The Florida Gators’ Early 2013-2014 College Football Betting Preview
The 2013 Florida Gators might be facing the toughest schedule in the country. In 2012, they were asked to navigate through an equally difficult schedule, and they finished an amazing 11-2 straight-up (SU). Unfortunately for the Gators, their last game was not supposed to be their most difficult- playing Louisville in the Sugar Bowl- yet that was the greatest point spread upset of the 2012-2013 Bowl Season. That final game of the season left Florida fans bewildered. There was good cause for the confusion. We tend to rely heavily on quantitative analysis for college football. Using many of our “standard” statistics with the Florida Gators can prove perplexing. Florida defies tendencies to the extent that the Gators rightfully can be called one of college football’s real enigmas. In this article, we hope to solve or at least run an “end-around” some of the numerical mysteries of betting on the 2013 Florida Gators.
The Gators Against-the-Spread (ATS)
Predicting any team’s ATS success or their college football odds in the off-season is difficult, but we discovered some precepts that prevail with most college football teams. More often than not, a team’s ATS season record stems from the difference between expectations and actual results. Those expectations can be measured by their variation in 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. Unfortunately for prognosticators of Florida’s ATS success, the Gators break many of those tendencies: Two out of Florida’s three best ATS seasons were when they had fewer SU wins than they did the previous season. All three superb ATS years occurred when the Gators were ranked in the top-11 in the Preseason Associated Press (AP) Poll. In fact, in the last 10 seasons, Florida has been in the AP preseason top-6, four times, and they had profitable ATS seasons all four times! Over the past 10 seasons, Florida has been profitable ATS for 6 of them, and half of those (3) came after profitable ATS seasons. Results like these are so unusual in college football that Florida’s ATS tendencies have to be measured differently.
Florida’s ATS Trends- The Public Is Not So Square
Despite Florida breaking most college football’s ATS tendencies, there are some consistencies that bear mentioning. Under Coach Muschamp, in games played right after losing SU, the Gators are 1-6 (14.29%) ATS. They are 3-7-1 (30%) ATS as double-digit Home favorites. In fact, they are 1-7 ATS over the last eight such games. When it comes to the Gators, the betting public is pretty sharp. With Muschamp, Florida is 0-3 ATS at Home when less than 40% of public betting is with them. Over the past 10 seasons, the Gators are an amazing 6-1 ATS (85.71%) when getting at least 80% of the public betting at Home. When they are away from The Swamp (under Muschamp) and at least half of the public betting is with them, the Gators are 4-1 ATS. Going beyond the Muschamp years, for the past 10 seasons, when at least half the public is betting on the Gators when they are Away, they have finished 18-12-1 (60%) ATS. When it comes to Florida, it does not pay to go against the public with your college football picks.
2014 BCS National Championship Futures Betting
As this is being written, Bovada has Florida at 20-to-1 to win the 2014 BCS National Championship, giving them the eighth shortest odds to win it all. 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 (SEC)
5) a head coach who had been at the school for two to four years.
Florida’s starting quarterback, Jeff Driskel, will be a junior in 2013. Of the 15 previous starting quarterbacks for BCS National Champions, 11 of them (73.33%) were juniors. At this time last year, Driskel looked to be in a dead heat for the starting QB job with Jacoby Brissett. Brissett has since transferred, leaving the starting spot to Driskel. That transfer has left Florida dangerously inexperienced behind their starting QB, and 2012’s offensive squad allowed their QB to get hit often, giving up 39 sacks- the eighth most in the FBS. We believe the offensive line to be improved this year, but an injury to Driskel- who does like to run, and who did miss playing time in 2012 due to injury- could place Florida’s title hopes in real jeopardy.
Of the 15 previous BCS Champions, 13 (86.67%) had top-10 scoring defenses the year they won their title (and 6 out of 15 had top-2 scoring defenses). Those statistics should underscore the importance of having an exceptional scoring defense. As a predictive criterion, 12 out of 15 teams (80%) had a top-20 scoring defense the year before winning the BCS. In 2012, Florida’s scoring defense ranked 5th in the FBS. That means the Gators meet the predictive criterion, but there are significant differences between that 2012 defense and the one that will take the field in 2013: For starters (pun intended), Florida returned 10 starters to their defense in 2012; 2013 returns just 5. Gone are the defensive coordinator, five out of their top-six tacklers, more than 67% of their tackles-for-a-loss, four out of their top-five sack leaders, and three of their top-four interceptions’ leaders (a category where Florida ranked 7th in the FBS in 2012). Although they meet this criterion on paper, we do think Florida’s outstanding defense of 2012 will take a step back in 2013.
The Preseason AP Poll is still nearly two months away, but current, early projections have Florida ranking in the top-10 about half of the time. While Florida does have the eighth shortest odds to win the BCS, we have seen them as low as 18th in some ratings. We will, therefore, credit Florida with half a point for that third criterion of the 60% Rule: the preseason top-10 ranking.
As for the final two criteria, Florida is a proud member of the SEC, and Will Muschamp enters his third year as head coach of the Gators, putting him right in the middle of that last criterion: having a head coach in that position for two to four years. In total, Florida meets four-and-a-half of the five predictive criteria of the 60% Rule.
Early Preseason ConclusionsWe have determined that Florida breaks many ATS tendencies. Even so, public betting is often right about ATS outcomes when Florida finds itself in a number of different scenarios. Depending on what that official Preseason AP Poll reveals, it is possible that Florida could meet all five predictive criteria of the 60% Rule. Strictly by the numbers, Florida looks to be a legitimate contender for that 2014 BCS National Championship, but this is the team that likes to defy the numbers.