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BCS Scenarios (10/29/12)

By Paul Bessire

Monday, October 29 at 10:45 PM ET

This week’s blog will divert from the typical format to utilize our simulation technology to answer some pressing college football questions. The weekly football podcast will still feature at least two things that stood out to me in college football and the NFL from the weekend as well as a play or two more from the Live ScoreCaster in-game projected results that had the most notable bearing on a pivotal game.

Simulating College Football:

With Florida (and Rutgers, Mississippi State, Oregon State and Ohio) losing and Notre Dame upsetting Oklahoma over the weekend, the realistic BCS picture is becoming clearer and there are still several teams alive. Earlier today, Todd Furhman, former oddsmaker at The Race and Sports Book at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and a tremendous Twitter follow posted an article on OutKicktheCoverage.com speculating on the lines in hypothetical BCS national championship games. The results are certainly interesting and great fodder for college football conversations. But, we are in the business of exploiting lines (it’s been a good college year thus far) and assessing probabilities. How close are those to our projections? And what are the chances that the unblemished teams remain that way?

For the analysis below, we had the Predictalator to simulate every (real and hypothetical) matchup 50,000 times on a play-by-play basis and using up-to-date rosters, depth charts and strength-of-schedule adjusted statistical inputs for every team and player.

College Power Rankings:

One of the coolest things that the Predictalator can do is answer the question: Which is the best team in college football? We can also easily rank all 124 FBS teams. We do this by simulating every team against every other team 50,000 times and ranking teams based on win percentage results from those simulations.

This is a very important distinction from other “computer” based rankings in college football such as what can be seen in the BCS formulas.  BCS computers are only allowed to look at wins and losses and must ignore margin of victory. The Predictalator is the opposite. We don’t care about actual wins and losses when trying to determine which teams are best. We look at how likely teams are to win over everyone else if they could all play on neutral fields with current rosters. It’s essentially a gauge of the overall talent, coaching, experience, decision-making and current health of all teams. (Meanwhile, human pollsters seem to be split on whether votes should go to the most deserving teams or the best – and it would be impossible to argue that voters ignore margin of victory or their own personal biases towards teams, players, coaches, conferences and/or regions of the country.)

As it stands, the updated College Football Power Rankings (as of 10/28) are not drastically different from many polls or the BCS standings. We agree with Todd’s take in the OKTC piece that Oregon has the second-best team in the country. The Ducks have now won the first halves of their games by a combined score of 290-36 (against an average FBS schedule to-date – it literally could not be more average). However, keep in mind that simulation is the best way to evaluate how two teams would match-up on the field, so a team behind Oregon, like Kansas State when either team plays against Alabama, may be in a better position to win a specific game than the Ducks. More importantly, Alabama has been the top team in our Power Rankings every week since August of 2011 (including after the Tide lost to LSU at home last November).

College Football’s Undefeateds:

There are currently six undefeated teams in FBS – Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Louisville and Ohio State. Before we get into hypothetical BCS title matchups, let’s review the remaining schedules for each undefeated team to look at the realistic chances that the teams finish the season without a loss. While Louisville would not realistically make the BCS championship unless the next most likely participant has two losses and Ohio State is ineligible for postseason play, we will at least address the chances that those teams finish undefeated.

The six undefeated teams have 25 remaining games combined (assuming both Alabama and Oregon make their conference championship games). In all 25 of those games, the current undefeated team is favored in our projections. However, both Ohio State @ Wisconsin (November 17) and Louisville @ Rutgers (November 29) are essentially 50/50. Among the top four teams (in our rankings and the BCS standings), the closest remaining game is Notre Dame @ USC, which the Fighting Irish win 65.7% of the time.

