Race for the Roses 2013: Week 8

Kevork Djansezian

This week brings another key game in the West race, while the East contenders try to hold off upset threats.

Last week, while the favorites in both divisions had the week off, Nebraska and Minnesota won to keep the West division race interesting, and Iowa and Indiana also kept their slim hopes alive. With the tiebreaker situations clearing up a bit, I've gone to calculated odds for the division title (factoring in tiebreakers) instead of simulations. As always, ratings are here.

Last Week's Results

Nebraska 17, Michigan 13

If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Michigan could have provided a fair bit of assistance in the division race for MSU by beating Nebraska, but a second consecutive week of negative rushing yards for the Wolverines and a late touchdown by Ameer Abdullah kept Nebraska in control of their own destiny heading into this week's showdown with the division leaders.

Minnesota 24, Penn State 10

Minnesota scored on all four of their first-half possessions to lead 24-10 at the half. Their offense couldn't do much of anything in the second half, but Penn State got stopped on fourth down in Minnesota territory twice in the fourth quarter and fumbled at the goal line once as well, at which point the Gophers' offense came back to life and ran out the final 6:40 to finish a scoreless second half and preserve the win.

Iowa 38, Purdue 14

Hey, Purdue got to the red zone and even scored! That's progress! Unfortunately, they allowed Iowa to rush for over 300 yards and pass for nearly 200 more, and after tying the game at 7 just past the midway point of the second quarter, they gave up 31 consecutive points before a garbage-time touchdown.

Indiana 52, Illinois 35

After the Hoosiers and Illini spent three quarters trading touchdowns back and forth with neither team getting a lead larger than 7, Indiana scored the last 17 points of the game. Both teams topped 600 yards of total offense, with Indiana rushing for 371 and Illinois passing for 450.

Wisconsin 27, BYU 17

The final non-conference game of the season for the Big Ten might also be the best non-conference win by a Big Ten team. Taysom Hill completed less than half of his passes for BYU, while James White and Melvin Gordon combined for 42 carries and 233 yards for the Badgers.

West Division Contenders

Going with a somewhat different format now that we're into the final weeks. Interestingly, this year every possible tie would be decided by head-to-head (although there are a couple four-way possibilities that require a second head-to-head step after knocking it down to two teams); usually with this long left there are scenarios (not necessarily likely ones) that would go as far as the BCS rankings for tiebreakers.

Michigan State (5-0 B1G)

Basic method rank: #18
Margin-aware: #16
Division record: 2-0 (beat Michigan, Iowa)

Remaining schedule:

Opponent W% Basic W% Margin-Aware Projected Margin
@ Nebraska 49.6% 70% +5.5
@ Northwestern
71% 75% +7
Minnesota 66% 88% +12.5

Title scenarios:
Win out: Obviously, 8-0 wins the division outright.
Win two: If one of the wins is against Nebraska, MSU wins the division outright at 7-1. If the loss is to Nebraska, MSU needs Nebraska to lose a game, otherwise they lose the tiebreaker.
Win one: If it's Nebraska, Minnesota has to lose to Wisconsin. If it's Minnesota, Nebraska has to lose to both Penn State and Iowa. If it's Northwestern, both Minnesota and Nebraska have to lose their other games.
Lose all three: While it's possible for MSU to tie for the title without winning another game, they would lose the tiebreaker in all such situations.

Scenario probabilities: (Note that these probabilities will shift as the ratings change from week to week; these are based on current ratings only.)

Scenario Basic Method Margin-Aware
Probability Title Odds Probability Title Odds
Win all three (8-0)
23.19% Yes 46.26% Yes
Win Neb + NW 11.97% Yes 6.57% Yes
Win Neb + Minn 9.53% Yes 15.09% Yes
Win NW + Minn 23.56% 65.01% 19.78% 71.60%
Any two wins (7-1)
45.06% 81.71% 41.43% 86.44%
Win Neb only 4.92% 43.44% 2.14% 73.59%
Win Minn only 9.68% 15.38% 6.45% 19.97%
Win NW only 12.16% 6.68% 2.81% 14.70%
Any one win (6-2)
26.75% 16.59% 11.40% 28.74%
Lose all three (5-3)
4.99% No 0.92% No
Total 64.45% 85.35%
Beat Nebraska 49.61% 94.39% 70.05% 99.19%
Lose to Nebraska 50.39% 34.96% 29.95% 52.97%

Beat Nebraska and win another game, and MSU clinches a trip to Indianapolis without any help. If MSU either beats Nebraska or wins the other two games, they need help but are still favorites to get it. Beating only Northwestern or only Minnesota would leave the Spartans needing a lot of assistance.

