By Chris Murphy
With the season coming down its final weeks, it is crunch time for any and all College Football Playoff hopefuls. It is also crunch time for College Football Playoff predictions. Perhaps the question you will hear most over the next two weeks is “who’s in?”, and everyone has an answer along with an explanation.
If you take a survey of all these answers and write them down, you will probably end up with the following list of teams: Alabama, Ohio State, Washington, Clemson, and Penn State/Wisconsin. Of these 6 teams, some will have Penn State, some will have Ohio State, and some will have Wisconsin. But very few will have multiple Big Ten teams, even two seems a little much to have.
In a season of big risks and outlandish statements, I’m going to make one myself: Three Big Ten teams deserve to be in the College Football Playoff. Those three teams should be Ohio State, Michigan, and the winner of Penn State/Wisconsin. These three, combined with Alabama, should be the top four come the final Playoff Rankings. Along with this idea, I’m here to try and convince you why this Playoff scenario should be considered.
by Elliot Tan
It’s safe to say the Giants aren’t the giants of the NFL any more. Just two years removed from winning the Super Bowl, Big Blue is 0-4 and last in the NFC East. Unceremoniously off to their worst start of the season since 1987, hope is fading in the locker room, as Antrel Rolle’s bold claim for a 12-0 finish has been met with minimal support and considerable doubt.
The blame for this frankly horrible start has been placed everywhere on the team, from the porous defense to the injured offensive line, from the inconsistent Manning to the non-existent Pierre-Paul, and from the drop-happy Hakeem Nicks to the play-calling of Tom Coughlin. With all this considered, turnovers are the main culprit for this Giants team. Since these turnovers can be improved upon and reduced, its impact on the Giants’ losing streak should be examined closely.
Over the course of four games, 6 fumbles have been lost and 10 interceptions have been thrown for a total of 16 turnovers. To give you some perspective, Eli Manning only threw 15 interceptions all season in 2012-2013. He’s already thrown 2/3 of that total this year and they have only played ¼ of their games. Their turnovers stand in stark comparison to the meager 7 turnovers committed by Giants opponents. The Giants’ turnovers resulted in 328 total yards gained by opposing teams, as well as 46 points scored against the Giants off of turnovers.
The Giants have had a recovery rate of rushing fumbles lower than the 2012 league average of recovery rate (39.7%) in both 2012 (16.7%) and 2013 (0%). However, last year the Giants only fumbled a total of 6 times all season, while this season 3 fumbles have already occurred through 4 games. This sets the Giants on pace for 12 total fumbles in the 2013 season, or double 2012’s total fumbles. If the Giants’ low recovery rate persists, this does not bode well for the team’s chances of turning their season around. However, fumble recoveries are often “lucky” chance plays so hopefully this pace does not turn into reality, and Coughlin can convince his players to hold onto the football like its their 2012 Lombardi trophy.
Three out of six lost fumbles resulted in touchdowns, while 3 touchdowns and 2 touchbacks have resulted from the 10 interceptions. This puts the chance of opposing teams scoring points against the Giants on a turnover at an unfortunate 50%. But, since turnovers can be mitigated, it is comfortable to state that the yardage and points that the Giants gave their opponents can be deemed “preventable” or “flukey”.
The yardage gained from turnovers amounts to 25.19% of total yardage of opponents, and the points scored off turnovers amounts to 31.5% of total points scored against the Giants. While eliminating turnovers completely still would not have given the Giants wins against the Redskins, the Panthers and the Chiefs, this is still an absurdly high amount of preventable yards and points.
After being benched for his two lost fumbles in the opener against the Cowboys, running back David Wilson has done much better with ball security. Not to say he’s been very effective on the ground, with his 130 total yards on 38 attempts and a whopping 0 touchdowns. However, hope remains that after fixing his fumbling issues, Wilson can gain confidence and improve his running game behind a questionable O-line.
