What exactly is “game control” anyway?

22 Comments

The latest batch of College Football Playoff rankings have been released. Now a month into this new format, we know a few things about the way the selection committee for the College Football Playoff appears set on operating.

First, head-to-head competition matters, most of the time. Alabama just jumped Mississippi State to take over the top spot in the ranking after defeating Mississippi State on the field. However, Baylor continues to lag behind TCU even though the Bears defeated the Horned Frogs earlier in the season.

Second, strength of schedule is probably important. Mississippi State only fell four spots after losing, dropping from number one to number four after losing on the road at Alabama. The committee seems to view Mississippi State’s loss as the highest quality loss out of all of the one-loss teams. The overall strength of the SEC appears to counterbalance the lack of non-conference schedule Mississippi State played through, something sure to irk Baylor fans as well.

Third, it’s not just about winning games. You have to look good doing it. Which leads me to one final observation.

We have new buzz terms infiltrating our college football conversations. Forget about “margin of victory.” Now it is all about “game control.”

Uh, so what exactly is “game control?”

Game control is a new stat being used by the playoff selection committee and ESPN for its power rankings. As defined by ESPN, game control “[reflects] chance that an average Top 25 team would control games from start to end the way this team did, given the schedule.”

“As with going from basic W-L to Strength of Record, each team’s average in-game win probability gets translated to Game Control based on how hard it would be for a top team to achieve it, given the schedule. Game Control also ends up on a 0-to-100 scale, measuring how well a team controlled games from start to finish, accounting for the difficulty of the games it has played to date.” – ESPN.com, October 7, 2014

How this is calculated is anybody’s guess, so we are left to take it at face value for whatever it is. In a sense, it is what ESPN says it is.

College Football Playoff selection committee chairman Jeff Long, also the athletics director at Arkansas, used game control to explain a number of decisions the committee made with its most recent rankings. Specifically, Long used the term to explain why Alabama could jump to number one and undefeated Florida State could remain third for a second straight week behind two one-loss teams (Alabama and Oregon).

“We look at the games, how they’ve played them, whether they’ve controlled the game,” Long said about Florida State. “They’ve had a number of come-from-behind victories.”

Simply winning games, as referenced above, is not the most important thing in the eyes of the committee. They want you to dominate as well. It is true that Florida State has had to dig out of holes this season to remain undefeated. It is also plausible this year’s team may not be as good as it was in 2013 en route to a perfect season and BCS national title. But, Florida State has never lost actual control of any game on their schedule.

Alabama and Oregon have. How do we know this? They each lost a game. It is hard to suggest they had control of games they lost, if we are to go by the logic apparently being used by the committee.

Updated conference title odds see usual suspects remain heavy favorites

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Until we’re told otherwise, college football will play a 2020 season, and so the sports books are still offering odds on the upcoming season.

One one offshore sports book release its updated conference-by-conference odds on Monday, which saw the usual suspects atop most conferences. Clemson in particular is a massive favorite to win a sixth straight ACC title, with bettors required to place $600 down to win $100 on the Tigers.

Oklahoma is again favored to win the Big 12, Ohio State to win the Big Ten, Boise State to win the Mountain West, Oregon to win the Pac-12 and Appalachian State to win the Sun Belt. Alabama is listed as a slight favorite to win the SEC once again, as is UCF in the American.

American

Central Florida              5/4
Memphis                       9/4
Cincinnati                      3/1
Navy                             14/1
SMU                             14/1
Houston                        16/1
Temple                         25/1
Tulane                           28/1
South Florida                50/1
Tulsa                            80/1
East Carolina                 100/1

ACC

Clemson                       1/6
Miami (FL)                     15/2
North Carolina               10/1
Virginia Tech                 12/1
Florida State                 16/1
Virginia                         20/1
Louisville                      28/1
Pittsburgh                     28/1
Wake Forest                 40/1
NC State                       50/1
Duke                            66/1
Syracuse                      66/1
Boston College             80/1
Georgia Tech                250/1

