2018 Week 7 Total Conference Wins Outlook
"Then the time comes … when you see your opening. And you go in, and you swoop upon it and you make your capital, and then there you are! When you have once made your capital, you have nothing to do but employ it."
- Herbert Pocket
(Great Expectations by Charles Dickens)
At seven weeks into the season and just past the midpoint, we've witnessed the emergence of the capabilities and true character of this Team 139, and the prognosis is good! The love affair between the fanciest of fancy stats, the S&P+, and your ever-lovin' Maize-n-Blue is back on, and it's getting pretty hot and heavy. Indeed, the S&P+ currently holds Michigan in the realm of CFP contender at the #4 position, which is also tops in the B1G. Even ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) is warming up to the Wolverines, putting them at #6, yet still third in the B1G behind the Buckeyes and a two-loss Penn State. Somewhat less smitten, but perhaps more realistic, is the Power Rank, which puts M at #7, between the Buckeyes and Nits, as well as one spot behind the Fig-things. Curiously, both FPI and S&P+ place Notre Dame below Michigan at #9 and #10, respectively. One thing they can all agree on, however, is that Sparty is well in the high teens, with S&P+ putting them at #33. As of now, Penn State is essentially out of contention for the B1G East with two losses in the division to 2 of the 3 other teams that would otherwise have a chance. Michigan can ensure that MSU is even worse off by defeating Sparty on Saturday, the odds of which are in Michigan's favor.
Schedules, Spreads & Win Probabilities
So, with that, it’s on to the analysis here, which now focuses on the all-important in-conference slate, so as to make a closer examination of the prospects for the teams to make it to the B1GCG in Indy the first Saturday of December.
B1G East Schedule Rundown
The tables of schedules below shows the conference schedules for all seven teams in the B1G East based on the ratings following week 7. The last table in each set simply shows a rank-ordering of the B1GE teams based on their expected in-conference win totals - it’s not a projection of divisional standings based on projected wins, losses, and tie-breakers. Those are found in a later section.
The confidence with which the Buckeyes expect to reclaim the B1GE title continues to erode week-by-week. For the first time this season, OSU's expected conference win total has dropped below 8 wins to 7.76, and barely edges out Michigan at 7.72. Meanwhile, the Nits have plummeted to a level shared with Sparty somewhere between 5 and 6 wins. In the aggregate, however, OSU remains favored in all of its remaining games, the smallest margin being 2.6 points when they host the Game in Columbus. The other contenders (and the definition of the term is being stretched here) – Michigan, PSU and MSU – remain underdogs, respectively, in one, one and two games apiece. PSU is a one score dog to Michigan and MSU is a two-score dog to Michigan and OSU, with Michigan being Sparty's toughest matchup going forward.
Looking ahead, S&P+ shows Michigan favored by just over 9 points in East Landfill, for a win likelihood of 72%, or about 2:5 odds.
Two others – Indiana and Maryland – are maintaining the bubble of bowl eligibility and claim the middle ground of the B1GE. The Hoosiers are hanging on by a thread with about 2.5 expected B1G wins to go with their 3 OOC wins. Meanwhile, The Terps are looking pretty salty with a mean of 4.3 B1G wins to go with its 2 OOC W's. Of course, it could not be much worse for LOLRutgerz, who are unadulterated underdogs in all of its remaining games and will likely end up winless in the B1G.
FPI has Ohio State favored by more than one score in all its remaining games, and leads the B1GE with 8.2 expected conference wins, and a similar margin of 0.8 expected wins over next-best Michigan. It's then a drop of 1.5 wins to third place Penn State at 5.9 wins, with Sparty close behind at 5.3 wins. Curiously, FPI also shows Penn State to be favored in all of its remaining games, although it' a virtual toss up when they visit Ann Arbor. Thus, M is a dog in two games, including OSU, which is a two-score favorite. MSU is a dog to M and OSU.
Looking ahead, FPI has Michigan favored by 6.5 points in its next game vs. Sparty, for a win likelihood of 67%, or about 1:2 odds.
At this point, UM is well positioned to make a play for all the marbles in the Game in Columbus, provided it can continue to exorcise some more demons and follow through with victories these next two weeks. Easier said than done, of course, but this team clearly has the capability and desire to make good on those prospects. FPI concurs that Maryland and Indiana remain on the bubble of bowl contention, and that LOLRutgerz can be left for dead.
