Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 6

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 last year as well as the first year of flexible scheduling, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; eight teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Broncos and Bears don’t have at least one game that can be flexed out. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 5 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 18):

  • Tentative game: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: 5-1 v. 2-3; one of the hottest rivalries in the NFL, but the Steelers had better get off the schnide right quick if they don’t want it to become lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Cardinals-Falcons (FOX) and Chargers-Broncos (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Colts-Patriots, Eagles-Redskins, Packers-Lions, and Jets-Rams are the main possibilities, but all are iffy at best; Eagles-Redskins and Jets-Rams are the best ones at 3-3 v. 3-3, and even if the Steelers just continue to hover near .500 that won’t overcome the tentative game bias. (Unless maybe Tim Tebow is starting under center…)

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Tentative game: Green Bay @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 3-3 v. 4-2; a pair of name teams, but both look a little questionable so far, especially the Packers.
  • Likely protections: Vikings-Bears or Rams-Cardinals if anything (FOX) and probably nothing (CBS) as Ravens-Chargers was their only real protection-worthy game and both teams have listed two protected games each, neither of which was this one.
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving Weekend, paucity of good games, though Vikings-Bears is actually a rare matchup of two teams above .500 (assuming it was left unprotected of course). Besides Ravens-Chargers and whatever game Fox doesn’t protect, Seahawks-Dolphins is a possibility, and Bills-Colts is a dark horse.

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ Dallas
  • Prospects: Very iffy at 3-3 v. 2-3, but never count out an NFC East showdown.
  • Likely protections: 49ers-Rams or Vikings-Packers (FOX) and Steelers-Ravens (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Seahawks-Bears might actually be stronger than either of Fox’s potentially protected games (leaving aside the Hawks’ iffy national name), and Cardinals-Jets is about as strong. Pats-Dolphins, Bucs-Broncos, and Bengals-Chargers are all dark horses.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Tentative game: Detroit @ Green Bay
  • Prospects: 2-3 v. 3-3. I’m going to take Bill Simmons’ advice and see if the Lions “are who we thought they were”, as Dennis Green would say; as it stands this isn’t really any worse than some of the other tentatives.
  • Likely protections: Bears-Vikings or Cardinals-Seahawks if anything (FOX) and Chargers-Steelers (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Fox’s unprotected game is the favorite, followed by Ravens-Redskins and Dolphins-49ers. Cowboys-Bengals, Rams-Bills, and Eagles-Bucs are dark horses.

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Tentative game: San Francisco @ New England
  • Prospects: 4-2 v. 3-3, which might still make it the tentative game in the best shape, or at least tied with Packers-Giants. Every single tentative has a team at 3-3 or 2-3; I wouldn’t be surprised by two flexes this year, or none at all. That’s how crazy the league is this year.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Ravens (probably not), Colts-Texans, Steelers-Cowboys, or nothing (CBS) and Giants-Falcons (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Vikings-Rams, Packers-Bears, Seahawks-Bills, and the games CBS doesn’t protect, with Lions-Cardinals as a dark horse.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: San Diego @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 3-3 v. 3-3; somewhat mediocre, but who knows if the Jets will be driving the Tebow bandwagon by this point.
  • Likely protections: Giants-Ravens (FOX) and Bengals-Steelers if anything (CBS).
  • Other possible games: One of the better slates of possibilities: Vikings-Texans, Bears-Cardinals, and 49ers-Seahawks all pit two teams above .500, waiting to pounce if either the Chargers’ or Jets’ season collapses. Redskins-Eagles and Bills-Dolphins are outside possibilities, while Rams-Bucs is a very dark horse.

Week 17 (December 30):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

FF50 Challenge Power Rankings – Week 6

So I eventually did decide to go the no-frills route in doing the power rankings, and only do that information that’s easy for me to collect in the process of resetting the rankings anyway.

I’m starting to reach the point of the season where I’m more comfortable with abandoning teams. So my one remaining winless team, Trips Wide, will be abandoned after this week. Incredibly, no matter how low it goes it’s still assured of a playoff spot, because Fleaflicker allows you to run half-full leagues even with horribly unbalanced divisions, including, in my case, a division with exactly one team – not even when it’s a two-division league that could just be consolidated into one. Seriously, Fleaflicker, WTF? With six remaining 1-5 teams, including the Shark League team, any of the other 1-5 teams who remain so after next week and are behind the Shark team in the power rankings will be abandoned.

