Richard’s Rewind – Week 1
With week 1 rankings still outstanding because of tonight’s Louisville/Miami (Fla.) game it’s impossible to know for sure where every team will fall exactly, but a preliminary run is showing some big movement in the Top 25. Keeping in mind that margin of victory is not included in the Billingsley Report calculations, Florida State will probably hold onto the #1 rating in spite of the fact the 6 point victory was below expectations. In light of what happened across the nation I think surviving with even with a one point win would be celebrated mightily by any fan base today. Just ask South Carolina. Texas A&M routing the Gamecocks was one of the biggest surprises of opening weekend. To me, it was not so much that A&M won, it’s that the Aggies dominated from the first play to the last. I came away with a big question mark about South Carolina. Were the Gamecocks just not prepared, or do they just not have the skill players I thought they did? One thing is for sure, they don’t have a lot of time to regroup. They have a very good East Carolina team coming to visit Saturday night and a very hot Georgia team the week after. The Aggie win over South Carolina was not the biggest weekend shocker for me though, that’s reserved for UTSA’s 27-7 domination of Houston. Larry Coker has done an amazing job bringing this program forward so quickly. The Roadrunners host Arizona Thursday night. A win there and watch out, this UTSA team could be headed for a major bowl, and I’m talking New Year’s Six folks. Biggest moves in the Top 25 will probably go to LSU, Texas A&M, and Georgia, based on the quality of the opponents they played. LSU’s comeback over Wisconsin was stunning. It was like watching two different games. At first LSU couldn’t do anything right on offense or defense, then midway through the 3rd quarter momentum swings, the Tigers catch fire and can’t do anything wrong. It was a tough loss for the Badgers, but I still expect Wisconsin to land in the Top 25. One early non-conference loss to a highly ranked team will not completely destroy their season. Speaking of comebacks, what about North Carolina State’s home 24-23 win over 23 point underdog Georgia Southern? After trailing 17-3 at the half the Wolfpack scored 14 points in the 4th quarter to secure the win. Every week I am reminded of how deceiving scores can be. Ole Miss is a good example this week. A 35-13 win over Boise State looks very impressive, but the Rebels have a long way to go offensively to maneuver their way through the SEC West schedule. But the Ole Miss schedule is kind this week. Mississippi travels to Nashville to face Vandy Saturday. Have the Commodores fallen off as much as it appears? That 37-7 home loss to Temple was shocking. Coaches have always said the biggest improvement in a season comes between week one and two. If that’s the case, it’s good news for some perceived Top 25 powerhouses that obviously still have a lot of work to do. The first week’s rankings will be posted around Noon CT tomorrow (Tuesday), and the week 2 preview should be posted by Wednesday afternoon.
2014 College Football Week 1 Preview
It seems odd to talk college football when it’s 100 degrees outside, but that’s the norm for football in the South. I’m longing for the first cold front that will at least moderate the temps to the high 80’s. But here in Choctaw County, Hugo, Oklahoma we are still a long way from the crisp air of October. It may be hot, but it doesn’t take away from the excitement of opening weekend. This will be my 44th season of ranking college teams and I still have butterflies in my stomach just like I did in 1970. 2014 ushers in a new era in this sport, the playoff era as it will be known. I’m not sure a four team playoff is really even worthy of the “title” playoff, but it’s a good starting place I suppose. I wonder how long the four team format will last? My guess is, it won’t last as long as the 16 year of the BCS. I was very proud to be part of the Bowl Championship Series, truly honored, and I’m hopeful a playoff format will be good for college football. It will certainly generate a lot of fan support and media attention, but along with that will come a lot of controversy. This will also be a new beginning for myself and the College Football Research Center. As you can see, we made a few changes in the off season, including a new interface for the website and an opportunity for me to add some journalistic content along the way, something previously denied during the BCS era. I’ll be releasing rankings on Sundays and posting