Race for the Roses 2011: Week 1

With conference play upon us, it's time once again to gaze into the crystal silicon ball and see what the numbers say the future holds for the Increasingly Inaccurately Named Big Ten. Some changes from last year's projection posts:

  • Home field advantage is now a factor both in calculating the ratings and predicting individual results.
  • There's a heavier weight on the fictional game used to avoid zero or infinite ratings. This means, especially early in the season, that there tends to be a smaller gap in the ratings and there are fewer overwhelming favorites (thus skewing averages toward .500 in conference play).
  • I've tweaked the win-ratio exponent for the margin-aware ratings down a bit (from 2.1 to 1.9) based on last year's results. This doesn't affect the ordering of the rankings in any way, it just means that the same gap in the ratings produces a lower predicted win percentage for the favorite, again skewing averages toward .500 (though this is a relatively small effect).

First up, this week's games:

Michigan State @ Ohio State
Both teams have failed their one road test to date, with a potential glaring weakness exposed in each (MSU's offensive line is held together with string and Elmer's glue; OSU's QB shuffle made Jacory "Armpunt" Harris look like the second coming of Peyton Manning by comparison). The teams are fairly close in rating, leaving home field as Ohio State's edge: 59% in the no-margin system, 58% (2.5-point favorites) in margin-aware.

Game of the Week: Nebraska @ Wisconsin
The Huskers get a rude welcome to the Big Ten in a possible preview of the inaugural conference title game. Nebraska has beaten decent opposition (their three 1-A opponents to date are 8-1 against everyone else) but played them relatively close; Wisconsin, by contrast, has slaughtered four cupcakes. As a result, the no-margin system has Nebraska a modest favorite at 55% but margin-aware favors Wisconsin by 4 points (64% to win).

Mismatch of the Week: Minnesota @ Michigan
Top 10 team hosting a bottom 10? Best wishes for Coach Kill regarding his recent seizure problems (he hopes to be back on the sidelines this weekend after a hospital stay); the prognosis for his team, sadly, isn't as good. No-margin says Michigan is 95% to win; margin-aware cranks that up to 97.5% (25-point favorites).

Other Big Ten Games
Penn State @ Indiana: Penn State 78% favorite no-margin, 72% (6.5 pts) margin-aware
Northwestern @ Illinois: Illinois 82% favorite no-margin, 81% (10 pts) margin-aware
Nonconference: Notre Dame @ Purdue: Notre Dame 52% favorite no-margin, 60% (3 pts) margin-aware

After the jump, a very early read on the conference race.

Basic (No-Margin) System

West-ish Division

Team Rank Avg wins 8-0 7-1 6-2 5-3 4-4 3-5 2-6 1-7 0-8 Bowl Outright Share
Nebraska 5 5.68 5.16% 20.43% 32.12% 26.21% 12.18% 3.33% 0.52% 0.04% 1 in 68,300 99.95% 29.85% 52.82%
Michigan 6 5.67 5.39% 20.44% 31.62% 26.04% 12.43% 3.49% 0.55% 0.04% 1 in 81,300 99.96% 30.32% 53.10%
Iowa 43 4.41 0.44% 4.12% 15.05% 27.99% 28.91% 16.98% 5.54% 0.92% 0.06% 93.49% 6.09% 17.19%
Michigan St 54 3.92 0.15% 1.82% 8.64% 21.53% 30.47% 24.58% 10.59% 2.08% 0.14% 87.19% 3.02% 10.05%
Northwestern 72 3.28 0.03% 0.45% 3.29% 12.37% 26.03% 30.99% 19.98% 6.19% 0.67% 59.21% 1.05% 4.17%
Minnesota 117 1.09 1 in 15.5M 1 in 252k 0.01% 0.15% 1.25% 6.67% 21.72% 39.47% 30.73% 0.16% * 0.05%

(*: less than 0.01%; the outright/shared division title percentages are calculated by 100,000 simulation runs)

Nebraska and Michigan are pretty much neck-and-neck; their clash in Ann Arbor in the second-to-last week of the season may well decide the division. Getting most of the teams closest to us in the ratings (Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State) on the road is a major scheduling disadvantage for MSU, but the bigger factor is that three cupcake wins and a loss to a Notre Dame team that hasn't really impressed to this point is not much of a resume.

