Yesterday got a bit more harried than I’d like. I did the data for every game this week (as I do every week), and intended to have midweek special for you on Monday, but formatting and expanding these takes a lot of time; time that simply was not available.
And, not that it helps you, but I do go into today with a spiffy 4-1 record after the midweek. Overall, it’s been a pretty good year, honestly. There have been far fewer fluke games than in years past (though we’ve seen a lot more spread-killing 4th quarter collapses this season).
Still, just about all the variance in-game is arising from that which data can’t fully predict: the timing and field position of turnovers and other hidden variables. And, as snaps are decreasing, as there are fewer drives, the value of a turnover is worth significantly more than in years past — about 40% more on a per-point basis than over a preceding five-year average. So too has the value of a “hidden” turnover risen: these are things like failed 4D conversions, third down penalties, analytically-awful 2nd and long rushes (side-eye Tommy Rees), and other little things that add up. These are usually in the heat of the moment decisions, and ones that can’t ever be fully predicted.
Like the Stoics of old, we can only control that which we can control (h/t to my dog, Marcus Aurelius). That’s why we’re here: the math captures the known-knowns and helps predict the known-unknowns. But only boneheads like Mario Cristobal and Jimbo Fisher can be responsible for the unknown-unknowns.
Anyway, just a prefatory note about what we actually do at GAM: Part art, mostly science, and a whole lot of bad football consumed every week.
Week Five: 4-2
What on Earth?
Trust running games and defense; both of which tilt in favor of the USNA
Navy was up by a touchdown late, had stifled the North Texas offense...and then gave up 14 points in six minutes to turn a TD win into a TD loss. We’ve seen a ton of these collapses this year, honestly. This is exactly one of those unknown-unknowns mentioned above.
The Tide win the +/- battle to overcome shooting themselves in the foot, and two long Will Reichard field goals decide it. Alabama -6.18
26-20 Alabama, subject to the caveat that the Tide are healthy.
I believe the kids call this “bringing receipts.” Final score: 26 -20 Alabama.
Welcome to Week Seven of 2023’s Giving Away Money.
We use data-based algorithmic predictions for all of our picks, combined with deep knowledge, and some good ole’ fashioned eyeballs.
For a third year, we extend our thanks to DraftKings for sponsoring Roll ‘Bama Roll in this space. For more degenerate gambling, fantasy, and sportsbook posts, you can check all of those out at the SBNation DraftKings Supergroup hub.
For current odds, check those out here.
Half a dozen games to go through today, and you know the drill: One we like, one we love, an underdog to consider, one to steer clear of, a ginormous spread worth your time, and a mortal lock.
Vegas has your money; let’s go get it.
Not with a 10’ Pole and Stolen Money:
This may be the most toxic spread of the week. Arkansas has dropped a lot of close games this year, and they still have one of the SEC’s best RB/QB tandems — no matter how poorly Dan Enos is using them. The scheme just sucks, frankly. And that’s a pity: the defense has been standing on their head. After so many narrow losses, one really wonders how much more pride the Pigs have left in them. Sounds like a ‘Bama lean, right? Nope. Did I mention that Alabama hosts the Vols next week, then hosts LSU...all right after a tough physical and emotional tilt in Aggieland? Like Ohio State-Purdue, the Tide are into this one to win it then move on to an important game.
You could not get me to bet this line with a looted Brinks truck, no matter the fact ‘Bama is 4-2 ATS this season.
If you bet on this game, you’re a damn fool.
One We Like:
Memphis vs. Tulane -3.5
This ain’t Norvell’s Memphis team. Hell, it’s not even Justin Fuente’s Memphis team. Oh, sure, the Tigers are still tough at home, but they’ve regressed in every way imaginable (except the special teams, which as usual remain some of the best in the country.) The run defense is a bit softer than years past, and the Tigers give up a ton of explosive plays through the air. That is certainly going to be a problem against the Green Wave, who average 9.7 YPA — which is frankly absurd.
Numbers really like the visitors here, as Pratt & Co., plus a superior defense, give the Green Wave a road W just a short drive up I-55
One We Love:
UNC -3 vs. Miami
Mack Brown is perfectly happy to let Clemson and Luhvl and FSU claim the headlines in the ACC. They’ll let people wonder what happened to Pitt and Va. Tech. The ‘Heels will be sharpening their knives as the media drools over the Duke Blue Devils. Meanwhile, the Tarheels will be over quietly sneaking up the Top 10 and smashing teams. I’m not comfortable living in a world with a good North Carolina football team. But this is a good one...especially at home. We also get a Bonus Road Mario hangover after the worst coaching decision I think I’ve ever seen in major college football.
Take Carolina by a touchdown
An Underdog With Bite:
Georgia Southern +7 at James Madison
Since an abominable -6 game in September, the Eagles haven’t turned it over yet, and they are +4 in conference play. The passing offense is simply outstanding, and their secondary is coming along. JMU’s weakness is their passing defense. Is all that enough to spring the upset for Clay Helton’s crew? Maybe not. But the data like GSU’s offense to make this game pretty nip and tuck. That seems to be the only way that the Dukes know how to play. And in a razor-thin game, you’d expect that experience to pay off the scoreboard...even if not in Vegas.
Enjoy him while you’ve got ‘em, Statesboro: Clay Helton will be back in the G5 next year.
Georgia Southern +.04
Ginormous Spread Worth Your Time:
Fun fact! There are just five games this week with spreads at or above 17. And, frankly, the numbers just don’t work out well for most of them. But, we have one contender here that does exceed the margin of error:
UGA -31 at Vandy
The ‘Dores have the SEC’s worst secondary. The Dawgs, its most efficient passing offense. There’s literally no one on this entire VU squad that can cover Bowers if you told them which play was coming. And I doubt that any three could even tackle him. Now, add in a one-dimensional Vandy offense that has turned it over 12 times in its last five games, and an obscene eight times in three SEC games....against UGA’s secondary. Sure, the Cocktail Party is next week, and Kirby has been known to be flat in these kinds of games. But it’s a long year in Nashville, and this 0-7 ATS Vanderbilt team is hard to put money on in any position.
The Dawgs could come out flat and still cover this, methinks.
Texas Tech -1.5 vs. Kansas State
This is one of the best spreads on the board this week. A Wildcats team that turns it over in droves, laying one egg after another on the road? Sure, Will Howard is still beastly, but there have been a lot of cracks in the armor in Manhattan this year — not least of which is bad road play. They travel to one of the B12’s most underrated hostile venues too. And the Red Raiders can beat you in so many ways. They’ll throw, they’ll run, they bring a filthy defense to the table, they’re remarkably aggressive on 4th down. And this is all happening in Lubbock...at night? PEW PEW MFer!
Toss your tortillas
Red Raiders. -7.83
Alabama -19.5 vs. Arkansas
Hogs to cover and spring the upset.
Piggies will cover at least.
Alabama romps, wins and covers
I’m not a fool: I wouldn’t put any money on either of these teams here.
Want some more of these? I crank the data for (almost) every single game, every single week over at my companion site: (Almost) Giving Away Money. Check it out, and prosper.
Just five bucks a month. Far cheaper than a divorce attorney when your wife leaves you for being a bad gambler.