2018 FCS Football Forecast – our final predictions

With the start of the 2018 college football season on Saturday, we’ve already published a detailed set of forecasts for all 10 conferences and 130 teams in FBS college football, using our patented ELO-Following Football rating system to forecast the probable outcome of every single game in Division 1, for all 130 teams in the FBS division! Today, we’ll finish the job by forecasting the likely outcomes for all 125 FCS teams in the bottom half of Division 1, the teams with scholarships who compete for an actual national championship! 

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 in our system, they virtually 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. 

The Following Football rating system has been predicting both probable outcomes and point spreads for several years now, and is now refined to a point where it’s proven to be more accurate than the Las Vegas betting odds (unfortunately for us, not enough better to make any real money on it yet!). Please remember that for that reason (among others!) we don’t recommend using our numbers to invest in the punting game where it’s legal.

Okay? Here we go! We’ll be presenting each team with their starting ELO-FF rating, their likely record in their conference and overall, and their “Pythagorean probability” (we’ll show how that works soon enough). For some readers, it might be useful to have a game schedule handy to compare these results to; our weekly predictions have been over 75% accurate over each of the past three seasons, although predicting a December game in August is definitely more of a shot in the dark. We plan to continually update our predictions throughout the season.

Let’s start with the “Big Five”  – the five FCS conferences that traditionally put the multiple entries into the post-season tournament.

Big Sky Conference

Weber State**             9-0      10-1        8.60 wins probability

Eastern Washington* 8-1       9-2         7.90 wins probability

Montana*                  7-1        8-3          7.40 wins probability

Sacramento State     6-3      7-4          6.70 w p

Montana State          5-3      6-5          6.68 w p

Southern Utah          4-3-1     6-4-1      6.15 w p

Idaho                        3-3-2     4-5-2       5.45 w p

UC Davis                  3-4-1     4-6-1       4.65 w p

North Dakota             3-5         4-7         4.25 w p

Idaho State                2-6        3-8          4.10 w p

Northern Colorado     1-7        1-10        2.75 w p

Cal Poly SLO             1-7         2-9         2.15 w p

Portland State            0-8         1-10       1.52 w p

So, “wins probability” is the expected number of wins derived by adding up the percentages for each game. For example, Weber State may be favored in 10 of their 11 games (all except their opener at Utah), but the percentages only add up to 860%, meaning that there are 240% still on the losing side. They “should” end up something like 9-2, 8-3… but we don’t know where the upsets will be.

As we mentioned, there are no ties in college football any more, but there are two games in which Idaho has a 50/50 chance of winning (at UC Davis, and at home vs. Southern Utah). Rather than arbitrarily choose a winner, we’ve chosen to show you those close games this way.

The ** indicates our projected conference champion, while a * indicates our expectation of a post-season bid. Okay? Moving on!

Colonial Athletic Association

James Madison**           8-0       10-1        9.53 wins probability

Elon*                              7-1         9-2         6.45 w p

Stony Brook*                   6-2        8-3         6.70 w p

Delaware                        5-2-1      7-3-1      6.92 w p

New Hampshire              5-3         7-4        7.30 w p

Richmond                      4-3-1       6-4-1       6.45 w p

Villanova                        4-4           6-5        6.30 w p

William & Mary             2-5-1        3-7-1       3.75 w p

Towson                         2-6          4-7           3.92 w p

Albany                         1-5-2        3-6-2         4.80 w p

Maine                           1-6-1       1-9-1        3.55 w p

Rhode Island              0-6-2        1-8-2         3.40 w p

 

Missouri Valley Conference

North Dakota State**     8-0      11-0       10.03 wins probability

South Dakota State*      7-1       9-2         7.95 w p

Northern Iowa*              5-3        7-4         6.63 w p

Youngstown State          4-3-1    6-4-1      6.45 w p

Illinois State                  4-4         6-5        6.61 w p

South Dakota                4-4         5-6       5.30 w p

Western Illinois            3-4-1       5-4-2      6.00 w p

Southern Illinois             2-6         4-7       3.97 w p

Missouri State                2-6         3-8        3.40 w p

Indiana State                 0-8          1-10     1.59 w p

 

Southern Conference

Samford**                    8-0           9-2           8.20 wins probability

Furman*                      7-1           8-3           7.10 w p

Wofford*                      6-2           8-3            8.20 w p

Mercer                        5-3            7-4             5.85 w p

Western Carolina         4-4         6-5              6.15 w p

The Citadel                  3-5          4-7             4.00 w p

East Tennessee St       2-6         4-7              3.30 w p

Chattanooga               1-7          2-9              3.83 w p

VMI                              0-8         1-10             1.57 w p

 

Southland Conference

Sam Houston State**     9-0        11-0            10.13 wins percentage

McNeese State*             9-0         10-1           8,94 wins percentage

       (SHS and McNeese don’t play each other this season, obviously.)

Central Arkansas*          7-2          8-2-1           8.60 w p

Nicholls*                         7-2          8-3             8.18 w p

Stephen F Austin            5-4          6-5             5.80 w p

SE Louisiana                  5-4          5-6              5.70 w p

Abilene Christian           3-6          4-7               3.67 w p

Lamar                             2-7         3-8              3.00 w p

Northwestern State        2-7         2-9              2.74 w p

Houston Baptist             0-9          1-10            2.29 w p

Incarnate Word              0-9          1-10            1.82 w p

( HBU and IW don’t play each other this season, either. What are the odds?)

          Now, for the five conferences that aren’t traditionally as strong (although there are two or three really strong teams within these conferences). These usually send just their champion to the post-season tournament, although occasionally two from one conference get in.

