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 14, 2013

BIG TEN FOOTBALL WEEK 8


WHAT HAPPENED

Wisconsin easily won the consolation game in the round-robin mini-tournament between the Badgers, Northwestern and Ohio St. Michigan fell from the list of unbeatens while Michigan St. and Nebraska established position at the top of the Legends Division. Five games coming up this week, and as it stands now, all with double-digit point spreads. Except Minnesota-Northwestern; no line yet but I’m guessing double-digit as well. 

THE PLAYS (1-0)
Nebraska 44  Purdue 7   (Nebraska -14)
I predicted Nebraska to win, 48 to 21. This one was easy. A layup. In fact, just about everyone but the oddsmakers saw a Nebraska blowout coming in this game. But those guys in Vegas usually know what they’re doing, so the only thing that had me concerned was knowing that I might be overlooking something when a point spread looks too good to be true. Not the case in this one though, as Nebraska cruised to an easy victory. It’s not that Nebraska is all that great; it’s just that Purdue is really struggling right now. The Boilermakers started true freshman Danny Etling at QB and he played like, well, a freshman making his first start. It’s kind of difficult to assess his passing skills, because most of the time when he dropped back he held the ball until the Nebraska defenders sacked him. Which really wasn’t all that long behind the Purdue O-line. The ‘Huskers defense looked good for a second straight week, but I’m not completely sold on the black shirts given the competition. Nebraska DB Stanley Jean-Baptiste was ejected for tackling, I mean, er….. “targeting”. Which is somewhat irrelevant to this recap, but it does set up an opportunity to say how much I hate that rule. The Purdue defense, on the other hand, stood no chance against a good Nebraska offense. ‘Huskers starting QB Taylor Martinez sat out with an injury for the second game in a row and was replaced by Tommy Armstrong. Armstrong was continually off target on his passes, particularly on a post pattern that Nebraska ran several times on first down in what seemed to be a “run it until you get it right” drill for the young QB. But second and ten didn’t hurt the ‘Huskers much as they simply ran the ball behind their dominant O-line. Armstrong alternated some series’ with Ron Kellogg III, who had a much better day passing. Nebraska heads into a bye week, their last of the season, and remain one of five teams still contending for the Legends Division title. And right now, I don’t see any winnable games in the upcoming weeks on Purdue’s schedule. 

