All posts by minusoneten

What We Learned: Week 1

There is one thing that we all learned in week 1. We learned that we know nothing.

Florida State almost lost to an Oklahoma State team that returned only 9 starters, and Alabama didn’t look too sharp against a WVU team that went 4-8 last year. UCLA effectively lost to Virginia, but got a W in the record books thanks to 3 TDs by the defense. Western Kentucky hung 59 points on a MAC champion Bowling Green team that was the favorite for a repeat title due to their outstanding defense, and UTSA dominated Houston in the opening of Houston’s new stadium.

It’s safe to say that many of the things we came to expect for week 1 simply weren’t so. Here’s a look back at some noteworthy items to take with us as we look forward to week 2.

Brandon Doughty for Heisman? – Some kid from WKU who threw as many interceptions as he did TDs last year is now very well known in the college football world by anyone who covers all FBS football (not just the 10 games that ESPN showcases). He put up video game numbers, going 46-56 (82.1%), 569 passing yards, 10.16 YPA, with 6 TDs and 0 INTs and a QBR of 202.9 /  Raw 93.5. If he keeps that up, WKU has a bright future in the post-Petrino era.

Baylor’s defense might still be good – despite returning only four starters on defense, the Bears shut out SMU. Sure, they aren’t the toughest of competition, but come on. They gave up 67 total yards. On the offensive side, nothing needs to be said because it’s the same old pitch and catch routine from last year between Petty and a depth of fast WRs.

Texas has Strong D too – UNT passed 3-17 (17.6%), 0.9 YPA,  0 TD, 4  INT for a passer rating of -40. Yes, negative 40. Again, the level of competition wasn’t too high after UNT lost the majority of their starters from last year, but stats like this highlight Charlie Strong’s coaching discipline, especially on defense.

TCU might have an offense – Maybe, just maybe, coaches Cumbie and Meacham are putting an end to the dark era of impotent and outdated offense at TCU. Their switch to an air raid attack appeared to be successful as the Frogs ran 96 plays and gained 555 total yards — numbers that seemed unheard of in the post-Rose Bowl era. On the defensive side of the ball, the Frogs allowed 4 rushing yards and 9 total yards in the second half. Apparently Gary Patterson found out that TCU had allowed 83 rushing yards in the first half, and told them they’d all by practicing in pads if they let Samford pass the 100 mark. I guess the motivation worked.

Oklahoma State: No depth, no problem! – Gundy has an uncanny way of replacing his starters. In three of the past four years we’ve always said “OSU is losing a ton of starters; this year they will regress.” Yet they never do, and they sure gave Florida State a run for their money.

K-State has receivers other than Lockett. All we’ve heard about is the Waters-Lockett duo. They’re great, but K-State has a depth of WRs and showcased it in their opener. He targeted five different receivers for 3+ passes (Robinson, Cook, Burton, Trujillo, Sexton).

NDSU is still a giant killer. Or maybe Iowa State is just bad. Either way, the Bison look like they’ll still be a playoff contender after Brock and Bohl left the team.

UAB hired the right guy. Alabama native Bill Clark brought his success from Jacksonville State and implanted it right into the DNA of the UAB Blazers, as they shocked Troy in a 48-10 win. We knew the passing offense was always there (and apparently so is their rushing offense too), but the defense looked much improved.

Buffalo’s defense is already showing holes. I was highly concerned about Buffalo’s defense after losing not just Mack, but many other stars on the defensive line and in the secondary. Giving up 8.7 yards per pass attempt to Duquesne in an ugly 38-28 win shows that they still have some work to do, as it looked like the pass rush and the secondary could use some serious work.

Watch out for Toledo. They overcame a slow start to rout New Hampshire 54-20. But it’s just New Hampshire, so we shouldn’t take this too seriously right? Not so fast my friend. UNH is ranked #4 in the FCS poll and is by no means a pushover. The Rockets showed they have some serious offensive firepower, and are going to give Mizzou a run for their money next week.

It can’t get any worse for FIU. I’ll just make a list of sad things, and you can decide that’s the worst.

