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Updated Odds: Is Baylor Going Bowling?

NCAA Football: Kansas at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Connelly (finally!) put up the “team stat profiles” yesterday. There are a lot of good nuggets that stand out for Baylor fans for Baylor’s profile which you can find here.

Most notably, however, is the “Win Total Odds,” which is really just basic math depending on the team’s win percentage for each remaining game. And here is the kicker: while Baylor is only a projected favorite in 1 remaining game, they have a 72% chance of reaching 6 wins. The specific breakdown is as follows:

And the specifics of how S&P currently sees this happening is:

I want to take this opportunity to elucidate “projected win totals.” I’ve seen too many people saying “Baylor is favored in X remaining games this year by Y projection, therefore Y projection says Baylor is going to win X more games.” This is not how statistics work. Odds compound upon another. For an example, let’s say you had a magical coin that consistently landed heads 60% of the time and tails 40%. If you flipped it 10 times, on each individual flip tails would be “projected” to lose. But you wouldn’t say that tails is projected to win 0 times, you would say that tails is projected to win 4 flips (lose 6 flips). This is the same for college football game expectencies. Baylor is only the favorite in 1 more game this year, but S&P+ has them in in several very close games. The resulting cumulative percentages mean that, with the way the rankings currently sit, Baylor’s most likely finish is with 6 wins, followed by 7 wins as the next most likely.

Again, as with any article/comment/post about stats, I need to be clear: these are not the “end-all be-all” argument. They need to be taken with a contextual grain of salt. Here are some of those grains of salt:

  • Baylor just jumped 21 spots in S&P+ overall rankings (fromt 68 to 47) after dismantling Kansas. The stat profiles were not available last week, so it is impossible to know how many wins Baylor was projected to have, but at that ranking it’s fair to think the big percentage was around 5-6 instead of 6-7.
  • S&P+ is the best predictor we have, but it is of course not perfect. Furthermore, it doesn’t really start to iron out until 6-8 weeks into the season. We could look back at this post and this could be Baylor’s highest ranking all season, or it could be too low. We don’t know yet, but this is still the best guess at this point.
  • Football is a game of matchups. S&P+ rewards teams for destroying bad teams, because that is what good teams do. But it’s entirely possible that Baylor just happened to specifically match up really well against a bad Kansas, and still doesn’t have the horses to hang with the upper-echelon of the Big 12, which will cause a decrease in rankings.

Before I get the “Well let’s just wait and see what Oklahoma does to us!” comments....

S&P+ is not the AP poll. You don’t automatically fall for losing, and you don’t automatically rise after winning. It’s a measure that exists for predictions. Oklahoma is currently ranked 8th, and Baylor 47th. S&P doesn’t think it’s going to be a very close game (Oklahoma favored by 18 points). In theory, as long as Baylor doesn’t get beat by more than two touchdowns or so, that’s going to validate S&P’s rankings, because that’s what generally happens when top 50 teams play top 10 teams: they get beat by quite a bit. But it also means that Baylor could theoretically rise if they play OU close, or fall if they lose by even more.

What I’m trying to get at with that last paragraph is that just because we are likely going to lose next week, it does not mean that this current week’s projection is a flash in the pan that doesn’t mean anything. But again, take the current rankings with a grain of salt; as we saw this past week, after all, Baylor and other teams can shift quite a bit this early in the season.

All in all, Baylor is definitely improving. They finished 106th in overall S&P last year, with the 86th ranked offense and 111th ranked defense. This year, after four games, they have the 26th ranked offense and the 75th ranked defense. There’s a lot to dive in there with the link I provided, but basically the story is that Baylor’s offense is been very efficient thus far.