Friday, September 21, 2018

College Football Week 4 Betting Preview

Week 0: 1-0, +1 unit
Week 1: 3-4, -1.4 units
Week 2: 3-4, -1.4 units
Week 3: 5-2, +3.8 units
2018 Season: 12-10, +2.0 units

TCU @ Texas

TCU was pretty impressive last week against Ohio State, hanging with the Buckeyes all game until two defensive touchdowns blew things open. I was even more impressed with Texas though, as they thoroughly dominated USC. I think that TCU is perhaps being overvalued here due to their visible performance on GameDay last week, and my model has the Longhorns by 6.

Pick: Texas +3

Notre Dame @ Wake Forest
There seems to be a pretty big disconnect between how my model (and other models) sees Notre Dame versus how the public does. I have Notre Dame at #27, 19 spots lower than the AP poll. I'm not alone in this- Sagarin has them at #26. I also have been bullish on Wake Forest all year and think they're not far outside the top 25. My model has Wake by 1, so they're the pick here.

Pick: Wake Forest +8

Kansas State @ West Virginia
There are few preseason hype trains that have perplexed me as much in recent years as West Virginia this year. They were a pretty average Power Five team last year, and while Will Grier is certainly a great quarterback, they're not exactly loaded with seniors across the field. Kansas State has had a bit of a shaky start to the season, I would've favored them in this game a few weeks ago but now my line is West Virginia -6.

Pick: Kansas State +16

Louisiana Tech @ LSU
As I outlined in my top 25 for the week, I don't think LSU is one of the top 10 teams in the country or really anywhere close to it. Louisiana Tech, on the other hand, is going to go head-to-head with North Texas next week and the winner will have a very good shot at the access bowl. This is a classic case of people undervaluing a strong G5 team, my model only has LSU favored by 11.

Pick: Louisiana Tech +20

FIU @ Miami (FL)
I am still much higher on FIU than most people are- I project the Panthers for 8.5 wins this year, one of the top teams in the CUSA. Miami is a solid team, I have them at #19, but FIU has two solid wins against Old Dominion and UMass and should not be this big of an underdog. I have Miami only favored by 14.

Pick: FIU +26.5

Buffalo @ Rutgers
People still do not realize how bad Rutgers is. I was on Kansas last week at -2.5 against Rutgers, and I'm picking against the Scarlet Knights once again. Buffalo is off to a 3-0 start and could be favored in every remaining game. Rutgers is truly one of the worst Power Five teams- I have this line at Buffalo -15.

Pick: Buffalo -6.5

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

College Football Week 3 Wrap-Up

We had our first big upset of a playoff contender this week as Wisconsin lost at home to BYU. The Badgers, my preseason #2 team behind Alabama, tumbled all the way to #18 in the AP poll- they don't fall as far here though. LSU also went into Auburn and pulled off a big win on a last second field goal, Ohio State won a shootout with TCU and Oklahoma State got a nice win against Boise State.

Top 25

1. Alabama
2. Oklahoma
3. Georgia
4. Ohio State (+1)
5. Penn State (+1)
As strange as it is to say, I don't think this Alabama team is getting enough credit. They absolutely destroyed Ole Miss this week- 49 points in the first half before they pulled their starters and they're even better than I thought. I would have them as at least a touchdown favorite against any other team in the country on a neutral field.

6. Clemson (+1)
7. Washington (+1)
8. Wisconsin (-4)
9. Mississippi State (+3)
10. Auburn (-1)
Wisconsin should not be falling 12 spots in the AP poll, they under-preformed by 27 points against BYU (I had them as 24 point favorites, they lost by 3). That's not great, but it's still a big overreaction- Vegas agrees with me by still keeping Wisconsin as 3.5 point favorites at Iowa.

11. UCF
12. Boston College (+1)
13. Stanford (-3)
14. Oklahoma State (+3)
15. Virginia Tech (-1)
I was driving the Boston College bandwagon in the preseason, ranking the Eagles #15 in my preseason poll. It appears as if the national media is beginning to join me, as they cracked the AP poll this week after a nice win at Wake Forest. They do have a deceptively tough road trip this week at Purdue, who is very unlucky to be 0-3.

16. Texas (+6)
17. Duke (-2)
18. LSU (+11)
19. Miami (FL) (+9)
20. Texas A&M (+4)
LSU is probably lower here than you'll see them anywhere else. This boils down to the fundamental difference between my model and how a lot of people approach college football- a probabilistic versus a deterministic approach. If LSU missed the field goal to beat Auburn, there's no way they'd be in the top 10 or even particularly close- but is LSU really a worse football team if that kick goes slightly wide? My model sees a team that was even in yardage with Miami and needed a last second field goal to beat Auburn and puts them down here accordingly.

21. Missouri (+6)
22. Iowa (-6)
23. Michigan (-3)
24. NC State (-3)
25. Memphis (+5)
With Wisconsin now looking a bit more vulnerable and Northwestern and Purdue falling off, Iowa could be the team that comes out of the Big Ten West. They have a big game at home with Wisconsin this week, and they'll be in the division driver's seat if they win.

Next Ten: TCU, Notre Dame, Fresno State, Iowa State, Wake Forest, Michigan State, Boise State, Utah, Syracuse, Oregon

Picks Recap 

2018 Season: 12-10, +1 unit

After two mediocre weeks to start the season, I turned it around this past week, going 5-2. I picked 3 underdogs that won straight up (North Texas, Troy and Duke). I also was on Georgia Southern who barely covered at Clemson and Kansas who demolished Rutgers. I lost picking against Virginia for the second week in a row, and I also lost on Tulsa.

Moving Up/Moving Down

Moving Up

1. Akron
Akron pulled off a win on Saturday against one of my model's preseason darlings, Northwestern. It was the Zips' first win over the Big Ten since 1894, and it's a really good win for a team that's looking to prove that last year's MAC East title wasn't a fluke. My model now projects Akron for 6.4 wins, so they've got a very decent shot at a bowl.

