Monday, October 16, 2006

Odds of Going Undefeated Week Eight

The SEC finished eliminating itself from any shot at an undefeated regular season on Saturday. Auburn took down Florida leaving the SEC with three highly ranked one-loss teams. Auburn, Tennessee, and Florida will have to take the back-door into the BCS Championship game if they want a shot at the National Title. The good news for the SEC is that it now appears possible for a one-loss SEC team to jump an undefeated Big East team. As long as USC loses, an SEC team could very well make it. I hadn’t thought about this option before today because I didn’t realize how weak Louisville and West Virginia’s BCS ratings were going to be. There are a lot of things that can happen before the end of the season but I’ll play out the most likely scenarios below.

Top 7
(odds of going undefeated)

1 Ohio State-----48.88%
2 Boise State----32.81%
3 Michigan-------25.87%
4 W. Virginia----18.70%
5 Louisville-------17.23%
6 USC-------------15.04%
7 Rutgers----------0.83%

Teams that dropped from last week’s list (along with pre-season rank in terms of odds): #21 Florida, #44 Missouri

Biggest Jump (percentage): Ohio State +12.22%, Michigan + 8.62%

Current overall chance of undefeated team(s) (100%=1 undefeated team, 200%=2 undefeated teams etc.): 159.37%

Pinpointing the National Title Game:

I am of the belief that there will be three undefeated teams at the end of the regular season (including Boise State). Boise State will not play a factor in the BCS Championship game, so I think there will be two relevant undefeated teams left at the end of the season. Those two teams will be the winners of the Ohio State/Michigan and West Virginia/Louisville games. Since BCS rating won’t be a problem for the Ohio State/Michigan winner, I think it’s safe to say that one of those teams will be in the Championship game. The questions that need to be answered are:

Will a one-loss team jump an undefeated Big East team in the BCS Standings?

How many one-loss teams will there be at the end of the regular season?

Can USC beat California, Oregon, and Notre Dame?

How far will USC (if it loses), and the loser of the Michigan/Ohio State game fall in the BCS standings?

Without having those answers, it’s impossible to narrow down the Championship game to two or three candidates. But, I am confident that the National Championship game will be one of the following match-ups:

Ohio State vs. USC
Michigan vs. USC

If USC doesn’t lose, it will play a Big Ten team in the BCS Championship game. Since I think it would take a miracle for USC to win-out, I don’t think the Trojans will play for the Championship in January. I would be shocked if USC beat California, Oregon, and Notre Dame.

Ohio State vs. West Virginia
Michigan vs. West Virginia

West Virginia needs to do one thing and hope for two others. First, West Virginia has to beat Louisville. Next, it needs USC to lose. Then, it needs to hope that its BCS rating stays ahead of the top one-loss teams (Auburn and Florida).

Ohio State vs. Louisville
Michigan vs. Louisville

See West Virginia

Ohio State vs. Auburn
Michigan vs. Auburn

Auburn’s best bet to the Championship game is having Arkansas win the conference which means Auburn wouldn’t have to play Florida again in the SEC Championship. At that point, Auburn would need USC to lose, and hope to have a higher BCS rating than the West Virginia/Louisville winner and Florida.

Ohio State vs. Florida
Michigan vs. Florida

If Florida is going to finish in the top two, it will have to win the SEC Championship game against Arkansas or Auburn and then hope USC loses and its BCS rating is ahead of the West Virginia/Louisville winner and Auburn.

Ohio State vs. Michigan

If Michigan and Ohio State play a classic, and USC loses, it is possible for a rematch in the BSC Championship game. There is precedent for a rematch of a late-season classic between the top two teams in the country. That occurred in 1996 when Florida and Florida State played again in the Sugar Bowl only a month after they played the first time. I don’t think it’s that improbable for that to happen again this year. Both teams will have stellar computer ratings even after this game. It will likely be up to the human polls. If the voters want a rematch, they will only drop the loser to #2.

I don’t think Texas, Tennessee, Notre Dame or California can make the BCS game unless Florida AND Auburn lose again and Michigan loses to Iowa and the winner of the West Virginia/Louisville loses a game. I would be tempted to bet my house that those things aren’t going to happen.

In my opinion, these are the top three possibilities:

1). Ohio State/Michigan winner vs. Auburn

2). Ohio State/Michigan winner vs. West Virginia

3). Ohio State vs. Michigan


Anonymous said...

Why do you pick auburn over ARKANSAS ?

Does ARKANSAS nit have a chance to play in the BCS Championship game if they go 11 - 1 (losing only to #2 USC the first game of the season) ????

Jake said...

It has nothing to do with who I think is the better team between Auburn and Arkansas. Auburn has the best chance to finish with one loss in the SEC because of its remaining schedule and the fact that it may not have to play in the SEC Championship. On the other hand, Arkansas would have to beat LSU, Tennessee AND Florida to make it to the BCS Championship game. That isn't going to happen. If it does, get back to me and I'll probably have a different answer!

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Jake I agree with you that for Arkansas to win 11 in a row would be a miracle, but you must admit they have outperformed everyone's expectations including possibly their own. I'm now a believer in those Razorbacks and think they just might do the impossible. If the HOGS do beat Tennessee this coming week, the pollsters are going to have to think about eating some crow. Possibly the best college football team in America was completely overlooked in the pre-season What is your take.

Jake said...