Here are the chances that each current undefeated FBS team wins all of its remaining regular season (and conference championship) games:

Alabama Crimson Tide

Games Remaining: 5 (with conference championship, though one of those games is against FCS Western Carolina)

Undefeated Chances: 54.7%

Closest Remaining Game: at LSU (November 2)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Games Remaining: 4

Undefeated Chances 39.8%

Closest Remaining Game: at USC (November 24)

Ohio State Buckeyes

Games Remaining: 3

Undefeated Chances: 28.8%

Closest Remaining Game: at Wisconsin (November 17)

Kansas State Wildcats

Games Remaining: 4

Undefeated Chances: 27.7%

Closest Remaining Game: at TCU (November 10)

Oregon Ducks

Games Remaining: 5 (including conference championship game)

Undefeated Chances: 20.2%

Closest Remaining Game: at USC (November 2 – at Oregon State is close)

Louisville Cardinals

Games Remaining: 4

Undefeated Chances: 16.6%

Closest Remaining Game: at Rutgers (November 29)

A few notes on the undefeated odds above:

  • Chances there are still six undefeated FBS teams on December 2 (after conference title games): 0.06% (or 1-in-1718)
  • Chances Alabama, Notre Dame, Kansas State and Oregon are undefeated on December 2: 1.22% (or 1-in-82)
  • Chances Notre Dame, Kansas State and Oregon are undefeated on December 2: 2.23% (or 1-in-45)
  • Chances Oregon is undefeated and Kansas State and Notre Dame are not on December 2: 8.79% (or 1-in-11)
  • Chances Notre Dame is undefeated and Kansas State and Oregon are not on December 2: 22.96% (or 1-in-4)
  • Chances Kansas State is undefeated and Oregon and Notre Dame are not on December 2: 13.31% (or 1-in-8)
  • Chances that Louisville is the only undefeated FBS (BCS eligible) team on December 2: 2.62% (or 1-in-38)
  • Chances that Alabama is the only undefeated FBS (BCS eligible) team on December 2: 15.83% (or 1-in-6)
  • Chances that both Alabama and Oregon lose in their respective conference championship games: 4.28% (or 1-in-23)
  • Chances that no FBS team is undefeated on December 2: 9.35% (or 1-in-11)
  • Chances that Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame and Kansas State all have at least one loss on December  2: 15.75% (or 1-in-6)

Hypothetical BCS Championship Games:

While it is difficult (impossible) to project exactly what the computers (who do not have to disclose their formulas) or pollsters (who have historically proven an inability to act rational) are going to say at the end of the season, we use Todd Furhman’s possibilities and speculative lines here to present our projected results from 50,000 simulations of potential BCS Championship Games:

Alabama vs. Oregon

Todd Furhman Line: Alabama -5

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Alabama 33 – Oregon 24

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Alabama wins 67%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Alabama -5

Alabama vs. Notre Dame

Todd Furhman Line: Alabama -13

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Alabama 27 – Notre Dame 17

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Alabama wins 69.5%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Notre Dame + 13

Alabama vs. Kansas State

Todd Furhman Line: Alabama -10.5

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Alabama 31 – Kansas State 23

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Alabama wins 62.7%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Kansas State +10.5

Alabama vs. Florida State

Todd Furhman Line: Alabama -9

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Alabama 29 – Florida State 17

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Alabama wins 71.5%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Alabama -9

Oregon vs. Kansas State

Todd Furhman Line: Oregon -5

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Kansas State 37 – Oregon 34

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Kansas State wins 54.2%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Kansas State +5

Oregon vs. Notre Dame

Todd Furhman Line: Oregon -9

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Oregon 31 – Notre Dame 28

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Oregon wins 55.4%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Notre Dame +9

Oregon vs. Florida State

Todd Furhman Line: Oregon -3

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Oregon 37 – Florida State 24

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Oregon wins 77.3%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Oregon -3

Oregon vs. Florida

Todd Furhman Line: Oregon -4.5

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Oregon 30 – Florida 22

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Oregon wins 63.7%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Oregon -4.5

Oregon vs. Georgia

Todd Furhman Line: Oregon -8.5

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Oregon 37 – Georgia 30

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Oregon wins 59.3%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Georgia +8.5

Oregon vs. LSU

Todd Furhman Line: Oregon -5

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Oregon 28 – LSU 23

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Oregon wins 58.9%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: PUSH

Kansas State vs. Notre Dame

Todd Furhman Line: Kansas State -2.5

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Kansas State 31 – Notre Dame 27

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Kansas State wins 55.5%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Kansas State -2.5

Kansas State vs. Florida State

Todd Furhman Line: Florida State -2.5

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Kansas State 35 – Florida State 21

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Kansas State wins 73.0%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Kansas State +2.5 (big)

Kansas State vs. Florida

Todd Furhman Line: Florida -1

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Kansas State 30 – Florida 21

