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Against All Odds, Week 12

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Sometimes in life, things snowball, and the only solution is to wait until Spring

Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

This is one of those times where I am going to start off with, “I don’t have much to say,” and then I am going to type 10,000 words. But, the initial sentiment is the same. Losing to Michigan sucks and getting blown out by Michigan sucks real hard. The game itself was essentially a microcosm of the entire season. MSU came out swinging. In the first 10 minutes or so, the argument could have been made that MSU was playing the better football.

But then, little mistakes began to creep in, and then bigger mistakes, and then eventually things Snowballed. The dam broke. It was just like Ohio State, just like Wisconsin, and just like Penn State. The bottom line is that this MSU team just isn’t talented enough or mentally tough enough to handle any sort of adversity. Part of that is circumstantial (this schedule just flat out set up VERY poorly as it turns out) but a lot of it is structural (execution and discipline and other “quality control” issues), and at the end of the day that equals a team that just isn’t very good. Sadly, that is factual.

Now all of a sudden, all the Wolverines losers are magically appearing out of the woodwork, beating their chest, and celebrating like they just won the Super Bowl, despite the fact that they don’t care about us at all. Sure, makes sense. They are also celebrating like they just won game 7 of the NBA Finals/ World Series/Stanley Cup Finals, because THIS victory, over an injured and demoralized 500 MSU team, is the one that proves that they really are the Leaders and Best. All the while, the Wolverines were mathematically eliminated from the Big Ten East race. Sure, makes sense. Also, now that they have won 2 in a row in the series for the first time since 2007, they act like they are now convinced that MSU will never beat them again in their lifetime. I swear, they must be the dumbest fanbase in America…

But, as I said my preview, they are irrelevant. They are the equivalent of the middle school bully who is acting out to get attention. If you just ignore them, they have no power at all. Let’s see if they can get to 10 wins this year, including a Bowl Game. Good luck with that.

I only care about MSU’s future. Right now, things look bleak. A five-game losing streak will do that to you. The good news is that MSU closes with 2 of the 3 weakest teams on the entire schedule. So, there is still the chance to pick up a few more victories this year, no matter how hollow they may feel. After that? There are a lot of questions going forward, and Coach D and the MSU administration will have a lot of decisions to make in the very near future.

Since I like data, I put up a poll on the Rivals message board to get a sense on where the fan base is at. With over 450 respondents, the vast majority of fans (90%) either wanted Coach Dantonio to retire at the end of the year for the good of the program or to stay but make significant changes (3 coaches or more). The “stay with major changes” crowd seems to hold a slight lead. The other 10% was evenly split between “fire Dantonio” and make little or no changes.

As for me, I think that Coach D has earned the right to write his own final chapter. If that means staying another few years to try to go out on a high note, I am 100% cool with that. If that means hanging it up now, I say, “God Bless.” Either way, I think major staff changes are inevitable. He is not so stubborn or so selfish not to. If you think that he is, that’s the just Wolverine on your left shoulder talking.

At the end of the day, I think all MSU fans just want what’s best for the program in the long run. We just don’t agree on the best path. I personally believe Coach D still knows more about how to win in East Lansing than anyone else, even if he is struggling to do that now himself. I would like him to be able to name his successor, or at least be heavily involved in the search process. That, to me, is the path with the highest probably of success.

If you disagree, that’s fine, but I think you are wrong. Sorry. (Not sorry.) If you think that MSU will get a better coach by allowing the new AD and President to pick the next coach (maybe with Izzo’s help?), well good luck with that. I don’t give that strategy a Snowball’s chance in Hell of working, but, hey, you be you. Teams in MSU peer group have tried this before, and I cannot think of a single example where it has worked.

It is going to be a tough winter for MSU football. But, no matter what happens over the next 4-5 months, Spring will eventually come, and that Snowball will melt. All the while, the next batch of 85 Spartan Warriors will be continuing to work to get better and to redeem the program on the gridiron in the Fall of 2020. They aren’t giving up. They are going to continue to grind and continue to fight. They aren’t going to quit and neither should we. By summer, I am still going to pour over the preseason magazines in anxious anticipation of the season to come. Hope will spring eternal. It always does. Go Green.

Big Ten Metrics Update:

After the events of this weekend, the update odds to win the various Big Ten races and expected win totals are summarized below:

The trends in conference expected win totals are shown here:

As for MSU, the loss to UofM did not really make things significantly worse from a metrics standpoint. MSU slipped only one slot in my power rankings (40 -> 41) and the expected win total dropped slightly (5.96 to 5.77). In general, MSU is still expected to win the last two games on the schedule. Here are the projected spreads for the final two games:

  • at Rutgers: -23.9 (It opened at -23. Oh yeah....)
  • vs. Maryland: -12.6

Based on these number, here are the following odds for the three possible remaining records

  • 6-6: 78%
  • 5-7: 21%
  • 4-8: 0.8%

The goal is making a bowl game and getting those extra practices for the younger players. Based on the expected win totals as well as the number of games favored, MSU seems likely to get the 9th best Big Ten Bowl. That one is likely to be the one in Detroit, for better or worse.

As for the rest of the Big Ten, both the East and the West are now 2-team races, officially. In the East, it all comes down to the Penn State / Ohio State game next weekend in Columbus. The Buckeyes are over a 2 TD favorite, so their odds are around 85% to win that game and the division.

As for the West, Minnesota could have taken a commanding lead with a win or Iowa, but... they didn’t. Now, they put themselves in the dicey position of needing to beat Wisconsin in Minneapolis in the final week of the season in order to secure a trip to Indy. I project the Badgers to still be a ~6.5-point favorite in that contest, so that still gives the Badgers a 67% to 33% edge in the odds.

Betting and Upset Pick Review

While MSU is struggling on the field, my computer model is continuing to rack up some impressive performances, week after week. Overall, my algorithm went 28-23 (55%) this week, making it the 4th week in a row over 50%. Year-to-date, I am 312-298 (52%). In contrast, ESPN’s FPI was the mirror image and went 23-28 (45%). The FPI has been below 500 for 4 of the past 5 week. It’s YTD numbers are 284-317 (47%).

As for my betting performance, I went 2 of 3 (67%) this week. The results are show here:

For once, betting on Rutgers not to cover failed. Huh. Year to date, my record is now 49-32 (60.5%) while the FPI (who has not placed a bet in two weeks) is still 19-13 (59%). The combined strategy is 65-43 (60%).

As for upsets, it wound up being a slow week, with only 9 upsets observed. The biggest upset of the week was WVU (+15) over Kansas State. The full results are shown here:

My model once again went 2-1, while the FPI was 1-1. YTD, I am now 28-31 (47.5%) for upset picks while the FPI is 19-18 (51%).

National Overview

The overall results from the week are summarized in the chart below:

I should note that the Syracuse upset over Duke was so huge (the Orange were +10.5, yet they won by 43) that I did not include it on the chart. It was too far off scale.

As usual, this graph gives us a feel for the teams that over-achieved (like Clemson, Utah, Virginia Tech, Michigan (booooooo!!!!!), Notre Dame, USC, Washington State, and Kentucky) as well as a teams that were a bit sub-par (like Penn State, Oklahoma, and Cincinnati)

That is all for now, but I have good news. It’s Rutgers’ Week, and Rutgers is awful. This is just what the Doctor ordered. Enjoy, and as always, Go State, Beat Rutgers.