BCS Report - Rating the Conferences
By Jeff Amey
Week three of the 2007 season is in the books, and with it, about two thirds of all out of conference matchups for all the BCS teams. It's now possible to get a closer look at the relative strengths and weaknesses of the conferences and find out if what we've been hearing on TV jives with what the statistics say. Most teams to this point have played one tough game and two easier opponents. Of course there are exceptions to this, but this is the basic pattern for most BCS teams out there.
Cumulative Record: 22-14 (61% win %)
Number of Conference games played so far: 6
Out of Conference record: 16-8 (67%)
Out of Conference record vs. BCS opponents: 3-4 (43%)
Ave. rank of conference offenses (out of 119): 83.7 (6th of BCS conferences)
Ave. rank of conference defenses (out of 119): 46.2 (5th)
Of the BCS conferences, the ACC is by far the worst of the group, though you'd never know it with the way analysts have been slamming the Big Ten this year. They have nothing you could call a signature win, and have four losses to teams either in 1AA or minor conferences. As you can see, the average rank of the conference offenses is an abysmal 83rd out of the 119 teams in the nation. Boston College is the highest ranked offense at 27th, and there are none others ranked in the top half (60th or higher). Defenses are not a whole lot better, as the average defenses are only good enough to beat out the Pac-10 for the worst conference average.
For these reasons, this is a pretty tough conference to call at this point. Boston College is probably the class of the conference, and I'm not sure if there is anyone in the Coastal division good enough to win 10 games. Boston College has not made it to a major bowl since Doug Flutie led the Eagles to the Cotton Bowl after the 1984 season. This might be the year they do it.
Predicted Conference Championship: Boston College vs. Virginia Tech
Predicted Champion: Boston College
BCS Representatives: Boston College
Cumulative Record: 18-5 (78%)
Number of Conference games played so far: 0
Out of Conference record: 18-5 (78%)
Out of Conference record vs. BCS opponents: 4-5 (44%)
Ave. rank of conference offenses (out of 119): 51.9 (4th)
Ave. rank of conference defenses (out of 119): 36.9 (1st)
Before the 2005 season, it looked as if this conference might be on the verge of losing its status as a BCS conference. West Virginia upset Georgia in the Sugar Bowl to end that season, and this conference hasn't really looked back since. This season, there are as many as five different teams that have a legitimate shot at taking the Big East's automatic BCS bid, led now by West Virginia and Rutgers following Louisville's upset at the hands of Kentucky. South Florida's 3-0 record is a minor surprise, as they had to win a road game at Auburn to get there, but the biggest surprise has been the play of Cincinnati.
If you had told me before compiling the statistics that the Big East would have, on average, the best defenses in the nation, I wouldn't have believed it. Five of the eight defenses in the conferences are ranked in the top 25 in the nation and the conference is only brought down by Louisville and Syracuse. As such, I think this is going to be an interesting race for the Big East title. West Virginia is still the clear favorite, but the quality of defenses in the conference opens up the possibility for upsets. Cincinnati and Rutgers have the best chance of that.
Predicted Conference Champion: Rutgers
BCS Representatives: Rutgers and West Virginia
Cumulative Record: 26-7 (79%)
Number of Conference games played so far: 0
Out of Conference Record: 26-7 (79%)
Out of Conference Record vs. BCS opponents: 7-4 (64%)
Ave. rank of conference offenses (out of 119): 38.1 (2nd)
Ave. rank of conference defenses (out of 119): 38.9 (2nd)
So far this season, we've heard nothing but "The Big Ten is down" from anyone and everyone that has a voice, be it in print or on television. I've been guilty of it myself in past weeks in this very column. I think a lot of that perception comes from Michigan's embarrassing 0-2 start. It hasn't been helped by the struggles of some of the teams in the conference with lesser opponents, including Duke's upset win at Northwestern and Iowa's loss to Iowa State this past Saturday. Taken as a whole, however, the Big Ten is far from down, as is borne out by the statistics.