Meanwhile, the interceptions by Eli have largely been blamed on the offensive line, which is definitely warranted. At times it has looked as though Eli is not playing with an offensive line, with defenders swarming him at will. However, Eli has become one of four quarterbacks to throw at least 7 picks in two games since 1970. This rate is unnecessarily high, but is an issue which can be improved upon in future games. Coughlin absolutely needs to get Manning focused if the Giants want to win another game this season.
Come on Eli, your brother hasn’t even thrown a pick yet.
By Chad Horner
Tomorrow night, Oregon and Kansas State will face off in the Fiesta Bowl in a matchup that many expected to see as the National Championship game until both teams lost in the final weeks of the season. Here’s a quick preview of what to expect from each team. We’ll focus on offense here, as both teams are in the top 10 in the nation in scoring.
Welcome once again to the Princeton Sports Analytics NFL Power Rankings.
The rankings this week were compiled based on the votes of five of our writers: Julian HK, Jonathan Lack, Jay Hashop, Bruno Velloso, and Chad Horner. For each team, we had the voter who was highest/lowest on that team give something good/not so good about them, to explain their decision. Each team’s ranking from last week is in parentheses. You can view last week’s rankings here.
Please don’t hesitate to comment and to share your thoughts on the overall rankings, or the individual opinions given by the voters.
|2012 Power Rankings: Week 17|
|Rank||Team / Record||The Good||The Not So Good|
|1 (2)||Broncos||The Broncos are 2nd in rush defense and 6th in pass defense, in terms of yards allowed, and 5th in the league in points allowed. The Broncos’ offense, meanwhile, is 2nd in points scored and 4th in total yards. It doesn’t get more well rounded then that. (Velloso)||If you’re looking for flaws in a team on a 10-game win streak, they’re hard to find. But it’s worth mentioning that Denver is 2-3 in games against playoff teams, including losses to AFC rivals New England and Houston. (Lack)|
|2 (3)||Patriots||Last week’s poor performance against the Jags led to a fiery postgame speech by Tom Brady. The Pats still boast the top ranked offense in terms of DVOA. Sucks to be the Dolphins this week. (HK)||The close victory over the Jaguars shouldn’t have been too much of a shock – this is a team that lost to Arizona, and almost lost to both the Bills and the Jets at home. (Horner)|
|3 (4)||Packers||Aaron Rodgers, who has reclaimed his usual spot at the top of the league in passer rating, hasn’t had a multi-interception game all year. He also has yet to have a game with a passer rating below 80. (Horner)||Apparently, by keeping the Packers at 4th, I am now lowest on them. The reason they stayed at 4? A 55-7 win over the Titans doesn’t really mean anything. Their offensive line struggles are still there, and until I see them beat a team with a good pass rush, that’s a huge concern. (Velloso)|
|4 (6)||Seahawks||With a 118 passer rating, Russell Wilson has been crazy good since Week 9. For perspective, over the same time period, Brady and Manning have managed 95.8 and 98.3 ratings respectively. With the number two rushing attack, number one scoring defense, and a top-3 pass defense to go along with Wilson, the Seahawks are thinking Super Bowl. (Velloso)||The last three weeks were some of the strongest single-game performances ever, but the Seahawks will still likely need to win on the road in the playoffs without the “12th man”, unless the Cards knock off the Niners. (HK)|
|5 (1)||49ers||It’s only one game, and the Niners won’t have to travel to Seattle in the playoffs unless they blow a gimme at Arizona. The return of Justin Smith would help buoy a defense that has allowed 70 points in the 1.5 games he has been off the field. (Lack)||Perhaps losing Justin Smith was more significant than we anticipated. The 49ers defense simply couldn’t get off the field against Seattle on Sunday, allowing the Seahawks to convert on all 10 third downs with eight or fewer yards to go. (Hashop)|
By Max Kaplan
Today, Duke plays Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl and Baylor plays UCLA in the Holiday Bowl.
Baylor is only one of seven schools in Division 1 FBS (out of the 124 members) to have a religious affiliation. All seven are a denomination of Christianity. The full list:
- Baylor: Baptist
- Boston College: Catholic
- BYU: Mormon
- Notre Dame: Catholic
- SMU: Methodist
- TCU: The Christian Church
- Tulsa: Presbyterian
On the other hand, Duke are the Blue Devils, the seeming anti-Christ. While Baylor and Duke are not playing each other directly, I wanted to see who has come out on top in history: God or the Devil?
