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Against All Odds, Champions Week (Exit Interview)

2020, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re terrible and we can’t wait to get rid of you.

Ohio State Buckeyes Vs. Michigan State Spartans 10-1-2011

First of all, I wanted to just thank you for agreeing to this meeting today. As we all know, these conversations can be difficult. But in situations like these, HR strongly recommends an exit interview both for your benefit as well as for ours. I am sure that you understand.

So, 2020, you arrived almost 12 months ago with so much promise. We look forward every December to the new arrival in January with the hope that the future will be brighter and better than the previous year. You got off to a decent start, too. Michigan State won the Big Ten in basketball and was trending up in early March. MSU hired a new football coach that brought a new energy to the football program. We were all optimistic.

But in March, your performance really tanked. A global pandemic, the likes of which the world has not seen in 100 years? Unbelievable. Seriously. That was terrible. We all expected better of you. What were you thinking?

Over the summer, during our six-month check in, you promised to do better. You remember that conversation, right? For a while, things did look better. COVID cases were low; college football got underway; MSU even won a few games on the gridiron. Tom Izzo got a win over Duke in Cameron Indoor Arena. Things were looking up. We honestly thought that you might be able to salvage your tenure.

But, as we approach the end of your current contract, 2020, you seem to have frankly just mailed it in. COVID cases are spiking. Nationwide football and basketball game alike are being cancelled. The Spartans could have moved up to fourth place in the East Division had they had the opportunity to play this weekend. One more game was even possible. Instead, Spartan fans simply had to sit at home and watch the news of players transferring or declaring for the NFL Draft.

If I am being honest, 2020, you are literally the worst. I am sorry to say that, but facts are facts. I think that I speak for everyone here when I say that we never want to see the likes of you in these parts ever again. You successor is going to have to work extra hard to clean up the mess that you have created. It is hard to imagine any year being as bad as you.

While I cannot legally throw you out now, I certainly would like to. We all would. I would recommend packing your desk and being ready to leave promptly at midnight on the 31st of December. Security will be there to escort you out. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Champions Week Results and Betting Review

Now that I have that off of my chest, let take a look at the results of the action this past weekend relative to the opening line, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Game results of Champions week relative to the opening Vegas line

There were two main overachievers this week, Clemson and Penn State. Meanwhile there were a total of six upsets out of the 19 games that finally wound up being played. Those upsets are summarized below:

Table 1: Summary of the upsets during Champions Week

Interestingly, the Pac-12, MAC, Mountain West, and Conference USA Championship games all ended in upsets, with the Ball State’s win over Buffalo being the biggest based on the opening lines. Neither computer made any upset predictions this week, so the year-to-date tally remains the same. The FPI had a remarkably good year in picking upsets this year, getting over two-thirds of its picks correct.

As for recommended bets, those results are summarized below in Table 2.

Table 2: Summary of the recommends bets for Champions Week

Officially, I only had one pick for the week, based on my normal methodology. That pick was for Northwestern to cover versus Ohio State, which was correct. This brings the year-to-date sums to 18-15 (55 percent) for my algorithm, 29-19 (60 percent) for the FPI, and 45-29 (61 percent) for my method combining both systems.

Overall against the spread this week, my algorithm went 10-9 (53 percent) while the FPI did slightly better at 12-7 (63 percent). This brings the current year-to-date total to 208-177 (54 percent) for my algorithm relative to the opening line. The FPI did ever so slightly better at 210-175 (55 percent) since I started tracking the data in late October.

What’s Next for MSU, the Big Ten, and College Football

As for MSU, the season is now officially complete. This seemed fairly obvious from the NFL Draft and transfers announcements coming out of East Lansing after the Maryland game was canceled, but MSU made it official on Sunday afternoon. The task of retooling for the 2021 season begins now. By the time we see the Green and White take the field again, the team and hopefully the world will look much different.

As for the National and Big Ten picture, the final College Football Playoff rankings and New Year’s Six Bowl pairing were officially announced on Sunday afternoon:

  • “Rose Bowl”: No. 1 Alabama (-19.5) vs. No. 4 Notre Dame
  • Sugar Bowl: No. 2 Clemson (-7.5) vs. No. 3 Ohio State
  • Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Florida (-3)
  • Peach Bowl: Georgia (-7.5) vs. Cincinnati
  • Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Iowa State (-4)
  • Orange Bowl: Texas A&M (-6) vs. North Carolina

These matchups align almost perfectly with my predictions from last week. The committee did make the whacky decision to place Alabama in the “Rose Bowl” (which will actually be played in Dallas) and the committee also made the clear mistake of placing Iowa State (8-3) into the Fiesta Bowl instead of Indiana (6-1). Once again, if you folks on the Committee need my help with this, give me a ring. It’s not that hard. I am also available in early March, just FYI.

As for the rest of the Big Ten, only four teams in addition to Ohio State made the decision to accept a Bowl bid, leaving a few slots actually unfilled. The Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix (previously known as the Insight, Buffalo Wild Wings, Cactus, and Cheez-It Bowl) was planning to move forward with a Big Ten and Big 12 match-up. It would appear that no other Big Ten team was willing to make the trip. To date only 28 out of the originally planned 39 bowl games are currently scheduled nationally. The Big Ten lineup is as follows:

  • Citrus Bowl: Northwestern (-3.5) vs. Auburn
  • Outback Bowl: Indiana (-7) vs. Ole Miss
  • Music City Bowl: Iowa (-14) vs. Missouri
  • Duke’s Mayo Bowl: Wisconsin (-7) vs. Wake Forest

Interestingly, Ohio State is the only Big Ten team who is an underdog based on the opening Vegas lines. My algorithm actually has all five Big Ten teams favored, as it projects that the Buckeyes will beat Clemson by one or two points. Personally, I will believe that when I see it. That said, unlike any past year, no Big Ten team has actually played a non-Big Ten team yet this year. So, we actually don’t know if the conference as a whole is really good... or really bad. We will all find out together over the next few weeks.

Finally, I will plan to issue a special Bowl Edition of Bad Betting Advice later this week, but there are a few bowls that will take place on Monday and Tuesday, which are listed below. While my algorithm projects that the favorites will all cover those lines, the difference is not enough to trigger a “recommended bet.”

  • Myrtle Beach Bowl: Appalachian State (-21) vs North Texas
  • Idaho Potato Bowl: Tulane (-3) vs. Nevada
  • Boca Raton Bowl: UCF vs. BYU (-6.5)

That’s all for now. As always, enjoy, and Go Green.