College Football Power Ratings Bowl Games

Last Updated: 2018-01-01

power ratings bowl gamesCongratulations, everybody. We’ve made it to the end of the college football season. The New Year’s Day games and the National Championship Game are all that remains from what has been an interesting season, to say the least. I know I’ve had the write-up that follows this post up for a while, but I encourage you to read it if you have not yet.

As we look ahead to the offseason, we need to keep a lot of important things in mind. The accelerated timeline for college football means that we are really only about four months away from seeing some season win totals and about five months away from seeing all of the teams up on the board at the South Point in Las Vegas. For those playing offshore, 5Dimes will have a lot of these numbers up around Memorial Day or in early June. What stands out about that timeline is that season win total odds will be posted before the preseason magazines come out. If you want to jump on those numbers early, you’ll have to do it flying a little bit blind.

That is why a good year-end set of power ratings is important. As you plow through your research and adjustments, be aware of the “Bowl Bump”. It’s a concept that we’ll talk about later this week in a separate article, but many bettors latch on to what they’ve most recently seen. We see big winners in bowl games propped up each and every summer. Some meet those newfound expectations. Some do not. The inflated lines can work out in our favor.

Similarly, teams that got blown out in the bowl season will be dismissed. Sometimes it was a bad spot or a big player was out. Maybe there were some coordinators on the move. Whatever the case, those teams will have their expectations lowered coming into the season. Value can be had in those instances as well.

As you look ahead to the 2018 season, remember that people always overreact to key players leaving for the NFL. The Power Five teams are generally equipped to replace lost talent and some Group of Five teams struggle. Some, however, will not. The Group of Five teams that recently hired new coaches and are going into the third or fourth year of those schemes should have better depth. Those big-name players mean something, but it may be more about the offense or the defense and it may end up being a plug-and-play type of system. You certainly want to look at the context of the team when evaluating what the loss of a star actually means.

In that same breath, coaching losses are significant. Some teams come out smelling like a rose when a coach leaves and others come out smelling like you’re standing downwind from a farm. It can be hard to get in the proper college football betting mindset with the NBA and NHL going on and then your baseball season preparations, but the new blueprint for the offseason means that you need to be ready earlier and earlier.

If you don’t want to tie up your bankroll for eight months or can’t afford to do so, it is still important to do your research and be ready to go. You can just wait a bit longer than others. Understand that you’re going to miss out on some value, but being more certain of your stances is often worth the trade-off. Like I said, you’re going into this a little bit blind in terms of personnel because the magazines that do all of that work for you are not coming out until June or July.

Happy New Year to everybody out there and we’ll do what we can here at BangTheBook.com to make 2018 your most successful betting season yet!

-END OF JANUARY 1 UPDATE, BUT KEEP READING!-

Power ratings take on a whole different meaning at this time of the season. Numbers guys are going to go out and grab what they need to, but those early bowl season bets may not be the truest of positions. Even the staunchest believers in the numbers understand that things are simply different at this time of the year. Motivation is the biggest buzz word in the college football betting world. We’ve got a bunch of interim head coaches. We’ve got teams going to places that they have played at before and others that are experiencing bowls for the first time in a long time. There are two very different mindsets there.

Before I post the last 1 through 130, and the one upon which I will start 2018 power ratings, I want to talk about a few things that I have learned. I’m going to write a long, autobiographical piece later this month as something of a year-in-review article, but I can talk specifically address power ratings here. There are a few things that I have realized about them.

The first is that I don’t think novice handicappers should be discouraged if they do not have them. Sure, it helps in terms of getting the best number, but watching and following the market is as important, if not more important. I’m sure my professional handicapper friends will have some things to say about this, but the significance of the game day line move this season really stood out in a major way. Those moves don’t have a whole lot to do with power ratings. They have to do with the handicapping and modeling of the game based on all of the information being ready to go. They have to do with news and situational spots.

