The college football season is absolutely flying by. We’re almost into the month of November already, which means that there are some pretty significant sample sizes to pull data from and make conclusions. Trend lines are important to follow with these teams because there are some that get a lot better throughout the season and others that simply can’t adjust fast enough to keep pace.
That was one of a few topics that I asked three well-respected college football betting minds heading into Week 9. Four questions were posed Brad Powers (@BradPowers7) from BradPowersSports.com, Kyle Hunter (@KyleHunterPicks) from HunterSportsPicks.com and Thor Nystrom (@thorku) from BettingPros leading to some pretty interesting insights.
A lot can change over a month in college football and most teams have played as many conference games as they have non-conference games at this point. Are you still looking at the entire body of work or only the conference games?
Powers: I look at the full body of work. I need as many data points as possible. One thing I do is I go back and re-grade every single game in my power ratings. Sometimes wins that looked impressive at the time in September aren’t aging as well and vice versa. Same thing with losses. I also compare and contrast a team’s stats in non-conference compared to conference. For example, Penn State averaged 6.1 rushing yards per carry vs. non-conference opponents, but only 4.1 yards per carry vs. Big Ten foes.
Hunter: I look closely at non-conference vs. conference data when it comes to betting totals. There are many examples of teams who play a completely different way when conference season rolls around. For example, Missouri is playing more than one second slower (between snaps) in SEC play than it did in the non-conference slate. They are running it a little more often as well. The under is 6-1 in Missouri’s contests.
Overall, I value conference data much more highly in my decision making process, but I wouldn’t completely ditch data from non-conference games against similar opponents.
Nystrom: Qualitatively and overall, you increase the weight on more-recent results while weighing the entire body of work. Every morsel of data is important, but it would be foolish to think Weeks 1-3 data was equivalent to Weeks 6-8 in the vacuum that is handicapping Week 9.
We’ve got a few notable rivalry games this week (Michigan State/Michigan, Kentucky/Tennessee, Florida/Georgia among others). Do you change your handicap at all when looking at those kinds of matchups?
Powers: If you asked me this question five years ago, I may have had a different answer. Right now, I really don’t. It still starts with a power rating number for me and then goes from there (is it around a key number and where do I think the market will move?). There’s so much roster and coaching turnover that I don’t use trends/systems like I used to. With that being said, there are always exceptions to the rule. The exception this week would be Michigan State/Michigan. I took the huge point-spread with Michigan State. My power ratings say the line is about right. However, the series history says you can’t lay this many points as Michigan has they have only gotten this type of margin one time in the last 19 meetings.
Hunter: Very little change to my process for these games. It is hard to quantify what changes should be made for these games. The only small thing I would do is consider the under just a little more than I normally would. In a game with two highly motivated teams, the under has a slight edge if all other things are kept equal. I don’t subscribe to the theory that any rivalry game means that "you can throw the records out the window" as some would say.
Nystrom: Definitely, in that it invariably adds situational oomph to the underdog, under the hospices of the idea — backed by data — that these games play closer than non-rivalry games between analogous teams.
It cannot inform your handicap — if you unplug critical faculty and let that pick for you, you’re going to go broke — but if you didn’t consider it at all you’d be omitting a statistically-significant piece of data, a habit which will also eventually bleed you to zero.
We all wish it were different, but this is an art, not a science.
Which underdog of a touchdown or more has the best chance to win this week?
Powers: I actually like a lot of shorter dogs to win outright (Missouri, Louisville). My favorite would be Eastern Michigan + 6.5. I don’t think Toledo QB Dequan Finn will play and I believe this line will close much shorter.
Hunter: I’ll take North Texas. They are nearly 3/1 on the moneyline, and I think that is a risk worth taking. Western Kentucky was fortunate to win last week against UAB when the Blazers lost starting quarterback Dylan Hopkins to an injury. UAB still won the box score, but they turned the ball over four times. North Texas should have beaten UTSA on the road last week, so the Mean Green are playing well against other top teams in CUSA.
Nystrom: Let’s change it to double-digit underdog. And let’s get frisky. Kentucky and Charlotte.
What is your favorite bet of Week 9?
Powers: Central Florida -1 over Cincinnati. Cincinnati has won 6 straight games, but something isn’t right about this team, as they are just 1-4-1 ATS vs. FBS opponents this year. One of the Bearcats major problems is that they are dead last in the country in penalties and penalty yardage. Match-up wise, Cincy has not done well vs. mobile QBs this year, allowing 224 rush yards to Arkansas and USF. UCF QB John Rhys Plumlee leads the team with 492 rush yards. UCF is off a misleading 21-point loss to East Carolina last week as they were -4 in turnovers. I believe that gives us some value. The two teams have similar strengths of schedule but UCF is better in ypg and ppg margins. Finally, this should be the best Group of 5 home atmosphere all season.
Hunter: I found the Week 9 slate to be much more difficult than the last couple weeks. My numbers are much closer to the market especially on totals. One I do like though is Georgia Tech/Florida State Under 47.5. Jeff Sims is banged up and might miss this game. Georgia Tech’s offense is a hot mess without Sims healthy. The Yellow Jackets defense has been much better in their last few games.
Nystrom: Wake Forest/Louisville Over 63. One of five games on the CFB card this weekend between a top-20 and top-50 tempo team, featuring a pair of offenses that consistently generate explosive plays teeing off on leaky defenses that consistently get gouged for them.
Honorable mention is MTSU + 2 vs. UTEP. I’ve been mind-melding with the matchup-specific Blue Raiders this year, ducking and weaving through the schedule. Lemme tell ya: They match up well with #MinerNation.