Race for the Roses 2012: Week 3

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

One game creates a huge swing in the East race, while the West looks even more unpredictable than it did last week.

Last week, Northwestern and Purdue were the early favorites to meet in Indianapolis. With both losing (neither in particularly close fashion either), things have been shaken up again. As always, ratings are here and division title chances are calculated from 100,000 simulated seasons.

Let's start off with last week's games:

Michigan State 31, Indiana 27

Ugly wins are still wins. Don't think anyone's going to be especially proud of this one (or at least not the first half of it), but they all count the same in the standings.

Penn State 39, Northwestern 28

This was a game of runs: from the midpoint of the second quarter to the end of the third, Northwestern outscored Penn State 28-7. Unfortunately for them, they also gave up the first 10 points and the last 22.

Wisconsin 31, Illinois 14

Wisconsin didn't really put the Illini away until a three-touchdown scoring binge in the fourth quarter. The Badgers' running game showed some glimpses of its usual self with 173 yards, but two of the touchdowns came on pass plays of 50+ yards.

Michigan 44, Purdue 13

Purdue came into this game the by-default favorite in the East, in large part thanks to hanging tough with Notre Dame and not suffering too many major scares in their other games. Then the Denard Robinson Show came to town. Michigan scored three TDs in 7 minutes spanning the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second (including a long pick-six) and never looked back.

Ohio State 63, Nebraska 38

Nebraska got out to a 17-7 lead after giving up the opening points on an interception return, but they quickly imploded on defense after that. Ohio State totaled 7 yards of offense and no first downs on their first four drives, then 462 and seven touchdowns on the next nine (the other two TDs coming via the aforementioned pick-six and a punt return).

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
Michigan (#46) 4.53 N/A 0.42% 4.09% 15.40% 29.02% 29.72% 16.44% 4.47% 0.44% 80.09% 15.19% 34.48%
Northwestern (#33) 4.52 N/A 0.28% 3.34% 14.59% 30.36% 31.89% 16.32% 3.23% N/A 99.74% 13.36% 32.48%
Michigan State (#34) 4.37 N/A 0.58% 5.00% 17.33% 30.67% 29.27% 14.33% 2.83% N/A 94.42% 11.68% 29.64%
Iowa (#58) 4.22 N/A 1.02% 7.14% 20.34% 30.41% 25.65% 12.15% 3.00% 0.30% 71.50% 9.59% 25.14%
Nebraska (#48) 3.89 N/A 1.65% 10.26% 25.51% 32.29% 21.83% 7.46% 1.01% N/A 88.09% 5.59% 17.47%
Minnesota (#47) 3.86 0.30% 2.87% 11.34% 24.15% 29.95% 21.62% 8.41% 1.36% N/A 96.83% 5.99% 18.34%

Pick a name out of a hat. Seriously. Everyone has at least a 1 in 6 chance of sharing the title and at least a 1 in 18 chance of winning it outright. Michigan's lower rating is slightly offset by not having lost a conference game yet, while Minnesota offsets not having a conference win yet by having a much softer cross-division schedule than Nebraska. Add it all up and the gap between the top and bottom teams is ... two-thirds of a win. Everything's still up for grabs here.

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 (#36) 5.31 N/A 0.02% 0.56% 4.60% 17.41% 33.01% 30.69% 12.30% 1.42% 94.82% 33.63% 59.99%
Northwestern (#47) 4.47 N/A 0.15% 2.69% 14.71% 33.30% 33.05% 14.01% 2.09% N/A 99.85% 9.77% 27.08%
Michigan State (#45) 4.37 N/A 0.42% 4.32% 16.96% 32.12% 30.42% 13.55% 2.21% N/A 95.26% 9.39% 25.77%
Iowa (#59) 3.94 N/A 1.50% 9.78% 24.95% 32.01% 22.06% 8.10% 1.49% 0.11% 63.77% 5.31% 16.24%
Nebraska (#51) 3.93 N/A 1.10% 8.93% 25.41% 33.85% 22.57% 7.25% 0.89% N/A 89.97% 4.80% 16.47%
Minnesota (#68) 3.03 1.51% 9.27% 23.27% 30.86% 23.15% 9.70% 2.07% 0.17% N/A 89.22% 1.39% 6.31%

Here, Michigan's blowout of Purdue gives them the edge over a group of teams that have had mostly close calls. Even so, only Minnesota's odds of grabbing a share of the title are significantly worse than 1 in 6.

