2008 college football bowl contest

Okay. So as many of you know, I like sports. And I also like nerdery. So what better than to combine sports and nerdery??!?

It is the annual bowl contest sponsored by pro-football-reference.com. Here is the contest page (picks due this Saturday before the first game) as well as last year’s contest and their NFL contest from earlier this year (here’s the explanation of my picks to the NFL contest)

I did enter last year’s contest and I thought that I had posted a blog entry with an explanation to my picks, but I could not find it, so apparently I did not. But fear not, gentle reader, I will leave you a detailed explanation this year. I have modeled (read: blatantly copied) my strategy this year off of this post where Chase explained his methodology, and also the #1 comment from JKL (who won last year). I tied for 6th out of 12 teams. I will also note that 3 of the entries were from folks I recruited to join (in addition to my own).

So, the first thing that I did is whip up a handy dandy spreadsheet with all the teams. I got their Sagarin ratings from the pure predictor rankings.

First let’s look at the longshots, with their Sagarin ratings and the point spreads:

87	Alabama 	 Utah 	89.91	-11	-2.91
85.79	USC 	 Penn State 	85.24	-10	0.55
80.78	Missouri Northwestern	77.08	-10.5	3.72
78.02	Kansas 	 Minnesota 	70.7	-10	7.32
93.63	Texas 	 Ohio State 	83.88	-8	9.75
74.84	South Florida 	 Memphis 	62.75	-11.5	12.09

Utah is also rated as a BETTER team than Alabama, and USC and Penn State are close. USC does get some credit for having the game played at the Rose Bowl, but from the analysis seems to indicate that if a team has about a 15% shot of winning it’s better to take them as a longshot, due to the mechanics of the contest heavily favoring the picking of longshots.

So I will take Utah and Penn State, despite the fact that I think the Big 10 stinks.  I will also take Northwestern – Missouri lost to every good team that they played and so I will again go with the longshot. Minnesota was 3-5 in the Big 10 and just lost their last game 55-0 to Iowa. Uh… no thanks. Also I will take a Texas team that probably has a chip on their shoulder. Not sure about USF / Memphis. South Florida beat exactly one good team (which of course is one more than Memphis has beaten…). I’ll come back to them.

Now here’s a list of all the games, sorted by point spread.  Again, longshots in bold, and I italicized teams that are listed as favorites for the contest but are underdogs according to Sagarin.

74.84	South Florida	Memphis	62.75	-11.5	12.09
87	Alabama	Utah	89.91	-11	-2.91
80.8	Missouri	Northwestern	77.08	-10.5	3.72
78.02	Kansas	Minnesota	70.7	-10	7.32
85.79	USC	Penn State	85.24	-10	0.55
77.15	Cal	Miami	80.21	-9	-3.06
82.25	Georgia	Michigan State	79.77	-8.5	2.48
93.63	Texas	Ohio State	83.88	-8	9.75
71.58	Central Michigan	Florida Atlantic	63.36	-7	8.22
69.56	Houston	Air Force	75.55	-5.5	-5.99
75.78	Rutgers	NC State	77.59	-4.5	-1.81
93.04	Texas Tech	Ole Miss	77.52	-4	15.52
82	Boston College	Vanderbilt	73.15	-3.5	8.85
79.42	Georgia Tech	LSU	74.36	-3.5	5.06
72.95	Rice	Western Michigan	74.54	-3.5	-1.59
83.14	Florida State	Wisconsin	73.03	-3	10.11
79.06	Wake Forest	Navy	75.85	-3	3.21
75.89	Connecticut	Buffalo	72.91	-3	2.98
78.73	Oregon State	Pitt	80.74	-3	-2.01
70.52	Arizona	BYU	82.07	-3	-11.55
68.76	Troy	Southern Miss	65.23	-2.5	3.53
75.93	Iowa	South Carolina	76.37	-2.5	-0.44
75.73	East Carolina	Kentucky	69.99	-2.5	5.74
85.2	Oklahoma State	Oregon	79.42	-1.5	5.78
76.2	Ball State	Tulsa	70.43	-1.5	5.77
81.67	North Carolina	West Virginia	77.69	-1.5	3.98
79.74	Clemson	Nebraska	79.63	-1.5	0.11
90.79	Florida	Oklahoma	94.52	-1.5	-3.73
71.69	Hawaii	Notre Dame	72.06	-1	-0.37
72.52	Nevada	Maryland	78.67	1	-6.15
84.16	Cincinnati	Virginia Tech	84.48	0	-0.32
85.32	TCU	Boise State	85.9	0	-0.58
65.59	Northern Illinois	La. Tech	69.2	0	-3.61
66.97	Fresno State	Colorado State	71.28	0	-4.31

