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Predict the 2017 Cal Football Season: Results!

Teetering on the precipice of bowl eligibility.

Oregon Ducks v California Golden Bears Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

After one of the most tumultuous offseasons in years, the Bears are ready to take the field again in 11 (!) days. Justin Wilcox has returned to Cal and brought as impressive of a coaching staff as any of us could have wanted. The Bear Raid gets replaced by Beau Baldwin’s adaptive, multiple offense. Art Kaufman’s bend-and-then-break defense gets replaced by Tim DeRuyter’s aggressive, deceptive defense. While Dykes left behind a team fairly well stocked with talent, many of us are uncertain how long it will take Wilcox and friends to bring the Bears back to respectability. How uncertain are we? That’s a great question! If only some brilliant minds in the CGB community could proclaim their expectations and rely on some guy with a bunch of code and Stats-2-level analysis to assess those expectations...

A couple weeks ago, I tasked you all with giving us the likelihood that the Bears will defeat each of their opponents. Hundreds of responses and one overtaxed computer later, I have your results!

In the table below I have listed the results for each game. The average win chance represents... the Bears’ average probability of defeating (sorry—I had to explain it in case any Oregon fans got lost on their way to In parentheses, I show how much each prediction has changed compared to our predictions after spring ball. Next to that we have the standard deviation. If the closest you ever came to Evans Hall was wondering who ruined the view from Memorial Glade with that eyesore to the east, allow me to remind you that the standard deviation represents uncertainty in our predictions. Higher standard deviations represent greater uncertainty while lower standard deviations indicate that we generally had greater agreement in our predictions.

Opponent Avg. Win Chance Standard Deviation
at North Carolina 44.8% (+0.5) 19.7
Weber State 93.0% (-0.0) 12.5
Ole Miss 49.6% (+2.8) 20.1
USC 23.0% (-3.0) 19.4
at Oregon 39.8% (-1.4) 19.6
at UW 20.9% (-3.4) 18.7
Wazzu 49.4% (-1.8) 21.2
Arizona 66.3% (+1.0) 18.0
at Colorado 42.6% (-0.6) 17.1
Oregon State 64.0% (-2.8) 17.2
at LSJU 40.1% (-1.5) 26.8
at UCLA 42.1% (-2.4) 19.4
Total 5.76 wins (-0.12) 1.89

As is usually the case with the preseason predictions, we were slightly less optimistic than we were in the spring. Our biggest increase in win likelihood is against Ole Miss, who has had an interesting past month. Our biggest decline in hope was for the UW game. Yep, they’re going to be tough again.

Overall, our win predictions dropped from 5.88 wins to 5.76. Achieving 5 or 6 wins will be tough when we only favor the Bears in 3 games (Weber State, Arizona, and Oregon State). It seems much of the upcoming season will come down to toss-up games. 7 of our games fall in that 40%–60% toss-up range (okay, I rounded up for Oregon). Split those toss-ups, take care of business against the three teams against whom we’re favored, and we’ll earn a bowl game.

In addition to the table above, I’ve plotted the distributions of the predictions below. The plots can be rather lumpy because we have a propensity to list predictions divisible by 10 or 5.

Home game predictions

The chart for the home games indicates that Weber State is, by far, the likeliest win at home. Behind that we have two probable wins against Arizona and Oregon State. Wazzu and Ole Miss sit mostly in the toss-up region. And the toughest home game will be a visit from USC. Next let’s have a look at the road games.

Road game predictions

A bunch of toss-ups and a likely loss to UW. Oski’s blessings upon those of you who contributed to that bump at 100% for a Cal victory in the Big Game.

Based on our results, 6 wins is our likeliest outcome based on the predictions we all provided. How did I come to that conclusion? I rounded up the average win total used our predictions to simulate the seasons one million times!

Simulating the Season

The simulation process is pretty easy (as long as you’re not the 10-year-old-desktop-computer I ran this on—bless its processor). I take one prediction at random for North Carolina and use that to determine the outcome of that game. If I drew a 45%, then there’s a 45% chance I draw a 1 (win) and a 55% chance I draw a 0 (loss). After drawing an outcome for that game, I move on to Weber State and draw another prediction at random. Repeat the process over all 12 games, add up all the 1s, and save the result. I go through that process 1,000,000 times and note the number of times we win 1 game, win 2 games, win 3 games, and so on. It all culminates in the table below:

Total Wins Probability
0 0.00%
1 0.20%
2 1.55%
3 5.89%
4 14.13%
5 22.22%
6 24.04%
7 18.16%
8 9.54%
9 3.38%
10 0.78%
11 0.01%
12 0.00%

As I mentioned before, 6 wins is the most likely outcome. 5 wins is the next-likeliest outcome, followed by 7 wins, then 4 wins. Based on the probabilities above, we have almost a 14% chance of winning 8 or more games! And a 1-in-500 chance of replicating Sonny Dykes first season.

If you prefer charts to tables, you will enjoy the above numbers expressed in a bar chart. It’s even color-coded to the official Cal colors!

Simulated win totals

Enough of all these numbers, let’s hand out some awards!


Let’s start with the sunshine pumpiest of the sunshine pumpers: here are your most optimistic participants.


Name Wins
1. IAmJustinsLustyTongue 12.00
1. SanBernardinoBear 12.00
3. BerdoBear 11.99
4. Old Bear 71 10.60
5. Oski disciple 10.56
6. OCBEAR1983 10.50
7. The Ghost of Joe Roth 10.10
8. Vol Crush 9.17
9. Drdavidcley 8.20
10. Jacobs 7.59

Only seven predicted double-digit wins? We really have tempered our expectations this year.

Now let’s highlight the pessimists.


Name Wins
1. StanfordEnvy 0
2. chazhorn11 1.46
3. drdoom 2.2
4. Dgh 2.5
5. Poohbears 2.54
6. Uthaithani 2.82
7. 195600 3.38
8. ak_A 3.55
9. Skeedabo 3.67
10. Bearfan 3.9

I FOUND THE LELAND STANFORD JUNIOR UNIVERSITY FAN! Let us all bask in this moment. This is like finding a four-leaf clover or a Nobel Laureate at Oregon State.

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

The Voice of Reason

Name Standard Deviation
1. atomsareenough .051
2. Calbears475 .055
3. ThingLongTerm .056
4. AAHQ .057
5. Berkelium97 .057
6. SuperEQ .061
7. Go Bears!!! .066
8. Mailman .067
9. 12345 .068
10. Calarchitect .073

In atoms we trust.

Thanks to all of you who participated. Soon enough we’ll have real-life football to analyze!


How satisfied would you be with 6 regular-season wins?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    Very dissatisfied
    (12 votes)
  • 4%
    Somewhat dissatisfied
    (14 votes)
  • 3%
    (13 votes)
  • 25%
    Somewhat pleased
    (85 votes)
  • 47%
    Very pleased
    (157 votes)
  • 15%
    (50 votes)
332 votes total Vote Now


Also, how delighted are you that SBN has re-enabled polls in these posts?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Very delighted!
    (71 votes)
  • 9%
    Super delighted!
    (22 votes)
  • 19%
    Mega delighted!
    (46 votes)
  • 23%
    Using the word "delighted" is improper because the inclusion of such a positive and potent term is a deliberate attempt to sway the respondents’ responses. This is nothing more than a thinly veiled push poll.
    (54 votes)
  • 10%
    I have chosen to abstain from this poll.
    (25 votes)
  • 6%
    Help me. I’m lost. Please tell me how to get to CGB North.
    (14 votes)
232 votes total Vote Now