Sharing and comparing my method for trying to beat the spread

I live in the Midwest which is Big Ten country. Once conference play starts virtually every Big Ten game is televised in my region and I commit myself to try and watch all of them. I have three televisions set up as some games are being played at the same time. I have no bias or affiliation to any Big Ten team as I am a lifelong Notre Dame fan (I include ND games in my viewing schedule as well). My comments and reports are qualified only by my love of the game and an extreme commitment to watching and following Big Ten football.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


RATINGS
Building a successful football college football team starts with the coach and the quarterback. There are, of course, many other factors involved and it is generally true that both receive too much credit or blame, but mostly programs have been elevated or deflated due in large part to who is leading the team on the sidelines and on the field. This post lists “from the couch” ratings of returning coaches and QB’s. Newbies are not included as I have not seen enough to comment. 

QUARTERBACKS
There are nine starting quarterbacks returning this season, ten if you count Kain Colter, which I will. These ratings are not necessarily projections of what type of statistics I think a given quarterback will put up this season. Numbers are often influenced by the surrounding talent and the type of offense a team runs. The criteria used here is based on who is the better college quarterback. 

1.     Denard Robinson, Michigan- Not a slam dunk but have to give him top ranking based on his running abilities alone. As a passer he’s average at best. Average is often good enough though, as receivers become open due to his threat as a runner. The only one that can keep Robinson from running wild against defenses seems to be Brady Hoke.
2.     Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois- The kid has heart which is something that is overlooked by many analysts. I believe he suffered a bit of a “sophomore jinx” last season and has yet to show his full potential. He’s working with yet another OC this season which may hinder him, but if Tim Beckman can make an immediate positive impact on the Illini, Sheelhaase can take his team to higher ground.
3.     MarQueis Gray, Minnesota- Has size and can run the ball. His passing numbers were poor last year but hard to tell if he’s to blame as he didn’t have much help around him and was working with a new coaching staff.
4.     Kain Colter, Northwestern- Where does Northwestern find these guys? Yet another of a long line of “jack of all trade” QB’s that aren’t the biggest or the strongest but find a way to get the job done.
5.     James Vandenberg, Iowa- Easily the best arm in the league. Not a strong runner, however, and rarely overachieves.
6.     Taylor Martinez, Nebraska- Another dual threat whose talents are heavier as a runner. Takes a lot of criticism for his passing game. His unorthodox throwing motion creates the perception that he’s worse than he actually is. I wouldn’t call him a great passer but from the couch it seems like his numbers would have been better last season if his receivers didn’t drop so many passes.
7.     Braxton Miller, Ohio St. - Talented runner and improved as a passer towards the end of the year but I’ll need to see more to rank him any higher. Many others have him near the top of their list but I think that’s due more to the anticipation of him working with Urban Meyer than for what he’s shown so far.
8.     Caleb Terbush, Purdue- One of the few QB’s on this list whose strengths lie more as a passer than a runner. He is, however, a capable runner. Just not at the same level as most of the other QB’s in the league.
9.     Tre Roberson, Indiana- A sophomore who shows great potential but until Indiana improves as a team it will be hard to judge his talents.
10.  Matt McGloin, Penn St.- Looks great one play, not so great the next. Not much of a threat as a runner. Has experience and as I said, can be good.







COACHES
There are nine coaches returning to the conference, three starting their second season and only one with over six years of big ten experience. One thing that should be said about big time college coaches. They are all good and they are all qualified. Some are just better than others.
 