So the biggest “Sagarin favorite” is BYU over Arizona. On that vein, I will also take Maryland, Colorado State, Oklahoma and Louisiana Tech. Houston has already lost to Air Force this season, Air Force is rated a 6 point better team, and it is the Armed Forces bowl after all. I’ll bank on one of those 3 things meaning anything and take Air Force as a dog.

Moving on to banking against middling teams from power conferences playing in crappy early bowls. I will use that logic to take Navy over Wake and Hawaii over Notre Dame.

Some favorites I like: Texas Tech (a 15 pt Sagarin favorite) in the Cotton Bowl, BC over Vandy (lost 6 of their last 7), Central Michigan, and I’ll come back and take South Florida as well as Oklahoma State, and Georgia Tech. I’ll also take Cincinnati because I’m a homer.

Some dogs I like: Miami and Pitt (Pac-10 stinks), So. Miss (playing well lately), WVU (conference homerism), Buffalo and Tulsa.

So at this point I have 3 longshots, 13 underdogs, and 11 favorites, with 7 games left to pick. The only way it balances out is if I take 6 of the last 7 favorites. So I need 1 underdog out of NC State, Western Michigan, South Carolina, or Nebraska (I also could take Mich. St, Wisconsin or Kentucky but those 3 are all much bigger dogs). Hard to take NC state against a Rutgers team that has won 6 straight (the last 5 by 18 points or more). I’ll go with Nebraska over Clemson. So with 17 favorites, and 14 underdogs (and 3 longshots), I need just one group of 3 favorites. I’ll go with Chase’s wisdom and take my 3 strongest favorites which are Texas, S. Florida and Kansas.

Now to match up 14 favorites with 14 underdogs. I will try to match strength with strength, while also looking to match up conferences (either in the teams I picked or the teams I picked against). My philosophy there is that if there are teams that are over or under-rated, based on their actual strengths, they are likely to be grouped in conferences. Since say if Oklahoma is overrated, then Texas is somewhat overrated, since their win over Oklahoma counts for more than it should. That at least seems to make sense to me?

That gives me Central Michigan and BYU, Maryland and Boston College, Ok. State and Colorado State, Hawaii and La. Tech, Texas Tech and Oklahoma (double Big 12 over SEC!), Rutgers and WVU (double Big East over ACC), Florida State and Miami, Tulsa and Rice, Air Force and Georgia, Cincinnati and Navy, Pitt and Georgia Tech, TCU and Nebraska, Buffalo and E. Carolina, and Iowa and So. Miss. Lots of guesswork there but hey that’s what it’s all about!

So in nerd-ese (i.e. the official format of the contest) that would be 57,53,24|40|48|61|3,9|6,28|12,43|21,27|44,56|51,66|17,30|59,50|0,20|10,35|49,19|36,55|7,14|23,54|

You can follow along if you want at the official “nerdy web page

Fantasy Football update

So, to all negative 5 people besides me that care about my fantasy football team, I thought I would update you on how things went yesterday after my dilemma .  Addai and Jacobs in fact did not play.  Sproles received 3.38 points, and Morris got 4.30.  Larry Johnson for some odd reason THREW a touchdown pass and ended up with 7.75 points, so for most of the day it looked like I made the right call, as Barber was expected to start in the Sunday night game (meaning my other choice of Choice – ooh a good one! – would not be that great).  But Choice came in and rushed for like 80 yards and a touchdown in the 4th quarter alone, ending up with 13.15 points.  But all in all not a horrible move.  Wish I’d have started Bernard Berrian at WR (2 TDs) though….

