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McGuire Metric: Where things stand heading to October

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With the first full month of the experimental McGuire Metric now official, we are starting to see some trends developing. Perhaps not too surprisingly, the SEC is pretty strong and the SEC West has some very talented teams. The Big 12 continues to appear to be overrated according to these numbers, and the Big Ten has closed the gap on the Pac-12, a conference that once dominated the McGuire Metric.

The ACC remains on top of the college football world, although the margin over the SEC is as small as it can possibly be under this system. With a handful of games against Notre Dame on the ACC schedule and with the usual slate of non-conference rivalry games against the SEC coming at the end of the season, it looks as though the fight for the top spot will be determined in the final week of the regular season.

So, here is where things stand as we begin the month of October. As a reminder, you can click the graph to see a larger version.

McGuire Metric on Oct 1, 2014

Last week saw the ACC miss on a couple of chances to protect their buffer over the SEC. Boston College and Pittsburgh losing at home to Colorado State and Akron, respectively, held the ACC back. So did Syracuse losing a game at MetLife Stadium to a ranked Notre Dame team. The Irish are going to carry some points in the coming weeks with a top ten ranking heading into this weekend at home against Stanford and likely still ranked a couple weeks later at Florida State. Lots of points to be earned by the Pac-12 and the ACC with the Irish on the schedule.

The Big Ten picked up a few more points in non-conference play this past weekend. The gains were minimal half-point increments with home wins against Group of Five schools (Wisconsin over USF, Rutgers over Tulane, Michigan State over Wyoming and Ohio State over Cincinnati). That did add up to two full points, which helped to stay ocmfortably ahead of the Big 12. The Big 12 remains the distant fifth power conference according to these numbers, although the conference actually picked up 2.5 points this weekend between TCU’s road win at SMU and Kansas State’s home win over UTEP. To put things into perspective with these numbers, the Big Ten is closer to the first place ACC than to the fifth place Big 12. This is bad news for the Big 12, because from here until the end of the regular season there is just one more non-conference game on the schedule (Iowa State hosting Toledo on October 11). The Big 12 can only pick up one more half point as a conference for this season and has been locked into fifth place among the power conferences.

The Big 12’s biggest challenge to getting a team in the College Football Playoff at the end of the year is itself. Oklahoma and Baylor look to be the two top tesams in the conference, and one will be guaranteed to lose a game. If both teams happen to lose a game somewhere along the line, the conference strength of schedule argument may not hold much ground later in the season. This shifts the focus up to the Big Ten and Michigan State. Aside from one quarter against Oregon, Michigan State has been locked in this season. If the Spartans run the table in conference play, a noble accomplishment, Michigan State is going to have a strong case to be considered for the playoff, I would think.

McGuire Metric Top 10 as of October 1, 2014
  1. 18.5 – Texas A&M
  2. 17.5 – Mississippi State
  3. 16.0 – UCLA
  4. 15.5 – Oregon
    15.5 – South Carolina
  5. 14.5 – Boston College
  6. 14.0 – Missouri
  7. 12.5 – USC
  8. 11.5 – LSU
  9. 10.5 – Auburn
  10. 9.5 – East Carolina

As for individual schools, Mississippi State took over the top spot for the season last week following a win over LSU, but Texas A&M managed to regain the top spot in the standings last weekend. The Aggies winning on a neutral field against Arkansas netted 1.5 points while Mississippi State was idle. UCLA has wiggled into the third spot overall following a road win at a ranked Arizona State on Thursday night. The 11.5 point value for the win was tied for the third-most valuable win of the season so far. Orgeon is a half-point behind the Bruins and tied for fourth place with South Carolina. The Gamecocks have lost twice but are still standing tall with a win over Georgia. With a huge weekend in the SEC West lined up this weekend, I expect to see some significant movement at the top of the season totals here. There are three games in the SEC West pitting top 15 teams against each other, which is insane. The least valuable wins in the division this week would be No. 5 Auburn winning at home against No. 15 LSU or No. 6 Texas A&M winning at No. 12 Mississippi State for 9.5 points. Here is how the point breakdown for game sin the SEC West looks for this coming weekend, ranking most valuable to least valuable result according to the system:

  • No. 11 Ole Miss win vs. No. 3 Alabama = 18.5 points
  • No. 15 LSU win @ No. 5 Auburn = 17.5 points
  • No. 12 Mississippi State win vs. No. 6 Texas A&M = 12.5 points
  • No. 3 Alabama win @ No. 11 Ole Miss = 11.5 points
  • No. 6 Texas A&M win @ No. 12 Mississippi State = 9.5 points
  • No. 5 Auburn win vs. No. 15 LSU = 9.5 points

Stanford will get a chance to score a major victory for not only themselves, but for the entire Pac-12 as well. If Stanford tops No. 9 Notre Dame in South Bend, the Cardinal will pick up 14.5 points. With where things stand, that would push the Pac-12 past the SEC and ACC to get back on top. As referenced earlier, the ACC and SEC have a handful of games later in the season to change positions, so the Pac-12’s time on top could be set to expire at some point, but the Pac-12 also gets two more cracks at Notre Dame (USC and Arizona State) and one at a BYU program that could be moving up the rankings (California).

No real surprises in the Group of Five conversation. East Carolina remains the frontrunner according to these numbers. Cincinnati could not make a dent with an emotional trip to Ohio State, but let’s keep an eye on the Bearcats anyway. They can still challenge East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference. Marshall is five points behind East Carolina using my numbers, and the Thundering Herd should scrap together some minor gains along the way the rest of the season. I think Marshall has a tough case to make over a one-loss East Carolina team, but with the Mountain West Conference not having a great team emerging (Colorado State?), Marshall’s big bowl chances have a chance to change if Cincinnati can edge the Pirates in the AAC.

You can see the updated list of top performers this season as well as the updated ranking of the most valuable wins this season.

 

Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America via Zimbio.com

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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