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Ridley's Rankings, Week 11

Updated on November 11, 2014
The Aggies defense did just enough to ruin the Tigers' playoff chances.
The Aggies defense did just enough to ruin the Tigers' playoff chances.

Last week was not a great one to try to prove that my algorithm works, at least not in the top 10. Despite my overall accuracy crossing the 70-percent mark for the season, the predictions I wrote about in this space last week didn't fare too well. Only five of my eight predictions turned out to be correct, with Auburn being the one that looks the worst. The Tigers tripped and fell all over themselves on Saturday, allowing an Aggies offense that had gone dormant to come out and score 41 points. The other two were more forgivable, with Michigan State's defense forgetting when the game was and Notre Dame forgetting which color their jerseys were.

With this week's action, we can eliminate another four teams from the playoff hunt with relative certainty, but that doesn't mean the picture is any clearer. There is a sizable quandary developing in the Big 12 and if Mississippi State happens to slip up this weekend to Alabama, an even bigger deliver will start brewing. So how do I foresee it all shaking out? Let's take a look.

If you need a reminder of how the rankings are calculated or what the numbers mean, you can find the explanations here.

The Rankings

Rank
Team
Total
My Rank
1
Mississippi State
100.00
1
2
Oregon
95.40
3
3
TCU
95.07
2
4
Alabama
93.01
4
5
Florida State
91.76
7
6
Ole Miss
90.29
5
7
Auburn
89.14
6
8
Ohio State
89.11
8
9
Baylor
88.65
10
10
Arizona State
86.94
11
11
Marshall
83.10
9
12
Nebraska
80.88
13
13
UCLA
79.50
14
14
Michigan State
79.34
16
15
Kansas State
78.63
17
16
Georgia
77.84
15
17
LSU
77.71
12
18
Duke
75.01
19
19
Notre Dame
74.32
22
20
Clemson
73.76
20
21
Arizona
73.46
23
22
Texas A&M
72.66
18
23
Wisconsin
71.20
25
24
Colorado State
71.06
21
25
Georgia Tech
70.10
24
Opponent
Rank
Win Probability
@Alabama
4
62.66%
Vanderbilt
N/A
76.67%
@Ole Miss
10
63.45%
Proj. Finish
 
12-0*

1. Mississippi State (9-0) (100.00) [1]

As the top-ranked team, it's no surprise to see the Bulldogs favored throughout. It will be no picnic traveling to Tuscaloosa this weekend to face Nick Saban's Tide. Hail State will need a defensive effort similar to what LSU showed on Saturday. They will also need to limit turnovers, as Dak Prescott has five interceptions in his last three games against FBS opponents.

If the Bulldogs can beat Alabama, they will have all but guaranteed themselves a spot in the playoffs. They would have to lose to both Vanderbilt and Ole Miss to miss the SEC Championship (and they aren't losing to Vandy). Once there, they will likely play Missouri, who has been anywhere from good to downright atrocious this season. Regardless of which version shows up, they won't be able to take down Mississippi State. And as a one-loss SEC champ, there is zero chance of them missing the playoffs.

Opponent
Rank
Win Probability
@Miami(FL)
N/A
66.48%
Boston College
N/A
76.58%
Florida
N/A
71.03%
Proj. Finish
 
12-0*

2. Florida State (9-0) (91.76) [7]

No surprise here, the Seminoles should likely go undefeated in a fairly mediocre ACC. Outside of a few surprises like Duke and Georgia Tech, the conference has been very lackluster. Despite the conference's lack of high-end quality, an undefeated FSU team won't be denied from the playoffs, no matter how often they play down to the level of their opponents.

The one game I would watch out for if I was a Florida State fan would be Florida. If the Gators can put on the same performance they did against Georgia, they could walk out of Tallahassee with a win.


