The Weekly Maths: Projecting B1G Things

Submitted by The Mathlete on September 28th, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Back in August anyone who looked at September’s schedule knew a trip to Dallas against the defending national champions and a trip to South Bend made a 2-2 a very real possibility. Here we are in that place and the realist in August doesn’t feel nearly as good about this 2-2 team as he thought he would. 6 turnover days and another Denorges disaster of a game leaves a bad feeling for a lot of Michigan fans.

But maybe it shouldn’t. Alabama appears to have moved into full-on Borg mode, replacing missing pieces and getting stronger together no matter what happens. Michigan’s game may strangely end up being one of the better performances of the season. Notre Dame we all know what happened, but hey, seven point games on the road against quality opponents, especially while going through so much self-inflicted adversity, that’s something that can be built on. And the B1G sucks.

How do all the factors come together, here a look at where the numbers indicate each team versus where they were projected coming in:

Purdue (++): Gone from also-ran to potential spoiler in the Suspendeds division

Minnesota (++): Far from a great team, but a huge step forward from the Gopherquest days

Indiana (+): Still pretty bad but should be more competitive

Michigan St (+): That’s a slight plus from my projection which is probably a double minus compared to most others

Nebraska(0): About where I projected them to be

Ohio St (0): Shaky at times, but still looks like the best in a down conference

Northwestern (0): The wins are great and there will be more, but still not a major player

Iowa (0): A pretty mediocre football team

Michigan (-): Down some, but not a significant variance

Wisconsin (-): Performance has been sloppy to say the least, but the record still holds up

Penn St (-): Have looked a little better the last two weeks but still far from a great team

Illinois: (- -): Getting beat down by Louisiana Tech is not good for the rep

If Ohio wasn’t sitting in timeout and Michigan had gone the cupcake route, no one would be talking about the B1G’s troubles right now. It doesn’t mean they aren’t real but it does skew them. Ohio is the clear-cut favorite to have the most wins in B1G play. They are the only team projected to have more than Michigan’s 5.8 conference wins, with 7.0. Nebraska and Wisconsin are both within a half of the Wolverines while Sparty sits a full game and a half back. Purdue is within a half of game on Wisconsin then it’s a whole pile of garbage. Doesn’t mean a Northwestern or someone couldn’t make a run, but based on current performances, your most likely B1G championship game is Michigan vs Wisconsin.

With high win-probability versus Illinois (98%), Minnesota (84%), Northwestern (96%) and Iowa (92%) still on the board, Michigan’s success is going to come to flipping some of the close ones. Purdue sits at 65%, a low take on the Spartans has that game at 80% (although I can’t imagine anyone has that confidence right now). Nebraska is at 45% and Ohio finishes the year at 20%. That leaves a 3.5% chance of running the table. Beat Nebraska and Ohio and the odds jump tenfold.

Despite two massively frustrating games, with Ohio out of contention, I would still install Michigan as both Legends division and B1G favorites. And this based on in-season performance! If Michigan is able to right the ship, their chances only go up and they are still the most dangerous team eligible for the championship game. With that said, there’s probably another two losses out there for this team. Ohio and Nebraska will be tough road matchups and Michigan isn’t good enough to show up and win the other games on the schedule. A win next week against Purdue would serve as a great firewall for the season.

On to the carnage:

Weekly Notes

The weekly game probabilities chart


Can you spot the turnovers?

Despite all the big drops in the first half, Michigan was building probability before the critical third quarter fumble.

Game Scores

D. Robinson: –5 EV and –21% Win Probability on 50 plays (was +8 and +12% on 45 of the plays)

F. Toussaint: –1 EV and –6% on 13 plays

E. Golson: –9 EV and –24% on 9 plays

T. Rees: +6 and +14% on 12 plays

Wood/Riddick: +0 and +8% on 24 plays

Could have been nice if Kelly would have stuck with Golson a bit longer. Didn’t have the volume of bad plays of Denard but managed worse before getting pulled for what turned out to be a huge gain in Tommy Rees. As you can see, the running game and Notre Dame offense in general weren’t great, its just the negatives on Michigan’s offense that were the difference.



September 28th, 2012 at 12:40 PM ^

I actually feel better about this 2-2 team than I thought I would.  The Notre Dame game was the first time we saw the defense play like we'll need them to if we are going to make a run at the Big Ten title.  Coming into the year, I thought 8-4 was a pretty realistic expectation.  Despite the two losses, I now feel better about our chances of going 9-3 than I did before last week's game.


September 28th, 2012 at 1:30 PM ^

About 5 weeks ago you posted:

"My Top10: 1.Oklahoma 2.Oregon 3.Texas 4.Alabama 5.Georgia 6.USC 7.Ohio 8.Michigan 9.ND 10.LSU".

7 still undefeated, OU and USC with a  loss and M with 2 losses.

What does your model show now for a Top 10?  What would Michigan's rank be?

Thanks for your great posts btw.


September 28th, 2012 at 2:42 PM ^

After the initial frustration with the turnovers and play-calling dissipated, my reaction was mostly positive.  We outgained and outplayed Notre Dame.  The rest of the conference isn't very good. 

I've always felt that the three biggest games of the year are MSU, Nebraska and OSU.  The Bama and ND were interesting, but not real meaningful given what was realistically at stake.  In some ways both games were 'no lose' situations; Bama being a heavy favorite and recent history with ND.

turd ferguson

September 28th, 2012 at 8:49 PM ^

Great stuff, as usual.

Is there a quick explanation - or link to an explanation - of how you're getting those win probabilities?  On the surface, it doesn't seem to me like there's enough uncertainty in there (e.g., Are we really 96% sure about Northwestern? 80% about MSU? Only 20% about OSU?).  I'd have expected all of those to be pulled closer to 50%.