Saturday, October 30, 2010

Week 9: Saturday Predictions

Full predictions after the jump. Justin's picks are in blue, Eddie's are in yellow.

Based on the numbers, Justin expects to get 36.49 of these right (i.e., 36 or 37) and Eddie expects to get 35.82 right. Keep in mind, though, that Eddie has never underperformed his options, and there's no reason to expect this will be any different.

Week 9: Saturday Matchups

Here we are at week 9, and both TFG and RBA have teams that are starting to pull away from the pack. The RBA top 25 has 3 teams that have established themselves as potential front-runners, and the TFG top 25 has four teams that are pulling away. The only two teams that are consensus frontrunners, though, are Alabama (RBA #2, TFG #3) and TCU (consensus #1). The problem with this, though, is that Alabama might not make the SEC title game, much less the national title game, and TCU will have to cross their fingers and hope that everyone else gets one loss before they'll have a realistic shot at the title game. With that in mind, we move on to our games of the week.

Game of the Week
Oklahoma State Cowboys at Kansas State Wildcats.
GUGS Score: 67.7

Eddie:  It seems that the Big XII has declared a moratorium on defense this season, and this game is no exception.  (42) Kansas State is in a hole on both sides of the ball in this game.  The (30) Cowboys have a +1.6 PPH advantage on offense and a +3.8 PPH advantage on defense.  The defensive statistic indicates how incredibly bad Kansas State's defense actually is against decent competition, surrendering 21.9 PPH to Oklahoma State.  Home field keeps it close, but Oklahoma State should escape a 53.3% nail-biter in Manhattan with a 32-31 victory.
Justin: Yes, we are claiming that no-longer-undefeated (31) Oklahoma State at the (51) Kansas State Wildcats is the best game this week. The Cowboys have a solid offense that yields 24.1 PPH, and pairs that with a frantic 177 PPG pace. Their defense allows a respectable 17.1 PPH, but probably looks a lot worse thanks to their pace. Traditional stats actually rate the Wildcats as having a better defense -- 25.9 points/game compared to 30.6 points/game for OKSU -- but TFG knows better. The Wildcats allow 19.7 PPH, but barely get through 161 PPG; this slow pace gives their opponents fewer scoring opportunities. Look for Oklahoma State to pull off the victory in a high-speed, low-defense match that ends with the Cowboys winning, 37-36.

BCS Game of the Week
Oregon Ducks at Southern California Trojans.
GUGS Score: 64.2

Justin: As discussed in TFG's take on the remaining undefeated teams, this will be the last serious test for (7) Oregon. The Ducks visit (17) USC in a game that could determine whether or not Oregon makes it to the national championship game. TFG still isn't sold on Oregon, who are still about 2.0 PPH away from Alabama on either side of the ball. What makes the Ducks offense look good -- and their defense bad -- is their stunning pace. At 183 PPG, Oregon is one of the quickest teams in I-A. USC, however, plays a much more deliberate game but still lacks the offensive firepower or the defensive prowess of Oregon. The Trojans are playing at home, which will give them a slight boost. TFG has this as effectively a coin toss with the Ducks coming out ahead 35-33. It's only 52.9% confident, though, so USC has a reach chance to ride the home field momentum to victory.
Eddie: The (10) USC Trojans are the toughest remaining test for the (3) Oregon Ducks.  Oregon absolutely rocks offensively and should light up the scoreboard all night at 24.1 PPH.  However, the Trojans can play a little offense as well.  The defenses are fairly well matched with Oregon holding a slight 1.7 PPH advantage.  They're playing Los Angeles, so USC has a slightly better chance than otherwise.  RBA is bullish on the Ducks but has historically underestimated the Trojans.  It's going to be high scoring and close as Oregon edges Southern Cal, 32-31, on the road with 72.3% confidence.

BCS Upset Watch of the Week
Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
GUGS Score: 44.7

Eddie: We're really scraping the bottom of the barrel for this one because RBA says it isn't going to be even remotely close.  (47) Notre Dame has a +3.3 PPH offensive advantage and ridiculous 11.2 PPH defensive advantage.  (73) Tulsa has to travel to South Bend, too.  Everything on paper says "blowout."  Notre Dame wins this one by a comfortable margin, 38-21, with 67.3% probability.
Justin: I see Eddie's not too hot on this one; neither am I, nor is GUGS. The (38) Fighting Irish may be on a bit of a slide, but the (60) Golden Hurricane will have a serious uphill battle here. They have a 0.5 PPH advantage on offense against Notre Dame, but are down a whole 4.2 PPH on defense. Add into the mix that Notre Dame is playing at home, and TFG says the Irish are 3-to-1 favorites to win, 36-29.

Kids Table Game of the Week
East Carolina Pirates at University of Central Florida Knights.
GUGS Score: 54.8

Justin: We're back to slightly more respectable matchups now. The (53) Pirates visit the (49) Knights in Florida, and while ECU has a 1.1 PPH advantage on offense, they're down 1.5 PPH on defense and pack in an extra 20 PPG during an average game. Home field advantage will give the Knights an extra boost, which they'll need if they want any breathing room here. TFG says UCF pull it off, 32-29, but only with 63.5% confidence.
Eddie: (56) East Carolina has gotten a lot of visibility here at TFG this season.  The Pirates' offense matches favorably against the Knights' with a +6.0 PPH advantage.  The Knights have a slight +0.7 PPH defensive advantage, but the game is being played in Orlando, giving UCF the opportunity to pull of the upset.  RBA believes that there is a 54.9% chance of that happening. Final score:  UCF 28- ECU 27.

Games you probably wanted us to preview:

Missouri Tigers at Nebraska Cornhuskers.
GUGS Score: 55.5

This isn't expected to be close, but we said that last week about the Missouri/Oklahoma game.

Auburn Tigers at Mississippi Rebels.
GUGS Score: 52.7

Another undefeated team, another seemingly-easy victory. I'm sure Eddie has something to say about this one, though.  [Eddie:  I hope Gus Malzahn lets Cam Newton score 70 on Ole Miss.  Running Malzahn out of Fayetteville was originally and still remains the leading factor in my Houston Nutt rage.]

Friday, October 29, 2010

Week 8: Wrap-Up

Unfortunately Eddie never got a chance to add his thoughts to the mix, but he made up for it by being right in the one game where he and I disagreed. The Game of the Week

Accuracy: 40-11 (78.4%)

The Good: Forty correct is always a good week.  The best pick of the week comes from Jordan-Hare Stadium where Auburn knocked off LSU, much to the disappointment of Justin, since it was the only game we disagreed on this week.
The Bad: Iowa over Wisconsin.  The Hawkeyes had a chance late, but a blocked extra point made all the difference that RBA claimed was a virtual lock at 82.4% confidence.
The Ugly:  Picking Notre Dame over Navy.  The Middies ran all over the Irish en route to a victory that wasn't anywhere as close as it looks on the scoreboard.

Accuracy: 39-12 (76.5%)

The Good: Similar to last week, I managed to get within one game of my expected number of wins for the week. That makes it four weeks out of five.
The Bad: Obviously falling another game behind Eddie is bad, but TFG did say Auburn/LSU was going to be a close one. It'd just be nice to be on the right side of those.
The Ugly: West Virginia losing to Syracuse at home (9.2% likely), Texas losing to Iowa State (7.6% likely), and Bowling Green losing to Kent State (17.3% likely). The odds of getting all three of those wrong was about 1 in 827. That's pretty ugly.

Overall Season Totals
Eddie: 308-87 (78.0%)
Justin: 305-90 (77.2%)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Week 9: Full Rankings -- TFG

Biggest jumps: Hawaii (+16, 71 to 55); Temple (+15, 74 to 59); Louisville (+12, 51 to 39).

Biggest drops: Purdue (-18, 58 to 76); Connecticut (-15, 50 to 65); North Carolina (-13, 19 to 32).

Full rankings after the jump.

Week 9: Top 25 -- TFG

Another week, another mix-up at the top outside of the Tempo-Free Gridiron, and some more shuffling within our rankings.

