• Most Valuable Wins in College Football
  • How did the new coaches do?
  • Is the SEC as strong this year?
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Most Valuable College Wins 2016

Here are the Top Ten games (actually eleven with a tie) in terms of points earned by the winning team in the Golden Rankings.

Points Winner Loser Point
23.70 @USC Washington 13
23.60 @Michigan Penn State 39
22.82 Pittsburgh @Clemson 1
22.68 Oklahoma @West Virginia 28
22.64 Colorado State @San Diego State 32
22.42 Ohio State @Oklahoma 21
22.08 Washington Colorado 31
22.00 Miami @Appalachian State 35
21.88 Florida State @South Florida 20
21.76 @Alabama Western Kentucky 28
21.76 Arkansas State @Troy 32

Seven of the 11 games were won by the road team, which gives extra points.

CFP Committee Got It Right
I've been asked several times today about my views on the CFP.
  • Since my rankings system has the same top four as the committee, I'm just fine with their selections. (I had Ohio State #2 and Clemson #3. The committee moved Clemson ahead of Ohio State because the Tigers won their conference.)
  • Also, I'm happy that the Big Ten did not get two teams in the playoff, including its champion, Penn State, which has the "consolation" prize of a trip to the Rose Bowl.

After a year's absence, we're hearin g again that the playoff must be expanded to six or eight teams. BALONEY!

  • Expand the playoff and you devalue the regular season.
  • If there were eight teams this year, then Alabama could have lost to Florida and still made the playoff.
  • The Michigan-Ohio State game would have meant nothing because both teams would be in - as would have been predicted before they played. (Yeah, I know. It's a rivalry game and the two schools want to win regardless of the larger implications. But for fans in general it would have lost much of its luster if eight teams made the playoff.)
  • The winner of Penn State-Wisconsin (and possibly the loser also) would be in the playoff despite having two losses.

To the whiners, chiefly Penn State and Michigan, I say this:

  • Don't blame the committee or the system.
  • To Penn State I say: Don't lose to Pittsburgh or be clobbered by Michigan early in your season. That's why you didn't make it, not because it's a bad system.
  • To Michigan, I say: Don't lose to Iowa. Iowa with four losses, including one to FCS North Dakota State at home. Iowa, which lost to Penn State 41-14 the week before you played them. There's the reason you didn't make it. Without that loss, you could have made a strong case to be in the Top Four despite losing to Ohio State.
  • The four "best" teams is an abstract concept that is hard to quantify. Was Penn State "better" than Ohio State or Washington? You could argue that issue for days and not reach a solid conclusion.
  • So you go by the complete "body of work" of each team. Every game counts. That's where computer rankings come in.

When the playoff was being put together, Jim Delany, the Big Ten Commissioner, proposed that it consist of the four best conference champions.

  • I'd go along with that idea. I'm old school. How can you win the national championship when you didn't even win your conference or even win your subdivision within your conference?
  • It would also make the committee's work much easier. They would have had five contenders for the playoff: Alabama (SEC champion), Washington (Pac-12), Oklahoma (Big 12), Clemson (ACC), and Penn State (Big Ten).
  • Both Ohio State and Michigan would be out of the discussion since they didn't win the Big Ten. The committee's decision would come down to Oklahoma or Penn State, both of whom had two losses whereas the other three champs had only one each.
My Live Game This Weekend

Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints

What a dreadful afternoon in downtown New Orleans! We had to wear ponchos as we walked to the Superdome in a drizzle. When we came out after three frustrating hours, the rain had picked up, the temperature had dropped, and the wind blew from the North.

The Saints' first possession of the game contained telltale signs that this would not be the home team's afternoon.

  • On the second snap, Mark Ingram takes in a short pass in the left flat and runs toward the 1st down line. He is pushed toward the sideline but makes no extra effort to reach the "line to gain" - no dive, no stretching out the ball.
  • No problem, though. It's 3rd-and-1. But the snap sails by Drew Brees in the shotgun. He runs back and recovers the ball but, under heavy pressure, tries to throw the ball away. Intentional grounding. Saints ball at the 7.
  • Detroit starts at their 47 after the punt. They drive close enough to kick a FG and take a lead they never relinquished.

Several trends observed throughout the game indicate that the Lions just plain wanted this game more than the Saints.

