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Vegas Lines Matrix gets up close and personal

For those of us constantly obsessing over how well Auburn would stack up against the rest of the SEC, I’ve created this handy table — the Vegas Lines Matrix. For more information on what the Vegas Lines Matrix is, how it works, and why you should care, check out a prior week’s column.

If Mac Mirabile gives you the impression that he's close to the action, there's a reason: this week, he saw the line go up on the Auburn-Ole Miss game on the board at Caesar's Palace with his own eyes.

Changes this week

Based on how all teams played last week, I (acting on behalf of Vegas bookies) have adjusted the matchup lines you could expect if these teams played this week. A few things to mention first: In order to “improve” a team’s odds, one of three things needs to occur: 1) the team needed to improve on their per game statistics in the past week, or 2) their opponent’s per game statistics needs to get worse, 3) the team needs to move up in the polls.

In Auburn’s remaining games, we see the following changes:

Auburn @ Ole Miss: Line moved from Auburn being a 10-point favorite to a 11.5-point favorite.
Chattanooga @ Auburn: This game is off the board, Auburn would likely be a 45-point favorite.
Georgia @ Auburn: Line moves from Auburn being a 17-point favorite to a 15-point favorite.
Auburn @ Alabama: Line moves from Auburn being a 7.5-point underdog to a 6.5-point underdog.

(As always, click to enlarge.)

How the Vegas lines Matrix compares to the actual Vegas lines

Probabilities Matrix

We can use these odds from the above color-coded Vegas lines matrix to impute the implied probability of winning in these matchups. These probabilities are calculated using thousands of prior games. For example, let’s consider the actual Auburn at Ole Miss spread, where Auburn is a 7-point road favorite. In the past 10 years (the period my data covers) there have been 149 games where the home team was an underdog by exactly 7 points. In these 149 games, the home team won 44 and lost 105, for an implied win probability of 30.7 percent. If the line moves “down” to +6 points, historically we observe: 77 games, 22 wins for a win percentage of 33.3 percent. If the line moves a point in favor of the Tigers to +8, we see: 56 games, 11 wins for a win percentage of 28.0 percent.

By populating the above matchup matrix with these probabilities, we can “simulate” the remainder of the season and calculate such things as a team’s expected record or probability of going undefeated. Note that the probabilities actually displayed here are a 3-line moving average, so a 7-point road favorite would use all of the games mentioned above (lines at +6.5, +7, +7.5) to calculate a weighted average to smooth out inconsistencies from occasionally sparse data at certain line values.

As with the above matrix above, the values are color coded relative to the home team’s chances of winning. The greener the cell, the more likely the home team is to win.

Auburn’s win last week over LSU was big. Despite a few fortunate dropped passes by LSU that would have made the game much closer, Auburn managed to largely shut down LSU and racked up an impressive total yards margin (526-243). As good as Auburn looked last week, future SEC foes Georgia and Alabama may have looked even better. Even Ole Miss, who lost 38-24 last weekend at Arkansas managed to outgain the Hogs 512-464. The Rebel Black Bear Akbars will not be a pushover this week, and Auburn needs to avoid a letdown game to stay in the title hunt.

As predicted last week, Auburn’s win and ensuing strength of schedule vaulted them past Boise State thanks to a large jump in the computer polls. For more information on Auburn’s chances of finishing the year undefeated, check out this week’s BCS Simulator Stimulator column.

Auburn has a 14.5 percent chance of winning out and going undefeated prior to the SEC title game, up from 12.7 percent last week. However, Alabama has a 26.4 percent chance of going undefeated in its remaining schedule, up from 21.5 percent last week.

Predicted Final Standings

Following a win in the Tiger Bowl, Auburn is the clear front-runner in the SEC West. Alabama has two tricky games remaining this season: at LSU and the Iron Bowl. They will likely need to win both of these to make the trip to Atlanta, but don’t dismiss this as a very real possibility. Mississippi State’s win over UAB last weekend makes the Bulldogs bowl eligible. After losing to the Razorbacks last week, Ole Miss will need at least one upset if the Rebels are going to become bowl eligible.

In the SEC East (which is now 2-11 against the SEC West), South Carolina still looks like the team to beat, rebounding with a rare road win last weekend against Vanderbilt. Georgia (4-4) looks like it has turned the season around, but the real test comes this weekend in Jacksonville against the Gators. A win against Florida this weekend and a bye (Idaho State) next week could see a red-hot Georgia team coming to the Plains for the Deep South’s oldest rivalry on Nov. 13. As predicted almost a month ago, the loser of Vanderbilt and Tennessee will lock up a last place finish on Nov. 20 in the Cellar Bowl.

Mac Mirabile is a 2002 graduate of Auburn’s economics and journalism departments. During his time at Auburn, he was a copy and photo editor with The Auburn Plainsman. He has a master’s in economics from UNC-Chapel Hill and has written numerous academic publications on college football, the NFL, and gambling markets. His previous column can be found here. He can be reached at [email protected]

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