2016 College Football Betting Against the Public Report

With summer winding down and the start of the football season looming, we are pleased to present the latest update on our college football betting against the public results. Our past research has conclusively proven that betting against the public will produce a positive return on investment, but the optimal threshold varies from sport to sport.

At Sports Insights, we track public betting percentages from seven major offshore sportsbooks: 5Dimes, BetDSI, BetUs, Carib, GTBets, SIA and Sportsbook.com. These betting trends reflect real bets placed by real bettors, as opposed to other websites that use “consensus” numbers. By including both sharp and square sportsbooks, our betting percentages give the most accurate indicators about which teams the public is backing, and which contrarian teams are providing value.

We’ve been tracking the most publically lopsided games since 2003. As you can see from the table below, this has been a consistently profitable strategy.

NCAAF Contrarian Plays

Year Record (ATS) Win Rate Units Won
2003-04 21-16 56.8% +5.0
2004-05 30-21 58.8% +9.0
2005-06 32-26 55.2% +6.0
2006-07 33-22 60.0% +11.0
2007-08 34-29 54.0% +4.9
2008-09 47-42 52.8% +0.8
2009-10 45-35 56.3% +6.4
2010-11 42-24 63.6% +14.8
2011-12 34-42 44.7% -10.7
2012-13 39-39 50.0% -2.8
2013-14 45-42 51.7% -0.8
2014-15 44-27 62.0% +13.2
2015-16 52-48 52.0% -0.1
All 498-413 54.66% +56.7

While it’s crucial to determine which side the public is taking, the number of bets on the game is equally important.

Although every NFL game receives a high volume of bets, the same does not hold true for college football games. Major conference rivalries draw significantly more action than matchups between two mid-majors and sportsbooks are more likely to shade their lines in games featuring at least one high-profile program — especially when they’re able to anticipate lopsided public betting.

Casual bettors love to bet favorites and sportsbooks understand this tendency. By shading their lines, books are able to force casual bettors into taking bad numbers when playing the popular side of the game. In fact, a majority of public bettors have taken the favorite in nearly 83% of the games in our database. It’s also worth pointing out that the home team has closed as the favorite in more than two-thirds of all games.

Past research found that home-field advantage has been vastly overrated, which has historically created value on visitors. Unfortunately, that edge can’t be applied to this contrarian strategy. The table below compares the results from betting against the public for home and road teams, with no consideration for the number of bets.

Home vs. Road Betting Against the Public Results

Betting Trends Home ATS Win Rate Road ATS Win Rate
<50% 1634-1779 47.9% 2230-2229 50.0%
<40% 1098-1210 47.6% 1568-1611 49.3%
<35% 868-911 48.8% 1188-1258 48.6%
<30% 606-640 48.6% 825-875 48.5%
<25% 365-381 48.9% 454-500 47.6%

These results are clearly woeful, but they highlight two things:

  1. Betting against the public is not an effective strategy unless you avoid small conference games with minimal public money.
  2. Home-field advantage has been overvalued, but the results improve incrementally in games with lopsided public betting.

By examining heavily bet games, the value derived from betting against the public, particularly on home teams, improves by leaps and bounds.

Home vs. Road Betting Against the Public Results (Heavily Bet)

Betting Trends Home ATS Win Rate Road ATS Win Rate
<50% 819-832 49.6% 736-688 51.7%
<40% 578-590 49.5% 481-474 50.4%
<35% 467-445 51.2% 348-355 49.5%
<30% 325-307 51.4% 214-248 46.3%
<25% 194-188 50.8% 104-135 43.5%

Comparing these two tables, it becomes quickly apparent that public bettors are far more likely to back visitors in heavily bet games whereas they overwhelmingly take home teams in games with minimal action.

In past versions of our betting against the public report, we stated that home underdogs had been particularly profitable when betting against the public. Although that may not appear to be true at first glance, crucial information is revealed when we take the number of bets into consideration. Since the start of the 2005 season, home underdogs have won at a 48.1% rate but that win rate improves when we focus on heavily bet games.

During the 2015-16 season, home underdogs went just 65-66 ATS (49.6%) in heavily bet games and 117-154 ATS (43.2%) overall. Once again, this highlights the importance of considering the number of bets when betting against the public on college football.

The table below displays the results from betting against the public during the 2015-16 season. By comparing heavily bet games (more bets tracked than the daily average) with smaller games (daily average or less), the significance of this statistic becomes painfully obvious.

2015-16 NCAAF Betting Against Results

Public Betting Big Games ATS Win Rate Small Games ATS Win Rate
<50% 172-154 52.8% 235-295 44.3%
<40% 105-93 53.0% 142-202 41.3%
<35% 77-68 53.1% 107-150 41.6%
<30% 45-42 51.7% 65-105 38.2%

Although betting against the public produced miserable results in games where we tracked fewer bets than the daily average, it was an effective strategy in heavily bet games. Oddsmakers are more likely to shade their lines in college football games than they are in NFL games, but that’s only the case in heavily bet games where they’re trying to mitigate risk and/or exploit public perception.

By the way, our friends at Bet Labs built their own NCAAF contrarian system. Check it out!

The number of bets statistic is included with a Sportsbook Insider membership, while the contrarian plays are available exclusively to Sportsbook Insider Pro subscribers. Sign up for Sportsbook Insider today and you’ll receive access to these valuable features in addition to steam moves, reverse line movement alerts, public betting trends, money percentages, our in-house Best Bet picks and live odds from over 50 sportsbooks.

Right now we’re running our best deal of the year and bettors can save 40% off for the football season! This promotion is only available for a short time and the sooner you sign up, the more you save.

Have any questions for the staff at Sports Insights? Utilize our live chat to speak with a customer service representative or e-mail us at help@sportsinsights.com.

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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.

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