Compu-Picks 2012 Preview: Sun Belt

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Aug 25, 2012


2012 Compu-Picks Previews Each 1-A League: Sun Belt

Below is the preview for the Sun Belt, consisting of five tables. The first shows projections for each Sun Belt team, with the others showing key statistics and/or details behind the projections.

Projected ranking and expected results

Expected Wins Projected League Results
Team 2012 Rank 2011 Rank All Games League Games SOS League Finish League Odds
Western Kentucky 55 79 7.41 5.44 86 1 20.3%
Louisiana-Lafayette 69 70 7.06 5.21 87 2 19.0%
Florida International 70 83 7.13 5.19 107 3 17.2%
Arkansas State 72 55 7.09 5.11 95 4 16.5%
Troy 93 107 5.93 4.51 94 5 11.5%
Louisiana-Monroe 92 102 5.30 4.41 88 6 7.6%
North Texas 106 103 4.81 3.73 98 7 4.6%
Florida Atlantic 112 119 3.23 2.48 80 8 1.8%
Middle Tennessee State 115 115 3.30 2.18 108 9 0.8%
South Alabama 119 0 2.87 1.74 110 10 0.6%

Some notes and comments about the Sun Belt and its teams:

1) Of all the leagues in 1-A, the Sun Belt is by far the most balanced. Currently five of the ten members are given over a 10% chance to win the league, and no one is over 20%. There's a pretty good chance this league race doesn't get fully decided until late, and don't be stunned if it comes down to some sort of wacky tiebreaker scenario.

2) On the other hand, don't be at all surprised to see another double-digit win total out of this league. It's been reasonably common for one team to surge ahead and blast through the league, and it could potentially happen again. Everyone has question marks, but that also means that any team that gets all the breaks, that develops players, and that avoids injuries could be primed for a lengthy hot streak.

3) Western Kentucky has gone from 1-A newcomer to reasonably mediocre (which is very good for a Sun Belt team) on an insanely fast pace, and they're projected to take another step forward in 2012. It says a lot about them that they're projected to win the league even without playing South Alabama, who's likely to be stuck in the cellar.

The next two tables show key statistics and details underlying the projections, from prior history and performance to luck-related statistics to key indicators of incoming and outgoing talent. Below is a brief explanation of some of these items:


Rank - Projected 2012 ranking, from 1 to 124
2011 Rank - 2011 ranking using the current compu-picks model, from 1 to 120 (does NOT include the four 1-A newcomers)
Prev 4 yr - ranking of the average rating from 2007-2010, from 1 to 120 (does NOT include the four 1-A newcomers)
Injuries - starts lost to injury during the 2011 season, from Phil Steele
Fumble Luck - the number of net turnovers in 2011 due to fumble luck
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 4, ranked from best to worst
Starters - returning offensive / defensive / special teams (kicker and punter) starters, per Phil Steele magazine (* if the QB returns), with some edits due to subsequent news
Returning Yards, Tackles, Int, Sacks, Lettermen - returning production and roster depth; lettermen taken from philsteele.com, with the other stats calculated from cfbstats.com.
Draft Losses - based on the 2012 draft

Key Statistics - Performance, Luck and Coaching

Team 2012 Rank 2011 Rank Prev 4 yr Injuries Turnovers Fumble Luck New Coach
Western Kentucky 55 79 119 13 -3 4.5 .
Louisiana-Lafayette 69 70 108 15 0 0.5 .
Florida International 70 83 96 4 5 -0.5 .
Arkansas State 72 55 103 2 2 -6 1
Troy 93 107 57 17 -12 -3 .
Louisiana-Monroe 92 102 106 13 3 1.5 .
North Texas 106 103 117 25 9 3 .
Florida Atlantic 112 119 107 22 -9 2.5 1
Middle Tennessee State 115 115 90 35 -8 0 .
South Alabama 119 0 0 0 0 0 .

