By Bill Ellis

There were some outstanding games this week. Lots of close games. A lot of these were a whole lot closer than expected.

Before I get into the games, I have to get this off my chest. I don’t need games spread to every day of the week, and I didn’t need one game featuring Eastern Washington and Sam Houston State to be played a week before the rest of them. Why? For two reasons.

The first is because, it forced me to redo my power ranking model. Again, why? Because, now Eastern Washington has a win before any other team and played another game this past weekend. This required me to rework my model to show Eastern Washington as #1, 250 teams tied at #2, and Sam Houston State at #252. One of the reasons I had preseason rankings for the first time is so a win over Alabama State wouldn’t be worth as much as a win over Alabama, before historical adjustments, the opening week, but the decision to play one game earlier than all of the others makes this occur.

The second is because the winner of tonight’s game between Louisville and Miami will be in the top 10 for this week, and possibly in the top 5, and I don’t like delaying getting the weekly column out to you people.

My season-long projections were based on my original model, so you can disregard them.

Now, on to the games:
Alabama and West Virginia. Bama’s offense looked better than expected, and their defense looked really bad, for Alabama standards. To be fair, I thought they looked bad on both sides of the ball last year against VA TECH. Bama had more than twice the offense output this year, and almost double the amount of yards more than double the points scored by West Virginia than by VA TECH. What does any record while West Virginia was shockingly 4-8 with only two wins over Division 1 teams, and they were tied with William & Mary until their touchdown with 3:22 left in the 4th. If West Virginia is still a really bad team, Alabama may have some issues. One more thing to chew on—the last time I remember Saban having decisions to make about his QB was 2004 at LSU when he and Jimbo Fisher couldn’t make up their minds between Jamarcus Russell and Marcus Randall. Though the team won 9 games, it felt a lot worse than this, and the quarterback issues were the reason.

Florida State held on to beat Oklahoma State. Now, Oklahoma State was a GOOD team last year that mysteriously lost to West Virginia and seemingly choked the game against Oklahoma. Since they thumped Baylor, a win in either of these games would have put them in the national championship conversation and certainly in a BCS bowl. Anyway, despite what many Florida State fans say, I believe that losing 7 of their 9 tacklers and their defensive coordinator may have affected the team somewhat. Between this and two picks made this game a lot closer than many people thought. They’ll need to find a running game to help Winston, too.

Georgia and Clemson. Georgia may be that good. This may be the best defense Georgia has played against a decent team in recent memory. Todd Gurley is for real. On the flip side, I don’t think Clemson is that bad. Georgia has a big, physical offensive line that simply wore down Clemson’s defensive line, and I don’t think very many teams on Clemson’s schedule will be able to accomplish this. To my point, Georgia had a three point lead with 12:56 left in the game. They ran the ball their next eight plays resulting in 180 yards and three touchdowns. If Clemson can develop some depth on their defensive line, they may be able to give Florida State a run for their money.

Texas A&M and South Carolina. Looks like Johnny Manziel overshadowed Kevin Sumlin’s quarterback development and play calling which is what got him the job at A&M in the first place. A&M’s offense looks great, and their offense looks about as good as the last two years which could be a problem. South Carolina surprisingly played some pretty bad looking defense, but A&M may make every team they play look bad on defense.

Auburn has a magnificent offense, again. Their offense looked awful the entire first half, but looked fantastic the second half. On the other hand, they were playing Arkansas.

LSU and Wisconsin. LSU looked really bad on offense and pretty bad on defense for the first 60% of the game. The QBs just didn’t appear to be ready for prime time. The young studs on defense were over-running plays and falling for fakes. This isn’t all their fault because Wisconsin made some fantastic plays. Melvin Gordon may be the best running back in the nation, and he may have ended up with Gurley-like numbers if he hadn’t had a hip pointer in the second half. There was also a little luck involved with Wisconsin losing their second starter on the defensive line early in the second half, but LSU left four guys in Baton Rouge who are expected to contribute, too.

As the game appeared to be slipping away, Les Miles he’s noted for but really doesn’t do very often—because he doesn’t need it. He called for a fake punt to gain momentum and let the boys know he has confidence in them. LSU converted this and their second long pass of the game to set up a field goal. Then, the defense took over and dominated Wisconsin’s defense. Gordon may have been hurt because he didn’t play the next series, and the Badgers went 3 and out leading to LSU’s next FG. Gordon carried on 1st down for no gain after that, and it was another 3 and out that led to LSU’s TD and two point conversion. Two consecutive interceptions for Wisconsin and an LSU TD in between took care of this one.

Wisconsin may be the class of the Big 10, but they have their own QB issues and need to develop better depth on their defensive line to win the conference.

Louisville and Miami. Louisville may be really good. We know Strong continued getting pretty good talent there, and Petrino may be in the top 3, if not the best, at play calling during a game. We’ll need to see both teams against other competition before passing judgement, but they both need to take care of the ball.

A few others. Texas and Oklahoma played very weak and poorly coached North Texas and Louisiana Tech. They won these games convincingly which doesn’t reveal anything about them.

