College Football: Home Dogs and Betting Against the Public (2003-2008)

The “Dog Days of August” mean that it’s almost time for College Football! is pleased to present this year’s update on the College Football marketplace.  Like last year, we’ll look at how college football dogs — and home dogs, in particular — fared over the recent past.  We also updated our charts to show how Betting Against the Public can be used to improve “Home Dog” performance.  Our research has been updated to include the 2008 season.  SportsInsights’ exclusive betting percentages for college football include five seasons’ worth of data — and about 7,000 college football games.

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College Football Dogs and Home Dogs

Bettors often talk about underdogs.  How have dogs done over the past few years in college football?  And what about “home dogs?”  Table 1 shows the results contained in our database since 1998.  We purposely show results over individual years to highlight how performance can jump around — even over entire seasons.

Table 1 – College Football Dogs and Home Dogs

Period Dogs Home Dogs
1998-2008 50.4% 51.7%
2001 52.4% 49.3%
2002 50.2% 50.0%
2003 48.3% 51.4%
2004 52.1% 60.2%
2005 51.4% 50.7%
2006 51.0% 48.7%
2007 50.6% 51.3%
2008 48.8% 48.0%
Since SIs Betting Percentages Available
Last 6 Years (2003-2008)
50.3% 51.7%

Here are some key “takeaways” from the chart:

  • The results continue to validate previous academic research — that there is a bias towards underdogs, and in particular, home dogs.
  • The results show that although there is a bias, the sports marketplace is relatively efficient, so that the vig is difficult to overcome.
  • Performance can fluctuate dramatically.  Similar to the investment world, past performance is not necessarily an indication of future results.
  • In this article, we highlighted all 2003-2008 periods in yellow to make comparison amongst the various approaches and tables easier to read.  SportsInsights’ betting percentages are available starting in 2003.

Home Dogs Getting Points

Table 2 shows the performance of Home Dogs receiving a given amount of points.

Table 2: College Football Home Dogs Receiving X Points

Period 0.5 or More Pts 3 or More 7 or More 14 or More
2003-2008 51.7% 51.5% 52.4% 52.1%
2003 51.4% 52.7% 52.8% 51.0%
2004 60.2% 58.0% 61.2% 57.4%
2005 50.7% 49.1% 45.9% 46.2%
2006 48.7% 50.0% 49.6% 56.8%
2007 51.3% 51.6% 54.3% 53.8%
2008 48.8% 50.2% 48.4% 46.0%

Betting Against the Public — on Home Dogs

Last year, we saw that combining “Betting Against the Public” with betting on “Home Dogs” — was a profitable betting strategy.  We updated this information to include the 2008 season and present the results in Table 2’s format for comparison purposes.  As you can see, 2008 was a bad year for “Betting Against the Public.”  Betting on Home Dogs Against the Public (at the 30% level) resulted in just a 42% winning percentage at various point spreads in 2008.  This means that the Betting Public won at a rate of about 58% betting on Visiting Favorites!  This dragged down the cumulative average for Betting Against the Public to an underperformer (green row in the chart below).  Note that prior to 2008, Betting Against the Public consistently added value to betting on Home Dogs (rows highlighted yellow in the charts).

Thus, 2008 was a bad year for “Betting Against the Public” in college football.  We have seen this happen in other sports before.  The biggest example is the 2005 NFL Season, which the sports betting industry labeled “The Year of the Favorites.”  The following NFL Season (2006) was a great year for SportsInsights’ contrarian sports investing methods.  Will “Betting Against the Public” have a banner year for the 2009 College Football Season?  Only time will tell, but we like our chances, based on tens of thousands of games over six years worth of data — across all major US sports.

Table 3: College Football Home Dogs and Betting Against the Public (30% Level)

Period 0.5 or More Pts 3 or More 7 or More 14 or More
2003-2007 54.6% 53.6% 53.7% 53.8%
2003-2008 50.9% 50.5% 50.3% 52.0%
2003 60.0% 58.7% 58.5% 53.1%
2004 60.6% 58.8% 59.3% 56.8%
2005 51.0% 48.3% 47.6% 53.1%
2006 50.0% 50.0% 50.6% 56.8%
2007 54.3% 54.5% 54.9% 50.0%
2008 42.0% 43.6% 42.1% 41.9%

Number of Bets and Big Games

In 2008, College Football Square Plays did reasonably well compared to the “Bet Against” results shown above.  Our industry contacts and analytical tools allowed us to focus on “bigger games” with national focus — leading to more contrarian value.  One indicator that our SportsInsights researchers use as a proxy for “bigger games” is the Number of Bets that we compile for every game.  If the game is one of the more heavily-bet games of the day, you know that the Public is betting that game big.  The games with the larger Number of Bets tend to have more contrarian value as we mentioned in this previous article.’s Square Plays and Other Tools

Using SportsInsight’s “betting percentages” in conjunction with other indicators to obtain value can be a powerful addition to your sports handicapping.  Although 2008 was an “off year” for plain vanilla “betting against the Public” — SportsInsight’s Square Plays enjoyed its sixth consecutive profitable year in College Football.  In addition to Square Plays, Premium Pro Members have access to SportsInsight’s innovative sports investing tools such our Best Bet summary, our Smart Money Analysis by sportsbook, and Steam Play triggers.

We do not guarantee that the trends and biases we’ve found will continue to exist. It is impossible to predict the future. Any serious academic research in the field of “market efficiencies” recognizes that inefficiencies may disappear over time. Once inefficiencies are discovered, it is only a matter of time before the market corrects itself.