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College football projections: Week 14 F/+ picks

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Woof.

ATS Week 13 2014 Season
"NEW" Method 19-33-1 (37%) 322-354-15 (48%)
"OLD" Method 21-31-1 (41%) 317-314-14 (50%)

Straight Up Week 13 2014 Season
Teams with 50-59% chance of winning 0-5 (0%) 27-35 (44%)
Teams with 60-69% chance of winning 6-3 (67%) 101-67 (60%)
Teams with 70-79% chance of winning 5-4 (56%) 129-44 (75%)
Teams with 80-89% chance of winning 7-5 (58%) 149-35 (81%)
Teams with 90-99% chance of winning 20-4 (83%) 142-14 (91%)

Through some combination of rivalry effect (if that's actually a thing), crazy weather, and half the teams in the country forgetting how to finish drives, there was a large number of weird games and funky results. Looking back, there were some picks I was a bit queasy about from the start -- Cal covering against Stanford, for instance -- but that's always the case. A lot of last Saturday's results were just strange: Illinois beating Penn State outright, North Carolina whipping Duke, Virginia pasting Miami, Indiana leading Ohio State late in the third quarter, Arizona crushing Utah, Northwestern whipping Purdue -- and I'm semi-comfortable with the numbers missing on those games. Not happy, but comfortable. (And I still think I'm screwing up the home-field adjustment. Those poor 50-59% teams...)

Still, the UNC-Duke result in particular hints at something that's always troubled me with college football ratings: momentum. Or, to use perhaps a more accurate pair of terms: improvement and regression. Thanks mostly to its defense, UNC was dreadful earlier this season, but for the second straight year, the Heels have improved over the home stretch. Duke, meanwhile, had waited until late to pull away from Syracuse, then had lost to Virginia Tech. There was reason to believe regression was underway there.

But the F/+ picks use full-season numbers because it is infinitely safer to do so. Are we really sure Duke is regressing (or losing momentum) because of two games? Are we sure UNC has improved after three super-tight wins (with a blowout loss sandwiched between them)? Full-season numbers drastically favored Duke ... and Duke got stomped.

We're dealing with a sample of no more than 12-13 games in the regular season, so figuring out who really is improving or regressing and who simply had good or bad weeks that were within the acceptable range of whatever their ranking is ... well, that's pretty tough to do, especially in real time.

I say this all in part because there's another game that fits the Duke-UNC profile on Thursday night: TCU-Texas. F/+ sees TCU as a significant favorite because over the course of ~10 games, TCU has been by far the better team. But over the last five games, the Frogs have been all over the map (good, great, solid, great, wholly mediocre), and over the last three games, Texas has looked quite good. The 'Horns are beating bad teams by three touchdowns on the road and whipping solid teams (i.e. WVU) by 17 points at home. Is this a new Texas team? Have the 'Horns simply benefited from being able to outclass three teams from an athleticism standpoint? Was TCU just tired and cold against Kansas? The Frogs have had a bye week to rest and re-establish their previous level of play.

What we think of as momentum is really, really tricky. Our eyes tell us one story (with varying degrees of accuracy), and the numbers tell another. That, plus the general Rivalry Week silliness, makes me pretty much hate this week's picks.

But hey, I'm redesigning how I formulate both my numbers and the F/+ projections in the offseason either way. I shouldn't be afraid of mediocrity, I guess.

Week 14

Here's your weekly disclaimer: the margins are all that matter. The projected scores are for awful, i.e. for entertainment value only.

