NCF Nation: MAC

SEC extends lead in Power Rankings

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
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AP Photo/Tony GutierrezSEC teams went 8-1 in Week 1 as the race for the national championship trophy began.
A quick refresher: Last week, ESPN Stats & Information released its preseason conference power rankings, a formula that equally weighs the rankings from the AP Poll and ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) in order to determine the best and worst conferences in the country. For more information on the rankings and FPI, click here and here.

After an exciting slate of non-conference games in Week 1, the SEC proved why it was considered the top conference in the nation entering the season. The SEC went 8-1 in non-conference games, the best winning percentage of any FBS conference.

Ole Miss, Georgia and LSU all beat opponents ranked in the top 50 in the preseason Football Power Index, while Tennessee and Alabama took care of business against improved FBS teams. What may be surprising is the way that some of these SEC teams won the games, though.

The SEC was not nearly as dominant in its wins as some may have expected. LSU had the lowest average in-game win probability (34%) of any team that won this weekend, and Alabama, Ole Miss and Georgia were all in one-score games in the second half.

Nonetheless, the SEC pulled out these wins and jumped 1.4 points in the conference power rankings. The strength of the top of the conference (six teams in top 15 of the AP Poll) is unmatched by any other conference.

Big Ten falls despite strong Week 1
The Big Ten had the second-best winning percentage in non-conference games of any of FBS conference. Notable wins include: Rutgers beating Washington State in Seattle, Penn State defeating UCF in Ireland, and Ohio State outlasting Navy in Baltimore.

However, the other nine wins for the Big Ten were against six FCS teams and three lower-tier FBS opponents.

The main reason that the Big Ten fell in the ratings, however, is that last week’s numbers were based off of the preseason AP Poll that did not account for Braxton Miller’s injury.

Ohio State struggled in the first half against Navy without Miller, and as a result, the AP voters dropped the Buckeyes from fifth to eighth despite a win. That was the second largest drop in AP ranking for a team that won last weekend (UCLA went from 7 to 11).

ACC falls further behind rest of Power Five
The ACC dropped five more points in the conference power rankings after Wake Forest lost to Louisiana-Monroe, Syracuse almost lost to Villanova, North Carolina struggled against Liberty and Florida State played a closer-than-expected game against Oklahoma State.

Clemson's loss to Georgia also significantly affected the ACC in the ratings because the top of the ACC is considered even weaker than when it began the season.

Florida State is the only team from the ACC ranked in the top 20 of the AP Poll; every other Power Five conference has at least three top-20 teams.

In terms of the bottom of the ACC, Syracuse, Boston College, North Carolina State and Wake Forest all have an FPI below zero (zero is considered an average FBS team by FPI). No other Power Five conference has more than two such teams.

Big Week for Big Ten/Pac-12
Week 2 is a big week to prove conference superiority. Highlighted by Michigan State traveling to Oregon, the Big Ten is a part of three marquee games next weekend.

Michigan will look to build upon a strong Week 1 at Notre Dame and Ohio State will look to prove it can be successful without Braxton Miller as it hosts Virginia Tech.

In the Pac-12, Oregon likely needs to win at home against Michigan State in order for it to stay alive in the playoff.

Also out west, USC and Stanford will meet in one of the top Pac-12 games of the season.

SEC leads tight race in Power Rankings

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
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Joe Faraoni/ESPN ImagesWith a new college football postseason format comes a new trophy for the national champion
With the dawn of the college football playoff, conference strength will be examined more closely than ever before.

As the selection committee has noted, strength of schedule will be a factor in their decision-making process. That means out-of-conference and in-conference schedules will be examined.

Tom Osborne, former Nebraska coach and a member of the selection committee, noted, "A lot of teams are going to be at the mercy of the strength of their conference."

After all, at least one of the Power Five conferences will not have a team selected into the playoff.

Given the increased importance of conference strength, it is time to bring back ESPN Stats & Information’s conference power rankings.

What are the Conference Power Rankings?

