year, UC may take a backward turn against the run. The result should be another year where opponents average north of 30 points per game.

East Carolina and Connecticut face major rebuilding projects and should both win fewer games than a year ago. That’s not an easy task, as they both won just three times in 2017.

Memphis lost just twice in the regular season last year, but both times, it was to Central Florida. The Tigers host UCF in the middle of the season, and the game could match a pair of ranked and undefeated teams. The only reason why Memphis may not top the Knights is the breaking in of a new quarterback. David Moore can run and pass with talent, but he lacks the experience that Milton has at UCF. The Tigers should have a better defense this year with most of the key players back, but the offense is going to backtrack, and with it will go the Tigers’ conference championship hopes in 2018.

When Major Applewhite became Houston’s head coach last year, he heard an edict from the school’s president that 8-4 will get a coach fired there. Applewhite only mustered seven wins in his first year, and 8-4 may be about what to expect in year two. The question is: will 8-4 be good enough in year two? The Cougars lost too much talent on both sides of the ball to make a legitimate move forward. Every full-time starting skill position player at one set position on offense must be replaced. The one exception is D’Eriq King, who began the season as one of the leading receivers on the team and then moved to quarterback in the second half.

Navy has been to 14 bowls in the last 15 years, and with an experienced quarterback returning to run the double slot option offense, the Midshipmen will make it 15 in 16 years. Coach Ken Niumatalolo’s teams usually improve by a couple of games when his quarterback returns, so look for Navy to challenge for double-digit wins this year.

Unlike the East, the bottom three teams in the West could all contend for bowl eligibility this year. Tulane and SMU played a bowl-qualifier in the regular season’s final week last year. Tulane appeared to have the game won at the end, but an incorrect referee’s call gave the game and the Frisco Bowl bid to the Mustangs. The PiRate Ratings don’t call for it, but we believe Coach Willie Fritz will build on this near-miss and push Tulane to bowl eligibility. Expect quarterback Jonathan Banks to increase the Green Wave’s passing efficiency, especially since his starting receiving corps returns in full. While at Georgia Southern, Fritz’s offenses averaged better than 425 yards and 35 points per game, and if TU can match that amount this year, Fritz will be coaching in December.

SMU must start all over with a new coach and new offensive system. The Mustangs should be okay on offense, but their defense is still a mess, and the new offense may force it to stay on the field a tad more this year. It may take 40 points per game for the Mustangs to win six games and make a bowl game again.

Tulsa has the least chance of the three bottom-half teams to make a bowl this year, and a reduction in their athletic budget could signal some lean times in the near future. Last year, the Golden Hurricane could not move the football through the air, and it led to a sub 30 points per game output, and a year after winning 10 games, Tulsa lost 10 games.

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

American Athletic
East 1st Place Points
1. Central Florida 25 175
2. South Florida 5 140
3. Temple 0 132
4. Cincinnati 0 91
5. Connecticut 0 51
6. East Carolina 0 41
West 1st Place Points
1. Memphis 23 171
2. Houston 4 146
3. Navy 3 129
4. SMU 0 72
5. Tulane 0 68
6. Tulsa 0 44
Championship Game Winner Points
Central Florida 19
Memphis 7
South Florida 3
Houston 1

The PiRate Ratings agree almost completely with the media experts with the exception of flip-flopping Tulane and SMU

American Athletic Conference
East Division
Team AAC Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Central Florida 0-0 0-0 110.8 110.4 110.7 110.6
South Florida 0-0 0-0 96.0 99.3 96.9 97.4
Temple 0-0 0-0 95.8 95.8 96.2 95.9
Cincinnati 0-0 0-0 87.1 88.5 86.5 87.3
Connecticut 0-0 0-0 84.1 84.4 82.8 83.8
East Carolina 0-0 0-0 83.1 82.2 82.0 82.4
West Division
Team AAC Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Memphis 0-0 0-0 104.2 106.3 105.7 105.4
Houston 0-0 0-0 99.9 101.4 101.0 100.8
Navy 0-0 0-0 98.7 101.7 98.5 99.7
Tulane 0-0 0-0 94.4 94.6 94.0 94.3
SMU 0-0 0-0 95.1 93.8 94.0 94.3
Tulsa 0-0 0-0 91.8 90.3 92.3 91.5
AAC Averages 95.1 95.7 95.1 95.3

New Coaches
The biggest coaching change in all of Group of 5 football is at Central Florida, where former Oklahoma passing phenom Josh Heupel takes over for former Nebraska star Scott Frost. Heupel comes from the spread passing philosophy of Bob Stoops and Mike Leach. Heupel most recently served as offensive coordinator at Missouri, where Drew Lock routinely topped 300 yards passing. What a lot of fans might not know is that Heupel’s Missouri offense also finished in the top half of the SEC’s rushing statistics. UCF will most likely continue to average more than 40 points and 500 yards per game.

SMU welcomes former Louisiana Tech and California head coach Sonny Dykes, as he too brings the same offense to Dallas that Heupel will bring to Orlando. Dykes was a special offensive assistant at TCU last year, and the Horned Frogs averaged 33.6 points and 419 yards per game.

Predicted Won-Loss Records
Note: These predicted won-loss records are strictly mechanical based on the initial PiRate Ratings. No upsets are factored in these predictions. Additionally, our PiRate Ratings are only useful for the next week of games and cannot really be used to forecast past that point. Part of our weekly adjustment to our ratings includes a factor where depth issues or non-issues have been pre-set. In other words, a team without talented second stringers may lose ratings points as the season progresses even if they win games by the predicted margin, whereas a team with exceptional depth (like Alabama) will improve during the season and see its rating rise even if they win games by a little less than the predicted margin. What we’re saying is: don’t take these numbers with anything more than a grain of salt.

Team Conference Overall
East
Central Florida 8-0 13-0 *
South Florida 5-3 8-4
Temple 5-3 7-5
Cincinnati 2-6 3-9
East Carolina 1-7 2-10
Connecticut 0-8 1-11
West Conference Overall
Memphis 7-1 10-3
Navy 6-2 10-3
Houston 6-2 8-4
Tulsa 3-5 5-7
Tulane 3-5 4-8
SMU 2-6 3-9
* Central Florida picked to win AAC Champ. Game

Bowl Tie-ins
The American Athletic Conference has contracts to fill seven bowls with no set pecking order.

Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, TX
Bahamas Bowl in Nassau, Bahamas
Birmingham Bowl in Birmingham, AL
Cure Bowl in Orlando, FL
Frisco Bowl in Frisco, TX (The Home Soccer Stadium for FC Dallas of the MLS).
Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg, FL
Military Bowl in Annapolis, MD

Coming Tomorrow–We begin previewing the Power 5 Conferences. First up is the Big 12.

August 19, 2016

2016 American Athletic Conference Football Preview

Today, we conclude with our previews of the Group of 5 conferences and throw in the four independents to boot. The American Athletic Conference produced the Group of 5 at-large representative to the New Year’s 6 Bowls last year. Houston represented the little brothers well last year, when the Cougars bested Florida State in the Peach Bowl last year.

Houston should be right in the thick of the AAC and NY6 Bowl race this year, but we believe that another league member is talented enough to take this year’s automatic NY6 Bowl bid, and if they can pull off one upset, maybe even challenge for the #4 seed in the playoffs.

Coach Willie Taggart has his South Florida team ready to make a run toward an undefeated season this year. The Bulls must pull off the upset against Florida State, but USF gets to host the Seminoles in that game a week after FSU must face Louisville on the road.

USF returns an exceptional dual threat quarterback in Quinton Flowers. Flowers topped 1,000 yards rushing (not counting QB sacks, or if NFL statistic rules were used) last year, while averaging more than 8 yards per passing attempt. Seven of his top eight targets from last year return to give the Bulls an improved passing attack. That should allow multi-talented running back Marlon Mack to see less eight-man defensive fronts and give him a chance to improve on his 1,381 rushing yards from a year ago.

Defensively, USF 10 of their top dozen tacklers from a year ago, including potential All-American Deatrick Nichols as a cover cornerback. USF should trim about 5 points and 30-50 total yards off what the defense allowed last year, and that should give the Bulls a fighting chance to conquer that one great matador in their path to a perfect season.

Houston is still the class of the West Division. The Cougars came within an upset loss against Connecticut in November last year of possibly getting into the Playoff picture. Second year head coach Tom Herman proved to be a talented protege of his mentor Urban Meyer, as he guided the Cougars to a 13-1 season. Only a few questions on the defensive side keep us from making UH our clear-cut favorite for the NY6 Bowl, but they only trail USF by a tiny margin as the season begins. What hurts the Cougars is an opening game against Oklahoma at NRG Stadium, and we cannot see the Cougars’ defense being ready to stop the Sooners’ offense. Starting 0-1, Houston will be behind the eight-ball all season. Road games against Cincinnati, Navy, and Memphis may be more than UH can handle, so the Cougars could be a two-loss team heading into the AAC Championship Game.

Here is how the Media picked this year’s AAC race.

American Athletic Conference–East Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 South Florida 15 164 2
2 Temple 9 144 1
3 Cincinnati 6 130  
4 Connecticut 0 89  
5 East Carolina 0 55  
6 Central Florida 0 48  
         
American Athletic Conference–West Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Houston 30 180 27
2 Navy 0 128  
3 Memphis 0 124  
4 Tulsa 0 92  
5 SMU 0 65  
6 Tulane 0 41  

And, here are how our PiRates rate the teams to begin the 2016 season.

American Athletic Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
South Florida 108.3 105.7 109.5 107.8
Cincinnati 101.5 102.7 102.5 102.3
Temple 102.2 101.2 103.1 102.2
Connecticut 98.3 96.1 98.6 97.7
East Carolina 91.6 94.6 91.7 92.6
Central Florida 85.9 88.6 85.9 86.8
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Houston 110.1 108.3 111.9 110.1
Tulsa 99.7 102.2 100.4 100.8
Memphis 102.7 97.8 100.8 100.5
Navy 99.2 99.0 98.6 99.0
SMU 93.7 92.1 93.2 93.0
Tulane 82.2 86.1 82.0 83.4
         
AAC Averages 98.0 97.9 98.2 98.0

The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point.  Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.

 

Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then.  So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls.

American Athletic Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
East Division      
South Florida 8-0 12-1 * Cotton–NY6
Temple 6-2 9-3 Military
Cincinnati 4-4 6-6 Birmingham
Connecticut 3-5 4-8  
East Carolina 2-6 3-9  
Central Florida 1-7 2-10  
       
Team Conference Overall Bowl
West Division      
Houston 8-0 10-3 St. Petersburg
Navy 6-2 8-4 Armed Forces
Tulsa 5-3 8-4 Miami Beach
Memphis 4-4 7-5 Bahamas
SMU 1-7 3-9  
Tulane 0-8 3-9  
       
* South Florida to win AAC Title and automatic NY 6 Bowl Bid

Coming Later Today–A look at the four independents.

 

 

 

October 19, 2015

College Football Preview: October 20-24, 2015

Weekday Bonanza
Other than on Thanksgiving, we are not particularly fans of weekday games in football. However, this week, every weekday game presents an interesting proposition. Take a look at what will be available to you to watch.

Tuesday Night
Louisiana-Lafayette at Arkansas St.: Consider this week a sort of FInal Four in the Sun Belt Conference, as two teams with undefeated SBC records face off in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The winner is almost guaranteed a bowl bid, while the loser will have to fight to get the fourth bid from the league. Expect a lot of fireworks and a high scoring game.

Thursday Night
Temple at East Carolina: Not only is first place up for grabs in the American Athletic Conference East Division, this game serves as a New Year’s Six Bowl Eliminator for Temple. The Owls own a win at Penn State, and a win in this road game would give Temple a resume equal to Houston, Memphis, and Toledo, the three teams contending with the Owls for that big bowl bid. ECU is tough to beat at home, and the Owl defense will have to be ready to play.

Georgia Southern at Appalachian St.: This is the other “semifinal” game in the Sun Belt this week, and it is the battle of the top two teams in the league. Both teams are undefeated in SBC play and 5-1 overall, and both teams’ coaches are on the radar at big schools. This game will be a nice contrast in playing styles, and we are not sure either defense can stop the other teams’ offense.

California at UCLA: These two teams cannot afford another conference loss and remain in contention for their respective divisions in the Pac-12. UCLA lost in a trainwreck last week in the Bruins’ annual punishment at the hands of Stanford. Cal had a week off after blowing a chance to win at Utah.

Friday Night
Memphis at Tulsa: Can Memphis go on the road and win a tough game less than a week after pulling off their most important victory in over 50 years, if not ever? The Tigers sit on top of the Group of 5 poll today, and it they win out, they will be playing in the Fiesta Bowl at season’s end. There are a couple of big impediments in their way, and this game is one of them. Tulsa is looking at seven or eight wins, so you cannot discount them in this game.

Utah St. at San Diego St.: This might be a preview of the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. After destroying Boise St., the Aggies are in control of the Mountain Division race, and after blasting San Jose St., the Aztecs should cruise to the West Division title. Utah St. has the hot offense, and San Diego St. has the tough defense, so this one should be quite entertaining.

 

Don’t think that you can take Saturday off this week. There are a host of games worth watching, including these:
Clemson at Miami: The Hurricanes did everything but beat Florida State two weeks ago, and an upset in this game might save Al Golden’s job. CU has a clear path to the NCAA Playoffs if they win this game, as the remaining toughies are at home.

Auburn at Arkansas: This could be one of those Bowl Eliminator games, with the loser probably dropping to 5-7 at the end of the year.

Duke at Virginia Tech: If the Blue Devils go to Blacksburg and pull off a win, then the Duke-North Carolina game could be the deciding game for the ACC Coastal Division championship. A Tech loss might be the end of the Hokies’ bowl hopes this year and might seal Frank Beamer’s fate, bringing an announcement that he will retire at the end of this season.

Tennessee at Alabama: This rivlary game might still not be back to where it was for decades, but Tennessee had an extra week to prepare, while ‘Bama had to play at Texas A&M. There are just so many weeks that a team can get up for a big game, so this contest may be a lot closer than people expect. The Tide offense is still mostly one dimensional, but that one dimension, the running game, is close to incredible. Still, if Tennessee does not turn the ball over like A&M, the Vols could still be in contention in the fourth quarter.

Washington St. at Arizona: The Pirate has the Cougars in bowl contention. Coach Mike Leach’s Washington State team is sitting at 4-2 with enough winnable games ahead to go bowling this year. Arizona sits in the same position this week and should find its way to bowl eligibility. This one is for jockeying position with the winner having a leg up on going to a warmer locale in December.

Western Kentucky at LSU: Okay, we are not saying that the Hilltoppers will challenge for an upset in this game, but LSU has had defensive lulls in the middle of every game this year. If the Tigers have that issue in this game, WKU could score 21 to 28 points in a hurry, making Leonard Fournette play all four quarters. LSU needs a couple of breather games to rest Fournette for the upcoming game at Alabama.

Utah at USC: This game has “that look.” Utah is in position to earn a surprise playoff berth, but they have a minefield in front of their way to a possible 13-0 record. USC is struggling to even get to 6-6 after all the issues this team has dealt with this season. This is the Trojans’ first home game since the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian, and teams usually play the best they are going to play in their first home game under an interim coach. The Trojans looked good at Notre Dame, and it figures that they will be ready to give the Utes all they can handle.

 

This Week’s Ratings

PiRate Ratings
# Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
1 Baylor 130.4 127.2 131.5 129.7
2 Alabama 129.2 127.1 129.0 128.4
3 TCU 128.1 119.2 128.6 125.3
4 Ohio St. 126.7 120.9 127.4 125.0
5 Utah 125.8 120.2 125.3 123.8
6 Oklahoma 124.3 120.9 124.2 123.1
7 Stanford 123.5 122.1 123.5 123.0
8 LSU 123.0 119.7 122.9 121.9
9 Notre Dame 123.0 119.7 123.0 121.9
10 USC 120.2 116.7 120.2 119.0
11 Texas A&M 119.8 117.4 118.5 118.6
12 Clemson 117.7 118.5 118.0 118.1
13 Florida 118.8 115.8 119.0 117.9
14 Michigan 119.0 115.7 118.8 117.8
15 Tennessee 119.4 114.7 118.9 117.7
16 North Carolina 117.5 117.9 117.5 117.6
17 Ole Miss 120.3 114.3 117.9 117.5
18 UCLA 120.3 114.0 118.1 117.5
19 Georgia 119.7 112.4 118.5 116.9
20 California 117.8 112.8 117.9 116.2
21 Arkansas 118.2 112.6 117.4 116.1
22 Michigan St. 116.3 112.6 115.9 114.9
23 Florida St. 114.6 115.4 113.8 114.6
24 Arizona St. 116.1 111.1 115.2 114.1
25 Mississippi St. 114.4 110.9 114.5 113.3
26 Oregon 115.6 108.7 114.8 113.0
27 Georgia Tech 114.3 111.6 113.0 113.0
28 Oklahoma St. 113.3 111.4 113.5 112.7
29 Auburn 113.8 111.6 112.8 112.7
30 West Virginia 114.6 109.3 113.9 112.6
31 Iowa 110.6 113.2 111.5 111.8
32 Boise St. 113.0 108.8 112.8 111.5
33 Wisconsin 110.3 110.8 109.8 110.3
34 North Carolina St. 109.9 111.1 108.8 109.9
35 Nebraska 110.8 108.9 110.1 109.9
36 Arizona 111.8 106.1 110.8 109.6
37 Memphis 109.1 109.1 110.3 109.5
38 Duke 108.9 109.7 109.9 109.5
39 Virginia Tech 110.1 108.8 109.7 109.5
40 Louisville 108.6 110.9 108.6 109.4
41 Temple 108.1 110.2 108.8 109.0
42 Missouri 110.3 107.0 109.5 108.9
43 Western Kentucky 107.7 108.0 109.7 108.5
44 Miami 107.9 108.5 108.7 108.4
45 Pittsburgh 107.3 108.2 108.5 108.0
46 Houston 104.3 112.0 107.0 107.8
47 Washington 107.4 104.8 108.0 106.7
48 Texas 107.3 104.9 107.2 106.5
49 Texas Tech 109.0 100.2 108.8 106.0
50 BYU 105.7 104.9 106.6 105.7
51 Illinois 106.7 104.5 105.6 105.6
52 Toledo 104.2 105.0 105.9 105.0
53 South Carolina 106.8 103.1 104.9 104.9
54 Penn St. 104.2 105.5 104.4 104.7
55 Kentucky 105.9 102.5 105.0 104.5
56 Utah St. 104.1 104.1 104.6 104.3
57 Bowling Green 101.7 106.5 104.2 104.1
58 Cincinnati 103.7 103.7 104.7 104.0
59 Minnesota 104.1 102.6 103.2 103.3
60 Northwestern 103.0 103.2 102.4 102.9
61 Kansas St. 106.3 95.7 105.7 102.6
62 Appalachian St. 100.8 103.9 102.8 102.5
63 Colorado 104.4 99.1 102.8 102.1
64 Navy 100.3 103.4 101.1 101.6
65 Washington St. 102.7 98.4 102.0 101.0
66 Boston College 100.2 104.3 98.5 101.0
67 Western Michigan 99.7 99.8 101.1 100.2
68 San Diego St. 98.0 103.0 99.4 100.1
69 Louisiana Tech 99.8 97.8 100.0 99.2
70 Vanderbilt 101.0 95.9 100.5 99.1
71 Virginia 99.7 97.2 98.8 98.6
72 East Carolina 96.4 100.0 97.4 97.9
73 Georgia Southern 96.5 98.9 97.5 97.6
74 Rutgers 98.6 95.9 97.2 97.2
75 Purdue 97.9 97.2 96.4 97.2
76 Northern Illinois 95.1 98.5 95.9 96.5
77 Marshall 95.8 96.9 96.6 96.4
78 Indiana 96.3 96.8 95.7 96.3
79 Wake Forest 94.9 98.6 94.0 95.8
80 Middle Tennessee 95.7 94.8 95.4 95.3
81 Syracuse 93.7 96.8 92.9 94.5
82 South Florida 91.5 98.1 92.2 93.9
83 Air Force 92.4 96.0 91.5 93.3
84 Iowa St. 94.9 90.7 94.0 93.2
85 Colorado St. 93.9 92.1 92.6 92.9
86 Central Michigan 90.6 94.8 93.1 92.8
87 Maryland 94.1 91.3 93.0 92.8
88 Tulsa 90.4 95.2 91.3 92.3
89 Florida International 91.1 93.4 92.5 92.3
90 San Jose St. 91.0 94.0 90.8 91.9
91 Ohio 89.6 93.7 91.2 91.5
92 Southern Mississippi 90.1 91.3 90.4 90.6
93 Arkansas St. 89.0 89.6 90.1 89.6
94 Nevada 88.5 92.2 87.8 89.5
95 Oregon St. 91.0 87.8 89.0 89.3
96 New Mexico 88.5 89.2 87.3 88.3
97 Connecticut 85.9 91.4 86.6 88.0
98 Hawaii 87.2 89.4 87.2 87.9
99 Massachusetts 85.8 88.9 86.9 87.2
100 SMU 85.1 89.0 85.1 86.4
101 Central Florida 84.6 88.0 85.3 86.0
102 Akron 83.3 89.6 84.7 85.9
103 Tulane 85.2 87.6 83.9 85.6
104 Rice 83.9 87.8 84.4 85.4
105 UL-Lafayette 83.9 87.7 84.5 85.4
106 Kent St. 83.3 85.8 84.1 84.4
107 UNLV 82.7 85.3 83.4 83.8
108 Buffalo 80.6 87.4 82.8 83.6
109 Fresno St. 82.1 86.2 80.7 83.0
110 Florida Atlantic 81.1 84.4 81.1 82.2
111 Ball St. 81.4 83.2 81.6 82.1
112 UT-San Antonio 80.6 83.0 81.6 81.7
113 Army 77.6 87.1 79.1 81.3
114 Texas St. 79.9 83.4 79.0 80.8
115 Wyoming 80.1 82.8 79.3 80.7
116 South Alabama 75.7 82.1 77.1 78.3
117 Old Dominion 76.2 81.4 74.9 77.5
118 UL-Monroe 78.2 76.2 78.0 77.5
119 Georgia St. 76.8 76.4 77.0 76.7
120 UTEP 75.7 78.1 75.3 76.4
121 Kansas 78.1 71.4 76.1 75.2
122 Eastern Michigan 72.6 80.1 72.0 74.9
123 Troy 73.9 75.3 75.4 74.9
124 Idaho 72.0 78.5 73.6 74.7
125 Miami (O) 72.7 77.1 72.5 74.1
126 New Mexico St. 73.6 74.6 73.6 73.9
127 North Texas 72.1 77.0 71.8 73.6
128 Charlotte 69.5 72.1 69.6 70.4