THE NON-PLAYS
Michigan St. 42  Indiana 28   (Michigan St. -10)
I was close with the score as I predicted Michigan St. to win, 36 to 23. Indiana hung with the Spartans for much of the game and actually played better than I expected. But the Hoosiers are still a class below the Spartans and that became apparent by the end of the game. This game set up as a matchup between strengths and weaknesses- Indiana’s offense vs. Michigan St.’s defense, and Indiana’s porous defense against Michigan St.’s anemic offense. I’ll start with the weaknesses and say that both teams are showing improvement as the season progresses. Michigan St. QB Connor Cook wasn’t quite as sharp as he was last week, but the Spartan receivers aren’t dropping near as many passes and on occasion, are actually making some nice catches. The O-line protected Cook well enough, and more significantly, opened some nice holes in the running game. Now, that having been said, this was Indiana’s defense the Spartans were beating up on. And I’m not about to call the Hoosiers’ defense good, but I will say they are much improved over last season and the early part of this season. I know, that’s not saying much, but still. As far as the strengths go, Michigan St. obviously won the battle. But Indiana had some moments and was able to maneuver the Spartans’ defense out of position on many occasions. But not often enough against one of the top rated scoring defenses in the nation. Michigan St. has some aggressive and sure tacklers, but I gotta say, they deserve many of the penalties Spartan fans complain about. I’ll agree there may have been a few questionable pass interference calls throughout the season, but the truth is, this team takes way too many ill-advised and unnecessary cheap shots. It turned out to not matter much in this game, but there were some Hoosier drives that were extended due to penalties - at least one that I remember leading to a touchdown.
Wisconsin 35  Northwestern 6   (Wisconsin -10.5)
I predicted Wisconsin to win, 31 to 24. Obviously I thought Northwestern would play better, but I’m not at all surprised they lost. In fact, I saw this loss coming last August when I looked at the Wildcats schedule. Strike one: The game was at Camp Randall. Strike two: The Badgers were coming off of a bye week and had two weeks to prepare for the most challenging game left on their schedule. Strike three and most significant of all: The Ohio St. game was just too big for Northwestern. The buildup and the aftermath detracted way too much focus from an important game against Wisconsin. All losing teams say there’s no such thing as a “moral victory”, but I think Northwestern’s players, coaches and fans saw the Ohio St. game as exactly that. And it’s hard to focus on the next game when everyone around you wants to talk about the last game. I watched BTN interview Northwestern RB Venric Mark during the week and most all questions were about the Ohio St. game. Questions about the upcoming game against Wisconsin were reserved for the “oh, by the way” portion of the interview. Even last Saturday’s pregame show featured a review of the Ohio St. game, complete with game footage and post-game comments. Wisconsin, on the other hand, was ready to rock and it showed. QB Joel Stave is playing his best football of the season, Melvin Gordon may be the best RB in the league behind the best O-line, and the defense is comparable to any of the top defenses in the conference. Even though I don’t think Northwestern brought its best, I’m not so sure it would have been enough, particularly against Wisconsin’s rushing attack. Offensively, the Wildcats uncharacteristically struggled as starting QB Kain Colter threw an interception on the first drive. And his backup, Trevor Siemian, who I regard as one of the most accurate in the conference, was off on his passes all day. I remember Siemian suddenly losing his touch during a portion of last season, and if I remember correctly, he was off for two games in a row so I’m interested to see how he does next game. Wisconsin still has some challenges on their schedule, but they should be favorites the rest of the way. And, based on Saturday’s poor performance and two conference losses, everyone seems to be writing off the Wildcats. But I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to think that they could win out and win the divisional tie breaker among three teams with two losses. Difficult and they’ll need help, but not impossible.
Penn St. 43  Michigan 40 4OT   (Michigan -2.5)
I had to pick someone to win, so I chose Michigan, 24 to 20.  A few years ago, a matchup between these two teams going into four overtimes would be considered a classic. But my commitment to watching all significant portions of Big Ten games was challenged as I kept thinking, “C’mon, let’s get this fiasco over with”. These teams are terrible when held up to the expectations both institutions have established as perennial powerhouses. The game was a comedy of errors - one bone-headed maneuver after another. Both quarterbacks were fortunate to throw only two interceptions as both teams combined for seven turnovers. Penn St. jumped out to a 21-10 lead at halftime and promptly started the second half by fumbling on the first play, which Michigan scooped up and returned for a touchdown. Michigan QB Devin Gardner lost a fumble to go along with his interceptions, which is a bit surprising considering how much emphasis has been placed on Garner’s need to take better care of the football. Penn St. QB and media darling Christian Hackenberg has a great arm, but the OC better call the perfect play because, open or not, Hackenberg is gonna force the ball to his first read. And the media may be singing Hackenberg’s praises for leading the Nittany Lions to the game tying touchdown in the closing seconds of regulation, but the truth is, the kid threw two passes that should have been interceptions. It’s just that Michigan didn’t have any defenders that were talented enough to actually make the interception. Ugh. And I’m just getting’ started. The overtime; OMG. First coach to find the cojones to try and win the game instead of hiding behind your kicker wins. I mean, a 40 yard field goal is not a slam dunk yet Michigan spent three plays lining up the proposition. The teams combined for three failed field goal attempts, a fumble during an attempted end around, and a delay of game penalty. Hats off to Penn St. coach Bill O’Brien for finally going for it on fourth and one while his team was trailing by three. The Nittany Lions converted and eventually punched it in for the game winning touchdown---finally. These teams aren’t the worst in the league, but man, I can’t really consider them upper echelon anymore. Fortunately for Penn St., they’ve got a few “winnable” games left on their schedule, but only one of ‘em appears to be a sure thing. And it looks to me like Michigan is gonna have a difficult time winning as many as two more games unless they improve significantly. 

 

CRYSTAL BALL 

WEEK OF 10-19-2013 

OHIO ST
31
IOWA
15
MICHIGAN
37
INDIANA
37
OT
WISCONSIN
31
ILLINOIS
14
NOTRE DAME
31
USC
21
NORTHWESTERN
41
MINNESOTA
17
MICHIGAN ST
31
PURDUE
7

 

 
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.

Everyone predicted four games this week. The closing lines are shown above in the “What Happened” section of this post.

I’m slowly crawling my way back towards even as I picked a single winner for the third week in a row. Nothing to be too proud of though, as everyone but Wildcat joined me in jumping all over Nebraska to cover against Purdue. Fourteen points. The ‘Huskers almost had that covered by the end of the National Anthem. The standings stayed the same as only two contestants added a losing pick to their Nebraska selection and lost only the juice- five FTC dollars. Cardinal lost with Northwestern and Wolverine (a.k.a. Chad Godfrey from isportsweb.com) lost with Indiana. Boilermaker moved to the plus side in FTC dollars, joining only Horned Frog, who continues to earn. Wildcat did not have any qualifying predictions.

ATS  PLAY STANDINGS
LAST SATURDAY
 
TOTAL
FTC $
W
L
T
 
W
L
T
 
 
HORNED FROG (btn)
1
0
0
 
6
3
0
 
$135
BOILERMAKER (btn)
1
0
0
 
7
6
0
 
$20
FROM THE COUCH
1
0
0
 
3
4
0
 
-$70
WOLVERINE (isportsweb)
1
1
0
 
8
10
1
 
-$150
CARDINAL (espn)
1
1
0
 
3
6
0
 
-$180
WILDCAT (espn)
0
0
0
 
2
7
0
 
-$285

 

 
STATS 

Check out the “ATS stats ‘13” tab at the top of the page and you’ll see that I’m still way ahead in the “within 7” category with a 44% batting average, which is above normal. Other than that I’ve got nothing to be proud of. In fact, no one does except Horned Frog in the “Play” category. The overtime game between Penn St. and Michigan is cause for reiteration of a pre-established rule:
 
Any games that go into overtime will be calculated as a tie for the “closest” and “within 7” category. The final score will be used, however, for the other two categories.



 
 

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