Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Thoughts on my college bowl pool

For the second year in a row I participated in an against-the-spread contest with some high school friends for the college bowl season. For the second year in a row I didn’t win (15/16 this year, 4/25 last year).

I did, however, get some good anecdotes:


This group of people mainly from Columbus, Ohio and mainly living in the Midwest still has a bit of a Big Ten problem. Last year the group was 15% more confident in games involving Big Ten teams than games not involving them while underperforming against the spread – the ATS win percentage was 47.2% for these games and 48.2% for non-Big Ten games.

This year the group was 17% more confident when a Big Ten team was involved while managing to win 48.8% of them. The win percentage on non-Big Ten games was 53.4%.


Last year the group was overconfident in what turned into losses, betting 21.0 points against 19.5 on games they ended up picking correctly. This year was flipped with the wins worth 21.6 while losses were 20.6.

As is evident in the chart below, however, there was no correlation between confidence and success.

Confidence (pt. 2)

The game with the highest confidence was (inexplicably) the Outback Bowl between Northwestern and Tennessee featuring 13 out of 16 people picking the wrong team and an average confidence of 30.4. The least confident game was San Jose State vs. Georgia State with 9 of 16 teams picking correctly at an average confidence of 8.9.

Confidence (pt. 3)

After assigning the national championship game the lowest aggregate wager last year (8.8 out of 39), this year people were feeling a bit more lucky and gave it a higher risk than 8 other bowls (16.4 out of 41) despite not knowing which two teams would be contesting the game.

14 of 16 got the Orange Bowl right while only 2 of 16 got the Cotton Bowl correct (Big Ten) with 11 of the 16 ending up with a viable championship game pick (5 Clemson, 6 Alabama). The Alabama picks were worth 19.8 – above the 14.3 for losers – so maybe those people were on to something.