 

PiRate Retrodictive
# Team
1 Ohio St.
2 Alabama
3 TCU
4 Utah
5 Baylor
6 LSU
7 Oklahoma
8 Clemson
9 Florida St.
10 Michigan St.
11 Iowa
12 Michigan
13 Stanford
14 Florida
15 Notre Dame
16 California
17 Memphis
18 Oklahoma St.
19 Toledo
20 Houston
21 Mississippi St.
22 Texas A&M
23 BYU
24 Duke
25 Pittsburgh
26 North Carolina
27 Ole Miss
28 Temple
29 UCLA
30 Navy
31 Wisconsin
32 Utah St.
33 Georgia
34 Northwestern
35 Texas Tech
36 Boise St.
37 Tennessee
38 USC
39 Western Kentucky
40 Auburn
41 Oregon
42 Miami (FL)
43 Bowling Green
44 West Virginia
45 Appalachian St.
46 Illinois
47 Penn St.
48 Texas
49 Marshall
50 Georgia Southern
51 Arizona St.
52 Arizona
53 Washington
54 East Carolina
55 Nebraska
56 Washington St.
57 Kentucky
58 Arkansas
59 Kansas St.
60 Missouri
61 North Carolina St.
62 Western Michigan
63 South Carolina
64 Louisville
65 Northern Illinois
66 Rutgers
67 Central Michigan
68 South Florida
69 Cincinnati
70 Louisiana Tech
71 San Diego St.
72 Virginia Tech
73 Georgia Tech
74 Indiana
75 Minnesota
76 Boston College
77 Iowa St.
78 Virginia
79 Ohio U
80 Arkansas St.
81 Southern Miss.
82 Syracuse
83 Air Force
84 Maryland
85 Tulsa
86 Colorado St.
87 Vanderbilt
88 Wake Forest
89 Rice
90 Middle Tennessee
91 Kent St.
92 Oregon St.
93 Colorado
94 Connecticut
95 San Jose St.
96 Akron
97 New Mexico
98 South Alabama
99 Old Dominion
100 Purdue
101 UNLV
102 Louisiana-Lafayette
103 SMU
104 Florida Int’l.
105 Ball St.
106 Army
107 Buffalo
108 Nevada
109 Idaho
110 Tulane
111 Hawaii
112 Massachusetts
113 Fresno St.
114 Idaho
115 Louisiana-Monroe
116 Kansas
117 Georgia St.
118 Wyoming
119 UT-San Antonio
120 Texas St.
121 Central Florida
122 Troy
123 Miami (O)
124 Eastern Michigan
125 UTEP
126 Charlotte
127 North Texas
128 New Mexico St.

 

American Athletic Conference
East Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Temple 3-0 6-0 108.1 110.2 108.8 109.0
Cincinnati 0-2 3-3 103.7 103.7 104.7 104.0
East Carolina 2-1 4-3 96.4 100.0 97.4 97.9
South Florida 1-1 3-3 91.5 98.1 92.2 93.9
Connecticut 1-2 3-4 85.9 91.4 86.6 88.0
Central Florida 0-3 0-7 84.6 88.0 85.3 86.0
             
West Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Memphis 2-0 6-0 109.1 109.1 110.3 109.5
Houston 3-0 6-0 104.3 112.0 107.0 107.8
Navy 2-0 4-1 100.3 103.4 101.1 101.6
Tulsa 0-2 3-3 90.4 95.2 91.3 92.3
SMU 0-2 1-5 85.1 89.0 85.1 86.4
Tulane 1-2 2-4 85.2 87.6 83.9 85.6
             
AAC Averages     95.4 99.0 96.1 96.8
             
Atlantic Coast Conference
Atlantic Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Clemson 3-0 6-0 117.7 118.5 118.0 118.1
Florida St. 4-0 6-0 114.6 115.4 113.8 114.6
North Carolina St. 0-2 4-2 109.9 111.1 108.8 109.9
Louisville 1-2 2-4 108.6 110.9 108.6 109.4
Boston College 0-4 3-4 100.2 104.3 98.5 101.0
Wake Forest 1-3 3-4 94.9 98.6 94.0 95.8
Syracuse 1-1 3-3 93.7 96.8 92.9 94.5
             
Coastal Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
North Carolina 2-0 5-1 117.5 117.9 117.5 117.6
Georgia Tech 0-4 2-5 114.3 111.6 113.0 113.0
Duke 2-0 5-1 108.9 109.7 109.9 109.5
Virginia Tech 1-2 3-4 110.1 108.8 109.7 109.5
Miami 1-1 4-2 107.9 108.5 108.7 108.4
Pittsburgh 3-0 5-1 107.3 108.2 108.5 108.0
Virginia 1-1 2-4 99.7 97.2 98.8 98.6
             
ACC Averages     107.5 108.4 107.2 107.7
             
Big 12 Conference
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Baylor 3-0 6-0 130.4 127.2 131.5 129.7
TCU 4-0 7-0 128.1 119.2 128.6 125.3
Oklahoma 2-1 5-1 124.3 120.9 124.2 123.1
Oklahoma St. 3-0 6-0 113.3 111.4 113.5 112.7
West Virginia 0-3 3-3 114.6 109.3 113.9 112.6
Texas 1-2 2-4 107.3 104.9 107.2 106.5
Texas Tech 2-2 5-2 109.0 100.2 108.8 106.0
Kansas St. 0-3 3-3 106.3 95.7 105.7 102.6
Iowa St. 1-2 2-4 94.9 90.7 94.0 93.2
Kansas 0-3 0-6 78.1 71.4 76.1 75.2
             
Big 12 Averages     110.6 105.1 110.4 108.7
             
Big Ten Conference
East Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Ohio St. 3-0 7-0 126.7 120.9 127.4 125.0
Michigan 2-1 5-2 119.0 115.7 118.8 117.8
Michigan St. 3-0 7-0 116.3 112.6 115.9 114.9
Penn St. 2-1 5-2 104.2 105.5 104.4 104.7
Rutgers 1-2 3-3 98.6 95.9 97.2 97.2
Indiana 0-3 4-3 96.3 96.8 95.7 96.3
Maryland 0-2 2-4 94.1 91.3 93.0 92.8
             
West Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Iowa 3-0 7-0 110.6 113.2 111.5 111.8
Wisconsin 2-1 5-2 110.3 110.8 109.8 110.3
Nebraska 1-2 3-4 110.8 108.9 110.1 109.9
Illinois 1-1 4-2 106.7 104.5 105.6 105.6
Minnesota 1-2 4-3 104.1 102.6 103.2 103.3
Northwestern 1-2 5-2 103.0 103.2 102.4 102.9
Purdue 0-3 1-6 97.9 97.2 96.4 97.2
             
Big Ten Averages     107.0 105.7 106.5 106.4
             
Conference USA
East Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Kentucky 4-0 6-1 107.7 108.0 109.7 108.5
Marshall 3-0 6-1 95.8 96.9 96.6 96.4
Middle Tennessee 2-1 3-4 95.7 94.8 95.4 95.3
Florida International 1-2 3-4 91.1 93.4 92.5 92.3
Florida Atlantic 1-2 1-5 81.1 84.4 81.1 82.2
Old Dominion 1-1 3-3 76.2 81.4 74.9 77.5
Charlotte 0-3 2-4 69.5 72.1 69.6 70.4
             
West Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Louisiana Tech 2-1 4-3 99.8 97.8 100.0 99.2
Southern Mississippi 2-1 4-3 90.1 91.3 90.4 90.6
Rice 2-1 3-3 83.9 87.8 84.4 85.4
UT-San Antonio 1-2 1-6 80.6 83.0 81.6 81.7
UTEP 0-2 2-4 75.7 78.1 75.3 76.4
North Texas 0-3 0-6 72.1 77.0 71.8 73.6
             
CUSA Averages     86.1 88.2 86.4 86.9
             
FBS Independents
Team   Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Notre Dame   6-1 123.0 119.7 123.0 121.9
BYU   5-2 105.7 104.9 106.6 105.7
Army   2-5 77.6 87.1 79.1 81.3
             
Independents Averages     102.1 103.9 102.9 103.0
             
Mid-American Conference
East Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Bowling Green 3-0 5-2 101.7 106.5 104.2 104.1
Ohio 2-1 5-2 89.6 93.7 91.2 91.5
Massachusetts 0-2 1-5 85.8 88.9 86.9 87.2
Akron 1-2 3-4 83.3 89.6 84.7 85.9
Kent St. 2-1 3-4 83.3 85.8 84.1 84.4
Buffalo 0-2 2-4 80.6 87.4 82.8 83.6
Miami (O) 0-3 1-6 72.7 77.1 72.5 74.1
             
West Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Toledo 3-0 6-0 104.2 105.0 105.9 105.0
Western Michigan 2-0 3-3 99.7 99.8 101.1 100.2
Northern Illinois 2-1 4-3 95.1 98.5 95.9 96.5
Central Michigan 2-1 3-4 90.6 94.8 93.1 92.8
Ball St. 1-2 2-5 81.4 83.2 81.6 82.1
Eastern Michigan 0-3 1-6 72.6 80.1 72.0 74.9
             
MAC Averages     87.7 91.6 88.9 89.4
             
Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Boise St. 2-1 5-2 113.0 108.8 112.8 111.5
Utah St. 3-0 4-2 104.1 104.1 104.6 104.3
Air Force 2-1 3-3 92.4 96.0 91.5 93.3
Colorado St. 1-2 3-4 93.9 92.1 92.6 92.9
New Mexico 2-1 4-3 88.5 89.2 87.3 88.3
Wyoming 1-2 1-6 80.1 82.8 79.3 80.7
             
West Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
San Diego St. 3-0 4-3 98.0 103.0 99.4 100.1
San Jose St. 2-2 3-4 91.0 94.0 90.8 91.9
Nevada 1-2 3-4 88.5 92.2 87.8 89.5
Hawaii 0-3 2-5 87.2 89.4 87.2 87.9
UNLV 1-2 2-5 82.7 85.3 83.4 83.8
Fresno St. 1-3 2-5 82.1 86.2 80.7 83.0
             
MWC Averages     91.8 93.6 91.5 92.3
             
Pac-12 Conference
North Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Stanford 4-0 5-1 123.5 122.1 123.5 123.0
California 2-1 5-1 117.8 112.8 117.9 116.2
Oregon 2-2 4-3 115.6 108.7 114.8 113.0
Washington 1-2 3-3 107.4 104.8 108.0 106.7
Washington St. 2-1 4-2 102.7 98.4 102.0 101.0
Oregon St. 0-3 2-4 91.0 87.8 89.0 89.3
             
South Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Utah 3-0 6-0 125.8 120.2 125.3 123.8
USC 1-2 3-3 120.2 116.7 120.2 119.0
UCLA 1-2 4-2 120.3 114.0 118.1 117.5
Arizona St. 2-2 4-3 116.1 111.1 115.2 114.1
Arizona 2-2 5-2 111.8 106.1 110.8 109.6
Colorado 0-3 3-4 104.4 99.1 102.8 102.1
             
Pac-12 Averages     113.1 108.5 112.3 111.3
             
Southeastern Conference
East Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Florida 4-1 6-1 118.8 115.8 119.0 117.9
Tennessee 1-2 3-3 119.4 114.7 118.9 117.7
Georgia 3-2 5-2 119.7 112.4 118.5 116.9
Missouri 1-3 4-3 110.3 107.0 109.5 108.9
South Carolina 1-4 3-4 106.8 103.1 104.9 104.9
Kentucky 2-2 4-2 105.9 102.5 105.0 104.5
Vanderbilt 0-3 2-4 101.0 95.9 100.5 99.1
             
West Division            
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Alabama 3-1 6-1 129.2 127.1 129.0 128.4
LSU 4-0 6-0 123.0 119.7 122.9 121.9
Texas A&M 2-1 5-1 119.8 117.4 118.5 118.6
Ole Miss 2-1 5-2 120.3 114.3 117.9 117.5
Arkansas 1-2 2-4 118.2 112.6 117.4 116.1
Mississippi St. 1-2 5-2 114.4 110.9 114.5 113.3
Auburn 1-2 4-2 113.8 111.6 112.8 112.7
             
SEC Averages     115.8 111.8 115.0 114.2
             
Sunbelt Conference
Team Conference Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Appalachian St. 2-0 5-1 100.8 103.9 102.8 102.5
Georgia Southern 3-0 5-1 96.5 98.9 97.5 97.6
Arkansas St. 2-0 3-3 89.0 89.6 90.1 89.6
UL-Lafayette 1-0 2-3 83.9 87.7 84.5 85.4
Texas St. 0-1 1-4 79.9 83.4 79.0 80.8
South Alabama 1-1 3-3 75.7 82.1 77.1 78.3
UL-Monroe 0-2 1-5 78.2 76.2 78.0 77.5
Georgia St. 1-1 2-4 76.8 76.4 77.0 76.7
Troy 0-2 1-5 73.9 75.3 75.4 74.9
Idaho 1-2 2-4 72.0 78.5 73.6 74.7
New Mexico St. 0-2 0-6 73.6 74.6 73.6 73.9
             
Sun Belt Averages     81.8 84.2 82.6 82.9

 

PiRate Ratings By Conference
# League PiRate Mean Bias Average
1 SEC 115.8 111.8 115.0 114.2
2 Pac-12 113.1 108.5 112.3 111.3
3 Big 12 110.6 105.1 110.4 108.7
4 ACC 107.5 108.4 107.2 107.7
5 Big Ten 107.0 105.7 106.5 106.4
6 Indep. 102.1 103.9 102.9 103.0
7 AAC 95.4 99.0 96.1 96.8
8 MWC 91.8 93.6 91.5 92.3
9 MAC 87.7 91.6 88.9 89.4
10 CUSA 86.1 88.2 86.4 86.9
11 SBC 81.8 84.2 82.6 82.9

 

NCAA Playoffs
1 Ohio St.
2 LSU
3 Utah
4 Clemson

 

Group of 5 Contenders For Automatic New Year’s Six Bowl Bid
# Team      
1 Memphis      
2 Houston      
3 Toledo      
4 Temple      
5 Navy

 

Power 5 Bottom 10

# Team
10 Virginia
9 Rutgers
8 Purdue
7 Indiana
6 Wake Forest
5 Syracuse
4 Iowa St.
3 Maryland
2 Oregon St.
1 Kansas

 

FCS Top 10
# Team PiRate
1 Jacksonville St. 96.8
2 Harvard 94.9
3 Coastal Carolina 91.7
4 Dartmouth 91.6
5 North Dakota St. 91.3
6 South Dakota St. 91.3
7 James Madison 90.2
8 Illinois St. 90.0
9 McNeese St. 89.4
10 Portland St. 88.9

 

This Week’s Games
         
Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Tuesday, October 20        
Arkansas St. Louisiana-Lafayette 7.6 4.4 8.1
         
Thursday, October 22        
East Carolina Temple -8.7 -7.2 -8.4
Appalachian St. Georgia Southern 6.8 7.5 7.8
UCLA California 5.5 4.2 3.2
         
Friday, October 23        
Tulsa Memphis -15.7 -10.9 -16.0
San Diego St. Utah St. -3.1 1.9 -2.2
         
