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Market-based Final Four? Alabama, Ohio St., Oklahoma and Clemson

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

November 29, 2017 04:16 AM

Suspense ends soon! One last check of college football “market” Power Ratings as we march from the final Playoff Poll through Championship Week. Bonus basketball too right now in VSiN City.

College Football: An update on estimated “market” Power Ratings as we race to the postseason
So much to discuss. Wednesdays this season were reserved for our weekly updates of estimated “market” Power Ratings in college football’s major conferences. We’ll run our last version in this format TODAY, so please print them out if you’d like to save them as early preparation for 2018 (they’ll be very handy for evaluating Regular Season Win props over the summer). You can also use them to evaluate early bowl lines that will come out once the matchups are announced late Sunday.

Because there’s so much midweek interest in the upcoming conference championship games AND the newly released Playoff Poll, let’s start there. Here are the title tilts with Power Ratings in parenthesis. If you’re new to the site, anything at 85 or over is considered “national championship caliber.” Several teams are currently rated that way in a complex market.

Pac 12: USC (83) -3.5 vs. Stanford (79)
SEC: Auburn (86) -2.5 vs. Georgia (84)
ACC: Clemson (88) -9.5 vs. Miami (79)
Big 10: Ohio State (89) -6.5 vs. Wisconsin (83)
Big 12: Oklahoma (89) -7 vs. TCU (82)

The trickiest tweak for us was Clemson/Miami, which went from an estimated line last week of around Clemson -5 to a settled current number of Clemson -9.5. We weren’t ready to stick Clemson up with Alabama and Ohio State in terms of pricing…so we dropped Miami down to 79. If you’d prefer 89 and 80, we wouldn’t argue. Inconsistent Miami has had a few lemons that they barely won, before the debacle at Pitt last Friday. Subsequent performances by Virginia Tech and Notre Dame made Miami’s wins over those programs look less impressive too. 

Auburn nudges up off its big win vs. Alabama. Maybe that should be 87 and 85 with Georgia. These are good faith estimates…and there’s just not enough evidence to lock things in. Ohio State/Wisconsin is also a leap from last week’s look-ahead lines. Tough to launch Ohio State up to 90 or more off a non-cover vs. Michigan. Enough question marks from Wiscy’s regular season to make that 89/83 rather than 90/84. Oklahoma continues to rise. The Sooners were only -6 at home vs. TCU a few weeks ago, but are now -7 on a neutral field (at a site that’s just a short drive from their opponent’s campus!).  

ESPN announced the new Playoff Poll Tuesday evening. Now we’ll run our estimated “market” Power Ratings for the top 10. 

College Playoff Rankings (Power Rating)(Record)
1…Clemson (88) (11-1)
2…Auburn (86) (10-2)
3…Oklahoma (89) (11-1)
4…Wisconsin (83) (12-0)
5…Alabama (90) (11-1)
6…Georgia (84) (11-1)
7…Miami (79) (10-1)
8…Ohio State (89) (10-2)
9…Penn State (86) (10-2)
10…USC (83) (10-2)

Saturday’s showdowns will sort everything out. If “the market” were deciding the Final Four, we’d have Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Clemson invited. Auburn, Wisconsin, Georgia, or Miami would have little shot of getting into the brackets even if they won their leagues. Power Ratings are stubborn about launching people past the likes of Alabama and Ohio State in particular. 

Where does Central Florida fit in? The only other undefeated college team besides Wisconsin has a constituency arguing for more consideration than they’ve been getting. If “Las Vegas” was allowed to influence the discussion, UCF would be even further off the radar.

We checked in with various sources from both sides of the counter Tuesday afternoon (thanks to everyone who assisted via twitter DM). We asked about a projected line for Miami vs. UCF on a neutral field because Miami is worst of the teams playing in a major championship game. An interesting dichotomy emerged. Multiple Las Vegas oddsmakers suggested Central Florida was about 6-7 points worse than Miami of Florida, while a few professional bettors had the difference between UCF and Miami closer to a field goal. (Jeff Sagarin’s computer ratings at USA Today have the difference at 2.41, which we’ll call the “analytics precinct.”)

