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 will be a play, another has a good chance.
My current record: 4-6
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.
These teams are mirror images of each other. Their records are identical – except Minnesota didn’t have the luxury of playing and beating Rutgers, both have second year coaches, and both introduced second string QBs last Saturday that appeared to be better than the starters. And both teams are at about the same stage in the rebuilding process under their new coaches. I would consider both to be lower level conference teams that are ever so close to breaking through to mid-level. This one truly is a toss-up, but I’m giving Indiana the slightest edge. If this game was at Indiana, I’d favor the Hoosiers by a few more points. My reasons are that Indiana seems to have played similar conference opponents closer – Minnesota was flat out blown out at Maryland, and I trust Indiana QBs more than I do Minnesota QB Zack Annexstad to not throw interceptions. But then, Annexstad might not play- he was injured last Saturday. And Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey may share time, although his backup, Michael Penix, was injured last Saturday as well. But like I said, the backups looked as good if not better than the starters, so my prediction doesn’t change no matter which QBs play. Apparently the oddsmakers don’t care either. Usually when a QB is questionable, the line isn’t released until the status becomes clearer. But Vegas submitted a line as early as Monday for this game.
As of now, Indiana is favored by 2.5 points, which is close to how I see it so this game will not be a play.
I don’t think we’re quite to the point in the season where I have to be concerned about a team’s interest level, but we’re getting close. Especially with Illinois. The Illini looked to be on the rise earlier in the season in a couple of losses and a win at Rutgers, but regressed the last two games and now take their 1-3 conference record on a road trip all the way out to Maryland. And Maryland has played well in its last two home games against teams similar in talent to Illinois. Illinois pulled starting QB A.J. Bush last Saturday in favor of M.J. Rivers, which could create some instability on the offensive side of the ball. Rivers played well for part of the aforementioned stretch of good games earlier in the season while Bush was out with an injury, and currently has the better efficiency rating. Illinois ranks last in total defense (conference games only) while Maryland ranks third. I’ve bet on Maryland twice this season and lost both times, so obviously I’m overrating the Terps and need to dial it back some. The Maryland offense ranks next to last in the conference, mostly due to QB play and to some extent, predictability. The Terps focus mostly on jet sweep action, which makes sense, they have some speed. But apparently this approach has become easy to scout because last Saturday Iowa defenders were pretty much one step ahead of everything Maryland tried. Nonetheless, I think Maryland is the better team here, mostly for the defense and the home field advantage. And as I said, Maryland has some speed on offense, so predictable or not, they might still pop a couple of long runs against the lowest rated defense in the conference.
As of now, Maryland is favored by 18 points, which is close to how I see it so this game will not be a play.
Ok, this is my upset special apparently. The oddsmakers like Penn St. here and so does the public, because the line is moving in Penn St’s direction. I’m hoping this is based more on perception than reality, because I’ll definitely be playing this one. Penn St. has enjoyed more success in recent seasons and was considered a national contender coming into the season. The showdown against Ohio St. was circled as maybe the most important game of the season in determining the conference champion, and Penn St. was only one point away from knocking off the mighty Buckeyes in that one. But what I’m seeing now is maybe the Buckeyes aren’t so mighty, so I’m downgrading the Nittany Lions “great effort” in that one a smidge. I would say Penn St. has played a bit of a tougher schedule, but not by much I don’t think. And Iowa looked really good last Saturday against Maryland, even though QB Nate Stanley had an off game. But it was extremely windy last Saturday, which is even worse for a QB than wet conditions, so I think Stanley gets a pass. Otherwise, Stanley has been having a great season. And the Hawkeyes returned some injured players on defense and played outstanding. I’ve mentioned several times in my “What Happened” write-ups that I feel Penn St. QB Trace McSorley is pretty much the whole show when it comes to Penn St.’s offense. And that can be enough-McSorley can and has torched defenses pretty much by himself. But I’ve got notes on Penn St. that the pass blocking ain’t so good. Usually McSorley can make up for this with his mobility, but I think things will be different against this Iowa defense. I’ve also got notes that Penn St.’s run defense ain’t so good. Iowa likes to run the ball and has been doing it well lately. In fact, Iowa is hitting on all cylinders right now, while Penn St. is trying to bounce back. But I do have some concerns about my wagering on Iowa. One of them is McSorley. The kid’s a winner. He ain’t gonna lose three in a row at home without a fight. The other is his counterpart, Stanley. Stanley has been playing the best football of his career lately, but he will throw a stupid interception at some point in this game. I just hope it ain’t a pick-six; those are daggers for a guy placing a wager. Then I have to be concerned about Iowa in general. They’re like Northwestern. Just when you think you have a handle on ‘em they do a 180. Then I have to be concerned that the game is at Penn St. But it’s not a night game, so that’s good. But all in all, I just think Iowa is the better team at this point, and not only do I have the Hawkeyes winning, but I have them winning by nearly two TDs. You heard it here first.