First, thanks for the comments. I think it’s important to remember that at the beginning of the season (when the college football world had Arkansas off the radar) Arkansas deserved to be off the radar. The Razorbacks were killed by USC in the first game of the season. Unless you’re Nebraska and it’s the year 2001, a team that loses by 36 points at any point in the season doesn't have much of an argument for the championship game. The Razorbacks also managed to beat Vandy by two and Alabama by one in 2OT. Because of that, Arkansas has no business being in the National Title talk at this point. Like I mentioned before, it’ll have to beat Tennessee, LSU and Florida. I wouldn’t expect any team to win all three of those games let alone Arkansas. If by some miracle it happens, then Arkansas would be the SEC’s rep in the BCS Championship if Louisville loses at some point. There would be no way to ignore that feat.

But, in terms of how Arkansas is playing right now, the Razorbacks are the 2006 poster team for a playoff. Every year there is a team that makes everyone say “there should be a playoff because so and so deserves a chance.” Arkansas is that team this year.

Arkansas is playing at an elite level right now. Unfortunately, the NCAA has things set up to where the best team in the country at the end of the season isn’t ever guaranteed a chance at the championship. It’s silly that there isn’t a playoff. The NCAA loves being lazy. It’s not about money. The playoff would bring in tons of money. I feel for Arkansas fans and any other fans of one loss teams.

One more thing, check out the spread for the Arkansas-Tennessee game this week. People are starting to take notice of the Hogs!

Take care!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response but if you are basically playing without a quarterback and without the services of Darren Mcfadden it's not really the same team. Also for your predictions that Ark won't run the table look at what Ark did to Tenn last week. Bring them on. USC loses to Cal then beats ND RADAR RADAR where are U?? BCS for ARK

Jake said...

Anonymous, thanks again for the comments. I do have to clarify a few things. First, my "odds" and my personal view of a team are not one in the same. For instance, when the season started, I had the top SEC team at #14 in terms of best chances of going undefeated. That team was Georgia at 1.91%. If I was going to rank the teams in the SEC based on how good I felt they were, Georgia would have been no better than 6th. So don't take my "odds" as meaning anything about how good I think a particular team is. It's all based on strength of schedule. Georgia had the easiest road but trust me when I say that 1.91% is not a ringing endorsement. That just means that I didn't think there was a chance in hell that any team from the SEC was going undefeated this year and it turned out that way.

Second, I'm not sure if you've been keeping up weekly with my "odds of going undefeated" and "BCS Championship" game predictions, but I have the winner of Michigan/Ohio State playing the winner of Arkansas/Florida as the second most likely duo for the BCS Championshp game. Check it out on my main page:

Arkansas is playing as well as anyone right now but their big loss early and voter tendencies put them well behind the eight ball before they had a chance to gel. They just haven't been able to make up the difference in the minds of the voters.

If there isn't a rematch of UM/OSU, then I believe that the winner of the Arkansas/Florida game will make it. But you have to hope USC loses to Cal or Notre Dame. Personally, I think they will drop one of those two.

As far as I can tell, Arkansas has about a 25% (50% each game) chance of beating both LSU and Florida. It's not likely but it's certainly possible. Good luck to you!

P.S. One quick note about "no quarterback early" and no "McFadden early". Pollsters don't care about that. The current system is not designed to reward the best teams rather the teams that have either avoided losses all together or that lost close early. It's stupid but that's the way it is. I hear you but nobody that matters does.

Anonymous said...


Please help me understand how Arkansas can have a SOS rank of 58 at this time, while Florida has a SOS 2 at this time,when the only team that might have a impact is LSU(ARK has not played them yet). I'm having a hard time with this one.

Thanks in advance

Jake said...

There are many different ways to calculate strength of schedule. Some are very easy and others require a Master's Degree in math to figure it out. But, the simplest way to figure out a ballpark strength of schedule is to add up wins and losses of all opponents. I did that for Florida and Arkansas (I didn't count West Carolina for Florida or Southeast Missouri State for Arkansas because I'm not sure that D-II teams count for SOS). Florida's opponents have a 67-46 (59%) record. Arkansas' opponents have a 52-59 (47%) record. That is probably why Florida's SOS is so much better than Arkansas'. The fact that Florida didn't have to play Mississippi or Mississippi State and the fact that Arkansas played Utah State and Louisiana-Monroe makes up the bulk of the difference in SOS.

Take care!


Anonymous said...


Well, you were right my Arkansas team lost to a strong LSU team. I do have a couple of questions 1. Don't you think a switch at QB would have been advisable as casey was having a horrible day and maybe Mustain could have sparked the team. 2. Why didn't McFadden or Jones get a chance to touch the ball on the last drive. I think poor choices were made at the end and coaching lost the game. Your thoughts.

Jake said...

I was actually only able to watch the first half. One thing I noticed early was that Arkansas needs to be able to pass the ball. After McFadden started the game off with five carries for 11 yards, he averaged over 10 yards per carry the rest of the way. He ended up with amazing numbers but it wasn't enough. Arkansas has to be able to mix it up a bit with the pass. That's where I think Mustain will come in next year.

Arkansas will be a pre-season top ten team next season. Florida, LSU and Arkansas will be the top three teams in the SEC. You have to be ecstatic about the direction of the program. I'm looking forward to watching Arkansas play Florida on Saturday. Florida is a better match-up for Arkansas because the Gators struggle on offense.

Good luck!



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