Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Futures: Texas RB Malcolm Brown

DeMarco Murray is the toast of the NFL, but injury and team issues clouded some observers' view of his talent. Texas RB Malcolm Brown might have the same problem this winter. 

14 Oct 2010

Seventh Day Adventure: Course Corrections

by Bill Connelly, Brian Fremeau, and Robert Weintraub

As we enter Week 7 of the college football season, there are plenty of disagreements between FEI and S&P+ ratings. As more data pours in over the next few weeks and months, we should begin to observe course corrections for the outliers. And we'll have to come to terms with the fact that some teams are not quite what they seem. Is Illinois actually good? What about California? Does Missouri really have a good pass defense? And is Wisconsin's really that bad? West Virginia's offense isn't as terrible as the numbers say, right?

Some teams will be playing only their fourth FBS opponent of the year this weekend, and there isn't enough game data and connectivity yet to make too many assumptions. Plenty of funky questions remain, but some of the answers should roll in on an afternoon-heavy slate of interesting games.

(Ed. Note: There will be no podcast this week, so see the bottom of the article for Storylines of the Week and picks.)

Previews

South Florida +10.5 at No. 25 West Virginia (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When S. Florida
Has the Ball ...
When W. Virginia
Has the Ball ...
Category USF
(3-2)
WVU
(4-1)
USF
Off
WVU
Def
USF
Def
WVU
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 68 26
2010 FEI Rk 54 27
2010 S&P+ Rk 73 26 76 31 77 88
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 60 23 105 107
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 101 56 59 55
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 79 44 42 87
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
69.9% Run
(20th)
60.8% Run
(54th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 70 98 80 68
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
35.5% Run
(54th)
38.3% Run
(37th)

Heading into the season, it was hard to tell what Jim Leavitt had left behind at South Florida. Was this a team of raw athletes who might thrive under a new regime? Was the talent just average? It turns out the answer may be more the latter than the former. New head coach Skip Holtz's first season in Tampa has been a bit trying so far, and with last week's home loss to Syracuse, USF officially raised the "rebuilding" flag. Now the Bulls face back-to-back road trips, first to the Big East's most consistently decent team (West Virginia), then to the league's hottest team (Cincinnati). It could get ugly. West Virginia's only loss was a respectable one (a one-possession loss to LSU in Baton Rouge), and the Mountaineers could seize control over a disappointing conference with a big win this week. Injuries have slowed running back Noel Devine, but he should pick his game up against a sieve-like South Florida defense. The Mountaineers defense should be able to slow down the legs of South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels -- forcing him to pass all but ensures low offensive output from the Bulls.

Illinois +7 at No. 13 Michigan State (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, BTN)

OVERALL When Illinois
Has the Ball ...
When Mich. St.
Has the Ball ...
Category Illinois
(3-2)
MSU
(6-0)
Illinois
Off
MSU
Def
Illinois
Def
MSU
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 21 16
2010 FEI Rk 40 14
2010 S&P+ Rk 10 18 14 48 7 20
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 21 59 3 18
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 14 39 29 28
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 28 40 8 22
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
75.6% Run
(8th)
64.7% Run
(31st)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 44 107 33 16
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
45.3% Run
(13th)
37.0% Run
(43rd)

Michigan State has had a bad reputation for blowing fast starts and skidding down the stretch, but the Spartans appear to be building confidence this year. They followed up a thriller against Notre Dame with back-to-back double-digit victories over Wisconsin and Michigan, and there are plenty of winnable games in the weeks ahead. Their underrated offense ranks eighth nationally in explosive drives (25 percent of their possessions average at least 10 yards per play), and MSU is one of only seven teams that has scored at least 30 points in every game this year. Illinois has only lost twice (to two undefeated teams) and romped over Penn State on the road last week. Running back Mikel Leshoure (121 yards per game) and freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (5.8 yards per carry in Illini victories) will be key for Illinois.

