A vote for Arizona State winning Pac-12

November, 26, 2013
11/26/13
1:15
PM ET
ESPN.com's KC Joyner thinks Arizona State is going to its first Rose Bowl since the 1996 season.

That means he believes the Sun Devils can reverse their blowout defeat at Stanford on Sept. 21.

He writes:
One might argue that Stanford deserves a higher spot because it started the year in the Top 25 and Arizona State began the season unranked, but that line of reasoning isn't backed by the myriad evidence that strongly points toward the Sun Devils currently being the better team. Further, as long as Arizona State doesn't overlook Arizona this week, it should add home-field edge in the Pac-12 title game to its list of advantages over the Cardinal which, all taken together, should propel the Sun Devils to the conference crown.
He details his argument, which is based on metrics, here.

He starts with EPA, an ESPN Stats & Information metric that gauges a platoon's production based on an "expected points" basis that takes into account factors such as down, distance to go, field position, home-field advantage and time remaining. EPA also has an adjusted element that places this performance in a strength-of-competition framework.

Stanford leads Arizona State in EPA for the entire season, but Joyner bases his case on how Arizona State is playing of late.
That lead evaporates if the measurement is changed to include only contests from October and November, as Arizona State ends up with 225.8 EPA versus Stanford's 219.6 total. Since these teams have played seven games each in that time frame, it means the Sun Devils have been an average of one point per game better than the Cardinal over that span.

Arizona State's lead expands significantly if the start date is moved to Oct. 7. From that date forward, the Sun Devils have a total of 217.6 EPA versus the Cardinal's 175.5 EPA. Divide that 42.1-point differential by the six games played, and it equals roughly a touchdown per game lead for Arizona State.

Joyner goes on to make several more interesting points. It might give you pause on who the Pac-12's Rose Bowl favorite actually is.

 

Ted Miller | email

College Football

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