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Compu-Picks 2011 Preview: Pac-12

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Jul 25, 2011


2011 Compu-Picks Previews Each 1-A League: Pac-12

Below is the preview for the Pac-12, consisting of three tables.

The first table outlines the projected rankings for each Pac-12 team, sorted in each division 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
Oregon 2 2 11 16 12 6 13 4 0.5 6*/5
Stanford 9 1 62 25 1 11 13 14 1 5*/6
Oregon State 43 30 19 58 56 21 4 15 . 8*/4
Washington 51 44 69 23 55 10 2 20 . 7/8
California 52 41 21 27 41 9 2 28 . 7/5
Washington State 64 72 92 56 16 20 -1 2 . 7*/8
Arizona State 21 23 42 30 101 13 -6 1 . 8/7
Southern California 23 21 2 5 46 10 4 32 . 6*/7
Utah 24 24 24 57 22 14 -1 5 . 7*/5
UCLA 25 59 48 13 24 59 -11 20 . 8*/8
Arizona 37 20 34 48 103 5 -4 12 . 5*/5
Colorado 105 66 74 54 117 17 0 31 1 9*/7

Projected Results - All Games

Team Rank SOS E(wins) 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
Oregon 2 23 10.16 . 24% 27% 21% 13% 8% 4% 1% 1% 1% 0% 0% 0% .
Stanford 9 13 9.26 . 13% 20% 20% 16% 13% 8% 4% 3% 2% 1% 0% 0% 0%
Oregon State 43 2 5.31 . 1% 1% 3% 5% 8% 12% 14% 15% 15% 12% 8% 4% 1%
Washington 51 17 5.62 . 1% 1% 2% 5% 10% 14% 17% 19% 15% 9% 5% 2% 1%
California 52 25 5.18 . 0% 1% 2% 5% 7% 11% 16% 18% 17% 12% 7% 3% 1%
Washington State 64 38 5.02 . 1% 1% 2% 4% 6% 10% 15% 18% 19% 15% 7% 3% 1%
Arizona State 21 27 8.01 . 4% 8% 14% 18% 17% 14% 11% 6% 4% 2% 1% 0% 0%
Southern California 23 4 7.37 . 2% 6% 11% 15% 17% 15% 12% 10% 7% 3% 2% 1% 0%
Utah 24 35 8.13 . 6% 11% 15% 17% 14% 14% 10% 6% 4% 2% 1% 1% 0%
UCLA 25 21 7.30 . 3% 7% 11% 13% 16% 16% 12% 10% 6% 4% 2% 1% 0%
Arizona 37 20 5.91 . 1% 2% 3% 7% 10% 13% 17% 16% 15% 9% 4% 1% 0%
Colorado 105 3 1.27 . . . 0% 0% 0% 1% 1% 2% 4% 8% 18% 30% 37%

Projected Results - League Games

Team Rank Division Odds Adj Div Odds E(wins) 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
Oregon 2 55.9% 7.61 31% 32% 19% 9% 5% 2% 1% 1% 0% 0%
Stanford 9 34.0% 77.3% 6.84 17% 25% 22% 17% 10% 5% 3% 1% 1% 0%
Oregon State 43 3.6% 8.1% 3.65 1% 3% 5% 10% 15% 16% 18% 15% 11% 6%
Washington 51 2.9% 6.5% 3.82 1% 2% 4% 11% 17% 21% 20% 15% 8% 2%
California 52 2.2% 5.0% 3.61 1% 2% 6% 8% 12% 19% 20% 17% 10% 4%
Washington State 64 1.4% 3.2% 2.73 1% 1% 2% 5% 7% 14% 20% 22% 20% 8%
Arizona State 21 22.7% 28.1% 5.66 5% 11% 18% 23% 19% 13% 7% 3% 2% 0%
Southern California 23 19.4% 5.31 4% 10% 16% 19% 17% 14% 11% 6% 2% 1%
Utah 24 33.7% 41.9% 6.12 11% 16% 20% 18% 14% 10% 5% 3% 2% 1%
UCLA 25 16.9% 21.0% 5.12 3% 9% 14% 18% 18% 16% 12% 5% 3% 1%
Arizona 37 7.1% 8.8% 3.73 2% 3% 6% 9% 14% 18% 18% 16% 10% 4%
Colorado 105 0.2% 0.2% 0.80 . 0% 0% 0% 1% 2% 4% 12% 28% 53%

Some commentary about the projections:

1) Other than the potential for the Lyles scandal to really blow up, Oregon looks like a serious national title contender in 2011, with a few things that strongly supporting their lofty ranking. The first is how good they were in 2010; unlike other top teams like Auburn (who lost almost everyone), Stanford (who almost came out of nowhere), or TCU (clear rebuilding year), the Ducks don't have a massive negative attached to them. In fact, they actually have one other very notable positive, in that they had basically zero draft losses (a rarity for a team near the top of college football). Of course, they do have some negatives, such as the fact that their 2006-2009 run, while good, was still not top 10; that their luck in turnover and injuries is unlikely to repeat in 2011; that they have fewer returning starters than some other top teams; and that their recruiting isn't quite at the very top level (though it's been rapidly improving). Nevertheless, the overall picture for Oregon is very strong. And with a tough but not brutal schedule, they have a great chance of getting 10+ wins again, and are odds-on favorites in the Pac-12 North.