1) They were outgained by FCS Bethune-Cookman in total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, yards per play, third down conversion rate, and total points.

2) Despite losing at home to an FCS team, they still covered the spread. FIU was a 4.5 point home underdog.

3) FIU was 1 for 16 on third down conversions.

4) The Miami-Herald stopped covering FIU football because they’re so bad.

UTSA has the experience. This year will be a last hoorah for UTSA before they rebuild next year. For now, look for them to be an ATS favorite and a C-USA title contender.

Old Dominion’s defense is bipolar.  Taylor Heinicke and the offense looked just fine against Hampton, so let’s talk about the defense. The pass defense was absolutely terrible. They gave up 8.8 yards per pass and 407 passing yards to a mediocre FCS squad. On the flip side, they allowed 9 rushing yards on 26 attempts (0.3 yards per rush). ODU’s turnovers luck helped win the game, but the pass defense will need to improve if the Monarchs are going to reach bowl eligibility.

Eastern Michigan’s cinder block is a metaphor for their team. As you may have seen, EMU’s intro included them smashing a cinder block wall. It sounds cool, and sounds like it would work in theory. But in real life, it’s way too difficult and not nearly as cool as you’d expect. In a depressing 31-28 victory for the Eagles, every single error that could possibly made in a football game happened. If you want to see how not to play football, I’d recommend this one for the tapes. Both teams were equally poor at defending the run, but Morgan State smoked EMU in the passing game (9.6 yards per pass vs 3.3). One positive for EMU was going 2 for 2 on fourth down conversions, though we’re still unsure what the purpose was for going for it in those situations. Thanks to Morgan State’s two lost fumbles, blocked punt, and 80 penalty yards, the luck dragons helped EMU pull out a victory.

 

 

Results Through Week 1

ATS Picks (4-2, 66%)

EIU +30 at Minnesota – W: Ok, ok. So the game wasn’t pretty. And the only reason EIU covered was due to touchdowns in garbage time later in the fourth quarter. Still, EIU sabotaged themselves with three turnovers and what had to be the ugliest QB punt ever. EIU actually outgained the Gophers in total yards (409 to 338) but could never score due to the redzone turnovers. Luckily, despite the errors, the Panthers covered.

Navy +21.5 vs Ohio State – W: Early on this looked like it would be a really close game, but eventually Ohio State wore down Navy. Problems with the Ohio State offensive line were apparent as expected, and the Buckeyes struggled to move the ball in the first half. As Barrett warmed up in the second half, Ohio State pulled away, but not enough to cover.

Washington -21 vs Hawaii – L: Well, losing their QB didn’t help the Huskies cover on this early line that I took before his suspension. Even with him back though, I don’t know if they would have covered this line.

NIU -40 vs Presbyterian – W: Presbyterian has a pretty terrible track record against FBS teams, except for that one time they played Wake Forest and ran the dirtiest trick play I’ve ever seen.

Utah -41 vs Idaho State – W: Oh so barely covered. Two touchdowns given up against Idaho State? Seriously, Utes? What should have been an easy cover became a nail biter that required Utah to score on the last drive of the game.

Syracuse -14.5 vs Villanova – L: I should have had more discretion on this one. I knew Villanova was a strong FCS team and that they’d bring their A-game against the Orange. A few of my mathematical systems picked Syracuse, and despite my better judgment I went with it. Next time I might be filtering those picks subjectively.

Moneylines and Props (2-2, +1.25 units)

UCLA Moneyline -910, Washington Moneyline -800 – W: I just like to pick moneylines that give heart attacks.

Lee Corso Picks Florida State at College Game Day -7500 – W: I can’t believe he started to shoot that pistol for a while. In the end though, we all knew he’d be picking the Noles.

 

Preseason Top 25: Five In, Five Out

Preseason polls always do such a poor job, I think everyone will agree. Just like March Madness does a “last four in, first four out” I’ve decided to do a similar thing and pick five unranked teams that will finish in the Top 25, and five Top 25 teams that will finish unranked.

