Michigan Hosts Brigham Young in Big House Showdown
#15 Brigham Young at #45 Michigan – BYU fell just short of upsetting UCLA in Pasadena last week, eventually falling to the Bruins 24-23. Now, for the 4th straight week, the Cougars face off with another Top 50 foe, #45 Michigan. BYU has recorded the Nation’s most difficult schedule thus far on the season by playing #48 Nebraska, #20 Boise State and #5 UCLA. Resurgent Michigan has played well under first year head coach Jim Harbaugh, recording a 2-1 record with the lone loss on the road to unbeaten Pac 12 contender Utah. This game will go a long, long way in determining the eventual success of the 2015 season for both teams. A win in Ann Arbor Saturday and BYU could possibly be favored in every remaining game on their schedule. An 11-1 season record for this team would be a tremendous achievement and make the Cougars a very attractive Bowl team. Michigan on the other hand desperately needs to win this game to keep momentum going into a very difficult Big 10 schedule which includes Northwestern, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State and Ohio State. The Cougars are a solid team and have played extremely well in some very hostile environments. They seem to thrive on the energy of big games and I don’t feel this team will be intimidated in the Big House. The Wolverines are better coached and more disciplined this season, but will that be enough to beat the Miracle Man Tanner Mangum? Maybe so, but I believe BYU is on a mission. Brigham Young 29 Michigan 24. #7 TCU at #34 Texas Tech – This game has upset written all over it. The Frogs are finding it difficult to live up to media hype and must go on the road to face a hot Texas Tech team fresh off a big win over the Razorbacks in Fayetville. TCU will face better teams this season for certain, but this may be their most difficult task in terms of preparation and keeping focus. One thing for sure, we’ll find out about the real character of this TCU team. Are they really National Championship Contenders? I’m sticking with the Purple Froggies, but by the skin of their little Horned Frog chins. TCU 35 Texas Tech 34. Pac 12 Shakedown – Conference play starts in high gear this week with multiple high profile games that will shape division titles. Four unbeaten streaks are on the line. #5 UCLA travels to #30 Arizona, the winner taking an early season lead in the Southern Division. Tuscon has traditionally been a tough spot for the Bruins, losing 4 of their last 5 trips there. #16 Oregon hosts #18 Utah, #22 Arizona State hosts #25 USC, and #33 California travels to #44 Washington. Here goes nothing: UCLA 45 Arizona 38 Oregon 31 Utah 24 Arizona State 35 USC 34 Washington 38 California 35 #11 Texas A&M vs #53 Arkansas in Arlington – The Aggies are a surprise 3-0 after handling the Sun Devils in Houston for the season opener. Arkansas is a shocking 1-2 after losing to Toledo and Texas Tech. I’m not sure what has happened to the Hogs, who were projected to be a surprise team in the SEC West by many prognosticators. Well, they are certainly surprising everyone. Looking at the remainder of their schedule, I question whether Arkansas will even be bowl eligible. I expect the Razorbacks to play hard, with a lot of character against their old SWC foe, but I believe the Aggies are a better team. Texas A&M 31 Arkansas 28. #29 Tennessee at #27 Florida – The Vols are still smarting from the overtime home loss to Oklahoma, but a win over hated rival Florida in Gainesville would go a long, long way toward healing that memory. This game could easily ultimately decide the SEC East, depending on how both of these teams fare against Georgia in upcoming games. It’s unbelievable to see this stat, but Tennessee has lost 10 straight to the Gators, not having won since back to back wins in 2003-2004. I think Tennessee wants this one bad, and although they are playing in the Swamp, I believe the Vols will win a close one. Tennessee 35 Florida 27. For All Billingsley Projections follow these links: Preseason game by game Week 4 Billingsley Projections Week 4 Billingsley+ (MOV) Projections
Fighting Irish Sting Yellow Jackets; Ohio State Survives Northern Illinois
Notre Dame’s strong first half defensive performance shut down the Yellow Jacket’s prolific offense and that was enough to preserve a 30-22 win over Georgia Tech in South Bend Saturday. The Fighting Irish remain unbeaten at 3-0 and moved from #5 to #3 in this week’s Billingsley Report. Ohio State remained #1 despite surviving a huge upset bid by MAC front runner Northern Illinois. The Buckeyes were a whopping 33 point favorite in Las Vegas but only favored by 18 in the Billingsley Projection. Ohio State won 20-13. Around the nation, Ole Miss stunned Alabama 43-37, winning for the first time in Tuscaloosa since 1988 and secured a back to back win over Bama for the first time in school history. The two old time rivals have been playing since 1894, with Alabama holding a 52-10-2 record in the series. TCU struggled with cross town rival SMU before pulling away for a 56-37 win in Fort Worth. The Froggies dropped to #7 after being leapfrogged by Notre Dame, Ole Miss, LSU and UCLA all of whom played much superior opposition. Stanford surprised the Trojans in the Coliseum 41-31 striking a severe blow to USC’s quest for a Pac 12 South title. The most impressive performance of the weekend was probably Ole Miss, but LSU certainly put on quite a show in Baton Rouge beating Auburn 45-21. Arkansas is reeling from a second loss of the season, both to teams they were favored to beat, (Toledo and Texas Tech). The Red Raiders used their signature wide open passing game to fly by the Hogs 35-24. With the SEC schedule in front of them, things do not look promising for the Razorbacks. All 3 Billingsley Reports are now posted online under the rankings tab. Stay tuned for week #4 projections Wednesday.
