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BYU vs. UCLA: 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 what could be BYU's toughest test all season.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Two last-minute wins have catapulted BYU to #19 in the AP poll. But a true, tough road test awaits in Pasadena.

Let's look at how BYU is expected to fair with UCLA.

(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, UCLA was favored by 14. Bettors aren't buying BYU and the line has moved. UCLA is favored by 17 points. The over/under opened at 60 and has remained.

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 UCLA winning 39-21 or 38-22.

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.

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.

The F/+ ratings list UCLA at #6 and BYU #33 (+1).

Bill's F/+ picks coincide closely with Vegas. F/+ has UCLA winning 37-20 (16.8 point favorites) with a UCLA win probability of 83.5%. Connelly picks BYU to cover the spread, meaning he believes the ultimate result will be a closer game.

SAGARIN

BYU is ranked #29 (+8) with a rating of 79.99
UCLA is ranked #17 with a rating of 85.86

Sagarin's formula currently values home field advantage as being worth 2.65 points. So subtracting the difference between the ratings and then adding 2.65 in favor of BYU, Sagarin favors UCLA by 8.5 points (8.52).

BILLINGSLEY

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 #21 (+14) with a rating of 103.532
UCLA is ranked #15 with a rating of 105.608

The difference is 2.076 on a neutral field. Billingsley does not provide a home-field advantage factor, but I'll apply the standard 3 points and say Billingsley favors UCLA by 5 (5.076).

DONCHESS INFERENCE RATING

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

Donchess predicts a UCLA win 38-22 and gives UCLA a win probability of 86%.

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.

UCLA is ranked #12 with a point spread value of 66 and over/under value of 28.
BYU is ranked #18 (+11) with a point spread value of 60 and over/under value of 31.

On a neutral field, UCLA is favored by 6. Adding 3 points for home field advantage, UCLA is favored by 9 with an expected score of 34-25.

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 56 computer ratings across the internet. That number of rankings compiled into this composite can balloon over 100 as the season progresses.

In that composite, BYU ranks #24 (+11) and UCLA ranks #11.

* * *
Last week, Boise State was favored with a few predictors calling for a pick 'em. This week, UCLA is the definite favorite, but how decisively is all over the board. Bettors aren't buying BYU's luck, while some computers (like Billingsley) have found the teams more similar than different this season.

Once again, BYU will be playing as the underdog. Let's hope for the same result for the third straight week.