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, November 5, 2014

BIG TEN FOOTBALL ATS PREDICTIONS WEEK 11


Six games to look at this week. Five conference games and a Notre Dame game.
Looks like I’ll have one play for sure, and a few more that are possible.
My current record: 6-5 


CRYSTAL BALL 

WEEK OF 11-8-2014 

MICHIGAN
24
NORTHWESTERN
24
PENN ST
34
INDIANA
17
OHIO ST
24
MICHIGAN ST
21
IOWA
24
MINNESOTA
14
WISCONSIN
38
PURDUE
21
NOTRE DAME
27
ARIZONA ST
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
N'RTHW'STERN
7
10
17
24
MICHIGAN
0
10
17
24

It may appear to be a cop-out to predict a tie (overtime), but what I’m doing here is essentially handicapping this game as a pick-‘em, which means I’ll take the points if the line is seven or more.
Northwestern is on a three game losing streak but really wasn’t playing all that bad until last Saturday’s blow-out loss at Iowa. I was surprised by that, especially since they were coming off a bye week. I don’t want to overreact to one game, but I certainly have to lower my assessment of the Wildcats. If they would have at least given Iowa a fight, I would probably be picking them to win this game.
The reason I would have picked Northwestern is because Michigan really can’t be trusted to play well. The Wolverines got a nice win last Saturday, but that was against an Indiana team that isn’t very good right now. But then again, last Saturday would indicate that Northwestern isn’t very good right now, either.
I guess inconsistency is the word I’m groping for to describe these teams. Both QBs are capable of having a good game but equally as capable of costing their team the game. Both offenses have struggled but have recently found a running game. Michigan’s defense has been more consistent, but I can’t forget that Northwestern’s defense was good enough at one point in the season to shut down a good Wisconsin offense.
The only goal left for these teams is to become bowl eligible. I wonder if that’s motivation enough to keep either from going under. I look for both QBs to throw an interception as the two teams combine for a total of five turnovers.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Michigan by 1, so there is virtually no chance that this game will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
INDIANA
7
10
10
17
PENN ST
10
24
27
34

Penn St.’s offense struggled last Saturday against a Maryland defense that isn’t very good. So maybe 34 points, more than the Nittany Lions have scored all season, is a stretch. But I believe they’ll have many opportunities because I don’t see Indiana’s offense having much success. And I also believe Indiana’s defense is even worse than Maryland’s. I think Penn St. QB Christian Hackenberg will finally get a little more time to throw than usual. That’s not to say he will have lots of time, just more than usual. That’s also not to say he won’t throw his weekly interception. This team moved the ball against Ohio St. with the game on the line so I know they can have at least some success. And last week’s disappointing loss combined with a chance to break a four game losing streak against a weak opponent should provide the motivation to make it happen.
Indiana is in a tailspin. They haven’t been good defensively in years and now they’re caught without a capable QB to run an offense that needs to throw to be successful. They have a good RB in Tevin Coleman, but the Penn St. defense is pretty good and should be successful against a one-dimensional offense.
I got burned last year when Indiana upset Penn St. That shouldn’t happen this year but I do have some concerns: Indiana QB Zander Diamont is bound to get better at some point, and after two starts now, this could be the game.  HC Kevin Wilson found a way to outsmart Bill O’Brien last season, so I don’t think he’ll have much trouble doing the same against the new regime; game-day coaching edge to Indiana. But in the end, I don’t think a good game-plan will be nearly enough to overcome a porous defense and an undeveloped QB.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Penn St. by 6.5, so this game will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
MICHIGAN ST
7
14
21
21
OHIO ST
7
7
21
24

This is considered the biggest game of the Big Ten season as the two highest ranked teams clash. Both teams have proven capable in most all phases of the game, especially against conference competition. Ohio St QB J.T. Barrett was a bit banged up two Saturday’s ago and was still showing signs of the injury last Saturday as he struggled with his passes. Michigan St. QB Connor Cook has played well, but hasn’t quite lived up to the preseason projections as one of the favorites to make first team all-conference. Consequently, he has fallen under the scrutiny of the media lately (suddenly every football analyst is a “footwork” expert). Truth is, both are very good but not great QBs. Barrett is still young and relatively inexperienced and Cook’s expectations were exaggerated due to his strong finish last season. I think both will do fine in this game, although I do think Cook will throw an interception.
Statistically these teams are nearly identical and there really isn’t any one phase of the game that I can point to where either team has an advantage. I like Ohio St. because I think HC Urban Meyer is the better coach and because I think Michigan St., including HC Mark Dantonio, is lacking the motivational edge that a team has when it feels it’s the underdog with something to prove. Although it’s not blatant, there’s this subtle “king-of-the-hill” posture the Spartans have taken all season long and I think that’s going to cost them. It’s hard for teams to repeat after a successful season, especially when it’s the type of success that a program hasn’t enjoyed in a long time.  Dantonio and the Spartans are inexperienced at handling it. I don’t think Meyer and Ohio St. would have the same problem if the situation were reversed because they have successful seasons often.
Other than that, I can’t think of any other way to separate these teams. Should be a great game.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Michigan St. by 3.5, so it is possible that this game will qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
MINNESOTA
0
0
7
14
IOWA
0
14
14
24