a weekly review/preview each Wednesday. Another new twist you will find is the addition of a third ranking, the Billingsley “Personal” poll, which will reflect how I would vote if I were on the college football selection committee. Should be fun. Every week there will be a short recap of predictions for each week’s top games, along with a link projecting winners and computer generated point spreads in every FBS vs FBS game each week. On to week one…. #23 Texas A&M at # 12 South Carolina – Thursday night football kicks off with a bang as Texas A&M travels to Columbia to take on the Gamecocks in the premier of the SEC Network (CH 611 for those of you like me who have DirecTV). This season the Aggies are somewhat a mystery to me with the loss of Manziel , but great coaching and a lot of talent makes A&M a very dangerous opening opponent for South Carolina. My sense is A&M will give the Gamecocks everything they want and then some, but I’m a big believer in Dylan Thomas, and even a bigger believer in Steve Spurrier. In the end I think the Gamecocks will survive. South Carolina 31 Texas A&M 24. #25 Boise State vs #20 Mississippi – Atlanta, Georgia. A second top 25 match on opening Thursday night finds two teams in a must win situation right out of the box, both very hopeful for great seasons. Billingsley pre-season predictions have Ole Miss undefeated all the way to an October 4th showdown with Alabama. A win for the Rebels over the Broncos could generate enough momentum and confidence to spur Mississippi to an SEC West title. They are that good. But it all has to start here. A loss to Boise State could be a season spoiler for Ole Miss. A win for Boise could mean an undefeated season and a potential spot in one of the major Bowl Games (and an outside shot at one of the four playoff spots). This game is HUGE for both teams, and one of the hardest predictions I’ll make this year. I’m going with Ole Miss in a squeaker for two reasons, there will be a heck of a lot more Mississippi fans in Atlanta than Bronco fans, and Bo Wallace at QB for Ole Miss. Mississippi 28 Boise State 27. #24 Central Florida vs #43 Penn State – Dublin, Ireland Get ready for some EARLY morning football Saturday as these two kickoff at 7:30 AM CT….Yikes! James Franklin was a great hire for Penn State. I was a huge admirer of his at Vanderbilt. Long term I think the Nittany Lions are headed toward greatness, but don’t be fooled into thinking Penn State will be dancing all over Dublin in this game because UCF is a very good team. The Golden Knights are one of the “Group of Five” teams (along with Marshall, Cincinnati, Houston, Boise State, BYU, Bowling Green and La. Lafayette) that I think are in competition for a major bowl. Tough game to call, but I’ll stick with my computer projection…..UCF by the hair of a Leprechaun’s chinny chin chin. Central Florida 27 Penn State 24. #5 Alabama vs #77 West Virginia – Atlanta, Georgia. In the second game of Chick-fil-A’s double header we’ll find out just how mad Nick Saban was over the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma. I wouldn’t want to be in West Virginia’s shoes. I’ll give the Mountaineers 8 minutes…..then it’s all Bama. Alabama 45 West Virginia 10. #14 Clemson at #13 Georgia – This is THE GAME of opening weekend. What a shame either of these teams has to start out with a loss because ultimately I think they’ll both have exceptional seasons. Clemson lost a lot of talent, but Dabo Swinney has recruited very well. Georgia could be on the verge of greatness with Todd Gurley (a legitimate Heisman candidate) at running back and an overpowering defense. This game could go back and forth and down to the wire, but the Bulldogs eventually wear down the Tigers. Georgia 31 Clemson 24. #10 LSU vs #15 Wisconsin – Houston, Texas. These early season neutral site games are awesome for the fans. LSU returns to familiar territory in the Bayou City after many long years of playing Rice (many of which I attended during my 25 years in Houston). Gary Andersen is another favorite coach of mine. Anyone who can build a championship caliber team at Utah State deserves everyone’s respect. Both teams have holes to fill, yet both still find themselves in the thick of their respective conference races. With their schedules, I doubt either team will go undefeated, but for national rankings, this game would sure be a great place to start. I rarely go against the mad hatter in big games. Bengal Tigers by a nose. LSU 31 Wisconsin 28. Follow these links for computer projected point spreads on every FBS vs FBS game.