Ole Miss Travels to Tuscaloosa for Early Season SEC Showdown
Highest profile Week 3 Games: While most of the teams in the FBS are still feasting on over matched early season non conference opponents, two teams in the SEC are tackling the tough games first. Often criticized by fans and media for playing a soft game in November, the SEC compensates by playing high profile conference games in September. Try and keep that in mind when you have a desire to bash Bama for playing Charleston Southern on November 21. #23 Mississippi at #3 Alabama – The Ole Miss Rebels roll into Tuscaloosa Saturday to tackle the Tide. Alabama is still smarting from a 23-17 loss to Mississippi last year in the Grove. Ole Miss has been putting on quite an offensive show so far in 2015, rolling off 70+ points against Tennessee-Martin and Fresno State. The defense hasn’t been to shabby either I might add. Alabama has played well, and already has one big win under their belt, a convincing 35-17 shellacking of Wisconsin in Jerry World. Las Vegas opened with the Tide an 8 point favorite, falling much in line with 5 in the Billingsley+ Report, but I’ll tell you, this is anybody’s game. As usual, mistakes and turnovers will tell the tale. I expect both teams to play at their highest level with Alabama squeaking out a very hard earned win. Alabama 27 Ole Miss 24. #10 Auburn at #13 LSU – There is only one way to describe the Auburn win last Saturday….pure luck. Surely the Tigers knew Jacksonville State was worthy of proper preparation, after all, this is the same team that shocked Ole Miss 49-48 in the 2010 season opener.. It’s not like this team should have gone unnoticed. But the Gamecocks literally pushed Auburn around the whole game before bowing in overtime 27-20. History books will show an Auburn win, but the Tigers lost so much more by way of respect and drop in ratings. It will be interesting to see how Auburn responds, and the Tigers certainly have an opportunity in front of them. But it may be an insurmountable opportunity. Going on the road to face a hot LSU team is not the best way to try and rebuild a soiled reputation…..unless you win that is. Don’t over react about Jacksonville State, Auburn is still a very good team. LSU surprised me by playing a very solid opening game on the road against Mississippi State last week, and now playing at home, well, we all know what Death Valley is like. This should be a tight contest, great game, but I have to go with the Tigers…..home Tigers that is. LSU 31 Auburn 28. #16 Georgia Tech at #5 Notre Dame – With the season ending injury to Irish QB Malik Zaire some of the luster has certainly been taken off of this game, and probably the entire season for Notre Dame. With Zaire I projected Notre Dame to go 10-2, without him…..give me another week to answer. Georgia Tech is good enough to beat the Irish even with Malik, but since the game is in South Bend, the edge certainly would have gone to Notre Dame. Now, with a freshman QB making his first start, and against a seasoned Yellow Jacket defense and a high profile prolific Tech offense, I can’t see the Irish pulling this out……but wait, what is this I see? ……Holy Touchdown Jesus…..Notre Dame ALWAYS finds a way. Notre Dame 28 Georgia Tech 27. That one is for you Romeo. #8 Brigham Young at #15 UCLA – If someone had told me BYU would be 2-0 instead of 0-2 this week I would have said they were slap dab crazy. Ranking the Cougars # 8 this week raised a few eyebrows, even mine, but let’s not forget, they are 2-0 playing the #1 most difficult schedule to date. But how many miracles can BYU’s boys possibly have in one bag? Especially 3 weeks in a row. I love a good underdog story, and one of my best friends is a huge Brigham young fan (here is your 30 seconds of fame Royce), but I just can’t see Brigham Young going into the Rose Bowl and beating this UCLA team. But I will say this, way too prematurely I realize, but this team is certainly good enough to finish 11-1. UCLA 34 Brigham Young 24. For all the Billingsley Projections, follow these links: Preseason game by game Week 3 Billingsley Report Week 3 Billingsley+ (MOV) Report
Michigan State Leaps to #1. Sooners Stun Tennessee in Double Overtime.
Michigan State’s defense held the prolific Duck offense in check most of the game and then withstood a late Oregon rally to post a 31-28 win in Saturday’s top college football game. The win vaulted the Spartans from # 4 all the way to #1 in the latest Billingsley Report. Ohio State remains #1 in the Margin of Victory rankings followed by Alabama and TCU. But it was the Sooners who the stole the show Saturday by virtue of the greatest comeback ever witnessed in Neyland Stadium as Oklahoma overcame a 17 point deficit and beat Tennessee 31-24 in double overtime. Bottled up inside their own 20 yard line for three quarters by a stingy Vol defense and multiple Sooner miscues, Oklahoma’s offense caught fire early in the fourth quarter and seemed unstoppable for the remainder of the game. The Sooner defense played well the entire game and their ability to limit Tennessee to 17 first half points then completely shut Tennessee down in the second half proved to be the difference in the game. The raucous overflowing sellout Tennessee crowd was an obvious hindrance to the Sooners in the first half as Oklahoma was plagued with false start penalties which thwarted what few opportunities the Crimson and Cream had, but when the field position changed and Oklahoma started moving the ball, the crowd noise softened and Oklahoma was off to the races. The Sooners moved from #25 to #14 in this week’s report and Tennessee only fell slightly from #24 to #26. The week two rankings are now posted to your right under their respective headlines.
