Tag:Alabama
Posted on: November 8, 2010 12:44 pm
 

BCS computers should not use margin-of-victory

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

What would you say about a Coaches' Poll voter who looked over the college football landscape after Saturday's action and ranked Auburn , undefeated and owner of more top 25 wins than any team in the country, all the way down at No. 11? What would you say if he voted four different teams with two losses ahead of the Tigers, including a Missouri team coming off of a loss to Texas Tech and an Arizona team that lost at home to 4-4 Oregon State ? What would you say if he kept Alabama all the way up at No. 5, ahead of not only the Auburn team two games ahead of it in the SEC West standings but 12 spots ahead of the 8-1 LSU team that just beat it head-to-head?

What you would say is that this voter had lost his damn mind and deserved to have his voting privileges revoked. You would say he deserved no part in a BCS process where so, so much is riding on every ballot. And you would be right.

Then why do so many college football analysts, fans, and statisticians insist that the six computer rankings that enter into the BCS formula -- each of which carries far, far more weight than any single Coaches' Poll or Harris Poll ballot -- be allowed to use margin-of-victory as part of their calculations? Because the hypothetical ballot above is exactly what the computers would spit out; it's the current "Predictor" rankings as produced by ratings guru Jeff Sagarin , where margin-of-victory is all-important and straight wins and losses irrelevant. Sagarin has stated unequivocally that he would prefer submitting the "Predictor" rating to the BCS-mandated margin-of-victory-ignoring "ELO_Chess," for the reasons laid out here by fellow BCS computer rater Kenneth Massey and baseball statistical godfather Bill James :

“You’re asked to rank teams that don’t play each other, that don’t play long seasons, and you can’t include margin of victory?” said Massey, who provides a “better version” on his Web site, masseyratings.com . “It’s a very challenging problem from a data-analysis standpoint. It does require sacrificing a bit of accuracy. It’s not the best way to do it" ... 

“This isn’t a sincere effort to use math to find the answer at all" [according to James.] It’s clearly an effort to use math as a cover for whatever you want to do. I don’t even know if the people who set up the system are aware of that.

“It’s just nonsense math.”

Maybe the math is nonsense. But shouldn't that be weighed against the fact that to virtually everyone else who follows college football, ranking Alabama ahead of LSU is an act of even greater nonsense?

The problem is that ratings system like  the Sagarin "Predictor" and Massey's preferred system (which also ranks the Tide over the Bayou Bengals) aren't even trying to do the same things the BCS rankings are attempting to do. Their goal is to identify which teams are the "best," the most powerful, the most likely to win a given matchup; as its name implies, what "Predictor" wants to do is forecast the future, and there's no doubt it would do a better job of this than "ELO_Chess."

But certain unfortunate tiebreaks (like TCU 's and Boise State 's current predicament) excepted, BCS berths aren't awarded on the basis of hypothetical future results, or guesses at perceived strengths. They're awarded on the basis of achievement, on wins and losses and conference championships. Including margin-of-victory may make the BCS computer rankings "more accurate" when it comes to selecting which teams are playing the best football, but it would make them less accurate when it comes to answering the question the BCS rankings are trying to answer: which teams are most deserving .

That ought to be cause enough to keep the rankings margin-of-victory-free, even before we start wondering whether we really want the BCS nodding in approval as Boise desperately tries to hit the century mark week-in and week-out on the San Jose State s and Wyoming s of the world. (Not to mention it's already a shame when a player injures himself in a game that's well in hand; what happens when LaMichael James or Justin Blackmon tears an ACL trying to tack on a computer-mandated score at the end of a 60-7 blowout?) No, it's not particularly fair for TCU's annihilation of Utah to go in the BCS computers' books as nothing more than a W. But as the Horned Frogs' jump up the human polls shows, it's simply not true to say the BCS doesn't take the impressiveness of their victory into account at all.

