29.Sep.2010 Analysis: Arizona State @ Oregon State

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If you flip a coin 3 times with the results being 1 heads and 2 tails, you'd probably expect the 4th flip would be heads, correct? However, since the 4th flip is independent of prior events, the probability is, like all other coin flips, 50/50.

"Angry, why bring up esoteric crap like math? This is football!"

Good question.

Basically, to point out a fact that we fans sometimes forget: football games are independent events.

It would be easy to reason that since Arizona State has put up 500 yards a game in hanging with the big boys, and Oregon State has looked abysmal even in victory against a rebuilding little guy, that the Sun Devils will win the game. 

Well, for me this game comes down to psychology (what else is new?). On one hand we have the Beavers, who are absolutely desperate for a win. On the other, Arizona State, who are feeling like world beaters after playing well enough to beat two top 25 teams.

Here's an analogy: the Beavers are the bum who hasn't eaten (or had a "drink") in two weeks and sees you strolling down the street, whistling Dixie, and carrying a sack of leftovers from the Peacock. Arizona State, in this analogy, would be "you". Fat…satiated…not exactly looking for a meal. Who do you think wins a battle over them scraps?

The home crowd will be booing the Beavers' every failure, which should stoke the fire.

So I'm picking the Beavers, right?

Meh.

I guess?

I saw ASU, and their mobile QB, stalemate Wisconsin and have their way with Oregon (until the 7 turnovers were too much to overcome). Could the Beavs compete with either of those teams? No, I don't believe so, but football unlike mathematics is not transitive. Independent events, my friends, just like the coins.

Sure, ASU is bigger, stronger, and faster. The eyeball test tells me the game's ledger will read "L", but until the "psychological edge" argument fails me, I'm sticking with it. Now chant with me, Beavlettes: PSYCHOLOGICAL EDGE AND INDEPENDENT EVENTS, PSYCHOLOGICAL EDGE AND INDEPENDENT EVENTS! You can probably sense how much confidence I have in this one.

Beavs by the skin of their teeth.

27-24

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  • angry angry says:
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    Of course, as soon as I finish writing this, Cliff reports:
    “As for performance on the field, the most impressive thing I noticed was scout team QB Sean Mannion. He had a great day throwing to receivers in the red zone. At one point he hit five straight TDs.

    For those who don’t get my humor, he was doing this against the regular defense. There was a point where he had his pick of which receiver to go to.”

    Uh oh.

    PSYCHOLOGICAL EDGE AND INDEPENDENT EVENTS!!

  • OS_Beaver says:
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    Should be a good game. Will come down to the Beavers moving the ball consistently enough on offense and maintaining some possession. Then stopping ASU on plenty of 3rd downs and hopefully earlier rather than later in drives. The BEAVER BOMBARDIERS will be yelling from section 225. Winning can be contagious so we need this one! Life can be beautiful..

  • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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    I disagree that football games are independent events. The coin doesn’t feel bad it only came up heads once. It’s not trying to come up heads every time. Football games might be ‘any given Sunday’ when matching up two similar teams, but I would argue that each game carries the weight of the spent season on its shoulders.

    • angry angry says:
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      If it were true, OSU wouldn’t have beaten USC in 2006–they were playing terrible leading up to that game and had just lost to an inept WSU team.

      “Two events, A and B, are independent if the fact that A occurred does not affect the probability of B occurring.”

      The test for independence of two events A and B is as follows:

      If P(A and B) = P(A) x P(B) then A and B are independent.

      Example:

      P(A and B) = 0.12 (Winning both games)
      P(A) = 0.6 (winning vs ASU)
      P(B) = 0.2 (winning vs Boise State)

      P(A) x P(B) = 0.6 x 0.2 = 0.12 = P(A and B)

      Therefore, A and B are independent.

      • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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        Winning a game is dependent on what happened in the game before. Imagine if the entire squad got injured v. Boise and they had to put in their second string across the board. You’re telling me that the next game is independent of that?

        • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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          Actually after thinking about it a little more, you’re right. Each event is independent. In my scenario the second event would just have lower odds of victory. It would be as if a coin run over by a train would have less odds of coming up heads (if that’s how the train bent the coin). Still an independent event.

        • angry angry says:
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          Generally speaking, athletic events are independent of one another. It’s how and why the Appalachian States of the world exist, why a batter who strikes out his first at bat doesn’t strike out every at-bat thereafter, why the Beavers can lose to Washington State then beat USC, etc.

          You can create weird scenarios that have validity, but I’m not sure what the point of that is other than to be contrarian since they rarely happen. Also, in your example, someone could argue the 11 backups replacing the starters are exactly equal in talent or even better. I doubt you’d find a mathematician (or bookie) who think games are generally dependent–that’s what fans do and how Vegas cleans up.

  • mckalk mckalk says:
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    The Beavers have played damn near the same way in three straight games. Anything that happens three times in a row is a trend in my book, that is why I am nervous about this one. They can win a couple of games playing this way against inferior talent, but will lose the majority against the same or better talent. Something on either side of the ball needs to improve drastically, maybe that is where psychology comes into play.

  • OneEyedKing says:
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    The historian in me says that we always start 1-2 or 2-2, then pull off an X game winning streak and finish 2nd-4th in the Pac10, and this year will be no different.
    The cynic in me says that we have far less talent than previous years, a young QB, and a terrible defense, and those things will finally bring us down to WSU-levels.
    But realistically, we’ve played two top-5 teams so far. No, we didn’t win, but we didn’t get crushed either, and TCU is better than anyone in the Pac10, and Boise might be too, so the competition won’t get harder from here on out. If our O-Line remembers how to block, our offense will hum. And if our D-Line learns how to pass rush, we’ll be able to get our defense off the field. Two fixes can completely save our season. Hopefully our coaches can figure it out.

  • CastorNation says:
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    Interesting analysis. I don’t know if the coin idea works as well with WSU. Even the blind squirrel eventually finds a nut. I would agree that each game is independent. And the possibilities of things that can happen in any given game make them independent. But to use your analogy of Tony Wilson a couple of weeks ago that there was a flicker. The bulb wasn’t on but there was a flicker. I think that would hold true for the BSU game also. There were flickers all over the place, but the bulb wasn’t on. If they can light the bulb, then its “heads” and they win. If they are off, they better hope ASU has another 7 turnovers.

    • angry angry says:
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      “I don’t know if the coin idea works as well with WSU. Even the blind squirrel eventually finds a nut.”

      So you think winning against USC was dependent upon losing vs WSU in 2006, just as flipping a coin and getting heads twice would mean the next flip has a 100% chance of tails? I think this is wrong, as you’d only lower the odds of receiving x amount of heads in a row, but the event itself is still independent of previous results (i.e. 50/50). Realize I’m not saying the Beavers have a 50/50 chance of winning, just that whatever the odds are, they are independent of last week’s game. Though, if you lower the scope to the W/L level, then it’s exactly like flipping a coin and it IS 50/50 (i.e. they are either going to win or lose). It’s other variables, like knowledge of the teams personnel, that makes you lower or raise the odds of winning any particular game.

      I realize this is easy with coins but becomes complicated in sports, especially a team sports (it’s easier to imagine in one-on-one sports), and you could make a case there’s some element of dependency in certain situations.

      • CastorNation says:
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        I don’t think losing to WSU had anything to do with beating USC. They were independent games and teams. But I think if you were to flip for heads as wins for WSU in the PAC 10 this year you would get tails 9 times. But with the squirrel even WSU can find a W ( eventually ). with what we have seen with OSU so far and ASU so far, we may as well flip a coin. On an unrelated note I am waiting to see if I will be watching Beaver football on the radio this year. Dish and Fox are in a battle. Fox wants a 55% increase and Dish is cheap. So possible tonight at midnight they will pull the plug on FSN. Figures.

