a terrible blight on our fine country
This is a follow up to a diary I wrote before the season started, where I aggregated all of the preseason polls I could find and tried to turn their individual uselessness into something that might be useful. I thought that perhaps that:
AVERAGE(Moron1:MoronN) +/- arbitrary fudge factor = something to kill time before kickoff
I got enough positive comments that I decided to update the prediction based on the first two games and take it a little further into implied point spreads.
My initial model predicted 6.28 wins which seemed about right at the time given the little we knew about the new roster and the other teams in the Big Ten. However, I closed the diary by saying the following:
“The first two games should tell us everything we need to know. If M starts out 2-0 then look for an 8 or 9 win season as the Illinois and Wisconsin games would start to look much more favorable. A 1-1 start means 5 or 6 wins as it means we have lost our first tossup game and our ranking around 50 is probably correct. 0-2 means a season of 3 or 4 wins is coming as we have dropped one of our 5 likely wins and all the tossups start looking like losses.”
Some of the polls I used at the beginning of the year don’t continue to do a 1-120 ranking each week but I was able to find enough polls to get a good cross section of data and remove the effects of any outliers. Currently Michigan’s average ranking is 22 compared to the preseason average of 49. Future opponents are now ranked as follows (preseason ranking in parentheses):
EMU 112 (113), IU 83 (91), MSU 50 (29), Iowa 26 (23), Delaware State NA, PSU 10 (11), Illinois 60 (38), Purdue 57 (76), Wisconsin 40 (42), and OSU 8 (8).
I then used a simple model**. I start every game as a 55-45 proposition in favor of the home team. I then add/subtract a point based on the difference in ranking. So a home team ranked #20 would be given a 75% chance of beating a team ranked #40 (55 + (40-20)). Given upsets in recent years, I topped it out at a 95% chance of winning or losing.***
I also looked at spreads and money lines to determine what point spread was being implied to get a sanity check on the numbers. From looking at a combination of spreads and money lines for this weekends game I determined that a 3% increase in your chance of winning increases the spread by 1 point. So a 59% chance of winning a game implies a spread of 3 points.****
Here is what the numbers looked like then and now for Michigan’s probability of winning each game along with the spread implied by that percentage:
Game preseason week2 implied spread
WMU .79 1.00
ND .34 1.00
EMU .95 0.95 -33
IU .95 0.95 -23.5
MSU .25 0.72 -7
Iowa .19 0.49 pick
Del St .95 0.95 NA
PSU .17 0.42 +2.5
Ill .34 0.82 -10
Pur .82 0.90 -13
Wisc .38 0.63 -4
OSU .14 0.41 +3
Total expected wins preseason = 6.28
Current expected wins = 9.25
What a difference a few weeks makes. My main concern pre-season was that the Big Ten Schedule was the exact opposite of what I wanted. In all of the home games UM looked to be heavy favorites or heavy dogs. Meanwhile all of the away games looked like tossups. Now I like this schedule much better. I’d still trade having PU and IU at home to have MSU and Iowa at home, but having PSU and OSU at home now looks a lot more fun.
From a point spread perspective its looks decent. Vegas EMU spread is currently -24 whereas I am saying it should be -33 (for the EMU and IU games I used the actual delta as opposed to my 95% artificial limit). If the MSU game was happening tomorrow I would expect a point spread of 4-5 not 7. If Illinois was tomorrow I would probably expect 6-7 not 10. But the others actually look pretty reasonable if those games were being held tomorrow. *****
*Model used neither solid nor proven.
**for the sake of simplicity
***I realize there are more scientific and complicated ways to do this. There are inputs better than poll numbers. However I am a back of the envelope guy and at the end of the day you are trying to determine a win total in a pretty small band – no matter what you use you are probably going to come out with a number between 8 and 10
**** I’m not a regular gambler, I deduced this by looking at a dozen or so spreads and money lines, if anyone has better data let me know
A prediction on the 2009 season using a solid and proven mathematical model*
I believe that the two things in college football that will most dictate how many games you win are your quarterback and your schedule. There has been much written about the quarterback situation and I can’t add anything to that. I have seen little if anything, however, that focuses on the schedule.
