For those of us constantly obsessing over how well Auburn would stack up against the rest of the SEC, I’ve created this handy table — the Vegas Lines Matrix. For more information on what the Vegas Lines Matrix is, how it works, and why you should care, check out a prior week’s column.
Changes this week
Based on how all teams played last week, I (acting on behalf of Vegas bookies) have adjusted the matchup lines you could expect if these teams played this week. A few things to mention first: In ordered to “improve” a team’s odds, one of three things needs to occur:
1) The team needed to improve on their per game statistics in the past week.
2) Their opponent’s per game statistics needs to get worse.
3) The team needs to move up in the polls.
In Auburn’s remaining games, we see the following changes:
Georgia @ Auburn, the line moves from Auburn being a 16.5 point favorite to a 16-point favorite.
Auburn @ Alabama, the line moves from Auburn being a 7-point underdog to a 4.5-point underdog.
How the Vegas lines Matrix compares to the actual Vegas lines
|Matchup||Vegas Lines Matrix prediction||Actual Vegas Line (11/09/2010)|
|Ole Miss @ Tennessee||PICK||-1.5|
|Vanderbilt @ Kentucky||-8||-14|
|Georgia @ Auburn||-16.5||-8.5|
|UL-Monroe @ LSU||-30.5||-32.5|
|UTEP @ Arkansas||-25||-29|
|South Carolina @ Florida||-1||-6.5|
|Mississippi State @ Alabama||-14.5||-13.5|
We can use these odds from the above color-coded Vegas lines matrix to impute the implied probability of winning in these matchups. These probabilities are calculated using thousands of prior games. For example, let’s consider the actual Georgia at Auburn spread, where Auburn is a 8.5-point home favorite. In the past 10 years (the period my data covers) there have been 98 games where the home team was a favorite by exactly 8.5 points. In these 98 games, the home team won 71 and lost 27, for an implied win probability of 72.5 percent. If the line moves “down” to -8 points, historically we observe: 83 games, 63 wins for a win percentage of 75.9 percent. If the line moves a half point in favor of the Auburn to -9, we see: 62 games, 48 wins for a win percentage of 77.4 percent.
By populating the above matchup matrix with these probabilities, we can “simulate” the remainder of the season and calculate such things as a team’s expected record or probability of going undefeated. Note that the probabilities actually displayed here are a 3-line moving average, so a 8.5-point home favorite would use all of the games mentioned above (lines at -8, -8.5, -9) to calculate a weighted average to smooth out inconsistencies from occasionally sparse data at certain line values.
As with the above matrix above, the values are color coded relative to the home team’s chances of winning. The greener the cell, the more likely the home team is to win.
After handling UT-Chattanooga last week, Auburn is now 10-0 with games against its two biggest rivals remaining. As 8.5-point favorites this weekend, the Georgia game could prove to be close, as most games in this series have been. Although The Model predicted a 16.5-point line from Vegas, the experts in the desert opened this game at -9, and the line has since moved down to -8.5. Although a touchdown difference between the model and the actual line is certainly within the norm, it suggests that Auburn has a good chance of covering as 8.5-point favorites.
The Alabama-LSU outcome helps and hurts Auburn, though I suspect it does more of the former. Auburn’s coaches get another data point on how to slow down Alabama, and voters can think a little bit more about the relative strength of Auburn in the SEC. After all, Auburn outgained LSU 526-243, and LSU outgained Alabama 433-325.
Auburn has a 28.3 percent chance of winning out and going undefeated prior to the SEC title game, up from 27.1 percent last week. Alabama has a 50.7 percent chance of going undefeated in its remaining schedule. LSU, with one remaining test at Arkansas on Nov. 27, has a 47 percent chance of winning out.
A Few Scenarios
I ran through the various scenarios that could play out with Alabama, Auburn and LSU all still having a chance to win the SEC West and found the following: Auburn wins 92 percent of the time. Alabama wins 6 percent of the time. LSU wins 2 percent of the time.
Predicted final standings
The SEC West will be wrapped up this weekend with an Auburn win, but an Auburn loss opens up a couple of scenarios for Alabama to still represent the West. ESPN has examined these scenarios, which involve a three-way tie and a four-way tie. Auburn controls its own destiny in the SEC and the national championship picture. If Auburn wins out, expect them not only to be in Glendale, Ariz., come Jan. 10, but to be there as the No. 1 ranked team in the country. If LSU manages to win out, they will likely be the SEC’s second BCS team (unless the SEC East wins the championship game, which would cause a tremendous amount of chaos).
In the SEC East (which is now 2-15 against the SEC West), South Carolina was humiliated at home against Arkansas, while Florida routed Vanderbilt, shaking up the expected final standings in the SEC East. The winner of the South Carolina at Florida game this weekend will represent the SEC East in Atlanta, and the loser will likely represent the SEC in the Gator Bowl. Tennessee won last weekend against Memphis and has about a 50 percent chance of winning each of its remaining three games. Winning out (13.1 percent chance) would make the Volunteers bowl-eligible and salvage a pitiful season.
Mac Mirabile is a 2002 graduate of Auburn’s economics and journalism departments. During his time at Auburn, he was a copy and photo editor with The Auburn Plainsman. He has a masters degree in economics from UNC-Chapel Hill and has written numerous academic publications on college football, the NFL and gambling markets. His previous column can be found here. He can be reached at [email protected]