Over the past few years ESPN Stats & Information has published weekly rankings of the FBS conferences during the college football season. The formula was originally crafted by then-Analytics Specialist Albert Larcada and has been adapted over the years.

In 2014, the formula is an equal blend of the rankings from the AP Poll (including the others receiving votes section) and ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI).

The AP Poll will not only add a human element to the rankings, but it will also measure the relative strength of the top schools in each conference. Conversely, the Football Power Index will measure the relative strength of every team in the country to determine conference power from top to bottom. For more information on FPI, click here.

The AP Poll and FPI will be weighed equally and the results will be calculated on a 0-100 scale in order to determine the best and worst conferences in the FBS.

SEC leads preseason rankings

It should not be surprising that the SEC leads the conference power rankings after finishing at the top of these rankings in all four years of their existence.

The SEC begins the season with eight teams ranked in the preseason AP Poll, including five teams ranked in the top 13.

After having the most players selected in the NFL Draft for an eighth straight year, the SEC is ready to reload with more ESPN 300 players signed in the past two years (235) than the next two conferences combined.

However, the Pac-12 is gaining ground. After finishing last year in a distant second (14.1 point differential), the Pac-12 begins the 2014 season just 4.1 points behind the SEC as the top conference in the FBS.


USA TODAY SportsHeisman hopefuls Marcus Mariota, left, and Brett Hundley.


A lot of the Pac-12’s strength is based on the projected strength of its offenses. Ten of 12 starting quarterbacks from the Pac-12 return in 2014, including Heisman favorites Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley.

In comparison, only six of the SEC’s 14 starting quarterbacks from a year ago return, which leaves gaping holes for top teams such as Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M.

Some believe this is the first time in years the Pac-12 will make a legitimate run at the SEC for the top conference in the nation.

Elsewhere in the rankings, the Big 12 comes in as the third-best conference in the country, largely because of its depth in comparison to the Big Ten and ACC.

Many would expect the Big Ten to slide in the rankings after the news of Braxton Miller's injury. The conference actually did not take too big of a hit because Ohio State remained in the top 15 in FPI even when accounting for its new starting quarterback.

However, the component of these rankings that measures the AP Poll remained unchanged. To give an idea of what a drop in the AP Poll would mean: if Ohio State falls to 10th in the AP Poll, the Big Ten would lose an additional three points in the conference power rankings.

Among Power Five conferences, the ACC is considered the weakest by both the AP Poll and FPI. That means if the top four conferences place a team in the playoff, it would leave the ACC on the outside looking in. Yet, there is a lot more that goes into those decisions, including the fact that the ACC has the clear No. 1 team in the country. Florida State received 57 of 60 first place votes in the AP Poll and has by far the best chance (39 percent) to finish the season undefeated according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

However, what if Florida State loses a conference game? Does the relative strength of the ACC come into play? Similarly, what if Marshall from Conference USA or Houston from the American Athletic Conference finish the season undefeated? Does the fact that they played in weaker conferences exclude them from the playoff?

All of these questions could arise throughout the season. Stay tuned after an exciting Week 1 of non-conference matchups that could significantly impact the conference power rankings going forward.

Score one for Western Michigan and the Mulhearn family.

Sean Mulhearn, a former WMU linebacker who helped the school win the MAC title in 1988 and won league Defensive Player of the Year in 1990, used to be tasked with keeping people out of the end zone at Waldo Stadium.

But at a recent practice, he didn't mind at all -- watching with a big smile as WMU head coach P.J. Fleck helped his wheelchair-aided son John across the goal line to loud cheers from the Broncos players, who had followed the pair all the way down the field.

video

Video: Bowling Green 47, N. Illinois 27

December, 7, 2013
12/07/13
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Bowling Green beat Northern Illinois 47-27 to win the MAC Championship.

Does Ohio State have argument for No. 2?

November, 25, 2013
11/25/13
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After Baylor lost to Oklahoma State on Saturday, the number of undefeated teams from BCS AQ conferences is down to three with Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State all vying for a spot in the BCS National Championship.

