A 2018 nominee for "Most Degen Blog on the Internet"

 

You're going to see a lot of things here, some of which are not suitable for children.  You are going to see thoughts, opinions, statistics, analytics, opinions about analytics (not always positive), and other musings.  Basically, this is my brain, only if it were sponsored by SquareSpace and didn't contain any thoughts about pizza.  Mmmm...pizza.

 

 

10/29, 1pm ET: Hockey Prop Updates

Sup.

A slow Monday sports-wise, but a busy Monday for those of us in the content-production business, as we are all grinding to create stuff for you to read the rest of the week. That being said, I wanted to give an update on how the hockey SOG model is doing, and what other things we may be able to glean from it’s output. I’ve ran it every day since the last post (insert Bill Belichick “no days off” soundbyte here). I did, however, stop betting the total shot over/unders, because not only were they essentially a 0 ROI (neither positive nor negative) through about 2 weeks, but the percentage edges have actually gone down even more (rarely would there be one over 3%) where now it’s less than 1% in a lot of cases, and no edges to be had anywhere.

The surprising thing is that as those total shot over/unders have become “tighter” or more accurately assembled, the differences between the teams are still not being represented properly. The team vs. team SOG portion of the model is now 47-30 with a 23.66% ROI. Everything about what’s happening in that market is being pretty accurately predicted by the model, including all the larger plays winning with greater frequency, etc. etc. A couple other people have begun betting into some of these (maybe because of me, maybe not, who knows, there’s like no money in these pools) but honestly there isn’t any long-term potential in this market specifically so whatever. Everyone can have it. Even if I ruined my own edge. I would be limited anyway if I bet the limit on these that much longer, or at least I think I would. By the way, tonight, there’s a sub-5-percent edge in Calgary-Toronto (aka no bet), and a 6.61% edge in favor of Vancouver +4.5, except someone hit it the second it got put up and now it’s -135. You can still bet it small and that’s fine, you’re getting the best of it. It’s just not by much.

The really intriguing thing is to consider some extrapolation of this success…i.e., if this is good, and these numbers are great, what else can they accurately be applied to in order to win money? There’s basically no scientific evidence that more shots leads to either more goals or more winning, so the overall game markets are not a good use of this shot-on-goal information. Shots almost occur separately from the determining of good teams and bad teams. However, goalie saves is offered in a lot of places (Bovada and BetOnline being 2 of the biggest) and it’s fairly easy to take this shot-on-goal information, divide the posted game over/under (which should be efficient) in half, and apply half of those goals to one team and half to the other to get save predictions. Here, let’s do that in the first game that has no edge so you can see what I mean.

Calgary (29.68 projected SOG) vs. Toronto (34.02 projected SOG)

Over/Under for game at 5Dimes: 6

Calgary’s SOG (29.68) minus Calgary’s half of the total (3) = 26.68 projected saves for Toronto’s goaltender tonight.

You could use the team-totals if you want, but they’re juiced pretty heavily one way or the other so it’s almost like you’re using half the over/under anyway. In cases where a team is heavily favored, I’m not sure how underdogs do in the NHL, so I might rather just use the over/under anyway and cut it in half. Then I’m not really taking a position on who scores those (6) goals.

I’ve done the goalie saves experiment for 5 days, betting any save # that was off by 2 or more for a flat 1 unit, and wouldn’t you know it, it works there too (because really, why wouldn’t it if the underlying information is sound?) The goalie saves portion of the model is 20-10 with a 22.25% ROI so far. Maybe this is all a house of cards and VERY limited trials, but it’s still fun to see what’s what. During certain weekdays when I want to write this all up, I’ll give out the full projected SOG for everyone (maybe on busy hockey nights like Thursdays where there isn’t much else going on), and then if your book has saves instead of SOG you can just bet that instead. Or maybe this will fail miserably.

P.S. For the player shots-on-goal, I’m still playing around with a lot of different criteria. I think I have a methodology I really like (taking historical 2/3/4 year averages for players, as well as projections from reputable media, and compare them to how players are doing this season, looking for outliers) but I’d like to test it more and set some more parameters for what is a bet, and what is not, before giving those out. Such a methodology would also be applicable to “will ___ score a goal tonight” and “will ___ score a point tonight” if I can get it to all look right. Fun stuff.

10/19: Shots on Goal — Friday

A nice brief post today, with so few games.

Yesterday, tiny profit. Very tiny.

