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Eyes on the enemy: Week 3

BYU had the week off, but college football never sleeps! Let's check out what happened to BYU's opponents over the weekend.

Flying football players.  This is why we watch the game.
Flying football players. This is why we watch the game.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

I wanted to take a moment and explain a bit more about these numbers I'm spitting out at you in this column. If you even slightly like numbers and ranking analyses, then I strongly suggest that you poke around on the Massey Ratings web site. There is a wealth of information there that I can only attempt to surmise in my writing.

As the season goes on the rankings get more and more accurate. Beating 'good' teams early on can boost the raking of a team when in reality they're not that good. For instance, this week Georgia Tech beat Duke, Duke was previously undefeated, and therefore ranked fairly high. By beating Duke, Georgia Tech (still undefeated) got quite a boost and is currently ranked 17th. To the computer, being undefeated in the 3rd or 4th week is just as impressive as being undefeated in the 10th or 11th, even though we know that's not true. It is very likely that Georgia Tech will lose in the next two weeks (playing against Virgina Tech and then at Miami FL) and their computer ranking will normalize.

The AP and Coaches polls do the best to estimate what teams are performing best in that given week, but human voters generally fail when trying to compute strength of schedule and comparative rankings. Notice that after receiving some votes last week in both polls, BYU did not get any AP votes this week, yet still received some votes in the coaches poll. This tells me that the AP media voters are much more fickle. Attention grabbing teams may get votes one week and be forgotten about the next. On the other hand the coaches tend to be a little more consistent and slower to change opinions.

Since human's are not as *logically* smart as computers, I like to focus on how the computers rank everyone. I chose to use Massey's rating to start off because I feel they do the best job early on, but as time goes on and the computer rankings start to converge on reality, I'll include ranking and predictions from other computer ranking systems. Massey's web site has a chart that lists all the college football teams, and shows where they are ranked among 52 different computer ranking systems. These computer systems differ on a number of things including how they factor in strength of schedule, pre-season rankings, and (for some) margin of victory. This page is the summum bonum of college football rankings. You really should check it out. (Yes, all of those links are to the same page.)

Okay, I'm done trying to make you care. Now for the rundown on BYU's opponents


Texas hosted Ole Miss and the game was remarkably similar to the one against BYU a week previous. Throughout the first half Texas hung around and made it look like a game, then in the second half the Longhorns got run over. This game did not do anything to inspire confidence in the renewal of Texas, but it's true the Ole Miss is a good team, so we'll have to see how Texas does in conference play before we know how much our win over them will boost our ratings.


There was a big game in Salt Lake City Saturday night, opening up Pac-12 play for the Utes and Beavers of Oregon State (a good OSU team that beat BYU last year, if you recall…). The computer slightly favored Utah in this game (67%) and it did come down to the wire. Oregon State won in overtime, getting a touchdown after Utah only managed a field goal. Utah's run defense was strong throughout the game and the Beaver's QB Sean Mannion beat the Utes through the air. As for their visit to Provo this week, Utah is only given a 39% chance of coming out on top. But we all know that this game could be crazy. If you want more Holy War information check out Nathan's Finalize the Foe article.

Utah State

Utah St. played Weber State with remarkably similar results to those achieved by Utah a week previous. Utah beat Weber 70-7, Utah State won 70-6 after blocking the PAT for a fumble recovery touchdown. Interesting to note that the Aggies played significantly better defense than the Utes allowing only 138 yards whereas Utah allowed 205.

Boise State

Boise St hosted Air Force and Bronco QB Joe Southwick was on fire, playing much more like fans have expected. If Southwick throws like that again in Provo, we're gonna need some work in our secondary to stop him. Overall though, BYU is still favored by the computers with a 77% chance to win.

Everyone Else

And a rundown of the rest. Remember the percentages I give here are the computer's calculations of BYU's chance to win against that opponent.

Middle Tennessee hosted Memphis and scraped by 17-15 with a last minute field goal. BYU is favored at 97%.

Georgia Tech rolled through Duke 38-14. BYU is no longer favored in this match up coming in at 44%.

Wisconsin visited Tempe, AZ and had a wild game against Arizona State. The badgers barely lost due to some sad misunderstandings about how to stop the clock. This was a loss to a really good ASU team (in the computer's eyes) so BYU is only given a 28% chance to beat Wisconsin.

Idaho State won their second game, but BYU is still predicted to win 100%

Notre Dame took on Purdue and should have walked right over them, but the Fighting Irish needed three fourth-quarter touchdowns to win. This closer-than-it-should-have-been game slightly increased BYU's chances against the Irish, up to 39%.

Nevada was up 7-3 at one point in their game against Florida State, but there's this guy name Jameis Winston. If you haven't heard of him look him up on YouTube. He is what happened to Nevada. BYU should still win against Nevada, 77%.

After reaching an average ranking of 30th last week, BYU has sliped to 34th during their bye week. Utah comes in at 43rd overall.

Stay tuned to Vanquish the Foe and later this week I'll go through the computer's breakdown on the Holy War and see how a couple different systems predict the Ute-Cougar showdown.