Alabama vs. Mississippi State:
This week Saban said that Mississippi State is maybe the best 4-5 team in the country.
-This is hilarious, because Florida is 4-5.
-As are Northwestern, UNC, Indiana, Washington State, Utah, Wyoming, and La Tech.
-Mississippi State may well be close to the worst 4-5 team in the country.
MSU's team recruiting rankings under Mullen:
Year- National, SEC
2009- 19, 8
2010- 29, 9
2011- 34, 10
2012- 22, 9
2013- 25, 11
When your recruiting is that much worse than your competition, it's hard to be successful. I believe Mullen is a good coach, but the talent gap between his program and real success is an absolute chasm. Since most teams have good years sprinkled in, his recruiting averages out to 12th out of 14 ahead of Kentucky and Vandy.
I don't expect the Bama-MSU game to be remotely close. They had some success running the ball, but they'll be inert with Russell under center. However, people are wrong to blame Russell. The real problem is that there is absolutely 0 WR talent on that team.
LSU Breakdown Review:
The first half was reasonably in line with what my stat model predicted, the primary difference being that the teams threw more than usual.
-Predicted LSU: 75 yards rushing, 125 yards passing, 16 points
-Actual LSU: 59 yards rushing, 173 yards passing, 14 points
-Predicted Bama: 90 yards rushing, 113 yards passing, 18 points
-Actual Bama: 64 yards rushing, 129 yards passing, 17 points
In the second half the teams moved away from their season averages to their recent trends (Bama has been playing better, LSU playing worse) and Bama pulled away.
"My One Key to Stop LSU... LIMIT HILL... you better be darn sure that he generates less yards/play than the rest of the team."
- Hill got 16 touches for 89 yards (5.56 yards/touch)
- The rest got 31 touches for 195 yards (6.29 yards/touch)
- We made them rely on players other than Hill, and we won.
Florida's Trap Game:
Florida gets to play the same Georgia Southern option team that gave Alabama so many fits in 2011 in two weeks. GSU isn't nearly as good this year, but I'm not sure Florida could spot them 21 points like we did and win.
Arkansas hasn't won a game since #karma:
But it's the wrong #karma that's the cause. A lot of people really didn't like Petrino (high school coaches and recruits, in particular), and his recruiting sucked. Bielema inherited a team only marginally more talented than MSU, and they would likely be just as bad right now (especially considering their QBs) had Petrino stuck around.
I am utterly baffled at this point as to why Auburn burned Jeremy Johnson's redshirt. They beat UT 55-23 and he was never allowed to throw the ball. They neither act like they need him, nor are they giving him the reps he would need to take over next year.
Footballoutsider.com does a statistical rating/ranking called F/+ that's pretty interesting. I think it would surprise many on here to know that Auburn is ranked 26th on offense, and 23rd on defense, in that system. I believe that's largely due to the fact that it is based in part on efficiency, and Auburn's offense isn't very efficient. Whereas Alabama looks to consistently gain yardage, Auburn tends to grab it in inconsistent chunks.
-Oddly, this is the exact opposite of what you'd expect from the option, even though their offense looks very similar. I think it's the result of trading leading blockers for the zone read. Leaving players unblocked and reading them instead leaves your offense more open to disruption, but gives you a bigger numbers edge when it works.
-In that rating system, Auburn has played two teams in the top 25 (TAM-19, LSU-25). They still must play the highest rated opponents on their schedule (UGA-18, UA-1).
-Bama has beaten 3 teams in their top 25 (VT-11, TAM-19, and LSU-25), with #17 Auburn remaining.
-The system is basically predicting Auburn will finish a 9 win team.
-By the way, FSU will only have played one team in their top 25 (Clemson-23).
"Thus, the Malzahn/Oregon offenses, that are designed to ensure that players are constantly isolated in space, are very good at beating the teams they are supposed to beat. However, they don't really exploit schemes, they are exploiting missed assignments and poor tackling... Likewise, I don't really think it's Stanford's "physicality" that gives Oregon problems; it's that they play good, fundamental defense. Stanford can slow down Oregon's running game if they make their assignments."
- Stanford played sound football for 3.25 quarters and was up 23-0. They then got tired, missed assignments, and gave up 20 points. If it was their physicality giving them the edge they'd have worn down Oregon like we did LSU. It wasn't, it was their discipline that got them the W, and that's why they faltered when they got tired.
- UT had a real chance to beat Auburn if they managed their assignments and limited the outside run. Instead, they played the zone read horribly, and got beat to the edge over and over. That's an absolute recipe for disaster against Auburn.
