3 overrated college football teams for 2016

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 4.23.39 PMLast week, I wrote about a few overrated teams by preseason analytics over at Football Study Hall of SB Nation.

How did these teams do week 1?

Houston pulled off the upset of Oklahoma, so I’ve gotten some flack for including them in the ranks of overrated. However, we have much football left to play this season.

Michigan State struggled against Furman, as they beat their FCS opponent by 15 points at home.

Iowa did what they were supposed to do and beat Miami of Ohio by 24.

We’ll see how these predictions pan out by the end of the season.

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.

College football playoff probabilities after week 10

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 9.49.02 AMWill your team make the College Football Playoff?

Over on Bleacher Report, I posted my probabilities for each team based on the current committee rankings and simulations of the season. Clemson has the highest chance after their win over Florida State, while Stanford edges out Notre Dame for the fourth highest probability.

To check out all the numbers on Bleacher Report, click here.

It’s also work checking the same calculation by FiveThirtyEight. They have Baylor a bit higher and LSU a bit lower, but otherwise the two sets of calculations give roughly the same results.

My article on Bleacher Report also looks at other issues:

  • Does Notre Dame necessarily make it if they win out?
  • How the hell did Iowa jump Baylor in the rankings?
  • How does new Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham change their odds?
  • Stanford can’t overlook Oregon this weekend

To read the article, click here.

I also did this calculation last week, which I forgot to post on the blog. To check out the numbers after the first committee rankings, click here.

Predicted college football playoff rankings after week 9, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 3.48.41 PMHow will the college football playoff committee rank teams this week? I’ve been posting my predictions all season, but there’s a right answer this week.

Last year, the committee sorted teams by losses in their opening rankings. This led me to make some adjustments to this week’s rankings, especially for undefeated Iowa and Oklahoma State.

Undefeated Memphis and Houston also caused some problems. It’s tough to know where the committee with rank these non Power 5 teams, so I put them behind the one loss teams.

To check out my predictions, click here.

We’ll see how these predicted rankings do Tuesday night at 7pm Eastern.

College Football Rankings, First Ever

On Saturday, October 31, it was a perfectly lovely afternoon in Palo Alto, and I had the Iowa-Indiana game on while doing the dishes. Up to that point in the season, Iowa remained undefeated with an impressive 11 point win over Penn State at Happy Valley. However, they had squeaked out 2 point wins over Michigan and Michigan St. as well as a meager 3 point win at home over Arkansas St. This would be an interesting team for the Power Rank, since I doubted they would be in the same class as Florida or Alabama. No sooner than this thought passed through my mind, the commentator stated how 5 of the 6 BCS computers had Iowa ranked number 1. That doesn’t pass the stupid test. After looking into it, none of the BCS computers account for margin of victory, since running up the score is frowned upon. Ignoring score difference also doesn’t pass the stupid test. There is useful information in the margin of victory. Including Iowa’s win over Indiana that week, the Power Rank put the Hawkeyes at 10, which seems much more reasonable.

The most eyepopping feature of the current rankings is Texas Tech. Number 10. That was enough to make me check my code. The Raiders have big wins on the road at Nebraska and at home over Oklahoma. They would be even higher had they not gotten stomped by Texas A&M by 22 at home. Neither the BCS, AP poll, or USA Today coach’s poll have them in the top 25, although they are 28 in the AP. Second, there are 9 SEC teams in the top 25. NINE. Numbers say the SEC is tough conference.

Disclaimer: Displaying these rankings in no way supports the current system of determining a national champion in college football. There should be playoffs to crown a champion.

Rankings through November 28, 2009. (Week 13)
1. Alabama, 23.03
2. Florida, 22.27
3. Texas, 20.95
4. TCU, 19.93
5. Boise St., 17.20
6. LSU, 14.20
7. Arkansas, 14.05
8. Tennessee, 13.84
9. Virginia Tech, 13.26
10. Texas Tech, 12.88
11. Oklahoma, 12.87
12. Oregon, 12.87
13. Cincinnati, 12.47
14. Clemson, 11.60
15. Georgia Tech, 11.42
16. Mississippi, 11.24
17. Auburn, 11.18
18. Ohio St., 10.51
19. Miami (FL), 10.04
20. Nebraska, 10.00
21. Stanford, 9.67
22. South Carolina, 8.94
23. Pittsburgh, 8.83
24. Georgia, 8.53
25. Iowa, 8.49