Week 7 College Football Pick’em Strategy: No Love for the Cougars?
October 11, 2012 - by Matt Woods
Oregon State travels to Provo this Saturday to take on the BYU Cougars. Our system favors BYU, who is two heart-breaking road losses from an undefeated record, and Vegas has them favored by 6. Despite the point spread and a key personnel loss for the Beavers, an overwhelming majority of the public has picked against the Cougars at home. Rolling with BYU this week is just one of several excellent chances to pick against the public in week 7.
Where We Stand After Week 6
Week 6 was a bit of a down week for our game winner picks across all strategies. Our more aggressive approaches have slipped in recent weeks, though that’s always a possibility when introducing more risk. Even with a slight drop from last week though, our Conservative strategy remains in the top 10% nationally.
Here is where our game winner pick’em strategies currently stand on ESPN (which uses confidence points) heading into Week 6. The Conservative pick set should still have you in the top 10 of a 100 person pick’em pool:
- Conservative: 91.5th percentile (-4.1 from last week)
- Aggressive: 75.2nd percentile (-8.0)
- Very Aggressive: 65.1st percentile (-7.2)
Here is where we stand on Yahoo! with our point spread pick’em strategies. Our against the spread picks had a very solid week. Both our Conservative and Aggressive strategies are in the top 5% nationally, and should have you in great shape in any sized pool six weeks into the season:
- Conservative: 99th percentile (no change from last week)
- Aggressive: 96th percentile (+2)
- Very Aggressive: 84th percentile (-1)
(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.)
Last week we pointed out four games in which we favored a team to team to win even though a majority of the public did not. North Carolina and Penn State came through in a big way, both winning by double digits even though only about 25% of the public had picked each team to win.
Unfortunately, two of the picks we really liked, Texas and TCU both lost on Saturday. It should be noted however, that TCU was without suspended starting quarterback Casey Pachall, who has since left the team.
Our biggest value picks Against the Spread did not fair quite as well. There were two teams last week that we favored to cover even though less than 20% of the public had picked them to do so. Unfortunately, John Q. Public got it right this time as both Texas Tech and Purdue failed to keep their games competitive as slight underdogs.
Our Week 7 College Football Office Pool Picks
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.
Week 7 Value Pick Highlights: Game Winners
|Team||Opponent||Adj Win Odds||Public %||Value||Spread||Pick Type|
|BYU||vs Oregon State||66%||14%||52%||-6||Odds-On Contrarian|
|Purdue||vs Wisconsin||58%||25%||33%||-2.5||Odds-On Contrarian|
|North Carolina||at Miami||70%||45%||25%||-7.5||Odds-On Contrarian|
|LSU||vs South Carolina||56%||33%||23%||-2.5||Odds-On Contrarian|
|Texas Tech||vs West Virginia||41%||2%||39%||+3.5||High Risk Upset|
|Pittsburgh||vs Louisville||41%||6%||35%||+3||High Risk Upset|
|Minnesota||vs Northwestern||43%||10%||33%||+3||High Risk Upset|
|Fresno State||at Boise State||32%||3%||29%||+7||Long Shot Upset|
|Iowa State||vs Kansas State||30%||3%||27%||+6.5||Long Shot Upset|
For the third week in a row we see an excellent opportunity to go against the grain. Yet again there are four odds-on contrarian picks, which are games where the public disagrees with our (and in this case, Vegas’s) favorites. BYU, Purdue, North Carolina and LSU are all great picks for any size pool.
Of the four, BYU especially stands out. The Cougars are favored by 6 and our numbers give them a 2:1 odds to win. Moreover, Oregon State will be without starting QB Sean Manion indefinitely due to injury; yet, 86% of the public has backed the Beavers. Picking BYU presents incredible value this week, and the Cougars should be at or near the top confidence level for pools that use them.
There are three excellent candidates this week for those in bigger pools looking for an upset. Pittsburgh, Texas Tech and Minnesota are all underdogs by about a field goal and we give all three about a 40% to win. Despite the small spreads, though, less than 10% of the public has picked each them to win.
If you’re looking for something even more contrarian than Minnesota or Pittsburgh, there are actually two long shots that present fairly solid choices. We give goth Fresno State and Iowa State about a 30% probability to pull the upsets as touchdown underdogs. Since only 3% of the public has taken those chances, both the Bulldogs and the Cyclones are good places to look for those seeking to take some chances this week.
Against The Spread Pick’em Strategy
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.
Week 7 Point Spread Movement Highlights
|Team||Opponent||Opening Line||Current Line||Movement|
|San Diego State||vs Colorado State||-19||-22||3.5|
|Stanford||at Notre Dame||+10||+7.5||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 84% 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:
Week 7 Point Spread Pick Imbalance Highlights
|Team||Opponent||Public Pick%||TR Cover Odds||Current Line|
|Texas Tech||vs West Virginia||7%||53%||+3.5|
|Iowa State||vs Kansas State||10%||47%||+6.5|
|Fresno State||at Boise State||11%||54%||+7|
|BYU||vs Oregon State||16%||48%||-6|
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.