Volunteers Welcome Sooners To Rocky Top, Spartans Entertain Ducks
But first things first, there are a few notables to mention from week one. Northwestern started first Saturday morning by pulling off a mild, but impressive upset of Stanford 16-6. It was a nice win for Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats who have suffered through two disappointing seasons in a row. I’m still convinced Stanford is a good team, which makes the Wildcat win even more impressive. Looking ahead I have Northwestern projected to lose at Duke, at Michigan and at home to Penn State, but based on the first week, all those games now look winnable. With losses only at Nebraska and at Wisconsin, a 10-2 season would look pretty darned rosy in Evanston. The play of the day, and possibly the game of the day has to go to Brigham young and the Hail Mary, (or Hail Joseph Smith if you prefer) in the last play of the Nebraska game. But, the win certainly came at a great price after losing QB Taysom Hill for the season. BYU jumps from the frying pan into the the fire as the Cougars host Boise State late Saturday night. Notre Dame took care of Texas in stunning fashion with a 38-3 whipping of the Longhorns in South Bend. Not sure what to make of Texas. That was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen by the Horns, and I lived in Texas for 25 years so I’ve seen a lot of Texas games. Are the Irish really that good? Too early to tell. And don’t go South on Texas just yet. It’s just like the Longhorns to regroup and surprise some top teams in the Big 12. Are you listening Oklahoma? The most impressive performance to me however, goes to Texas A&M, whose 38-17 win over nationally ranked Arizona State pushed the Aggies all the way to #8 in this week’s Billingsley Report. The most dramatic drop goes to Central Florida who’s stunning15-14 home loss to Florida International pushed the Golden Knights from #65 to #85 in the latest report. On to Week 2: #25 Oklahoma at #24 Tennessee – Not a ton of big games this week, but the big ones are super big. After a scary bad, bad (and I do mean BAD) first quarter against Akron, Oklahoma settled down and played very well beating the Zips 41-3. Now the Sooners travel to Knoxville to play big boy football with the Volunteers. No room for mistakes here, on either side. This game is a make or break the season type game for both teams. This will probably be the largest crowd Oklahoma has ever played in front of, and I suspect this will be the largest crowd Tennessee has seen in several years. How many times do you think we will hear Rocky Top? Too many times for Oklahoma fans I suspect. Both teams will challenge for their respective conference crowns, but only one will be cleared for a shot at the CFP after Saturday. I was born in Oklahoma and lived 12 years in Tennessee, so this game is a win win for me, but one team’s fans are gonna be mighty disappointed. The Volunteers played a tougher opening opponent, beating Bowling Green 59-30 in Nashville. That experience may be all they need. I’ll go with Tennessee at home in front of about 107,000. Tennessee 31 Oklahoma 28. #12 Oregon at #4 Michigan State – This is the biggest game the Spartans have hosted since the #1 Fighting Irish rolled into East Lansing on November 19, 1966. I remember that game like it was yesterday…..but that’s another story. In a way I wish this game was not being played so early in the season. I think it would be much more dramatic and appealing if both teams were meeting undefeated say, in October. But know this for sure, if both teams win conference crowns, the CFP selection committee will be giving bonus points to the winner of this contest. Michigan State had a very tough opening opponent in Western Michigan, eventually pulling away for a 37-24 win. Oregon opened with FCS opponent Eastern Washington and played well but gave up a lot of points winning 61-42. Oregon won this game last year at home. I think Michigan State will return the favor. Michigan State 35 Oregon 31. #6 Boise State at # 26 Brigham Young – If this game was in Boise, Idaho I would pick the Broncos hands down, but BYU is hard to beat in LaVell Edwards Stadium, not to mention the Cougars are better than I expected (even without Hill). The only thing that concerns me is trying to figure out how BYU will handle the success of winning in Lincoln. Can you say week long celebration? Boise State looked great in the first half last week, but had to hold on and escape with a 16-13 win over Washington. Hmmm…..hard one to figure. Let’s face it, it’s a tossup. I’ll step out on a limb and say BYU will rise up at home and post a shocking 2-0 start to the season. Brigham Young 24 Boise State 21. #23 LSU at #20 Mississippi State – I’m not so sure the Bulldogs were very well prepared to start the season last week against Southern Miss. Then again, maybe the Eagles are really better. They certainly played inspired football. But at least Mississippi State got to play. LSU didn’t get the privilege after bad storms lingered in the area so long the game with McNeese State was canceled. That may have really hurt the Tigers. Playing an opening game on the road against a Bulldog team that had the bejabbers scared out of them in the first half last week is not an ideal scenario. I think Mississippi State will be prepared and focused for the visiting Tigers. Mississippi State 28 LSU 27. For all this week’s projections, follow the links: Billingsley Report Billingsley+ MOV
Major College Football: Week One Projections
