Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

JonesJon15.jpg

» SDA: Early Playoff Elimination Round

TCU-West Virginia and Auburn-Ole Miss might as well be early playoff elimination rounds, with the losers likely knocked out of playoff contention.

19 Nov 2010

Varsity Numbers Gets Hot in November

by Bill Connelly

By November, who you are as a team can be quite different who you've been all season. Your S&P+ (or FEI, or F/+, or anything else) rating could be either propped up or weighed down by how you were playing two months ago. (Or, you could be Virginia Tech, statistically impervious to any ailments, including losses to James Madison.) On the pro side, you find a Weighted DVOA measure that is intended to signify how a team is playing now as compared to how it has played over the course of the entire season. There is no reason why we cannot do something similar in college.

The Weighted S&P+ numbers below are based on single-game S&P+ scores. The single-game scores are not something that gets used often, but maybe they should. They are quite telling.

Before we get to Weighted S&P+, however, let's take a quick look at the 10 best performances of the season according to single-game S&P+. As you would expect, they are heavily schedule-adjusted, so blowout wins over terrible teams do not make the list unless they were incredible blowouts.

(Remember: 200.0 is a dead average performance.)

Top Ten Performances of 2010 According to Single-Game S&P+
Game
Rk
Team Opponent Date S&P+ Actual Score
1 TCU Utah November 6 451.9 TCU 47, Utah 7
2 Ohio State Ohio September 18 430.5 Ohio State 43, Ohio 7
3 Oregon State California October 30 421.1 Oregon State 45, California 7
4 Georgia Kentucky October 23 403.7 Georgia 44, Kentucky 31
5 USC California October 16 399.3 USC 48, California 14
6 Boise State Idaho November 12 398.5 Boise State 52, Idaho 14
7 Temple Buffalo October 23 396.3 Temple 42, Buffalo 0
8 Ohio State Indiana October 9 391.8 Ohio State 38, Indiana 10
9 Boise State Hawaii November 6 390.8 Boise State 42, Hawaii 7
10 South Carolina Florida November 13 389.6 South Carolina 36, Florida 14

You see California on that list twice as a victim. That's what we in the business call foreshadowing. Now, on to Weighted S&P+.

Weighted vs. Actual S&P+
Team Record Weighted
S&P+
Rk Actual
S&P+
Rk
Boise State 9-0 335.1 1 285.5 1
TCU 11-0 285.1 2 271.8 2
Ohio State 9-1 284.6 3 270.5 3
Stanford 9-1 259.7 4 246.8 10
Iowa 7-3 258.9 5 248.5 7
Georgia 5-6 256.9 6 229.6 29
Nebraska 9-1 256.2 7 237.2 17
Alabama 8-2 254.5 8 266.3 4
Oregon 10-0 249.9 9 232.2 24
Auburn 11-0 245.5 10 259.0 5
Team Record Weighted
S&P+
Rk Actual
S&P+
Rk
Oklahoma 8-2 243.4 11 239.0 15
South Carolina 7-3 241.7 12 245.8 11
Wisconsin 9-1 241.3 13 239.0 16
Oklahoma State 9-1 241.1 14 247.9 8
Arkansas 8-2 239.0 15 247.8 9
Missouri 8-2 237.1 16 245.7 12
Florida State 7-3 236.9 17 234.4 20
West Virginia 6-3 234.5 18 220.1 36
Nevada 9-1 233.3 19 220.6 35
Miami 7-3 231.8 20 249.6 6
Team Record Weighted
S&P+
Rk Actual
S&P+
Rk
Arizona 7-3 228.4 21 226.6 31
Virginia Tech 8-2 228.3 22 241.6 13
California 5-5 228.3 23 213.2 48
USC 7-3 227.0 24 230.2 28
Southern MIss 7-3 226.1 25 196.2 73

The top three teams in terms of recent play are also the top three for the season as a whole. And when you look at the list of top games above, you can begin to see why they are where they are. Meanwhile, there is quite a bit of variation between teams on the Weighted list and those which have played well throughout the season. Southern Miss is a surprise entry, but great performances against Central Florida last week and, strangely enough, Marshall in early October bumped them onto the list. Iowa is a bit of a surprise too, being that they have lost twice in the last four games. But they were incredible against Michigan State, and they were still very good against Wisconsin. The Indiana and Northwestern performances knocked them down a bit, of course.