Rk 

LW 

Name 

Identity 

Rec 

Str 

Lg Rnk 

1 

The Blue Eyes

CBS 2 

5-1 

W 2

1st of 12

2

Terrible Trios

Yahoo 3 

5-1 

W 2 

1st of 10

3

Morgan’s Team

Fox 8 

5-1 

W 4 

1st of 10

4

The Experiment

NFL 2 

5-1 

W 4 

1st of 10

5 

12 

Team Wick

ESPN 2 

5-1 

W 2

1st of 10

6 

11 

Morgan’s Team

Fox 2 

5-1 

W 2 

2nd of 10

7 

14 

Single Wing

Flea 1 

5-1 

W 4

3rd of 12

8

Morgan’s Team

Fox 6 

4-2 

L 1 

2nd of 10

9 

15 

Morgan’s Team

Fox 4 

4-2 

W 2 

2nd of 10

10 

Team Wick

ESPN 9 

4-2 

L 1 

3rd of 12

11 

18 

Morgan’s Team

Fox 1 

4-2 

W 1 

3rd of 10

12

Morgan’s Team

Fox 5 

4-2 

L 1 

3rd of 10

13

morganwick

NFL 6 

4-2 

L 1 

3rd of 10

14

19 

Team Wick

ESPN 3 

4-2

W 2

3rd of 10

15

Split Backs

Flea 2 

4-2 

L 1

2nd of 6

16 

21 

Team Wick

ESPN 5

4-2 

W 2

4th of 12

17 

16 

Team Wick

ESPN 6 

3-3 

L 1

3rd of 10

18 

24 

morganwick

NFL 1 

3-3 

W 1 

4th of 10

19 

20 

Team Wick

ESPN 10 

3-3 

W 1

5th of 12

20 

17 

Morgan’s Team

Fox 3 

3-3 

L 1 

5th of 10

21

10 

Morgan’s Team

Fox 7 

3-3 

L 1 

5th of 10

22 

23 

Evil Twins

Yahoo 2 

3-3 

W 1 

5th of 10

23 

29 

Team Wick

ESPN 8 

3-3

W 2

7th of 12

24

13 

The Lucky Ones

Yahoo 7 

3-3 

L 1

6th of 10

25 

30 

Single Bound

Yahoo 1 

3-3 

W 1 

6th of 10

26 

25 

morganwick

NFL 4 

2-4 

L 1 

6th of 10

27

31 

Team Wick

ESPN 4 

2-4 

W 1

7th of 10

28 

26 

morganwick

NFL 5 

2-4 

L 3 

7th of 10

29 

32 

Team Wick

ESPN 1 

2-3-1 

W 2 

8th of 10

30

22 

Nickel Package

Flea 5 

2-4

L 1

9th of 12

31

28 

Team Wick

ESPN 7 

2-4 

L 1

9th of 12

32

27 

Quarters

Flea 4 

2-4

L 1

6th of 8

33

34 

Fantastic Fifteen

Yahoo 4 

2-4

W 1

8th of 10

34

37 

morganwick

NFL 3 

2-4

W 1

9th of 10

35

39 

The Green Eyes

CBS 3 

2-4

W 1

11th of 12

36 

33 

All-Star Squadron

Yahoo 5 

1-5 

L 1 

9th of 10

37

41 

The Infinite

Yahoo 8 

1-5

W 1

9th of 10

38

42 

Headed for the End Zone

Flea 6 

1-5

W 1

11th of 12

39 

35 

Number of the Beast

Yahoo 6 

1-5 

L 4 

10th of 10

40

36 

Green Lantern Corps

Shark 

1-5 

L 3 

12th of 12

41 

38 

The Red Eye

CBS 1 

1-5 

L 3 

12th of 12

42 

40 

Trips Wide

Flea 3 

0-5 

L 5 

5th of 5

A Closer Look at Fox’s All-Sports Network Plans

Two motorsports TV contracts were signed over the weekend that continue to firm up and clarify Fox’s plans to start an all-sports network.

First, NBC signed a deal with Formula 1, moving those races off Speed; among other things, only four races will air on broadcast, meaning unlike Fox, NBC could end up tape delaying as few as one race all year (the other three being in Canada, Texas, and Brazil). While it adds good programming to NBC Sports Network (programming that complements the existing IndyCar contract), it’s hard not to see this story as really being about Fox clearing motorsports inventory off of Speed to prepare it for a transition to an all-sports network. This despite the fact that F1 is probably Speed’s best non-NASCAR programming and generally only takes up space on the Speed schedule late at night when there’s nothing else on; even conflicts with international soccer are surprisingly minimal.

There are many ways in which the Fox network still feels a lot less mature than its older competitors, and sports are one of the more subtle ones. NBC and CBS both have all sorts of niche sports dotting their weekends on top of all the more prominent sports they’re known for, and even ABC still has an interesting variety of sports dotting its schedule. For the most part, until recently Fox Sports pretty much consisted of football, baseball, and NASCAR, and that’s it. They’ve added college football and UFC, not to mention the odd soccer game, but before that Formula 1, despite the tape delays, was the closest thing to one of those niche, “Wide World of Sports”-esque sports that Fox had. Now it’s leaving, and there aren’t more than two or three live soccer games on Fox all year. I hope Fox doesn’t neglect its broadcast network as it builds an all-sports network like ABC had; it may be all the more critical in Fox’s case than any other that an increased emphasis on sports have spillover effects on the broadcast network. (And Fox’s college football coverage doesn’t seem quite up to the snuff of the established broadcasters to me.)

Perhaps more illuminating, even critical, to Fox’s network plans is its long-rumored early renewal with NASCAR. The main reason Fox wanted to renew this deal early was so it could clarify what a Fox Sports network would be required to broadcast, and nothing in this deal is tied to a specific network, allowing Fox to move some Sprint Cup points races to Speed whether it becomes a general all-sports network or not. Fox remains the broadcaster for the entire Camping World Truck Series season, and at least for now, doesn’t pick up any Nationwide Series rights. For a Fox Sports network, Fox picked up rights that will allow it to have a nightly show devoted to NASCAR news, “NASCAR-branded pre- and post-race shows”, and the ability to re-air races for 24 hours. While I wonder how wide-ranging Fox’s ability to have on-track and pre- and post-race shows is, Fox also retained the rights to show practice and qualifying… for the races whose rights it controls.

While Fox doesn’t appear to have picked up any rights it doesn’t already have, and so might end up picking up more rights later, that may indicate that Fox’s network prospects may now hinge on what happens with the rest of the contract, and whether or not someone else is willing to take on practice and qualifying rights for every single race they show, without being able to pawn them off to Fox. Certainly Fox has enough rights now to keep Speed a motorsports-focused network if it so chooses. ESPN already shows a considerable amount of practice and qualifying for its races, but it’s not universal and one wonders how much it’ll be willing to fit more onto its crowded schedule. NBC Sports Network would love to take it on just to fill time on the schedule, but given its existing IndyCar commitment (and potential hockey playoff conflicts) I wonder how much NBC would want to take on the Nationwide Series. And while Turner, which currently outsources all its practice and qualifying to Speed, would not want to add such fairly low-rated programming to TNT, such programming (backed by Nationwide Series races) could help it build the sports profile of truTV, but may represent too much of a commitment to sports for Turner to be comfortable with it, especially given their lack of success so far.

But perhaps Fox’s network plans extend beyond a single network to a complete revamping of the structure of its sports properties, one with potential knock-on effects spreading far and wide, and perhaps already doing so.

I have referred only to an “all-sports network” of Fox’s because I don’t like the reported tentative name of the network, “Fox Sports 1”. Part of the reason for that is the lack of a Fox Sports 2, but Fox could certainly relaunch one of its other networks to fit the bill, especially in the case that Fox Soccer loses its bread and butter… or completely overturn its specialty-network strategy and take on ESPN’s family of networks head-on. Ken Fang of Fang’s Bites raised this possibility in a post last week, suggesting that Fox might not only re-launch Speed as Fox Sports 1, but at the same time relaunch Fox Soccer as Fox Sports 2 and Fuel as Fox Sports 3. (I doubt he has any evidence that this is what’s actually going to happen, but speculation is fun, so we’ll go ahead and play his game.)

I have a number of problems with his specific scenario, largely because I didn’t really think of Fuel as a “sports” network in the same sense before it picked up UFC rights, but rather as a male-focused network with an emphasis on extreme sports, but in an even broader sense, he seems to think that such a change would amount to little more than a change of name in the case of Fox Soccer and Fuel; most soccer programming would remain on Fox Soccer with little more than what FX already has on FS1 and none on FS3 (and little to no non-soccer programming, to the point that Fox Soccer Plus would get the absurd name of “Fox Sports 2 Plus”), and all of Fuel’s programming would remain there with little to no programming from the other networks and UFC programming on FS1 and FS3 but not FS2. What’s the point of rebranding the networks in that case? Would Fox really want a collection of straight numbered networks with such a clear hierarchy yet with such targeted emphasis outside the main network? I guess it’s possible, but so far as I can tell from Wikipedia, it doesn’t fit News Corporation’s best practices with Sky Sports in the UK and Fox Sports in Australia.

