College Football Betting: Teams that Could Struggle ATS
by Trevor Whenham - 8/26/2013
It’s very tough for a team to be successful against the spread for more than a year or two in a row in college football. The more success a team has for bettors, the more bettors pay attention to it, and the harder it is to find value in the lines. There is not always a correlation between success on the field and success at the betting window, so a team can continue to show strong improvement while becoming much worse from a betting perspective. Here are five college football teams that were very successful ATS last year that will be hard pressed to be nearly as good to bettors this year:
Northwestern (11-1 ATS)
The Wildcats are in the best position in a very long time — perhaps ever. They have a very strong quarterback atop a good offense. The defense is strong, and the talent on both sides of the ball is as deep as it has ever been. Pat Fitzgerald is a very good coach who has finally raised his game up to the highest level yet. The schedule isn’t easy, but they do get both Ohio State and Michigan at home. This is the chance for a breakthrough season. Along with the improved performance and increased expectations, though, comes something Northwestern has not been particularly familiar with as a program — heightened public attention. I haven’t seen anyone in a major media outlet pick the team to win the Big Ten, but I have seen them tabbed for a Rose Bowl berth or two along the way. Last year the team was able to succeed so well for bettors because the public didn’t know how quietly good they were. This year there will be nothing quiet about their quality. The team will be far from a betting disaster this year, but they will also be a long way from 11-1 ATS.
Penn State (9-2-1 ATS)
The Nittany Lions were arguably the biggest surprise of the season last year. With an exodus of talent, issues around the field and a new coaching staff trying to find their way in the face of crushing sanctions from the NCAA, the public expected them to falter badly. They really didn’t. In fact, they looked shockingly competent in a way they hadn’t the last couple of years under Joe Paterno. Surprising strength led to excellent betting performance. This year, though, that should change. Emotion and adrenaline won’t carry them like it did last year, and the impact of the sanctions will be felt more, so the team should be a step or two behind where they were last year on the field. Expectations are also going to be a step or two beyond what they were last year now that Bill O’Brien has proven his impressive competence. Combine those two factors and you have a team that isn’t going to cover spreads like they did last year.
Arkansas State (8-4 ATS)
The Red Wolves have risen significantly in prominence over the last few years, so bettors are paying attention to them like never before. Unfortunately, that increased prominence has caused a coaching carousel — new coach Bryan Harsin is the third head coach in the last three years after Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn both moved on after just one year. Harsin knows his stuff, but he is young and is a head coach for the first time. Sooner or later the constant change is going to catch up with the program — it’s hard to recruit when there is a new face contacting players every year. This is an immature program facing a challenging schedule — trips to Auburn and Missouri before the end of September — and they are going to struggle to live up to bettor expectations.
San Jose State (10-2 ATS) and Fresno State (11-1 ATS)
I grouped these two teams together because they have a lot in common. Both are Mountain West squads that were largely ignored last year, but they both have a lot more attention directed their way this year — both are viewed as potential contenders in what is a very tough conference this year. A lot of the reason for the extra attention on both teams is their quarterbacks — both David Fales of San Jose State and Derek Carr of Fresno State are attracting a lot of attention from NFL scouts and even from bettors looking for longshot Heisman contenders. In other words, both teams are going to capture the imagination of bettors looking for a second-tier program to support. The added bettor attention against tough conference schedules is going to make it tougher to cover spreads than it was last year. The Spartans are also facing a coaching change — an added complication for the team.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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