The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 8, 2019

2019 Conference USA Football Preview

Welcome to the 2019-2020 College Football season on the SS Touchdown, your favorite PiRate ship of analytical merriment.

The PiRates have spent hours upon hours doing research this summer getting ready for another football season.  2018 was an incredible year for our ratings, as we finished at the top of the Prediction Tracker against the spread in college football, and the best against the spread and at picking winners in NFL football.  We have seen a steady bump in additional readers, so we hope we can follow up with another great year.

Today, we begin previewing one NCAA FBS conference per day for the next 11 days.  In past years, we published lengthy previews, but after hearing from a lot of you tell us that you come here for the stats, we are going to try to become the Sergeant Joe Friday of football, “Just the Stats.”  Oh, we’ll throw in a little Joe Gannon and include something from out of left field when something warrants it.

We begin with Conference USA, the #11 rated conference to begin the PiRate Ratings season.

The Official Media Poll

Conference USA Media Poll
East Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes
1 Marshall 14
2 Florida Int’l. 9
3 Florida Atlantic 3
4 Middle Tennessee 0
5 Western Kentucky 0
6 Old Dominion 0
7 Charlotte 0


West Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes
1 North Texas 20
2 Southern Miss. 4
3 Louisiana Tech 0
4 UAB 2
5 UTSA 0
6 Rice 0
7 UTEP 0

For some reason, Conference USA did not release the total vote count by the media.  We only received the First Place Votes and position each team finished in the voting.  Additionally, the media did not vote on an overall champion.


The PiRate Ratings

Preseason PiRate Ratings–CUSA
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Florida Int’l. 93.6 93.7 94.4 93.9
Marshall 92.9 92.6 93.8 93.1
Florida Atlantic 91.7 91.1 92.4 91.7
Middle Tennessee 90.5 90.0 90.6 90.4
Western Kentucky 87.5 88.7 89.0 88.4
Charlotte 86.6 87.0 87.0 86.9
Old Dominion 75.1 76.0 75.1 75.4


West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Southern Miss. 93.4 92.2 93.7 93.1
North Texas 92.5 92.3 93.4 92.7
Louisiana Tech 90.7 90.8 90.8 90.7
U A B 88.2 89.1 88.7 88.7
U T S A 77.5 80.0 77.2 78.2
Rice 77.7 78.8 77.0 77.9
U T E P 67.9 72.6 68.3 69.6
CUSA Averages 86.1 86.8 86.5 86.5

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

Predicted Won-Loss Records

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

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

What you see in these predicted won-loss records are our opinion and not calculated from the ratings.  These are the estimated records based on a vote, with the Captain having 50% of the vote and the crew having the other 50%.  Then, if the Captain didn’t like the result, he swung his sword and chose them by himself.  Actually, the conference records had to be balanced, and all the half-win votes made it a mess, so it’s probably 100% his opinion.

PiRate Members Predicted Won-Loss
East Division
Pos Team CUSA Overall
1 Florida Atlantic 6-2 8-5
2 Marshall 6-2 9-3
3 Florida Int’l. 5-3 7-5
4 Western Kentucky 4-4 5-7
5 Middle Tennessee 4-4 5-7
6 Charlotte 3-5 5-7
7 Old Dominion 1-7 2-10


West Division
Pos Team CUSA Overall
1 Southern Miss. 7-1 9-4*
2 Louisiana Tech 6-2 9-3
3 North Texas 6-2 7-5
4 UAB 5-3 8-4
5 UTSA 2-6 3-9
6 Rice 1-7 1-11
7 UTEP 0-8 1-11
* Southern Miss. picked to win CUSA Championship


Bowl Projections

Bowl Team
Bahamas Southern Miss.
First Responder Marshall
Gasparilla Cincinnati
New Mexico Louisiana Tech
New Orleans UAB


Alternate Bowl Teams
Frisco Florida Int’l
Independence North Texas

Coaches That Could Move To FBS Power Conference Schools

Seth Littrell–North Texas

Lane Kiffin–Florida Atlantic

Jay Hopson–Southern Miss.


Coaches on The Hot Seat

Dana Dimel–UTEP

Frank Wilson–UTSA

Bobby Wilder–Old Dominion


Top Quarterbacks

Mason Fine–North Texas

Tyler Johnson III–UAB

James Morgan–Florida Int’l.


Best Offense

North Texas

Florida Int’l.



Best Defense


Louisiana Tech

Southern Miss.


Coming Tomorrow–The Mid-American Conference




August 10, 2018

2018 Sun Belt Conference Preview

Welcome to the 2018 College Football season! It has been a long Winter, Spring, and Summer in dry dock, but the PiRates have fixed the ship up better than new, and we are anxious to launch our repaired vessel to the Gridiron Sea for 2018-19.

If you read yesterday’s post, we took on a remodeling job with our ratings this year. New analytical data became available to convince us that we needed to tweak the weighting we gave each position on the field, more in the NFL, but still a great deal in the NCAA. Thus, some schools that may have been ranked in the top 25 to start the season did not climb out of the 30’s, while one or two schools that may have faced what we thought might have been rebuilding seasons stayed in the top 25. We will know soon how well the new system fares. The advanced statistics should be more accurate if history holds up, but the sample size is still small enough that some increased standard deviation and variance could give us some nervous Saturdays in September. By the first of October, the ratings should be about the same as they would be if we kept the old algorithms.

Before we start with out first preview, let us notify you that the preseason ratings you see in the previews may not be the same as the ratings you see for the first game. We update every team’s rating based on player injuries, changes to the depth charts, and other factors that may change during preseason practice. Of course, we also have two major stories that will force us to alter the ratings before week one–What happens with Urban Meyer at Ohio State, and how many players from North Carolina will not dress for the California game in Berkeley.

With our ratings, the total average for the 130 teams must be 100.0, so if we remove 10 points from one school and 7 points from another, those lost 17 points have to be redistributed to the other 128 teams. It isn’t as easy as that, because upwards of 40 schools will need to have their opening week ratings lowered due to the high number of roster adjustments in August, and the remaining 90 schools will then pick up fractions of a point to as much as a couple of points.

Now that the preliminary announcements have been made, let’s start with this year’s first conference preview. Bringing up the rear yet again is the Sun Belt Conference, which ranks 11th out of 11 leagues in FBS power rating.

The SBC has changed quite a bit in 2018. Idaho left the conference and FBS football, as the Vandals dropped to FCS. New Mexico State left to become an independent just one year after breaking a string of 14 consecutive losing seasons and celebrating their first bowl win since 1960.

There are now 10 teams in the Sun Belt Conference, but the league has now split into two divisions, and there will be a conference championship game on December 1st.

Last year, Appalachian State and Troy tied for the league championship, with Arkansas State, Georgia State, and former member New Mexico State joining the co-champions in bowl games. Troy won with their defense and a strong passing game, while Appy State won with their balanced offense and tough pass defense.

Here is how the SBC media voted in the preseason poll.

Team Votes
East Division 1st Place Overall
1. Appalachian State 6 46
2. Troy 4 44
3. Georgia State 0 26
4. Georgia Southern 0 22
5. Coastal Carolina 0 12
West Division 1st Place Overall
1. Arkansas St. 9 49
2. Louisiana-Monroe 0 37
3. South Alabama 1 26
4. Louisiana 0 25
5. Texas State 0 13

There were no votes for overall conference champion.

