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, December 1, 2014

BIG TEN FOOTBALL FINAL


WHAT HAPPENED 

I went 1-0 last Saturday to close out the season. I don’t predict the championship game or any of the bowl games. Too many variables in the approach teams take in bowl games. Some don’t want to be there, others look at the game like it’s a reward or holiday and fail to prepare seriously, and then there are the coaches who use the game as a scrimmage for next year.
My 11-9 record beats losing, but I’m used to doing better. Black Saturday still sticks in my craw -Minnesota losing to Illinois? Ohio St. going into OT with Penn St? Still doesn’t make any sense, but that’s college football.
My predictions and pre-game comments can be found on my previous post, dated 11-25 (ATS Predictions - Week 14).
My Record:  11-9


THE PLAYS
Michigan St 34  Penn St. 10   (Michigan St. -14)
I predicted Michigan St. to win, 28-6.  For the second week in a row I cashed in on Penn St.’s poor offense. As you can see, my predicted score was fairly close to the final, so this game went much as I envisioned.
Although Michigan St. had a good season, I assume the players are disappointed as they had hopes of repeating as conference champions and an eventual shot at the national championship. It’s very difficult, even at the professional level, to repeat as a champion. The necessary hunger and desire gets replaced with a sense of accomplishment. I could see signs of this in the Spartans in the preseason all the way up to the loss against Ohio St. I wouldn’t say they were beating their chests, but they did convey a “king-of-the-hill” attitude. I guess you could call it swagger, and I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m just sayin’, it’s hard to repeat.
Penn St. lost a good coach when Bill O’Brien bolted for the NFL and it showed. For all of Penn St.’s offensive troubles, I believe O’Brien would have found a way to get more than six wins out of this team. A mulligan should always be given to a coach in his first season at a new program. More often than not, the results are sub-par until the new HC’s program takes hold. But that having been said, I’m not impressed with new HC James Franklin. To me, he comes off like a used car salesman. He talks a good game, but doesn’t show much on Saturday. There are other teams in the conference that don’t have a great O-line but they found ways to work around that. Penn St.’s offensive scheme was just as weak and predictable at the end of the season as it was in the beginning.


THE NON-PLAYS
Nebraska 37  Iowa 34  OT   (Iowa -1.5)
I predicted Iowa to win 28-25.  As I said in my prediction write-up, this game could have gone either way. And it did. Both teams did their best to give the game away as they combined for six turnovers. Iowa jumped out to a nice lead, then allowed Nebraska to take the lead, who allowed Iowa to regain the lead, who allowed Nebraska to win the game.  A couple of mediocre at best teams slugging it out.
Unless there’s a change it’s gonna be the same thing every year for these two programs. They’ll run a good program, put together a good team, and win anywhere from seven to nine regular season games. But they’ll also have a couple of head-scratching losses (either lose to an inferior opponent or get blown out by an opponent of equal talent) ‘cuz they get outcoached on game-day. So both teams can do better at the head coach position. But they can also do worse. There isn’t much out there to choose from. So the question becomes, is it worth the risk of giving up nine win seasons - and possibly dropping to five win seasons - to try to do better?

Note: Apparently it was worth it to Nebraska ‘cuz Pelini got the axe after I already finished this write-up. 

Ohio St. 42  Michigan 28   (Ohio St. -21)
I predicted Ohio St. to win, 27-10. Michigan had the Buckeyes on the ropes for a while there, but in the end succumbed.
I’m not the only one to point out that this Michigan loss was a microcosm of a disappointing season. QB Devin Gardner committed two turnovers, one of which was a scoop and score fumble that all but sealed the win for the Buckeyes. Michigan HC Brady Hoke will likely be fired. It’s well documented that Hoke is a great person, and from the couch that appears to be true. But there’s no question that a change needs to be made in Ann Arbor.
Ohio St., on the other hand, has the best coaching staff in the conference by far. And it will stay that way until the other teams in the conference up the ante. As you may notice, there’s a “criticizing Big Ten coaches” theme running through my write-ups. I believe inferior coaching is big part of why the Big Ten is losing its non-conference games. In the three years he’s been a part of this conference, HC Urban Meyer hasn’t lost a conference game. You could point to the inherent talent at Ohio St., but Luke Fickell proved that talent alone is not enough to equal what Meyer has accomplished. The Buckeyes lost a Heisman Trophy candidate QB weeks before the beginning of the season, and Meyer and his staff simply developed another one in J.T. Barrett. Barrett was lost to injury in this game, leaving the Buckeyes with an inexperienced third string QB to play in this Saturday’s championship game. That may be too much for Ohio St. to overcome, but the Buckeyes have the best coaching staff in the conference giving it a shot. 