The 2015 season is finally here with kickoff less than 72 hours away. Never too soon for me, but these 95 degree+ days in the heartland are worrisome for the players, coaches, and fans in the stands. I know I’m an old timer, but I kind of miss the 1960’s when the first game of the season was not played until the last weekend of September. For the most part, the weather had already cooled enough by then that the stress level on the players bodies was not nearly as great. Heck, the Oklahoma/Texas game was always the third game of the season. Now the season is almost half over before the Red River Rivalry is played! But even I must admit, playing a 12 game schedule presents a ton of opportunities for great non conference games early in the season, and this year is no exception. # 2 TCU at # 48 Minnesota – Thursday night ESPN starts out with a bang as TCU travels to Minnesota in what could be a very dangerous game for the Froggies. The Golden Gophers are a solid team under Jerry Kill with back to back winning seasons, both 8-5. Minnesota took Ohio State and Wisconsin both to the wire last season and although they lost a lot of key players on offense, the defense is solid. Expectations are very high in Fort Worth. TCU starts the season with the highest AP ranking in school history, and right here at the CFRC we’ve picked the Frogs to win it all. Those kind of predictions can spell doom for a team opening on the road against another good team. This will be a great test to see just how hungry and focused this TCU team is. TCU 31 Minnesota 17. # 47 Washington at # 11 Boise State – The Broncos shot at an undefeated season and a berth in the CFP playoff gets off to a stiff challenge as Boise State hosts Washington. This is Chris Peterson’s second season in Seattle after leaving Boise State for Washington. The first season was greeted with high expectations but only moderate success (8-6). This is a better Husky team than 2014…..but it’s a better Broncos team as well. I think Peterson’s return has been circled on the Bronco calendar for awhile now. Boise State 35 Washington 24. # 49 Brigham Young at # 20 Nebraska – This is a very hard game to analyze. I expect both teams to be very improved, and eventually have great season’s, but only one of them can come out on top in Lincoln. Playing at home is certainly an advantage for the Huskers, but with Taysom Hill back at QB for the Cougars, this team could really make some noise. I think it’s a pure tossup, but I’ll stick with the home team by the slightest of margins. Nebraska 35 BYU 34. # 32 Texas at # 17 Notre Dame – If the Longhorns were not struggling this game would be getting National Top Billing….but Texas has fallen on hard times. Charlie Strong has the Horns headed in the right direction, and with some success at QB, this team is capable of surprising some Big 12 opponents. But I don’t think the Irish will be overlooking Texas. Putting a whipping on the Longhorns would be a great way to start what is expected to be a great season in South Bend. It may be close for a half, but I think the Irish will pull away…..maybe way away. Notre Dame 42 Texas 24. # 40 Michigan at # 30 Utah – What a great story line is has been for Harbaugh to return to Michigan. The Wolverines desperately needed that kind of boost, and honestly, I think success at Michigan, as a program, is good for college football. But this is not the kind of scenario with which a coach would choose to open. Utah is very good, and even better at home. Another toss up game. Michigan could easily pull a mild upset here, but I think the Utes may be just a little more than the Wolverines can handle on the road in an opening game. Utah 31 Michigan 27. # 5 Alabama vs # 13 Wisconsin in Arlington – These opening weekend neutral site games have become quite a joy for me. What a great way to start a season, well, at least if you are the winning team. It certainly can make or break a national championship year. The Crimson Tide is breaking in a new QB and must replace a ton of talent on offense with only two starters returning. Alabama appears to be some what vulnerable and Wisconsin is expected to contend for the Big 10 title…..but is Alabama ever really vulnerable? The amount of talent flowing through Tuscaloosa is almost unbelievable, and as long as Saban is leading the troops, the Tide will always be prepared. It may be a great game to watch, but in the end Alabama will prevail. Alabama 31 Wisconsin 24. # 10 Arizona State vs # 23 Texas A&M in Houston – This is one of my most anticipated games. Basically a home game for the Aggies, Arizona State will be in a very hostile environment. A lot is expected out of the Sun Devils in 2015. In some circles Arizona State is predicted to win the Pac 12. But if there is any hope to rise beyond a conference championship and compete for a spot in the Four Team Playoff, it absolutely starts here. ASU needs this game desperately and the Aggies are a slight 3 point favorite. I believe the Sun Devils have what it takes. Arizona State 38 Texas A&M 31. # 15 Auburn vs # 27 Louisville in Atlanta – Most prognosticators agree, if you’re good enough to win the SEC West, you’re good enough to win a national championship and for a time last season, the West Division looked more powerful than ever with the emergence of Ole Miss and Mississippi State, but the Bowl season was not kind to the SEC West. Granted, they were playing the best competition of the bowl season, but still, a dismal 2-5 record is not what was expected. But there is another way to look at those games. Texas A&M and Arkansas won their bowl games, Alabama lost to eventual National Champ Ohio State, and LSU and Auburn lost heart breakers to Notre Dame and Wisconsin. With only a slight reversal of fortune the SEC West would have been 5-2 which is more in line with what was expected. Only Ole Miss looked really bad, and that was against a TCU team hell bent to prove they deserved that 4th playoff spot. I’ve said all that to say this, Auburn is a very good team, certainly capable of contending for a National Championship. Louisville is good, and well coached, but probably a year away from contending for the ACC crown. I believe Auburn is hungry and focused, a great combination for a big win. Auburn 45 Louisville 21. Watch for Weekly Projections to be posted every Wednesday afternoon. For all the FBS vs FBS projections, follow the links below: Billingsley Report Billingsley+ (MOV)
Billingsley Wins Two National Awards
