Big Ten Week One Lines: Bring Your Abacus, The Illiterate Gambler's Standings Are Out

The week that just barely was. Which will probably be the way we remember it.  The median Big Ten line this week is three touchdowns, the average is even a couple points higher than that.  Five schools are favored by over 30 points, and Iowa-Tennessee Tech hasn't been turned on yet.  YOU get a win, and YOU get a win, and YOU get a win...

A Few Good Teams.  The goal each week will be to get a proper Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon ranking, where we connect each team via their MAC web, then eventually though concurrent Big Ten results.

The beginning of this series is as good a time as any to make this flaming, state of the art, speed of sound traveling qualification: I do not in any way, shape or form represent that the results of this are predictive.  Teams, especially in college, evolve at wildly different rates, matchup expose different traits, and football has a built in insanity creator in turnovers, something that can mount on and destroy the very best of teams and also arrive with very little consistency.  So yes, I know the shortcoming.

Of course this isn't to say that the ranking we'll see here are any worse off than the wild speculation of pollsters or variable restricted BCS computers, but no silver bullet lives here either.

But let's get this first one out of the way.  The arbitrary rules here, with just one data point, is to resume rank in a sense: favored against a BCS opponent ranks highest, followed by favored by non-BCS, non-FBS.  Being a dog in the same order puts you fourth, and so on. You newly christened rankings:

Big Ten Week One Illiterate Gambler's Standings:

1. Wisconsin (v. UNLV) -35.5

2. Ohio State (v. Akron) -33.5

3. Illinois (v. Arkansas State) -21

4. Purdue (v. Middle Tennessee State) -18.5

5. Michigan (v. Western Michigan) -13.5

6. Indiana (v. Ball State) -7

7. Penn State (v. Indiana State) -37

8. Nebraska (v. Chattanooga) -35.5

9. Michigan State (v. Youngstown State) -34

10. Northwestern (@Boston College) +3

11. Minnesota (@Southern California) +21

n/a. Iowa (v. Tennessee Tech) OFF

Sagarin Sayz. I'm not going to use arbitrary computer rankings as an input for additional wild odds extrapolation, but if I did there are things I would let you know.  Sagarin did us the favor of ranking all 246 FBS and FCS teams in a preseason capacity to help point out some facts you already know:

  • Only four Big Ten opponents are in his top 100, and that includes Michigan's foe Western Michigan at #97.
  • The average and median both come in right around 123 in rank.
  • Penn State gets the tastiest of the cup cakes - Indiana State is the worst ranked team at #209, although just barely, with Iowa's Tennessee Tech placed at #198.
  • USC is the obvious team at the top here (#10), Boston College is the only other mildly respectable opponent at #38.  And they are Legendary.
  • The Big Ten is Sagarin's fifth strongest conference based on his preseason expectations with rankings from #3 down to #97. Penn State falls fifth at #24.
  • The widest range in rankings between Big Ten week one opponents is 185 spots, again your PSU-ISU game.
  • The closest is not actually Northwestern-BC, the closest line, or even Indiana-Ball State, but rather Purdue-Middle Tennessee; Sagarin is not high on Fitzgerald.

Survey Sayz. One of the more interesting things to track weekly is the consensus list, or which lines the general public thinks are way off base.  There's a general concept that linemakers want a 50/50 split on all games, however that's not the case in practice.  

Your Sucker's Best award winner this week is Michigan's curiously low line against Western Michigan.  Western has put decent teams together in the past -- although they've never won the MAC Championship Game, they have gone bowling as recently as 2008 -- however this is not one of those teams.  By most accounts they're middle of the pack: odds on favorite for the 6th position and well behind Toledo and Northern Illinois in the West.  

Which makes you wonder if Michigan is going to rebound as quickly as many people hope under a more traditional, Michigan Man regime.  The 13.5-point spread (almost certainly moving to 14 while I'm typing this) is about half of what you'd expect from a Macrifice and suggests they're closer to the bottom half of the West/Corn than the top.

At the time of this writing, 74.2% of Covers voters think Denard & Co. are much more stable than that, the highest consensus number and only Big Ten matchup over the 70% threshold -- a line qualification we'll be tracking the performance of in each weekly installment of this space.

Misc. Everything you need on this handy college football TV schedule. I also endorse, without compensation, the FiOS app if you be Droidin'.  It include a favorites screen you can load all these channels into and cut down on that pesky number pushing.

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