MOTSAG TV Guide

All games Saturday, November 22, unless otherwise noted.
Rankings reflect current College Football Playoff rankings.

BUCKEYES

Indiana @ #6 Ohio State. Noon, Big Ten Network.

This is it. The last game before The Game, and Ohio State can clinch the East division with a win against the Hoosiers. Never take anything for granted.

UPCOMING OPPONENT

Maryland @ Michigan. 3:30p, Big Ten Network.

OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS

#25 Minnesota @ #23 Nebraska. Noon, ESPN.

Northwestern @ Purdue. Noon, ESPNU.

Penn State @ Illinois. Noon, ESPN2.

Rutgers @ #11 Michigan State. Noon, Big Ten Network.

#16 Wisconsin @ Iowa. 3:30p, ABC/ESPN2.

OTHER TOP NATIONAL GAMES

(11/20) #12 Kansas State @ West Virginia. 7:00p, FS1.

#15 Arizona @ #17 Utah. 3:30p, ESPN.

USC @ #9 UCLA. 8:00p, ABC.

MACTION!!

Tuesday, November 25.

Akron @ Kent State. 7:00p, ESPN2 (or ESPN3).
Ohio @ Miami (OH). 7:00p, ESPN2 (or ESPN3).

The Spread, Week Thirteen: Fraud Teams Revisited

Time for more personal accountability. This week I’ll review my annual fraud team list. You may remember that I started my list early this year due to an abnormally small number of undefeated teams in Week 5. But I promise not to use that as an excuse.

1. Oregon State. The Beavers are the perfect fraud team this year. Not only have they already crashed their 3-0 start into a 5-5 record, but they also went ahead and hilariously beat #6 Arizona State to help out the Buckeyes in the playoff race.

2. Washington. I usually hesitate to put two teams from the same conference at the top of the list, because it’s unlikely that they’ll both tank. But sure enough, the Huskies have gone from 4-0 to 6-5 and the season’s not even over yet. The Fraud List is lookin’ good…

3. TCU. Oh.

Hey, the nature of the list pretty much guarantees some actually good teams will end up on it, and TCU is one of those this year. Congrats, Frogs.

4. N.C. State. Back in business! The Wolfpack started 4-0, then lost their next four games. They are currently 6-5, another fraud smoked out!

5. Mississippi State. At least now they’ve finally lost one, so this pick doesn’t look completely ridiculous. Good job, Bulldogs, you avoided a dire fate.

So there you have it. I said I would consider the list a success if at least one team lost five games and no one did better than 8-4. Two teams are definitely going to do better than 8-4, but I think nailing three frauds (including my top two) before the season is even over is still pretty good.

MOTSAG TV Guide

All games Saturday, November 15, unless otherwise noted.
Rankings reflect current College Football Playoff rankings.

BUCKEYES

#8 Ohio State @ #25 Minnesota. Noon, ABC.

The Gophers give Ohio State a chance at a second consecutive win over a ranked team, except if we beat them, they probably won’t be ranked anymore. Which I guess means it’s not impressive?

UPCOMING OPPONENTS

Indiana @ Rutgers. 3:30p, Big Ten Network.

Michigan: no game

OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS

Temple @ Penn State. Noon, ESPN2.

Iowa @ Illinois. Noon, Big Ten Network.

#16 Nebraska @ #20 Wisconsin. 3:30p, ABC.

Northwestern @ #18 Notre Dame. 3:30p, NBC.

#12 Michigan State @ Maryland. 8:00p, Big Ten Network.

OTHER TOP NATIONAL GAMES

#19 Clemson @ #22 Georgia Tech. Noon, ESPN.

#1 Mississippi State @ #5 Alabama. 3:30p, CBS.

#9 Auburn @ #15 Georgia. 7:15p, ESPN.

#3 Florida State @ Miami. 8:00p, ABC.

MACTION!!

Tueday, November 18.

Northern Illinois @ Ohio. 8:00p, ESPNU (or ESPN3).
UMass @ Akron. 8:00p, ESPNU (or ESPN3).

Wednesday, November 19.

Bowling Green @ Toledo. 8:00p, ESPN2 (or ESPNU).
Kent State @ Buffalo. 8:00p, ESPN2 (or ESPNU).

The Spread, Week Twelve: B1G Coaches Revisited

Every once in a while I use my space here to predict things, and I am a firm believer in holding myself accountable. Unlike the televised talking heads who count up wins and sweep losses under the rug, I’m willing to admit when I get something wrong.

