Poll Position

Weekend of Reckoning


[dropcap color=”#003068″ font=”0″]W[/dropcap]ell, how about that.   The committee finally sent the message that margin of victory matters, even if they say they don’t look at it.   While all of the top teams had at least one game where they didn’t perform well against a bad opponent, Florida State has made a career out of it.  You can see why they don’t want to go to the SEC and Big 12, their schedule is more like the old Big East.   Look how West Virginia has performed when you have to be on top of your game every week. 

In short though, while the predictions didn’t see TCU jumping Florida State, everything was pretty much where it was expected due to everyone’s schedules finally filling out.  Unlike previous weeks, where I looked at how they made each decision, however, let’s look at it under the lens of how it effects the upcoming weekend.

The Good


Big_12_Conference_logoThe Big Twelve: For all the chicken-little doomsayers bitching about everything having to do with the Big 12 over the past year, one thing has become abundantly clear; they play damn good football.   Currently the B12 has three teams in the Top Ten, though you barely hear anyone talking about it.   Here is how the Top Ten breaks out (the playoff committee basically seeds the top ten teams, so no need looking further) in regards to representation of total teams from a conference:

Are you not entertained?

Big 12 = 30% of conference and the poll

Pac 12 = 17% of conference and 20% of the poll

SEC/B1G = 14% of conference and 20% of the poll

ACC = 7% of the conference and 10% of the poll.

That is not how it will look on Sunday, because KState plays at Baylor and Arizona and Oregon meet up in the Pac 12 championship game, but it is still pretty impressive for a week before the season ends.  I’d argue that’s exactly where you want to be.  Additionally, the top three teams for the Big 12 are Baylor, TCU and Kansas State. 

Think about that, Baylor and Kansas State barely have a combined 50% win ratio all time and TCU just joined the Big 12 three years ago.  Oklahoma and Texas, the league’s behemoths, have combined for nine losses this year and were swept by the aforementioned teams.  If the Sooners and Longhorns ever decide to stop punching their clowns and start playing football again the conference should be brutal.  In short, Baylor, TCU, and Kansas State have thrived where Nebraska, A&M, Colorado and Missouri could not.  More on Missouri in a minute.

At this point, unless both Baylor and TCU lose this weekend, the Big 12 is all but guaranteed a spot in the playoff, even without a blue blood program representing them nor a conference game.

The Pac Twelve: ESPN stated this week that the Big Twelve has replaced the SEC as the toughest conference and my numbers I’ll release later this week back that up.  However, from top to bottom I think the Pac 12 is playing the best football in the country.   This is another conference that should be dogging ESPN for not pimping them like the SEC.   We looked at the Top Ten in regards to the Big 12, but here is how it looks for the entire Top 25:

SEC = 50% of conference and 28% of the poll

Pac 12 = 50% of conference and 24% of the poll

Big 12 = 40% of conference and 16% of the poll

ACC = 29% of the conference and 16% of the poll.

B1G = 21% of conference and 12% of the poll

More people saw Elvis last year than the PAC Networks

It is obvious to anyone with a television that the SEC, Pac 12 and Big 12 are playing football on a completely different level than the B1G and ACC, but the Pac is pulling SEC numbers without the hype machine. 

This shouldn’t be too surprising, those three conferences basically owned the BCS era as well.  While the champion for each of those leagues is definitely deserving of a spot in the playoffs, it will be interesting to see what happens if Arizona takes the rematch with Oregon.   Sitting at #7, knocking off #2 should propel them up considerably, but would they make it all the way to four?  It depends on how Ohio State does against Wisconsin, but my guess is they would jump Baylor and Ohio State for the fourth spot, even with two losses, due to playing a significantly tougher schedule than both of those teams.  Remember, Baylor and Ohio State each have an unranked loss.  Arizona has two ranked losses and if they win this weekend it would be their fourth Top 25 victory.  That’s tough compared to potentially three for Baylor and two for Ohio State.

The Bad


The Big Ten:  Even with Ohio State at #5 they still probably don’t have much of a chance of landing a team in the playoffs unless someone above them takes a loss this weekend.  Baylor, right below them, has better wins already and has a better match up this weekend.   If both win out I would be highly surprised if Baylor remains behind Ohio State on Sunday.   If they do it is only because of name recognition.

