Stats & Info: MAC

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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
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.

ACC, Big East fall in latest power rankings

November, 26, 2012
The SEC remains far ahead of the other conferences in ESPN Stats & Info’s college football conference power rankings after going 4-0 in non-conference games this weekend.

All four of the SEC’s wins came against ACC opponents, including wins over No. 10 Florida State and No. 11 Clemson. Overall, the SEC won its four non-conference games by a combined 87 points and won every game by double digits. On the season, the SEC is 48-8 in non-conference games, second to the Big 12.

The only conference that had a worse weekend than the ACC was the Big East, who lost 11.1 points in the conference power rankings this week. The Big East’s top two teams, Rutgers and Louisville, lost to unranked conference opponents.

As a result, Rutgers and Louisville both fell out of the AP top 25, leaving the Big East without a team ranked in the AP Poll for the first time this season. The WAC and MAC were the beneficiaries of the Big East’s rough weekend as both conferences passed the Big East in the conference power rankings.

The WAC is the first non-AQ conference to rank in the top 6 of the conference rankings this season. Four of the WAC’s seven teams have at least eight wins this season, including 10-2 Utah State, who is currently ranked 20th in the AP Poll.

Each of the WAC’s top three teams came within a few points of beating an AQ school that would have boosted the conference rating even further; Utah State lost by two to Wisconsin, San Jose State lost by three to Stanford and Louisiana Tech lost by two to Texas A&M.

The MAC conference trails the WAC by 3.2 points, but it is not the fault of the teams at the top of the conference. Kent State Golden Flashes and Northern Illinois are both 11-1 and ranked in the top 20 of the AP Poll.

The winner of the MAC championship game has a chance to represent the conference in a BCS Bowl game if it moves into the top 16 of the BCS standings and remains ahead of an AQ conference champion (the Big East champion).

The only reason that the MAC is not ranked ahead of the WAC is because it has three teams with 10 or more losses, including two of the three lowest ranked teams by the computers, Akron and Massachusetts.

Yet, the MAC remains ahead of the Big East because of the strength of the top of its conference. Overall, the MAC is 4-3 in head-to-head games against the Big East, including Kent State’s win over 7-0 Rutgers and Toledo’s win over 5-0 Cincinnati.

Next weekend is conference championship weekend. Look for many of these championship games to shape the bowl picture and impact the college football postseason.

Stanford will challenge Oregon's fast strikes

November, 15, 2012
The Oregon Ducks average more points in the first half than 87 FBS teams do in an entire game. The Ducks have not trailed past the first quarter, and their average halftime lead is 25.8 points, 7.4 points better than any other FBS team.

If Oregon continued its first-half pace in the second half, the Ducks would average 69.6 points and 712.8 yards per game. Those numbers would crush the FBS records for points (56.0 by Army in 1944) and yards (624.9 by Houston in 1989) per game in a season. However, the Ducks will get challenged this week. Stanford is one of five teams that has not allowed a touchdown in less than a minute against an FBS opponent, and the only team that has not allowed a touchdown in three plays or fewer.

Speaking of Stanford, Urban Meyer and Ohio State are trying do something that Stanford and one other team have done: go undefeated the season after losing at least seven games. With two games remaining, Ohio State is 10-0 after going 6-7 in 2011. In the AP Poll era (since 1936), only two teams have had a perfect season after losing at least seven games the previous year. In 1943, Purdue went 9-0 after going 1-8 in 1942. The 1940 Stanford team was 10-0 after going 1-7-1 in 1939. Neither of those teams would claim the national championship in their perfect seasons.

Kansas State moved to the top of the BCS Standings this week, but that spot hasn't been kind to Big 12 teams over the years. This is the eighth time since the final BCS Standings in 2003 that a Big 12 team has held the top spot. However, the other seven teams are just 2-5 in their next games, and only one of those seven teams maintained the top spot the following week (Texas in 2008). Oklahoma went on to lose in the national championship game in 2003 and 2008.

From Kansas State to the Kent State Flashes, who are one win shy of the first 10-win season in school history. But the Golden Flashes, who began playing football in 1920, are far from having the longest tenure without a 10-win season. That distinction belongs to Indiana, which began playing football in 1887. In fact, the Hoosiers have had just two nine-win seasons in their history. Of the current 120 FBS teams that have been playing football for at least 50 years, nine have never had a 10-win season (Buffalo, Duke, Indiana, Iowa State, Kent State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Utah State, Western Michigan and Vanderbilt).

