The Pi-Rate Ratings

October 20, 2021

PiRate Picks–October 21-23, 2021

What a minor difference a week made! After just missing on three big-payout parlays two weeks ago, we played the same strategy last week and made a minor splash thanks to the help of one long shot parlay that won and returned better than 3 to 1 odds. With another win at +187, we made a small profit last week, but large enough to turn our minor net loss for the season into a net gain of 2.3%.

Of course, as we say every week, our financial loss or gain is merely imaginary, as we are playing with imaginary funds that never run out but never accrue. This feature is presented just for fun, and we strongly urge you not to wager real money on what you read here, unless it merely validates your research.

This week presents the fewest number of games that met our criteria this year in any week. We could only go with four parlays of two teams apiece. None are major long shots, but they all top +120, which is the minimum odds we will play. Enjoy!


October 21-25

Must WinOpponent
Central FloridaMemphis
Notre DameUSC

Must WinOpponent
Eastern MichiganBowling Green
Kent St.Ohio U

Must WinOpponent
San Jose St.UNLV
Ball St.Miami (O)

Must WinOpponent
TCUWest Virginia

September 30, 2021

PiRate Picks–September 30-October 4, 2021

This edition will be short this week due to time constraints, but it is chock full of college money line parlays, as we perceive some excellent value on the college side and not on the NFL side. We even include a rare, 4-team parlay at +372.50. Remember, we never wager real money on our selections and recommend you do the same. Use this feature only for entertainment purposes or supplemental research.


September 30-October 4

1. Odds:+173.19
Must WinOpponent
Notre DameCincinnati
Michigan St.Western Kentucky

2. Odds:+219.78
Must WinOpponent
ArmyBall St.

3. Odds:+220.45
Must WinOpponent
West VirginiaTexas Tech

4. Odds:+372.50
Must WinOpponent
Wake ForestLouisville
South CarolinaTroy
Oklahoma St.Baylor

September 7, 2021

PiRate Ratings College Football, September 7, 2021

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:20 am

This Week’s Spreads

Coastal CarolinaKansas25.325.031.4
Boise St.UTEP28.626.830.8
ArmyWestern Kentucky23.521.522.8
Ohio St.Oregon14.413.313.6
MassachusettsBoston College-31.1-32.5-36.3
South FloridaFlorida-25.7-29.3-27.2
East CarolinaSouth Carolina-5.7-6.8-4.2
Florida AtlanticGeorgia Southern-
MinnesotaMiami (O)8.612.815.3
Oklahoma St.Tulsa16.015.615.4
Northern IllinoisWyoming-2.8-5.7-7.4
Virginia TechMiddle Tennessee25.624.823.0
New MexicoNew Mexico St.18.418.120.2
Notre DameToledo13.916.317.7
NavyAir Force-5.8-6.5-6.8
Penn St.Ball St.19.120.425.0
Iowa St.Iowa8.16.96.0
Colorado (d)Texas A&M-9.7-11.5-12.2
Bowling GreenSouth Alabama-18.6-18.5-20.5
Miami (Fla.)Appalachian St.16.816.115.2
Florida Int’l.Texas St.-7.9-4.5-3.8
Mississippi St.North Carolina St.
WisconsinEastern Michigan24.125.929.3
SMUNorth Texas13.915.415.6
Arkansas St.Memphis-0.40.4-3.3
North CarolinaGeorgia St.24.425.328.4
Colorado St.Vanderbilt1.52.63.4
ArizonaSan Diego St.-1.0-1.0-1.0
Arizona St.UNLV28.931.531.3
Oregon St.Hawaii15.215.815.7
(d) CU-A&M gameplayed in Denver

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

4Iowa St.122.1
5Ohio St.121.9
7U S C119.8
9Texas A&M118.3
14North Carolina116.3
15T C U116.0
16Miami (Fla.)114.9
17Penn St.114.9
19Ole Miss113.8
20U C L A113.0
21Arizona St.112.1
24L S U111.6
25West Virginia111.4
26Oklahoma St.111.3
28Notre Dame109.9
30NC State109.1
31Coastal Carolina108.9
37Wake Forest107.3
38Mississippi St.107.3
39Virginia Tech107.2
44Boston College106.4
45Michigan St.106.0
46Oregon St.106.0
47Kansas St.105.8
51Texas Tech104.0
53Florida St.103.8
56Boise St.103.5
61South Carolina102.0
63Appalachian St.101.9
66San Jose St.100.4
68Central Michigan99.7
70Washington St.99.6
72San Diego St.98.9
74Fresno St.98.1
76Miami (Ohio)97.4
81U A B96.7
82Georgia Tech96.6
84Ball St.96.4
86U T S A95.9
87Air Force95.7
91East Carolina94.4
94Georgia St.93.2
95South Alabama92.8
96Kent St.91.5
97Eastern Michigan91.2
99Arkansas St.90.4
100Georgia Southern90.2
101Northern Illinois89.0
102Western Michigan89.0
103Louisiana Tech89.0
104Utah St.89.0
105Florida Atlantic88.8
107Texas St.88.2
112Colorado St.86.2
113Middle Tennessee85.7
114New Mexico85.5
116U N L V84.6
117Western Kentucky84.2
118North Texas83.0
119Southern Miss.82.8
121Florida Int’l.80.3
123U T E P77.8
127Old Dominion71.8
129Bowling Green71.1
130New Mexico St.68.6

PiRate Ratings By Conference

American Athletic Conference
East Carolina94.593.495.394.4

AAC Averages95.995.596.796.0

Atlantic Coast Conference
Atlantic Division
NC State109.5108.8109.1109.1
Wake Forest107.7106.5107.8107.3
Boston College105.9106.5106.9106.4
Florida St.103.5103.9103.9103.8

Coastal Division
North Carolina115.2115.3118.3116.3
Miami (Fla.)115.2114.0115.6114.9
Virginia Tech108.1106.8106.8107.2
Georgia Tech96.796.796.596.6

ACC Averages105.2105.3105.5105.3

Big 12 Conference
Iowa St.122.6120.8122.9122.1
T C U116.6115.1116.3116.0
West Virginia113.0111.1110.1111.4
Oklahoma St.111.7111.4110.7111.3
Kansas St.106.2106.2105.1105.8
Texas Tech104.0104.8103.2104.0

Big 12 Averages111.1109.8109.6110.2

Big Ten Conference
East Division
Ohio St.121.1121.3123.2121.9
Penn St.113.5114.6116.5114.9
Michigan St.106.4106.0105.7106.0

West Division

Big Ten Averages107.8108.0108.8108.2

Conference USA
East Division
Florida Atlantic87.789.789.088.8
Middle Tennessee85.485.186.785.7
Western Kentucky83.285.184.384.2
Florida Int’l.
Old Dominion71.572.171.771.8

West Division
U A B96.996.796.496.7
U T S A95.896.495.595.9
Louisiana Tech89.389.987.989.0
North Texas83.483.082.783.0
Southern Miss.82.083.682.882.8
U T E P78.

CUSA Averages85.586.185.885.8

FBS Independents
Notre Dame108.7110.3110.8109.9
New Mexico St.69.269.966.868.6

Indep. Averages91.892.291.291.7

Mid-American Conference
East Division
Miami (Ohio)99.596.895.897.4
Kent St.
Bowling Green71.872.169.371.1

West Division
Central Michigan100.499.199.599.7
Ball St.97.497.394.596.4
Eastern Michigan92.991.089.691.2
Northern Illinois90.688.687.989.0
Western Michigan89.389.688.189.0

MAC Averages91.791.189.990.9

Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division
Boise St.103.6102.8104.0103.5
Air Force95.695.596.195.7
Utah St.88.789.888.589.0
Colorado St.
New Mexico85.686.085.085.5

West Division
San Jose St.100.9101.099.4100.4
San Diego St.99.498.798.698.9
Fresno St.96.498.599.498.1
U N L V85.584.084.384.6

MWC Averages94.394.594.494.4

Pac-12 Conference
North Division
Oregon St.105.9105.8106.2106.0
Washington St.99.5100.399.199.6

South Division
U S C119.2119.0121.0119.8
U C L A112.7112.9113.3113.0
Arizona St.111.4112.5112.6112.1

Pac-12 Averages106.3107.0107.0106.8

Southeastern Conference
East Division
South Carolina102.3102.2101.6102.0

West Division
Texas A&M117.6118.7118.6118.3
Ole Miss113.7113.8113.9113.8
L S U110.7111.9112.2111.6
Mississippi St.107.5107.6106.7107.3

SEC Averages111.3111.5111.5111.5

Sunbelt Conference
East DivisionPiRateMeanBiasAverage
Coastal Carolina109.7106.9110.1108.9
Appalachian St.101.3100.9103.4101.9
Georgia St.93.892.992.993.2
Georgia Southern90.390.789.890.2

West DivisionPiRateMeanBiasAverage
South Alabama92.993.192.392.8
Arkansas St.90.391.589.390.4
Texas St.89.687.287.788.2

Sun Averages94.894.294.494.5

Rating of Conferences

2Big 12110.2
3Big Ten108.2
5Atlantic Coast105.3
6American Athletic96.0
7Sun Belt94.5
8Mountain West94.4
11Conference USA85.8

What To Make Of Week 1

Alabama Football 2021 = UCLA Basketball 1967-1973

College basketball between 1967 and 1973 was all about one team against the rest. UCLA so dominated basketball in those years that their games were seldom entertaining to non-Bruins fans. They won games by scores such as 115-65, 114-56, and 82-43. They beat other top 10 teams by scores like 79-53, 73-57, and 96-77. In the rare occasion that they played the #1 team, when they were not ranked #1, they merely won 101-69 after leading by 44 points before putting in the scrubs.

