Thirty-five bowl games
Can’t watch all the excitement
Need The Power Rank
Even though it has yet to implement a playoff, college football still gives us plenty of excitement with its bowl games. With 35 games over the next 24 days, most people don’t have the time to watch every game. The Power Rank can help by ranking the bowl games according to two criteria.
First, we assume you’d rather watch good than bad teams play. Our rankings give all 120 bowl subdivision teams a rating that corresponds to a predicted point spread against an average team (this year, Washington State). To rate team strength in the matchup, we take the average rating of the two teams and turn it into a probability of beating an average team. Since it will comprise half of the game rating, we subtract 0.5 from this probability to obtain a strength factor. This number must be less than 0.5 but can also go negative, such as the -0.12 for Florida International and Marshall in the Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl. This season, the national championship game featuring LSU versus Alabama has the highest strength factor of 0.44.
Second, we assume you’d rather watch a close game than a blowout. The Power Rank thinks most games will be quite close this year, as the largest predicted point spread is 11.5 points for Texas A&M over Northwestern. However, the magnitude of this point spread directly affects the win probability for each team. To assign an excitement factor, we take the win probability of the weaker team, a number less than or equal to 0.5. This year, the Capital One Bowl has the largest excitement factor as Nebraska has a 49.9% chance of “upsetting” South Carolina.
The sum of strength and excitement gives a game rating which we use to rank all 35 bowl games. With the national championship game as well as the Rose and Fiesta Bowl at the top, the rankings seem logical. Also, it’s not surprising the Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl between Florida International and Marshall comes in last. But the rankings offer some games that should receive more attention due to the excitement factor. Nebraska (21) and South Carolina (20), who play in the Capital One bowl, have ratings that differ by 0.01. While these two teams have had disappointing seasons, they may bring lots of drama to our 4th best bowl game. Also, the Holiday Bowl, 6th in our rankings, features California (26) and Texas (28), two teams separated by 0.3 points. Last, the excitement factor bumps up the Fight Hunger Bowl between Illinois and UCLA to 16th in the rankings, well above their 33rd ranking by SI.com’s Stewart Mandel. With a predicted point spread of less than 1, this clash of interim coaches might spice up New Year’s Eve.
Here are the full rankings, complete with date and time of each game as well as the game rating and TPR prediction. Note that times are Pacific, since we’re out here in Palo Alto.
1. Alabama versus LSU. (0.85) Jan 9, 5:30 PST.
LSU (1) will beat Alabama (2) by 4.0 at a neutral site. Alabama has a 41% chance of beating LSU.
2. Wisconsin versus Oregon. (0.82) Jan 2, 2:00pm PST.
Oregon (4) will beat Wisconsin (5) by 3.0 at a neutral site. Wisconsin has a 43% chance of beating Oregon.
3. Stanford versus Oklahoma State. (0.77) Jan 2, 5:30pm PST.
Oklahoma State (3) will beat Stanford (6) by 4.9 at a neutral site. Stanford has a 39% chance of beating Oklahoma State.
4. Nebraska versus South Carolina. (0.72) Jan 2, 10:00am PST.
South Carolina (20) will beat Nebraska (21) by 0.0 at a neutral site. Nebraska has a 50% chance of beating South Carolina.
5. Kansas State versus Arkansas. (0.68) Jan 6, 5:00pm PST.
Arkansas (12) will beat Kansas State (18) by 3.6 at a neutral site. Kansas State has a 42% chance of beating Arkansas.
6. California versus Texas. (0.67) Dec 27, 5:00pm PST.
California (26) will beat Texas (28) by 0.3 at a neutral site. Texas has a 49% chance of beating California.
7. Florida State versus Notre Dame. (0.67) Dec 29, 2:30pm PST.
Notre Dame (15) will beat Florida State (24) by 2.2 at a neutral site. Florida State has a 45% chance of beating Notre Dame.
8. Arizona State versus Boise State. (0.65) Dec 22, 5:00pm PST.
Boise State (8) will beat Arizona State (17) by 6.0 at a neutral site. Arizona State has a 36% chance of beating Boise State.
9. Michigan State versus Georgia. (0.63) Jan 2, 10:00am PST.
Michigan State (11) will beat Georgia (23) by 5.5 at a neutral site. Georgia has a 38% chance of beating Michigan State.
10. Houston versus Penn State. (0.61) Jan 2, 9:00am PST.
Houston (22) will beat Penn State (31) by 3.2 at a neutral site. Penn State has a 43% chance of beating Houston.
11. West Virginia versus Clemson. (0.59) Jan 4, 5:30pm PST.
Clemson (30) will beat West Virginia (36) by 2.2 at a neutral site. West Virginia has a 45% chance of beating Clemson.
12. Cincinnati versus Vanderbilt. (0.58) Dec 31, 12:30pm PST.
Cincinnati (38) will beat Vanderbilt (41) by 0.6 at a neutral site. Vanderbilt has a 49% chance of beating Cincinnati.
13. Iowa State versus Rutgers. (0.56) Dec 30, 12:20pm PST.
Iowa State (37) will beat Rutgers (44) by 1.6 at a neutral site. Rutgers has a 46% chance of beating Iowa State.
