Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fab Five: Week VIII

Another blah week, thanks mostly to Michigan, who refused the best offers Penn State made to take the game. Still, 5-5 is better than 3-7. The yearly mark now stands at 31-38-1. Home teams in bold.

5 Dogs I Like
Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 15-20

TCU +8 Oklahoma State
Did a Freaky Friday thing happen we were not aware of this season? Somehow, it appears the Big 12 and SEC have switched bodies. Outside of Baylor, which is putting up historic offensive numbers, no one in the Big 12 is lighting up scoreboards. Collectively, Big 12 teams are averaging 5.38 yards per play in conference games. Meanwhile over in the SEC, teams are averaging a more robust 6.14 yards per play in conference games. TCU has the second best defense in the Big 12, and despite an 0-2 conference start and a narrow win over Kansas last week, the Horned Frogs still have realistic designs on a Big 12 title. Consider they have already played both Texas Tech and Oklahoma (on the road no less) and get to host Baylor over Thanksgiving weekend. If TCU can get their act together in Stillwater, they will still be in the running. TCU is 6-1 Against the Spread (ATS) as a road underdog since 2011, and stand a real shot at winning outright this weekend.

Syracuse +8 Georgia Tech
I was high on Georgia Tech when the season began, but the bloom has slowly wilted off that rose. First came a home loss to a Virginia Tech team with an elite defense. Then came the no-show in Miami where the defense allowed the Hurricanes to march ruthlessly and efficiently up and down the field. Then came the trip west to Provo and a second consecutive pasting at the hands of BYU. Now the Yellow Jackets return home to take on a Syracuse team that won its first ever ACC game last week in Raleigh against NC State. Syracuse is a middle of the road ACC team, but catching more than a touchdown against another mediocre foe makes them a solid play here.

Utah +5 Arizona
One would think Utah is a shade over-valued after their home upset of Stanford over the weekend. However, with the Utes catching points they appear to be a solid play here. Utah has vastly improved their offense over the anemic units they had put on the field in their first two seasons in the Pac-12. Ten times in 2011 and 2012 the Utes scored 20 or fewer points. Thus far in 2013, they have failed to top 20 points just once. The Wildcats have proven themselves susceptible to big plays, allowing a combined 69 points in their first two conference games against Washington and Southern Cal. The Utes have played five good teams in the early going, beating a quality and full-strength Utah State team at home, losing tight home contests against Oregon State and UCLA, and pulling off upsets against BYU (on the road) and Stanford (at home). In addition, Arizona is just 2-4 ATS as a home favorite under Rich Rodriguez. I think this one will be close, and Utah has a real shot at winning outright.

Iowa +16.5 Ohio State
Ohio State has won 18 consecutive games under Urban Meyer, and with no ranked teams left on the schedule (at least until the Big 10 Championship Game), moving the streak to 24 is not out of the question. However, the Buckeyes have often been far from dominant. As double-digit favorites in The Horseshoe the Buckeyes are just 3-5 ATS under Meyer. Iowa has not been a double-digit road underdog since 2009 against...Ohio State. In that game, the Hawkeyes covered and lost by a field goal. The Hawkeyes probably won't be able to win this game, but they should make the Buckeyes uncomfortable well into the fourth quarter.

UCLA +6 Stanford
Like Utah, the Bruins of UCLA appear to be underrated by the general public. Despite two very impressive road wins (and covers) against Utah and Nebraska, the Bruins find themselves as nearly a touchdown underdog against a Stanford team that appears to be overrated. Since Andrew Luck left town, Stanford is just 2-7 ATS as a home favorite. I look for that trend to continue as the Bruins have a great chance to beat Stanford for the first time since 2008.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 16-18-1

Memphis -3 SMU
Very quietly, the Memphis Tigers have played solid football despite a 1-4 start. The defense has truly been a revelation, holding the last four opponents under 300 yards of total offense. Going back to last season, the Tigers have held seven of their last eight foes to sub-300 yardage totals. Under second year head coach Justin Fuente, the Tigers are 6-2 ATS at the Liberty Bowl. The Tigers will host SMU, a fellow American Athletic Conference member that has also endured a 1-4 start. The Mustangs have played solid defense as well, at least against teams not quarterbacked by Johnny Manziel. However, under June Jones, the Mustangs are just 2-7 ATS as a single digit road underdog. I think this will be a low-scoring affair, but Memphis should do enough to win by more than a field goal.

Texas Tech -5.5 West Virginia
Go ahead and jump on the Texas Tech bandwagon now. The Red Raiders are perhaps the most under-valued team in the nation, both by the polls, and the public at-large. The Red Raiders rank just 16th in the nation, but have been the second-most dominant Big 12 team in terms of yards per play outside of Baylor. The Red Raiders have also played solid defense, holding their last three opponents to just 275 yards per game. West Virginia did spring a huge upset in their last home game, beating Oklahoma State as a nearly three touchdown underdog, but against competent teams, the offense has been nonexistent this season. Texas Tech is 8-1-1 ATS as a road favorite since 2010 (meaning they were winning and covering in such games even during the relatively down Tommy Tuberville era). Look for the Red Raiders to win by at least a touchdown here.

Georgia -7 Vanderbilt
It appears as if the public has rushed to bury Georgia after their loss to Missouri. Keep in mind, Missouri with James Franklin is has one of the best resumes in the nation. The Georgia offense was still prolific against Missouri, even with the glut of injuries the team has faced. Laying just a touchdown on the road makes Georgia hard to pass up.

North Texas -5.5 Louisiana Tech
Since opening the 2011 season 4-0, including a win at Notre Dame, Skip Holtz has not seen many bright days as a head coach. Against IA teams, his record is just 4-20 and 6-17-1 ATS in that span. Perhaps not surprisingly, he lost his job at South Florida, and perhaps surprisingly, he found employment at Louisiana Tech. North Texas has positioned itself as a player in the Conference USA race and should be able to win, even on the road, by at least a touchdown.

Ohio -17 Eastern Michigan
Last week, the Ohio Bobcats were upset at home, as they lost to Central Michigan after muffing a late punt. Now they take their show on the road and are still double digit favorites. How is that possible? Because, simply put, Eastern Michigan is putrid. The Eagles have beaten just one team in 2013, the Howard Bison of IAA. In addition, the Eagles are just 2-7 ATS as a double digit home under dog under Ron English. Ohio should be able to move the ball at will against the Eagles and win rather easily. 


Craig Scholes said...

I hate doing contacting you this way.

I stumbled upon your blog from the Pythagorean Win/Loss stuff at the pro football reference.

I was curious as to why the exponent in the formula was 2.37. I guess without doing any numbers crunching on my own or fully understanding the math behind how it was achieved that it should be larger.

I don't know how to word my reasoning, but it seems to me that point differential should have a greater weight than just the ratio of points scored since scoring in the NFL isn't as simple as something like baseball.

I dunno, maybe you've covered this and I just didn't spend enough time trying to find it, any help would be appreciated.

Also, sorry for this question not really being applicable to the post it was asked in.

matt said...

Hey Craig, thanks for stopping by.
Folks a lot smarter than me have done the math and determined than 2.37 works better as the exponent than 2. Sorry I wasn't much help.

Craig Scholes said...

Hmmm... Any chance you can point me in the direction of who some of those people are?

I saw a comment on a random post that said the number should be more like 2.53 now. I wonder if that has to do with scoring as a whole being up.

matt said...

Here is one place to start: