By: Edward Egros

ohio

It May Seem Like Mayhem, But...

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Though a few schools decided to start the college football season one week early, the heavyweights, the blue chippers, the ones who are constantly atop any set of rankings you can find and are in contention for that trophy…begin this weekend.

As before, we can use parts of our
college football prediction model to determine who is likeliest to have the most talent and the most favorable schedule, including who has the toughest games at home and if the toughest games are on days with ample rest and preparation.

Using all of this information, my prediction for who will make this year's College Football Playoff are:

Alabama
Ohio State
USC
Florida State

Virtually every year, there is a surprise team sparingly chosen that charges from
outside the Top 10 to the Final Four. This year, I am picking two. First, while many say Washington will represent the West coast, I like USC because of more highly ranked sophomore and junior classes (per 247 Sports) and Washington begins the season in Auburn (a Top 10 team in many metrics including ours), while USC's toughest non-conference opponent is at Texas (not as strong as Auburn), and the Huskies are likelier to lose than the Trojans while USC still earns solid strength of schedule numbers. The Trojans also boast one of the better receiving corps which should help a true freshman quarterback in JT Daniels feel comfortable.

The other outsider is Florida State, edging a perennial contender in Clemson. Again, the Seminoles have more highly ranked second-year and third-year classes and Clemson plays at Florida State. Last season, the Seminoles were ranked third in the AP Preseason. You can make the argument: had they not lost starting
quarterback Deondre Francois for the season with an injured patella tendon in his left knee, they would have been in contention. The running game also carried that offense, and with Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick providing depth in the backfield, this offense should not be overlooked.

This playoff is entering its fifth season. Even though USC and Florida State are outside of the AP Top 10, the Seminoles have been in the playoff before, and the Trojans are the defending Pac-12 champions. It may seem like mayhem, but it's not.

Ohio State's Less Important Question

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Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer continues to face the possibility he will not coach the Buckeyes ever again. The school placed him on paid administrative leave as it investigates if he failed to report (or do anything about) an assistant coach allegedly committing domestic violence. This assistant may have exhibited a pattern of horrific behavior, yet remained on Meyer's coaching staff at Florida and Ohio State for years after reported incidents. The school announced it would like to end its investigation in the coming days.

What matters far less than potentially covering up violent crime is football itself. There exists the serious reality an entire football team will have to scramble to organize, practice and get through a gauntlet of a season, all because its leader exhibited incredibly poor judgment. There also exists an unfortunate reality if no reasonable explanations can be uncovered during this investigation: doing the right thing has consequences.

Other college football programs have parted ways with its head coach within a couple of months of the season's kickoff. In 2017, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze resigned
after questions were raised about phone calls made to a female escort service. One year earlier, Baylor fired head coach Art Briles after a couple of his players were convicted of sexual assault and many more women came forward alleging some within the football team committed multiple acts of violence against them. Lastly, in 2012, Arkansas fired head coach Bobby Petrino for unfairly hiring a mistress, not disclosing the nature of that relationship to his boss and not admitting to authorities she was present when Petrino suffered a motorcycle accident.

In each case, I looked at how many wins each team was projected to win prior to each scandal,
according to our prediction model. This model takes into account recruiting rankings of the sophomore and junior seasons from 247sports (the classes we found to be statistically significant), home and away schedules and if any games were played other than on Saturdays. Here are the results:

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For Ole Miss, near the end of the season the Rebels had four games decided by one possession. In each game we projected them to win; however, they went 2-2. An 8-4 possibility became a 6-6 performance. For Baylor, there was a three-game stretch near the end of the season where things seemed to fall apart (i.e. losses to Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia). The Bears could have gone 10-3, but instead finished 7-6. Lastly, for Arkansas, we suspected a dip in performance after coming off an appearance in the Sugar Bowl, but the downtick turned out to be more severe. Instead of perhaps going 7-5, they went 4-8.

Several other factors could have caused an underperformance of these projections, so it cannot be definitively concluded the departure of the head coach caused the unforeseen losses. However, intuitively it might make sense that a coaching change late in the offseason could mean two or three additional losses. If, indeed, Ohio State decides to fire Urban Meyer, and if it does mean the Buckeyes narrowly miss out on championships, only Meyer is to blame.