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15 Oct 2015

SDA: The Biggest Weekend Yet

by Chad Peltier

This is one of the best weeks of college football we'll get this season. With roughly five matchups between ranked teams (depending on the ranking system you're using), this is the week we can really start separating contenders from pretenders among the undefeated and one loss teams.

Critically, some of the closest conference races will get some clarity this week. The SEC West has four contenders, all of whom will be in action this weekend. Alabama and Texas A&M have a burgeoning rivalry, and this is likely one of Alabama's last remaining opportunities to lose a game this season. Ole Miss has what is likely to be a sneaky exciting matchup with undefeated Memphis. Florida, minus quarterback Will Grier, takes on LSU this weekend, and we'll get a chance to see LSU's Leonard Fournette run against one of the best defenses in the country. After this week we could have some separation between the many SEC contenders (though the SEC East is pretty much a rubble pile of broken dreams at this point).

Likewise, the Pac-12 will shake out sooner rather than later with UCLA taking on Stanford, the North's likely top contender, in Palo Alto. But Utah also must outlast an upset bid from Arizona State, which has no problem being the underdog.

Finally, the Big Ten has two of the best games of the season until The Game between Ohio State and Michigan. First is Michigan-Michigan State, where we can see whether to pump the brakes on Jim Harbaugh hype, or if Little Brother is still the better brother. Then at night, Penn State and the defense will try and shut down an entirely underwhelming Ohio State offense.

UCLA (+6.5) at Stanford -- Thursday 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Overall Stanford UCLA
F/+ 5 16
When Stanford has the ball Offense Defense
S&P+ 13 35
2014 FEI 44 47
Success Rate 9 37
IsoPPP 88 51
Rushing S&P+ 31 34
Passing S&P+ 6 23
When UCLA has the ball Defense Offense
S&P+ 27 19
2014 FEI 11 6
Success Rate 30 29
IsoPPP 41 48
Rushing S&P+ 17 48
Passing S&P+ 43 60

Judgment week for college football begins with a Pac-12 North-South clash on Thursday night as UCLA travels to Stanford as underdogs by nearly a touchdown. But according to S&P+ projected margins, Stanford should be an even bigger favorite at home. Since the offensive debacle in the season opener against Northwestern, Stanford has beaten both USC and Arizona by considerable margins, and the offense has continuously gotten better in the process. Quarterback Kevin Hogan has been efficient, while running back Christian McCaffrey has justified the preseason hype he generated. But while UCLA is coming off a surprising loss to Arizona State, they also benefit from a bye week to rest and heal -- particularly on defense, where the losses of Eddie Vanderdoes and Myles Jack started to show. With an extra week for Josh Rosen and the Bruins offense to prepare, is it possible for UCLA to take advantage of Stanford's relative weakness against the pass?

The Bruins' best chance of an upset is for Josh Rosen to have a big game, exploiting the Cardinal's 43rd-ranked passing S&P+ defense. Not to say that the Stanford pass defense is poor necessarily, but they have struggled with allowing explosive plays on passing downs, ranking 94th in passing IsoPPP, while failing to generate much of a pass rush in those obvious passing situations (ranking 117th in passing downs sack rate, with sacks on 2.1 percent of passing downs). That passing downs weakness is supported by the 87th-ranked overall third down S&P+ defense. So the game plan for UCLA might be fairly simple: run the ball with a mix of workhorse Paul Perkins and the even more efficient Soso Jamabo and Nate Starks (who average 44 percent and 46 percent opportunity rates, respectively, compared to Perkins' 38 percent opportunity rate) on standard downs, and then target either Jordan Payton or Thomas Duarte on third downs, as they both average more than 15 yards per catch. Stanford's defense typically controls the field position (where they rank second in the country) and gets off the field fairly regularly (30th in defensive success rate), but it seems to allow more big plays than usual while failing to generate many negative plays. The Bruins offensive line has been one of the best preventing sacks (fifth in adjusted sack rate), so Josh Rosen should have plenty of time to pick apart the Stanford defense.

