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ZeLO Model Predictions: Week 1

Last weekend, college football had what might be the oddest weekend in sports: Week 0. I have always watched and enjoyed college football, but I was never a diehard fan and the earliest I would watch was the start of conference play. 

So, when I learned about the existence of “Week 0,” it began to annoy me. If it is the first weekend of football, it should not be Week 0; if it is Week 0, it should be a preseason and should not count towards teams’ records. 

But my annoyance with Week 0 aside, the new ZeLO model performed pretty well. 

Yes, ZeLO lost three games, but I anticipated two of those. ZeLO seems to have a blind spot for games between Power-5 and Group of 5 teams, so I am not overly worried. The other loss was Nebraska-so Nebraska is firmly not back-but ESPN’s FPI missed that one as well.

The model also performed adequately against the spread, going 5 for 11, which is better than the NFL ZeLO model typically performs.

So now, as we start the college football season, I figured I would take a look at some of the best matches from this upcoming weekend and tell you what ZeLO thinks will happen.

West Virginia @ No. 17 Pittsburgh 

Currently, Pitt is ranked 10th in ZeLOs Power Rankings, ranking eighth when you account for their statistical performance last year and all of their offseason losses and gains. ZeLO does have the Panthers taking a step back offensively, which makes sense when you consider that Pickett is no longer quarterbacking for the team. 

West Virginia, meanwhile, is currently ranked 67th by ZeLO with an offense ranking outside the top-100 but a solid defense ranking 24th. 

These are two programs with very different trajectories for this season. ZeLO has the Mountaineers as a roughly .500 team with a few odd simulations where they make it to seven wins. 

Pitt, on the other hand? They are the models pick to represent the ACC Coastal division, slight favorites ahead of the Miami Hurricanes. This one should be a solid win for the Panthers, with ZeLO giving them a 71.3% chance of victory, with Pitt just beating the spread.

Pitt -7.5 O/U 52

No. 11 Oregon @ No. 3 Georgia 

The Bulldogs are currently ranked second in college football, just behind Ohio State, with the potential to repeat as the best defense in the game and a top-25 offense. Georgia is currently projected to win the SEC East and is favored against the Crimson Tide.

Oregon might be a top-30 team in ZeLOs rankings, but unlike Georgia, they are not a powerhouse on one side of the ball or the other. Oregon is not even projected to place in the top 2 in the Pac-12. So, it should surprise no one who ZeLO favors here. 

Georgia should win comfortably. ZeLO gives them a 69.1% chance of winning and expects a touchdown victory.

UGA -17 O/U 53

No. 23 Cincinnati @ No. 19 Arkansas 

A Power-5 Group-of-5 game! As I said earlier, ZeLO has a blind spot for G5 and P5 matchups, which I plan to correct in next year’s model. This game is no different, with the Razorbacks being the underdog with only a 35.8% chance of victory. 

Based on the weight of the previous year’s statistics, it is only natural for Cincinnati to look so strong. They are a top-10 ZeLO team and are projected to compete for the AAC Conference Championship as a 10-win (on average) team.

Given the small sample data for these matchups, I am anticipating a miss here by ZeLO, if only because it has the Bearcats covering the spread. 

ARK -6 O/U 52

No. 5 Notre Dame @ No. 2 Ohio State 

Considering that I work for the Observer, I think I am contractually obligated to write about a top-5 Irish game, even if I am one of ten people to do so this week. At the very least, I can offer (what I hope) is a differing opinion than most of my colleagues as ZeLO calls for an absolute thrashing of the Irish. 

It’s not personal to Notre Dame. Ohio State ranks number one in ZeLOs power rankings and has a top-20 defense to help it. Ohio State is the clear favorite to emerge from the B10 and ZeLOs pick to win the national title. 

If you read my projections piece earlier in the week, you already know that ZeLO has ND as roughly a 9.5-win team that will struggle against Ohio State and Clemson and has toss-ups against BYU and UNC. 

The Irish did not return enough of their personnel to merit a great ranking on offense, which will hurt them against the Buckeyes. The ND offense ranks 42nd by ZeLO. However, ZeLO does predict Notre Dame to slightly cover the massive spread, but they won’t come particularly close to the outright win.

 OSU -17.5 O/U 58.5

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