Race for the Roses 2012: Week 2

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

One week of Big Ten games in the books, eight to go. A favorite has already emerged in the East without playing a conference game, while predicting the West verges on drawing names out of a hat. Let's check the odds.

Week 1 of conference play is done, and the numbers look somewhat grim. The good news is that the sample size is still fairly small, and the ratings are still quite volatile; a lot can change. One need only look at last year, where our pre-Big Ten projection gave us about 2-3% odds of winning the division outright, to know that there's plenty of time left.

Ratings, as always, are posted here. Division title odds are determined by 100,000 simulated seasons.

First, a quick look at last week's games:

Ohio State 17, Michigan State 16

You know all about this one already.

Northwestern 44, Indiana 29

Northwestern moved to 5-0 on the season, jumping out to a 27-0 lead before a near reprise of their blown lead against Syracuse (Indiana cut the lead to just eight in the first minute of the fourth quarter). Still hard to get a good read on Northwestern; Indiana, believe it or not, grades out as their toughest opponent to date.

Penn State 35, Illinois 7

If this was the Pillow Fight of the Week last week, Penn State hid a few rocks in their pillow before swinging it. As lost as Illinois looked late last season under Zook, things have gotten even worse.

Iowa 31, Minnesota 13

Floyd is headed back to the Hawkeyes, as Nth-string (for some large value of N) running back Mark Weisman ran amok in the first half en route to a 24-0 halftime lead over the previously unbeaten Gophers.

Nebraska 30, Wisconsin 27

Nebraska looked very sloppy in the early going, falling behind 27-10 after their second turnover of the night early in the third quarter. The next four drives: 259 yards, two TDs and two FGs. Wisconsin has now missed three PATs and gone 3/6 on FGs this year; a missed FG and missed PAT in the second quarter could have proved the difference this time.

Purdue 51, Marshall 41

Purdue led 42-14 at the half (thanks in part to two pick-sixes), but the final margin isn't all that misleading - Marshall quickly cut it back to 14 at about the halfway point of the third quarter and 10 early in the fourth. Marshall actually outgained Purdue by nearly 100 yards, but turnovers (including 113 yards on the two defensive touchdowns) did them in.

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 (#20) 5.57 N/A 0.03% 0.58% 3.97% 13.98% 27.64% 30.96% 18.36% 4.48% 99.97% 40.88% 65.04%
Nebraska (#35) 4.46 N/A 0.55% 4.74% 16.43% 29.34% 28.85% 15.48% 4.17% 0.44% 94.71% 10.77% 26.18%
Iowa (#61) 3.92 N/A 1.91% 10.76% 24.92% 30.60% 21.41% 8.49% 1.76% 0.15% 62.41% 4.93% 14.89%
Michigan (#62) 3.83 0.27% 2.86% 11.88% 25.19% 29.84% 20.37% 7.89% 1.58% 0.13% 59.80% 4.98% 14.93%
Minnesota (#44) 3.69 0.45% 3.82% 13.57% 26.10% 29.28% 19.10% 6.71% 0.98% N/A 95.73% 3.78% 12.64%
Michigan State (#42) 3.45 0.73% 5.49% 17.02% 28.35% 27.48% 15.55% 4.76% 0.61% N/A 76.76% 2.93% 10.20%

The five-word summary of this table: "reply hazy, ask again later". Northwestern (by virtue of being the last unbeaten in the division) stands out as a favorite, but otherwise you may as well pull names out of a hat. Nebraska has a slight edge for second thanks to their slightly higher ranking and win over Wisconsin.

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
Northwestern (#29) 5.40 N/A 0.02% 0.59% 4.65% 16.63% 30.55% 29.91% 14.77% 2.88% 99.98% 37.46% 61.96%
Nebraska (#33) 4.90 N/A 0.10% 1.61% 9.34% 25.16% 33.47% 22.38% 7.10% 0.84% 98.29% 19.70% 40.56%
Iowa (#64) 3.61 N/A 3.30% 15.24% 28.95% 29.21% 16.81% 5.48% 0.93% 0.06% 52.51% 3.60% 11.89%
Michigan State (#50) 3.61 0.49% 4.23% 14.74% 27.19% 28.88% 17.77% 5.89% 0.81% N/A 80.54% 4.02% 13.34%
Michigan (#61) 3.41 0.42% 4.62% 17.51% 31.10% 28.54% 13.86% 3.49% 0.43% 0.02% 46.34% 2.55% 9.42%
Minnesota (#72) 2.93 1.75% 10.38% 24.88% 31.12% 21.75% 8.38% 1.62% 0.12% N/A 87.87% 1.19% 5.21%

Margin-aware gives Nebraska much more breathing room in second since their wins are mostly blowouts and the loss close. MSU isn't quite so heavily penalized for a one-point loss to OSU here (in fact, our rating is virtually unchanged since that's exactly what was predicted; the dropoff is mostly from the nearly 50% chance of a win against OSU dropping to zero).

