Some Numerical Predictions for Saturday

It’s always interesting to see everyone’s predictions for a game. However, they’re not always justified. They’re often backed up solely by emotion, hunches, selective memory, and just plain old guessing.

So, I’ve devised a method for predicting the yards and points for Saturday’s SEC Championship Game. I looked at all the games Alabama and Florida have played against BCS conference teams and found out how the teams’ offensive and defensive performances differed in comparison to what you’d expect.

So for instance, Clemson gains an average of 339.33 yards and scores 25.5 points a game. Against Alabama, the Tigers got 188 yards and 10 points. Therefore, Alabama held Clemson 151.33 yards and 15.5 points below their season averages. On the same token, Miami gives up an average of 315.75 yards and 24.2 points per game. Against Miami, Florida got 345 yards and 26 points. Therefore, Florida gained 29.25 yards and 1.8 points more than the Hurricanes’ season averages.

Overall, Alabama allowed an average of 79.43 yards and 9.78 points per game fewer than you’d expect given the Tide’s opponents’ season averages. Alabama also gained 57.62 yards and 9.97 points per game more than you’d expect given the opponents.

Overall, Florida allowed an average of 53.45 yards and 12.63 points per game fewer than you’d expect given the Gators’ opponents’ season averages. Florida also gained 125.81 yards and 22.53 points per game more than you’d expect given the opponents.

In order to turn these numbers into predictions, I looked at both sides of the game to come up with reasonable ranges for the two teams. I think it’s easier to show it in table form than explain it, so that’s just what I’m going to do. By the way, “Pred.” is short for “prediction.”

Alabama SECCG Predictions
UA For UF Effect Pred. 1 UF Allowed UA Effect Pred. 2 Avg. Pred.
Yards 370.33 -53.45 317.38 275.67 +57.62 333.29 325.34
Points 32.08 -12.63 19.45 12.3 +9.97 22.27 20.86

So for Alabama, we get a range of about 317 to 333 yards, with 325 being right down the middle. We also get a range of about 20 to 22 points, with 21 being right down the middle.

Now, let’s do the same thing for Florida.

Florida SECCG Predictions
UF For UA Effect Pred. 1 UA Allowed UF Effect Pred. 2 Avg. Pred.
Yards 449.2 -79.43 369.77 248.5 +125.81 374.31 372.04
Points 46.33 -9.78 36.55 11.5 +22.53 34.03 35.29

So for Florida, we get a range of about 370 to 374 yards, with 372 being right down the middle. We also get a range of about 34 to 37 points, with 35 being right down the middle.

Based on what these teams tend to do to their competition, one would expect Florida to win 35-21, with the Gators holding a 372-325 advantage in total yards. Honestly, those figures don’t seem outlandish in any way to me.

Obviously though, there’s a reason why they play the games. On top of that, the game will be played in the Georgia Dome rather than a sterile laboratory where the teams will play exactly as their averages suggest. And besides, each team’s averages cannot yet include the game against each other, and every new data point generally makes them more accurately reflect the true team underneath.

Even so, this method at least measures how the teams have done relative to their opponents. If you prefer looking at the effect that the teams’ offenses and defenses have on their opponents by percentages rather than by absolute numbers, then here you go.

Alabama SECCG Predictions
UA For UF Effect Pred. 1 UF Allowed UA Effect Pred. 2 Avg. Pred.
Yards 370.33 84.4% 313.12 275.67 118.2% 325.91 319.52
Points 32.08 50.3% 16.13 12.3 145% 17.84 16.98

Not a whole lot changes for the Tide. They lose about six yards and a field goal in this case. What about Florida?

Florida SECCG Predictions
UF For UA Effect Pred. 1 UA Allowed UF Effect Pred. 2 Avg. Pred.
Yards 449.2 76.7% 344.36 248.5 140.4% 348.83 346.59
Points 46.33 58.7% 27.19 11.5 200.8% 23.09% 25.14

Wow. The yardage drops by nearly 30 and the expected scoring drops by 10 points. I think a 25-17 game is more what most folks who are calling the game things like “Ali vs. Frazier” may be expecting.

I think it is worth noting that while Alabama has a slight edge in real scoring defense, giving up 11.5 points a game to Florida’s 12.3, the Gators hold their opponents to a smaller percentage of their normal scoring output. Also consider that when you throw out the game against the Citadel, in which the Bulldogs scored 19 meaningless points against backups, UF’s scoring defense drops to 11.6 points allowed a game. That makes the Tide and Gators basically even, though with Florida allowing an even smaller percentage of opponents’ norms.

I’ve been wrong every time I’ve said this since October began, but I don’t expect this to be a blowout. Alabama is a very capable team, and their style of play along probably prevents Florida from winning by more than about 21 in anything but a fantasy scenario.

Alabama can win this game, no doubt about it. If the teams play a rough approximation of how they have the whole year though, it appears Florida will win.

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