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Against All Odds, Week 3

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So... that pretty much stunk, but are things as bad as we think?

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

So, Saturday pretty much sucked. I think that is clear. There were coaching errors, execution errors, slip-and-falls, bad luck, bad spots, and other (some would argue A LOT of) bad calls. When you add all those things up, MSU lost a very winnable game and lost a chance to celebrate Coach Dantonio becoming the all-time winningest coach in MSU history... for now. All-in-all, it was Murphy's Law crap sandwich. In retrospect, scheduling a team with a demonic mascot the day after a full moon falls on Friday the 13th may have not been the best plan.

In times like these, my modus operandi is to look at the numbers and see what they are telling me. Surprisingly, the numbers say that things way not be quite as bad as we think. When I input all of last night’s results into my computer, this is what I get for the updated odds to win the Big Ten:

As for the updated expected win totals, those are shown here:

If you prefer a more visual representation, here are the expected conference win total trends for the season to date.

In regards to the overall Big Ten race, things are pretty status quo from last week. I now have Ohio State to have almost a 90% shot to win the East and Wisconsin to have a 78% chance to win the West. Overall, Ohio State has over a 50% chance to the Big Ten, which is essentially what our eyeballs are telling us as well so far

While MSU did drop in my overall power rankings from 13 to 17, the rest of the Big Ten took a bit of a slide as well. When the conference suffers four upset losses (MSU, Maryland, Illinois, and Purdue) and fails to cover and 3 other games (Penn State, Minnesota, and Northwestern) that tends to happen. The good thing from an MSU perspective is that several of our remaining opponents may actually be a little worse than we think. The fact that MSU’s expected win total dropped by less than a game (8.95 to 8.16), despite the loss this weekend (literally equal to -1.0) is the mathematical evidence. That might be trouble for Ohio State if they are sitting at #5 in the College Football Playoff Poll in late November, but it looks like maybe that is a good trade for MSU fans.

Based on my calculations, MSU still has the 2nd best odds to win the East at 8%. I also can calculate that MSU has a 39% chance to win at least 9 games and a 75% chance to win 8 games. These odds are based on the following projected spreads for MSU’s remaining games:

  • MSU (-11.4) at Northwestern (it actually opened at -7)
  • MSU (-22) vs. Indiana
  • MSU (+15.1) at Ohio State
  • MSU (+13.9) at Wisconsin
  • MSU (-9.4) vs. Penn State
  • MSU (-23.8) vs. Illinois
  • MSU (-5.2) at Michigan
  • MSU (-28.5) at Rutgers
  • MSU (-11.9) at Maryland

OK. I know what you are thinking. My computer has gotten into the bad electrons from behind the shed again. Those numbers look absolutely insane based on what we saw Saturday night, right? Well, yes. But, then again, when I look at the box score, MSU dominated Arizona State in every category except the score.

While that final score is ultimately the only thing that actually matters, the overall box score should be a better indicator of MSU’s likely performance in the future. My numbers above reflect that. Another way to think about this is that there are basically two different ways to explain the results of Saturday’s game:

  1. MSU is simply not that good overall due to poor coaching/play-calling/offense/fill-in-the-blank and will continue to struggle to beat any team with a pulse on defense. MSU is maybe a Top 50ish team in reality.
  2. MSU is actually good enough to be a Top 20ish team, but they lost to Arizona State because of some “bad luck” (insert your explanation here) and the fact that Arizona State may be better than we think.

It sure feels like option 1, but the math suggests that it might actually be option 2. If we consider also that Western Michigan won by 47 this weekend against the team that upset Tennessee in Week 1, that also seems to favor Option 2. I should also mention that if you think my power ranking of 17 is high, ESPN’s FPI actually has us at 16. Granted, it is still VERY early to put too much stock in this type of projection, but all data tell a story, and this story is perhaps not as scary as it appears from its cover.

Week 2 Upset and ATS Pick Review

Last week, I provided a few betting tips and gave a chart of all my picks and the FPI’s picks against the opening spread. Overall, my algorithm has a decent weekend, going 25-23 ATS (52.1%) which brings my total up to 71-68 (51%) for the year. The FPI once again did not fair as well, going a miserable 18-30 ATS (37.5%). That brings the FPI’s tally to 55-84 (39.6%) for the year. Ouch!

As for my suggested bets, this was also a horror show this weekend. Here is the list for this past week’s preview, with the correct picks ATS highlighted

  • 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

That is a dreadful 4-7 (36%) record for the week, bringing the total to 18-16 (53%), which overall is not that bad.

As for upset picks, here is the table for Week 3:

I count a total of 13 upsets based on the opening lines, which is a little higher than the 10.9 predicted by my simulation of the week, but well within the normal range. My model went 2-2 on upset predictions this week, bring my total for the year to 5-4 (56%), while the FPI went 0 for 3 and is now only 2-6 (25%) year-to-date.

The MSU upset was the second largest of the week (second only to Kansas’s Freak Friday the 13th upset of BC) based on the Vegas line. But, the upset of a team where the spread opened over 10 points has already happened 6 other times this year. Upsets of this magnitude or larger happen 30-35 times in a given year.

National Overview

Finally, let’s take a look at the overall national results from the week, relative to the opening Vegas line:

Once again, it is clear how much variation there is in the actual results.

As for the biggest over-achievers of the week, the top prize goes to Western Michigan, with Ohio State, Navy, Nebraska, Charlotte, Memphis, LA Tech, Oklahoma, Navy, Wake Forest, Duke, and Central Michigan also in that category.

As for the under-achievers, this week that was basically just the teams that got upset, most notably Boston College, Purdue, Buffalo, NC State, and Texas Tech, with MSU also right on that 1-standard deviation line. As for the winners, Minnesota and Penn State flirted close to the under-achievement line as well.

That is all for now. Look for more betting advice later in the week. Until next time and as always, Go Green.