But the Cardinal should expect to score on UCLA as well. Kevin Hogan has elevated his game in recent weeks, completing more than two-thirds of his passes and averaging nearly nine yards per attempt with just two interceptions. He has a dedicated big-play receiver in Michael Rector. As Stanford's receiving leader, Rector averages 19.4 yards per catch and should challenge even UCLA's 23rd-ranked passing S&P+ defense. Mike Bercovici threw for 273 yards and an interception in the Sun Devils' upset of the Bruins -- Kevin Hogan should be able to improve on that number. But the bigger challenge for UCLA will be defending the run without several key members of the run defense. While UCLA is solid against the run, ranking 34th in overall rushing S&P+, they are susceptible to explosive run plays -- so watch for Christian McCaffrey breaking a long run or two. Stanford's biggest concern should be in allowing UCLA to take an early lead, as the Cardinal ranks 56th in first-quarter S&P+. An early deficit would place substantial pressure on Kevin Hogan, and Stanford's offensive line seems to struggle more in obvious passing situations, allowing sacks on nine percent (95th) of passing downs.

Watch for:

  • While the numbers greatly favor Stanford, UCLA can benefit substantially from a bye week and another week to prepare, and for former backups to get more practice reps.
  • UCLA's best opportunity is to create explosive plays and to create an early lead. From there, the Bruins defense can take advantage of obvious passing situations against Stanford's relatively weak passing downs sack rate with the 22nd and 18th-ranked defensive line and linebacker havoc rates.

F/+ Outright Pick: Stanford

Iowa (-2.5) at Northwestern -- 12 p.m. (ESPN2)

Overall Iowa Northwestern
F/+ 24 18
When Iowa has the ball Offense Defense
S&P+ 44 4
2014 FEI 53 36
Success Rate 56 27
IsoPPP 50 17
Rushing S&P+ 68 39
Passing S&P+ 28 14
When Northwestern has the ball Defense Offense
S&P+ 21 93
2014 FEI 53 81
Success Rate 20 113
IsoPPP 25 89
Rushing S&P+ 6 44
Passing S&P+ 62 45

Northwestern and Iowa are both currently ranked above Ohio State in the S&P+ rankings with just a single loss (to third-ranked S&P+ Michigan) between them. Northwestern has won on the back of its fourth-ranked S&P+ defense, while Iowa has used a solid defense and an explosive passing game to reach bowl eligibility in just six games. While a noon kickoff for these two defense-led teams isn't necessarily ideal, this game should go a long way in determining the Big Ten West race.

Northwestern has really struggled to move the ball except against FCS school Eastern Illinois. Freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson has completed 55 percent of his passes, but leads just the 45-ranked passing S&P+ offense. However, those opponent adjustments (thanks to playing Michigan last week) likely buoy Northwestern's passing game, considering the opponent-unadjusted stats rank Northwestern 102nd in passing success rate and 114th in passing IsoPPP. While Iowa has been excellent on defense, that mostly speaks to their run defense, as the Hawkeyes are just 62nd in passing S&P+. Opposing offenses have picked up on this relative weakness, passing on more than 50 percent of standard downs and nearly three-quarters of passing downs (119th and 108th in run rates). So the Wildcats will need substantial production from Clayton Thorson -- and it's difficult to suggest a freshman with a so-far inefficient history can be sharp against the Hawkeyes. The Wildcats were built around their run game and sophomore Justin Jackson -- who is tied for third in the country in attempts per game -- but Jackson has been fairly inefficient despite how often he receives the ball (with a 33 percent opportunity rate and averaging just 4.4 yards per carry). This has largely been due to offensive line issues, which the Hawkeyes should be able to exploit. Nate Meier and Ben Niemann will be forced to account for Drew Ott's missed production, but Iowa is nevertheless fifth in passing downs sack rate.

