FPI vs. Vegas: Is Lane Kiffin's squad overrated?

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Whatever the opposite of rat poison is, this is it.

ESPN's Football Power Index has identified Florida Atlantic as the team most overrated by its season win total (9) in Vegas. This might be a bit of a downer for Lane Kiffin, who deftly used FPI's projections to throw a jab at Nick Saban last season and is clearly aware of betting lines.

But for those who are in Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey or any other state gearing up for legal sports betting, perhaps FPI's insight can highlight some value plays, like the FAU under, ahead of the college football season.

So let's dive into our model's biggest disagreements with Vegas' totals; all lines courtesy of South Point sportsbook as of May 28. For what it's worth, this article last year went 4-for-5.

Note: Conference championship games and bowl games do not count toward the total.

Florida Atlantic
Vegas win total: 9
FPI projected wins: 7.5

This differential probably has a lot to do with Kiffin himself. The combination of the outspoken coach's reputation and the fact that he led FAU to an 11-3 record last year -- including a 10-game winning streak to close out the season and a C-USA title -- may have bettors feeling like Kiffin can work his magic again.

FPI knows that the same coach who had so much success last season is back, but it's more skeptical of Kiffin's ability to repeat the feat. FAU is returning 10 starters on defense, but only five on offense, which was by far the Owls' better unit last season. Quarterback Jason Driskel, who was solid last season, has hung up his cleats.

But perhaps FPI's biggest reason to question last year's accomplishments: FAU's schedule, which was the 123rd most difficult in the FBS. It's somewhat harder this season -- a projected 94th most difficult -- and so nine wins will be hard to come by. The Owls have two very difficult contests at Oklahoma and at UCF, are slight underdogs at Marshall and at Middle Tennessee, and are barely favored by FPI at North Texas late in the season. Bank on regression in Kiffin's second season.

Western Michigan
Vegas win total: 5.5 (-120 under)
FPI projected wins: 7.7

If we were asking FPI for its best bet for season win totals, the Broncos' over would be it.

One reason for the large differential: wins below expectation. At the end of each season, FPI has a pretty good sense of exactly how good each team is, given that squad's performance on offense, defense and special teams throughout the season and given which teams those performances came against. When we look back at Western Michigan's 2017 season, FPI thinks the Broncos actually won 1.1 fewer games than they ought to have.

That might not sound like a lot, but the public outlook for the Broncos surely would at least be a little different if they had won seven games last year, not six.

Another reason to like Western Michigan is that FPI is passing judgment on last year's team without knowing that quarterback Jon Wassink, who quietly ranked 21st in Total QBR, missed the team's final four games with a collarbone injury. Western Michigan lost three of those final four contests.

Keep in mind that not only is South Point's win total for the Broncos 5.5, but the vig is shaded toward the under, giving FPI even greater conviction in the over.

California
Vegas win total: 5.5 (-120 over)
FPI projected wins: 7.7

Considering what we knew about FPI already, Cal is the least surprising team to land on this list. The model is shockingly high on the Golden Bears this season, ranking them as the 27th-best team in the nation. On top of that, FPI is down on the Pac-12; after last year's weak season from the conference, it ranks as the worst of the Power 5 in terms of average FPI rating. So that opens up some opportunities for Cal, even with some of the tougher Pac-12 teams -- like USC, Stanford and Washington -- on its schedule.

What's behind FPI's surprising love for Justin Wilcox's squad? It mostly has to do with the fact that the Golden Bears are returning 18 starters, including quarterback Ross Bowers -- though frankly Bowers was fairly poor last season (Total QBR: 45.7). Even with all the returners, that's a big jump for a team that ranked 63rd in total efficiency last season, so laying down any money on Cal does require some blind faith in the model here.

UMass
Vegas win total: 5
FPI projected wins: 6.6

Taking the over on a team that has a single-digit chance to beat Boston College (to say nothing of its shot at Georgia) might seem a little unnerving, but FPI does think there's potential in these Minutemen. For starters, the independent has a pretty soft schedule (98th most difficult) that includes newly minted FBS program Liberty along with home games against Coastal Carolina, Charlotte and Duquesne. Per FPI, UMass has an 80 percent chance or better to win each of those games, and a 56 percent shot to sweep that slate.

But the real reason to like the Minutemen is because they are a wins-below-expectation outlier. Last year they recorded 1.95 wins below what they ought to have, given their ability as a team, and that was in only a 12-game season. Had they merely met expectations and won six games last year, taking this over on 5 given whom they are playing wouldn't require much of a second thought.

Toledo
Vegas win total: 8.5
FPI projected wins: 7.1

As far as FPI is concerned, the Rockets could be in for somewhat of a crash landing this year. Toledo's 11 wins, including the MAC title, were impressive, but this is a program that is returning only 11 starters and lost starting quarterback Logan Woodside, who was drafted in the seventh round by the Bengals.

Though the Rockets ranked 51st in overall efficiency last season, their recruiting does not suggest the players stepping in will be able to bring Toledo back to that level again this year. Over the last four seasons Toledo has averaged a recruiting rank around the high 70s (though 2018 was better than that).

Combine that with a full win over expectation based on last year's FPI numbers, and that all adds up to a big step back for Toledo this season.