Let’s think bigger, and fit a number of other developments into this picture. If this is the direction Fox wants to go, here’s what I see happening:

  • Speed becomes FS1, Fox Soccer becomes FS2, Fuel becomes FS3. We don’t need to change Fox Soccer Plus’ new name much, either from its existing name or from Fang’s proposal; it becomes Fox Sports Plus, and keeps most of its existing programming, with some use as an overflow channel for stuff Fox has the rights to but can’t cram onto three channels.
  • FS2 remains more soccer-focused than the other two, but a lot of soccer programming leaks onto the other two networks; at the very least, FS1 picks up every Premier League match Fox has the rights to pitting Manchester United against Arsenal, Chelsea, or Manchester City not on the main network. Fox also revamps its scheme for airing UEFA Champions League matches, with FS1 and FS3 joining FS2 and FS+ in airing games every matchday – half of all the games played at a time. FX wasn’t airing games regularly partly to increase the profile of Fox Soccer but also because it had other things to do. FS1 doesn’t; I could see it taking on more Champions League games even if Fox Soccer isn’t rebranded. (One factor that could play into the chances of Fox Soccer being rebranded is the loss of Serie A and Ligue 1 to beIN Sport and the threat of more; all of what Fox Soccer has left is either programming that could almost move to FS1 full-time, or stuff that doesn’t attract any eyeballs at all.)
  • UFC broadcasts are distributed among Fox, FS1, FS2, and FS3 based on the quality of the card and what each network is doing at any given time, all branded as “UFC on Fox”. FS3 continues to show prelims for Fox and FS1 cards, with PPV prelims airing on FS1 or FS2.
  • Most Truck Series races, as well as Sprint Cup practice and qualifying, move off their current network and onto FS2 and FS3.
  • Here comes the big part: the final nail is driven into the coffin of Rupert Murdoch’s original dream of using FSN to compete with ESPN. Especially if Dan Patrick decides to move to NBC. Only fitting that it comes when Fox actually does launch an ESPN-alike, right? We’ve been seeing the vestiges of this start to slip away ever since the start of the sports TV wars, to the point that despite the return of strong Fox branding to FSN national programming, FSN itself hasn’t returned with it, only being referred to as the “Fox Sports Networks”.

    Earlier this year Comcast SportsNet, always iffy with its carriage of FSN programming, dropped it entirely; originally it seemed that this was a temporary hiccup, but right now it seems Fox has given up the ghost, finding over-the-air stations to air FSN programming in Comcast markets. CSN may be setting itself up to air its own national programming, especially if it wins Big East rights, but even Root Sports, still airing FSN programming, has been airing Big Sky football games “nationally” on its three networks. Fox just doesn’t have the hegemony over the regional sports network landscape that it used to, and Fox doesn’t even need it anymore to distribute sports that don’t fit the other networks or that need a more national audience without being on FX. Plus, it’s lost Pac-12 rights to the Pac-12 Network, leaving it with just the Big 12 and Conference USA, and even conferences like the SEC and ACC that haven’t launched networks have sold packages to regional sports networks. College sports on regional sports networks have effectively become just as regional as everything else.

    Thus, as big a reason as the threat of beIN Sport to relaunch multiple networks is the desire to bail on the last vestiges of the FSN concept and move its bigger games to FS1, which should also provide plenty of inventory for FS2 once the soccer games end as well, with FS3 able to chip in in a pinch.

  • Along with the shutdown of the national FSN concept, Fox also shuts down its “that exists?” Fox College Sports enterprise, using the networks to goad cable companies into increasing carriage of FS2, FS3, and possibly FS+. FCS-exclusive games would move into the few remaining open spots on FS2, with the rest on FS3, FS+, and other platforms. Incidentally, I see a big shakeup in the TV rights for the third-tier college basketball postseason tournaments soon as the sports TV wars affect them; with HDNet’s rebrand into AXS TV, I see them dropping the CBI soon, and if Fox shuts down FCS that means they need to find a place for the CIT. When the dust settles, both tournaments will end up somehow distributed between NBC Sports Network, CBS Sports Network, and Fox; I see one on NBCSN and one on Fox, but it may not be the CBI on NBCSN and the CIT on Fox.

Later in the week I’ll take a look at what this might look like in practice.

Sport-Specific Networks
10.5 13.5 7 5.5 1 1.5

2012 College Football Rankings – Week 6

After a week where a series of top-ten losses have shaken up the rankings, Alabama and Oregon had better watch out. South Carolina has thrown its hat into the national championship ring.

The Fighting Steve Spurriers waltzed into a matchup with a Georgia team that looked to be on the same level as them, and they didn’t even make it close. The Gamecocks’ utter demolition of the Bulldogs has caused the entire country to stand up and take notice, as they ratchet up into the #3 spot in both the polls and the C Ratings. If last week, which also saw LSU finally lose to Florida, didn’t count, this week will see the official passing of the torch for the title of biggest challenger to Alabama’s SEC throne when South Carolina takes on LSU. And from there? Florida the following week is their biggest obstacle to a showdown with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, which could once again serve as a de facto semifinal.

How the C Ratings are tabulated: First, A Ratings are tabulated by multiplying the total score ratio, which is expressed by (points-opponents’ points)/points, by the winning percentage. Score ratio minimizes the effect of running up the score. Next, B Points for each game are tabulated by (margin of victory)/(opponent’s A rating)+/-1 for wins, and -(margin of loss)/(1-opponent’s A Rating)+/-1 for losses. The “+/-” is + for road games and – for home ones. The total number of B Points is multiplied by the A Rating to get the B Rating. Finally, the C Rating is tabulated by taking one-tenth the difference between the team’s B Rating and the average of his opponents’ B Ratings and taking the result off the B Rating. The three ratings go A, B, C across. Click here to see the complete ratings.

