Do you pick Alabama or the field? A 2013 SEC college football preview

SEC_win_prob_2013_ThePowerRankNote from Ed: This is a guest post by Chad Peltier. Raised by an Ohio State fan but a graduate of the University of Georgia, Chad spends his spare time uncovering the deepest mysteries in football analytics.

Despite Alabama’s past stranglehold on the SEC (and college football in general), the SEC should be home to one of the tightest, most intriguing races in the country this season.

The numbers suggest that Alabama should remain the favorite, but a crop of other teams will challenge the Tide for supremacy. Texas A&M – with or without Manziel – LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida all have excellent shots at dethroning Nick Saban in the last year of the BCS.

For more on how the win probabilities are calculated, click here.

Let’s break down both divisions, starting with the East.

SEC East

The front end of the SEC East should be extremely familiar, with Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina vying for their ticket to the SEC Championship game. The Power Rank estimates a 92.7% chance that one of these three teams will win the SEC East.


East win probability: 27.6% (3rd). SEC win probability: 9.7% (5th).

Will Muschamp will field a talented but inexperienced squad in 2013, which includes a devastated secondary (losing Matt Elam and Josh Evans) and linebacker units (losing Jonathan Bostic).

The bigger problem might be the same as last year’s team – the lack of any game-breaking offensive threats. ESPN commentator David Pollack questions, “Where’s the talent? Where’s the offensive talent? I can name three receivers from Alabama and three receivers from Georgia off the top of my head that would be the No. 1 guy for Florida.”

Much depends on Jeff Driskel’s development in the passing game. Senior receiver Andre Debose was injured and is now out for the season, so new wide receivers coach (and former Kentucky head coach) Joker Phillips has his work cut out for him.


East win probability: 29.8% (2nd). SEC win probability: 10% (4th).

The Gators’ Cocktail Party rivals lost all but four defensive starters to graduation and the NFL, but it’s simply a matter of reloading the already stockpiled talent at Georgia. The top-end talent is unbeatable on both offense and defense at Georgia, but the question is whether the depth at a few key positions – offensive line, linebackers, and the devastated secondary – can handle the long grind of physical games against USC, Florida, and (potentially) Alabama.

Reports from fall camp suggest that the offensive and defensive lines are deeper this season, with veteran players finally joining the game rotation. The offensive line will be anchored by five-star recruit John Theus, seniors Kenarious Gates and David Andrews, as well as newly eligible Kolton Houston. Star tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall should have plenty of space to run behind this star line, while senior quarterback Aaron Murray will have the time necessary to target one of the deepest receiving cores in the country.

South Carolina

East win probability: 35.3% (1st). SEC win probability: 11.7% (3rd).

The final challenger in the East is South Carolina. Spurrier’s Gamecocks aren’t just a vehicle for creating Clowney highlights (though that wouldn’t be a terrible thing), but have been one of the most consistently good (but not great) teams in the SEC over the past four seasons.

Clowney loses his fellow defensive end Devin Taylor to the NFL, as well as four of five top running backs, three of the top four receiving targets, the top five linebackers, as well as the stud safety behind them, D.J. Swearinger. Spurrier has work cut out for him this season, but it’s impossible to discount how stable Spurrier has kept his Gamecock ship the past four seasons.

Rest of SEC East

Missouri and Tennessee look fairly similar as middle-of-the-road teams on paper. Tennessee first year head coach Butch Jones will attempt to find the cure for the Volunteers poor turnover margin the past few seasons. Missouri must turn its penchant for explosive plays in to some measure of offensive consistency. Dorial Green-Beckham will pace a deep receiving core that will attempt to reclaim the numbers from when Missouri was in the Big 12. Missouri and Tennessee have a slim chance to win the SEC based upon The Power Rank estimates, with a .5% and .4% win probability overall and a 3.4% and 2.8% chance to win the East respectively.

Meanwhile, Vanderbilt’s already poor run defense will be hurt by the loss of the top three defensive tackles. Coach James Franklin has Vanderbilt playing its best football in the history of the program. But this is a critical year as Vanderbilt attempts to break out of the SEC cellar and into the middle of the road group of SEC teams. This is likely not the Commodores year, with a .1% win probability for the SEC and just a 1% chance of winning the East.

