College Football Betting Tip: How to Bet Bad ATS Teams the Following Year
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Scottie Phillips
- Eight teams finished with three or fewer wins against the spread (ATS) in 2018.
- Using Bet Labs, we look at how last year's worst ATS teams have performed for bettors the next season.
Louisville got trucked by Alabama in last year’s season opener, 51-14. The game was never close as the Tide easily covered as 23-point favorites. The poor performance on the field and at the ticket window foreshadowed the Cardinals’ season, as they managed just two wins and were the worst team in college football against the spread (ATS), finishing 1-11.
Louisville wasn’t the only team to let down gamblers in 2018. According to Bet Labs, eight programs finished with three or fewer ATS wins.
Casual bettors aren’t quick to forget and may be tempted to fade these underperforming teams this fall, but history suggests bad ATS teams will bounce back for bettors.
From 2005 to 2017, there were 151 teams that covered the spread in three or fewer games. Here is how they performed the next season:
- 139 of the 151 teams (92.1%) improved ATS
- 84 of the 151 teams (55.6%) went .500 or better ATS
On average, teams won 3.1 more games ATS the season after covering three or fewer. A three-win improvement is impressive, though it would be unwise to blindly bet these teams to cover the next season. If you did you would still be down 69.58 units.
We can, however, narrow down our search to a few specific spots that suggest an opportunity to profit off one of 2018’s bad ATS teams in the coming season.
Games featuring Power Five teams are the most heavily bet in college football. So if casual bettors fade poor ATS teams from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC due to recency bias this would artificially inflate the lines, which would lead to value backing said bad teams.
Since 2005, there have been 75 teams from those conferences that finished with three or fewer ATS wins. The next season nearly every team improved at the ticket window:
- 73 of 75 teams (97.3%) improved ATS
- 46 of 75 teams (61.3%) went .500 or better ATS
On average, these teams from power conferences won 3.3 more games ATS the next season. A $100 bettor wagering on just bad ATS teams from the Power Five would still be slightly in the red, but down only $90.
As we continue narrowing down by seeking out heavily-bet games, we come to the SEC — the most popular conference in all of college football. There’s a good chance that on any given Saturday the most bet game on the board will feature a team from this conference.
Bad ATS teams from the SEC have bounced back the strongest historically. It is a small sample, but since 2005 there have been 19 teams from the Southeastern Conference that won three or fewer games ATS.
All 19 improved their ATS records 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 gone 123-104 (54.2%) ATS, winning 12.97 units.
So with that said, while bettors should expect any of 2018’s worst ATS teams to improve, history suggests that the team to keep the biggest eye on is Ole Miss — the only SEC team to cover three or fewer games last year.