Expert College Football Picks: Teams Likely to Improve ATS
There are some teams that just plain cannot cover a spread in college football. They routinely take money from bettors, stack it in a pile, and light it on fire. And what's fascinating is that it isn't always really lousy teams as you might expect. Truly great teams probably aren't going to be the worst ATS squads, but some teams with pretty solid seasons can really find ways to disappoint. Our task here today is to look in the cellar of ATS performance last year to find some teams that seem capable of being much stronger against the spread this season. They may not necessarily be elite betting squads this year, but they shouldn't be as humiliatingly awful as they were last year.
Louisville (1-11 ATS last year): There is really only one direction for a team to go after covering just one spread last year. I mean, they could technically do worse than that this year, but I'm not expecting that. The second Bobby Petrino era at Louisville, which never should have happened, was a total and utter mess - more so as it went along - and it will take a while to dig out of that hole. But even though they didn't get their first choice as new head coach, they made a fantastic hire in snagging Scott Satterfield from Appalachian State. He had four straight excellent seasons with that squad after navigating a move from FCS to FBS for the program in the two years before that. He can flat out coach, and he has an infectious enthusiasm and freshness that will be welcomed after the Petrino debacle. He has a lot of things to fix, but the cupboards aren't completely bare, and he is going to have guys eager to fight for him. This team will be a long way from great right now, but they are going to show up - and that will lead to a good many more covered spreads than last year.
Washington (4-10 ATS last year): The Huskies went 10-4 last year and somehow covered only four spreads. That takes some doing. They were just 4-6 ATS in the games that they won. They obviously weren't living up to expectations, which were built on a senior quarterback leading a talented team in a lousy conference. They have changed quarterbacks now - though there is no less hype or expectation on the position - and the conference has improved, so there shouldn't be quite as many inflated lines this year. And the team surely can't come up on the wrong side of so many lines in their wins again - luck has to balance out at some point. I don't necessarily think that the Huskies will be an elite ATS team this year, but they are going to be significantly better.
Wisconsin (4-9 ATS last year): The Badgers entered last season with massive pressure on their shoulders. They were ranked fourth overall. And given their schedule and talent, many had penciled them into the playoff. But things went way off the rails in Week 3 with a loss to BYU, and they never really recovered. They lost four more times, capped by a humiliating 22-point beatdown at home against Minnesota in the final game. Nothing went right. This year expectations are much more moderate. Add in that the team should be motivated to make up for the debacle of last season, and we should see them really turn a corner from a betting perspective. They covered only one of their first six spreads, and failed to cover their first three, so they were in a huge betting hole out of the gate. A stronger start would be helpful, and it feels likely.
Oregon (5-8 ATS last year): Mario Cristobal is one of those guys that makes me want to run through a wall for him - even though I'm sitting on my couch thousands of miles away from him. He's infectious. And in his second year in charge at Oregon, we should see a big step forward. He has an excellent QB to work with. And he has dealt with some drama with his defensive coaching staff and seemingly come out of it in a more stable place. They have a chance to make a big statement in their opener against Auburn, and then they can continue to make noise as perhaps one of the best teams in a Pac-12 conference that is more competitive than we have seen it in a while. Oregon has been a bit of a joke the last few years, but the sport is better when they are relevant. And, both on the field and from a betting perspective, they should be more relevant this year.
Other ATS Bounce Back Contenders
UConn (2-9-1 ATS last year): A soft schedule helps them, and Randy Edsall has had some time to get things back on track.
Florida State (4-8 ATS last year): Expectations are as low as they can be for the Seminoles this year, so a school with this many resources should be able to find a way to meet those expectations more often.
South Florida (4-9 ATS last year): At some point Charlie Strong is going to prove that he can still coach.
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