The college football bowl season kicks off Saturday with six games and continues through the New Year. Whether you’re wagering on the Las Vegas Bowl or the College Football Playoff, here are the betting strategies you need to know before making your picks. Ready? Let’s go bowling!
Fade ranked teams
What do recreational bettors know about the Birmingham Bowl between South Florida and Texas Tech? Other than the Bulls being ranked No. 23 in the AP poll, not much. Top 25 teams will receive a disproportionate number of bets from squares just because they are ranked. Nearly 70% of spread tickets are on South Florida. This leads to ranked teams being overvalued (inflated lines).
In bowl games, ranked teams (in the AP poll) are 36-47-1 (43.4%) ATS vs. unranked opponents since 2005.
Games that match: Oregon (-7.5) vs. No. 25 Boise State, Texas Tech vs. No. 23 South Florida (-2.5), Kentucky vs. No. 20 Northwestern (-7), Louisville (-6.5) vs. No. 24 Mississippi State and Iowa State vs. No. 19 Memphis (-3.5).
Bad ATS teams are good bets
Iowa State (10-2 ATS), Fresno State (10-3 ATS), and Northwestern (9-3 ATS) were the most profitable against-the-spread teams in 2017. Each is receiving a majority of spread tickets (duh!) in their respective bowl games. Casual bettors remember the teams that consistently covered and chase those results. Unfortunately, teams that have covered the spread in 70% or more of their games have gone 49-62-2 (44.1%) ATS in the postseason.
Be contrarian and bet bad ATS teams. These sad-sack programs usually receive little public support and that is a mistake. In bowl games, teams with a bad ATS record in the regular season have gone 31-17-1 (64.6%) ATS.
One game that matches is Florida State vs. Southern Miss in the Independence Bowl. The Noles lost or pushed against-the-spread in their first nine games and finished the season 2-7-2 ATS. Less than 40% of spread dollars are on FSU making for a great contrarian pick.
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Dogs in low-scoring games
Casual fans like wagering on favorites. In bowls games, the chalk receives a majority of spread tickets 76.3% of the time. Oddsmakers know this and will shade the line, leading to value on underdogs.
Since 2005, dogs are 52.5% against-the-spread in bowl games. If the game is expected to be low scoring, the win rate improves. Lower scoring games often feature fewer possessions and thus limits the opportunities for the better team (usual the favorite) to pull away. In games with totals of 51 or fewer points, underdogs are 85-69 (55.2%) ATS.
There are 12 bowl games that fit this system including Northern Illinois (+4.5) vs. Duke, Stanford (+2.5) vs. TCU and Michigan State (+3) vs. Washington State.
Fading the public is a smart strategy in bowl games because the influx of recreational money skews the lines. Unpopular underdogs are the best bet. Small underdogs (less than 7 points) getting little public support (<30% of bets) have gone 19-7 (73.1%) ATS.
There are nine games that match this system including Middle Tenn (+3.5) vs. Arkansas State and Marshall (+5.5) vs. Colorado State.
Our analysts have designed four Pro Systems for bowl season. Combined, these betting strategies are 176-88-4 (66.7%) ATS since 2005. A $100 bettor would have returned a profit of $7,919 by playing these picks.
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