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 13, 2012


WHAT HAPPENED

Nebraska maintained their position at the top of the Legends Division last Saturday with a win over Penn St. The Huskers have played arguably the most difficult conference schedule to date and now must avoid a stumble against Minnesota or Iowa to claim the title. Wisconsin’s win over Indiana assures the Badgers a spot in the conference championship game by default, as Ohio St and Penn St are ineligible to represent the Leaders Division. Ohio St has a two game lead in the Leaders Division but it’s not over as the Buckeyes have two challenging games remaining on their schedule. The rest of the teams are now playing for either an outside shot at a title, a bowl game, or for pride.
Purdue 27  Iowa 24
Purdue came out on top in the “let’s get this season over with” bowl. I was on the wrong side of this one as I predicted a 23 to 14 Iowa victory. Purdue deserved to win this game as they played with more enthusiasm than Iowa. That’s not to say they played well (they did commit three turnovers), they just tried harder than the Hawkeyes. Apparently Iowa made a pre-game decision to not use their arms when tackling. Purdue ball carriers were not impressed with the “knockout” shoulder blows the Hawkeyes were trying to deliver and continually picked up extra yards after contact. Iowa came back from a ten point deficit late in the third quarter thanks to a Purdue fumble on their own nine yard line which Hawkeye DB Micah Hyde returned for a touchdown.  Iowa kicked a field goal early in the fourth quarter to tie the game and had the ball at the Purdue 35 yard line, fourth and three, with 21 seconds left. Hawkeyes QB James Vandenberg rose to the occasion and completed a pass……for a one yard gain. Uh James, you need three yards for the first down, kid. Purdue drove the ball 37 yards in two plays to set up the winning field goal.
Wisconsin 62  Indiana 14
Typical Wisconsin-Indiana game. I predicted Wisconsin to win, 31 to 21. I knew Wisconsin would be in control of this game (did anyone really think Indiana had a chance?) but kept my score fairly close as I figured Indiana to score at least one “garbage” touchdown late in the game. I also thought Indiana would be able to move the ball and pick up least some first downs. That didn’t happen. And if Indiana’s fast paced offense doesn’t get first downs, well, that just leaves the majority of the game for the opposition to punish the Hoosier’s porous defense.  And punish the Badgers did. This was embarrassing for the Indiana defenders as Badgers RB James White ran for a 69 yard score with only seconds left in the first half. Even Wisconsin QB Curt Phillips, who looks like he could be timed with a calendar in the 40, tore off a 52 yard run against the woeful Hoosiers. Despite what some analysts are implying, this Indiana team isn’t much improved over the last few years.
Michigan 38  Northwestern 31  OT
I predicted Michigan to win this game, 27 to 19. Northwestern moved the ball against a good Wolverine defense much better than I anticipated. RB Venric Mark had 104 yards on the day and the Wildcats had a ten point lead late in the third quarter. Michigan came back to take a 28 to 24 lead midway through the fourth, but Northwestern answered with a go-ahead touchdown pass from backup QB Trevor Siemian with four minutes left in the game. Siemian was superb in this game as he came off of the bench twice to lead the Wildcats to touchdowns, completing 6 of 7 passes in the process. But once again, it was the Northwestern secondary that did the Wildcats in. This time, all they had to do was defend about 40 yards for eighteen seconds. Couldn’t get it done. Michigan QB Devin Gardner completed a hail-mary pass and the Wolverines kicked a field goal to send the game into overtime with two seconds on the clock. Michigan scored in OT, the Wildcats didn’t, game over. Aside from the secondary, Northwestern has a pretty good defense. I’ve said it all season; I don’t know why teams just don’t come out in the first quarter and throw the ball deep on this team.
Nebraska 32  Penn St 23
I predicted Penn St to win this game, 27 to 24. The first half went as I had envisioned as the Nittany Lions moved the ball at will while the Cornhusker defense looked confused. But give the Huskers and their HC Bo Pelini credit as they came roaring back from a 20 to 6 halftime deficit. Nebraska put together a touchdown drive on the first possession of the second half with a little help from a deflected pass reception. Penn St QB Matt McGloin threw an interception deep in Penn St territory on the next possession to set up Nebraska’s game tying touchdown just five and a half minutes into the half. Nebraska played much better defense than I anticipated. In fact, the blackshirt defense has improved dramatically over the last four games. Penn St had a chance to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter trailing 27 to 23. But Penn St TE Matt Lehman fumbled as he reached the ball over the goal line. The play was reviewed and confirmed as a fumble. The Huskers went on to add a safety and a field goal to finish the game. Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, while still prone to mistakes as he fumbled near the Penn St goal line early in the fourth quarter, stepped up big for the Huskers in this game. I expected him to fold under this type of pressure. Instead he completed all of his second half passes and ended the game with over 100 yards rushing against a good Penn St defense.
Minnesota 17  Illinois 3
I predicted a 31 to 21 Gopher victory. So I guess that means the defenses played better than I figured. Or did the offenses play worse? Six one way, half dozen the other, neither team moved the ball very well. Minnesota RB Donnell Kirkwood did enough to lead the Gophers to victory as he gained 152 yards on 28 carries. Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase committed two key fumbles that helped doom the Illini. The jury is still out on Minnesota freshman QB Phillip Nelson as he completed only nine of fifteen passes for 78 yards. Former Gopher QB Marquis Gray looks awkward at wide receiver as he tries to get comfortable playing the position for the second time in his four years with the team. I feel bad for the kid. He came to Minnesota to play quarterback, waited his turn behind a good player in Adam Weber, and now finds himself left out as the Gophers transition into the Jerry Kill era. I can’t blame Kill for looking to the future and giving his young freshman some valuable playing time, but Gray has a lot of talent that’s going unused. I don’t see it happening, but I think it would be a good gesture towards Gray, and improve the Gophers’ offense, if Kill would put in some plays for Gray to run at quarterback.
 