1 Alabama SEC #1 ’06 Boise St.
5-0 LW: #1 A Rat: .906 B Rating: 34.856 C Rating: 30.170 AP: 1 Coaches: 1
Only Alabama could add four points to their rating without even playing.
2 Oregon P12 #1 ’09 Boise St.
6-0 LW: #2 A Rat: .806 B Rating: 27.648 C Rating: 23.878 AP: 2 Coaches: 2
The Ducks had little trouble with Washington, but Arizona State will be no pushover.
3 South Carolina SEC #2 BCS Title
6-0 LW: #7 A Rat: .828 B Rating: 26.894 C Rating: 23.079 AP: 3 Coaches: 3
Sure a bunch of teams ahead of them lost, but the Gamecocks are determined to prove their bona fides with one game down in the meat of their schedule.
4 Notre Dame BCS Title
5-0 LW: #13 A Rat: .827 B Rating: 21.308 C Rating: 18.392 AP: 7 Coaches: 7
They’re ba-a-a-a-ack. After years of irrelevance, the Golden Domers’ shellacking of Miami to give the Hurricanes their second loss should prove their national championship bona fides. Might a similar squash of Stanford drive the point home?
5 Ohio State B10 #1 Probation
6-0 LW: #11 A Rat: .704 B Rating: 16.838 C Rating: 14.259 AP: 8 BlogPoll: 8
At least USC’s bowl-ineligibility only screwed up the Pac-12 title game. After the way they handled Nebraska, the Buckeyes look like they might have been a national championship contender.
6 Florida SEC #3 BCS Title
5-0 LW: #10 A Rat: .766 B Rating: 12.966 C Rating: 11.433 AP: 4 Coaches: 6
Florida didn’t quite put the hurt on LSU that South Carolina put on Georgia, but they impressed the country none the less. Of course, they’ll settle who’s really #2 in the SEC in two weeks.
7 Kansas State B12 #1 BCS Title
5-0 LW: #6 A Rat: .790 B Rating: 13.798 C Rating: 11.282 AP: 6 Coaches: 5
Kansas is a pretty bad team, so the Wildcats don’t benefit as much as the SEC teams, but they still did better than their Big 12 compadres.
8 Texas B12 #2 BCS Title
4-1 LW: #4 A Rat: .570 B Rating: 12.860 C Rating: 10.898 AP: 15 Coaches: 15
The first loss is always the hardest, but West Virginia, though overrated by the polls, is still a good team. Now comes a Red River Rivalry with some oomph.
9 Florida State ACC #1 BCS Title
5-1 LW: #5 A Rat: .665 B Rating: 12.478 C Rating: 10.383 AP: 12 Coaches: 11
On the other hand, the nature of B Points is that you’re never penalized too much for losing close no matter who it’s to. The way is still clear to dominate the conference.
10 Stanford P12 #2 BCS Title
4-1 LW: #12 A Rat: .479 B Rating: 9.447 C Rating: 8.180 AP: 17 Coaches: 17
Stanford moves up almost by default despite needing overtime to beat Arizona at home. Be very afraid of their prospects in South Bend.
11 Texas A&M SEC #3 BCS Bowl
4-1 LW: #27 A Rat: .601 B Rating: 9.769 C Rating: 7.495 AP: 22 Coaches: 21
Why does A&M shoot up the rankings after a narrow win over 3-3 Ole Miss? Perhaps it’s the cumulative effect of Arkansas’ first win and Florida’s big win. SMU did its part too.
12 West Virginia B12 #3 Prncton/Yale
5-0 LW: #14 A Rat: .671 B Rating: 7.787 C Rating: 6.936 AP: 5 Coaches: 4
Credit for beating a good team, but it was by only three. If you want to impress the C Ratings, put the hurt on Texas Tech this week.
13 Cincinnati BST #1 BCS Title
4-0 LW: #17 A Rat: .780 B Rating: 8.895 C Rating: 6.851 AP: 21 Coaches: 20
Cincinnati scored more points than they have all season in demolishing Miami (OH). The rest of the Big East should be on notice.
14 Iowa State B12 #4 BCS Title
4-1 LW: #19 A Rat: .525 B Rating: 6.600 C Rating: 6.090 Coaches: 25 Harris: 25
People are, belatedly, starting to realize the Cyclones are for real after a two-touchdown win over TCU. But Kansas State will be their biggest test yet.
15 Georgia SEC #4 BCS Title
5-1 LW: #9 A Rat: .550 B Rating: 7.233 C Rating: 5.618 AP: 14 Coaches: 12
Georgia came out with the short end of the stick after a trip to Columbia. But Kentucky should help them get back on track.
16 Oklahoma* B12 #5 BCS Title
3-1 LW: #49 A Rat: .546 B Rating: 7.142 C Rating: 5.606 AP: 13 Coaches: 10
Oklahoma just didn’t have the points to get anywhere, playing a I-AA school and taking two weeks off, but demolishing Texas Tech was just what they needed to prove their bona fides and spice up the Red River Rivalry.
17 Texas Tech B12 #6 BCS Title
4-1 LW: #3 A Rat: .588 B Rating: 7.251 C Rating: 5.484
Texas Tech got humbled by Oklahoma – and now the Heisman front-runner is coming to Lubbock.
18 LSU SEC #5 BCS Title
5-1 LW: #8 A Rat: .582 B Rating: 8.388 C Rating: 5.404 AP: 9 Coaches: 8
And now the chickens come home to roost on LSU’s weak early-season performances. And to make matters worse, South Carolina is out to prove they really are the third-best team in the country.
19 Toledo MAC #1 MAC Title
5-1 LW: #22 A Rat: .530 B Rating: 6.073 C Rating: 3.722
Ohio continues to get all the pub, but Toledo aren’t the ones escaping by a touchdown over a 1-4 team; they’re the ones demolishing the Directional Michigan schools.
20 Arizona State P12 #3 BCS Title
4-1 LW: #15 A Rat: .609 B Rating: 5.471 C Rating: 3.248
Idle hands compounded by losses by teams they played. Hopefully Colorado was a suitable tune-up for Oregon.
21 Oregon State P12 #4 BCS Title
4-0 LW: #18 A Rat: .665 B Rating: 4.220 C Rating: 3.083 AP: 10 Coaches: 14
I’m a little more worried than the polls about how much trouble the Beavers had with 2-4 Washington State. Better get back on track for a road trip to BYU.
22 Rutgers BST #2 BCS Title
5-0 LW: #38 A Rat: .803 B Rating: 7.098 C Rating: 3.062 AP: 20 Coaches: 19
The polls have Rutgers ahead of Cincinnati, but Rutgers hasn’t beaten an FCS opponent by more than 16, which Cincy has done twice.
23 Baylor B12 #7 BCS Title
3-1 LW: #33 A Rat: .480 B Rating: 3.716 C Rating: 2.631
Baylor moves up despite idle hands, doubtless because of the effect of WVU’s big win. They’re knocking on the door of nearly every poll, and can become ranked again by beating TCU.
24 Louisiana Tech WAC #1 BCS Bowl
5-0 LW: #20 A Rat: .660 B Rating: 6.527 C Rating: 2.384 AP: 23 Coaches: 24
Sure they blew out UNLV, but it was UNLV. Against Texas A&M, they can prove their bona fides and arrest the slide, or take their first loss.
25 Mississippi State SEC #6 BCS Title
5-0 LW: #25 A Rat: .783 B Rating: 4.237 C Rating: 2.284 AP: 19 Coaches: 18
13-point win over 1-5 Kentucky means Mississippi State remains at #25 for the third straight week.