Iowa's offense has been a total surprise, with junior C.J. Beathard seemingly coming out of nowhere to lead the 28th overall passing S&P+ attack. This is the 16th overall passing IsoPPP offense, with explosive freshman Jerminic Smith averaging 30 yards per reception and second-leading receiver Tevaun Smith 20 yards per reception despite being fourth-most targeted. Junior Matt VandeBerg is far and away the most targeted offensive player with 28 percent of Beathard's targets. This will be an excellent matchup as the Wildcats' pass defense is 14th in the country and excels at stopping explosive pass plays, despite not getting to the quarterback effectively (73rd in adjusted sack rate). Cornerback Matthew Harris is the leader here with three interceptions and seven pass breakups this season, and he should challenge Beathard in what will likely end up a low-scoring game.

Watch for:

  • It's strength-on-strength for the Iowa passing game against the Northwestern pass defense. Can Iowa be balanced enough to get anything going against Northwestern's solid overall defense?
  • Despite how often he is run, will Wildcat running back Justin Jackson better his 33 percent opportunity rate against the stout Iowa rushing defense?
  • If Iowa shuts down Justin Jackson, who will step up in the Northwestern passing game?

F/+ Outright Pick: Northwestern

Michigan State (+8.5) at Michigan -- 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Overall Michigan Michigan State
F/+ 3 23
When Michigan has the ball Offense Defense
S&P+ 46 47
2014 FEI 82 40
Success Rate 34 56
IsoPPP 56 56
Rushing S&P+ 35 47
Passing S&P+ 38 27
When Michigan State has the ball Defense Offense
S&P+ 1 37
2014 FEI 41 14
Success Rate 5 55
IsoPPP 1 32
Rushing S&P+ 4 105
Passing S&P+ 6 49

It wasn't supposed to be this fast. The Jim Harbaugh turnaround was expected to begin in earnest in Year 2, not Year 1 -- certainly not with Jake Rudock at the helm of the offense. And the Wolverines were absolutely not expected to be favored against Little Brother, a title that has become ironic during Mark Dantonio's tenure with the Spartans. But the Wolverines find themselves as 8.5-point favorites against the Spartans, who have slogged through touchdown-or-less wins against three of their opponents this season -- and their most difficult opponent (Oregon) ranks just 64th in the S&P+ rankings. The Spartans have underwhelmed while the Fighting Harbaughs have significantly overwhelmed. Even the advanced stats are impressed, ranking Michigan third overall in S&P+ and prompting debate over whether they are in fact the best team in the Big Ten after a third straight shutout. So do the Spartans have a chance even though the S&P+ gives them just a 15 percent win probability?

Michigan State's best shot seems to be an efficient day from quarterback Connor Cook with lots of catches for Aaron Burbridge. The senior is targeted on exactly a third of Cook's passes and averages 17 yards per catch. Michigan currently has the best defense in the country according to S&P+, shutting down explosive plays and still ranking fifth overall in defensive success rate. There's no easy answer for Michigan State's offense, but the clear solution is likely through the air rather than with a ground-based attack. The Spartans offense ranks 105th in rushing S&P+ and struggles with efficiency issues. Madre London has received 25 more carries than leading rusher LJ Scott despite even though his opportunity rate is 10 percent worse, and Scott is also more explosive. Michigan ranks 14th in defensive passing success rate and first in preventing explosive pass plays, so Cook has a better (but still not great) shot at completing efficient passes -- merely moving the chains -- than hitting big plays through the air. Further, Michigan State should pass more often on standard downs. Michigan is first overall in third down S&P+ compared to fourth and 28th on first and second down, and just 66th in standard downs sack rate. So varying standard downs play calling is likely to be more effective for the Spartans than sticking to their typical play-calling tendencies -- rushing on 74 percent of standard downs (12th in the country) and passing on 75 percent of passing downs (102nd in passing downs run rate).

