Handicapping college football revenge games
Anyone listening to TV pundits will hear the term “revenge game” thrown around in college football as an automatic motivator for teams playing an opponent that beat them in their previous matchup. Granted, the revenge angle might be somewhat valuable, and coaches are sure to play it up for their teams, but I can tell you that in my 20+ years of experience in handicapping college football, there has been very little that I’ve been able to come up with in terms of reliability in using the revenge aspect for finding winners. In fact, I’ve always found it to be more team specific and more pertinent in certain situations. That said, last year I did a deep dive in studying it and found some pertinent material that would be of use to bettors. As such, in prepping for the 2023 season, I figured it would be prudent to update & re-release the info for full-season usage.
The specific revenge aspect I wanted to study was recent losses, as I think the motivation for avenging a defeat dissipates over time. Therefore, the only games I consider to be “revenge games” are those that a team lost to an opponent that season, or in the previous season. Anything beyond that means nothing as far as I’m concerned. With that in mind, I prepared my database to go back and look at all of the FBS revenge games over the last seven seasons. In other words, since the start of the 2016 campaign. I figured this would give a big enough sample size, even for the teams that lose only a game or two per season on average. My database sample size ended up being 3,317 games.
As a summary of what I found out in looking at these 2,894 games since 2016, teams in revenge mode have gone just 1298-2019 (39.1%) SU and 1664-1588-65 ATS (51.6%). Now clearly this isn’t an obvious strategy of any sort, as the teams in revenge are typically the lesser teams so they lose more games outright, and the point spread advantage is minor. My first thoughts that come to find are that better teams are probably better in revenge, and vice versa. I’ll look more closely at all of that later when I reveal eight different revenge betting systems that have worked fairly well in recent years, but for now, let’s look specifically at the team-by-team revenge records, sorted in order of ATS records:
VIEW COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAM REVENGE RECORDS
In looking closely at the chart of the FBS teams in revenge recently, one thing does become quite obvious right off the bat. Some of the better programs in recent years have sported the best revenge records. Clemson and Georgia are obvious powers with relatively few revenge chances. The Bulldogs were, of course, undefeated last year, so any talk of revenge is moot with them. The Tigers have revenge spots against Notre Dame and South Carolina in 2023. Meanwhile, up until last season, Wisconsin was a very consistent program that was disciplined and won games by playing its brand of football. We’ll see if that changes under new head coach Luke Fickell. If you’re wondering, Wisconsin has revenge spots against Washington State, Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota this season.
Among the worst teams in the country in terms of revenge, you will find the Ohio State Buckeyes, albeit it is a very small sample size of four games as OSU rarely loses. Head coach Ryan Day’s team will have revenge on its in mind when it travels to Michigan for the season finale.
There are some other noteworthy teams on the bottom end of the revenge list, including programs like Appalachian State, Cincinnati, Marshall, and SEC reps Ole Miss and Tennessee.
Of the truly dreadful teams that rarely deserve your betting consideration, UMass has demonstrated little ability to avenge defeats, going 1-16 SU and 5-12 ATS in their last 17 revenge games. New Mexico has also struggled horribly, going 6-30 SU & 12-22-2 ATS in their last 36 revenge tries. Both teams will have plenty of revenge opportunities this fall.
Look for your favorite teams to bet on or against from the list and use these findings to help confirm your thoughts.
Nationwide Revenge Betting Systems
One of the first things you’re going to want to understand is there consistently has been less of a point spread covering rate in revenge games at home over the last seven seasons. This would be against any type of logical thinking. Here are the records by location for teams seeking revenge in games since 2016:
At Home: 805-960 SU and 862-868-35 ATS (49.8%)
In Neutral games: 40-53 SU and 56-36-1 ATS (60.9%)
On the Road: 453-1005 SU and 746-683-29 ATS (52.2%)
As you can see, there is nearly a 3% advantage against the spread from simply taking revenge teams playing on the road as compared to at home. The edge for backing neutral teams is over 11% higher. That leads us to our first revenge system. Digging deeper on the neutral field angle:
Neutral-field underdogs are great in revenge
- Since the start of the 2016 season, neutral-field underdogs playing in revenge mode have gone 40-23 ATS (63.5%).
Oftentimes, these are teams playing in either conference championship games or bowl games. Sometimes they can be neutral field games because they are key rivalries. In all three cases, the underdogs are usually sound teams that are motivated by both the revenge aspect and being underdogs.
Other revenge line range angles that have thrived
- Teams playing as huge underdogs at home in revenge games have been almost automatic covers, as those catching 30 points or more have gone 1-19 SU but 16-4 ATS (80%) in their last 20 tries.
Whether it be the motivation of revenge, the fear of getting embarrassed at home, or perhaps even the compassion of the far better road opponent, these revenge-minded home dogs just compete better than expected. You have to figure that most of these revenge games are conference games, and there aren’t many cases where I could warrant laying 30+ points with a road team in conference play.
- Double-digit road favorites have been solid producers in the revenge role, going 44-32 ATS (57.9%) since 2016.
What teams wind up being double-digit road favorites in college football revenge games? Considering most of these games are conference games, it’s usually only the best teams in the country. Add the fuel of revenge motivation, and you usually see decisive victories.
Revenge teams that lost as double-digit favorites last time out
- Teams looking to avenge outright losses where they were double-digit favorites have struggled, going just 83-106 ATS (43.9%) since 2016.
This system goes against the assumed logic that better teams would be better in revenge. They were double-digit favorites the last time out against an opponent but still lost outright.
Current won-lost records are a good indicator of revenge chances
- College football teams seeking revenge and having at least four more wins on the season than their opponent have been very successful, going 83-14 SU and 65-28-4 ATS (69.9%) since 2016.
The important thing to recognize in this system is that this is the here and now. The current team seeking revenge is having a much better season than the opponent they lost to the prior season. That is a perfect time to get revenge.
Key stats of the team seeking revenge matter
- Better defensive teams are more successful in exacting revenge than prolific offense. Since the start of the 2016 season, teams allowing 24 PPG or less have gone 565-510 ATS (52.6%) as compared to those scoring 35 PPG or more, 354-383 ATS (48%).
These records don’t seem very definitive in comparison to those in the systems I’ve already detailed, but the point spread variation between good defense and good offense is over 5% and anyone in sports betting knows that every percentage point can be the difference in winning or losing. Shutting opponents down is a more essential ingredient to gaining revenge.
Revenge is sweet against porous defensive foes
- Teams seeking revenge against a team that is currently allowing 35 PPG or more have been very successful, going 201-150 ATS (57.3%) since 2016.
This one is pretty straightforward. For whatever reason, Team A lost to Team B last time out, most likely unexpectedly. For the current game, Team B is really struggling defensively. This is an ideal time to be seeking revenge, and most often these teams win and cover.
Hopefully, this team records list and the system concepts I’ve introduced will help you navigate the college football season when it comes to handicapping revenge games.