Ranking Bowl Game Watchability by FEI

Submitted by Seth on December 7th, 2010 at 7:47 PM

SAE's Annual Mud Bowl: MVictors

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) isn't out yet for this week, so this data is outdated, but I had to turn in my office pool's bowl selections today for the ESPN confidence poll, and because I believe in using the internet to steal money from my co-workers, I grabbed their latest numbers (11/27) and did a little Excel work to make my picks.

In doing so, I realized my spreadsheet might also have a secondary, and perhaps more profitable use: determining a ranking of bowl games to watch so as to maximize my December/January bowl game enjoyment quotient without tripping the spousal "all you're doing is watching football; why don't you spend some time with me!" line (which with Misopogal is about 2.4 games per week).

All I did was create a list of bowl games, select the expected winner based on their FEI scores, and compare the standard deviations in FEI to decide which games were blowouts, tossups, etc. The spreadsheet's up on Google Docs if you want to play with it yourself.

The results are interesting enough I thought them worth sharing. Nebraska over Washington is a holy lock. Northwestern and Texas Tech might as well be playing themselves (although not really: see below).

In the following chart, the team listed first is expected to win. The FEI StD is the standard deviation between the combatants' FEI scores. Those at the top are the biggest expected blowouts; at the bottom are the pick-'ems. Michigan's expected to lose to Mississippi State, but it's only about a moderate expectation.

Bowl Teams FEI StD
Holiday Nebraska vs. Washington 0.18
Fiesta Oklahoma vs. Connecticut 0.14
Las Vegas Boise State vs. Utah 0.13
Military Maryland vs. East Carolina 0.12
Humanitarian Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State 0.11
Texas Illinois vs. Baylor 0.11
Little Caesars Florida International vs. Toledo 0.1
Music City North Carolina vs. Tennessee 0.09
Poinsetta Navy vs. San Diego State 0.08
Alamo Oklahoma State vs. Arizona 0.08
Capital One Alabama vs. Michigan State 0.08
St. Petersburg Louisville vs. Southern Mississippi 0.06
Cotton LSU vs. Texas A&M 0.06
New Mexico BYU vs. UTEP 0.05
GoDaddy.com Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (OH) 0.05
Outback Florida vs. Penn State 0.05
BBVA Compass Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky 0.05
Sun Miami vs. Notre Dame 0.05
BCS Championship Auburn vs. Oregon 0.05
Gator Mississippi State vs. Michigan 0.04
Kraft Fight Hunger Nevada vs. Boston College 0.04
Chick-fil-A South Carolina vs. Florida State 0.03
Liberty Georgia vs. Central Florida 0.03
Meineke Car Clemson vs. South Florida 0.02
Independence Air Force vs. Georgia Tech 0.02
Rose Wisconsin vs. TCU 0.02
Insight Missouri vs. Iowa 0.02
Sugar Arkansas vs. Ohio State 0.02
Armed Forces Army vs. SMU 0.01
Champs Sports West Virginia vs. North Carolina State 0.01
Orange Stanford vs. Virginia Tech 0
Hawaii Hawaii vs. Tulsa 0
New Orleans Troy vs. Ohio 0
Pinstripe Syracuse vs. Kansas State 0
TicketCity Texas Tech vs. Northwestern 0

Obviously this doesn't take into account things like having your entire offensive line return from injury, having your First Team All Big Ten Quarterback (Dan Persa: further proof that the dimension we are living in is not the real one) injured, teams that have historically put up embarrassing performances against a certain conference, or if your school's annual pre-bowl residence hall assault is liable to get a fifth of your team suspended*, so if you're planning on using this for your own pools, it's best you educate yourself on each teams' respective roster situations before making your selections.

