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, October 16, 2012


WHAT HAPPENED

The Big Ten conference season has come to a point where every weekend one or two teams are stripped of any reasonable title hopes. Indiana and Illinois were last Saturday’s casualties, although both teams, along with Minnesota, probably entered the season with lower and more realistic goals. Never would have guessed that Purdue and Michigan St, rather than Iowa and Penn St, would be hanging by a thread this early in the race.
Wisconsin 38  Purdue 14
I’m trying to be conscious of the fact that in college football what happened last week isn’t necessarily what will happen this week. While the most recent outing is usually the strongest barometer, I still didn’t want to overreact to Purdue’s poor performance against Michigan and Wisconsin’s solid performance against a weak Illinois team. Therefore I predicted Purdue would win this game 20 to 10 in light of Wisconsin’s season long struggles on the O-line and Purdue’s highly touted D-line. Turns out Purdue’s performance against Michigan was no aberration. The difference in this game can be summed up with one word; coaching. Both from a game-planning standpoint and from a “season progress” standpoint. Wisconsin was one step ahead of everything Purdue tried while the Boilermakers had no answer for anything Wisconsin did. Gotta hand it to Badgers HC Brett Bielema as his O-line is showing significant improvement after he made the tough decision to replace the position coach during the season. Purdue on the other hand, is falling way short of preseason expectations. For a while there, with Wisconsin’s slow start, it appeared as though the Boilermakers would be playing in the Big Ten championship game. Now it looks as though they’ll struggle finish above 500.
Northwestern 21  Minnesota 13
This game was moving along like I figured as I predicted 38 to 26 Northwestern win, until suddenly, a defensive struggle broke out. All but three of the game’s points were scored in the first half as Northwestern had to come up with a stop deep in their own territory to seal the win. Minnesota QB Marquis Gray returned to action after missing the previous two games due to injury. He made his initial appearance as a wideout, and then moved to QB only after backup QB Max Shortell came out with an injured hand. Gray was injured in the third quarter and Shortell returned as QB, so at this point it’s hard to tell but it looks as though Minnesota may be planning to use Gray in a way similar to what Northwestern is doing with Kain Colter. I think it’s a good idea for both teams as their backup QB’s are too talented to leave off of the field for the whole game, particularly when they are capable of getting the ball to their “dual threat” starting QB’s in space. The reports that I’ve read so far indicate that Gray will be ready to go next week.Gopher HC Jerry Kill suffered another one of his seizures after the game. All reports indicate that he’s fine and that this is something he’s learned to live with.But man, that’s got to be a huge distraction. I feel bad for the guy and hope that somehow he finds a way to get this stopped.
 Iowa 19  Michigan St 16  OT
Like most analysts, I predicted Michigan St would win this game. I’m not completely surprised, however, that they didn’t. I knew it would be close as I predicted a 23 to 17 outcome. A few weeks ago I would have figured Michigan St to win easily but Iowa seems to have found itself after the Central Michigan loss while the Spartans remain stagnant on offense and at times appear to be uninspired.
Michigan 45  Illinois 0
I expected Michigan to be flat as this was a definitive “sandwich” game on their schedule. I also figured Illinois to be slightly improved offensively with a healthy starting QB Nathan Scheelhaase at the helm. Therefore, I predicted a tighter margin of victory for the Wolverines with a 30 to 14 score. Well, Scheelhaase left early in the game with an injury and Michigan might well have been flat, who can tell? Illinois is just that bad.
Ohio St 52  Indiana 49
I had this game pretty well pegged with my 49 to 27 Ohio St prediction. I figured the Buckeyes to be looking past Indiana and with the Hoosiers starting to click on offense, coupled with Ohio St’s struggling pass defense, a score somewhat less than a “blowout “ seemed appropriate even though the teams are at opposite ends of the conference spectrum. I was pretty much right on the money as the score was 52 to 34 with less than two minutes left in the game. Then Indiana scored a couple of “who cares” garbage touchdowns aided by some mercy calls from the officials, an onside kick, and an Ohio St defense that understood the game was over and was just ready to go home. I did notice that Buckeyes HC Urban Meyer abandoned last week’s “take no prisoners” approach and instructed QB Braxton Miller to take a knee and run out the clock at the end of the game. Apparently the “take no prisoners” strategy is reserved for when his opponent is completely humiliated.
 

