Individual: Stats | Heisman | Fantasy    Team: Rank | Rank2 | Summary | Picks | Pick All | Champs    Conf: Rank | Standings | VS. | [?]

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

CFBTN vs. Vegas, The Bowls

Vegas and CFBTN are within 5 points for every bowl game. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

CFBTN vs. Vegas week 14

CFBTN and Vegas disagree by more than a field goal on one game this week. Vegas likes Oregon by 31.5 but CFBTN likes the Ducks by a more conservative 25. Either way, a conference championship game in which neither of the participants are the top-ranked in their division and one is favored by more than 4 touchdowns falls a bit short.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Leach Effect

With the UCLA job opening up, we are hearing Leach-talk again. And I am again hearing from the ignorant masses that what Leach did at Texas Tech wasn't all that impressive - e.g., he may have scored a lot of points, but he never won a conference championship. This view is the result of ignorance and bias, and I hope to do my part to relieve that.

1) Tech was more than a quick strike offense. Leach was consistently winning 9 games against a very difficult schedule, and that takes more than a high-flying offense. People forget that Tech was playing in the best offensive division in the country and they gave up a few points as a result, but the Tech D was getting better. Since Tubberville's arrival, the opponent's numbers on the scoreboard have gotten bigger, not smaller. 

2) Have you ever been to Lubbock? To criticize Leach for not winning a Big 12 title is missing the point. That he was competing for a Big 12 South title against OU and Texas in less than a decade after arriving is remarkable - west Texas has more cows than people, let alone D1 talent. Leach was worth at least 2 wins a season during his stay and the program was on its way up. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Vegas vs. CFBTN Week 13

CFBTN and Vegas disagree by more than 4 points on only 4 games this week. CFBTN likes the home team in each one, and in a couple of cases by a good margin. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

CFBTN vs. Vegas Week 12

CFBTN and Vegas disagree on five teams by more than a touchdown this week.

Vegas and CFBTN are within a touchdown on every game this week. Highlighted games are those where the two disagree by more than four points.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

CFBTN predicts future. . . line moves

I've been noticing a pattern this season. When CFBTN and Vegas disagree, the line tends to move to be closer to the CFBTN prediction. In fact, in week 11, the CFBTN-line open and current line-line open had a correlation of .498. What does this mean? People tend to bet the same side that CFBTN is predicting . . . but that doesn't mean either of us is right.

CFBTN vs. Vegas

CFBTN and Vegas disagree on five teams by more than a touchdown this week.

Vegas and CFBTN are within a touchdown on every game this week. Highlighted games are those where the two disagree by more than five points.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

CFBTN vs. Vegas week 10

The first chart has individual team point totals. CFBTN predicts more points for teams above the line than Vegas does. The second chart is points margins. CFBTN would take the road team for games above the line and the home team for games below the line.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

CFBTN vs. Vegas, week 8

The first chart is predicted scores for individual teams according to Vegas and CFBTN. I've highlighted those teams where we disagree by more than a touchdown. Teams in red are road teams, blue are home teams.

The second chart is predicted margin. Again, highlighted games are those that we disagree on by more than a touchdown. Vegas likes the road team more than I do in games below the line.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Boy, did I get that wrong

Sometimes, the best methods still get it wrong. Below are all game prediction and outcomes so far this season. Named games are those that CFBTN got wrong by more than 4 touchdowns. The vertical axis is the actually margin and the horizontal axis is the predicted outcome.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Tale of Two Halves

Some teams in college football have already faced their toughest tests, while others have a rougher road ahead of them. Teams above the line have a tougher SOS in the second half of the season than in the first.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vegas vs. CFBTN

This is a chart of the margin according to CFBTN and Vegas for week 7. There are six games in which Vegas and I disagree by more than a touchdown. I like the home team more in those games that are above the line. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

When Good Predictions Go Bad

Some outcomes in college football are unexpected. While the predictions here are within two touchdowns of the actual outcome about 65% of the time, the algorithm is occasionally off by as much as 4 or 5 touchdowns. So far this season, the model has been off by 4 touchdowns or more 6 times. Across the bottom below are the predicted outcomes and the vertical axis has the actual margins. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Probability of Double Digit Wins

By week 6 we already have a number of games behind us and a better idea of how things will go in the upcoming games. A few teams have already been eliminated from double digit win contention mathematically and others will be eliminated soon enough because they just aren't good enough. Below are the teams with the best odds of making it to ten wins or more in 2011.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Week 5 Over-Ranked Rankings

Rankings in college football are subjective, but they are only subjective because we have failed to defined what exactly it is we are ranking. With the BPR, I have developed a definition that I think best approximates the general opinion of what it is that we should be ranking. Basically, it evaluates a team's win/loss record against the strength of opposition that team has faced. 

