College Football Analytics: Predicting Exciting Games (Week 3)

The games you will surely NOT want to miss!

Last week I introduced a new model that predicts the excitement level of a CFB game. I have slightly modified the model so that the classifications (“Game of the Season”, “Must Watch”, “Good”, “Pass”) were slightly increased to avoid too many games being selected in the “Good” category. I also added a variable that signifies whether a matchup is a ranked matchup or not.

In our week 2 “Must Watch potential” category, we saw a great QB matchup in Kentucky vs. Missouri, a G5 shootout in Army vs. Western Kentucky, and Texas went down to Arkansas. Not bad if you ask me! (Sorry Longhorn fans). In the “good potential” category, we got to see a surprise shootout in Tennessee vs. Pitt, the Holy War (BYU/Utah) and Iowa beat down Iowa State.

Here are the games in the “Must Watch” category for Week 3:

Two ranked matchups find themselves in the “Must Watch Potential” category this week. First up we have Alabama visiting Florida in the Swamp. This will be the second test in young Alabama QB Bryce Young’s career. He passed his first test with flying colors, downing Miami with an impressive 93.9 QBR. Next up will be the Florida Gators, who have been relatively untested early this season. It would appear Emory Jones is getting the nod against the Tide, but massive human tank Anthony Richardson might eat away at some snaps. I get this is a small sample size, but its hard to keep this off the field for very long:

The other ranked matchup is Auburn traveling to Happy Valley to take on Penn State. Bo Nix started off the season on fire with a 96.1 QBR against Akron. But Penn State is not Akron. Auburn is coming into this matchup as an 5 point underdog, and Vegas also thinks this game will be on the lower end of the point spectrum. Penn State currently sits at 3rd in the country in PFF coverage grade, so they will give Bo Nix plenty to think about Saturday.

My own personal model doesn’t project FSU vs. Wake Forest won’t be as close as the 5.5 point spread, but Vegas and ESPN’s SP+ (Wake by 1.3) seem to project a closer game. Can McKenzie Milton and FSU bounce back after an embarrassing loss to Jacksonville State at home? Elsewhere, the game I believe will be worth a watch is WVU vs. VT. Per PFF, these teams have the exact same overall grade. They are about as even matched as you could hope for in a football contest. VT QB Braxton Burmeister has put up good outings against UNC (76.5 QBR) and MTSU (64.6). He will have to be as good if not better when he takes on the Mountaineers.

I tweaked the model to try and limit the amount of games chosen for these articles. I want you to have a short, but solid list of games at your disposal so you can have the best CFB Saturday possible. As I said last time, “exciting games” is purely subjective, as we all enjoy different things about the game. My goal for viewing, outside of my watching my own team, is to find at least one other good game to watch. With this list, Im pretty confident I will accomplish that goal every weekend.

If you want to dive in to the data like I do, check out @CFB_Data and @cfbfastR on Twitter, where you can learn how to get started in the world of College Football data analysis!

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Cover Photo: AP/Carolyn Kaster

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