Here we are in Week 13. Things have not exactly gone to plan. But, here we are. MSU is 4-6 and is on a 5-game losing streak (or 7, if you count the bye weeks). There are still two weeks left in the season and I say let’s try to make the best of them. The Show Must Go On.
Fortunately, I have good news. The opponent this week is none other than the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the “pride” of Piscataway, NJ. If you have not heard of them, they are, in a word, bad. How bad are they? In my current power rankings, they are #121 out of 130. They are slightly better than UCONN and not quite a good as Old Dominion. They are the worst of all the of Power 5 teams. The closest team in terms of “badness” that MSU has faced this year is Northwestern, who I now rank #109. May I remind you that MSU beat Northwestern on the road by 21 points this year. Rutgers has only won 2 games so far, one over UMASS (ranked #129) and one over Liberty (ranked #114). My data suggest the Scarlet Knight were a bit lucky in their win over Liberty.
As for more specific stats, Rutgers has a very bad offense. On a per play basis, they rank #126 out of #130. That is even worse than a certain Big Ten team from East Lansing who will remain anonymous. As for their defense, it is a little better. It ranks #113th. The next worst defense that MSU has faced all year was Western Michigan, who is ranked 87th. MSU put up 51 points on WMU. Incidentally, despite the recent problems, MSU’s defense is still in the Top 30 in yards allowed per play.
In other words, there is hope for victory. Vegas agrees. Based on the source that I use, MSU opened as a 20-point favorite this weekend, which translates into a 92% chance of victory. The bad news is that there have already been 6 upsets of this magnitude or largest this year. NO. WAIT. Go back and read the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs again. Let’s try to think happy thoughts this week... OK? Good. Where was I? As for my algorithm, it likes MSU by a few more point: 23.9 to be exact. The FPI is not to far from that at 21.9. So, believe it or not, I actually have MSU covering this week. I project a final score of roughly 38-13.
That said, this week’s game will be a barometer for the mental state of MSU’s team right now. All things being equal, MSU should win this one easily. But, football is ultimately a game played by 18-22 year old kids, and not by computer-generated avatars. This group has been through a lot in the last 7 weeks, no matter what the root cause. The team is both mentally and physically pretty beat up. It is hard to say how that will manifest itself. Oddly, I think it might be good that this is a road game. It is better to try to find a little success on the road before coming back home to a crowd of cranky Spartan fans.
But, if I add everything up, I believe that MSU is going to be able to put on a bit of a Show this week that I believe MSU fans will be happy with. Win this weekend and then come home after Thanksgiving with something to play for: a bowl game, even if it is only a hour or so drive away. If MSU can’t get the job down, next weekend will be Curtains. I may be in the minority, but I am not quite ready to say goodbye to MSU Football for the season just yet, no matter how things may have turned out so far.
Per my weekly tradition, I have plotted the projected point differentials from both my algorithm and ESPN’s FPI compared to the opening Vegas lines. Those plots are shown below:
Based on this data, I can recommend four total bets against the spread, based on a combination of the predictions of my algorithm and the FPI. Those bets are shown here:
Unfortunately, the Miami / Akron game already took place on Wednesday night and the Redhawks only won by 3, not over 30. So, I am already off to an 0 and 1 start for the week. Hopefully the other three games will treat me more kindly.
As for upsets, I have four of those to recommend as well, and interestingly, the FPI agrees with three of them. The most notable of the bunch are Maryland over Nebraska and NC State over Georgia Tech.
Finally, my Monte Carlo simulation of the week’s action suggest that we will see 13.7 ± 3.1 upset this week, which is one of the larger numbers that I have seen so far this year. So, it looks like some of the underdogs might be putting on a bit of a Show as well this week.
That is all for now, hopefully things are looking up. Until next time, enjoy, and Go State, Beat Rutgers!