The bottom line is that by including scoring margin (even one capped at, say, three touchdowns) in their computer rankings, the BCS would officially declare every win numerically judged like a figure skating routine, would give the thumbs-up to coaches like Bob Stoops who'd prefer to quit on a potential win over risking an embarrassing loss, would agree with "Predictor" that Alabama beating Duke by 49 points is more important than LSU beating Alabama by 3. The computer rankings could be better, but the way forward isn't to open a Pandora's box that college football would be much the worse for having opened.

Posted on: November 7, 2010 12:31 am
 

What I learned from the SEC (Nov. 6)

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. Les Miles loves the taste of grass and victory.   Seriously, he loves the taste of grass.  We have video to prove it and Russell Sheppard says he does it all the time because it's filled with protein.  But as any mad genius herbivore can tell you, the grass always tastes sweeter when you win, and that's what LSU did on Saturday to keep its SEC title hopes alive and end those of Alabama at the same time. Miles did it in his usual crazy manner, too.  Making sure his team looked horrible for the first 30 minutes before coming out firing in the second half.  I'm really starting to wonder if Miles is just so insane he's actually sane. Like, he's done the complete 360 degrees of insanity, and the rest of us just can't comprehend it.

2. The SEC West > The SEC East.  Okay, so the Mississippi State Bulldogs are 7-2 overall, and 3-2 in conference play.  This is good enough to earn them fifth place in the six team SEC West.  You know where this would put them in the East?  They'd be tied with Florida and South Carolina for the lead with one less loss -- but one less win as well -- and they'd have the best overall record in the division.  For further proof of the West's dominance, look what fourth place Arkansas did to South Carolina on Saturday night.

3. Cam Newton is not easily distracted.
  Here's what I know about Cam Newton after watching Saturday's game.  He either knows he's 100% innocent of any of the allegations about selling himself to the highest bidder, or he just doesn't give a poop.  Newton threw for 317 yards and 4 touchdowns on Saturday, and granted, it was against Tennessee-Chattanooga, but those are still very impressive numbers.  Now he has the Tigers only one win shy of the SEC West title, and a few more wins away from the title game.

4. Cupcakes are delicious.
  Listen, I don't like the annual sacrifices of FCS schools to BCS schools that we see every year, but the fact of the matter is that as long as the BCS reigns, we are stuck with them.  And, to be honest, I can't really blame SEC schools for wanting to schedule them in the middle of conference play and taking a break.  Georgia, Auburn, Kentucky and Florida -- I'M KIDDING, VANDERBILT* -- all feasted on them, while Ole Miss and Tennessee enjoyed some slightly heavier Sun Belt and Conference USA fare.

*No I'm not
Posted on: November 6, 2010 8:44 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2010 8:57 pm
 

VIDEO: Les Miles eats grass before 2-pt attempt

Posted by Adam Jacobi

LSU has just taken a 19-14 lead on Alabama after a 1-yard touchdown. On the drive, Les Miles called a reverse on 4th and 1 from LSU's 26 yard line; the play went to the Alabama 3. While watching his team attempt a two-point conversion that would eventually prove large, Miles took the logical next step and ate the grass at his feet.

Why, you ask? Hey, why not? In Les Miles' world, the risk is always dwarfed by the reward, so only good things could possibly happen here. And lo and behold, LSU won the game. Laugh if you must, but don't be surprised when you find yourself looking at a bag of lawn clippings longingly when things start going south. We should all be grass-eaters.

Also, for what it's worth, Russell Shepard says this is a regular occurrence. "I see him do it every day," Shepard said. "That's Coach Miles. He eats that grass. He says it has a lot of protein."

Well, there you go. He's just looking out for his nutrition. We're not hearing any reasons not to eat the grass, people.

Posted on: November 6, 2010 7:41 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2010 8:19 pm
 

LSU eliminates Alabama from BCS chase

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The near-universal consensus was that if any one-loss team could leapfrog TCU and Boise State no matter how many points the non-AQ powers piled up on the weak sisters of the Mountain West and WAC (noting that that description does not apply to their overwhelmed victims this afternoon), it was Alabama , the FBS's most-recognized gold standard, lurking dangerously at one loss with several potential computer-friendly victims ahead.

