Stupid Feats of Gambling Derring-Do



Loyal readers of my blog may have a memory, rattling around in their brain, of my talking about my "ranking algorithm", a mathematically simple way of ranking teams, calculating individual offensive and defensive power ratings and, when I'm feeling really ambitious, predicting the scores of upcoming games.

Without going into too much detail, the algorithm works something like this:
For each game you play, you either get + or - pts depending on the quality of the team you faced. A win over an otherwise undefeated team = 2 points. A win over a winless team = 1 point. A loss to an undefeated team = -1 point. A loss to an otherwise winless team = -2 points. You can see already that beating a terrible team is better than losing to a good team. That's because this algorithm is meant to do one thing only, and that is rank teams at year end. After 13 games, your record is the most critical factor in your ranking, and wins are better than losses. But among 12-1 teams, the ones with the hardest schedules rise.

The offensive ratings are a measure of how many points you score, relative to the quality of the defenses you've faced. If you face a team that gives up 30 on average, and you score 20, you get 0.667 (20/30). 1 = average, higher is better and lower is worse.
Defense is the same. If you face a team that scores 30 and you give up 20, you get 0.667 (20/30). 1 = average, higher is worse and lower is better.

And then, it simply uses your offensive and defensive ratings, your offensive and defense PPG averages and those of your opponents and calculates a predicted score. I'll leave the math elsewhere.

I did this for a couple of years in the late 90s just predicting scores, seeing how often I'd get the winner right (high 70s %age wise). Someone suggested I try spreads.

I do not gamble. I don't like gambling. I don't encourage people to gamble. I tested my algorithm against the spread solely for the fun of seeing if it worked. And what I found was, in a way, it did. If you just tally up on what %age of games, my score prediction was on the correct side of the spread (that is, if my algorithm said Texas would win by 8 and they were favored by 11, bet against Texas), it beat the magic 52% break even for the week with regularity. 80% of the time or so, if I remember correctly.

I ought to make picks by percentages. The algorithm, when applied properly, creates a set of simulated games. I ought to calculate what %age are on each side of the spread, but I have misplaced my template, and I don't have time to rewrite all the macros before kickoff tomorrow. For today, just a shortcut that creates 1 average game result.

But ... and this is a big caveat when you look at the chart below, the scores my algorithm predicted were often crazy taken on their own. A team would be a 13 point underdog. My algorithm would have them winning by 17. I say bet the underdog, and they lose by 6. I'm actually, on average, further from the correct score than the Vegas oddsmakers, but somehow, even after testing this for 5 years, I'm consistently able to beat the spread doing that. And really, I did - I even posted them online every week.

So the upshot is this:
For the first time in a couple years, I'll be doing this again. I'll probably make myself look foolish. I seem to be under the impression that Kentucky can beat Alabama (and I can tell you right now that I know why and I know my algorithm is being fooled by Kentucky's schedule). But I am not encouraging anyone to use my numbers below for anything other than amusement. If I hear even a rumor that *anyone* has used my numbers to place a wager, I will come to their house, steal their pennies, drink straight from their milk carton and walk all over their petunias in a fit of rage.

The spreads are the "Opening" column from USA Today.
Some numbers may not seem to add up, due to rounding.
The ones where my predicted score is furthest from the spread are at the top.
The "spread" column has a positive number next to the team getting points.
I've noted games where my prediction and the spread are within 1 pt. I don't tally those.

TeamSpreadScorePrediction
Ball State58Ball State to win / Ball State against the spread
Toledo726
Northern Illinois1624Northern Illinois to win / Northern Illinois against the spread
Tennessee16
Kentucky16.515Kentucky to win / Kentucky against the spread
Alabama13
Penn State45Penn State to win / Penn State against the spread
Purdue1216
Boston College30Boston College to win / Boston College against the spread
North Carolina State86
Florida48Florida to win / Florida against the spread
Arkansas2211
Southern Methodist1427Southern Methodist to win / Southern Methodist against the spread
Central Florida26
Temple720Temple to win / Temple against the spread
Miami (Ohio)13
Western Kentucky2816Virginia Tech to win / Western Kentucky against the spread
Virginia Tech31
Cincinnati34Cincinnati to win / Cincinnati against the spread
Marshall3.518
Maryland36Maryland to win / Maryland against the spread
Virginia1410
Washington State16.522UCLA to win / Washington State against the spread
UCLA27
Brigham Young51Brigham Young to win / Brigham Young against the spread
Utah State28.511
Texas38Texas to win / Texas against the spread
Colorado1413
Louisiana-Lafayette33Louisiana-Lafayette to win / Louisiana-Lafayette against the spread
Louisiana-Monroe1.520
Florida State324Florida State to win / Florida State against the spread
Miami (Florida)17
Iowa816Iowa to win / Iowa against the spread
Michigan State15
Nevada56Nevada to win / Nevada against the spread
Idaho24.522
Duke1420Georgia Tech to win / Duke against the spread
Georgia Tech25
Nevada-Las Vegas129Nevada-Las Vegas to win / Nevada-Las Vegas against the spread
Colorado State22
Connecticut723Connecticut to win / Connecticut against the spread
North Carolina22
Washington1916Arizona to win / Arizona against the spread
Arizona43
Eastern Michigan2118Bowling Green State to win / Eastern Michigan against the spread
Bowling Green State31
Missouri36Missouri to win / Nebraska against the spread
Nebraska1034
Oregon16.523Southern California to win / Oregon against the spread
Southern California32
Arizona State9.518California to win / California against the spread
California34
Ohio420Western Michigan to win / Western Michigan against the spread
Western Michigan30
Rutgers13.512West Virginia to win / Rutgers against the spread
West Virginia19
Akron29Akron to win / Akron against the spread
Kent419
Illinois229Illinois to win / Illinois against the spread
Michigan25
Oklahoma50Oklahoma to win / Oklahoma against the spread
Baylor2717
Ohio State19Wisconsin to win / Wisconsin against the spread
Wisconsin2.521
Texas A&M2419Oklahoma State to win / Oklahoma State against the spread
Oklahoma State48
Kansas36Kansas to win / Kansas against the spread
Iowa State1318
San Diego State24.512Texas Christian to win / San Diego State against the spread
Texas Christian32
Army199Tulane to win / Army against the spread
Tulane24
South Carolina220South Carolina to win / South Carolina against the spread
Mississippi18
Rice1438Tulsa to win / Tulsa against the spread
Tulsa55
Hawaii21.519Fresno State to win / Hawaii against the spread
Fresno State38
Indiana7.526Minnesota to win / Indiana against the spread
Minnesota31
Stanford7.519Notre Dame to win / Notre Dame against the spread
Notre Dame28
Florida International22Florida International to win / Florida International against the spread
North Texas6.514
Wyoming1114New Mexico to win / New Mexico against the spread
New Mexico27
Auburn14Auburn to win / Vanderbilt against the spread
Vanderbilt3.512
Texas-El Paso832Southern Mississippi to win / Texas-El Paso against the spread
Southern Mississippi39
Navy621Air Force to win / Air Force against the spread
Air Force27(under 1 pt difference)
Texas Tech32Texas Tech to win / Kansas State against the spread
Kansas State6.525(under 1 pt difference)

Posted: Friday - October 03, 2008 at 06:53 PM