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College Bowl Pool Madness: My Picks

Posted by Chase Stuart on December 20, 2007

For anyone that missed yesterday's post, you still have until 9 PM EST to enter the Bowl Pool Contest. As of 3:30 EST, we've got 9 entries, so the competition to win some sponsorship dollars isn't too heavy. Join in!

Let's start with a few notes. I'm going to use the Sagarin Ratings and point spreads to make my picks. I'm using Sagarin's Pure Predictor ratings as the base, but I also need point spreads because Sagarin ratings are subject to a key problem: teams like Oregon (Dixon injury) are going to be vastly overrated. So the point spread helps to alert me to those things. To be clear, neither I, PFR, "Doug" nor sports-reference.com promote gambling or advise you to wager any money on any sporting event, ever.

First notes: here are the Sagarin ratings for the longshot games:

Cincinnati	85.63	Southern Miss	65.63	20.00
Florida 95.57 Michigan 80.80 14.77
Boise State 83.60 East Carolina 69.43 14.17
Southern Cal 89.44 Illinois 81.54 7.90
Georgia 85.05 Hawaii 79.91 5.14

So we get the same credit if Southern Miss upsets Cincinnati as if Hawaii upsets Georgia. But Georgia looks significantly more likely to fall. I expect Southern Miss and Michigan to get blown out. I think the other three teams probably all have small chances to win. FWIW, here's how these teams look according to the SRS:


Cincinnati 14.3 Southern Miss -2.5 16.8
Florida 19.4 Michigan 7.3 12.1
Boise State 7.9 East Carolina 0.0 7.9
Southern Cal 17.0 Illinois 10.0 7.0
Georgia 16.3 Hawaii 8.1 8.1

This confirms not to pick Southern Miss or Michigan. Carroll's record in Bowl games plus this game being in USC's backyard is a big plus, so I'm going to take the supremely talented Trojans. Their SRS is arguably deflated by an unhealthy team playing poorly in mid-season. And while I know nothing at all about East Carolina, Boise State's only losses are to Washington and Hawaii (#52 and #29 according to the SRS, respectively). East Carolina lost a close game to Va Tech (the week before the LSU thrashing), lost to Southern Miss (#73), lost by 41 to West Virginia, lost to North Carolina State (#77) and to Marshall (#101). Those are four bad losses. Their best win was at Houston, who isn't even any good. Boise State's best win was in Fresno State, and they have some history at Hawaii. It's a long travel for East Carolina fans. I know all these reasons are the reasons why East Carolina is a long shot, but I don't see a lot of upside here. So I'll grab Boise State, and even though I think Hawaii isn't any good (as I wrote here), it's good to have one longshot in there.

I'm still not sure if I'd rather join Cincinnati and Florida with one of these three teams, or if I prefer to match them both up with strong dogs. One problem with picking the longshots is you really lose out on pairing a strong dog with someone like USC.

Let's move to the other 27 bowl games, that need to be split into groups of two and three. Here's a list of all the games, with the long-shots in bold:

Southern Cal	89.44	Illinois	81.54	 7.90	-13.5
Cincinnati	85.63	Southern Miss	65.63	20.00	-11.5
Boise State	83.60	East Carolina	69.43	14.17	-10.5
Florida		95.57	Michigan	80.80	14.77	-10.5
Rutgers		78.53	Ball State	71.75	 6.78	-10
Purdue		76.94	Cent. Michigan	65.75	11.19	- 8
Oklahoma	96.30	West Virginia	92.73	 3.57	- 7.5
Utah		80.87	Navy		66.51	14.36	- 7.5
Georgia		85.05	Hawaii		79.91	 5.14	- 7
South Florida	87.23	Oregon		91.89	-4.66	- 6.5
Georgia Tech	73.20	Fresno State	69.97	 3.23	- 6
Texas Tech	83.54	Virginia	75.05	 8.49	- 6
Oregon State	82.01	Maryland	73.11	 8.90	- 5
Penn State	80.98	Texas A&M	76.10	 4.88	- 5
BYU		82.16	UCLA		79.99	 2.17	- 4.5
Tulsa		62.09	Bowling Green	66.63	-4.54	- 4.5
Boston College	78.50	Michigan State	79.05	-0.55	- 4
California	78.41	Air Force	74.96	 3.45	- 4
LSU		87.83	Ohio State	93.47	-5.64	- 4
Oklahoma State	77.63	Indiana		72.28	 5.35	- 4
TCU		75.66	Houston		65.11	10.55	- 4
Alabama		77.94	Colorado	74.03	 3.91	- 3.5
Central Florida	75.31	Mississippi St.	70.78	 4.53	- 3
Kentucky	83.30	Florida State	76.25	 7.05	- 3
Missouri	87.13	Arkansas	83.05	 4.08	- 3
New Mexico	71.12	Nevada		65.43	 5.69	- 3
Virginia Tech	86.89	Kansas		91.68	-4.79	- 3
Clemson		82.89	Auburn		81.98	 0.91	- 2.5
Florida Atl.	62.06	Memphis		56.86	 5.20	- 2.5
Tennessee	81.29	Wisconsin	78.47	 2.82	- 2.5
Texas		81.85	Arizona State	86.16	-4.31	- 2.5
Wake Forest	76.58	Connecticut	79.08	-2.50	- 2.5

In a not-so-surprising twist, all the "favorites" in our system are also favorites when using the point spreads. However, I've italicized the ones that are favorites according to the Pool rules (and point spreads) but are underdogs according to the Sagarin ratings.

Thoughts:

Arizona State (over Texas), Kansas (over Virginia Tech) and UCONN (over Wake Forest) are definite underdog picks. Not only are all three teams favorites according to Sagarin, but they're also the closest underdogs to even. We will match those three up with three very strong teams.

