Looking back: Results of picking every Power 5 football game

I have been lazy about tallying the results of the last few weeks of the final season, but in my blogging purge at the end of the year I've finally gotten around to it. Back in August, I decided to run the fool's errand of picking every Power 5 conference football game in 2016, with a few other teams' schedules thrown in for good measure. This resulted in picking a grand total of 842 regular season games! Also included were projections for conference championship games, a final Top 25 and a playoff picture.

With the regular season complete now, I can report that I finished with a record of 603-239, good for a .716 picking percentage. Not bad for picking straight-up (not against-the-spread), I think, but who really knows. When I checked on my progress after Week 4, I said that .600 or above would be a good job, and .700 or above would be surprisingly good in my eyes. Maybe I underestimated how many easy calls there were left on the schedule, but either way, my .716 picking percentage was higher than expected, and that's a good thing.

Here's a link to the spreadsheet where I picked all these games, in case you wanna see that. And here's a conference-by-conference breakdown following the conclusion of the regular season:

  • SEC: 110-56 (.663) 
  • ACC: 126-42 (.750)
  • Big Ten: 128-40 (.762)
  • Pac 12: 101-47 (.682)
  • Big 12: 86-34 (.712)
  • Others: 52-20 (.722) ... this included Appalachian State, BYU, Houston, Notre Dame, San Diego State and South Florida. Of the 20 incorrect picks in this category, six of them were Notre Dame's fault LOL @ U Notre Dame.

My pre-season predictions in terms of conference title games went as follows, with notes on what was right and wrong:

  • SEC: Alabama vs Florida; Alabama winning. Got that all right.
  • ACC: Clemson vs Pitt; Clemson winning. The winner was right, but Clemson played Virginia Tech and not Pitt.
  • Big Ten: Ohio State vs Iowa; Ohio State winning. That was all wrong; Penn State beat Wisconsin instead.
  • Pac 12: Stanford vs UCLA; Stanford winning. LOL! Washington beat Colorado in real life.
  • Big 12: I had Oklahoma winning, which was correct; this conference is dumb and does not have a championship game.
  • Overall: Out of 8 participants in Power 5 conference championship games, I only picked three of them correctly. Out of the five winners, I picked three (SEC, ACC, Big 12) correctly. That's probably not awful, but they were probably the easiest three conferences to pick. The Big Ten had split sentiment between Michigan and OSU, though neither of those teams were right; in the Pac 12, Washington was a popular pick but USC also had a lot of hype in the pre-season.

Going to make a few lists below now. This first list is the small group of teams that I was nearly perfect picking -- I picked 11 of these teams' 12 games correctly. There were NO teams that I was perfect picking ... this isn't surprising since after Week 8, I was only perfect on picking nine teams. At that time, I had 22 teams that I had picked incorrectly for only one game. Let's see where that shook out:

  • Alabama (had them losing to Arkansas, whom they dismantled)
  • Boston College (had them losing to Wake Forest, who they beat -- for no good reason -- in the last week of the season!)
  • Clemson (had them beating Pittsburgh, who they lost to -- why tho)
  • Florida State (had them beating North Carolina, whose kicker tomahawk chopped them into oblivion)
  • Louisville (I correctly picked this team beating Florida State and losing to Houston, then they ruined my perfect predictions in the last weekend of the season by losing to dang Kentucky)
  • Ohio State (I had them losing to Oklahoma ... but I did call that upset loss to Penn State!)
  • Penn State (incorrectly had them losing to Iowa)
  • Purdue (Illinois was so bad that they lost to Purdue)
  • Rutgers (Rutgers was so bad that they lost to Illinois)
  • Kansas (had them losing to Texas, who they beat....my god man, Texas...)
  • Oklahoma (had them beating Ohio State, who destroyed them at home)
  • West Virginia (I had them losing to BYU in Week 3, who I really overrated ... but I think I had a surprisingly good feel for this team overall)
  • Washington (they beat Oregon because Oregon was terrible but I thought Oregon would be good so I had picked Oregon to win)
  • South Florida (I correctly called the losses to Florida State and Temple, but they beat Navy, who I had them losing to)

That's all 14 of them. Not too shabby. The next list is interesting to me because it's more about an overall feel for a team. When I was picking the games in August, I at first went through on a game-by-game basis and just tried to pick which teams would win each game. But then I looked and changed predictions based on teams whose records seemed too good or bad compared to how well I expected them to do -- for example, I remember originally having Miami go 8-4, but I wanted to have them going 6-6 because I hate Miami and thought they'd stink a lil. Turns out they went 8-4. This is a list of teams whose final records I picked totally correct, along with some details about that -- I was originally going to make this a list of teams whose records I either picked totally correct or picked correctly within one game, but that list turned out to be too long. There were 35 such teams, which accounts for exactly 50% of the total number of teams I picked. I felt this was too low a benchmark for which to make a list.