Here are the "hottest" BCS conference teams, those with the largest differences between their Weighted S&P+ rank and their actual rank:

California (Weighted Rk: 23rd, Actual Rk: 48th). The S&P+ ratings clearly have no idea what to do with the Golden Bears, which looked outstanding against Oregon, very good against UCLA and USC, and downright terrible against USC (single-game S&P+: 111.3) and Oregon State (86.7).

Georgia (Weighted Rk: sixth, Actual Rk: 29th). The Bulldogs still have to beat Georgia Tech if they want to become bowl eligible, but they have looked good to very good in five of their last six games. They dug themselves such a hole in September and early October (needless to say, the lifeless loss to Colorado does not look too good right now), but they are a handful at the moment.

Syracuse (Weighted Rk: 48th, Actual Rk: 67th). Iffy performances against Louisville and Rutgers have slowed their momentum considerably (though it bears noting that they still beat Rutgers), but Doug Marrone's Orange have improved considerably since an awful game against Washington in September.

West Virginia (Weighted Rk: 18th, Actual Rk: 36th). The Mountaineers began the season with two subpar (i.e. sub-200.0) performances against Coastal Carolina and Marshall, but they were sound in October and great last week against Cincinnati.

Now, here are the "coldest" BCS conference teams, those whose Weighted S&P+ is but a shadow of their overall ranking.

Washington (Weighted Rk: 91st, Actual Rk: 47th) and UCLA (Weighted Rk: 78th, Actual Rk: 44th). Those who watched last night's Huskies-Bruins game on ESPN should not be surprised to see both teams on this list. Just a terrible, terrible game.

Mississippi State (Weighted Rk: 64th, Actual Rk: 32nd). The Bulldogs started strong but have managed a single-game S&P+ of more than 190.0 just twice in the last six games. Luckily, thanks to a pillow-soft portion of the schedule (Alcorn State, Houston, and UAB all fell victim to MSU in this stretch), the wins kept coming.

Texas Tech (Weighted Rk: 79th, Actual Rk: 52nd). The Red Raiders' surprising upset of Missouri was the only time since early October (five games) that they had a single-game S&P+ of over 200.0.

Vanderbilt (Weighted Rk: 100th, Actual Rk: 76th). Here are the Commodores' last five games according to single-game S&P+: 147.4 (vs. Georgia), 171.5 (vs. S. Carolina), 199.1 (vs. Arkansas), 109.8 (vs. Florida) and 146.9 (Kentucky). They host Tennessee and Wake Forest to finish the season -- Tennessee's hot, but with Wake in the finale, Robbie Caldwell might still get to three wins in his first campaign as Vandy head coach.

All Over The Place

In the weekly DVOA rankings, you also find each NFL team's game-to-game variance. My variability measure of choice is standard deviation, so let's take examine the FBS teams which have had the highest and lowest week-to-week standard deviation. (The national average standard deviation: 61.0.)

Highest Standard Deviation Among FBS Teams

1. California (106.4)
2. Oregon State (103.7)
3. Iowa (94.2)
4. Ohio State (93.7)
5. Boise State (92.9)
6. Southern Miss (92.0)
7. Temple (87.2)
8. USC (86.2)
9. Georgia (85.7)
10. Florida International (85.7)

Other S&P+ Top 25 teams with high standard deviation: TCU (78.1), Nebraska (77.7), Oregon (72.3).

It should come as no surprise that California tops this list. Be it home-road splits or just general schizophrenia, the Golden Bears have been all over the place this season, from getting drubbed by Oregon State and almost losing to Washington State, to nearly knocking off Oregon. Thanks to their recent performances, it should not be surprising to see Iowa on this list either

Top 10 Lowest Standard Deviation

1. Minnesota (17.9)
2. Michigan (18.4)
3. Louisiana Tech (19.6)
4. Tulane (20.2)
5. SMU (21.2)
6. Northwestern (22.8)
7. Washington State (24.2)
8. Rice (24.6)
9. North Carolina (24.8)
10. Akron (24.9)

S&P+ Top 25 teams with low standard deviation: Oklahoma State (34.4), Pittsburgh (38.6), Illinois (39.9), Miami (44.3).

As we see from this list, consistency is not necessarily a good thing. Of the 10 teams with the lowest standard deviation, only three (Michigan, Northwestern and North Carolina) have winning records. Most of the consistent teams have been consistently terrible.

(And just imagine what Minnesota's standard deviation was before their surprisingly strong win over Illinois last week.)

F/+ Rankings

Full rankings here.

