Race For 13 – Quarter Pole Update

Courtesy foxsports.com

Courtesy foxsports.com

With the first quarter of the regular season in the books, it’s time to update the Race For 13.

First, a quick recap of what this is all about: we’re shining a light on the most important goal for a certain subset of the Power 5: obtaining bowl eligibility.  The qualifications for the Race, as we explained a few weeks ago, are:

  • Must be in the Power 5.
  • If the team accomplishes nothing more than merely qualifying for a bowl in 2015 (i.e. goes 6-6 in the regular season), that team’s fanbase must view the season as a success.
  • Cannot have played in bowl game following the 2014 season.

The updated rankings below are based not only on what a team has done in Weeks 1-3, but also on their remaining schedule.  The rankings are based on likelihood to earn a bowl bid, not necessarily on a comparison of the teams’ relative skill or ability.  For example, IU checks in at #5, but I don’t actually think IU is better than all of the teams ranked below them.[ref] In fact, I think IU would be lucky to go 5-5 against the teams ranked 6-15.  Really, I just want them to go 2-0 with wins against the team ranked #11 and #13.[/ref]

With that in mind, so far, Northwestern, Texas Tech, and Cal are the undisputed frontrunners in the Race.  All three are 3-0, have impressive road wins, and based on their performance to date, should have little trouble reaching 6 wins.  In fact, I’m certain those programs (and their fans) are aiming higher at this point.  Northwestern’s Week 1 win over Stanford pushes them ahead of Cal or Texas Tech at this point. At the other end of the spectrum, Kansas remains at #15, as the only team on the list without a win.

(1)   Northwestern

Previous Ranking: 4th

Results: Home wins over Stanford and Eastern Illinois, road win over Duke.

Winnable Games Remaining: The Cats beat Stanford, and they miss Ohio State and Michigan State, so in my mind, all of their remaining 9 games are winnable.  That being said, road games at Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin will be difficult.

(2)   Texas Tech

Previous Ranking: 1st

Results: Home wins over UTEP and Sam Houston St., road win over Arkansas.

 Winnable Games Remaining: The way Tech is playing, there’s an argument that all of their remaining games are winnable.  I’d like to see a little more from the defense before I go that far.  For now my list includes the entire Big 12, excluding this week’s game against TCU[ref] Although with TCU’s injuries piling up, this one looks more and more winnable.[/ref], neutral site against Baylor and at Oklahoma.  Bonus points awarded for Coach Kingsbury’s incredible post-game press conference takedown of Brett Bielema.  Anyone who remembers Bielema opting to pass in the 4th quarter while hanging 81 on IU should enjoy that clip.

 (3)   California

 Previous Ranking: 5th

Results: Home wins over Grambling and San Diego St., road win over Texas.

Winnable Games Remaining: at Washington, Washington St., USC, Oregon St., at Stanford[ref] If Northwestern can do it…[/ref], Arizona St.

 (4)   Kentucky

 Previous Ranking: 3rd

Results: Home win over UL-Lafayette, road win over South Carolina, home loss to Florida

 Winnable Games Remaining: Some unexpected weakness in the SEC has opened up Kentucky’s schedule.  At the moment, UK’s list of winnable games includes home games against Mizzou, Auburn, Tennessee, Charlotte and Louisville, and road tilts against Mississippi State and Vandy.

(5)   Indiana

Previous Ranking: 6th

Results: Home wins over Southern Illinois, Florida International and Western Kentucky

Winnable Games Remaining: at Wake Forest, at Penn St.[ref] Humor me. Their offense looks rough.[/ref], Rutgers, Iowa, Michigan[ref] See Penn St.[/ref], at Maryland, at Purdue. 

(6)   Syracuse

Previous Ranking: 8th

Results: Home wins over Rhode Island, Wake Forest and Central Michigan.

Winnable Games Remaining: at South Florida, at Virginia, Pitt, at Louisville, at North Carolina St., Boston College.

 (7)   Washington State

Previous Ranking: 2nd

Results: Home loss to FCS opponent Portland State[ref] There but for the grace of dropped 2-point conversion go the Hoosiers.[/ref], road win over Rutgers, home win over Wyoming.

Winnable Games Remaining: at Cal, Oregon State, Colorado, at Washington.

(8)   Colorado

 Previous Ranking: 7th

Results: Road loss to Hawaii, home win over UMass, road win over Colorado St.

 Winnable Games Remaining: Nicholls St., at Oregon St., at Washington St.  It’s also possible that Colorado could steal one of their four brutal Pac-12 home games against Oregon, Arizona, Stanford and USC.  Remember, the Buffs have to win 7 games to earn bowl eligibility.

(9)   Virginia

Previous Ranking: 12th

Results: Road loss to UCLA, home loss to Notre Dame, home win over William & Mary.

Winnable Games Remaining: The devastating loss to Notre Dame showed that UVA’s ceiling is actually quite high.  A close home win over FCS opponent Bill & Mary reiterated that the floor remains pretty low.  Six of the ‘Hoos remaining games fall somewhere in the middle: Boise St., at Pitt, Syracuse, at UNC, Georgia Tech, Duke.

(10) Oregon State

Previous Ranking: 9th

Results: Home wins over Weber St. and San Jose St., road loss to Michigan.

Winnable Games Remaining: at Washington St., Colorado, at Cal, Washington

(11) Wake Forest 

Previous Ranking: 13th

Results: Home win over Elon, road loss to Syracuse, road win over Army.

Winnable Games Remaining: Indiana, at Boston College, North Carolina St., Duke

(12) Vanderbilt

Previous Ranking: 14th

Results: Home losses to Western Kentucky and Georgia, home win over Austin Peay.

Winnable Games Remaining: at Middle Tennessee St., at South Carolina, Mizzou, at Houston, Kentucky

(13) Purdue

Previous Ranking: 10th

Results: Road loss to Marshall, home win over Indiana St., home loss to Virginia Tech.

 Winnable Games Remaining: Bowling Green, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana

 (14) Iowa State

Previous Ranking: 11th

Results: Home win over Northern Iowa, home loss to Iowa, road loss to Toledo.

Winnable Games Remaining: Kansas, Texas

 (15) Kansas

Previous Ranking: 15th

Results: Home losses to FCS South Dakota St. and Memphis (and a much needed bye week)

Winnable Games Remaining: at Rutgers, at Iowa State.  With no winnable home games remaining, 0-12 is a very realistic possibility for the Jayhawks.