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Toughest and weakest nonconference schedules entering the 2022 college football season

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One of the most significant factors the College Football Playoff Selection Committee considers when putting together its rankings is strength of schedule. Some teams have gaudy nonconference records but build them against creampuffs. Others may suffer early losses against top-tier opponents.

There are numerous ways to measure a team’s strength of schedule, but it will always be based on some measure of the quality of its opponents. Teams do not have a choice what conference games are on their schedule, nor which nonconference opponents those conference opponents play, but the nonconference slates of your conference opponents are hardly unimportant.

If a league were going to try to game the system, it would have its best teams play at least one great opponent — to show the committee they are serious contenders — and have the noncontenders try to just schedule wins so they build quality records for their opponents.

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That is an incredibly difficult thing to do in football because most games are scheduled many years in advance.

With that in mind, here is an evaluation of each league’s nonconference schedules as we prepare for the 2022 season. Listed below are the strongest and weakest in each conference along with a ranking of the toughest in the entire FBS this season.

SEC

The SEC is one of the two Power Five conferences still playing only eight league games. SEC teams also know exactly what to do with that extra nonconference game: Play an FCS opponent. Every team in the SEC has one on the schedule, which is true almost every season. Two of these games are scheduled on what I call “Sabbatical Saturday,” the weekend before Thanksgiving. There are six nonconference games in the league that day, many of which serve as a nice break before rivalry weekend.

The SEC is typically the king when it comes to playing home nonconference games and avoiding road trips. However, it has been dethroned this season. Still, it is one of only two leagues that plays more than half its nonconference games at home and fewer than 20% on the road.

There are certainly some noteworthy showdowns, not the least of which is Alabama at Texas on Sept. 10. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban will face former assistant Steve Sarkisian, who is looking for a signature win to indicate that the Longhorns are finally “back.”

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Other highlights include Georgia playing a “neutral site” game against Oregon in Atlanta on Sept. 3 and Tennessee traveling to 2021 ACC champion Pittsburgh the following Saturday.

Toughest schedule — Florida: The Gators will open by hosting Utah, the reigning Pac-12 champions and the favorite to repeat atop the league. They will also host South Florida and travel to Florida State.

Weakest schedule — Kentucky: The Wildcats are one of three SEC schools playing all of their nonconference games at home. This year’s slate includes Miami (OH) and Northern Illinois from the MAC, Youngstown State and in-state rival Louisville.

Big Ten

When it comes to home cooking, the Big Ten is the new king. The league will play a whopping 62% of its nonconference games at home and just 17% on the road. That is the smallest percentage of road games for any league. Eight Big Ten teams are playing all three of their nonconference games at home.

The SEC still has the Big Ten beat, though, in smallest percentage of games against other Power Five opposition. The Big Ten is at 26.2% this season, while the SEC will only play 25% of its nonconference games against its peers. The Big Ten gets some credit though for scheduling the smallest percentage of games against FCS teams.

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That is not to say that there aren’t some good games. Notre Dame visits Ohio State to kick off the season on Sept. 3 in a game that is likely to have College Football Playoff implications. Also, Penn State will travel to Auburn and Michigan State will visit Washington. We will also get another renewal of the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry on Sept. 17.

Toughest schedule — Nobody: It’s embarrassing for this league to not be able to look at any one schedule and say that it will really test that particular team. Ohio State deserves a mention because, besides Notre Dame, it hosts MAC favorite Toledo and Arkansas State.

Weakest schedule — Take your pick: Minnesota is my choice with home games against New Mexico State, Western Illinois and Colorado. Perhaps you prefer Michigan’s slate of Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn. It’s so bad that a reporter asked Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh about it earlier this summer. Northwestern also gets dishonorable mention for a Duke, Southern Illinois, Miami (OH) trifecta. There is nary a road game among any of those schedules.

