What I think about some things I saw over the weekend. . . .
Georgia earned a good win against Florida. The initial College Football Playoff rankings announced on Tuesday still won’t include the Bulldogs among the top four. History shows that the teams that are among the top four have a better-than-even chance to be there at the end: 12 of the 20 teams that made the four-team playoff over the past five seasons also appeared in the initial rankings.
But the Bulldogs (7-1) have a clear path to make it. Win out and they are all but in. Beating Florida increased their chances of winning out from 8% to 14%, according to FiveThirtyEight. Per ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Nov. 16 game at Auburn (45.3% win probability) is the only major challenge remaining for Georgia in the regular season.
Among one-loss CFP contenders, FiveThirtyEight puts Georgia’s chances of winning out lower than those of Oregon (44 percent), Utah (32) and Oklahoma (26). Georgia’s chances of winning out aren’t higher because of a potential matchup in the SEC Championship game against Alabama (8-0) or LSU (8-0). After the weekend’s games, Bill Connelly’s SP+ predictive ratings tabbed Georgia as a roughly three-point underdog against LSU on a neutral field and a nine-point ’dog against Alabama.
The number of unbeaten FBS teams will be whittled from seven to five after Alabama-LSU and Penn-State-Minnesota this weekend. In the unlikely event that the Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 champions all finish undefeated then Georgia as one-loss SEC champion almost surely would join them in the CFP. That potential prize, and not the first CFP rankings, is the focus for Georgia.
Florida State owes Willie Taggart a lot of money
When the subject of paying players is broached, there is an inevitable cry about where the money will come from. One obvious answer, as illustrated this weekend by Florida State, is that it will come from the never-ending spigot of money that programs spend on salaries for coaches. Coaches don’t like the idea of players earning market salaries because they don’t want the competition.
FSU fired coach Willie Taggart with three games left in his second season. It paid Oregon $3 million to buy out Taggart’s contract, paid Taggart about $8 million to coach 21 games and will pay Taggart $18 million to get rid of him. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, it would cost FSU about $4 million more to buy out Taggart’s assistant coaches.
In all, Florida State will end up paying about $33 million for less than two seasons of Taggart’s services. FSU will pay millions more for the next football coach and his staff. Remember that Texas A&M hired away Taggart’s predecessor, Jimbo Fisher, with a $75 million contract that’s fully guaranteed.
College athletics departments that pretend to be poor somehow always find money for coaches. In May, Warchant.com noted that FSU athletics operated at a $3.6 million deficit in 2018 under former AD Stan Wilcox. Regarding Wilcox’s successor, David Coburn, Warchant wrote: “Shortly after Coburn took over, he realized that the department would face a similar deficit in Fiscal Year 2019 as well, and 2020 would potentially be an even greater challenge.”
Now Coburn will pay $18 million to get out of Taggart’s contract and will spend millions more for a new head coach and staff. Mediocre-at-best coaches and administrators at major college sports programs continue to rake in (and waste) cash. Meanwhile, the athletes people pay to see are told they are amateurs and, anyway, there’s just not enough money for them.
The Falcons moved ‘up’ in draft standings
The Falcons didn’t play in Week 9, but their NFL draft fortunes got a boost. The Dolphins earned their first victory of the season to drop into a tie with the Falcons in the draft standings. The Broncos (2-6) also won. The Bengals (0-8) are alone at the “top” of the draft standings and Washington (1-8) is second.
There still will be plenty of movement a the top of the draft standings. The Bengals still play the Jets at home and at the Dolphins and Browns (2-6). The Jets play at Washington and at home vs. the Giants (2-6). Washington still has a home game against the Giants. The Falcons are to play the Buccaneers (2-6) twice.
If we measure the remaining strength of schedule by opponent winning percentage, then the Falcons have the hardest slate among the teams near the top of the draft standings. The .615 winning percentage for their future foes is a bit higher than for the Cardinals (.579). The next-hardest schedule among the draft contenders is Washington (.482).
(Note that if the Falcons end up playing the harder schedule, that could work against them in tiebreakers for draft order. The first one is the aggregate winning percentage of opponents, with the team(s) with the easier schedule getting the higher pick.)
I’m working with the premise that, at this point, it’s better for the Falcons if they lose enough games to get into position to draft Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young. (I’ll say again that I understand Falcons fans who don’t like that idea.) With that in mind, the Falcons at least want to draft in front of the bad teams that won’t be looking for quarterbacks: Jets, Browns, Giants and Cardinals (3-5).
My Weekend Predictions were 7-5-1
It was solid weekend for my picks against the spread. For the season I’ve been right on 58 percent of my ATS picks in 124 games (not including pushes). That’s very good.
A 4-3-1 record on my weekend college picks included getting it right taking Pitt -7.5 over Georgia Tech and Georgia -6.5 over Florida. I got it way wrong backing USC as a home underdog against Oregon and taking N.C. State with the points at Wake Forest.
My NFL picks also were uneven. The Ravens and Broncos won outright as home ‘dogs. The Titans and Jets lost as road favorites.
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