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Calculating Michigan's Odds to Win the Big Ten East

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We used the win probabilities spit out by Massey Ratings and S&P+'s algorithms to calculate Michigan's odds to win the division and play for a Big Ten title.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

We're down to the final two weeks of the regular season, and the race for the Big Ten East is about to heat up. There are four schools in the running: Ohio State (6-0), Michigan State (5-1), Michigan (5-1), and Penn State (4-2). And guess whom these contenders will play in the final two weeks of the regular season:

November 21, 2015

Michigan (5-1) at Penn State (4-2), Noon ET on ABC
Michigan State (5-1) at Ohio State (6-0), 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC

November 28, 2015

Ohio State (6-0) at Michigan (5-1), Noon ET on TBA
Penn State (4-2) at Michigan State (5-1), TBA

WOOOO! BUCKLE UP!

With these four teams battling against each other to determine who will represent the East division in the Big Ten Championship Game, it's time to calculate Michigan's odds of being that representative. But, before I do so, it's important that I lay out what needs to happen for each team to win the East division and go for the Big Ten championship:

Ohio State: Controls its own destiny.
Michigan State: Controls its own destiny but must beat Ohio State.
Michigan: Win out, and Michigan State must lose once.
Penn State: Win out, and Ohio State must lose both of its last two games.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's do the calculations.

I did two sets of calculations: one using the win probabilities that the Massey Ratings has produced and one using the win probabilities that S&P+ has produced. These are two different computer models that use different algorithms to rank each college football team and project how a college football team will do in its upcoming games. Rather than pick just one model to do my calculations out of convenience, I opted to do it for both.

Using a Log5 analysis and necessary tiebreaking procedures, I determined Michigan's odds to win the Big Ten East according to Massey Ratings and S&P+'s win probabilities:

Massey Ratings

Here are the win probabilities for each contender in these next four games per Massey:

Massey Ratings' Win Probabilities
Game (Date) Favorite (Odds) Underdog (Odds)
Michigan at Penn State (11/21) Michigan (62%) Penn State (38%)
Michigan State at Ohio State (11/21) Ohio State (81%) Michigan State (19%)
Ohio State at Michigan (11/28) Ohio State (67%) Michigan (33%)
Penn State at Michigan State (11/28) Michigan State (81%) Penn State (19%)

And here is each contender's odds to win the Big Ten East after doing a Log5 analysis:

Odds to Win Big Ten East per Massey Ratings
School Odds to Win Big Ten East
Ohio State 66.8%
Michigan 17.3%
Michigan State 15.4%
Penn State 0.5%
S&P+

Here are the win probabilities for each contender in these next four games per S&P+:

S&P+'s Win Probabilities
Game (Date) Favorite (Odds) Underdog (Odds)
Michigan at Penn State (11/21) Michigan (66%) Penn State (34%)
Michigan State at Ohio State (11/21) Ohio State (80%) Michigan State (20%)
Ohio State at Michigan (11/28) Michigan (55%) Ohio State (45%)
Penn State at Michigan State (11/28) Michigan State (60%) Penn State (40%)

And here is each contender's odds to win the Big Ten East after doing a Log5 analysis:

Odds to Win Big Ten East per S&P+
School Odds to Win Big Ten East
Ohio State 54.6%
Michigan 31.9%
Michigan State 12.0%
Penn State 1.5%
Takeaways

Ohio State is the Favorite: This isn't a surprise. Ohio State has the advantage in that it's the only unbeaten Big Ten East team in conference play and that it's the highest ranked Big Ten East team in both the Massey Ratings (No. 2) and S&P+ (No. 3). Therefore, not only are there more individual scenarios that lead to Ohio State winning the division, the odds that the other individual scenarios, which need Ohio State to lose at least once obviously, come to fruition are much less likely. This is why Ohio State has a better than 50-percent chance to win the Big Ten East according to the Massey Ratings and S&P+.

S&P+ Likes Michigan's Odds More than Massey: However, it's not a dead runaway for Ohio State per one computer model. While the Massey Ratings give the Buckeyes almost four times better odds to win the Big Ten East than any other contender (66.8 pct. to Michigan's 17.3 pct.), S&P+ gives Michigan a fighter's chance (31.9 pct. to Ohio State's 54.6 pct.). The reason is that S&P+ has Michigan ranked much higher than Massey does (No. 5 vs. No. 21). And, because Michigan is ranked just below Ohio State in the S&P+ and has home-field advantage for The Game, S&P+ actually thinks the Wolverines are a slim favorite to beat the Buckeyes. This is why the most likely individual scenario according to S&P+ is Michigan winning out and Ohio State beating Michigan State, which would send the Wolverines to Indianapolis. However, the Buckeyes still have better odds overall because there are more ways for them to win the division than for Michigan.

But it should be noted that Michigan has been slipping in the S&P+ rankings for the past month. The Wolverines shot up the rankings when they ripped apart five straight opponents from Week 2 to Week 6. Since then, though, Michigan hasn't been as impressive, losing to Michigan State at home and needing goal-line stops on the final play to beat Minnesota and Indiana -- teams that S&P+ projected that Michigan would beat by double digits. Further, these rankings don't account for recent injuries, and we just saw the impact that the absence of Ryan Glasgow, who likely will miss the rest of the year with a pectoral injury, has on Michigan's defense. So the odds may be too optimistic.

Neither Model Gives Michigan State Much of a Chance to Beat Ohio State: If Michigan State doesn't beat Ohio State in Columbus, the Spartans are eliminated from the Big Ten East. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. An Ohio State win means the Buckeyes would be 7-0 and the Spartans would be 5-2 with one week left. However, neither the Massey Ratings nor S&P+ give Michigan State more than a 20-percent shot to beat the Buckeyes. Vegas doesn't either as Ohio State is -13. Plus, there are concerns about Connor Cook after he hurt his right shoulder last weekend. Mark Dantonio does know how to motivate his team for big games, but it doesn't look too promising for Michigan State.

Penn State Shouldn't Hold Its Breath: Mathematically in contention, but nah.

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What odds would you give Michigan to win the Big Ten East? Tell us in the comments!