Weekend Football Review (12/6/11)

By Paul Bessire

Tuesday, December 6 at 11:50 PM ET
It is very important to us to be transparent and honest about our picks. I always try to recap each football weekend. With the addition of the TrendFinder database, the blog will focus more on topics beyond performance. Our performance is now as transparent as it can possibly get. We will still do our best to note areas of strength, while acknowledging areas of weakness - honing in on what this means to subscribers as it applies and touching on other, "big picture" topics in the process.

This blog will include relatively quick-hitters and data regarding the BCS National Championship game, college basketball performance, college football preseason O/U Win Total picks performance, the NFL numbers, daily fantasy tools, the NBA launch and ATS performance by team in college football and the NFL. The NBA and daily fantasy sections will be reminders from what we covered last week. Next week, we will focus on a college football playoff. After the bowls, we will spend more time reflecting back on college football performance across the board.

As a reminder, at midnight ET each day, we make all of our previous day's subscriber content available for free for registered users. Performance is also tracked in the TrendFinder Database (updated every morning from the previous day). We're never going to hide anything. So even though we have to swap out articles in the archive to focus on new ones, articles never go away. Just make sure to use the correct week and date in the URL - or ask us for the link...

BCS National Championship Game:
I am as staunch a supporter of a college football playoff system as there may be. I do not subscribe to terminology like "they got it right" or that the purpose of the BCS is to put the best two teams in the national championship game. I would personally and professionally much rather see a non-SEC team play in the title game (of course, I'd rather see far more matchups dictate said title game). There are 120 teams playing just 12 games a year (adding to the absurdity - some play 13, but it is somehow more advantageous to play 12). As many, mostly irrelevant, tweaks as there have been to the BCS (including its creation), the bowl system is rarely - if ever - going to provide an undisputed national champion.

As a handicapper, the rematch does not provide nearly as much value (more on that below). And as a fan, as much as I actually do enjoy watching these teams play, we know what we are getting. However, the BCS intends to pit its two most deserving teams in its title game - and that's what we have. If that is the goal, rematches are irrelevant. Every team besides LSU has lost at least once. Alabama has the "best" loss and the most impressive collection of wins. It just so happens that the two most deserving teams are also the two best (according to all of our/my analyses), but that has not been the case more often than it has.

As many of you have probably already seen, I covered this topic and all others related to LSU vs. Alabama (2) in a recent Beyond the Bets podcast with ESPN.com's Chad Millman. The BCS Championship Game pick will be free to all registered users. However, we may not be able to get much value out of this game. I expect the public to ultimately come down on the side of LSU, while most sharps/professional bettors will be on Alabama (or staying away). I typically do not focus on predicting what the public is going to do as much as I prepare to exploit it. In this case though, I expect most fans, especially those wagering on this game just because they will be watching it and want to have a team to pull for, to overvalue the records. LSU is 13-0. Alabama is 11-1 and lost at home to LSU. To those that will say, "Look at what happened in the first game!" I say, you are right. Most will look at the score - 9-6 LSU in OT - while I will point to the fact that Alabama averaged almost a full yard more per play than LSU did, had the only quarterback who looked like he belonged in such a game (I know that we have LSU's passing efficiency ranked ahead of Alabama's nationally, but Jordan Jefferson is still more likely to make costly mistakes than A.J. McCarron in our numbers) and ultimately lost due to four missed field goals and two poorly-timed turnovers (LSU made great plays on each, but that should not be expected in the next game). Nick Saban will coach this game to win - and he should. The official prediction will be 19 -18 Alabama, which should mean to stay away from the side at anything less than LSU +1.5 (though staying away in general may be the best move). There was some decent value in the UNDER at 40 points, but, predictably, that's already started coming down (39 now, where it is barely still playable).

And, because we can do it, if Oklahoma State played LSU on a neutral field, the Tigers would be favored to win 59% of the time and by an average score of 35-29. If Oklahoma State played Alabama on a neutral field, Alabama would be favored to win 61% of the time and by an average score of 32-25.

College Basketball:
Here is a recap of the first week of college basketball regular season picks information:

  • Playable ATS (53%+ to cover): 74-61 (54.8%)
  • Normal+ ATS (57%+ to cover): 24-12 (66.7%)
  • Playable O/U (53% to cover): 58-63 (47.9%)
  • Normal+ O/U (57%+ to cover): 13-12 (52.0%)

There clearly appears to be opportunities for value in college basketball, especially in picking sides. In addition to the numbers above, upset watch picks - when we are projecting the underdog to win outright more often than not - are 20-13 straight-up (60.6%) in the last two weeks and are 23-10 against-the-spread (69.7%) in those games. Early in the season, simply determining which team should actually be favored in each college basketball game has provided tremendous return. We will touch on it more often in future blogs on college basketball (with greater sample size and research), but the average money line odds on the underdog in these games has been about +120. In other words, for each of the straight-up wins for our upset picks, someone who wagers $100 would have won around $120 (more) on that game.

