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 19, 2014

BIG TEN FOOTBALL ATS PREDICTIONS WEEK 13


There are no more byes, so eight games to look at this week. Seven conference games and a Notre Dame game. Looks like I’ll have one play for sure, and four more that are possible.
My current record: 8-8


CRYSTAL BALL 

WEEK OF 11-22-2014

MICHIGAN ST
34
RUTGERS
14
MICHIGAN  
24
MARYLAND
24
OT
MINNESOTA
27
NEBRASKA
24
OHIO ST
52
INDIANA
14
ILLINOIS
20
PENN ST
19
WISCONSIN
24
IOWA
7
PURDUE
39
NORTHWESTERN
35
NOTRE DAME
24
LOUISVILLE
20

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
MICHIGAN ST
3
27
34
34
RUTGERS
0
7
14
14

Simply put, Michigan St. is the better team. They’re at home and there’s no reason for the Spartans to look past this game. I suppose a bit of a letdown is possible, in an ironic, delayed effect kind of way. The Spartans might have found motivation last Saturday to bounce back from a loss. Now that they’ve proved to themselves that they can, the only motivation they’re left with is to beat an inferior team.
But then, I don’t see Rutgers coming into Spartan Stadium all charged up to prove anything here. They became bowl eligible last Saturday, so that carrot is no longer on the stick. And they have a winnable game scheduled after this one, so the mindset of the kids on the team is probably to give it a good effort, but if things don’t look good right away, well, didn’t really expect to win this one anyway.
However, if things do look good right away, Sparty may have a game on their hands.
I wouldn’t consider these issues if it were earlier in the season, but at this point it gets to be a grind for teams that no longer have lofty goals in front of them. So I expect both teams to be not necessarily flat, but not all that inspired, either. So business as usual for both teams, and business as usual would be for Michigan St. to jump out to an early lead and coast to victory.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Michigan St by 22, so it is unlikely that this game will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
MICHIGAN
7
14
21
24
MARYLAND
3
10
17
24

I’m predicting this game to go into overtime, so seven points either way looks good to me.
Michigan is on a bit of a roll as they’ve won three out of the last four games. The Wolverines aren’t upper echelon in the conference, but they have recently been winning the close games against fellow middle-of-the-pack teams. Maryland is another team that’s somewhere in the middle. Michigan is dealing with yet another off-the-field issue this week as they had to dismiss DE Frank Clark after he was arrested. And of course, it’s getting close to decision time regarding HC Brady Hoke’s future.
On the field, the Wolverines have been playing good defense, although losing Clark will hurt them some. But Maryland’s offense isn’t too bad, particularly when QB C.J. Brown plays well. Brown is a good runner but isn’t consistent as a passer, so he’s prone to throwing interceptions against teams that can contain him and force him into obvious passing downs. Although Michigan’s defense isn’t bad, I think Brown may have some success with his feet in this one. That’s not to say he won’t throw an interception or two, though.
Michigan’s offense is statistically one of the worst in the country. QB Devin Gardner has been a turnover machine throughout his career and there’s no reason to think he won’t commit a couple more in this game. But Maryland’s defense isn’t very good so I also think Gardner and the Wolverines offense will have a modest amount of success.
Talent-wise, Michigan is probably the better team. And they’re playing at home. Both teams are prone to mistakes but I think Michigan is the team most likely to shoot themselves in the foot more often – Maryland is coached a little better. And as I pointed out, Michigan has some peripheral issues swirling around them.
So in the end it balances out to toss-up between these two teams.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Michigan by 5, so there is a small chance that this game will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
NEBRASKA
14
17
24
24
MINNESOTA
7
7
17
27

