Monday, November 30, 2015

Crunchy Numbers Week 3: Iowa favored at Penn State?

That's what Sagarin's ratings say.

Crunchy Numbers Week 3: Iowa favored at Penn State?


Before we get to the stats, here are a few things worth reading today.

First, as it's Tuesday, that means there's a new Forde-Yard Dash.

Second, check out this long piece by Andy Katz about how college basketball recruiters are using social networking websites to go around coaches in order to contact players. It's very detailed, but it doesn't leave you very optimistic about the state of things.

Every once in a while, I get asked whether I've heard some rumor about a player being recruited by a local school. My answer is almost always that I haven't, because I don't pay attention to recruiting.

There are two reasons for this. First, I'm never really sure how to judge the quality of a player without doing a lot of research about the player and the quality of his (or her) opponents. If the player is a McDonald's All-American, that is of course a big deal. But short of that, how much can we really know before the player faces college-level opposition?

The other reason why I don't write about recruiting is that I find much of what goes on in the recruiting process to be seamy at best and reprehensible at worst. There are plenty of coaches who go about the process honestly, refusing to play the game with runners and AAU hangers-on.

But we also have seen countless instances where players take advantage of loopholes and in turn run the risk of being taken advantage of by associates interested in money and nothing else.

Obviously, ignoring all this won't make go away. In fact, collective ignorance of unethical recruiting will probably only make things worse.

But at least now you might have a better understanding of where I'm coming from.

On a happier hoops-related note, congrats to the Storming the Floor team on their new redesign. It would be nice if they could put something Philly-related in their banner, but they are a national blog after all.

So now we move on to the numbers, and in today's edition we introduce a new feature.

One of the things that Sagarin is used for is to predict game outcomes. The basis for the rankings is a score out of 100 points. If you subtract the lower team's score from the higher team's score and add three points to the home team for advantage, you get the predicted margin of victory.

It would have been interesting to do this for Penn and Villanova last week, but let's use this week's numbers as an example of how the system works.

Villanova's score is 67.25. Subtract the sum of Penn's 53.54 and three points for home advantage from the Wildcats' total, and you get a difference of 11 points (67.25 - [53.54 + 3]).

Wouldn't you know it, 'Nova won by a 14-3 margin.

Now we come to the reason why I decided to introduce the feature this week: the formula favors Iowa by seven points over Penn State.

Consider that for a moment. The Hawkeyes are unranked; the Nittany Lions have revenge on their minds after last year and will take the field in prime time amid a whiteout at Beaver Stadium.

But Iowa is No. 7 in Sagarin with a 87.91 rating, and Penn State is No. 32 with a 77.75 rating. Do the math: 87.91 - (77.75 + 3) = 7.16.

It's a clear knock against the Nittany Lions for their creampuff non-conference schedule. Iowa's wins are against Northern Iowa, at Iowa State and Arizona - not great, but not St. Leo's and Eastern Illinois either.

With that in mind, we finally get to this week's numbers. Predicted margins of victory are rounded to the nearest whole number, except for margins less than one point, which are rounded up.

And of course, these numbers are for recreational purposes only, though they aren't official betting lines anyway.

32. Penn State (17)
Last week: Home win vs. No. 146/125 Temple, 31-6
This week: 9/26 vs. No. 7 Iowa, 8:00 p.m. (ABC)
Sagarin predicts: Iowa by 7 (87.91 minus 77.75 and 3)

68. Rutgers (93)
Last week: Home win vs. No. 104/92 Florida International, 23-15
This week: 9/26 at No. 98 Maryland, 3:30 p.m. (
Sagarin predicts: Rutgers by 3 (70.69 minus 64.63 and 3)

82. Villanova (97)
Last week: Road win vs. No. 151/156 Penn, 14-3
This week: 9/26 vs. No. 215 Northeastern, 3:30 p.m. (Comcast Network)
Sagarin predicts: Villanova by 30 (67.25 and 3 minus 40.30)

121. Delaware (103)
Last week: Home win vs. No. 214/183 Delaware State, 27-17
This week: 9/26 at No. 80 Wiliam & Mary, 7:00 p.m.
Sagarin predicts: William & Mary by 10 (67.76 and 3 minus 60.47)

125. Temple (146)
Last week: Road loss vs. No. 17/32 Penn State, 31-6
This week: 9/26 vs. No. 106 Buffalo, 12:00 p.m. (WPHL-17,
Sagarin predicts: Temple by 1 (60.04 and 3 minus 62.67)

156. Penn (151)
Last week: Home loss vs. No. 97/82 Villanova, 14-3
This week: 9/26 at No. 175 Lafayette, 6:00 p.m. (RCN-4 or RCN-8, WBPH-60, tape-delayed on MASN)
Sagarin predicts: Lafayette by 1 (50.99 and 3 minus 53.54)

174. Lehigh (180)
Last week: No game
This week: 9/26 vs. No. 176 Princeton, 12:30 p.m. (Service Electric 2)
Sagarin predicts: Lehigh by 3 (51.21 and 3 minus 50.86)

175. Lafayette (166)
Last week: Home win vs. No. 141/126 Liberty, 19-13
This week: 9/26 vs. No. 156 Penn, 6:00 p.m. (RCN-4 or RCN-8, WBPH-60, tape-delayed on MASN)
Sagarin predicts: Lafayette by 1 (50.99 and 3 minus 53.54)

176. Princeton (170)
Last week: Home loss vs. No. 126/85 The Citadel, 38-7
This week: 9/26 at No. 174 Lehigh, 12:30 p.m. (service Electric 2)
Sagarin predicts: Lehigh by 3 (51.21 and 3 minus 50.86)

183. Delaware State (214)
Last week: Road loss vs. No. 103/121 Delaware, 27-17
This week: 9/26 at No. 184 Hampton, 6:00 p.m.
Sagarin predicts: Hampton by 3 (48.24 and 3 minus 48.53)

234. Bucknell (227)
Last week: Road loss vs. No. 190/205 Cornell, 33-9
This week: 9/26 vs. No. 238 Marist, 1:00 p.m.
Sagarin predicts: Marist by 2 (29.78 and 3 minus 30.97)
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About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Jonathan Tannenwald
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