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Against All Odds, Week Six: Peanuts

Good grief. It feels like a good time to cue the melancholy jazz music.

Ohio State v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Well, Saturday’s games against those overgrown acorns from Ohio went about as well as expected. Actually, in the first quarter, one could argue that it went better than expected in Michigan State’s 49-20 loss to Ohio State. Something good actually happened on defense!

But, just when we thought that perhaps the Spartans would keep it somewhat competitive, Lucy pulled the football away from Charlie, and the rest is history. (Lucy was also apparently the holder on Michigan State’s second extra point try). Good grief.

Michigan State is in the midst of a dismal four-game losing streak. Spartan fans are feeling a bit salty and can generally be seen wandering around with our heads down, listening to some piano and snare drum-heavy jazz, and looking for the local five-cent psychiatrist. AAUGH!!!

But here’s the thing. The outcome of this weekend’s game frankly doesn’t matter. It was peanuts. It was small potatoes. I realize this statement may make as much sense as a muffled trumpet right now, but hear me out.

Even if Michigan State was completely healthy and had shown the development in some areas that we all expected over the summer, the Spartans would still not be in the position to go toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes. Ohio State is on a different plane of existence than the rest of the conference right now.

Can Michigan State at least approach that level under the leadership of Mel Tucker (who is certainly working for something substantially more than peanuts)? I believe so. However, the rebuild that we thought was ahead of schedule last year now appears to be in full swing.

Remember how Michigan State was only supposed to win four games last year? Well, there is a solid chance that we all might be experiencing that season one year later than expected.

Yes, it stinks like Pig-Pen right now, but that doesn’t mean that the future isn’t bright. While basically nothing ever went right for Charlie Brown, he does provide us with one very valuable lesson: he never, ever gives up...and neither should MSU fans.

Week Six Results

When times are tough on the actual gridiron, I find numbers to be my security blanket. Figure 1 below shows the results of all 56 games involving two FBS teams in Week Six.

Figure 1: Results of Week Six showing the actual point differentials relative to the opening spread.

The teams who had a particularly good week include Texas, Wisconsin, Wake Forest, San Jose State, Tennessee, UAB, UCONN and Mississippi State. On the other side of the coin there was Alabama, Cincinnati and San Diego State that all won, but failed to cover by more than 14 points.

A total of 14 teams were bitten by the upset bug in Week Six, which was right in line with the prediction for the week. Table 1 below summarizes those 14 upsets and the upset picks made by the computers earlier in the week.

Table 1: Upsets in Week Six based on the opening Vegas line compared to the upset projections from last week.

The biggest upset was Texas State’s (+19) victory over Appalachian State in Sun Belt action. The majority of the other upsets were in games with fairly tight spreads, and a lot of them will make an impact. Washington, Utah, Kentucky, Duke, Miami and LSU’s chances in their respective division and conference races all took a hit, while Purdue, UCLA, North Carolina and Tennessee all got a boost.

The computers once again look like a pair of blockheads when it came to upset picks this week. My algorithm got one pick correct out of six, while the FPI went zero-for-five. Year-to-date the success rate is just 22 percent and 33 percent for my computer and the FPI, respectively, in upset picks.

Table 2 below gives the result of the computers’ picks against the spread (ATS) for Week Six.

Table 2: Results of the highlighted picks versus the spread in Week Six.

The news is slightly better here. My algorithm hit .500 with a 2-2 record this week. The FPI was not so lucky with its 3-5 performance. Overall, the computers’ success rate for the curated picks against the spread ranges from 29 percent for my machine to just 40 percent for the FPI.

For all 56 games, my algorithm also did fairly well, going 30-26 (54 percent) while the FPI was just 26-30 (46 percent). Year-to-date, the computers are just under .500 at 48 percent and 49 percent, respectively, when picks for all games are counted.

Better news can be found in Table 3, which gives the results of this week’s point-total bets.

Table 3: Results of the recommended point total bets (“over/under” bets) in Week Six.

For the week, my curated picks were 6-6 overall, but the “lock” picks were 3-2 (60 percent). Year-to-date, this new method is correct close to 60 percent of the time overall and 70 percent of the time for my lock picks.

If all games are considered, my computer was just 29-27 (52 percent) for over/under bets this week and has a success rate of 48 percent year-to-date.

Updated Big Ten Odds

Week Six did not really tell us much about the race in the Big Ten East as Penn State did not play and both Ohio State and Michigan won by margins that were within a few points of the spread. Ohio State (48 percent) still has a sizable lead in odds, but Michigan (30 percent) was able to leapfrog the idle Nittany Lions (21 percent) as shown below in Table 4.

Table 4: Updated Big Ten rankings, expected wins, strengths of schedule and season odds following Week Six.

The big question in the Big Ten West coming into this week was whether Purdue and Illinois would play well enough to justify my algorithm’s faith in both teams. The answer, for now, was “yes” as Purdue edged Maryland on the road and Illinois out-kicked Iowa at home.