The problem: the first victim on the list wasn't interested in the Tide's own-destiny-controlled narrative. LSU rebounded from a sluggish, wasteful first half to punish the vaunted Alabama defense in the second half, recording 20 points, a whopping 338 total yards, and an all-important game-clinching 3rd-and-13 conversion to win 24-21 . Take your pick as the bigger surprise: that behind an offensive line that blasted open hole after hole in the 'Bama front seven, the LSU ground game churned out 225 yards on 5 yards a carry; or that much-derided LSU quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee emerged as the players of the game, combining to go an efficient 14-of-20 for 204 yards, a touchdown, and -- most importantly given the hay LSU was making on the ground -- no interceptions. Lee's throw to Rueben Randle on the icing conversion was as clutch as delivery as you'll see this year.

But maybe more surprising than either of those developments is that after two full seasons with the Tide as an undefeated, implacable, omnipresent presence in the thick of the national championship discussion, the Tide will not have a say this year, except as a possible spoiler for their rivals at Auburn . Even the clout of the SEC will not push a two-loss champion into the BCS title game, not with the Horned Frogs and Broncos running rampant (and looking unlikely to do anything different down the home stretch). Both the Tide and Bayou Bengals stay alive for the SEC West championship (though both will need an upset win from Georgia on their trip to Auburn next week, among other results in 'Bama's case), and LSU can continue to harbor longshot BCS hopes, but a Sugar Bowl date is now the best-case scenario for the Tide ... leaving an unmistakable crimson-shaded hole in the national title race.

Les Miles ... your thoughts?



Posted on: November 6, 2010 5:17 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2010 5:17 pm
 

No surprises in LSU-Alabama slugfest

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The line on LSU vs. Alabama coming in was that this was going to be a low-scoring game dictated by two outstanding defenses and potentially decided by field position and special teams.

That line has been proven nearly entirely accurate, as Alabama enjoys a 7-3 lead on the road at halftime. The Crimson Tide defense has been every bit as good as advertised, holding LSU to just 95 total yards ... and just 45 before a half-ending 50-yard Bayou Bengal drive whose aim was more to run out the clock and deny 'Bama field position than put points on the board. The only LSU points came after a Kelvin Sheppard interception that set up the Tigers in field goal range to begin the possession (which covered 0 yards in three plays).

Alabama has been largely kept in check as well, with eventual All-American tackle Drake Nevis wreaking havoc, but the Tide put together one outstanding drive, an 11-play, 81-yard march that thanks to Trent Richardson ended like this:
In a game like this, that one drive was enough to give the Tide the halftime lead. The one part of the pregame expectations that hasn't played out is the bit about field position; LSU has started four drives on their own 35 or better. It hasn't helped them yet. But if you're Alabama, you know that until more points get put up oin the board, the game is one play away from being turned on its head.

Posted on: November 5, 2010 5:08 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2010 5:17 pm
 

Unitas Award semifinalists make sense ... mostly

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Earlier today, the semifinalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the top senior quarterback in the nation, were announced. Sure, the list is going to pale in comparison to the Davey O'Brien Award, which is allowed to nominate the likes of Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Kellen Moore, Denard Robinson, et cetera, but the senior class is still pretty strong this season.

To that end, we celebrate these eight quarterbacks who were nominated by the Unitas committee:

  • Andy Dalton, TCU
  • Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
  • Jake Locker, Washington
  • Greg McElroy, Alabama
  • Christian Ponder, Florida State
  • Ricky Stanzi, Iowa
  • Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech
  • Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin

All worthy honorees, these; of the eight listed, the top six seniors in passing efficiency are represented, and the other two (Ponder, Locker) are high-level pro prospects. It's likely that neither makes the list of five finalists, but they both deserve some credit for their long, eventful college careers.

But wait -- five finalists? Out of eight semifinalists? Oh, no no; here's the rub. There are actually 10 semifinalists. It's just that the last two are so inexplicable that we couldn't in good conscience discuss them in the same context as the first eight. The other two semifinalists, who you wouldn't have guessed given 10 tries, are Idaho's Nathan Enderle and Delaware's Pat Devlin. Yeah, exactly.

