Monday, February 26, 2007

Predicting Wins – The Case for the Conferences

In my most recent piece, I took all the major conference teams and calculated predicted wins for the upcoming year based on the total strength of recruiting classes per for the past for years. (see here).

I used a model based upon similar data for the 2006 season (see here). While the model was off by as much as 8 games in one case, it averaged less than a single game error for the 66 teams examined.

I have received much in the way of helpful comments and criticism. One of the most obvious flaws appears to be the predicted records of the Big East teams – it essentially has none of them doing better than .500.

The problem with the Big East is the same problem I initially had with the mid-majors – although their recruiting talent is not as formidable as the “bigger” conferences, since they play mostly themselves, someone must rise above and win. If you look at the prediction post, you will see that, although ranked 32nd overall, Pittsburgh has the best 4 year recruiting class in the Big East.

The problems as identified here is much the same as the discussion about the Big East last year and what it would take for one of its teams to reach the BCS title game. Essentially, it was agreed that such a team would have to be undefeated. As these teams lost a single game, they were ruled out. Thus, it was recognized that the Big East was “easier” than the other major conferences.

I have decided the best route for applying our model is likely on a conference by conference basis, as I did with the SEC in the last piece. To recall, the model predicted the following for the SEC –

I have now run a similar analysis for the Pac 10, the Big 10 and the Big East.

First, the Pac 10 –

What is notable about the Pac 10 is the distance USC has put between itself and its conference rivals in terms of accumulated talent, having nearly 60% more total points than California at number 2. However, the rest of the conference is remarkable close in talent, with the difference between Cal and the worst team (Washington State) being smaller than the difference between USC and Cal.

Thus, look for a USC sweep next year.

Next, the Big 10 –

Not much in it looks very surprising to me, although our Wisconsin fan lurking in the commentary may take offense. But Wisconsin loses a 5th year senior QB, as well as a number of seniors on offense and defense.

Finally, the aforementioned Big East –

I agree it seems unlikely to me that Louisville, with all their remaining talent and Brian Brohm at QB, is going to go 4-3 in the Big East. And although Brohm was a big time recruit in 2004 per, he was easily the most talented in that class, and the class itself was not highly ranked. But, if we are to stay true to our model, we have to take what it says, no matter how unlikely it seems now (the Model would have had Louisville finishing 2nd in the Big East in 2006).

And once again, it is important to remember this is just a model, and one based purely on talent as defined by at that. While talent is just one factor in deciding college football wins (with coaching and luck be two other obvious ones), I believe talent is the primary factor in wins over a season. Our model as applied to last year would have been highly predictive overall.

As applied to next year, we shall see.

Next - The ACC and Big 12


Henry Gomez said...

I believe talent is the primary factor in wins over a season.

dem is fightin' words!


Ron Zook doeesn't win the MNC in 2006 no matter what he claims.

Anonymous said...

mergz LOL you've got Wisconsin ranked below Michigan State? an insult to any Badger fan coupled with your cheap shot "shocked or astounded" if the Badgers only had 5 wins cause the Big Ten is "easy". Maybe a little too slap-happy after one BCS win? The Big Ten still leads vs SEC in Bowl matchups in your Model years 2002-2006, 3-2 in the Capital One Bowl, 3-2 in the Out Back Bowl and 2-1 in the Music Bowl all I might add on SEC home turf, could the SEC match that up north in December? And that's with the SEC stacking rosters by doling out an entire extra recruiting class on average every sixth year. That's not an anomily it's a pattern with an advantage, a system being abused when more players pass through it. SEC coaches aren't giving out up to 30 offers a year just to be good samaritans.
Your right "talent is the primary factor in SEC wins" but at what cost to the broken hearted marginal recruits who's schollie are pulled.

Mergz said...


I have no idea why you think this is about Wisconsin. I didn't create the scoring at - all we are trying to do here is determine if they are predictive for ALL THE SCHOOLS collectively. It can and will be off for some individual schools, sometimes by a great margin. In the case of Wisconsin it was last year. It is not about me "picking" on the Badgers. Blame (or any of the recruiting services) for thinking so poorly of Badger recruiting.

I don't know how I can explain that any more simply.

However, I wouldn't get too big for my britches about those Badgers. Their last 3 Big Ten games were -

30-24 over Illinois
13-3 over Penn State
24-21 over Iowa

They also lost to Michigan, and didn't even play Ohio State.

According to the recruiting experts, Illinois, PSU and Iowa did better than Wisconsin over the past 4 years. Looking at their schedule, if they lose those 3, and lose to Michigan and OSU, that is 5 conferences losses, and very much in the realm of possibility.

Finally, what in the world does the whole SEC-Big 10 nonsense have to do with any of this? For goodness sakes, I am guessing it is USC verses Texas or MICHIGAN in the BCS title game. No SEC team there. (But if you want to throw stats, THE Ohio State University is now 0-8 all time verses the SEC).

Anyway, it is a model - nothing more. And we will know by next January how it worked - or didn't work.

Mergz said...

"I believe talent is the primary factor in wins over a season."

So, a fight between Co-Bloggers then?


Of course, there is always an exception to every rule.

We will call the exception in this case the "Zook Corallary".

Anonymous said...

okay mergz

fair enough but your saying the Big Ten was "easy" seemed somewhat of a slam, thus the response regarding the Big Tens' Bowl win "nonsense".

Orlando's Sporting News' college insider Matt Hayes has the Badgers VS USC in the 07 BCS NC. Terry Bowden also has them Top 6 with 19 starters return including 5 of 7 from a very good frontline defense. I can read off 8 different sources who rank Wisky in the Top 5 next year. I don't think using in your model can be very accurate over a given time span. Plus there is a distortion going on regarding SEC recruiting but I don't need to go there. The fact that Wisconsin can rank so low (40s) and project so few wins these past years seems to show the systems flaws. Not your fault of course.