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 17, 2013

BIG TEN FOOTBALL WEEK 4


WHAT HAPPENED

The Big Ten went 7-5 last Saturday, 1-3 in the anticipated Pac-12 showdown. Wisconsin’s loss to Arizona St. was controversial and regardless, the Badgers made a pretty good showing when compared to previous Big Ten visits to Sun Devil Stadium. Nebraska, on the other hand, responded to last season’s embarrassment at UCLA by losing in the exact same fashion. And I’m still trying to figure out if Michigan and Notre Dame were extremely uninspired last Saturday or if the previous week’s showdown between the two wasn’t the meeting of powerhouses I thought it was. A little of both, I suspect.
 
THE PLAYS (0-1)
Notre Dame 31  Purdue 24   (Notre Dame -17.5)
I predicted a 30 to 0 Irish victory as I figured Notre Dame’s highly touted defense would shut out a Purdue team that’s managed only two offensive touchdowns in its first two games. I knew the possibility of an Irish letdown existed coming off of a tough loss at Michigan, but I instead went with the notion that the Notre Dame defense would be inspired to redeem itself after giving up over 40 points. I do think there was a bit of a letdown, but I also think the Irish defense is not as good as advertised. Especially where the strength is supposed to lie. The pass rush was non-existent Saturday and the linebackers had trouble tackling in space. Last year, DE Stephon Tuitt looked big, lean, and quick. Saturday, the preseason all-American looked big, overweight, and slow. And uninspired as he continually took the path of least resistance by rushing straight up field and overrunning the play. And no, he wasn’t being double-teamed. Wasn’t necessary. Offensively the Irish struggled to run the ball at times, with Cam McDaniel emerging as the most effective among three RB’s sharing duties. Most teams play their best game against Notre Dame and Purdue was no different. The Boilermakers immediately took it to the Irish and scored the game’s first ten points leaving me wondering where this team was the last two weeks. It takes time with a new coaching staff and it appears as though new HC Darrell Hazell’s team made some big strides in this game. Purdue had the lead going into the fourth quarter, but after giving up the go ahead touchdown, Purdue QB Rob Henry threw a pick six and with twelve minutes left in the game I had a chance at getting my cover as the Irish were now up by fourteen. But to Purdue’s credit, and to the Irish defense’s discredit, the Boilermakers drove right down the field on the next possession and scored the game’s last points with a touchdown.

THE NON-PLAYS
Washington 34  Illinois 24   (Washington -10)
I hit this one right on the head as I predicted the exact score; Washington, 34 to 24. I never got the feeling the Illini were going to win this game, but they made a good account of themselves considering that Washington is a top twenty-five team. I said in one of my preseason posts that the Illini would have to show significant improvement for HC Tim Beckman to keep his job. Barring some type of huge meltdown, that mission is already accomplished.
Michigan 28  Akron 24   (Michigan -38)
No team plays well the week after Notre Dame but since the opponent was Akron, a team considered to among the worst in the FBS, I predicted Michigan to win 49 to 7. Like Notre Dame, the Wolverines may have been uninspired, but I also think they may not be as good as I thought. Most great teams, when they come out flat, usually wake up in the fourth quarter and slam the door shut. The Wolverines did prevail, but the door was left open. Akron closed out the game by driving the length of the field and missing on a pass from three yards out as time expired. Offensively, the Wolverines go as QB Devin Gardner goes, and right now I don’t know what to think of him as he’s played one great game, one bad game, and one mediocre game. No doubt, the Wolverines get a mulligan here, but talk of “the best in the Big Ten” will have to be put on hold for at least a week.
Arizona St. 32  Wisconsin 30   (Arizona St -5.5)
I was light on the scoring, close on the spread, and wrong about the winner as I predicted a 21 to 20 Wisconsin victory. I think by now most college football fans are aware of the strange ending. It was painful to watch, but college officials are what they are. Not terrible, but definitely far from perfect. Which is why I don’t like all of these new “judgment call” rules that have recently been added for player safety. But, I digress. Wisconsin played about as expected, solid defense and running game, but not invincible against legitimate competition. And QB Joel Stave can be good at times, but can also be inconsistent.
Ohio St. 52  California 34   (Ohio St. -13)
I predicted Ohio St. to win, 38 to 27. I expected a little more defense out of Cal. Not much, but just a little more.  I still wasn’t too far off on the spread as I anticipated either a hobbled Braxton Miller or a healthy Kenny Guiton at QB for the Buckeyes. I also figured (but wasn’t entirely sure since he is just a freshman) Cal starting QB Jared Goff would get his team in the end zone on more than one occasion. But really, this game was never close as the Buckeyes flexed their muscles early and jumped out to a 21 to 0 lead before the first quarter was even half over. And, like the Buckeyes first two games, they were able to toy with their inferior opponent throughout most of the game. The Buckeyes resume their (ahem) tough non-conference schedule next week with a home game against Florida A&M.

