2018 Week 8 Total Conference Wins Outlook
"So, throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise."
(Great Expectations by Charles Dickens)
At eight weeks into the season now we’ve had cause for Muppet-worthy celebrations of this Team 139 not once, but twice! Its displayed exemplary character to carry it through hostile environments and adverse situations. Indeed, this is a team with steel in its spine, a team that does not back down, a team that solves its problems with aggression, and a team that wins with character and unmitigated cruelty. With its dominating victory in East Lansing, this Michigan team has vanquished MSU from contention for the B1G championship, relegating the Spartans to the ash heap of college football pretenders and also-rans.
As for the fancy-stats view of things, the S&P+ picks up its torrid affair with your ever-lovin' Maize-n-Blue where it left off last week, holding Michigan in the realm of not only B1G contender, but CFP contender at the #4 position in all the land, which is of course tops in the B1G. But that’s not to say that ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) isn’t just as smitten with the Wolverines, now that the Buckeyes were vaporized in crucible of Ross-Ade Stadium. FPI now puts UM at #4, making them unequivocally tops in the B1G. Even the more demure Power Rank is apparently drawn in by the Wolverines’ animal magnetism, bumping UM up to #5 and elevating their status to being the new cream of the B1G crop.
Something worth noting outside of the Big Ten is that all three ratings concur that a one-loss Michigan team, on a neutral field, is better than the Fig-things to whom they lost at the beginning of the season. As of now, ND’s fancy-stats rankings range from #6 to #9. If the CFP committee has any sense at all, it will have similar insight when it convenes after this weekend’s games. That said, the Buckeyes, like the Wolverines, remain in control of their own destiny, and can still reach the B1GCG by simply winning out. At the same time, OSU’s loss has effectively delivered a shot of adrenaline to Penn State’s chances of making it to the B1GCG, going from DOA to being on life-support.
Schedules, Spreads & Win Probabilities
So, with that, it’s on to the analysis here, which now focuses on the all-important in-conference slate, so as to 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 conference schedules for all seven teams in the B1G East based on the ratings following week 8. 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. Those are found in a later section.
At long last, the tide has turned on the Buckeyes at time when the Wolverines are ready and waiting to take full advantage. The trend that began last week with OSU's expected conference win total dropping below 8 wins saw such expectations become a reality at the hands of the Boilermakers, and the Buckeyes now stand at level just below 6.8 expected wins. The yin to tOSU’s yang is entirely Michigan’s, to the tune of 8.2 expected wins. M now stands alone as the only team in the entire B1G without a conference loss, and the only team in the B1G that is favored in all of its remaining games (albeit by a narrow margin of 1.9 points when M goes to Columbus).
Meanwhile, the Nits remain at a level that is another 1.4 wins below the Buckeyes, with Sparty limping along with its tail between its legs at a miserable 4.8 expected wins. OSU, PSU and MSU – remain underdogs, respectively, in one, one and two games apiece. PSU is a two-score dog to Michigan, and is less than a one-score favorite over Iowa and Wisconsin. MSU is only a one-score dog to OSU now, meaning the OSU throttling had far greater impact than MSU’s. That said, MSU is now a slight underdog to … Purdue!
Looking ahead, S&P+ shows Michigan favored by just over 9 points when it hosts the Nits in Ann Arbor in two weeks, for a win likelihood of 72%, or about 2:5 odds.
Two others – Indiana and Maryland – are seeing a shrinking bubble of bowl eligibility. The Hoosiers are hanging on by a thread with about 2.4 expected B1G wins to go with their 3 OOC wins. Meanwhile, the Terps backslid after being dominated by the Hawkeyes, and are at a mean of 4.1 B1G wins to go with its 2 OOC W's.
FPI continues to have Ohio State favored in all of its remaining games, however, the margins have eroded significantly, and is favored by less than 2 points in The Game. What’s more, Michigan now leads the B1GE with 8.0 expected conference wins with a margin of a full win next-best Ohio State. It's then a drop of 1.3 wins to third place Penn State at 5.7 wins, with Sparty close behind at 5.2 wins. MSU is a dog now to only OSU, however, it is favored over both Purdue and Maryland by less than one score.
Looking ahead, FPI has Michigan favored by 5.2 points in its next game vs. Penn State, for a win likelihood of 63%, or about 1:2 odds.
At this point, UM’s position continues to improve to make a play for all the marbles in the Game in Columbus. Of course, this is provided Michigan can continue to stay healthy, return some other players like Tarik Black and Rashan Gary from injury, and take full advantage of the coming Improvement Week. Perhaps cooking up some special offensive schemes to exact due revenge on Penn State will be in order. We shall see.
