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Machine Learning: Week 1 Recap, Predicting The Big 10 Weekend Slate for Week 2

After a wild week one, we’re back to beat Vegas in week two.

What Is This?

BizarroMath is a predictive statistical algorithm for NCAA football games, based on a prior iteration known as the Super Prediction Action Machine. If you want more information, we did a whole series of posts about it before the season began. Each week we recap the prior weekend’s action and look ahead to future action. All lines courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook as of 10:00am, Monday, September 5, 2022.

Last Week Recap

How is the algorithm performing?

[Saturday, 9/3/22, 10:25am]

As I write this, Iowa kicks off shortly. After tabulating the Friday night games, BizMa is 3-3 ATS and 1-5 on the O/U in combined Week 0/Week 1 action. I’m actually more disappointed in the spread than the O/U. It’s just as difficult to be consistently wrong as it is to be consistently right. If, once we have a decent sample size, BizarroMath is wrong 80% of the time on the O/U, you could retire after one season of betting against it. But a bad algorithm in this context is one that does no better than random guessing: 50/50. So far, BizarroMath is bad at spreads and really good at getting the O/U wrong. We’ll see if today’s slate brings water back to level.

Also, I’m updating the numbers in response to the Thursday and Friday games and I just found a ... not quite a bug, more like a math error from not thinking through opponent adjustments in the situation where every team has, at most, one adjustable opponent. It doesn’t impact the projections, but it causes the adjustment loop to spiral out of control, so I’m updating the system to forego opponent adjustments until there are at least three data points to work with. For most teams, that means I won’t do opponent adjustments until week 4.

[Saturday, 9/3/22, 6:49pm]

Iowa is 1-0 and I didn’t have the heart to brandish the #VictoryHorn for that win.

With only Ohio State left to play (among the games for which I have lines), the machine sits at 5-3 ATS and 2-6 O/U. At worst, we’ll finish Week 1 at 5-4, which translates 55.55% correct, substantially better than random guessing. I’m cautiously encouraged.

[Sunday 9/3/22, 10:02]

Notre Dame covered in 21-10 slugfest, putting BizarroMath at a very good 6-3 ATS and an almost unbelievably bad 2-7 O/U. Folks, if that 2-7 holds up over the season, we’ll all own private islands this time next year by betting against it.

And I am compelled to note for the record that Illinois SHOULD have beat Indiana. The Illini were inexplicably denied what was clearly a touchdown, and even then, it took a blown defensive series in which Illinois gave up a late score with under 30 seconds to play to get Indiana the win. Had Illinois won, BizarroMath would be 7-2 ATS for an absurd 77.78% win rate.

ATS: 6-3 (66.67% correct)

O/U: 2-7 (22.2% correct)

Big 10 Week 1 Recap

Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022

Penn State at Purdue

Vegas Says: PSU -3.5, O/U 53.5

BizarroMath Says: PSU -2.48 (Purdue cover - MISS), O/U 38.26 (under - MISS)

One Sentence Recap: Somebody check the gasket seal on Nebraska, it seems to be leaking into West Lafayette.

New Mexico State at Minnesota

Vegas Says: MN -36, O/U 53

BizarroMath Says: MN -39.33 (MN cover - HIT), O/U 60.86 (over - MISS)

One Sentence Recap: Mo Ibrahim is back on the field after last year’s season-ending injury, and he’s still 100% Mo Ibrahim.

Friday, Sept. 2, 2022

Illinois at Indiana

Vegas Says: IN -1.5, O/U 46

BizarroMath Says: IL -10.48 (Illinois cover - MISS), O/U 40.61 (under - MISS)

One Sentence Recap: Exhibit A in the case of The Game is an Elusive and Fickle Mistress: Illinois had a 90.5% win probability when Indiana called timeout with 3:09 to play, and lost by a field goal.

Western Michigan at Michigan State

Vegas Says: MSU -21, O/U 54.5

BizarroMath Says: MSU -22.98 (MSU cover - HIT), O/U 65.02 (over - MISS)

One Sentence Recap: When the machine doesn’t like you but picks you to cover anyway, you better cover.

Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022

Vegas Says: MI -30.5, O/U 62

BizarroMath Says: MI -36.74 (MI cover - HIT), O/U 58.44 (under - HIT)

One Sentence Recap: Michigan won this game the way a defending Big 10 conference champion should.