In addition to Duke, Arizona State are the “other” Devils. If we include other “bad” mascots, we get an even 7-on-7 matchup of Good Vs. Evil. The full list of “bad”:
- Arizona State: Sun Devils
- Duke: Blue Devils
- East Carolina: Pirates
- Idaho: Vandals
- Ole Miss: Rebels
- Texas Tech: Red Raiders
- UNLV: Rebels
So who triumphs? Here are the all-time bowl records of these fourteen teams:
The universities with religious affiliations have played in far more bowls, indicating better regular seasons and a longer history of success. However, evil has the ever so slight lead in winning percentage, though both are only hovering around .500. There is a seeming parity between good and evil. It’s as though the forces of good and evil are hanging in the balance.
Though God may be on their side, schools with religious affiliations do not seem to have an advantage during Capital One Bowl Week. Just don’t be surprised to see a Hail Mary anyway.
One more thing: Wake Forest’s mascot is the Demon Deacon. I couldn’t figure out which category he fit into (both?). Can anyone explain to me who the Demon Deacon is?
By Bruno Velloso
As the football editor, I have decided to write a weekly column predicting each of the matchups in the NFL, at least for the remainder of the season. Please feel free to trash me in the comments section!
UPSET OF THE WEEK– Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions: Lions
Yes, last week the Falcons embarrassed the Giants. But they benefitted from two first-half interceptions thrown inside the Giants’ thirty-yard line that really allowed the game to get out of hand early. And if you look at the Falcons’ season game-by-game, it has simply been unimpressive. In Week 1 they beat Kansas City, but got outgained by 17 yards. Week 2 they beat the Broncos, but were again outgained. Week 4 they needed a last-second field goal to put away the Panthers. Week 5 they were down in the 4th quarter to the Redskins before pulling out a victory. Week 6 they needed a last-minute field goal to put away the Raiders, and were outgained by almost 200 yards! Week 11 they were again down in the 4th quarter to the Cardinals before winning by 4. In Week 12, they squeaked by the Bucs by one point. In Week 13, they were outgained 436 to 283 by the Saints, but still won. Call it clutch all you want, but a few plays the other way in each of those game, and the Falcons could easily be 9-5 or 8-6 at this point. Meanwhile, everything has gone against the Lions. 11 of their games have been decided by 8 points or fewer, and they are only 3-8 in those games. At some point, luck has to change. Take the Lions at home.
Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers: Packers
Quietly, the Packers have won 8 of their last 9 games, and Aaron Rodgers has been heating up. He is averaging 8.2 yards per attempt over his last five games, and an 83.4 QBR over his last three. Take out the loss to the Giants, and even the defense has played well, allowing only 16.5 points per game over the last 8 weeks. The Titans should be no threat at Lambeau.
Oakland Raiders at Carolina Panthers: Panthers
Oakland has been awful, allowing a league-high 28.7 points per game. The Panthers, meanwhile, are very underrated, and have won three of their last four games. And Cam Newton has been great the last 5 weeks: a 77 QBR, a 110.3 passer rating, and 8.57 yards per attempt, all this to go with 10 TDs and 0 INTs.
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: Dolphins
Miami’s 2-2 record over the last four games is a bit deceiving. They managed to beat the red-hot Seahawks in Week 12, lost two competitive games against the Patriots and Niners, and easily handled the Jaguars last week. The Bills’ 1-3 record isn’t. Their only win was against the lowly Jags and their losses were to the Colts, Rams, and Seahawks, by a combined 85-42.
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers: Steelers
I am not ready to give up on the Steelers. Roethlisberger has been really good this season: a 68.3 QBR (8th in the league) and a 98.3 passer rating (6th) have kept me optimistic. And the Steelers’ defense has been very good, leading the league in pass defense and total yards allowed per game. I expect the Steelers to limit the fumbles (they have the 2nd most in the league) and win this game at home.
