“I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.”
- Estella Havisham (Great Expectations by Charles Dickens)
Another week’s worth of sample size growth, and with a smattering of in-conference matchups included, the linkages among teams become meshed to higher degrees. The influence of the preseason conjectures continues to wane, although somewhat prolonged due to acts of God such as hurricanes. Still, what 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
With the non-conference portion of the schedule behind us, the analysis here can turn its focus upon the all-important in-conference slate and make a closer examination of the prospects for the teams to make it to the B1GCG in Indy the first Saturday of December.
B1G East Schedule Rundown
The tables of schedules below shows the overall schedules for all seven teams in the B1G East based on the ratings following week 4. The last table in each set 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.
So with the obfuscation of the non-conference segment removed, the true balance of power in the B1GE is revealed. For the S&P+, that balance tilts toward the Buckeyes, who lead the B1GE with 7.6 expected conference wins. The Nits trail by 0.7 wins, and the Wolverines another 0.7 wins behind the Nits at 6.2 expected wins. Also carrying over from last week is the the fact that OSU remains favored in all of its remaining games, including by almost a field goal when they visit Ann Arbor. The other two contenders - Penn State and Michigan – remain underdogs, respectively, in one and three games apiece.
Two others - Michigan State and Indiana - persist in the bubble of bowl eligibility and claim the middle ground of the B1GE. At not quite 4 expected conference wins, Sparty may have a losing record in conference, but could make it to an early-December, cold-weather, empty-stadium toilet bowl. The Hoosiers lag Sparty by another 0.3 B1G wins, but could get screwed bowl-wise since their game at FIU was cancelled and could only get to 2-0 OOC. Meanwhile, the Terps are in world of hurt, being reduced to playing their 4th string QB after such a bright beginning. It could not be much worse, but worse it is for LOLRutgerz, who like the Terps are underdogs in all but one of its remaining games.
Looking ahead, S&P+ shows Michigan favored by just over 15 points in its next game vs. Sparty, for a win likelihood of about 84%, or about 1:5 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. OSU leads the B1GE with just over 8 expected conference wins, nearly a full win better than next-best PSU. The FPI results show U-M lagging by another 1.8 wins behind PSU at 5.3 expected B1G wins. Penn State has a single deficit margin, to OSU, by greater than one-score to OSU. The Wolverines, meanwhile, has a deficit margin in 3 games (PSU, Wisconsin & OSU), all by double-digits. What’s more, FPI also shows U-M favored over the Terps by just over 4 points, and over the Hoosier by just over a single score.
FPI has the same teams on the verge of bowl-eligibility, just in a different order: Maryland, Indiana and Michigan State. 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 83%, or about 1:5 odds.
Power Rank Results
Now here is where the fancy stats get a little interesting. The Power Rank concurs with S&P+ & FPI in putting OSU at the top, but only with about 6.6 expected B1G wins. U-M is next best with about 6 expected wins, putting Penn State in the three-spot with about 5.8 expected B1G wins. PR projects a much tighter race, with a good number more losses in the mix. Those potential losses would be to … the Terps? PR appears to like the Terps a lot, to the extent that they’re underdogs by only a PAT to PSU and UM when each visits College Park. Moreover, PR has no team favored in all of its remaining games. Indeed, PR has OSU as an underdog to your ever-lovin’ Maize’n’Blue. PSU is an underdog to OSU, and UM is an underdog to PSU, (and Wisconsin).
Looking ahead, Michigan is favored by just under 15 points in its next game vs. Sparty, for a win likelihood of 83%, or about 1:5 odds.
B1G East Expected Conference Wins Distributions
The bar plots below show the expected total conference 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.
Contrary to the logjam that the S&P+ distributions looked like for overall wins last week, the distributions for conference wins show a clear separation among the three contenders at the top. The Buckeyes’ loss to the Sooners is of course irrelevant for this analysis. OSU, PSU and Michigan each have sole possession of the 8-win, 7-win and 6-win modes, respectively. OSU shows a slight lean toward 7 wins, and Michigan shows a strong lean up toward 7 wins. Both have about the same likelihood of 7 wins. As of now, the likelihood of the Buckeyes winning out in the B1G is 19.0%. The likelihoods of Michigan and PSU winning out stands at at about 2.0% and 6.5%, respectively.
As for the others, Sparty and the Hoosiers share the 4-win mode, with the Hoosiers leaning slightly toward 3 wins. Meanwhile, S&P+ woebegotten Maryland now has a distribution that is nearly indistinguishable from LOLRutgers, peaking at the 2-win mode.
The FPI results show a broader separation at the top. OSU still leads at the 8-win mode, with a strong lean toward winning out. PSU is at the 7-win mode with a strong lean toward 8 wins. Meanwhile, Michigan down at the 5-win mode, but nearly even with the 6-win mode. The OSU distribution shows a very tight variance, which means its loss components are smaller and concentrated in fewer games than most other teams. The result is OSU having a 35% chance of winning out. Yet, PSU’s chance of winning out holds at about 8%, but Michigan’s chances of doing the same are negligibly small.
