One Fan’s Opinion: Are You Feelin’ Lucky?

Written December 17th, 2012 by MaliBuckeye

Couldn't hurt

Ken checks in again…

Recently, there was an interesting, well done article on MGoBlog about lucky teams this past football season. Here is how ‘luck’ was defined for the article;

What I Am Measuring

Luck can mean a lot of things but for this, I am comparing a team’s actual wins this year versus taking their opponent adjusted performance and re-simulating the season with the exact same schedule. Two teams who play a tightly contested game are roughly the same on that Saturday. Over a long horizon these wins and losses tend to even out but over a 12 game season there will always be teams whose final records don’t quite match how they played throughout the year.

Basically, how did a team’s actual number of wins compare to the simulated number of wins. The larger the difference, the luckier the team.

Coach Hoke’s alma mater was 2012’s luckiest team. Ball State was simulated to win 6.4 games this year but pulled out a 9-3 record. [Ed: Hoke’s current team was simulated to win 7.6 games this year and won 8 games.] Beyond that, three of the four teams following Ball State are of high interest to Wolverine fans.

Team Actual Wins

Simulated Wins

Ball St 9 6.4
Ohio St 12 9.5
Mississippi St 8 5.8
Notre Dame 12 9.9
South Carolina 10 8.2

Michigan’s two biggest rivals and bowl opponent all crack the top 5. As noted above, Ohio St and Notre Dame were easy candidates for this list with perfect seasons, but their perfect seasons were the luckiest undefeated seasons in the seven years I have been measuring the luck factor, and by a considerable margin.

So, there you have it. Luck-o-the Irish jokes aside, it appears that Ohio State lucked their way to a couple extra wins this year.

Let’s take a look at luck from a different perspective; Los Vegas odds makers. They do this for a living, we don’t, or shouldn’t. We need to keep in mind that although initially a point spread  may be an indication of expected relative team performance, the spread does drift in response to for-entertainment-only ‘inputs’. It’s sort of a price-point where inputs are more or less in equilibrium. If you know what I mean.

Moving along, below are the results of OSU’s 2012 schedule along with Point Spread. In 10 of the 12 games, Ohio State was favored to win; and win they did, although a couple games were probably too close for comfort.

In the 2 games where OSU was the underdog, yet won, were, um, exciting as well. For the MSU game, holding LeVeon Bell to 45 yards probably contributed to the win. Not sure how that could have been simulated. I don’t recall any blatant ‘Sparty No!‘ moments that affected the outcome, but if any of you do, please include in comments.

The Wisconsin win, on the surface is inexplicable to me (again weigh in down below). A cursory read through the box score would have indicated a somewhat comfortable Wisconsin win, but alas the OSU defense, despite getting torched by M.Ball, managed to bog down the Badger offense often enough to keep the game close. And, a punt return for TD helped, too. Could Bielema have done a better job coaching to pull out a Wisconsin win? Possibly, but then that would bring us to the point of how much of OSU’s ‘luck’ was provided by season-long and in-game coaching by Urban Meyer & Staff?

Luck can take many forms, particularly when you define it to fit a theme, such as ‘over performing against some projection‘. However you account for the undefeated season, I do know that we’re lucky to be OSU fans these days.

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