Recently released awards from the Prediction Tracker.com reveal two national awards for Richard Billingsley, owner of the College Football Research Center (CFRC.COM) and publisher of the Billingsley Report on Major College Football. The Prediction Tracker, owned by Todd Beck, is an independent organization that monitors the success of participating computer ranking systems across America. In operation since 2000, the list of monitored systems has grown from a handful to 72, and this coming season (2015) has been expanded to include the new FPI Rating system developed and published by ESPN. Richard Billingsley’s Billingsley+ Report, which utilizes margin of victory in calculations, took home the awards top prize of “BEST PREDICTIVE SYSTEM of 2014” along with “Smallest Average Game Bias” won by the the original Billingsley Report (which does not use margin of victory). The original Billingsley Report was used by the Bowl Championship Series for many years to assist in determining participating teams in the National Championship Game. The best predictive system is chosen from being the overall leader in several major categories. Billingsley finished only 6 games behind in another category, “Straight Up Wins” won by Ted Thompson’s Computer Adjusted Line. Billingsley has been ranking college football teams since 1970 and was the first pollster to run the entire history of college football (from 1869) through a mathematical formula. From 2001-2004 Richard collaborated in the development of the ESPN College Football Encyclopedia, spearheaded by renowned editor and author Michael MacCambridge. Richard supplied the All Time Scores, Conference Standings and Poll Progressions for the Encyclopedia. His rankings were chosen by MacCambridge and published by ESPN in the encyclopedia as “computer national champions” and printed right next to the Associated Press and Coaches Polls in the Poll Progression section. Later, in a 2009 interview with the Fort Worth Star Telegram MacCambridge was quoted ” I don’t know what his hidden ingredient is, I don’t know what the secret sauce is in Richard’s formula. But whatever it is it works very well and is very reliable. And that is a credit to, not his fandom, but to his professionalism and his intellect“. When informed of the awards Billingsley was somewhat shocked and very humbled. “Just to have my work out there in the same conversation with the great one’s, ESPN, USA Today, Dunkel, and Sagarin along with my other former BCS counterparts, Anderson/Hester, Massey, Wolfe and Colley was always enough for me. But this feels great. I’m very honored.” Often criticized by mathematicians for his lack of educational credentials (Billingsley has only a high school education and no formal mathematical training) the awards are some what a vindication for his 45+ years work in college football. In the book Death to the BCS, the authors quoted Billingsley as a “Hillbilly”. When asked to comment on the awards, CFRC Vice President Steve Billingsley said with a laugh, “score one for the “hillbilly”.
The Unthinkable – Will the SEC be left out of the CFP?
According to Billingsley’s conference comparison the SEC has been the leading most powerful conference in college football for 8 consecutive years (2007-2014), winning 7 consecutive National Titles in the process. But a chink in the Armour has emerged in the last two seasons. Florida State squeezed out a 34-31 win over Auburn in 2013, and last season, Alabama fell to eventual National Champion Ohio State 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl semi-final of the CFP. Coming through any Power 5 conference schedule unscathed is difficult, but near impossible in the SEC. This season, the way the schedules unfold regarding home/away conference games, Billingsley projects not only one loss, but two losses for every SEC team. The major question surrounding that potential scenario becomes…..how will the selection committee evaluate a two loss SEC team versus an undefeated or one loss team from another Power 5 conference, or the Group of 5? No one can really answer that question, but should that scenario occur, Billingsley projects there is a good chance the mighty SEC may lose out on the playoff altogether. Ohio State and TCU are projected to go undefeated, Michigan State and Baylor are projected with one loss, both losing only to the top 2 teams. Factor in a projected one loss ACC champion (Florida State or Clemson, take your pick) and you have 5 teams right away who would most likely be ranked ahead of a two loss SEC team. And less not count out the Pac 12. A one loss team in Oregon, USC, or Arizona State is not out of the question. Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia and Tennessee are all CFP worthy…..on paper before the season starts that is. But a closer look at the schedules spell doom for all of those teams. Road games are brutal in the SEC and all of those contenders play road games with one another. Alabama plays at Georgia and Auburn. Auburn plays at LSU. Georgia plays at Tennessee and Auburn (in addition to a game at arch rival and ACC contender Georgia Tech). LSU plays at Alabama and Ole Miss. Ole Miss plays at Alabama and Auburn. Tennessee plays at Alabama. Billingsley projects Auburn to win the tiebreaker in the West and face Tennessee from the East with the two loss Tigers prevailing in Atlanta. If that scenario unfolds can Auburn, a two loss SEC Champion (the Tigers are also projected to lose at Arkansas) survive the cut and make a 4 team playoff? Unlikely says Billingsley, but it’s all pure speculation at this point. Billingsley’s pre-season rankings will be posted Saturday August 15, with the first week’s games being highlighted shortly there after. The season kicks off on Thursday September 2 with a host of games, most notably North Carolina/South Carolina in Charlotte, Michigan at Utah and TCU at Minnesota. Projected Final Regular Season Rankings Projected 2015 Game by Game Results
Oklahoma and Texas treading unfamiliar territory.