DIDN’T SEE IT COMING
-Wisconsin’s O-line would finally play up to Badger standards. Analysts have been predicting it each week of the season, but in the Purdue game it actually occurred. 

 

CRYSTAL BALL
 
WEEK OF 10-20-2012 

PENN ST
20
IOWA
13
MICHIGAN
20
MICHIGAN ST
10
WISCONSIN
38
MINNESOTA
20
NORTHWESTERN
37
NEBRASKA
35
OHIO ST
49
PURDUE
30
NOTRE DAME
20
BYU
10

 

 ATS 

My Crystal Ball predictions for last Saturday were below par as I didn’t come in above 50% in any category. The spreads were as follows: Wisconsin by 1, Northwestern by 3.5, Michigan St by 7.5, Michigan by 24.5, Ohio St by 18. If you click the “ATS” tab at the top of this page you will see that Boilermaker and Wolverine did well in the “spread” and “closest” categories as they both went 4-1. I took a hit in the all-important “play” category as I went 1-2, winning with Northwestern, and losing with Illinois and Purdue. There weren’t many “plays” this week so Wolverine did the best with his lone Indiana selection. Boilermaker split with Wisconsin as his winner, Ohio St his loser. Hawkeye lost one game with Ohio St. Wildcat, Horned Frog and Cardinal did not have a qualifying selection for the “play” category. Michigan St. and Iowa’s end of regulation score of 13 to 13 was used for the "closest" and “within 7” category but the 19 to 16 final was used for the other two categories. Despite the poor week I’m still holding my ground against the competition as I am no lower than third in any of the season total categories. Still no one here worth taking to Vegas with you as no one is above 50% in the “play” category. If you wanted to “roll the dice” and force things, Wolverine and Cardinal would be worthy companions as they both are ahead in the “spread record” category. 

 

 KIS RANKINGS 

The KIS rankings are now loaded with enough weeks of play to begin dissecting the components of the system. As I detailed in my 9-11 and 9-18 posts, the objectives of this system are to keep it simple (KIS), and to eliminate any human assumptions and opinions (no voting).
This week’s rankings (see the tab at the top of this page) have Oregon St moving to the top for the second time this season with a slight edge over Notre Dame due in large part to the Beavers having played three of their five games on the road. A higher OPP% is what gives them the edge over Florida. This system has a nice way of keeping a fan interested in the results of games involving opponents on his/her favorite team’s schedule as it plays a part in determining the team’s ranking.
The thing that stands out this week is Iowa St’s sixth place (tied with K-State and Texas Tech) ranking despite having two losses. This is due to the Cyclones opponents winning 90% of their games. This is actually quite an amazing figure at this point in the season. Not counting games against Iowa St, the Cyclones opponents are a combined 19-2 (FBS games are not included in any of these records). The question becomes, is it justifiable to rank a two-loss team over an undefeated team like, say Ohio St. One point might be that OPP% should not be given the same value as Win%. I considered diluting the value of the OPP%, but this naturally happens over the course of the season as more games are played. 45 to 70 percent is usually the range. Iowa St’s current figure is exceptional.
So let’s compare resumes. First of all, I want to reestablish the “assumptions and opinions don’t matter” criteria. You may believe that Ohio St is a better team, but you don’t know that. It’s not fair to Iowa St for that assumption to be made. Iowa St has beaten an otherwise undefeated Tulsa team at home and an otherwise undefeated TCU team AT their place. They also went into Kinnick Stadium and beat Iowa. Their two losses have come against an undefeated and highly ranked Kansas St team, and a one loss Texas Tech team that just beat an undefeated West Virginia team. Ohio St, on the other hand, played their whole non-conference schedule at home which included 0-5 UAB and 2-4 Miami(OH) and California. Their strongest victories are against a floundering Michigan St team and a home game against a 3-2 Nebraska team. Throw in a victory against 1-4 Indiana and what have you got here that says the Buckeyes should be ranked any higher than Iowa St. The undefeated record would be a strong case, but who’s to say how the Buckeyes would have fared against Iowa St’s schedule?
 

 

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