New England Patriots at Jacksonville Jaguars: Patriots
The Patriots’ offense is on pace for 578 points, which would be second all-time. The Jaguars are the Jaguars. Will they even be able to hold the Patriots under 50?
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs: Colts
I pick the Colts, but I have to admit I hesitated. If the Chiefs can get Jamaal Charles going, and if Andrew Luck continues to average a 22.9 QBR as he has the last three weeks, then anything is possible.
New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys: Saints
This is a gut call. Last week, Drew Brees finally looked like Drew Brees again. And while the defense is poor, it has been able to turn the ball over the last 5 weeks, averaging 2.4 turnovers a game. I expect Tony Romo to have his yearly letdown this game, at home, where the Cowboys have looked very beatable.
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles: Redskins
I am taking the Redskins. The Redskins are just great on offense, 1st in the league with 6.2 yards per play, and have an improving defense (their front 7 is underrated). The Eagles, 29th in the league in points scored per game and 26th in the league in points allowed per game, have their work cut out for them.
St. Louis Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Buccaneers
This game should be close. But given how great that Tampa offense looked just a few weeks ago, I will give the edge to the Bucs. Josh Freeman and Doug Martin should be able to turn it around.
Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans: Texans
I expect Adrian Peterson to get 150 yards. I just don’t expect anything from Ponder, and the Vikings’ league-worst passing offense. Texans are good against second-tier teams, and with the league-leading time of possession so far this season, they should keep Peterson off the field long enough to win the game.
San Diego Chargers at New York Jets: Jets
I have given up on the Chargers. With McElroy, the Jets should get improved QB play (it’s impossible not to.) In the preseason (I know, it’s just the preseason) he managed a 99.1 passer rating and a 69.6% completion percentage. I have no idea whether he is any good, but I just feel like he will give the Jets a spark.
Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos: Broncos
The Browns haven’t been terrible, winning three of their last four. But against the Broncos’ top-five defense and Peyton Manning? Riding a nine game winning streak? Not a chance.
New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens: Giants
With their backs against the wall, the Giants thrive. And the Ravens, with a playoff spot somehow already secured, are in freefall. I will take the Giants, but who knows what team will show up?
Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals: Bears
Not as obvious a pick as it seems. But I expect the Chicago Bears’ defense (1st in the league in takeaways) to thrive against the Arizona QB mess (2nd in the NFC in giveaways). What scares me is that Cardinals defense. If Cutler is careless, that playmaking unit could pull off an upset.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks: 49ers
This is a tough matchup between the top two scoring defenses in the league. But this game may come down to two surprisingly good offenses. Seahawks have posted back-to-back 50-point games, and the 49ers have scored 27 points or more in four of their past five games. I give the slight edge to San Francisco.
By Max Kaplan
Today, the BYU Cougars defeated the San Diego State Aztecs in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl is a whopping 7-word title with a length of 39 characters. A close second is the 6-word Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, coming in at 37 characters.
This got me thinking. What are the best bowl names (or corporate sponsorships) in bowl history? Have you ever made fun of the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl or wondered why there is a Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl?
My personal favorite bowl name is the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl sponsored by the Idaho Potato Commission.
Worst 5 Bowl Names
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl (2012): Because nothing says football like filing your taxes.
Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl (1990-96): Just why?
Dallas Football Classic (2011): You cannot create a brand-new bowl and suddenly declare it a ‘classic.’ This year they changed it to the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Not much better.
magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl (2008): magicJack is a USB appliance that lets you make unlimited phone calls.
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl presented by Bridgestone (2003–2007): The longest bowl name ever. One title sponsorship was not enough…
Funniest Retired Bowl Names
Salad Bowl (1947-51): Precursor to the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix.
Epson Ivy Bowl (1988-96): The Ivy League All-Stars played the Japan All-Stars in Japan each year. The Ivy League won every game. The games did not count towards official NCAA records because the two teams were not NCAA-affiliated schools.
Gotham Bowl (1961-62) in NYC: They tried to have one in 1960 as well, but only one team was willing to play.