We’ve become fixated with getting the best number. It’s something that obviously does matter because it is one of the few quantitative examples of long-term success. However, the timing of the best number is so different than it used to be. You want to get in front of the early-week move, but the late-week moves this year often created a new best number one way or another. We saw some games move dramatically against the grain of an early-week move. The best number isn’t always the opener is basically what I’m saying. In past seasons, it felt like the opening move was the right move and that was that. The line wouldn’t come back too far and cross that number. The script seemed different this season. Like I said, power ratings are important and if you want to do them or have had success with them, go for it. I picked off some great opening numbers that lost. I picked off what I thought were some great opening numbers that moved several points against me.

Here’s another reason why it feels like power ratings may be dwindling in importance – live betting. There are so many more live betting opportunities nowadays. Every sportsbook worth its salt has a live betting interface. Nearly all of the Vegas apps have it as well. Full-game betting is not obsolete or archaic, but it is starting to border on being an antique. Power ratings really only help in a full-game betting sense. Once a game kicks off, the power rating is largely irrelevant. You’re no longer trying to get the best number. You’re trying to get a good line value off of the adjusted price.

One of the things I struggled a lot with this season is adjusting on a game-to-game basis. From a quantitative standpoint, the best guide for adjustments is to compare your numbers with the market close. That makes a lot of sense. The market has set a number and you want your power ratings to reflect the consensus market opinion. You can take some positions if you want.

The biggest problem I ran into, however, is that college football teams had glaring inconsistencies this season. Think about it, had Auburn beaten Georgia and Ohio State hung a bigger win on Wisconsin, we’d have had two two-loss teams in the playoff. A two-loss team has never made the College Football Playoff. Teams like Florida State and Florida went 6-6 and 4-7, respectively. The balance between respecting talent and facing reality was a major grey area for me. I had to respect teams that had a high ceiling, even if they never made it to that ceiling. Stanford won the Pac-12 North and had four losses overall. They were a top-15 team for me all season long. Did they live up to it? For the most part, no. Ohio State played poorly in just about every spotlight game and missed the Playoff, despite being my #2 or #3 team all season long.

Then, you had teams that went on runs, like Missouri and Fresno State. How do you quantify that? How do you keep updating that team until you reach a resistance point? Is it a real-life loss? Is it a certain rating? You had teams that got steamed week after week no matter how bad they were. How long does it take to buy in? You want to hold some of your own positions and not just mirror the market on everything. When do you let those positions go? When do you strengthen them?

The overall landscape in football, both college and pro, seems to be grayer than ever. Making adjustments on a weekly basis is challenging because effort levels change and consistency at the quarterback position is hard to find. Perhaps it was because this was my first year tracking and posting these for a website where people are invested in my opinions, so there was some extra added pressure, but I felt like there were a lot of times when I didn’t know what to do with a team. I didn’t know whether to add more helium or pop the balloon and let some out. Maybe it’s just a feel thing. Maybe there is more of a quantitative element that I haven’t found yet.

This has been a good, but frustrating learning experience for me. Maybe this was just one of those seasons, and I do know that a lot of pros struggled with college football this season. Is that a sign of things to come, though? Talent is dispersed throughout the country more than ever before and there is more talent than ever before. We’re seeing teams like Ohio State tap into Texas and Florida. We’re seeing the Big 12 go into the southeast. We’re seeing the ACC take away four and five-star guys that would have normally been reserved for the SEC. We’re seeing Group of Five schools like FAU, North Texas, SMU, UCF, and Troy go into Power Five country and take some kids. We’re seeing more creativity and youth in the Group of Five ranks from a coaching standpoint. When the gaps close overall, the number of edges also dwindles. There will always be “haves” and “have nots” in college football, but we already know who those teams are and the lines are blurring. Coaches are getting ripped away from the Group of Five and upstart coordinators with creative ideas, gadget plays, and different schemes.

Offensive line play continues to suffer at the NFL level because it is suffering at the college football level. Quarterback play is not what it used to be and continues to be in a cyclical state of flux. We went from pocket passers to dual threat and now we’re back to looking at pocket passers, but guys that are more mobile than those of the past. Tackling is still a problem. Explosive plays rule the day. Players are faster. Players are stronger. But, with all of these changes, everything that was once traditional is not. Sure, you still have Stanford and Wisconsin running power football, but Wisconsin’s running fullback wheel routes and tight end throwbacks. Teams that ran plays with reckless abandon now want more structure and more power football, while teams that used to play slow are now playing fast. It’s a lot to keep up with and it simply breeds inconsistency.