So here we go.

In my post about B1G coaches, I made some projections about how each of them (sans our own Urban and a few others on solid footing) might hold on to their jobs for another year. While we don’t know for sure yet how things will end up, I’ll look at how each is progressing and where I think they’re headed.

Kirk Ferentz. I predicted Ferentz would need to win at least nine games to stick around due to his ridiculously weak conference schedule. I also thought he would pull this off easily and probably snag another undeserved B1G Coach of the Year trophy in the process.

Nine is now the most games Iowa can win this year, and they still have to play Wisconsin and Nebraska. I still have my doubts about the Hawkeyes ever letting Ferentz go, but if they’re going to do it, immediately following losses to the only two good teams they played all year would be the time.

James Franklin. While not in danger of getting fired, I did guess that Franklin would need to go over .500 to keep off the hot seat next year. That looks achievable, with games against Temple and Illinois upcoming before a probable loss to Michigan State to close out the year. Taking the Buckeyes to double overtime will help his case as well.

Jerry Kill. Kill was one of my coaches showing promise for this year, and he’s done well thus far, posting a 7-2 record. His Gophers have a crazy gauntlet coming up with Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin looming, but don’t be surprised if he manages to pull out a win in one of those.

Randy Edsall. My other promising coach has also had a decent first year so far, guiding Maryland to a 6-3 record. He’s got a date with a fired-up Spartan squad this week, but closes out with Michigan and Rutgers, so he’ll probably land on his feet.

Kevin Wilson. I put Wilson on the hot seat, noting that it’s time for the head Hoosier to make a bowl game or get out of town. Despite a bizarre win over Missouri, it still looks like he won’t pull it off with only three wins and games against Rutgers, Ohio State and Purdue upcoming.

Brady Hoke. Yeah, I saved the best for last. Hoke is getting fired this year, and that’s all there is to it. His AD is already gone, and the coach came off like a complete buffoon in the aftermaths of incidents both serious (the Shane Morris concussion) and trivial (the Michigan State sideline stake). Not to mention the continued dismal on-field performance of his team.

MOTSAG TV Guide

All games Saturday, November 8, unless otherwise noted.

Programming note: “OTHER OHIO TEAMS” section has been replaced by “MACTION!!” You’re welcome.

Rankings reflect current College Football Playoff rankings.

BUCKEYES

#14 Ohio State @ #8 Michigan State. 8:00p, ABC. (Gameday. 9:00a, ESPN.)

This is it. This is the game you’ve been waiting for since last year’s Big Ten title game, in which Mark Dantonio at his most evil handed Urban Meyer his first loss as Buckeye head coach.

Revenge is a pizza best served cold. In a golf cart.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS

Iowa @ Minnesota. Noon, ESPN2.

Penn State @ Indiana. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Michigan @ Northwestern. 3:30p, ESPN2.

OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS

#25 Wisconsin @ Purdue. Noon, ESPN2.

Maryland, Rutgers, #13 Nebraska, Illinois: no games.

OTHER TOP NATIONAL GAMES

This is going to be an amazing weekend of college football…

#12 Baylor @ #15 Oklahoma. Noon, FS1.

#10 Notre Dame @ #9 Arizona State. 3:30p, ABC.

#7 Kansas State @ #6 TCU. 7:30p, Fox.

#5 Alabama @ #16 LSU. 8:00p, CBS.

#4 Oregon @ #17 Utah. 10:00p, ESPN.

MACTION!!
All games at 8:00p on ESPN2 or ESPNU.

Tuesday, November 11.

Akron @ Buffalo.
Toledo @ Northern Illinois.

Wednesday, November 12.

Ball State @ UMass.
Kent State @ Bowling Green.

The Spread, Week Eleven: The Name Game

Team A has one loss, to a 6-3 team who hasn’t lost since October 4th. And the team they lost to back then? Don’t worry, Team A already beat them–one of just two losses suffered by that team.

Team B also has one loss, to a 7-2 team who lost their last two games. The teams who beat them are pretty good, but Team B hasn’t played those teams yet.

As far as wins go, neither Team A or B has beaten anyone all that impressive, but Team A probably has a slight edge if we’re comparing each team’s best single win.

In the new College Football Playoff rankings released this week, Team A is #22, a pretty reasonable ranking for what I’ve described above–no remarkable wins and an okay loss. You could argue that the ranking is a little low for a one-loss team.

