Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Biggest Upsets (at the time)

Our bowl previews are over but football season isn't over yet, so I've decided to pass the time posting some random trivia items I've run across digging through the numbers. The most improbable, the most shocking, and the most out-of-the-ordinary are the subject of this series. These questions will span the 2003-2004 to 2010-2011 seasons, and will exclude August and September games. Each year the computer needs a few weeks to really settle in and understand the teams for that year before it can make reasonably accurate predictions. So if you finish any of these articles and say, "What about when Upper Whargabl State upset Eastern Directional State in September of 2004?" then you'll know why it was left out.

With that we'll kick off this trivia bender with a simple question: what have been the five biggest upsets of the last eight years? In this case "upset" is defined as "game in which TFG was very confident in its prediction, but got it wrong". For each game I'll list the:
  • matchup
  • records of each team at the time of the game
  • date of the game
  • predicted score and confidence; and
  • game result.
followed by some background a brief discussion of the game itself. The countdown is after the jump.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Bowl Previews: Part XII

Part XII (the final part) of our bowl preview. Part XI was yesterday.

#2: BCS Championship (January 10, 2011)
Oregon Ducks (12-0, 9-0 Pac-10) vs. Auburn Tigers (13-0, 8-0 SEC)
GUGS: 72.6

Eddie: This is going to be the most fun title game in a long time.  (3) Oregon's offense should win the track meet with (8) Auburn's offense by a nose, 22.5 PPH to 21.4 PPH.  The fact that either team expects over 20.0 PPH against 0.840+ strength teams is a testament to their offensive fire power.  Although people like to think of the SEC as a defensively oriented conference, Auburn's defense is suspect at 17.4 PPH.  In fact, the Ducks hold a 3.4 PPH defensive advantage over the Tigers.  In the end, the numbers favor the Ducks, 34-31, with 64.7% confidence.
Justin: Based on the pre-bowl projections from each of the last 9 years going back to the Miami/Ohio State game of the 2002/2003 season, this will be the second-closest bowl game in recent history. Granted, the closest one was projected to be last year's Alabama/Texas game, and TFG is notoriously bad about National Championship games. Of the last 8, TFG should have gone around 5-3; the reality is that it's gone 3-5 (big thanks to Ohio State and Oklahoma for being on the wrong side of each of those 5). (6) Oregon has improved from last year and -- like most teams that play fast -- actually has a defense, regardless of what the press might say. It's actually a rather good defense, and only allows 11.7 PPH. With the exception of (4) Alabama, this will be the best defense the (10) Tigers have seen all year. At 185 plays per game, it will also be the fastest team the Tigers have seen all year. Auburn has an excellent offense, but a good-but-not-great defense, and that's what this game is going to come down to: can Auburn stop Oregon? This isn't a novel question, but it will be the deciding factor. TFG says no, and taps the Ducks to win the National Title, 38-36, but only with 57.6% confidence.

#1: Orange Bowl (January 3, 2011)
Stanford Cardinal (11-1, 8-1 Pac-10) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (11-2, 8-0 ACC)
GUGS: 79.5

Justin: Ahh, (5) Virginia Tech. You're so lucky that TFG doesn't look at games against FCS opponents. FCS opponents like, say, James Madison. If TFG were to keep track of those games, the Hokies would undoubtedly be ranked lower thank they are now. That would really be problematic since their opponent is (8) Stanford, a team with a great offense and a solid defense. Fortunately TFG never heard about the JMU game and is convinced that the Hokies have an even better offense and defense than the Cardinal. Tech has a 0.4 PPH advantage on offense (noise) and a 1.6 PPH advantage on defense. This one will be amazingly close, feature top teams, and have a reasonable amount of scoring. There's a reason that GUGS thinks this will be the best game of the season -- even better than the national title game -- with the Hokies defeating the Cardinal, 36-34, but only with 56.9% confidence.
Eddie: RBA has this game as the closest of the bowl season.  Both teams are over 0.900 strength.  Both feature power running games and game-changing quarterbacks.  (2) Stanford has a slight offensive edge of 1.3 PPH and a slight 1.2 PPH defensive advantage.  The overall margin of 1.2 PPH is deceiving because it falls into the statistical noise range.  This game is effectively a toss-up, so either team can win it with a key interception, a long punt return, a blocked kick, or a freak catch in traffic.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is your game of the bowl season, and Stanford should be favored, 31-28, with 51.5% confidence.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(8)Stanford34 (5)Virginia Tech36 56.9 (2)Stanford31 (5)Virginia Tech28 51.5
(10)Auburn36 (6)Oregon38 57.6 (8)Auburn31 (3)Oregon34 64.7

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Bowl Previews: Part XI

Part XI of our bowl previews. Part X was yesterday.

Today brings us to the top 5 bowl games of the season. Both TFG and RBA agree that all the remaining teams are in the top 26, and the matchups will be relatively even. For being so close, though, both Eddie and I agree on most of the outcomes.

#5: Alamo Bowl (December 29, 2010)
Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-2, 6-2 Big XII) vs. Arizona Wildcats (7-5, 4-5 Pac-10)
GUGS: 66.9

Justin: This game is going to be a slight contrast in styles. The (21) Cowboys have been solid most of the year, with their only losses coming to (7) Oklahoma and (12) Nebraska. Oklahoma State hasn't had any problems finding offense -- they tally an impressive 24.4 PPH -- but have struggled to slow down opponents enough, allowing 15.6 PPH. The Cowboys also play blazing-fast, averaging nearly 180 plays per game. The Wildcats have a stout defense that allows a mere 13.3 PPH, comparable to LSU; their offense struggles, though, not breaking the 20 PPH barrier. Arizona will be the underdog, but not as badly as conventional wisdom expects. TFG says that Cowboys are 3-point favorites, but only 54.6% likely to win. If Arizona finds some extra offense and can put their defense to good use, they'll have a shot at the victory.
Eddie: Both (18) Oklahoma State and (22) Arizona are known for their offenses, so conventional wisdom suggests this one should turn into a shootout.  However, RBA isn't so sure of that because both teams have drop-offs in performance against strong competition.  The Cowboys have a 2.6 PPH offensive advantage, but the Wildcats have a 0.9 PPH defensive advantage.  This game likely falls in the realm of statistical error, so it should take only one big play to decide this game.  RBA favors Oklahoma State, 28-27, with 56.8% confidence.

#4: Insight Bowl (December 28, 2010)
Missouri Tigers (10-2, 6-2 Big XII) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten)
GUGS: 69.2

Eddie:  Given the number of players that (12) Iowa has lost since their last game due to suspension and arrest, I'm tempted to call for a mulligan on this one.  Barring those losses, Iowa matches up well against the (20) Tigers.  The Hawkeyes hold a 2.1 PPH offensive advantage and a 2.2 PPH defensive advantage over Missouri, so they should manage a 27-21 victory with 54.5% confidence.
Justin: For those of you who aren't familiar with the back-story to Eddie's comment, (11) Iowa lost their leading receiver and running back to drug issues, and a few other players transferred. The one saving grace is that Iowa does it more with defense (11.2 PPH) than they do with offense (20.8 PPH). The (17) Tigers are somewhat lacking in offense, too (20.1 PPH), but have a similarly excellent defense (12.0 PPH). This is really going to come down to how much Iowa was hurt by the suspensions; while Iowa's defense won't need to get them much offense to win, they'll still need some offense. Pre-scandal, TFG said Iowa squeaks by Missouri, 28-27, but only with 56.6% confidence. This will truly be anyone's guess.

