We spent the summer figuring out how to dominate football pick’ems and NFL survivor pools.
This post is going to explain what we did and why we did it.
And why you’re missing out if you don’t pay attention.
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College football is back again! Tomorrow the 2013 college football season will kick off — the last season in the highly controversial BCS era. One point in the BCS’s favor though: college football is more popular than ever. To add to the excitement, we’ve updated all our college football content for the 2013-14 season.
Our preseason rankings are somewhat unique in the universe of CFB rankings because they are entirely mathematically driven. Our formulas take in many forms of quantitative data, from previous years’ team ratings to the numbers of returning starters to last year’s turnover margin, and compute projected preseason ratings for all of the 125 FBS teams.
Now that the 2012-2013 college bowl season has ended in a perhaps unsurprising fashion — and I don’t mean Alabama winning, I mean the entire sports world up in arms over something Brent Musberger said — it’s time to look back and grade the performance of our bowl season predictions and contest advice.
For those new to the site, as part of our premium services we offer picks for college bowl pick’em contests, which seem to be getting quite a bit more popular over the years. We also offer computer-determined betting predictions (point spread, over/under, and money line value picks) for every bowl game.
In summary, we had our third straight strong year with our bowl pick’em advice, while our betting pick performance was mixed.
2012-2013 College Bowl Pick’em Results
We published a total of 12 bowl pick’em pick sets this year, 9 for competing in game winner based bowl pick’ems with confidence points, and three for game winner contests without confidence points. As a group, they performed very well, including a few outstanding results.
- 11 of our 12 published pick sets finished in the top 3.5% of ESPN and the top 6% of Yahoo. That generally should be good enough to come in top five or six in a 100-person pool, top two or three in a 50-person pool, and first or second place in a 25-person pool.
- Our non-confidence pick sets did especially well this year on ESPN, with 2 of 3 finishing in the 99.6th percentile. On Yahoo! they were 97th percentile.
- Our worst pick set out of all twelve still beat 85% of the nation, and that was a pick set targeted for a large pool, which uses more of a boom-or-bust strategy.
Now that the 2012-13 college football bowl season has drawn to close, it’s time to take a look back at our preseason projections, and evaluate how we’ve done.
This is the second year we’ve simulated the entire season (minus bowl games) before it began. Last year, things went quite well, and our preseason value picks provided exactly what they were supposed to: value.
As with any new endeavor, it was hard to tell whether we’d been good, good and lucky, or just plain lucky. But a closer inspection shows this season’s projections, while not perfect, were again an overall success:
- Our team win total picks and our BCS conference and division winner value picks were both profitable
- Our biggest disagreements with the public consensus were right twice as often as they were wrong
- 7 of the 10 BCS bowl teams were in the top 20 of our 2012 preseason college football rankings, compared to only 4 in the top 20 of the preseason AP poll
Let’s check out the details.
Before we get started, just a quick reminder that our bowl pick’em picks crushed the public again in 2011-12, notching a second consecutive top-2% finish in ESPN’s college bowl pick’em game. For this year’s bowl picks and contest advice, click the image below or sign up now:
It’s 2012-2013 college football bowls season! Time yet again to become emotionally involved in contests between schools you’ve barely heard of playing in games named after sports bars. For those who love college football, it really doesn’t get much better.
Of course, the arrival of the 2012-2013 college bowls also brings with it the thrills of bowl pick’em contests and bowl betting. And with 70 teams playing in 35 games this year, getting prepared for making bowl season picks can be quite a daunting task. TeamRankings is ready to help, with stats, rankings, predictions, picks and contest strategy advice for all of the 2012-2013 college football bowl games.
Note: This week one of Yahoo’s Game Winner Pick’em games is Oregon State vs Nicholls State; this game was rescheduled from Week 1 due to travel concerns during Hurricane Isaac. We only project games between FBS schools, so you won’t find this game under the Yahoo! drop down menu on our college football office pool picks page. You shouldn’t need much help with this one, however, as Nicholls State is an FCS school whose lone win came against a team named Evangel.
The Northern Illinois Huskies have not lost since Week 1 (a one-point loss vs Iowa), and Kent State has not lost since Week 2. In an unusual turn of events, the winner of the this year’s MAC Championship Game could earn an automatic bid to a BCS bowl, provide they move into the top 16 of the BCS rankings.
Our models see NIU as solid favorites with 70% odds, and the Huskies are about a touchdown favorite in Vegas. Surprisingly, though, about 70% of the public has picked Kent State to win outright. For those looking to gain an edge over the public in this final week, Northern Illinois provides the best chance to do so.