ACC

Like the SEC, every team in the ACC will play four nonconference games and one of those games will be against an FCS opponent. Well, at least they all tried to play an FCS opponent. Louisville scheduled James Madison, but the Dukes moved up to FBS this season.

Still, the ACC again has the highest percentage of nonconference games against Power Five competition. That is true pretty much every season because there are four in-state rivalry games with SEC teams and five games against Notre Dame. Those games are a big reason why the ACC has the highest percentage of road games among the power conferences.

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Clemson at Notre Dame and Miami at Texas A&M are the highlight games of the ACC nonconference slate. Both games could have an impact on the playoff, though I do not have any of those teams currently projected into the CFP.

Toughest schedule — Georgia Tech … for the second season in a row. This time, the Yellow Jackets get Georgia in Athens and Ole Miss at home. They will also face AAC contender UCF on the road.

Weakest schedule — Duke: Even with two road games against Power Five opponents, the Blue Devils have managed to put together the weakest nonconference slate in the ACC. Duke will travel to Northwestern and Kansas, and it will face Temple and North Carolina A&T at home.

Big 12

Because of the size of the league and the full round-robin conference schedule, the Big 12 has the fewest number of nonconference games at 30. That will change when realignment starts to kick in next season. Because the league plays so few nonconference games in total, it is in the odd position of playing the fewest games against FCS teams (eight) but also the second highest percentage of such games (26.7%).

The aforementioned Texas-Alabama game is far and away the highlight of the Big 12 nonconference slate. The biggest game for any of the other Big 12 teams that appear in the preseason polls is Baylor at BYU.

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Toughest schedule — West Virginia: The Mountaineers have road games with reigning ACC champion Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech sandwiched around a home game with Towson.

Weakest schedule — Kansas State: The Wildcats will spend the nonconference portion of their schedule at home facing South Dakota, Missouri and Tulane.

Pac-12

By virtue of its relative isolation on the West Coast and the fact that each team plays only three nonconference games, scheduling can be cumbersome. So, it should come as no surprise that the league has eight games scheduled against Mountain West opposition and another two against BYU. That is a third of the league’s nonconference schedule. There are also annual games with Notre Dame for USC and Stanford.

It should also not be surprising to learn that the Pac-12 plays the highest percentage of games against FCS foes among the power conferences. All but two of those 10 games are against other Western teams.

The USC-Notre Dame game highlights the Pac-12 nonconference schedule as usual. The aforementioned Oregon-Georgia and Utah-Florida games should also be fun.

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Toughest schedule — Colorado: The Buffaloes may need to get off to a good start to keep coach Karl Dorrell’s seat cool, but a schedule of home against TCU and trips to Air Force and Minnesota will make that a challenge.

Weakest schedule — UCLA: The Bruins should be able to do better than a slate of Bowling Green, Alabama State and South Alabama at home.

AAC

The AAC is again leading the Group of Five in percentage of home nonconference games — and by a wide margin. The league will play 41% of its games at home. The next-closest conference is the Mountain West with 31%.

Cincinnati will look to repeat as champions of the league and make another run for the CFP, but this season’s nonconference schedule will preclude that. Unlike last season, where a win at Notre Dame created a floor for the Bearcats in the CFP Rankings, there is no such game this season unless Arkansas is much better than we expect. Cincy will also play Indiana again, this time at home.

Toughest schedule — Navy: The Midshipmen have three locked in nonconference opponents every year — Air Force, Army and Notre Dame. All three of those games are away from home this season.

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Weakest schedule — Temple: You can hardly blame the Owls for trying to get some wins. They will face Duke on the road followed by home tilts against Louisiana, Rutgers and UMass.

Other Group of Five conferences

If you want to look for this season’s Group of Five gate crasher when it comes to the CFP, I can give you a couple of non-conference schedules that may do the trick – if the team involved can win all their games. That is much easier said than done.

Boise State is the favorite in the Mountain West, but one of the other contenders, Fresno State, has a road game at USC among its nonconference games. The Bulldogs would have to run the table and hope the Trojans do for them what Notre Dame did for Cincinnati last year.