Here are the updated numbers:

Overall: 40-29, 758.1 bet, 131.36 profit, 17.32% ROI

Team vs. team: 25-17, 606.44 bet, 132.07 profit, 21.77% ROI

Total: 15-12, 151.57 bet, -2.02 profit, -1.33% ROI

Only 3 games today:

Florida (32.93 projected SOG) vs. Washington (28.06)

Bets: Florida pk -120 7.93/6.61

Minnesota (26.39) vs. Dallas (40.99)

Bets: Dallas -4.5 -120 15.64/13.03 … Total shots over 62.5 -120 3.76/3.13

Nashville (27.44) vs. Calgary (31.61)

Bets: None!

11/18, 1:15pm: Shots on Goal Projections, Thursday

Sup y’all.

Last night with a very small slate the projections still did pretty well — 3-1, +7.9 widgets.

Here are the updated particulars:

Overall: 36-25, 680.48 bet, 126.9 profit, 18.64% ROI

Team vs team: 22-15, 543.56 bet, 126.37 profit, 23.24% ROI

O/U: 14-10, 136.91 bet, -0.78 profit, -0.56% ROI

Nice to see totals climbing out of the hole, but who knows how long that will last.

Anyways, ton of games tonight, here are some projections:

Pittsburgh (26.19 projected SOG) vs. Toronto (33.05)

Bets: Under 64.5 -120 4.23/3.53 … Toronto pk -120 11.41/9.51

Philadelphia (30.14) vs. Columbus (35.19)

Bets: No numbers posted yet at 5D, will check back later and update (this is the only game without SOG markets up yet)

Colorado (25.75) vs. New Jersey (36.78)

Bets: New Jersey -4.5 -120 11.10/9.25

Detroit (30.65) vs. Tampa Bay (31.74)

Bets: None

Vancouver (26.65) vs. Winnipeg (32.48)

Bets: Winnipeg -1.5 -120 7.47/6.23

Arizona (36.92) vs. Chicago (27.43)

Bets: Arizona pk -120 14.42/12.02

Boston (27.20) vs. Edmonton (27.57)

Bets: Under 63.5 -120 7.32/6.10

Buffalo (22.37) vs. San Jose (42.13)

Bets: San Jose -5.5 -120 22.92/19.02

NY Islanders (27.55) vs. Los Angeles (28.34)

Bets: Under 59.5 -120 3.11/2.59 …. Islanders +4.5 -120 7.16/5.97

10/17, 10:30am: NHL Shots on Goal for Wednesday

Well that was quite an evening.

Overall, Tuesday’s projections went really well. 8-3, +42.03…units? Units is weird, because you’re never going to use your unit size here with this so unproven and you can never get down for that much anyway on the bigger bets. Dollars? I guess, but you may use a multiplier to place your bets. How about widgets? Yes, 42.03 widgets! Love dem Widgets.

Here’s the model thru the 10.17 games:

Overall: 33-24, 649 bet, 119 profit, 18.33% ROI

Team vs Team: 21-14, 522.49 bet, 127.18 profit, 24.34% ROI

Over/Under: 12-10, 126.51 bet, -9.45 profit, -7.46% ROI

Totals did a little better yesterday, which is encouraging, and team vs. team just keeps plowing along. Here are Wednesday’s projections:

NY Rangers (32.35 projected SOG) vs Washington (33.46)

Over 61.5 -120 3.38/2.82

No bet on team vs. team

St Louis (27.32) vs. Montreal (37.98)

No bet on total

Montreal -4.5 -120 10.02/8.35

Boston (27.60) vs. Calgary (36.06)

No bet on total

Calgary -1.5 -120 11.05/9.21

NY Islanders (27.96) vs. Anaheim (25.41)

Under 61.5 -120 7.02/5.85

No bet on team vs. team

10/16: NHL Shots on Goal for Tuesday

Hello again!

I wanted to share not only some projections for today, but also updated facts and figures for how the model is doing so far. I am primarily interested in how it performs vs. the total shots on goal prop at 5Dimes and also the team vs. team shots on goal prop at 5Dimes. I have simulated everything from the 11th-15th (basically the day we started until now), using bet-sizing in proportion to the amount of perceived edge (so 10.84% edge, bet 10.84 at -120). I played anything in the total shots that was >3 percent edge, and anything in the team vs. team that was >5 percent edge. Again, this is really just an experiment for now, but we all love a good prop bet.

Here are the results entering today:

Overall: 25-21, 529.84 bet, 76.97 profit, 14.527% ROI

Team vs team: 17-12, 428.39 bet, 92.69 profit, 21.63% ROI

Total shots: 8-9, 101.45 bet, -15.72 profit, -15.49% ROI

So obviously, a few things stand out. Total shots isn’t going well. Is this very surprising? The data points we have for so many teams are still so few (some teams have only played 3 games still) that really, we’re probably just getting straight-up bad projections. I am probably going to do rolling previous-10-games data to do the projections going forward, so when we get to 10 games played I’ll really start caring.