Both teams are part of a four team tie for first in the West Division. But both have a head-scratching conference loss that leaves me wary.
Iowa’s loss to Maryland isn’t quite as suspicious as Minnesota’s loss to Illinois, but nonetheless, the Hawkeyes looked bad. QB Jake Rudock threw over 50 times in that game, one of them a pick-six. And the Hawkeyes defense missed several tackles. But both issues were corrected last Saturday as the Hawkeyes pummeled Northwestern by over 40 points. In that game Iowa ran more often and gained over 200 yards on the ground and the defense allowed only seven points.
Minnesota was cruising along and figured to head into a bye week, and this game, undefeated in conference play. All they had to do was beat lowly Illinois and their porous run defense. The loss to Illinois still doesn’t add up, but now that the conference pecking order is taking shape, Minnesota’s conference victories aren’t looking as solid as they first appeared. Beating Michigan is no big deal this season, and after last Saturday, the seven point home win against Northwestern isn’t looking all that strong either. And although Purdue is improved, I wrote off a narrow one point victory over the ‘Boilers as a Minnesota let-down. But now I’m not so sure.
Iowa has a history of improving over the course of a season. They also have a recent history of dominating the Gophers despite a pre-game consensus among analysts that “this could be the year the Gophers win”.  Once again, the point spread is tight in this game, and once again I think Iowa outmuscles the Gophers. I figure Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner for two interceptions and also figure Iowa to have some success running the ball providing their OC doesn’t get all “pass-happy” like he did against Maryland.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Iowa by 1, so this game will most likely qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
PURDUE
7
14
14
21
WISCONSIN
7
24
31
38

Both teams have improved over the course of the season and continue to do so. Purdue’s improvement hasn’t translated into wins, however, and because of this and three critical games following this one, I figure Wisconsin to look past the ‘Boilermakers a bit. Which still won’t translate into a Purdue victory, but should end Wisconsin’s two game streak of 35 point plus landslides.
Despite the lack of wins, Purdue has a lot of fight in them and a certain amount of confidence. Considering how awful they were last season, I can see why. And there’s something about this team that makes me feel they’re prime to pull off an upset. And although Wisconsin is hot right now, they haven’t been invincible this season, so maybe.
But probably not. Wisconsin’s O-line is back to Wisconsin standards and the defense is ranked among the best in the nation. QB Joel Stave has put some life into the passing game and then there’s RB Melvin Gordon to deal with.
Attitude plays such a big part in college football and as I said, I think Purdue will be the more motivated team in this one. I figure Purdue to score first and trade a couple of touchdowns before Wisconsin begins to overpower the Boilers at about the end of the second quarter. But as they have in the past few games, I expect Purdue to keep battling and keep the score somewhat respectable.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Wisconsin by 17, so there is virtually no chance that this game will qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
ARIZONA ST
7
10
10
24
NOTRE DAME
3
10
24
27

Another tough game for the Irish as they hit the road to face one of the Pac-12’s best.
Arizona St. QB Taylor Kelly recently returned from an injury but has been rusty. Consequently the whole offense has been struggling a bit. But the defense is making up the difference as the Sun Devils continue to win. Last Saturday’s overtime win over Utah was pivotal to their quest to win a spot in the Pac-12 championship game. Under most circumstances, such a game might instigate a let-down the following week, but nobody lets down against Notre Dame.
The Irish defense had some trouble last Saturday against Navy, but mostly due to being out of position as opposed to poor tackling. I still maintain that this is a good tackling defense. LB Joe Schmidt’s season ending injury is a big loss, but his replacement, Nyles Morgan, played well against Navy.
This game could go either way, but this Irish team has been finding ways to win. I like QB Everett Golson in the clutch - although I do figure him for a turnover at some point in the game - and I like the Irish defense against an offense that, as I said, has been struggling lately.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Arizona St. by 2.5, so there is a small 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
TOM DEINHART (btn)
2
0
0
9
5
0
$175
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
1
0
0
5
3
0
$85
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
0
0
0
6
5
0
$25
FROM THE COUCH
1
0
0
5
5
0
-$25
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
1
0
0
7
8
0
-$90
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
0
0
0
1
3
0
-$115
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
1
1
0
3
5
0
-$125
STAT RAT (pubhole)
2
1
0
7
9
0
-$145
BRENT YARINA (btn)
1
0
0
5
8
0
-$190
DAVID FOX (athlon)
2
2
0
7
11
0
-$255




SEASON STATS

SPREAD RECORD
W
L
STRAIGHT UP
W
L
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
20
13
FROM THE COUCH
26
8
TOM DEINHART (btn)
19
14
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
26
8
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
16
18
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
26
8
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
16
18
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
26
8
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
15
19
TOM DEINHART (btn)
25
9
FROM THE COUCH
14
18
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
25
9
STAT RAT (pubhole)
14
19
DAVID FOX (athlon)
24
10
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
14
19
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
24
10
BRENT YARINA (btn)
13
21
STAT RAT (pubhole)
23
11
DAVID FOX (athlon)
13
21
BRENT YARINA (btn)
23
11
WITHIN 7
W
L
CLOSEST
W
L
TOM DEINHART (btn)
13
21
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
17
16
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
12
22
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
15
19
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
11
23
TOM DEINHART (btn)
14
19
FROM THE COUCH
10
24
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
14
19
BRENT YARINA (btn)
10
24
FROM THE COUCH
13
19
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
10
24
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
13
20
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
10
24
STAT RAT (pubhole)
12
21
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
9
25
DAVID FOX (athlon)
12
22
STAT RAT (pubhole)
8
26
BRENT YARINA (btn)
11
22
DAVID FOX (athlon)
7
27
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
10
23


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
1
3
1
3
2
5
0



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