4 College Football rankings I have no faith in: AP, USA Today, Playoff Committee and Fremeau

Massey has compiled a list of 114 different college football ratings for comparison.  Go take a look at them.  Now go to the bottom and look at the conference rankings.  Scroll across the page and you’ll see that the SEC is literally the unanimous….wait, what?  Only 110 of the 114 rankings have the SEC rated number 1.

This means there are four that rankings don’t have the SEC at the top. Which rankings are these?  3 of them are polls: The AP Poll, the USA Today Poll, and the College Football Playoff Committee.  However, you rank college football teams this year, if you don’t have the SEC rated as the best conference, you’re ranking is absolutely meaningless in my book (and I think many people would agree).  It’s absolutely insane that the three polls that get this wrong are 1/3 of the old BCS, a coaches poll, and the rankings that will determine the college football playoffs.  (At this point, is it reasonable to assume the the NCAA is just messing with college football fans in an elaborate work of performance art?) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the SEC is the best conference in college football this year. If you’re rankings don’t reflect that, it’s simply hard to have any faith that you know what you are doing.  

But wait, it gets worse.  Something called FEI has the SEC ranked THIRD (?!?!) best conference in football this year behind the Pac-12 and the ACC.  What in the world is the FEI?  FEI is apparently and abbreviation for the Fremeau Efficiency Index.   Apparently this is one of the two components that Football Outsiders uses in it’s F/+ ratings.  Now I swear to you, I’m not actively going out of my way to pick on Football Outsiders for bad statistics, but it just seems to keep happening.  (See for instance, former FO writer Bill Barnwell doing a terrible “study” and some of their “analysis” of place kicking.) Now add in that their overall ranking system for college football has the SEC ranked 3rd and it’s even harder to take their slogan seriously: “Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis”.

There is a fine line between genius and insanity and Football Outsiders are either geniuses who see something in the Pac-12 and the ACC that literally no one outside of the media polls sees or they are living in a completely alternate college football reality.


NFL Picks – Week 9

Total (weeks 1-8) – SU: 84-36-1 (69.8%) ATS: 61-58-2 (51.24%, -2.8 Units)  O/U: 67-53-1 (55.79%, +8.7 Units) 

Week 1 – SU: 9-7-0 ATS: 8-8-0 O/U: 13-3-0

Week 2 – SU: 10-6-0 ATS: 10-6-0 O/U: 10-6-0

Week 3 – SU: 12-4-0 ATS: 9-6-1  O/U: 8-8-0

Week 4 – SU: 7-6-0 ATS: 5-7-1  O/U: 5-8-0

Week 5 – SU: 14-2-0 ATS: 6-9-0  O/U: 9-6-0

Week 6 – SU: 11-3-1 ATS: 8-7-0  O/U: 6-9-1

Week 7 – SU: 11-4-0 ATS: 7-8-0  O/U: 8-7-0

Week 8 – SU: 11-3-0 ATS: 8-7-0 O/U: 8-7-0

New Orleans at Carolina

Prediction: Saints 25-24 (50.3%)

Pick: Panthers +3 (58.2%)

Total: Over 49

Jacksonville at Cincinnati

Prediction: Bengals 26-16 (76.2%)

Pick: Jaguars +11.5 (54.3%)

Total: Under 43.5

Tampa Bay at Cleveland

Prediction: Browns 23-19 (58.9%)

Pick: Buccaneers +7 (60.8%)

Total: Under 44

Arizona at Dallas

Prediction: Cowboys 25-21 (61.2%)

Pick: Cardinals +4.5 (51.5%)


Philadelphia at Houston

Prediction: Texans 24-22 (55.8%)

Pick: Texans +2.5 (62.7%)

Total: Under 48.5

NY Jets at Kansas City

Prediction: Chiefs 21-17 (62.3%)

Pick: Jets +10 (65.6%)

Total: Under 42

San Diego at Miami

Prediction: Dolphins 23-21 (53.7%)

Pick: Dolphins -1 (50.8%)

