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 25, 2012


The Big Ten went 7-3 on the final Saturday of the non-conference portion of the season. When I looked at the television schedule I thought I’d be struggling to stay interested in the morning games as they appeared to be easy Big Ten victories. No such thing this season, though, as all three games were competitive.
Iowa dropped to 2-2 as they lost on a last second field goal to Central Michigan 32 to 31. A poor defensive effort wiped out a 217 yard rushing performance by RB Mark Weisman. The Hawkeyes appeared to have escaped with a victory as they stopped Central Michigan’s 2 point conversion attempt with less than a minute in the game. But they somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with a couple of well, bonehead plays. One of the front men on Iowa’s “hands team” actually stepped aside as Central Michigan’s on side kick rolled past him. Central Michigan recovered and a couple of plays later the Hawkeyes got drawn into a scuffle and committed a dead ball foul which set up the game winning field goal.
I wasn’t surprised that Ohio St came out flat in their 29 to 15 win over UAB. Still I didn’t expect UAB to be within a touchdown of the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter. It was obvious the Ohio St coaching staff wanted to try to find some offense that didn’t rely so much on star QB Braxton Miller. Mission not accomplished. Whenever the game got tight the Buckeyes turned to Miller who promptly bailed them out, and made it look easy in the process.
Wisconsin struggled to hold off UTEP in a 37 to 26 victory at Madison. The Badgers built a comfortable lead at the half but found themselves up by less than a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. QB Joel Stave played a solid game in his first start for Wisconsin. The Badger defense and O-line struggled at times, however. Star RB Montee Ball left the game early with a head injury.
Penn St climbed to 2-2 for the season with a 24 to 13 win over Temple. The Nittany Lions are far from excellent as they still drop passes and make some fundamental mistakes, but they have shown the most improvement from week 1 among the Big Ten teams. Another solid performance from QB Matt McGloin.  As I’ve said in previous posts, McGloin has become one of the better quarterbacks in this conference.
Michigan St trailed until the end of the third quarter in their 23 to 7 victory over winless Eastern Michigan. I expected the Spartans to have a “letdown” game in this spot as they were coming off of a big game last week against Notre Dame and heading into another big game this Saturday against Ohio St. But still, this is Eastern Michigan. I’ll give them the mulligan but have to reconsider the notion that the Spartans are the best team in the Big Ten right now.
Michigan lost at Notre Dame 13 to 6 in this week’s marquee matchup. The Wolves played better than I expected-well enough to win, actually- but committed 6 turnovers. HC Brady Hoke finally called some running plays for QB Denard Robinson but this year’s improved Notre Dame defense didn’t allow any breakaway touchdowns. It was Robinson’s four interceptions and a fumble that doomed Michigan to defeat. This was Michigan’s best defensive effort of the season and the O-line, for the most part, did a decent job against a good Irish front seven.
Minnesota extended its perfect season with a 17 to 10 win over Syracuse.
Although Syracuse isn’t a great team and they played poorly, I’m starting to become a believer in the Gophers. This was the Gopher’s best defensive effort of the season and QB Max Shortell looks to be the real deal as he threw with accuracy for the second week in a row. As valuable as injured starting QB Marquis Gray is to the Gophers, it will be difficult to take Shortell off of the field when Gray returns.
Illinois turned in a disappointing 52 to 24 loss to Louisiana Tech. The much anticipated return of starting QB Nathan Scheelhaase flopped as he wasn’t quite 100 percent and was pulled in the first quarter. The Illinois defense, which was supposed to be the strength of this team, gave up four touchdown passes.
I didn’t watch any of Nebraska’s 73 to 7 victory over Idaho St.
I didn’t watch any of Northwestern’s 38 to 7 win over South Dakota, either. I’m glad that’s the last of this season’s FCS games. I think they’re a waste of time. Maybe it’s a chance for a team to tune-up but also the risk of a black eye if your team comes out flat (most teams will) and loses.

- OK, last time in this section. Michigan QB Denard Robinson struggles as a pocket passer. 

- Michigan’s defense holding Notre Dame to 13 points.
- Minnesota’s defense holding Syracuse, or any FBS team, to 10 points.



