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.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

BIG TEN FOOTBALL ATS PREDICTIONS WEEK 10


Seven games to look at this week. Six conference games and a Notre Dame game.
It’s possible that three of them will be plays, but all of them are close to the required seven point differential, so it’s also possible that I won’t have any plays. It’ll probably be somewhere in between. I need a bounce-back from Black Saturday.
My current record: 5-5

CRYSTAL BALL 

WEEK OF 11-1-2014 

NEBRASKA
42
PURDUE
27
WISCONSIN
34
RUTGERS
17
PENN ST
24
MARYLAND
14
NORTHWESTERN
20
IOWA
17
MICHIGAN
24
INDIANA
14
OHIO ST
45
ILLINOIS
21
NOTRE DAME
35
NAVY
17

As I pointed out in previous posts, my method is to make my predictions on Sunday - before I look at the spreads - to keep from being influenced subconsciously. Any prediction that varies from the game time spread by seven or more points is considered a “play”. 50 FTC dollars will be wagered on each “play”. That’s the system. Seven points or more differential, play it; less than seven, back off. I do make one disclaimer: If a report comes out during the week (after Sunday) that there is an issue involving the starting quarterback (an injury I might not have known about) or the coach (health issues, scandal, etc.), I won’t count the game.  Occasionally I might predict a tie, which is the equivalent of a “pick em”. (For a more detailed description of what constitutes a “play”, see the “FTC $ Q&A” tab at the top of this post.)


1
2
3
Final
NEBRASKA
14
21
35
42
PURDUE
3
13
20
27

Nebraska has been playing well lately, especially since QB Tommy Armstrong has been completing some of his intermediate passes with relative consistency. He missed a few last Saturday and did throw a bad interception, but still, I’d say he’s improved.
Purdue is coming of a bye week. The Boilermakers have shown dramatic improvement in their past few games, notably since Austin Appleby was inserted as the starting QB.
I expect Nebraska’s offense to score frequently in typical Nebraska style- hand the ball to Ameer Abdullah, or Imani Cross when Abdullah needs a break. Most of Purdue’s recent improvement has been on the offensive side of the ball. The defense will be overmatched in this game.
The Nebraska defense is good, but not great. I believe they will get stops when they need to, but I also think Purdue will have some success by getting the ball into to the hands of their speedy RB’s, Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert. I don’t believe Purdue’s offense will score enough to keep up with the ‘Huskers offense, but I do believe Purdue will keep playing hard regardless of the score.
Therefore I think Nebraska will have built a big lead by the middle of third quarter, but the Boilermakers won’t go away and score a garbage touchdown near the end of the game leaving a score that will make the game seem closer than it actually was.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Nebraska by 23.5, so there is a good chance that this game will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
RUTGERS
7
10
10
17
WISCONSIN
7
17
24
34

Wisconsin played what I think is their best game of the season last Saturday, due in large part to QB Joel Stave providing a successful passing game, something that has been missing from the Badgers offense all season. It is unclear whether Rutgers starting QB Gary Nova will be available for this game as he was injured last Saturday. It appeared to be a knee injury, so if he is available I expect him to be hobbled. His backup, Chris Laviano, played well last Saturday so I don’t expect a major drop-off if he has to go in this game.
Rutgers was simply outmatched in their last two games. I think they have a better chance in this game at home, but will still have their hands full. I don’t want to allow one great performance last Saturday to cause me to overestimate Wisconsin. But they sure looked good on both sides of the ball.
I think Wisconsin is the better team and look for them to take a lead in the second quarter that they never relinquish. But I don’t think the Badgers will dominate in the same fashion they did last week.
As of the date of this post, there is no line available so this game may be excluded.

1
2
3
Final
PENN ST
3
10
17
24
MARYLAND
0
7
14
14

Penn St. is coming off a strong performance last Saturday in an overtime loss against Ohio St. All teams claim there is no such thing as a moral victory, but I don’t believe that’s the case in this instance based on some of the quotes I read from the Penn St. players. Maryland is coming off an awful performance at Wisconsin.
I don’t think Maryland is as bad as they showed last Saturday, but I do think they were exposed as a team that struggles to defeat a blitz if QB C.J. Brown isn’t allowed to escape with his feet. Penn St. has been playing good defense recently and I believe will be able to contain Brown and force him to throw. Brown was terrible as a passer last Saturday. I think he can do better and probably will in this game. But “better” than last Saturday’s performance doesn’t translate into a consistent threat as a passer. I look for Penn St.’s defense to hold the Terp’s high powered offense to two touchdowns.
Maryland’s defense is terrible. Penn St.’s offense has been terrible but showed signs of life in the second half of last Saturday’s game. So I’m calling for 24 points from the Nittany Lions offense in this game. Not a big number for most teams, but it will be the highest total from Penn St. (in regulation) since they scored 26 in the season opener. I’m a bit out on a limb to say Penn St. will win by ten, but I like that the Nitanny Lions are at home.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Penn St by 4, so it is possible that this game will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
IOWA
3
10
17
17
N'RTHW'STERN
7
10
17
20

