By: Edward Egros

TOUR Championship Preview

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It may seem like ancient history, but Bryson DeChambeau was nowhere near a favorite to win the first leg of the FedExCup Playoffs; sitting obscurely in the Top 125 rankings. Two wins later and a Top 20 finish at the BMW Championship, DeChambeau will start the TOUR Championship with more points than anyone else. As we've profiled before, the points leader has roughly a 28% chance to win based upon points alone and assuming equal abilities for every golfer (even though points have been redistributed since our post).

Because of DeChambeau's two victories in the last three tournaments and three wins in the last 14 months, he is a trendy pick to win the FedExCup. However, a lot of research suggests there is no such thing as a "hot hand" in golf. In other words, just because a golfer is playing well the hole before or the day before, does not mean he/she is drastically likelier to play successfully the following round. Christopher Cotton, Frank McIntyre and Joseph Price
wrote about this phenomenon and Alan Reifman has discussed the lack of a drastic "hot hand" in several sports including golf.

Again, referencing the previous article, those in the Top 5 in points tend to win this event, and Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green seems to have the most predictive value of all Strokes Gained statistics. Also, because of a much smaller tournament field than a usual tournament, birdies and birdie averages seem to matter more than normally.

For being atop the birdie average list, fourth in FedExCup points and fifth in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green, I am choosing Dustin Johnson to win this year's FedExCup and $10 million prize.

As for Daily Fantasy lineups:

Dustin Johnson
Tony Finau
Keegan Bradley
Brooks Koepka
Tommy Fleetwood
Phil Mickelson

Justin Thomas
Bryson DeChambeau
Jon Rahm
Tiger Woods
Jason Day
Aaron Wise

2018 Cowboys Postgame Reports

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For the third-straight year, after every Dallas Cowboys game, I will provide an analytical graphic to begin the conversation as to why the Cowboys won or lost that particular game. However, this year features a new look and simplified visualizations so it's easier to follow and compare what happened. Our graphic is an example from the Cowboys preseason game against the Cardinals.

There are four factors:

- Turnover Margin
- Scoring Efficiency
- Net Yards/Pass Attempt
- Game Control

Our intelligent readers already know what Turnover Margin is, so we move on to Scoring Efficiency, which is essentially points divided by yards. Here, we include percentages, so the more efficient team earns the 100% margin, and the less efficient team shows the fraction of its efficiency compared with its opponent.

Net Yards/Pass Attempt is (passing yards - sack yards) / (passing attempts + times sacked). Because of the reliability of this metric not just to evaluate quarterback performance but also its consistency over time, this serves as an important metric to include.

Lastly, Game Control is based upon a regression where each explanatory variable is the number of rushing yards per quarter and the dependent variable is the likelihood of winning. My research found, predictably, that rushing yards in later quarters matter more to winning than earlier in games. Here, we add up each team's rushing yards and multiply by a factor for each quarter they were rushed in. We then take those results as a proportion to see how much each team controlled the game.

As always, feedback is appreciated!

It May Seem Like Mayhem, But...

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Though a few schools decided to start the college football season one week early, the heavyweights, the blue chippers, the ones who are constantly atop any set of rankings you can find and are in contention for that trophy…begin this weekend.

As before, we can use parts of our
college football prediction model to determine who is likeliest to have the most talent and the most favorable schedule, including who has the toughest games at home and if the toughest games are on days with ample rest and preparation.

Using all of this information, my prediction for who will make this year's College Football Playoff are:

Alabama
Ohio State
USC
Florida State

Virtually every year, there is a surprise team sparingly chosen that charges from
outside the Top 10 to the Final Four. This year, I am picking two. First, while many say Washington will represent the West coast, I like USC because of more highly ranked sophomore and junior classes (per 247 Sports) and Washington begins the season in Auburn (a Top 10 team in many metrics including ours), while USC's toughest non-conference opponent is at Texas (not as strong as Auburn), and the Huskies are likelier to lose than the Trojans while USC still earns solid strength of schedule numbers. The Trojans also boast one of the better receiving corps which should help a true freshman quarterback in JT Daniels feel comfortable.

The other outsider is Florida State, edging a perennial contender in Clemson. Again, the Seminoles have more highly ranked second-year and third-year classes and Clemson plays at Florida State. Last season, the Seminoles were ranked third in the AP Preseason. You can make the argument: had they not lost starting
quarterback Deondre Francois for the season with an injured patella tendon in his left knee, they would have been in contention. The running game also carried that offense, and with Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick providing depth in the backfield, this offense should not be overlooked.

