Race for the Roses 2012: Week 4

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The East race is practically over, and three teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the West.

Last week, there was hardly any separation in the West division, and the East race (at least, among eligible teams) was set to be decided by a de facto division title game. How did last week's results change the outlook?

As always, ratings are here and division title chances are calculated from 100,000 simulated seasons.

Last week's games:

Iowa 19, Michigan State 16 (2OT)

Blergh.

Wisconsin 38, Purdue 14

Purdue scored the in the first minute and the second-to-last. The 57 minutes between didn't go so well. Montee Ball now holds the Big Ten record for touchdowns, topping former fellow Badger bulldozer Ron Dayne's total of 71, and Wisconsin holds a potentially critical tiebreaker along with a 1.5 game lead in the division among eligible teams.

Northwestern 21, Minnesota 13

The Wildcats and Gophers alternated scoring drives (although I use the term loosely with regard to Northwestern's opening score, which came 11 seconds into the game after a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff) through the first 2 1/2 quarters. However, Northwestern end all of those with 7 points and Minnesota had to settle for field goals twice. The well dried up after that for both teams, with the Wildcats' defense holding up on a 4th-down stop inside their 10 late to preserve the victory.

Michigan 45, Illinois 0

The only home team to win in conference for the day was never really threatened. Illinois managed just 134 total yards for the day in arguably their worst showing of the entire season (and it's not as though there is a lack of disasters to choose from).

Ohio State 52, Indiana 49

Anyone who went to bed early missed some real fireworks here. Indiana looked to be out of it when the Buckeyes extended their lead to 52-34 with under 7 minutes to go. But a touchdown with 1:40 left, a successful onside kick, another touchdown 35 seconds later and a two-point conversion brought Indiana back within a field goal. Indiana came close to recovering a second onside kick but couldn't quite come up with it. If we hadn't looked so lousy in our game, I would consider this an encouraging sign that the Indiana game might not have been as bad an omen as it seemed.

Onto the tables:

West Division

Basic Method
Team Avg wins 0-8 1-7 2-6 3-5 4-4 5-3 6-2 7-1 8-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Northwestern (#23) 5.29 N/A N/A 0.28% 3.79% 17.25% 35.07% 32.48% 11.12% N/A Yes 22.60% 47.19%
Iowa (#44) 5.26 N/A N/A 0.62% 5.53% 19.04% 32.38% 28.42% 12.07% 1.94% 93.85% 22.28% 45.68%
Michigan (#36) 4.91 N/A N/A 1.48% 9.68% 25.15% 32.89% 22.51% 7.43% 0.86% 88.84% 15.20% 34.84%
Nebraska (#41) 3.99 N/A 1.33% 8.92% 23.85% 32.41% 23.56% 8.67% 1.26% N/A 89.75% 4.14% 13.74%
Michigan State (#47) 3.17 N/A 5.47% 22.11% 34.68% 26.47% 9.84% 1.43% N/A N/A 72.42% 0.53% 3.70%
Minnesota (#58) 2.96 1.34% 9.17% 24.51% 32.77% 23.05% 8.06% 1.10% N/A N/A 89.49% 0.26% 2.35%

Last week's winners establish some separation from the rest of the pack. Northwestern sits at the front of the line due to having only one loss on the season and a higher rating (the loss is, however, in conference). Iowa is ahead of Michigan thanks to a very favorable schedule: they miss Ohio State and Wisconsin and face Penn State and Nebraska at home. There's a real possibility that this entire division goes bowling, although the MSU-Minnesota finale may also end up a bowl elimination game.

Margin-Aware Method
Team Avg wins 0-8 1-7 2-6 3-5 4-4 5-3 6-2 7-1 8-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Michigan (#30) 5.67 N/A N/A 0.13% 1.95% 10.98% 29.09% 36.36% 18.67% 2.81% 97.92% 35.52% 62.79%
Northwestern (#38) 5.12 N/A N/A 0.14% 3.45% 20.17% 41.94% 28.63% 5.67% N/A 96.41% 14.45% 36.73%
Iowa (#52) 4.93 N/A N/A 0.90% 8.22% 25.51% 35.50% 23.02% 6.27% 0.59% 90.88% 11.85% 31.06%
Nebraska (#45) 4.03 N/A 0.71% 7.41% 23.94% 34.52% 24.27% 8.12% 1.03% N/A 91.88% 3.40% 12.67%
Michigan State (#50) 3.14 N/A 4.63% 22.12% 37.62% 27.13% 7.75% 0.75% N/A N/A 73.25% 0.29% 2.77%
Minnesota (#81) 2.29 3.87% 19.49% 35.19% 28.80% 10.85% 1.71% 0.09% N/A N/A 76.64% 0.02% 0.53%

Michigan's dominance in their wins vaults them ahead here, while Iowa's penchant for close games drops them back. Minnesota drops way back thanks to close games in their non-conference wins and a beatdown by Iowa.