When it comes to the Spartans on defense, it's clear that both graduation and injuries have stressed Michigan State's secondary. The overall pass defense is solid, ranking 27th in passing S&P+, but suffers on passing downs, ranking 99th -- and that is despite averaging a sack roughly one in every ten passing downs (16th)! Shilique Calhoun and Malik McDowell have been as advertised, combining for eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss, but will battle Jim Harbaugh's unique pass protections -- which have elevated a subpar offensive line to an excellent tenth overall adjusted sack rate. The Wolverines passing game will never be explosive with Jake Rudock, and he still has a poor touchdown-to-interception ratio, but for the most part Rudock hasn't needed to win any games for the Wolverines and he hasn't been an outright detriment. The goal for the Spartans should be clear then -- force Rudock to win the game for Michigan with either an early lead (the Wolverines are just 72nd in first-quarter offensive S&P+) or by shutting down the Michigan run game. Though neither leader De'Veon Smith nor second most-used running back Derrick Green averages even a 40 percent opportunity rate, the Wolverines run game is nevertheless 35th in rushing S&P+. The run game seems to be effective despite the offensive line, which is ranked 81st in adjusted line yards and 71st in opportunity rate. So Michigan State will likely need to sell out in run defense, daring Rudock to pass.

Watch for:

  • Michigan State's best chance on defense is a solid run defense, so watch the first quarter success rates for De'Veon Smith.
  • Can Michigan State generate an early lead? If so, that will force Jake Rudock to pass more than Jim Harbaugh would like. Further, efficient play from Connor Cook through the air is likely the key to developing this lead.

F/+ Outright Pick: Michigan

Alabama (-4.0) at Texas A&M -- 3:30 p.m. (CBS)

Overall Alabama Texas A&M
F/+ 2 11
When Alabama has the ball Offense Defense
S&P+ 17 48
2014 FEI 5 86
Success Rate 43 32
IsoPPP 66 54
Rushing S&P+ 22 65
Passing S&P+ 25 5
When Texas A&M has the ball Defense Offense
S&P+ 2 9
2014 FEI 8 24
Success Rate 3 30
IsoPPP 77 40
Rushing S&P+ 3 17
Passing S&P+ 1 40

If anyone is going to challenge Alabama again this season, it's likely Texas A&M. While the S&P+ win projections only give the Aggies an 18 percent chance of defeating Alabama, LSU (who has a 20 percent likelihood of an upset) has an offense that Alabama's defense is designed to stop. But Alabama avenged their 2013 upset with a 59-0 drubbing last season, so it's possible that Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart have Kevin Sumlin's number now. Alabama's weaknesses are few -- the passing offense is relatively inefficient, and the pass defense still can allow big passing plays -- but the rushing and passing offense and defense are all ranked among the top 25 units in the country, with the rushing and pass defense ranked third and first overall in S&P+. The outcome of this game is bigger than just a revenge match for Texas A&M -- with the Aggies and Crimson Tide as two of the top teams in the SEC West, this has significant SEC Championship and Playoff implications.

The Alabama defensive front has more than lived up to the hype as one of the top front sevens in all of college football. Reggie Ragland has established himself as one of the most reliable playmaking linebackers in the country, while defensive linemen Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson command double-teams. Alabama will likely be able to make Texas A&M one-dimensional, with Aggies running back Tra Carson unlikely to find many holes in the Alabama front to balance Kyle Allen and the passing game. The Aggies are 17th in rushing S&P+ (19th in rushing success rate, 79th in IsoPPP), but their weakness is on display in crucial conversion situations, where they only convert 61 percent of rushing attempts (99th). Thirty-nine percent of Tra Carson's runs are for 5 or more yards, and he averages only 3.5 highlight yards per opportunity. So while Alabama is relatively weaker in preventing explosive carries compared to bottling up opponents consistently (18th in success rate and 107th in rushing IsoPPP), Tra Carson and the other Aggies running backs have not shown the ability to break many big gains.

So the best hope for the Aggies offense will be an explosive passing game. Kyle Allen has been fairly efficient even if the passing game ranks just 40th in passing S&P+ overall. Freshman wide receiver Christian Kirk, a highly recruited playmaker, is further along than many could have hoped and now leads the team in both targets and receiving yards. In fact, Kirk draws roughly twice as many targets as the second-leading receiver Josh Reynolds. Together, the two are probably the most dangerous starting receivers in the country -- and that doesn't count Ricky Seals-Jones or Damion Ratley as receiving options. Alabama's concern should simply be whether they can match up man-to-man consistently with Texas A&M's many wide receivers. But if there are any bright spots for the Alabama pass defense, Minkah Fitzpatrick has proven himself as a reliable corner, and there is reason to believe Alabama's front can get to Kyle Allen before he can hit big gains, considering the Aggies are 90th in adjusted sack rate.