Florida State Roaring Toward Repeat
The Seminoles are loaded and ready to defend their ACC and National Titles. Billingsley projects Florida State to finish undefeated, but there are some potential pitfalls on the 2014 schedule. An opening game in Arlington against Oklahoma State will tell us a lot about any possible over confidence factor and an early season September 20th date hosting Clemson will most likely be the ACC game of the year. At North Carolina State is always tough for the Seminoles and at Syracuse draws red flags as a trap game, appearing on the schedule the week before Notre Dame travels to Tallahassee. The Irish are projected to be undefeated and ranked # 7 in the nation by the time that game is played. Notre Dame appears to be the greatest threat to Florida State’s undefeated season. At Louisville, at Miami (Fla.) and Florida at home are troublesome but manageable as long as the Seminoles are prepared and don’t make a lot of errors. Clemson is definitely the second best team in the ACC and after that there is a huge drop in projected rankings. The ACC Coastal division is a wide open race and will probably go down to the wire with a head to head win between North Carolina (Billingsley’s projected winner), Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Duke and Miami all within one game of each other, and all at a mediocre 5-3 or 4-4 conference record. Until some one other than Florida State and Clemson step up and finish the season 11-1, 10-2 or even 9-3, the ACC will continue to be the weakest of the Power Five Conferences.
Scheduling Issue could hurt American Conference
Having only 11 member teams is potentially presenting a controversy for the American Conference in 2014. Without a round robin schedule or a 12th team to split into divisions and create a championship game, the possibility of a two or three way tie at the top is very realistic. Houston plays both projected contenders within the conference, Cincinnati and Central Florida, but if the Cougars falter in either game, the door opens for a host of other possibilities. Houston is projected to beat UCF at home, but lose at Cincinnati on the last week of the regular season. The Bearcats and the Knights do not play each other in 2014, so two undefeated (8-0) conference teams is a possibility. The newly expanded American Conference has a real shot at the league champion finishing in the Top 25 with Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida projected to finish at #23, #24 and #25 respectively. If Cincinnati and Central Florida succeed in their projections at 10-2, having the opportunity to play each other in 2014 would most likely have thrust the winner into contention for the coveted “highest ranked Group of Five team” which will automatically have an invitation to one of the major bowl games under the new playoff rules. An undefeated conference slate for Houston should put the Cougars in that position as well.
Boise State Seeks Redemption in Mountain West
After falling to a mediocre record of 8-5 in 2013, the first time since 2005 not to win at least 10 games, the Broncos are eager to prove last season was a fluke. An opening game at Ole Miss is a crucial contest for Boise. A win over the Rebels (currently a projected loss) and the Broncos could go undefeated. Stiff challenges await in conference play though as Fresno State, San Diego State, and Utah State look strong enough to derail the Broncos dreams. An abundance of tough non-conference games may send a message that the conference is weaker when in truth, overall, every team seems improved over 2013. Take a look at the scheduled competition with the power five conferences: Ole Miss, Colorado (2), Boston College, Southern Cal, Nebraska, Utah, Washington, Oregon State (3), Washington State, Arizona (2), Arizona State, North Carolina, Auburn, Minnesota, Tennessee, Wake Forest, Oregon and Michigan State. In addition there are games against 4 “group of five” teams, all contending for their conference crowns, Rice, Arkansas State, Texas-San Antonio, and Northern Illinois. Brigham Young, an independent, but certainly a power five quality team is on the MWC schedule 4 times. Billingsley predicts a record of 2-28 in those contests. Even if Boise State, or any other MWC team goes undefeated, that conference record doesn’t look good to a selection committee.
