The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 20, 2017

2017 Big Ten Preview

We kick off our Power 5 Conference previews today with the Big Ten Conference. While the Big Ten is our lowest rated Power 5 league to begin the season, the margin is miniscule. The number two through five leagues are separated by three points. What hurts the Big Ten is that four teams are below the norm among the entire 130 FBS roster. The other Power 5 leagues have 0, 1, or 2.

Most of the nation’s professional media have Ohio State as the overwhelming pick to win the league, and the PiRates believe the Buckeyes are the clear-cut favorite. However, Ohio State will face very stiff competition from Penn State again this season. The two teams are heavily loaded with talent, and the loser of this game could very well finish the regular season at 11-1 and have a small chance to earn a Playoff bid. The two teams square off in Columbus on October 28.

Michigan is looking at a major rebuilding project with the loss of 10 defensive starters. Having just five starters back on offense isn’t a picnic either, and Coach Jim Harbaugh has an opening game with Florida looming. The next three could come in any order, as Maryland, Indiana, and Michigan State are decent but not great teams. Two of this trio should become bowl-eligible.

The West will once again be competitive this year. Last year, five teams competed for the flag, and the same five should be involved in a hotly contested race this season. Wisconsin begins the year as the highest-rated team, but Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska are all capable of topping the Badgers. The race could end in a multiple-team tie, and 7-2 could even win the division outright yet again.

Jeff Brohm is the new ingredient in the Midwestern cocktail. He takes over a moribund Purdue program and promises to bring excitement to West Lafayette. Purdue has not been a factor for several years now, but the Boilermakers have a storied history as an exciting and innovative program that has pulled off big upsets. Brohm doesn’t have a lot of quality talent to work with in year one, but it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if the Boilermakers ruined a Saturday for a contending team.

Here is how the Big Ten media voted in the preseason poll.

Big Ten–East Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Ohio St. 34 260 29
2 Penn St. 7 231.5 4
3 Michigan 1 192 1
4 Michigan St. 0 128 0
5 Indiana 0 114 0
6 Maryland 0 100.5 0
7 Rutgers 0 38 0
Big Ten–West Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Wisconsin 31 259 4
2 Northwestern 5 219 0
3 Nebraska 2 176.5 0
4 Iowa 0 164.5 0
5 Minnesota 0 131 0
6t Purdue 0 57 0
6t Illinois 0 57 0

The PiRate, Mean, and Bias ratings are in close step with the media.

Big Ten Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Ohio St. 132.3 129.1 131.3 130.9
Penn St. 125.3 122.6 125.8 124.6
Michigan 116.5 115.7 115.5 115.9
Indiana 104.3 104.6 104.5 104.5
Maryland 101.8 104.3 101.7 102.6
Michigan St. 95.4 100.1 95.6 97.0
Rutgers 95.5 95.7 94.6 95.3
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Wisconsin 122.2 118.0 120.7 120.3
Northwestern 113.9 111.3 113.5 112.9
Iowa 111.6 111.2 111.3 111.4
Minnesota 106.8 106.3 106.5 106.5
Nebraska 104.7 106.3 104.0 105.0
Purdue 94.7 97.3 95.4 95.8
Illinois 90.1 92.0 88.4 90.2
Big Ten Averages 108.2 108.2 107.8 108.1

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

Big Ten Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
East Division      
Ohio St. 9-0 13-0 ***PLAYOFFS***
Penn St. 8-1 11-1 Cotton
Michigan 6-3 9-3 Outback
Indiana 3-6 6-6 Quick Lane
Maryland 2-7 4-8  
Michigan St. 2-7 4-8  
Rutgers 2-7 4-8  
Team Conference Overall Bowl
West Division      
Wisconsin 8-1 11-2 Citrus
Northwestern 6-3 9-3 Taxslayer
Minnesota 6-3 8-4 Foster Farms
Nebraska 5-4 7-5 Pinstripe
Iowa 4-5 7-5 Holiday
Purdue 1-8 2-10  
Illinois 1-8 2-10  
Ohio St. to win Big Ten Championship Game
No Big Ten team available for Armed Forces Bowl


Trivia: We are going to keep the previous trivia question open for a day or so. If you missed it, here it is again.
In 1918, Georgia Tech beat North Carolina State 118-0. For half a century no Division 1 team scored 100 points on another Division 1 team. In 1949 San Jose State beat New Mexico 103-0, but the Spartans would not become a major college participant until the following season, so this one doesn’t count. The last time a Division 1 team scored 100 points on another Division 1 team was in 1968, when current AAC West member Houston beat current AAC West member Tulsa 100-6.

A Houston wide receiver caught a 25-yard pass for a touchdown in that 100-6 game that made the score 93-6. He later went on to fame in the music business. A Tulsa lineman also became a famous celebrity on television and through his books.

Here are your three trivia questions:
1. Name the Houston Wide Receiver that would become a famous music celebrity.
2. Explain how this wide receiver once performed the National Anthem for a sporting event that was postponed soon after he performed, yet there was no rain, snow, or lightning.
3. Name the Tulsa lineman that became a famous TV celebrity and has used this game as a means to help advance his career.


Coming tomorrow: Read our Big 12 preview before you go watch the eclipse.  Is the sun going dark on this once great league, or is there life still in the Big 12?


March 15, 2017

Red-White-Blue Ratings For Thursday’s NCAA Tournament Games


Team Team Red White Blue
Notre Dame Princeton 6 6 2
Virginia UNC-Wilmington 7 9 9
Butler Winthrop 10 9 10
Gonzaga South Dakota St. 24 21 15
West Virginia Bucknell 13 12 11
Florida East Tennessee St. 10 12 13
Minnesota Middle Tennessee 2 1 3
Northwestern Vanderbilt -1 -1 -5
Maryland Xavier -1 -1 -1
Villanova Mount St. Mary’s 22 23 21
Saint Mary’s VCU 5 6 4
Purdue Vermont 9 9 5
Florida St. Florida Gulf Coast 13 14 11
Wisconsin Virginia Tech 4 4 4
Arizona North Dakota 15 15 14
Iowa St. Nevada 6 6 6

March 14, 2017

PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics 505 Bracket Reveal & First Four Preview

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:57 am

For those that just want to see our Red-White-Blue Ratings for the First Four, here they are.

Team Team Red White Blue
New Orleans Mount St. Mary’s 3 -1 1
Wake Forest Kansas St. 1 1 1
UNC-Central UC-Davis 4 3 6
Providence USC 1 1 1

Now, for the rest of you:

Welcome one and all to our annually most viewed edition of the PiRate Ratings.  We have been working diligently for the past 42 hours getting this edition of March Madness Bracketnomics ready for you.

If you are new to this site today, there is something you need to do, and even if you are not, you should take this advice.  Open another window and bring up our primer from yesterday where we explain how we have come up with the numbers that we will show you today.  The link to the primer is:

Before we begin picking winners in our bracket based on the PiRate Criteria, let us give you another little bit of advice in selecting your own brackets.

  1. Do not select a lot of early upsets.  Realize that nobody ever has picked a perfect bracket.  The chances are so slim that nobody may ever pick one!  The key to winning bracket contests where you must choose all the games at the beginning and do not get to select new winners after every round is to pick the National Champion, the Final Four, and the Elite 8 teams.  Realize that in about 95% of the cases, the Final Four teams come from one, two, three, or four seeds.  There will frequently be a seed lower than 4, but good luck trying to pick one.  What you will most likely do is remove one of the favorites to get there, so select very few upsets early.
  2. In the last 60+ years, only 2 times was the national champion a team from outside a major conference, and it has not happened since 1990.  So, go heavy on the best teams in the power conferences–Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC.  No Pac-12 team has won the title since Arizona beat Kentucky in 1997, so you might discount the Pac-12 a little.  No Big Ten team has won the title since Michigan State in 2000, so you might also want to discount the Big Ten a little.
  3. The most likely spots for upsets early come from 10-11-12 seed lines for good reason.  The top lower and mid-major teams usually end up on one of these seed lines, and in actuality, some of these teams would beat their higher-seed opponent 7 times out of 10.  In other words, these upsets are not really upsets.  They are incorrect seedings by the Committee.

Okay, we will leave the rest of that strategy up to you.  Let’s get to the Bracketnomics Facts for 2017


Who Has The Statistical Criteria That Looks Like A Final Four Team

This is an unusual year.  There are no teams closely similar to the Connecticut women’s team.  There is no obvious best team like in some years out of the past.  On the other hand, there are an inordinate amount of teams this year that look like they would have trouble winning the NIT 10 years ago.  There is parity by virtue of mediocrity.  The way the game is played in 2017, and with the 30-second shot clock, the game has become harder to isolate on just two or three teams and call them the heavy favorites to make the Final Four.

Let’s eliminate some teams so that what we have left is a much easier group to compare.

A. First, let’s forget the chance that a low-major or mid-major conference team will make the Final Four this year.  This does not include Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, or Wichita State, who we consider to be above mid-major.

B. Next, let’s take out any team that played a schedule too soft to prepare them for the top echelon of opponents.  From what’s left after (A), that will remove Wichita State and UCLA.

C. Next, let’s dump any team with a single-digit R+T rating after the Sweet 16 round.  Any single digit team in the Elite 8 gets knocked out, unless their opponent also has a single digit rating.  From this list of teams still in contention after (A) and (B), we now dump: South Carolina, Butler, Wake Forest, Arkansas, Minnesota, Michigan State, USC, Northwestern, Michigan, Notre Dame, Maryland, Marquette, Kansas State, Providence, Iowa State, Creighton, Vanderbilt, and Virginia Tech.

D. Let’s remove any teams that are missing key players and might be able to get to the Sweet 16 without these players, but they are most likely to bow out at this point when the competition is too strong.  Say good bye to Xavier and Oregon.  For now, Creighton and Florida stay in because they played a significant number of games without their key players.

Now we have a much more manageable list of Final Four and Elite 8 Contenders, down to just 21 teams.

But, we are not finished eliminating teams.  What about teams that have not played all that well away from home?  We can eliminate the 22-9 team that went 17-0 at home and 5-9 away from home, because these teams are not going to all of a sudden beat the nation’s finest teams away from their home floor, at least not 4 consecutive times.

Let’s now say bye bye to Florida State, Miami (Fla.), and Seton Hall, lowering the number to 19.

And, then there is the essential thing of having enough consistency to win four games in a row against quality competition.  We cannot keep any teams that did not sustain at least one long winning streak or two extended winning streaks.  Only West Virginia fails to meet this criterion from the remaining group, lowering our list to 18.

Now,  let’s look at how the remaining 18 teams rate in the criteria that matter.

Scoring Margin

There is a reason both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are still in this list.  They are serious contenders this year.  Gonzaga has the highest scoring margin and Saint Mary’s has the third highest among the 17 remaining teams.  From the list of 17, there are a couple teams that do not meet the 8 point minimum to be considered as a strong Final Four contender.  There are teams that make the Final Four with less than 8 point scoring margins, but they are the exception rather than the rule, and we are looking for angles that increase our percentage chance of hitting on Final Four teams.  It’s the end of the line here for Oklahoma State.


Field Goal Percentage Differential

Eventually, in order to get to the Final Four, a team is going to have to be superior when it comes to shooting and defending the shot, because eventually, being able to dominate the glass or force a lot of turnovers will not work against teams that can also rebound and force turnovers.  We are looking only for a difference of 5% or more to stay in the hunt for Final Four contention.  We must say adieu to three more teams that cannot meet this standard–Florida, Duke, and Wisconsin.  Now we have 14 teams on our list of Final Four contenders.


Rebound Margin

Remember that R+T rating is much more important than any of its components (Rebounding, Turnovers, and Steals), but for Final Four consideration, well over 90% of the past Final Four teams had positive rebound margin.  In what may help vindicate our selections to this point, all 14 teams remaining have positive rebounding margin.


Okay, Already, Who Is Left?

The following teams have resumes that could get them to the Final Four.  In alphabetical order, they are: Arizona, Baylor, Cincinnati, Gonzaga, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, Purdue, Saint Mary’s, SMU, Villanova, Virginia, and West Virginia.  If our criteria is worth anything these years, we expect the Final Four to come from this list of teams.  But, we need to do better.  You cannot select 14 teams to make the Final Four or even Elite 8.


What we need to do now is look at each game as it is played.  It won’t help us to go with the 4 best resumes if these teams cannot all make the Final Four because they will play each other prior to that round.

Here is how we see the First Four games according to PiRate Criteria.  Note that our criteria and our Red-White-Blue Ratings have no real correlation, so the teams we predict to win may not be the same as the teams our criteria says will win.

First Four

New Orleans over Mount St. Mary’s

UNC-Central over UC-Davis

USC over Providence

Kansas St. over Wake Forest

Most brackets allow you to miss here without penalty and start in earnest at 64 teams, but we don’t go for that.

