College Football Betting Advice: How to Handle Big Spreads Week 1
The first week of the college football season is, more than anything else, known for the massive mismatches we see every year. For every neutral-site battle between marquee teams, there are 10 games with a huge spread - ones in which only one team has a real chance of winning. With no preseason in college football, and with each loss being so damaging to the hopes of top contenders, it is no surprise that teams start their seasons by scheduling way below their punching weight. And it's even less of a surprise that the underdogs are willing to schedule these games - the payment they receive for being cannon fodder can make up a significant portion of the annual budget of the team.
These games are not easy to handicap. The levels of talent are widely varied, and the motivation is as well. As challenging as these games are, though, we need to figure out what to do with them. There have been an average of almost 29 games with a spread of at least four touchdowns over the course of the last five seasons. I'm writing this more than a week before the first week of action really gets rolling this year, and there are already 12 games with spreads of 28 or more points, with many more to come once all of the spreads are set.
To help us get ready to handle these mismatches, let's look back at what has happened these last five years in these mismatches to see what can be learned.
Week one featured 26 mismatches. The favorites went 13-11 ATS in those games, with two pushes.
There was betting carnage for the big favorites this year, with them going just 11-25 ATS in those games. And it got even worse than that. This week featured the only outright loss by a massive favorite in the last five years in Week 1. UNLV was favored by 45 points at home against Howard and lost 43-40.
It was pretty close to a wash this year, with the favorites going 13-14-1 ATS in the 28 opening-week mismatches played.
This year featured the second most mismatches in the opening week of the season over the last five years, with 29. And the favorites were actually slightly profitable, going 16-13 ATS.
This was another profitable season for the favorites - very slightly favorite. The big favorites went 13-11-1 ATS that year.
In the last five years the favorites have gone 66-74-4 ATS, which means that betting on favorites has been a good way to lose a little money. It's worth noting, though, that if you take out the disastrous 11-25 ATS season of 2017, the favorites have gone 55-49-4 ATS, which is almost exactly a break-even level.
A couple of other things are worth noting. Out of the 144 mismatches, only two featured a road favorite. It makes sense - why would this much of a favorite go on the road in a game like this? Both of the road favorites won, but neither covered the spread. And UNLV is the only team that stands in the way of perfection - the favorites were a dominant 143-1 straight up. That's probably only barely good enough to turn a profit on the moneyline, though.
Why aren't the favorites a better bet?
So, why don't favorites turn profits more effectively? You'd think that the favorites would be more successful, because they are just so much more talented than their opponents. But that has not been the case, and it isn't likely to be the case this year, either. There are a variety of reasons that the favorites aren't worth your betting faith, but here are five that most obviously come to mind:
Favorite doesn't want to give up too much: A team that is favored by four touchdowns or more is obviously going to play much tougher games down the road. They are going to need every advantage they can have in the tougher games that are coming up. To maintain that advantage, they are not going to want to have their best plays on tape for future opponents to review and prepare for. That means that they will almost certainly be using a more vanilla playbook than they will use down the road - on both sides of the ball - and that will make it tougher to win big.
Favorite likely isn't too motivated: These favorites know that they can play at a small fraction of their full potential and still come out on top. It might not be pretty, but it's a win. And style points in a game like this aren't ultimately going to matter down the road. You just need the win. So, when the team gets a solid early lead in a game, they are far more likely to shut down their starters and avoid crushing injuries than they are to win by as much as possible.
Underdog has nothing to lose: For the underdog, this is a huge game - probably the biggest stage they will play on all year. And since no one expects a single thing from them, there is absolutely no pressure on them. Expectations don't exist. That allows them to play loose and take some risks that the favorites can't afford to take.
New guys aren't at full speed yet: When we look at a team that has a hot new quarterback - a stud freshman or a high-profile transfer - we can't help but think about what they are capable of and what we expect them to be. But this is the first game speed experience they have had with their new teams, and there is going to be an inevitable period of adjustment. It's too easy to overestimate what the favorite is capable of at this point.
Public is very lopsided in their opinion: The public drives how big a lot of big spreads are, and they are going to enthusiastically dump their cash on the favorite in overwhelming fashion. They probably know almost nothing about the underdogs, and they aren't going to learn. They are going to bet on the names they know, and that is going to drive the spread up. In many cases, a team that doesn't cover a huge spread only misses out by a couple of points. And the lopsided action from the public could easily drive that spread up those extra couple of points that stands between profit and frustration.
Doc's Sports is offering a great deal for new clients - you can get $60 worth of free college football picks with no obligation. No credit card is needed, and you will never have to deal with a salesman. Get $60 worth of premium members' picks free . Also, get three handicappers for the price of one when you sign up for a full-season football package! Click Here for details . Get free weekly free college football picks at Doc's Sports free football picks page.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Get all of this Weeks College Football Picks
Get all of this Weeks guaranteed Expert College Football Picks