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Below is a sample of our work from our new digital magazine, Point Spread Weekly, dedicated to college and pro football betting data, trends and analysis.
Makinen identified nine games as potential betting opportunities based on his formula, designed for early-season matchups and based on off-season coaching and player turnover (or lack thereof).
Two of those games identified were last night: Ohio State did cover vs. Indiana, which has a new coach; Minnesota under first-year man P.J. Fleck, didn't cover vs. Buffalo.
You'll find seven more games and a list of how all the FBS teams rated under Makinen's point system.
This article appears in this week's 28-issue, which you can download for free at www.vsin.com/subscribe.
Top 9 college football Week 1 betting opportunities based on off-season turnover
By Steve Makinen
Editor/Point Spread Weekly
The longer and more religiously you read the Point Spread Weekly, you will notice that we tend to run a general series of articles throughout the season and repeat them year after year. The reason for this is that, for the most part, the timing and methodologies beyond these articles are well-tested over the years by myself and our other writers, and they choose to lend their expertise in winning strategies to you through our publication.
With that in mind, one of the most anticipated pieces that I develop each year comes right out of the gate in Week 1 of the college football season, and that is our Stability Mismatch study.
In having worked with people of both sides of the betting window for many years, I have found that the amount of preseason preparation that people take on can vary greatly from book-to-book, from bettor-to-bettor. Because of this, there can be huge misses by those setting the numbers. Doing the homework early has become one of the most important aspects for college football bettors hoping to enjoy a successful campaign.
There are many reasons why things can change dramatically from one season to the next in college football, among them the four-year eligibility rules, the pressure now placed on coaching staffs at every level program, and of course player transgressions off the field. The result is that there is always significant turnover from year-to-year, both on the field and on the sidelines. Bettors expecting to see the same thing they watched from a team at the end of the prior season are most often unpleasantly surprised. It is therefore crucial to make scouring the internet and preseason publications a can’t-miss step in the handicapping process.
Being a numbers guys, I like to do a little exercise I call quantifying the level of stability for each team. I figure that the higher level of stability, the better the chances for success for any team, particularly early in the season. Naturally putting a numerical grade to it makes it easier to spot these stability mismatches. Now, the pointspread considered, the feeling is that oddsmakers don’t adjust “enough” for the instability factors.
Over the last several years, I have implemented an early season strategy that employs backing the teams with the greatest stability ratings and fading those in the most unstable situations. In each of the last three years, my Top 10 games list was 6-4 ATS. Now that isn’t earth-shattering results, but I’ll take 60% using a somewhat simple statistical method anytime. Of course, these numbers can also be improved by factoring in other successful handicapping strategies as well.
Just below, I’ve once again put together a list of the Top College Football Stability Mismatches for Week 1 on the schedule. I have found that a Stability Mismatch score of 7 is the minimum on which I will consider a play for this thought process. That is the reason there are only NINE games for this week 1. For the rest of the first month of the season, I will continue to offer the weekly mismatches for you to use. I typically believe that after 2-3 games for each team, oddsmakers are able to “catch-up” and fully adjust for the changes to the teams. However, you should feel comfortable in employing this strategy in the first few weeks while the dust settles.
Before showing the mismatch games here are the basics for how we determine each team’s Total Stability Score. In essence, the score is determined from five different stabilizing factors, Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator, Quarterback, and Overall Returning Starters. You will find a breakdown of all 130 FBS teams and their Stability Scores on this link, but in short, here is how the scores are determined:
Returning Head Coach Points
- Yes, same Head Coach as 2016: 4 points
- No, new Head Coach for 2017: 0 points
Returning Offensive Coordinator Points
- Yes, same Offensive Coordinator as 2016: 3 points
- No, new Offensive Coordinator for 2017: 0 points
Returning Defensive Coordinator Points
- Yes, same Defensive Coordinator as 2016: 3 points
- No, new Defensive Coordinator for 2017: 0 points
Returning Starting Quarterback Points
- Yes, same Starting Quarterback as 2016: 4 points
- No, new Starting Quarterback for 2017: 0 points
Returning Starter Points
- 0-7 returning offensive & defensive starters: 0 points
- 8-9: 1 point
- 10-12: 2 points
- 13-16: 3 points
- 17-19: 4 points
- 20-22: 5 points
If you analyze the chart of the 130 FBS teams, you’ll see that there are many teams this season in very troubling or unsettling situations. In fact, there are eight teams with Stability Scores of 3 or less. Ole Miss, Temple, and Western Michigan in particular, face uphill battles, with nationwide low scores of 2. On the other hand, there are five teams that post a score of 18 for 2017, Georgia, Miami Ohio, NC State, Syracuse, and TCU. Considering that 19 is the max score, those programs figure to be in good shape for the coming season. Georgia, NC State & Miami Ohio are of particular note, as they come off impressive bowl performances to end 2016, and have seemingly found their quarterbacks of the future.
