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Compu-Picks 2011 Preview: Big East

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Jul 24, 2011


2011 Compu-Picks Previews Each 1-A League: Big East

Below is the preview for the Big East, consisting of three tables.

The first table outlines the projected rankings for each Big East team, sorted from best to worst, and then presents the following selected key stats:
Rank - Projected 2011 ranking, from 1 to 120
2010 Rank - 2010 ranking using the current compu-picks model
Prev 4 yr - ranking of the average rating from 2006-2009
Recruit Rank - ranking of past 4 years of recruiting (each year equally weighted), from scout.com
Recruit Trend - the difference between the past 3 years of recruiting and the previous 3, ranked from best to worst
Injuries - starts lost to injury during the 2010 season (from Phil Steele)
Turnovers - turnover margin during the 2010 season, from cfbstats.com
Draft Losses - based on the 2011 draft
Ch - new head coach, per collegefootballpoll.com (1 indicates a new coach, . indicates no new coach)
Starters - returning offensive / defensive starters, per Phil Steele magazine (* if the QB returns), with some edits due to subsequent news

The second table shows the expected number of total wins for each team, as well as the odds for each potential number of wins, based on 2500 season simulation runs (note: a . indicates zero odds, while 0% indicates a non-zero probability that just rounds to 0%).

The third table shows the odds of winning the league, the expected number of league wins for each team, as well as the odds for each potential number of league wins, based on 2500 season simulation runs (note: a . indicates zero odds, while 0% indicates a non-zero probability that just rounds to 0%).

Projected ranking and key statistics

Team Rank 2010 Rank Prev 4 yr Recruit Rank Recruit Trend Injuries Turnovers Draft Losses Ch Starters
West Virginia 22 34 13 34 42 11 -5 10 1 8*/4
South Florida 42 62 40 43 27 14 -3 9 . 5*/6
Cincinnati 50 76 18 55 26 10 -15 2 . 5*/10
Pittsburgh 53 31 35 29 115 18 1 28 1 5*/8
Louisville 66 50 51 50 60 17 3 11 . 3/7
Syracuse 75 64 91 63 111 8 -4 7 . 8*/5
Rutgers 77 93 30 39 35 6 7 0 . 9*/5
Connecticut 82 77 45 74 91 9 12 8 1 7/9

Projected Results - All Games

Team Rank SOS E(wins) 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
West Virginia 22 77 9.56 . 16% 20% 21% 16% 13% 7% 3% 2% 1% 0% 0% 0% .
South Florida 42 64 8.02 . 4% 10% 14% 18% 16% 13% 10% 6% 3% 2% 1% 1% 0%
Cincinnati 50 81 7.57 . 3% 7% 11% 14% 19% 14% 13% 9% 5% 2% 1% 1% 0%
Pittsburgh 53 52 6.78 . 2% 4% 7% 11% 15% 16% 15% 13% 9% 4% 2% 1% 0%
Louisville 66 68 6.06 . 1% 2% 4% 7% 12% 16% 17% 16% 12% 7% 4% 1% 1%
Syracuse 75 70 5.59 . 1% 2% 4% 7% 10% 11% 14% 16% 13% 10% 6% 3% 2%
Rutgers 77 59 4.91 . 0% 1% 3% 5% 7% 11% 13% 14% 14% 14% 10% 6% 2%
Connecticut 82 85 5.68 . 1% 1% 4% 7% 10% 14% 16% 16% 14% 8% 6% 3% 1%

Projected Results - League Games

Team Rank League Odds E(wins) 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
West Virginia 22 41.4% 5.45 . . 28% 28% 21% 13% 6% 3% 1% 0%
South Florida 42 21.0% 4.49 . . 12% 19% 23% 18% 13% 8% 4% 2%
Cincinnati 50 14.5% 4.06 . . 8% 15% 20% 20% 16% 12% 6% 3%
Pittsburgh 53 9.9% 3.77 . . 5% 12% 19% 20% 19% 15% 7% 3%
Louisville 66 4.1% 3.00 . . 2% 5% 12% 19% 21% 21% 13% 7%
Syracuse 75 4.2% 2.58 . . 2% 4% 9% 13% 18% 22% 19% 12%
Rutgers 77 3.1% 2.39 . . 1% 4% 7% 13% 19% 20% 21% 14%
Connecticut 82 1.9% 2.26 . . 1% 2% 6% 12% 20% 24% 22% 13%

Some commentary about the projections:

1) It's pretty difficult for an AQ league to collectively have a below average schedule, but the Big East has done it. Even Pitt, the toughest schedule of the lot, has a really easy road. Two non-conference joke games (Buffalo and Maine), plus two winnable games against AQ opponents, plus Notre Dame. Pretty much everyone else has three or more non-conference joke games, a number which would make all but the most intransigent cupcake eaters blush. It'll be interesting to see if the schedules get tougher after adding TCU or if they just respond by jettisoning most of the respectable OOC contests still left on the schedule.