Although the sample on team vs. team is also tiny, it is at least POSSIBLE that despite the total shot projections being inaccurate, the differences between teams are still being expressed OK, or at least, better than the total shots.

Really, we know nothing, still. Like, at all. But I’ll keep gathering data and we’ll see how this goes.

Anyway, as for tonight, here are projections and bet-sizing for what I’m running:

Dallas (30.34 projected SOG) vs New Jersey (30.69)

Under 66.5 -120, 4.27 to win 3.56 (if you wanna actually bet this, just use a multiplier…or don’t)

No bet on team vs team

Colorado (34.30) vs NY Rangers (32.84) —

Over 62.5 -120, 3.58/2.98

Colorado +2.5 SOG -120, 6.10/5.08

Florida (36.61) vs Philly (31.87) —

No bet on total

Florida +2.5 -120 10.84/9.03

Vancouver (27.72) vs. Pittsburgh (29.21) —

Under 62.5 -120, 4.64/3.87

Vancouver +5.5 -120, 7.75/6.46

Carolina (43.72) vs. Tampa Bay (24.62) —

No bet on total

Carolina -2.5 -120 22.20/18.50

Arizona (43.17) vs. Minnesota (22.09) —

No bet on total

Arizona pk -120 29.35/24.46

Edmonton (25.14) vs. Winnipeg (27.61) —

Under 62.5 -115 8.39/7.30

No bet on team vs. team

Buffalo (20.02) vs. Vegas (35.6) —

Under 60.5 -120 4.18/3.48

Vegas -6.5 -120 17.86/14.88

Let’s see how this goes. I doubt Buffalo will have anywhere close to 20(!!!) shots on goal, but hey, stranger things have happened.

10/11: The NHL Shots on Goal Model

I figured I would put this in “The Notebook” for now, because I don’t think it should be put into practice by anyone. Also, it would clutter up the CFB picks in the “infinite scroll” slate page, and you’d have to go through like 100 hockey props to get to college football, and I doubt anyone really wants that right now. But the notebook was designed for zany ideas, and zaniness, here we come.

I built a really simple shots-on-goal model, using all the data from the games so far — shots for and against for all teams in regulation (this part was annoying, but that’s what the prop applies to) — and then used pretty basic math compared to league average to get to some projections.

Now, some warnings. Some teams have 1 played game….still. Their projections probably aren’t gonna be that great. The more games teams play, the more I think we can eventually MAYBE have an edge because 5D seems to post pretty similar numbers for every game, every night. These are 40-cent props at 5Dimes (meaning -120 each way), so a win-rate of about 55 percent is required to have any profit. That’s pretty big. But let’s see what we can do here, even if it’s in the hypothetical for now.

I’m going to use flat-betting for now, even though it makes no sense to do so, because it’s getting close to 7pm when about 8 games start. In the future I’ll adjust pricing to account for perceived edge. Basically, I’ll come back to this later and make it right.

For now, as a stop-gap solution there are about 60 shots in an average NHL game so far this year, so we’ll play total shots when it’s off by 5 percent (3 shots) one way or another, and we’ll play team vs. team when it’s off by 1.5 shots (average of 30 shots on goal per team, 5 percent of that).


Ready? Great.

I’ll be updating these throughout the night.

7p Vegas-Pittsburgh: Projected 58.93 shots on goal (VGK 34.62 vs. PIT 24.30, and yes I’m rounding)

Bets: Vegas +1.5 shots on goal -120 (1.2 to win 1), Total shots on goal under 63.5 -120 (1.2/1)

7p Columbus-Florida: Projected 63.01 shots on goal (CLB 29.6 vs. FLA 33.4)

Bets: Florida -1.5 shots on goal -120 (1.2/1) ((Total shots on goal listed at 64.5 u-140 = no play))

7p Colorado-Buffalo: Projected 65.66 shots on goal (COL 39.44 vs. BUF 26.22)

Bets: Colorado +1.5 shots on goal -140 (1.4/1) ((Total shots on goal listed at 63.5 o-120 = no play))

7p Washington-New Jersey **Devils have played 1 game and the shots on goal were CRAZY low, so probably not great stuff here, even compared to the rest* — Projected 48.82 shots on goal (WAS 21.01 vs. NJD 27.80)