Also, Appalachian State will host North Carolina and visit Texas A&M. Their other two games are against FCS teams, so that could be a problem for the CFP Selection Committee. Winning all their games will be a problem for the Mountaineers.

Five toughest nonconference schedules

  • Kent State — at Washington, at Oklahoma, Long Island, at Georgia
  • ULM — at Texas, Nicholls State, at Alabama, at Army West Point
  • Rice — at USC, McNeese State, Louisiana, at Houston
  • Navy — Delaware, at Air Force, Notre Dame, Army West Point
  • Central Michigan — at Oklahoma State, South Alabama, Bucknell, at Penn State



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Air Force vs. Navy prediction, odds, line: 2022 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy picks by proven computer model

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The Air Force Falcons attempt to extend their winning streak in the all-time series to three games when they host the Navy Midshipmen on Saturday in the first leg of the battle for the 2022 Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy. Air Force (3-1), which hasn’t posted three straight wins against the Midshipmen since a six-game streak from 1997-2002, dominated the last two matchups, rolling to a 40-7 home win in 2020 before posting a 23-3 road triumph last season. Navy (1-2) has lost four straight matchups at Falcon Stadium since registering a 28-21 overtime victory in 2012.

Kickoff at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Col. is set for noon ET on CBS. The Falcons are 14-point favorites in the latest Air Force vs. Navy odds from Caesars Sportsbook, while the over/under for total points scored is 38. Saturday’s game can be seen live on CBS and streamed live on Paramount+ with their must-have Premium plan. 

Sign up now to get a 7-day free trial at Paramount+. A subscription also gives you access to other sports content including the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, NWSL, NFL on CBS and countless movies and shows. Get it all free for seven days when you sign up right here.

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And before making any Navy vs. Air Force picks, be sure to check out the college football predictions and betting advice from the SportsLine Projection Model.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every FBS college football game 10,000 times. Over the past six-plus years, the proprietary computer model has generated a stunning profit of more than $3,100 for $100 players on its top-rated college football picks against the spread. Anyone who has followed the model has seen huge returns.

Now, the model has set its sights on Navy vs. Air Force and just revealed its picks and CFB predictions. You can visit SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Here are the college football odds and betting lines for Air Force vs. Navy:

  • Air Force vs. Navy spread: Falcons -14
  • Air Force vs. Navy over/under: 38 points
  • Air Force vs. Navy money line: Falcons -600, Midshipmen +430
  • AF: The Falcons are 7-1 against the spread in their last eight games
  • NAVY: The Midshipmen are 7-1 ATS in their last eight contests against teams with winning records
  • Air Force vs. Navy picks: See picks at SportsLine
  • Air Force vs. Navy streaming: Paramount+

Featured Game | Air Force Falcons vs. Navy Midshipmen

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Why Air Force can cover

The Falcons are coming off a dominant 48-20 victory against Nevada last week in which they owned a 34-point lead after three quarters. The nation’s top-ranked ground attack did most of the damage against the Wolf Pack, racking up 461 of Air Force’s 541 yards of total offense on 75 carries. Brad Roberts led the way, rushing 20 times for 123 yards and three touchdowns.

It was the second three-TD effort in three games for the senior, who is third in the country with seven rushing scores and ninth with 465 yards. Roberts has rushed for at least 100 yards in 12 of his 21 contests with the Falcons, the third-most such performances in program history. Air Force is averaging a nation-best 412.3 rushing yards and scoring 37.8 points per game.

Why Navy can cover 

The Midshipmen could give the Falcons’ running backs a tough time as they possess the fifth-ranked rushing defense in the country (69 yards allowed per game). Navy is 20th in the nation in tackles for loss as it is averaging 7.3 per contest. Senior linebacker John Marshall is first on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss and also leads the unit with 28 overall tackles.

