2011 College Football Preseason Projections Review: Our Conference And Division Futures Picks Would Have Tripled Your Bankroll

Before we get to Saturday and the start of the college football bowls, we thought it would be a valuable exercise to review how our 2011 college football preseason projections performed. This season was the first time we’ve published data-driven preseason projections for college football.

While we did plenty of historical testing to try to confirm we were on the right track, there’s always some uncertainty when a new system is released into the wild for the first time. We released quite a lot of projected info for each team, but we’ll focus on team win totals and conference win odds for all FBS teams.

Conference and Division Win Odds

In each of our BCS conference previews (links to which can be found in our 2011 Big East preview), we used the preseason projections to pick one or two ‘Best Values’ — actual ‘Win Division’ or ‘Win Conference’ futures bets offered at an offshore sportsbook that our projections suggested might be worth backing.

Boy, were they.

If you had bet one unit on all ten “Best Values” you’d have walked away with 19.3 units of profit at the end of the year, nearly tripling your money:

ConferenceTeamTo WinOddsImplied%TR Pred%ResultNet
Big TenIowaDivision7/112.5%20.6%x-1
Big 12Oklahoma StConference9/110.0%16.9%WIN+9
Big TenIllinoisDivision10/19.1%17.7%x-1
Big 12MissouriConference14/16.7%17.0%x-1
Big EastConnecticutConference22/14.3%9.6%x-1
ACCNC StateConference28/13.4%9.9%x-1
Total1.1 correct1.8 correct3 correct+19.25

Most of the value we highlighted was in relative longshots, which meant we only needed one or two successes to make the portfolio profitable, and we got three. Here are the three correct picks, along with some snippets we wrote back in the preseason:

  • Oregon to win Pac-12 North Division (5/4) — We’re as surprised as you are. Rarely would you expect to find any value in betting one of the top ranked teams in the nation to repeat as division winners — defending division champs and highly ranked teams are usually both overpriced. Why not in this case?
  • Oklahoma State to win Bg 12 (9/1) – Vegas is very confident in the Sooners, to the point where other odds are undervalued. Oklahoma State by most measures is a borderline top 10 team, it makes sense that they have better than 10% odds of winning the conference.
  • Clemson to win ACC (16-1) — The market seems to have placed such a premium on Virginia Tech and Florida State that many of the other teams appear to be reasonably valued. We project Clemson as the third-best team in the conference, only around a point worse than Virginia Tech.

Of course, some of these look kind of silly in retrospect, as well:

  • Iowa to win Big Ten Legends Division (7/1) — With Nebraska so heavily overrated there a multiple teams with decent odds on this half of the conference. Iowa is the best of the bunch, though.

You win some and you lose some. Hey, as long as you win enough…

Team Win Totals

Across our various projections-related blog posts — mostly the conference previews and a Stat Geek Perspective post — we published 46 projected team win totals that were paired with win total over/unders from offshore sportsbooks. (We published projected totals for all teams, we just didn’t find all teams listed at sportsbooks).

To make a long story short, our projections did very well, as our win total was on the correct side of the Vegas line around 65% of the time:

ConferenceTeamVegasTRActualCorrect Side?
Pac-12Arizona St87.76YES
Big 12Baylor6.54.69no
MWCBoise St1010.911YES
ACCFlorida St109.18YES
ACCGeorgia Tech67.28YES
Big TenIowa87.87YES
Big 12Kansas St5.55.710YES
ACCMiami FL87.26YES
Big TenMichigan77.310YES
Big TenMichigan St77.410YES
SECMississippi St776no
Big 12Missouri7.58.77no
Big TenNebraska109.19YES
Big TenNorthwestern7.55.46YES
IndNotre Dame97.18YES
Big TenOhio State99.36no
Big 12Oklahoma109.69YES
Big 12Oklahoma St88.511YES
Pac-12Oregon St75.43YES
Big TenPenn St87.49no
SECS Carolina98.310no
Big EastSouth Florida87.35YES
Big EastSyracuse65.45YES
Big 12Texas8.57.37YES
Big 12Texas A&M8.58.26YES
Big 12Texas Tech76.75YES
ACCVirginia Tech109.511no
Pac-12Wash St4.52.84YES
Big EastWest Virginia99.19no
Big TenWisconsin98.710no
TotalYes 30-16 No

Now, many of those totals were presented with odds other than -110/-110, so it’s not as if we were dominating Vegas. But it was at minimum a respectable showing.

So, have we convinced you we know what we’re doing over here? If so, and you’re going to compete in a Bowl Pick’em or are planning on wagering on some of the games, make sure to check out our 2011-2012 college football bowl games section, complete with bowl predictions, bowl betting picks, and bowl pick’em advice and picks.