Race for the Roses 2013: Week 7

Robert Laberge

Round 1 of the West round-robin title fight has seen a clear favorite established. Meanwhile, the status quo reigns supreme in the East.

Last week, Ohio State was a strong favorite to make the trip to Indianapolis, with Michigan State a slightly less overwhelming favorite in the West. How much did their dominant performances shift the odds? As always, ratings are here and division title percentages are based on 100,000 season simulations. Tiebreaker discussions will begin this week, but a full analysis of percentages on tiebreakers will wait until next week.

Last Week's Games

Michigan State 29, Michigan 6

An incredible defensive performance by the Spartans all but eliminates Michigan, while Michigan State consolidates their lead.

Nebraska 27, Northwestern 24

Bo Pelini's prayers were answered late as Ameer Abdullah managed to stretch a checkdown on 4th and 15 into a first down, then Jordan Westerkamp caught a deflected Hail Mary behind the main crowd as time expired to keep Nebraska in control of their own destiny.

Minnesota 42, Indiana 39

The Gophers blew a 35-13 lead as Indiana rattled off four touchdowns in a 15-minute span, but quickly answered with a 50-yard pass from Philip Nelson to Maxx Williams to get back in front with three minutes to go. Indiana then drove down inside the Minnesota 10, but a dropped lateral which the Hoosiers thought was a forward pass resulted in a turnover and game over.

Ohio State 56, Purdue 0

Purdue tends to give Ohio State (and Notre Dame and Michigan State) fits at home, even in bad years. Not this time. Purdue has now gone two full games without scoring and hasn't even taken a snap in the red zone since September, which is mind-blowing.

Wisconsin 28, Iowa 9

The Badgers are doing all they can to keep up with Ohio State, but time is running out for the Buckeyes to get the two losses Wisconsin needs them to get. Iowa settled for field goals inside the Badger 15 yard line three times, which is not a good way to keep up with Wisconsin's potent rushing attack.

Penn State 24, Illinois 17 (OT)

Illinois looked like they might break their two-year conference losing streak when Penn State fumbled near the goal line trailing 17-14 with just over 3 minutes to go. However, Illinois went three and out, Penn State took over again at midfield and got far enough to force OT with a field goal. After a touchdown pass from Christian Hackenberg to Kyle Carter in the top half of OT, Ryan Keiser came up with an interception on the first play of Illinois's possession to end it.

West Division

The Present Situation

With MSU's win in the big rivalry game, Michigan drops well back. Nebraska's Hail Mary kept them within 1.5 games of first place (1 back in the loss column), while Minnesota remains vaguely alive and Iowa's chances of winning outright and Northwestern's chances of sharing the title disappear.

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 State (#15) 7.02 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 3.34% 21.61% 45.09% 29.96% Yes 82.36% 96.32%
Nebraska (#48) 4.77 N/A N/A N/A 8.50% 31.27% 38.00% 18.91% 3.31% N/A Yes 2.16% 11.37%
Minnesota (#33) 4.61 N/A N/A N/A 8.17% 35.54% 43.53% 12.77% N/A N/A Yes 0.76% 7.61%
Michigan (#31) 4.26 N/A N/A 3.07% 18.14% 37.64% 31.96% 9.20% N/A N/A Yes 0.12% 2.72%
Iowa (#57) 3.52 N/A N/A 10.43% 38.95% 39.18% 11.44% N/A N/A N/A 89.57% No 0.19%
Northwestern (#82) 1.08 25.38% 45.14% 25.10% 4.38% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 29.48% No No

How far ahead is Michigan State at this point? The odds here suggest that even if MSU loses twice in the final three games, they will win outright 1/3 of the time (the outright title odds of 82.36% are greater than the odds of 7-1 or better, which are 75.05%). Nebraska's chances take a minor hit while Minnesota and especially Michigan (obviously) drop further. Northwestern's bowl hopes take another big hit; needing two wins out of Illinois, MSU, and Michigan is not a particularly good place to be.

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 State (#11) 7.42 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.55% 8.69% 38.57% 52.19% Yes 95.49% 99.44%
Nebraska (#55) 4.45 N/A N/A N/A 13.68% 40.91% 33.75% 10.56% 1.11% N/A Yes 0.42% 3.50%
Minnesota (#45) 4.16 N/A N/A N/A 13.72% 58.75% 25.48% 2.05% N/A N/A Yes 0.08% 1.06%
Michigan (#42) 3.93 N/A N/A 4.52% 27.42% 41.81% 22.61% 3.63% N/A N/A Yes 0.01% 0.42%
Iowa (#52) 3.84 N/A N/A 2.55% 29.63% 49.53% 18.29% N/A N/A N/A 97.45% No 0.07%
Northwestern (#61) 1.30 16.51% 43.46% 33.54% 6.50% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 40.04% No No

Margin-aware thinks the division race is practically over at this point, with Nebraska unlikely to win out even if they beat MSU. The middle tier is pretty muddled, but Northwestern's bowl chances are a little better here than in the basic method.

