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Against All Odds, Week 4

Wait... MSU won? Michigan lost? and my advice was good? What the...

Michigan State v Northwestern Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In retrospect, we all should have seen this coming. The signs were all there. We know that MSU has a dominant defense. On offense, the Tulsa game was not good. I was harsher than most following that game. But, the offense was much, much better against Western, and at least in the box score, it was better against Arizona State. Once the initial sting of last week’s lose wore off, I was still pretty guardedly optimistic about the direction of this team.

Many people, myself included, pointed out that the ASU game looked like an anomaly. Sure, MSU put up only 7 points, but you change the outcome slightly of one of out of 10-12 different plays, MSU wins that game. If you chance 3-4 of those plays, MSU wins going away. Anomalies are frustrating because they can feel like reality. If you spend too much time staring at the fun-house mirror, you start to squint and think, “no, maybe that is actually what I look like...”

But, anomalies are simply low probability events, and if you play enough games, eventually every team is going to have a bad day. Those bad days may or may not also correspond to days when you have Pac 12 officials... just ask Ole Miss.

But that was last week, and this week was quite the opposite of a bad day. Saturday was a very, very good day. But how do the events of the weekend impact the overall Big Ten race? As usual, I crunched some numbers and have the updated stats for the Big Ten race, based on my algorithm and associated power rankings:

As for the expected win totals and games where a team is favored:

A more visual representation of the data, along with the trends for the years are shown here:

Honestly, the results from this week do not actually change much of the big picture. Ohio State is still the huge favorite in the East at 92%, while Wisconsin is a huge favorite in the West (80%). As for the overall race, the Buckeyes hold a fair lead over the Badgers to win in Indy, 56% to 38%. Part of the reason for this is that the 2nd place team in the West, Iowa, still has reasonable odds to make it to Indy at 19%. In contrast, my algorithm still likes MSU as the 2nd best team in the East, but the Spartans have only a 6% chance right now of unseating the Buckeyes.

Ironically, MSU’s numbers have been quite stable this year. overall. MSU actually went up this week in my power rankings, from 17 to 13. Penn State also rose from 30 to 20, despite the fact that they took the week off. Pitt’s upset of UCF probably helped that, while MSU’s opponents, did not fare as well this weekend.

MSU’s expected win total is now at 8.3 plus or minus a game. I give MSU a 9% chance to win at least 10 games, a 44% chance to win 9 or more, and an 81% chance to win at least 8. Another way to look at the data is that I project that there is a 72% chance that MSU wins 8 or 9 games total. That seems pretty reasonable and is in-line with most of the preseason predictions. As for my projected lines for the rest of the season, I have:

  • MSU (-16.7) vs. Indiana
  • MSU (+17.1) at Ohio State
  • MSU (+14.1) at Wisconsin
  • MSU (-6.8) vs. Penn State
  • MSU (-26.3) vs. Illinois
  • MSU (-5.2) at Michigan
  • MSU (-30.3) at Rutgers
  • MSU (-15.8) at Maryland

Some of those lines may look a bit odd, but keep in mind that I said all week that my algorithm had Wisconsin as a 25-point favorite over Michigan. How did that one turn out? Speaking of Michigan, my spreadsheet predicts more bad news for the Wolverines. I only give them a 37% chance to finish with 7 wins or more, and I only have them favored in 3 more games this year, Rutgers, at Illinois, and at Indiana, while the road game at Maryland looks like a toss-up.

Other metrics (like the FPI) are clinging to the idea that Michigan might still somehow be a Top 20 team, but this seems like it is based more on recruiting rankings and nostalgia with the winged helmets than on any relevant data. My power rankings have them at 35 overall, but that number is still being influenced by their Top 5 preseason ranking. Based on what we have actually seen on the field this year, Michigan is basically a 0.500 team. Until they prove otherwise, that is what they are.

Week 3 Upset and ATS Pick Review

Overall, my algorithm has a respectable weekend. It went 24-25 ATS (49%) bringing the year-to-date tally to 95-93 (50.5%). I can live with that. ESPN’s FPI did very slightly better at 25-24 (51%), but its total is only 80-108 (43%) for the year.

As for my recommended bets, things look much better, for my algorithm specifically. Here is the summary table:

Did I actually provide good betting advice this week? That is not very on-brand... but that is what the numbers say. My spreadsheet was an impressive 5-1, while the FPI struggled this week to a 1-3 record. Overall, the combined performance was 6-4 (60%) which I will take any week of the year. In total, my data is 14-11 for the year (56%), the FPI is 11-10 for the year (52%), while the combined strategy is 24-20 (54.5%). That is pretty much right where I thought it would be (53%) based on my historical data.

As for straight-up upsets, my math did not have a great week. The summary table is shown below.

I count a total of 10 upsets relative to the opening spread, including two pretty big ones: San Jose State over Arkansas and UCLA’s Pac-12 After Dark upset of Wazzu. Despite the fact that, once again, my simulation correctly predicted the number of upsets within 2, my spreadsheet only went 1-5 with actual upset picks this week. That brings the year-to-date total to 6-9 (40%) which is right at my historical average. The FPI did slightly better at 2-2 (50%), bringing its total to 4-8 (33%) YTD.

National Overview

As usual, to put things into perspective, here is my weekly comparison of the week’s results to the opening Vegas spread.

I should note that I did not include Ohio State’s blow-out of Miami (OH) because it was so far off-scale. Other than the Buckeyes, the teams that over-achieved this week include Iowa State, Kent State, UAB, Washington, Wisconsin, MSU, Florida, and Syracuse. On the flip side, Baylor, Virginia, and Miami (FL) were well below the line. As mentioned above, Arkansas, Washington State, Temple, and Ohio had the most embarrassing upsets.

That is all for now. Keep a look out for more bad betting advice midweek. Until then, enjoy, and Go Green.