Team B doesn’t have that problem. They’re ranked #5, just outside the as-of-yet-imaginary playoff field.

How could two teams with such similar resumés end up so far apart in the rankings? After all, the playoff website tells us that the committee is looking at things like win-loss record and strength of schedule–exactly the things I covered above.

Team A is Duke.
Team B is Alabama.

The Crimson Tide get a pass because of who they are and what they’ve done in the recent past. To argue otherwise is silly. It can’t be about blowouts vs. close wins/losses, because the committee isn’t supposed to be looking at margin of victory. It can’t be about projected success, because they aren’t supposed to be doing that either–each week’s rankings are supposed to be about the season up to that point. There really is nothing left other than Alabama has a much greater football tradition than Duke.

Not convinced? Why is TCU, with a lone loss to one-loss Baylor along with wins over Oklahoma and West Virginia, also ranked behind Bama? Both teams beat WVU (and remember, it doesn’t matter by how much) but Bama hasn’t played anyone as good as Oklahoma. You could make similar arguments for Kansas State and Michigan State.

But look at those names: Duke, Texas Christian, Kansas State, Michigan State. These are not traditional football powers, claiming just 8 national titles between them, with 6 of those belonging to the Spartans, easily the biggest football brand of the bunch. Alabama claims 15 national titles alone.

Just so we’re clear, this is not an accusation of bias or intentional artificial boosting of the SEC or even just Alabama by the committee. Think of it as a friendly reminder that despite progress, we’re still very much in the age of haves and have-nots in college football, and our shiny new playoff–as welcome and exciting as it is–is still the product of human subjectivity.

MOTSAG TV Guide

All games Saturday, November 1, unless otherwise noted.

BUCKEYES

Illinois @ Ohio State. 8:00p, ABC.

I don’t know. This game is probably exactly what it looks like it is–a bounce back after a surprisingly close shave against Penn State and an officiating crew rehearsing for some new hilarious Will Ferrell movie I guess. You could probably argue that this is a potential “trap game” if you want to be the kind of person who says stuff like that.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS

Indiana @ Michigan. 3:30p, Big Ten Network.

Minnesota, Michigan State: no games

OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS

Wisconsin @ Rutgers. Noon, ESPN.

Maryland @ Penn State. Noon, ESPN2.

Northwestern @ Iowa. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Purdue @ Nebraska. 3:30p, ABC.

OTHER OHIO TEAMS
All games on ESPN3 (online) unless otherwise noted.

(Friday, 10/31) Cincinnati @ Tulane. 8:00p, ESPN2.

Western Michigan @ Miami (OH), 2:30p.

OTHER BIG NATIONAL GAMES

(Thursday, 10/30) Florida State @ Louisville. 7:30p, ESPN.

Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville. 3:30p, CBS.

TCU @ West Virginia. 3:30p, ABC/ESPN2.

Auburn @ Mississippi. 7:00p, ESPN.

Stanford @ Oregon. 7:30p, Fox.

The Spread, Week Ten: It’s All About the Benjamins

The first-ever College Football Playoff rankings have been released, and you probably know someone who’s mad about where their team has been slotted. That’s not me, and that’s not what this is about. I don’t really care how many SEC teams are in the top whatever or how this team isn’t being measured by the same standard as that team. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t even really care where Ohio State is ranked.

Now, that’s partially because this week’s rankings are completely meaningless. I’m not even sure I understand why the committee is doing a weekly update when one of their announced important factors is conference championships, something we won’t know until all the games have been played. I guess they just want us to know they exist. And ESPN needs to fill time and fuel their shouting shows for another seven days.

What I’m concerned about is the absence of a specific team, a team who–admittedly–hasn’t beaten anyone noteworthy and won’t really have a chance to. I’m talking about undefeated Marshall, one of only three teams with a perfect record remaining and the only one of those three to not show up in the first official top 25.

And yes, I know all the arguments against the Thundering Herd (and I don’t disagree with them) but the simple fact is that any post-season structure that doesn’t allow an undefeated team a shot at the title is broken. It’s what I was most afraid of with the paltry four-team format and it’s clearly going to come to fruition should Marshall win out.

Some may argue that a team like East Carolina, with its three non-conference games against “Power Five” schools, could crack the top four had it won every game. (ECU does check in at #23 in this week’s rankings, the lone non-power team on the list.) But let’s face it, by the end of the season having beaten South Carolina, Virginia Tech and North Carolina wouldn’t have been impressive enough to leap-frog a one-loss Oregon or Michigan State or Auburn or Notre Dame.