Round of 64

You will not see us picking many upsets in this round.  Remember the important factoid we revealed at the beginning: you win your bracket contests by getting your teams into the Elite 8, Final 4, and National Championship.  If you pick a lot of upsets, you are liable to have very few teams left by the Elite 8.

Villanova over New Orleans (Mount St. Mary’s)

Wisconsin over Virginia Tech

Virginia over UNC-Wilmington (upset possible, but we’ll take the Cavs)

Florida over East Tennessee (like a home game for the Gators)

SMU over USC in a rematch (also over Providence) near tossup vs. USC close to 50-50

Baylor over New Mexico St.

South Carolina over Marquette in close one that will be like home game for Gamecocks.

Duke over Troy

Gonzaga over South Dakota St.

Northwestern over Vanderbilt (close game)

Notre Dame over Princeton

West Virginia over Bucknell (not this year for Bison as Mountaineers are too physical)

Maryland over Xavier (Chris Mack becomes an early candidate for other big openings)

Florida State over Florida Gulf Coast (FGCU not as strong as their Sweet 16 team)

Saint Mary’s over VCU (Will Wade comes free for promotion to power conference team)

Arizona over North Dakota

Kansas over UNC-Central (UC-Davis)

Miami over Michigan State (MSU one and done two years in a row)

Iowa State over Nevada (but this one should be nip and tuck)

Purdue over Vermont (Boilermakers finally have the right type of resume to advance)

Creighton over Rhode Island (freeing up Dan Hurley if a big school wants him)

Oregon over Iona (loss of Chris Boucher does not hurt yet)

Oklahoma State over Michigan (This upset we will pick.  Cowboys have better criteria resume)

Louisville over Jacksonville State (UL almost has a home game in Indy)

North Carolina over Texas Southern

Seton Hall over Arkansas (should be physical and close)

Minnesota over Middle Tennessee (Blue Raiders are the Vegas favorite, but Gophers can exploit interior defense)

Butler over Winthrop (we would not be shocked if Butler has to rally to win this one)

Cincinnati over Kansas State (Wake Forest)

UCLA over Kent State

Wichita St. over Dayton (Will Archie Miller be the next NC State coach?)

Kentucky over Northern Kentucky (Norse would be happy with a lead at under 16 timeout in 1st half)


Round of 32

Villanova over Wisconsin

Virginia over Florida (should be very close, maybe overtime)

Baylor over SMU (this one should be a great game–Tim Jankovich in play at Illinois)

Duke over South Carolina (We don’t see Frank Martin leaving the Palmetto State unless he has 4 million reasons)

Gonzaga over Northwestern (Cinderella season ends here–no Cubs repeat in the Windy City)

West Virginia over Notre Dame (Irish wear down in the second half)

Florida State over Maryland

Arizona over Saint Mary’s (expect a hard-fought game but Gaels are outmanned)

Kansas over Miami (closer than expected)

Purdue over Iowa State (Boilermakers look impressive to this point)

Oregon over Creighton (Boucher’s absence felt but not enough for Ducks to lose)

Louisville over Oklahoma St. (Brad Underwood vs. Rick Pitino–Brilliant!)

North Carolina over Seton Hall

Butler over Minnesota (Should be a great game)

Cincinnati over UCLA (Bruins numbers padded by substandard overall schedule–not strong enough inside)

Kentucky over Wichita State (because Wildcat players appear to be on a mission and if so are the class of the field)


Sweet 16 to Elite 8

Villanova over Virginia (Cavs do not have enough offense to win at this point)

Baylor over Duke (Our big upset pick in this round, because Duke has holes Bears can exploit)

West Virginia over Gonzaga (Sorry Bulldog fans, WVU style of play is not what you want to face)

Arizona over Florida State (We expect Wildcats to win big in this one)

Kansas over Purdue (KU will have to play lights out to put Boilermakers away)

Louisville over Oregon (Boucher’s absence is too much to overcome in this round

North Carolina over Butler (If Heels are rolling at this point, then next round is actual title game)

Kentucky over Cincinnati (Should be ultra-physical and highly emotional game)


Elite 8 to Final Four

Unfortunately, at this point the top two teams in the field will meet

Baylor over Villanova (no repeat for Wildcats but a great game)

Arizona over West Virginia (Mountaineers run out of gas at this point)

Louisville over Kansas (Cards win a sloppy game)

Kentucky over North Carolina (This should have been the National Championship Game)


Final Four Semifinals

Baylor over Arizona (tough to go against a team playing in its home state)

Kentucky over Louisville (how much will this ticket cost)


National Championship

Kentucky over Baylor


The Kentucky criteria best matches that of past national champions.  Add to the fact that they have the most talent and a coach that can use the right psychology to motivate these future millionaires to play like their draft status is to be determined in this tournament, and we believe the Wildcats will cut the nets in Arizona.


Here is how the 14 top Pirate Criteria teams rank overall

  1. Kentucky
  2. North Carolina
  3. Baylor
  4. Arizona
  5. West Virginia
  6. Gonzaga
  7. Louisville
  8. Villanova
  9. Kansas
  10. Purdue
  11. Duke
  12. Cincinnati
  13. Saint Mary’s
  14. SMU


TV Schedule For First Four in Dayton

Day Time (EDT) Network Team vs. Team
Tuesday, March 14 6:40 PM truTV New Orleans vs. Mount St. Mary’s
Tuesday, March 14 9:10 PM truTV Wake Forest vs. Kansas St.
Wednesday, March 15 6:40 PM truTV UC-Davis vs. UNC-Central
Wednesday, March 15 9:10 PM truTV USC vs. Providence





November 20, 2015

Selections Against The Spread–November 20, 2015

We almost decided to take this week off in our selections against the spread and money line parlays.  To start off with, we do not like any of the NFL lines this week, and we eliminated them all from consideration.  Since an overwhelming majority of our readers come to us for NFL information rather than college, it almost did not seem worth it.  However, a couple of you like the college game, so we need to give you something to laugh at.

While our selections against the spread are basically at .500 this year, our money line parlays have been an inconsistent winner.  Because we are playing parlays where the final odds on each game are on the + side, it figures that it would be very hard to win half, but the average payout is about 5-3, so winning 50% is okay, because you come out ahead.

To date, our parlay choices are just 10-12, but our return on the mythical 22 selections has been positive to the turn of 43.5% ROI.


However, we do warn you: do not use our selections as your source of investment.  It’s fine if you want to look, but make your own choices.  We do not use ours for anything other than the fun we have doing it.


Straight Picks–Sides

Home Visitor Line Our Pick
Maryland Indiana 3 Indiana
Connecticut Houston -10 Connecticut
Virginia Tech North Carolina -4 North Carolina
Wisconsin Northwestern 10 1/2 Northwestern
Oklahoma TCU 11 1/2 TCU
Arizona St. Arizona 7 1/2 Arizona
Kansas St. Iowa St. 5 1/2 Kansas St.
Stanford California 11 1/2 California
New Mexico Colorado St. -2 1/2 New Mexico

Money Line Parlay

Money Line Parlay 6 Teams at 8-5   $264 payout on $100
Favorite Underdog   Must Win
Georgia Georgia Southern   Georgia
NC St Syracuse   NC St
Tennessee Missouri   Tennessee
Ohio St. Michigan St.   Ohio St.
Washington Oregon St.   Washington
Notre Dame Boston College   Notre Dame


March 13, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 13 Update

Selection Sunday Is Here

Over the weekend, we here at the PiRate Ratings have been perusing all the statistical information relevant to our popular PiRate Bracket-picking criteria.  What began as a simple back-testing exercise six years ago has evolved into a lengthy formula that has proven to be rather accurate at isolating the real contenders from the pretenders.


We have determined which factors are important and which are irrelevant when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.  Last year, with about 1,150 readers coming to our site to read the pre-tournament prediction, we shocked a lot of Blue Mist fanatics by predicting that their beloved Wildcats would fail to reach the Final Four.  We said the same thing about Kansas.  It was a foregone conclusion that the Wildcats and Jayhawks were on a collision course to play in one of those games of the century.


We crunched the numbers and predicted Coach K and Duke to win the title.  The choice was not popular.  We were told, sometimes not in the King’s English, how stupid our formula must be to take a not-so-great Duke team (when compared to the really good Duke teams in the past), and how our formula was full of baloney.  We had to laugh when one reader lambasted us using the same words he had used the year before when we tabbed North Carolina as a bigger favorite to win it all than Ronald Reagan was in the 1984 election.


For the record, we predicted Kansas and Memphis to make it to the finals in 2008, and we forecasted Florida and UCLA to meet for the championship in 2006.  We also told you to watch out for tiny George Mason that year as they had a criteria score that made them a contender to advance to the Elite Eight.


We made a handful of West Virginia fans happy when we called for the Mountaineers to win four games and crash the Final Four party.  We forecasted the Regional Final win over Kentucky before the play-in game tipped off.  On the bright side, for some fans from the Bluegrass, we correctly predicted Murray State to upset Vanderbilt in the first round.


This formula has its drawbacks as well as its benefits.  It is strictly a mechanical formula much like a stock screener.  It does not consider a lot of the intangibles, such as emotion, motivation, and intestinal fortitude.  Of course, it removes all the biases and looks only for the pertinent statistics that propelled past teams into the Final Four.


For instance, we missed on Butler last year.  We called for UTEP to upset the Bulldogs in the first round in what we thought was the best overall matchup of the first two days.  We missed on other first and second round games as well.  We explicitly state that this formula is geared toward finding the teams that can advance to the Elite Eight and Final Four and finding the team that best emulates past champions.


Remember this:  the 1927 New York Yankees, the best baseball team ever (better than the 1939 Yankees in our opinion), lost 44 games during the season.  28.6% of the time, an inferior team defeated the Bronx Bombers.  There are 32 games in the first round, so a record of 23-9 should be considered as dominating as the 1927 Yankees.


Let’s say that the top predictors can successfully pick 80% of the tournament games correctly when filling out their brackets.  Apply common mathematics to the 64 advancing teams after the First Four Round is played in Dayton, and that leaves you with 25.6 correct picks in the first round.  That means that 6.4 of the teams you picked are gone, so you cannot win any more games involving those exited teams.


In the second round, if you are fortunate to pick 80% correctly once again, 10.24 of the Sweet 16 will be teams you picked to make it to the second week of the tournament.  The other 5.76 teams still around are teams you did not pick, so they cannot help you in your brackets.  Remember, this amount is about the high end of the threshold for the best prognosticators.


Applying our 80% success rate in the next two rounds, 4.1 of our teams will make the Elite Eight, and 1.64 of our teams will make the Final Four.  You see just how difficult it can be to fill out your brackets.  It really gives you a headache when the junior executive’s sweet little secretary wins the office pool because she chose her teams based on the number of syllables in their name.  Pure luck sometimes wins over hard work.  That’s life.

We can tell you one thing about this year’s probable NCAA Tournament field.  It is not the most dominating field.  We have yet to finish collecting all the data we need to put numbers to the criteria, but we can tell you that we expect more first round and second round games to be decided in the final minutes than most years.  It makes for a great tournament to watch, but it makes for five headaches for the five of us to live up to our past successes.


Tonight, we will begin our NCAA Tournament coverage with a full explanation of our system.  Beginning Monday, we will start to analyze each of the four regionals and tell you which teams have the best chance of advancing to Houston’s Reliant Stadium.


Let’s take a look at some unfinished business.  There are four conference tournament championships on tap for today.  One of them can cause a chain reaction and force the bottom team on the bubble into the NIT.


Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

#1 North Carolina (26-6)  vs. #2 Duke (29-4)


It’s always great when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox meet in the American League Playoffs.  Well, it is great if you are not a fan of the other teams.  The Big Two from Tobacco Road meet for a third time this season in the rubber game.  It is the 30th time for both in the ACC Championship Game.


North Carolina blew a large lead at Cameron Indoor Stadium in February, but the Tar Heels breezed to a win at the Dean Dome last week to wrap up the regular season championship.  Carolina has not lost since that game at Duke, and the Tar Heels are on a 14-1 streak since mid-January.  It has not been easy for Coach Roy Williams and his team, as they have had to come back from double digit deficits in the second half of both of their tournament games.


Duke weathered a mighty scare when Nolan Smith went down with a toe injury in the quarterfinal game against Maryland, but Smith showed no signs that it affected him when he returned Saturday to score 27 points in an easy win over Virginia Tech.


This is definitely the game of the day as you prepare for the big announcements this evening.  Flip a coin.  This is a 50-50 affair.  We’ll go with the Tar Heels because they looked better overall down the stretch than the Blue Devils, but we have no real reason to pick one rival over the other.  It will come down to which team has a better shooting eye today and has the most rest.


Atlantic 10 Conference—Atlantic City, NJ

#3 Richmond (26-7)  vs. #9 Dayton (22-12)

1:00 PM EDT  CBS

Fans of Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Southern Cal, Alabama, and other bubble teams will be rooting like crazy for the Spiders today.  If Dayton upsets Richmond, the last team in the tournament will be exiled to the NIT.