As for Vanderbilt, with a win against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, the Commodores will clinch their first winning season in the SEC since 1982, when they went 4-2 in the conference. That's a long time, but it's not the longest active streak among current FBS teams. In fact, you don't even need to look beyond the SEC East to find a longer streak. The Kentucky Wildcats have the longest current streak of consecutive non-winning seasons in conference games. The Wildcats haven't had a winning SEC record since 1977 when they went 6-0, but were ineligible for the SEC championship and a bowl game due to NCAA probation.

Close race for 2nd in conference rankings

November, 5, 2012

AP Photo/Dave EinselThe SEC continues to lead the conference power rankings, but the battle for second heats up.
It should be no surprise that the SEC sits atop ESPN Stats & Info’s Conference Power Rankings after 10 weeks of football.

The SEC has five of the top 12 teams in the AP Poll, including No. 1 Alabama. No other conference has more than two teams ranked in the AP Top 12.

The race for second in the rankings is heating up. The Pac-12 gained 2.7 points on the Big 12 this week to pull within 0.5 points of second place.

West Virginia’s fall from grace has hurt the Big 12. The Mountaineers ranked in the AP Top 5 four weeks ago, but three consecutive losses has West Virginia out of the AP Top 25 for the first time this season.

Similarly, USC’s fall from the top of the polls has hurt the Pac-12, but other teams have stepped up in the Trojans’ place. Oregon State, UCLA and Stanford have outperformed preseason expectations, resulting in four Pac-12 teams ranked in the AP Top 17. In comparison, the Big 12 has two teams ranked that high.

The Big 12 continues to hold an edge over the Pac-12 in non-conference games, posting an FBS-leading 26-4 record in games outside of its division, compared to a 24-10 record for the Pac-12.

Yet the Pac-12 has played a more difficult out of conference schedule with 13 of its 34 non-conference games against teams in BCS AQ conferences or major Independents (winning eight). The Big 12 has played 12 of its 30 non-conference games against this caliber of opposition (winning five).

Elsewhere in the rankings, the MAC moved up one spot to eighth place after wins by Kent State and Northern Illinois this weekend. The MAC has four teams with at least an 8-1 record, most of any conference. All four teams received votes in the AP Poll this week, which is as many teams as the ACC and Big East combined.

The Mountain West Conference fell to ninth after Boise State lost 21-19 to San Diego State on Saturday night. Boise State ranked 19th in the AP Poll entering the weekend, but dropped out of the poll and cost the Mountain West 395 AP points after its loss.

This weekend there are plenty of conference matchups with the potential to shake up the conference rankings and national title race. Alabama plays host to Texas A&M, Kansas State heads to TCU and Notre Dame faces Boston College in games that could have national title implications.

SEC pulling away in conference rankings

October, 29, 2012
The SEC takes its largest lead of the season in the ESPN Stats & Info Conference Power Rankings after multiple top teams in other conferences fell on Saturday.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma and Texas Tech lost to higher-ranked opponents, resulting in every team but Kansas State having at least two losses this season. In comparison, five of the SEC’s 14 teams have fewer than two losses.

In recent weeks the top of the Big 12 has shown weaknesses as Texas nearly lost to two teams that are a combined 0-9 in conference games, and West Virginia showed significant defensive weaknesses in its two losses.

Similarly, the top of the Pac-12 struggled this weekend with its second and third best teams entering the weekend losing on the road. As a result, USC and Oregon State dropped eight and six points in the AP Poll, respectively, with USC’s fall being the largest of any team.

As a results of these losses, SEC teams continued to rise in the AP Poll. The three largest rises in the poll this week were by SEC teams as Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M all rose at least five poll positions, more than compensating for a five-spot drop by Florida.

The Big East lost the most points in the conference power rankings this week after Kent State beat Rutgers on Saturday. It’s the second straight week that a team from the MAC has defeated a previously undefeated Big East opponent. Last week Toledo beat Cincinnati 29-23 at home.

Two weeks ago the Big East was ranked as the fourth best conference in college football. Losses by two of its top three teams the last two weeks hurt the conference as both teams fell out of the AP Top 25 and the conference fell to sixth in these rankings.

As mentioned above, the MAC has two victories over previously unbeaten Big East opponents. Four teams in the MAC received votes in the AP Poll this week. That is as many teams as the other four non-BCS conferences combined.

The MAC has four teams with fewer than two losses, which ranks second to the SEC. Yet, the MAC remains ninth in the conference power rankings because four of its 13 teams have seven or more losses, the most of any conference. The MAC is a prime example of how the conference rankings account for relative strength of a conference from top to bottom.

Next week is full of conference matchups, highlighted by Alabama at LSU and Oregon at USC. Last week five unbeaten teams lost, and many other favored teams faltered against conference opponents. Look for similar unpredictability next weekend that could impact the AP Poll and conference power rankings.