August 30, 2016

Vegas Confidential: Does half a point make a difference?

When last we checked Clemson was a 7 1/2 point favorite against Auburn to open the 2016 season and we advised caution.  Well, perhaps it was Austin Bryant’s injury or something else, but Clemson is now a 7 point favorite.  What’s that half point mean for guys that like to bet on games? More than you would think. That half point difference, assuming it stays there, is enough reason to consider taking Clemson – with one caveat:

Complete SUR Clemson and College Football Preview

Earlier this week the SUR Crew of Matt Wilczewski, Chris Cox and Marty Coleman posted a complete preview for both Clemson and College football.

On Monday, we looked at the potential redshirts for Clemson and while we agreed on most, there were some interesting divergences: Redshirt Report.

Tuesday we selected the players we expect to have special seasons for the Tigers in 2016: Clemson Superlatives.

Wednesday brought our season predictions for the Tigers: Clemson Season Predictions.

Thursday we gave our thoughts on which teams will win each conference, who makes playoff and picked a Heisman winner: Conference Champs, Playoffs and Heisman.

SUR Picks: 2016 Clemson Season Prediction



In the third installment of our week long SUR season preview we take a crack at how we think Clemson’s 2016 regular season plays out with game-by-game predictions. Heck, we even include a predicted point spread for you guys.

@Auburn (9/3)
Marty Coleman- Clemson by +7
History suggests a Clemson win and Auburn cover. My head says different, but I’m siding with history.
Matt Wilczewski- Clemson by +7
First game, hostile road environment, jitters for the new starters. Auburn has a load of talent and I anticipate Malzahn will throw the kitchen sink Clemson’s way. I’m seeing a win, but it may be more stressful than most of the Clemson faithful expects.
Chris Cox- Clemson by +10
I have a hard time seeing an Auburn offense that returns virtually no notable skill position players keeping up with the Clemson offense on the scoreboard. Jordan-Hare will be electric and Auburn’s defense should keep the game respectable until late.

Troy (9/10)
MC- Clemson by +40
Not the same Troy as 2011 and certainly not the same Clemson.
MW- Clemson by +37
Experience, experience, experience. Get the young guys in for snaps to see what they can do.
CC-Clemson by +35
The Tigers could likely win this one by 70, but this is going to be a chance for the staff to get valuable snaps for an inexperienced second unit on both sides of the ball.

SC State (9/17)
MC- Clemson by +50
Stay healthy my friends.
MW- Clemson by +40
Same as previously. Get the backups and young guys snaps, as well as keep everyone healthy. This week is more about Georgia Tech than SC State.
CC- Clemson by +49
Singing the same tune as above, but State won’t even be able to keep up with Clemson’s 2nd and 3rd units. Keeping everyone fresh is key here with a short week to get ready for the Yellow Jackets.

@Georgia Tech (9/22)
MC- Clemson by +14
The Yellow Jackets will be improved, but it won’t be enough. Thursday night in Atlanta is enough to keep it respectable, but let’s face it – If Deshaun is upright Clemson wins comfortably.
MW- Clemson by +13
I expect Paul Johnson and his Yellow Jackets to be improved and upset ready on a Thursday night, but GT’s offense doesn’t perform well without success running up the middle. Watkins, Wilkins, Pagano, Lawrence, Huggins. The Tigers finally get one in Atlanta.
CC-Clemson by +14
With Justin Thomas back for his 20th year of eligibility you have to figure he knows this offense like the back of his hand and will challenge Clemson’s inexperienced defense. The Tigers also haven’t one in Bobby Dodd since ‘03, but Watson will be ready to put on a show in his home state after going down with an injury two years ago.

