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2015 College Football Bowl Score Projections

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It's my favorite thing I do all year.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If it's about to be bowl season, it's time to break out the score projection formula and apply it to this year's set of games. I've used the formula in five past seasons, and it's been a success in four of them.

In 2010, it went 23-12 straight up and 19-14-2 against the spread. In 2011, it went 22-13 straight up and 20-14-1 against the spread. In 2012, it went 24-11 straight up and 19-14-2 against the spread. In 2013 it took a dive, going 16-19 straight up and 15-19-1 against the spread, but it rebounded in 2014 to 24-15 both straight up and against the spread. In total, that's 109-70 (.609) straight up and 97-76-6 against the spread (.558).

You can see how it works by following the link in the first paragraph up there, but it's basically a way to predict games based on points score and points allowed with a fairly crude adjustment for opponent. I've attempted to fancy it up to make it less crude over the years, but I've found that the simpler method always wins. Go figure.

As in past years, I am making these projections my entry into the Yahoo bowl pick 'em group (don't delay, join today!). The contest doesn't use point spreads, but it does use confidence points. To deal with that, I lined the games up by margin of victory and gave the most confidence points to the largest projected MOV and went on down. See if your judgment is better than that of my six year old formula that hasn't been updated in any way.

The way to read this table is that the "Projection" column covers the games straight up and the "Pick" column covers the games against the spread. In the latter, I like to put "Team + points" to emphasize when the system picks an underdog. There is no special meaning beyond that. The colors, as they appear, will be self explanatory. The spreads are the consensus lines as reported here, and they reflect the lines as of the morning of December 14 when I finished the projections and got to doing this writeup.

UPDATE: I changed the lines to those available at the same link on the morning of December 18. I did this to keep it consistent with past years when I used the lines from the day before bowls start.

Bowl Teams Favorite Projection Pick
New Mexico Arizona vs. New Mexico AZ -7.5 AZ 34.3-33.6 NM + points
Las Vegas BYU vs. Utah Utah -2.5 Utah 24.8-24.6 BYU + points
Camellia Ohio vs. App State ASU -7.5 ASU 32-18 App State
Cure San Jose State vs. Georgia State SJSU -2.5 GSU 27-25 GSU + points
New Orleans Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Tech LT -2 LT 36.18-36.14 ASU + points
Miami Beach WKU vs. South Florida WKU -2.5 WKU 38-30 WKU
Potato Akron vs. Utah State USU -6.5 USU 28-21 USU
Boca Raton Toledo vs. Temple Temple -1.5 Tol 26-23 Toledo + points
Poinsettia Boise State vs. Northern Illinois BSU -8.5 BSU 34-27 NIU + points
GoDaddy Georgia Southern vs. Bowling Green BGSU -7.5 BGSU 39-30 BGSU
Bahamas MTSU vs. Western Michigan WMU -3.5 WMU 34-31 MTSU + points
Hawaii San Diego State vs. Cincinnati Cin -1.5 SDSU 33-26 SDSU + points
St. Petersburg UConn vs. Marshall Marshall -4.5 Marsh 22-11 Marshall
Sun Miami (FL) vs. Washington State WSU -3 WSU 34-29 WSU
Heart of Dallas Washington vs. Southern Miss UW -8.5 USM 26-25 USM + points
Pinstripe Indiana vs. Duke Indiana -2 Duke 37-36 Duke + points
Independence Tulsa vs. Virginia Tech VT -13.5 VT 39-32 Tulsa + points
Foster Farms UCLA vs. Nebraska UCLA -6.5 UCLA 32-29 Neb + points
Military Pitt vs. Navy Navy -3.5 Navy 29-21 Navy
Quick Lane Central Michigan vs. Minnesota Min -6 CMU 24-20 CMU + points
Armed Forces Cal vs. Air Force Cal -7 AFA 33-30 AFA + points
Russell Athletic UNC vs. Baylor Bay -2.5 Bay 40-38 UNC + points
Arizona Nevada vs. Colorado St. CSU -3 CSU 28-26 Nev + points
Texas LSU vs. Texas Tech LSU -7 LSU 44-39 TTU + points
Birmingham Auburn vs. Memphis AU -2.5 Mem 38-27 Memphis + points
Belk NCSU vs. Miss State MSU -5.5 MSU 30-29 NCSU + points
Music City Texas A&M vs. Louisville UL -1.5 TAMU 26-23 Texas A&M + points
Holiday USC vs. Wisconsin USC -3 Wisc 22-21 Wisconsin + points
Peach Houston vs. FSU FSU -7 Hou 27-25 Houston + points
Orange Oklahoma vs. Clemson OU -3.5 OU 37-30 Oklahoma
Cotton Michigan State vs. Alabama Bama -9.5 Bama 26-19 MSU + points
Outback Northwestern vs. Tennessee UT -8 UT 25-15 Tennessee
Citrus Michigan vs. Florida UM -4 UM 20.3-15.9 Michigan
Fiesta Notre Dame vs. Ohio State OSU -6.5 OSU 29.3-22.5 Ohio State
Rose Stanford vs. Iowa Stan -7 Stan 29-26 Iowa + points
Sugar Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss Miss -7 Miss 38-37 OSU + points
TaxSlayer Penn State vs. Georgia UGA -6.5 UGA 20-17 PSU + points
Liberty Kansas State vs. Arkansas Ark -11 Ark 36-27 KSU + points
Alamo Oregon vs. TCU Pick TCU 44-40 TCU
Cactus West Virginia vs. Arizona State Pick WVU 34-27 WVU
National Championship Alabama vs. Clemson Bama -7 Bama 27-26 Clemson + points

I will keep track of how the picks do as the season progresses, and I'll add an entry for the national title game once the semifinal games are over.

Last year, the formula predicted a modest 7-5 bowl record for the conference. That's what the final record ended up being, though the system was 9-3 in picking those specific games. I am proud that it nailed Ohio State's upset of Alabama and had Auburn-Wisconsin a dead heat (and they went to overtime, if you remember).

This year, the formula is more bullish on the conference, predicting wins in eight of ten bowls. One of the two losses it sees coming is Auburn to Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl, and seeing as how the Tigers already beat Ole Miss, that one wouldn't be a shock (especially with multiple defensive coaches now distracted by new jobs at South Carolina). The other is Florida losing to Michigan, and the Wolverines are the betting favorite in that one anyway.

That said, the formula isn't high on the teams' ability to cover the spread. Texas A&M and Tennessee are the only conference teams it likes against the spread, although it was less than half a point away from picking a Florida cover in the Citrus Bowl. (Update: Florida now covers the spread thanks to the line updates.)