        • angry angry says:
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          Well, I agree with that. The probability of WSU winning any game is low (definitely not 50/50). That has nothing to do with the coin example though. The only point in my bringing up coins is to show independence. Think of it this way:

          Chance of WSU winning game 1: 1/10
          Chance of WSU winning game 2: 1/10

          10% is just an arbitrary probability I made up for this example. Sure, over an entire season that 10% will eventually ring true and they win. But that has nothing in common with coins being 50/50 other than showing that each flip and each game are independent events.

  • osbeavs says:
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    You would carry leftovers out of the ‘Cock? Their food is terrible, even when you are drunk. Nice reference though.

    More serious note, Threet will look like Drew Brees against us. I think that 7 turnover total will come down because we don’t have a defense that causes turnovers at a high rate anymore. UO is a defense that predicates itself on turnovers (but does allow a lot of points), we won’t do that. I see us getting 2 turnovers and still losing. We are +5 in turnovers and still are 1-2.

    Does anyone think it is strange that ASU played “great defense” against UO when the ducks still rolled up 400 yards and 42 points. I think that ASU had a great scheme against the ducks but lets be real it wasn’t great defense.

    • mckalk mckalk says:
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      I like it was pretty good, you have to remember that the ASU defense only gave up 28 points and slowed down the Duck run game. Not great, but a solid effort. Usually when you outgain an opponent by almost 200 yards you win the game IF you win the turnover battle. ASU lost that big time.

  • beavis24 says:
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    Whaddya mean the food at the Peacock is bad? A couple of days before the Louisville game I had a great rib eye, mashed potatoes and salad for 8 bucks. And the place is much bigger than it used to be before they blew out the wall between the Peacock and the old “Don’s Den.”

    BTW, Mannion is the real deal. Although he will almost certainly redshirt this year, If Katz goes down and Vaz is ineffective, we may actually see him in game action…..

  • ean says:
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    I think having a gamer is a way bigger deal than having a guy that looks like a pro QB. I mean best case is a guy like Mallet or Luck that is both. Hope Katz can figure it out but I am starting to wonder.

  • ean says:
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    Just a FYI update for anyone that is interested. I e-mailed OSU a few days after the Louisville game to complain about them not showing the replay of calls under review on the jumbo screen. Sounds like they found somewhat of a solution. Here is their e-mail.

    “I hope this email finds you well. I apologize for the delay in responding to you. We have had multiple discussions with the Pac 10 office about this topic since the last home game and I wanted to make sure we had all of our Beavers in a row before I responded.

    I share some of your frustration on this topic. In fact, after the first Louisville Touchdown “Review” occurred, I was in the Press Box immediately trying to figure out how we get the policy changed, without getting sideways with the conference.

    All of that being said, we will be able to make changes to the policy that the conference should be ok with. Once the official has been buzzed on the field by the replay booth, we will flash a “Play Under Review” graphic on the video board, we will then show the replay (this must be done in regular game speed, using footage that is not pulled from the TV telecast, and completed before the official comes back on the field to announce the decision of the replay officials), then return to the “Play Under Review” graphic. We are only allowed to do this once per play and it must be completed before the official returns to the field to announce if the play stands or will be overturned. We will do this for every play that goes under review

    As far as other replays, the only plays we will not replay on the video board are opponents touchdowns or huge/significant plays made by the opponent (i.e. sacks on our quarterback, big offensive plays, etc.) This policy has been in place since the installation of the new video board. However, if one of those plays goes under review, then we will apply the new policy mentioned above.

    Thanks for the email and your continued support of Oregon State Athletics. I hope you enjoy the game on Saturday.”

  • VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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    Interesting interview with Brandon Hardin: http://blog.oregonlive.com/behindbeaversbeat/2010/09/post_62.html

    Looks like Hardin (and his family) are reading the blogs and seeing the many criticisms of Hardin’s performance at corner.

    I think this actually may help Hardin improve. It may make Hardin focus more on coverage, and on staying close to his man, rather than just looking to make “big hits” and highlight reel plays.