Richmond has won six games in a row and 10 of 11.  The Spiders have outscored their opponents by 12 points per game in their current streak, and their Princeton-style offense has really jelled down the stretch.  Their defense has been as potent as their offense.  In the last four games, opponents have connected on just 35.3% of their shots.


Dayton connected on just 34.4% of their shots in a nine-point home loss to Richmond in the regular season.  The Flyers were in the middle of a 6-9 slide when they played Richmond in late January.


The Flyers came out flying in the A-10 Tournament.  In the first two rounds, Dayton couldn’t miss from outside.  Three-point barrages in both games gave the Flyers early double-digit leads.  Yesterday, the shots did not fall, but the Flyers held on with defense.


We do not expect Dayton to jump out to a big lead today.  In fact, we believe they will commit just enough errors for Richmond to exploit with their patient offense and help one bubble team stay alive.


Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

#1 Ohio State (31-2)  vs. #6 Penn State (19-13)

3:30 PM EDT  CBS

If this were only football, we would call this the game of the day.  Then, again, we would probably break out into a discussion about Joe Paterno and his squeaky clean history against Jim Tressel and his e-mail history.


On paper, this game looks like a mismatch, but in reality, Ohio State has not dominated this weekend, while Penn State has.


The Buckeyes are playing for the first overall seed.  A loss today would give that honor to Kansas.  Penn State appears to be in the Big Dance, but there is still a tiny pinhole of doubt.  A loss would leave the Nittany Lions at 19-14.


Ohio State struggled all day against Northwestern’s slowdown.  Penn State can slow this game down and play much better defense than the Wildcats.  We believe the big underdog has a legitimate chance to win the title.


Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

#1E  Florida (26-6)  vs. #2E  Kentucky (24-8)
1:00 PM EDT  ABC

Florida does not need much help to win this game and move up as high as a number two seed.  Kentucky’s lack of depth forced Coach John Calipari to stick with his starters long after he needed to do so yesterday, and two Wildcat starters exited the game with ankle injuries in the final minutes.


The worse of the two injuries belong to star Doron Lamb, and Lamb may or may not be available to play today.  Florida’s offense forces defenders to cover a lot of territory, and Lamb will not be able to play defense the way it is needed to stop the Gators’ offense.


We look for the Gators to put this game away in the first five minutes of the second half.


Check back just before the brackets are announced tonight.  We will have our bracket-picking primer online around 5:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

March 12, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 12 Update

Bucknell Joins The Dance Party

The Bucknell Bison earned the Patriot League’s automatic bid Friday with a 72-54 victory over Lafayette.  Versatile big man Mike Muscala led the Bison with 18 points while sharpshooter Bryson Johnson added 15.


Bucknell improved to 25-8 on the season.  They project to be a 12 or 13-seed.


12 More Bids To Go Out Saturday


This is the busiest day of the tournament schedule.  13 conferences will crown their champion, and four other conferences will conduct semifinal rounds.  All told, every single one of the 21 games scheduled will be televised nationally.  Do you have enough televisions and a good high-speed computer?


Here is a conference-by-conference look at all the action.


All Game Times EST


Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

Quarterfinal Round

#1 North Carolina  61  #9 Miami  59

#4 Clemson  70  #5 Boston College  47

#2 Duke  87  #7 Maryland  71

#6 Virginia Tech  52  #3 Florida State  51 


Semifinal Round

#1 North Carolina (25-6)  vs. #4 Clemson (21-10)  1:30 PM  ESPN 

#2 Duke (28-4)  vs. #6 Virginia Tech (21-11)  3:45 PM  ESPN


All four teams are safely in the NCAA Tournament.  The Hokies secured a spot in the Dance with the nail-biting win over the Seminoles.


America East Conference

Championship Round

#5 Stony Brook (15-16)  at #2 Boston U (20-13)  12 Noon  ESPN2


Boston U won both regular season meetings.  The Terriers won 67-62 at home and 62-49 on the road.  They win with their defense, as they only shoot 40.6% from the field.


Atlantic 10 Conference—Atlantic City, NJ

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Dayton  68  #1 Xavier  67

#12 St. Joseph’s  93  #4 Duquesne  90  ot

#2 Temple  96  #10 LaSalle  76

#3 Richmond  55  #6 Rhode Island 45


Semifinal Round

#9 Dayton (21-12)  vs. #12 St. Joseph’s (11-21)  1 PM  CBS College

#2 Temple (25-6)  vs. #3 Richmond (24-7)  3:30 PM  CBS College


The Bubble teams will have to sweat it out all the way until Sunday.  At least one long shot will advance to the Championship Game.  Neither St. Joe’s nor Dayton is getting an at-large bid, and one of the two will be playing for an automatic bid Sunday.  Both Temple and Richmond are in the Dance.


Big 12 Conference—Kansas City

Semifinal Round

#1 Kansas  90  #5 Colorado  83

#2 Texas  70  #3 Texas A&M  58


Championship Game

#1 Kansas (31-2)  vs. #2 Texas (27-6)  6 PM  ESPN


The Jayhawks are still playing for the overall number one seed, while Texas is probably locked in on a number two seed.  However, with Notre Dame losing, a Longhorn win could put them in the conversation, especially if Duke does not win the ACC Tournament.


Big East Conference—New York City

Semifinal Round

#9 Connecticut  76  #4 Syracuse  71  ot

#3 Louisville 83  #2 Notre Dame  77  ot 


Championship Game

#3 Louisville (25-8)  vs. #9 Connecticut (25-9)  9 PM  ESPN


Connecticut becomes the first team ever to play five games in five days in modern college basketball history.  Will they have anything left in the tank next week when it really counts?  Louisville’s win more than likely killed any chance for the Irish getting a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.


Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Ohio State  67  #8 Northwestern  61 ot

#4 Michigan  60  #5 Illinois  55

#7 Michigan State  74  #2 Purdue  56

#6 Penn State  36  #3 Wisconsin 33


Semifinal Round

#1 Ohio State (30-2)  vs. #4 Michigan (20-12)  1:40 PM  CBS

#6 Penn State (18-13)  vs. #7 Michigan State (19-13)  4 PM  CBS


Michigan State has now earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament.  Penn State might move from the Bubble to in the tournament with a win over the Spartans.


Big West Conference—Anaheim

Semifinal Round

#1 Long Beach State  74  #7 UC-Riverside  63

#5 UC-Santa Barbara 83  #3 Cal State Northridge 63


Championship Game

#1 Long Beach State (22-10)  vs. #5 UC-Santa Barbara (17-13)  8 PM  ESPN2


Long Beach State won both meetings against the Gauchos in the regular season, and neither game was close.  The 49ers are not going to become another Butler or even repeat the exploits of Northern Iowa last year, but they could scare a favored team in the first round.  If UCSB wins, then they will make a quick exit in the first round.


Conference USA—El Paso, TX

Semifinal Round

#4 Memphis  76  #8 East Carolina  56

#3 U T E P  66  #2 Tulsa  54


Championship Game

#3 UTEP (25-8)  vs. #4 Memphis (24-9)  11:30 AM  CBS


The host Miners blew Memphis off the floor 74-47 in their only regular season meeting.  That game took place on this court.


Ivy League Playoff

Harvard (23-5)  vs. Princeton (24-6)  at Yale University  4 PM 


If Princeton wins a close game, there is an outside chance that the Ivy League could get two bids.


Mid-American Conference—Cleveland

Semifinal Round

#6 Akron  79  #2 Western Michigan  68

#1 Kent State 79  #4 Ball State 68


Championship Game

#1 Kent State (23-10)  vs. #6 Akron (22-12)  6 PM  ESPN2


The winner goes dancing, while the loser can only hope for a trip to Madison Square Garden in late March.


M E A C—Winston-Salem, NC

Semifinal Round

#4 Morgan State  61  #1 Bethune-Cookman  48

#2 Hampton  85  #6 Norfolk State  61


Championship Game

#2 Hampton (23-8)  vs. #4 Morgan State (17-13)  2 PM  ESPN2


Morgan State goes for a four-peat.  The Bears beat Hampton in the regular season 78-72.


Mountain West Conference—Las Vegas

Semifinal Round

#1 B Y U  87  #5 New Mexico  76

#2 San Diego State  74  #3 UNLV 72


Championship Game

#1 B Y U  (30-3)  vs. #2 San Diego State (31-2)  7 PM  Versus


Is the third time the charm for San Diego State?  The Aztecs’ two losses were to the Cougars.  If they can hold Jimmer Fredette under 35 points, we have a feeling that SDSU will cut down the nets. 


Both teams are legitimate threats to make it to the Sweet 16 and possibly a round or two farther.


Pac-10 Conference—Los Angeles

Semifinal Round

#1 Arizona  67  #4 Southern Cal  62

#3 Washington 69  #7 Oregon 51


Championship Game

#1 Arizona (27-6)  vs. #3 Washington (22-10)  6 PM  CBS


This should be an exciting game, even though it will not greatly affect the NCAA Tournament seedings.


The two teams split the season series, but the Huskies came close to sweeping.  UW won by 17 at home and fell by a single point in Tucson.  We think this is a tossup game.


Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

Quarterfinal Round

1W  Alabama 65  4E Georgia 59  ot

2E  Kentucky  75  3W  Ole Miss 66

1E  Florida  85  5E  Tennessee  74

3E  Vanderbilt  87  2W  Mississippi State  81


Semifinal Round

1W  Alabama (21-10)  vs. 2E  Kentucky (23-8)  1 PM  ABC

1E  Florida (25-6)  vs.  3E  Vanderbilt (23-9)  3:30 PM  ABC


Alabama played themselves into position to get one of the final at-large bids.  The Crimson Tide fans need to route against a Dayton or St. Joseph’s tournament championship in the Atlantic 10, because there is still little room for error for ‘Bama.


Kentucky looks unstoppable at times and then looks like a team that doesn’t belong in the tournament at others.  That’s what you get with a bunch of underclassmen and with no depth.


We believe this game will be close for most of the day, but the Wildcats will enjoy one nice spurt in both halves to hold off the Tide by six to 12 points.


Florida is playing about as well as either of their two National Champion teams.  It is hard to stop a team with five guys capable of scoring 20 points.  The Gators’ have few weaknesses.


Vanderbilt is a lot like Florida, but not as talented.  The Commodores have excellent outside shooters, but they cannot create their own shot like Florida’s outside shooters.  They have a couple of excellent inside scorers, but they can disappear against Florida’s inside players.  We look for the Gators to dominate this one from the beginning and win by double digits.


Southland Conference—Katy, TX

Championship Game

#1 McNeese State (21-10)  vs. #7 UT-San Antonio (18-13)  4 PM  ESPN2


S W A C—Garland, TX

Semifinal Round

#4 Alabama State  73  #1 Texas Southern  66

#6 Grambling  81  #2 Jackson State  75  ot


Championship Game

#4 Alabama State (16-17)  vs. #6 Grambling (12-20)  8:30 PM  ESPNU


The winner of this game can definitely plan on heading to Dayton for a First Four game.


W A C—Las Vegas

Semifinal Round

#1 Utah State  58  #8 San Jose State  54

#2 Boise State 81  #3 New Mexico State  63


Championship Game

#1 Utah State (29-3)  vs. #2 Boise State (20-11) 10 PM  ESPN2


Utah State is definitely in the Dance, so if the Broncos can pull off the big upset, another bubble will burst somewhere else.


Note: St. Mary’s defeated Weber State Friday night 77-54 in a non-conference game that was scheduled only two months ago.  The Gaels appear to be safe as an at-large team.

March 11, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 11 Update

Patriot League Championship—4:45 PM EST On ESPN2

#6 Lafayette (13-18)  at #1 Bucknell (24-8)


Lafayette makes an appearance in the conference championship game for the second consecutive year.  The Leopards fell to rival Lehigh last season and were tabbed the best team in the league in the preseason.  They took a step backward and tumbled to sixth in the league.


Bucknell closed 2010 with an 8-2 finish and returned all five starters and most of their key reserves.  The Bison continued to play top-notch ball and ran away with the Patriot League title.  Bucknell is on fire, having won nine games in a row by an average of 72-60 and 22 of their last 24 games.


The Bison swept the series against their Keystone State rival, winning 75-56 in Lewisburg and 74-69 in overtime at Easton.  Tonight’s game is on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, so Bucknell will enjoy the home court advantage.


In the earlier game in Lewisburg, Bucknell began the second half of a close game by going on a 20-3 run to put the game out of reach.  The Bison held Lafayette to 37% shooting and controlled the boards by 14.  In the game at Lafayette, Bucknell led 61-50 with four and a half minutes to go, but the Bison did not score another point in regulation.  Lafayette scored 11 consecutive points to force overtime and then briefly took a 64-61 lead at the start of the extra period.  The Leopards shot under 40% again and were outrebounded once again.


