Testing The Utility Of The Pythagorean Expectation Formula On Division One College Football: An Examination And Comparison To The Morey Model

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Cary A. Caro
Ryan Machtmes


Pythagorean Expectation Formula, Bill James, Division One College Football, Morey Model


The Pythagorean Expectation Formula was the impetus for the statistical revolution of Major League Baseball. The formula, introduced by Bill James, has been used by baseball statisticians to forecast the number of wins a team should have given the total number of runs scored versus those allowed. Since its use in baseball, the formula has been applied to the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL. This study examines if the original formula, as introduced by James, can be fitted for and used to retrospectively predict winning percentage for NCAA Division I football teams. Residual analysis helps the authors conclude that the Pythagorean Expectation Formula provides an accurate prediction of the expected winning percentage for a team given its scoring offense and scoring defense production. Given the formulas predictive ability, coaches and athletic directors can now examine the achievement of their teams and make decisions about filling potential vacancies at college football programs.


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