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, September 5, 2012


I was able to watch all but four games last weekend as the Big Ten went 10-2 in the opening week of the season. Overall I thought the conference performed short of expectations despite the won-loss record. It’s not unusual though, for teams to struggle in the first week of the season as coaches learn about their team’s strength and weaknesses and players adjust to game speed.
Northwestern started slow and then took control opening up a 35 to 13 lead midway through the third quarter. At this point the ‘cats defense was playing better than I expected as they weren’t missing many tackles like in past years. Then Syracuse started throwing deep and discovered that Northwestern’s secondary couldn’t cover a turtle. The ‘cuse connected on four straight touchdown passes, all unanswered as Northwestern QB Kain Colter got roughed up. Colter’s backup, Trevor Siemian, turned in a clutch game winning drive to seal a 42 to 41 win. The secondary play is a huge problem for Northwestern. The Syracuse receivers got so far behind Northwestern defenders that it didn’t matter that many of the passes were thrown so high and short that they could have signaled for a fair catch.
Don’t let the score of Ohio St.’s 56 to 10 win over Miami, OH fool you. Miami OH either isn’t very good or they played poorly. Several times Miami OH receivers torched the Buckeye defense only to drop the pass. Braxton Miller fans will point to this game as validation for the preseason hype he’s been getting but the fact is this that was a slow and poor defense. Most of his passes downfield were off target although his receivers did bail him out on a couple of occasions. The Buckeyes will be in trouble if they find themselves needing to throw the ball.
Penn St.’s 24 to 14 loss to Ohio is a sign of things to come. QB Matt McGloin actually played one of his better games. Looks like the Lion’s game plan will be to put the game in his hands as they called 48 pass plays. The defense, which otherwise wasn’t bad, was victimized by an unlucky deflection that turned into a momentum building Ohio TD.
Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez silenced his critics for at least one game as the Huskers defeated Southern Miss 49 to 20. Despite reports of offseason efforts to correct it, his throwing motion did not appear to change; yet he threw for over 300 yards. The blackshirt defense looked a little under NU standards in the first half but it didn’t matter in this contest as the offense rolled. Star RB Rex Burkhead left early in the game with a sprained knee.
Wisconsin held on to a 26 to 21 victory over FCS opponent Northern Iowa. New QB Danny O’Brien looked good enough but overall the Badgers were not near as dominant as you might expect in this matchup. As I pointed out in a previous post Wisconsin will turn in an inflated record due to a weak non-conference schedule. This will count as a “W” but had they played against an FBS school . . . .
 Michigan was dominated in a 41 to 14 loss to Alabama. I guess I’ll be complaining about this all season but I just can’t understand why the Wolves coaching staff refuses to use Denard Robinson’s legs. Throwing the ball never has been and is still not his strength.  Didn’t matter much in this game as Michigan’s defense was no match for Bama’s offense. At one point I think the refs called an unnecessary roughness penalty on Bama for hitting Michigan too hard (if you watched the game you know the block I’m talking about-nothing illegal about it).
Purdue cruised to an easy 48 to 6 win over FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky. There were other games on at the time and this one did not draw my full attention. I saw enough to know that EK was the weakest team on my viewing schedule and realized that there wasn’t going to be much to learn about Purdue. Starting QB Caleb Terbush was suspended for undisclosed disciplinary reasons by HC Danny Hope. From what I did see his replacement Robert Marve looked sharp.
 Indiana held on to a 24 to 17 win over FCS opponent Indiana St. Tre Roberson played well but from the couch it appeared as though the Hoosiers were being outcoached as a lower division team gave them all they could handle.
 I was unable to see Illinois’ 24 to 7 win over Western Michigan but by all accounts the defense played well while the offense struggled, especially after QB Nathan Scheelhaase left the game with an ankle sprain in the third quarter.
I only saw the ending of Michigan St.’s 17 to 13 win over Boise St. By that time the Spartans were running out the clock by methodically pounding the ball between the tackles with RB Le’veon Bell getting all of the carries. Even though this is a high profile win for the Spartans, most reviews are mixed.
Minnesota’s 30 to 27 OT win over UNLV was not televised. I somehow expected it to be easier for the Gophers but a win on the road is a good start considering the lack of success in recent years.
I don’t have ESPNU so I was unable to see Iowa’s 19 to 18 win over Northern Illinois. 