Indiana 23  Purdue 16   (Indiana -3)
I predicted Indiana to win, 38-33. Neither team has a good defense so I anticipated more scoring; but the teams combined for six turnovers. This game would decide which team is the worst in the conference, so I guess the turnovers shouldn’t be a surprise.
Despite earning the dishonorable title, Purdue showed significant improvement this season – HC Darrell Hazell’s second. But part of that is because the bar was set extremely low last season in what may have been the worst coaching performance I’ve ever seen, topping Illinois HC Tim Beckman’s performance the season prior. But still, there was enough improvement this season to at least give Hazell more time to prove himself.
Indiana stumbled to another “bowl game ineligible” season, yet HC Kevin Wilson still seems to draw a lot of love from the media. The media, like most fans and analysts, is hypnotized by flashy offense. And it’s true that Wilson seems to have a great offensive scheme. Although Indiana’s offensive struggled this season, Wilson will get a pass because his starting QB was lost to injury. But he’s not winning games, mostly due to a porous defense. His predecessor got fired for basically the same results, but somehow Wilson appears to be secure in his position. 

Illinois 47  Northwestern 33   (Northwestern -8)
I predicted Northwestern to win, 20-17.This game was televised on ESPNU, a channel that I don’t have access to, so I was unable to watch this game.
I said in my prediction write-up that it wouldn’t surprise me if Illinois won this game, and it doesn’t. Northwestern lost its starting QB last Saturday and Illinois has been playing its best football of the season behind backup QB Reilly O’Toole.
Northwestern had a strange, unpredictable season. A nightmare of a team to handicap. HC Pat Fitzgerald inherited the job young and inexperienced. He’s come a long way since then. I think the learning curve has pretty much come to a stop, though, and what you see is what you’re gonna get – a good, but not great, HC.
Illinois fans are probably viewing this victory with mixed feelings. Tim Beckman has the Illini bowl eligible for the first time in his three years as the HC. After a horrible inaugural season followed by minimal improvement in his second season, the general consensus was that Beckman would be let go if the Illini didn’t make it to a bowl game this season. It’s now possible that Beckman may be back next year. But I don’t think anyone believes Beckman is going to lead Illinois to anything better than mediocre or below. He seems like a nice guy, so I hope I’m wrong. 

Wisconsin 34  Minnesota 24   (Wisconsin -14.5)
I predicted Wisconsin to win, 27-17. My predicted score was fairly accurate, but the way I saw the game playing out was not.
I figured Wisconsin to jump out to the early lead while Minnesota was a bit frozen in the big moment in front of a hostile crowd. But it was Minnesota who took command early and they weren’t intimidated in the least. This was a good game that lived up to its significance as the West Division title game.
Wisconsin QB Joel Stave played particularly well and was integral to the Badgers come-from-behind victory. HC Gary Anderson is a good coach, but I can’t help but wonder if the Badgers might be undefeated if Anderson had handled Stave differently in the off season. Stave played well most of last season, but finished horribly, prompting most everyone, including myself, to consider Stave’s position open to competition this season. Anderson saw it the same way and decided to go with a former safety that was more mobile, but proved to be ineffective as a passer. Meanwhile, Stave’s confidence was so shaken that he had to overcome psychological issues before he could get his passing game back to the standards he displayed in this game. It could be argued that the Stave we saw in this game could have been enough to change the outcome of the Badgers’ two losses.
Minnesota HC Jerry Kill is right on schedule. He’s been successful everywhere he’s coached and he now has a once floundering Minnesota program competing for titles. He’s a shining example of how good coaching can make a difference at any school in this conference, regardless of the current condition of the program. His offensive scheme is “old school”, which may prevent him from making it to the upper echelon nationally, though. Today’s rules and inconsistent officiating favor the wide open offensive attack. Running the ball between the tackles limits the opportunities for cheap, subjective, automatic first down penalties (late hits, pass interference, horse collar, tackling…er, I mean targeting). 