California Raisin Bowl (1981-91): Naming rights purchased by the California Raisin Advisory Board.
Others (I am not making these up): Bluebonnet Bowl, Cherry Bowl, Cigar Bowl, Glass Bowl, Oil Bowl, Oyster Bowl, Pecan Bowl, Pelican Bowl, Refrigerator Bowl, Shrine Bowl, Tobacco Bowl, and Vulcan Bowl
Top 5 “What is that company?” Bowls
Ourhouse.com Florida Citrus Bowl (2000): Apparently, Ourhouse.com now redirects you to Amazon’s Home & Kitchen department.
Culligan Holiday Bowl (1998-2001): Culligan is a water treatment company in Illinois.
Insight.com Bowl (1996-2011): Insight Enterprises is a business to business technology provider.
Roady’s Truck Stops Humanitarian Bowl (2007-09): Nearly 350 locations in 45 states!
USF&G Sugar Bowl (1987-95): The United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company (Financial Services) went out of business in 1998. They also sponsored the USF&G Classic at English Turn Golf and Country Club in the PGA.
Name Changes in Bowls
The Pointsettia Bowl seems unique in that it has had the same corporate sponsor since its establishment in 2005. How volatile are bowl names?
- The Chick-fil-A Bowl formerly was the Peach Bowl until 1997.
- The Outback Bowl formerly was the Hall of Fame Bowl until 1994.
- Corporate sponsorships did not appear until the 1980s so the older bowls have fewer sponsorships per year.
- The average sponsorship looks to be 5-6 years.
- The average bowl is over 30 years old. However, only one-third of them are over 30 years old.
- The BCS National Championship has had 6 sponsors (tied for the most) since its advent in 1998. Its purpose is to make money.
Welcome to the first edition of the Princeton Sports Analytics NFL Power Rankings, a feature which will continue through the final few weeks of the season.
The rankings were compiled based on the votes of five of our writers: Julian HK, Jonathan Lack, Danny Lei, Bruno Velloso, and Chad Horner. For each team, we had the voter who was highest/lowest on that team give something good/not so good about them, to explain their decision.
Please don’t hesitate to comment and to share your thoughts on the overall rankings, or the individual opinions given by the voters.
|2012 Power Rankings: Week 16|
|Rank||Team / Record||The Good||The Not So Good|
||The fact that the 49ers have a top-2 defense is not surprising. The fact that their offense is the 3rd most efficient in the league (averaging 6 yards per play) is just scary. (Velloso)||The Niners are rolling on all fronts, but the Pats’ 28-0 run during Sunday night’s game should be cause for concern. If young QB Colin Kaepernick gets down big, it could be trouble for the NFC favorite. (Lack)|
||Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are easily the top receiving duo in the AFC, and Knowshon has had over 100 total yards in 3 of his 4 games as a starter. The defense is top 5 in the league, and Peyton Manning is their quarterback. What’s not to love? (Horner)||With upcoming games against Cleveland and Kansas City to close out the season, Denver should lock up a first-round bye. However, unlike the other top-four teams, this young Broncos defense has not played deep into the playoffs and that might prove to be the difference. (Lei)|
||The Patriots had 425 passing yards against the 49ers, who had yet to allow a 300-yard game. And they are on pace to score 578 points this season, which would be second all-time next to the 589 points scored by the undefeated 2007 Patriots. (Velloso)||If last week’s shellacking of Houston counted as a “signature win” for the Pats this season, what does that make this week’s loss to the Niners? Interesting stat: This was the first Patriots loss in the month of December in the last 14 games.