  • A Lions tackler hits a Saints runner and knocks him sideways or backwards.
  • A Saints tackler hits a Detroit runner but doesn't wrap up, the runner falling forward or breaking free for extra yardage.
  • When Brees throws a pass, a defender is close enough to the receiver to either knock the ball away or make the tackle immediately.
  • When Matthew Stafford completes a pass, the receiver is in open space and continues for an additional gain.
  • As a result, the Lions possess the ball for almost 37 minutes compared to 23 for the Saints.
  • The Lions were just 6-of-13 on 3rd down conversions but included in the six were a 3rd-and-11, a 3rd-and-16 (36y gain to lead to FG), and a 3rd-and-10 that produced a 66y TD pass to Golden Tate.
  • One 3rd down conversion came on a phantom interference penalty against Delvin Breaux.

Do the Saints still have a shot at the playoffs?

  • Thanks to Atlanta's loss reducing their record to 7-5 and dropping them into a 1st place tie with the Bucs, whom the Saints will play twice the next three weeks, Payton's boys still have a chance at the NFC South title mathematically.
  • But they now face three of the final four games on the road. At 5-7, they need to win three of those four to break even for the season.
  • Just when we thought the Saints had turned a corner and, with the defense as healthy as it's been all year, were ready to play consistently and contend for the playoffs, they lay an egg against Detroit.
  • So their real chances of finishing 8-8? Slim and none.
Golden College Rankings after 14 Weeks
In the two years of the College Football Playoffs, the Golden Rankings has gotten the Final Four correct each time. And in 2014, Golden had the teams in the correct order at the end of the regular season, with Ohio State (committee's #4) first and Oregon second.
  • Wisconsin and Colorado fall out of Top Ten. #5 Washington leapfrogs #4 Michigan to make the Final Four.
  • SEC on top of the conference rankings again. (But is the conference as strong as in past years? More on that in the coming days.)
Golden Rankings Top Ten
Average Opp.
85 438 19.90 49 1 1
2 Ohio State 11-1 17.48 75 341 13.57 49 2 3
80 275 10.48 54 3 2
66 289 16.30 64 5 4
63 261 13.40 56 4 6
Penn State
70 302 8.69 54 7 5
Western Michigan
16.01 63 234 11.27 85 6 15
Oklahoma 10-2
58 222 9.91 62 11 7
Boise State
57 186 8.19 70 10 --
51 218 8.00 58 13 9
  • "Opps. wins" is the number of victories by the teams the ranked team defeated.
  • "Opp. opps". is the number of victories by the teams the defeated teams beat.
  • "Score value" is a measure of the margin of victory in relation to the defeated team's number of wins coupled with the margin of defeat in relation to the victorious team's number of losses.
  • "Schedule Strength" is the average of the rankings of the opponents the team has played so far. So the smaller the number, the stronger the schedule.
Strongest schedule: Ole Miss
Weakest schedule: Army
Team that made the highest jump in Week 14: Temple - up 16 places to 20.
Team that dropped the furthest in Week 14: Navy - down 11 places to 27.
Golden Conference Rankings
Impressive Non-Conference Wins
Louisville, North Carolina, TCU, UCLA, USC, Va.Tech
Big Ten
Colorado, Duke, Iowa State, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon
Auburn, Fla., Ga., Illinois, Indiana, Ole Miss, Penn St., S.Car., Vandy
BYU, Kansas St., Notre Dame (2), Rutgers, Texas, Texas Tech, UVa
Big 12
BYU, Missouri, Notre Dame, Pitt
American Athletic
Cincinnati, Kansas, N.C. St., Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Syracuse, UVa
Mtn. West
N. Illinois, Wash. St.
Sun Belt
Akron, Army, Miss.State, New Mexico, Ohio, San Diego State
Fresno St., Illinois, Kansas, Marshall, Okla. St., UNLV, Wyoming
Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri

Complete Golden Rankings

Synopsis of the ranking system: Each team starts with 12 points for each game. The winning team goes up from there depending on the number of wins of the defeated opponent and the margin of victory. The loser goes down from 12 depending on the losses of the opponent and the margin of defeat. Teams can gain bonuses for road wins against good teams or penalties for home losses to weak teams. Read complete rules.

Compilation of Dozens of Rankings

Bad Year for Phil Steele
Phil Steele is the undisputed heavyweight champion when it comes to predicting college football seasons.
  • His preseason magazine is constantly at the top in accuracy of predictions for Top 25, Surprise Teams, and Most Improved.
  • However, Phil had a bad year in 2016, as the tables below illustrate.
Phil Steele's Surprise Teams for 2016
Team 2015 Record 2016 Record Accurate?
1. Washington 7-6 12-1
2. TCU 11-2 6-5* X
3. Iowa 12-2 8-4 X
4. Baylor 10-3 6-5* X
5. UCLA 8-5 4-8 X
6. Miami 8-5 8-4 --
7. Georgia 10-3 7-5 X
8. Houston 13-1 9-3 X
9. Michigan State 12-2 3-9 XX
10. Ole Miss 10-3 5-7 XX
11. Louisville 8-5 9-3
12. North Carolina 11-3 8-4 X
13. Oregon 9-4 4-8 XX
* = team has another game to play.
X means the prediction missed the mark. XX means it badly missed the mark.