I can sometimes overreact when I get burned by a team as I did last Saturday with Nebraska. So maybe that’s what’s happening here (the ‘Huskers are double digit opening line favorites in this game). But I don’t think so, so I’m sticking to my guns.
Although Minnesota got beat last Saturday, I think they made a decent showing of themselves against arguably the best team in the conference. And the Gophers still have a lot to play for as they control their destiny to win the west division. I’m uncomfortable with the fact that this is only their fourth road game of the season and that they are 1-2 in previous road tests. But I don’t think the Gophers are as physically outmanned as most would assume, and I definitely think Minnesota has the better game-day coaching staff.
Nebraska is certainly capable of winning this game, particularly if they stick to their strengths, which is something the ‘Huskers sometimes fail to do. But I have to think their confidence is shaken and I’m guessing ‘Husker fans are doing nothing to build it back up after last Saturday’s debacle at Wisconsin. QB Tommy Armstrong has regressed as a passer since the time he showed improvement in the middle of the season. I’d be surprised if he turns things around in this game – again, because of confidence issues.
Minnesota’s QB, Mitch Leidner, is no big passing threat, either. There’s certainly the danger that he’ll toss a couple of interceptions. But the Minnesota coaching staff, unlike Nebraska’s, seems to understand that and will take measures to not take unnecessary risks with Leidner’s arm.
I see Nebraska, like last Saturday, jumping out to an early lead. And again like last Saturday, letting it slip away as the Minnesota coaching staff makes the necessary halftime adjustments to win this game.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Nebraska by 10, so this game will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
OHIO ST
14
24
38
52
INDIANA
0
7
14
14

Ohio St. can pretty much name their score, here. The top of the conference against the bottom in this matchup.
Ohio St.’s prowess in all phases has by now become obvious, so I won’t go into much detail about the Buckeyes.
But then, I suppose Indiana’s struggles in all phases are obvious as well. Indiana has actually been improving some on offense as QB Zander Diamont has improved as a passer. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, Zander’s improvement may be insignificant against the Buckeyes. Their chances of winning this game are slim, so strangely enough, Indiana may be looking past this game and focusing on the following Saturday when they face in-state rival Purdue, which will be a more reasonable matchup for the Hoosiers.
The Buckeyes have a big rivalry game coming up themselves, but - with the whole playoff thing going on - can’t afford to let their foot off the gas.
The questions in this game is how much of a struggle will Indiana put up, and how many points will Ohio St. HC Urban Meyer feel is necessary to improve his team’s reputation with the selection committee.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Ohio St. by 34, so it is unlikely that this game will qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
ILLINOIS
7
14
17
20
PENN ST
7
10
13
19

One thing about this conference having so many bad teams; it makes for some good matchups.
Penn St. has a good defense. That’s about the only positive thing that can be said about both of these teams.
For most of the season I’ve been saying that Illinois’ offense isn’t too bad, but lately they haven’t been very good. Maybe QB Wes Lunt will play better this week now that he’s into his second game back after missing much of the season with an injury. But as I pointed out, he is facing a good defense. Lunt has the better arm among Illini QB’s, and he entered the season highly regarded, but he lacks a certain amount of competiveness, IMO.
Speaking of highly regarded QB’s who lack competiveness….I’ll say it… “The emperor has no clothes”.  Penn St. QB Christian Hackenberg isn’t very good. Lousy, in fact. That’s become evident in the past few weeks when the opponent hasn’t been good enough to place blame on the Penn St. offensive line. Hackenberg has had adequate time to throw, he’s just grossly inaccurate. And lately it seems that rather than try to escape a pass rush, he curls up and drifts into the defenders. Whether it’s conscious or subconscious, I think at times he wants to get sacked because he knows that will distract from his poor play. The more sacks that get recorded the more he can be assured the media will come to his rescue with “well, he can’t do it on his back” comments.
And to make matters worse, Penn St.’s offensive scheme is terrible. I’ll agree this offense isn’t the most talented, but I’m pretty sure former HC Bill O’Brien would be putting up significantly more points with this group. Illinois HC Tim Beckman’s inadequacies are probably going to cost him his job at the end of this season, but I rate the coaching staffs dead even between these two teams.
I figure Hackenberg to throw his weekly interceptions but I also figure the Illini to make their weekly ridiculous mistakes. I really don’t like the idea of hopping on the wagon of either of these teams, but I think Penn St.’s offense is bad enough to find a way to cause their team to lose even to the lowly Illini.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Penn St. by 6.5, so there is a good chance that this game will qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
IOWA
7
7
7
7
WISCONSIN
7
14
21
24

