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, October 14, 2015

BIG TEN FOOTBALL ATS PREDICTIONS WEEK 7


Seven games to look at this week. Six conference games and a Notre Dame game. As of now it looks one of ‘em will be a play for sure, and the Wisconsin-Purdue line is moving like a freight train, so maybe that one as well, and Rutgers-Indiana is still pending on the injury status of Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld.
My current record: 2-7


CRYSTAL BALL
WEEK OF 10-17-2015

MICHIGAN
27
MICHIGAN ST
14
NEBRASKA
24
MINNESOTA
21
IOWA
21
NORTHWESTERN
19
WISCONSIN
34
PURDUE
17
RUTGERS
37
INDIANA
35
OHIO ST
24
PENN ST
17
NOTRE DAME
27
USC
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 predicted point spread that differs from the closing line 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 or click here→ (FTC $ Q&A.)

1
2
3
Final
MICHIGAN
7
17
24
27
MICHIGAN ST
0
7
7
14

Michigan St. is a little banged up on the O-line and their defense hasn’t looked so good lately. The Spartans really haven’t been as dominating as their lofty national ranking would suggest. The last two games against Purdue and Rutgers, both lower tier teams, came down to the last series of the game. And the marquee win against Oregon in week two doesn’t look so shiny now that Oregon has a 3-3 record. Consequently, Michigan St. has slipped in the polls from #2 a few weeks ago to currently just outside the top five.  Michigan, on the other hand, seems to be improving every week and hasn’t been scored on in the past three games. And the not so marquee one touchdown loss against Utah in week one is starting to look very sparkly now that Utah is 6-0 and ranked in the top five. I think Michigan will be able to move the ball on offense, providing QB Jake Rudock isn’t a liability. Rudock played well last Saturday, and in some other games, but there have also been times when he hasn’t played so well. Even when he was at Iowa Rudock was prone to throwing interceptions at critical times. And he’s missed open receivers about five times this season on long would be TD passes. Michigan St. QB Connor Cook, on the other hand, is possibly the best QB in the conference right now. And he has some very good receivers. He’ll be facing a tuff pass rush behind the aforementioned banged up O-line, though, so although I expect Cook to play well, I also expect him to have some difficulties. I figure both QBs to throw one interception in this game. Michigan St. could have been playing down to its competition lately, so maybe they’ll show us something more this Saturday. But I don’t think so. I think Michigan’s defense compared to Michigan St.’s less than stellar defense make the difference in this one.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Michigan by 8, so there is a small chance that this prediction will qualify as a play.

1
2
3
Final
MINNESOTA
0
3
10
21
NEBRASKA
7
7
14
24

Minnesota is coming off a breakthrough win against Purdue last Saturday. It wasn’t all that surprising that the Gophers won, but winning so big (41-13) was unexpected ‘cuz, up to that game, Minnesota had been struggling badly on offense, mostly due to QB Mitch Leidner’s poor passing abilities. I didn’t get to see the game against Purdue as it wasn’t available to me, but by all accounts Leidner played well enough, but didn’t throw that much because the Gophers were having success on the ground. I’ve seen Purdue’s defense miss a lot of tackles at times, so I’m guessing this wasn’t one of the Boilermakers’ best defensive efforts, which probably had a lot to do with Minnesota’s success. So while I think they’ve probably taken a good step forward, I’m not entirely convinced the Gophers’ offensive woes have been completely solved. Nebraska’s defense isn’t great, but I think it’s better than Purdue’s defense. So I believe Minnesota will figure out a way to score, just not as often as last Saturday. Nebraska found a way to lose in both of its last two games.  Truth is, the ‘Huskers were evenly matched in both of those games; could have went either way. I’d say the same for this game against Minnesota. I’ve got the feeling it will go Nebraska’s way this week, though. Minnesota has a good defense, but I think Nebraska has a good enough offense to outscore Minnesota’s subpar offense. As usual, the “X” factor will be QB Tommy Armstrong. Armstrong is a capable passer, and I expect he will make some nice throws in this game. But he can be streaky and can also make some poor decisions. I expect him to throw a couple of interceptions in this game, but I also expect the Nebraska coaching staff to utilize his running ability. Which should be enough to give the ‘Huskers the edge.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Minnesota by 2, so there is a small chance that this prediction will qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
N'RTHW'STERN
7
10
13
19
IOWA
7
14
14
21