The end result is that my calculated odds for the Big Ten West have not changed much since last week. Illinois is still shockingly ranked No. 3 in my power rankings with a 69 percent chance to win the West. Purdue remains in second place with a projected 21 percent chance to make their first trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game.

In other Big Ten news, Nebraska is now somehow on a two-game winning streak after their comeback win at Rutgers. Wisconsin was also able to get off the schneid with a blowout win at Northwestern.

Michigan State’s remaining schedule and expected wins

The Spartans are in the middle of a skid and their expected win total keeps falling. Table 5 below gives the detailed win distribution matrix for Michigan State and the rest of the Big Ten conference.

Table 5: Updated Big Ten win distribution matrix after Week Six.

As the table shows, my calculated odds that Michigan State can even get to a 6-6 and a bowl game is now down to nine percent. The Spartans’ expected win total sits at 4.1. Figure 2 below gives a breakdown of the projected odds and point spreads for the Spartans in their six remaining games for 2022.

Figure 2: Updated odds and spread projections for Michigan State’s remaining games, following Week Four and based on a 60,000 cycle Monte Carlo simulation.

As most Spartan fans had already written the Ohio State game off as a loss, the picture this week is very similar to last week. Michigan State still projects to be a double-digit favorite against Rutgers. The two home games against Wisconsin and Indiana even out to be a toss-up, and MSU will be huge underdogs in the remaining three road games.

If Michigan State is going to salvage the rest of the season to the extent that the Spartans can at least get to a bowl game, MSU will have to start with finding a way to beat Wisconsin this coming weekend. If the Spartans can get a few of the injured defensive players back and rested over the bye week, then I think that it is possible to steal a win in one of those tough road games.

Obviously, the Spartans will need to beat both Indiana and Rutgers as well. But those games are over a month away. The key is simply to focus on Wisconsin and getting healed up. There is still a lot of football left to be played.

National Overview

Before we all go outside and attempt to fly a kite, let’s take a quick look around at the other action around the country in Week Six.

In SEC action, there was only one upset, but it certainly does impact the race in the SEC East. Kentucky dropped a home game against South Carolina, and as a result have effectively dropped out of the East race. Meanwhile, Tennessee obliterated LSU to stake its claim as the biggest (and only) challenger to Georgia in that division. That said, the Bulldogs own a significant lead in the current odds (79 percent for Georgia to 20 percent for the Volunteers).

In the West, Alabama was one play away from an upset at the hands of Texas A&M, but managed to escape with the win. The Crimson Tide (62 percent) are still big favorites to win the SEC West and Ole Miss (30 percent) is likely the only team left in their way.

The big news in the Big 12 this week was Texas’ demolition of Oklahoma in the Red Baron River Showdown. The Longhorns have rocketed up to No. 4 in my power ranking despite a 4-2 record. My math now gives Texas a 74 percent chance to make the Big 12 Championship game. Kansas State (53 percent) was able to hold onto the No. 2 spot in the conference, thanks to the Wildcats’ win over Iowa State. TCU (27 percent) is a somewhat distant third place after giving Kansas its first loss.

In ACC action, Clemson (69 percent odds to win the Atlantic Division) covered the 21-point spread against Boston College and extended its lead over idle Syracuse (21 percent).

I am increasingly convinced that no one actually wants to win the ACC Coastal Division. Duke and Miami were upset by Georgia Tech and North Carolina, respectively. When the dust settled my computer gave North Carolina (39 percent) and Duke (31 percent) the best odds of making the ACC Championship game. Note that not a single team in the entire division is ranked in the top 40 of my current power rankings.

In the Pac-12, it was a good weekend for the city of Los Angeles and future Big Ten members USC and UCLA. The Trojans covered the spread against Washington State, while UCLA upset Utah. Both teams are now 6-0 overall. USC now has a 79 percent chance to make the Pac-12 Championship game. Oregon is in second place in my odds table at 42 percent after easily covering the spread at Arizona. Despite the loss this week, my math still has Utah (34 percent) in third place, slightly ahead of UCLA (31 percent).

Finally, in Group of Five action, San Jose State, Tulane, and Central Florida all covered easily, while South Alabama was idle, and Cincinnati barely avoided a huge upset versus South Florida. As a result, the Bearcats dropped to third place in my American Athletic Conference leaderboard (behind Tulane and UCF) and to fifth place in the Group of Five leaderboard.

As of Week Six, San Jose State (26 percent odd to claim the New Year’s Six spot) out of the Mountain West jumped up into the No. 1 spot with South Alabama (23 percent) not far behind. Tulane (18 percent) and UCF (12 percent) round out the top-four.

Against all odds, we have reached the end for this week. I recommend tappig into your inner Snoopy this week. Until next time, enjoy, and Go State, beat the Badgers!