September 6, 2012 - by David Hess
We got off to a great start in Week 1 of college football pick’ems. Two of our three highest-value game winner upset picks came through with wins (Ohio over Penn State, and Colorado State over Colorado), and our spread-based pick’em strategy would have led you to place near the very top of Yahoo!
Our Conservative ATS strategy — which takes into account stale lines and public pick biases as well as our projected cover odds — went 13-7 in Yahoo!’s Week 1 games, which snagged us a top-300 rank and means we’re beating 99% of all contestants. It is, of course, super early, but we’d rather be off to a great start than a poor one! Our more aggressive strategies — which, remember, are designed to be more “boom and bust” — are sitting in the 93rd percentile and the 97th percentile.
Our game winner picks didn’t start quite as hot, but our Conservative picks still managed a very good 93rd percentile showing in ESPN’s pool (which uses confidence points). Our more aggressive strategies took some risks that didn’t pay off, and are sitting right in the middle of the pack right now. But there’s no reason to worry, as it’s still very early in the season.
Just a friendly reminder; here’s where you can find our computer generated picks for college football office pools:
On our game winner office pool picks, there is a drop-down menu above the picks table where you can select Yahoo!, ESPN, or AP Top 25 teams. A lot of people play in Yahoo! and ESPN pools, each of which pick a specific subset of games to include in their pick’ems week to week. We calculate pick sets designed specifically for these sets of games.
OK, let’s get to it.
We’ll begin with our handy Game Winner table, which summarizes a few teams that look like they could be smart picks for people that need to take some risks. It’s based on our detailed pick’em analysis page.
|Team||Opponent||Adj Win Odds||Public %||Value||Spread||Pick Type|
|Miss State||vs. Auburn||60%||~30%||30%||-3.5||Odds-On Contrarian|
|Texas A&M||vs. Florida||54%||~45%||9%||-1||Odds-On Contrarian|
|Clemson||vs. Ball State||95%||~75%||20%||-27||Odds-On Value|
|Ohio State||vs. Central FL||89%||~65%||24%||-18||Odds-On Value|
|Missouri||vs. Georgia||43%||~10%||33%||+2.5||High Risk Upset|
|Connecticut||vs. NC State||37%||~5%||32%||+4.5||High Risk Upset|
|Iowa State||at Iowa||38%||~15%||23%||+4.5||High Risk Upset|
|UCLA||vs. Nebraska||33%||~5%||28%||+5.5||Long Shot Upset|
|Oregon St||vs. Wisconsin||31%||<5%||27%||+6.5||Long Shot Upset|
|Miami (FL)||at Kansas St||31%||~20%||11%||+7||Long Shot Upset|
There are several great opportunities to make waves in your pool this week, according to our adjusted win odds (a combination of our college football game winner picks and the Vegas line).
Both our models and the Vegas line agree that Texas A&M should be favored at home over Florida, and that Mississippi State should be favored at home over Auburn. Yet over half the public is picking Florida and Auburn. This is the ideal situation for smart players, as you get a chance to gain ground on the majority your pool without taking on any additional risk. We recommend all players in all pool sizes should pick Texas A&M and Mississippi State.
There are a couple other games where solid favorites are being underrated by the public, meaning you get a chance to gain some ground on decent chunks of your pool, with very little risk. We’re talking about Clemson and Ohio State, both of which are great picks this week. It pays to give both of these teams quite a few confidence points this week.
If you’re in a large pool, Missouri over Georgia provides a nice spot to take on a bit more risk in order to try to gain ground on 90% of your competitors. The Tigers are slight underdogs according to our odds, but massive underdogs according to the public. Connecticut is in a similar boat, but is a bit riskier.
For those of you in giant pools (1000+ entries), we recommend picking all of the above mentioned teams, but probably holding off on the Long Shot Upsets this week, unless you have a strong lean on one of them. The Long Shots are not as undervalued as Missouri or UConn, plus have lower win odds. That’s higher risk but lower reward — not a great combo.
A lot of point spread based pick’em contests publish the games and associated point spreads at the beginning of the week, but give you until the end of the week (or close to it) to submit your picks. This means a great strategy is to look for a game where the official spread in your contest is different from the current spread offered at most sports books, and take the “free points.” In general, the edge you get from those free points is going to be stronger than any lean you have on who is favored to cover.
Below are the biggest line movements from earlier in the week. They can also be found on on the right side of our college football odds page.
|Team||Opponent||Opening Line||Current Line||Movement|
|Arizona||vs. Oklahoma St.||+13.5||+10||3.5|
|Arizona St.||vs. Illinois||Pick||-3.5||3.5|
|North Carolina||at Wake Forest||-7.5||-10.5||3|
|Central Michigan||vs. Michigan St.||+24||+21||3|
|Bowling Green||vs. Idaho||-13.5||-16.5||3|
|Middle Tennessee||vs. Florida Atlantic||-7||-9.5||2.5|
The other major source of value in ATS pick’ems is finding teams that a huge majority of your opponents are picking, and then taking the other side. Most Vegas point spreads are pretty efficient, so if 85% of your opponents are picking a certain team to beat the spread this week, that team is almost certainly being severely overvalued. And that means you’ve got roughly a 50/50 shot of pulling ahead of a huge chunk of your opponents by picking against them, no matter what your personal opinion is of that game.
Here are five teams where the lines for the Yahoo! ATS pick’em are the within half a point of those found at Pinnacle sports book on Thursday morning, yet under 15% of the public is selecting them to cover:
|Team||Opponent||Public Pick%||TR Cover Odds||Current Line|
|Arizona||vs. Oklahoma St||~10%||48%||+10|
|Texas State||vs. Texas Tech||~15%||54%||+18|
|Oregon St||vs. Wisconsin||~15%||47%||+6.5|
If the lines in your pick’em contest are the same as those shown above, and if you think your competitors will be picking teams in roughly the same manner as the general public (e.g., in line with the Yahoo! contest picking trends), we’d recommend playing all five of these teams.
As always, please feel free to ask questions in the comment section below. We’ll do our best to answer as many as possible, and we look forward to a fun and interactive college football weekly pick’em advice column this season.
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