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

Looking at data from Las Vegas and several computer predictors to get a hopefully accurate preview for BYU’s 2018 season opener at Arizona.

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Arizona v BYU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It’s here.

The chance for BYU to put behind its 4-win season and for fans to maybe, just maybe, start to believe again.

The 2018 college football season has arrived for the Cougars.

BYU (0-0) plays at Arziona (0-0) at 8:45 p.m. MST Saturday, Sept. 1, on ESPN.

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!)


Arizona is favored by 12 points at most Vegas sportsbooks after opening as a 15-point favorite. The over/under sits at 60.5 after opening at 62.5.

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.

Combining the line and the over/under, the Vegas combo has Arizona winning about 36-24.


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.


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 do not begin until after Week 1.

Bill’s prediction using his S&P+ as posted on SB Nation has Arizona covering the spread and winning 35-23.


BYU is ranked #89 with a rating of 64.11.

Arizona is ranked #42 with a rating of 76.11.

Sagarin’s formula currently values home field advantage as worth 2.36 points. So subtracting the difference between the ratings and adding home-field points, Sagarin has Arizona by 14 (14.36).


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 #87 with a rating of 83.878

Arizona is ranked #49 with a rating of 91.444

Billingsley’s numbers don’t typically factor in home-field advantage, so accounting for a standard three points at home, he has Arizona by 11 (10.566).


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

It has Arizona winning 39-23 at 88% 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.

SRS ratings are compiled beginning after Week 1.


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 50 computer ratings across the internet.

In that composite, BYU ranks #91 and Arizona is #50.

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So, while hope springs eternal, BYU still has some convincing to do when it comes to computers and oddsmakers.

What do you think, can the Cougars right the ship with a strong opening statement? Or at least beat the spread?