The Sooners and Longhorns dominated their respective conferences for decades (the Big 8 and SWC), and when the Big 12 was formed, the two rivals became conference foes and battled for the South Division title 10 out of the 14 years the conference was split into divisions. But times have changed. The super powers are not so super anymore. Texas last won the title in 2009, Oklahoma in 2010 and a long 4 year drought has ensued since. Texas has fallen on very hard times. An unthinkable 5-7 record in 2010 was followed by 4 straight mediocre years for the Horns (by Texas standards anyway). Things have not been quite so dire for Oklahoma. Sooners made a run for the crown in 2012 and 2013, but slipped mightily to 8-5 in 2014. The preseason polls in 2015 have Oklahoma picked 3rd behind TCU and Baylor, with Texas jockeying for 4th or 5th with Oklahoma State. Has the great era of the Red River Rivals ended for good? I doubt it. Given time, Charlie Strong is bound to bring the Longhorn program back to Texas standards, and Oklahoma, well, Sooner magic is just a QB away. Still, 2015 seems to belong to the Frogs and Bears and we may be talking about more than a conference title. As reported earlier, Billingsley believes TCU will win the National Championship, out dueling Ohio State in the CFP. Baylor could be in the mix just as easily should the Bears survive a road trip to Amon Carter Stadium in late November. Mark your calendars, the November 27 meeting between TCU and Baylor could be the college game of the year. Billingsley projects Oklahoma to finish 9-3, falling to Tennessee in Knoxville, TCU at home, and Baylor in Waco. Things may not be quite as easy for Texas. Rebuilding the Longhorn program will take some time. Billingsley projects Texas to finish 7-5 with losses at Notre Dame, at TCU, Oklahoma in Dallas, at West Virginia, and at Baylor. The games with the Sooners and Mountaineers are very winnable though, and an 8-4, or 9-3 season would be considered a breakthrough for the Longhorns. Projected Final Regular Season Rankings Projected 2015 Game by Game Results
Will the Southern Surge finally unseat the Pac 12 North?
The Pac 12 expanded to 12 teams in 2011 and the North division has won all four championship games (two by Stanford and two by Oregon). But with USC, UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State gaining strength, things could be much different in 2015. Oregon and Standford are projected to once again battle for the North Division crown with Billingsley predicting Oregon to go on and win the conference title, but the Ducks may still miss out on the CFP. Oregon must travel to East Lansing in September and play their toughest conference game of the year against Arizona State in Tempe. Even a predicted revenge win in the Pac 12 championship game might not be enough to land a two loss Duck team in the top 4. Arizona State may be the best shot the Pac 12 has to send a representative to the CFP this year. If they can get by Texas A&M in Houston opening weekend and beat UCLA on the road, then follow up with a win in the Pac 12 title game, a 13-0 Sun Devil team would be hard pressed to nose out of the playoff. But Billingsley is projecting Arizona State to fall on all 3 counts, leaving the Sun Devils with a very respectable 10-3 record. Projected Final Regular Season Rankings Projected 2015 Game by Game Results
Nebraska and the Big 10. A good fit or a colossal bust?