It appears that the No. 2 spot is Florida State’s to lose, but does Ohio State have an argument to be included in the title game based on conference and schedule strength?

Florida State vs Ohio State

According to ESPN Stats & Info’s Conference Power Rankings – a formula that equally weighs the rankings from the AP Poll and Football Power Index (FPI) - the Big Ten has the advantage over the ACC.

Five teams from the Big Ten received votes in the AP Poll, including three teams ranked in the top 15. In comparison, three teams from the ACC received votes and only two are ranked in the top 15.

However, Ohio State has only played one of those Big Ten teams and it was at home. The highest ranked team that the Buckeyes beat on the road, according to FPI, was Northwestern (64th in FPI).

Florida State, on the other hand, won at No. 3 Clemson and is 3-0 on the road against teams ranked in the top half of the FPI. As a result, despite playing in a conference ranked ahead of the ACC, the Buckeyes have played an easier schedule that Florida State, according to ESPN’s SOS rankings.

Looking deeper into the numbers, Florida State has had a higher average in-game win probability than Ohio State, meaning it has been more dominant in its wins. The Seminoles lead the nation in FPI, a forecast of team strength, and are predicted to be 10.2 points better than Ohio State on a neutral field.

The good news is that there is only a 29 percent chance that Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State will all remain undefeated entering bowl season, according to ESPN Stats & Info’s projections. So, the argument of team and conference strength may be settled on the field.

Rivalry Week

After nine straight weeks of primarily conference games, next week features its share of notable out-of-conference matchups.

The ACC has three notable non-conference games against SEC opponents on Saturday as Florida State heads to Florida (12 ET, ESPN), Georgia Tech hosts Georgia (3:30 ET, ABC) and Clemson takes on South Carolina (7 ET, ESPN2). According to FPI, the ACC should be favored in all three of those games. If the ACC can go 3-0 against the SEC, it will get a boost in the Conference Power Rankings next week.

Elsewhere, Alabama, Auburn and Missouri have must-win games that will impact the SEC and National Championship races. Ohio State should be tested at Michigan and Stanford will face a tough test against Notre Dame, which could also shake up the conference rankings next week.


DeKALB, Ill. -- Jordan Lynch walked into the Northern Illinois media room with a pair of teammates and his coach, Rod Carey, who wasted no time in getting straight to the point for the handful of national media members and seven NFL scouts who made it out here for a Wednesday night MAC game.

"Now I'm just going to say this, and don't anybody take offense, and you guys can just close your ears for a second," said Carey, looking at his players at the end. "I don't know -- if Jordan isn't in the conversation for the Heisman, I don't know what people are watching. They obviously were asleep, OK? So in my estimation, that trophy goes to the best player in the nation, OK? Well with the performance that he had today -- and he had help, believe me, we had a lot of good plays out there from everybody -- but from the performance he had tonight, he dang sure should be in that conversation. I'll head that off right now as we go.

"So with that we'll open it for questions."

The more emphatic statement had come in the three hours prior, when Lynch, in front of his biggest opponent and on his biggest stage yet this season, did not disappoint. The redshirt senior completed 26 of 32 passes, despite several drops, for a season-high 345 yards. He had two touchdown passes and no interceptions. He carried the ball 20 times for 123 yards and two more scores. Most importantly, he helped the No. 15 Huskies beat Ball State 48-27 in a game not nearly as lopsided as the final score indicates.

And, just like Carey had instructed him to, he put on his earmuffs for the postgame plea from his coach.

"I wasn't listening. I closed my ears. So I don't know what you're talking about," Lynch said. "But it's great. Anytime a coach believes in you and has trust in you, it's a pretty good feeling."

