Holy cow. Amid the first head coach search in 11 years, there's a football game happening!
BYU and Utah square off for the first time ever in a bowl game or at a neutral site in the Las Vegas Bowl. BYU has a lame duck coaching staff. Utah has key contributors hurt. Smack talk has already started!
Let's take a look at odds and predictions.
(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
Utah is favored by 2.5 points at most Vegas sportsbooks after opening as a 3-point favorite. The over/under sits at 52 (it opened at 54).
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 Utah winning 27-25.
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.
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 predictions on his SB Nation site Football Study Hall.
The F/+ ratings list BYU #34 (+2) and Utah is #28. The matchup represents BYU's toughest opponent according to F/+, with UCLA currently sitting at 30.
For bowl games, Connelly delivers a massive stat pack. The S&P+ projection has Utah a favorite by 0.8 points, winning 27.2 to 26.4. Could hardly be closer.
Connelly gives where each team has an advantage. For BYU, it's passing prowess, explosiveness and passing downs sack rates. For Utah, it's stopping the run and running the ball.
Bill's S&P+ picks mirror Vegas decently close. His numbers have BYU winning by 13 (by the score 36-23) with a win probability of 78%. He ultimately does not pick BYU to cover the spread.
BYU is ranked #36 with a rating of 77.76
Utah is ranked #24 with a rating of 81.73
Sagarin's formula currently values home field advantage as worth 2.67 points, but hey -- neutral site! So subtracting the difference between the ratings, Sagarin has Utah favored by 4 (3.97).
Billingsley's ranking was also previously used by the BCS. With the BCS restriction to remove margin of victory no longer a consideration, Billingsley has created a version of his formula that accounts for MOV.
BYU is ranked #32 with a rating of 108.138
Utah is ranked #36 with a rating of 106.985
Billingsley has BYU favored by 1 (1.153).
Donchess boils down the ratings directly into digestible scores and probabilities, no math required.
Donchess predicts a Utah win 29-25 and gives Utah a win probability of 61%.
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 #33 with a point spread value of 59 and over/under value of 30.
Utah is ranked #12 with a point spread value of 63 and over/under value of 25.
Utah is favored by 4 with an expected score of 29-25.
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 120 computer ratings across the internet.
In that composite, BYU ranks #38 and Utah ranks #24.
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If there was a consensus to these predictions, it would probably be Utah by 3 or 4, although Connelly's and Billingsley's numbers have it a much closer game.
How do the predictions stack up with your expectations?