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Against All Odds, Week 13

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It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. All’s Well That Ends Well

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Good news everyone! MSU once again won a football game! It may not seem like a huge accomplishment, and let’s be honest, it’s not. But still, winning feels a heck of a lot better than losing. It wasn’t easy, however. For large stretches of that game, it felt like MSU was one or two disastrous plays away the danger zone once again, for all of the same reasons that put MSU into this position in the first place. When four of your first eight possession end in a turnover on downs (twice), a missed FG, and an interception in the end-zone, things are not exactly going well. It was a story that we had all seen before and it has not ended well. The History of this season has had so much Tragedy and it was almost Comedy. MSU fans essentially have to run the full gambit of emotions just to get through a single 3.5 hour game.

But, All’s Well That Ends Well. As I look at the final box score... it’s fine. MSU got a shut-out win, covered the spread, and out-gained Rutgers by over 250 yards. MSU only punted twice the entire game, while Rutgers only had 2 possessions of over 4 plays. I don’t care if Rutgers is one of the worst Power 5 teams in the history of time. Who cares. MSU won, and they won big, and I am happy about it, even if it was a bit of a Problem Play. Now, let’s never speak of this game again...

Looking ahead, things are pretty simple. MSU gets to host Maryland next week on Senior Day for a shot to get to 6-6 and practice together for a few more weeks. Saturday night, I projected the spread to be MSU -19.3. It seems to have opened at around -17.5 and in some places now seems to be over 20 points. These numbers all suggest that MSU has right around a 90% chance to beat Maryland and make a bowl game.

If an MSU win does come to pass, MSU will likely the be only 6-6 Big Ten team, and based on the overall landscape, the Quick Lane Bowl seems like the most likely destination. Right now, Florida State or North Carolina (assuming they beat NC State next weekend) seem like the most likely opponent. A few things could disrupt that, however. If UNC loses, the ACC does not look to have enough teams to fill their spots, and the Quick Lane Bowl would fall to the MAC. Based on MSU’s recent and near future MAC opponents, I personally think that Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, or Miami (OH) would be the likely candidates. Alternatively, if the Big Ten can get 3 teams into the NY6 Bowls, MSU would likely slide up to the Pinstripe Bowl to face a team such as Louisville. All will become clear in due time. Worrying about it now, on some level, is simply Much Ado About Nothing.

Big Ten Metrics Update

This time of year my metrics tables are not as useful, as most conference races are all but over and my playoff formulas are no longer completely applicable. But, for old times sake, here are the updated odds and expected win tables, followed by the weekly trend in conference expected wins for each Division:

Ohio State’s win over Penn State secured the Big Ten East title and officially punched their ticket to Indy. So, for what seems like roughly the 14th time in 15 years or so, the result of the Michigan-Ohio Sate game next week is completely meaningless to the Big Ten race.

On the other side of the conference, the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe will decide Ohio State’s opponent. My math likes Wisconsin by slightly over a touchdown (thus with a ~70% chance to win), while the early Vegas line is between 2 and 4 points (more like 60%). Either way, Ohio State is predicted to be a big favorite in Indy, and thus I project an 85% chance the Buckeyes will once again claim the Big Ten Title.

The only open question is if Ohio State would still claim a Playoff spot if they were to lose on the road in Ann Arbor, yet win the Big Ten Championship Game. I tend to think that they would. Ultimately, “the Game,” is simply “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Betting and Upset Pick Review

Similar to the Buckeyes, my algorithm overall is also on a bit of a hot streak. For the 5th straight week, it once again was over 55% against the spread, going 32-26 (55%) which brings my totals for the year up to 344-315 (52.2%). Also for the 5th straight week, ESPN’s FPI was below 500, going only 28-30 (48%) and bringing its YTD total to 312-347 (47%).

As for my recommended bets, that did not go quite as well. For the first time all season, I went 0-fer, but on low volume (only 2). The FPI hit one of its two bets for 50%. The summary is shown below:

Year-to-date, this brings my totals to 49-34 (59%) and the FPI’s totals to 20-14 (59%). The combined strategy now sits at 66-46 (59%).

As for upsets, the computers’ performance were also a bit underwhelming. My algorithm and the FPI agreed on three total upsets, none of which came to pass, although I did pick up one lone correct pick as Western Kentucky took out Southern Miss. The upset are summarized below:

For the season, my algorithm’s upset picks are now 29-34 (46%), while the very conservative FPI is 19-18 (51%). Overall, the total number of observed upsets (13) was right as expected based on my simulation (13.7) with the biggest upsets of the week being FIU’s hilarious upset of Miami (-17.5) and three late update West Coast upsets where Oregon, Washington, and Fresno State all fell as 10+ point favorites.

National Overview

The overall results of Week 13’s action are shown in the chart below:

As always, the chart give a feel for the teams that over-achieved this week (such as Nebraska, Memphis, Boise State, Ohio, Louisiana-Lafayette, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, and Michigan) and the teams that did not (basically, all the teams that were upset, plus Miami of Ohio).

That will do it for this penultimate week of the college football regular season. Enjoy the Thanksgiving Holiday, and as always, Go State, Beat the Terrapins.