Race for Pool A

October 20, 2016

With some conference races all but settled already, mostly here in the Midwest, I think it would be fun to look at some of the more interesting races around the country, but first, here are the conference races where the frontrunner has a >90% chance of clinching (ASC/UMHB excluded, but they have a 97.5% chance of going undefeated):




Southern Athletic Association


There is no conference in the country more up in the air than the SAA. There's four legitimately good teams in the conference, all have one loss right now, each has played two of the other three, and they're all 1-1 against the other contenders. Oh, and the University of Chicago still hasn't been mathematically eliminated from contention for the Pool A bid either.


Hendrix: 26.85%

Centre: 26.31%

Berry: 25.98%

Washington U.: 20.68%

Chicago: 0.18%


Berry and Centre don't play until the last week, and Hendrix plays Wash. U. the week before. Assuming all four avoid upsets along the way, either Berry or Centre will essentially be eliminated from the AQ depending on the outcome of the Hendrix/Washington game. Berry has lost to Washington, so if Washington wins against Hendrix, Berry will be playing for pride only the last week, and the same goes for Centre is Hendrix wins.


As a bright spot, all four teams are undefeated out of conference so far (Wash U plays Case Western in a couple weeks), and with the mess down South coupled with a clear-cut Pool A picture in the West, a 9-1 SAA team may get a Pool C team into the tournament.

Middle Atlantic Conference


Stevenson is undefeated in the conference, but still has a less than 50% chance of claiming the conference AQ because they have yet to play Delaware Valley--the team my model thinks is the best team in the conference.  Widener and Albright are also in the mix with Del Val at one conference loss.


Stevenson: 49.19%

Delaware Valley: 37.92%

Albright: 11.42%

Widener: 1.47%


Because Albright would have the tie-breaker over Del Val, they have a significantly higher chance of claiming the Pool A bid than Widener, who has yet to play any of the three teams ahead of them right now. Other than Stevenson, Widener is the only other team in the conference who can clinch by simply winning all of their games. For Stevenson, a loss to Delaware Valley wouldn't necessarily eliminate them from the AQ, because it would open up the possibility for a 3-way tie between Stevenson, Del Val, and Albright.

New England Football Conference


Salve Regina and Western New England both have nearly 50-50 odds of winning the conference, despite Endicott also sitting at 3-0 in the conference (but 3-3 overall). Coast Guard, who has been exploding on offense lately, also still has a (very unlikely) path to the AQ.


Salve Regina: 49.35%

Western New England: 43.77%

Endicott: 6.86%

Coast Guard: 0.02%


Salve Regina beating Coast Guard is the only game that has been played between these four teams so far, meaning every team but Coast Guard has a clear path to the AQ: win and you're in. For Coast Guard, Salve Regina would need to lose to either WNE or Endicott, to hope for a 3-way tie (they would probably lose), or Salve would need to lose 2 games down the stretch. The odds of Salve finishing with 2 losses is only about 1-in-6. None of that matters though without Coast Guard taking care of the rest of their schedule, which has about a 1-in-200 chance of happening according to the simulation.

New Jersey Athletic Conference


If you noticed that a was sorting the conferences in ascending order according to the frontrunner's Pool A odds, you may be surprised to see the NJAC this far down. Five teams are tied for first place at 4-1, and nobody has looked particularly dominant. But my model still thinks Wesley is firmly a Top 25-caliber team, and Salisbury is the only other team rated in the Top 50. Even after their loss to CNU, Wesley's odds of winning the conference outright never dipped below 40%.


Wesley: 49.35%

Christopher Newport: 21.50%

Salisbury: 20.31%

Rowan: 4.95%

Frostburg State: 3.89%


Here's who's lost to and beat who from this bunch:

Wesley - lost to CNU, beaten Frostburg

CNU - lost to Rowan, beaten Wesley

Salisbury - lost to Rowan

Rowan - lost to Montclair State, beaten CNU & Salisbury

Frostburg - lost to Wesley


Rowan's odds seem low to me, seeing as they're the only team without a loss to another contender (meaning they would win any H2H tie-breakers if they win out), and two wins already over other contenders. Part of that reason is because my model thinks they're actually the worst team in the bunch (two narrow wins at home vs. Salisbury and CNU are treated essentially as neutral-field ties), and gives them only a 1-in-11 chance of winning against Wesley this weekend. Even though they've faltered, the conference title still has to go through Delaware for the NJAC.

Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association


Quick note: there's something funky about how my model is calculating the MIAA's conference race, and I haven't had time to troubleshoot it, so these probabilities don't add up to 100%. You still get the picture though.


Olivet is 3-0 and Trine is 2-0. Hope, Alma, and Adrian each have one conference loss. And yet my model still thinks winless Albion is one of the better teams in the conference, creating plenty of spoiler opportunities for the Britons (they're favorites in every remaining game on their schedule).


Olivet: 49.42%

Trine: 36.31%

Hope: 6.61%

Adrian: 5.88%

Alma: 1.78%


Trine has yet to play any of the other contenders, so they have the toughest remaining schedule, but at least they control their own destiny (I got over 900 words into this thing before pulling that one out). Alma isn't favored in any of their remaining games either, but with a loss to Hope, winning out could result in a 3-way Olivet-Alma-Hope tie. Basically what I'm saying is the MIAA was a mess last year, and it could be a mess again this year.

USA South Athletic Conference


The USAC could be the craziest conference race in the country this year (thanks hurricanes!), but it's not very likely. Maryville and Huntingdon are the two best teams in the conference, and the winner of their Week 10 game will probably go to the playoffs.


Maryville Tenn.: 51.42%

Huntingdon: 33.82%

N.C. Wesleyan: 9.53%

Averett: 4.97%

Methodist: 0.14%

Messed-up tie my model doesn't know how to break: 0.12%


Averett is the ultimate "ain't played nobody" team right now. They're 2-0 in conference, but have only played the two worst teams in the conference. N.C. Wesleyan has decent odds of making the playoffs, but they're hoping for a 3-way tie right now, and I can't find any information on the USAC's tie-break criteria (my model assumes the highest-rated team wins in those instances).

Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference


I'm going to talk about Franklin, because you can't talk about the HCAC without talking about Franklin. They're undefeated in DIII, beat Thomas More, and yet my model doesn't think they're very good anymore. They were a Top 25 team for the first three weeks of the year, and they have slipped down to #62. They've lost to the spread every week since Week 1, which explains why they're barely above 50% to win the conference right now despite MSJ, RHIT, and Bluffton each having one loss.


Franklin: 53.92%

Mount St. Joseph: 31.07%

Rose-Hulman: 10.15%

Bluffton: 4.86%


This week and next, Franklin can put this to bed with W's over MSJ and RHIT. A loss to either or both opens up myriad 3-way and 4-way tie possibilities. Right now, MSJ has a W over RHIT and a L to Bluffton, and RHIT has yet to play Bluffton. Nobody else in the conference has a mathematical possibility of winning. With Franklin only at about 40% to win out, some sort of tie is more likely than not.



Framingham State was supposed to roll through the MASCAC again, but a 1 point loss on the road has put their odds of repeating in jeopardy. Bridgewater State is now the odd-on favorite to win the Pool A bid, but 5 teams are still technically eligible to win the bid.


Bridgewater State: 56.25%

Framingham State: 33.96%

Massachusetts Maritime: 8.72%

Mass-Dartmouth: 0.83%

Plymouth State: 0.24%


Dartmouth has slightly better odds than the other two-loss team right now, Plymouth State, because Dartmouth has beaten Framingham while PSU hasn't beaten any of the top 3 teams. Maritime technically just needs to win out to get in, but they have yet to play any of the other Top 5.

Empire 8


Aaahh... The E8. Where you can always count on Fisher looking great, until they don't. Only two of the nine teams in the conference have been mathematically eliminated so far, and one of those teams won the conference last season (that's so E8). Alfred is technically the frontrunner right now, both in my model and in the standings, but c'mon. Does anyone really think they're going to run the table?