Opponent
Rank
Win Probability
Colorado
N/A
76.68%
@Oregon State
N/A
68.33%
Proj. Finish
 
11-1*

3. Oregon (8-1) (95.40) [3]

The Ducks remaining regular season shouldn't worry them. Sure the Beavers are likely to get up for the Civil War game, but that same team just lost at home to Washington State, so I wouldn't be too worried if I were in Eugene. The big challenge will come in the Pac-12 Championship where the Ducks could face either Arizona State or UCLA. The Ducks will be favored in both match-ups, but the outcome is far from certain.

Opponent
Rank
Win Probability
Mississippi State
1
37.34%
Western Carolina
N/A
99.00%
Auburn
9
73.23%
Proj. Finish
 
10-2

4. Alabama (8-1) (93.01) [4]

If the Tide can somehow upset Mississippi State at home on Saturday, all chaos will break loose in college football. The one-loss Tide will take control of the SEC West with their only conference foe left being Auburn. A win in that game would put them in the SEC Championship, a game they would be very likely to win.

The chaos in this situation stems from what to do with Mississippi State. If they go on to beat Vandy and Ole Miss after, they would finish 11-1 but not play in their conference championship. Whether or not the committee would bypass them for a conference champion from the Big Ten or Big 12 would be one of the most talked about story lines in the country.

Opponent
Rank
Win Probability
@Kansas
N/A
68.81%
@Texas
N/A
68.58%
Iowa State
N/A
77.59%
Proj. Finish
 
11-1
The Horned Frogs loss in Waco may not hurt them in the end.
The Horned Frogs loss in Waco may not hurt them in the end.

5. TCU (Texas Christian) (8-1) (95.07) [2]

TCU's final three games aren't anything that will keep Gary Patterson awake at night. Kansas and Iowa State are two of the worst three teams in the Big 12 and both rank 99th or worse. The one game that could potentially cause troubles is a trip to Austin. The Longhorns are a far cry from their national championship days, but are starting to come together, as shown in their game against West Virginia. And at 5-5, they could be fighting for their bowl eligibility.

Should TCU run the table, they will find themselves in an interesting situation. Due to their loss at Baylor, they can only win the Big 12 with another Baylor loss. However, that may not matter as the committee has already announced that if a conference does not have a championship game, they will view teams tied at the top as co-champions. Even then, they will still have to contend with the Big Ten champion, who will have the benefit of an extra marquee game. But as I wrote in this space two weeks ago, I believe the committee will stick to their guns and reward TCU, who has been the higher-ranked team during their first two rankings.

Opponent
Rank
Win Probability
@Minnesota
N/A
69.48%
Indiana
N/A
76.88%
Michigan
N/A
77.66%
Proj. Finish
 
11-1*

6. Ohio State (8-1) (89.11) [8]

The Buckeyes big win in East Lansing sent a statement to the playoff committee. How clearly that statement was heard will be determined tonight, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Ohio State on the cusp of the playoffs.

Like TCU, Ohio State has a relatively easy road to travel for the remainder of the regular season. Only their trip to Minnesota can be seen as a difficult game, given the struggles of Michigan this year. If the Buckeyes can win out and soundly beat a highly-ranked Cornhusker team in the Big Ten Championship, they will put the committee in a very tight spot.

Opponent
Rank
Win Probability
Oklahoma State
N/A
80.09%
Texas Tech (Neutral)
N/A
74.06%
Kansas State
13
76.80%
Proj. Finish
 
11-1

7. Baylor (8-1) (88.65) [10]

Baylor's offense isn't quite as explosive as it was last season, but it seems to be more consistent. They are also sporting a much stronger defense than last year, as Matt Hinton of Grantland detailed. This should allow them to avoid any upsets in their final three games, especially when they host Kansas State. The Wildcats are as fundamentally sound as they come, but as they showed against TCU, they don't have the defensive talent to slow down high-powered attacks.

This puts the Bears in an interesting situation. They were a mere 12th in last weeks rankings, behind Ole Miss and ahead of only three of the other 11 one-loss teams. They way they handled Oklahoma in Norman should certainly help their cause, as does losses by Auburn, Kansas State, Michigan State and Notre Dame. But the Horned Frogs, Buckeyes and Sun Devils also put up statement wins as well. Will their first win ever in Norman be enough for them to leap frog Arizona State, Ole Miss or hold off Ohio State? If the answer was no to any of those questions, Art Briles' team will need more than three wins to find themselves in the final four.