My opponent is finished and I have DeSean Jackson playing tonight.  Though somehow between the end of the Sunday night game and this morning, DeMarcus Ware (for my opponent) magically came up with 7 additional points.  So instead of the 5 point deficit I thought I had when I went to bed, I am down 12 (actually 11.77).  So I need a big day from Mr. Jackson (like 120 yards and a TD).  Good thing he’s playing <a href=”http://www.clevelandbrowns.com/”>a really sucky team</a>…

Turkey Croquet

Family and Friends:

I would like to invite you to the inaugural 1st Annual Miller Family Thanksgiving Croquet game.  I apologize for the short notice and I’m sure it is only this lack of appropriate notice that will prevent you from dropping everything and making it to Cincinnati for this amazing experience and not piddling concerns like “flying across the country” or anything so trivial.

When: Thanksgiving, sometime about 3 pm or so, depending on how long it takes me to able to walk again after playing in the Turkey Bowl earlier in the day.
Where: Our house, Cincinnati Ohio
What: Croquet course, carefully designed by master course designer Dan Miller
Obstacles: Our neighbors’ dog Max will at least hopefully be on a leash so as to not run and poo all over our yard, but if he’s outside he will still probably bark non-stop.  Also the very thick coat of leaves and the decomposing parts of the shed that we tore down a year ago that are still sitting around the back yard.

Hope you can make it, and if you can’t, feel free to take part in your own associated croquet matches and we’ll make this the biggest Croquet Day yet.  Take pictures and we can share!


So last night I was watching the Browns game on websites of questionable legality. That is one advantage of the fall baby – I take the first turn of the night by having him sleep on my chest while I watch football. Works at least 2 or 3 nights of a week!

So anyways, I am not sure if the feed that I was watching was the same as what is shown on the actual NFL Network, but it SUCKED!

Several times (at least 5) they would cut to studio analysts blathering about whatever. Now that is annoying in and of itself, but okay fine. But then they would continue talking WHILE THE ACTUAL GAME WAS GOING ON!!!

Several times they had the camera on on-field roving reporter Solomon Wilcots and you could (barely) see the game being played behind him.

I’m not sure who the ad wizards are that came up with that one, but it’s quite possibly the most annoying thing this side of basketball “annoyo-cam”

Fantasy Football shenanigans

So I am in a fantasy football league. This league is with several people that I was on my mission with and is run by my ex-mission president (who runs 3 or 4 such leagues with different ex-missionaries). We have been playing since 2000 and it’s a lot of fun.

We play in Yahoo – and one of the rules is that in order to start someone in a week, he has to be on your roster by 11:59 Pacific time on Sunday night (and his game has to not have started yet). Where this comes into play is if you have someone on Monday night and want to pick someone else up – you have to pick them up on Sunday – if you pick them up on Monday, you can’t put them on your roster (even if the player you are replacing has not played his week game).

So this past week, we had 2 owners who did not replace a few of their players that went on bye week. Naturally, this meant that their teams did not do so well. One guy said he was out all week at some place without Internet, and one guy is the classic trash-talker whose team always stinks.

So on Monday, they logged on and tried to replace the bye-week players with players who were playing in the PIT/BAL Monday night game, but couldn’t, due to the aforementioned rule. So they asked the commissioner to make the change, and he did it! And, even crazier, when I complained about it, the other owners agreed with them?!?! I just cannot fathom how this can possibly be a good thing. Naturally, this reversed the outcome of one game, as one of the bye-week no-changers used several field goals from Pittsburgh kicker Jeff Reed to win his game by a point.

