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Stats Corner: What Are You Playing For?

The probability of conference title game and bowl games

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 22 Air Force at San Jose State Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The last couple Stats Corner have covered the chances of teams getting invited to the New Year’s Bowl, and going bowling. Since then, Boise State beat Wyoming, and Nevada has beaten both San Diego State and New Mexico. In other words, what is expected to happen does not always happen. As we enter November, we are going to look at what everyone has left to play for.

Conference Title Game

Air Force: 80% on making title game, 55% of winning title.

The Falcons have had a great season and are in the best position of any team in the conference. Not only are they undefeated, but have also played five conference games compared to the four conference games of Fresno State, UNLV, and Boise State, giving them one less opportunity to lose a conference game. They can clinch the Commander in Chief cup this weekend against Army (88% chance of winning). Then they finish against Hawaii (87%), UNLV (77%), and Boise State (53%). They have 22% chance of end the season undefeated, but they could lose at least 2 of the last three games to have a chance of not make the title game. The only thing not going the Falcon’s way is that Tulane was ranked ahead of them in the football playoff rankings. Being ranked begin the Green Wave will make it more difficult to make the NY6 bowl.

Fresno State: 56% on making title game, 22% of winning title.

The Bulldogs do have one loss, but it is to Wyoming who is further down this list and has 2 losses. They do not draw Air Force this season, their biggest game left is Saturday against Boise State. The loser of that game will have two losses and will lose the head to head tie breaker. The Bulldogs are currently favored at 59%. A win does not guarantee a spot in the title game, but it would essentially eliminate another competitor. After the Broncos, Fresno has San Jose State (49%), New Mexico (90%), and San Diego State (79%). A loss against the Broncos and the Bulldogs have to win out and hope that Boise loses once more.

Boise State: 44% on making title game, 22% of winning title, 83% of going bowling.

The Broncos have one lose, to Colorado State, who are essentially out of the running for the title game, so they are competing against the teams ahead of them on this list. The good news for the Broncos is they still play Fresno State and Air Force and a victory against both would give them head to head tie breakers and a spot in the title game. The bad news for the Broncos is they still play Fresno State and Air Force and are underdogs in both, 41% to the Bulldogs and 47% to the Falcons. They do need two more victory to go bowling sandwiched between those games are New Mexico (89%) and Utah State (62%). Therefore, even if the Broncos lose the two big games, they are favored in two more, enough to go bowling.

San Jose State: 12% on making title game, 3% of winning title, 67% of going bowling.

Yes, I know that San Jose State has two losses and UNLV only has one, so why are the Spartans ranked higher? Because the Stats say so, darn it. Things get a little complicated in this part of the rankings because teams need so much to go right for them. First, the Spartans only have 3 games left, giving them less options to mess things up. Their conference losses are to Air Force and Boise State, meaning the head to head games against Fresno State and UNLV are still coming up. AND, this is the main deciding factor, they are slight favorites against Fresno State (52%) and UNLV (52%). It is not much of a favorite, but it is enough combined with Boise State as underdogs, whom they lose the head to head with, they Spartans have a slightly better chance of making title game. If Fresno beats Boise this weekend, Boise will drop a lot and San Jose State will move up the rankings as they would then have the option of gaining the head to head against the Bulldogs. A Bronco victory and their chances go down the drain as Boise who have one less loss and the head to head. The other game is against San Diego State and they are heavily favored (82%), but to go bowling they need to beat either Fresno or UNLV as well as the Aztecs.

UNLV: 6% on making title game, 7% of winning title

The loss to Fresno State hurts, if they had won, then the conference title game would have had a 94% of being Air Force vs UNLV with the November 18th match-up determining where it would be played. But the Bulldogs were able to get the victory and put themselves in the driver’s seat. Already going bowling, the Rebels are playing for position, bowl location, and hoping that other teams falter. The remaining schedule is New Mexico (72%), Wyoming (57%), Air Force (23%), and San Jose State (48%). While the Rebels should go 2-2 or 3-1, they need to beat San Jose State and get some serious help, since they are not playing Boise State this year and cannot gain that tie breaker.

Wyoming: 2% on making title game, 5.7% of winning title

After losses to Air Force and Boise State, Wyoming almost got bumped down to playing for bowl games category, but with the tie breaker against Fresno State, there is a way for the Cowboys to make the title game. While the early schedule was brutal, the rest of the season is not bad, Colorado State (77%), UNLV (43%), Hawaii (91%), and Nevada (75%). If the Cowboys can win out, 18% chance, they would have tie breakers against Fresno State and UNLV. If all the teams above them lose the correct unexpected game or two, there is a path for the conference title. First though, the Cowboys need to take care of business and win one more to make a bowl game.

Bowl Games

Utah State: 52% chance of making a bowl game

OK, technically Utah State, and the other teams not named Hawaii, can make the conference title game. The chance of that happening is .33%, or if you are betting +30,000, which means if you bet $100 than Utah State will win the conference title and they do, you would win $30,000. Compared to Air Force at -120, meaning you have to bet $120 to win $100. If you have the money to make long shot bets, go for it, but I am going to consider these teams out of the running. The Aggies are currently 1-3 and tied for second worse in the conference, but have a decent chance to make a bowl game. This is because of the schedule. They have already played Air Force and Fresno State. They do have Boise State left, and while they are underdogs to the Broncos (38%), they are favored against San Diego State (61%), Nevada (82%), and New Mexico (68%). There is no more leeway for mistake, but chances are Aggies are going bowling.

Colorado State: 30% chance of making a bowl game.

Like the Aggies the Rams are 3-5 and 1-3 in conference. They also have one tough game left of their schedule Wyoming (23%). After that, they have San Diego State (57%), Nevada (67%), and Hawaii (49%). The Rams going bowling may come down to winning on the islands.

San Diego State: 9% chance of making a bowl game

Another 3-5, 1-3 team with one really tough game left against Fresno State. But first the Aztecs host Utah State and one of those teams’ chances of a bowl game will drop to almost nothing and the other will increase dramatically. The following week against the Rams another team’s chances will drop to nothing. The Aztecs are underdogs against all of their opponents: Utah State (39%) , Colorado State (43%), San Jose State (18%), and Fresno State (21%), and they need to win three of those games.

New Mexico: 2% chance of making a bowl game

The final 3-5, 1-3, team for the conference (how did that happen?), the Lobos are huge underdogs in each game: UNLV (28%), Boise State (11.1%), Fresno State (10%), and Utah State (32%). The Lobos can play spoilers but that is about it. They have the worse odds at making the title game at +50,000, meaning a $100 bet can win you $50,000 but the chances of that happening are .1%.

Nevada: 1% of making a bowl game

You are saying there is a chance. A couple weeks ago, I though the Wolfpack would be the first team eliminated from the bowl games, but that goes to Hawaii, and Nevada has a chance due to the softer schedule they have: Hawaii (86%), Utah State (19%), Colorado State (33%), and Wyoming (26%). The Wolfpack have to win all of them, and Utah State, Colorado State, and Nevada cannot all go bowling, but the Wolfpack can make it interesting.