Thursday, December 19, 2013

The SuiteSports Bowl Pick'em Challenge

Anyone can pick these games, but who ya got in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl?

By SuiteSports Staff

Yesterday we brought you our college bowl primer, and today we present you with our exclusive picks. Editor's Jeremy Conlin and Joe Parello have put way too much thought into this, employing elaborate strategies that are bound to fall apart before Christmas Eve.

Joe's wife Caity, meanwhile, picked games base on "feeling." If you've ever done an NCAA March Madness Bracket with a girl in your office/school, I think you know how this is going to end.

Because we are sadists, we used Yahoo, and decided we would not be allowed to change our picks after this story runs (Which is now). So, without further ado, here are our picks and methodologies. You can click on each of our pick sets to enlarge them.

Editor Joe Parello

My methodology was pretty simple. I decided that, since Vegas supposedly knows picking games so much better than any one person, I would put my trust in Vegas lines entirely. So, I picked every Vegas favorite, and ranked the bowl games by how large the line was.

For instance, Baylor is a 17.5 point favorite against UCF, the largest line of any bowl team over another, so they are my most confident pick at the top. At the bottom I have two PK games in SD State vs Buffalo and South Carolina vs Wisconsin. In both cases, I picked whichever team was from the perceived "stronger conference" as a tie breaker.

Now, this method is far from perfect, and there are a few games where I really wanted to pick against Vegas or rank a given game higher or lower. For instance, I wanted to pick against either Georgia or LSU (or maybe, both) because they are missing their starting quarterbacks and haven't been as good on defense this year as we've come to expect.

But, Vegas says I would be a crazy person to take red-hot Iowa over beaten up LSU, so I won't (Even though I really want to).

Editor Jeremy Conlin

My methodology is similar to Joe's, although I didn't trust Vegas to handicap the teams well enough to my liking. I used the good-old Simple Rating System (SRS). SRS takes a team's average scoring margin and adjusts it for strength of schedule (calculated by a team's cumulative opponent's average scoring margin in games not against the team in question). The SRS score is then represented as a single number that estimates a team's quality above or below average. As such, SRS scores can be used as a rudimentary point spread.

For example, for the National Championship game, Florida State has an SRS score of 23.67 (best in the country). Auburn's score is 19.19 (7th-best). So SRS would estimate that Florida State is 4.48 points better. I calculated point spreads for each matchup, and ranked each game's confidence points by which had the largest spread. Arizona State-Texas Tech came out the largest, with SRS estimating that the Sun Devils are 16.58 points better than the Red Raiders on a neutral field. The smallest spread was Miami and Louisville, who have near-identical SRS scores (8.77 for Miami, 8.76 for Louisville).

For the larger spreads, I just rolled with SRS (and there weren't any real surprises, other than Buffalo being the SRS favorite over San Diego State by 8.37 points, despite Vegas listing the game as a pick'em in some places, or Buffalo favored by 1 in others). For spreads smaller than two points, I decided that the margin was too close to trust implicitly, so in most instances I went with simply picking the team from the stronger conference (hence Vanderbilt over Houston or Miami over Louisville).

The problem with SRS is that it obviously doesn't account for recent performance (including relevant injuries). For example, it has no idea that nearly half of Georgia's offensive starters are banged up or won't play in their game, it just lists them as 9.47-point favorites over Nebraska, the 6th-highest spread using this system. I still think Georgia is better than Nebraska (and will win), but I dropped them way down in my confidence rankings.

One potential hiccup - SRS loooooves the Pac-12 this year. In fact, it still ranks Oregon as the 3rd-best team in the country, and perhaps even more troubling, ranks Arizona State as the 5th-best team in the country. Cumulatively, it ranks the Pac-12 just 0.1 points worse than the SEC (10.45 for the SEC, 10.35 for the Pac-12), and it says that the Pac-12, collectively, actually played a tougher schedule than the SEC did (the Pac-12 has a +7.05 strength of schedule adjustment, the SEC just +5.76). As such, you'll notice that I picked all nine eligible Pac-12 teams to win their bowl games, and Pac-12 teams make up seven of my top 15 most confident picks.

Live by the SRS, die by the SRS.

Joe's Wife Caity

I went entirely with my gut here. I mean, the only teams I watched at all this year were my Gators (So I saw a few SEC teams and FSU for a bit) and Joe's Boilers, and neither of them are in a bowl game. Plus, let's be honest, when I say "watched," I mean played with Joe's iPad on the couch and drank beer with him while he watched.

But I'm not going to let that stop me. So what if nearly everyone in America has Baylor over UCF as one of their top five picks, I've got that game way down as my third-lowest confidence pick. I feel way more certain that seven-point underdog Boston College will beat Arizona and that 13.5-point dog Texas Tech will knock off Arizona State. I guess I just don't trust anybody from Arizona.

In conclusion, I have no idea what I'm doing, but I am going to win. Seriously, I will, and it will be funny for me/frustrating as hell for them.

Ed. Note- Caity did not actually write this.

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