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Bad Betting Advice: Week 12 (Coach Mel Tucker’s Day Off?)

MSU may (or may not) face Maryland this weekend. Maybe some time off to relax and reflect on life would be a good thing for this coaching staff. Coach Izzo might even let them borrow his car.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A great man once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Tell us about it. Where has this year gone? It is already mid-November and it seems like Big Ten football just got started. I don’t know about all of you, but I am just exhausted. You know who else is likely exhausted? Coach Mel Tucker.

Can you imagine what Coach Mel Tucker feels like? Think about all of the things that he has had to deal with this year: starting a new job after signing day, no spring football, installing a new system over Zoom meetings, a two-week pause in August, that weird will they/won’t they thing with the Big Ten schedule maker, all of the turnovers, struggles with the run game, and now there’s a full blow quarterback controversy. It’s enough to make one’s head spin.

If I were Coach Tucker, I think that it might be a good time to stop and reflect. Perhaps he should take a day off. Actually, I think that perhaps Maryland might just make that decision for him. I saw on Twitter that someone’s best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw the Terrapin pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.

Even if Maryland is able to get past the current COVID-19 outbreak, I think that they should consider calling in sick. I mean, they are 2-1 with a win over Penn State. Why risk another loss? Why not pack it in while they still have a winning record? Here is a good tip, Maryland: fake a stomach cramp, and when you’re bent over, moaning and wailing, lick your palms when the athletic director isn’t looking. It’s a little childish and stupid, but so is the fact that Maryland is in the Big Ten in the first place.

So, if Coach Tucker does get a day off, what should he do? Chicago is fun, but with the stay at home order, that’s not a great idea. The local French restaurant is now take out only. The Tigers wrapped up their season weeks ago, so that’s out. Maybe there’s a Thanksgiving parade that for some reason allows karaoke? No, that’s probably been canceled as well.

Maybe Coach Tucker should just get together with some of his friends and talk about life. Coach can invite Ted Gilmore and Chris Kapilovic to an outing at the Broad Art Museum. They can stare at the paintings using proper social distancing and perhaps discuss how to fix MSU running attack. Then, maybe Scottie Hazelton and Ross Els might be up for a trip to Beaumont Tower to discuss the linebacker depth chart.

If there is still time, maybe Coach Tucker can borrow Tom Izzo’s car and take it for a spin with Jay Johnson and Harlon Barnett. They can discuss which quarterback should start the next game and how many healthy defensive backs are currently available. Izzo probably won’t miss the car. I hear he isn’t using it this week anyway. (Looking directly at the camera: Seriously, though, COACH IZZO, PLEASE REST UP AND GET BETTER ASAP!).

How can we possibly expect MSU to handle another college football game with everything going on in the world today? Yes, that settles it. Let’s just take the day off.

Wait... the game is still technically on? Just give it a few days.

Picks of the Week

Figures 1 and 2 below show the full summary of the projected outcome of each game relative to the opening Vegas line from both my algorithm and ESPN’s FPI, respectively.

Figure 1: Summary of the projected game outcomes by my algorithm for Week 12 relative to the opening Vegas line
Figure 2: Summary of the projected game outcomes by ESPN’s FPI for Week 12 relative to the opening Vegas line

As more and more data accumulate, the correlation between the computer predictions and the Vegas line continues to improve, with a few notable exceptions. Those exceptions, of course, form the essence of my Bad Betting Advice, starting with the projected upsets for Week 12, summarized below in Table 1.

Table 1: Projected upsets for Week 12

This week my algorithm likes a total of eight upsets, while the FPI picks four, three of which overlap with my picks. The most notable upset picks are Oregon Sate over California, Utah over USC, LSU over Arkansas, Washington State over Stanford, and South Carolina over Missouri.

It is curious that all of the Power Five upsets on in either the Pac-12 (which just started up and the data is sparse) and the SEC (which is currently being ravaged by COVID). Unfortunately, I cannot give an over/under on the number of games on this list that will eventually get cancelled.

What I can tell you is that overall my weekly simulation suggests that a total of 10.3 plus-or-minus 2.5 upsets out of a total of 53 game (19 percent) is most likely in Week 12.

As for recommended bet, the picks for this week are shown below in Table 2.

Table 2: Recommended bets for Week 12

This week I have a total of nine high confidence picks against the spread. The highest confidence picks are for Oregon State, Troy, and Rice all to cover. The list also includes three Big Ten games as Indiana, Maryland (if they play....sigh), and Wisconsin are all projected to cover. Just as a reminder, eight of the nine picks given last week in this table wound up being correct.

In fact, my picks were so good last week that last week I captured the top spot among 169 total college football analysts on for my prowess in picking straight up winners, against the spread, and total points. If this keeps up, I may need to consider change the name of this series.

This image is courtesy of

My detailed list of picks for the week can be found here.

MSU and Big Ten Overview

At the time of this posting, it is not at all clear if MSU is going to play this weekend. Assuming that they do, then the following analysis would apply.

Following MSU’s shutout loss to Indiana last week, my computer seems to have lost all faith in the Spartans. My Monte Carlo simulation for rest the season projected a point spread of +12 for Maryland in this weekend’s matchup. As shown above, the actual line opened as Maryland +3, but the line has since move up to around +6.

Based on that opening line, MSU’s odds of a win are a modest 42 percent. Based on Maryland’s unknown health situation and MSU’s unknown quarterback situation, I honestly don’t know what to expect. Both teams have been so erratic that a pair a dice seems to be as valid as any other method to figure out who might win this game.