First year coach Mark Stoops has his work cut out for him at Kentucky, the reigning basement dweller in the SEC. UK brings a legacy of both underdeveloped and shallow depth as well as a negative turnover margin that will likely frustrate Kentucky fans until Stoops’ surprisingly good recruiting classes get on campus next year. Kentucky has close to no chance of winning the SEC (0.0%) and only a .1% chance of winning the East.

SEC West

While the SEC East is fairly evenly divided between great, middle, and poor teams, the West is more stratified. The top three overall SEC teams should reside in the West, including Alabama, Texas A&M, and LSU. However, Ole Miss is certainly doing its best to enter this group under second year head coach Hugh Freeze.


West win probability: 62.2% (1st). SEC win probability: 46.7% (1st).

Alabama remains the obvious leader of the Western triumvirate, but it is nonetheless striking how dominant the numbers suggest that the Tide will be in 2013. In The Power Rank’s preseason rankings, the margin between the Tide and the second ranked Aggies (7.5 points) is larger than the difference between the second and seventh-ranked SEC teams (4.8 points).

QB AJ McCarron led one of the most surprisingly efficient offenses in the country. He only threw three interceptions while remaining explosive with receivers Amari Cooper, Kenny Bell, and Kevin Norwood and freshman running back TJ Yeldon. The offense should improve even further in 2013 behind McCarron’s experience and the addition of new threats Robert Foster, Altee Tenpenny, and Derrick Henry.

If there are any areas for concern for Alabama this season, the offensive line does lose its top three (All-American) linemen and hasn’t recruited quite as deeply as we might expect. Many of offensive line coach Mario Cristoball’s players are former three-star recruits that will be pressed in to action this season. Traditionally strong defensive lines at LSU and Georgia, as well as the surprisingly talented Ole Miss line could give the Tide trouble.

With the graduation of Dee Milliner and the Geno Smith’s arrest, Alabama has another pressure point at cornerback. However, the offensive line and cornerback positions are still more solid than many of the other top-10 teams. Alabama has a realistic shot at perfection once again behind a forgiving schedule.

Texas A&M

West win probability: 22.7% (2nd). SEC win probability: 13.7% (2nd).

This was an offseason controlled by Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel story-lines, but coach Kevin Sumlin has brought steady growth and consistently entertaining offenses to College Station that justify (most of) the hype.

Interestingly enough, Texas A&M has improved despite its atrocious turnover margin, which has been in the red since the 2007 season.

If anything might derail the Aggies’ ascent to the college football elite, it might be heavy personnel turnover and limited depth. Sumlin can claim the worst personnel turnover in the SEC, with heavy losses at offensive line, linebacker, and defensive line.

The key to 2013 will be the ability of incoming freshmen to fill the holes in the front seven to stop the rush attacks of LSU, and Alabama.


West win probability: 8.5% (3rd). SEC win probability: 4.6% (6th).

LSU’s season will be built on senior QB Zach Mettenberger, who hasn’t quite exploited his NFL-quality arm in his short starting career. LSU has been consistently good, but only elite in 2011 behind two senior quarterbacks and a dominant defensive line.

The Tigers are hurt by the departures of DE Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, but high-quality recruits should emerge to take the mantle.

With a 4.6% probability of winning the SEC and 8.5% chance at the Western title, the Tigers are just the sixth most likely to take home the SEC title. LSU probably doesn’t have the stars to dethrone Alabama this season, but its defensive line should match up well with the Tide’s offense to make things interesting.

Ole Miss

West win probability: 6% (4th). SEC win probability: 2.7% (7th).

Ole Miss should be one of the most interesting teams to follow in 2013, with the allure of a still new head coach and an exciting offense. Plus, the Rebels welcome a stellar class of young recruits (including the top overall freshman Robert Nkemdiche, five star receiver Laquon Treadwell, and top offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil), and return a defensive line that has the talent (if not depth) to compete with the top offensive lines in the SEC.