Alabama football has reached that same point. Games are no longer entertaining unless you are a Crimson Tide fan. Coach Nick Saban has reached the same level as John Wooden. Last year, Alabama played a 10-game all SEC schedule plus two playoff games. Six of the 13 opponents were ranked, and ‘Bama won these six gamed by an average of three touchdowns per game. The Tide suffered heavy losses to the NFL Draft, including the Heisman Trophy winner and a 1st round picked quarterback. For any other program, 2021 would be a large rebuilding season. For Alabama, they simply plug in the next 1st round draft pick at QB, who after one career start is now the front-runner for this year’s Heisman Trophy. It’s just like Sidney Wicks replacing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the best player in the nation in 1969-70, and Bill Walton replacing Wicks in 1971-72.

Revenge Of The FCS

Six FCS teams beat FBS teams in Week One of the college football season. While South Dakota State beating Colorado State may not have been all that surprising, since SDSU is the Alabama of FCS, but when Washington lost at home to Montana, that shook the Power 5 Pac-12 to its foundation.

There are two reasons why these FCS teams were more competitive than normal. First, these FCS teams played football in the Spring. Most of these teams looked like they were in mid-season form, playing more like a Power 5 team in a postseason bowl. Also, with the free extra year given to all players by the NCAA, age tends to lead to parity. An outstanding 5-star 18-year old is light years better than a 3-star 18-year old. A 23-year old college football player most likely is a 3-star holdover, and he is little better than a 23-year old 2-star player at an FCS school.

An excellent case in point is the East Tennessee State slaughter over Vanderbilt. Everything possible was in place to forecast this 20-point blowout win over the SEC host. The Buccaneers played in the Spring and enjoyed an incredible year on the defensive side of the ball. Most of their two-deep returned. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt brought in a new coaching staff after the Commodores went 0-9 and had to use a female soccer player as their placekicker in their final two games. Numerous players left the team via the Transfer Portal, and the incoming coach made it known that he preferred not to sign players from that portal. The Commodores are a very youthful team lacking any real star players, while ETSU had one player in his late 20’s playing Saturday night. Thus, not only was the game an upset that finished 41 points different from the spread, it was obvious that ETSU dominated the Commodores. In some respect, men beat boys.

With all FBS teams now having a game under their belts, expect some of this FCS advantage to disappear each week until it is gone.

Must Watch Games This Week

12 Noon Eastern

Oregon visits the giant horseshoe to face Ohio State on Fox. The Ducks underperformed in a win over Fresno State, but it was obvious that they didn’t show the nation all their weapons. The Pac-12 suffered numerous black eyes, with the rest of the North Division losing their first games.

3:30 PM Eastern

Saturday is the 20th anniversary of the tragic bombings in New York and Washington, D.C. It is no coincidence that Air Force and Navy will play on CBS rather than their regular SEC game.

On ABC, Iowa visits Iowa State for the Cy-Hawk Trophy. The Cyclones were not impressive in their opener against Northern Iowa, but last year, Iowa State lost to Louisiana-Lafayette by 17 in their first game and then beat Oklahoma two weeks later. Iowa looked like the class of the Big Ten West when they trounced Indiana.

7:00 PM Eastern

Perhaps the game of the day comes from Fayetteville, Arkansas, where the Razorbacks will host long-time arch-rival Texas in a game that will soon become a regular affair once Texas joins the SEC (maybe in 2022). Neither team is the dominant top 10 team like they were many times in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but this should be an incredibly, hard-fought game between two 1-0 teams. Catch this game on ESPN.

Mississippi State hosts North Carolina State, and the ACC is suffering more than the Pac-12 after one week. The Wolfpack were one of two bright spots for the ACC, while the Bulldogs had to win on the final play over Louisiana Tech. This should be a close game, and the teams will fight tooth and nail to get to 2-0. This one is on ESPN2.

7:30 PM Eastern

Missouri visits Kentucky in a battle to determine which SEC East team will become the potential top challenger to Georgia, assuming Florida does not retain this position. Missouri had a pedestrian performance in a win over Central Michigan in week one. On the other hand, Kentucky unveiled a new offense led by former Rams’ assistant Laim Coen. Coen’s offense made Penn State transfer Will Levis look like Jared Goff of 2018. Can the Cats put up flashy numbers against an SEC opponent? Tune into this one on The SEC Network.

10:15 PM Eastern

The late games this week could be duds except for the Utah at BYU game in Provo. Aside from it being a rivalry game, both schools looked strong in week one wins. Catch this rivalry game on ESPN.

August 20, 2021

Pac-12 Conference Preview

The Pac-12 Conference is a victim of longitude.  Nine of the league’s 12 teams are in the Pacific Time Zone, while the other three teams are in the Mountain Time Zone.  For purposes of drawing the most fans possible to Stadiums, games need to be played at night.  However, a 7 PM kickoff on the West Coast means it is 10 PM on the East Coast.  Thus, millions of football fans, media, and poll voters don’t see these teams play.

In order to play at a time when the East Coast can see the league play, games must kickoff before 4:30 PM.  It is not possible to televise six different conference games between 11 AM and 4:30 PM.  In order to play in the 12 Noon time slot on the East Coast, a Pac-12 game would need to kickoff at 9 AM.

Another issue with this league is the economy on the West Coast.  California, Oregon, and Washington have suffered in recent years, and the lower and middle income levels in these states do not earn a livable wage in high-priced living conditions.  Thus, several hundred thousand former residents of the Pacific Coast have left for the South and Southwest.  According to statistics from U-haul and their one-way rental statistics, the three states that have seen the most migration from the West Coast are, in order, Tennessee, Texas, and Florida.  With Texas moving to the Southeastern Conference and Texas A&M already there, all three states gaining population at the expense of the West Coast are SEC cities.  With this population, football recruits are also moving to the South and not likely to return to the West Coast for college.

The Pac-12 has been rather competitive in recent years.  While there have been very few double-digit losing teams, there also have been no undefeated teams and very few one-loss teams.  It figures that at the least, in order to make the Playoffs, a team from the Pac-12 would need to have nor more than 1 loss.  The last time a Pac-12 team had only one loss (not counting 2020’s Covid season) was 2016, when Washington finished 11-1 in the regular season, won the Pac-12 Championship Game, and became the last Pac-12 team to make the Playoffs, where they lost to Alabama 24-7 in the Peach Bowl.  The last team to finish a regular undefeated season was Oregon in 2010, before the league expanded to 12 teams.

Unfortunately for the Pac-12, in 2021, the best team figures to have two conference losses, and the worst team figures to have two conference wins, so it appears as if the league will not have a Playoff team this year.

Here’s how the Pac-12 media predicted the order of finish at the conference media days.

Pac-12 Media Poll
North Division1st PlOverall
Oregon St.71
Washington St.65

South Division1st PlOverall
Arizona St.6170

Pac-12 ChampionshipVotes

Here is how the PiRate Ratings look to start the season.

Pac-12 Conference
North Division
Oregon St.106.7106.7107.3106.9
Washington St.102.3103.2102.1102.5

South Division
U S C118.8118.4120.9119.4
Arizona St.112.4113.5113.6113.1
U C L A110.5110.5110.6110.5

Pac-12 Averages107.0107.8107.8107.5

North Division

Oregon has enjoyed multiple exceptional recruiting classes, but Coach Mario Christobal has seen his Ducks teams lose games they had no business losing in his three years in Eugene.  Last year, Oregon lost to Oregon State and California, backing into the Pac-12 Championship Game when Washington won the division but had to opt-out due to Covid.

Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is a proponent of up-tempo, no-huddle spread offense with one back and one tight end.  It requires a quarterback that can master the run-pass option.  He had a capable QB last year, but Tyler Shough decided to transfer to Texas Tech rather than return to Oregon.  New quarterback Anthony Brown has not yet proven to the Oregon coaching staff that he’s ready to take over the Duck offense as the starter.  True freshman, and 5-star recruit, Ty Thompson may move up to first team early in the season if not at the beginning.  Regardless of who starts the Fresno State game on September 4, the quarterback running Moorhead’s offense is likely not to be as effective as what Shough would have been had he stayed.

Oregon should be okay at running back, if former 1,000-yard rusher C.J. Verdell can stay healthy.  Last year’s co-regular Travis Dye also returns, so the Ducks should have a decent running game.  

The Ducks return all three of their starting wideouts from last year, and the trio is very good but not star quality.  What is star quality is the offensive line led by Rimington Award contender Alex Forsyth at center.

Oregon averaged 31.3 points and 413 yards per game last year.  It’s likely that the Ducks will make a minor retreat in both statistics, but the offense will still be a plus.

Defensively, Oregon was a disappointment in 2020.  The Ducks had the talent to compete for top honors in the league, but they finished sixth in scoring defense and fifth in total defense giving up more than 28 points and 400 yards per game.  The biggest addition to the Duck defense this year is coordinator Tim DeRuyter who replaces Andy Avalos, now the head coach at Boise State.  DeRuyter is a master of the 3-3-5 defense, and Oregon has a lot of talented depth to make this defense work.  The only problem is that sometimes first year defensive changes occasionally malfunction for a handful of plays in early games due to lack of having 11 players carry out their assignments.  

Leading the defense is top pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, the top pass rusher in the Pac-12 last year.  The rest of the defensive line will have new starters and could be a tad vulnerable against power running games.

The overall strong suit of this side of the ball is the five-man secondary.  Cornerback Mykael Wright led the conference in passes defended.  Star (middle safety) Jamal Hill is an excellent roaming defender who finds his way to the ball.

What may hamper Oregon’s chances of making a playoff run this year is there schedule.  Road games against Ohio State, Washington, UCLA, and Utah are likely to result in at least two losses, and as we mentioned before two losses eliminates a Pac-12 team.

Washington almost won the Pac-12 in anonymity last year.  The Huskies didn’t play a game until mid-November, and then they defeated Oregon State, Arizona, and Utah.  With a very slim chance at earning a Playoff Bid, they came up short in their season finale against Stanford.  Then, the team closed up shop for the year as a Covid casualty.

Second year coach Jimmy Lake returns about the same total experience as Oregon, and the Huskies benefit from hosting the Ducks in early November, so Washington figures to be the actual top contender for the Pac-12 North flag this year.

The Huskies have a tiny quarterback as quarterbacks go these days.  Dylan Morris is just six feet tall.  Morris wasn’t flashy in his four-game starting trial last year, but he was an excellent game manager.  In the wings should Morris falter is five-star recruit Sam Huard, the son of former Husky star Damon Huard and the nephew of Brock Huard.  He will be a fan favorite, and the second team quarterback is usually the darling of the fans any way.

The top receiver on the team is tight end Cade Otton.  Otton won 1st team All-Pac-12 honors last year after catching 18 passes in four games for three touchdowns and at a 14.3 yard per catch clip.  Additionally, he blocks like a Pro Bowl guard.

Washington won games by pounding the opponents into submission with a power running game last year, and there is no reason to expect they won’t use the same tactic in 2021.  Sean McGrew, Kamari Pleasant, and Richard Newton bring different skill sets to this position, but if Newton can regain his 2019 form, he might leapfrog to the primary assault position.

Whoever totes the pigskin, he will be operating behind one of the finest offensive lines in college football.  All five starters return from what may have been the finest interior wall in Seattle since the 1991 team won the national championship.  For this reason alone, UW figures to have the most efficient and consistent offense in the Pac-12 this year. 

How much the defense can improve will likely determine if Washington can make a long shot run at playoff contention this year.  Pass defense has been the strong point of Husky defenses for the last several seasons, and this year should be no different.  Washington led the Pac-12 in passing yards and total yards allowed last year.

Washington runs a unique defense, a 2-4-5 alignment with two tackles, four linebackers, and a nickel defensive backfield.  The two defensive tackles rarely post impressive stats, but they are the key to the defense, forcing double team blocks from the offense.  If they can occupy four of the five offensive linemen, it leaves nine defensive players to stop seven offensive players, basically just six against teams where the quarterback is not a running threat.  Opposing offensive coaches have learned that they cannot pound the ball between the tackles, because three defensive players pursue to the ball with little or no interference.

The inside linebackers have to be tough in this defense, and UW has an excellent tandem in Edefuan Ulofoshio and Jackson Sirmon.  The outside linebackers become the principal pass rushers in this defense, and UW goes two-deep with talent here.

The five-spoke secondary has capable talent led by cornerback Trent McDuffie.  However, even though there is talent in the backfield, it lacks the experience the Huskies have had in recent years, and it will be the one unknown early in the season until the talented players gain the experience. 

After a breather to start the season, Washington travels to Ann Arbor to face Michigan in week two.  A win over the Wolverines will get UW some Eastern publicity.  The schedule is then favorable to give the Huskies a slim chance to run the table heading into their game against Oregon at Husky Stadium in November.  Because there is so much parity in the Pac-12, we just can’t pull the trigger and call this team a legitimate Playoff contender, but we will call them a co-favorite to win the North Division.

Oregon State was just 2-5 in the shortened 2020 season, but the Beavers were in all seven games thanks to a well-balanced offense.  The 2021 OSU record may still be on the minus side of .500, but with just a tad more production than expected, the Beavers have the potential to challenge for a 6-6 season.

Fourth year coach Jonathan Smith may feel the pressure to win this year, but he took over a program that needed a good five years to return to decency.  Whether the school will give him a fifth year may hinge on how much better year four is than year three.

Oregon State has an offense capable of scoring 30-35 points a game and gaining 200 or more yards both in running and passing the ball. Having four players all capable of winning the starting quarterback job is excellent when a team worries about injuries, but having four quarterbacks still in contention for the starting job two weeks before game week may not be the best situation.  We believe last year’s early season starter Tristan Gebbia will emerge as the starter for game one, but he’s not guaranteed to remain number one.  Chance Nolan is a better runner.  He lacks the accuracy of Gebbia, but he is more of a gunslinger when he throws.  

Tre-Shaun Harrison saw limited action last year after leaving Florida State for Corvallis.  Playing in the final two games of the year, Harrison caught four passes for 51 yards and a score against Stanford and five passes for 91 yards against Arizona State.  In a 12-game schedule, he could catch 60 passes for more than 800 yards.

The questionable unit on the offense is the running back group.  Losing Jermar Jefferson and his 120+ yards per game is going to hurt the Beavers this year, but OSU has a potential 1,000-yard runner in former South Carolina Gamecock DeShaun Fenwick.  Fenwick is a capable pass-catching weapon coming out of the backfield as well.  Fenwick averaged more than five yards per attempt in six different SEC games last year (Tennessee, Florida, Vanderbilt, LSU, Auburn, and Ole Miss).  If he can average more than five yards per attempt this year, the Beavers’ offense will click and score 30+ points per game.

The defense has been the issue with the Beavers basically since Dee Andros retired five decades ago.  OSU gave up 33.3 points per game and 442.3 yards per game in 2020.  Three returning starters might appear on the Pac-12 all-conference team this year, but overall, this side of the ball will be a weakness again.

Defensive end Isaac Hodgins is the best player up front, but even if the rest of the interior is mediocre at best, there is experience returning in all three spots.

Linebacker is the one strength of the defense.  Inside LB Avery Roberts was a magnet to enemy ball-carriers last year, culminated with a 21-tackle performance against Utah, in a game that OSU came close to pulling off a big upset.  Fellow inside LB Omar Speights finished runnerup to Roberts last year in tackles, while outside LB Andrzej Hughes-Murray  took advantage of the free year and returns for year six.

The secondary will be somewhat of a liability, especially on the flanks.  The Beavers have talent but lack experience at cornerback, but they are in good shape at safety.

The path to bowl eligibility in 2021 probably begins with the opener at Purdue on September 4.  The team that loses this game most likely sets the tone for a losing season, while the winner gains enough confidence to maybe pick off a favored team or two along the way.  The biggest issue with the schedule is that most of the teams the Beavers have the best chance at upsetting will be hosting OSU (Washington State, Cal, and Colorado).  It looks like the Beavers will come up a bit short this year, but the majority of their losses should be by 14 points or less.

After dropping its first two games last year to Oregon and Colorado, Stanford rebounded to win their final four games over California, Washington, Oregon State, and UCLA.  Those four wins were by a combined 10 points, and with a rebuild coming on the offensive side of the ball and a difficult non-conference schedule, 2021 could be a down year on the Farm.