Enderle is currently 61st among FBS quarterbacks in passing efficiency, and he's tied for fourth in most interceptions thrown with 12. Yes, he's 11th in passing yards per game, but that just makes him the Jerrod Johnson of the WAC. Enderle's not exactly a dual threat, either; he has no rushing touchdowns on the season and rushes for about -18 yards a game once sacks are factored in. Enderle also likely holds the ignominious honor of the worst yards per reception rate in the NCAA, as he was credited for one catch for -13 yards against Hawaii last week. We hope that's the worst in the NCAA, anyway, because woe is anyone worse than that. 

But for as odd as Enderle's selection is, Devlin's is downright mystifying; the Penn State transfer is currently helming the Delaware Blue Hens, who are No. 4 in the FCS, but that's about as far as Devlin's accomplishments go. He's accounted for six touchdowns on the entire year, and half of those came against D-II West Chester to begin the season. In other words, Devlin has thrown three touchdowns against FCS competition all season long. GET THAT MAN ON A SEMIFINALISTS LIST, STAT.

As with Ponder and Locker, it's extremely unlikely that these two guys make the final cut, and it's also unikely that any of the quarterback that got snubbed (FCS No. 3 Villanova's Chris Whitney, Texas Tech's Taylor Potts, and Fresno State's Ryan Colburn , to name a few) would have made the top five either. Still, any of those three would have been better choices than either Enderle or Devlin, and we're at a loss for trying to figure out why either of those two quarterbacks made the list of 10 semifinalists.

Posted on: November 5, 2010 4:25 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 10

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

Breakfast

Main Course - #19 Oklahoma State vs. #22 Baylor - 12:30pm - FSN

I don't believe it.  After weeks of barren morning slate after barren morning slate, we actually get a matchup of two ranked teams this Saturday morning.  Surely my complaints have finally been heard and answered by the college football gods.

Granted, a game between Baylor and Oklahoma State doesn't usually carry such cache, but this should turn out to be a very fun way to start your Saturday, and chock full of calories otherwise known as points.  Just do the math.

Both teams have high-powered offenses ranked in the top ten nationally, and both teams have defenses ranked in the lower third of the country.  Which means it's going to look like a tennis match watching Robert Griffin and Brandon Weeden lead their teams back-and-forth down the field.  If the prospect of possibly seeing 100 points scored doesn't do it for you, then I just don't know what I can do for you.

Side Orders:
There's quite a bit of mediocre Big Ten fare on Saturday morning as the conference's power teams beat up on the nerds and goth kids, but one Big Ten game that may deserve your attention is Michigan and Illinois.   The Illini are one of those teams that is a lot better than you think they are, as they're 5-3 and all three of those losses have been close contests against teams currently ranked in the top 15.  Though I suppose you might want to tune in to see Florida destroy Vanderbilt, or see how much money Chattanooga offers Cam Newton to stop running over them.

Lunch

Main Course -#6 Utah vs. #4 TCU - 3:30pm - CBS College Sports

For years, many a college football fan has clamored for a playoff to determine the national championship.  We're not exactly close to getting one, but if ever there was a game that may as well be considered a playoff game, this is it.  Oh, and it also features two teams who happen to be ranked in the top 5 in the BCS right now.

Those games don't come along very often in the regular season.

Whichever team wins this game basically assures itself a BCS bid, and strengthens its case to play for the title once the year is over.  Plus, considering that Utah is bound for the Pac-12 and TCU may be heading east, this may be the last time we get to see these "mid-majors" square off during the regular season.

So take the time on Saturday to figure out where CBS College Sports is on your cable system and enjoy this one.

Side Orders: Now you all have CBS, so if you're not into that whole Mountain West thing, you could always turn to the mothership and watch Alabama take on LSU.   The winner remains alive for the SEC title, and the loser is done.  Oh, and you can watch the game while chatting with yours truly over on our Facebook page.   Football and Tom Fornelli making smart-assed remarks to your honest questions?  What gets better than that?  Certainly not Oregon disemboweling a Jake Locker-less Washington team, or Penn State and Northwestern duking it out for fourth place in the Big Ten.