It is, then, against the BPR poll that I evaluate other national polls. Below, I have ranked teams by the amount they are over-ranked in the combined AP and Coaches polls. Red teams are over-ranked and green teams are under-ranked. In general, over-ranked teams are those that were ranked high to begin the season but have lost in games against top-quality opponents. Human pollsters do not want to punish these teams too much for losing a tough game, but my computer is still waiting for them to prove they belong. Under-ranked teams are those that have won big games but the human pollsters are still waiting to see if they are legitimate or one-hit wonders.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stat of the Week - # of Plays

So far this season, Auburn's opponents have run 101 more plays than the Tigers, putting them well behind the second worst FBS team in play differential (Tulsa at -73). But in those 100 fewer plays, Auburn has score 13 more points than their opponents (and in just the right proportion to put Auburn at 3-1). In fact, the correlation this season between play differential and point differential is only .279, with Oregon and LSU also among the teams that have defended more plays than they have run themselves.

What do all of these teams have in common? What do all good teams have in common? Higher yards per play than their opponents. Oregon, for example, has been averaging more than 2 yards per play more than their opponents this season. Across teams, the correlation between points per possession and plays per possession is only r=.274 while the correlation between points per possession and yards  per play is a massive .878. In other words, few teams make a living on long, sustained drives. Instead, they score points on big plays and short fields.

And more plays do little to help a team rack up more yards per play by wearing out defenses. The correlation between yard per play and number of plays is weak, and can be totally explained by plays per possession - teams get more plays because they get more first downs. In other words, more plays on their own do nothing to increase a team's offensive efficiency.

Monday, September 26, 2011

BPR Poll Week 4

BPR is the ultimate in computer ranking. (Click here for an explanation.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Don't be Naive: Conference Realignment is NOT about Greed

In real life, I'm a social scientist. I, like other social scientists, study human behavior and the factors that influence decision making. And I'm better at it than most. And if you think college football realignment is motivated by greed, you're just being silly and naive.

In short, too many people are making the leap that because a decision will generate more revenue for an institution, this decision is motivated by greed, the "excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions". (People make the same mistake when discussing the actions of "the government" or of "the state", as though it is a single-minded entity.) But institutions do not make decisions, people within institutions make decisions, so to understand the incentives at work, we must understand how these decision-making individuals benefit from conference realignment. How do the boards of regents, university presidents and, to a lesser degree, athletic directors benefit?

Before we visit this question, though, let me pose another question - if a football program generates more revenue, where does that revenue go? Who benefits? Some goes to pay for better coaches and some to pay for better facilities. Some money goes to pay for field hockey and water polo (coaches, facility maintenance, equipment, travel), especially as budget crises pull funds from these smaller sports. So the real beneficiaries are coaches, school bus drivers, the people that build indoor practice facilities, and the college athletes themselves. While these people may be whispering in the collective ears of the decision makers, they are kept well away from the controls, and coaches, outside of Norman, Oklahoma, generally try to distance themselves from realignment talk.

And then there are the college football fans. Many fans of particular programs are screaming for realignment, and some boosters, like the coaches and indoor practice facility builders, may occasionally have the ear of a university president, but they, again, are not the one's making the decisions. And even if they did have more influence, fans and boosters are not looking to make a buck from realignment. They want the resources and exposure to attract and train better athletes and better football teams.

And now we return to the real decision makers. What motivates R. Bowen Loftin and Kenneth Star? People in these positions are not looking to make an extra buck wherever they can - their reputation among a class of intellectuals is worth far more. And Loftin will not make more money and Star less money when A&M leaves for the SEC, at least not directly or immediately - or ever. But they are judged for their management of university resources, including the athletic departments. Finding funding for bull riding in a budget crisis is a feather in their cap. Finding the resources to hire the best coaches and build the best facilities to build a better college football program is a much bigger feather, or perhaps even the cap itself (so much so, that the other feathers are sometimes lost). The people that Loftin has to please are not interested in how much money the football program is generating for its own sake, but, like the fans, they appreciate a football program that brings positive attention to the university.

