SOS in the B1G

Submitted by michelin on December 7th, 2014 at 2:30 PM

In the national playoff discussions now, we hear so much about WL records and large scoring margins.  Yet, as every chess enthusiast, baseball player and 10-year old video gamer knows, it does not mean much to win games--or even win big-- unless you consider the quality of the opponents. 

This post will mainly discuss Ohio's SOS, since it is the one now most at issue nationally.  As Wojo recently pointed out strength of schedule matters a lot… and Ohio State  doesn't measure up” this year.  In fact, the graph below shows that it hasn't measured up for a long time---throughout the Urban Meyer years from 2012-4.


Based on the standardized Sagarin ratings (stdzSOS) for 3 yrs (one for RTG and MD)

Ohio has had the second worst SOS WITHIN the B1G and is nearly tied for last with PSU, far lower than all the other teams.Due to their low SOS within the B1G itself, it is clear that Ohio cannot simply blame their SOS on a poor conference. 

Just how bad has Ohio’s schedule been?  It’s about three orders of magnitude (standard deviations) worse than the team with the top SOS in the B1G---which will be briefly noted later..  More concretely, Ohio’s average SOS during the past 3 years was actually 12 spots worse than the rank of the best top FCS division team, ND State (#52 vs. #40). 

It shouldn’t be so surprising.  This year, Ohio faced but one team in Sagarin’s current top 15.  They faced only two in the top 30---which is tied with Neb and Lville for the least among all top 30 Sagarin teams.  By contrast, Ala faced 10 top 30 teams.  Ohio even lost at Home to a team that finished tied for last in the Coastal Division and r #12 overall in the ACC—the only conference with a lower Sagarin rank than the big ten.

 In addition. last year, Ohio beat no one in the top 15 and the two teams they played in the top 15 were both losses.  OOC that year, they played Buffalo, San Diego State, and Florida A&M at home and the supposedly toughest was to be Cal—which went 1-11 that year, 0-9 in the Pac 12. The year before (when UM played away games vs. the two national title participants), Ohio did not play anybody in the top 19 all year.  They did not play in a bowl or B1G title game.  Rather, they played all their OOC games at home against powerful foes like Miami of Ohio, UCF, UAB and yes, you guessed it---they beat a 3-9 Cal team by only one score at home.

BTW: UM had the toughest SOS in the B1G for the entire past 3 years.  The SOS gap between Ohio/PSU and UM is, in fact, staggering. This discrepancy may be worth discussing, even though it clearly does not explain all that's happened to UM..  It is worth discussing because the media---eager to prop up some teams and pound on others-- have entirely ignored this issue.



December 7th, 2014 at 2:45 PM ^

Sometimes, you just have to admit that your rival deserves to be in the playoff.  This is one of those times.  If Michigan and PSU didn't suck so bad the last couple of years, OSU's strength of schedule would have been just fine.  I expect both Michigan and PSU to be much better soon.  

I think they are going to get it right on the coach this time.  Nothing would make me happier than to see OSU have a better SoS and lose a battle of undefeated teams to Michigan on November 28, ruining their playoff dreams.  

But for this year, they deserve it.  Congratulations, Brutus; enjoy it while you can.


December 7th, 2014 at 3:18 PM ^

They deserve it if there are 6....heck maybe if it's a 5 team playoff.

But common opponent:
TCU 30-7 Minnesota
OSU 31-24 Minnesota

TCU lost against top 10 baylor
OSU lost against VaTech

and OSU needs 2 OT to beat PSU. 


December 7th, 2014 at 4:20 PM ^

TCU's only loss was by 3 pts on the road to baylor.  If you subtract the 3pts Baylor gets for home field advantage, the score was essentially 58-58.   If that were on a neutral field, eg a title game, then TCU would be undefeated.

Not so for Ohio.  It lost by two TDs at home to the worst team in the coastal division of the worst conference: the ACC.


December 7th, 2014 at 3:56 PM ^

1.  no team can play itself

2.In many years, OSU could have scheduled a team as good or bettter than itself OOC.  (UM did this with Ala on short notice).  But Ohio chose not do so.

