FanPost

A More Thorough First Look at the Point Spread Data

Rodger put out an article about the recent release of a large number of point spreads, and I can never resist big piles of data. I have very mixed feeling about gamblers, but I will take their opinion over a pundit any day.

Just for reference, here are the released spreads for NU games:

8/31: Northwestern -10.5 vs. California

9/7 Syracuse vs. Northwestern -13

10/5: Ohio State vs. Northwestern +8

10/12: Northwestern +6 vs. Wisconsin

10/19: Minnesota vs. Northwestern -15

10/26: Northwestern -12 vs. Iowa

11/16: Michigan vs. Northwestern -3

11/23: Michigan State vs. Northwestern -3

11/30: Northwestern -13 vs. Illinois

Based on those lines, I'll hazard a guess at the remaining three games:

9/14: Western Michigan at Northwestern -17

9/21: Maine at Northwestern -21

11/2: Northwestern at Nebraska -6

A simplistic view of these lines would lead to the conclusion that Vegas has Northwestern going 9-3 this year, but we can actually get a lot more information than that. To do so, we have to convert these lines into expected winning percentage of each game. Obviously, there's no exact way to do that, but this site gives a decent approximation.

After running all the Northwestern games through that thing, we get the following winning percentages:

Western Michigan .9138

Michigan State 0.5744

Wisconsin 0.3358

Michigan 0.5744

Minnesota 0.8741

Illinois 0.8303

Nebraska 0.2966

California 0.7925

Ohio State 0.2619

Iowa 0.8159

Maine 1.00

Syracuse 0.8303

Summing these up, we get an expected win total of 8.1.
If we want even more fun, we can also calculate the probability of any particular win total and put it into a chart.

Games Northwestern
0 0.00
1 0.00
2 0.00
3 0.00
4 0.00
5 0.03
6 0.09
7 0.20
8 0.28
9 0.24
10 0.12
11 0.03
12 0.00

(Note: This assumes each game is independent of any other. Strictly speaking, that's probably not true.)

I also have a graph, but it's too much work to get on to this page.

As a final media-buzz note, only 13 teams in the country and 1 in the Big Ten have more games listed in the released lines. This reflects well on both Northwestern's scheduling and the amount of interest in Northwestern's games. Leaving out the Pac-12 (which has an unusual number of teams listly highly), here are the other schools with at least 9 games in the list: Notre Dame, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma State, Michigan, Georgia, Florida, and Clemson. Football-wise, that's some excellent company.

Addendum:

For some more fun, we can also convert those spreads in a ratings system. I threw out spreads more than 21 and gave 3 points home field advantage. Here is a top 25, plus other B1G teams and Northwestern opponents.

Rank Team Rating Spreads used
1 Oregon 26.34 6
2 Alabama 25.41 4
3 Ohio State 23.94 8
4 Texas 21.31 9
5 Stanford 20.44 10
6 Oklahoma State 20.44 8
7 Georgia 19.72 8
8 Texas A&M 19.44 6
9 Oklahoma 19.44 10
10 Notre Dame 18.44 10
11 South Carolina 18.31 9
12 USC 17.44 9
13 Wisconsin 16.94 6
14 Florida State 16.84 7
15 LSU 16.84 8
16 Clemson 15.84 8
17 Florida 15.84 9
18 Mississippi 15.44 6
19 Kansas State 15.44 7
20 Arizona State 15 9
21 Nebraska 14.81 5
22 Michigan 14.46 9
23 Northwestern 14.44 9
24 Arizona 14.31 10
25 Boise State 13.98 2
27 Michigan State 13.46 7
46 Penn State 11.69 7
65 Syracuse 4.69 4
71 Iowa 3.81 6
74 Purdue 2.94 3
76 Minnesota 2.46 5
77 Illinois 1.95 3
79 California 0.44 8

These are out of the 80 teams that had at least one usable spread, so Vegas really does not like Cal. Also, Nebraska might be more like a 3 point favorite, and only because it's at Nebraska.

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