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, November 6, 2012


WHAT HAPPENED
 
It was tough to keep up last Saturday as four of the five conference games plus Notre Dame were scheduled for 2:30. I don’t have ESPNU, so the Penn St-Purdue game was not an option. Nebraska remains in the driver’s seat of the Legends Division with a big win over Michigan St. And although the division title is out of reach, Indiana, of all teams, has a shot at representing the Leaders Division in the Big Ten championship game.
Michigan 35  Minnesota 13
Fool me once, shame on you. The last time I fell for all of this “Minnesota is for real” talk the Gophers went into Kinnick and got trounced by Iowa. No one really expected Minnesota to win, but many thought this game would be closer. I knew better as I predicted a 38 to 17 Wolverine victory. Minnesota has improved considerably since the Iowa game, but the bottom line is that the Gophers are better than only two teams (Indiana and Illinois) in this conference. They are capable, however, as is any other team in the conference, of beating a team that’s willing to quit (Purdue). Michigan starting QB Denard Robinson sat this game out with an elbow injury and was replaced with former QB turned wide receiver Devin Gardner. Considering he only had one week to prepare, Gardner actually threw the ball quite well, essentially pointing out that it’s not Robinson’s elbow that Michigan needs on the field.
Ohio St 52  Illinois 22
No surprises here as most everyone predicted an Ohio St blowout. My 45 to 13 score was fairly close. Buckeyes QB Braxton Miller has improved as a passer throughout the season and threw some nice balls in this game. Ohio St heads into a bye week with only two teams remaining between the Buckeyes and an undefeated season. The Illini are still looking for their first conference win. Not too sure they’ll find it, but outside of the Indiana game, their best opportunity of the season comes up in the next two games.
Penn St 34  Purdue 9
The “U” (ESPNU) got me again so I was unable to watch this game. I predicted a 35 to 14 Penn St victory so apparently the game went as I anticipated. I was surprised that many predicted this game to be closer. Usually when my predicted margin of victory is that much different than the point spread (3.5) it means that there’s something I don’t know about. But no surprises here, in fact this one was easy. Penn St is a good team and Purdue’s about done for the season. The Boilermakers are one of those teams I referred to in the opening paragraph of last week’s post (10-30). It will be hard to tell what they’re going to bring to a game. Once a team sinks to the bottom it tends to regroup for one last run. The Boilermakers have three winnable games left, so who knows?
Indiana 24  Iowa 21
Not as much scoring in this game as I figured with my overtime prediction at 31. Indiana came back from a 14 point first quarter deficit to keep them in the race to represent the Leaders division in the conference championship game. I don’t think they’ll make it, but it is mathematically possible.
Nebraska 28  Michigan St 24
More offense in this game than I anticipated with my overtime prediction at 17. There were several questionable pass interference calls in all of the games I was watching throughout the day, but none more significant than the one called against the Spartans during Nebraska’s game winning drive. Without the call, Nebraska is forced to attempt a game tying field goal with less than a minute to go. Instead the ball is placed on the 5 yard line and Nebraska scores the winning touchdown. Michigan St also had a touchdown nullified earlier in the game by a personal foul during an interception return. Another tough one for the Spartans-- their four conference losses have come by less than five points. 

 

CRYSTAL BALL
 
WEEK OF 11-10-2012 

MINNESOTA
31
ILLINOIS
21
WISCONSIN
31
INDIANA
21
IOWA
23
PURDUE
14
MICHIGAN
27
NORTHWESTERN
19
PENN ST
27
NEBRASKA
24
NOTRE DAME
34
BOSTON COLLEGE
10

 

I STAND ALONE
 
RULES ARE MADE TO BE ADJUSTED
Here’s how the Associated Press opened their article covering the Nebraska-Michigan St game.

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Taylor Martinez lofted a pass up the right sideline toward Kenny Bell. Darqueze Dennard was back in coverage, the ball fell incomplete -- and a flag was thrown for pass interference.

"The only thing I can tell you is he was holding my left arm down," Bell said. "Was I expecting a flag? No, just because we don't get too many flags that often. I mean, Big Ten is tough on the perimeter as far as how physical it gets, and they're pretty lenient, so no, I wasn't expecting it."

