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 25, 2013

BIG TEN FOOTBALL WEEK 14


WHAT HAPPENED

The conference championship participants have been determined with one weekend of football still left on the schedule. The upcoming “Rivalry” weekend is one of my favorites in college football as it marks the end of the regular season with some nostalgic classics. The Ohio St.-Michigan game has been my favorite since I became enthralled as a young boy while watching the classic 10-10 tie in 1973 that BTN recently did a special on. I don’t think I’ve missed an OSU-Michigan game since, which says a lot about the game since I am a loyal fan of neither.
 
THE PLAYS (2-2)
Iowa 24 Michigan 21   (Iowa -6)
I predicted Iowa to win, 24 to 10. I knew I was in trouble when Iowa QB Jake Rudock threw a pick six on the Hawkeyes first offensive play of the game. Some of the OC’s in this conference drive me crazy when they insist on throwing so often when the strength of the team’s offense is in the running game. I mean, with Iowa’s offensive line and stable of running backs, I would think they would at least try a running play to start the game to see how effective the ground game might be. Rudock ended up with three interceptions yet Iowa still won the game. Most turnovers are nearly impossible to account for when handicapping football, which is what makes consistently picking winners so difficult. Especially a pick six. Take that away and I probably get my cover here. But, those are the breaks. And things like this work both ways in the long run, so all I can do is make the selection that gives me the best chance. Iowa was much better than Michigan. They’d have to be to commit four turnovers to the Wolverines’ one and still win the game. The Hawkeyes close the season at Nebraska, another good running team with a pass happy OC.  It’ll be difficult since it’s a road game, but I like Iowa to win that game. Michigan closes out the season with the classic battle against Ohio St., my favorite “rivalry” game. The Wolverines have struggled all season, particularly offensively, so I can’t see them winning or even keeping the final score close. But games like this inspire underdogs to play above expectations. Better Ohio St. football teams in the past have been upset by Michigan, so anything can happen.
Ohio St. 42 Indiana 14   (Ohio St. -35)
I predicted Ohio St. to win, 52 to 24. I learned my lesson last week when I took the Buckeyes to cover a large spread and watched them jump out to a big lead, take their foot off of the gas, and fail to cover. I got the backdoor cover this time as Indiana scored the game’s final points with two touchdowns in the last six minutes of the game. Actually, I did figure the Hoosiers to get on the board earlier in the game, and they did have some chances, but failed to convert. The win puts Ohio St. in the conference championship game, regardless of the outcome of this Saturday’s game at Michigan. Even though it’s a big rivalry game, I gotta think Ohio St. might come into the game a little overconfident and maybe even flat given Michigan’s struggles this season. I still think they win by double digits, but it may be close in the early part of the game. Indiana hosts Purdue to finish the season. The Boilermakers haven’t won a conference game all season so the Hoosiers are heavily favored. I think Indiana will win, but I think the game will be more competitive than the experts are predicting.
Nebraska 23 Penn St. 20  OT   (Penn St. -1)
I predicted Nebraska to win, 38 to 28. Obviously this game turned out to be closer than I expected so I was lucky to get the ATS win. Penn St. QB Christian Hackenberg is improving and Nebraska is just not a very disciplined football team. The Huskers had to kick the game winning field goal twice as the first one was negated due to a false start penalty. That’s right. A false start on a field goal attempt. Nebraska was also called for a false start on second and goal at the Penn St. one yard line and eventually had to settle for a field goal. This occurred after a Nebraska touchdown was called back for a personal foul called on WR Sam Burtch for making a block about ten yards behind the ball carrier. It was a terrible call (the kind of call that’s ruining the game in my opinion), but still, no reason for the kid to throw that block. But fortunately for Nebraska, Penn St. proved just as capable of shooting themselves in the foot. I won’t go into the details but suffice it to say, neither one of these teams is very good and can thank the likes of Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan to keep that fact from standing out even more. Nebraska closes out the season this Friday at home against Iowa. Certainly the Huskers have the talent to win. But Iowa has some good players as well and a better defense, so I like the Hawkeyes. Penn St. travels to Wisconsin this Saturday. I’d be very surprised if they win.
Wisconsin 20 Minnesota 7   (Wisconsin -16.5)
I predicted Wisconsin to win, 42 to 10. Here’s another game where a pick six might’ve cost me the cover as Wisconsin QB Joel Stave served one up in the second quarter to give Minnesota their only points of the game. But pick six or not, I was way off on this one. I overestimated Wisconsin and underestimated Minnesota. Wisconsin’s O-line and RBs weren’t near as impressive as I expected against a good but (c’mon, it’s Minnesota), not great defense. And I’ve been reluctant to believe that the Gophers’ impressive record isn’t the result of having “snuck up” on a couple of teams that may have taken them lightly. But after this game I’m convinced that Wisconsin is still among the best in the conference, but all this talk about “no respect” in the BCS rankings is unwarranted. And I hopped on the Minnesota bandwagon last season and got burned, so I’ll have to get some trauma counseling and learn to respect the Gopher. Wisconsin ends the season with a home game against Penn St. I think they’ll find the Nittany Lions’ defense much more accommodating and should win easily. Minnesota travels to division champion Michigan St.  I can’t bring myself to call for a Gophers victory, but I think Sparty will be flat and the game will be close going into the fourth quarter, so a win is not out of the question.
 