Power Rank Results
The Power Rank falls in line with the other in so far as the Buckeyes are favored in all their remaining games and expected wins of just under 8 (7.7), with Michigan a close second, 0.3 wins back. In contrast, the analysis of PR ratings puts MSU in third at about 6 expected wins, 0.8 ahead of PSU. That said, PR still shows OSU as less than a one-score favorite over both Sparty and the Wolverines, and barely a double-digit favorite over the Boilers. Things could get interesting if the Buckeyes defense continues to flounder when David Blough starts slinging it all over Ross-Ade Stadium while Rondale Moore sets up camp behind the Buckeye safeties on Saturday night. Boiler Up, Yo!
Looking ahead, Michigan is favored by less than one point in its next game at Sparty, for a win likelihood of 52%, or about 1:1 odds. Jeebus!
PR also falls in line with the others regarding the Bubble and Bottom-feeder teams. The Hoosiers, at 2.5 expected B1G wins and 3 games as less than a one-score do, need a little magic to make the post-season happen. As for the Terps, the loss to Temple essentially wiped out the win over Texas in regard to bowl eligibility. With a head-to-head against the Hoosiers still on the schedule, the loser of that game will likely be staying home for the holidays.
B1G East Expected Conference Wins Distributions
The bar plots below show the expected total conference wins distributions for teams in the B1G East, in alphabetical order. Noted above each bar is the probability for that number of wins (you may need to click & embiggen to read it). The bar with the highest value is the most likely outcome (the mode). Also flagged on each plot is the expected overall win total (the mean). The last multiline plot (bottom right) is just an overlay of the same data from the other seven bar plots.
The S&P+ distributions show two nearly indistinguishable profiles for Michigan and Ohio State at the top of the division. Both have nearly balanced 8-win modes with slight leans toward 7 wins. As of now, the likelihood of the Buckeyes going undefeated in the B1G stands at 22%, yet the likelihood of M running the table stands at just over 18%.
Meanwhile, both PSU and MSU share similarly distributions that are, at best, 2 wins fewer than the leaders and best. PSU pulls up at a 6-win mode with a strong lean toward 5 wins, while MSU is the converse. Sneaky Maryland is showing its post-season potential with a 4-win mode that tilts toward 5 wins, whereas Indiana is looking more likely to stay home with its 2-win mode but not by much.
The strongest influence on the chart, however, is woe begotten LOLRutgerz, showing a remarkable peak at the winless mode.
As expected, the FPI results show a broader separation at the top. OSU, the #5 team in all the land, has pressed its lead nearly to the limit with a very strong 8-win mode that’s nearly balanced with 9 wins. Michigan lags behind in sole possession of the #2 spot with a 7-win, upward leaning mode.From that point, a 1-game separation follows before picking up PSU and Sparty, who both exhibit 6-win modes. OSU registers a better than 40% chance of going undefeated, while M’s chances of winning out stand at about 9%.
Power Rank Results
The Power Rank predicts a tightest race than FPI in the B1GE. Once again here OSU claims the highest mode of 8 expected B1G wins, with M close behind with a strongly upward-leaning 7-win mode. One expected win behind the Wolverines is Sparty with more balanced 6-win mode, following by the Nits with its upward-leaning 5-win mode. PR show OSU with a 21% chance of winning out, followed by Michigan at just over 10%. Maryland has sole occupancy of the 4-win mode, followed a couple wins back by the Hoosiers nearly split between the 2-win and 3-win modes.
B1G West Schedule Rundown
The next set of schedule tables shows the conference schedules for all seven teams in the B1G West based week 7 results and ratings for the remaining games from S&P+, FPI and the Power Rank. Again, the last table in each figure simply shows a rank-ordering of the B1GW teams based on their expected win totals - it’s not a projection of divisional conference standings per se. Those projections can be found in the next section.
The big news in the B1G West is that for once a competitive race is going on past the mid-season mark. The S&P+ results still show the Badgers on top, as is the norm, but less than 0.3 expected wins separate them from the next-best Hawkeyes. Of course, the the Badgers have already beaten the Hawkeyes, so for Iowa to make it to Indy, they’ll need the Badgers to drop another game. To that end, only one expected win separates the Badgers from the Wildcats in the three-spot, who still have the Badgers on the schedule after their tune-up with LOLRutgerz on Saturday. It would be equally hazardous to look past the resurgent Boilermakers, who appear to be peaking at the right time and may make some noise before it’s all done.
The FPI results for the B1G West show an even tighter race than S&P+, with the Badgers holding less a margin of less than 0.4 wins over both the Wildcats and Hawkeyes, who are hovering just a shade below 6 expected B1G wins this season. As with S&P+, FPI expects the Badgers toughest match will be when it travels to Happy Valley, as will Iowa.