Nebraska (4-1)

Basic method rank: #37
Margin-aware: #55
Division record: 2-1 (beat Michigan, Northwestern; lost to Minnesota)

Remaining schedule:

Opponent W% Basic W% Margin-Aware Projected Margin
Michigan State
50.4% 30% -5.5
@ Penn State
51% 44% -1.5
Iowa 69% 64% +3.5

Title scenarios:
Win out: At 7-1, the Huskers would hold the tiebreaker over MSU if needed and would win the division.
Win two: If the loss is to MSU, Nebraska is out, as they would lose the tiebreaker at 6-2 to MSU (and Minnesota if they are involved). If one win is over MSU, the winner of the MSU-Minnesota game must lose their other game; then Nebraska would be ahead of Minnesota and at worst tied with MSU with the tiebreaker advantage.
Win one: If the win is over MSU, Nebraska could still tie for the title at 5-3 but could not win the tiebreaker. Best-case scenario has Minnesota losing to Wisconsin, Michigan beating Iowa and Ohio State to make it a four-way tie in which Nebraska is 2-1; however, the other 2-1 team in the tie would be Minnesota, who beat them.

Scenario probabilities:

Scenario Basic Method Margin-Aware
Probability Title Odds Probability Title Odds
Win all three (7-1)
17.63% Yes 8.51% Yes
Win MSU + PSU 8.07% 33.09% 4.75% 30.69%
Win MSU + Iowa 16.94% 33.09% 10.71% 30.69%
Win PSU + Iowa 17.36% No 19.90% No
Any two wins (6-2)
42.37% 19.53% 35.36% 13.42%
Any one win (5-3)
32.37% No 42.15% No
Lose all three (4-4)
7.63% No 13.99% No
Total 26.13% 13.25%
Beat Michigan State 50.39% 51.86% 29.95% 44.26%
Lose to Michigan State 49.61% No 70.05% No

Nebraska controls their own destiny but can't really afford a slip-up. A loss to MSU officially eliminates them, while a loss in either of the other games requires help that is moderately unlikely.

Minnesota (4-2)

Basic method rank: #28
Margin-aware: #40
Division record: 2-2 (beat Nebraska and Northwestern; lost to Michigan and Iowa)

Remaining schedule:

Opponent W% Basic W% Margin-Aware Projected Margin
BYE
N/A N/A N/A
Wisconsin
57% 26% -6.5
@ Michigan State
34% 12% -12.5

Title scenarios:
Win out: At 6-2 and holding the tiebreaker over both MSU and Nebraska, the Gophers would need the winner of Nebraska-MSU to drop a game (not counting Minnesota's win over MSU) to create a three-way tie.
Win one: If the win is over MSU, there is a scenario where Minnesota goes to Indianapolis at 5-3: they need MSU to lose to Nebraska and Northwestern, Nebraska to lose to Iowa and Penn State, and Iowa to lose to Michigan. This would result in either a three-way tie with MSU and Nebraska (won on head-to-head sweep) or a four-way tie including Michigan as well (MSU and Michigan would drop out at 1-2 head-to-head, then Minnesota holds the tiebreaker over Nebraska). If the win is over Wisconsin, Minnesota cannot even tie for the division title.

Scenario probabilities:

Scenario Basic Method Margin-Aware
Probability Title Odds Probability Title Odds
Win both (6-2)
19.25% 47.20% 3.28% 38.68%
Win Wisc 37.31% No 23.13% No
Win MSU 14.79% 0.98% 9.15% 0.46%
Any one win (5-3)
52.09% 0.28% 32.27% 0.13%
Lose both (4-4) 28.65% No 64.45% No
Total
9.23%
1.31%
Neb over MSU
50.39% 12.80% 29.95% 2.48%
MSU over Neb 49.61% 5.61% 70.05% 0.81%

The basic method's lack of respect for Wisconsin and margin-aware method's relative dislike of Minnesota make the systems spit out very different results; the basic method thinks Minnesota is 7 times as likely to win the division as the margin-aware method predicts. If Minnesota can beat Wisconsin and MSU - a fairly tall task - they're still slightly below 50/50 to win the division, although their odds improve noticeably if Nebraska beats MSU; they would then have two opportunities to get the help they need (Nebraska would have to lose to either Penn State or Iowa) instead of one (if MSU beats Nebraska, they would have to lose to Northwestern). If the Gophers only beat Michigan State, the amount of help they need jumps from "plausible" to "miracle".

