It’s Championship Week! Conference titles and spots in the College Football Playoff are on the line. The action starts Friday night with No. 11 USC vs. No. 14 Stanford in the Pac-12 title game, followed by the Big 12, SEC, ACC and Big Ten championship games on Saturday. What is the optimal strategy for wagering on these high-stakes games?
Fade the Public
This weekend’s conference championship games will receive increased handle with seven of the nine title games featuring at least one ranked team and fewer overall betting options on a small slate.
It’s important to know which side is receiving the majority of spread tickets. With an influx of recreational action, lines can become artificially inflated. Value can be derived by betting against the public in these heavily bet games.
Since 2005, teams attracting less than 50% of spread bets in conference championship games: 40-28-3 (58.8%) ATS, +10.19 units. The win rate improves to 62.2% ATS when a team is receiving less than 40% of spread tickets.
Bigger Sample, Please
Fading the public is a profitable strategy in conference title games but a 71-game sample size isn’t huge. We can draw from a bigger pool of games if we look at all neutral site matchups, which often have the same features as a championship game: increased public action and teams of equal caliber.
In neutral site games, it is also profitable to bet against the public:
- <50% of spread tickets: 339-305-12 (52.6%) ATS, +15.55 units
- <40% of spread tickets: 202-158-6 (56.1%) ATS, +32.57 units
It is a simple strategy but going against public perception is a contrarian approach to sports betting that returns a profit. Here is an early look at the teams the public is betting (and should be faded) in Championship Week.
ACC Championship: The lookahead line for this matchup was Clemson -3.5 but the new No. 1 team in the AP Poll opened -5 at Pinnacle and were quickly bet up to 9.5-point favorites. The public got burned by Miami in the team’s last game and is off the Canes. Don’t overreact to one bad game against Pitt. There has been reverse line movement on Miami at CRIS, a sharp sportsbook.
Big 12 Championship: At the time of publication, 67% of spread bets are on Oklahoma as 7-point favorites. The Sooners rolled the Horned Frogs 38-20 in Norman in Week 11. Baker Mayfield threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns, TCU will have to find an answer for the Heisman favorite if they are to get a win in Arlington.
Big Ten Championship: Wisconsin (12-0) is undefeated but Ohio State (-6) is the favorite. Fresh in bettor’s minds is that the Buckeyes failed to cover against Michigan and the Badgers crushed Minnesota (won 31-0, covered as 20-point favorites). A majority of spread tickets are on Wisconsin but undefeated teams late in the season (November/December) during the College Football Playoff era have gone 44-61-1 (41.9%) ATS. Plus, Urban Meyer is the most profitable coach against ranked teams in our database: 30-17-1 (63.8%) ATS.
SEC Championship: Casual bettors are on Auburn (57% of bets) and can you blame them? The Tigers hammered the Bulldogs 40-17 in Week 11 but as Collin Wilson points out in his conference championship line movement piece, look for Georgia (10th in rushing S&P+) to adopt a different offensive approach in the rematch.
Pac-12 Championship: Of the Power 5 championship games, the Pac-12 matchup features the most lopsided betting action. More than 70% of tickets are currently on USC (-3) but oddsmakers aren’t moving off the key number.
Group of Five
Memphis, Florida Atlantic, Toledo and Fresno State are receiving the majority of wagers in their respective championship games. Unfortunately, the public has not weighed in on these games with the AAC, Conference USA, MAC and Mountain West title games getting less than half the bets compared to the big boy conferences. The public betting percentages could change drastically over the next few days. For updated odds and betting percentages use the free odds page at Sports Insights.