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Analyst Gives Penn State 96.62% Chance of Beating Northwestern

James Franklin
James Franklin | Photo by Penn State Athletics

Penn State fans know their team has a great chance of beating Northwestern Saturday and moving to 5-0 on the season. 

But the fact that one college football analyst says Penn State has more than a 96% chance of winning— based on data— puts things into perspective.

Parker Fleming (@statsowar) specializes in “stats, analysis and graphs,” according to his Twitter profile, works for BetUS College Football and hosts the Purple Theory Podcast. 

According to calculations, Penn State’s win probability Saturday is 96.62%, and Northwestern’s is at 3.38%. Additionally, Penn State’s projected points are 27.98 to Northwestern’s 2.77.

The graph that all this shows up on consists of these factors:

  • Expected Points Added: A measure that translates yards to points in context
  • Success Rate: Any play with an EPA>0
  • Pts/Drive: Offensive touchdowns + Expected value of field goal attempts on drives
  • RROE: Rush rate over Expected— how much more often did you run than the average team in any given situation?
  • Eckel: A measure of quality possessions and opportunity creation
  • Eary Downs: First and second downs.

In Week 1, calculations gave Penn State a 73.97% chance to win at Purdue, with Penn State projected at 38.27 points and Purdue 29.34.

The projections ended up being somewhat close.

Penn State won, 35-31. 

Penn State had a 96.65 win probability against Ohio, projected at 36.03 points to Ohio’s 10.56.

Penn State ended up winning 46-10. 

Advanced stats gave Penn State a 60.46% win probability in its Week 3 showdown at Auburn, projecting 28.58 points for Penn State and 24.92 points for Auburn. The score ended up being much more lopsided, with Penn State winning, 41-12. 

To date, Penn State’s highest win probability for 2022 came last week against Central Michigan.

Penn State had a 98.77% chance to win, projected with 48.60 points to 17.58 from the Chippewas.

The score was closer than many expected, but Penn State still won, 33-14. 

Coach James Franklin’s team having such a high win probability against Northwestern shouldn’t surprise anybody. Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) is ranked No. 11 in the AP poll and No. 12 in the Coaches, and Northwestern (1-3, 1-0 Big Ten) is coming off consecutive losses to Duke, Southern Illinois and Miami of Ohio at home. 

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