Saturday, September 4, 2010

Week 1: Saturday Matchups

Welcome back, TFG readers!  It's been a long offseason, and we've been busy during the offseason.  We're looking forward to seeing how the new algorithm works out.  Week 1 picks are always tough because we have to assume that this week's teams are the same teams that finished last season.  Since that isn't the case, we expect a lower accuracy early, so you should mock the picks now before they start punching you in the face around Week 3.

Boise State Broncos vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (in Washington, D.C.).

Eddie:  This game should probably be a home field advantage for (11) Virginia Tech, but I'm sticking with the neutral rating because (13) Boise State has earned the right to be treated as an equal.  Boise State doesn't get the love from RBA that it does from the human polls because their offense tends to disappear against stronger teams, as evidenced by their 19 point performance versus (12) Oregon and 17 point showing against (2) TCU.  Virginia Tech's defense is a solid 13.2 PPH in this matchup, so we shouldn't expect this one to turn into a shootout.  The question is if Virginia Tech can overcome a particularly underrated 12.9 PPH Boise State defense behind a powerful running game.  The Hokies will try to play keep away (163 plays/game), and the Broncos will try to run (174 plays/game).  This game should be every bit as good as advertised with only 53.7% confidence.  RBA says the Broncos will be taking their first step towards a mythical national championship game:  27-24.
Justin: Even though (8) Boise State finished the year as one of only two undefeated teams in college football, they weren't quite as impressive as (6) Virginia Tech. Both offenses tied for fourth in the country last year behind only Florida, Texas, and Texas Tech. In the end it came down to defense, with the Hokies allowing 0.4 PPH fewer than the Broncos, and on that basis TFG picks the Hokies to eek out a victory in the highlight of the season opener: 32-30.

Connecticut Huskies at Michigan Wolverines.

Justin: One of these teams has an anemic offense that aspires to the high-octane efficiency of the UTEP Miners, and is paired with a defense that got shown up efficiency-wise by the likes of Wyoming. And then there's the (37) Huskies. UConn put on a decent show last year, flirting with the 20 PPH mark on the offensive side, while holding opponents to a respectable 15.9 PPH. This game should move at a decent clip, as both teams average over 170 plays per game. Home field advantage -- particularly effective at the beginning of the season -- makes a game of this one and may be juuuust enough to push Michigan over the top. The Wolverines win the coin toss here, taking home a 32-30 victory with 50.5% likelihood.
Eddie: There was a time in the recent past when we were arguing that (64) Michigan deserved to play Ohio State in the mythical national championship game instead of Florida.  Now, we're worried about if the winningest program in NCAA history can beat (44) UConn, a team from a disrespected conference with fewer than ten years of D-IA experience.  Michigan suffers on both sides of the ball, yielding 17.8 PPH on defense compared to UConn's 13.5 PPH while only scoring 13.7 PPH versus 18.2 PPH.  Significant improvement on either side of the ball will help Michigan win this one, provided UConn holds steady.  Home field advantage keeps it close, but RBA is 66.5% confident that UConn begins the Rich Rodriguez death march with a tight 28-27 victory.

Bowling Green Falcons at Troy Trojans.

Eddie:  Both (82) Troy and (83) Bowling Green are middling schools with spread offenses.  Bowling Green is consistently weak on defense, surrendering 16.4 PPH.  Troy's offense has a knack for jumping all over weak defenses like the Falcons at 17.8 PPH.  RBA says Troy wins 31-28, but this game is going to be really tight at 50.4% confidence because only 0.4% separate their strength ratings over the course of ten seasons.  If I were a betting man, I'd expect this to be one of those picks that goes the other way because Troy lost QB Levi Brown to graduation, and RBA can't possibly know that.
Justin: From the lofty heights of the BCS conferences we drill down into this MAC-Sun Belt slugfest between the (78) Falcons and the (71) Trojans. The name of the game this early in the year is home field advantage, and the Trojans are the benefactors here. What might otherwise be a close game between two second-tier teams becomes a bit of a romp for Troy, thanks to the Trojans' 1.5 PPH advantage on the defensive side. But don't think the talent gap between the first two games and this game is too large; the Trojans posted offensive and defensive efficiencies that were within 0.5 PPH of the Wolverines. In the end, Troy wins 35-29.