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, November 10, 2014

BIG TEN FOOTBALL ATS WHAT HAPPENED WEEK 11


WHAT HAPPENED

I took a step back last Saturday as I was 1-2 with my plays. I kept thinking one thing as I was watching the games: Man, there’re some bad teams in this conference. Only two good ones - they played each other last Saturday – and two that are above average – they play each other this Saturday. The rest just aren’t very good at all. My predictions and pre-game comments can be found on my previous post, dated 11-5 (ATS Predictions - Week 11).
My Record:  7-7


THE PLAYS
Minnesota 51  Iowa 14   (Iowa -1)
I predicted Iowa to win, 24-14. So Iowa cost me again. I’m on the opposite wavelength with this team. I zig, they zag. I go right, they go left. As I said in my prediction write-up, the one conference loss both teams had coming into this game left me unsure in assessing these teams. I know I’m beating this to death, but I still don’t see how Minnesota loses to Illinois. And after watching this game, Iowa beating anybody by 41 points seems unlikely. But it was that very thumping that Iowa put on Northwestern the Saturday prior to this game that had me thinking the Hawkeyes were much improved from when I watched them lose at Maryland. And Minnesota’s loss to Illinois had me analyzing the Gophers’ previous conference wins and comparing them to Iowa’s resume. If Iowa beats Northwestern by 41, and Minnesota only beats Northwestern by seven….If Iowa beats Purdue by 14 and Minnesota only beats Purdue by 1…. You get my point.
This was the Iowa defense I watched lose to Maryland. Just awful.  And the offense wasn’t much better. I’ve always liked HC Kirk Ferentz but it might be time for a change in Iowa City. When teams “yo-yo” like this from one week to the next it’s usually a result of poor coaching, imo.
Minnesota did everything right. The Gophers’ coaching staff is very good on game day and with two weeks to prepare made a mockery of the Iowa staff. I’m still not completely sold on the notion that Minnesota belongs among the upper echelon of the conference – the real tests are coming up on their schedule. They get Ohio St. at home next Saturday. The timing couldn’t be better. I expect Ohio St. to be flat after their big win last Saturday. I don’t think Buckeyes’ HC Urban Meyer will let it happen, but this Saturday’s game screams “upset”.

Penn St. 13  Indiana 7   (Penn St. -6.5)
I predicted Penn St. to win, 34-17. This was painful to watch as I was a half-point short of getting the cover.
I said in my prediction write-up that I figured Penn St. QB Christian Hackenberg would get more time to throw against a not very good Indiana defense. And he did. I just didn’t realize that it wouldn’t make a difference in Hackenberg’s performance. The media and Penn St. fans have been making excuses for Hackenberg’s poor play all season, and I’m sure they’ll continue to do so. Most of the blame has been put on the O-Line, which I’ll agree isn’t very good. But I don’t think Penn St.’s offense putting up a mere 13 points against one of the worst defenses in the country was entirely the result of poor line play.
It wasn’t the O-Line’s fault that Hackenberg missed open receivers by yards, even on the short passes. It wasn’t the O-Line’s fault that Hackenberg fumbled a snap, or that the ball slipped out of his hands (for about the thirtieth time in his career) while attempting to throw, or that the only touchdown pass he threw was to the other team. Or that he decided to throw one of his “miles off-target” rocket balls across his body on third and four inside the ten yard line when he could have ran, no, make that could have walked, for the first down. Sure the receiver was open in the end zone – wide open, but as I said, he missed.
Penn St. should have covered easily and there’s only one reason they didn’t.
Obviously I’m frustrated with this loss, and I know it’s not cool to berate a college kid. But the pampering and love this kid gets from the media is annoying. It’s all based on “potential” that we still haven’t seen after nearly two seasons. What? He’s the only QB that ever had to play behind a bad offensive line?
And all of these excuses and unwarranted accolades aren’t doing him any favors, either. It’s turning him into a spoiled kid that thinks he’s in a position to point fingers, as was evidenced in the Maryland game. Even his own coaches act as if he’s beyond reproach.
Again, I realize he’s just a kid and it’s not his fault that he’s saddled with all of these expectations. But he’s gotta own up and get better because it’s obvious he’s blessed with a strong arm that many QBs would love to have.

