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 8, 2014

BIG TEN FOOTBALL ATS PREDICTIONS WEEK 7


Another six games to look at this week.  Five conference games and one Notre Dame game. It’s almost as if the oddsmakers were looking over my shoulder last Sunday because most of my predictions are within a point or two of the opening line. There is one game that has the potential to be a play, though.
My current record: 4-1

CRYSTAL BALL

 WEEK OF 10-11-2014 

MINNESOTA
21
NORTHWESTERN
17
WISCONSIN
49
ILLINOIS
21
IOWA
34
INDIANA
24
MICHIGAN ST
35
PURDUE
10
MICHIGAN
21
PENN ST
19
NOTRE DAME
41
N. CAROLINA
24

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
MINNESOTA
7
14
14
21
N'RTHW'STERN
3
10
17
17

This is a tough one. Both teams are coming off of nice wins, but Minnesota may have a slight edge in that they are at home and coming off of a bye week.
Nothing has changed in my weekly assessments of Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian. Off and on. Hot and cold. Can be deadly accurate at times and then can be way off the mark. He’s turned in two good games in a row now, and he’s due for a poor performance. No way to predict for sure, but I’ve got a hunch. I have, however, changed my opinion of the Northwestern defense. They showed more physicality last Saturday than I gave them credit for. And they’ll have to show it again against a Minnesota offense that likes to pound a defense with the running game. Before the season started I wouldn’t have thought I’d be saying this, but the Gophers may have a better running attack than Northwestern’s last two opponents – Wisconsin and Penn St.
Minnesota HC Jerry Kill and his staff have this program moving in the right direction and have shown themselves to be capable on game day. With a 1-0 conference start and two very winnable games to follow, I gotta think he and his staff have put a big “bulls-eye” on this game. And they’ve had an extra week to prepare.  A poor passing game has been their weakness, but QB Mitch Leidner showed significant improvement in his last game. The victory over Michigan - despite the Wolverines’ current struggles - is a decent barometer, but the Gophers failed miserably in their only other test of the season at TCU.
We’ll learn a lot about both of these teams from this game. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Northwestern win. But I think the home field coupled with the bye week, and that Northwestern may be due to come down a bit from the crest they’ve been riding, gives the Gophers enough of an edge to get the win.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Minnesota by 4, so there is virtually no chance that this game will qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
WISCONSIN
14
28
42
49
ILLINOIS
7
14
14
21

I didn’t know while I was handicapping this game on Sunday that Illini starting QB Wes Lunt is now out for most of the season. So I was tempted to disqualify this game. But I’m gonna let it go as is. Lunt’s replacement, Reilly O’Toole, isn’t as good, but he’s not a huge drop-off and really, Wisconsin can pretty much name their score against a weak Illinois defense.
Things just keep getting worse for the Illini. There comes a point in the season, usually about three-quarters of the way through, where I have to start adjusting my predictions for how teams react to the realization that there isn’t much to play for. No hopes for a title, a bowl game, and for the individual underclassmen, no hopes of solidifying a position for next season because the current coaching staff probably won’t be there. It’s not to that point for the Illini just yet, but with last week’s home loss to lowly Purdue at the cost of losing a starting QB, it’s getting there.
Wisconsin is in a bit of trouble themselves. The conference is down this season and the schedule is favorable, so a good win-loss record is still probable, but this is - by recent Wisconsin standards - a subpar Badgers football team. The defense is mediocre and the perennial O-line full of “road-graters” seems to be lacking as this season’s version is struggling to open holes on a consistent basis. And last Saturday’s loss that included four combined interceptions can only leave both QB’s with shaken confidence. But Illinois provides a nice opportunity to cure some of the ailments.
I think Wisconsin will be eager to atone for last Saturday and I don’t see the Illini defense tackling Badgers RB Melvin Gordon. Or Corey Clement for that matter. Illinois has some talent on offense and OC Bill Cubit calls a good game, so I think the Illini will put some points on the board. And as I said, Wisconsin isn't as good as usual. And they’ll probably want to work on their passing game after they build a lead, so I see at least one Wisconsin interception. And gone are the Brett Bielema “running up the score” days, so I see the Badgers winning this one by a large, but not obscenely large, margin.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Wisconsin by 25.5, so there is virtually no chance that this game will qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
IOWA
7
17
24
34
INDIANA
3
10
17
24