2. BYU
BYU pulled off the biggest upset of the weekend at Wisconsin, knocking off the Badgers 24-21. It's a pretty phenomenal win for a team that had an absolute nightmare season last year. The Cougars cracked the AP top 25 this week, although I don't have them quite as high as they check in at #43 in my rankings this week. A pretty light schedule the rest of the way, highlighted by a game at Washington leads to me projecting them at 8 wins now.

3. Western Kentucky
The Hilltoppers are one of the worst teams in the FBS, as we saw in week 2 when they managed to blow a 21-0 lead against a Maine team that will struggle to make the FCS playoffs this year. I had WKU as 25 point underdogs against Louisville this past weekend, but they managed to keep it close and only lose by 3.

4. Temple
Temple had a rough start to the season, losing to FCS rival Villanova and then losing to a resurgent Buffalo team. They played their first road game of the season this week at Maryland, and demolished the Terps by 21. The slow start hurts their chances at a bowl, but I still have them projected for 5.5 wins so they could pull it off.

5. Virginia
It looks like Virginia might be the team that I'm most wrong about this season. I thought under 5 wins was a slam dunk in the preseason, but I now project them for 5.5 wins after a nice win over a solid Ohio team. Two weeks in a row I've bet against Virginia and both times they've covered.

Moving Down

1. Mississippi
No competitive Power Five team should be allowing 49 points in a half, even against Alabama. The Rebels tumbled all the way from #46 to #73 in my rankings for the loss. The likely path to 6 wins is beating Kent State, ULM, Arkansas and South Carolina, which is difficult but possible.

2. Massachusetts
UMass is the opposite of Virginia- this is a team that I was very high on in the preseason who are falling apart. They haven't won since the season opener at UMass and got demolished by FIU this past week. They have enough winnable games left on the schedule (Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Liberty, UConn) that they'll scrape out 3 or 4 wins.

3. Rutgers
I have been saying for weeks that Rutgers is the worst team in the P5, with Illinois and Oregon State being the only teams that are close. This is coming to fruition after the Scarlet Knights got blown out by perennial bottom-feeder Kansas. It is very possible that they don't win another game this year- they'll be at least touchdown underdogs in every game but Illinois.

4. Kent State
Kent State was projected as the worst team in the MAC, but looked solid in the first two weeks, hanging around with Illinois and then beating a decent Howard team. However, the wheels fell off this week as Trace McSorley and company ripped their defense to shreds. They'll be underdogs in every remaining game, although they have an OK shot of reaching their Vegas win projection of 2.5.

5. Arkansas
I said that North Texas should be favored by a point at Arkansas, but even I wasn't prepared for the demolition that the Razorbacks took on Saturday. Bret Bielema really left the cupboard bare for Chad Morris and I now project Arkansas for 2.7 wins. If North Texas can drop 44 points on Arkansas, just imagine what Tua Tagovailoa and company will do in a few weeks.

Friday, September 14, 2018

College Football Week 3 Betting Preview

Much like the first two weeks, most of my picks this week are underdogs that I think have been undervalued all season. This will begin to change and my picks will become more of a mix of underdogs and favorites as we get into conference play next week.

Week 0: 1-0 +1 unit
Week 1: 3-4 -1.4 units
Week 2: 3-4 -1.4 units
2018 Season: 7-8, -1.8 units

Georgia Southern @ Clemson
Georgia Southern is one of the better teams in the Sun Belt and does not deserve to be almost a 5 touchdown underdog here. They had a nice win over a solid UMass team last week and have a history of close games with Power Five teams. Coming off a tough game against Texas A&M, Clemson isn't going to be amped up for this one. My model has Clemson by 20, so Georgia Southern is the pick.

Pick: Georgia Southern +32.5

Duke @ Baylor
This is the first line this season that has really shocked me. I know that Duke QB Daniel Jones is out indefinitely and the backup Quentin Harris is playing, but Duke, before the injury, was in my top 25 and Baylor is probably the second-worst team in the Big 12. Before the injury, my line on this game was Duke -8, after it is Duke -2.5. That makes the Blue Devils an easy play here.

Pick: Duke +6.5

North Texas @ Arkansas
North Texas got a nice win week 1 against SMU and are looking like strong contenders in Conference USA. In fact, I have the Mean Green all the way up to #55 in my rankings now, #2 in the CUSA just behind #54 Louisiana Tech. Arkansas collapsed against a pretty bad Colorado State team last week and given how strong the SEC West is looking it's gonna be a rough year for the Razorbacks. My model has North Texas by 1, so I'm on them here.

Pick: North Texas +7

Ohio vs. Virginia
I think this line is a classic case of a week 1 overreaction. Ohio, the preseason MAC favorite, struggled a lot with Howard in week 1, but as I mentioned last week my model thinks people overreact to week 1 too much. They had a bye last week to prepare for this game. Virginia is one of the more overrated teams in the country- I bet against them last week against Indiana and I still think they're overpriced here, my model has Ohio by 5, not Virginia by 5.

Pick: Ohio +5

Arkansas State @ Tulsa
Arkansas State had a rough game last week against Alabama, but who doesn't. Tulsa, on the other hand, played Texas very close last week and Phillip Montgomery's team should get back to a bowl this year. I still think the Red Wolves are a bit overrated, although Tulsa could be looking forward to their game next Thursday against Temple.

Pick: Tulsa -1

Troy @ Nebraska
Nebraska is highly overrated this year- I harped about this in the preseason when I called on betting Nebraska under 6.5 wins. I bet against them last week against Colorado and will be doing the same this week against Troy. The Trojans are a strong G5 team, despite their loss to Boise State in week 1. People don't realize how little talent is on this Nebraska roster and think Scott Frost can turn it all around this year- I have the Trojans favored by 1.

Pick: Troy +10

Rutgers @ Kansas
Kansas got a huge win last week at Central Michigan, their first road win in almost a decade. Rutgers, on the other hand, lost 52-3 to Ohio State. I think that Rutgers is the worst Power Five team in the country, and Kansas is not even in the bottom 5- Illinois, Oregon State, Virginia and Tennessee are all worse in my ratings in addition to Rutgers. I think that the Nicholls loss will prove to be a bit of an abberation and Kansas is now projected for 3.6 wins in my model.