Navy has registered 10 sacks over its first four games after notching only 16 in 12 contests last season. Junior defensive end Jacob Busic tops the squad with three sacks after recording two in 2021 and Marshall, who had one in 21 games over his first two campaigns, has made two. The Midshipmen got in the win column for the first time this season last week, defeating East Carolina 23-20 in double overtime for their fourth victory in their last five contests away from home dating back to last year.

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How to make Navy vs. Air Force picks

SportsLine’s model is leaning Over on the total, projecting 52 combined points. It also says one side of the spread hits almost 70% of the time. You can only get the pick at SportsLine.

So who wins Air Force vs. Navy? And which side of the spread hits almost 70% of the time? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread to back, all from the advanced model that is up more than $3,100 on its top-rated college football spread picks, and find out.



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Washington vs. UCLA prediction, odds: 2022 Week 5 college football picks, best bets from proven model

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A pair of high-powered offensive units will collide Friday when the Washington Huskies meet the UCLA Bruins a battle of unbeaten Pac-12 clubs that will have a major impact on the conference title chase. Kickoff is set for 10:30 p.m. ET from the Rose Bowl. The new-look Huskies (4-0) are averaging 44 points per game behind coach Kalen DeBoer’s versatile attack, while Chip Kelly’s experienced Bruins (4-0) aren’t far behind at 41.8 points per contest. The Bruins won 24-17 at Washington last year and have taken 11 of the last 15 in this rivalry.

The Huskies are 2.5-point favorites and the over/under for total points scored is 64.5 in the latest Washington vs. UCLA odds from Caesars Sportsbook. Before making any UCLA vs. Washington picks, be sure to check out the college football predictions and betting advice from the SportsLine Projection Model.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every FBS college football game 10,000 times. Over the past six-plus years, the proprietary computer model has generated a stunning profit of more than $3,100 for $100 players on its top-rated college football picks against the spread. Anyone who has followed it has seen huge returns.

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Now, the model has set its sights on UCLA vs. Washington and just locked in its picks and CFB predictions. You can visit SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Here are the college football odds and betting lines for Washington vs. UCLA:

  • Washington vs. UCLA point spread: Washington -2.5
  • Washington vs. UCLA over/under: 64.5 points
  • Washington vs. UCLA money line: Washington -145, UCLA +122
  • UW: The Huskies are 4-1 against the spread following a straight-up victory.
  • UCLA: The Bruins are 5-2 ATS at home in the last seven meetings in this rivalry
  • Washington vs. UCLA picks: See picks at SportsLine

Featured Game | UCLA Bruins vs. Washington Huskies

Why Washington can cover

While DeBoer was at Fresno State, he developed a reputation as a giant killer of sorts as the Bulldogs pulled off numerous victories against heavily favored Power Five programs. One such triumph came last year in a 40-37 Week 4 win at UCLA as a nearly two-touchdown underdog. The Bulldogs also narrowly missed pulling an upset at Oregon, leading most of the way before falling 31-24.

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This feat should give his team confidence that DeBoer knows not only how to prepare for UCLA but has experience winning in the Rose Bowl, which is rare for the Washington program. Since 2000, the Huskies have won just once at UCLA, in 2018 under former coach Steve Sarkisian.

“It’s just always a lesson to keep fighting, keep playing. It’s never over till it’s over,” DeBoer told the media this week. “That game doesn’t mean anything to this team. But those are things that just continue to give you that fighting mentality as a coach. Our guys are probably aware of the experience we went through.”

Why UCLA can cover 

Although a big part of the UCLA fan base had grown impatient with Kelly, who once led Oregon to a national title-game appearance, it appears the veteran coach has finally put together a Pac-12 contender.

The Bruins are led by fifth-year senior Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a coveted recruit who has seen his time with the Bruins marked by injuries and inconsistency. But the dual-threat quarterback has had no such issues this season and has led a diverse offense with 896 passing yards on a 74.8% completion rate with eight touchdowns against one interception. He has added 170 rushing yards and two more scores.