14. Ohio State versus Florida. (0.55) Jan 2, 10:00am PST.
Ohio State (27) will beat Florida (39) by 3.8 at a neutral site. Florida has a 41% chance of beating Ohio State.
15. Michigan versus Virginia Tech. (0.54) Jan 3, 5:30pm PST.
Michigan (10) will beat Virginia Tech (32) by 8.5 at a neutral site. Virginia Tech has a 31% chance of beating Michigan.
16. Illinois versus UCLA. (0.52) Dec 31, 12:30pm PST.
Illinois (47) will beat UCLA (55) by 0.9 at a neutral site. UCLA has a 48% chance of beating Illinois.
17. Georgia Tech versus Utah. (0.52) Dec 31, 11:00am PST.
Utah (35) will beat Georgia Tech (48) by 3.1 at a neutral site. Georgia Tech has a 43% chance of beating Utah.
18. Iowa versus Oklahoma. (0.51) Dec 29, 7:00pm PST.
Oklahoma (7) will beat Iowa (33) by 11.0 at a neutral site. Iowa has a 26% chance of beating Oklahoma.
19. TCU versus Louisiana Tech. (0.50) Dec 21, 5:00pm PST.
TCU (14) will beat Louisiana Tech (40) by 8.0 at a neutral site. Louisiana Tech has a 32% chance of beating TCU.
20. Louisville versus North Carolina State. (0.49) Dec 27, 5:00pm PST.
Louisville (52) will beat North Carolina State (59) by 1.3 at a neutral site. North Carolina State has a 47% chance of beating Louisville.
21. Washington versus Baylor. (0.48) Dec 29, 6:00pm PST.
Baylor (16) will beat Washington (45) by 7.9 at a neutral site. Washington has a 32% chance of beating Baylor.
22. Brigham Young versus Tulsa. (0.48) Dec 30, 9:00am PST.
Brigham Young (43) will beat Tulsa (58) by 2.8 at a neutral site. Tulsa has a 43% chance of beating Brigham Young.
23. Virginia versus Auburn. (0.48) Dec 31, 4:30pm PST.
Auburn (53) will beat Virginia (62) by 1.8 at a neutral site. Virginia has a 46% chance of beating Auburn.
24. North Carolina versus Missouri. (0.46) Dec 26, 2:00pm PST.
Missouri (19) will beat North Carolina (49) by 8.2 at a neutral site. North Carolina has a 32% chance of beating Missouri.
25. Arkansas State versus Northern Illinois. (0.45) Jan 8, 6:00pm PST.
Arkansas State (60) will beat Northern Illinois (66) by 1.6 at a neutral site. Northern Illinois has a 46% chance of beating Arkansas State.
26. Western Michigan versus Purdue. (0.45) Dec 27, 1:30pm PST.
Western Michigan (73) will beat Purdue (74) by 0.0 at a neutral site. Purdue has a 50% chance of beating Western Michigan.
27. Texas A&M versus Northwestern. (0.42) Dec 31, 9:00am PST.
Texas A&M (13) will beat Northwestern (54) by 11.5 at a neutral site. Northwestern has a 25% chance of beating Texas A&M.
28. Ohio versus Utah State. (0.39) Dec 17, 2:30pm PST.
Utah State (70) will beat Ohio (82) by 2.1 at a neutral site. Ohio has a 45% chance of beating Utah State.
29. Toledo versus Air Force. (0.39) Dec 28, 1:30pm PST.
Toledo (46) will beat Air Force (75) by 5.1 at a neutral site. Air Force has a 38% chance of beating Toledo.
30. SMU versus Pittsburgh. (0.38) Jan 7, 10:00am PST.
Pittsburgh (42) will beat SMU (77) by 5.6 at a neutral site. SMU has a 37% chance of beating Pittsburgh.
31. Nevada versus Southern Miss. (0.38) Dec 24, 5:00pm PST.
Southern Miss (25) will beat Nevada (65) by 9.7 at a neutral site. Nevada has a 29% chance of beating Southern Miss.
32. Mississippi State versus Wake Forest. (0.38) Dec 30, 3:40pm PST.
Mississippi State (29) will beat Wake Forest (68) by 8.7 at a neutral site. Wake Forest has a 31% chance of beating Mississippi State.
33. San Diego State versus Louisiana Lafayette. (0.35) Dec 17, 6:00pm PST.
San Diego State (63) will beat Louisiana Lafayette (84) by 4.1 at a neutral site. Louisiana Lafayette has a 40% chance of beating San Diego State.
34. Temple versus Wyoming. (0.34) Dec 17, 11:00am PST.
Temple (64) will beat Wyoming (85) by 4.1 at a neutral site. Wyoming has a 41% chance of beating Temple.
35. Florida International versus Marshall. (0.29) Dec 20, 5:00pm PST.
Florida International (81) will beat Marshall (91) by 3.9 at a neutral site. Marshall has a 41% chance of beating Florida International.
Any suggestions on how to improve these game rankings? Leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.
For the most recent predictions right up to game time, find The Power Rank on Twitter.
—About The Power Rank.
—College football’s incredibly slow progress towards a playoff.
—Texas A&M should not have fired Mike Sherman
—The Power Rank featured on KALX Spectrum, the science and technology show on UC Berkeley student radio.
—Wisconsin as a 68% chance of beating Michigan State.
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