Ohio St. 49  Michigan St. 37   (Michigan St. -4)
I predicted Ohio St. to win, 24-21. I was off on what type of game it was – I was looking for more defense – but I was right about predicting the underdog as an outright winner so I didn’t even need the points to get the cover in this game.
This was an entertaining game between two good teams that played hard. But the best team won as Ohio St. had to overcome the only two turnovers of the game and win on the road in a hostile environment.
I said in my prediction write-up that I thought both QBs would play well and they did. I also said they were both “good but not great” QBs. Last Saturday they were both great. Especially Ohio St. QB J.T. Barrett. The Ohio St. coaching staff deserves a ton of credit. They lose one of the best QBs in the country and simply develop his replacement into a player who’s just as capable. In fact, if the Buckeyes win out, I’d say All-Conference honors were won last Saturday at the QB position and also for the Coach of the Year.


THE NON-PLAYS
Wisconsin 34  Purdue 16   (Wisconsin -17.5)
I predicted Wisconsin to win, 38-21. The “U” got me again for an unprecedented third time in one season. This game was relegated to ESPNU, which isn’t included in my television package, so I was unable to watch this game.
It appears as though the game when much like I predicted. Even my predicted scoring by quarters was fairly accurate. And by most accounts, the outmanned Purdue squad put up the valiant fight I called for and kept playing hard all the way to the finish.
Purdue has shown a lot of improvement from last season and from the couch it appears that the kids on the team are enthused and optimistic. But, to put things in perspective, this team was awful last season so it’s all relative. Playing improved football is one thing, taking the next step to winning games is another. The Boilermakers got a nice conference win against Illinois earlier in the season. They have two winnable games remaining on their schedule. It remains to be seen if they can make the leap.

Michigan 10  Northwestern 9   (Michigan -2)
I predicted this game to go into overtime at 24. Although I was off on the score, I was right on the money with predicting a tie at the end of regulation. Well, that is if Northwestern HC Pat Fitzgerald had decided to kick an extra point instead of going for a two point conversion with essentially no time left in the game. The decision could be debated, I suppose. But in consideration for the viewer it was the only merciful thing to do. End this game and put it out of its misery.
Geez, these teams are terrible. They’re getting worse as the season progresses. I wasn’t far off when I predicted a combined five turnovers and an interception from both QBs (ATS Predictions - Week 11). They instead obliged with two each and the turnovers from both teams totaled six. And there were plenty of other errors that don’t show up in the stats. It was only fitting that the game-winning two point conversion attempt would result in Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian falling flat on his backside without being touched.

Arizona St. 55  Notre Dame 31   (Arizona St. -2.5)
I predicted Notre Dame to win, 27-24. Obviously I was off on this one. Although it doesn’t appear so, picking Notre Dame to win wasn’t that far off the mark. But my score was way off. I figured Arizona St.’s offense to continue with its recent struggles but that didn’t happen.
Turnovers are difficult to predict. It’s the one variable that handicappers have to leave to chance. For the most part, that is. Some turnovers you can see coming so when I called for Notre Dame QB Everett Golson to commit a turnover in my prediction write-up, I envisioned pretty much exactly what occurred when he put the ball on the ground after “one handing” it in traffic. He’s been doing it all season and HC Brian Kelly’s frustration justifiably showed up in his post-game press conference. I didn’t foresee five turnovers, though. Two of ‘em pick sixes. Both pick sixes were deflected, and although the Irish players involved weren’t blameless, the ball did happen to bounce Arizona St.’s way. No accounting for that.
After Notre Dame’s first drive resulted in a field goal, Golson committed a turnover on the next three possessions that Arizona St. converted into points and the Irish were in a deep hole. But strangely enough, I still thought Notre Dame had a shot at winning the game. Sure enough, they came roaring back in the second half and for a while it looked as though the Irish would add another edition to the pile of storybook finishes that have been accumulated throughout the history of the football program. But it was too little, too late. The second pick-six occurred with about four minutes left in the game and ended any hopes the Irish had.

