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Compu-Picks 2012 Preview: C-USA

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Aug 25, 2012


2012 Compu-Picks Previews Each 1-A League: Conference USA

Below is the preview for Conference USA, consisting of five tables. The first shows projections for each Conference USA 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 Div Finish Division Odds
Southern Mississippi 49 23 7.55 5.99 77 1 41.4%
Central Florida 51 78 7.68 5.65 83 2 35.4%
East Carolina 84 85 6.65 4.72 102 3 15.3%
Marshall 98 82 5.22 3.61 82 4 6.8%
Alabama-Birmingham 114 113 2.55 1.76 74 5 0.7%
Memphis 122 117 1.96 1.09 105 6 0.4%
Tulsa 44 35 9.07 6.41 92 1 55.2%
Houston 73 11 7.04 4.78 91 2 18.7%
Southern Methodist 79 60 5.75 4.21 73 3 11.8%
Rice 99 96 5.14 3.63 90 4 6.3%
Tulane 107 116 4.61 3.46 85 5 5.1%
Texas-El Paso 103 89 3.93 2.71 68 6 3.0%

Some notes and comments about Conference USA and its teams:

1) Houston is a bit of an interesting case. Compu-Picks really doesn't like them, primarily because they lose so much production, have a new head coach, and were fairly lucky last year (low injuries, outlier turnover margin, though they actually had really bad fumble luck). On the other hand, their recruiting has been picking up (possibly due to their impending move to the Big East), and missing both USM and UCF from the East is a nice scheduling break.

2) Tulsa, on the other hand, could be in for a big season. They lose a good amount of production, but they're likely to bounce back from lousy injury/turnover luck last year, their recruiting has been improving, and they still were a pretty solid team in 2011. With the schedule easing up considerably (trading Oklahoma, Oklahoma St and Boise St for Iowa St, a AA team and Fresno is a huge difference), their record could and probably should jump from 8 to 9 regular season wins, and they look like they should be in the driver's seat to win the division.

3) The East, meanwhile, looks like a potential dogfight between USM and UCF, with ECU having a shot at entering the mix. Southern Miss was the class of the East last year, and while the gap should be closing, have a solid shot at repeating even with a lot of departed talent and a coaching transition. UCF was a big disapointment in 2011, but return a lot of talent and are likely to bounce back.

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
Southern Mississippi 49 23 59 28 -2 -4.5 1
Central Florida 51 78 60 10 -3 -2 .
East Carolina 84 85 67 35 -14 1 .
Marshall 98 82 89 22 2 0.5 .
Alabama-Birmingham 114 113 91 30 -5 1.5 1
Memphis 122 117 113 44 12 4.5 1
Tulsa 44 35 52 31 -6 -4.5 .
Houston 73 11 53 6 16 -5 1
Southern Methodist 79 60 86 21 -16 -5 .
Rice 99 96 102 38 8 3 .
Tulane 107 116 116 10 -7 -5.5 1
Texas-El Paso 103 89 92 14 -8 2.5 .

Talent Inflows and Outflows

Team Recruit Rank Recruit Trend Starters Ret. Yards Ret. Tackles Ret. Int Ret. Sacks Ret. Lettermen Draft Losses
Southern Mississippi 71 92 6/4/1 37% 50% 47% 39% 65% 5
Central Florida 70 81 8*/8/0 85% 69% 44% 66% 67% 5
East Carolina 96 101 8/7/0 47% 67% 57% 59% 71% 0
Marshall 76 39 8*/5/0 81% 41% 36% 28% 73% 9
Alabama-Birmingham 110 86 7*/4/1 81% 42% 11% 63% 67% 2
Memphis 79 35 7/7/2 27% 63% 67% 39% 75% 14
Tulsa 75 48 6/7/1 55% 64% 61% 48% 68% 0
Houston 64 34 5/7/2 17% 66% 81% 45% 75% 0
Southern Methodist 66 15 3/7/1 39% 67% 67% 64% 64% 10
Rice 82 80 5*/5/1 64% 76% 85% 81% 65% 1
Tulane 86 95 7*/7/2 87% 80% 100% 57% 78% 0
Texas-El Paso 98 67 8*/5/2 49% 60% 50% 86% 66% 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
Southern Mississippi 7.55 2.29 . 3% 6% 12% 16% 17% 15% 13% 9% 5% 3% 1% 1% 0%
Central Florida 7.68 2.15 . 2% 7% 12% 18% 18% 16% 12% 7% 4% 2% 1% 0% 0%
East Carolina 6.65 2.31 . 1% 3% 7% 11% 16% 17% 15% 13% 9% 5% 2% 1% 1%
Marshall 5.22 2.29 . 0% 1% 2% 4% 8% 12% 16% 17% 16% 11% 7% 4% 1%
Alabama-Birmingham 2.55 1.85 . . 0% 0% 0% 1% 2% 4% 7% 13% 18% 23% 21% 11%
Memphis 1.96 1.86 . . 0% 0% 0% 1% 1% 3% 5% 8% 13% 20% 26% 23%
Tulsa 9.07 2.07 . 9% 19% 21% 18% 13% 8% 6% 3% 1% 1% 0% 0% 0%
Houston 7.04 2.45 . 2% 5% 9% 13% 16% 15% 14% 10% 7% 4% 2% 1% 1%
Southern Methodist 5.75 2.38 . 1% 2% 4% 7% 9% 14% 17% 17% 12% 9% 5% 2% 1%
Rice 5.14 2.42 . 0% 2% 3% 5% 7% 12% 14% 16% 15% 12% 8% 4% 2%
Tulane 4.61 2.48 . 0% 1% 2% 4% 6% 8% 11% 14% 17% 14% 11% 7% 3%
Texas-El Paso 3.93 2.13 . 0% 1% 1% 2% 3% 5% 9% 14% 19% 20% 15% 9% 2%

Projected Results - League Games

Odds of Winning _ League Games
Team E(wins) Stdev (wins) 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
Southern Mississippi 5.99 1.56 . 17% 26% 24% 17% 9% 4% 2% 1% 0%
Central Florida 5.65 1.65 . 12% 22% 24% 19% 12% 7% 3% 1% 0%
East Carolina 4.72 1.74 . 4% 12% 19% 22% 20% 13% 7% 3% 1%
Marshall 3.61 1.75 . 2% 4% 9% 15% 20% 21% 17% 9% 2%
Alabama-Birmingham 1.76 1.38 . 0% 0% 1% 3% 7% 14% 25% 34% 16%
Memphis 1.09 1.27 . 0% 0% 1% 1% 3% 7% 16% 30% 41%
Tulsa 6.41 1.53 . 28% 29% 21% 11% 6% 3% 1% 1% 0%
Houston 4.78 1.89 . 7% 13% 18% 19% 17% 13% 8% 4% 1%
Southern Methodist 4.21 1.86 . 3% 8% 14% 18% 20% 16% 12% 6% 2%
Rice 3.63 1.86 . 2% 5% 10% 15% 20% 19% 16% 10% 4%
Tulane 3.46 1.79 . 1% 4% 8% 14% 20% 21% 17% 10% 4%
Texas-El Paso 2.71 1.77 . 1% 2% 5% 8% 15% 20% 23% 17% 10%

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

Questions, comments or suggestions? Email me at cfn_ms@hotmail.com

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