Thursday, January 14, 2010

2009 Bowl Summaries

The 2009-2010 bowl season is complete and so is our first Tempo-Free Gridiron bowl preview series.  I was very pleased with my algorithm's performance this year as it went 24-10 and placed in the 99.3rd percentile of the ESPN Bowl Pick'em challenge with 414 out of 595 possible points.  Eddie's Regression-Based Analysis approach also did well by going 20-14, good for the 95th percentile with 375 points.  Already we've started to discuss improvements for next year, ranging from parameter tweaks for existing formulas to large-scale rewrites of calculating efficiencies.

Greatest Hits

Justin: Normally this is where I'd say that my system identified (1) Florida against (17) Cincinnati as the biggest mismatch with the Gators as big favorites.  However this isn't entirely fair since the Bearcats lost their coach right after the regular season and who knows what Brian Kelly could have come up with to stop Tim Tebow's final farewell.  At the time I said "Florida are 5-to-1 favorites to win by 11 in the least competitive game this bowl season."  Instead I'll have to go with my pick of (32) Air Force over (39) Houston.  At one point the Cougars were ranked in the top 15 of the BCS and were darlings of the pollsters due to their high PPG.  However once you adjusted for tempo and quality of opponent, Houston's vaunted offense really wasn't even as powerful as that of (44) Florida State; they just quickly steamrolled over inferior competition.  This didn't fool TFG, though, as it saw through the frantic pace of Houston and the deliberate pace of Air Force and predicted an Air Force victory.
Eddie: I consider my crowning achievement to be (5) Iowa over (17) Georgia Tech.  It seemed like everybody -- save Justin and myself -- had Georgia Tech in this game that never really looked that close.  Iowa's offense may not be much, but their defense was rock solid, yet again.  I'd also like to put (26) Ole Miss over (35) Oklahoma State in this space because, although I missed the pick, everything followed suit except the score.  In a previous post, I said that "Mississippi commits turnovers in droves, averaging 2.3 per game, and supplements a consistently strong defense with a wildly erratic offense, depending on whether they decide to give Dexter McCluster the ball or not."  That's exactly what happened:  Ole Miss committed seven turnovers and outsmarted themselves by giving the ball to Jerrell Powe near the goal line instead of Dexter McCluster.  However, their defense saved their butts in the end by holding Oklahoma State on their own goal line stand and returning a fumble for a touchdown.
Justin: In addition to Iowa over Georgia Tech, there were six other games in which both Eddie and I chose against conventional wisdom.
  • BYU over Oregon State
  • Utah over Cal
  • Navy over Missouri
  • Ohio State over Oregon
  • Northern Illinois over USF
  • UConn over South Carolina
In all but one -- Northern Illinois was throttled by South Florida -- we correctly identified the winner.

Worst Misses

Eddie: Given that Justin picked it as his biggest victory, it makes sense to mention my biggest miss as (27) Air Force over (40) Houston.  I doubt Justin would claim that he saw Case Keenum's six interceptions in advance, but RBA still should have seen that Air Force sported a good defense that should neutralize Houston's passing attack.  Honorable mentions are SMU over Nevada and Wyoming over Fresno State.
Justin: My (45) Nevada against (91) SMU write-up in Part I contained the rather unfortunately line "[SMU's] adjusted efficiency margin of -7.5 PPH -- thanks to a weak defense that allows 24.2 PPH -- does not spell "competitive opponent"."  It's true that this game was a slaughter in which one team did not deserve to be on the field.  Unfortunately it was Nevada that appeared to be totally outclassed, losing 45-10 in a game where TFG said they were 4-to-1 favorites.

The Bowl Idiot

Justin: There were six games in which TFG and RBA disagreed about the outcome of the game.  I'm willing to call the Florida/Cincinnati game a mulligan for Eddie since the coaching turnover threw the statistics out the window.  That leaves five games for us to disagree, leading to the 2009 Bowl edition of "No, You're An Idiot".

New Orleans Bowl
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders vs Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
What Eddie said: "Although Southern Miss has an advantage in turnovers, it is offset my a more opportunistic Middle Tennessee defense."
What Justin said: "Both teams play at a frantic pace, but Southern Miss has the superior offense and hasn't played the creampuff schedule of Middle Tennessee, which ranks dead-last in their division."
Winner: MTSU.
Correct: Eddie.

EagleBank Bowl
UCLA Bruins vs Temple Owls
What Justin said: "This looks to be one of the closer bowl games, with Cal expected to prevail 27-24 in a 52.4% coin toss."
What Eddie said: "We expect Temple to put up 17.2 PPH as opposed to UCLA's 10.9 PPH and win impressively 28-17."
Winner: UCLA.
Correct: Justin.

Armed Forces Bowl
Houston Cougars vs Air Force Falcons
What Justin said: "The Falcon's 15th-ranked defense will be the toughest challenge for Houston to date, and TFG thinks it'll be enough to slow down their high-octane pace[.]"
What Eddie said: "When adjusted for opponent strength, we expect Houston to outpace Air Force with 16.6 PPH compared to 13.9 PPH."
Winner: Air Force.
Correct: Justin.

Cotton Bowl
Mississippi Rebels vs Oklahoma State Cowboys
What Justin said: "Both teams played tough schedules and should be ready come January 2nd.  I know Eddie isn't a big Houston Nutt fan, but this game looks to be close with the Rebels as 55.3% favorites to pull off the 4-point victory."
What Eddie said: "Expect Jevan Snead to get stupid and throw a strike to Oklahoma State on a two-receiver route to seal this one.  RBA says Oklahoma State over Ole Miss, 24-21, with 60.2% confidence."Winner: Ole Miss.
Correct: Justin.

BCS Championship
Alabama Crimson Tide vs Texas Longhorns
What Justin said: "Expect Texas to try and make this an up-tempo, offense-oriented game.  Expect Alabama to shut down those hopes and take home the BCS title, 31-27."
What Eddie said:Winner: Alabama.
Correct: Justin.

The clear winner of the 2009 Bowl edition of "No, You're An Idiot" is Justin.

Even though that does it for the 2009-2010 football season we'll still be around in the offseason, especially now that we've got time to do some more interesting data mining.  Look for musings on the effects of home field advantage, number of days or weeks since the last game, whether or not strength of schedule actually matters, and anything else that catches our attention.  After all, we got some predictions wrong this year; clearly there's still work to do.