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2016 Cal Football Season Predictions, Spring Edition: 7 Wins!

After we correctly picked 5 wins in 2014 and 7 wins in 2015, will Cal fulfill its destiny and match our 7-win predictions for 2016?

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The pressure is on, Cal fans. We're on a streak of impressive accuracy with our season predictions. Last spring we predicted 7.04 wins for the Bears and the previous spring we expected 4.80 wins. With 5 regular-season wins in 2014 and 7 in 2015, the team matched our predictions quite well. Will our impressive foresight continue this season? We've done our part. Now it's up to the team to do its job. Here's a look at how we expect them to fare during the 2016 season.

In the following table, I list our opponents, the average of our predictions for that opponent, and the standard deviation (how much variation there is in our predictions) for each game. Larger standard deviations indicate more uncertainty about the outcome of the game while smaller standard deviations indicate more consensus in our predictions. At the bottom of the table I have tallied the projected number of wins and the standard deviation of those projections.

Opponent Win Probability SD
Hawaii 88.2% 11.6
at SDSU 77.2% 14.5
Texas 57.8% 15.2
at ASU 55.8% 15.8
Utah 53.4% 15.0
at OSU 74.5% 13.9
Oregon 38.9% 17.4
at USC 31.6% 18.6
UW 51.7% 15.5
at WSU 54.9% 16.4
LSJU 53.1% 26.7
UCLA 50.5% 18.3
Total 6.88 wins 1.45

If you're optimistic, you'll immediately notice that we favor the Bears in a whopping ten games. If you tend to be more pessimistic, you'll likely notice that we only heavily favor the Bears in three games. Somewhere in between those perspectives lies the fact that our predictions rate seven of our games as toss-ups. Texas, ASU, Utah, UW, Wazzu, the Big Game, and UCLA all sit somewhere between 50 and 58%. Fortunately five of those seven games are at home. In games expected to be decided by small factors, having a home field advantage could be critical.

The easiest games on the schedule are (in order) Hawaii, San Diego State, and Oregon State. Breaking in a new offense with a new QB, we'll be fortunate to open the season with our two easiest games. At the opposite end of the spectrum, our two toughest games are against Oregon and USC (occurring on back-to-back weeks, conveniently). The Oregon game is preceded by a well-timed bye week, but we have a short, six-day stretch to prepare for the Trojans (who will enjoy a bye week to prepare for the Bear Raid). Assuming we lose those two and win the three favored games, we would only need to win three of our seven toss-ups to qualify for a bowl. I like those odds.

Below I have plotted the distribution of our predictions for our home games. Other than our toughest home game against Oregon, we don't have much differentiation among these games. Per tradition, we have a nice bump at the 100% mark for the Big Game. Thanks to all of you who did the needful.

Next we have our road games (and the neutral site game on the other side of the galaxy). Compared to our home games, here we have much more variety: we have our easy games (Hawaii, San Diego State, Oregon State), our toss-ups (Arizona State, Washington State), and our can-we-please-end-the-twelve-year-losing-streak game (USC).

Goff still has a year of eligibility left, right? Maybe he can suit up for our Thursday night trip to Los Angeles.

Now let's get fancy and run these numbers through some simulations.

Simulations

Moving beyond our descriptive results, I next took the predictions from each game and used them to simulate the entire season. The simulation process is pretty simple. I select one prediction at random for Hawaii and use that to predict the winner. If I draw an .85, then the Bears will have an 85% chance of drawing a win. Based on that percentage, I then draw either a win or a loss for the Bears, move on to the next game, and repeat the process. I did this for each of the 12 games to simulate the season and re-ran the process 1,000,000 times. Unfortunately, I think my abacus suffered a debilitating injury during the calculations and will have to be put down. RIP.

I have plotted the results below. On the x-axis we have the number of wins and the y-axis is the probability (per our simulations) of finishing with that number of wins.

7 wins is the likeliest outcome, followed by 6 wins then 8. For a more exact look at those results, I've listed the likelihood that we'll reach each win plateau.

Wins Probability
0 0.00%
1 0.00%
2 0.27%
3 1.52%
4 5.36%
5 12.61%
6 20.74%
7 24.06%
8 19.60%
9 10.88%
10 3.99%
11 0.86%
12 0.08%

Adding up the percentages, our predictions only give us a 20% chance of missing out on bowl eligibility. Can you believe the team hasn't made consecutive bowls since 2008–09? Based on the simulations, we have a 35% chance of exceeding last year's win total. That would be a tremendous accomplishment for a team replacing its starting QB and top six receivers. And we have a 5% chance of earning double-digit wins—pump that sunshine!