  • Arkansas (7-5; this was more dumb luck than anything else. I only picked six of their games correctly)
  • Maryland (6-6; I picked 10 out of 12 games correctly)
  • Syracuse (4-8; I picked 10 out of 12 games correctly)
  • Michigan (10-2; haha Harbaugh I knew you wouldn't win that division)
  • Arizona State (5-7; whatever)
  • USC (9-3; I almost nailed their horrible September, but thought they would beat Utah; I also had them losing to UCLA, who they killed)
  • Texas (5-7; whatever Texas)

Now the bad side of that. Here are the teams I was the farthest off on ... determined either by their real-life record versus my predicted record for them or by my record picking them. For a team to qualify for this list based on the first criteria, I had to be off by at least three games of their final record; for a team to qualify for this based on the second criteria, I had to have a 6-6 or worse record picking their games.

  • Arkansas (I went 6-6 picking them. Impressive to be on both lists, Hogs!)
  • Kentucky (though I went 8-4 picking them, I had them going 3-9 and they wound up 7-5)
  • Ole Miss (qualified on both fronts! I had them going 8-4 but they went 5-7; I was also 5-7 picking their games)
  • South Carolina (had ol' 'Champ going 3-9 in his first year on the job, but he got bowl eligible at 6-6! I went 9-3 picking them tho)
  • Wake Forest (I went 6-6 picking their games; had them going 4-8 and they went 6-6)
  • Michigan State (hooooo boy. I had them at 9-3, but they went 3-9 ... nice ... and I went 4-8 picking them)
  • Wisconsin (I went 9-3 picking them, but I had them going 7-5 and they went 10-2)
  • Colorado (lmao; I had them going 4-8 but they went 10-2; somehow because science though I went 8-4 picking them)
  • Oregon (hahahahahahhaha I had them 10-2 and they went 4-8; I only picked 6-6 for them)
  • UCLA (the Pac 12 was a comedy of errors for me; I had them 10-2 and they went 4-8; I also only went 6-6 picking them)
  • Kansas State (had them 5-7 but they went 8-4; I picked 7-5 for them; meh)
  • TCU (had them 9-3, they went 6-6, I picked them at 7-5, also meh)
  • Houston (only here because I was too bullish; I had them 12-0 and they went 9-3; I picked them at 9-3 obviously)
  • Notre Dame (another team I had at 10-2 that went 4-8, and I picked them at 6-6)
  • San Diego State (literally the same thing as Houston)


A few last things to consider here. My playoff prediction in August was:

  1. Clemson (13-0)
  2. Alabama (12-1)
  3. Houston (13-0)
  4. Stanford (12-1)

None of those were in the correct order, but Alabama and Clemson did both make the playoff. I had Alabama winning the national title which seems likely to happen.

Here was my projected Top 25, along with my projected record for each team; in italics is their final ranking and final record. In total, there were 10 teams from my pre-season predictions that wound up unranked; there were nine teams that I predicted within four spots of their final ranking. 

  1. Clemson (13-0); (12-1, No. 2)
  2. Alabama (12-1); (13-0, No. 1)
  3. Houston (13-0); (9-3, unranked)
  4. Stanford (12-1); (9-3, No. 18)
  5. Oklahoma (11-1); (10-2, No. 7)
  6. Ohio State (11-2); (11-1, No. 3)
  7. Florida (10-2); (8-4, No. 17)
  8. UCLA (10-3); (4-8, unranked)
  9. Florida State (10-2); (9-3, No. 11)
  10. Michigan (10-2); (10-2, No. 6)
  11. San Diego State (12-0); (9-3, unranked)
  12. Notre Dame (10-2); (4-8, unranked)
  13. Appalachian State (11-1); (9-3, unranked)
  14. Tennessee (10-2); (8-4, No. 21)
  15. Louisville (10-2); (9-3, No. 13)
  16. Oregon (10-2); (4-8, unranked)
  17. Iowa (10-3); (8-4, unranked)
  18. Washington (10-2); (12-1, No. 4)
  19. Pittsburgh (10-3); (8-4, No. 23)
  20. Michigan State (9-3); (3-9, unranked)
  21. LSU (8-3); (7-4, No. 20)
  22. Southern Cal (9-3); (9-3, No. 9)
  23. BYU (9-3); (8-4, unranked)
  24. West Virginia (9-3); (10-2, No. 16)
  25. South Florida (9-3); (10-2, unranked)

This was, all in all, a very silly thing to do, that I probably spent too much time tracking throughout the fall. But it is also really interesting to, at this point, have something like this to look back on. The only other person I know who actually picked all the games and tracked them all year was my friend Pat, who wound up with a .686 picking percentage, so at least I kicked his butt in it. I'll probably do this again next year to itch that mid-August draught where I'm waiting impatiently for the season to begin.