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Hoegher's Rankings and Picks: WEEK FOURTEEN

I want the Bret Bielema back from two years ago. The one that went for two "because the card told him to do so." That card would have come in very helpful on Saturday, just saying. ROSE BOWL OR BUST Y'ALL. 9-5 HERE WE COME. [/sobs]

Rank LW NCAA Team Conf Record Adj Marg Adj Off rk Adj Def rk
1 1 Alabama SEC 11-1 1.271 1.548 8 0.276 1
2 2 Oregon Pac-12 11-1 1.096 1.884 1 0.788 35
3 4 TexasAM SEC 10-2 1.023 1.857 2 0.833 44
4 3 FloridaState ACC 10-2 0.961 1.491 11 0.530 7
5 5 OklahomaState B12 7-4 0.917 1.666 4 0.749 29
6 11 Florida SEC 11-1 0.875 1.257 28 0.383 3
7 8 Oklahoma B12 9-2 0.812 1.522 9 0.710 25
8 10 Georgia SEC 11-1 0.795 1.478 13 0.683 21
9 7 KansasState B12 10-1 0.794 1.433 14 0.638 15
10 6 NotreDame Ind. 12-0 0.789 1.118 46 0.329 2
11 9 Clemson ACC 10-2 0.701 1.602 6 0.901 53
12 12 Nebraska B10 10-2 0.694 1.484 12 0.791 37
13 13 OregonState Pac-12 8-3 0.654 1.285 24 0.631 14
14 15 SouthCarolina SEC 10-2 0.652 1.234 34 0.582 9
15 17 USC Pac-12 7-5 0.623 1.353 18 0.730 27
16 14 LSU SEC 10-2 0.619 1.275 25 0.656 19
17 18 OhioState B10 12-0 0.601 1.414 15 0.813 41
18 20 Stanford Pac-12 10-2 0.571 1.074 56 0.503 4
19 19 Michigan B10 8-4 0.567 1.237 33 0.670 20
20 16 Texas B12 8-3 0.555 1.305 22 0.750 30
21 22 ArizonaState Pac-12 7-5 0.494 1.271 26 0.777 34
22 21 Arizona Pac-12 7-5 0.488 1.511 10 1.023 74
23 28 Northwestern B10 9-3 0.481 1.310 21 0.829 43
24 26 PennState B10 8-4 0.476 1.128 45 0.651 18
25 33 FresnoState MWC 9-3 0.473 1.263 27 0.790 36

And the rest of the Big Ten

Rank LW NCAA Team Conf Record Adj Marg Adj Off rk Adj Def rk
40 40 Wisconsin B10 7-5 0.349 1.043 59 0.694 23
49 54 MichiganState B10 6-6 0.268 0.784 95 0.516 6
66 66 Purdue B10 6-6 0.035 1.100 50 1.065 77
73 76 Iowa B10 4-8 -0.061 0.751 99 0.812 40
74 71 Minnesota B10 6-6 -0.085 0.753 98 0.838 45
76 73 Indiana B10 4-8 -0.091 1.247 31 1.338 110
100 96 Illinois B10 2-10 -0.374 0.583 121 0.957 62

Some thoughts...

Bite on a stick, Florida State. Clemson deserves some criticism as well, but FVCK CLEMSON, so whatever. But you, Seminoles? All you had to do was keep Florida from scoring. A team that scored 27 points on Louisiana-Lafayette. A team that scored 14 pts on Missouri, A team that scored 23 pts on JACKSONVILLE STATE. Florida State, of the 7th ranked Defense (according to me): this should be easy.

And what do you do? You gave up 37 pts, including 24 in the 4th quarter. You made Jeff Driskel look borderline competent. You made me have to cheer for Notre Dame on Saturday night, because you made the possibility of an all-SEC BCS Championship a legitimate scenario for the second year in a row. Stare at a wall and think about what you've done.

On the note of disappointing teams, let's all laugh at USC and Lane Kiffin. I was more bearish on USC than others coming into the season, mostly because I remembered the Minnesota game from last year, but I still didn't see 7-5 coming (I was more along the lines of 9-3). You'll see they're ranked 15th in my rankings, despite that record. You know what that means? MASSIVE UNDER-ACHIEVEMENT. And bad coaching.

Alabama's defense remains terrifying. But Notre Dame is no slouch either. I've previously noted that Alabama's defense is pretty much my best rated ever. They fall behind 1959 Mississippi (who gave up 21 pts all season: 53-7 vs Tulane, 37-7 vs Tennessee, and 3-7 LSU), and 1959 LSU. Other than that? Best of any team (1959, 1971, 1973, 1990-present), and easily the best of any team over the last 20 years.

But I'm here to hype Notre Dame a bit. In any normal year, they would rate out as #1 defensively pretty easily. Their 0.33 AdjDef rating is the 7th best since 1990, and close to what 2001 Miami achieved (0.32 AdjDef). Granted, their defense might be boosted a bit relative to others since their offense is decidedly not elite (thus they keep their starters on the field longer, giving up less garbage time points), but it is definitely a title team worthy defense.

They will probably still get murdered against Alabama, but maybe the Mayans will come through for us.