Ohio State isn't much of an underdog, and is a favorite according to Sagarin. Further, the game is the last of the season, and picking the underdog might help me stay alive the longest. So tOSU is in. Bowling Green, for the exact same three reasons, gets drawn as an underdog as well. I like Michigan State -- the SRS has them as only two point dogs and Sagarin thinks they're even better than BC. Oregon is the other underdog chosen by Sagarin, but the loss of Dixon looms too large there. I'm going to grab South Florida.

So far we've got: Arizona State, Kansas, UCONN, Ohio State, Bowling Green and Michigan State as underdogs. I'm definitely taking Florida, Cincinnati, USC and Boise State.

Utah (14.36 difference over Navy, -7.5) and Purdue 11.19 over Cent. Mich., -8) are big favorites according to both systems. Throw them down as winners. Rutgers (6.78, -10), Texas Tech (8.49, -6) and Oregon State (8.90, -5) are good sized favorites, too.

TCU is 10.55 better than Houston, but only a 4 point favorite, presumably because the game is in Houston. Houston has an interim head coach and has lost seven straight bowl games (which means nothing), so we'll take TCU here, too. Fort Worth ain't that far from Houston; I'll bank on the Horned Frogs fans traveling. Florida State is only a 3 point dog but a 7.05 underdog according to Sagarin, and who knows, they may need Bill M. to play QB by the time that game rolls around. I'll grab Kentucky there, and bank on Woodson showing me something.

Clemson and Auburn are almost even, so I'll take Auburn and get credit for taking a dog. The same goes for Wisconsin over Tennessee, and bowl history is on my side: Wisconsin beat an SEC team last year and Tennessee lost to a Big-10 team last year.

That leaves eleven games. Actually, ten -- I always grab my alma mater, Penn State. With ten games remaining, I've got: eight underdogs, thirteen favorites, and one longshot.

Oklahoma is a big favorite over West Virginia, but I'm not sure why. I think a healthy WVA team could take them. But the line has moved up by about a point with the news about Rodriguez leaving, and I don't like the lame duck Mountaineers. I'll grab the Sooners.

Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech and New Mexico are favorites that I'm moderately confident about, too. UCLA and Arkansas seem like good underdogs to grab -- neither team is a big dog and I like Arkansas to impress their new coach (who will be in the stands) over a disappointed Missouri team.

I know Florida Atlantic isn't any good, but Memphis is terrible.

That leaves me with: ten dogs, eighteen favorites, one longshot, and three undecideds. I don't have any feeling at all about those three games (Cent. Fl vs. Miss St., Cal/Air Force and Alabama/Colorado), so let's think about how to group the teams first.

One longshot means I need to take an odd number of three team sets. If I grab just one, that means I need fourteen underdogs, which I don't have. If I take three, that means I need eleven underdogs, twenty favorites and one longshot. So which dog should I take out of these three? Cal is 2.4 better than Air Force in the SRS, Central Florida is 2.3 better than MissSt, and Alabama is 5.1 better than Colorado. That leaves it between Air Force and MissSt -- well, Cal lost six of their last seven. So we'll grab Air Force.

So here are the 32 teams I'm picking:

Long Shots (1):
Hawaii

Alpha Dogs (5):

Connecticut
Arizona State
Kansas
Ohio State
Bowling Green

Strong Dogs (3):

Michigan State
Auburn
Wisconsin

Weak Dogs(3):
Arkansas
UCLA
Air Force

Great Favorites(6):

Cincinnati
Florida
Southern Cal
Boise State
Purdue
Utah

Good favorites(5):

Rutgers
Texas Tech
Oregon State
TCU
Kentucky

Favorites(9):

South Florida
Penn State
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
Georgia Tech
New Mexico
Florida Atlantic
Alabama
Miss State

Picks

We'll group our three strongest favorites together: Cincinnati/Florida/Southern Cal. Boise State/Utah/Purdue. TCU/Rutgers/Oregon State. We've got five alpha dogs -- and two good favorites left. We'll match up Texas Tech and Kentucky with our two strongest alpha dogs. How do we rank them?

Arizona State is a 6.2 point favorite according to the SRS -- and UCONN is a 2.5 point favorite according to the SRS, a 2.5 point favorite according to Sagarin, and only a 2.5 point dog. We'll match them with Texas Tech and Kentucky. Bowling Green is another strong dog, and USF -- the thirteenth best team according to the SRS -- is our strongest favorite yet. Lock 'em up. What do we do with Kansas and OSU, our last two alpha dogs? Penn State and Oklahoma look like our best favorites left. Let's put the teams with their conference mates.

Three more strong dogs -- Michigan State, Auburn and Wisconsin. Our best favorites at this point? Oklahoma State, New Mexico and Georgia Tech. Pair those up. That leaves Florida Atlantic, Central Florida and Alabama to pair with Missuori, BYU and Air Force. Let's put the SEC/Big-12 games together and match up the other two however.

Hawaii (longshot)

Cincinnati/Florida/Southern Cal.

Boise State/Utah/Purdue

TCU/Rutgers/Oregon State

Texas Tech/Arizona State (ASU is a dog)

Kentucky/UCONN (UCONN is a dog)

South Florida/Bowling Green (BG is a dog)

Oklahoma/Kansas (Kansas is a dog)

Penn State/Ohio State (tOSU is a dog)

Oklahoma State/Michigan State (MSU is a dog)

New Mexico/Auburn (Auburn is a dog)

Georgia Tech/Wisconsin (Wisconsin is a dog)

Alabama/Arkansas (Arkansas is a dog)

Florida Atlantic/UCLA (UCLA is a dog)

Central Florida/Air Force (AF is a dog)

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2007 at 1:38 am and is filed under BCS, College. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.