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Predicting the Huskers' 2015 Campaign

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It's almost August, so it's time to break out the calculator and sacrifice the live chicken to make my annual pre-seaon Nebraska Cornhusker predictions.

Because #cheerleaders
Because #cheerleaders
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Bottom Line Up Front

I expect 8.7 wins and about a 30% chance of reaching 10 wins for Nebraska.

Caveat

Preseason modeling, despite what the guys actually making doing it are saying, is little more than voodoo.  All you can do is start with how teams did last year, make your best adjustments to each team based on changes in personnel or coaching, and lay that up against the predicted strength of schedule for the upcoming year.  In the end, preseason rankings and predictions have more to do with the analyst's expectations than the math of the model.

The Big Ten

Before I dig into the Huskers' schedule, here's how I think the Big Ten as a whole with look at the end of the regular season.

Team Exp Wins
Ohio State 10.66
Michigan 8.92
Michigan State 7.31
Penn State 7.01
Maryland 5.72
Rutgers 5.42
Indiana 4.16
Nebraska 8.71
Wisconsin 7.49
Iowa 6.90
Minnesota 6.86
Northwestern 5.44
Illinois 4.42
Purdue 4.41

b10

Ohio State was, and remains, alone at the top of the Big Ten heap.  It's impossible to have a 100% chance of winning a football game as long as the other team shows up and the model reflects that (because #math) but I have a good deal of confidence that tOSU will enter the Big Ten Championship Game undefeated and ranked #1 in the country.

After that, Michigan in the East has my vote as the clear #2.  Full disclosure: I had to do manual edits to every team profile, and Michigan got the biggest manual boost from me, but I believe that Harbaugh will have the Wolverines running on all cylinders by the time the Big Ten season opens.  The Michigan-Michigan State game looms large as the likely run-off for second place in the East.

In the West, Nebraska appears to be the clear #1, though that is mostly due to the downgrades I gave Wisconsin over last year.  Loss of personnel and a lack of confidence in the Badgers' new coaching staff is the primary reason I adjusted Wisconsin's performance parameters in the model downward.  After that Iowa and Minnesota are separated by only .01 of an expected win.

The 2015 Husker Season

The Preseason

Week Visitor Home Visit P(win) Home P(win)
1 BYU Nebraska 0.45 0.55
2 South Alabama Nebraska 0.02 0.98
3 Nebraska Miami (Florida) 0.44 0.56
4 Southern Mississippi Nebraska 0.01 0.99

NU's matchups against Southern Miss and South Alabama are little more than scrimmages.  The games against BYU and Miami appear to be almost toss-ups, with the tie breaker going to the home team.  For the first time in a very long time, Nebraska's preseason schedule holds a lot of drama.  Mathematically, expect 3 wins in the preseason.  If NU can emerge from the preseason 4-0 I would expect it to be ranked somewhere around 20-22.

The Big Ten Season (1st Half)

Week Visitor Home Visit P(win) Home P(win)
5 Nebraska Illinois 0.86 0.14
6 Wisconsin Nebraska 0.24 0.76
7 Nebraska Minnesota 0.67 0.33
8 Northwestern Nebraska 0.22 0.78

The model has little confidence in Wisconsin or Minnesota, though I question whether the Huskers will waltz through the first half of the Big Ten campaign as easily as this predicts.  This might be one of the those times that the math of a situation doesn't capture enough of what's really going to happen.

The Big Ten Season (2nd Half)

Week Visitor Home Visit P(win) Home P(win)
9 Nebraska Purdue 0.85 0.15
10 Michigan State Nebraska 0.43 0.57
11 Nebraska Rutgers 0.50 0.50
13 Iowa Nebraska 0.19 0.81

If the model was over-confident the first half of the season, it makes up for it in giving Rutgers more of a shot than it probably deserves.  Iowa seems to have little chance either.  What may be the biggest question mark of this entire exercise is the .57 probability of win over the Spartans.  Math is funny sometimes.