For the first time in many years, the Yale football team will take the field for the Harvard-Yale game not only as the favorite, but also as Ivy League champions. The Yale Undergraduate Sports Analytics Group Football Model currently predicts Yale as an 11-point favorite over Harvard, corresponding to a 73 percent chance of winning The Game.
A win for Yale would also clinch sole possession of the league title, a relatively rare achievement in the Ivy League with its lack of tie-breaking procedures. However, it is more interesting to examine the many possible scenarios in the case of a Yale loss. Dartmouth and Columbia sit tied for second in the league behind the Bulldogs. A Yale loss to Harvard on Saturday would give the Big Green and the Lions the chance to gain a share of the league and rob Yale of its lone grip on the trophy.
Columbia, which plays a weak Brown team on Saturday, has a much easier road to a share of the title than Dartmouth, which must defeat a strong, albeit underperforming, Princeton. Our model favors Columbia over Brown by 16 points, giving the Lions approximately an 80 percent chance of winning the game. By contrast, Dartmouth heads into Saturday’s game against Princeton as a six-point underdog, giving the team a roughly 36 percent chance of winning.
The many possible scenarios can be further examined through Monte Carlo simulations of the season, which estimate that Yale has a 76 percent chance to win the league outright. It should be noted that this is slightly higher than Yale’s 73 percent chance to win The Game, since there exists the unlikely possibility that both Dartmouth and Columbia lose this weekend, preserving the outright title for Yale.
Simulations of the season further predict that Columbia will win a share of the title with 22 percent probability, and that Dartmouth will claim a share with 10 percent probability. A three-way tie for the title is estimated to occur in just 8 percent of the possible scenarios.
Looking back at the season, Yale’s has outperformed preseason expectations and steadily risen to the top of the Ancient Eight. At the beginning of the season, Yale’s YUSAG coefficient, an approximate measure of team strength, ranked the Bulldogs as a middle-of-the-pack Ivy League team. After six impressive league games, Yale is now rated as the top team in the conference and the 38th best team in the Football Championship Subdivision, according to the YUSAG football model. Yale fans will be hoping that this newfound dominance continues on Saturday, as the Bulldogs attempt to repeat a result that launched the team’s rise in the rankings a year ago.
Matt Robinson is the treasurer of the Yale Undergraduate Sports Analytics Group
Matt Robinson | firstname.lastname@example.org