#3: Chick-fil-A Bowl (December 31, 2010)
South Carolina Gamecocks (9-4, 5-3 SEC) vs. Florida State Seminoles (9-4, 6-2 ACC)
GUGS: 69.6

Justin: This game will be about as close as it gets. The (18) Seminoles have the 13th-best offense in FBS (25.5 PPH) and a respectable defense (15.5 PPH). The (19) Gamecocks have the 14th-best offense (24.7 PPH) and a slightly better defense (15.0 PPH). Complicating things will be the fact that both teams play slow, so expect only about 160 plays in this game. A low play count means a freak interception, fumble, or long run could have a tremendous effect on the game's outcome. Even TFG's circuits are scratching their head over this one, as this will come down to a late drive or possibly even OT. For now TFG says the Seminoles by 2, but only with 50.1% confidence.
Eddie: This one should be very close.  (17) Florida State has been somewhat underrated this year because of their record, but they've had some freak losses over the course of the year, fumbling it away against NC State, missing two 4th quarter field goals, and losing their starter in a close loss to Virginia Tech.  (19) South Carolina has had the misfortune of playing Auburn twice and Arkansas and a brain fart against Kentucky.  Both are very good teams, so this should be a great matchup.  The Gamecocks and the Seminoles are dead even defensively, but Florida State holds a 1.0 PPH offensive advantage.  That's statistical noise, as far as I'm concerned.  RBA favors the Seminoles, 28-27, with 59.6% confidence.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(26)Arizona32 (21)Oklahoma St.35 54.9 (22)Arizona27 (18)Oklahoma St.28 56.7
(11)Iowa28 (17)Missouri27 56.6 (12)Iowa27 (20)Missouri21 54.4
(18)Florida St.35 (19)South Carolina33 50.1 (17)Florida St.28 (19)South Carolina27 59.2

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 Bowl Previews: Part X

Part X of our bowl previews. Part IX was two days ago (we were off for Christmas).

Today's themes are "the ACC" and "consensus."

#8: Music City Bowl (December 30, 2010)
North Carolina Tar Heels (7-5, 4-4 ACC) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (6-6, 3-5 SEC)
GUGS: 56.9

Eddie:  I know that it was awarded to Gene Chizik with good reason, but my vote for SEC Coach of the Year would have to be for Derek Dooley.  By all accounts, (36) Tennessee has absolutely no business playing in a bowl game.  For that matter, neither does (29) North Carolina after they lost a ton of starters to NCAA rules violations.  Although UNC holds advantages both offensively (1.2 PPH) and defensively (2.6 PPH), this game should be surprisingly close because it is effectively a home game for the Volunteers.  The Tar Heels should pull out the victory with a game winning field goal, 27-24, with 55.9% confidence.
Justin: The (36) Tar Heels and the (47) Volunteers are slightly different variations on the same theme: weak offense, respectable defense, and methodical pace. Both teams are south of 20 PPH on offense and around 16 PPH on defense, but UNC has a 1.1 PPH advantage on offense and a 0.9 PPH advantage on defense. Those numbers add up to a profile that's going to make for a close game. Both teams are going to have to bring their best game and avoid mistakes if they want to have a shot at winning this game. TFG gives a slight nod to the Tar Heels, 30-28, but only with 56.7% confidence.

#7: Champs Sports Bowl (December 28, 2010)
West Virginia Mountaineers (9-3, 5-2 Big East) vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack (8-4, 5-3 ACC)
GUGS: 63.5

Justin: We see a huge jump in the GUGS ratings between the previous game and this one. Close losses to (83) Syracuse and (49) UConn -- the latter aided by seven fumbles -- deprived (16) West Virginia of the Big East title. The (33) Wolfpack had similar close losses to (29) Clemson and (59) Maryland -- the latter was particularly painful as the Wolfpack outplayed the Terrapins most of the game -- depriving them of a shot at the ACC title. This game features two teams that really deserve more respect than they've gotten this year, and should be good. Both teams have offenses in the neighborhood of 20.0 PPH, but the West Virginia defense is a beast, allowing a mere 11.9 PPH (8th in FBS). The Wolfpack will need to find offense if they want to have a shot, but TFG currently taps the Mountaineers to win this, 31-29 (63.0% confidence).
Eddie: Once known for its powerful offense under Rich Rodriguez, (14) West Virginia has reinvented itself as a defense-first team, yielding 7.7 +/- 3.5 PPH.  (31) NC State is an offense-first team at 29.1 +/- 17.0 PPH. As expected, the Wolfpack hold an offensive advantage, but it isn't as big as you would think at 0.7 PPH.  Meanwhile, the Mountaineers hold a 6.7 PPH defensive advantage that should lead them to a 27-21 victory with 56.6% confidence.

#6: Sun Bowl (December 31, 2010)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-5, 0-0 Ind) vs. Miami Hurricanes (7-5, 5-3 ACC)
GUGS: 64.5

Eddie: It's Catholics versus Convicts Redux!  I must express my extreme shock that (23) Miami's offense is the second most consistent in the country at 16.6 +/- 1.4 PPH.  I guess Jacory Harris throws picks with high consistency, resulting in a 2.0 PPH offensive advantage for the Hurricanes.  (33) Notre Dame has a slight 0.9 PPH disadvantage on defense, but that can fall into the statistical noise category.  RBA says Miami wins this one by a field goal, 24-21, at 54.3% confidence. Bonus points will be awarded if the kicker wields his helmet as a weapon after hitting the game winner.
Justin: TFG thinks this one will be good, featuring two evenly-matched teams in the top 25. I'd like to remind everyone once again that this is a computer and has no allegiance or sense of tradition. The (24) Fighting Irish are only in the top 25 because of the raw numbers, and the raw numbers say that Notre Dame has a decent offense and a great defense. The (22) Hurricanes have an identical defense, a slightly better offense (+0.7 PPH), and play at a nearly identical pace (+2.2 plays per game) as Notre Dame. This will be a reasonably fast-paced but low-ish-scoring game, where the Hurricanes win the coin flip for a 29-28 victory. There's only a 51.9% chance of them winning, though, which means calling this a "coin flip" isn't too much of a hyperbole.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(36)North Carolina30 (47)Tennessee28 56.9 (29)North Carolina27 (36)Tennessee24 55.9
(33)North Carolina St.29 (16)West Virginia31 63.0 (31)North Carolina St.21 (14)West Virginia27 56.5
(22)Miami-FL29 (24)Notre Dame28 51.9 (23)Miami-FL24 (33)Notre Dame21 54.3

Friday, December 24, 2010

2010 Bowl Previews: Part IX

Part IX of our bowl previews. Part VIII was yesterday.

#11: Gator Bowl (January 1, 2011)
Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4 SEC) vs. Michigan Wolverines (7-5, 3-5 Big East)
GUGS: 54.7

Justin: The press really talked up Denard Robinson at the start of the year, and there's no denying he's been impressive. The problem is that a single person doesn't make a whole offense. The (46) Wolverines play fast -- nearly 180 plays per game -- but aren't particularly efficient at only 19.6 PPH. The (39) Bulldogs don't even have that (16.5 PPH) but have an amazing defense that allows only 13.7 PPH; that's better than (10) Auburn. The Bulldogs will look to turn this into a grind'em-out, slow game, whereas Michigan will want to make this a track meet. TFG says that this one will be one of the closest bowl games, with Mississippi State taking home a 31-30 victory with 53.8% confidence.
Eddie: This is going to be a great game.  (49) Michigan rides on the back of Denard Robinson to the tune of 33.6 +/- 23.0 PPH of offense, but (34) Mississippi State is quite good defensively at 5.2 +/- 12.5 PPH.  Although we like to think of Michigan's offense as being explosive, it holds only a 1.0 PPH advantage over the Bulldogs.  However, Michigan plays absolutely no defense whatsoever; Mississippi State holds a 7.2 PPH defensive advantage over the Wolverines.  No longer the SEC West punching bag, Mississippi State should  bully Michigan in a 31-24 victory with 59.9% confidence, probably knocking out Denard Robinson in the process.