Both teams are coming off a bye week.
I like Northwestern in this game but the fact that it’s at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa worries me a bit. The Hawkeyes are usually better at home, but can be beaten as they’ve already lost one home game this season.
Iowa seems to be insistent on throwing the ball more often than running. From the couch it doesn’t make sense but certainly my vantage point is irrelevant when compared to that of the Iowa coaching staff. The Hawkeyes haven’t been as successful on the ground as in recent years, but still, the running game appeared to be more successful than the results produced from throwing ball 50 plus times in their last game, a loss at Maryland. I don’t think I’m the only one who sees it that way so it’s possible Iowa may try to revert back to the “run first” offense they’re usually known for. Either way, Iowa hasn’t lived up to preseason expectations on either side of the ball. The line isn’t blocking all that well, QB Jake Rudock is OK for the most part but is still prone to throwing a critical interception, receivers are dropping too many passes, and the defense is slow and not tackling very well. Yet after saying all that, I still think Iowa will play well enough to make this a very close game.
Northwestern had a rough start this season but has since improved enough to compete with most of the teams in the conference. The defense has been playing well against the run, but can wear down against a dominant running team. So far, Iowa doesn’t fit that description so I think the Wildcats defense holds up well in this game.
Offensively, Northwestern has found a pretty good running game and QB Trevor Siemian should have some success throwing to matchups against Iowa’s slow linebackers. But as I’ve said many times before, Siemian is, well, I was gonna say streaky, which he can be, but mostly he’s hot and cold. Will miss badly with a pass and then come right back and throw a strike on the next pass. But he can also be streaky in that he sometimes turns in a bad performance throughout a whole game.
Iowa is favored in this one, and I can see why. The game is at Kinnick and both teams are at about the same talent level. I’m hoping Siemian doesn’t turn in one of his clunkers. If he plays to par, I like Northwestern in a close, low scoring battle.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Iowa by 4, so there is a good chance that this game will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
MICHIGAN
7
10
17
24
INDIANA
7
14
14
14

I’m concerned that Michigan may be to a point where they start to completely unravel. There’s nothing but negativity surrounding this team right now and it’s all but official that this will be Brady Hoke’s last season as the HC. Certainly the confidence is shaken so the first bad thing that happens in a game can compound into more mistakes.
But Indiana’s offense, which is dependent on the passing game, is without starting QB Nate Sudfeld and his backup threw for only 11 yards in the Hoosiers’ last game.  And their defense is horrendous. But even with the inability to throw, the Hoosiers managed to pile up over 200 yards on the ground against a highly regarded Michigan St. defense.
On paper, Michigan should easily win this game, and I believe they will win, but it won’t be easy. If the Hoosiers can find a way to get RB Devin Coleman over 100 yards rushing against Michigan St., I’m figuring they can do the same against Michigan. But unless the Hoosiers have dramatically improved in the passing game during the bye week, it shouldn’t be too difficult for Michigan figure out a way to keep Indiana from scoring many points.
It’s a matchup of deficiencies when Michigan has the ball. Michigan’s offense and Indiana’s defense are among the worst in, not only the conference, but the nation. It’s become apparent that Michigan QB Devin Gardner is incapable of protecting the football so I have to figure him for at least one turnover in this game. But Indiana’s defense is an offense’s dream. Offensive Player of the Week awards are consistently handed to a player who faced the Hoosiers defense.
So this game seems to be a matter of not who’s the best, but who isn’t the worst. If Indiana has Sudfeld I’d have this game close to a pick ‘em. But then, if Michigan wasn’t so deep into a disappointing season I’d like the Wolverines by even more than the ten points I’m calling for here.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Michigan by 7, so it is unlikely that this game will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
OHIO ST
14
28
42
45
ILLINOIS
7
14
14
21

Both teams surprised me a bit last Saturday. I figured Ohio St. to continue their weekly pummeling of opponents against Penn St., but it turns out the Buckeyes aren’t the “tuff-guys” I thought they were when faced with a legitimate defense. The Illinois game wasn’t available to me, so I’m not sure what happened there. Somehow the Illinois defense managed to contain David Cobb and Minnesota’s rushing attack. I’m still scratching my head over that one.
Every Illinois game I’ve been able to see, the Illini defense has been horrible. Especially against the run. The offense isn’t bad, and by all accounts, made some strides last Saturday. I expected the Illini to use two QBs, but it looks like they’re going to stick with Reilly O’Toole as the replacement for injured starter Wes Lunt, which I think is the right choice. O’Toole isn’t that big of a drop-off from Lunt, IMO.
Ohio St. got a scare last week as they had to go to overtime to beat Penn St. Prior to the game, the Buckeyes were considered by many to be the best team in the conference. Much of the acclaim was due to the development of freshman QB J.T. Barrett, who was suggested by some as a Heisman candidate prior to last Saturday. But again, all of that was prior to last Saturday’s game. This was a Penn St. team that is considered middle to lower tier in the conference that took the Buckeyes into overtime. And although Barrett came up big in overtime, for the most part he played like the freshman that he is.
Obviously some reassessing is needed regarding both teams, but I don’t want to overthink or overvalue the results of one Saturday. Ohio St. has a big game after this one, most likely for the division title. If it wasn’t for last Saturday I’d figure the Buckeyes to look past the Illini, but given the Illini win and the Buckeyes’ close call, I don’t think that will be the case. I’m going to throw out the Illini’s defensive performance as an aberration and figure the Buckeye’s offense to have their way. Illinois’ offense puts up some points, but not near as many as the Buckeyes do in this one.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Ohio St. by 28.5, so there is only a small chance that this game will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
NAVY
7
7
17
17
NOTRE DAME
7
21
28
35