Wisconsin ran through the West, but it also lost to Northwestern and Ohio State has Virginia Tech hanging around their neck like an anchor. Outside an outright collapse of the current Tier One, the B1G will be the first conference to have their champion miss out on the playoffs.   My guess is this won’t be its last time either.

The SEC:  The SEC, while still represented well with Alabama at the top, is not the SEC that everyone and their dog told us existed at the beginning of the year.   Remember when South Carolina was in the top ten?  Remember when A&M was #6? Remember when Mississippi State, with one of the worst schedules in all of the Power Five, was ranked #1? Well, outside claiming that Alabama was good, everyone has been proven to be wrong.  Since week ten, and not including teams that have dropped out of the rankings, the SEC has dropped a combined 24 spots in the poll and this is including big gains from Alabama and Missouri.  Remember when Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Auburn were all in the top four?  Now they have dropped a combined 33 spots, or each are averaging over 10 points lower than they were in Week Ten.

Honestly, ESPN, give it a rest. Hold yourself to a higher standard.  Football is played well in many areas of the country.

Hahahaha, sorry.   Dare to dream I guess.

Florida State: When most teams win, they rise in the polls.  At least all the teams located around Tallahassee do that.  The Seminoles, on the other hand, have found a way to drop in the rankings by winning.   That’s some sort of skill.  If you listen to Jimbo, it shows they can find a way to win.   If you talk to anyone who watches sports, they’ll tell you that Florida State shouldn’t have to be finding a way to win against this lackluster competition. 

And it isn’t just the committee.  My formula, which doesn’t know a thing about how they barely beat Florida or Clemson or Notre Dame, etc, has them ranked fourth as well.  So far they have only beat two Top 25 teams, but you cannot really blame them for that, they schedule well.   Having Notre Dame and Oklahoma State on the docket looked like some top notch competition, and each took the Noles to the wire.   However, a lot of other teams who played the Cowboys and Irish treated them much more poorly than Florida State.

The Seminoles are sitting pretty good at four though.  That would let Florida State take on Bama in the Sugar Bowl.   Not only is Bama vulnerable, but New Orleans is basically in their backyard.  Being third means they have to head to LA and take on Oregon, who is much less vulnerable.

What kind of program are you running to make people actually root for Georgia Tech?

Here’s the issue though.  There are one loss teams who are better than Florida State and one loss teams that are very close to them in the rankings.   They have no wiggle room.  If Georgia Tech wins on Saturday Florida State will drop considerably.   The margin is close enough that if Florida State has to squeak out another win, while Baylor and/or Ohio State bring the pain on Kansas State and Wisconsin, it is very, very possible that Florida State ends up fifth. 

Oh, and there is so much controversy swirling around the program in the media that everyone outside Florida State alums will be rooting for Georgia Tech.  This is a much different year than last year’s run, when everyone was on Florida State’s side. 

If Florida State does fall out while undefeated, the ACC is in a world of hurt for the rest of the decade.  The next round of realignment may be to find tougher competition.

The Ugly


Baylor:  I told you I’m here for you, Bears.   You send mail in droves and aren’t as crazy as some fan bases (I’m looking at you, Aggies).   You’ve also sucked for so long that I want you to be successful.  However, while it may be easy to celebrate the fact that you finally broke into Tier One, I need to be honest with you:   

You don’t have a chance at making the playoffs.

There you go, I’m sorry, but that’s what friends do.   They tell their friends the ugly truth and you, Bears, are in the thick of some serious ugly.  Out of the current Top 25, you are the lowest one loss team on the chart and that is below Ohio State!  Basically, the only reason you got into the top tier is because everyone else decided to leave it.  I know the metaphor may be lost on you, but you’re like the last single girl in the hall with no one left to ask her to dance. 

Ok, maybe that was a horrible metaphor, but the point is there are a lot of teams above you who have to move before you get better.  I have my own system that I use to rate teams, which includes wins/loses against FCS, FBS, Power Five, Tier 3&4 and Tier 1&2, in addition to a formula which gives a modifier to how well a team did against its schedule.  I call it the Monkey Margin™ because I like alliteration.  Cute right?