38 teams total with positive C Rating (none with negative B Rating)

Off Top 25: #27 Clemson (was #16), #31 Ohio (was #24), #46 Northwestern (was #23), #52 TCU (was #21)

Unbeaten teams not on Top 25: #31 Ohio, #38 Louisville, #44 Texas-San Antonio (all in positive B Points, Texas-San Antonio not in positive C)

Rest of Watch List: #26 Penn State (4-2), #27 Clemson (5-1), #28 North Carolina (4-2), #29 Northern Illinois (5-1), #30 Oklahoma State (2-2), #32 Michigan* (3-2), #33 USC (4-1), #34 Fresno State (4-2), #35 San Jose State (4-1), #36 Iowa (3-2), #37 Boise State (4-1)

Other Positive B Ratings (all 4-2 unless otherwise noted): #39 Michigan State, #40 Nevada (5-1), #41 Western Kentucky (5-1), #42 Pittsburgh (2-3), #43 BYU, #45 Louisiana-Monroe* (3-2), #47 Utah State, #49 Wisconsin* (*=Newly Positive)

No Longer Positive: #46 Northwestern, #48 Tennessee, #52 TCU, #54 Nebraska, #55 Middle Tennessee State, #70 UCLA, #80 Purdue

Bottom 10: #115 Virginia, #116 UTEP, #117 Colorado, #118 Southern Miss, #119 Eastern Michigan, #120 Akron, #121 Idaho, #122 Hawaii, #123 Tulane, #124 Massachusetts

Best game of week: Stanford @ Notre Dame, 3:30pm ET, NBC

Stupid browser cache.

(From Questionable Content. Click for full-sized land of unlimited cartriges.)

Have you ever had an experience where something really weird and awkward happened, and then afterwards you just went about your business like nothing happened at all, never even understanding why it happened to begin with?

That’s how I feel about this QC after the two strips immediately preceding it (not counting yesterday’s filler art). I fully expected Jeph to be trolling his fanbase (who I suspect hate Emily as much as I do), though after he continued the setup for two strips I was fully prepared to renounce QC entirely if it turned out he was sending the comic headfirst into PVP/Goats Syndrome.

What I did not expect was for the succeeding comic not to even reference it at all, but to have the characters go about their business as though there was nothing odd or awkward about their arrival whatsoever, not even getting so much as a suitably crazy explanation out of Emily, her holding the mask in the first panel the only sign that anything happened at all.

The end result is that, if you had that awkward moment with someone else, no matter how you try to gloss over it, it looms over the entire rest of that interaction. I can’t read this comic without thinking about the two prior ones, and I can’t help but wonder whether the start of the sequence is going to hang over it for the duration, seeking a closure that never comes. And yet, if we were given an explanation, wouldn’t the same thing happen in a broader sense, with no one willing to completely trust it?

I’m left utterly numb and wanting to both compliment and castigate Jeph, and not do those things, all at the same time. I don’t even know what reaction I even have other than “What?

The FF50 Challenge Power Rankings, and why I’m not posting them

When I started the FF50 challenge, I was thinking I would perform weekly updates on the state of the 42 teams I was playing, finding a way to rank all of them. I decided against it, both because of time constraints and because I had no way to rank them that early in the season, especially given my draft strategy.

So why did I decide to do it now, as I posted on Monday? Because even without the power rankings and even with the number of teams downsized to 42 from my original intention of 50, I have never been able to set starting lineups or submit waiver claims for all teams without running out of time. I had said that I would abandon 0-4 teams after four weeks, but only four teams started the season 0-4, three of them towards the end of the order for me to set lineups and thus more likely to have malformed lineups, meaning I had next to no teams that were completely lost causes. (I may have better luck with the 1-5 checkpoint this week.) And if I’m going to leave some teams behind, I should be doing it with the teams with the least need for it anyway. So waiver claims will start moving from the bottom up, and lineup setting will occur from the top down. But I’m still not going to post the rankings, because this project is monopolizing too much of my time already, and putting together everything I’d want for a post would eat up way too much of my time. I may decide to post them in no-frills fashion later, though.

There were a few other things that I’ve noticed. For one, I often ended up with the same players on the same teams on the same site, and even when I didn’t, the running back/wide receiver balance was often out of whack in the same way on the same site. For example, nearly every single Yahoo team has Garrett Hartley on the roster, because Yahoo’s rankings absolutely buried him. Right now he’s only the 16th best kicker under Yahoo’s scoring system, but he’s remained high enough on most other week-to-week rankings I haven’t had reason to replace him, though that may change this week with him on bye. Also, most Yahoo teams ended up drafting entire benches of running backs with very few wide receivers, which may have something to do with Yahoo’s starting lineup of three wideouts, two running backs, and no flex. For another, there were some teams that, for one reason or another, were almost entirely autopicked instead of picked by me, and those teams have a strong tendency to be the strongest ones, especially after factoring out Fox teams. (I have eight Fox teams; every last one is in the top half, placing fourth or better in their 10-team league, with five in my top 12. The players there aren’t very good, is what I’m saying.)

This convinces me to make a few rule changes for drafts next year should I continue with this. For one, I had been considering limiting my options to the top 25 available players in ADP, but couldn’t find a universal list I was confident in; now I think I’m definitely going to limit myself to the top 25 ADP for that site (possibly top 20 for leagues with 10 or fewer teams). I’m also going to give a site’s native rankings an increased role in determining who I pick.

The median is right where you’d expect, in the middle of the pack for each league… but considering how much I’m dominating the Fox leagues, that just shows how far I have to go everywhere else.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 5

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was written with the 2007 season in mind, hence why it still says late games start at 4:15 ET instead of 4:25):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and cannot protect any games Week 17. Games were protected after Week 4 last year as well as the first year of flexible scheduling, because NBC hosted Christmas night games those years and all the other games were moved to Saturday (and so couldn’t be flexed), but are otherwise protected after Week 5.
  • In the past, three teams could appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. I don’t know how the expansion of the Thursday Night schedule affects this, if it does. No team starts the season completely tapped out at any measure; eight teams have five primetime appearances each, but only the Broncos and Bears don’t have at least one game that can be flexed out. NBC appearances for all teams: DAL 3 (1 flexible), NYG 3 (1 flexible), PIT 3 (1 flexible), DEN 2, DET 2 (1 flexible), SF 2 (1 flexible), NE 3 (1 flexible), BAL 2 (1 flexible), PHI 2 (1 flexible), SD 2 (1 flexible), NO 2, GB 3 (2 flexible), HOU 2, CIN 1, ATL 1, CHI 1, NYJ 2 (1 flexible). All primetime appearances for all teams: DAL 4 (1 flexible), NYG 5 (1 flexible), PIT 5 (1 flexible), DEN 5, DET 4 (1 flexible), SF 5 (1 flexible), NE 4 1 flexible), BAL 4 (1 flexible), PHI 5 (1 flexible), SD 5 (1 flexible), NO 4, GB 5 (2 flexible), HOU 4, CIN 3, ATL 4, CHI 5, NYJ 4 (1 flexible), OAK 2, SEA 2, ARI 2, KC 2, CAR 2, TEN 2, all other teams 1.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 18):

  • Tentative game: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 2-2; one of the hottest rivalries in the NFL, but are the Steelers more like those two losses than those two wins?
  • Likely protections: Cardinals-Falcons (FOX) and Chargers-Broncos or Jets-Rams if anything (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Colts-Patriots and the unprotected game(s), with Eagles-Redskins as a dark horse.

