2023 College Football Conference Championship Betting Trends

2023 College Football Conference Championship Betting Trends article feature image

Steph Chambers/Getty Images. Pictured: Oregon’s Troy Franklin catches a touchdown pass.

I don't put too much weight into against-the-spread trends, as most are usually just noise. Plus, betting markets will adjust to any identifiable profitable trends over time.

That said, I do find them interesting at the minimum for one-off unique events like conference championships in college football. Here's a quick summary of the ones I dug up to help you prepare for the weekend ahead.

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Lay of the Land

In all conference championships since 2005, underdogs have gone 66-60-3 (52.4% ATS), per Action Labs. True home and road underdogs have performed better at 25-17 (59.5%) than neutral site underdogs at 41-43-3 (48.8%), which I chalk up to primarily random noise.

Here are a few other underdog-related nuggets:

  • Underdogs catching more than 7 points: 29-27 ATS (51.8%)
  • Best conference underdogs: MAC (12-5-1, 70.6%)
  • Worst conference underdogs: ACC (7-11, 38.9%)

Also, unranked teams have enjoyed quite a bit of success ATS against ranked teams in conference title games, going 15-8 (65.2%) with an average cover margin of more than a touchdown per game. This year, SMU and New Mexico State fit that mold.

Lastly, with Troy set to host Appalachian State in the conference championship game, it's worth noting how poor Sun Belt teams have performed at home in league games over the past two decades.

Since 2005, they have gone just 319-414-8 (43.5%) ATS, failing to cover by 1.35 points per game. With a -15.6% ROI, that's the worst of any conference, with only the MAC in the same ballpark.

For what it's worth, Appalachian State has won four straight road Sun Belt games outright as a conference dog since 2014. The Mountaineers won those contests by an average margin of 16.5 points per game with an average spread of 10.6, including an upset over previously undefeated James Madison as a 10-point underdog earlier this month.

ATS Darlings

This weekend will feature a handful of the best teams against the number this season:

  • New Mexico State: 11-2 (6-1 as an underdog, covering 10 straight)
  • UNLV: 10-2 (5-0 as an underdog)
  • Oregon: 9-2-1
  • Miami (OH): 9-3

Those are four of the seven FBS teams with at least nine covers on the season.

The other three teams not playing this weekend include Arizona, Jacksonville State and San Jose State, which all barely just missed (if eligible) making it to their respective conference title game.

Liberty and Alabama weren't too far behind the group above at 8-4 ATS. Meanwhile, the worst ATS teams playing this weekend are Georgia (4-8) and Tulane (5-7).

Coming into the season, the Green Wave had been an ATM at home since Willie Fritz arrived in Uptown back in 2017, with a ridiculous 27-8 ATS (77.1%) mark. However, they went just 2-5 in 2023 against the number in Yulman Stadium, where they will host SMU on Saturday.

Seeking Revenge

Three matchups this weekend involve teams seeking revenge for a loss during the regular season:

  • New Mexico State at Liberty
  • Oregon vs. Washington
  • Miami (OH) vs. Toledo

So, do teams that lost the first clash have an edge the second time around in the conference title? Not from an against-the-spread perspective, as they've gone just 26-25.

However, 34 of the 51 (66.7%) teams improved their scoring margin in the second meeting by an average of 7.7 points.

That includes three underdogs that lost in OT — two of which didn’t cover.

I'd say the team that is more likely to make bigger adjustments after losing the first meeting holds a slight edge — although the market appears to generally price these spots efficiently. Look no further than the adjustment on the Oregon line against Washington.

A Rare Pup

Speaking of which, for more casual bettors, the line that may stick out the most this weekend is undefeated Washington nearly catching double-digits on a neutral field against an Oregon team it already beat earlier this season.

This is definitely a rare occurrence, as we've only seen two undefeated top-five teams getting more than a touchdown in a conference title game since 2005:

  • 2008: No. 1 undefeated Alabama +10 vs. Florida in SEC Championship (lost by 11)
  • 2020: No. 2 undefeated Notre Dame +11.5 vs. Clemson in ACC Championship (lost by 24)

Only the Clemson-Notre Dame game featured a regular-season rematch, but keep in mind Trevor Lawrence didn't play in the first meeting in South Bend.

washington state cougars vs washington huskies-odds-pick-prediction-apple cup-college football-november 25
Steph Chambers/Getty Images. Pictured: Washington's Michael Penix Jr.

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Total Madness

Since 2005, overs in conference championship games have gone 66-63-1 (51.2%). That's right around 50%, as you'd expect, especially with closing totals getting even more efficient later in the season and the market continuing to get sharper over time.

For what it's worth, the Mountain West and Big 12 have been the best under conference championships at 8-2 and 9-3, respectively.

Meanwhile, the SEC has treated over bettors the best at 13-4-1 with all of those premier athletes getting out on a fast track. Here are some other interesting total tidbits:

  • Totals of 45 points or lower have gone 9-1 to the over, which applies to Michigan-Iowa and Toledo-Miami (OH).
  • At 48 or lower, overs have gone 18-9, which could also bring Florida State-Louisville and SMU-Tulane into the mix, depending on where those two games close.
  • When 65 or higher, unders have gone 15-11 (57.7%), which applies to Washington-Oregon this week. The highest closing total (80) occurred in the 2017 AAC final when UCF beat Memphis, 62-55, in overtime.
  • Overs in indoor venues are 33-26-1 (56%) since 2005, going over by an average of 2.0 points per game, which is a touch higher than the upward dome adjustment I make. For reference, conferences that will play indoors this weekend include the Big Ten, Big 12, MAC, Pac-12 and SEC.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Iowa-Michigan total of 35.5, which would be the lowest ever in a conference championship game. Believe it or not, the lowest came back in the 2015 SEC title game when Alabama beat Florida, 29-15, to clear the closing total of 38.

The Hawkeyes have gone a whopping 40-19-1 (67.8%) to the under since 2019. Amazingly, nine of their 12 games this season failed to reach 35 combined points, including each of the past seven, which have averaged fewer than 24 points per game.

Iowa actually became the first team since 2000 to win more than four games while averaging fewer than 250 yards per game. It somehow won 10 while averaging 247 yards per game — nearly 25 yards less than the next-worst offense in Kent State.

As you may have guessed, Iowa was one of the best under teams in the country at 10-2, going under by an average of 4.6 points per game.

Tulane actually had the same under record (10-2) with a better average margin of 7.5; only UCLA (the only other 10-2 under squad) had a higher margin at a sky-high 11.1.

New Mexico State and Texas also treated under bettors well at 9-4 and 8-4, respectively, Meanwhile, Alabama finished as one of the best over teams in the nation at 9-3 with Boise State not too far behind at 8-4.

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