Anyway, in my list I have the top four the same as the committee, the order is just different.   However, we both agree with where the Bears are, number six.  Here is how it works out for the Big 12:

Monkey Margin™

TCU = 1.597

Baylor = 1.203

Kansas State = 1.166

Unlike the committee, I don’t have a subjective, anecdotal, aspect to my formula.   It doesn’t know about head to head, all it looks at is how well you scheduled and how well you played against that schedule.   I have to admit, when I updated it today, I did not expect TCU to have that large of a lead.  I had to go in and look at why they were doing so much better than you.   What I found was a bit shocking.  They are higher, because of you.

TCU’s only loss is against a top tier team, you.   But the loss was very close and was on the road.   That sort of loss doesn’t hurt TCU that much, any more than Alabama’s loss to Ole Miss or Oregon’s loss to Arizona is keeping them down.  Baylor, like Ohio State, however, has a loss to an unranked power five team.  Granted, you can argue that your loss on the road to West Virginia was a better loss than Ohio State losing to Virginia Tech at home, but you cannot say that your loss hurts less than TCU’s.   That’s called a disadvantage.

Now, you’re being served up a giant spoonful of media hope, saying that you’ll jump over TCU due to head to head, but I don’t see it even if everyone at ESPN is saying it is a given or the entire system is a farce.   Most of them seem very poorly informed because head to head only matters if everything else is equal. 

In short, head to head is purely a tie breaker.

According to the talking heads at ESPN, including Stink who couldn’t shut up about it on their radio show and Davis who went at it repeatedly at the ranking show, TCU and Baylor have equal schedules.   And they do, at least some of it.  Unlike other conferences the Big 12 basically has the same schedule, outside home and away.   And, if both TCU and Baylor win out, then their conference schedule is equal.

However, the conference portion is only 75% of the schedule.  The other 25% is not equal.   TCU has two worthless games, Baylor has three.   That’s all it takes.   If you add that extra worthless game you have to the more damaging loss, you get the big difference between you and TCU. (Last week’s game didn’t help either, but the impact was negligible.)

Here’s the other piece of bad news for you.   If you and TCU win out, here is where you end up on my board:

Moral of the story: You mess with the bull…

Monkey Margin™

TCU = 1.639 (+2.6%)

Baylor = 1.320 (+9.7%)

Kansas State = 1.069 (-8.3%)

As you can see, even though you jump much more for beating Kansas State than TCU does for beating Iowa State, it isn’t enough to make up the difference.  It is all because of Buffalo and West Virginia.

This doesn’t take conference championships into account nor the committee’s “eye test”, but if I were you I’d start rooting for Iowa State, Missouri, Arizona, Georgia Tech, and Wisconsin this weekend.  No one can survive a loss at this point. 

Missouri: Wow, just…wow.  If anyone is ever looking for an example of why the SEC is on equal footing with the other football conferences (defined as the Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC.   If you’re not on this list it is cute that you think you should be) just look at Missouri.

In the fifteen years the Big 12 had a conference championship game Missouri made it to it twice, losing both.  That’s 13% of the times, when competing for a spot with Nebraska, Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State and Colorado.  In the first three years Missouri has been in the SEC they have been in the championship game 66% of the time.   I guess those Big 12 schools have outperformed the likes of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt since they could keep Missouri in place. 

The trophy case at MU.
The trophy case at MU.

And it isn’t like Missouri all of a sudden became good.  They were pretty ok within the Big 12, but this year they are just woeful.  The committee currently has them ranked as the lowest Power Five two loss team.  There are six, two loss teams and three, three loss teams ranked above them, including Georgia.  Missouri will also be the only team to make a conference championship game who hasn’t beat a single Top 25 team this year.  Oh and they lost to Indiana at home, who graces my rankings as one of the worst five teams in the Power Five conferences.  Should I even mention that they are the largest underdogs, at two touchdowns, than any other major conference game this weekend?

That means if Missouri actually does beat Alabama, the SEC will be shut out of the playoffs in its first year.  The unthinkable could become probable. 

Well done SEC, by expanding and watering down your conference, you turned a middling drama queen program in the Big 12 into your standard bearer, without actually making them better.



Look for projections and more later this week.   Remember to follow Big 12 Fanatics on Facebook and Twitter so you know when new items are released and send mail, I love mail!



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