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 11, 2013

BIG TEN FOOTBALL WEEK 12


WHAT HAPPENED

Another great college football Saturday as most all games were entertaining. Maybe not as entertaining as the week before, but close enough.  Michigan is this week’s latest casualty as they are virtually eliminated from contention for the conference championship. And Minnesota, yes Minnesota, still has a chance. Not a very good one, but a chance nonetheless.

THE PLAYS (1-1)
Wisconsin 27  BYU 17   (Wisconsin -8.5)
I predicted Wisconsin to win, 35 to 17. I had to sweat the backdoor garbage cover in this one as BYU was driving with seconds remaining in the game. The clock finally ticked down to zero with the ball on the Wisconsin 25 yard line and I got my “W”. I know it’s been well documented by many, but still I’d like to reiterate; man, Wisconsin has a couple of good running backs. The Badgers set the tone on the opening drive as they marched 76 yards down the field in 11 plays to score a touchdown. BYU has a good team. Their QB, Taysom Hill isn’t bad and the defense plays hard and tackles well. But Wisconsin was better on both sides of the ball and was in control throughout most of the game. The Badgers might’ve scored even more points but they turned the ball over twice in the first half, both in BYU territory. And in the third quarter QB Joel Stave overthrew a wide open receiver in the end zone and Wisconsin had to settle for a field goal. BYU scored a touchdown with three minutes left in the game to make the final margin 10 points. This is a good Wisconsin team that right now appears to be the second best in the conference. You can never rule out a major upset in college football and that’s what it will take to keep Wisconsin from winning the rest of their conference games. A trip to Minnesota appears to be the only potential obstacle. And I really don’t see Wisconsin losing that game.
Pitt 28 Notre Dame 21   (Notre Dame -3.5)
I predicted Notre Dame to win, 28 to 14. I already had one win under my belt and felt pretty good about this game going in. And I liked my chances through most of the game as Notre Dame scored first and held serve as both teams alternated touchdowns and went into the fourth quarter tied at 21. But Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees was intercepted twice and Notre Dame’s defense is not to be counted on, so Pitt ended up with the victory leaving the Irish faithful livid. I feel bad for Rees. Irish fans are going to blame him for this loss but the truth is, he has no help around him. The running game is nonexistent and the Irish defense just isn’t very good, which is surprising considering the preseason hype. Consequently Notre Dame HC Brian Kelly has to rely on Rees to win games for the Irish. Can’t keep asking the kid to do it all by himself and not expect at least some turnovers to occur. Notre Dame was a bit victimized by the officiating as DE Stephon Tuitt was ejected for “tackling”. Dangit, I did it again. I mean “targeting”. I always get those two words mixed up. And a questionable fourth down pass interference call extended a Pitt drive that eventually resulted in a touchdown. And there were a couple of other strange calls but really, Notre Dame didn’t appear to be much better than this 5-4 Pitt team. The most frustrating play for Irish fans was when Notre Dame sacked Pitt QB Tom Savage and forced a fumble. The Notre Dame defenders apparently forgot for the moment what a fumble is and not only neglected to pick it up and return it for an easy touchdown, but literally slapped the ball away and watched Pitt recover. As I said, Rees is taking the fall for this one and Kelly can sometimes be his harshest critic. I wonder about the kid’s confidence and am also concerned that Kelly might bench him. And without a confident Rees, who I think is much better than he’s given credit for, to lead the Irish on scoring drives, Notre Dame has no chance to win their last two games. The Irish defense won’t stop either one those teams, so any chance at victory will mean outscoring a big number from the opposing offense.

