Friday, August 30, 2013

Opening Weekend: Why the ACC is in a Can't Win Situation

If you listen closely enough, you can here the opening chants of S-E-C! S-E-C! ringing out from the bowels of Columbia, SC as South Carolina opened their season with a 17 point win over UNC.

And while USC fans, and their SEC brethren, ought to be proud of the Gamecock's showing, to what extent should the SEC celebrate? Should they go all out? Should this win even come as a surprise (USC was favored by nearly two touchdowns). Based on the Vegas spread (USC +12.5), most would consider a UNC win to be a significant upset, not the other way around. I understand the purpose of point spreads is not to predict a winner, but rather attempt to receive equal betting on both teams. But when a dude uses nearly 10,000 games featuring BCS teams to find correlations between point spreads and winning percentages, I think it's okay to compare point spreads for this weekend's games to predict the probable winning percentages for ACC vs SEC.

For instance, a 12.5 point favorite playing at home (like USC) wins 83.87% of their games. Should the ACC be penalized when historical data only gives UNC a 16% chance of winning? Would we hold the MAC or C-USA to the same standards?

Nationally, many folks are dubbing this weekend's ACC vs SEC battles as a chance for the ACC to show some muscle and prove they belong. Don't get me wrong, the ACC could use a few wins over the SEC to quiet the critics, but should we really use this weekend's games as the measuring stick?

The SEC will roll out what are arguably their three best teams (Ranked #1,#5,& #6), while the ACC only brings one horse to the race (#8 Clemson). The ACC's other two teams? More pony than thoroughbred (both teams are ARV's - Also Receiving Votes). The result is NCAA's #1/#1 team in Alabama facing a VT team picked to finish 2nd in their division; a division that sent a 6-6 team to the Championship game last year. Game 2 is #6 USC, a team picked to finish 2nd to UGA in the SEC East hosting a UNC team picked to finish 3rd in the ACC Coastal Division (see 6-6 reference above to reinforce point). Finally, #5 Georgia, the media's preseason pick to win the East faces Clemson, the media's pick to win the ACC.

Of the three games, only the Clemson v Georgia game should carry any real weight. The others? With Alabama favored by 20 and USC already coasting to a 17 point win, the games won't be overly competitive.

Why should the ACC be held responsible if two of their middle of the pack teams are unable to win against the SEC's best? What did the SEC actually prove?

To better illustrate the discrepancies, we will compare the current point spread against the resulting winning percentage to determine the probabilities of the ACC earning some national respect.

The three games between the ACC and the SEC:

    UNC at USC: USC favored by 12.5 at home
    VT & Bama: Bama favored by 20 on a neutral field
    UGA @ Clemson: UGA favored by 2 on the road
Already, Vegas expects the SEC to win all three games, two of which should not be even be close. If we compare the point spreads to historical winning percentages, we get the following:

USC has an 83.87% chance of winning, which they did
Alabama has a 94.34% chance of winning
UGA has 77.11% chance of winning

Using the above historical winning percentages and EXST301 from my college days, the SEC has a 99.8% chance of winning at least 1 game (which they've done), 94.7% chance of winning two games, and a 61.0% chance of all three.

Conversely, the ACC has a 39.0% chance of winning a single game (Go Tigers), a 5.3% chance of winning two games, and a 0.21% chance of winning all three games (which is no longer possible - shocker).

So, the ACC has a just over 2 in 5 chance to win a single game and a less than 4% chance to win the series, and yet, when the statistical probabilities play out (and the ACC doesn't win a game), the S-E-C! chants will only increase. And the fact that they were supposed to win won't matter as the world will still crown the SEC as gods and relegate the ACC to court jester.

Just listen - the masses are still chanting: S-E-C! S-E-C!

Note: The article was primarily written prior to USC's game; however, life prevented it from being completed. As such, I thought it best to update it the best I could to incorporate the results.

Reference location for winning probabilities:
http://football.stassen.com/pointspread/

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