By: Edward Egros

Is Team USA THAT Dominant to Win the Ryder Cup?

Pasted Graphic 1
Putting it as simply as possible, the Ryder Cup strategy seems to be for Team USA to design easier golf courses and for Team Europe to design tougher ones. It's why, in the last five Ryder Cups, the team with the home course advantage has won four of those five tournaments (with the lone outlier being in 2012, arguably the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history with Team Europe needing eight points to win and Team USA needing just 4.5 points). The logic comes from analytics groups that believe keeping the action shorter (concentrating on wedges and the putter) benefits Team USA.

The host course for 2018, Le Golf National, seems to be gaining respect from golfers as far as
how important it is to stay in the fairway, seemingly benefitting the Europeans. However, if we look at Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee from PGA Tour events, Team Europe's average slightly favors the Americans (.382 versus .348). Note: Sergio Garcia and Thorbjørn Olesen did not quality for this statistic so it was assumed their Strokes Gained to be zero.

Golfers also discussed the importance of iron and hybrid shots, so it may be safe to look at
Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green for guidance. Here, we see an advantage for the Americans: .475 versus .331. In other words, if Team USA does well with tee shots they may be unstoppable. If they have trouble finding fairways, Team Europe has an opportunity.

The Americans are heavy favorites to capture their first Ryder Cup in Europe since 1993 (
-150 versus +130 for Team Europe). While so many more players at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings belong to Team USA, do not be surprised if the long game becomes enough of an advantage for Team Europe to stay in contention.

Biggest Snubs for the Cowboys' Ring of Honor

Pasted Graphic
There was a time when virtually the only way a Dallas Cowboy could make the Ring of Honor was to win a Super Bowl. All but two current members had at least one championship (Don Meredith and Don Perkins). However, this week Cowboys owner Jerry Jones affirmed Tony Romo would be inducted into the Ring of Honor. Not only did the former quarterback fail to reach a Super Bowl, he would be the first Cowboy in franchise history to be inducted without even having won a conference title.

Individually, Romo may not have had stellar a career as Ring of Honorees Troy Aikman or Roger Staubach, but he does surpass the efforts of Meredith, and for being a part of the Cowboys for a dozen years, he likely deserve a place in north Texas immortality. By including Romo, the Cowboys introduce the idea that championships should not be weighted as much when determining who belongs, perhaps opening the door for others.

This idea leads to a question: Who is the most deserving Dallas Cowboy for the Ring of Honor who has yet to make it? One way to evaluate individual performances is with
Approximate Value by Pro Football Reference. The top eight players in Cowboys history have already been inducted, from Emmitt Smith (#1) to Staubach (#8).

The highest Approximate Value not to have his name on the ring is Cornell Green, a cornerback who played for 13 seasons, including for the 1971 Super Bowl team. With 34 interceptions, 171 games started and five Pro Bowl invitations, Green has a better case to make it than anyone else not there, per this metric. His 9th best Approximate Value is better than Aikman, Romo, Lee Roy Jordan, Larry Allen, et al.

Two other players who finish in the Top 20 but who are not in the Ring Honor include Ralph Neely, a left tackle as part of the '71 Super Bowl champions and Nate Newton, the left guard who played during the Cowboys dynasty of the 1990's. While this metric may not be the perfect way to compare players, it does highlight some inconsistency for why some players have already been inducted and why others have had to wait.

TOUR Championship Preview

Pasted Graphic
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

Pasted Graphic
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...

Pasted Graphic
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.