How to Bet Against Ranked College Football Teams Early in the Season

How to Bet Against Ranked College Football Teams Early in the Season article feature image

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Sam Ehlinger

  • College football's AP Top 25 Poll influences the betting habits of recreational gamblers.
  • Using Bet Labs, we share the optimal strategy for wagering on ranked teams early in the season.

The preseason AP Top 25 Poll came out on Monday.

A panel of 62 sports writers and broadcasters from around the country have installed the Clemson Tigers as the No. 1 team in the nation. After the defending champions, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State round out the top 5.

You didn’t need these rankings to know Clemson and Alabama were good. However, it is important to remember the immense influence the AP Poll has on recreational bettors.

According to Bet Labs, there have been 2,984 regular season games between ranked and unranked teams since 2005. The ranked team has received a majority of spread tickets in 2,691 of 2,984 (90.2%) of the matchups.

The data shows that if a team is ranked, the public will bet them. This has led to value on unranked programs.

Since 2005, unranked teams are 1,513-1,422-49 (51.6%) against the spread (ATS) when playing a Top 25 opponent. Unranked teams have an edge and the optimal time to wager on them is early in the season.

Early in the season, there are discrepancies between the AP Poll and betting markets. For example, LSU is No. 6 in the nation but the Tigers are +5000 (at FanDuel) to win the national title, tied for the 10th best odds. As the season progresses, the polls begin to match the futures market and the value of fading top ranked teams starts to diminish.

There are other factors we can consider to further exploit this trend:

  • Conference matchups: 236-194-9 (54.9%) ATS
  • Unranked team made a bowl game the previous season: 289-233-9 (55.4%) ATS

In conference games, the opponents are more familiar with each other’s playing calling and tendencies, which can limit the advantage of the ranked team. Playing in a bowl game the previous season is an indication of a fairly talented and well coached squad, which can give the unranked team more of an edge.

Since 2005, unranked teams that played in a bowl game the previous season and are facing a Top 25 conference opponent have gone 122-86-4 (58.7%) ATS early in the season.

It is never wise to blindly follow a betting trend. Additional handicapping is required but it can get you started in the right direction.

With that said, two games are matches for this strategy in Week 1 of the 2019 season.

  • Georgia Tech (+35.5) at No. 1 Clemson (8 p.m. ET, Thursday, Aug. 29)
  • Vanderbilt (+21) vs. No. 3 Georgia (7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 31)

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