FraudWatch Finale

There comes a point in every college football season when you have to sit back, take a look at all the undefeated teams and ask yourself which ones are faking it, coasting through their early season on a wave of bad opponents and lucky wins.  For me, that point comes exactly at Week 5, when the field of unbeatens is usually whittled down to just over a handful.

In 2011, college football’s Year of Stupid, it should come as no surprise that with a third of the season already in the books, fifteen teams had still yet to lose, and that of those fifteen, exactly zero would finish the year unblemished.  It’s time now to take a final look at this year’s FraudWatch, an experiment in separating the contenders from the pretenders.

A quick refresher: I have defined a “fraud team” as one who makes it to Week 5 undefeated (and with at least four wins), yet ends the season with five or more losses (including all post-season games).  I look mostly at the two things mentioned above: opponents’ overall record and margin of victory.  Lots of bad opponents or close games usually indicates a fraud team.

I also added a couple of extra categories for teams that only showed some of the signs of fraudulence and predicted those teams to finish with anywhere from 1-4 losses.  I also declared all other teams “safe,” and guessed that none of them would lose more than 2 games.

The overall results were pretty good.  Of the two teams I identified as most fraudy, one (Texas Tech) achieved just that, somehow managing to lose 7 games.  The other, Kansas State, had a little better of a year than expected, losing only 3 games.

The next group (pegged at 3 or 4 losses) was the real eye-opener.  Both Illinois and Georgia Tech (my #3 and #4 teams) finished with 5 or more losses.  The other team in this group, Oklahoma State, became the only fraud-ranked team that should have been left off the list, losing just once all year.  Had these teams been included with the top two, I would have gotten 3 out of 5 correct, which isn’t too shabby.  Next year, I will not be so generous.

Of the three teams in the 1-3 losses group (‘Texas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin), two (OU, Wisky) were properly placed with 3 losses on the year, while Texas overunderachieved, dropping five games, meaning that 4 of my top 6 ended up being actual frauds.

Only one of the seven “safe” teams, Clemson, turned in a season with more than two losses.  And this points to the primary success of FraudWatch, accurately separating the contenders and pretenders with only a couple of missteps.

Changes to the system next year will most likely be merely aesthetic.  I’ll drop one of the categories and split teams into Frauds (5+ losses), Pretenders (2-4 losses), and Contenders (0-2 losses).  These groups will be divided relatively evenly based on how many total unbeatens there are.  If there is any unbalance, the Frauds and Contenders groups will be the heaviest, because that’s more fun.

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