Bets: New Jersey -2.5 shots on goal -120 (barely) (1.2/1), Total shots on goal **gulp* under 58.5 -120 (1.2/1)

7p San Jose-New York Rangers: Projected 68.55 shots on goal (SJ 40.64 vs. NYR 27.90)

Bets: SJ shots on goal (pk vs. NYR) -120 (1.2/1)…my god the difference there. Also, Total shots on goal over 63.5 -120 (1.2/1)

7p Edmonton-Boston **another game where one team (edmonton) has played only 1 game, yikes* — Projected 44.3 shots on goal (EDM 20.60 vs. BOS 23.71)

Bets: Total shots on goal under 62.5 (LOL) -120 (1.2/1)… ((Bruins -2.5 shots on goal -120 is a no play))

730p Vancouver-Tampa Bay **Tampa 1 game played* — Projected 58.35 shots on goal (VAN 28.75 vs. TB 29.60)

Bets: VAN shots on goal +5.5 -120 (1.2/1) ((Total shots on goal at 60.5 is a no play))

730p Toronto-Detroit — Projected 55.23 shots on goal (TOR 29.48 vs. DET 25.75)

Bets: TOR -1.5 shots on goal -140 (1.4/1) (this may reasonably be a pass with double the juice but for now w/e) Total shots on goal under 63.5 -120 (1.2/1)

730p Los Angeles-Montreal (the winner for “craziest one by far”) — Projected 54.11 shots on goal (LAK 16.05 vs. MON 38.06)

Bets: MON -3.5 shots on goal -120 (1.2/1, but oh it would be so much more with Kelly used), Total shots on goal under 61.5 -120 (1.2/1)

8p Winnipeg-Nashville — Projected 65.88 shots on goal (WPG 32.24 vs. NSH 33.63)

Bets: None! Wow. Nashville -2.5 and Total shots over 63.5 both no plays. There’s a first for today.

8p Calgary-St. Louis — Projected 61.54 shots on goal (CGY 28.44 vs. STL 33.09)

Bets: STL -2.5 -120 (just barely) (1.2/1 ((Total shots over 60.5 is a no play))

8p Chicago-Minnesota — Projected 64.93 shots on goal (CHI 42.28 vs. MIN 22.64)

Bets: CHI -2.5 -120 (1.2/1) ((Total shots over 62.5 is a no play))

9/17, 8pm ET: Thursday/Friday Week 3 Thoughts

I was delinquent in using “The Notebook” last week, since I was doing so much writing for other places, but we’ll get that turned around. I wanted to just give some notes on the 4 Thursday/Friday games, things I’m thinking about, etc. that can maybe help you make smarter decisions. As of now I will have bets on 0 of the games, but in one case, that is definitely subject to change.

Thursday: Tulsa at Temple (-7.5): The cat’s out of the bag on Temple unfortunately, so this game is now being rated appropriately. A lackluster effort by the Owls last week at Maryland and you could have had a great number here for the eventual obvious bounce-back. Instead, Temple throttled Maryland by 3 touchdowns in College Park and there’s just no way you’re getting a lot of value anymore. Temple +16 on Saturday was a game I had written down and eventually passed on for a few different reasons, proving once again that sometimes I make incredibly atrocious decisions.

Tulsa is well-coached and should provide some resistance here even on short rest. There are very marginal talent differences between the teams and you could make a pretty good argument that Tulsa has a small coaching advantage. The game to close last season is probably a throw-out because Tulsa was 2-9 with absolutely nothing to play for. I want no part of either side. I do think it will be interesting how Temple plays with Frank Nutile back at QB, since the team had their most dominant performance by far in the 1 game he didn’t play in last week. Temple was a team I thought could make noise in the American, and they still can, starting this week. Pass.

Friday: Florida Atlantic at UCF (-13.5): One of two games I may end up betting in this group. I am pretty interested in FAU here and curious what number I may get if I wait. I think UCF is still being given a lot of benefit of the doubt despite essentially two walk-over games where they’ve had to prove nothing. The win over UCONN in Week 1, who can only marginally be called an FBS school at this point, was actually deceivingly close, and UCF’s defense was shredded a number of times. Other than that game, we haven’t really seen UCF since. What are they at this point? This will be the first game that actually shows you what they have returning this season in a meaningful way aside from McKenzie Milton. I am actively looking for spots to fade Josh Heupel as well, and we finally may have one.

