Several years ago I started looking at how each individual team performed against the spread in one year, and compared that to how they did the following season. I tend to gravitate towards teams who start to get on a nice little run against the spread, or teams in general who seem to be good against the spread just about every season like Boise State and TCU, and in recent years Alabama.
What I decided to do was to set an against the spread number or goal that a team would need to reach for me to consider them a success. I decided that 8 wins against the spread in a season would be a good target number to use as my “success point.”
After this I got out some of my old Power Sweeps that I used to collect at the end of each season so I could have the against the spread records for each team neatly compacted on a couple of pages.
I also wanted to use just one service, Northcoast Sports for the final lines on the games, since some services differ from others. What may be an 8 win against the spread season for a team with one service may be a 7 win against the spread season for that same team with another service.
I basically started my against the spread record keeping back in 2006. Out of the 120 FBS teams, here are the number of teams who reached the 8 wins against the spread number that year:
2006: 18 teams
2007: 9 teams
2008: 20 teams
2009: 18 teams
2010: 17 teams
2011: 22 teams
As you can see 2007 was a very unusual year in which we saw a lot of parity in college football. It made it very difficult on us cappers since we really didn’t have many teams we could ride each week, since few teams could manage any kind of lengthy against the spread win streak.
Several reasons have been given for this strange season. But the reason I tend to believe the most was that 2007 was the first season that college football started to implement the highly successful QB blitz packages that the NFL had put in place just a couple of years earlier.
It meant a big change in college defenses, and it took a year for the offenses to adjust to the new schemes. We also had some very brutal weather across the country that season, which could have partially accounted for lower scoring and closer games.
The biggest reason I started keeping track of these teams was to see what they did the next season after posting a successful against the spread season. I found that on average only 2 teams each year are able to repeat their “successful” against the spread numbers they had the previous year.
For example in 2010, 17 teams had “successful” against the spread seasons. But only one team (Oklahoma State) was able to repeat that number the following year. I’ve found in many cases that when a team has such a successful season, the public has a tendency to continue riding that team into the next season, no matter what kind of player turnover they may have had. And of course many end up disappointed.
There are always exceptions to the rule. Like teams who are trending upward, and happen to get 8 wins against the spread the year before having a really breakout season. Oklahoma State was a good example of this. They had been trending upwards for the last few years until they reached their pinnacle season in 2011 with a Big 12 title, BCS bowl win, and of course 8 against the spread wins to go with the 8 they collected the year before.
There have also been a few under the radar teams who get to 8 wins against the spread, but the public is still not buying into them as a legit winner. Utah State was one of those teams back in 2008-09. They weren’t quite good enough team to make it to a bowl, but they were good enough to give almost all of their opponents a good tussle and keep it within the number.
Last year the public was high on Hawaii, UCF, and Arizona State. All three teams were coming off double digit against the spread win seasons in 2010, and all three fell flat on their face in 2011 with a combined 12 wins against the spread between the three of them.
Non-BCS conference teams (non-AQ) who have great against the spread seasons like Hawaii and UCF had in 2010, are particularly hard pressed to repeat their against the spread success the following season. None of the non-AQ teams since 2006 (since I’ve been keeping records) have won more than 7 games against the spread the next season after coming off a double digit against the spread season the year before. And 7 is the high end, and it’s only happened once.
The average number of against the spread wins a team has the next season is just 5! How confident are you going to be betting on these teams each week knowing they probably won’t even reach a .500 against the spread season? I know I wouldn’t feel very confident. That’s why I didn’t bet on UCF or Hawaii during the entire 2011 season. I didn’t like my odds.
Now I don’t follow this rule blindly since there might be special circumstances or good spots where these teams could be a good wager. But they are few and far between. And it usually comes “after” the public finally gets off these teams and they once again have gotten back some of their line value.
Alabama (8) Arkansas State (10) BYU (8)
Georgia (8) Houston (10) Kansas State (9)
UL-Lafayette (8) Louisiana Tech (10) Louisville (8)
LSU (10) Michigan St. (8) Oklahoma State (8)
Rutgers (8) San Jose St. (8) Southern Miss (8)
Stanford (10) Temple (8) USC (8)
Vanderbilt (9) WKU (10) Western Michigan (8)
In 2011 we had an extra high number of teams win 8 games or more against the spread. What struck me as very unusual about last season is the amount of non-AQ conference teams who reached double digit wins against the spread. I usually don’t see more than one or two reach that number each year.
What is even more unusual is two of those teams came out of the Sunbelt Conference. This is a conference that because of their tough non-conference schedules against mostly BCS teams, very seldom has an 8 wins against the spread team, much less two 10 games against the spread winners!
This season there are four non-AQ teams that I’m going to show caution in betting or just fade altogether. These teams are Arkansas State, WKU, Houston and Louisiana Tech.
The deeper BCS conference teams such as LSU or Bama don’t tend to fade quite as much unless their schedule gets a lot harder and they have larger than usual player turnover. But nevertheless I’m going to show caution when betting LSU and Stanford, both coming off double digit against the spread wins. LSU especially will probably have inflated lines this season.
Two other teams I’m going to approach with caution are Kansas State (9 against the spread wins in 2011) and Vanderbilt (9 against the spread wins in 2011). What always makes me more cautious of these type of teams is the fact that they were “out of nowhere” against the spread teams. Much like Arizona State was in 2010.
I guarantee you they’ll have plenty of fans either blindly waging on these teams, but hear me now and believe me later, you better approach with caution. They won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year. Unlike last season, they’ll have to earn every inflated line they get.
For the last six years this has been something I’ve played around with in the preseason. Some may find it helpful, some may not. Just keep in mind that college football is about public perception and the warm fuzzies that winning teams give you when you beat the books.
But when it comes to the successful against the spread teams, the past is the easy part. It’s digging for the future success stories that is the hard part.
In Part 2 of my against the spread trends, I’ll be giving you my predictions of who I think will have a good chance of getting to that successful 8 wins against the spread number.
Let me know what you think! GS