Phil did much better with his Most Improved Teams predictions.

Phil Steele's Most Improved Teams for 2016
Team 2015 Record 2016 Record Accurate?
1. Texas 5-7 5-7 X
2. Nebraska 6-7 9-3
3. LA Lafayette 4-8 5-6
4. Georgia Tech 3-9 8-4
5. Boston College 3-9 6-6
6. Arizona State 6-7 5-7 X
7. Troy 4-8 9-2
8. UTEP 5-7 4-8 X
9. Minnesota 6-7 8-4
10. Connecticut 6-7 3-9 X
11. Utah State 6-7 3-9 X
12. Kansas State 6-7 7-4
13. Missouri 5-7 4-8 X
14. Tulsa 6-7 9-3
15. Indiana 6-7 6-6 X
Golden NFL Rankings - after 12 Weeks
Golden NFL Top Ten
Opp. wins
40 1
2 Oakland
45 4
New England
36 3
Kansas City
40 9
Atlanta 7-4
39 8
6 Seattle 7-3-1 17.10 38 2
7 New York Giants
35 5
30 6
34 7
31 10
"Opponent wins" means the total number of wins
by the teams the ranked team defeated.

For the second week in a row, no team dropped out of the Top 10 but Kansas City jumped back up to 4th and Seattle fell to 6th.
In the Division Rankings, NFC South jumps to #4 thanks to the Bucs win.
NFC edges ahead of AFC in tight conference rankings battle.

Complete Golden NFL rankings

Division Rankings
Rank Division Average Last Week
1 NFC East 17.039 1
2 AFC West 16.932 2
3 NFC South 16.065 4
4 AFC East 16.045 3
5 NFC North 15.676 6
6 AFC South 15.634 5
7 AFC North 15.273 8
8 NFC West 15.063 7

