The Georgia Bulldogs’ 2013-2014 College Football Betting Preview
If you had the ability to create your own college football offense, you might start with one of the highest-rated quarterbacks beginning his senior season as a four-year starter in the toughest conference in college football. You might protect that QB with five returning starters on the offensive line. You might also provide balance for your prolific passer by placing not one, but two precocious running backs in the backfield who combined for 2,144 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns the previous season. Without having to use their imagination, Georgia has that offense entering 2013.
The Bulldogs Against-the-Spread (ATS)
Predicting any team’s ATS success or their college football odds in the off-season is a challenge, but we have discovered some correlations worth examining. In general, a team’s ATS season record usually stems from the difference between expectations and actual results. Those expectations can be quantified by their variation in straight-up (SU) wins (from the previous season), their preseason ranking, and an extreme (either very good or very bad) ATS season immediately prior to the one in question.
Georgia had 12 SU wins in 2012, tying the second most wins in school history. Over the past 10 seasons, every time the Bulldogs had the same or fewer SU wins (compared to the year prior), they had an unprofitable season ATS (six out of six times). Conversely, all three times Georgia had more SU wins (than the year prior), they had profitable seasons.
For (even more than) the last 10 consecutive years, Georgia has been ranked in the preseason Associated Press (AP) top-25. In three of those years, they were a preseason top-10 team (and we expect the same for Georgia entering this 2013 season). Two of those three years were unprofitable ATS.
Georgia has had four profitable years in the last ten. In all but one case, the season following the profitable one was unprofitable. The only exception was when Georgia increased their SU season win total by two games. In 2012, Georgia went 8-6 (57.14%) ATS. In forecasting a profitable 2013 ATS season:
1) Georgia would have to exceed 12 SU wins. Winning 13 games would mean that Georgia would have to go undefeated in the regular season AND win their Bowl game (or the SEC Championship game). It is important to note that Mark Richt has gone 2-10 (SU) against top-10 teams over the past five seasons. In 2013, his Bulldogs start the year at Clemson (a team that could be in the top-10), play South Carolina the next week (a team that has defeated Georgia for three straight seasons), face LSU for the Bulldogs’ second SEC game (a team that has outscored Georgia 62-23 in their last two meetings), and collide with rival Florida at a “neutral” site. (At Georgia, Richt is 4-8 SU versus the Gators and just 5-8 SU in neutral site games against anyone over the past five seasons.)
2) Georgia would have to blow out teams on a near-weekly basis. The higher the expectations for teams, especially when they are based on the reputation of their offense (like Georgia of 2013), the higher the point spreads tend to be. When a team is one of the top dogs (pun intended) in the SEC, betting lines on such teams are often even more inflated. Combining Georgia’s perennial national attention with the ever-increasing power of the SEC has made for some elevated point spreads. Consequently, over the last three seasons, Georgia has been a 3-TD favorite (or more) nine times. Compare that to their three previous seasons when they were such prohibitive favorites only twice. Georgia went 0-4 ATS in 2012 in games where they were, indeed, favored by at least 21 points.
Since Georgia of 2012 had 12 SU wins, was profitable ATS, and returns enough of their offensive starters to place them squarely in the 2013 preseason top-10, we expect the Bulldogs to have an unprofitable year ATS in 2013.
Georgia’s Betting Trends and Related College Football Picks
- Georgia appears to be returning four defensive starters for 2013. Over the past four seasons, SEC teams that have returned less than five defensive starters (from the prior year) have a combined ATS winning percentage of 38.1%. Only one team with so few defensive starters had a profitable year, Mississippi State of 2010 (finishing 7-6 ATS), and they increased their SU win total by four that year.
- Over the past 10 years, when Georgia received 80% or more of the public betting at Home, they lost every one of those games ATS.
- Over the past 10 seasons, the Bulldogs were 5-0 ATS when playing in-state rival, Georgia Tech, Away (at Georgia Tech). These two Peach State foes play at Georgia Tech in 2013.
- For the past 10 seasons, Georgia has posted an identical 1-3-1 ATS record, both at Home and Away, against South Carolina (putting their ATS record at 2-6-2 against the Gamecocks).
