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Thursday, October 18, 2012

How mighty are the Ducks?

So it is now 43-7 with 12 minutes left in the 2nd quarter. It looks like the Ducks are too legit to quit after all. Oops.

Alabama is clearly the team to beat this season. The big question is who out there can beat the Tide. Now that LSU has fallen out of favor (although after beating South Carolina by 2 at home they have risen somewhat back into favor), Oregon seems to have emerged as the front runner to become this season's also ran. The model disagrees. Oregon has the nation's 6th best power rating, good enough to make them one of a handful of title contenders, but well short of Alabama status. Oregon has a chance this weekend to separate themselves from the pack.

At Arizona State could be the toughest challenge Oregon faces before a national championship game (the other contenders being @ USC, @ Oregon State and the conference championship game). One statistical knock on Oregon is that, even though they have easily managed their opponents to this point, they haven't played anyone that forced them to prove their mettle. A drubbing of Arizona State would give Oregon a nice shove up the power rankings.

But the other problem is that the model doesn't predict a drubbing. The statistical fundamentals for Oregon - opponent adjusted yards per play and points per possession, for example - even after accounting for reduced performance in non-competitive situtations - just aren't that impressive. Arizona State has a better opponent adjusted yards per play and a better offensive unit rating. The Duck passing game is ineffective, and 5.8 yards per carry for Oregon is disappointing. Oregon is playing solid defense, especially against the pass, but not elite. As a result, even when Vegas is given Oregon a double digit point advantage, the model is calling this game a coin toss. It wouldn't surprise if Thomas had 200 yards on five carries and Oregon won 45-10,  but nothing Oregon has done this season suggests that this will happen.

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