#10: Cotton Bowl (January 7, 2011)
LSU Tigers (10-2, 6-2 SEC) vs. Texas A&M Aggies (9-3, 6-2 Big XII)
GUGS: 56.2

Eddie: (15) LSU and (28) Texas A&M have something in common:  defensive consistency.  The Tigers hold a slight 1.6 PPH edge, but that falls into the range of statistical noise.  However, LSU holds a 4.5 PPH offensive advantage.  Together, these add up into a respectable advantage.  RBA says that LSU should win a tough defensive game, 27-21, with 73.0% confidence.
Justin: This is another game that, on its face, looks competitive; Vegas also thinks it'll be close since the (9) Tigers are only 1-point favorites. TFG thinks otherwise, as LSU has a 5.7 PPH advantage on offense and a 1.5 PPH advantage on defense over the (30) Aggies. So why is this considered a toss-up? Pace. LSU plays slow (157 plays per game) and the Aggies play fast (181 plays per game), which means the raw, unadjusted stats give the Aggies a 3.0 points per game advantage on offense. TFG sees through that, though, and taps the Tigers as 70% likely to win by about a touchdown.

#9: Sugar Bowl (January 4, 2011)
Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (10-2, 6-2 SEC)
GUGS: 56.8

Justin: Depending on the most recent news out of Ohio State, we might have to toss this prediction out the window. If that ends up being a non-issue, though, we're back to this prediction: The (3) Buckeyes are every bit the equal of the (4) Alabama team that defeated (15) Arkansas at the start of the year. The Razorbacks have the 7th-best offense in FBS thanks to Ryan Mallet, but the Buckeyes have the 2nd-best defense in FBS. TFG says that defense wins games, and in this case it makes the Buckeyes 3-to-1 favorites to win, 36-31.
Eddie: I'm going to try to be as reasonable as possible here.  (6) Ohio State holds a decisive 7.9 PPH defensive advantage over my (13) Razorbacks.  The Hogs sport only a 1.9 PPH offensive advantage, but the Buckeyes are the 7th flakiest offensive unit in the country with a 31.3 PPH variance.  If everything plays out according to plan, Ohio State should pick up their first SEC bowl victory since 1979 with a 28-24 victory at 73.1% confidence.  Let's just say that I politely disagree that a team with zero wins over BCS top 25 teams has that kind of advantage over a team with four wins over BCS top 25 teams that also led two more BCS top 25 teams in the fourth quarter.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(46)Michigan30 (39)Mississippi St.31 53.8 (49)Michigan24 (34)Mississippi St.31 59.9
(9)LSU33 (30)Texas A&M27 69.5 (15)LSU27 (28)Texas A&M21 73.0
(15)Arkansas31 (3)Ohio St.36 76.3 (13)Arkansas24 (6)Ohio St.28 73.1

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 Bowl Previews: Part VIII

Part VIII of our bowl previews. Part VII was yesterday.

#14: BBVA Compass Bowl (January 8, 2011)
Pittsburgh Panthers (7-5, 5-2 Big East) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (6-6, 2-6 SEC)
GUGS: 52.8

Eddie: Every time I see the name for this bowl game, I think of Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  (32) Pittsburgh is the second least consistent offensive team in the country at 42.2 +/- 39.7 PPH.  (43) Kentucky is more consistent, but sits 0.2 PPH behind Pittsburgh, offensively.  The Wildcats' Achilles heel is their completely lack of defense.  The Panthers hold a 6.7 PPH defensive advantage that should lead them to a 28-24 victory with 66.8% confidence.
Justin: I'm glad Eddie went there with the movie reference, because it means I can pretend I had to look it up to know what he was talking about. Both the (27) Panthers and (53) Wildcats are relatively good teams with no obvious deficiencies on offense or defense. Pitt as a 2.1 PPH advantage on offense and 3.0 PPH advantage on defense, so they're the slight favorites here. The catch is that both of these teams play slow -- don't expect more than about 160 plays in this game -- so a freak turnover or tipped pass could alter the result. Barring the unexpected, Pitt are 2-to-1 favorites, should be able to get and maintain a lead over the Wildcats and ride that to a 35-31 victory.

#13: Independence Bowl (December 27, 2010)
Air Force Falcons (8-4, 5-3 MWC) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-6, 4-4 ACC)
GUGS: 53.6

Justin: From a game where there's a clear favorite to one with no favorite, we have the (43) Falcons against the (50) Yellow Jackets. This will be another slow game but it will be close. The Yellow Jacket offense isn't as explosive as it was last year, and its already-problematic defense has slipped as well. Air Force doesn't have the offensive firepower of the Yellow Jackets, but their defense is much more stingy. Similar to last year's Orange Bowl, this will be a test of the Yellow Jacket offense against a superior defense. Also similar to last year's bowl game, TFG says that the Yellow Jackets come out worse for the wear, but this time it'll be much closer. Air Force is a 1-point favorite and only 53.4% likely to win. This will be a grind'em-out game that will thrill traditionalists.
Eddie: It's a shame that this game is played on my anniversary because it's one of the games I'm most interested in watching.  (41) Georgia Tech and (46) Air Force play a Cro-Magnon brand of football that produces consistent offensive results.  The Yellow Jackets hold a slight 2.8 PPH offensive advantage, but Air Force holds a slight 1.5 PPH defensive advantage.  The numbers say this game should be extremely close with a 28-27 Georgia Tech at only 53.3% confidence.

#12: Outback Bowl (January 1, 2011)
Florida Gators (7-5, 4-4 SEC) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten)
GUGS: 54.2

Eddie:  (16) Florida hasn't been very good this year thanks to their inability to reshape their offense around John Brantley, but (42) Penn State has been downright awful offensively.  As bad as Florida has been, they still hold a 7.9 PPH advantage over the Nittany Lion offense.  Penn State has even lost its defensive prowess that has carried them through rough offensive stretches.  Florida holds a 5.6 PPH defensive advantage over the once-awesome Penn State D.  All the numbers say that Florida wins decisively, 31-20, with 75.8% confidence.
Justin: TFG has been pretty inaccurate about Florida so far this year, as it tends to do when a team undergoes a drastic transformation from one year to the next. These Gators are down 5.4 PPH on offense this year and up 3.6 PPH on defense; for those of you keeping track at home, that's a 9.0 PPH shift in the wrong direction over the course of one year. Penn State has had a similar 6.3 PPH shift since last year, but neither team has been particularly predictable. My computer promises me it's put all that in the past, though, and it's going to do right by me this time. I'm skeptical, but the prediction is Florida by 5 as 2-to-1 favorites.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(53)Kentucky31 (27)Pittsburgh35 65.2 (43)Kentucky24 (32)Pittsburgh28 66.8
(50)Georgia Tech32 (43)Air Force33 53.4 (41)Georgia Tech28 (46)Air Force27 53.3
(13)Florida32 (31)Penn State27 66.7 (16)Florida31 (42)Penn State20 75.8

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What's GUGS?

I wanted to take a quick break from our bowl previews and talk about the Games U Gotta See (GUGS) system.* This is our in-house measure of how interested a casual fan could or should be in a game based on the TFG and RBA projections. There are three elements of GUGS:

  1. Competitiveness (C). How close is the game expected to be? Blowouts are boring, so the closer it is to a coin toss, the higher the competitiveness components.
  2. Quality (Q). How good are the teams? The higher their expected winning percentages, the higher the quality factor.
  3. Scoring (S). Will this be a high-flying, high-scoring, who-needs-defense affair? Or a grind-em-out, one-inch-at-a-time defensive showcase? Let's put it this way: would you rather re-watch the 67-65 Michigan-Illinois game, or a 9-6 baseball Big XII game?

A perfect 100.0 -- which is actually not possible to get -- would involve two teams with 1.000 expected winning percentages projected to have a 60-59 final score. A perfect 0.0 -- also not possible -- would involve two teams with 0.000 expected winning percentages where one was juuuust good enough to blow the other out, 1-0, with a 100% chance of winning. In reality, the vast majority of GUGS scores fall between 20 and 60.

Let's look at three games from this past year and compare and contrast how GUGS looked at them versus how the media saw them.