Now that we've started this sunshine-pumping train, let's hand out some awards.

Awards

This time we have an editor's choice award and the old triumvirate of traditional awards.

Editor's Choice Award

Our first award is the President of the Zach Kline Fan Club, which goes to guano007, who put "1.00 if Kline is at QB" for every single game. If I'm being pedantic (i.e. myself), guano007 doesn't specify that Kline is the starting quarterback. As long as Kline doesn't become safety or punter or left tackle, then we should have a 100% chance of winning every game, right? Right! Pump that sunshine! Speaking of which...

Sonny Delight

Next we recognize those who were the sunshine pumpiest in their predictions.

Name Wins
1. FiatLux 12.00
1. BuddyWoodchips 12.00
1. Palmertree 12.00
4. dantheman007 11.55
5. Oski Disciple 11.00
6. Old Bear 71 10.85
7. JoJoSungy 10.50
8. VermontBear 9.90
9. On Da Webb n DRob Hypetrain 9.75
10. 80Bear 9.30

Three-way tie for perfection! FiatLux, BuddyWoodchips, and Palmertree all gave the Bears a 100% chance to win every game. dantheman and Oski Disciple round out the top-five.

Sonny Yikes!

Next we have those who see nothing but doom this season.

Name Wins
1. Sac Town Bear Fanatic 2.71
2. Posty McPostface 2.98
3. Johnny C. 3.95
4. nedbear 4.00
5. GBSOC7 4.35
6. jsmith@aol.com 4.40
7. harmonpreservationsociety 4.50
8. HydroTech 4.66
9. rare bear 4.70
10. FiatSlug 4.85
10. Whohah 4.85

Atop the list of negabears, Sac Town Bear Fanatic's fanaticism does not translate to optimism. Posty McPostface and Johnny C. complete the podium of doom. Most worrying here is that the all-knowing HydroTech sees trouble ahead this season.

The Voice of Reason

Finally, we recognize those whose predictions were closest to the community average.

Name Standard Deviation
1. Novarem .065
2. Mr. Unit 2 .066
3. randythebear .067
4. ABVidale .069
5. GoldenBear 77 .070
6. wilderthangene .073
7. dinan3 .073
8. thepwner23 .074
9. LitmusTestYear .075
10. Nick Kranz .075

Novarem is our most reasonable voter this time, followed by Mr. Unit 2, and randythebear. Look at that, Mr. Monday Morning Column himself Nick Kranz earned a Voice of Reason award. That's the reason we pay him the big bucks.

Here is how the rest of us on the CGB masthead voted. I've ordered us from least to most optimistic. Interestingly, only one of us predicts more wins than the community average. Is there something we know that the rest of you don't...? (hint: no).

CGB Writers/Mods/Interns/Exchange-Students/People-who-allegedly-do-something-around-here

UH SDSU UT ASU Utah OSU UO USC UW WSU LSJU UCLA Total
HydroTech 0.6 0.6 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.7 0.05 0.01 0.5 0.5 0.3 0.4 4.66
LEastCoastBears 0.8 0.7 0.55 0.4 0.45 0.4 0.4 0.3 0.55 0.5 0.4 0.45 5.9
Leland Wong 0.85 0.7 0.6 0.6 0.5 0.95 0.3 0.2 0.35 0.4 0.4 0.35 6.2
Berkelium97 0.85 0.65 0.55 0.45 0.5 0.75 0.25 0.4 0.5 0.45 0.4 0.5 6.25
atomsareenough 0.95 0.7 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.85 0.4 0.4 0.3 0.45 0.5 0.4 6.45
unclesam22 0.85 0.95 0.65 0.65 0.45 0.75 0.33 0.25 0.3 0.4 0.45 0.45 6.48
Nick Kranz 0.95 0.85 0.6 0.5 0.45 0.8 0.3 0.3 0.5 0.4 0.5 0.4 6.55
LeonPowe 0.95 0.8 0.55 0.55 0.45 0.6 0.35 0.35 0.5 0.5 0.99 0.4 6.99

Many thanks to the hundreds of you who participated during this round! We'll run another round of predictions after fall camp.