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, September 3, 2013

BIG TEN FOOTBALL WEEK 2


WHAT HAPPENED
 
The Big Ten went 10-2 over the weekend as Iowa and Purdue were the only losers. I was able to watch seven of the games, paying more attention to some than others as several games were going on at once. No major surprises. A few minor ones perhaps, but nothing remarkable.
Ohio St. 40  Buffalo 20   (Ohio St -35)
Ohio St. scored on its first three possessions and turned on the cruise control as they toyed with Buffalo the rest of the way. Any time Buffalo closed the gap on the scoreboard, the Buckeyes quickly put up more points to keep themselves at a safe distance. Like last season, the defense was good but not great. But again, like last season, I get the impression this defense will play up or down to the competitive situation. Ohio St. starting QB Braxton Miller wasn’t called upon to run as much as usual, and at times, was ineffective on the ground. His passing numbers were good enough, but I still didn’t see anything to rank him among the top passers in the league.
Wisconsin 45  UMass 0   (Wisconsin -44)
The Badgers rolled in this one as expected. Can’t read too much into this game considering the opponent, but I was impressed that there wasn’t the step backwards that usually occurs in the first game under a new HC. The line looked organized and sharp as they opened big holes for hard running backs. Typical Wisconsin. Starting QB Joel Stave wasn’t as sharp with his passes as I expected, but he got better as the game progressed. And as for the defense, well, again, not much of an opponent, but can’t do any better than a shutout.
Illinois 42  Southern Illinois 34   (NL)
I don’t think anyone would argue if I said it wasn’t pretty. But actually, there were times when it was. Well, maybe not on the defensive side of the ball, but offensively the Illini showed flashes of efficiency. And it started with an opening play bomb from starting QB Nathan Scheelhaase to WR Ryan Lankford good for 52 yards. Although it’s not saying much when compared to last season, I think it’s fair to say that the Illini showed some improvement. But I’m not gonna get carried away here. This was against a non-FBS opponent that was within three yards of a chance to tie at the end of the game. And although not as many, there were still the mental errors and costly penalties. And amazingly, for the second game in a row (going back to last season’s closing game) the Illini coaching staff was flagged for sideline interference. But I suppose we can call it an improvement since this time the coach (DC Tim Banks) was standing up as opposed to the previous game’s penalty when HC Tim Beckman was lying on the ground as the official tripped over him. So based on this performance, I’m gonna upgrade my assessment of the Illini’s chances of winning a conference game from “no way” to a weak “maybe”.
Northern Illinois 30  Iowa 27   (Iowa -3)
The Hawkeyes lost a heart breaker as the Huskies intercepted first time starting QB Jake Ruddock with 1:17 left in the game to set up the game winning FG. It’s a testament to where Iowa’s program stands these days to say that this is not an “upset” victory for NIU. Ruddock wasn’t great, but then again, not bad for a first time starter and Iowa does appear to be as good if not better than last year’s team. And the first game of the season is usually a far cry from how a team will perform after it has a few games and a few more weeks of practice under its belt, so I wouldn’t count the Hawkeyes out of any conference games at this point.
Michigan 59  Central Michigan 9   (Michigan -31.5)
There were four games on my viewing schedule going on at once Saturday afternoon. Can’t watch all four at the same time, so when presented with such circumstances I prioritize and rotate my focus. I usually make it a point to catch some of every game in its early stages. And even though I got to this game fairly early, I was still too late as it was already garbage time with Michigan way ahead. Not as much to learn about a team under such conditions so I shifted my focus to the other three games. I did see enough of the game’s beginning to see that Michigan starting QB Devin Gardner didn’t look as sharp as expected as he was picked off early and missed badly on a couple of other passes. But obviously he and the rest of the Wolverines couldn’t have been too rusty through the remainder of the game.