Miami Hurricanes at Ohio State Buckeyes
September 11, 2010
GUGS Score: 47.4

The official game preview tried to make this sound competitive:
Second-ranked Ohio State will be a clear favorite when it faces No. 12 Miami for the first time since that double-overtime championship thriller, but the Hurricanes can pave their own path to BCS contention with a victory Saturday.
The problem is that this game wasn't going to be that close. Let's break down the GUGS components:
  • C: 33.0
  • Q: 86.1
  • S: 73.3
The teams were excellent, the scoring would be moderate (the Buckeyes boast an excellent defense), but this wasn't going to be that close. TFG was eerily accurate, predicting a final score of 35-24 and a 90.3% chance of Ohio State winning. RBA was close, too, predicting a 31-20 final and a 77.5% chance of an Ohio State victory.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan State Spartans
September 18, 2010
GUGS Score: 57.7

The closing line for this one was the Spartans by 3, but it's unlikely Vegas thought it would end like this. There was some bitching and moaning on ESPN about whether or not the Spartans got the play off on time, but they've got no one to blame but themselves because the ESPN play clock wasn't actually synchronized to the stadium clock (compare the ESPN clock to the clock in the top-left). But let's look at what GUGS predicted:

  • C: 76.7
  • Q: 70.3
  • S: 78.7

Two good-but-not-great teams playing a close game with more scoring than the Ohio State/Miami game. Unless you're a Hurricane or Buckeye fan, it'd be hard to argue that you'd rather watch that game than what turned out to be a real nail-biter in East Lansing. The predictions said it would be close but disagreed about the outcome. TFG predicted Michigan State, 33-30 (60.1%) while RBA said Notre Dame, 28-27 (63.2%).

Oklahoma Sooners vs Nebraska Cornhuskers
December 4, 2010
GUGS Score: 71.1

Here we have a complete package. Two legitimately elite teams on a neutral field, one of whom plays fast and efficiently and will drag the other team along with it. Let's look at the details:

  • C: 80.3
  • Q: 88.5
  • S: 74.7

This game was projected to be closer than either of the above, involves two teams that are collectively just as good (if not better) than the Buckeye/Hurricane matchup, and will involve decent amounts of scoring. GUGS thought this was the 7th-best game of the year, and it lived up to the hype with the Sooners coming from behind to win the Big XII title in a 23-20 game. The predictions overestimated the scoring a bit, and we disagreed about the outcome, but knew it would be close. TFG said the Sooners, 32-31 (57.4%) while RBA said the Cornhuskers, 27-24 (62.3%).

Of the six games projected to be better, four have been played so far; all six involved either Oregon, Auburn, Stanford, or Virginia Tech. So keep watching our bowl previews to find out the best of the college postseason.

* We're open to ideas for new names or acronyms. Damn you, Pomeroy, for using FanMatch!

2010 Bowl Previews: Part VII

Part VII of our bowl preview. Part VI was yesterday.

An interesting thing to note about this batch of bowl games is they all involve one actor in the BCS Buster Drama That Was Almost Relevant. Boise State was slated for a spot in a BCS bowl -- or even the National Championship -- but uninspired play against Nevada both dropped the Broncos out of the BCS picture and launched TCU into the #3 spot and the on-deck circle had Auburn slipped up. The Tigers didn't, though, so here we see the full supporting cast for the drama that never happened.

#17: Fight Hunger Bowl (January 9, 2011)
Nevada Wolfpack (12-1, 7-1 WAC) vs. Boston College Eagles (7-5, 4-4 ACC)
GUGS: 51.1

Justin: This one is happening just up the road from us, so maybe it'll be worth checking out. (28) Nevada has been a solid team most of the year, only held back by an at-best-average defense. Even against sub-par opponents, the Wolfpack has allowed 20-30 points. The (58) Eagles have a much better defense that's allowing a stingy 13.8 PPH and hasn't allowed more than 30 points since October 9th. The problem is that Nevada's offense is better than any the Eagles have faced since Virginia Tech. In the end, Nevada just has too many weapons for Boston College to stop them and stand as 2-to-1 favorites to win by about a touchdown.
Eddie: Ah, the Fight Hunger Bowl.  What better place to infect sporting events with moral guilt than the bustling city of San Francisco.  (26) Nevada has been in and out of the RBA top 25 all year, while (58) Boston College hasn't been anywhere close.  Both teams have similar offensive and defensive consistencies, so we'll revert to discussing the means.  The Eagles should muster only 9.3 PPH offensive, despite fielding the ACC's leading rusher, Montel Harris.  In contrast, Nevada's offense is powder keg ready to explode with 22.8 PPH of pistol goodness.  BC holds a slight 2.8 PPH defensive advantage, but it's going to take a Herculean effort to slow down the Wolfpack.  RBA says Nevada win by two possessions, 31-21, with 64.7% confidence.

#16: Rose Bowl (January 1, 2011)
Wisconsin Badgers (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) vs. TCU Horned Frogs (12-0, 8-0 MWC)
GUGS: 52.1

Eddie:  I'm particularly intrigued about this game because it stands as a referendum on my algorithm.  RBA has tabbed (1) TCU as the best team in the country since Alabama went down versus South Carolina.  (10) Wisconsin is the human golden boy thanks to blowing up helpless Indiana and Northwestern (sans Dan Persa).  Everyone seems to forget the Badgers' escape against Arizona State earlier in the season.  As you may expect, RBA picks TCU to win this one thanks to an 8.6 PPH defensive advantage, but Wisconsin's offense is only 2.9 PPH behind TCU's.  RBA says TCU should win this one 34-24 with 79.4% confidence.
Justin: Like Eddie, I'm viewing this game as a measure of how well TFG handles two top-tier teams with differing strengths of schedule. Some off-the-cuff analysis I've done has indicated that SOS isn't a significant predictor of bowl outcomes, but there's a difference between "this team will likely win" and "TCU will stomp Wisconsin all the way back to Madison". (1) TCU's defense got lazy over the last few games, and by "lazy" I mean, "is only the best defense in FBS by 0.2 PPH instead of 2.2 PPH". On the other side of the ball the (14) Badger offense is second in FBS at 29.2, behind only (2) Boise State. Wisconsin has desperately been trying to make a statement, hammering their last three opponents for an average of 67 points per game. Wisconsin's problem is that TCU's offense is every bit the equal of Wisconsin's, but the Badgers are giving up 7.9 PPH on defense. That works out to a serious advantage for TCU, and one that TFG says Wisconsin has only a 1-in-5 chance of overcoming. TCU by a touchdown.

#15: MAACO Bowl (December 22, 2010)
Utah Utes (10-2, 7-1 MWC) vs. Boise State Broncos (11-1, 7-1 WAC)
GUGS: 52.8

Justin: The TFG algorithm has no sense of drama, no sense of BCS politics, and no sense of conference memberships, and because of that it still has Boise State ranked #2. The Broncos were about 3' away from the inside of the uprights and an undefeated season, and that's the end of the story as far as the TFG algorithm is concerned. The Broncos can ring up points more efficiently than any team in FBS, which is bad news for (20) Utah. The Utes yielded 20 points to TCU, and Boise State is even more explosive. The other side of the ball isn't too encouraging for Utah, either. Boise's defense is a mere 0.8 PPH behind TCU's, and the Horned Frogs held Utah to under 10 points for the first time in almost 4 years. TFG says this one is even more lopsided than the previous game, with the Broncos 81.5% favorites to win by 10 points.
Eddie: Poor Utah.  (38) Utah is in way over its head in this game because they simply don't show up against top competition.  Their offense can be very potent, but a 39.4 +/- 34.3 PPH rating means bad news against a strong team like (7) Boise State.  The Ute defense isn't much better at 0 +/- 26.7 PPH.  Boise sports a +12.5 PPH offensive advantage and an 8.6 PPH defensive advantage.  Nothing about this game says "close."  RBA says that Boise State crucifies Utah, 38-20, with 72.6% confidence in a game that shouldn't be as close as the score indicates.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(58)Boston College29 (28)Nevada34 66.9 (58)Boston College21 (26)Nevada31 64.6
(1)TCU38 (14)Wisconsin32 80.7 (1)TCU34 (10)Wisconsin24 79.3
(2)Boise St.38 (20)Utah28 81.5 (7)Boise St.38 (38)Utah20 72.6

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 Bowl Previews: Part VI

Part VI of our bowl previews. Part V was yesterday.