The key for Coach Freeze is depth in 2013, as quality depth helps to create consistency. There is perhaps no team in the SEC that is more in need of consistency than the Rebels, who have fielded drastically different teams for the past five years. In fact, the only thing consistent about the Rebels has been their poor turnover margin, which has been negative for the past four seasons.

If Freeze can bring any measure of consistency to the program, then Ole Miss should have a 2.7% of capturing the SEC crown and a 6% shot at the Western title. Ole Miss is just outside the “good” group of SEC teams, with almost the same chance to be the Western representative as LSU.

Rest of SEC West

Auburn, Mississippi State, and Arkansas make up the bottom tier of the West and the SEC as a whole. All had down years in 2012 and shared terrible turnover margins, but things might get worse before they get better for both Arkansas and Mississippi State. These two teams have almost no chance at the SEC title and only a .1% probability of winning the West. Dan Mullen has one of the more difficult jobs in the country, competing in the loaded SEC West and now vying with resurgent instate rival Ole Miss.

Auburn, on the other hand, benefits from a wealth of returning starters and the relative familiarity of first year head coach Gus Malzhan’s offense. Auburn’s team culture suffered heavily under Chizik’s staff, with the team not buying in or giving full effort commensurate with the talent levels on the field. With the Tigers’ talent, new team ethos, and new offensive system, the Tigers should rejoin the good or at least middle-pack teams in the SEC this season. New first string quarterback Nick Marshall will determine Auburn’s ceiling this year, but Auburn still just has a .3% probability of winning the West (.1% overall).


Between new head coaches at Kentucky, Arkansas, Auburn, and Tennessee, the relative parity between Georgia, Florida, LSU, USC, and Texas A&M, and the stellar recruiting classes, the SEC races will be exciting in 2013.

Besides the (fairly) easy pick for Alabama to return to the SEC Championship, it’s difficult to pick an eastern representative between Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. As of now, an Alabama-South Carolina bout or Georgia-Alabama rematch is the most probable outcome, but the margins are extremely slim.

As for the eventual SEC champion, we return to our original question: Alabama or the remaining 13 SEC teams?

Take the field. At 53%, the odds are in your favor.

27 Numbers Everyone Ought to Know About College Football in the SEC


It’s a chant for an entire conference. Not a team, but a conference.

That’s what happens when one conference has won the last 6 national championships in college football. Not since Vince Young led Texas over USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl has a team from another conference won it all.

How will they do in the upcoming 2012 season?

To find out, we’ll go a numbers fueled romp through the league. Here at The Power Rank, we take sports numbers and adjust them for strength of schedule. On the most simple level, we use margin of victory to calculate our team rankings.

Recently, we’ve expanded our methods to other football numbers such as pass and rush yards per attempt. It provides a complete picture of rushing and passing in college football that accounts for strength of schedule. In this early stage of football analytics, it’s a rather unique set of results. Bill Connelly does some passing and rushing numbers over at Football Outsiders. That’s it.

Here, we’ll look at our numbers from the 2011 season that might have relevance in the upcoming season. Unless otherwise noted, we’re referring to our rankings and rating that account for schedule strength in the content below.



11. The rank for Alabama’s rush offense from last year. We gave them a 5.46 rating, meaning they would rush for 5.46 yards per attempt against an average rush defense. That’s significantly better than the 4.74 yards per attempt over all Division I games last year. They lose running back Trent Richardson, who was 3rd overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. However, Alabama brings back linemen Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack. The Crimson Tide rush offense will be an interesting test as to the importance of a star running back. (1)

6. Alabama’s rank in 2010. There were coming off a national championship, but went a disappointing 10-3. But with the schedule they played in the SEC West, our team rankings thought quite highly of the Crimson Tide. Nick Saban’s teams don’t fall off too much in their off years. (2)

10. The rank of Alabama’s pass offense last year. Yes, our rankings consider their passing better than their rushing. And it could improve this year with another year of experience for quarterback AJ McCarron. Last year, McCarron was fighting for his job during August practice. At the end of this year, he may go down as one of the greats at Alabama. (3)