Power Rank Results
The Power Rank results show the tightest race on the B1G West of the 3 ratings, with less than 0.2 wins separating the Badgers, Hawkeyes and Wildcats. Like the other ratings, PR expects Wisconsin’s toughest game to be in Happy Valley, followed by its meeting with the Wildcats. Iowa also has PSU in Happy Valley, and its next most difficult game will be with the Boilers. For the Wildcats, its Wisconsin and Iowa.
B1G West Expected Conference Wins Distributions
The S&P+ chart shows the tightening race of the B1G West. The Badgers share the top spot and the 6-win mode with Iowa, with the caveat that Wisconsin has already won the head-to-head. One expected win back from there are the Wildcats...and the Boilermakers, with an interesting contrast in its distribution profile. The Boilers have a much flatter characteristic which amounts to a high variance. At the root of this is the fact that that 5 of Purdue’s remaining 6 games have margins of less than four points! Purdue is the new CHAOSteam in the B1GW, meaning one of two things can happen: they could eat the shark or the shark could eat them.
FPI tells a similar story as S&P+, except that NU joins UW and UI in sharing the top spot and the 6-win mode. Two expected wins back from there are the Boilers, the sole B1GW bubble team the needs to land somewhere in the upper half of its distribution to come away with a post-season bowl invitation.
Power Rank Results
As previously noted, the PR results are showing the tightest race of the three ratings, and the overlay of the distributions shows why. The 3 teams at the top are nearly indistinguishable, but for reasons noted above, the Hawkeyes are the team that is on the outside looking. They can take solace for the moment in that there is a lot of football remaining to be played in the B1GW.
B1G Expected Final Standings
As noted above, following are projections of the divisional conference standings at the end of the season based on current records summed projected wins and losses for the remainder of the season.
Power Rank Prediction
Head-to-Head Win Differences
Now is a good to to have a look at just which teams have a legitimate chance of advancing as the B1GE representative in the B1GCG in Indy. The following charts illustrate the pairwise chances of various combinations of teams finishing ahead or behind each other in the final divisional standings. Since Ohio State is the favorite across the fancy-stats board, all combinations include the Buckeyes. The sidebar charts show the non-head-to-head win probability distributions for the individual team. The center chart is the probability distribution for the difference in non-head-to-head total wins. The +1, even and -1 differences are then subdivided by the head-to-head win probability between to the two teams. The percentages in the text boxes in the center chart indicate the sum-total likelihoods for each team to finish ahead of the other, included the head-to-head matchup.
Looking at Michigan vs. Ohio State, S&P+ ratings give Michigan a 46% chance (or about 5:4 odds) of finishing ahead of Ohio State, which in all likelihood would lead to a trip to Indy.
Moving on to Michigan State vs. Ohio State, S&P+ ratings give Sparty a 10% chance (or about 9:1 odds) of finishing ahead of Ohio State, which at this point are some pretty long odds.
Just for the record, here’s a look at Penn State. As the chart shows, PSU has essentially been eliminated from any realistic chance of returning to the B1GCG. S&P+ ratings give the Nits a vanishingly small chance of 1.5% (or about 66:1 odds) of finishing ahead of Ohio State.
Looking at Michigan vs. Ohio State, FPI ratings give Michigan a 28% chance (or about 5:2 odds) of finishing ahead of Ohio State, which would likely include a trip to Indy to close out the B1G season.
Meanwhile, Sparty’s chances of finishing ahead of OSU, which in all likelihood would include finishing ahead of Michigan and a trip to Indy as well, stand at about 7% (or about 13:1 odds).
Power Rank Distributions
Looking at Michigan vs. Ohio State, PR ratings give Michigan a 38% chance (or about 3:2 odds) of finishing ahead of Ohio State, which would likely include a trip to Indy to close out the B1G season.
Power Rank still gives Sparty a decent shot at finishing ahead of the Buckeyes as well. Here, Sparty’s chances of finishing ahead of OSU, which in all likelihood would include finishing ahead of Michigan and a trip to Indy as well, stand at about 21% or about 4:1 odds.
Just to wrap things up with a quick visual summary, here are the combined overlays of the total wins probabilities broken out by division, sized for download and quick-reference on your smarty-pants phone.
Power Rank Results
Yours in football, and Go Blue!
P.S. As a bonus for scrolling this far, here’s a link to the complete volume of 2018 week 8 charts, which includes a few bonus nuggets not presented in the diary.