Race For 13 – Midseason Update

Washington St. head coach Mike Leach ponders the meaning of life…or tries to decide whether to go for two against Oregon. Courtesy sports.yahoo.com

Washington St. head coach Mike Leach ponders the meaning of life…or tries to decide whether to go for two against Oregon. Courtesy sports.yahoo.com

Since I can’t possibly watch that game again and I can’t imagine you want to revisit it, there won’t be any film studies this week. Instead, it’s time for the midseason(ish) Race For 13 update!


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 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 1-7, 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.

Through seven weeks, the 15 teams in the Race have separated into four (only somewhat arbitrary) tiers

Tier 1: Probably Will Achieve Bowl Eligibility

These four teams are in pretty good shape, but three of the four have missed opportunities to eliminate suspense.

(1)   California

Record: 5-1

Previous Ranking: 3rd

Big Wins: at Texas

Bad Losses: None. Cal’s only loss so far came on the road at #3 Utah, and it was close.

Remaining Schedule Analysis: A team with Cal’s offensive skill is capable of beating just about anyone, including all six remaining opponents (at UCLA, USC, at Oregon, Oregon St., at Stanford, Arizona St.)  Those road games against UCLA and Oregon suddenly seem a lot more manageable.  That trip to The Farm probably won’t go the Golden Bears’ way, but crazier things have happened in that matchup.

(2)   Texas Tech

Record: 5-2

Previous Ranking: 2nd

Big Wins: at Arkansas

Bad Losses: None. The Red Raiders’ only losses have come to Baylor and TCU, both of which are ranked in the Top 5 in the AP and coaches polls and carry a combined record of 13-0.  And Tech came tantalizingly close to knocking off TCU.

Remaining Schedule Analysis: Although all five remaining games are winnable for a team with Tech’s offensive firepower, there aren’t any cupcakes left.  This week’s game at Oklahoma is probably the least winnable, but the egg the Sooners laid against Texas gives Red Raider fans hope.  After that, home games against Oklahoma State and Kansas State and road games against West Virginia and Texas are all within the realm of possibility, but only if Tech plays much better than they did at Kansas last Saturday, where a game against the nation’s worst Power 5 team remained close late in the 4th quarter.

(3)   Northwestern

Record: 5-2

Previous Ranking: 1st

Big Wins: Stanford, Duke

Bad Losses: None. The lopsided manner in which the Cats lost to Michigan and Iowa wasn’t great, but Iowa and Michigan are both top 15 teams so I don’t consider them bad losses.

Remaining Schedule Analysis: Every remaining game except a road trip to Madison, which includes road games against Nebraska and Illinois, and home games against Penn St. and Purdue.  Even with a struggling offense, there has to be a win in there somewhere.[ref] If not 3 or 4.[/ref]  On the other hand, if Northwestern suffers another lopsided defeat Saturday in Lincoln, negative momentum could become a problem.

 (4)   Kentucky

Record: 4-2

Previous Ranking: 4th

Big Wins: Missouri

Bad Losses: None.  Sure, Auburn looked vulnerable when it came to Lexington, but it’s hard to criticize a 3-point loss to a team that was ranked in the Top 5 to start the season.

Remaining Schedule Analysis: Everything but a road trip to Georgia remains winnable. The Cats just need two wins from a set of three manageable home games against Tennessee, Charlotte and Louisville, and two road games against Mississippi State and Vandy.  With those Charlotte and Vandy games, 6 wins should probably be the floor.

Tier 2: Might Achieve Bowl Eligibility

These two teams could still make it to 6 wins, but the margin for error is very slim.

 (5)   Washington State

Record: 4-2

Previous Ranking: 7th

Big Wins: Oregon, at Rutgers.  Everyone knows it’s extremely hard to knock out the Scarlet Knights…

Bad Losses: Portland St.

Remaining Schedule Analysis: The only remaining game in which Wazzu is likely to favored is a home tilt with Colorado.  Assuming they take care of business against the Buffs, Mike Leach will only need to steal one of four difficult games (on the road against UCLA, home against Stanford, Arizona State, on the road against rival Washington). 

(6)   Indiana

Record: 4-3

Previous Ranking: 5th

Big Wins: Western Kentucky. I’m serious. They’re good.[ref] The Hilltoppers are 6-1 now and head to Death Valley on Saturday to take on LSU.  Based on how Jordan Howard fared against them, I suspect they might have a problem with one Leonard Fournette.[/ref]

Bad Losses: Rutgers. F word.

