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.

Monday, October 28, 2013

BIG TEN FOOTBALL WEEK 10


WHAT HAPPENED

Minnesota surprised most everyone with their second straight upset, Ohio St. annihilated Penn St., Iowa won in overtime, and Michigan St. is back to “acceptable” offense. It’s now the time of season when some teams see their preseason goals and hopes fade to disappointment as losses accumulate. It becomes hard to predict how such teams will react. Will they fight on, or will they pack it in and turn in lackluster performances? Northwestern and Illinois currently fall into this category. It’s hard to tell with college kids, but I’m guessing both teams will continue to fight hard. I’m also a little unsure of Nebraska’s condition right now. The Minnesota loss didn’t sit well with Husker nation and they’re taking out their frustration on HC Bo Pelini and QB Taylor Martinez. Under these circumstances, it might not be a good thing that the ‘Huskers are playing at home this Saturday. 

THE PLAYS (2-2)
Minnesota 34  Nebraska 23   (Nebraska -10)
Doh! I got “Pelini’d” as I predicted Nebraska to win, 41 to 21. Add this game to the list of head-scratching losses Nebraska HC Bo Pelini has orchestrated during his tenure in the Big Ten. The Huskers jumped out to a 10 to 0 lead and then managed only a field goal while Minnesota scored the next 27 points. But this was no fluke when Nebraska was on defense. The Gophers O-line dominated the Huskers as Minnesota piled up 271 rushing yards. The head scratching occurred while Nebraska was on offense. I realize that it’s easy to criticize from the couch and that professional coaches, Pelini included, have probably forgotten more about play calling than I know. But I don’t understand why the Huskers insist on throwing the ball when the rushing attack is averaging eight yards a play. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah ran for 165 yards on 19 carries in this game yet the Huskers continually dropped back to pass on first down, which more often than not produced poor results and left the offense way behind the chains. I think it’s fair to say that Nebraska’s strength has always been its running game, so the strategy of abandoning a strength in favor of throwing the ball with a QB who hasn’t played in the last three games is puzzling to me. QB Taylor Martinez is taking a lot of heat from Husker nation and many are calling for his backup, Tommy Armstrong Jr. But the truth is, the Huskers used the same puzzling strategy in the previous game against Purdue and Armstrong didn’t do much better as he was 6 of 18 passing. The difference was that against the Purdue defense, the Huskers were able to recover from second and long most of the time. Not the case against Minnesota who has now won back to back conference games while HC Jerry Kill is on a leave of absence. I’ve been burned before when I jumped on the Gopher bandwagon, so I’ve been resistant to give Minnesota much credit. But hard to ignore the way the O-line is playing right now. And the game planning has been excellent as the Gophers have not only outplayed, but outcoached their last two opponents. Not sure I’d call Minnesota a favorite in any of their remaining games, but a couple more wins is not out of the question. Nebraska is heading into the toughest portion of their schedule. I ‘m not taking this game to mean Nebraska is no longer a contender, given Pelini’s history of baffling losses that turn out to be an aberration. But I’m also not predicting a Husker victory this Saturday.
Ohio St.63  Penn St. 14   (Ohio St. -16.5)
I predicted Ohio St. to win, 45 to 14. Even though I underestimated the margin, I’m kinda proud of this one because most thought Penn St. would at least play the Buckeyes close enough to get the ATS win. I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: Penn St. isn’t very good. And they beat Michigan, so you can do the math on that one. Another little secret: Nittany Lions QB and media darling Christian Hackenberg is overrated. He’s got a great arm but he plays like the freshman that he is. I figured the kid for at least three turnovers which probably would have occurred had he not left the game early in the third quarter with an apparent injury. But I suppose the cat’s out of the bag now on both of those secrets and we won’t be seeing the oddsmakers overvalue Penn St. any more. They’re not the worst team in the conference and will probably be favored in their next three games, but they’re not above losing to any of the teams left on their schedule. The Buckeyes continue to roll behind QB Braxton Miller and RB Carlos Hyde. Miller, who appears to have completely recovered from an early season injury, has added a pretty good passing game to his repertoire which spells trouble for Buckeye opponents. I’m still amazed at the number of brainiacs among Buckeye nation that wanted to see backup QB Kenny Guiton replace Miller as the starter. Ohio St. is much better than any team left on their schedule and can lose only as a result of overconfidence, or a letdown. And in college football, such an occurrence is never impossible. In fact, it happens quite often.
Notre Dame 45  Air Force 10   (Notre Dame -20)
I predicted Notre Dame to win, 42 to 14. It’s not very often that I get shut out of a Notre Dame game, but that was the case last Saturday as this game was not televised in my area so I was unable to watch. But given the score, it appears as though things went about as I envisioned. Notre Dame seems to be improving although the statistics for this game indicate that the running game is still sub-par. But QB Tommy Rees, who I seem to like more than most Notre Dame fans, had an excellent day as he threw five touchdown passes. I’ve got to hand it to Irish HC Brian Kelly. He’s not afraid to turn Rees and his receivers loose against an inferior opponent. Many coaches tend to go conservative in such games in fear of turnovers allowing the opponent to hang around and steal a victory. After last season’s run to the National Championship game, the two blemishes on Notre Dame’s record have already made this season a disappointment. Harsh, but true. As an independent, the Irish have no kind of title to play for, which leaves them vulnerable to a “letdown” game. I think they’ll be fired up for Stanford, but the next three opponents will be tricky if the Irish don’t bring their “A” game.
Navy 24  Pitt 21   (Pitt -4.5)
I predicted Pitt to win, 38 to 24. This game was not televised in my area so I was unable to watch. I’m tracking these teams as they are still on Notre Dame’s schedule. I’m never as focused as I am on Sunday when forming my predictions before the Las Vegas lines are released (or before I look at them). So if, after looking at the lines, I  have any doubts about a prediction that qualifies as a play, I’ve learned to stick with my initial instincts. This policy has served me well more often than not. This game, however, would be one of the “nots”. It’s never a good idea to count on Pitt. But I was also wary of Navy’s undersized defense keeping Pitt out of the end zone. But Navy’s best defense can sometimes be its ball control offense as most teams have difficulty defending the option. Usually teams bring their best game against Notre Dame, so it will be interesting to see what the Midshipmen can do this Saturday against the Irish. It’s good for Notre Dame that they’re playing both of the “option” teams on their schedule back to back and will have two weeks of practice defending it under their belt. But it’s also good for Navy to have game film on how the Irish go about defending it. And Navy is a better team than Air Force.