THE CONFERENCE
UCLA 41  Nebraska 21   (Nebraska -2.5)
This game was eerily like last season’s game at UCLA. Nebraska jumped out to an early 21 to 3 lead and seemed to be in control as the much maligned ‘Huskers defense was putting pressure on the quarterback and making some nice open field tackles. And, judging by the way UCLA QB Brett Hundley was holding the ball for so long, the downfield coverage was good too. But I couldn’t help but be reminded of Nebraska’s second half meltdown last season when UCLA scored a touchdown with seconds left in the first half to make the score 21 to 10. Sure enough, that was the beginning of a 38 point UCLA scoring barrage as the ‘Huskers came completely unraveled in the second half. Suddenly Nebraska’s defense couldn’t tackle and the offense couldn’t move the ball. The finger pointing began and the ‘Huskers started to act like a defeated team. I haven’t seen any reports that say as much, but I gotta think ‘Husker nation can’t be too happy with HC Bo Pelini right now.
Minnesota 29  Western Illinois 12   (NL)
The Gopher’s got the victory but I wasn’t too impressed considering the non-FBS opponent. Starting QB Phillip Nelson left the game with an injury in the second quarter and was replaced with backup Mitch Leidner. One of the Minnesota bright spots, aside from the victory, is that Leidner doesn’t appear to be much of a drop off from Nelson as he rushed for 64 yards and was seven of eight passing. But the Gophers found themselves behind late in the third quarter before pulling away in the fourth. HC Jerry Kill suffered another seizure and was sent to the hospital at halftime. Most Big Ten fans know by now that this is part of the package with Kill, and that the Gophers have a system in place for just such instances. Still an unfortunate thing and you gotta admire the man’s resolve. If past occurrences are any indication, he’ll be on the sidelines for Minnesota’s next game.
Michigan St. 55  Youngstown St. 17   (NL)
For the first time this season, the Spartans put up a score they can be proud of.  After struggling offensively against inferior competition in the first two weeks, Michigan St. rattled off 35 first half points and took control of this game early. Just in time, too, as the competition steps up considerably next week when the Spartans travel to Notre Dame. It looks like Connor Cook has won the starting QB job for now as he threw for over 200 yards and four touchdowns. Youngstown St. is the weakest team Michigan St. has played so far, so it’s hard to get a read on the Spartans right now. We’ll all know a lot more about ‘em next Sunday.
Iowa 27  Iowa St. 21   (Iowa -2)
This was a nice win for the Hawkeyes after struggling the previous week against a non-FBS opponent. QB Jake Ruddock, while still prone to mistakes, played well and Iowa established a solid running game with RB Mark Weisman racking up 145 yards on the ground. The defense played well too. The final score doesn’t reflect how well as Iowa St. made the score close by scoring two touchdowns in the last five minutes of the game.
UCF 34  Penn St. 31   (Penn St. -5)
I ended last week’s recap of the Penn St. game by insinuating the Nittany Lions might not be as good as most might think. While UCF’s victory isn’t shocking (the Knights are actually a pretty good team), most expected Penn St. to get the home win in this one. Penn St.’s not a bad team, and I think they’ll improve over the course of the season. But right now the defense is considerably behind last season’s version and QB Christian Hackenberg, while great for a freshman, is still a work in progress. I still wouldn’t count Penn St. out of any Big Ten games, though. If last year is a blueprint, HC Bill O’Brien will have this team playing much better in the weeks to come.
Northwestern 38  Western Michigan 17   (Northwestern -28)
Northwestern was one of a few Big Ten teams to come out a little sluggish last Saturday. But the Wildcats eventually got their offensive rhythm back and came away with a double digit victory. RB Treyvon Green was one Wildcat who wasn’t sluggish, though, as he ran with determination and piled up 158 yards on 20 carries. I went out on a limb in the preseason and predicted Northwestern to win their division. It’s a tough division so I think I’m still on a limb, but if Northwestern can run the ball like they did Saturday……….
Indiana 42  Bowling Green 10   (Indiana -2.5)
I don’t have ESPNU so I was unable to watch this game. But judging by the score this may be one of those times when I have to retract last week’s “I told you so”. I wouldn’t have figured the Hoosiers to hold anybody to ten points. Would have liked to have seen how they did it.