Day Time (ET) TV Game Spread NEW Prediction Chance of winning NEW Pick OLD Prediction OLD Pick Different?
Tue 7:00 PM ESPN2 Ohio at Miami-OH 2.5 Miami-OH by 8.0 (33.2 - 25.2) 67.5% Miami-OH Miami-OH by 5.5 Miami-OH
Thu 7:30 PM ESPN LSU at Texas A&M 3 LSU by 19.8 (41.1 - 21.4) 80.2% LSU LSU by 12.5 LSU
Thu 7:30 PM FS1 TCU at Texas 6.5 TCU by 34.2 (37.2 - 3.0) 90.5% TCU TCU by 20.5 TCU
Day Time (ET) TV Game Spread NEW Prediction Chance of winning NEW Pick OLD Prediction OLD Pick Different?
Fri 11:00 AM ESPNU Northern Illinois at Western Michigan -7.5 Western Michigan by 27.6 (49.4 - 21.8) 87.1% Western Michigan Western Michigan by 17.7 Western Michigan
Fri 12:00 PM ESPN2 Central Florida at South Florida 12 Central Florida by 25.3 (30.6 - 5.3) 88.9% Central Florida Central Florida by 19.0 Central Florida
Fri 12:00 PM CBSSN Houston at SMU 22.5 Houston by 32.5 (35.2 - 2.7) 91.5% Houston Houston by 21.5 SMU XXX
Fri 12:00 PM ABC Nebraska at Iowa 0 Nebraska by 12.9 (36.2 - 23.3) 72.4% Nebraska Nebraska by 7.9 Nebraska
Fri 12:00 PM FS1 Western Kentucky at Marshall -23.5 Marshall by 43.0 (57.6 - 14.6) 95.8% Marshall Marshall by 27.3 Marshall
Fri 1:00 PM ESPN3 Akron at Kent State 3.5 Akron by 2.4 (15.1 - 12.7) 59.4% Kent State Akron by 1.5 Kent State
Fri 1:00 PM ESPN3 Ball State at Bowling Green -10 Bowling Green by 2.1 (32.4 - 30.3) 58.6% Ball State Bowling Green by 1.4 Ball State
Fri 1:00 PM ESPN3 Buffalo at Massachusetts 2 Massachusetts by 7.6 (41.2 - 33.6) 66.3% Massachusetts Massachusetts by 5.0 Massachusetts
Fri 1:00 PM ESPN3 Toledo at Eastern Michigan 23 Toledo by 42.0 (53.2 - 11.3) 96.3% Toledo Toledo by 27.8 Toledo
Fri 2:30 PM CBS Arkansas at Missouri Arkansas by 3.8 (20.1 - 16.3) 61.5% Arkansas Arkansas by 2.5 Arkansas
Fri 3:00 PM ESPN3 Navy at South Alabama 10 Navy by 22.5 (41.6 - 19.0) 83.0% Navy Navy by 14.3 Navy
Fri 3:30 PM Fox Arizona State at Arizona Arizona State by 1.6 (35.4 - 33.8) 57.8% Arizona State Arizona State by 0.8 Arizona State
Fri 3:30 PM CBSSN Colorado State at Air Force 7 Colorado State by 8.9 (32.7 - 23.8) 67.7% Colorado State Colorado State by 5.4 Air Force XXX
Fri 3:30 PM ABC Stanford at UCLA -5 UCLA by 20.1 (34.4 - 14.3) 80.7% UCLA UCLA by 13.1 UCLA
Fri 8:00 PM ESPN Virginia at Virginia Tech 1 Virginia Tech by 7.3 (10.4 - 3.1) 65.7% Virginia Tech Virginia Tech by 4.7 Virginia Tech
Fri 8:30 PM ESPNU East Carolina at Tulsa 17.5 East Carolina by 34.1 (61.8 - 27.7) 89.1% East Carolina East Carolina by 19.2 East Carolina
Day Time (ET) TV Game Spread NEW Prediction Chance of winning NEW Pick OLD Prediction OLD Pick Different?
