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Against All Odds, Week 13: That’s All Folks!

This year’s season was not exactly a merrie melodie for Michigan State fans. In fact, at times it felt like an anvil got dropped on our heads. Either way, it’s time to put a bow on 2022.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Michigan State at Penn State Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Well, Spartan fans, the end of the 2022 football season has officially been reached. Michigan State’s loss to Penn State on Saturday in combination with a few other results means that it will likely be a very, very quiet holiday season for MSU football fans.

If you want the opinion from this Doc as to what was up this year, I say that at the beginning of the year, Spartan fans thought that the Green and White might tear through the schedule like the Tasmanian Devil. Early in the season, though, it suddenly started to look like Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the Road Runner. Now at the end, the results simply stink like Pepe Le Pew. I would not blame fans at all if the ending made them very angry, very angry indeed.

The offseason beckons for the Michigan State Spartans. The soap opera that was the 2022 is complete. In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny: “Well, what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?” But, also in the words of Bugs Bunny (almost): “Don’t take life (or football) too seriously. You’ll never get out alive

Week 13 Results

Figure 1 below shows the results of all 64 games involving two FBS teams.

Figure 1: Results of Week 13 showing the actual point differentials relative to the opening spread.

The teams that overachieved notably this week include Illinois, Maryland, James Madison, Pittsburgh and Washington. The teams that underachieved significantly, yet won were Middle Tennessee State and Texas San Antonio.

My weekly simulation suggested that we might see a lot of upsets in this final week of the season, and did in fact come to pass. A year-high 19 upsets occurred, which are all summarized below in Table 1 along with the upset picks by the computers.

Table 1: Upsets in Week 13 based on the opening Vegas line compared to the upset projections from last week.

Several of these upsets directly impacted the participants in this coming weekend’s conference championship games. Iowa, Ohio State, Cincinnati and Oregon all lost chances to play for a conference title after losing this week.

Also of note is New Mexico State’s upset win over Liberty despite being 24-point underdogs. This result is in a three-way tie for the second biggest upset of the year so far, only behind Miami’s loss to Middle Tennessee State. The Flames must have made a wrong turn near Albuquerque or something.

My computer displayed one of the best weekly performances of the year, getting six picks correct out of 11 total (55 percent) to end the season with a record of 30-53 (36 percent). This is the worst year-end performance from my computer in regard to upsets since 2010.

Several years ago, I ran a control experiment and found that 36 percent is exactly the performance that a random number generator achieved using the proper upset probabilities for each game. In other words, my computer had a rough year making upset picks.

ESPN’s FPI did slightly better. It went 1-1 in this final week of the regular season and posted a final record of 21-33 (39 percent).

Table 2 below gives the result of the computer’s curated picks against the spread (ATS).

Table 2: Results of the highlighted picks versus the spread in Week 13.

My computer passed on making any picks ATS in the final three weeks of the season and thus finishes the regular season at 15-34 (31 percent), which is, by far, its worst year-end performance ever. Considering all 63 games, my computer posted a record of 33-30 (52 percent) and finished the regular season at 343-379 (47.5 percent).

The FPI went just 1-3 (25 percent) this week to bring its final record to a better, but still bad 32-41 (44 percent). When all 63 games were considered, the FPI went 29-34 (46 percent) and finished the regular season with a record of 346-376 (48 percent).

Table 3 below summarizes the results of the highlighted over/under bets for Week 13.

Table 3: Results of the recommended point total bets (“over / under” bets) in Week 13.

The point-total bets have been the biggest winners all year, and that trend held in the final weekend. Overall, my curated picks were 7-4 (64 percent) with the “locks” posting a record of 5-3 (62.5 percent). The final records for these picks are 105-84 (56 percent) for the curated picks and 58-33 (64 percent) for the locks.

When all 63 games were considered, my computer went 34-29 (54 percent) this week, but for the year for record was only 341-374 (48 percent).

Big Ten Results and What’s Next for Michigan State

In total, there were three upsets out of the seven Big Ten games and two of those upsets directly impacted the winner of each division. In the East, Michigan managed to take down Ohio State in Columbus to win the division. In addition, Maryland blanked Rutgers to secure a 7-5 record and fourth place in the division.

In the West, Iowa just needed to beat Nebraska to force a rematch of last year’s Big Ten Championship game. Instead, the Cornhuskers dropped an ACME anvil on their heads, which opened the door for Purdue to win the West by defeating Indiana.

Minnesota upset Wisconsin and Illinois blew out Northwestern, which means that Purdue, Illinois,and Minnesota all ended the regular season with 8-4 records. Iowa finished at 7-5, while Wisconsin posted a final record of 6-6.

This coming Saturday, Purdue will play in its first ever Big Ten Championship game against Michigan. The Boilermakers can earn a trip to the Rose Bowl with an upset win, while the Wolverines are merely playing the College Football Playoff seeding. Michigan has opened as a 16.5-point favorite, which translates to an 88 percent chance of back-to-back Big Ten titles for the Wolverines.

As for the Spartans, with a 5-7 record, there was a chance to potential earn a bowl bid, but wins by UAB, UNLV, Louisiana and Southern Miss have all but eliminated that possibility. Right now, there are 79 teams that are qualified for a bowl with 82 spots available. Buffalo (5-6) is a big favorite to beat Akron (+13.5) on Friday to claim spot No. 80.

As a result, it looks like two 5-7 teams will make it to the postseason. Rice and UNLV have the best APR scores and will get the invitations, assuming that the APR values that I have seen are correct. Auburn and MSU are the last two teams out.

There are also some indications that if Army beats Navy to get to 6-6, the Black Knights would get an invitation to the Independence Bowl despite the fact that two of the six wins are against FCS teams, which is usually not allowed.

I suppose that if Buffalo gets upset by Akron, Army loses to Navy (or fails to get some sort of waiver), and Rice and/or UNLV for some reason decline a bowl invitation, there might be some small chance that the Michigan State Spartans would find themselves in a bowl game. But that outcome certainly seems to be against all odds.

National Overview

Let’s now wrap up the 2022 regular season with a final look at the national landscape.

There were four upsets in SEC action this week, the biggest of which was LSU’s loss to Texas A&M. The Tigers had a potential shot to earn a College Football Playoff spot if they were to upset Georgia next week in the SEC Championship game. As it stands now, LSU can only play its way into the Sugar Bowl with an upset over the Bulldogs.

As for Georgia, the Bulldogs completed a prefect regular season with a win over Georgia Tech. In my view, Georgia joins Michigan as the only two teams that I am confident will be in the playoffs no matter what happens this weekend. TCU, Ohio State and USC are still candidates for the two remaining spots.

TCU might also already be a lock for the playoffs after blowing out Iowa State to finish 12-0. The Horned Frogs certainly will be a lock with a win over Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship. If TCU loses to the Wildcats, it will be a nervous Sunday morning in Forth Worth for the Horned Frogs. Either way, Kansas State is likely a lock for the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.

In Pac-12 action, USC got a win this week against Notre Dame to finish the season at 11-1. Elsewhere Oregon lost to rivals Oregon State, which allowed Utah to advance to this weekend’s Pac-12 Championship against the Trojans. If USC wins the Pac-12, it may or may not finish ahead of Ohio State in the final college football playoff rankings.

This is the biggest question I have about the final set of playoff scenarios. The committee would be smart to place Ohio State one spot ahead of USC just to provide flexibility to move USC up with a win (or not) depending on how the Pac-12 Championship game plays out.

If Utah beats USC, the Utes would make a return trip to the Rose Bowl to face most likely Penn State and USC would then slide to the Cotton Bowl. If USC beats Utah and does not make the playoffs, then the Trojans would earn the Rose Bowl bid automatically to almost certainly face Penn State. If USC wins and does make the playoffs, Washington (10-2) is positioned to get the Rose Bowl invite over Oregon (9-3).

In ACC action, the two division champions (Clemson and North Carolina) both absorbed upset losses to rivals South Carolina and North Carolina State. As a result, Clemson is no longer a realistic option for a CFP spot. The winner of the ACC Championship game will earn a bid to the Orange Bowl against most likely either Penn State or Tennessee.

Finally, in American Athletic Conference action, Tulane edged Cincinnati and Central Florida escaped a scare at South Florida to advance to the AAC Championship game. If Tulane wins the AAC, it is a lock for the Cotton Bowl. If Central Florida wins, the Knights will most likely take their place.

That said, I could still make the argument for Sun Belt champion Troy (10-2) to be a contender for the Cotton Bowl spot, if Tulane loses and assuming that Troy (-9.5) beats Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Championship game.

As for the Group of Five Champion’s opponent in the Cotton Bowl, if seems likely to be either Penn State, Tennessee, USC or Washington.

Against all odds, I have reached the end for today. That is officially a wrap for the 2022 regular season and, in all likelihood, to Michigan State’s season. In other words: that’s all folks!