Bucknell goes just seven-deep, and all seven contribute to the offense.  Muscular big man Mike Muscala leads the way with 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.  The 6-11 Muscala has recorded six double-doubles in the last 15 games.  Bryson Johnson is an excellent long-range shooter, and he shoots 47% from three-point range.  As a team, Bucknell shoots 40.6% from behind the arc.


Lafayette led the entire game at Holy Cross in the conference tournament quarterfinal.  The Leopards placed five players in double figure scoring, and they stole the ball nine times to knock off the Crusaders.  In the semifinal round at number two seed American, the Leopards trailed by two points in the final seconds when Jim Mower buried a three-pointer as the clock expired to seal a double overtime victory.


If the Leopards are to pull off the big upset and advance to a First Four game in Dayton next week, big man Jared Mintz will have to neutralize Muscala.  Mintz gives away two inches in height, but he has the power to hold his own inside.  Mintz leads the Leopards with a 15.8 point scoring average and 5.8 rebound average.  Mower averages 12.4 points per game.


Thursday’s Results And Friday’s Games With NCAA Tournament Repercussions

All Times EST

Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

1st Round

#9 Miami  69  #8 Virginia  62

#5 Boston College  81  #12 Wake Forest  67

#7 Maryland  75  #10 North Carolina State  67

#6 Virginia Tech  59  #11 Georgia Tech  43


Quarterfinal Round

#9 Miami (19-13)  vs. #1 North Carolina (24-6)  12 Noon  ESPN2

#5 Boston College (20-11)  vs. #4 Clemson (20-10)  Approx. 2:15 PM  ESPN2

#7 Maryland (19-13)  vs. #2 Duke (27-4)  7 PM  ESPN2

#6 Virginia Tech (20-10)  vs. #3 Florida State (21-9)  Approx. 9:15 PM  ESPN2


North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Clemson, and Boston College are in.  Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Miami are on the bubble.  Miami and Maryland must win today, or they are NIT-bound.  Virginia Tech is in a near must-win situation.  They are on the middle of the bubble.


Atlantic 10 Conference—Atlantic City, NJ

No Games Played Thursday

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Dayton (20-12)  vs. #1 Xavier (24-6)  12 Noon  CBS College

#12 St. Joseph’s (10-21)  vs. #4 Duquesne (18-11)  2:30 PM  CBS College

#10 LaSalle (15-17)  vs. #2 Temple (24-6)  6:30 PM  CBS College

#6 Rhode Island (19-12)  vs. #3 Richmond (24-7)  9 PM  CBS College


Xavier, Temple, and Richmond are in.  Duquesne must win the tournament to get in, so the bubble teams will be pulling for Dayton or Xavier to stop them in the semifinals.  Keep an eye on Rhode Island.  The Rams are capable of upsetting Richmond and Temple to get to the finals.


Big 12 Conference—Kansas City

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Kansas  53  #9 Oklahoma State  52

#5 Colorado  87  #4 Kansas State  75

#2 Texas  74  #10 Oklahoma  54

#3 Texas A&M  86  #6 Missouri  71


Semifinal Round

#1 Kansas (30-2)  vs. #5 Colorado (21-12)  7 PM

#2 Texas (26-6)  vs. #3 Texas A&M (24-7)  9:30 PM


Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Missouri, Kansas State, and Colorado are in.  The Buffalos secured their bid yesterday, so the rest of this tournament is all about the seedings.


Big East Conference—New York City

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Connecticut  76  #1 Pittsburgh  74

#4 Syracuse  79  #5 St. John’s  73

#2 Notre Dame  89  #7 Cincinnati  51

#3 Louisville  81  #11 Marquette  56


Semifinal Round

#9 Connecticut (24-9)  vs. #4 Syracuse (26-6)  7 PM  ESPN

#2 Notre Dame (26-5)  vs. #3 Louisville (24-8)  Approx. 9:15 PM  ESPN


11, yes 11, teams will receive invitations Sunday evening.  This is the strongest league not just this year, but maybe since the Big East placed three teams in the Final Four in 1985.  This should be a great finish to the tournament, and Notre Dame has a chance to move to a number one seed if the Irish win it.  Any one of these four could still be playing in late March.


Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

1st Round

#8 Northwestern  75  #9 Minnesota  65

#7 Michigan State  66  #10 Iowa  61

#6 Penn State  61  #11 Indiana  55


Quarterfinal Round

#1 Ohio State (29-2)  vs. #8 Northwestern (18-12) 12 Noon  ESPN

#4 Michigan (19-12)  vs. #5 Illinois (19-12)  Approx 2:20  ESPN

#2 Purdue (25-6)  vs. #7 Michigan State (18-13)  6:30 PM  Big Ten Network

#3 Wisconsin (23-7)  vs. #6 Penn State (17-13)  Approx. 8:45  Big Ten Network


Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois are in.  Michigan State can definitely punch a ticket with an upset over Purdue today, and they are still on the highest part of the bubble if they lose.  Northwestern and Penn State must win the tournament to get in, although the Nittany Lions could get in the discussion with a loss in the finals.  We would not be all that surprised if the Wildcats play Ohio State a close game, at least for 30 to 32 minutes.


Big West Conference—Anaheim

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Long Beach State 79  #8 UC-Irvine  72

#5 UC-Santa Barbara  79  #4 Pacific  67

#7 UC-Riverside  70  #2 Cal Poly  66  ot

#3 Cal State Northridge  75  #6 Cal State Fullerton  54


Semifinal Round

#1 Long Beach State (21-10)  vs. #5 UC-Santa Barbara (16-13)  9:30 PM  ESPNU

#3 Cal State Northridge (14-17)  vs. #7 UC-Riverside (12-18)  12 Midnight  ESPNU


The champion is the only team that will advance.  Long Beach State has a minimal at best chance of winning a first round game if they are the champion.


Conference USA—El Paso, TX

Quarterfinal Round

#8 East Carolina  75  #1 U A B  70  ot

#4 Memphis  66  #5 Southern Miss.  63

#3 U T E P  77  #6 Marshall  65

#2 Tulsa  81  #7 Rice  72


Semifinal Round

#2 Tulsa (19-12)  vs. #3 U T E P  (24-8)  3 PM 

#4 Memphis (23-9)  vs. #8 East Carolina (18-14)  5:30 PM


At this point, no team is guaranteed a spot in the Big Dance.  UAB played their way to the bottom half of the bubble with a loss to ECU.  Memphis and UTEP could possibly get into the conversation if they both advance to the championship game.  For now, we are projecting just the champion to make it into the tournament.  The host Miners enjoy a large home court advantage and should top Tulsa in a thriller today.


Mid-American Conference—Cleveland

Quarterfinal Round

#2 Western Michigan 67  #7 Bowling Green  56

#6 Akron  82  #3 Miami (O)  75  2ot

#1 Kent State  73  #8 Buffalo  62

#4 Ball State  76  #5 Ohio U  73  ot


Semifinal Round

#2 Western Michigan (20-11)  vs. #6 Akron (21-12)  7 PM

#1 Kent State (22-10)  vs. #4 Ball State (19-12)  9:30 PM


The MAC has been down in recent years, but the eventual champion of this tournament could be a formidable opponent as a number 13 or 14 seed for a better team in the first round. 


M E A C—Winston-Salem, NC

Quarterfinal Round

#4 Morgan State  77  #5 North Carolina A&T  59

#6 Norfolk State  55  #3 Coppin State 53


Semifinal Round

#1 Bethune-Cookman (21-11)  vs. #4 Morgan State (16-13)  6 PM

#2 Hampton (22-8) vs. #6 Norfolk State (12-19)  Approx. 8:15 PM


These teams are playing for a probable spot in the First Four.  The first semifinal will be a thriller; the top-seeded Wildcats face the three-time defending champion Bears.


Hampton has been a surprise team, and they should have an easier contest and be more rested for the championship.


Mountain West Conference—Las Vegas

Quarterfinal Round

#1 B Y U  64  #9 T C U  58

#5 New Mexico  67  #4 Colorado State 61

#2 San Diego State  64  #7 Utah  50

#3 U N L V  69  #6 Air Force 53


Semifinal Round

#1 B Y U (29-3)  vs. #5 New Mexico (21-11)  9 PM  CBS College

#2 San Diego State (30-2)  vs. #3 U N L V  (24-7)  11:30 PM  CBS College


BYU, San Diego State, and UNLV are in.  Colorado State played themselves into the NIT with the loss yesterday to New Mexico.  As for the Lobos, with a third win over BYU today, they could get into the conversation, but they probably need to earn the automatic bid to go dancing.


Pac-10 Conference—Los Angeles

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Arizona 78  #9 Oregon State  69

#4 Southern Cal  70  #5 California  56

#7 Oregon  76  #2 U C L A  59

#3 Washington 89  #6 Washington State 87


Semifinal Round

#1 Arizona (26-6)  vs. #4 Southern Cal (19-13)  9 PM  Fox Sports

#3 Washington (21-10)  vs. #7 Oregon (16-16)  11:30 PM  Fox Sports


Arizona, UCLA, and Washington are in.  Oregon must win this tournament to get in.  As for Southern Cal, the Trojans might work their way into one of the final bubble spots with an upset over the top-seeded Wildcats tonight.  Last night’s battle of the Evergreen State was one of the most exciting of the tournament season with the Huskies coming from behind to knock off arch-rival Washington State by two.


Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

1st Round

#4E  Georgia  69  #5W  Auburn  51

#3W  Ole Miss  66  #6E  South Carolina  55

#5E  Tennessee  74  #4W  Arkansas  68

#3E  Vanderbilt  62  #6W  L S U  50


Quarterfinal Round

#1W  Alabama (21-10)  vs. #4E Georgia (20-10)  1 PM

#2E  Kentucky (22-8)  vs. #3W Ole Miss (20-12)  3:30 PM

#1E  Florida (24-6)  vs. #5E  Tennessee (19-13)  7:30 PM

#2W Mississippi State (17-13)  vs. #3E  Vanderbilt (22-9)  10 PM


Florida, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt are definitely in.  Tennessee is probably in and would only be out if a lot of surprise winners win the remaining conference tournaments.  The Vols would safely secure a spot with a win over the Gators. 


The big game in all of college basketball today is the Georgia-Alabama game.  Call this an extra play-in game.  The winner survives to the Dance, while the loser will be hosting an NIT game next week.


Southland Conference—Katy, TX

Semifinal Round

#1 McNeese State  91  #4 Texas State  83

#7 UT-San Antonio  79  #3 Sam Houston State 70


Championship Game on Saturday


S W A C—Garland, TX

Quarterfinal Round

#4 Alabama State  81  #5 Alabama A&M 61

#6 Grambling  65  #3 Mississippi Valley  62


Semifinal Round

#2 Jackson State (17-14)  vs. #6 Grambling (11-20)  3:30 PM

#1 Texas Southern (19-11)  vs. #4 Alabama State (15-17)  9 PM


The Champion will probably be forced to play in the First Four.  Jackson State is on a mission after losing in the first round last year as the number one seed.


W A C—Las Vegas

Quarterfinal Round

#8 San Jose State  74  #4 Idaho 68

#3 New Mexico State  66  #6 Nevada  60


Semifinal Round

#1 Utah State (28-3)  vs. #8 San Jose State (17-14)  9 PM

#2 Boise State (19-11)  vs. #3 New Mexico State (16-16)  11:30 PM  ESPN2


Utah State is in and should be the higher seed in their first round game.  If the Aggies are upset, then one more bubble will burst.  The one WAC team that beat USU (Idaho) was knocked out of the conference tournament yesterday.

March 10, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 10 Update

Two Newest Dance Participants


Northeast Conference Championship

Long Island  85  Robert Morris  82 ot


In what may have been the most exciting championship game of the season, the home-standing Blackbirds and visiting Colonials exchanged leads all night.  Two missed three-point shots in the final seconds, one at the buzzer, was all that prevented this game from going to double overtime.


LIU opened with a cold shooting hand, and RMU took the lead.  Once the Blackbirds started hitting their shots, this became a game of runs.  LIU had the hot hand in the second half, but RMU kept getting enough offensive rebounds to keep the Colonials in the game.


Jamal Olasewere had a game-high 31 points to go with 11 rebounds; he scored seven points in the overtime.  Team leader Julian Boyd was held to just seven points, but the Blackbirds had excellent showings off the bench.  Jason Brickman tossed in 15 points and dished out eight big assists, while Kenny Onyechi added 13 points.


Russell Johnson and Velton Jones teamed up for 42 points for the losers.


LIU will be a formidable opponent for their favored foe in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  Their style of play could cause severe matchup problems for a bigger, slower team, especially if that team is not the strongest ball-handling team.  If they were to be bracketed against BYU in the first round, it would be the thriller of the first round. 


Big Sky Conference Championship

Northern Colorado  65  Montana  60


This game was anticlimactic following the NEC Championship.  Montana kept the pace slow, and the Grizzlies shot out to a 7-0 lead in the first two and a half minutes.  UNC made a run to take its first lead at 17-16 on a three-point shot by Tate Unruh.