Pick: Kansas -2.5

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

College Football Week 2 Wrap-Up

This was probably the quietest week we'll have all season. The Clemson/Texas A&M game had a great finish, and there were some other fun games like Colorado/Nebraska and Florida State/Samford. But the second week of the season is often the slowest, as there's not as many marquee matchups as in week 1 but conference play hasn't ramped up yet.

Top 25

1. Alabama
2. Oklahoma
3. Georgia
4. Wisconsin
5. Ohio State (+1)
Georgia rose significantly after their nice win against South Carolina, but not by enough to pass Oklahoma for #2. Teams 2-5 are a little bit ahead of the next tier, but Alabama is so far ahead of the rest of the pack. The difference between Alabama and Oklahoma is the same as the difference between Oklahoma and #9 Auburn right now.

6. Penn State (+3)
7. Clemson (-2)
8. Washington (-1)
9. Auburn (-1)
10. Stanford (+1)
Penn State more than erased their losses from the Appalachian State game by absolutely demolishing a solid Pitt team on the road. Their next two games are against sub-100 teams in Kent State and Illinois, so all eyes now turn to the massive clash with Ohio State.

11. UCF (-1)
12. Mississippi State (+1)
13. Boston College (-1)
14. Virginia Tech
15. Duke (+11)
Duke got a really nice win against Northwestern and rocketed up into my (pre-injury) top 25. However, starting QB Daniel Jones is out indefinitely. Regardless, the Blue Devils are a solid team and probably the second-best team in the Coastal.

16. Iowa (+2)
17. Oklahoma State (+3)
18. Boise State (+11)
19. Missouri (+14)
20. Michigan (+18)
My prediction of Wyoming to win the MW Mountain division continues to look worse as Boise State demolished UConn and is flying up the rankings. Missouri crushed those Cowboys and has big games with Georgia and Alabama coming up. Michigan also rises a lot after crushing a solid Western Michigan team.

21. NC State (+1)
22. Texas (-5)
23. TCU (+12)
24. Texas A&M (+10)
25. Notre Dame (-9)
TCU and Texas A&M enter my top 25 for the first time this season. The Horned Frogs smashed SMU on the road last week, while Texas A&M took Clemson down to the wire. Notre Dame is much lower here than they are nationally- they take a substantial drop for barely scraping by a really bad Ball State team.

Picks Recap

My picks went 3-4 for the second week in a row. I hit on Arizona State +6.5, Colorado +5 and San Jose State +34.5. Arizona State and Colorado both won straight up as underdogs against Big Ten teams. San Jose State managed to avoid a complete blowout against Washington State to cover as well. On the other hand, Wyoming laid an egg against Missouri and got blown out, failing to cover +18. Fresno State failed to cover +2.5 thanks to a last minute red zone interception, Indiana took the foot off the gas and won but didn't cover -6.5 and Western Michigan got wiped out by Michigan.

Moving Up/Moving Down

Moving Up:

1. East Carolina
I had the Pirates #130 out of 130 FBS teams before this week, but they beat North Carolina by 22 as a 16.5 point underdog. I was at the Tar Heels' game in Berkeley week 1 and they looked really abysmal, but they didn't look bad enough to get killed by East Carolina. The Pirates have a long way to go to get back to where they were under Ruffin O'Neill, but this is a nice start.

2. Coastal Carolina
The Chanticleers were also supposed to be one of the worst teams in FBS this year but got a nice win against UAB. They've risen up from #125 to #113 in my model this week. They've got a weird situation this week where they play at Campbell due to the hurricane, but beating a solid UAB team by 3 scores speaks well to their ability to compete in the Sun Belt.

3. Colorado State
Few teams had a worse start to the season than Colorado State, as they lost badly to both Hawaii and Colorado. In fact, I had them in the moving down section last week. It looked like another stinker for them early on but they rallied late to knock off Arkansas.

4. Ball State
Ball State was a 34.5 point underdog at Notre Dame, but managed to keep it close with the Irish all the way through, only losing by 8. This was part of an overall really strong day for the MAC, with Eastern Michigan also beating Purdue.

5. Kentucky
Kentucky finally broke their long losing streak to Florida on Saturday, knocking off the Gators in Gainesville. I saw a lot of people online who were trying to push the Wildcats as a bowl team before this year, and it looks a lot more possible now. They've got 2 wins already, and I have them favored in 4 more games- Murray State, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Middle Tennessee.

Moving Down:

1. Connecticut
UConn had a tough schedule to open up the season, playing what many believed to be the two best teams in the G5 in UCF and Boise State. Both games were blowouts, and this past week the Broncos lit up the Huskies for over 800 yards of total offense. The AAC East is very weak this year outside of UCF so chances for wins in conference definitely still exist.

2. Pittsburgh
Pitt got a marquee home game under the lights against Penn State this week, and it didn't go well for the Panthers. They kept it close in the first half but things spun out of control in the second half and they lost by 45. A bowl is still possible though, as there's a lot of teams of similar strength in the Coastal which leads to a lot of winnable games.

3. Western Michigan
I was very high on the Broncos going into the season, and bet on them both against Syracuse and against Michigan. They failed to cover both times and are now tumbling down my rankings. They have a nice tune-up game this week against perennial MEAC bottom feeder Delaware State before MAC play begins.

4. New Mexico State
I thought New Mexico State had a decent shot at a bowl this year but things have spiraled out of control quickly in Las Cruces as they're now 0-3 after a blowout loss to Utah State. The Aggies took Michigan State to the wire the previous week so they're certainly a solid team, but it's still not a good look. Two winnable games against rivals New Mexico and UTEP await.

