Stats & Info: MAC

No. 2 Conference left out of playoff

December, 8, 2014
12/08/14
12:40
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USA TODAY Sports Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU are both left out of the College Football Playoff, despite the Big 12 ranking second in ESPN's College Football Power Rankings.
According to ESPN Stats and Information’s Conference Power Rankings, the second-best conference was left out of the initial College Football Playoff.

The Big 12 enters bowls ranked second in the Conference Power Rankings, largely because of its strength at the top. It has three teams ranked in the top 11 of the AP Poll and four in the top 20 of the Football Power Index (FPI).

When looking at conference depth, the Big 12 ranks third behind the SEC and Pac-12 with an average FPI ranking of 41.6.
The Big Ten, which grabbed the final spot in the College Football Playoff, ranks last among Power 5 conferences in the Conference Power Rankings. Three of its 14 teams – Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin – are ranked in the top 25 of the Football Power Index.

The Conference Power Rankings are not designed to endorse one team over another; each team’s full body of work must be weighed separately. It does, however, put into perspective the difficulty of achieving a team’s record given its conference schedule.

According to FPI’s projections, it is nearly as difficult (though not quite equal) to achieve an 8-1 record with a Big 12 schedule as it is an 8-0 record with a Big Ten schedule. This does not account for non-conference scheduling, which may have been a deciding factor in the CFP committee’s decision.

Elsewhere, the SEC moved back to No. 1 in the Conference Power Rankings. The SEC has nine teams ranked in the top 25 of FPI and seven ranked in the top 25 of the AP Poll. Twelve of its 14 teams will be playing in bowl games, including three in New Year’s Six Bowls.

We will learn a lot more about conference strength during bowl season as the top conferences face each other. In the last five seasons, the SEC has a .625 win percentage in bowl games, best among Power 5 conferences. The Big Ten ranks last with a .385 win percentage over that time. These two conferences will face off in four bowls this season, including the Allstate Sugar Bowl (Alabama vs Ohio State) with the national title on the line.

The conference power rankings are 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.

Conference power rankings: Big Ten is up

September, 29, 2014
9/29/14
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AP Photo/Getty Images/USA Today SportsJ.T. Barrett, Connor Cook and Tanner McEvoy helped lift the Big Ten in the last two weeks.
Entering Week 4, when the Big Ten was 1-10 against opponents from the other Power Five conferences, there seemed to be a clear divide between it and the rest of the most prominent FBS conferences. Many analysts had already excluded the Big Ten champion from the College Football Playoff and dismissed the conference until next year.

The Big Ten, however, has bounced back in the past two weeks. It has won 16 of 17 non-conference games during that time, including seven of eight games against Power Five or American Athletic Conference opponents.

Michigan State has won its last two games by 101 combined points, Ohio State seems to be moving on without Braxton Miller, and Nebraska and Wisconsin have been running all over their opponents.

Big Ten, ACC swap positions
Since Week 3, the Big Ten has risen 7.2 points in the conference power rankings and has jumped ahead of the ACC for the fourth-best conference in the nation.

As the Big Ten climbed, the ACC continued to fall. The conference has gone 7-8 in non-conference games in the last two weeks with losses to Akron (by Pittsburgh), Colorado State (by Boston College) and East Carolina (by North Carolina).

The ACC now has two teams - Florida State and Clemson – ranked in the top 35 in Football Power Index. Every other Power Five conference, including the Big Ten, has at least five teams in the top 35.
Given the weakness of the ACC, and Florida State’s struggles in its first two conference games, will the playoff committee question the defending champs if they do not run the table?

In other conference news, the SEC enters the meat of its conference schedule with a 13-point lead over the other conferences. The SEC has seven teams ranked in the top 15 of the Football Power Index and the AP Poll. Many of those teams will face each other in Week 6 in games with conference title implications.

Behind the SEC
The Pac-12 and Big 12 are in a tight race for the No. 2 conference in the nation. The conferences have nearly identical scores in the part of the conference rankings that account for the AP Poll, but the depth of the Pac-12 is apparent in its lead over the Big 12 in average FPI (+12 for Pac-12 vs +9.5 for Big 12).

Next week there are huge conference matchups with playoff implications. As conference play heats up, we will learn more about the strength of the teams within the conferences rather than the strength of the conferences themselves. Nonetheless, as playoff talk heats up, keep in mind what we have learned about the relative strength of these conferences before conference play.

SEC extends lead in Power Rankings

September, 2, 2014
9/02/14
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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
8/25/14
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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 that both 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 (right)


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 that this is the first time in years that the Pac-12 makes 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 that 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 may 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.



Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesNorthern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch is making a case for the Heisman Trophy.
Jordan Lynch ran for 321 yards on Tuesday, breaking his own FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback, and is being mentioned more and more as a Heisman Trophy contender each week. He improved to 24-2 in his two seasons as a starting quarterback.