The lead switched hands several times the remainder of the half with the buzzer sending the teams to the locker tied at 31-31.


Montana maintained a small lead for most of the second half, until star guard Devon Beitzel took over.  His three-pointer at the 4:56 mark gave the Bears the lead for good.  Beitzel continued shooting and then forced Montana to foul him, and the Bears hung on to win.


Beitzel did not score until late in the first half, but the Big Sky Conference’s leading scorer finished with 27 points.


Montana center Brian Qvale hit a layup with 16 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 62-60, but following two made Beitzel free throws, Art Steward committed a turnover to seal the game. 


Steward led the Grizzlies with 16 points, while Qvale added 11.


Northern Colorado will be one of those teams that will be glad just to be there at the NCAA Tournament.  The Bears should make a quick exit in game one, unless they are chosen as one of the First Four #16 seeds.


13 Automatic Qualifiers To Date

Team Conference Record
Arkansas-Little Rock Sunbelt 19-16
Belmont Atlantic South 30-4
Butler Horizon 23-9
Gonzaga West Coast 24-9
Indiana State Missouri Valley 20-13
Long Island Northeast 27-4
Morehead State Ohio Valley 24-9
Northern Colorado Big Sky 21-10
Oakland Summit 25-9
Old Dominion Colonial 27-6
St. Peter’s Metro Atlantic 20-13
UNC-Asheville Big South 19-13
Wofford Southern 21-12


No Championship Games Are Scheduled For Thursday


Wednesday’s Results/Thursday’s Schedule

All Times EST

Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

1st Round

#8 Virginia (16-14)  vs. #9 Miami (Fla) (18-13)  12 Noon

#5 Boston College (19-11)  vs. #12 Wake Forest (8-23)  Approx. 2:15 PM

#7 Maryland (18-13)  vs. #10 North Carolina State (15-15)  7 PM  ESPN2

#6 Virginia Tech (19-10)  vs. #11 Georgia Tech (13-17)  Approx. 9:15 PM


Big 12 Conference—Kansas City

1st Round

#9 Oklahoma State  53  #8 Nebraska  52

#5 Colorado  77  #12 Iowa State  75

#10 Oklahoma  84  #7 Baylor  67

#6 Missouri  88  #11 Texas Tech  84


Quarterfinal Round

#9 Oklahoma State (19-12)  vs. #1 Kansas (29-2)  12:30 PM on ESPN2

#5 Colorado (20-12)  vs. #4 Kansas State (22-9)  3PM

#10 Oklahoma (14-17) vs. #2 Texas (25-6)  7 PM

#6 Missouri (23-9) vs. #3 Texas A&M (23-7)  9:30 PM


Big East Conference—New York City

2nd Round

#9 Connecticut  79  #8 Georgetown 62

#5 St. John’s  65  #13 Rutgers 63

#7 Cincinnati  87  #15 South Florida 61

#11 Marquette  67  #6 West Virginia  61


Quarterfinal Round

#9 Connecticut (23-9)  vs. #1 Pittsburgh (27-4)  12 Noon  ESPN

#5 St. John’s (21-10)  vs. #4 Syracuse (25-6)  Approx. 2:15 PM  ESPN

#7 Cincinnati (25-7)  vs. #2 Notre Dame (25-5)  7 PM  ESPN

#11 Marquette (20-13)  vs. #3 Louisville (23-8)  Approx. 9:15 PM  ESPN


Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

1st Round

#8 Northwestern (17-12)  vs. #9 Minnesota (17-13)  2:30 PM  ESPN2

#7 Michigan State (17-13)  vs. #10 Iowa (11-19)  4:50 PM  ESPN2

#6 Penn State (16-13)  vs. #11 Indiana (12-19)  7:30 PM  Big Ten Network


Big West Conference—Anaheim

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Long Beach State (20-10)  vs. #8 UC-Irvine (13-18)  3 PM

#4 Pacific (16-14)  vs. #5 UC-Santa Barbara (15-13)  5:20 PM

#2 Cal Poly (15-14)  vs. #7 UC-Riverside (11-18)  9 PM

#3 Cal State Northridge (13-17)  vs. #6 Cal State Fullerton (11-19)  11:20 PM


Conference USA—El Paso, TX

1st Round

#8 East Carolina  78  #9 Central Florida  60

#5 Southern Miss.  63  #12 Tulane  47

#6 Marshall  97  #11 Houston  87

#10 Rice  58  #7 S M U  57


Quarterfinal Round

#8 East Carolina (17-14)  vs. #1 U A B  (22-7)  1PM  CBSC

#5 Southern Miss (22-9)  vs. #4 Memphis (22-9)  3:30 PM  CBSC

#6 Marshall (22-10)  vs. #3 U T E P  (23-8)  7:30 PM  CBSC

#10 Rice (14-17)  vs. #2 Tulsa (18-12)  10 PM  CBSC


M A C—Cleveland

Quarterfinal Round

#7 Bowling Green (14-18)  vs. #2 Western Michigan (19-11)  12 Noon

#6 Akron (20-12)  vs. #3 Miami (O) (16-15)  2:30 PM

#8 Buffalo (18-12)  vs. #1 Kent State (21-10)  7 PM

#5 Ohio U (18-14)  vs. #4 Ball State (18-12)  9:30 PM


M E A C—Winston-Salem, NC

Note: The MEAC has a unique scheduling format which rewards its top three seeds.  Thus, yesterday, there were both first round and quarterfinal round games scheduled.  The quarterfinal round concludes today.


1st Round

#6 Norfolk State  68  #11 Howard 53


Quarterfinal Round

#1 Bethune-Cookman  66  #9 South Carolina State 50

#2 Hampton  77  #10 Maryland-Eastern Shore  55


Quarterfinal Round Continues

#4 Morgan State (15-13)  vs. #5 North Carolina A&T (15-16)  8 PM

#3 Coppin State (16-13)  vs. #6 Norfolk State (11-19)  7 PM


Mountain West Conference—Las Vegas

1st Round

#9 T C U  70  #8 Wyoming  61


Quarterfinal Round

#9 T C U (11-21)  vs. #1 Brigham Young (28-3)  3 PM

#5 New Mexico (20-11)  vs. #4 Colorado State (19-11)  5:30 PM

#7 Utah (13-17)  vs. #2 San Diego State (29-2)  9 PM

#6 Air Force (15-14)  vs. #3 U N L V  (23-7)  11:30 PM


Pac-10 Conference—Los Angeles

1st Round

#9 Oregon State 69  #8 Stanford 67

#7 Oregon 76  #10 Arizona State 69


Quarterfinal Round

#4 Southern Cal (18-13)  vs. #5 California (17-13)  3 PM  Fox Sports

#1 Arizona (25-6)  vs. #9 Oregon State (11-19)  5:30 PM  Fox Sports

#2 U C L A  (22-9)  vs. #7 Oregon (15-16)  9 PM  Fox Sports

#3 Washington (20-10)  vs. #6 Washington State (19-11)  11:30 PM  Fox Sports


Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

1st Round

#4E  Georgia (20-10)  vs. #5W  Auburn (11-19)  1 PM

#3W  Ole Miss (19-12)  vs. #6E  South Carolina (14-15)  3:30 PM

#4W  Arkansas (18-12)  vs. #5E  Tennessee (18-13)  7:30 PM

#3W  Vanderbilt (21-9)  vs. #6E L S U  (11-20)  10 PM


Southland Conference—Katy, TX

Quarterfinal Round

#1 McNeese State 61  #8 Nicholls State 54

#4 Texas State 72  #5 Southeastern Louisiana 68

#7 Texas-San Antonio 97  #2 Northwestern State (LA) 96

#3 Sam Houston State 61  #6 Stephen F. Austin 45


Semifinal Round

#3 Sam Houston State (18-12)  vs. #7 Texas-San Antonio (17-13)  7 PM

#1 McNeese State (20-10)  vs. #4 Texas State (16-15)  9:30 PM


S W A C–Garland, TX

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Texas Southern 50  #8 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 45

#2 Jackson State 50  #7 Prairie View 38


Quarterfinal Round Continues

#3 Mississippi Valley (13-18)  vs. #6 Grambling (10-20)  12:30 PM

#4 Alabama State (14-17)  vs. #5 Alabama A&M (13-14) 9 PM


W A C—Las Vegas

1st Round

#8 San Jose State 75  #5 Hawaii 74

#6 Nevada 90  #7 Fresno State 80


2nd Round

#4 Idaho (18-12)  vs. #8 San Jose State (16-14)  3 PM  ESPNU

#3 New Mexico State (15-16)  vs. #6 Nevada (13-18)  5:30 PM  ESPNU

December 26, 2010

PiRate Ratings College Football Bowl Preview, Part Two

We are posting three bowl previews this year; this is the second preview.  We will give you the current odds for each game, the PiRate, Mean, and Bias spreads for each game, and the results of our 100 computer simulations for each game.


Today, we cover the bowls from Boxing Day through New Year’s Day.  Next week, we will preview the bowls from January 2 to the Championship Game. 


Sunday, December 26

Little Caesar’s Bowl

Detroit, MI

8:30 PM EST on ESPN

Toledo (8-4)  vs. Florida Internationl (6-6)

Vegas: Toledo by 1

Totals: 57

PiRate: Toledo by 3.3

Mean: Toledo by 2.8

Bias: Toledo by 16.8

100 Sims: Toledo 67  Florida International 33

Avg. Sim Score: Toledo 33.6  Florida International 25.7

Outlier A: Toledo 49  Florida International 19

Outlier B: Florida International 37  Toledo 24


Monday, December 27

Independence Bowl

Shreveport, LA

5:00 PM EST on ESPN

Air Force (8-4)  vs.  Georgia Tech (6-6)

Vegas: Air Force by 2 ½  

Totals: 56

PiRate: Georgia Tech by 1.7

Mean: Air Force by 5.2

Bias: Air Force by 5.9

100 Sims: Air Force 55  Georgia Tech 45

Avg. Sim Score: Air Force 29.2  Georgia Tech 26.9

Outlier A: Air Force 41  Georgia Tech 23

Outlier B: Georgia Tech 34  A Force 23


Tuesday, December 28

Champs Sports Bowl

Orlando, FL

6:30 PM EST on ESPN

West Virginia (9-3)  vs. North Carolina State (8-4)

Vegas: West Virginia by 2 ½

Totals: 49

PiRate: West Virginia by 6.8

Mean: West Virginia by 2.3

Bias: West Virginia by 3.0

100 Sims: West Virginia 53  North Carolina State 47 (6 games decided by OT)

Avg. Sim Score: West Virginia 25.8  North Carolina State 25.2

Outlier A: West Virginia 27  North Carolina State 10

Outlier B: North Carolina State 28  West Virginia 12


Insight Bowl

Tempe, AZ

10:00 PM EST

Missouri (10-2)  vs.  Iowa (7-5)

Vegas: Missouri by 2 ½

Totals: 46 ½

PiRate: Even

Mean: Missouri by 4.1

Bias: Missouri by 12.6

100 Sims: Missouri 58  Iowa 42

Avg. Sim Score: Missouri 25.6  Iowa 22.3

Outlier A: Missouri 31  Iowa 13

Outlier B: Iowa 21  Missouri 7


Wednesday, December 29

Military Bowl

Washington, D.C.

