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Hoegher's Rankings and.... well Pick: WEEK FIFTEEN

First, a note on Bret Bielema:

I grew up in Minnesota, cheering (futilely) for the Vikings. I never really was much of a college football fan (because I grew up in Minnesota and LOL GOPHERS), but eventually I graduated high school and headed off to Madison, WI. I've been here ever since.

I started college in 2007. As such, Bret Bielema has been the only coach I've ever known. Those stories of Barry Alvarez, those Rose Bowl trophies so lovingly talked about by my Wisconsin roommates? Just stories. As real to me as past NFC Championships for the Vikings are (which is to say: not much). Hell, I wasn't even aware of them until I got here as a college freshman. Bret Bielema's Badgers are all I know and the only accomplishments I really feel like I can celebrate.

Fortunately, there were quite a bit of accomplishments in there. Beating #1 Ohio State in 2010? I was in the stands, and it was glorious. Beating a ranked Iowa a week later, in a game coming down to the wire? My cross-country friends and I were coming back from a meet in Minnesota and stopped in a sports bar along the way. It was (unexpectedly) a blast, considering the random locale. I actually missed the 83 pt slaughter of Indiana in 2010 (I was at Club Nationals for cross-country), but I did get to see the Big Ten/Rose Bowl clinching demolition of Northwestern later that year. The whole of Russell Wilson. (This past Saturday really goes without saying.)

Of course, there were disappointments as well. 0-2 in Rose Bowls - both to good teams - but heart-breaking nonetheless. Baffling clock management, the best examples of which occurred in the 2012 Rose Bowl and the 2008 game against Michigan State (oh, how I hate you Spartans). Actually, pretty much the whole of 2008 goes in here.

But over-all, it was a pretty good experience. Y'all could criticize Wisconsin all ya like, we were just fine. He may be a douche, but he was our douche. I'm not the only one that felt this way. Every conference needs a Steve Spurrier, and I was more than happy to have him. Wisconsin had its unique style of play, its unique frat boy coach, but all was well. Bielema was hand-picked by the patron saint of Wisconsin football. He was- warts, beer belly, and all - us.

Then... Tuesday happened. And that was a shocker. It felt... hell, it felt like a break-up. Not a bad break-up, mind you. There were plenty of flaws that I could use to justify his leaving. But I had accepted those flaws, and just expected to have the same coach year-in and year-out. Coaching searches were for other people. Not Wisconsin. It was pretty surreal. Especially in light of three straight conference titles (no asterisk, enjoy your division title Ohio State!).

But I've had time to process this now, so in the spirit of break-ups: go (tr)uck yourself Bielema. I hope we play you soon and beat you 83-20 (YEP).

Rank LW NCAA Team Conf Record Adj Marg Adj Off rk Adj Def rk
1 1 Alabama SEC 12-1 1.232 1.529 9 0.296 1
2 2 Oregon Pac-12 11-1 1.130 1.910 1 0.780 35
3 3 TexasAM SEC 10-2 0.988 1.827 2 0.839 45
4 4 FloridaState ACC 11-2 0.899 1.427 15 0.528 6
5 6 Florida SEC 11-1 0.874 1.260 26 0.386 3
6 8 Georgia SEC 11-2 0.859 1.541 7 0.681 21
7 5 OklahomaState B12 7-5 0.834 1.596 6 0.762 29
8 10 NotreDame Ind. 12-0 0.791 1.121 47 0.330 2
9 9 KansasState B12 11-1 0.789 1.436 14 0.647 17
10 7 Oklahoma B12 10-2 0.776 1.479 12 0.703 23
11 13 OregonState Pac-12 9-3 0.744 1.337 19 0.593 11
12 11 Clemson ACC 10-2 0.696 1.607 5 0.911 56
13 14 SouthCarolina SEC 10-2 0.645 1.229 32 0.585 10
14 15 USC Pac-12 7-5 0.633 1.359 17 0.726 25
15 12 Nebraska B10 10-3 0.624 1.512 10 0.888 53
16 16 LSU SEC 10-2 0.598 1.258 28 0.660 18
17 18 Stanford Pac-12 11-2 0.574 1.082 57 0.508 4
18 17 OhioState B10 12-0 0.571 1.380 16 0.809 39
19 19 Michigan B10 8-4 0.548 1.222 36 0.674 20
20 20 Texas B12 8-4 0.518 1.298 22 0.780 34
21 21 ArizonaState Pac-12 7-5 0.510 1.278 24 0.767 30
22 22 Arizona Pac-12 7-5 0.495 1.510 11 1.015 74
23 25 FresnoState MWC 9-3 0.482 1.272 25 0.791 36
24 24 PennState B10 8-4 0.465 1.112 48 0.647 16
25 26 UtahState WAC 10-2 0.465 1.034 60 0.570 8

