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, October 5, 2015

BIG TEN FOOTBALL WHAT HAPPENED WEEK 5


WHAT HAPPENED

I went 2-2 last Saturday. Not good, but not bad either. I was able to learn a lot about the teams now that there are fewer games to keep track of. And having four games that qualified as plays increased my focus as well. I try to learn as much as I can from every game, so it shouldn’t really matter whether or not I have a play on the line. But it does. Probably not a fair thing to say given last Saturday’s rainy, windy weather, but I’m noticing that this conference is struggling at the QB position. My predictions and pre-game comments can be found on my previous post, dated 9-30 (ATS Predictions - Week 5).
My Current Overall Record:  2-3

THE PLAYS
Illinois 14  Nebraska 13   (Nebraska -6)
I predicted Nebraska to win, 42-27. Obviously I expected much more offense in this one given both teams’ defensive track record. The ‘Huskers cost me a loss here as they had a chance to salt away a win (and a push for me) by running out most of the game clock with a six point lead. But Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong decided to throw a pass (which fell incomplete) with about 55 seconds left, thus allowing the Illini time to put together a game winning drive as time expired. As I said in my prediction write-up, Armstrong is prone to making poor decisions at critical moments. This instance will undoubtedly go down as the shining example. According to Nebraska HC Mike Riley, Armstrong was instructed to run the ball…as in, don’t throw it. But regardless of Armstrong’s decision making, Riley is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole by trying to feature Armstrong in a pass oriented offense. Armstrong has a good arm and at times can make some nice throws, but eventually he’s gonna hurt his team with either a turnover or a streak of inaccuracy. The ‘Huskers are now 2-3 and the faithful are already restless with Riley. Riley was quoted as saying “I don’t ever remember losing a game like this”. The dude’s got a short memory ‘cuz all three of Nebraska’s losses have been like this.
Big win for the Illini, though. Given last season’s atrocious defense, I wasn’t quite sold on the stellar performances this season’s version was turning in against subpar competition. Again, Nebraska helped the Illini out by insisting on throwing too many way off target passes, but I have to give the Illini defense credit for holding a legitimate team to only one TD. This team is so much better now that Tim Beckman is out of the way. Not nice to say, I guess, but it’s just so obvious.

Ohio St. 34  Indiana 27   (Ohio St. -22 1/2)
I predicted Ohio St. to win, 56-21. I was close with Indiana’s score but off the mark with Ohio St.’s, and it cost me a loss here. Indiana’s defense was better than I expected, although not by much because I did notice improvement in previous games. What really hurt me here was the Ohio St. offense. Like most everyone else, I’m anticipating a breakout performance that resembles the offense of last season’s championship team. And as I’m watching the game, increasingly frustrated with each Buckeyes possession, I noticed that my frustration seemed familiar. Then it hit me. The Buckeyes are suffering a double whammy in the coaching staff. This team misses last season’s OC, Tom Herman. But compounding the problem is his replacement, Tim Beck. Beck was the OC at Nebraska last season. Beck insists on throwing the ball on first down. Never mind that he has an All-American running back (last season Ameer Abdullah, this season Ezekiel Elliot) picking up five to ten yards a carry, Beck wants to throw. And of course, if a first down pass results in a sack or an incompletion, then you’re in a situation where you have to throw. Elliot just ripped off a 55 yard TD. What do the Buckeyes do the next possession? Three straight incomplete passes. I understand that first down is the best down for throwing, and on many occasions the actual play call wasn’t bad as the receiver was open. But completing a pass requires much more precision than running the ball for six, seven, and possibly 55 yards a carry. Why not at least give the running game a shot until the defense stops it? I get the impression that Buckeyes HC Urban Meyer is more “hands on” than last season’s Nebraska coach, Bo Pelini. So I’m guessing that at some point in the near future Meyer will grab Beck by the scruff of the neck and tell him to hand the ball to Elliot.
Indiana’s defense turned in one of its best performances in this one. And offense usually isn’t a problem for the Hoosiers under HC Kevin Wilson. Starting QB Nate Sudfeld left the game with an injury, as did star RB Jordan Howard. The Hoosiers still moved the ball, though.

Michigan 28  Maryland 0   (Michigan -14)
I predicted Michigan to win, 38-10. I hit the final spread exactly with my prediction and got the cover in this one. It didn’t happen exactly as I envisioned, though. I figured Michigan to take control of this game early but it wasn’t until the second half when the Wolverines started to pull away. I also expected more from the Michigan offense. And less from the Maryland defense. Michigan had difficulty moving the ball on the ground and QB Jake Rudock is a problem. Rudock does ok, but he missed yet another wide open receiver on a long pass that would have been a TD, about the fifth time that’s happened this season. And he’s having some accuracy issues on his short passes as well. I’ve seen him play better in the past when he was at Iowa, so maybe he’ll come around. But a case could be made that he’s mostly responsible for Michigan’s lone loss this season and if he doesn’t improve, he’ll be responsible for more.
As I mentioned, Maryland’s defense wasn’t bad. But their offense was horrible. It’s true that Michigan plays great defense, but the Terps need to get their QB situation straightened out fast.

