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 seven games to look at this week. Looks like this will be a big week for me, three games will most likely be a play, and one more has a decent chance.
My current record: 5-8
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.
As I point out at the bottom of this post, I do my handicapping before I look at the Vegas lines. When got done with this one, I kinda expected I’d be betting on Nebraska. But the oddsmakers are right there with me in figuring the Huskers to win by close to three TDs. Neither team has a good defense, although both usually play hard. Illinois’ offense doesn’t do that well against a good defense, but has been successful against a weaker defense such as Nebraska’s, so I figure the Illini to find the end zone a few times. Nebraska’s offense does well against most defenses, so I figure Nebraska to find the end zone even more times. Like 20 points worth more times. I don’t think that Nebraska is in a position to let down against anybody, and Illinois has to feel rejuvenated by last Saturday’s home victory, so I’m not worried about either team being flat. Nebraska has the advantage on a few levels, though. Illinois QB A.J. Bush is ok, but not great. A few of Illinois possessions may stall if it comes to relying on Bush to make a play. Not saying Bush can’t, or won’t make some nice plays, especially with his legs, but I am calling for a couple of turnovers from Bush. Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez is very good, both with his legs and throwing the ball. I don’t expect any turnovers from Martinez. And I also like Nebraska’s home field advantage. Obviously I look for lots of scoring in this one, but I don’t figure Illinois to keep pace. Not even close.
As of now, Nebraska is favored by 17 points. I would need the line to drop to 14 points or less for me to take Nebraska, so this game probably won’t be a play.
Ok, follow along with me on this one. Maryland thumps Minnesota by close to 30 points. Minnesota beats Indiana and then loses big to an Illinois team that Maryland thumped by 30 points. Comparatively speaking, Maryland should thump Indiana, yet the Hoosiers are favored in this one. Now I know that this method isn’t very reliable, but you have to give it at least some weight, I think. I suppose I could see a few things that might point to an Indiana win. Maryland plays well at home… on the road? Not so good. Maryland has a lot of chaos swirling around campus, and there have been some incidents reported that may suggest division among the teammates. If the team is in fact divided, that could most definitely hamper the Terps chances of playing well. It’s hard to tell from the couch how distracted Maryland might be – I gave it some consideration, but sometimes these things can got the other way and bring a team closer together. And as far as not playing so well on the road compared to at home; the road opponents were much tougher. That’s not the case in this one. The Maryland offense doesn’t do well against a good defense. Indiana doesn’t have a good defense. The reason Maryland’s offense doesn’t do well against a good defense is because Maryland is weak in the passing game. Maryland’s strength is in getting the ball in the hands of its speedy playmakers in open field. Good defenses can match that speed and force the Terps to throw. I don’t think Indiana can match the speed of Maryland’s playmakers so I’m calling for some long TD runs from the Terps. Maryland has a good defense, so I’m not expecting an extraordinary amount of points from Indiana. The Hoosiers have a good but not great offense, and will probably come up with a good game plan that will move the ball on occasions. I also look for some yardage via penalty – Maryland isn’t very disciplined. And Indiana has a smart, savvy QB in Peyton Ramsey who throws an accurate ball, so advantage Indiana that department. What I’m getting at is Indiana, after coming off a bye week, might come up with the better game plan, and might play smarter football. But from what I’ve seen, Maryland has the better talent on both sides of the ball.
As of now, Indiana is favored by 1 point. I’d take Maryland minus 7 points or less, so this game will be a play.
Through the years, these two teams have been the most difficult for me to handicap week in and week out. One week they’re great, another week they’re terrible. Frankly, you can’t give me enough points to feel comfortable betting on either one of these teams. Northwestern is coming off a defeat at home against Notre Dame. Most teams don’t play well the week after Notre Dame. Iowa is coming off two gut wrenching losses that pretty much killed all hopes of a division title. Prior to the losses, those hopes seemed very legitimate, so the Hawkeyes may be a bit deflated as well. Both starting QBs are talented in the passing game, but both are prone to throwing critical interceptions. I think I trust Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson more than I do Iowa’s Nate Stanley, but I am predicting two interceptions from Thorson to only one from Stanley. But I also figure Thorson to throw the ball more times than Stanley. Iowa has a very good defense, but didn’t look as good last Saturday against Purdue’s passing game. Northwestern also has a good defense, maybe not quite as good as Iowa’s, but certainly comparable. Northwestern was struggling in the running game early in the season, but has improved in the last few games. I still figure Thorson will have to throw a lot in this one. Therefore Northwestern’s success, as it has been most of the season, will depend on Thorson’s decision making and how accurate he is with his passes. I’ve seen Thorson play outstanding and practically win the game by himself (Michigan St.), and I’ve seen Thorson play horribly and almost lose the game by himself (Rutgers). So who knows for sure? Iowa has a more balanced attack, and has a few good RBs, but I think they throw too much on first down, putting them at risk of falling behind the chains when it appears the running game is working. Obviously I’m in no position to question play calling, far from it in fact, but I just don’t think it’s a good idea to ask Nate Stanley to win the game for you. Stanley is good, but he’s just not that type of QB. Thorson, on the other hand, can win the game for Northwestern if he’s on his game. I was surprised to see Iowa favored by so much. I’m guessing it has a lot to do with home field, and probably some of the aforementioned Notre Dame hangover. And I would say that Iowa probably has the better overall team- I strongly considered favoring the Hawkeyes by a few points more, but Northwestern has been surprising better teams all season. And the Wildcats have more to play for. I just can’t find much separation between these two teams.
As of now, Iowa is favored by 11 points. I would take Northwestern plus 8 points, so this game will most likely be a play.
