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BYU vs. California: Odds, betting lines, and computer predictions

Using data from Las Vegas and several computer predictors to get a hopefully-accurate preview for BYU's season finale against the Cal Bears.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

One game left in the regular season, and it will tell us a lot about what BYU has been able to improve since the four-game losing streak. Let's look at how BYU is expected to fare against the Cal Golden Bears 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, Cal was favored by 3.5. The line has moved ever so slightly and Cal is favored by 4. The over/under opened at 72 and has pretty much stayed put.

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 Cal winning 38-34.

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 simply 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 that have a relatively low level of common opponents.

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 #42 (-1) and Cal at #56.

For comparison, current F/+ for opponents BYU has already played:
UConn - 103 (-8)
Texas - 55 (-2)
Houston - 77 (-2)
Virginia - 35 (+5)
Utah State - 51 (-)
UCF - 57 (+2)
Nevada - 65 (-9)
Boise State - 34 (+2)
Middle Tennessee - 84 (+1)
UNLV - 121 (-)

F/+ picks were changed a month ago to adjust more for pace of play, resulting in some higher score predictions in an attempt to more accurately peg the margin of victory. What's important in the F/+ picks are the MOV and the win probability.

F/+ picks turns in a prediction varied from Vegas, having BYU favored by 2.6 (winning 46-43) with a BYU win probability of 59.1%.

SAGARIN

BYU is ranked #47 with a rating of 73.56
Cal is ranked #54 with a rating of 72.53

Sagarin's formula currently values home field advantage as being worth 3.15 points. So subtracting the difference between the ratings and then adding 3.15 in favor of Cal, Sagarin favors Cal by 2 points (2.12).

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 #47 with a rating of 102.652
Cal is ranked #48 with a rating of 102.613

The difference is 0.039 on a neutral field, a pick 'em. Billingsley does not provide a home-field advantage factor, but I'll apply the standard 3 points and say Billingsley favors Cal by 3 (3.039).

DONCHESS INFERENCE RATING

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

Donchess predicts a Cal win 34-28 and gives Cal a win probability of 64%.

ASHBY'S ACCURATING

Ashby's Accurating provides a point spread value for each team, which is subtracted from each other after adding 3 points to the home team. Accurating also provides an over/under value for each team, which are added together for the game's over/under.

BYU is ranked #47 with a spread value of 58, over-under value of 30
Cal is ranked #54 with a spread value of 53, over-under value of 40

On a neutral field, BYU is favored by 5. Applying the standard 3 points for home field advantage, BYU is favored by 2winning by the score of 36-34.

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 117 computer ratings across the internet.

In that composite, BYU ranks #47 and Cal ranks #58.

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This is easily the biggest "who knows?" this season when looking at odds and computer predictions. BYU is chosen the winner as much as Cal. The Bears are playing for bowl eligibility, BYU is playing for the pride of an 8-4 regular season (which really does feel a ton different than 7-5). It will be interesting to see how it plays out.