Power Rank Results
The Power Rank falls in line with the others in so far as Michigan is favored in all its remaining games and expected wins of just over 8. The margin for The Game from PR is the narrowest of all, at a virtual toss-up of 0.2 points. OSU lags nearly 1.5 expected win behind, however, since they are favored by less than a point over MSU in East Landfill. In contrast, the analysis of PR ratings still maintains MSU in third place, now at 5.4 expected wins, a quarter win ahead of PSU.
Looking ahead, Michigan’s margin over PSU has expanded to 8.3 points when the Nits visit Ann Arbor in two weeks, for a win likelihood of 70%, or about 7:3 odds.
PR also falls in line with the others regarding the Bubble and Bottom-feeder teams. The Hoosiers, at 2.4 expected B1G wins and 3 games as less than a one-score dog, are still looking for a little magic to make the post-season happen. As for the Terps, with a head-to-head against the Hoosiers still on the schedule, the loser of that game will likely be staying home for the holidays.
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 right-click & open in a new window 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.
The S&P+ distributions now show that Michigan has clearly distinguished itself above all others at the top of the division in sole occupation of the 8-win mode, with a strong lean toward 9 wins. OSU lags behind, occupying the 7-win mode with slight lean toward 6 wins. As of now, the likelihood of the Wolverines going undefeated in the B1G stands at 36%. The likelihood of OSU running the table stands at just over 20%.
Meanwhile, both PSU and MSU share similarly distributions that are, at best, 2 wins fewer than the leaders and best. Both share the 5-win mode, with PSU leaning to the higher-side and MSU to the lower. Maryland still has post-season potential with a balanced 4-win mode, whereas Indiana is looking more likely to stay home with its 2-win mode, but not by much.
The FPI results show a similar separation at the top. Michigan, the #4 team in all the land, is pressing its advantage as the sole occupant of the 8-win mode. OSU lags behind in sole possession of the #2 spot with a balanced 7-win mode.From that point, a 1-game separation follows with each team in turn: MSU, PSU and Maryland. Michigan registers just over a 27% chance of going undefeated in the B1G, while OSU’s chances of winning out stand at just under 27%. The distributions for M and OSU have very similar characteristics, only separated by one expected win.
Power Rank Results
As with the others. the Power Rank shows Michigan claiming the highest mode of 8 expected B1G wins, with slight lean toward 9 wins. OSU lags behind with a 7-win mode that leans well toward 6 wins. One expected win behind the Buckeyes is Sparty who straddles between the 5-win and 6-win modes along with the Nits with its upward-leaning 5-win mode. PR show Michigan with a better than 30% chance of going undefeated in the B1G. OSU has a 16% chance of winning out. Maryland has sole occupancy of the 4-win mode, followed a couple wins back by the Hoosiers in an upward-leaning 2-win mode.
B1G West Schedule Rundown
The next set of schedule tables shows the conference schedules for all seven teams in the B1G West based week 8 results and ratings for the remaining games from S&P+, FPI and the Power Rank. 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. Those projections can be found in the next section.
The story in B1G West continues to be the competitive race grew even tighter with the stunning events of last weekend. The S&P+ results still show the Badgers on top, as is the norm, but now less than 0.2 expected wins separate them from the next-best Hawkeyes. Of course, the Badgers have already beaten the Hawkeyes, so for Iowa to make it to Indy, they’ll need the Badgers to drop another game. To that end, the ascendant Purdue Boilermakers have stepped up to the 3-spot, only 0.5 expected wins behind the Iowa, with both the Hawkeyes and Badgers remaining on its schedule. The Boilers could not be peaking at a better time, but a reality check awaits for the Boilers in East Lansing this weekend. Fourth but not forgotten are the schizoid Wildcats, who squeaked by LOLRutgerz and are 0.2 expected wins behind the Boilers. Altogether, the top four teams are within 0.9 expected wins of each other. Meanwhile, the previously winless Cornhuskers finally reached escape velocity with 659 yards of offense (including 383 on the ground) in its win over Minny, and will now be dropping randomly-placed nukes from orbit for the remainder of its schedule.
The FPI results for the B1G West show an even tighter race than S&P+, and put the Hawkeyes at the top with about 6.4 expected wins, up nearly half a win from last week. The Badgers, Wildcats and Boilers are within less than 0.6 expected wins however, and keep in mind that Iowa has already dropped its game with the Badgers, however they’re also favored in all but one of their remaining games, whereas the other are all underdogs in two apiece. NU also has half-game on everyone else having played 5 conference games, and has the advantage of having beaten the ascendant Purdue already.
