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, October 27, 2014

BIG TEN FOOTBALL ATS WHAT HAPPENED WEEK 9


WHAT HAPPENED 

It was a disastrous Saturday for me as I lost all three of my plays. I haven’t suffered a setback like this in over three years. My confidence is shaken, but not enough to abandon ship. Just have to move on. My predictions and pre-game comments can be found on my previous post, dated 10-22 (ATS Predictions - Week 9).
My Record:  5-5


THE PLAYS
Wisconsin 52  Maryland 7   (Wisconsin -10.5)
I predicted Wisconsin to win, 38-35.  So Maryland plus the points was my play.
This was Wisconsin’s best game of the season, and Maryland’s worst.
I was critical of Wisconsin’s defense in my prediction write-up but the Badgers proved me wrong in this game with a dominating performance. I did mention that the bye week may benefit Wisconsin QB Joel Stave, who just recently won back the starting job. Apparently it did, because Stave played great; better than I expected. Prior to this game, the Badgers have struggled in the passing game. Their stock goes up if Stave can continue to throw like he did last Saturday.
Maryland looked like they were sleepwalking. A lackluster performance that was evident even in their body language. You just never know with college kids. I pointed out in my write-up that Maryland QB C.J. Brown is erratic as a passer, but is still capable of completing some nice passes. He proved to be incapable in this game. He didn’t throw the interception I called for but that’s because his passes were so far off even the defenders couldn’t get to them. The Maryland OC called the right plays to offset the constant blitzes coming from the Wisconsin defense - Maryland receivers consistently got past the defenders downfield - but Brown couldn’t have been more inaccurate if he was throwing with his eyes closed. Just terrible.
Obviously Wisconsin is better than I gave them credit for, especially with Stave adding the passing game that the Badgers have been missing. I’ll have to be careful not to downgrade Maryland too much. I don’t know why they didn’t play well, but they’re not as bad as what they showed in this game.

Illinois 28  Minnesota 24   (Minnesota -3.5)
I predicted Minnesota to win, 31-14. The “U” got me again. For the second time this season, a conference game was televised on ESPNU. ESPNU isn’t included in my television package.
One thing I did know: I knew I was in trouble with Minnesota as my play. I could see that about a half-hour before kickoff.
Who knew that the Illini, a team that has won only one conference game in the past three seasons, a team that was without its starting QB, would beat a division leading team that was 6-1 and undefeated in conference play?
Who knew that the worst rushing defense in the conference, possibly in the nation, would hold the nation’s fourth leading rusher to 34 yards on 16 carries through three quarters?
Who knew that, late in the fourth quarter, Minnesota’s star running back would fumble on his team’s own 15 yard line, leading to the Illini’s scoop and score game-winning touchdown?
Who knew? Not me. Not any of the nine prognosticators I’m tracking on this blog. Not any of the BTN Show analysts. Not any of the 93% of the respondents on the Big Ten website’s poll who picked Minnesota - the highest percentage recorded to the favorite among all five games (BTNPredictions -Fan Poll).
Of course in the big picture, the Illini victory isn’t something that can never occur. History has taught us that every season at least some of the huge underdogs will produce major upsets in college football. And this was a major upset, right?
Or was it? The closing line on this game was 3.5 points.
A matchup like this and the line is only 3.5? Really?
About an hour and a half before kick-off the line was 5 points. A half-hour before kickoff – one hour later - the line was down to 3.5.
Who knew? Somebody knew.