Where We Stand After Week 13
Here is where our game winner pick’em strategies currently stand on ESPN (which uses a 10-game weekly card and confidence points) heading into Week 14. All three strategies climbed in the standings, while our Conservative strategy continues to be the highlight, ranking in the top 7% nationally:
- Conservative: 93.1st percentile (+0.6 from last week)
- Aggressive: 77.9th percentile (+2.0)
- Very Aggressive: 67.8th percentile (+0.7)
The college football season is down to its final two weeks, and thankfully there are multiple opportunities this week to make a final push and gain ground on your opponents. With three odds-on contrarian picks and a solid upset selection, the penultimate week of the season offers both smart low risk plays and some high-value longshots.
Where We Stand After Week 12
Here is where our game winner pick’em strategies currently stand on ESPN (which uses a 10-game weekly card and confidence points) heading into Week 13. All three strategies dipped slightly, while our Conservative strategy continues to be the highlight, ranking in the top 8% nationally:
- Conservative: 92.5th percentile (-3.0 from last week)
- Aggressive: 75.9th percentile (-1.0)
- Very Aggressive: 67.1st percentile (-0.2)
Update Fri 11/16, 5 PM ET: Our office pool pick sets have now frozen for the week, but two games (Iowa-Michigan and Arizona-Utah) didn’t have point spreads released before our office pool picks froze. As a result, those games are missing from several of our office pool pick sets, and where they do show up, the picks are incorrect.
As of now, Utah looks like a great contrarian game winner pick over Arizona. They are a one point favorite, but almost 75% of the public is on Arizona. Michigan is heavily favored over Iowa, and the Hawkeyes don’t provide much value as an upset pick. Stick with Michigan there.
On the point spread side, Iowa +16.5 offers ridiculous value if your pool has that spread and is like Yahoo!, where a a ridiculous 95%+ of contestants are taking Michigan against the spread. Even though our models prefer Michigan -16.5, aggressive strategies should take Iowa plus the points and put serious confidence points on it, based on value alone. Since we like Utah in a tossup game, we’d take them ATS as well, assuming the line is very close to -1.
Louisiana Tech has been electric offensively this year, ranking 7th nationally in college football yards per play (6.6). Also, the Bulldogs are the only FBS team not to have thrown an interception all season.
Tech’s opponent, Utah State, looks up to the challenge though, as USU’s defense ranks 4th nationally in opponent yards per play (4.1). The Aggies have flown a bit under the radar this season, but are a mere 5 points from being a major national story. Their only two losses were by 2 at Wisconsin and by 3 at BYU, and they are the only FBS team currently undefeated against the spread.
In a matchup that will all but decide the WAC championship, our models (at publication time) favor Utah State to both win and cover a -3.5 point spread. Since over 90% of the public has picked Louisiana Tech to win, we see the Aggies as the highest value game winner pick of Week 12.
Louisville stands as the lone undefeated team in the Big East this year. They looked vulnerable at times on their recent three game home-stand, though, squeaking by South Florida and Cincinnati and falling behind early to Temple.
The Cardinals head to the Carrier Dome this week to take on the inconsistent Syracuse Orange. We see Louisville as narrow favorites to stay unbeaten, but a whopping 97% of the public is backing them in pick’em contests. For those needing to swing for the fences this week, rolling with Syracuse to pull a big upset certainly looks tempting.
Where We Stand After Week 10
Here is where our game winner pick’em strategies currently stand on ESPN (which uses confidence points) heading into Week 11. There wasn’t much change across the board, and in a week in which all the favorites won, even going 9 out of 10 with our conservative strategy was not enough to rise in the standings, and aggressive strategies will never shine when favorites dominate.
- Conservative: 93.9th percentile (-0.1 from last week)
- Aggressive: 76.5th percentile (+1.1)
- Very Aggressive: 65.9th percentile (-1.5)
Michigan State has endured an up and down 2012 season, the low point being a four game span during which they won only once, squeaking by Indiana. The Spartans bounced back last week, though, edging Wisconsin on the road. Throughout the season, Michigan State’s defense has remained strong, and they rank in the top 5 nationally in opponent yards per play.
While our numbers don’t quite favor the Spartans to pull an upset over Nebraska this week, we do see the game as a relatively even matchup. With the public heavily favoring the Cornhuskers, Michigan State looks like the best value upset pick of Week 10.
Where We Stand After Week 9
Here is where our game winner pick’em strategies currently stand on ESPN (which uses confidence points) heading into Week 10. There wasn’t much change across the board, and in a week with some crazy upsets in ESPN’s 10-game pick’em, Penn State’s failure to upset Ohio State weighed on our more aggressive strategies.
- Conservative: 94th percentile (-2.4 from last week)
- Aggressive: 75.4th percentile (-2.3)
- Very Aggressive: 67.4th percentile (+1.4)