Thursday, September 16, 2010

Unlikely Upsets?

Last Saturday James Madison's upset over Virginia Tech sent the college football world (and Boise State's championship hopes) into turmoil. How could a school from the FCS defeat what was thought to be one of the nation's best teams? It's not as absurd as it first appears. Last year there were 9 FCS schools in the top 100 of my rankings, led by 56th ranked Villanova which was better than over half of the FBS teams. Added to the list of 9 below are a couple of upset specialists for comparison.

Rank School Rating
56 Villanova 83.645
64 William & Mary 63.346
79 Richmond 44.812
85 Southern Illinois 38.847
92 Montana 33.226
94 Elon 31.99
96 South Dakota St 28.592
97 Jacksonville St 28.303
99 NW Missouri St 27.712
102 Appalachian St 24.035
112 James Madison 19.09

These mean that on a neutral field 2009 Villanova would've beaten 2009 Alabama 7.92% of the time. 2009 James Madison would've beaten 2009 VaTech 3.08% of the time. These chances are small but upsets of this type do happen, and sometimes might not even be upsets. Maybe that explains why it's so easy for teams like Boise St. to be national powers after joining the FBS only 15 years ago.

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