Notre Dame is coming off a heartbreaking loss at Florida State, but with the bye last Saturday, has had an extra week to recover.
Navy is arguably the weakest team left on Notre Dame’s schedule, but the Midshipman’s option offense always presents problems for opposing defenses. I’m sure the Notre Dame coaches are aware of how dangerous Navy is. It’s up to them to convince the kids on the team.
I expect Navy to have some success moving the chains and taking time off the clock. They usually do against most teams and have historically done so against Notre Dame. But one thing I’ve noticed about this Notre Dame defense: They tackle well, even in the secondary. I think if the Irish defense brings a good effort, Navy will turn the ball over a few times.
The Irish offense should be able to put some points on the board, but the opportunities will be limited because of Navy’s ball-control time consuming offense.
Notre Dame can’t sleep on this game, and I figure the bye week will keep them from doing so. As usual, they will get the best effort from their opponent.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Notre Dame by 14, so it is unlikely that this game will qualify as a play.



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 (conference games only) that I found on line. 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. 

ATS  PLAY STANDINGS
LAST SATURDAY
TOTAL
FTC $
W
L
T
W
L
T
TOM DEINHART (btn)
2
2
0
7
5
0
$75
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
1
0
0
4
3
0
$35
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
1
0
0
6
5
0
$25
FROM THE COUCH
0
3
0
4
5
0
-$75
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
0
2
0
1
3
0
-$115
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
0
1
0
2
4
0
-$120
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
2
1
0
6
8
0
-$140
STAT RAT (pubhole)
1
1
0
5
8
0
-$190
BRENT YARINA (btn)
1
2
0
4
8
0
-$240
DAVID FOX (athlon)
1
3
0
5
9
0
-$245




SEASON STATS

SPREAD RECORD
W
L
STRAIGHT UP
W
L
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
15
12
FROM THE COUCH
22
6
TOM DEINHART (btn)
14
13
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
21
7
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
14
14
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
21
7
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
13
15
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
21
7
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
12
16
DAVID FOX (athlon)
20
8
FROM THE COUCH
11
15
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
20
8
STAT RAT (pubhole)
11
16
STAT RAT (pubhole)
19
9
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
10
17
TOM DEINHART (btn)
19
9
BRENT YARINA (btn)
9
19
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
19
9
DAVID FOX (athlon)
9
19
BRENT YARINA (btn)
18
10
WITHIN 7
W
L
CLOSEST
W
L
TOM DEINHART (btn)
11
17
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
14
13
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
10
18
FROM THE COUCH
11
15
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
10
18
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
11
16
FROM THE COUCH
9
19
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
11
17
BRENT YARINA (btn)
8
20
STAT RAT (pubhole)
10
17
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
8
20
TOM DEINHART (btn)
10
17
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
8
20
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
10
17
STAT RAT (pubhole)
7
21
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
9
18
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
7
21
DAVID FOX (athlon)
8
20
DAVID FOX (athlon)
5
23
BRENT YARINA (btn)
7
20


SPREAD RECORD-Simply displays the ATS record.
STRAIGHT UP- The outright winner, disregarding the spread.
WITHIN 7-This category tracks how many times a predicted point spread was within seven points of the final score differential. Why does this matter? Because one can never lose in the play category if the prediction is within 7 points. 35 percent is about average in this category. Close to 50 percent is excellent.
CLOSEST - It’s possible to be on the correct side of the spread yet not be as accurate as the oddsmakers. EX: If I predict Michigan by 12, the spread is 6, and Michigan wins by 7, I get a win in the spread record category. I get a loss in the closest category because the spread (7-6=1) was closer than my prediction (12-7=5).

Any games that go into overtime will be considered a tie when calculating the “closest” and “within 7” category. The actual score will be used, however, for the other two categories.

NOTRE DAME

I predict Notre Dame games along with the Big Ten conference games. Other than the occasions when Notre Dame plays a Big Ten team, these predictions aren’t included in the standings/comparisons as my competition doesn’t make predictions for Notre Dame vs non-Big Ten conference games. Listed below are my stats for Notre Dame games that aren’t included in the standings. 

PLAYS
SPREAD RECORD
CLOSEST
WITHIN 7
STRAIGHT UP
W
L
T
W
L
W
L
W
L
W
L
1
0
0
3
0
3
0
3
1
4
0






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