MAC ATS Trends for College Football
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 07/24/2008
For years recreational bettors have stuck mainly to the BCS conferences and marquee matchups when placing a wager at the ticket window. The mid-majors and smaller conferences were areas where only the professional bettors chose to dabble, since the lines are generally not considered strong due to low handle and lack of widespread handicapping information. However, more casual bettors are paying attention to these smaller conferences and schools, mainly because they have become a mid-week fixture on national cable TV broadcasts. The squares, bless their hearts, will bet any game being shown on the boob tube.
Due to these made-for-TV ESPN telecasts throughout the week, square bettors are starting to become familiar with the lower conferences. However, once the weekend comes they are back to the Notre Dames, the Michigans and the Ohio States. Savvy handicappers, on the other hand, take the knowledge acquired from the weekday matchups they watch on television and ply them to their weekend trade. Value can be had with these mid-major matchups on Saturday afternoon just as they can on Tuesday night.
Today we take a look at the Mid-American Conference. Besides just producing some of the top NFL quarterbacks in the league right now, the conference also boasts 13 teams and tons of conference matchups throughout the season. Since familiarity is the key to success at the betting window, I will look at some of the recent against the spread numbers for MAC teams:
In the East division no team really sticks out as effective ATS, although one sticks out as just abysmal ATS in the last three seasons. Kent State is 11-20 ATS since 2005, including a dreadful 2-9 ATS campaign last season that included a 1-9 ATS stretch after covering in the opening week. The first three games on the board for Kent State this season are all on the road, where they have gone 1-5 ATS the spread on the last six trips.
Buffalo is a team that has had success against Kent State going 5-1 ATS the last six meetings with them. Bowling Green, at 14-20 ATS the last three seasons, is coming off a 7-4 ATS season in 2007. Ohio, Temple and Buffalo are all over .500 ATS the last three years with Akron and Miami (OH) the other under .500 teams.
The bookmakers will be making Akron big dogs all year as they enter the season with a depleted defense that returns only five starters. Maybe that's a good thing, though, considering the defense allowed a team to score 35 points on six occasions last season. The Zips will try their hand again this year against some big schools on the road. Last year they kept things close against Ohio State in a 20-2 loss where they were four touchdown underdogs. However, they failed to cover another non-conference line the rest of the season. This year they open the season with road trips to Wisconsin and Syracuse.
Both Bowling Green and Kent State have had an easy time covering against Ohio. The Bobcats are 1-8 ATS against bowling green and 1-4 ATS against Kent State the last five games. The 'over' was 8-3 in Bobcat games last season with most games reaching into the sixties and seventies. Temple stayed 'under' in nine of its 12 games last season. Expect Penn State to be laying another boatload of points when it hosts Temple on Sept. 20 but the Owls have failed to cover in five out of its last six trips to Happy Valley including a 31-0 beating last year with a line of 25.5.
Miami (OH) 16-20
Bowling Green 14-20
Kent State 11-22
Other notes from the East
* Buffalo has not covered an opening week game since 2004
* Kent St. sandwiched a 6-6 ATS record between campaigns of 3-7 and 2-9
* Miami (OH) went 4-0 when they were touchdown or more underdogs last season. They will be in that situation early on with road trips to Michigan and Cincinnati.
In the West a few teams stand head and shoulders above the rest of the MAC. Central Michigan (25-9-2 ATS) and Ball State (22-12 ATS) rank in the top of the entire NCAA ATS the last three seasons. No other team in the division is winning money over the last three years with Eastern Michigan (17-17 ATS) coming the closest.
Dan LeFevour, well known even for a MAC player, is back for Central Michigan as the leading returning rusher and passer. The only teams Central Michigan has not had ATS success against have been Northern Illinois (0-5) and Western Michigan (1-4-1).
After going 3-7 against the number in 2004, Central Michigan began a tear over the last three years including an incredibly profitable 12-2 2006-07 year. Under new coach Butch Jones last year they were still making money at 7-4-2. Ball State also experienced a losing season ATS in 2004-05 (5-6) but they turned in three consistent years of profitability with marks of 7-4, 8-3 and 7-5.
Being at home in September has been profitable for Ball State backers (6-1 ATS) as has being on the road in October (7-2 ATS). Beware of high totals when taking Ball State as three of its four ATS losses came in high scoring games.
Toledo, a very popular Tuesday night fixture, has the second lowest mark in the entire conference at 13-20. They were 4-7 against the number last year. Steer clear of Toledo this year as they failed to cover in any of their five road games last season. They open the season with back-to-back road tilts. Northern Illinois (15-18-1) and Western Michigan (15-16-1) were mired in mediocrity ATS over the past three seasons. Northern Illinois will be in a transition process with a coaching change. They finished last season covering the final three games of the season, which has become a trend for the Huskies. They are now 8-1-1 ATS in their last ten November games.
Facing three big numbers against more traditional programs on the road, Western Michigan failed to cover in any of them with lines ranging from 13.5 to 23.5. This year they travel to Nebraska and host Illinois and big lines should follow.
Eastern Michigan has two big non-conference games in September against Michigan State and Maryland, both on the road. In similar situations last year they were unable to cover the number against Pitt (20 points) or Vanderbilt (22 points).
Central Michigan 25-9-2
Ball State 22-12
Eastern Michigan 17-17
Western Michigan 15-16-1
Northern Illinois 15-18-1
Other notes from the West
* No team from the West covered the number on the opening week of last season. They were a combined 0-6.
* The East went 1-6 on opening week in 2005 and turned around to go 0-4-2 the following season.