4 Trends That Show College Football Bettors Don’t Trust Road Teams Enough
Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Baylor vs. Oklahoma State, 2019
- There are some common misconceptions about the value of road teams in college football.
- Here are four examples of why they should elicit more trust from bettors.
There’s some value to home-field advantage in every sports, but in college football, it seems to be an even bigger talking point.
The roaring crowds. The stadium color-outs. The opposition getting rattled because, after all, they’re just 18- to 21-year-old kids playing in difficult environments.
We have an inherent belief as bettors and fans that it’s really hard to win on the road. And it is! But not as hard as we think.
Over a large sample, the data tells us that home teams are overvalued in many different ways.
No matter the bet type, time period or situation, you’re much better off placing blind faith in road teams. And you need to eliminate the bias that it’s hard to win on the road.
Here are four examples that prove it, using our historical line data and public betting percentages since 2005 at Bet Labs.
1. Home Underdogs Are Overvalued
They’re overvalued both against the spread and on the moneyline.
We covered it in-depth this preseason, but conventional wisdom tells bettors that a raucous crowd can propel a scrappy, less-talented underdog to victory. That’s just not the case.
Let’s take moneyline underdogs when the spread is two touchdowns or less — so it’s somewhat reasonable to expect a straight-up upset.
Road dogs in this spot have been much more profitable.
Yet a home dog gets the majority of moneyline bets in 61% of games compared to just 47% for road dogs in the exact same scenario.
Bettors just don’t want to back road teams to pull off upsets, despite evidence that it’s slightly more common and much more profitable.
2. Just … Teams Against the Spread
It doesn’t get much simpler than this.
Road teams have covered 51.2% of all college football games against the spread since 2005.
Blindly betting road teams over an 11,000-game sample would have resulted in just a small loss that can mostly be attributed to the juice taken by sportsbooks.
And yet, road teams have gotten the majority of bets in just 43% of all the games we’ve tracked.
3. Road Favorites
Someone may have told you that “sharp” bettors don’t lay points with road favorites, but that someone was wrong.
Blindly betting every road favorite since 2005 would have made you a small amount of money. And of course, you would have lost money on those home dogs. Lot’s of it.
And, you guessed it, home favorites get the majority of money in almost 80% of games.
But that’s probably why the dogs are undervalued, so we’ll keep it our little secret.
4. In Close Games, Don’t Take the Points
You’ve probably been trained to play it safe and take the points with an underdog around a field goal. In the NFL, sure. Makes sense since the margins are so tight.
But in college football, taking a small underdog on the moneyline instead has been a much better idea than taking the points.
And it works so much better when that underdog is on the road.
The positive ROI isn’t that surprising. The crazy part is that small road dogs win 47.7% of games, while small home dogs win about 40%. That’s a huge difference.
The 5-6 point swing the market awards to the home team in these tight games (since the home team gets 2-3 points for being at home, and the road team doesn’t) has basically been worthless.
OK, There Are Some Contrasting Scenarios…
With millions of data points in our Bet Labs system, you can surely find spots where it’s a good idea to back home teams.
But to me, they’re all “fitted” systems that can be designed to tell you anything you want to hear.
Here are a few examples where home teams are more profitable:
- Ranked team vs. ranked team: Home teams have been more profitable here.
- In games with super-high totals: For whatever reason, road teams aren’t as good of bets when lots of points are expected.
- Big moneylines: It’s not profitable to back road teams of more than three touchdowns to pull off straight-up upsets (though it’s not a good idea to back home teams, either).
I’m certainly not advocating to never bet on a home team; they cover 48.8% of the time. But you should have a lot more faith in road teams, because a lot of bettors don’t.