Big Ten

Ohio State                    4/9
Michigan                       7/2
Wisconsin                     9/1
Penn State                    10/1
Iowa                             16/1
Nebraska                      16/1
Minnesota                     25/1
Michigan State              33/1
Indiana                          40/1
Illinois                           50/1
Maryland                       50/1
Northwestern                 50/1
Purdue                          50/1
Rutgers                         250/1

Big 12

Oklahoma                     4/5
Texas                           3/2
Oklahoma State            6/1
Iowa State                    12/1
Baylor                           16/1
West Virginia                 16/1
Kansas State                25/1
TCU                              28/1
Texas Tech                   40/1
Kansas                         100/1

Conference USA

Western Kentucky         2/1
Florida Atlantic              3/1
UAB                             4/1
Louisiana Tech              11/2
Marshall                        11/2
Southern Miss               6/1
Middle Tennessee          25/1
Charlotte                       28/1
Florida International       28/1
North Texas                  40/1
Rice                              66/1
Old Dominion                100/1
UTSA                            100/1
UTEP                            150/1    

MAC

Ohio                             13/4
Buffalo                         4/1
Central Michigan           4/1
Ball State                      6/1
Miami (OH)                    8/1
Toledo                          8/1
Western Michigan          8/1
Kent State                     12/1
Eastern Michigan          16/1
Northern Illinois             20/1
Akron                           100/1
Bowling Green               100/1   

Mountain West

Boise State                   1/2
San Diego State            13/4
Air Force                       9/2
Utah State                    12/1
Colorado State              14/1
Wyoming                      25/1
Fresno State                 28/1
Hawaii                           28/1
Nevada                         50/1
San Jose State              50/1
UNLV                            66/1
New Mexico                  150/1   

Pac-12

Oregon                         5/2
USC                             11/4
Washington                   3/1
UCLA                            4/1
Utah                             9/2
Arizona State                14/1
California                      20/1
Stanford                       20/1
Arizona                         25/1
Colorado                      80/1
Oregon State                80/1     

SEC

Alabama                       5/6
Louisiana State             11/4
Georgia                        3/1
Florida                          6/1
Auburn                          14/1
Texas A&M                   16/1
Tennessee                    66/1
Kentucky                      100/1
Mississippi State           100/1
Missouri                        100/1
Ole Miss                       100/1
South Carolina              100/1
Arkansas                      250/1
Vanderbilt                     250/1

Sun Belt

App State                     1/2
Louisiana-Lafayette       9/4
Arkansas State              14/1
Troy                              14/1
Georgia Southern          16/1
Georgia State                22/1
Coastal Carolina            25/1
UL-Monroe                    40/1
South Alabama             50/1
Texas State                  66/1

Sam Ehlinger raises nearly $40,000 for COVID-19 response

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger on Friday announced a fundraising campaign mimicking that of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his girlfriend, Marissa Mowry.

“I am dedicated to helping families who have been impacted by the current global crisis, and have created a GoFundMe to raise money to assist organizations that are doing incredible work in my community and nationally including the Boys & Girls Club of America, the Central Texas Food Bank, Austin Pets Alive and more,” Ehlinger said on his GoFundMe campaign’s page.

Ehlinger set a lofty goal of $1 million.

Ehlinger’s drive has raised over $40,000 for the cause. The page has been shared 3,200 times, and attracted 481 donors.

“I donated because my brother, who went to UT and is a San Antonio native living in LA, has a mild case of Covid-19. He’s on the road to recovery but he’s not out of the woods yet. I’m hoping this donation will help reach Sam Ehlinger’s goal,” one donor said. “He’s got a heart of gold and is officially my favorite QB of all time!!!”

“I donated because I want to help people in my area afflicted with this terrible virus,” said another. “Through no fault of their own they find themselves in this situation and hopefully I can help them recover. Thank you, Sam for doing this. On the field and off the field you are a special person. Best wishes for a great 2020 season! Hook ’em Horns!!”

Those wishing to join the effort can do so HERE.