Buffalo at Maryland

Vegas Says: MD -24, O/U 64.5

BizarroMath: MD -18.79 (Buffalo cover - HIT), O/U 65.48 (over - MISS)

One Sentence Recap: Maryland held Buffalo to 268 yards of offense, but perhaps most notable is that the Turts moved the ball at a clip of 5.7 ypc on the ground (for comparison, notoriously run-happy Iowa managed 1.6 ypc against an FCS opponent).

Notre Dame v. Ohio State

Vegas Says: OSU -17, O/U 59

BizarroMath: OSU -5.38 (Notre Dame cover - HIT), O/U 63.05 (over - MISS)

One Sentence Recap: Notre Dame’ s schedule after this loss is a room temperature bowl of tapioca pudding, so thank the Maker the Irish lost to the only legitimate competition on their schedule until they get Clemson (at home, of course) the first week of November.

Rutgers at Boston College

Vegas Says: n/a

BizarroMath: BC -2.33, O/U 38.21

One Sentence Recap: My numbers like Rutgers more than anybody else does and the lines I saw on this game favored Boston College by about a touchdown, so as far as I’m concerned, this would have been an ATS win for Skynet.

South Dakota State at Iowa

Vegas Says: n/a

One Sentence Recap: On Thursday, I said of this game:

This game is going to be like getting a cavity filled: a little painful at first, quickly followed by numbness and the inability to speak intelligibly, and although you’ll be really glad when it’s over, you’re still going to feel pretty lousy about it.

and I was extremely correct.

Vegas Says: n/a

One Sentence Recap: When you can’t win one-score games, you get around it by winning two-score games.

Illinois State at Wisconsin

Vegas Says: n/a

One Sentence Recap: I had this game on while I was reorganizing the papers in my file cabinet, and the file cabinet project was so much more interesting that I didn’t look up at the television a single time, and I just assume Wisconsin won by 30 points by handing the ball off 50 times.

Iowa Game-by-Game Projections - Week 2

This early in the season, I do not put a ton of weight into Iowa’s statistics. And, in BizarroMath, I ignore games against FCS opponents entirely (though in this case, I probably shouldn’t...). At any rate, for statistical purposes, Iowa has no usable data yet this year, though many of the Hawkeyes’ opponents do. But, even those numbers are heavily influenced by last year’s data to avoid the potentially outsized bias imparted by small sample sizes. And, as mentioned above, there isn’t enough data to do opponent-adjustments yet. With those caveats in mind, here is how BizarroMath projects Iowa’s remaining opponents. Notably, the Hawkeyes are a home dog to Iowa State by -3.68 points, giving Iowa a win percentage of 44%-ish. After Iowa’s performance against SDSU in week 1, that feels generous.

Iowa Season Projections

With a win in the books, at least 0-12 is off the table, but in the algorithm, it wasn’t on the table in the first place. Thus, this win doesn’t create any loss probability to distribute, and doesn’t significantly impact Iowa’s overall season projections. This early in the season, we simply don’t have enough data about the competition to move the needle much, and what little data we do have is not heavily weighted.

In this chart, the “Ceiling” column represents the chances that Iowa does not reach this record. For example, there’s a 73.24% chance that Iowa does not get to 8-4. Likewise, the “Floor” column represents the chances that Iowa does reach that record. That is, there is a 74.55% chance that Iowa wins 6 games, and just a 2.60% chance of repeating last year’s 10 win mark.

The Championship Race

Little has changed in the championship race other than Nebraska’s loss to division foe Northwestern puts a big dent in their odds. The Cornhuskers tumble from 3rd to 5th, taking Iowa’s old spot and pushing the Hawkeyes up to 4th in the West. I’m a little mystified by the flip-flop of Michigan and Ohio State - not that it happened, but rather that it’s so lopsided. This might be due to a lack of opponent adjustments at this point in the season and Michigan’s comparatively bigger statistical win, so I wouldn’t read too much into it just yet.

The conference race itself looks just about right, though I think most would have Michigan State a little higher.

Week 2 Upcoming Action

Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022

Arkansas State (1-0) at Ohio State (1-0)

Vegas Says: OSU -43.5, O/U 68.5

BizarroMath Says: OSU -59.47 (OSU cover), O/U 85.45 (an absurd over)

One Sentence Prediction: This here is fixin’ to be an ass-whoopin’.

Western Illinois (0-1) at Minnesota (1-0)

Vegas Says: n/a

BizarroMath Says: n/a

One Sentence Prediction: The Flecking didn’t happen last week, so perhaps this is the week where the Gophers are losing by 10 points in the 4th quarter to an FCS team and manage to eek out an improbable comeback with luck and chicanery.

Duke (1-0) at Northwestern (1-0)

Vegas Says: NU -10, O/U 56

BizarroMath Says: NU -9.39 (Duke cover), O/U 50.72 (under)

One Sentence Prediction: Sickos Committee Alert is on, as my numbers don’t like Northwestern, but they like Duke even less.

Ohio (1-0) at Penn State (1-0)

Vegas Says: PSU -24.5, O/U 53.5

BizarroMath Says: PSU -35.86 (PSU cover), O/U 52.33 (under)

One Sentence Prediction: I don’t think Purdue is as good this year as they were last year, so the fact that PSU barely beat them in a sloppy, error-filled game inspires little confidence, but they ought to roll Ohio.

Washington State (1-0) at Wisconsin (1-0)

Vegas Says: WI -18, O/U 46.5

BizarroMath Says: WI -12.27, (WashSt cover), O/U 43.84 (under)

One Sentence Prediction: This is closer than I expected, but Washington State’s opponent-adjusted 30.75 ppg on offense and 20.79 on defense actually aren’t bad at all, and compared to Wisconsin’s 33.16 ppg on offense and 13.59 ppg on defense, that line makes some sense.

Maryland (1-0) at Charlotte (0-2)

Vegas Says: MD -28, O/U 66

BizarroMath: MD -21.78 (Charlotte cover), O/U 69.18 (over)

One Sentence Prediction: Maryland should win, but the Terps didn’t exactly light the scoreboard up last week against Buffalo, and I’d say they should be able to open ‘er up in this game, but it is inexplicably being played on the road,

Akron (1-0) at Michigan State (1-0)

Vegas Says: MSU -34.5, O/U 56

BizarroMath: MSU -50.06 (MSU cover), O/U 65.2 (over)

One Sentence Prediction: I don’t know much about Akron but their defense was TERRIBLE last year and, while my numbers are not big fans of Sparty, they recognize that MSU ought to be able to light up the scoreboard here.

¡El Assico! (Iowa State (1-0) at Iowa (“1”-0))

Vegas Says: IA -3.5 (for some reason), O/U 41.5 (for some reason)

BizarroMath: ISU -3.49 (ISU cover and upset), O/U 45.71 (over)

One Sentence Prediction: Ignore the machine and hammer that under and pray for Iowa to win 2-0.

Virginia (1-0) at Illinois (1-1)

Vegas Says: IL -5, O/U 54

BizarroMath: IL -3.75 (VA cover), O/U 55.23 (over)

One Sentence Prediction: Illinois gets a week after this to tune up for a home contest with Chattanooga before heading to Wisconsin, and I think Bert rolls out enough defense here to keep Virginia at bay.

Indiana State at Purdue (0-1)

Vegas Says: n/a

BizarroMath: n/a

One Sentence Prediction: Purdue should roll over the Sycamores in a much-needed redemption win before they go on the road to play at Syracuse.

Wagner at Rutgers (1-0)

Vegas Says: n/a

BizarroMath: n/a

One Sentence Prediction: What’s a Wagner?

Georgia Southern (1-0) at Nebraska (1-1)

Vegas Says: NE -22.5, O/U 60

BizarroMath: NE -30.34 (NE cover), O/U 52.29 (under)

One Sentence Prediction: Nebraska did not exactly show out against a non-state directional Dakota, but they did get their first win since last year’s lone conference win over Northwestern, and I think they’ll comfortably notch back-to-back victories at the expense of an outmatched opponent.

Hawai’i (0-2) at Michigan (1-0)

Vegas Says: MI -50, O/U 64.5

BizarroMath: MI -50.63 (MI cover), O/U 67.83 (over)

One Sentence Prediction: Michigan is playing the football Iowa dreams of playing and they might be able to hang 50 on the ‘Bows without passing the ball.

Idaho at Indiana (1-0)

Vegas Says: n/a

BizarroMath Says: n/a

One Sentence Prediction: It’s not crazy to suggest that Indiana could be 5-0 when they face Michigan on Oct. 8, and they’ll probably be 2-0 when they face Western Kentucky in week 3.

The Fine Print

Gambling Caveat: I do not bet on sports. I run these numbers because I’m a nerd who loves math and football and this is my idea of fun. This should go without saying, but if you do bet, you should do so based on your own independent assessment, not the half-baked statistical musings of an Internet rando.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.