Louisville (10/1)
MC- Clemson by +9
Two games, two very close wins. Louisville is a formidable foe and a good team. One of those close wins was with Cole Stoudt at the helm for the most of the game, the other on a Thursday in Papa John’s Stadium. Neither of those happen this year.
MW- Clemson by +4
Very happy that Clemson gets this one in Death Valley. The Cardinals return an impressive offense behind Lamar Jackson who I expect to have a breakout season. The hope is that the DE’s have experience and success under their belt by this time, prepared for the stresses of a running QB.
CC-Clemson by +6
Lamar Jackson is an absolute problem. The Cardinals also return nearly every key contributor from last year’s offense that went on a tear at the end of the last season. It’s a good thing Clemson gets to play this one inside friendly confines.

@Boston College (10/7)
MC- Clemson by +17
Always a slugfest and in the past Clemson had the speed and Boston College the brawn. Clemson has speed and brawn and Boston College has regressed.
MW- Clemson by +13
Not an overly ideal spot for Clemson, going into a road night game in Boston following Louisville. If the previous week against the Cards takes a toll on the Tigers, getting up for this Friday night game with one-day less of prep could be a bit tough. Anticipating what I would consider a “frustrating” 13 point win in Chestnut Hill. Tigers play below their potential and BC hangs around, but eventually the talent pulls away.
CC- Clemson by +14
A lackluster Friday night game on the road in front of 20,000 fans just screams trouble to me. The Tigers haven’t won by more than two touchdowns in Chestnut Hill since BC joined the ACC and they will actually present with an offense that actually has a pulse this year.

NC State (10/15)
MC- Clemson by +21
I’m sure State will have a respectable record at this point, but they’re not a team that is going to compete with the Tigers.
MW- Clemson by +17
State simply isn’t a great team and heads into this season after losing their QB, Jacoby Brissett. Does Clemson look ahead to the bye-week and FSU a bit? Most likely. But the Tigers shouldn’t have any significant issues handling this ‘Pack team in Death Valley.
CC-Clemson by +28
I don’t think people realize just how bad of a job Dave Doeren has done at NC State. The blinders will come off this season. Clemson has averaged 46 points during their 4-game win streak versus State, and you can expect that trend to continue for at least another year.

@FSU (10/29)
MC- Clemson by +3
The best team usually wins, but in one this close the home field could make a difference. Really a toss up, I’m giving it to the Tigers because Deshaun is wearing orange.
MW- Clemson +1
+1 here is purely on DW4 at QB. If FSU’s quarterback situation ends up positive and Francois is performing admirably up to this game, then I’d likely switch sides here. The ‘Noles are loaded on both sides of the ball and Tallahassee is an incredibly difficult place to play. I would be surprised if Clemson goes into this matchup as the favorite.
CC-Clemson by +1
FSU is good. Like really good. And if they find a legit answer at quarterback then my prediction here likely goes the other way, but as of today they’re going with a guy who is built on nothing but hype. This matchup is setting up to be the most hyped game of the 2016 college football season.

Syracuse (11/5)
MC- Clemson by +24
New coach, similar result. Dino Babers may turn the Orange around, but it won’t be in 2016.
MW- Clemson +17
This is another situational spot where Clemson likely plays below their potential as they come off the FSU game. Frustrations here and there from the home side before pulling away for good in the second half. Talent gap too large for a Syracuse team to come into Death Valley and pull the upset.
CC-Clemson by +21
Coming off a big game you never know how a team will respond, no matter the result. We also don’t know what to expect out of Dino Baber’s first Syracuse team. We do know there’s a huge talent gap and Clemson is playing at home.

Pittsburgh (11/12)
MC- Clemson by +17
This team almost beat an undefeated Iowa team in 2015. It’s questionable how good Iowa really was, but I think this team hangs around for a half or so.
MW- Clemson by +13
The Panthers have talent on both sides of the ball, led by a top-notch rushing attack, and will likely be the third most difficult conference matchup for the Tigers. If this were in Pittsburgh it would be a bit more intriguing, but the Panthers don’t have quite enough big play ability to keep up in Death Valley.
CC-Clemson by +17
Pitt returns senior QB Nate Peterman along with two sensational RBs in James Conner and Qadree Ollison. If second year coach Pat Narduzzi can work some defensive magic then the Panthers could contend for the ACC Coastal crown. Still too much fire power on Clemson’s side for the Panthers to keep up.