The Big Ten has the highest total win percentage, out of conference win percentage, and best record so far against out of conference BCS opponents. All but one team in the conference ranks in the top half of the total offense category, while all but three rank in the top half in total defense, including three in the top 10. Things aren't nearly as bad as has been made out so far, and the conference as a whole isn't struggling any more than any of the other BCS conferences.
As for the conference race, it's still anyone's ballgame. No team has looked dominant, and every team in the conference seems to have a weak point on at least one side of the ball. No intra-conference games have been played yet, so it's difficult to see how things will play out when the teams start cracking heads against each other when conference play opens this week. Ohio State and Penn State look the best so far, but the Nittany Lions have played one of the easiest schedules in the nation through three weeks. It's entirely possible that 10-2 is good enough to take the conference crown this year.
Predicted Conference Champion: Ohio State
BCS Representatives: Ohio State and Penn State
Cumulative Record: 27-9 (75%)
Number of Conference games played so far: 0
Out of Conference record: 27-9 (75%)
Out of Conference record vs. BCS opponents: 5-5 (50%)
Ave. rank of conference offenses (out of 119): 39.6 (3rd)
Ave. rank of conference defenses (out of 119): 45.1 (4th)
There is no conference out there easier to call right now than the Big XII. Oklahoma is the only team so far in this conference that has looked really good. Every other team in the conference has at least one major flaw. Texas is lucky to still be ranked in the top 10 after struggling three straight weeks against non-BCS opponents. Missouri's defense is going to lead to at least one loss when the Tigers run into a defense capable of slowing their offense. Nebraska showed they still had a long way to go in their loss to USC this past week.
The Big XII is pretty much an average conference this season. Nine of the twelve teams field an offense in the top half of total offenses (including four in the top 10), while eight of the defenses rank in the top half, but most hover between 30th and 50th. Offenses have held the advantage in this conference for several years now, and things don't look to be any different this season.
Predicted Conference Championship Game: Oklahoma vs. Missouri
Predicted Champion: Oklahoma
BCS Representative: Oklahoma
Cumulative Record: 21-7 (75%)
Number of Conference Games played so far: 1
Out of Conference Record: 20-6 (77%)
Out of Conference Record vs. BCS opponents: 5-3 (63%)
Ave. rank of conference offenses (out of 119): 37.8 (1st)
Ave. rank of conference defenses (out of 119): 56.4 (6th)
It should come to no surprise to anyone that the best offense and worst defense in the nation, on average, is played on the west coast. This has been the case for several years now. On a bit of the plus side, the average defense rank this season is over 20 spots lower than it was two seasons ago, so it looks as if the conference is slowly improving on that side of the ball. The Pac-10 has a few very nice wins out of conference so far this year, including California over Tennessee and USC over Nebraska, but both of those might end up being over highly overrated teams in the pre-season.
I would like to say that this conference race is still wide open, but I don't really think it is. USC is clearly the team to beat, and I feel that all of the other teams are still playing for second place. California seems to be the front-runner in this second group, but Oregon might have something to say about that before all is said and done this season. The Trojans are still vulnerable, but it's going to take a pretty big upset to get them in conference this season.
Predicted Conference Champion: USC
BCS Representative: USC
Cumulative Record: 25-10 (71%)
Number of Conference Games played so far: 7
Out of Conference Record: 18-3 (86%)
Out of Conference Record vs. BCS opponents: 4-3 (57%)
Ave. rank of conference offenses (out of 119): 55.2 (5th)
Ave. rank of conference defenses (out of 119): 44.8 (3rd)
There you are...the picture of dominance. You would think by the way the media talks, the SEC would be first by a long way in every category up there. The plain fact of the matter is, statistics show that the SEC as a conference isn't appreciably better than the other conferences in ANY category, other than maybe number of fans in the stands missing at least one tooth. Only five of the twelve offenses are ranked in the top half of the statistics, and only eight of the twelve on defense.
Their 18-3 out of conference record looks impressive until you look at how many of those wins came against lower division foes. They have matched the Big East with a perfect 14-0 record vs. teams either in 1AA or non-BCS conferences, but are an ordinary 4-3 vs. teams in other major conferences. They have notched nice wins with LSU over Virginia Tech and Kentucky over Louisville, but are brought back down with Auburn's loss to USF and Tennessee's loss to California.