Stanford coach David Shaw likes to pound the ball between the tackles, forcing defenses to put extra defenders in the box and then pass the ball over the inverted opponents.  That tactic might not be all that successful this year, namely because Shaw must find a new quarterback now that last year’s starter Davis Mills is competing for the starting job with the Houston Texans.  Jack West doesn’t have the arm strength or accuracy Mills had.  Tanner McKee has limited experience, but he could eventually emerge as the starter.

Whoever wins the QB battle, he won’t have a stable of star receivers catching his passes.  Michael Wilson is a decent but not stellar receiver, but he figures to be the best option.  Normally, Stanford has an outstanding pass-catching tight end, but the Cardinal do not have a potential star this year.

Stanford has experience at running back, but Austin Jones and Nathaniel Peat are not Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love.  The duo might total about 1,600 rushing yards this year, but they won’t force defenses to put eight in the box.

The defense has a chance to be better in 2021 than it was last year, mainly because the Cardinal gave up 32 points and almost 440 yards per game last year.  Then, again, with the lack of experience up front, Stanford could very well be generous with enemy offenses again this year.  Opponents ran the ball with relative ease against this defense last year, and the defensive front seven was decimated by graduation after suffering multiple injuries last year.  

Defensive end Thomas Booker is one of the few returning starters in the front seven this year.  Booker is a multi-tool player, strong against outside runs, rushing the passer, defending the perimeter in pass coverag, and even blocking kicks.  Unfortunately, the geniuses on the Farm haven’t figured out how to make 10 more clones of him.

The secondary returns almost the entire two-deep, but still Stanford cannot be considered particularly strong in pass defense.  

The Cardinal face Kansas State in a neutral site game to begin the season.  They then must open Pac-12 play a week later at USC.  A trip to Nashville in week three should give them a double-digit road win over fellow academic elite Vanderbilt, but the 4,000-mile round trip might make their home opener with UCLA tougher than it should be.  The Cardinal could be 1-3 at that point, and they still will have to face Oregon, Arizona State, Washington, Utah, and Notre Dame.  Finding six wins with this schedule will be next to impossible, if Stanford doesn’t beat Kansas State and maybe UCLA.

We at the PiRate Ratings have a tradition every year when we discuss Washington State football.  No, we do not work for the Chamber of Commerce or the State Department of Tourism, but we feel obligated to inform the rest of the nation just how incredibly beautiful the Palouse is.  This area can be described as the part of Northern Idaho and Southeastern Washington, including the city of Pullman, the home of the Cougars.  Some of the most beautiful hills on the planet can be found within a short drive of the Washington State campus.  It must be an incredible recruiting bonus to players that value topography, photography, and living a relatively quiet and simple life.  

As for the Cougar football team this year, second year coach Nick Rolovich hopes to finally fully implement the same system he used successfully at Hawaii.  Normally moving from the Air Raid offense to another offense can be a difficult and lengthy process, but Rolovich is a proponent of the old Run and Shoot offense, a first cousin of the Air Raid.  The transformation is a short one, and the Cougars should put up some incredible offensive numbers this year.  The only problem is that they might give them up to the opposition even quicker!

Last year’s co-starting quarterbacks Jayden de Laura and Cammon Cooper both return, and they are joined by former Tennessee starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who definitely needed a change of scenery.  Don’t rule out walk-on QB Victor Gabalis, who has shown enough in early practices to get into the mix.   This has the makings not of a quarterback controversy but maybe one of those times where there are two or three quarterbacks playing to see which one has the hot hand.  Which QB has the best grasp of the option passing routes will ultimately take the most snaps.

WSU returns its top two running backs, but in the run and shoot, running ability takes a backseat to pass blocking and pass catching ability.  Max Borghi can block and catch like a tight end, but he can also sprint through holes in the wide-spaced offensive line.  It would not be a shock to see WSU top its rushing offense output from last year.

What should make the WSU offense more potent in 2021 is one of the top offensive lines in the conference.  Four full-time starters are back, and they have size and quickness.  Give the run and shoot offense exceptional blocking, and it can easily gain 500 yards and score 40 points.

Washington State could score 40 points in many games, but that may not be a guarantee that they win those games.  The Cougars were the 11th best defense in the Pac-12 last year, but their stats could have easily been the worst in the league in most years.  WSU surrendered 38.5 points per game, giving up 155 yards rushing and 307 yards passing per game!  When a defense gives up five yards per rush and eight yards per pass attempt, only an F-grade can be given to it.

WSU has one potential star on the defensive side of the ball.  Linebacker Jahad Woods might earn second team all-conference honors this year.

The Cougars’ key game this year may be a non-conference game against the other Cougars–BYU.  Win that game, and WSU likely goes 3-0 outside of the Pac-12.  There is a definite path to three more wins in the Pac-12 this year.  We are high on Rolovich as a coach that can develop winners.  He quickly made Hawaii a winner, and we believe he will make Martin Stadium another wonderful place to visit on your trip to the Palouse.

There are some teams that the PiRate Ratings have a tough time updating every year.  California is one of them.  The Golden Bears seem to be all over the map from one year to the next.  We thought Cal was a North Division contender last year.  While Covid hurt the Bears as much as it did any other FBS team that actually played, when the Bears were blown off the field by UCLA, making the Bruin defense look like Alabama after it gave up 48 points to Colorado, Covid couldn’t be 100% responsible.

What are we to make of this year’s Berkeley boys?  Coach Justin Wilcox should mold a rather competent offense together, but the defense might be in for a heap of trouble, especially against the offenses the Bears must face this year.

Start with the good.  Chase Garbers may be the best player on the Cal roster, and QB is where you want to have a star.  Garbers never got on track last year, and his stats were not indicative of his ability.  In 2019, Garbers had a 14/3 TD/INT ratio and averaged more than eight yards per pass attempt.  Garbers has three of his starting four receivers returning this year, but there is no star talent on board. 

There is depth at running back, but unless Christopher Brown, Jr. returns to his pre-injury 2019 form, defensive coordinators won’t stay up nights worrying about the Cal running game.

The defense has led the way during most of the Wilcox tenure in Berkeley.  Wilcox lost his defensive coordinator to Oregon, and he lost seven starters to boot.  It will be difficult to approach last year’s numbers.  The lone bright spot on this side of the ball will be at the linebacker spot, where outside linebackers Cameron Goode and Kuony Deng provide excellent run containment with the ability to blitz and stop plays in the backfield.  The duo might need to combine for 200 tackles this year to make Cal a big winner.

As we warned above, our ratings have missed on Cal more than average in past years.  This year, we cannot see a path to a winning record for the Bears, but that might be just want Bear fans want to hear!

South Division

Which Pac-12 team almost went undefeated last year?  It was the USC Trojans, and Southern Cal dominated the stat sheet against Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game, except for the all-important turnover margin.  Three interceptions prevented USC from staking a claim as the first undefeated Power 5 Conference Champion to not even be in the discussion for the Playoffs.  USC was #13 in the Playoff Rankings before their Championship Game against Oregon.  Had the Trojans won that game, it would have been controversial to take a couple of one-loss ACC teams over a Power 5, 6-0 team.

USC begins the 2021 season as the leading contender for the Pac-12 South Division title.  The Trojans, like a majority of Pac-12 teams, are considerably stronger on the offensive side of the ball than on the defensive side.  The Trojans’ Air Raid offense finished first in the league with almost 320 passing yards per game last year, and the Coach Clay Helton welcomes back Kedon Slovis, the second best passer in the West after Carson Strong at Nevada.  Slovis had some shoulder issues last year after a freshman season that was on par with Trevor Lawrence’s first year.  Slovis proved last year that he can bring a team back to victory after trailing in the fourth quarter, as he did so multiple times.  He had the composure of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

Amon-Ra St. Brown has moved to the Detroit Lions, but USC still has two star receivers, and it should make this unit the best in the Pac-12.  Drake London should become the go to guy after averaging 84 receiving yards per game last year.  Bru McCoy was a five-star recruit, and he should emerge as another big-time receiver this year.

Once considered Tailback U with all the superstar running backs starting with Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett in the mid-1960’s, USC failed to gain 100 rushing yards per game last year.  Vavae Malepeai led the Trojans with just 238 yards and three touchdowns.  

Four starters return to the offensive line, but there are multiple players with past starting experience.  While this will be the weakest unit on the offense, it won’t necessarily be a weakness.  USC should score more than 35 points and gain more than 425 yards per game this year.

If the Trojans are to compete for a top 10 finish in 2021, the defense will need to make a considerable leap forward from decent to very good.  USC gave up 26 points per game, which was good enough for third best in the league last year, but against 2021 teams like Washington State, Notre Dame, and UCLA, a better defense might be required.