There is a rule, and it should be followed. Leaving it up to the commissioner to do it if he feels like it is a bad thing. What if next time, the commissioner is out of town and can’t do it. And it conveniently involves a team that the commissioner is playing?

Shenanigans!! Shenanigans I tell you!!

An NFL contest

So I enjoy sports, and I enjoy numbers. So if you enjoy neither of those things, this may be a blog post you should just go ahead and skip. If only I could make this post about maps too then it would be like the pefect post. Anyways, the folks over at pro-football-reference.com are sponsoring a contest for this upcoming NFL season. They have sponsored several similar contests in the past, and the thing I like about them is that in addition to some football knowledge (and luck), they also require a bit of thinking.

The gist of this contest is that there are 38 questions. For each of the 38, you have to pick one of the 2 choices. Whoever gets the most right at the end of the season “wins” (no real prize just honor and glory).

So for example, the first one is

Number of wins by the Texans
Number of wins by the Panthers

So you just pick which one you think will be higher. From there, it gets a little more crazy like

Number of rushing yards by LaDainian Tomlinson
Number of combined passing yards by all 49er players EXCEPT FOR the week one starting QB.

Full rules and such are over at the contest page

I thought that I would use this post to kind of detail my reasoning behind my picks / entry. First of all, I thought I’d find a site where they run a bunch of season simulations. Of course there is one. I also did a compilation of the 37 entries posted so far, just to get an idea of the conventional wisdom from people that are probably following the NFL season a bit more than me. I also grabbed the data over at p-f-r to help me answer a few questions as to how likely some things were.

So, let’s go
1. Whatifsports has the Panthers with 10 wins and the Texans with 6 – good enough for me
2. Cowboys with 12 and Jaguars with 10
3. Browns with 10, Packers with 9
4. Lions with 6, Ravens with 5
5. Redskins with 9, Cardinals with 6 – good enough for me
6. Giants with 11, Saints with 8 – good enough
7. Chargers with 11, Raiders with 6 and Falcons with 5. I will go with the Chargers. I looked at the simulation data, where it lists for each team its expected winning percentage for each game. I ran a bunch of simulations with random numbers in Excel on that and it told me that the Chargers had 11.3 expected wins, with a 1.63 standard deviation, the Raiders with 5.6 wins and 1.63 st. dev, and the Falcons with 4.9 wins and a 1.73 standard deviation. Using that data, it is about a 61% chance for the Chargers.
8. It’s almost certain that the team with the most wins will have somewhere around 13 wins. So whereas in question 7, you had some downside with the Chargers (if they underperform), here SOMEONE is going to have the most wins. If the Patriots go in the crapper, maybe it’s the Jaguars, or the Colts, or the Cowboys, or whoever. Rams and 49ers are projected with 5 and 8 wins. Using the calculated percentages in each game, I get 5.4 and 8.0. Taking the top 6 teams (projected at 13, 12, 11, 11, 11, and 11), and running them through 1000 random simulations, it gives about a 67% odds that one of them will have more than 13.4 wins.
9. Continuing on that vein, since the last place team in the AFC south is unnamed and undetermined, my gut would go with the Bears. Doing the individual game sims drops them from 6 to 5.4 expected wins. The Texans are at 6.4 and Titans at 7.1. That makes it about 58% chance for the AFC South team
10. The Bills home probabilities are 34, 71, 27, 69, 34, 47, 74, 21. The Colts road probabilities are 61, 83, 68, 84, 67, 65, 55, 66. That projects to 3.8 Bills home wins and 5.5 Colts road wins – Colts it is.
11. For the NFC West I get 5.4, 8.0, 7.4, and 10.4 (total of 31 wins). For the AFC West I get 11.3, 7.3, 5.6, and 3.8 (28 wins) – NFC West. I note that this has gone 32-5 for the AFC in the submitted responses so far.

