College football season is a month old, and the majority of teams across the nation have played at least one league game. What have we learned thus far, and how can it benefit our betting? Let’s look closely at some early-season trends and project how they might look in the future. Once you’ve got the lay of the college football landscape, done your due diligence, and are ready to make a smart wager, we recommend any of the well-reviewed sportsbooks here.
NCAAF 2017: What do we know after four weeks?
The Power Five conferences are all about the same
Are you tired of the SEC-on-CBS commercials proclaiming “the best games from the best conference?” I am, because it’s not true. On Saturday, CBS will air Georgia at Tennessee. This comes on the heels of TCU at Arkansas, Tennessee at Florida, and Alabama at Vanderbilt.
The Crimson Tide are really good, the rest of the group is either unproven or mediocre. The Sagarin rankings have three SEC teams among the top 16. That’s one fewer than the Big Ten, and the same number as the Big 12 and ACC.
In terms of top to bottom strength, the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC are ranked almost identically. There was a time not long ago that the eighth-place team in the SEC was better than the third-place team in other Power 5 leagues. Now, the Crimson Tide are excellent, and everyone else looks like the rest of the country: flawed, menial, and inconsistent. There is no dominant conference. Come bowl season, don’t overvalue teams from the SEC, and in non-conference games, carefully scrutinize the individual teams without bias about where they come from.
It’s a tough year for big-name coaches
Coaches make a huge difference in college football, but to some degree, it seems that sportsbooks have caught up. The marquee names are not winning at the rate we expect, and certainly not cashing. Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes have beaten three bad teams, lost to Oklahoma, and are 1-3 against the number. Jimbo Fisher and Florida State have played twice and lost twice both SU and ATS. Jim Harbaugh is 4-0 straight up, but only 2-2 ATS.
It’s the same story for Saban: Alabama is 2-2 for their backers.
Three longtime favorites on the west coast — David Shaw at Stanford, Chris Peterson at Washington, and Mike Leach at Washington State are all 2-2 against the number, as well. In other words, bet the teams, not the coaches.
The little guys are leading to high ROI
While bettors aren’t earning much off big-name coaches at high-profile schools, the top mid-majors have been money-makers. Sportsbooks have a great handle on what action they are going to get, and how they need to manipulate the line on high-profile games. Less time is spent on contests that will capture fewer dollars. The best of the little guys (according to Sagarin) are Central Florida (2-0 straight up, 2-0 against the spread), Houston (2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS), South Florida (4-0 SU, 2-2 ATS), and San Diego State (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS).
It pays to dig a little bit deeper. This week, it is tempting to wager on Alabama hosting a floundering Ole Miss program. I’d prefer laying off that game, and pounding SMU at home laying less than three touchdowns against a dreadful UConn team.
Who’s best and worst ATS?
There are 13 teams that are perfect against the spread this year, with Duke and Utah leading the way among power conference teams at 4-0, and Texas Tech, Georgia Tech, and Iowa State at 3-0. Buffalo, SMU, and New Mexico State are all 4-0 from smaller leagues. Central Florida is absolutely crushing the number, beating the spread by an average of more than 29 points through two games (best in the nation), while Purdue is beating the number by 18 points per contest, while Mississippi State is at +16.
As for those struggling, 16 teams are winless for betting purposes, with Missouri and Oregon 0-4 among big schools. Charlotte, UTEP, BYU, Western Kentucky, Bowling Green, Temple, Troy, and Louisiana Lafayette are winless in four tries from the Group of 5 squads. By a big margin Oregon State and Missouri are at the rear, being outscored factoring in the spread by about 25 and 21 points respectively. Don’t bet any of these teams blindly, but take a second peak at each of their games.