While five full-time starters must be replaced, there are many career starts in what returns.  And, the Trojans have some excellent recruits ready to contribute immediately as freshmen.  Defensive end Korey Foreman may have moved up onto the first team depth chart, but a nagging groin injury might move him back to the second team to begin the season.  When healthy, he will team with Nick Figueroa and Tuli Tuipulotu to give the Trojans excellent and deep talent at the terminal positions.

The secondary figures to be a team strength with cornerback Chris Steele and safety Isaiah Pola-Mao joining Texas transfer safety Xavion Alford.  USC should be a little tougher against the pass in 2021.

While the linebacking unit may be the most vulnerable, the best player on the defense is outside linebacker Drake Jackson.  He is the best pass rusher on the team as well as a quick pursuer to the ball.

USC starts the season as the odds-on favorite to win the South Division, but there are a bit too many question marks to see a path to a 13-0 or 12-1 season.  The Trojans will lose two games at the minimum, and that will keep them out of the Playoff picture.

Arizona State was at one time our preseason favorite to be the top team in the South Division, but off the field troubles, including a recruiting investigation, could cause just enough turmoil in Tempe, that the Sun Devils are affected during the season.  And, this could be Coach Herm Edwards’ swan song if the investigation turns up any discretions on his part.

Edwards loves his running game, as he has always been a “run to set up the pass” coach.  With Rachaad White rushing for 105 yards per game last year while averaging an eye-popping 10 yards per attempt.  He had touchdown runs of 93 and 55 yards, but he still averaged 6.8 yards on his remaining 40 carries.

The Sun Devils return quarterback Jayden Daniels, a dual threat as a runner and a passer.  Daniels has a talented but less experienced receiving corps this year.  Former Utah receiver Bryan Thompson averaged 23 yards per reception in four years with the Utes, and if he can repeat that number with ASU, the Sun Devil running game will benefit from deeper secondary alignments.

A talented and experienced offensive line should make it easier for this offense to score points this year against quality competition.  Against USC and UCLA, the Sun Devils scored 45 points.  Against Arizona and Oregon State, they scored 116 points.

The defense should be strong this year.  Eight starters return to the conferences leading scoring defense, but opponents averaged 436 yards per game last year.  ASU should be a bit more stingy in yardage allowed, but the points allowed might rise a bit.  The strength of the defense is the front line, where tackle Jermayne Lole and end Tyler Johnson will make it tough on enemy running backs running the ball to their side.

The defensive backfield features three returning starters and four seniors, making it about the most experienced backfield in college football.

The Sun Devils should go 3-0 outside of Pac-12 play, but we cannot see this team winning more than six conference games in the balanced Pac-12.

Utah began the shortened 2020 season with losses to division title winners USC and Washington.  Then, the Utes rebounded with wins over Oregon State, Colorado, and Washington State.  The Utes return 10 offensive and eight defensive starters and should be a little better in 2021 than they were in 2020.  

Quarterback was not a particularly strong position in Salt Lake City last year, but Coach Kyle Whittingham brought in an experienced passer through the transfer market.  Former Baylor starter Charlie Brewer started for four years in Waco, and he should produce stats closer to what Tyler Huntley put up two years ago.  Brewer has two excellent targets coming back in tight end Brant Kuither and wide receiver Britain Covey combined for 100 receiving yards last year.

The running game will take a step backwards due to the unfortunate Christmas death of Ty Jordan.  The Utes will obviously pass the ball considerably more this year.

The defense may not be as strong this year as last, but each unit on this side of the ball has one star.  Mika Tafua leads the interior line from his end spot.  He made three quarterback sacks in five games last year.  Middle Linebacker Devin Lloyd led the Utes with 48 tackles, while Clark Phillips, III, gets another freshman season and should make the defensive backfield the strength of the defense.

The Utes have an excellent chance of winning all three non-conference games, and the South Division title could be decided when they play USC at the LA Memorial Coliseum in October.

UCLA football has had little to cheer about for seven years.  The Bruins have been playing to several thousand empty seats at the Rose Bowl, as the commute is too far for most students, and since the Rams and Chargers came back to town, there just hasn’t been enough support to go to the Sons of Westwood.  Fourth year head coach Chip Kelly has a 10-21 record, and he’s likely not going to be around for year five if the Bruins don’t make it to a bowl this year.  With 19 starters returning, including an experienced quarterback and offensive line, 2021 should be the year that Kelly’s heroes turn things around.

Offense was not the reason UCLA lost four out of seven games last year, as the Bruins scored more than 35 points per game and gained 455 yards per game running Kelly’s Spread Offense.  Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson missed 10 days of practice for undisclosed reasons, but he appears to be ready to enjoy a fantastic season after averaging 160 passing yards and 44 rushing yards last year.  He had a 12/4 TD/INT ratio.

Two fine receivers return in tight end Greg Dulcich and wideout Kyle Phillips.  Dulcich gives the Bruins one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the country, while Michael Martinez blocks for the run like another tackle.

The offensive line returns intact from last year, and Thompson-Robinson will shine with an extra half-second of protection.  The line should help the running game as well, and running back Brittain Brown should step in for Demetric Felton and put up similar averages.  The Bruins should once again score north of 30 points per game, and if the defense can improve by five points per game, this could be a team that sneaks into division title contention.

There are no big stars on the defensive side, but as a whole all three units are average to a little better than average, and if the offense maintains possession of the ball for more than 30 minutes a game, this defense can hold opponents just long enough for the offense to outscore opponents.  With 10 starters returning to the stop side, expect some improvement.  Whether it is enough is the big question.

When the Bruins enter conference play against Stanford in Palo Alto on September 25, they could have a 1-2, 2-1, or possibly a 3-0 record.  An opening game win over Hawaii is close to a sure thing.  Getting the benefit of playing in Week 0, the second game against an LSU team playing its first game is the pivotal contest of the year.  A team usually improves its most between game one and game two.  If the Bruins improve enough, they could be sky high and ready to play their best game in the Kelly era when the Bengal Tigers come to the Rose Bowl.  UCLA should earn bowl eligibility regardless of the outcome of the LSU game, but if they should pull off the upset over the Southeastern Conference opponent, watch out Pac-12 rivals.  This team may be ready to sneak into contention in the South.

The biggest surprise in the league last year and probably the biggest surprise among any of the Power 5 conferences was the Colorado Buffaloes.  Former UCLA head man Karl Dorrell was a later hire after Mel Tucker left for Michigan State.  Expected to be lucky to beat out Arizona to avoid the South Division basement, CU merely won its first four games over UCLA, Stanford, San Diego State, and Arizona to set up a pivotal regular season finale against Utah with a chance to earn the South Division title.  The Buffs lost that one and then lost to Texas in the Alamo Bowl to finish 4-2.

2021 figures to be a return to normalcy in Boulder, and this team has the most rebuilding to do of any team in the Pac-12.  The offense begins the year behind the eight-ball as two players that might have been the starting quarterback have injuries that will force them to the sidelines.  True freshman Drew Carter and redshirt freshman Brendon Lewis are the last two standing in Boulder.  Lewis appears to have the edge as the starter for the opening game.

The Buffaloes will rely more on the running game, and they return the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in Jarek Broussard, who ran for almost 150 yards per game last year.   The passing game is going to be tough to achieve much success, and having a raw receiving corps along with a freshman quarterback might allow opponents to concentrate more on stopping the CU running game.

Defense was not particularly a strong point last year, but last year’s defense had more talent than what returns to Boulder this year.  If not for having the weakest team in the league in their division, Colorado’s defense would likely finish last this year.  Still, we expect the Buffaloes to give up more than 35 points per game this year.  And, we also expect a return to the wrong side of .500 in the league.  CU can still earn a minor bowl, and their key game may be against Minnesota in Boulder on September 18.

As for Arizona, the Wildcats start over from scratch with Coach Jedd Fisch.  Fisch comes to Tucson after a one-year stint as the quarterbacks coach with the Patriots after spending two years as an offensive assistant with the Rams.  Fisch played for Steve Spurrier at Florida at the end of the 20th Century, and Wildcats’ fans are hoping he can install his version of the Fun and Gun offense.  Arizona has been a member of the Pac-10/Pac-12 since 1978, but the Wildcats have never won the conference championship and only once have won the South Division title.

The Wildcats start from the bottom, so having to replace the most starters of any Pac-12 team isn’t that much of a burden, considering they finished 2020 with an 0-5 record, ending with a 70-7 loss to their in-state rival.

As of August 19, Fisch has yet to decide on his starting quarterback, and he commented that gut instinct may be how he picks his starter.  The problem isn’t one of choosing among great options.  Whoever is named to start game one, he will be the #12 starting QB in the 12-team league.