2. The rank of LSU’s pass defense last year, predicted to give up 4.39 yards per attempt against an average pass offense. Teams in Division I averaged 6.22 yards per pass attempt last year. LSU lost 2 cornerbacks to the NFL draft and another, Heisman candidate Tyrann Mathieu, to off the field problems. Despite a tremendous defensive line, LSU’s pass defense rank will slip this year. (4)

2010. The last year LSU fans wanted coach Les Miles’ head on a platter. Two years ago, the Tigers needed a late penalty to squeak by Tennessee and a miraculous bounce on a fake field goal to beat Florida. Of course, all this hot seat talk vanished last year when LSU went undefeated in the regular season and made the National Championship game. However, LSU enjoyed a +20 turnover margin last year. Due to the randomness of turnovers, their turnover margin won’t be as high this year. LSU is the most overrated team in the nation. (5)

South Carolina

3. The number of places South Carolina’s run offense increased after Marcus Lattimore got hurt in the Mississippi State game. South Carolina finished 29th in rush offense. However, we when we only include South Carolina games up to and including the Mississippi State game, in which Lattimore carried 39 times before getting hurt, South Carolina was 32nd. South Carolina’s rush offense got better without Lattimore. Maybe star running backs don’t matter. (6)

4.03. The yards per attempt the stingy South Carolina pass defense allowed last year. When adjusted for strength of schedule, this only slips to 4.39 against an average pass offense, good for 3rd in the nation. They lose 3 starters, including NFL first round draft choice Stephon Gilmore. Expect this unit to regress. (7)


2. The number of years in a row that Georgia does not play LSU and Alabama in the regular season. Strength of schedule matters even more in the conference championship game era of college football. Since conferences need at least 12 teams to hold a championship game, teams no longer play every other team in their league. (8)

4.95. The yards per pass attempt Georgia’s expected to give up against an average pass offense. This ranked them 8th in the nation last year. They only lose one starter and have the potential to keep this lofty ranking this season. (9)

28. The number of ranking places that Georgia’s rush defense drops when going from yards per game to our adjusted yards per attempt. They allowed 120.4 yards per game, good for 11th in the nation. Note this number does not include sack yards like the official stats do. However, they allowed 4.16 yards per carry, 17th best in the nation. Adjusting for strength of schedule, Georgia lands at 39th, expected to give up 4.38 yards per carry to an average rushing offense. This drop comes from facing below average rush offenses, something that happens when an SEC team doesn’t play Alabama and LSU. There is potential for improvement this season, as Georgia features 700 pounds of defensive tackles (John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers) in the middle of the defense. (10)


3. The number of times in the last 4 years that Arkansas running back Knile Davis has fractured an ankle. One fractured ankle is bad luck. Two makes one worry. Three becomes a trend. Can Davis stay healthy? (11)

6. The highest rank of a passing offense last year (Arkansas) with a returning starting quarterback this year. Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson completed 63% of his passes last year. He loses 3 receivers to the NFL draft, so production at this level remains a question this year. (12)

85. The ranking of Arkansas’s run defense last season. This must improve for the Razorbacks to have any chance of winning the SEC West ahead of Alabama and LSU. Hope springs eternal as they return 6 of their top 8 defensive linemen from last season. (13)


2. The number of coordinators that Auburn head coach Gene Chizik had to replace this season. (14)

70. Auburn’s rank in pass offense last year. Even with innovative offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, Auburn dropped significantly last season after losing quarterback Cam Newton. It’s probably impossible to project into this year, as new offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler will install a pro style offense run by speedy quarterback Kiehl Frazer. But don’t expect the passing offense to move into the top 25. (15)

120. The ranking for Auburn’s pass protection last year after adjusting for strength of competition. They allowed a sack on 9.9% of pass attempts, compared with an average of 6%. This rate only gets worse (10%) when we adjust for strength of schedule. This inability to protect the quarterback most certainly contributed to the poor pass offense. Even with the loss of 3 starters on the offensive line, it will be difficult for a top tier program to protect their quarterback this poorly again. (16)

Texas A&M

11. Texas A&M’s final team rank last year. Don’t let the 7-6 record fool you. The Aggies lost a horde of close games to very good competition. They might not hang so close this season with new coach Kevin Sumlin. (17)

