2018 College Football Forecast, Part 1

Welcome to part one of our 2018 NCAA division I college football prediction article!

Over the course of the three weeks left leading up to the start of the 2018 football season, we will be publishing a detailed set of forecasts for all 23 conferences and 254 teams in both FBS and FCS college football!

Today, we’re going to start with our calculated ratings for each team in the ELO-Following Football rating system, and show you the forecasts for each team’s approximate pre-season (through “Week Three”, or the weekend of September 15th).

We’ll also provide an expected win probability as well – not just who will win each game, but what the chances are of a close game or an upset. So, a game in which one team is basically guaranteed to win (and we’ve learned that when a team is favored by more than 20 points, they never lose), they’re listed as having a 100% chance of winning (and the other team a 0% chance). We haven’t gone hogwild with the differentials, but there are games that we see as 100/0, 98/2, 95/5, 90/10, 85/15, 80/20, 75/25, 70/30, and 60/40, depending on how disparate the difference between the teams might be. And under circumstances where the home field, back-to-back travel, and the like balances out the original difference in the teams, the game is listed as 50/50, and rather than split the difference or flip a coin, we’ve listed them as ties for the purpose of our forecasts. Obviously, they won’t be tied – college football plays overtimes until a winner is decided – but we’re not going to be arbitrary about the winner. Better you should see how close and competitive the game is. 

Okay? Here we go! We’ll be presenting each team with their starting ELO-FF rating, their likely record after Week Three (usually three games), and their “win probability” (we’ll show how that works soon enough):

POWER FIVE CONFERENCES

ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) – Atlantic division

Clemson (rating of 10)         3-0 / 2.70 wins probability

Florida State (rating of 16)           3-0 / 2.55 wins probability

Wake Forest (rating of 24)           3-0 / 2.40 wins probability

North Carolina State (rating of 21)        3-0 / 2.30 wins probability

Boston College (rating of 23)          2-1 / 2.40 wins probability

Louisville (rating of 21)             2-1 / 2.18 wins probability

Syracuse (rating of 35)           1-1-1 / 1.60 wins probability

Let’s stop and give you an example of how the “wins probability” works. Notice Wake Forest is expected to win all three games while Boston College is expected to go 2-1, yet both teams have a probability of 2.40 wins. Here’s how that breaks down in this case: 

Boston: 100% probability of winning at home against U Mass; 100% probability of winning at home against FCS Holy Cross, and a 40% probability of winning on the road at Wake Forest. The last one is more likely a loss than a win, so we’ve listed it as a loss, but the three numbers add up to 240%, or 2.40 wins. Meanwhile….

Wake: 80% probability of winning at Tulane; 100% probability of winning against FCS Towson at home, and a 60% probability of beating Boston College at home. Again, those add up to 240%, but all three games are more likely to be wins than losses. Hence, 3-0, 2.40 wins probability.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that comparing teams by their records at this stage is almost stupid. Louisville may have a loss, but that loss will be against defending national champion Alabama, so it seems likely that the one loss isn’t going to define the Cardinals of 2018. Meanwhile, Syracuse has a “tie” listed, from their opening game at Western Michigan. Rather than try to micromanage and split hairs, we’ve listed it as a tie. It seems to be fairer than calling it either a win or a loss. All right, back to work!

ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) – Atlantic division

Miami-Florida (rating of 15)     2-0-1 /  2.30 wins probability (50% with LSU Sep 2)

Virginia Tech (rating of 19)      2-1 / 2.30 wins probability (loss to Florida State)

Georgia Tech (rating of 25)      2-1 / 2.00 wins probability

Duke (rating of 24)        2-1 / 1.70 wins probability

Pitt (rating of 26)         1-2 / 1.60 wins probability

North Carolina (rating of 29)        1-2 / 1.50 wins probability

Virginia (rating of 36)            1-2 / 1.30 wins probability

Big Ten Conference – East division 

Penn State (rating of 11)         3-0 / 2,80 wins probability

Ohio State (rating of 9)           3-0 / 2.70 wins probability

Indiana (rating of 31)            3-0 / 2.50 wins probability

Michigan State (rating of 17)         2-0 / 1.80 wins probability

Michigan (rating of 15)        2-1 / 2.40 wins probability (loss to Notre Dame Sep 1)

