College Football Picks: Oregon Ducks Spring Preview

Steve - CollegeFootballWinning.com

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 9:34 PM GMT

Despite clichés like defense wins championships, the college football public pays more attention to powerful offenses, and nothing quantifies a powerful offense better than scoring lots of points.

The Oregon Ducks’ Early 2013-2014 College Football Betting Preview

For the last five seasons, Oregon has had a top-10 scoring offense, and a top-3 scoring offense for the past three seasons. Those statistics will give a team preseason BCS hype; what they will not do, however, is predict a BCS National Championship, or even necessarily translate to against-the-spread betting success. With Oregon scoring hype and football clichés in tow, this article previews the Ducks’ 2013-2014 college football betting prospects.

The Ducks Against-the-Spread (ATS)

Over the past 10 years, Oregon has had a great ATS record. Pro-Oregon bettors have won at a rate that exceeds 59% ATS for 10 seasons! In fact, in those 10 straight seasons, the Ducks have not finished below 50% ATS in any one of them; that makes them one of the most successful ATS teams in all of college football. The college football betting world just might be catching up to these fast fowl. While exceeding 59% ATS over 10 seasons is truly remarkable, 4 out of the first 5 of those seasons saw Oregon winning at an ATS rate that exceeded 60%. In the last 5 seasons, Oregon has only exceeded 60% ATS once. More and more, oddsmakers are making the Ducks prohibitive favorites (i.e. favorites of 20 or more points). This trend is significant enough for bettors to take notice. Consider the chart below


The last four years marked a precipitous rise in games where Oregon was favored by 20 or more points, yet recent trends indicate that Oregon will continue to lose more of those games than they will win (ATS).

In recent history, shooting down these Ducks ATS worked best through the air (ironically). From 2009-2012, the Chip Kelly (as head coach) years, Oregon was 5-8 (38.46%) ATS when they allowed teams to pass for over 300 yards. In 2012, 21 teams averaged over 300 yards passing. In 2013, Oregon will play three of those prolific passers, in addition to three others who averaged over 275 yards passing per game in 2012. 

2014 BCS National Championship Futures Bet

As this is being written, Bovada has Oregon at 7-to-1 to win the 2014 BCS National Championship. 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.

For their offensive scheme, Oregon has a great quarterback in Marcus Mariota. In 2012, Oregon had the luxury of Bryan Bennett as backup quarterback. Bennett has since transferred, leaving the Ducks dangerously thin on quarterback experience, should something happen to Mariota. Even as good as he is, Mariota will still be an underclassman (sophomore) in 2013. Only once has a BCS Champion had a sophomore quarterback, and that was Alabama’s A.J. McCarron in 2011.

Among the differences between 2011 BCS Champion Alabama and Oregon of just about any year is defense. Going into Alabama’s 2011 season, the Crimson Tide were coming off of a 2010 season where their scoring defense was ranked third. Having an elite scoring defense is critical to winning the BCS, and Oregon ranked 25th in that category in 2012, meaning the Ducks fall short of the second predictive criterion for winning the National Championship. Losing Michael Clay (Oregon’s leading tackler in 2012), Kiko Alonso (Oregon’s tackles-for-loss leader in 2012), and Dion Jordan (Oregon’s combined sack leader for 2011 and 2012) does not help those critical defensive matters.

Since current BCS futures have Oregon with the third shortest odds, the 2013 Ducks will definitely have that important top-10 preseason ranking. In fact, it appears Oregon will be placed in the preseason top-5, where exactly 60% of all previous BCS National Champions started their championship seasons.

Obviously, Oregon is a Pac-12 school, so they do not meet the fourth criterion of membership in the SEC. While Oregon’s coaching staff is one of the most experienced and stable in all of college football, they will have a new head coach for 2013 in Mark Helfrich. An Oregon native, Helfrich served on this staff as offensive coordinator from 2009-2012 while Chip Kelly was head coach. While he inherits his own offense and an experienced defensive staff, this is Helfrich’s first head coaching job anywhere, at any level. Only one first-year head coach has ever won a BCS National Championship, and that was Larry Coker at Miami (FL) in 2001.

The differences between Mark Helfrich and Larry Coker are significant. For one thing, Coker was a much more experienced coach. When Coker was promoted from Miami’s offensive coordinator position to head coach, he was entering his fourth decade as a football coach, and that included nine years of head coaching experience (albeit, at the high school level). Perhaps more importantly, Coker inherited a top-5 scoring defense from the 2000 season. As is often the case with BCS Champions, that 2001 Miami team was the #1-ranked scoring defense when they won their title. While Coker was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach (just like Helfrich), in his playing days, Coker was on defense. He also coached defensive backs at Ohio State before going to Miami. Mark Helfrich has no defensive experience whatsoever, either playing or coaching. All told, Oregon only meets just one of the five predictive criteria for winning the BCS, and therefore, the Ducks do not conform to the 60% Rule.

Stay on top of the upcoming college football odds at the SBR Odds page!

Early Preseason Conclusions

In 2013, beware of betting on Oregon when they are favored by 20 points or more. Recent data also suggests that Oregon should not be bet when they are facing a team likely to pass for more than 300 yards. As stated above, since Oregon meets only 20%- one of the five predictive BCS National Championship criteria- Oregon does not pass the 60% Rule, and therefore does not qualify as a good futures bet for the 2014 BCS title. For our college football betting, starting out as a top-5 team with a good coaching staff, a great quarterback, a proven offensive juggernaut, and an opportunity to go undefeated makes it possible for Oregon to win this final BCS Championship, we just would not bet on it.