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Morning Coffee Looks At Probabilities

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Morning Coffee Mailbag.  BON's favorite (also: only) intern checked in Thursday with an email about the tailback situation:

So are we just accepting this?  Chris Ogbannaya is suddenly the answer at tailback?  Do you have any insight on the meteoric rise of OG and whether we should expect old OG or new OG for the rest of the season?  I just think I haven't seen anyone on the site acting sufficiently surprised by this.

--Andrew R.

First of all, don't be such a stranger, old friend. As to your question, I'll ask readers: Does anyone remember the 2007 spring game? Andrew's email prompted me to go digging through the BON archives and I found my notes from that game. On Ogbonnaya:

For one thing, Chris Ogbonnaya, who is officially "my boy," had a terrific scrimmage, picking up all the yards he was supposed to, finishing runs around the down markers and end zone, and even providing an impressive burst of speed around the corner. I truly think Texas has a Priest Holmes-type runner on their hands, and the sooner the coaches realize it, the better.

Now, to be fair, by the fall of last year, Ogbonnaya appeared to have used the summer of '07 to bulk up considerably (thanks Mad Dog!); as the season got underway in September, he more resembled a fullback than the player who had so tickled my fancy six months prior. Even so, to the extent your question suggests that Ogbonnaya's strong performance in Big 12 play this year is so far out of left field as to warrant more skepticism... well, I'm the wrong guy to ask: I was an OG fan waaaaay before it was cool.

My own biases aside, here's the rub: I think your question is a little off base insofar as its entirely tailback-oriented. I think what you're seeing right now is the Texas offensive line run blocking better than it has in a long time, to such a degree that even if I'm batsh*t crazy with my Ogbonnaya love, it's not such a huge leap of faith to believe he's capable of being effective when the O-Line is performing at a high level.

And right now, it is. So rather than wonder if everyone's insane for not questioning Ogbonnaya's recent explosion, you might just wonder whether I'm insane (you wouldn't be the first) and assume for everyone else that it's not so far fetched to feel comfortable liking the overall developments in the running game.

Setting the tone: Crowd noise.  Mack Brown opened his mid-week remarks with a comment not on the Cowboys, but on the crowd:

One thing we'd like to do is encourage our fans to have the same attitude this weekend they had last week. It was just unbelievable the excitement, coming early, there were so many people around the stadium when we drove up two hours before. The fact that so many fans met the team at the north end two hours before, and then just the noise level that our fans had during the ballgame, we felt like made a really big difference.

Honestly, the entire transcript from Mack's Wednesday presser is an interesting read. Among the nuggets:

  • He considers this year's squad the most unselfish group since he arrived in Austin.
  • OSU's balance allows them to attack you on the outside with the running game or, if you commit DB support to the run, pick on you with Dez Bryant in one-on-one coverage.
  • The effort to bring the young receivers along is a concerted one.
  • Blocking Orakpo in practice prepares our O-Line to block anyone.
  • Mack's as concerned about the OSU kick return game as I am.

There! Right there! See that?! Just a quick programming note that it'll be Bob Griese, Brad Nessler, and Paul Maguire in the booth calling Saturday's game. Paul Maguire repeatedly will ask you if you can--Look! Right there!--see the TV that you're, you know, watching.

Checking the spreads. The Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Saturday's line at Texas -10.5, but that hasn't lasted: Now that bettors have loaded up on Texas, the best you can find in Vegas is Texas -12. Jeff Sagarin's predictor ratings forecasts Texas by 13.2. Bruce Feldman is done picking against the Horns (Texas by 20).

Checking the spreads, Part 2.  Stewie Mandel has caught a lot of flak over the years from the college blogosphere, but his dip into the SEC Defense vs Big 12 Offense debate is respectably measured:

There's no reason to believe that Big 12 defenses are any worse this year than in the past. If anything, several teams (Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State) appear to have gotten better, albeit still not great. But clearly, the league has never had this many elite offenses at once. It's a perfect confluence of great quarterbacks and dangerous, no-huddle/spread schemes.