Maryland (rating of 34)         2-1 / 1.60 wins probability

Rutgers (rating of 40)           2-1 / 1.50 wins probability

Big Ten Conference – West division

Wisconsin (rating of 11)     3-0 / 3.00 wins probability (meaning they’re “certain” to win all three games)

Iowa (rating of 20)          3-0 / 2.40 wins probability

Northwestern (rating of 21)      3-0 / 2.30 wins probability

Nebraska (rating of 30)      3-0 / 2.30 wins probability

Minnesota (rating of 31)      2-1 / 2.15 wins probability

Illinois (rating of 40)     1-1-1 / 1.60 wins probability

Purdue (rating of 27)      1-2 / 1.75 wins probability

Big Twelve Conference

Oklahoma State (rating of 18)      3-0 / 2.60 wins probability (we see the OSU/Boise game as 60/40)

Texas (rating of 17)       3-0 / 2.50 wins probability (including wins over USC and Maryland)

Oklahoma (rating of 10)       3-0 / 2.45 wins probability

Texas Tech (rating of 26)      3-0 / 2.30 wins probability (includes win over Houston)

Kansas State (rating of 22)     2-1 / 2.35 wins probability

TCU (rating of 16)       2-1 / 2.28 wins probability (loss to Ohio State)

West Virginia (rating of 20)        2-1 / 2.25 wins probability

Baylor (rating of 31)           2-1 / 2.20 wins probability

Iowa State (rating of 21)      1-2 / 1.50 wins probability

Kansas (rating of 45)       0-3 / 1.20 wins probability

 

Pacific-12 Conference (Pac12)  – North division

Oregon (rating of 19)     3-0 / 3.00 (against three lower level opponents)

Stanford (rating of 14)       3-0 / 2.60

Washington State (rating of 27)      3-0 / 2.50

California (rating of 27)         3-0 / 2.40

Washington (rating of 11)       2-1 / 2.00 (opening game v Auburn in Atlanta is 30/70)

Oregon State (rating of 44)      0-3 / 0.70

Pacific-12 Conference (Pac12) – South division 

Arizona (rating of 23)           3-0 / 2.55

Utah (rating of 19)          2-1 / 1.90

Colorado (rating of 33)       2-1 / 1.70

UCLA (rating of 26)          2-1 / 1.65

USC (rating of 16)          1-2 / 1.70 (losses at Stanford and Texas)

Arizona State (rating of 30)        1-2 / 1.45

SEC – Southeastern Conference – West Division

Alabama (rating of 7)     3-0 / 2.70

Mississippi State (rating of 17)     3-0 / 2.60

Auburn (rating of 13)          3-0 / 2.40

Arkansas (rating of 31)         3-0 / 2.40

Texas A&M (rating of 20)      2-1 / 2.30

LSU (rating of 18)          1-1-1 / 1.80 (loss to Auburn, 50/50 with Miami-Florida)

Ole Miss (rating of 28)        1-2 / 1.38

SEC – Southeastern Conference – East Division

Florida (rating of 22)            3-0 / 2.75

Georgia (rating of 10)        3-0 / 2.70

Missouri (rating of 23)        3-0 / 2.50

South Carolina (rating of 21)        2-1 / 2.20 (loss to Georgia)

Kentucky (rating of 30)           2-1 / 2.15

Tennessee (rating of 33)         2-1 / 2.05

Vanderbilt (rating of 35)          2-1 / 1.40

 

Now, we’re going to look at the “Group Of Five” conferences and independents. The records for these teams probably vary more than any other “group”, depending on how these ADs scheduled their non-conference games. If they used the opportunity to play up, challenge Power Five teams, then their records will probably reflect that decision, whereas some other teams might have tried to bulk up their win totals early by playing the “Little Sisters Of The Poor”, as the Ohio State president Gordon Gee famously said a few years ago. So, before making any judgments here, take a look at the schedules (wish I had room to print all of THAT out, too!).

