I’ll be making predictions on all conference games and using them for the purpose of trying to select winners vs. the Vegas point spread. There are five games to look at this week. One of them will most likely be a play, and another has a decent chance to be a play.
My current record: 0-0
Until gambling becomes legal in my state, I’m sticking with my regular source so I won’t know the point spread that’s available to me until game day, which will essentially be the closing line. So I’ll have to wait until then to see if I get the number I need to make a play (wager). At the bottom of my write-ups, I submit the number I’ll need to make a play, and how that number compares to the current line.
Illinois played its best game of the season last Saturday and maybe its best game in a long time. Still, they lost the game and still, they’re among the worst in the conference. Penn St. is among the best, so I would guess that the Illini are probably not looking so much to win, but to keep the “improvement” momentum going. Penn St. may come in a bit flat considering the opponent, and also considering they could be looking ahead to the following Saturday against Ohio St. Illinois is still prone to mental errors ( such as last week’s blown coverage to give up the game winning TD), so I expect we’ll see a couple/few in this game. And maybe a turnover from Penn St. if, in fact, they are flat. Penn St. has more talent and should be in control most of the game, but I figure after sluggishly building a cushion by halftime, the Nittany Lions lose a bit of focus in the third quarter before wearing the Illini down in the fourth quarter.
As of now, Penn St. is favored by 27.5 points. I would need at least 31 points to take Illinois, so this game most likely will not be a play.
Under the current circumstances, I see this game shaping up to be good matchup.
Indiana is off to a solid start at 3-0 and opens the conference schedule at home. The defense is playing much better than I anticipated and QB Peyton Ramsey appears to have that “it” factor that most winners have. And, they’ve found a good RB in Stevie Scott. Michigan St. entered the season ranked in the top 15, but so far, hasn’t lived up to the preseason hype. QB Brian Lewerke is one of several starters returning and is considered to be among the top two or three QBs in the conference. But I find Lewerke to be a bit erratic – he can make some great plays, turn in some great games, but he will also make some costly mistakes and turn in some bad games. I don’t think Lewerke will play poorly, but I do expect a turnover or two. The Spartans come off a bye week, and HC Mark Dantonio is one of the best in the conference, so I expect they’ll be ready. But so will Indiana. A win here would be big for the Hoosiers’ program, and I don’t think the discrepancy in talent between the two teams is as vast as some might think. I figure the game to be close- could go either way – but I figure Indiana to be hungrier and I think the “it” factor I mentioned earlier comes into play as Ramsey finds a way to get it done in the end.
As of now, Michigan St. is favored by 4.5 points. I would need at least 5 points to take Indiana, so this game could be a play.
This is the marquee matchup of the week, could go a long way in deciding who wins the West Division. Iowa is off to a good start at 3-0, while Wisconsin came into the season as a heavy favorite to win the West, but lost last Saturday to BYU. The game is at Iowa, which is considered one of the toughest environments for visitors to play. So far, Iowa appears to be the better team. The defense is exceeding expectations and the offense, while not spectacular, is running the ball well enough and QB Nate Stanley, again while not spectacular, has been solid. Wisconsin returns several players on offense but last Saturday struggled to move the ball on the ground at times. So far, QB Alex Hornibrook is about the same as last season. Good enough for the most part, but still not making the throws that require arm strength. Unlike the offense, the defense didn’t return many starters from last season and it showed at times last Saturday. But I’m not ready to give up on Wisconsin just yet. I remember BTN analyst Gerry DiNardo commenting that the Badgers may be coming into the season overconfident and I believe there’s some truth to that. Last Saturday’s loss may have been the wakeup call they need. And I don’t trust Iowa. Just when you think they’ve got a good thing going, they’ll turn in a dud performance. I don’t think that’ll happen in this game, but I can’t rule it out. The fact that the game is at Iowa made this a good looking matchup before the season started, and it looks even better considering Wisconsin looks vulnerable while Iowa is on a roll. This is another one that could go either way, but I favor Wisconsin HC Paul Chryst’s play calling, and I expect the Wisconsin O-line to play much better in this game. I am a bit concerned about the defense, though. Both Stanley and Hornibrook are very solid QBs, but neither is the type that will win a game for his team so I figure this to come down to who wins the battle of the trenches. Slight edge to Wisconsin.
