Wilson: My Projected Odds for Every Week 1 College Football Game

Credit:

Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured (L-R): Xavier Jones (5) and Shane Buechele (7).

The college football season is officially underway as Austin Peay and Central Arkansas concluded the first game of the season on Saturday night.

Every Sunday morning, The Action Network will have updated Power Ratings — including FCS teams — and we will project point spreads for every game of the following week in anticipation of Sunday opening lines.

Look here to identify early betting value when opening lines are released, and follow me in The Action Network App to see when I bet those lines on Sunday afternoon.

Our Week 1 slate has been trimmed due to COVID-19, but two Thursday night games headline the start of FBS play. Here are the projections for Week 1:

Projected College Football Odds, Week 1

A negative number indicates the home team is favored by that many points; a positive number means the home team is an underdog.


Check out our free NCAAF odds page, which automatically surfaces the best line for every game.


Notes on Central Arkansas

The Bears were the better team over Austin Peay in Week 0, as the Governors blew a lead with under two minutes to play. Austin Peay entered the game without a long snapper, first team All-American DeAngelo Wilson and a handful of other players due to COVID-19. Central Arkansas showed flashes of an explosive passing game under quarterback Breylin Smith.

The Bears surpassed the Austin Peay 35-yard line in 11 of 15 drives but had an issue in the finishing drives department. Looking forward to Week 1, UAB should be able to apply pressure to a pass-happy Central Arkansas offense. The Blazers ranked 12th in sack-rate last season and return 80% of their defensive production for 2020.


Week 1 Notes

  • Both Southern Miss and South Alabama return 70% of offensive units that ranked 99th and 116th in success rate in 2019. The Golden Eagles ranked 122nd in Havoc allowed last season and must improve their offensive discipline in order to be successful.
  • UTEP is projected as an underdog to Stephen F. Austin. The Miners report one of the lowest returning production rates in the country, along with their perennially abysmal success rate metrics.
  • Marshall returns 78% of its offense from 2019, but will be led by new QB Grant Wells. If you thought that Austin Peay’s COVID-19 news was fun in Week 0, you’ll have a field day with Eastern Kentucky’s latest coronavirus news.
  • The North Texas roster will be without Mason Fine for the first time since 2015. Head Coach Seth Littrell will now call offensive plays after firing the offensive coordinator during the offseason.
  • SMU beat Texas State by 30 points last September despite committing three turnovers. The Bobcats defense was torched by the Sun Belt in 2019 and returns only 32% of its defensive production this season. The Mustangs return 75% of an offense that includes QB Shane Buechele.

  • Army is a plug-and-play offense with the triple-option, while Middle Tennessee returns only 54% of its defense from 2019. The Blue Raiders ranked 79th in Stuff Rate last season. Army has been the top team in the nation in Stuff Rate since 2017.
  • Speaking of defending the triple-option, BYU returns 62% of a defense that ranked 107th in Stuff Rate last year. Nevertheless, that may prove inconsequential; Navy only returns two offensive lineman and may struggle to replace QB Malcolm Perry.

Terms to Know

Postgame Win Expectancy is a calculation of all variables in a box score that dictate who would win the game if it was played a high number of times. Turnover luck, success rate and yards per play are notable components of this calculation, and can influence a single game. But over a large sample, the team that moved the ball better would win more often than not.

There have been plenty of box scores where a team wins as an underdog, but a negative value is applied to that team’s power rating, because the result was fluky rather than systematic.

Coach scheme changes can adjust a power rating quickly. For example, Oregon will undergo a change from Marcus Arroyo’s conservative play-calling to new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s system. Moorhead’s offense features a heavy dose of 11 personnel, west coast spread concepts and modern RPOs.

That offensive philosophy has led to more explosiveness and higher rates of success on standard downs at each of Moorhead’s previous stops at Penn State and Mississippi State. In a situation like this, a power rating can be useful to quickly adjust a team’s forecast for future games. In the case of Mike Leach, an adjustment of totals is coming with an increase in plays per game.

Success Rate and Explosiveness were first defined in Bill Connelly’s Five Factors and are strong indicators for future box scores. While EPA (Expected Points Added) and IsoPPP (Isolated Points Per Play) can be highly variable from season to season, Success Rate is a stable data point for handicappers to use for projections.

Simply put, if a team consistently achieves the desired amount of yards — determined by down and distance — then this is a “play-on” team with your bankroll. Texas A&M ranked 17th in offensive success rate last season and returns 80% of its offensive production for 2020; that combination makes the Aggies a play-on team.

As the 2020 season quickly approaches with Central Arkansas and Austin Peay kicking off in Montgomery, we’ll be keeping track of all these variables in and out of the box score. Be sure to bookmark our power ratings for the latest update on all FBS and FCS teams playing this fall.

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