Total: Under 44.5

Washington at Minnesota

Prediction: Vikings 22-21 (53.7%)

Pick: Washington Football Team +2.5 (53.5%)


Denver at New England

Prediction: Patriots 28-27 (53.9%)

Pick: Patriots +3.5 (63.6%)

Total: Under 56

Baltimore at Pittsburgh

Prediction: Steelers 23-21 (55.1%)

Pick: Steelers -1 (52.3%)

Total: Under 48.5

St. Louis at San Francisco

Prediction: 49ers 25-17 (71.6%)

Pick: Rams +10 (55.7%)

Total: Under 44

Oakland at Seattle

Prediction: Seahawks 26-15 (78.2%)

Pick: Raiders +15 (61.5%)

Total: Under 43.5

Indianapolis at NY Giants

Prediction: Giants 24-23 (54.0%)

Pick: Giants +3.5 (63.7%)

Total: Under 52


NCAA Football Rankings Top 25 – 10/28/2014

 Rank Teams Record
3 AUBURN 6-1
4 OLE MISS 7-1
7 TCU 5-1
8 OREGON 7-1
9 UCLA 6-2
10 LSU 7-2
14 ARIZONA 6-1
15 UTAH 6-1
18 TEXAS A&M 5-3
21 CLEMSON 6-2
23 USC 5-3
25 BAYLOR 6-1

Full Rankings

Chicago, Statistics, and Networking: Part 1

I’ve been in Chicago for about 2 months now.  And I f****** love it.  (We’ll see how I feel in January/February, though).  I’ve never lived in a big city (or near a big city, as I actually live outside of the city) before in my life, and I’m constantly amazed by normal city things.  Public transportation, coffee houses, walking and biking places, never using my car (I’ve gone to the gas station exactly twice since I have been here).  And I love all of it.

On the statistics front, there are so many people doing statistics here it’s hard for me to comprehend.  As a way to meet some more of those people, I attended the Chicago Chapter of the ASA statistician of the year award (which has a pretty impressive list of winners) dinner on October 22nd.  At dinner, I sat with two of my students from my non-parametric class and met a statistician at Nielsen and another one who worked for Mathematica Policy Research.  Needless to say that led to a very interesting dinner conversation.

This years winner was Andrew Gelman, who spoke for maybe 20-30 minutes about his thoughts on statistics.

My two take aways from his talk were:

  • Gelman mentioned that he had a conversation with Don Rubin year ago about deciding whether to pursue physics or statistics and Rubin told him that in statistics you get to work on whatever you want.  The rest is history and statistics has Gelman and his wide array of work in many different areas.
  • I hope I can capture the essence of what he was saying here. Gelman mentioned that there was this sort of mentality of us versus them (statisticians versus scientists), in that statisticians are always trying to train scientists in proper statistics.  But Gelman argued that we’ve trained scientists TOO well.  To the point where scientists believe that once they show that the p-value is below 0.05 that they have discovered some object truth about the universe.  (Statisticians know better, of course.)  And that this has led to many borderline crazy studies.  Gelman mentioned a few including a study that attempted to demonstrate that single women who were on their menstrual cycles were more like to vote for Obama, but married women on their cycle were more likely to vote for Romney.

After dinner and Gelman’s talk I introduced myself to Gelman and told him that I really enjoyed his blog.  I asked him how he was capable of posting something every day and he said that he just writes a bunch of posts and then schedules them for future dates and that he is about 2 months (!) ahead on blog posts.  He also mentioned that blogging is what he does when he is avoiding work.  Most people waste time checking emails, apparently he blogs.  He also mentioned that he saw it as service to the field.

And it was this short conversation with him that has led me to spending the day in a coffee shop writing blog posts when I should be checking my email and revising manuscripts.  But I’ll get to that later.  I love Chicago.


Why you need to be on Twitter

This post is part 2 of getting rid of my backlog of drafts.  I wanted to write this after JSM in August, but a move to Chicago and starting a new job took up most of my time then.  So here we are in October finally getting around to it.