    I hope so, because I’m sure Threet and ASU will test Hardin early and often.

    This Saturday at Reser, I plan to spend much of the game focusing on Hardin and watching how he plays. Thanks to the video board, I should be able to do this, and still watch the ball during each video replay. Best of both worlds.

    I’ll report back on Hardin’s performance after Saturday’s victory. 🙂

    Go Beavers!!

    • OneEyedKing says:
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      One the one hand, I do feel bad for Hardin. Corner is the hardest position in football, and when your team has no pass rush, you’re out on that island for a long time. Eventually you’ll look foolish.
      On the other hand, bad coverage is still bad coverage. He knows that, and is working on it, but at some point you’ve given a guy enough chances and you move on.
      Also from that interview, Heyward really said he’s doing a great job. Really, a great job? Somebody buy that man a dictionary.

  • OS_Beaver says:
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    I was glad to see Dockery talking about leadership this week. On field performance is more important but this team needs more real leaders to rally and inspire the whole team. FANS NEED TO GET LOUD FOR THIS ONE! WE GOT TO GET ASU OFF THE FIELD SO LETS GET LOUD FOR THE DEFENSE AND HOPEFULLY HELP BRING MORE STOPS! THIS IS A CRUCIAL GAME TO GET A “W”!! GO BEAVS!!

  • MonkeyLuven MonkeyLuven says:
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    Regarding the psychology of the game, I have decided to begin posting Sport Psych 101 topics that will inform the Beaver faithful about the current research which pertains to our State of the Union.

    Today’s lesson is: CONFIDENCE

    Dr. Albert Bandura (Stanford) had done extensive research regarding how individuals build confidence pertaining to their specific sport and set of skills. (Self-efficacy). These will be listed in descending order from most to least beneficial:

    1) Mastery Experience – Learning by doing.
    2) Vicarious Learning – Seeing others succeed.
    3) Modeling – Imitating those who inspire you.
    4) Social Persuasion – Proper encouragement.

    Riley is fantastic at the 1st and good at the 4th. I think he lacks in the middle. This is why our teams start out slowly. If you have no experience to draw from, and you don’t implement other forms of confidence enhancement, how can you be expected to succeed immediately?

    This is why it is common practice to schedule “patsies” to evenly balance these forms of learning. The best practice is to always learn from an equal level of competition for the greatest gains. Because most big boys may not know who their “new” teams are at the beginning of the season, they avoid the the loss and rarely experience the Appalachian St. upset. Unfortunately the Beavs have taken the difficult road and now risk having absolutely NO self-confidence or efficacy with our mandated tasks.
    (After consistent losses and ranking at the bottom of the FBS, how can any players build confidence by seeing others around them succeed [#2]; as well as I have been told that our “Big Hits” motivational videos are shown to the players in the locker room just before kickoff [#3]. That type of poorly executed modeling and imprinting leads to #17 missing open tackles on the QB).

    So where I agree with you Angry that each game is independent from the next, right now I see ASU as being much more confident in their ability to stay fat and satiated if someone tries to steal their sack of food on the road.

    My prediction is that with a loss to ASU, our team’s confidence will be so lackluster that we run the risk of missing a bowl game all together.

    • angry angry says:
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      That is a good assessment. The Beavs can easily loose this game. This is the pick I’m the least confident in so far this season.

      Want to add one more thing: I think a great way to build confidence (and maybe even muscle preparation?) is through imagining success. I learned how to snowboard by envisioning myself doing it the entire week before I hit the slopes.

  • oneoldbeav oneoldbeav says:
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    Interesting stuff, Monkey. However, I’m not so sure I’d call Riley good at social persuasion. Sure would like to see more emotion from him.

    I agree with your assessment of the effects of a loss this week. GO BEAVS, lets see some solid tackling!!

  • OS_Beaver says:
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    45,674 fans tomorrow should help us pull out this victory!! GO BEAVER NATION!!
    WE GOTTA BE LOUD!!!!!!

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