Five Teams That Will Finish in Top 25:

Marshall

Iowa

Bowling Green

Houston

Navy

 

Five Top 25 Teams That Will Finish Unranked:

Notre Dame

Texas A&M

North Carolina

Texas

Nebraska

 

Current Preseason Top 25:

1 Florida State
2 Alabama
3 Oklahoma
4 Oregon
5 Auburn
6 Ohio State
7 UCLA
8 Michigan State
9 South Carolina
10 Baylor
11 Stanford
12 Georgia
13 LSU
14 Wisconsin
15 USC
16 Clemson
17 Notre Dame
18 Arizona State
19 Ole Miss
20 Texas A&M
21 Kansas State
22 Nebraska
23 North Carolina
24 Texas
25 Washington

Week 1 Bets and Futures Bets!

The first FBS matchup is tomorrow, and boy does it feel like Christmas. I’ve been running some numbers in the offseason, and here are my bets for Week 1 games as well as futures. To be fair, some of these lines changed since I originally picked them, so I’m attaching my bet slip below for proof that I actually bet on these.

Week 1 Picks:

Eastern Illinois +30 vs Minnesota – so I actually made this bet multiple times at +30, +29.5, and +28.5. I documented pretty well that it was in fact me moving the lines…I think there was just no one else betting on them. Anyways, despite EIU losing Jimmy, the Panthers still return a pretty good squad. More importantly, both teams are likely to rely on the run game…which means run out the clock…which means fewer opportunities to win by four touchdowns. I had EIU at (don’t laugh) a 6 point underdog, and Minnesota doesn’t have the best track record against FCS teams. The +30 seemed like a steal and it turns out it was because as of two weeks ago the books went back and revised the line from 28.5-30 range down to 15. That’s pretty significant, and I think someone on the books recognized the error.

Navy +21.5 vs Ohio State – when I originally bet on this, I took Navy +21.5. They should have been +11.5 according to my analysis. This was all of course before the Braxton Miller injury. After the injury my line is +6.5, and the current Vegas line is 17.

Washington -21 at Hawaii: I had the line at 27, and I really like the Chris Petersen hire. I think he comes out looking to make a statement against a Hawaii team that’s considering discontinuing their football program.

Lee Corso Picks Florida State at College Game Day -7500: I would take this bet up to -1,000,000 or so given the fact that he is an FSU alum and they’re favored by 17.5. I will be there in Fort Worth watching him on Saturday. Don’t disappoint me Lee!

Future Games Picks:

Michigan State +14 at Oregon: I can’t quite remember the last time Michigan State lost by more than 14 points. Surprisingly I handicapped them at exactly 14 in my model (3.5 pts on neutral field + 3.5 pt home field advantage + 7 point adjustment for returning starters). Oregon returns all five offensive linemen,which is really the differentiator there. But despite the math, I really like this matchup in favor of the Spartans.

Kansas State +8 vs Auburn: It will be an electric atmosphere  in Manhattan Kansas, and we all know that Thursday nights are conducive to upsets. I have Kansas State handicapped at a 3 point underdog.

Baylor -27.5 at Buffalo: this line is mathematically accurate but as we learned last year, Buffalo really struggles handling Baylor’s air raid schemes. If the same crew returned on defense for Buffalo, I would have more trust in them to stop the Bears’ offensive attack. I expect Buffalo to score a few points, as their offense returns a quarterback and four offensive linemen against an inexperienced Baylor secondary. But with all of Buffalo’s stars gone on defense (1 DL, 2 LB, 1 S/CB return) an inexperienced Buffalo squad will be spread thin in four verts. And when they adjust, Shock Linwood will be there to run for 8 to 10 yards per carry. Rinse and repeat as Baylor wins in a high scoring affair.

Louisville -8.5 at Virginia: Wondering if this was a typo by the books, because I have Louisville as an 18 point favorite. Math aside, despite Virginia’s likely improvement, Bobby Petrino really knows how to keep a program running, at least on the field.