I think Iowa is the better team in that they will finish with a much better record than Indiana. But this game presents some problems for the Hawkeyes.
Indiana’s philosophy, and only hope of winning, is to use a fast-paced, high-powered offense to outscore the large amount of points their defense is sure to allow. Iowa’s defense is OK, but not near as good as last season’s version. And the Hawkeyes methodical, plodding offense isn’t built to “outshoot” opponents. It’s reported that Iowa may use two QBs, although I think Jake Rudock is the best choice. Either way, I think Iowa will have their best offensive game so far this season against Indiana’s porous defense. The question is, will that be enough?
Indiana, under HC Kevin Wilson’s tenure, has been a scoring machine. They seem to be a bit off pace this season as QB Nate Sudfeld has been off his game at times. Nonetheless, they have to be considered capable of putting points on the board against any defense that is less than great. But at the same time, their defense has been among the worst in the nation. So it’s always a matter of whether the Hoosiers offense can put up a bigger number than its defense allows. And more often than not, they can’t.
I think Iowa takes time off of the clock with their ball control offense and, after a little over a quarter, stays at least one score ahead of the Indiana offense to win the game with the support of their home crowd.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Iowa by 3, so it is very possible that this game will qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
PURDUE
3
3
10
10
MICHIGAN ST
7
21
28
35

Michigan St. is coming off of an important win last Saturday and hits the road for the first time since the early season loss at Oregon. Both of these facts can be the components of an upset, but against Purdue, I don’t think so.
I will say that Purdue has shown improvement for perhaps the first time under HC Darrell Hazell, and will probably enter this game with enthusiasm and new-found confidence after picking up a rare Big Ten win last Saturday. Or, they could see this game as a forgone conclusion, spend the week basking in the glory of their little victory, and look past this game and set their sights on future opponents that offer a reasonable chance at another victory. I’m going to go with the former and figure the Boilermakers to bring their best, open the scoring with a field goal on their first drive, and come up with a few impressive stops in this game. But I don’t think the Boilermakers have completely cleaned up the senseless mistakes they’ve been prone to, and despite a valiant effort, won’t be able to keep up with an obviously superior Michigan St. team.
That having been said, an upset here is not completely out of the question. I know that sounds absurd, but the only prediction in college football that can be made with near certainty is that there will be huge upsets. Michigan St. QB Connor Cook is playing great right now, but it was only about a year ago to the day that he was struggling against an inferior Purdue defense.
But that was last year. And although they’re bound to occur, upsets of this caliber are nearly impossible to predict. I’m going to stick with the idea that this game plays out near to form with the Spartans defense allowing only one touchdown as the offense slowly puts up 35 points against a “bless your heart” effort from the Purdue defense.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Michigan St. by 20.5, so it is unlikely that this game will qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
MICHIGAN
7
7
14
21
PENN ST
0
10
13
19