#20: Meineke Bowl (December 31, 2010)
South Florida Bulls (7-5, 3-4 Big East) vs. Clemson Tigers (6-6, 4-4 ACC)
GUGS: 50.4

Eddie: I'm saying this right now.  You should believe the opposite of whatever RBA picks for this game and bet the house on it because RBA misses more (30) Clemson picks than it gets correct.  That said, Clemson should be favored on both sides of the ball.  (53) South Florida is anemic offensively at 10.5 PPH, and the Tiger defense is pretty good at 11.3 PPH.  However, Clemson isn't particularly good offensively at 13.9 PPH, either.  RBA says Clemson should win a defensively-oriented game, 24-17, with 68.9% confidence.  You have been warned.
Justin: Ah, Clemson. So fickle. First you're in the top 25, then you're out of it; then you're in the top 25, then you're out of it. In September you visited Auburn and lost by a field goal in OT when WR Jaron Brown dropped a game-winning TD reception in the end zone; in November you hosted South Carolina and lost by three touchdowns. TFG still likes you -- you're still ranked 29th thanks to your 10th-ranked defense -- but not as much as it did two months ago. (55) South Florida, though, has about 0.8 PPH less offense and gives up 2.9 PPH more on defense. The Bulls have played nothing but close games for the last month, though, with no game decided by more than a touchdown since October. This'll be close, but TFG picks the Tigers by a field goal over the Bulls, with about 2-to-1 odds of winning.

#19: Poinsettia Bowl (December 23, 2010)
Navy Midshipmen (9-3, 1-0 Ind) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (8-4, 5-3 MWC)
GUGS: 50.7

Justin: The (38) Midshipmen were actually one of the motivating factors for an early-season revamp to the TFG algorithms. Previously it only looked at points scored as a measure of a team, but after watching Navy ring up nearly 500 yards of offense on a hapless Maryland squad but still lose 17-14, thanks to two fumbles inside the Maryland 5, a missed 32-yard FG, and four failed attempts to score as time expired. Any reasonable person would agree that Navy would win that game 4 times out of 5. Now a team's offensive efficiency is roughly a 90/10 mix of points scored and yards gained. This approach puts the Midshipmen as 3-to-2 favorites over the (63) Aztecs. SDSU is a good team, but what's hurt them the most is their defense; allowing 19.0 PPH is going to make too many games too close, even if you've got a good offense. Contrary to Vegas' line, TFG says Navy by a field goal.
Eddie: (25) Navy is methodical and consistent on both sides of the ball.  The Middie offensive and defensive variances are 13.9 PPH and 3.1 PPH, respectively, making them one of the most predictable teams in college football.  (62) San Diego State is another amazingly consistent team with variances of 7.9 PPH and 14.2 PPH, respectively.  Ultimately, the matchup comes down to the matchup between the Navy offense and Aztec defense.  This game is going to be very close, so whichever unit comes up with a big play could decide this game.  RBA says Navy wins a tight game on a two-point conversion, 29-28, with 60.5% confidence.

#18: Texas Bowl (December 29, 2010)
Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6, 4-4 Big Ten) vs. Baylor Bears (7-5, 4-4 Big XII)
GUGS: 51.1

Eddie:  The previous matchup consisted of two predictable teams.  This one is the opposite.  (47) Baylor has had problems due to their inconsistent defense and its 31.0 PPH variance.  (48) Illinois has all the offensive inconsistency problems you'd expect from a freshman quarterback at 22.2 PPH variance.  If everything goes according to plan, this should be a good team with dead-even defensive matchups and a +1.0 PPH offensive advantage by Baylor.  However, the inconsistency makes this pick risky.  RBA says Baylor wins another close one with two-point conversion, 29-28, with 56.3% confidence.
Justin: Another pair of middle-of-the-pack teams facing off in a bowl game most people haven't heard of. The Illini have gone 1-3 since the end of October, but those three losses have come by a total of 8 points; the Bears have gone 0-3 over the same stretch, but none of those games have been particularly close. Illinois' 67-65 track meet against Michigan notwithstanding, the Illini have a slight edge on both sides of the ball. This game will be a bit more high-paced than usual; expect about 170 plays. In the end this one will be close, but look for Illinois to sneak past Baylor at the finish; TFG says Illinois by 2, with a 58.5% chance of winning.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(29)Clemson27 (55)South Florida24 65.2 (30)Clemson24 (53)South Florida17 68.8
(63)SDSU33 (38)Navy36 62.1 (62)SDSU28 (25)Navy29 60.4
(61)Baylor33 (44)Illinois35 58.5 (47)Baylor29 (48)Illinois28 56.3

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 Bowl Previews: Part V

Part V of our bowl preview. Part IV was yesterday.

#23: Hawaii Bowl (December 24, 2010)
Hawaii Warriors (10-3, 7-1 WAC) vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (9-3, 6-2 C-USA)
GUGS: 46.9

Justin: GUGS really like this bowl because the teams are reasonably good, the score will be reasonably high, and it will extremely close. Both (52) Hawaii and (57) Tulsa are within 1.1 PPH of each other on both sides of the ball. The Warriors will have home-field advantage on this one, which traditionally has helped them out more than home-field advantage for other teams. Tulsa plays at a sightly higher pace than Hawaii, so the Golden Hurricane may choose to speed things up and see if they can get Hawaii off their game. Either way, this will be a coin toss, with TFG favoring Hawaii, 36-35.
Eddie:  RBA doesn't see this one being quite as close as TFG does.  (59) Hawaii and (64) Tulsa are relatively even offensively, separated by only 0.6 PPH.  The real difference is on defense.  One doesn't think of Hawaii and defense in the same sentence very often, but they hold a 2.9 PPH advantage over the Golden Hurricane defensively.  Adding in home field advantage, this one looks like a Hawaii victory, 38-28, with 54.4% confidence.

#22: Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl (December 21, 2010)
Southern Miss Golden Eagles (8-4, 5-3 C-USA) vs. Louisville Cardinals (6-6, 3-4 Big East)
GUGS: 47.9

Eddie: Justin will tell you I'm lying, but I have actually heard of this bowl, thanks to its ridiculous name.  (44) Louisville has been one of the RBA surprise teams of 2010.  Charlie Strong has turned the Cardinals around from being atrocious to being on the fringe of respectability, as evidenced by their 1.0 +/- 20.7 PPH defense. Their offense isn't much to write home about thanks to a variance of 34.9 PPH, but they've been able to manage.  (57) Southern Miss is more consistent on both sides of the ball but exhibits a worse production on average than Louisville.  Long-time readers know that I'm a closeted Golden Eagle fan, but it doesn't look like they're going to pull this one out.  RBA picks Louisville, 31-27, with 69.5% confidence.
Justin: I've never heard of this bowl, and neither have you (don't lie). The (48) Cardinals play slow, deliberate, and underwhelming football. In other words, they're in the Big East. The (60) Golden Eagles are a bit more uptempo, good offense/bad defense than Louisville, and are 8 points away from being 11-1. This looks to be another close one, but right now the coin toss lands in Louisville's favor. If Southern Miss can find some defense, though, they should be able to stop Louisville's anemic offense. Until then, TFG picks Louisville, 33-32.

#21: Liberty Bowl  (December 31, 2010)
UCF Knights (10-3, 7-1 C-USA) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (6-6, 3-5 SEC)
GUGS: 49.2

Justin: The (23) Bulldogs are a much better team than their 6-6 record indicates, and the (40) Knights aren't as good as their 10-3 record might show. Both teams, however, play slow; don't expect this one to break 160 plays. Georgia is tied for the 8th most efficient offense in FBS (26.5 PPH) but is being held back by a sub-par defense that allows 17.8 PPH. The Knights have a slightly better defense (16.7 PPH) but is about 6.0 PPH short on offense. This slow, grind-em-out game is going to work in Georgia's favor. TFG gives the Dawgs a slight nod, with a 35-31 win predicted at 62.7% confidence.
Eddie:  (21) Georgia is one of the most inconsistent teams in college football.  Their offensive variance is 33.9 PPH, and their defensive variance is 25.9 PPH.  When they're playing to their potential, the Bulldogs can steamroll someone.  The question is whether (61) UCF can prevent that from happening with an offense and defense that are also fairly inconsistent.  If both teams play to the mean, Georgia stomps all over UCF thanks to a 15.7 PPH offensive advantage and an 8.6 PPH defensive advantage.  RBA says Georgia rolls 38-17 with 82.9% confidence.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(52)Hawaii36 (57)Tulsa35 52.5 (59)Hawaii38 (64)Tulsa28 54.4
(48)Louisville33 (60)Southern Miss.32 56.4 (44)Louisville31 (57)Southern Miss.27 69.5
(40)UCF31 (23)Georgia35 62.7 (61)UCF17 (21)Georgia38 82.8

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010 Bowl Previews: Part IV

Part IV of our bowl previews. Part III was yesterday.