3. Suppose OSU could play itself--or scheduled an equivalent team.  Its average record would then be 6-6. 

4.  In any case, this 13th game would count for only a small fraction of the gap between their current ranking and the average ranking they otherwise had.  (eg 1/13(52-5)= 2-3 pts.. So instead of a 52 SOS this year they'd be about 49-50.  That would still put them over two standard deviations behind UM in SOS.  Also, they'd have a 50-50 shot of losing another game. Moreover, every team ahead of the them in the national rankings would get even more benefit.




December 7th, 2014 at 4:03 PM ^

Point number 4 was what I was looking for.  Of course I know that no team can play itself, but my point is that OSU improved the SOS of everyone else in the conference, which provided them a benefit in SOS that they didn't see themselves.  

But you are right, that one game in everyone else's SOS does not contribute all that much.


December 8th, 2014 at 7:44 PM ^

 I wanted to but could not edit the above post.  I wanted to remove the equals sign, because the above calculation would seem to suggest 3-4 rather than 2-3 points gained from an extra game.  I would still estimate the gain in SOS as close to 3, however, because adding a game against yourself gives you a 50-50 chance of losing.  Winning might move Ohio from 5 to 4 in Sagarin; but losing a second game could drop it to as far as #16, ie  below FSU.  Since you would then start off with a lower expected rank, the expected gain in rank from the 13th game would be less. 


December 7th, 2014 at 2:52 PM ^

OSU has the ability to schedule OOC opponents that are not creampuffs- it has chosen not to

OSU relies on money and its fanbase to strongarm its way into the playoffs- this strategy works and I see no reason for OSU to change it- I wouldn't if I were them

BTW- their opponent - Wisky- was equally un-challenged  according to this chart

Urban Warfare

December 7th, 2014 at 3:42 PM ^

OSU schedules at least one major OOC opponent every year.  However, it has to be done years in advance.  It's not our fault if the programs go to hell in the meantime. 

Here's OSU's OOC schedule from now through 2023:


@Va Tech (scheduled when they were still good)




















December 7th, 2014 at 4:07 PM ^

And you don't get to be nearly dead last in the B1G because you couldn't predict how bad teams would be.  Most of the cream puffs you scheduled have been very bad for a very long time.

Admittedly, your selective representation of Ohio's future schedule appears to suggest that Ohio realized its pathetic OOC record and recognized the need for a better SOS.  But it shows only one team each year and provides an intentionally distorted view.

As I said before, Ohio could have scheduled neutral site games against far better teams for the openings it did have during Urban's past 3 years.  Not all games are set up 10-20 years in advance.

UM  did this with Ala at a neutral site. It knew Ala was a great team.  Why didn't Ohio do so?


December 7th, 2014 at 4:15 PM ^

I wanted to look at the past 3 years because this has been Urban's tenure and because a three year average smooths out a lot of noise.  Looking at only one year, you could claim it was just bad luck, as one OSU poster below tried to do.  But with three years of results, that argument clearly becomes vacuuous.


December 7th, 2014 at 4:16 PM ^

I know what you are trying to show here, but OSU didn't do anything wrong this year in getting to the playoff.  They lost one game, early in the season, when their 2nd-string QB was playing his first significant game.  They then beat everyone put in front of them.  If the Big 12 had picked TCU or Baylor as their "champion" and pushed for it, I think they get in over OSU.  But they didn't, OSU played great against a Wiscy team that people perceive as being good, and they got in.  So be it.


December 7th, 2014 at 5:21 PM ^

This just means one thing. Losses and wins later in the season still mean more than ones earlier in the season, which defeats the purpose of this stupid system anyway. 




December 7th, 2014 at 6:11 PM ^

Ohio should be out.

Yet, most of what I heard on TV last night was a bunch of Ohio propaganda--much coming from Ohio alums-- with little defense of TCU/Baylor.

Without the computer polls as a part of CFB playoff selection rules, the team that can best manipulate the media and the committee wins.

A committee as the sole decision maker would only make sense to me if you had a much bigger playoff.  Then the champion would earn it through more head to head games rather than an unreliable two game playoff between a few teams--ones chosen through a humanly biased popularity contest.


December 8th, 2014 at 12:05 AM ^

just curious which pro handicappers and statisticians agreed that ohio state should be out.

Football outsiders has them at #2 in the f/+ rankings.

Sagarin has them #4 in his predictor rankings.

ESPN football power index has them at #3.