Saturday, October 24        
Miami (Fla) Clemson -6.8 -7.0 -6.3
Arkansas Auburn 7.4 4.0 7.6
Wake Forest North Carolina St. -13.0 -10.5 -12.8
Syracuse Pittsburgh -10.6 -8.4 -12.6
Texas Kansas St. 4.0 12.2 4.5
Rice Army 9.3 3.7 8.3
Baylor Iowa St. 38.5 39.5 40.5
Nebraska Northwestern 10.8 8.7 10.7
Charlotte Southern Miss. -18.1 -16.7 -18.3
Central Florida Houston -17.2 -21.5 -19.2
Louisville Boston College 11.4 9.6 13.1
Navy Tulane 18.1 18.8 20.2
Kent St. Bowling Green -16.4 -18.7 -18.1
Air Force Fresno St. 13.3 12.8 13.8
Western Michigan Miami (O) 29.5 25.2 31.1
Massachusetts Toledo -15.4 -13.1 -16.0
Ball St. Central Michigan -6.7 -9.1 -9.0
Buffalo Ohio U -6.0 -3.3 -5.4
Northern Illinois Eastern Michigan 25.5 21.4 26.9
Louisiana Tech Middle Tennessee 7.1 6.0 7.6
Marshall North Texas 26.7 22.9 27.8
Oklahoma Texas Tech 18.3 23.7 18.4
Oklahoma St. Kansas 38.2 43.0 40.4
Illinois Wisconsin -0.6 -3.3 -1.2
Maryland Penn St. -7.6 -11.7 -8.9
Michigan St. Indiana 23.0 18.8 23.2
Georgia Tech Florida St. 2.7 -0.8 2.2
Virginia Tech Duke 4.2 2.1 2.8
Alabama Tennessee 12.8 15.4 13.1
North Carolina Virginia 20.8 23.7 21.7
Arizona Washington St. 12.1 10.7 11.8
Vanderbilt Missouri -7.3 -9.1 -7.0
South Florida SMU 9.4 12.1 10.1
Nevada Hawaii 5.3 6.8 4.6
Cincinnati Connecticut 20.8 15.3 21.1
Idaho Louisiana-Monroe -3.2 5.3 -1.4
Florida Int’l. Old Dominion 17.9 15.0 20.6
UTEP Florida Atlantic -2.9 -3.8 -3.3
Ole Miss Texas A&M 3.5 -0.1 2.4
LSU Western Kentucky 18.3 14.7 16.2
Texas St. South Alabama 6.7 3.8 4.4
San Jose St. New Mexico 5.5 7.8 6.5
Mississippi St. Kentucky 11.5 11.4 12.5
USC Utah -2.6 -0.5 -2.1
Rutgers Ohio St. -25.1 -22.0 -27.2
New Mexico St. Troy 2.2 1.8 0.7
Boise St. Wyoming 35.9 29.0 36.5
Oregon St. Colorado -10.4 -8.3 -10.8
Stanford Washington 19.1 20.3 18.5
         
         
FBS vs. FCS Week 8 PiRate    
BYU Wagner 51    

 

Bowl Conferences Team vs. Team
Cure AAC SBC Temple vs. Arkansas St.
New Mexico MWC CUSA San Jose St. vs. Florida Int’l.
Las Vegas Pac-12 MWC/BYU Washington St. vs. Utah St.
Camellia MAC SBC Ohio vs. South Alabama
New Orleans CUSA SBC Louisiana Tech vs. Appalachian St.
Miami Beach AAC CUSA Memphis vs. Marshall
Idaho Potato MAC MWC Akron vs. Boise St.
Boca Raton AAC MAC South Florida vs. Northern Illinois
Poinsettia MWC Army San Diego St. vs. USC *
GoDaddy MAC SBC Bowling Green vs. Georgia Southern
Bahamas CUSA MAC Western Kentucky vs. Toledo
Hawaii AAC MWC/BYU Tulsa vs. BYU
St. Petersburg AAC CUSA East Carolina vs. Southern Miss.
Sun ACC Pac-12 Pittsburgh vs. UCLA
Heart of Dallas Big 12 CUSA Texas vs. Rice
Pinstripe ACC Big Ten Duke vs. Rutgers
Independence SEC ACC Kentucky vs. Miami (Fl)
Foster Farms Big Ten Pac-12 Northwestern vs. Oregon
Military ACC AAC Virginia Tech vs. Navy
Quick Lane ACC Big Ten Boston College vs. Indiana
Armed Forces Big Ten MWC Louisiana-Lafayette * vs. Air Force
Russell Athletic ACC Big 12 Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma
Arizona CUSA MWC Middle Tennessee vs. Colorado St.
Texas Big 12 SEC Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss
Birmingham AAC SEC Cincinnati vs. Auburn
Belk ACC SEC North Carolina vs. Tennessee
Music City ACC/Big Ten SEC Louisville vs. Mississippi St.
Peach N. Y. 6 N. Y. 6 Clemson vs. Michigan St.
Cotton Playoff Playoff Baylor vs. Florida St.
Orange Playoff Playoff Ohio St. vs. Alabama
Holiday Big Ten Pac-12 Penn St. vs. Arizona St.
Ouback Big Ten SEC Michigan vs. Texas A&M
Citrus Big Ten SEC Wisconsin vs. Florida
Sugar Big 12 SEC LSU vs. TCU
Rose Big Ten Pac-12 Stanford vs. Iowa
Fiesta N. Y. 6 N. Y. 6 Utah vs. Houston
TaxSlayer ACC/Big Ten SEC Illinois vs. Georgia
Liberty Big 12 SEC West Virginia vs. Arkansas
Alamo Big 12 Pac-12 Oklahoma St. vs. California
Cactus Big 12 Pac-12 Kansas St. vs. Arizona
Nat’l Champ. Semifinal Winners Ohio St. vs. Baylor
           
* = At-large selection due to contracted conference not having an eligible team for this slot

 

August 14, 2015

2015 American Athletic Conference Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the AAC Media’s preseason predictions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

March 22, 2013

Bracketnomics 2013: NCAA Tournament: Saturday, March 23, Third Round

 2013 NCAA Tournament— Round Three Schedule For Saturday, March 23, 2013

All times Eastern Daylight

Time

Network

Region

Higher Seed

Lower Seed

 

12:15 PM

CBS

South

#4 Michigan (27-7)

#5 Virginia Commonwealth (27-8)

 

2:45 PM

CBS

Midwest

#3 Michigan St. (26-8)

#6 Memphis (31-4)

 

5:15 PM

CBS

Midwest

#1 Louisville (30-5)

#8 Colorado St. (26-8)

 

6:10 PM

TNT

West

#6 Arizona (26-7)

#14 Harvard (20-9)

 

7:10 PM

TBS

Midwest

#4 St. Louis (28-6)

#12 Oregon (27-8)

 

7:45 PM

CBS

East

#3 Marquette (24-8)

#6 Butler (27-8)

 

8:40 PM

TNT

West

#1 Gonzaga (32-2)

#9 Wichita St. (27-8)

 

9:40 PM

TBS

East

#4 Syracuse (27-9)

#12 California (21-11)

 

Team

PPG

Opp

Diff

FG%

Def FG%

Diff

Reb

Opp

Diff

TO

Opp TO

Diff

Stl

R+T

SOS

Rd  W-L

Michigan

75.2

62.9

12.3

.484

.419

6.5

35.1

32.2

2.9

9.2

12.1

2.9

6.0

7.58

56.00

60.0

V C U

77.3

64.8

12.5

.449

.444

0.5

34.8

34.8

0.0

11.8

19.9

8.1

11.8

12.08

55.72

64.7

Michigan St.

68.2

59.3

8.9

.460

.394

6.6

37.3

30.5

6.8

13.4

12.8

-0.6

8.1

7.70

59.69

53.3

Memphis

75.9

65.1

10.8

.479

.405

7.4

37.8

32.9

4.9

14.6

15.5

0.9

9.0

7.78

54.81

81.3

Louisville

73.6

58.0

15.6

.445

.388

5.7

37.5

33.9

3.6

12.7

18.7

6.0

10.7

12.94

59.42

77.8

Colorado St.

73.1

62.9

10.2

.448

.409

3.9

40.4

28.4

12.0

10.8

11.1

0.3

4.9

13.34

56.44

56.3

Arizona

73.3

63.7

9.6

.450

.415

3.5

36.2

30.3

5.9

13.1

13.8

0.7

6.9

8.12

57.27

68.8

Harvard

68.9

63.9

5.0

.482

.440

4.2

29.4

30.4

-1.0

13.5

13.8

0.3

7.4

0.84

48.79

42.9

St. Louis

68.7

58.1

10.6

.448

.412

3.6

32.8

32.5

0.3

11.5

15.2

3.7

7.5

6.24

55.73

69.2

Oregon

72.5

62.9

9.6

.451

.406

4.5

37.9

30.9

7.0

15.1

15.7

0.6

8.8

9.48

53.29

60.0

Marquette

69.0

62.7

6.3

.467

.405

6.2

35.0

30.6

4.4

13.6

12.9

-0.7

6.7

4.90

58.24

46.7

Butler

69.7

63.7

6.0

.455

.417

3.8

36.6

28.9

7.7

13.2

11.2

-2.0

5.7

6.44

56.61

70.6

Gonzaga

78.0

59.7

18.3

.503

.382

12.1

37.4

30.0

7.4

11.3

13.9

2.6

8.0

12.12

54.72

93.8

Wichita St.

69.4

60.7

8.7

.443

.400

4.3

38.4

30.0

8.4

12.8

13.2

0.4

7.5

10.38

53.84

64.7

Syracuse

71.3

60.1

11.2

.440

.377

6.3

38.7

34.6

4.1

12.6

15.5

2.9

8.9

9.36

59.30

56.3

California

67.5

64.4

3.1

.446

.396

5.0

37.2

34.0

3.2

12.5

11.1

-1.4

5.8

2.68

56.35

60.0

 

Thursday’s Pick Record: 12 – 4.

 

Game Previews

Michigan vs. Virginia Commonwealth

Michigan has a decided shooting edge in this game, and the Wolverines should win the rebound battle, but the key here will be how much they control the boards.  VCU’s pressing defense is called “Havoc” for a reason.  The Rams can get 10 steals on just about any team in this tournament, because players do not have the fundamentals mastered in this era.  If Michigan cannot win the rebounding battle by at least five and maybe as much as eight, VCU will create enough turnovers and score enough in transition to erase Michigan’s shooting advantage.  The Maize and Blue may be the best team VCU’s press has tried to upset this year, and Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. are much better than the average pair of ball-handlers.

 

Like most of Saturday’s games, this one will be an excellent game to watch, and it should be nip and tuck all the way.  We grade these teams three ways to come up with our PiRate Number.  Michigan has a slight edge in one rating, while VCU has an equally slim edge in the second rating.  VCU qualifies in four of our rating criteria categories, while Michigan qualifies in three.  However, Michigan qualifies in the all-important strength of schedule, while the Rams do not.

 

VCU fails to qualify on SOS by the thinnest of hairs, and when we compare the two teams’ SOS side-by-side, they are separated by less than a point per game.

 

PiRate Pick: Virginia Commonwealth 74  Michigan 70

 

Michigan St. vs. Memphis

This is another game where the teams match up well with enough strengths with which to exploit the other and enough liabilities that can be exploited.  MichiganState is a tad slow in transition, while Memphis is considerably quicker.  The Spartans are stronger in the paint, while their guards are better outside shooters than the Tigers’ guards.

 

We think the difference in this game will come in shot selection.  In the second half, we expect MichiganState to take the smarter shots, while Memphis throws up some ill-advised shots.  It will be the difference down the stretch as Sparty pulls away at the end.

 

PiRate Pick: Michigan State 68  Memphis 61

 

Louisville vs. Colorado St.

The Rams might have a decent shot at ousting any of the other three number one seeds, but they unfortunately draw the one number one seed that they do not match up well against.  Louisville is a much better version of New Mexico, and CSU could not handle New Mexico.

 

The Cardinals have the best defensive backcourt in the tournament, even better than VCU’s Havoc Defense.  Not only can UL steal the ball 10 times a game, they also can stop teams in the paint and on the perimeter in the halfcourt.  Coach Rick Pitino may have his best team since his 1996 Kentucky Wildcats, and “The Ville,” looks to be unstoppable at this point.

 

ColoradoState may keep it close for one or two TV timeouts, but the Cardinals will pull away and have a double-digit lead before halftime.  CSU is not the best come-from-behind team, and things will only get worse until Pitino removes his starters.

 

PiRate Pick: Louisville 77  Colorado St. 54

 

Arizona vs. Harvard

If you read our previous post, you know we selected the 6-seeded Wildcats to emerge as the surprise winner of the West Region.  We’ve been given a gift in this round, as Sean Miller’s squad almost gets a walkover to advance to the Sweet 16.

 

Harvard is the first team that failed to qualify in any of our criteria categories to advance to the Round of 32 in six seasons.  We do not expect the Crimson to put up much of a fight in this game.

 

Arizona will get about 10-12 more chances to score points in this game, and the Wildcats should match or exceed Harvard in shooting percentage.  UA’s quickness should prevent the Crimson from getting many open looks from behind the arc, which is the only area where Harvard has a chance to stay in the game.

 

PiRate Pick: Arizona 71  Harvard 52

 

St. Louis vs. Oregon

We think this will be a dandy of a game to watch.  Aside from being just plain solid, SLU is playing for their deceased head coach, Rick Majerus.  While this emotional boost of octane does not figure in our PiRate Criteria, we do keep this knowledge in the back of our heads.

 

OU has an axe to grind that equalizes the Billikens’ extra emotion.  The Ducks felt as if they were seeded about five spots lower than they deserved to be seeded.  So these factors cancel each other out.

 

Let’s look at the Criteria numbers for this game.  Oregon should end up with a better shooting percentage, and the Ducks should win the battle of the boards, but not by a large number.  The SLU players are a better ball-control team, but they won’t remind anybody of conference rival VCU.

 

Oregon has a small R+T advantage, while SLU has played a slightly more difficult schedule and has performed better away from home.  The fact that this game is in San Jose does not help the Ducks as much as it would if this were the previous round, but SLU will have been on the coast for four days and will have adjusted by the time this game tips off.

 

Both teams have exceptional depth and balance, and this game should have a fluidity that others do not.  It would not surprise us if neither team ever enjoys a lead of more than eight points.  It would also not surprise us if 40 minutes is not enough to determine the winner.

 

PiRate Pick: Oregon 72  St. Louis 70

 

Marquette vs. Butler

This game could have just as easily been Davidson versus Bucknell.  Marquette survived an advanced because Davidson panicked at the end.  Bucknell had Butler on the ropes, but the Bulldogs showed poise when it counted.  The more experienced teams emerged victorious.

 

Now, in this round, we need to closely examine the numbers, because both teams are solid with savvy.  Marquette is a slightly better shooting team than Butler, and the Golden Eagles are also a little better affecting shots by the opponent.   Butler is considerably better on the glass, while neither team is much of a ball-hawking power.  Butler will get three to five more chances to score, but Marquette will shoot a higher percentage.

 

Looking at the other criteria, Marquette compiled their stats against competition that was a little less than two points per game better than Butler’s opponents, but Butler performed much better away from Indianapolis than MU did away from Milwaukee.  This stat is the deciding factor for us, and we believe Coach Brad Stevens will have his squad a little better prepared on less than 48 hours notice.

 

PiRate Pick: Butler 59  Marquette 55

 

Gonzaga vs. Wichita St.

The number one seed and regular final season number one team almost fell to a 16-seed.  The last time the overall number one team and top seed in a region lost their first game was way back in 1981, when #1-seed DePaul lost to #9-seed St. Joseph’s (40-team tournament in 1981).

 

WichitaState looked like a Sweet 16 team in their win over Pittsburgh.  The Shockers have their best team since the great 1981 team that advanced to the Elite 8.  That team had three future NBA players in Cliff Levengston, Antoine Carr, and Xavier McDaniel.

 

Of course, this is Gonzaga’s best team, and the Bulldogs have been toughened by their narrow escape.  We do not see Coach Mark Few’s team stubbing its toe and coming out flat in this game.  GU has something to prove.

 

The Zags are a better shooting team and a better defending team in the half-court.  The two teams are fairly even on the boards, while Gonzaga enjoys a slight advantage in turnover margin.  The two teams’ strengths of schedule differ minutely, but Gonzaga enjoys a considerably better record away from Spokane than WSU has away from Wichita.

 

PiRate Pick: Gonzaga 78  Wichita State 69

 

Syracuse vs. California

The Golden Bears get a little bit of home court advantage, as Berkeley is only 45 miles north of San Jose.  Still, the ‘Cuse is clearly the better team.

 

A lot of teams have trouble with Coach Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 matchup zone the first time they face it.  We believe the Bears will shoot under 40% in this game and fail to pick up enough offensive rebounds to keep the game within reach at the end.

 

Syracuse enjoys small, but significant advantages in field goal percentage margin and rebound margin.  The difference is more significant in turnover margin, and this leads to SU enjoying an R+T rating that is worth 6 ½ more possessions.  To top it off, The Orangemen’s strength of schedule is about three points per game better than Cal’s.  This adds up to a solid win for Boeheim’s bunch.

 

PiRate Pick: Syracuse 69  California 57

 

Coming Saturday night, we will preview Sunday’s games.

March 14, 2011

2011 PiRate NCAA Basketball Tournament Preview

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 7:01 pm

1. Which teams meet the upper range criteria in every category?  That means they outscored their opponents by eight or more per game; their field goal percentage was greater than 7.5% better than their opponents; they outrebounded their opponents by five or more per game; they forced at least three more turnovers per game than they committed; and they stole the ball 7.5 or more times per game.

 

ANSWER—No teams this year meet all the perfect criteria described above.  Six teams come close to meeting the perfect criteria, but all fall short in at least one statistic.  This means there is no clear-cut favorite—only six teams that most closely resemble the great champions of the past.  Of the six, three come from power conferences.  These three are Kansas, Ohio State, and Syracuse.

 

Kansas fails to meet the turnover margin requirement, but the Jayhawks surpass all the other qualifications.  Ohio State comes up a tad bit short in field goal percentage margin, rebounding margin, and steals per game, but just misses in all three.  Syracuse misses in rebounding and turnover margin, but they Orangemen do not miss by much. 

 

2. Which teams can be immediately eliminated due to a negative R+T rating?  Which teams have an incredibly low R+T Rating (<2.0)?

 

ANSWER—Three teams can immediately be eliminated due to negative R+T Ratings.  It comes as no surprise that Alabama State and Texas-San Antonio, two teams facing off in the First Round in Dayton, have negative R+T ratings.  The third team is Michigan.  The Wolverines were outrebounded by 1.9 boards per game, and they only had a +1.4 turnover margin with just 4.7 steals per game.

 

Five other teams finished with R+T ratings less than 2.0.  This usually means one and done for these teams, unless they have outstanding FG% margins or cupcake opponents with worse criteria numbers.  Those five teams are: Penn State, Richmond, St. Peter’s, UCLA, and UCSB.

 

3. Which teams are capable of winning it all?

 

ANSWER—We separate the contenders from the pretenders by looking at the total PiRate Criteria score and then looking to see if the high criteria scoring teams receive merit on every individual statistic.

 

Last year, Duke was head and heels better than the other 64 teams.  The Blue Devils had the highest score overall, and they satisfactorily rated in every PiRate category.

 

No teams appear to be as strong this year as the Blue Devils were last year, but nine teams meet most of the minimum requirements to be considered Final Four contenders this year.

 

It should come as no surprise that the top two teams, Ohio State and Kansas, rank at the top in the Criteria.  Kansas actually has the highest score of the 68 teams, a score of 23.  The Jayhawks outscored their opposition by 17.2 points, shot 11.7% better from the field than their opponents, and outrebounded their opponents by 7.8 boards per game.  These stats are worthy of a powerhouse.  However, KU enjoyed just a 0.9 turnover margin and stole the ball 7.9 times per game, giving the Jayhawks an R+T Rating of 9.5.  We tend to look for teams with an R+T Rating in excess of 10, so KU is not a great favorite to go all the way. 