In some respects, it feels like you need to latch on to a select number of teams and either fade all the way or follow all the way. If you try to pick and choose each week, you’re going to lose your shirt, pants, and bankroll. Florida Atlantic was a hot team coming into the season. The Owls didn’t disappoint. Many believed in a Marshall bounce back. They did. Nebraska was a team that many were down on. That worked out well. If you were down on the Miami RedHawks, you had a great year. If you isolated Buffalo early, you had a great year. Props to those that hopped on the Fresno State train or faded the preseason USC hype.

Quite simply, in what has been nearly 1,500 words, the dynamics of the industry have changed. Bettors are better off playing the season win total market, the Games of the Year lines, and looking for live betting spots. Power ratings are a very helpful tool before the season in terms of setting up these futures betting opinions. They are a helpful tool early in the season to play on your positions against the market. Once we get a decent sample size, however, I found that power ratings were diminishing in terms of importance much quicker than I expected. There are too many factors. There are too many inconsistent teams. There are too many influences.

Going forward, my plan is to use my power ratings for season win totals, in the non-conference, and maybe in the first week or two of conference play. Going forward, I’ll still update them and be able to say “My line is…”, but plays based solely on power ratings will be few and far between. I won’t stress as much over updating them for the second half of the season. I had multiple weeks where I spent hours trying to perfect my list, only for numbers to come out and leave me scratching my head. Again, perhaps that was my inexperience overall with them. Perhaps that was because the oddsmakers were running into the same problems that I was. Or, maybe, just like so many other things in recent years, the shelf life of everything is so much shorter. Power ratings are the way that things have been done for decades. We have to adapt. We have to find new edges.

Live betting is that frontier, but it’s not something that everybody is comfortable with. Modeling and data scraping have been around for a long time, but we’re seeing a new generation of bettor. We’ve seen people transition from poker to sports betting to DFS or poker to DFS to sports betting. Those are people that only see numbers. They don’t see the extraneous stuff that plays into the construction of a line or the formulation of a narrative. Unfortunately, even if you do power ratings, those biases still influence your thinking when you’re adjusting numbers.

With some food for thought over those last several paragraphs, we’ll look ahead to the bowl season. This is the 1 through 130 that I’ll be keeping for the bowl season, with the knowledge that these numbers ultimately don’t mean a lot in grand scheme of betting these last four weeks of college football. I will use them as a foundation for next season when work begins on the season win total market and on my team previews for BangTheBook.com.

There is no list of adjustments, since I made a lot of them. I will post my bowl lines at the end, so you can see what my numbers are for those games and decide how you want to play them. We’ll cover additional aspects of all of these games through our game previews for all 39 bowl games and also on BangTheBook Radio. Remember that these are purely power ratings numbers. Motivation isn’t built in. Interim coaches aren’t built in. Any home field advantages aren’t built in. These are just raw numbers, used as a guide to hit early numbers and project where lines could move.

Here is my final 1 through 130 for the 2017 season:

Rank Team Conference PR
1 Alabama SEC 98.5
2 Oklahoma Big 12 97
3 Clemson ACC 96.5
4 Georgia SEC 96
5 Ohio State Big Ten 95.5
6 Auburn SEC 95
7 Penn State Big Ten 93.5
8 Washington Pac-12 91
9 LSU SEC 88
10 USC Pac-12 88
11 Oklahoma State Big 12 88
12 Wisconsin Big Ten 87
13 Washington State Pac-12 87
14 Notre Dame Independent 86
15 TCU Big 12 85.5
16 UCF AAC 85
17 Louisville ACC 84
18 Stanford Pac-12 83
19 Miami FL ACC 83
20 Mississippi State SEC 82
21 Oregon Pac-12 82
22 Memphis AAC 81
23 Virginia Tech ACC 80
24 Michigan Big Ten 80
25 Boise State MWC 80
26 South Florida AAC 80
27 Iowa State Big 12 79
28 Georgia Tech ACC 78.5
29 Arizona Pac-12 78
30 NC State ACC 78
31 Texas Big 12 78
32 Michigan State Big Ten 78
33 Wake Forest ACC 77
34 Missouri SEC 77
35 Toledo MAC 77
36 Florida State ACC 77
37 Utah Pac-12 76
38 Florida Atlantic CUSA 76
39 Indiana Big Ten 76
40 Iowa Big Ten 75.5
41 UCLA Pac-12 75.5
42 Northwestern Big Ten 75.5
43 Texas Tech Big 12 75
44 Kansas State Big 12 75
45 Texas A&M SEC 74
46 Kentucky SEC 74
47 Arizona State Pac-12 74
48 California Pac-12 74
49 San Diego State MWC 73.5
50 Boston College ACC 73.5
51 Ole Miss SEC 73
52 South Carolina SEC 73
53 Houston AAC 72
54 West Virginia Big 12 72
55 Florida SEC 72
56 Purdue Big Ten 72
57 Minnesota Big Ten 72
58 Temple AAC 72
59 Syracuse ACC 71.5
60 Nebraska Big Ten 71.5
61 Colorado Pac-12 71
62 Ohio MAC 71
63 SMU AAC 71
64 Colorado State MWC 70
65 Duke ACC 70
66 Virginia ACC 70
67 Pitt ACC 70
68 Navy AAC 70
69 Troy Sun Belt 70
70 Arkansas State Sun Belt 70
71 Army Independent 69
72 Fresno State MWC 68
73 Arkansas SEC 68
74 North Texas CUSA 68
75 Northern Illinois MAC 68
76 Wyoming MWC 67.5
77 Tennessee SEC 67
78 Marshall CUSA 67
79 Western Michigan MAC 66.5
80 Oregon State Pac-12 66
81 Maryland Big Ten 66
82 UTSA CUSA 66
83 Baylor Big 12 65.5
84 Appalachian State Sun Belt 65.5
85 Vanderbilt SEC 65
86 UNC ACC 65
87 Miami Ohio MAC 65
88 Middle Tennessee State CUSA 65
89 Eastern Michigan MAC 65
90 Buffalo MAC 65
91 Rutgers Big Ten 64.5
92 Air Force MWC 64.5
93 Central Michigan MAC 64.5
94 Southern Miss CUSA 64
95 Tulane AAC 64
96 New Mexico State Sun Belt 63
97 Louisiana Tech CUSA 63
98 UAB CUSA 62.5
99 Tulsa AAC 61
100 Western Kentucky CUSA 60.5
101 Florida International CUSA 60
102 Utah State MWC 60
103 Cincinnati AAC 60
104 New Mexico MWC 60
105 Akron MAC 59
106 UNLV MWC 59
107 Illinois Big Ten 58
108 BYU Independent 58
109 Nevada MWC 58
110 South Alabama Sun Belt 57.5
111 UMass Independent 57
112 Georgia State Sun Belt 56.5
113 UConn AAC 56
114 Old Dominion CUSA 56
115 Louisiana Lafayette Sun Belt 56
116 Louisiana-Monroe Sun Belt 54.5
117 Hawaii MWC 53.5
118 East Carolina AAC 53
119 Bowling Green MAC 53
120 Idaho Sun Belt 52.5
121 Coastal Carolina Sun Belt 52
122 Kansas Big 12 51
123 Georgia Southern Sun Belt 50
124 Rice CUSA 50
125 Texas State Sun Belt 49.5
126 Charlotte CUSA 48.5
127 Kent State MAC 46
128 San Jose State MWC 45
129 Ball State MAC 44
130 UTEP CUSA 43

And here are my numbers for the bowl games:

Date Bowl Team A Team B Raw PR Line
1/1 Outback South Carolina Michigan Michigan -7
  Peach UCF Auburn Auburn -10
  Citrus LSU Notre Dame LSU -2
  Rose Georgia Oklahoma Oklahoma -1
  Sugar Alabama Clemson Alabama -2

Thank you for being with me throughout the season and best of luck during the bowl games. Keep an eye out every Monday for the “Opening Line Report”, which will now morph into a weekly update on line moves in the bowl season.Again, these are just raw numbers. You have to incorporate motivation, coaching, location, and so many other factors to come up with your plays.

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