The PiRate Ratings are a tad different to begin the 2018 season. They agree with the media all up and down in the West Division, but the East is different at the top, where Troy begins the season ranked ahead of Appy State, and Georgia Southern leads Georgia State at the beginning of the season.

East Division
Team SBC Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Troy 0-0 0-0 91.8 93.7 93.7 93.1
Appalachian St. 0-0 0-0 87.5 89.1 88.7 88.4
Georgia Southern 0-0 0-0 82.5 83.7 82.4 82.9
Georgia St. 0-0 0-0 77.6 80.6 78.4 78.9
Coastal Carolina 0-0 0-0 73.2 76.4 73.6 74.4
West Division
Team SBC Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Arkansas St. 0-0 0-0 88.0 89.8 89.7 89.2
UL-Monroe 0-0 0-0 87.3 86.7 88.1 87.4
South Alabama 0-0 0-0 81.4 83.8 82.6 82.6
Louisiana 0-0 0-0 78.9 81.1 79.9 80.0
Texas State 0-0 0-0 70.4 73.9 69.9 71.4
Sun Belt Averages 81.9 83.9 82.7 82.8

New Coaches
Georgia Southern elevated Chad Lunsford from interim coach to full-time head coach, and Lunsford will move the Eagles back to the option/zone read offense that former coach Willie Fritz used when GSU went 8-4 and played in the Bowl. Lunsford assumed head coaching duties last year when Georgia Southern began the year 0-6 and averaging just 18 points per game. Under Lunsford, the team finished 2-4 and averaged 23.7 points per game. Expect the Eagles to top 25 points per game and approach 28 to 30 this year.

Louisiana begins the Billy Napier era in Lafayette. Napier has an impressive resume that includes working for Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban. He most recently served as offensive coordinator at Arizona State, where the Sun Devils averaged 31.8 yards and 431 yards per game. Napier was offered to remain in Tempe as the offensive coordinator under Coach Herm Edwards, but he took the job in Lafayette instead.

South Alabama welcomes Steve Campbell to Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Campbell enjoyed an outstanding four-year stint at FCS Central Arkansas. He led the Bears to a 33-15 record including back-to-back 10-win seasons and FCS Playoff bids. Campbell served as the offensive line coach at Mississippi State for one season and as offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee for one season as his only paid FBS coaching experience. He was also a graduate assistant under Pat Dye at Auburn.

Predicted Won-Loss Records

Team Conference Overall
Troy 8-0 11-2*
Appalachian St. 6-2 9-3
Georgia Southern 4-4 6-6
Georgia St. 2-6 3-9
Coastal Carolina 0-8 1-11
Team Conference Overall
Arkansas St. 8-0 10-3
UL-Monroe 6-2 7-5
Louisiana 4-4 6-6
South Alabama 2-6 3-9
Texas St. 0-8 1-11
* Troy picked to win SBC Championship Game

Bowl Tie-ins
The SBC does not have a set bowl order. They send eligible teams to bowls to create the best overall games. These are the bowls tie-ins for 2018.

Arizona Bowl in Tucson, AZ
Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, AL
Cure Bowl in Orlando, FL
Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, AL
New Orleans Bowl in New Orleans, LA

Coming Tomorrow–Conference USA

August 22, 2017

2017 Pac-12 Preview

The Pac-12 has not had a member win the National Championship in quite some time. Washington and Oregon made trips to the Playoffs in recent years, but they came up short. USC won multiple national titles earlier in this century, and Washington shared one with Miami back in 1991, but this once toughest conference has come up short ever since Vince Young scored the winning touchdown for Texas against USC in 2005.

The Trojans might have won an additional national title in this century had the four team playoffs been in existence in 2002. While unbeated Ohio State and unbeaten Miami played a memorable championship game, it was USC that was clearly the best team in the nation at the end of the year. The Trojans went 11-2, and 12 of the 13 teams on their schedule went to bowls. The Tojans split the title with LSU in 2003 and won the title outright in 2004. They went 38-2 in a three-year period losing only to Young and Texas and Aaron Rodgers and Cal. Since that time, 11 of the last 12 national champions have come from South of the Mason-Dixon Line. Can this be the year the Pac-12 breaks through with another national champion?

USC and Washington both appear to be contenders for playoff bid during the preseason. In today’s college football world, the quarterback is just as vital as the position in the NFL. The Trojans and Huskies both have top 5 signal callers directing their attacks. Sam Darnold took over a 1-3 Trojan team and guided USC to nine consecutive victories. Washington’s Jake Browning led the Huskies to the Playoff semi-finals, before UW bowed out against Alabama.

There are three other teams with the type of quality QB that can lead a school to a conference championship. Washington State’s Luke Falk is now a senior, and when QB’s under Mike Leach’s tutelage reach their fourth year in the program, they tend to lead the conference and the nation in total offense. Look for WSU to continue to advance forward from the surprise 2016 season.

Josh Rosen leads the UCLA offense, but like so many past Bruin quarterbacks, injuries have sort of derailed his career. A healthy Rosen is capable of leading the Bruins to a record reversal or better in Westwood. A 4- 8 disappointment in 2016, led Coach Jim Mora, Jr. to overhaul his assistant coaching corps.

Oregon is another team that disappointed in 2016. It cost Mark Helfrich his job. Enter new coach Willie Taggart, who turned around programs at Western Kentucky and South Florida. At his two prior stops, Taggart’s first editions have taken their lumps learning to play his style of ball, but he did not have a quarterback with the talent of Justin Herbert at either past school. Look for the Ducks to turn things around quickly and become bowl-eligible again this season. Give Taggart three years, and Oregon will be challenging for the Pac-12 North title again.

Here is how the Pac-12 Media voted in the preseason.


Pac-12 North Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Washington 49 309 22
2 Stanford 1 247 0
3 Washington St. 1 206 0
4 Oregon 1 163 1
5 Oregon St. 0 101 0
6 California 0 64 0
Pac-12 South Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 USC 49 309 28
2 Utah 1 220 1
3 UCLA 1 209 0
4 Colorado 1 182 0
5 Arizona St. 0 109 0
6 Arizona 0 61 0

The PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings agree on the division leaders, but our ratings show a different order to start the season. Bear in mind that our ratings factor depth and other factors that could help a team improve (or decline) in the ratings more than another team with the same results, based on this factor. USC is one of those teams that has a chance to improve more than average, so by late November, the Trojans could be rated higher than Washington, even if both teams go 11-1 and face off in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Pac-12 Conference
North Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Washington 129.3 125.1 130.3 128.2
Washington St. 119.4 116.1 118.6 118.0
Stanford 118.5 116.2 117.1 117.3
Oregon 110.6 107.2 109.6 109.1
Oregon St. 102.5 101.7 101.1 101.8
California 97.8 95.3 95.7 96.3
South Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
U S C 120.4 120.1 120.8 120.4
Colorado 114.1 111.5 111.8 112.4
U C L A 108.6 107.7 108.0 108.1
Utah 105.4 108.1 105.6 106.4
Arizona St. 103.7 103.7 102.5 103.3
Arizona 98.3 97.1 95.9 97.1
Pac-12 Averages 110.7 109.1 109.8 109.9

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

Pac-12 Conference Projected Standings
North Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Washington 9-0 12-1 Fiesta
Washington St. 7-2 10-2 Alamo
Stanford 6-3 9-3 Holiday
Oregon 5-4 8-4 Foster Farms
Oregon St. 2-7 4-8  
California 1-8 2-10  
South Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Utah 5-4 8-4 Sun
UCLA 5-4 7-5 Las Vegas
Colorado 4-5 7-5 Cactus
Arizona St. 1-8 3-9  
Arizona 1-8 3-9  
USC to win Pac-12 Championship Game

Coming Tomorrow: The Atlantic Coast Conference–Does Florida State deserve its lofty preseason rating? How much will Clemson suffer without Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, and Wayne Gallman? Can Louisville challenge the two behemoths? Is there a dark horse team lurking, maybe North Carolina State? In the Coastal, can any team finish better than 6-2 in league play, or will there be a major logjam with four or five teams contending for the division flag?