-Michigan is not a top ten team, particularly if Hoke insists on (pick your verb here) - limiting, restricting, confining- Denard Robinson to be a pocket passer.
-Penn St. will struggle to find wins this season.
-Taylor Martinez is not as bad a passer as he’s made out to be.
-Wisconsin struggling to finish against an FCS opponent.
-I know it’s Navy, but Notre Dame looked good on defense. They may have a chance against the toughest schedule in the country. 


WEEK OF 9-8-2012 


When Pat Fitzgerald sent backup QB Trevor Siemian on the field for Northwestern’s last possession trailing by six points I thought it was a classic case of over coaching. Kain Colter was roughed up earlier in the half but appeared to be fine now. He did sit out a possession early in the quarter as Fitzgerald appeared to be searching for a spark from Siemian. The spark was not forthcoming though as the drive fizzled. Colter was back in on the next possession and ran the ball twice for short yardage. Then Siemian comes in on third down and throws an incomplete pass- 3 and out. It becomes apparent that the coaching staff sees Siemian as a better passer than Colter, but why thrust him into this situation with only one series of playing time under his belt?  Wouldn’t Colter, who led Northwestern to last year’s upset victory at Lincoln, who filled in quite well thank you for the oft injured Dan Persa, be the better choice at this moment? There obviously was no sideline reporter as the announcers were speculating on whether Colter was injured or he was just getting pulled. Alright Fitzgerald, you’re the coach, but you’re gonna have to answer for this one. Well we all know the result. Turns out the kid can throw and he’s got what all starting Northwestern QB’s have had in recent years-an uncanny ability to get ‘er done. This may be an anomaly but to step in and perform like that under the circumstances was remarkable. After taking a sack and facing second and sixteen, Siemian completed six of his next seven passes, the last of which was the game winner. I guess Fitzgerald and his staff have a little more knowledge about his players than what can be obtained from the couch. I later found out that Colter did injure his non-throwing shoulder which did, in fact, play a large part in the decision to insert Siemian. I like Colter a lot and consider him to be one of the top QB’s in the league- mainly because he fits the aforementioned NW QB mold- he finds a way to get it done. But man Siemian throws a nice ball. Nice enough to where you might want to get him on the field. Can’t take Colter off of the field though; he’s too valuable. He was the whole show in building Northwestern’s big lead which was as usual negated by the ‘Cats defense. His throwing game is certainly good enough too. But put Siemian’s arm on the field and use Colter in the all-purpose category he held while Persa was playing and you might increase the overall talent level. The drawback with Siemian, however, is that Northwestern’s offense has always relied on their QB to make plays with his legs and Siemian did not display any running ability or mobility. Fitzgerald has already made it clear that Colter is the starting QB. Makes sense. Would probably be difficult to make Colter see a change as anything other than a demotion-don’t want to bite the hand that feeds. And after all, it was only one drive. It’s just that it was the kind of drive that leaves you wanting more.



Your favorite team’s running back just lunged across the goal line, the referee’s arms go up and the announcer shouts “touchdown”. High fives all around, you get up to do your happy dance or whatever it is you do when celebrating your team’s success. But hold everything. The replay booth wants to take a look. As you wait for the ruling you watch various angles of the play and listen to the announcers debate on whether his knee touched before the ball crossed the goal line. In real time it looked like an obvious touchdown but you can see that the ball is just about at the goal line when his knee touched. Hard to say for sure. Is the camera angle true? Is that the tip of the football or another player’s shoe? The referee trots out to midfield and announces that the player is ruled down on the one inch line and you’ve wasted a good celebration. Have you noticed that this scene plays out way too often lately? Can’t celebrate a touchdown anymore. Gotta wait 5 minutes to analyze the centimeters that lie between the goal line and the ball the exact millisecond the runner’s knee touched. A few years back this was a touchdown and there wasn’t much debate about it. Before I go any further let me say that I like instant replay. I don’t mind waiting on it either. Nothing worse than a bad call altering the outcome of a good game. I just think we’re getting too nit-picky here. The view is usually obstructed and you wonder how reliable the camera angle is. “Indisputable visual evidence” is required to overturn a ruling but to this day I saw no such thing to support Keith Nichols’ game winning touchdown in the 2011 Michigan St.-Wisconsin game. I’m not saying he wasn’t in but I sure didn’t see that he was.
 I have the solution to this problem, and here’s where I stand alone: If a player can extend the ball across the goal line after his knee (and only his knee) touched the ground, it should be ruled a touchdown. I’m not talking about a player laying on the ground a yard short and reaching the ball across as an afterthought. I’m just saying if his momentum is moving forward and the length of his body takes the ball into the end-zone after his knee touches they should count it as six points and move on.


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