This playoff is entering its fifth season. Even though USC and Florida State are outside of the AP Top 10, the Seminoles have been in the playoff before, and the Trojans are the defending Pac-12 champions. It may seem like mayhem, but it's not.

Previewing the 100th PGA Championship

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(Courtesy: Gary Kellner Getty Images)

In some ways, the PGA Championship is the toughest to predict of all four majors. Previous performance is an enormous factor for the Masters, past results at links style courses help with the (British) Open (and when applicable the U.S. Open) and long hitters often perform well at the second major. But with golf's final major, the skill set required to win can vary significantly. One trend worth noting is those who win the Wanamaker Trophy do well at the other majors. It has the second-fewest number of winners whose only major victory was that major (the Masters has the fewest single-major champions). However, the last three winners of golf's final major are first-time major champions (Jason Day, Jimmy Walker and Justin Thomas).

To make matters even trickier, it's been 10 years since Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis has hosted a PGA Tour event,
and the leaderboard does not exactly uncover a trend for success. However, because rainy weather seems to have softened the course, putting may not be as big of a factor as driving and the short game. The usual suspects appear atop the Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green leaderboard: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Francesco Molinari and Henrik Stenson. The PGA Championship has also been known to produce some low scores. In fact, five of the last six winners posted double digits under par. After adjusting for the field's average score of tournaments played by each individual golfer, the lowest scores this season come from Johnson, Justin Rose, Jason Day and Thomas.

Including these statistics, the number-one Official World Golf Ranking and his considerable driving distance, Dustin Johnson is my pick to win the 100th PGA Championship. As for my Daily Fantasy lineups:

Dustin Johnson
Jason Day
Tony Finau
Luke List
Webb Simpson
Hao-Tong Li

Paul Casey
Bryson DeChambeau
Tommy Fleetwood
Ryan Moore
Louis Oosthuizen
Justin Thomas

Ohio State's Less Important Question

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Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer continues to face the possibility he will not coach the Buckeyes ever again. The school placed him on paid administrative leave as it investigates if he failed to report (or do anything about) an assistant coach allegedly committing domestic violence. This assistant may have exhibited a pattern of horrific behavior, yet remained on Meyer's coaching staff at Florida and Ohio State for years after reported incidents. The school announced it would like to end its investigation in the coming days.

What matters far less than potentially covering up violent crime is football itself. There exists the serious reality an entire football team will have to scramble to organize, practice and get through a gauntlet of a season, all because its leader exhibited incredibly poor judgment. There also exists an unfortunate reality if no reasonable explanations can be uncovered during this investigation: doing the right thing has consequences.

Other college football programs have parted ways with its head coach within a couple of months of the season's kickoff. In 2017, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze resigned
after questions were raised about phone calls made to a female escort service. One year earlier, Baylor fired head coach Art Briles after a couple of his players were convicted of sexual assault and many more women came forward alleging some within the football team committed multiple acts of violence against them. Lastly, in 2012, Arkansas fired head coach Bobby Petrino for unfairly hiring a mistress, not disclosing the nature of that relationship to his boss and not admitting to authorities she was present when Petrino suffered a motorcycle accident.

In each case, I looked at how many wins each team was projected to win prior to each scandal,
according to our prediction model. This model takes into account recruiting rankings of the sophomore and junior seasons from 247sports (the classes we found to be statistically significant), home and away schedules and if any games were played other than on Saturdays. Here are the results:

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For Ole Miss, near the end of the season the Rebels had four games decided by one possession. In each game we projected them to win; however, they went 2-2. An 8-4 possibility became a 6-6 performance. For Baylor, there was a three-game stretch near the end of the season where things seemed to fall apart (i.e. losses to Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia). The Bears could have gone 10-3, but instead finished 7-6. Lastly, for Arkansas, we suspected a dip in performance after coming off an appearance in the Sugar Bowl, but the downtick turned out to be more severe. Instead of perhaps going 7-5, they went 4-8.

Several other factors could have caused an underperformance of these projections, so it cannot be definitively concluded the departure of the head coach caused the unforeseen losses. However, intuitively it might make sense that a coaching change late in the offseason could mean two or three additional losses. If, indeed, Ohio State decides to fire Urban Meyer, and if it does mean the Buckeyes narrowly miss out on championships, only Meyer is to blame.