[+] EnlargeJordan Lynch
Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesAnother virtuoso performance by Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch has his coach thinking that he should be a serious Heisman candidate.
Lynch had entered the media room with a black NIU baseball cap with red, white and blue lettering. He was holding a blue Sharpie throughout the press conference, just minutes after delivering a couple of signature plays that, should the 10-0 Huskies run the table, crash the BCS party again and -- just maybe -- get their quarterback to New York for the Heisman ceremony, will be replayed over and over.

There was the third-and-10 run from his own 28 midway through the third quarter, when Lynch literally carried Cardinals end Jonathan Newsome for a few yards before finally shedding him on a spin -- withstanding a hit from linebacker Ben Ingle, for good measure -- and then sprinting down the visiting sideline and diving for a first down that was confirmed after a measurement.

That kept alive a drive that ended with a fourth-down touchdown run from Cameron Stingily that gave the Huskies a 27-24 lead.

Then there was the third-and-11 pass from his own 38 midway through the fourth quarter, with Ingle and Newsome again the victims of not taking Lynch down when they had him in their grasp, as they were then forced to watch the signal-caller scramble and find Matt Williams for a 25-yard completion.

Two plays later, Lynch lofted a beautiful pass to a wide open Da'Ron Brown for a 36-yard touchdown that made it 34-27.

After a key fourth-and-1 stop on Ball State's ensuing drive, Lynch officially iced things with a 16-yard touchdown run himself at the 1:26 mark. B-C-S chants broke out in the student section, lasting for the rest of the game -- which included a Joe Windsor pick-six -- and through the on-field celebration afterward.

Lynch pleaded ignorance to the chants, as he was doing a television interview at the time. He said he changes the channel whenever Heisman chatter comes on the air.

But he admitted that the serious chatter would be good for NIU and the MAC, and he senses discrimination toward the conference whenever the words "Heisman" or "BCS" get thrown around.

"I feel like we get disrespected all over the place," Lynch said. "All we do is do our job and win games. And I feel like we shouldn't be punished for that."

This narrative is not entirely new to this place. Lynch finished seventh in the Heisman voting a year ago, but a 31-10 Orange Bowl loss to Florida State sent the Huskies into the offseason on a sour note.

"After losing that game we had a bad taste in our mouth," Lynch said. "We came up with a motto: Finish the Fight. That's what we want to do this year. We want to get back to a BCS bowl and we want to win."

That will probably require a loss from Fresno State somewhere between now and the Mountain West Conference title game on Dec. 7.

Still, Lynch insisted the best is yet to come from him and from this program. For a man who surpassed the 9,000-yard mark for his career Wednesday night and tallied his ninth career 200-yard passing, 100-yard rushing game, those are strong words.

After 468 total yards of offense -- the fifth-most in school history -- he had to ask a school official if this latest act put his squad at 9-0 or 10-0.

Ten and 0, she told him, though the latter number is all he really needed to know in making NIU's BCS case.

"I'm focused on the next game, you know what I mean?" Lynch said. "We keep playing how we do, we take it one game at a time, I'm a firm believer that everything will take care of itself."

FPI favors Pac-12, ACC in power rankings

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
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The SEC continues to lead ESPN Stats & Info’s Conference Power Rankings by a wide margin after an exciting slate of games in Week 11.

As noted in previous posts, the Conference Power Rankings are a formula that equally weighs the rankings from the AP Poll and ESPN’s new Football Power Index (FPI) in order to determine the best and worst conferences in the country.

The idea is that the AP Poll measures a team’s résumé and perception, and the FPI measures a team’s relative strength in order to predict future success. In other words, the AP Poll answers the question, “If there were a playoff, who would deserve to play in it?” and the FPI answers, “If there were a playoff, who would win on a neutral field?”.

How do these compare in terms of conference strength?

The SEC has seven teams ranked in the top 25 of the AP poll, including four teams ranked in the AP top 10. No other conference has more than four total teams ranked in the AP top 25.

In comparison, the Pac-12 leads all conferences with seven teams in the top 25 of the FPI. The SEC is second with six teams, but only one of those teams – Alabama – ranks in the top 8. The Pac-12 has four teams in the top 8.