||Aaron Rodgers has met or exceeded his career yards per attempt 4 times in his past 5 games, after doing so only twice in his previous 9 games. As the Packers get healthy, watch out. (Lei)||How to describe the Packers this season… lackluster? With the second easiest strength of schedule, they’ve lost to the Niners, Seahawks*, Colts, and Giants, and their PPG and yardage (League ranks of 13 and 17, respectively) aren’t outstanding. (HK)|
||After exposing the Colts, the Texans need a home win against the Vikings to avoid the Broncos and Patriots until the AFC championship game. While their 5th-best rush defense may be up to the task, Adrian Peterson has a habit of impoverishing anybody who dares to bet against him. (Lack)||They beat Denver way back in week 3, but since then the only elite teams they’ve played (GB and NE) have handled them easily – by a total of 46 points. (Horner)|
By Chad Horner
The Colts were handled easily by the Texans on Sunday, losing 29-17 in their first of two games this season against the AFC South champs. They were outgained by almost 150 yards and spent most of the day down by two scores. The Texans had 9 tackles for loss, including 5 sacks of QB Andrew Luck. Matt Schaub completed over three fourths of his passes on over 8 yards per attempt, and Arian Foster tore through the typically porous Colts defense for 161 yards. Despite the best efforts of Luck and running back Vick Ballard, this game was never close.
For anyone who has watched the Colts closely this season, the result of this game should have come as no surprise. Although they possess a 9-5 record, they have been outscored by a total of 49 points. So, they win close and lose big? Exactly. The Colts have only defeated one team this season by more than a touchdown, and that was the Jaguars – probably the only team worthy of challenging the Chiefs for worst in the league. Their five losses came against the Texans, Patriots, Bears, Jets, and, funnily enough, the Jaguars. Call the loss to the Jaguars a fluke; they lost the other four games by an average of 21 points. The majority of the Colts’ games have been close – 9 of them within 7 points – and of these games, they’ve won 8. If a game could go either way, it’s almost always gone the Colts’ way this season.
This luck, for a very unfortunate lack of a better word, has caused many to overrate the performance of quarterback Andrew Luck thus far this season. Aside from the fact that the Colts have, inarguably, won a lot of games with Luck at QB, there isn’t much to back up the argument that he has had a great, or even above average, performance this season.
Let’s take a look at passer rating first. Of the 35 qualified QBs in the NFL, Luck ranks 31st, ahead of only Brandon Weeden, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassell, and John Skelton. 2 of those guys have lost their jobs, and Sanchez probably wishes he has, so he could watch the fans boo Tebow instead of him.
For those that argue passer rating is too simple of a statistic, we can instead look at Football Outsiders’ DVOA, which is essentially a measure of value per play, adjusted for situation and opponent. Luck ranks 21st in this metric. Higher than before, but still below QBs such as Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Palmer.
“But the fourth quarter!” naysayers will shout. “He plays well when it counts!” Well, no he doesn’t. Luck’s statline in the 4th quarter: 51.7% completion percentage, 6.78 YPA, 5 TD, 6 INT, 67.7 passer rating.
He just isn’t that good.
Now, none of this is to suggest that Luck will never turn into the player that many expect him to be, or that he should be playing any better than he is now. He’s a rookie in the NFL; they can’t all be Robert Griffin (see Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill). His line is average at best, he has a rookie starting at running back, and aside from Reggie Wayne, Luck’s best receiving options are Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton. Still, he is being given too much credit, far too soon.
The Colts have played four teams this season who rank in the top 10 of Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA ratings: the Bears, Jets, Packers, and Texans. They’re 1-3 against those teams, and Luck’s passer rating over those games is a measly 68.2. To look at his rating for today’s game – 95.6 – and think Luck played well would be foolish. Sure, he did a very good job of hitting T.Y. Hilton for a 61 yard touchdown pass after Quintin Demps decided to let Hilton run right past him, but aside from that he completed less than half of his passes for less than 5 yards per attempt. Luck, and the Colts, can’t consistently compete with the top teams in the NFL right now, especially those with elite defenses.
Perhaps this will have changed within a few years; in fact, I’ll be shocked if it hasn’t. However, right now the Colts are nothing more than a below-average team who has managed to Luck themselves into a 9-5 record, and potentially a playoff berth. I say potentially because the Colts still need to go into Arrowhead next week and defeat the Chiefs in order to lock up a spot. For a true playoff-caliber team, this game would be all but a guaranteed victory. Yet we know it isn’t for the Colts – they’ve already proven they can lose to the other worst team in the league.