Massey win probabilities--final three weeks

Submitted by Yeoman on November 5th, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Time to run these again.

Needless to say, this past weekend wasn't kind to Michigan on this front, as Nebraska dodged a bullet and except for Penn State the teams they'll face the rest of the way posted poor results.

The usual caveats apply--this assumes the probabilites are independent for each game, and while that becomes a better approximation as each week goes by it's completely ignoring (among other things) the possibility of a significant injury to a key player. That increases the likelihood of an extreme result and means the division-winning chances for the less likely teams are a little better than they appear here.

Massey win probabilities for the remainder of the season:


  • Northwestern 64%
  • Iowa 80%
  • Ohio State 36%


  • Penn State 67%
  • Minnesota 92%
  • Iowa 77%


  • Michigan 36%
  • Michigan State 44%
  • Illinois 95%

That works out to:


  • 3-0 18%
  • 2-1 48%
  • 1-2 29%
  • 0-3 5%


  • 3-0 47%
  • 2-1 42%
  • 1-2 10%
  • 0-3 1%


  • 3-0 15%
  • 2-1 47%
  • 1-2 36%
  • 0-3 2%

Chances of winning the division are now 85% Nebraska, 13% Michigan, 2% Northwestern.

There are some bizarre possibilities still out there, like a 5-way tie at 4-4 (either Minnesota or MSU has to lose at least 5, since they still have to play each other). None of those possibilities let Minnesota or MSU win the division; they would always lose the divisional-record tiebreaker.

On the leaders side it's:


  • Indiana 70%
  • Ohio State 46%
  • Penn State 51%


  • Wisconsin 30%
  • Penn State 27%
  • Purdue 60%

Odds of winning the division are 77% Wisconsin, 23% Indiana.

Everyone else has been eliminated. There's still a possibility of a 3-way tie if Wisconsin loses out, Indiana loses both non-Wisconsin games, and Purdue or Illinois wins out. If it's Illinois they'll have lost to the other two and Indiana's win over Wisconsin gives them the tiebreaker and a trip to the championship game as a 5-7 team. If it's Purdue, the three teams will have split with each other, Indiana will be ruled out because they'll have the worst record in the division, and Wisconsin will then win the tiebreaker thanks to their win over Purdue.



November 5th, 2012 at 9:36 PM ^

The computers don't like Penn State all that much--they've got two really bad losses (to #78 Ohio at home and @ #94 Virginia) and while you can make a case that came from the disarray they were in at the beginning of the season, that's not part of the algorithm.

The problem with arguments like that is when I make them I'm never quite sure whether it's rational analysis or wishful thinking. They tend to be better arguments when I'm not emotionally involved, that's for sure.

True Blue in CO

November 5th, 2012 at 9:27 PM ^

for the data and just disappointment for the data results. The biggest factor affecting the B1G conference game participants is Penn State. Would love to see them get back on track against HuskerNation but it may be a too much to ask.


November 5th, 2012 at 9:43 PM ^

PSU would be in good postion to pull the upset. In Lincoln it ain't gonna happen unless the Huskers self-destruct with 6 turnovers or Martinez gets a boo-boo.

Dallas Walmart…

November 5th, 2012 at 9:53 PM ^

1. Wisconsin's complete meltdown allows them to come back and win.

2. 2 dropped interceptions allows them to beat Northwestern (didn't see this but read about it here).

3. Denard's injury on an otherwise routine play allows them to beat Michigan with relative ease.

4. Bad calls and Sparty beating Sparty allows them to beat MSU.

At some point you'd think this has to catch up with them, but the problem is the teams remaining on their schedule may need more than just luck to beat Nebraska.  I'm bracing myself for the possibility of missing out on the B1G championship game even if we go 7-1 in the conference (while the Leaders division representative will probably have three conference losses - AAARRGGHHHH!).  On top of that, after awhile it becomes apparent that each year some teams are just catching all the breaks (this year it's Notre Dame and Nebraska).  

Still hopeful, but suffering with the reality that if we had been able to take care of business in Lincoln we could sew up the division this weekend.


November 6th, 2012 at 4:22 PM ^

but give them some credit.

Nebraska's lost 2 games--on the road---against rated teams---while playing the 6th toughest schedule nationally and by far the hardest B1G schedule. And without our All-B1G running back for most of the season. If we win the Legends, and the B1G, I'd say we more than earned it, "down year" or not.

Obviously Michigan would have had a much better chance with Denard in the whole game, but Michigan with Denard in was only on track to score 20 points for the game---assuming you got the TD. We scored 23. Or say you do better than 20 with Denard--with Burkhead in, you could just as easily figure 2 Nebraska TD's where we settled for FG's, that's 31 points.

That said, Michigan's clearly not out of the Legends race, lots of football left to play.


November 6th, 2012 at 10:54 PM ^

So, you mention that we were on pace to score 20, and Nebraska scored 23... Did you consider that the only reason Nebraska got to 23 is because our defense got so damned tired from the offense pulling quick 3 and outs and throwing INTs?

