There are a number of different ways to predict how a season will go for a particular team. You could throw out a record, which may be the simplest way and the one we see the most: “Florida? New coaching staff, new offense, new defense, tough October…let’s see. 8-4.” You could go one step further, truly look at the team and the schedule, and come up with an educated guess: “Will Muschamp definitely brings something new to the team, but the Gators will still lose to Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and FSU. Even Auburn and Georgia are in question. I’ll say 7-5 as a floor, 8-4 is a definite possibility, and 9-3 at the best.” Or you could do what One Eyed Willy and I did…
It’s easy to look at a team’s schedule and say “the Gators will lose to the Crimson Tide,” but can you be sure of it? Of course not; it’s all a guess. Based on what we know, it seems likely that Alabama will beat Florida in 2011; so likely that most would pencil in a loss for the Gators. But would the Tide win both times if they played each other twice? What about five times? 10? 100? Upsets happen and in college football they happen a lot, so much so that sometimes they may not even truly be upsets. Due to that, if that particular game was played 100 times, you might think Florida could come out on top 20 or 30 or even 40 times. You might not be so sure of that “definite” Alabama win. So that’s what we did.
Willy and I looked at the entire SEC schedule for 2011 and picked how many times out of 100 we thought each game would turn out. For each SEC team, we looked at all 12 of their games and separately came up with a number of wins out of 100 we thought that team would get. We totaled those wins over the entire schedule up, divided that number by 100, and got the number of wins the team was likely to end up with based on our predictions. Confused? Here’s a basic example:
Let’s say you think if Florida and FAU played 100 times, the Gators would win 75 of those matchups. Now let’s say you felt the same way for each of the remaining 11 games on Florida’s schedule. That’s 12 matchups and 75 wins per game. 12 multiplied by 75 is 900; 900 divided by 100 (because in reality, the Gators don’t play each team 100 times; they play each team once) is nine. Therefore, based on your win number for each game, you believe Florida will end up with nine victories in 2011 or have a record of 9-3. Why does our convoluted mathematical exercise work (we think)? Well, in that example, you have given the Gators a 75% chance to win each game. 75% of 12 games played is nine. 9-3. It works (again, we think)!
With that, I won’t take complete credit (or blame) for coming up with this. I’ve seen similar prediction methods before. I’m not sure if any are exactly the same, but they may be out there and I’ll apologize for not linking to any because I can’t for the life of me remember where or when I might have stumbled across other ways to predict wins and losses. If you’ve ever done one, thank you; a piece of what you’ve done may have found its way into this somehow.
With this exercise, we did set two rules and discussed a couple of others. One rule is obvious: A single game must have consistent results. If you believe Florida would beat Alabama 20 times, then you also believe Alabama would beat Florida 80 times. The other was set to force each of us to pick an overall winner: No matchup can be 50-50. You have to go one way or another even if your chosen mark is 51-49. Ultimately, we’re attempting to predict outcomes and there are no longer ties in college football.
We also discussed a maximum number of wins and while we both ended up using the same maximum, we didn’t make it so it had to be that way. You’ll notice below that neither of us gave out a 100-win score. Again, upsets happened. They may be incredibly unlikely in a number of situations, but neither of us was confident enough in any game to say “100 times out of 100 that team will win.” A number of unforeseen circumstances could occur. Do I believe Florida is an overwhelming favorite over FAU? Yes, I do. Do I think the Gators could win that game 100 times in a row? I’m not positive.
For the most part, you’ll notice we went in five-point increments. There probably isn’t that much of a difference between a 73 and a 75 and we both have day jobs, so time can be limited. You will see some 51-49 situations, some where we went 99-1, and one where I landed on 98-2 (I explain this one below), but most of the picks are done by fives or tens.
Now that you’ve read through the muck (assuming you didn’t just jump ahead to the graphics), here it is. Team by team, game by game, our picks and averages, and some added thoughts.