Btw, some are criticizing Kelly for his post-game press conference comments, saying he’s deflecting blame and throwing Golson under the bus. But the truth is, if Golson protects the ball better, Notre Dame has a good chance to win this game. And I don’t mean the pick sixes, either. One was tipped at the line and another was dropped by his receiver-- just bad luck. But he’s been fumbling all season because he doesn’t put the ball away in traffic and for it to continue at this point in the season in a big game is on Golson, so I agree with Kelly. Let him own up. I (and I’m guessing Kelly would too) still think he’s a great QB and a clutch player. He just had a bad game and dealing with the criticism that comes with that is part of the deal as a QB at Notre Dame. In the long run it will be good for him.



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.

Mitch Light from Athlon was the only contestant to earn any FTC dollars last Saturday with one game that qualified as a play. Light picked Indiana to win, and although they didn’t, they did cover the spread. Consequently, Light has passed me in the standings and now sits in fourth place. So far this hasn’t been my best season, what with Black Saturday and all. But I’m not out of this thing yet.

ATS  PLAY STANDINGS
LAST SATURDAY
TOTAL
FTC $
W
L
T
W
L
T
TOM DEINHART (btn)
1
1
0
10
6
0
$170
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
0
1
0
5
4
0
$30
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
0
0
0
6
5
0
$25
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
1
0
0
4
5
0
-$75
FROM THE COUCH
1
2
0
6
7
0
-$85
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
0
0
0
7
8
0
-$90
STAT RAT (pubhole)
0
0
0
7
9
0
-$145
BRENT YARINA (btn)
1
1
0
6
9
0
-$195
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
0
2
0
1
5
0
-$225
DAVID FOX (athlon)
0
0
0
7
11
0
-$255



 DETAILS

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






SEASON STATS 

Only a few things worth pointing out from last Saturday among the various statistical categories.  Sean Merriman (BTN) went 4-1 in the “Spread Record” category, losing only with Wisconsin. Tom Deinhart (BTN) posted a 4-1 “Straight Up” record and I was 3-1 in the same category. Steven Lassan (BTN) had a rough “Spread Record” Saturday as he didn’t win a game in the category. But as I’ve stated before, I personally don’t have near as much regard for this category as I do for the “Play” category. I believe you’re just flipping coins when your predicted spread isn’t much different from the Vegas line.
I’m at the top of the “Straight Up” category but for all practical purposes, I’m tied with three others. I have one less game on the books because I predicted a tie at the end of regulation in one of the games. The other contestants don’t have that option. You may also notice that the win-loss totals for each contestant don’t always equal the number of games predicted in the “Spread Record” and “Closest” category. That’s due to the occasions when the result of a prediction turns out to be a “push” or a “draw. This can happen in a few different ways. One example would be when a contestant’s point spread happens to be the same as the closing line. The “Within 7” category, however, will always reflect every game predicted.


SPREAD RECORD
W
L
STRAIGHT UP
W
L
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
22
16
FROM THE COUCH
29
9
TOM DEINHART (btn)
21
16
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
29
10
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
19
20
TOM DEINHART (btn)
29
10
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
19
20
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
29
10
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
19
20
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
28
11
FROM THE COUCH
16
21
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
28
11
STAT RAT (pubhole)
15
22
DAVID FOX (athlon)
27
12
BRENT YARINA (btn)
14
24
STAT RAT (pubhole)
26
13
DAVID FOX (athlon)
14
24
BRENT YARINA (btn)
26
13
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
14
24
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
26
13
WITHIN 7
W
L
CLOSEST
W
L
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
14
25
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
17
21
TOM DEINHART (btn)
14
25
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
16
23
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
13
26
TOM DEINHART (btn)
15
22
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
13
26
FROM THE COUCH
14
22
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
13
26
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
14
24
FROM THE COUCH
12
27
DAVID FOX (athlon)
13
25
STAT RAT (pubhole)
11
28
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
13
25
BRENT YARINA (btn)
11
28
STAT RAT (pubhole)
12
25
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
11
28
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
12
26
DAVID FOX (athlon)
10
29
BRENT YARINA (btn)
11
26


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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