Rank +/- Team WinPct SoS Off Pts Def Pts Pace
001-- TCU 0.9564 0.4462 27.9 7.5 80.5
002-- Boise St. 0.9278 0.3847 29.9 10.1 81.9
003-- Alabama 0.9187 0.6072 27.7 9.9 78.1
004+1 Ohio St. 0.9128 0.4732 25.9 9.6 80.8
005+1 Florida 0.8663 0.6454 26.9 12.3 78.7
006+2 Virginia Tech 0.8660 0.5415 28.1 12.7 79.3
007+4 Oregon 0.8605 0.5304 25.8 12.0 91.5
008-1 Iowa 0.8605 0.5752 22.8 10.5 81.9
009-5 Oklahoma 0.8558 0.6259 22.5 10.6 91.5
010+3 Utah 0.8481 0.3211 26.8 13.1 82.1
011-1 Nebraska 0.8333 0.5114 24.6 12.5 80.4
012-3 LSU 0.8281 0.6420 23.0 11.8 79.3
013+2 Arizona 0.7916 0.5784 20.4 11.6 82.9
014+7 Miami-FL 0.7905 0.6564 21.8 12.4 85.2
015+1 Auburn 0.7859 0.6057 25.7 14.9 84.5
016+4 Missouri 0.7750 0.5314 22.0 13.0 86.1
017-- USC 0.7737 0.5471 23.1 13.8 83.3
018-6 Texas 0.7682 0.5441 22.6 13.8 83.6
019-1 South Carolina 0.7665 0.6565 21.6 13.1 80.7
020NA Clemson 0.7406 0.5886 19.9 12.6 82.8
021-7 Stanford 0.7354 0.5797 27.4 17.8 81.7
022-- Georgia 0.7329 0.5669 26.2 17.1 76.0
023NA Arkansas 0.7296 0.6523 25.2 16.5 83.1
024-1 Florida St. 0.7282 0.5938 24.2 16.1 81.7
025NA Wisconsin 0.7156 0.5705 25.3 17.1 80.1

New entries: Clemson, Arkansas, Wisconsin.

Dropped out: North Carolina, Cincinnati, West Virginia.

A very clear separation has formed between the top four teams and the rest of the pack. TCU, Boise State, Alabama, and Ohio State are a good 450 points (0.0450) ahead of the rest of the field. Florida, Virginia Tech, Oregon, and Iowa have all settled into effectively a tie for fifth place as potential undefeateds Oklahoma, LSU, and Oklahoma State all lost.

With Alabama's loss and Auburn yet to impress TFG, the SEC is a bit adrift at the top while absolutely packing it in in the middle. Florida's dropping off on both sides of the ball, LSU has an anemic offense, and Auburn is undefeated but still hasn't convinced TFG of its defensive prowess. South Carolina is in neutral after defeating Alabama, Georgia has posted an APB for its defense (and game pace), and Arkansas never really recovered after losing to Alabama.

In other news, Wisconsin is finally getting some love from TFG after defeating Ohio State in Madison and Iowa on the road. Assuming Michigan State loses to Iowa this weekend, we could see a lot of quick research on how the Big 10 handles tiebreakers.

Week 9: Mid-Week Predictions

This week we see a bit of an oddity for a mid-week game: one where Eddie and I disagree about the outcome. North Carolina State hosts Florida State in game both systems expect to be close, but TFG says the Wolfpack wins in a high-scoring affair, whereas RBA thinks it'll be the Seminoles by a field goal.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(2)Boise St.44 (75)LA Tech21 96.8 (9)Boise St.48 (80)LA Tech10 92.0
(35)North Carolina St.36 (24)Florida St.34 51.3 (41)North Carolina St.28 (16)Florida St.31 59.4
(65)Connecticut29 (34)West Virginia31 58.9 (65)Connecticut20 (33)West Virginia27 67.7

Monday, October 25, 2010

Week 9: RBA -- Full Rankings

Full rankings after the jump.

Week 9: RBA -- Top 25

Another week, another high ranked upset, and another RBA top 25.

Rank+/-TeamWinPctSoSOff PtsDef PtsPace
004+3Virginia Tech0.93130.530124.29.079.3
009+1Boise St.0.91450.457527.110.684.7
011+2Ohio St.0.90250.530324.58.579.9
016--Florida St.0.87340.553919.511.883.4
022-7North Carolina0.83840.546919.57.381.8
025+6South Carolina0.82960.543716.69.978.9

New entries:  South Carolina

Dropped out:  Mississippi State

New BCS #1 Auburn is muddling at RBA #15 thanks to an offense that tends to sputter against elite competition (34.7 +/- 19.8 PPH).  RBA expects Auburn to finish the regular season at 10-1, losing to Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium to finish off the season,  Meanwhile, TCU continues to obliterate everyone in their path, notching another outstanding defensive performance, surrendering only 7 points to former #32 Air Force.  This brings TCU's defense to a ridiculous 0.0 +/- 13.0 PPH.  Their toughest remaining test is Utah in two weeks.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Week 8: Saturday Predictions

Full predictions after the jump. Justin's picks are in blue, Eddie's are in yellow.

Week 8: Saturday Matchups

[ Note: Eddie is busy this morning and will try and add his comments later. ]

Last week's Game of the Week lived up to its billing, turning into a 108-point shootout that dropped Arkansas out of the SEC title race, and gave Auburn an over-inflated sense of self. The ECU/NCSU game also turned into a close one, but the Pirates actually managed the upset over the Wolfpack. This week we see some more SEC at the top, ACC in the middle, and high-paced action in the basement.

Game of the Week
LSU Tigers at Auburn Tigers.
GUGS Score: 71.3

Justin: The BCS rankings would have you believe this is a top-10 showdown. TFG knows that the teams aren't quite that good, but it should still make for an excellent game. Both teams have nearly identical offenses, but LSU has a 3.7 PPH advantage on defense. LSU also tends to play a much more deliberate game, averaging less than 160 plays per game (PPG); Auburn, on the other hand, averages a shade over 170. This might not seem like a lot, but when a team averages nearly 25 PPH on offense, those 10 plays could be enough time for a game-winning field goal. In the lone game this week where RBA and TFG disagree, TFG says LSU eeks by Auburn, 33-32, but only with 52.4% certainty.

BCS Game of the Week
North Carolina Tar Heels at Miami Hurricanes.
GUGS Score: 61.3

Justin: Another week, another ACC game. The (19) Tar Heels would be favored over the (21) Hurricanes on a neutral field, but since this is being played in Coral Gables the Hurricanes will get a bit of a boost. UNC has a slight advantage on offense (0.9 PPH) but a slight disadvantage on defense (0.4 PPH). Similar to the SEC Tiger showdown, we're pitting a deliberate team (UNC) against a faster team (Miami), but in this case the advantage goes to the faster-paced home team. Miami 31, UNC 28.

BCS Upset Watch of the Week
Navy Midshipmen at Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
GUGS Score: 58.1

Justin: Technically Notre Dame isn't in a BCS conference, but they managed to get a special exemption to all sorts of BCS eligibility rules so we count them as a BCS team. Why the 34th-ranked team deserves that kind of special treatment, I don't know, but I do know this Fighting Irish team should be able to handle (48) Navy. Both teams have an offense that racks up about 19 PPH, but the Fighting Irish have a 3.1 PPH advantage on the defensive side. A better defense plus home field advantage equals a Notre Dame win, 31-29.

Kids Table Game of the Week
Houston Cougars at Southern Methodist Mustangs.
GUGS Score: 48.8

Justin: The fast-paced (69) Cougars visit the deliberate (70) Mustangs that will showcase as much defense as an All-Star game. Both teams have defenses with efficiencies at 20+ PPH, but offenses not quite that efficient. In other words the defenses will be rolling out the red carpet to make it easier for these teams to score. And even with the Mustangs slowing down the pace a bit, this will be a high-scoring affair. TFG says SMU holds the Cougars off and prevails in a 38-35 barnburner.

Games you probably wanted us to preview:

Oklahoma Sooners at Missouri Tigers.
GUGS Score: 58.3

Not quite as competitive as some other games. This will still be a close one for Oklahoma, as the Sooners only have a 63% chance of winning, but they should be able to pull it off.

