Compu-Picks 2012 Preview - Big Ten

Originally posted on CFN.

Projected ranking and expected results

Expected Wins Projected League Results
Team 2012 Rank 2011 Rank All Games League Games SOS Div Finish Division Odds Adj Div Odds
Ohio State 8 47 10.37 6.55 47 1 68.3%
Wisconsin 39 8 7.93 4.69 58 2 17.7% 59.9%
Purdue 50 73 6.49 3.67 52 3 7.1% 24.1%
Illinois 76 64 5.54 2.95 56 4 2.9% 9.8%
Penn State 80 37 4.24 2.32 43 5 2.1%
Indiana 95 110 4.25 1.80 66 6 1.8% 6.1%
Michigan 11 12 8.98 6.11 24 1 42.9%
Nebraska 22 24 8.42 5.17 29 2 21.9%
Iowa 36 46 8.27 4.99 53 3 17.1%
Michigan State 33 19 7.41 4.56 19 4 13.5%
Northwestern 63 49 5.15 3.16 42 5 3.3%
Minnesota 78 87 5.06 2.02 54 6 1.3%

Some notes and comments about the Big Ten and its teams:

1) The Big Ten Leaders in 2012 looks a whole lot like the Pac-12 South in 2011, with Ohio St rating as the best team in the division by far, and everyone else projecting to have fairly unimpressive records. The Buckeyes' 2011 campaign looked like a major aberration compared to typical performance, and their 55 starts lost to injury count seems to back up that conclusion. There's another new coach, but between recruiting, returning production, poor luck with injuries and fumbles, and pretty low draft losses, this team looks like at least a potential Big Ten juggernaut, which could lead to a pretty awkward Big Ten title game, especially since the Leaders is projected to be materially better than the Legends, with a projected cross-division game record of 11-7 (there are 18 cross-division games, and the Legends is projected to have 26 wins compared to the Leaders' 22, therefore, 11-7)

2) Since Ohio St isn't eligible, that leaves Wisconsin as a pretty solid favorite to make it instead. Compu-Picks doesn't believe in this team nearly as much as most, with the 2011 season seeming like an aberration (though 2010 was great as well), a +16 turnover margin likely to decline, and substantial production losses coming into play. This should be a good team, but the system is very skeptical about their potential to be anywhere close to great.

3) If it's not Wisconsin, keep an eye out for Purdue. The Boilermakers get the Badgers at home, and if they can pull it out, could be in for a surprise run to the title game. With a lot of returning talent, don't count them out if the Badgers do in fact struggle this year.

4) The Legends division looks like Michigan's to lose. The Wolverines have to play Ohio St but get to miss Wisconsin and Penn St, while both Nebraska and Michigan St have to play Ohio St and Wisconsin (and Nebraska also draws Penn St. Moreover, Michigan simply looks like the best team in the division by a solid amount. They return a lot of talent and production on both sides of the ball (and lost almost nothing to the draft), and their recruiting is both strong and improving. That said, they had an almost absurd amount of fumble luck last season, which is extremely likely to revert, and they were fairly fortunate on the injury front as well. They have enough talent to give themselves a cushion, but if their luck starts to turn, it could be tougher sledding than projected.

5) Michigan St is projected far worse than most people rate the Spartans. They lose a tremendous amount of production on offense; this was a pass-happy team that lost their quarterback and almost anyone who caught a pass. That's a huge burden to overcome, and while their defense could be even better from last year's strong unit, their offense is likely to take a huge step back. And the schedule does them no favors, in league or out, with non-conference games against Boise and Notre Dame, and a cross-division draw that includes both Ohio St and Wisconsin (though getting to waste a road game against Indiana is nice).

6) Don't sleep on Iowa as a legitimate sleeper possibility. They miss both Ohio St and Wisconsin from the Leaders, a huge schedule advantage compared to the presumed division favorites, and even more importantly, project to be a pretty decent football team. There's nothing particularly special about their numbers (though rapidly improving recruiting does help), but as a program that's usually pretty solid and sometimes very good, there's enough here to think that if 2012 is going to be one of those surprisingly good years, they could make a whole lot of noise.

Additional tables of data available in linked article.

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.

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.

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