And it’s all by design.

The College Football Playoff replaces the BCS, a championship system developed in 1998 by the six major conferences. (This, kids, was a time when the Big East was populated by Miami, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.) For sixteen years, the BCS ensured that a team from one of those six conferences would be named the champion, even as it pretended to open it doors ever-so-slightly to the smaller conferences.

Eventually, people grew dissatisfied with the format, reaching the breaking point when two teams from the same division (guess which one!) played for the national title. Playoff talk–which has existed pretty much since the beginning of the sport–heated up again. So, the exact same group of teams, who had now rearranged themselves into just five conferences, came up with our new system and made sure to keep nearly all of the money (over 70% guaranteed) for themselves.

Of course, conferences receive an extra $6 million for each member team that makes the playoff, so it’s very important to make sure the committee understands exactly where those four teams should come from. By placing value on things like conference championships, strength of schedule, quality wins and (apparently) quality losses, the deck has been sufficiently stacked against the mid-major conferences.

Judging from the initial rankings, the committee has heard the message loud and clear. A mid-major team will never play in the College Football Playoff as long as it only has four teams.

Money wins again.

MOTSAG TV Guide

All games Saturday, October 25, unless otherwise noted.

BUCKEYES

Ohio State @ Penn State. 8:00p, ABC.

The Nittany Lions have not been particularly impressive so far this year. Their wins have been close or against severely outmatched teams. This week, they come off a bye following consecutive losses to Northwestern and Michigan, both 3-4 teams. They’ll be looking to capitalize on a White-Out crowd and avenge last year’s 63-14 beatdown. This is a rare big “National Stage” game against a team that isn’t really that good.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS

Minnesota @ Illinois. Noon, ESPNU.

Michigan @ Michigan State. 3:30p, ABC.

A few weeks ago, I would’ve bet money that Brady Hoke wouldn’t be the Wolverine coach in this game. Will he still be there after it?

Indiana: no game.

OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS

Maryland @ Wisconsin. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Rutgers @ Nebraska. Noon, ESPN2.

Purdue, Iowa, Northwestern: no games.

OTHER OHIO TEAMS

All games on ESPN3 (online) unless otherwise noted.

(Friday, 10/24) South Florida @ Cincinnati. 7:00p, ESPN2.

Akron @ Ball State, 2:00p.

Ohio @ Western Michigan, 2:00p.

Kent State @ Miami (OH), 2:30p.

OTHER BIG NATIONAL GAMES

(Friday, 10/24) Oregon @ California. 10:00p, FS1.

West Virginia @ Oklahoma State. 3:30p, ESPN.

Mississippi @ LSU. 7:15p, ESPN.

The Spread, Week Nine: Adjusted Margin of Victory

That’s right, this week I’m going to tackle college football’s biggest enemy: Margin of Victory. The stat was famously banned from the BCS formula’s computer component, effectively destroying the only unbiased portion of that calculation. The fear was that by allowing MOV to be included, the system would encourage teams to “run up the score” on lesser opponents, a theory that completely ignores the fact that the essential purpose of rankings is to determine which teams are “lesser.”

While I understand the reasoning behind disallowing MOV in a system that will determine who plays for the national championship, I don’t think it’s necessary to ignore it altogether. Sure, it can be misleading or manipulated to some degree, but it can also be a valuable piece of information in comparing teams.

The main flaw with MOV is that is heavily favors offensive teams in comparisons–a 28-0 win is the same as a 56-28 win. To combat that, I started looking at Percentage of Points instead, another neat stat that ultimately has the opposite problem: A 3-0 win is the same as a 70-0 win.

The answer is simple: combine the two. To calculate Adjusted Margin of Victory, I multiplied each team’s MOV by their overall percentage of points and the result is a number that values both offense and defense. The current number one team in Adjusted MOV is undefeated Marshall, averaging over 47 points a game and giving up less than 17. Ole Miss, Ohio State, Baylor and Alabama round out the top five. Michigan State and Nebraska also crack the top ten.

It’s worth noting that Western Kentucky, the #8 team in scoring offense, is ranked #71 in Adjusted MOV. Stanford, the #2 team in scoring defense, comes in at #27.

To be clear, this is not intended to be a complete ranking of teams. Some consideration for winning percentage and opponent strength would have to be added for that to work. But Adjusted MOV can be a useful way to consider scoring when comparing teams without over-rewarding anyone for piling on against weaker opponents.