No. 21 Missouri +3.5 at Texas A&M (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, FSN)

OVERALL When Mizzou
Has the Ball ...
When Tex. A&M
Has the Ball ...
Category Mizzou
(5-0)
A&M
(3-2)
Mizzou
Off
A&M
Def
Mizzou
Def
A&M
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 15 41
2010 FEI Rk 18 40
2010 S&P+ Rk 11 41 6 30 17 70
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 2 28 62 43
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 39 36 5 91
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 4 19 4 63
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
49.6% Run
(108th)
57.7% Run
(77th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 17 40 85 78
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
25.5% Run
(98th)
22.2% Run
(106th)

A surprisingly highly ranked Missouri team leaves the state for the first time this season. They head south to take on a Texas A&M team trying to avoid an all-out slump after two discouraging losses. If Missouri is truly underrated, the team will begin to show it this week. The Tigers' pass defense has been outstanding thus far, but between A&M's stable of big, fast receivers and quarterback Jerrod Johnson's ability to scramble on passing downs, this will be the Tigers' stiffest test. The Aggies' offense hasn't clicked as expected this season -- primarily because Johnson has struggled mightily with turnovers -- but their speed could be a major factor. Meanwhile, Missouri's offense has been quite efficient, but quarterback Blaine Gabbert must cope with both a high hip pointer and his struggles against a three-man line. A&M's new 3-4 system is producing increasingly good results. Expect the ball to fly from sideline to sideline in this one, as both teams employ heavy doses of horizontal passes.

Texas +9.5 at No. 5 Nebraska (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

OVERALL When Texas
Has the Ball ...
When Nebraska
Has the Ball ...
Category Texas
(3-2)
Nebraska
(5-0)
Texas
Off
Nebraska
Def
Texas
Def
Nebraska
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 42 5
2010 FEI Rk 44 9
2010 S&P+ Rk 46 5 84 10 27 49
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 57 71 60 42
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 85 1 19 70
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 60 21 32 25
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
58.0% Run
(73rd)
78.4% Run
(5th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 96 1 12 99
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
20.8% Run
(112th)
50.0% Run
(6th)

One of the most hyped games of the offseason approaches, but the lead-up has almost been underwhelming because of Texas' recent struggles. The Longhorns' back-to-back losses make them an almost double-digit underdog against a better-than-expected Nebraska team. Redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez and his disgustingly good zone read have sparked the Nebraska offense, though the S&P+ rankings above suggest that a lot of the Huskers' success has come from a weak slate of defenses. If the Huskers plow through the Longhorns' defense, they will earn even more believers. Turnovers will play a huge role in this one -- Nebraska has fumbled a staggering 18 times in five games, while Texas has a minus-five turnover margin so far. If the Longhorns turn the tables in this category, they might find themselves in a much better position. Of course, even with a turnovers win, they will still have to put the ball in the end zone.

No. 12 Arkansas +3.5 at No. 7 Auburn (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

OVERALL When Arkansas
Has the Ball ...
When Auburn
Has the Ball ...
Category Arkansas
(4-1)
Auburn
(6-0)
Arkansas
Off
Auburn
Def
Arkansas
Def
Auburn
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 22 7
2010 FEI Rk 22 6
2010 S&P+ Rk 23 9 41 34 16 3
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 102 9 55 15
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 23 41 10 4
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 11 16 53 21
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
47.8% Run
(111th)
77.7% Run
(6th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 38 49 20 6
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
27.4% Run
(89th)
41.7% Run
(20th)

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet was the preseason All-SEC quarterback selection, and he has played well, but the top quarterback in the conference is Auburn's Cam Newton. The "Battering Cam" has put up monster numbers. In the past three weeks, Auburn's offense has been unstoppable -- averaging better than 500 yards and 41 points in per game. Arkansas' defense is improved from a year ago, and the Hogs whipped Auburn at home by three touchdowns in '09, but this is a more explosive and more resilient Auburn. That doesn't mean Arkansas won't be able to make plays on offense. Auburn has yet to face a passing scheme with as many weapons as Arkansas, and the Tigers have been vulnerable on defense. Kentucky found gaping holes a plenty in last week's 37-34 loss to Auburn, and it's a sure bet Bobby Petrino will have found some ideas on attacking the Tigers aggressive but thin defense. The linebackers have been a concern on the Plains due to poor play and injury, so look for Arkansas to exploit the middle of the field with tight end D.J. Williams, a matchup nightmare for Gene Chizik's crew. This should be a high-scoring, edge-of-your-seat game, which is part of the reason why CBS moved the game into its 3:30 national TV window.

