November 22, 2007

No team gets me angrier, faster than FSU. Georgia may be Florida’s oldest and most traditional rival, but being born in 1985, I grew up in the 1990s. During that time Georgia was Florida’s whipping boy, and the FSU game had national title implications almost every year. That fact is reflected in the fact that College GameDay has visited the Florida – Florida State game more often than any other.

The rivalry looked like it was going to tail off this decade with the coinciding Jeff Bowden and Ron Zook eras, until the 2003 Swindle in the Swamp reignited it. Again, no game makes me angrier, faster than that one. Let’s just move on.

Then you had FSU QB Wyatt Sexton in 2004, visiting the homecoming game against South Carolina while wearing a Florida sweatshirt.

The following year, Florida won what Gators fans call the Ron Zook Field game, launching a 3 game (and counting) win streak. Let’s count how many ways FSU’s hubris showed in honoring ol’ Bobby at the game against its biggest, most fierce rival:

  1. Named the field after him
  2. Unveiled a statue of him
  3. Unveiled the 5th largest stained glass window in North America with his image
  4. Announced bronze busts of him would be for sale

Now, not only are items 3 and 4 disturbing on several levels, it also served up more than enough motivation for the Gators that day. It’d be one thing to do all of this for your homecoming game against Duke or something, but you don’t do that against your biggest rival. That is, of course, unless you’re concerned that you’re not going to fill up the whole stadium for any other game, which is entirely possible.

FSU is not known for being smart.

Now, this year has some excitement provided by one Geno Hayes, an FSU linebacker known for physical play. He has said Tim Tebow is “going down,” that “the bigger they are, the harder they fall,” and that he plans on ruining Tebow’s Heisman campaign.

That’s fine; after all, the Semis ruined Matt Ryan’s Heisman campaign a couple weeks ago. However, Ryan is no Tim Tebow. Neither, for that matter, is Mr. Hayes – Geno is listed at 6’2″, 218, while Tebow is listed at 6’3″, 235.

Credit to Hayes for picking a fight with someone bigger than him, but he should be warned that Tebow steamrolled LSU’s prized safety LaRon Landry last year, he of the 6th overall pick in the draft. Tebow said he’s going to remember the words on the field, and if you recall, Tebow grew up a Gator fan in the same era as I did so he’s going to have similar feelings about FSU as I do.

He’s going to have plenty to play for even if he really is not thinking about the Heisman at all.

What’s got two thumbs and players who can’t keep their traps shut? This guy!

FSU comes into the game a minor mess of a team. The much ballyhooed change of coaching staff has yielded almost exactly the same stats as last year’s team. The Weatherford-Lee quarterback carousel has been spinning again, though Lee is now permanently out the rest of the season with severe brain cramps. Only a Weatherford injury will cause him to see time again.

In recent weeks, FSU had an epic 4th quarter collapse against Virginia Tech, and it nearly blew a big lead against Maryland. The best success they’ve had on offense ironically has come from taking a page out of Florida’s playbook – having WR Preston Parker take over at running back. The Semis needed some stability back there after having no less than nine players register a carry against VT.

As for the passing game, the Jeff Bowden jump ball will likely be employed early and often against Florida’s weak and banged up secondary, especially since 6’3″ DeCody Fagg and 6’6″ Greg Carr are going to be the targets under those jump balls. Hopefully, the SEC refs will grab the correct glasses for the game, because Carr commits offensive pass interference on nearly every jump ball thrown to him, but I guess it’s never called because he’s just so big and tall.

I can say without snark that the offensive game plan for Florida will likely play out how it did against FAU. FSU is 15th overall against the run, but 74th against the pass. It’s likely going to be Tebow distributing the ball at will with his arm, and some running every now and then on the side to keep the defense honest. I really don’t see a situation that leads to FSU winning this game if Florida plays up to its potential and continues its hot streak from the past couple games.

Another FSU season spirals down the drain.

FSU has finished conference play tied for 6th (!) in the ACC with Georgia Tech. I don’t know how the ACC tiebreakers work, but the bowl that takes the ACC #6 is the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte on the 29th, and the bowl that takes the ACC #7 is the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco. Right now, GT and FSU have identical records, but if GT beats UGA this weekend (oh Lord, please make it so) and UF beats FSU, then the Semis will probably end up reprising their role as the ACC rep in the Emerald Bowl. Florida, for its part is still hoping to sneak into the Sugar Bowl.

But, back to the game on hand. FSU will move the ball and score some points. Our defense hasn’t shown it can hold anyone but Western Kentucky to under 20. However, I expect Florida to win, and possibly win big. Why?

For one, Urban Meyer has come out with the right game plan each of the last two years. Last year, Florida was just happy to get out Tallahassee with a win, which is fine since UF has had so much trouble winning there over the years. The year before that, though, it was a 34-7 drubbing that could have been worse. Meyer has the team playing some of its best football of the season right now, and Tim Tebow is playing at an unbelievably high level. Saturday, we make it 4 in a row.


SSOS: Penultimate Week Edition

November 22, 2007

Statistical Strength of Schedule (SSOS) has become a weekly feature of mine, and you can read the rationale and about how it’s calculated here.

