Making the Grade: Evaluating Billingsley’s 2014 Projections
In July of 2014 former BCS Pollster Richard Billingsley released projections for every regular season game on the schedule. How well did he do? Let’s take a look. Using the following grading scale, you be the judge. A+ = An exact match of projected wins, losses A = One game difference B = Two game difference C = Three game difference D = Four game difference F = Five or more game difference The 2014 tally is as follows: A+ = 16 A = 31 B = 33 C = 19 D = 18 F = 11 Follow these links to see how Billingsley fared on every FBS team for 2014: Final Total by Grade Final Total Alphabetical Team by team 2014 projection Richard Billingsley’s 2015 Projections will be posted in late July.
2014 Razorbacks Shatter Strength of Schedule Record
Arkansas’ 2014 schedule broke the All Time Record in strength set just last year by Stanford. The Razorbacks played a record 8 teams ranked in the Top 25 in the Billingsley Report and in the AP, 6 of those in ranked in the Top 10. Additionally, only Nicholls St. and UAB ranked outside the Top 42 in the nation in the Billingsley Report at the time the game was played. Arkansas’ strength of schedule in 2014 gained 135.740 points on Billingsley’s scale, eclipsing Stanford’s 130.669 set in 2013. For decades the 1983 Auburn schedule of 123.684 and 1987 Florida’s 124.695 were the benchmarks of schedule comparison, but the addition of conference championship games in the early to mid 1990’s began a rise in schedule points by adding an extra game into the calculations. The addition of games through the semi final and championship games of the new College Football Playoff is sure to do the same thing. It’s amazing that several early seasons still remain on the Top 50 list including 1945 Michigan (# 24), 1973 Kansas (#29), 1970 Alabama (# 30), and two Oklahoma teams, 1975 (# 36) and 1973 (# 44). The 1975 Sooner team won a National Championship. The 1945 Michigan team played only a 10 game schedule, fewest of all the Top 50 entries. If the Wolverines had played today’s standard 13 game schedule (including a Bowl Game), and had played even reasonable teams, ranked in the #50-75 range, the Wolverines 1945 entry would most likely reach the Top 3 of this current list. Billingsley’s strength of schedule rating is based on an accumulation of points derived from the rating and rank of each opponent on the day the game was played. Also of note, Oregon’s 2014 strength of schedule ranked # 3 All Time. This is an early indicator of the reflection of the new playoff structure as the Ducks played a 15 game schedule. Follow the links below to view the Top 50 list and individual team schedules throughout history.
Notre Dame Holds on by a thread over Alabama in Top Programs List
The College Football Research Center’s All Time Top Program list was released Monday, February 23 and Notre Dame held on to a razor thin margin over surging Alabama, 268.7 points to 268.1. Although Notre Dame has garnered 3 more Billingsley National Championships than the Tide, the majority of those came before 1970. Since the report is an average of the entire history of a program’s rating (relative strength) it has taken decades for Alabama to move within striking distance. Most of the Tide’s success has come since 1960. The Fighting Irish have lead the Top Program list since it’s inception in 1970, Richard Billingsley’s first year to publish rankings. But Alabama, fueled by 5 consecutive Top 10 finishes in this decade including two in the top 5 and two national championships (back to back in 2011, 2012), the Crimson Tide have positioned themselves for a takeover of the Top spot. If Alabama continues it’s dominance this fall, and Notre Dame does not improve on their recent performance, Billingsley’s projection is The Crimson Tide will become the #1 Football Program of All Time after the completion of the 2015 season. But that was not the only noteworthy news in the release. Ohio State jumped their hated rival Michigan, “that team up North” as Woody Hayes would put it, leaping from #4 to #3. This is the first time in the history of the list that Ohio State has ever ranked higher than the Wolverines. Michigan was a solid #2 in the report for over 40 years, but has slipped two spots in the last two reports alone. Jim Harbaugh’s return hasn’t come a day too soon for Michigan fans. To view the entire report, click on the link below. The All Time Scores and Schedules (Section 2 of Billingsley’s Encyclopedia) is in progress and will be updated soon.