Conference realignment created a lot of of strange looks in college football over the last 25 years. So strange that old timers barely recognize the conference landscape anymore. In the early days conferences were created with regional ties being a great consideration. Bound together, teams in particular regions created a larger voice, and therefore more recognition on a national scale. Teams in the Midwest banded together to create the Big 10 in 1896 (then formally known as the Western Conference) and stole the show away from the Ivy League which had dominated the sport since it’s inception in 1869. To win the Big 10 was virtually an assurance of being considered as a mythical national championship throughout the early 1900’s. Other regions followed suit, the Missouri Valley in 1907 (the forerunner of the old Big 8), the Rocky Mountain in 1910 (the forerunner of the now defunct WAC and current Mountain West), the Southwest Conference in 1915, and the original Southern Conference in 1922, (the forerunner of the ACC and SEC). Winning a conference title brings relevance to a program,not just regionally, but on a more national scale. There was a time Nebraska was one of the most feared, nationally prominent football programs in America. The Cornhuskers, along with Oklahoma, dominated the Big 8 for almost 70 years. From it’s creation in 1928 until it’s disbanding after the 1995 season (68 titles), either Nebraska or Oklahoma won or shared the conference title an amazing 58 times (Oklahoma 30, Nebraska 25, with 3 shared between the two). During those years the Cornhuskers won 5 national championships in the Billingsley Report and staged one of the nation’s premier dynasties winning 3 national championships in four years (1994,1995,1997). When the Big 12 was formed in 1996 it was hailed as America’s strongest conference, boasting Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, 3 of the nations premier teams who had won a combined 15 National Championships. The ultimate downfall may have been disagreements between Texas and Nebraska (which were widely reported), but there was never harmony in the conference from the beginning. The loss of the Nebraska/Oklahoma rivalry was a loss not only to the conference, but college football as a whole. The Huskers and Sooners were a Thanksgiving weekend tradition. Of all the lost rivalries due to realignment, Oklahoma/Nebraska is the greatest (although Texas/Texas A&M runs a close second). What created Nebraska’s decline is certainly up for debate, but things were never the same after Tom Osborne retired in 1997. Frank Solich did an admirable job, but slipping to 7-7 in 2002, which included a 3 game season ending skid, was hard for Husker faithful to stomach. After Solich things got even worse. Under Bill Callahan Nebraska sank to an unthinkable 5-6 season in 2004, the worst since 1961 (3-6-1). The fact is, Nebraska has lost it’s luster. That’s tough to say coming from someone like myself that grew up worshiping Bob Devaney and cherishing Big Red football, but it’s the truth. At least it’s my truth. Moving to the Big 10 was supposed to turn things around. A new day, a new era, but the same old story has played itself out. Bo Pelini took over in 2008 and led the Cornhuskers through the transition into the Big 10 in 2011, but 7 consecutive 4 loss seasons have tarnished the reputation of this once dominant force in college football. Pelini coached his last game in 2014 and in a shocking twist, Nebraska hired Mike Riley away from Oregon State. Is this the coach Nebraska faithful have been longing for? Off season reports are very favorable about Riley’s attitude and his relationship with the players. Nebraska has not been able to establish the same intensity with a Big 10 rival like the ones they held with Oklahoma, Colorado, and Missouri, but rivalries take decades to build. Last week Kansas State’s Bill Snyder commented that if the Big 12 expands they need look no further than Nebraska. There is certainly some validity to that train of thought from the Big 12’s perspective, but all Nebraska needs to right the ship is a Big 10 conference championship. Is that something the Huskers can accomplish with a first year coach? It’s not likely with Big 10 heavyweights Ohio State and Michigan State waiting to battle from the conference’s Eastern Division, but Nebraska’s chances for winning the Big 10 Western Division crown are good, and getting to the Big 10 Championship game would be a huge boost for the program. The Huskers host Wisconsin in Lincoln on October 10th, a game that is crucial in the race for the Western Division Crown. Not only are Ohio State and Michigan State battling for the Big 10’s Eastern Division, but for National honors as well. Given that the game will be played in Columbus, I’m giving the slightest edge to Ohio State, projecting the Buckeyes to go undefeated and land as the #1 seed in the college football playoff. But don’t count Michigan State out. As a one loss team, with the only loss coming on the road to the #1 seed, I’m projecting Michigan State to be a solid choice for the playoff as well. One of the more interesting story lines to watch this season will be who finishes 3rd in the Big 10 West race, Michigan, rejuvenated by Jim Harbaugh, or Penn State, rebounding under James Franklin. The Nittany Lions host the Wolverines on November 21 so Penn State has a slight edge. I’m projecting a 10-2 season for Penn State and 8-4 for Michigan. Projected Final Regular Season Rankings Projected 2015 Game by Game Results
Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech battle for ACC Crown
The race for the Atlantic Coast Conference title is up for grabs in 2015. After being dominated by the Seminoles for three consecutive seasons, the loss of Florida State QB Jameis Winston and an influx of talent among other conference contenders over the last few years is making this year’s race a very competitive contest. Scheduling will factor heavily into these hotly contested conference games, with Clemson having an edge by playing Georgia Tech and Florida State at home. The Tigers are projected to be undefeated and ranked highly in the polls by the time Florida State rolls into Death Valley, but even playing at home may not be enough for Clemson to avoid an upset at the hands of Florida State on November 7th. Should Clemson prevail over Florida State en route to an undefeated season, however, the Tigers would most likely earn a spot in the 4 team playoff. Georgia Tech gets Florida State at home and is projected to beat the Seminoles (giving Florida State their only loss on the regular season), but lose to Florida State in a rematch in the conference title game. Virginia Tech may have the easiest path among the contenders by not playing Florida State or Clemson, but the Hokies must travel to Atlanta to face the Yellow Jackets on November 12. They are projected to lose to Georgia Tech, but a win there would most likely seal a Coastal Division crown for the Hokies. Keep an eye on North Carolina State. Although it’s unlikely they could upset Florida State or Clemson, a win at Virginia Tech on October 9th could propel the Wolfpack to a 10 win season. Duke is expected to have a slight drop in talent but the schedule is favorable. An early season contest at home with Northwestern, along with home games against Miami and Pittsburgh later in the season are all winnable games and crucial for Duke’s win total to reach 9. Projected Final Regular Season Rankings Projected 2015 Game by Game Results