#26: Capitol One Bowl (January 1, 2011)
Alabama Crimson Tide (9-3, 5-3 SEC) vs. Michigan State Spartans (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten)
GUGS: 44.4

Eddie:  Not surprisingly, this year's BCS 11-1 screw job finds their way into the 26th most interesting game out of 35.  Oddly enough, they're underdogs.  (37) Michigan State has a decent offense at 28.4 +/- 17.3 PPH and a respectable defense at 4.6 +/- 17.0 PPH.  On the other hand, (4) Alabama is absolutely ferocious defensively, commanding a ridiculous 10.6 PPH advantage over the Spartans.  The Crimson Tide is also dramatically more efficient offsensively, sporting an 8.1 PPH advantage.  This game rolls in as the RBA lock of the bowl season.  Alabama wins, 34-17, with 86.1% confidence.
Justin: For a New Year's Bowl that features two elite teams, GUGS thinks this is one worth skipping. Why? Put simply, (4) Alabama is much better than its record indicates -- they were 3 bad plays away from being up 42-7 on Auburn, remember? -- and the (35) Spartans aren't as good as their record indicates. Michigan State gives up 5.1 PPH on offense and 6.7 PPH on defense. TFG says that the Crimson Tide take this one in a walk, 36-26, with better than 5-out-of-6 chances that Alabama wins. You'd be hard-pressed to find another bowl game as lopsides as this, with perhaps the exception of ...

#25: Holiday Bowl (December 30, 2010)
Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-3, 6-2 Big XII) vs. Washington Huskies (6-6, 5-4 Pac-10)
GUGS: 45.0

Justin: .... this one. (12) Nebraska blew a huge lead in the Big XII title game and missed out on the Fiesta Bowl, meaning they play two days earlier against even lesser competition than UConn. For all the press that Jake Locker got, TFG has never thought too highly of him. Expect the Nebraska defense to, well, do what they did the first time these teams played this year. Everything about this game screams "mismatch", from Nebraska's 6.5 PPH advantage on offense to their 6.7 PPH advantage on defense. This will not be close, and there's no real reason we should be playing this game in the first place. Nebraska by 10+, with 85% confidence.
Eddie:  RBA agrees with Justin on this one.  (11) Nebraska is consistent on defense at 4.6 +/- 9.4 PPH.  Their offense is a little flaky, depending on who is playing quarterback, but otherwise acceptable at 32.4 +/- 20.2 PPH.  (51) Washington is neither of those things, sacrificing 7.7 PPH offensively and 10.0 PPH defensively.  This was a poor matchup dictated by too few bowl-eligible Pac-10 teams, and it will manifest in a 35-17 Nebraska victory with 74.6% confidence.

#24: Fiesta Bowl (January 1, 2011)
Connecticut Huskies (8-4, 5-2 Big East) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (11-2, 6-2 Big XII)
GUGS: 45.1

Eddie:  The Fiesta Bowl comes in as the first BCS game on the GUGS scale.  (9) Oklahoma outguns (40) UConn in pretty much every facet of the game.  Their offense holds a 10.8 PPH advantage over the Huskies. Their defense has a 4.7 PPH advantage.  Nothing about this game suggests its going to be competitive.  Oklahoma's tempo should only emphasize the disparity.  Oklahoma should pick up its first BCS win in a long while, 31-17, at 83.9% confidence over the helpless Huskies.
Justin: Once again the Big East sends a middling team to a BCS bowl under the guise of "the Big East Champions" (they've really got to stop doing that). But it looks like until TCU joins the Big East -- yes, I just typed that and, no, it's not a joke -- we get UConn/Oklahoma on New Year's Day. (49) UConn has an exceedingly average offense that clocks in at 18.2 PPH; this is unfortunate, since the (7) Sooners have the fifth-best defense in FBS, allowing only 11.1 PPH. Oklahoma combines that with an effective offense (23.1 PPH) but the real stand-out on their stat sheet is their speed. Oklahoma averages 183 plays per game, which has a tendency to wear down opponents. UConn plays slightly quicker than average, yet still doesn't crack the 170 plays-per-game mark. Expect the Sooners to quite literally run away with this one, 36-27, in a quick but ugly game.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(4)Alabama36 (35)Michigan St.26 84.6 (4)Alabama34 (37)Michigan St.17 86.1
(12)Nebraska36 (72)Washington26 85.2 (11)Nebraska35 (51)Washington17 74.5
(49)Connecticut27 (7)Oklahoma36 81.5 (40)Connecticut17 (9)Oklahoma31 83.8

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2010 Bowl Previews: Part III

Part III of our bowl preview. Part II was yesterday.

#29: Humanitarian Bowl (December 18, 2010)
Northern Illinois Huskies (10-3, 8-0 MAC) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (8-4, 5-3 WAC)
GUGS: 41.9

Justin: We're finally creeping into "real" bowl games. (34) Northern Illinois was 30 seconds away from winning the MAC title, but instead gave up a freak touchdown and will play the (67) Bulldogs on Boise State's Smurf Turf. Northern Illinois' offense clocks in at 23.5 PPH, somewhere between (7) Oklahoma and (9) LSU. It's the other side of the ball that's holding the Huskies back, as they're giving up 17.9 PPH; that's only a shade better than (103) Vanderbilt. Fresno State has a respectable offense at 20.2 PPH, but a porous defense that yields 22.2 PPH. Fortunately for the Bulldogs this should be a slow game that will give them an opportunity to make some lucky plays. TFG still isn't big on their chances, and picks the Huskies by nearly a touchdown.
Eddie:  Justin is correct that (70) Northern Illinois has a weak defense, although RBA doesn't think it quite as bad against (74) Fresno State.  The Huskies' defense surrenders 15.0 PPH against 0.472 strength  opponents.  On the other hand, the Bulldogs should surrender even more points at 19.0 PPH and have only a +0.8 PPH offensive advantage.  The Bulldogs had better bring some Red Wave Third Down Thunder *clang clang clang* if they want to win this one.  Everything adds up to a relatively close Northern Illinois victory, 31-27, with 55.1% confidence.

#28: Military Bowl (December 29, 2010)
East Carolina Pirates (6-6, 5-3 C-USA) vs. Maryland Terrapins (8-4, 5-3 ACC)
GUGS: 41.9

Eddie:  Continuing the trend from the previous pick, we present (77) East Carolina and its 23.2 PPH defense.  (52) Maryland sports a +9.6 PPH defensive advantage over the Pirates.  I'm sure Justin will disagree with me here, but this game doesn't look particularly close.  The Pirates have a rounding error advantage on offense (+0.1 PPH), so this game comes down to their ability to step up their defense against a relatively consistent Maryland offense.  RBA doesn't think that will happen, predicting a Maryland 34-27 victory with 66.5% confidence.
Justin: At first glance this looks like it should be a walk for Maryland; ECU is a 0.500 team from a non-AQ conference and has lost 4 of their last 5, whereas Maryland finished one game behind FSU and has won 4 of their last 6. But a closer examination shows that (59) Maryland isn't quite the mismatch against (69) ECU as you might expect. The Pirates actually have a better offense than Maryland (19.9 PPH versus 17.9 PPH) but are lacking in defense. It didn't help that ECU gave up 76 points to Navy -- a team that Maryland beat at the start of the year, and just barely (and with some luck) -- but if the Pirates can reign in the Terps' offense, they'll have a chance at the upset.

