CFB Betting Tip: How to Approach Ranked Teams on Losing Streaks

CFB Betting Tip: How to Approach Ranked Teams on Losing Streaks article feature image
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Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley

  • Iowa has lost back-to-back games, but remains in the AP Top 25.
  • Using Bet Labs, we analyze how ranked college football teams perform on losing streaks.

Iowa started the season 4-0, outscoring its opponents 134-34. The Hawkeyes climbed as high as No. 14 in the AP Poll and looked like contenders in the Big Ten.

Then Iowa’s offense went missing. In the past two weeks, Kirk Ferentz’s team went more than seven quarters without a touchdown. The scoring drought led to a 10-3 loss to Michigan and a 17-12 defeat against Penn State.


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Combined, the Wolverines and Nittany Lions are 11-1, so there is no shame in losing to a pair of good teams. The pollsters understand this, and despite losing back-to-back contests, have left the Hawkeyes in the Top 25.

Two losses end any dreams Iowa had of playing in the College Football Playoff, but the season isn’t over. With games remaining against Wisconsin and undefeated Minnesota, the Hawkeyes could propel themselves back into the conversation for a New Year’s Six bowl invitation.

Iowa’s road to redemption begins Saturday (12 p.m. ET, ESPN2) with a home game against Purdue. Despite losing consecutive games, the oddsmakers list the Hawkeyes as 18-point favorites.

Iowa is a better team than Purdue, but can bettors trust the Hawkeyes to cover after dropping two in a row?

History says no. Since 2005, ranked teams have been overvalued after a loss. Top 25 teams that lost their previous game have gone 250-301-17 (45.4%) against the spread (ATS) the next week.

Bettors love wagering on ranked teams and like to believe good programs will bounce back after poor performances. Oddsmakers anticipate this reaction and will inflate the lines for these Top 25 squads.

Of the more than 10,000 regular season college football games in the Bet Labs database, only 55 have featured a ranked team on a losing streak. Squads like Iowa, still in the Top 25 of the AP Poll following consecutive losses, have been bad bets, going 19-35-1 ATS in their next game.

A 55-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 against the spread after a loss.

This creates an opportunity for contrarian gamblers. It is smart to fade ranked teams on a losing streak.

History is against Iowa covering on Saturday. So are The Action Network power rankings. According to our ratings, Iowa will win by 15.8 points, suggesting the line is inflated.

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