Let’s just paint a general picture. If Miami is around 79-80 on our scale, then Central Florida would be in the mid 70’s. That seems fair. Central Florida is -7 this weekend at home against Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game. That means Memphis would be around 70 on our scale after you adjust for home field. You may have watched the thriller Memphis played earlier this season with UCLA, who finished up at 70 in our Pac 12 numbers. UCF is mid 70’s, Memphis around 70-71.

If the goal is to get the best teams into the National Championship brackets, there isn’t a case to be made for Central Florida in terms of perceived quality from informed measures. Stick ‘em in the Pac 12, and UCF “might” be Washington State or Arizona, but is “probably” more like Utah. None of those three are bid worthy. Nor, would any be bid worthy if there was currently an 8-team format rather than a 4-team format. 

Now let’s run our final “regular season” numbers for the Power 5 conferences. We close out major independent Notre Dame at 82 after its loss at Stanford. We’ll see where ND's bowl line settles.

SEC West: Alabama 90, Auburn 86, LSU 78, Mississippi State 78, Texas A&M 70, Ole Miss 66, Arkansas 64.
SEC East: Georgia 84, Missouri 77, South Carolina 70, Florida 67, Kentucky 66, Vanderbilt 65, Tennessee 63.

We said in our game preview last week that Alabama -4.5 over Auburn made more sense for a neutral site line than a road game. The market has now moved to that after Auburn’s win. Some head coaching drama at teams listed at 70 or worse. Good bowl potential for everyone listed at 77 or higher. 

Big 10 East: Ohio State 89, Penn State 86, Michigan State 77, Michigan 74, Indiana 69, Maryland 61, Rutgers 60.
Big 10 West: Wisconsin 83, Northwestern 74, Iowa 73, Purdue 69, Nebraska 66, Minnesota 65, Illinois 55.

Looking forward to seeing how all these teams perform in the postseason. There’s a chance that many were priced a field goal too high much of the season. We’ll stay open-minded. 

Big 12: Oklahoma 89, Oklahoma State 83, TCU 82, Texas 76, Iowa State 75, Kansas State 74, Texas Tech 71, West Virginia 68 (QB injury), Baylor 60, Kansas 45.

A lot if feistiness in the mid 70’s…but none of those teams are good enough to win a bowl if they don’t bring peak intensity. Texas relaxed vs. Texas Tech.

ACC Atlantic: Clemson 88, Louisville 79, NC State 78, Wake Forest 76, Florida State 75, Boston College 72, Syracuse 66.
ACC Coastal: Miami 79, Virginia Tech 78, Georgia Tech 73, Virginia 68, Pittsburgh 67, Duke 67, North Carolina 64.

Some possible bowl sleepers in the Atlantic Division. Keep an eye on that.

Pac 12 North: Washington 85, Stanford 79, Washington State 78, Oregon 78 (healthy again), California 68, Oregon State 56.
Pac 12 South: USC 83, Arizona 78, Utah 75, Arizona State 73, UCLA 70, Colorado 68.

You know…there could be a lot of REALLY good bowl games this postseason if quality sides line up right. That’s kind of obvious anyway if Alabama, Ohio State, and Penn State can’t crash the Final Four. But any matchups featuring teams in the low 80s and mid 70s could electrify. 

College Football Market Watch: Championship Weekend Showdowns
We’re going to update market dynamics in the championship games through the week. Today, quickie addendums to yesterday’s introduction for the Power 5…and then lengthier looks at the mid-majors. 

Pac 12 Championship: USC vs. Stanford in Santa Clara, CA
Opener: USC by 3, total of 57
Tuesday morning: USC by 3.5, total of 59
Wednesday morning: USC by 3.5, total of 58.5 (USC -4 more common offshore)

Remember, this game is Friday night…the rest are Saturday. Most Vegas shops are still on USC -3.5, but many of the offshore sites are painted Trojans -4. Probably a harbinger of things to come stateside. Total ticked down. 