As for my computer, it predicts a final score of Maryland 35, MSU 20 so I guess I might as well go with that. At this point the biggest surprise is that the calculations suggest that MSU will actually be able to score multiple touchdowns. That sounds nice.

Elsewhere in the Big Ten, it is a big week, as there is a very good chance that by Saturday evening the Big Ten Championship game participants will be all but decided. In the East, Indiana travels to Columbus to face the Buckeyes (-21) and the winner will almost certainly advance to Indianapolis. Based on the spread, Ohio State has about a 93 percent chance to win.

But, both computers give the Hoosiers a bit better odds. The FPI still has OSU as 19-point favorites, but my algorithm predicts a much closer game (-8) and suggests Indiana has closer to a 30 percent chance to win. If the Hoosiers can somehow pull this off, it would be one of the best feel-good stories of all of 2020 (unless one is a Buckeye fan).

In the West, Wisconsin (-8) travels to Evanston to face Northwestern in another battle of Big Ten undefeated teams. If the Wildcats can pull the upset, they are in very good shape to return to Indianapolis, as they close with MSU, Minnesota, and Illinois. If the Badgers prevail, there is still work to be done, as the Badgers still must face both Iowa and Indiana.

Right now, I peg Wisconsin’s odds to win the Big Ten at 54 percent, while Northwestern’s odds are 45 percent. As for this weekend’s game, the FPI predicts a multiple touchdown Badger blowout, while my algorithm only favors Wisconsin by four points. Personally, I think that the FPI is likely correct, but the idea of a possible Northwestern/Indiana matchup in the Big Ten Championship Game is enough to make me want to form a flash mob and sing “Twist and Shout” on the streets of Chicago.

The remaining Big Ten games are largely forgettable, especially Illinois at Nebraska (-14) and Purdue at Minnesota (even). My math suggests that Nebraska and Purdue will both cover, although the FPI is picking Illinois against the spread.

That leaves Iowa at Penn State, which also opened as a pick’em, but Iowa is now favored by a couple of points (which aligns with the FPI). My algorithm projects a double-digit win for the Hawkeyes which would drop the Nittany Lions to 0-5. If that were to happen it would be funnier than a John Hughes ‘80s comedy.

Other National Action

In the ACC, my simulations suggest that four teams are still alive to claim the two spots in the ACC Championship game, but two of those teams (Notre Dame with 92 percent odds and North Carolina with 8 percent odds) are on a bye week. The other two teams (Clemson, with 77 percent odds and Miami with 24 percent odds) are not expected to be challenged this week at Florida State (+29) and versus Georgia Tech (+17), respectively. In other words, the exciting action in the ACC is also taking a day off.

In the Big 12, my calculations suggest that a total of five teams still have at least a 10 percent chance to play in the Big 12 Championship Game and four of those teams are playing each other this weekend. The odd team out is Texas (55 percent odds to play in the championship game) who travel to Kansas (+28) this weekend in a game that is not expected to be competitive.

The other two games feature Kansas State (13 percent odds) at Iowa State (37 percent odds) and Oklahoma State (56 percent odds) at Oklahoma (34 percent odds). The Cyclones and the Sooners both opened as 10-points favorites. While the computers both agree with the projected winner of both of those contests, the computers also project that the underdogs will cover. Either way, the Big 12 race should be more clear by next week.

In the Pac-12, the late start, limited schedule, and COVID cancellations make the overall storyline hard to follow. In the North, Oregon (83 percent) is still a big favorite in win the division. The Ducks (-14) host UCLA and are big favorites. The only team with reasonable odds to challenge Oregon is Washington (13 percent) who host Arizona (+11).

In the South Division, the top two teams are projected to be USC (36 percent) and Utah (30 percent) and they also happen to be scheduled to play this week. So far, USC is a four-point favorite on the road, but both computer systems have picked the Utes to win, if the game actually gets played.

In the SEC, the final credits are rolling already and I don’t anticipate any post-credit surprises. Alabama (96 percent odds) and Florida (95 odds) are a virtual lock. As for this week the Kentucky at Alabama (-31) and Florida (also -31) at Vanderbilt contests are expected to be about as exciting as an economics lecture from Ben Stein.

Finally, in notable Group of Five action, current leader, Cincinnati (44 percent odds to claim the New Year’s Six slot) faces the biggest challenge to date at UCF. The game opened as a pick’em but the line has since moved to over five points in the direction of the Bearcats, which is more in line with my computer’s projection of Cincinnati by 10 points. That said, the FPI is picking UCF to win straight-up.

Marshall (18 percent) is still undefeated and in good shape to possibly steal the NY6 spot if the Bearcats do falter, but Marshall’s game this week against Charlotte has been postposed. Coastal Carolina (15 percent) is also still a factor and they have to chance to score a victory over Appalachian State (+4) this weekend.

In the Mountain West, San Jose State (six percent) has the best odds and the Spartans will also get a challenge this weekend at Fresno State (-2) where they are actually a slight underdog. The MAC also has a few teams, such as Buffalo (7.2 percent), Western (3.9 percent) and Central Michigan (3.4 percent) that might challenge for the New Year’s Six spot, but it will take another week or so for that race to narrow.

That is all for this week. Stay tuned here for the results of the predictions above early next week in my weekly recap. Until then, Go State, beat the Terrapins...maybe. Or, maybe just enjoy the free weekend.