I was surprised to see Northwestern come crashing down from its lofty heights last Saturday against Michigan. But the Wolverines are on a roll and appear to be a tier above Northwestern right now. Iowa is still soaring in lofty heights, but I’m not so sure they belong in the tier above Northwestern. I think this game is a good matchup. I give a small edge to Iowa due mainly to the QB position. Northwestern starts a Freshman QB who is good, but still just a freshman. Iowa’s QB, C.J. Beathard, is a competitor who is playing better than most expected coming into the season. He’s not perfect, but certainly good enough. Both defenses are solid, and both teams have put together a good running game. This one could go either way.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Iowa by 2, so there is virtually no chance that this prediction will qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
WISCONSIN
0
20
27
34
PURDUE
3
3
10
17

Purdue let me down last Saturday. I have to be careful not to overcompensate when I downgrade their status, but a trip to Camp Randall doesn’t look too promising for the Boilermakers. The Purdue players have fought hard for most of the season, and appeared to be poised to post a breakthrough win last Saturday at home against a Minnesota team that had been struggling. A 41-13 loss can only be deflating, and while I haven’t seen or heard anything to support, I gotta think HC Darrell Hazell is taking some heat from the Purdue faithful and his employer. As I said above, I didn’t get to see the game against Minnesota, but by all accounts Minnesota’s offense ran all over the Boilermakers. Wisconsin, like Minnesota, has been ailing in the running game, but a game against Purdue might, like it was for Minnesota, be the cure. And Wisconsin QB Joel Stave has been throwing well aside from a poor outing against Iowa a couple of weeks ago. I like Wisconsin’s defense, but defense requires intensity, and one of the question marks in this game will be Wisconsin’s level of focus coming off a tuff win at Nebraska and now looking at a 1-5 Purdue team that just got shellacked. I think Purdue will hang tuff for a good part of the game, but in the end won’t have enough to keep up with the Badgers.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Wisconsin by 24, so it is very possible that this prediction will qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
INDIANA
7
14
21
35
RUTGERS
10
17
24
37

I’ve adjusted my assessment of both of these teams after watching them play last Saturday. Indiana I’ve downgraded, Rutgers I’ve upgraded. Indiana was without their starting QB and RB, though, so that has to be considered. I’m making this prediction with the assumption that QB Nate Sudfeld will start in this game. If I find out otherwise prior to 10:30 AM Saturday, I won’t count this prediction. The Hoosiers need a QB who can complete passes in order for this offense to work. Sudfeld’s backup, Zander Diamont is not that QB. Diamont’s backup, third string QB Danny Cameron, is actually a better passer but is too raw right now to be effective. I think Indiana’s defense is better than in recent seasons, but still not very good. Rutgers hung tuff with highly ranked Michigan St. last Saturday. QB Chris Laviano has a live arm and the return of WR Leonte Carroo gives him an excellent target to throw to. The Rutgers defense isn’t top shelf, but still not as godawful as I previously thought. While both defenses appear to be improved, I still think this will be a battle of offenses; again, assuming Sudfeld starts. I think Rutgers is the slightly better team and would feel more comfortable picking the Scarlet Knights if they were at home. And Rutgers HC Kyle Flood returns to the sidelines after a three game suspension, so that may help a little. This one could go either way, though.
As of the date of this post the line is still pending due to Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld’s injury status.

1
2
3
Final
OHIO ST
7
7
17
24
PENN ST
7
7
10
17

The consensus among the media seems to be that Ohio St.’s offensive problems have been solved. After performing below expectations for most of the season, QB Cardale Jones played well last Saturday against Maryland, and the insertion of J.T. Barrett as the red zone QB proved to be successful. But let’s not forget, this was against Maryland’s defense. Penn St. will bring a better defense. And there were still times when Ohio St. couldn’t run the ball against Maryland. And the Buckeyes defense hasn’t looked very good the last two games. Everyone has been waiting for Ohio St. to live up to preseason expectations as a dominating obvious best team in the nation. So far, that really hasn’t happened. But to their credit, the Buckeyes are still winning. Uninspired by non-threatening opponents? Playing down to competition? Maybe, but I don’t think that’s all of it. HC Urban Meyer will improve this team as the season goes on, but I think what we’re seeing is a true reflection of where Ohio St. is right now. A very good team loaded with talent, but vulnerable to being beaten by a good team. I wouldn’t call Penn St. a good team, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But they are coming off of the best offensive performance I’ve seen under the (HC) James Franklin program, albeit against a relatively weak Indiana defense. And the Penn St. defense will be the best Ohio St. has faced this season. Last season this game surprisingly went into overtime. It makes a big difference that this season’s game will be at Ohio St., but still, Penn St.’s offense is better now than it was a season ago, and the defense is about the same. I look for Ohio St. to regress back to the below expectations offense we’ve been seeing for most of the season. “Below expectations” doesn’t mean a bad offense, though. Ohio St. will score. But it won’t be easy. I have to consider the opponent when I say Penn St. showed offensive improvement last Saturday, so I’m aware this still isn’t a very good offense. But QB Christian Hackenberg has a live arm and has picked up a little confidence. He has accuracy issues, but if he can move around in the pocket like he’s been doing for the past few weeks (as opposed to his previous shtick of just standing in one spot like a statue and eventually curling up into the fetal position to take a sack) and get off some long bombs against a suspect Ohio St. secondary, one of those grenades is bound hit its target. Penn St. had some success on the ground last season against an Ohio St. defense that was playing much better against the run than it is this season. I don’t see Ohio St. losing this game, but I do see it being closer than most might expect.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Ohio St. by 17, so this prediction will most likely qualify as a play. 