5. Charlotte
The 49ers were supposed to be a solid team in Conference USA but weren't competitive with Appalachian State at home this past week. The Mountaineers have looked quite good so far under new QB Zac Thomas, but it doesn't bode well for Charlotte's ability to compete with the top C-USA teams like FAU and Louisiana Tech.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

College Football Week 2 Betting Preview

The overall theme of my picks this week is pretty similar to last week. I'm picking primarily underdogs, and primarily teams who I thought were significantly undervalued in the preseason and the market hasn't corrected for that yet. Once again, there's a lot of games where my computer's spread differs from the Vegas spread by at least a touchdown, but those opportunities will go away quickly as everyone's pricing converges as the season progresses. Just like always, all picks are for 1 unit.

Week 0: 1-0, +1 unit
Week 1: 3-4, -1.4 units
2018 Season: 4-4, -0.4 units

Michigan State @ Arizona State

The Spartans struggled a lot with Utah State last week, as they needed a late touchdown and two-point conversion to get past the Aggies. Arizona State had a convincing opener against UTSA. I was bearish on MSU before the season and bullish on ASU, and the week 1 results only confirmed these suspicions. My computer's spread is Arizona State by 1, so I'm on the Sun Devils here.
Pick: Arizona State +6.5

Wyoming @ Missouri

I was on the Cowboys last week and I am once again. I dropped them significantly after their loss to Washington State but that moved my projected spread here from Missouri -5.5 to Missouri -9.5. That's still a long way from the 18 points that this spread has opened up at. Wyoming is one of the better teams in the G5, and while Missouri will be improved under Drew Lock, I still only have them at #33 in my rankings.
Pick: Wyoming +18

Fresno State @ Minnesota

This is easily the most surprising line of the week for me. Fresno State won 10 games and the MW West last year, and returns their stud QB Marcus McMaryion from that team. Minnesota won only a single Big Ten game and their offense looked inept down the stretch, getting shut out in their last two games. This is going to be a massive step up for the Gophers from their game against New Mexico State- my computer has the Bulldogs favored by 9.5 here, so they're definitely the pick.
Pick: Fresno State +2.5

Virginia @ Indiana

Virginia is going to be the worst team in the ACC, my model projected them for 2.7 wins in the preseason.The only game on the rest of their schedule I have them favored in is week 10 against Liberty. Indiana picked up a solid road win at FIU last week, and has a pretty manageable schedule this year, and they're up to #44 in my rankings- combine those two things and they look like a bowl team. My model has the Hoosiers by 15.5 here, so I'm picking them.
Pick: Indiana -6.5

Colorado @ Nebraska

Much to the disappointment of Nebraska fans, their home opener with Akron got cancelled due to lightning. There's been some buzz about making it up in case the Cornhuskers need a 6th win to get bowl eligible- I don't think that'll be an issue though as they play a murderer's row of a schedule. That starts here against Colorado- the Buffaloes are a lot more experienced than the Cornhuskers, and these teams were similar in quality last year. I think it's mainly name recognition and excitement around Coach Frost that has Nebraska favored here, my line is Colorado -3.5.
Pick: Colorado +5

San Jose State @ Washington State

San Jose State is one of the worst teams in FBS- I have them ranked 118th out of 130, other rating systems have them in a similar spot. But Washington State should not be favored by 5 touchdowns against any FBS team- this is an extremely young team with a very suspect defense. Leach's Air Raid allows them to light up the scoreboard but they're still only #58 in my rankings. I favor the Cougars by 21 here, making the Spartans the play.
Pick: San Jose State +34.5

Western Michigan @ Michigan

Western Michigan had a bit of a clunker last week at home against Syracuse. However, Michigan had a worse week, getting dominated by Notre Dame. Anyone who watched that game would agree that the Wolverines were lucky to only lose by 7, and that's reflected in the yardage totals. I only have the Wolverines by 16 here, Western will still contend in the MAC West and Michigan does not deserve to be in the top 25.
Pick: Western Michigan +28


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

College Football Week 1 Wrap-Up



Every week, I’m going to have a summary of the week’s games and how my computer model views the college football landscape now. I’ll have my top 25, a recap of my picks, and a section about teams that are rising or falling in my rankings. 

Top 25

The biggest complaint I get with my model, especially early on in the season, is that it’s not reactive enough. I’ve tested this out a lot over the years, and I feel very comfortable with how my system “under-reacts”. For example, if a team loses by 3 as a 7 point road favorite, they probably should not be downgraded that much as they barely underperformed expectations, but the polls will likely drop them by 8-10 spots. The number in parenthesis after a team indicates how many spots they’ve risen/fallen this week.

1.      Alabama
2.      Oklahoma (+1)
3.      Georgia (+1)
4.      Wisconsin (-2)
5.      Clemson
Oklahoma rises a decent amount after they killed FAU, Wisconsin falls a little bit for not covering my spread against Western Kentucky.

6.      Ohio State
7.      Washington
8.      Auburn (+1)
9.      Penn State (-1)
10.   UCF
I had Washington as a 1 point favorite and they only lost by 5, so neither team really moves all that much. I think both teams are still solid top-10 teams, that game easily could’ve gone either way. Penn State doesn’t fall as much as they did in the AP poll, as I only had them as an 18 point favorite against Appalachian State.

11.   Stanford
12.   Boston College (+3)
13.   Mississippi State (+1)
14.   Virginia Tech (+11)
15.   Northwestern (+3)
Virginia Tech is shooting up the top 25 after their big win last night, and is in the driver’s seat in the Coastal now. Boston College had an impressive win against a decent UMass team, and Northwestern won as an underdog at Purdue.

16.   Notre Dame (+1)
17.   Texas (-5)
18.   Iowa (+8)
19.   Memphis (+5)
20.   Oklahoma State (+1)
I’m sure many will be surprised that Texas is still in my top 25- they certainly laid an egg against Maryland, but the yards and YPP were pretty even and Texas really got done in by turnovers. I still think they’re a good team and they’ll be favored at home against USC next week. Memphis killed Mercer, and Iowa beat up on a solid NIU team.