Billingsley Releases 2014 Pre-Season Projections and Rankings
The dog days of summer may be in full swing, but the 2014 college football season is creeping up faster than the milk thistle on my chain link fence, and that folks, is pretty darned fast. I’ve spent my time productively in this 2014 off season. As you can see, there is a totally new interface for my website and a few new twists added to the rankings. I’ll be posting 3 categories this season, First, the standard Billingsley Report that was previously used by the BCS and does not include margin of victory in the calculation. Next you’ll find the Billingsley+ Report which does include margin of victory (and is therefore slightly more accurate in projections), and finally, a new “personal poll” which I will post reflecting the way I would vote if I were on the new playoff committee. Should be fun to see if I ever disagree with my own computer program, which I have on occasion over the decades. Publishing pre-season projections for an entire season (almost 800 games) is a scary proposition to say the least. Some of the results I see make me very nervous, but hey, it’s all for fun and should give you a few hours of research enjoyment before the season begins. I personally reviewed every projection the computer made, and overrode the program in about 80 games (which are marked with asterisks *). There are usually about 150 or so upsets a year in FBS football, so I could have stepped out a little more on a limb, but last year I really got burned by predicting a TCU upset over LSU to open the season and a Northwestern upset over Ohio State. The Frog defense just really didn’t live up to expectations. It was a tough year for TCU. Northwestern had Ohio State on the ropes, but just couldn’t quite pull it off, and well, the Wildcats just couldn’t completely recover from that meltdown the rest of the year. I did accurately predict the BYU upset over Texas though, along with a few others not nearly as significant. My goal in 2014 is to be a little more up close and personal with my website in regards to weekly commentary. I’m no longer under what basically amounted to a “BCS gag order”, which lasted for 16 years, so I don’t have to be silent……or politically correct. Oh happy day! That should be interesting to say the least. After 44 years of rankings I’m still going strong and actually feel a breath of fresh air surrounding the upcoming season. I’m excited about the playoff era, and although I still have my doubts surrounding the selection committee, I’m hopeful the sport will be served well by the new process. Time will tell, and you can rest assured, if I’m not happy, you’ll know it! One of the things long time fans will notice for sure is that I created an honest to goodness pre-season poll this year. Previously teams always started out exactly where they finished the previous year. I was always adamant that it was the least biased method since the program is designed to make major early season adjustments. In 1970 we didn’t have ESPN, we didn’t have the massive print commentary, and we certainly did not have the internet. Now, I’m semi-retired and had more time to devote to researching pertinent data in the off season. Maybe at 63 I just feel like I’m finally smart enough. Wow, that could be dangerous. No worries, the early season adjustment rules are still in place. About my nervousness in projections, well, anytime I predict a team to go undefeated I shake in my boots, OK, my flip flops, and this year I predicted 4 teams to go unscathed….Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma, and Marshall. The Thundering Herd play a very soft schedule (projected to be #126 out of 128 teams), but even so, there will be a couple of tough games along the way. Rice and Middle Tennessee will give Marshall all they can handle. Alabama is loaded with talent, but breaking in a new QB. Look very closely at October 4th on the Tide’s schedule. They play at Ole Miss whom I have projected to be 4-0 and ranked #15 nationally by that week, and once more, the computer has the game rated as a tossup. Made me wonder if I needed to tweak the program, but if the Rebels can handle Boise State in Atlanta to open the season, that prediction may not be too far off. Texas A&M will be tough for Bama, but the game is in Tuscaloosa. Playing at a very improved Tennessee could be tricky, but I expect Alabama to prevail. Games at LSU and the Iron Bowl against Auburn are giving me sleepless nights about my Alabama prediction, not to mention a projected SEC Championship game with South Carolina. Alabama could go 13-0, 8-4 or anywhere in between. See why I’m nervous? How could I not predict Florida State to go undefeated? With a host of returnees, including a Heisman trophy winning QB, the Seminoles are certainly deserving of my #1 pre-season ranking. But oh man, everyone will be gunning for them. Opening against Oklahoma State in Arlington will not be easy. The Cowboys lost a ton of talent, but I have tremendous respect for what Mike Gundy has done in Stillwater. I expect Oklahoma State to play a very tough game. Clemson, what can I say, definitely a hard early season contest. The Seminoles need to be very careful at Syracuse the week before Notre Dame comes to Tallahassee. The Orangemen are no pushover. It’s a classic trap game. The Irish will probably be the toughest game of the year for Florida State. Predicting Oklahoma to go undefeated makes me the most nervous. Yes, this is a very talented, well coached football team with a high octane offense and a solid defense. So what’s my hesitation? The hype surrounding Trevor Knight. Can he consistently play at the high level he performed in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama? Truth is, probably only 75% of that stellar performance would be good enough to go undefeated this season, but one bad game and Kansas State, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech or Oklahoma State could surprise the Sooners. Shoot, even a bad game against Tennessee could spoil the Sooners season. And Baylor, well, mark this down, if Oklahoma does not play their best game of the year in Norman on November 8th, Bryce Petty and the Bears will be celebrating their second straight Big 12 title come December. Watch for other posts in the coming weeks as I share thoughts on each conference individually. Below find links to rankings, conference standings, and game by game results. The schedules were provided by my friend Todd Helmick at National Champs.net. Have fun browsing! Richard Billingsley
Alabama Passes Michigan, Continues March on Notre Dame
In 2012, for the first time in the 44 year history of the College Football Research Center, the Michigan Wolverines were not the #2 All-Time Top Program in the Billingsley Report. On the strength of 3 National Championships in the last 5 years the Alabama Crimson Tide surged slightly ahead of Michigan last season. In 2013 the Crimson Tide extended their lead over the Wolverines and are now taking aim on overtaking Notre Dame as College Football’s most elite football program. From 1970-1977 the top 3 programs were Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State. Alabama leaped the Buckeyes to claim the #3 spot in 1980 after Bear Bryant led Alabama to a remarkable run of great teams in the 1970’s, capped by their 4th Billingsley title in 1979. Notre Dame remains as the #1 overall top rated program in college football history with 268.814 points (down slightly in 2013) to Alabama’s 267.670 (up slightly). Changes in Billingsley’s Top Programs are rare as the data is an average of 144 years of ratings. Should Alabama continue their surge and the Irish falter a few seasons, projections indicate Alabama could overtake Notre Dame in 3 to 4 years. Notre Dame’s dip in performance for 2013 allowed the Tide to continue their march to the Top of Billingsley’s list.
