College Football Analytics Betting Preview for Week 8: Havoc, Success Rate, Explosiveness & More

College Football Analytics Betting Preview for Week 8: Havoc, Success Rate, Explosiveness & More article feature image

Michael Chang/Getty Images. Pictured: South Alabama Jaguars football team.

It's Friday, and we have college football on tonight! This means it's time to adequately prepare bettors to do battle with sportsbooks this weekend. As a reminder, this is a weekly article that takes a look at each matchup through the lens of four key metrics integral to college football handicapping:

  1. Havoc
  2. Success Rate
  3. Finishing Drives
  4. Explosiveness

If you are interested in why these metrics have been chosen, check out this piece by Collin Wilson. To quote his findings:

"Data from the past five years indicates defensive Success Rate, Havoc and Finishing Drives are the biggest indicators in beating oddsmakers this college football season."

We're throwing explosiveness in here as well! With that in mind, let's dive in and see where we can find an edge in Week 8.

5 Factors of CFB Betting


What is Havoc?

Havoc is a college football term defined as a play where there’s an unexpected outcome.

Pass breakups, forced fumbles and tackles for loss are just a few of the plays that cause pandemonium on any given Saturday. These plays, collectively, are used to build an identity for a team.

The calculation for Havoc is simply a cumulative number of tackles for loss, interceptions, fumbles and passes defensed divided by the number of plays on both sides of the ball.

Let's take a look at how each team's havoc rate and havoc allowed rate compare:

Havoc Rate vs. Havoc Allowed Rate Entering Week 8

General Notes & Observations

Quote from last week: "For being a top-three team, Iowa allows a lot of Havoc on Offense. This will come back to haunt them against another elite team."

Let's check the box score: Purdue created 13 Havoc plays against Iowa's offense (26% of Iowa's offensive snaps). It didn't even take an elite team to expose the Hawkeyes.

San Diego State has unseated Troy as the most disruptive defense in the country.

If you thought Texas or Texas A&M would be the best teams in Texas in terms of Havoc performance, you are wrong. Those honors go to the UTSA RoadRunners and the UTEP Miners.

Now let's break this down at the game-by-game level:

Home Team Havoc Rate vs. Away Team Havoc Allowed Rate

Biggest Mismatches

  1. Western Kentucky Offense vs. FIU Defense
  2. Buffalo Offense vs. Akron Defense
  3. Houston Defense vs. ECU Offense

Home Team Havoc Allowed Rate vs. Away Team Havoc Rate

Biggest Mismatches:

  1. South Alabama Defense vs UL Monroe Offense
  2. Cincinnati Defense vs Navy Offense
  3. San Jose State Defense vs UNLV Offense

Success Rate

What is Success Rate?

Success Rate is an advanced metric in football that measures efficiency, but with the important context of down and distance considered.

A play is defined as successful if:

  • It gains at least 50% of the yards required to move the chains on first down
  • 70% of yards to gain on second down
  • 100% of yards to gain on third or fourth down

To calculate Success Rate, simply divide the number of successful plays (as defined by down and distance above) by total plays.

This definition is straight from our article on Success Rate. So, which teams excel at moving the chains?

Offensive Success Rate vs. Defensive Success Rate

General Notes & Observations

(Once again, top left is bad and bottom right is good!)

Kansas is in for a long day on Saturday.

Ohio State is starting to put it together on offense and defense.

Iowa, Notre Dame and Clemson each have their respective defenses playing at an elite level, but their offenses are letting them down.

Home Team Success Rate vs. Away Team Success Rate Allowed

Biggest Mismatches

  1. South Alabama Defense vs ULM Offense
  2. Cincinnati Defense vs Navy Offense
  3. Colorado State Defense vs Utah State Offense

Home Team Success Rate Allowed vs. Away Team Success Rate

Biggest Mismatches

  1. Oklahoma Offense vs Kansas Defense
  2. Western Kentucky Offense vs FIU Defense
  3. Michigan State Offense vs Vanderbilt Defense

Finishing Drives

What is Finishing Drives?

Finishing Drives is points per opportunity when the offense is past the 40 Yard Line. Defensively, this is how many points per opportunity a defense allows when the opposing offense crosses the 40-yard line.

Offensive Finishing Drives vs. Defensive Finishing Drives

General Notes & Observations

Pitt and Kenny Pickett have been an awesome story, but their schedule has been a cakewalk, to put it mildly. With games against UNC, Clemson, Miami, Virginia and Syracuse to finish the season, the Panthers could drop five of their last six.

Someone needs to start talking about the South Alabama Defense. Most underrated unit in the country.

Miami and Arizona: Yikes. Hope those open tryouts are helping the Wildcats down the stretch.

Home Team Offensive Finishing Drives Rank vs. Away Team Defensive Finishing Drives Rank

Biggest Mismatches

  1. Ole Miss Offense vs LSU Defense
  2. Colorado State vs Utah State Offense
  3. UCF Offense vs Memphis Defense

Home Team Defensive Finishing Drives Rank vs. Away Team Offensive Finishing Drives Rank

Biggest Mismatches

  1. Oklahoma Offense vs Kansas Defense
  2. Texas A&M Defense vs South Carolina Offense
  3. Purdue Defense vs Wisconsin Offense

Week 8 CFB Betting Takeaways

Congratulations; you've finished reading these charts (or just skipped straight to the end), and now you're ready for what you came for: Which bets should you make based on all these charts?

Ask, and you shall receive.

What if I told you that one of the best defenses in the country, paired with a slightly above-average offense, was playing arguably the third- or fourth-worst team in the country … and the spread was less than two touchdowns?

Is that something that would interest you?

Excellent, because that's precisely what we have on tap on Saturday when South Alabama visits UL Monroe at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN3.

Let's take a look at this game:

South Alabama Offense: Slightly above average — but ULM's defense is awful.

South Alabama Defense: One of the best (and most underrated) units in the country.

This could not be a better spot for the Jaguars. ULM is coming off of one of the biggest upsets in college football history, which means that it's time for a rapid return to reality.

Pick: South Alabama -13.5

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