6. Nate Silver’s estimate for how Texas A&M ranks for number of fans. Undoubtedly, the SEC understood the magnitude of this fan base (about 2 million) when it pursued Texas A&M to join its league. (18)

91. The number of places Texas A&M’s pass defense improves with our analytics. In a pass heavy Big 12 last year, they allowed 249.9 yards per game, 106th in the nation. However, the Aggies only allowed 5.78 yards per pass attempt compared with a 6.22 average. This was good for 36th in the nation. When adjusting for facing quarterbacks Robert Griffin III (Baylor) and Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State), the pass defense rockets up to 15th in the nation. Northwestern threw for a measly 3.35 yards per attempt against this defense in their bowl game last season. One must account for schedule strength in college football numbers. (19)


3. The number of true road SEC games Florida plays this year. They play a total of 8 SEC games this year, with one neutral site game with Georgia. (20)

-12. Florida’s turnover margin from last year. The Gators only forced 14 turnovers last year. Since forcing turnovers is largely random , one should expect Florida’s turnover margin to vastly improve this season. Things are looking up for 2nd year coach Will Muschamp. (21)

18. Year end ranking for Florida’s run defense last year. The Gators allowed 146.9 yards per game last year, only 39th best in the nation. However, they only allowed 3.99 rush yards per attempt in the run heavy SEC compared to a 4.74 college football average. This was good for 17th best in the nation last year. The adjustment for schedule strength doesn’t change this much. However, they have 10 starters returning on defense, so they could improve on this ranking. (22)


18. The rank of Missouri’s rush offense for the 3 games they were without running back Henry Josey. While Missouri finished the year ranked 4th in rush offense, they were still a top 20 rushing attack without their starting back. Good thing, as Josey probably won’t be ready for their first game. Missouri also needs to replace 3 starters on the offensive line. (23)

4. The number of rush defenses in the SEC better than Missouri last year. This number includes Texas A&M, who will also join the SEC this year. The other teams were Alabama, LSU and Florida. Missouri, ranked 24th in rush defense, would have fit in quite well in the SEC last year. This year, they must replace 3 starters along the defensive line. (24)

The Others

84. The highest ranking for any of Mississippi‘s 4 units (pass and rush, both offense and defense). They ran the ball at the level of the 84th best team in the bowl subdivision last year. With 16 starters returning, new coach Hugh Freeze has an incredible teaching job ahead of him. (25)

85. The number of games that Tennessee won in the last 10 years with Phil Fulmer as head coach. This 10 year run started the year after Fulmer led Tennessee to the National Championship. That’s 8.5 wins per year. Tennessee has won 18 games in the 3 years since. That’s 6 wins per year. (26)

38. The rank at which Vanderbilt ended last season. For first year coach James Franklin, it was a significant improvement from the 95th they finished the year before. (27)

Complete list of rankings

Not enough numbers? Check out our complete rankings. It’s a part of our premium college football package that will be free for everyone through the first month of the 2012 season.

Thanks for reading.

Can Georgia beat LSU?

BCS chaos
Can Georgia beat LSU?
Eleven, sixteen

College Football Rankings, Week 13, 2011.  LSU and Alabama are clearly the best two teams.

It looked like a weekend that could really cause BCS chaos. Top ranked LSU faced Arkansas, the 3rd ranked team in the BCS that had just beaten Mississippi State 44-17. The betting public had pushed an initial line favoring LSU by 14 down to 12. Second ranked Alabama traveled to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Coming off a national championship last year, Auburn came into the game ranked 24th in the BCS and had home crowd support in this rivalry game. But the games turned into glorified scrimmages. After getting down 14-0, LSU steam rolled Arkansas 41-17. The 24 point margin of victory was quite close to the 20.1 point spread predicted by The Power Rank. By a 42-14 score, Alabama easily handled Auburn, a team The Power Rank puts lower than Northwestern this week. The 28 point margin of victory closely mirrored the 23.6 point spread predicted for the road team Alabama.

