This is a post for nerds and people who enjoy losing money on the Internet alike. Or just a post for nerds who enjoy losing money on the Internet.
An unnamed quant advisor who runs a hedge fund has run a thorough analysis of U of L's 2013 football season, and what he's come up with is pretty interesting stuff. The guy has personally met Drew Deener before, so yeah, this thing goes pretty deep.
Anyway, the following is all his analysis:
Ten of UL's 12 regular season games have widely available betting lines (I am using current 5 Dimes data). I estimated lines on the other 2 games (Eastern Kentucky and Florida International). The market data projects UL to win 10.6 games, which is consistent with the over/under win total of 10.5 plus some juice.
Based on market data, UL is about the 21st best team in the country, grouped roughly in-line with TCU, USC, Michigan and Kansas State, but the best teams on their schedule are Rutgers (40) and Cincinnati (44). They play 3 of the 4 best teams on their schedule at home (Ohio, Rutgers, and Central Florida). Cincinnati is the only competent team they play on the road.
Michael Dyer effect: UL addressed their biggest weakness, the running game, in a huge way. If Dyer is even close to the player he was at Auburn, he will be a huge upgrade for UL at RB. The market moved all the UL lines up .5 points with his addition. I suspect he is worth closer to 1.5 points per game, which pushes UL close to projecting as an 11 win team.
Bridgewater effect: Bridgewater is arguably the most valuable player in the country for his team relative to the spread. It is important to note that this does not mean he is the best QB in the country (which he may or may not be); what it does mean is that the gap between him and his backup is larger than any other QB. For example, Manziel may be the best QB, but the gap between him and his backup is around 7pnts, while Bridgewater is around 9 pnts. UL's projected win total drops to 8.4 if Bridgewater is lost for every game this season.
Trap game: UL gets one of its trickiest games right out of the gate. Ohio won 9 games last year and would have won more and possibly challenged Northern Illinois (who was rated higher by the market than UL going into the bowl games) for the MAC crown had they not been decimated with injuries late in the year. As a dog, they beat outright a solid Penn State team on the road to open last season and destroyed a solid Louisiana-Monroe team as a dog in the bowl game when they got a bunch of injured players back. Tyler Tettleton is an excellent senior QB and Frank Solich can coach.
What does last year mean: college football stats show that the previous year's regular performance is more predictive than a team's bowl game performance. So the question for UL is will it be more like the team that lost to Syracuse and U Conn and barely beat Rutgers to end the year or the team that decisively beat Florida in the bowl game as a double-digit dog? UL may be the exception to the normal statistical pattern and more closely resemble the bowl team because of Bridgewater's health down the stretch.
It is much easier to project UL's regular season record than it is to get a real read on how good they actually are. The obvious reason is their amazingly easy schedule. While this is certainly not UL's fault, they could easily end up in the frustrating situation of going 12-0 and having to watch a pair of 1-loss teams playing for the title. I don't see a 12-0 UL ahead of a 1 loss team from the SEC, PAC 12, or Big 12 and they could lose the argument to a 1 loss Ohio State, Michigan or Notre Dame as well.
My projection: 11-1 (and 12-0 would not be a surprise). For the first time in 2 seasons, I am betting a team to go over their regular season win total, and that team is UL. My wager is predicated on Bridgewater staying healthy and the fact I think Dyer is worth more than the .5 points the market assigned him.