One thing should be clear to everyone by now. I am an optimist. In fact, I recently declared myself to be the Chief Optimism Officer of this very website (you’re welcome). So, at the beginning of the year, I was pretty confident that this season was going to turn out to be good, if not special. All the pieces seemed to be there. MSU had a lot of seniors, including at the QB position. The defense looks like it was going to be lights out, and I was optimistic about the new offense. The preseason ranking of around 16 seemed about right. If nothing else, it seemed like MSU was due to have some good luck, both with injuries and otherwise.
As I looked at the schedule back in August, a 9-3 season seemed very reasonable, with a 10-2 record doable with some good bounces. My mathematical analysis of the season agreed. It gave MSU a 40% chance to get to 9 wins or more and only a 18% chance of winning 6 games or less. So, at this point in the season, I was expecting to be preparing for a nice relaxing Grand-Finale-senior-day-blowout win to push the record to 9 or 10 wins. After that, I was hoping to be able to sneak into a NY6 Bowl (preferably the Orange Bowl in my scenario, which would have also been an easy win and would have give Coach D a win in half of the current NY6 Bowls).
That was my dreamy, optimistic scenario back in August. Alas, it was not meant to be.
So, instead, MSU is sitting at 5-6 and needs to beat a struggling Maryland squad in order to simply buy a few more weeks of practice and a bus trip to Detroit (most likely) the day after Christmas. Oh, joy. It is not exactly the Grand Finale that I was hoping for.
There is not much that needs to be said about the game. MSU opened as a 20.5 point favorite, based on my source, which is slightly higher than my spreadsheet predicted (19.3) and the FPI predicted (18.4). So, the computers don’t like MSU to cover, but it should be close. In fact, I project a final score of 37-17. I would certainly take that.
If nothing else, in good seasons and in bad, those of us with season tickets only have a few Football Saturdays a year. Those are rare occasions we can wander campus with a beer in hand, see old friends, watch the band march by, and finally, stream into Spartan Stadium en-mass. It is a special place where we get to gather together to watch a bunch of 18-22 year old kids play a game that they love.
Those kids might look a lot different than you and me, and they might come from a very different place. But, they will be be wearing green and white, and so will we... those beautiful colors... some might say, The Only Colors. On some level, it binds us together and in a way, I think that makes us family.
So, I will be there on Saturday. A little rain or snow is not going to scare me away, nor we a few empty seats purchased at bargain basement prices by the Idiot Army of Washtenaw County. I am going to go and cheer and likely shed a tear or two for the Seniors when they take the field with their families. Win or lose, those kids have sacrificed a lot over 4-5 years and have busted their butts on those few special fall Saturdays, in part to ensure that I simply had a pleasant Saturday evening and Sunday morning. It is noble, in its own way.
After the finale of the game, I hope to sing the Victory For MSU along with the team and those students that remain... one more time. Time and family. Both are precious. Go Green.
For the final time this regular season, I present the projected point differentials from both my model and ESPN’s FPI as a function of the Vegas Line.
Based on these plots, I only have three bets that I recommend for the week: Penn State and Oregon to cover as favorites, and Bowling Green to cover as the underdog. At least none of those games has been played yet, so that’s a win. Only the Penn State cover is from my algorithm, while the other two picks are from the FPI.
As for upsets, I only have three this week (all from my algorithm), and none of them are very bold. I like San Jose State, San Diego State, and Virginia Tech to all win.
That said, my Monte Carlo simulation of the week suggests that we will observe 15.7 ± 3.2 upsets. That is the most predicted so far this year in any given week, so it could be a wild one.
That is all for now. I will be back early next week for a summary of the week’s action. Until then, enjoy, and Go State, Beat the Terrapins! And, of course, Happy Thanksgiving