August 21, 2017

2017 Big 12 Conference Preview

The Big 12 Conference was supposed to be the first super league way back in the 1990’s when the best teams from the former very strong Southwest Conference merged with the Big 8 Conference. It was supposed to be superior to the Southeastern Conference, which had already expanded to 12 teams, and the Big Ten Conference, which had expanded to 11 teams. With Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado perenially among the top 10 in the nation, and with Texas A&M, Missouri, and Oklahoma State competing for a spot among the nation’s elite, the Big 12 looked poised to become the league that all others looked up to.

It didn’t last long. Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Texas A&M departed for the Pac-12, SEC, Big Ten, and SEC. The league added TCU and West Virginia to get back to 10 teams, but this conference is struggling to remain important. Rumors persist that schools still might bolt the league for one of the other four super conferences.

2017 promises to bring some interesting changes to the league without any teams bolting. There are three new coaches in the league. Matt Rhule takes over a Baylor team in transition, after Jim Grobe served as an emergency fill-in coach for a year. The Bears will play a combination of spread offense and the power offense Rhule used at Temple.

Tom Herman is the new head coach at Texas. Herman made Houston a semi-national power, even getting the Cougars into the Playoff hunt. Texas suffered three consecutive losing seasons under Charlie Strong, and the Longhorns have not been a national contender for eight seasons.

The biggest change of all comes in Norman, Oklahoma, where Bob Stoops made a decision this summer to retire. Lincoln Riley, the wonderboy of the offense is the new coach, and he inherits a Sooner squad that could easily average more than 45 points per game. Whether the defense can stop the top offenses that the Sooners will face will determine if OU can challenge for a playoff spot. A trip to the Giant Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio, looms in week two,

The Big 12 Media and our PiRate, Mean, and Bias ratings basically agree that this year’s Big 12 race will come down to the Bedlam game. Oklahoma State hosts Oklahoma in that game this year, but unlike most years, it is not the last weekend on the schedule.

Here’s how the Media voted.

2016 Big 12 Conference Media Poll
# Team 1st Pl. Total
1 Oklahoma 19 303
2 Oklahoma St. 12 294
3 Kansas St. 1 231
4 Texas 0 213
5 TCU 0 202
6 West Virginia 0 183
7 Baylor 0 129
8 Texas Tech 0 85
9 Iowa St. 0 83
10 Kansas 0 37

Here are the PiRate, Mean, and Bias preseason ratings.

Big 12 Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Oklahoma 123.8 121.8 124.8 123.5
Oklahoma St. 118.2 117.0 119.8 118.3
Kansas St. 113.9 113.4 114.3 113.9
Texas 112.2 113.0 112.4 112.6
T C U 111.4 108.6 111.1 110.3
West Virginia 107.7 108.8 107.5 108.0
Baylor 103.9 106.4 103.8 104.7
Iowa State 101.0 102.4 101.7 101.7
Texas Tech 101.3 101.0 100.1 100.8
Kansas 91.0 94.4 90.3 91.9
Big 12 Averages 108.4 108.7 108.6 108.6

And, here are out not-so-scientific preseason won-loss predictions and bowl projections.


Big 12 Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Oklahoma 8-1 11-2 Cotton
Oklahoma St. 8-1 11-2 Fiesta
Kansas St. 6-3 8-4 Camping World
Texas 6-3 8-4 Alamo
TCU 6-3 8-4 Texas
West Virginia 4-5 6-6 Cactus
Baylor 4-5 6-6 Liberty
Texas Tech 2-7 4-8  
Iowa St. 1-8 3-9  
Kansas 0-9 2-10  
No Big 12 team available for Heart of Dallas Bowl

Oklahoma to win the Big 12 Conference Championship Game in a rematch with Oklahoma State.  The Big 12’s top two teams in the standings will face off in Arlington, Texas, on December 2.

Trivia Answer: Not many people guessed at our trivia question, and none were correct. Here’s the question once 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.
The answers
1. Larry Gatlin
2. Gatlin and his brothers sang the National Anthem prior to the scheduled Game 3 of the 1989 World Series. Moments later, the great Earthquake hit the Bay, postponing the game for 10 days.
3. Dr. Phil

Coming Tomorrow. The Pac-12. Two teams have the talent to make it to Playoffville this year, but this league is rather balanced with some quality talent, and it could be difficult for any team to win enough games to get there.

August 19, 2017

2017 Independents Preview

At one point in the 1960’s and 1970’s there were in excess of 30 college football teams not affiliated with a conference. Schools did not need a conference affiliation to succeed. Penn State, Notre Dame, Florida State, Miami, and other big name schools were power teams that frequently competed for national titles. Michigan State was actually an independent that won a national title prior to becoming the final member of the original Big Ten. There was even a five-year period where Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington State left the Pacific Coast Conference and played as independents, as the forerunner to today’s Pac-12 almost dissolved.

Today, the independent ranks are close to dissolving, but they are hanging on by a thread, or should we say four threads. Army, BYU, Massachusetts, and Notre Dame are what’s left, althought New Mexico State will join this group next year, more because they are being evicted from the Sun Belt. and the MWC has no vacancies for them at this time.

Notre Dame is only a quasi-independent. They belong to the ACC in many ways–they play a five-game schedule of ACC teams, and they can qualify for any ACC Bowl, as long as they are within one win of the next available team.

BYU is a tough fit as a full member in any conference, because the Cougars will not play any athletic competition on Sunday. In basketball, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee seeds them in brackets that keep them away from a Friday-Sunday schedule. They would be a perfect fit with New Mexico State in the Mountain West or even with New Mexico or Utah State in the Big 12, with New Mexico State replacing whichever school left.

Army is okay as an independent, although the West Pointers could fit right into the American Athletic with rival Navy. Massachusetts could easily fit in this league as well, and the independents would be history.

Since there are no preseason media polls, we will start by showing you our own PiRate Retrodictive Ratings for the four schools. You might ask how there could be retrodictive ratings, when no games have been played yet. How can we rate them on their results thus far? Obviously, this is not possible, but we begin each season adjusting the previous season’s final retrodictive ratings just like we do our regular PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings. By the fourth week of the season, the retrodictive ratings are 100% based on the current year’s results.

PiRate Retrodictive Ratings (Independents)

# Team
PiRate Retrodictive
1 Notre Dame
3 Army
4 Massachusetts


Here are our regular predictive PiRate, Mean, and Bias preseason ratings.

Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Notre Dame 109.7 107.8 109.6 109.0
B Y U 103.0 101.9 103.6 102.8
Army 94.6 94.2 95.5 94.8
Massachusetts 86.0 84.4 86.0 85.5
Independents Averages 98.3 97.1 98.7 98.0

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

Independents Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
BYU x 9-4 [Military]
Notre Dame x 8-4 Pinstripe
Army x 8-4 Armed Forces
Massachusetts x 3-9  

BYU’s bowl bid is an at-large bid.