21.   Wake Forest (+1)
22.   NC State (-6)
23.   LSU (+19)
24.   USC (+5)
25.   Purdue (-6)
LSU rises a lot after their win over Miami, although they still have to play 4 teams in my top 13. NC State barely scraped by James Madison, and Purdue lost as a favorite to Northwestern, yet both teams remain in the top 25.

Picks Recap

My picks went 3-4 last week, after going 1-0 in week 0. Utah State (+23.5) covered with ease and almost won outright, UNLV (+26) hung with USC for a half and Liberty (+6.5) destroyed Old Dominion. On the losing end, Troy (+10) was demolished by Boise State, Western Michigan (+4.5) was not competitive with Syracuse, Navy (-10) shockingly got throttled by Hawaii and New Mexico State (+21.5) dropped their second straight against Minnesota. I’m not surprised to see most of these games end up far from the listed spreads given that it’s week 1 and no one really has any idea how good anybody is.

Moving Up/Moving Down

Every week I’ll have a section discussing which teams are moving up the most and which teams are moving down the most in my power rankings. The way that I define this is based on how many points I’d favor the team by now over themselves from last week. For example, before Ole Miss beat Texas Tech, my rating for them was 15.59, now it’s 17.06. I’d favor a team with a rating of 17.06 over a team that’s rated 15.59 by 2.5 points on a neutral field, so Ole Miss improved by 2.5 points this week.
Moving Up:
1.      Hawaii
The Rainbow Warriors have been the biggest surprise of the season for me thus far. Before week 0, I projected them as the worst team in FBS. However, they’re off to a 2-0 start and they were double-digit dogs in both games. Their next four games are against Rice, Army, Duquesne and San Jose State. All of those teams are outside my top 100 right now, meaning Hawaii could very quickly hit the over on their 3.5 win total.
2.      Washington State
I was pretty much the only person not picking Boise State to win the MW Mountain division this offseason, as I picked Wyoming instead. That prediction’s not looking too great after week 1, as Boise State just killed Troy on the road while Washington State won big in Laramie. The Cougars rise from #89 to the low 60s on the back of the win, and with the remaining non-con being San Jose State and Eastern Washington, their bowl odds are looking much better now.
3.      Cincinnati
There hasn’t been much to celebrate for the Bearcats since their undefeated regular season a decade ago, but they made a big statement at UCLA on Saturday. The battle for the Old Oaken Bucket is up next, as well as games against Alabama A&M and Ohio. Just like Wazzu, this is a team that took a giant step to bowl eligibility this weekend.
4.      Liberty
The FBS era in Lynchburg started off with a bang as the Flames beat Old Dominion by 42. As a transitional independent, Liberty has a very light schedule that features a rare home-and-home with fellow independent New Mexico State. While they’re not bowl eligible, this is a team that could definitely get to 6 wins.
5.      Maryland
After the recent turmoil in College Park, no one was giving the Terrapins a chance to beat Texas for the second year in a row. However, the Terps played a solid game and built up a big lead and managed to hold onto it. This isn’t the first time Maryland has had a big start to a season- they obviously beat Texas last year in the opener and rattled off a few wins in a row to start 2016 before their season came off the rails. If they can avoid the injury bug this time, they could be a tough out for the powers of the Big Ten East.

Honorable Mentions: Western Kentucky, Boise State, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, Toledo

Moving Down (teams whose opponents are covered in “Moving Up” are not included):
1.      Florida Atlantic
FAU over Oklahoma was the trendy week 1 upset pick for many, but Lane Kiffin’s squad got absolutely clobbered. I saw the first quarter of this one, and the Owls were just completely overmatched. They’re no longer my top-rated CUSA team, that honor now belongs to Louisiana Tech after their win at South Alabama.
2.      Troy
I thought that the Trojans would be neck-and-neck with Appalachian State for the Sun Belt East title this year. However, the Trojans failed to get revenge on Boise State for last year’s loss on the blue turf, and it wasn’t really close. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers nearly pulled off the upset in Happy Valley, so this race definitely tilted in favor of App. State. 
3.      Middle Tennessee
The Middle Tennessee/Vanderbilt game has been competitive in recent years, but so much this year. The Commodores smacked the Blue Raiders by 28 and combined with Tennessee’s drubbing at the hands of West Virginia, established themselves as the best team in the Volunteer State. The CUSA East looks more open after the FAU loss but perhaps it’ll be Marshall, not Middle Tennessee, who takes advantage. 
4.      Colorado State
After a shocking loss to Hawaii, the Rams got pounded by Colorado. I had them at #106 in the preseason and they’ve fallen all the way to #125 now. Mike Bobo has fallen quite a ways from being rumored for SEC jobs to now perhaps being on the hot seat in Fort Collins. 
5.      Louisville
The Cardinals did not look even slightly competitive in the first game of the post-Lamar Jackson era. Of course it was against Alabama, but most middle of the road SEC teams put up a better fight than that against the Tide. In a crowded ACC Atlantic, it could be a tough path to bowl eligibility for Louisville.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

College Football Week 1 Betting Preview

The opening weeks of college football season always present the biggest discrepancies between my model and Vegas. Most college football models converge towards each other as the season goes along- in September, there's a handful of games each week where my spreads are a touchdown different from Vegas, there's only about one such game a week once we get into November. Thus, most of the good betting opportunities happen early in the season. This week, and every other week this season, I'll break down the biggest discrepancies between my projected lines and my model's lines.


Utah State @ Michigan State -23.5

As I mentioned in my Big Ten preview, Michigan State is a bit overrated this year. Utah State looks to be a solid bowl team that has an outside shot at winning their division in the Mountain West. My computer set this number at 14.5, so I'm picking the Aggies here.

Pick: Utah State +23.5

UNLV @ USC -26

UNLV is one of the most experienced teams in the Group of 5 this year, returning 77% of their offensive production. I have USC at #29, quite a bit below their AP ranking of 15 as they essentially start over on offense this year. The Trojans struggled out of the gate against Western Michigan last year and my computer only favors them by 14.5 here.

