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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


The Big Ten took a hit last Saturday as three favorites (-Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska) were knocked off and the Pac-12 completed a three game sweep of Big Ten opponents. I had access to all but two Big Ten games as the conference went 6-6. It’s difficult to keep up with all of the teams during the non-conference portion of the season as there are twice as many games to watch. I also try to keep an eye on Notre Dame and the teams on their upcoming schedule. Many of the games are going on at once (last Saturday- 3 morning, 5 afternoon, 2 evening and 1 night game) so some games get more attention than others. Still fun, though, and I try to catch at least a portion of every game that’s available.
Northwestern turned in another solid win with a 23 to 13 defeat of Vanderbilt. Backup QB and last week’s hero Trevor Siemian shared time with starter Kain Colter and again performed well. Colter was the hero this week with a game clinching 29 yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. I like HC Pat Fitzgerald’s handling of the QB position as Colter is obviously the number one, as he should be, yet he’s keeping his backup “game” ready as Siemian is the better passer. So far Northwestern’s defense is tackling much better than in past seasons and apparently Vanderbilt didn’t see game film of the Wildcat’s opener against Syracuse as they rarely attempted to throw the ball deep.
Purdue looked better than I expected in their first real test of the season as they went toe-to-toe with Notre Dame in a 20 to 17 loss. They were victims of a Trevor Siemian-like game winning drive as Notre Dame QB Tommy Reese came off of the bench to lead the Irish to a 27 yard FG. The Boilers defensive line looks impressive and Caleb Terbush and Robert Marve managed the offense adequately as they shared the QB duties. It’s still early in the season and I might be overrating Notre Dame, but right now Purdue looks like a legitimate Leaders Division contender.
Minnesota rolled over FCS opponent New Hampshire 44 to 7. Any win is a good win for the Gopher’s program at this point but this was not a strong opponent. QB Marquis Gray was obviously the best athlete on the field and dominated this game. Take him out of the picture and I’m not saying Minnesota would have lost, but the game would have been more competitive. Will have to see how the Gophers do against more FBS competition before I extend any accolades.
Penn St fell to 0-2 as they lost 17 to 16 to Virginia. This was a heart breaking game to watch as the Lions couldn’t get a break despite putting forth a maximum effort. The defense was swarming, the O-line looked good and QB Matt McGloin is playing like he’s on a mission. A couple of key dropped passes, four missed field goals and a missed xp doomed the Lions to defeat. Eight players transferred out of the program due to the scandal. The Lions were one or two of those players away from winning this game. Will have to see if they can keep up the intensity level without yet being rewarded, but if they can they will do much better than I projected in the preseason.
Ohio St faced a tougher challenge than they did last week and came out on top 31 to 16 over UCF. Braxton Miller is making a believer out of me as he managed the game well and put up close to 300 yards of total offense. He still struggles with the longer passes but right now that’s his only weakness and the OSU coaching staff is smart enough to recognize it as they don’t call for many long balls. You can see that Urban Meyer and his staff have this team going in the right direction. Play calling is spot on and the pace of the offense is brutal for opposing defenses. RB Carlos Hyde left with a knee injury in the first half leaving the Buckeyes thin at the position. The pass coverage can be weak at times but after two weeks Ohio St has shown the most progression among Big Ten teams.
I wasn’t able to put much focus on Iowa’s 9 to 6 loss to Iowa St as there were five games going on at once ( stayed mainly with Purdue and Michigan). A revamped coaching staff and only eight returning starters suggested a tough season for the Hawkeyes. QB James Vandenberg underperforming only makes things worse.
Michigan’s 31 to 25 win over Air Force was closer than I expected but I never got the feeling the Wolves were going to lose the game even when Air Force had the ball late in the game down by less than a touchdown. Despite a history of neglecting to do so the Michigan coaching staff finally called some designed running plays for QB Denard Robinson that yielded some not so surprising results-two long touchdown runs and over 200 yards rushing. Air Force’s option attack usually presents challenges for most teams they play so I’m going to withhold any harsh criticism for Michigan’s defense but so far there appears to a be a significant drop off from last season.
Taylor Martinez and Nebraska enjoyed six consecutive quarters of excellent offense this season until the wheels came off in the second half of a 36 to 30 loss to UCLA. The meltdown combined with, well, awful defense, spoiled Nebraska’s hopes of remaining undefeated. Martinez picked up where he left off last week as he looked like an all-conference candidate in the first half. But once the Husker’s offense faced some adversity Martinez and the Nebraska coaching staff wilted badly. Both are going to have to do better in the future if they want to keep Husker nation satisfied. The offense’s performance and a weaker opponent masked the Husker’s defensive shortcomings last week. They were in full view this week as UCLA racked up over 600 yards of total offense. The defense did play better in the second half but that was countered by the offensive breakdown.
Wisconsin’s 10 to 7 loss to Oregon St was one of five games televised at once so I did not give this game as much attention as I would have liked, mainly because I didn’t expect what happened to happen. A lot is being said about Russell Wilson’s departure as the reason for this season’s struggles, but from what I have been able to see of the Badgers it appears that the offensive line is the big difference. They seem as big as usual but obviously not nearly as effective. The turnover in assistant coaches this season probably has a lot to do with that. (Apparently so-I wrote this before the news broke of offensive line coach Mike Markuson’s firing). It might be an unfair thing to say at this point but, like many others, I’ve always thought RB Montee Ball’s big numbers last season had as much to do with the Badger’s O-line as it did with Ball’s abilities. Looks like he’ll have to work harder to earn his yards this season.
Arizona St completed the Pac-12’s sweep of the Big Ten with a 45 to 14 shellacking of Illinois. Although I did not see last week’s Illinois game I expected the offense to struggle even if QB Nathan Scheelhaase had played (which he didn’t), but I did not expect the defense to be picked apart the way it was Saturday night. This game was over by halftime as the Illini were down by three touchdowns and the offense was as bad as advertised. These two teams entered the season under very similar circumstances; both teams picked to finish in the middle to lower part of their conference, a new coach after last season began with a fast start and high hopes only to fall apart in the stretch, and with Scheelhaase injured both teams were playing without last year’s starting QB. The difference was supposed to be the Illini’s seven starters returning from last season’s defense that shut down ASU’s now NFL QB Brock Osweiler. There won’t be much for the Illini to cling to this season if their calling card is not going to be the defense.
 I don’t have ESPNU so I was unable to see Michigan St’s 41 to 7 win over Central Michigan.  Good news is if I had to pick a Big Ten game to miss, this would be one of the top choices.
 Indiana’s 45 to 6 win over UMass was not televised. Losing QB Tre Roberson for the season is a huge blow to Indiana’s prospects. Too bad too because he was off to a great start. 

