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Season Preview: Is Third Time the Charm For Buckeyes?

by Mike Mitchell
July 27, 2008

University of Georgia president Michael Adams adamantly railed against the lack of a playoff when his team was leapfrogged by LSU in the final BCS Standings after the Tigers won the SEC Championship game over Tennessee. The previous week, the Bulldogs had been ranked 4th and LSU was 7th. Many voters in the Harris and Coaches polls shamelessly manipulated the system by submitting final ballots that would either arrange a particular title game matchup, or eliminate some possibilities from occurring. In the end, LSU met Ohio State and defeated the Buckeyes 38-24.

The computer's preseason forecast had LSU playing USC, making 2007 the 11th time in the 15-year history of the Congrove Computer Rankings that it correctly picked at least one of the national title game contestants.

Adams doesn't have his desired playoff system, but the computer thinks his school will get something better - a championship showdown with Ohio State - and Georgia won't have to win any additional playoff games to get there. It would be the third straight BCS title game appearance for the Buckeyes and, unfortunately for Bulldog fans, the computer picks Ohio State (-3.07) to shake its two-year losing streak to the SEC on January 8 in Miami.

On a national level, Ohio State's talent appears to put it in select company with maybe a half-dozen teams.

If Ohio State makes the final cut, be prepared to hear a lot about how the Buckeyes will be at a disadvantage because of a 47-day lapse between their final regular season game on November 22 and the title game. All of the other projected top teams - USC, West Virginia, and any representative from a conference that stages its own championship game (including Georgia) - would have a 33-day wait.

You could also question Ohio State's scheduling at the start of the year which provides it with two weak opponents - Youngstown State and Ohio - before it travels to the Los Angeles Coliseum for an all-too-important intersectional showdown with USC on September 13. Conversely, the Trojans will have two weeks to prepare for the Buckeyes after opening on the other side of the country at Virginia. As the forecasted 12-0 record indicates, the computer favors Ohio State over USC, but only by 1.03 points. By the time the Buckeyes arrive in California, they may not even be the computer's choice to win the game.

Outside of the west coast trip, Ohio State's closest computer spread is 8.43 points over projected Big Ten runner-up Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are favored by double digits in their other 10 games, and by 20 points or more on seven occasions.

To get a crack at giving the SEC a national championship three-peat, Georgia must first win its division and the SEC Championship, after doing neither last year. In fact, the Bulldogs have missed the conference title game the last two years after making three appearances in four seasons from 2002-2005. Georgia's 2002 SEC title was its first in 20 years, and the Bulldogs repeated the feat in 2005.

The computer says the division title will ultimately be decided in Jacksonville on November 1 when the Bulldogs (-2.67) are expected to hand Florida its only loss. But there are other hurdles to clear, including trips to Auburn (-4.01) and LSU (-0.98). Once the division title is secured, Georgia will have to hand another loss to LSU (-3.98) to claim the SEC banner. And, to stay unbeaten and ensure a trip to the national championship game, the Bulldogs must deliver on the projected OOC win at Arizona State (-8.19).

Who said it would be easy?

College Football Poll.com's unique preseason forecast is based on the Congrove Computer Rankings which "plays" every game and projects what should happen based on a number of factors that include each teams' returning talent and difficulty of schedule.

Since its inception in 1993, the CCR Top 119 preseason projections have correctly pegged the exact national title match-up three times (1993, 1998, 2005), and at least one national title contestant 11 times (1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007). The team it picked to win the title has played in the title game seven times (1993, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005), and won the title three times (1993, 1998, 1999).

The Congrove Computer Rankings have picked the winner in 74.7% of all games played since 1993 (7,828-2,645) while beating the spread in 54.2% of those games (5,221-4,419). In the 2007 season, the computer won 74.2% of its picks straight-up and 51.1% against the spread.

Last year, the Congrove Computer Rankings' projection of a USC-LSU matchup almost materialized. USC beat Illinois 49-17 in the Rose Bowl to finish 2nd in the Coaches Poll and 3rd in the AP Poll.

The 2007 season may best be remembered as the one that opened with Appalachian State pulling off a shocking win at Michigan. It set the scene for a year of upsets and a constant reshuffling of the rankings. Through the end of the regular season and conference championship games, only Hawaii was still unbeaten, just two teams lost one game (Ohio State and Kansas), and ten teams had two defeats.

Hawaii was routed 41-10 by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Virginia Tech, which was ranked No. 1 by the BCS computer components heading into the bowl games, was edged 24-21 by Kansas in the Orange Bowl.

LSU became just the second team in history to win the national championship with two losses. Minnesota (8-2) did the trick in 1960.

This year, the computer gives undefeated regular season records to four teams with West Virginia and Wake Forest joining Ohio State and Georgia. Typically, of course, that many teams do not manage to escape a season unscathed. But game picks are based on the assumption that the computer's assessment is infallible.

Ultimately, Wake Forest's unbeaten run through the nation's 77th-ranked schedule is expected to come to an end in the ACC Championship game. There, the Demon Deacons will meet a team that plays the 76th-ranked schedule - Virginia Tech - and fall by 0.22 points.

West Virginia is next in line for the BCS title game if Georgia or Ohio State slip up. But WVU's power rating is low enough to leave open the possibility of an undefeated Mountaineer team being trumped by a Buckeye or Bulldog team with one loss.