Pick: UNLV +26

Boise State @ Troy +10

Boise State is the consensus pick to win the Mountain West, but as I mentioned in my Mountain West preview, Wyoming is my computer's surprise pick to win the Mountain division. The Broncos are one of the top 5 teams in the Group of Five, but they don't deserve to be in the discussion for the best Group of Five team as they lost a lot, especially on offense. Troy is going to be right in the thick of things in the Sun Belt, and my computer only has them as a 2 point underdog in this game.

Pick: Troy +10

Syracuse @ Western Michigan +4.5

Western Michigan is perhaps the most experienced team in the MAC, and has many players who were on the team that played in the Cotton Bowl two years ago. Syracuse was quite bad last season outside of their fluky win over Clemson, and starts the season at #65 in my rankings. I have the Broncos a bit higher than the Orange, and thus have them projected as 5 point favorites.

Pick: Western Michigan +4.5

Old Dominion @ Liberty +6.5

This is the Flames' first game as an FBS team, and I think that they're not getting enough respect here. They won't be nearly as bad as some FBS debutantes in recent years (Coastal Carolina, South Alabama, Charlotte etc.). Liberty is one of the most experienced teams in the FBS and did knock off Baylor last year, I have this game as a pick'em so I'm picking the Flames here.

Pick: Liberty +6.5

Navy @ Hawaii +10

Before the season, I projected Hawaii to be the worst team in the FBS. They surprised me, and a lot of other people, by beating Colorado State as 17 point underdogs last week. However, I still think that the Rainbow Warriors are getting too much credit here, especially against a Navy team that will contend for the AAC West. My computer likes Navy by 21 here.

Pick: Navy -10

New Mexico State @ Minnesota -21.5

The Golden Gophers have a very young team and will struggle a lot in the Big Ten west this year. New Mexico State lost big to Wyoming last weekend, but I think they should only be 9 point dogs here so I'm picking the Aggies.

Pick: New Mexico State +21.5

Akron @ Nebraska -26

Nebraska is among the most overrated teams in college football this season- I think people are really blowing the Scott Frost effect out of proportion, it'll take a while for him to build up the Cornhuskers. Nebraska was truly awful last year, one of the worst teams in the Power Five, and they don't return much from that team. Akron surprisingly won the MAC East last year, and I only have the Huskers has a 13 point favorite here.

Pick: Akron +26

Unsurprisingly for week one, most of my picks are big underdogs. This is pretty par for the course early in the season, later on my picks tend to balance out much more between underdogs and favorites.

2018 College Football Preview- Group of Five Conferences

Today, I'm breaking down my college football model's projections for the Group of Five conferences. It'll be a bit briefer than the last post breaking down the Power Five, and it'll be followed up by a week 1 betting preview. Unfortunately this is coming out after the week zero games- so a few of these teams have already played a game. All predictions are from the preseason, before the week 0 games occurred. See my previous post for a preview of the power conferences.

Numbers before a team indicates their rank out of 130, the numbers after a team indicate my projected amount of regular season wins, followed by Vegas' projected win total.

American

East
10. UCF 10.4 9
70. USF 7.0 8.5
79. Temple 6.6 6.5
107. Connecticut 4.1 3.5
117. Cincinnati 3.4 4
129. East Carolina 1.0 3

The American East is the most clear division in the FBS in my model's mind, with UCF 3 wins ahead of everyone else. My model doesn't care much about coaching changes, which is part of the reason I have UCF so far ahead of everyone else, but McKenzie Milton leads an attack that returns 76% of its production from last year. I'm quite bearish on both USF, who was not as good as their record indicated last year, and East Carolina, who is one of two teams I rate below the average FCS team.

West
24. Memphis 9.3 8.5
54. Navy 8.2 7
57. Houston 7.6 7.5
62. Tulane 6.4 5.5
66. Tulsa 6.2 4
88. SMU 4.8 6

The west is much stronger than the east in the AAC- Memphis is the class of the division here but there's lots of contenders. Willie Fritz has built a nice program at Tulane and I think that he'll bring the Green Wave to their first bowl in 5 years. Every team in this division could win a bowl- even Tulsa, who I have quite a bit above their Vegas projection of 4 wins.

Mountain West

Mountain
47. Wyoming 9.1 6.5
48. Boise State 8.2 10
85. Utah State 7.2 7.5
100. Air Force 4.7 4.5
106. Colorado State 5.4 5.5
115. New Mexico 3.5 4

This is probably my computer's most unconventional division pick- Wyoming has one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country, and while they lose their most notable player in Josh Allen a lot of the defense returns. I have the Cowboys as favorites in every game except Missouri and Fresno State. Pretty much everyone else is picking Boise State to win this division, the Broncos very well could. It's also possible they have a worse record overall but win the division, given their tough non-con that includes Troy and Oklahoma State.

West
38. Fresno State 9.2 8
71. San Diego State 7.3 8.5
90. UNLV 6.9 6
96. Nevada 6.5 5.5
111. San Jose State 4.3 3
130. Hawaii 0.9 3.5

Fresno State shocked many by winning this division last year, and I think they'll do so again this year, as they return 87% of their offensive production from a team that was hanging on the fringes of the top 25 including stud QB Marcus McMaryion. I projected Hawaii as the worst team in the FBS, so it was quite a surprise to see them knock off Colorado State last weekend. The Rainbow Warriors return only 17% of their offensive production from a team that was among the 10 worst in FBS last year, they'll struggle to win another Mountain West game.

Mid-American

East
41. Ohio 9.7 8.5
72. Miami (OH) 7.5 6
76. Buffalo 8.1 6.5
119. Bowling Green 3.4 5.5
121. Akron 3.4 4
126. Kent State 2.6 2.5

My model projects Ohio to finally break through and win the MAC for the first time in 50 years. They're favored in every game, powered by an offense that returns 80% of its production from last year's team that won the Bahamas Bowl. Buffalo will have their best team in years as well, they're favored in every game except Ohio, Toledo and Temple. Akron is highly unlikely to repeat as MAC East champions as they don't return much from last year's fluky division championship team.