1
2
3
Final
NOTRE DAME
7
17
17
27
USC
7
14
21
24

USC HC Steve Sarkisian was already suspended when I handicapped this game on Sunday. So his eventual firing doesn’t change my prediction. Teams can react in different ways to something like this, depending on the circumstances. I don’t expect the USC players to let down in any way. Not against Notre Dame. USC has loads of talent, but they did suffer a head scratching loss last Saturday against Washington. So under these circumstances, a coaching change might help. I look for USC QB Cody Kessler to have some success through the air, but I also expect Notre Dame to be able to move the ball as well - Notre Dame HC Brian Kelly is an excellent play caller. Another tough challenge for the Irish, I figure the lead to change hands a few times. I don’t think ND QB DeShone Kizer is quite where he needs to be yet, so I figure him to throw at least one interception. But he has come through in the clutch before, and I trust Kelly to dial up enough good plays to give Kizer the chance to lead Notre Dame to a late fourth quarter TD and a win.
As of the date of this post, the line sits at Notre Dame by 6.5, so it is unlikely that this prediction will qualify as a play.




ATS

FTC DOLLARS
In this section I track the results of my predictions that qualify as “plays” ATS (any predicted point spread that differs from the closing line by seven or more points). I’ve also included the results (conference games only) of some unsuspecting prognosticators that I found on line. The standings are based on how many “FTC” dollars are won. For a more detailed explanation of this section and the definition of a “play”, please refer to the “FTC $ Q&A” tab at the top of this post or click here→ FTC$ Q&A.

ATS  PLAY STANDINGS
LAST SATURDAY
TOTAL
FTC $
W
L
T
W
L
T
BRENT YARINA (btn)
0
0
0
2
0
0
$100
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
0
1
0
1
1
0
-$5
TOM DEINHART (btn)
0
1
0
0
2
0
-$110
FROM THE COUCH
0
4
0
2
6
0
-$230

Link to the BTN website (last Saturday’s predictions): BTN.com




SEASON STATS

SPREAD RECORD
W
L
STRAIGHT UP
W
L
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
6
6
BRENT YARINA (btn)
11
1
TOM DEINHART (btn)
4
7
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
10
2
FROM THE COUCH
3
9
FROM THE COUCH
8
3
BRENT YARINA (btn)
3
9
TOM DEINHART (btn)
8
4
WITHIN 7
W
L
CLOSEST
W
L
BRENT YARINA (btn)
4
8
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
5
7
TOM DEINHART (btn)
4
8
FROM THE COUCH
3
9
FROM THE COUCH
3
9
BRENT YARINA (btn)
3
9
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
3
9
TOM DEINHART (btn)
2
9

SPREAD RECORD- This category disregards my seven point “play” system and 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 actual 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 – This category tracks the number of times a predicted point spread was more accurate than the Vegas point spread. This category differs from the Spread Record category because 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 Michigan by 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 oddsmakers’ point spread (7-6=1) was closer to the final score differential 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. My Notre Dame predictions aren’t included in the above standings and statistics because my competition doesn’t predict Notre Dame games. So I’ve separately listed the stats for my Notre Dame game predictions below.

PLAYS
SPREAD RECORD
CLOSEST
WITHIN 7
STRAIGHT UP
W
L
T
W
L
W
L
W
L
W
L
0
1
0
0
4
0
5
2
3
3
2



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