Dinner

Main Course - #10 Stanford vs. #13 Arizona - 8pm - ABC

Stanford's chances to win the Pac-10 are somewhat slim at this point considering its already a game behind Oregon, and that its sole conference loss is to Oregon, but hopes are not dead yet.  However, if they lose to Arizona on Saturday night they are.  The same can be said for the Wildcats, who trail Oregon by a game as well but still get to travel to Eugene at the end of the month. 

If Arizona loses this one, it's in the same boat as Stanford, and we may as well crown the Ducks champions on Sunday morning.

The good news for Arizona is that it won't need to rely on its backup quarterback as Nick Foles is expected to return, which means we get a matchup of two of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-10 as Foles squares off with Andrew "Jim Harbaugh's Other Wife" Luck.

Side Orders: There are some other nice choices on Saturday night if you prefer to try something else.  South Carolina looks to keep its lead in the SEC East against the cannon of Ryan Mallett and Arkansas.   Missouri will also look to keep its BCS hopes alive when it travels to Texas Tech, and I suppose you could tune in to see if Texas can lose yet again against Kansas State.

Late Night Snack

Not much to dine on late this week, though if you're desperate for more football at the end of the night, you can tune in to see if Lane Kiffin can distract Matt Barkley a few more times against Arizona State.   If nothing else, you might get some awesome Ace of Base action, and who doesn't want more Ace of Base in their beautiful life?
Posted on: November 4, 2010 11:17 pm
 

NCAA Lesson Plan, Week 10

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Here are the main story lines to keep your eyes on in Week 10. You will be graded on this. Eyes on your own paper.

Who's the class of the Mountain West? For all the consternation caused by TCU jumping Boise State in the BCS rankings this past weekend, the real drama happens this Saturday at 3:30 on CBS College Sports, when TCU faces fellow unbeaten conference member Utah in a pivotal game that may have national championship implications. After all, if Utah beats TCU but doesn't hop Boise State in the BCS rankings, the Utes would be right to question why that'd be the case. If TCU wins and wins out, though, Boise State's national title hopes are effectively over regardless of the Broncos' undefeated record for the second year in a row.

And past the implications, it should be a really interesting game to watch; these two teams are some of the best-coached, toughest squads in all of college football, "non-AQ" label be damned. TCU quarterback Andy Dalton is having another stellar season, and the Utes are tied for third in scoring offense this season. Oh, and both defenses are in the top six in both scoring defense and total defense ; TCU in particular hasn't even given up more than seven points in a game since September. Something's gotta give ... right?

Will the SEC races be over? The key SEC matchup this week -- almost by default, considering the glut of non-conference games there on Saturday -- is certainly No. 5 Alabama at No. 12 LSU , at 3:30 on CBS. Both teams are 7-1 and ready to make a push for, at the very least, an at-large BCS bid. But here's the thing: if LSU wins, the SEC West is basically over; Auburn would have to lose to both Alabama and Georgia the week prior for LSU to take the division title. Let's at least wait for Cam Newton to be declared ineligible first.

Meanwhile, No. 17 South Carolina could take a commanding lead in the SEC East... or all hell could break loose. Again. The Gamecocks travel to Fayetteville to put their 4-2 conference record on the line against No. 16 Arkansas . If the Gamecocks pull off the win and Florida drops their game against Vanderbilt (tell us it can't happen; go on, tell us.), SC takes the SEC West just like that. It could , technically, happen.

Will off-field distractions doom top teams? So undefeated No. 2 Boise State 's out of the national championship picture the way things look now, and it hosts a surprising 7-2 Hawaii . Drama?? No. 3 Auburn faces 5-3 Chattanooga , possibly without Cam Newton. And OK, technically, the Mocs are an FCS team, but still: intrigue??? Even No. 7 Wisconsin faces plucky Purdue , and Wisconsin has to deal with this blog that clearly makes fun of it and its fans. Chicanery???? Look for all three of these ranked teams to lose by at least 20 points this week as their worlds crash down around them.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com