SEC Championship: Auburn vs. Georgia in Atlanta, GA
Opener: Auburn by 3, total of 51
Tuesday morning: Auburn by 2.5, total of 49
Wednesday morning: Auburn by 2.5, total of 49

No change. Still suggesting sharp interest in underdog Georgia because they would have pushed that to the key number of three already if they thought Auburn was a good bet. 

ACC Championship: Clemson vs. Auburn in Charlotte, NC
Opener: Clemson by 7.5, total of 48
Tuesday morning: Clemson by 9.5, total of 47.5
Wednesday morning: Clemson by 9, total of 47.5

Some Miami interest…though a few shops are still at 9.5. Doesn’t look like the key number of 10 will come into play, unless the public goes nuts on game day for the new #1 team. 

Big 10 Championship: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin in Indianapolis, IN
Opener: Ohio State by 5.5, total of 53.5
Tuesday morning: Ohio State by 6, total of 53
Wednesday morning: Ohio State by 6.5, total of 52

Buckeyes sneak a bit higher at many stores. Total dropped a point. 

Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma vs. TCU in Arlington, TX
Opener: Oklahoma by 7, total of 61.5
Tuesday morning: Oklahoma by 7, total of 63.5
Wednesday morning: Oklahoma by 7, total of 63.5

Nothing to report here. Now to the Mid-Majors…

Conference USA Championship: North Texas at Florida Atlantic
Opener: Florida Atlantic by 10, total of 74.5
Wednesday morning: Florida Atlantic by 10.5, total of 74

Lane Kiffin covered two-thirds of his games this season, and was respected by early money here. Ten is a key number. Sharps pushed FAU off -10 (this isn’t a game the public would bet early). North Texas is also 8-4 against the spread. But the Mean Green lost on this field 69-31 back on October 21. Big line adjustment already from FAU -3.5 in that one. Might take plus 11 or more to entice dog lovers. 

American Athletic Championship: Memphis at Central Florida
Opener: UCF by 7, total of 81
Wednesday morning: UCF by 7, total of 82

Also a same-site rematch from the regular season. UCF was -5.5 on this field, and won 40-13. Interesting that we didn’t see a rise off the key number of seven with that backdrop. Central Florida played a thriller vs. rival South Florida last week (getting outgained 653-533), and failed to cover four of its last five against the number. Memphis has covered five straight, and enjoyed a virtual scrimmage vs. awful East Carolina last week. Feels like Memphis money is waiting to see if plus 7.5 comes into play from public action before pouncing. It’s always true…but particularly in college football postseason games…if the opener doesn’t rise immediately, sharp influences are looking to time the dog.  

Mid-American Championship: Toledo vs. Akron in Detroit, MI
Opener: Toledo by 18.5, total of 54
Wednesday morning: Toledo by 21.5, total of 57.5

This particular league has had some HUGE championship point spreads over the years. Funny how often those big ugly underdogs catch overconfident favorites napping. Sharps don’t anticipate that here. Already a big THREE-POINT move through the key numbers of 20 and 21 with only a little underdog buy back. Total’s jumped a bunch too.

Mountain West Championship: Fresno State at Boise State
Opener: Boise State by 8.5, total of 48
Wednesday morning: Boise State by 8.5, total of 49

They played in Fresno last week. Boise didn’t put up much of a fight in a 28-17 loss. No reason to waste any energy on the road when THIS was the game that mattered. A lot of justifiable anger about Fresno State cracking the Playoff Poll’s top 25. If you’re plus 8.5 on the road at Boise State, you’re nowhere near one of the best 25 teams in the nation. 

College Basketball: Ranked Xavier and Purdue score important Tuesday night victories
A couple of high profile games Tuesday night. A quick peak at the numbers…

#21 Xavier (-4.5) 76, #16 Baylor 63
Two-Point Pct: Baylor 48%, Xavier 53%
Three Pointers: Baylor 5/16, Xavier 8/24
Free Throws: Baylor 10/12, Xavier 18/23
Rebounds: Baylor 28, Xavier 38
Turnovers: Baylor 11, Xavier 12

You have to do a lot of things right to beat Baylor by that much. Xavier was a smidge better shooting, then MUCH better at rebounding and earning trips to the free throw line (even against a zone). Tough home site. Xavier was getting market respect with that line…and surpassed that respect.  