F/+ Top 25 (After 11 Weeks)
RK TEAM RECORD F/+ LAST
WK
CHG S&P+ RK FEI RK OFF.
F/+
RK DEF.
F/+
RK
1 Boise State 9-0 +31.0% 1 +0 285.5 1 0.231 7 +14.6% 4 +16.4% 2
2 Auburn 11-0 +28.1% 3 +1 259.0 5 0.301 1 +25.7% 1 +2.3% 46
3 Alabama 8-2 +27.7% 5 +2 266.3 4 0.258 3 +18.6% 2 +9.1% 20
4 TCU 11-0 +26.7% 2 -2 271.8 2 0.211 10 +9.8% 21 +16.9% 1
5 Ohio State 9-1 +26.0% 4 -1 270.5 3 0.204 13 +12.8% 10 +13.2% 6
6 Stanford 9-1 +22.8% 6 +0 246.8 10 0.254 4 +14.4% 6 +8.3% 25
7 Arkansas 8-2 +21.3% 9 +2 247.8 9 0.220 8 +14.4% 7 +6.9% 29
8 Miami-FL 7-3 +21.1% 11 +3 249.6 6 0.207 12 +5.7% 33 +15.4% 3
9 Virginia Tech 8-2 +20.7% 13 +4 241.6 13 0.239 6 +12.0% 14 +8.8% 21
10 Iowa 7-3 +20.3% 7 -3 248.5 7 0.197 14 +7.3% 28 +13.0% 7
F/+ Top 25 (After 11 Weeks)
RK TEAM RECORD F/+ LAST
WK
CHG S&P+ RK FEI RK OFF.
F/+
RK DEF.
F/+
RK
11 Oregon 10-0 +19.8% 10 -1 232.2 24 0.266 2 +9.6% 22 +10.2% 14
12 Missouri 8-2 +19.6% 14 +2 245.7 12 0.196 15 +10.4% 19 +9.2% 19
13 Oklahoma State 9-1 +19.5% 15 +2 247.9 8 0.183 17 +13.2% 9 +6.3% 30
14 South Carolina 7-3 +19.2% 18 +4 245.8 11 0.187 16 +10.6% 18 +8.6% 23
15 Wisconsin 9-1 +18.6% 16 +1 239.0 16 0.209 11 +14.5% 5 +4.1% 38
16 Nebraska 9-1 +18.4% 8 -8 237.2 17 0.214 9 +8.6% 24 +9.8% 17
17 LSU 9-1 +18.3% 12 -5 230.2 27 0.246 5 +5.0% 37 +13.3% 4
18 Oklahoma 8-2 +17.2% 17 -1 239.0 15 0.180 18 +9.3% 23 +7.9% 26
19 Michigan State 9-1 +15.6% 21 +2 236.3 18 0.162 22 +6.9% 29 +8.7% 22
20 Pittsburgh 5-4 +15.4% 20 +0 235.2 19 0.163 21 +11.0% 17 +4.4% 37
F/+ Top 25 (After 11 Weeks)
RK TEAM RECORD F/+ LAST
WK
CHG S&P+ RK FEI RK OFF.
F/+
RK DEF.
F/+
RK
21 USC 7-3 +14.6% 25 +4 230.2 28 0.172 19 +14.4% 8 +0.3% 55
22 Florida State 7-3 +13.9% 26 +4 234.4 20 0.136 24 +11.6% 15 +2.3% 47
23 Oregon State 4-5 +12.8% 19 -4 239.2 14 0.092 35 +12.2% 12 +0.6% 54
24 NC State 7-3 +12.3% 22 -2 220.7 34 0.172 19 +2.1% 44 +10.2% 15
25 Clemson 5-5 +12.0% 27 +2 222.2 33 0.159 23 +0.7% 52 +11.3% 11
26 Texas A&M 7-3 +11.9% 31 +5 230.9 26 0.115 28 +0.5% 54 +11.4% 10

"What The ...?" Team of the Week

Miami. The Hurricanes continue to be a darling in the eyes of both S&P+ and F/+. They have the No. 2 defense in the country according to FEI, and only once this season have they had a single-game S&P+ less than 190.0 (against Virginia three weeks ago). Meanwhile, they have had more than 245.0 six times (against Florida A&M, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Maryland and Georgia Tech). Turnovers and key mistakes have left Miami with just a 7-3 record, but only the Virginia loss was a truly terrible one. They are a victim of timing and a tough schedule as much as anything else.

AP + F/+ = BCS?

Here's your weekly look at how the BCS standings would take shape with a mixture of 60 percent AP poll, 40 percent F/+ rankings.

