Trends and history play just a fraction in determining the outcome of a game.
While the randomness of college football frequently overtakes past results, perhaps previous data can illustrate even a portion of what we can expect once the season kicks off. The opening frame looks a bit like this:
Michigan @ Utah -4.5, 46.5
Jim Harbaugh's return to the college football scene will match him up with Kyle Whittingham's Utah Utes, a rematch of a 2014 back breaker for the Wolverines, as the PAC 12 representatives overcame the Maize and Blue in the Big House, 26-10.
While Harbaugh may be revisiting the PAC 12 given his stint with Stanford, Utah's transition to the Power Five conference didn't come until he ventured into the San Francisco 49ers system.
For the sixth consecutive season, Whittingham will open as the favorite, as the 'books have marked the Utes as 4.5-point favorites, the total currently sitting at 46.5.
Key trend: Kyle Whittingham is 3-6-1 against the spread in openers, the three wins combined by just 8.5 points (by the spread)
Kent State @ Illinois -16.5, 54.5
The first historical meeting between Kent State and the Illinois Fighting Illini is officially set for Week 1 when the Golden Flashes and head coach Paul Haynes venture to Champaign for a matchup with ex-MAC guru Tim Beckman. The ringleader for the Toledo Rockets from 2009-2011, let me guess, Beckman will probably be on the hot seat for 2015?
While that trend seems all but imminent with the transition to autumn, here's a few to keep an eye on for your traditional MAC-B1G showdown:
-Since Tim Beckman took the reins as Illinois head coach, he is 4-8 against the spread as a favorite and 5-1 to the OVER versus group of five opponents
-Paul Haynes and Kent State are 5-3 against the spread when marked a double-digit underdog
Don't be surprised if points come aplenty for the Fighting Illini as Beckman's handled mid-majors early in the season since the hire. While he's averaging nearly 38 points versus that group, he's also 8-4 straight up in weeks 1-4 since 2012, while regressing to a dismal 4-20 clip following.
Michigan State @ Western Michigan +19, 58
The nation caught a glimpse of a rather irregular Michigan State Spartans team in 2014 as quarterback Connor Cookdazzled, Sparty really catching a nice groove on offense, concluding the season 11th nationally via total yards (500.8 YPG).
Perhaps the prototypical stout defense returns to the forefront and acts as the centerpiece once more, as Michigan State returns a defensive line chocked full of studs in Shilique Calhoun and Joel Heath. While the offense caught a scorching hot wave with help from WR Tony Lippett and RB Jeremy Langford in '14, the Spartans are in dire need for a playmaker to emerge in 2015.
On the opposite sideline for the opening frame, WMU head coach P.J. Fleck hopes to stack upon a respectable 2014 season, as he led the Broncos to a 8-5 clip; since taking over, he's yet to defeat a Big Ten representative (0-4).
Key Trends: MSU/Mark Dantonio was 7-1 against the spread in 2014 as a double-digit favorite, outscoring opponents by a whopping 36.2 points
-P.J. Fleck/WMU is being outscored by nearly 25 points versus the Big Ten the previous two years.
Stanford @ Northwestern +12.5, 44.5
Sure, some Big Ten teams are evolving into pass-happy offenses that can light up ESPN tickers like a string of lights during Christmas, but one club that might need a dash of help is Pat Fitzgerald's Northwestern Wildcats.
Upon glimpses of success with former QB Kain Colter, things never really blossomed for the beneficiary in Trevor Siemian, but you'd have to at least nag the arms of guys such as WRs Kyle Prater and Tony Jones for under performing the prior season. Many expect RB Justin Jackson to backpack the load on offense for 2015.
For David Shaw's Cardinal, they don't necessarily fit into that blend of PAC 12 damsels. You know, the teams that need to cross the plane eight times a game to win a ballgame (cough, Colorado and Cal), yet the offense appears well-oiled with Kevin Hogan at the helm, complemented by the playmaking abilities of Devin Cajuste and Christian McCaffrey.
Can NW stalemate the physicality of the Cardinal, or does Stanford succumb to a subpar offense? The numbers suggest a low-scoring affair for Week 1.
Key Trends: Since 2011, Fitzgerald/Shaw are 21-7 to the UNDER in regular season contests when the total is set in the 40s