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Zwiller’s ZeLO Picks: Week 2

Well, Week 1 is officially in the books, and quite honestly, it could not have gone better. And yes, I include the Notre Dame loss in that, if only because ZeLO quite frankly nailed the pick. It still had Ohio State as a favorite, but by less than ESPN and (factoring in home-field advantage) had ND as a 10-point underdog. 

ND aside, ZeLO still had a solid performance. Through the model’s first eighteen games, it went 18-0, catching an unexpected stumble against Old Dominion (as did Virginia Tech). ZeLO closed the weekend going 65-18 and finished with a record of 73-21 (.776%), compared to ESPN’s 79-14 (FPI did not pick UCF). 

If you had told me that ZeLO would finish Week 1 only six games behind FPI, I would have taken it. The fact that the model is even competent is a win; I had no idea how this would go. And yes, ZeLO has some problems and shortcomings; I plan on discussing them later in a separate column. 

Right now, I want to give out some of the model’s picks. Last week’s picks went 3-1, so hopefully I can continue giving out some good ones.  

No. 1 Alabama @ Texas

I wish I could sit here and tell you that ZeLO did not think Alabama was all that impressive and that the spunky, underdog Texas team would knock off Saban’s NFL prep school. Even with home-field advantage (Texas ranks 13th), Alabama still has a 76% chance of victory.

Even though ZeLO has Texas covering, last weekend ZeLO picked a lot more underdog covers than anything else, and since this is Alabama, it would not shock me if Alabama beats the spread by the half. 

No. 24 Tennessee @ No. 17 Pittsburgh

This was a matchup I found interesting, if only because both ESPN and the gambling world were betting on Tennessee. The newly ranked Volunteers are currently a touchdown favorite over No. 17 Pitt. ESPN gives Pitt a 45.9% chance of winning, despite being ranked and at home. 

This is one of the few games — one of seven — where ZeLO disagrees with FPI and has the Panthers as the favorites with a 60.2% chance of victory. Not entirely comforting considering Pitt’s performance last weekend against WVU, but I digress. 

No. 20 Kentucky @ No. 12 Florida

Last week, after barely surviving Utah, the Gators are rewarded with an easier opponent … not much easier when you realize the opponent is also a Top-20 team. From a harder conference, but by poll logic, an easier team nonetheless.

ZeLO currently has Florida as a favorite with a 60.1% chance of staying undefeated, but the model does have Kentucky covering the +4.5 spread, so this should be a fantastic game. 

Arizona State @ No. 11 Oklahoma State

I picked this matchup only because ZeLO is pessimistic about Oklahoma State. 

While ESPN may have its golden child in Texas as the favorite to win the B12, ZeLO has Oklahoma State as one of the Top-3 finishers, with Texas closer to fifth or sixth. 

But as much as ZeLO likes OKSU, one of its more random favorites is Arizona State. Because Arizona State was not atrocious over the four-year sample ZeLO took, and because it had a positive Return+Recruit metric, the Sun Devils ended up being a solid team.  

But back to the game at hand: Considering we just saw OKSU look like it forgot how to play defense against Central Michigan, there might be an opportunity here. 

ZeLO has the Cowboys finding the win with a 50.1% chance of victory, but Arizona State finds a way to cover the 11-point spread. 

No. 9 Baylor @ No. 21 BYU

BYU has been one of the models’ favorite teams since I first started running it back in mid-June. So while I was surprised that BYU was a -3.5 favorite over a Top-10 team in the country, I was not as surprised as I should have been. 

And while this is one of those games where ZeLO seems to like Group 5 (and now independents) more than it should when they play Power 5 teams, ZeLO has BYU as a favorite to beat the Baylor Bears.

And not only is ZeLO giving the Cougars a 63.4% chance to beat Baylor, but it also has them as likely to beat their -3.5 spread.

Marshall @ No. 8 ND

I had two thoughts when I saw the graphic in last Friday’s edition of The Observer. The first was, “Wow, that graphic looks incredible.” The second was, “Good lord — I hope that pick is correct.”

The only way to lose credibility faster than picking against the home team in the home team’s newspaper is to pick against the home team in the home team’s newspaper and be wrong. 

Thankfully (or not, depending on how much you love ND), ZeLO was right and spared me the misfortune of picking wrong against ND. 

This week, though, to fulfill my contractual obligation of talking about ND, I must warn you that Notre Dame is facing … another loss. 

I’m kidding, I’m kidding; I just did that to see if you were paying attention. 

No, in reality, ND has a 62.5% chance of beating the Thundering Herd. And while yes, that seems low, that’s because I’m still working off my original projections for the season.

This is because in the past, when I have run ZeLO for the NFL, if you use Week 1 results your predictions get a little … weird. 

For example, last year’s Week 1 gave us the shocking result of Green Bay 3 and New Orleans 38. If I tried shoving that result into the model and the other random results (like the Eagles beating the Falcons 32-6), Week 2 would be bizarre. 

So, I trust my forecasting is somewhat good until four weeks into the season when hopefully, all the quirks have evened out. 

The same rule will apply here. So, ND is a little undervalued and Marshall is probably a little overvalued. ND should win, but Marshall should cover the 20-point spread. 

No. 10 USC @ Stanford

ZeLO already dunked on LSU once, so why not give it a chance to dunk on another team unpopular in South Bend? ZeLO has not once been a fan of the Trojans and will not become a fan until Week 4 at the earliest. I did not make a coaching adjustment this offseason, and USC has had no significant changes beyond its recruiting class adjustment. 

So while yes, ZeLO has a win for the Trojans, when they face a conference foe in Stanford, it will be a lot less likely than you think, 56.6%. Stanford does get the cover, though. 

Tom Zwiller

Contact Tom at tzwiller@nd.edu

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