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Oklahoma State Cowboys.
GUGS Score: 54.2

Another game that should be good, just not quite as competitive as UNC at Miami.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Undefeated ... but for how long? -- Part II

Two weeks ago we looked in on the 18 teams that had remained undefeated through the first five weeks of play. Two weeks later we're down to 10 teams with a perfect record. Along the way both of the teams conventional wisdom picked to end up in the title game fell on the road. In each case they were heavy favorites, but that's why we play the games. Assuming that the teams in the national title game will be from the ranks of the undefeated, here are the 10 teams that have a shot of pulling off a perfect record.

Note that these odds only take into account scheduled games against known opponents as of today (October 22nd). Conference title games do not factor in here, but we will revisit these odds a few weeks down the road when the picture has cleared up some.

Legitimate Title Contenders

TCU Horned Frogs
Record: 7-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 1.40
Toughest remaining game: November 6, at (13) Utah.
Appropriately enough, the top team in the TFG rankings has the easiest path to the title game. Taking into account game from the last two weeks, the (1) Horned Frogs are now the favorite to end up 12-0 by November 27th. Their last difficult game of the year will be in two weeks, but that's saying much; TFG says the Horned Frogs are still 4-to-1 favorites when they visit (13) Utah. Outside of the game in Salt Lake, TCU is 94.7-99.5% likely to win each of their remaining games. Hint: their game at (117) New Mexico on November 27th won't be too exciting.

Boise State Broncos
Record: 6-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 1.45
Toughest remaining game: November 26, at (43) Nevada.
Even more appropriately, the second-most likely team to finish the season undefeated is the second-ranked team. Boise State is actually starting to get respect from the national sports media, but will it be enough to get them into the title game? They have an even easier road to the end of the year with only (43) Nevada standing in their way. Virginia Tech is starting to recover from their inexcusable faceplant against JMU, but (29) Oregon State didn't do the Broncos any favors by blowing a 2-point conversion in double-overtime. Outside of these two teams, the Broncos don't play anyone in the top half of the I-A ranks.

Oklahoma Sooners
Record: 6-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 3.39
Tougest remaining game: October 23, at (20) Missouri.
The (4) Sooners are a big step down from TCU and Boise, in the eyes of TFG. In fact, the gap between (2) Boise State and the Sooners is as large as the gap between Oklahoma and the (10) Nebraska Cornhuskers. This weekend represents their biggest challenge, a road game against a Missouri team that keeps climbing in our rankings. After this, though, it gets slightly easier; (33) Oklahoma State, and (52) Texas A&M have each faltered in the last two weeks, greatly improving Oklahoma's odds of reaching the end of the regular season undefeated. These odds, however, don't take into account the Big XII title game, a likely showdown between the Sooners and (10) Nebraska. The current conventional wisdom has an Oklahoma/Oregon national title game, but don't book your tickets just yet, Sooner and Duck fans. TFG says the odds of that are about 1 in 44, because ....

Second-Tier Hopefuls

Oregon Ducks
Record: 7-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 7.58
Toughest remaining game: October 30, vs (17) Southern California.
The (11) Ducks have slid in the eyes of TFG, even as they've demolished their opponents by 20+ points and climbed to the top of the BCS rankings. Once again, it's their speed that is somewhat deceptive; at over 180 plays per game (PPG), the Ducks run through a game about 15% more quickly than your standard 160 PPG contest. Oregon's defensive stats took a hit since they entered Pac-10 play, but their 1.3 PPH drop-off is in line with other top teams who have gone from playing cupcakes to playing more equal competition. Oregon has the misfortune to face most of their best competition --  (17) USC, (29) Oregon State, and (35) California -- on the road. They get (15) Arizona at home, but none of these games are what TFG considers a lock; in fact, they're not even 70% certain to win any of them. On the flip side, the Ducks have the added bonus of not playing in a conference with a title game, meaning if they can win out the rest of their regular season games, they'll be set come December 5th.

LSU Tigers
Record: 7-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 8.95
Toughest remaining game: November 6, vs (3) Alabama.
The (8) Tigers Exhibit 'A' in how quickly the press can change its tune about a team. Two weeks ago LSU was getting no respect, but after Alabama loses and the Tigers beat Florida -- a game in which LSU had a 30% chance of winning, and needed some iffy calls to help them -- now all of a sudden LSU is seen as a juggernaut. TFG sees the Tigers as a team that have improved about 1.4 PPH on offense and remained about the same on defense over that span, but still clearly a second-tier team. TFG says they get either 3 or 4 of their final games to finish 10-2 (more likely) or 11-1 (less likely).

Long Shots

Now we've come to the section where these teams could theoretically go undefeated, but in order for them to actually get into the National Championship game (or even one of the BCS bowls) it will take a bit of luck.

Utah Utes
Record: 6-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 18.6
Toughest remaining game: November 6, vs (1) TCU.
The (13) Utes are the second-best team in the Mountain West, but will have to face (1) TCU, (40) Air Force, and (36) Notre Dame all on the road over a three-weekend span. Their odds of getting two out of those three have shrunk considerably, and TFG says this solid top-15 team finishes the season 10-2.

Auburn Tigers
Record: 7-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 26.8
Toughest remaining game: November 26, at (3) Alabama.
The (17) Tigers rose in everyone's polls when they beat (31) Arkansas, but everyone seems to be forgetting that the Tigers gave up 40-some points to a Razorback squad lead mainly by their freshman backup quarterback. Their next three games are going to be real nailbiters, with neither side favored by more than 60%. That's even before we get to their season finale against (3) Alabama, where the Tigers are 3-to-1 underdogs. TFG says the Tigers finish 8-3 (more likely) or 9-2 (less likely) and the press is left scratching their heads as to what went wrong. The real answer will be that nothing went wrong, they just came back to earth.

Michigan State Spartans
Record: 7-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 31.6
Toughest remaining game: October 30, at (4) Iowa.
The (28) Spartans have been one of the primary beneficiaries of (30) Penn State's demise, as their shot of going undefeated is primarily in the hands of (4) Iowa. I say "primarily", because the Penn State game is still slated to be a coin toss, and even their road game against (63) Northwestern could be a close one. This is not a top-10 team, but because they've got the 0 in the 'L' column they get favorable coverage from the press.

Missouri Tigers
Record: 6-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 37.1
Toughest remaining game: October 30, at (10) Nebraska.
The (29) Tigers go on the road against (10) Nebraska and (41) Texas Tech, while hosting (4) Oklahoma. Throw in some other close games, and with a lucky bounce this Missouri squad will finish at either 9-3 (more likely) or 10-2 (less likely).

Oklahoma State Cowboys
Record: 6-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 141
Toughest remaining game: November 27, vs (4) Oklahoma.
Another Big XII team, another team to run the (10) Nebraska and (4) Oklahoma gauntlet, another team to finish 9-3. The (26) Cowboys are good, but they've got a rough road ahead of them.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Week 8: Mid-Week Predictions

With both Alabama and Ohio State no longer among the ranks of the winless, Oregon steps up as a new National Championship contender. TFG and RBA are split on just how good the Ducks actually are, but we're unified in believing that they're going to blow out UCLA. Oregon has really impressed Eddie, as his RBA has them at number three; my TFG is much more pessimistic, thinking a good chunk of the Ducks' offense is due to their frantic pace. The Cincinnati/USF game tomorrow looks to be more interesting, but that's not saying much.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(11)Oregon39 (63)UCLA24 90.3 (3)Oregon38 (50)UCLA17 82.7
(24)Cincinnati33 (62)South Florida24 81.1 (40)Cincinnati34 (65)South Florida17 69.2

LSU: The 9th Luckiest Team in the Country

Let's face it.  LSU has had some incredible bounces go their way in recent years.  Whether it's bombing away without enough time left, Tennessee forgetting to count, or getting a favorable review on a fake field goal, things have a way of working out for the Tigers.  While I'm certain that LSU's coaching staff has made a pact with Satan himself, it seems that some teams are just lucky.

With this in mind, I thought I would crunch some numbers and see exactly how lucky the Tigers are. I elected to borrow the system that Ken Pomeroy uses for computing luck in his basketball rankings.  His luck metrics use the difference between the expected number of wins and actual number of wins to identify teams that win games they aren't supposed to win and teams that lose games they are supposed win.  Your top 5 charmed teams since 2000:

Boise State11.07
Ohio State10.66
Southern Cal9.18

All those journalism grads now have something to hang their hats on.  RBA expected the Wildcats to go 51-71 over a ten-year interval, although they actually went 62-60.  Boise State also consistently brings their A-game against tougher opponents to vault themselves into the national discussion.  To this day, RBA still only ranks them at #10.

