NCAA Football Betting Advice: Ranking the College Conferences ATS
We're getting into the part of the college football season where things really start to matter. It's a good time, then, to look at the Power 5 conferences and rank them in terms of their betting prowess. Of course, on the surface this isn't a particularly useful exercise - we bet on teams, not conferences, and since most games are conference games at this time of year relative strength doesn't matter. I'm a big fan of exercises like this, though, because it forces you to look at teams you might not be paying as much attention to, to test your assumptions about teams, and to really think about whether squads are helping or hurting you as a bettor. It's a good way to force you to evaluate, and evaluation is never a bad thing:
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1. Big Ten: There are only five teams in the Big Ten that anyone cares about. Penn State (5-1-1 ATS) and Michigan State (a shocking 5-2 ATS) have been great for bettors. Ohio State and Wisconsin (4-3 ATS) are holding their own. Only Michigan (2-4-1 ATS) is disappointing, but if you have watched that offense the last month or more you can't be even remotely surprised by that. On top of that, Purdue and Rutgers, both at 5-2 ATS, are doing way better than expected and are rewarding bettors. And the teams that are really doing badly for bettors - Nebraska, Indiana and Illinois - all came into the season with so many issues that they were almost identified in neon as teams to fade. Solid up top plus some promising depth - that's a recipe for the top spot here.
2. Big 12: The Big 12 comes out close to the top. None of the core teams are doing lousy for bettors - Oklahoma at 3-4 ATS is the only of the higher-profile teams to be less than break-even. And then there are three teams that stand out as excellent surprises. Texas Tech (5-2 ATS) and Iowa State (6-1 ATS) have quietly had better seasons on the field than many expected - especially the Cyclones - and that has led to some very pleasant profits for backers of the teams. The bigger surprise, though, has to be Texas. In the first year under Tom Herman the wildly-public Longhorns are an outstanding 5-1-1 ATS. Given how intense the pressure was on Herman, and how tightly the microscope is focused on the team, this is a very strong performance. When your most public team is among the ATS elite, and other teams are doing fine, you get to be the second-ranked conference.
3. SEC: There are plenty of issues here - Alabama, Auburn and LSU are a combined 10-11-3 ATS, and Florida is a dismal 2-4 ATS as they fight through an eternal rebuild. A couple of teams really save the conference, though. Georgia is way ahead of schedule and not only is running away with their division but is a strong 5-2 ATS. South Carolina is in good shape and is a solid 4-2-1 ATS. Mississippi State is quietly 5-2 both straight up and ATS. And even though Kevin Sumlin should be fired, he has his team at a conference-best 5-1-1 ATS so far. The team would be higher if the most public teams weren't so disappointing, but at least there is a lot to like here if you are willing to look a little deeper.
4. ACC: NC State and Clemson are tied atop their division but are a combined 7-7 ATS. Miami is leading their division but just 3-3 ATS. The top teams just aren't doing their jobs for bettors. Uglier, of course, are Florida State and Louisville. Both have been powers in the conference lately, and both were expected to be dramatically better than they are. Louisville is 2-6 ATS with a Heisman winner under center, and Florida State is 0-4-2 ATS after starting the season ranked third in the country. There have been some pleasant surprises - Georgia Tech is the top betting team in country at 6-0 ATS, and Syracuse is at 5-2-1 ATS. But the stink of the two big disappointments, and the mediocrity of the division leaders, is too much to overcome.
5. Pac-12: The most public team in this conference by an impossibly wide margin is USC. They came into the season carrying impossible amounts of hype and expectations, and they have disappointed with a 6-2 record and two bad losses. Far more significant here, though, is a totally indefensible 1-7 ATS mark. Just atrocious - and enough to singlehandedly sink the conference. They aren't alone in the issues, though. Stanford is 3-4 ATS and just tried really hard to lose to Oregon State. Washington and Washington State are frustratingly inconsistent for bettors. And UCLA is a very disappointing 2-5 ATS. Utah at 5-1-1 ATS is the lone bright spot in the conference, and that just isn't enough for a major conference.
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