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Odds & Ends -- Week 6: Post-NCSU

Since taking over as Florida State's head coach, Jimbo Fisher is 15-4 when favored by at least two scores. Is that an alarming number, FSU fans? Also, something about Boston College seeing as we play them Saturday evening.

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15 and 4.

That's Jimbo Fisher's record when his squad is the favorite by at least 10 points. Jimbo loses these games 21% of the time. Said another way: One loss every five games as 10+ point favorites.

Fisher has suffered these types of losses at the hands of UNC (-11), @ Wake (-10), Virgina (-17), and @ NCSU (-17). FSU gets a lot of action, so these numbers are a touch inflated. They originally opened at UNC (-9), @ Wake (-11), Virginia (-16.5), & NCSU (-13.5). Still, FSU was on average a two-score favorite. (Perhaps there is an alternate meaning for Jimboflation?)

Nick Saban, the gold standard amongst college coaches, is 55-2 (or a 4% losing rate) when sitting on a 10+ point spread advantage. One loss came against UF in 2003 (-10) when he coached LSU. The other loss? His first year at Alabama, losing to 24-point road dog La.-Monroe in 2007, something Fisher definitely has not done yet.

How about a contemporary? Oregon's 4th year head coach Chip Kelly has an additional year on Fisher, but is relatively new to the arena like Fisher. Chip's record when facing 10+ point underdogs? 29-1 (3%). That one loss came as 15-point favorites over USC last year.

Those numbers again: Fisher - 21%. Saban - 4%. Kelly - 3%.

Fisher is losing these types of games at a rate 6 times greater than Saban, and over 6 times greater than Kelly.

For fairness' sake, Kelly and Saban have played more games as very heavy favorites than Fisher has. How do their records compare when facing underdogs of 10.5-to-17 points?

  • Saban is 21-1 (95%).
  • Kelly is 7-1 (87%).
  • Fisher is 6-4 (60%).

Into Year 3, Fisher is losing these types of games on average 9 times more frequently than Saban, and 3 times more than Kelly.

Phil Steele did a study that showed what proportion of games underdogs won based on their point spread using data on teams from 1996-2008. Relevant to our study here, he reports that favorites of 10.5-to-14 points lost 21.1% of the time (242 losses in 1,146 games). Favorites of 14.5-to-17 points lost 13.5% of the time (88 losses in 650 games). On average, favorites lose to underdogs of 10.5-to-17 points 18.4% of the time (330 losses in 1,796 games).

Saban's and Kelly's numbers are better than the national average against 10.5-to-17 point underdogs. Fisher's loss rate (40%) is more than double the national average (18.4%).

What do these numbers tell us about Fisher?

That Vegas is overestimating Florida State? Perhaps.

Or that Fisher has trouble putting away marginal - although not terrible - opponents. Perhaps he's the anti- (Bob) Stoops; Fisher won't ever win the big one because he can't win the small one.

Given the sample size, Fisher's subpar record could be noise rather than a signal. And while potentially a valid critique, "sample size" doesn't seem to buy you as many years as a major program's head coach these days as it used to.

If it is indeed a signal, Fisher's 6-4 record can be interpreted as a rate: Fisher loses these types of games twice every five times against 10.5-to-17 point underdogs. Looking at the season so far, Clemson, USF, and NCSU all fit this category - and Fisher is 2-1 thus far.

With Miami (-14ish) and VT (-10ish) on our schedule, Fisher looks to defy that pattern - or buttress it.

Something here about BC

Boston College's offense is averaging 28.2 points per game this season, their highest since 2007 (28.3).

Its defense? 29.0 points per game, their highest in - well - a long time:

"...easily the worst football team I have seen play since hitting the Heights as a freshman over 10 years ago..." - Brian Favat, BCInterruption blog founder

BC (75th FEI overall rank) features the 56th-ranked offense, 93rd-ranked defense, and 119th-ranked field position. FSU: 32nd, 22nd, 7th. FSU opened as 4-TD favorites over BC - and it looks like the advanced statistics support that inference.


Courtesy of TN poster seminole_swami and his database of Vegas spreads, we have learned this about our previous ball coach:

  • From 1978 to 1986, Bowden was 34-1-1 (3% loss rate) when favored by double digits. Bowden lost to Tulane in 1983 28-34 while favored by 11.5, and tied Against Memphis in 1984 17-17 as an 11 point favorite.
  • From 1978 to 1986, Bowden was 17-1-1 (5%) as a 10.5-to-17 point favorite.
  • From 2001 through 2009? Bowden was 13-7 in games as a 10.5-to-17 point favorites. That's a 35% loss rate for the Lost Decade.

I guess some things don't change.