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Just without the 'S'

We’re halfway through the Big Ten season. And no, it hasn’t been kind to Penn State fans, or Michigan fans.

But hey, let’s look on the bright side. This season will forever be remembered as an anomaly in CFB history, there were some bright spots on both sides of the ball once Will Levis came in for Penn State last weekend, and there are plenty of enticing Top-25 matchups this week. That’s reason enough to get out of bed on Saturday. Let’s focus on the week to come.

Quick Note on Elo’s Performance This Season

On the podcast this week we talked about how Elo is doing vs. DraftKings this year, and the conclusion was… not as good as we would have hoped. While Elo itself is doing as well as any other season in terms of predicting outcomes, it doesn’t seem to have an edge against the Sportsbooks. You can listen to the podcast to get all the details, but we boiled it down to:

  1. Limited information built into Elo vs. much more information put into setting odds

  2. Extra uncertainty week-to-week with more starters being out (Elo has no adjustment for this)

  3. Increased importance of the transfer portal in the offseason in recent years

  4. Betting strategy (we tested this with all $10 bets, all Moneyline, and all positive expected value)

So, as always, use Elo win probabilities and expected values as a guide, in addition to basic research to rule out any teams with red flags (starting QB out, lots of starters out, exceptionally poor play or coaching turmoil, etc.)

While Elo is on track to match it’s historical performance, you can see that the variances between predicted and actual win-probabilities, while not huge in most cases, are still big enough to be the difference between profit and loss against Vegas.

Week 12 Features Three Top-25 Matchups

For some reason Indiana–Ohio State doesn't scream "Top 10 Matchup" to me, but nevertheless, this is the world we’re living in.

There are three top-25 matchups this weekend, and Elo recommends bets on two of them. To anyone wanting to bet on the #3 Buckeyes or #9 (yep) Hoosiers, Elo suggests you sit this one out. The Buckeyes are favored at 91.9% win probability, so while it may be a safe bet, at -1115, it’s probably not a very profitable one. There’s a -20.5 spread you could dabble in, but we really don’t know.

Here’s what Elo says about the other two games:

#14 Oklahoma St. vs. #18 Oklahoma — Oklahoma -278 ($0.37 EV, 76.3% WP)

#10 Wisconsin vs. #19 Northwestern — Northwestern +265 ($2.63 EV, 34.6% WP)

For what it’s worth, Drew and I both like Oklahoma to win, so while it’s not the best profit, it’s still profit. Oklahoma also outclasses Ok. St. on every down on offense in success rate. Oklahoma St. struggle on 1st down, yet they still pass the ball 21% less than the D-I average pass rate on passing downs (2nd-and-7 or 3rd-and-5 or more). No other team is below average in the Big 12. With Oklahoma allowing only 3.3 YPA on rushes this year, good for 19th-best in the country, that might not be the most effective strategy.

Contrarily, we both took Wisconsin to win against Northwestern, but there’s definitely some good value in picking the underdog in this one. While we don’t have the probabilities, you could also opt for the spread of +7.5 for Northwestern, as Northwestern and Wisconsin both boast top defenses in the conference so far.

That being said, when you look at success rate, it’s clear that Wisconsin has the more consistently solid performances on both offense and defense, albeit with only two games of data to look at.

Let’s take a closer look at the data on the Big Ten and Big 12 this week.

Big Ten Offenses

I’m just realizing that there are a LOT of red teams in the Big Ten, and, outside of Rutgers, they are all doing pretty well this season. Wisconsin takes the edge on offense.

Big Ten Defenses

More Big Ten Stats

Explosiveness hasn’t had a huge correlation to results so far this season, but turnovers and field position certainly have. Wisconsin wins both these battles against Northwestern.

Big 12 Offenses

Despite some early-season slip-ups, Oklahoma has cruised on all 4 downs on offense. Oklahoma State surprisingly struggles on 1st downs, possibly because they pass at one of the lowest rates.

Big 12 Defenses

On defense, the matchup is more even, with Oklahoma and Ok. St. swapping positions based on the down, but Oklahoma State crucially winning the 3rd down battle. Both defenses are solid.

More Big 12 Stats

Oklahoma has the slight aggregate edge in all other categories. Despite turning the ball over more, Oklahoma does it in relatively “safe” positions on the field, while Ok. St. give their opponents great field position when they turn it over. Oklahoma has the slight edge in explosiveness, and the field position battle is fairly even.

Week 12 Win Probabilities

Once again, the full list of win probabilities is much too long, so you can view it here. You can also see all the bets recommended by Elo for Week 12, as well as our historic performance, on our Google Sheet.

That’s all. Enjoy your weekend and these great matchups. Fingers crossed that Kirk and Chris finally get a game that’s competitive into the 2nd half this Saturday night.

— Kyle

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