And the rest of the Big Ten:

Rank LW NCAA Team Conf Record Adj Marg Adj Off rk Adj Def rk
26 40 Wisconsin B10 8-5 0.464 1.163 42 0.700 22
27 23 Northwestern B10 9-3 0.461 1.294 23 0.832 43
50 49 MichiganState B10 6-6 0.253 0.768 97 0.515 5
66 66 Purdue B10 6-6 0.037 1.095 53 1.058 76
73 73 Iowa B10 4-8 -0.074 0.743 101 0.817 41
74 76 Indiana B10 4-8 -0.081 1.244 30 1.325 109
75 74 Minnesota B10 6-6 -0.087 0.742 102 0.829 42
99 100 Illinois B10 2-10 -0.371 0.580 122 0.952 60

Some thoughts...

Of course I'm going to talk about that game. That was the second most fun game I've ever watched as a Badger fan, right behind beating Ohio State in 2010. Best of all? It was completely un-expected. Hell, I still have Nebraska as a 4 pt favorite in a hypothetical game. However, that game definitely had an impact.

First, this is Week 15. There is not a lot of movement in the rankings this late. It's not that the games don't matter as much, it's just because each game adds less and less to the pile as a whole. Even considering that, Wisconsin jumped up 14 slots from 40th to 26th. We're finally at a point where I don't consider it ludicrous to rank us! WOO. On Nebraska's end: they were ranked 37th defensively last week. As you can see, they dropped all the way to 53rd defensively. It was - by far - their worst defensive effort of the season (and if any Ohio State fans want to contest that, this is considering that Ohio State never DERP-ed around 59 minutes shut-out against Oregon State. Congrats!). All in all, a lovely game (in my opinion).

Well, this is (potentially) awkward. I'm probably going to echo some points that Brian Fremeau made here (albeit, in much more non-amateur form), so feel free to accuse me of plagiarism if ya like! For as much criticism as the BCS gets, I do think it tends to crown the right team at the end of the season, and my Excel sheets agree with that. Even last year, LSU was a clear #1 throughout the year, but - even though it took a Herculean effort by Bama - Alabama came out on top in the polls and here. Auburn places 6th in 2010 (due to a pretty bad defense by championship standards), but other than that the top tier team is pretty consistent.

This year? Well, if Alabama wins then huzzah! No need to worry. If Notre Dame wins though? Well, then there's more of an issue. Notre Dame ranks 8th right now, and my guess right now is it would be impossible for them to pass up Bama, much less take #1 (okay they could do it if they won like 100-0, but that's not happening). Why? This is why:

Alabama

Notre Dame

Notre Dame's offense is just too mediocre to over-come that deficit, despite having a stellar defense (#2 behind Bama). Now, I will grant that this is partly due to the offensive bias of my rating system (Notre Dame ranks #2 using AdjEff, which is kinder on defense), but it's still disconcerting to see that possibility pop-up. Fortunately, I think Alabama will win, so that should render this all moot.

Honestly, I think Central Michigan is one of the worst bowl teams ever. They come in at 113th in my numbers (97th for those professionals at Football Outsiders, though just ahead of Air Force). Instead of crying about Northern Illinois (who I am all for in the BCS), let's talk about this. I've got rankings going back to 1990, about 3000 teams (3031 to be exact). Central Michigan ranks #2609. Behind them, of bowl-eligible teams:

#2610 - 2004 Akron (6-5)

#2613 - 1998 Western Michigan (7-4)

#2618 - 2010 Middle Tennessee (6-7)

#2665 - 2009 Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6)

#2670 - 1990 Long Beach State (6-5)

#2714 - 2006 Arkansas State (6-6)

#2750 - 1992 New Mexico State (6-5)**

#2765 - 2005 Louisiana-Lafayette (6-5)

** NOTE: 1993 New Mexico State comes in at #2749 and 5-6. Nice consistency!

Of those (unless I'm very much mistaken), only 2010 Middle Tennessee received a bowl invite (they lost to Miami-Ohio). Safe to say, if Central Michigan somehow manages to win their bowl game (I have them as 13 pt under-dogs), they'll be the worst team in my data to actually win a post-season game. Nice job Iowa!

PICK TIME

92% - Navy over Army (39.0 - 20.3)

It appears I'm much more confident than our resident professional Bill C. Eh!

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