AccuScore Simulation: Rose Bowl

By Zach Rosenfield, AccuScore Analyst,
Yahoo! Sports

AccuScore has run more than 10,000 simulations for every bowl game for Yahoo! Sports, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions, opponent's abilities, roster moves, weather and more. Each game is simulated one play at a time and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages, player statistics and a variety of game-changing scenarios. Here's's analysis of the Rose Bowl.

Baseline: USC 80%, Illinois 20%; Score: USC 33, Illinois 20

Determined to stick with tradition, the 2008 Rose Bowl Game pits Pac-10 champion USC against Big 10 runner-up Illinois. Making their third straight trip to Pasadena, the Trojans are winning 80 percent of the simulations by a comfortable 13 point margin.

USC is keyed by John David Booty. The senior quarterback is forecasted to have another solid game with 220 yards passing and two touchdowns. Booty will utilize all of his receiving weapons with a fairly even distribution of passes going to Fred Davis, Patrick Turner, Vidal Hazelton and David Ausberry. Running backs Chauncey Washington, Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson are combining for over 150 yards rushing and close to two touchdowns.

Illinois is led by dual threat quarterback Juice Williams, who is projected to throw and run for 119 and 52 yards respectively. Running back Rashard Mendenhall makes up for Illinois’s modest passing game with over 130 yards rushing and a couple of catches out of the backfield. For the Illini to keep it close, they will need a big game from their defense, who is projected to sack Booty twice and force two turnovers.

Which Juice Williams Will Show Up

It’s common for young quarterbacks to have ups and downs and Juice Williams is no exception. In their nine wins, Williams averaged 170 yard a game passing with a better than 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio. However, in the Illini’s three losses, Williams accounted for less than 300 total yards and had a touchdown to interception ration for almost 1:3.

Baseline simulations list Illinois with a meager 20 percent win probability, but we wanted to see how the different versions of Juice Williams could affect that number. AccuScore re-simulated the game to see how the Illini would do on Juice Williams best and worst day.

Juice Williams Win % C-A % Yd TD Int RushYd TD
"Good Version" 35% 13-23 57% 149 1.1 0.7 55 0.4
"Bad Version" 4% 9-22 41% 99 0.3 1.8 35 0.2

When Juice Williams plays his best, Illinois win probability increased to 35 percent. The 15 percent spike reflected Williams limiting turnovers and being effective through the air and on the ground.

However, a frustrated and contained Juice Williams diminishes Illinois’s already slim chances to win. In "bad" simulations, Illinois win probability plummets 16 points to four percent.

What if This Were a Truly Neutral Field?

Although bowl games are supposed to be played at neutral sites, Pasadena is only 20 minutes from the USC campus making it a virtual home game. Our baseline simulation lists USC with an 80 percent win probability, but we wanted to see if that number would change if the game were played under truly neutral conditions.

Winning % Baseline Neutral
Illinois 20% 25%
USC 80% 75%

Playing at the Rose Bowl gives USC an advantage of 10 percentage points. Although USC would be an overwhelming favorite anywhere this game was played, when we took it out of Pasadena, their win probability dropped five points, which is the exact amount Illinois gained.

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