Friday, August 27, 2010

Return of the Pick Six

While I was busy busting my ass at work, hosting out of town guests and trying to buy a used car, the venerable Associated Press on Saturday released their preseason Top 25 poll.

Let’s just pause a moment from the hecticness of life and acknowledge HOLY SHIT FOOTBALL IS ABOUT TO START.

Happy kitties love football season.

One of my favorite traditions from one of my favorite blogs was the Pick Six game from the now-defunct Blue Gray Sky. The rules are incredibly simple and allow for a season’s worth of fun. Since the guys stopped their blog this spring, I'm going to keep the Pick Six game going in our own little corner of the Internet.

How to play:

Divide the top 25 into 5 groups* of 5 based on the preseason AP Poll: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, etc. For this year's poll, the groups are:

A - Alabama, Ohio State, Boise State, Florida, Texas
B - Texas Christian, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, Virginia Tech
C - Oregon, Wisconsin, Miami, Southern Cal, Pittsburgh
D - Georgia Tech, Arkansas, North Carolina, Penn State, Florida State
E - Louisiana State, Auburn, Georgia, Oregon State, West Virginia

(By the way, it is funny to see Iowa was in the same grouping (B, 6-10) in 2005 as they are in the 2010 poll.)

2. You pick one team from each group, plus one unranked team. You're trying to pick the teams you think will finish highest in the final AP poll.

3. Each week I will (try to) update the standings. You get 25 points for having the #1 team, 24 points for the #2 team, on down to 1 point for the #25 team. Unranked teams get zero points.

4. The winner is the person at the end of the year with the most points (best-ranked teams).

The BGS guys gave away a prize. I don’t have a whole BGS team at my disposal, but if I can get 15 adult people (see below) to play, I’ll find and award a prize in the spirit of the original year swag of a 1977 Joe Paterno Coca-Cola Commemorative drink tray.

Booni enters his picks. (Might need Sarah's help.)

How to enter:

Send your picks and your screenname (or real name, if you're not into the whole Internet anonymity thing) to this email address: This ensures I will not see the entries until after the deadline. Picks are due Thursday, September 2, 2010, 6:55pm Central time ((EDIT: 6:25 pm ... games start a half-hour earlier than I thought)), which is before the start of the first game.

One thing that makes our contest great is the inclusion of non-football fans .... and non-people. Our cat has played for two years (here is his 2008 pickset, and his 2009 writeup) in addition to trying his paw at the NCAA brackets. All prognosticating kitties are invited to play the 2010 Pick Six.

Is John Clay healthy? Is Crick really the new Suh? Madison kitties get pensive.

And, this year’s contest is open to children! (Dogs, maybe, if you can make a good case, yes I'm talking to you Donald.) Only disclaimer is: non-sentient beings have to have their picks explained along with the submission. Inquiring minds want to know the "why" behind the picks. Your pickset and rationale may be featured over the course of the season.

Share this link/email with your friends. When it comes to Pick Six, the more the merrier. Good luck!

The Pick Six. So easy .... a Michigan Man can do it.

* -- Quintiles, if you wanna get statistical about it.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Predicting Won-Loss Records (the Easy Way)

I was looking for something else on the blog and stumbled across last year's "Predicting Won-Loss Records (the Easy Way)" and noticed that it was written in early August. It's early August right now, so in my most pragmatic, Midwestern, eatin' at Cracker Barrel voice, I said, "Welp, guess it's 'bout time to write this year's W-L predictions."

As a reminder, it's pretty difficult guess to what any team's final record will be, before a single practice has begun (of course that hasn't stopped the idiots at ESPN from doing exactly that). So instead, I use the great Phil Steele's 2010 College Football Preview as a proxy. I figure teams ought to beat the teams below them, lose to the ones above them, and anyone within a range is a toss-up. Knowing that injuries and upsets will factor in, you have a rough idea of a team's strength compared to who's on the schedule.

Phil has two ranking systems: the preseason Top 40 (prediction of where teams will finish, layers subjective info on top of data) and the Power Poll 120 (team strength in a vacuum, does not consider schedule, computer-driven). And this year, we have rankings from Paul Myerberg's Pre-Snap Read blog, formerly hosted at the New York Times (he is still mid-countdown, hence the question marks for teams yet unrevealed).

Let's start with the Hawkeyes. Coming off an awesome season capped by an Orange Bowl win and the quote of the year, Iowa returns a lot of talent and limited question marks. On paper, the sky's the limit. But what say the rankers?

?? Iowa13 /14
NA Eastern IllinoisNA / NA
88 Iowa State 76/NA
46 Arizona 23/25
101 Ball State 88/NA
?? Penn State18/18
37 Michigan 39/37
51 Michigan State 38/35
77 Indiana 84/NR
42 Northwestern 54/NR
?? Ohio State 2/2
83 Minnesota 79/NR

PSR = Pre-Snap Read. PP=Power Poll.

Both systems agree: the only competition should come from Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. I say SHOULD because they aren't looking at factors like rivalry (Iowa State and Minnesota will be seeking payback) and where/when games are played (like 9:35 Central in the desert of Tucson, Ariz.) But if Stanzi can cut down on interceptions, if the O-line can gel enough to open running lanes, if Clayborn continues to terrorize Division I football ... things are looking good.

As for the first year of the Brian Kelly Era:

PSRTeamPP /Preseason
32Notre Dame27/16
65 Purdue 67/NR
37 Michigan 39/37
51 Michigan State 38/35
?? Stanford 24/34
?? Boston College 37/30
29 Pittsburgh 40/27
92Western Michigan 73/NR
30 Navy 56/48
50 Tulsa 53/NR
?? Utah 44/28
85 Army 99/NR
?? Southern Cal14 /8

Myerberg has four ranked higher (we don't know how high yet), three toss-ups, and five that appear to be easy wins. ND would have to over-acheive to get to eight wins in that scenario--but that would mean a two-win improvement over last year.

On the other hand, Phil has a reputation for being high on the Irish, and it continues this year. He sees ND just outside the Top 25, with only Stanford and Southern Cal higher. That would be a 10-2 year. Frankly, when it comes to Irish football, I'll believe it when I see it.

Now on the surface you'd think Iowa has the harder schedule: traditional powers Penn State and Ohio State, plus two BCS-level out of conference games in Arizona and Iowa St (they are still in the Big teXIIas conference, right?) But take a closer look at Steele's preseason rankings--his estimation of where teams will END the season, based on factors like talent, opponents, and when you play those opponents. ND has 7 teams on his list, Iowa only 6.

Keep this in mind as the season goes along. We're only four weeks away!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Old Grey Lady Is Dead to Me

New York Times, you used to be a shining light in journalism. A model of success that everyone in the industry looked up to. I don't know what's happened to you in the last few years: first Jayson Blair, then this brain fart that you managed to make twice.

But this most recent fuckup is unforgivable.

In an article about how the University of Iowa overbooked its freshman class, I see this correction (click for bigger):

It's the Hawkeye State, you arrogant Gotham assholes. If you can't get your facts straight, stay out of "flyover country." We'll be just fine without you.