#17 Purdue (-8.5) 66, Louisville 57 
Two-Point Pct: Louisville 31%, Purdue 41%
Three Pointers: Louisville 6/18, Purdue 5/23
Free Throws: Louisville 11/14, Purdue 23/32
Rebounds: Louisville 42, Purdue 40
Turnovers: Louisville 14, Purdue 11

Purdue was part of that “Bermuda Triangle in the Bahamas” tournament last week, where two of the top entries met for seventh and eighth place (Purdue took seventh by beating previous national #2 Arizona). The Boilermakers were still getting market respect here. Plus, the market may be assuming Louisville is going to collapse in big games amidst it’s off-the-court drama involving former coach Rick Pitino. 

Closer than the score makes it sound…

  • Louisville led 50-47 with five minutes to go
  • Purdue led 56-54 with just over a minute to go

So, that’s a 19-7 run for Purdue to end the game, and 10-3 in the final minute to vulture a cover. You can see that Purdue was plus a dozen in makes from the free throw line, in a game they only won by nine. That made up for the poor performance on treys. 

Some more college basketball coming your way now from VSiN aficionado Greg Peterson.

College Basketball: VSiN’s Greg Peterson takes a look at the Arizona Wildcats
Arizona entered the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament ranked as the No. 2 team in the nation in the AP Poll, but completely fell out of the rankings after losing all three games in that tournament.

It started with a 90-84 loss to NC State, then went further south with a 66-60 loss to SMU and an 89-64 drubbing at the hands of Purdue.

On the islands, Arizona allowed 1.148 points per possession…which is 323rd in the nation as a “last three-game ranking” out of 351 DI teams according to teamrankings.com. The Wildcats had a poor 0.949 assist-to-turnover ratio in the Bahamas as well.

Arizona has also been outscored by a wider margin in the second half of these losses than the first. The average first half deficit was 5.3 points, compared to 7.0 points in second halves.

It is the program’s first ever three-game December losing streak. The Wildcats join the 1986 Louisville squad as the only teams in the history of the AP Poll to go from being ranked in the top two to being completely un-ranked the next week.

With blowout wins against Northern Arizona, UMBC, and Cal State-Bakersfield also on their ledger, the Wildcats enter their contest with Long Beach State with a record of 3-3. Arizona opened as a 22-point favorite over Long Beach State, despite the 49ers having a win over Pac-12 squad Oregon State to their credit.

From there, Arizona will face-off Saturday with a white-hot UNLV team that has gotten off to a blistering 6-0 start.  The Runnin' Rebels are winning by an average margin of 27.5 points, which is fourth in DI basketball to go with 96.3 points per game, also fourth nationally. The Rebels average 1.191 points per possession and 80.9 possessions per game, both of which rank 11th in the country.

In comparison, Arizona is 185th in possessions per game with 72.9 and scoring 0.975 points per possession in this rut. In comparison, Arizona had 1.18 points per possession it its three wins prior to going to the Bahamas.

Arizona follows that up with a game against a Texas A&M team that is also 6-0 and coming off a 75-59 road victory against USC. Texas A&M has great balance as the Aggies entered Tuesday's tilts 51st in the nation in points per possession on offense and 33rd on defense. 

Arizona is a team chock full of talent, but need more than just Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton to score. The duo had 59.1 percent of the team's 208 points in this losing streak. Guys like Brandon Randolph and Dusan Ristic must do more to support these two, as Ayton and Trier are also combining to shoot 58.2 percent from the floor.

If Arizona can find some balance and get through this rough slate the next week, the Wildcats should be back in position to get a great seed in the NCAA Tournament with guard Rawle Alkins expected to return once Pac-12 play gets going.

Thanks Greg!

That’s it for Wednesday. Back with you Thursday to recap #10 Miami at #12 Minnesota from the Big 10-ACC Challenge (at the very least from a busy night in college hoops), to preview Washington/Dallas in the NFL, and to update our NBA estimated “market” Power Ratings. The schedule is only getting busier!

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