Top-ranked Alabama started the season away from home playing Louisville in Orlando. No. 7 Auburn faced Washington in Atlanta in the only matchup of top 10 teams in Week 1. In a true road game, No. 12 Virginia Tech upset a ranked Florida State squad in Tallahassee.
Ten currently ranked teams kicked off the college football season on the road or in neutral-site games and combined, these programs went 7-3 against-the-spread.
After a strong start to the season, casual bettors are jumping back on each team’s bandwagon. And why not? Following road/neutral-site games, Alabama, Auburn, Boise State, Central Florida, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Washington and West Virginia will play their home opener this weekend.
Playing the second game of the season in friendly confines has its advantages — no travel, plus the support of fans. It is easy to see why the public would want to cash in one these programs, but are ranked teams good bets in Week 2 home openers?
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Since 2005, ranked teams that started the season on the road or played neutral-site games have gone 33-50-1 (40%) ATS in their first game back on campus. In the past 10 years, teams in this situation have been even worse: 24-47-1 (34%) ATS.
Why have Top 25 teams struggled in Week 2 home openers? My theory is that casual bettors overvalue ranked programs and home-field advantage.
Plus, oddsmakers are more likely to shade the lines for a Top 25 team after a win, which is most of the teams in our sample since they still have their ranking following the first game of the season. Nearly 90% of spread tickets are on Alabama in Week 2 against Arkansas State, after all.
Fading ranked teams in Week 2 home openers has been a profitable strategy. Since 2005, gamblers betting against teams in this scenario have gone 50-33-1 (60%) ATS. A $100 bettor would have returned a profit of $1,401.
It is not a big sample — that is expected considering our constraints. But the system has been consistent (profitable in eight of the last 10 years). If you are going to bet college football this weekend (and you are), bet against ranked teams playing home openers.
>> All odds as of Wednesday morning. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.
- Western Michigan (+28) at No. 21 Michigan
- William & Mary (no line) at No. 12 Virginia Tech
- Arkansas State (+36.5) at No. 1 Alabama
- North Dakota (no line) at No. 9 Washington
- Savannah State (no line) at No. 22 Miami
- Youngstown State (no line) at No. 14 West Virginia
- So. Carolina St (no line) at No. 19 UCF
- SE Louisiana (no line) at No. 11 LSU
- Alabama State (no line) at No. 7 Auburn
- Connecticut (+31) at No. 20 Boise State