 

Ohio State’s total Criteria score is 21, good for second best.  However, the Buckeyes enjoy an R+T Rating of 13.2, which is a number we really like in a Final Four contender.  This number correlates to 13 extra scoring opportunities that their opposition does not receive.  OSU outscores their opponents by 17.3 points per game, shot 6.9% better from the field than they allows, outrebounded their opponents by 4.9 per game, had a turnover margin of +4.8, and stole the ball 7.2 times per game. 

 

San Diego State comes in third with 19 total criteria points.  BYU, Pittsburgh, and Texas come in next with 18 points; the Panthers have an R+T rating above 10.  The other three teams with PiRate Criteria scores showing themselves to be strong contenders for a Final Four berth are Syracuse, Purdue, and Duke

 

Florida, North Carolina, and UNLV are actually almost in a statistical tie with Duke, meaning those three are dark horse candidates for the Final Four.

 

Overall, this is the weakest field by far in the six tournaments where we have ranked the teams according to our criteria.  Looking back, this could be the weakest field since the tournament expanded to 64 teams. 

 

North Carolina State, Kansas, and Villanova won national titles in the past with less than stellar numbers.  We do not have all the statistics from those years, so we cannot really calculate criteria numbers for those three champions.  Could this be a season in which one team gets hot for six games and comes from out of the pack to win it all?  It could happen, but we are sticking with this mechanical system and going with its results.  Kansas, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, and Texas appear to be the best PiRate Criteria matches to past Final Four teams, and they are the quartet we officially pick to make it to Houston.  Syracuse becomes the wildcard team that could sneak into the mix.

 

Here is a look at the First Four Round One games and the 32 second round games.  The number in (parentheses) represents the PiRate Bracketnomics criteria number.

 

First Four Round

 

#16 Texas-San Antonio 19-13 (Elim) vs. #16 Alabama State 17-17 (Elim)

At first, we thought this was highly ironic, but upon further review, we consider it sort of a compliment.  These two teams both must be eliminated based on negative R+T ratings.  Of course, one of them must win this game so that they can advance to a 25-point or more loss in the next round.

 

Most of you filling out your brackets do not have to worry about these games in Dayton.  You get to turn in your choices after these games have been played.

 

UTSA has better criteria numbers after you factor out both teams’ R+T numbers. 

 

Prediction: Texas-San Antonio 64  Alabama State 55

 

 

#12 U A B 22-8 (2) vs. #12 Clemson 21-11 (1)

If you have been following the “experts” since the pairings were announced Sunday evening, then you know that these two teams do not belong in the tournament in their opinion.  It is not our mission statement to declare which teams should and should not have been included in the Big Dance, but we will tell you that Harvard and Saint Mary’s enjoyed Criteria scores several points better than these two teams, while Colorado and Virginia Tech had equal numbers to these two.

 

This game should be as close as the criteria scores show.  UAB has a one-point advantage in the criteria, but the Blazers just do not excel in any stage of the game.  Clemson’s strong point is forcing turnovers by way of steals, and that leads to a lot of cheap baskets.  Cheap baskets pay off big time in the NCAA Tournament, so we will take the Tigers in this one.

 

Prediction: Clemson 74  UAB 67

 

#11 Southern Cal 19-14 (-1) vs. #11 Virginia Commonwealth 23-11 (-1)

The winner of this game is going home two days later.  Neither team merits inclusion in the Big Dance this year. 

 

Southern Cal has no apparent weakness according to the PiRate Criteria.  In fact, they have a great resume—for an NIT team.

 

The Trojans outscore their opponents by four points per game, and they outshoot them by 3.3%.  They have a small rebounding margin of 1.2, and they have an even smaller turnover margin of 0.6.  They average six steals per game and have a R+T rating of 2.1.  On top of these modest numbers, their schedule was average.

 

VCU is much in the same boat as USC with two exceptions.  They have a negative turnover margin, but they also average 8.5 steals per game.

 

The only other difference in these teams is their records away from home.  USC won only 41% of their games, while VCU won 60%.

 

This one is quite tough to pick, but we will go with the Trojans due to their superior inside talent.  We expect USC to win the rebounding edge by at least five.

 

Prediction: Southern Cal  65  V C U  60

 

#16 UNC-Asheville 19-13 (-5) vs. #16 Arkansas-Little Rock 19-16 (-13)

Obviously, we have two teams that would not even merit NIT bids had they lost in the championship games of their conference tournaments.  UALR has one of the lowest Criteria Scores in the seven years we have been calculating this data.

 

UNC-Asheville actually has a couple of positive Criteria stats.  Their R+T is 5.5, which had it come against a more difficult schedule, would have made them worthy of becoming a possible team to watch in the Round of 64.

 

We will go with UNCA here, as schedule strength is about the same for both teams.

 

Prediction: UNC-Asheville 69  Arkansas-Little Rock 59

 

 

Second-Round Games

 

East Regional

 

#1 Ohio State 32-2 (21) vs. #16 UTSA (Elim)/Alabama State (Elim)

This game will be over quickly.  There will be no scare, not even for two TV timeouts.  The second highest Criteria score versus one of the teams with an R+T Rating of “Eliminate.”

 

The Buckeyes outscored their opponents by more than 17 points per game.  Their strength of schedule was 13 points better than UTSA and 16 points better than Alabama State. 

 

We will go under the theory that UTSA will be the opponent in this game.  Using our Criteria Rating, Ohio State figures to be 30-40 points better than UTSA.  Coach Thad Matta will definitely empty his bench early in this game, so the Buckeyes may “only win” by 25-30. 

 

Prediction: Ohio State 78  Texas-San Antonio 50

 

#8 George Mason 26-6 (8) vs. #9 Villanova 21-11 (5)

George Mason is the higher seed in this game, so if they win, it cannot really be considered an upset.

 

Villanova was on course to be a four-seed when the Wildcats were 16-5 and contending for the Big East Conference regular season title.  The Wildcats could not compete down low against the more physical teams in their league.

 

George Mason has a higher PiRate Criteria Score, but it is not an insurmountable advantage.  The key stat for this game is the R+T Rating.  For GMU, it is 6.8.  For VU, it is 4.9.  Considering that Villanova played a harder schedule, these numbers basically cancel each other out, thus making this a tossup game.

 

There are two variables to consider here.  George Mason performed much better on the road, and Villanova is banged up a bit.

 

Prediction: George Mason 66  Villanova 62

 

#5 West Virginia 20-11 (6) vs. #12 UAB (2)/Clemson (1)

We believe the Mountaineers will be facing Clemson in this game, but the prediction will hold up if they play UAB. 

 

West Virginia is not as good this season as last season, and the Mountaineers will not advance to the Final Four, or even the Elite Eight.  They are liable to be out by the end of the weekend.  However, they are strong enough to get into the Round of 32. 

 

The Mountaineers best attribute is that they put up decent numbers against one of the toughest schedules in the country.  Of the NCAA Tournament teams, only Georgetown played a tougher schedule.  They will have to limit turnovers, or else this game will be close and go down to the wire.  We believe Coach Bob Huggins will be able to keep the pace at a level he likes and not allow Clemson (or UAB) to force the Mountaineers into enough mistakes to turn the tide.

 

Prediction: West Virginia 69  Clemson 62 (Or UAB 58)

 

#4 Kentucky 25-8 (14) vs. #13 Princeton 25-6 (-2)

Princeton has pulled off the big upset in the past, and they came within a missed jumper at the buzzer of becoming the only #16 seed to beat a #1 seed.  However, that was two decades ago.  The Tigers have not been to the NCAA Tournament in seven years, and that big win over UCLA was 15 years ago. 

 

Kentucky is not the type of team that will allow Princeton’s style of play to affect their style of play.  The Wildcats should actually play better than their norm with fewer mistakes. 

 

We believe that Princeton will actually crumble under relentless man-to-man pressure and turn the ball over enough times in the opening minutes of the game to allow the Wildcats to open a quick double-digit lead.  This group of Cats tends to fiddle around a little once they get a quick double-digit lead and then play uninspired ball until the opponent makes a run.  Then, they go on the attack at the right time and put the game away.

 

Adolph Rupp had a team just like this in 1958.  They were called “The Fiddlin’ Five.”  They were also called National Champions.  We won’t go so far as to put UK into this category, but we will advance the Wildcats into the next round and then into the Sweet 16.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 72  Princeton 59

 

#6 Xavier 24-7 (8) vs. #11 Marquette 20-14 (3)

If you are looking for a tough, hard-fought game with two Midwestern teams, then tune into this game Friday evening.

 

If the Musketeers were a little more competent at forcing turnovers, they could be a dark horse candidate to advance to the Elite Eight.  XU shoots the ball well and plays well on defense when it comes to preventing a lot of easy shots.  They do well on the boards, and against a team that cannot exploit their ball-handling and ball-hawking deficiencies, they will hold their own inside.  The only other possible problem for the Musketeers is a lack of depth, but in the NCAA Tournaments, TV timeouts are longer.  It is hard to wear a team down with such long breaks every four or so minutes.

 

Marquette does not have enough depth to take advantage of Xavier’s lack of depth, so this factor will become a non-factor.  The Golden Eagles got to this tournament due to their ability to put the ball into the basket.  Marquette needs to shoot better than 46% to win, while Xavier is adept at holding teams under 45% as a rule.

 

Prediction: Xavier 71  Marquette 65

 

#3 Syracuse 26-7 (17) vs. #14 Indiana State 20-13 (-4)

Syracuse has been getting very little national exposure since their 18-0 start ended with an 8-7 finish.  The Orangemen are a team to watch in this tournament.  If not for a pedestrian 71% winning percentage away from the Carrier Dome, we would have them as one of the top four teams in this tournament.

 

Coach Jim Boeheim’s team outscores their opposition by 10.3 points per game; they outshoot them by 7.6%, and they outrebound them by 3.6 boards per game.  Their turnover margin is +1.9, and they averaged almost nine steals per game.  Their R+T Rating is 7.6, and their Strength of Schedule is somewhere between above-average and very good.  This is the Criteria Score of a team that will advance to the Sweet 16 and compete for an Elite Eight and Final Four berth.

 

Indiana State needs the return of Larry Bird to win this game.  They are too perimeter-oriented.  The Sycamores do not have the beef down low to contend in the paint, and even though Syracuse plays a 2-3 zone, teams rarely beat the Orangemen by firing up 25 long-range bombs.

 

This one smells like a blowout.

 

Prediction: Syracuse 81  Indiana State 62

 

#7 Washington 23-10 (13) vs. #10 Georgia 21-11 (2)

Washington is one of those teams that can play with anybody in this tournament—when they are playing up to their potential.  The Huskies could also exit in the first round if they play like they did the weekend they went to Oregon and Oregon State.

 

Georgia is much more consistent, but their best effort will not defeat the Huskies’ best effort.

 

Washington lacked the seasoned experience this season, and it showed when they ventured away from Seattle.  The Huskies lost to weaker opponents because they lacked the composure to win on foreign courts.  That changed when they arrived in Los Angeles for the Pac-10 Tournament.  Isaiah Thomas took over command of the team and led them to the tournament title.  This makes UW a scary and dangerous team capable of returning to the Sweet 16.

 

Georgia must really dominate the glass in this game, because we believe they will turn the ball over too many times against UW’s pressure man-to-man defense.  It is our opinion that the Bulldogs will play a little timidly at the start of this game and find themselves in a hole.

 

The Bulldogs had trouble against Alabama’s defense, and Washington is similar but with a much better offense.

 

Prediction: Washington 78  Georgia 70

 

#2 North Carolina 26-7 (15) vs. #15 Long Island 27-5 (-1)

 

Long Island is just the type of team that can forget that their opponent is a dynasty program that chews up and spits out little programs like this.

 

Teams from Brooklyn don’t intimidate easily, especially when they are led by a trio of Texans.  So, LIU will not be intimidated, but will they be talented enough to make a game of this contest?

 

That’s the rub.  They lack the defensive ability to slow down the Tar Heels, while Coach Roy Williams’ team will be able to hold the Blackbirds under their scoring average.  The big problem for LIU will be holding onto the ball, and we could see North Carolina forcing 20 turnovers in this game.  When the Tar Heels force more turnovers than they commit, they are almost unbeatable.  This game could be interesting for a short time, but it will eventually get out of hand.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 88  Long Island 70

 

West Regional

 

#1 Duke 30-4 (15) vs. #16 Hampton 24-8 (-8)

Duke has nothing to worry about here.  This will be like one of their November/December home games where they quickly put the cupcake away with a barrage of power and speed.  You know the type: a 37-point win over Princeton; a 34-point win over Miami of Ohio; a 52-point win over Colgate.

 

Hampton got to the Dance using an aggressive defense and three-point shooting barrage on offense.  Duke will not be affected by the defensive pressure, and they will cut off the open shots from the outside.  It will be a mercy killing, and it will be quick.  Look for the Blue Devils to be up by more than 15 points before the halfway point of the first half.  By the time Coach K empties the bench, the Blue Devils should be up by 25-30 points.

 

Prediction: Duke 81  Hampton 61

 

#8 Michigan 20-13 (Elim) vs. #9 Tennessee 19-14 (10)

Michigan is the highest-rated team that fails to meet our R+T Rating requirement, so the Wolverines are automatically tabbed as a first-round loser.

 

Coach Jim Beilein has been in a similar position before.  He guided a West Virginia team with not-so-flashy Criteria numbers to the Elite Eight, where they forced Louisville to come from 20 points down to rally for the victory.  That WVU team had one of the worst negative rebounding numbers of any team in Elite Eight history, but that team made few mistakes and had a nice turnover margin.

 

This Michigan team was only outrebounded by two a game, but they do not create enough extra possessions with their miniscule turnover margin of 1.4 and their average of just 4.7 steals per game.

 

Tennessee has been up and down, and the Volunteers are not going to make a repeat run to the Elite Eight this year.  However, Coach Bruce Pearl’s troops will control the boards in this game and maybe force more turnovers than they commit.  We figure that Tennessee will have 10 more opportunities to score in this game, and that is too many for the Wolverines to make up with their three-point shooting.

 

Prediction: Tennessee 74  Michigan 69

 

#5 Arizona 27-7 (3) vs. #12 Memphis 25-9 (-1)

Memphis was not going to earn an at-large bid this season had they failed to win the Conference USA Tournament.  They received an ideal first round opponent, and the Tigers actually have a fighting chance to pull off yet another classic #12-seed over #5-seed upset.

 

Arizona needs to pound the ball inside and rely on numerous offensive rebounds to win this game.  Other teams might be able to exploit Memphis’s poor ball-handling skills, but the Wildcats do not have the defensive acumen to take advantage here.

 

Memphis will try to make this an up-tempo game where they can neutralize Arizona’s height advantage inside.  It has a chance of working, but Arizona probably has too much power inside and just enough quickness to stop the Tigers’ transition game.

 

Prediction: Arizona 76  Memphis 69

 

#4 Texas 27-7 (18) vs. #13 Oakland 25-9 (3)

This has become a popular upset pick in the media.  Oakland has generated a lot of positive press, and many “experts” are calling for the upset in this game.  We are not one of them.  Not only do we believe the Longhorns will take care of Oakland with relative ease in this game, we believe Texas is a force to be reckoned with in the next two or three rounds. 

 

Let’s look at Texas’ Criteria Rating.  At 18, the ‘Horns rate as our sixth best team in the tournament.  They have a 13.5 point scoring margin, a 7.1% field goal margin, a 6.6 rebounding margin, and a 1.2 turnover margin.  Their only Achilles Heel is a low amount of steals resulting in a R+T Rating of 8.3.  Had that number been above 10, we would be selecting Coach Rick Barnes’ team for the Final Four.

 

Oakland won this year with strong rebounding and an excellent ability to force their opponents into bad shots.  Center Keith Benson is a future NBA player, but he is not enough to propel the Golden Grizzlies into the next round.

 

Prediction: Texas 77  Oakland 65

 

#6 Cincinnati 25-8 (9) vs. #11 Missouri 23-9 (10)

On paper, this looks like the best game of this round between a team with contrasting styles.

 

Cincinnati is one of the top defensive teams in the tournament.  The Bearcats are tough inside, and they have quality depth to continue playing hard in the paint. 

 

Missouri uses the “40 minutes of Hell” approach that Coach Mike Anderson learned under his mentor Nolan Richardson.  The Tigers press full court and run the fast break as often as they get the chance.  They are perimeter-oriented and can score a lot of points in a hurry.

 

When we try to decide tossup games, we look to the all-important defense and rebounding stats, since that is what wins close games in the Big Dance. 

 

Missouri is vulnerable in both of these crucial areas.  They have given up a lot of cheap baskets this year when teams solved their press.  The Tigers were outrebounded by 1.7 boards per game.

 

Cincinnati owns a +2.7 rebounding margin, and the Bearcats held onto the ball quite competently.  We believe Coach Mick Cronin’s crew will advance.

 

Prediction: Cincinnati 68  Missouri 65

 

#3 Connecticut 26-9 (9) vs. #14 Bucknell 25-8 (-4)

Ask Kansas Coach Bill Self if it is wise to underestimate Bucknell.  The Bison know how to hold onto the ball and work for intelligent shots.  Give them an opening, and they can bury you with a high field goal percentage.

 

Connecticut did the unthinkable by winning five games in five days.  Their defense does not get the merit it deserves, because Kemba Walker gets more attention for his offensive antics.  The Huskies actually held teams under 40% from the field.

 

Coach Jim Calhoun knows how to prepare a team for tournament action.  He will have UConn ready for this game, and the Huskies will not overlook the Bison.

 

Prediction: Connecticut 73  Bucknell 58

 

#7 Temple 25-7 (5) vs. #10 Penn State 19-14 (-1)

Temple’s score must be tempered by the fact that they are a wounded team coming into this tournament.  Two starters suffered injuries late in the season, and one is out for the remainder of the year, while the other may or may not be ready to play.  We must throw out Temple’s score of “5” in the PiRate Criteria, because 40% of the key players that produced that number will either not play or be greatly less effective.

 

Penn State is a lot like Southern Cal in this tournament.  The Nittany Lions have the look of a strong NIT team.  Aside from a so-so record against a strong schedule, they really have little to offer outside of one star player. 

 

We believe this Keystone State rivalry game will be close, and it could come down to the last shot.  Because the Owls are limping, we will go with the Big Ten representative.

 

Prediction: Penn State 59  Temple 56

 

#2 San Diego State 32-2 (19) vs. #15 Northern Colorado 21-10 (-6)

Most of you reading this probably cannot remember Texas Western University, but you may have scene the movie where the Miners were too quick for Kentucky and pulled off the big upset to win the 1966 National Championship.  Maybe some of you remember the Long Beach State 49ers ascension into the top 10 under Jerry Tarkanian and then Lute Olson.  Still more can remember when Tark the Shark moved to UNLV and turned the Runnin’ Rebels into a national power.

 

San Diego State is the next Western team to fit this bill.  The Aztecs are legitimate contenders to advance deep into this tournament.  They have few exploitable weaknesses, and they are the best team West of the Rockies.  Coach Steve Fisher knows how to get teams ready for tournament play, as he has three Final Fours on his resume and one National Championship.

 

SDSU’s PiRate Criteria numbers are flashy.  Their scoring margin is 13.3 points per game.  Their FG% margin is 7.1%.  They outrebound their opposition by almost seven per game, and they force 1.6 more turnovers than they commit.  Their one weak spot is a pedestrian 6.2 steals average.  If they run up against a more powerful team inside, they could have trouble getting enough extra scoring opportunities.

 

Northern Colorado will not be one of those teams that can cause trouble for the Aztecs.  The Bears are a good rebounding team, but their rebounding prowess came against a schedule that rates 10 points weaker than San Diego State’s schedule.

 

Prediction: San Diego State 73  Northern Colorado 51

 

Southwest Regional

#1 Kansas 32-2 (23) vs. #16 Boston U 21-13 (-11)

Kansas is a team on a mission.  The Jayhawks will not allow a repeat of what happened last year, and that extra incentive should be enough to send KU to Houston.

 

Kansas has the top PiRate Criteria Score this year.  They meet the basic requirements that most prior National Champions have met—scoring margin: 17.2; FG% margin: 11.7; Rebounding margin: 7.8; Turnover Margin: 0.9; Steals per game: 7.9; R+T Ratings: 9.5.

 

How do you beat this year’s KU team?  Kansas State and Texas pulled it off by matching up well inside and going head-to-head with them in the paint.

 

Boston U has the second lowest PiRate Criteria score of the 65 teams that have positive R+T Ratings.  The Terriers are way overmatched in this game, and they will have to be glad they just made it here.

 

Prediction: Kansas 90  Boston U 62

 

#8 U N L V 24-8 (15) vs. #9 Illinois 19-13 (1)

If our ratings are worth their salt, then this game should not be all that close.  UNLV may be just the third best team in the Mountain West, but the MWC was better overall this year than the Pac-10.  Third best in the MWC makes the Runnin’ Rebels one of the dozen or so teams capable of making a two weekend run.

 

Coach Lon Kruger has taken two different teams to the Elite Eight (Kansas State and Florida).  His teams play intelligently without being flashy.

 

UNLV went 24-3 against teams not named Brigham Young or San Diego State.  They are not particularly strong on the boards, and this will eventually be their downfall.  The Rebels shoot the ball brilliantly, and they alter enough opponent shots to force a lower field goal percentage.  They also take care of the ball and do not make a lot of floor mistakes.

 

Illinois is an inconsistent, underachieving team.  This can be dangerous for the prognosticator, because it is difficult if not impossible to predict which schizophrenic state will appear for each game.

 

The Illini are not particularly strong on the glass or at taking care of the ball, and that is a recipe for disaster when the opponent is as good as UNLV.  Even if Illinois comes out playing their best basketball, it may not be enough to beat UNLV playing their typical game.

 

Prediction: U N L V  72  Illinois 64

 

#5 Vanderbilt 23-10 (5) vs. #12 Richmond 26-7 (2)

Here is another game getting a lot of attention due to its upset potential.  Historically, the #12 seed produces the a lot of great upsets.

 

This game could go either way.  Both teams have exploitable weaknesses, and it just so happens that both teams’ have the assets capable of exploiting the other’s weaknesses.

 

Let’s start with Vanderbilt.  The Commodores are not particularly strong on the defensive perimeter.  Worthy opponents have been able to beat them off the drive and get a lot of open inside shots.  This weak perimeter defense has also led to frontcourt players having to help, thus leaving open holes near the basket.

 

Richmond’s offense is a modified version of the Princeton Offense.  The Spiders have the talent to get open shots inside and in the five to ten-foot range.

 

Richmond cannot rebound against more physical teams.  The Spiders make up for their rebounding liabilities by seldom throwing the ball away.

 

Vanderbilt has an excellent physical presence inside with three beefy players that can rebound the ball on offense and defense.

 

So, which team gets the edge in our PiRate Ratings?  We always look to defense in rebounding in tossup games.  Vanderbilt holds the rebounding edge, while Richmond holds the defensive edge.  It is basically a wash, so we have to look elsewhere.  While Richmond has been much better away from home, Vanderbilt’s schedule is seven points more difficult.  We’ll go with the power conference team, but not by much

 

Prediction: Vanderbilt 70  Richmond 67

 

#4 Louisville 25-9 (12) vs. #13 Morehead State 24-9 (3)

This should be an interesting game, but in the end the big brothers are going to defeat their little brothers in this battle of two Bluegrass State teams.

 

40 years ago this week, another little brother upset a big brother on their way to a surprise appearance in the Final Four (later vacated).  In 1971, Western Kentucky did not just upset Kentucky, the Hilltoppers ran the Wildcats off the floor.  Can there be a repeat two score later?  No!

 

Coach Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are vulnerable on the boards, and Morehead State has the nation’s best rebounder in the nation in Kenneth Faried.  However, the Eagles do not have enough talent or depth to keep up with Louisville.  They may emerge with a slight rebounding edge in this game, but it will not be enough to make up for all the open shots the Cardinals will get.

 

Louisville is going to run into trouble when they meet up with a team that can rebound and play credible defense.  That would be Kansas in the Sweet 16.  Until then, they have a relatively easy route to the Sweet 16.

 

Prediction: Louisville 78  Morehead State 62

 

#6 Georgetown 21-10 (8) vs. #11 Southern Cal (-1)/Va. Commonwealth (-1)

Last year, we discussed Georgetown’s vulnerabilities and the probability that they would fail to make it past the first weekend.  We expected the Hoyas to fall as a favorite in their second game, but they were a one and done team.

 

This year’s team is not much better than last year’s Hoya team, but they received a much more favorable draw.

 

Coach John Thompson III’s Hoyas once again have a rather low R+T Rating thanks to a turnover margin of -1.9 and a low amount of steals per game.  They will exit from the tournament in the next round unless there is a monumental upset in their pairing.

 

Neither USC nor VCU has the talent to take advantage of Georgetown’s deficiencies.  The three teams combined have a R+T rating below Purdue’s.

 

One additional note: The Hoyas will be a tad bit better than their Criteria Score in the tournament.  Chris Wright suffered a hand fracture in the middle of the schedule, and he is expected to be near 100% for the tournament.  You have to add maybe one point to their Criteria Score, but that is not enough to put them over the top in their second game.

 

Prediction: Georgetown 69  Southern Cal 61 (or VCU 60)

 

#3 Purdue 25-7 (16) vs. #14 St. Peter’s 20-13 (-7)

If only… Purdue fans will never know just how good their team might have been with Robbie Hummel joining JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore playing together.  This would have been the best Boilermaker team since Rick Mount led Purdue to the Championship Game against UCLA in 1969.

 

The Boilermakers no longer have that one glaring weakness that Gene Keady’s teams had and thus prevented Purdue from getting past the second round.  This team does well on the boards like most of those past Purdue teams, but they are particularly strong when it comes to forcing turnovers and taking advantage by converting steals into points.  It is the way many teams go on runs that put opponents out of commission.

 

St. Peter’s just barely avoided being immediately eliminated with a negative R+T Rating.  They squeaked by at 0.1.  It might as well be a negative number, as the Peacocks were outrebounded by 0.4 per game and had a turnover margin of -0.9 against a schedule that was four points below average and seven points weaker than the schedule Purdue faced.

 

Prediction: Purdue 73  St. Peter’s 56

 

#7 Texas A&M 24-8 (8) vs. #10 Florida State 21-10 (2)

The Big 12’s third best team has enough talent to challenge for a Sweet 16 berth.  We’ll leave the next round for another time and talk about this game.

 

The Aggies have no glaring weakness, and they have a few strengths, namely rebounding and defense (which wins games in the NCAA Tournament).  They are much like Kansas Lite.  A&M was not a team of surprises during the regular season.  They beat the teams they were supposed to beat and failed to upset the teams better than they were.  We expect the trend to continue.  They are better than the Seminoles.

 

Florida State does not take good care of the ball, and that costs them in confrontations against good opponents.  The Seminoles do not play particularly well away from Tallahassee, and they should be making a quick exit from the Dance.

 

Prediction: Texas A&M 73  Florida State 65

 

#2 Notre Dame 26-6 (11) vs. #15 Akron 23-12 (-9)

This is the best Irish team since Digger Phelps led Notre Dame in the late 1980’s.  Throw in the fact that this team has a chip on its shoulders following a first round exit last year, and the Irish have to be considered the Sweet 16 favorite in their four-team pairing this weekend.

 

The Irish finished the regular season with a scoring margin of 10.4 points per game.  Down the stretch, they went 7-2 against teams in this tournament.  The Selection Committee placed Notre Dame in a bracket that should provide a very memorable Sweet 16 contest against one of their most bitter arch-rivals.

 

Akron has a big seven-foot center, but the Zips do not rebound the ball all that well.  Zeke Marshall, the aforementioned big man, concentrates his efforts on blocking shots, and he frequently is not in position to rebound the ball.  So, the blocked shot frequently turns into a made basket off an offensive rebound.  The Zips did not fare well on the road this year, and with a considerably weaker schedule than average, this does not bode well.

 

Prediction:  Notre Dame 81  Akron 57

 

Southeast Regional

#1 Pittsburgh 27-5 (18) vs. #16 UNC-Asheville (-5)/U A L R (-13)

One of us here at the PiRate Ratings might be dating himself, but he sees a lot of the 1962 Cincinnati Bearcats in this year’s Pitt team.  The Panthers have a dominating inside power game that will pulverize any finesse team that cannot hit 10 three-pointers.  Neither UNCA nor UALR has a remote chance to make this game a close contest.

 

Pitt outscored their opposition by 13.1 points per game.  This stat looks even better when you factor in that they compiled this gaudy stat playing in a league that produced 11 NCAA Tournament teams.  The Panthers outshot their opponents by 7.6%, and they totally dominated the glass with a 10.4 rebounding advantage.  If you are thinking the way to beat them is to play a packed in zone, think again.  Ashton Gibbs can bury you from outside with his near 50% three-point accuracy, and Brad Wannamaker can still get the ball inside to one of the bruisers waiting to punish you with a thunder dunk.

 

Only a negative turnover margin prevents the Panthers from being there with Kansas as a co-favorite for winning all the marbles.

 

Pitt’s cupcake opponent will have to be happy with winning their First Four game, because they will be humiliated in this game.

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 78  UNC-Asheville 54 (or UALR 48)

 

#8 Butler 23-9 (7) vs. #9 Old Dominion 27-6 (10)

This is the second best matchup in this round, and the winner will put a scare into Pittsburgh in the next round and even have a decent shot at the upset.

 

Butler is now the hunted rather than the hunter.  The Bulldogs will not sneak up on anybody this year.  More importantly, they are not as talented as they were last year.  The Bulldogs fared much better on the road last year than this season.  However, down the stretch, Butler started to look like a team proficient enough to get past the first weekend once again.

 

Old Dominion has the talent to advance past the first weekend as well.  The Monarchs are a miniature version of Pittsburgh, the team they would face in the next round should they win this game.

 

ODU is the nation’s number one rebounding team with a +12.2 margin.  The Monarchs’ schedule was not outstanding, but it was on par with several teams from the so-called power conferences, and they finished 6-4 against teams in this tournament.  This is a better ODU team than the one that upset Notre Dame in the first round last year, and this game should be one you do not want to miss.

 

 

Prediction: Old Dominion 72  Butler 70 in overtime

 

#5 Kansas State 22-10 (9) vs. #12 Utah State 30-3 (14)

This is the one game where a number 12 seed winning would not really be all that much of an upset.  Utah State should have been a top eight seed in this tournament.  If we were conspiracy buffs, we would say that the Selection Committee searched for a team that the Aggies do not match up with all that well and placed them in this spot to verify their actions.

 

Kansas State does not take care of the ball well enough to advance very deep into this tournament, but their first game opponent cannot take advantage of that weakness.

 

Utah State has dominated their opponents by forcing them to play a patient half-court game with very little scoring in transition.  They prefer to work the ball patiently for a good shot and then force opponents to take a low-percentage shot.  Thus, the Aggies outrebound their opponents, but they do so by forcing more bad shots than by out-leaping their opponents.

 

Kansas State has the talent to force Utah State to play at a quicker tempo and force them to defend one-on-one.  Jacob Pullen is a poor man’s (and smaller) Derrick Rose.  He can break down most opponents off the dribble, and he should be able to force USU to resort to some type of combination defense to keep him from going wild.

 

What scares us most about Utah State is that they had two opportunities to show they are deserving of their lofty ranking.  They lost to BYU and to Georgetown, and they never really threatened to pull of the upset in either game.

 

This is one game where we are going to go against our own chalk.  Kansas State’s schedule was seven points tougher, and the Wildcats can exploit the Aggies’ weaknesses.

 

Prediction: Kansas State 70  Utah State 63

 

#4 Wisconsin 23-8 (7) vs. #13 Belmont 30-4 (9)

This game has become the most-picked upset special around the nation.  Belmont is being compared with Butler of last year.  The Bruins are lofty of all this attention-gathering admiration, but Wisconsin is not the Washington Generals.

 

Belmont has the highest scoring margin in the nation at 18.4 points per game.  The Bruins outshot their opposition by 5.7% per game, and they took a lot of three-point attempts.  They outrebounded their opponents by 3.9, and they had an eye-popping 5.3 turnover margin.  They share the top steals per game average in this tournament with Missouri at 9.7, and their R+T Rating is the best in the tournament at 16.2 (three better than number two Ohio State).

 

Of course, these statistics were compiled against inferior competition.  Belmont’s schedule strength is nine points below the national average and a dozen below their first round opponent.  Against the opponents that made it to this tournament, they were 1-3.  They beat Alabama State by 13.  The three losses were on the road to in-state rivals Tennessee (twice) and Vanderbilt, but they led in the second half of those games.

 

The last time Belmont was in the Big Dance, the Bruins came within a missed last shot of sending Duke home.   

 

Wisconsin was not expected to be this good in 2011.  This was supposed to be a minor rebuilding season for the Badgers.  The Badgers usually run Coach Bo Ryan’s Swing Offense with great efficiency, rarely turning the ball over.  They outscored their opponents by 9.9 points per game, and they outshot they outrebounded them by 3.8 boards per game. 

 

The Badgers have been a hot and cold team this year.  When they have been hot, they have been nearly unbeatable, because Ryan’s teams always limit possessions.  When they have been cold, they have been easily beatable, because Ryan’s teams always limit possessions.  They finished the season as cold as ice, so the Badgers must be considered a slight underdog in this game.

 

Prediction: Belmont 74  Wisconsin 70

 

#6 St. John’s 21-11 (9) vs. #11 Gonzaga 24-9 (13)

Here is a game where we believe the seedings should be switched.  Gonzaga has been here enough times to be considered a regular in the NCAA Tournament, like Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, and Connecticut.  This makes a baker’s dozen consecutive appearances in the Big Dance for the Bulldogs. 

 

In past years, Gonzaga had a big scorer that could take over games.  Adam Morrison comes to mind.  This year, the Zags are more difficult to prepare for, because they are more team-oriented.  There is not a big star on the roster, but all five starters are capable of taking the team on his shoulders with a hot night.

 

In their nine-game winning streak to close the season, Gonzaga eliminated Saint Mary’s from the Dance party with two victories.  The Bulldogs scoring margin in those nine games was 76-58.  This is a good team playing its best ball of the year, and we expect Coach Mark Few to win yet another NCAA Tournament game.

 

St. John’s comes into the tournament minus one of its stars.  Starting forward D. J. Kennedy went down for the season with a knee injury in the Big East Tournament, and the Red Storm is now suspect in the paint.  Their Criteria Score of nine should be discounted by two to three points.  It is enough to take this contest from tossup status to near-comfortable status for Gonzaga.

 

Prediction: Gonzaga 74  St. John’s 66

 

#3 Brigham Young 30-4 (18) vs. #14 Wofford 21-12 (-1)

So, you didn’t get a chance to see Pete Maravich play at LSU in 1968, 1969, or 1970, eh?  We must admit that nobody will ever be the collegiate equal for Maravich, but Jimmer Fredette may be the closest thing to him.

 

Throw out the floppy socks and floppy Beatles haircut and throw out some of the most unbelievable passes in the history of the game (so unbelievable that Maravich’s teammates frequently could not see them coming), and Fredette is not that far behind Maravich.

 

The sports nation will be turning its eyes to this game just to see if Fredette can make a run at a single game scoring mark.  If we remember correctly, Notre Dame’s Austin Carr set the mark back in 1970 with 61 points against Ohio U in a regional qualifier game.

 

BYU may have been a strong Final Four contender had Brandon Davies not loved his girlfriend so much.  The Cougars averaged 8.7 fewer points per game once Davies was suspended. 

 

Wofford will not be able to take much advantage of Davies’ absence.  The Terriers fared well in all PiRate Criteria categories, but they did not meet even the minimum “numbers to look for” in any category, and their schedule strength was five points below the norm. 

 

Prediction: Brigham Young 75  Wofford 63

 

#7 U C L A 22-10 (-3) vs. #10 Michigan State 19-14 (1)

If only this were a few years ago.  Neither of these historically dominating teams is going to make waves in this year’s tournament, and the winner will be around for just one more game.

 

UCLA would be a national title contender if Kevin Love had stuck around for four years.  Imagine Love as a senior on this team.  Can you say Bill Walton-like numbers?  Alas, the Bruins must get by with a couple of well above-average forwards instead of the best three-man tandem in the nation.

 

The Bruins have the worst turnover margin of any team in this tournament.  At -3.4, UCLA would need to dominate on the boards, and while they usually win that battle, it is anything but dominating.

 

Michigan State’s one asset year in and year out under Coach Tom Izzo has been their rebounding acumen.  For most teams, a +4.3 edge on the boards would be considered outstanding, but in East Lansing, this is considered a down year. 

 

Neither team has done all that well away from their home court this season, and there really is only one stat where one team stands out ahead of the other.  MSU’s schedule was four points tougher than UCLA’s schedule.  That’s our spread for this game.  

 

Prediction: Michigan State 64  UCLA 60

 

#2 Florida 26-7 (15) vs. #15 UC-Santa Barbara 18-13 (-10)

The Gators looked like a potential Final Four team in the last month, at least when they were not playing Kentucky.  UCSB is not Kentucky. 

 

Florida tends to commit too many floor mistakes to win four games in this year’s tournament.  They have enough talent to get through the first weekend, but we do not see the Gators extending their stay after that.

 

UCSB upset Long Beach State to get here, and the Gauchos are one of the weakest teams in the tournament according to our Criteria Score.  With negative rebounding and turnover margins, they just barely escape automatic elimination with a R+T rating of 0.3. 

 

Prediction: Florida 76  U C S B  54

 

 

 

Our Bracket

 

You have seen the 32 teams that we believe will win the second round games.  Here is how we fill out the rest of our bracket.

 

Third Round Winners

Ohio State over George Mason

Kentucky over West Virginia

Syracuse over Xavier

North Carolina over Washington

Duke over Tennessee

Texas over Arizona

Connecticut over Cincinnati

San Diego State over Penn State

Kansas over UNLV

Louisville over Vanderbilt

Purdue over Georgetown

Notre Dame over Texas A&M

Pittsburgh over Old Dominion

Kansas State over Belmont

Gonzaga over Brigham Young

Florida over Michigan State

 

Sweet 16 Winners

Ohio State over Kentucky

Syracuse over North Carolina

Texas over Duke

San Diego State over Connecticut

Kansas over Louisville

Purdue over Notre Dame

Pittsburgh over Kansas State

Florida over Gonzaga

 

Elite 8 Winners

Ohio State over Syracuse

Texas over San Diego State

Kansas over Purdue

Pittsburgh over Florida

 

Semifinal Winners

Ohio State over Texas

Kansas over Pittsburgh

 

National Championship

Kansas over Ohio State

August 13, 2010

2010 Conference USA Preview

Go To: www.piratings.webs.com , where we “beat the spread” 60.4% in 2009!

 

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.  Many hours of research go into our weekly selections against the spread.

 

2010 Conference USA Preview

28.8 points per game—that is the average score put up by members of Conference USA in conference games last year.  These teams averaged 417 yards of offense per game.  If wide open offenses and 150 scrimmage plays per game are up your alley, you have found the conference to follow.

The most outstanding of these offenses belongs to the Houston Cougars.  This is the third time in the school’s history that Houston has been so dominating on offense.  In the late 1960’s, it was the veer offense.  The Cougars were the last team to reach 100 points in a game when they did so against Tulsa in 1968.  In the late 1980’s, it was the run and shoot offense.  Houston came within five points of repeating the triple digit score when they hung 95 on SMU.  Now, with Case Keenum running a four wide receiver spread offense, could the Cougars possibly be primed to challenge the triple digit mark again?  Two opportunities present them with a great chance in the month of September.  It will be fun to watch—unless you are a fan of one of the two teams that could see it happen. 

C U S A Predictions
Pos Team Conf Overall
C U S A  EAST
1 Southern Mississippi 6-2 9-4
2 Central Florida 6-2 8-4
3 U A B 4-4 6-6
4 Marshall 4-4 6-6
5 East Carolina 2-6 2-10
6 Memphis 0-8 0-12
       
Pos Team Conf Overall
C U S A  WEST
1 Houston 7-1 10-3
2 S M U 6-2 7-5
3 Tulsa 6-2 8-4
4 U T E P 4-4 7-5
5 Rice 4-4 4-8
6 Tulane 0-8 2-10

 

CUSA Championship Game: Houston over Southern Mississippi

 

Liberty Bowl—Houston

Hawaii Bowl—Southern Mississippi

Armed Forces Bowl—S M U

St. Petersburg Bowl—Central Florida

New Orleans Bowl—U T E P

Eagle Bank Bowl–Tulsa

 

Team By Team Breakdown

CUSA East

 

Team East Carolina Pirates
               
Head Coach Ruffin McNeill
               
Colors Purple and Gold
               
City Greenville, NC
               
2009 Record              
Conference 7-1
Overall 9-5
               
PiRate Rating 89.6
               
National Rating 89
               
2010 Prediction  
Conference 2-6
Overall 2-10

 

Offense: Things will be much more exciting in Greenville this season when the Pirates have the ball.  New coach Ruffin McNeill brings the Texas Tech “Air Raid” offense with him from Lubbock.  He also brings former TTU receivers coach Lincoln Riley as his offensive coordinator (youngest coordinator in FBS by three years!)

Gone is the ball-control offense that wasn’t flashy but was effective enough to win back-to-back CUSA titles for former coach Skip Holtz.  ECU will throw the ball more than 40 times a game (maybe over 50).  There is a minor battle going on to decide which of four quarterbacks will start against Tulsa in game one.  It appears that former Boston College QB Dominique Davis will get the nod over Brad Wornick and Rio Johnson, but it would not surprise us if eventually true freshman Shane Carden emerges as the full-time starter. 

The receiving corps returns two key players who could both approach 100 receptions this season. Dwayne Harris and Darryl Feeney teamed for 131 receptions in 2009.  Harris is more of the possession receiver, while Feeney is the breakaway threat.

ECU has had some off the field issues with multiple running backs, and this year’s starter by default has not been immune to that.  Jonathan Williams will get one last chance to live up to his high recruit status, but he only averaged 2.7 yards per carry last year.  The Pirates will run the ball 20-25 times with several draw plays.

The offensive line returns three starters, but the two that graduated were both All-CUSA performers.  Throw in the fact that they must learn an entirely new blocking scheme, and you can expect sacks to possibly triple from the 14 of last year.

We believe the new passing offense will produce a lot of yards through the air, while sacks and weaker blocking will haunt the running game.  Look for about 75 yards rushing and 300-325 passing yards, but only about 24-28 points per game.

Defense: We’re talking trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for players, as in nine lost starting players from 2009.  To make matters worse, not a single player in the front seven returns this year to a defense that will be on the field for at least 5-10 more plays this year.

The only experience is in the secondary, where both cornerbacks, Emanuel Davis and Travis Simmons, combined for 121 tackles.  Davis intercepted two passes and knocked away a dozen.  They benefitted from one of the best pass rushes in the league, and they won’t be so fortunate this year.  Even with the experience and talent, expect enemy quarterbacks to find the going easier against the Pirate secondary.

Worse than the lack of a returning starter up front is the possibility that as many as three of the four starters in the trenches could be freshmen or sophomores.  Senior Dustin Lineback should emerge as the star of the linebacking unit, but he only recorded 29 tackles last year.

When you factor into the equation that the new offense will struggle at times and force the defense back on the field much more than last year, it looks like this will be a long year for ECU.  Look for the Pirates to give up 30-35 points and 400+ yards per game.

Schedule: Out of conference games at Virginia Tech and North Carolina are sure losses.  Home games with North Carolina State and Navy also look like losses.  The Pirates get Memphis at home, and that is the only sure win.  We figure they will pick up one more along the way.  2-10 would be a big disappointment, but ECU will take a lot of lumps in transitioning to the new offense.

 

Team Marshall Thundering Herd
               
Head Coach Doc Holliday
               
Colors Green and White
               
City Huntington, WV
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 7-6
               
PiRate Rating 88.7
               
National Rating 91
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 6-6

 

Offense: Here is another school with a new coach.  Marshall gave the Okay to Doc Holliday to corral the Thundering Herd talent into winners at the CUSA gunfight.  He has enough talent to succeed in year one.  

Holliday has worked for Urban Meyer, so you can expect some form of the spread offense.  The first order of business is to identify who will be piloting the new scheme.  Willy Korn was a high school phenom when he signed with Clemson.  Things didn’t pan out there, and he transferred to Marshall where it was expected he would beat out 2009 incumbent Brian Anderson.  However, our spies in Huntington tell us that Anderson is going to keep his job as starter.  Korn may not even be the number two, because hot shot freshman Eddie Sullivan has a really big arm and fast shoes.  This position is in very good hands.

Anderson will have a quartet of fine receivers to throw to this year.  2009 leader Antavious Wilson caught 60 passes for 724 yards last year.  Aaron Dobson is the speedster of the group.  He won’t catch 60 passes, but the 30-40 he does grab should average more than 15 yards per reception and produce double-digit touchdowns.  Tight end Lee Smith is the hands down best at his position in the conference.

The offensive line is better blocking for the run than pass, but we believe they will pick up the new scheme quickly.  All five projected starters are experienced upperclassmen. 

The formerly strong running game is the one concern on this side of the ball.  The Herd lost a 1,000-yard rusher last year, and 2010 figures to be a season where the leading runner could gain less than 800 yards.  If Korn sees action, he could be used as the running alternative to Anderson.

We believe Marshall’s offensive numbers will increase minimally this year.  Look for 24-26 points and 350-375 total yards.

Defense:  Former Marshall coach Mark Snyder was supposed to be a defensive wizard, after he molded some great defenses at Ohio State.  The Buckeye defenses actually improved under Jim Heacock after Snyder left.  His Herd defenses were mediocre, and that cost him his job. 

This year, the pieces are in place for another mediocre showing.  Marshall will fare well against most opponents’ running games, but they will suffer against the slate of excellent opposing quarterbacks they will face this season.  The secondary is a big concern following the loss of its top two stars.  Free safety Omar Brown and cornerback Ahmed Shakoor return, but there is not much experience or depth in this unit.

The defensive line also returns half of its starting contingent, but there is more depth up front than in the back line.  End Vinny Curry could make 1st Team All-CUSA this year after he registered 8 ½ stops behind the line last year.

The middle trio is the strength on this side of the ball.  Linebackers Kellen Harris and Mario Harvey are both excellent run-stoppers.  They will be called on to contribute more in pass coverage this year to hide the liabilities behind them.

The new offense may force the defense to play a couple more plays per game, and we believe Marshall will give up a couple more points and yards per game this season.  Look for 25-28 points and 375-400 yards allowed.

Schedule: Marshall opens the season at the Giant Horseshoe in Columbus against Ohio State, and then the home-opener the following week is against West Virginia.  The Herd will be 0-2 when they go to Bowling Green in week three.  That will be a must-win game if Marshall is to earn six wins again this season.  They host Ohio U the following week before beginning conference play.  Their first two games in the league come against the top two teams in their division—Southern Mississippi and Central Florida.  They could be 1-5 by then and figure to be 2-4.  Home games with UTEP, Memphis, and Tulane will make the back end of the schedule much more fun for Herd fans.  Look for Marshall to flirt with a winning season but fall short and finish 6-6 or 5-7.

 

 

Team Memphis Tigers
               
Head Coach Larry Porter
               
Colors Blue and Gray
               
City Memphis, TN
               
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 2-10
               
PiRate Rating 77.7
               
National Rating 114
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 0-8
Overall 0-12

 

Offense:  Welcome to a big mess!  Memphis doesn’t have much going for it these days.  If you walk around town, the natives will tell you they wish they lived somewhere else.  There is a malaise there.  You can get away from it by making a trip to the Rendezvous for a plate of ribs, but 2010 is not a fun time for the Bluff City.  Ditto that for Memphis Tiger fans.  Tommy West did not go quietly when he was given his walking papers.  He warned the administration that they needed to make a significant renewed effort to revitalize the football program, or else drop football.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will this football program.  It has been rumored that Memphis will be admitted to the Big East Conference in a few years, but Big East officials deny this.  If it doesn’t happen, Memphis could become the next Villanova.

Okay, let’s talk some real football.  New coach Larry Porter comes from LSU, where the coaching staff has been under fire now for a couple of seasons.  He steps out of one frying pan into another.  The Tigers will have new players starting at quarterback, running back, and two of the receiver positions.  They lost their top two rushers and top two receivers. 

The new quarterback will be under close media scrutiny from day one.  Cannon Smith is the son of Federal Express ex-CEO Fred Smith.  Smith has offered up a 10 million dollar “bribe” to any major conference if they accept Memphis as a member.  Most of us have seen cases where the son of the big shot got preferential treatment (like George Herbert Walker Bush’s son and Joseph Kennedy’s sons).  Smith played in one game for Miami (FL) two years ago, but even if he is worthy of being the starter, there will be too much pressure on him to prove it to the rest of the world.

Making matters worse, there isn’t that much talent for Smith to throw the ball.   Sophomore Marcus Rucker is the best of this bunch, but he had just 18 receptions in 2009.

Don’t expect the next DeAngelo Williams or Curtis Steele to suit up for Memphis this year.  True freshman Jerrell Rhodes will likely get the most carries with Lance Smith supplementing.

The offensive line is better than average but not great.  All 2009 starters return, but they will be called to sustain their blocks up to a half-second longer for the inexperienced quarterbacks and receivers to hook up.  Without Steele, they will have to do more in run blocking as well.

We are extremely pessimistic on this year’s team.  We believe Memphis will struggle to score 17 points per game and be fortunate to produce 325 total yards per game.

Defense: The picture on this side of the ball makes the offense look peachy.  The Tigers are going to crash and burn on this side of the ball in 2010.  Only five starters return to a defense that couldn’t stop the pass last year. 

In their final four games, Memphis surrendered 415 passing yards per game last year, and they lost their top two secondary starters.  Cornerback DA Griffin was out for those four games, and his return gives the Tigers a little solace.

Middle linebacker Jamon Hughes led Memphis with 87 tackles last year.  He could be the lone player on this side of the ball to make the All-CUSA team.

Up front, there is some quality and depth.  Three starters return, and the projected fourth starter saw significant action.  Porter recognizes a need for a better pass rush, and he moved Winston Bowens from linebacker to end.

Memphis gave up 35 points per game last year, and they will not improve this year.  Expect 35-40 points and 450-475 yards allowed.

Schedule:  The non-conference schedule isn’t all that difficult, and in a good year, the Tigers could have possibly won all four of these games.  With the major rebuilding project here, they are likely to lose all four.  They open at Mississippi State and play at Louisville in October.  They host Middle Tennessee and Tennessee.  Throw in Houston, Tulsa, and UTEP from the other division, and the almost sure losses add up to seven.  Inside divisional play, Southern Miss and Central Florida are two more sure losses.  That leaves three games—East Carolina, Marshall, and UAB for Memphis to try to find one win.  It may not happen this year.  0-12 is a possibility.  Cheer up Memphis fans.  Basketball season begins soon.

 

 

Team Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
               
Head Coach Larry Fedora
               
Colors Black and Gold
               
City Hattiesburg, MS
               
2009 Record              
Conference 5-3
Overall 7-6
               
PiRate Rating 91.1
               
National Rating 84
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 9-4

 

Offense: Coach Larry Fedora has produced two excellently balanced offenses in his first two seasons in Hattiesburg.  The Golden Eagles might be just as balanced this year, but that just means that the decimated attack drops off equally in the running and passing stats. 

The offensive line is the major concern.  Only center Cameron Zipp has any starting experience.  He will be surrounded by upperclassmen who have never started a game, and that is a little bit of a concern.

If the line can gel just enough to be considered average, the rest of this offense should be okay.  Quarterback Austin Davis isn’t Case Keenum or G.J. Kinne, but he is a fine passer.  The Eagles have the best backup quarterback in the conference.  Martevious Young had a 16/3 TD/Int ratio last year when he filled in for the injured Davis. 

Only one starting wide out returns.  DeAndre Brown was a consensus freshman All-American last year after catching 47 passes for 785 yards and nine scores.  Junior college transfer Kelvin Bolden was a high school teammate of Brown, and he has the speed to make defenses pay if they try to stop the bigger Brown.

Southern Miss lost its career rushing leader when Damien Fletcher graduated.  Look for Fedora to use a three-player platoon with V.J. Floyd getting first crack as the starter.  Watch out for freshman Kendrik Hardy, who could see a lot of action in short yardage situations.

Southern Miss will not be as explosive on offense this year.  Look for a drop to 25-28 points and 375-400 total yards per game.

Defense:  This side of the ball is in much better shape.  The Golden Eagles will improve here, and with enough improvement, they could be playing on December 4 as the East Division representative in the CUSA Championship Game.

The entire front seven returns from last year, and that includes four juniors and three seniors.  Tackle Anthony Gray and end Cordarro Law have legitimate NFL talent.  They combined for 21 ½ tackles behind the line last year.

The three linebackers were the top three tacklers on the team.  All three (Martez Smith, Korey Williams, and Ronnie Thornton) could make one of the three-deep All-CUSA teams.  The entire trio plays the run and the pass exceptionally well.

The secondary is the only weak spot on the defense, but with an experienced front seven, their inefficiencies may be hidden.  One player who won’t have to hide is cornerback C. J. Bailey.  He knocked away 13 passes last year.

Throw in a great punt returner in Tracy Lampley, and USM might have the best overall defense in the league this season after giving up 26 points per game last year (42 to Middle Tennessee in the New Orleans Bowl loss).  We believe the Eagles will shave both points and yards off 2009’s averages.  Look for 22-24 points and 350-375 yards allowed.  In this league, those numbers will be good enough to lead. 

Schedule: The opener is a toughie at South Carolina on Thursday night, September 2.  Home games follow with Prairie View and a rebuilding Kansas.  Southern Miss wraps up non-conference play with a visit to a rebuilding Louisiana Tech, so a 3-1 start is quite possible.  In league play, it all comes down to the last three weeks of November, when the Eagles play at Central Florida, host Houston, and finish at Tulsa.  They could lose two of those games and still win the division title.  The game with UCF should determine which of those two schools win the division flag.  We tend to favor USM by the thinnest of margins—maybe 50.1% to 49.9%.

 

 

Team U A B  Blazers
               
Head Coach Neil Callaway
               
Colors Green and Gold
               
City Birmingham, AL
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 90.4
               
National Rating 87
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 6-6

 

Offense: How do you replace Superman?  You can’t, and UAB cannot replace departed quarterback Joe Webb.  Webb was a one-man offense for the Blazers last year, leading the team in rushing with more than 1,400 yards (1,600+ when you factor out sacks) and 11 touchdowns, while passing for 2,300 yards and 21 touchdowns.  He accounted for 32 of UAB’s 39 touchdowns!

Fourth year head coach Neil Callaway has three options to choose from in selecting Webb’s replacement.  While all three are decent runners, none can do what Webb did.  Sophomore David Isabelle, Junior Bryan Ellis, and Juco Emmanuel Taylor have been splitting the snaps in practice so far, and it will take at least one or two scrimmages to determine the winner.

There is quality and experience at wide receiver and tight end.  Wide out Frantrell Forrest and tight end Jeremy Anderson return after finishing one-two in catches last year.  Both combine decent size and speed with good hands, so if the new QB has any accuracy, UAB should be able to move the ball overhead.

The running back spot was more of a decoy and pass blocker last year.  It was so bad that Isabelle was the team’s second leading rusher, and he saw very limited action backing up Webb.  Like the QB position, three players are vying for the one spot.  Justin Brooks is the best downhill runner able to create holes with punishing plunges.  Pat Shed is the dangerous long-gain threat able to make quick cuts and evade tackles.  Daniel Borne is a combination of the other two.  All three will fail to equal the rushing numbers put up by Webb, but they could give the Blazers a more balanced look.

The offensive line is a major asset this year.  It could even be in the top three in the league.  Four starters return from last year, led by tackle Matt McCants, a 6-7 monster.

Look for UAB’s offense to take a step backward in both point and yardage production, but the Blazers will not be a slouch for any opposing defense in this league.  Expect about 23-26 points and 375-400 total yards.

Defense:  Here is where there is much optimism for 2010.  UAB gave up more than 32 points per game last year, but things are looking up on this side of the ball.  12 of the top 13 tacklers return, including the entire defensive line (technically one of these starters, Daniel White, started at outside linebacker).  Three of those linemen, tackles Elliott Henigan and D. J. Reese and end Bryant Turner, have good shots at making one of the All-CUSA teams.  They teamed for 23 stops behind the line, and that number will go up by at least five this year.

Linebackers Lamanski Ware and Marvin Burdette return, but this unit lacks a little something.  None of the linebackers are 1st team all-league material.

The secondary is solid this season.  Free safety Hiram Atwater is one of the three best defensive backs in the league.  He led UAB with 89 tackles last year.  Cornerback Terrell Springs broke up 10 passes last year while finishing third in tackles.

Callaway hopes his secondary players don’t lead the team in tackles this season, but it is likely to happen.  Still, the Blazers will improve on this side of the ball and surrender less than 30 points per game for the first time since Watson Brown was the head coach.  Look for 25-28 points and 380-410 yards allowed

Schedule:  UAB is lucky this year.  They avoid both Houston and Tulsa from the other division.  Out of league play, the Blazers have two winnable games with Florida Atlantic and Troy coming to Legion Field.  Road games at Tennessee and Mississippi State appear to be double-digit losses, even though both SEC teams will finish near the bottom of their respective divisions.  There are a couple of key games that will decide whether UAB can get to six wins for the first time since 2004.  The Blazers host UTEP, Marshall, ECU, and Memphis.  If they win all four, they are looking at 6-6.