Conditional Title Probabilities

Based on the result of the Michigan-Nebraska game (but not including the Iowa or Minnesota results), here are the title probabilities:

Team Mich wins, basic Mich wins, M-A Neb wins, basic Neb wins, M-A
Michigan State 85.78% / 97.85% 97.06% / 99.78% 74.11% / 92.67% 89.46% / 98.01%
Nebraska 0.43% / 6.34% 0.08% / 1.83% 6.30% / 23.30% 1.91% / 10.14%
Minnesota 0.90% / 8.14% 0.09% / 1.10% 0.31% / 6.23% 0.03% / 0.84%
Michigan 0.18% / 3.93% 0.01% / 0.46% 0 / 0.07% 0 / <0.01%
Iowa 0 / 0.22% 0 / 0.09% 0 / 0.12% 0 / 0.04%

If Michigan wins, MSU has a two-game lead on everyone with three games to play and could wrap up the outright title with any two wins. If Nebraska wins, they continue to control their own destiny for a share of the title and would hold the tiebreaker if they win out, although even in this scenario an MSU victory over Nebraska coupled with a Minnesota loss (or an MSU win over Northwestern) would be enough.

East Division

The Present Situation

Ohio State's win and Indiana's loss have eliminated Indiana from outright championship contention, although it is theoretically possible for Indiana to win out, OSU to lose out, and Wisconsin to lose another game, sending the Hoosiers to Indianapolis. If Indiana shares the title, they win the tiebreaker.

Otherwise, little has changed. Wisconsin is a game back of Ohio State but needs two Buckeye losses due to their head-to-head loss.

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) 7.41 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.40% 7.99% 42.29% 49.32% Yes 83.78% (83.99%) 97.84% (97.86%)
Wisconsin (#30) 5.94 N/A N/A N/A N/A 3.01% 23.79% 49.83% 23.37% N/A Yes 2.14% (2.14%) 15.99% (16.00%)
Penn State (#51) 4.04 N/A N/A 2.79% 23.97% 44.05% 24.84% 4.35% N/A N/A (95.65%) 0.01% (N/A) 0.37% (N/A)
Indiana (#85) 2.68 N/A 6.06% 33.34% 48.06% 11.86% 0.67% N/A N/A N/A 12.53% No 0.01% (0.02%)
Illinois (#92) 1.52 13.00% 37.25% 35.76% 12.73% 1.26% N/A N/A N/A N/A 13.99% No No
Purdue (#105) 1.16 23.62% 43.67% 26.11% 6.13% 0.48% N/A N/A N/A N/A No No No

Ohio State is still the runaway favorite; Wisconsin is fairly likely to win out but quite unlikely to get the help they need from OSU's opponents. Indiana-Illinois isn't officially a bowl elimination game, but it's close. Indiana is unlikely to make it even with a win, as they'd have to pull a road upset of either Wisconsin or Ohio State (both if they lose this one); Illinois has decent chances if they can win this one (they finish at Purdue and home against Northwestern).

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 (#6) 7.72 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.02% 1.46% 25.46% 73.07% Yes 81.47% (81.47%) 99.03% (99.03%)
Wisconsin (#7) 6.65 N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.04% 2.15% 30.54% 67.27% N/A Yes 0.97% (0.97%) 18.53% (18.53%)
Penn State (#59) 3.88 N/A N/A 0.71% 26.68% 56.79% 15.25% 0.57% N/A N/A (99.29%) <0.01% (N/A) 0.01% (N/A)
Indiana (#68) 2.87 N/A 0.47% 16.58% 78.25% 4.64% 0.07% N/A N/A N/A 4.71% No <0.01% (<0.01%)
Illinois (#87) 1.33 13.47% 45.89% 34.52% 5.92% 0.20% N/A N/A N/A N/A 6.12% No No
Purdue (#114) 0.45 60.35% 34.89% 4.56% 0.19% 1 in 40,800 N/A N/A N/A N/A No No No

Margin-aware really likes both front-runners' chances of winning out - just under a 50% chance that both do so (not counting Wisconsin's non-conference game against BYU). Wisconsin's huge leap in the rankings (relative to where they sit in the basic method) to #7 sees their chances of winning out improve dramatically; unfortunately, Ohio State's chances of doing so also improve significantly, and it doesn't matter what Wisconsin does if the Buckeyes don't screw up twice.

This Week's Games

West Title Fight, Round 2: Nebraska at Michigan

This one's lost a little bit of luster with Michigan's loss, but there's still plenty at stake. A Michigan win would leave them some outside hope remaining (needing Nebraska, Minnesota, or both to knock MSU down and win out themselves to remain part of the tie, allowing Michigan's division record to decide it), while the Huskers would have to beat MSU themselves and hope for another MSU loss and a Michigan loss (and possibly a Minnesota loss). If Nebraska wins, however, Michigan is out of the title race and Nebraska remains in control of their own fate. Home field bumps Michigan's advantage to 70% no-margin / 80% (9 points) margin-aware.

Pillow Fight of the Week: Illinois at Indiana

This heading is a little bit harsh to Indiana, since their offense is actually pretty good. Still, we're talking a combined 1-7 in conference. Indiana with home field and half a competent team gets the nod, at 66% / 85% (11 points).

Beatdown of the Week: Iowa at Purdue

Two-touchdown underdogs at home to a team with a losing record in conference? Must be Purdue. And it is. Iowa is favored at 70% / 91% (14.5 points).

Trophy Game of the Week: Penn State at Minnesota

The Governor's Victory Bell is the only trophy on the line this week. With Minnesota surging up the rankings the past few weeks, they are the favorites at 71% / 79% (8.5 points).

November Non-Conference Break: BYU at Wisconsin

Seems like there's always one weirdo who schedules a non-conference game late in the season. This year, it's Wisconsin, with a matchup that will be one heck of a culture clash for visiting BYU fans swinging by a Badger tailgate. Wisconsin is the favorite at home, at 57% / 78% (8 points).

Sleeping In on Saturday:

Michigan State, Ohio State, and Northwestern are all off this week.

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