No. 15 Iowa -3.5 at Michigan (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

OVERALL When Iowa
Has the Ball ...
When Michigan
Has the Ball ...
Category Iowa
(4-1)
Michigan
(5-1)
Iowa
Off
Michigan
Def
Iowa
Def
Michigan
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 20 32
2010 FEI Rk 20 29
2010 S&P+ Rk 16 32 4 59 22 10
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 19 76 1 14
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 7 49 66 9
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 5 100 7 1
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
63.0% Run
(40th)
71.8% Run
(10th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 42 42 31 7
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
40.2% Run
(26th)
34.4% Run
(59th)

Denard Robinson's mere mortality against Michigan State last weekend in and of itself wasn't distressing for Wolverine fans. The Spartans held Robinson to his lowest completion percentage and rushing effort of the year, but he still logged more than 300 yards of total offense. Three interceptions, including two in the red zone were costly, but the bigger issue is how Robinson's less-than-spectacular days expose the Michigan's glaring defensive deficiencies. Iowa comes into Ann Arbor boasting by far the strongest defense Michigan has faced to date. And the Hawkeyes have a productive, if not explosive, offense to take advantage. The Hawkeyes are giving up only 0.5 points per possession, best in the nation. Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi ranks second nationally in yards per attempt and third in pass efficiency. But they'll probably prefer to just gash Michigan on the ground like Sparty did a week ago and keep the ball out of Robinson's hands.

No. 20 Oklahoma State +3.5 at Texas Tech (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Plus)

OVERALL When Okla. St.
Has the Ball ...
When Texas Tech
Has the Ball ...
Category OSU
(5-0)
Tex. Tech
(3-2)
OSU
Off
Tex. Tech
Def
OSU
Def
Tex. Tech
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 28 57
2010 FEI Rk 25 56
2010 S&P+ Rk 31 52 18 90 45 60
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 27 51 32 99
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 19 112 55 40
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 18 98 20 66
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
47.3% Run
(112th)
39.3% Run
(119th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 14 84 66 45
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
35.6% Run
(52nd)
22.3% Run
(105th)

Welcome to life in the Big 12, where being ranked does not assure an appearance on television. Oklahoma State is undefeated, explosive and exciting, and they are relegated to something called Fox Sports Plus for their trip to Lubbock. Ah, the glories of the Big 12's awful television contract. We saw last weekend that Texas Tech games still have incredible entertainment value -- their win over Baylor included more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns, 104 pass attempts, and 170 total plays. Is an encore in store? Quite possibly. Oklahoma State has yet to score less than 38 points in a game, and receiver Justin Blackmon has put in an all-world caliber season. He will likely see even more targets from quarterback Brandon Weeden, as the rest of OSU's receiving corps is pretty banged up. This is easily the toughest test so far for the Cowboys. They have never scored more than 24 points in a game in Lubbock, and they struggled for a solid 30 minutes at Louisiana-Lafayette last week before rolling. Jones-AT&T Stadium has always been one of the tougher places for visitors to play, and if the Cowboys are still undefeated after Saturday afternoon, they could be in for a huge season.

California +2.5 at USC (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FSN)

OVERALL When California
Has the Ball ...
When USC
Has the Ball ...
Category Cal
(3-2)
USC
(4-2)
Cal
Off
USC
Def
Cal
Def
USC
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 17 24
2010 FEI Rk 24 21
2010 S&P+ Rk 8 25 5 19 13 36
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 4 46 33 30
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 30 18 11 42
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 29 33 13 14
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
62.7% Run
(44th)
57.9% Run
(75th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 12 30 5 88
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
45.2% Run
(14th)
36.9% Run
(44th)