Michigan St. 24  Purdue 21   (Michigan St. -21 1/2)
I predicted Michigan St. to win, 34-21. I got the cover in this one, but this is another game that didn’t go exactly as I envisioned. I figured Purdue to hang with the Spartans throughout the first three quarters and although I did predict the Boilermakers to make a run in the second half, I didn’t expect Sparty to look so dominant in jumping out to a quick 21-0 halftime lead. At that point I gave up on this one and turned my focus more towards the three other games that were going on at the time. But much to my delight, the Boilermakers came roaring back and actually had a shot at winning the game. It felt good to be on the right side of this one. I’ve been on the other side – the favorite jumps out to a big lead and all but covers a big spread in the first half, and then takes its foot off the gas and doesn’t cover.
This is the second week in a row Michigan St. has taken its foot off the gas in the second half. It’s becoming a bad habit that almost cost ‘em. Workmanlike is the description that always comes to mind when watching Michigan St. this season; nothing fancy, no big names, and not many big plays that stand out. Yet they keep winning.
I don’t know which Purdue team to believe in, the first half of this game Purdue, or the second half Purdue. The first half Purdue couldn’t tackle a turtle. Obviously they improved in the second half. QB David Blough has a competitive nature about him that I like.


THE NON-PLAYS
Northwestern 27  Minnesota 0   (Northwestern -4 1/2)
I predicted Northwestern to win, 24 to 20. Northwestern did their part, but the wheels are coming off of the Minnesota offense. Well, actually they’re already off. Gophers QB Mitch Leidner’s struggles as a passer is becoming a bigger problem with each passing week. Defenses are crowding the line more and more and will continue to do so until Leidner proves capable of making them pay. And regardless of the stacked defense, Minnesota’s O-line hasn’t been playing as well as expected.
I said in my prediction write-up that last season has me apprehensive about buying into Northwestern’s outstanding start to this season. I’m starting to become a believer after this one. Nice win for the Wildcats. They’re proving to have one of the many tuff defenses in this conference and the freshman QB is coming around.

Iowa 10  Wisconsin 6   (Wisconsin -6)
I predicted this game to go into overtime at 24 points. I almost cashed in on this one as the line started out at eight points but eventually dropped below the seven I needed to qualify this one as a play. This one could have gone either way as Wisconsin had its chances. After smoking hot starts to the season, neither QB played especially well. Particularly Wisconsin’s Joel Stave who turned the ball over four times. But credit the defenses in this one (and to some degree, the wind- tuff day for throwing). I might be just about the only football fan who enjoys a low scoring, defensive slugfest like this one; something that is rare in an age when automatic first downs are issued for making a hard tackle. Both of these teams came with an attitude on defense.

Clemson 24  Notre Dame 22   (Clemson -2)
I predicted Notre Dame to win, 35-32. The scoring came in lower and I picked the wrong team, but my spread was fairly accurate. The low scoring could be partially attributed to the pouring rain during the game. I figured the Irish to take an early lead and for Clemson to fall short on a comeback. It was the other way around. I’ll say one thing about watching Notre Dame games, they provide more than a usual amount of “down to the wire” finishes. Notre Dame was stopped on a two point conversion late in the game after coming back from a 21-3 fourth quarter deficit. As I said in my prediction write-up, Clemson’s cupcake nonconference schedule didn’t give me much to go on, so as it turned out, the Tigers were better than I estimated. But Notre Dame is certainly comparable, the Irish just dug themselves in an early hole, dropped too many passes, and turned the ball over too often. And QB DeShone Kizer still isn’t where he needs to be if the Irish are to be successful against a schedule that still has some formidable opponents coming up. We won’t know if injured starter Malik Zaire would have been better (out for the season), but Kizer is missing some of his reads and he threw a costly interception in this game. But in all fairness, he wasn’t the one who got most of the work in the offseason so he’s still learning.




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 pointed out in an earlier post, all of my competition comes from the gang at BTN this season as the other competitors from last season have proven unreliable in terms of making weekly predictions. Brent Yarina jumped out to an early lead with a 2-0 record, Sean Merriman is second as he picked one winner, and Tom Dienhart kept my 2-2 record out of the cellar as he lost with his only play.

ATS  PLAY STANDINGS
LAST SATURDAY
TOTAL
FTC $
W
L
T
W
L
T
BRENT YARINA (btn)
2
0
0
2
0
0
$100
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
1
0
0
1
0
0
$50
FROM THE COUCH
2
2
0
2
2
0
-$10
TOM DEINHART (btn)
0
1
0
0
1
0
-$55




DETAILS
THIS WEEK'S PLAY DETAILS
WINNERS
LOSERS
WEBSITE
FROM THE COUCH
PUR,
MIC,
NEB,
OSU,
TOM DEINHART (btn)
MSU, 
BRENT YARINA (btn)
IOW,
MIC,
SEAN MERRIMAN (btn)
IOW,





SEASON STATS
Listed below are stats for various categories that I’ll be tracking. As I’ve said before, the play category is the only one that really matters, but these categories are interesting as well. Some might like the “spread record” category because it disregards my seven point differential stipulation. Again, I think if your predicted spread isn’t much different from the closing line, you’re just flipping a coin; thus the seven point system. My favorite category in this group - the one I think is the most accurate barometer of forecasting skills - is the “within 7” category. Detailed explanations of each category are listed below the standings.


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

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. 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
3
0
4
2
2
2
2





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