2011 College Football Program Power Rankings

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor hands off the ball to tailback Dane Sanzenbacher in the third quarter at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans during the 77th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl January 4, 2011. The Buckeyes won 31-26 UPI/Dave Fornell

Almost a year ago we decided to try to quantify the stature of college football programs so that we could rank them against one another. (Click here for the 2010 Rankings.) Then our football guru, Anthony Stalter, wrote a little bit about each program and the direction that it’s headed.

Here’s how the total points are determined — 20 points for a national championship, 10 for a BCS title game loss, seven for a BCS bowl win, five for a BCS bowl loss, five for a BCS conference championship, three for a mid-major conference championship, two for a BCS conference runner-up and one for a major bowl appearance (i.e. a bowl that has a recent payout of more than $2 million, so for 2011 that would be Capital One, Outback, Chick-fil-A, Cotton, Gator, Insight, Holiday, Champs Sports and Alamo.) You’ll see the total points in parenthesis after the team’s name.

We put some thought into the point values for each accomplishment, paying special attention to how the point values are relative to one another. For example, we figured that one national championship would equate to four BCS conference championships, or three BCS bowl wins. We only looked at the last five years, as college football has increasingly become a fluid and fickle sport, and that’s about how far back a recruit will go when deciding amongst a list of schools.

Lastly, since a program is so dependent on the guy in charge, we added or subtracted points if the program saw an upgrade or downgrade at the head coach position in the last five years. A max of 10 points would be granted (or docked) based on the level of upgrade or downgrade. Again, we tried to quantify the hire relative to the program’s other accomplishments. For example, hiring Nick Saban is probably worth two BCS bowl appearances, or 10 points. (Sure, he might lead Alabama to more, but he also might bolt for another job in a year or two.)

So, without further ado, here are the rankings. Every year we’ll go through and update the numbers based on what the program did that year (while throwing out the oldest year of data), so don’t fret if your team isn’t quite where you want them right now. Everyone has a chance to move up.

1. Ohio State (58)

Previous Rank: #2 (+1)
Some college football fans will take issue with the Buckeyes being No. 1 because of their “soft schedule.” But this is a team that has dominated its conference five of the past six years and has finished no worse than second in each of the past six seasons. They’ve also appeared in two title games (though they lost both) and nine straight BCS bowl games, winning the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl in the past two years. They’ve got an interesting season coming up though. Five of their players including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron and receiver DeVier Posey will miss the first five games next year after being suspended. Can the Buckeyes stay unscathed until those players return?

2. Florida (51)

Previous Rank: #1 (-1)
If it weren’t for Urban Meyer leaving the program (and their lousy 2010 season), the Gators would probably still be ranked No. 1. They have three conference championships and two national championships in two years, but the lose of Meyer hurts big-time in these rankings. But don’t fret Florida fans, if Will Muschamp gets the program back on the right track then the Gators won’t be at No. 2 for long.

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Will Cam Newton play? Will it even matter?

AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 23: Quarterback Cameron Newton  of the Auburn Tigers reacts after scoring a touchdown against the LSU Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

One of the beauties of getting XM radio is that I get to listen to the Paul Finebaum show on a daily basis. For those that don’t know, Finebaum’s show is technically now a national college football radio show, but it can’t get away from its southeastern roots.

Every four out of five callers is from Alabama or Mississippi, and they’re crazy. The conspiracies they come up with on the officiating and play-calling from week to week would make Glenn Beck proud.

But the Cam Newton scandal has sent these folks into overdrive, and forced me to spend more time inside my car while it was sitting still in my driveway than one person should. People are blaming the press, Mississippi State, the press, Florida, the press, Nike, the press, Florida and the press. One caller, minutes after ESPN’s Joe Schad hung up with Finebaum, basically threatened to beat him up. It was amazing.

I don’t have a conspiracy theory on this, which is sad. But it will be really interesting to see how Auburn and Newton play today after having to listen to all of this over the last week.

