What were the worst bets in college football last year? The Arizona Wildcats went 2-10 ATS and the Baylor Bears finished 3-9 ATS, these were two of 13 teams in Division I that had three or fewer against-the-spread wins in 2016. It would be tempting to fade these poor performing teams but history suggests they’ll bounce back for bettors.

Our friends at Sports Insights examined how bad ATS teams in college football performed the next season from 2015 to 2016, the results were promising. Does the pattern hold if we look at our entire database?

From 2004 to 2015 there were 123 teams that won 3 or fewer games against-the-spread. Here is how they performed the next season:

  • 112 of the 123 teams (91%) improved against-the-spread the next season
  • 73 of the 123 teams (59%) went .500 or better against-the-spread the next season

On average, teams won 3.2 more games against-the-spread the next season after covering three or less the previous year. This is good but unfortunately you can’t blindly bet these teams to cover the next season. If you did you would be down -33.2 units.

What if we look at teams from Power Conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC)? Since 2004 there have been 63 teams from the big boy conferences that finished with 3 or fewer ATS wins. The next season:

  • 61 of 63 teams (97%) improved against-the-spread the next season
  • 42 of 63 teams (67%) went .500 or better against-the-spread the next season

On average, these teams from Power Conferences won 3.4 more games against-the-spread the next season. If you just bet bad ATS teams from the Power-5 you would be up +19.9 units in the last 11 years.

The reasoning behind this is simple. Games featuring teams from Power Conferences are the most bet in college football. The public is likely to fade bad performing ATS teams from the previous season due to recency bias. This artificially inflates the line giving value to bad against-the-spread teams.

The SEC

The most popular conference in all of college football is the SEC. Routinely the most bet game on any given Saturday will feature a team from the conference that has won 8 of the last 11 college football championships. Are bad ATS teams from the SEC undervalued?

Of course, this is the sweet spot for betting on poor ATS teams from the previous season. The sample is small but since 2004 there have been 16 teams from the Southeastern Conference that won 3 or fewer games against-the-spread.

100% of the teams improved their ATS record the next season and 75% finished .500 or better. If you bet the bad ATS teams from the SEC the next season you would have covered the spread 55% of the time, +14.2 units.

There are 13 teams from 2016 that finished with 3 or fewer against-the-spread wins. History suggests most of these teams will perform better for bettors this season. There is no guarantee but Arizona, Oregon, Baylor and TCU, all from Power Conferences, are teams likely to be undervalued by the public and primed for a bounce back against-the-spread.

Unfortunately, no SEC teams finished with 3 or fewer ATS wins. There is always next year.

2016 Bad ATS Teams

Team2016 ATS Record
Arizona2-10
Connecticut2-9
Florida Atlantic2-9
Oregon2-9
South Alabama3-8
Southern Miss3-8
Georgia Southern 3-9
Baylor 3-9
Utah State3-9
Boise State3-9
TCU3-9
East Carolina3-9
Cincinnati3-9

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