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The CFP in SP+ (mainly Ohio State V Clemson)

+14 HS
NoVAsmitty's picture
December 11, 2019 at 3:56pm

For the analytics junkies, here's some breakdown of Ohio State and Clemson in SP+.  I've run a little experiment this season using SP+ to pick 5-7 games each week this season, and SP+ has allowed me to beat Vegas approximately 53% of the time (65 game sample size starting after week 3).  So, SP+ is a little better than a 50/50 shot, but I think the "sharps" in Vegas (the professionals who make a living at this) come in right around 53%, probably a bit higher.  Obviously, there are other factors (the intangibles?) that enter into the ultimate outcomes of the CFP games, but both teams are going to have their own intangibles in their favor.  For example, while battle tested Ohio State has learned about its mistakes/weaknesses and knows what it must correct prior to 12/28, Clemson really doesn't know.  Clemson's staff may think they know, but no one has successfully schemed them.  Conversely, Clemson's staff and team have been here.  A lot.  They know what's in store.  Both Ohio State and Clemson are loaded with elite players and both have elite staffs.  Both teams will be well-prepared and well coached.  While I think Ohio State has the advantage in the trenches, that doesn't mean Clemson is bad in the trenches.  Far from it.  Similarly, while Clemson has the advantage in the skill positions IMO, Ohio State is by far the most skilled team Clemson has faced.  This is the national championship game.  With that said, let's get into SP+ and Ohio State v Clemson (and a few thoughts on LSU v Oklahoma).

Overall, SP+ says Ohio State is a 6.1 point favorite against Clemson on a neutral field.  In SP+ offense, Ohio State is #4 and Clemson is #6, but only 1.9 point separation on offense.  Likewise, in defense, Ohio State is #1 and Clemson #3, with 1.4 point separation.  Where Ohio State has a distinct advantage is special teams.  2.9 points in Ohio State's favor on special teams.  Both teams have really good punters.  I didn't look into kick-off coverage/returns or punt coverage/returns (I think the good punters on both teams basically answer the latter).  It's the FG kickers.  Haubeil has been solid:  10/12 (83%) with a long of 55 and 6/7 at 40+ yards.  For his career, Haubeil is 20/25.  Clemson's kicker (nice guy Dabo loves to berate his kickers and I guess he benched the kid at one point), Potter is 12/19 (63%) with a long of 51 and 5/8 from 40+.  For his career, he's a sophomore, Clemson's FG kicker is 13/20.  Given how close these two teams are in the offense and defense metrics, special teams and FG kickers in particular could be the deciding factor in this game.  Clemson is downright awful on special teams at #103 in SP+.  

Just a few thoughts on LSU v OU.  Vegas is now LSU -14, but SP+ thinks it will be closer and has LSU a 6.0 point favorite overall.  Interestingly, while these two teams are 1 and 2 (LSU and OU) in SP+ offense, LSU has a decided advantage on defense according to SP+ (+5.1 in favor of LSU).  Neither team is anywhere close to exceptional in SP+ defense, but LSU is #19 while OU is still bad at #36 (and I personally think that's because the Big 12 just wasn't as strong as it usually is this season on O).  Of the 4 teams, LSU is the decided better on special teams (Cade York), almost a full point better than OU on SP+ special teams (2.1 v 1.3) (the Buckeyes are 1.7 in SP+ special teams).      


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