One team is fighting for some semblance of respectability. The other is smelling bowl eligibility.
BYU (2-8) plays at UNLV (4-5) at 8:30 p.m. MST Friday on ESPN2.
Let’s take a look at what oddsmakers and computer predictions have to say about the matchup.
(This is, of course, for entertainment purposes only. While we don't encourage gambling, referencing predictions from the people who make money on them can be fun!)
LINES AND ODDS
UNLV is favored by 4.5 points at most Vegas sportsbooks after opening as a 5-point favorite. The over/under sits at 49 after opening at 50.
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 UNLV winning 27-22.
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 SB Nation.
F/+ ratings have BYU at #114 and UNLV at #99.
Bill’s prediction using his S&P+ as posted on SB Nation has UNLV winning 30-23.
BYU is ranked #117 with a rating of 57.78.
UNLV is ranked #104 with a rating of 59.92.
Sagarin's formula currently values home field advantage as worth 2.14 points. So subtracting the difference between the ratings and adding home-field points, Sagarin has UNLV by 4 (4.28).
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 #111 with a rating of 84.762
UNLV is ranked #95 with a rating of 87.932
Billingsley’s numbers don’t typically factor in home-field advantage, so accounting for a standard three points at home, he has UNLV by 6 (6.17).
Donchess boils down the ratings directly into digestible scores and probabilities, no math required.
It has UNLV winning 29-26 at 57% probability.
Sports-Reference doesn’t have a predictive component. But S-R is a fantastic library of data and I want to give them some love.
Sports-Reference uses something it calls a Simple Ratings System (SRS). It describes SRS as “a rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule.” The rating is expressed in points above/below average, with zero being average.
BYU is currently ranked #109 with a rating of -9.44, which has improved a couple points.
UNLV is #100 with a rating of -6.08.
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 what is currently 99 computer ratings across the internet.
In that composite, BYU ranks #114 and UNLV is #97.
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Odds are decidedly in UNLV’s favor, but not by a big margin. BYU has yet to win on the road and the combined record of the two opponents BYU has defeated is 1-18.
This is indeed where we’re at: BYU will need a clear upset to defeat UNLV. In football.
With the quarterback role still unstable after 10 games, maybe I’m a cynic, but I’m not expecting much. It would be a pleasant surprise for the Cougars to win this one.