Ohio State, Texas, and USC have something in common other than national titles (well, I guess USC can't claim that anymore).  Each team was brought back from the dead by their coaches in the early part of the decade.  Ohio State hired Jim Tressel in 2001 and took a 7-5 team to 14-0 en route the 2002 national title.  USC hired Pete Carroll and Reggie Bush, recruited a string of dominant players, and scorched everything in their path for years.  Texas hired Mack Brown, recruited Vince Young, and went on a tear.  Although all these teams would eventually be heavily favored in many of their games, the number of victories they achieved on their upswing skew the results in their favor.

LSU isn't in the top five, so what's the deal?  People tend to forget all about the clock management issues and overtime experiences that lucky teams tend to experience along the way.  LSU comes in ninth with a luck of 6.89 because so many of those ridiculous comebacks are marked by subtle screw-ups along the way.  Some teams just can't help themselves, though.  Your top 5 cursed teams since 2000:

New Mexico State-12.42

This list is littered with the corpses of coaches and nerds.  Not only does Duke suck -- they're unlucky, too.  Minnesota fired Glen Mason and Tim Brewster for being unable to get over the hump, but maybe the guys were simply unlucky.  Most teams in the bottom 25 are whipping boys, suggesting that unlucky teams may just be bad football teams that choke under pressure.

Based on this data, good teams tend to be lucky, and bad teams tend to be unlucky.  We probably shouldn't be surprised that some of the teams creeping into the top 15 are extremely lucky.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Week 8: Full Rankings -- TFG

Biggest jumps: Kansas State (+16, 62 to 46); Northern Illinois (+11, 68 to 57); North Carolina (+9, 28 to 19); East Carolina (+9, 64 to 55); Purdue (+9, 67 to 58).

Biggest drops: California (-16, 19 to 35); Houston (-13, 56 to 69); South Florida (-10, 52 to 62); Vanderbilt (-10, 78 to 88).

Full rankings after the jump.

Week 8: Top 25 -- TFG

The top team solidifies its hold on the #1 spot, a slew of teams fall in Expected Win Percent (EWP) but stay put in the rankings thanks to other teams falling even faster, and a clear top three emerge.

Rank +/- Team WinPct SoS Off Pts Def Pts Pace
001-- TCU 0.9502 0.4429 26.7 7.6 81.3
002+1 Boise St. 0.9245 0.3745 29.3 10.1 82.1
003-1 Alabama 0.9173 0.6186 27.3 9.8 78.0
004+6 Oklahoma 0.8870 0.6270 23.2 9.7 91.4
005-1 Ohio St. 0.8808 0.4668 24.4 10.5 81.2
006-- Florida 0.8720 0.6508 27.2 12.2 79.1
007-2 Iowa 0.8684 0.5419 22.2 9.9 81.9
008-1 Virginia Tech 0.8563 0.5758 28.2 13.2 79.4
009-- LSU 0.8561 0.6394 24.0 11.3 79.6
010-2 Nebraska 0.8511 0.4966 24.0 11.5 80.3
011-- Oregon 0.8472 0.5535 25.3 12.3 91.8
012+1 Texas 0.8119 0.5716 24.2 13.1 83.1
013-1 Utah 0.8075 0.3240 25.7 14.2 82.3
014+1 Stanford 0.7930 0.6369 28.8 16.3 81.9
015-1 Arizona 0.7735 0.5852 20.2 12.0 82.9
016+1 Auburn 0.7710 0.5809 25.3 15.2 85.0
017+5 USC 0.7680 0.5496 23.2 14.0 83.2
018-2 South Carolina 0.7587 0.6883 22.6 13.9 79.8
019NA North Carolina 0.7429 0.6132 21.4 13.5 80.0
020+4 Missouri 0.7414 0.4813 20.3 12.9 86.3
021-- Miami-FL 0.7410 0.6405 20.5 13.1 85.9
022NA Georgia 0.7388 0.5762 25.3 16.4 76.5
023-3 Florida St. 0.7249 0.5979 24.3 16.3 81.5
024-1 Cincinnati 0.7224 0.5565 22.1 14.8 84.9
025NA West Virginia 0.7146 0.5001 19.9 13.5 81.8

New entries: North Carolina, Georgia, West Virginia.

Dropped out: Arkansas, Oregon State, California.

TCU stomped a hapless BYU team to further solidify their hold on the top spot. And before anyone brings up the strength of schedule argument, TFG says the schedule the Horned Frogs have played so far is on par with that played by (5) Ohio State, and I'm not sure anyone would accuse the Buckeyes of sandbagging it. Boise State continues to dismantle every opponent they face, but in the end the question will be whether or not that's enough. Even after their loss to South Carolina, (3) Alabama remains a formidable opponent; TFG still tips them as the best team in the SEC, even with that one entry in the loss column.

If one were to only go by the rankings and not the EWP, you might notice some odd results. Florida loses to barely-top-40 Mississippi State yet doesn't drop? Iowa wins by 10 on the road but slips two spots? Virginia Tech wins by 30+, but (a) drops one spot, and (b) is still in the top 10 after losing to JMU at home? How does all of that work?

This is where looking at the EWP of a team and not just their rank comes in handy. Yes, (6) Florida lost to (37) Mississippi State, but did hold the Bulldogs to 10 points and, as such, get credit for defensive prowess. Their offense, however, takes a hit and the overall effect is a week-to-week net EWP of nearly -0.0100 (a noticeable shift). (7) Iowa rings up 38 on (40) Michigan on the road, but the truth of the matter is that the Hawkeyes allowed Michigan to score 28; their top-tier defense should have held the Wolverines to 24 or even 21, and as a result their net EWP is around -0.0230. The (8) Hokies allowed (78) Wake Forest to score 21 points on them; this drops their EWP by about 0.0090 and their ranking one spot.

In other news, the first BCS rankings are out and your top three teams are Oklahoma, Oregon, and Boise State. TFG is a big fan of (4) Oklahoma, although they're admittedly in the first row of the second section. TFG is significantly less sold on the (11) Ducks, though. Oregon plays fast -- over 180 plays per game (PPG) -- a fact that tends to get lost in the noise. It's a big-stage version of what happened to Houston last year. The Cougars combined a quick pace with a solid-but-not-spectacular offense and rung up boatloads of points on their opponents. This combination worked well until they got paired against one of the worst possible opponents in their bowl game: a low-speed, highly efficient Air Force defense that exposed them. You could even draw parallels between this year's Oregon team and last year's; those Ducks played fast and relatively efficiently, but got overwhelmed by a deliberate and efficient Ohio State defense in the Rose Bowl. The most likely candidate to do that in the regular season is (17) USC with a 14.0 PPH defense and a 166 PPG pace; the game is in LA, too, which means a slight boost for the Trojan defense.

In the meantime, we'll be here to look under the hood and give you the low-down on the actual strengths and weaknesses of the top contenders.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Week 7: Wrap-Up

Another week, another top-ranked team falters, and the pool of undefeateds shrinks. I'll update my previous rundown of undefeated teams later this week, but for now let's look back on the week that was.

Accuracy: 40-14 (74.1%)

The Good: Overall accuracy is slipping as the games in general become more competitive, but my sense of how accurate I should be remains steady. This past week the computers said I should expect to get 40.12 out of 54 right, and I got 40 out of 54. Last week I was expected to get 39.04 right, and I got 39 right. I am where I expect to be, and that's reassuring.
The Bad: I still feel there are some fundamental issues with how I'm taking strengths of the teams and converting them to predicted scores. Even though I'm doing well on predicting the winners, my sense of final scores is atrocious.
The Ugly: I'm still behind Eddie for the season. Although this week was another step forward as I've closed the gap to two games. A lot can happen over the course of the season, though.