It is important to note that the SEC has two more teams than the Pac-12, which makes the Pac-12’s lead in the FPI even more impressive.

This is not an indictment of the SEC; the conference had the most teams ranked in the FPI top 25 last season. However, this season, the SEC does not have as many elite teams as in past years. According to FPI, the majority of their teams rank in the 20 to 40 range.

The Pac-12 actually has the most depth at the top of its conference. When Stanford loses to a team like Utah, who has played the hardest schedule thus far according to ESPN strength of schedule rankings, it may not be as much of an upset as many would expect.

FPI also favors the ACC more than the polls. Florida State is the top team in the FPI, and Georgia Tech, Clemson, Miami and Duke also rank in the top 25.

In the annual ACC vs. SEC matchups at the end of the season, FPI projections favor Florida State over Florida, Georgia Tech over Georgia and Clemson over South Carolina.

So, while the SEC is getting all the accolades in the polls, future performance may be on the side of their rival conferences. The good news is that this debate will be settled on the field. Keep an eye on the FPI as bowls approach in order to determine the relative strength of teams and conferences.

For more on FPI, click here.

Bulls, Bobcats battle for MAC East control

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
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Two of the MAC’s top teams will take to the turf Tuesday in a game that has big East division ramifications.

For both Ohio (6-2, 3-1) and Buffalo (6-2, 4-0), a fast start could be the key to determining the winner of the prime-time matchup.

Bobcats quarterback Tyler Tettleton and the Ohio offense have scored on the first possession in six of the past seven outings. Tettleton, a redshirt senior, has thrown for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns over the Bobcats’ past three games. Senior receiver Donte Foster has been Tettleton’s primary target, amassing 383 yards and four touchdowns over the same three-game span.

On the other side, Buffalo is also dominating the first quarter. The Bulls have outscored its opponents 51-3 in the first quarter throughout the team’s six-game winning streak. In eight outings this season, the Bulls have scored 32 touchdowns, a tally that matches the team’s season total a year ago.

Buffalo has leaned on running back Branden Oliver to find success on offense. The senior has 74 carries for 401 yards and five touchdowns in the team’s past two games.

The Bulls might also have the best defensive player on the field Tuesday. Applying pressure to Tettleton will be one of the nation’s premier pass-rushers, Khalil Mack, who leads the MAC in tackles for loss and ranks second in the league in sacks. Mack captains a Bulls defense that is second in the conference in third-down defense, while the Ohio offense ranks No. 1 in the MAC with a 49 percent third-down conversion rate. Buffalo’s opportunistic defense is second in FBS in turnover margin, having converted 15 forced turnovers into a total of 89 points.

Ohio has its own standout defensive linemen in Tarell Basham and Ty Branz. The Bobcats defense has tallied 28 total sacks this season, 20 of which were accumulated over the past four games.

Buffalo’s 6-2 record that is the team’s best start since 1986. The Bulls’ only losses of the year were on the road at Ohio State and Baylor to begin the season.

Tuesday night will mark the 20th meeting between the two teams, with the Bobcats owning a 12-7 all-time series edge. An Ohio win would move the Bobcats into a first-place tie with the Bulls in the MAC East.

Last season, Ohio rallied from a 14-point first quarter deficit to edge Buffalo in Athens 38-31 en route to 9-4 record and an AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl victory. Buffalo finished 2012 with a record of 4-8.

Big Ten rises in conference rankings

November, 4, 2013
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After a fairly uneventful weekend, ESPN Stats & Information’s Conference Power Rankings remained relatively unchanged, other than a slight gain by the Big Ten.

The SEC

The SEC continued to build upon its lead in the rankings after five of its top teams rose in the AP Poll. The SEC now has six teams ranked in the top 13 of the poll. No other conference has more than two teams in the top 13. 11 of the SEC’s 14 teams (79 percent) are also ranked in the top 50 of the FPI, the highest percentage of any conference.