Okay now we get away from the total wins and on to the more “odd” ones

12. The quarterbacks in the 2008 NFL draft (that have any chance to start) are: Matt Ryan (should start all 16?), Joe Flacco (is starting at least the opener), Chad Henne (listed as the backup). Simulation has Pennington with 11 TDs and Clemens with 8. I’m going to go with the 2008 QBs
13. While Randy Moss is really good, I think it more likely he will return to a “normal” range of 12-14 TDs so I will go with the group
14. In 2007, there were 56 players that had a 100 yard rush. There were 49 in 2006. Last year Harrington had a 69 yard pass and Redman had a 74 yarder (not clear if those were TDs). I will go with the Falcons.
15. Here you’re guessing on how long JT O’Sullivan will last. LDT should gain at least 1200-1300 yards or so. Though I’m a bit concerned about Tomlinson getting injured since he is getting older, I will go with him, banking on O’Sullivan being super awesome :-)
16. In a homer pick, I’m going with Cribbs
17. Simulation has Bush with 4 rec TDs and Young with 2 Rushing – Bush.
18. Here you have to bank on futility AND longevity. I will go with Warner as I think Pennington has more of a chance to get injured / demoted
19. Peterson is probably good for 15 TDs or so. The sim on the closest loss for the Chiefs is 10 points (they’re picked to lose every game individually though they’ll (probably) win some of them). I go with ADP
20. Sim has the top QBs at 2.4 TDs per game or about 38-39. I can’t see the Ravens ever scoring that much. Sim has them averaging 20 points per game with a 3.8 st. dev.
21. Sim has Westbrook and Jackson at 186 ypg and the trio at 248 – seems obvious, though I again am in the minority at 28-9 on already submitted responses.
22. The “elite” TEs should be around 90 catches, and I think between the other trio, they will have 1-2 games over 100.
23. Seems like selecting the max of a lesser group has better odds than the min of a “better” group since you only need EITHER one good season by one of your 4 guys OR one bad season by one of the other 4.
24. Likely / Possible Top 10 rushers born in the 70s: Tomlinson, Westbrook, Jamal Lewis, E. James, Taylor, T. Jones, L. Johnson. I figure 4 or 5 QBs will pass for 32 (Sim projects 4). I like that better than those RBs
25. Both Orton and Croyle stink but I will guess Croyle.
26. Sim has James with 11 TDs which will be much more than Kris Brown misses.
27. Battle of my fantasy football keepers – Sim has Edwards at 1400 yards and Johnson with 1140. Especially given Johnson has an injury history and no remaining offensive line I will take Edwards.
28. Sim has 15 TDs for Barber and 20 sacks for Williams.
29. The champs for 2007 were: NWE, PIT, IND, SDI, DAL, GBP, TAM, SEA. I’d say NWE, IND, SDI and DAL are all good bets to repeat, with outside shots from the other 4, so I will go with the same.
30. Can’t be more than 4 or 5 playoff games decided by 7 or more points (there are only 11 total games anyways) so I will go with the group – especially since I only need ONE of them to get lucky and score a few TDs
31. In 2007, 5 visitors won playoff games, 2 in 2006, 6 in 2005, 4 in 2004, 4 in 2003. I’ll go with Brees who is probably good for at least a 4 TD game if not 5.
32. Gotta go with the Pats
33. Gonna go with the Cowboys / Giants
34. Guessing AFC
35. All hail the Patriots.
36. Ditto
37. Judging from projections, the max of this group will be about 30-35, so I’ll go with points in the Super Bowl
38. I figure 1 maybe 2 double digit losses for the Cowboys – so it seems likely we’ll have more ints than that.


Well that was some rambling. We shall see how I do.

