Category: NCAA

Why 3 Big Ten Teams Should Be in the Playoff

By Chris Murphy

With the season coming down its final weeks, it is crunch time for any and all College Football Playoff hopefuls. It is also crunch time for College Football Playoff predictions. Perhaps the question you will hear most over the next two weeks is “who’s in?”, and everyone has an answer along with an explanation.

If you take a survey of all these answers and write them down, you will probably end up with the following list of teams: Alabama, Ohio State, Washington, Clemson, and Penn State/Wisconsin. Of these 6 teams, some will have Penn State, some will have Ohio State, and some will have Wisconsin. But very few will have multiple Big Ten teams, even two seems a little much to have.

Alabama Crimson TideIn a season of big risks and outlandish statements, I’m going to make one myself: Three Big Ten teams deserve to be in the College Football Playoff. Those three teams should be Ohio State, Michigan, and the winner of Penn State/Wisconsin. These three, combined with Alabama, should be the top four come the final Playoff Rankings. Along with this idea, I’m here to try and convince you why this Playoff scenario should be considered.

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Great Expectations: the Roberto Aguayo story

By Jack Graham

Among other things, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been plagued by the kicking struggles of rookie Roberto Aguayo throughout the 2016 season. Through 9 games, Aguayo has made only 9 of 14 Field Goals, a rate of 64% that qualifies him as the least accurate kicker in the league. Of course, these lackluster numbers would not typically be grounds for an interesting story, except for the fact that Aguayo also happened to be the Buccaneers second round draft pick. While selecting a kicker so early in the draft is not unprecedented (the Oakland Raiders drafted Sebastian Janikowski in the first round in 2000), it is incredibly rare. It is not controversial to say that Aguayo has not met the lofty expectations imposed on him by his draft status, but it is also natural to wonder: how well would Aguayo have to perform in order to justify such a high draft pick? And then, based on his college performance, was it reasonable for the Bucs to expect him to meet this standard?

Roberto Aguayo

Roberto Aguayo

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Alabama: Ebbing the Pass

by Zhengyang Cong

D. Fence. Not a southern gate removal company. Not a low division of sword fighting. A most underrated aspect of college football, defense is the linchpin of the Alabama football team, a constant throughout the come and go of specific players.

Widely lauded as the archetype of the traditionally dominant SEC defenses, the Crimson Tide dominates opposing rushers, stifling the box. Premier backs such as Marcus Lattimore and the 2010-2012 LSU backfield found no space to run, struggling to reach the end zone. Lower level backs find difficulty in even converting a down. In an environment of football that prides in high scoring, high yardage games, ‘Bama manages to suffocate the ground game indefinitely. It’s this defense that allows its barely better than par offense enough opportunities to gain and sustain improbable leads.

However, the Tide fails to contain the pass game of more competitive teams. Only nine games in the past four years has an opposing team come within 15 points of or beaten Alabama (a wildly impressive feat in itself), and in each of these cases, a porous pass defense is to blame. In 2010, the supposedly insurmountable defense allowed Arkansas’ Mallett to rack up over 350 yards in a close victory. This set the precedent for successive passers in the season, as Garcia’s 3 passing touchdowns, Jefferson’s 10 yards per attempt, and Newton’s 3 scores dropped the Tide to a 9-3 season, well below the expectations of the league and the nation. The next year, only one game was close, and that was a defense-dominated mess of a victory by LSU. A season later, Alabama faced more competent passers, allowing LSU a 150 yard edge in total yards, all of them coming through the air. Although they managed to edge the Tigers, their corners could not handle Manziel, who lit the Tide for 350 yards and two touchdowns, the only loss of a spotless record. Similarly, a year later only luck spared Alabama from a thrashing by Manziel’s return and a video game stat line of 464 yards and 5 scores.

A quick look at the defense rankings provides further evidence. Alabama has allowed only 86 rushing yards per game this season against 214 passing yards allowed. This translates to respective national rankings of 6th and 44th. Even though ‘Bama has allowed more passing yards than most if not all National Championship contending teams, their rush defense allows an overall ranking of 12th in terms of total allowed yards.

A glaring Achilles’ heel, coming teams are sure to capitalize. The only difficult game remaining in this regular season for the Tide is LSU and a much improved Mettenberger. With only a single interception this season against 13 touchdowns, Mettenberger presents the sole threat to a perfect season. If Alabama is to win the conference, the likeliest team they must best is Georgia and Murray, whose 345 yards per game after four contests ranks 9th overall in Division I football. Keep an eye out for both quarterbacks seeking to find holes in the ‘Bama defense, for this may be the only way to stop an otherwise guaranteed third National Championship for Saban and his impenetrable 3-4 defense.

All data collected from ESPN Alabama College Football Season Schedule and Box Scores


Lost Your Confidence?