Observations and Predictions on AU vs. UGA:
Georgia is 20th nationally in rush defense. Auburn is 3rd in rushing offense. The best Rush D Auburn has faced was MSU at 34th. MSU held Auburn to 120 yards rushing, though Auburn won 24-20 off of by far Marshall's biggest passing day (23/34 for 339 yards 2TD/2INT). Georgia's 85th ranked pass D can be exploited, but Auburn's 110th ranked passing offense is unlikely to do it with Marshall at QB (which is maybe why we've seen Johnson).
Georgia's passing offense is 19th nationally. Auburn's pass defense is 80th. Georgia's rushing offense is 55th. Auburn's rush defense is 59th.
So Georgia has a huge edge when throwing the ball, and Auburn has a substantial edge when running the ball. Georgia is slightly better in the other areas in terms of yardage, and Auburn averages 3 points/game more.
Georgia is healthy. For the first time in a long while, they will play their entire starting defense in this game. Gurley isn't 100%, but he's good enough to get 15-20 carries. In the passing game they also return Lynch (TE), Bennett (WR), and possibly Conley(WR). A JUCO WR, Rumph, is also finally healthy enough to contribute. This Georgia team will closely resemble the one that beat LSU, and not the one that lost to Vandy.
I've talked about Todd Gurley being the difference in the UGA offense, and it's absolutely true. If Gurley touches the ball on a given drive, that drive will go for 7.5 yards/play. If he doesn't, they go 5.9 yards/play. That's a big deal. Georgia should have their primary starters at WR, TE, and RB all healthy for the first time in a while against AU.
- Stat via the excellent SBNation Numerical http://alturl.com/uvgdz
It's kind of funny to think about, but if you flip the injuries the two teams would probably flip records. Auburn's close wins against MSU, OM, and TAM might all well prove losses if they had gone without 5+ starters like UGA has, and UGA likewise probably would have beaten Clemson, Vandy, and Mizzou if they had kept merely Malcolm Mitchell and Todd Gurley healthy. Auburn has been exceptionally lucky in terms of injuries.
Here are some quotes from Mike Marshall leading up to this game:
"Who saw this coming? Who saw games in which Auburn rushed for 444 yards, as it did last Saturday against Tennessee?"
- This actually wasn't that hard to predict, considering how bad UT is.
"Who saw games in which Auburn piled up more than 600 yards of offense, as it did against Texas A&M?
- Back on October 14 I said "...I think Texas A&M will really struggle with Auburn.... TAM is 114th in the country in rushing defense, right behind UAB..."
- Again, any good rushing team should rip up TAMU this year.
"Who saw nine wins in the first 10 games and No. 7 in the national polls?"
- That one I didn't see coming. But I also didn't see them getting to the middle of November having played 6 teams with a losing record. (Auburn is 2-1 against teams with a winning record).
The common theme in all those comments is that people expected Auburn to fail because they were Auburn. But this is a game about match-ups, and Auburn has had a very favorable schedule to date. The only game on paper they probably should have lost is Ole Miss, but SEC teams are 2-15 since 2010 when playing an SEC opponent after a loss to Alabama. The physical toll is too much to recover from.
Anyway, I personally think UGA is going to win this one. All the statistical indicators show Georgia to be the better team. Again, it isn't just the eye test, Georgia has the better stats and matches up better. Further, UGA is going to be healthier in this game than in any conference game since LSU. Auburn is going to move the football, but the team speed on Georgia's defense (particularly Jordan Jenkins, who will be the point man against the zone read) means Georgia shouldn't get run by the way UT was. Further, UGA should be able to throw the ball at will on Auburn, assuming they get time to throw. Murray is an elite QB, and this is the first time in a while he's had some decent targets to throw to.
However, I've been picking against Auburn all year and have been constantly proven wrong, so I warn to take my opinion here with a huge grain of sand.
Utah's defensive line is actually statistically better than Stanford's, and leads the nation in sacks/game. Yet I bet they won't do as well as Stanford because they aren't as technically sound.
Along the same lines, I think Stanford's "physicality" may get exposed against a USC team that is bigger and stronger than they are.
And I think Arizona State may end up winning the Pac-12 title. Against common opponents their outcomes have closely mirrored Oregon, they've just played a harder schedule losing only to Stanford and Notre Dame.
The Effect of Decreasing Possessions:
Oregon averaged over 12 possessions a game up to Stanford. Against Stanford, they got 8. They scored on the last two. That's the problem with a "wear them out" style of offense; you are in serious trouble if you don't have enough possessions to make it worthwhile. Since Oregon scored on their last 3 possessions, there's little doubt that they would have won if they had 4 more possessions.
Baylor had 8 possessions by halftime against Oklahoma. It was a 24-5 game at the time.
Bama's 8th Possession went into the 4th quarter against LSU, and made it a 31-17 ballgame.
"I truly believe that Baylor is the best team in the Big 12, better than Oklahoma. They have played a tougher schedule than Oregon, rush and pass for more yards, allow fewer yards, and are the best red zone defense in the country. Yet, Baylor #15 and Oregon is #2. It makes no sense."
