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Advanced Stats Rundown, Football Edition | Week of September 5th, 2015

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Your new weekly advanced stats football preview series, focusing on the rest of the SEC

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

First, some programming notes.

Typically this series will appear either on Friday or early Saturday morning, not Wednesday evening. However, several interesting games are occurring on Thursday night this week, so I am cranking it out a bit early this time around. The Alabama-Wisconsin preview will be up tomorrow.

Also, you’ll note not every SEC game is listed below, despite that being the intent of this piece. I have no statistics for titans like SE Missouri State and UT-Martin, so I can’t preview those games. Games which should be mismatches (your 30+ point spread type games) won’t get full previews, but will get picks. I will also be picking against the spread this season, mainly because it will provide an opportunity for everyone to ridicule me at the end of the season. On that note, place bets using these picks at your own peril. After all, I’m really just a guy with an internet connection and some time.

All statistics and spreads as of September 1st.

Game of the Week, SEC Category

Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Texas A&M Aggies, Saturday September 5th
6 PM CDT / 7 PM EDT, ESPN

The Matchup
TEXAS A&M ARIZONA STATE THE EDGE
F/+ 29.1% (25) F/+ 33.9% (19) PUSH
FEI 0.131 (25) FEI 0.17 (12) ARIZONA STATE
S&P+ 14.1 (21) S&P+ 12.7 (23) PUSH
FPI 22.4 (6) FPI 14.6 (21) TEXAS A&M
OS&P+ 39.8 (8) DS&P+ 23.5 (33) TEXAS A&M
DS&P+ 25.7 (44) OS&P+ 36.3 (24) ARIZONA STATE
Spread -3.0 Spread 3.0 TEXAS A&M

F/+ has this game as a push, although the Sun Devils have the slightest of margins over the Aggies in that respect, due in part to FEI’s ongoing love affair with the PAC-12. Note that FPI is heavily in favor of A&M, which is something you should get used to seeing now — FPI likes to zig where the other metrics zag, at least in my limited experience. The matchup to watch is when ASU has the ball, as we’ll get to see what John Chavis has been able to do with last year’s abysmal Aggie defense. If they’re much improved, A&M should win this in a walk. If it’s not, get primed for a shootout in Houston.

THE PICK: Texas A&M Aggies, straight up and to cover.

National Game of the Week

Michigan Wolverines vs. Utah Utes, Thursday September 3rd
730 PM CDT / 830 PM EDT, Fox Sports 1

The Matchup
UTAH MICHIGAN THE EDGE
F/+ 21.8% (31) F/+ 18.6% (35) PUSH
FEI 0.102 (29) FEI 0.058 (38) UTAH
S&P+ 6.5 (41) S&P+ 10.4 (30) MICHIGAN
FPI 9.1 (41) FPI 11.3 (30) MICHIGAN
OS&P+ 29.6 (54) DS&P+ 18.4 (11) MICHIGAN
DS&P+ 23.1 (31) OS&P+ 28.8 (61) UTAH
Spread -4.5 Spread 4.5 UTAH

ESPN elected to go with the TCU-Minnesota game in their late slot, which is… amusing, to say the least. That game should be a mismatch, but this one should be excellent, and it’s unfortunate that it’s been relegated to Fox Sports 1. Last year the Utes traipsed into the Big House and depantsed the Wolverines 26-10, which should have been the first sign that Brady Hoke was done. As you well know, Jim Harbaugh is the head man in Ann Arbor these days, and since he is a true Michigan Man and all that it’s just a matter of time before the Wolverines win the national title every year. Too bad they’re going to start the Harbaugh era off with a loss, albeit a close one.

THE PICK: Utah Utes straight up but the Michigan Wolverines cover.

Other SEC Games To Watch

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Vanderbilt Commodores, Thursday September 3rd
7 PM CDT / 8 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
VANDERBILT WESTERN KENTUCKY THE EDGE
F/+ -10.7% (79) F/+ 3.8% (53) WESTERN KENTUCKY
FEI -0.039 (76) FEI 0.037 (45) WESTERN KENTUCKY
S&P+ -3.9 (77) S&P+ -0.6 (61) WESTERN KENTUCKY
FPI 1.5 (60) FPI 1.6 (59) PUSH
OS&P+ 23.0 (101) DS&P+ 38.1 (114) VANDERBILT
DS&P+ 26.8 (52) OS&P+ 37.4 (19) WESTERN KENTUCKY
Spread 2.5 Spread -2.5 WESTERN KENTUCKY

