An idea has been nagging me for the last few weeks that goes like this: to say a team's goal is to win the game is needlessly over-specific. Any rational team’s goal is to have the lead all game. So every second you don’t have the lead is a failure to some degree. Not only that, but a measurable failure.
With this in mind, I was surprised that none of the computerized rankings sound like they take lead time into account. Sagarin, Massey, Colley, Wolfe and Harris don’t mention it on their sites. This fed my curiosity of whether it’s any good as a metric. For the record, I didn't seek out to prove anything. Most of all, I just wanted to take a look at the season through a different lens. With that said, onto the…
I started with the 2012 per-drive data from cfbstats.com (H/T to mgousesr TSS for pointing me there), then calculated lead times in each game. Then I weighted those leads against the strength of the team the lead was against. I used my own results from the first calculation for the team strength metric, so that my results were not skewed in the slightest by anyone else’s formula. Then I weighted those results one more time for good measure, so opponents’ opponents are weighed in. The only factor considered is amount of time teams had the lead in games.
The Norm 1 (or normalized 1 time) ratings rank teams based on the amount of time they had a lead this season, nothing else. Norm 2 weights lead times against the Norm 1 rating of the opponent. Norm 3 weights lead times against the Norm 2 rating of the opponent.
The list, in three parts:
Top teams in graph form:
Some important notes with the data and/or formula
- No 2-pt conversions or missed extra points are accounted for because the data I used doesn’t mention them. All touchdowns are assumed to be 7 points.
- After calculating the running score in games, some of the outcomes of games were...off. Just a little bit. This is probably because of the last bullet.
- Tie scores are ignored. I think it might be worth it to value them somehow, but I didn’t have time.
- Because of the last caveat, a constantly tied slugfest is worth less than a back and forth game. This should only affect the kinds of teams that get into these kinds of games, i.e. the middling ones, but it still bothers me.
- To add to the last point, I therefore believe the very best and very worst teams are ranked the most accurately
- Overtime is ignored
- Even with team weightings, you are rewarded slightly more for leading the whole game against #19 Utah State than for leading for half of the game against #1 Alabama.
- You are rewarded more for giving away a game where you led all the way than for being on the other side of that.
- Injuries that affect today’s team are not factored into yesterday’s results.
- A strategy to wear other teams out may arguably be lead-agnostic early in the game. However, Oregon and Alabama are the kings of this strategy—in radically opposite ways no less—and they are the top two teams rated. So there’s that.
But anyway, onto…
Well, the results are unique, that's for sure. But they're not exactly out of left field, either. And some of them are downright acceptable.
- Michigan: I have to admit, part of the reason I did this was to prove that Michigan is better than their record. This may still be true, but not according to my formula. Why would this be? It's simple, really. I've given them a lot of credit for playing top teams, but they rarely led in these games. Deep down, what's the difference between losing all game and never showing up? In regards to the Alabama game I can say not much. Furthermore, their most dominant performances came against the worst opponents on their schedule. That shouldn't be a surprise, but if it’s true, neither should the fact that they are properly rated. I am disappoint.
- Oklahoma State: A 7-5 team that was competitive in every loss but one is my #6 team. I wonder if their fans and MSU’s fans have a support group, and if so, where would they find a couch.
- Ole Miss: I barely noticed this team this year. I wonder how their fans feel about their season. They were 6-6 but they may be in for a bounce next year if nobody leaves.
- Utah State: Holy crap did they ever have an under the radar season. But they do drop from #4 to #19 once you factor strength of schedule. Let’s not play these guys, you guys.
Not Surprise Bullets
- Notre Dame is not the best team but they are good. They look better when the strength of opponent is factored in (#4 vs #8).
- Ohio State is not an elite team. That's probably partly why Michigan played them so close. Like Notre Dame, the strength of opponents they led against does bump them up quite a bit (from #26 to #13).
- Texas A&M beating Alabama is somewhat less of a surprise—they’re my #3 team.
- Florida is overrated, said everyone ever until they beat Florida State. But guess who else is overrated? Florida State (their line happens to be one of the most interesting ones, though).
- Michigan State is...marginally better than Michigan? Well, no one would be surprised if you had claimed this in August.
- Stanford beat Oregon, had a tougher schedule, and won the Pac 12. So why do a lot of people just assume that Oregon is the better team? These results might explain why. Oregon was actually a lot more dominant all season, all else being equal. I mean if you don’t count all the stuff that counts.
