Constructing Title Odds

Phil Steele did some analysis on a recent blog of how often underdogs win outright. It's no surprise that the bigger a favorite a team is, the more likely they are to beat the underdog. Using that knowledge along with some early point spreads (and guesses at early point spreads) we can begin to construct some scenarios for the 2012 season. Here are the point spreads (or a best guess at a point spread) for each game this season along with the probability of victory implied by Steele's analysis.






Southern Miss






Arkansas State



Idaho State






Ohio State









Michigan State



Penn State









Big Ten Championship



National Championship




Some comments:

  • Point spreads were only available for a handful of games. In order to get spreads for the rest, we used Phil Steele's prediction of the Sagarin ratings. Historically, Sagarin ratings track fairly close to point spreads, though they can deviate.
  • We chose a 31 point spread over Idaho State because that's the maximum that Steele presented odds for. Chances are the spread will be higher or there will be no line on the game.
  • Three games seemed tougher for Nebraska based on actual spreads or Sagarin spreads than you'd expect. For example, it's surprising to see Michigan State as a five point favorite after they lost by three touchdowns a year ago. They lose a standout quarterback and receiver and yet they now are expected to improve their scoring margin against Nebraska by 26. The Penn State numbers were run just after penalties were announced, though it seems unlikely that they take into account the talent drain due to transfers that's happened since. A three and a half point advantage for NU seems pretty meager, given that the Huskers won by three points a year ago in Happy Valley. Likewise, I'm not sure that Iowa will truly be favored this year, even playing at home. That would be a two touchdown swing from a year ago.
  • It could be argued that Nebraska has gotten too much credit in some cases. For example, should the odds be nearly even that the Huskers win in Columbus? Likewise, is NU going to be that much better at home against Michigan and Wisconsin than they were in Ann Arbor and Madison? With a dual-threat quarterback, is Minnesota the perfect trap game for the Huskers like Northwestern a year ago?
  • The Huskers get even odds in a rematch with Wisconsin on a neutral field. The spread in a national championship game is based on where Sagarin is likely to rank Alabama and NU to open the season. It seems likely a 13-0 or 12-1 Nebraska wouldn't be quite such an underdog to the Crimson Tide in that case as they are today.
  • Despite being a favorite in every game, the odds work out to just 47% that Nebraska goes undefeated in the nonconference schedule to open the season. However, a victory over Southern Miss in the opener would instantly improve the odds to 60% and if followed by a win at UCLA would make them jump to 92%.
  • These point spreads give Nebraska less than a 1% chance of going 8-0 in the Big Ten and only about 5% of being 5-0 in the Legends Division. The likeliest outcome would appear to be five conference wins, though four wins would be nearly as likely. Like we saw with the nonconference odds, each hurdle you get over can improve the overall odds considerably. If the Huskers manage to beat Wisconsin at home and Ohio State on the road to open conference play, all of a sudden the likeliest outcome rises to six wins. If they get off to a 5-0 start in conference play, then seven wins becomes the expectation.
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Comments 3 comments so far

Some of these will change significantly during the season. The spreads for UCLA, Penn State, Northwestern, and Iowa will be higher, in my opinion.

NU is opening as a 17.5 favorite against Smiss…..and Ohio St. is a 4.5 favorite over Nebraska. Michigan 2.5…suprisingly MSU is -5 I would think Ohio St. would be a bigger favorite.

The LV number of 8.5 is right on

These statistics actually seemed biased against Nebraska for the most part. I think Nebraska will be much improved from 2011 and 3/4 of B1G teams will be less talented. Honestly Penn St and Iowa are no worry to me at all and UCLA won’t be within 10 points. I see Legends division champs percentage as 35ish, B1G title pecentage as 10 and Natl title as 1 or 2.
The Huskers really have only been a couple short circuits away from having some good seasons the last couple of years.

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