A message to calm your nerves...using math

Goalscorer9's picture
October 8, 2013 at 7:19p

Hey everyone!

A sentiment that used to be quite obvious seems to have been forgotten here in the buckeye nation as of late.  Going undefeated is hard.

It seems like everyone is very worried about the possibility of the buckeyes going undefeated and being left out of the championship game.  This is a very real possibility, and I completely understand your concerns, but the sentiment has been skewed over the season to the point where some people think it's "unlikely" an undefeated Ohio State team would be selected to go to the national championship game, and even a post saying "almost ZERO" chance today.  It frustrates me when people start using words like "chance" or "probability" which can easily be calculated, and then proceed to spew a baseless opinion, which many times happens to be quite incorrect, so I decided to go the scientific route.

I thought I'd use some probabilities to actually see what the numbers looked like.  It's rather easy to calculate, I'll summarize very briefly: If you assign each game as a probability of a win, you simply multiply all those probabilities together for that team, to find the odds of them going undefeated.  I'll attach my spreadsheet for the numbers I assigned for the 5 teams most are worried about, but here were my findings:

*note: these are obviously a little subjective, as even though the math is objective the percentage for each individual game was something I came up with.  I tried to be as fair as I could.  See the spreadsheet for details.

Alabama has a 28.6% chance of going undefeated (despite having at least a 60% chance of winning each individual game)

Oregon has a 13.3% chance of going undefeated

Clemson has a 13.9% chance of going undefeated

Stanford has a 13.8% chance

Florida State has a 11.58% chance.

Obviously, subtract from 100 and you get the odds of each team losing a game.

If you take Ohio State going undefeated as a given (which you definitely shouldn't, but for the sake of the "if we go undefeated" argument, we will)  There's actually a 40.6% chance that we'd be the ONLY undefeated team (of the six most consider "in the hunt"). 

Even if you are of the crowd that think the SEC automatically gets into the NC game, and we're fighting for the number 2 spot.  There's still a 56.9% chance that Oregon, Clemson, Stanford, and FSU ALL lose a game between now and the end of the season.  That's right, by my projections it's actually more likely than not that all of those teams lose a game.

Are the odds good enough that you should bet your house on it? Absolutely not.  It's very possible OSU gets left out.  But for those of you who are about ready to give up hope, we've got a lot better shot than you think.

I think when many start to panic, is when you look at a team like Oregon or Clemson and see they are favored in every game, and you think that means they are more likely than not to go undefeated.  That's not how probability works.  If you roll a six sided die, most the time it's going to be something other than, say, 6, but if you have to roll the die 8 times, you're likely to get a six somewhere in there.  So even though a team like Oregon will be favored every week from here on out, it's actually far less likely that they finish undefeated than likely.  The 6 is a loss, in this analogy.

If you have a beef with any of the numbers in my spread sheet for individual games, I'd be happy to discuss my reasoning.

I hope this little math break calms your buckeye nerves!

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