Bob Stoll of Dr. Bob Sports is one of the most seasoned, successful sports handicappers around. He was one of the first to use advanced analytics in sports handicapping after studying statistics and finance at U.C. Berkeley. You can find his historical college football performance here, and you can subscribe to his service here.
His Strong Opinions have a success rate of about 53.6% since 1999. You can find a Strong Opinion for free below. He has agreed to share some of his lengthy, from-every-angle game previews here.
Strong Opinion — BOISE STATE (-13) 31, Virginia 13
Strong Opinion — Under (52 ½)
It appears as if Brett Rypien will be back at quarterback for Boise State after sitting out nearly two full games with a concussion. The line jumped up a couple of points on that news but I would have preferred to play Boise at a lower number with Montell Cozart at quarterback since I don’t think Rypien makes a difference to the offense.
Cozart actually has better compensated passing numbers this season (6.7 yards per pass play on 51 pass plays against teams that would allow 6.2 yppp to an average QB) than Rypien has (5.3 yppp against teams that would allow 6.3 yppp) and Cozart adds a running element (187 yards on 28 runs) that Rypien does not possess. Rypien’s sample size this season is small (37 pass plays) and he averaged 8.6 yppp in 2016 (against teams that would allow 6.8 yppp) so I still rate the Broncos’ as a better passing team with Rypien.
However, I do not expect Rypien to be nearly as good as he was last season when the Broncos had two elite receivers in Thomas Sperbeck (10.2 yards per target on 125 targets) and Cedrick Wilson (11.9 ypt on 95 targets). Rypien still has Wilson to throw to and he’s been just as good (12.0 ypt on 23 targets) but the next 3 wide receivers have combined to average just 5.7 ypt on 21 targets, which is a massive drop-off from what Sperbeck averaged. Boise’s pass attack won’t be nearly as good as last season unless another receiver steps up and the rushing attack, without Cozart helping, is also worse.
Boise lost RB Jeremy McNichols (1709 yards at 5.4 ypr in ’16) to the NFL after his junior season and new backs Mattison and Wolphin have combined for a dismal 3.9 ypr through the first 3 games. Overall the Boise offense rates the same with either quarterback because of what Cozart adds with his feet and the Broncos are clearly not as good on the attack side of the ball as they were last season.
Virginia’s defense is mediocre at best, as the 20.7 points per game they’ve allowed through 3 games is not indicative of their level of play. The Cavaliers have allowed 5.2 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.1 yppl against an average team and last season that unit was 0.3 yppl worse than average. Overall, the math projects a modest 5.7 yppl for Boise State in this game.
While the Boise State offense doesn’t figure to be as good this season, the Broncos defense looks significantly improved. Boise has yielded just 4.2 yards per play against Troy, Washington State, and New Mexico and held the best of those offenses (WSU) to just 4.8 yppl in their overtime loss to the Cougars (just 3.8 yppl in the other two games combined).
Virginia looked incredibly good offensively in last week’s 38-18 win over Connecticut with 621 yards at 8.7 yppl but the Cavaliers have averaged just 5.6 yppl in 3 games even without those incredible numbers from last week skewing their average upwards. Virginia actually rates at 0.7 yppl worse than average when you take into account that the three teams the Cavaliers have faced would combine to allow 6.3 yppl to an average team. I don’t see the Cavs having much success in this game against what appears to be a very good Boise State defense.
Overall, my math favors Boise State by 15 ½ points and I get 19 points using this year’s games only. The Broncos also apply to a 151-63-3 ATS statistical match-up indicator while Virginia applies to a 101-212-5 ATS situation. I’ll consider Boise State a Strong Opinion at -14 or less and as a 1-Star Best Bet at -12 or less.
I also see this as a low scoring game given that Boise State’s offense is not as good while their defense is underrated. Boise is also playing at a much slower pace so far this season and their games have averaged 11.3 points below the over/under total (excluding the total points in overtime against Washington State). I’ll consider the Under a Strong Opinion at 51 points or higher.