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, November 4, 2013

BIG TEN FOOTBALL WEEK 11


WHAT HAPPENED
 
Now that was a great college football Saturday. The matchups looked good on paper, but that doesn’t guarantee entertaining games. But mostly true to form last Saturday as four of the seven games on my viewing schedule were decided by a touchdown or less. And two of the remaining three were still close going into the fourth quarter. The only downside was that my level of attention for each game was diluted as three of the games were scheduled for the morning start and the remaining four were on the afternoon slate. Northwestern’s fifth straight loss was heartbreaking even for a nonpartisan fan like me, and Illinois came oh so close to picking up that elusive conference win. Iowa and Indiana join the list of casualties who can essentially discard any hopes of a spot in the conference championship game while Minnesota, of all teams, can remain reasonably optimistic. 

THE PLAYS (2-1)
Penn St. 24  Illinois 17  OT   (Penn St. -11.5)
I predicted Penn St. to win, 31 to 28. While most did not, I figured this game to be close enough for Illinois to have a legitimate shot at earning their first conference victory in over two years. I couldn’t bring myself to call for the Illini upset though, and as it turns out, my instincts were correct.  So other than the scoring coming in lower than I predicted, this game went much like I envisioned. I didn’t foresee the Illini falling behind 14 to 0 in early going, though. And they might not have if it weren’t for some “eagle-eye” officiating. Illinois was called for a personal foul after stopping Penn St. on third down which would have likely resulted in a field goal attempt. Instead the Nittany Lions converted the resulting first down into a touchdown and a 7 to 0 lead. On the ensuing possession, the Illini had a touchdown called back for another personal foul. I think both calls were correct, but I also think both were the kind of calls that get missed or overlooked about half of the time. So a certain amount of bad luck for the Illini, but then again, Illinois has recent history of shooting itself in the foot way too often. For most of this season the Illini have cut back on some of the discipline lacking penalties that plagued the team last year. But they took a step back in that regard last Saturday. Still, this is a much improved team that played hard and almost got the win. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say Illinois is a great team. It’s just that Penn St. isn’t all that great either. Illinois couldn’t stop the run and Penn St. couldn’t defend the pass very well. Yet both teams found ways to stop themselves enough to score only 17 points in regulation. I’ve been critical of the acclaim Penn St. QB Christian Hackenberg gets from the media. And I haven’t changed my stance all that much after this game. He lucked out on another jump ball pass to WR Allen Robinson that was reminiscent of the one against Michigan that had folks calling Hackenberg a clutch performer. But I have to give the kid some credit, though. He threw the best touchdown pass of his career to win the game in overtime; a bullet over the middle to his TE Kyle Carter. Big time accurate throw in a clutch situation as opposed to just tossing it up for grabs and hoping his receiver catches the ball. Penn St. has a tough game next week and a good shot at a victory the following week. They’ll probably be underdogs for the following two games. Tough loss for Illinois but I don’t think they’re ready to tank the season yet. Even though it’s one of the lowest possible goals, I think playing for one conference victory will keep this team motivated.
Wisconsin 28  Iowa 9   (Wisconsin -9)
I predicted Wisconsin to win, 27 to 26. This game was better than the score indicates. Iowa didn’t score as much as I figured but they had their chances in the red zone. And an injury to starting QB Jake Rudock in the third quarter pretty much shut down the Hawkeye offense. I knew Wisconsin was good, but also knew they haven’t beat a good defense yet and figured they wouldn’t enjoy their usual success running the ball. The Badgers eventually put up good numbers, but the Iowa defense played well as they held Wisconsin to 14 points going into the fourth quarter. This was a tight, defensive, field position game that loosened up some after a critical Iowa turnover deep in its own territory. After Wisconsin downed a punt at the Iowa one yard line, Rudock threw a terrible first down pass into coverage that was intercepted at the twenty yard line. Rudock got hurt, Wisconsin would eventually convert the turnover into a touchdown, and the Badgers were not out of the woods, but very much in control. I know it’s all twenty-twenty from the couch, but I question the pass play on first down from the end zone. At that point is was a one point game and Iowa’s defense was playing well at home. Going conservative in that spot and punting the ball out of there didn’t seem like a bad strategy under the circumstances. I dunno, sometimes I think asking a college football OC to hand the ball to his RB is like asking a gourmet chef to boil a hot dog. Too easy. Gotta get tricky, gotta get cute. Even with Rudock hurt, the Hawkeyes were able to pull within five points after RB Jordan Canzeri ran for 43 yards and then five yards to the Wisconsin 12 to set up a field goal. The Hawkeyes stopped Wisconsin on the next possession but again found themselves deep in their own territory when the Badgers downed a punt on the five yard line. But despite the modest success they were achieving by handing the ball to Canzeri, the Hawkeyes put the game into the hands of their second string QB, C.J. Beathard, who promptly threw an interception, once again deep in Iowa territory. And, once again, Wisconsin turned the turnover into a touchdown. Game essentially over. I think both of these teams are upper echelon Big Ten this year, and both have underrated QB’s. Neither Rudock, who played well until the interception, or Wisconsin QB Joel Stave are flashy. But both usually make good decisions and manage the game well. Iowa is not, however, so good that they can take anyone lightly and next week’s game at Purdue could be dangerous as they come off the tough loss to the Badgers. Wisconsin has an interesting nonconference game against BYU next Saturday. Get past that game and the Badgers should win out.
Nebraska 27  Northwestern 24   (Nebraska -5)
I got the cover here as I predicted Northwestern to win, 30 to 27. And I was pretty much right about the winning team until the last two seconds. What a heartbreaker for the Wildcats; losing on a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game. The Wildcats had their chances to avoid the situation, but still. It left a bitter taste in my mouth as a fan, so I can only imagine how the Northwestern players must feel. Even Nebraska HC Bo Pelini seemed apologetic in the post-game interview. This was one of several good games last Saturday; an evenly matched battle that went back and forth throughout the game. And much of it went as I expected. Nebraska’s poor run defense and strong running game. And a puzzling penchant for ignoring the running game in favor of a weak passing game. The Huskers threw four interceptions while RB Ameer Abdullah ran for 127 yards. I said last week that I think it would be best if Northwestern dropped the dual QB system and allowed starter Kain Colter to play the whole game. I said that for a few reasons, one of which is that backup Trevor Seimian isn’t playing well right now. Yet the Wildcats’ coaching staff sent Siemian onto the field midway through the third quarter and watched him throw a “pick-six”, which tied the game at 21. I like Siemian; he’s just off his game right now. And I can understand putting the kid back on the horse to help him get his confidence back. But at this point in the season, given the 0-5 conference record and the fact that Colter is a senior whose given the Wildcats some great years, and for the most part has been a team player in sharing the QB duties, I think the best and right thing to do is to give Colter the opportunity to win or lose the remaining games as the full time QB. He’s playing well enough right now. I mean, he can’t do any worse than throw a “pick-six”, right? While Northwestern sits at the bottom of the conference standings with a 0-5 record, they are far from the worst team in the league. They head into a bye week which may help them absorb this loss. But even with the bye, I wonder how much can be left in the “motivation” tank. It’ll be hard to make a prediction for Northwestern’s next game. Nebraska’s title hopes are still alive but they have four tough games left on their schedule. A victory at Michigan this Saturday will set up a showdown the following week at home against Michigan St. for first place in the division. As of now, Michigan is favored by a touchdown, but I like Nebraska’s chances every bit as much as I like Michigan’s.

