Wednesday, January 03, 2007

With its loss (41-14 to LSU) in tonight's Sugar Bowl, Notre Dame has just set a new record by falling in its ninth straight football bowl game. A chart listing all Fighting Irish bowl games in school history is available on the Wikipedia's Notre Dame football page.

Notre Dame had shared the record for consecutive bowl losses at eight with West Virginia and South Carolina. My graduate school alma mater, the University of Michigan, once lost seven straight bowls.

I think it's fair to say that, at least as a rough approximation, bowl match-ups are created to make the games competitive. Of this season's 32 bowl games, I count 19 in which the two teams either came in with the same number of losses or differed by only one loss.

If we assume each bowl game is a 50/50 proposition as to who will win, then the probability of a team losing nine straight is (1/2) raised to the 9th power, which is 1/512. It's the same logic by which the probability of rolling double sixes with dice is (1/6) X (1/6) or 1/36; the probability of a given outcome on one iteration is raised to the power corresponding to the length of the streak.

A theory that I (and others) have come up with is that Notre Dame bowl games often are not 50/50 propositions because the school's popularity and mystique (Knute Rockne, the Four Horsemen, the Golden Dome, the exclusive contract with NBC, etc.) gets it in bowl games above its ability level. I did a little searching for articles on Notre Dame's recent bowl games and, indeed, the Irish has tended to be the underdog.

Even if we assume the Irish had only a 40% chance of winning any given bowl game (which translates into a 60% chance of losing a given game), the probability of nine straight bowl losses can be estimated at (.60) to the 9th power, or .01 (1 in 100).

1 comment:

Renegade said...

Excellent post! Geaux Tigers!

Check out Renegade's BS