Penn St. 23  Syracuse 17   (Penn St -9)
Last season, Penn St. rode the wave of some emotional circumstances to compile a record that was above most expectations. Now that we’re a year removed from those circumstances and three of last season’s team leaders have moved on, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Nittany Lions on Saturday. I wouldn’t say they picked up where they left off last year, but I will say that it’s only game one and this team can certainly get there. The defense wasn’t dominant, but still very good, and although QB Christian Hackenberg made the mistakes that can be expected of a freshman starting his first game, he appears to be very talented. One thing that did pick up where it left off was HC Bill O’Brien’s offensive approach as it didn’t appear that he tried or needed to simplify things for his young QB. This is a nice win for Lions.
Northwestern 44  California 30   (Northwestern -6)
Not many teams can absorb the loss of their starting QB on the opening drive of the season as well as Northwestern. Backup QB Trevor Siemian replaced Kain Colter, who left the game with a concussion, and led the Wildcats to a late night west coast victory. Actually, Siemian is often referred to as QB 1B rather than backup in what at this point is a dual QB system. Given Colter’s athleticism and ability to play other positions, it’s my opinion that Northwestern is at its best with Siemian at QB while both players are on the field. I didn’t see anything Saturday to change my mind. The kid can throw. He’ll have to learn to resist the temptation to throw into coverage as he was intercepted twice, but given his accuracy, that may be hard to do. The Wildcats ground game, however, sometimes struggled when it needed to be effective. Much of that could have been due to Colter’s absence and starting RB Venrick Mark being hampered with an injury. Last season I often criticized Northwestern’s secondary and wondered why opposing teams didn’t throw long and throw often against the Cats. So when preseason reports indicated that the secondary would be the strength of the defense, I took an “I’ll believe it when I see it” posture. And I saw nothing Saturday to make me believe it. California QB Jared Goff, a true freshman, did throw long and often and lit up Northwestern for over 400 yards. Fortunately for the Wildcats, a couple of deflected passes turned into interceptions returned for touchdowns by LB Collin Ellis. The outcome may have been different otherwise.
Nebraska 37  Wyoming 34   (Nebraska -30)
Some unforeseen circumstances kept me from watching much of this game. Most accounts indicate that the defense may be even weaker than last season’s underperforming unit. But it appears the offense is just as strong with QB Taylor Martinez leading the charge. I did notice, however, that Martinez committed a couple of costly turnovers, so it seems to be same ol’ Nebraska at this point.
Cincinnati 42  Purdue 7   (Cincinnati -10)
I don’t have ESPNU so I was unable to watch this game. I’m a little surprised by the score. I thought Purdue would do better.
Minnesota 51  UNLV 23   (Minnesota -14)
I don’t often watch games that aren’t played on Saturday, but I was able to see bits and pieces of the first three quarters of this game. The Gophers had to overcome a shaky start on defense as UNLV drove methodically down the field to score a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. And starting QB Phillip Nelson was errant on some of his early throws, but he compensated by running for a 48 yard touchdown that gave the Gophers their first lead and some much needed confidence. A nice win by a good margin for Minnesota, but from the little I saw I’m still not sold on any notions that the Gophers could be a threat to the contenders in the conference.
Michigan St. 26  Western Michigan 13   (Michigan St. -28)
I didn’t see any of this game as it was played on Friday night. Most reports indicate that the Spartans performed similar to last season’s team. Great defense, not so great offense.
Indiana 73  Indiana St. 35   (NL)
This game was not televised so I didn’t see any of it. Typical score for an Indiana game; big numbers from both teams. 

