With the Outback Bowl behind us, we turn our sights to basketball season, but in the back of our minds, we know Iowa football is shaping up to be competitive next year, and we're excited about that. After the Nebraska game, I wrote the following post, but I decided to wait until after the season was truly over before posting it. Here now I present SPAM's assessment of Iowa 2014.
Just before the Ohio State game in '13, I developed an algorithm to predict points scored in Iowa's remaining matchups, which became known as Super Prediction Action Machine, or "SPAM."
It's pretty basic: look at yardage gained and against who, and yardage surrendered and against who, normalize the value of a yard against the best defense the team has faced, and vice versa. It's basically similar to adjusting for inflation. Calculate how much standardized yardage translates into points scored and allowed. Next, look at relative rankings of upcoming teams' offenses and defenses and model how many points their offense will score on our defense, and how many points our offense will score on their defense. Compare the results, declare the winner. The formula takes absolutely no account whatsoever of poll rankings, wins, or losses. It cares only about yardage gained and surrendered, points scored and surrendered, and relative national ranking of an overall offense and defense in FBS.
The results were good. By the last game of the Big 10 season, the model had accurately predicted the outcome of every single Iowa game except for Nebaska, and had predicted total points scored to within +/- 10%. I plan to run SPAM in the BHGP Pick 'Em next year, we'll see how it does.
Speaking of next year, I also ran the SPAM model on Iowa's 2014 schedule to see how SPAM thinks we'll do.
Now. BIG MAJOR CAVEAT: SPAM cannot take account of things like player development, injuries, graduations, coaching changes, etc. What this model REALLY represents is what would happen if 2013 Iowa played the 2013 incarnations of the teams on Iowa's schedule. A few of the games are highly, highly suspect because of the lack of common opponents in 2013 and difference in conferences. Also, I can't model UNI because they're not an FBS school and don't have a relative ranking, but we'll just assume that one's a win. Dangerous, I know.
With that in mind, here is how SPAM sees 2014:
|Northern Iowa||Assumed win||1-0 (0-0)|
|Ball State||L 26-29||1-1 (0-0)|
|Iowa State||W 31-21||2-1 (0-0)|
|Pitt||W 27-21||3-1 (0-0)|
|Purdue||W 33-17||4-1 (1-0)|
|Indiana||W 33-28||5-1 (2-0)|
|Maryland||W 27-21||6-1 (3-0)|
|Northwestern||W 27-21||7-1 (4-0)|
|Minnesota||W 24-21||8-1 (5-0)|
|Illinois||W 31-23||9-1 (6-0)|
|Wisconsin||L 27-20||9-2 (6-1)|
|Nebraska||W 27-24||10-2 (7-1)|
With a single loss in the Big 10 to Wisconsin, Wisconsin would have to be a 6-2 B1G team for Iowa to get into the championship game. Note also that the loss to Ball State at home is unlikely (though not, obviously, unthinkable) and primarily an artifact of the algorithm.
So does this make sense? Wisconsin actually might not be as big of a challenge, as the Badgers are going to lose a lot of talent off the current roster. Nebraska could shape up to be a tougher game, but it's at Kinnick. Northwestern this year was also worse than expected and could challenge next year. Finally, Minnesota is never a given, nor is anybody else, really, where Iowa is concerned.
So where does 10-2 get us? Well, that depends on where everybody else winds up, of course. Tune in after the MNC game on Monday when I post SPAM's complete win/loss matrix for the entire Big 10, and see who SPAM thinks is going to Pasadena on January 1, 2015.