Ohio St. 31  Penn St. 24  2OT   (Ohio St. -14.5)
I predicted Ohio St. to win, 42-10. Obviously I expected more from Ohio St. and figured them to cover easily. The Buckeyes did have the spread covered at halftime, but the second half was all Penn St.
I mentioned that Penn St’s offense was bound to improve at some point in the season and, to some degree, they did in this game. Particularly in the second half when the Nittany Lions had the momentum. But still, the offense wasn’t great; most of the credit for the close score belongs to the Penn St. defense. QB Christian Hackenberg threw two of the three interceptions I called for, although he did his part to complete the trifecta - Ohio St. defenders dropped two of Hackenberg’s passes during the drive that sent the game into overtime.
Ohio St. jumped out to a 17 point halftime lead, mostly by running the ball right up the middle. But QB J.T. Barrett struggled in this game as he threw two interceptions; one of ‘em a pick-six early in the second half that swung the momentum in Penn St’s favor and fired-up the home crowd. As I said, Penn St.’s defense deserves a lot of credit. They harassed Barrett on passing downs and slowed down the Buckeyes running game in the second half. But it was Barrett who was the hero in overtime so I gotta give him credit for fighting through adversity.
The home field and the momentum played a big part in Penn St. playing their most inspired football of the season. Ohio St. is good, and since HC Urban Meyer’s arrival, the Buckeyes always seem to find a way. But this game knocks the Buckeyes down a notch from the perceptions formed from the beatdowns they recently issued against weaker defenses. It should also curtail some of the “belongs in the Heisman discussion” comments that have recently been attributed to Barrett.

THE NON-PLAYS
Nebraska 42  Rutgers 24   (Nebraska -20.5)
I predicted Nebraska to win, 38-17. This is one game from last Saturday that I can say didn’t surprise me.
As I said in my prediction write-up, Rutgers was outmatched in this game. The Cornhuskers still have some holes in the defense, and QB Tommy Armstrong was off and on with his passes, but for the most part nothing in this game to change any assessments of either team. Rutgers QB Gary Nova left the game with an injury. His backup didn’t play all that badly, though.

Michigan St. 35  Michigan 11   (Michigan St. -17)
I predicted Michigan St. to win, 31-17.
I said in my prediction write-up that I figured Michigan might have a bit of a motivational edge because, given the direction of the two programs, Michigan St. may not be too concerned about the Wolverines. But Michigan decided to change all that by taunting the Spartans prior to the game. What made the Wolverines think they were in a position to intimidate is beyond me.  The Spartans promptly came out and slapped Michigan around for most of the game, punctuated with an “in-your-face” touchdown with seconds remaining in the game.
Michigan QB Devin Gardner threw two head scratching interceptions and lost a fumble, which is consistent with his play throughout his tenure, but at the same time mind-boggling. With all of the emphasis on cutting down turnovers directed at Gardner, I would think the last thing the kid would do is blindly flip the ball forward right into the middle of the Michigan St. defense with no Michigan receiver in sight.
The Spartans have a week off before their showdown on November 8 with Ohio St. It should be a good game; it’s hard to tell which team is playing better right now. I’ll have to keep a close eye on Michigan. Things just keep getting worse and the coach is a lame duck. Teams react to such circumstances in many different ways.



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. 

My disastrous Saturday- Black Saturday I’ll call it - dropped me out of first place and into the negative side of the FTC dollar ledger. My loss is Tom Dienhart’s (from BTN) gain as he now takes over first place. Deinhart didn’t come out ahead but he lost only 10 FTC dollars in juice as he split at 2-2. Braden Gall and Steve Lassan (both from Athlon) are now on the plus side in FTC dollars as they both won one game last Saturday. Six of the contestants won with Michigan St. while seven lost with Minnesota.

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



DETAILS

THIS WEEK'S PLAY DETAILS
WINNERS
LOSERS
WEBSITE
FROM THE COUCH
MAR,
MIN,
OSU,
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
MAR,
MIN,
STAT RAT (pubhole)
RUT,
MIN,
TOM DEINHART (btn)
MSU,
RUT,
MAR,
MIN,
BRENT YARINA (btn)
MSU,
MIN,
OSU,
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
MSU,
RUT,
MIN,
DAVID FOX (athlon)
MSU,
NEB,
MIN,
OSU,
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
MSU,
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
MSU,
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
MAR,






SEASON STATS

Black Saturday killed me in most of the “Stat” categories as well, except for the “Straight Up” category. Everyone was 4-1 straight up except for Mitch Light (Athlon) who picked Maryland along with joining everyone else in picking Minnesota. No one did well in any of the categories, so I really didn’t lose much ground in these standings.


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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