 

 

Team U C F Knights
               
Head Coach George O’Leary
               
Colors Black and Gold
               
City Orlando, FL
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 94.5
               
National Rating 76
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-4

 

Offense:  UCF has not registered back-to-back winning seasons since 2001 and 2002.  On the other hand, they have not had back-to-back losing seasons either.  It has been feast during the odd years and famine during the even years.  Head Coach George O’Leary’s team looks primed to break that trend easily this year.  The Knights are the co-favorites in this division.

If O’Leary can find an adequate new quarterback to replace Brett Hodges, UCF will become the overwhelming favorite to win the East Division for the second time in four years.  Rob Calabrese has won the starting job twice before, but he apparently wasn’t ready to lead the team.  O’Leary believes the third time is the charm.  The only fly in the ointment may be that he could feel the nerves after being booed at home last year.

The rest of the offense is fairly well set.  At running back, Central Florida returns every player who contributed in the ground game last year, including Brynn Harvey.  Harvey rushed for more than 1,100 yards, scoring 14 times.  He won’t be available until the third or fourth game due to a knee injury he suffered in spring drills, but Jonathan Davis, Ronnie Weaver, and Brendan Davis will fill in admirably until Harvey is full speed once again.

The Knights have a terrific trio of wide receivers returning.  A.J. Guyton, Kamar Aiken, and Jamar Newsome combined for 104 catches and 1,471 yards.

Helping make this offense go is an experienced and very deep offensive line.  Four starters return and eight of the two-deep return.  O’Leary landed a bonanza of quality recruits here, so there is depth galore.

Look for UCF to score 24-28 points and gain 340-370 yards per game on offense this year.  If they can average 28 points per game, they will be tough to beat in the conference.

Defense: Since O’Leary took over in 2004, the Knight defense has given up 33, 29, 29, 27, 24, and 23 points per game per season.  Do you see the pattern?  Expect that patter to continue again this season, because UCF is loaded on this side of the ball.

The Knights have an outstanding set of ends in David Williams and Bruce Miller.  The two senior terminals specialize in making tackles on the offensive side of scrimmage.  Miller registered 13 sacks and five other tackles for loss.  The tackles are inexperienced, but they both tip the scale at 300+ pounds.  It will take more than one blocker to drive them off the line.

The linebacking trio returns two 2009 starters, but it is just like having all three back, because 2008 star Chance Henderson returns after missing last year with an injury.  Lawrence Young and Derrick Hallman combined for 23 ½ tackles for loss.

The secondary ranks with Southern Miss and UAB as the best in the conference.  The Knights are toughest at cornerback where Josh Robinson and Justin Boddie form the best outside defending pair in the league. 

UCF will give up less than 23 points per game this year.  Call if 18-22 points and 325-350 yards a contest.

Schedule: The Knights open with four consecutive non-conference games and then get a week off before starting league play.  They should be 2-2 at that point after beating South Dakota, losing to North Carolina State in a close game, winning at Buffalo, and losing at Kansas State.  They host Southern Miss on November 13, but they must face Houston on the road the week before.  We expect the Cougars to be clicking on all cylinders by then and think that game will be a loss for UCF.  It will all come down to the USM game.  At this moment in time, we favor the Eagles by about a half-point.

 

 

CUSA West

 

Team Houston Cougars
               
Head Coach Kevin Sumlin
               
Colors Red and White
               
City Houston, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 10-4
               
PiRate Rating 104.3
               
National Rating 46
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 7-1
Overall 10-3

 

Offense: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the event you’ve all been waiting for.  Step right up and see the magical Case and his band of merry men prowl and loot through the land.

As we told you at the beginning of this preview, this is the third time that Houston has become an offensive titan in college football.  In 1968, running what we call the Houston veer today, the Cougars averaged 42.5 points per game while rushing for better than 300 yards and passing for more than 200 yards per game.  On November 23, 1968, they reached the century mark in a game against Tulsa (Country music star Larry Gatlin rushed for the touchdown that gave Houston 93).  That team topped 70 points two other times.  Flash forward to 1989.  Houston, out of the run and shoot offense, rode the arm of Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware to the tune of 53.5 points per game.  That team passed for more than 400 yards per game and almost repeated the feat of the 1968 team when they hung 95 points on SMU and topped 60 points four other times.

While we don’t believe this Houston team will score 50 points per game, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise.  The Cougars have topped 40 points per game the last two years, while averaging 563 yards of total offense both seasons.

Quarterback Case Keenum has a shot at becoming the next Heisman Trophy winner at UH.  He completed better than 70% of his passes last season.  Before you think that most of them were little dump passes, consider this:  he averaged better than eight yards per attempt and 11.5 yards per completion.  As a team, Houston put up 434 passing yards per game.  There is no reason to believe Keenum will not match or even exceed those numbers in his senior season.  He should be a first or second round pick in next year’s draft.

Keenum will benefit from the return of his big four receivers.  James Cleveland, Tyron Carrier, Patrick Edwards, and Charles Sims caught more passes (350) than 117 of the other 119 FBS schools!  This quartet gained 4,023 yards and scored 28 touchdowns.

Unlike most mega-passing teams, Houston can run the ball quite competently.  Both of last season’s big two rushers were set to return, but Charles Sims was declared academically ineligible.  Bryce Beall returns after rushing for 670 yards and seven scores.  He added 32 receptions and scored three times through the air.  Factoring out sacks, Houston exceeded five yards per rush.

The offensive line lost two starters, but the reserved picked up considerable playing time last year.  They gave up only 24 sacks in over 700 passing attempts, and that feat can be repeated again this year.

How much better could this Houston offense be in 2010?  If the defense can improve enough to give the offense a few more plays, and if the key players can stay healthy, this team could challenge the 50-point barrier.  It would not surprise us if Keenum throws for “just” 5,400 yards after topping 5,600 last year, because the running game could top 150 yards per game.  You won’t see a better offense in college football. 

Defense: This is the bugaboo for this team.  If the defense was just average, we would be discussing which BCS Bowl the Cougars would be headed to in January.  Houston gave up more than 30 points and 450 yards per game last year, and if the defensive line doesn’t improve by leaps and bounds, the Cougars could lose two or three games this year by scores of 45-35.

The line gave up a disgusting 227 rushing yards and better than five yards per carry.  In their four losses, the Cougars gave up an average of 253 rushing yards.  One of last year’s starting defensive linemen, Isaiah Thompson, has been moved from nose tackle to offensive guard, as Houston moves to a 3-4 defense.  That leaves UH with just one veteran on the front three. 

The quartet of linebackers has the potential to be much better than last year’s three-man unit.  Inside ‘backer Marcus McGraw was the star of last year’s defense, and he should repeat as 1st Team All-CUSA.  He is equally tough against the run and the pass, and he is going to be a demon on the zone blitz.

The secondary returns two very capable starters in cornerback Jamal Robinson and free safety Nick Saenz.  Robinson intercepted five passes and knocked away eight others.

The Cougars are still not world-beaters on this side of the ball, but they should give up less than 30 points and 425 yards per game this year.

Schedule: A tougher schedule will keep the Cougars out of the BCS Bowl picture.  After an easy opener at home against Texas State and a conference opener at home with UTEP, UH plays at UCLA.  The Cougars must also face an improving Mississippi State team and close the season at Texas Tech.  We can only see a 2-2 mark out of league play.  In the conference, Houston must face Southern Miss and Central Florida from the East.  A road game at SMU should be one of the most entertaining games of the year with a score that looks like a basketball game.  We think Houston will fall one time in league play, but they should still win their division.  The Cougars are our choice to win the CUSA Championship Game and face a beatable SEC team in the Liberty Bowl.

 

 

Team Rice Owls
               
Head Coach David Bailiff
               
Colors Dark Blue and Gray
               
City Houston, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 2-6
Overall 2-10
               
PiRate Rating 86.4
               
National Rating 95
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 4-8

 

Offense: The fall was sharp.  Rice followed up its first 10-win season in 60 years with a 10-loss season last year.  Nine starters return on offense, and one of those starters could be benched in favor of a transfer from the Big Ten.

Let’s start with the offensive line.  All five starters and four of the second unit return from last year to make this one of the most experienced blocking corps in the nation.  Guards Jake Hicks and Davon Allen and tackle Scott Mitchell will contend for all-conference honors.  Look for great pass protection and better run-blocking this year.

Quarterback Nick Fanuzzi returns after starting two-thirds of Rice’s games last year.  He passed for just under 1,600 yards last year, and that mark could easily double in 2010.

Fanuzzi will need some newcomers to step up from the group of receivers.  The Owls lost three of their top four from 2009, and the receivers who do return did nothing spectacular. 

The running game should make a major move forward.  After averaging a meager 109 yards on the ground in 2009, the Owls welcome Michigan transfer Sam McGuffie.  McGuffie is the highest-rated recruit to play at Rice in some time, and he should run the ball more than 20 times per game.

Rice won’t approach 2008’s offense numbers, but the Owls will combine a solid running game with a decent passing game to top last year’s output.  Call if 23-26 points and 325-350 total yards per game.

Defense:  This is where improvement must be made.  Rice gave up 43 points and 464 yards per game in 2009.  Nine starters return on this side of the ball too, including the entire defensive line.  The line also returns five other contributors from last year, and it should be much tougher to run on Rice this year.  Look for the pass rush to be much better as well with the return of ends Cheta Ozougwu and Scott Solomon.

Rice plays a 4-2-5 defense, and they have a decent pair of linebackers this season.  Neither will earn all-conference honors.

The biggest weakness is a porous secondary that surrendered 273 passing yards per game and allowed 67% of enemy passes to be completed.  Opposing quarterbacks averaged better than nine yards per attempt against them.  Any quarterback that averages better than nine yards per attempt for the season, and isn’t an option quarterback throwing eight passes a game, would be a Heisman Trophy finalist.  Safety Travis Bradshaw led the Owls with 121 tackles a year ago and earned 3rd team all-conference accolades.

Rice could improve by 10 points per game on defense this year.  Let’s call it about 30-35 points and 410-440 yards allowed per game.

Schedule: The Owls need to fire the schedule-maker.  He has guaranteed that they go no better than 1-3 outside of the league and maybe even 0-4.  The only winnable non-league came will be at North Texas.  Rice hosts Northwestern and Baylor, two private schools that could both be bowl-bound this year.  The fourth non-conference game is the opener at Reliant Stadium against Texas.  In league play, Rice could split their eight games and go 4-4, but they have no chance at a winning season unless they win six league games. 

 

 

Team S M U  Mustangs
               
Head Coach June Jones
               
Colors Crimson and Blue
               
City Dallas, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 92.3
               
National Rating 83
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 7-5

 

Offense: Coach June Jones may draw comparisons to Annie Sullivan before he retires from the game.  Like Sullivan, you can call Jones a “miracle worker.”  He took a weak Hawaii program and created a little dynasty on the island, culminating with a trip to the Sugar Bowl in his last season there.  In just two short seasons in Dallas, he has brought SMU out of a quarter century of doldrums.  The Mustangs returned to a bowl last year for the first time since their pre-Death Penalty days of the 1980’s.

Jones is a mastermind with the passing game, but SMU’s exceptional pass offense will get pushed to the back of the sports pages playing in the same division as Houston.  Quarterback Kyle Padron took over as starter midway through the season following an injury to since departed Bo Levi Mitchell.  The true freshman completed better than 67% of his passes last year for more than 9.5 yards per attempt.  If he can replicate those numbers for a full season, he could top 3,400 yards this year.

SMU lost the services of its best pass receiver in school history.  Emmanuel Sanders took his 98 receptions to the NFL.  Aldrick Robinson has NFL potential.  He caught 47 passes for 800 yards (17.0 avg./catch) last year. 

Missing from the running game is Shawnbrey McNeal, who gained close to 1,200 yards last year.  Jones is very high on true freshmen Darryl Fields and Kevin Pope.  Fields can take a simple dump pass or quick pitch and turn it into a touchdown ala Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans.  Pope has the power to run over defenders. 

The offensive line will be manned by five juniors, four of whom started last year.  Three of the four received some form of postseason honors.

Jones should mold another fine offense in Dallas this year.  Look for the Mustangs to improve to 35+ points and 425+ yards per game this year.

Defense: SMU trimmed 11 points and 80 yards off their poor showing of 2008.  Enough talent returns this year to believe that the Mustangs will continue to show improvement.  The defensive line is the strongest unit on this side.  Ends Marquis Frazier and Taylor Thompson teamed up for 9 ½ sacks.  True freshman Mike O’Guin could step in as the new starting nose tackle.  O’Guin tips the scale at 320 pounds, and he will not be easily moved out of the middle.

Three of the starting four linebackers return.  The best of the quartet is outside ‘backer Pete Fleps, who made 83 tackles.

The secondary could be a problem this year, and in a conference where teams pass the ball 40 to 60 times a game, that could become a big problem.  Cornerback Sterling Moore broke up 11 passes last year, but the Mustangs lost two honorable mention all-conference players who teamed up for eight interceptions and 17 passes knocked away.

A solid pass rush could help hide the liabilities in the secondary, but we believe SMU will give up 225-250 passing yards and 375-400 total yards this year, which leads to about 24-28 points surrendered.

Schedule: The non-conference portion of this schedule is rough.  Look for a 1-3 mark as the Mustangs venture to Texas Tech and Navy and host TCU.  Only a home game with anemic Washington State gives them a shot at a win.  Once league play begins, SMU will be able to compete with anybody on their schedule, even Houston and Tulsa.  We actually believe the Mustangs will pen a loss on Houston and be in the division race until the end.  Road games against Rice and UTEP may determine if SMU can sneak through with a division title.  The Mustangs avoid the top two teams from the East.

 

 

Team Tulane Green Wave
               
Head Coach Bob Toledo
               
Colors Olive Green and Sky Blue
               
City New Orleans, LA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 3-9
               
PiRate Rating 72.2
               
National Rating 119
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 0-8
Overall 2-10

 

Offense: It has been eight long years since Tulane last enjoyed a winning season.  The Green Wave has lost eight or more games for five consecutive seasons, and the stigma of Hurricane Katrina still haunts this program.  The Green Wave offense has fallen on hard times, averaging less than 17 points per game the last two seasons.

If TU is to improve on a 3-9 season of a year ago, the offense will have to make a huge leap forward.  Sophomore quarterback Ryan Griffin won’t have to share duties with Joe Kemp this year, as Kemp has been moved to wide receiver.  Griffin could be the best Tulane quarterback since Patrick Ramsey by the time he graduates, but he needs better receivers.  Only one receiver with any real experience returns this year, and Casey Robottom isn’t going to be confused with DeAndre Brown or James Cleveland.

In two seasons, Albert Williams has accumulated 143 rushing yards.  He will be asked to carry the load this year and fill the shoes of last year’s star Andre Anderson.  Expect a major regression here, as TU could rush for less than 100 yards per game.

The offensive line returns four starters, and they have the potential to be an excellent pass blocking front for Griffin.  Center Andrew Nierman is among the best in the league at his position.

It doesn’t look promising for Coach Bob Toledo in his fourth year in New Orleans.  We don’t see him righting the ship in the Crescent City.  Look for Tulane to continue to struggle to score points and access territory.  Call it 17 points and 300-325 yards per game. 

Defense:  The offense looks like a juggernaut compared to this side of the ball.  Tulane has been weak on this side for a long time.  In the last seven years, opponents have averaged an aggregate of 34 points and 415 yards per game.  With but four starters returning on this side of the ball, the Green Wave could be looking at even worse numbers in 2010.

Only one starter returns to the front seven, so this will be a major headache this season.  Tackle Justin Adams is the lone returnee up front, and he is coming off a season in which he registered just 17 tackles.

The secondary has three returning starters, but they will be asked to defend some of the best receivers in the nation for a longer amount of time this year.  None of these experienced defenders will show up on an all-conference team.

We believe Tulane is headed toward a Washington State-type of season.  Look for the Greenies to yield more than 40 points and 450 yards per game this year.

Schedule: Tulane is fortunate that they open at home against Southeast Louisiana.  That could be the only game they win this year.  The Green Wave host Ole Miss and Army and travel to Rutgers out of league play, and these three games look like big losses.  In conference play, it just doesn’t look promising that they can pick up a win.  It doesn’t help that they must play Southern Miss, Central Florida, and Marshall from the other division. 

 

 

Team Tulsa Golden Hurricane
               
Head Coach Todd Graham
               
Colors Blue and Gold
               
City Tulsa, OK
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 92.8
               
National Rating 81
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-4

 

Offense: For a team that averaged 29 points and 410 yards per game last year, it was funny to hear fans mutter, “What’s wrong with our offense?”  Tulsa averaged 44 points and 557 yards per game over the course of the last two years.

The offense should rebound with another stellar season this year, but there are a couple causes for concern.  Offensive coordinator Herb Hand left his position in late July to take a non-coordinator position at Vanderbilt.

Coach Todd Graham hopes the team can hit the ground running and not miss a beat.  He has an experienced attack unit that should be able to get over the loss of their top offensive assistant.

Quarterback G. J. Kinne began his career at Texas before transferring to Tulsa.  He fired the ball 345 times last year and completed 61% for 2,732 yards and 22 touchdowns.  He takes a back seat only to Case Keenum in this conference.  With better pass protection this year, he should add at least 1,000 yards to his 2009 total.

Tulsa has one of the three or four best receivers in CUSA.  Damaris Johnson caught 78 passes for 1,131 yards last year. He is also the best combined kick/punt returner in the league.  Joining him on the other side of the line should be Jameel Owens a transfer from Oklahoma.  Owens has the physical tools to be a great possession receiver.

The running backs are used more for their blocking and pass catching abilities than their running abilities.  Kinne was the leading rusher from the spread formation.  Fullback/H-back Charles Clay rushed for just 236 yards last year, but he caught 39 passes and scored 12 total touchdowns.  At 6-3 and 235, he seldom goes down on first contact.  Graham will rely on as many as six players to share the rushing load.

The offensive line had some difficulties last year, and with four starters and all of the second five returning, look for some improvement.  You will not see the quarterbacks go down 46 times like last year.

Tulsa will rebound with a move back over 35 points and 450 yards per game this year.  If the line improves enough, the Golden Hurricane could top 40 points per game.

Defense: Tulsa has not fielded a strong defense since Dave Kragthorpe was the head coach and Graham was the defensive coordinator.  Graham has indicated that he will take more control over the defense this year.

Six starters have been lost from last year, so it will take a monumental coaching effort to keep Tulsa from giving up 30 or more points per game.  Two starters return up front, but Graham brought in three junior college recruits who could all see considerable time in the trenches this season.  Best of the lot is nose guard Darrell Zellars.

Tulsa uses a 3-3-5 defense with two players, a bandit and a spur, playing a hybrid linebacker/safety position.  Spur DeAundre Brown returns after leading TU with 102 stops last year.  He only picked off one pass, and that was Tulsa’s major weakness on defense.  In fact, no returnee had more than one pick last year.

We see some form of improvement in the 2010 numbers, but how much is a mystery.  Our best guess if 25 points and 375 yards allowed.

Schedule: The non-conference schedule is not overly imposing.  The Golden Hurricane should win at least two and maybe three of their four games.  They face Bowling Green and Central Arkansas at Chapman Stadium, and they go on the road to a rebuilding Oklahoma State and Notre Dame.  In league play, it will all come down to a couple of games.  TU plays at SMU on October 9, at Houston on November 13, and closes the regular season with Southern Miss at home.  If they win two of those games, they will reach double figure victories for the third time in the last four years.  We see at least nine regular season wins.

