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 20, 2012


WHAT HAPPENED

Ohio St won in overtime leaving the Buckeyes one win away from finishing the season undefeated. It won’t come easy though, as the Buckeyes looked “beatable” for the first time this season against a Wisconsin team that has three conference losses. Ohio St’s final opponent, Michigan, has added a legitimate passing attack to their game and superstar QB/RB Denard Robinson has returned to the Wolverines lineup. Nebraska has to, well, not choke, against Iowa to secure a spot in the conference championship game.
Michigan 42  Iowa 17
I thought Iowa would be more competitive in this game with my predicted 27 to 10 Michigan win. The Hawkeyes were, in fact, competitive until about midway through the second quarter. But the Wolverines put their foot on the gas and left the Hawkeyes behind, surpassing my 27 point prediction by halftime. Former Michigan starting QB Denard Robinson returned to the field after sitting out the last two games with an elbow injury. Yes, I said former. Robinson played mostly at the tailback position while his replacement at QB, Devin Gardner, took just about all of the snaps. Robinson did take a few snaps and it appears as though his elbow is still bothering him as he never attempted a pass. So I may be a little premature in assuming that Robinson’s starting QB days are over; we’ll have to see next week. Sure would make sense to keep Gardner behind center, though. Obviously a much better passer and while not as nimble as Robinson, still pretty good on his feet. Robinson is probably too small to play a whole season at RB, but with only one game left and with starting RB Fitzgerald Toussaint out after his injury in this game, I’d be surprised if Robinson isn’t lined up in the same spot against Ohio St next week. Iowa, who has played Michigan tough in the past, has regressed during the season.
Penn St 45  Indiana 22
I predicted Penn St to win 35 to 17, so not too far off. I expected the Nittany Lions to be a little flat in this game and they were. The underdog Hoosiers kept hanging around and was only six points down midway through the third quarter. But when it was time to get serious, Penn St eliminated the sloppiness they displayed earlier in the game and pulled away to seal the victory. The big story in this game was a first quarter injury to Penn St linebacker Michael Mauti. I don’t know yet, but it appears that the senior might miss this week’s season ending game against Wisconsin. No position in college football is as significant as QB, but Mauti is to Penn St’s defense what QB Matt McGloin is to the Lions’ offense. It’s obvious that Mauti and fellow LB Gerald Hodges are the leaders of Penn St’s excellent hard-playing defense. Mauti gets a vote from the couch as conference “defensive player of the year”.
Northwestern 23  Michigan St 20
I predicted Michigan St to win, 20 to 17, so I was right there with the score. I’m not too surprised with the Wildcats victory as I figured this one could go either way. Northwestern couldn’t protect a fourth quarter lead in all three of their losses this season due in large part to a weak secondary. Fortunately for the Wildcats, Michigan St’s passing game is about as poor as Northwestern’s ability to defend it. Spartan QB Andrew Maxwell isn’t the problem. Pass protection and dropped balls is what keeps Michigan St from consistently moving the ball through the air. So in a strange way, it made for a nice matchup as the Spartans completed some passes to wide open receivers in between taking sacks and dropping balls. But Northwestern won the battle of shortcomings on the Spartans last possession. Trailing by the 23 to 20 final, Michigan St dropped three passes and turned the ball over on downs with seconds remaining in the game.
Ohio St 21  Wisconsin 14  OT
I picked the right winner but Wisconsin surprised me as I predicted a 24 to 13 final. My score was close but I envisioned Ohio St jumping out to a two score lead and controlling the game. Considering it’s his third start, Wisconsin QB Curt Phillips played much better than I anticipated. The Badgers O-line showed improvement in their conference wins this season, but I wasn’t convinced as those victories came against the worst teams in the league. I’m sold now as Wisconsin rushed for over 200 yards against a not great, but good Ohio St defense. The Buckeyes did jump out to a two score lead but were far from in control as the Badgers came back to tie the game and were knocking on the door with less than three minutes left in the game. But Ohio St held as Wisconsin RB Montee Ball fumbled on fourth and goal as he was trying to dive over the pile from a yard out. The Buckeyes scored a touchdown in overtime and held Wisconsin to remain unbeaten heading into this week’s season ending game with rival Michigan.
Purdue 20  Illinois 17
This game went about as I figured as I predicted Purdue to win, 24 to 20. I’m running out of new ways to say how bad Illinois is. And as the scored indicates, Purdue isn’t much better. Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase played hard but he doesn’t have much help around him. The mistake-prone Illini committed three turnovers, but unlike most of their games, were still within reach of winning through all four quarters. Purdue has a good chance to finish a disappointing season at .500 with a win this week against Indiana.
Nebraska 38  Minnesota 14
My prediction matched the final score, so can’t do any better than that. Obviously no surprises here as the Gophers were overmatched against the Legends Division frontrunner. Nebraska will be favored to win this week against Iowa and earn a trip to the conference championship game. Minnesota closes out a successful (by Gopher standards) season at home against Michigan St.
 