What we are really interested in is finding spots where this information is most useful, and from our experience, looking for mismatches in stability is a great way to do it. We do this by simply comparing the Stability Scores of the two teams in a given matchup and calculating the difference. The larger the number, the bigger the supposed mismatch. Now, this doesn’t mean that the team with the higher Stability Score is the better team, just that they are more stable. We are then making the assumption that oddsmakers have not accounted for this factor enough when setting their lines. That said, here are the Top 9 College Football Stability Mismatches for 2017 Week 1:
T-1. (135) BUFFALO ( 26) at (136) MINNESOTA
Stability Advantage: BUFFALO by 14
Analysis: For as much magic as P.J. Fleck brought to Western Michigan, and Gophers’ fans hope he can bring to Minnesota, it can’t be forgotten that Fleck was just 1-11 Su & 4-8 ATS in his first season at WMU. That is the nature of instability. The change might be good in the long run, but Fleck’s guys might not grasp the “row the boat” concept as quickly as he might like. In their first test, the Gophers are nearly a 4-TD favorite against a Buffalo team that enters the third year of the Lance Leipold era. Off a 2-10 season, there is pressure on Leipold to get it going, and if program instability has any say in this one, the Bulls will at least be more competitive than oddsmakers foresee.
T-1. (179) S ALABAMA ( 24) at (180) OLE MISS
Stability Advantage: S ALABAMA by 14
Analysis: There are certain programs each year where the instability situation comes as a surprise, or as a result of poor program decision-making or transgressions. That is the case with Ole Miss in 2017, as they push forward without disgraced head coach Hugh Freeze, who made some regrettable phone calls on behalf of some recruits he was pursuing. So not only are the Rebels without their coach of the L5 years, they must also replace QB Chad Kelly, who essentially was the offense of the last few seasons. Their first matchup is one that figures to get overlooked, a home game against South Alabama, a Sun Belt team that was 6-7 last year and played in a bowl game. Don’t forget, the Jaguars upset Mississippi State on the road in the 2016 season opener.
T-1. (181) W MICHIGAN at (182) USC (-27.5)
Stability Advantage: USC by 14
Analysis: PJ Fleck’s leaving Western Michigan affected two universities. The one left to pick up the pieces is WMU. He is replaced by Tim Lester, and if that name rings a bell, it’s because he was a former prolific QB for the Broncos. His first task is to find a replacement QB of his own, as Zach Terrell has used up his eligibility. The first test for Lester and the Broncos couldn’t get any tougher, as they have to travel to L.A. to take on a USC team with championship aspirations. The Trojans are loaded with QB Sam Darnold leading the way and are rightfully a near 4-TD favorite.
T-1. (195) HOUSTON at (196) TX-SAN ANTONIO ( 12.5)
Stability Advantage: TX-SAN ANTONIO by 14
Analysis: Tom Herman barely moved his stuff into his Houston offices before he was whicked away by the lures of the Texas program. What becomes of the Cougars’ program for the immediate future remains to be seen, but from my experience, mid-major powers that lose head coach-quarterback tandems like Herman and Greg Ward tend to drop off sharply right away. There are some nice pieces in place, including new QB Kyle Allen, a Texas A&M transfer, but so much of this program’s success over the last two season was about riding momentum. The first test for the Cougars is a difficult one, as they hit the road take on a hungry UTSA team that reached its first bowl game last December. QB Dalton Storm is a senior, and the Roadrunners’ defense was a sound unit in 2016. A double-digit line seems extreme here.