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Tentative game: Green Bay @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 2-3; a pair of name teams, but both look a little questionable so far, especially the Packers.
  • Likely protections: Vikings-Bears or Rams-Cardinals if anything (FOX) and Ravens-Chargers (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Thanksgiving Weekend, paucity of good games. Besides whatever game Fox doesn’t protect, Seahawks-Dolphins is a dark horse.

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ Dallas
  • Prospects: Very iffy at 3-2 v. 2-2, but never count out an NFC East showdown.
  • Likely protections: 49ers-Rams or Vikings-Packers (FOX) and Steelers-Ravens (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Seahawks-Bears and whatever game Fox doesn’t protect, with Bengals-Chargers a dark horse.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Tentative game: Detroit @ Green Bay
  • Prospects: The Lions look to have fallen back into their old morass at 1-3, and the Packers may not be that much better. This may be the likeliest game to lose its spot.
  • Likely protections: Bears-Vikings or Cardinals-Seahawks (FOX) and Chargers-Steelers or Ravens-Redskins (CBS), with either network possibly leaving the week unprotected.
  • Other possible games: Basically, whatever games aren’t protected.

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Tentative game: San Francisco @ New England
  • Prospects: 4-1 v. 3-2, possibly the tentative game in the best shape.
  • Likely protections: Broncos-Ravens, Colts-Texans, Steelers-Cowboys, or nothing (CBS) and Giants-Falcons (FOX).
  • Other possible games: Vikings-Rams, Packers-Bears, and the games CBS doesn’t protect.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: San Diego @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 2-3; somewhat mediocre, but who knows if the Jets will be driving the Tebow bandwagon by this point.
  • Likely protections: Vikings-Texans, Giants-Ravens, Bears-Cardinals, 49ers-Seahawks, or nothing (FOX) and Bengals-Steelers if anything (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Besides the unprotected games, Redskins-Eagles is a dark horse.

Week 17 (December 30):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

How The Streak Will Continue

So, we’re in the thick of football season right now, and even with my efforts to condense and reduce the number of projects I’m working on I still have quite a lot, so I decided to put together a schedule, both to help manage my work on them, and to remind me to do them in a timely fashion. So effective immediately, here are the posts you can expect each week, with exact dates subject to change:

  • Monday (starting in four weeks): Last-Minute SNF Picks
  • Tuesday: FF50 Challenge Power Rankings
  • Wednesday: College Football Rankings
  • Thursday: Sunday Night Football Flex Schedule Watch

Fridays are free and I may take advantage of them to do webcomic reviews in November; certainly I would expect most webcomic posts to wait until then if possible. Some webcomic posts may come Monday before the last-minute picks start or in weeks where I’ve already made my final prediction, though, and the whole structure will start to break down in December after the college season ends and fantasy leagues start hitting the playoffs.

2012 College Football Rankings – Week 5

I am astounded at how closely the C Ratings are hewing to the polls this early in the season. Sure, there are a lot of wacky ratings, such as Texas Tech at #3. But take a look at the top two teams: Alabama and Oregon. Bama is especially surprising, as they were considered national championship contenders mostly coming off their championship last year. Yet look at what they’ve done the first five weeks of the season: dominate all comers, including some pretty good teams. The rest of the SEC, and the country, is on notice.

Meanwhile, one week after the unification of the 2010 TCU title with Princeton-Yale, the split claims to the 2009 Boise State title will be unified, thanks to Washington’s upset of Stanford. Expect some clarity near the top of the rankings with the pack of four SEC teams at 7-10 playing each other, as well as Texas taking on aforementioned unified title holders West Virginia, as we enter a big week of games.

How the C Ratings are tabulated: First, A Ratings are tabulated by multiplying the total score ratio, which is expressed by (points-opponents’ points)/points, by the winning percentage. Score ratio minimizes the effect of running up the score. Next, B Points for each game are tabulated by (margin of victory)/(opponent’s A rating)+/-1 for wins, and -(margin of loss)/(1-opponent’s A Rating)+/-1 for losses. The “+/-” is + for road games and – for home ones. The total number of B Points is multiplied by the A Rating to get the B Rating. Finally, the C Rating is tabulated by taking one-tenth the difference between the team’s B Rating and the average of his opponents’ B Ratings and taking the result off the B Rating. The three ratings go A, B, C across. Click here to see the complete ratings.