Rutgers 41  Maryland 38   (Maryland -8.5)
I predicted Maryland to win, 31-24. This game was also on ESPNU so I was unable to watch. Just as well, these two teams are “outsiders”. The Big Ten is a Midwest conference and there’s nothing Midwest about Rutgers or Maryland.
Actually, I’ve already gotten used to the conference’s newest members, but I was resistant when I first heard the idea. Both teams turned out to be much more competitive than I anticipated and consequently fit nicely among the traditional teams. I didn’t follow these teams prior to their joining so I don’t have much history available to comment on the programs. They may or may not be good football coaches, but as personalities, I like Rutgers’ Kyle Flood but Maryland’s Randy Edsall rubs me the wrong way. 

USC 49  Notre Dame 14   (USC -7)
I predicted USC to win, 31-28. Geez, what a “nosedive” finish to the season for my Irish. Notre Dame had such a strong start and climbed so high in the rankings that the Arizona St. loss was devastating enough to ruin the Irish. Without a conference championship to play for, all hope was lost in the desert. Confidence was shaken, the Irish fans were angry, and QB Everett Golson – ala Devin Gardner style - just refused to tuck the ball away in traffic despite the obvious need to do so.
I’m sure many Irish fans are calling for HC Brian Kelly’s dismissal, but not me. Despite the poor finish, I like him and believe he will, if given the chance, lead Notre Dame to some great results in the future.




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. 

Tom Deinhart (BTN) is this season’s contest winner and his colleague, Brent Yarina (BTN), rode an exceptional finish to capture second place. Yarina went 3-0 last Saturday to make it six wins in a row, eight of the last nine. I’ve lost contact with Stat Rat (Pubhole) – his website disappeared - so he had no predictions last Saturday. And for reasons unknown to me, neither did Braden Gall (Athlon).
Six of the ten contestants finished ahead in FTC dollars this season, which I feel validates my “seven point differential” system when you consider that only one contestant finished ahead financially in the “Spread Record” category (below).

ATS  PLAY STANDINGS
LAST SATURDAY
TOTAL
FTC $
W
L
T
W
L
T
TOM DEINHART (btn)
2
2
0
14
10
0
$150
BRENT YARINA (btn)
3
0
0
12
9
0
$105
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
0
0
0
7
5
0
$75
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
0
1
0
7
5
0
$75
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
1
0
0
8
7
0
$15
FROM THE COUCH
1
0
0
10
9
0
$5
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
3
0
0
11
12
0
-$110
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
3
1
0
8
10
0
-$150
STAT RAT (pubhole)
0
0
0
7
10
0
-$200
DAVID FOX (athlon)
1
2
0
10
17
0
-$435




DETAILS

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






SEASON STATS 

I managed to finish at the top of the “Straight Up” category and finished in a respectable position in the other categories.


SPREAD RECORD
W
L
STRAIGHT UP
W
L
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
33
25
FROM THE COUCH
42
15
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
30
28
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
42
17
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
27
25
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
41
18
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
30
29
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
41
18
TOM DEINHART (btn)
28
29
TOM DEINHART (btn)
40
19
BRENT YARINA (btn)
27
30
BRENT YARINA (btn)
40
19
FROM THE COUCH
26
31
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
40
19
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
24
31
DAVID FOX (athlon)
38
21
STAT RAT (pubhole)
19
29
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
37
15
DAVID FOX (athlon)
21
36
STAT RAT (pubhole)
34
18
WITHIN 7
W
L
CLOSEST
W
L
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
23
36
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
28
30
FROM THE COUCH
20
39
KEVIN RYAN (247sports)
27
32
BRENT YARINA (btn)
20
39
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
24
31
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
20
39
FROM THE COUCH
24
32
MITCH LIGHT (athlon)
19
40
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
21
30
TOM DEINHART (btn)
18
41
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
22
34
STEVEN LASSAN (athlon)
18
41
BRENT YARINA (btn)
22
34
BRADEN GALL (athlon)
16
36
TOM DEINHART (btn)
20
37
DAVID FOX (athlon)
15
44
DAVID FOX (athlon)
20
37
STAT RAT (pubhole)
13
39
STAT RAT (pubhole)
16
32


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).


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
4
3
4
4
4
6
2





CLOSING TIME 

That’s all, folks!





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