Considering that Michigan plays 8 of 12 games, including the first four, at home, the schedule is as bad as it can be. If you break the games into three categories, likely win, tossup, and likely loss - 3 of the four tossup games are on the road where a team with a freshman quarterback is not as likely to do as well.
I grabbed as many polls as I could find (the ones that rank all 120 teams)**, recorded the rankings for Michigan and their opponents, dropped the high and low ranks, and averaged them.
There are several truisms concerning forecasts. One is that they are always wrong and the other is that when you aggregate forecasts the result is more accurate than the individual ones. Ask 100 people to guess how many jelly beans are in a jar and the average of all the guesses will be better than 90% of the individual guesses. Consolidate a bunch of moronic preseason college football polls and just maybe the result is something approximating intelligence.
Only the Sagarin poll ranked Delaware and he had them at 116 so I just used that as it seemed about right. I figured they wouldn’t be the worst team in division 1 but probably close to it.
I then created a simple model, starting every game as a 55-45 proposition in favor of the home team. I added/subtracted a point based on the difference in ranking, so a home team ranked #20 would be given a 75% chance of beating a team ranked #40 (55 + (40-20)). Given upsets in recent years, I topped it out at a 95% chance of winning or losing.
In the polls i used Michigan was ranked as follows; 35, 38, 41, 46, 47, 53, 55, 63, 77. Dropping the high and low the average is 49. The opponents average rankings are***:
WMU 73, ND 28, EMU 113, IU 91, MSU 29, Iowa 23
Del 116, PSU 11, Illinois 39, Purdue 76, Wisconsin 42, OSU 8
Based on those numbers here is a breakdown of what my simple model produces as an estimate of Michigan’s chances to win each of the games on their schedule.
WMU .79 likely win
ND .34 tossup
EMU .95 likely win
IU .95 likely win
MSU .25 tossup
Iowa .19 likely loss
Del .95 likely win
PSU .17 likely loss
Illiinois .34 tossup
Purduw .82 likely win
Wisc .38 tossup
OSU .14 likely loss
Total expected wins = 6.28 (sum of all percentages)
For this exercise I consider a likely win one of 75% or greater, tossup 25-75%, and likely loss less than 25%.
There are five likely wins (all at home), three likely losses (two at home), and four tossups (one at home). I would feel much better if the Big Ten Schedule was reversed, giving Michigan their road games at home and their home games on the road. Michigan would still likely win at PU and IU. Still likely lose at PSU and OSU, but have a better chance of splitting ILL/Iowa/Wis/MSU and ending with 7 or 8 wins. Michigan has to win one of the tossup games to get to the 6 wins my model predicts, and they will likely be the underdog in all of them.
The first two games should tell us everything we need to know. If M starts out 2-0 then an 8 or 9 win season becomes possible as the Illinois and Wisconsin games would look much more favorable. A 1-1 start points to 5 or 6 wins as it means we have lost our first tossup game and our ranking around 50 is probably correct. 0-2 means a season of 3 or 4 wins is coming as we have dropped one of our 5 likely wins and all the tossups start looking like losses.
The silver lining? Next year our quarterbacks will have a year of experience, and the Big Ten schedule is reversed, giving Michigan 2 winnable road games at Purdue and IU and 7 very winnable home games, leading to hopefully a 9+ win season. If Michigan can go from 3 to 9 wins over RRs first 3 seasons I would be pretty happy. Of course having lived through a two year quarterback battle between Demetrius Brown**** and Michael Taylor my happiness level may differ from your own.
Fast forward to 2012 when our quarterbacks are seniors and every player on the team is a RR recruit and…well…let’s not go there just yet. Last time I did that was in 2004. Looking ahead to 2007 when Henne and Hart would be seniors and Michigan would be in the BCS Championship Game….
*Model used was neither solid nor proven.
**the usual suspects, SI, Athlon, Sagarin, Rivals, Lindy’s, Sporting news, etc.
***If you are interested OSU (ranking range #5-#10) and PSU (range of #7-#15) had the closest consensus across the polls. The widest range of rankings fell to Illinois (ranked as high as #17 and as low as #63) and WMU (#34-#89).
****Demetrius Brown is awesome