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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.