After 14 weeks of football, the BCS confirms what SEC fans have known for months: LSU and Alabama are the two best teams in the country. While LSU pulled off a 9-6 win in overtime against Alabama three weeks ago, the two teams are on a crash course to play again in the national championship game. And as unpalatable as a rematch might seem, our rankings have these two teams on top, rating second ranked Alabama more than 4 points better than 3rd ranked Oregon. This dominance becomes more apparent when we view our offense and defense rankings.

The unit rankings highlighting LSU, Georgia and Alabama.  College Football 2011.

LSU and Alabama almost lie on top of each other and separate themselves defensively from every other team in the country. This dominance was on display this past weekend, as LSU held Arkansas to 1.7 yards per carry (47 total) while Alabama stymied Auburn’s passing attack to the tune of 3.1 yards per attempt (62 total).

While the BCS might achieve its mission of identifying the top two teams in the land, it has executed this mission in the most bizarre of ways. Only one SEC west team can play in the conference championship game, so Alabama, by virtue of its loss to LSU, will sit at home this weekend with their place in the national championship game assured. For all their trouble in winning that brutal defensive battle in Tuscaloosa, LSU will play the SEC championship game as the effective road team, since Georgia will drive 1.5 hours from Athens to Atlanta for the game. In this current situation, the only hope for BCS chaos is a Georgia win. A LSU loss might knock the Tigers out of the national championship game, keeping the most dominant team all year from playing for the title. However, most pundits believe a LSU loss will NOT knock them out of the game, making the national title game feature two teams that didn’t win their conference. Awkward. With a 16 team playoff, at least one conference champion gets to play for the national title.

Can Georgia beat LSU? It certainly didn’t seem like it in September when the Bulldogs lost to South Carolina, a loss that dropped their record to 0-2. All the late summer heat in the south got channeled to the seat under coach Mark Richt, a man who has only won 106 games in 11 years as an SEC coach. However, the South Carolina game was a fluke, as Georgia lost by 3 despite giving up 3 touchdowns on defense and special teams. Since this game, the Bulldogs have won 10 straight games to win the SEC East. However, their schedule certainly aided this winning streak, as Georgia didn’t face LSU, Alabama or Arkansas. Moreover, their only definitive conference win was against Auburn. The Power Rank puts Georgia at 21st and predicts a 22 point LSU win, giving Georgia an 11% chance of an upset.

However, our analytics are no longer restricted to evaluating the entire team, as the algorithm has been applied to offense and defense separately. The ratings should be interpreted as how many points an offense/defense would score/allow against an average opposing unit. Georgia’s offense and defense have a 30.0 (30) and 22.4 (22) rating respectively. The defensive rating is quite a bit larger the 17.8 points per game the Bulldogs allow due to the poor offenses they have played. The visual above highlights the teams that have played both Georgia and LSU and shows the weakness of their offenses. Auburn and the $1.3 million they pay coordinator Gus Malzahn top this list of SEC opponents with the 49th ranked offense.

While the team rankings predict a point spread, comparing a team’s offensive rating against their opponent’s defensive rating gives a score prediction. While we won’t get into the details of this prediction here, the unit rankings predict a 31-13 LSU win over Georgia. This 18 point margin of victory is significantly smaller than the 22 points given by the team rankings and bumps Georgia’s chance of winning from 11% to 16%.

On the field, LSU has only one weakness: the quarterback position. Coach Les Miles has turned the reigns back to Jordan Jefferson, a better athlete but poorer passer than Jarrett Lee. For Georgia to pull off the upset, they need to score early and force Jefferson to mount a comeback. If LSU can get an early lead, they can run the ball behind a physical offensive line and only call the safest of pass plays. Game over.

LSU, Alabama have a 70% of a rematch in the National Championship game

LSU, Bama
BCS tranquility
Seventy percent

College Football Rankings, Week 12, November 19, 2011

The insanity started Friday night. Oklahoma State, ranked 2nd in the BCS, traveled to Iowa State, and the game turned into a much closer affair than anyone imagined. Iowa State cornerback Leonard Johnson harassed Justin Blackmon all night, holding the Oklahoma State receiver to 99 yards on 10 catches. The road team Cowboys let the underdog Cyclones stay in the game with a soft defense and 5 turnovers. The last turnover, a Brandon Weedon interception in double overtime, led to an epic 37-31 Iowa State victory.

