The Massey-Peabody bracket attempts to reconcile analytics and politics. We begin with the traditional Massey-Peabody Power Rankings, a predictive analytics model built to identify the “best” teams. We then impose a few political constraints in order to also consider which teams are “most deserving”: 1) No influence from pre-season expectations (hence we use Massey-Peabody’s “Hybrid” rankings (MPh), detailed below), 2) No more than two teams per conference (and at least three conferences represented), and 3) Higher seeds given to conference champions and head-to-head winners. We do not consider win-loss records, as they are notoriously unreliable indicators of team quality.
Massey-Peabody Playoff Bracket (for 11/1)
1. Alabama, 7-1, SEC, MPh #1 (MP #1)
2. Georgia, 6-1, SEC, MPh #2 (MP #2)
3. Ohio State, 6-1, Big 10, MPh #3 (MP #4)
4. TCU, 6-1, Big 12, MPh #8 (MP #13)
Alabama is easily the best team in the country according to Massey-Peabody, with or without pre-season expectations. Georgia locks up the second (and last) SEC spot with a #2 ranking despite their early season loss to South Carolina. Ohio State hangs on to #3, barely edging, Michigan State (MPh #4), a team they will eventually have to beat to make the playoffs. We then reach all the way to #8 to find a non-SEC / non-Big 10 team to round out the bracket. TCU is at the top of a string of deserving 1-loss teams from the Big 12 and Pac 12, including Oregon (MPh #10) who has a game this weekend against a Stanford team that is much better than its 5-3 record. The biggest surprises are the omission of unbeatens Mississippi State (MPh #5) and Florida State (MPh #17), who don’t quite stack up according to the analytics, especially – in Florida State’s case – if the focus is exclusively this year’s on-field performance. Auburn (MPh #6) and Ole Miss (MP #7) join Mississippi State as SEC teams still very much in the running.
Background: To be more politically palatable, we created a modified version of our rankings that does not use priors. In these rankings all teams start the season on equal footing and are never affected by our pre-season expectations for them. (Tip: This is a bad way to bet.) One problem with setting aside priors is that we lose understanding about a team’s strength of schedule. For example, if we run an in-season-only version of our rankings, Marshall comes out very near the top. To add realism (after all, the committee is trying to consider strength of schedule), we created a “Hybrid” Massey-Peabody model (MPh). This model sets aside priors for the team, but incorporates priors on their opponents. That means Marshall opens the season on the same footing as Alabama, but also that we know Alabama plays a tougher schedule. It’s a fudge. But it allows us to maintain some realism while staying “pure” in our evaluation of this season’s play. Below is our current “Hybrid” Top 15, along with the rankings from our full model (MP).
|Rank (Hybrid)||Team||Hybrid||Rank (Full)||Full|