Talent Inflows and Outflows

Team Recruit Rank Recruit Trend Starters Ret. Yards Ret. Tackles Ret. Int Ret. Sacks Ret. Lettermen Draft Losses
Western Kentucky 102 62 9*/7/1 65% 71% 62% 63% 83% 0
Louisiana-Lafayette 115 54 9*/4/2 82% 43% 36% 29% 70% 9
Florida International 92 55 7/10/2 43% 89% 100% 88% 79% 5
Arkansas State 101 53 6*/4/2 77% 47% 26% 23% 67% 5
Troy 85 114 9*/6/0 95% 56% 50% 39% 67% 3
Louisiana-Monroe 107 106 8*/5/1 93% 47% 69% 42% 68% 0
North Texas 119 111 9*/4/5 63% 43% 22% 44% 56% 0
Florida Atlantic 118 102 7*/7/1 64% 99% 100% 85% 74% 2
Middle Tennessee State 105 103 6*/7/0 77% 56% 0% 83% 61% 0
South Alabama 0 0 6* /9/1 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0

The next two tables show probability distributions for the projections, based on 5,001 season simulation runs. Please note that a . indicates zero odds, while 0% indicates a non-zero probability that just rounds to 0%. The first table breaks down results across all games, while the second breaks down results across league games only.

Projected Results - All Games

Odds of Winning _ Games
Team E(wins) Stdev (wins) 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
Western Kentucky 7.41 2.19 . 1% 6% 11% 14% 19% 17% 13% 9% 5% 3% 1% 1% 0%
Louisiana-Lafayette 7.06 2.25 . 0% 3% 10% 15% 17% 18% 14% 10% 5% 3% 2% 1% 1%
Florida International 7.13 2.42 . 2% 6% 9% 13% 15% 16% 14% 10% 7% 4% 2% 1% 0%
Arkansas State 7.09 2.01 . 0% 2% 8% 14% 19% 19% 16% 11% 5% 3% 1% 1% 0%
Troy 5.93 2.57 . 1% 3% 5% 8% 13% 13% 15% 14% 11% 8% 5% 3% 2%
Louisiana-Monroe 5.30 2.26 . 0% 1% 3% 5% 8% 13% 17% 18% 15% 10% 7% 3% 1%
North Texas 4.81 2.27 . 0% 1% 2% 3% 6% 10% 15% 18% 16% 13% 9% 5% 3%
Florida Atlantic 3.23 2.16 . . 0% 0% 1% 3% 4% 7% 11% 15% 18% 17% 15% 9%
Middle Tennessee State 3.30 2.12 . 0% 0% 1% 1% 2% 4% 7% 13% 16% 18% 16% 14% 8%
South Alabama 2.87 2.21 0% 0% 0% 1% 1% 2% 3% 6% 9% 12% 16% 20% 18% 12%

Projected Results - League Games

Odds of Winning _ League Games
Team E(wins) Stdev (wins) 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
Western Kentucky 5.44 1.71 . 11% 19% 22% 20% 15% 7% 4% 2% 0%
Louisiana-Lafayette 5.21 1.88 . 11% 17% 20% 19% 15% 9% 5% 3% 1%
Florida International 5.19 1.81 . 9% 17% 21% 20% 15% 10% 5% 2% 1%
Arkansas State 5.11 1.76 . 8% 16% 20% 21% 18% 10% 5% 2% 1%
Troy 4.51 1.99 . 6% 12% 16% 18% 18% 14% 9% 6% 2%
Louisiana-Monroe 4.41 1.76 . 4% 8% 15% 22% 21% 15% 9% 4% 1%
North Texas 3.73 1.86 . 2% 5% 10% 16% 21% 19% 15% 9% 4%
Florida Atlantic 2.48 1.80 . 1% 2% 4% 7% 13% 18% 22% 20% 13%
Middle Tennessee State 2.18 1.60 . 0% 1% 2% 5% 11% 19% 24% 23% 15%
South Alabama 1.74 1.51 . 0% 1% 2% 3% 7% 14% 23% 29% 22%

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) I have provided adjusted division (or league) odds in a couple of instances. For the Big Ten Leaders, it shows the odds of each team winning adjusting for the fact that Ohio St and Penn St will both be ineligible. The same is true for the ACC Coastal and North Carolina.

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 Mississippi St to be any better than Arkansas, 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. This overstatement has been reduced compared to last year's projections, but still likely exists to some degree. Please keep this in mind when looking at the distribution of win probabilities.

7) Since there is much less data available for the four 1-A newcomers, the power rating methodology has been more manual and arbitrary. As a consequence, I am somewhat less confident of the projections for those four teams than I am for the other 120 1-A members. Please keep this in mind when looking at the newcomers' projections.

2012 Compu-Picks Blog

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