THE NON-PLAYS
Minnesota 42  Indiana 39   (Indiana -7.5)
I predicted Indiana to win, 45 to 42, so almost close to perfect on this one as Indiana was on the Minnesota nine yard line before turning the ball over in the closing seconds. So hey, how ‘bout ‘dem Gophers? Three in a row now. Funny how I don’t hear or read so much any more about how Minnesota HC Jerry Kill’s health is an issue that needs to be addressed with a possible dismissal. Winning fixes most all issues in big time college football. Obviously this game could have gone either way. In fact, a lot of Indiana’s games “could” go either way. It’s just that most don’t go Indiana’s way due to the horrendous Hoosier defense. And despite the recent winning streak, Minnesota’s defense isn’t exactly stifling. But the Gopher offense is on the rise and Indiana’s offense has never been a problem so we end up with a “last team to have the ball wins” type game. Except this time the last team to have the ball turned it over. I’ll give you the same old assessment I usually apply to Indiana games: everyone on offense looked great, everyone on defense looked bad. Minnesota QB Phillip Nelson appears to be reestablishing himself as the starter as he threw for four touchdowns and completed 16 of 23 passes. Nelson won the competition among his offensive teammates for Big Ten Offensive Player of The Week, an award that is almost automatically handed out to a player that faces the Indiana defense. Minnesota has a good shot at winning this Saturday and will most likely be underdogs in their final two games. Aside from Kill’s health, the Gophers’ season is already a success. Indiana still has two winnable games left on their schedule but they need three to go bowling. They’ll need a major upset to get there.
Michigan St. 29  Michigan 6   (Michigan St. -4.5)
I predicted Michigan St. to win, 23 to 17. I’m not at all surprised that the Spartans won. In fact, I would have been very surprised if they didn’t. I don’t think Michigan is as good as half of the teams in the conference. But I couldn’t bring myself to call for a wide margin of victory given Michigan St.’s sporadic offense. After all, this is a team that could only muster one touchdown against lowly Purdue as recently as two games ago. And QB Connor Cook and the Spartans offense didn’t exactly shine in this one either, but it didn’t matter as Michigan was clearly outmatched last Saturday. Michigan QB Devin Gardner was sacked so many times the Wolverine offense ended up with a negative 48 yards rushing. Both of these teams are a bit overrated in my opinion. Michigan St. is certainly among the best in the conference as a team and a defense. But many like to refer to the Spartan defense as “arguably the best in the country”. Given the competition, I don’t know that there’s enough evidence to make such an argument. They’re in a good spot to win out, and most likely will be favored to do so, but with that inconsistent offense it’s not a slam dunk. And as I’ve said before, Michigan might not win another game. Not saying they won’t, though, because there are some games coming up against teams that are reeling right now.
Notre Dame 38  Navy 34   (Notre Dame -17)
I predicted Notre Dame to win, 42 to 21. Four great afternoon games and three televisions. Something had to give and for the most part, it was this game. I was hoping this game wouldn’t be close, but it came down to the Irish finally making a stop in the final minute to preserve the win. The Notre Dame defense is depleted with injuries, but still, against Navy I expected better. The offense saved the day though, as the teams alternated scoring drives. The Irish defense wasn’t all that good before the injuries but they did seem to improve in the two previous games. The yardage and points they gave up in this game can only be seen as a setback. Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees is always capable of leading the Irish to the end zone, however, so the Irish have a good chance of winning their last three games. But injuries or not, the defense is gonna have to step up starting this Saturday or the Irish could just as possibly lose all three.
Ohio St. 56  Purdue 0   (Ohio St. -31)
I predicted Ohio St. to win, 44 to 10. I figured Ohio St. to have somewhat of a letdown and Purdue to offer at least some resistance. Neither of those really happened. Ohio St. probably could have scored as many points as it wanted to as the Buckeyes took their foot off of the gas after taking a 42 to 0 lead into the half. This was one of three morning games on my viewing schedule so this one quickly landed a permanent spot on TV #3, the one that gets the least attention. And as it turned out, this was the only game on my slate that wasn’t highly entertaining. So for the most part I occasionally glanced over to confirm what I already knew. Ohio St. is the conference best, Purdue the conference worst. Doesn’t mean Purdue can’t yet win a game this season, or that Ohio St. can’t lose. But really nothing much to learn about either team in a game like this other than maybe how Ohio St. HC Urban Meyer is going to handle a big lead as it pertains to the proverbial “style points”. 