- Line Volatility- In games involving Georgia over the past 10 seasons, compared to the opening betting line, when the closing line changed by at least a field goal (for or against Georgia- it did not matter), the direction of the line movement was correct 80% of the time (out of 10 instances).
2014 BCS National Championship Futures Betting
As this is being written, Bovada has Georgia at 14-to-1 to win the 2014 BCS National Championship, giving them the 5th shortest odds on the board. In a previous article we outlined our 60% Rule, where all BCS National Champions had at least three of the following five criteria before starting their championship seasons:
1) an upperclassman quarterback;
2) a top-20 scoring defense one year prior;
3) a preseason top-10 ranking;
4) membership in the Southeastern Conference (the SEC);
5) a head coach who had been at the school for two to four years.
Aaron Murray- The Great and the Not Good
Obviously, Georgia meets the first criterion of the 60% Rule because quarterback Aaron Murray will be a senior in 2013. He enters his fourth year as a starter in the SEC and the numbers do a good job of telling his story- highlighting the power and pinpointing the weakness of his play. By QB rating, Murray was ranked in the top-26 for all three of his starting years. Last season, Aaron Murray had the second best QB rating in the nation, second only to Alabama’s A.J. McCarron by just 46 hundredths of a point. Also in 2012, Murray ranked #1 in passing yards per attempt (he was the only QB to average more than 10 yards per passing attempt) and he finished fifth in the country for passing touchdowns. In his career at Georgia, Murray has thrown 95 touchdown passes to just 32 interceptions, which puts him one TD pass shy of a 3-to-1 TD’s-to-INT’s ratio. With great statistics like that, it is no wonder that Aaron Murray has the fourth shortest odds on the board to win the Heisman Trophy. However, since we are considering who will win the next BCS National Championship, it is noteworthy that Murray is 1-6 SU (2-4-1 ATS) against top-10 teams. Against that superior competition, he completed exactly 50% of his passes for an unimpressive 6.75 yards per attempt with a TD’s-to-INT’s ratio of 4-to-3. Those numbers are not good.
The second criterion of the 60% Rule, which 12 out of 15 champions (80%) met, is having a top-20 scoring defense the previous season. Of the 15 BCS Champions, 13 (86.67%) had top-10 and 6 (40%) had top-2 scoring defenses the year they won it all. Those statistics underscore the importance of having an exceptional scoring defense. Georgia’s 2012 scoring defense was ranked 18th, so the criterion is met. That said, Georgia lost seven defensive players to the NFL draft, two of whom were first-rounders. Of all 126 FBS teams, Georgia returns the fewest tackles (as in people who bring down ball carriers, not the position) in all of college football. Over the past four seasons, each SEC team that returned four defensive starters (like Georgia of 2013) or fewer, lost a minimum of four SU games. Strictly by the numbers, Georgia meets the second predictive criterion, but there is trouble for Georgia within the numbers.
We are fairly certain that Georgia will meet the third criterion when they enter the season as a top-10 team in the Preseason AP Poll to be released next month. Out of five prominent preseason publications, Georgia is in the top-10 in four of them, and by pre-AP Poll consensus, they are a top-5 team.
As for the final two criteria, Georgia is one of the founding members of the SEC- meeting the fourth criterion, but Coach Mark Richt is entering his 13th season as Georgia’s head coach- missing the fifth criterion. Richt is 9-14 SU overall against top-10 teams while at Georgia and (it bears repeating) just 2-10 SU versus the top-10 over the last five seasons. In total, Georgia meets four out of the five predictive criteria for the 60% Rule making them –in theory– qualified candidates for the 2014 BCS National Championship.
Early Preseason Conclusions
There are many reasons to expect that Georgia will have an unprofitable against-the-spread season in 2013. Outlined above, there should be opportunities to capitalize on betting Georgia games, but be especially wary of those ridiculously high point spreads. As for the 2014 BCS National Championship, Georgia most likely will meet four of the five predictive criteria for the 60% Rule. With so few returning defensive starters, Mark Richt’s record against top-10 teams, Aaron Murray’s performance against elite programs, and Georgia’s tough opening weeks of play, at 14-to-1 odds we find very little value in placing a 2014 BCS National Championship futures bet on Georgia.
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