May 19, 2019

Best Teams & Coaches as Favorites

One measure of the strength of a program is if the team wins when it should win, meaning when they are favored.

Not all favorites are the same, of course.  Being a field goal favorite is not the same as being a 21 point favorite, nor is a being a home favorite always the same as being a road favorite.

In the tables below, which looks at games between FBS teams from 2011 to 2016, these distinctions are not made – the data includes all favorites, whether they were 1 point or 21 point favorites. There’s all kinds of rabbit holes you can examine in this type of exercise, but I chose to stay at the top level in this instance.

The results are generally what was expected, specifically near the top, though I admit Kansas State at the apex surprised me a bit.

When you think about the best coaches in college football the names of Snyder, Swinney, Saban, Fisher, Petersen and Meyer are among the first off the tongue.

If we look specifically at coaches (at current/last school) the order would be:

The winning percentage as a whole was 77.3%, so the cutoff was Tennessee – everyone below that is below average.

One team stands out in a negative way.  Virginia Tech has lost 18 times as a favorite in the last 6 seasons, an average of 3 times per season.  Most of that obviously, was during the waning years of the Beamer era, but the Hokies did lose twice as favorites in 2016 (substantial favorites at that) despite winning the ACC Coastal.

Win Probabilities – Clemson/Ohio State & Alabama/Washington

I am a man on an island. At least as far as the win probabilities below for the Fiesta Bowl, mine is the lone computer that spit out orange.  But it was close.

The reality is though that a 51% win probability is a pick’em game that can turn on any play.  My friend Chris Scully over at doesn’t see it being quite as close and Bill C. at SB Nation is predicting a 29.4 to 24.5 (to be precise) Ohio State victory.

For what it’s worth, I’m 11-2 on the season on Clemson games, losing Louisville (49.5% win probability, another one play game) and Pittsburgh (everyone in the world was wrong on this one).  Also, as evidenced by my pick in the Louisville game, my computer doesn’t always spit out Clemson.

In the other semi it’s a clean sweep, again with my numbers closer to ESPNs, while SB Nation and Character34 are predicting an easier time for the Tide.

In general, my win probabilities are more conservative than any of the other 3, so I find it “interesting” that I ended up with Clemson while the others chose Ohio State, two of them at over 60%.

Guest Shots: Adam Hayes Predicts College Football Playoff Semifinals

Editor’s Note: Adam Hayes is a principal at the USS Sports Machine, where he and the team write about sports of every shape, size and type.  We thank Adam for his contributions. If you are a writer interested in contributing to Seldom Used Reserve, feel free to contact us at

Peach Bowl

In the Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA on Dec. 31), SEC Champion #1 Alabama (13-0) plays Pac-12 Champion #4 Washington (12-1).The defending champs, the Crimson Tide are poised to be a huge thorn in Washington’s championship dreams.

Alabama’s juggernaut offense capabilities will on full show in the game due to the Huskies missing their lead pass rusher Joe Mathis, and lead tackler Azeem Victor. However, despite both players absence on the defensive end, Washington’s offensive inspires hope with the combo of Pac 12 offensive player of the year Jake Browning at the quarterback position and John Ross’s at Wide Receiver. If probabilities are any indication of success, many statistics sites believe Alabama’s offense will have a field day; FiveThirtyEight gives Alabama over a 64% chance of making the title game. I can’t see anything stopping the Tide in this one.

Prediction: Alabama 31 Washington 17

Fiesta Bowl

#3 Ohio State (11-1) plays ACC Champion #2 Clemson (12-1) in the Fiesta Bowl (Tempe, AZ on Dec. 31). Coming into the game, the Tigers have demonstrated that they have a very consistent offensive over the course of the season by averaging 500+ YPG, 40 PPG and converting on 85% of red zone visits. The Tigers offensive ability comes in contrast to the Buckeyes who had an excellent defensive season by allowing only 276 YPG, 14 PPG and most importantly a lot of turnovers. The battle between good offense and great defense will be difficult for both teams. However, Good defensive teams can be tough to defeat which is something Ohio State showed the world by winning the CFP in 2014.

While both teams sport a loss, like Alabama both have spent nearly the entire season firmly in the playoff discussion. Ohio State’s victory in perhaps the game of the season against Michigan earned them a spot despite not winning the Big 10 conference championship, while Clemson dominated the ACC even after a shock upset to Pitt. Deshaun Watson has been fantastic throughout the season using both his passing and running capabilities and will need a massive performance against the Buckeyes. I’m giving the Tigers the edge.

Prediction: Clemson 24 Ohio State 20


Clemson vs. Alabama, tOSU & Washington

generic-wpHow would Clemson fare against the other playoff contenders?

I have developed an algorithm to predict the outcomes of college football games. You can find more on my methodology here and find this weeks picks here.


It turns out that Clemson’s beat down of South Carolina didn’t enhance the Tigers profile as much as expected in that the Gamecocks were weaker competition (ranked 57th) than either Auburn (19) or Washington State (36).

Probabilities above are through games of week 13 and will be updated weekly.

Nic’s Picks – Championship Week

Nic's Picks

Week 13 – (6-4)

Overall – (71-36)

Weekly SUR Pickem – Conference Championship Week

Weekly SUR Pick'em

Matt and Chris battle it out for the title, while I hope to achieve some sense of respectability.

Clemson vs. The Contenders

generic-wpHow would Clemson fare against the other playoff contenders?

I have developed an algorithm to predict the outcomes of college football games. You can find more on my methodology here and find this weeks picks here.


Probabilities above are through games of week 12 and will be updated weekly.


Nic’s Picks – Week 13

Nic's Picks

5-3 last week, 65-32 overall

Weekly SUR Pick’em – Week 13

Weekly SUR Pick'em

The SUR Crew of Matt Wilczewski, Chris Cox and Marty Coleman guess wildly at college football game outcomes.

While I finally had a week where I was more right than wrong, it looks like it’s too little too late…maybe not for Chris…

Clemson vs. The Contenders

Editor’s Note: Chris Scully operates where you can find win probabilities, full season record projections and team rankings among other interesting items. Chris is a senior at Notre Dame and has a background in mathematics and statistics. Follow Chris on Twitter at @chris7scully.

How would Clemson perform against the current playoff contenders?

These probabilities were generated by Chris Scully.  You can find a full list of this week’s games, projected records and team rankings at

In the coming weeks Chris will provide college football analysis for Seldom Used Reserve.

Featured image courtesy