Accuracy: 39-15 (72.2%)

The Good: One of co-workers likes to question the validity of our systems by asking, "How does it compare to always picking the higher ranked team?"  With that in mind, I find it particularly fitting that this week's highlight is picking Washington to upset his Oregon State Beavers with 50.3% confidence.  The game was settled in 2OT with the Beavers missing a gutsy two-point conversion.  Predicted margin of victory:  One point.  Going along with Justin's comment, RBA has predicted 73.30% of its games correctly since 2000 and expected to get 73.30% correct, suggesting that maybe it has a pretty good idea what's going on in the college football world.
The Bad: Let's give credit where it's due.  Oklahoma State exceeded expectations and unloaded on Texas Tech.  The Cowboys might actually be pretty respectable, despite what some people might think.
The Ugly: Picking Nevada over Hawaii in Honolulu cost me 12 points in the TFD pick'em, marking the second time in three weeks that RBA has pulled the rug out from under me with the big money pick of the week.  I'm still holding down the fort in third place despite sporting the best record in the league for the season (41-19).

Overall Season Totals
Eddie: 268-66 (77.9%)
Justin: 266-68 (77.3%)

Week 8: Full Rankings -- RBA

Full rankings after the jump.

Week 8: Top 25 -- RBA

After a weekend of upsets, RBA has a new #1 team, the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs.  I take a bit of laugh that (for once) all the computers overrate Oklahoma while Justin and I don't.

Rank+/-TeamWinPctSoSOff PtsDef PtsPace
007+3Virginia Tech0.94440.533023.89.479.3
010-2Boise St.0.93160.457327.110.684.7
013-6Ohio St.0.89730.530923.79.479.9
015+10North Carolina0.88050.545418.87.981.9
016-3Florida St.0.87390.553719.511.883.4
021+5Mississippi St.0.79830.562821.110.180.8

New entries:  Georgia, Mississippi State, Clemson, Missouri

Dropped out:  Arkansas, Nevada, South Carolina, Air Force

TCU has risen to the top of the RBA rankings thanks to dominating defensive performances.  The Horned Frogs have surrendered only a field goal in their last three games, driving their defensive efficiency numbers into elite territory.  If they played today, their defensive efficiency against Alabama would be 12.9 PPH, and they would surrender less than a 7.0 PPH to 43 different teams.  An interesting storyline for the rest of the season will be if they can keep up this torrid pace while still maintaining an offense in the mid-20s.

Oklahoma is also on the move this week, jumping 0.03 EWP and eight spots in the poll.  Although Iowa State isn't exactly a powerhouse, the shutout lowered the Sooners' defensive efficiency by 5.1 PPH and variance by 4.7 PPH.  With an offensive efficiency of 28.5 +/- 15.4 PPH, RBA is pretty confident that Oklahoma can play both sides of the ball.

A notable omission from the top 15 -- Auburn.  Don't get me wrong; the 65 point outburst on my Razorbacks was certainly impressive.  However, RBA doesn't think very highly of Arkansas, either, and one offensive explosion doesn't wash away a season's worth of average performances.  Auburn's offense shows up at 36.5 +/- 25.8 PPH, which is very good but underperforms Stanford, Oregon, and Oklahoma against top competition.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Week 7: Saturday Predictions

Full predictions after the jump. Justin's picks are in blue, Eddie's are in yellow.

Week 7: Saturday Matchups

Last week's Game of the Week ended up coming down to a desperate Pitt drive that came up short against Notre Dame, with a similar situation in the Clemson/UNC game. Both ended up coming down to the favorite making a late drive that burned just enough clock to prevent a potential comeback. This week's GOTW should, by all metrics, be a better game than any of the ones we saw last week.

Arkansas Razorbacks at Auburn Tigers.
GUGS Score: 70.6

Justin: TFG has the (17) Tigers and (18) Razorbacks only three ten-thousandths apart in EWP, with the Tigers being 0.1 PPH better on offense and 0.1 PPH worse on offense. Given how close their EWPs are, those are each probably a rounding error. This is one of those games where there's really not much to be gained, but everything to be lost. A Razorback loss will plunge them effectively out of the SEC title race, whereas an Auburn loss will drop them to one loss, but with Arkansas holding the tiebreaker and the Alabama game on the horizon. These teams are each in the top 20 on both sides of the ball, so expect a close and hard-fought game. TFG says home field advantage tips this one to the Tigers, though, in a 35-31 victory.
Eddie:  RBA also thinks this one is going to be an incredibly tight game between two top 25 teams.  (19) Arkansas actually has the advantage on both sides of the ball because they have demonstrated consistency against a variety of opponent strengths.  The Razorbacks hold a 0.6 PPH offensive advantage and a 0.6 PPH defensive advantage.  (22) Auburn has home field on their side, which makes all the difference.  RBA predicts an Auburn victory, 28-24, with only 51.3% confidence.  This Hog fan is hoping for a mistake here.

BCS Game of the Week
Oklahoma State Cowboys at Texas Tech Red Raiders.
GUGS Score: 66.3

Eddie: (33) Texas Tech is the toughest test to date for (32) Oklahoma State.  This game will certainly be exciting because Oklahoma State's 17.0 PPH is only marginally better than Texas Tech's 16.9 PPH.  However, it's tricky to figure out the accuracy of the Cowboy's offensive efficiency.  The defensive efficiency of their opponents are 26.3 PPH, 23.3 PPH, 26.3 PPH, 18.1 PPH, and 28.4 PPH.  On one hand, this could be due to the butt whoopin' the Cowboys offense laid on them.  On the other hand, the Cowboy offense could be a total fraud by laying the law down on terrible defenses.  Texas Tech is a bit easier to estimate because they played at least one good opponent.  We're about to find out if the Cowboys really mean business.  RBA isn't optimistic, picking the Red Raiders 34-28 with 53.6% confidence.
Justin: The (32) Cowboys visit the (39) Red Raiders in a game that will have north of 190 plays and nearly 80 points of offense. Neither team has a particularly excellent offense -- 23.4 PPH and 22.4 PPH, respectively -- or an atrocious defense -- 17.4 PPH and 17.2 PPH -- but both teams play at lightning speed and have just enough advantage on offense to make this one interesting. The Cowboys are undefeated but haven't played anyone of note. The Red Raiders have a loss to a floundering (13) Texas squad and an inexplicable loss to (72) Iowa State. They'll need a good showing against Oklahoma State in order to show that they can succeed without Mike Leach, and TFG says they'll get it in the form of a 39-36 victory.

BCS Upset Watch of the Week
North Carolina State Wolfpack at East Carolina Pirates.
GUGS Score: 56.4

Justin: Unfortunately we're in the part of the season where the AQ teams have given up on playing good non-AQ teams, so the pickings are slim. The next best BCS Upset Watch game after this one is (88) Army at (49) Rutgers, which TFG says breaks 3-to-1 in Rutgers' favor. No, instead we have (37) North Carolina State visiting the (64) Pirates. The Wolfpack have a top-25 offense that rings up 23.1 PPH, but a middle-50 defense that allows 18.1 PPH. ECU, on the other hand, is close to the very definition of a middle-of-the-road team; 19.5 PPH on offense, and 19.9 PPH on defense. They'll get a slight boost from playing at home, but TFG expects this close game to shake out in favor of the Wolfpack in the form of a 37-35 win.
Eddie: Another week, another ACC upset watch. RBA isn't sure why this game is here because it doesn't look that interesting.  (38) NC State has a consistent offense that varies only 13.2 PPH and a respectable defense that should hold the line at 14.9 PPH. (67) East Carolina has home field advantage, but a 4.7 PPH disadvantage.  RBA says this one isn't really that close with the Wolfpack pulling of a 34-28 victory with 67.2% probability.

Kids Table Game of the Week
Idaho Vandals at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
GUGS Score: 48.0

Eddie:  This is going to be the closest game that nobody watches.  (86) Idaho holds a 2.8 PPH offensive advantage over (85) Louisiana Tech, but the Bulldogs have a whopping 5.4 PPH defensive advantage.  The game is being played over 2,000 miles away from Moscow, so that only emphasizes the difference between the two teams' efficiencies.  RBA isn't very confident about it (51.7%), but if things fall according to plan, the Bulldogs should have themselves a 31-24 victory.
Justin: The (82) Vandals visit the (83) Bulldogs in a display of contrasting styles. The Idaho has managed to stay out of the cellar thanks to an offense that rings up 19.0 PPH, but can't climb any higher thanks to a defense that allows 23.7 PPH. Louisiana Tech, however, sports a respectable defense that only allows 17.6 PPH -- compare that to (32) Oklahoma State and their 17.4 PPH defense -- but an absolutely horrendous offense that only manages 13.9 PPH. The real question that will decide this game will be how the Bulldogs' offense manages against Idaho's porous defense. TFG says just well enough to give the Bulldogs a 35-31 victory at home.

