“To my thinking, there was something in him that made it hopeless to attempt to disguise him.”
- Abel Magwitch (Great Expectations by Charles Dickens)
Another week’s worth of data has gone into the hopper from which the algorithms draw upon to churn out the metrics known in these parts as fancy stats – and as stats go, fancy stats are all above average! As the sample size continues to grow, and as the linkages among teams becomes completely meshed, the influence of the preseason conjectures continues its inexorable decline into nothingness. The essence that remains consists of the best of all possible stats. These are the stats that reveal the true nature of teams and their comparative prospects for success. These are the stats that offer a glimmer of hope and a rumble of impending doom. These are the stats that are suitable for use in flying off a handle, jumping to a conclusion, or even goading a rival.
Schedules, Spreads & Win Probabilities
Since for the most part we’ve just wrapped up the glorious non-conference segment of the season, the analysis here will take one last look at the overall schedules including OOC games - the breakdowns for in-conference schedules will kick in next week after most OOC games have been played.
Also note that in the following table of schedules, the applied Red-Green color-map accentuates the forecast point spreads and win probability of each game. A color-shift toward the red corresponds to a more likely loss, and a green shift indicates a more likely win. Also, the colors for both columns are mapped to the win probability number. The sequence of individual win probabilities over the course of a team’s schedule are then used to compute the distribution of total expected wins for the entire season.
B1G East Schedule Rundown
The table of schedules below shows the overall schedules for all seven teams in the B1G East based on the Bill Connelly’s S&P+ week 2 ratings. The last table simply shows a rank-ordering of the B1GE teams based on their expected in-conference win totals - it’s not a projection of divisional standings based on projected wins, losses, and tie-breakers.
Our fickle fancy stats friend, the S&P+, continues to be torn between two suitors: the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes. The Nits lead the B1GE with 10.1 expected wins overall, expanding its margin ahead of the Nutjobs to a solid half win. Yet,carrying over from last week is the the fact that OSU remains favored in all of its remaining games, albeit by a razor thin margin when they visit Ann Arbor. The other two contenders - Penn State and Michigan - are underdogs, respectively, in one and three games apiece.
Three others - Michigan State, Maryland and Indiana - persist on the bubble of bowl eligibility. At 6.4 expected wins, Sparty meets the threshold, yet is still a underdog in 6 more games. The Terps, at 5.3 expected wins, are now underdogs in 7 of their remaining games. The Hoosiers are underdogs in only 5 more games, but with a loss already, their down to 5.3 expected wins. Last and least, of course, is LOLRutgerz – underdogs in all of its remaining games - maintains its rigor mortis-like grip on the bottom slot, yet the loss likelihood lumpiness principle has the Knights mustering 3.2 wins, including the win over FCS Morgan State.
Looking ahead, S&P+ shows Michigan favored by just over 17 points in its next game vs. Purdue, for a win likelihood of about 87%, or about 3:20 odds.
The FPI results still differ considerably from those of S&P+, the most notable difference being that Ohio State is favored by more than one score - and nearly double-digits - in all its remaining games. Yet, OSU drops into a virtual tie with PSU for the B1GE lead with 10 expected wins. FPI results still show U-M pulling up a bit short of 8.6 expected wins. Penn State and Michigan are underdogs in one and three games, respectively, and all by greater than one-score margins. FPI has the same teams on the bowl-eligibility bubble as S&P+, just in a different order: Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana. FPI concurs that LOLRutgerz can be left for dead.
Looking ahead, Michigan is favored by just over two touchdowns in its next game vs. Purdue, for a win likelihood of 82%, or about 2:9 odds.
Power Rank Results
The Power Rank concurs with S&P+, putting Penn State in the lead with 9.6 expected wins. OSU lags about 0.5 wins behind, with Michigan lagging about 0.9 expected wins behind the Nits. PR has gone back to favoring OSU in all of its remaining games, with its toughest matchup being The Game, in which its favored by less than a PAT. Unfortunately, UM remains an underdog to PSU and Wisconsin, as well as OSU. PSU is an underdog only to OSU in Columbus by about a field goal.
Looking ahead, Michigan is favored by just over 11 points in its next game vs. Purdue, for a win likelihood of 76%, or about 1:3 odds.