Meanwhile, FAU got publicly embarrassed by Oklahoma (unsurprisingly) and has beaten Air Force and Bethune-Cookman but is 0-3 ATS. It’s unlikely they are being rated properly due to their poor results. It’s worth noting in last week’s potentially surprising scoreline against Bethune-Cookman that FAU didn’t play either starting safety (each of whom was very important to last year’s success, and they’ll play this week) and also led 29-0 to start. Yes, they took their foot off the gas, but I’m not downgrading them for doing so. S&P has this rated as UCF -19, I have other power ratings that have it 2 touchdowns or more also, so I’m hoping everyone follows that trend. I’m not the best at predicting line movement, but let’s see what happens here. The differences between the 2 teams here in talent, coaching and production aren’t nearly as drastic as you may think.

Penn State (-28.5) at Illinois: Here’s a word you may hear a lot this week with this game: look-ahead. Sometimes there’s merit to it. Penn State has Ohio State on deck, and that may lead some of you to think Illinois is a great idea here. The funny thing is, you may be right, but I’d like to dispel the idea of the look-ahead notion in this game right now. Here are James Franklin’s results in his 4 years as coach the week before Ohio State:

2014: +2 at Michigan, lost by 5

2015: -6 vs Indiana, won by 22

2016: pick-em vs Maryland, won by 24

2017: -9 vs #19 Michigan, won by 29

Tell me where the look-ahead trend is. I’ll wait.

The reason to take Illinois here, if you’re so inclined, is pretty simple: Penn State has absolutely eviscerated 2 opponents in a row, and if they closed -35 against Kent State, the idea that now on the road vs. a much more talented team they’d be -28.5 is probably wrong. The problem is, I never want Illinois right now, because with all their suspended-but-maybe-not-anymore players and quarterback injuries I don’t know what I’m going to get. They were outgained by a billion against USF last week, and that didn’t show up in the final score, so it’s quite possible THEY’RE not being rated properly either. What a mess. No thanks.

Washington State vs USC (-3.5): I’ve only been thinking about this game for about 10 days, so I kind of just want to happen and be done with it. I’ve thought about betting USC here. Who hasn’t? The game-of-the-year line on this was more than 2 touchdowns, and now it’s 3.5. Sometimes a move like that is completely justified, but I would just ask what Washington State has done to merit any credit at all? They went to Wyoming and won, which is something Wofford almost did last week. No credit given. Since then, 2 walk-overs at home showing nothing. We still have no idea what Washington State is, and going into the season I was extremely skeptical of them given lost production and the loss of excellent DC Alex Grinch to Ohio State. This is the type of game where those concerns would (finally) show up. If you can answer the question “is this rock bottom for USC?” (a question that Collin Wilson posed to me earlier today) then you know everything. It would be tempting to look at the potential talent advantages for USC and think that rating these two teams as equal (when removing home-field advantage) is laughable, but with the buckets of injuries for the Trojans at so many positions, and the absolute coaching mismatch in play here, that talent advantage starts to shrink significantly. This may be rock bottom for USC, and you may never get a better deal on them, but for me, I think I’m just waiting for better spots to put my money (this is where you say “Yeah, like Ole Miss +21 last week.” Touche, fake critic). I may revisit this later if 3 ever shows.

8/29, 630pm ET: Friday Week 1 Thoughts

I wanted to just throw down some of my thoughts on the Friday games, including the ones that I have no interest in playing whatsoever, so that you can kind of see my thought processes, and decide on your course of action.  Here we go.

Syracuse at Western Michigan (Cuse -6/65.5)

We begin, though, with a play I'm adding for Friday, that will appear on the app shortly.  I'm playing this game over 65.5. There's a 65.5 at Bovada and a few other places still, although I'm not sure those are likely to last. The difference between 65.5 and 66 is not ultimately a deal-breaker here, but you always want to get the best number possible.

Anyway as for this game, some brief thoughts: I don't trust this Western Michigan coaching staff whatsoever, no matter how much prep time they get or what the circumstances are.  By all accounts they would properly rated as "awful" in all aspects. It's quite likely the program is heading back to pre-Fleck levels, and this is the group that will usher that in over the next 2-3 years.  That being said, they were MUCH better last season with Jon Wassink at quarterback, and when they were forced to switch to Reece Goddard, the impact of that change alone torpedoed all their metrics basically for the season.  In reality, this team with Wassink put up 31 on USC, then 37, 49, and 55 before the Buffalo insane 7-OT game.  There is a LOT of production coming back, but returning production doesn't capture it perfectly because Goddard isn't there anymore, and the runningback corps was deep but injured last season.  I think this team can score a lot, and against Syracuse, doing so should be pretty easy.  Syracuse was 99th in defensive S&P+ last year, kept their coordinator, and hasn't recruited very well on that side.  Meanwhile Syracuse under Dino Babers is what you think they are -- uptempo to the absolute max, and Eric Dungey's been running the offense that way for a while now.  When healthy, he's incredibly dynamic, and he's facing a poorly-coached WMU defense that's just 112th in returning defensive production.