• Eight wins is reasonable for the Gators. We predict wins over FAU, UAB, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Furman as near sure things.
• I’m a little more confident in Florida over Tennessee than Willy, but he believes the Gators stand a better chance against the Tide than I do.
• We are exactly flipped on Auburn and Georgia.
• Overall, we were very close on our Florida prediction. I was very surprised I actually came out below Willy as I’m usually the optimist of the group when it comes to the Gators. The difference is easy to see: Willy has just a slightly higher confidence in Florida over South Carolina and FSU than I do.
• Despite starting the season with back-to-back losses, we both have Georgia rebounding to have a decent season, but with an interesting observation. I come in at 8.62 wins above and Willy ends up at 8.12, but we both have the Bulldogs favored in nine games. Georgia’s difference is small, but someone below has a much larger separation.
• I have the Bulldogs with a better chance to win than Willy in six games. Willy has them with a better chance than I do in only one. The biggest difference comes against the Volunteers.
• For me, Georgia goes as does Aaron Murray. I gave them the benefit of the doubt in more than a few situations because in almost all of their games, the Bulldogs will have the best quarterback on the field.
• Georgia is the first team where, if you rounded up or down, we would have different final records. TBG: 9-3. OEW: 8-4.
• The closest of the bunch, we were only separated by 0.01. Whatever the difference, neither of us has the Wildcats bowling.
• Making things more difficult for Kentucky, one of their wins – Ole Miss – comes in at a 51. This could be a rough season for the Wildcats.
• Now here’s the wildcard. Look at the rundown again. We each have South Carolina as the favorite in every single game. When we compared results, we both said if pressed we would favor the Gamecocks in every game. Then we asked each other “will they go 12-0?” The answer was no. I don’t see South Carolina going undefeated and neither does Willy. I don’t know anyone that does, but we both would probably take them in every game if we had to.
• It’s also noteworthy that while we do have the Gamecocks favored in each of their games, the wins number doesn’t come close to reflecting that. We would have expected at least 10 wins from a situation like this, but I’m the high and I only came in at 9.29.
• South Carolina’s schedule is what does it. A relatively worry-free non-conference slate and avoiding Alabama and LSU in from the SEC West and it does make sense.
• Derek Dooley may be building something at Tennessee, but it’ll take a season or two more. The schedule doesn’t help the Vols in 2011 and they should find themselves bowling, but barely.
• You never want to see a season ahead of you when you’re only favored in the following six matchups: the four non-conference games, Vandy and Kentucky.
• There are opportunities for Tennessee to score the upset or two and make a move forward, but it will be an uphill climb. Of the “losses,” we only went above 35 once when Willy gave the Vols a 40 against Georgia.
• And here’s the bottom of the SEC East, and not just because we went through the division in alphabetic order. Willy came in at 2.40 wins for the Commodores, while I went a little higher with 3.11.
• Similar to South Carolina, but in the other direction, Vandy is only favored by each of us in one game, but comes out higher in the chart.
• If the season does turn out this way for the Commodores, the win over Elon may be the only reason to celebrate. While Vandy doesn’t come out on top in the other 11, they’ll have to take every advantage they can to find wins.
• And here’s where I explain my 98-2. There have been a number of 99s handed out already. Alabama could be given a 99 against Vandy and I wouldn’t argue with you, but I gave the Commodores one more point for the SEC factor. Teams play just a little harder in conference games. They give just a little more. The Tide are the overwhelming favorite, but I have no problem given the Commodores that one extra win.
• I only dip below 75 for Alabama once and that’s when the Tide take on LSU. Willy only dips below 70 once, for the same matchup. Despite that, we don’t project Alabama to go 12-0 and play for a national championship. Or do we?
• The Tide, like the Gamecocks above, are favored in every game by both of us. I have them as stronger favorites than Willy against Penn State, Arkansas, Florida, Vandy, Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. That’s a big list. Willy doesn’t have them favored more than I do once. Seems I’m on the Bama bandwagon in 2011, although I’m not sure I am.