 

CRYSTAL BALL 

WEEK OF 9-21-2013 

MICHIGAN
34
CONNECTICUT
14
NOTRE DAME
20
MICHIGAN ST
13
WISCONSIN
38
PURDUE
24
STANFORD
31
ARIZONA ST
24

 

ATS 

FTC DOLLARS
In this section I track the results of my Crystal Ball selections that qualify as “plays” ATS (any prediction that differs from the closing line by seven or more points). I’ve also included the results of some unsuspecting prognosticators that I found on line. These gentlemen (I’ve given them nicknames) predict every Big Ten game throughout the season. All predictions are considered with the exception of games involving non-FBS opponents. The standings are based on how many “FTC” dollars are won. For a more detailed explanation of this section, please refer to the “FTC $ Q&A” tab at the top of this post.

I predicted five games this week while my competition looked at ten. The closing lines are posted above in the “What Happened” section of this post.

My slow start continued this week as I again lost with Notre Dame. That was my only play this week so I now sit at the bottom of the pack with a 0-3 record for the season. Which makes me a little nervous ‘cuz I’ve never started a season off with three straight losses. Some of my competitors did better for the week, but only one of us is ahead in FTC dollars for the season. Three contestants other than myself had only one play this week and all three picked a winner. Wolverine (a.k.a. Chad Godfrey from isportsweb.com) and Horned Frog both won with Ohio St. and Wildcat won with Akron. Cardinal was 1-2 as he won with Ohio St. and lost with Notre Dame and Arizona St. Last week’s leader Boilermaker tumbled in the standings as he went 1-3 this week. His lone winner was Ohio St. and his losers were Michigan, Penn St., and Notre Dame.

 

ATS  PLAY STANDINGS
LAST SATURDAY
 
TOTAL
FTC $
W
L
T
 
W
L
T
 
 
HORNED FROG (btn)
1
0
0
 
3
2
0
 
$40
WOLVERINE (isportsweb)
1
0
0
 
4
4
0
 
-$20
WILDCAT (espn)
1
0
0
 
1
2
0
 
-$60
BOILERMAKER (btn)
1
3
0
 
3
4
0
 
-$70
CARDINAL (espn)
1
2
0
 
1
3
0
 
-$115
FROM THE COUCH
0
1
0
 
0
3
0
 
-$165

 

STATS

As I mentioned, I’m concerned with my slow start in the “play” category. But much of my confidence is restored in knowing that I’m batting 50% in the “within 7” category (please refer to the “ATS stats ‘13” tab at the top of the page). The “within 7” category is the best barometer in terms of accuracy, and 50% is considered good.
Wolverine, a.k.a. Chad Godfrey (@isportsweb.com), had an overall good week as he went 6-3 in the spread category and 5-5 in the “within 7” category.
 
 

FURTHER REVIEW

This is an excerpt from an article I posted last season (9-5-12). I saw a couple of plays last Saturday that compelled me to reiterate. 

TOUCHDOWN?
Your favorite team’s running back just lunged across the goal line, the referee’s arms go up and the announcer shouts “touchdown”. High fives all around, you get up to do your happy dance or whatever it is you do when celebrating your team’s success. But hold everything. The replay booth wants to take a look. As you wait for the ruling you watch various angles of the play and listen to the announcers debate on whether his knee touched before the ball crossed the goal line. In real time it looked like an obvious touchdown but you can see that the ball is just about at the goal line when his knee touched. Hard to say for sure. Is the camera angle true? Is that the tip of the football or another player’s shoe? The referee trots out to midfield and announces that the player is ruled down on the one inch line and you’ve wasted a good celebration. Have you noticed that this scene plays out way too often lately? Can’t celebrate a touchdown anymore. Gotta wait 5 minutes to analyze the centimeters that lie between the goal line and the ball the exact millisecond the runner’s knee touched. A few years back this was a touchdown and there wasn’t much debate about it. Before I go any further let me say that I like instant replay. I don’t mind waiting on it either. Nothing worse than a bad call altering the outcome of a good game. I just think we’re getting too nit-picky here. The view is usually obstructed and you wonder how reliable the camera angle is.
I have the solution to this problem, and here’s where I stand alone: If a player can extend the ball across the goal line after his knee (and only his knee) touched the ground, it should be ruled a touchdown. I’m not talking about a player laying on the ground a yard short and reaching the ball across as an afterthought. I’m just saying if his momentum is moving forward and the length of his body takes the ball into the end-zone after his knee touches, they should count it as six points and move on. 
 

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