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Bad Betting Advice, Week 3

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I once again use a little math to give you some advice that you probably shouldn’t take

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Last week I may have given out some advice in this space on which teams may or may not cover the spread. As it turns out, I just went 0.500. If I was a baseball hitter, that would have been a fantastic average, and I am just going to hold onto that thought for now. Since I don’t know when to quit, how some more bad betting advice for Week 3?

Starting off with MSU, the Spartans opened as an 11-point favorite, based on the source that I use. That was pretty much dead-on the line of 10.9 that my spreadsheet predicted. That translates to a 78% chance that MSU survives this week’s attempted Exorcism of the Sun Devils without a scratch. Since it opened, the spread now seems to be up around 14 points, which is a pretty big move. The data would suggest that MSU has a slightly better chance to avoid an upset (84%) based on the updated line.

As for the over-under, I see that it opened around 47.5, which does seem a bit high. I use a very simple calculation to estimate the over-under, and I get a value of 41.5. Interestingly, the current over-under seems to have dropped to 42, so that all checks out for me. If I use all this information to predict a final score, my model suggest MSU wins 26-15, but that seems a bit hard to do in practice, so I will go with 27-14.

Based on the data from my algorithm, there is not clear bet to make. However, the FPI is more bullish on MSU’s chances than my model is and likes MSU by almost 18 points. The FPI prediction is in the range where my analytics suggest a smart bet is to take MSU to cover. Do you feel lucky? It’s probably just the afterglow from the neon unis.

As I did last week, I like to put the week into perspective by plotting the predictions of my algorithm to the opening Vegas lines. That data is shown here:

In addition, here is the same data using ESPN’s FPI.

Based on my historical data, 6 total games that fall into my “recommended bet” category (i.e. my prediction differs from the spread by more than 12 points). The FPI has an additional 5 games (including MSU) and none of these games overlap. Those contests are summarized below:

  • Charlotte (-18.0) to cover vs. Massachusetts
  • Minnesota (-15.5) to cover vs. Georgia Southern
  • Maryland (-5.5) to cover vs. Temple
  • Virginia (-8.0) to cover vs. Florida State
  • Middle Tenn (+7.0) to cover vs. Duke
  • Syracuse (+26.0) to cover vs. Clemson
  • Washington State (-6.0) to cover vs. Houston
  • UCF (-6.0) to cover vs. Stanford
  • Michigan State (-11.0) to cover vs. Arizona State
  • South Carolina (+25.5) to cover vs. Alabama
  • UCLA (+19.5) to cover vs. Oklahoma

Once again, I do all of my analysis using the opening line, since I hate try to hit a moving target. Some of these line (such as the MSU line) have moved, but there should be enough buffer in my method for these picks to still be good.

Interestingly, the two models combined suggest that it is wise to bet against Clemson, Alabama, and Oklahoma to cover this week. I am not sure that I would be so confident about those bets, but I guess we will find out. The best bet on the list to me looks like taking Maryland (-5.5) to cover against Temple. Based on the performance of the Terps so far, I would expect a double-digit win here.

I am also curious that my model not only thinks Middle Tennessee State is going to cover against Duke, it actually picks the Blue Raiders to win in upset fashion. I wonder if perhaps this is just a side-effect to Michigan looking so weak in the first two weeks and thus artificially inflating the power ranking of their opponents. It certainly will be interesting to track this result as well.

Speaking of upsets, in addition to MTSU over Duke, my model this week has three more as does the FPI, but 2 of the upsets are shared by both models: Iowa over Iowa Sate and UNC over Wake. As for the state of Iowa, I think that line has already moved to the side of the Hawkeyes. As for UNC, I still can’t figure out why Wake was favored in the first place. For reference, the specific upset picks are summarized below.

Finally, my Monte Carlo simulation of the weeks games predicts that we will see 10.9 ± 2.8 upsets this week, which is more than what was projected for either Week 1 or 2.

After the games are complete, I will check and let you know how bad I did.

Until next time, enjoy, and Go Green!