Who would have thought the weak link in the Kiffin coaching clan would be Monte? Head man Lane is coaching 'em up on offense, with the Trojans averaging more than 35 points per game. Quarterback Matt Barkley has been excellent, and he discovered a sensational new target last week against Stanford -- freshman wideout Robert Woods. He caught three touchdown passes and showed a superb blend of speed and polished route running. But the Southern Cal defense looks much slower and less athletic than previous units, and they have allowed game-winning drives for field goals in the final seconds in each of the past two weeks. Stanford's Stepfan Taylor ran wild last week, and it only gets more difficult with Cal quicksilver Shane Vereen, who has followed brilliantly in the wake of Marshawn Lynch and Jahvid Best, coming to town. Vereen is averaging nearly 6 yards per carry and has eight touchdowns. Cal's defense has recovered nicely since its swiss-cheese performance against Nevada. The Golden Bears shut down UCLA a week ago and have held each opponent not from a state that has legalized gambling to single digits in points. USC's offense against Cal's defense is a great matchup, but USC simply has to tackle better to give the Men of Troy a chance.

No. 10 South Carolina -5.5 at Kentucky (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

OVERALL When S. Carolina
Has the Ball ...
When Kentucky
Has the Ball ...
Category S. Caro.
(4-1)
Kentucky
(3-3)
S. Caro.
Off
Kentucky
Def
S. Caro.
Def
Kentucky
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 3 37
2010 FEI Rk 3 38
2010 S&P+ Rk 4 36 7 52 12 33
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 8 68 24 45
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 17 26 16 20
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 13 83 47 43
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
67.5% Run
(25th)
58.9% Run
(67th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 15 25 19 21
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
29.4% Run
(78th)
26.4% Run
(93rd)

Letdown, Schmetdown -- a Steve Spurrier team hasn't lost to Kentucky in 17 games. Nevertheless, all of South Carolina is on full alert, assuming the worst given the history of their state team's inability to deal with success. After the stirring win over No. 1 Alabama, a road trip to a basketball school seems like the perfect recipe for a thudding follow up. And the Wildcats can play -- they rebounded from a deep deficit behind the multifaceted brilliance of Randall Cobb (who ran for two scores, caught a third, and threw for a fourth against Auburn), almost pulling out a shocking rally. Meanwhile, South Carolina hasn't won a conference road game since the last time they ventured to Lexington in 2008. If this truly is a different set of roosters (and Steve Spurrier hasn't had playmakers the likes of Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery before), they won't trip up en route to a very attainable trip to the SEC title game in Atlanta. Forgive longtime Gamecocks fans if they wait to see it to believe it.

No. 1 Ohio State -4 at No. 18 Wisconsin (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Ohio State
Has the Ball ...
When Wisconsin
Has the Ball ...
Category Ohio St.
(6-0)
Wisc.
(5-1)
Ohio St.
Off
Wisc.
Def
Ohio St.
Def
Wisc.
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 1 33
2010 FEI Rk 11 32
2010 S&P+ Rk 1 27 12 62 3 25
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 24 27 7 10
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 10 93 3 37
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 8 76 17 7
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
58.2% Run
(72nd)
70.6% Run
(19th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 37 83 6 54
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
49.2% Run
(8th)
37.8% Run
(40th)

The first BCS standings of the year will be released on Sunday, and ESPN's sneak-peek projections from a week ago suggest we may be in for a wildly entertaining few months of debate. The Buckeyes roll into the weekend boasting nearly all first-place votes in the voted polls, but the BCS computers are far less impressed by their weak schedule. A win at Wisconsin won't make a big difference yet, and dominating or escaping Madison with a win won't matter to the machines. But the general public expects Ohio State to slip up sometime, and the Badgers are a good candidate. Balance is key for Wisconsin, getting production from both Scott Tolzien (69.7 completion percentage) and John Clay (6.0 yards/attempt, five 100-plus yard games out of six). Getting first downs on nearly every drive will be critical and a big challenge -- Ohio State is forcing 46 percent of opponent possessions into three-and-outs or worse, best in the country.

Storylines of the Week

Rob: After Nick Saban had a "teachable moment" dropped on his head in Columbia last week, all the talk out of Tuscaloosa concerned the fact that the SEC deserved to have a one-loss team in the BCS title game. Well, what happens if there aren't any? It's entirely possible, and dare I say, hopeful, that all the SEC West powers will pick each other off, and South Carolina, which already lost at Auburn, doesn't spit in history's eye and run the rest of its table. Then the SEC will have to watch and squirm while Nebraska plays Boise State in the title game. And that could be the best thing ever to happen to college football, because an angry SEC cut out of its birthright, the BCS title game, could be the spur needed for some semblance of a playoff system to at long last be enacted. So if you care at all for a playoff system, root for Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, and Alabama to engage in a circular shootout -- and get pissy about it come January.