1 Alabama SEC #1 ’06 Boise St.
5-0 LW: #1 A Rat: .906 B Rating: 30.339 C Rating: 26.250 AP: 1 Coaches: 1
The way the Tide has rolled to start the season is incredible. Now they get a week off to catch their breath.
2 Oregon P12 #1 BCS Title
5-0 LW: #3 A Rat: .808 B Rating: 21.988 C Rating: 18.856 AP: 2 Coaches: 2
Oregon showed the Cougars who’s the boss. But Washington won’t roll over quite as easily as their little brother.
3 Texas Tech B12 #1 BCS Title
4-0 LW: #4 A Rat: .858 B Rating: 19.571 C Rating: 17.005 Coaches: 24
Iowa State’s defense managed to hold their scoring down for a while, but the Red Raiders pulled it out and are starting to attract attention around the country. Now all eyes are on them against Oklahoma.
4 Texas B12 #2 BCS Title
4-0 LW: #2 A Rat: .774 B Rating: 18.636 C Rating: 16.270 AP: 11 Coaches: 9
Texas whiffed on their chance to impress the rest of the country, beating Oklahoma State by only five. Now they have a big test with West Virginia’s high-flying offense coming to Austin.
5 Florida State ACC #1 BCS Title
5-0 LW: #5 A Rat: .863 B Rating: 18.115 C Rating: 15.992 AP: 3 Coaches: 4
The Seminoles slip in the raw numbers for scoring the fewest points of the entire season, but with North Carolina the highest-ranked ACC team they haven’t played, Florida might be the only thing standing in the way of 13-0.
6 Kansas State B12 #3 BCS Title
4-0 LW: #7 A Rat: .773 B Rating: 15.977 C Rating: 14.024 AP: 7 Coaches: 8
K-State moves up despite not playing, thanks to Stanford’s upset and wins by Miami and North Texas. Now their in-state rivals come to Manhattan.
7 South Carolina SEC #2 BCS Title
5-0 LW: #12 A Rat: .813 B Rating: 14.901 C Rating: 12.341 AP: 6 Coaches: 6
The best performance from the SEC’s “next four” was clearly the other USC, which earned their poll ranking with a 38-17 demolition of an underrated Kentucky team.
8 LSU SEC #3 BCS Title
5-0 LW: #9 A Rat: .795 B Rating: 15.159 C Rating: 11.895 AP: 4 Coaches: 3
LSU did well for themselves as well, but letting an FCS school get that close to an upset won’t do you any favors.
9 Georgia SEC #4 BCS Title
5-0 LW: #11 A Rat: .772 B Rating: 11.636 C Rating: 9.450 AP: 5 Coaches: 5
Neither Georgia nor the Gamecocks have faced anything quite like they’ll face when they play each other this weekend.
10 Florida SEC #5 BCS Title
4-0 LW: #10 A Rat: .761 B Rating: 9.803 C Rating: 8.163 AP: 10 Coaches: 11
Stanford’s upset and Notre Dame’s fall down the rankings mean Florida stays put despite idle hands. All the more preparation time they’ll need for the Tigers.
11 Ohio State B10 #1 Probation
5-0 LW: #13 A Rat: .705 B Rating: 10.295 C Rating: 8.071 AP: 12 BlogPoll: 12
A good-by-Big-Ten-standards Michigan State team overcomes the one-point margin of victory. But it doesn’t get any easier when Nebraska comes into Columbus.
12 Stanford P12 #2 BCS Title
3-1 LW: #6 A Rat: .468 B Rating: 9.060 C Rating: 7.937 AP: 18 Coaches: 18
Defense is Stanford’s calling card this year, never allowing more than 17, but against Washington the offense couldn’t pick up the slack. Expect them to beat Arizona at home; Notre Dame (3rd-fewest points allowed) in South Bend is another story.
13 Notre Dame BCS Title
4-0 LW: #8 A Rat: .792 B Rating: 8.814 C Rating: 7.195 AP: 9 Coaches: 10
Navy giveth (demolishing VMI) and taketh away (getting shut out by San Jose State). But now they control their own destiny, and Miami’s not as good as their 4-1 record.
14 West Virginia B12 #4 Prncton/Yale
4-0 LW: #15 A Rat: .706 B Rating: 6.660 C Rating: 5.619 AP: 8 Coaches: 7
The 63 allowed matters more than the 70 scored, but it was a team ranked in the C Ratings and the polls. But Texas is a far bigger test.
15 Arizona State P12 #3 BCS Title
4-1 LW: #14 A Rat: .609 B Rating: 7.237 C Rating: 5.062
The Sun Devils ended both of the things we brought up last week against a not-that-great Cal team. They’ll slip further for idle hands before getting a chance to show off against a national audience against 1-4 Colorado.
16 Clemson ACC #2 BCS Title
4-1 LW: #19 A Rat: .532 B Rating: 4.872 C Rating: 4.125 AP: 15 Coaches: 15
Clemson bounced back with a double-digit win over Boston College. But a good G-Tech team desperately wants a road bounce back of its own.
17 Cincinnati BST #1 BCS Title
3-0 LW: #18 A Rat: .752 B Rating: 4.798 C Rating: 4.055 Coaches: 23 Legends: 24
People are starting to take note of the Bearcats; their win over V-Tech wasn’t much, but they’re knocking on the door of every poll they aren’t already in.
18 Oregon State P12 #4 BCS Title
3-0 LW: #23 A Rat: .606 B Rating: 4.102 C Rating: 3.659 AP: 14 Coaches: 17
Oregon State continued their string of victories against the Wildcats. Perhaps when Washington State comes to Corvallis, they can even win by more than a single score.
19 Iowa State B12 #5 BCS Title
3-1 LW: #16 A Rat: .486 B Rating: 2.940 C Rating: 3.219
That’s not a setback you want to take at home, but now the Cyclones have a chance to prove their bona fides in Fort Worth against a TCU team earning a bit more respect.
20 Louisiana Tech WAC #1 BCS Bowl
4-0 LW: #17 A Rat: .642 B Rating: 6.592 C Rating: 2.977
Louisiana Tech’s six-point win over 2-2 Virginia is as painful as Iowa State’s loss, no thanks to Illinois getting blown out by Penn State.
21 TCU B12 #6 BCS Title
4-0 LW: #21 A Rat: .847 B Rating: 5.574 C Rating: 2.754 AP: 15 Coaches: 13
If it’s a conference with more tests the polls want, it’s a conference with more tests TCU’s gonna get. It all starts this week against Iowa State.
22 Toledo MAC #1 MAC Title
4-1 LW: #43 A Rat: .507 B Rating: 3.985 C Rating: 2.249
The Rockets’ only loss was in OT to Arizona, but their squash of Western Michigan on the road shows what they’re really capable of.
23 Northwestern B10 #2 BCS Title
5-0 LW: #40 A Rat: .702 B Rating: 3.345 C Rating: 2.068 AP: 24 Coaches: 22
Yes, Michael Wilbon, the Wildcats are for real! Their squash of Indiana has made everyone take notice, and with Ohio State and this week’s opponent Penn State ineligible for bowls, the way may be clear for a trip to the Rose Bowl.
24 Ohio MAC #2 BCS Bowl
5-0 LW: #20 A Rat: .691 B Rating: 5.876 C Rating: 1.776 BlogPoll: 25
Beating the worst team in FBS? Not impressive. Beating them by a field goal? Even less so. And now a potential showdown with Toledo in the conference title game will hang over their season.
25 Mississippi State SEC #6 BCS Title
4-0 LW: #25 A Rat: .794 B Rating: 3.298 C Rating: 1.597 AP: 20 Coaches: 19
Mississippi State manages to stay up despite idle hands, partly due to losses by surrounding teams, and are ready to get back into the meat of the SEC.