B1G East Expected Conference Wins Distributions
The bar plots below show the expected total overall wins distributions for teams in the B1G East, in alphabetical order. Noted above each bar is the probability for that number of wins (you may need to click & embiggen to read it). The bar with the highest value is the most likely outcome (the mode). Also flagged on each plot is the expected overall win total (the mean). The last multiline plot (bottom right) is just an overlay of the same data from the other seven bar plots.
Here S&P+ shows a veritable logjam at the top among the three contenders. Two of them, OSU and PSU, occupy the 10-win mode, with OUS leaning slightly toward 9 wins while PSU leans slightly toward 11 wins. Michigan has slid back to the 9-win mode, but with a strong lean toward 10 wins. The key caveat is that one of OSU’s losses is already known to be OOC, which works to their advantage for now. The next opportunity for Michigan to effect any significant shift in its mode will be in its matchup with Indiana, the week before it goes head-to-head with Penn State in Happy Valley. As of now, the likelihoods of Michigan and PSU winning out stands at at about 2.5% and 9.3%, respectively. Of course, the likelihood of OSU having an undefeated season is still 0%.
Sparty manages to hold onto the lead among the bubble teams at the 6-win mode with a strong lead toward 7 wins. Meanwhile, Indiana and Maryland have very similar S&P+ distributions occupying the 5-win mode leaning toward 6 wins.
The FPI results the leaders OSU and PSU sharing the 10-win mode, both leaning toward 11 wins. Michigan lags behind at the 9-win mode, with a strong leand toward 8 wins. The OSU distribution also shows a very tight variance, which means its loss components are smaller and concentrated in fewer games than most other teams. Yet, PSU’s chance of winning out holds at about 7%, whereas Michigan’s chances of doing the same are negligibly small.
From there, a 2 win gap separates the next closest team, Maryland, at the 7-win mode. Sparty lags one behind at the 6-win mode, and the Hoosiers are in the 5-win mode. Despite the variations three have nearly the same 3:1 odds of 6 wins on the season, for what that’s worth.
Power Rank Results
Meanwhile, the Power Rank continues to predict the tightest race of the three ratings in the B1GE. PSU shows a slight edge occupying the 10-win mode with a 5% chance of winning out. UM and OSU share the 9-win mode, with OSU leaning toward 10 wins, UM toward 8 wins. The Wolverines have about a 1% chance of winning out. Meanwhile, Maryland and Indiana share the 6-win mode while Sparty slides back to 5 wins. Yet, all three bubble teams are crowded into the 6-win mode at about 3:1 odds.
B1G West Schedule Rundown
The next two tables of schedules shows the overall schedules for all seven teams in the B1G West based on S&P+ and FPI week 1 results. Again, the last table in each figure simply shows a rank-ordering of the B1GW teams based on their expected win totals - it’s not a projection of divisional conference standings per se.
Watching the B1GW is beginning to feel like watching paint dry. So, sorry if this is getting to sound like a broken record (BTW, has anyone reading this ever actually heard a broken record?). In the B1G West, the S&P+ results show the Badgers’ continued strangle-hold on the top position and in sense are in contention with only themselves for the B1GW title. The Badgers are the only team in the West expected to win all of its games, with its toughest matchup being when Michigan comes to Camp Randall. Someday M fans will feel confident in going on the road and winning a big game. Someday soon-ish? Michigan is the only Wisconsin opponent that is less than a one-score underdog, so there’s that. At that point, of course, the Badgers may well have already locked up its bid to Indy, so maybe UM could mop up against the Badgers 2nd string? Anyway, with a margin in excess of 3 expected wins over the next closest competitors, now Minnesota and Iowa, an invitation to the B1GCG in Indy seems nearly a foregone conclusion. When considering the Badger’s schedule, term “cake walk” comes to mind. In fact, if one looks up the term “cake walk” in the dictionary:
informal. An absurdly or surprisingly easy task, such as the Wisconsin Badgers 2017 NCAA football schedule. "winning the B1GW title should be a cakewalk"
Meanwhile, Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern remain within one expected win of each other. What was once a very full bubble of teams vying for bowl eligibility has been deflated by one with Nebraska screwing the NIU pooch. Worth noting are a couple of teams that appear to be percolating up from the bottom - Illinois and of course, Purdue - suggesting that recent coaching changes may precipitate a change in the status quo. Just not too much change. Until next week, at least. Please.
The FPI results for the B1G West show the Badgers maintaining an even tighter strangle-hold on the top position than does S&P+, with better than 10.4 expected wins. With a margin excess of 3.0 wins over next-best Iowa, the Badgers only risk may be stooping to the level of its competition. As with S&P+, FPI expects the Badgers toughest match will be when it hosts Michigan, yet even then the Badgers are favored by a margin of more than a touchdown.
As for bubble teams, the Hawkeyes look like a solid bowl-bid team, it’s just a question of how late in the season their slot might be. Hot on the Hawks’ heels, however are the Gophers, only 0.2 expected wins behind. Northwestern and
Nebraska Purdue(!) lag another win and 2 wins behind, respectively. Nebraska, meanwhile, is settling toward the bottom. Holding down sole possession of the bottom is Illinois.
Looking up the standings, as many expected wins separate Illinois from the Hawkeyes as separate the Hawkeyes from the Badgers.
Power Rank Results
The Power Rank results for the B1G West also show the Badgers at the top with an expanding 9.8 expected wins, but their lead is by a much more competitive margin of 1.5 expected wins over next-best
Iowa Minnesota. Unlike the other ratings, PR expects the Badgers toughest match will not be when it hosts Michigan, but when it closes the season at Minnesota! Nonetheless, it both games the Badgers are favored by less than one score. The Hawkeyes lag the Gophers by just 0.1 at 8.2 expected wins, with Northwestern and Nebraska Purdue closing out the bubble teams.
B1G West Expected Conference Wins Distributions
The S&P+ chart graphically illustrates the ever expanding separation between the Badgers and the next tier of teams, who would appear to be contending more for a quality bowl invitation than for the B1GW title. The Badgers have pushed up to the 11-win mode, with a lean back toward the 10-win mode. Wisconsin has the best prospects for an undefeated season in the entire B1G at nearly 16%. No other team in the B1GW has anything close to a chance.
Iowa and Minnesota come in at the 7-win mode, with the Gophers leaning slight toward 8 wins. A game back from there is Northwestern at the 6-win mode pressing strongly toward 7 wins.
What is remarkable at this point is that Purdue and Nebraska now have nearly indistinguishable distributions that are balanced at the 5-win mode. Illinois stands alone at the bottom in the 4-win mode.
FPI concurs with S&P+ regarding the Badgers’ separation from the rest of the B1GW competition. FPI once again has the Badgers in an 11-win mode. Wisconsin has the best prospect for an undefeated season in the entire B1G at 15%. No other team in the B1GW has a chance. The next-bests are Iowa and Minnesota with 7-win modes, both leaning strongly toward 8 wins. From there, the Wildcats have sole occupancy of the 6-win mode. Purdue has managed to creep up and assume a distribution that is nearly indistinguishable from Nebraska that occupies the 5-win mode. Illinois brings up the rear at the 4-win mode.
Power Rank Results
Trying to make things at least a little interesting, the Power Rank predicts a slightly more competitive B1GW race. PR has the Badgers balanced in the 10-win mode, leaving the door open for next-best being Iowa and Minnesota. The Hawkeyes and Gophers have nearly identical distributions with 8-win modes leaning strongly toward 9 wins. From there, the Wildcats managed to creep up to the 7-win mode now, leaning back toward 6 wins. PR seems to be equally bullish on the Boilers, placing them in the 5-win mode with the Huskers. However, the Boilers show a strong lean toward 6 wins and bowl-eligibility, while the Huskers lean back toward 4 wins. Wisconsin still has the best prospect for an undefeated season in the entire B1G at about 7%, just edging out PSU’s chances. No other team in the B1GW has a chance.
Just to wrap things up with a quick visual summary, here are the combined overlays of the total wins probabilities broken out by division, sized for download and quick-reference on your smarty-pants phone.
Power Rank Results
Yours in football, and Go Blue!
P.S. As a bonus for scrolling this far, here’s a link to the complete volume of 2017 week 3 charts, which includes a few bonus nuggets not presented in the diary.