THE NON-PLAYS
Iowa 38  Purdue 14   (Iowa -15.5)
I predicted Iowa to win 31 to 10.  I wasn’t too far off on this one as the game went much like I expected.  Iowa isn’t the type of team that’s going to blow anybody out in the early part of the game and Purdue can sometimes hang with teams that aren’t overwhelming in the passing game. But Iowa is definitely the better team and they slowly grinded their way, Hawkeye style, to a big winning margin. Iowa has found another good RB in sophomore Jordan Canzeri, who ran for 165 yards on 20 carries. QB Jake Rudock played his usual steady, solid game and Iowa’s defense showed why they’re among the best in the conference. I think it’s fair to say that Purdue is the worst team in the conference so I can’t imagine Iowa being too motivated for this game, but even with that in mind, the Boilermakers did show some flashes of improvement. QB Danny Etling still sometimes hangs on to the ball too long in the pocket, but is improving in that regard and has a good arm when he does cut the ball loose. And Purdue’s O-line did give him some time on several occasions against a good Iowa pass rush. The Boilermakers have played a brutal schedule to this point but it gets much easier for the final three games. It may not happen, but this portion of the schedule presents the Boilermakers with at least a chance to win one or more games against an FBS opponent this season. The Hawkeyes have a bye next week and close out the season with two games that many, including myself, would have projected as Iowa losses before the season started. But right now I’d say that Iowa has a great chance to win both games, but it won’t be easy.
Minnesota 24  Penn St. 10   (Minnesota -2.5)
I predicted Minnesota to win, 21 to 14. Another game that wasn’t too far from what I envisioned. Minnesota is on a roll right now and Penn St. is drifting in the opposite direction. Gophers QB Phillip Nelson is gaining confidence with each game and it’s really showing up in the passing game. Nelson has been a big contributor throughout the current Minnesota winning streak, but with that in mind I would still say that this was his best game of the season. Minnesota is a “run first” team so Nelson’s numbers aren’t gaudy, but he’s completing passes when needed and managing the game well. On the flip-side, I’ve been indirectly critical throughout the season of Penn St. QB Christian Hackenberg. I say indirectly because it’s not Hackenberg himself that I feel compelled to criticize. He’s a young freshman who is still learning. But it’s the accolades that are raining down on this kid portraying him to be a clutch performer who’s among the best in the conference that leave me saying “not true”. The odds are finally catching up to Hackenberg and Penn St. as the ol’ “jump ball to Robinson” play that made Hackenberg a legend is now falling incomplete. And it’s killing Penn St. drives. The Nittany Lions drove to the Minnesota 16 yard line midway through the fourth, but the drive stalled as Hackenberg threw four straight incompletions. And Penn St.’s defense is nowhere near good enough to support an offense that’s averaging less than 14 points (in regulation) in its last three games. The Nittany Lions should win next week, but I’m not near as sure about that as most seem to be. They’ll be underdogs in their last two games. Minnesota has a bye this Saturday and after that it appears as though the party will be over as far as the winning streak goes. But the Gophers have surprised me and most everyone else this season, so who knows?
Indiana 52 Illinois 35   (Indiana -9.5)
I predicted Indiana to win, 48 to 38. Pretty darn close on this one as well. This was a showdown between the two worst defenses in the conference. And without watching much football other than Big Ten and Notre Dame games, I can only guess among the worst in the nation. But the Illini have put together a decent offense this season and Indiana has always been good enough offensively when not faced with an upper echelon defense. So this game would go to the offense that could avoid shooting itself in the foot more often than the other. Which is a big challenge for both of these teams. Both teams racked up over 600 yards of total offense as they traded touchdowns throughout most of the game. Illinois tied the game at 35 early in the fourth quarter when they avoided a “foot shooting” incident by recovering their own fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. But I predicted Indiana to win because they have the better offense and it proved to be the difference as the Hoosiers rattled off the last 17 points to close out the game. It’s really too insignificant to mention, but I can’t help but say that Illinois’ last drive during garbage time- down 17 points with a few minutes left- is kind of indicative of the current Illinois conference losing streak which now stands at 19 games. Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase threw a perfect pass into the arms of an open receiver standing in the end zone for an apparent easy touchdown. But the receiver managed to somehow not catch the ball and practically flip it out of his hands about two yards into the arms of an Indiana defender for an interception. Again, it was insignificant to the game’s result, but geez, I’m tellin’ ya, only Illinois. The Illini play Ohio St. this Saturday, then on the following Saturday have a very good chance at getting that elusive conference win. It’s nowhere near close to the same thing, but I’m wondering if Illinois will treat the OSU game like some teams do when they’ve already clinched a playoff spot. Will HC Tim Beckman try to protect Scheelhaase and other key players from injury in order to preserve them for the next game? Indiana will be huge underdogs in their next two games and probably will be favored in their last game of the season.
Nebraska 17  Michigan 13   (Michigan -6.5)
I couldn’t separate these teams as I predicted the game to go into overtime at 31. I was surprised that Michigan was favored by a touchdown. In fact, the spread sat at seven points for most of the week which would have qualified this game as a play and, as it turned out, a winner. I was also surprised that most agreed that Michigan would win this game. I expected a near equal division among the predictions. I appreciated the fact that Nebraska was on the road with a second string QB and isn’t playing up to their standards. I also understood but didn’t put much stock into the fact that Michigan HC Brady Hoke has never lost a home game. So I couldn’t quite bring myself to pick the Huskers as an outright winner. But I couldn’t pick Michigan, either. They’re not very good. Terrible, in fact, as Michigan standards go. I dubbed this game the “hot seat” game because, due to some disappointing losses, both of these coaches are under intense scrutiny and the losing coach will most certainly have to deal with a mob of angry fans. In fact, it was one of those games where it might have been better to not play at home because the “boos” were raining down on the Wolverines as, for the second week in a row, Michigan QB Devin Gardner was sacked so many times the Wolverines ended up with negative rushing yards. Obviously I expected more scoring from both teams. I don’t think either team has a great defense but both turned in one of their better games in this one. This was an entertaining game as Nebraska jumped out to a 10-0 first quarter lead and Michigan responded with the next 13 points, taking the lead on a field goal with eight minutes left in the game. But the Huskers came back with a 75 yard touchdown drive which turned out be the game winner. Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong played one of his better games. Which is not to say he played a great game, but I think at this point he might be the better choice going into this Saturday’s showdown against Michigan St. even if starter Taylor Martinez is recovered enough from injury to play.  Unless Martinez is 100% healthy, which I would guess is not likely, I can’t see him being as effective as he usually is given that he hasn’t played much this season. At least not as effective as Armstrong might be. Even if Nebraska does manage to win this Saturday’s showdown they won’t have the division locked up as they close out the season with a difficult game. And I said three weeks ago Michigan might not win another game this season. Not sayin’ they can’t, but I don’t see myself listing the Wolverines on the left side of the “Crystal Ball” section again this year. 

