Sunday, November 28, 2010

TopoRank v4 Predictions, Week 14

The end of the regular season is here! I have the predictions for Week 14 using TopoRank v4, and I'll have predictions for the entire bowl lineup once the games are published:

1. Auburn19. South Carolina1.45-639
2. OregonOregon St25.215.5-16.517
9. Oklahoma13. Nebraska3.84-6.53
Utah St11. Boise St43.538-4036
21. Florida St15. Virginia Tech0.93.5-4.511
17. NevadaLouisiana Tech15.89-12.518
Arizona St23. Arizona3.35-6.5-1
Rutgers24. West Virginia19.119.5-20.521
25. N IllinoisMiami (OH)19.414.5-18.5-5

TopoRank hit on 4 of 9 games this week, giving back 15% of the gain from last week. The overall record for the season is 33 out of 60 (5% return). Having fewer games reduces the diversity (safety) of the process, so it's advisable to reduce the total stakes on weeks like these.

As a further experiment, I'll chart up TopoRank's success for each of the BCS conferences this week (it's harder to find historical spread numbers, so I'm not going to create the same data going backwards in time).

I'll also post the new TopoRank rankings and critique the bowl selections when they are released.

2010 College Football Rankings, Week 14

I am now just tracking TopoRank v4. Here are the updated rankings after week 13 action:

1. Oregon
2. Stanford
3. Boise St
4. Ohio State
5. TCU
6. Oklahoma
7. Alabama
8. Oklahoma St
9. Auburn
10. Wisconsin
11. Texas A&M
12. Nebraska
13. South Carolina
14. Arizona
15. Missouri
16. California
17. Arizona St
18. Florida St
19. Arkansas
20. Southern Cal
21. Georgia
22. Nevada
23. Virginia Tech
24. Florida
25. LSU

This week we see Stanford leap into the #2 spot with a big win. Wisconsin comes screaming up the board to #10 and LSU teeters on the edge of the Top 25. A few interesting and perhaps unintuitive moves I'd like to point out are Arizona and Arkansas. Arizona stays put despite a 19 point loss. They were predicted to lose by 19.6, so they actually outperformed their previous ranking slightly, and hence we see them retain the #14 spot. Arkansas falls 8 spots despite a victory over LSU. LSU had been ranked slightly outside the Top 25 and Arkansas was expected to win by 10.5. This alone drops them a little, but we also see the effects of teams on their schedule losing a lot of games. Furthermore, #13 through #19 are separated by the equivalant of about a 1.5 point spread, so big rank moves are possible with slight changes in rating.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TopoRank (Classic) Predictions, Week 13

Here are the predictions for Week 13 using TopoRank Classic:

20. Arizona1. Oregon10.417.5-19.519*
2. Auburn11. Alabama0.64-5-1
3. TCUNew Mexico38.642.5-43.549
4. Boise St19. Nevada10.114-14.5-3
5. LSU12. Arkansas8.43.5-48
Oregon St6. Stanford12.914-1538
Northwestern7. Wisconsin17.722.5-23.547
Michigan8. Ohio St18.817-17.530
13. Oklahoma9. Oklahoma St2.82-3skip
10. Michigan StPenn St0.2-(1.5-2)-6
Kansas14. Missouri30.024-24.528
Colorado15. Nebraska16.717.528
Virginia16. Virginia Tech22.423.530
17. Texas A&MTexas9.63-3.57
18. South CarolinaClemson2.92.5-3skip
BYU20. Utah15.39-101
Florida22. Florida St2.92-2.530
23. N.Carolina StMaryland5.42-2.5-7
24. IowaMinnesota22.215-16-3
25. Mississippi StMississippi4.62.5-38

I have a feeling TopoRank v4 will continue to outperform this algorithm. TopoRank Classic reverses the pick for a number of games, and finishes the week with 8 correct picks out of 18 for about a 15% loss this week. If it has a poor showing next week too, I will likely retire the algorithm.