We have already seen the lines in college basketball totals tighten up quicker than the money and spread lines. Similar to how we have shown that it is easier for us to decipher and trust tempo and coaching style in college football than it is to figure out who will win and by how much, that can be said in college basketball. However, at this point it appears as though linesmakers have done a much better job of this with basketball totals, which has provided us with less opportunities for value there.

This is my first time watching early season college basketball lines this closely, but my expectation is that, as we get further into the season, spread lines and odds should tighten (i.e. become more appropriate/less valuable to us) as well. But, especially with so many games on a daily basis, I still fully expect that we will be able to find ample chance for value - provided we are utilizing the correct information. The last point is key. As alluded to at the beginning of the trial, even with numerous technical resources, maintaining 365 basketball (including the NBA now) rosters (on top of the 152 football rosters we were already responsible for) was more than our previous resources could appropriately handle. We had already ramped up our resources for college football roster maintenance, but, on November 18, we added a dedicated basketball analyst to handle rosters on a daily basis and help us review the plays every day. This has shown (and then some) in our performance and should ensure that we are using the correct information on every team. Garbage in does equal garbage out. Changes we have made over the last three weeks should take out the garbage.

NBA Picks:
The NBA is coming back on Christmas with an abbreviated, 66 game schedule. Similar to what we saw with college basketball, as this is also our first season covering the NBA from the beginning of the season, we will open with a three week free trial of NBA picks from December 25-January 15. Watch for more to come as we can begin to work on teams. All player movement should be able to begin December 9th.

Bowl Picks:
Like last season, the Army-Navy game this week and the BCS National Championship game will be free to all. In between that, we will have college bowl picks as part of the Bowl Picks Package. The Predictalator Picks, Play Analyzer and Customizable Predictalator content will be available tomorrow (12/7) at 8:00 pm ET. All "normal" or better ATS picks will be considered "Paul's Picks" with write- ups that will be posted three days before the game. Picks will be updated as necessary. The Predictalator had some success during last year's bowl games. Four of our five top overall picks covered by 17 or more points each and 70% of the bowl picks were "normal" or better (with 57%+ confidence).

Preseason College Football Win Total Picks:
With the regular season complete, we can revisit the Preseason O/U Win Total Picks form our 2011 College Football Preview. These types of picks have become my personal favorite to wager (legally) on. Over the course of a season, teams can generally be counted upon to be more consistent than within the scope of one game. While injuries can obviously derail a team's season, the impact of one (non-QB) player in college football is not nearly as great as most other sports. Plus, with 40+ annual available futures options and our ability to find quite a bit of value against these lines over the last two years, it is fairly easy to diversify enough to hedge against that injury risk. Beginning with this season, I personally increased the amount of my bankroll that I dedicate to futures and, while still following Play Value Calculator recommendations, it has paid off well (thank you Alabama - and soon to be Jacksonville).

Overall, all playable (53%+ to cover) O/U preseason picks went 26-15 (63% ATS), while all "normal" or better picks went 13-6 (68% ATS). The difference between our predictions and the actual result was within two wins 83% of the time. The difference between the line and the actual result was within two wins just 58.5% of the time. While just less than half (49%) of the lines included half wins, it is still interesting to note than NO team won exactly the amount of games as the line.

Alabama as our top OVER (10.5) play and preseason projected champion is still our projected BCS National Champion and our best overall win, while Oregon, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Nevada, Iowa, Texas Tech, Wisconsin, Utah, Nebraska and Alabama (all within half a win) were the teams whose final records looked the most similar to our projections. Kansas State was our worst loss. The Wildcats were the first team to cover (OVER, 5.5) and we had the UNDER (5.5) as a "normal" play with 4.2 projected wins. By one definition, Bill Snyder should win the National Coach of the Year based on that fact. USC and Clemson were two other teams that really surprised us by playing so well. Texas A&M, another Big 12 program, was the most extreme team in the opposite direction. We had the Aggies winning 9.7 games. They won 6. Mike Sherman was fired (the coach for each of the top three teams that fell furthest below our preseason expectations has been fired). Injuries hurt us with Northwestern (OVER, 7.5), and Air Force (OVER, 7.5) and, to a lesser degree (because Baylor and Oklahoma State deserve credit) with Oklahoma (OVER, 10).