All those by the way seem to agree that Florida State shouldn't be in




















Ole Miss




From those sources it looks like the statisticians would rank them Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State and Ole Miss.


December 8th, 2014 at 8:34 PM ^

the Sagarin rank you cite rewards teams that pile up points to impress committees.   While you are correct that FSU often ranks low, I cannot imagine that the committee would exclude an undefeated defending champion in favor of an Ohio team that lost at home by two TDs to the worst team in the Coastal division of FSU's conference.

Also consider other Ohio State computer ranks

#25 in Roundtable Retro      

#16 in Xpected Win %        

#11 in Rissler  and  Dwiggins

#10 in Pointshare

#9 i The Power Rank       

#8 in Round Robin Win %

#7 in Whitlock, Wilson and  Rudacille

#6 in Bihl Hensley, Sport Theory, Krach  Wobus and Keeper


FInally, regarding the sports books' view of Ohio's SOS, consider what Vegas thinks of Ohio and its conference competitors:

The B1G is favored to lose every one of its ten bowl games by a cumulative total  54.5 points

Ohio itself is the biggest contributor to this deficit--being expected to lose by 10 points.

7 of the other 9 B!G teams expected to lose went head-to-head with Ohio.

Here are the conferences they are expected to lose to:

1 WAC team: La Tech, that finished below Utah State and San Jose State.

1 BIg 12 team: the playoff-excluded Baylor over MSU (Ohio's only big reg season win)

2 ACC teams (that finished tied for 7th, beneath conf champ  FSU)

2 Pac 12 teams tied for #5 and #7 in conf

4 SEC teams: including one team tied for #11 in conf and another team tied for 7th (Auburn) which is expected to beat Wisc (Ohio's only other "big" win)



December 9th, 2014 at 10:18 AM ^

As in the calculation below, a single game has a very small influence on the SOS based on a 12-14 game season--It will still be more than two orders of magnitude worse than UM's 3-year SOS.

Remember, in the first of those 3 years, UM played the two teams that ended up in National Championship game---the #1 and #2 teams in the nation.  That was near the beginning, not the end, of the season; and neither team was located in Ohio. 


December 8th, 2014 at 6:29 AM ^

OSU's schedule has taken a turn for the worse in OOC lately.  That said I remember a home and home with Texas during Tressel's run, in Pryor' years.  And for example this year when you schedule VA Tech 6 years ago you assume you are gettin a decent product, not a 6-6 squad.  UM has scheduled that same team

And like others have said there are some quirks in their schedule - they avoided Wisconsin "the 2nd best team" in the Big 10 this year (so did we) during the regular season, they avoided MSU - the top team in the Big 10 last year during the regular season.  But I mean the Big 10 is so top heavy without a good middle anymore - teams like Maryland and Rutgers (brand new to the conf) along with Iowa were the midddle with PSu and UM sucking, its hard for them to really find good games.

Michigan has had ND consistently these past few years of course which helps and then a team like Utah is sneaky decent.  We also have a sacrifice to Jerry Jones to help us that 1 year (2012).  

We actually have what is on paper going to be a very tough non conf - @Utah, BYU, and Oregon State next year.  Id' put that up with anyone in the country.  Now Oregon St will be down next year (and was this year) but when scheduled that is 2 Pac 12 teams and a decent independent.

PSU is famous for playing crap like Temple in non conf.  And then 3 teams worse than Temple.  Nothing new there.   They did actually play Alabama however in 2011 in a stark departure from normal.  But that was offset by EMU, Indiana State... and Temple that year.

Overall I ddont think any Big 10 or ACC team has much to complain about.  If you have a team like OSU or MSU nowadays you bassically have 2 tough games and 6 byes.  I know Wiscy lost to NW but they beat Maryland and Rutgers by like 50 each.  If we had a Carr era team we'd be rolling thru the cupcakes that now fill the Big 10.  Just like Clemson and FSU mostly due in the ACC.  We just happen to be one of the cupcakes nowadays contributing to everyone's SOS being hurt.

Wolverine In Exile

December 8th, 2014 at 9:29 AM ^

Is that the middle tier teams that were respectable in the late 90's / early 2000's are crap now. In 1997 for example, you had for standings:


Michigan 12-0 (Nat'l champion, Lloyd in his glory)

Ohio St 10-3 (Typical John Cooper on the cusp of nat'l contention)

Penn St 9-3 (Joe Pa still nationally relavent)

Purdue 9-3 (On the rise Joe Tiller)

Wisconsin 8-5 (On the rise Barry Alvarez)

Iowa 7-5 (On the way out Hayden Fry)

Michigan St 7-5 (3rd yr Nick Saban)

NW 5-7 (Gary Barnett post Rose Bowl / Citrus Bowl magic run)

Minn 3-9 (Rookie Glenn Mason)

Indiana 2-9

Illinois 0-11

Michigan, OSU, Penn St, and Purdue were Top 15 teams, and all except for comically inept Indiana (Love ya Cam Cameron!) and Illinois (RIP Ron Turner.. wait he's not dead?, and he got another HC job???) had either on the rise or just recently nationally relevant coaches. This is where the SEC and Pac-12 have killed us recently, our coaching across the conference hasn't been up to snuff while those conferences have employed the best coaches... You can really make the argument that only OSU, Indiana and Ilinois have upgraded their coaching situations (OSU, minimally from Cooper to Meyer; Illinois and Indiana by default) since 1997. MIchigan, Penn St, and Purdue (!) have markedly downgraded; Wisconsin, Iowa, MSU, NW, and Minn have treaded water or slightly decreased. At the time sure, Saban was below where Dantonio is now, but by the time Saban left he's on the precipice where Dantanio is now (consistent NYD bowl participants, marginal Top 10 team), and look at the roller coaster they went through to get to now (Bobby Williams, John L Smith, and barely keeping Dantonio). And really through the early 2000's the coaching stayed fairly constant at a high level with NW improving under Randy Walker, Mason establishing an on-the-cusp-but-not-quite conference contender at Minnesota, Fry ceding to Ferentz who had flashes of excellence, Cooper giving way to Tressel, and Alvarez & Tiller cementing their status as historically good coaches for their respective schools. You can really trace the downfall of the B1G to the hiring of Tim Brewster (I kid... a little) and the retirement of Wilfred Brimley in West Lafayette.

Until the B1G can stabilize their coaching quality, we're not going to return to "elite" status and have an improved SOS conference wide. One blow out loss by Meyer to Alabama, and the old B1G meme comes out.


December 8th, 2014 at 6:58 AM ^

The BIG champs.  The sos would be better if Michigan had played any football in the new century. Same with the Pin Stripe bowl bound PSU. It is not Ohio State's fault that the wolverines can't hire a coach who can coach. They hired Urban and look at what he is doing.  It is just crying because Michigan used to be Michigan and has to watch bowl games on TV.





December 8th, 2014 at 9:18 AM ^

Does Ohio State really schedule OOC games differently than most top-tier programs? Alabama's OOC schedule over the past three years has been damn near identical to Ohio State's. Oklahoma's marquee game over the past 3 years has been Notre Dame twice and Tennessee. How good are those games? Florida State had one big OOC game- Florida for two of the past three years. This year they added mighty Oklahoma State. LSU has played Washington, TCU, and Wisconsin in the past three years respectively in OOC. Oregon has played Michigan State, UVA, Tennessee and Fresno State over the past 3 years. 

I am not going to sit here and defend Va Tech or Cal as being quality opponents. USC, Texas, Oklahoma, TCU, Miami (FL) all seem to be at this point in time. And as I have pointed out, scheduling one marquee OOC game seems to be the norm amongst the top teams in college football. My guess is that you would get significantly different results if you take out the 9 games a year in which Ohio State plays shitty competition and LSU/Bama/FSU/Oregon play quality opponents. 



December 8th, 2014 at 10:11 AM ^

This is sort of related to the SOS issue. I'm having to deal with all the Bucknuts at work this morning ranting about how awesome OSU is because they pasted Wiscy. It was an impressive win, but just how good was Wisconsin's #2 defense (which keeps getting thrown in my face)? Here is the ranking in total offense of Wisconsin's opponents this year (out of 125 teams):

77-43 (of 121 FCS)-46-118-106-103-107-81-110-33-66-105-8

It is really surprising to me that 8 of the 14 Big 10 teams are in the bottom 25 in total offense. Is it really that big of a surprise that Wisconsin couldn't stop OSU's #8 offense or that OSU shut down a COMPLETELY one dimensional Wisconsin offense?