Games you probably wanted us to preview:

South Carolina Gamecocks at Kentucky Wildcats
GUGS Score: 59.8

Both TFG and RBA like this game, but just not enough. Both give South Carolina a 60-ish percent chance of winning, which is actually much lower than what the press (and Vegas) predicts. Beating the (1) team has that effect on your rankings and your perceptions, even if one game ultimately doesn't mean that much, rankings-wise.

California Golden Bears at Southern California Trojans.
GUGS Score: 59.5

Both of our systems are relatively certain that USC is going to take this one, but expect it to be somewhat low-scoring. Under GUGS:TNG, this combination of relative certainty and low score means it doesn't make the cut.

Texas Longhorns at Nebraska Cornhuskers.
GUGS Score: 53.5

Up until a few weeks ago this was slated to be one of the games of the year. As it stands now, though, Texas has fallen too far and Nebraska has gotten too good to make this enough of a contest to catch our attention. Besides, doesn't ESPN have this one pretty well-covered?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Week 7: Mid-Week Predictions

Four early games this week, and for once Eddie and I are in complete agreement. Even where we disagree -- such as whether Cincinnati is a top-25 team or barely top-50 -- we agree to within 0.2% over the Bearcats' odds of winning on the road. The closest games looks to be the Kansas/Kansas State matchup, with both systems calling it a one-point game in favor of the Wildcats. Once again, though, the real action will be Saturday.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(93)Marshall26 (55)UCF30 65.0 (95)Marshall20 (71)UCF31 72.2
(81)Kansas33 (62)Kansas St.34 52.6 (74)Kansas27 (57)Kansas St.28 62.1
(27)West Virginia30 (52)South Florida24 74.3 (29)West Virginia34 (68)South Florida17 72.7
(54)Louisville29 (23)Cincinnati32 61.4 (59)Louisville24 (43)Cincinnati31 61.6

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Week 7: Full Rankings -- TFG

Biggest jumps: Louisville (+22, 76 to 54); Illinois (+17, 62 to 45); UCF (+14, 69 to 55).

Biggest drops: Air Force (-15, 24 to 39); Tennessee (-13, 47 to 60); UCLA (-13, 53 to 66).

Full rankings after the jump.

Week 7: Top 25 -- TFG

This week we shed five previously-undefeated team, a team in a tailspin continues to plummet to earth, and a single game is responsible for one of the largest shake-ups we've seen this year.

Rank +/- Team WinPct SoS Off Pts Def Pts Pace
001+1 TCU 0.9455 0.4332 27.2 8.1 81.2
002-1 Alabama 0.9200 0.6298 28.2 10.0 78.1
003-- Boise St. 0.9094 0.4103 29.5 11.1 82.2
004+1 Ohio St. 0.9034 0.4439 25.1 9.7 81.5
005-1 Iowa 0.8911 0.5491 22.0 9.0 81.6
006-- Florida 0.8817 0.6489 29.2 12.5 78.8
007+1 Virginia Tech 0.8655 0.5906 27.2 12.3 79.9
008+2 Nebraska 0.8597 0.4497 24.4 11.4 80.8
009+2 LSU 0.8554 0.6432 23.6 11.1 79.8
010-1 Oklahoma 0.8529 0.6544 22.5 10.8 91.5
011-4 Oregon 0.8495 0.5508 25.1 12.1 91.8
012+3 Utah 0.8104 0.3644 25.8 14.1 83.3
013-1 Texas 0.7935 0.5329 24.0 13.7 82.9
014-1 Arizona 0.7896 0.6559 21.5 12.4 83.3
015+1 Stanford 0.7846 0.6292 28.5 16.5 81.9
016NA South Carolina 0.7712 0.6987 22.6 13.4 79.7
017+2 Auburn 0.7549 0.5557 23.2 14.5 85.1
018-- Arkansas 0.7546 0.6327 23.1 14.4 83.1
019+2 California 0.7513 0.6103 21.5 13.4 84.1
020+3 Florida St. 0.7445 0.6155 24.3 15.6 82.1
021-4 Miami-FL 0.7411 0.6841 21.5 13.7 85.0
022-2 USC 0.7312 0.5389 21.8 14.3 83.4
023NA Cincinnati 0.7241 0.5476 20.9 14.0 85.9
024NA Missouri 0.7209 0.4693 20.2 13.4 86.7
025NA Oregon St. 0.7163 0.7184 24.2 16.4 84.7

New entries: South Carolina, Cincinnati, Missouri, Oregon State.

Dropped out: Penn State, Clemson, Oklahoma State, Air Force.

The biggest story here is clearly the South Carolina/Alabama game, which not only reshaped the national title discussion, but shook up the statistics as well. Alabama dropped 0.030 in EWP, while South Carolina jumped a staggering 0.089. The Gamecocks' offensive efficiency jumped a nearly unheard-of 3.6 PPH, which is what will happen when you hang 35 points on Alabama in a mere 141 plays, an offensive efficiency of 24.8 PPH against what had been the best defense in college football. On top of that, this game wasn't just slow, it was glacial. I had to go back and check the box score myself to make sure my computer program hadn't misread the data from the NCAA's website. South Carolina scored 35 points on a mere 57 plays from scrimmage. To say that this was a deliberate dismantling of the Crimson Tide would be an understatement. The question now is whether this was a fluke occurrence, or is this a situation similar to USC of last year where once Oregon State laid the blueprints on how to defeat them, the rest of the nation took notes and followed suit?

Cincinnati and Missouri sneak into the top 25 on the basis of beating up hapless opponents, whereas Oregon State -- cheered on by their #1 fans, Boise State -- goes to Arizona and sneaks past the Wildcats. the Beavers have now played both new top team TCU in addition to (3) Boise, and had a tougher time with Boise. My computer disagrees with this logic, but it's something that the human voters will (or should) notice.

Quick notes:

  • Oregon wins but in unimpressive fashion and drops 4 spots as a result of a poor defensive showing.
  • Florida State dismantles Miami on both sides of the ball and leapfrogs them.
  • USC hangs with Stanford and improves their EWP, but gets passed by FSU and "the other" USC.
  • Texas continues their slow drift southward in the polls.
  • Penn State continues their swan dive, dropping 19 points over two weeks.

It'll be interesting to see what happens in the SEC. Both Auburn and LSU remain undefeated, with LSU as the team with a better chance of remaining undefeated. Alabama is still the best team in the SEC, and Arkansas and Auburn present serious challenges. The likely scenario involves the SEC getting frozen out of the national championship game this year, and that could be the one thing the voters and the computers actually agree on.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Week 7: Full rankings -- RBA

Full rankings after the jump.

Week 7: Top 25 -- RBA

Week 7 brings the debut of the new RBA top 25 system.  Previous weeks have sorted the teams by expected win percentage based on Pythagorean expectations.  The problem with this system is that RBA requires the opponent strength as an input to this computation, which is computed from the output of this computation.  I could try to develop an iterative computation that converges on a solution.  However, most people think of a top 25 as an ordering of teams where higher ranked teams would beat lower ranked teams, so I decided to have all 120 teams play a round robin series on a neutral field and sort them based upon their winning percentages.  With this in mind, I present the new RBA top 25 output.

Rank+/-TeamWinPctSoSOff PtsDef PtsPace
007+1Ohio St.0.93970.529324.18.479.9
008+2Boise St.0.93420.458727.410.984.8
010-1Virginia Tech0.92540.533722.99.379.3
013+2Florida St.0.89610.554121.311.783.5
023+2South Carolina0.83640.547517.410.478.8
024-3Air Force0.81060.473917.611.182.4
025+1North Carolina0.80260.546116.88.981.9

New entries:  North Carolina

Dropped out:  Oklahoma State

Although losers at South Carolina, Alabama remains the #1 team in RBA's rankings thanks to their consistent defensive performance.  Even against a 1.000 opponent, Alabama should surrender only 11.3 PPH.  This week, we see Nebraska rise to #2 in the RBA poll thanks to an offense that keeps getting  better every week (admittedly against somewhat inferior competition).  We should learn a lot more about their performance against quality competition this week when they face Texas.