THE NON-PLAYS
Michigan St. 30 Northwestern 6   (Michigan St. -6.5)
I predicted Michigan St. to win, 24 to 12. I was within a touchdown on both scores so not too far off. Northwestern lost QB Kain Colter early in the game to yet another injury and his backup, Trevor Siemian, hasn’t played well since game time temperatures dropped below 70 degrees. He’s thrown at least one interception in four of the last five games, two in this one. Northwestern’s success most always relies on good QB play and for whatever reason, they aren’t getting it from Siemian this season. Consequently the Wildcats are winless in the conference. Michigan St. punched their ticket to the championship game with the victory and has improved offensively with each game. The receivers are consistently catching the ball for one thing, which is something that couldn’t be said last season and the early part of this season. And QB Connor Cook is gaining confidence as he has thrown some important touchdown passes in the last couple of games. Michigan St. obviously has a great defense. But good defense requires intensity and I’m thinking the Spartans might not be as inspired as usual for this Saturday’s season ending game against Minnesota. They’ve already clinched the division and may be looking ahead to the conference championship game. And while Cook has completed some nice clutch passes, he still can be awful at times. Minnesota is good but not great, so I still think the Spartans will win, but I think they’ll have to come from behind late to do it. But it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they lose. Northwestern finishes a nightmare of a season at Illinois. The Wildcats may be flat for opposite reasons. Might just phone this one in and get this season over with. Couple that with the fact that Illinois is coming off of their first conference win in two years and the Wildcats could be looking at going winless in conference play. But I’m guessing that thought might be enough to motivate a superior Northwestern team to victory, but again, a loss here would be no huge surprise.
Illinois 20  Purdue 16   (Illinois -6.5)
I predicted Illinois to win, 31 to 24. Illini HC Tim Beckman finally got a conference win at the expense of a team that is almost as bad as last season’s Illinois team. Almost, but not that bad. Purdue is improving as freshman QB Danny Etling played his best game of the season. But it wasn’t enough as the two worst teams in the conference battled to avoid a last place finish in the division. Predictably, the game was riddled with mistakes, questionable judgment in the play calling, and some “high school” tactics that ultimately failed. Illinois finishes the season at home against in state rival Northwestern, who is wrapping up a disappointing season. This win was probably, strangely enough, like winning a title to the Illini and might provide enough momentum to knock off a superior Northwestern team that may just want to go through the motions and get their horrendous season over with. As I said earlier, I think Northwestern has too much pride and talent for that to happen, but with college kids it’s hard to tell. Purdue gets one last chance to win an FBS game this Saturday at Indiana. I don’t think they’ll win, but I do think it will be closer than what most might think.
Notre Dame 23 BYU 13   (Pick)
I predicted BYU to win, 34 to 31. Just when I think Notre Dame is down for the count, they come up with a nice win. I didn’t watch much of this game as there were three Big Ten games with the same start time. Notre Dame is an underdog this Saturday against Stanford, and rightfully so. But they’ve been surprising me all season so it could be interesting. 

 

CRYSTAL BALL
 
WEEK OF 11-30-2013 

OHIO ST
34
MICHIGAN
12
NORTHWESTERN
30
ILLINOIS
17
STANFORD
24
NOTRE DAME
14
INDIANA
42
PURDUE
31
MICHIGAN ST
24
MINNESOTA
14
WISCONSIN
42
PENN ST
10
IOWA
27
NEBRASKA
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 went 2-2 this week. I can’t seem to gain any ground as I have split for the fourth time in the last five weeks. I’ve noticed one particularly frustrating trend aside from the constant splitting; any pick sixes that are thrown will come from a team that I’ve selected. Both of my losing selections, Iowa and Wisconsin threw a pick six and both proved to be the point difference between winning or losing ATS. And those aren’t the first pick sixes I’ve had to endure this season, although it hasn’t always been the point differential ATS. My winners were Indiana and Nebraska. I guess it all evens out though, because I actually felt a bit lucky with my two winners and I figured Wisconsin to cover easily, pick six or not. But dammit, Iowa should have been a winner. The overall leader Horned Frog improved on his position by going 2-0 with Michigan St. and Nebraska. Boilermaker lost ground by going 1-2, but still remains in second place overall and is still ahead in FTC dollars. He won with Michigan St. and lost with Illinois and Ohio St. Wolverine (a.k.a. Chad Godfrey from isportsweb.com) still sits in fourth place as he had no qualifying selections this week. Wildcat is now close on his heels in fifth place as he climbed out of the cellar by winning with his only selection, Minnesota. Taking his place at the bottom of the standings is his “ESPN” partner, Cardinal, who went 1-2. Cardinal won with Nebraska and lost with Illinois and Ohio St.
 

ATS  PLAY STANDINGS
LAST SATURDAY
 
TOTAL
FTC $
W
L
T
 
W
L
T
 
 
HORNED FROG (btn)
2
0
0
 
12
7
0
 
$215
BOILERMAKER (btn)
1
2
0
 
15
13
0
 
$35
FROM THE COUCH
2
2
0
 
13
14
0
 
-$120
WOLVERINE (isportsweb)
0
0
0
 
13
15
1
 
-$175
WILDCAT (espn)
1
0
0
 
7
10
0
 
-$200
CARDINAL (espn)
1
2
0
 
6
11
0
 
-$305

 

 
STATS

Check out the “ATS stats ‘13” tab at the top of the page and you’ll see that the standings haven’t changed much from last week. Horned Frog had a good week in the “within 7” category while I had my worst of the season. My overall percentage is still pretty good by “within 7” standards.
 

 

 

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