37 teams total with positive C Rating (none with negative B Rating)

2009 Boise State title: #55 Washington (3-1), .421, -2.916, -2.196

Off Top 25: #33 Baylor (was #24), #38 Rutgers (was #22)

Unbeaten teams not on Top 25: #32 Louisville, #38 Rutgers, #48 Texas-San Antonio (all in positive B Points, Rutgers and Texas-San Antonio not in positive C)

Rest of Watch List: #26 Boise State (3-1), #27 Texas A&M (3-1), #28 Nevada (4-1), #29 Middle Tenn. St. (3-1), #30 Oklahoma State (2-2), #31 UCLA (4-1), #33 Baylor (3-1), #34 Northern Illinois (4-1), #35 Iowa* (3-2), #36 San Jose State (4-1), #37 Pittsburgh (2-3)

Other Positive B Ratings (all 3-2 unless otherwise noted): #39 BYU, #40 North Carolina, #41 Fresno State, #42 Western Kentucky* (4-1), #43 Penn State*, #44 Michigan State, #45 Nebraska (4-1), #46 Tennessee, #47 Utah State (4-2), #51 Purdue* (3-1), #52 USC (3-1) (*=Newly Positive)

No Longer Positive: #49 Oklahoma, #57 Arizona, #60 Central Florida, #67 Georgia Tech, #70 Minnesota

Bottom 10: #115 Southern Miss, #116 New Mexico State, #117 Rice, #118 Army, #119 Akron, #120 Colorado, #121 Idaho, #122 Hawaii, #123 Tulane, #124 Massachusetts

Best game of week: Georgia @ South Carolina, 4pm PT, ESPN

The major-league-baseball contract post-mortem

I don’t understand what baseball was doing in its negotiations for a new broadcast contract. Leave it to baseball to screw things up once again.

First, they told Fox that FX wasn’t good enough and it needed an all-sports network to be a serious contender, but then later apparently decided it didn’t want to prop up NBC’s own sports network, while also allowing TBS, which is almost exactly equivalent to FX (especially since all of Turner’s other non-NCAA Tournament sports are on TNT) to continue to even sniff baseball rights.

Then, they allowed ESPN to sign their agreement in advance and lock up all three of its existing packages – despite the fact that this would effectively eliminate NBC as a contender, since they were too smart to overpay for the shitty Sunday afternoon package, and reduce Fox and Turner’s interest for the same reason.

Then, they made a lot of noise about unifying not only the Saturday and Sunday afternoon packages, but the entire postseason with a single partner, going so far as to tell ESPN they would take their single wild card game and like it. And since they weren’t going to accept Turner’s CBS-alliance scheme, where CBS got the World Series, All-Star Game, some odd LCS games, and exactly zero regular season games, that meant that the contract was Fox’s to lose.

But wait! It turned out that, again, Fox wasn’t dumb enough to pay through the nose for the shitty Sunday afternoon package either! So when Turner refused to go away, not wanting to let go of TBS’ baseball legacy through its long history of Braves games, MLB ended up accepting a deal that amounts to the status quo.

The differences? Fox will now have a doubleheader of games each Saturday, so its all-sports network will have either one or two games each week, except I can pretty much guarantee that in weeks it has just one, it’ll be worse than the Sunday afternoon package; Fox gets back in the division series, splitting with TBS in similar fashion to the LCS’s and sending two games to MLB Network; and TBS gets co-exists for its Sunday afternoon games, so it won’t be blacked out in the home markets of the teams, except that means absolutely nothing because no one even knew TBS had regular season games going up against local games and everything else in sports Sunday afternoons… and TBS will now only have games the last three months of the season, so the problem where TBS seems to come from out of nowhere to take over the postseason will now get even worse!

What the hell? Why didn’t ESPN come back into play when it became clear that MLB was going to have to split up the postseason after all? Heck, ESPN and Fox could have had a league split running right through the wild card, division, and league championship series before Fox takes over the whole World Series. Sure, ESPN would probably have had even less interest in the Sunday afternoon package, but then those games would have gone to MLB Network where they belong, which is surely a boon to that network – and more important, it would have been better for baseball as a whole. Hardcore baseball fans with Extra Innings may be rejoicing over the end of blackouts of out-of-market Fox games (which I don’t think will amount to as much as you might think with Fox’s decreased inventory), but this may be even more confusing for the casual fan than the old agreement; TBS still comes from out of nowhere to take over the postseason, and ESPN shows up for the tiebreakers and one wild card game and then completely disappears. The shambling corpse of TBS’ old Braves package just will not die despite being pumped full of lead repeatedly, using the postseason as a shield. What was baseball thinking? It couldn’t have been this.

I think that, for all the money baseball raked in with this deal, they left money on the table by being too hasty to accept ESPN’s Godfather offer to keep all its existing packages in order to box out NBC. I bet baseball could have more than made up the difference in heightened interest from three partners for whatever ESPN left on the table. It didn’t end up working out very well for ESPN either; besides whiffing on its attempt to get more than one measly wild-card game, ESPN must surely know at this point that Fox’s potential all-sports network is a bigger threat than NBC’s, and as such its best play is to pit the two against one another so that both are left with a fraction of what ESPN has and unable to gain much ground, but there isn’t even any evidence that they lent any support to the Turner/CBS alliance scheme. Instead they continue to be so myopically focused on NBC that they keep handing contracts into Fox’s lap! They’ve managed to kill everyone else, but like a poor marksman, they keep! Missing! The target! KHAAAAANNNNNNN!!!!!!!!

Fox continues to be the only outfit with much sense in the sports TV wars. The baseball contract is the crown jewel for an outfit that already has plenty of programming to hit the ground running with an all-sports network. The last piece will come when Fox finishes its early renewal of the NASCAR contract, giving the network Sprint Cup races, the All-Star Race, and possibly Nationwide and Truck races. (I’ve heard that NASCAR isn’t thinking about a NASCAR network anymore, but unless it wants to foist practice and qualifying on its other partners, I don’t see Fox wanting to keep it on an all-sports network every week.)

NBC, meanwhile, now turns to NASCAR as its last real chance to get a killer app for NBC Sports Network, with the Big Ten awaiting as a last resort, but it may already be too late for them to catch Fox. All their numerous bells and whistles of side programming, from NBC SportsTalk to Costas Tonight to NFL Turning Point to Caught Looking to Sports Illustrated to The Lights, may ultimately be all for naught, a way to cover up the network’s lack of real programming; they may have given NBC a head start on infrastructure, but Fox may want to have all its infrastructure in place from the start, given their acquisition of baseball rights for a nightly highlights show. The NHL may be regretting not shacking up with Fox when it had the chance.

All five contenders in the sports TV wars have their count go up by one because ESPN, NBCSN, and CBSSN just signed a new agreement with the Atlantic 10 at the same time. Most basketball games go on NBCSN and CBSSN, with ESPN getting the conference tournament finals with, curiously, the semis on CBSSN and the quarters on NBCSN. The PBR and Mountain West recognize that NBCSN > CBSSN. Why doesn’t the Atlantic 10?

Sport-Specific Networks
10.5 12.5 6 5.5 1 1.5