2:30 PM on EST

Maryland (8-4)  vs. East Carolina (6-6)

Vegas: Maryland by 7 ½

Totals: 68 ½

PiRate: Maryland by 18.4

Mean: Maryland by 11.2

Bias: Maryland by 13.8

100 Sims: East Carolina 51  Maryland 49

Avg. Sim Score: Maryland 34.4  East Carolina 34.1

Outlier A: East Carolina 47  Maryland 31

Outlier B: Maryland 42  East Carolina 20


Texas Bowl

Houston, TX

6:00 PM EST on ESPN

Baylor (7-5)  vs. Illinois (6-6)

Vegas: Baylor by 1

Totals: 62 ½

PiRate: Baylor by 2.4

Mean: Illinois by 1.6

Bias: Baylor by 6.9

100 Sims: Illinois 54  Baylor 46

Avg. Sim Score: Illinois 32.1  Baylor 28.6

Outlier A: Illinois 34  Baylor 17

Outlier B: Baylor 28  Illinois 18


Alamo Bowl

San Antonio, TX

9:15 PM EST on ESPN

Oklahoma State (10-2)  vs. Arizona (7-5)

Vegas: Oklahoma State by 5 ½

Totals: 66

PiRate: Oklahoma State by 1.1

Mean: Oklahoma State by 6.1

Bias: Oklahoma State by 9.6

100 Sims: Oklahoma State 61  Arizona 39

Avg. Sim Score: Oklahoma State 38.0  Arizona 29.1

Outlier A: Oklahoma State 51  Arizona 27

Outlier B: Arizona 34  Oklahoma State 28 (and one other 6-point spread)


Thursday, December 30

Armed Forces Bowl

Dallas, TX

12:00 Noon EST on ESPN

S M U (7-6)  vs. Army (6-6)

Vegas: S M U by 7

Totals: 52

PiRate: S M U by 7.7

Mean: S M U by 3.2

Bias: S M U by 10.6

100 Sims: S M U 64  Army 36

Avg. Sim Score: S M U 28.2  Army 20.6

Outlier A: S M U 34  Army 10

Outlier B: Army 24  S M U 16


Pinstripe Bowl

New York, NY

3:20 PM EST

Syracuse (7-5)  vs. Kansas State (7-5)

Vegas: Pick’em

Totals: 47 ½

PiRate: Syracuse by 1.5

Mean: Kansas State by 4.6

Bias: Syracuse by 2.3

100 Sims: Syracuse 53  Kansas State 47

Avg. Sim Score: Syracuse 20.1  Kansas State 18.6

Outlier A: Syracuse 24  Kansas State 7

Outlier B: Kansas State 17  Syracuse 3


Music City Bowl

Nashville, TN

6:30 PM EST

Tennessee (6-6)  vs. North Carolina (7-5)

Vegas: North Carolina by 1 ½  

Totals: 50 ½

PiRate: North Carolina by 6.8

Mean: North Carolina by 1.5

Bias: Tennessee by 6.6

100 Sims: Tennessee 50  North Carolina 50

Avg. Sim Score: Tennessee 24.5  North Carolina 23.9

Outlier A: Tennessee 30  North Carolina 14

Outlier B: North Carolina 27  Tennessee 12


Holiday Bowl

San Diego, CA

10:00 PM EST

Nebraska (10-3)  vs. Washington (6-6)

Vegas: Nebraska by 14

Totals: 52 ½

PiRate: Nebraska by 11.8

Mean: Nebraska by 11.5

Bias: Nebraska by 5.3

100 Sims: Nebraska 57  Washington 43

Avg. Sim Score: Nebraska 26.1  Washington 19.3

Outlier A: Nebraska 27  Washington 6

Outlier B: Washington 23  Nebraska 14


Friday, December 31

Meineke Car Care Bowl

Charlotte, NC

12:00 Noon EST

South Florida (7-5)  vs. Clemson (6-6)

Vegas: Clemson by 5 ½

Totals: 40 ½

PiRate: Clemson by 5.1

Mean: Clemson by 3.7

Bias: South Florida by 6.1

100 Sims: South Florida 58  Clemson 42

Avg. Sim Score: South Florida 25.1  Clemson 19.2

Outlier A: South Florida 31  Clemson 12

Outlier B: Clemson 28  South Florida 16


Sun Bowl

El Paso, TX

2:00 PM EST on CBS

Notre Dame (7-5)  vs. Miami (Fl) (7-5)

Vegas: Miami by 3

Totals: 47

PiRate: Miami by 6.3

Mean: Notre Dame by 1.2

Bias: Miami by 6.0

100 Sims: Notre Dame 52  Miami 48

Avg. Sim Score: Notre Dame 23.4  Miami 23.2

Outlier A: Notre Dame 30  Miami 14

Outlier B: Miami 35  Notre Dame 14


Liberty Bowl

Memphis, TN

3:30 PM EST on ESPN

Central Florida (10-3)  vs. Georgia (6-6)

Vegas: Georgia by 6 ½

Totals: 55 ½

PiRate: Georgia by 12.8

Mean: Georgia by 5.3

Bias: Georgia by 11.3

100 Sims: Georgia 72  Central Florida 28

Avg. Sim Score: Georgia 28.6  Central Florida 17.3

Outlier A: Georgia 38  Central Florida 10

Outlier B: Central Florida 24  Georgia 19


Chick-fil-A Bowl

Atlanta, GA

7:30 PM EST on ESPN

South Carolina (9-4)  vs. Florida State (9-4)

Vegas: South Carolina by 3

Totals: 55

PiRate: Florida State by 0.4

Mean: South Carolina by 0.5

Bias: Florida State by 1.6

100 Sims: Florida State 52  South Carolina 48

Avg. Sim Score: South Carolina 26.7  Florida State 26.6

Outlier A: Florida State 30  South Carolina 16

Outlier B: South Carolina 44  Florida State 17


Saturday, January 1

TicketCity Bowl

Dallas, TX

12:00 Noon EST on ESPN-U

Texas Tech (7-5)  vs. Northwestern (7-5)

Vegas: Texas Tech by 10

Totals: 60

PiRate: Texas Tech by 12.5

Mean: Texas Tech by 7.3

Bias: Texas Tech by 9.6

100 Sims: Texas Tech 86  Northwestern 14

Avg. Sim Score: Texas Tech 34.6  Northwestern 21.2

Outlier A: Texas Tech 45  Northwestern 17

Outlier B: Northwestern 30  Texas Tech 24 (3 other by 6)


Outback Bowl

Tampa, FL

1:00 PM EST on ABC

Florida (7-5) vs. Penn State (7-5)

Vegas: Florida by 7 ½  

Totals: 48

PiRate: Florida by 13.2

Mean: Florida by 5.1

Bias: Florida by 5.5

100 Sims: Florida 54  Penn State 46

Avg. Sim Score: Florida 22.6  Penn State 19.8

Outlier A: Florida 28  Penn State 13

Outlier B: Penn State 21  Florida 10


Capital One Bowl

Orlando, FL

1:00 PM EST on ESPN

Michigan State (11-1) vs.  Alabama (9-3)

Vegas: Alabama by 10

Totals: 52 ½

PiRate: Alabama by 15.5

Mean: Alabama by 10.4

Bias: Alabama by 3.2

100 Sims: Alabama 59  Michigan State 41

Avg. Sim Score: Alabama 27.6  Michigan State 24.7

Outlier A: Alabama 31  Michigan State 12

Outlier B: Michigan State 35  Alabama 25


Gator Bowl

Jacksonville, FL

1:30 PM EST on ESPN2

Mississippi State (8-4)  vs.  Michigan (7-5)

Vegas: Mississippi State by 5 ½

Totals: 61

PiRate: Mississippi State by 10.3

Mean: Mississippi State by 6.3

Bias: Mississippi State by 4.8

100 Sims: Mississippi State 52  Michigan 48

Avg. Sim Score: Mississippi State 33.7  Michigan 30.1

Outlier A: Mississippi State 38  Michigan 20

Outlier B: Michigan 36  Mississippi State 27


Rose Bowl

Pasadena, CA

5:00 PM EST on ESPN

T C U (12-0)  vs. Wisconsin (11-1)

Vegas: T C U by 3

Totals: 58 ½

PiRate: T C U by 7.9

Mean: T C U by 5.8

Bias: Wisconsin by 6.6

100 Sims: Wisconsin 54  T C U 46

Avg. Sim Score: Wisconsin 30.4  T C U 28.8

Outlier A: Wisconsin 40  T C U 24

Outlier B: T C U 34  Wisconsin 24


Fiesta Bowl

Glendale, AZ

8:30 PM EST

Oklahoma (11-2)  vs. Connecticut (8-4)

Vegas: Oklahoma by 16 1/2

Totals: 55

PiRate: Oklahoma by 19.7

Mean: Oklahoma by 16.2

Bias: Oklahoma by 20.7

100 Sims: Oklahoma 91  Connecticut 9

Avg. Sim Score: Oklahoma 35.3  Connecticut 14.8

Outlier A: Oklahoma 49  Connecticut 7

Outlier B: Connecticut 27  Oklahoma 23

August 20, 2010

2010 Big Ten Conference Preview

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 3:56 am

Go to where we beat the spread 60.4% in 2009!


2010 Big Ten Conference Preview

The Big Ten started all this realignment mess, but all they did in the end was add Nebraska.  While we wouldn’t be shocked to see Commissioner Jim Delany add two or even four more teams before the year is up, nothing will be more surprising than the Big Ten race this season—at least in our opinions.

We are not about to shock anybody and pick Indiana and Minnesota to split the title.  No, we believe, like most other pundits, that Ohio State, Iowa, and Wisconsin are the main contenders, and Penn State and Michigan State are right behind.  We do throw in one surprise team that could contend this year.  Our big surprise is that we feel like the league has become as balanced as the Pac-10.  We actually expect that there is a possibility that four teams could go 6-2 and split the title multiple ways.  Every contender has a strength that can be used to exploit one of the other contenders’ weaknesses.  Thus, every contender also has an exploitable weakness.  It should be an interesting season, as the Big Ten sends its champion to the Rose Bowl (no BCS Championship Game again this year) to face a Pac-10 champion, just like the good ole days.

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.


Pos Team B10 W-L
1 Wisconsin 7-1 11-1
2 Iowa 6-2 9-3
3 Ohio State 6-2 10-2
4 Michigan 5-3 8-4
5 Michigan State 5-3 9-3
6 Penn State 5-3 8-4
7 Northwestern 3-5 7-5
8 Purdue 3-5 6-6
9 Illinois 2-6 4-8
10 Indiana 1-7 5-7
11 Minnesota 1-7 3-9


BCS (Rose) Bowl: Wisconsin

Capital One Bowl: Ohio State

Outback Bowl: Iowa

Gator Bowl: Michigan

Insight Bowl: Penn State

Texas Bowl: Michigan State

Dallas Football Classic: Purdue

Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl: Northwestern



Team By Team Breakdown

Team Illinois Fighting Illini
Head Coach Ron Zook
Colors Orange and Blue
City Champaign-Urbana, IL
2009 Record              
Conference 2-6
Overall 3-9
PiRate Rating 98.3
National Rating 63
2010 Prediction              
Conference 2-6
Overall 4-8
Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker, Cornerback
Weaknesses: Wide Receiver, Safety, Special Teams
Non-Conf: Missouri (N), Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois, @ Fresno State
Key Games: Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern (@ Wrigley Field)
Offense Pred. 22-26 points & 350-375 yards
Defense Pred. 23-27 points & 350-375 yards

Ron Zook almost lost his job last year, and he will lose it this year if the Illini don’t return to a bowl.  He hired new offensive and defensive coordinators, but that may not be enough to turn the tide in Champaign-Urbana. 


Illinois will have a decent running game again this year, but we do not see the Illini averaging 200 yards a game like last year.  Quarterback Nate Scheelhaase does not have the wheels former QB Juice Williams had.  He will pass for more yards possibly.


At running back, the Illini will rely on a good tandem.  Mikel LeShoure and Jason Ford could combined for 1,500 yards, but their average per gain will drop some without a mobile QB threat.


Scheelhaase will struggle against better secondaries, because his receivers are not that talented.  Jarred Fayson is the leading returnee after catching just 16 passes for 218 yards.


The offensive line is average at best, and they will give up considerably more sacks with a less-mobile QB.


Illinois stunk on this side of the ball last year, and things won’t be much better this season.  Illinois switches to the 3-4 defense this year, and the three-man line will struggle some.  Only one starter, Clay Nurse, returns to this unit.  He will see a lot of double team blocks, as the rest of the line will not pick up a lot of sacks.


Linebacker is the strength of this side of the ball, as three with starting experience return. 


The Illini are set at the corners, but safety is a concern.  Tavon Wilson and Terry Hawthorne combined for 12 batted passes but intercepted just two.  Illinois finished #120 (dead last) in the nation in intercepted passes, so there is only one way to go in this category.


We do not believe the Illini have enough to get over the hump.  They had a lot better talent last year and won just three games.  Zook is headed back to the assistant coaches ranks after this season. 

Team Indiana Hoosiers
Head Coach Bill Lynch
Colors Cream and Crimson
City Bloomington, IN
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 4-8
PiRate Rating 92.5
National Rating 82
2010 Prediction              
Conference 1-7
Overall 5-7
Strengths: Wide Receiver
Weaknesses: Running Back, Offensive Line, Linebacker, Defensive Back
Non-Conf: Towson, @ Western Kentucky, Akron, Arkansas State
Key Games: Michigan, @ Illinois, Northwestern, @ Purdue
Offense Pred. 24-28 points & 375-400 yards
Defense Pred. 31-34 points & 400-425 yards

Three close losses were the difference in a 7-5 season and the 4-8 season in Hoosierland in 2009.  Indiana has a lot of talent on the offensive side and a lot of questions on the defensive side of the ball this year.  It looks like another year of close, high-scoring games with IU on the losing side.


Quarterback Ben Chappell returns for his senior year after completing 62.6% of his passes for 2,941 yards and 17 touchdowns.  His 15 interceptions have a lot to do with an offensive line that did not do its job.  He had to heave the ball in desperation too many times.


Chappell has some excellent receivers, and when IU plays teams with weaker pass rushes, the Hoosiers will generate a lot of passing yards.  Tandon Doss, Damario Belcher, and Terrance Turner teamed for 183 receptions and 2,175 yards last year, and they should top that contribution this season.