TopoRank v4 Predictions, Week 13

Here are the predictions for Week 13 using TopoRank v4:

20. Arizona1. Oregon19.617.5-19.519*
2. Auburn11. Alabama4.34-5Skip
3. TCUNew Mexico52.642.5-43.549
4. Boise St19. Nevada20.914-14.5-3
5. LSU12. Arkansas10.53.5-48
Oregon St6. Stanford16.414-1538
Northwestern7. Wisconsin25.622.5-23.547
Michigan8. Ohio St26.717-17.530
13. Oklahoma9. Oklahoma St0.62-3-6
10. Michigan StPenn St0.9-(1.5-2)-6
Kansas14. Missouri38.824-24.528
Colorado15. Nebraska19.117.528
Virginia16. Virginia Tech23.823.530
17. Texas A&MTexas11.43-3.57
18. South CarolinaClemson5.72.5-322
BYU20. Utah18.29-101
Florida22. Florida St1.22-2.524
23. N.Carolina StMaryland3.72-2.5-7
24, IowaMinnesota19.315-16-3
25. Mississippi StMississippi6.82.5-38
* - Given the available spreads, anyone picking Oregon to beat the spread should have gone with the 17.5 option

TopoRank v4 was a stellar 11 of 14 for the Top 20 games this week, and a very good 12 of 19 overall, resulting in a 20% return. If I can achieve these results consistently, I'll consider a change of profession.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

2010 College Football Rankings, Week 13

I am now tracking rankings based on 2 TopoRank algorithms in order to evaluate both.

RankTopoRank ClassicTopoRank v4
1Boise StOregon
2Ohio StBoise St
3OregonOhio St
9Oklahoma StOklahoma St
10Texas A&MTexas A&M
13South CarolinaWisconsin
15NebraskaSouth Carolina
16Virginia TechNebraska
19ArizonaArizona St
20MiamiSouther Cal
22FloridaOregon St
23TrinityVirginia Tech
24Florida StMiami
25North Carolina StFlorida St

We're seeing the capped TopoRank classic let some lower division teams sneak up into the rankings. This is a rather odd turn, and I may investigate it ... or just decide that TopoRank v4 is the fundamentally correct way to go.

TopoRank v4 predictions for 2010 week 11

And here are the retroactive predictions for week 11 using TopoRank v4:

1. OregonCalifornia19.519-20.5skip
Georgia2. Auburn8.27.5-8.5skip
San Diego St3. TCU31.827-285
4. Boise StIdaho31.933.5-34.538
LA-Monroe5. LSU30.231-3451
6. StanfordArizona St10.34.5-6.54
Indiana7. Wisconsin21.521.5-22.5skip
Kansas8. Nebraska41.134-34.517
Penn St9. Ohio St25.717.5-20.524
10. Oklahoma StTexas18.04-6.517
19. Mississippi St12. Alabama16.013-1427
13. IowaNorthwestern16.69.5-12-4
14. UtahNotre Dame10.85-6-25
UTEP15. Arkansas32.928.5-3031
Texas Tech16. Oklahoma23.216-16.538
24. Kansas St17. Missouri7.913-13.510
USC18. Arizona2.9-(4-5.5)3
20. Virgina TechNorth Carolina0.3-(3-5.5)-16
21. NevadaFresno St18.38-9.51
23. South Carolina22. Florida6.46-7skip
25. Texas A&MBaylor11.53-3.512

This week, TopoRank v4 made the right call 9 out of 17 times for a success rate of 52.9% which would result in a 1% return.

TopoRank v4 Predictions, 2010 week 12

Here are the predictions for Week 12 using TopoRank v4:

Fresno St4. Boise St32.630.551
Mississippi5. LSU22.415.5-167
6. StanfordCal3.56.5-834
7. WisconsinMichigan11.14.5-5.520
8. Nebraska19. Texas A&M3.2-(2.5-3)3
9. Ohio St20. Iowa10.233
10. Oklahoma StKansas35.622.5-2434
Purdue12. Michigan St25.819.5-214
13. Arkansas21. Mississippi St3.23-4skip
14. OklahomaBaylor16.67-7.529
15. MissouriIowa St13.111-1214
16. Virginia Tech24. Miami0.3-(2-2.5)-14
Troy17. South Carolina26.222.5-23.545
New Mexico St18. Nevada15.737.546
23. UtahSan Diego St5.92.5-34
25. Florida StMaryland3.54-614

TopoRank v4 hits on 8 of 15 picks for a slim 2% gain. Among the big calls are Texas A&M's upset victory over Nebraska, Boise State's blowout win, and Wisconsin's dominating win over Michigan. There were also a few big misses were Nebraska's trampling of New Mexico State, Michigan State's narrow margin over Purdue and Stanford's pounding of California. A number of these varied wildly from the real spreads too, and that's why they play the game. As a coworker once told me, a person would be foolish to pin their well-being to the performance of 20-year-olds. But that, is why a diversified approach should perform!

