|Daily Blog •August 26, 2011|
The Close Loss Factor
(Teams that suffered 3 or more losses the previous year ALL by 7 points or less)
In 2008, Alabama was only ranked #24 at the start of the year. They were just 7-6 in 2007, had just 12 returning starters and faced a schedule that had four brutal road games. They had to take on the preseason ACC Title favorite Clemson in Atlanta, take on the defending national champ LSU in Death Valley where they would be sky high for Saban's return, face the defending SEC East Champ Tennessee in Knoxville AND take on the 2008 preseason #1 team Georgia on the road. That does not sound like the recipe to vault into the Top 10 let alone become the #1 team in the country.
Alabama amazingly went 12-0 and was ranked #1 in the country at the end of the regular season. They had two MAIN factors in their favor that year. Both their offensive and defensive lines made my Top Units List in the front of the magazine and if you are strong along the line of scrimmage you can control many games. Another factor was that they were much better than a 7-6 team in 2007 as all 6 of their losses in ‘07 were by 7 or less points so they were just a handful of plays away from being 13-0. I did a Best Case/Worst Case scenario for each team in the regional magazines, which takes all of the close wins or losses from the previous year and reverses them to see how close a team was to a much stronger or much weaker season.
So which teams for 2009 had 3 or more losses in ‘08 but ALL of them were close losses? There were TWO teams that fell into that category and they were Iowa and Ole Miss. Both teams lost 4 games in ‘08 with Ole Miss losing by 2, 6, 7 and 4 and Iowa losing by 1, 5, 3 and 3. While Ole Miss (#8 Preseason) did not fly under the radar like Alabama in ’08, Iowa was a team that came out of nowhere and started the season 9-0 and ranked #7! Had QB Ricky Stanzi not been injured in the Northwestern game and sat out the next three, Iowa could have finished unbeaten!!
In ’09 there were three teams that suffered three or more losses last year with none of them by more than seven. They were Notre Dame (6), Connecticut (5) and Pittsburgh (3). While Notre Dame and Pittsburgh fell short of my expectations, Connecticut certainly kept the tradition of the close loss factor alive with a surprising season. The Huskies lost five games in ’09 by 4 points or less and last year they returned 16 starters and I thought that it could be Edsall’s best team yet. While I still picked the Huskies to finish #5 in the Big East, my nine sets of power ratings had them going anywhere from 6-6 to 12-0 (yes, I said 12-0!) and I thought they could be a surprise. When the dust settle the Huskies no doubt became one of the surprise teams of the country taking home their first Big East title and BCS Bowl berth.
So who are the teams this year that had three or more losses last year with none of them by more than seven? There were only two and they were San Diego St who lost 4 games by a combined 15 points and Iowa who lost 5 games by 7, 1, 4, 3 and 3 were either tied or ahead in the 4Q in each of the games!
In the magazine, I wrote that Iowa’s 58% lettermen returning are fewest in the Big Ten and while this year's team is not as strong as 2010's, Ferentz has built a program which consistently overachieves when expectations are low. The Hawks should have better fortune in the close games and could match LY's 8 wins. After each season is completed I then go over each and every game played for the upcoming year and give my original forecasts and scores for each game. When going through the Hawkeyes’ schedule I actually have them pegged for 9 wins (6 are by 4 or less), which would come as a surprise to many across the country with the loss of so many high profile players. Don’t be surprised if the Hawkeyes are near the top of the Legends division in mid-November (I have them starting 9-1).
San Diego St
The Aztecs went through several gut-wrenching losses last year. They suffered a tough loss vs Missouri when a key penalty was not called on Missouri's 68 yd td pass with :51 left. Against BYU they had "replay-gate" with a controversial fumble not overturned by BYU replay officials in the booth. They gave TCU their closest regular season game only losing by 5 but did score a couple of td’s in the 4Q to make it closer than what the final indicated. Against Utah they gave up a 47 yd Hail Mary before the half and a blk'd punt that resulted in a 3 yd td drive in a 4 pt loss. This year Brady Hoke leaves for Michigan, however new HC Rocky Long is well versed in MWC football as he was previously the HC at New Mexico from 1998-'08 where he took the Lobos to bowls in 5 of his last 7 seasons and was the DC here the L/2 years. While not as strong as LY's squad they do only have 3 MWC road games and I will call for a winning season and a 2nd straight bowl game but I am not as confident as the Aztecs being a possible surprise with the coaching change.