Win Totals and Other Futures:

Kansas UNDER 3 wins, +110: – Kansas’ win total will mostly be determined by their first three games. SEMO (W), Duke (L), Central Michigan (?). The likely outcomes are 2 wins or 3 wins for Kansas. If they lose to CMU, then win 0 or 1 games in the Big 12, this bet wins. If they beat CMU, then 0 wins in conference is pays out, and 1 win is a push. The unlikely scenario, a victory over CMU and 2+ Big 12 games (or 1+ Big 12 games and win at Duke and vs CMU), are the only cases in which the bet loses.

FSU to College Football Playoff -220: Florida State does not need to go undefeated to make the playoff. It is likely that the majority, if not all, college football teams will have at least one loss entering the playoff. Florida State’s schedule is not as easy as many would think (Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Clemson, Florida, at Louisville, at Miami) and is in fact equivalent to Alabama’s schedule. A one loss FSU team still walks into the college football playoff, and barring some key injuries or another crab legs incident, two or more losses appears to be unlikely for Florida State at this time.

Bonus – Lottery Parlay: Navy +700, FAU +1350, UNT +1500 – hey, why not have a little fun? By not means do I think all three of these guys will win, but at a payout of 1875 to 1, might as well take a lottery pick here.

 

Other bets I contemplated, but couldn’t quite pull the trigger:

FAU +23.5 at Nebraska

UNT +25.5 at Texas

Villanova +17 at Syracuse

UCLA -21 at Virginia

NDSU +3.5 at Iowa State

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 7.01.59 PM

 

Is FSU’s Schedule Really Cake Compared to Alabama’s?

“Sure they dominate in their conference, but they could never do that well in the SEC.”

If I had a dime for every time I’d heard it, I’d be one rich man. While there isn’t much argument that the SEC has produced the strongest teams overall in the BCS era, how much does playing an SEC schedule hurt a team’s odds of, say, going undefeated?

I originally embarked on this bit of research to answer a simple question: “How would FSU do if they played Alabama’s schedule?” The answer I found was actually quite surprising. It turns out Florida State’s odds of going undefeated would only fall by 1.1% when playing Alabama’s schedule rather than their own.

Record Probability
 12-0 45.7%
 11-1 39.5%
 10-2 12.7%
 9-3 1.9%
 8-4 0.2%

 

How could this be? I compared the average and median power ratings of both teams’ opposition, which may shed some light on the reason:

FSU Opponents: 71.28 Avg, 71.00 Median

Alabama Opponents: 69.39 Avg, 72.10 Median

Surprisingly, the two schools play a very similar strength of schedule. FSU’s scheduling of Notre Dame and Oklahoma State boosts them above the ACC average, and games at Louisville and Miami keep the strength of schedule boat afloat.

Meanwhile, while Alabama faces LSU and Auburn, as well as two very underrated teams in Ole Miss and Mississippi State, their strength of schedule is weighed down by a poor FCS team in Western Carolina, and a Southern Miss team that finished the season rated lower than most FCS teams.

A significant disclaimer must be attached to these statistics though. Florida State playing Alabama’s schedule implies that they wouldn’t have to play against Alabama. If they were simply added to the SEC West and faced Alabama in addition to all of those opponents, their odds of going undefeated would be cut in half.

 

Top 10 Most Improved Teams of 2013-2014

We often talk about the most improved teams by our own eyeball test. We’re astounded at how quickly Auburn turned around, and are certainly impressed with Missouri’s performance last year as well. But there is improvement going on around the country as well in some teams that are often overlooked. The below numbers show the +/- change in each team’s Sagarin power rating from 2012 to 2013. The difference is the amount in which each team improved over the course of the past year.

Most Improved:

Auburn +24.95

Washington +15.75

Washington State +15.37

UNT +15.29

Colorado +14.96

Houston +14.10

South Alabama +13.29

Least Improved:

LA Tech -26.50

FIU -22.76

Tulsa -21.36

Miami OH -16.47

SMU -15.14

Florida -15.10

Team Improvement 2013 Rating 2012 Rating
Auburn 24.95 90.26 65.31
Washington 15.75 90.51 74.76
Washington State 15.37 76.87 61.50
North Texas 15.29 72.67 57.38
Colorado 14.96 65.65 50.69
Houston 14.10 74.77 60.67
South Alabama 13.29 63.44 50.15
Tulane 12.92 63.35 50.43
Missouri 12.78 89.42 76.64
Buffalo 12.60 66.90 54.30
Colorado State 12.17 68.22 56.05
Florida State 11.64 100.53 88.89
Bowling Green 11.03 77.92 66.89
Michigan State 11.01 88.74 77.73
Marshall 10.83 72.46 61.63
Navy 10.50 73.48 62.98
UCLA 10.36 89.98 79.62
Iowa 10.24 78.79 68.55
Illinois 9.57 66.06 56.49
Arizona 9.55 84.96 75.41
Duke 8.46 74.63 66.17
UNLV 8.27 61.89 53.62
East Carolina 8.11 72.20 64.09
Louisville 7.97 84.98 77.01
Florida Atlantic 7.33 64.41 57.08
Texas-San Antonio 7.23 64.77 57.54
Baylor 7.07 91.78 84.71
Hawai’i 6.88 57.40 50.52
Boston College 6.72 69.35 62.63
Stanford 6.00 92.86 86.86
Ohio State 5.77 88.11 82.34
Utah 5.68 79.04 73.36
Southern California 5.43 86.30 80.87
Wake Forest 5.13 62.18 57.05
Wisconsin 4.94 88.15 83.21
Indiana 4.74 71.03 66.29
Maryland 4.02 66.69 62.67
Arizona State 3.98 87.75 83.77
Memphis 3.72 61.19 57.47
Mississippi State 3.51 80.13 76.62
Central Florida(UCF) 3.22 80.32 77.10
Clemson 2.96 87.30 84.34
Akron 2.88 54.49 51.61
Massachusetts 2.29 42.78 40.49
Toledo 2.18 67.88 65.70
Minnesota 2.16 70.53 68.37
Ball State 1.73 67.73 66.00
Oklahoma State 1.21 89.31 88.10
Georgia Tech 1.03 78.52 77.49
South Carolina 1.01 89.39 88.38
Texas Tech 0.98 78.95 77.97
Virginia Tech 0.78 74.89 74.11
Fresno State 0.43 74.53 74.10
Oregon 0.36 95.73 95.37
Oklahoma 0.18 86.36 86.18
Rice 0.15 66.60 66.45
Western Kentucky 0.11 64.33 64.22
Kentucky 0.11 62.03 61.92
Army 0.09 52.19 52.10
LSU -0.42 86.05 86.47
Middle Tennessee -0.96 60.27 61.23
Miami-Florida -1.34 72.73 74.07
North Carolina -1.44 77.34 78.78
New Mexico -1.54 53.95 55.49
Boise State -1.62 75.84 77.46
Pittsburgh -2.02 71.98 74.00
Nevada -2.29 63.56 65.85
Wyoming -2.32 55.41 57.73
New Mexico State -2.34 43.38 45.72
Central Michigan -2.47 54.53 57.00
Temple -2.74 59.32 62.06
Tennessee -3.09 70.45 73.54
Mississippi -3.23 78.36 81.59
Utah State -3.55 79.07 82.62
Idaho -3.70 43.36 47.06
Vanderbilt -4.00 75.78 79.78
Nebraska -4.18 76.06 80.24
Northern Illinois -4.68 71.91 76.59
BYU -4.71 79.14 83.85
San Diego State -4.79 65.53 70.32
Arkansas -5.18 64.85 70.03
Virginia -5.18 59.55 64.73
Oregon State -5.19 80.63 85.82
California -5.35 61.21 66.56
TCU -5.52 74.04 79.56
Texas -5.77 77.75 83.52
Texas State -5.85 52.20 58.05
Connecticut -5.87 57.58 63.45
Louisiana-Lafayette -5.98 64.37 70.35
Kansas State -6.22 83.60 89.82
Troy -6.24 57.82 64.06
Cincinnati -6.29 71.06 77.35
Kansas -6.44 56.35 62.79
Alabama -6.60 95.15 101.75
Michigan -7.26 75.11 82.37
Air Force -7.55 49.36 56.91
Penn State -7.58 72.20 79.78
Ohio -8.11 57.23 65.34
West Virginia -8.18 66.26 74.44
Iowa State -8.25 65.87 74.12
UAB -8.39 47.74 56.13
Syracuse -9.49 68.88 78.37
Georgia -9.77 82.19 91.96
Eastern Michigan -10.38 38.93 49.31
NC State -10.88 61.06 71.94
Notre Dame -10.99 79.24 90.23
South Florida -11.01 53.14 64.15
Arkansas State -11.44 61.55 72.99
Southern Miss -11.56 39.75 51.31
Northwestern -11.85 68.91 80.76
Kent State -13.10 57.68 70.78
San Jose State -13.13 65.07 78.20
Rutgers -13.15 61.61 74.76
Louisiana-Monroe -13.20 52.80 66.00
Texas A&M -13.85 82.49 96.34
UTEP -14.29 43.53 57.82
Western Michigan -14.42 44.54 58.96
Purdue -15.04 52.03 67.07
Florida -15.10 73.87 88.97
SMU -15.14 60.39 75.53
Miami-Ohio -16.47 37.78 54.25
Tulsa -21.36 54.59 75.95
Fla. International -22.76 35.34 58.10
Louisiana Tech -26.50 47.70 74.20