1. Auburn (11-0)
2. Boise State (9-0)
3. TCU (11-0)
4. Oregon (10-0)
5. Stanford (9-1)
6. Ohio State (9-1)
7. Alabama (8-2)
8. Wisconsin (9-1)
9. LSU (9-1)
10. Arkansas (8-2)
11. Nebraska (9-1)
12. Virginia Tech (8-2)
13. Oklahoma State (9-1)
14. Missouri (8-2)
15. Michigan State (9-1)

Upset Watch

Miami over Virginia Tech. Spread: Miami +2.5 | F/+ Projection: Miami by 3.9. Knowing what we know about S&P+ and FEI, no matter who wins I'm sure both teams will rise five spots in the rankings, just because.

Oregon State over USC. Spread: Oregon State +3.5 | F/+ Projection: Oregon State by 1.6. Even since the loss of receiver James Rodgers to season-ending injury, Oregon State has been high variability. At home against USC, the Beavers will still have a solid chance despite last week's embarrassing loss to Washington State. Or, as is the downside to high-variability, they could lose by 35.

Iowa over Ohio State. Spread: Ohio State -3 | F/+ Projection: Ohio State by 2.5. Iowa has been terrible on passing downs this season; if Ricky Stanzi can make just a small handful of plays in those situations, the Hawkeyes should be able to stay close and/or knock off the Buckeyes.

Vanderbilt over Tennessee. Spread: Tennessee -8.5 | F/+ Projection: Tennessee by 3.5. The Volunteers have played better in the last couple of weeks, but obviously these season-long numbers are still rather unimpressed.

The Playlist

In honor of the scenic brilliance of football at Wrigley Field (even if somebody might die running through the east end zone) ...

"Chicago," by Sufjan Stevens
"Chicago," by Rufus Wainwright
"Chicago," by Tony Bennett
"Chicago," by The Uglysuit
"Chicago Falcon," by The Budos Band
"Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night," by The Hold Steady
"Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago," by Soul Coughing
"Via Chicago," by Wilco

And to make sure the Notre Dame-Army game at Yankee Stadium doesn't feel left out ...

"Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)," by The Decemberists
"Yankee Go Home," by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

(Also: Wilco's entire Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album.)

Closing Thoughts

It has been an odd season for FO's college rankings, particularly mine. I find myself simultaneously fascinated with how the rest of the year will play out -- How will Auburn's declaration of Cameron Newton's eligibility impact the national title race? Will Boise State and/or TCU get a title shot? How much fun would Auburn-Oregon be? -- and ready for the season to end so I can begin to test formula tweaks. Such is life as both a nerd and college football addict.

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 19 Nov 2010

17 comments, Last at 23 Nov 2010, 9:06am by Kevin from Philly

Comments

1
by Alabama ManDance (not verified) :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 4:53pm

Budos Band, nice

2
by mm (not verified) :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 4:56pm

Given all the turmoil in North Carolina, they have to be the most surprising team to make the 'most consistent' list.

Ohio State getting 2 top performances against low ranked teams seems to indicate they might be overrated in the full rankings.

It will be interesting how the ACC teams shift after next weekend. With 4 SEC East vs. ACC games, the 2 conferences can shift up or down depending on the outcome.

You ran 26 teams in your table labeled 'top 25'.

I know it's unlikely to happen, but I'm hoping for a LSU-Boise Sugar Bowl.

3
by Bill Connelly :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 5:02pm

Ha! Copied the wrong number of lines from the big table. So...should I delete A&M or just change it to Top 26? :-)

And the idea behind Ohio State's performances is that, taking opponent adjustment into account, they'd have performed at that level no matter who they played. Better teams probably would have stayed closer than 43-7, but the level of play was adjusted to take opponent into account, and yet it still graded out that high.

4
by Kal :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 5:08pm

I would have honestly expected Oregon's ranking to go even further down with weighted S&P+; while they did have meh games against WSU and ASU early, they also had the big Stanford win and three consecutive ridiculous performances against bad teams. Whereas recently, they looked okay against Washington and Cal and only had the USC game that was a real good win.

I'm guessing it's the weight of their opponents that improved, but it still seems a bit counterintuitive.

7
by Bill Connelly :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 5:36pm

The Arizona State (single-game S&P+: 198.4), Washington State (185.0) and Cal (195.1) games have really dragged them down overall, so the further they get from two of three, the better they look. They were decent against Washington (222.2) and great against USC (266.7) and UCLA (272.0), so those games getting heavier weight helps a lot.