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 (#8) 6.34 N/A 1 in 37,800 0.07% 0.79% 4.63% 15.77% 31.12% 33.04% 14.57% (>99.99%) 66.96% (0.00%) 85.06% (0.00%)
Purdue (#46) 4.28 0.14% 1.54% 7.25% 18.62% 28.37% 26.02% 13.84% 3.82% 0.40% 91.07% 6.15% (43.86%) 16.21% (65.34%)
Penn State (#57) 4.04 N/A 1.48% 9.33% 23.41% 30.64% 22.86% 9.81% 2.26% 0.22% (65.78%) 4.21% (0.00%) 12.32% (0.00%)
Wisconsin (#51) 3.57 0.50% 4.38% 15.19% 27.67% 28.81% 17.23% 5.50% 0.73% N/A 79.93% 2.14% (20.49%) 7.62% (39.06%)
Indiana (#81) 2.75 2.75% 13.38% 27.12% 29.61% 18.77% 6.89% 1.36% 0.11% N/A 43.97% 0.51% (7.29%) 2.54% (18.52%)
Illinois (#87) 2.08 6.98% 24.73% 34.03% 23.51% 8.78% 1.78% 0.18% 1 in 13,900 N/A 10.75% 0.10% (2.42%) 0.58% (8.47%)

Ohio State fans must be quite frustrated right now (either with the NCAA if they don't think the bowl ban was warranted, or with the administration for not falling on the sword and sacrificing last year's mid-tier bowl to keep this year's in play). A 1 in 7 chance of running the table and there will be no Big Ten title game, Rose Bowl, or BCS title game to show for it. The big beneficiary is Purdue, who (by virtue of being the only eligible team without a loss) is now a considerable favorite to win the division.

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 (#17) 6.11 N/A 1 in 43,400 0.09% 1.08% 6.42% 20.14% 33.98% 28.80% 9.49% (>99.99%) 44.39% (0.00%) 68.78% (0.00%)
Purdue (#31) 5.37 1 in 26,200 0.10% 0.97% 5.27% 16.44% 29.83% 30.04% 14.83% 2.52% 98.93% 18.10% (72.55%) 38.18% (87.98%)
Penn State (#44) 4.73 N/A 0.21% 2.64% 12.26% 27.26% 31.71% 19.43% 5.83% 0.67% (84.89%) 7.83% (0.00%) 21.54% (0.00%)
Wisconsin (#56) 3.50 0.27% 3.49% 15.45% 30.89% 30.62% 15.33% 3.62% 0.32% N/A 80.79% 0.98% (8.01%) 4.61% (19.79%)
Indiana (#74) 2.75 2.25% 12.48% 27.71% 31.37% 19.11% 6.10% 0.92% 0.05% N/A 43.47% 0.24% (2.75%) 1.55% (9.06%)
Illinois (#93) 1.68 11.62% 33.48% 34.64% 16.09% 3.71% 0.43% 0.02% 1 in 203k N/A 4.16% 0.01% (0.34%) 0.10% (1.85%)

Similar story here, except that Purdue is an astonishingly high-percentage favorite for the division here. Keeping it close with Nebraska has closed the gap in Wisconsin's two ratings, but Purdue's two blowout wins (Wisconsin's have all been relatively close) pull them well in front.

This Week's Games

Game of the Week: Nebraska @ Ohio State

Ohio State may not be able to go to Indianapolis themselves, but they will certainly have an early impact on the West race. A road upset could put Nebraska in the driver's seat. Ohio State is a significant favorite thanks to home-field and their unbeaten record: 77% according to the basic method, 76% (7.5 points) according to margin-aware.

Under-the-Radar Game of the Week: Michigan @ Purdue

Purdue can solidify their position as East favorites by holding serve at home. For Michigan, a win would provide a significant boost to their chances in the West, likely positioning them where Nebraska is now. The basic method rates Purdue as a 64% favorite at home; margin-aware likes them much more, at 83% (9.5 points).

Laugher of the Week: Illinois @ Wisconsin

I should probably just rename this category "Whose Turn Is It To Destroy Illinois This Week". After getting blown out by Penn State at home, it's no surprise that the computer is bearish on the Illini: Wisconsin grades out as a 75% favorite in the basic system and 86% (11.5 points) under margin-aware.

Please Tell Me This Is A Sample-Size Issue: Michigan State @ Indiana

As it did for last week's MSU game, the computer delivers a split decision: no-margin favors MSU at just 55%, margin-aware likes Indiana at 51% (<0.5 points). Ball State looking plausibly competent so far and MSU's penchant for close games both push this much lower than I would expect.

Time To Find Out If This Is For Real: Northwestern @ Penn State

The first serious test for Northwestern comes this Saturday. With neither Ohio State nor Purdue (nor, for that matter, Wisconsin) on the schedule, can they take advantage by starting 2-0 in cross-division games (the third one is Illinois to end the season)? Survey says: maybe. Both systems put the odds at 61-39, but they disagree on who gets which - the basic system favors Northwestern, margin-aware favors Penn State by 3 points.

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