As of now, Penn St. is favored by 6.5 points. I would take Iowa minus 6 points or less, so this will definitely be a play.
This one has a chance to be a play- I’ll be taking Purdue if the number is good for me. But I’ll be doing so with much trepidation. I’m guessing many would like Purdue easily in this one given the Boilermakers spanking of #3 ranked Ohio St. last Saturday. But the oddsmakers have Michigan St. favored for good reason. College kids don’t play so well after a big win like the one Purdue just registered. And let’s be honest; throw out Purdue’s upset win over the Buckeyes, and the Vegas line looks about right, given the game is at Michigan St. In fact, when I got done handicapping this one, my five point spread in Purdue’s favor seemed a little high to me. But I didn’t want to take Michigan St. without a good chunk of points. And here’s why. Michigan St. is banged up on offense. Most of the receiving corps is injured, most notable being WR Felton Davis, who tore an achilles last Saturday. And QB Brian Lewerke has an injured throwing shoulder and may not even play. And, like Purdue, Michigan St. is coming off a big game last Saturday. Even though it was a loss, the letdown effect still applies. Maybe not to the same level as Purdue in this instance, but it’s still there, I think. Michigan St. has been playing good defense, but the Purdue offense is on fire right now and may be the best the Spartans have seen so far. I’ve got the score for both teams higher than most would expect in a game involving Michigan St. But, we’re getting later into the season and offenses tend to get better as the season progresses, and I’m still not completely sold on Purdue’s defense. The Boilermakers defense surprised the heck out of me last Saturday. But up until that exemplary performance, the Purdue D hasn’t been very good at all. They say defense is mostly inspiration/intensity, so that’s what I’m going to attribute last Saturday’s deviation to. And then there’s Purdue’s Rondale Moore. That kid’s worth at least six points alone, if not more. I can see Michigan St. winning this game, HC Mark Dantonio is at his best when backed into a corner, but I like Purdue’s chances better.
As of now, Michigan St. is favored by 1.5 points or less. I would need at least 2 points to take Purdue, so this has a chance to be a play.
Uhg. Northwestern. It’s getting to the point where I don’t even want to handicap this team’s games. How will the Wildcats perform? Might as well flip a coin. I think part of the reason Northwestern is so sporadic is the Wildcat’s dependence on QB Clayton Thorson. There’s more volatility, or less margin for error, in the passing game, I think. And passing is all Northwestern can do. The Wildcats’ leading rusher is Jeremy Larkin by a long shot, and Larkin hasn’t played a game since early in the season. And it ain’t like Thorson has a stable of playmakers around him, or an exceptional offensive scheme to execute. More often than not, Thorson has to fit the ball into very tight windows, which he can do very well, it just depends on what kind of game he’s having. Last Saturday at Rutgers Thorson was awful. A few weeks ago at Michigan St. he was outstanding. You just never know. All I can do is aim for something in the middle. Thorson usually throws at least one or two interceptions, so I’m calling for one in this game. Wisconsin’s defense, particularly the pass rush, isn’t anything special, so I look for Thorson to have enough success to make this a close game throughout. Home field hasn’t really been an advantage for Northwestern, so I’ll discount that. Northwestern has a good but not great defense, so I don’t think Wisconsin will steamroll the Wildcats right from the beginning. But I do think the Wisconsin running game will eventually wear the Wildcats down later in the game; they do this to just about every opponent. Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook isn’t great, but he’s certainly capable – at the very least above average. And HC Paul Chryst is an excellent play caller. There’s a lot on the line for both teams, I figure this to be a close game but like Wisconsin to pull away in the end.
As of now, Wisconsin is favored by 6.5 points. I would take Wisconsin minus 4 points or less, so this game probably will not 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.).