Indiana will pass the ball more this year, because their running game is still a problem.  Their offensive line does not block well for the run, and we don’t see the Hoosiers getting much more than 100 yards on the ground this year.  If they do, it will be because they fatten their stats against the non-conference opponents.


The Hoosiers were less than mediocre on the defensive side of the ball last year, and the news gets worse this year.  Seven of the top eight tacklers are gone, including the only two quality pass rushers.  IU has a decent tandem at defensive tackle, and Adam Replogle and Larry Black will stop up the middle running plays.  Replogle is the only pass rushing monster returning.


Only one starter returns at linebacker and in the secondary, and with a weaker pass rush, the Hoosiers will be quite generous through the air.  Look for IU to give up more than 250 passing yards per game in a conference noted for heavy running attacks.


A very easy non-conference slate will give Indiana four wins.  They will only need two conference victories to become bowl eligible, but getting one win will be tough.

Team Iowa Hawkeyes
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
Colors Black and Gold
City Iowa City, IA
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 11-2
PiRate Rating 119.8
National Rating 15
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 9-3
Strengths: Defensive Line ***, Receiver, Defensive Back, Special Teams
Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Non-Conf: Eastern Illinois, Iowa State, @ Arizona, Ball State
Key Games: Penn State, @ Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State
Offense Pred. 26-30 points & 360-380 yards
Defense Pred. 13-17 points & 275-300 points

Iowa was a losing team last year if you look at their scores through three quarters.  They came from behind numerous times and barely earned victories over Northern Iowa and Arkansas State.  Of course, if you look at their bowl game against Georgia Tech, they looked like a top five team.


The Hawkeyes are the trendy pick to win the Big Ten this year because they host Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.  We won’t bash the Hawkeyes, but we see just enough exploitable areas to select them to come up a game short in the league standings.


Quarterback Ricky Stanzi completed just 56.3% of his passes last year and tossed 15 interceptions.  He forced passes at times, and he shut cut down on those this year.  On the other hand, some of those forced passes resulted in spectacular plays that helped Iowa move the ball in the fourth quarter. 


Stanzi will have two excellent weapons at his disposal.  Wideouts Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt combined for 79 receptions and 1,424 yards (18.0 per catch).  Their ability to break loose for long gains opened the running lanes for the backs.


Speaking of backs, Coach Kirk Ferentz welcomes the return of two fine runners in Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher.  Look for the two to team for 1,500 or more yards this year.


The one weakness on this side of the ball is in the offensive line, as three starters departed.  Iowa usually has excellent line play, but only tackle Riley Reiff qualifies for all-conference material.  Stanzi could receive a tougher pass rush this year, and if he reverts to his old ways…


Iowa won with defense last year, and they will probably rely on defense to win again this year.  Eight starters return on this side of the ball, but the Hawkeyes lost three excellent players who heard their names called in the NFL Draft.


The overwhelming strongest unit on this side of the ball is possibly the top in the nation!  All four defensive line starters return, and with North Carolina’s defensive line possibly missing the best player in the nation, we give the nod to Iowa.  In fact, we would not be surprised if all four starters (Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard, Karl Klug, and Broderick Binns) ended up on the 1st or 2nd Team All-Big Ten list.  Clayborn made 20 total stops behind the line last year.  The other three combined for 32 for an incredible 52 plays where the other team lost yardage!


The second line of defense is the vulnerable unit on this side of the ball.  Expect teams to use a lot of play-action passes and short passes into the seams of the underneath zones to try to exploit the youth in the linebacking corps.


The secondary is almost as tough as the defensive line, even with the loss of Amari Spievey to the NFL.  Safeties Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood combined to defend 22 passes last year.  Sash proved to be very valuable in run support as well.


Most pundits believe the Big Ten race could come down to the two big games the Hawkeyes host at Kinnick Stadium—October 23 with Wisconsin and November 20 with Ohio State.  We believe they will win one and lose one.  We actually believe the race will be decided on October 16, when Iowa plays at Michigan.  We think the Wolverines might upset the Hawkeyes in that game, forcing Iowa to sweep the other two teams.  At 6-2, they may fall one game short.     

Team Michigan Wolverines
Head Coach Rich Rodriguez
Colors Maize and Blue
City Ann Arbor, MI
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 5-7
PiRate Rating 106.3
National Rating 43
2010 Prediction              
Conference 5-3
Overall 8-4
Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Special Teams
Weaknesses: Linebacker, Defensive Back
Non-Conf: Connecticut, @ Notre Dame, UMass, Bowling Green
Key Games: Michigan State, Iowa, @ Penn State, Wisconsin, @ Ohio State
Offense Pred. 30-34 points & 400-425 yards
Defense Pred. 23-27 points & 360-380 yards

Coach Rich Rodriguez’s seat is just as hot as Ron Zook’s, but we believe he will right the ship in Ann Arbor this season.


Michigan will unveil a new quarterback that will remind folks of Pat White.  Denard Robinson has apparently beaten out last year’s starter Tate Forcier, and Robinson could easily rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 this year.  The Wolverines increased their offensive production from 20 to 30 points per game last year, and if Robinson is as good as advertised, they could top that number in 2010.


With Robinson set to get a lot of rushing attempts, look for running backs Vincent Smith and Fitzgerald Toussaint to benefit from the linebackers having to freeze to make sure they pursue the right player.  Toussaint has the potential to be an every down back in the Big Ten, as he combines power and speed.


Receiver Roy Roundtree may be the only deep ball threat for the Wolverines this year, but he will require double coverage by many opponents, and that will open up the zone read to explode.  If opponents put an extra man in the box to stop the run, Roundtree will burn them with a breakaway play.


The offensive line is the key to the offense moving from really good to outstanding.  The healthy return of center David Molk should give this line a chance to shine.  They will give up fewer sacks with Robinson taking the snaps.


The key to a possible surprise move into title contention is the progress of the defense.  UM has suffered through two dreadful seasons on this side under the Rodriguez tenure.  The Wolverines are switching to a 3-3-5 alignment this season, which is a gutsy move when you have to face Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Penn State’s ground games.


Michigan still had a decent pass rush last year, but the man responsible for that, Brandon Graham, is now getting paid to play in the City of Brotherly Love.  End Ryan Van Bergen will be the new sack specialist after recording five a year ago, but the key to the front line will be nose tackle William Campbell.  If he can hold his own in the trenches, the linebackers can move and make plays.


Linebacker is the key to this defense; can the Wolverines find enough talent to make the 3-3-5 work?  Former end Craig Roh has the tools to play linebacker in the Big Ten.  Jonas Mouton has not lived up to his press clippings, but this new defense may suit him better.


The back line must improve by leaps and bounds for UM to have a chance at winning the Big Ten.  Losing Troy Woolfork to injury will make that impossible, but the Wolverines will improve just enough on this side of the ball to win two or three more times.


We believe Michigan can win eight games this year.  That would save Rodriguez’s job.  It would be funny if he won big this year and then went shopping for a possible vacant position if an opening popped up in the SEC (LSU, Georgia, South Carolina???). 

Team Michigan State Spartans
Head Coach Mark Dantonio
Colors Green and White
City East Lansing, MI
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 6-7
PiRate Rating 107.4
National Rating 42
2010 Prediction              
Conference 5-3
Overall 9-3
Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver, Linebacker
Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Back
Non-Conf: W. Michigan, Fla. Atlantic (@ Detroit), Notre Dame, N. Colorado
Key Games: Wisconsin, @ Michigan,  @ Northwestern, @ Iowa, @ Penn State
Offense Pred. 31-34 points & 420-440 yards
Defense Pred. 23-27 points & 360-380 yards

Here is a team that is not far from being ready to challenge for a conference championship.  The Spartans have a first-rate passing attack that rivals those of the great West Coast teams.  Unfortunately, a below-average secondary will allow opponents to pass like they are a West Coast passing team.


Quarterback Kurt Cousins returns to pilot the MSU offense after taking most of the snaps last year.  He tossed for 2,680 yards and 19 touchdowns to just nine interceptions.  Keith Nichol, last year’s backup threw for 764 yards, but he is now a starting wideout.  Cousins could easily approach 300 passing yards per game this year.


Besides Nichol, Cousins will have two excellent wideouts and a talented tight end to pass to.  B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin give Cousins two different types of receivers to aim for.  Cunningham is a possession receiver who can take a lick and hold onto the ball.  Martin can get open deep quickly and pick up a long gain.  He scored five times on just 18 catches last year.


With the passing game ready to excel, the running game may not produce a lot of yards, but the yards per attempt may go up.  Larry Caper is a bull who can get the tough yards inside, while Edwin Baker can get around the perimeter quickly.


The offensive line may be a small liability this year, as just two starters return.  Due to a lot of injuries last year, several players saw action.  So, this year’s starters are not totally raw.


The Spartans will use both the 4-3 and 3-4 defense this year.  The defensive line welcomes back two starters including tackle Jerel Worthy, who registered nine tackles for loss.


Middle linebacker Greg Jones is the real stud of this defense.  He led the Big Ten last year with 154 tackles and had nine sacks and 14 total tackles for loss.  Eric Gordon returns at Sam linebacker after finishing runner-up on the team with 92 stops.


The secondary is the big question mark on this team.  Even with an exemplary pass rush last year, MSU gave up 268 passing yards per game.  Two defensive back starters graduated, one to the NFL.  Chris Rucker is a Big Ten-caliber defensive back, but two or three more quality player must emerge for this team to compete with the elite.


Michigan State games will be shootouts this year, as the offense appears to be dominant and the defense is pedestrian.  It will keep MSU from winning the title, but they could play spoiler.  Expect at least eight wins and maybe nine.

Team Minnesota Golden Gophers
Head Coach Tim Brewster
Colors Maroon and Gold
City Minneapolis, MN
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 6-7
PiRate Rating 100.7
National Rating 57
2010 Prediction              
Conference 1-7
Overall 3-9
Strengths: Offensive Line, Safety
Weaknesses: Receiver, Running Back, Defensive Line, Linebacker, Cornerback
Non-Conf: @ Middle Tennessee, South Dakota, Southern Cal, N. Illinois
Key Games: Northwestern, @ Purdue, @ Illinois, Iowa
Offense Pred. 23-27 points & 325-350 yards
Defense Pred. 30-34 points & 400-425 yards

Minnesota fired Glen Mason after the 2006 season because they were fed up with seven, eight, nine, and 10-win seasons and no conference championships.  In the three years since, the Gophers have won one, seven, and six games.  With a major rebuilding job facing Coach Tim Brewster’s defense, Minnesota’s win total could drop 50% this season.


The Gophers return most of their offense from last year, but that offense was not all that good.  The best player, receiver Eric Decker, is now in the NFL.  


Quarterback Adam Weber returns for his final season after having a subpar junior season.  He threw 15 interceptions and completed just 52% of his passes. 


With Decker gone, the Gophers have few downfield weapons.  The leading returnee in reception yardage is Da’Jon McKnight.  He had 311 yards on 17 catches, most of them after Decker went down to injury.


The running game, which was always stellar during Mason’s tenure, has fallen to the bottom of the league.  The Gophers rushed for just 99 yards per game last year, but the offensive line gave up 41 sacks to skew that number a little.


All five starters return to the offensive line, so there should be some improvement both in pass protection and in opening holes for the run.  Guard Matt Carufel is the best of the five.


The defense could be the weakest stop unit in the Big Ten since the Minnesota defense of 2007.  Just safeties Kyle Threet and Kim Royston return to the starting lineup this season, and Royston has leg issues. 


Linebacker Keanon Cooper played quite a bit last year, and he is the only other experienced player on the roster.


In the defensive line, end Anthony Jacobs is the closest thing to an experienced player.  He registered 19 tackles in a backup role last year.  His career start total is three games, which is three more than the rest of the d-line.


To make matters worse, Minnesota must play Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State, and Penn State, and they don’t play Indiana.  It is going to be a long year in Minneapolis, but at least the Gophers have a really beautiful stadium now.  Just how many people decide to come to TCF Bank Stadium in November when it is 25 degrees and windy…

Team Northwestern Wildcats
Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
Colors Purple and White
City Evanston, IL
2009 Record              
Conference 5-3
Overall 8-5
PiRate Rating 95.7
National Rating 69
2010 Prediction              
Conference 3-5
Overall 7-5
Strengths: Offensive Line, Linebackers
Weaknesses: Receiver, Running Back, Defensive Back
Non-Conf: @ Vanderbilt, Illinois State, @ Rice, Central Michigan
Key Games: @ Minn., Purdue, Mich. St., @ Indiana, Illinois (@ Wrigley Field)
Offense Pred. 24-28 points & 375-400 yards
Defense Pred. 23-27 points & 350-375 yards

The Wildcats may take a small step back this year but not enough to keep them from going to their third consecutive bowl.  Northwestern lost their starting quarterback and top two receivers on offense, and five starters on defense, so we expect NU to be a couple points weaker.  Thanks to a soft non-conference slate of opponents, they should win seven games and earn another bowl trip.