Rethinking TopoRank

I had originally put a condition into TopoRank to discount extreme blowout wins. This has 2 reasons:
1. To allow for sportsmanship and not make teams feel like they need to pile it on to appease the computer rankings
2. Because one can only say so much about beating up on a weaker team (ex: does beating North Dakota State by 50 mean that same team will stand toe-to-toe with Oregon?)

However, teams are not currently playing with TopoRank in mind, so I believe I'm allowing for a factor that doesn't actually make much sense. Furthermore, I do believe there's a difference in teams who can focus and trample a weak team by 50 as opposed to let them linger in the game and stretch the lead to 25-30 at the end. Removing the cap for how much better a team can be rated than another per game gives the following ranking (TopoRank v4):

1. Oregon
2. Boise St
3. Ohio State
4. Stanford
5. TCU
6. Alabama
7. Oklahoma
8. Oklahoma St
9. Auburn
10. California
11. Texas A&M
12. Southern Cal
13. Nebraska
14. Arizona
15. Wisconsin
16. Missouri
17. Arizona St
18. Arkansas
19. Georgia
20. South Carolina
21. Miami FL
22. LSU
23. Florida
24. Iowa
25. Florida St

Stay tuned for week 11 and 12 re-predictions using the new formula

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Handicapping 2010 NCAA Week 12

Sticking with the theme of validating TopoRank, here are the predictions for Week 12:

Fresno St4. Boise St16.930.551
Mississippi5. LSU20.315.5-167
6. StanfordCal5.46.5-834
7. WisconsinMichigan3.04.5-5.520
8. Nebraska19. Texas A&M3.2-(2.5-3)3
9. Ohio St20. Iowa4.533
10. Oklahoma StKansas21.722.5-2434
Purdue12. Michigan St22.719.5-214
13. Arkansas21. Mississippi St2.53-47
14. OklahomaBaylor10.47-7.529
15. MissouriIowa St10.611-1214
16. Virginia Tech24. Miami2.3-(2-2.5)-14
Troy17. South Carolina24.422.5-23.545
New Mexico St18. Nevada34.737.546
23. UtahSan Diego St4.12.5-34
25. Florida StMaryland4.14-6skip

The top 3 teams have this week off. TopoRank predicts two upsets: Texas A&M over Nebraska and Miami over Virginia Tech; the spread is in favor of the higher ranked team in each case (marked with a negative in my table to reflect the opposite polarity). Florida State vs Maryland is currently a skip. 9 of 15 games won't beat the spread.

A terrible week for predictions here. I hit on only 4 of 15, which translates into a whopping 49% loss. TopoRank v4 did considerably better.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

2010 College Football Rankings, Week 12

Updating TopoRank ratings after week 11:

1. Oregon
2. Alabama
3. Ohio State
4. Auburn
5. TCU
6. Stanford
7. Oklahoma St
8. Oklahoma
9. Boise St
10. South Carolina
11. Arkansas
12. Missouri
13. Texas A&M
14. LSU
15. Nebraska
16. Virginia Tech
17. Miami
18. Michigan St
19. Iowa
20. Florida
21. Pittsburgh
22. Southern Cal
23. Arizona
24. North Carolina St
25. Wisconsin

Wisconsin certainly seems out of place at #25, this rating is a result of several very weak teams on the schedule, and some close wins seem to be weighing them down a lot. Alabama, not Auburn, grades out as the best SEC team, and TCU is the top non-BCS team at #5.

Handicapping 2010 NCAA Week 11

We can use TopoRank to reverse-engineer the expected point differential between two teams. Let's see how it does for this week's Top 25 matchups. The predicted winner is bolded.
1. OregonCalifornia12.219-20.52
Georgia2. Auburn14.27.5-8.518
San Diego St3. TCU25.927-285
4. Boise StIdaho20.933.5-34.538
LA-Monroe5. LSU32.331-34skip
6. StanfordArizona St12.94.5-6.54
Indiana7. Wisconsin16.421.5-22.563
Kansas8. Nebraska24.734-34.517
Penn St9. Ohio St13.917.5-20.524
10. Oklahoma StTexas8.04-6.517
19. Mississippi St12. Alabama12.213-1427
13. IowaNorthwestern11.59.5-12skip
14. UtahNotre Dame6.45-6-25
UTEP15. Arkansas30.128.5-3031
Texas Tech16. Oklahoma13.916-16.538
24. Kansas St17. Missouri7.213-13.510
USC18. Arizona5.14-5.5skip
20. Virgina TechNorth Carolina3.73-5.5skip
21. NevadaFresno St7.48-9.51
23. South Carolina22. Florida3.76-7-22
25. Texas A&MBaylor5.53-3.512