Neither was I. Replays showed that there was no reason to expect it. This play occurred on third and ten from the Michigan St twenty with Nebraska trailing 24 to 21 with less than a minute to play. The ball was spotted on the five and the Cornhuskers scored the game winning touchdown with six seconds left. The Spartans also had a 96 yard interception return called back for an apparent personal foul 25 yards away from the ball. They were also flagged for a “shoulder to shoulder high hit” during the game. When did high hit become a penalty?
With the addition of more rules aimed at player safety, the game has been placed in the hands of the officials more now than ever before. The problem is that most of these penalties are judgment calls that can have a significant impact on the outcome of the game. Too often these type of penalties go uncalled throughout the game yet tend to get noticed by the officials on crucial third or fourth down plays, thus bailing the offense out and extending the drive. I would like to see some of these penalties adjusted in order to take some of the judgment out of the call. The following are some game changing penalties that carry automatic first downs, followed by my “From the Couch” adjustment.
Pass interference-
The rule is being called too tight. Despite efforts to try to curtail it, football is still a contact sport. The cornerback is expected to come up in run support and take on 250 lb fullbacks and on the next play try to make sure he doesn’t graze against a wide receivers shirtsleeve during a pass.
Adjustment: The defender should be allowed to make contact with his body (no hands) while the ball is in the air if he is between the quarterback and the receiver. This will require the quarterback to throw a good pass. Too many times we see the quarterback underthrow the ball yet still be rewarded as the receiver stops and the defender’s momentum runs him into the receiver. This will also hinder the “fade” pattern that is often used near the goal line- the receiver will have to get open as opposed to just being tall.
The out of bounds hit-
The defender runs all the way across the field and hits the ball carrier as he heads toward the sideline and is flagged, especially if the ball carrier is a quarterback.
Adjustment: A one to two yard zone marked on the out of bounds side of the sideline that is considered fair game for contact. This leaves no doubt in the defender’s mind as to the runner’s intention of getting out of bounds and takes the judgment out of the official’s hands.
Facemask-
Most of the time the facemask is grabbed unintentionally. It’s an old rule and actually a good one. Obviously it’s unsafe to have defenders yanking on the facemask.
Adjustment: Make the facemask less of a handle. I don’t know if they impair vision in the rain, but I notice some players wear a shield over their eyes (between the top of the facemask to the top of the helmet). I’m also seeing facemasks that are larger and have a tighter grill pattern. I think both types would be less likely to be grabbed by a defender. In other words, a new design that doesn’t fit the hand so easily.
High hit-
Seriously, I missed this one. I don’t know when it became a rule, but I’m seeing it called often. It’s not the same as helmet to helmet, so apparently the “strike zone” for making a tackle has shrunk even further (eventually paint a small “bulls- eye” between the numbers?). What the rule has become, unfortunately, is a penalty for good old fashioned football. Any type of block or tackle that “lights up” the other player draws a flag. You know, the type of hit that used to make highlight reels, the type of hit that many fans watch football for.
Adjustment: Get rid of the rule.
Helmet to Helmet-
I understand the intention, but it’s not realistic to expect a tackler to never make contact with a ball carrier’s helmet. And everyone knows it. It’s just that no one wants to face the solution.
Adjustment: The game has gotten too physical. Players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before. Retired NFL players are finding that the physicality of the game has had some serious effects on their bodies. Kids are getting paralyzed. Our love of the game of football and what we think it should be keeps us from admitting the obvious. Someone has to step up and say “the emperor has no clothes”- it’s time to stop playing tackle. It seems absurd now, but eventually, probably many decades from now, this will become a reality. The new rules are already taking us in that direction.
In the meantime, unless we’re willing to accept the dangers that come with the sport and have players sign a waiver, this rule will probably need to stay in place.
 
 

ATS 

My Crystal Ball predictions for last Saturday were good as I went a perfect 5-0 in the “within 7” category. The spreads were as follows: Ohio St by 28, Indiana by 3, Michigan by 11, Nebraska by 1, Penn St by 3.5. If you click the “ATS” tab at the top of this page you will see that everyone was 50% or better in the “spread” category, with Cardinal and Horned Frog going a perfect 4-0. Indiana’s 3 point win matched the spread and is considered a “push”. I was 2-0 in the all-important “play” category and now sit at the top of the season standings as the only one with a winning record. My winners were Michigan and Penn St. Horned Frog and Cardinal both went 1-0 with Penn St as their winner. Hawkeye “pushed” with Indiana as his only selection. Boilermaker was 1-1 with Ohio St his winner, Minnesota his loser. Chad Godfrey (@isportsweb.com) was 1-2 with Ohio St his winner, Minnesota and Michigan St his losers. And surprise, surprise, Wildcat did not have a qualifying selection. There were a few “ties” this week in the “closest” category which is why some show less than a total of five games. 

 

KIS RANKINGS 

Alabama has replaced Notre Dame at the top of this week’s rankings (see the tab at the top of this page) by virtue of their road win over 6-2 LSU. The margin is slim with Alabama having traveled more than the Irish while Notre Dame has played a slightly tougher schedule. Oregon’s road win over 6-3 USC moved the Ducks into the third spot, slightly ahead of Kansas St. LSU and Texas Tech dropped out of the top ten as both lost, and were replaced by Texas A&M and Clemson. 


 

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