Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

25 Nov 2014

ESPN: SEC West Showdowns

Two in-state SEC West rivalry games will be played this weekend, and the stakes for both games are at an all-time high. Alabama and Mississippi State are tied atop the SEC West standings with a 10-1 overall record, and as of the latest rankings, both are in position to receive a bid to the inaugural College Football Playoff. All that stands in the way of glory is each team’s fiercest rival.

Either Alabama or Mississippi State will play for the SEC championship regardless of how this weekend’s games shake out, but if both teams are saddled with a two-loss record at the end of the year, the door will swing wide open for other playoff contenders. We forecasted the probability of this scenario back in early September, at the time predicting a 14 percent chance that no SEC team will finish the season with fewer than two losses. That number remains 14 percent heading into this weekend, the likelihood that both Alabama and Mississippi State will lose on Saturday, according to our latest FEI ratings projections. There is a 66 percent chance one of the two will lose.

If the schedules had worked out a bit differently, they might all have two losses already. We calculated the win likelihoods of each of the top four teams in the SEC West standings against their own schedule and against the schedules of the other three, adjusting for performance to date. In other words, the model says Alabama should have 9.5 wins to date, and because it actually has 10 wins, we gave them the additional 0.5 win performance bump in each of the other scenarios.

This piece takes a closer look at each team’s projected win total if they swapped schedules, and a few keys to each big game this weekend.

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 25 Nov 2014