I’m not picking the game because I have no idea who’s taking the field, but if Newton doesn’t play, expect the Bulldogs to win. A.J. Green has made them a legit SEC team. If Newton plays, however, the Tigers will roll on. Read the rest of this entry »

Oregon is USC’s title game, and other Week 9 college football picks

Oct 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley (7) conducts teh band after the game against the California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated California 48-14. Photo via Newscom

With the prospect of a bowl game or a Pac-10 championship taken away from it before the season even began, USC’s football program has had to look elsewhere for motivation.

After a lackluster showing in early-season matchups against Hawaii, Virginia and Minnesota, and a loss at home to Washington, many wondered if the Trojans really even cared. A last-second loss at Stanford and a blowout of California, however, has shown that not only do the Trojans care, but they’re still a pretty darn good football team.

There was attrition at the school this offseason when the NCAA instituted a two-year bowl ban and a reduction in scholarships, but it’s still USC. It’s still the same team that has been bringing in top five recruiting classes year after year, and putting more five stars on the bench than many teams have seeing the field.

So now nobody’s thinking of the Trojans, as they cannot be a part of the title discussion themselves. They can severely alter the landscape today, though, and I’d imagine they’ll be real excited to try and take advantage of that opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »

Michigan State survives, Texas suffers massive letdown

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 26: B.J. Cunningham #3 and Mark Dell #2 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrate on te field against the Wisconsin Badgers on September 26, 2009 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

For once this season, the noon slate of games gave us something to follow.

Notre Dame was whooped by Navy, Texas lost to Iowa State and Michigan State survived a close matchup with Northwestern.

Let’s start with the Spartans, who for the second time this season, were aided by a fake kick in a big situation. This time, however, it was a fake that I, you and everybody watching the game except for Northwestern, apparently, saw coming. The Spartans pulled off a nice fake punt in the fourth quarter, and one play later, scored a touchdown to pull within a score. After a Northwestern field goal, the Spartans drove down the field again to score the go-ahead touchdown.

People around me here in Michigan think the Spartans are in the middle of a special season, and stuff like that — which had gone against them for years — is now starting to go their way. It’s tough to argue that, considering the way MSU has won a couple of its game. But at the same time, they soundly beat Wisconsin and Michigan, meaning they could just be good. Next week’s the biggest test of the season, of course, as they travel to Kinnick to play Iowa. If you asked me to put money on it, I’d put quite a bit on Iowa right now. But I’m nowhere perfect on “putting money on it” games.

Texas, meanwhile, is going through the kind of season you would expect a team to go through every few years. After four years of having Colt McCoy at the helm, the Longhorns are learning that without a dynamic run-pass threat at quarterback, they’ll need other weapons. Garrett Gilbert is a talented kid, but he’s young and he’s not getting much help.

Even so, this is a team that just shut down Taylor Martinez and Nebraska. A team that looked like it was starting to trend up after the bye week. Now the Longhorn faithful will have to deal with a non-10-win season. God forbid.

The coronation of Taylor Martinez and Nebraska came a little too early

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 11: Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Taylor Martinez  runs for his first touchdown fo the day during first half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska Defeated Idaho 38-17. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

Taylor Martinez went off a week ago against Kansas State, leading many (including myself) to think he could be the second coming of Tommy Frazier and lead Nebraska back to the promised land.

Not so fast.

Nebraska fell 20-13 today to a Texas team that has been listless at times this season. The Longhorns held the explosive dual threat quarterback to 21 yards rushing on 13 carries. Nebraska only mustered 125 yards on 44 carries as a team. It wasn’t much better through the air, as Martinez and backup Zac Lee combined for 77 yards on 8-of-21 passing. On the bright side, they didn’t throw any interceptions. So there’s that.

It’s a big step for the Texas defense, which three weeks ago was embarrassed by UCLA. But mostly it’s a big wake-up call for Martinez and the Cornhuskers, who had moved all the way up to No. 5 in the rankings despite really not having beat anyone of consequence.

It’s too early to completely write off the Cornhuskers. Texas was coming off of a bye week, so that definitely helped. Plus, Martinez is young and he’ll have games like this every once in a while. Nebraska will just have to hope that when that happens, its defense can do enough for the win.

This is a stark reminder, however, that what you think you’re seeing in college football is normally not what you’re really seeing. This is one of the only sports in which that sentence makes sense.

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