AAC – American Athletic Conference – West Division 

Memphis (rating of 22)           3-0 / 2.70 wins probability

Navy (rating 30)        2-1 / 2.20 wins probability

Houston (rating 27)           1-2 / 1.80 (close losses to Arizona and Texas Tech)

Tulane (rating of 39)       1-2 / 1.20

Tulsa (rating of 41)          0-3 / 0.70

SMU (rating of 39)            0-3 / 0.42

AAC – American Athletic Conference – East Division 

Central Florida (UCF – rating of 19)      3-0 / 2.65

South Florida (USF – rating of 27)       3-0 / 2.20

Temple (rating of 33)            2-1 / 2.00

Cincinnati (rating of 43)           1-2 / 1.30

U Conn (Connecticut – rating of 48)          1-2 / 0.75

East Carolina (rating of 48)     0-3 / 0.30

Conference USA – East Division

FAU – Florida Atlantic (rating of 22)     2-1 / 2.10 wins probability (only a 10% chance against Oklahoma)

Marshall (rating of 33)       2-1 / 1.70 wins probability

Old Dominion (rating of 47)     1-1-1 / 1.60

FIU – Florida International (rating of 44)     0-1-2 / 1.30 (50/50 games against both Old Dominion and U Mass)

Middle Tennessee (rating 35)     1-2 / 1.20

Charlotte (rating of 53)         1-2 / 1.05

Western Kentucky (rating of 43)      1-2 / 0.80

Conference USA – West Division

UAB – Alabama-Birmingham (rating of 40)       3-0 / 2.30 (the only perfect team after three games, and they only re-started playing football again last year!)

Louisiana Tech (rating of 34)           2-0 / 1.80

North Texas (rating of 37)                  2-1 / 1.90

Southern Miss (rating of 40)              2-1 / 1.90

Rice (rating of 53)                   1-2 / 0.90

UTEP (Texas-El Paso)        0-3 / 0.35

UTSA (Texas-San Antonio)         0-3 / 0.25

MAC – Mid-American Conference – East Division 

Ohio (rating of 30)     2-0 / 1.60 wins probability

Buffalo (rating of 40)        2-1 / 1.90

Miami of Ohio (rating of 39)     1-2 / 1.30

Akron (rating of 43)        1-2 / 1.05

Bowling Green (rating of 48)     1-2 / 0.90

Kent State (rating of 53)        1-2 / 0.75

MAC – Mid-American Conference – West Division

Toledo (rating of 31)            1-1 / 1.20 (loss to Miami-Florida)

Western Michigan (rating of 38)        1-1-1 / 1.50 (50/50 with Syracuse)

Northern Illinois (rating of 32)       1-2 / 1.20

Eastern Michigan (rating of 42)         1-2 / 1.15

Central Michigan (rating of 44)        1-2 / 0.75

Ball State (rating of 52)       1-2 / 0.60

Mountain West Conference – Mountain Division 

Boise State (rating 18)         2-1 / 2.20 wins probability

Utah State (rating 36)          2-1 / 1.80 wins probability 

Wyoming (rating 35)         2-2 / 1.70

Air Force (rating 40)           1-1 / 0.60

New Mexico (rating 46)         1-2 / 1.35

Colorado State (rating 38)        1-3 / 1.75

Mountain West Conference – West Division

Nevada-Reno (rating of 42)         2-1 / 1.90

Fresno State (rating 27)        2-1 / 1.85

San Diego State (rating 26)       2-1 / 1.75

UNLV (Nevada-Las Vegas)        2-1 / 1.65

Hawai’i (rating 48)           1-3 / 0.95

San Jose State (rating 53)      0-3 / 0.40

Sun Belt Conference – East Division

Appalachian State (rating 31)     2-1 / 1.75 wins probability

Troy (rating 33)          1-2 / 1.50 wins probability

Georgia Southern (rating 46)          1-2 / 1.30

Coastal Carolina (rating 49)           1-2 / 1.10

Georgia State (rating 47)           0-3 / 0.10 (they start the year with FCS #5 Kennesaw State, North Carolina State, and Memphis!)

Sun Belt Conference – West Division

Arkansas State (rating 31)         2-1 / 1.70

Texas State (rating 52)        1-2 / 1.20

Louisiana-Monroe (rating 44)      1-2 / 0.90

South Alabama (rating 47)         1-2 / 0.90

Louisiana-Lafayette (rating 48)         1-2 / 0.60

Independents

Notre Dame (rating 15)        3-0 / 2.60 wins probability

Liberty (rating 48)          2-1 / 1.55

Massachusetts (U Mass – rating 41)        2-2 / 1.60

Army-West Point (rating 33)           1-2 / 2.10

New Mexico State (rating 46)           1-3 / 1.85

BYU (Brigham Young University – rating 38)         0-3 / 0.35 (they open with Arizona, Cal, and Wisconsin)

So, these are going to be physically long posts… therefore I’ll split these up into sections. Next post: the FCS conferences through round three. 

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