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The Guide to the Green Light: College Football Analytics in 2014

Last year was the inception of something that I’ll do for the rest of my career in this industry; Benny’s Picks. Every week during the season, I gave five or six picks that I researched and made my best-educated prediction on whether or not a particular team would cover the spread.
 
At first, I wasn’t placing money on the games; I was just offering my picks to the public to build credibility. I wanted to get my feet wet and see how I would fare arm wrestling Vegas in my freshman year of picks.
 
Predictably like any newcomer, I started out slow. I had to get my footing. Midway through the season, I began to get into a rhythm in terms of research and statistical analysis. I found the sites I now consult on a consistent basis and I began grinding out hours reading into what the numbers said about teams.
 
After I began to catch on, I started throwing some money on the games. I opened an account on Bovada with an initial investment of $30 and told myself we’d see how it went and if I lost all $30 then it was gone.
 
As the season progressed, I was pleased. I finished the last month of college football going 19-10 ATS (against the spread), which might not sound like a great margin of victory, but anytime you can win nine more times than Vegas you’re doing pretty well.
 
Then bowl season came along and a mix of luck and a consistent routine yielded a 20-7 ATS bowl record. I finished the regular season 41-33 with two pushes, went 60-39 on the year, and multiplied an initial $30 investment 12.8 times into a $384 cash out.
 
Admittedly, the bowl season transcended my record, but I still held a 55% winning percentage throughout the regular season. While I know that the odds of repeating the bowl streak are slim, the fact remains that I’m onto something. And with the newly found comprehension of the analytics behind the game, I have high expectations for my sophomore season.
 
Bill Connelly, a writer for SB Nation, Football Outsiders and author of Study Hall: College Football, Its Stats and Its Stories, recently had an article published in Athlon Sports college football magazine titled Become a Smarter Fan. In a sports world now driven by analytics, Connelly’s article outlined five statistical factors that determine and factor into whether a team wins or loses a game:
  • If you win the field position battle, you win the game 72% of the time.
  • If you win the turnover battle, you win the game 73% of the time.
  • If you finish drives better than your opponent, you win 75% of the time.
  • If you are more efficient than your opponent, you win 83% of the time.
  • If you are more explosive than your opponent, you win 86% of the time.
So what do these mean?
 
Field position: Look at the numbers and ask yourself two questions: Where do you begin your drives and where does your opponent begin theirs? Are you creating an advantage or a disadvantage to yourself? Your opponent?
 
Turnover battle: How many times do you turn the ball over? How many times do you take it away? What is your margin of turnovers? Per game? What about your opponent? How do you compare against the top 10 teams?
 
Finishing drives: Connelly’s article defined finishing a drive by examining how many points per trip teams scored when inside the 40-yard line. How many points do you score when inside the 40? What percentage were touchdowns? What percentage were field goals? On what percentage of overall drives did you score? Conversely, what do the numbers of you opponent say?
 
Efficiency: A team’s success rate is dictated by their ability to offensively stay on schedule, meaning you’re able to gain 50% of the necessary yards on first down, 70% on second down, and 100% on third down.
 
            Standard v. Passing downs: Connelly defined standard downs as first down,       second-and-7 or fewer, and third-or-fourth-as-5 or fewer. Passing downs were     defined as second-and-8 or more and third-or-fourth-and-4 or more.
 
In 2013, on average, a team’s success rate on standard downs was 48% and 32%    on passing downs. If your team is successfully gaining the necessary yards and    staying on schedule, you’ll win the game 83% of the time.
 
Explosiveness: Explosiveness examines the average number of yards you gain per play. What is it? What about your opponent? How many yards per play does your defense allow? What about theirs? How do you compare against the top 10 teams?
 
After looking at the numbers, ask yourself these three questions:
  • Does your team have an elite quarterback?
  • What pieces does he have around him?
  • Do you have a strong D-Line to pressure their quarterback?
This isn’t a guaranteed guide to winning, I’m not a physic and beating Vegas is a daunting task. But numbers never lie. Analyze the statistics, the roster, the schedule, and other trends surrounding your team, cross your fingers, and let me make your money some money.
 
Ben Tompkins is an intern and contributing writer for WLXG ESPN Sports Radio 1300. Follow him on Twitter @bennytomp18, on Instagram @bennythekid01, and like his page on Facebook, Benny & The Jets.
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Benny's Picks: Bowl Ball Bonanza

It’s the most wonderful timeeeeeee, of the year. Excuse the tardiness of this edition of Benny’s Picks, but if we’re being honest here, it’s hard to motivate myself to put the time and research in for teams like Buffalo, Tulane and ECU. So forgive me for releasing these spread winners after a few of the bowl games have already been played.
 