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Kansas State wins 67.3%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Kansas State +1 (big)

Kansas State vs. Georgia

Todd Furhman Line: Kansas State -3

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Kansas State 35 – Georgia 28

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Kansas State wins 60.6%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Kansas State -3

Kansas State vs. LSU

Todd Furhman Line: LSU -1

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Kansas State 28 – LSU 20

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Kansas State wins 64.4%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Kansas State +1

Notre Dame vs. Florida State

Todd Furhman Line: Florida State -4.5

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Notre Dame 24 – Florida State 23

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Notre Dame wins 53.4%

Hypothetical ATS Pick:Notre Dame +4.5

Notre Dame vs. Florida

Todd Furhman Line: Florida -4

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Notre Dame 24 – Florida 20

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Notre Dame wins 59.7%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Notre Dame +4

Notre Dame vs. Georgia

Todd Furhman Line: Georgia -1

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Notre Dame 30 – Georgia 25

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Notre Dame wins 58.6%

Hypothetical ATS Pick: Notre Dame +1

Notre Dame vs. LSU

Todd Furhman Line: LSU -3.5

PredictionMachine.com Projected Score: Notre Dame 21 – LSU 19

PredictionMachine.com Projected Win Percentage: Notre Dame wins 55.3%

Hypothetical ATS Pick:Notre Dame +3.5

Alabama:

And, finally, the poll question on the Dan Patrick Show today was whether Alabama would win the BCS national championship or the “field.” The results were essentially 50/50 from voters. Alabama is the prohibitive favorite over any other individual team right now (at least two, if not 2.5 times more likely than anyone else). But, based on these odds and projections, I would put the Crimson Tide’s chances at around 35-40% (37.4% if I have to put an exact figure on it, but there is so much uncertainty with the BCS process that adds error to that confidence).

Also, a prohbitive favorite in any game against an FBS opponent, Alabama would be a 21 point favorite over Ohio State (36-15 average score) if the two could play.

Live ScoreCaster:

To highlight the technology in our free Live ScoreCaster™ app, we will take the in-game technology to the next level to review three of the game-changing plays from the NFL and what the game would have looked like if the plays had turned out differently. The weekly analysis will review one play that could have resulted in a major upset, one controversial coaching decision and one play that dictated the team that covered the spread. 

John Ewing, our Manager, Research and Analytics, puts together a weekly summary of three game-changing plays – one critical decision, one play that decided the cover and one play that kept an upset from happening. The NFL GAMECHANGERS recap currently appears weekly on Monday mornings on our About Live page. If you are ever interested in the impact of a specific play from a Thursday or Sunday, Contact Us and we will try to include the play in the article.

Here is John’s recap from this week:

NFL WEEK 8 GAMECHANGERS

The Upset: Panthers vs. Bears

With 6:44 left in the 4th, the Bears have just scored a touchdown off of a Tim Jennings pick six from Cam Newton and now lead 20-19 with a 69.2% chance of winning. The Bears go for the two-point conversion but Jay Cutler’s pass is intercepted and returned by the defense for two points. The only problem is that this is not college and the defense is not allowed to score off of a failed extra point attempt. What would have happened if the Panthers were allowed to score those two points?

Had the play counted and the Panther’s return went for two points they would now be leading 21-20 with a 52.2% chance to win the game and upset the Bears.

The Cover: Cowboys +2.5 vs. Giants

With 6:46 left in the 4th, the Cowboys are trailing the Giants 26-24, and have the ball 1st and 10 from New York's 48. Felix Jones fumbles the ball and the Giants recover, their win percentage becomes 78.9%. What would have happened if Jones does not fumble?

Assuming the Cowboys retain possession, Dallas has a 53.6% chance to win, 30-29 and cover the 2.5 point spread.

The Decision: Steelers vs. Redskins

With 7:55 left in the 1st, the Steelers went for it on 4th and goal at the Washington 1; Pittsburgh scored a touchdown as a result of the decision. The Steelers' win percentage was 70% after successfully converting the 4th and 1. Many coaches might have taken the easy 3 points and had the Steelers done so their win percentage would have only been 58.4%. Successfully converting the 4th and 1 for a touchdown increased the Steelers' win percentage by 12%.

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