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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Matrix - Week 10 Predictions

I feel like I've got some really interesting numbers on my last blog, and suggest that visitors give it a look, but I'm pretty stoked about this blog, too. This week I am presenting the Matrix, the culmination of my experiment into college football prediction models (plus whatever refinements I might want to make later).

A quick overview of the matrix. It uses two general ratings--play throughout the season and play weighted by the last games. To find the best ratings, I use an automated trial and error system that runs the teams through the season a few hundred times to find the best fit. I then adjust these two ratings for match ups in the game--offensive and defensive play against the run and pass and home field advantage.

Before we get to this week's picks, I want to quickly review my picks from last week. I finished the day 2-3, but to my credit, Boston College did not deserve to win. Morelli proved me right in Happy Valley, and Sanchez showed that USC's problems go much deeper than the play of the quarterback. I still have a hard time believing the PAC 10 is any good with Arizona State undefeated and Oregon in second (after the beat down they got last year in the Holiday Bowl). If USC is having an off year, the entire PAC 10 drops a few rungs in my opinion.

Now with a few notable picks (in a less exciting week).

Game 1. LSU @ Alabama
The only reason the spread is under 10 is that the game is at Alabama and people are waiting anxiously for Saban to perform some wonder. Keep waiting. I've heard this talk that Nick will bring his A game against his old team - but the coach doesn't play and has players don't have much of an A game. The hard hitting, low scoring game (both teams will complete less than 60% of their passes) will appear closer than it really was.

The Matrix:
LSU by 13 points, 66% of covering a -7.5 point spread

Game 2. Oregon @ Arizona State
It's disappointing to think that the Ducks, after franchise-establishing wins at Michigan and against USC could fall to the Sun Devils and out of national championship contention. It is harder to believe that Arizona State is actually good. I've heard that Oregon has "far and away the best offense in the country." That's a bunch of bologna, but they'll still win this one.

The Matrix:
Oregon by less than a point (51% chance of winning), 31% chance against the 7 point spread

Game 3. Rutgers @ Connecticut
I ragged on Connecticut last week and they proved me wrong. Rutgers' performance, on the other hand, made me look like a prophet. The Matrix favors Rutgers in every statistical category it measures but the score.

The Matrix:
Connecticut by 2.2 (57% chance of winning), toss up against the spread (-2)

Game 4. Wisconsin @ Ohio State
Ohio State will beat up on another very weak Big 10 opponent. The Ohio State University might have a legitimately good team, but the rest of the Big 10 is soft. I understand the South when they moan about a lack of balance in college football - if BC and the OSU play for the national championship at the end of the season, I don't see any good reason to recognize the winner as the best team in the country. In my opinion, if national championship game does not include West Virginia or LSU (both teams that lost only once, on the road, against more talented teams than any that BC and Ohio State play all year), or if it includes any team other than those two, Oregon or Ohio State, I won't bother to watch. But Ohio State, with powerful wins over Akron and Kent State, which is better known for a shooting than football, has played well this season.

The Matrix:
Ohio State by 23 (94% chance of winning), 70% chance against the spread (-15.5)

Game 5. Texas A&M @ Oklahoma
Its a bad week for college football and I could only find 4 games of real importance, so I picked the 5th game as a homer. Stat of the game--the Matrix sees Oklahoma holding the Aggies to 3 yards per carry. I'd like to console myself by saying that A&M was only one stupid call away from beating Oklahoma last year, but the same coach that made that same stupid call (to kick the field goal) made the same stupid call last week against Kansas and seems, in fact, to be perfecting the art of stupid calls.

The Matrix:
Oklahoma by 20 (92% chance of winning), 47% chance against the spread (-21)

The most interesting game this week is Navy at Notre Dame. The Midshipmen haven't pulled out a win in a little less than a half-century (1963, I believe), but this year they get to play the JV. Navy is favored by 3.5, the Matrix gives them less than a point, but my gut tells me it won't be that close. Navy's run attack is good enough to put up points against anyone, and Notre Dame's offense is bad enough to stop themselves on an empty field.

Picks of the week:
I'm not a gambler, and I don't suggest it personally, but I do like outsmarting the folks in Vegas, so I present three games where the Matrix believes they are off the mark.

Illinois is favored by 12 and still the Matrix gives them a 72% chance of covering at Minnesota. Not only do the Gophers have an appallingly bad defense, their offense isn't half as good as the Big 10 likes to believe it is - but they did manage 21 against the might Bison of North Dakota State.

UTEP is favored by 7 at Rice, but they'll win by more than 15, 70% chance of covering. Even Texas, that has struggled against almost everyone this season (including powerhouses like Arkansas State and UCF), blew out Rice.

Iowa State has played tougher in recent weeks against Missouri and, especially, Oklahoma, but they are still one of the worst teams in FBS. Kansas State will cover the 14 point spread and win by 30+, 90% chance against the spread. Need I mention that Iowa State is the only other team against which Texas has looked competent.

Click the image below to see the rest of the picks. Rankings based on the matrix will be released starting next week.

CSV file

Sortable Table


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I discovered a slight glitch in the program and so I've made some slight changes to the numbers.