Is Iowa safe from an upset against Nebraska?

nebraska_stadiumIt seems like undefeated Iowa should cruise to an easy win over 5-6 Nebraska.

Nebraska has had a nightmare season, causing some fans to call for the firing of first year coach Mike Riley. In contrast, Iowa has already clinched the Big Ten West and has cracked the top four of the college football playoff committee rankings.

However, my number favor Nebraska against Iowa on Friday. Let me explain.

Nebraska’s poor record in close games

Nebraska has lost 5 games by a total of 13 points. Randomness plays a huge role in a team’s record in close games, and this year’s Cornhuskers are a perfect example.

In their first game, BYU beat Nebraska on a hail mary pass in the final seconds. They had a 0-5 record in games decided by a touchdown or less heading into the Michigan State game.

Then Nebraska’s luck turned against Michigan State. The refs ruled that a receiver had been pushed out of bounds, which allowed him to legally catch the game winning touchdown. Nebraska scored a big upset over the Spartans.

Nebraska is a much better team than their 5-6 record suggests.

Iowa isn’t as good as 11-0 suggests

On the other hand, Iowa came into this season with low expectations. They received no votes in either the preseason AP or Coaches poll. This might seem irrelevant this late in the season, but the higher ranked team in the preseason Coaches poll has won 59.9% of bowl games since 2005. They are remarkable predictors of team strength.

In addition, Iowa has had 11 more take aways than give aways this season. Randomness plays a large role in turnovers, and the Hawkeyes are unlikely to continue to average +1 in turnover margin per game. QB C.J. Beathard has throw interceptions on 1% on his pass attempts, a number that will regress to the college football average of 3%.

Nebraska has a 53% win probability over Iowa

Nebraska will test Iowa this Saturday. Iowa is the better team, but my numbers favor Nebraska by a point due to home field advantage. The markets favor Iowa by a point, down from two points earlier this week. Both metrics imply a close game that Iowa must win to preserve its playoff hopes.

Bleacher Report college football playoff articles after week 12

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 11.11.25 AMOver on Bleacher Report, I predicted the committee rankings on Saturday night and then calculated playoff odds based on the actual committee rankings.

Oklahoma gave me a hard time with the predicted rankings. They barely beat TCU, so I kept them 5th behind Notre Dame and Iowa.

The committee decided they liked Bake Mayfield’s hair and jumped Oklahoma to 3rd ahead of Notre Dame and Iowa. They probably deserve the spot, but there’s not much reason behind the jump.

To check out the latest probabilities for each team to make the playoff, click here.

Are Michigan, Ohio State safe from upsets against Penn State, Michigan State?

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 9.50.32 AMOver at the Detroit News, I previewed two critical Big Ten games this weekend: Michigan at Penn State and Michigan State at Ohio State.

Michigan faces a tough battle against a Penn State team with a stellar defense. The Wolverines are favored and my numbers predict a win, but they must play a solid game.

Ohio State catches a break as Michigan State QB Connor Cook hurt his throwing shoulder last week. He’ll play, but it will require an Isiah Thomas in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals type effort to beat Ohio State.

To read my Detroit News column, click here.

College football playoff predictions after week 11

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 9.32.33 AMLast weekend, a number of top 10 teams lost, and I thought this ended their playoff hopes.

As a Stanford alum, their loss to Oregon was particularly crushing. It gave the Cardinal two losses, and almost everyone thought the Pac-12’s playoff hopes were over.

Not the playoff committee. Stanford dropped to 11th, certainly within striking range of the top 4 by the end of the season.

I predicted a much bigger drop for Stanford in my Sunday morning Bleacher Report column that projects the committee rankings. The same goes for Baylor, Utah and LSU.

Stanford (24%) and Baylor (20%) are very much alive for a playoff spot. For all of my calculations, click here.

I should note that I wrote the Baylor section before hearing that QB Jarrett Stidham might not play against Oklahoma State.

Here are the top 25 of the ensemble rankings (available to members) that drive these playoff odds calculations for Bleacher Report.

1. Alabama
2. Ohio State
3. Baylor
4. Oklahoma
5. TCU
6. Clemson
7. Mississippi
8. Oregon
9. Stanford
10. Notre Dame
11. Georgia
12. LSU
13. Florida State
14. Florida
15. UCLA
16. USC
17. Michigan State
18. Mississippi State
19. Wisconsin
20. Auburn
21. Arkansas
22. Oklahoma State
23. Michigan
24. North Carolina
25. Tennessee

It’s not an error that Oregon is in the top 10 or that Iowa doesn’t appear in the top 25.

Help please: white receivers in the NFL

Are white receivers an undervalued asset in the NFL? Do smart teams build a better pass offense on the cheap with these players?

I’ve been thinking about this since watching undrafted Cole Beasley help Dallas make the playoffs last season.

With Rob Warendorf, I’m looking into this. But to do it properly, we need a list of all white receivers to play in the NFL over the past decade.

Here’s what we have so far:

  • Jordy Nelson
  • Julian Edelman
  • Eric Decker
  • Wes Welker
  • Brian Hartline
  • Riley Cooper
  • Cole Beasley
  • Danny Amendola
  • Dane Sanzenbacher
  • Griff Whalen
  • Brandon Stokely
  • Kevin Walter
  • Austin Colley
  • Greg Camarillo
  • Matt Jones
  • Mike Furrey

If we’re missing any white NFL receivers, please let us know (along with a link to a picture) in the comments.

And don’t worry about the definition of “white.” If you think we’re missing a player, let us know.

Thanks for helping with this crowd sourcing project.