@Wake Forest (11/19)
MC- Clemson by +28
The days of worrying about road trips to Groves Stadium are in the rear view mirror for Clemson. Tigers blow Deacs out late.
MW-Clemson by +24
The Demon Deacons are arguably the worst in the ACC coming into this season, and even on the road this should be no contest. This likely becomes a prep week for Clemson as they prepare to face their rivals in Death Valley to finish out the regular seaosn.
CC-Clemson by +35
Clemson is Goliath. Wake Forest is David. This story does not end up like the last.

South Carolina (11/26)
MC- Clemson by +17
A dearth of playmakers make it impossible for the Gamecocks to keep up with the Tigers and oh yeah, it’s Deshaun’s last game in Death Valley.
MW- Clemson by +17
The Gamecocks will improve from their 3-9 season in 2015, but not enough to compete in Death Valley in what will likely be DW4’s last home game. Expect the kitchen sink from Muschamp as he attempts to keep the Palmetto Bowl close in his first time on the sidelines for South Carolina. Statement game for several Clemson players who will be playing their final home game.
CC-Clemson by +21
A year ago we thought the Gamecocks were primed for picking when Clemson rolled into Williams-Brice. The scrappy bunch from Columbia didn’t cooperate. Fortune is not likely to be on their side for the second straight year as a handful of talented Tigers (*cough Deshaun Watson cough*) will want to close out their Death Valley careers’ with a bang.


So there you have it. A perfect 36-0 predicted between the three Seldom Used Reserve folks. Stay tuned tomorrow to see how the staff thinks the CFB postseason shapes up with conference picks, playoff picks, and Heisman predictions.

**Stay tuned to Seldom Used Reserve throughout the week as we’ll continue to roll out content that focuses on our predictions for what could be a historic season in Clemson.  And as always you can head over to the free SUR message boards to discuss this and much more with one of the tightest online Tiger communities on the web.**

Tuesday: Clemson Superlatives

Clemson (and College) Football Data

It’s 2016 and even though “Big Data” is all the rage in business and baseball, it’s not so much for college football fans and analysts. There’s a stigma attached to analyzing football in a similar fashion as baseball. Perhaps there’s some threat felt, a lack of understanding or maybe it’s perceived that reducing such a physical sport to numbers somehow makes it less masculine. I’m not sure quite what it is, but my guess is Monte Lee would be much more interested in the baseball metrics offered here than Dabo Swinney would be the football numbers.

Despite that, I trudge on. I began tracking the Tigers offense with the arrival of Chad Morris and have recorded all 5,351 offensive plays since. Two years ago I became interested in the Tigers defense and have recorded the detail of the last 1,809 defensive plays. All together I have the detail for 7,160 Clemson plays, in excruciating detail, for anyone to view, use or analyze.

Opponent, location, down and distance, play detail, yards gained (or lost), Pass/Run/Sack, rusher, receiver, first down or not, touchdown or not, etc. It’s all there. Enjoy.

CF PbP Page

The data is taken from the play by play of each game and the caveat for the defensive plays is that “tackles” are a relative term in college football and they are often changed after the fact. It’s easier to determine who carried the ball or caught a pass than it is to determine when to award a half a sack in a huge pile of players, for example. Rarely do I go back and verify the tackle numbers. I simply record what was put in the play by play data for the most part (sometimes there are obvious mistakes I correct such as mix ups with duplicate numbers).

Many of you are not only Clemson fans, but college football fans, in general. I’ve got something for you, too. How about the statistical details of the last 3,580 college football games between two FBS teams? Total yards, plays, rushing/passing, yards per play, turnovers, point spreads, covers, etc. It’s all there, enjoy.

CF Game DB Page

If you use the data for any reason, I’d appreciate knowing about it. Last year the college football data was used in a graduate thesis – which is way beyond my intentions when it was created. I simply wanted a place where I could find the data when I wanted to know something.