Points will be plentiful here, and considering the high # of possessions we're likely to get, and ideal weather conditions, I think 65.5 is a little low.  As for the game, I trust neither coaching staff to be at all competent with adjustments, but I trust Western Michigan even less.  Pass.

Utah State at Michigan State (-23.5/50.5)

I spent a lot of time after seeing initial projections of trying to find some angles here, and every time I was sort-of thwarted.  I try to have an internal monologue at all times, and will go so far as to talk to myself out loud about all the games, to try to really hammer out where I think edges are, and what my projections may be missing.  Basically, I'm my own worst critic.  That was on display with great aplomb when thinking about this game.

I would actually lean Utah State here, but the stupidity of fading the #1 team in returning production this season in Week 1 at their place is not lost on me.  Utah State's leading tackler and arguably best defensive player also broke his hand in practice and is going to miss about a month.  When a team is breaking in a new DC and their best player is out, that raises red flags to me.  Michigan State's unlikely to really blow the doors off here, their offense just isn't good enough to do so, nor are they even generally interested in running it up in most of these spots.  All in all, a well set spread and total that made me have 100 arguments with myself. Pass.

Army at Duke (-13.5/45)

I pretty much avoid service academies until late in the year in single-game markets, if I play them at all, because I have such a hard time figuring out what they're going to be.  Duke returns an insane amount of production on both sides and Cutcliffe had all offseason to get them ready for the option, which they see against Georgia Tech most years anyway.  No surprises, but also a very low possession-total here, numbers seem right enough to me.  Pass.

Western Kentucky at Wisconsin (-36/51)

My least favorite team in FBS this year against a team I'm dying to fade in the right spot.  What a gross combination.  This number is starting to get into absurd, probably-need-to-consider WKU territory, because Wisconsin is sneaky missing a very high amount of production that they were supposed to have right now (both starting WR's, starting TE, 2 defensive lineman in the rotation). The problem is, WKU isn't even close to the team that's going to take advantage of those weaknesses.  Maybe Drew Eckels is this magically awesome quarterback, but I think it's more likely the Hilltoppers put up a very minuscule number of points here. Wisconsin has mighty New Mexico at home on deck, so there's no look-ahead, and a much better-than-WKU Utah State team came into Madison Week 1 last year, and held their own for a half before completely getting their doors blown off in the 3rd quarter and losing 59-10.  A similar but perhaps more depressing fate may await Western Kentucky here.  Pass.

San Diego State at Stanford (-14/48.5)

I see the case for San Diego State here: in a low-possession game with 2 slow-tempo teams, where mistakes are maximized, the Aztecs come in fully healthy with a game-plan that frustrated Stanford immensely last season. The Cardinal are missing their starting center, starting corner, and several positive special teams contributors with injuries. That's generally enough to cover 14.  My problem here is that I'm not sure this Aztec team is particularly good compared to past ones.  Their returning production is middle-of-the-pack, and we just assume Juwan Washington becomes the next Rashaad Penny (who was the next Donnell Pumphrey).  Power ratings among many have this number lower, but I give the Stanford coaching staff a lot of credit in general, and I have to believe there are adjustments to be made from the game plan last year that can create some more favorable situations.  In reality, when people grabbed the 14.5's over the weekend, they were probably right, and now there aren't any more at offshores, and Bookmaker even has it 13.5.  No biggy.  Pass.

Colorado vs Colorado State (CU -7.5/65)

As I've said already, I'm on Colorado State +7.5 here. There are even +7.5 -105's at some places to be had. The Rams have to be all-in here after getting thoroughly embarrassed in all phases in a horrible spot against Hawaii.  New coordinators, unhealthy coach, new skill position players at all positions...I mean, the recipe was there for drama if Hawaii could move the ball, and we found out Cole McDonald is not awful (and maybe found out why Dru Brown transferred? Who knows.) This was under a touchdown, and now it isn't, when really all that happened was an unsurprising lack of preparedness on Colorado State's part.  There is still some concern about where Mike Bobo will be during this game -- up in the booth or on the field -- and as of yesterday that had not been determined.  I think the best thing that could have happened to a team like CSU -- near-bottom in the country in all areas of returning production -- was just to GET REPS.  The faster a rapport can be developed between all involved, the faster this team can get back to being at least an average Colorado State group.  Meanwhile for Colorado in Game 1, they have a lot of the same issues.  Montez is back, but that's about it -- 113th in returning offensive production, 111th in returning defensive production, and the defense was awful last year anyway.  The talent gap between these teams isn't significant enough on a neutral field to create a spread more than a touchdown, in my opinion, even in a game where points may be less important because scoring may be off the charts.  Slight overreaction to the Hawaii game, just taking what I think is a valuable number.  Happy to fade Colorado here with what they're bringing back.