This is shaping up into another interesting finish for the SEC. LSU was clearly a dominating team right out of the gate, but it also seems as if the defending National Champion Florida Gators are good enough to possibly defend last year's SEC title. I fully expect October 6th's matchup between these two teams to be a preview of the conference title game. There are a few wild cards still mixed up in the title chase, including undefeated Alabama, South Carolina, and Kentucky, but none of these teams seem to be good enough to win consistantly enough to stay atop the standings.
Predicted Conference Championship Game: Florida vs. LSU
Predicted Conference Champion: LSU
BCS Representatives: LSU and Florida
Big Games for Week of Sept. 22
South Carolina (3-0) at LSU (3-0)
In a week devoid of huge matchups, this is the biggest of three important conference games in the SEC this week. The Gamecocks pulled a surprising upset of the Georgia Bulldogs two weeks ago to put themselves in the early driver's seat in the SEC East, but now look to only be second best, as the Florida Gators matched their record with a blowout win over Tennessee this past week and looked much better on both sides of the ball. South Carolina will be hard pressed to move the ball against a murderous Tiger defense, and will look to their senior leaders QB Blake Mitchell and HB Cory Boyd to lead the way.
LSU has destroyed whoever has lined up on the other side of the ball from them in every game so far this season. They've given up only one touchdown and have recorded two shutouts in three games, while averaging 45.7 points themselves. The Tigers will be without the services of WR Early Doucet in this game, but shouldn't have too much trouble finding other offensive weapons to distribute the ball to.
I don't see this being a close game. South Carolina looked scrappy in their win over Georgia, but scrappy isn't going to be good enough when you run into the buzz saw that is the LSU team this season. Tigers by at least three touchdowns, and probably more.
Kentucky (3-0) at Arkansas (1-1)
This is the game where the Wildcats can prove they are for real. Last week was an mpressive win for them, but now they have to show they can do it on the road in the SEC. It helps that the Arkansas defense seems to be very weak against the pass, since that is what Kentucky does best, but the Wildcats have also shown some ability to move the ball on the ground as well. Kentucky's defense will not be good enough to shut down Darren McFadden, so the key to this one for the Wildcats will be to outscore the Razorbacks.
Last week's loss to Alabama was a devestating one to Arkansas' chances of repeating as SEC west champs. It's still early, but with Arkansas travelling to LSU later this season, they can ill afford any more losses in conference until they get to that point. The key to this game for Arkansas will be simple. Send Darren McFadden and Felix ones at the Wildcat defense as many times as they can, score touchdowns, and keep the Kentucky offense off the field.
This actually should be a pretty good game. In a conference that seems to pride themselves on defense, this should be a game devoid of it. I think both teams will easily get to the 30's, but Arkansas should be too much at home in the end.
Georgia (2-1) at Alabama (3-0)
Here's another game in which the surprisingly undefeated team has a chance to prove themselves against a quality opponent, only this one is at home. Georgia took a serious hit early with their loss to South Carolina two weeks ago, and need to win this game to ounce back and have any realistic chance of winning the SEC East. Their wide receivers had a lot of trouble hanging onto the ball against South Carolina, and they will need to do better this week for the Bulldogs to win this game.
Ah yes...the Crimson Tide. Everyone is just itching to proclaim them to be "back" with Nick Saban at the helm. Alabama can take a big step towards that by beating the Bulldogs this week at home. The win over Arkansas has to be a huge confidence booster, but the Tide are still not quite ready for prime-time. The defense is going to have to play better, and the team play solid and aggressively for all four quarters to win this game.
This game is a toss-up in my mind, and when that is the case, I usually go with the ome team. I'm still not sold on Alabama, but Georgia has spent the past three seasons under-performing to their expectations. I guess I'll take the Crimson Tide in a close game.
Top Ten for Week 3
1) LSU (3-0) Last: beat Middle Tennessee State 44-0 Next: vs. South Carolina
I don't have any clue how USC is still ranked #1 in the major polls. Has anyone actually watched LSU play this season?
