College Football Power Ratings Week 15 & Bowl Games

 

Last Updated: 2017-12-05

college football power ratings week 15Power 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 (Navy -1 vs. Army this week):

Date Bowl Team A Team B Raw PR Line
12/16 New Orleans North Texas Troy Troy -2
  Cure Georgia State Western Kentucky WKU -4
  Las Vegas Oregon Boise State Oregon -2
  New Mexico Marshall Colorado State Col State -3
  Camellia MTSU Arkansas State Ark State -5
         
12/19 Boca Raton Akron Florida Atlantic FAU -17
         
12/20 Frisco Louisiana Tech SMU SMU -8
         
12/21 Gasparilla Temple FIU Temple -12
         
12/22 Bahamas UAB Ohio Ohio -8.5
  Potato Central Michigan Wyoming Wyoming -3
         
12/23 Birmingham Texas Tech South Florida USF -5
  Armed Forces Army San Diego State SDSU -4.5
  Dollar General Appalachian State Toledo Toledo -11.5
         
12/24 Hawaii Houston Fresno State Houston -4
         
12/26 Heart of Dallas Utah West Virginia Utah -4
  Quick Lane Northern Illinois Duke Duke -2
  Cactus Kansas State UCLA UCLA -0.5
         
12/27 Independence Southern Miss Florida State Florida St -13
  Pinstripe Boston College Iowa Iowa -2
  Foster Farms Purdue Arizona Arizona -6
  Texas Missouri Texas Texas -1
         
12/28 Military Virginia Navy Pick ‘em
  Camping World Virginia Tech Oklahoma State OK State -8
  Alamo Stanford TCU TCU -2.5
  Holiday Michigan State Washington State Wazzu -9
         
12/29 Belk Texas A&M Wake Forest Wake -3
  Sun NC State Arizona State NC State -4
  Music City Kentucky Northwestern NW -1.5
  Arizona Utah State New Mexico State NM State -3
  Cotton USC Ohio State Ohio State -7.5
         
12/30 Taxslayer Louisville Mississippi State Louisville -2
  Liberty Iowa State Memphis Memphis -2
  Fiesta Washington Penn State Penn State -2.5
  Orange Wisconsin Miami FL Wisconsin -4
         
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

Again, these are just raw numbers. You have to incorporate motivation, coaching, location, and so many other factors to come up with your plays.

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.

 

-END OF WEEK 15 & BOWL UPDATE-

 

Instead of a normal power ratings article this week, we’re going to simply focus on the teams that are in action during Week 14. With bowl season on the horizon, I want to take a deeper look at what the body of work looks like for these teams and what I can do to improve my numbers. Furthermore, I want to evaluate the bodies of work for these teams in order to have a good starting point for next season. Teams made quarterback changes or coordinator changes or other things that may have had a really positive impact. Other teams punted the season to allow youngsters to get experience.

All of that takes time and I want to have it put together before the bowl season gets underway so that we can take advantage of popping the openers because bowl game power ratings don’t carry as much weight after those initial numbers hit the board.

So, with that in mind, and a smaller number of games on the slate, here is this week’s different version of my college football power ratings. We’ll just look at the lines and the ones that stand out for Week 14.

Stanford vs. USC (-3): My number here is USC -1. I made a big adjustment to Stanford a few weeks back with the Bryce Love injury and they have shown me enough to recover some of that lost value. Still, with no value across key numbers here, there isn’t a ton of reason to fire on Stanford, but they are the lean.

Idaho at Georgia State (-4): My raw number in this spot is Georgia State -7. The Panthers are at home, with Idaho playing a long way away from the Kibbie Dome. As a pure power ratings play, we’re not crossing any significant numbers, but we do have a little bit of line value on the home chalk. The Vandals are playing their last FBS game and Georgia State has a bowl game to look ahead to, so this isn’t the strongest play.

Louisiana at Appalachian State (-15): My raw number suggests value on the dog here, with Appalachian State more like an 11.5-point favorite. They have really disappointed me based on my preseason expectations. The Mountaineers need this game to tie for the Sun Belt crown. The Ragin’ Cajuns are playing for a bowl game, so they are motivated.

Georgia Southern (-2.5) vs. Coastal Carolina: My numbers favor Coastal Carolina here, but this is a game that I have no interest in playing. Coastal has gone through a lot of quarterbacks and GA Southern is bad.

Troy at Arkansas State (-1.5): These two teams are lined a pick ‘em on a neutral, so Arkansas State would get the home field nod. That means a no play on this game as well.

South Alabama at New Mexico State (-10): My number here is 9, so there isn’t a ton of value, especially with the opener coming out at 8.5. The Aggies have plenty of motivation with a bowl berth on the line.

North Texas at Florida Atlantic (-10.5): Florida Atlantic is a nine-point favorite for me, so there does appear to be a touch of underdog value. FAU won by 38 when these teams played earlier in the year, but that was the worst spot of the season for UNT off of a last-second UTSA win. Seth Littrell can coach. If this number goes up, it may hit the card.

Memphis vs. UCF (-7): My raw number here is 6, so we’ve got a bit of Memphis value and I actually like the Tigers from a situational standpoint anyway. They were blown out in a bad spot in the first meeting and have been a much better team since that point. UCF has wavered a bit lately.

Akron vs. Toledo (-21.5): You don’t see many conference championship games with this type of line. My number isn’t that high either. My number is 15, so Akron shows clear value, but the market has bumped up Toledo here. I may wait until closer to kickoff and play back on the Zips when this line peaks, though it may not get much higher.

Georgia vs. Auburn (-2): Auburn deserves a nice bump for what the Tigers did to the Crimson Tide, but my number here is -1.5, so I agree with the slight line move to bump down from 3. Because Georgia is in the SEC East, they don’t get much love. They’re a legitimately good team. I won’t be playing this one unless we go north of 3 with public investment on the favorite.

Fresno State at Boise State (-9.5): Boise hosts last week’s rematch on the blue turf this week, so they get a nice bump for being at home. My number here is actually more like 13 with HFA factored in, so I agree with the move. It would have been 9.5 minus the HFA, so that certainly swings the balance to me in this game.

Miami vs. Clemson (-9.5): The Hurricanes and Tigers meet for ACC supremacy and this number is too high. My line is more like 3.5 here, so even well below the 7.5 opener. The market has been dying to go against Miami because of misleading wins earlier in the season. I guess that expectation, too, is that without the CFP on the line, Miami won’t show up. I disagree. I’ll be on the take.

Ohio State (-7) vs. Wisconsin: Wisconsin is such a hard team to rate and rank. They have played nobody, but you have to respect them in your power ratings because their lines are so high. My number on this game is 6.5, so we’re right on the ball per some sportsbooks. As such, I won’t be invested.

UMass at FIU (-3): UMass has been a riser for me of late and they are playing some really good football. FIU still looks like the play per the numbers, but the Panthers have been dropping a little bit here lately. I won’t be invested.

Louisiana-Monroe at Florida State (-26.5): This number is a touch inflated per my numbers, since I have 24.5, but the bowl eligibility thing makes some sense for paying a premium. The sharp money has hit the board on the Warhawks thus far and I’d expect that to continue. Florida State needs a win, not a blowout.

TCU vs. Oklahoma (-7): I wish I had more for you on this game, but my number is 7.5, so we don’t have much to play with in this spot.

I’ll be doing a comprehensive overhaul of my numbers this week and have a good set of power ratings for you as we head into the Army/Navy Game next week.

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