From there, the next closest team, Maryland, has sole possession of the 4-win mode, followed by the Hoosiers and Sparty sharing the 3-win mode.
Power Rank Results
Meanwhile, the Power Rank continues to predict the tightest race of the three ratings in the B1GE. OSU shows an edge occupying the 7-win mode with a 5% chance of winning out. UM and PSU share the 6-win mode with nearly indistinguishable, balanced distributions. Both have just under a 2% chance of winning out, while OSU’s likelihood of winning out is just over 5%. Maryland has sole occupancy of the 5-win mode, the best look of the ratings for the Terps. Sparty and Indiana lag behind at the 3-win mode, both nearly even with the 4-win mode.
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 feels like watching
paint dry grass grow. Next rotation, same groove (BTW, has anyone reading this ever actually heard a broken record?). In the B1G West, the S&P+ results show the Badgers’ death grip on the top position. The Badgers are in a sense 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 expected when Michigan comes to Camp Randall. Someday M fans will feel confident in going on the road and winning a big game. Maybe after the satisfyingly salty win at Ross-Ade Stadium, that will be someday soon-ish? Michigan remains 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 sneak out with a win over the Badgers’ 2nd string? Anyway, with a margin in excess of 3 expected wins over the next closest competitors, now Northwestern and Minnesota, an invitation to the B1GCG in Indy seems nearly a foregone conclusion. And so it goes, the Wisconsin cake walk shimmies on:
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, Northwestern, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa within one expected B1G win of each other. Purdue continues to bubble up from the bottom despite dropping a game to Michigan. Purdue is now a full expected win ahead of the Illini and is less than a game back of Iowa, who also has one conference loss thus far.
The FPI results for the B1G West show the Badgers with and even wider lead than does S&P+, with better than 7.7 expected B1G wins. With a margin excess of 3.1 wins over next-best Minnesota, 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 double-digits.
As for second tier, less than a tenth of an expected win separate the ‘Cats from the Gophers. Another 0.3 wins back are the Hawkeyes, and FPI has puts the Boilermakers next with 3.8 expected B1G wins, putting them close to bowl-eligibility. Poor-damn-Huskers continue their decline, but still hold a 1.2 expected win edge over bottom feeding Illinois.
Power Rank Results
The Power Rank results for the B1G West also show the Badgers at the top, but with only about 6.7 expected B1G wins. Wisconsin’s lead over next-best Iowa is by a much more competitive margin of 1.6 expected wins. Like the other ratings, PR expects the Badgers toughest match will be when it hosts Michigan favored by just under 4 points. The Gophers lag the Hawkeyes by just 0.4 at 4.7 expected B1G wins, with Northwestern just another 0.3 behind Iowa. PR doesn’t have the same love for Purdue as the the other ratings, placing the Boilers only 0.5 wins better than the Illini.
B1G West Expected Conference Wins Distributions
The S&P+ chart graphically illustrates the enormous separation between the Badgers and the B1GW peleton, apparently drafting behind one another waiting for one of the other teams break away. The Badgers are firmly in the 8-win mode, with a slight lean back toward the 7-win mode. As such, Wisconsin has the best prospects for winning out and having an undefeated season in the entire B1G at a cool 20%. No other team in the B1GW has anything close to a chance.
Northwestern and Minnesota come in at technically the 5-win mode, but both are nearly evenly split onto the 4-win mode. Nebraska edges Iowa with a slight lean toward the 5-win mode from the 4-win mode they both occupy. A game back from there is Purdue at the 3-win mode, while Illinois stands alone at the bottom in the 2-win mode.
FPI concurs with S&P+ regarding the Badgers’ separation from the rest of the B1GW competition, placing them in the 8-win mode with the best prospect for an undefeated season in the entire B1G at greater than 25%. No other team in the B1GW has a chance. The next-bests are Northwestern and Minnesota with 5-win modes that are nearly even splits with the 4-win mode. From there, the Hawkeyes and Boilers share the 4-win mode, with the former leaning toward 5 wins, and the latter toward 3 wins. The Huskers are clinging to their “it could be worse” mentality in the 3-win mode, as it looks over its shoulder at the Illini in their 2-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 7-win mode, leaving the door open for next-best Iowa and Minnesota. The Hawkeyes and Gophers have nearly identical distributions with balanced 5-win modes. From there, the Wildcats are at a 4-win mode, but pushing hard toward 5 wins. Also in the 4-win mode are the Huskers, but with a slight lean toward 3 wins. Meanwhile, the Boilers are firmly balanced at a 3-win mode, managing to stay ahead of the Illini in the 2-win mode. Wisconsin still has the best prospect for an undefeated season in the entire B1G at about 7%, just edging out OSU’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 4 charts, which includes a few bonus nuggets not presented in the diary.