If you have Denard in there, pulling sustained drive -- eating clock and giving the defense some rest -- then I don't think Nebraska makes it to 23.

Would we have won the game still?  Not sure, but we'd have a significantly better chance.  Our offense was just starting to roll when Denard got injured.  Sad to think his injury combined with our coaches lack of competent contingency plan likely cost us a Rose Bowl, or at least BTCG.

But I will give Nebraska credit -- they're a solid football team, one of the best in the Big Ten this year.


November 7th, 2012 at 2:03 AM ^

The worst part is that we have this championship game, and Michigan and Nebraska are quite clearly the top two in the conference (excepting the two major scandals) and won't play for the Rose in the championship game. Pat Fitzgerald mentioned doing something special this year to get a worthy Legends #2 into the game instead of a limping Leaders "#1", but it was doomed from the start due to NCAA rules.

I'll definitely say they are top two of the eligible teams, but I'll also definitely say I would love to see them again this year.

PB-J Time

November 6th, 2012 at 3:18 PM ^

Call me crazy, but I think that the Huskers have a better chance to lose to Iowa. I know I know the Hawkeyes look terrible, but I could see them pulling one out. It's very plausible that they would be playing for their 6th win (bowl), playing at Kinnick (sp) which is still a tough place to play, Neb is bad on the road, and its an odd Friday game. Weirder things have happened. They needed an epic Sparty meltdown (luckily there are usually plenty to go around) to escape from EL. I do see them taking care of PSU at home...but watch out for Iowa.


November 6th, 2012 at 8:05 AM ^

I have a lower confidence level in the OSU game as I give UM about a 25% chance of winning that game, but have a much higher level against NWestern (80%) and Iowa (90%). Which still works out to about the same probability of winning out, however, at 18%.

This stars aligned for UM last year to lead to an improbable BCS bowl appearance and win but this year things went Nebraska's way. C'est la vie.


November 5th, 2012 at 10:13 PM ^

You certainly aren't kidding when you say that the weekend was not kind to Michigan in these rankings. Compared to last week, the probabilities in all three of our games went down (not much, but enough to notice), whereas thesame model slightly decreases Nebraska's chances against Penn State, but makes Minnesota more or less a sure thing for them (shock, I know) and Iowa even more likely as well. Just based on this, I will wish the Nittany Lions well this week. 


November 5th, 2012 at 10:16 PM ^

Something about this doesn't pass my sniff test.  I know there are limitations to these things but I pause when I see that we have the same probability of losing to Northwestern as beating Ohio.  Just doesn't seem accurate.  Put another way, is Ohio > Michigan (at home) to the same degree that Michigan > NW (also at home)?


November 5th, 2012 at 10:45 PM ^

Vegas apparently doesn't agree if their line's to be believed, but the Massey power ratings are:

  • Ohio State 65.27
  • Michigan 62.22
  • Northwestern 59.38

That's about as close to equal spreads as you could get.

Checking the Sagarin predictor for confirmation:

  • Michigan 82.42
  • Ohio State 82.40
  • Northwestern 77.20

and not getting it.

I don't know enough about the differences between the two algorithms to know why this would be.




November 6th, 2012 at 1:13 AM ^

On the strength of their record, Ohio deserves to be favored over Michigan.  Then again, when the teams are even reasonably close, the records don't mean much in this game.  Part of me thinks Urban can dominate Michigan, but part of me remembers how John Cooper dominated everyone until the last week of the season, and never seemed to "decode" Michigan.  

We'll see how it goes.  For the next three years, it's going to be a question of whether or not Michigan can contain Braxton Miller.  I have a feeling he could get really frustrated if things don't go his way early.



November 6th, 2012 at 9:20 AM ^

Assuming you are counting this year as one of the next three years, I think The Game will rely more on the performance of Denard than it will Braxton.  Our offense has struggled with and without Denard, and Ohio's offense was able to pull out a win agaisnt Purdue after Braxton went down.  Also, since we will most likely have concerns with our offense next season, 2014 might be the only game that truly depends on our ability to contain Miller.


November 6th, 2012 at 11:09 PM ^

Ferentz and Iowa do have a knack for pulling upsets

Upsets by year:

1999: None (Lol 1-10)
2000: #25 MSU (home), #18 Northwestern (home)
2001: None
2002: At #12 Penn State, At #8 Michigan
2003: #11 Michigan (home), #17 Minnesota (home)
2004: #23 Ohio State (home), #9 Wisconsin (home)
2005: None
2006: None
2007: #19 Illinois (home)
2008: #3 Penn State (home)
2009: At #5 Penn State
2010: #5 Michigan State (home)
2011: #13 Michigan (home)
2012: None (yet?)

As you can see, in more years than not, Ferentz pulls off a shocker.  Can that be Nebraska in 2012?  Well, let's hope so!

Edit:  Kinnick does seem to possibly play a role in this, and that's where this year's edition will be played.