I'm also tracking approximate spreads for these games and seeing how TopoRank would do. In each case, if TopoRank predicts a bigger win than the spread, I'd bet for the spread (and vice versa). This is slightly complicated by the fact that spreads vary by institution, so if TopoRank's prediction falls within a range of published spreads, the game will be ommitted ('skip').

This week, TopoRank made the right call 10 out of 17 times for a success rate of 58.8%. Assuming someone, somewhere, would pay 21:11 for a correct pick, the rate of return would be 12.3% ...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

2010 College Football Rankings, Week 11

TopoRank Top 25 after Week 11:

1. Oregon
2. TCU
3. Stanford
4. Boise St
5. Auburn
6. Ohio State
7. Alabama
8. Arkansas
9. Missouri
10. Oklahoma St
11. Oklahoma
12. Nebraska
13. Texas A&M
14. Iowa
15. Arizona
16. Virginia Tech
17. LSU
18. Florida
19. Utah
20. Kansas St
21. South Carolina
22. Michigan St
23. Wisconsin
24. Southern Cal
25. Nevada

The BCS results aren't out yet, but I expect to see some big differences again. Oregon and TCU stay on top. Compared to last week, we see Missouri, Utah and Arizona take big falls after ugly losses, and Stanford and Boise State jump to #3 and #4 with big wins. TopoRank still shows Auburn trailing these teams to round out the top 5.

If the season ended today, Oregon would face Auburn in the BCS Championship game, even though TCU and Boise State are more deserving. This is the strength of perception, especially about the SEC.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

2010 College Football Rankings, Week 9

I am using TopoRank to rank college football teams, and have compared my Week 9 standings and the BCS standings. I'm calling out the teams that ended up at least 5 spots lower or higher and examining if these re-rankings make sense. (*I've also added in the combined of two TopoRank algorithms)

Rank BCS TopoRank *TopoRank Combined
1 Oregon TCU Oregon
2 Auburn Oregon Missouri
3 TCU Oklahoma TCU
4 Boise State Alabama Oklahoma
5 Utah Missouri Nebraska
6 Alabama Stanford Alabama
7 Nebraska Boise State Stanford
8 Oklahoma Utah Auburn
9 Wisconsin Iowa Boise State
10 LSU Arizona Iowa
11 Ohio State Auburn Arizona
12 Missouri Nebraska Ohio State
13 Stanford Ohio State Utah
14 Michigan St Arkansas Arkansas
15 Arizona Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
16 Iowa Michigan St Oregon St
17 Oklahoma St Oregon St South Carolina
18 Arkansas Illinois Oklahoma St
19 South Carolina South Carolina LSU
20 Mississippi St Oklahoma St Michigan St
21 Baylor Mississippi St Florida St
22 Virginia Tech Florida USC
23 Nevada Florida St Mississippi St
24 Florida St USC Florida
25 NC St LSU Texas A&M

The Good (*-no longer 5 spots better):
Oklahoma* (BCS #8, TopoRank #3) - This is a stretch. Oklahoma's only good win was a demolition of Florida St, and narrow wins over Utah St, Air Force, Cincinnati don't paint a picture of a national powerhouse. An alternate version of TopoRank has them at #8 and I think that's much more correct. Perhaps I also need to average the results of different algorithms (the subjectivity in TopoRank is how much credit to give a team over another based on the final score differential).

Missouri (BCS #12, TopoRank #5) - Missouri was racking up dominating wins and a close win over a probably underappreciated (now 6-2) SDSU team when it ran into a backup running back who had a career game. This is more a case of a very strong team tripping a bit than a consistently semi-strong performer. I think the #5 ranking is much more justified than #12.