8
by Bill Connelly :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 5:41pm

Actually, to follow up on this point, Oregon's three sub-200 games are the biggest drag on their overall ratings. Boise State's lowest game was 235.9, Ohio State's was 224.6 and Auburn's was 205.5. TCU's was 180.1 (against UNLV), but their next lowest was 217 against Oregon State.

9
by Rocco :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 6:31pm

I get why you say it, but it's strange to read that a team was merely "decent" in a game they won 53-16.

5
by Jeff Fogle :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 5:19pm

Total Yardage: Georgia 290, Kentucky 423
Yards-Per-Play: Georgia 5.7, Kentucky 5.7
Third Downs: Georgia 50%, Kentucky 60%

And, THIS graded out for Georgia as the fourth best game ANYONE played ALL SEASON in college football S+P?

I would respectfully have to question that in the most extreme terms possible.

Plus, #6 rated nationally in "weighted" when the last three "real" games (excluding Idaho State) include the above, plus:

*a neutral field overtime loss to a Florida team that doesn't look to be in the top 25 in weighted S+P or F+

*a 463-354 yardage loss and a 71% to 44% third down loss at Auburn (#10 weighted and #2 F+).

I'd wholeheartedly agree with "much better than their record" and clearly deserving of a bowl bid based on their quality. Number 6 nationally in weighted? Tough to swallow...

6
by Bill Connelly :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 5:31pm

While the game was "close," Kentucky ran 33 plays for a 24.2% success rate and a grand total of -0.5 EqPts. In "close" status, Georgia out-"scored" Kentucky 20.4 to -0.5. Their offense graded out as above-average, and their defense graded out near-perfect. That's how that game made the list.

10
by Jeff Fogle :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 7:36pm

Thanks BC...think there's stuff we'll just always disagree about in terms of grading games...was wondering about the calendar distributions of the 10 best games. Noted it's more heavily weighted toward recent action. Do you think this means anything? If you went to best 20, or best 30, or best 50 games (only if this is easy to do at a glance within your database), would the calendar distribution hold true?

Week of
Sept 4:0
Sept 11: 0
Sept 18: 1 entry
Septe 25: 0
Oct 2 0
Oct 9: 1 entry
Oct 16 1 entry
Oct 23: 2 entries
Oct 30: 1 entry
Nov 6: 2 entries
Nove 13: 2 entries

So, only one of the ten best perfromances came in the first five weeks of season, but eight have come in the most recent five weeks of the season. Could that point to something about how teams may prioritize (or losing teams not prioritize) certain games on their schedule depending on where they fall? Or, maybe everybody prioritizes in September...but you see things diverge later on (some teams finding an extra gear thanks to time spent together, others kind of going in the tank for one reason or another on a given Saturday).

Noticed the clustering and figured I'd ask about it. Small sample size. Might be worth studying and thinking about if the top 20, 30, or 50 are showing similar tendencies though. Might lead to adjustments in the area of reducing the impact those games have (don't reward teams who faced a tanker...don't overpenalize teams who ran into a perfect storm for 60 minutes one day, something along those lines).

11
by Jeff Fogle :: Sat, 11/20/2010 - 1:07pm

Did more thinking on the Georgia/Kentucky thing...

Let's say there are two teams who are destined to move the ball on each other. One is better than the other, and is therefore likely to win the game. But, its not a shutout-type edge. They're going to move the ball on each other in sort of a see-saw fashion, but the favorite will get the best of it over 60 minutes.

With a normal distribution of turnovers and/or special teams points, your methodology will give a proper read on that game. But, if an abnormal distribution of cheap points comes early in the game...that can wreak havoc because it messes up the role that determining "close" stats have in the process.

In the first quarter, Georgia had a 23 or 26 yard drive depending on how you read ESPN's drive chart on a short field...then also a kick return TD.

In the second quarter, Georgia had a 38 or 39 yard drive depending on how you read the drive chart...then a 5-yard TD drive. It's 28-3...and it's no longer a close game because TO's and a special teams TD were frontloaded in the extreme.

If the threshold for "close" is in the 19-22 point range...