-Even if Michigan didn’t call any designed runs for QB Denard Robinson (which they did) he would have at least one long TD run and a big day rushing. Air Force’s defense (scrappy-yes, big and physical-no) presented too much of a stat-padding opportunity for him to pass up. Can’t say as I blame him but he’s not as eager to take off from the pocket against the Alabama’s and Michigan St’s of the world. 

-The Illini defense not even close to stopping Arizona St
-Wisconsin only putting up 7 points against an Oregon St team that’s picked to finish last in the Pac-12
- QB Matt McGloin taking command of an undermanned Penn St offense. Only been 2 games so the jury’s still out but right now he’s playing as well if not better than any other QB in the conference. 



WEEK OF 9-15-2012


You may have noticed the tab at the top of this page labeled “KIS RANKINGS”. KIS stands for Keep It Simple. Like most fans I have a problem with the BCS ranking system. Unlike most fans my objection is directed more to the polls than to the computer portion of the rankings. There’s no place for voting when it comes to determining a National Champion. There are several examples of how wrong even the most knowledgeable analysts can be when ranking a team based on the “eye test”.  Yes, the BCS system will come to an end in 2014 but the problem has not been solved. The four qualifying teams for the new format will be determined by a selection committee which amounts to nothing more than a glorified version of the polling system that is currently being used. Human voting systems are infected with assumptions, opinions and biases. Leave the voting in politics, football uses scoreboards. You know, black or white, yes or no, win or lose. No grey area. He either crossed the goal line or he didn’t. If he did, six points. If he didn’t, big zero. Doesn’t matter how many yards were gained in between the goal lines. Doesn’t matter who “looked” better. All that matters is who has the most points at the end of the game. If we’re going to vote for our champion then why keep score on the field? Why not just take the scoreboards down, let the two teams play for an hour or so and pass out the ballots?
College football needs a scoreboard off of the field to determine a champion. What’s needed is a point system.  A system that involves categories that coaches and athletic directors can agree on and understand. A system that most fans can understand without having a degree in mathematics. The KIS rankings is a place to start. It may not be a finished product and will probably need to be adjusted, but it does have the only two components needed; winning percentage and strength of schedule. I don’t have the computer skills or the time to track all of the teams in the country so I’ve selected about 40 of the top preseason teams to use for the rankings. In future posts I will try to maintain the rankings and further explain the KIS system.



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