There are smarter guys than me out there that have taken this data and put it into prettier databases and developed fancy “slices” in Excel and this site is regularly visited by the College Football Reddit group. I think that’s really cool.

Vegas Confidential – Best Bets ATS & Intriguing Week 1 Matchup

A look at the best teams against the spread for both Power 5 and Non-Power 5 conferences, an intriguing week 1 matchup that’s off the radar and a bad SEC team that covers at a high rate.

Vegas Confidential

Vegas Confidential is a new feature this season where we take a weekly look at interesting numbers, spreads and teams. The basis for these numbers is generally, and almost always the consensus point spread. Vegas Insider takes the picks from various sources and then comes to a consensus, or at least the spread that is out there most often. Sometimes these spreads change at the last minute and post game I use the “final” number.

For today’s feature, lets look at the current point spread of Clemson and Auburn, how that line of 7.5 has played out in the past, how the Clemson Tigers have fared as road favorites recently and how the dismissal of Jovon Robinson of Auburn has effected the betting habits of the general public and the line offered in Vegas.

Finally,  lets take a look at what the SUR Twitter followers think will happen (admittedly skewed towards Clemson, but maybe a CootCock fan or two in there):


It should be pointed out that the 2nd and 3rd options are the same results, worded differently, so in essence: 1% think Auburn wins, 10% think Clemson wins but doesn’t cover and 89% think Clemson wins and covers, which is higher than the current Vegas rate of 73% betting on Clemson.

Finding a Champion (Part 2) – The Final 5

In part 1 we eliminated 4 teams from title contention.  I believe the champion will be one of the 5 teams below and for this exercise will list the reasons each team will and won’t win the title.

Ala1000px-Alabama_Crimson_Tide_Logo.svgbama 7:1

Why: It’s Bama, they’re talented, they have Nick Saban and a bunch of studs.

Why Not: No Kirby Smart, 11 lost starters, a new starting QB, along with a schedule that’s not easy – Southern Cal, at Mississippi, at Arkansas, at Tennessee, LSU and Auburn.

Clemson 15:2

Why: Deshaun Watson and a bevy of offensive skill players and a 3 game schedule (at Auburn, Louisville, at Florida State).

Why Not: A rebuilding defense and special teams questions, along with a trip to Tallahassee.

Ohio-State-LogoOhio State 15:2

Why: Easy Big 10 means a loss at Oklahoma still leaves the Buckeyes with a good chance of making the playoffs.  If they get in, who knows (see 2014).

Why Not: Most of 2015 team is in the NFL and only 6 starters return.

FloFSU Logorida State 14:1

Why: Tons of talent, both returning and fresh, Dalvin Cook, Clemson comes to Tallahassee.

Why Not: Deshaun Watson, Ole Miss (neutral), at Louisville, no established game changing quarterback.

NotND Logore Dame 18:1

Why: Easy schedule with only 3 true road games (Army and Navy are neutral locations), no conference championship game, jam-up quarterback(s).

Why Not: Only 10 returning starters, bookend road games at Texas and Southern Cal.

Any of these 5 could win the National Championship under the right circumstances.

Separately,  Notre Dame has an edge on Florida State as my “value” pick because of the respective schedules.  FSU plays Ole Miss (neutral), Louisville (away) and Clemson (home) while Notre Dame’s 5 ACC games don’t include FSU, Clemson or Louisville.

Furthermore, the Irish get a Texas team that’s struggled for years and will either play an unproven quarterback or a freshman with 0 experience in Austin and the Irish could very well be 11-0 when they conclude their regular season at Southern Cal and have no conference championship game.

I’m not saying the Irish will win the title or even make the playoffs.  I’m saying with their schedule, talent and coaching they are a “value” at 18:1.

Finding a Champion (Part 1): The National Champion is in this post

I’m confident your national champion resides somewhere on this page among the 9 teams listed.  There’s not going to be a Coastal Carolina type champion in college football, which may make things less fun, but still interesting and debatable.

