Happy turkey day everybody, it’s time to have some fun with the holidays and get your rivalry week picks in for another exhilarating slate of college football action.
Last week went well for us as we went 5-and-3 on the week and 3-0 with our big games. Of course, that means that our Big game hunting which typically isn’t based strictly on the metrics did better than our stats based picks. But the numbers did well going 15-11 so we’re feeling good about things with our record on the year of 40-38-2.
Just as a reminder a little over a month ago we started playing around with the YPP metric that we use in the NFL, but for college football, we had to adapt a few things. So we’re using three variations of YPP; one is YPP+ our SOS (strength of schedule) metric, the second is conference YPP, and third is conference YPP+SOS. These numbers have worked out and since we’ve used them the metrics have only had one losing week.
Because of this, we've focused our picks of the week on what YPP is selling. While the big game hunting picks are always informed by the numbers. But since often times it’s not advisable to bet on big games based on what the metrics are telling us we have to go off the map a bit. There’s lots of moving parts but we hope it’s an entertaining and informative way of covering the endless number of games that we have each week in college football.
A quick note before jumping right in; we’re only picking Saturday's games, with this being our Friday column we didn’t want to pick anything for Friday but there’s certainly a great group of games then too so don’t miss out.
This was easy and didn’t really take much crosschecking after we saw that all our metrics were in consensus here. That’s for a variety of reasons; first and foremost betting against the Vols has worked out for us and we’re happy to continue doing it, secondly while they’re inconsistent Vandy has been a very competitive outfit this year.
Both conference YPP’s have this game as even and another nail biter from Tennessee is just what we’re expecting. In fact, Vanderbilt’s only two home losses this season have been by a combined 10 points and they haven’t lost by more than a touchdown.
Vegas is absolutely baiting you to take the Volunteers, but reality is that despite their 17th national ranking and Vanderbilt’s historic struggles these teams are more evenly matched then you think.
The Commodores are coming off their biggest win of the season to Mississippi in which they didn’t just play their patented great defense (18th in the country per points allowed) but also hung 38 on the Rebels.
Vanderbilt's fighting for a bowl game and pride in their state here, so we expect them to fight like crazy. Tennessee’s been much better offensively with improved quarterback play the last three weeks but that was against inferior opponents we expect Vandy to end that trend.
These two teams have been great stories in 2016 as both historically prominent programs have had better than expected seasons. So while SMU is only 5-6 on the year they’ve proven to be a tough out with a close loss to Tulsa and the upset win over Houston as prime examples.
Navy’s the much better team and the triple-option attack is never easy to prepare for but at home and fighting for a bowl appearance, we expect SMU to fight hard and keep this close. From an X’s and O’s perspective, Navy’s defense isn’t very stout and the Mustangs should be able to put up points to keep pace in this one.
Both variations of our conference YPP metrics have this game as basically even or with SMU favored by a slight -0.5 points. We’re interested to see how this plays out and if the Mustangs can pull off the upset. Looking at the numbers that's what we expect.
The numbers proved us right in picking the Jayhawks last week against Texas so we’re going back to the well as the numbers like them again this week.
For starters, the metrics have this as a -10 point suggested spread for KSU when we account for SOS. On paper -10 seems low for this game but that's a significant difference from the actual spread and no metric has this game as over 10.5 points for the Wildcats.
Kansas isn’t good, they’re at the bottom of most statistical categories but they have played much better teams than KSU closer than this 27 point spread; having lost by 24 to Oklahoma State and West Virginia.
It worries a little that the game’s on the road with such a fragile team as the Jayhawks but in a rivalry game we like our chances. The other factor here is that Kansas State is a decent team but I’m not sure they should be favored by this much against anyone. After all, they're only averaging 32 points per game not much more than the actual spread.
Give us Kansas to finish the season off on a high note and ride the momentum from that Texas win and a close loss to Iowa State the week before.
THE GAME is here and we certainly can’t miss out on picking what is in many ways an honorary playoff game, a final eight or round of 16 if you will. Sadly Michigan isn’t at full strength here as they’re likely playing without their starting quarterback, Wilton Speight, or with him greatly limited.
That’s not a place you want to be vs a Buckeyes team that’s as talented as anyone in the country. OSU has NFL prospects across the board and they’re extremely tough to beat on defense particularly if you’re one dimensional, something Big Blue is almost certain to be.
This pick is about multiplicity, there're several different scenarios in which you could envision a Buckeye win unfolding. Michigan instead has only one realistic path to victory; play great defense, cause some turnovers and/or make a big special teams play, and run the ball down their throats. That’s entirely possible - heck if I close my eyes I can see Jabrill Peppers returning a punt for a winning touchdown and doing the Heisman pose honoring Charles Woodson. It’s possible, but more likely Ohio State’s defense is too good and the offense eventually finds just enough big plays to win this by a touchdown. Also, let's not forget that this game is being played at the Shoe and that the Buckeyes laid the smackdown on Jim Harbaugh's team last season.
If you’re not thinking it we sure are; “man, I can’t believe we’re picking against Bama” are the exact words going through may head as I wrote this line down. But give us a chance and listen for a second. For starters, our metrics all agree that this spread is too high, though YPP+SOS does have the Tide extremely close to the line at - 15.5. So the numbers like this game.
Sadly, Auburn’s injuries are a bit worrisome as they’re without star running back Kamryn Pettway, among others. The other issue with Alabama is that no spread has been big enough because that defense of theirs is simply asphyxiating. Eventually, you crumble, allow a couple turnovers and the game gets out of hand in a hurry. That’s what the Tide have done all year with the exception of the LSU game, a game in which the spread was not in the double digits.
Auburn thanks to their defense can play Alabama close much like the other Tigers did. They’re allowing only 14 points per game (seventh-best in the country) and have a top 20 rushing defense. That’s what you need against Alabama.
Offensively it’ll be a nightmare as it is for every team but Auburn has one of the best offensive minds in the game on their side in Gus Malzhan which evens the playing field a smidge.
Look we’re not predicting an upset here but I fully expect this to be closer than a three possession game. Give us Auburn.
The numbers here don’t like FSU to cover, but since this is the one and only non-inter conference game on the week we need to take that with a grain of salt. Our only available suggested spread is the non-conference YPP (aka YPP for all games) plus SOS which gives FSU as a 6 point favorite. Considering the intensity of the rivalry and all the rest it stands to reason that this game will be pretty tight, but I’m not so sure.
FSU is a much more complete team with tons of talent on either side of the ball and some real dynamic players on offense with running back Dalvin Cook being the best of all. The Gators have an unbelievable defense but they’ve had to carry the load all year as their attack has been poor ranking 92nd in the country per points scored and 82nd in passing yards per game.
The Seminoles are the much more complete team and Florida has been able to survive a relatively easy schedule. We expect them to get exposed in Tallahassee as a bad year for the SEC continues.