• It’s odd seeing a team most have in their top three come in at 10.50 and 9.87, but there are uncertainties on the Tide squad that could lead to an “upset” or two at the hands of SEC opponents.
• However, Arkansas has a few close ones and with some swings could end up with a better record. They come in between 45 and 60 for both of us for the following matchups: Texas A&M, Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State.
• It’s all on the defense. The offense will be able to score, but the defense will have to keep the Razorbacks in games.
• The defending national champs and we both have Auburn ended the regular season somewhere in the 7-5 ballpark? Losing someone like Cam Newton will do that to a team.
• It’s not all bad for the Tigers; they come in between 40 and 49 for four matchups. Split those games, win the ones they’re supposed to, and score an upset and seven wins quickly becomes eight or possibly nine.
• It all depends on those first four. If Auburn can head into the South Carolina game 4-0, things may be looking up.
• Another surprise is LSU. The Tigers are no. 4 in both major polls, but further down the lists of most fans. I ranked them no. 8 and the overall SB Nation poll had them at no. 6. Suspensions will and uncertainty at quarterback will do that.
• In terms of favored status, we both have LSU going 10-2. In terms of the wins exercise, 9-3 seems more likely, with 8-4 a possibility.
• The Tigers’ schedule won’t be easy. Adding Oregon to an SEC schedule and having to play the Ducks without some of your key players will make the road rough for LSU.
• I found it extremely hard to get through the Bulldogs’ schedule. I like Dan Mullen and think he has a great future at Mississippi State and beyond. Nine wins seems like a possibility every season, but then I look at the schedule: Auburn, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, and even Ole Miss to close it out. When all is said and done, we only have the Bulldogs favored in seven games.
• Of those five where we consider Mississippi State to be the underdog, only one could be considered to be by a large margin: Alabama. So they’ve got that going for them.
• Neither of us was really sure what to think of Ole Miss this season. Although the Rebels get Vandy and Kentucky out of the SEC East, the West should role them over. It could be a long one.
• Look at it this way: I had Ole Miss at 15 or below for five games and Willy had them in that margin for four. Although I do have to question Willy’s 30 against Georgia.
• SEC East order of finish: South Carolina – 9.02, Georgia – 8.41, Florida – 8.08, Tennessee – 6.57, Kentucky – 5.35, Vanderbilt – 2.76.
• SEC West order of finish: Alabama – 10.19, LSU – 8.68, Arkansas – 8.04, Mississippi State – 7.91, Auburn – 7.14, Ole Miss – 4.62.
• Those are based on averages. We actually had one order difference if you look at it individually. I have Arkansas third in the SEC West and Willy has Mississippi State in that position.
• If our math is correct (and this is a big if), there are 96 total games played. We didn’t differ on a single one. Let me rephrase that: we differed in the number of wins given out, but there wasn’t a single game in which I said win and Willy said loss and vice versa. That’s eerily creepy and means we spend much too much time talking college football with each other.
• None of the records we ended up with seem that unreasonable. Alabama at 10-2? It could happen. The Gators ending up 8-4? I could see it. The Tide and Gamecocks heading to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game? Sure.
• Willy had higher win totals for seven of the 12 teams, which might as well be a wash.
• What we project to be the bottom of the SEC East was also where we were the closest with each other and farthest apart. Kentucky was only separated by 0.01, while Vandy had a difference of 0.71.
• We were very close – within 0.17 of each other with five teams: Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and LSU.
So there you have it. Our predictions for the 2011 SEC schedule. It’s mathematic because we used adding and such. It may not be accurate, but those are our picks. Of course, they’ll all change the first time we see one of these teams play, but for now, we’re comfortable where we stand.
If you feel like doing your own, and bless you if you do, let us know the results. We’re sure there are plenty out there that won’t come as close to our picks as we did.