Is 2014 the most unpredictable year of college football?

Florida State and Alabama have been dethroned. Several crowd favorites are struggling to stay in the top 25 (bye bye, Tigers!). And now the upstart Mississippi State Bulldogs — who weren’t ranked at the start of the season and have never won a national championship — are ranked #1 in the national polls. It’s no wonder that many spectators are starting to call 2014 one of the most unpredictable years in college football.

I decided to delve into the AP rankings history a bit more to provide some perspective on how the rankings have changed over the course of the season. Below, I plotted each team’s ranking from Week 1 (preseason) to Week 9 (this week). For clarity, I left out a few teams who only appeared in the top 25 for a single week.


I’ve color coded the teams by their overall rankings trend: green for up, red for down, and grey for stable. The trend we see is quite impressive: Only 6 of the 30 teams who have appeared in the top 25 have maintained relatively stable rankings. 10 teams have gone up considerably in rank since the beginning in the season, leaving an astounding 14 teams who have suffered several upset losses throughout the season.

How does 2014 compare to 2007?

2007 is widely regarded as one of the most unpredictable years in college football. So how does 2014 compare? Below, I charted out the full year of AP poll rankings for the teams who were in the top 25 at some point in 2007. (Again, for clarity I left out a few teams who only appeared for a week.)


We see similar trends in 2007: Multiple teams coming out of nowhere vying for the #1 position, crowd favorites failing to perform (*cough* Wolverines *cough*), and the previous year’s national champion falling in the rankings. If we tally the trend lines, we again see the signs of an unpredictable season: 15/40 teams up in the rankings, 15/40 down, and 10/40 stable.

To make a direct quantitative comparison, I calculated the variance in each team’s rankings from weeks 1-9 in 2007 and 2014. (Note: I counted unranked weeks for teams as a “26” ranking.) While 2007 saw the rankings change far more (average variance: 24), 2014 isn’t too far behind (average variance: 19). It seems that it’s a bit too early to definitively say that 2014 is the most unpredictable year in college football, but there’s still plenty of big games left to shake things up.

Who’s responsible for gas prices at the pump?

With gas prices hitting an all-time low for 2014, many of us are left to wonder: Who’s responsible for gas prices at the pump? According to the UT Energy Poll, the largest national poll on energy issues, 7 in 10 Americans believe that oil and gas companies are one of the biggest deciders in the price of gas. Given that so many Americans seem convinced on this issue, I decided to delve into gas prices a little further to see if this widespread belief held up to scrutiny.

If you’re in the know about gas prices, you probably haven’t been surprised to see the reports that the price of crude oil has also been steadily declining for the past few months. What we see here is a correlation: As crude oil prices go down, gas prices quickly follow. The big question is: Does this correlation hold up over several years?

Conveniently, the EIA publishes weekly crude oil and gas price estimates right on their web site. The weekly oil price estimates come out on Friday, and the weekly gas prices come out the following Monday. The chart below shows us how well the oil prices on Friday predict gas prices on Monday. Each dot represents a Friday-Monday pairing, and the line shows the ideal pairing if oil prices predicted gas prices perfectly.


(Note: I didn’t adjust for inflation here because I’m not making comparisons between time points.)

What we see here is a near-perfect correlation over 21 years of oil and gas prices. In other words, oil and gas companies seem to have little to do with the price of gas; they simply follow the standard set by international crude oil prices. That’s not to say that oil and gas companies don’t add their own expenses to the cost of gas (as they should), but they aren’t the ones responsible for those sudden spikes in gas prices that we see every now and then.

If oil and gas companies aren’t responsible for gas prices, then who is?

According to the experts, commodity speculators play a huge role in determining the international price of crude oil. They keep an eye on the current worldwide supply and demand for crude oil, terrorist threats and disturbances, changing international markets, and several other indicators to best estimate the total supply and demand for crude oil in the future. In turn, these estimates directly affect the price of crude oil — and ultimately, how much you pay at the pump.

But that’s a theory left to investigate another day.

What makes for a stable marriage?

About a decade ago, the gossip on everyone’s lips was that “1/2 of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.” That factoid was later disproven, but it left a lasting impression on the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of America. In an effort to not become a part of that statistic, I started doing a little research on what makes for a stable marriage in America.