West
59. Northern Illinois 6.8 7
60. Western Michigan 8.2 5.5
83. Toledo 6.9 8.5
97. Eastern Michigan 6.0 6
113. Central Michigan 4.4 4
118. Ball State 3.9 4

I project Western Michigan for a lot more wins than Northern Illinois despite them being a slightly worse team, mainly because the Huskies have a ridiculous non-con that features 3 Power Five opponents and BYU. I actually favor the Broncos in their season opener against Syracuse. Eastern Michigan has a decent shot of getting back to their second bowl in three years for the first time in school history.

Conference USA

East
43. Florida Atlantic 7.9 8.5
63. Middle Tennessee 7.2 7
78. Marshall 6.9 7.5
82. FIU 7.2 5
94. Old Dominion 6.9 5.5
104. Charlotte 4.5 3.5
128. Western Kentucky 2.0 4.5

Lane Kiffin's FAU Owls are undoubtedly the biggest story in Conference USA, if not the whole G5. They have a tough non-con that includes trips to two of my top 10 teams, Oklahoma and UCF, and they also have to play my second through fourth teams in the division on the road. Despite that, they're still projected to finish above MTSU and Marshall. FIU has the second most experienced O-Line in the country and should ride that to a bowl berth.

West
53. Louisiana Tech 8.5 7
73. North Texas 7.9 8
95. UAB 6.9 7.5
99. Southern Miss 5.9 6.5
123. Rice 4.6 3
124. UTSA 2.7 5
125. UTEP 3.4 2.5

UAB was the story of the CUSA West last season, going 8-5 in their first year back playing football. However, I project Louisiana Tech to win the division- they barely lost out to North Texas last year and have a bit more experience than the Mean Green this year. After a solid few years under national championship coach Larry Coker, UTSA is one of the least experienced teams in the FBS and is in for a tough season.

Sun Belt

East
61. Appalachian State 8.6 8.5
68. Troy 8.3 8.5
80. Georgia Southern 7.6 6.5
112. Coastal Carolina 4.1 3.5
116. Georgia State 3.9 5

The Sun Belt is divided into divisions for the first time this year, and this year the east looks like the stronger division by far. Appalachian State has another solid team this year and could give Penn State a scare week 1. Troy showed last year that they can beat the big boys by taking down LSU in Baton Rouge, I actually favor them to knock off a power program again this year in Lincoln against Nebraska.

West
81. Arkansas State 7.5 9
92. ULM 6.8 6
109. UL Lafayette 5.0 5
122. South Alabama 3.1 3.5
127. Texas State 3.1 3

Arkansas State is the consensus pick to win the league this year, but they overachieved last year and I don't think they're going to run away with the west like other do. ULM will be the main competition, as they're the only other team in the division not coming off a coaching change.

That wraps up the Group of Five predictions. Coming up next is the last installment of my preseason series, which is a betting preview of week 1.

2018 College Football Preview- Power Five Conferences

Last post I took a look at my model's preseason top 25, this time I'll break down my projections for all the Power Five conferences.

Numbers before a team indicates their rank out of 130, the numbers after a team indicate my projected amount of regular season wins, followed by Vegas' projected win total.

SEC

East
4. Georgia 10.6 10.5
30. Missouri 7.1 7
32. South Carolina 7.6 7
46. Florida 7.3 8
75. Vanderbilt 5.5 4.5
87. Kentucky 4.4 5
102. Tennessee 3.8 5.5

My projections are pretty in line with the consensus here. Georgia's biggest tests will be Auburn (8.5 point favorite), @Missouri (10 point favorite) and @South Carolina (10 point favorite) but a down division overall helps them. I'm a little bearish on Florida and quite bearish on Tennessee, where Jeremy Pruitt has inherited a pretty bare roster, I only have the Vols as favorites against East Tennessee State, UTEP and Kentucky.

West
1. Alabama 11.2 11.5
9. Auburn 8.3 9
14. Mississippi State 8.2 8
37. Texas A&M 6.7 7.5
42. LSU 6.0 7
51. Mississippi 6.2 5.5
67. Arkansas 5.2 5.5

I have Alabama as at least two touchdown favorites in every game except Auburn, where they're favored by 13. They have enough other games that they could drop, such as Louisville, LSU and Mississippi State (92%, 90% and 87% win probability, respectively) that they probably won't go 12-0 but they have a better shot than any other team in the country to do so. Auburn has the 3 big games mentioned earlier, as well as some other tricky ones (LSU, @Mississippi State, etc.). I'm bearish on LSU- they have a decent shot of missing a bowl as they return only 17% of their offensive production from last year's Citrus Bowl team. They could get some false hype early on if they beat another overrated team, Miami, in the opener.

Big Ten

East
6. Ohio State 10.1 10.5
8. Penn State 9.7 9.5
23. Michigan State 7.8 8.5
36. Michigan 6.4 9.5
49. Indiana 7.1 5
91. Maryland 4.4 4.5
120. Rutgers 2.1 4

The Big Ten is definitely the conference where my projections are the most unorthodox. At the top,  I agree with the polls in having Ohio State #1 in the east and Penn State #2. I've installed the Nittany Lions as 2 point favorites in their matchup as it's in State College, although the Buckeyes are favorites in every other game. Michigan State is a bit below the national consensus- even as a Spartan fan I can admit that they punched above their weight last year and will struggle to reach double digit wins again. There's a huge discrepancy between where I have Michigan and where they are nationally- part of this is because my experience metrics only count returning experience, not transfers in, so 5-star import Shea Patterson is not included. However, the fact is the Wolverines were just not that good last year- they finished #30 in my final poll, and similarly in S&P+ and Sagarin, and return a pretty standard amount of talent from that team. Given their murderer's row of a schedule, I don't think they'll hit their 9.5 win projection. I'm also a lot higher on Indiana and lower on Rutgers than most.

