This is a good time, right on the eve of the college football season, to look back on last season to see what can be learned that can lead to profits this season. One good activity in that regard is to look back at the best teams against the spread last year. Can they be relied upon to be strong for bettors again this year? Or were the conditions that made them successful circumstantial and unlikely to repeat? Here's a look at the Top 6 ATS teams in college football last season (top five and a tie):
Toledo (9-2-1 ATS): The Rockets went 10-2 last year, winning their bowl game against a ranked Temple team. They have gone through a coaching change after Matt Campbell took over at Iowa State, but the new coach, Jason Candle, was the offensive coordinator, so things should be fairly seamless. Candle has an outstanding running game to work with, an experienced and talented line, and a quarterback who started in 2014. The offense has been excellent for years and will be again. The defense goes through some changes, but there is plenty to work with. This team should yet again be among the best in the MAC. They also will yet again be well out of the public eye, which means that they should be able to cover some spreads.
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Washington State (10-3 ATS): The Cougars took a massive step forward last year, going from three wins to nine. QB Luke Falk is back, and he's fantastic. He has a lot of weapons to work with, too, led by receiver Gabe Marks who could easily be playing on Sundays this year if he had chosen to. They have to tweak the offensive line, but they will be able to score like crazy - it is Mike Leach, after all. The defense has to deal with some personnel changes, but in the second year under a new coordinator they should continue to improve. The Pac-12 is wide open like no other conference this year, and Washington State could be a factor. Part of what made them a good bet last year, though, was that after losing to Portland State in their opener the public wrote them off. They are getting more respect this year, and that could hurt their ATS performance.
South Florida (9-3 ATS): This team had had four straight dismal losing seasons but bounced back strong last year with eight wins. It was a bit of an awakening, and it has led to high expectations this year. They return 14 starters, and they will be able to run the ball like crazy this year. The defense lost a defensive coordinator, but they promoted from within and should be fine. The Bulls have the chance to be better than last year - perhaps quite a bit better. Playing in the AAC, they aren't going to get a whole lot of attention. It's a good bet that they will cover more spreads than they don't again this year.
Stanford (10-4 ATS): Unlike the others on this list, after winning four of the last five division titles under David Shaw, and three of the last four Pac-12 titles, this team doesn't sneak up on anyone. They are also a different squad than we have become used to. All-world back Christian McCaffrey is back, but QB Kevin Hogan is gone, the offensive line is basically new, and plenty of other talent has departed as well. McCaffrey will have to have a year for the ages - even more than last year - if he wants to carry this offense to respectability. The team has had to reload before, but not like this. Can they handle the adversity? Maybe, but I'm not willing that they can do it and cover spreads at this rate as well.
Bowling Green (10-4 ATS): Last year was a heck of a year for Bowling Green, capped by a MAC title. It didn't end well, though - coach Dino Babers bolted for Syracuse, and the team responded by laying a humiliating egg against Georgia Southern in their bowl game. Now they return just 10 starters, and they hired Mike Jinks, who has only been a head coach previously in high school. He came from Texas Tech, so he knows the high-tempo style of offense Bowling Green uses well. It feels like he'll need at least a year to retool and get rolling here, though. I don't expect the same success this year.
Southern Mississippi (10-4 ATS): This is another remarkable turnaround story. This team went 0-12 in 2012 and just 4-32 from 2012-14. Last year they won nine games and played in the C-USA title game. Head coach Todd Monken built a potent Air Raid style offense, and then he and the offensive coordinator bolted for greener pastures after the success. New coach Jay Hopson has much of the same offense still in place, and a schedule that is mostly manageable. This team could replicate last season - both on the scoreboard and for bettors.
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