By Max Kaplan

So the bowl season has come and gone. My winter wishes came true in the form of an NHL collective bargaining agreement. While December may have been filled with “Best of” articles, there seems to be a lack of accountability in the world of sports statistics. For example, we are already seeing preliminary Top 25 rankings for NEXT season. No one evaluates how well their rankings performed last year because (a) it isn’t interesting or (b) they were not accurate. Probably both.

The purpose of this post is to look back at the college football bowl results to see if we may gain any insights on how to win (or at least gain the upper hand) in future bowl confidence pools. This will be the first of many articles that look retrospectively to get an edge in fantasy, pick-em, or pools.

Let’s get to it. (The numbers used here are calculated from the raw data from Yahoo Sports)

First and foremost, every set of bowl confidence picks from Princeton Sports Analytics performed in the top third in the nation. While it is subject to obvious sample-size caveats, it suggests that knowledge of football lends an immediate advantage. It is not completely random.

However, we all were successful in predicting the winner in only 20 to 24 games out of 35 total. The low variance suggests that there is randomness in choosing the winners.

However, the goal is not to pick every game correctly. It is to beat your peers.

In poker, you play the opponent, not the hand. Everyone has the same chances of winning a hand before the cards are dealt.

So too in bowl confidence pools should you play against the nation (against the aggregate provided by Yahoo), as opposed to trying to predict every game. This year, according to my calculations, the nationwide average was 20.7 of 35 games.

Damir Golac, winner of the Princeton Sports Analytics bowl confidence pool, only needed 22 correct to reach the 96th percentile. He chose the favorite in all but one game. This year, choosing the favorite in every game would get you to 23 of 35 (12 underdogs won), already much better than average.

In only two games did the nation choose the underdog: Rutgers over Virginia Tech and Kent State over Arkansas State. They were wrong both times. This leads to my first piece of advice.

Advice #1: Pick The Favorite (More Than You Think)

The reasoning is simple. 23 favorites won. 12 Underdogs won. Double your chances by picking a favorite. It sounds obvious, but the nation does not currently follow it to the extent they should. You may be inclined to make your picks different by choosing underdogs, but as long as you are in a smallish bowl pool (30ish people or fewer), your best bet is to just pick the favorite. To win larger pools, one must take risks by choosing underdogs and leave the outcome to chance.

Advice #2: Pick The Underdog Only When The Point Spread Is Close

I know I said not to choose the underdog. You should be at least 66% (23/35 is the opportunity cost) sure that they will win before choosing the underdog. This piece of advice is also intuitive. A 3.5-point underdog is more likely to win than a 14-point underdog (Louisville over Florida was an anomaly). In the 23 favorite wins, the average spread was -7.5. In the 12 underdog wins, the spread was +5.7. If you are going to choose an underdog, choose the close underdog AND be 66% sure.

Wisdom of Crowds

The wisdom of the crowd is the theory that the aggregate information collected by many people is more useful than the information gathered by a person on his own. To help people make their picks, Yahoo published the percent of users who chose either team.

If you put the consensus blowout as your most confident pick (ironically, this was Florida over Louisville) and put the most even choice as your least confident, you would end up with 432 points. This would be in the top 15 percent in the country. Average was 385.

As mentioned previously, the consensus picks included two underdogs. If you followed my first piece of advice and only chose favorites, you would score 445 (top decile).

In the same way that the wisdom of crowds assumes that some other force is smarter than you are, you may assume that the point spread predicts the result of the game. Point spreads have been remarkably accurate in the past, which is part of the reason why it is hard to make money by gambling.

If you pick the favorites with the same confidence as the point spread, you would score 446 (average was 385).


If top 10% is not enough for you, further changes subject yourself to chance. However, you have a 40% advantage over everyone else.

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Note: The other statistic that Yahoo provided was average confidence for either pick in each game. This was highly unreliable (compared to % picked and betting line) because people would be more confident than they should for their own team (self-serving bias) and in bigger games (availability heuristic). Even this biased statistic performed better than average (407).

Alabama vs. Notre Dame: Who Will Win This Year’s Championship?

by Bruno Velloso

Player A: 70.7% completion percentage, 256.3 yards per game, 9 yards per attempt, 32 TDs, 8 INTs, 28.6 attempts per game, 170.03 quarterback rating

Player B: 66.8% completion percentage, 205.3 yards per game, 9.3 yards per attempt, 26 TDs, 3 INTs, 22.0 attempts per game, 173.07 quarterback rating

Player C: 58.9% completion percentage, 194.1 yards per game, 7.6 yards per attempt, 11 TDs, 5 INTs, 25.6 attempts per game, 131.79 quarterback rating

For many, Player A would be the best quarterback. He throws for the most yards, has the highest completion percentage, and has the most passing touchdowns. But Player B is not far behind, and in some cases even outperforms Player A. Sure, he doesn’t throw it nearly as often, but he is more efficient when he throws (with a higher yards per attempt and higher rating), has almost as many touchdowns as Player A, and has only three interceptions. Finally, it is pretty clear that Player C has the worst numbers, being outperformed in almost every category by the other two.