Trivia: Nobody could come up with the answer to yesterday’s trivia question. Rather than show all the incorrect replies, since we don’t want to embarrass anybody, we erased them from the responses.
Here it is again: Who are these two legendary coaches? Coach number one was a college head coach who won 70% of his games at his first Division 1 school, a team that played in a now defunct conference. He moved on to be a college head coach at two additional schools, the second of which he was replaced by a second coaching legend who won more than 200 games at the college level and more than 250 when his NFL wins were added. Four decades after winning 70% of his games at the first school, Coach number one was still coaching, now the head coach of an NFL team which he guided to the playoffs multiple times. Coach number two was still coaching four decades later after he replaced coach number one. Coach number two won a national championship during his career.
Name the two coaches. If nobody gets the answer by the time we go to press with tomorrow’s preview, we will give the answer, but we know that our readers tend to be among the most knowledgeable football fans and analytical geniuses, so we expect somebody to come up with the correct answer.

We had several guesses, and some of you actually guessed coach number two as coach number one. Nobody guessed correctly on coach number one. He is Marv Levy, who coached at New Mexico in 1958 and 1959, going 7-3 both years. New Mexico played in the defunct Border Conference, a pre-WAC establishment. Levy moved on to an unsuccessful stint at UC-Berkeley, and then to William & Mary. Levy led the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls four decades later.

Coach number two, who succeeded Levy at William & Mary was Lou Holtz. Holtz won 249 games at the collegiate level and another three in the NFL with the Jets.

Coming later today–The American Athletic Conference

August 18, 2017

2017 Sun Belt Conference Preview

You can see it coming. This little league, normally the weakest Group of 5 conference in FBS football is beginning to show some teeth. In most years since its inception, the SBC has had one team capable of producing an upset, and maybe another team capable of knocking off a better Group of 5 school in a bowl game.

That’s starting to change. At least for this year, three and possibly four teams are capable of making a run to a double-digit win season and knock off an Power 5 Conference foe.

There is a little bit of change this year, as the league expands temporarily to 12 teams with the addition of Coastal Carolina as a full-fledged member. You would think the league would divide into divisions and play a conference championship game. Next year, the league contracts to 10 teams as New Mexico State and Idaho depart. NMSU will try to make it as an independent like BYU and U Mass, while Idaho drops to the FCS level. Unfortunately for the Vandals, they are making the move downward at the least favorable time in their recent existence. Idaho has the league’s top home field advantage playing in the Kibbe Dome, and their offense is about to make historical strides forward with Matt Linehan at quarterback.

The Vandals should be in a pack of four teams trying to contend with the big three. Appalachian State, Troy, and Arkansas State figure to be the top three teams in the league, while South Alabama, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Georgia State compete with Idaho for best of the rest. Georgia State should get a momentum boost when the Panthers move into the former Atlanta Braves’ Turner Field, which has been remodeled into a beautiful venue for football.

Here’s how the media voted in its preseason predictions.

2017 Sun Belt Conference Media Poll
# Team 1st Pl. Total
1 Appalachian St. 7 136
2 Troy 2 127
3 Arkansas St. 1 122
4 S. Alabama 0 98
5 UL-Lafayette 1 95
6 Idaho 0 84
7 Georgia Southern 0 82
8 Georgia St. 0 48
9 UL-Monroe 0 46
10 N. Mexico St. 1 41
11 Texas St. 0 31
12 Coastal Carolina 0 26

The PiRate Ratings agree on the top three, but there is a bit of difference after that.

Sunbelt Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Appalachian St. 99.8 96.8 100.4 99.0
Troy 94.1 94.4 93.4 94.0
Arkansas St. 88.3 90.1 90.0 89.5
Idaho 86.4 89.1 87.2 87.5
Georgia St. 86.3 85.5 86.2 86.0
UL-Lafayette 84.9 86.8 84.7 85.5
S. Alabama 83.8 86.8 84.0 84.9
N. Mexico St. 84.2 81.5 83.2 83.0
Georgia Southern 80.4 82.1 79.8 80.8
UL-Monroe 79.6 80.2 77.8 79.2
Coastal Carolina 72.1 73.5 73.9 73.2
Texas St. 70.7 74.7 69.4 71.6
Sun Belt Averages 84.2 85.1 84.2 84.5

And, here are our not-so-scientific predictions for this year’s standings with bowl projections.

Sun Belt Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Appalachian St. 7-1 10-2 Cure
Troy 7-1 9-3 Arizona
Arkansas St. 7-1 8-4 Camellia
S. Alabama 5-3 6-6 New Orleans
Idaho 4-4 6-6 Idaho
Georgia St. 4-4 6-6 Dollar General
UL-Lafayette 4-4 5-7  
Georgia Southern 3-5 4-8  
UL-Monroe 3-5 3-9  
N. Mexico St. 2-6 3-9  
Coastal Carolina 2-6 3-9  
Texas St. 0-8 1-11  

Coming tomorrow: You sort of get a double dose. There are just four Independents, so we will preview the Independents as well as the American Athletic Conference. Then, beginning Sunday, we start with the Power 5 conferences. College football begins in just eight days!

***A special shout out to our reader Ryan. Yesterday, we issued what we thought was a rather tough trivia question, and Ryan nailed it rather quickly. So, today, we will increase the difficulty with a little tougher trivia. ***


Who are these two legendary coaches? Coach number one was a college head coach who won 70% of his games at his first Division 1 school, a team that played in a now defunct conference. He moved on to be a college head coach at two additional schools, the second of which he was replaced by a second coaching legend who won more than 200 games at the college level and more than 250 when his NFL wins were added. Four decades after winning 70% of his games at the first school, Coach number one was still coaching, now the head coach of an NFL team which he guided to the playoffs multiple times. Coach number two was still coaching four decades later after he replaced coach number one. Coach number two won a national championship during his career.

Name the two coaches. If nobody gets the answer by the time we go to press with tomorrow’s preview, we will give the answer, but we know that our readers tend to be among the most knowledgeable football fans and analytical geniuses, so we expect somebody to come up with the correct answer.

August 16, 2017

2017 Conference USA Preview

It’s day two of our annual college football conference previews.  Conference USA featured a lot of wide open, pass-it-all-over-the-field football last year, and in some weeks, perusing the league’s results left you wondering if this was football or basketball.  As an example, take the two division winners from 2016.  Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech met in the regular season, and then they had a rematch in the CUSA Championship Game.  The first time around Tech beat Western 56-52.  In the rematch, Western won the league title with a 58-44 victory.

Western Kentucky lost their offensive mastermind, when former coach Jeff Brohm took the Purdue job.  Will new Hilltopper head man Mike Sanford be able to keep the Toppers scoring 40 points per game?  The former Notre Dame offensive coordinator may be a tad more conservative in his play-calling, so we expect WKU will score less often this year.

However, the arrival of two new big-name coaches could add some points and excitement on the scoreboard in the Sunshine State.  Butch Davis is the new leader at Florida International, and Lane Kiffin takes over at Florida Atlantic.  A former CUSA coach returns to the league after a two-year hiatus without ever changing schools.  Welcome back UAB to college football.  Coach Bill Clark stayed loyal to the Blazers, and when UAB returns to the field on September 2 against Alabama A&M, the Blazers will have the same coach that guided the team to a very respectable 6-6 record in 2014.