But Alabama will still likely need to match the Aggies' scoring even if Texas A&M is just sporadically efficient. But once again the game plan should be clear for Lane Kiffin and company: lean on Derrick Henry and the run game. Aggies defensive coordinator John Chavis and recent recruiting wins have significantly elevated the Aggies' pass defense, but the run defense still has a ways to go. Defensive end Myles Garrett already has reached 9.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, while Daeshon Hall is not far behind. The Aggies are 11th in overall havoc rate and first in defensive line havoc rate (creating a havoc play on 8 percent of overall snaps) and should affect Jake Coker (who has six interceptions on the year). The Alabama run game is efficient but not explosive despite preseason promises that Kenyan Drake would open up the Crimson Tide on the ground. The good news is that the Aggies are poor in explosive run defense, so with a consistently efficient ground attack, it's possible Drake and Henry can create some longer runs despite averaging just 3.3 and 5.4 highlight yards per opportunity.

Watch for:

  • Does Texas A&M become completely one-dimensional on offense, and does that affect Kyle Allen's efficiency anyway?
  • Will Aggies defensive linemen force errors by Jake Coker and will Lane Kiffin just commit to the ground game with Derrick Henry?

F/+ Outright Pick: Alabama

Florida (+9.5) at LSU -- 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Overall Florida LSU
F/+ 24 40
When Florida has the ball Offense Defense
S&P+ 24 40
2014 FEI 97 18
Success Rate 35 46
IsoPPP 64 18
Rushing S&P+ 45 8
Passing S&P+ 17 26
When LSU has the ball Defense Offense
S&P+ 9 12
2014 FEI 5 43
Success Rate 13 25
IsoPPP 86 12
Rushing S&P+ 22 16
Passing S&P+ 15 86

Florida quarterback Will Grier's suspension has pushed the line up to nearly ten points for LSU despite the S&P+ win probabilities favoring the Tigers by just 53 percent. This is likely due to Grier being one of the central reasons for Florida's offensive resurgence with Jim McElwain. At 24th in overall offensive S&P+ and 17th in passing S&P+, the Gators have already proven more on offense than many thought would be possible in McElwain's first year. Now the question is whether Treon Harris can continue leading the offense's efficient play or whether the Gators will have to rely on the defense alone to maintain their lead in the SEC East. The Gators are typically known for their pass defense, with Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Tarbor at corner and Jonathan Bullard and Alex McCalister as pass rushing nightmares along the defensive line, but the run defense is respectable as well. And it will need to be better than respectable with Leonard Fournette on the other side of the ball. While Fournette is the far-and-away Heisman leader, an explosive performance against the Gators would make his lead nearly insurmountable.

The bad news for the Gators is that while the run defense is excellent overall (ranked 22nd in rushing S&P+), they are far more efficient than effective against explosive plays. Florida's defense ranks 15th in rushing success rate but 99th in unadjusted rushing IsoPPP. Even without opponent adjustments on those rankings, it's clear that the run defense has been more effective play to play, but occasionally allows big runs. That's reinforced by the Gators stuffing opposing runs on 27 percent (12th) of plays. So don't be surprised when Fournette is bottled up for most of the game and then breaks a long run or two. The question is whether the Tigers need Brandon Harris to balance Fournette (not to mention his backups Darrel Williams and Derrius Guice, the latter of whom has nearly as explosive numbers). The Tigers' passing game is ranked 86th in passing S&P+ and Treon Harris has just 610 total yards to his name as LSU runs on 78 percent of standard downs and still nearly half of passing downs as well. That's not for lack of receiving talent, with Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural representing 60 percent of Harris' targets and averaging more than 14 yards per reception. But Florida's pass defense is the clear strength of the entire team and it's unlikely the Tigers will find much success through the air barring a breakdown from out-of-position defenders who have begun to creep in to the box in the run defense.