 KNEW IT ALL ALONG
- In a high stakes game, Indiana is no match for even a sub-par Wisconsin team. 

 

 CRYSTAL BALL 
 
WEEK OF 11-17-2012

PURDUE
24
ILLINOIS
20
PENN ST
35
INDIANA
17
MICHIGAN
27
IOWA
10
MICHIGAN ST
20
NORTHWESTERN
17
NEBRASKA
38
MINNESOTA
14
OHIO ST
24
WISCONSIN
13
NOTRE DAME
31
WAKE FOREST
3

 

 
GROUCH FROM THE COUCH

You’re Reaching
The score is Nebraska 27 Penn St 23. The Nittany Lions have the ball, second and goal at the Cornhuskers three yard line with about nine minutes left in the game. Penn St QB Matt McGloin dumps off a short pass to TE Matt Lehman who reaches the ball toward the goal line as three Nebraska defenders tackle him. The ball is jarred loose and Nebraska recovers in the end zone. The ruling on the field is that the fumble occurred before the ball crossed the goal line, but right away it’s obvious that this one will need to be reviewed. Replays show that it’s close, but certainly not a slam dunk that it will be overturned. Television broadcasters Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman thought it was as both projected the call to be changed to a Penn St touchdown. After some deliberation, the officials confirmed the call on the field; Nebraska ball. Here’s how the Associated Press reported a couple of post-game quotes:
(Nebraska HC Bo) Pelini said it helped that the officials initially ruled it a fumble.
“You got to have indisputable evidence to overrule it,” he said. “Something that bang-bang, usually it ends up going however they rule it on the field. We were kind of fortunate.”
McGloin said: “We’re not going to get that call here. We’re not going to get that call ever actually, against any team. It doesn’t matter who the refs are... It’s us against the world and we’re not going to get those calls in these types of games.”
(Although it’s not the point of this article, McGloin does bring up a thought that has crossed my mind. Could it be that the Big Ten would prefer not to have Penn St’s black eye rise to the top of the conference? As I said in my post-game comments after the Ohio St game, there was some questionable officiating that went against the Nittany Lions at key times during that game. Could there be a conspiracy? Nah, I don’t think so. But with all of the money and politics creeping into the college football world, it wouldn’t knock me off of my chair to find out that it’s true).
Here’s where I stand on the fumble. Lehman and Penn St got what they deserved. Never should have been left up to the officials. Why do ball carriers stick the football out in heavy traffic near the goal line, and why aren’t coaches making it a point to teach their players not to try such a bone-headed stunt? I see it all the time. A team protects the football as it drives all the way down the field, and in the most congested amount of traffic, the runner sticks the ball directly into the teeth of the defense with only his hands securing the football. Most often it happens when a running back is diving over the top of the pile from one yard out. It’s hard enough to hang on to the ball when it’s secured to the body, why wave it around to be knocked loose at the most critical of times. Fourth down, it makes sense. But in Lehman’s case, hang on to the ball. If you don’t make it to the end zone it’s third and inches. Not a bad situation for your team. Don’t be selfish, kid. 