- Proving my assumptions about Notre Dame and Ohio State almost offsets the disappointment in not proving my assumptions about Michigan.
- The championship game should probably be Oregon-Alabama, just like a lot of people assumed for most of the season. Go BCS.
- In a 4-team playoff, Notre Dame and their undefeated record would deserve a shot. As would Texas A&M, owners of the best win by any team all season.
- These results would be considerably more controversial if Georgia had defeated Alabama, or Michigan had eked out a 2011-esque win against Notre Dame. But none of this happened and maybe there’s a lesson in that.
- I do think that completely removing wins and losses from the equation takes a little of the fun out of it. And it leads to teams with 6 wins being rated higher than BCS juggernauts…like Northern Illinois. But on the other hand, I don’t see why this metric couldn’t be used in unison with a few others in determining how dominant of a season a team had.
- Vegas, which you may know is in the business of predicting games, would no doubt give less than ten points to Bama against Oregon, the current line against Notre Dame. Hey, if Vegas agrees with my relatively simple formula more than the one the big boys use, maybe my poll is better.**
Phew, sorry for the long post. If anyone’s interested, I would consider running this against previous seasons, and hopefully writing a lot less. I would also consider tweaking the formula if the improvements are obvious and consistently better.
* I can’t think of a good name for this. “Lead metric”?
** for the record, Vegas does disagree with some of my rankings. For example, in the bowl games Vegas favors Miss State over Northwestern and Stanford over Wisconsin. Could be because the Big Ten sucked and I didn’t weight the data properly. Also, I already warned you about middling teams. Ctrl-F it.
Whether you think NIU should be in the Orange Bowl or not (for the record I'm in the not category) you gotta at least admire their Athletic Dept for doing a rather cool thing: they are giving their student tickets to the students for free. (story LINK)
The catches: 1 free ticket per valid student, you have to register in advance on a first-come first-serve basis, and you have to present ID to pick up your ticket in Miami on game day.
Apparently this is something they have been doing for awhile now, they've done this for the past 5 bowl games NIU has been invited to.
I cannot find if this is open to NIU grad students or only undergraduates (I am a grad student, working on my MBA there) but I would not be able to go as I do not have the money for airfare and a hotel anyways.
But for real though, how cool is this? NIU doesn't need some rich donor donating $375k to make this happen like ND, they just do it. How can we get Dave Brandon to do the same thing?
I don't think I like what college football is becoming. I know the chaos of last year proved that the system is broken. But having 8-5 Wiscy at the Rose Bowl proves to me that the new way we're doing things (and trying to do more of in the future) isn't any better. Yes, I know Ohio is ineligible and so this season is an exception, but looking across the country and through history this isn't the first time undeserving teams win the little playoff game at the end of the season. The Big XII had it happen all the time. Georgia Tech nearly did it. UCLA had a chance to do it last season. And rematches are stupid, anyway, which is another reason I hate these expanded conferences and their title games.
Even worse to me was what SI's "mock" committee selected for the playoffs. The committee would have selected an Oregon team that didn't win its division, and they were flirting with the idea of sending three SEC teams. That makes very little sense to me - the whole point of playoffs is so we can take teams who've been isolated from each other but were the best in their isolated conferences, and match them up to see who's the best of the best. You don't think Stanford is deserving because they lost to the #1 team in the nation on a questionabl goal line stand? Fine - then send K-State, not an Oregon team who had a cakewalk of a non-conference schedule. But the morons who run college football are going screw up this playoff or expand it (which is also screwing it up).
I'll always love Michigan football and always watch them. But I used to love the "chase" for the national title, whether or not we were a part of it. I loved seeing who won what conference and who played in which bowl games and how the BCS filled their slots. But these last two seasons, that has been so unsatisfying. I almost wanted to see 6-6 GT win the ACC just so everyone can see how ridiculous this new system of super conferences and divisions are, with the de facto playoffs at the end that next year lead into the "national" playoffs.
For years we all clamored, begged, and wanted playoffs. I'm regretting what that has led to. We've ripped apart and thrown away traditional rivalries that made these conferences seems like families. I am beginning to wish Penn State had joined the Big East in 1982. I don't think it's crazy to say that none of this super conference bullshit would have happened with that being the case. Sure, maybe the SEC and Big 12 would have formed. But the 14 team Big Ten, the ACC and the Pac 12? Maybe, it was inevitable, I don't know.