#27: Pinstripe Bowl (December 30, 2010)
Kansas State Wildcats (7-5, 3-5 Big XII) vs. Syracuse Orangemen (7-5, 4-3 Big East)
GUGS: 42.2

Justin: At one point the (56) Wildcats were in the BCS top 25 and considered legitimate challengers to (12) Nebraska for the Big XII North. Then they went into a tailspin and lost 4 of their last 6. Syracuse has gone 7-5 against a similar slate as the Wildcats, but with consistently mediocre opposition instead of great teams (e.g., Nebraska) and poor teams (e.g., North Texas). The Big East is having another down year, and a winning record in that conference doesn't count for much. Syracuse has nearly a staggering 10.0 PPH disadvantage on offense, but nearly a 5.0 PPH advantage on defense. If the Orangemen can find anything resembling an offense against the Wildcats, they'll have a chance to pull off the upset. Barring that, TFG says this is 2-to-1 in favor of Kansas State to win by 4.
Eddie:  If you had asked me in August, I wouldn't have thought either of these teams would have made a bowl game at all.  (51) Kansas State's offense is highly inconsistent at 33.1 +/- 22.5 PPH and should expect 20.7 PPH against 0.551 strength (67) Syracuse.  The Orangemen are even more inconsistent defensively (if that was possible with a variance of 28.2 PPH.  This game really depends on whether the Wildcat offense or Orangemen defense decides to show up.  If everybody holds true to expectation, we expect the +10.2 PPH K-State offensive advantage to overcome the Syracuse +1.7 PPH defensive advantage.  RBA says the Wildcats win 31-24 with 61.5% confidence.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(67)Fresno St.32 (34)Northern Ill.38 69.6 (74)Fresno St.27 (70)Northern Ill.31 55.1
(69)East Carolina34 (59)Maryland36 57.9 (77)East Carolina27 (52)Maryland34 66.5
(56)Kansas St.34 (83)Syracuse30 66.4 (51)Kansas St.31 (67)Syracuse24 61.5

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 Bowl Previews: Part II

Part II of our bowl preview. Part I was yesterday.

#32: New Mexico Bowl (December 18, 2010)
Brigham Young Cougars (6-6, 5-3 MWC) vs. UTEP Miners (6-6, 3-5 C-USA)
GUGS: 31.6

Eddie:  This one is going to get real ugly, real quick.  (54) BYU isn't a great team, but they're better than their 6-6 record indicates.  Their offense is potent, albeit inconsistent at 31.2 +/- 27.7 PPH.  This is particularly bad for (93) UTEP and their 6.4 +/- 29.2 PPH defense.  BYU should cut through UTEP's defense at a remarkable 24.3 PPH pace.  UTEP simply will be unable to keep up with that pace.  It may look close at the half, but BYU should cruise to a 41-20 victory with 81.8% confidence.
Justin: (42) BYU did well in-conference, but went a horrible 1-3 OOC. Losses to (18) Florida State and (28) Nevada are excusable, but a loss to (97) Utah State is not. The Cougars are a far cry from the team that defeated Oregon State last year, but should have enough to handle (95) UTEP. The Miners went 3-1 OOC, but two of those victories were against (116) New Mexico and (120) New Mexico State. TFG prefers good losses to bad wins, and BYU has a net efficiency of +2.5 PPH compared to UTEP's -7.2 PPH. TFG doesn't see this as a contest and has BYU as better than 3-to-1 favorites to win by more than a touchdown.

#31: New Orleans Bowl (December 18, 2010)
Ohio Bobcats (8-4, 6-2 MAC) vs. Troy Trojans (7-2, 6-2 Sun Belt)
GUGS: 33.8

Justin: This game is going to be close, but due to it having two thoroughly mediocre teams -- the (74) Trojans and (78) Bobcats -- playing an average-scoring game. Neither team has a positive net efficiency, so this will likely come down to whichever team makes the fewest mistakes. If you're looking for a bowl game that will be close and possibly exciting, but not particularly flashy or skilled, this may be the bowl game for you. Troy wins this coin toss by 1, 34-33.
Eddie:  (90) Troy suffers from a malady that plagues nearly all the bottom quarter teams in RBA's poll -- an inconsistent defense.  The Trojans D yields 6.3 +/- 32.7 PPH.  (86) Ohio isn't especially good on that side of the ball, but the Bobcat defense should only give up 9.7 +/- 16.7 PPH.  Although Troy sports a +1.0 PPH offensive advantage, it simply can't overcome the 3.5 PPH defensive disadvantage.  Ohio wins this one with a late field goal, 31-28, with 54.3% confidence.

#30: TicketCity Bowl (January 1, 2011)
Northwestern Wildcats (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) vs. Tech Tech Red Raiders (7-5, 3-5 Big XII)
GUGS: 41.8

Eddie:  This one is going to end very badly for (77) Northwestern.  RBA's luckiest team in the country suffered a huge loss when quarterback Dan Persa went down with an Achilles tendon injury.  The worst part is that the subsequent blowouts haven't taken a huge toll on RBA's model, yet.  That makes (45) Texas Tech's whopping +7.2 PPH offensive advantage and +6.5 PPH defensive advantage that much worse.  Even before the Persa injury, this game wasn't going to be that close, but it may very well be worse than RBA's predicted 38-24 score with 72.6% confidence.
Justin: Even though this a New Year's Day game, it just barely qualifies as a "real" bowl game. The (71) Wildcats take on the (51) Red Raiders in a tale of two teams going in opposite directions. Texas Tech is on the way down after forcing out Mike Leach, and Northwestern is on a slow trajectory upwards. The Red Raiders haven't fallen far enough to tip this one in favor of the Wildcats, though. Texas Tech has seen one of the largest year-to-year changes since Leach left, dropping nearly 7.0 PPH on offense, giving up another 2.5 PPH on defense, but playing even faster. That's right: even though the odds aren't in their favor as much, Texas Tech sped it up slightly from last year. TFG still has them as nearly 2-to-1 favorites over a Northwestern team that had seven of their games decided by 5 points or less (going 5-2); they'll need that luck to hold out against Texas Tech's projected 3-point advantage.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(42)BYU34 (95)UTEP26 78.6 (53)BYU45 (95)UTEP17 81.8
(78)Ohio33 (74)Troy34 52.9 (85)Ohio34 (90)Troy27 54.3
(71)Northwestern30 (51)Texas Tech33 62.9 (75)Northwestern28 (43)Texas Tech35 72.5

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010 Bowl Previews: Part I

Welcome to the 2010 edition of the Tempo-Free Gridiron Bowl Preview. Much like last year's preview, we'll examine every one of the bowl games this year and give you the Tempo-Free Gridiron and Regression-Based Analysis breakdown of each game, along with the GUGS score for that game (a measure of the quality of the teams and how competitive and high-scoring the game is expected to be based on our projections).  Most games fall in the 40-60 range on the GUGS scale, but with 35 games there are going to be some real clunkers alongside some real barnburners. We'll examine three bowl games per day, with the top two on day 12. With that, we start out countdown with

#35: GoDaddy.Com Bowl (January 6, 2011)
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (6-6, 5-3 Sun Belt) vs. Miami-Ohio Red Hawks (9-4, 7-1 MAC)
GUGS: 24.5

Justin: We start our countdown with two teams placed firmly in the bottom quarter of the TFG rankings. The 92nd-ranked Blue Raiders sport a 0.500 record, which is impressive considering they have a -6.0 PPH disadvantage against an average FBS opponent. Making things worse, Middle Tennessee plays uptempo ball, meaning they give their opponents plenty of opportunities to score. Shockingly, Miami-Ohio is even worse and clocks in at 96 in the TFG top 120 with nearly a -7.0 PPH disadvantage out of the gate. These are the two worst teams to achieve bowl eligibility, and the bowl managed to snatch them both up. I believe Eddie would call this a pillow fight, as neither team has what could be termed an "offense". The sheer principle of "someone's gotta win" says that Middle Tennessee pulls this one out, but TFG says it's a virtual coin toss at 52.2%. Even the projected closeness of this game can't pull the GUGS rating into the 30s, and that's all you need to know about this game.
Eddie: Yawn.  At first glance, (99) Middle Tennessee looks like it should have a decent defensive outing by holding (100) Miami-Ohio to only 14.5 PPH.  Unfortunately, that's only because the Red Hawks sport a 0.281 expected winning percentage.  The Blue Raiders should only be able to muster 14.2 PPH themselves thanks to a Miami defense that expects to surrender only 12.6 PPH against the 0.241 strength MTSU offense.  This game should be very close in a comedy-of-errors sort of way.  RBA says Miami wins it 25-24 with 55.1% confidence.