- I called this back on October 11.
- Baylor still has 4 projected bowl teams, including 3 ranked teams and 2 top 15 teams, yet to play. If they win out they will have a good chance of passing Ohio State and battling FSU for the #2 spot. FSU's schedule is absolute garbage in comparison to Bama and Baylor.
Duke, the Ultimate Underdog:
Don't look now, but Duke has a real shot at getting to the ACCCG. Assuming GT loses to Clemson, if Duke can beat a deflated Miami team, they just have to beat terrible Wake Forest and UNC teams to win the Coastal. If GT were to beat Clemson, the tiebreaker scenarios actually totally eliminate Duke from contention.
I'm not a big fan of Jerry Kill:
- His coaching mentor is Dennis Franchione.
- His players at Northern Illinois found out he was leaving for Minnesota via Twitter.
- His leading WR at Minnesota, a walk-on, left the team after Kill refused him a scholarship. The player then wrote a letter explaining how Kill tried to manipulate him into playing for free.
- The video of Kill dancing after the Penn State win going around the internet happened when Kill forced his way into a group of already dancing players with a camera crew in tow for a clearly canned dance. He goes for a high five at the end, and no one will high five him.
- Kill suffered a seizure on the morning of the Michigan game. He then took a leave of absence from his 2-2 team and relegated coaching duties to DC Tracy Claeys, with Kill only recently returning to observer from the press box. They are undefeated since.
- No one is willing to say any of this about a guy suffering from seizures. Much like Armstrong, whom I always disliked, the media is so bent on having a "feel good" story there is no way they're going to criticize Kill, even though being sick has nothing to do with your character as a person. Since his condition is unlikely to ever be cured, it is beginning to serve as a permanent PR shield.
A Detour into Scheduling:
There is one aspect of the new "superconference" with two major negative effects. Conferences are beginning to favor a 9-game conference schedule. The Pac-12 and Big-12 do it now, the Big Ten is transitioning to it, and both the SEC and ACC are strongly considering it. Unfortunately, it means marquee non-conference games have become rarer. First, this makes football less exciting. Second, it makes the data less useful. Our whole basis of understanding the ACC is currently predicated off Clemson-UGA.
Here's a breakdown of the Pac-12, ACC, and SEC vs. major conferences in honor of Oregon, FSU, and Bama. Initially, I was expecting to argue that the Pac-12's performance has been bad. Then, after looking at it, I realized they won more than they lost. Instead, I found two things. First, the ACC is totally dependent on Clemson beating UGA for their credibility. Second, the number of "meaningful" games is really, really low. There isn't a single team in the top 15 of the BCS with a non-conference loss right now. It's virtually impossible to compare conferences when none of the best teams in each conference have actually played each other.
Pac-12 Non-conference schedule:
Washington State vs. Auburn (loss)
Oregon vs. Virginia (win)
Oregon vs. Tennessee (win)
Cal vs. Northwestern (loss)
Cal vs. Ohio State (loss)
Arizona State vs. Wisconsin (win, but the cheapest win possible)
Arizona State vs. Notre Dame (loss)
UCLA vs. Nebraska (win)
USC vs. Notre Dame (loss)
USC vs. Boston College (win)
Utah vs. BYU (win)
Washington vs. Illinois (win)
Teams with an major conference game: 8
Overall Record: 7-5 (6-6 if you flip ASU-Wisconsin)
Wins over teams with a winning record: (3) Wisconsin, Nebraska, Boston College
Teams with a winning record that lost: (2) USC, Arizona State
ACC Non-conference schedule:
UVA vs. BYU: win (THIS HAPPENED IN REAL LIFE)
UVA vs. Oregon: loss
Clemson vs. UGA: win
VT vs. Bama: loss
GT vs. BYU: loss
UNC vs. USC: loss
Syracuse vs. Penn State: loss
Syracuse vs. Northwestern: loss
Pitt vs. Notre Dame: win
Miami vs. Florida: win
Boston College vs. USC: loss
Maryland vs. WVU: win
Teams with a major conference game: 10
Overall Record: 5-7
Wins over teams with a winning record: (3) BYU, Notre Dame, Georgia
Teams with a winning record that lost: (4) VT, GT, Syracuse, Boston College
SEC Non-conference schedule:
South Carolina vs. UNC: win
Florida vs. Miami: loss
Georgia vs. Clemson: loss
Tennessee vs. Oregon: loss
Ole Miss vs. Texas: win
LSU vs. TCU: win
MSU vs. Oklahoma State: loss
Alabama vs. VT: win
Missouri vs. Indiana: win
Auburn vs. Washington State: win
Teams with a major conference game: 10
Overall Record: 6-4
Wins over teams with a winning record: (2) Texas, VT
Teams with a winning record that lost: (1) Georgia