Remaining Schedule Analysis: In all likelihood, it will come down to road games against two struggling B1G opponents (Maryland and Purdue) to end the season.  Call me crazy, but I think the Hoosiers will be in one of the next three (at Michigan State, home against Iowa and Michigan) in the 4th quarter. Whether they can finish is another matter.

Tier 3: Probably Won’t Make It, But Still Have A Chance

Each team in this group of four will need to pull an upset or two – and win any remaining game in which they happen to be favored – in order to play in December or January.

(7)   Syracuse

Record: 3-3

Previous Ranking: 6th

Big Wins: None

Bad Losses: South Florida, Virginia

Remaining Schedule Analysis: All non-Florida State-or-Clemson games remain winnable, even though this Saturday’s matchup with Pitt is looking like a taller order than I previously thought.  Road games against Louisville and North Carolina St., and a home finale against Boston Collegeare all opportunities, but the Orange may only be favored against BC.

(8) Virginia

Record: 2-4

Previous Ranking: 9th

Big Wins: None.

Bad Losses: None.  While the blowout loss at home to Boise State wasn’t a great look, I’m not quite willing to call it bad.  The ‘Hoos were underdogs, after all.

Remaining Schedule Analysis: The reason 2-4 UVA is ranked this high is that all six remaining games are winnable.  The schedule looks like this: at UNC, Georgia Tech, at Miami, at Louisville, Duke, Virginia Tech.  Only one of those six (Duke) is currently ranked and all have their flaws.  If the UVA team that took Notre Dame to the brink of an upset shows up consistently in the season’s second half, who knows?

(9) Wake Forest 

Record: 3-4

Previous Ranking: 11th

Big Wins: Boston College

Bad Losses: Indiana??

Remaining Schedule Analysis: Home games against North Carolina St., Louisville and Duke are somewhat winnable, even if the Demon Deacons won’t be favored.  Road games against Clemson and Notre Dame are not.

(10) Colorado

Record: 3-4

Previous Ranking: 8th

Big Wins: at Colorado State

Bad Losses: Hawaii

Remaining Schedule Analysis: Here is where the math becomes a problem.  I see only three possibly winnable games – at Oregon St., USC (if only because of the upheaval with the program),at Washington St. – but because of Colorado’s game against Hawaii, the Buff need four more wins (for a total of 7) to secure bowl eligibility.  Barring an extremely surprising win at UCLA, home against Stanford or at Utah, I’m not seeing it.


Tier 4: Better Luck Next Year

We IU fans know the feeling all too well.

(11) Vanderbilt

Record: 2-4

Previous Ranking: 12th

Big Wins: None

Bad Losses: None

Remaining Schedule Analysis: I’m sure that road trip to Houston was supposed to be easier when it was scheduled. Now Tom Herman’s Cougars are ranked, and I don’t think that’s a winnable game for the ‘Dores. Home games against Mizzou and Kentucky are really the only remaining possible Ws, and even those are a stretch.

(12) Oregon State

Record: 2-4

Previous Ranking: 10th

Big Wins: None

Bad Losses: None

Remaining Schedule Analysis: Home games against Colorado and Washington, and that’s about it. The Beavers should maybe start with a more modest goal – keeping a game against a Power 5 conference foe within a couple touchdowns.  Their four defeats have been by 28, 18, 37, and 21 points.

(13) Iowa State

Record: 2-4

Previous Ranking: 14th

Big Wins: None

Bad Losses: I guess the loss at Toledo, just because it’s a Big 12 school against a MAC school. But the Rockets are pretty damn good.

Remaining Schedule Analysis: Texas. That’s it. And they just beat Oklahoma.  I love Paul Rhoads, but this seems like the end for him in Ames.

(14) Purdue

Record: 1-6

Previous Ranking: 13th

Big Wins: None.

Bad Losses: Bowling Green. They’re a good MAC team, but B1G teams should handle good MAC teams, especially at home.

Remaining Schedule Analysis: Home games against Illinois and Indiana are about it. Don’t you do it, Purdue.

 (15) Kansas

Record: 0-6

Previous Ranking: 15th

Big Wins: None. Nor are there medium-sized wins or little wins.

Bad Losses: FCS South Dakota State

Remaining: Schedule Analysis: Umm…nope. No wins to be found here. But on a positive note, the Jayhawks did show some fight against Texas Tech last Saturday.