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Minnesota Football Game Predictions: Northwestern Wildcats

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Mathematical predictions for all important contest between Minnesota and Northwestern, arguably one of the three games that will decide the Big Ten West. Time to batten down the hatches.

Alexandra Beier

Biggest M&B yet? Sure, why not.

Models and Bottles Refreshers!

Models

Hey yo:

I'm always making tiny little adjustments to the models during the season, largely because I want to experiment and see if tinkering will improve performance, or have the output data make a little more sense.

My timing is consistently awful, considering we find ourselves in the throws of an Evanston-Dinkytown statistical call-to-arms. By virtue of personal character flaw (or benefit, depending on your purview), I was prompted by suspicious results to go back and review the M&B methodology.

Non-techinical synopsis: the calculations I used were appropriately constrictive given the early season results (don't want to get too high or too low on a squad), though as more data became available, my model required a little flexibility to account for weekly fluctuations. I switched to a Bayesian approach this year because I was hoping to see a point of convergence between preseason, early season and mature season results, and I believe I have accomplished that by stumbling into a set of conditionals that makes sense.

This addendum to M&B has a significant impact to the Top 25, which will no doubt anger #FSUTwitter and require some additional explanation. New versus old ranks are presented for your consideration, which is at the very least interesting given the results of #CHAOSWEEK.

Rank Team BayesianProb Delta from Last Week Strict Model Rank Model Diff.
1 Baylor .956 1 1 0
2 Mississippi .952 -1 9 7
3 Auburn .933 3 2 -1
4 TCU .922 3 17 13
5 Mississippi State .920 3 8 3
6 Oklahoma .918 -2 7 1
7 Texas A&M .892 -4 6 -1
8 Alabama .888 1 24 16
9 Notre Dame .880 1 11 2
10 Ohio State .867 11 18 8
11 Michigan State .867 0 15 4
12 Memphis .860 10 26 14
13 Georgia .857 5 13 0
14 Stanford .856 -1 10 -4
15 Louisville .850 11 21 6
16 Arkansas .848 0 36 20
17 Arizona .844 6 23 6
18 Kansas State .842 7 43 25
19 West Virginia .830 0 28 9
20 Florida State .830 12 4 -16
21 Oregon .822 -7 3 -18
22 Nebraska .817 -2 32 10
23 LSU .816 -18 5 -18
24 Utah .812 6 29 5
25 Oklahoma State .802 11 22 -3
46 Minnesota .709 -1 40 -6
53 Northwestern .675 7 71 18

The strict model had the benefit of effectively discriminating between teams that were good and bad through the first two games. This serves well through the non-conference schedule but there is a point at which the between-game variation stabilizes and that becomes a better method of generalizing future results. Additionally, the strict model favors consistency among teams that were really good through the early season (especially the first two games) and equally punishes crappy teams that were consistently awful. What the strict model doesn't do all that well is account for variation after the first few games that would indicate an upward or downward trend. It is slow to account for changes in relative team strength in-between the elite and the dregs, which is a notable flaw.

The flexible model becomes a factor as the number of games played by a team increases. With almost half the season in the books for most teams, the stabilization of performance becomes a statistical property and we can "trust" the in-season, week-to-week results with more confidence. In the mean time, there are noticeable differences in estimation of team strength between the models that adds a bit of intrigue to the weekly prognostication:

Flex Model Strict Model
Gopher Win Probability 54.0% 66.4%
Predicted Margin of Victory 1.59 6.79
Current Vegas Spread -4
Current Vegas Over/Under 42

We're still favored, though more in line with bookie expectations. The flex model accounts for more of Northwestern's improvement over the last two weeks than the strict model, for the reasons I described above.

Note the over/under. Looks like we're in store for another uncomfortably close game against the Cats. Yay.

Gopher B1G Win Simulations
Flex M&B F/+ Strict M&B
Mean B1G Wins 4.59 4.95 4.90
Frequency of 3+ B1G Wins 96.0% 98.2% 97.0%
Freq. of 5+ B1G Wins 53.0% 64.3% 63.0%
Freq. of 7+ B1G Wins 6.0% 9.5% 9.0%

The biggest difference between flex and F/+ projections? How each views Purdue (yes, Purdue), Northwestern and Iowa.