 

 

Team U T E P  Miners
               
Head Coach Mike Price
               
Colors Orange and Navy
               
City El Paso, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 4-8
               
PiRate Rating 82.3
               
National Rating 103
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 7-5

 

Offense: UTEP has been successful on this side of the ball for the last six years, and 2010 should not be an aberration.  Coach Mike Price returns the best quarterback in the conference not wearing a Houston or Tulsa uniform.  Trevor Vittatoe needs just 2,122 passing yards to become the school’s all-time leading passer.  If he stays healthy, he should do that by late October.  Vittatoe took a step backward last season, but he will have a better offensive line blocking for him this year.

Two quality receivers return for the Miners in wide out Kris Adams and tight end Jonny Moore.  Junior receiver Donavon Kemp has breakaway speed, and if he can learn to hold onto the ball, he could be an “X-factor” in this offense.

The running game has one outstanding rusher but very little depth.  Donald Buckram rushed for nearly 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns.

The offensive line returns three starters, and the two new starters have past starting experience.  UTEP should move the ball with consistency against every team on the schedule.

This looks like another 30+-point scoring team in the conference.  Call it 32 points and 425 yards this year.

Defense: Poor defensive play has been the Miners’ downfall during the Price era.  The natives are getting restless in El Paso, and another poor showing could bring that era to an end.

The Miners will have troubles up front, where three starters have graduated.  End Robert Soleyjacks is the lone holdover; he made just 19 tackles a year ago.

The linebacking unit loses the defense’s top player from 2009, and there is nobody on the roster who can replace Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith and his 108 tackles.

The news is not any better in the secondary.  Both cornerbacks and the free safety graduated, taking with them 20 deflected passes.  Strong safety Braxton Amy was granted a sixth season of eligibility after missing the last eight games of 2009 to injury.

UTEP will not contend for the division crown because they will not be able to stop the Keenum’s Kinne’s, and Padron’s of the conference.  Look for the Miners to yield 31-34 points and 450 yards per game.

Schedule: UTEP has a chance to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2005 thanks to an easy non-league slate.  The Miners host Arkansas-Pine Bluff and New Mexico State, and they face New Mexico in Albuquerque.  They can win all three of those games.  Only a visit to Arkansas will be bad news.  UTEP avoids UCF and Southern Miss from the East.  They get Memphis, UAB, and Marshall.  We believe they can split their conference games this year and win seven games overall.

 

 

Coming Tomorrow: The WAC Preview—Boise State is primed to run the table once again if the Broncos can get past a tough opening game opponent.

September 22, 2009

The Best Week Of The Season For College Football

Every year, there is one week of the college football season where the schedule presents more than a dozen games that are not just interesting, they are foretelling.  While the season’s final two weeks usually mean everything, usually a mid-season week turns out to be the week where teams either put up or shut up.  We here at the PiRate Ratings believe this is that week.  Let’s look at the 25 games where we see a major interest in watching or listening to this week. 

 

Thursday Night

7:30 PM: Ole Miss at South Carolina—The Rebels play their first important game of the year after clobbering two patsies.  The Gamecocks aren’t a Top 25 team, but in Columbia, they are tough to beat.  It won’t hurt that USC had already played a Thursday night game.  This should be a high scoring game, weather permitting (chance of thunderstorms), and it could be another one of those recent SEC “Arena Football League Games.”

The PiRate computer says Ole Miss should win by 13.3, while the old Mean rating picks the Rebels by 5.  Vegas has Ole Miss by 3 as of midday Monday.  PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

Saturday Games (all times EDT)

12 Noon: Indiana at Michigan—This Hoosier team is 3-0, but make no comparison between it and the cardiac kids of 1967, or even the Bill Mallory teams of 1987 and 1988.  We’ll soon find out if it is another version of the 2007 team.  Indiana struggled to beat Eastern Kentucky and Western Michigan.  Michigan could be on the verge of challenging Penn State, Iowa, and Ohio State for conference supremacy.  They proved themselves valid with a win over Notre Dame, and now they get a chance to move upward.  The PiRate computer picks Michigan by 20.3, and the Mean picks the Wolverines by 14.  PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

12 Noon: Michigan State at Wisconsin—In August, it looked like this game could be a battle of unbeaten teams, but the Spartans have slipped up with a 1-2 start.  This game becomes a must-win game for MSU, because they face Michigan next week.  Coach Mark Dantonio’s team could be looking at 1-5 or even 1-6 if they slip up this week.  As for the Badgers, this is their sixth consecutive year starting 3-0.  Except for 2006, the season hasn’t finished up like it started.  This could be the pivotal game in the UW coaching career for Bret Bielema.  A win here sets them up for a huge rivalry match at Minnesota next week where a win would send the Badgers to Ohio State with a chance to move into Rose Bowl contention.  Wisconsin avoids Penn State and gets Iowa and Michigan at home this year.  A loss could start the ball rolling toward 7-5 or even 6-6. PiRate Rating: Wisconsin by 0.6/Mean: Wisconsin by 4/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

12 Noon: South Florida at Florida State—We’ve been looking at this matchup for quite some time.  This should be a hard-fought thriller.  USF has wanted a shot at any of the three big teams in the Sunshine State, and the economy has made this one possible.  Florida State’s opening game loss to Miami could be explained.  The letdown against Jacksonville State wasn’t totally surprising.  The 26-point win at BYU was a shock.  That makes Miami look all the more talented.  USF has yet to play quality opposition, and this game will give us a good gauge of the ACC against the Big East.  If the Bulls can win this one, then they should be 5-0 when they host Cincinnati on Thursday, October 15.  PiRate Rating: FSU by 14.3/Mean Rating: FSU by 9/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

12 Noon: Fresno State at Cincinnati—Fresno State has played well in losses to Wisconsin and Boise State, but now they face the hardest game on their schedule.  We don’t think the Bulldogs have much chance of adding another big upset to their 21st Century resume, but we do see this as a gauge game.  Cincinnati has looked like a Top 10 team and maybe contender for the National Championship Game through three games.  If Cinti can do to Fresno State what they did to Rutgers, they will move into the Top 12.  If they cannot win by more than three touchdowns, then it makes Boise State look all the more better.  PiRate Rating: Cinti by 21.7/Mean Rating: Cinti by 20/PiRate Viewer Rating: A

 

12 Noon: Southern Mississippi at Kansas—The Golden Eagles aren’t ranked, but Coach Larry Fedora has a strong team in Hattiesburg.  Southern Miss is 3-0 after their great comeback win over Virginia.  Tough road games remain against Houston, Marshall, and East Carolina, so they probably have little or no chance of running the table and sneaking into the BCS Bowl picture.  Kansas will vie with Missouri and Nebraska for the Big 12 North title this year.  They just missed the last two years, and a big win in this game could set the table for finally breaking through.  An impressive win here, followed by wins over Iowa State and Colorado would have the Jayhawks at 6-0 when Oklahoma invades Lawrence on October 24.  KU QB Todd Reesing may be the best passer without much chance of getting drafted.  At 5-11, he’s considered too small for the NFL.  PiRate Rating: Kansas by 17.1/Mean Rating: 14/PiRate Viewer Rating: A

 

12 Noon: North Carolina at Georgia Tech—This game is interesting because the Tar Heels catch Georgia Tech coming off a disastrous road loss to Miami.  If Coach Butch Davis has UNC ready to challenge on the national scene, then the Heels need to do something close to what Miami did to the Yellow Jackets.  They will stack the box to take away the option and force Josh Nesbitt to beat them through the air.  It can be done, but it won’t be easy.  A Tech win means the winner of the Virginia Tech-Miami game will be in the driver’s seat in the Coastal Division.  PiRate Rating: Tech by 1.9/Mean Rating: Tech by 2/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

12:20 PM: L S U at Mississippi State—The AP and USA Today polls have LSU at number 7, but the Tigers are only the fourth highest-ranked SEC team.  The win at Washington looks much more impressive now, but the lackluster win over Vanderbilt becomes a great comparison here.  New Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen saw his Bullies stop Vanderbilt in Nashville more impressively than LSU’s win over the Commodores in Tiger Stadium.  This game hasn’t been close since Jackie Sherrill was coaching in Starkville.  We think it might be this year, and with some lucky bounces, MSU could actually be there at the end.  PiRate Rating: LSU by 15.9/Mean Rating: LSU by 12/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

1:00 PM: Marshall at Memphis—Here’s a game that should determine a bowl spot for the winner and doom the loser to the wrong side of .500 for the season.  We think Marshall is primed to break out and save Coach Mark Snyder’s job this year.  It’s been six years since the Thundering Herd last enjoyed a winning season, and we see at least seven wins in their near future.  This is the C-USA opener for both teams.  The schedule sets up well for Marshall if they can win this road game.  They get East Carolina and Southern Miss. at home, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to us if they could sneak into contention in the East.  PiRate Rating: Marshall by 3.5/Mean Rating: Marshall by 2/PiRate Viewer Rating: B+

 

3:00 PM: UNLV at Wyoming—The Rebels have never been a Division 1-A (FBS) heavyweight.  The 2000 season is the only good year they’ve had since moving up in classification 30 years ago.  UNLV has a chance to get back to a bowl game this year, as long as quarterback Omar Clayton can remain healthy.  On a gimpy knee, he guided the Rebels to a comeback victory over Hawaii.  This becomes a must win game, and Wyoming is beatable.  However, in Laramie, the Cowboys play tough.  Tell Mack Brown that the Cowboys are an easy pushover.  One slip up by UNLV this week makes their bowl hunt much more difficult.  PiRate Rating: UNLV by 3.4/Mean Rating: UNLV by 5/PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

3:30 PM: Arkansas at Alabama—Arkansas’s passing game will show everybody whether Alabama’s pass defense is national championship caliber.  We don’t expect the Hogs to threaten an upset here, but this game should tell us whether Alabama is good enough to run the table and get to the SEC Championship Game for a second consecutive season.  To this point in the season, Alabama has actually looked like the top team in the conference if not the nation.  If the Tide is going to rise and become the South’s elite, they need to win this one by 20 or more points.  PiRate Rating: Bama by 20.8/Mean Rating: Bama by 20/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

3:30 PM: California at Oregon—The Bears didn’t look like a championship caliber team in their win at Minnesota last week, while Oregon handled Utah.  Cal has a home date with Southern Cal next week, but the players better concentrate on this game.  Autzen Stadium is still one of the toughest places to play as a visitor, and Oregon isn’t Washington State.  If Cal doesn’t come out ready for bear, the game with Southern Cal could be for 5th place in the standings.  Jahvid Best needs to put two good halves together to move up on the Heisman Trophy list.  PiRate Rating: Cal by 15.5/Mean Rating: Cal by 3/PiRate Viewer Rating: A+

 

3:30 PM: TCU at Clemson—With BYU and Utah losing to BCS conference teams this past weekend, the Horned Frogs may be the last legitimate shot for a Mountain West team to make it to a BCS Bowl Game.  A win at Clemson could move TCU up into the top 12.  We don’t think this Horned Frog team has the same tough defense as the recent teams in Ft. Worth.  Clemson could easily be 3-0 today, but several questionable miscues cost them against Georgia Tech.  After watching Miami destroy Tech, could the Yellow Jackets be overrated, and thus could Clemson not be as tough as they were supposed to be?  This game may not supply the answers, but at least the winner will move up on the early bowl bubble.  PiRate Rating: Clemson by 4.5/Mean Rating: Tossup/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

3:30 PM: Pittsburgh at North Carolina State—We here at the PiRate Ratings must remain impartial, as the only thing we truly root for is to be correct when we pick games.  However, a couple of us would be happy if Dave Wannstedt had a BCS Bowl team.  This may be Pittsburgh’s best team since 1982.  Then, again, this could be another year like 2000.  We should have a lot more evidence to make that call after this game.  The Panthers have a one-two punch in quarterback Bill Stull and blazing fast running back Dion Lewis.  North Carolina State is a little better than average but not the juggernaut they were seven years ago.  It Pittsburgh can win in Raleigh, a double-digit win season is possible.  PiRate Rating: Pitt by 2.0/Mean Rating: 6/PiRate Viewer Rating: B+

 

3:30 PM: Miami (Fla.) at Virginia Tech—This game is the one of the top three of the day.  Two games into the season, this edition of Hurricanes is more like Camille than a tropical depression.  Quarterback Jacory Harris may be the top passer in the ACC, and he may soon move high up on the list of NFL prospects in the next couple of years.  He has a live and accurate arm, and his ability to pass on the run makes it difficult to sack him.  Virginia Tech beat Nebraska last week in a close game, and the Hokies have won 38 of the last 43 games at Lane Stadium.  If Miami can win this game, it will set up an even more interesting battle against Oklahoma next week.  PiRate Rating: Virginia Tech by 6.7/Mean Rating: Virginia Tech by 4/PiRate Viewer Rating: A+

 

4:30 PM: Troy at Arkansas State—There are two key games in the Sunbelt Conference this week.  Troy has been the Southern Cal of the SBC as of late, but the Trojans may not be quite as strong this year.  Arkansas State had an extra week to prepare for this game and gets the Trojans in Jonesboro.  These teams have split the last four games in this series, and the Red Wolves have what it takes to pull off the mild upset.  An ASU win throws this race wide open.  PiRate Rating: Troy by 2.4/Mean Rating: Troy by 1/PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

6:00 PM: Florida at Kentucky—Two years ago, Kentucky upset number one LSU in Lexington.  No, we don’t expect a repeat Saturday.  The Wildcats start a grueling stretch of games that call for the Cats to play Alabama, at South Carolina, and at Auburn after this game, so UK could easily be 2-4 when Louisiana Monroe comes to town on October 24.  Florida needs something to show the pollsters and computers that they deserve their lofty ranking.  What should be an unbelievable year like Nebraska in 1995 could fail to materialize over the lack of all-conference receivers.  Can Tim Tebow do it all on the offensive side?  Think Larry Csonka with Bob Griese’s arm.  You bet he can lead the Gators to Pasadena in January.  PiRate Rating: Florida by 32.7/Mean Rating: Florida by 20/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

6:00 PM: Colorado State at BYU—Had the Cougars won last week in a grueling game, we were prepared to check this game as a possible letdown game and go with the Rams and the points.  The Cougars exited Lavell Edwards Stadium thoroughly bewitched, bothered, and bewildered after losing to Florida State 54-28.  Colorado State is 3-0 for the first time since 1994.  That team went 10-1 in the regular season including a 28-21 win at BYU.  We don’t expect a repeat in 2009, but a good showing could be the next step on the long climb back to the top in the MWC.  The Rams should win eight games this year, but this won’t be one of them.  PiRate Rating: BYU by 16.9/Mean Rating: BYU by 16/PiRate Viewer Rating: B+

 

7:00 PM: Arizona State at Georgia—Arizona State has never played in an SEC stadium (unless you count the 1951 visit to then Southwest Conference member Arkansas).  In their only two games against SEC teams, the Sun Devils lost at home to Georgia last year and at home to LSU in 2005.  ASU Coach Dennis Erickson knows a little about winning in the Deep South, having claimed a national title at Miami.  He may have an average squad or some degree better, but wins against Idaho State and Louisiana Monroe has yet to prove anything.  Georgia has already played three tough games, winning two SEC battles already.  The Bulldog defense has yet to shut anybody down, but the offense has looked impressive in wins over South Carolina and Arkansas.  This game will tell us a lot more about these two conferences as the season progresses, but it should be exciting itself.  The weather could be a major factor as well.  PiRate Rating: Georgia by 15.6/Mean Rating: Georgia by 7/PiRate Viewer Rating: A

 

7:00 PM: Army at Iowa State—Say What?  This game is an important one?  You betcha!  It looks like the “trade” of Gene Chizik to Auburn for Paul Rhoads could prove to be a win-win decision.  Iowa State could be looking at a possibility of sneaking into the eighth or ninth Big 12 bowl slot if they can win this game.  Kansas State, Texas A&M, Colorado, and Baylor present winnable games if the Cyclones can stop the option game of the Cadets.  On the other side of the equation, Army needs only to become bowl eligible to earn a guaranteed bowl bid.  The Cadets are 2-1 and have winnable games left against Tulane, Vanderbilt, Temple, VMI, North Texas, and of course Navy.  If Army wins this game, then we are confident in saying they will earn their first bowl trip since 1996.  This game becomes, in essence, a bowl qualifier.  That’s why it makes our list of the key 25 games this week.  PiRate Rating: ISU by 12.4/Mean Rating: ISU by 10/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

7:00 PM: Middle Tennessee at North Texas—This is the second key Sunbelt Conference game this week.  Middle Tennessee is the only SBC team to own four wins on the road against teams from BCS conferences, and the Blue Raiders made it number four last week by winning at Maryland (the second consecutive win over the Terps).  North Texas showed signs of life this year in winning at Ball State and giving Ohio U a great battle, but quarterback Riley Dodge went down with an injury in the third quarter of that game.  He missed last week’s blowout loss at Alabama, but he will return this week.  He gives the Mean Green a chance in this game.  PiRate Rating: Middle Tenn by 8.7/Mean Rating: Middle Tenn by 8/PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

7:30 PM: Arizona at Oregon State—Both teams lost to undefeated, out-of-conference opponents last week, but the winner of this game could challenge in the Pac-10.  We don’t think either can go on the road and beat both Cal and USC (both play these two powers on the road), but the winner of this game should stay in contention for one of the Pac-10’s top four bowls.  PiRate Rating: Oregon State by 3.9/Mean Rating: Oregon State by 2/PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

8:00 PM: Iowa at Penn State—Could this game be for the Big 10 Championship?  It’s possible.  Iowa stumbled out of the gate with Northern Iowa, but impressive wins over Iowa State and Arizona have the Hawkeyes 3-0 for the third time in four years.  This is more than just any big game for Penn State; the Nittany Lions came into this game last year ranked number three at 9-0 and lost 24-23 in Iowa City.  Penn State is undefeated again and ranked number five this time, but Joe Pa’s team has played three patsies.  The winner of this game will be the leader in the clubhouse in the Big 10, but with Michigan, Ohio State, and even Wisconsin still around, they won’t have it wrapped up.  PiRate Rating: Penn State by 5.6/Mean Rating: Penn State by 4/PiRate Viewer Rating: A+

 

9:00 PM: Washington at Stanford—Can you believe this game?  Washington is the second ever team to crack the AP poll rankings in September after being winless the year before (Florida in 1980).  Stanford is close to being 3-0, and the Cardinal have not been this good since 2001.  Simply put, the winner of this contest is going to a bowl game this year.  You’ll see two great quarterbacks in this one.  Stanford’s Andrew Luck is just a freshman, but he’s averaging 9.3 yards per pass attempt and completing 62.3% of his passes.  Washington’s Jake Locker is leading the Pac-10 in total offense.  PiRate Rating: Stanford by 9.5/Mean Rating: Stanford by 8/PiRate Viewer Rating: A

 

9:15 PM: Texas Tech at Houston—These teams haven’t played each other since the Southwest Conference days, and it should be one of the most exciting games of the season.  You have two teams that average better than 400 passing yards per game.  Houston’s Case Keenum has a shot at an NFL career in a couple of years, while Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts may be the best quarterback Coach Mike Leach has placed in his offense.  PiRate Rating: Texas Tech by 6.2/Mean Rating: Texas Tech by 3/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

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