Here is how the CUSA  media voted in the preseason poll.

# Team 1st Pl.
1 Western Kentucky 20
2 Middle Tennessee 4
3 Old Dominion 3
4 Marshall 1
5 Florida Atlantic 0
6 Florida Int’l 0
7 Charlotte 0
# Team 1st Pl.
1 Louisiana Tech 20
2 UTSA 7
3 Southern Miss. 1
4 North Texas 0
5 Rice 0
6 UTEP 0
7 UAB 0
Total Votes Not Released

The preseason PiRate, Mean, and Bias ratings believe the CUSA race will be exciting and closer than last year.

Conference USA
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
W. Kentucky 99.8 97.3 101.6 99.6
Old Dominion 90.9 93.9 91.4 92.1
Middle Tennessee 90.5 91.6 91.4 91.2
Florida Int’l. 84.0 83.9 85.2 84.4
Florida Atlantic 82.5 86.1 83.6 84.1
Marshall 81.9 83.8 82.7 82.8
Charlotte 74.4 77.6 74.9 75.6
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
U T S A 91.3 93.1 93.5 92.6
Louisiana Tech 90.2 92.0 91.1 91.1
Southern Miss. 84.3 86.1 84.2 84.8
N. Texas 80.5 82.1 80.4 81.0
Rice 80.1 81.0 80.8 80.6
U T E P 74.8 79.3 76.1 76.8
UAB 63.7 69.2 65.9 66.3
CUSA Averages 89.9 92.1 91.0 91.0

Here are our not-so-scientific predictions for the league races, and the bowl projections.

Conference USA Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
East Division      
Old Dominion 7-1 10-3 Bahamas
W. Kentucky 6-2 9-3 St. Petersburg
Middle Tennessee 6-2 7-5 New Orleans
Florida Atlantic 5-3 6-6 [Armed Forces]
Florida Int’l. 3-5 4-8  
Marshall 2-6 3-9  
Charlotte 1-7 2-10  
Team Conference Overall  Bowl
West Division      
Louisiana Tech 7-1 9-4 Boca Raton
U T S A 7-1 9-3 Heart of Dallas
Southern Miss. 6-2 8-4 New Mexico
N. Texas 2-6 3-9  
U T E P 2-6 2-10  
UAB 1-7 2-10  
Rice 1-7 1-11  
Old Dominion to win CUSA Championship Game
Fla. Atlantic’s bid to the Armed Forces is an at-large bid

Coming tomorrow: The Mountain West Conference–Will Boise St. return to the top, or will the Broncos look up at last year’s surprise winner Wyoming or Colorado St.?  Can San Diego St. continue to dominate in the West Division, or will an up and comer like Hawaii knock the Aztecs off their throne?





August 15, 2017

2017 Mid-American Conference Preview

Today, the PiRate Ratings kicks off its annual college football conference previews with the Mid-American Conference.  Last year, the MAC was a sneaky little league.  Very few so-called experts picked this league to produce the automatic New Year’s 6 Bowl participant, but when Western Michigan ran the table in the regular season, and then the Broncos beat Ohio in the MAC title game, it was WMU that ventured down to Jerry World to play in the Cotton Bowl.

There is a slight chance that this league could produce the special Group of 5 team again this season, but we won’t expect it this time around.  Not only is there no overpowering team in this league. the schedule for the best team just won’t allow for an undefeated season and most likely not a one-loss season.

2017 looks to be the year where college football begins to look more and more like the NFL, and the teams with experienced and talented quarterbacks, quick receivers, quick defensive backs, and above-average linemen in that order will dominate the land.  It is certainly true in this league, where the top two QBs belong to the two teams we are picking to win the divisional races–Logan Woodside at Toledo and Gus Ragland at Miami of Ohio.

Because the Poinsettia Bowl went bust, there is one less bowl game this season.  The MAC figures to be the league that suffers the most from this cancellation.  We believe there will be two bowl eligible teams in the league that do not receive bowl bids.  At least, we do not foresee a 5-7 team having to fill in as an at-large, at least until another bowl replaces the defunct Poinsettia.  There could be one set for Wrigley Field in Chicago in the future, and that most assuredly would be good news for this league.

Here is how the MAC Media picked the teams to finish the season.

MAC East Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Ohio U 11 131 0
2 Miami (O) 12 129 1
3 Bowling Green 1 88 1
4 Akron 0 79 0
5 Buffalo 0 41 0
6 Kent St. 0 36 0
MAC West Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Toledo 22 142 21
2 Western Michigan 1 107 1
3 Northern Illinois 1 89 0
4 Eastern Michigan 0 74 0
5 Central Michigan 0 62 0
6 Ball St. 0 30 0

The PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings differ slightly, but not all that much.  Remember that the PiRate Ratings are really only predictive for the next week’s schedule, and they cannot be used to look forward past that week.  Because, we set certain factors into each teams’ future to account for depth or lack thereof, these ratings can change even if a team wins by the exact amount predicted.

Here are the PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings for the pre-season

Mid-American Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Miami (O) 94.3 96.6 96.8 95.9
Ohio U 90.3 92.0 91.2 91.2
Akron 84.3 88.5 84.5 85.8
Kent St. 83.7 85.3 84.9 84.6
Bowling Green 82.4 82.6 83.7 82.9
Buffalo 79.7 83.7 81.6 81.7
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Michigan 102.1 98.4 103.8 101.4
Toledo 99.3 99.1 100.9 99.8
Eastern Michigan 93.5 93.1 93.6 93.4
Central Michigan 90.4 90.6 90.8 90.6
Northern Illinois 85.7 85.8 85.9 85.8
Ball St. 78.2 80.5 79.7 79.5
MAC Averages 88.7 89.7 89.8 89.4

This is our not so scientific attempt to predict the won-loss records and bowl projections.  As we stated above, our ratings do not look past the next week’s schedule.

Mid-American Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
East Division      
Miami (O) 6-2 9-4 Camellia
Ohio U 5-3 8-4 Idaho Potato
Akron 4-4 5-7  
Kent St. 2-6 3-9  
Bowling Green 2-6 3-9  
Buffalo 2-6 3-9  
West Division      
Toledo 8-0 11-2 Bahamas
Western Michigan 6-2 8-4 Dollar General
Eastern Michigan 5-3 6-6 eligible
Central Michigan 5-3 6-6 eligible
Northern Illinois 2-6 4-8  
Ball St. 1-7 3-9  
Toledo to win MAC Title Game

Coming tomorrow–Conference USA






August 13, 2015

2015 Mountain West Conference Preview

There was a time when the Mountain West Conference graded out to be a little stronger than the old Big East Conference and was clearly stronger overall than today’s American Conference.  There were a couple seasons where the league was on par with the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Of course, there was a time when both TCU and Boise State were members of this conference, and there was a time that BYU was a member as well.

In 2015, the MWC may be a bit too weak for the champion to get into the playoff mix, but we believe the champion of this league stands an excellent chance to be 13-0 when the committee decides who is in and who is out.  If two of the Big Six conferences produce two or even three-loss champions, there will be a small chance that a 13-0 MWC team could be a surprise #4 seed.

It’s been five seasons since Boise State last finished the year undefeated.  In 2009, The Broncos defeated Oregon at the start of the year and 12-0 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl at the end of the year to finish fourth in the nation overall.  This was the second time the Broncos finished undefeated, having first pulled it of in 2006 when once again, BSU won the Fiesta Bowl in a thrilling finish over Oklahoma.  The 2006 team defeated Oregon State early in the season.