WEEK OF 9-29-2012



Among the many interview questions the sports media asks, the “what does it mean” question annoys me for some reason. About 75% of the time the answer starts with “it means a lot” and finishes with groping for cliché’s that might pass as an answer to such an empty question. Many reporters use it but I’ve noticed that BTN’s Dave Revsine (who I like) is particularly fond of the phrase. Just once I’d like to see the respondent answer as though he’s taking the question literally as in: “What does it mean to win the Leader’s division?” “Well Dave, it means we won more games than the other teams in our division. Don’t you know nothin’?”

On Friday evenings I like to google “big ten football week x predictions", x being the upcoming week of play (we are currently approaching week 5). There are a handful of reporters/ bloggers/ analysts,-whatever you want to call them, that offer predicted scores for all Big Ten games. Most of them are batting about 75% for the season. I haven’t predicted as many games but I’m at about 75 % as well.
75% SU, particularly in the preseason, is about average for an avid college football fan. I think that a more challenging and entertaining barometer to determine football forecasting skills would be to compare predictions ATS. Thus I’ve inserted a tab at the top of my posts labeled “ATS”.  On this page I’ll display the (Big Ten conference games only) ATS results of my from the couch predictions that are listed under the CRYSTAL BALL section in each post. The results are broken down into the following categories:
SPREAD RECORD-Simply displays how I did ATS
CLOSEST - It’s possible to be on the correct side of the spread yet not be as accurate. EX: If I predict Michigan by 12, the spread is 6, and Michigan wins by 7, I get a win in the spread record category. I get a loss in the closest category because the spread (7-6=1) was closer than my prediction (12-7=5).
PLAYS- I’m not promoting any type of illegal activity here but if you happened to be in a Las Vegas sports bar you might want to reconsider making a “play” on a game where your number varies from the spread by only a few points. I think a seven point or more differential should instill a reasonable amount of confidence. This category tracks such instances.
WITHIN 7-This category tracks how many times my number was within seven points of the final score differential. Why does this matter? Because I can never get hurt in the play category if I’m within 7 points. 35 percent is about average in this category. Close to 50 percent is excellent.
For the sake of comparison, and at the risk of being humiliated by the aforementioned professionals I’ve found on line, I’ll list their results as well. I’m new to blogging so I don’t know protocol when referring to another site so I’m giving these gentlemen nicknames rather than using their actual names.
My method, by the way, is to make my predictions on Sunday, before I look at the spreads, to keep from being influenced subconsciously. Therefore I make one disclaimer: If a report comes out during the week (after Sunday) that there is an issue involving the starting quarterback (an injury I might not have known about) or the coach (health issues, scandal, etc.), I won’t count the game.
Occasionally I might predict a tie, which is the equivalent of a “pick em”. Any games that go into overtime will be calculated as a tie for the “closest” and “within 7” category. The actual score will be used, however, for the other two categories.

The KIS Rankings remain prone to large fluctuations as the numbers are still small.
 This week’s ranking dropped Iowa St from first place even though they didn’t play. This is the result of a lower OPP% number as Iowa’s loss tarnished the Cyclone’s perfect mark from last week. The KIS system rewards for playing teams with good records and punishes for playing teams with poor records. Since the OPP% holds as much weight as a team’s WIN%, it’s possible to not play or even win a game and lose ground in the total column. This occurred in Alabama’s dropping out of the top ten due in large part to playing a winless Florida Atlantic at home. The better teams will rise to the top during the season as the OPP% will usually fall to the 45 to 70% range. In fact, as it stands now only four of the teams I’m tracking (Arizona, Florida St., Stanford, and Missouri) remain perfect in this category. Even though they lost, Arizona didn’t drop far as they added an undefeated Oregon to their list of opponents while their two other opponents this season, Tulsa and Oklahoma St. remain undefeated (remember, the games played against Arizona do not count when calculating Arizona’s OPP %). Oregon has yet to leave home and right now that and a weaker OPP% is what keeps them behind Arizona, even though they just beat the Wildcats. Thumped ‘em pretty good in fact. But the KIS system doesn’t care about margin of victory which is a debatable issue. I’ll cover my position on that in a later post.



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