IRISH STEW
Notre Dame 28  Temple 6   (Notre Dame -29.5)
Notre Dame took control of this game early and maintained a comfortable lead throughout the second half. Starting QB Tommy Rees looked sharp as he threw for a touchdown on the Irish’s first two drives. I’m not surprised by this and really believe Notre Dame doesn’t lose a beat with the suspension of last season’s starting QB, Everett Golson. Don’t get me wrong, Golson was great and could do some things that Rees could not, but I think Rees is the better passer and decision maker. And from the couch it appears that last season’s humbling relegation to second string has made Rees a more determined and improved QB. The defense looked good, albeit against a team that’s not highly regarded this season, and the running game appears to be solid.

 

CRYSTAL BALL 

WEEK OF 9-7-2013

OHIO ST
38
SAN DIEGO ST
10
NOTRE DAME
23
MICHIGAN
17
CINCINNATI
41
ILLINOIS
10

 

 ATS

At the beginning of last season I Googled “big ten football week 1 predictions" and found six reporters/ bloggers/ analysts,-whatever you want to call them, that offer predicted scores for all Big Ten games. I compared the weekly (conference games only) predictions of these professionals along with my “Crystal Ball” predictions and maintained a ranking of our performances throughout the year (rather than identifying my unaware competitors, I gave them nicknames). But since most avid college football fans can correctly predict the winner about 75% of the time, I made things more challenging by comparing the predictions ATS. The results and rankings were broken down into four categories. The final standings are listed under the “ATS 2012” tab at the top of my posts.
There will be a few adjustments this season: 

Last season I finished at the top of the “play” category with a record of 10-7 (13-7 if all games are included). This is really the only category that matters as it pertains to this, the “ATS” section, of the blog. I explained the categories in detail in last season’s post, dated 9-25. Here is how I defined the “play” category:
PLAYS- I’m not promoting any type of illegal activity here but if you happened to be in a Las Vegas sports bar you might want to reconsider making a “play” on a game where your number varies from the spread by only a few points. I think a seven point or more differential should instill a reasonable amount of confidence. This category tracks such instances.
I’m still not promoting any illegal activity, but I am going to be more direct in stating that the predictions that fall under this category are the ones that I would wager on if I lived in Vegas. That’s the system. Seven points or more differential, play it; less than seven, back off. So the “play” category will now be ranked by who does the best financially. But since I don’t live in Vegas and can’t afford a weekly plane ticket to get there, and none of my chosen competitors live in Vegas, we’ll have to use “funny” money. You know, pretend type monopoly dollars.  I’ll call them FTC dollars. The “play” category standings will be featured in the body of the “ATS” section of my posts. And like last season, I will maintain a tab at the top of my posts that displays the rankings of all four categories.
 
Last season I felt unauthorized to identify my chosen competition without some type of consent. I was able to contact and obtain permission from Chad Godfrey (@isportsweb.com) who, by the way, writes great content covering the Big Ten and is an excellent prognosticator as he finished first in the “within 7” category, which is the most significant in terms of accuracy. But for the others I just used nicknames. Now that I’m not quite as new to the blogging world I feel a little more comfortable in exposing the identities. The more I think about it, the more I feel that doing so would probably help their cause more than hurt. I mean really, what’s the harm? Their predictions are already out there for the world to see and I’m not making any alterations or slandering anyone. And this way if any viewers are interested, they can verify my competition’s predictions. That having been said, I’m still fairly new blogging and am going to play this “semi-conservative” by keeping the nicknames and exposing the websites. I’ve already given you Chad Godfrey’s name; and his nickname is “Wolverine”. The other nicknames reference alma maters. Using that information, anyone interested should be able to identify with little effort two gentlemen from ESPN.go.com and two from BTN.com. I’m dropping one contestant from last season, the gentleman from BleacherReport.
 
Last season, in order to maintain a level playing field of competition, I compared only the conference games because I don’t predict all Big Ten non-conference games but my chosen competitors do. And I am the only one who steps outside of the conference by predicting Notre Dame games and a few others. This year, with the exception of week 1, all predictions throughout the season will be included.
 
As I pointed out last year, my method is to make my predictions on Sunday, before I look at the spreads, to keep from being influenced subconsciously. As far as I know, none of the other contestants do this. Therefore I make one disclaimer: If a report comes out during the week (after Sunday) that there is an issue involving the starting quarterback (an injury I might not have known about) or the coach (health issues, scandal, etc.), I won’t count the game.  Occasionally I might predict a tie, which is the equivalent of a “pick em”. 

 

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