The Big Ten

The Big Ten gained 3.9 points in the conference rankings after its top teams won on Saturday. Michigan State held Michigan to -48 rushing yards and confirmed that it has an elite defense. As a result, the Spartans rose six spots in the AP Poll and eight spots in the FPI. Michigan State’s emergence is important for the Big Ten because there is a perception that Ohio State is the only elite team in the conference.

The Big 12

The Big 12 fell 3.7 points in the rankings after Texas Tech lost its second straight game. The Red Raiders have fallen 15 spots in the AP Poll in the past two weeks, including 10 spots after their 18-point loss to Oklahoma State. There are now four teams in the Big 12 with no more than one loss in conference play. Each of those teams plays at least two games against the other three teams to end the season. That chaos at the top of the Big 12 will begin on Thursday night when Oklahoma travels to Baylor.

Next Week’s Slate of Games
Next week features seven different games that will shape conference races:

--SEC: LSU travels to Alabama on Saturday in a game that could eliminate LSU from the race for the SEC West.

--Pac-12: Oregon heads to Stanford on Thursday (9 pm ET, ESPN) in a game that will likely determine the winner of the Pac-12 North.

--Big 12: As mentioned above, Baylor hosts Oklahoma on Thursday in its first major test of the season.

--ACC: Miami (FL) will look to bounce back against Virginia Tech on Saturday in a game that could go a long way towards determining the winner of the ACC Coastal division.

--Big Ten: Nebraska heads to Michigan on Saturday in a must-win game for the Cornhuskers if they want to keep pace with Michigan State in the Big Ten Legends division.

--American: UCF hosts Houston on Saturday (7 pm ET, ESPN2)in a matchup of the only two undefeated teams in AAC play. If UCF wins, it will have beaten Louisville and Houston, the two 7-1 teams in the American Athletic Conference heading into this weekend.

--MAC: Ohio travels to Buffalo on Tuesday (8 pm ET, ESPN2) with first place up for grabs in the MAC East.

These games may not necessarily have a major impact on the conference rankings, but they will help determine the strength of the best teams in each conference.

For a refresher on the formula for the conference power rankings, click here

Big 12 rises in conference power rankings

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
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A quick refresher: ESPN Stats & Information’s 2013 conference power rankings are based off of a formula that equally weighs the rankings from the AP poll and ESPN’s new Football Power Index (FPI) in order to determine the best and worst conferences in the country. For more information on the rankings and FPI, which will be released later this season, click here or here.

The SEC took its largest lead of the season in the ESPN Stats & Information conference power rankings after five of its top six teams won on Saturday, including three wins over non-conference opponents by a combined 112 points.

The SEC is now 38-7 in out-of-conference games (.844 win percentage), which is the best nonconference win percentage of any conference.

Despite two of its top four teams losing on Saturday, the Pac-12 remains the No. 1 conference in the Football Power Index. The Pac-12 has four of the top 10 teams in the FPI, a ratings system that measures overall team efficiency.

However, the SEC has a major edge in the portion of the conference power rankings that measures the AP poll. Six of the top-15 teams in the AP Poll reside in the SEC, three more than in any other conference.

Elsewhere in the rankings, the Big 12 jumped ahead of the ACC for third place this week. Four of the Big 12’s ten teams have one or fewer losses, most of any conference. Baylor and Texas are both unbeaten in conference play, which could result in a de facto Big 12 championship game in the final week of the season.

The top teams in the ACC Coastal division had a rough Saturday. No. 7 Miami needed a last-second touchdown in its win against Wake Forest, then-No. 14 Virginia Tech committed four turnovers and was held scoreless for the first 44:49 in its loss to Duke and Pittsburgh was outscored 17-8 in the fourth quarter in its loss to Navy. These struggles were reflected in the ACC’s rating in the conference power rankings.