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A Tale of Two Offenses

By Chad Horner

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

Tomorrow night, Oregon and Kansas State will face off in the Fiesta Bowl in a matchup that many expected to see as the National Championship game until both teams lost in the final weeks of the season.  Here’s a quick preview of what to expect from each team.  We’ll focus on offense here, as both teams are in the top 10 in the nation in scoring.

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Bringin’ In The New Year (Bowl Previews)

By Julian HK

Outback Bowl – 1:00 PM – ABC
Michigan (18) vs South Carolina (10)

Lou Holtz said yesterday that these two teams were matched up, with similar stats, but that South Carolina’s stats were more impressive since they were in the SEC. And while I’m the first to acknowledge the S-E-C and #SECspeed™, I wasn’t convinced the numbers backed this up. Consider that 3 out of Michigan’s 4 losses came against Alabama, Notre Dame, and Ohio State; that is, they lost to two undefeated teams and the National Championship favorite. Their fourth loss to Nebraska was largely due to an injury to starting QB and human dynamo Denard Robinson and the subsequent struggle of freshman QB Russell Bellomy. Perhaps the Wolverines go on to win that game if they played Devin Gardner instead.

Taking a look at Jeff Sagarin’s ratings which are one of the six BCS computer rankings, we can see that Michigan’s schedule is ranked slightly tougher than South Carolina’s (30th to 33rd). South Carolina was still ranked higher at 9th of course because of their better season performance, but this just serves as a reminder for Lou Holtz and other analysts that SEC schedules (while still tough) aren’t necessarily the toughest schedules.

*Little side note, don’t tell the SEC but according to the Sagarin ratings, and Congrove rankings, the Big 12 actually has a harder strength of schedule! SEC fans can still take solace in many other algorithms which have them on top.

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Dogs Vs. Cats and Other Bowl Mascots

By Max Kaplan

JACKSONVILLE – I am reporting from Jacksonville as the Mississippi State Bulldogs face the Northwestern Wildcats tomorrow in the Gator Bowl. The rivalry: Dogs Vs. Cats. Maybe now we can finally determine which is better…

Last week, I looked into the battle between Christian-affiliated schools and evil mascots.

But first, let’s have some more fun with mascots.

Most Popular Mascots in FBS


Go Tigers!

  • 5 Tigers (Auburn, Clemson, LSU, Memphis, Missouri)
  • 4 Wildcats (Arizona, Kansas State, Kentucky, Northwestern)
  • 4 Bulldogs (Fresno State, Georgia, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State)
  • 3 Aggies (New Mexico St, Texas A&M, Utah State)
  • 3 Cougars (BYU, Houston, Washington State)
  • 3 Huskies (Connecticut, Washington, NIU)
  • 3 Owls (Florida Atlantic, Rice, Temple)

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Who is Mike Glennon?

By Chad Horner

On Monday afternoon, the North Carolina State Wolfpack will face off against the Vanderbilt Commodores in the 15th edition of the Music City Bowl.  On the surface, this may appear to be another superfluous, uninteresting bowl game, pitting a middling ACC team against a middling SEC team.  However, there is at least one player that should compel you to watch this game: NC State quarterback Mike Glennon.

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It’s Cold in December

By Max Kaplan

I am a freshman experiencing the first real winter of my life. However, at this moment, it is winter break and I am sitting at home in my backyard writing about college football. It is 65 degrees here in Torrance, CA.

Why did I leave?

There is a more pressing question. Why does today’s Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium exist? The weather forecast has the game below freezing with a high chance of snow.

Wouldn’t everyone want to travel to somewhere warm to see the final game of the season?

It turns out that the Pinstripe Bowl is only the third coldest bowl in the country. Here is the full list:

All temperatures are the December monthly average highs from These are conservative estimates, as all bowls are in late December/early Jan.

All temperatures are the December monthly average highs from These are conservative estimates, as all bowls are in late December/early Jan.

Bolded are the indoor stadiums. Notice that the majority of these are in the warmer cities.

Couple tidbits:

  • Bowls in Texas fall only in the middle of the spectrum.
  • There are two bowls in the same city only in the warmer cities.
  • The Sun Bowl is colder than average.

Cold bowls are a recent innovation.  Only five bowls average below 50 degrees. All five of them are in the newer half of bowls (since 1997) and three of them (Pinstripe, New Mexico, and Military) started in 2006 or later.