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, September 30, 2015

BIG TEN FOOTBALL ATS PREDICTIONS WEEK 5

Ok, time to get this show on the road. I’ve got a nearly full slate of conference predictions to look at this week plus a Notre Dame game. It looks like a good portion of them will qualify as plays, so here we go.
My current record: 0-1


CRYSTAL BALL 
WEEK OF 10-3-2015

NEBRASKA
42
ILLINOIS
27
OHIO ST
56
INDIANA
21
MICHIGAN
38
MARYLAND
10
MICHIGAN ST
34
PURDUE
21
N'RTHW'STERN
24
MINNESOTA
20
WISCONSIN
24
IOWA
24
OT
NOTRE DAME
35
CLEMSON
32

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
ILLINOIS
10
17
17
27
NEBRASKA
7
21
35
42

The Cornhuskers are 2-2 and are coming off a tighter than expected victory over a mediocre Southern Miss team. QB Tommy Armstrong is adapting to new HC Mike Riley’s pass oriented offense well enough, but is still, and probably always will be, prone to making poor decisions at critical moments. And the ‘Huskers defense has been subpar. Illinois has surprised many this season as they are 3-1 at this point. The record isn’t all that surprising as the three victories were against lower tier opponents, but the Illini have looked dominating at times in these games, something that hasn’t happened in the past few seasons under recently dismissed HC Tim Beckman. Beckman’s firing for off the field incidents one week prior to the start of the season was a blessing in disguise. His replacement and former OC, Bill Cubit, is a better HC and that’s showing this season. In fact, I’d give the coaching edge in this game to Cubit, but not by much. Like Cubit, Riley is very good at dialing up plays that can move the football. But I give the talent edge to Nebraska in this one. I look for Illinois to fall behind by halftime, but hang in there until late in the game. I figure Illinois QB Wes Lunt to throw a late interception which leads to Nebraska putting the game out of reach with the final touchdown.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Nebraska by 6 1/2, so there is a good chance that this prediction will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
INDIANA
7
14
14
21
OHIO ST
14
35
42
56

A battle of unbeatens here. Indiana fans thought that might be enough to draw College GameDay to the Hoosiers’ campus. Er… maybe if Indiana’s 4-0 record wasn’t compiled against a slate full of patsies. The party’s over for the Hoosiers. Ohio St. has been struggling, but that’s by Ohio St. standards. The Hoosiers would love to have such struggles. Indiana has been winning, so I’ll give ‘em credit for that. But the offense, which is Indiana’s only hope under the (HC) Kevin Wilson regime, has been good, but not as great as usual. And the defense, which is the thorn in Indiana’s side under the Kevin Wilson regime, has been bad, but not as terrible as usual. Ohio St. has struggled offensively- again, by Ohio St. standards - but a game against Indiana is just what the doctor ordered. Indiana will score, they always do, but Ohio St. will score more. Much more. I look for Ohio St. QB Cardale Jones to guide the Buckeyes to a four touchdown cushion by the end of the third quarter and for backup J.T. Barrett to help increase the lead in the fourth quarter.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Ohio St. by 21, so this prediction will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
MARYLAND
0
3
10
10
MICHIGAN
10
24
31
38

I don’t think Michigan will be flat for this one. They’re just starting to hit their stride and it’s the conference opener against a team that beat them last year. In fact, after the last few seasons, I don’t think Michigan will be flat very often at all this season. A dominating performance against BYU last Saturday just confirms how important good coaching is in college football. Michigan is back. Maybe not all the way back-I’ll need to see more to stand firmly behind that statement- but so much closer to back than they were under the last regime. And Maryland is coming off a trouncing at the hands of West Virginia. HC Randy Edsall is playing spin the bottle at the QB position- which is never a good sign -and not finding much success. Which, by the way, speaks to the aforementioned importance of good coaching. Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh had every reason to yank his starting QB, Jake Rudock, after the first couple of games. But he stuck with him and even emphatically supported him during press conferences. And it’s now paying off as Rudock turned in a solid performance against BYU. Maryland’s defense is porous, Michigan’s offense is “grind it out” methodical and is playing with attitude. I look for Michigan to grind out a methodical and convincing road win here.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Michigan by 16, so this prediction will most likely qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
MICHIGAN ST
7
17
24
34
PURDUE
7
7
21
21

The line is coming down now, but the oddsmakers opened this one at Michigan St by 24 1/2. I dunno, Purdue HC Darrell Hazell isn’t exactly a genius. In fact, he can make some very questionable decisions at times. But I keep seeing progress in his team, subtle as it may be.  I didn’t particularly care for the idea of giving his starting QB, Austin Appleby, the hook. But after seeing Appleby’s replacement, David Blough, play against Bowling Green I can see why he went in that direction. Blough did OK for his first start. Purdue suffered a tough loss against a MAC opponent last Saturday, and they’re far from the level of Michigan St., which is currently ranked #2 in the nation. But I’ve got a hunch the Boilermakers hang with the Spartans through three quarters and keep the final score closer than what Vegas is predicting. For one, I doubt Michigan St. is gonna be taking the Boilermakers too seriously. And for two, Michigan St.’s resume doesn’t look as great as their ranking now that Oregon got trounced last Saturday. The Spartan’s looked weak in the secondary last Saturday and QB Connor Cook, despite all the accolades, isn’t always an accurate passer. Not that Purdue is in position to exploit any secondary with a redshirt freshman QB making his first road start. But still, I don’t think Purdue is as bad as perceived and I don’t think Michigan St. is as good as perceived.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Michigan St. by 21 1/2, so there is a good chance that this prediction will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
N'RTHW'STERN
3
10
17
24
MINNESOTA
0
10
17
20

