Sunday, January 8, 2012

Who Will Win the 2012 BCS Championship?

Carlton Chin, CFA and Jay Granat, PhD, are authors of the book, "Who Will Win the Big Game?"  where concepts of sports psychology are quantified.  Here, we use this research to take a look at the 2012 BCS Championship Game between #1 LSU and #2 Alabama.  Our analysis on other sporting events has been featured in the NY Times and The Wall Street Journal.  Jay Granat is a psychotherapist and founder of  Carlton Chin is an MIT-trained quantitative and alternative assets portfolio manager for CARAT/Adamah Capital.  

In particular, our research shows that certain key concepts of sports psychology can be used to build winning teams. Measuring factors - such as leadership, coaching, hard work, minimizing errors, and consistency - has proven to be useful in determining champions and winners. Let's take a look at the "quant facts" for this year's BCS Championship Game.
Hard Work & Defense
Interestingly, across a variety of sports, factors and statistics related to hard work and consistency are more closely related to winning championships than glitzy statistics such as quarterback rating and homeruns. In particular, our work shows that defense does indeed win championships.
Alabama gets the nod in this category, with its top-ranked defense in terms of both points against and yards per game.  It is notable that LSU is #2 -- but a distant #2, yielding 252 yards per game vs. Alabama's 191 yards/game.  
Consistency Factor: Rushing Yards per Attempt
Another key to winning championships is consistency. It is interesting that the type of "consistency factors" that have proven to be related to winning are "less exciting heroics" than most sports fans would expect. For example, in baseball, our research shows that batting average is more important to winning World Series than home runs.
In football, average yards per rush is a good indicator of consistency and control of the game. Alabama edges LSU in this category (5.6 yards per rush to 5.0 for LSU).  Edge to Alabama for the consistency factor.
Minimizing Errors
Performing at a high level - while minimizing mistakes - is crucial to winning the big game. The numbers show that teams that focus on the fundamentals - and athletes who minimize errors - perform better in championships. In football, the team that throws fewer interceptions has won more than their share of championships.  This edge goes to LSU, whose QBs threw just 4 INTs versus Alabama's 8.  
Big Game Experience & Coaching
Statistics show that experience and coaching can yield a measurable difference in the outcome of championships.  Alabama has appeared in a National Title game over the past three years (LSU's most recent appearance was for the 2007 regular season).  Both coaches have done well in games with national title implications, with Alabama's Nick Saban going 2-0 in these games, and LSU's Les Miles going 1-0.  We'll give the edge to Alabama in this category.

Sports Psychology Factors and the BCS Championship
So who will win this year's college football championship? Based on our "quant facts" of the key concepts of sports psychology, we believe that Alabama will even the score against LSU (LSU beat Alabama 9-6 earlier in the season) -- and come away with the title.