It’s pretty much up to Michigan to decide how much they want to win by. I’m assuming the Wolverines will be flat, how can they not be? They’re coming off a stretch a big wins, taking a long trip out to New Jersey, and playing the worst team in the conference. Rutgers has been playing better lately, but, you know, this is quite a mismatch. Flat or not, I’m going to figure Michigan to build a four touchdown lead by halftime, start to pull its starters in the second half, and then it’s up to HC Jim Harbaugh to decide how merciful he wants to be. I wouldn’t say that Harbaugh consistently takes the high road, but I do think in this case he won’t intentionally run up the score. Now, like any coach, he can’t ask his second and third stringers to go out there and take a knee, so much of this falls on Rutgers. But as I said, Rutgers has been playing better lately, and I do think HC Chris Ash will play most of his starters into the fourth quarter- it ain’t like he has more winnable games left on his schedule to save ‘em for – so this is the score I’ve come up with. I’m glad to see the oddsmakers came up with a point spread close enough to mine to probably keep this one from being a play, because, either way, this would be a scary one to bet on.
As of now, Michigan is favored by 39.5 points. I would take Rutgers plus 42 points, so this game could, but probably won’t be, a play.
The strengths and weaknesses of these two teams line up against each other.
Good offense vs. good defense, not so good offense vs. not so good defense. I’ll start with the not so good, and I want to clarify, when I say “not so good”, I don’t been bad. Michigan St. has some talent on offense, but they’ve suffered a lot of injuries through the season. It’s been kind of a revolving door in terms of who’s available and who’s not. QB Brian Lewerke hurt his throwing shoulder a few weeks back and hasn’t been throwing well at all since. And even when Lewerke is healthy he’s always been a bit inconsistent with his passing game. His backup, Rocky Lombardi, has played well when filling in, but Lewerke is more of a threat running the ball. Michigan St. has struggled in the running game through most of the season, but has shown improvement recently. Ohio St’s defense hasn’t lived up to preseason expectations, and has given up over 30 points in its last two games. Granted, expectations were high, and the last two games were against good offenses at the peak of their game. Despite the subpar play, Ohio St. does have some talent on defense, and Michigan St. hasn’t scored any more than 24 points in conference play, so I’m calling for the Spartans to score on its opening drive and add only one more TD and couple of FGs in this game. Now for the good. Ohio St. has a good offense and Michigan St. has a very good defense. The Buckeyes have a lot of talent at the skill positions and QB Dwayne Haskins is having a great season. Haskins was in the Heisman discussion until the Buckeyes were upset at Purdue a few weeks ago. But Ohio St. hasn’t faced a defense like this one all season. Not even close. Ohio St.’s O-Line has struggled at times, both in pass protection and in the running game. And while I think Haskins is probably the best pure passer in the conference, I expect him to struggle under the pressure he’s sure to get from this Michigan St. defense. And finding open receivers won’t be easy- Michigan St. is outstanding in pass coverage. I’m calling for Haskins to throw two interceptions in this one. Ohio St. hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations this season, but they’re still a very good team. And with HC Urban Meyer guiding the ship, the Buckeyes most always find a way to win. But Michigan St. HC Mark Dantonio thrives in this type of high profile game, particularly when playing at home and particularly when coming off the kind of 48-3 spanking the Buckeyes issued his team the previous season. This is a good matchup that could go either way, but I’m liking the Spartans defense in this one.
As of now, Ohio St. is favored by 3.5 points. I would take Michigan St. plus 4 points, so this game has a chance to be a play.
Minnesota didn’t look good at all in a blowout loss at Illinois last Saturday. Sometimes college kids just don’t play well, so I have to be careful not to let the image of lowly Illinois shredding the Minnesota defense compel me to completely discount the Gophers. I don’t expect Minnesota to play quite so badly in this game, but I do have to consider how much better Purdue’s offense is when compared to Illinois. I figure the Gophers secondary to have a hard time keeping up with the Purdue WRs, and also in stopping the Purdue RBs should they break through the line of scrimmage. Minnesota didn’t play quite as badly on the offensive side of the ball, and Purdue’s defense is not among the best, so I figure the Gophers to move the ball some. But I will say that Purdue’s defense has been improving. Minnesota plays better at home, and I figure Purdue to be a little flat, and I also figure Minnesota to be anxious to redeem themselves. So I’m calling for the Gophers to score the first TD and hang with Purdue through the first quarter or so. But Purdue is on a roll offensively and, flat or not, should be able to score easily against this defense.
As of now, Purdue is favored by 12.5 points. I would take Purdue minus 14 points, so this game has a good chance to be a play.
I handicapped this one under the assumption that both starting QBs would be playing. I haven’t yet heard anything otherwise about Penn St.’s Trace McSorley, but I do see that Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook is listed as doubtful. My prediction here won’t be quite as valid if Hornibrook doesn’t play. This is a good matchup that looked to be more significant before the season began. Both teams are good, but both had championship hopes coming into the season and now are pretty much on the outside looking in. Wisconsin has a good running game, but Hornibrook has been struggling some. Penn St.’s defense is good, but not great. I think both sides will win their share of series. Same goes for when Penn St. has the ball. McSorley is the catalyst and I expect him to have some success both throwing and running the ball. Wisconsin’s defense isn’t bad, but I don’t think it’s quite as good as Penn St.’s defense, so I figure that extra score for the Nittany Lions. Again, these teams are an even match, but I think Penn St. is slightly better at this point in the season, due mostly to Hornibrook’s struggles and to a Wisconsin defense that isn’t as good as it has been in recent seasons. I also like that Penn St. is at home.
As of now, Penn St. is favored by 9.5 points, which is pretty close to how I see it so this game most likely won’t 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.).