Saturday, October 2, 2010

Week 5: Saturday Matchups

Eddie finally managed to sneak past me by one game in the season totals, but this weekend promises the potential for me to take back the lead. There are a few games on which we disagree, although it appears we're in some amount of agreement over the GUGS selections for this week.

We've also overhauled the GUGS system to give more weight to games that have the potential to be high-scoring. North Carolina/Rutgers did produce some drama, but a 17-13 final isn't a real barnburner. So with the Scarlet Tarheel of Shame emblazoned on our last version of GUGS, we bring you GUGS: The Next Generation. Now with more scoring!

Game of the Week.
Texas Longhorns vs Oklahoma Sooners.
GUGS Score: 72.3

Justin: Both the (11) Sooners and (13) Longhorns are on a bit of a downward trend from last year, but while Oklahoma is gently gliding down, the Longhorns appear to be in a power dive. Two more games like last week's dud against UCLA, and Texas will be struggling to prove they belong with UGA, much less Alabama. This year's Oklahoma has managed to maintain the offensive efficiency of last year's squad -- which was already anemic for a top-tier team -- but has slipped by about 2.0 PPH on the defensive end. Fortunately for Oklahoma, Texas has gone about 2.0 PPH in the wrong direction on both sides of the ball, meaning this should make for an excruciatingly close game. The Sooners play at a frantic pace, averaging over 180 plays per game. Texas is much more deliberate, meaning Oklahoma may be able to knock Texas out of their comfort zone. TFG gives the Sooners a one-point victory, but only with 52.8% confidence.
Eddie:  (17) Texas lost to (31) UCLA, so they suck! WHARRGARBL!  Yes, Texas is trending downward, but they still boast a strong and consistent defense at 13.4 PPH.  (23) Oklahoma's offense is good but not overwhelming at 15.6 PPH, so we can expect to see Oklahoma work for their points.  The surprising thing about the Sooners is that their defense is very consistent (+/- 0.1 PPH, 11.5 PPH).  On the other side of the ball, Texas's offense has struggled a bit without Colt McCoy but should still generate 16.1 PPH.  All this means that we should expect a defensively oriented game with surprised sportscasters, as Oklahoma's defense handles Texas better than Big East whipping boy Cincinnati.  Final score:  27-21, 58.5% confidence.

BCS Game of the Week
Miami Hurricanes at Clemson Tigers.
GUGS Score: 66.0

Eddie:  RBA has a soft spot for the defensively minded (14) Hurricanes, especially after they crucified Pittsburgh last Thursday.  However, this is one of those games where ranking doesn't tell the whole story.  The Hurricanes boast a very strong defense against weak and midrange competition but have historically underperformed in big games, showing a variance of 19.9 PPH.  In contrast, (30) Clemson gives up a few more points to average competition but shows up in big games (variance 13.6 PPH).  Add in home field advantage for the Tigers, and you have yourself a close Clemson victory at 28-27 at 68.4%.*
Justin: TFG says this game will be close in every sense of the word. The (17) Hurricanes visit the (21) Tigers, but the difference in those four spots in the rankings is huge. The difference between Miami and Clemson is almost as big as the gap between Miami and (9) Penn State. The Tigers will need every bit of home field advantage to make this one work.  Efficiency-wise, the Tigers field the fifth-weakest offense in the top 30, but make up for that with a serviceable defense. The Hurricanes are better on both sides of the ball than the Tigers, so this game comes down to home field advantage. TFG says that'll be enough, but just barely; the Tigers should win by a point, but only with 50.3% confidence. If this game comes down to a 45+ yard field goal in the closing seconds (a 50-50 proposition if there ever was one) then I'll consider this pick to be spot-on.