So will Treon Harris be able to match Grier's production? Harris has completed more than 70 percent of his passes for 9.5 yards per attempt in limited action this season, but his limitations in the passing game are apparent. Grier is more accurate and poised in the pocket, hitting Demarcus Robinson and Jake McGee as the top efficient receiving options and Antonio Calllaway and Brandon Powell as the big-play guys. Harris will need to be efficient in the passing game so that Kelvin Taylor and the Florida run game have some relief. Taylor leads a rushing attack that is not very explosive and only moderately efficient, with 33 percent of his runs hitting 5 yards or more. LSU's run defense is ranked eighth in the country in rushing S&P+, so it is unlikely that the Gators will be able to move the ball consistently without a big game from Harris in relief of Grier.

Watch for:

  • Can Leonard Fournette break big runs against a Florida run defense that is far more efficient than solid against explosive runs? Will he need any help in the passing game or can LSU win with an unbalanced offense?
  • How will Treon Harris perform in Will Grier's absence? Will Florida be able to maintain moderate passing efficiency on the 55th-ranked (unadjusted) passing success rate defense?

F/+ Outright Pick: LSU

Arizona State (+7) at Utah -- 10 p.m. (ESPN)

Overall Utah Arizona State
F/+ 9 26
When Utah has the ball Offense Defense
S&P+ 23 45
2014 FEI 69 22
Success Rate 54 47
IsoPPP 95 58
Rushing S&P+ 19 13
Passing S&P+ 13 34
When Arizona State has the ball Defense Offense
S&P+ 24 30
2014 FEI 12 16
Success Rate 84 75
IsoPPP 15 45
Rushing S&P+ 30 93
Passing S&P+ 65 44

The Utes are once again hosts of a big game in the late-night spot on ESPN, this time against an inconsistent (but high ceilinged) Sun Devils team. The line here seems appropriate given the S&P+ win probabilities, which give the Utes a 69 percent win probability and a projected margin of 8.5 points. Arizona State has been a mystery this season, looking far worse in two losses to Texas A&M and USC than expected, and also worse than their 26th F/+ ranking would indicate (the Sun Devils lost those two games by a combined 49 points). However, there is reason to believe Arizona State will at least keep this close -- due primarily to the Utes' relatively inefficient pass defense.

The Utes' pass defense is the No. 1 concern -- especially their 86th-ranked passing success rate. Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici was expected to be one of the top new starting quarterbacks in the country this season because of his experience starting last season, and while he has been fairly efficient (really in spite of his 60 percent completion rate), the passing offense struggles to generate big plays. Of course, things are harder on the passing offense because of the state of the run game. Last year's starting running back, D.J. Foster, was moved to wide receiver for his senior season because Sun Devils coaches believed sophomore Demario Richard could shoulder the load on his own. Richard has been solid, averaging a 39 percent opportunity rate and 5.5 yards per carry, but has three fumbles (two lost) to his name and leads just the 93rd overall rushing S&P+ offense. While the Utes defense is bend-don't-break, especially when it comes to the run game (ranking 15th in overall IsoPPP and 84th in success rate), the pass defense is suspect except in preventing big plays through the air. This should be Todd Graham's dream -- a justifiable reason to go pass-heavy to the deep receiving corps (an astounding six receivers have at least 200 receiving yards).

The Utes offense has been efficient but not explosive and adequate enough to take advantage of the second-ranked turnover margin and scoring opportunities (fifth while scoring nearly six points per scoring opportunity). The Utes defense and special teams does an excellent job at the margins, winning the red zone and creating turnovers, making things much easier on quarterback Travis Wilson, who isn't asked to do too much (despite his efficiency boosting the Utes to 13th in overall passing S&P+). Devontae Booker is the most-used running back in the country, averaging 28 carries per game. Booker exploded last week against Cal, but the Sun Devils will be a much bigger test with the 13th-ranked run defense in rushing S&P+. Arizona State has bottled up opposing running backs from hitting big plays on the ground and stuffed backs on nearly a quarter of all runs (26th in the country in stuff rate). This means that the Utes will likely need to take advantage of every red zone opportunity they get and hope the defense can continue to generate as many turnovers as in previous weeks, as Utah doesn't appear to be efficient enough to move the ball consistently on the Sun Devils.