In our search for national title contenders I’ll use the odds from and lay out the case for (or against) the teams, but first a couple of assumptions:

  1. Only 0 or 1 loss teams make the playoffs.
  2. Schedule matters. LSU may be better than Tennessee head to head, but they won’t necessarily end up with a better record, for example.
  3. I’m not saying the teams I eliminate won’t make the playoffs, they could. The object is to eliminate teams that won’t win the title one by one.

The contenders and odds:

Alabama – 7/1

Clemson – 8/1

Ohio State – 15/2

Michigan – 12/1

LSU – 12/1

Oklahoma – 12/1

Florida State – 16/1

Tennessee – 16/1

Notre Dame – 20/1

First Teams Eliminated

Phil Steele thinks LSU is a great value at 12/1, but I think he’s nuts.  Not because the Bengal Tigers won’t be good, they return 17 starters, but take a peek at the schedule: Wisconsin, at Auburn, at Florida,Ole Miss, Bama, at Arkansas and at Texas A&M.  The ESPN FPI has the Tigers LSUfavored in evePOD-SMALLry game and gives the Tigers a 5.2% chance of winning out.  I’m not buying it, not even 5.2% worth. Despite the presence of Leonard Fournette, a shaky quarterback and questionable coaching will doom LSUs hope for a title.

Clemson fans are getting a kick out of the love for Oklahoma after the last two years Sooner kickings.  Neither of those mean OU won’t be a good team in 2016, but are reasons for caution.  A bigger reason for caution is the schedule: If the Sooners make it through game 1 (Houston, neutral site in Houston), they still face Ohio State, at TCU, Texas (neutral), Baylor (who knows), a tricky trip to West Virginia and Oklahoma State. As with LSU, ESPN FPI favors the Sooners in every game and gives Stoops team a 16.9% chance of winning out, which is important because of no Big 12 Championship Game.  I’m betting the Sooners don’t run the table and if they make the playoff will again be defeated in the first game.

Michigan will likely be 7-0 when they visit East Lansing on October 22. Two weeks after that they travel to Iowa and two weeks after that they travel to Columbus.  The Wolverines won’t win their division and won’t make the playoff.

Tennessee is another team that ESPNs FPI says should win them all, but only gives a 4.5% chance of winning out.  Tennessee’s schedule is light up front, but then there’s a four week stretch of Florida, at Georgia, at TexaTennessees A&M and Alabama (no bye in those four weeks).  Perhaps if there was a bye week in there, but that’s a tough stretch and with an unproven team in the crunch it’s impossible to give the Vols the benefit of the doubt.  And, oh yeah, if they win the East that means they are likely to get a rematch with Bama or meet up with LSU and I’m betting that neither will work out well for Tennessee.

We’ve eliminated 4 teams that have 20/1 or better odds per Vegas.  In part 2, I’ll dig into the final 5 and make the case for a long shot.

Projected 2016 ACC Football Standings

Editor’s Note: Nic Mills is a senior PRTM major, student assistant with Clemson Athletic Communication, (formerly known as the Clemson Sports Information Department) and has a long family history of Clemson grads. Nic is also an intern with The Mickey Plyler Show and Out of Bounds on 105.5 The Roar each weekday morning. You can follow Nic on Twitter @mrnicmills.

SUR Podcast Rectangle Orange
It was really tough to choose between Clemson and Florida State and I know the game is in Tallahassee where Clemson hasn’t won since 2006.  However,  as long as Deshaun Watson is Clemson’s quarterback I can’t picture Clemson losing. I’ll be tough, but the Tigers come out with a perfect regular season 2 years in a row.2016 ACC Standings

newaccbrandThe Coastal Division is once again chaos, but a little bit prettier chaos this year. Miami loses to Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech loses to North Carolina and North Carolina loses to Miami.  The result will be a 3 way tie where Miami wins the tie breaker due to having a higher ranking in the polls.

