QUALK TALK BLOG: Parity, College Football, and the NFL

QUALK TALK BLOG: Parity, College Football, and the NFL

Qualk Talk

QUALK TALK BLOG: Parity, College Football, and the NFL

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Here we are. We’ve made it to another Thursday night with several options to choose from on the televised sports schedule.

It is on Thursday nights when football fans face the ultimate dilemma: Do I watch the NFL, or do I watch a college game?

There’s just enough of both for fans to whet their whistles before a full football weekend. But every game overlaps, so it’s tough to pinpoint where to focus your viewing and where to set your “previous channel” button for commercial breaks.

Often, people choose one or the other, and everyone has a reason for his or her choice. One of the main reasons people might choose the NFL is that there is more parity within the league than there is in college.

This is pretty much unquestioned. Of course there is more parity in the NFL. It is a league that features the best of the best in groups of 53 on 32 rosters, as opposed to FBS college football, which features 126 teams with 85 scholarships apiece.

Since the talent is more spread out, a lack of true parity can turn a large portion of college football games into snoozers. By the same token, NFL games are more likely to be interesting well into the fourth quarter since the talent on the field is generally more even.

But I began to consider how closely this season has followed these trends at both levels after looking at the lines for professional games a couple of weeks ago. It seems like every week, there are a ton of NFL games where one team is favored by a touchdown or more—or even double digits.

We have seen very few upsets around the country in college football this season, which we’ve seen before. But the NFL rarely sees this kind of season, where predicting games has become almost boring because the haves and have-nots are so well defined.

I wanted to see how closely college football and the NFL mirror each other in terms of supposed parity between teams. Additionally, I decided to compare this season to past ones to see if 2013-14 was out of the ordinary or if I was just imagining things.

Below is a chart of the percentages of games in college and professional football featuring lines of seven or more points, then broken down further to include only double-digit spreads. It includes every season since 2003, including the current one. All data comes courtesy of teamrankings.com.

NFL 7+

NCAA 7+

NFL 10+

NCAA 10+

2013

30.8%

71.9%

14.2%

61.1%

2012

28.8%

59.7%

11.6%

44.7%

2011

36.0%

70.2%

15.7%

56.5%

2010

25.5%

59.8%

9.4%

47.0%

2009

42.7%

62.4%

22.1%

48.6%

2008

33.0%

60.8%

12.4%

44.5%

2007

36.0%

60.5%

18.4%

44.4%

2006

30.7%

62.5%

14.6%

48.3%

2005

32.6%

63.8%

13.5%

47.7%

2004

36.3%

64.4%

9.4%

48.3%

2003

27.3%

61.5%

7.5%

44.5%

There are a couple of interesting notes in this table. First of all, there is a level of inequity that goes beyond anything seen since 2003 in this college football landscape. The reason I used listed betting lines for games is because it involves the perception of oddsmakers and the public, and this year the public seems to figure a wide gap in a large number of games. There are similar spikes in the 7+ group and the 10+ group.

On the other hand, with the NFL, there is not nearly as big a disparity as there was in 2009. In fact, this year appears to be an average season for parity in the National Football League—in spite of my personal perceptions of the lines being stretched out in the NFL and closer together in college.

In conclusion, I apologize to the NFL. Things aren’t as easy as they seem for the top teams. I also apologize to college football…you’re just kind of boring this year.

Based on the way knowledge and scheduling work, I would expect both of these numbers to move closer together as the respective seasons draw to a close. Lines generally react to what we see in the NFL, which has led to higher numbers in recent weeks. But in college football, conference play sometimes means closer games and closer lines.

That’s just my guess. I should note my guess was totally wrong about this, and the research shows it. So watch whatever you want, and take my first impressions with a grain of salt.

God Bless!

WQ

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