 

CRYSTAL BALL 

WEEK OF 11-9-2013

MICHIGAN
31
NEBRASKA
31
OT
INDIANA
48
ILLINOIS
38
NOTRE DAME
28
PITT
14
MINNESOTA
21
PENN ST
14
IOWA
31
PURDUE
10
WISCONSIN
35
BYU
17

 

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

I’m scratching and clawing my way back to even as I went 2-1 this week. I’m always kinda proud when I predict an ATS winner that most didn’t see coming. My Illinois selection qualifies as one of those instances. I also won with Northwestern and lost with Iowa. The whole HEE HAW gang bounced back from a lousy performance last week with a strong showing this week. Everyone but Cardinal, who split at 1-1, earned FTC dollars this week. Cardinal’s winner was Ohio St., his loser, Penn St. He joins his ESPN partner Wildcat, who went 2-0, at the bottom of the overall list. Wildcat won with Ohio St. and Northwestern. Wolverine (a.k.a. Chad Godfrey from isportsweb.com) moved up a spot as he went 2-0 with Ohio St. and Wisconsin. Boilermaker remains in second place as he is now dead even in overall FTC dollars after going 2-1 this week. His winners were Ohio St. and Minnesota, his loser was Penn St. And Horned Frog remains in first as the only contestant ahead in overall FTC dollars as he went 1-0 with Ohio St.
 

ATS  PLAY STANDINGS
LAST SATURDAY
 
TOTAL
FTC $
W
L
T
 
W
L
T
 
 
HORNED FROG (btn)
1
0
0
 
9
7
0
 
$65
BOILERMAKER (btn)
2
1
0
 
11
10
0
 
$0
FROM THE COUCH
2
1
0
 
8
9
0
 
-$95
WOLVERINE (isportsweb)
2
0
0
 
11
14
1
 
-$220
CARDINAL (espn)
1
1
0
 
4
8
0
 
-$240
WILDCAT (espn)
2
0
0
 
4
8
0
 
-$240

 


 
STATS 

Check out the “ATS stats ‘13” tab at the top of the page and you’ll see that it wasn’t just the “play” category that many of the contestants excelled at this week. Everyone but Wildcat did well in the “spread record” and “closest” category as well. And I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m maintaining a good “within 7” percentage so far this season.
 

 

 

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