THE NON-PLAYS
Iowa 17  Northwestern 10  OT   (Iowa -4)
I predicted Iowa to win, 31 to 28. Although I knew Iowa’s defense is very good, I figured Northwestern and their diverse offense to score more points. And I didn’t think Northwestern’s defense would be able hold Iowa’s rushing attack and QB Jake Rudock to only 10 points. But I did know this was a good matchup and it would be close. Great game. Northwestern starting QB Kain Colter returned after missing last week’s game with an injury and played the whole game except for one series. I think it was a good idea and at this point in the four loss season, the Wildcats should abandon the dual QB system and hand the keys to the senior for the remaining games. Backup QB Trevor Siemian (a junior) had his chance and didn’t produce. And Colter, who has improved as a passer, played well. It’s just that someone had to win this game. His counterpart, Iowa QB Jake Rudock continues to impress me with his “game management” skills. The kid’s a competitor who seems to always understand the situation he’s in. As I said, Northwestern’s defense did better against the run and displayed much more intensity than they did in last week’s home loss to Minnesota. And Iowa’s defense showed why they’re among the best in the conference. At the beginning of the season most would’ve said the Hawkeyes might not beat any of the teams left on their schedule. But with that defense and the emergence of Rudock, Iowa has a realistic chance in every one of those games. I still think Northwestern is a good team, but four losses in a row after such high expectations has to be demoralizing. But if they can overcome and be the team they were against Iowa, and not the team they were against Minnesota, I think they can beat every one of the division contenders left on their schedule.
Michigan St. 42  Illinois 3   (Michigan St. -9)
I predicted Michigan St. to win, 28 to 13. I had no doubts about a Spartan victory; it’s just difficult to forecast how many points its sporadic offense will score, regardless of the opponent. After last week’s one touchdown output against lowly Purdue, we’re back to 42 points and all is once again well in Connor Cookville. Cook, Michigan St.’s starting QB, connected on all but one of his sixteen passes and RB Jeremy Langford rushed for over 100 yards as the Spartans methodically wore down the Illini. Actually, one touchdown would have been enough as Michigan St.’s defense added to its impressive resume by holding the Illini to 128 total yards. Illinois, who is still looking for their first conference win in over two years, was just simply outmatched in this one. Although the Illini have now lost four of their last five games, it’s a general consensus that this team’s output is much improved over last season’s debacle. But without victories to show for it, I have to wonder about the Illini’s morale. And I don’t think this loss hurts as much as the fact that the offense, which has been something this team could hang their hat on, was completely shut down. Which may leave the Illini players blind to the fact that they’ve got a good shot at picking up that elusive conference win this Saturday. I don’t think Penn St. was a game Illinois fans and players circled at the beginning of the season as one they might win, but I’m tellin’ ya, Penn St. is not very good.  Michigan St. has only four games left on its schedule. They’ll probably be the favorite in every one of them, but I don’t think they’ll get through without at least one loss, maybe more.