I thought I was making a bold prediction in going with Michigan to win this game and figured there was a good chance it would qualify as a play. But apparently the cat’s out of the bag concerning Penn St. and their anemic offense because the oddsmakers initially favored the Wolverines as well.
Michigan’s troubles are well documented so I’ll try to keep my reiterating to a minimum. Although it’s apparent that this will be HC Brady Hoke’s last season with Michigan, it doesn’t appear he’s lost the team just yet. As I’ve said in previous posts, teams react differently to this scenario, and the reaction varies from week to week, so I’ll have to keep a close eye on the Wolverines and try to gauge their pulse as best I can.
I was hoping to catch John Q. Public still believing Penn St. is as good as their record and that QB Christian Hackenberg is the unstoppable superman the media makes him out to be. But apparently the recent loss to Northwestern finally exposed the Nittany Lions mediocre defense and below average offense to just about everyone. New coaching staffs bring new systems that take time to learn, so certainly it’s not unreasonable to think this team could improve, particularly after a bye week. But I’m going to have to see a lot more from the playbook before I believe in this offense. As I’ve said before; yes, the O-line is sub-par, but I don’t think this is all on the players. That offensive scheme is weak.
But still, this is anybody’s game. Given the atmosphere around Ann Arbor, I’m not so sure home field will be much of an advantage for the Wolverines. I think Michigan QB Devin Gardner will have a big day running the ball, but will throw an interception. And I think Hackenberg is good for two picks but will lead the Nittany Lions to a late fourth quarter touchdown while trailing by eight, followed by a failed two point conversion.
As of the date of this post, the line sits as a pick ‘em, so there is virtually no chance that this game will qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
NOTRE DAME
7
24
34
41
N. CAROLINA
7
14
17
24

Notre Dame faces top ranked Florida St. after this game. And after defeating a ranked Stanford team last Saturday, this game is the very definition of a “sandwich” game, or a “trap” game. So I expect a bit of an Irish letdown; maybe a few more penalties than usual, QB Everett Golson might miss some open receivers, an unforced turnover, etc…  But so far, North Carolina has struggled defensively. And Golson appears to be on a mission this season. Although he played well for the most part in the last two games, there were also moments when he played poorly and I think he might be anxious to correct some of those mistakes. The Notre Dame defense may letdown a bit too – I’m calling for them to give up more points than they have in any other game, here.
One of the reasons is that North Carolina has a pretty good offense. Not great, but good enough to score against a defense that may not be as intense as usual. QB Marquise Williams is the star and, as I’ve said before, opposing QB’s always seem to play their best game against the Irish. And while the Tar Heels are struggling a bit, they entered the season with high regards from many analysts.
I figure Notre Dame to score on their first drive, and then lose focus for a while as the Tar Heels hold serve until midway through the second quarter. Then I think the Irish, against a suspect defense, score too often for the Heels to keep up.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Notre Dame by 16.5, so there is virtually no chance 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
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
1
0
0
3
0
0
$150
FROM THE COUCH
2
1
0
3
1
0
$95
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
1
2
0
4
2
0
$90
TOM DEINHART (btn)
2
0
0
3
2
0
$40
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
0
0
0
0
0
0
$0
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
0
1
0
2
2
0
-$10
STAT RAT (pubhole)
0
2
0
3
4
0
-$70
BRENT YARINA (btn)
0
2
0
1
3
0
-$115
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
0
3
0
1
4
0
-$170
DAVID FOX (athlon)
1
2
0
2
5
0
-$175



SEASON STATS

SPREAD RECORD
W
L
STRAIGHT UP
W
L
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
9
4
FROM THE COUCH
9
4
FROM THE COUCH
8
4
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
9
4
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
7
5
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
8
5
TOM DEINHART (btn)
7
6
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
8
5
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
6
6
DAVID FOX (athlon)
8
5
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
6
7
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
8
5
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
6
7
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
8
5
STAT RAT (pubhole)
5
7
STAT RAT (pubhole)
7
6
BRENT YARINA (btn)
4
9
TOM DEINHART (btn)
6
7
DAVID FOX (athlon)
4
9
BRENT YARINA (btn)
6
7
WITHIN 7
W
L
CLOSEST
W
L
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
6
7
FROM THE COUCH
8
4
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
5
8
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
7
5
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
5
8
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
7
6
FROM THE COUCH
4
9
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
6
6
STAT RAT (pubhole)
4
9
STAT RAT (pubhole)
5
7
TOM DEINHART (btn)
4
9
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
5
8
BRENT YARINA (btn)
4
9
TOM DEINHART (btn)
5
8
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
3
10
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
4
8
DAVID FOX (athlon)
3
10
DAVID FOX (athlon)
4
9
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
3
10
BRENT YARINA (btn)
3
10


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. 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
2
0
2
0
2
0
2
0






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