October 4, 2012 - by Matt Woods
West Virginia has put up some pretty impressive offensive numbers this season. That success could be misleading, though, since we rank the Mountaineers’ strength of schedule as just the 70th most difficult in the nation. In fact, their run should end this week at Texas, which currently ranks #4 nationally in our Overall Power Ratings.
The general public disagrees, which makes this one of several games this week where there’s an opportunity to both pick the favorite, and gain ground on the majority of your opponents.
Week 5 was a slight down week for some of our picks, especially for our more risky Game Winner picks. While our conservative strategy for both Game Winner picks and Spread picks remain in the top 5% nationally, it appears this was not the best week to take a big swing with our always risky Very Aggressive strategy.
Here is where our Game Winner pick’em strategies currently stand on ESPN (which uses confidence points) heading into Week 5. The Conservative pick set should still have you in the top 5 of a 100 person pick’em pool:
Here is where we stand on Yahoo! with our Point Spread pick’em strategies. For the second week in a row, our Very Aggressive strategy took a bit of a hit after a really fast start to the season, but all three remain highly ranked nationally. Similar to our Game Winner picks, our Conservative strategy continues to excel, and with a season-to-date success rate against the spread of over 60%, it should have you at or near the top of most pools:
(Keep in mind that we occasionally “flip” picks if the point spread listed on ESPN is significantly different than the point spread listed on our site.)
Our advice to ignore the public and avoid Virginia as an upset pick was dead on, as Louisiana Tech led by 20 midway through the fourth quarter and was able to hold off a late Wahoo rally. Also, Washington State was the only pick that less than 20% of the public favored to cover that we gave better than 50% odds to cover, and the Cougars scored late to beat the spread against Oregon.
Unfortunately, two of the upset picks we really liked, Oklahoma State and NC State, each lost by giving up a touchdown in the final 30 seconds.
Just a friendly reminder — here’s where you can find our computer generated picks for college football office pools, based on logic appropriate for your size of pool (very important!):
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.
And now, it’s time for 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|
|North Carolina||vs Virginia Tech||67%||~25%||42%||-6||Odds-On Contrarian|
|Texas||vs West Virginia||69%||~35%||34%||-7||Odds-On Contrarian|
|Penn State||vs Northwestern||56%||~25%||31%||-2.5||Odds-On Contrarian|
|TCU||vs Iowa State||76%||~45%||31%||-10||Odds-On Contrarian|
|California||vs UCLA||41%||~5%||36%||+3||High Risk Upset|
|Purdue||vs Michigan||43%||~10%||33%||+3||High Risk Upset|
|Middle Tennessee State||vs Louisiana-Monroe||43%||~15%||28%||+3||High Risk Upset|
|Utah State||at BYU||32%||~5%||27%||+6.5||Long Shot Upset|
|Vanderbilt||at Missouri||30%||~5%||25%||+7||Long Shot Upset|
|Connecticut||at Rutgers||28%||<5%||24%||+7.5||Long Shot Upset|
Wow, if you need to try gain massive ground in your pool, this is a great week to take some risks.
For the second week in a row there are four odds-on contrarian picks, which are games where the public disagrees with our (and in this case, Vegas’s) favorites. North Carolina, Texas, Penn State and TCU are all great picks for any size pool. We think West Virginia’s video game-like offensive numbers may be swaying public perception for this match up against the Longhorns. Also, after Penn State’s much publicized rough start to the season, they’ve quietly rebounded to win their last three games. Whatever the reason for the public imbalance, all four of these picks represent a major opportunity, especially in small pools.
There are three excellent candidates this week for those in bigger pools looking for an upset. Cal, Purdue and MTSU are all underdogs by just a field goal, yet less than 15% of the public has picked them to win.
If you’re looking for even more risk, there are actually three pretty solid choices here. Utah State over BYU provides the most value with the lowest risk when compared to the other Long Shot Upsets, and is the best pick for those looking for even more risk. Vandy and Connecticut are decent long shots too, since 5% or less of the public has picked them even though we give them both close to a 30% chance to win.
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. Line movement highlights can also be found on on the right side of our college football odds page.
|Team||Opponent||Opening Line||Current Line||Movement|
|Central Michigan||at Toledo||+13.5||+10||3.5|
|Louisiana Tech||vs UNLV||-24.5||-27||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, for example, 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 a point of those found at Pinnacle sports book on Thursday morning, yet 20% or less of contestants are selecting them to cover:
|Team||Opponent||Public Pick%||TR Cover Odds||Current Line|
|Kentucky||vs Mississippi State||~10%||50%||+10|
|North Carolina State||vs Florida State||~10%||49%||+15.5|
|Texas Tech||vs Oklahoma||~15%||53%||+5.5|
If the lines in your pick’em contest are the same or very close to 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 you can see, our models only really favor two of these five teams to cover the spread. However , all of our predictions for these games are close enough to 50/50 that the public’s blatant irrationality is worth exploiting in every case.
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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