Kentucky doesn't get much credit for the TD that cuts it back to 18
Georgia DOES get credit for the TD that moves it up to 24 (missed PAT)
Kentucky doesn't get much credit for the TD that cuts it back to 17
Georgia DOES get credit for the TD that moves it back to 24
Kentucky doesn't get much credit for the TD that moves it down to 16 (2-pt conv)
Georgia DOES get credit for the field goal that moves it up to 19
Kentucky doesn't get much credit for the final TD that makes it 44-31

Did something like this happen? That's the only way I can see Georgia getting credit for the fifth best game of the entire season played by all schools in all conferences. What would their game score have been if the cheap points were backloaded? If the teams traded TDs for a half (which is fairly common with a 6-point favorite in a game that has a Vegas Over/Under of 58)...but then Kentucky imploded late with TO's and Georgia also busted a kickoff return? What about a more even distribution?

Figured I'd ask after reading through the drive charts again. Obviously total yardage is warped the wrong way in Kentucky's favor because of the short fields. Not suggesting they were the better team or anything. And, a YPP dead heat doesn't always mean a game should have been a tie. But...fifth best of the year seems even more indefensible now that I've thought about it a day. As does Georgia ranking as 6th best in the country if you weight toward recent form. And, as did Georgia having any meaningful momentum heading into the Florida game (unless they had figured out how to force cheap points on command).

This might also influence the Oregon discussion. If Oregon is getting to a "non-close" threshold in short burst fashion because of a fast break style...it could lead to a de-emphasis of some data that shouldn't be de-emphasized in their case.

Anyway, thought I'd bring up the issue if anyone wanted to talk it through...

12
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 9:21am

Michigan State will get rolled next week at Penn State. I have seen this pattern before with other teams and it's never a good sign. The constant comebacks and lucky breaks eventually go wrong and MSU has not rebounded at all from the Iowa game. They have just played bad teams.

I am also completely disgusted at the morons still touting players like Greg Jones and Clayborne for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. It's Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue and it's not close. The guy singlehandedly blows up an offense. Anyone suggesting any other name is literally just a homer or stupid. There are no other explanations.

OSU did everything in its power to hand Iowa the game. The Hawkeyes refused to accept the generosity. Ferentz and Co. have had a horrible year in the tactical decision-making area. No other explanation for the chronic end of game issues.

I was stunned to see a Northwestern team outdone in effort. Illinois just hunkered down and blew the Wildcats off the ball. Wow.

13
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 5:53pm


I am also completely disgusted at the morons still touting players like Greg Jones and Clayborne for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. It's Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue and it's not close. The guy singlehandedly blows up an offense. Anyone suggesting any other name is literally just a homer or stupid. There are no other explanations.

Agreed. The only other name that I would put in the conversation would be J.J. Watt and then you can clearly point out how Kerrigan is better. Kerrigan is clearly the best defensive player in the Big Ten and I think it's pretty clear that Watt is #2. Though I've seen Watt play more than the rest too.

15
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 8:50am

Watt has had a fine season. Has really improved his use of the hands to help him disengage from linemen. The tipped passes seems obvious given he's 6'6" but a lot of big guys don't pay attention enough to make that happen. And Watt is also very disciplined. I remember him losing contain several times last year. Not so in 2010.

The Badgers have really tightened things up since the MSU loss. The defense on the field that day was clueless on play action and overcommitted on any misdirection. They were a bit better against Minny and then the light went on versus OSU. It's not a great defense but the guys mind their assignments, tackle well and are physical as h*ll.

That last point is not to be downplayed. Wisconsin, like Iowa, brings the hammer each game on both sides of the ball. The Badgers have sent numerous opponents to the sideline with clean but jarring hits. That kid Taylor blows people up and Valai is insane. I mean that literally. The safety must have some kind of death wish the way he throws around his body. Not a headhunter. But be it a running back or a receiver if he's got a chance to get his licks he will.

14
by c_f (not verified) :: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 7:11pm

The Fighting Zookers have had an odd season, with an elite defense declining just as a methodical offense took off, but regardless, Illinois has been more disciplined and motivated this year, so effort's not surprising.

As for the result, it's the product of a shaky defense, a quality rush-heavy offense, and an NFL-bound back having a career day. Remember, Fitz has been working magic with two-stars while Zook was wasting his recruiting classes, but those four-stars have apparently come around, and the 'Cats were outclassed in the trenches.

16
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 8:57am

The Wildcats have to face this combination on Saturday:

--Really good team
--Road environment
--Opponent playing for Big Ten title
--Opponent playing for BCS bowl berth
--Opponent has incredible running game on offense
--Opponent seeking REVENGE for last year's loss in Evanston (Must say that word like Ken in "A Fish Called Wanda"
--Opposing coach known to be a jerk and willing to rub it in

That is one big mountain to climb.

17
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 11/23/2010 - 9:06am

I guess you could include "One way (or Another)" by Blondie.