 

Your Team’s Odds of Going Undefeated

While we can never predict injuries, arrests, and other black swans, we as statisticians do our best. With the information given at this time, I’ve used my simulation results to determine the odds of any team going undefeated. Just because your team isn’t on there doesn’t mean that they can’t go undefeated…they’re just not as likely to as Florida State right now.

Florida State (46.8%) – Our favorite to go undefeated comes as no surprise. The Noles’ video-game-like numbers combined with their favorable schedule make them an absolute frontrunner in the odds to go undefeated…again. While I say their schedule is below average, it is by no means easy. We discovered late last year that the Clemson team they whipped 51-14 turned out to be pretty good and that Duke team they beat 45-7 matched up quite well with Texas A&M. So while their high odds of going undefeated are partially due to a favorable schedule, it’s even more due to the fact that they’re just an amazing team.

Alabama (28.2%) – Yes, the SEC West is a tough road. Alabama travels to Ole Miss on October 4th and travels to LSU on November 8th, and this year’s Iron Bowl will be a heated rematch in Tuscaloosa. Those will be by far three tough challenges. But beyond that, home games hosting Texas A&M and Mississippi State are very manageable, as is the Tide’s road slate.

Marshall (21.7%) – Wait…who?

That’s right – the Thundering Herd come in at #3 on the list of most likely to go undefeated. They’re a similar version of Florida State’s case. FSU is a great team playing against very average competition. Marshall is a very good team, by no means playoff quality, but will likely be worthy of a spot in the Top 25 by the end of the year. They play one of the easiest schedules in the FBS. Last year it was debatable whether the C-USA East or MAC East was the worst division in FBS. With ECU’s departure to the AAC, Marshall’s C-USA East should be a cakewalk.

Bill Connelly dubbed Marshall the “overlords of Conference USA” and I can’t think of a better word. Led by senior quarterback Rakeem Cato and a high powered offense. they are -500 to -700 to win the conference, miles ahead of the rest. Marshall’s biggest stumbling block last year was road games, but this year Marshall’s “toughest” opponents come to Huntington. Statistically, Marshall is likely to trip up somewhere along the way. But my gut tells me otherwise, as I have a sneaking suspicion that the Herd will run the table, yet still not be invited to the College Football Playoff. And as a result they may be one of the key pieces to expanding this playoff system to eight teams.

 

Team Undefeated Odds
Florida State 46.80%
Alabama 28.20%
Marshall 21.70%
Wisconsin 19.40%
Baylor 12.90%
Ohio State 11.70%
Oregon 9.00%
Missouri 8.00%
Michigan State 6.60%
Utah State 4.80%
Northern Illinois 4.50%
Oklahoma 3.80%
Bowling Green 2.90%
South Carolina 2.30%
Houston 2.30%
UCF 2.20%
Auburn 2.10%
Boise State 2.00%