What to do with Iowa. I haven’t caught up to the Hawkeyes all season. No one has. How can you? One week they’re great, the next week they’re awful. I have noticed that they’ve yet to play against a good defense, and Wisconsin’s defense is among the best in the conference. I think the Hawkeyes will move the ball but will struggle to get into the end zone. Even I’ve learned from the couch that in short yardage situations, particularly by the goal line, the Hawkeyes are gonna hand it to RB Mark Weisman. They’ll do it on second and goal, then on third and goal, and again on fourth and goal. And if there were more downs available I think they’d keep doing it no matter how many times it gets stuffed.
Wisconsin has been pummeling its opponent in recent games, but I don’t think they can keep that up every Saturday. Kinnick stadium has always been a tough place to play and who knows? maybe the “good” Iowa team will show up this Saturday.
I figure Iowa to hold on to the ball long enough to keep the Wisconsin scoring down a bit, and expect a bit of a slugfest early on. But not enough scoring from Iowa will enable Wisconsin to win this one by three scores.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Wisconsin by 10, so it is very possible that this game will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
PURDUE
14
17
24
39
N'RTHW'STERN
0
14
28
35

It looks like the “U” is gonna get me again. I don’t know why, but ESPNU – a channel that I don’t have access to – has covered more conference games this year than any other preceding season. Most seasons I’m shut out of only one, maybe two games. This game will be the fourth, I believe. Maybe it’s because of the two extra teams, I dunno.
Anyway, I’d like to see this game. I think it’s a good matchup. Purdue, who was awful last season, has shown significant improvement since about the middle of the season, when they picked up their lone conference win against Illinois. The next four games were against the upper echelon of the conference and now they finally face and opponent that gives them a better shot at another win.
Northwestern has been like Iowa in that they’ve been very good at times and very bad at times this season. Much of their offensive success depends on QB Trevor Siemian, who is very capable, but for whatever reason, can play poorly at times.
There isn’t much separating these teams; Purdue isn’t very good on defense, but more often than not, neither is Northwestern. Purdue’s offense has become respectable. Northwestern’s offense? Who knows? Last Saturday it was great, but the Saturday before it was horrible.
Purdue is at home and I think they’re the hungrier team. Northwestern is coming off a big win at Notre Dame, but nobody plays well the week after Notre Dame.
Purdue in a shootout.
As of the date of this post, the line sits as a pick ‘em, so it is unlikely that this game will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
NOTRE DAME
7
17
17
24
LOUISVILLE
7
14
17
20

Notre Dame is coming off a “hangover” loss to Northwestern. Now that they’ve got that out of the way, I think they’ll play with more purpose this Saturday. But that won’t guarantee a win. Louisville has a very good defense. Good enough to give the Irish offense problems. I like Notre Dame to win, but it’ll be close.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Notre Dame by 3, 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)
2
0
0
7
4
0
$130
TOM DEINHART (btn)
0
1
0
10
7
0
$115
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
1
0
0
7
5
0
$75
FROM THE COUCH
1
1
0
7
8
0
-$90
BRENT YARINA (btn)
2
0
0
8
9
0
-$95
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
0
1
0
4
6
0
-$130
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
0
2
0
7
10
0
-$200
STAT RAT (pubhole)
0
1
0
7
10
0
-$200
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
2
2
0
3
7
0
-$235
DAVID FOX (athlon)
1
3
0
8
14
0
-$370




SEASON STATS 


SPREAD RECORD
W
L
STRAIGHT UP
W
L
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
26
18
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
34
11
TOM DEINHART (btn)
23
20
FROM THE COUCH
33
11
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
22
23
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
33
12
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
22
23
TOM DEINHART (btn)
33
12
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
20
24
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
33
12
FROM THE COUCH
17
26
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
33
12
BRENT YARINA (btn)
17
27
STAT RAT (pubhole)
31
14
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
17
27
BRENT YARINA (btn)
31
14
STAT RAT (pubhole)
16
26
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
31
14
DAVID FOX (athlon)
16
28
DAVID FOX (athlon)
30
15
WITHIN 7
W
L
CLOSEST
W
L
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
17
28
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
21
23
TOM DEINHART (btn)
14
31
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
19
26
BRENT YARINA (btn)
14
31
TOM DEINHART (btn)
17
26
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
14
31
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
17
27
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
13
32
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
16
28
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
13
32
FROM THE COUCH
15
27
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
13
32
DAVID FOX (athlon)
15
29
FROM THE COUCH
12
33
BRENT YARINA (btn)
14
29
STAT RAT (pubhole)
12
33
STAT RAT (pubhole)
13
29
DAVID FOX (athlon)
11
34
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
13
30


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
2
3
2
3
3
5
1





   

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