Week 6: Wrap-Up

By week 6, everyone has hit conference play, so the competition gets tougher and games become harder to predict, as evidenced by the huge drop-off in accuracy this week.  The upsets start to mount as the stress of the season wears on and teams start slipping due to injury.  Expect percentages to hover in the middle to low 70s for the remainder of the season.

Accuracy:  39-16 (70.9%)

The Good:  Overall, this win percentage was very good relative to other computer algorithms, which also had difficulties predicting the upsets.  Among the 58 prediction algorithms at PredictionTracker, RBA finished 5th in week 6.
The Bad:  Missing 16 predictions implies that the algorithm needs a separate system to analyze conference games versus non-conference games.
The Ugly:  Toss-up between Penn State-Illinois and Miami-Florida State.  Penn State has had an atrocious offense all year, but they remain highly ranked.  On the other hand, Florida State has actually looked pretty good with the exception of the Oklahoma game and are likely underrated by RBA.

Accuracy:  40-15 (72.7%)

The Good: Finally starting to make up some ground on Eddie, and tied for second place for the week on the prediction tracker.
The Bad: Despite an up week, I'm still a bit disappointed in how I've done overall. I suppose getting nearly 78% correct for the year is nothing to really laugh at, but I just feel there's a lot more that can be done to improve the system. I have some ideas, but just lack the time to implement them, which is all the more frustrating. I disagree with Eddie, though, that a separate system is necessary to handle conference play.
The Ugly: I'm not sure if it's being 85.3% certain that Penn State was going to beat Illinois (whoops) or 85.9% certain that Alabama was going to beat South Carolina. To be fair, rarely has one team seen such a tremendous drop on one side of the ball. At this point last year Penn State had an offensive efficiency of 23.6 PPH, compared to 16.7 PPH this year. To put that in perspective Penn State's defense is the equivalent of Nebraska's but their offense is struggling to stay ahead of Iowa State. To say the bottom has dropped out would be unfair to things for which the bottom has actually dropped out.

Overall Season Totals
Eddie: 229-61 (79.0%)
Justin: 226-64 (77.9%)

These predictions currently put us ahead of two of the BCS computers (Billingsley and Sagarin).  Eddie is only one game behind another (Massey).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Week 6: Saturday Predictions

I just realized that we forgot to post full predictions for Saturday games last week. Well don't worry, it won't happen again.

Full predictions after the jump. Justin's picks are in blue, Eddie's are in yellow.

Week 6: Saturday Matchups

Once again our Game of the Week delivered, as the Texas/Oklahoma game came down to the closing seconds. Clemson/Miami turned into another ACC stalemate, Air Force/Navy was a defensive showdown, and UNC proved that they're the best football program in the state of North Carolina.

With that, on to this week's picks.

Game of the Week
Pittsburgh Panthers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
GUGS Score: 66.8

Eddie: (27) Notre Dame are a bunch of 2-3 frauds with a traitorous head coach and pussy mascot.  At least, that's what I'm sure everyone's thinking.  The Irish aren't that efficient against good teams at 13.9 PPH and have a sketchy defense at 17.0 PPH.  However, (33) Pittsburgh isn't any better at 12.0 PPH and 17.0 PPH, respectively.  Expect some missed tackles to go along with a 28-21 Notre Dame victory.  At least RBA is only 54.1% confident you'll have to see that fucking leprechaun dance around when it's all said and done.
Justin: Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any quality games that are both competitive and have top-notch talent, so your GUGS Game of the Week (by default) is (30) Pitt at (35) Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are really relying home field advantage here, because they're certainly not getting a boost from their underpowered offense (18.1 PPH), although their defense allows a respectible 14.2 PPH. On the other side, Pitt has a relatively high-powered offense, on par with (13) Arizona or (10) Nebraska. Their defense is a bit suspect, though, and TFG thinks that suspect Panther defense plus home field advantage equals a 32-31 Notre Dame win.

BCS Game of the Week
Clemson Tigers at North Carolina Tar Heels.
GUGS Score: 66.6

Justin: I know Eddie's not happy about this pick, but he's welcome to come up with his own system. We've got two top-30 teams facing off, trying to get their first conference wins. Granted this will be a defense-oriented game, but Clemson has produced some good nailbiters. TFG says they don't pull off this one, though, falling to the Tar Heels, 30-29.
Eddie: You've got to be kidding me.  This is the 3rd straight week with a (22) UNC matchup.  If GUGS spits out UNC next week, I'm going to suggest we kick it to the curb.  What can I say this week that hasn't been said so far?  UNC expects 15.0 PPH of offense and 15.0 PPH defense.  (30) Clemson sports a similar offensive and defensive balance at 14.6 PPH and 15.7 PPH, respectively.  UNC has an advantage in both efficiencies and home field advantage.  RBA picks UNC 28-24 with 57.8% confidence.

BCS Upset Watch of the Week
Navy Midshipmen at Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
GUGS Score: 57.0

Eddie: On one side of the coin, you have the same (45) Demon Deacons that gave up 62 to Stanford.  On the other, you have the (55) Midshipmen that lost to Maryland.  Yes, that Maryland.  Navy has been uncharacteristically inefficient on offense this season at 12.2 PPH but have stepped it up defensively to 12.8 PPH.  In fact, the Middie defense varies only 1.8 PPH over the entire range of opponents.  In contrast, Wake Forest has one of the highest variances both offensively (37.3 PPH) and defense (24.8 PPH).  If we look only at efficiencies, this game is dead even.  However, it's played in Winston-Salem, so the Deacons claim a close 27-24 victory, spoiling the upset with 53.8% confidence.
Justin: Eddie and I disagree on this one. The loss that (45) Navy suffered to (77) Maryland was a freak occurence, and (81) Wake had traveled nearly 3,000 miles into the maw of (16) Stanford. Both teams are better than Eddie's examples would have us believe, but unfortunately that's not saying much for Wake. Navy at least has a respectible offense (19.3 PPH) and servicable defense (16.9 PPH), making this a 32-29 Navy win on the road.

Kids Table Game of the Week
East Carolina Pirates at Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.
GUGS Score: 56.8

Justin: On a neutral site, (61) Southern Miss and (63) ECU have the potential to play a several-OT thriller. Both are within 6-thousandths of a percent of 0.500 and play at a good clip (170+ plays per game). In the end, though, Southern Miss is the better team and is playing at home, which is enough to tip this game to their favor, but just barely. TFG says the Golden Eagles win, 34-31, but only with 59.7% confidence.
Eddie: Long-time readers will know that I have a soft spot for (57) Southern Mississippi because my mother and three uncles went there, so I'm happy to report that RBA doesn't expect this game to be very close.  (67) East Carolina sports a 0.8 PPH offensive advantage, but USM holds a 4.6 PPH defensive advantage.  Plus, the game is in Hattiesburg, giving the Golden Eagles another advantage.  Because of the relative strengths, RBA gives this game only 56.6% confidence, but all the advantages point toward a Southern Miss victory.

Games you probably wanted us to preview:

Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Wolverines.
GUGS Score: 62.0

This looks to be a close, high-scoring game. However we've only got one spot for a game between two teams in automatic-qualifier conferences, and Clemson and UNC are each top-30 teams. Both TFG and RBA say the fine folks from the Michigan schools are on the wrong side of 30.

LSU Tigers at Florida Gators.
GUGS Score: 60.0

Two top-12 teams, but Florida is still the better team and has home field advantage. Depending on which computer you believe more, this will either be moderately high-scoring but not close (TFG) or moderately close but not high-scoring (RBA). We split the difference and ignore it.

Southern California Trojans at Stanford Cardinal.
GUGS Score: 41.3

Stanford. Book it. Done.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Undefeated ... but for how long?

There are 120 teams in Division I-A football, and after 5 weeks there are 18 teams that remain undefeated. Some are legitimate title contenders, others are teams that will probably escape with one loss, and still others are skating by on a combination of luck and good scheduling. We'll take a look at their odds of winning out the rest of the regular season and break them up into title contenders, second-tier hopefuls, long shots, and absolute phonies.

Note that these odds only take into account scheduled games against known opponents as of today (October 6th). Conference title games do not factor in here, but we will revisit these odds a few weeks down the road when the picture has cleared up some.