Brian: I don't have much of a storyline here, but there are a few broad statistical observations of the year that might be of interest. There have been 290 FBS vs. FBS games this year compared with 288 through Week 6 a year ago and roughly an equal number of possessions. We have had only six overtime games in the first six weeks, compared to 11 to this point last year. We have had half as many successful onside kicks (eight vs. 16). We've had 11 percent fewer lost fumbles (456 vs. 509), and three percent fewer interceptions (560 vs. 574). Punts are up (2,870 vs. 2,827), field goal success is down (71.9% vs. 73.8%), and non-offensive touchdowns are just about equal (131 vs. 135). None of these differences are statistically significant, of course, just curiosities. Now that I've jinxed it, prepare yourselves for a seven-overtime, ten-turnover epic featuring multiple onside kicks and punt returns this weekend. Bank on it.

Bill: We have been casually comparing the 2010 season to 2007 quite a bit recently, and there certainly seem to be fewer truly dominant teams (and therefore higher probability of upsets) so far. But if we're truly seeing 2007 v. 2.0, the craziness is about to begin. In '07, No. 1 lost in Week 6 (USC to Stanford), No. 1 and No. 2 lost in Week 7 (LSU to Kentucky; California to Oregon State), No. 3 lost in Week 8 (South Florida to Rutgers), No. 2 lost in Week 10 (Boston College to Florida State), No. 1 lost in Week 11 (Ohio State to Illinois), No. 2 and 3 lost in Week 12 (Oregon to Arizona; Oklahoma to Texas Tech), No. 1 lost in Week 13 (LSU to Arkansas), and No. 1 and No. 2 lost in Week 14 (W. Virginia to Pittsburgh; Missouri to Oklahoma). The bar for upsets is set incredibly high here, and if we're truly experiencing another season like that, then Ohio State's trip to Madison will be less than memorable. (Very smart of No. 2 Oregon to sit this week out and avoid the Week 7 landmine, eh?)

Picks

The damnedest thing happened last week: Overall F/+ picks had their best week since Week 1, going 29-24-2. That means the F/+ picks were 29-15-1 in games not listed in SDA ... and 0-9-1 in SDA games. Unreal. Rob's dominant (ahem) 3-6-1 record put him back ahead in the weekly contest.

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home Rob F/+
S. Florida +10.5 W. Virginia W. Virginia W. Virginia
Illinois +7 Michigan St. Michigan St. Illinois
Missouri +3.5 Texas A&M Texas A&M Missouri
Texas +9.5 Nebraska Nebraska* Nebraska*
Arkansas +3.5 Auburn Arkansas Auburn
Iowa -3.5 Michigan Iowa Michigan
Oklahoma St. +3.5 Texas Tech Oklahoma St. Oklahoma St.
California +2.5 USC California California
S. Carolina -5.5 Kentucky Kentucky S. Carolina
Ohio State -4 Wisconsin Ohio St. Ohio St.
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
Week Six Season Total
Rob: 3-6-1 (0-1) 26-31-3 (4-2)
F/+: 0-9-1 (0-1) 24-33-3 (1-5)

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 14 Oct 2010

14 comments, Last at 16 Oct 2010, 7:22pm by cfn_ms

Comments

1
by cfn_ms :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 3:30pm

for F/+ picks to do better in the non-highlight games? I ask because it's at least conceivable that the Vegas lines are tighter in the "big games", making it much harder to find value.

2
by Bill Connelly :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 3:55pm

I don't always pay attention, but I think it's pretty random. Had a pretty terrible overall week two weeks ago, but went 6-4 in the picks. I'm sure it evens out over time, but holy moly was last week improbable...

6
by cfn_ms :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 4:43pm

Yeah, it's been kind of a wacky year in a lot of ways. I've lost count of the "bad beats" I've gotten; starting to think some of my picks are cursed (although I've also had an unusual number of ugly whiffs too, unfortunately).