KNEW IT ALL ALONG
-It’s not official yet, but I think everyone could see that Michigan QB Denard Robinson would be moved to RB upon his return from injury, given the success of his replacement. 

DIDN’T SEE IT COMING
-Wisconsin rushing for over 200 yards against an opponent that does not rank in the bottom half of the national defensive rushing statistics.
-Maryland and Rutgers, of all teams, joining the Big, uhh…are we still going with Ten? Conference in 2014. 

 

CRYSTAL BALL

WEEK OF 11-24-2012
 
NEBRASKA
31
IOWA
10
NORTHWESTERN
30
ILLINOIS
17
PURDUE
34
INDIANA
29
OHIO ST
17
MICHIGAN
17
OT
MICHIGAN ST
24
MINNESOTA
10
PENN ST
24
WISCONSIN
14

 

 MISCELLANEOUS

 OLD SCHOOL MATCHUPS
BTN commentator Gerry DiNardo has been continually suggesting that the Ohio St-Michigan game be moved to earlier in the season, like say, the second week. No,no,no,no…….No. I won’t go into his reasoning, but I will go into mine. And I’m not too proud to say that my reasoning is laced with selfishness. As you can tell by the introduction to my posts, I obviously love football. I used to play the game but now I’m too old.  Ah, it was great being young, strong and carefree. Watching football takes me back to those days, the days of my youth. As much as I love watching the games today, there’s no replacing the mystique, magnificence, and wonderment of watching football as a young boy. I’ve since lost interest in the pro game. The money has changed things too much. But to me, the Ohio St-Michigan game is as traditional as Thanksgiving. I’ve watched that game every year since I was twelve years old when both teams went into the game undefeated. The scholarship limits were a lot less stringent those days so both teams had players on the bench that could have started for teams like Illinois or Wisconsin. The Big Ten conference was referred to as “the big two-little eight”. The games prior to the showdown were just an exercise in focus. The other teams were just little landmines that could explode and beat one of the “big two” if they lost their concentration while preparing for the season finale. That game was part of a wonderful week in college football. For many years the last week or so in November was the crescendo that all fans waited for. And it wasn’t just the Big Ten. This scenario played out all across the country as all of the major conferences had a “big two”. And they all squared off during this glorious time frame between the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the beginning of December. One if not both teams involved were playing for the conference title and possibly a national championship. Man, that was a great week. Conference realignment and parity has changed most of that. I suppose today’s youth will look back to conference championship games when they grow up. But for me, it’s the Ohio St-Michigan game that takes me back to those golden “November showdown” weeks of my youth. Time distorts memory and some of the game days would change from year to year depending on when Thanksgiving fell, but the visions that I conjure up look like this. 

 I can smell the burning leaves outside…….
Ohio St-Michigan- I don’t remember the start times for games back then but this was always the first game on Saturday. Usually the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
Grey skies….Woody and Bo….the helmets….three yards and a cloud of, well, not dust. Both stadiums had astro turf in those days. Not much scoring and the game was close. Always for the conference title. Usually one was thinking national.
USC-UCLA- Usually the game following Ohio St-Michigan. Stark contrast to the previous game….wide open offense….natural turf….both teams wearing their home colors…. maroon clashing with powder blue illuminated as the stadium lights came on midway through the game. The Pac-8 title was often on the line, but I don’t recall UCLA ever having national title hopes. USC almost always did.
Texas-Texas A&M - Thanksgiving night. Stuffed….family gathered around….usually not able to give the game full attention with the holiday going on. Still a great sideshow. Southwest Conference title on the line, sometimes more.
Pitt-Penn St-Many times the early game on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Joe Pa and the Beast from the East….turkey sandwich….could see the breath coming out of the players on a cold morning/afternoon. Both teams were independent. Usually one was thinking national championship.
Nebraska-Oklahoma- The day changed from year to year. The big one in ’71 was on Thanksgiving Day. My memory takes me to the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Switzer and Osborne….option football….sunny but cold….speedy running backs….quarterbacks that could run, but pass? Who knows? They never threw. Big 8 title for sure. Many times national hopes for the winner.
Alabama-Auburn-Played on Saturday, one week after the dust had settled in the aforementioned games. The Bear and the Crimson Tide….Alabama will win- if they don’t it’s an upset. Not always for the SEC title, but Alabama was usually in the national picture. 