NFL Projections Updated:
We continue our weekly projections update on notable NFL topics. To see more team projections, check out our updated NFL Playoff Probabilities.

  • Most Likely Division Winners (AFC): New England (100%), Houston (99%), Baltimore (76%), Denver (53%)
  • Projected Playoff Seeds (AFC): 1. Baltimore 2. Houston 3. New England 4. Denver 5. Pittsburgh 6. New York
  • Teams with greater than 25% to make playoffs: 9 (Cincinnati and Tennessee for the Wild Card and Oakland for the AFC West division are other legitimate playoff contenders)
  • Most Likely Division Winners (NFC): San Francisco (100%), Green Bay (100%), New Orleans (92%), Dallas (77%)
  • Projected Playoff Seeds (NFC): 1. Green Bay 2. San Francisco 3. New Orleans 4. Dallas 5. Atlanta 6. Detroit
  • Teams with greater than 25% to make playoffs: 8 (New York and Chicago are only other teams with legitimate shot at playoffs)
  • Chances Green Bay Packers Finish 16-0: 62.6%
  • Chances Indianapolis Goes 0-16: 50.3%
  • Chances Colts "earn" Top Pick/Andrew Luck: 93.0%
  • Pass Yards (rest of season): Aaron Roders, 1,289 passing yards, 12 TDs, 4 INTs
  • Rush Yards (rest of season): Maurice Jones-Drew, 354 rushing yards, 2 TDs
  • Receiving Yards (rest of season): Wes Welker, 356 receiving yards, 2 TDs

Daily Fantasy Sports:
Daily salary cap fantasy sports leagues comprise an industry that has grown significantly over the past year. Given that our content is built around opportunities to find value in the sports market, specifically with fantasy football projections, with tomorrow's football content, we will publish a sortable dollars-per-fantasy-point category ($/FP) in the Fantasy Football projections to help users identify value. In this case, the less it costs for every fantasy point, the better the value in the salary cap fantasy league (we will be using DraftDay's Salaries). We have aspirations of greatly increasing the tools and content devoted to these types of games. Please let us know if you have any feedback, suggestions and/or notable experiences regarding this content and potential future applications to support it.

ATS Performance by Team (football updated):
Actual, real-life ATS, O/U and SU performance by team can be found on each team's schedule page. In the tables below, "Games" represents only playable games that the team has played that did not result in an ATS push. "PM ATS Wins" is the number of games involving that team that resulted in an accurate ATS win by the Predictalator this year.

NFL ATS Performance by Team:

Team Games PM ATS Wins PM ATS%
Houston Texans 10 10 100%
Denver Broncos 12 10 83%
New York Jets 9 7 78%
Jacksonville Jaguars 12 9 75%
Cincinnati Bengals 11 8 73%
Cleveland Browns 11 8 73%
New York Giants 11 8 73%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7 5 71%
Washington Redskins 10 7 70%
New England Patriots 9 6 67%
St. Louis Rams 12 8 67%
New Orleans Saints 11 7 64%
Pittsburgh Steelers 11 7 64%
Seattle Seahawks 8 5 63%
Buffalo Bills 10 6 60%
Carolina Panthers 10 6 60%
Indianapolis Colts 10 6 60%
Philadelphia Eagles 10 6 60%
Oakland Raiders 12 7 58%
Tennessee Titans 9 5 56%
Atlanta Falcons 11 6 55%
San Francisco 49ers 11 6 55%
Detroit Lions 12 6 50%
Dallas Cowboys 11 5 45%
Miami Dolphins 11 5 45%
Chicago Bears 9 4 44%
Arizona Cardinals 10 4 40%
Green Bay Packers 10 4 40%
Minnesota Vikings 10 4 40%
Baltimore Ravens 11 4 36%
San Diego Chargers 11 4 36%
Kansas City Chiefs 10 3 30%

College ATS Performance by Team:

Team Games PM ATS Wins PM ATS%
Vanderbilt Commodores 9 9 100%
New Mexico Lobos 3 3 100%
Georgia Bulldogs 9 8 89%
Baylor Bears 8 7 88%
Tennessee Volunteers 9 7 78%
Michigan State Spartans 8 6 75%
Penn State Nittany Lions 7 5 71%
Central Michigan Chippewas 7 5 71%
Wyoming Cowboys 7 5 71%
Arkansas State Red Wolves 7 5 71%
San Jose State Spartans 7 5 71%
Utah State Aggies 7 5 71%
New Mexico State Aggies 10 7 70%
Oklahoma Sooners 9 6 67%
Florida Gators 9 6 67%
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 6 4 67%
Missouri Tigers 6 4 67%
Houston Cougars 6 4 67%
Rice Owls 6 4 67%
Kentucky Wildcats 6 4 67%
Ohio State Buckeyes 8 5 63%
TCU Horned Frogs 8 5 63%
Hawaii Warriors 8 5 63%
Akron Zips 5 3 60%
Bowling Green Falcons 5 3 60%
Buffalo Bulls 5 3 60%
Eastern Michigan Eagles 5 3 60%
Oregon State Beavers 5 3 60%
Southern Methodist Mustangs 7 4 57%
Miami (OH) RedHawks 7 4 57%
Boise State Broncos 7 4 57%
USC Trojans 7 4 57%
Alabama Crimson Tide 7 4 57%
Mississippi Rebels 7 4 57%
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks 7 4 57%
Kansas State Wildcats 9 5 56%
Texas Tech Red Raiders 9 5 56%
Marshall Thundering Herd 9 5 56%
Brigham Young Cougars 9 5 56%
Stanford Cardinal 9 5 56%
Mississippi State Bulldogs 9 5 56%
FIU Golden Panthers 9 5 56%
Troy Trojans 9 5 56%
Texas Longhorns 10 5 50%
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 10 5 50%
Oklahoma State Cowboys 8 4 50%
Tulane Green Wave 8 4 50%
Tulsa Golden Hurricane 8 4 50%
Western Michigan Broncos 8 4 50%
Arizona Wildcats 8 4 50%
North Texas Mean Green 8 4 50%
Nevada Wolf Pack 8 4 50%
Air Force Falcons 6 3 50%
UNLV Rebels 6 3 50%
Connecticut Huskies 4 2 50%
Temple Owls 4 2 50%
Iowa State Cyclones 9 4 44%
Wisconsin Badgers 9 4 44%
UAB Blazers 9 4 44%
San Diego State Aztecs 9 4 44%
UCLA Bruins 9 4 44%
Boston College Eagles 7 3 43%
Rutgers Scarlet Knights 7 3 43%
South Florida Bulls 7 3 43%
West Virginia Mountaineers 7 3 43%
East Carolina Pirates 7 3 43%
Toledo Rockets 7 3 43%
Oregon Ducks 7 3 43%
Washington Huskies 7 3 43%
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 7 3 43%
Idaho Vandals 7 3 43%
Northern Illinois Huskies 10 4 40%
Arkansas Razorbacks 10 4 40%
Auburn Tigers 10 4 40%
Duke Blue Devils 5 2 40%
North Carolina Tar Heels 5 2 40%
UTEP Miners 5 2 40%
Colorado State Rams 5 2 40%
Fresno State Bulldogs 5 2 40%
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 8 3 38%
Iowa Hawkeyes 8 3 38%
Michigan Wolverines 8 3 38%
Arizona State Sun Devils 8 3 38%
LSU Tigers 8 3 38%
Maryland Terrapins 9 3 33%
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 9 3 33%
Cincinnati Bearcats 6 2 33%
Louisville Cardinals 6 2 33%
Indiana Hoosiers 6 2 33%
Purdue Boilermakers 6 2 33%
UCF Knights 6 2 33%
Army Black Knights 6 2 33%
Navy Midshipmen 6 2 33%
Ball State Cardinals 6 2 33%
Utah Utes 6 2 33%
South Carolina Gamecocks 6 2 33%
Texas A&M Aggies 10 3 30%
Southern Miss Golden Eagles 10 3 30%
Ohio Bobcats 10 3 30%
Florida State Seminoles 7 2 29%
Pittsburgh Panthers 7 2 29%
Nebraska Cornhuskers 7 2 29%
Kent State Golden Flashes 7 2 29%
Northwestern Wildcats 8 2 25%
Colorado Buffaloes 8 2 25%
Washington State Cougars 8 2 25%
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns 4 1 25%
Clemson Tigers 9 2 22%
California Golden Bears 9 2 22%
North Carolina State Wolfpack 5 1 20%
Virginia Cavaliers 5 1 20%
Minnesota Golden Gophers 5 1 20%
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 5 1 20%
Miami (FL) Hurricanes 6 1 17%
Kansas Jayhawks 6 1 17%
Memphis Tigers 6 1 17%
Illinois Fighting Illini 7 1 14%
Florida Atlantic Owls 7 1 14%
Virginia Tech Hokies 7 0 0%
Syracuse Orange 6 0 0%

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