One of the hardest things for any sports bettor is to consider how a team’s latest result might affect the team’s next performance. The media have a way of glorifying any good performance and exacerbating any negative games, and this clearly has an influence on the betting public. I’ve talked about this in the past as to how it affects the early-season action in both college and pro football, as for the most part, watching sports has become a “what have you done for me lately” world. The key is to recognize that there are certain results, and situations, that should be treated differently than others. These spots provide varying degrees of momentum, or alternatively, negative mojo, that will affect a team’s preparation level for the next game.
After digging through my college football database, looking specifically at the last 10-plus seasons of FBS football, I was able to uncover some specific situational records that bettors need to be weighing in their weekly handicapping. These are game-to-game systems that are based in foundational logic.
Some of the concepts I sought to uncover involved situations like letdowns, drastic changes in point spreads from week to week, big conference victories or losses, and even the degree by which a team won or lost a game. There are certain games throughout each team’s season that mean more than others, and the results of those games can lead to varying performance levels by teams as well as mixed reactions from oddsmakers. The combination of the two leads to betting opportunity. You’ll see this in week-to-week systems below.
Note that the data I have used covers FBS regular-season games since the start of the 2011 season through Week 4 of this season, unless noted.
1. College football teams coming off a massive blowout loss of 45 points or more have been bet-against teams in their next game, going 99-199 SU and 128-163-7 ATS (43.9 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: There’s an obvious hangover effect for getting pummeled by this degree. Confidence can’t possibly be high for the next game for these teams, and it’s virtually impossible for oddsmakers to measure a team’s self-worth. Note that Kansas, Louisiana-Monroe and Northwestern all lost by 45-plus last weekend.
2. Close losses of five points or fewer have had a tendency to galvanize teams for their next game. This group of teams has gone 745-668 SU and 715-661-37 (51.9 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: While 51.9 percent doesn’t seem to be much to go on, when you remove the matchups of teams where BOTH lost by five points or fewer, the percentage climbs to over 53 percent. That said, this angle does give bettors a bit of an edge if they are looking for a final determinative factor. Close losses are WAY better for teams than ugly ones.
3. College football teams coming off blowout wins of 35 points or more have been solid bets in their next game as well, going 863-426 SU and 667-589-33 ATS (53.1 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: There’s a certain level of confidence that is gained for teams when they blow out an opponent. This is another angle that is over 53 percent, and one that if you had been following for the last decade would have netted you a nice profit of nearly 20 units. For the record, there were 10 FBS teams that won games by 35 points or more last weekend.
4. Close wins of seven points or fewer haven’t had a major effect but are still over 51 percent against the spread, having gone 1246-1004 SU and 1124-1078-48 (51.1 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: This is an angle that if, again, you remove the games where both teams met the criteria, you would reach profitability. The bigger reason I point this one out, however, is that if you take away the blowout AND close wins, the rest of the teams that won by other margins a week ago are losing bets in the follow-up game. Blowout wins build confidence, close wins bring a team together. Both are motivating in different ways. Those in between aren’t as special.
5. College football teams that fell shy of their point spread the week prior by 30 points or more have struggled in the next outing, too, going 185-213 SU and 182-207-9 ATS (46.7 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: The teams that fell short of their point spread by margins of 30 points or more badly underperformed. It doesn’t mean specifically that they lost, just that they didn’t come to play as expected. This is a sign of teams that might be questioning themselves throughout the next week. Keep this in mind as you consider teams like Tulsa, Maryland, Missouri and Northwestern, all of which were unexpectedly routed last weekend.
6. College football teams that surpassed their point spread expectations the previous week by 30 points or more are also a losing wager, having gone 241-189 SU but 192-224-14 ATS (46.2 percent) in the follow-up game.
Steve’s thoughts: One game does not make a season. Teams coming off an unexpectedly good performance might be feeling a little “too good” about themselves. These teams also tend to get overpriced immediately by oddsmakers. As you can see, they still tend to win, they just don’t cover the next outing. The opposite group to be concerned with from No. 5 above includes Houston, Iowa, Tennessee and Nebraska in their next outings.
7. The degree by which a team’s point spread changes from week to week is also an effect. Teams whose point spread is 50 points or more worse than the prior week’s game are 18-135 SU but 88-63-2 ATS (58.3 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: This is the definition of an overreaction by oddsmakers. This would be valid in a case where a team went from a 30-point favorite in one week to a 20-point underdog in the next. Naturally, this has a lot to do with the opponents played, but still, think overreaction when you see this, or even more so, the oddsmakers really don’t have a good feel for that team yet.
8. When a college football team’s point spread changes by 50 points or more to the positive from one week to the next, they tend to struggle in beating that line, going 113-3 SU but 49-65-2 ATS (42.9 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: Either the opponent in the follow-up game is far inferior or the team whose line is that inflated played extremely well in its prior game AND/OR is badly overpriced now. Either way, this group of teams is not ready to assume its role as a much larger favorite than in the prior game.
9. Winning conference games by seven points or fewer can have a big impact on a team’s fortunes the next week. Look at this extraordinary breakdown by point spread in the follow-up game:
— If favored by 35 points or more: 25-0 SU but 7-18 ATS (28 percent)
— If underdog of 31 points or more: 1-13 SU but 13-1 ATS (92.9 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: These are obviously extreme circumstances, but they’ve been very definitive. Teams coming off a close conference loss now playing as huge favorites are in the bona fide “letdown” scenario. Teams off a close conference win and now a major underdog use that win as motivation for another strong performance.
10. College football teams coming off a win in a conference game that was expected to be tight (+ 7 to -7 line) and now with a point spread at least 17 points better than that previous game tend to let down, going 225-22 SU but 103-141-3 ATS (42.2 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: Again, another letdown scenario. The prior game was a big one for that team. This one they are expected to win a little more handily. In most cases, they tend to let off the gas a bit and come up short for bettors.
11. College football teams coming off a win in a conference game that was expected to be tight (+ 7 to -7 line) and they won by 8 points or more have also faced a massive letdown, having gone 138-11 SU but 57-91-1 ATS (38.5 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: It’s a good bet that the prior week’s game was a big one for the team, perhaps against a top rival, or one they had circled on the schedule. It’s hard for teams to get up that high emotionally in consecutive weeks, especially when the oddsmakers have set out against them.
12. College football teams coming off a conference blowout road win of 33 points or more have usually followed that up with another huge effort, going 174-49 SU and 133-89-1 ATS (59.9 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: As you will see from this system and the next, conference road wins can be a huge galvanizing factor. After a massive performance on the road in the prior game, these teams are brimming with confidence. Houston finds itself in this situation this week at Tulane.
13. College football teams coming off a road win in conference play and now playing a second straight conference road game have fared quite well, going 239-223 SU and 253-204-5 ATS (55.4 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: These teams proved they can win on the road in conference. They are well-prepared for a second straight similar task. Houston, Michigan, Virginia and Appalachian State are in this situation this week.
14. College football teams that beat their point spreads in a nonconference game by 37.5 points or more have really struggled in the follow-up game, going 22-40 SU and 21-40-1 ATS (34.4 percent)
Steve’s thoughts: This is an example of a team that coasted in the prior game and was not mentally tested. Being a nonconference game, it was probably also early in the season, when oddsmakers tend to radically overadjust.