Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports, Pictured: Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley
- College football bettors should be wary of betting on ranked teams on losing streaks, like Penn State this week against Indiana (3:30 p.m. ET)
- Using our Bet Labs software, we analyze how bettors can take advantage of these situations.
Last season, Penn State started 7-0 and climbed to No. 2 in the AP Poll before losing to Ohio State and Michigan State in consecutive weeks.
Fast forward one year and history has repeated itself. The Nittany Lions, ranked in the top 10 after an undefeated start, came up short against the Buckeyes and Spartans in back-to-back games.
Mark Dantonio’s team once again used a late score, a 25-yard touchdown from Brian Lewerke to Felton Davis with 19 seconds left, to hand Penn State a second straight loss.
The losses for James Franklin’s team, by a combined five points, are painful as Penn State held fourth-quarter leads in both games. Two losses all but knock the Nittany Lions out of the College Football Playoff race, but the season isn’t over.
Last season, Penn State rallied to win its final four games, including a 35-28 defeat of No. 11 Washington in the Fiesta Bowl. If PSU runs the table, wins over ranked Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin squads could be enough to propel it back into the conversation for a New Year’s Six Bowl invitation.
The Lions’ road to redemption begins Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET) with a trip to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers.
Even though Penn State has lost consecutive games, the oddsmakers list the Nittany Lions as 14-point favorites.
Bookmakers aren’t the only ones high on Trace McSorley & Co. as the pollsters have dropped Penn State only 10 spots — from No. 8 to No. 18 — following back-to-back defeats.
Bettors don’t seem concerned as more than 60% of spread tickets (see live odds) are laying the points with the Lions.
This has created a rare betting opportunity for contrarian gamblers. Since 2005, ranked teams following a loss have been overvalued.
Top 25 teams that lost their previous game have gone 233-281-15 (45.3%) ATS the following week.
Bettors love wagering on ranked teams and believe good programs will bounce back after poor performances. Oddsmakers anticipate this reaction and will inflate lines for these Top 25 squads.
Of the more than 10,000 regular-season college football games in the Bet Labs database, only 51 have featured a ranked team on a losing streak.
Teams such as Penn State, still in the Top 25 of the AP Poll following consecutive losses, have gone 18-32-1 (36.0%) ATS in their following game.
A 51-game sample is small, especially considering the size of the college football database, but it does follow the larger trend of ranked teams performing poorly after a loss.
A season ago, Penn State was favored by 31 points against Rutgers after losing to Ohio State and Michigan State. The Nittany Lions outscored the Scarlet Knights, 21-0, in the second half to pull away for a 35-6 victory, but didn’t cover.