So while there are many people that want realignment, and want the extra revenue from realignment, they-fans, coaches, athletic directors, university presidents, boosters, everyone but the builders of indoor practice facilites-are ultimately motivated by building a better football program and, to a much lesser extent, a better volleyball program. They aren't greedy - money is only a means - but the best things in life aren't free. And I will never criticize anyone - athlete, coach, fan, booster, university administrator - for wanting their football to be a better football team.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

BPR Poll

BPR is the ultimate in computer ranking. (Click here for an explanation.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Magic Numbers, Magic Percentages, and Magic Probabilities

The logic here could be applied to any sport, but it is most applicable in Major League Baseball (and it is in this context that I had the idea). I love magic numbers in baseball*. As a Rangers fan, I usually start tracking their magic number before the All-Star break. There is something so definitive about a magic number. But magic numbers really tell you very little about how likely it is that a team will win a division.

So, to extend the magic number, I've added magic percentages and magic probabilities. The magic percentage is the magic number divided by the number of games remaining for both teams. For example, if a team has 10 games left to play and a they have a 3 game lead on a team that also has 10 games left, the leading team will need 40% ((10-3+1=8)/(10+10=20)=.4) of those 20 games to have a favorable outcome - they win or the second place team loses - to clinch. The second place team in this situation has a magic number of 14 and a magic percentage of 70% - they need 70% of games to have a favorable outcome to clinch. The two magic percentages do not add to 100% because there is the additional possibility that the teams tie at the end of the season, which would not satisfy the requirements of the magic percentage for either team.

Calculating the magic probability is a bit more complicated, but there are plenty of tools to help. Here's the logic: if we know a team needs 40% favorable outcomes, what is the probability that they will get that and clinch the division? We can calculate this, using some simplifying assumptions, by drawing on the binomial cumulative distribution function.We are going to assume that the team has a 50% chance of getting a favorable outcome in each game (it will actually be a bit higher for their games, but a bit lower for their opponent's games, so it averages out, more or less). With that assumption, we can go to the calculator below. n is the number of games remaining for both teams (20 from the example above), p is .5, Prob. X is should be set to "more than", and the next blank takes the magic number minus 1. Hit compute. So, for the example, we find that a team with a three game lead with 10 games left to play has a 87% chance of winning the division (without taking into account schedule or other idiosyncrasies). If both teams win the next 5 games, the magic number will have shrunk to 3, the total remaining games to 10, and the magic probability will have risen to 95%.

*I'm going to assume above that readers are familiar with the concept of magic numbers, but for those that aren't, a team's magic number is the number of favorable outcomes-wins for Team A or losses by the team in their division with the best record (not counting the Team A, of course)-they need to clinch the best record in the division. It's calculated as Games Remaining-Lead in the Loss Column+1. If the team is not in first place, Lead in the Loss Column will be a negative number. So, if a team has 10 games left and a 2 game lead on the second place team, their magic number is 9. They can clinch the division by winning 9 games, by the 2nd place team losing 9 game, or some combination thereof.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ten+ Boring Predictions for 2011

Now an annual tradition, it is time for ten boring predictions for the upcoming college football season.

1) A quarterback or running back will win the Heisman Trophy . . . if a wide receiver or kick-returning corner does not. In fact, I will take that one step further. The Heisman Trophy winner will come from a team with a winning record and, going out on a limb here, will play in a BCS conference. I'd even go so far as to say that this team will be ranked in the top 25. They will not necessarily be the best, most impactful or most valuable player in college football, but they will put up some gaudy numbers while playing a prominent position for a contender.

And this player will have "andr" in his first name. And he will wear #12.

2) The national champion will not come from the SEC
East. And I will even rule out everyone but Alabama from the West.

3) Jake Heaps will become something of a national phenomenon. And we will all be learning how to "Heaper" before the season is over. But he does not have "andr" in his first name, and he cannot consistently drain jumpers from 700 feet.

4) Boise St. and TCU will both take big steps backwards. TCU can look to Texas for an example of what happens when you lose your team leader/QB, and Boise St. just has some bad karma coming their way. Sell outs.

5) The Big East will be an embarrassment to the BCS once again. The Big East champ will go to a BCS bowl game and again be totally overmatched. And the Big East will announce that it has started adding high school football programs from California to try to enhance its status.

6) Beano will finally get one right after many years of futility and Notre Dame will go undefeated. Their starting QB, whoever that ends up being, will take on the nickname "Golden Boy" as they reset the record books - and take the lead in the upcoming presidential election - but niether Dayne nor Tommy have "andr" in them, so a Heisman is out of the question. And in real life, I think the Domers and Seminoles will again be quite pedestrian.

7) People will still fail to realize that Landry Jones is a run-of-the-mill quarterback unworthy of picking Sam Bradford's nose, who enters every game with superior talent around him, and that none of these characteristics qualify him for a Heisman Trophy. But he will not win a national championship or a conference championship in 2011.

8) Most of us will forget that the ACC exists, because 1) there are so very few true ACC fans, 2) they aren't any good (the fans or the teams), and 3) they aren't as bad as the Big East and their eventual champion will not have lost a few weeks ago to an FCS team. Really, name three players from the ACC this season with real national name recognition. I'm serious. Who cares about the ACC?

9) A lot of games will be played in the Big 10, most of which will be mind-numbingly boring, and in the end, as the ultimate of gentlemen's clubs, they will still figure out a way for half the conference to share the title despite theoretically ending conference play in a championship game.

10) The BCS title game this season will host two teams that have not played for a BCS title in the last decade. And, once again, no one in college football will win a national championship. There will be a lot of moaning and groaning, with some political posturing, about the format of FBS postseason play, and a lot of people will regurgitate the same old arguments on both sides of the debate for the 100th time.

Bonus: Denard Robinson will rush for fewer yards this season than he did in the first half against Indiana last year (I think that was about 800 yards). And Bo Pelini's head will explode and seriously injure Joe Pa when they meet in Beaver Stadium. Carl will suffer a similar violent cranial eruption minutes later as he grieves. It will become increasingly apparent that Mike Leach is a better football coach than Tommy Tubberville and Randy Edsall combined. The intelligent contigent within the college football crowd will continue to marvel, in the most negative of ways, at the coaching hires that have been made in Los Angeles over the last few years. I will find more reasons to put Miami and Oregon at the top of my least favorite programs list. ESPN will release a statement that it has a man-crush on Mack Brown and will seek to legalize television network/college football program unions. And college football will continue to be slowly undone as television networks hop into bed with specific programs and conferences.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Can the Aggies Reach the Pinnacle in 2011?

As the Aggies try to climb to the top of college football in just two seasons, there is plenty of precedent for such a rapid rise.

Brian Fremeau of Football Outsiders recently presented an analysis on in which he identified "it" teams that he believes will fall short of expectations. First on his list is Texas A&M. Essentially, the argument is that A&M and other programs lack the program depth, measured by his 5 season FEI, to achieve such lofty goals.  Specifically, he notes that no team outside of the top 20 PFEI in the last 10 years has played for a national title. And while the Aggies' 56th ranked PFEI does not overwhelm with confidence, Brian's condemnation of the Aggies is premature.

First, the Aggies don't need to play for a national championship to live up to expectations. Instead, let's focus on a top 10 finish. Consistently ranked at the bottom end of the top 10 in preseason polls, the nation's coaches and media, and Aggieland with them, seem to agree that a top 10 finish is a reasonable expectation for these Aggies. Coming from the Big 12 with OOC games against Arkansas and SMU, 2 losses shouldn't be enough to keep A&M out of the top 10. Only 3 teams from BCS conferences have finished outside of the AP top 10 after losing 2 or fewer games in a season since 2005, and 1of those was Rutgers, which barely counts.

So, how many teams have been able to make the jump from 56th FPEI to 2 or fewer losses. While I have plenty of fancy metrics myself, I've decided to keep it simple and look only at win/loss records - because my dependent variable is measured in losses, a win/loss metric is internally controlled for SOS. So, how many teams have managed to jump from a winning percentage worse than the Aggies over the past five seasons (54.6%) to a 2- (2 or fewer) loss season.

Since 1980, 391 teams have lost 2- games in a season (36 undefeated, 127 one-loss and 228 two-loss seasons). These teams won about 2/3 of their games in the 5 seasons before that season (66.3%), a mark not drastically, but substantially, better than the Aggies 54.6% winning percentage between 2006 and 2010.

But many teams have been able to make the jump to 2- after worse runs than the Aggies. Almost 1/3 of the 228 two-loss teams had worse winning percentages than the Aggies in the 5 previous seasons. The Aggies have already made the jump in 1985, and Alabama made the jump in 2005 in the run up to a national championship.

Nineteen teams managed one-loss seasons after underperforming the Aggies over the previous 5 seasons. Four of the 19 went from losing records to a one loss season in the last decade (Oregon St. 2000; Stanford 2010; Kansas 2007; and Penn St. 2005). Texas A&M's football program is infrastucturally superior to all of these programs, and Aggieland would rejoice after a one-loss season that ends in a BCS bowl game.