The same can be said of the running game where UA’s best offensive threat of 2020 has graduated.  Michael Wiley may be the best offensive threat this year.

The offensive line is just as deficient as the other two units, even with the return of three 2020 starters.  The one unit that has a little depth and experience.  Four players with starting experience return after combining for 60 catches and 647 yards.

The really bad news is that now that you have read how much the offense figures to be a major liability in 2021, it will be head and heels better than the defense.  Arizona gave up 40 points per game and 473 yards per game last year.  Teams only passed the ball for a little over 200 yards per game, but they rarely passed the ball much in the second half.  Expect the pass defense to give up more than 250 passing yards this year.  

Outside linebacker Anthony Pandy returns after leading the Wildcats in tackles and interceptions.

Arizona has one major asset, but he won’t be utilized enough.  Kicker Lucas Havrisik may be the best kicker in the league.

Here’s the good news about Arizona in Fisch’s first year.  The Pac-12 is a crazy league.  We actually expect the Wildcats to upset a team or two and win three games overall.

The PiRate Ratings are designed to predict the next game on a team’s schedule and not to look forward past the next game.  Nevertheless, we issue predicted won-loss records for fun.

Pac-12 Conference
North DivisionConf.Overall
Washington St.3-65-7
Oregon St.2-74-8

South DivisionConf.Overall
Arizona St.5-48-4
* USC picked to win Pac-12 Championship Game

July 20, 2021

Adjusting Teams Due To The Transfer Portal

The Transfer Portal Giveth And Taketh Away

Like a lord of the gridiron, the new transfer portal has wreaked havoc on the overall landscape of college football.  We have recently completed updating the effect on the PiRate Ratings for all the transfers that have both left a former school and chosen a new destination for 2021.  Among those that have entered the transfer portal, there are a handful of point spread-moving talents that have not officially chosen a new school.  A trio of what we call 15+ talents on a rating scale of 0-20 are leaning to schools but have yet to officially sign.  These players will affect our ratings when they do sign.

The PiRate Ratings adjusted the talent levels of the teams by considering the players entering the Transfer Portal like they were graduating seniors.  As for the entry to a new team, the field had to be taken on a case by case basis.  The players that played 1 to 4 games last year are classified as redshirt players and rated as such.  There are others that redshirted without playing any games last year, and they are rated a little differently than the 1-4 game players.  We take these 0-game players, and if they rate 15 or above in talent, they become the equivalent of a hot freshman expected to contribute immediately, like Trevor Lawrence or Hershel Walker.

For the rest of the group of experienced college players, we consider these as regular talent added at what we consider full strength.  If a defensive end that started for a Power Conference team last year or the year before becomes a starter at a new Power Conference team, the new team is graded like the new player is a returning starter, which is optimal for the team.  If the Power Conference starter moves to a Group of 5 team, there is a bonus score if that player is expected to be the starter.

All transfers are not only rated for their talent, but there is a positional adjustment as well.  The starting QB from a Power 5 team is a little more important than the starting punter.  We use the accepted advanced metric positional hierarchy used in pro football and put our own stamp on it;  the hierarchy goes:

  1. Quarterback
  2. Top Outside Pass Rusher (DE or OLB)
  3. Blind-side Tackle (Left tackle for Right-hand QB)
  4. Top Cover Cornerback
  5. #1 Wide Receiver
  6. Defensive Tackle
  7. Running Back
  8. #2 Outside Pass Rusher (DE or OLB)
  9. Middle/Inside Linebacker
  10. Tight End
  11. Free Safety
  12. Weakside Linebacker (or Nickel Back)
  13. Right Tackle (or LT for left-handed QB)
  14. #2 Cornerback
  15. Right Guard
  16. #2 Wide Receiver
  17. Center
  18. Strong Safety
  19. Strongside Linebacker
  20. Left Guard
  21. Nose Tackle
  22. #3 Wide Receiver
  23. Kicker
  24. Punter
  25. Return Specialist

It isn’t exactly cut and dry, as we have to analyze each team to see if their style of play is a pro-style.  For teams that run the option, either from the spread or with a QB under center, the positional adjustment is a bit different.  What it adds up to is a lot of extra work, but without this work, the preseason power ratings would be too inaccurate to be useful.  

Let’s look at an example of a couple of teams that have seen their historical preseason power rating altered by the Transfer Portal.  

The Auburn Tigers have a new coaching staff with Bryan Harsin coming in from Boise State.  Harsin hired two gems as his coordinators, both with extensive SEC experience.  Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo and Defensive Coordinator Derek Mason are like having two extra head coaches on staff, and this generates a movement in the preseason rating.  But, we must also count the positives that former head coach Gus Malzahn and Kevin Steele brought to Auburn and make a coaching adjustment score from the January Citrus Bowl to the start of this season.  

Now, take a look at the key transfers for Auburn as the 2021 season nears.  Wide receiver Hal Presley left for Baylor.  He’s a redshirt freshman who played 0 games last year.  

Big Cat Bryant had three QB sacks, an interception, a couple of QB hurries, and 17 tackles at his defensive tackle position.  His leaving to join Malzahn at Central Florida is a bigger loss than Presley as it applies to week 1 of the 2021 season.  

Daquan Newkirk is a senior for the second year and put up similar numbers to Bryant, while being able to play both defensive tackle and defensive end.  His loss to SEC rival Florida hurts the Tigers a tad more.  

Running back D.J. Williams was only Auburn’s third option last year, but he has some worth.  If you follow the game rabidly like we do, you might remember Williams putting a hurt on #1 LSU two years ago, as his 150+ total yards led to Auburn almost knocking off the eventual national champion.  Florida State will get more out of him than Auburn would this year.

Safety Chris Thompson, Jr. was a freshman who saw action in enough games to be considered a sophomore in experience, but he will still be a freshman at his new school, USC.  Thompson rates as a 16 on our talent scale, so he counts like adding a Trevor Lawrence or Hershel Walker freshman to the Trojans.

These five players are the five that can actually move a team’s rating by more than 0.3 points, and together, the quintet reduces Auburn’s overall positional-adjusted talent score by 177 basis points.

Now let’s look at the key players that Auburn gained through the Portal.  We count seven players as being talented enough to improve the War Eagles’ point spread by 0.3 or more points.

They picked up a talented all-star safety from FCS Southeast Missouri in Bydarrius Knighten, who has NFL potential and needs to showcase his talents on the big stage.

Knighten will be joined by a former SEC starting safety in Vanderbilt’s Donovan Kaufman.  Kaufman played just two games in 2020 before a medical issue forced the freshman’s season to end.  He reunites with his former coach and should compete for a starting job at safety and as a return specialist.  Having two safeties with this amount of talent come on board awards a little bonus for the defensive backfield.

We aren’t done with the secondary just yet.  The best transfer of the defensive backfield is former West Virginia starting cornerback Dreshun Miller, a graduate 5th year player.  He started multiple games inside Big 12 play as well as having an excellent career at Eastern Arizona Junior College.

Staying on the defensive side, Auburn adds Kansas defensive end Marcus Harris.  Harris started multiple games for the Jayhawks last year and in 8 games, he had 7 ½ tackles for loss.  

Now, on the offensive side of the ball, there are a lot of specialized calculations to make because Auburn picked up a quarterback with starting experience in the SEC.  T.J. Finley comes to the Plains from LSU, where he started after Myles Brennan was lost for the year.  However, Auburn still has two-year regular Bo Nix as their expected starter just before August practices commence.  There should be a heated race for the starting job in the Bobo offense, but Nix will most likely be taking the snaps when Auburn hosts Akron on September 4.  Finley’s contribution might be limited, but on the other hand, if he wins the battle to start, he might be the most significant addition to the team.  It leaves us having to consider many possibilities before arriving at a score for Finley.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Ingram returns to the state where he was a star running back in high school after not seeing action at Central Michigan last year.  Ingram is not expected to see a great deal of action with Auburn’s top two running backs returning, but he’s talented enough to make a positive contribution.

Finally, there is journeyman wide receiver Demetris Robertson.  He’s the most difficult player in the entire Portal to grade.  Starting from the beginning, Robertson was a 5-star recruit and the top receiver in his recruiting class when he committed to Alabama as a highschool senior.  He ended up signing with California and shredded the Pac-12 as a true freshman.  He suffered an injury as a sophomore and played in just two games.  He then transferred to Georgia, where he was somewhat of a disappointment the last two seasons.  He was expected to be a fourth receiver for the Bulldogs before transferring to Auburn two weeks ago.  There’s another big issue though; he’s facing multiple felony charges, which may be why he entered the Portal near the deadline, because University of Georgia rules may have forced his ineligibility.  If Robertson can play a full season for Auburn, he will contribute to the Bobo offense.  But, he may never get a chance to play a game!  That’s a large subset of possibilities to calculate into the preseason equation.