Here are some nuggets on the special season he’s having, and the incredible career that has only two games left:

• He's the fifth QB in FBS history with 20 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns in the same season. Three of the previous four won the Heisman Trophy, and the one that didn't lost out to another guy on the list (see below).

• Lynch has 1,755 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns this season, numbers that are very comparable to the numbers put up by the past five Heisman-winning RUNNING BACKS. And Lynch still has the MAC Championship Game and a bowl game left to play.

• It’s his third career 200-yard rushing game. Denard Robinson (5) and Pat White (4) are the only FBS quarterbacks with more such games in the past 10 seasons.

• It’s his 17th career game with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown. Only four FBS players have more since his freshman year in 2010.

• He’s got the second- and third-best rushing games in the FBS this season, trailing only Boston College’s Andre Williams, who ran for 339 yards against NC State 10 days ago.

• Williams is the only player with more rushing yards than Lynch this season. The next quarterback on the FBS rushing list is 18th in the country in rushing.

• Lynch has 631 more rushing yards than Navy’s Keenan Reynolds, the next quarterback on the FBS rushing list, and the distance between first and second on the QB rushing list is the same as the distance between second and 19th.

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.

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.

Big Ten rises in conference rankings

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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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
9:28
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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 pct), which is the best non-conference 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 10 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
3:37
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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.

SEC extends lead in power rankings

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
4:01
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A quick refresher: Last week, 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.

After a weekend of upsets and surprises, the SEC has extended its lead in the conference power rankings largely because of its strength in the AP poll.

The SEC has eight teams ranked in the AP poll, the most any conference has ever had in a week of the poll. Six of those eight teams are ranked in the top 15, including three teams in the top seven. To put that into perspective, no other conference has more than four teams ranked in the AP poll.

Losses by Georgia and Florida did not significantly impact the SEC in the conference rankings because they lost to other ranked opponents. Therefore, the points that the Bulldogs and Gators lost in the AP poll were accrued by Missouri and LSU, respectively.

In comparison, fifth-ranked Stanford lost 454 points in the AP poll after its 27-21 loss to unranked Utah. The Utes remained unranked and were able to add only 47 points (in the "others receiving votes" section) for the Pac-12 with their win.

ACC rises to third
The ACC continued to rise in the conference rankings after its top teams took care of business on Saturday. The ACC now has three teams ranked in the top 10 for the first time since the week of Oct. 30, 2005. Further, the ACC has more undefeated teams (three) than any other conference, and five of its 14 teams have one or fewer losses.

This will change next week as No. 5 Florida State heads to No. 3 Clemson (8 p.m. ET, ABC) in the first top-five matchup between two ACC opponents since Nov. 5, 2005, when No 5. Miami defeated No. 3 Virginia Tech 27-7.

Tough week for Big Ten
Elsewhere in the rankings, the Big Ten fell by 7.5 points after Northwestern and Michigan fell out of the AP Top 25 after losing to unranked opponents. The Big Ten now has two teams ranked in the AP poll, which is two fewer than any of the other “big five” conferences.

Look for the Big Ten to bounce back in Week 8 as conference play continues. Four of its top teams play at home, and three of those teams have a chance to jump into the AP Top 25 with a victory.

QBs the story in college football this fall

May, 20, 2013
5/20/13
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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.
It is no surprise that the SEC finished the season atop ESPN Stats & Info’s Conference Power Rankings after winning its seventh straight BCS National Championship on Monday.

It’s impossible to deny the SEC’s dominance. The conference has won seven more BCS titles than any other conference and ended the 2012 season with five of the top 10 teams in the AP poll.

In its bowl games, the SEC went 6-3 -- the best record of any AQ conference -- and outscored its opponents by a combined 85 points. It was the 10th straight season the SEC finished .500 or better in its bowl games, by far the longest such streak in the nation.

Next season, the SEC does not look to be getting any weaker. Quarterbacks AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Connor Shaw and Heisman-winner Johnny Manziel return to the conference with their eyes on an eighth straight BCS title for the conference.

In the race for second-best, The Big 12 narrowly edged the Pac-12 despite an average bowl season. The biggest difference between the two conferences was depth. The Big 12 had nine of its 10 teams play in bowl games compared to eight of 12 teams for the Pac-12.

In head-to-head bowl games, the Big 12 won two of three games against Pac-12 opponents, including Baylor’s 49-26 victory over Pac-12 South champion UCLA. Yet, Oregon ran past Kansas State in the conferences’ only BCS Bowl matchup.

The Big Ten continued to struggle in bowl games (2-5 record), while the ACC surged during bowl season (4-2).

The Big Ten is a combined 4-13 in January bowl games in the past three seasons and has been outscored by a combined 193 points (11.4 per game) in those 17 games. The ACC turned around its dismal bowl record, putting together its first winning bowl season since 2005.