And, finally, 4 teams (about 10% of all undefeated teams since 1980) have managed to turn around a losing record over 5 seasons to an undefeated season. Two, Oklahoma in 2000 and Georgia Tech in 1990, won national championships, and the other two, Syracuse 1987 and Tulane 1997, finished in the top 10.

What does this all mean? It means that the Aggies' poor performance is in no way a hindrance to them making a jump into the top 10 this season. And what do many of these teams that make the big jump have in common? A relatively recent coaching change, something the Aggies are now enjoying.

Texas A&M, Florida, and the Cumulative Win/Loss

Here is more evidence that myopia is a serious problem in college football (as is major sports news networks buying massive interest stakes in particular conferences).

The cumulative win/loss has become one of my favorite toys. Basically, a team gets a point for each win and loses a point for each loss, and then I add those up over time. I've noticed that Texas A&M and Florida share a strikingly similar pattern in their cumulative win/loss histories. The correlation for the three decades of football between 1970 and 2000 is .9795 - for those unfamiliar with correlations, this essentially means the two track each other perfectly. And remember, Florida won a national championship during that period.

In other words, if we discount the Aggies' lost decade, the unfortunate product of a coach A&M stole from Alabama, Florida and Texas A&M have been more or less identical in the modern era of college football.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Putting Crappy Football in Perspective

My team has sucked, but so has yours. It is the nature of college football, and sports in general, that even good programs (and franchises) have bad seasons. Notre Dame, Michigan, Texas and Nebraska have all had losing seasons in the last 4 years. Oklahoma had three straight losing seasons from 1996 to 1998. The Yankees lost 95 games in 1990. Even River Plate, the Red Sox of Argentine soccer, was recently relegated to the second division.

The real difference between good programs and bad programs is that good programs rebound. LSU had 8 losing seasons between 1989 and 1999, but would return to national championship form in less than 5 years. Oklahoma needed only two seasons to go from losing more than winning to a national title. A program should not be evaluated by where it is at any one moment, but where it goes during its highest highs and lowest lows.

Here I focus on college football's lowest lows. Specifically, I am looking at each programs' worst 5 and 10 year slumps since 1970. The chart below lists 116 college football programs by their worst seasons. Higher ranked teams are those whose lowest lows just aren't as low as others. (Ties count as 1/2 a win.)

Ohio State is the clear winner here. While they might not be able to beat the SEC in a bowl game without cheating, they have the luxury of playing the majority of their games against the Big 10. Nebraska, Michigan, Georgia, and Notre Dame join Ohio State as college football's best at not being bad (though Michigan is one non-spectacular season from dropping off this list). No program has managed a sub-60% 5 year slump, and only 7 have managed to avoid a losing record over any 5 year period.

Northwestern, Kent State, Kansas State, and New Mexico State have each managed 5 year slumps of historic proportions, losing more than 90% of their games. These, clearly, are not elite college football programs.

But my real interest here is to put Texas A&M's 21st century struggles in perspective. In yellow are those slumps that are still better than Texas A&M's worst 21st century slumps (2005-2009 and 2000-2009). Again, only 7 programs have avoided slumps worse than Texas A&M's recent 5 year slump. Among the schools that have experienced worse 5 year slumps are Oklahoma (1994-1998),  Alabama (2000-2004), Florida (1977-1981), LSU (1990-1994), Florida State (1972-1976), and Miami (1975-1979), all of whom have won national championships in the last dozen years (USC (1997-2001) and Texas (1985-1989) were both 1 loss away from joining this list). Seventeen programs have avoided worse 10 year slumps than the Aggies between 2000 and 2009.

So, are the Aggies going to win a national championship some time in the next 5 years? I think so, but that's not really the point here. Instead, the point here is that just because the Aggies have struggled recently does not mean they will continue to struggle indefinitely, no more than Oklahoma, LSU, or Alabama have continued to struggle. And when you consider the heights Texas A&M has achieved over the last 30 years, you have to believe that brighter days are ahead, and probably not that far in the future.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SEC Expansion and Past Performance

With all the talk of Texas A&M moving to the SEC, SEC homers and others around the country have used it as another opportunity to make more absurd claims about the competitiveness of the SEC. Yes, the SEC is the best conference in the country (now), but the conference still has bad teams and even the good teams lose games from time to time. Last year, the SEC was lucky that Auburn survived early (against Clemson, Kentucky and Mississippi State) and peaked at the right time to finish the season, because the conference otherwise lacked a true national title contender. The most myopic observers overlook A&M's pen-elite infrastructure and history to argue that A&M would not be able to compete in the SEC.