Overall: NFC 15.961, AFC 15.971
Did You Notice? NFL Week 12
  • NFC Letdown
    The two teams that played in the NFC championship game last season, the Panthers and Cardinals, are a combined 8-13. That's quite a comedown from their combined 2015 record of 28-4 (with Arizona's third loss coming at the hands of Carolina).
  • Overcoming a Fluke Accident
    The Panthers' bad 2016 karma (starting with the Super Bowl) is illustrated by their game at Oakland last Sunday. A 17-0 advantage in Q2 against the Kuechly-less D propelled the Raiders to a 24-7 halftime lead. But, on the first snap of the second half, Oakland QB Derek Carr pulled out from under the center a split second too soon and suffered a dislocated pinkie. Carolina recovered the fumble and immediately drove 30y to make the score 24-13. Then the PAT was blocked. With backup QB Matt McGloin under C, Oakland went nowhere and soon the Panthers had another TD when Ted Ginn got behind the CB for an 88y completion to cut the lead to 24-19. Trying to regain the point lost on the blocked PAT, Carolina went for two but failed. Carr returned but threw an INT that LB Thomas Davis returned 31y to the 28. Five plays later, the visitors took the lead 25-24 but again, a 2-pt. pass failed. Instead of being up 27-24 if they had kicked the two PATs after the blocked kick, the Panthers led by only one. Before the period ended, Carolina made another stop, then drove for their third TD of the period. But they missed the two-point conversion again. 32-24 instead of a possible 35-24 (even with the blocked kick). Those missing points would come back to bite the Panthers as Carr got back in rhythm and led the Raiders to a TD and a successful 2-point conversion to tie the game and then a 23y Sebastian Janikowski FG with 0:52 left to win 35-32.
  • Palmer Implosion
    Coming into the season, speculation swirled around Arizona QB Carson Palmer. Would his poor performance in the NFC title game (4 INTs) carry over to this season? The answer seems to be yes.
    In the 16 regular season games last year, Carson's QB rating was 104.6. Through ten starts this year, his rating is 83.3.
Intriguing Numbers
7 Largest victory or defeat margin in any of the Detroit Lions' 11 games.
2005 Last season the Dolphins had a six-game winning streak
9 Points scored by the Chiefs against the Broncos in Q2 without making a first down during the period
96.6 Odell Beckham's yards-per-game average to this point in his career to tie with Julio Jones for the all-time best in NFL history.
Did You Notice? NCAA Week 13
  • Basketball on Grass
    Here are the scores of the Pittsburgh-Syracuse basketball games in the 2015-16 season.
    December 30, 2015 @Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh 72 Syracuse 61; Total points 133
    February 20, 2016 @Syracuse: Pittsburgh 66 Syracuse 52; Total points 113
    March 9, 2016 @Washington D.C.: Pittsburgh 72 Syracuse 71; Total points 143
    Average total points for the three games = 130
    Last Saturday the Orange played Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. Final score:
    Pittsburgh 76 Syracuse 61 - total points 137
    If you look at the statistics only, you'd swear the Orange won the game.
    First downs: Syracuse 38 Pittsburgh 20
    Total yards: Syracuse 668 Pittsburgh 644
    Time of possession: Syracuse 35:42 Pittsburgh 24:18
  • More Plus 70 and Plus 60
    There were two additional FBS games in which a team scored 70+ points.
    Navy 75 SMU 31
    Middle Tennessee 77 Florida Atlantic 56
    There were two more games in which a team scored 60+ points, although in both cases the team that broke 60 won.
    Colorado State 63 San Diego State 31
    Western Kentucky 60 Marshall 6
  • End of an Ugly Year
    No team fell further from 2015 to 2016 than Michigan State, a semifinalist in the CFP last year. Here are the Spartans' numbers for the two seasons.
    Category 2015 2016
    Record 12-2 3-9
    Points for 29.8 24.1
    Points against 21.7 27.8
    Point differential +8.1 -3.7
    Total offense 5379 4740
    Yards allowed 4898 4378
  • Rivalry Game Master
    After his Buckeyes came from behind to defeat Michigan 30-27 in double OT, Urban Meyer's record in "rivalry games" at his various stops as head coach (Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, Ohio State) became 25-3. His record against Michigan is now 5-0, including wins in both of Jim Harbaugh's seasons at the helm in Ann Arbor. It's no wonder commentators almost universally regard Meyer as a close second to Nick Saban among all college coaches.
  • Baylor - a Tale of Two Seasons
    Art Briles was fired as Baylor's head coach last May because of his mishandling of the the sexual assault charges against some of his players. Jim Grobe, former head coach at Wake Forest and a Baylor alumnus, became the interim coach for 2016. How did the Bears do after this upheaval?
    They won their first six games, although five of them were over weak non-conference opponents Northwestern State, SMU, and Rice, and the two poorest teams in the Big 12, Iowa State and Kansas. The one signature win of the six was a 35-24 victory at home over Oklahoma State.
    But a 35-34 loss to Texas started a downward spiral for Baylor. They lost the next four games by a total of 101 points. Grobe will coach the final game against West Virginia this Saturday and the bowl game, then retire for good. It will be interesting to see how the Bears do against the Mountaineers this Saturday.
  • Colorado's Big Win
    Colorado won the national championship in 1990 after going 11-1-1, culminating with an Orange Bowl win over Notre Dame. It was the second straight year the Buffaloes won 11 games under Bill McCartney. In '94, CU again won 11 games in McCartney's last season. After that, Colorado started a slow decline: 29-23 under Gary Barnett, then 21-40 under Dan Hawkins. Starting with their first season in the Pac-12 in 2011 through 2015, the Buffaloes never won more than four games in a season, the apogee being 2012: 1-11 under Jon Embree.
    Mike MacIntyre took over the following season and went 4-8, 2-10, and 4-9 with a total of two conference wins.
    With many questioning why MacIntyre was allowed to return for a fourth season, the Buffs surprised everyone by winning the Pac-12 South thanks to a 27-22 victory over Utah last Saturday. The biggest win was the previous week over Washington State, which led the Pac-12 North. The Buffs' ten wins in 2016 equal their total for MacIntyre's three previous seasons. This week, 10-2 Colorado can play spoiler by upsetting Washington and removing any chance of the conference getting a team in the CFP.
    It's easy to pinpoint the main factor in Colorado's turnaround. Jim Leavitt's defense ranks #1 in the Pac-12 in yards allowed per game and yards allowed per play.
Saints Still Have Hope
The Saints still have a clear path to the playoffs.
  • Look at the schedule and you see that the Saints have a shot at winning every one of their next five, starting today with the Rams.
  • They can - and should - beat the Lions at home next Sunday. That would bring them back to .500 at 6-6.
  • The Saints then play the Bucs twice within a three-week period with the Cardinals sandwiched in between.
  • Arizona is not the same team that last year reached the NFC finals.
  • Let's say the Saints win four of these next five. That puts them at 8-7.
  • That would give them the opportunity to finish 9-7 with a win in the Georgia Dome. That might be good enough to win the division or at least get a wild card berth.
  • I like the way Dennis Allen's defense has steadily improved to make the above scenario possible.

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About This Site
This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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