Earlier today, I ran across an interesting study on divorce titled ‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration. The authors of this study polled thousands of recently married and divorced Americans (married 2008 or later) and asked them dozens of questions about their marriage: How long they were dating, how long they were engaged, etc. After running this data through a multivariate model, the authors were able to calculate the factors that best predicted whether a marriage would end in divorce.

What struck me about this study is that it basically laid out what makes for a stable marriage in the U.S. I’ve highlighted 7 of the biggest factors below. I highly recommend checking the study out yourself (linked above) to look at all of them.

How long you were dating

First, I’ll orient you on how to read these graphs. The authors always chose one category as the “reference point.” That means that all of the other categories are compared to that category. Below for example, “20% less likely” means that couples who dated 1-2 years before their engagement were 20% less likely to ultimately end up divorced than couples who dated less than a year before getting engaged.


What we see above is that dating 3 or more years before getting engaged leads to a much more stable marriage. This finding probably comes as no surprise, but it should stand as a warning to those who are eager to get married right away. Don’t jump into marriage before you really get to know someone.

How much money you make

One depressing finding was that wealthier couples are less likely to end up divorced. The correlation couldn’t be clearer: The more money you and your partner make, the less likely you are to ultimately file for divorce.


How often you go to church

Perhaps another important — but unsurprising — finding was that couples who attend church regularly have much stabler marriages. In fact, couples who never go to church are 2x more likely to divorce than regular churchgoers.


Your attitude toward your partner

If your partner’s looks or wealth are an important factor in whether you want to marry them, then I’ve got bad news for you: Your marriage is more likely to end up in divorce than if you couldn’t care less about wealth and good looks. These findings even more stereotypical when we break the categories down by gender. Men are 1.5x more likely to end up divorced when they care more about their partner’s looks, and women are 1.6x more likely to end up divorced when they care more about their partner’s wealth.


How many people attended the wedding

If you’re following the above guidelines, you’ve been dating your partner at least 3 years before getting engaged, making a combined $125k salary, go to church together regularly, and don’t worry about your partner’s wealth nor looks. The Big Day is coming up and you’re set to be happily married for life, right? Wrong!

Crazy enough, your wedding ceremony has a huge impact on the long-term stability of your marriage. Perhaps the biggest factor is how many people attend your wedding: Couples who elope are 12.5x more likely to end up divorced than couples who get married at a wedding with 200+ people. Clearly, this shows us that having a large group of family and friends who support the marriage is critically important to long-term marital stability.


How much you spent on the wedding

The last graph would have us think that if we want a long-lasting marriage, we better be prepared to burn a hole in our pocket paying for a huge wedding. Yet the findings below completely contradict that intuition: The more you spend on your wedding, the more likely you’ll end up divorced. The particularly scary part here is that the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is well over $30,000, which doesn’t bode well for the future of American marriages.


In the research paper, the authors suggest that the financial burden incurred by lavish, expensive weddings leads to financial stress for the couple, which ultimately tears the marriage apart. They found that women, in particular, are vulnerable to divorce after expensive marriages: women in couples who spent $20,000 or more on their wedding are 3.5x more likely to end up divorced than their counterparts who spent less than half that.

In other words, Bridezilla = Divorcezilla. Don’t let advertisers fool you into spending your life savings on your wedding.

Whether you had a honeymoon

Whatever you do after your marriage, don’t skimp on the honeymoon!


The most upvoted post on reddit every day

One of the most commonly asked questions about reddit is, “What is the most popular reddit post of all time?” It’s easy enough to go to /r/all/top and see the posts with the highest score, but thanks to reddit’s vote fuzzing mechanism, a post’s score isn’t a reliable measure for how much attention the post received once it reached the front page. What we really want to know is which post received the most upvotes.

The plot below is the result of crunching 6 years of reddit post data from 2008-2013. For each day, I’ve plotted total number of upvotes the most popular post received. I annotated a few posts that stood out.

Most upvoted posts on reddit every day, 2008-2013

Top 10 reddit posts through 2013

This post wouldn’t be complete without a top 10 list of the most upvoted reddit posts. Here they are.