Iowa (3-3)

Basic method rank: #50
Margin-aware: #47
Division record: 2-1 (beat Minnesota and Northwestern; lost to Michigan State)

Remaining schedule:

Opponent W% Basic W% Margin-Aware Projected Margin
BYE
N/A N/A N/A
Michigan
57% 69% +5
@ Nebraska
31% 36% -3.5

Title scenarios:
Win out: In order to make it to a four-way tie at 5-3, Iowa would have to win out and hope Michigan State loses out, Nebraska loses to Penn State, and Minnesota loses to Wisconsin. If all of those things happen, Iowa and Minnesota would each be 2-1 in head-to-head among the tied teams (with Nebraska and MSU dropping out at 1-2), then Iowa's head-to-head win would give them the title.

Scenario probabilities:

Scenario Basic Method Margin-Aware
Probability Title Odds Probability Title Odds
Win both (5-3)
17.82% 1.06% 24.71% 0.38%
Any one win (4-4)
52.52% No
55.37% No
Lose both (3-5) 29.67% No 19.92% No
Total
0.19%
0.09%
Neb over MSU
50.39% 0.38% 29.95% 0.31%
MSU over Neb
49.61% No
70.05% No

Iowa needs miracles, even if they win out; margin-aware thinks they're somewhat more likely to win out but significantly less likely to get the help they need in the other five relevant games. A Michigan State win this week would eliminate them.

The Rest of the West

Michigan (2-3)

Basic method rank: #44
Margin-aware: #48

Remaining schedule:

Opponent W% Basic W% Margin-Aware Projected Margin
@ Northwestern
57% 41% -2
@ Iowa
43% 31% -5
Ohio State
29% 16% -10.5

Record Basic Method Margin-Aware
5-3 7.21% 2.04%
4-4 32.29% 18.21%
3-5 43.16% 45.70%
2-6 17.33% 34.05%

Michigan could reach a four-way tie in the same manner that Iowa could (also needing Iowa to beat Nebraska), but even if they do so they lose the tiebreaker, as they would be 1-2 against the tied teams (Minnesota, MSU, Nebraska).

Northwestern (0-5)

Basic method rank: #80
Margin-aware: #60

Remaining schedule:

Opponent W% Basic W% Margin-Aware Projected Margin
Michigan
43% 59% +2
Michigan State
29% 25% -7
@ Illinois
51% 66% +4

Record Basic Method Margin-Aware
3-5 6.46%
9.49%
2-6
30.34%
40.70%
1-7
43.61%
39.13%
0-8
19.59%
10.69%

Northwestern has had a very hard-luck season; they've gone from hosting Gameday to looking at a 3-in-8 (basic) or 50-50 (margin-aware) chance of getting to any bowl game. They need two wins in the last three.

East Division Contenders

Ohio State (5-0)

Basic method rank: #3
Margin-aware: #6
Division record: 3-0 (beat Wisconsin, Purdue, Penn State)

Remaining schedule:

Opponent W% Basic W% Margin-Aware Projected Margin
@ Illinois
89% 97.0% +22
Indiana
91.8% 97.3% +23
@ Michigan
71% 84% +10.5

Title scenarios:
Win out: Obviously, 8-0 wins the division outright.
Win two: Holding the tiebreaker over Wisconsin, 7-1 is also good enough without any help.
Win one: The Buckeyes need an additional Wisconsin loss to get to a tie at 6-2, which they win via tiebreaker.
Lose all three: Wisconsin would have to lose two games and Indiana one.

Scenario probabilities:

Scenario Basic Method Margin-Aware
Probability Title Odds Probability Title Odds
Win all three (8-0)
57.36% Yes
79.36% Yes
Any two wins (7-1)
36.46% Yes
19.68% Yes
Any one win (6-2)
5.91% 71.98%
0.95% 31.30%
Lose all three (5-3) 0.28% 20.98%
0.01% 1.81%
Total
98.10%
99.34%
Beat Illinois + Wisc over Ind
74.25% 99.19% 93.33% 99.70%
Beat Illinois + Ind over Wisc
14.26% Yes
3.65% Yes
Lose to Illinois + Wisc over Ind
9.64% 86.94% 2.90% 86.91%
Lose to Illinois + Ind over Wisc
1.85% 97.90%
0.11% 99.58%

The Buckeyes can clinch this week if Indiana upsets Wisconsin, but even in the worst-case scenario after this week they are overwhelming favorites. The basic method thinks Ohio State is somewhat more likely to stumble, but its opinion of Wisconsin is substantially lower, making the Buckeyes more likely to get the help they need to back-door a title in the unlikely event that they need any help.