Pseudo-East Division

Team Rank Avg wins 8-0 7-1 6-2 5-3 4-4 3-5 2-6 1-7 0-8 Bowl Outright Share
Illinois 9 5.76 6.34% 22.10% 31.87% 24.75% 11.30% 3.10% 0.50% 0.04% 1 in 66,000 99.96% 39.39% 62.75%
Wisconsin 21 5.05 1.80% 10.50% 24.73% 30.53% 21.49% 8.74% 1.98% 0.23% 0.01% 99.77% 17.65% 36.58%
Penn State 26 4.49 0.76% 5.48% 16.53% 27.28% 26.88% 16.13% 5.74% 1.11% 0.09% 93.06% 9.45% 23.17%
Ohio State 50 3.51 0.06% 0.84% 5.04% 15.80% 28.00% 28.65% 16.42% 4.71% 0.49% 78.39% 2.17% 7.83%
Purdue 69 3.41 0.04% 0.64% 4.19% 14.24% 27.33% 29.91% 17.90% 5.21% 0.53% 60.65% 1.84% 6.62%
Indiana 113 1.72 1 in 398k 1 in 11,400 0.13% 1.08% 5.40% 16.73% 31.18% 31.84% 13.62% 1.23% 0.05% 0.41%

 

As discussed under Game of the Week, the no-margin ratings are much less impressed by Wisconsin due to the extremely cupcake-heavy schedule to date. A win over Nebraska would go a long way toward changing that, but for now Illinois is the favorite. (File that one away under "words I never thought I would type this season".)

Margin-Aware System

West-ish Division

Team Rank Avg wins 8-0 7-1 6-2 5-3 4-4 3-5 2-6 1-7 0-8 Bowl Outright Share
Michigan 7 6.09 10.01% 28.32% 32.87% 20.19% 7.06% 1.40% 0.15% 1 in 13,600 1 in 905k 99.99% 42.08% 65.75%
Nebraska 11 5.60 3.40% 17.81% 33.78% 29.06% 12.59% 2.96% 0.38% 0.03% 1 in 152k 99.97% 21.98% 43.73%
Iowa 37 4.44 0.36% 3.83% 15.11% 29.02% 29.58% 16.43% 4.90% 0.73% 0.04% 94.33% 4.85% 14.74%
Michigan St 39 3.87 0.11% 1.45% 7.63% 20.70% 31.29% 26.09% 10.89% 1.77% 0.09% 87.27% 2.17% 7.92%
Northwestern 65 3.14 0.01% 0.28% 2.38% 10.29% 24.44% 32.19% 22.51% 7.24% 0.66% 62.44% 0.59% 2.78%
Minnesota 114 0.81 1 in 279M 1 in 2.71M 1 in 66,700 0.03% 0.41% 3.23% 15.12% 38.91% 42.30% 0.03% * *

 

Adding margin to the picture devalues Nebraska's wins a bit (as all of their opponents have won multiple squeakers against weak competition), pushing Michigan into the lead.

Pseudo-East Division

Team Rank Avg wins 8-0 7-1 6-2 5-3 4-4 3-5 2-6 1-7 0-8 Bowl Outright Share
Wisconsin 8 6.15 10.70% 29.52% 32.97% 19.23% 6.30% 1.16% 0.12% 1 in 17,200 1 in 892k 99.99% 50.78% 73.24%
Illinois 22 5.09 1.95% 11.01% 25.25% 30.42% 20.88% 8.35% 1.90% 0.23% 0.01% 99.76% 15.53% 33.11%
Penn State 29 4.38 0.45% 4.27% 15.02% 27.12% 28.14% 17.39% 6.29% 1.22% 0.10% 92.39% 6.04% 16.85%
Purdue 67 3.23 0.01% 0.26% 2.55% 11.44% 26.21% 32.12% 20.68% 6.17% 0.55% 53.22% 0.77% 3.51%
Ohio State 47 3.22 0.02% 0.35% 2.85% 11.57% 25.58% 31.42% 20.81% 6.66% 0.74% 71.79% 1.02% 4.33%
Indiana 94 1.98 1 in 309k 0.01% 0.21% 1.69% 7.79% 21.18% 33.08% 27.09% 8.94% 1.92% 0.08% 0.44%

 

When the computer considers that Wisconsin's wins, albeit over cupcakes, have been flat-out curbstompings and Illinois has a pair of narrow escapes, it's no shock that the Badgers vault into the lead. Ohio State's absurdly difficult cross-division schedule (MSU, @Mich, @Neb) drags them below Purdue (who also travels to Michigan and hosts Iowa - about equivalent to hosting us - but their third cross-division game is Minnesota at home).

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