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“