Anyway, at this point in time, when someone tells me they aren’t on Twitter, my response is usually puzzlement followed by saying something like, “You’re making a huge mistake” or “Your loss”.  People usually follow this up with, “well, I don’t care what you had for breakfast” (why is this the go to rebuttal to Twitter?)

Well I’m here to tell you (politely) that that is stupid.  Twitter is an incredibly diverse community with an incredibly rich set of niche groups.  You get to choose who to follow and you can create you’re own unique corner of the twitter world.  I like sports (football, baseball, NCAA basketball), statistics, R, art, news, and humor.  So I follow people or organizations that are tweeting about those things.  What you like is different than me, and you can create your own corner of twitter.

Other people, who have similar interests to you, will also tend to follow the same accounts and sometimes you get to start conversation with these people.  And then sometimes you get to meet this in person.  This past JSM in August of 2014 I was lucky enough to get to meet one of these interesting people from Twitter.  Sean Taylor, a member of Facebook’s data science team and the guy responsible for these awesome NFL fandom maps, contacted me via direct message to join him at a bar on evening. So, @statsbylopez and I met him (and Hadley Wickham and some other stats people) and had a fantastickly (is that a word?) interesting conversation with him.  All because of twitter.  And I assure you that we never talked about what we had for breakfast.

Still not convinced.  I actually met @statsbylopez through twitter.  We have similar interests and have, since meeting, collaborated (and won) a kaggle contest and written an academic paper together.  He also recently came to speak at Loyola about overtime incentives in hockey.  All because of twitter.  (Side note: I picked him up from the airport the day of his talk, and we had a fantastic breakfast somewhere in Lincoln Park.  I mean this breakfast was so good I want to Tweet about it. Wait that’s not my point!)

Twitter. Do it.





Chicago, Rahm, and Gun

I read this article, “Emanuel Puts Positive Spin On Chicago’s Violent Crime Problem”, a few weeks ago from the Daily Caller.  It showed up in my twitter feed and I clicked on the link and read it not knowing the source of the article.  As I read it, it seemed like a slightly reasonable, partisan argument against Rahm Emanuel and crime in Chicago.  Then I got to the end of the article and it absolutely comes off the rails.  The statistical squirming that takes place to cram the numbers into their ideology is bafflingly impressive.

The author basically argues that Emanuel’s record on violent crime, especially murder is not a very good one.  They say:

Emanuel notes that murders in Chicago have declined thus far in 2014, as compared to 2010 and 2013. However, Emanuel was elected in May 2011, and from 2011 to 2012, Chicago’s murder rate increased 16 percent. Meanwhile, the aggregate murder rate of other cities of one million or greater population decreased three percent.

Fine, if you want to blame the rise in crime on Emanuel, that’s fine.  Organizations with political agendas do this all the time.  I hate it, but I understand that it’s more or less just politics.

But then they go on to say this:

Chicago’s crime problem may take a turn for the better, however. Recent court decisions have eliminated some of the most egregious violations of, and obstacles to, city residents’ exercise of their right to keep and bear arms.

In 2010, the Supreme Court struck down the city’s 32-year-old handgun ban in McDonald v. Chicago. In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down Chicago’s ban on shooting ranges in Ezell v. Chicago, saying “The right to possess firearms for protection implies a corresponding right to acquire and maintain proficiency in their use.” In 2012, the same court declared Illinois’ total ban on carrying firearms for protection unconstitutional, resulting in the state adopting a “shall issue” carry permit law the following year. And this year, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois struck down Chicago’s ban on firearm transfers.

Wait what?  It was after reading these paragraphs that I went to check who the author was.  It turned out to be some anonymous writer representing the NRA ILA. In that context, this makes sense.

So, let me lay out, in all its absurd glory, the argument in this article.

  • Emanuel was elected in May 2011, and from 2011 to 2012, Chicago’s murder rate increased 16 percent.  So blame Emanuel for the rise in violent crime.
  • In 2010, the Supreme Court struck down Chicago’s hand gun ban.  In 2011, the same court struck down a ban on firing ranges.  But don’t blame guns for the rise in crime?