Watch for:

  • Can the Utes continue to generate as many turnovers and take advantage of all scoring opportunities since it doesn't look like Travis Wilson and Devontae Booker will lead a very efficient performance?
  • Can Mike Bercovici exploit the the 65th-ranked passing S&P+ defense?
  • Will Demario Richard and D.J. Foster be efficient enough on the ground to take advantage of the Utes' 90th-ranked rushing success rate defense?

F/+ Outright Pick: Utah


Ole Miss vs. Memphis: This one has the potential to get interesting. Memphis is undefeated and has scored at least 44 points in all but one game this season with the 16th-ranked S&P+ offense. Ole Miss has shown some vulnerability to the pass, ranking 45th in passing S&P+. If Memphis make this one close, it will be because of quarterback Paxton Lynch, who averages nearly 10 yards per attempt and has yet to throw an interception this season.

Ohio State vs. Penn State: Ohio State finally got the offense rolling with a solid mix of explosive and efficient passing last week against Maryland, but is the slower-than-expected start a sign of a limited ceiling for this year's Buckeyes or just a hurdle to overcome? This Penn State defense gave the Buckeyes a fit last season and now features the country's sack leader Carl Nassib. The Buckeyes offensive line ranks just 40th in adjusted sack rate, so Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett may be running from the defensive linemen in this one.

USC vs. Notre Dame: The Trojans couldn't be coming off of a crazier week with the upset loss to Washington, followed by the indefinite suspension and then firing of head coach Steve Sarkisian. All of the outside factors seem to go against the Trojans against Notre Dame, but they remain the sixth-ranked S&P+ team in the country and top overall two-loss team.


Favorite Spread Underdog F/+ Pick F/+ vs. Spread Pick
at Stanford 6.5 UCLA Stanford Stanford
Ole Miss 10.5 at Memphis Ole Miss Memphis
Alabama 4 at Texas A&M Alabama Alabama
at Michigan State 8 Michigan State Michigan Michigan
at LSU 9.5 Florida Florida Florida
at Notre Dame 7 USC Notre Dame USC
Iowa 2.5 at Northwestern Northwestern Northwestern
at Ohio State 17 Penn State Ohio State Penn State
at Utah 6.5 Arizona State Utah Utah

Posted by: Chad Peltier on 15 Oct 2015

9 comments, Last at 17 Oct 2015, 11:08am by liamconverse


by dab3dab3 :: Thu, 10/15/2015 - 6:38pm

one of ur picks is a game from last week? can u please correct if there is adifferent game?

by dwest718 :: Thu, 10/15/2015 - 7:09pm

Looks like the table is missing Iowa @ Northwestern (and instead has UGA v Tenn). Since the F/+ Pick is Northwestern and the game is essentially a Pick'em, I would guess both should be Northwestern.

by Chad Peltier :: Thu, 10/15/2015 - 9:03pm

Correct, and fixed. HTML error there.

by liamconverse :: Thu, 10/15/2015 - 7:59pm

Hi, this article says that according to S&P+ margins Stanford should be an even larger favorite than a 6.5 pts. But on the S&P+ (Margins) list, the difference between UCLA and Stanford is 3.7, add a 3 pt home advantage and you get 6.7, round to the nearest half point spread and you get 6.5 which is exactly what the bookmakers are offering.

So why does it say that S&P+ suggests Stanford should be a bigger favorite?

Also since FEI is given as a decimal number with an average team equal to zero, how do you calculate an expected margin of victory from FEI??

by Chad Peltier :: Thu, 10/15/2015 - 9:00pm
by liamconverse :: Fri, 10/16/2015 - 10:59am

Thanks for the link but there is no explanation of how that 14.1 was calculated. Where did that number come from?

by liamconverse :: Sat, 10/17/2015 - 11:08am

Does anyone know if they explain this anywhere on this website?

by techvet :: Thu, 10/15/2015 - 8:05pm

The chart is listing Ohio State as an underdog.

by RoninX :: Fri, 10/16/2015 - 4:05pm

Last table is wrong. The favorite is @ Michigan.