UCLA racked up 515 yards of offense in last week’s 45-17 drubbing of Colorado with a nearly even split of rushing and passing production. One-time Michigan starter Zach Charbonnet rushed for 104 yards on just nine carries for three touchdowns.

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How to make UCLA vs. Washington picks

SportsLine’s model is leaning Under on the total, projecting 62 combined points. It has also generated an against the spread pick that cashes in well over 50% of simulations. You can only get the model’s pick at SportsLine

So who wins Washington vs. UCLA? And which side of the spread cashes in well over 50% of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that finished the past six-plus years up more than $3,100 on its FBS college football picks, and find out.



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UNLV vs. New Mexico prediction, odds, spread: 2022 Week 5 college football picks, best bets from proven model

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The UNLV Rebels (3-1) host the New Mexico Lobos (2-2) in a Friday night Mountain West showdown. The Rebels secured a conference win by beating Utah State 34-24 last week. New Mexico was blown out 38-0 against LSU last week, though the Lobos knocked off UTEP 27-10 the prior week. 

Kickoff from Allegiant Stadium in Nevada is set for 11 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network. The Rebels are 14.5-point favorites in the latest New Mexico vs. UNLV odds from Caesars Sportsbook. The over/under for total points is set at 44. Before making any UNLV vs. New Mexico picks, be sure to check out the college football predictions and betting advice from SportsLine’s proven model.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every FBS college football game 10,000 times. Over the past six-plus years, the proprietary computer model has generated a stunning profit of more than $3,100 for $100 players on its top-rated college football picks against the spread. Anyone who has followed it has seen huge returns.

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Now, the model has set its sights on New Mexico vs. UNLV and just revealed its picks and predictions. You can visit SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Now, here are several college football odds and betting lines for UNLV vs. New Mexico:

  • New Mexico vs. UNLV spread: UNLV -14.5  
  • New Mexico vs. UNLV Over/Under: 43 points  
  • New Mexico vs. UNLV money line: UNLV -650, New Mexico +460 
  • UNM: Under is 6-0 in Lobos last six games following an ATS loss 
  • UNLV: Rebels are 4-0 ATS in their last four games overall 
  • New Mexico vs. UNLV picks: See picks here

Featured Game | UNLV Rebels vs. New Mexico Lobos

Why UNLV can cover

The Rebels have been able to establish an effective and impactful ground attack. This unit is averaging 180 rushing yards per game, which ranks third in the conference. The run game is led by junior running back Aidan Robbins. Robbins owns good vision with the ability to quickly get downhill.

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The Kentucky native is second in the Mountain West in rushing yards (427) with seven touchdowns and 5.3 yards per carry. Robbins has logged 80-plus yards in three of the four games played. In Week 3 against North Texas, he finished with 29 carries for 227 yards along with three rushing touchdowns. 

Why New Mexico can cover

The defense for New Mexico has been playing fairly well through the first month of the campaign. The Lobos haven’t allowed teams to torch them, consistently flying to the ball. The Lobos are ranked fourth in the Mountain West in total yards (355.5) and third in rushing yards per game (110.8). They’ve held their opponents to 14 or fewer points in three of the four games played. 

Senior safety Jerrick Reed II makes plays in both the run and pass game. Reed II is a secure and sound tackler with impressive ball skills in coverage. The Mississippi native leads the team in both total tackles (34) and pass deflections (6). Sophomore linebacker Cody Moon is an instinctive player in the middle of the defense. Moon has been an effective blitzer, leading the team in sacks (3.5). He’s also second on the team in total stops (31). 

How to make New Mexico vs. UNLV picks

SportsLine’s model is leaning Over on the total, projecting the teams to combine for 49 points. The model also says one side of the spread hits in well over 50% of simulations. You can only get the model’s pick at SportsLine

So who wins New Mexico vs. UNLV? And which side of the spread hits in well over 50% of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread you need to jump on, all from the model that has crushed its college football picks, and find out. 

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