 

ATS
 
 My Crystal Ball predictions for last Saturday were mediocre as I was 3-2 in the “spread” and “closest” categories, 1-4 in the “within 7” category. The spreads were as follows: Minnesota by 3, Wisconsin by 7.5, Iowa by 5, Michigan by 9, Nebraska by 8. If you click the “ATS” tab at the top of this page you will see that although my numbers are average, no one did any better except in the “within 7” category, where a few had two qualifying picks to my one. I was 1-1 in the all- important play category as I won with Minnesota and lost with Penn St. Cardinal and Horned Frog were also 1-1 with the same picks as mine. Boilermaker and Chad Godfrey (@isportsweb.com) were both 0-1. Boilermaker lost with Iowa, Godfrey with Michigan. Hawkeye and Wildcat did not have a qualifying selection. Wildcat and Hawkeye’s prediction matched the spread in the Minnesota-Illinois game and Cardinal matched the Michigan-Northwestern game.
 

 

KIS RANKINGS
 
Notre Dame moved back to the top of this week’s rankings (see the tab at the top of this page) as Alabama fell to the sixth spot after their home loss to Texas A&M.
This week’s top ten consists of the same teams as last week’s, with only the positions changing. The BCS standings have Kansas St and Oregon ranked ahead of Notre Dame, but the first four spots of the computer portion of the rankings are exactly the same as the KIS rankings. 
RANKINGS
BCS   
TEAM
KIS
COMPUTER
BCS
Notre Dame
1
1
3
Kansas State
2
2
1
Florida
3
3
6
Oregon
4
4
2

Both human polls rate Oregon as the top team.  Notre Dame has the top scoring defense in the country, but then, that’s too boring. Obviously the voters are stimulated by Oregon’s number one scoring offense and the fact that they not only win, but win big.
I don’t include margin of victory as a component of the KIS rankings because I believe that winning should be the only objective. A win’s a win, no matter the score. There are many who would disagree and in spite of my current stance, I’ll admit that its inclusion would have a positive side when rating teams. It also has some negatives. So the question stands:
Should margin of victory be a component in college football’s ranking system?
Here are some points to consider before making a decision.
 
The good:
-It would provide a little more accuracy. If teams keep playing hard regardless of the score it would give us a better barometer of how much better a team is than its opponent. The same applies when comparing common opponents.
The bad:
-It could remove a certain type of team from the game. Although most fans don’t care for it, I enjoy watching a team that’s built around the defensive side of the ball. Coaches like Jim Tressel and Gene Stallings would have suffered with such a component. Both won championships with defenses so dominant that they didn’t need their offense to score many points. Just give them a quarterback who won’t make many mistakes, a running back who can pick up a couple of first downs, and a punter who can pin the opponent deep and let their dominant defense force a mistake. Add an excellent kicker and win games with scores like 16-7 or 20-6. The score doesn’t look good in the paper the next morning but if you watched the game you could see it was never in doubt.
The ugly:
-Do we really want to see it? Thankfully Wisconsin doesn’t have this kind of team right now, but I had to turn my head during some games in the past two seasons as the Badgers were putting up 70 plus points on helpless opponents. How ugly would it be if we gave HC Brett Bielema extra incentive? I don’t think it would be well received, but I suppose a solution would be to put a cap on the margin. Once a team gets up by, say 50 points, turn the scoreboards off. 

Whatever the decision, the subject should be acknowledged and defined. Particularly among the selection committee when the four team playoff system goes into effect in 2014. As it stands today we don’t know the impact margin of victory has among voters in the human polls. Obviously some coaches feel it has some significance as is verified when they run up the score. The fact that no one knows for sure potentially puts the teams who are classy enough to take a knee when appropriate at a disadvantage. This is a decision that should include the input of coaches and athletic directors. Although I’m not in favor of the component, I would feel better about its inclusion if the schools had a say in the matter.

 

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