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Zwiller: ZeLO revisits incorrect picks against ND, game picks

In Notre Dame’s two most recent games against North Carolina and BYU, ZeLO had the Irish as an underdog. Obviously, ZeLO got those two games somewhat wrong, as the Irish won comfortably against both squads and are now on a three-game win streak. 

So, before I go to what is an exciting week of picks, I want to examine why ZeLO is 2-3 in picking Notre Dame games.

The two ZeLO wins came when Notre Dame played Ohio State and California. ZeLO’s pick to win the CFP was Ohio State, so Notre Dame losing was a foreseeable outcome. California was seen as an easy win for the Irish, and luckily they proved ZeLO right. 

The first loss came against Marshall (ZeLO had the Irish as a favorite), which, to be fair, most people got wrong. I think most had it as an Irish win, but a narrow one. The loss was shocking. 

The North Carolina loss is easy enough to explain away, given the context of the two team’s seasons. North Carolina was the home team and, at the time, had a great offense and was undefeated. Notre Dame had an offense that was struggling, and so ZeLO took UNC. 

BYU was favored by ZeLO back when I first created the model over the summer. ZeLO has loved BYU because of its high Return+Recruit score, and its performance this season was enough to keep them as a favorite over Notre Dame.

As ZeLO favors Notre Dame to beat Stanford, I hope ZeLO improves to 3-3, but for more on that, go check out the Notre Dame game pick below.

Now onto the picks!

Well, not just yet. I almost forgot about ZeLO’s performance review. Last weekend ZeLO and FPI picked 57 games, agreeing on 51 and disagreeing on 6. ZeLO ended up going 37-20, and FPI went 39-18, so both models had a lower-performing weekend than usual.

And while ZeLO had its first loss to FPI in a few weekends, over the last three weeks, ZeLO is up two wins on FPI, so the model still has a good run.

Now, onto the picks. 

No. 10 Penn State @ No. 5 Michigan

Michigan’s season is a tale of two parts. The first part is that Michigan played Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn; Michigan won on average by nearly 50 points. During this stretch of the season, the average ZeLO ranking of Michigan’s opponents was 124. 

In the second part of the season, Michigan entered conference play, facing (Maryland, Iowa and Indiana) and its average margin of victory dropped to just under 14 points. The average opponent for Michigan during this time jumped to 70, with Maryland ranking 39th. 

That might not sound alarming, that is still a two-touchdown advantage, but that feels like a worrying trend to me. As the opponents have improved, Michigan has looked less impressive. Furthermore, Penn State will be Michigan’s best opponent, ranking 14th. 

Thanks to Michigan’s impressive resume and home-field advantage, the Wolverines are slightly favored (66.6%) to beat the Nittany Lions.

No. 3 Alabama @ No. 6 Tennessee

Seldom do you see a top-10 team who is at home a 7.5 underdog, but that is precisely what Tennessee is when they take on Alabama. I am skeptical of Alabama; Texas A&M had a chance to knock off the Crimson Tide on the road, and A&M is nowhere near the caliber of team that Tennessee is. 

However, if there is anyone who has earned the benefit of the doubt, it is indeed Alabama. ZeLO still has the Tide as its second-best team (behind Ohio State) and the far and away favorite to win the SEC West. Tennessee is certainly not a touchdown underdog in the eyes of ZeLO. The Volunteers rank seventh and have an outside chance to win the East.

This game should be good, with the Volunteers covering the spread but the Tide winning (60.4%).

No. 8 Oklahoma State @ No. 13 TCU

TCU continues to be one of the surprises of the year, knocking off Kansas on the road in a closely contested game. The Horned Frogs are just one of three teams in the Big 12 who are undefeated in conference play, and this weekend they have a chance to knock off one of the other undefeated teams.

The two teams are currently favored to make it to the Big 12 conference championship game. But Kansas and Texas are close behind, so a win for either team would help get each some separation and eliminate a formidable rival. 

Currently, TCU is favored in a toss-up game, with the Horned Frogs having a 57.3% chance of beating the Cowboys. The difference between the two squads is essentially TCU’s home-field advantage. This should be a good one. 

No. 15 NC State @ No. 18 Syracuse

North Carolina State at Syracuse is a game we have all circled on our calendars since the season opener. But all jokes aside, this is a significant game for the ACC Atlantic. Syracuse and Clemson are the two remaining unbeaten teams in the Atlantic division and the conference. 

With a win, Syracuse can keep pace with Clemson, whom they play next week. It feels crazy to say, but a win would give the Orange a legitimate shot to win the division. 

A loss would be disastrous for the Wolfpack. Should North Carolina State lose, they will have very little chance of winning the Atlantic (though their chances are already low).

No. 7 USC @ No. 20 Utah

After Utah took a loss to UCLA, this game did lose a bit of its luster, but this should still be a thrilling showdown. Utah is all but eliminated from the CFP; as a two-loss team with a low chance of winning their Conference, they have little to offer. The only thing they can really do is play spoiler to USC’s aspirations of remaining undefeated. 

It might be weird, but Utah is still favored to win this matchup. I think it is mainly because of ZeLOs pre-season projections, but we shall see. 

Stanford @ Notre Dame

As I wrote at the top of the article, Notre Dame is heavily favored to beat Stanford (74.6%).

Stanford is a weak team, with their offense ranking 88th, their defense 118th, and their overall ranking is 115th. For the 54th-ranked Irish, this should be an easy contest. After Notre Dame beat BYU and UNC in back-to-back weeks, ZeLO has had some of its faith restored in Notre Dame. Not all, but some. 

Contact Tom Zwiller at tzwiller@hcc-nd.edu.

The views in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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