Thursday, October 27, 2016

2016: TUCFC Week 9

When Penn State took it's hard fall a few years back one of the big questions was whether they could ever return to prominence.  That question is still open but they certainly won their most impactful game in years with their win over Ohio State in week 8 of the 2016 season.  That win also moved them into the top 25.  More importantly for our purposes it creates chaos in the playoff race, something we all enjoy.

We should also note that Alabama easily took the TUCFC title from Texas A&M in week 8 and have a week off to enjoy their spoils.

With Ohio State losing I think it is time we look at the top contenders.

The AP poll reflects what I believe to be the top contenders right now for the playoff.  Alabama is a clear number 1, with Michigan a clear number 2.  Clemson and Washington round out the top four.  Assuming all of these teams win out this will be your playoff.  If they can't win out sitting in the wings are Louisville, Ohio State, Nebraska, Baylor, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Boise State.  I think that's it.  Unless Auburn or LSU completely destroy Alabama and their remaining competition to close out the year I think Alabama is the only shot the SEC has.  I would say the same for the Pac 12.  Of course this is all assuming total chaos doesn't reign.

Alabama:  The clear number one team they have shown no signs of being vulnerable, but they have two very tough games coming up with LSU and Auburn who both seem to be peaking in time for their Alabama game.  I would not be surprised to see Alabama lose one of these games after all these are both top 20 teams.  I also would not be surprised to see them easily win because Alabama appears to be that good.

Michigan:  Rivalry games are hard to measure.  Michigan State seems bad this year, but they are still a very talented team.  Maybe they can rally for one game at home against their hated rival.  It's doubtful.  After that Michigan has Maryland, @ Iowa, Indiana, and @ Ohio State.  It is not an easy road, but the way they have been destroying opponents one wonders if anyone can slow them down before they travel to Ohio State.  For a time people thought that the Big 10 could potentially get two teams into the playoffs.  That idea has now died with Ohio State losing.

Clemson:  This team has seemed vulnerable all year, but they keep winning.  Perhaps they are holding everything for the playoffs, but they will be tested this week when they travel to an improving Florida State.  After that they have a pretty smooth road until the ACC championship.

Washington:  With the PAC 12 collapsing around them they have to keep winning convincingly to keep themselves in the top 4.  This week is a critical game as they play at 7-1 Utah.  A good win in Utah will keep them comfortably in the top 4 as long as they keep winning.  This of course is all building toward the big game in Pullman on November 25th.

Louisville:  They have such a weak schedule to close out the season I fear their chances of making the playoff are done unless total chaos reigns.  At Houston had appeared to be a critical game, but with Houston now faltering it is sort of a no win game for Louisville.  Even a blowout won't impress anyone.

Ohio State:  If they win out they will be in the playoff.  It's really that simple for them.  Their road is not necessarily easy as they have to play what would appear to be a good Northwestern team and a good Nebraska team in back to back games, then of course they close out with Michigan.

Nebraska:  No one is paying them any attention, but here is the truth.  If they win out they are in the playoff.  They go back to back @Wisconsin, @ Ohio State.  If they are still undefeated after that double they will be sitting at number 5 in the country, maybe even at number 4 pushing Washington out.

Baylor:  The NCAA wants Baylor to lose I'm sure, but they are in the weak Big 12 and so they keep winning.  The Big 12 has to be the worst run conference in the country and the truth is the only way Baylor makes the playoff is if every team ahead of them losing multiple games.  Their schedule is too weak and they have no Conference tournament.

West Virginia:  There are two differences between West Virginia and Baylor that give them a better chance of making the playoff.  One is that there is no scandal around them right now.  The other is that they aren't afraid to play a tough non-conference schedule.  Not their fault that Missouri and BYU are down this year.

Western Michigan:  I know in the AP poll this team is sitting at number 20 and would appear to have no chance.  In the TUCFC Power Rating they are currently number 4.   They would need a miracle to get into the top 4, like Northwestern beating Ohio State, but I want to see them run the table and finish the season undefeated.

Boise State:  Their name helps their chances more than Western Michigan.  Honestly if you look at their wins they are no more impressive than Western Michigan but for some reason they are 13th in the AP polls.  If they and Western Michigan both remain undefeated I'll be curious to see if they get matched up against each other in a bowl game, or if they have a shot at a top tier team like Louisville.

Games to Watch

Clemson (7-0) at Florida State (5-2)
Florida State has had an up and down season, as has Clemson.  With Florida State playing better and Clemson still struggling we could see the latest undefeated go down this weekend.

Washington (7-0) at Utah (7-1)
Utah had a solid team last year and are back with another this year.  This should be the game of the week.

Nebraska (7-0) at Wisconsin (5-2)
I really like having Nebraska back, so I hope they keep winning, but I have feeling they will fall this week.

West Virginia (6-0) at Oklahoma State (5-2)
If West Virginia wants to get to the playoff, if they believe they can be one of those teams they need to go to Oklahoma State and win convincingly.

Boise State (7-0) at Wyoming (5-2)
It's a tough week for the undefeated teams.  Similar to Utah, Wyoming is following up a solid season last year with one this year.  Could we see five undefeated teams go down in one week.  It's possible.
Western Kentucky (5-3) at Florida Atlantic (1-6)
With a win this week Western becomes bowl eligible.

Week 9 Power Ratings

Here is the important thing to note about Western Michigan.  Their strength of wins number, WP, is 20 points higher than Louisville or Ohio State.  It's fifty points higher than Washington and 100 points higher than Baylor.  They are helped by having played more games than any of those teams, but it is still quite impressive to see a mid-conference team with such a high WP rating.  With a week off I'll be curious to see how far they drop.

4Western Michigan8-0168.188327.1750.0000.000495.363
6Texas A&M6-1199.563273.9001.00019.000453.463
7Ohio State6-1142.219336.2008.06330.313440.044
9Boise State7-0164.500219.7880.0000.000384.288
11Washington State5-2138.875206.8882.5006.000337.263
16Penn State5-2165.438209.58814.65676.750283.619
17West Virginia6-092.781187.9130.0000.000280.694
21Louisiana State5-283.063183.8389.75029.813227.338
23Florida State5-2138.344203.75021.563109.563210.969

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