Maybe I'll get used to it - Michigan at High Point Solutions Stadium to play Rutgers. Every conference having a title game, the champions meeting in the bowl game playoffs. Maybe the powers that be will figure out the kinks in the next few years and actually make it so 8-5
Wiscy doesn't head to the Rose. And it is a good thing that we'll no longer have our arguments about "who is better?" But is that worth what we've given up? Conferences felt like families, rivalries that built this sport? With Wiscy in the Rose and Maryland in the Big Ten the answer for me is no. And even if this season proves to be an anomaly, we would still have lost something with forsaking tradition and embracing a system that leaves no doubt who's "the champ." And college football is becoming a little bit less special as each of these moves happens.
Oh well. Sorry if this rant clutters up the board without adding anything, feel free to send me to Bolivia if neccessary.
Don't kill me, but this sounds oddly familiar to how we benefitted last year. Saban is upset that Florida is a Sugar Bowl lock while the loser from the SEC Championship game will likely be surpassed and not selected for a BCS bowl when they won their division.
If it sounds familiar, that might be because Sparty (Oh, Kork) whined about it last year. Maybe there's a legitimate gripe, but the counter argument from Will Muschamp sounds pretty familiar from our side last year, as well.
We'd much rather trade up for a B1GCG and chance at roses, even with the possibility of losing, even if it means another team gets to go to a BCS game. Right?
MIchigan is the top team in the B1G according to The Sagarin poll. Below I list the PREDICTOR ratings--which are the best in actually predicting game outcomes. I also list the overall national rank according to these ratings.*
1. Michigan (#13 overall, rating 85.33)
2. Ohio (#18 overall, rating 83.15) INELIGIBLE for postseason
3. Neb (#23, rating 81.74)
4. Wisconsin (#27, rating 79.69)
5. PSU (#28, 79.64) ALSO INELIGIBLE for postseason
6. MSU (#36. 77.2)
One predicts the outcome of future games by subtracting the two Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings (with + or -3 for Home Field). So, if we play Wisc in INDY for the B1G title, we should be favored by 5-6 points. If Ohio were not ineligible and Michigan played them in INDY, UM would beat Ohio. In Columbus, the game would be essentially a tossup (less than a one point margin). Also, Michigan would be favored over MSU by 8 points on a neutral field and by 11 points this coming week in Ann Arbor (+3 for home field).
I don't know what the Vegas point spread is, but I suspect that it will be smaller, since UM-MSU is a rivalry game.
*Michigan also is #1 when Sagarin's PREDICTOR ratings are averaged with the ELO-CHESS ratings. The latter do not consider point margins and are not as good in predicting actual game outcomes. Regrettably, the overall BCS computer rankings use the ELO-CHESS Sagarin ratings--as well as other computer polls that often overweigh WL records and underweigh SOS. So, we will not do as well when the BCS computer rankings come out. However, I do not believe that any of these alternative ranks has been shown to do as well as the Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings in forecasting actual game outcomes. And that's what's important in predicting the rest of the UM season.
As part of their annual Franchise Issue, ESPN The Magazine examined three major categories of FBS success (on field success, off-field success, and traditions of success) over the past 14 years to determine which program has emerged as the ultimate BCS champion.
What's that? You say the BCS can't really name college football's best team? Well, duh. With a playoff finally on the horizon, The Mag turned to people smarter than we are to examine the last 14 years and determine which program really has emerged as No. 1 in the BCS era. Using our Ultimate Standings as a guide, Jeff Phillips, principal at the Parthenon Group and a recent MIT Sloan MBA grad, along with Tyler Williams, an MIT Ph.D. candidate in economics, created three major categories of FBS success, then split them into nine factors (see below). For each, they used data since 1998 (unless noted) to rank every team against its 119 FBS competitors, then weighted those results with emphasis on title track and player success, the categories that most reflect an established winning program. [Ed.'s note: We also gave a nod to pre-BCS titles, nearly 3,500 SportsNation voters helped shape stadium edge and NCAA violations got a subjective grade. And if your team didn't make the top 10, you'll just have to check out The Mag.] We can hear the critics now: Playoff!
You'll need an Insider account to read the full article, but I can tell you that U-M checks in at #9, Ohio State #2 ("Tattoogate cost the Buckeyes the top spot"), while Oklahoma took the top spot.
Other programs of interest: Notre Dame #14, Michigan State #27