Through the regular season, your boy went 41-33-2, ending the season with five straight winning weeks. I’ve won two games thus far into the bowls with Oregon State and Marshall kick-starting what I hope will be a strong finish to a great first season of picks against the spread (ATS). Note that these picks ATS do not necessarily deem my pick as the winning or losing the team, just the team that covers the spread. So scrounge up some pocket change and let ole’ Benny’s Picks make your money some money.
 
Wednesday, December 24, 2013
Hawaii Bowl: Oregon State -4 WIN
 
Friday, December 27, 2013
Military Bowl: Marshall -3 WIN
Texas Bowl: Syracuse +4 WIN
Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington -4 WIN
 
Saturday, December 28, 2013
Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers +14 WIN
Belk Bowl: Cincinnati +3 LOSS
Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville -3.5 WIN
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Kansas State -4.5 WIN
 
Monday, December 30, 2013
Armed Forces Bowl: Navy -6 WIN
Music City Bowl: Ole Miss -3 WIN
Alamo Bowl: Oregon -14 LOSS
Holiday Bowl: Texas Tech +14 WIN
 
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Advocare V100 Bowl: Boston College +7.5 WIN
Sun Bowl: UCLA -7 WIN
Liberty Bowl: Rice +7 LOSS
Chick Fil-A Bowl: Duke +12.5 WIN
 
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Gator Bowl: Nebraska +9 WIN
Heart of Dallas Bowl: North Texas -6.5 WIN
Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin -1.5 LOSS
Outback Bowl: LSU -7 LOSS
Rose Bowl: Michigan State +6 WIN
Fiesta Bowl: Baylor -17 LOSS
 
Thursday, January 2, 2014
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma +17 WIN
 
Friday, January 3, 2014
Cotton Bowl: Missouri -1 WIN
Orange Bowl: Clemson +3 WIN
 
Saturday January 4, 2014
Compass Bowl: Houston +3
 
Sunday, January 5, 2014
Go Daddy.com Bowl: Ball State -9
 
Monday, January 6, 2014
BCS National Championship: Florida State -8.5
 
Ben Tompkins is an intern and contributing writer for WLXG ESPN Sports Radio 1300. Follow him on Twitter @bennytomp18 and like his page on Facebook, Benny & The Jets.
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Charlie Strong to be Named Head Coach at Texas

Bobby Burton, a contributor for 247sports.com, tweeted late Friday night that Texas will be naming Charlie Strong their next head coach. Horns247 was the first to report the news.
 
The news comes fresh after Louisville’s 36-9 blasting of Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl, and confirmation that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
 
Through four years at Louisville, Strong held a record of 37-15, finishing his last two seasons at 11-2 and 12-1, and coached the Cardinals to a bowl game each year during his tenure, most notably his 33-23 win over Florida in last year’s BCS Sugar Bowl. Coach Strong was 3-1 in four bowl games. 
 
Best of luck to Coach Strong. 

Ben Tompkins is an intern and contributing writer for WLXG ESPN Sports Radio 1300. Follow him on Twitter @bennytomp18 and like his page on Facebook, Benny & The Jets.
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Calvin Pryor Held From Memphis Game

Calvin Pryor
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Louisville Cardinals played today without starting safety Calvin Pryor.
 
WHAS 11, the local ABC affiliate in Louisville, broadcasts regional coverage of the Cards when they play at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. During the game, the TV broadcast announced that coach Charlie Strong’s decision to hold Pryor from play was not injury related and that coach Strong will discuss more after the game.
 
Pryor, a junior from Port St. Joe, Florida, has combined for 54 tackles and three interceptions through eight games this season; No statistics were available from the South Florida and Florida International games.
 
His freshman and sophomore years jointly yielded 143 total tackles, two sacks, seven interceptions and seven forced fumbles. Last year in 2012, Pryor finished 6th in the Big East in total tackles with 100, and 2nd in forced fumbles with five.
 
Ben Tompkins is an intern and contributing writer for WLXG ESPN Sports Radio 1300. Follow him on Twitter @bennytomp18 and like his page on Facebook, Benny & The Jets.
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Polson Feels Prepared For Leadership Role This Year

The inception of each year’s number one ranked recruiting class that John Calipari inks to play in Lexington produces the same two questions every year: one, how will the group of individuals come together and play as a team, and two, who on a young team full of ego and five-star talent emerges as leaders?
 
