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Prepare Thine Emotions: College Football Will Test Them

Football has the smallest sample size of any major sport, which often creates some weird results...

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Are you ready for a seemingly banal and irrelevant opening to an article about college football? Well, as they say, ready or not, here I come:

Every moment we experience in our life will feel equally real, regardless of whether it happened in the past or will happen in the future. Yawn? I know. Bear with me. Well, as you sit here right now reading this article, you can focus on your exact emotional state, how you’re feeling today, etc. Think back to yesterday, and you might be able to draw on similar feelings. The further back you go, the harder it gets to remember. But here is where it gets applicable: we can do this for our future selves.

Obviously, every day is not guaranteed and we should all be grateful for every day we see. But, taking some basic things for granted, we can imagine things in the future that almost certainly will happen. If you’re a Baylor student, you can try and imagine what it will be like to graduate. Ditto if you’re a parent watching your child graduate. And it goes on and on and on.

What is one thing that is happening soon? College Football. And what does College Football necessarily bring with it? Madness, my friends. Madness.

The funny thing about the preseason is that, while you hanker for the season to start, this might just be the best you feel about the team all season. Optimism is at its all time high. The team has done no wrong! Even I, as an attempted realist, catch myself in the moment. I’ll watch one of those awesome Baylor Football practice highlight videos and think, “Wow, that defensive back made a great play. He’s gonna be impossible to beat this year.” But then remember, there will be a time this year where you watch him get torched, fall down on a pass route, or drop an interception that hits him right in the hands. And you will be mad.

Please, do not get me wrong. I’m not saying you need to temper your excitement because bad things will happen in the future. That would be like saying you can’t enjoy your life because someday we’re all gonna die. I’m just saying go into this ordeal of Baylor fandom with the future in mind. Prepare thyself: the madness will come.

I ruffled some feathers after Baylor’s third game of last season when I wrote about how, despite the game feeling disastrous, the stats showed that Baylor got slightly unlucky in its loss to Duke and actually played slightly better than them. Similarly, Baylor lost to Texas in a game the statistics show Baylor wins more often than not. Then, later in the year, Baylor had its luck somewhat even out when they beat Kansas State in a game the statistics say K State wins more often than not.

College football’s short season makes it different than the other major sports, such as baseball. Baseball was forever changed when someone realized that you could predict a teams regular season record with incredible accuracy if you simply know how many runs they scored vs how many they gave up. This works great for a 162 game season; not so great for a 7 game world series or a 12 game college football season.

Just think about all the ways luck can influence a game. History show that for every time the offense fumbles the ball, the odds that the offense recovers is the same as the defense’s: 50%. But there are some games where Baylor will fumble the ball twice and it is recovered by the defense both times, while the other team fumbles three times and they recover every single time. This is the exact same odds as flipping a coin five times and having it land heads every time (Let’s see, 0.50^5 ... 3%) . Likely? No. Quite possible? Yes. This freak event would, barring other happenings, give the other team a turnover margin of +2, and said teams win almost 80% of the time.

If you prepare yourself for these rage-inducing moments forthcoming, you can better temper yourself for when they inevitably happen.

The thing is, the better the team actually is, the more wiggle room you have for mistakes. That’s why I prefer to look at the underlying performance instead of the raw results. If you only look at raw results you might delude yourself into thinking your team is much better than it actually is, or vice versa.

So, remember: Baylor is almost assuredly going to lose a game/s they “should” have won and win some games they might should’ve lost. Or maybe it’s only the former or the later. Either way, in a 12 game season some unexpected stuff is gonna happen. Prepare yourself and enjoy the ride.