  1. [240,730 upvotes] I am Barack Obama, President of the United States — AMA
  2. [155,739] The safe. Some people doubted our resolve, but I said it would be open by New Years.
  3. [148,554] I’m Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. AMA
  4. [126,994] Please don’t upvote, how do I remove the Skyrim mod “Schlongs of Skyrim”?
  5. [120,326] Can’t believe what I found at the yard sale!
  6. [115,355] I sent Tom Hanks a 1934 Smith Corona typewriter with a typed invitation to come on my podcast. This was his response.
  7. [110,545] Tried taking a picture of a sink draining, wound up with a picture of an eye instead.
  8. [107,587] Mom was worried about my trip to the Grand Canyon, I sent her this picture.
  9. [105,272] After searching FB for people with the same name as me, I’d replicate their profile pic, make it my own and send them a friend request. Here are the pics
  10. [103,687] Airline screwed up, a friend just posted this on Facebook.

History of top reddit posts

The first truly popular post on reddit was “test post please ignore” on July 18, 2009. Back in the day, /u/qgyh2 was a reddit power user who first broke the record of reaching 100,000 karma. It seems he was making a test post to see how images showed up in the reddit comment threads. True to redditor fashion, the entire community rallied to reject his request to ignore the post, and “test post please ignore” became the most upvoted post on reddit for the next 2 years with an incredible 26,750 upvotes.

The infamous “I will drink a beer for every upvote I get” thread soared to the upvote charts on St. Patrick’s Day 2010, when redditors seemed intent on upvoting /u/chuckieballs under the table. By the time the thread was archived, /u/chuckieballs owed the reddit community 18,574 empty cans of beer. If /u/chuckieballs drank 11 beers every day between that day and today, he still wouldn’t be finished fulfilling his promise.

In 2011, we really start to see reddit become a major source for breaking news. With the announcements of Osama bin Laden’s and Steve Jobs’ deaths topping the front page of reddit before most major news sources knew what was happening, it’s no wonder that reddit is often considered a major source of breaking news.

Similarly in 2012 and 2013, we see major AMAs popping up on reddit, including President Obama’s AMA on August 29, 2012 and Bill Gates’ AMA on February 11, 2013. This chart really puts Obama’s AMA into perspective: The amount of traffic that Obama’s AMA drove to reddit was unprecedented and hasn’t even come close to being matched since.

Despite its growing popularity, reddit has maintained its sense of community that makes it so unique. For example, reddit ended 2013 with a bang with the announcement that The Mystery Vault had finally been opened. The top comment on the announcement thread summarizes the findings best: “Merry Christmas, reddit. You get nothing.”

What about 2014?!

I can’t include many posts from 2014 in this analysis because they haven’t been archived yet, which means that they can still be voted on. I’ll be sure to update this article once all of the posts from 2014 have been archived.

Do men on OKCupid follow the Standard Creepiness Rule?

It seems that there’s an XKCD comic for every life situation that we run in to. Is there an XKCD comic for that yet?

One of my favorites, by far, is the comic titled “Dating pools.”

This comic highlighted the Standard Creepiness Rule, a.k.a. the “half-your-age-plus-seven” rule, which states that no person should date someone under (age / 2 + 7), otherwise they will look like a creeper. This seems arbitrary, but if you crunch your age into that equation, I’m willing to bet that you wouldn’t even consider dating someone under that age. (I would never consider dating someone under 21!)

If we plot the Standard Creepiness Rule out for men:


(Note that you can easily just change the axis labels in the above chart and it works just as well for women.)

It just so happens that Christian Rudder released his book Dataclysm last week, which features a chart showing us the age range that men search on OKCupid for when looking for women to date. One of my first thoughts when I saw this chart was: Do men on OKCupid follow the Standard Creepiness Rule?

(And now we see why the last panel of the XKCD comic above applies so well to me…)


Sure enough, if we overlay Rudder’s OKCupid data over the first chart, we see that men follow the rule almost exactly. There are a few spots in the mid-30’s where men seem willing to dip ever so slightly past the safe zone of non-creepiness, but that trend quickly ends by their 40’s.

Another interesting trend is how men aren’t even close to reaching the upper bound of the zone of non-creepiness. According to the Standard Creepiness Rule, it’d be perfectly fine for a 30-year-old man to date a 45-year-old woman, but apparently 30-year-old men are already struggling with the idea of dating a 37-year-old!