Fresno State survived a 35-28 overtime thriller against San Diego State to remain unbeaten. The Bulldogs are carrying the Mountain West Conference in the rankings and have a chance to earn an automatic BCS bowl bid if they remain unbeaten. Similarly, the MAC’s eighth place spot in the rankings is a result of strong starts by Northern Illinois (8-0) and Ball State (8-1).

Next week there are only three matchups between ranked opponents, so look for upsets to have a major impact on rankings.

SEC remains on top after wild Week 8

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
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Two weeks ago, ESPN Stats & Information released its 2013 conference power rankings, a formula that equally weighs the rankings from the AP poll and ESPN’s new Football Power Index (FPI) in order to determine the best and worst conferences in the country. For more information on the rankings and FPI, which will be released later this season, click here or here.

Week 8 was characterized by chaos and upsets; No. 3 Clemson, No. 6 LSU, No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 8 Louisville, No. 9 UCLA, No. 11 South Carolina and No. 15 Georgia all lost this week.

Overall, nine ranked teams were defeated, including five teams from the SEC, two teams from the Pac-12, one team from the ACC and the top team from the American Athletic Conference.

How has this wild week impacted the ESPN Stats & Info’s Conference Power Rankings?

The SEC did not fall as far as many would have expected because its losses came against fellow SEC opponents. Many of the points lost in the computer rankings (FPI) and in the AP Poll were picked up by their opponents.

For example, Missouri rose nine spots and gained 448 points in the AP Poll after its victory over Florida. Similarly, Auburn jumped 13 spots and gained 711 points in the AP Poll after beating Texas A&M on Saturday. In these cases, the Gators and Aggies did not lose as many AP points as their opponents gained.

Nonetheless, the SEC lost 2.9 points in the Conference Power Rankings after its top teams went down. The SEC had five teams fall at least seven spots in the AP Poll, and many of those spots were filled by other conferences, specifically the Big 12.

The Big 12 gained 14.8 points in the power rankings after its top four teams -- Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State -- all rose in the polls. As a result, the Big 12 jumped to second in the portion of the power rankings that measures the AP Poll.

Similarly, the Pac-12 moved from second to first in the computer portion of the conference power rankings (FPI). The Football Power Index (FPI) is one of ESPN’s new storytelling metrics that measures the relative strength of a team in terms of scoreboard points on roughly a -30 to +30 scale with 0 being average. The average Pac-12 team has an FPI rating of 14.6, meaning they are 14.6 points better than an average FBS team on a neutral field. In comparison, the SEC’s average FPI rating is 12.8.

Finally, the American Athletic Conference had the largest fall in the Conference Power Rankings after Louisville lost to UCF on Friday. Louisville was carrying the AAC in the polls and the computers after the conference went a combined 19-20 in its out of conference games. With the Cardinals’ loss, and their subsequent fall in the polls, there is a good chance that a non-AQ team will finish ahead of the American Athletic Conference champion in the BCS standings. If that team is also ranked in the top 16, it will be granted an automatic BCS Bowl berth.

If the last two weeks are any indication of what is to come, look for more chaos and upsets this upcoming weekend. Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Miami (FL) will look to avoid losses to unranked opponents at home. UCLA, Stanford, South Carolina and Texas Tech will all go on the road looking to take down a fellow ranked opponent.
1. Journalists aren’t supposed to root for anyone, but after all that Tom Savage has put himself through, it’s nice to see the fifth-year Pitt quarterback win the starting job. Savage played as a freshman at Rutgers and transferred to Arizona, only to see Mike Stoops get fired and Rich Rodriguez come in with a completely different offense. Savage left again. He might serve as a prime example of why quarterbacks shouldn’t transfer, but in the meantime, he has earned any good fortune that he produces this season.

2. The NCAA slapped former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel with a show-cause order in 2011, effectively banning him from coaching for five years. So the NCAA has nothing to say about Tressel teaching a coaching class at Akron, an NCAA member? Maybe it’s just that teaching how to coach is not the same as coaching. I don’t blame Tressel, who works in the university administration at Akron. He gets to work with young people again, which is the reason coaches get into the business.