Opponent
Rank
Win Probability
@Oregon State
N/A
65.13%
Washington State
N/A
74.05%
@Arizona
17
64.82%
Proj. Finish
 
11-1*

8. Arizona State (8-1) (86.94) [11]

A quick note before I address the Sun Devils. Last week, I used the playoff committee's rankings to decide the order. Because I wrote this piece before the updated rankings came out, I did my best to project where the committee would have each team, according to where they were last week and how they did over the weekend. This is why Arizona State, who is 10th in my rankings and seventh in the AP, is eighth in these rankings. I believe the Sun Devils will fall behind both the Buckeyes and Bears because, unlike the other two, their win was at home (a historically significant factor) and they were more fortunate than dominating, scoring 28 points off of turnovers. The committee may certainly disagree with me, but I think Ohio State and Baylor were much more impressive.

Now that we have got that cleared up, let's talk about their remaining slate. Only their rivalry game against Arizona should present a challenge as both the Beavers and Cougars are down again this year. Should they escape that, they will face Oregon at Levi® Stadium outside of San Francisco (the first ever neutral-site Pac-12 Championship). Avoiding Autzen Stadium will certainly help the Sun Devils' chances, but they will still enter as underdogs. The reputation of the Pac-12 is high enough that if both teams enter with one loss, the winner, regardless of current ranking, will have a spot reserved for them in the playoffs.

Opponent
Rank
Win Probability
@Wisconsin
22
64.73%
Minnesota
N/A
77.48%
@Iowa
N/A
67.03%
Proj. Finish
 
11-1*

10*. Nebraska (8-1) (80.88) [13]

*I am projecting Ole Miss to come in ahead of Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers are the last team with a realistic shot at the playoffs. As a one-loss Big Ten team, they don't truly control their destiny. Their remaining slate is just tough enough for them to garner some additional respect, but doesn't have that high-profile game to send them over the top, at least not in the regular season.

To win the Big Ten West, Nebraska must win out, as their three remaining opponents are the three that chase them (their playoff hopes are obviously fried if they lose, too). That would give them a shot to face a rising Buckeyes team on a neutral field. Unfortunately for the the Huskers, the burden of proof may be high enough that they would have to put on a commanding performance in order to edge out both Big 12 teams. A close win will likely just get them a pat on the back.

*denotes record would qualify for a conference championship game.

Fourth Seed?

Which Team Should Be the Fourth Seed?

See results

Who Gets In?

Now that we have the projected records figured out, let's look at who gets in.

Mississippi State and Florida State are once against obvious picks. If both finish 13-0, they will be the respective top two seeds. As mentioned earlier, a one-loss Pac-12 champ is in, so Oregon joins the party, likely as the three seed (if Arizona State made it, I think it would be as a four seed). That leaves one spot and what appears to be three one-loss teams (I'm projecting Ohio State to win the Big Ten in this scenario).

TCU has the current edge and just put on a commanding performance. Baylor, whether they like it or not, will be judged on how their performance against K-State compares to TCU's. They had six spots to make up on the Horned Frogs and will have to really impress the committee in the final weeks, as it appears they don't see Baylor's victory over TCU a determining factor.

The Buckeyes had even more ground to make up, trailing TCU by eight spots. Their dominating offensive performance against the Spartans is certain to help clear some of the gap, but won't be enough, initially. They will need resounding victories in their final three games (aka, no Penn State debacles) and statement win over Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship. Only then can I see the committee getting past a weak Big Ten slate and an ugly loss to Virginia Tech.

Ultimately, I see too many hurdles for Baylor and Ohio State to overcome. TCU is clearly the committee's preferred choice now and, outside of a massive misstep, I don't see that changing.

The Final Four

Seed
Team
Win Loss
1
Mississippi State
13-0
2
Florida State
13-0
3
Oregon
12-1
4
TCU
11-1

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