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BYU vs. Central Florida: Odds, betting lines and computer predictions

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Using data from Las Vegas and several computer predictors to get a hopefully-accurate preview for BYU's primetime Thursday matchup at Central Florida.

Scott Halleran

If you're like me, you pushed the fact that BYU football even exists out of your mind for the past several days.

But a new game approaches soon against the Central Florida Knights and there are several things to give us courage: The Cougars still have the services of a fantastic running back in Jamaal Williams, Jordan Leslie looks like an NFL-caliber receiver, and Christian Stewart actually made all the right reads last week, he was just wound too tightly and overthrowing. He didn't make terrible reads, and to my recollection, didn't throw balls where they shouldn't be attempted. He simply overthrew open receivers.

These things are encouraging to me. So with that, I'm ready. Let's look at how BYU is expected to fare against UCF from sportsbooks and predictors.

(This is, of course, for entertainment purposes only. While we don't encourage gambling, referencing predictions from the people who make money on predictions can be interesting.)

LINES AND ODDS

When sports books opened lines on the game, Central Florida was favored by 3 points and the line has held pretty steady at that number. The over/under opened at 47 and is now down to 45.5.

Vegas lines and odds aren't necessarily meant to predict, but to entice betting. However, combining the line and the over/under usually ends up close to some computer models. At the very least, it's fun.

Combining the line and the over/under, the Vegas combo has UCF winning 24-21.

PREDICTIVE RANKINGS

Some computer rankings are designed to provide a built-in predictive element by comparing the ratings of two teams.

Some of the best ratings out there come from Football Outsiders. The most famous is Jeff Sagarin's for USA Today, previously used in the BCS computer rankings, but I've gathered a couple others from around the web as well. It's notable that most of these are based on games played and have no way to compensate for injuries or suspensions, they simple calculate success rates and points per play, etc, on actual game play.

FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS F/+

F/+ is a combination of Bill Connelly's S&P+ and Brian Fremeau's FEI ratings. The ratings are usually pretty solid in factoring all the many variables involved in ranking college football teams.

Football Outsiders site only lists the ratings in order, but Connelly posts F/+ predictions on his SB Nation site Football Study Hall.

F/+ ratings place BYU at #46 (down from 27) and UCF at #64.

For comparison, current F/+ for opponents BYU has already played:
UConn - 106
Texas - 61
Houston - 87
Virginia - 40
Utah State - 69

Bill C. usually posts his F/+ picks on Thursdays, so I'll update this section when that goes up.

SAGARIN

BYU is ranked #32 (down from 23) with a rating of 79.25
UCF is ranked #53 with a rating of 73.71

Sagarin's formula currently values home field advantage as being worth 3.44 points. So subtracting the difference between the ratings and then adding 3.44 in favor of BYU, Sagarin favors BYU by 2 points (2.10).

BILLINGSLEY

Billingsley's ranking was also previously used by the BCS. With the BCS restriction to remove margin of victory out of consideration, Billingsley has created a version of his formula that accounts for MOV.

BYU is ranked #38 with a rating of 102.327
UCF is ranked #39 with a rating of 101.627

The difference is 0.70, so on a neutral field this rating esteems the two teams pretty much as equals. Billingsley does not provide a home-field advantage factor, but I'll apply the standard 3 points and say Billingsley favors UCF by 2 (2.30).

DONCHESS INFERENCE RATING

Donchess boils down the ratings directly into digestible scores and probabilities, no math required.

Donchess predicts a UCF win 26-23 but only gives UCF a win probability of 54%.

ASHBY'S ACCURATING

Ashby's Accurating is still not updated reflecting last week's games. Sorry friends.

COMPOSITE RATING

There are a lot of computer ratings that aren't packaged with a predictive ability. There are also a ton of computer ratings, period. Kenneth Massey, whose ratings were also part of the old BCS computer formula, hosts on his site a composite ranking of 108 computer ratings across the internet.

In that composite, BYU ranks #32 (down from 14) and Central Florida ranks #61.

* * *
By all accounts, this is expected to be a well-contested game. In my estimation, Stewart can be good enough to win this game. But will he be?