This is the end
This is the end
My only friend
That’s how I feel about the end of the college football regular season. Three months gone, just like that.
Week 13 F/+ Top 40
Week 13 Observations
F/+ Top 10: Alabama Song. The Tide remain #1 in F/+. However, Georgia and Clemson have closed the gap in raw analytics and are right on their heels at #2 and #3. Clemson surprisingly fell this week, swapping places with Georgia
Although not quite the chaos OSU fans wanted/needed to see, last week provided the boost the Buckeyes needed to enter back into the College Football Playoff discussion/debate/argument for the fifth consecutive season. That’s more years than every other team in football not named Alabama. OSU’s absolute beatdown of That Team gave them the second largest boost in the CFP rankings of any team (Washington received the largest, jumping five places). Sadly, OSU was already #8 in F/+ and did not see a concomitant jump in its relative position in analytics. They did, however, see the largest movement in raw S&P+ and FEI among the Top 10 teams. This is relevant, because the separation between #4-8 in F/+, S&P+ and FEI is statistically insignificant. They are literally within plus or minus one percentage point, and loss by one and win by another will cause some shuffling of these teams.
Elsewhere in the Top 10, TTUN fell three places, allowing OU, ND and UCF to move up. The Buckeyes are below the Wolverines in S&P+ but ahead of them in FEI, and ultimately are still one place behind TTUN. Washington and Mississippi round out the Top 10.
Overrated: People are strange. The AP Poll has ten teams receiving votes that are outside the F/+ Top 25. Six of those teams are actually ranked in the AP Top 25: #9 Texas (F/+ # 28), #16 Kentucky (F/+ #29), #18 Syracuse (F/+ #40), #21 Northwestern (F/+ #48), #23 Army (F/+ #52) and #24 Iowa State (F/+ #36).
The CFP Committee rankings are only slightly better, because they omitted Army. I can’t remember a set of rankings with this many teams so low in analytics in the past. The only concern is that they are skewing the perception of Top Ten teams as a consequence.
Underrated: Roadhouse Blues. The Washington Huskies came through last week in Pullman, and pulled themselves off this list. Missouri, as predicted, worked their way back into the Top 25, but are actually 12 places lower in the CFP rankings than in F/+. Mississippi State is another 8-4 team undervalued by the polls, but sitting favorably in F/+ at #10.
A number of unranked teams still sit in the Top 25 of F/+: Iowa at #18, Utah State at #20, Appalachian State at #22, this week’s “Best Five Loss Team in America” – #23 Auburn, and at #25 are the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Group of Five Watch: Five to One. Due to the loss of Mackenzie Milton, UCF has a legitimate chance to lose the American Athletic Conference Championship to Memphis, a team that lost to Navy (3-9) on September 8th. Weird. I think it happens. The last time they played, on Oct 13, the Tigers led 30-17 at halftime. UCF outscored Memphis 14-0 in the second half to steal a one-point win and escape the Liberty Bowl with the nation’s longest winning streak intact.
In the Mountain West, Boise State beat Utah State last week and won the right to host Fresno State in the championship game. This game on the Smurf Turf should be another fun one.
Riders on the Storm. In order: Clemson, UGA, Notre Dame and OSU. That’s right – I’m picking Bama to lose this weekend and fall to #5.
Week 14 CFP “Top 25” Match-ups
I did not expect to go 6-1 last week after picking five lower-ranked teams to win: Ohio State, Washington, Boston College, Texas A&M and Miami. But the F/+ numbers are pretty solid this late in the season. Only BC, which would’ve been a true upset according to analytics, couldn’t pull it off. That improves my seasonal total to 49-19. Here’s to another good week.
There’s no prelude needed for this weekend.
#11 Washington vs. #17 Utah (Fri, 8 pm) – This is a rematch of teams who faced each other on Sep 15 in Utah. The Huskies won that game 21-7. Vegas has the line at UW -5.5 points. S&P+ has the teams about two points apart. It should be a very good game to watch if you aren’t doing anything tonight. Sadly, the game has no impact on the College Football Playoff. UW by at least a touchdown.
#5 Oklahoma vs. #14 Texas (Sat, Noon) – The Red River Rematch, or whatever you want to call it, might as well be a home game for the Longhorns in Dallas. Despite a 15.5 point margin between these teams in S&P+, Vegas has set the line at 7.5 points in favor of the Sooners. They are the better team. But I think Tom Herman broke the code on Lincoln Riley’s offense, and I believe they come out on top again. In round one, Texas held OU to 45 points. Only two other teams managed to give up fewer points all season: Iowa State and Army. Expect Texas to play ball-control, clock eating offense and limit OU’s possessions. Texas by a FG.
#8 Central Florida vs. Memphis (Sat, 3:30 pm) – The line in Vegas is sitting at UCF -5.5 (it opened at 3.5). S&P+ has UCF as a 7-point favorite, but that’s pretty meaningless when you’re bringing in the back-up to start (unless his name is Cardale Jones). The guy to watch in this game is Memphis running back Darrell Henderson. This kid can flat out run the dang ball. He’s the second leading rusher in the nation with 1699 yards. That puts him 300 yards behind Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, but Henderson has done it with 82 fewer carries. On a per carry basis, he’s gaining 8.58 yards, which is sick. I’m riding the Tigers in this one, by a TD.
#1 Alabama vs. #4 Georgia – (Sat, 4 pm) Alabama is 13.5-point favorite according to Vegas. This is surprising, because S&P+ has the spread closer to 3 points. A ten-point bump is really big, especially considering this is at a neutral site in Georgia’s backyard. My only guess is the odds makers are looking primarily at common opponents LSU, Auburn, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. I think that’s short sighted. Georgia will be the toughest test ‘Bama has seen all season, and likewise for Georgia. But the Dawgs have already taken a loss, and the Tide has been hearing all season that they are unbeatable. I believe Georgia shocks Bama and the world by beating the Tide by 10.
#22 Boise State vs. #25 Fresno State (Sat, 7:45 pm) – The Broncos are a 2.5-point favorite at home versus the Bulldogs. S&P+ has this about 6-points in favor of Fresno State, but the game is in Boise. This is a rematch of their game on November 9th, when the teams had the exact same rankings. BSU won that one 24-17. They’ll get it done again, and prove again why conference championship games should go away.
#2 Clemson vs. Pittsburgh (Sat, 8 pm) – I got nothing. Clemson is a 27.5-point favorite. This game is a stupid, unnecessary, conference money grab. No way in hell does Pitt pull off a miracle in Charlotte.
#6 Ohio State vs. #21 Northwestern (Sat, 8 pm) – The Buckeyes are sporting the second highest point-spread in Power Five conference championship games at 14.5 points. S&P+ says it should be closer to 20 points on a neutral field, but my guess is Vegas would get zero action on the Buckeyes with a number that high. Truth is, I would take OSU and the points on this one. I’m seeing 35-6 or 42-6 as a final score.
Another big week with seven picks, and two underdog picks. Enjoy your last weekend of major college football games of the regular season. Or, look at it as the opening week of the Playoffs for everyone except Notre Dame.
Go Bucks! Beat Northwestern!