Power Rank Results
The Power Rank results show the tightest race on the B1G West of the 3 ratings, with less than 0.1 wins separating the Hawkeyes, Badgers, and Wildcats - with the Boilers another 0.7 wins back. Like the other ratings, PR expects Wisconsin’s toughest game to be in Happy Valley, followed by its meeting with the Wildcats. Iowa also has PSU in Happy Valley, and its next most difficult game will be with the Boilers. Both the Hawkeyes and Badgers are dogs in only one remaining game. For the Wildcats, it remains an underdog to both Wisconsin and Iowa.
B1G West Expected Conference Wins Distributions
The S&P+ distributions chart illustrates the tightening race of the B1G West. The Badgers and Hawkeyes have nearly indistinguishable distributions that straddle the 6-win and 7-win modes. The Badgers leaning more toward 7 wins; the Hawkeyes, toward 6. Of course, the caveat applies that Wisconsin has already won the head-to-head. Straddling the 5-win and 6-win modes are the Wildcats, with the Boilermakers also occupying the 6-win mode. The Boilers have a high variance in their distribution since all 5 of Purdue’s remaining games have margins of less than one score, with three at about one point or less!
FPI tells a similar story as S&P+, except that all four contenders occupy the 6-win mode. On the other end of the scale are the other three teams: Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois occupying the 2-win mode. These two collections of distributions are quite remarkable in how they stand out like pair of Grand Tetons, and are truly a sight to behold.
Ahh… such natural beauty!
Power Rank Results
As previously noted, the PR results are showing the tightest race of the three ratings, and the overlay of the distributions shows why. The 3 teams at the top are nearly indistinguishable, but for reasons noted above, the Hawkeyes are the team that is on the outside looking. Not to discount Purdue, however. It’s higher-variance distribution still squeezes into the 6-win mode, but leans more significantly toward 5 wins.
B1G Expected Final Standings
As noted above, following are projections of the divisional conference standings at the end of the season based on current records added to the projected wins and losses for the remainder of the season.
Based on simple point-margin based wins and losses, 2 of the 3 ratings forecast Michigan to win the B1GE, with FPI holding that OSU wins out. As for the other side, the same 2 of 3 ratings forecast Wisconsin to win the B1GW, whereas FPI has the Badgers dropping two more games (PSU and Purdue) to open the door for the Hawkeyes return to the B1GCG.
Power Rank Forecast
Head-to-Head Win Differences
Now is a good opportunity to to have a look at just which teams have a legitimate chance of advancing as the B1GE representative in the B1GCG in Indy. The following charts illustrate the pairwise chances of various combinations of teams finishing ahead or behind each other in the final divisional standings. Since Michigan is now the favorite across the fancy-stats board more or less, all combinations include the Wolverines. The sidebar charts show the non-head-to-head win probability distributions for the individual team. The center chart is the probability distribution for the difference in non-head-to-head total wins. The +1, even and -1 differences are then subdivided by the head-to-head win probability between to the two teams. The percentages in the text boxes in the center chart indicate the sum-total likelihoods for each team to finish ahead of the other, included the head-to-head matchup.
Looking at Michigan vs. Ohio State, S&P+ ratings now give Michigan a better than 73% chance (or almost 1:3 odds) of finishing ahead of Ohio State, which in all likelihood would lead to a trip to Indy.
Just for the record, here’s a look at the resurrected condition of Penn State. As the chart shows, PSU has a vestigial chance of returning to the B1GCG. S&P+ ratings now give the Nits a 4.8% (or about 24:1 odds) of finishing ahead of Michigan. Of course, winning out is a necessary - but not sufficient - condition for the Nits to advance.
Looking at Michigan vs. Ohio State, FPI ratings give Michigan a 64% chance (or about 1:2 odds) of finishing ahead of Ohio State, which would likely include a trip to Indy to close out the B1G season.
FPI gives Penn State the best chances of the 3 ratings to advance, at about 10%, or 9:1 odds.
Power Rank Distributions
Looking at Michigan vs. Ohio State, PR ratings give Michigan better than a 74% chance (or about 1:3 odds) of finishing ahead of Ohio State, which would likely include a trip to Indy to close out the B1G season.
So, in the end, when looking at theses head-to-head distributions, it becomes clear that all three ratings in the aggregate favor Michigan to win the Big Ten East, despite in at least one instance, and underdog in one of its games. Because the chances of OSU losing yet another game before The Game are not insignificant, the possibility of Michigan clinching the B1GE divisional title before the The Game are sizeable.
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!