2) There's a definite perception among the general public that the Big East is a high parity league. And to some degree that's been fair over the past few years. However, in 2011 I'm not sure that this is really the case. It's certainly not an extreme lack of parity situation like the Mountain West, but there's still a solid dividing line between the projected best and projected worst of the league. The lower four teams each have less than 5% odds of winning the league, and combine for less than 15%. Meanwhile, West Virginia is at 40% to win the league. Looking around the country for division and league odds, that kind of distribution seems fairly par for the course. If you want extreme projected parity, try the ACC Coastal or the MAC East. You're not likely to find it here, at least not for 2011.

3) What's interesting about West Virginia is that they're projected as a solid favorite, even with a coaching transition (those are usually difficult under any circumstances, and given how things shook out here that seems especially likely). Essentially, the story is that compared to all of the other possible contenders, West Virginia doesn't have any of the striking weaknesses that they have. West Virginia has been the best over 2006-2009 (only Cincy comes close), 2nd best recruiting (second only to Pitt), 2nd best in 2010 (second only to Pitt), had bad turnover luck in 2010, and had fairly low draft losses (though they're pretty much always low). Other than the coaching transition, West Virginia has a solid resume across the board, and that's why they're the league favorite.

4) Under normal circumstances, Pitt would probably be the projected #2. However, like West Virginia, Pitt also has a new coach (and like West Virginia, that situation was unusually weird, though the nature of the transition is not something the model factors in); moreover, Pitt hadn't been as good in recent history (mainly due to a very down 2007), suffered fairly high draft losses (2nd highest in 10 years), and their recruiting has been declining rapidly (culminating in the 2011 class, their worst in at least a decade). They certainly have a reasonable chance of winning the Big East, but they start out a bit worse than the two ahead of them and materially worse than West Virginia.

5) South Florida finds itself projected 2nd almost by default. They were poor in 2010, nothing special from 2006-2009, don't really recruit all that well, they have a slightly low number returning starters, and they don't have anything really special propping up their ranking (which is why they're rated 43rd). On the other hand, they don't have a new coach, and they had an unusually poor turnover margin in 2010 (which should rebound a bit). So in a league that's up for grabs if West virginia slips, USF is absolutely capable of walking away with the crown.

6) Cincy has some extreme positives and negatives. The good news is that they had an extremely poor turnover margin in 2010 (which should rebound materially), they have one of the highest number of returning starters in the league, they lost basically nothing to the draft, they had been pretty solid from 2006-2009, their recruiting has been improving, and they don't have a new coach. The bad news is that they were pretty bad in 2010, they recruit substantially worse than the other members of the top four, and the 2006-2009 record may not be relevant since this is Butch Jones's team (and early returns haven't been so good).

There are a few important notes and caveats I need to make about this model:

1) Compu-Picks does not endorse implicitly or explicitly any form of illegal gambling. Compu-Picks is intended to be used for entertainment purposes only.

2) No guarantee or warranty is offered or implied by Compu-Picks for any information provided and/or predictions made.

3) This preseason model is primarily based on the main compu-picks model. Essentially, it attempts to predict how well a team will rate given its rating history, as well as a number of other data points, such as returning starters, draft talent lost, turnovers, recruiting, etc. This means, among other things, that the rankings are power rankings based on how good a team projects to be, as opposed to a more cynical (though accurate) model that attempts to project how the BCS will rank a team by making adjustments to favor those with easy schedules and punish those with tough schedules.

4) For three teams (Auburn, Oregon, UNC), you can see that they're projected to half a new coach. This was a manual adjustment I made to the data based on the off-field issues that each program is dealing with. A new coach is a negative predictive factor, so estimating a 50% chance of having a new coach makes an impact. For UNC, it's more that there's a pretty reasonable chance that they'll replace Butch Davis (or be forced to) before the season. For the other two, it's more a reflection of the possibility that the ongoing investigations will unearth more trouble, possibly leading to a coach replacement and/or current players being declared ineligible. For those two, estimating a 50% chance of a new coach is mainly a proxy for that possibility. It's admittedly arbitrary, but I believe that it's reasonable given the current climate.
I have also provided adjusted division (or league) odds in a number of instances. For the Pac-12 South, it shows the odds of each team winning adjusting for the fact that USC will be ineligible (the original calculation does not account for this). For various other instances, it would only be relevant if the team in question does in fact become ineligible for the division/league title. Should that not happen, you can ignore the adjusted odds.

5) There is a substantial amount of noise in these projections, which is to be expected given the large number of unknowns (who will have good and bad luck with injuries, which young players will improve and which won't, how specific matchups will come into play, etc.). Right now the standard error is a bit over 0.2 on a scale of about -1 to +1. It's important to look at the projections with this in mind to get a sense of how material the projected differences are. Given a standard error around 0.2, it is safe to project Alabama to be a much better team than Mississippi St, but it is not safe to project Arkansas to be any better than LSU, much less a lot better.

6) At this point, there are a number of model features that need to be investigated further. Chief among these is the distribution of extreme events. It appears that the model may be overstating the probabilities of extreme events, such as 12-0 or 0-12 records, or major underdogs winning their division/league. Please keep this in mind when looking at the distribution of win probabilities.

2011 Compu-Picks Blog

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