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Bad Betting Advice, Week 12: Senioritis

It’s human nature to coast a bit as the end of the semester looms, but the Spartans likely need to ace the quiz this weekend to earn a passing grade.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 16 Michigan State at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

OK, class, I am not sure about you, but it is hard to believe that it is the middle of November and that we have already reached the final home game of the season. This means that for a certain group of Michigan State Spartans, Saturday will mark their final game in Spartan Stadium. It will be senior day in East Lansing.

The complications of COVID and transfer rules make it difficult to know exactly which players will not be returning next year. Fifth-year player Xavier Henderson has used up all of his eligibility and it seems likely that Saturday will mark the end of the Spartan careers for players like Jarrett Horst, Elijah Collins (maybe), Jacob Slade, VanSumeren and likely several more.

Back in the summer, I am sure that these players and MSU fans expected senior day would be a chance to rack up an eighth, ninth or even 10th win, and a chance for the Spartans to position themselves for yet another New Year’s Six bowl. Instead, this group of seniors is simply playing to earn the right to make the postseason at all.

That goal is certainly a worthy one. But, if the Spartans do want to qualify for their 14th bowl appearance in the last 16 years, it would be advisable if they could avoid a case of “senioritis.” The final exam coming up next weekend in State College against Penn State is going to be a tough one. If the Green and White want to end the semester with a passing grade, the Spartans best study hard and make sure to ace the quiz this weekend against the Indiana Hoosiers.

The 2022 Michigan State team has had its fair share of senior moments so far this season, but the effort and execution over the past few weeks has been much better. While it certainly is human nature to coast a bit late in the year when championships are no longer on the table, I believe that this team has what it takes to make it to graduation day with a passing grade, even if the after party will be held at Ford Field.

Picks for Week 12

As we do every week, Figures 1 and 2 summarize the projected picks from both my algorithm and ESPN’s FPI, relative to the opening lines as provided by our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook. Sharpen your pencils, class — this will be on the test later.

Figure 1: Comparison of the projected final margins of victory based on my algorithm to the opening DraftKings lines for Week 12.
Figure 2: Comparison of the projected final margins of victory based on ESPN’s FPI to the opening DraftKings lines for Week 12.

Table 1 below summarizes the upset picks that are derived from the two figures above, and there are not that many. The two computers have been studying the numbers intently, but they could only come up with three upset picks total, based on the original schedule. One of those (Ball State over Ohio) is already wrong, as Ohio beat Ball State on Tuesday night.

In addition, the Coastal Carolina/Virgina was canceled on Wednesday morning due to the tragic events in Charlottesville this week. That just leaves the pick of Utah to upset Oregon, which both computers agree upon and would greatly impact the Pac-12 race.

Table 1: Summary of upset picks for Week 12.

The table for the picks against the spread this week is even smaller, as shown below in Table 2.

Table 2: Picks against the opening spread for Week 12. The picks are listed in order of confidence score.

The FPI likes both Nevada and Maryland to cover the spread as big underdogs. The fact that the computers are not picking many upsets is largely due to the fact that as the season wears on and more data collects, the computers’ picks correlate more closely to the point spreads.

My method for picking games relies entirely on spotting those deviations, so it is reasonable that they will decrease in frequency later in the season.

Fortunately, my new point-total betting method has produced enough picks this week to make up the difference. Those “over/under” picks are shown below in Table 3.

Table 3: Recommended total points bets (over/under) for Week 12. Note that the picks labeled as “locks” are at a higher level of confidence.

My computer likes a total of 14 point-total bets this week, a full 13 of which qualify as the higher confidence “locks.” The computer recommends taking the “over” in the Wisconsin/Nebraska game, the “over” in the Michigan State/Indiana game (note that over/under above is listed at 46, but the total has since moved to 48) and the “under” in the USC/UCLA game.

Also note that the two MAC games in the table have already been played, and so far, my computer is 1-1.

Michigan State and Big Ten Overview

The Spartans opened as a 10.5-point favorite this week over the Indiana Hoosiers (current spread is now at 10) and the current over/under on DraftKings Sportsbook is listed as 48. This spread translates to about a 77 percent chance that Michigan State gets the win on senior day to become bowl eligible.

Historically, the Spartans have dominated the series with Indiana. Michigan State currently leads the series 49-17-2, including a 15-3 record this century. The Spartans’ record against the spread (ATS) this century is almost as good at 13-5. That said, Indiana is 2-4 versus Michigan State since 2016 and is 3-3 ATS.

In general, the computers both predict a result that is in line with the Las Vegas spread. My computer suggests a final score of Michigan State 32, Indiana 21. This final score suggests that the Spartans will barely cover and will hit the “over” on points. ESPN’s FPI has the Spartans winning by two touchdowns. That said, I don’t believe that either computer has been studying the weather forecast for Saturday.

As for the rest of the action in Big Ten land, Table 4 below summarizes the details of the other six games on the calendar.

Table 4: Summary of Big Ten action in Week 12, including my algorithm’s projected scores. The teams shaded in green are projected to cover by my algorithm. The teams shaded red are projected to cover by the FPI.

Based on the spread, the Michigan State/Indiana game is projected to be the second most competitive game in the conference. The Big Ten game at the head of the class this week is Iowa at Minnesota.

With Purdue’s victory over Illinois last week, the Big Ten West race has suddenly opened back up. Purdue now has the best odds of winning the division (42 percent) with Iowa (35 percent) just behind.

But, if Iowa loses to Minnesota, the Hawkeyes are essentially out of the race and Purdue’s odds would climb to 68 percent. In contrast, if Iowa gets the upset win in Minneapolis, the Hawkeyes’ odds to return to Indianapolis rise to 83 percent. The FPI likes the Gophers to cover in this game, while my computer essentially agrees with the opening point spread.

Illinois is still in the Big Ten West race, but the Fighting Illini will most likely need to upset Michigan to have much of a chance. If Illinois (-17) gets that upset, the Illini’s odds would jump to over 50 percent. My computer projects that Illinois will cover, while the FPI is taking Michigan against the spread.

Wisconsin is not mathematically eliminated from Big Ten West race, but the Badgers’ odds are less than a tenth of a percent. At this point, the Badgers’ primary goal is to get to six wins and bowl eligibility, which they can do with a win this week at Nebraska. The computers both suggest that the Corn Huskers will cover the spread.

The remaining Big Ten favorites (Penn State, Purdue and Ohio State) are near or above 20-point favorites and are unlikely to face much resistance. As Table 4 shows, the computers differ in which teams are likely to cover those larger spreads. As mentioned above, the FPI is picking Maryland to stay within three touchdowns of the Buckeyes.

Notable National Action

Before class is dismissed for the week, let’s look at the other notable action nationwide. Table 5 below gives the details for the remaining games teams that I will be watching out for this coming weekend.

Table 5: Summary of other notable Power Five action in Week 12, including my algorithm’s projected scores.

In Big 12 action, TCU has secured a spot in the Big 12 Championship game, but the Horned Frogs have their eyes on a bigger prize: an invitation to the College Football Playoff. TCU is sitting at No. 4 in the most recent CFP rankings, and if the Horned Frogs win out, it seems almost guaranteed that they will get that invite. TCU travel to Baylor (+2.5) in what could be the game of the week.

Kansas State has the inside track to join TCU in the conference title game, and the Wildcats will likely need to get past West Virginia (+6.5) to get there. If KSU falters, Texas is still waiting in the wings. The Longhorns (-10) travel to Kansas this week and look to avenge last year’s upset loss. In other Big 12 news, Oklahoma looks to become bowl eligible at home against intrastate rival Oklahoma State (+8).

Out west in the Pac-12, judgment day will likely arrive on Saturday as the four top contenders for the two spots in the conference’s championship game will square off. USC and Utah have the best odds to meet in the title game, but both teams have to go on the road. USC will travel up I-710 freeway to face UCLA (+2.5), while Utah is a slight underdog at Oregon (-3). Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Arizona (+4) will try to keep their bowl hopes alive as hosts to Washington State.

The SEC division races are already complete, but there is still a lot to play for. Georgia looks to keep its grip on the No. 1 ranking as the Bulldogs travel to Lexington to face Kentucky (+21). No. 5 Tennessee still has a great chance to sneak into the playoffs if it can win out. The Volunteers are visiting South Carolina (+21) this week. In other SEC action, Arkansas (+3) hosts Ole Miss and a win would make the Razorbacks bowl eligible. Similarly, Missouri will try to keep its bowl hopes alive against New Mexico State (+28).

The ACC division races are also over, but No. 9 Clemson is still holding out hope that things will break its way and provide a path to a playoff spot. The Tigers host a Miami (+19) team that needs just one more win to become bowl eligible.

Finally, the race for the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six is still very competitive in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and the Sun Belt Conference. In the AAC, Central Florida has the inside track for one of the spots in the AAC Championship game with Tulane and Cincinnati most likely battling for the other spot. UCF (-16.5) and Cincinnati (-18) are both heavy favorites against Navy and Temple, respectively. Tulane (-3) faces a tougher test versus SMU.

In Sun Belt action, Troy has the best odds to win both the West Division and the conference title, but South Alabama is still in play. Troy (-15.5) hosts Louisiana Monroe this week, while South Alabama (-6.5) visits Southern Miss. In the East Division, Coastal Carolina has clinched the division title and was scheduled to face Virginia for a potential resume-building Power Five win, but as mentioned above, that game was officially canceled on Wednesday morning.

The is all the advice that I have for this week. As always, enjoy, and Go State, beat the Hoosiers! Class dismissed.

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