The Pi-Rate Ratings

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 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.

October 6, 2015

41st FBS Bowl Now Official

Since we last posted our college preview for the week, it has come to our attention that the on-again, off-again Arizona Bowl is now on-again.  Nova Home Loans has signed on as the title game sponsor, and the game is set for December 29 at 5:30 PM Mountain Standard Time.  While the television particulars are still being worked out, this game will be the first bowl game to be streamed live at Campus Insider.

The Bowl will feature teams from the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA, and the Sun Belt will be the first alternate should either the MWC or CUSA not have enough eligible teams to meet their bowl obligations.

Beginning next week, we will add the Arizona Bowl to our Bowl Projections.  As of this week, we would speculate that Conference USA would not have enough teams available, and a team like Texas State from the SBC would be the fill-in replacement.  The MWC could have a tough time coming up with another bowl eligible team, and if Boise State somehow winds up in a New Year’s Six Bowl, the MWC definitely will not have enough bowl eligible teams.

There now must be 80 bowl eligible teams out of 128 FBS teams in total.  There is a chance that there will not be 80 bowl eligible teams.  The Mid-American Conference is likely to have that 80th bowl eligible team if 80 make it, so a Ball State, Buffalo, or Central Michigan at 6-6 might be headed to the desert in December.

August 10, 2015

2015 Sun Belt Conference Preview

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:37 pm

Today, the PiRate Ratings begins previewing the FBS conferences for 2015-16 with the Sun Belt Conference preview.  While this league has perennially been the weakest of the FBS conferences, the gap is closing thanks to a couple of new teams entering the league in recent years.

Last year, Georgia Southern became the first team since Arkansas St. in 2011 to run the table.  The Eagles were not bowl eligible in 2014, but they are now, and they figure to be in the hunt in the conference race.

Another team that can make a bowl trip for the first time this year is Appalachian St.  The Mountaineers, like Georgia Southern, have won a national championship, albeit in the FCS.  However, Appy State is most noted for upsetting Michigan at “The Big House.”

Arkansas St. had five different head coaches in the last five seasons, but the Red Wolves finally retained a coach in Blake Anderson.  Anderson’s Wolves should remain in contention in the SBC race.

Dennis Franchione is primed to take Texas St. to its first bowl after failing to garner a bid last year even though they were 7-5.

UL-Lafayette is looking to make it five consecutive trips to the New Orleans Bowl.  Chances are good the Ragin’ Cajuns will be bowl eligible again.

UL-Monroe and South Alabama should come up a bit short this year, while New Mexico St. and Georgia St. figure to improve a little in the standings.

Idaho and Troy figure to fight it out to avoid the cellar.

Here is the Sun Belt Conference Media Poll For 2015

Sun Belt Conference Media Poll
Pos. Team 1st Place Total
 1 Georgia Southern 6 110
 2 UL-Lafayette 3 108
 3 Arkansas St. 1 96
 4 Appalachian St. 0 82
 5 Texas St. 0 78
 6 South Alabama 1 68
 7 UL-Monroe 0 59
 8 Troy 0 39
 9 Georgia St. 0 32
10 N. Mexico St. 0 30
11 Idaho 0 24

Here is the Preseason All-Conference team as voted by the media.

Sun Belt Conference Preseason All-Conference Team
Offense Player School
Quarterback Fredi Knighten Arkansas St.
Running Back Matt Breida Georgia Southern
Running Back Elijah McGuire UL-Lafayette
Wide Receiver J. D. McKissic Arkansas St.
Wide Receiver Donovan Harden Georgia St.
Wide Receiver Rashon Ceaser UL-Monroe
Tight End Joel Ruiz Georgia St.
Offensive Line Jesse Chapman Appalachian St.
Offensive Line Darien Foreman Georgia Southern
Offensive Line Chris May South Alabama
Offensive Line Joseph Scelfo South Alabama
Offensive Line Adrian Bellard Texas St.
Defense Player School
Defensive Line Ronald Blair Appalachian St.
Defensive Line Ja’Von Rolland-Jones Arkansas St.
Defensive Line Chris Stone Arkansas St.
Defensive Line Gerrand Johnson UL-Monroe
Linebacker John Law Appalachian St.
Linebacker Xavier Woodson Arkansas St.
Linebacker Joseph Peterson Georgia St.
Defensive Back Doug Middleton Appalachian St.
Defensive Back Mitch Lane UL-Monroe
Defensive Back David Mims II Texas St.
Defensive Back Montres Kitchens Troy
Special Teams Player School
Kicker Aleem Sumanon South Alabama
Punter Austin Rehkow Idaho
Return Specialist Blaise Taylor Arkansas St.

Here are the Preseason PiRate Ratings for the Sun Belt Conference

Sunbelt Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Appalachian St. 91.9 95.1 94.0 93.7
Georgia Southern 91.4 93.9 91.5 92.3
Arkansas St. 88.5 89.1 89.2 88.9
Texas St. 84.1 89.1 84.4 85.9
UL-Lafayette 83.4 88.1 83.6 85.0
UL-Monroe 81.3 78.1 80.8 80.1
South Alabama 76.6 85.3 78.4 80.1
Georgia St. 75.0 73.1 74.1 74.1
New Mexico St. 74.7 76.1 75.0 75.3
Troy 71.2 70.1 71.8 71.0
Idaho 70.8 81.1 72.7 74.9
Sun Belt Averages 80.8 83.6 81.4 81.9

Here are the predicted regular season records for the Sun Belt Conference

PiRate Ratings Predicted Records
Pos Team Conf. Overall Bowl
1 Appalachian St. 7-1 10-2 GoDaddy
2 UL-Lafayette 6-2 8-4 New Orleans
3 Texas St. 6-2 8-4 Camelia
4 Georgia Southern 6-2 7-5 At-Large
5 Arkansas St. 6-2 7-5 Cure
6 UL-Monroe 4-4 5-8 None
7 South Alabama 3-5 4-8 None
8 N. Mexico St. 3-5 3-9 None
9 Georgia St. 1-7 3-9 None
10 Idaho 1-7 2-10 None
11 Troy 1-7 2-10 None

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