We’ve got two weeks left in the regular season, but if you think that means there’s not much movement left to do in the SSOS listings, you’re wrong. Wrong like watching all of the puntfests on TV today known as NFL games. Since I’m doing all of the family stuff tomorrow (it just worked out that way this year), I give you a Thanksgiving feast of stats. For the first time since I started these listings, someone other than Notre Dame is on top. Playing service academies will do that to you. The top 25:

  1. Nebraska (+1)
  2. Notre Dame (-1)
  3. Washington (NC)
  4. Syracuse (+3)
  5. Colorado (-1)
  6. Ole Miss (+13)
  7. Iowa State (+8)
  8. Stanford (+3)
  9. Baylor (+4)
  10. Tennessee (+1)
  11. FIU (-6)
  12. Maryland (+2)
  13. Duke (-7)
  14. Utah State (-5)
  15. Mississippi State (+15)
  16. Auburn (+1)
  17. California (-7)
  18. UNLV (+8)
  19. Wyoming (+19)
  20. South Carolina (NC)
  21. Oregon (-3)
  22. Texas A&M (-1)
  23. Oklahoma State (-15)
  24. Louisville (+15)
  25. Kentucky (-3)

Full list: 11-17-07.pdf

SSOS by Losses

Note: Minnesota is the only team with 11 losses. The 11 loss category has been omitted for that reason. Once other teams join the Gophers there after this weekend, I will add in that too.

No shockers here, though the W shape in the middle is interesting. It also shows that the undefeated teams are the outliers, as well as the teams with 9 or more losses. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle, roughly near the average SSOS score for everyone.

This seems to confirm what I put forth last week, that overall schedule strength does not predict success unless you have an extraordinarily weak or difficult schedule. Is that true? Well, let’s look at another chart.

Average SSOS Rank by Losses

Well, we’ve got a much more pronounced W shape. It seems to suggest that of the teams that don’t reside on the extremes, there are more bad teams congregated in the 4 loss and 7-8 loss groupings than in others, because those teams together managed to lose more games than the overall trend would suggest they should.

Unsurprisingly, a quick scan of the 4 loss teams with easy-ish schedules reveals some of this year’s biggest disappointments – Arkansas, FSU, Georgia Tech, and Rutgers. Their schedules say they should be better, but those teams have some kind of flaw holding them back. For Arkansas, it’s the defense. For GT, it’s Chan Gainley’s soporific schemes.

The 7 and 8 loss realms are where you find some of the dregs of college football who are failing to win more games despite having relatively easy schedule – Temple, Tulane, Kent State, UL-Lafayette, Rice, and others. These are the teams that simply don’t have I-A talent, and they mess with the numbers. At least Notre Dame has gone 2-9 against the second most difficult schedule in the country; Northern Illinois has no excuse for compiling the same record against the 114th most difficult schedule.

Biggest Movers

This week’s top gainers:

  1. Idaho (+27) played Boise State last week
  2. Boston College (+26) Clemson
  3. Cincinnati (+19) West Virginia
  4. Kansas State (+19) Missouri
  5. Texas Tech (+19) Oklahoma
  6. Clemson (+17) Boston College
  7. Army (+15) Tulsa
  8. Louisville (+15) USF
  9. Mississippi State (+15) Arkansas
  10. Pitt (+15) Rutgers
  11. SMU (+15) UCF
  12. West Virginia (+15) Cincinnati

We’ve got a logjam at the bottom. As the sample size of games for each team grows with every passing week, the ability to move dramatically decreases. That is, of course, unless you’re in the WAC, ACC, and Big East apparently. Idaho made the week’s biggest leap after playing Boise State, and the BC-Clemson game and WVU-Cincinnati games both made each participant gain ground.

The week’s biggest fallers:

  1. Colorado State (-31) Georgia Southern (I-AA)
  2. UConn (-26) Syracuse
  3. Wisconsin (-22) Minnesota
  4. Central Michigan (-21) Eastern Michigan
  5. UL-Lafayette (-20) FIU
  6. Wake Forest (-19) NC State
  7. New Mexico State (-18) Utah State
  8. Iowa (-17) Western Michigan
  9. Tulsa (-15) Army
  10. Oklahoma State (-15) Baylor

Playing those conference bottom feeders can really mess a team up. Nothing you can do about it though. Serial offenders FIU and Utah State make appearances, along with a I-AA team.

SSOS by Conference

Total Average SSOS for all 119 Teams: 63.55

Best Schedule: Ole Miss, 6th overall, score of 50.34

Worst Schedule: Arkansas, 96th, 70.61

Average SOS Rank: 31.92

Average SOS Score: 57.92

Best Schedule: Washington, 3rd overall, score of 49.25

Worst Schedule: Arizona State, 89th, 68.83

Average SOS Rank: 34.70

Average SOS Score: 58.20

Best Schedule: Syracuse, 4th overall, score of 49.59

Worst Schedule: UConn, 86th, 67.93

Average SOS Rank: 41.63

Average SOS Score: 59.51

Best Schedule: Nebraska, 1st overall, score of 45.73

Worst Schedule: Kansas, 115th, 78.45

Average SOS Rank: 41.75

Average SOS Score: 59.44

Best Schedule: Michigan, 30th overall, score of 58.82

Worst Schedule: Northwestern, 68th, 64.67

Average SOS Rank: 50.73

Average SOS Score: 61.67

Best Schedule: Maryland, 12th overall, score of 54.09

Worst Schedule: Georgia Tech, 95th, 70.43

Average SOS Rank: 58.58

Average SOS Score: 63.13

The Big East continues its meteoric rise, from last a few weeks ago now up to third. That’s as high as its getting though, since the Pac 10 and SEC have such a big lead. The SEC, meanwhile has opened up a larger lead on the Pac 10, and with the SEC’s dead weight Arkansas playing LSU this weekend, it’s likely to get a better score on the whole.

The ACC, meanwhile, is falling behind. Not only is it a wholly uninspiring conference style-wise, but it is just playing bad football all around. That’s one drawback of living on the east coast – you get ACC teams on TV a lot.

One more interim week before the final standings.