Big South Conference

Kennesaw State**              5-0         11-0          10.10 wins probability

Monmouth*                        4-1          8-3             7.40 wins probability

     (Like last year, we see Monmouth getting in as an at-large team – their body of work has been strong for a few years now – just not quite the rocket ship KSU has become.)

Charleston Southern          4-2            6-5         5.95 w p

Campbell (ineligible)          2-3-1        6-4-1         5.55 w p

        (Coming in from the Pioneer League, Campbell is playing about a full schedule, although we’re not sure if the Big South will count their games with league opponents or not. Hampton is only beginning the transition from the MEAC, and its games will not count; nor will North Alabama’s, which is beginning its transition from D2.)

Hampton                        (1-2)           5-4             6.20 w p

Presbyterian                     1-5-1         3-6-1        4.20 w p

Gardner-Webb                 0-5            1-10          2.70 w p

(North Alabama               0-1             4-6-1         4.75 w p, about half vs. D2 teams)

 

Northeast Conference

Duquesne**                      6-0            9-2              8.15 wins probability

St Francis (PA)                 5-1             7-4             5.95 w p

Bryant                             4-2              8-3              7.05 w p

Central Connecticut St     4-2            7-3-1            6.50 w p

Wagner                            2-4            3-8               3.40 w p

Robert Morris                   1-5            3-8               3.55 w p

Sacred Heart                  0-6            1-10              3.20 w p

 

Ohio Valley Conference

Jacksonville State**            8-0          10-1              9.45 wins probability

Austin Peay*                        7-1         9-2                7.55 w p

Eastern Kentucky                4-3          7-4               5.50 w p

UT-Martin                          4-3-1         5-5-1             5.25 w p

Tennessee State               3-3-1        6-4-1              5.80 w p

Murray State                     3-4-1         3-7-1              3.85 w p

Eastern Illinois                  2-5-1         3-7-1              4.02 w p

SE Missouri State              2-6             3-8                3.90 w p

Tennessee Tech               0-8              0-11              2.15 w p

 

Patriot League

Lehigh**                             5-1              6-4-1            5.60 wins probability

Colgate                              4-2               6-5               6.10 w p

Fordham                            4-2              5-5-1             5.25 w p

Holy Cross                         4-2              4-7                4.00 w p

Bucknell                           2-3-1           3-7-1               4.05 w p

Lafayette                           1-5              1-10               3.15 w p

Georgetown                      0-5-1           0-10-1            3.20 w p!! 

    (It would be almost unbelievable for Georgetown to actually go winless with 3.20 probability!)

 

Pioneer Football League

San Diego**                    8-0                 11-0             9.96 wins probability

Drake                             6-1-1              8-2-1             7.30 w p

Dayton                           5-1-2              6-3-2             5.92 w p

Valparaiso                      5-3                    6-5             5.55 w p

Jacksonville                    4-4                   6-5              5.05 w p

Marist                             4-4                    5-6             4.55 w p

Butler                           3-4-1                  4-6-1            4.95 w p

Davidson                        2-6                    5-6              4.75 w p

Stetson                           1-7                    3-8              4.30 w p

Morehead State              0-8                  1-10              2.87 w p

    (The Pioneer tends to play lots of D2 teams, looking for teams they can compete with.)

If you’ve paid attention, you may have noticed that we’ve only named 23 teams to fill the 24 playoff slots. Who’s lucky 24 going to be? Take a look through the near-misses and let us know in the comments who YOU think’s going to be in the final 24 – or if we’ve gone completely off base somewhere and you feel compelled to correct us? By all means!

 

Finally, we have the three “FCS” conferences that adhere to the scholarship and financial limits of the division but do NOT participate in the FCS championships. The MEAC reserves the right for any non-champion team to participate in the playoffs if invited, but its champion plays the winner of the SWAC in the Celebration Bowl for the HBC national championship. (HBC stands for “Historically Black Colleges”, of which there are about one hundred in the eastern US but only twenty or so at the Division 1 level.)

Ivy League 

Yale (champion)                 7-0        10-0          7.90 wins probability

Princeton                         5-1-1       8-1-1          6.30 w p

Dartmouth                        4-2-1      7-2-1           5.95 w p

Penn                                  4-3        6-3-1           5.70 w p

Harvard                            3-3-1       5-4-1         5.30 w p

Columbia                        2-4-1       4-5-1          4.85 w p

Cornell                            0-6-1        1-8-1         3.15 w p

Brown                             0-6-1        1-8-1         2.75 w p

 

Metro East Athletic Conference (MEAC)

North Carolina A&T*          8-0          10-1         9.90 wins probability

Bethune-Cookman             6-1           8-3          6.08 w p

North Carolina Central       6-1           8-3          5.95 w p

Howard                              6-2           6-5           5.95 w p

South Carolina State         5-4          5-6           4.80 w p

Florida A&M                      4-4          6-5            5.30 w p

Savannah State                3-5           3-8           3.55 w p

Norfolk State                     2-6          3-8            4.35 w p

Morgan State                   1-7           1-10          2.35 w p

Delaware State                 0-8          1-10          2.75 w p

 

SouthWestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) 

EAST)

Alcorn State                  5-3             6-5            6.50 wins probability

Alabama State              4-3             5-6             3.90 w p

Jackson State               3-4             4-7             4.15 w p

Alabama A&M              2-6            4-7              4.55 w p

Mississippi Valley St     0-7           0-11              1.32 w p

WEST)

Grambling State**          7-0            10-1              8.65 w p

Prairie View A&M           6-1            7-4                5.80 w p

Southern U                    5-2              6-5              5.60 w p

Texas Southern              3-4            4-7                4.45 w p

Arkansas Pine Bluff       1-6            3-8                3.40 w p

  

 

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