BCS Upset Watch of the Week
East Carolina Pirates at North Carolina Tar Heels.
GUGS Score: 51.9
"Seriously? I thought you fixed this" Score: 100.0

Justin: I know. I know. We specifically tweaked GUGS to give a slight bump to high-scoring games, but when it comes to a team from a BCS AQ conference against a non-Big-Six conference, there are only so many games to choose from. In this case it's (54) ECU visiting (34) UNC in what will likely be the most competitive game between two I-A North Carolina schools. In this case it's all going to come down to UNC's ability to stop the ECU offense. ECU plays more up-tempo than the Tar Heels, so with some luck they may be able to get some drives going and put some points on the board. By by "with some luck" I mean "with a lot of luck." TFG taps UNC as better than 2-to-1 favorites to win, 33-29.
Eddie: When Justin announced this game, you could hear a discernable groan from my direction.  Then, some ECU fans started taunting their in-state adversary.  Then, we heard about coaches taking handouts.  Now, I'm at least a little intrigued to see how (42) North Carolina and their consistently awful offense (13.2 PPH) match up against the (64) ECU defense that surrenders 19.9 PPH.  Could this be Tar Heel's breakout game?  RBA says this is the game where UNC finally looks like a I-A program.  Home field advantage makes this game a bit further out of reach that you might expect.  UNC wins 31-21 with 61.6% confidence.

Kids Table Game of the Week
Navy Midshipmen at Air Force Falcons.
GUGS Score: 55.0

Eddie:  (34) Air Force has been very consistent offensively with only 3.5 PPH variance, so we can expect them to impose their will on (52) Navy.  The Middie defense is middle-of-the-pack at 15.1 PPH, so we shouldn't expect anything spectacular from them.  The real surprise is that the Falcons back up their consistent offense with a relatively strong defense with 12.1 PPH performance.  Navy should have trouble moving the ball throughout the game, allowing Air Force to send them back to Annapolis with a 28-20 loss (61.7%).
Justin: We tagged the top game between two non-AQ conference member as the "Kids Table" game, but there's nothing minor league about the showdown between the (24) Falcons and (43) Navy. Air Force plays what most I-A teams would consider a deliberate, defensive game: fewer than 165 plays per game, and a defensive efficiency of only 14.4 PPH. Navy, however, makes that pace look positively jet-powered, as the Midshipmen average a mere 155 plays per game, but give up 17.8 PPH on the defensive end (in all of I-A, only Army plays a slower game). To put that pace in perspective, by the time an average Oregon Ducks game has tallied 155 plays, there's still nearly nine-and-a-half minutes left in the game. In the end, though, Air Force's defense will be enough to slow Navy's offense and give the Falcons a 4-point victory as 2-to-1 favorites.

Games you probably wanted us to preview:

Penn State Nittany Lions at Iowa Hawkeyes.
GUGS Score: 65.3

Here we see the effects of favoring games with higher scores. While this is a crucial game for the Hawkeyes, and both RBA and TFG expect it to be close, it won't exactly be what anyone considers an display of offense. An offensive display, perhaps, but not offense-driven.

Stanford Cardinal at Oregon Ducks.
GUGS Score: 64.0

Another crucial conference showdown, and you can blame TFG for holding this game back. RBA expects this to be a real barnburner, with the (2) Ducks hosting the (3) Cardinal, in a game where the Ducks are just 54% favorites. TFG is decidedly less impressed by Stanford, and isn't entirely sold on the Ducks, either. But it's the Stanford skepticism that hurts, as TFG predicts a relatively easy Oregon victory.

Florida Gators at Alabama Crimson Tide.
GUGS Score: 59.4

A showdown of two top-four teams that may decide whether Alabama can repeat as national champions. How is this NOT one of the top games of the week? The answer, quite simply, is that the Crimson Tide are two-to-one favorites going into a game that is expected to be a low-scoring matchup. Our system doesn't take into account whether this game will have a hand in the BCS picture, but we have plans to include that in the next version of our game-picking system called GUGS: Deep Space Nine (although fans of Pomeroy's "FanMatch 5" system will probably just claim we stole his idea, watered it down, and did a bad job of translating it to our blog; they'd be right).

* Note:  Confidence indicates likelihood a team wins and is somewhat disconnected from the score differential.  That's how you get one point games with high confidence.