Rose-colored Goggles

As of right now, the bookies have Oregon as 6-point favorites over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, and Vegas Odds tend to predict results pretty well. Crowd-sourcing results—like those used to make betting lines—have been shown to be incredibly accurate in many cases. The famous problem where a bunch of Schmos guess the weight of a cow comes to mind. Turns out, while most of them have no idea how much the cow weighs, the average (or sometimes median) of all their guesses ends up being really close to the true weight. However, when it comes to sports, there is a lot of misinformation, and the national media is able to skew betting patterns. So while Vegas has Oregon on top by a touchdown (complete with errant Maldonado kick), I’m a little more concerned.

It’s no secret the Pac-12 was not one of the best “power 6” conferences this season. Pardon me while I indulge myself with some numbers…

 

Conference

Win%

Margin

SEC

86.3%

19.5

Big 12

88.9%

16.9

Big 10

71.2%

13.2

Big East

65.1%

10.9

Pac 12

59.1%

7.7

ACC

61.1%

7.2

 

These are statistics from the non-conference schedule this season, including bowl games to this point. While I have not accounted for the strength of non-conference schedules, the data are clearly telling me that the Pac-12 was a cut below the Big-10. Both win-loss records and margin of victory support that. With that discrepancy in mind, let’s turn our attention to team statistics for the Ducks and Badgers.

Wisconsin averaged an impressive 44.6 points per game (5th nationally) in the supposedly grind-it-out Big Ten, just shy of Oregon’s 46.2 (3rd), so this game is likely to see some scoring. To continue this little chat, though, I first need to adjust all statistics to a per-possession basis to account for each team’s style of play. Here are your not-so-fun results, complete with national rankings in parentheses.

Team

Off

Def

Margin

Oregon

42.4 (7th)

23.0 (40th)

19.4 (8th)

Wisconsin

49.4 (1st)

21.0 (25th)

28.4 (2nd)

 

So the bad news for Ducks fans is that Wisconsin outperformed Oregon statistically in a more difficult conference. Skewing these numbers slightly, however, is the fact that Oregon played 9 games in conference while Wisconsin only played 8. Wisconsin filled that extra game in with the likes of South Dakota, beating the Coyotes 59-10 in its final non-conference game. Oregon had to play that extra game in conference, and I would bet that even Colorado is better than South Dakota. Additionally, Oregon had to play LSU, the nation’s top-ranked team. Wisconsin’s big non-conference game was the OSU Beavers. Fittingly both Oregon and Wisconsin beat the Beavs by exactly 35 points.

Who knows if the difference in schedules is enough to make up for Wisconsin’s advantages in margin of victory and conference strength, but it doesn’t seem so obvious that Oregon is a 6-point favorite anymore.

I’m going to take off the rose-colored goggles that so many Duck fans seem to be wearing and cheer for them as the underdog in this game. It’s more fun to cheer for the underdog anyway.

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