FraudWatch

10/08/2009 § Leave a comment

Each year in college football, a handful of teams storm out of the gate with a hot start only to stumble unceremoniously to a mediocre finish.  They are the fraud teams, having accumulated an unblemished record through 4 or 5 weeks either by beating up on overmatched opponents or winning close games over teams that are actually more talented.

For this study, I’ve defined a fraud team as one that starts the season at least 4-0 and finishes with at least 5 losses.  In the past three seasons, 14 teams have met this criteria, all of them from BCS conferences.  These fraud teams tend to have at least one close win (by 7 or fewer points) during their hot start (only 2 of the 14 had no close wins) and their opponents’ winning percentage is usually around 40%.  They also tend suffer their first loss to a good team (average record: 4-1).  The good news is that these teams have all made bowl games and 8 of the 14 won their bowls, with another 3 losing theirs by 3 points or less.

So, who are this year’s fraud teams? « Read the rest of this entry »

Balancing Act

10/06/2009 § Leave a comment

We hear all the time about “balanced” teams or units.  A program that boasts both a productive offense and a stifling defense is as close to unbeatable as you can get.  An offense that can be effective on the ground as well as through the air is a difficult thing to defend, just as a defense that is stingy in both areas is tricky to attack.

I’ve developed a rating that measures a team’s overall balance between offense and defense and individual balances between rushing and passing on each side of the ball.  Below, I’ve listed the top ten most and least balanced ranked teams in each category.

Rankings are based on current AP poll.  Letter in parentheses indicates direction of imbalance (R-more run, P-more pass, O-better offense, D-better defense)

Offense

Most Balanced:  #9 Ohio State (R), #25 South Carolina(R), #14 Penn State (R), #23 South Florida (P), #5 Boise State (R), #15 Oklahoma State (R), #20 Mississippi (P), #12 Iowa (P), #21 Nebraska (R), #16 Kansas (R) « Read the rest of this entry »

NFL Week Four in Review

10/06/2009 § Leave a comment

This week, there’s only one place to start: The End. On Monday night, Brett Favre made his point against his old team, completing a stunning 77.4% of his passes for 271 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead the Vikings to a 30-23 win over the Packers. But it’s not like his counterpart/replacement played poorly. Aaron Rodgers connected on a tidy 70.3% of his passes for 384 yards, 2 TDs and 1 pick. In fact, the only major difference in the two QBs performances is the fact that Favre was never sacked, while the Vikings defense got to Rodgers 8 times.

On Sunday night, the Steelers bounced back from a disappointing loss to the Bengals in Wacky Week 3 by abusing the Chargers on their way to a 21-0 halftime lead. Midway through the third quarter, Pittsburgh upped the lead to 28 and holstered their hammer, all nails sufficiently driven into San Diego’s coffin.

Or not.

Scoring for the first time with just a minute and a half remaining, the Chargers forced their way back into the game, and were down by just seven points with over four minutes remaining. « Read the rest of this entry »

Underrated/Overrated Teams So Far

10/05/2009 § Leave a comment

Every week, college football fans open up their sports pages (or sports webpages, more likely) and scan the latest incarnations of the three major polls:  the AP poll, the USA Today/Coaches poll, and the Harris Interactive poll.  The former is the most respected, while the latter two are the most important, as they will eventually make up two-thirds of the destiny-altering BCS Rankings.  Examining the polls is always an exercise in frustration, with at least two or three coffee-spewing frauds or oversights per week.  In case you haven’t had the time to peruse them for yourself (or if you’re running low on coffee), here are a few teams I see as under- or overrated in this week’s polls:

Underrated:

The Wisconsin Badgers are 5-0, but apparently their narrow escapes against Minnesota and Fresno State have the voters a little wary.  They sit at #25 in both the Coaches and Harris polls, but just missed out on the AP (if the poll was extended, they would be #26).  The Badgers have two tough tests coming up in Ohio State and Iowa, but taking at least 3 of their last 5 should be no problem, and all 5 are winnable. « Read the rest of this entry »

Who Will Make the Playoffs? (Early Season Projection)

10/05/2009 § Leave a comment

About a month ago, I presented the early results of my point system for evaluating a team’s chances of making it back to the playoffs after making it the previous year.  Since then, I’ve expanded the system to include teams who didn’t make the playoffs the previous year, allowing me to project an entire 12-team playoff field.

The expanded system includes a slightly modified evaluation for the teams who didn’t reach the post-season a year ago, and correctly predicted the fates of 14 of 20 teams (70%) from the 2007 to 2008 seasons.  Based on this and the success of the original system, I think the overall projection will be quite accurate, especially by the late-season update.

After running the system on the latest numbers and adjusting the results to fit the format of the NFL’s playoff system, the 2009 playoffs should look something like this (I’ve included a few teams that don’t make the system’s field of twelve, but are very close): « Read the rest of this entry »

NFL Games to Watch: Week Four

10/02/2009 § Leave a comment

Green Bay @ Minnesota (Monday, 8:30 ET, ESPN)

There are other games on this week, but who cares?  You’re not going to find this kind of intrigue anywhere else this weekend, except maybe Zombieland.  Two years ago, Brett Favre retired from the Packers, but later revealed he felt he was being forced out because he was no longer effective.  Comments about Favre’s future viability may or may not have been made by Packers GM Ted Thompson.

After an unsuccessful attempt to join the Vikings last year, Favre signed with the New York Jets and started off 7-4 before a suffering a shoulder injury that may have contributed to a five-game losing streak to end the season.

Favre retired again last off-season, and this one appeared to be sticking, as Favre remained unsigned and adamant that he would not playing in 2009.  Still, the situation was suspect from the get-go as many believed Favre still had a desire to play for the Vikings under offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who previously worked with Favre as a QB coach in Green Bay. « Read the rest of this entry »

Week Five Picks

10/01/2009 § 1 Comment

Last week, I risked humiliation by putting my own picks up against those of 41 cents.  I proved to be too much for thirty-five of those cents as my admittedly weak 3-4 record bested that of the quarter (1-6) and the dime (2-5).  I tied with the nickel, which I guess is some sort of depressing moral victory.  My overall record now stands at 14-16 and simple mediocrity continues to elude me.

Now let’s move on to the big news:  You may have noticed that the performance of one of last week’s pickers was omitted above.  That’s because I felt it deserved more than just a brief mention, as the penny went an astounding 6-1 last week, missing only Iowa’s upset of Penn State.  Now, I know you’re all way more interested to see if a tiny circle made almost entirely of zinc can work its magic again than you are in whatever ill-considered predictions I might come up with, so I’m now turning the remainder of this post over to the penny.

Pedro the Penny’s
Pigskin
Prognostication-Palooza

Finally!  I thought that guy was gonna keep stinkin’ it up all season.  Let’s get to work with my one cent worth on this week’s big games. « Read the rest of this entry »