The new quarterback is Dan Persa.  He saw limited action last year, completing 59% of his 34 pass attempts.  Persa is a sneaky runner, so expect more rushing yards from this position than last year.


No NU backs rushed the ball with any competency last year; Arby Fields led with 302 yards.  Expect a big improvement, because Persa can run the zone-read quite well.


The running game has to improve, because the passing game will take a step backward.  NU lost 148 receptions and 1,783 yards when their top two receivers graduated.  The replacements are not as talented.  Nobody on this roster is a consistent deep threat; Drake Dunsmore is the closest thing to that, and he averaged just 11.1 yards per catch last year.


Helping make the running game improve this year is an experienced offensive line with four returning starters.  Tackle Al Netter was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten player last year.


The Wildcat defense is above average in the line, really good at linebacker, and below average in the defensive backfield.  End Vincent Browne tied for the NU lead with five sacks and had three other tackles for loss. 


The other co-leading sack man is linebacker Quentin Davie.  To Davie’s five sacks, he added 6 ½ other tackles for loss.  Fellow linebackers Nate Williams and Ben Johnson return to make this a solid unit.


Opponents with good quarterbacks (Ricky Stanzi, Kirk Cousins, Scott Tolzien, Robert Marve, Ben Chappell) will torch the NU secondary this year.  Jordan Mabin is the only returning starter, and he was more of a run-stopper than pass defender in 2009.


Look for the Wildcats to win all four of their non-conference games.  They will only need two conference wins to gain bowl eligibility, and there are four conference opponents that they can beat.  We’ll say they win three of those games and post another winning season.  Maybe, this is the year they draw an easier bowl opponent and finally win a bowl.

Team Ohio State Buckeyes
Head Coach Jim Tressel
Colors Scarlet and Gray
City Columbus, OH
2009 Record              
Conference 7-1
Overall 11-2
PiRate Rating 124.3
National Rating 5
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 10-2
Strengths: Quarterback,  Receiver, Offensive Line, Linebacker
Weaknesses: Not many, maybe slightly at Defensive Line
Non-Conf: Marshall, Miami (FL), Ohio U, Eastern Michigan
Key Games: @ Wisconsin, Penn State, @ Iowa, Michigan
Offense Pred. 30-34 points & 375-400 yards
Defense Pred. 13-17 points & 275-300 yards

We could be far off base here, but we actually believe that Ohio State will not win the Big Ten and will not play in the National Championship Game this year.  The Buckeyes have an incredible offense returning, but it is not as good as Wisconsin’s or Michigan State’s offense, and is no better than Purdue or Michigan’s offense.  They have a very good defense, but it is not as good as Iowa’s or Penn State’s defense.  Thus, we believe they will fall twice in conference play and watch a rival lost just once.


Quarterback Terrelle Pryor is a Heisman Trophy contender.  He must be considered one of the top five preseason choices.  He ended the season on a roll with a dynamic Rose Bowl performance, but he was almost a non-factor passing in November.  He threw for less than 300 yards in the last three regular season games combined.  He also threw 11 interceptions (3.73%) and finished 8th in passing efficiency.  His ability to run made him a lot more dangerous than other QBs, but we believe Coach Jim Tressel will try to limit his runs this season and increase his passing attempts.


OSU is still a run first team, but Pryor has a plethora of good receivers to toss the ball.  DeVier Posey is a classic possession receiver, and his 60 receptions led the Buckeyes last season.  Dane Sanzenbacher is more of a deep threat.  Tight end Jake Stoneburner will be a new star for the Buckeyes this season.  He provides a large target with a good pair of hands.


The running game benefits from the return of Brandon Saine and Dan Herron.  The two combined for 1,339 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Saine is a weapon coming out of the backfield as a pass receiver as well.


The offensive line returns four starters, and all four are all-conference talents.  This is a one of the nations’ top five lines, but it is just number two in the Big Ten.


The defense will not crumble even though it lost five great players.  Tressel’s last four teams yielded just 12.5, 13.9, 12.8, and 12.8 points per game.


The defensive line is a minor strength, even with the loss of three starters.  Tressel rotated fresh players in every week, so the three new starters saw extensive playing time in big games.  End Cameron Heyward is ready to become the next great lineman to play at the Giant Horseshoe.  He registered 10 total tackles for loss, but he was not an every down player last year. 


Two players return to the second line of defense.  Brian Rolle earned 2nd Team All-Big Ten accolades after making 95 tackles.  Ross Homan was a 1st Team all-conference selection and led OSU with 108 stops.  He also recorded 10 passes defended with a team-leading five interceptions.


The back line of defense will be a team strength with three starters returning.  Cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence are among the best in the league.


The Buckeyes must travel to both Wisconsin and Iowa.  Home games with Penn State and Michigan will be toughies.  A September home game with Miami will be very interesting.  We think Ohio State will beat the Hurricanes, but the two road games in Big Ten play will be a bit too much.  Call it a second place finish.


Team Penn State Nittany Lions
Head Coach Joe Paterno
Colors Dark Blue and White
City State College, PA
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 11-2
PiRate Rating 109.6
National Rating 38
2010 Prediction              
Conference 5-3
Overall 8-4
Strengths: Running Back, Receiver, Defensive Line, Defensive Back
Weaknesses: Quarterback, Linebacker
Non-Conf: Youngstown State, @ Alabama, Kent State, Temple
Key Games: @ Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, @ Ohio St., Michigan St.
Offense Pred. 22-26 points & 350-375 yards
Defense Pred. 17-21 points & 300-325 yards

Penn State will have to break in a new quarterback this year, and we don’t have much faith in the possible replacements for Daryll Clark.  Two sophomores and two freshmen will battle it out, but we believe sophomore Kevin Newsome will get first crack at the job.  Expect a major decline in passing yardage and more interceptions.  With just an average offensive line, we wouldn’t be surprised if the number of sacks rose as well.


The Nittany Lions will try to get the job done with a strong ground attack.  Running back Evan Royster is a great stone to build that running foundation.  Royster rushed for 1,169 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry.  Backup Stephfon Green added 319 yards.  Expect the two to combine for close to 2,000 rushing yards this year.


The Lion receiving corps has talent, so if a quarterback can emerge that can consistently deliver the ball on target, Penn State can still enjoy a decent passing attack.  Derek Moye and Graham Zug return after teaming for 94 receptions and 1,385 yards.  Expected starter Curtis Drake will miss at least half the season with a broken leg.


Penn State gave up just 12.2 points per game last year, the sixth consecutive season they held teams under 20 points per game.  Six starters are gone, but PSU had to replace seven starters last year.


The two returning starters to the defensive line are end Jack Crawford and tackle Ollie Ogbu.  Crawford recorded 5 ½ sacks and nine other tackles for loss, while Ogbu recorded eight total tackles for loss.  The two new starters are on par with those two, so Penn State should once again be dominating up front.


Ironically, the weakness on this defense is the one position football fans think about when they think about Penn State. “Linebacker U” will have an off season.  All three starters must be replaced.  Middle linebacker Michael Mauti missed last year with an ACL injury, and if he can return to his 2008 form, he will be the leader of this group.


The strength of the back line is at safety.  Nick Sukay and Drew Astorino are tough against the pass and the run. 


Not many teams contend for championships with poor quarterback play these days.  That’s why we cannot pick Penn State to contend for the Big Ten title.  They will be good with their defense and running game, but they will lose two or three times in conference play.

Team Purdue Boilermakers
Head Coach Danny Hope
Colors Black and Gold
City West Lafayette, IN
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 5-7
PiRate Rating 99.4
National Rating 61
2010 Prediction              
Conference 3-5
Overall 6-6
Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Weaknesses: Running Back, Offensive Line, Defensive Back
Non-Conf: @ Notre Dame, Western Illinois, Ball State, Toledo
Key Games: @ Northwestern, Minnesota, @ Illinois, Indiana
Offense Pred. 27-31 points & 400-425 yards
Defense Pred. 25-29 points & 375-400 yards

After enjoying many years among the elite of the Big Ten, Purdue has fallen back among the also-rans.  The Boilermakers have endured losing seasons three times in the last five years, including back-to-back sub-.500 years.


Coach Danny Hope could guide the Boilermakers back into a bowl in his second season in West Lafayette.  The offense has to replace almost all of its running game and lost some quality receivers, but with former Miami of Florida starting quarterback Robert Marve becoming eligible this year, we believe Purdue will have a first class passing game again. 


Marve has a rifle arm, so he will tend to throw longer passes.  This could lead to a lower completion percentage but higher yardage per completions.


With Keith Smith returning after grabbing 91 passes for 1,100 yards, the Boilermakers have a potential 1st Team All-Big Ten pick.  Marve needs a game-breaking deep threat to emerge so he can air it out a couple times per game.


The running game has to start from scratch this year.  Sophomore Al-Terek McBurse had four carries for 10 yards, and he will open up as the new starter. 


The offensive line is going to be young as well.  Guard Ken Plue could contend for all-conference honors, but three new starters will line up in the trenches.


The defense gave up close to 30 points per game last year, and it will not be much better this season.  The defensive line will be much improved, but the secondary will be a major liability.


The front line features a great pass rusher in Ryan Kerrigan.  He registered 13 sacks last year.


All three starters return to the second line of defense.  Joe Holland, Jason Werner, and Chris Carlino finished second, third, and fourth in tackles.  Werner recorded 14 ½ stops for loss.


The secondary must replace all four starters, and only free safety Albert Evans saw any real game action last year.  Purdue gave up 203 passing yards per game last year with a really good pass rush.  They could give up 250+ yards this year.


Like Michigan State, expect Purdue games to be fast-paced and high scoring.  We believe they will just squeak by with six wins and garner a bowl bid for the first time in three years. 

Team Wisconsin Badgers
Head Coach Bret Bielema
Colors Cardinal and White
City Madison, WI
2009 Record              
Conference 5-3
Overall 10-3
PiRate Rating 117.0
National Rating 20
2010 Prediction              
Conference 7-1
Overall 11-1
Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back, Receiver, Offensive Line ***
Weaknesses: Defensive Line
Non-Conf: @ UNLV, San Jose State, Arizona State, Austin Peay
Key Games: @ Michigan State, Ohio State, @ Iowa, @ Michigan
Offense Pred. 33-37 points & 425-450 yards
Defense Pred. 20-24 points & 310-330 yards

The Badgers have quietly become the next most consistent Big Ten program after Ohio State.  They have been to eight consecutive bowl games and have won double digit games three of the last five seasons.  With 10 offensive starters returning from a fantastic offense a year ago, UW may have an unstoppable attack this year.


Coach Brett Bielema’s offense averaged more than 200 yards rushing and passing last year, and both phases will be even better in 2010.  Quarterback Scott Tolzien returns after passing for 2,705 at a 64.3% rate.  The Badgers have built a solid offense the last several years even though they have had to break in a new starter at quarterback the last three seasons.  Expect Tolzien to top 65% completions and 3,000 passing yards.


With Tolzien throwing the pigskin, the running game will have more holes available.  The Badgers have three running backs that they can unleash on opponents, and all three can rush for 100 yards in a game.  John Clay may not get much respect outside the league, but in our opinion, he is the near equal of Mark Ingram and LaMichael James.  Clay rushed for 1,517 yards and 18 touchdowns last year.  Backups Montee Ball and Zach Brown may get more carries this year at Clay’s expense.  The duo combined for 670 yards last year.


The receiving corps is not far from being as talented as the running backs.  Nick Toon has exceptional strength and good hands, while Isaac Anderson has the quickness to turn a five yard catch into a 50-yard touchdown sprint.  UW has made a tradition out of developing all-conference tight ends, and Lance Kendricks should be the next one.  He comes off a season in which he caught 29 passes in a secondary role.


We saved the best for last.  The offensive line is not just the best in the league, we believe it is the very best in college football.  All five starters return including 1st Team All-Big Ten studs at center (John Moffitt) and tackle (Gabe Carmi). 


The defense will not be as dominating as the offense, but we don’t expect the Badgers to give up a lot of points this year.  If an adequate pass rush can be molded out of a rebuilt defensive line, the Badgers are going to grab their first Big Ten title since the days of Ron Dayne.


J.J. Watt is the lone returnee up front.  He earned Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors after recording 15 ½ total tackles for loss and batting down five passes.  Two of the new starters saw a lot of playing time, but this unit will be a little weaker than last year’s front four.


The second line of defense returns two talented starters.  Culmer St. Jean and Chris Borland are equally effective against the run and the pass.


The secondary is the real strength on this side of the ball.  With three competent starters back and with the new starter having past starting experience, teams will not burn UW for a lot of passing yards.


Throw in a great punter and placekicker, and this team looks primed to win the conference championship. 

Coming Tomorrow: The Southeastern Conference continues to produce national champion after national champion.  Can anybody challenge Alabama and Florida in the divisional races? 

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