1.     Mark Dantonio, Michigan St.: (44-22, 67%, 6 years)- Used to be MSU was known for starting fast and fading at the finish. Dantonio has brought stability to the program and has sent “big brother” Michigan running to tell mommy. Showed resiliency and program building skills a couple of years ago when his health issues hardly created a ripple.
2.     Bret Bielema, Wisconsin: (60-19, 76%, 6 years)- From the couch he can rub me the wrong way for running up the score when the game’s outcome has obviously been determined. Can’t argue with success, though, and I’ll concede that it does make good business sense to inflate the final score when your team’s national profile is largely determined by voters whose source of information is mostly limited to scanning final scores. Has the best Big Ten winning % among coaches whose tenure is over 1 year. Having Barry Alvarez around might have something to do with that.
3.     Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: (96-66, 59%, 13 years)- Was highly regarded by analysts for most of his tenure but lately phrases like “ lost his touch” and “stale” have been involved. Showed his ability to address issues by revamping his staff this year. I’ve never viewed Ferentz as “upper echelon” but do consider him to be solid.
4.     Pat Fitzerald, Northwestern: (40-36, 53%, 6 years)- Got thrown into the fire at a young age after Randy Walker’s death. His inexperience showed but has steadily grown into the position. His statistics aren’t always great, but hey, it’s Northwestern. Usually not the first choice for 5-star recruits and they expect you to attend classes there. Says all the right things in his interviews.
5.     Brady Hoke, Michigan: (11-2, 85%, 1 year)- Not completely sold yet. How much of last year’s success speaks to Rich Rod’s shortcomings? Painful to watch from the couch when he takes Denard Robinson off the field or has him throwing on three consecutive downs. Probably can’t expect Hoke to coach to a system other than his own but can’t help but think that Kirk Ferentz owes him a heartfelt thank you for not turning Robinson loose with his legs. The cupboard’s rarely bare at Michigan but still have to give him credit for turning things around.
6.     Bo Pelini, Nebraska: (39-16, 71%, 4 years)- Excellent win % but only one year’s work in the Big Ten to make an evaluation. Nebraska (maybe unjustly) came into the Big Ten highly touted so have to wonder about the home loss to Northwestern and the beat downs they took at Wisconsin and Michigan.  Although not the powerhouse they once were, Nebraska still should have plenty of talent in the stables.
7.     Jerry Kill, Minnesota: (3-9, 25%, 1 year) – Really like this guy due to his past success and reputation. Only one year to evaluate, though, and can’t really use that due to his struggles with epileptic seizures. Easy to dismiss health issues when they’re not your own but have to believe no matter how perseverant a man may be, something like that has to be a major distraction. He’s said to be healthy now so am expecting better days for the Gophers in the future. Will have to wait and see.
8.     Danny Hope, Purdue: (16-21, 43%, 3 years)- Snake bit with injuries throughout his tenure. Posted his first winning season last year with bowl victory over MAC opponent Western Michigan. This year’s team is reported to be his best yet and he’s got depth at QB so we’ll see what he’s got.
9.     Kevin Wilson, Indiana: (1-11, 8%, 1 year)- First year as a head coach is all that’s available to evaluate. Not fair to criticize at this point but with last year’s results have to list him at the bottom. 
FURTHER REVIEW 
RETURNING STARTERS-DOES IT MATTER?
When trying to evaluate a team’s prospects for the upcoming season, one of the first things most people look at is the number of returning starters. How much it matters is subjective. Trying to quantify how much it matters is next to impossible. Simply comparing results doesn’t tell us much as there are too many other factors involved. I did find it interesting, however, that last season the three teams that improved their record from the prior season returned the most starters.
 
% GAIN/LOSS REFLECTS THE DIFFERENCE IN WINNING PERCENTAGE FROM 2010 TO 2011
 
OVERALL
RETURNING STARTERS
 % GAIN/LOSS
MICHIGAN
17
+ 31%
PURDUE
16
+ 21%
PENN ST
15
+ 15%
NORTHWESTERN
15
-8%
MINNESOTA
14
0%
ILLINOIS
13
0%
NEBRASKA
12
-2%
MICHIGAN ST
12
-6%
INDIANA
12
-33%
WISCONSIN
11
-6%
OHIO ST
11
-46%
IOWA
10
-13%
CONFERENCE
RETURNING STARTERS
 % GAIN/LOSS
MICHIGAN
17
+ 38%
PURDUE
16
+ 25%
PENN ST
15
+ 25%
NORTHWESTERN
15
0%
MINNESOTA
14
0%
ILLINOIS
13
-25%
NEBRASKA
12
-10%
MICHIGAN ST
12
-13%
INDIANA
12
-13%
WISCONSIN
11
-10%
OHIO ST
11
-50%
IOWA
10
0%
 
2012
RETURNING STARTERS
INDIANA
16
OHIO ST
16
NEBRASKA
14
PURDUE
14
ILLINOIS
13
MICHIGAN
13
MICHIGAN ST
12
MINNESOTA
10
NORTHWESTERN
10
WISCONSIN
10
IOWA
8
PENN ST
6
*
* SUBJECT TO CHANGE
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

 
 
 
  

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