2) If it's not going to be Oregon in the North, then it's almost certainly going to be Stanford; Compu-Picks rates the odds of one of those two winning their division at just shy of 90% (and as noted before, if anything it seems to overrate tail probabilities, which means that the odds of anyone else winning the division is probably lower than stated). Stanford is rated as having the #1 recruiting trend, was extremely good in 2010, and had pretty reasonable draft losses. On the other hand, their overall recruiting is still not fantastic, they've got a new coach, they only have 11 returning starters (including QB), and their +13 turnover margin will probably regress to some extent.

3) Oregon St, Washington and Cal are all in a fairly tight cluster when it comes to projecting their Pac-12 records; all are projected solidly between 3 and 4 wins. Of the three, Oregon St seems like the better team: they were better in 2010; they were better on average over the preceding 4 years (especially compared to Washington); they have the fewest draft losses and suffered the worst injury losses; and they're the only one of the three to return a starting quarterback. On the other hand, they have by far the toughest schedule of the three (they miss Colorado and the OOC is a beast, which makes the win total line of 6.5 seem majorly optimistic), which means that a bowl appearance is far from guaranteed.
Meanwhile, Washington and Cal fairly well resemble each other; they were about as good last year, their recruiting is similar, they had the same 2010 turnover luck and about the same injury luck; their schedules are similar (though Washington's is tougher), and their returning experience is similar (though Washington has more).
Ultimately, all three teams are within shouting distance of a potential bowl bid, so it'll be interesting to see how many can find a way to reach the magic number of six.

4) For how horrible the Washington St Cougars have been the last few years, 2011 may actually be a meaningful step forwards, not just in terms of competitiveness, but actual wins as well. The easiest schedule in the Pac-12 helps a lot, but another part of it is that they could actually be somewhat decent. It didn't show up in their record, but they weren't actually terrible in 2010. And with a bunch of returning starters, essentially zero draft losses, relatively high injury luck likely to improve, and recruiting that is competitive with the rest of the bottom of the Pac-12 (and has been trending solidly upwards), it's not at all difficult to see them picking up a few wins along the way this year; in fact, Compu-Picks projects them at about 5 wins, which means that, even though it's something of a reach, a bowl game is at least a reasonably possible outcome. On the other hand, if they can't take a step forward and at least show some respectability with 15 returning starters and a relatively veteran squad, it's pretty likely that a new coach will get the chance to see what he can do in Pullman in 2012.

5) Arizona St is projected to be the best of the Pac-12 South teams, though they're not projected as most likely to win the division, mainly because they have a tougher schedule than Utah (the Compu-Picks favorite). Still, they should be a very solid squad in 2011. They return a good slate of starters, they had their worst turnover margin in a while in 2010 (which should get much better in 2011), and lost essentially nothing to the draft this past year. Of course, their recruiting has been on a major negative trend, which takes a big chunk out of their projection, but there's enough good to largely offset that issue, at least for 2011.

6) Utah is an interesting case, projected to only be the third best team in the Pac-12 South, but still pegged as likeliest to win the division. That's what getting five home games, missing both Oregon and Stanford, and getting ASU at home will get you. The Utes are projected to not be quite as good as ASU and USC, but it's not like there's an especially large gap. Utah was a top 25 team last year, was top 25 for 2006-2009, and lost little to the draft. That's enough to largely makeup for poor recruiting and only 12 returning starters, or at least keep the gap between them and the rest of the division close enough to let the schedule take care of the rest.

7) UCLA could be a big surprise in 2011. They miss Oregon, their overall schedule is manageable, and beyond that, they could actually be a solid team, as Compu-Picks rates them #25 overall. They clearly haven't been that good of late, but they have a lot of returning talent, their recruiting overall is strong, as is the recruiting trend, and they had lousy luck last year in turnovers. Most importantly, they also had horrible luck in injuries, though given that this has now happened three of the last four years, it may be possible that it's more than just bad luck, and that there's something systematic going on. So really, injuries, more than any other item, is probably the key issue for UCLA in 2011. If they can even have an average injury season, they could be a major surprise squad in 2011. And if not, it'll be another rough year for them. Ultimately, they should be a legitimate dark horse in the Pac-12 South... and if they're not, someone else will get a chance to make the most of the talent in Westwood in 2012.

8) One big surprise I got from Compu-Picks was how horrible the system expects Colorado to be. Worse than 100th, worst AQ team, and an expected win total of well under 2 games, despite playing 13 in 2011. This despite being mediocre rather than horrible in 2010, and having a 4 year rank materially better than other AQ's Wazzu, Iowa St and Syracuse. On further review, however, it actually seems to make sense. Colorado has a disturbing number of red flags going into 2011, including: a new coach (year one tends to be poor even when you upgrade the coach, and Embree is an unknown); extremely heavy draft losses (more than anyone else outside the projected top 50, and the most they've had since the 2001 draft [and they haven't even been close to this level since 2003] ); and a massively negative recruiting trend (2007 and 2008 classes were solid, but recruiting has plummetted since then).

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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