Posted 11/25/2013 at 05:49 PM
With the final season of college football tied to the BCS standings about to run its course there are still some big changes ahead in the rankings with a lot of head-to-head matchups still to come. While the polls are often to blame for most of the mis-rankings there are some puzzling items in the computer rankings as well, where teams like Northern Illinois and Arizona State seem greatly overrated. Northern Illinois is 7th in the computer average in part thanks to the most well known of the ratings generators, Jeff Sagarin who has the Huskies 3rd, despite the lone quality win coming narrowly at Iowa, an average Big Ten team. Arizona State also gets rightly penalized by the human polls for the win that should not have been over Wisconsin, though the pollsters don’t seem to give the Badgers much benefit in that regard. The biggest travesty is of course in the spirit or fairness, not allowing margin of victory in the computer rankings. That creates computer rankings that simply are not accurate and thus creates unfair rankings by trying to be ‘fair’.
It won’t be popular nationally but Northern Illinois is in a prime position to make another trip to a BCS bowl if they win the MAC title game in two weeks, which they will be favored to do. The Huskies are currently 14th in the BCS rankings and at a minimum five teams ahead of Northern Illinois will have to lose in the next two weeks due to head-to-head games. NIU won’t necessarily pass all of those teams but they should get by a few and could stay ahead of fellow undefeated Fresno State, even though they trail the Bulldogs narrowly in the polls. It could get close after this week as the Huskies face lowly Western Michigan and Fresno State gets a more credible San Jose State. The loss for Boise State last week hurts Fresno State as they will now face a four-loss Utah State team in the MWC title game instead of then three-loss Boise State. Whoever wins out in the rankings between NIU and Fresno State should also stay ahead of the likely AAC champion UCF whose narrow win over Temple two weeks back may prove costly as they took a hit in the polls. The Knights won’t get a great boost from two remaining games as they won’t be able to move up much.
Turn back the clock to last season and through week 12 with every NFL team having played 11 games, the top team in the NFC was the 10-1 Atlanta Falcons. This season the Falcons rank 16th out of 16 in the NFC at just 2-9. Last season through week 12 the Houston Texans led the AFC at 10-1. Through week 12 this season the Texans are 16th out of 16 at 2-9, losing the tiebreaker with the Jacksonville Jaguars as the league has flipped upside down in just one calendar year. The four teams that were in last place in the four NFC divisions at this point last season all have winning records at this point this season. The AFC has seen fewer changes other than the big flip of the Chiefs being 1-10 last season at this point and 9-2 this season through week 12.
While it has been a disastrous season for both Atlanta and Houston, don’t rule out a Chiefs-like turnaround next season. Both teams still have many quality skill players and until the wheels really fell off in the last few weeks both teams had very competent point differentials and yardage numbers with many close loses along the way. Add in a few productive moves for two attractive free agent landing cities, potential top 5 picks in the draft this spring, and possible 4th place schedules next season, both teams could be right back in contention. Another interesting note from a year ago, the six AFC teams that were in playoff position through week 12 ended up being the six playoff teams at the end of the season. In the NFC four of the six teams in the playoffs through week 12 wound up there with only the Bears and Giants stumbling in the last five weeks to fall out of the picture, making room for Washington and Minnesota. So while the standings can still change dramatically, historically they don’t usually bounce too much in the final weeks. As the standings sit right now only five of the 12 2012 playoff teams would make the playoffs with both Super Bowl teams out of the picture and five of the six NFC teams turning over. Best of Luck, on to this week’s slate…