The insanity continued on Saturday night. Oklahoma, the 5th ranked team in the BCS, tied the game with Baylor at 38 with less than a minute remaining in the game. After the ensuing kickoff, Baylor played for overtime with a running play on 1st and 10. Oklahoma quickly called timeout in hopes of getting the ball back in regulation. This aggressive call backfired when Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin, an Olympic caliber 400 meter hurdler, ripped of two long runs to move the ball up the field. Finally, at the Oklahoma 34, Griffin scrambled left, stopped in the face of the Oklahoma defense, and fired a pass deep into the right corner of the end zone. The beauty of the pass was its location in which only his receiver could catch it. Oklahoma’s national championship dreams evaporated into the Texas night.

The insanity next surfaced in Oregon coach Chip Kelly’s head. Down 3 to USC with 2:54 minutes remaining, Oregon, 4th in the BCS, had 3 timeouts but 86 yards in front of them. Inexplicably, coach Kelly used only one timeout before the drive stalled in USC territory. No matter how well an uptempo offense works for the Ducks, two extra plays (3 if they didn’t take a knee in the middle of the field to set up the field goal) might have resulted in a touchdown or better field position. The field goal attempt sailed wide left, giving USC a 38-35 win. Oregon won’t play in the national championship game again this year.

The losses to 3 of the top 5 teams has prompted media outlets to apply the term “chaos” to this incarnation of the BCS. But chaos doesn’t apply when a region of the county just smiles at the sight of LSU, Alabama and Arkansas at the top of the BCS rankings. It’s BCS tranquility down south. With LSU and Alabama in the first and second position respectively, these two teams only need to win their remaining games to play in the national championship game. The Power Rank gives LSU a 77% chance to beat both Arkansas at home and Georgia in the SEC championship game while Alabama has a 90% chance to beat rival Auburn. This implies a 70% chance for a LSU versus Alabama rematch in New Orleans this January. While a fresh matchup might feel more satisfying, LSU (1) and Alabama (2) are both 5 points above any other team in The Power Rank.

Two other scenarios merit some attention. What if Arkansas makes good on the 13% chance they have of upsetting LSU in Baton Rouge? Assuming Alabama beats Auburn, this leaves 3 one loss teams in the SEC West. To break this stalemate, the SEC picks the top team in the BCS, expect if the 2nd place team is within 5 places, because then it selects the head to head winner between the top two teams. Make sense? Good, because then you can explain it to us. We won’t attempt to predict how the BCS will reshuffle these 3 teams in this situation.

Last, we consider an Alabama loss to Auburn, an event with 10% likelihood, coupled with an LSU win over Arkansas (87%). The second losses for Alabama and Arkansas would open a spot in the national championship game for a non-SEC West team. To calculate the likelihood that any team ranked 4th or lower in the BCS makes the game, we will assume each team must win their remaining games while the teams above them (except LSU) must lose at least once. The Power Rank gives the following chance for these teams.

Oklahoma State: 5.2%
Virginia Tech: 0.9%
Stanford: 1.7%
Boise State: 0.6%

Stanford has a higher chance than Virginia Tech because The Power Rank puts the latter at 28th, much lower than their BCS rank of 5th. Despite only one loss, Virginia Tech has squeaked by bad teams (Duke, North Carolina) in their wins. Needless to say, these teams have very slim hopes of playing in the national championship game. However, up to two of them could end up in the top 4, which guarantees a BCS bowl game and its hefty payout.

Have any scenarios that we’re missing? Please leave a comment. Here are some situations we considered but didn’t use above.

LSU loses to Arkansas, makes the SEC championship game through BCS magic, but then loses to Georgia in Atlanta: 1.4%.

LSU loses two games by the above scenario and Alabama loses to Auburn (This is the true BCS chaos scenario, since LSU, Alabama and Arkansas would each have 2 losses but SEC fans would still demand one of them play in the national championship game): 0.14%.