Year Two of the Mason era in Nashville opens with the resilient Hilltoppers, and that’s not good news for the embattled former Stanford defensive coordinator. After being the latest program left in the lurch by Bobby Petrino, the Hilltoppers ran to a respectable 9-5 finish under Jeff Brohm in 2014, capped with an exciting 49-48 shootout win over Central Michigan in the inaugural Bahamas Bowl. The advanced metrics are all in favor of Western Kentucky here, although FPI has these teams back-to-back. Vandy has a slight edge on offense, but the Hilltoppers have a huge edge when they have the ball, and I think that’s enough to overcome the road disadvantage.

THE PICK: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, both straight up and to cover.

Louisville Cardinals vs. API, Saturday September 5th
230 PM CDT / 330 PM EDT, CBS

The Matchup
API LOUISVILLE THE EDGE
F/+ 38.9% (11) F/+ 19.5% (33) API
FEI 0.132 (24) FEI 0.087 (34) API
S&P+ 19.6 (7) S&P+ 8.6 (34) API
FPI 17.0 (18) FPI 7.6 (43) API
OS&P+ 40.8 (7) DS&P+ 19.4 (13) API
DS&P+ 21.2 (18) OS&P+ 27.9 (70) API
Spread -10.5 Spread 10.5 API

We open yet another CBS season with Gary and Uncle Verne for a matchup in Atlanta laced with intrigue. One of Bobby Petrino’s many coaching stops was a one-year stint as offensive coordinator for API in 2002, after which he jumped to his first stint as coach at Louisville. API representatives famously gauged Petrino’s interest in their head job the following season if they fired his former boss, Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville, of course, went on to some success after this incident, which was the first of many in Petrino’s career.

API has the edge in this one down the line, and I think they win by two touchdowns, but the matchup when API has the ball should be a good one. Louisville returns one of the nation’s best defenses from 2014, held back by an uncharacteristically poor offense for a Petrino team. Like the A&M game, this is an opportunity to see if Will Muschamp can do anything with a sieve of an Auburn defense from last season. API gets some injured starters back on that side of the ball, and DS&P+ certainly thinks there’s something there, but I’m reserving judgement until we get farther into the schedule.

THE PICK: API, both straight up and to cover.

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. South Carolina Gamecocks, Thursday September 3rd
5 PM CDT / 6 PM EDT, ESPN

The Matchup
SOUTH CAROLINA NORTH CAROLINA THE EDGE
F/+ 26.6% (27) F/+ 9.0% (45) SOUTH CAROLINA
FEI 0.134 (22) FEI 0.029 (50) SOUTH CAROLINA
S&P+ 9.4 (33) S&P+ 7.2 (40) SOUTH CAROLINA
FPI 9.2 (39) FPI 11.3 (31) NORTH CAROLINA
OS&P+ 35.4 (26) DS&P+ 32.5 (83) SOUTH CAROLINA
DS&P+ 26.0 (47) OS&P+ 39.7 (10) NORTH CAROLINA
Spread -2.5 Spread 2.5 SOUTH CAROLINA

This is one of those classic advanced stats vs. the spread contests, as F/+ has this as a clear win for the Gamecocks, but Vegas gave it this game the tightest line of the week at just 2.5 points in favor of the Gamecocks. This is at a neutral site in Charlotte, so there’s no home field wonkery at play here, unless you feel like basketball-mad North Carolina is going to turn out in droves to watch Tar Heels football on a Thursday night. One matchup to watch is when UNC’s high powered offense takes the field against a South Carolina defense that was an absolute travesty last season; the edge South Carolina has on the other side of the field spells “shootout”. I’m going with the upset here.

THE PICK: North Carolina Tar Heels, both straight up and to cover.

Cakewalks

Louisiana Monroe Warhawks at Georgia Bulldogs, Saturday September 5th
11 AM CDT / 12 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
GEORGIA UL-MONROE THE EDGE
F/+ 48.8% (4) F/+ -24.5% (99) GEORGIA
FEI 0.206 (5) FEI -0.1 (99) GEORGIA
S&P+ 20.8 (5) S&P+ -10.8 (101) GEORGIA
FPI 24.3 (5) FPI -9.8 (105) GEORGIA
OS&P+ 41.8 (4) DS&P+ 28.5 (63) GEORGIA
DS&P+ 21.1 (17) OS&P+ 17.7 (122) GEORGIA
Spread -35.0 Spread 35.0 GEORGIA

THE PICK: Georgia Bulldogs, both straight up and to cover.

