Machine taps NU in North

Originally published October 26, 2009 at midnight, updated October 26, 2009 at 10:19 a.m.

Guesses as to what the future will look like so often miss the mark. Yet, every generation or so, a genius comes along and crafts an eerily accurate take on tomorrow, we learn decades later. Rod Serling, host and script writer for two-thirds of the episodes of the still-popular TV show “The Twilight Zone,” saw the future.

One episode featured women being pressured to buy a new, perfect face, choosing from a limited array of versions. Sure enough, in some parts of the country, plastic surgeons are making a killing.

Serling also feared computers would run the world. Finally, he’s right. Thanks to this past weekend’s outcomes, especially Texas A&M’s stunning thrashing of Texas Tech, we humans must surrender and see what the computers think when attempting to forecast the outcome of the mercurial Big 12 North race.

Three outcomes involving three Big 12 teams in three weeks so wildly contradicted each other that it hurts the brain to contemplate them. First, Texas Tech pounded Kansas State, 66-14, in Manhattan. The next week, K-State hammered Texas A&M, 62-14, in Manhattan. Then A&M lit up Tech, 52-30, Saturday in Lubbock.

Based on Tech being 52 points better than K-State and K-State being 48 points better than A&M, Tech should have beaten the Aggies by 100 points. Instead, the Red Raiders lost to A&M by 22 points, which means comparative scoring using just two outcomes from three teams is accurate to within a margin of error of 122 points. In other words, it’s useless.

So there exists no alternative but to turn to the best computer ranking out there, the Sagarin predictor, which is based entirely on comparative scoring, but at least takes into account every outcome from every team in the nation. To try to forecast a game’s outcome, Sagarin instructs to add 3.27 points to the home team’s predictor rating.

Sagarin likes Bo Pelini’s Cornhuskers a whole lot better than the state of Nebraska does at the moment. Using the current predictor ratings to determine the outcome of every remaining game involving a Big 12 team results in Colorado bringing up the rear at 1-7, Missouri and Kansas finishing 3-5, Farmageddon foes Iowa State and Kansas State finishing 4-4, and Nebraska winning four of its final five to represent the North in the Big 12 title game with a 5-3 record.

If every outcome adheres to Sagarin form, except for one and that one variable has Kansas beating the Cornhuskers, four teams would tie for first with a 4-4 record, and the first tiebreaker would be how the teams did against each other. Under that scenario, Kansas would be 3-0, the other three teams 1-2, and KU would get to play in its first Big 12 title game.

• A previous version of this story contained an error.