Alabama and LSU have a 4.9% chance of meeting in the National Championship game

LSU, Bama
Rematch, championship game?
Four point nine percent

LSU and Alabama continue to storm through their schedules with little resistance. On Saturday, LSU beat up on National Champion Auburn 45-10. The LSU defensive line dominated, allowing only 2.6 yards per carry (87 total) to an Auburn offense that has averaged 4.4 yards per carry this season. This followed last week’s 31 point win over Tennessee on the road. Last year, LSU needed a late game miracle to squeak by Tennessee at home and lost by 7 to Auburn. LSU’s vast improvement this year has bumped their rating from 15.6 at the end of last year to 28.8 now. Alabama started slowly the last two weeks against Mississippi and Tennessee but dominated the opposition in the second half. They outscored Tennessee 31-0 by not allowing a single first down in the second half on Saturday. Alabama and LSU, along with Stanford, have gained separation atop The Power Rank with Wisconsin’s loss to Michigan State and Boise State’s poor showing at home against Air Force. These 3 teams are 6 points clear of 4th ranked Oregon.

LSU and Alabama have the week off before they play in the Tuscaloosa Super Bowl on November 5. Many have argued that these two teams should play again in the National Championship game. While politics will play a huge role in determining who plays in this game, we can say something quantitative about an Alabama LSU rematch with The Power Rank. Our rankings imply a win probability for each team in every game. Last week, we gave the probability that each of 10 teams would remain undefeated and predicted a 0.5% likelihood that Alabama, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Stanford all end the season undefeated. Losses by Wisconsin and Oklahoma late Saturday night validated this prediction. Here are updated probabilities for the remaining undefeated teams.

Boise State: 60.4%
Stanford: 40.0%
Alabama: 33.5%
Oklahoma State: 29.6%
LSU: 26.1%
Clemson: 10.8%
Houston: 8.7%
Kansas State: 0.7%

Many things must happen for LSU and Alabama to both reach the National Championship game. First, every other undefeated team must lose at least one game. It is incredibly unlikely that an undefeated Stanford team with a quarterback who gave up being the first pick in the NFL draft to finish his degree would get shut out of the championship as one of two undefeated teams. The same goes for an Oklahoma State team led by a 28 year old quarterback who found college football after not making the major leagues as a pitcher. The Power Rank gives a 13.5% chance that Boise State, Stanford, Oklahoma State, Clemson, Houston and Kansas State all lose at least one game. Then, LSU and Alabama must both win all their remaining regular season games. We give this a 42.1% chance. While less than even odds might seem strange, LSU has a game with Arkansas while Alabama goes on the road to Mississippi State and Auburn. Last week, we discussed how the probability of winning all games goes down rapidly with the number of games. Last, the winner of the Tuscaloosa Super Bowl must win the SEC championship game. Assuming that South Carolina emerges from the East, there is a 86.5% chance that LSU or Alabama clear this hurdle. With these assumptions, there is 4.9% chance that LSU and Alabama play in the National Championship game. One in 20 is not a high likelihood.

The biggest barrier to a championship rematch is the need for the 6 remaining undefeated teams to lose at least once, a scenario with a 13.5% chance. Of course, with all the murkiness of two human polls and a set of computer rankings not allowed to use margin of victory, there are other scenarios that allow for an LSU Alabama rematch. Suppose Boise State goes undefeated but needs a Hail Mary to beat TCU at home and a officiating blunder to win at San Diego State. What would happen if Boise State and Alabama were the only two undefeated teams but LSU loses to Alabama by 1, crushes Arkansas by 49 and clearly stands out as the best one loss team? Chaos. No one from the south would accept Boise State in the championship game, while the rest of the country would riot or vomit with 2 SEC teams in the championship game. On the more rational side, consider the following possibility. First, Boise State goes undefeated. Second, the SEC champion, either Alabama or LSU, goes undefeated. Third, the loser of the Alabama LSU game only loses once. Last, every other team loses at least one game. The Power Rank gives this scenario a 7.4% chance. For all the haters of the system, this is your best bet for chaos.

Have a scenario of which you’d like to have the probability? Leave us a comment, please. Thanks for reading.