The Mountain West appears to be the most likely candidate to supply the BCS with a team from outside the "Big 6" conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, PAC-10, SEC). The computer has both BYU and Utah going 11-1.

In the grand scheme of things, preseason picks shouldn't be taken too seriously. As last year proved over and over again, anything can happen on any given day of college football.

UNBEATEN TEAMS:
Only Hawaii made it through the 2007 regular season unbeaten, and the Warriors were blown out 41-10 by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. It was the first season since 2003 that no team recorded a perfect record.

Boise State was the only team to finish the entire 2006 season unscathed, while Texas did it in 2005. Auburn, USC and Utah all went undefeated in 2004.

WINLESS TEAMS:
FIU defeated North Texas 38-19 in its final 2007 game to avoid ending the season as the only winless team. The Golden Panthers had lost 23 straight games and were one of two schools to go winless in 2006 (Duke was the other).

Idaho failed to beat a team from the bowl subdivision.

FBS vs. FCS
The divisions were re-named late in 2006. 1-A was given the new moniker of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) while 1-AA was labeled the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

Last season, 78 bowl subdivision teams played a total of 80 games against schools from the championship subdivision (WAC members New Mexico State and Hawaii double-dipped). The FBS schools went 70-10 to improve to 290-35 (.892) since 2003.

The ten losses were:
Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32 (Week 1)
Nicholls State 16, Rice 14 (Week 1)
Northern Iowa 24, Iowa State 13 (Week 2)
Southern Illinois 34, Northern Illinois 31 (Week 2)
New Hampshire 48, Marshall 35 (Week 3)
McNeese State 38, Louisiana-Lafayette 17 (Week 3)
North Dakota State 44, Central Michigan 14 (Week 4)
*-Western Kentucky 20, Middle Tennessee 17 (Week 4)
North Dakota State 27, Minnesota 21 (Week 8)
Delaware 59, Navy 52 (Week 9)

*-Western Kentucky is currently in transition to become the ninth Sun Belt Conference football playing institution and the 120th Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) member. The Hilltoppers will play five Sun Belt teams in 2008 and will be eligible for the conference title and a bowl berth in 2009.

The Congrove Computer Rankings regarded Western Kentucky as a lower-division school in 2007 as it played just 6 games against FBS competition. This year, the Hilltoppers play 10 FBS schools so the CCR will no longer classify them as a FCS team.

This year, 82 teams will participate in a total of 87 games that will pit the FCS against the FBS. Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech and Western Kentucky each play two such games.

ACC teams have more games versus FCS schools than any other conference. Here is the number of FCS games for each conference:

Conference Teams In Conf. Games vs. FCS Avg. Per Team
ACC 12 14 1.167
Big East 8 7 0.875
Big 12 12 10 0.833
Big 10 11 9 0.818
MWC 9 7 0.778
WAC 9 7 0.778
SEC 12 9 0.750
Independents 3 2 0.667
MAC 13 8 0.615
CUSA 12 7 0.583
Sun Belt 9 5 0.555
PAC-10 10 2 0.200
Totals 120 87 0.725

STREAKS:
Hawaii had its 13-game winning streak stopped by Georgia in a 41-10 Sugar Bowl loss. The Warriors will enter 2008 on a 15-game winning streak against WAC teams.

BYU has won 10 straight games, and 16 consecutive MWC games. The Cougars defeated UCLA 17-16 in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Boise State has won 43 consecutive regular season home games, and has a perfect home record against their fellow WAC conference members (28-0).

Minnesota, Idaho and SMU have each lost 10 straight. All three teams completed the 2007 season with 1-11 records.

NEW COACHES: The 2007 season featured 24 new head coaches. Nine led their team to a bowl game. This year, there are 18 coaching changes.

Coaching Changes For 2008 Season
TEAM RECORD COACH THIS WEEK
Arkansas 0-0 Bobby Petrino 8/30, vs. Western Illinois (FCS)
Baylor 0-0 Art Briles 8/28, vs. Wake Forest
Colorado State 0-0 Steve Fairchild 8/31, vs. Colorado (at Denver)
Duke 0-0 David Cutcliffe 8/30, vs. James Madison (FCS)
Georgia Tech 0-0 Paul Johnson 8/28, vs. Jacksonville St. (FCS)
Hawaii 0-0 Greg McMackin 8/30, at Florida
Houston 0-0 Kevin Sumlin 8/30, vs. Southern (FCS)
Michigan 0-0 Rich Rodriguez 8/30, vs. Utah
Mississippi 0-0 Houston Nutt 8/30, vs. Memphis
Navy 0-0 Ken Nuimatalolo 8/30, vs. Towson (FCS)
Nebraska 0-0 Bo Pelini 8/30, vs. Western Michigan
Northern Illinois 0-0 Jerry Kill 8/30, at Minnesota
SMU 0-0 June Jones 8/29, at Rice
Southern Miss 0-0 Larry Fedora 8/30, vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Texas A&M 0-0 Mike Sherman 8/30, vs. Arkansas State
UCLA 0-0 Rick Neuheisel 9/1, vs. Tennessee
Washington State 0-0 Paul Wulff 8/30, vs. Oklahoma State (at Seattle)
West Virginia 0-0 Bill Stewart 8/30, vs. Villanova (FCS)


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