This year, Boise State opens at home against Washington.  In week two, they play at BYU.  An October 16 game at Utah State is the only other possible bump in the 2015 road, but this team is considerably stronger than the 12-2 team that won another Fiesta Bowl last year.  The Broncos were the first of the lone guaranteed non-Big Six conference team to be selected to a Big Six Bowl.  Could they become the first non-Big Six school to earn a playoff spot?

We don’t believe the selection committee will take the Broncos, but we do believe Boise will run the table for the third time in a decade and probably be rewarded with yet another trip to the Fiesta Bowl.

There is only one fly in the ointment.  Boise State is loaded on both sides of the ball, but the one place that is a question mark is at quarterback.  Ryan Finley isn’t totally raw, having seen brief action as a Freshman last year, but 27 career passes is not enough to make a case that he might be the next Kellen Moore.

Utah State has gone bowling the last four years, two under former coach Gary Andersen and two under current coach Matt Wells.  Who knows how good this program could have been if quarterback Chuckie Keeton could have finished a season.  He has suffered numerous injuries in his time in Logan, and he has never played a full schedule.  He returns for one final try, and if he can stay on the field, the Aggies pose the only legitimate threat to Boise State.  The loss of Jo Jo Natson may hamper their chances, but USU still has Hunter Sharp at Wide Receiver and LaJuan Hunt at running back, so there is talent at the skill positions.  Inside linebacker Nick Vigil has all the tools, and he will anchor the division’s top defense.

After the top two, the drop to number three is steep.  Colorado State lost the top quarterback in the league in Garrett Grayson; one of the top running backs in Dee Hart; and two of the top defensive players in the league in Aaron Davis and Max Morgan.  Oh, and they lost all-American coach Jim McElwain to Florida.  New coach Mike Bobo comes from the SEC just like his predecessor.  As the long time offensive coordinator at Georgia, Bobo’s Bulldog offenses were balanced with power running games and vertical passing games.  In his first year in Ft. Collins, he inherits talent not all that equipped to suit his style.  He will not see a Nick Chubb or Aaron Murray on the field at Hughes Stadium.  He also will not see his team playing on the field after November 28.  The Rams draw San Diego State and Fresno State out of the Pacific Division, and it looks like a drop under .500 this year.

Air Force has been up and down in recent years for Coach Troy Calhoun.  The Falcons were up last year, winning 10 games, including an upset of Boise State.  This year, the Falcons will be down due to a rebuilding defense and an offense that must break in a new quarterback.  Down won’t be a total disappointment, as we believe the Falcons will find a way to break even and earn a bowl bid.

Our pick for surprise team in the league this year is New Mexico.  The Lobos have been down and out since former coach Rocky Long was let go in 2008.  Following three consecutive 1-11 seasons that included a loss to Sam Houston, former Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie was brought to Albuquerque to right the ship.  This is his fourth season following 4-9, 3-9, and 4-8 seasons where the Lobos ran the ball better than any team in the league, topping 300 yards per game all three years.  This year, Davie has experienced talent throughout the roster, and with just a little improvement on the defensive side of the ball, New Mexico could win the close games and earn its first bowl bid since 2007.

There was a time when Wyoming was the class of the Rockies.  The Cowboys were the western Cradle of Coaches for years producing the likes of Bob Devaney, Pat Dye, Fred Akers, Joe Tiller, and Bowden Wyatt, all of whom ascended to big time programs and took teams to conference championships and New Year’s Day Bowls.  As of late, the pickings have been slim in Laramie.  Joe Glenn and Dave Christensen both had great promise but neither turned the tide.  Craig Bohl brought a similar resume to the Rockies as Glenn, having won big at North Dakota State, but his first year in Laramie was no different than recent editions.  This year’s team may make last year’s 4-8 team look like a success as graduation has taken a heavy toll.

The Pacific Division race should be a little more competitive than the Mountain Division.  Four teams have realistic chances to compete for the division title, while a fifth has the potential to get into the race.  It’s not that this side of the league is powerful; the parity is owed more to sub-par rosters than anything else.

San Diego State has been flirting with a division title for five years, and this looks like the year where the Aztecs are the favorite to finally get over the hump.  Coach Rocky Long’s defense is the best in the division and maybe the best in the entire league, and he returns 14 of his top 18 tacklers from last year.  If his offense can maintain the competency of recent years, SDSU could win double digit games for the first time since 1977.

Nevada exploded with a 13-1 record in 2010 and has since returned to mediocrity with three 7-6 seasons wrapped around a 4-8 season.  Third year coach Brian Polian must polish a new quarterback to replace Cody Fajardo, who led the Wolf Pack in addition to his passing skills, led the Wolf Pack in rushing.  The secondary must be rebuilt as well, and in a pass-happy league, a weak secondary can be a recipe for disaster.  However, both sides of the line of scrimmage are stocked with quality brutes, so we believe Nevada will stay in the hunt for another bowl bid.

Fresno State is in a similar boat as Nevada.  Coach Tim DeRuyter must replace his starting quarterback for the second consecutive season, but replacing Brian Burrell will be easier than replacing Derek Carr.  There is a question at the moment concerning the possible starting quarterback this year.  Former West Virginia signal caller Ford Childress is the most talented QB on the roster and should be the starter, but there are questions concerning his eligiblity status.  He is currently practicing with the squad, but there is a chance he will not be eligible to play until the second week of the season.  If Childress is okayed to play, the Bulldogs immediately move up a notch as SDSU’s top contender.  Without him, FSU may have to rely on a freshman or less talented sophomore.

San Jose State fell back in the pack last year, suffering through a 3-9 season which included a season-ending six game losing streak.  Third year coach Ron Carragher returns 10 starters on offense, but the attack troops suffered a mighty blow when freshman phenom and expected starting wide receiver Kanya Bell was dismissed following his arrest on domestic battery charges.  Many of his teammates disagreed with the dismissal, citing that there could be more to the story, and this sounds like it created possible dissension within the ranks.  If so, Carragher faces a tough uphill climb to keep the team believing in his leadership.  If the season heads south early, Carragher could find himself on a hot seat in San Jose.

If there is to be a surprise team in the Pacific Division, we believe it will be Hawaii.  Fourth year coach Norm Chow welcomes the best new quarterback in the league.  Former USC Trojan Max Wittek could be the missing ingredient Chow has needed to run his complicated offense.  The Warriors failed to complete 50% of their passes last year, and Wittek is a major upgrade.  The UH defense was vastly improved last year, and if the offense can improve in the same manner, then Hawaii could compete for that elusive seventh win and get a 14th game in December in Honolulu.  Road games in September at Ohio State and Wisconsin are the big issues.  Not that Hawaii has a chance of upsetting either team, but if injuries in those games prevent the roster from being near full strength in November, when the Warriors have a very favorable schedule, there will be no chance to get to 7-6.

What do you do if you are a first year college head coach, and you inherit a 2-11 team that gave up more than 500 yards per game and barely beat Northern Colorado by a point the year before?  What do you do when said team was decimated by graduation losses and appears to be considerably weaker than the 2-11 team you inherited?  That’s what first year UNLV coach Tony Sanchez faces in Las Vegas.  Sanchez has zero head coaching experience in college football.  He only has one year of any college football experience, and that came a generation ago when he was a graduate assistant at New Mexico State.  Sanchez has been the Knute Rockne of high school coaches in the Silver State.  He never lost a conference game at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, and his annual won-loss records were 15-0, 13-2, 16-0, 13-1, 13-2, and 15-0, winning the Nevada State Championship every year.  Those five losses in six seasons will be eclipsed in little more than half a season this year, because that Gorman team had more future FBS all-star players than this UNLV team, and Sanchez cannot play rising high school junior Tate Martell at quarterback.

