Friday, January 1, 2016

College football bloat season

Oops, that should be "bowl season".

The 2015 season features 40 bowl games (not including the national championship game), meaning over 2/3 of teams get to finish their season in a bowl. This is even more egregious than the NBA playoffs, where each year 16 of 29 (55%) of teams make the postseason. Aside from diluting the meaning of "making the postseason", this leads to a giant collection of non-competitive games. There's no reasonable way to pair up teams to begin with, and conference affiliations on many bowls further limit possibilities. I mean, why should the 5th best team from one conference vs the 6th best from another be a good game? Even the 6-wins criteria is laughable since most teams collect 3 wins against FCS teams; or in the cases of Minnesota and Nebraska, a losing regular season record was good enough.

So, how many of the 40 games are remotely competitive? And how does that break down between games where both, one, or neither team is ranked?

Here are the games between each group (red indicates a 20+ point margin of victory, green is 8 or less):

#1 Clemson vs #4 Oklahoma, 37-17
#2 Alabama vs #3 Michigan State, 38-0
#5 Iowa vs #6 Stanford, 16-45
#7 Ohio State vs #8 Notre Dame, 44-28
#9 Florida State vs #18 Houston, 24-38
#10 North Carolina vs #17 Baylor, 38-49
#12 Ole Miss vs #16 Oklahoma State, 48-20
#13 Northwestern vs #23 Tennessee, 6-45
#14 Michigan vs #19 Florida, 41-7

#20 LSU vs Texas Tech, 56-27
#21 Navy vs Pittsburgh, 44-28
#22 Utah vs BYU, 35-28
#24 Temple vs Toledo, 17-32
#25 USC vs Wisconsin, 21-23

Arizona vs New Mexico, 45-37
Appalachian State vs Ohio, 31-29
San Jose State vs Georgia State, 27-16
Louisiana Tech vs Arkansas State, 47-28
Western Kentucky vs South Florida, 45-35
Akron vs Utah State, 23-31
Boise State vs Northern Illinois, 55-7
Georgia Southern vs Bowling Green , 58-27
Western Michigan vs Middle Tennessee, 45-31
San Diego State vs Cincinnati, 42-7
Marshall vs Connecticut, 16-10
Washington State vs Miami, 20-14
Washington vs Southern Mississippi, 44-31
Duke vs Indiana, 44-41
Virginia Tech vs Tulsa, 55-52
Nebraska vs UCLA, 37-29
Minnesota vs Central Michigan, 21-14
California vs Air Force, 55-36
Nevada vs Colorado State, 28-23
Auburn vs Memphis, 31-10
Mississippi State vs NC State, 51-28
Louisville vs Texas A&M, 27-21

Not yet played:
#11 TCU vs #15 Oregon
Penn State vs Georgia
Kansas State vs Arkansas
West Virginia vs Arizona State

Interestingly, the games between unranked teams had a lot more drama. There was literally not a single game between ranked teams that was decided by one score or less, and 6 out of 9 were by 20 or more. These are the top-tier games and they are blowouts. The other games with one ranked teams did barely better. Overall, the count in played games of close-normal-blowout for each group is:
2 ranked teams: 0-3-6
1 ranked team: 2-2-1
2 unranked teams: 11-6-5

The overall tally is 13-11-12. Put another way: practically random. The lack of quality games involving a ranked team (2-5-7) is particularly sad. I'm not sure what to do about this, or if this just means the comparisons between conferences are a crapshoot.


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