Podcast: Peter Jennings on analytics for Daily Fantasy Sports

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, Peter Jennings, two time world champion at Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and cofounder of Fantasy Labs, joins me for a wide ranging discussion on analytics for DFS. Among other topics, we discuss:

  • An advantage his background in poker gave him in DFS
  • The times of year with the most value in DFS versus the times you’re stuck playing other professionals
  • How to use the markets to gain an edge
  • The sport he watches to gain an edge, and the sport he avoids watching
  • Whether strategy or analytics is more important for the beginning player

After listening to the interview, it won’t surprise you how much success Peter has had in playing DFS and starting Fantasy Labs.

After the interview, I discuss my new research on college football bowl pools. Is there value in these contests? Listen at 32:29.

To listen on iTunes, click here.

College football playoff probabilities after week 11, 2017

Three teams have become the favorites to make the College Football Playoff: Oklahoma, Clemson and Alabama.

Don’t count out Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish got smoked by Miami in week 11, but they can still make the playoff if they win their remaining games against Navy and Stanford.

It helps Notre Dame’s playoff probability that they don’t play in a conference championship game. They can’t lose and fall that final week of the season.

However, my methods do account for the possibility that a team like Ohio State wins a conference championship game and jumps ahead of Notre Dame. There’s no certainty for the Fighting Irish.

Miami moved up into the top 4 of the committee rankings with their big win over Notre Dame. However, they will be 4.5 point underdog in the ACC championship game to Clemson, and it’s unlikely both teams make the playoff.

How Line Yards Divides Credit on Running Plays based on Michigan, 2017

How should you divide credit between the offensive line and running backs on rush plays? One method is Line Yards, a metric developed by Football Outsiders to capture the contribution of the line.

Based on regression analysis, the Line Yardage formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages:

  • Losses: 120% value
  • 0-4 Yards: 100% value
  • 5-10 Yards: 50% value
  • 11+ yards: 0% value

The offensive line gets full credit for the first 4 yards of any run, but half credit for the next 6 as the running back gets past the defensive line. The running back gets full credit beyond 10 yards.

To give a football example of how this works, consider the line yards per carry for Michigan through week 10 for the 2017 season.

  • Florida: 2.86
  • Cincinnati: 2.55
  • Air Force: 2.68
  • at Purdue: 2.41
  • Michigan State: 3.19
  • at Indiana: 3.23
  • at Penn State: 3.48
  • Rutgers: 3.62
  • Minnesota: 3.54

Michigan struggled early in the season against teams like Air Force and Purdue. But since the Michigan State game, Michigan’s run blocking has improved by line yards per carry.

The last two games show how line yards breaks down the contribution between the offensive line and running backs.

Against Rutgers, Michigan had 3.62 line yards per carry. They rushed for 334 yards on 6.55 yards per carry (numbers do not include sacks, although Michigan didn’t allow any against Rutgers).

Michigan had slightly worse line yards per carry against Minnesota: 3.54 compared to the 3.62 against Rutgers. However, the offense rushed for 394 yards on 11.59 yards per carry, an astounding rate.

The line yards gives about the same credit to the Michigan’s offensive line against both Rutgers and Minnesota.

The running backs get the extra credit against Minnesota, as Karan Higdon (47, 77 yards) and Chris Evans (60, 67 yards) both broke long runs. In contrast, Michigan’s longest runs were 49 and 32 against Rutgers.

Podcast: Kevin Cole on points added for NFL players

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, Kevin Cole, a data scientist for football predictions, joins me to discuss his points added model for NFL skill players. Check out his work over at his site Predictive Football.

Among other topics, we discuss:

  • How the data on air yards, or how far the ball travels in the air, allows Kevin to break down contributions between quarterback and receiver
  • How one might use this calculation to adjust for injuries
  • The distinction between quarterbacks and running backs by points added
  • Why Bills QB Tyrod Taylor is rated so highly
  • Why Baker Mayfield could be a historically great QB prospect

After the interview, I have my own segment on the total in Oklahoma State at Iowa State. There’s an intriguing story why it’s so low. Listen at 31:58.

To listen to this episode on iTunes, click here.

To listen here on the site, click on the right pointing triangle.

College football playoff probabilities after week 10, 2017

Penn State drops after their loss to Michigan State, and Oklahoma assumes the top spot after their win over Oklahoma State.

Remember, this list does not rank teams by who would win on a neutral field. This reflects the odds of making the college football playoff, which depends on a team’s remaining schedule.

Oklahoma still has TCU and West Virginia, but they get both of these teams at home. They also have a road trip to Kansas before a likely berth in the Big 12 championship game.

While it isn’t certain that Oklahoma wins these remaining games, it’s an easier path than teams like Georgia and Notre Dame.

Georgia travels to Auburn for a rivalry game with enormous college football playoff implications. If they win, you’ll see their playoff probability rise next week.

My numbers give Georgia a 46% chance to win at Auburn. The win probability should perhaps be higher given that Auburn has injury issues on their offensive line.

Notre Dame travels south to play undefeated Miami. My numbers make this a 50-50 game.

I might lean a bit towards Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have the best rushing attack in the nation with an experienced offensive line and running back Josh Adams. Miami has struggled this season against the run, as they rank 26th in my adjusted yards per carry.

If Miami can slow down the ground game and make Brandon Wimbush throw, they give themselves the edge. Otherwise, it could be a long night for the Hurricanes.

For more on the methods behind these calculations, click here.

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