Sat 12:00 PM ESPN News Cincinnati at Temple 7 Cincinnati by 3.6 (25.6 - 22.0) 61.4% Temple Cincinnati by 2.4 Temple
Sat 12:00 PM SECN Georgia Tech at Georgia -13 Georgia by 12.7 (49.8 - 37.1) 73.2% Georgia Tech Georgia by 8.5 Georgia Tech
Sat 12:00 PM ESPNU Illinois at Northwestern -8 Northwestern by 16.5 (32.6 - 16.0) 77.7% Northwestern Northwestern by 11.1 Northwestern
Sat 12:00 PM ESPN2 Kentucky at Louisville -12.5 Louisville by 46.6 (45.8 - -0.8) 97.4% Louisville Louisville by 30.4 Louisville
Sat 12:00 PM ABC Michigan at Ohio State -21 Ohio State by 44.4 (43.8 - -0.6) 97.3% Ohio State Ohio State by 30.3 Ohio State
Sat 12:00 PM North Texas at UTSA -5 UTSA by 14.0 (21.5 - 7.5) 75.9% UTSA UTSA by 10.1 UTSA
Sat 12:00 PM Old Dominion at Florida Atlantic -3 Florida Atlantic by 6.2 (44.7 - 38.5) 65.4% Florida Atlantic Florida Atlantic by 4.5 Florida Atlantic
Sat 12:00 PM BTN Purdue at Indiana -2.5 Purdue by 2.1 (26.5 - 24.3) 59.0% Purdue Purdue by 1.3 Purdue
Sat 12:00 PM CBSSN Rice at Louisiana Tech -7 Louisiana Tech by 21.9 (37.4 - 15.5) 82.6% Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech by 14.3 Louisiana Tech
Sat 12:00 PM ESPN South Carolina at Clemson -4.5 Clemson by 27.3 (49.3 - 22.0) 85.5% Clemson Clemson by 16.5 Clemson
Sat 12:00 PM FS1 West Virginia at Iowa State West Virginia by 33.1 (55.7 - 22.6) 89.0% West Virginia West Virginia by 19.0 West Virginia
Sat 12:30 PM ESPN3 NC State at North Carolina -6.5 North Carolina by 9.0 (47.3 - 38.3) 68.3% North Carolina North Carolina by 6.0 NC State XXX
Sat 12:30 PM ESPN3 Syracuse at Boston College -11 Boston College by 29.1 (38.4 - 9.3) 89.1% Boston College Boston College by 19.4 Boston College
Sat 12:30 PM ESPN3 UL-Lafayette at Troy 10.5 UL-Lafayette by 15.8 (40.8 - 24.9) 77.1% UL-Lafayette UL-Lafayette by 10.5 UL-Lafayette
Sat 1:00 PM Pac-12 Utah at Colorado 9 Utah by 24.3 (40.1 - 15.8) 82.2% Utah Utah by 13.8 Utah
Sat 2:00 PM ESPN3 Idaho at Appalachian State -17 Idaho by 3.5 (44.0 - 40.5) 60.4% Idaho Idaho by 1.9 Idaho
Sat 2:00 PM ESPN3 Texas State at Georgia State 13.5 Texas State by 15.5 (42.8 - 27.3) 75.9% Texas State Texas State by 9.8 Georgia State XXX
Sat 3:00 PM ESPN3 New Mexico State at Arkansas State -22.5 Arkansas State by 39.9 (56.7 - 16.7) 92.8% Arkansas State Arkansas State by 23.2 Arkansas State
Sat 3:00 PM Wyoming at New Mexico -4.5 New Mexico by 16.3 (45.1 - 28.7) 78.4% New Mexico New Mexico by 11.6 New Mexico
Day Time (ET) TV Game Spread NEW Prediction Chance of winning NEW Pick OLD Prediction OLD Pick Different?
Sat 3:30 PM ESPN Florida at Florida State -7.5 Florida State by 33.1 (39.3 - 6.2) 91.5% Florida State Florida State by 21.7 Florida State
