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Chaos remains in battle for college football's Final Four

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

College football championship waters are still muddy as undefeated Miami jumps over Clemson in the new Playoff Poll. That plus Power Ratings and bonus college basketball Wednesday in VSiN City.

College Football: Estimated “market” Power Ratings in the Power 5 conferences
Time, once again, to update our estimated “market” Power Ratings for the major college football conferences. If you’re new to the website or this newsletter, these are good faith guesses at how “the market” is currently rating teams based on settled point spreads. 

College estimates are softer than in the NFL because there’s less consistency on the field, less interconnectivity between conferences during the regular season, and occasionally some powerhouses are given inflated numbers in blowout games because of their tendency to run up the score. We give it our best shot. 

To build the scale, we create a couplet for each game that tells us how far apart those two teams should be. Home field advantage is typically worth three points in football Virginia Tech is -7 at Virginia this week. That means Virginia Tech should be 10 points higher on the scale. If you think we’ve misplaced a couplet, please post a comment in the Facebook widget below, drop us a note, or let me know directly on twitter @JeffFogle

Notre Dame is an independent, so we take care of them first before getting to the conferences. Given the current line of ND -2 at Stanford, they should be five higher on our scale. Decided to go with Notre Dame 83, Stanford 78. It’s possible 84 and 79 are the better choices. The Irish have looked mortal their past two games, so we went with the lower number.

Onto the Power 5 conferences…

SEC West: Alabama 91, Auburn 84, LSU 78, Mississippi State 78, Texas A&M 70, Ole Miss 66, Arkansas 64.
SEC East: Georgia 84, Missouri 77, South Carolina 70, Florida 67, Kentucky 66, Vanderbilt 65, Tennessee 63.

Alabama has settled in at -4 or -4.5 at Auburn. That helps us pin down how the Tide is seen compared to other national powers. They were being priced in the high 90s in some of their blowout games against SEC and non-conference weaklings. The Tide would be favored on a neutral field over any other team in the nation. Probably by at least a field goal over any other team they’d meet in the Final Four (unless Ohio State crushes the next two weeks and gets some help). Looks like Alabama would be laying about a TD on a neutral field over the likes of Auburn, Georgia, or Wisconsin. Rumors were hitting the media Tuesday night that Kevin Sumlin would be fired at Texas A&M after its game at LSU this weekend. Alumni are 7-3-1 betting the Aggies this season…which has helped calm down the outrage after the blown game at UCLA. (Without that debacle, A&M would be taking an 8-3 straight up record to Baton Rouge.) 

Big Ten East: Ohio State 89, Penn State 86, Michigan State 77, Michigan 74 (injuries), Indiana 69, Maryland 61, Rutgers 60.
Big Ten West: Wisconsin 85, Northwestern 74, Iowa 73, Purdue 69, Nebraska 66, Minnesota 65, Illinois 55.

We dropped Michigan some points because of the QB injury situation and what seems to be a general market realization that the team just wasn’t as good as its pricing this season. Since Florida handed the Wolverines the opener with turnovers, Michigan is 3-7 ATS in regulation. Tough to jack Ohio State all the way up to Alabama territory given how badly they were dominated in the boxscores by Oklahoma and Iowa. Ohio State currently shows as 4-points better than Wisconsin on a neutral field. That’s consistent with what Las Vegas “advance” lines are showing for the Big Ten title tilt. So, Ohio State laying 12 at Michigan (15 points better on a neutral field) comes out as 89 and 74 for us. Big adjustment from Michigan being just plus 7 in Madison last week. If the Buckeyes win big this week, and garner additional support in the conference championship…we might have to push them closer to the Crimson Tide. 

Big 12: Oklahoma 87, Oklahoma State 83, TCU 82, Texas 76, Iowa State 75, Kansas State 74, Texas Tech 70, West Virginia 68 (QB injury), Baylor 60, Kansas 45.

Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma got into some trouble for making obscene gestures at Kansas. Nobody said anything about Will Grier of West Virginia flipping off everyone standing 90 degrees from him after his ill-advised dive to the pylon. Grier will be out of action for awhile to heel that broken finger, which causes the Mountaineers to take a big hit. Hopefully he’ll be able to return for the bowl. This could be a very fun bowl league given the talent levels and effort we’ve seen from the middle of the pack. 

ACC Atlantic: Clemson 87, Louisville 79, NC State 78, Wake Forest 76, Florida State 75, Boston College 72, Syracuse 66 (Dungey injured).
ACC Coastal: Miami 83, Virginia Tech 78, Georgia Tech 73, Virginia 68, Pittsburgh 67, Duke 67, North Carolina 64.

Virginia Tech has failed to cover three in a row now…so the Hokies continue to sink. Amazing they were temporarily a road favorite at Miami in what now seems to be collective insanity. We’re not sure what to do with Georgia Tech. The market has them plus 11 at home vs. Georgia (of the SEC). We’re not ready to shoot Georgia up to a place that isn’t justified by their poor performance at Auburn. Georgia Tech was a respectable plus 14 at Clemson a month ago. There are some injury issues. Still looks like Clemson will be favored by a smidge over a field goal when they face Miami in the ACC Championship game. Unless Miami throttles Pitt and Clemson kicks the ball around vs. South Carolina. 

Pac 12 North: Washington 84, Washington State 78, Stanford 78, Oregon 77 (healthy again), California 66, Oregon State 56 (QB still out).
Pac 12 South: USC 83, Arizona 78, Utah 75, Arizona State 73, UCLA 70, Colorado 68.

We still don’t know why Washington was -17 last week vs. Utah. That was out of line with prior pricing, and out of line with this week’s pricing. The Apple Cup could be fun, with a feisty dog visiting a vulnerable favorite. A few possible “value” teams in the bowls in this conference if teams can enter the postseason in good health. UCLA fired head coach Jim Mora after the loss to USC. Funny the way that Texas A&M/UCLA season opener provided some bookends to the season. Dramatic finish involving two teams who ended up being worse than expected and had to fire their coaches. 

As we’ve been doing the past few weeks, let’s move next to the new Playoff rankings…

College Football Playoff Rankings: Miami jumps to #2, complicating life for chasers
The big news this week when ESPN announced the new Playoff Poll was that Miami jumped to #2 ahead of Clemson. They had been #3 last week. Miami is undefeated, and still will be when they face Clemson as long as they can win straight up as double-digit favorite at Pitt this week. It’s a lot easier to fall out of the top four after Championship week with a loss at #3 than it is with a loss at #2. 

If any of Auburn, Georgia, or Ohio State are going to crash the Final Four as a two-loss team (which would require running the table against at least one other top 10 opponent), they need Miami or Clemson to take a big hit. 

This week we’ll put both the estimated “market” Power Rating and the won-lost record in parenthesis so it’s easier for you to visualize how things might play out. 

College Playoff Rankings (Power Rating)(Record)
1…Alabama (91) (11-0)
2…Miami (83) (10-0)
3…Clemson (87) (10-1)
4…Oklahoma (87) (10-1)
5…Wisconsin (85) (11-0)
6…Auburn (84) (9-2)
7…Georgia (84) (10-1)
8…Notre Dame (83) (9-2)
9…Ohio State (89) (9-2)
10…Penn State (86) (9-2)

Kirk Herbstreit said during the ESPN broadcast that “the top 7 teams all control their own destiny,” which sounds impossible for four spots if you think about it…and probably is even though each of those teams probably thinks right  now that they do. Imagine that #5 Wisconsin and #7 Georgia both win out, while both #1 Alabama and #2 Miami lose (Georgia winning out would mean Alabama must have lost), would BOTH the Tide and Hurricane fall out of the top four with only one loss from the 1-2 spots? 

