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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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National title picture could change today … Or stay exactly the same

Boise State Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore (11) (R) fakes a handoff in their NCAA football game against the Virginia Tech Hokies in Landover, Maryland, September 6, 2010.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

By the end of the day today, we could have a whole new look at the national title picture. Then again, you could say that any week in college football.

This time, however, there’s actually a chance that things could get jumbled up. The top team in the country, Alabama, is facing by far its stiffest test of the season as it travels to Fayetteville to take on Ryan Mallett and Arkansas. No. 3 Boise State will play in its second — and probably last — “showcase” game of the year when it plays host to Oregon State.

We know that if Boise State loses, a lot of the debate about who deserves what will go away, at least until we have to sort through a handful of one-loss teams at the end of the season (but we’ll save that for later). If the Tide lose and the Broncos win, is Boise all of the sudden in the driver’s seat for a spot in the title game? Probably not, actually.

It’s a big slate today, so find a spot on the couch by the mid-afternoon games and settle in for some good football. Read the rest of this entry »

Temple delivers another blow to the lowly Big East

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 4:  Head coach Randy Edsall of the Connecticut Huskies looks on during the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium on October 4, 2008 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Temple and UConn played during the day today, but the game definitely continued some dark days for the state of Big East football.

The Owls, who a little more than a week ago could be seen trading costly gaffes and fumbles with MAC foe Central Michigan, defeated UConn 30-16. It’s another huge blow for the Big East, which has already had sub-standard results this season.

UConn was thought by some national media types to be the favorite in the Big East, but after this loss and the Week 1 drubbing at the hands of Denard Robinson and Michigan, the Huskies definitely don’t look like a team that should finish on top of any BCS conference. Cincinnati, the defending Big East champion, has looked about as pathetic — minus the loss to a MAC team, that is — losing to Fresno State and NC State. With Oklahoma coming up next week, the Bearcats, who were unbeaten in the regular season a year ago, are staring 1-3 straight in the face.

West Virginia appears to be the most competent team in the conference, but even the Mountaineers needed overtime to beat Marshall. They do have a chance to earn the conference some respect, however, next week at LSU. With Les Miles coaching, who knows what could happen there, but if I had to put money on it now, I’d go with the Tigers.

With the emergence of non-automatic qualifying conferences, namely the Mountain West, you’d think the Big East would need to start proving itself to keep its spot among the six power conferences. Sadly, money probably won’t allow them to fall out of that, or let the MWC move up, even though it’s looking more and more superior to the Big LEast with each passing week.

Writers Q&A: The Final Four questions

I’m going to pretend I work for ESPN and answer the questions that the Worldwide Leader asked its college basketball writers.

What are you most looking forward to Saturday?

Seeing just what kind of crowd Butler is able to draw and whether or not it helps Bulldogs beat Michigan State. Final Four crowds are notoriously corporate and laid back, so if the Butler faithful (and the newly converted) can create some real home court atmosphere, it will make things tough for Michigan State. I’ll also be watching how the Bulldogs handle playing in a dome; they’re used to playing in smaller gyms and fieldhouses in the Horizon League.

At the end of the day, whose performance will we be talking about?

There are a long list of possibilities, but Nolan Smith is playing excellent basketball of late. He’s the only Duke guard that will be able to get into the lane and create his own shot, and his floater will be very useful against West Virginia’s zone. And for all of the talk of Jon Scheyer’s “clutch-ness,” Smith isn’t afraid to take the big shot either.

Butler-Michigan State: Who wins and why?

Despite the Spartans’ experience, I think the Bulldogs win a tight one. They’ve already beat two teams (Syracuse, K-State) that are better than Michigan State, so they appear to be the better team. The question is — can they put all the distractions and the sheer magnitude of the game behind them and just play ball? I think they can.

Duke-West Virginia: Who wins and why?

I have a feeling this game will be nip-and-tuck the entire way with the Blue Devils pulling away at the end with a big three and excellent free throw shooting. Even though it was a 2-3, Baylor’s zone will get Duke ready to face the Mountaineers’ 1-3-1. I don’t expect West Virginia to continue to shoot the three like they did against Kentucky — Duke is excellent at guarding the arc.

Be sure to check back around tip-off — I’ll be tweeting during both games.

Don’t expect a high-scoring Final Four

With Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse out of the picture, some are grumbling about the lack of big-name teams at the Final Four. By the time the final buzzer sounds on Monday night, it’s entirely possible that those same detractors will call the games “boring” or “ugly.”

Here’s why:

1. Pace
There are 347 teams in the D1 ranks and of the four teams set to play Saturday, Michigan State (#215) plays at the fastest pace. The other three teams — Duke (#232), Butler (#285) and West Virginia (#306) — are all in the bottom third in the number of possessions used per game. All four teams are in the top 50 in offensive efficiency (points per possession), so there should be some scoring, but don’t expect any high-octane, up-and-down affairs.

2. Defense
Duke (#3 in defensive efficiency), Butler (#6) and West Virginia (#10) are elite defensive teams, and Michigan State (#33) isn’t bad, either. All four teams hold their opponents to less than 41.5% from the field and 33.1% from long range. Duke and Butler play great positional defense and always seem to have a help defender in the right spot. Michigan State and West Virginia use superior athleticism to smother opponents. The Mountaineers will even utilize a tough-to-attack 1-3-1 zone.

These teams are evenly matched and low-pace, low-scoring affairs lend themselves to close games. This should result in exciting basketball, but we’re not going to see anything like 2009, when all four teams were in the top 130 in overall pace.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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