Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2008: A Probabilistic Approach

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2008: A Probabilistic Approach

I have read numerous preseason team predictions since I started frequenting Bleacher Report a couple of months ago.

Invariably, these rundowns result in the writer being called a homer because everyone’s favorite team will win all of its games against lesser opponents, a great majority over equally matched teams, and steal at least one against clearly greater competition.

From what I have gathered, this will be the first year every team wins at least eight games. I hope there are enough bowl games to go around.

What can a guy who only really cares about Notre Dame possibly offer to change these fundamental truths of CFB fandom? Well, I have decided to do as little predicting as possible.

Rather than pulling arbitrary numbers of TD’s and field goals out of a hat, I will simply provide percentages I THINK Notre Dame has to win each of its match-ups.

This is a question every prognosticator faces, but by leaving it at that, I aim to eliminate the fallacy of guaranteeing wins.

Here goes:

Sept. 06 San Diego State 90%
For at least a week, Domers can pretend it’s 1988.

Sept. 13 Michigan 50%
The Wolverines have annihilated the Irish the past two seasons. No matter who they’ve lost or what scheme their players aren’t suited for, I can’t quite give my boys the upper hand (at least until Michigan loses its opener to Utah).

Sept. 20 @ Michigan State 40%
MSU tailback Javon Ringer will continue to do damage for the 11th straight year.

Sept. 27 Purdue 70%
If ND survives the last two games with their confidence intact, the game against the Boilermakers should provide proof positive that ND is a different team than a year ago.

Oct. 04 Stanford 80%
Wow, these guys actually lost to Notre Dame in ’07.

Oct. 11 @ North Carolina 50%
Protecting the football will go a long way, in a battle of underclassmen.

Oct. 25 @ Washington 60%
Husky Stadium has been an afterthought for Seattle football fans ever since Quest Field opened.

Nov. 01 Pittsburgh 40%
This is the wrong team at the wrong time. Plus, Wannstedt has been waiting for three years to get back at Weis for taking the wind out of his stache in their lopsided debut as college coaches.

Nov. 08 @ Boston College 55%
This is a must-have win for any true Irish fan. Now if we could only convince our players…

Nov. 15 @ Navy 80%
Alas, not even this game can be 100% certain.

Nov. 22 Syracuse 90%
Wow, you guys actually lost to Washington in 2007.

Nov. 29 @ Southern Cal 15%
I really wanted to say 20% here, but that would imply winning once in five years.

Now that the hard part is over, all that remains is to add the percentages up.
0.9 + 0.5 + 0.4 + 0.7 + 0.8 + 0.5 + 0.6 + 0.4 + 0.55 + 0.8 + 0.9 + 0.15 = 7.2

So according to the chances I’ve given ND to win on a weekly basis, I have to expect about seven wins. If someone asked me to predict victories before this exercise, I would have said eight or nine.

A lot of games come in at around 50 percent odds, and the homer in me says we win those games and roll into SC 11-0. However, if I perform a simple sanity check and multiply the first 11 percentages together, I find that the chance of that happening is about 0.5% (once every 200 years).

Not everyone will agree with the method I have described. In particular, if no game is 100 percent certain, then no team’s sum of percentages can predict an undefeated season. I would agree. No team should expect an undefeated season.

If a team has a 90 percent chance to win every game over a 12 game schedule, they would still only find perfection roughly once every four years. I think SC fans should understand this fact the most.

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