2014 College Football: Bowl Game Trends

The 2014-15 College Football bowl season is right around the corner, and the entire sports-loving nation is getting excited for the first ever playoff. The action kicks off on Saturday, December 20th with five low-level bowl games and wraps up on Monday, January 12th when the winner of Florida State/Oregon faces the winner of Ohio State/Alabama in the National Championship.

With 39 bowl games scheduled to be played in roughly a three week span this can be an overwhelming time for bettors, but we’ve got you covered with some of the most interesting and profitable bowl game trends over the past decade.

Looking at some basic filters in Bet Labs, we quickly found that favorites have had a slight edge during bowl season with a 191-188 ATS record. When we focus on large dogs (defined as favorites of 14.5+ points), that record improves to 14-9. However, at the time of publication only Stanford (-14.5 vs. Maryland) fits this criteria.

Over the past few years we have published a number of articles explaining how ranked teams are typically overrated by bettors, which can create excellent opportunity for sharp bettors. Square bettors will frequently put too much stock into these rankings despite the fact that many voters are not watching every game and are far less informed than their oddsmaker counterparts. This trend is magnified during bowl season with unranked teams holding a 39-25 ATS record (+11.91 units, 18.6% ROI) against ranked teams.

We’ve also repeatedly mentioned that underdogs perform bettors in games with low totals while favorites perform better in games with high totals. This trend continues during Bowl season as favorites have gone 88-63 ATS in games with a total of at least 56, while underdogs have gone 78-66 ATS in games with totals of less than 51.

Conference ATS Record Units Won ROI
SEC 46-34 +10.90 13.6%
Sun Belt 23-18 +3.78 19.7%
Pac-12 31-27 +2.73 4.7%
American Athletic 3-2 +0.87 17.4%
Mountain West 23-21 +0.78 1.8%
Independent 10-9 +0.45 2.4%
Conference USA 26-25 -0.70 -1.4%
ACC 37-36 -1.36 -1.9%
WAC 13-15 -3.09 -11.1%
BIg Ten 32-35 -4.78 -7.1%
Big 12 30-41 -12.59 -17.7%
MAC 11-26 -15.51 -41.9%

The folks over at ESPN have taken some flak over the course of the season for consistently promoting the SEC as the nation’s top conference; however, our research indicates that their opinions are fully justified (For those who are interested, the now defunct Big East conference posted a 23-18 ATS record with +3.78 units won and a 9.2% ROI).

Oddsmakers believe that the SEC is the strongest, proven by the odds on the following prop bet that CRIS has posted this bowl season:

SEC (-5.5) vs. ACC

SEC (-5) vs. Big Ten

ACC (-0.5) vs. Big Ten

Pac-12 (-1.5) vs. Big 12

Pac-12 (-4) vs. MWest

Despite having 10 teams from the conference compete in a bowl game, the Big Ten is an underdog in every single one, and receiving <50% of spread bets in 9 of the 10 games (Ohio State the only Big Ten team receiving >50% of public bets at time of publication).

During bowl season, games are traditionally more evenly bet by the public. In fact, no team has ever received less than 20% of spread bets in a bowl game. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t value to betting against the public, it simply means we need to adjust our parameters slightly. The table below displays the value of contrarian betting at three key data points.

Public Betting ATS Record Units Won ROI
<49% 187-183 -6.46 -1.7%
<40% 117-101 +9.05 4.2%
<35% 71-58 +8.89 6.9%

It’s quite interesting to note that the Florida State/Oregon game is currently receiving 10,747 bets — nearly twice as many as the second most popular game (Ohio State/Alabama with 5,811 bets). The highest number of bets for a non-playoff game is currently Ole Miss/TCU with 2,295 bets. The list below displays the most popular bowl games for bettors dating back to 2005.

  1. 1/8/2009: Florida vs. Oklahoma
  2. 1/7/2013: Alabama vs. Notre Dame
  3. 1/7/2010: Texas vs. Alabama
  4. 1/5/2009: Ohio State vs. Texas
  5. 1/10/2011: Oregon vs. Auburn
  6. 1/6/2014: Auburn vs. Florida State
  7. 1/1/2009: Penn State vs. USC
  8. 1/1/2011: TCU vs. Wisconsin
  9. 1/2/2009: Utah vs. Alabama
  10. 1/1/2010: Ohio State vs. Oregon

Bettors can view the latest odds and public betting trends on our free College Football odds page, so make sure to check back throughout bowl season.

Which teams do you like during bowl season? Is anybody being undervalued? Is it surprising that all 10 Big Ten teams in a bowl are underdogs?Please leave your thoughts in the section below.

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David Solar

David Solar has been the Content Manager at Sports Insights for over four years. He specializes in sports betting analytics and has created several popular data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

2 Comments Permalink
2 comments on “2014 College Football: Bowl Game Trends
  1. When you state underdogs are 39-25 ATS vs ranked teams, I have two questions: 1) what ranking system? AP, coaches, or selection committee? 2) does that record use the same system from the linked blog post, or is it just a basic unranked vs ranked filter?

    • 1) We’re using the AP rank prior to the game being played
      2) This is a different system than we’ve previously discussed. Here we’re just looking at any unranked vs ranked team during the postseason.

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