No team in the Big 10 other than Wisconsin played any team any good. Several of these games were closer than they should have been a lot later than they should have been. Rutgers win over Washington State may end up looking pretty good later.

UCLA and Washington had a lot more trouble than you’d expect with Virginia and Hawaii, but Virginia has managed to look pretty decent the first half of the season for the past two years.


WEEK 1                                                        POINTS       RECORD      LST RNK
1 TEXAS AM                                              50.2512       1 – 0                    2
2 GEORGIA                                                 45.0428      1 – 0                   2
3 FLORIDA ST                                           43.3608       1 – 0                  2
4 LSU                                                           41.16              1 – 0                   2
5 TEMPLE                                                  40.6848        1 – 0                  2
6 LOUISVILLE                                         39.9168        1 – 0                   2
7 MISSISSIPPI                                         38.9896       1 – 0                   2
8 PENN ST                                                  37.989         1 – 0                   2
9 USC                                                            37.5232      1 – 0                   2
10 TEXAS SAN ANTONIO                    35.2512       1 – 0                   2
11 TENNESSEE                                         34.43            1 – 0                    2
12 OHIO ST                                                34.1136       1 – 0                    2
13 NORTH DAKOTA STATE                33.12            1 – 0                    2
14 WESTERN KENTUCKY                    32.736        1 – 0                    2
15 CALIFORNIA                                     32.4192       1 – 0                    2
15 NOTRE DAME                                    32.4192       1 – 0                    2
17 RUTGERS                                             31.3488      1 – 0                     2
18 ALABAMA                                          30.9456      1 – 0                     2
19 AUBURN                                              30.2588      1 – 0                     2
20 BAYLOR                                              29.6516       1 – 0                     2
21 CENTRAL CONN ST                         29.64            1 – 0                     2
22 BYU                                                       29.3568       1 – 0                     2
23 OHIO                                                     29.1456       1 – 0                     2
24 TEXAS                                                  28.842          1 – 0                     2
24 UCLA                                                    28.842          1 – 0                     2

Now, I know I’ll get the usual comments about how the rankings suck because teams you’d never expect like Temple, Texas San Antonio, North Dakota State and Central Connecticut State are included. This is because your expectations need to be checked. This is also because these teams beat others that over the past four years have been much better than them.

It will also be pointed out that I suck because Alabama is ranked 18th and Florida State is ranked 3rd instead of each of them being 1st. Don’t worry about it. If your team continues to win, they’ll move on up. Check out the ranking page for the week’s entire ranking.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Strength of Schedule adjustments begin with Week 2, and these should have a significant influence on the weekly outcome from this point going forward.

As I explained in the Preseason Thoughts column, these projections are made by the system taking the higher ranked team in each game. This won’t be the case for a whole lot of teams this week because they either were beat by a decent opponent last week and play a much weaker team this week or they got beat and are playing a team that had a bye last week. Either way, there will appear to be some pretty big upsets this week, per my ranking. Plus, there are always unexpected upsets and blowouts. Here’s how the final 20 projects right now.

1 TEXAS AM                                                              576.0317                                 15 – 0
2 UCLA                                                                        518.7309                                  14 – 1
3 NOTRE DAME                                                       436.1703                                  12 – 1
4 NEBRASKA                                                            414.4147                                   13 – 1
5 OKLAHOMA                                                          413.5483                                   12 – 0
6 EASTERN MICH                                                   382.1509                                  13 – 0
7 LSU                                                                           377.7089                                 11 – 1
8 VIRGINIA TECH                                                  376.8218                                  12 – 1
9 PENN ST                                                                   363.1485                                  12 – 1
10 UTEP                                                                       356.3467                                 12 – 1
11 TCU                                                                          351.1708                                 11 – 1
12 USC                                                                          348.9925                                 10 – 2
13 IOWA                                                                      342.2715                                  11 – 1
14 TULSA                                                                    340.9235                                  11 – 1
15 MISSOURI                                                             334.3958                                 11 – 2
16 WYOMING                                                             334.2644                                 13 – 0
17 MARYLAND                                                         320.2081                                 10 – 2
18 MISSISSIPPI                                                         318.0654                                 10 – 2
19 WASHINGTON                                                     307.8462                                 12 – 2
20 OHIO ST                                                                 304.4492                                  11 – 2

One thing I’m noticing now is that Nebraska jumps Oklahoma for the fourth spot in the playoffs on the strength from playing in the conference championship game. This is as it should be. All conferences truly competing for a shot at the national championship, and the AAC, should have at least twelve members and play a championship game. As it stands right now, the Big 12 champion has a slight advantage in the health of its players by being able to spread its schedule over fifteen weeks rather than fourteen.

Keep your eye on Michigan State—Oregon, BYU—Texas, Tulsa—Oklahoma, Kansas—SE Missouri, Utah St—Idaho St, Notre Dame—Michigan, Central Michigan—Purdue, Missouri—Toledo and Iowa—Ball St.

Beginning next week, I’ll also start posting some “trued-up” team stats to let you know which teams really are good at what they’re doing.

Thanks. Now, let me know what you think.


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