College Football Betting Tips: 3 Profitable Strategies for Bowl Season

Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Taylor Cornelius (14) looks to pass against the Boise State Broncos during the first quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium.
College Football Betting Tips: 3 Profitable Strategies for Bowl Season

College football bowl season kicks off Saturday with five games and continues through the New Year. College football bettors are always excited at the opportunity to wager on a month’s worth of games, but handicapping 40 matchups that feature teams with varying levels of motivation is difficult.

Don’t worry, we’ve done all the hard work for you using the Bet Labs database. Whether you’re betting on the AutoNation Cure Bowl or the College Football Playoff, here are the betting strategies you need to know before making your picks.

Fade Ranked Teams

What do recreational bettors know about the Servpro First Responder Bowl between No. 25 Boise State and Boston College? Not much, other than the Broncos being ranked. Top 25 teams will receive a disproportionate number of bets from the public just because they are ranked.

In early betting (see live odds here) a majority of spread tickets are on Boise State. Oddsmakers know casual bettors will wager on Top 25 teams and inflate their lines accordingly.

In bowl games, betting against ranked teams has gone 165-155-3 (51.6%) against the spread (ATS) since 2005. It has been more profitable to fade ranked team when they face an unranked opponent: 49-39-1 (55.7%) ATS.

Games that match (based on the AP Poll):

  • Arizona State (+4) vs. No. 19 Fresno State – Dec. 15
  • Houston (+3) vs. No. 22 Army – Dec. 22
  • Boston College (+2.5) vs. No. 23 Boise State – Dec. 26
  • Northwestern (+7) vs. No. 20 Utah – Dec. 31
  • Oklahoma State (+7.5) vs. No. 24 Missouri – Dec. 31
  • NC State (+4.5) vs. No. 21 Texas A&M – Dec. 31
  • Iowa (+6.5) vs. No. 18 Mississippi State – Jan. 1

Bad ATS Teams Are Good Bets

Washington State (10-2 ATS), Georgia Southern (9-3 ATS) and Florida International (9-3 ATS) were three of eight teams to cover the spread in nine or more games this season. Each is receiving a majority of spread tickets in their respective bowl games.

Casual bettors remember the teams that consistently covered and chase those results. Unfortunately, teams that have covered the spread in 70% or more of their games have gone 53-66-2 (44.5%) ATS in the postseason.

Instead of wagering on teams that have covered, bettors should target bad ATS teams. Teams that have struggled to cash tickets during the regular season usually receive little public support, and that is a mistake. In bowl games, it has been profitable to bet on teams with a bad ATS record in the regular season.

This system is more profitable when the opponent has a .500 or better ATS record. Since 2005, bad ATS teams have gone 22-12-1 (64.7%) ATS when facing a team that has covered the spread in at least 50% of their games.

Games that match:

  • North Texas (4-8 ATS) +8.5 vs. Utah State (9-3 ATS) – Dec. 15
  • San Diego State (3-8 ATS) +3 vs. Ohio (7-5 ATS) – Dec. 19
  • Western Michigan (4-8 ATS) +12 vs. BYU (8-4 ATS) – Dec. 21
  • Wake Forest (4-8 ATS) +5 vs. Memphis (8-5 ATS) – Dec. 22
  • TCU (4-8 ATS) pick’em vs. Cal (6-5-1 ATS) – Dec. 26

Unpopular Underdogs

Casual fans like wagering on favorites. In bowls games, the chalk has received a majority of spread tickets in 351 of 463 (75.8%) games since 2005. Oddsmakers anticipate this and will shade the line leading to value on underdogs.

All underdogs have gone 239-218-6 (52.3%) ATS in bowl games since 2005 and dogs receiving less than 50% of bets have gone 187-160-4 (53.9%) ATS. In lopsided bet games, when the public loads up on a favorite, it has been even more profitable to wager on the underdog:

Since 2005, underdogs receiving less than 30% of spread tickets have covered the spread 64.8% of the time (35-19-1 ATS). Seven dogs are currently receiving less than 30% of bets this bowl season (get live percentages here).

Games that match:

  • Northern Illinois (+2.5) vs. UAB – Dec. 18
  • Houston (+3) vs. Army – Dec. 22
  • Minnesota (+3.5) vs. Georgia Tech – Dec. 26
  • Michigan State (+3) vs. Oregon – Dec. 31
  • Iowa (+6.5) vs. Mississippi State – Jan. 1
  • Kentucky (+6.5) vs. Penn State – Jan. 1
  • Texas (+11.5) vs. Georgia – Jan. 1

This article was originally posted on by John Ewing. Sports Insights is part of The Action Network.

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