Plenty of time for more chaos to commence. And Miami might fall back to a more vulnerable #3 spot next week if they have to survive a nail-biter at Pitt. 

College Basketball: Texas A&M and Baylor take down tournament titles
Two big tournament finales on the Tuesday night schedule, both won by hot teams that have started the season in Big Dance form. Let’s take them in the order they were played.

Legends Classic: Barclay Center, Brooklyn NY
#16 Texas A&M (-5) 98, Penn State 87
Two-Point Pct: Penn State 62%, Texas A&M 64%
Three Pointers: Penn State 5/19, Texas A&M 6/12
Free Throws: Penn State 20/28, Texas A&M 26/29
Rebounds: Penn State 23, Texas A&M 36
Turnovers: Penn State 10, Texas A&M 16

Many college basketball followers are suggesting this is the year somebody in the SEC beats out Kentucky for the league title. Texas A&M has opened the season playing high-level basketball. You might have watched their blowout of then highly-ranked West Virginia over in Germany on opening night. In this two-day tournament, the Aggies beat Oklahoma State 72-55 as 5-point favorites, then made a run at 100 points in a championship shootout. If you watched the game, you saw that the Aggies players were treating this like a big deal. Great effort on the boards. And you have to respect any college basketball team that shoots so well from the free throw line away from home. That skill set will cover a lot of spreads as dogs or short-to-medium favorites. Penn State had been on a tear of its own, beating state-rival Pittsburgh 85-54 in Monday’s semifinal. Probably a pair of teams you’ll want to keep your eye on for point spread value in the next few weeks. 

CBE Hall of Fame Classic: Spring Center, Kansas City MO
#22 Baylor (-1.5) 65, Creighton 59 
Two-Point Pct: Baylor 53%, Creighton 50%
Three Pointers: Baylor 5/16, Creighton 5/30
Free Throws: Baylor 12/14, Creighton 10/13
Rebounds: Baylor 37, Creighton 34
Turnovers: Baylor 16, Creighton 9

Quite a grinder. And a reminder why teams who play solid zone defense are so lethal in tournament-style basketball. Creighton made enough shots in the first half against the Baylor zone to build a 31-19 lead just over two minutes before the break. But it’s hard to drain those for a full 40 minutes against the Bears’ length and athleticism. The Blue Jays hit a wall with just eight minutes left in the second half.

Creighton had 48 points with 7:42 to go
Creighton didn’t make it to 50 until there was 5:55 to go
Creighton didn’t make it to 52 until there was 3:11 to go
Creighton was still sitting on 54 with 21 seconds left

That’s six points in 7:21 on the game clock. 

You hear all the time that Syracuse plays a great zone defense…but the Orangemen don’t rebound well because it’s so hard to rebound out of a zone. Baylor has always rebounded very well out of its zone! That helped them slam the door when the door needed slamming.

A high-profile tournament featuring a few showcase teams begins Wednesday morning in the Bahamas. We asked Greg Peterson to put together a preview for you. 

College Basketball: VSiN’s Greg Peterson previews the Battle 4 Atlantis (this full section provided to VSiN City by Greg)

The Battle 4 Atlantis traditionally attracts talented teams and this year is no exception. The first-round matchups are #5 Villanova vs. Western Kentucky, #18 Purdue vs. Tennessee, SMU vs. Northern Iowa, and #2 Arizona vs. NC State.

There is no reason to think Villanova, Purdue, SMU, and Arizona will not set up the final four of the winner’s bracket, which would lead to some Titanic showdowns.

Villanova enters the tournament ranked fifth in the AP Top 25 having hung over 100 points in each of its past two games, averaging 1.22 points per possession this season. Villanova has six players averaging at least 10 points per game with Mikal Bridges completely packing the stat sheet with averages of 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, three steals, and 1.7 blocks. He's a reason opponents are averaging just 0.812 points per possession, which ranks 26th in America.

Purdue carries the most impressive victory of the season of any squad in the field as the Boilermakers collected an 86-71 road win against Marquette in the Gavitt Games. Purdue is averaging 1.31 points per possession which ranks fourth in the country, scoring 105 points or more in tilts again SIU-Edwardsville, Chicago State, and Fairfield.

Arizona is the highest ranked team in the tournament at No. 2, winning its first three games against Northern Arizona, UMBC, and Cal-State Bakersfield with an average margin of victory of 30.3 points. The team is shooting 50.9 percent from 3-point range with guard Allonzo Trier leading the charge with 30 points per game. The Wildcats are averaging 1.32 points per possession, which is third in the nation.

SMU has gotten the job done on defense, allowing 51 points per game, which ranks fourth in America. The Mustangs are led by AAC Preseason Player of the Year Shake Milton, who has 21.3 points per game and is shooting 44.1 percent from 3-point range. The team averages 1.19 points per possession, which ranks 29th in the country despite being 112th in the country in points per game with 78.5.

Though these are the teams collecting the headlines, and rightfully so, there are four other teams in this field.

NC State is 4-0, dispatching VMI, Charleston Southern, Bryant, and Presbyterian by an average margin of 24.5 points. Sophomore Markell Johnson has the most assists of anyone in the field with nine per game, adding 11.5 points per game to go with it.

Western Kentucky followed up an 85-80 loss to open the season against Missouri State, collecting victories against Kentucky Wesleyan and Nicholls. The team’s depth is far from great as just seven different players have scored a point for the Hilltoppers this year, but all seven of the guys that have gotten on the scoreboard are averaging at least 10 points per game. Western Kentucky is a team the goes quick and gets nearly 2.14 offensive possessions per minute, the most of any team in the tournament.

Tennessee is a rebuilding team, though the Volunteers have gotten off to a 2-0 start. The team is registering 86 points per game with its two foes being High Point and Presbyterian. Junior Admiral Schfield is this team's leader, averaging 18 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

Northern Iowa is a team known for defense, ranking in the nation’s top 30 in regards to points per game allowed. That did not show up when the Panthers lost its season opener to North Carolina 86-69, but the team bounced by by holding Alcorn State, Wartburg, and Chicago State to 45 points or fewer. Six-foot-10 forward Bennett Koch is the team’s dominant force in the paint, registering 17 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

These teams have a wide range of styles in regards to how quickly they play. Western Kentucky averages the most possessions per game with 85.5 with Villanova being number two with 79.7.  SMU averages the fewest possessions with 65.9, which ranks 339th among the 351 DI teams. The rest are as follows:  Northern Iowa 68.5 (318th), Tennessee 71.1 (270th), Arizona 74.6 (155th), NC State 77.3 (75th), Purdue 77.8 (62nd).

Note that with most of these tournaments, lines on most matchups aside from the opening round games typically are not released until the morning of the game. With that said, here are the opening lines for the first round games:

Tennessee vs Purdue (-8, total 154)
Western Kentucky vs Villanova (-22, total 153)
NC State vs Arizona (-13.5, total 157)
SMU (-8, total 127) vs Northern Iowa

If upsets do not occur, Villanova would play Purdue and SMU would face Arizona to set up a possible battle of top five teams in the final between Villanova and Arizona.

That finishes off the Peterson preview. Thanks Greg! Here are some soft estimated “market” Power Ratings for the eight Battle 4 Atlantis entries. Worked with Greg to make best guesses so you can project future lines through the tournament. 

Arizona 87
Villanova 85
Purdue 83
SMU 77
Tennessee 75
NC State 73
Northern Iowa 69
Western Kentucky 62

That’s it for Wednesday. Because of the holiday, we’ll have a short four-day publication week here in VSiN City. Thursday’s report will get you ready for the weekend with expanded big game stat previews for Vikings/Lions on Turkey Day, Alabama/Auburn in Saturday’s Iron Bowl, and then Saints/Rams Sunday in a battle of NFC divisional leaders.

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See you Thanksgiving morning!

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