Billingsley Praises Selection Committee
The College Football Selection Committee released their Top 25 (version 3) on Tuesday night. I released my set of 3 rankings on Sunday afternoon. The Top 4 were identical in the Committee rankings and my Billingsley Personal poll, which is how I would have voted if I were on the Committee. So for this week anyway, I have nothing but praise for the Committee’s bravery in jumping Oregon over Florida State and placing TCU over Alabama . It gives me hope they might actually be accomplishing something of great value behind those closed doors, but we have 4 more weeks to go before the final verdict is in. I guess, in spite of all my concerns and worries, I have to say the Committee is doing a pretty good job so far. I cringe when I say that because I know my opinion could easily do a 180 come December 7th. My personal decision to rank Oregon ahead of Florida State was an easy one. The Ducks have played a far superior schedule (#12 to #41), and have performed more impressively in those games. The decision to rank TCU ahead of Alabama was very difficult, and, as Jeff Long put it, “razor thin”. But the bottom line, at least for this week, TCU’s performance over Kansas State was more impressive. In making a comparison between the two, these were the strong points I considered; both have one loss, both lost to high ranked opponents on the road(#9 Baylor, #11 Ole Miss) and strength of schedule is almost identical (#19 for TCU, #22 for the Tide). Alabama’s win being in overtime was not a factor against them. I think the fact they were playing in one of the most hostile environments in College Football far outweighs the fact it went into overtime. In fact, it was almost enough, in my mind, to sway things in the Tide’s favor. My biggest disappointment this week really, has been listening to the commentaries of various sportswriters and broadcasters in an uproar that Baylor is not ranked ahead of TCU. Not a single computer program in America is more sensitive to head to head competition than the Billingsley Report. It is the very core of the system. However, along with that built in comparison, there is some common sense programmed in as well. I think the nation’s journalistic elite must have a very short memory. They are somehow forgetting Baylor lost to West Virginia. That, my friend, was no one’s fault but Baylor’s……it’s certainly not the Horned Frog’s fault. Right now there is no justification for Baylor being ahead of TCU. It’s Baylor’s responsibility, through strength of schedule, to overcome that loss to an inferior team. And the schedule comparison is certainly in favor of the Horned Frogs which hold a huge advantage, #19 to #61. That may change, as Baylor still has to play#46 Oklahoma State, #80 Texas Tech and #18 Kansas State, which is a superior schedule to TCU’s #98 Kansas, #99 Iowa State and # 41 Texas. A late surge in strength of schedule and a declared conference championship (based on the head to head game) for Baylor may be enough to switch the two, but certainly not at this stage. At this point in the season I only know one thing for sure…..if I hear the phrases “body of work” or “eye test” one more time I’m going to vomit all over ESPN. Translated, they both mean “this is the way my human biased mind sees it”. Of course, having said that, you must realize the Billingsley Personal Poll is a “superior eye test”. I’m sure that makes you want to vomit too. This week’s projections below.
Huge Weekend of College Football Ahead
This may be the biggest weekend of college football we have seen this season. Virtually half of the Top 25 teams play one another in pivotal conference games that will shape the national landscape as well. #14 Kansas State travels to Fort Worth to face # 9 TCU in what ultimately could decide the Big 12 crown. The Wildcats are the biggest hurdle left for the Horned Frogs as only Kansas, Texas and Iowa State remain on the Froggies schedule. The Thanksgiving game against the Longhorns in Austin could be a little tricky for TCU, but they will certainly be favored. Kansas State has a much harder road ahead with games remaining at West Virginia and at Baylor, with a home game against Kansas in between. Also in the Big 12, # 15 Baylor travels to Norman to take on the # 22 Sooners, the team originally touted as Big 12 favorites. Oklahoma has lost nail biters to TCU and Kansas State. #10 Michigan State and # 12 Ohio State square off in East Lansing. The Buckeyes have an opportunity to make amends for the inexplicable early season loss to Virginia Tech and the Spartans will be looking to impress the selection committee with a quality win after dropping an early season loss at Oregon. # 8 Notre Dame invades Tempe to tangle with a very hot Arizona State team ranked # 7. The Sun Devils are in an excellent position to win the Pac 12 South and a non conference win over the Irish would certainly enhance their profile nationally. Oregon, which moved into the all important #4 position in the playoff rankings this week, travels to Salt Lake City to take on a very tough # 16 Utah team. The Utes are still smarting from a crushing 3 point overtime loss at Arizona State last Saturday night. # 17 UCLA has a dangerous road test at # 32 Washington. In the mighty SEC (just kidding folks), # 3 Auburn hosts # 21 Texas A&M. The Aggies are 6-3 with losses to Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama. The # 5 Crimson Tide travels to Baton Rouge for a key conference game with # 6 LSU. The Tigers have turned turned their season around after two early losses to Mississippi State and Auburn followed by a huge win over Ole Miss. If LSU wins, and Alabama goes on to beat Mississippi State and Auburn, the SEC West will be turned upside down. Follow the links below for all of Billingsley’s Projections.