I also added up the FEI scores of both opponents for each bowl game, to create an approximation of which bowls have the highest total performance, figuring games that feature better teams are more compelling. This quality of play index is pretty much in line with the general bowl ranks:

Bowl Teams Combined FEI
BCS Championship Auburn vs. Oregon 0.577
Orange Stanford vs. Virginia Tech 0.520
Sugar Arkansas vs. Ohio State 0.493
Rose Wisconsin vs. TCU 0.423
Capital One Alabama vs. Michigan State 0.418
Chick-fil-A South Carolina vs. Florida State 0.412
Champs Sports West Virginia vs. North Carolina State 0.387
Cotton LSU vs. Texas A&M 0.376
Insight Missouri vs. Iowa 0.361
Sun Miami vs. Notre Dame 0.283
Las Vegas Boise State vs. Utah 0.263
Fiesta Oklahoma vs. Connecticut 0.249
Meineke Car Clemson vs. South Florida 0.239
Alamo Oklahoma State vs. Arizona 0.230
BBVA Compass Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky 0.218
Liberty Georgia vs. Central Florida 0.172
Poinsetta Navy vs. San Diego State 0.155
Holiday Nebraska vs. Washington 0.153
Gator Mississippi State vs. Michigan 0.148
Kraft Fight Hunger Nevada vs. Boston College 0.129
St. Petersburg Louisville vs. Southern Mississippi 0.112
Outback Florida vs. Penn State 0.102
Pinstripe Syracuse vs. Kansas State 0.094
Music City North Carolina vs. Tennessee 0.091
Military Maryland vs. East Carolina 0.088
Independence Air Force vs. Georgia Tech 0.072
Texas Illinois vs. Baylor 0.069
Humanitarian Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State 0.000
Hawaii Hawaii vs. Tulsa -0.007
Armed Forces Army vs. SMU -0.047
TicketCity Texas Tech vs. Northwestern -0.049
Little Caesars Florida International vs. Toledo -0.127
New Orleans Troy vs. Ohio -0.154
New Mexico BYU vs. UTEP -0.179
GoDaddy.com Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (OH) -0.320

The data gave up some other interesting bowl tidbits:

  • USC (28th, with an FEI of 0.113) is the best team that's not going to a bowl game.
  • The best team not going due to things other than NCAA sanctions: Arizona State (41st, 0.061), those unlucky bastards.
  • Miami (Not THAT Miami) is the worst team going to a bowl; their -0.198 is 110th out of 120.

If you subtract the (negative of the) defensive FEI of each team's opponent from its offensive FEI, then add up the scores, we get an approximation of which games will feature a lot of scoring. Top 10 predicted score-fests:

Bowl Teams OFEI v Opp
Military Maryland vs. East Carolina 0.76
Poinsetta Navy vs. San Diego State 0.59
Independence Air Force vs. Georgia Tech 0.56
Hawaii Hawaii vs. Tulsa 0.55
Alamo Oklahoma State vs. Arizona 0.48
BBVA Compass Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky 0.48
Gator Mississippi State vs. Michigan 0.47
BCS Championship Auburn vs. Oregon 0.37
Chick-fil-A South Carolina vs. Florida State 0.34
Armed Forces Army vs. SMU 0.28

Finally, for a Watchability Index, I ranked, then combined all three factors:

  • Team Quality (TQ)
  • High-Scoring (HS)
  • Competitiveness (CO)

And came up with a final order of importance for games and how much they're worth watching, independent from school and conference interest:

Bowl Teams TQ HS CO W.I.
Orange Stanford vs. Virginia Tech 2 19 3 84
BCS Championship Auburn vs. Oregon 1 8 18 81
Chick-fil-A South Carolina vs. Florida State 6 9 13 80
Sugar Arkansas vs. Ohio State 3 16 12 77
Rose Wisconsin vs. TCU 4 17 11 76
Hawaii Hawaii vs. Tulsa 29 4 1 74
Independence Air Force vs. Georgia Tech 26 3 8 71
BBVA Compass Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky 15 6 17 70
Gator Mississippi State vs. Michigan 19 7 15 67
Liberty Georgia vs. Central Florida 16 13 14 65
Alamo Oklahoma State vs. Arizona 14 5 25 64
Pinstripe Syracuse vs. Kansas State 23 18 4 63
Capital One Alabama vs. Michigan State 5 15 26 62
Poinsetta Navy vs. San Diego State 17 2 27 62
Armed Forces Army vs. SMU 30 10 6 62
TicketCity Texas Tech vs. Northwestern 31 11 5 61
Champs Sports West Virginia vs. North Carolina State 7 34 7 60
Insight Missouri vs. Iowa 9 30 9 60
Meineke Car Clemson vs. South Florida 13 35 10 50
Military Maryland vs. East Carolina 25 1 32 50
New Orleans Troy vs. Ohio 33 23 2 50
Kraft Fight Hunger Nevada vs. Boston College 20 24 16 48
Cotton LSU vs. Texas A&M 8 31 23 46
Sun Miami vs. Notre Dame 10 32 22 44
St. Petersburg Louisville vs. Southern Mississippi 21 20 24 43
Texas Illinois vs. Baylor 27 12 31 38
Las Vegas Boise State vs. Utah 11 27 33 37
Outback Florida vs. Penn State 22 28 21 37
Humanitarian Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State 28 14 30 36
Fiesta Oklahoma vs. Connecticut 12 29 34 33
New Mexico BYU vs. UTEP 34 21 20 33
Music City North Carolina vs. Tennessee 24 25 28 31
Holiday Nebraska vs. Washington 18 26 35 29
Little Caesars Florida International vs. Toledo 32 22 29 25
GoDaddy.com Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (OH) 35 33 19 21

Right, so of course all the good ones are on at the same damn time. Also, usefulness of this chart is made more questionable considering it doesn't take into account last week's games because of the old FEI scores, and things like Oregon/Auburn predicted as less competitive than Pitt/Kentucky. But it was fun, no?

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*Last year's 20-percent turnout beat the 2008 record of 18 percent; this year with sponsorship from Capital One, expect about 27 percent of Michigan State's football team to join in the campaign, with Greg Jones given the ultimate honor of being the marauder who gets to turn to the camera and say "What's in YOUR wallet?"

This is sparta

Comments

Jivas

December 7th, 2010 at 9:30 PM ^

One suggestion - when combining three factors as you've done above, rather than taking their ordinal rank and adding those together across factors, I recommend the following:

Take each value, then (1) subtract the smallest value and (2) divide by the range (i.e. difference between highest and lowest values).

Rather than an ordinal ranking system, you'll have something ranging from 0 to 100 that allows for greater variation.  That is, if the difference between the highest-ranked and 10th highest-ranked in a category is significantly greater than the difference between the 50th and 60th ranked, that difference will be captured.  This method provides more information than using a straight ordinal ranking.

Brightside

December 7th, 2010 at 9:36 PM ^

This really points out how messed up all of the auto qualifiers are.  At the least the bowls should pit top 50 teams against one another.

What would be better than seeing the top 8 or 16 play each other for the trophy.  Maybe someday...

Jivas

December 8th, 2010 at 12:23 AM ^

Two years ago, I used FEI* and kicked ass, something like 97th percentile in the ESPN.com fantasy game - and impressed my friends in the process.

Last year, I used FEI and finished well below the median...FEI got smoked last year.  Of course I talked trash before bowl season about having a superior method, and ended up looking like a fool.  While I still like FEI best out of the computer models, last year's bowl record did not help its credibility.

_____

*as Misopogon notes, some adjustments are necessary (injuries, obvious team motivational issues, etc.)

beenplumb

December 8th, 2010 at 9:05 AM ^

This analysis leaves out the "I don't care at all about this team and as such could never get behind this program enough to watch them compete on television" factor, which is huge for me in determining which games to watch.

Let's also not forget the "They have a football team?" factor as well (Tulsa, Troy, Ohio).

Else, altogether interesting break down.