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!
Projected game by game results (be patient, this is a large file, but very worth the wait)