Legitimate Title Contenders

Boise State Broncos
Record: 4-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 1.6
Toughest remaining game: November 26, at (32) Nevada.
The (3) Broncos are extremely likely to wake up on December 5th with a 12-0 record. What's less clear is what this will mean to them. TFG's opinion on where they should go is entirely dependent on how they win the next eight games. Earlier this season the system wasn't entirely sold on the Broncos, a reversal of earlier years where the stats placed Boise in the top 5 but the voters put them just inside the top 10. With wins over (8) Virginia Tech and (28) Oregon State, however, the computers are starting to warm to the Broncos.

TCU Horned Frogs
Record: 5-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 1.8
Toughest remaining game: November 6, at (15) Utah.
The (2) Horned Frogs face a marginally more difficult road to a 12-0 record than Boise Stats, but we'll have a better sense of where TCU stands by November 7th. With only two games after their visit to Utah -- one at home against (86) SDSU and the other on the road against (117) New Mexico -- TCU will have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for one of their title rivals to trip up.

Alabama Crimson Tide
Record: 5-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 2.3
Toughest remaining game: November 6, at (11) LSU. *
Keep in mind that these odds are only based on known remaining regular season games; i.e., the (1) Tide still has to worry about the SEC title game. Until then, however, they have a comfortable ride to the SEC Championship. They host (19) Auburn on November 26th in what could be a dangerous game. The Tigers will almost certainly hope to catch Alabama looking past their season finale and towards the title game. But even assuming the Tide is a 50.1% favorite in the title game, their odds of going undefeated will be around 1 in 4.6.

Second-Tier Hopefuls

Oklahoma Sooners
Record: 5-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 5.2
Tougest remaining game: October 23, at (29) Missouri.
The (9) Sooners aren't as loved by TFG as they were last year, but they remain at the top of the "best of the rest" category when it comes to going undefeated. They've picked up about 1 PPH on the offensive side from last year, but lost about 1.5 PPH on the defensive side. Their three biggest challenges -- Missouri, (25) Oklahoma State, and (44) Texas A&M -- will all be on the road, but spaced out. These odds, however, don't take into account the Big XII title game, a likely showdown between the Sooners and (10) Nebraska. Assuming the Sooners win out, though, they could be a potential spoiler to Boise or TCU.

Oregon Ducks
Record: 5-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 5.2
Toughest remaining game: November 26, vs (13) Arizona.
The (7) Ducks are like last year's squad, but with a +4 PPH on the offensive side and a slightly more stingy defense. Yes, you read that correctly: the Ducks actually have a defense. It's just harder to find because Oregon's offense is so ridiculously quick; at nearly 185 plays per game, Oregon's opponents simply have more opportunity to score than if they were playing a more deliberate opponent. Oregon shut down (14) Stanford in the second half and held the Cardinal to their lowest point total all year, and held (47) Tennessee to fewer points than the Volunteers run up on either (11) LSU or (6) Florida. The Ducks have the added bonus of not playing in a conference with a title game, meaning if they can win out the rest of their regular season games, they'll be set come December 5th.

Ohio State Buckeyes
Record: 5-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 5.5
Toughest remaining game: November 20, at (4) Iowa.
Undefeated (5) Ohio State may have that zero in the loss column, but TFG gives a slight edge to the (4) Hawkeyes when the Buckeyes visit Iowa. That's right; the team widely expected to join Alabama in the National Championship game will be an underdog before the season is out. This could lead to a situation in which Alabama, Boise, TCU, and Oregon are all undefeated come December 13th, with one-loss Ohio State and Iowa looking in from the outside, and (to add insult to injury) the Hawkeyes hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. If Ohio State does win out, though, I fully expect them to be in the title game; they just have significantly less room for error than their fellow title contenders.

Nebraska Cornhuskers
Record: 4-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 7.2
Toughest remaining game: October 23, at (25) Oklahoma State.
The favorites to win out the Big XII North, the Cornhuskers also have a potential conference title game between them and the National Championship. Realistically the 'huskers have about a 1 in 15 shot of finishing the season undefeated, but potentially could be stuck in line behind Ohio State, Boise, TCU, and Oregon.

Long Shots

Now we've come to the section where these teams could theoretically go undefeated, but in order for them to actually get into the National Championship game (or even one of the BCS bowls) it will take a bit of luck.

Utah Utes
Record: 4-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 26
Toughest remaining game: November 6, vs (2) TCU.
The (15) Utes are the second-best team in the Mountain West, but will have to face TCU, (24) Air Force, and (35) Notre Dame all on the road over a three-weekend span. TFG says that with a lucky bounce they get two out of those three.

Arizona Wildcats
Record: 4-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 29
Toughest remaining game: November 26, at (7) Oregon.
The (13) Wildcats took down (4) Iowa, but are going to need a lot of luck to handle (7) Oregon and (16) Stanford. They face each of those teams on the road, but fortunately don't have to do so until November, when -- statistically speaking -- home field advantage is less of a boost than it is earlier in the year. Even taking this into account, though, the Wildcats only have a 1 in 5.9 shot of escaping Eugene and Palo Alto with a 2-0 record.

Nevada Wolfpack
Record: 5-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 34
Toughest remaining game: November 26, vs (3) Boise State.
The (32) Wolfpack are the last, best hope to stop the (3) Broncos from going 12-0, but face a serious uphill struggle if they want to surpass Boise as the top team in the WAC. Not only will they have to beat Boise -- which they can at least attempt at home -- but defeat (58) Fresno State and (78) Hawaii on the road. And when there are serious questions about your ability to defeat the 78th-best team in division I-A, don't expect to be in the BCS discussion.

LSU Tigers
Record: 5-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 56
Toughest remaining game: November 6, vs (1) Alabama.
The (11) Tigers aren't as bad as the rap they've been getting in the press lately. Even eventual champion Alabama had to survive a last-minute FG against Tennessee in a 12-10 nailbiter last year. They will, however, have to face clear favorites Alabama next month, and also-not-as-bad-as-everyone-suspects (6) Florida this weekend. The Tigers really need to pick up their offense, because as it stands they've got a 1 in 13.6 shot of escaping those two games with wins. The Tigers then get to visit (19) Auburn and (18) Arkansas. TFG says the Tigers finish the season 8-3.

Auburn Tigers
Record: 5-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 96
Toughest remaining game: November 26, at (1) Alabama.
The (19) Tigers will likely be the last major barrier between the Crimson Tide and an undefeated regular season. Only (11) LSU has better odds of taking down the Tide, but that doesn't say much. Auburn has to hope they catch Alabama looking past then and forward to the conference and national title games (see: USC/UCLA in 2006).

Absolute Phonies

Now we're down to teams that are undefeated largely by virtual of not having played anyone mentioned in the previous sections.

Missouri Tigers
Record: 4-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 248
Toughest remaining game: October 30, at (10) Nebraska.
The (29) Tigers go on the road against (10) Nebraska and (31) Texas Tech, while hosting (9) Oklahoma. Throw in some other close games, and Missouri will finish at either 8-4 or 9-3.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
Record: 4-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 257
Toughest remaining game: November 27, vs (9) Oklahoma.
Another Big XII team, another team to run the (10) Nebraska and (9) Oklahoma gauntlet, another team to finish 8-4 or 9-3.

Michigan State Spartans
Michigan Wolverines
Record: 5-0 (each)
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 519, 1 in 769 (respectively)
Toughest remaining game: October 30, at (4) Iowa; November 27, at (5) Ohio State (respectively).
We've grouped these teams together because they're playing each other on Saturday, so with 100% certainty we will be removing one of them from the list of unbeatens. Whichever one makes it past this weekend, though, will have to visit one of the top two teams in the Big Ten. Both teams still have to face (14) Penn State, although we'll see if the Nittany Lions have worked out their problems on offense. Either way, these teams are good but clearly second-tier.

What are YOU doing here??

Seriously? These teams are still undefeated?

Kansas State Wildcats
Record: 4-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 778
Toughest remaining game: Right now, vs (10) Nebraska.
First quarter and they're already down 7-0. This should be over quickly.

Northwestern Wildcats
Record: 5-0
Odds of going undefeated: 1 in 1418
Toughest remaining game: November 13, vs (4) Iowa.
It's ok. It'll be over soon.