I am responding in particular to a post by David Ubben. He argues, based on A&M's all-time record against the SEC that A&M will be ill-suited to compete in the SEC. And yes, the Aggies of the 1960s would not compete for an SEC title, but this is missing the point. Instead, I have built a more appropriate sample from the 20 seasons between 1990 and 2010. The graph below shows the cumulative win/loss records of 9 teams that have been or could be in the SEC expansion discussion since 1990 (Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Florida State). A team's line moves up when they beat a (current) SEC team and drops when they lose to an SEC team, so moving up the y-axis equates with a stronger performance against SEC opponents. So, which of these teams has performed best against SEC opponents over the last two decades (line #4)?

1=Oklahoma, 2=Virginia Tech, 3=Texas, 4=Texas A&M, 5=Oklahoma State, 6=Clemson, 7=Georgia Tech, 8=Baylor, 9=Florida State

Yes, that's right, Texas A&M has outperformed all other teams on this list by at least two games. Tied for second are Oklahoma and Baylor (who has achieved this mark by playing only two games against SEC opponents). Only Georgia Tech has lost a higher percentage of games than Texas on this list.

In other words, when we break it down by the numbers, Texas A&M is as suited for play in the SEC as any team in the country.

Below: Texas A&M's all-time cumulative win/loss against the current SEC.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A well deserved championship

Not only undefeated, Auburn finished the season with the nation's toughest schedule. Oregon held on to 2nd despite its loss, with TCU in 3rd and Stanford in 4th.
 (Click here for a more in-depth explanation).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

If TCU played in the Pac-10

Given the existing system, I have no beef with Oregon and Auburn playing for the national championship while TCU is left outs. But I do have a beef with a system that cannot consider an undefeated team with TCU's resume.* 

The difference between TCU and the two national title contenders is schedule strength - all three teams finished their regular seasons (plus conference championship game for Auburn) undefeated. TCU tore through its softer schedule, but would the Frogs have done against a tougher schedule - say, Oregon's schedule?

While we can't actually play the games, I've developed statistical techniques over the last several years to simulate games and seasons. We cannot know exactly what would happen without actually playing the games - anyone who tells you different is lying, ignorant, or both. But I can tell you, with a high degree of confidence, how likely it is that certain things happen. 

Without getting into the nitty gritty (you can find more detail here), the system simulates a team's performance against another team's schedule, adjusting for the different strengths and weaknesses of the teams, the location of the game, the sequence of games (team's play less well on average the week after a big game), etc.

TCU if facing Oregon's 2010 schedule:

TCU-Opp    [Odds]
60.3 - 3.0     [100%]  vs New Mexico
36.6 - 13.7  [94.6%]  @ Tennessee
61.1 - 3 .0   [100%]   vs Portland St.
36.4 - 15.9  [93.2%]  @ Arizona St.
31.3 - 27.6  [61.4%]  vs Stanford
42.4 - 11.5  [97.9%]  @ Washington St.
41.1 - 7.1    [98.6%]  vs UCLA
32.9 - 22.3  [78.2%]  @ USC
43.8 - 10.4  [98.5%]  vs Washington
29.1 - 13.4  [87.1%]  @ California
36.2 - 16.3  [92.7%]  vs Arizona
35.9 - 15.8  [92.2%]  @ Oregon St.

The toughest games would come against Stanford (61.4% chance of winning) and USC (78.2%), but TCU would have a better than 50% chance of winning every game on the schedule. All-in-all, TCU would have a 30.0% chance of finishing the season 12-0 and earning a spot in the title game. The Frogs would still need a few breaks, but 30% is much better than the real odds they had of playing for a national championship - zero. If TCU were to play through Oregon's schedule 1,000 times, we could expect them to win 10.9 on average.

                     TCU    Oregon
Undefeated   30.0%   63.7%
Exp. Wins      10.9      11.6

Oregon may be the better team - and my statistical model suggests they are - but if the two were to switch schedules, there is a good chance that TCU would be getting ready for a national championship game and Oregon would be celebrating a tough win the in Rose Bowl.

*Please feel free to learn more about the One Win Away proposition - the only logical solution to the college football national championship conundrum - here.