What do East Carolina, Boston College, Houston, Washington State and Navy have in common? Besides playing their season openers on Saturday, each also faces an opponent that already has a game under its belt.
This seems inherently unfair as coaches will tell you there is no substitute for game experience.
One game might not seem like much of an advantage, but players and coaches learn a lot. New starters gain valuable reps, returning players knock off the rust and coaches have a chance to make adjustments.
If game experience is as valuable as we think, bettors should have an edge wagering on teams playing their second game against an opponent playing its first.
However, according to Bet Labs, teams in this situation are 102-134-4 (43.2%) ATS since 2005.
What gives? Perhaps casual bettors overvalue game experience and oddsmakers inflate the lines for teams that have already played this season.
Or teams playing their second game are at a disadvantage having to prepare for two opponents in the span of a week while the team making its season debut has the entire offseason to get ready.
The edge is wagering on the team in its season opener.
Teams playing their first game against an opponent in its second have gone 134-102-4 (56.8%) ATS since 2005. A $100 bettor would have returned a profit of $2,346 wagering on programs in this situation.
Betting on the team playing its first game has been a consistent winner, too. Gamblers following this system have been profitable in nine of the last 10 years.
Out of curiosity, I checked how teams playing their first game performed as favorites, at home or on neutral fields and in various other scenarios. Here are the results:
If you buy that game experience is overvalued, there are five matchups Saturday you’ll want to bet.
- Houston (-26) at Rice (12 p.m. ET)
- Boston College (-17.5) vs. Massachusetts (1 p.m. ET)
- Washington State (-2) at Wyoming (3:30 p.m. ET)
- East Carolina (no line yet) vs. North Carolina A&T (6 p.m. ET)
- Navy (-10) at Hawaii (11 p.m. ET)