 

CRYSTAL BALL 

WEEK OF 11-2-2013

OHIO ST
44
PURDUE
10
MICHIGAN ST
23
MICHIGAN
17
PENN ST
31
ILLINOIS
28
NOTRE DAME
42
NAVY
21
INDIANA
45
MINNESOTA
42
NORTHWESTERN
30
NEBRASKA
27
WISCONSIN
27
IOWA
26

 

 
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 six games this week while my competition looked at four. The closing lines are shown above in the “What Happened” section of this post.

Last week I said that I was poised to make a move on my competitors as I had four predictions that qualified as plays. I ended up splitting, but actually did make a small move because, as it turns out, losing only ten FTC dollars in juice was the shining performance. OK, so I didn’t move up in the standings but I did close the gap as everyone else turned in sub .500 records this week. I won with Ohio St. and Notre Dame, and lost with Nebraska and Pitt. Cardinal was 0-1 as he joined everyone but me and Wildcat in losing with Penn St. Wildcat lost one game with Northwestern and Wolverine (a.k.a. Chad Godfrey from isportsweb.com) dropped deep in the standings with three losses; Nebraska, Illinois, and Penn St. Boilermaker fell below the break-even point in total FTC dollars as he went 1-2. He won with Michigan St., and lost with Nebraska and Penn St. And Horned Frog, the only contestant who had anything to brag about for most of the season, is now only fifteen total FTC dollars ahead as he went 1-3 this week. He won with Michigan St, and lost with Northwestern, Nebraska, and Penn St. Given that Horned Frog is the only contestant in the black, it appears as though it might not be a bad strategy to go “oppo” with this group’s predictions.
 

ATS  PLAY STANDINGS
LAST SATURDAY
 
TOTAL
FTC $
W
L
T
 
W
L
T
 
 
HORNED FROG (btn)
1
3
0
 
8
7
0
 
$15
BOILERMAKER (btn)
1
2
0
 
9
9
0
 
-$45
FROM THE COUCH
2
2
0
 
6
8
0
 
-$140
CARDINAL (espn)
0
1
0
 
3
7
0
 
-$235
WOLVERINE (isportsweb)
0
3
0
 
9
14
1
 
-$320
WILDCAT (espn)
0
1
0
 
2
8
0
 
-$340

 

 

STATS 

Check out the “ATS stats ‘13” tab at the top of the page and you’ll see that there is a different leader in each category. And while my poor start to the season left me near the bottom in most categories, I have now worked my way up to “top three” in all of the standings.
 

 

 

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