College Football Expert Handicapping: Teams That Could Decline ATS
The teams on this list have two things in common. They were among the most profitable teams in college football last season, and I don't expect them to be as profitable this year - not nearly as close in some cases. Through different circumstances these teams all achieved well above expectations in one way or another last year, and I am not expecting them to be able to do the same again. They may still be profitable in some cases but just not exceptionally like they were last year.
Iowa State (11-1-1 ATS): The Cyclones had a perfect storm last year from a betting perspective. A coach much better than people realized. An outstanding running back in David Montgomery leading a talented and balanced team. A schedule that set up well for them. Low expectations. It all added up to becoming the most profitable team in the country. Well, that is far from likely to happen again. This team isn't sneaking up on people this year. Montgomery is back and getting attention. People know how good Matt Campbell is now, and expectations are high for the coach in his third year with the program. And the Big 12 is tougher this year than last year - wider and less top heavy. I still expect a good year from this team - perhaps even better than their 8-5 last year. But they are not going to get the consistently soft lines they got last year, and they are going to produce less cold hard cash as a result.
Fresno State (11-2-1 ATS): This is another team that put together a strong season while no one noticed. They got very generous lines against Alabama and Washington in the first three weeks of the season, so they could cover while getting decimated, and then they just kept rolling for bettors. Competence under the radar is a great way for teams to produce betting profits, and no one really paid any attention to this team at all until they beat Boise State in their final regular-season game. I don't think they'll get a ton more attention this year, and they should be good again, but they aren't likely to get some of the gift lines they had last year, and that should tighten things up for bettors a bit.
Georgia (11-4 ATS): Last year Georgia was way, way ahead of schedule. People kept waiting for them to fall back to earth, and they never did. It was remarkable. Three of the four games they didn't cover were when they were massive favorites, and they still won all three handily. But expectations have reached a whole new level of intensity for this team this year, and now people expect them to repeat what they did last year. Oddsmakers won't give them any benefit of the doubt, and public bettors will be all over them from the start. They will be a very good team - a real playoff contender again - but likely not one quite as good at covering spreads.
Buffalo (9-3 ATS): Buffalo was a perfectly average and totally uninspiring team last year, but the breaks went their way - they covered three spreads by two points or less. They aren't going to be any more inspiring this year, and they aren't going to get any more attention for what they do. To do as well as they did last year for bettors they would again need the element of luck to work in their favor, and I am happy to bet that it won't.
Florida Atlantic (10-4 ATS): The Lane Kiffin reclamation project is at full steam now. People love talking about this team, and it gets much more attention than the program itself could ever possibly justify. They open at Oklahoma. They aren't going to win, but if they can capitalize on the QB change at Oklahoma and make that game competitive and cover the spread then the hype - and the betting attention - will be ratcheted up to yet another level. The more betting attention, the tougher it is for the team to cover spreads, and they have some real questions at QB and elsewhere to deal with.
Central Florida (8-4-1 ATS): The team went 13-0 last year, and Scott Frost left for Nebraska. He took almost the whole coaching staff with him, so there is a tremendous amount of change facing this team. The talent is strong, they hired a replacement well, and they have an excellent QB, but there are surely going to be some growing pains. They are still the class of their conference, so the oddsmakers will give them plenty of respect, and I suspect that they will struggle at times more than they did last year to deal with those expectations.
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