2) Oklahoma (3-0) Last: beat Utah State 54-3 Next: at Tulsa (Fri.)
The Golden Hurricane might be able to give the Sooners a bit of a game, but klahoma should be too much in the end.
3) USC (2-0) Last: beat Nebraska 49-31 Next: vs. Washington State
Yes...the game against Nebraska wasn't as close as the score, and USC could've driven cars through the holes they were opening up in the Husker line, but 31 points? Even with two garbage TD's that's too many points for me to think #1.
4) Florida (3-0) Last: beat Tennessee 59-20 Next: at Mississippi
Yes...the Gators looked good, but Tennessee's defense is currently ranked 102nd in the nation, and Florida WAS at home. Let's see them against a defense with a pulse before annointing Tebow the new Superman.
5) West Virginia (3-0) Last: beat Maryland 31-14 Next: vs. East Carolina With every game that goes by I feel the Mountaineers are more and more ripe for an upset. At some point they're not going to be able to just turn that offense on at will.
6) Ohio State (3-0) Last: beat Washington 33-14 Next: vs. Northwestern
For the second week in a row it was close for a half, then the Buckeyes pulled away. What happens when the Buckeyes put four good quarters together?
7) California (3-0) Last: beat Louisiana Tech Next: vs. Arizona
The Bears look tough, but we've been down this road before. How will the defense hold up to more explosive Pac-10 offenses?
8) Penn State (3-0) Last: beat Buffalo 45-24 Next: at Michigan
Penn State's schedule so far: home games against Florida International, Buffalo, and the worst Notre Dame team to ever don the Golden Domes. This team might be terrific or horribly overrated. We find out this week.
9) Texas (3-0) Last: beat UCF 35-32 Next: vs. Rice
AP #7 and Coaches #6? Really? Have they bothered to tune into the Longhorns this season? By the way ESPN...Texas vs. Oklahoma + close game = epic matchup. Texas vs. UCF + close game = What's wrong with Texas? I believe that is how the equations go.
10) Rutgers (3-0) Last: beat Norfolk State 59-0 Next: BYE
Was last season a fluke? I don't know, but if it was they are an undefeated fluke right now.
On the Bubble: Wisconsin (3-0), Boston College (3-0), Oregon (3-0), South Carolina (3-0), Clemson (3-0), Cincinnati (3-0), USF (2-0), Texas A&M (3-0), Hawai'i (3-0), Kentucky (3-0)
1) Darren McFadden HB Arkansas
57 rushes for 346 yards 3 TD
1/2 for 42 yards 1 TD
5 catches for 46 yards
3 kickoff returns for 68 yards
Back to the top despite the loss. You can't pin this one on a bad game from McFadden, but it'll be hard to maintain it at the top if the Razorbacks keep losing.
2) Tim Tebow QB Florida
45/61 for 835 yards 8 TD 1 INT
43 rushes for 192 yards 5 TD
It was only a matter of time before the Tebow hype machine started up. I'm still interested to see him do it for a full game against a defense made of something besides paper.
3) Brian Brohm QB Louisville
69/103 for 1,142 yards 11 TD 1 INT
13 rushes for 19 yards 1 TD
1 catch for -7 yards
The loss to Kentucky is going to be a serious hit to his campaign if nothing else because of the perception of Kentucky as not a good team. This loss was hardly Brohm's fault.
4) Pat White QB West Virginia
31/49 for 436 yards 4 TD
37 rushes for 244 yards 4 TD
He has a VERY tenuous hold on this spot in my list. He needs to have a breakout game against East Carolina to stay on it.
5) Colt Brennan QB Hawai'i
103/133 for 1,262 yards 12 TD 1 INT
23 rushes for 34 yards 4 TD
Doesn't seem to have the "wow" factor this season. I suspect he'll drop off of everyone's radar by the end of the season if he doesn't start putting up the gaudy numbers again...and he's averaging over 400 yards and 5 touchdowns per game!
On the Radar: Ray Rice HB Rutgers, P.J. Hill HB Wisconsin, Sam Bradford QB Oklahoma, Steve Slaton HB West Virginia, Mike Hart HB Michigan
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