Oregon Pounds Stanford 45-16
Finally, Oregon put it all together Saturday and the result was the demolition of a Stanford team that had become a nemesis for the Ducks over the last two years. The win possibly positioned the Ducks as one of the Top Four teams in the college football playoff as the nation awaits the vote of the Selection Committee which will be released Tuesday. Oregon has been in Billingsley’s Top Four for the last two weeks. Florida State returned to the number one rank in the Billingsley Report, edging out Mississippi State by virtue of a win over a slightly higher ranked opponent (#36 Louisville on the road vs #58 Arkansas at home). The Bulldogs are still ranked #1 in Billingsley+ which factors in margin of victory, and in Billingsley’s Personal poll.
LSU Overlooked and Under ranked by Selection Committee
After a stunning win over Ole Miss in which the Tigers controlled much of the game, LSU came up short in the eyes of the College Football Selection Committee, only managing a lowly # 19 ranking. LSU has two losses and both came at the hands of the committee’s own #1 and #3 teams, Mississippi State and Auburn. The Billingsley Report ranks LSU 6th and the College Football Computer Composite, comprised of 5 of the 6 previous BCS computers, has LSU ranked 7th. As expected the SEC West dominated the first official Committee ranking, owning 3 of the coveted 4 positions. Conference games slated for the month of November will drastically change the rankings as most of the contenders (in all Power 5 Conferences) still must play one another. Oregon appears to be in the best position to take advantage of SEC West teams losing. If the Ducks win out, and capture the PAC 12 title, they are most likely in the Final Four. Oregon already holds the #3 ranking in the Billingsley Report.
Seminoles Return to Top
Florida State regained the number one ranking in the Billingsley Report after a hard fought 31-27 comeback win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Ole Miss jumped idle Mississippi State to take the #2 ranking after beating Tennessee 34-3.
Dramatic Comeback Bounces Bears to #5
TCU was in full control of the game with a 21 point lead early in the fourth quarter and a win for Baylor looked hopeless, but the Bears never gave up and Bryce Petty lead Baylor to a 3 point victory over the longtime rival Horned Frogs. But it’s the state of Mississippi that rules college football. Both the Bulldogs and the Rebels followed up last weekend’s shockers with an encore. Mississippi State jumped to #1 in the Billingsley Report after beating SEC frontrunner Auburn 38-23 in Starkville. Ole Miss follows at #2 this week after walking into Kyle Field and totally dominating the Aggies 35-20 in front of 110,000 fans. I said if Ole Miss could pull this off, I’d never doubt this Rebel team again. What a great win for the Rebels in such a difficult environment. In my mind there is such a slim difference between these two Mississippi schools, both are playing great on both sides of the ball, offense and defense. The only reason the Bulldogs are #1 and the Rebels are #2 is that so far, Mississippi State has played an ever so slightly stronger schedule.