East Division

Basic Method
Team Avg wins 0-8 1-7 2-6 3-5 4-4 5-3 6-2 7-1 8-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Ohio State (#6) 6.97 N/A N/A N/A 0.01% 0.43% 4.74% 21.81% 42.95% 30.06% (Yes) 71.57% (N/A) 89.09% (N/A)
Penn State (#40) 5.15 N/A N/A 0.69% 6.53% 21.34% 33.09% 26.36% 10.39% 1.60% (92.78%) 6.77% (N/A) 18.88% (N/A)
Wisconsin (#35) 4.84 N/A N/A 1.12% 8.91% 26.55% 36.32% 22.22% 4.88% N/A 98.88% 3.38% (87.02%) 12.49% (96.71%)
Purdue (#82) 2.21 4.69% 21.57% 35.25% 26.76% 9.95% 1.68% 0.09% N/A N/A 38.49% 0.01% (1.83%) 0.12% (7.62%)
Illinois (#93) 1.72 9.38% 32.49% 38.06% 17.37% 2.58% 0.11% N/A N/A N/A 2.69% <0.01% (0.41%) 0.01% (2.77%)
Indiana (#95) 1.52 15.97% 35.98% 31.59% 13.47% 2.77% 0.22% N/A N/A N/A 6.41% <0.01% (0.88%) 0.01% (4.01%)

This division is pretty clearly separated into the haves and have-nots now, with Ohio State well ahead of the other two haves. Thanks to NCAA sanctions, we may as well pencil in Wisconsin now for a trip to Indy (especially since they own the tiebreaker over Purdue). Unless Purdue can turn around their apparent recent collapse, they may also be the only postseason representative from the East.

Margin-Aware Method
Team Avg wins 0-8 1-7 2-6 3-5 4-4 5-3 6-2 7-1 8-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Ohio State (#14) 6.71 N/A N/A N/A 1 in 14,900 0.43% 7.12% 31.57% 42.88% 18.00% (Yes) 55.03% (N/A) 79.87% (N/A)
Penn State (#35) 5.53 N/A N/A 0.21% 3.19% 14.64% 30.49% 31.91% 16.32% 3.24% (96.60%) 12.96% (N/A) 31.69% (N/A)
Wisconsin (#34) 5.18 N/A N/A 0.26% 3.97% 19.48% 38.27% 30.33% 7.70% N/A 99.74% 5.50% (92.84%) 19.59% (98.75%)
Purdue (#80) 2.15 4.59% 22.52% 36.83% 26.29% 8.59% 1.15% 0.04% N/A N/A 36.06% <0.01% (0.63%) 0.07% (3.84%)
Indiana (#84) 1.71 11.10% 32.52% 35.26% 17.23% 3.65% 0.24% N/A N/A N/A 8.28% <0.01% (0.50%) 0.01% (3.08%)
Illinois (#99) 1.56 11.93% 36.00% 37.11% 13.98% 0.96% 0.02% N/A N/A N/A 0.98% <0.01% (0.07%) <0.01% (0.86%)

Doesn't look much different here, although Ohio State's tendency to win by narrow margins (both MSU and Indiana were within a field goal or less) makes them somewhat less likely to run the table.

This Week's Games

Game of the Week: Penn State @ Iowa

Not many expected Iowa to be a contender after a messy non-conference season, but Iowa State (one of two losses) looks more respectable than expected and the Hawkeyes have gotten the job done so far in conference play. Home field gives them the edge: 58% favorite in the no-margin system, 56% (1.5 points) margin-aware.

Giant-Lumberjack-Related Rivalries of the Week: Minnesota @ Wisconsin, Michigan State @ Michigan

While we battle for a statue of Paul Bunyan, the Badgers and Gophers will be fighting over his axe. The home teams both have a clear edge here: Wisconsin is a 70% favorite according to the basic method but 89% (14 points) when margin of victory is considered. Michigan's edge is a little lower: 65% and 81% (9.5 points) respectively.

Mismatch of the Week: Purdue @ Ohio State

Hey, Illinois isn't featured here! (That's because they're off this week, though.) Purdue looked solid in non-conference play but has gotten demolished by their two first conference opponents. It doesn't get any easier this time out. The basic method pegs Ohio State as a 10-to-1 (91%) favorite; margin-aware bumps that up to 95% (18.5 points).

Nerds Versus Newbies: Nebraska @ Northwestern

Northwestern gave Nebraska a rude welcome last year, winning the battle of the "N"s in Lincoln. They're favored to do so again: 69% by no-margin, 74% (6.5 points) by margin-aware.

Wait, There's Another Non-Conference Game? Indiana @ Navy

This one will wrap up the non-conference schedule until bowl season. Both systems favor Navy 3-to-1 (75%, 7 points in margin-aware).

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