All told, the incoming players on Auburn’s Transfer Portal list sum to 258 basis points with the defensive backfield bonus included.  Factor in the loss of 177 basis points from the players transferring out, and you get a surplus of 81 basis points improvement through the transfer portal.  Using our talent algorithm, Auburn expects to gain 4.1 power rating points in this area. 

For example number two, let’s inspect Oklahoma without delving into all the plot twists we showed you with Auburn.

Oklahoma lost seven players that will negatively affect their talent score by enough points to matter.  Additionally, at two positions, they lost multiple players to the Portal.  Safety Brendan Radley-Hiles had 115 career tackles in his time in Norman, while hybrid safety/linebacker Robert Barnes took four years of experience to Colorado.  Wide Receiver Jalin Conyers did not play as a freshman but he has NFL potential at Wide Receiver or Tight End and might eventually cost Oklahoma more down the road than they will in September of this year.  Losing wide receiver Charleston Rambo will hurt the Sooners in week one. Not affecting Oklahoma at all for 2021 is former tight end Grant Calcaterra, who retired from football at the end of 2019 after multiple concussions, but he un-retired and transferred to Auburn before the coaching change saw him transfer again to SMU.

The Sooners lost a 4-star tackle to Louisiana-Monroe in Stacey Wilkins.  Wilkins has not played for the Sooners, and his loss will be felt down the road, but it will be just the minimum to matter in 2021.  

Finally, there is quarterback Tanner Mordecai.  The fourth year sophomore was going to be a spectator watching All-American Spencer Rattler lead the Sooners, so Mordecai joined Calcaterra at SMU.  This has potential to affect Oklahoma should Rattler suffer an injury.  The #2 QB at a passing school is as important as the #2, #3, and #4 running backs at a running school.

The total loss in basis points for Oklahoma is 272, which is enough to affect the outcome of a game or two before we look at who the Sooners picked up.  The five players that transferred into Norman are the best quintet in the nation.  Former Tennessee running back Eric Gray and former LSU running back Kevontre Bradford, who has speed in the Chris Johnson CJ2K range, gives the Sooners a national top five running back corps when you add former starter Kennedy Brooks.  The Sooners’ running game combined with Rattler’s passing ability into a possible 45-points per game offense.

There is one more offensive stalwart to add to the mix, as former 5-star tackle recruit Wanya Morris started for two years at Tennessee and should step in and start at the all-important blind-side tackle.  Oklahoma’s potential to average 45 ppg may also come with consistency.

The defense added safety Key Lawrence, the third former Tennessee Vol to matriculate to Oklahoma.  Lawrence saw considerable action on defense and special teams as a true freshman last year.  He will do so for Oklahoma in 2021.

All told, the Sooners gain 200 basis points from incoming transfers, and combining it with the 272 lost, the net change is -72 basis points on transfers alone.  This equals about 3.9 points lost in power rating.

Some of the teams expected to profit the most off the Transfer portal in 2021 include: Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky, Miami (Fla.), Penn State, SMU, South Carolina, Texas Tech, UCLA, USC,   Teams that lost considerable talent include: Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Memphis, Tennessee, and Texas.

This adjustment makes up just one part of a multiple part adjustment to the power ratings for each of the 130 FBS teams.  In the case of Clemson losing 245 basis points of talent, fear not for the Tigers.  They still have more than enough talent and added enough from past recruiting classes to make it back to the College Football Playoffs in 2021-2022.

March 29, 2021

PiRate Ratings Elite 8 Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:38 am
HoustonOregon St.9.0

PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics Update

Houston, Baylor, Gonzaga, and Michigan are the four remaining teams that possess the analytics criteria that 93% of the last 30 national champions possessed. Gonzaga and Michigan have the overall best criteria, but most of Michigan’s statistical outcomes includes injured star Isaiah Livers. Houston lacks overall schedule strength, but a win tonight over Oregon State and then a Final Four win over Baylor would give the Cougars the last needed piece of the puzzle in a national title game. Baylor misses on only one main criteria point as well as a couple minor points.

Obviously, the Pac-12 strength of schedules needed to be tweeked upward by a few points, and the Covid issues probably disguised the league’s resurrection. The Big Ten and Big 12 were overrated this year, while the SEC and ACC were somewhat overrated. The fact that the Elite 8 has three Pac-12 teams, and one team each from the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, West Coast, and American Athletic speaks a lot about the balance in basketball this year. The Western half of the country was the better half this year for the first time in more than a decade, maybe in the 21st Century.

March 26, 2021

PiRate Ratings Sweet 16 Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 5:13 am

Friday, March 26, 2021

Loyola (Chi.)Oregon St.6.5
ArkansasOral Roberts13.3
MichiganFlorida St.3.4

Bracketnomics Took A Beating

Like 99% of the public, our brackets are destroyed thanks to all the lower seeded teams winning in the first two rounds. Obviously, the Big Ten was highly overrated, and the Pac-12 was highly underrated. A lack of non-conference games this year made the schedule strengths too biased. There are only four teams in the Sweet 16 with resumes similar to past national champions.

Gonzaga is the only remaining team that meets 90% of the criteria of a national champion. Michigan would also meet the criteria, but their star playmaker is still injured and out. So, the Wolverines have to be discounted somewhat.

Baylor and Houston meet more than 75% of the criteria, but they are missing one key important stat. Connecticut is the only past national champion of the 21st Century to win the national title with this type of criteria.

If Gonzaga wins the title, then the bracketnomics data will have proven itself to be accurate for the year, even if our interpretation of the data was wrong. If Michigan, Houston, or Baylor wins the title, then it will be another Connecticut type of deal, where the criteria was valid but not identifiable enough to be considered a success. If anybody else cuts the nets, then the criteria failed for this year.

What should we make of this data this year? Do we throw this year out due to the highly dysfunctional season? So many games were cancelled this year, while other games were scheduled on as little as 48-72 hours notice. Included in the cancellations was a Gonzaga vs. Baylor game that should have been played, in all places, in Indianapolis in December!

One thing we will note in 2021-2022 is to consider the Big Ten Conference to be a tad overrated and the Pac-12 Conference a tad underrated. Maybe, it is time for “The Conference of Champions” to return to its prominence it enjoyed in the second half of the 20th Century.

What to Make of Gonzaga

Gonzaga’s strength of schedule just barely qualifies for national championship-worthy criteria. However, no team from outside the Power Conferences (AAC, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or SEC) has won the national championship since 1990, when UNLV cut down the nets. In three decades, Gonzaga came within a made basket, and Butler came within a rimmed out prayer of pulling off the Mid-Major miracle.

Gonzaga has been compared all season to the 1991 UNLV team that ran the table during the regular season with a scoring margin of close to 30 points, only to fall to Duke in the Final Four.

Could Gonzaga meet a power conference blue blood and meet the same fate as UNLV 30 years ago? Creighton would not be considered a blue blood, and we cannot see the Bulldogs losing Saturday. A win in the Sweet 16 would have GU playing a Pac-12 team in the Elite 8, either USC or Oregon. We cannot count either of these teams as a Duke-like blue blood.

In the National Semifinals, Gonzaga would face either Michigan, Florida State, UCLA, or Alabama. With Isaiah Livers able to play, Michigan would definitely be considered blue blood material. Florida State is in the blue blood neighborhood. UCLA and Alabama are both a little too green to be blue these days.

The Championship Game would present a potential opponent in Baylor that would be a true blue blood team this year. Syracuse might be a powder blue blood with their matchup zone so hard to prepare for when teams have not faced it before.

However, we here on the PiRate ship do not see Gonzaga as the UNLV team three decades later. We see this Bulldogs team more like the 1964 UCLA Bruins 57 years later. By this, we do not refer to playing style. The two teams couldn’t be any more different. Coach John Wooden’s first national champions were small in size; no starter was taller than 6 foot 5 inches. Gonzaga has size and muscle inside.

The 1964 Bruins used a devastating 2-2-1, 3/4 court zone press and occasionally a 1-2-1-1 full court zone press to force tempo and turnovers, while Gonzaga uses a standard half-court defense that relies on pressuring the ball and forcing poor shots, where they can control the boards and run the fast break and secondary break for cheap baskets and then hit the offensive glass for additional chances.

Where the two teams are quite similar is their method for winning games. In going 30-0 in 1964, UCLA put every game away with a 2 to 3 minute scoring run. The best example occurred in the national title game, where a favored Duke team, with two 6 foot 10 inch starters towering over the Bruins, fell under pressure in just 2 1/2 minutes, as the Bruins ran off 16 points in a row.