Miss. St. Soars to #10 after shocking LSU
You could almost see it coming, this signature road win, ever since Dan Mullen took over in 2009. After an initial 5-7 record in his first season Mullen guided the Bulldogs to 4 consecutive winning seasons. There were some big wins along the way, a 10-7 win in the Swamp in 2010, a 28-10 win over Auburn in 2012, and 3 out of 4 wins against arch rival Ole Miss, but nothing as sweet perhaps as beating SEC nemesis LSU 34-29 in Baton Rouge on a Saturday night, a feat not accomplished since November 16, 1991. The Bulldogs skyrocketed to #10 in The Billingsley Report this week, 5 positions ahead of shell shocked LSU. Florida State returned to their familiar #1 spot after a 23-17 OT win over Clemson. Oregon and Oklahoma both kept pace after both teams were tested in road wins. Oklahoma’s defense held strong in the second half and freshman running back Samaje Perine ran for 242 yards to secure the Sooner victory. Alabama and Auburn both made big moves after posting wins against the best opposition of their seasons so far. Brigham Young continues it’s steady rise after beating a very tough Virginia team 41-33. The Cougars improved to 4-0, impressive considering they have played the 14th most difficult schedule (on average) this season. BYU has beaten two power 5 conference teams (Texas and Virginia) and pre-season AAC favorite Houston, in addition to their opening win at Connecticut. Just about the time everyone, including myself, was giving up on the Big 10, they had one of the best weekends in conference history, posting an 11-1 record against outside competition including 4, count them 4, upset wins over higher ranked teams (Pittsburgh, Navy, Syracuse and Missouri). The Hoosier’s win in Columbia was certainly the highlight of the Big Ten’s year so far. Oklahoma takes over the top spot in the Billingsley Personal Poll this week (the way I would vote on the selection committee), after winning a tougher road test than Oregon. It’s still way too early to have enough information in hand to make this kind of decision really, but if the season ended today, I would vote for Oklahoma, Oregon, Alabama and Florida State, in that order.
Sooners Top Tennessee 34-10
Oklahoma rolled over the Volunteers Saturday night with an overwhelming defensive performance. Tennessee was never able to generate any momentum as the Sooner defense thwarted almost everything in the Vols playbook. Oklahoma moved to #2 in the Billingsley report behind #1 Oregon. Remember what I said last week about the Big 10 not being dead? Well, they may not be dead, but they’ve been put on life support after an 0-3 showing against the Big 12 Saturday. TCU dismantled Minnesota 30-7, West Virginia managed to squeak by Maryland 40-37 and Iowa State upset arch rival Iowa (as a 15 point underdog) 20-17. Is the Selection Committee watching? – Head to head results are reported to be a top priority for the upcoming playoff. I hope they pay closer attention than the sportswriters and coaches do. Both the AP and Coaches polls still have Georgia ranked ahead of South Carolina. Both teams have one loss but South Carolina has played a slightly stronger schedule and the Gamecocks loss was to #6 Texas A&M. The Billingsley report was 42-9 over the weekend and the Billingsley+ 41-10, both ranked in the Top 10 nationally in computer predictions.
Georgia at South Carolina Highlight Week 3
#5 Georgia at #20 South Carolina – Georgia can take a huge step toward an SEC East title with a win over the Gamecocks in Columbia, but it won’t be an easy task for Mark Richt and Company. The Bulldogs had a week off in preparation for the trip to Columbia where they have lost their last two visits. After a disappointing opening loss at home to Texas A&M, the Gamecocks rebounded with a 33-23 win over a good East Carolina team. I expect South Carolina to play their best football, but it may not be enough to get the job done. Georgia 28 South Carolina 24. #44 Tennessee at #6 Oklahoma – I’ve had this game circled on the calendar since it was announced many years ago. I’m pretty torn, yet realize it’s truly a win win situation as well. I was born in Oklahoma, raised a Sooner fan and lived in Tennessee for 12 years during which time I became quite a Vol fan. Tennessee has looked good in wins over better than average competition (Utah State and Arkansas State). Oklahoma looks, well, like Oklahoma which is generally pretty darn good. The Sooners are a 21 point favorite which seems high even for a game in Norman, but hey, my own computer projection is 17. Rocky Top needs another year before this game is close. Tennessee gets OU in Knoxville next year. If Oklahoma’s defense plays up to par the Volunteers will have a difficult time scoring. Oklahoma 35 Tennessee 13. #13 UCLA vs #23 Texas in Arlington – If there was ever a game I’d like to shy away from predicting it’s this one. The Bruins have not lived up to preseason expectations (all though I certainly admit Memphis appears to be a much improved team). And Texas, well, what can I say about the Longhorns? I refuse to believe they are not better than what we saw against BYU. Before the season I pointed to this game as a major national coming out party for the Stronghorns. Sure looks like I blew that prediction, but I believe Texas will give it all they’ve got. UCLA 28 Texas 27.