 

CRYSTAL BALL 

WEEK OF 11-16-2013 

OHIO ST
52
ILLINOIS
10
NORTHWESTERN
24
MICHIGAN
21
MICHIGAN ST
21
NEBRASKA
7
PENN ST
24
PURDUE
18
WISCONSIN
63
INDIANA
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 six games this week while my competition looked at five. The closing lines are shown above in the “What Happened” section of this post.

The gang is making a comeback as I was the only contestant to pick a loser, Notre Dame. I offset my loss by winning with Wisconsin to give me a 1-1 split. Tough competition when losing only five FTC dollars turns out to be the worst performance of the week. All of my competition except for Wolverine (a.k.a. Chad Godfrey from isportsweb.com) won with Iowa and went 1-0. Wolverine joined me in missing the Iowa boat, but turned in the best performance going 2-0 with Minnesota and Wisconsin. The season standings did not change but my position in third place isn’t quite as solid as it was last week. Boilermaker once again joins Horned Frog as the only contestants on the good side of the FTC dollar ledger.
 

ATS  PLAY STANDINGS
LAST SATURDAY
 
TOTAL
FTC $
W
L
T
 
W
L
T
 
 
HORNED FROG (btn)
1
0
0
 
10
7
0
 
$115
BOILERMAKER (btn)
1
0
0
 
12
10
0
 
$50
FROM THE COUCH
1
1
0
 
9
10
0
 
-$100
WOLVERINE (isportsweb)
2
0
0
 
13
14
1
 
-$120
CARDINAL (espn)
1
0
0
 
5
8
0
 
-$190
WILDCAT (espn)
1
0
0
 
5
8
0
 
-$190

 

 

STATS 

Check out the “ATS stats ‘13” tab at the top of the page and you’ll see that I was 5-1 in the “spread” category. And it’s eating me up that the “1” happened to qualify as a play. Thanks, Notre Dame. A combined two point difference in the Vegas line would have given me two more plays and winners (Iowa and Nebraska). But self-control is important when chasing FTC dollars so I didn’t think twice about sticking to the seven point differential guideline. I also did well in the “closest” category and improved on what was already a good percentage in the “within 7” category. Although I was near or at the bottom of most categories in the early weeks of the season, I have now climbed to the top of the standings in every category except the “play” category. Of course, the “play” category is the only one that really matters, though. 

 

 

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