In the first case, X happened and then crime increased at a later date; Blame X for increase in crime.  Then in the second case, X happened and then crime increased at a later date; BUT DON’T blame X for increase in crime.  I guess when you’ve already made your mind up about what is right, the numbers don’t really matter.

Finally, let me be clear, I’m not anti-gun, but I am pro-not making stupid arguments.  The causes of crime are an incredibly complex array of variables and factors and X happening and crime increasing at a later date is an incredibly naive way to see the world.  The world just isn’t this simple.  Complex problems often have complex causes.  Does Rahm Emanuel deserve some blame for the rise in crime?  Maybe.  Do handguns deserve some blame?  Maybe.

My point is that making up your mind about something before you’ve seen any evidence is a pretty terrible way to live (And this goes for you too “libs”.)



NFL Picks – Week 8

Total (weeks 1-8) – SU: 84-35-1  ATS: 60-58-2  O/U: 66-53-1 

Week 1 – SU: 9-7-0 ATS: 8-8-0 O/U: 13-3-0

Week 2 – SU: 10-6-0 ATS: 10-6-0 O/U: 10-6-0

Week 3 – SU: 12-4-0 ATS: 9-6-1  O/U: 8-8-0

Week 4 – SU: 7-6-0 ATS: 5-7-1  O/U: 5-8-0

Week 5 – SU: 14-2-0 ATS: 6-9-0  O/U: 9-6-0

Week 6 – SU: 11-3-1 ATS: 8-7-0  O/U: 6-9-1

Week 7 – SU: 11-4-0 ATS: 7-8-0  O/U: 8-7-0

Week 8 – SU: 11-3-0 ATS: 7-7-0 O/U: 7-7-0

San Diego at Denver

Prediction: Broncos 28-22 (68.3%)

Pick: Chargers +8 (53.8%)

Total: Under 52.5

Philadelphia at Arizona

Prediction: Cardinals 23-22 (51.9%)

Pick: Eagles +2.5 (55.2%)

Total: Under 48.5

Detroit at Atlanta

Prediction: Falcons 24-23 (55.1%)

Pick: Falcons +4 (66.0%)

Total: Under 47 

Seattle at Carolina

Prediction: Seahawks 22-21 (53.1%)

Pick: Panthers +5 (61.0%)

Total:  Under 45

Baltimore at Cincinnati

Prediction: Bengals 23-20 (58.6%) 

Pick: Bengals -1 (55.7%)

Total: Under 46

Oakland at Cleveland

Prediction: Browns 24-19 (63.1%)

Pick: Raiders +7 (56.6%)

Total: Under 44

Miami at Jacksonville

Prediction: Dolphins 22-19 (58.8%)

Pick: Jaguars +5.5 (56.8%)

Total: Under 43.5

St. Louis at Kansas City

Prediction: Chiefs 23-19 (61.9%)

Pick: Rams +7 (57.8%)

Total: Under 44

Chicago at New England

Prediction: Patriots 27-22 (65.1%)

Pick: Bears +6.5 (53.0%)

Total:  Under 50.5

Green Bay at New Orleans

Prediction: Saints 27-25 (57.5%)

Pick: Saints -1 (54.6%)

Total: Under 56

Buffalo at NY Jets

Prediction: Jets 21-20 (53.6%)

Pick: Bills +3 (55.0%)

Total: Under 41

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh

Prediction: Steelers 24-22 (56.0%)

Pick: Steelers +3.5 (65.6%)

Total: Under 49

Minnesota at Tampa Bay

Prediction: Buccaneers 22-20 (55.8%)

Pick: Vikings +3 (52.7%)

Total: Under 42 

Houston at Tennessee

Prediction: Texans 22-21 (51.0%)

Pick: Titans +1.5 (53.2%) 

Total: Under 43.5

Washington at Dallas

Prediction: Cowboys 25-21 (60.8%)

Pick: Washington Football Team +10 (67%)

Total: Under 50.5