Big 12 shuts down in-person activities through May, will allow virtual instruction

Getty Images
Leave a comment

We long ago passed the threshold where it became newsworthy when an upcoming event has not been shut down, but, still: the Big 12 has officially put the kibosh on any and all hopes to hold a spring football season in 2020.

As of Sunday night, all in-person team activities across all sports are hereby canceled through May 31 “or until additional guidance is provided.”

But that’s not the news here.

The conference’s coached had grumbled loudly that the Big 12 was barring them from holding online football-specific meetings, but that moratorium is officially over.

The league was spurred to action by a Friday announcement by the SEC, but the Big 12 actually cut in front of its eastern rival. Whereas SEC coaches can hold virtual football meetings at 1 p.m. ET, but the Big 12 actually lifted its ban effective 8 a.m. ET this morning. (The Big Ten and ACC placed no such prohibition on its coaches.)

Like the SEC, Big 12 coaches are not allowed to watch their players go through drills or workouts, but they can hold meetings and they can send their players supplements, team apparel and workout equipment. That last provision bars teams from buying equipment — e.g., Texas can’t ship its whole roster their own Pelotons — but they can send them “reasonable” supplies “such as stretching band/straps, foam rollers, etc.”

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history

college football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The sports world, including college football, has essentially screeched to a halt as countries around the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there’s a dearth of college football news as spring practices have all but been canceled at every level of the sport. And there’s even some concern that the health issue could have an impact on the 2020 college football campaign.

In that vein, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on March 27, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this hiatus, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2018

THE HEADLINE: Les Miles says he still wants to coach but is trying his hand at acting in the meantime
THE SYNOPSIS: Less than nine months after this headline ran, Mad Hatter the Actor became Mad Matter the Coach again as Miles took over the Kansas football program. In the first season under Miles, the Jayhawks went 3-9. One of those wins, over Texas Tech, was one of the most Mad Hatter wins ever. Miles was also the first KU coach to start a season 2-1 since 1997.

As an aside, the last time Kansas won more than three games in a season? 2009, when they won five.  Chew on that.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Penn State trustee says he’s ‘running out of patience’ with ‘so-called victims’ of Jerry Sandusky
THE SYNOPSIS: It takes a special level of douchiness to go here.  Yet that’s what Albert Lord did.  Or, as we wrote: “With Baylor seemingly running away with the title of most embarrassing university in collegiate athletics, a Penn State trustee has said ‘hold my beer.'”

THE HEADLINE: Suspended Mich. St. staffer receives one-month contract EXTENSION
THE SYNOPSIS: Three years later, and even with Mark Dantonio‘s retirement, Michigan State is still knee-deep in the Curtis Blackwell situation.  Whether they’ll be knee-deep in an NCAA situation is to be determined.

2016

THE HEADLINE: Mich. St. releases statement on four-star signee Auston Robertson
THE SYNOPSIS: This player was the genesis for the off-field issues still facing the Michigan State football program.

2015

THE HEADLINE: PHOTO: Ohio State has a Michigan fire hydrant near its vet school
THE SYNOPSIS: College football.  The sport’s rivalries.  Still the best.  Ever.

2013

THE HEADLINE: Longtime Alabama AD Mal Moore passes away at age 73
THE SYNOPSIS: The 73-year-old Moore’s passing came less than a month after he stepped down because of health issues.  Moore had been the AD since 1999.

2011

THE HEADLINE: Fickell to take over for Tressel during five-game suspension
THE SYNOPSIS: After Jim Tressel abruptly resigned in May of that year because of his NCAA issue, Luke Fickell took over for the 2011 season at Ohio State.  He was ultimately replaced as head coach by Urban Meyer.  Five years later, Fickell became the head coach at Cincinnati.

2009

THE HEADLINE: HAWKINS PREDICTS 10 WINS FOR COLORADO*
THE SYNOPSIS: In his third season at Colorado, Dan Hawkins went on to win three games post-prediction.  After five wins the following season, Hawkins was fired.

(*Yes, back in the day, we used to scream out our headlines at our readers in all-caps. The move to NBC a couple of months later mercifully ended that practice.)