Week 2 Preview
Last week both the Billingsley and Billingsley + projections went 29-9 in FBS vs FBS games, a respectable 76.3%, but honestly a little disappointing for me. Shocking losses by Northwestern, Vanderbilt, and Houston, all of whom were heavily favored by double digits sure threw a wrench in my reputation. Still, I won’t complain because it was a rough week for all the prognosticators and I still came out only one game out of first place (right behind Jeff Sagarin and the Dunkel Index) in Todd Beck’s Prediction Tracker. As long as I’m high in the standings I’ll be keeping you posted. If I falter, don’t count on my broadcasting it. On to this week’s games…. # 41 Arizona at # 56 Texas-San Antonio – Week # 2 key television games start out with another great match on Thursday night. Arizona travels to San Antonio to take on a suddenly hot UTSA team fresh off a shellacking of Houston. This is the biggest game in the young history of Roadrunner football. A win here and an undefeated season is a real possibility for UTSA. But Arizona is a well coached, talented team and a moderate favorite to win (7 points). I’m going out on a limb and say UTSA pulls off another shocker. Texas-San Antonio 28 Arizona 24. # 50 Pittsburgh at # 61 Boston College – It’s only the second week of the season and we already have a key Friday night game in the ACC. BC plays in the Atlantic division with Florida State and Clemson, but Pitt is in the wide open Coastal division where one loss will make all the difference in the division crown in a dog fight between North Carolina, Miami (Fla.), Duke, Virginia Tech and Pitt. Both teams had impressive opening wins over lowly competition and this is basically a tossup game so going with the home team would be smart, but my gut tells me Pitt is a better team. I’ll go against my own pre-season prediction and say Pittsburgh 35 Boston College 28. # 13 Southern Cal at # 14 Stanford – Talk about key games, Saturday’s slate is full of them, starting with a key PAC 12 contest between the Trojans and the Cardinal. I’ve predicted Stanford to have a rough season because of their brutal road schedule….at Washington, at Notre Dame, at Arizona State, at Oregon and at UCLA. Are you kidding me? If Stanford doesn’t win this game at home, the Cardinal is in bigger trouble than I thought, and if they go undefeated on that schedule, just hand them the National Championship Trophy OK? USC looked mighty mighty good in the opening win over Fresno State, but I think Stanford will dig down deep and pull this one out. Stanford 31 Southern Cal 30. # 11 Michigan State at # 7 Oregon – This is the game of the day, and maybe the season. The winner of this contest has an excellent shot at gaining one of those 4 playoff spots come December. Michigan State’s defense is the key to any chance the Spartans have of winning, and slowing down Marcus Mariota will not be easy. I think Michigan State will win the Big 10, but they’re not going to beat the Ducks at Autzen. Quack, Quack….Oregon 35 Michigan State 24. # 34 Michigan at #16 Notre Dame – We bid farewell to one of the greatest inter-sectional rivalries of all time. It’s being blamed on the Irish alliance with the ACC, but I’m not so sure it won’t be revived some day. Both of these teams are desperate to return to the national stage and a win here will go a long way toward that goal. Both teams had solid opening wins, but Notre Dame had a little more to overcome with the player suspensions. I have a feeling the Irish are focused and ready for this game. This is the best Michigan team I’ve seen in the last several years, but they’ll have to wait till another week to return to greatness. Notre Dame 28 Michigan 24. # 25 Brigham Young at # 19 Texas – Longhorn fans want a win here…..real, real bad. The Cougars embarrassed Texas last year in Provo which started a huge slide on the season eventually leading to major changes in Austin. Looks like Swoopes at QB for Texas and the Horns will need every ounce of magic they can muster to beat BYU. This is a better Cougar team than last season. I’m very very tempted to pick an upset here, but playing in Austin may make the difference. It only takes one point to win, and that may be the only margin the Horns get. Texas 31 BYU 30. # 37 Virginia Tech at # 3 Ohio State – For a time last Saturday I thought Navy would sink the Buckeyes for sure. But, Ohio State capitalized on some breaks and pulled away late. This team is better than what we saw on the field last Saturday and Virginia Tech is about the same quality opponent as Navy. I expect about the same results. Ohio State 35 Virginia Tech 17. I’m headed to the deck for my medicinal shot of Southern Comfort. I’ve earned it. Below find links to this week’s full slate of projections.