No, the MAC isn't good. Stop this nonsense. First off, props to Northern Illinois and Kent State. At least one Midwestern conference championship will have two ranked teams playing. But seriously: the MAC is the mid-major version of the SEC: All the top teams have gaudy records because the lower tier of the conference is awful. This isn't to say Northern Illinois is bad (I have them 27th), but it's really easy to get to double-digit wins when you're playing against Buffalo (4-8), Akron (1-11), Eastern Michigan (2-10), and Massachusetts (1-11). Among many other MAC teams that rate poorly. 6 MAC teams in total rank 100th or worse in my numbers, and damn near everyone in the conference ranks worse than 50th (the lone outlier being Northern Illinois at 27th).

Need more evidence? Kent State has a gleaming 11-1 record... with that one loss coming by 33 pts to Kentucky (2-10). They beat a possible BCS team in Rutgers, but beating a Big East team that just got humbled by Pittsburgh doesn't really count for much. Northern Illinois also has a 11-1 record, losing to the juggernaut that is Iowa (admittedly, in a much closer game). Ball State is 9-3, with their best win coming (barely) against Indiana, which shouldn't count as a best win.

Finally? I have the MAC ranked as 10th out of 11 FBS conferences, leading only C-USA. Jeff Sagarin (a guy with just a touch more credit than myself), has the MAC 10th out of 11 FBS conferences, leading only C-USA. I really hope Northern Illinois wins this weekend, because Kent State in the BCS would be grisly.

Nice job Northwestern. I knew my projections coming into 2012 (5-7, I think was my prediction) were probably too pessimistic, considering Pat Fitzgerald's wizardry. But, like Bill Snyder and his magic, y'all took that magic and made it reality, such that your performance is completely deserving of your record. I have you 23rd, the polls have you 22nd, and 9-3 (with a chance for 10!) is pretty great.

PICKS TIME

Instead of my normal thing of picking (wrongly) the AP Top 25, I think I'll give a shot at profiling the Big Ten Championship match-up, as well as the other conference championship games this week (SPOILER: Alabama wins).

BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP

2012 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Record AdjOff rk AdjDef rk AdjEff rk AdjMarg rk
10-2 1.484 12 0.791 37 0.652 15 0.694 12

Nebraska Weekly Performance

2012 Wisconsin Badgers
Record AdjOff rk AdjDef rk AdjEff rk AdjMarg rk
7-5 1.043 59 0.694 23 0.601 34 0.349 40

Wisconsin Weekly Performance

In defense of Wisconsin...

Yes, five losses is five losses. And losing 3 of your last 4 isn't exactly building momentum for a championship setting. However, 4 of those five losses are to Hoegher Ranked Teams (very prestigious): Oregon State (13th), Nebraska (12th), Ohio State (17th), and Penn State (24th). The loss to Michigan State is less forgive-able (49th in AdjMarg, even if they still - inexplicably - rank 15th as per those professionals at Football Outsiders), but they still have a strong defense that a crap back-up QB was throwup against at half-time.

And those three most recent losses? All in over-time, which should (theoretically) be a coin-flip. Yes, coaching matters (Bill Snyder says hi! Bret Bielema ignores him and chugs a Natty Ice), but 0-3 in over-time suggests a record that may under-sell the Badger talent a bit. Wisconsin still has a quality defense that has performed well above average for every game this season, outside Northern Iowa (FCS school in Week 1, meh) and Nebraska (wait, shit). And the offense, though maddeningly inconsistent, has been improving from the dive it took after Joel Stave went out, and still miles better from the Dark Times (aka Danny O'Brien).

But Nebraska is still totally winning this game.

Wisconsin's defense is solid? Awesome, Nebraska's offense is the best in the league, and one of the best in the nation (that dive last week against Iowa deserves a heavy asterisk considering the weather). Wisconsin's offense has been improving in bits and spurts over recent weeks? Nebraska's defense has been doing the same thing, except steadily and consistently. And even considering the whole season, Nebraska's defense has been fair to decent every week (outside of a blitzkrieg at Ohio State).

Nebraska has the better quarterback - by far and I can't believe I'm saying that. Taylor Martinez still looks like poop when he throws the ball, but it goes where he wants it to go and he's still got the running ability to boot. Don't get me wrong, I love some clutch Curt Phillips drives, but the other 50+ minutes of the game still count on the scoreboard, and relying on your defense to keep you in the game while your offense flounders around like a beached whale tends to not work (see: Nebraska-Wisconsin VOLUME ONE (second half)). Outside of Wisconsin forcing billions of turnovers like the previous tilt in Lincoln, I don't see Wisconsin coming away with this. It'll be close (Yay defense! Could've used you last season!), but Nebraska heads to the Rose Bowl where I hope they get blitzed because they all seem to hate it.

76% - Nebraska over Wisconsin (33.0 - 23.4)

Other games of note around the nation:

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP

84% - Alabama over Georgia (34.5 - 21.1)

PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP

62% - Stanford over UCLA (27.1 - 23.2)

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP

91% - Florida State over Georgia Tech (40.7 - 23.1)

DE-FACTO BIG EAST CHAMPIONSHIP

54% - Rutgers over Louisville (19.4 - 18.2)

MAC-TION CHAMPIONSHIP

77% - Northern Illinois over Kent State (35.7 - 25.7)

C-USA CHAMPIONSHIP

57% - Central Florida over Tulsa (27.1 - 24.9)

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