#34: Armed Forces Bowl (December 30, 2010)
Army Black Knights (6-6, 0-1 Ind) vs. SMU Mustangs (7-6, 6-2 C-USA)
GUGS: 28.4

Eddie:  (75) SMU and (88) Army may be relatively close in the standings and in the win-loss column, but they produce a pretty unfair matchup.  SMU's offense has been respectable under June Jones at 22.0 +/- 12.4 PPH.  Unfortunately, defense is Army's weakness .  SMU should have a hefty advantage at 17.8 PPH versus Army's 15.4 PPH.  Furthermore, the Mustangs' are consistent on both sides of the ball.  The slow pace keeps this one closer than it should, but SMU should win 28-24 with 59.6% confidence.
Justin: If the first bowl game was uninteresting thanks to poor teams even in the face of a close game, the Armed Forces Bowl suffers from less competition. The 70th-ranked Mustangs take on the (85) Black Knights in a game that will be deliberate and low-scoring; this game won't even break 160 plays. Army and SMU both average around 17.5 PPH on offense, but SMU has nearly a 4.0 PPH advantage on defense. The Mustangs aren't bad, per se -- their offense is better than (29) Clemson's and their defense is better than (50) Georgia Tech's -- but two mediocre parts do not make a strong team. Army actually has the worst defense of any bowl-bound team, so SMU's offense should find it possible to break this game open and take home the victory.

#33: Little Caesars Bowl (December 26, 2010)
Florida International Golden Panthers (6-6, 6-2 Sun Belt) vs. Toledo Rockets (8-4, 7-1 MAC)
GUGS: 31.0

Justin: (89) FIU is another team that's fortunate to be at 6-6, solely by virtue of playing in a weak conference. FIU has a net -6.6 PPH efficiency, compared to (76) Toledo's -3.7 PPH. The Rockets are about 1.5 PPH in the green on both sides of the ball, so this won't be an immovable-rock-versus-unstoppable-force type of game. Expect this game to be a slow tide of Toledo overpowering the Panthers and finally coming out on top. This game won't have much finesse and won't be high-scoring, but expect Toledo to sneak past in the end.
Eddie:  At least this slap fight will happen early in the bowl season.  (91) Florida International has very little going for it, but at least the Golden Panthers are consistent.  Offensively, they rate at 21.5 +/- 14.2 PPH.  Defensively, they surrender 11.1 +/- 16.3 PPH.  Those numbers don't seem particularly spectacular until you contrast them against (92) Toledo's ridiculously inconsistent defense, which surrenders 4.6 +/- 34.7 PPH.  If Toledo performs as expected, they should win 29-28, but with only 54.0% confidence.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(96)Miami-OH29 (92)Middle Tenn.30 52.2 (99)Miami-OH27 (NA)Middle Tenn.21 55.0
(70)SMU34 (85)Army30 61.9 (NA)SMU31 (87)Army24 59.6
(89)FIU33 (76)Toledo35 58.9 (91)FIU31 (92)Toledo27 54.0

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bowl Season: Full Rankings -- RBA

Full rankings after the jump.

Bowl Season: Top 25 -- RBA

Not too much to say here.  There was only one game last week, so no big moves anywhere but...

Rank+/-TeamWinPctSoSOff PtsDef PtsPace
005+1Virginia Tech0.97440.531324.58.879.2
006-1Ohio St.0.96580.529726.08.079.7
007--Boise St.0.95690.459227.09.884.7
014--West Virginia0.91230.537017.89.482.8
017--Florida St.0.89380.553417.910.683.3
018--Oklahoma St.0.87930.550124.313.285.8
019+1South Carolina0.85350.546224.512.378.9
024--Arizona St.0.81420.526120.09.287.0

New additions:  Navy

Dropped out:  Nevada

OMFG OREGON DROPS WHARRGARBL!  Actually, Oregon and Stanford are tied at #2 in the RBA poll with a 0.9915 expected winning percentage.  Nothing to see here.  Expect many more posts in the next few days.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Week 15: Saturday Pick

Only one game this week, and we're both in agreement (even if this post is a little late). Bowl games don't start for another week, but we'll have some posts and trivia between now and then. Enjoy today's game.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(84)Army30 (38)Navy38 77.1 (87)Army24 (34)Navy34 78.0

Week 15: Full Rankings -- TFG

Biggest jumps: Troy (+6, 80 to 74); Pittsburgh (+4, 31 to 27); Fresno State (+4, 71 to 67).

Biggest drops: Northern Illinois (-6, 28 to 34); South Carolina (-5, 14 to 19); Illinois (-5, 39 to 44); Florida-Atlantic (-4, 109 to 113).

Full rankings after the jump.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Week 15: Top 25 -- TFG

A series of championship games has little effect on the top 10, the BCS sends two good but not necessarily great teams to the national title game, and college football goes into hibernation for a month.

Rank +/- Team WinPct SoS Off Pts Def Pts Pace
001-- TCU 0.9387 0.4157 28.5 9.0 81.0
002-- Boise St. 0.9298 0.4139 29.5 9.8 82.9
003-- Ohio St. 0.9211 0.5173 26.1 9.2 80.1
004-- Alabama 0.9099 0.6464 26.5 9.9 77.9
005-- Virginia Tech 0.8717 0.5626 28.5 12.6 78.9
006-- Oregon 0.8689 0.5643 25.8 11.7 92.4
007-- Oklahoma 0.8521 0.6127 23.1 11.1 91.7
008-- Stanford 0.8377 0.5645 28.4 14.2 81.2
009-- LSU 0.8314 0.6320 24.1 12.2 78.5
010+3 Auburn 0.8305 0.6552 28.9 14.9 83.4
011-1 Iowa 0.8115 0.5707 20.8 11.2 80.8
012-1 Nebraska 0.8081 0.5146 23.6 12.9 79.8
013-1 Florida 0.8044 0.6515 23.9 13.3 80.5
014+2 Wisconsin 0.7849 0.5186 29.2 16.9 79.4
015-- Arkansas 0.7848 0.6230 27.2 15.8 83.2
016+3 West Virginia 0.7733 0.5217 20.0 11.9 81.4
017+1 Missouri 0.7674 0.5327 20.1 12.0 84.9
018-1 Florida St. 0.7650 0.6453 25.5 15.5 81.6
019-5 South Carolina 0.7638 0.6703 24.7 15.0 79.2
020-- Utah 0.7493 0.4351 23.1 14.6 81.1
021-- Oklahoma St. 0.7470 0.5280 24.4 15.6 89.6
022-- Miami-FL 0.7352 0.6333 19.8 12.9 85.9
023-- Georgia 0.7212 0.6147 26.5 17.8 77.1
024+1 Notre Dame 0.7196 0.5994 19.1 12.8 84.8
025NA USC 0.7082 0.5872 21.9 15.1 84.1

New entries: USC.

Dropped out: Arizona.

The slate of 19 games this past weekend finally decided the matchup for the BCS national championship game, but there was really only one spot up in the air; Oregon was virtually a lock as of two weeks ago, whereas Auburn needed some healthy doses of good luck to make it here. The finally took out some of that frustration on an overmatched South Carolina squad in a game that was nowhere as close as I had predicted.  With that the BCS pits the (6) Oregon Ducks against the (10) Auburn Tigers .... in about 4 weeks. Who says we need a playoff?