8/28, 3:20pm ET: Assorted Week 1 thoughts -- Thursday games

I will most likely not have many plays on the Thursday games.  Part of that can be traced to my refusal to play any game with an FCS team, but part of it is also just that I don't see the angles that I am looking for.  Here are some thoughts on the 4 FBS-FBS games.

UCF at UCONN (UCF -23/75)

How many of you are saying "oh man UCF is gonna win by a MILLION. There's gonna be SO MANY POINTS IN THIS GAME." 

Well, for starters, you're right.  UCONN not only ranked 126th in defensive S&P last year, but they're also near the bottom of the country in returning production on defense.  They will get eviscerated by McKenzie Milton and there's really nothing they can do about it, other than play with tempo the other way (which they apparently want to do) and score too.  My question is, the implied score of this game is 49-26 based on the spread and total.  What part of that doesn't look right to you?  It's actually really close to the projections I have, and what I see from others.  UCF won at home 49-24 last year, and with Drew Lock, Heupel won in Storrs 52-12 last year. Maybe UCF just goes for the jugular throughout, but that doesn't make a lot of sense logically, and they're playing in the Heupel offense for the first time too, which is more likely to create struggles than consistent excellence.  The tempo of this game could get you there, but the numbers already appropriately (to me) reflect the type of game you're going to see in Storrs.  Pass.

New Mexico State at Minnesota (-20.5/46.5)

A 3-touchdown underdog in a game with a total of 46?  WOOHOO! What a fun game this should be.

Look, I've talked about this already.  This number is probably a little too high.  We all watched New Mexico State get 0 first downs in the first half at home last week.  And Minnesota's defense isn't as good as Wyoming's, that's for certain.  But really it comes down to this: what adjustment to a rating do you give for a short week unorthodox travel spot?  S&P had this rated at 10.5 if played without the weird spot, and the market was already 17.5 before the Wyoming disaster. Throw in that New Mexico State's defense (the way they can hang in this game) was on the field for almost 80 plays 3 days ago, and I'm just not sure I wanna get that contrarian here.  I see the case that can be made, and I understand that true freshman walk-on QB's probably shouldn't be 20-point favorites, but for now, it's a pass.

Northwestern at Purdue (-1.5/51.5)

I am writing about this game as part of a group effort for the Action Network, and have already said I am betting the over at 51.5.  The good news is, it's zig-zagging all over the place, and there are 51's now available.  There were 50.5's Saturday night.  There is currently no threat of inclement weather, so that won't affect the moves you see over the next couple days.  I'll link to my full explanation when it's available (most likely Thursday morning).  I have no opinion on the side, as it continues to vacillate in the 1's and 2's.

Wake Forest at Tulane (-6/55)

My advice here is to absolutely not be fooled by reports of extremely large sharp action on Tulane (which have already been sort-of dis-proven because Wake money hit the market this afternoon finally and we're back to 6 for now, and limits haven't even gone up yet). 

There is one massive unknown that hangs over everything, which is Wake's QB play.  True freshman Sam Hartman has been named the starter because the expected starter out of spring Kendall Hinton is suspended.  Hartman's back-up is also questionable with a quad injury, so tough to know if Hartman was even the guy they wanted to roll with here anyway.  There are other injury concerns for both sides here, with Wake's 2nd leading receiver most likely out, and Tulane's #1 and #4 returning receivers questionable with injury as well.  Although that might lead you to think the under was a great idea, Wake's pace ratings via some metrics were off-the-charts last year, and Tulane's defense is one of the worst units in the country.  There's not a lot to like about any of this, but I will be fascinated to watch.  Again, Tulane may appear sharp because of Willie Fritz and a fun option-y offense and the new QB for Wake and the stuff you hear (and they're a home dog, which always riles people up), but I would just remind you that Tulane's defense ranked 108th in S&P last year, and ranks 123rd (almost dead last) in returning production on that side.  They face a team in Wake that returns their entire offensive line and leading rusher.  With the uncertainty at QB for Wake I can't really back them either as a favorite.  So guess what? It's all good.  Just pass.