As of now, Wisconsin is favored by 3 points, which is exactly how I see it, so this game will not be a play.
Maryland took a nose-dive last Saturday, while Minnesota is on a roll at 3-0. We’ve seen this scenario last season with Maryland—huge win over Texas to open the season followed up with another win, then a disappointing loss which was followed by mediocrity the rest of the season. Like last season, Maryland has some good athletes. And unlike last season, some of those good athletes are on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, I would actually say the defense played well in last Saturday’s loss. Any team can have a bad game, and it remains to be seen whether Maryland fades, so I’m not going to completely discount the Terps in this game. They’ll need better play at QB, though. Both Kasim Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome played poorly in the loss. I had my doubts about Minnesota HC P.J. Fleck after last season, but so far, he’s changed my mind. The Gophers look well organized and the game day play calling/decision making is solid. QB Zack Annexstad is off to a good start considering he’s a freshman, and the defense has played well. I have some concerns though. This will be the first road game of the season for the Gophers, and they’re bringing a freshman QB who is a bit banged up. RB Rodney Smith, who was off to a great start, is out for the season. And I don’t think Minnesota has as many of the aforementioned explosive athletes that Maryland has. But I noticed last season, and saw a bit of this on the offensive side of the ball last Saturday, that Maryland tends to give up when things aren’t going well. I also think the Terps are starting to suffer the effects of not having their Head Coach available to steer the ship. This should be another close one that could go either way, but I think the Gophers are hungrier and a bit more prepared at this point.
As of now, Maryland is favored by 1.5 points. I would need at least 6 points to take Minnesota, so this game will not be a play.
Michigan is coming around but neither of these teams is quite living up to preseason expectations. I think Nebraska’s expectations were overstated to begin with. HC Scott Frost has been around, and has worked for some really good programs, but only has one successful season as a head coach on his resume. And that was with a non-power five program. I’m not yet convinced he’s the savior Nebraska fans and many others think he is. Not saying he can’t get it done, just saying we don’t know yet. And the (very) early results aren’t good when you look at last Saturday’s loss to Troy. Now in all fairness to Frost, starting QB Adrian Martinez was injured, and frankly, Nebraska doesn’t have the overall talent that the average fan would assume, considering the general perception associated with such an iconic program. Martinez may or may not play. He appears to something special based on his performance in the opener, but whether he plays or not doesn’t really change my assessment of this game. His backup, Andrew Bunch, isn’t as good, but he ain’t bad either. And if Martinez does play, he’ll probably still be a bit hobbled from the injury. Regardless, I don’t think this team has enough pieces around the QB to keep up with Michigan anyway. Michigan’s expectations are always to win the conference title and to be among the top teams in the nation. So far, it doesn’t appear the Wolverines have enough to keep up with Ohio St., but that doesn’t mean they lack talent, especially when compared to Nebraska’s roster. And speaking of expectations, the new QB the Wolves transferred in, Shea Patterson, garnered almost as much buildup as Frost. Patterson is good, but he doesn’t appear to be the difference maker that was advertised. And it’s probably unfair to think that he should be, considering the overhype. At any rate, he represents an improvement from last season at the position. The Wolverines returned many starters from one of last season’s best defenses, but have shown a few leaks in this young season. But they seem to be getting their mojo back recently, which doesn’t bode well for the Huskers. The game is at Michigan, and I think there’s a bigger discrepancy in talent between the two teams than most realize. I like Michigan to win big.
As of now, Michigan is favored by 17.5 points. I’d take Michigan minus 21 points or less, so this game will most likely be a play.
My method is to begin making my predictions for the upcoming week on Sunday while Saturday’s games are still fresh in my mind. I don’t look at the Vegas point spreads until I’m done handicapping all of the games. If the point spread that I predict for a particular game differs from the closing line by seven or more points, I consider it a “play”,—i.e. a game that I would wager on. If the difference is less than seven points, I back off. I’ll also back off if a report comes out during the week (after I’ve already handicapped the game) that there is an issue involving the starting quarterback (an injury I did not know about) or the head coach (health issues, scandal, etc.).