LINES AND ODDS
The sports books opened Stanford vs. Washington State with the Cardinal favored by 12 1⁄2 points and has since moved to Stanford by 7 1⁄2. The change in the line reflects that early betters have laid more of their money down on Washington to cover the spread.
Vegas lines and odds aren't meant to be predictive. They are made to entice betting in equal portions on each side of the spread. However, combining the line and the over/under usually ends up close to some computer models. After all, Vegas is very good at this and it is a lot of fun.
Combining the line and the over/under, the Vegas combo has Stanford winning 33-25.
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. I've included a couple others from around the web as well.
FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS F/+
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.
F/+ does not predict a final score, but does give an expected margin. F/+ likes Stanford by a healthy 10 points.
The F/+ ratings list Stanford # 19 (-13) and Washington State # 53.
Bill's S&P+ picks predicts Stanford by 9 points (winning 38.8-30.0) and gives Washington a win probability of 69.4%. Connelly picks Stanford at -7 1⁄2 to cover the Vegas spread.
Stanford is ranked #12 (-8) with a rating of 87.39.
Washington State is ranked #33 with a rating of 78.89.
Sagarin’s formula currently values home field advantage as worth 2.59 points. So subtracting the difference between the ratings and then adding 2.59 in favor of the home team, Stanford, Sagarin has Stanford favored by 11 points (11.09).
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 margin of victory.
Stanford is ranked #11 (-2) with a rating of 103.437.
Washington State is ranked #28 with a rating of 99.157.
The difference is 4 1⁄2 (rounded up from 4.28) points. Billingsley does not provide a home-field advantage factor, but lets apply the standard 3 points to the Cardinal and say Billingsley has Stanford by 7 1⁄2 points.
Donchess boils down the ratings directly into digestible scores and probabilities, no math required.
Donchess predicts a Stanford win 35-23 and gives Stanford a win probability of 81.4%.
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 106 computer ratings across the internet.
In that composite, Stanford ranks #12 (-5) and Washington State ranks #41.
Despite Stanford needing a last minute Conrad Ukropina field goal to put the Cougars away in Pullman last season, everybody is united in thought concerning this matchup in 2016. They all like the Cardinal by at least a touchdown in Palo Alto on Saturday night.
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