If you want a solid way to predict the outcome of college football games, you can't do much better than looking to the guys who set the odds for major gambling operations. Their multi-million dollar business hinges on their ability to give reasonably accurate predictions of sporting events. So I, for one, find Vegas odds to be as good a pre-season predictor as anything else out there.
The Golden Nugget has released their initial odds for many of 2013's college football games (see the whole list here), and the bottom line is that Vegas likes us this year even with a much more difficult schedule than we are used to. Here are the games they have set lines for so far:
- at Virginia: 3.5 point favorite
- vs. Texas: 7.5 point underdog
- vs. Utah: 7.5 point favorite
- vs. Georgia Tech: 3 point favorite
- vs. Boise State: 1 point favorite
- at Wisconsin: 8 point underdog
- at Notre Dame: 11 point underdog
- at Nevada: 7.5 point favorite
Assuming that we take care of business against Middle Tennessee, Utah State, Houston, and Idaho State, that's a prediction for a 9-3 season with wins over 3 teams from AQ conferences and both our in-state rivals. Even with this schedule I don't think 9 wins will be good enough for a BCS bowl, but it would still be the best season we've had in a long time. And frankly, that sounds about right to me. If things bounce right that could mean as good as an 11-1 season and a BCS bowl. If things bounce wrong (as they did last year) that means we go 7-5.
For fun, I also looked up our opponents predicted records (wins-losses-pick'ems). Remember that this list tends to include competitive games and teams with large fanbases, so you can expect the AQ conference teams listed here to win (or at least be favored in) most of the games for which Vegas hasn't set a line. Here's the list:
- Virginia: 0-5-0
- Texas: 10-0-1
- Utah: 1-6-0
- Georgia Tech: 1-5-0
- Houston: 0-1-0
- Boise State: 1-2-0
- Wisconsin: 4-1-1
- Notre Dame: 10-1-1
- Nevada: 0-3-0
To summarize, here's what Vegas thinks:
- Texas and Notre Dame will be top 10 teams with Wisconsin not far behind.
- Utah, Virginia, and Georgia Tech will be middle- to lower-tier AQ conference teams
- Don't expect BCS runs from Boise State or Nevada this year.
- Vegas doesn't really know (or care) about Houston, Middle Tennessee, Utah State, or Idaho State.