I like this matchup; one of the two best in this week’s conference slate. It’s hard for me to trust Northwestern after last season’s up and down performance. But the Wildcats sure seem to be playing well so far this season. Last Saturday’s game against MAC opponent Ball St. was more of a nail biter than was expected, leaving me all that much more apprehensive about the Wildcats. And a freshman QB is certainly cause for distrust. But the Wildcats are playing good defense and they’re facing a team that’s struggling on offense. Minnesota likes to run the ball but they’re having trouble doing so. Part of the problem is that third year starting QB Mitch Leidner struggles as a passer and defenses are loading the box as a result. Until Leidner proves capable, Minnesota’s running game is gonna be outnumbered. The strange think about Leidner is that he’s been relatively weak as a passer since he won the starting job two seasons ago. Despite all of the time he’s had to improve, I don’t think he’s any better now than he was then. But, like Northwestern, Minnesota does have a good defense. At the beginning of the season I figured Northwestern to win this one, but I also kinda considered it to be an upset. I don’t feel that way now; an NW win would not be an upset at all. So far, Minnesota isn’t as good as I thought they’d be, and so far, Northwestern is better than I thought they’d be. I don’t foresee much offense in this one and like that Northwestern is at home.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Northwestern by 4 1/2, so there is virtually no chance that this prediction will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
WISCONSIN
0
7
14
24
IOWA
7
17
17
24

I like this matchup, too. Both QB’s are playing lights out. Maybe the two best in the conference right now. I don’t trust Iowa for the same reasons I don’t trust Northwestern—they were inconsistent last season. In fact, Iowa has been inconsistent the past few seasons now. Just when I think the Hawkeyes are a decent team, they turn in a clunker. But so far, Iowa has been above expectations in just about every facet of the game. Why, I’m not sure. The Hawkeyes were godawful at times last season so I don’t know what changed. All I know is they’ve been playing well against not great, but certainly not bad, competition. The win against Pitt is better than anything Wisconsin can brag about. The Badgers lost their opener to highly regarded Alabama and then disposed of three cupcakes. Alabama is turning out to be not as good as usual, and the three victories against the cupcakes weren’t as convincing as the “run up the score” days of former HC Brett Bielema. Like Harbaugh at Michigan, Wisconsin has a new HC who is a former QB, and it’s paying dividends. Badgers QB Joel Stave, who had his confidence shaken last season, is throwing as well as anyone in the conference and could be considered the highlight of the Badgers offense. The O-Line is OK, but not the road graters that Wisconsin’s line is typically known for. Both teams are playing good defense, and neither team has a big name on offense, although there are players who are starting to make a name for themselves. If the game was at Iowa, I’d pick the Hawkeyes to win. But Camp Randall is one the toughest places to get a road win, so I’ll take seven points either way in this one.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Wisconsin by 7, so it is very possible that this prediction will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
CLEMSON
0
7
14
32
NOTRE DAME
7
21
28
35

This is another big test for the Irish and I’m pretty sure they see it as such. I was incorrect in picking against Notre Dame the last time they faced an upper echelon ACC team. I wasn’t sure about QB Deshone Kizer, who got thrown into the fray after Notre Dame’s starter was lost for the season to injury. Kizer handled himself well in leading the Irish to victory in that one against Georgia Tech, and played ok against last Saturday’s mulligan, UMass.  Kizer’s not perfect, but he ain’t bad, either. If the Irish are to meet this season’s lofty expectations, he’ll need to improve, and I expect he will. But right now he’s still kinda raw. Notre Dame has been struck by the injury bug but they still have lots of talent taking the field; a solid defense, one of the better O-lines they’ve had in a while, great wide receivers and a pleasant surprise at RB in C.J. Prosise. But as usual, they play a brutal schedule as they head into a stadium where road wins are rare and face a highly ranked team in Clemson. I don’t have much to go on when evaluating Clemson ‘cuz unlike Notre Dame, the Tigers played a nonconference schedule that’s downright embarrassing. They padded their stats and solidified their status against a non FBS school and a “fresh meat” FBS member (why not just schedule the local high school team while you’re at it?) before struggling against a Louisville team that’s now 1-3. So all I really have to go on is the Louisville game and preseason hype, which mostly highlights QB Deshaun Watson and a solid defense. So based on the struggles against Louisville, and my overvaluing a high preseason ACC rating in the the last go around, I’m inclined to think Clemson isn’t as good as advertised. But as many teams do, the Tigers did schedule a bye last Saturday to give themselves extra time to prepare for ND. And opposing QB’s usually play well against the Irish. If the game were at Notre Dame I’d have the Irish winning by more here. But on the road I look for Notre Dame to take an early lead and have to fight off a spirited comeback to get a big road win in this one.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Notre Dame by 1, so it is unlikely that this prediction 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.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m down to three on-line prognosticators this season, all from BTN. Worthy competition though, as two of the three were in the money last season and finished at the top of the standings.


ATS  PLAY STANDINGS
LAST SATURDAY
TOTAL
FTC $
W
L
T
W
L
T
FROM THE COUCH
0
0
0
0
0
0
$0
BRENT YARINA (btn)
0
0
0
0
0
0
$0
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
0
0
0
0
0
0
$0
TOM DEINHART (btn)
0
0
0
0
0
0
$0





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 is 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
0
1
0
0
3
0
3
1
2
2
1


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. 


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