3. The best news in the 2014 SEC schedule released Wednesday is the move of the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry to season’s end. The game will join Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech and South Carolina-Clemson as year-end, intrastate rivalry games between SEC and ACC schools. The prediction here is that the move will make the ‘Cats-Cards football game as intense as the annual basketball game. Laugh if you must, but watch what happens when (not if) Mark Stoops gets Kentucky football up and running.
1. The Big Ten announced Monday that it has made deals with the Holiday Bowl and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The conference effectively traded bowl destinations in Tucson and Houston for San Diego and the Bay Area. That’s a win. The Big Ten swapped two games against the Big 12 for two games against the Pac-12. Given their long ties to the Rose Bowl, and the failed attempt to schedule more regular-season games against Pac-12 programs, the Big Ten wins there, too.

2. The Mid-American Conference is offering you, any of you, the opportunity to be an inkstrained wretch at its football media day next month. Fans from each school may apply to cover their beloved, and the MAC will approve the questions for the head coach before they are asked. It would be easy to go snarky here, but I like the idea. The MAC is trying to market itself to the public. If I’m the league, and I don’t feel like I’m getting enough attention, then I do what I have to do to connect to MAC fans. Bravo.

3. Commissioner Mike Aresco has fought hard to keep the new American Athletic Conference relevant. But here’s a problem that he can’t blame on outside forces. The AAC forced out longtime public relations guy John Paquette on Monday. It’s still a people business, and the AAC just ran off a veteran who is universally respected by his peers and the media. The league has enough problems without causing more for itself, which is exactly what it did.

Video: Outside the Hashmarks

June, 12, 2013
6/12/13
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Mark Schlabach reacts to the report that the Group of Five conferences are thinking about starting their own bowl games in places like Little Rock, the Bahamas, and Dubai.

QBs the story in college football this fall

May, 20, 2013
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The 2013 college football season could showcase one of the best college quarterback classes ever. Here are five reasons why:

1. BEST TEAMS IN 2012 RETURN THEIR QUARTERBACKS
Each of the top six teams in last season’s final AP poll returns its leading passer. The last time that happened was entering the 1982 season. That 1982 group led to the famed 1983 NFL draft class that boasted six quarterbacks chosen in the first round -- including Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.

2. BEST PASSERS ARE RETURNING
Each of the top five and 10 of the top 11 quarterbacks in terms of passing efficiency return to school. In all, seven players with a passing efficiency of at least 160 last season are coming back, more than in the previous three seasons combined.

3. DIVERSE ARRAY OF NFL TALENT
This class is expected to produce a number of NFL starting quarterbacks. Four of Todd McShay’s top 15 prospects in the 2014 draft are quarterbacks (Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Alabama’s AJ McCarron).

Yet, showing how deep this class is, Brock Huard ranks Georgia's Aaron Murray, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Ohio State's Braxton Miller ahead of either McCarron or Manziel on his quarterback draft board.

4. LITTLE QB TURNOVER IN SEC
The SEC is in prime shape to win its eighth straight national title with 11 of 14 starting quarterbacks from last season returning to school. Among the 11 are the starters of the top three teams in each division including Manziel, Murray and McCarron.

Last season, Manziel set the SEC record for total offense with 5,116 yards. Murray is on pace to set conference records for most career passing yards and total offense, and McCarron is the two-time BCS national champion.

5. AWARD WINNERS BACK ON CAMPUS
The SEC isn’t the only conference returning elite quarterbacks. The Big Ten, Mountain West and MAC each return their first- and second-team quarterbacks from last season. So would Conference USA and the WAC if realignment hadn’t altered those conferences. The Big 12 is the only conference that doesn’t return either its first- or second-team quarterback.

Among the returnees, Boyd could challenge the ACC record for total offense in a career, Troy’s Corey Robinson is on pace to shatter the Sun Belt’s career record for total offense, and Jordan Lynch returns after leading Northern Illinois to its first ever BCS bowl game last season.

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