by Rafid Farjo (@rafid_313)
The CFP committee gave the football world a shock this Tuesday when they chose to rank (6) Michigan over (7) Michigan State, just one week after the Spartans defeated the Wolverines. While in isolation this may not seem very significant, it sets an interesting (break of) precedent that head to head results may not matter. Of course last week though, head-to-head results seemed to be the dominant decision maker, with Oregon ranking over Ohio State, Wisconsin over Iowa, Oklahoma State over Baylor, and Mississippi State over Kentucky. The CFP rankings right now don’t matter, and everything will sort itself out, but this questionable logic and decision making this week begs the question of how inconsistent and irrational the committee will be in just a few weeks. Using lines and odds acquired from Draftkings Sportsbook, we make our best predictions for the week of football ahead.
The Game: (8) Oklahoma @ (13) Baylor
The Play: Over 62 total points (-113), Oklahoma -5.5 (-110)
Why: Baylor this season has certainly exceeded expectations, but in recent weeks has come back to Earth after a loss at the hands of a struggling TCU team and a very close contest against Texas. Oklahoma on the other hand has been resurgent. Since swapping quarterback Spencer Rattler for Caleb Williams, the Sooners offense has been unstoppable. Williams ranks 2nd in quarterback EPA/pass at 0.592 and Oklahoma has scored an average of 48.5 PPG in those 4 contests. As a team, the Sooners rank 3rd in offensive EPA/play with 0.3 (6th in rush and 9th in pass) and certainly should be able to score some points against a Baylor team that is 82nd in defensive EPA/pass (0.184) and 68th in total defensive EPA. While the Oklahoma defense is not good as a unit by any metric, they do show strength against the run with a defensive EPA/rush of -0.142, which ranks 9th. Baylor possesses a diverse offense and can rush or pass the ball successfully, and therefore should be able to score some points against an Oklahoma defense that is 129th in EPA/play against the pass, but may be forced into obvious passing situations by the Sooners stout rushing defense. As long as Oklahoma can use this to their advantage and stall a few Baylor drives, the Bears may score some points, but won’t be able to keep pace for too long.
The Game: (6) Michigan @ Penn State
The Play: Michigan -1 (-112)
Why: Although recently suffering a stunning loss to their rivals, it feels like the Michigan offense is finally rounding into form. The Wolverines possess a dynamic rushing attack, led by PFF’s highest ranked RB Hassan Haskins and his dynamic backfield counterpart Blake Corum. QB Cade McNamara is coming off a career best performance two weeks ago against Michigan State where he threw for 383 yards and 2 TD in that loss. He also has generated 44.62 total EPA this season, ranking 26th for quarterbacks, but this is a massive improvement after some slight struggle to start the season for McNamara (76th in QB total EPA after Week 8). Penn State’s offense isn’t very good and is 93rd in EPA/play and Michigan’s 14th ranked defense that allows -.046 EPA/play certainly will not help the Nittany Lions get going. Penn State’s defense in comparison is much better than their offense with a 12th ranked defensive EPA/play and 6th ranked passing EPA/play, but against a Michigan offense that prefers to run the ball with 17 more rush attempts than pass per game (and is successful in doing so with 5.3 YPC), a 51st ranked defense in EPA/rush will likely not be strong enough. The game likely will be close and playing on the road at Penn State is always a challenge, but it seems that considering the ineptitude of Penn State’s offense, especially against a stout Michigan defense, that the Wolverines are being slightly undervalued
The Game: Stanford @ Oregon State
The Play: Oregon State -11 (-113)
Why: After an upset win over the CFP committee’s 3rd ranked team Oregon, Stanford has been poor, losing 4 straight games,including a 45 point drubbing to Utah last week. The Cardinal sit at 98th in EPA/play with -0.42 while the Beavers are 44th with an EPA/play of 0.044. Perhaps most notably, Oregon State has the second highest rush EPA/play (0.214) while Stanford’s rush defense is 123rd in defensive rush EPA/play after allowing 441 rush yards and 9.6 YPC to Utah last week. Oregon State should be able to rush the ball at will and Stanford will likely not be able to keep pace offensively without QB Tanner McKee, even against a Oregon State defense that gives up a net 9.44 EPA/game, good for 99th/130 teams. McKee ranked 25th in total QB EPA when he was last healthy but in their first full game without McKee last week, Stanford’s offense could only muster 7 points. SP+ slightly favors this outcome, predicting an 11.9 point win by Oregon State.
The Game: Kansas @ Texas
The Play: Texas -30 (-109)
Why: The Jayhawks are 1-8 and out of 130 FBS teams, the rank last in defensive EPA and 129th in total EPA/play. While Texas certainly isn’t off to the start they hoped under 1st year Head Coach Steve Sarkisian, they have looked good at times despite a 4-5 record. In 4 of their 5 losses for example, they have held a lead at halftime. A game against Kansas could seemingly get any team back on the right track and a dominant performance could set the Longhorns up for a positive ending to the season. Texas’ offense ranks 50th in EPA/game, which against the worst defense in the FBS is a considerable advantage, but perhaps possesses the skill to be even better under QB Casey Thompson and RB Bijan Robinson who averages 115.5 YPG and is perhaps the most talented player at his position in college football. This decision is corroborated by SP+, which favors Texas by 32.7 points. This analysis is more simple and straightforward, but there is no reason to make things too complicated against a team the caliber of Kansas.