Alfred: 57.45%

St. John Fisher: 25.12%

Brockport: 13.08%

Utica: 3.09%

Ithaca: 0.79%

Buffalo State: 0.46%

Hartwick (yes, that Hartwick): 0.01%


Here, follow me down the rabbit hole for a second. Hartwick claimed the conference's automatic qualifier once in 10,000 simulations. They're 1-3 in the conference right now. They need to beat Alfred, Buff St, SJFU, and Utica to make it happen, and then hope for 2 more Alfred losses, Fisher to lose to one more, Brockport to lose 3, and Ithaca to lose 2, but they need all of those teams to only lose certain games. There's only two possible paths, and the only difference is whether Ithaca loses to Morrisville State this week, or Cortland Week 11. I'm hoping for the latter just to keep the suspense going. 

Alfred has to lose to Utica and Fisher

Fisher to Ithaca

Brockport to Cortland, Morrisville State, and Buffalo State

Ithaca to Buffalo State and Cortland


But that won't happen. But it might, because it's the E8.

North Coast Athletic Conference


Yes, Witt lost last week to Denison, but they're still in strong contention for the automatic bid thanks to victories over Wabash and DePauw. They lost a trap game. It happens.


Wittenberg: 58.34%

Denison: 25.66%

Wabash: 13.15%

DePauw: 2.85%


Essentially, the only way for Wabash or DePauw to get in would be another (unlikely) loss by Wittenberg, and victories over Dension by each. Then the winner of the Wabash/DePauw game would get into the playoffs. My 3-way tiebreaker from the model should favor Wabash or Wittenberg, because they're considered better teams than Denison, but the odds of Denison winning either game against Wabash or DePauw right now sits at only about 50-50, and their odds of winning 3 of the next 4 are only 32%.

Upper Midwest Athletic Conference


Here's another conference where the obvious frontrunner suffered a surprising loss last weekend. The difference being nobody else in the conference is currently undefeated.


St. Scholastica: 61.97%

Northwestern Minn.: 21.19%

Eureka: 12.71%

Westminster Mo.: 3.25%

MacMurray: 0.88%


St. Scholastica probably isn't going to lose again. They've already played the only other good(ish) teams in the conference, but Northwestern and Eureka are both probably going to lose again. I don't have much of an analysis beyond that.

Southern Collegiate Intercollegiate Athletic Association


Remember one week ago? When Cal Lutheran was 1-4 and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps was receiving Top 25 votes? Me too, but I also remember my model giving Cal Lutheran 30% odds to win that game, and Redlands has been my odds-on favorite to win the Pool A bid since before the season began. In math-land, very little has changed.


Redlands: 62.56%

Cal Lutheran: 19.47%

Pomona-Pitzer: 13.92%

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps: 4.02%

Chapman: 0.03%


Pomona-Pitzer may have the H2H tie-breaker over Cal-Lutheran, but they have yet to play CMS or Redlands, who are probably the best teams in the conference. Redlands doesn't have a cakewalk to the conference title either, with games left versus Cal Lutheran, Pomona-Pitzer, and CMS, but my model thinks they're far and away the best team in the conference. Even if they lose one of those three games, it's unlikely that anyone else finishes with only one conference loss.

Old Dominion Athletic Conference


Catholic is the only team eliminated from contention right now. I don't know what else to say. This conference is impossible to predict. Don't even try it. The ODAC will make you pay. Oh, Guilford looks really good in the non-conference? How about they lose to teams who were a combined 3-6 before they played Guilford. And now RMC looks like the clear favorite. Then the football gods decide they're going to go 19% on 3rd down and lose a one score game to E&H. GAAAA


Washington and Lee: 64.25%

Randolph-Macon: 23.76%

Shenandoah: 4.94%

Guilford: 3.55%

Hampden-Sydney: 3.22%

Bridgewater: 0.16%

Emory and Henry: 0.12%


Washington and Lee looks to be the favorite right now, but I just don't know. They still haven't played RMC, HSC, or Shenandoah, the next three teams in the standings. And my model still thinks Guilford is the best team in the conference. What to do with you ODAC?



The rest of these conferences have clear favorites (>75% odds) in St. Lawrence, Monmouth, Lakeland, Mount Union, and Linfield. Beyond those teams, there's a clear-cut number 2 with Hobart, St. Norbert, Benedictine/Aurora, John Carroll, and Whitworth.  My head is spinning from the crazy scenarios above, so I'll just leave these easy ones alone. Hope you enjoyed the read.









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