8/1, 10:15am: Who is the worst team that can win the CFP Championship?

One exercise I think is really fun: (after doing your painstaking or, in some cases, quite casual research) open up the futures list and scroll down until you think you've hit rock bottom. I don't mean Oregon State. I mean when you hit the LAST team that has a greater-than-zero percent chance of winning the title. It doesn't have to be that much greater than zero, call it .0001.  That's still a better chance than about 100 of these teams have.  You shouldn't have to go THAT far down to find the last one, since this is about the most top-heavy sport there is.  There have been 4 Playoffs, the winners of them have been: Alabama (2x), Clemson, and Ohio State.  No need to get cute.  Other teams that have made the playoff during that time: Oregon, Florida State, Oklahoma (2x), Michigan State, Georgia, Washington.  There isn't a Loyola waiting for their chance in this sport, no matter how many old, awesome nuns they have.  Whatever team you're going to be picking needs monster recruits, huge talent, and a competent-to-above-average coach at minimum, but in reality probably one of the sport's elites.

Anyway, since I feel pretty good about my base of knowledge across the board finally (I had set August 1st as the date to at least have a somewhat clear, full picture of the entire country in my head, which will now be tweaked millions of times), I decided to do this, on 5Dimes, which is probably the most fun site to do it on because they have every team and the odds get completely absurd.

At first, I thought I definitely went too far down, because I saw Baylor and Cal at 2,000/1 and sort-of paused, and was like "well...I guess if they got [listed 100 breaks out loud], it would be possible." I really like Matt Rhule and Justin Wilcox, if you couldn't tell, but still only Year 2 for both, and while I really like both teams this year as teams that will succeed, I'm not sure they have a greater-than-zero chance to win the title.  But man, it's really close, especially if Charlie Brewer is actually really good for Baylor.  The Big 12 is a giant mess of mediocrity after Oklahoma, everyone's got question marks, so if they could get that 2nd spot, and things break right....see, there, I just did it again.  I'm going to move up from Baylor and Cal because I just don't think the overall talent is there even if I think the coaches are up to the task.  

So I kept going back up the list towards the top, and I stopped again at Boston College 750/1, but I actually think they have a lower ceiling than a lot of teams, even if their floor is much, much higher.  Put it this way: they won't be bad this year if healthy. But can they really win the title? I don't know what their A+ game looks like if things break right.  That may be the right answer.

So I kept scrolling up. And then I saw the team that was (for now) definitely the right answer, for me:  UCLA, 350/1.  Right next to Boise, who actually has no chance.  They'd need all elite teams to somehow lose 3 times, and with College Football being a zero-sum game, some team would emerge with fewer even if the favorites lost more, and it just never works out the way you want.  There's a reason the GO5 teams get a New Year's bid, and it's to placate them since we all know they can't actually make the playoff.  I don't care how high UCF got at the end of last year, they had a 0 percent chance when the committee went to deliberate.  You weren't putting UCF in over Alabama.

But we got off track.  UCLA!  Woo! Go Bruins!  I mean, believe me, their chances are microscopic.  Like bacteria-sized.  But I think it may be non-zero.  Here's why: they have Chip Kelly, so that checks the "elite coach" box.  He went to a title game, and almost beat Cam Newton.  There are merely a handful of coaches with that track record.  You need to have monster recruits to compete at that level, and the crazy thing is, UCLA HAS THEM.  Now, a lot of them haven't realized that potential, and a few more have left the program outright, but if you're looking at recruiting classes and talent on the roster,  UCLA is better than a lot of teams.  They play in a division that is completely wide-open, more than any major-college division in the country.  What if Jim Mora Jr. was just that awful that he couldn't turn high-school studs into college studs? Isn't there at least a non-zero chance of THAT? Wilton Speight isn't even that bad of a quarterback, and here's another what-if: what if Jim Harbaugh just has a really hard time getting the max out of college QB's? There's a non-zero chance of THAT too.  Now, before we really go any further, UCLA isn't going to win the title...hardly ever.  They have the hardest schedule of any team in the country, they play every good PAC-12 team, they're going to play something like 10 teams that went to a bowl last year, and while their QB is probably Wilton Speight (for now, it could also be freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson, aka DTR), there's nothing that is both elite and a known quantity, and their offensive and defensive lines have performed about as poorly recently as anyone in the country.

But I mean...that was kind of a fun exercise, right?  Try it out and see what mediocre-so-they're-never-winning-but-mayyyybe-if-they-got-breaks team you come up with.  Cheers.