BYU has beat the spread and most predictions for each of the first three weeks of the 2015 season. Is it luck, or is BYU better than expected?
Let's look at how BYU is expected to fair at Michigan.
(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, Michigan was favored by 6. Bettors still aren't buying BYU despite being 3-0 against the spread, so the line has barely moved. Michigan is favored by 5.5 points. The over/under opened at a low 48 and has dropped all the way to 44.5.
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 Michigan winning 25-20.
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 Michigan at #31 and BYU #28 (+5).
Bill's F/+ picks are actually his S&P+ picks this week (read his explanation). They go beyond Vegas in the Wolverines' favor, pegging Michigan as a 7 point favorite (29-22) with a win probability of 65.6%. Connelly ultimately picks Michigan to cover that spread as well.
BYU is ranked #26 (+3) with a rating of 81.73
Michigan is ranked #37 with a rating of 79.17
Sagarin's formula currently values home field advantage as worth 2.65 points. So subtracting the difference between the ratings and then adding 2.65 in favor of Michigan, Sagarin has a pick 'em (technically, Michigan by 0.09).
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 (no change) with a rating of 104.536
Michigan is ranked #32 with a rating of 102.096
The difference is 2.44 on a neutral field. Billingsley does not provide a home-field advantage factor, but I'll apply the standard 3 points and say Billingsley has a pick 'em (Michigan by 0.56).
Donchess boils down the ratings directly into digestible scores and probabilities, no math required.
Donchess predicts a Michigan win 28-23 and gives Michigan a win probability of 65%. (Last week, DIR had UCLA with a win probability of 86%.)
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.
Michigan is ranked #42 with a point spread value of 57 and over/under value of 21.
BYU is ranked #18 (no change) with a point spread value of 61 and over/under value of 30.
On a neutral field, BYU is favored by 4. Adding 3 points for home field advantage, BYU is favored by 1 with an expected score of 26-25.
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 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 #25 (-1) and Michigan ranks #40.
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Some computers have this game as even as even gets, not buying the line Vegas is selling. BYU should be appointment television (12 pm ET, ABC) for the fourth straight week.