UTEP Miners at Arkansas Razorbacks, Saturday September 5th
230 PM CDT / 330 PM EDT, ESPNU

The Matchup
ARKANSAS UTEP THE EDGE
F/+ 31.8% (21) F/+ -30.8% (108) ARKANSAS
FEI 0.11 (28) FEI -0.166 (119) ARKANSAS
S&P+ 19.4 (8) S&P+ -10.3 (100) ARKANSAS
FPI 19.9 (13) FPI -12.1 (114) ARKANSAS
OS&P+ 38.3 (15) DS&P+ 32.8 (87) ARKANSAS
DS&P+ 18.9 (12) OS&P+ 22.5 (106) ARKANSAS
Spread -33.0 Spread 33.0 ARKANSAS

THE PICK: Arkansas Razorbacks, both straight up and to cover.

Bowling Green Falcons at The Viles, Saturday September 5th
4 PM CDT / 5 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
VILES BOWLING GREEN THE EDGE
F/+ 28.6% (26) F/+ -16.4% (89) VILES
FEI 0.083 (35) FEI -0.044 (77) VILES
S&P+ 16.0 (14) S&P+ -10.2 (99) VILES
FPI 19.8 (14) FPI -6.2 (91) VILES
OS&P+ 33.7 (35) DS&P+ 38.3 (116) VILES
DS&P+ 17.7 (9) OS&P+ 28.0 (69) VILES
Spread -20.5 Spread 20.5 VILES

THE PICK: The Viles, both straight up and to cover.

Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns at Kentucky Wildcats, Saturday September 5th
6 PM CDT / 7 PM EDT, ESPNU

The Matchup
KENTUCKY UL-LAFAYETTE THE EDGE
F/+ -5.7% (73) F/+ -15.2% (88) KENTUCKY
FEI -0.069 (85) FEI -0.084 (93) KENTUCKY
S&P+ 4.1 (46) S&P+ -6.5 (85) KENTUCKY
FPI 6.9 (46) FPI -6.4 (92) KENTUCKY
OS&P+ 29.2 (56) DS&P+ 34.6 (103) KENTUCKY
DS&P+ 25.0 (40) OS&P+ 28.1 (68) KENTUCKY
Spread -17.0 Spread 17.0 KENTUCKY

THE PICK: Kentucky Wildcats straight up but the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns cover.

New Mexico State Aggies at Florida Gators, Saturday September 5th
630 PM CDT / 730 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
FLORIDA NEW MEXICO STATE THE EDGE
F/+ 18.9% (34) F/+ -42.7% (127) FLORIDA
FEI 0.035 (47) FEI -0.171 (121) FLORIDA
S&P+ 7.9 (37) S&P+ -19.1 (124) FLORIDA
FPI 14.0 (22) FPI -12.1 (112) FLORIDA
OS&P+ 22.0 (108) DS&P+ 41.8 (126) FLORIDA
DS&P+ 14.1 (4) OS&P+ 22.7 (103) FLORIDA
Spread -37.0 Spread 37.0 FLORIDA

THE PICK: Florida Gators straight up but the New Mexico State Aggies cover.

Mississippi State Bulldogs at Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Saturday September 5th
9 PM CDT / 10 PM EDT, Fox Sports 1

The Matchup
SOUTHERN MISS MISSISSIPPI STATE THE EDGE
F/+ -33.6% (115) F/+ 24.5% (29) MISSISSIPPI STATE
FEI -0.161 (118) FEI 0.117 (27) MISSISSIPPI STATE
S&P+ -11.6 (107) S&P+ 14.0 (22) MISSISSIPPI STATE
FPI -8.4 (98) FPI 11.0 (33) MISSISSIPPI STATE
OS&P+ 24.4 (91) DS&P+ 23.1 (32) MISSISSIPPI STATE
DS&P+ 35.9 (111) OS&P+ 37.0 (20) MISSISSIPPI STATE
Spread 21.0 Spread -21.0 MISSISSIPPI STATE

THE PICK: Mississippi State Bulldogs, both straight up and to cover.

ROLL TIDE