"Others Receiving Votes," Playground for Sharp Bettors
by Robert Ferringo - 08/12/2007
Others Receiving Votes. In college football, where the Almighty Polls are King, being in the Others Receiving Votes is simultaneously a proud achievement and a gross dismissal. It's a bit like flirting with a big-breasted blonde all night, getting some touches, but then not taking her home to close the deal and not getting her phone number. Close…but not close enough.
Every year the USA Today and AP polls are released around this time. And every year the initial polls are a joke. There are teams planted in the Top 10 that have absolutely no chance of competing for a national title (see: Notre Dame, 2006) while other stronger, more skilled teams get brushed aside to the Others Receiving Votes (or worse) category (see: Rutgers, 2006).
For instance, in 2006 Texas started at No. 2 in the country while Notre Dame was No. 3. They finished No. 13 and No. 19, respectively. Even worse, Florida State (10), Miami (11) and Iowa (17) all began the season in the Top 20 but by the end of the year weren't even good enough for Others Receiving Votes status. In 2005, Tennessee (3), Michigan (4), and Oklahoma started the season in the Top 5. They finished with no votes, 32 votes at No. 28, and at No. 22, respectively. Iowa and Purdue (shocking that it's Big Ten teams; that conference is SO overrated) were 10th and 16th, respectively, before not finishing in the Top 30.
Yet, for every disastrous, soul-crippling, booster-busting underachiever there is another school that brings Peace and Hope and Eternal Sunshine to some campus (and some desperate gambler) across this great nation.
In 2006, the teams that begged and clawed their way out of the ORV category and into the national spotlight were Wisconsin (started with 37 votes at No. 32 and ended No. 5), Rutgers (two votes at No. 46 to No. 12), and BYU (No. 46 to No. 15). Beyond that, Wake Forest (17), Oregon State (22) and Hawaii (25) started the season with nary a vote and ended up in the Top 25. In 2005 the sleepers from ORV were West Virginia (No. 43 to No. 6), Notre Dame (No. 41 to No. 11), and UCLA (No. 36 to No. 13) while the Out of Nowhere teams were Penn State (finished No. 3), TCU (9) and Clemson (21).
Not surprisingly, the 10 teams that were the biggest droppers in 2006 and 2005 combined to go 43-72-3 against the spread (37.4 percent). Conversely, the 13 teams that were the biggest surprises over those two years ended up an incredible 106-48-1 ATS (68.8 percent). No team that dropped more than 15 spots in the polls finished with a winning record ATS while every team that moved up at least 20 spots turned a healthy profit.
Clearly you can see the importance of being able to pinpoint the teams that are overrated and which ones are underrated heading into the season. And that's why I say that the preseason polls can be a gambler's best friend. It sets the stage for overvalued and undervalued squads. And, generally, the underrated sleepers were pretty good to begin with and right under the public's nose all along. I mean, someone who actually follows college football (though, when it comes to poll voting this can be debatable) actually voted for them as one of the Top 25 teams in the country. There must have been something to these teams, as a fair amount of these "surprise" teams actually showed up on the initial radar.
Also, you can see that there are usually more sleeper teams than there are disappointing ones, so that increases your odds of finding them and earning behind their "shocking" success.
This is a theme that I touched on with my Price Is Right look at the original Top 25 breakdown. I'll also have a Five to Fade and Five to Follow article on this site sometime next week. But for now, here's a breakdown of that ever-disrespected subculture, the Others Receiving Votes, in a simple, friendly Buy or Sell format:
No. 26 Boston College (150 votes) - Buy Them
They don't have Tom O'Brien, but they do have Matt Ryan. With 17 starters back from a very good 2006 club, and a much more manageable schedule, I think B.C. will be back in a big way. Oh, and circle that Sept. 8 home game against O'Brien and his new team, N.C. State.
No. 27 Georgia Tech (150 votes) - Buy Them
I really, really like the Yellow Jackets this year. They've bid farewell to inconsistent Reggie Ball and we saw in their bowl game that Taylor Bennett may actually be an improvement. They have a Top 20 defense and they should win three of their five road games. Jump on them early - as in against Notre Dame - because the value will be gone quickly.
No. 28 Miami (FL) (91 votes) - Buy Them
This is a tough team to trust, and a tough team to find value on. We're going to learn a lot about them in their Sept. 8 game at Oklahoma. I think they lose that one, but come back to destroy Texas A&M on Sept. 20. How they perform in those two games will set the tone for what they do in the ACC.
No. 29 Notre Dame (90 votes) - Sell Them
I can't stress "sell" enough with the Irish. They are going to take a huge step backwards, as their schedule and lack of talent should lead to a 6-6 season and another bowl failure. You never find value on the Irish as it is, and this year they should be a "play against only" team.
No. 30 South Carolina (90 votes) - Buy Them
The Ol' Ball Coach finally has some talent to compete with the rest of the SEC. If Sidney Rice had stayed, they'd be a Top 20 team. Even without him, they have a nice defense to build around. All five of their losses last year came against Top 12 teams, with four coming by a total of four points. With 17 starters back, look for them to get better at finishing games.
No. 31 Wake Forest (71 votes) - Sell Them
Wake Forest had a magical run last year, and do return eight offensive starters. But those are eight offensive starters from the nation's No. 78 offense. The defense only gets five starters back from the No. 12 unit, and that, along with being a target for revenge, is going to cost them.