Well, almost.  Okay, no total free pass for Stew today: He does toss this unsubstantiated bit into the column:

History shows that a team with a dominant defense is far more likely to win a national-title game when facing a team with a powerful offense. In fact, that's exactly how LSU beat Oklahoma in the leagues' last head-to-head title matchup in 2003. That said, Texas showed against USC in '05 that it's possible to win a championship in a shootout.

History actually shows a grand total of 10 BCS Title games which paint no such clear picture. It might well be that a team with a great defense is better positioned to win a national title game than one with a great offense, but we'll need a lot more history to establish whether one is more likely--or "far more likely"--than the other.

Morning Coffee Mailbag, Part 2.  I've been looking for a good reason to talk long-term odds for a week now, and the following email gives me the perfect in:

Thought this might be of interest:

Two weeks into their stay at No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, the Texas Longhorns may not want to get too comfortable.

According to the odds makers at, there's good odds (7-to-2) this will be their second - and final - week atop the AP poll with No. 7 Oklahoma State looming, and even better odds (8-to-5) they last just three weeks in the top spot with a showdown with No. 8 Texas Tech on the horizon.

As for the chance of them making it four straight (with wins over OK State and Tech)? 10-to-1.

--Kate P.

Unfortunately, Kate didn't include a source link, but I did some digging and found this near-identical blurb from Natalie England at the San Antonio Express-News. However, as I tried to work through the material, neither Kate's email nor Natalie's note are clear enough to say definitively what these odds really are. My best guess is as follows:

  • 7:2 odds ($1 to win ~$1.30) Texas loses to Oklahoma State on Saturday
  • 8:5 ($1 to win ~$1.60) Texas loses to OSU or Texas Tech
  • 10:1 ($1 to win ~$4) Texas loses one of its next four (OSU, Tech, Baylor, Kansas)

The way the blurbs are worded makes little sense, so I'm honestly not sure if that's what's being said, but let's set aside the material presented and--using our own numbers--take a look at how Texas' future shakes out from a statistical perspective. Rather than deal with the confusing realm of betting odds, we'll break this down into two groups--probability that Texas beats OSU + Tech and probability that Texas wins its next four. Below I chart side-by-side the probabilities using both the most aggressive and conservative  estimates to win each game.


Game TX Win% (High) TX Win % (Low)
OSU 0.8 0.6
TECH 0.7 0.55
BOTH 56% 33%

Returning to the betting perspective: If you lean towards the aggressive (High) estimates, that 8:5 bet isn't so bad, but if you're less confident in the 'Horns and assign them the lower win percentages, it's a poor value.

Now let's add Baylor and Kansas to the mix:

Game TX Win% (High) TX Win % (Low)
OSU 0.8 0.6
TECH 0.7 0.55
BU 0.95 0.9
KU 0.8 0.6
ALL 43% 18%

Nothing changes from the betting perspective (only the confident Longhorn fan should wager on four straight wins), but I really lay all this out so that I can add in one last final step--the potential Big 12 Title Game which would follow winning our next four. (Yes, plus A&M. I refuse to consider the possibility that we lose that game in Austin. Refuse.)

Game TX Win% (High) TX Win % (Low)
OSU 0.8 0.6
TECH 0.7 0.55
BU 0.95 0.9
KU 0.8 0.6
B12 TG
0.65 0.55
ALL 28% 10%

Setting allllll that betting junk aside, Texas' odds of winning its next six games are between roughly 10 and 30 percent, depending on how much better you think Texas is than the competition. That is, even if you're Left Column Optimistic, the math ain't good for an undefeated run.

Which demands one and only one approach: For now, let's take things one game at a time. After all, the numbers improve nicely if we win on Saturday. And they rocket upward if Texas were to wake up on November 2nd at 9-0.

Whatever happens... Is this a great time to bleed burnt orange or what?