I've taken some long road trips in the past couple months; since March 2017 I've put 8000 miles on my poor little 98 Ford Ranger. Any Cowboy who drives a lot knows that you can only listen to Cross Canadian Ragweed so many times, regardless of how great they might be. So, in an effort to kill the monotony, I started listening to audiobooks. I started with my favorite cinematic adaptations, because I knew they would keep my interest. 13 Hours, American Sniper, and Moneyball made it to the top of the list. I found myself entranced after finishing Moneyball, and I needed more. So I took to the interwebs, and found Trading Bases by Joe Peta. If you haven't read it, you should.
In Trading Bases, Joe Peta, a former 7 figure Wall Street trader, suddenly finds himself out of a job, and takes to analyzing and betting on baseball. Obviously, I'm not nearly as smart as Mr. Peta, and I'm certainly not claiming to be. However, I wanted to introduce the book in order to explain the method I've used in calculating team-by-team luck.
Joe Peta, by way of Bill James, outlines a method of analyzing the objective success of teams by using what's referred to as the Pythagorean Expectation--essentially the idea that a team's record ought to be as follows: (points for^2)/((points for^2) + (points against^2)) x games played. With a little bit of tweaking, thanks to Wikipedia, the exponent changes for accuracy to 2.37 when calculating football.
With this method, you are able to see how many games a team should have won, as opposed to how many it did, thus taking luck and intangibles out of the equation. I've taken the time to calculate the Pythagorean Expectation for every team currently in the Big 12 since 2013, and their total deviation in reality from that expectation, as well as some other's I found interesting. Here are some of the key results as I calculated them:
16 OSU: 502/345 PF/PA Pythagorean Wins: 9.2125 Actual Wins: 10 Deviation: .7875
25 OSU: 514/396 PF/PA Pythagorean Wins: 8.4472 Actual Wins: 10 Deviation: 1.552
14 OSU: 359/406 PF/PA Pythagorean Wins: 5.5590 Actual Wins: 7 Deviation: 1.441
And, evaluating a choice few others, starting first with outliers:
16 OU: 571 PF 375 PA Pythagorean Wins: 9.4948 Actual Wins: 11 Deviation: 1.5052
16 ND: 371 PF 334 PA Pythagorean Wins: 6.7431 Actual Wins: 4 Deviation: -2.7431
And now, teams that almost completely hit the mark:
15 OU: 566/286 PF/PA Pythagorean Wins: 10.848 Actual Wins: 11 Deviation: 0.152
16 UA: 582/195 PF/PA Pythagorean Wins: 13.954 Actual Wins: 14 Deviation: 0.1991
As you can see, OSU quite consistently in the past 3 years has had more "luck" than teams in the average, or hitting the mark, and has failed to have an "unlucky" year in recent memory. Additionally, building off of a principle proposed by Dr. Mauboussin, author of The Success Principle, it is necessary to believe that the most influential portion of a team's success is a positive Head Coach/Quarterback combination.
Oklahoma State has the 2nd highest rate of positive deviation from Pythagorean wins in the Big 12, behind OU. The reason I do not believe OU will be able to continue this for the 2017 season is the departure of Bob Stoops. I understand that Lincoln Riley knows his stuff, but there is simply not any data to support betting on OU, regardless of the presence of Baker Mayfield.
So what are we to extrapolate from this data? Well, to start, there is a positive trend by OSU from the 1+ deviation toward a sub 1 deviation, meaning that although 2016 and 2015 were 10 win seasons, 2016 meant more because of upward trend in Pythagorean Expectation. Additionally, OSU is one of the only teams in the Big 12 with a HC of more than 2 years, and a QB of more than 2 years returning. This allows one to rely heavily on the data at hand. Now, we look at the lines for season total wins:
OSU: 9 wins Over: +110 Under: -140
OU: 9.5 wins Over: -130 Under: +100
UT: 7.5 wins Over: +110 Under: -140
If you will notice, OSU is given the same odds to go 10-3 as UT is given to go 8-5. I don't know about you, but with the return of James Washington, Mason Rudolph, Justice Hill, and of course our fearless, mullet-y leader, I find it almost absurd to give OSU -110 odds to go 10-3, let alone higher. The positive trend in Pythagorean Expectation for an OSU team returning 12 starters, combined with +110 to go 10-3 or better means that this is just too good to pass up. Think about this: even if the Pokes lose to OU, WVU, and UT, your bet still cashes. That relies on a loss to Kansas State or TCU, both of which I find highly unlikely.
If you find yourself in Vegas, you know what my recommendation is. Put a Benjamin on the Pokes going over 9; you might just find yourself with $110 come December.