No. 32 Missouri (58 votes) - Sell Them
I'm a big Chase Daniels fan. Big time. But they don't have the defense to keep up in an improving conference. Soft, run-and-gun, dazzling offensive teams are big favorites at the ticket window but always end up costing backers in the end. Mizzou will have its moments, but it won't have enough of them.
No. 33 Oregon State (52 votes) - Buy Them
This is a gutsy call on a team with serious quarterback issues. But I have faith that Sean Canfield can play just well enough to take the pressure off an up-and-coming, senior-laden defense. They brought back four starting offensive linemen and one of the top backs on the West Coast (Yvenson Benson).
No. 34 BYU (47) - Sell Them
Because of their dominance last year - they outscored MWC foes by 25.5 points - I don't think that you'll find any value on the Cougars this year. They lost the most letterman (28) in the league and thus have the Mountain West's fewest returning starters (13). I smell revenge brewing out West, and that won't sit well for BYU backers.
No. 35 Clemson (30) - Sell Them
They lost too much talent on offense, and in the secondary, to be a contender in the ACC this year. Last year was Clemson's shot, and they blew it. And with just five returning offensive starters I think they're going to get dominated by some of the overwhelming defenses (Va. Tech, FSU, G-Tech) in their league.
No. 36 Oregon (30) - Buy Them
I love the Ducks this year. Love them. I think Dennis Dixon is going to have a breakout season, and if you don't already know whom Jonathan Stewart is, well you will. I have a feeling it will be a wonderful life (OK, that was bad) in Duck Land when Oregon beats the Wolverines on Sept. 8. You heard it here first.
No. 37 South Florida (26) - Buy Them
Matt Grothe might have been the best freshman quarterback in the country last year. Yes, that includes Colt McCoy. USF is ready to make some big noise in the Big East with the most returning starters (16) in the conference. They only have three senior starters, so USF could be a strong play for this year and next. Jump on the bandwagon early.
No. 38 Texas Tech (20) - Sell Them
It's easy to get seduced by the Fun-and-Gun offense that the Techsters run. But they have just 10 returning starts - five on each side of the ball - off a team that was just average last year. I see them as the fifth best team in the Big 12 South.
No. 39 Alabama (16) - Sell Them
All hail Saban, eh? Well, these aren't his players. He hasn't had time to work his magic with this program yet and you can expect to see some heavily inflated (or deflated) lines on the Tide because of all the public action on them. I do think they will be better as a team, but there is absolutely no value with this middle-of-the-road SEC squad.
No. 40 Oklahoma State (15) - Buy Them
I'm big into Ok. State and they are going to be one of my Teams to Follow for the year. Adarius Bowman and Artrell Woods are as electrifying a WR duo that you can find. They brought back 15 starters from a club that was strong as an underdog and poor as a favorite last year. This time around I think they'll be a solid play on both ends.
No. 41 Southern Miss (14) - Buy Them
This is a rough and rugged team. Their toughest match-ups are at home, and with eight starters back on that defense they should overwhelm the CUSA bottom feeders. They also brought back their top three skill position players. They won't be ready when they head to Knoxville on Sept. 8, but they will be ready once conference play starts the following week.
No. 42 Iowa (12) - Buy Them
After two straight years as one of the biggest disappointments in the country I think that Iowa is the perfect, buy low team. Somehow they avoid both Michigan and Ohio State this year, so I could see them being the token Big Ten team that makes it into the Top 20 by beating the bottom feeders in that overrated conference (see: Wisconsin, 2006).
No. 43 Kansas State (8) - Sell Them
The Wildcats threw in the towel early last year in order to build for 2007. And the results were actually better than expected. They scored a No. 2 slot in the Big 12 North despite being outscored in conference play by a total of 30 points. I do think they could jump up and bite one of the big boys that they get in Manhattan but I'm not thrilled with this team's prospects.
No. 44 Memphis (5) - Buy Them
The Tigers lost four games by three points or less last year. There's no way they could suffer that much bad luck again, and with 16 returning starters they should get some payback in a pretty solid CUSA. Look for revenge right out of the gate as well, as they jump up and bit Ole Miss.
No. 45 Houston (4) - Sell Them
You just can't replace Kevin Kolb. Not if you're a fourth-tier program like Houston. Yes, they have a bunch of starters back (15) but they'll be facing a host of inflated lines due to their domination last year.
No. 46 Arizona (1) - Buy Them
The Wildcats have 17 starters back - including nine in the Pac-10's No. 2 defense - and have four of five starting offensive linemen from last year. That's the good news. The bad news is that hey have a rough conference road schedule. It's all about quarterback play, and if Willie Tuitama can take some steps forward this team can be coverlicious.
No. 47 Duke (1) - Buy Them
About the best thing I have to say about this Duke team is that, to the best of my knowledge, none of its players have been accused of rape lately. Next best thing: 10 returning offensive starters should help them cover some of those +28 lines.
No. 48 Kentucky (1) - Buy Them
Don't sleep on Andre Woodson. Kentucky is coming off a great bowl win and has its top three skill players back (Rafael Little, Keenan Burton, Woodson) and has eight starters back on a defense that has nowhere to go but up. They have a pair of winnable road games and should hang around in their other two SEC road tilts.
No. 49 Washington (1) - Sell Them
The Huskies were better last year than their record indicated. But with the nation's toughest schedule and a freshman quarterback I don't see how things can go that right for Ty Willingham. The Huskies' season will likely peak with a win over Syracuse on opening night.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his Insider Page here.