Will parity spell trouble for the MAC?
Six teams, three from each division, will battle for the MAC crown in 2014, with little room separating all six. Bowling Green appears to be a slight favorite, but the Falcons will encounter still competition from within the East Division from Ohio and Buffalo. In the West a very close race is expected between Northern Illinois, Toledo and Ball State, with the division crown likely hinging on the crucial November games of Northern Illinois at Ball State and Northern Illinois hosting Toledo the next week.
Is Marshall Poised For Perfection?
The battle for supremacy in Conference USA appears to be a five team race between Marshall and Middle Tennessee in the East and Rice, Texas-San Antonio, and North Texas in the West. The Billingsley projection shows Marshall favored in every game, which will include key games (both at home) against Middle Tennessee and Rice. A loss to the Thundering Herd gives Rice very little wiggle room, but wins over Texas-San Antonio and North Texas (both at home), and barring any upsets along the way in conference play, would still put Rice in a rematch with Marshall for the championship. An undefeated regular season for Marshall (13-0) would most likely land the Thundering Herd in the Top 25. Billingsley projects Marshall to end the regular season at # 16.
Can La. Lafayette Bring Sun Belt to National Prominence?
The Ragin’ Cajuns are loaded and ready to explode onto the National scene. Billingsley’s 2014 Preseason projections find Louisiana Lafayette finishing the season 10-2 with a national ranking closing in on the Top 25 at #27. Losses are projected to be at the hands of Ole Miss on September 13 and Boise State on September 20. Both games are on the road. An upset win over either opponent, coupled with a projected undefeated run in the Sun Belt conference, would assure The Cajuns of that coveted Top 25 ranking, something never achieved by a Sun Belt team. Going undefeated in the conference however, will not be an easy feat. Arkansas State is only a step behind and Louisiana Monroe and Troy are both capable of taking the crown as well. Mark your calendars, the conference title could be decided when Arkansas State visits Louisiana Lafayette on a special Tuesday night edition of college football on October 21.
College Playoff Announces Ranking Dates
Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the new College Football Playoff announced the rankings dates to release the Top 25 college football teams as seeded by the new Selection Committee. The first release will be announced on Tuesday, October 28, 2014. The Tuesday date is somewhat a throwback to the Golden Age of college football in the 1950’s and 60’s when the Associated Press (AP) and the Coaches Poll (UPI) ran in the Tuesday Editions of newspapers across America. The Selection Committee, comprised of 13 well respected members, will meet weekly in person to analyze data and discuss teams before voting by secret ballot. After the initial release on October 28, subsequent weekly Top 25 Rankings will be released on November4, November 11, November 18, November 25, December 2, and a final vote released on Sunday, December 7. The final vote will announce the Top Four teams which will be selected to play in the inaugural semi-final games of the new playoff format along with the other Bowl Game pairings. The Billingsley Report will continue to release weekly rankings beginning with the first week of the season, on Tuesday, after the games of Labor Day weekend. The rankings for the remainder of the season will be released on Sundays, followed by a weekly review/preview to be posted each Wednesday of the coming season.