Gonzaga has this same ability to take a three-point lead and make it a 15-point lead in just a couple minutes of playing time. Their game against BYU in the West Coast Conference Championship Game is a testament to this ability. BYU held a 10-point lead and looked like they were going to do what Saint Mary’s had done in the prior WCC Championship Game. Then, in very little clock time, GU went from 10 down to 10 up, and the game was over.

There is another team remaining with the same ability to go on a major game-clinching scoring run, and that is Houston. Funny how comparing Gonzaga to UCLA brings Houston into the conversation, as Houston and UCLA conjure up memories of past titanic rivals like Dempsey-Tunney, Affirmed-Alydar, and New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers.

Houston is most definitely not considered the favorite to make it to the National Championship Game. They still have to solve the Syracuse zone and then possibly beat the most underrated team in the field in Loyola of Chicago or the team that found lightning in a bottle in Oregon State. Then, they most likely have to dismiss Baylor to make it to their third national championship game in the school’s history.

A Houston-Gonzaga national championship tilt would be quite memorable, and it would be one where both teams enjoy scoring runs that make the outcome unpredictable.

March 22, 2021

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 4:59 am

Monday, March 22, 2021

ColoradoFlorida St.1.1
UCLAAbilene Christian4.3

March 19, 2021

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 6:27 pm

Saturday, March 20, 2021

GonzagaNorfolk St.29.8
KansasEastern Washington9.6
IowaGrand Canyon15.6
MichiganTexas Southern24.9
LSUSt. Bonaventure0.2
Florida St.UNCG10.0
TexasAbilene Christian7.2

March 10, 2021

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:07 pm

Thursday, March 11, 2021

South FloridaTemple-2.6
Central FloridaEast Carolina4.7
Georgia TechMiami11.1
Florida St.Duke4.8
Virginia TechNorth Carolina-3.0
West VirginiaOklahoma St.1.4
BaylorKansas St.22.7
TexasTexas Tech0.3
St. John’sSeton Hall-0.2
Southern UtahNorthern Colorado6.7
Idaho St.Montana St.-1.6
Eastern WashingtonNorthern Arizona15.2
Weber St.Montana4.9
MarylandMichigan St.2.2
Ohio St.Minnesota7.3
WisconsinPenn St.2.3
UCSBLong Beach St.14.8
UC DavisCal St. Bakersfield-5.4
UC IrvineCal Poly17.1
UC RiversideHawaii7.0
Western KentuckyUTSA5.3
Louisiana TechFlorida Atlantic8.9
Old DominionNorth Texas-6.1
Saint Peter’sRider6.2
ToledoBall St.8.3
Kent St.Ohio U1.1
BuffaloMiami (O)8.0
AkronBowling Green1.2
Florida A&MMorgan St.-1.2
Norfolk St.North Carolina Central4.6
San Diego St.Wyoming15.2
Boise St.Nevada4.0
Utah St.UNLV11.1
Colorado St.Fresno St.10.9
OregonArizona St.7.7
UCLAOregon St.5.4
KentuckyMississippi St.2.5
Ole MissSouth Carolina5.1
Northwestern St.New Orleans-2.2
Sam Houston St.Lamar8.8
Texas SouthernAlcorn St.7.1
California BaptistSeattle0.2
New Mexico St.UT Rio Grande Valley7.9

Conference Tournaments Update

America East Conference

Championship Game–Saturday, March 13, 11 AM, ESPN2

6 U Mass-Lowell at 4 Hartford

American Athletic Conference

1st Round–Thursday, March 11 @ Fort Worth, TX

8 South Florida vs. 9 Temple (winner plays 1 Wichita St. Friday)

(4 SMU plays 5 Cincinnati Friday)

7 Tulsa vs. 10 Tulane (winner plays 2 Houston Friday)

6 Central Florida vs. 11 East Carolina (winner plays 3 Memphis Friday)

Atlantic Coast Conference

Quarterfinals, Thursday, March 11

1 Virginia vs. 8 Syracuse

4 Georgia Tech vs. 13 Miami (Fla.)

2 Florida St. vs. 10 Duke

3 Virginia Tech vs. 6 North Carolina

Atlantic 10 Conference

Championship Game–Sunday, March 14, 1PM, CBS @ Dayton, OH

1 Saint Bonaventure vs. 2 Virginia Commonwealth

Big East Conference

Quarterfinals–Thursday, March 11 @ New York, NY

1 Villanova vs. 8 Georgetown

4 St. John’s vs. 5 Seton Hall

2 Creighton vs. 10 Butler

3 Connecticut vs. 11 DePaul

Big Sky Conference

Quarterfinals–Thursday, March 11 @ Boise, ID

1 Southern Utah vs. 8 Northern Colorado

4 Idaho St. vs. 5 Montana St.

2 Eastern Washington vs. 10 Northern Arizona

3 Weber St. vs. 6 Montana

Big Ten Conference

2nd Round–Thursday, March 11 @ Indianapolis, IN

8 Maryland vs. 9 Michigan St.

5 Ohio St. vs. 13 Minnesota

7 Rutgers vs. 10 Indiana

6 Wisconsin vs. 11 Penn St.

Big 12 Conference

Quarterfinals–Thursday, March 11 @ Kansas City, MO

1 Baylor vs. 9 Kansas St.

4 West Virginia vs. 5 Oklahoma St.

2 Kansas vs. 7 Oklahoma

3 Texas vs. 6 Texas Tech

Big West Conference

Quarterfinals–Thursday, March 11 @ Las Vegas

1 UCSB vs. 9 Long Beach St.

4 Cal St. Bakersfield vs. 5 UC-Davis

2 UC-Irvine vs. 10 Cal Poly

3 UC-Riverside vs. 6 Hawaii

Conference USA

Quarterfinals–Thursday, March 11 @ Frisco, TX (Dallas Cowboys Practice Facility)

1E Western Kentucky vs. 4W UTSA

2W UAB vs. 6W Rice

1W Louisiana Tech vs. 4E Florida Atlantic

2E Old Dominion vs. 3W North Texas

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Quarterfinals Continue, Thursday, March 11 @ Atlantic City, NJ

4 Marist vs. 5 Niagara

3 St. Peter’s vs. 11 Rider

Mid-American Conference

Quarterfinals–Thursday, March 11 @ Cleveland

1 Toledo vs. 8 Ball St.

4 Kent St. vs. 5 Ohio U

2 Buffalo vs. 7 Miami (O)

3 Akron vs. 6 Bowling Green

Mideastern Athletic Conference

Quarterfinals, Thursday, March 11 @ Norfolk, VA

2S Florida A&M vs. 3N Morgan St.

2N Norfolk St. vs. 3S UNC-Central

Mountain West Conference

Quarterfinals–Thursday, March 11 @ Las Vegas

1 San Diego St. vs. 8 Wyoming

4 Boise St. vs. 5 Nevada

2 Utah St. vs. 7 UNLV

3 Colorado St. vs. 6 Fresno St.

Pac-12 Conference

Quarterfinals–Thursday, March 11 @ Las Vegas

1 Oregon vs. 8 Arizona St.

4 UCLA vs. 5 Oregon St.

2 USC vs. 7 Utah

3 Colorado vs. 11 California

Patriot League

Championship Game, Sunday March 14, 12 PM EST, CBSSN

9 Loyola (MD) at 2 Colgate

Southeastern Conference

2nd Round–Thursday, March 11 @ Nashville, TN

8 Kentucky vs. 9 Mississippi St. (winner plays 1 Alabama Friday)

5 Florida vs. 13 Vanderbilt (winner plays 4 Tennessee Friday)

7 Missouri vs. 10 Georgia (winner plays 2 Arkansas Friday)

6 Ole Miss vs. 11 South Carolina (winner plays 3 LSU Friday)

Southland Conference

Quarterfinals–Thursday, March 11 @ Katy, TX (Greater Houston)

4 Northwestern St. vs. 5 New Orleans

3 Sam Houston St. vs. 6 Lamar

Southwestern Athletic Conference

Quarterfinals Continue, Thursday, March 11 @ Birmingham, AL

4 Grambling vs. 5 Southern

3 Texas Southern vs. 6 Alcorn St.

Western Athletic Conference

Quarterfinals–Thursday, March 11 @ Las Vegas

4 California-Baptist vs. 5 Seattle (winner plays 1 Grand Canyon Friday)

3 New Mexico St. vs. 6 UT-Rio Grande Valley (winner plays 2 Utah Valley Friday)

Automatic Qualifiers

Liberty 23-5

Winthrop 23-1

Loyola (Chi.) 24-4

Morehead St. 23-7

UNC-Greensboro 21-8

Appalachian St. 17-11

Drexel 12-7

Cleveland St. 19-7

Mount St. Mary’s 12-10

Oral Roberts 16-10

Gonzaga 26-0

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