T-5. (169) FLA INTERNATIONAL at (170) UCF (-16.5)
Stability Advantage: UCF by 10
Analysis: At one point last season, Scott Frost’s first year UCF team went on a 7-1 ATS run, only to run out gas in the season’s final month. Considering the massive improvement the Knights made from 2015, the campaign was a rousing success. Frost will look to continue building on that momentum in 2017 as he brings back an experienced group, particularly on offense, where nine starters return. The first game is certainly winnable, against Florida International, who turns to a veteran coach, Butch Davis, to turn things around. He replaces another old…err I mean veteran coach, Ron Turner, who just couldn’t find success at FIU. There are 15 starters back for the Panthers, but when that team was outscored by nearly 11 PPG last season, is that a positive?
T-5. (171) NEVADA at (172) NORTHWESTERN (-23.5)
Stability Advantage: NORTHWESTERN by 10
Analysis: If there is one word that can be used to describe the Northwestern football program nowadays, certainly STABLE could be it. Pat Fitzgerald begins his 12th season atop the program, and he brings back 16 starters for 2017 from the team that closed last season by beating Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl. Quarterback Clayton Thorsen is the headliner of that group after leading his team to a 3-year scoring high of 26.0 PPG a year ago. Nevada is the week 1 opponent for the Wildcats, and for those of you that might be surprised by the 23.5-point line, don’t overlook the facts that the Wolf Pack are in a difficult travel spot to open the season, are playing their first game under new head coach Jay Norvell, AND have installed an “Air Raid” offense, not exactly a seamless transition from the pistol.
7. (151) COLORADO ST ( 6.5) vs. (152) COLORADO
Stability Advantage: COLORADO ST by 8
Analysis: Both Colorado State & Colorado enjoyed nice 2016 campaigns. The Buffaloes were the better team however, and proved it with the resounding 44-7 head-to-head whipping in the season’s first week. That propelled Colorado to a 10-win season. The pressure to match that success will be heavy in 2017, as eight sarters must be replaced from a defense that was terrific. It was so good, that coordinator Jim Leavitt was poached by Oregon. On offense, the main star, QB Sefo Liufau must also be replaced. As such, Colorado State has some nice advantages for this year’s week 1 contest. The Rams are in good shape under 3rd year head coach Mike Bobo, and are led by senior QB Nick Stevens, who had a huge game in the bowl loss to Idaho.
T-8. (133) OHIO ST (-20) at (134) INDIANA
Stability Advantage: OHIO ST by 7
Analysis: Expectations are high in Columbus this season, and they should be, as 15 starters are back for HC Urban Meyer, including QB JT Barrett. The last time the Buckeyes brought back that many starters was in 2012, Meyer’s first season with Ohio State. Just for the record, that team finished 12-0. One of the more difficult matchups for OSU each season has been Indiana, as the Hoosiers have taken six straight in the series against the spread. However, the fact that this line is under three touchdowns could be a gift, as Indiana is starting anew under HC Tom Allen and an entirely new coaching staff.
T-8. (167) ARKANSAS ST ( 16.5) at (168) NEBRASKA
Stability Advantage: ARKANSAS ST by 7
Analysis: Nebraska has just 10 starters back in 2017 from its 9-4 season of a year ago. Gone are QB Tommy Armstrong and stud DE Ross Dzuris, as well as defensive coordinator Mark Banker, who was fired. On the surface, that doesn’t seem like an extreme amount on instability to deal with. However, the team the Cornhuskers face in week 1 is in a very stable situation itself. Arkansas State is one of the favorites in the Sun Belt Conference, is off an 8-5 bowl game winning season, has quarterback Justice Hansen back, and its entire coaching staff intact. The Red Wolves also won eight of their L9 games of 2016. Momentum is on ASU’s side.
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