West
2. Wisconsin 10.4 10
18. Northwestern 8.2 6
19. Purdue 7.5 6
26. Iowa 7.7 7.5
98. Minnesota 3.5 6
103. Nebraska 3.3 6.5
110. Illinois 3.7 3.5

As I touched on in the previous post, I think that Northwestern and Purdue are two of the most underrated teams in the country. Wisconsin has to face both schools on the road, in addition to Iowa and Penn State, which makes for a much trickier schedule for the Badgers than most realize. I'm also very low on both Minnesota and Nebraska this year. The Gophers are only favorites against New Mexico State and Illinois, while Nebraska was much worse last year than people realize. Scott Frost will do great things in Lincoln eventually but he's got a long way to go, Nebraska's non-conference schedule is tougher than it appears at first and they draw Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State from the east.

ACC

Atlantic
5. Clemson 9.8 11
13. Florida State 7.4 8
15. Boston College 7.4 6.5
16. NC State 8.5 7.5
22. Wake Forest 7.2 6.5
34. Louisville 7.0 7
65. Syracuse 4.6 5.5

Most people think that the Big Ten East is the toughest division in college football, but my computer thinks that it's actually the ACC Atlantic. Clemson is projected a full win under their Vegas projection despite being favorites in all 12 games, as they're only single digit favorites in their road trips to Wake Forest, Florida State and Boston College. I'm quite bullish on the middle of the division- Boston College, NC State and Wake Forest are all teams that were better than they got credit for last year. Thanks to the strength of this division they won't rack up the wins, but it's likely that at least one of these teams will outperform my expectations and make a run up the polls for the first time this decade.

Coastal
20. Miami (FL) 8.2 9.5
25. Virginia Tech 8.0 8.5
33. Duke 7.0 6
44. Georgia Tech 6.4 6.5
50. Pittsburgh 5.7 5.5
77. North Carolina 5.2 5
105. Virginia 2.7 5

The famed "Coastal chaos" is forecasted to happen once again as college football's most notoriously unpredictable division contains 6 teams between 5 and 8.5 wins. Miami is a bit overrated, as I mentioned in the previous post, while Duke has an experienced team and a manageable schedule and is not getting as much respect as they deserve. Virginia has a tough non-conference schedule, is only favored against Richmond and Liberty and will struggle once again in Bronco Mendenhall's third year at the helm.

Big 12

3. Oklahoma 10.4 10
12. Texas 8.5 8.5
21. Oklahoma State 7.9 8
27. Iowa State 7.3 6.5
28. Kansas State 7.3 6.5
35. TCU 6.6 7.5
52. West Virginia 5.8 7.5
58. Texas Tech 5.2 6
64. Baylor 5.2 6
93. Kansas 4.1 3

Oklahoma looks to be the class of the Big 12 once again as they're favored in all twelve games, with last year's primary challengers of Oklahoma State and TCU due for a big of a decline as they both have to replace good quarterbacks. Texas could finally be back as I project them 2nd in the conference- they were better than their record indicated last year, losing close games to USC, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Longhorns open in my system as favorites in every game except the Red River Rivalry. Iowa State will put together another strong season and certainly has the potential to upset the top teams in the conference once again, although consistency will be a problem once again as they could lose to anyone in the conference, except maybe Kansas. I'm really puzzled by all the hype West Virginia is getting- they're being called a dark horse playoff contender by many, yet they don't return that much outside of Will Grier from a team that overachieved last year. Finally, this is the 3rd year in a row I've said this, but Kansas should be significantly improved this year and gather a Big 12 win or two.

Pac-12

North
7. Washington 10.2 10
11. Stanford 8.7 8.5
39. California 7.7 6
40. Oregon 7.7 8.5
89. Washington State 4.4 6
114. Oregon State 2.3 2.5

Washington is clearly the class of the Pac-12 this year, with Stanford their biggest competitor by far. The Huskies are favorites in all 12 games, although they're only single digit favorites against Auburn, Utah, Oregon, Cal and Stanford. Stanford is favored in 10 games and with a win in Seattle will be in the driver's seat to win the conference, and make the Rose Bowl if not the playoff. Cal is my surprise team in the Pac-12- they lost a lot of close games last year, and return 86% of their offensive production from that team, they also get the other 3 likely bowl teams in the north at home. Washington State is due for a slide as they replace almost their entire offense from last year's team that really overachieved.

South
29. USC 7.3 8.5
31. Utah 7.5 7.5
45. Arizona State 6.4 5
55. Arizona 7 7.5
56. UCLA 4.7 5.5
86. Colorado 5.2 5

The Pac-12 south is the only power conference division without a team in my top 25, and with 4 teams within 1.1 projected wins of each other this division is anyone's ballgame. USC won the conference last year but returns just 28% of their offensive production and has a brutal schedule with 9 conference games, Texas and Notre Dame. Utah is projected for the most wins in the division but is not projected to win the division as they have an easier non-con than USC. I think Vegas is unfairly punishing Arizona State for the Herm Edwards hire- Todd Graham built a solid roster and a lot of those players return, it'll be tough for Herm Edwards to really run the program into the ground immediately. UCLA will be back soon under Chip Kelly, but probably not this year as they play at Oklahoma and draw the 4 likely bowl teams from the north.

Independents

17. Notre Dame 7.6 9
69. Massachusetts 6.7 5
74. Army 7.4 7.5
84. BYU 5.2 5.5
101. Liberty 3.8 4
108. New Mexico State 5.1 6

Notre Dame is in about the right place in the polls, but they play an absolutely brutal schedule that includes 6 teams in my preseason top 25, which makes me want to sell 9 wins for them. UMass has a pretty light schedule and has a good shot to make their first bowl since coming back to FBS. Army is a favorite in 8 games and has a very good chance to take their 3rd straight off Navy this year. BYU returns over 90% of last year's offensive production but they were such a dumpster fire last year it's difficult to imagine them in a bowl this year. Liberty and New Mexico State are the two new independents, and despite super soft schedules that include a home-and-home I don't think either will make a bowl.

Coming up in my next post is a preview of the Group of 5 conferences, with win total projections and the rest of my preseason 130 team rankings.