Let’s take a look at how the MWC Media predicted the standings for this season.

Mountain West Conference Media Poll
Pos. Team 1st Place Total
Mountain Division
1 Boise St. 28 177
2 Utah St. 2 150
3 Colorado St. 0 108
4 Air Force 0 90
5 Wyoming 0 64
6 New Mexico 0 41
West Division
1 San Diego St. 27 177
2 Fresno St. 3 141
3 Nevada 0 113
4 San Jose St. 0 91
5 Hawaii 0 70
6 UNLV 0 38

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

Conference USA Preseason All-Conference Team
Offense Player School
Quarterback Chuckie Keeton Utah St.
Running Back Donnel Pumphrey San Diego St.
Running Back Martez Waller Fresno St.
Wide Receiver Rashard Higgins Colorado St.
Wide Receiver Devonte Boyd UNLV
Tight End Steven Walker Colorado St.
Offensive Line Marcus Henry Boise St.
Offensive Line Rees Odhiambo Boise St.
Offensive Line Alex Fifita Fresno St.
Offensive Line Ben Clarke Hawaii
Offensive Line Pearce Slater San Diego St.
Defense Player School
Defensive Line Eddie Yarbrough Wyoming
Defensive Line Alex Hansen Air Force
Defensive Line Kamalei Correa Boise St.
Defensive Line Ian Seau Nevada
Linebacker Tanner Vallejo Boise St.
Linebacker Kyler Fackrell Utah St.
Linebacker Nick Vigil Utah St.
Defensive Back Weston Steelhammer Air Force
Defensive Back Donte Deayon Boise St.
Defensive Back Darian Thompson Boise St.
Defensive Back Damontae Kazee San Diego St.
Special Teams Player School
Punter Alex Boy Nevada
Kicker Donny Hageman San Diego St.
Return Specialist Carols Wiggins New Mexico

Here are the Preseason PiRate, Mean, and Bias ratings along with the averages of the three.

Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Boise St. 114.5 108.6 114.1 112.4
Utah St. 99.7 98.9 100.0 99.5
Colorado St. 95.4 92.9 93.4 93.9
Air Force 91.1 96.6 90.1 92.6
New Mexico 90.7 91.8 90.2 90.9
Wyoming 84.3 86.6 82.5 84.5
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
San Diego St. 96.3 102.6 98.0 99.0
Nevada 91.7 96.6 91.0 93.1
Fresno St. 89.3 98.1 88.7 92.0
San Jose St. 89.3 92.9 89.2 90.5
Hawaii 87.4 91.6 87.7 88.9
UNLV 76.7 79.6 76.5 77.6
MWC Averages 92.2 94.7 91.8 92.9

And, here are the PiRate Ratings Won-Loss predictions and bowl projections.

PiRate Ratings Predicted Records
Pos Team Conf. Overall Bowl
Mountain Division
1 Boise St. 8-0 13-0 * Big Six
2 Utah St. 6-2 8-4 Las Vegas
3 New Mexico 4-4 7-5 New Mexico
4 Air Force 4-4 6-6 Arizona #
5 Colorado St. 3-5 5-7 None
6 Wyoming 1-7 3-9 None
West Division
1 San Diego St. 7-1 9-4 ^ Poinsettia
2 Nevada 5-3 7-5 Idaho Potato
3 Fresno St. 4-4 5-7 None
4 Hawaii 3-5 5-8 None
5 San Jose St. 3-5 4-8 None
6 UNLV 0-8 1-11 None
* Wins Title Game
^ Loses Title Game
# The Arizona Bowl does not have a sponsor and may be postponed

Coming Next: The American Athletic Conference

August 12, 2015

2015 Mid-American Conference Preview

It’s been three years since Northern Illinois sneaked into a BCS Bowl, losing to Florida State in the 2013 Orange Bowl, and since that time, the Mid-American Conference has fallen a few spots in the conference ladder, just barely beginning the 2015-16 season ahead of Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference.

There are talented teams in both MAC divisions, but overall, the league has gotten a few points weaker in recent years.  In the past three seasons, this league is just 4-13 in bowl games, many of those losses to mediocre opponents.  And, last year, MAC teams went 4-20 against teams from Big 6 conferences.  Those four beaten big boys were Pittsburgh, Indiana, Purdue, and Northwestern.  Among the 20 losses were Big Six Conference lightweights Colorado and Vanderbilt, as well as the aforementioned Purdue Boilermakers.  Additional losses to the likes of Eastern Kentucky and Army (twice) knocked this league down a few more notches.

2015 brings a new outlook for the Big Ten’s stepbrother.  The league will produce a few future NFL players, and we believe this might be the season where the MAC breaks even or even finished above .500 in the bowl picture.

The East Division figures to be four deep in contenders, with Bowling Green leading the way.  Second year coach Dino Babers won the division in his first year at the helm, as the Falcons found a way to win close games.  However, a three-game losing streak to close out the regular season spoiled a possible repeat of 2013.  This year, Babers’ squad is loaded on offense and should score up to 35 points per game, but the defense may be just as generous.  The key is the BGU secondary, which is thin to start the season.

Frank Solich once had his alma mater, Nebraska, at the number one spot in the nation and on the cusp of becoming another national champion like the 1997, 1995, 1994, 1971, and 1970 teams.  An unbelievable upset blowout loss at Colorado on Black Friday of 2001 basically started the ball rolling to his dismissal in Lincoln, and led to his arrival in Athens, Ohio, where Solich has guided the Ohio Bobcats to a 72-56 record and six bowl trips in his ten-year tenure.  Solich’s Bobcats figure to be right on Bowling Green’s heels this year, and the Wednesday night, November 4 game at BGU could determine which East team will play in the MAC Championship Game.

Our sleeper team in the league this year is UMass.  The Minutemen have yet to challenge in their first three years in the league, but we have a sneaky suspicion that Coach Mark Whipple’s crew is going to matter in the East Division race this year.  The UMass offense is going to be lethal at times this season with the league’s top quarterback and two of the top receivers.  Whipple’s Minutemen will not be a one trick pony.  The defense should improve by as much as a touchdown per game, and we believe UMass will be bowl eligible.  The bowl invitation may not arrive, but a 6-6 season would be enough to create a lot more support in Amherst.

Akron has become a “sexy” pick among the MAC Media, as they believe Coach Terry Bowden is about to turn the corner in the land of rubber.  We believe the Zips will vie with UMass for third place, but any of the top four in this division could make it to the Championship Game.  Former Louisville wideout Michaelee Harris could be the added ingredient that proves the media to be a modern day Nostradamus.

Kent State is not that far behind the four contenders, but the Golden Flashes have a killer schedule that includes road games against Illinois, Minnesota, Toledo, Ohio, and Akron, and a home game against Marshall.  Basically, to make it to .500, the Flashes will have to win the rest of their games, and since the rest of their games include Bowling Green, there is not a path to bowl eligibility this season.