In the end it doesn’t matter as Clemson cruises to a second straight ACC title and berth in the 3rd annual College Football Playoff.

Phil Steele, the Natty, Heisman & win totals

Phil Steele was on the “Behind The Bets” podcast with Chad Millman of ESPN last week and had some interesting things to say in regards to national title, Heisman odds and season win totals for several teams.

I regard Steele as a solid prognosticator and thoughtful analyst, resistant of the hyperbole that is rife in the industry. Because of this approach he’s one of the few guys I can still stand to listen to.

Yet, Steele had a few “interesting” leaps in his analysis on this day, as we’ll see below.

FSU LogoFirst up, Steele opined that Florida State at 12:1 and LSU at 15:1 were good “value” (one of the most overused words on the planet) picks for a possible national champion. While Steele blathered on about Brandon Harris (“all he has to do is be a little bit better”) of LSU, Millman interrupted him to say that “Clemson and Alabama are clearly the class of their respective conferences.” It was an awkward exchange that Steele largely ignored and plowed ahead with his praise of Harris.

Steele generally sticks to facts and uses a lot of numbers in his analysis (which I like), but with regards to Harris all that went out the window and he assumes improvement. Harris may improve, but enough to win the title? With that schedule (see below)? Seems like a reach to me (and Millman).

Other Steele “value” picks for the title are Iowa at 100:1 (good chance to go 12-0 again) and TCU at 50:1 (improved defense, Kenny Hill to have big season). Interesting.

The goal is not to pick a national champion necessarily, but to find the best “value”: The team with the longest odds that you think has a chance to win a championship.  Using that logic and a vivid imagination, Iowa and TCU are still stretches in my mind.DW Super

I believe FSU is a good value and the rest are a waste of money. I don’t think FSU wins the title, but playing Clemson at home improves their chances greatly. The other 3? Just filler and perhaps a way to toss your money away.

Iowa may well go 12-0, but will likely lose the Big 12 Championship Game again. Even if they win the Big Ten Championship Game the Hawkeyes aren’t going to beat a good playoff team and certainly not the two it takes to win the title.

tcu (1)LSU? Their schedule includes Wisconsin (neutral), at Auburn, at Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama, at Arkansas and at Texas A&M. Not going to win a title. Period.

TCU’s schedule sets up more favorably, playing Arkansas at home in week 2, but then you have Oklahoma, at West Virginia and at Baylor.  TCU finishes up with a final 3 games of Oklahoma State, at Texas and Kansas State. Not sure I see a lot of value at 50:1, but Steele likes what TCU is offering – a lot (see below).

What’s particularly baffling is Steele’s use of Trevon Boykin’s success last season as a reason the TCU offense will be really good this year.  Did I mention Boykin is now with the Seattle Seahawks (or the San Antonio PD, depending on the day).

Steele picked Deshaun Watson to win the Heisman (9:2), but also believes, because he thinks Florida State has a chance to contend for the national title, Dalvin Cook’s a good value at 10:1. Can’t argue either of those. He also believes Christian McCaffrey (5:1) will suffer in the Heisman race because the Stanford schedule means multiple losses.

Finally, Steele gave these as his best picks on win totals:

Miami – 6.5 – Over

TCU – 8 – Over

Purdue – 4.5 – Under

FIU – 6.5 – Under

As I mPOD-SMALLentioned, I think Steele’s generally solid andit’s hard to argue the win total picks or choosing Watson to win the Heisman (and Cook as a “value”), but saying LSU is a value to win the title at 15:1? That’s out on a limb with a shaky quarterback and the toughest schedule around. I’m also mystified by his love of TCU, though they very well could win 10 games (doesn’t mean they’re a value at 50:1).

Next week I’ll have a two part series on the teams I think have a legitimate shot at the title.  Sneak preview: TCUs not there, another of Steele’s favorites is the first team eliminated and a team no one’s talking about is my long shot pick to contend.

Featured image courtesy