Team M&B Prob F/+ Prob
Ohio State 27.1% 32.5%
Nebraska 35.2% 30.2%
Wisconsin 48.1% 37.6%
Iowa 52.6% 70.1%
Northwestern 54.0% 65.0%
Purdue 63.1% 84.8%
Illinois 79.5% 74.4%

Purdue is also somehow better, offset by LOL Tim Beckman.

To prove that I can do more than just predict Gopher games, here's the Week 7 slate of M&B predictions. Enjoy in moderation.

Visit Team Home Team Home Winning % Expected Margin
Miami (OH) Akron 74.9% 10.91
Southern California Arizona 64.2% 5.85
Alabama Arkansas 41.3% -3.53
Rice Army 27.5% -9.68
Western Mich. Ball St. 27.4% -9.73
TCU Baylor 64.7% 6.05
Washington California 55.5% 2.19
Louisville Clemson 39.9% -4.11
Buffalo Eastern Mich. 14.6% -17.68
LSU Florida 44% -2.42
Duke Georgia Tech 57.6% 3.07
Wyoming Hawaii 66% 6.61
Indiana Iowa 51% 0.42
Toledo Iowa St. 48.2% -0.73
Oklahoma St. Kansas 14.6% -17.68
Massachusetts Kent St. 62% 4.89
La.-Monroe Kentucky 89.3% 21.18
Middle Tenn. Marshall 75.3% 11.17
Houston Memphis 80.8% 14.35
Cincinnati Miami (FL) 63.1% 5.38
Penn St. Michigan 45.2% -1.93
Northwestern Minnesota 54% 1.59
Auburn Mississippi St. 45.3% -1.88
Georgia Missouri 31.9% -7.6
Colorado St. Nevada 30.4% -8.28
San Diego St. New Mexico 54.6% 1.84
Boston College North Carolina St. 25.5% -10.71
Central Mich. Northern Ill. 43.5% -2.6
North Carolina Notre Dame 91% 23.16
Bowling Green Ohio 39.7% -4.17
Michigan St. Purdue 17.9% -15.21
East Carolina South Fla. 19.9% -13.94
Washington St. Stanford 73.3% 10.09
Florida St. Syracuse 19.2% -14.36
Tulsa Temple 91.3% 23.54
Ole Miss Texas A&M 29.2% -8.84
La.-Lafayette Texas St. 71.2% 9.07
West Virginia Texas Tech 9.6% -22.43
New Mexico St. Troy 33.2% -6.97
UConn Tulane 52.5% 0.99
North Texas UAB 54.7% 1.87
Oregon UCLA 44.1% -2.39
Fresno St. UNLV 14.3% -17.89
Air Force Utah St. 48% -0.81
Old Dominion UTEP 61.7% 4.75
Illinois Wisconsin 80.7% 14.33

Bottles

Minnesota and Northwestern are about to play a critically important game that will put the winner in the driver's seat to win the Big Ten West.

/faints

//reads again

///dies after fainting again

The Gophers are continually and more consistently playing in games with something real on the line, which is all you really need to know about the job Jerry Kill and his staff have done. In four short years, he has taken a program left for dead and turned them into serious contenders in the division.

Only in our most lucid of dreams could this fanbase have envisioned such a scenario back in 2010.

Every season since his first, Kill has treated us to a new "biggest game in years." Syracuse 2012, alien as it sounds and equally odd to type, was the first sellout since 2010. The stakes were high for Iowa and Wisconsin last season. This Saturday though, is on a whole other level. A victory will put them in a space not occupied since 2003: in control of their own destiny with a realistic shot at some hardware.

Those words have only been written a few times about the Gophers in the modern era, which makes this week's featured bottle all the more appropriate: Few Spirits Rye. Whiskey Advocate's 2013 Craft Whiskey of the Year, Few is located - ironically enough - in Evanston, Illinois.