This year, the nine underclassmen that fill the majority of the 16-man roster will be looking to senior point guard Jarrod Polson for guidance and direction as they embark on their first season of college basketball.
 
Polson, who over the course of four years earned a scholarship after joining the team as a walk-on, will be joining fellow senior Jon Hood in the final go around of their collegiate careers.
 
“Yeah, he [Hood] calls it the farewell tour, I think. It’s a lot of lasts that we’ve always talked about so it’s kinda of bittersweet in a way.”
 
In an article written by Jon Hale of KyForward.com, Polson discussed how he feels more prepared for a leadership role after contributing on a consistent basis last season.
 
“People say if you’re older, you’re a leader, but until last year I hadn’t played,” said Polson. “I had been here, but I hadn’t contributed. You can’t really call that a leader. But I definitely think people know that I played last year and I’ve been in the mix. I think that’s definitely going to help.”
 
For 18 and 19-year-old kids balancing the transition of their first semester and balancing the great amount of pressure that comes with wearing the blue and white, having a mentor show you the ropes goes a long way.
 
According to Polson, question number two for this season’s basketball team can be put to rest.
 
“I think there are a lot of take charge guys, we had the rims up yesterday where the ball couldn’t go in and we were working on our rebounding and it started to be a battle. So, I think we definitely have a lot of leaders on our team and people that are willing to go the extra mile.”

Ben Tompkins is an intern and contributing writer for WLXG ESPN Sports Radio 1300. Follow him on Twitter @bennytomp18 and like his page on Facebook, Benny & The Jets.
 
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Benny's Picks Week 11

After posting these projections for the past 10 weeks to my personal website, www.bennyandthe-jets.com, this is the debut of Benny’s Picks on WLXG.com. With a new platform to consume my predictions, I’ve dedicated much more time and consideration into this week’s picks. Through the year, I’ve been 27-25-2 with my picks, and I’m looking to cash in on some of the teams I’ve taken in the 11th week of college football play.
 
Pick #1: Baylor -16.5
Can anyone slow Baylor down? No matter how big Vegas has set the spread, Baylor is 7-1 against it, including a perfect 5-0 at home ATS. Don’t get me wrong, Oklahoma is a solid team, but don’t be fooled by their record. Sure, the Sooners are 7-1, but three wins came over scrubs and another three against real competition were decided by nine points or less. Both teams are neck and neck in total defense, Baylor allowing two more yards per game than Oklahoma with 316 and 314, respectively. The difference? Baylor is hanging 718 yards and 64 points per game.
 
Pick #2: Mizzou -14
Here’s a no brainer: An 8-1 team ATS that is averaging 500 yards of total offense, 40 points per game and has outscored SEC opponents (including Georgia, Tennessee and Florida) 183-101, comes into Lexington, Kentucky where the Wildcats are giving up 27 points and 421 yards per game. Who do you take?
 
Pick #3: Florida Sate -35
Normally I stay away from the big spreads, but seven of No. 2 ranked Florida State’s eight wins have been decided by margins of four touchdowns or more. Wake Forest is averaging 19 points per game and their record includes losses to Boston College and Louisiana-Monroe. Factor in that Wake will be without ACC-leading wide receiver Michael Campanaro, who has compiled 803 yards on 67 receptions, and we’ve got ourselves a blowout.
 
Pick #4: Texas A&M -19
Mississippi State’s four wins have been against Kentucky, Troy, Alcorn State and a one-point victory over Bowling Green State. Faced with real competition, the Bulldogs have failed to score anymore than 26 points, and they are 1-4 ATS in their last five games. A&M has struggled to win big this year against SEC opponents (19 points or more being big), but something tells me that with the push for BCS standings and Heisman voting, Johnny Football goes out and has himself a day.
 
Pick #5: LSU +12.5
While I like Bama to win the game, history shows that this highly anticipated faceoff won’t be won candidly. The last four matchups have evenly been won twice by both teams, and outside of the Tide’s 21-0 National Championship win in 2012, the games have been won by deficits of three, three and four. The Tigers have lost twice this year, but both games were lost by a field goal’s total. LSU is outgaining the Tide 480 to 462 in total offense and scoring only a point less per game on average than the dynasty that Nick Saban has built. Add in that Alabama is 1-5-2 ATS at home while facing LSU, and ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a ballgame.
 
Bonus Pick: Nebraska +6.5
Bonus Pick: Houston +11

Ben Tompkins is an intern and contributing writer for WLXG ESPN Sports Radio 1300. Follow him on Twitter @bennytomp18 and like his page on Facebook, Benny & The Jets.

 
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