Stanford (BCS #13, TopoRank #6) - This team packs a major punch and has absolutely blown up 6 of its 8 opponents (Washington St made the score look a lot closer in the closing minutes). The Cardinal get it done and don't leave things to chance. Their one loss is against one of the best teams in the last decade, and they managed to respond late in the game to pull off a win against borderline-Top-25 USC. Name 6 teams you'd favor over them. I sure can't.

Iowa (BCS #16, TopoRank #9) - Iowa is bearing the brunt of having 2 losses, both of them being close games against good teams. Their wins have been mostly beatdowns, including a 37-6 trampling of then-#6 Michigan St. This team is strong and would be competitive against many of the teams ranked ahead of them.

Arizona* (BCS #15, TopoRank #10) - Arizona is smothering opposing offenses, scores points in bunches, and is one subpar half away from being 8-0. Their defense is consistently stepping up when the offense stalls. This team is never out of a game.

Virginia Tech (BCS #22, TopoRank #15) - A close loss to a top team followed by a letdown loss on 5 days rest has doomed this team. They've rallied to win 6 straight since, their best win being a comeback against #23 NC St. Perhaps the Hokies are benefiting too much from score differential. The other algorithm (which gives less credit for blowouts) has them at #18.

Oregon St (BCS unranked, TopoRank #17) - The Beavers took on two national title contenders and were overmatched in both games, but not badly. And Jake Locker had one of his 2 good games to pull out a double overtime win. Their big win is against Arizona, but really they're a victim of their schedule. Replace games against TCU and Boise St with weaker opponents and this team is likely 6-1 and in the thick of the 10-15 range.

Illinois* (BCS unranked, TopoRank #18) - 3 losses against very good teams (including then unranked Missouri) have made voters forget about this team. However, they turned in dominating performances in 4 of 5 wins, and 2 of the 3 losses to good teams should be considered competitive games. This is not the profile of an unranked team. Perhaps they should be borderling Top 25. The other algorithm currently places them #32, so an average of the two seems to place them just right.

The Bad (* - no longer 5 spots worse):
Auburn (BCS #2, TopoRank #11) - Yes, Auburn is 9-0. Yes, they have big wins over South Carolina, Arkansas and LSU. But, Auburn barely squeezed by SC and LSU, and pulled away from Arkansas after Ryan Mallett was hurt. And they had narrow wins over barely ranked Mississippi St and unranked Clemson and Kentucky. This paints a picture of a team that is certainly good, but sweating out wins against teams across the Top 25 and beyond.

Nebraska* (BCS #7, TopoRank #12) - Nebraska has 2 wins against good teams, a win that used to look good (Washington), 4 wins that carry no weight, a loss that looks increasingly bad (Texas). This team created a strong impression against weak competition, then pulled out 2 wins powered by big plays against good teams. This team has gotten a little bit lucky, and is not as consistently good as voters think.

LSU (BCS #10, TopoRank #25) - This team might actually be ranked closer to its true strength if Tennessee hadn't tried to defend with 13 men on the field. In addition to the biggest gift of the year and a solid win over Mississippi State, they've pulled off narrow wins over no-longer-ranked teams North Carolina, West Virginia and Florida, and never-ranked Vanderbilt and McNeese State. Add in a loss to overranked Auburn, and this team belongs in the tail end of the Top 25.

The Additional Bad by Combined TopoRank:
Boise State (BCS #4, Combined TopoRank #9) - With only 2 quality opponents, it's hard to argue that Boise State has shown it's a national contender. We specifically see the Combined TopoRank place less emphasis on the margins of victory, causing the Broncos to fall lower.

Utah (BCS #5, Combined TopoRank #13) - The Utes suffer for the same reason as Boise State in this assessment, and their blowout loss to TCU hurts them further. With their only other quality game being against no-longer-ranked Pitt, it's hard to make the case that Utah should be a top 5 team.

I think TopoRank places several teams more correctly with respect to their actual strength. I'll modify the rankings to incorporate both algorithms and republish* the results with Week 10 included. While it certainly is true that a team needs to prove itself by winning games (and not just playing good teams close), I contend teams are overly penalized for losses. Even if TopoRank can't overcome conventional thinking and 'gut feel', perhaps it can make a good handicapping tool for those of us headed to Vegas....
* I have updated the table with the Combined TopoRank results. I think they highlight the same over and underrated teams, and correct some of the extreme jumps. It also highlights the uncertainty of Boise State and Utah's rankings.