3
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 3:58pm

2-7-1 (1-0) last week, 30-27-3 (2-4) on the year. 2-0 counter-consensus last week, up to 9-5 on those, and all Rob-F/+ consensus picks are 13-20-1 after last week.

This week, I'll take USF, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Michigan, Oklahoma State, USC, Kentucky, and Ohio State. The counter-consensus picks are, ugh, USF and USC, so I'll go with the Trojans at home. Standard disclaimer: as has been the case every other week this year, there is absolutely no money on any of these picks.

4
by Thok :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 4:32pm

Is there any result of the Cal-USC game that would actually improve our understanding of Cal?

5
by cfn_ms :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 4:41pm

A 20+ point margin either way, especially if it's USC by 20+. It's at least arguable that the Nevada loss wasn't really meaningful (Fri. night, gimmick offense they totally weren't prepared for, Riley with one of 2-3 hideous performances per year). If USC blows them out then nevermind on that argument.

On the other hand, if Cal blows USC out, then you have three blowout wins against not horrible teams, a VERY close loss at a good Arizona team, and the head-scratcher against Nevada. It becomes a much stronger argument that this is actually a very good team with one horrible result, especially since they'd finally have a really good road performance (the 2 blowouts were at home).

That said, I think it'll be a close game, and a 20+ point margin in either direction would surprise me a lot.

7
by beargoggles :: Thu, 10/14/2010 - 7:16pm

I like Cal's defense a lot, aggressive, reasonably deep with some Grade A talent. Not sure how to explain the Nevada game other than best LB out and poor gameplanning. Problem in this game for the Bears is that USC's defensive weakness (the secondary) is a poor match for their erratic passing game, and I don't think Cal's D is so good that they they're gonna hold Barkley under 21 points in their crib. Riley's gonna have to play reasonably well, and he absolutely stank vs. UCLA, the blowout win notwithstanding.

12
by cfn_ms :: Sat, 10/16/2010 - 5:03pm

I think that 35-0 in the first half probably improved out understanding of this team. Wow, just a totally horrible showing in pretty much every way.

13
by Bill Connelly :: Sat, 10/16/2010 - 5:57pm

Yeah, this is incredible.

14
by cfn_ms :: Sat, 10/16/2010 - 7:22pm

with virginia getting rolled by unc, more or more i think UVA nearly winning @ USC was just one of those meaningless "wtf" type results.

8
by TV_Pete (not verified) :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 12:19pm

I'm curious if FEI or SDA consider bye weeks in their estimations. A team with a bye should be better rested and better prepared. This is especially true if the opponent uses an unusual offense, such as Georgia Tech (perhaps explaining why they do so much more poorly in bowls). For instance a team with a bye week (or time off before the bowl) may get +1 point, but +3 point if facing an "unusual" offense.

I'm also curious if the consideration of night games played by West Coast vs. East Coast is considered (think Iowa in college or San Francisco winning in NFL). I remember seeing results from a study a number of years back that showed NFL West Coast teams that played at night had what appeared to be a statistical advantage when playing against East Coast teams.

Think about it. A West Coast team playing a night game is late afternoon/early evening. The East Coast team playing the night game may be playing the second half after they are normally asleep. Performance should be expected to deteriorate, giving the West Coast team an advantage (either double or negate Home Field advantage).

Is Home Field advantage considered by SDA or FEI like it is for Sagarin?

10
by Brian Fremeau :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 1:18pm

I discussed the method by which I calculate FEI projections (including home field advantage) a few weeks ago: http://footballoutsiders.com/fei-ratings/2010/fei-boise-state-dilemma

I do not modify the value of home field advantage for any particular team, nor do I assign any value or adjustment to bye weeks or time of day. There is more research to do on this subject, of course, but as of now I do not have the data to approach the problem. That said, home field advantage is not equivalent for all teams in all games. It is a function of the relative ratings of the two teams involved, peaking for teams of relatively equal strength.

11
by cfn_ms :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 4:18pm
9
by zlionsfan :: Fri, 10/15/2010 - 12:25pm

It's Friday, which means I forgot my picks yet again. Last week was terrible: 1-7-1 (0-1), 28-26-3 (3-2) overall.

Illinois, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Arkansas, Michigan, Texas Tech, California, South Carolina*, Ohio State.