Wisconsin (4-1)

Basic method rank: #21
Margin-aware: #8
Division record: 2-1 (beat Illinois and Purdue, lost to Ohio State)

Remaining schedule:

Opponent W% Basic W% Margin-Aware Projected Margin
Indiana
84% 96.2% +20.5
@ Minnesota
43% 74% +6.5
Penn State
77% 97.0% +22

Title scenarios:
Win out: At 7-1, Wisconsin would need Ohio State to lose twice.
Win two: Ohio State would have to lose all three games.
Win one: While the Badgers could still tie for the title, they cannot win the tiebreaker.

Scenario probabilities:

Scenario Basic Method Margin-Aware
Probability Title Odds Probability Title Odds
Win all three (7-1)
28.02% 6.19%
68.70% 0.96%
Any two wins (6-2)
50.29% 0.28%
29.46% 0.01%
Any one win (5-3)
19.58% No
1.81% No
Lose all three (4-4) 2.10% No
0.03% No
Total
1.87%
0.66%
Beat Indiana + OSU over Ill
74.25% 0.81% 93.33% 0.30%
Beat Indiana + Ill over OSU
9.64% 13.06%
2.90% 13.09%
Lose to Indiana + OSU over Ill
14.26% No 3.65% No
Lose to Indiana + Ill over OSU
1.85% 0.81%
0.11% 0.30%

Margin-aware in particular thinks Wisconsin is likely to win out, but they just need too much help to have a good chance of winning the division. In order to stay alive, they have to win or hope Illinois upsets Ohio State.

Indiana (2-3)

Basic method rank: #81
Margin-aware: #61
Division record: 2-0 (beat Illinois and Penn State)

Remaining schedule:

Opponent W% Basic W% Margin-Aware Projected Margin
@ Wisconsin
16% 3.8% -20.5
@ Ohio State
8.2% 2.7% -23
Purdue
80% 98.0% +24.5

Title scenarios:
Win out: Indiana would have the tiebreaker over both Wisconsin and Ohio State; in order for that to matter, though, Ohio State would have to lose to Illinois and Michigan and Wisconsin to either Penn State or Minnesota.
Win two: This wouldn't be enough for Indiana to have any chance at all of sharing the title, but it does make them bowl-eligible.

Scenario probabilities:

Scenario Basic Method Margin-Aware
Probability Title Odds Probability Title Odds
Win all three (5-3)
1.07% 2.25%
0.10% 0.14%
Any two wins (4-4)
17.71% No
6.10% No
Any one win (3-5)
66.19% No
91.90% No
Lose all three (2-6) 15.04% No
1.90% No
Total
0.02%
1 in 743,000
Lose to Wisconsin + OSU over Ill
74.25% No 93.33% No
Lose to Wisconsin + Ill over OSU
9.64% No
2.90% No
Beat Wisconsin + OSU over Ill
14.26% No 3.65% No
Beat Wisconsin + Ill over OSU
1.85% 1.29%
0.11% 0.12%

The good news for Indiana? Since they play both teams ahead of them, they have more control over their situation than you might think from looking at the standings. The bad news? Winning either of those games is a very long shot.

The Least of the East

Penn State (2-3; ineligible)

Basic method rank: #54
Margin-aware: #65

Remaining schedule:

Opponent W% Basic W% Margin-Aware Projected Margin
Purdue
87% 97.4% +23
Nebraska
49% 56% +1.5
@ Wisconsin
23% 3.0% -22

Record Basic Method Margin-Aware
5-3 9.80% 1.63%
4-4 44.34% 54.03%
3-5 40.59% 43.25%
2-6 5.27% 1.10%

Penn State would need one win for a bowl if they were eligible. Hosting Purdue is a really, really easy way to get that win. Despite being ineligible, Penn State could affect both division races with their final two games.

Illinois (0-5)

Basic method rank: #94
Margin-aware: #93

Remaining schedule:

Opponent W% Basic W% Margin-Aware Projected Margin
Ohio State
11% 3.0% -22
@ Purdue
53% 73% +6
Northwestern
49% 34% -4

Record Basic Method Margin-Aware
3-5 2.94% 0.75%
2-6 28.43% 25.93%
1-7 47.11% 55.92%
0-8 21.52% 17.40%

Illinois can get to a bowl game if they win out. Two of those games are fairly plausible wins, but even at home Ohio State is a very tall order for a team riding a 19-game conference losing streak.

Purdue (0-5)

Basic method rank: #109
Margin-aware: #114

Remaining schedule:

Opponent W% Basic W% Margin-Aware Projected Margin
@ Penn State
13% 2.6% -23
Illinois
47% 27% -6
@ Indiana
20% 2.0% -24.5

Record Basic Method Margin-Aware
3-5
1.24% 0.01%
2-6
14.51% 1.26%
1-7
47.59% 29.35%
0-8
36.65% 69.38%

Who else is looking forward to the Pillow Fight of the Decade next week?

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