Sat 3:30 PM ABC/ESPN2 Michigan State at Penn State 13 Michigan State by 16.4 (26.8 - 10.4) 76.1% Michigan State Michigan State by 10.0 Penn State XXX
Sat 3:30 PM BTN Minnesota at Wisconsin -14 Wisconsin by 18.3 (32.4 - 14.1) 79.7% Wisconsin Wisconsin by 12.4 Minnesota XXX
Sat 3:30 PM CBS Mississippi State at Ole Miss 2 Ole Miss by 1.1 (20.5 - 19.4) 57.2% Ole Miss Ole Miss by 0.8 Ole Miss
Sat 3:30 PM Fox Notre Dame at USC -7 USC by 0.8 (32.1 - 31.2) 56.9% Notre Dame USC by 0.7 Notre Dame
Sat 3:30 PM ESPNU Rutgers at Maryland -8 Maryland by 20.0 (33.5 - 13.5) 82.7% Maryland Maryland by 14.4 Maryland
Sat 3:30 PM CBSSN San Jose State at San Diego State San Diego State by 18.4 (30.7 - 12.3) 79.5% San Diego State San Diego State by 12.3 San Diego State
Sat 3:30 PM UAB at Southern Miss 4 UAB by 14.8 (37.7 - 22.9) 74.3% UAB UAB by 8.9 UAB
Sat 3:30 PM ABC/ESPN2 Baylor vs. Texas Tech 24.5 Baylor by 52.0 (70.7 - 18.7) 96.8% Baylor Baylor by 28.8 Baylor
Sat 4:00 PM ESPN News Connecticut at Memphis -21 Memphis by 39.2 (36.7 - -2.5) 95.0% Memphis Memphis by 26.1 Memphis
Sat 4:00 PM FS1 Kansas at Kansas State -28 Kansas State by 53.1 (45.2 - -7.9) 98.5% Kansas State Kansas State by 35.2 Kansas State
Sat 4:00 PM SECN Tennessee at Vanderbilt 17 Tennessee by 31.5 (32.0 - 0.5) 91.5% Tennessee Tennessee by 21.4 Tennessee
Sat 4:30 PM Pac-12 BYU at California -4.5 BYU by 2.6 (46.0 - 43.3) 59.1% BYU BYU by 1.4 BYU
Sat 6:00 PM ESPN3 UL-Monroe at Georgia Southern -14.5 Georgia Southern by 30.2 (40.7 - 10.5) 89.5% Georgia Southern Georgia Southern by 19.8 Georgia Southern
Sat 7:00 PM Hawaii at Fresno State -11 Fresno State by 0.9 (28.6 - 27.7) 56.9% Hawaii Fresno State by 0.7 Hawaii
Sat 7:00 PM Middle Tennessee at UTEP -4 Middle Tennessee by 1.8 (25.3 - 23.5) 58.4% Middle Tennessee Middle Tennessee by 1.1 Middle Tennessee
Sat 7:00 PM ESPN2 Pittsburgh at Miami-FL Miami-FL by 23.1 (46.4 - 23.3) 85.3% Miami-FL Miami-FL by 16.3 Miami-FL
Sat 7:00 PM ESPNU Wake Forest at Duke -19.5 Duke by 36.3 (30.9 - -5.5) 95.2% Duke Duke by 26.3 Duke
Sat 7:45 PM ESPN Auburn at Alabama -9.5 Alabama by 15.7 (43.6 - 27.9) 75.7% Alabama Alabama by 10.0 Alabama
Sat 8:00 PM ABC Oregon at Oregon State 19.5 Oregon by 43.7 (59.1 - 15.3) 96.7% Oregon Oregon by 28.7 Oregon
Sat 10:15 PM ESPN2 Utah State at Boise State -8.5 Boise State by 16.9 (27.9 - 11.0) 77.2% Boise State Boise State by 10.8 Boise State
Sat 10:30 PM ESPNU Nevada at UNLV 9.5 Nevada by 25.6 (53.3 - 27.6) 84.8% Nevada Nevada by 15.7 Nevada
Sat 10:30 PM FS1 Washington at Washington State 3.5 Washington by 9.7 (39.0 - 29.3) 68.3% Washington Washington by 5.7 Washington