Projecting Week 0 Spreads

This season I’m sharing more about my C.R.A.P (Chris Ranks All Programs) model. Below is how I project the spread for each game, some with small differences and one with a dramatic variation from the listed odds per DraftKings.

Based on the data above, we’re able to identify two spreads with value and ones to target for the kickoff weekend of college football.

Ohio (+3.5) @ San Diego State

My numbers project this game closer to a pick’em, with Ohio favored on a neutral field but San Diego State favored by 0.2 points at home. This number lasts as long as the Kurtis Rourke speculation persists. Suffering an ACL tear last November, Rourke does have question marks, but through fall camp, is reportedly 100%  despite missing the Spring Game.

Ohio is a team I’m heavily invested in for this season. Over on win totals and conference futures, this could be a crucial game for their season. This Ohio offense ranks fourth in returning production, specifically with four of five linemen returning. Returning Rourke, his lead receivers Sam Wiglusz, Miles Cross, and Jacoby Jones provide an excellent opportunity for continuity through the air. All this paired with dynamic rusher Sieh Bangura on the ground. 

Containing this passing offense will be a challenge as the back-7 is one of the weakest units on this Aztec team. They return a good chunk of production from the corner position but ranked 90th in pass EPA/play and 64th in explosiveness. The biggest question here is if this unit can stop a healthy Rourke. For now? I don’t think so.

Ohio’s defense is problematic, ranking 125th in EPA/play last season but managed better in the trenches than on the backend. Ranking 37th in power success rate, they need to limit explosive rushing plays while maintaining success on a down-to-down basis. The Bobcats need Bryce Houston to step up here. Ultimately, the play for Ohio is to get turnover-prone quarterback Jalen Mayden into obvious pass situations and force him to beat them through the air (after this offense ranked 130th in EPA/pass in 2022). Mayden struggled heavily last season with turnovers (12-to-10 TD-to-INT ratio) and inefficient passing concepts, evidenced by his QBR of 60.

If this game is close, as the spread and my numbers indicate, I also don’t mind outright fading San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke who is 5-8 as a home favorite since taking over in 2020, failing to cover by 6.3 points on average…and who can forget the bungled MTSU bowl game last year.

Pick: Ohio +3.5 -112 (BetRivers)

Hawai’i (+18.5) @ Vanderbilt

This number is the largest spread discrepancy I have in my model for Week 0. I project this number to be Vandy -12.3, a far cry from the posted -18. The explanation is somewhat simple. I’m higher on Hawai’i than the market because I believe that they’re going to be far closer to their ideal offense in 2023 than they were at the beginning of 2022.

Timmy Chang was hired last year and, in an attempt to have his team compete in year one, held off on trying to implement the run-and-shoot offense heavily until this year. His hire of Ian Shoemaker showed promise, but the concepts we saw in 2022 were far different than what to expect entering this year. With more time to implement this scheme, expect quarterback Brayden Schager to feel more comfortable in the system and the overall passing offense to be improved after ranking 125th in passing EPA/play in 2022.

Through the first three weeks of 2022, Hawai’i was outscored 27 to 156. However, after week six, 170 to 224, but if you exclude the Fresno State game, it becomes 153 to 169. This was a very competitive team down the stretch, covering six of their last eight games. They’ll compete hard, and with the preferred system in place, there’s a lot to be excited about with the Rainbow Warriors. Don’t expect a massive improvement, but things are trending in the right direction.

Ultimately, I still believe Vanderbilt should win this game as they’re an improving program that has made legit strides in the last few seasons under Clark Lea, but this number is too large. Going through 17 is where I feel comfortable here.

Pick: Hawai’i +18.5 -115 (FanDuel)

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