Look at what conference realignment has done to my games. Half of them are gone. Now DiNardo wants to tamper with the best one left.
 
 

ATS 

My Crystal Ball predictions for last Saturday were excellent as I was a perfect 5-0 in the “spread” category. The spreads were as follows: Purdue by 6, Penn St by 17, Michigan by 17, Michigan St by 7, Nebraska by 21, Wisconsin by 2.  If you click the “ATS” tab at the top of this page you will see that I turned in the best week in the “spread” and “closest” categories and my solid 4-2 record in the “within 7” category wasn’t even good enough for second place as there were four other contestants who went 5-1. I was 1-0 in the all-important “play” category as I won with Ohio St. Horned Frog was an excellent 3-0 with Michigan, Nebraska, and Ohio St. Hawkeye was 2-1 with Michigan and Ohio St his winners, Purdue his loser. Cardinal and Boilermaker both split at 1-1. Boilermaker won with Ohio St, lost with Purdue. Cardinal won with Michigan, lost with Indiana. Wildcat went 1-2 winning with Northwestern and losing with Minnesota and Purdue.  Chad Godfrey (@isportsweb.com) was 0-2 with Iowa and Minnesota. With one week left in the season I’m in first place in the “play” category and a very close second in the other three. As of now Horned Frog and I are the only ones worth taking to a Las Vegas sports bar with our winning records in the “play” category. Boilermaker and Cardinal would be worthy also if you want to disregard the “play” category criteria (seven point differential between prediction and spread).
 
 

KIS RANKINGS 

Notre Dame remains at the top of this week’s rankings (see the tab at the top of this page) and, by default, has moved to the top of the BCS standings as well. Once again, the list contains the same teams as last week’s rankings with the exception of Stanford moving into the eighth spot, replacing Oregon St. Oregon St won, but lost a little ground in the OPP% category. Playing 2-9 California at home didn’t help. Stanford, of course, picked up some points with their road win over 9-1 Oregon. Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Stanford all have two losses but make the list due to their OPP%. Among the teams I’m tracking, Nebraska has the highest OPP% followed by Texas A&M. Florida has the fourth highest, Stanford the ninth. Texas A&M has played six of their nine BCS games on the road, which makes a significant contribution to their third place ranking, despite the two losses. Ohio St is undefeated yet ranks as low as fifth due to the weakest OPP% and the fewest amount of road games among the top ten. The BCS standings have three teams listed in its top ten that are not among the KIS top ten. The BCS has Georgia at third (KIS#14, .46 OPP %), LSU seventh (KIS#13, .08 ROAD), and Florida St tenth (KIS#12, .46 OPP %)
I think Oregon’s loss to Stanford validates my assertion that human polls don’t belong in ranking systems. Most analysts thought that Oregon (and Alabama) was unbeatable. As I’ve pointed out in previous posts, humans are way too biased and can be especially swayed towards a team that puts up big offensive numbers, regardless of how weak the opponent’s defense may be. Oregon went into the game against Stanford as nearly a three touchdown favorite. And don’t think it was the Vegas oddsmakers that were fooled. While in most cases it becomes the same thing, it is not their job to post a spread that reflects what they feel the outcome will be, but rather to post a spread that will draw an equal amount of wagers for both teams. Most fans believed Oregon was that much better than Stanford. I’m not saying that Oregon couldn’t win a rematch, but I am saying it won’t be by three touchdowns. Stanford plays defense. Plays it much better than any team Oregon has faced. But defense seems to get no consideration among the voters unless the team is a reigning champion such as Alabama.


  

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