In its final season as an FBS conference, the WAC finished the season as the top non-AQ conference in the nation. The WAC went 2-0 in bowl games and finished the season with Utah State and San Jose State ranked in the AP Poll. Additionally, Louisiana Tech and UTSA finished the season at least four games above .500 but did not play in bowl games.

Conference USA finished at the bottom of the conference rankings despite going 4-1 in its bowl games for the second straight season. The conference could not overcome the weakness of its non-bowl members who were ranked low by the computers.

With 2012 in the books, it is not too soon to start looking ahead to next season. Conference realignment will continue to change these rankings significantly. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will join the ACC, while the fate of the Big East remains uncertain. Utah State and San Jose State will join the Mountain West Conference while four of the remaining WAC teams will head to Conference USA. How will this impact the conference rankings? Check back next season to see how it turns out.

Ground games on display in St. Pete

December, 20, 2012
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AP Photo/John RaouxLatavius Murray led Conference USA with 103.5 rush yards per game this season and has scored at least one rushing touchdown in eight straight games.
The Ball State Cardinals take on the UCF Knights in the fifth annual Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg on Friday night (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN). It will be the fourth all-time meeting between schools (Ball State leads 2-1) and the first since a come-from-behind win by the Cardinals in 2004.

UCF will be making its fifth bowl appearance in program history (1-3) and its second trip to the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s bowl. The Knights fell to Rutgers in the 2009 Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl and earned the school’s only bowl win the following season in the 2010 Liberty Bowl against Georgia. The win over the Bulldogs was also its last bowl appearance.

This season, UCF went 9-4 and won its fourth C-USA East Division title since joining the league in 2004. The nine wins give the UCF senior class 33 for their careers (33-19), tied for the most in school history. A win Friday would give them one more than the 2010 class that went 33-20.

On the other sideline, Ball State is still searching for its first bowl win, having lost each of its five previous bowl appearances. The five straight losses are tied for the third-longest active bowl losing streak, trailing only Georgia Tech (7) and Northwestern (9).

Despite the bowl struggles, Ball State comes into the game having won six straight to end the regular season and its three losses in 2012 came against teams that are a combined 33-5 (Clemson, Kent State and Northern Illinois).

Friday’s matchup at Tropicana Field will be highlighted by a pair of running backs: Ball State’s Jahwan Edwards and UCF’s Latavius Murray. Each player is averaging over 100 rush yards per game, making this contest one of just six bowls with opposing backs averaging more than 100 yards per game this season.

Edwards ranks fifth in the MAC in rush yards per game in 2012 (110.1) and has rushed for at least 100 yards in five of his past six games. In his only sub-100 yard game during the stretch, Edwards rushed for 98 yards and tied his career high with three touchdowns in a 31-24 win over Miami (OH) on November 23.

For the Knights, Murray has been equally effective of late. Along with his C-USA-high 103.5 rush yards per game, he has rushed for at least one score in each of his past eight games. Since October 13, only Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon (19) and Kansas State QB Collin Klein (15) have scored more touchdowns on the ground than Murray (13).

Elsewhere for UCF, Quincy McDuffie has provided a spark in the return game. McDuffie is tied for second in the FBS with three kickoff return touchdowns and leads all FBS players with 34.2 yards per kickoff return this season.

If McDuffie can pad those numbers Friday, he will have to do it against a stout kickoff return coverage unit. Ball State has allowed only one kickoff return for touchdown the past five seasons.

SEC finishes regular season atop rankings

December, 5, 2012
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At the end of the regular season, it should be no surprise that the SEC leads the ESPN Stats and Info Conference Power Rankings by a wide margin.

Six of the top 11 teams in the AP Poll reside in the SEC, including No. 2 Alabama, which will be playing for the conference's seventh straight national championship.

Nine of the SEC's 14 teams are bowl eligible, including six teams with at least 10 wins this season.

Like the SEC, the Big 12 has nine bowl-eligible teams. That is impressive considering that the conference has only 10 teams. Yet the Big 12 remains behind the SEC and the Pac-12 in the conference rankings because it lacks multiple “elite” teams.

The Big 12 has two teams currently ranked in the AP Poll, its fewest of any week this season. To put that in perspective, both the WAC and MAC have two teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25.

Speaking of the WAC, the conference finished the regular season as the sixth-best conference in the country according the power rankings.

Considering that the conference is in its final season of existence in football, the WAC had an impressive year. Four of its eight teams finished with at least eight wins, which is more eight-win teams than the Big 12, ACC or Big East.

The WAC finished the year ranked ahead of both the Big East and the MAC. Although the top of the MAC is strong -- as indicated by Northern Illinois’ berth in a BCS bowl game and the thrilling MAC championship game -- the bottom of the conference struggled. Six of its 13 teams did not win more than four games, which brought down its overall ranking as a conference.

All of the conferences will have the chance to prove their relative strength during bowl season. The ACC will try to improve upon its abysmal 2-6 bowl record last season, and the Big Ten will look to play better in its January bowl games than its 3-9 record over the last two seasons.

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