Monday, January 18, 2010

Bielema’s Wisconsin Badgers among top five most improved teams

By Bill Yates

January 16, 2010

The 2009 season produced big improvements in performance for many NCAA college football teams. But which teams improved the most from their 2008 ranking?

I examined the statistical ranking changes for all top 50 teams of 2009. Sagarin rankings were compared from 2008 to 2009. Each improvement in ranking by one place produced one point. Improved top 25 teams received bonus points weighted from No. 1 to No. 25.

So who were the top improved teams in 2009?

No. 10
Alabama Crimson Tide. The Crimson Tide benefit from 25 bonus points for finishing first in the nation.

Ranked sixth in 2008, 2009 produced a national championship for Nick Saban and the fans of Alabama.

No. 9
Auburn Tigers. The Tigers ranked only 60th in 2008 but jumped to No. 28 in 2009.

Gene Chizik led the Auburn Tigers to an 8-5 record with a 38-35 win over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl.

No. 8
William & Mary. This is not a joke. William & Mary finished 49th in the 2009 Sagarin rankings.

This is a significant improvement from their 82nd ranking of 2008.

The Tribe produced an 11-3 record in 2009 and advanced to the semis of the 2009 FCS national championship. They lost to the Vlllanova Wildcats 14-13.

No. 7
Villanova Wildcats. Villanova improved from a rank of 63rd in to 2008 to 30th in 2009.

The Wildcats finished 14-1 in 2009. They defeated Montana for the 2009 FCS national championship.

No. 6
Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech finished No. 13 in the Sagarin 2009 poll. Their 2008 ranking was 36th.

Coach Dan Radakovich led the Ramblin' Wreck to the BCS Orange Bowl where they were defeated by the Iowa Hawkeyes.

No. 5
Wisconsin Badgers. 2008 proved difficult for the Badgers and they placed 61st in the final Sagarin poll. Wisconsin jumped back to a top 25 ranking in 2009 coming in at No. 23.

Coach Bret Bielema led his Wisconsin team to a 2009 Champs Sports Bowl Victory over the Miami Hurricanes.

No. 4
Cincinnati Bearcats. The Cincinnati Bearcats reached top 10 status in the Sagarin poll placing No. 9 in 2009.

This is dramatic improvement from a 2008 ranking of 34th.

Coach Brian Kelly led his team to a 12-0 undefeated season before being named head coach at Notre Dame. The Bearcats fell to Florida in the Sugar Bowl 51-24.

No. 3
Mississippi State. Mississippi State improved from 93rd in 2008 to 45th in 2009. In 2009, Mississippi State only produced a 5-7 record.

However, the Bulldogs were competitive in the tough SEC conference and defeated intrastate rival Ole Miss in the 2009 Egg Bowl.

No. 2
Central Michigan. Central Michigan made the top 50 rankings in 2009 coming in at 42nd. This is 54 spots higher than their 96th ranking of 2008.

The Chippewas defeated Big Ten rival Michigan State and prevailed over Troy in the 2009 GMAC Bowl 44-41.

No. 1
Arkansas Razorbacks. The Razorbacks scored highest in the improvement poll jumping from No. 64 in 2008 to No. 19 in 2009. With eight bonus points their total score of 54 ties with Central Michigan. But the Razorbacks get the top spot because of their higher final ranking.

Bobby Petrino led the Razorbacks to an impressive 8-5 record.. They topped East Carolina University 20-17 in the Liberty Bowl.

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