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 (#4) 6.82 N/A N/A 1 in 38,000 0.09% 1.16% 7.45% 24.88% 40.74% 25.68% (Yes) 71.87% (N/A) 88.29% (N/A)
Penn State (#44) 5.17 N/A N/A 0.70% 6.42% 20.97% 32.83% 26.62% 10.76% 1.71% (92.88%) 9.55% (N/A) 23.57% (N/A)
Wisconsin (#51) 3.87 N/A 1.77% 10.61% 25.68% 31.98% 21.53% 7.40% 1.01% N/A 87.62% 1.27% (49.40%) 5.45% (72.19%)
Purdue (#68) 2.94 1.52% 9.92% 24.94% 31.74% 22.04% 8.25% 1.50% 0.10% N/A 63.62% 0.22% (18.23%) 1.28% (37.10%)
Illinois (#94) 1.96 7.03% 26.96% 36.71% 22.26% 6.23% 0.77% 0.03% N/A N/A 7.03% <0.01% (2.73%) 0.08% (10.90%)
Indiana (#96) 1.84 10.46% 29.65% 33.60% 19.37% 5.95% 0.92% 0.06% N/A N/A 13.08% 0.01% (3.61%) 0.16% (11.67%)

Ohio State would be absolutely running away with the division if eligible, and their closest competition is also barred from the postseason. The odds that one of the four eligible teams will at least tie for the title (instead of being promoted to the title while finishing behind Ohio State and/or Penn State) are at best 1 in 14 and possibly closer to 1 in 18. Of the eligible teams, Wisconsin's chances are best after Purdue's precipitous fall. Illinois and Indiana are close to joining the two ineligible teams in making other holiday plans.

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 (#7) 6.77 N/A N/A 1 in 112k 0.05% 0.99% 7.56% 26.92% 41.96% 22.52% (Yes) 62.80% (N/A) 83.09% (N/A)
Penn State (#33) 5.61 N/A N/A 0.15% 2.49% 13.13% 29.72% 32.98% 17.79% 3.74% (97.36%) 15.17% (N/A) 33.86% (N/A)
Wisconsin (#55) 3.82 N/A 1.41% 10.37% 27.29% 33.65% 20.63% 6.00% 0.65% N/A 88.22% 0.83% (44.38%) 4.15% (68.15%)
Purdue (#61) 3.29 0.60% 5.57% 19.06% 31.80% 27.80% 12.49% 2.53% 0.15% N/A 74.77% 0.28% (25.25%) 1.62% (47.23%)
Indiana (#81) 1.87 8.95% 28.86% 35.32% 20.41% 5.69% 0.73% 0.03% N/A N/A 13.27% 0.01% (3.05%) 0.10% (10.79%)
Illinois (#99) 1.57 12.42% 36.03% 35.64% 13.97% 1.85% 0.09% 1 in 70,100 N/A N/A 1.94% <0.01% (0.86%) 0.01% (5.32%)

More of the same, though Ohio State's lead over Penn State is a little weaker, as is Wisconsin's over Purdue. Illinois drops even further off the pace, while Indiana approximately maintains its weak bowl chances.

This Week's Games

Game of the Week: Wisconsin @ Purdue

Slim pickings this week. This one gets the nod primarily because the winner has the inside track to Indy from the East, as two of the other four teams aren't eligible and the other two are in a deep hole already in the division. Home field gives Purdue a narrow edge here: 51% in the basic method, 62% in margin-aware (3.5 points).

Blowout of the Week (Illinois Division): Illinois @ Michigan

Not only has Illinois only won one game against 1-A competition (Western Michigan), last week's 17-point loss to Wisconsin was their closest loss. This will not end well. Michigan is an 80% favorite according to the basic method, 93% (17 points) according to margin-aware.

Blowout of the Week (Non-Illinois Division): Ohio State @ Indiana

This may turn into a bit of a shootout, as Indiana has managed to put up points on just about everyone so far. But whatever problems Nebraska has dealing with mobile quarterbacks, Indiana's defense is still worse. The Hoosiers will probably score some points, but it likely won't be anywhere near enough. The basic method says Ohio State is an 84% favorite; margin-aware puts it at 83% (9.5 points).

MASH Unit Showdown: Iowa @ Michigan State

The Spartans have not lived up to high expectations so far; Iowa's expectations were not as high, but they have struggled more than expected as well. Injury has played a role in both slow starts (AIRBHG seems to have branched out into toying with MSU offensive linemen as well). MSU is a 72% favorite according to the basic system; margin-aware pegs it at 77% (8 points).

Overachievers Anonymous: Northwestern @ Minnesota

Six weeks ago, you would have been laughed out of town if you suggested that this would have division title implications for both teams. While this no longer looks as likely as it did two weeks ago before either team had suffered their first loss, it can't be ruled out either. The basic method favors Minnesota at 55% due to home field; margin-aware has it as close to a dead heat as I've ever seen with more than one week of data in, with Minnesota a 50.06% favorite.

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