Boise State leads Group of Five
The Boise State Broncos are the top candidate to lead the “group of five” conference teams into the “New Year’s Day Six” Bowls. Projected to sweep a 13 game schedule, Boise will teeter closely on the edge of the four team College Playoff. Winning the Mountain West Conference will not be a slam dunk, but the Broncos have all the ingredients to go undefeated. Overall, the talent is certainly there with17 returning starters (9 on offense and 8 on defense), and a proven coach. Both bode well for the Broncos. The schedule however is tricky and doesn’t set up extremely well for Boise State. Their toughest games will be played in the first two weeks of the season. The opening game against Washington is at home, but the Huskies represent the greatest threat of a loss on the Bronco schedule, not a great way to start a season. Next up is a visit to Provo. This is a dangerous game for the Broncos. Brigham Young will be good, maybe very good if Taysom Hill is completely healthy and running the Cougar offense with the same great leadership and pin point accuracy that he did in early 2014 before he broke his leg against Utah State. A 2-0 start for Boise should create enough momentum to carry this team through a tough MWC schedule, but a loss of one, or certainly both, could spell disaster before the season even unfolds. The Mountain West, Mountain division crown, will most likely be decided in back to back road games for the Broncos against Colorado State and Utah State in mid October. San Diego State and Nevada will battle for the Western Division title. Marshall, Western Kentucky, Rice and Louisiana Tech are projected to battle for the top spot in Conference USA. Cincinnati and Houston will battle in the American, but watch out for Temple. Billingsley projects the Owls to go 9-3 with the only conference loss early in the season at Cincinnati along with non conference losses to Penn State and Notre Dame. Not bad for a team kicked out of the defunct Big East for being perceived as not good enough. Bowling Green, Toledo and Northern Illinois will duel it out in the MAC, but keep your eye on an improved Western Michigan. The Broncos early schedule is brutal with projected losses to Michigan State, Ohio State and Georgia Southern, but winning a key road contest at Ohio in mid season could turn this team around just in time for late season, back to back games at conference contenders Northern Illinois and Toledo. In a surprise, Appalachian State is picked in the Sun Belt due to the fact the schedule sets up so well. All the other contenders, Georgia Southern, La. Lafayette, and Arkansas State must travel to Boone NC. Boise State is a safe bet for the New Year’s Six Bowl spot even with one loss, but two losses by the Broncos opens the door to a host of other possibilities. The way the schedules play out in the group of five conferences (in terms of projected wins and losses) Marshall, Western Kentucky, Rice, Cincinnati, Houston, Bowling Green, Toledo, Northern Illinois, Colorado State, Utah State, San Diego State, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern all could easily contend for that coveted bowl spot. Projected Final Regular Season Rankings Projected 2015 Game by Game Results
Billingsley Tabs TCU for Title
Richard Billingsley projects the TCU Horned Frogs to win it all in 2015. All things considered, coaching, returning starters, scheduling, and perhaps most importantly, motivation, TCU is picked to win the National Championship in a showdown with Ohio State. The Buckeyes will finish ranked ahead of TCU in the final regular season rankings, but Billingsley cites TCU’s overall hunger for a title that has eluded them since the AP bestowed a National Championship on the 1938 Horned Frog team as the deciding factor. Michigan State and Florida State are projected to join Ohio State and TCU in the 2015 College Football Playoff as the #3 and #4 teams respectively. The Spartans only loss on the season is projected at Ohio State. The Seminoles are projected to lose at Georgia Tech in the regular season but win in a rematch with the Yellow Jackets to win the ACC title. Auburn, Boise State and Baylor will be nipping on the heels of Florida State for the final playoff spot but in the end Billingsley believes the Seminoles will prevail. Once again the schedule strength may plague Baylor. The Bears are projected to lose only at TCU, but play a schedule ranked #57, almost identical to the final regular season schedule strength of 2014 (#59). Although projected to go undefeated, Boise State’s schedule will also be a factor. The Broncos are projected to play a schedule ranked #77 in the nation compared to the Seminoles #45. An undefeated Boise State would most certainly be in contention for the playoff, but it’s unlikely they would get the nod over Florida State or Auburn. The Broncos greatest hope for gaining that coveted #4 spot is for Washington and Brigham Young to have exceptional seasons, and the Mountain West conference overall, (but particularly fellow conference contenders Air Force, Nevada, Colorado State, Utah State and San Diego State) to have great success in their non-conference schedules. That scenario would significantly boost Boise State’s strength of schedule in the eyes of the selection committee along side public outcry for playoff inclusion. Auburn on the other hand is projected to play the #1 most difficult schedule in the nation. Unfortunately it may also take a toll on the eventual SEC champion which is projected to finish the season with two losses, one at LSU in September, and at Arkansas in October. The rating margin between #4 Florida State, #5 Auburn and #6 Boise State is razor thin, all projected to finish neck and neck with 319 points, but if these win-loss totals hold true, and taking into consideration the Seminoles would be the ACC champ with only one loss and Auburn the SEC champ with two losses, the nod would most likely go to Florida State. In the coming weeks each conference race will be evaluated and posted, and the official pre-season rankings will be unveiled so stay tuned. In the meantime….let the debate begin!. Projected Final Regular Season Rankings Projected 2015 Game by Game Results