1. Panthers 10, Texans 6
2. Cowboys 12, Jaguars 10
3. Browns 10, Packers 9
4. Lions 6, Ravens 5
5. Redskins 9, Cardinals 6
6. Giants 11, Saints 8
7. Chargers 11, Raiders 6, Falcons 5
8. Rams 5, 49ers 8, Most (13)
9. Bears 6, AFC South (Texans – 6)
10. AFC West (28), NFC West (28)

Allstate Alumni Kicking Challenge

More thoughts on the BCS championship game. As I mentioned over there in that post, I didn’t watch very much of the game but at one point I turned it on and it was halftime so I saw the “Allstate Alumni Kicking Challenge”.

In case you missed it, there were two kickers playing – one an alumni from Ohio St. and one an alumni from LSU. I don’t know if they were former college kickers or what but they definitely looked like they knew what they were doing. The rules of the challenge were that each kicker got 3 attempts. The sum of the yardage from each MADE field goal was added, and whichever kicker had the highest total won.

Seems to make sense – I’m not sure of the optimal strategy but you have to weight going further to get more points with not going too far and increasing your odds of missing.

LSU won the coin toss and went 2nd. Huston made from 43, and then Browndyke missed. And here is where I think Huston made a HUGE strategic error. Rather than move in to say 30 yards, he kicked again from 43, and missed. Browndyke made his from 43 and put himself into the driver’s seat. Huston made again from 40-ish but then Browndyke blew it and OSU won anyways.

Seems to me that had Huston gone into say 30 (fairly automatic I guess, depending on their actual level of skill but they seemed to both know what they were doing), that puts him up 73-0. Even if Browndyke makes a 50 yarder, Huston can put in another 30 yarder and force Browndyke to make from 54 to win. If that seems like not good enough odds make it 32 or 35.

Given that field goals get harder the further you go out, I think Huston made a monumental error and was lucky to win.

(Yes, I realize nobody cares and this will be one of those posts I make that gets 0 comments)

College Football

So last night was the big bad Bowl Championship Series National Championship game. Long title, huh? Wait, I think I missed a “Presented by Allstate” or a “dot com” or a “your mom”

Anyway, it was LSU vs. Ohio State. I have to say I am not a big Ohio State fan, but I marginally root for them. Growing up, I was a big Buckeye fan as there weren’t really many (any) major college programs in Cleveland. I remember having rivalries with my cousin Jef who was a Michigan fan, and whose Thanksgiving visits often coincided with the annual OSU-UM game.

After my mission and attendance at UC, I adopted the Bearcats and my like for OSU faded. Still, though, I remember one year where to advance some team I wanted to do well in the national scene (probably BYU), I needed Michigan to beat Ohio State. I tried to root for Michigan but just could not bring myself to do it. It reminds me of the (I believe ESPN) commercial that shows a guy with an Ohio State shirt on and a girl with a Michigan shirt on it. They’re on a couch making out and the camera shows them kissing for like 3-4 seconds. Then at the bottom of the screen it shows lettering that says “Without sports, this wouldn’t be disgusting” :-) Good times.

There are a lot of Ohio State fans here in Cincinnati, and I talked to some of them at work about the game. Everyone was in full Buckeye paraphernelia mode. One of our consultant companies had sent one of the boss folks here (a big OSU fan) a tin of Ohio State cookies. I had a “Buckeye Chocolate Chip” one. It was good.

I made my prediction:

Ohio State 31
LSU 27
Number of annoying fireworks my neighbor (also a giant OSU fan) sets off after I’m already asleep: 10

Anyways, I didn’t turn the game on when it started since, as I mentioned, I was being “Mr. Productive Pants“. At about 8:15, I was upstairs and waiting for Carolyn for something, I heard massive cheering, hooting, hollering, and airhorning from out of doors. I thought “Hmm that seems early”. I checked the box score online and it was 0-0 on about the 2nd play. I refreshed and saw that Ohio State had rushed for a 65 yard touchdown. “Aha that makes sense”, I told myself.

After we got done cleaning the basement for the evening, I came back up and watched a bit of the game. OSU got out to a 10-0 lead but after that it was all LSU, who ended up winning. Which disappointed my neighbor I’m sure, but did not disappoint my lack-of-fireworks-loving self.