Buffalo and Miami (O) will fight it out in an attempt to avoid the cellar, as these two teams will be out of bowl contention before November.  Buffalo actually has some decent talent, but the Bulls don’t have enough to compete with the top four in the MAC East.  Miami must be fortunate to draw an opening home game against Presbyterian.  A loss to the Blue Hose would mean the Redhawks would be 0-9 when Eastern Michigan comes to Oxford.

The West Division has three very talented squads that are no more than a field goal apart in our ratings to start the season.  Any of the top three could state an excellent case as to why they are the best of the trio.

To start 2015, we rate Western Michigan as the best in the division and the league.  Coach P. J. Fleck was on a possible hot seat after a 1-11 innaugural season.  In year two, the Broncos put together a six-game winning streak that finally ended in the season finale against Northern Illinois in a game that had WMU won, would have been enough to take a piece of the division title.  With the bulk of the team that surprised with an 8-4 regular season mark returning, including quarterback Zach Terrell, star runnning back Jarvion Franklin, and just about every receiver that caught a pass last year, look for WMU to be the team to beat in the MAC and possibly one to scare Michigan State for a half in the season opener.

Toledo is not as talented as WMU, but the Rockets have a huge advantage over the Broncos.  TU hosts WMU as well as Northern Illinois, while WMU must finish out the regular season with back-to-back road games against the other two contenders.  Running back Kareem Hunt may be the best back in the league, and he returns as well as quarterback Phillip Ely.  The one problem with the Toledo offense is a green blocking quintet.  If the young offensive linemen improve enough by November, then TU will become the favorite to win the division flag.  If the group never puts it together, then even hosting the other two contenders may not matter.

As for Northern Illinois, the Huskies may have the best defense of the three contenders, but the offense is the weakest of the three contenders.  It could be trouble for NIU having to play at Ohio State and at Boston College in back-to-back weeks, and injuries could accumulate and cause the Huskies trouble the following week, when they continue their road trip at Central Michigan.

Ball State coach Pete Lembo has done an admirable job in Muncie, Indiana, in his four years there.  He took over a program that had dropped to the cellar in the West Division, even falling below Eastern Michigan, and he has produced 6-6, 9-4, 10-3, and 5-7 records.  This year’s Cardinals squad should be considerably better than last year’s team, but the schedule is not all that favorable.  Among their four non-conference games, BSU plays at Texas A&M and at Northwestern.  There is still a good chance that Lembo can guide this squad back to bowl eligibility.

There was a time when Central Michigan was the class of the league under former coaches Butch Jones and Brian Kelly.  The last three years, Coach Dan Enos took the Chippewas to two bowl games and had a bowl eligible team the other year.  However, Enos did not receive a lot of support in Mt. Pleasant, so after last year’s 7-6 season, he resigned to accept the offensive coordinator’s position at Arkansas.  New coach John Bonamego has the unenviable task of starting over with a thinned group of Chippewas, and we believe CMU will fall back in the pack just barely ahead of perennial cellar-dweller Eastern Michigan.

Eastern Michigan has suffered through three consecutive 2-10 seasons, and a rebuilding offense will keep the Eagles at two or even fewer wins this year.

Here is a look at the MAC Media Preseason Poll.

Mid-American Conference Media Poll
Pos. Team 1st Place Total
MAC East Division
1 Bowling Green 18 160
2t Akron 2 118
2t Ohio U 1 118
4 Massachusetts 3 113
5 Buffalo 0 70
6 Miami (O) 0 47
7 Kent St. 0 46
MAC West Division
1 Toledo 11 121
2 Western Michigan 8 120
3 Northern Illinois 4 113
4 Ball St. 0 66
5 Central Michigan 1 56
6 Eastern Michigan 0 28
2015 MAC Championship Game Winner: Toledo (9);
Western Michigan (8); Northern Illinois (6); Central Michigan (1).

The MAC Media did not vote on an official preseason All-Conference Team, so we have included the highest-rated players at each position according to our PiRate Ratings formula.

Conference USA Preseason All-Conference Team
Offense Player School
Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel Massachusetts
Running Back Kareem Hunt Toledo
Running Back Javion Franklin Western Michigan
Running Back Anthone Taylor Buffalo
Running Back Travis Greene Bowling Green
Wide Receiver Roger Lewis Bowling Green
Wide Receiver Tajae Sharp Massachusetts
Wide Receiver Corey Davis Western Michigan
Wide Receiver Ron Willoughby Buffalo
Tight End Rodney Mills Massachusetts
Offensive Line Andrew Ness Northern Illinois
Offensive Line James Kristof Western Michigan
Offensive Line Alex Huettel Bowling Green
Offensive Line Willie Beavers Western Michigan
Offensive Line Steven Bell Ball St.
Defense Player School
Defensive Line Trent Voss Toledo
Defensive Line Tarell Basham Ohio U
Defensive Line Perez Ford Northern Illinois
Defensive Line Pat O’Connor Eastern Michigan
Defensive Line Orion Jones Toledo
Linebacker Great Ibe Eastern Michigan
Linebacker Jatavis Brown Akron
Linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox Massachusetts
Defensive Back Paris Logan Northern Illinois
Defensive Back Randall Jette Massachusetts
Defensive Back Ronald Zamort Western Michigan
Defensive Back Nate Holley Kent St.
Defensive Back Tony Annese Central Michigan
Defensive Back Marlon Moore Northern Illinois
Special Teams Player School
Kicker Tyler Tate Bowling Green
Punter Anthony Melchiori Kent St.
Kick Returner Darius Phillips Western Michigan
Punt Returner Ryan Burbrink Bowling Green
Long Snapper Wyatt Pfeifer Western Michigan

Here is how our three PiRate Ratings and the average of the three look to begin the season.

Mid-American Conference
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Bowling Green 93.6 100.1 95.7 96.5
Ohio 89.7 94.1 91.0 91.6
Massachusetts 86.5 90.1 88.3 88.3
Akron 82.2 89.6 83.7 85.2
Kent St. 83.3 87.1 84.6 85.0
Buffalo 78.6 86.1 80.6 81.8
Miami (O) 75.8 83.1 75.9 78.3
West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Michigan 96.7 98.1 97.9 97.6
Toledo 95.7 94.1 96.6 95.5
Northern Illinois 91.8 95.1 92.2 93.0
Ball St. 87.4 89.8 88.6 88.6
Central Michigan 80.1 86.6 81.9 82.9
Eastern Michigan 72.7 84.1 72.6 76.5
MAC Averages 85.7 90.6 86.9 87.7

Here is our PiRate Rating Predictions and Bowl Projections.

PiRate Ratings Predicted Records
Pos Team Conf. Overall Bowl
East Division
1 Bowling Green 7-1 7-6 ^ Boca Raton
2 Ohio U 5-3 7-5 Idaho Potato
3 Massachusetts 5-3 6-6 Bowl Elig.
4 Akron 5-3 6-6 At-Large
5 Kent St. 3-5 4-8 None
6 Buffalo 1-7 2-10 None
7 Miami (O) 1-7 2-10 None
West Division
1 Western Michigan 7-1 10-3 * GoDaddy
2 Toledo 6-2 9-3 Bahamas
3 Northern Illinois 6-2 8-4 Camellia
4 Ball St. 4-4 6-6 Bowl Elig.
5 Central Michigan 2-6 3-9 None
6 Eastern Michigan 0-8 1-11 None
* Wins Title Game
^ Loses Title Game
Bowl Elig. means the team will probably be left out of the bowls.

Coming up next: The Mountain West Conference


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