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AccuScore Simulation: Sugar Bowl

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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 AccuScore.com's analysis of the Sugar Bowl.

Baseline: Hawaii 30%, Georgia 70%; Score: Georgia 38, Hawaii 29

Hawaii is the only undefeated team this season, and has had the best season in school history. A win in the Sugar Bowl would be the perfect fairy tale ending. Georgia has everything to lose in this game as they are expected to win, and win handily against the Warriors. A loss would discredit themselves and the SEC. All the pressure is on Mark Richt’s team.

Georgia is winning over 70 percent of simulations by an average margin of 11 points. AccuScore simulations show Georgia’s defense holding Hawaii’s high-powered offense to 28 points with Colt Brennan throwing for 350 yards and two touchdowns. Although these numbers may seem high, Hawaii is projected to score 18 points below their season average due to Georgia’s defense creating 2.62 turnovers and 3.91 sacks per simulation.

In contrast to Hawaii’s, Georgia’s offense is forecasted to dominate on the ground with running backs Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown combining for over 185 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Quarterback Matt Stafford is averaging more than 240 yards and almost two touchdowns per simulation targeting a variety of receivers. Sean Bailey is the big play man on the outside as he is averaging 16.1 yards per catch on the year.

What if This Were a Truly Neutral Field

A big reason for Georgia being a 70 percent favorite in the Sugar Bowl is geography. Athens is 550 miles from the Superdome, whereas the Hawaii’s fan base will travel more than 4,500 miles to see the game.

AccuScore was curious how the game’s location factored into the projected outcome. We simulated the game at a 'neutral site' and found the Warriors win probability jump from 30 to 36 percent. A bowl game with a pro Georgia crowd in a game in the heart of SEC country is worth six percentage points.

In 2007, Hawaii’s average margin of victory on the road is 12 points, whereas they beat opponents by an average of 27 points at home. If this game were played in Aloha Stadium, the game becomes a coin flip with Georgia winning 53 percent of the simulations by just two points.

Home Field GA HAW Score
Baseline 70% 30% GA 38, HAW 29
True neutral field 64% 36% GA 37, HAW 31
Hawaii at home 53% 47% GA 36, HAW 34
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What Will It Take for Hawaii to Win?

Last year’s undefeated WAC Champion, Boise State, upset traditional power Oklahoma. It took several trick plays and a few minor miracles for Boise State to upset Oklahoma. Hawaii is this year’s undefeated WAC Champion. What will it take for Hawaii to pull of the upset?

For Hawaii to pull an upset, Colt Brennan can not throw multiple interceptions and the defense must be "twice as good" against the run as AccuScore expects them to be. In baseline simulations Brennan is averaging 1.4 interceptions. The defense is allowing Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown to combine for 36 carries, 185 yards (5.1 ypc) and 2.5 rushing touchdowns per sim.

We altered the simulations so:

  • Brennan’s chances of throwing an interception is cut in half
  • The Hawaii defense goes from allowing a run of 8+ yards in 18% of Georgia carries, down to just 9% of carries and cuts Georgia’s ability to convert on 3rd and short (3 yds or less) by 50%.

In this scenario Hawaii wins 55 percent of simulations by an average score of Hawaii 33 Georgia 30.

For more information, visit www.accuscore.com.