Montana State expected to beat Griz, 34.3 - 23.8


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The prediction in that headline comes courtesy of the mathematically inclined and usually accurate Massey Ratings. These ratings are used as part of the convoluted, computer-centric Football Bowl Subdivision's BCS rankings, but Massey also includes Football Championship Subdivision schools like MSU and UM in his system. That's cool, and his numbers cranked out the projected 34.3 - 23.8 Cats victory in tomorrow's big Brawl of the Wild. He also puts UM's chances of winning at a daunting 21 percent.

Massey is best known for his BCS work. Here's how he describes that process:

Massey's BCS ratings are the equilibrium point for a probability model applied to the binary (win or loss) outcome of each game. All teams begin the season rated the same.

Got that?

Moving along, Griz fans probably care more about how he comes up with predictions.

For many sports, I post predictions of upcoming games and monitor their success. In most cases, I would trust a computer's prediction over a human's. However, while this is often the most popular and entertaining application of computer ratings, it is not my primary purpose.

Predictions are obtained by extrapolating the analysis of past performance to estimate future performance. Usually, the past is a reasonable indicator of what to expect in the future. However sporting events are to a great extent random, so upsets will occur.

In other words, Massey doesn't factor in a bunch of things, like the raging snowstorm happening outside right now. (The Brawl numbers were crunched on Monday.) So, maintain faith, Griz fans. There's still hope for an upset. As the cliche (sorta) goes, the game is settled on the field, not in a spreadsheet — and there ain't no decimal points in football.


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