In 2011 there were 22 teams win 8 or more games against the spread. The most I’ve seen since I’ve been keeping records starting in 2006. But I have several reasons to think we won’t see that high of a number this year. One reason is because it’s hard to follow up a winning against the spread season with another one. We get on average about 2 against the spread repeaters a season. My bet is we don’t have more than 4 this year. So that in itself will eliminate nearly 20 teams from last season.
There are a couple other signs pointing to a lower than average number of against the spread winners in 2012. We have a larger than normal turnover of coaches this year as 28 teams have new head coaches. Although I’m pretty sure some will break through against the spread in their first season, it doesn’t usually happen more than a few times a year.
We will also see a few conferences with new teams coming in. How these new teams fare is anybody’s guess. West Virginia and TCU join the Big 12 to make it even more top heavy with good offensive teams. But how do their defenses compare? I give WV the better chance at success because of the possible depth issues concerning TCU. But the Big 12 is a little more wide open than it appears. So it wouldn’t surprise me if these teams compete very well in their first year.
Missouri and Texas A&M join the SEC. A new conference, a new coach and new schemes and a very tough division has me clueless when it comes to the Aggies. But I think Missouri could be an interesting team this season. If they have better luck with injuries than they had last year, this may not be a bad time to be joining the SEC. They’ll have one of the most balanced spread offenses in the country providing QB Franklin stays healthy. Also, unlike the Aggies, Missouri will be in the East Division, so they are probably going to be in a few more competitive games.
There are several things I like to see in teams that I think have a decent chance to beat the spread (win 8 games or more against the spread). I like to see the majority of their starters coming back. And if not most of the starters, at least the main nucleus of the team along with the QB and returning head coach.
I’ve found that the better coached and deeper teams can get by with bringing back less starters because the new starters have usually seen plenty of action in the cleanup roles, rotation or filling in for injuries.
And I REALLY LIKE TO SEE a team bring back the majority of their offensive and defensive lines. In most cases, there’s no substitute for experience and chemistry when we’re talking about the “big uglies.” This is especially important with the BCS conferences where depth can be a big issue as the season goes.
Although it’s not the highest priority on my list, I do like to see teams with favorable schedules, or schedules that will help a team gain momentum during the season.
The most important thing I look for are the teams who are flying a little under the radar, or are the forgotten team in their division or conference race, yet should be as good or better than advertised. This is where we get our biggest line value. Although 15 of the 22 against the spread teams last year won 8 or more games, it’s not always about how many games a certain team will win that determines our spread beaters.
Some teams are simply public betting teams, and are going to get hit hard by the public regardless of how good or bad they are. Notre Dame has been a public team for many years. Last year they went 8-4, but were only 5-7 against the spread. A pretty typical season for the Irish.
I rememeber back in 2007, national champion LSU won 10 games, but only 4 games ATS. So you really can’t go strictly by how many games a team will win. If I’m going to pick a “public team” I’m going to pick one who is dominant on one or both sides of the ball within their conference.
In recent years Alabama and Oregon have been good bets because they are dominant in some phase of the game, and can completely outclass the opponents on their schedule. But those kinds of teams are few and far between.
Although they could get on the positive side of the ledger, I left Bama off my list this year. With the heavy graduation, I don’t feel they will have the defense that they’ve had in past years. The offense will be very good, but I don’t feel that any one team will dominate the SEC like we saw last season.
2.Utah – In order for this to happen, Jordan Wynn MUST stay healthy. The Utes have the defense and are physical enough on both lines to keep them in every game this season. They have a good chance to top the 7-5 record from last season. They should also be better adjusted to the Pac-12 in their second season as a BCS conference team.
3.South Carolina – They’ll have one of the best defenses in the country. No Stephen Garcia distractions. And flying under the radar behind Georgia and Florida for their division title. Good combination for covering the spread.
4.BYU – Many sources say this is Mendenhall’s best team. Riley Nelson is a playmaker deluxe with a couple huge targets to throw to and a couple RB’s who are the fastest in school history. A good chance to be a “spread repeater.”
5.Arizona – I’m going out on a limb here because this team doesn’t really meet the requirements I like to see for an against the spread team. Call it a hunch. I think Rich Rod is going to revive this program. And I think he could make an impact right away. Unlike at Michigan, he doesn’t have nearly as much pressure on him, and he’s got many of his pieces already in place, starting with dual threat QB Matt Scott.
The Cats will likely be flying under the radar at the outset, and I believe they could emerge as a point spread surprise if the defense shows any improvement at all from a year ago.They have a challenging schedule, but not an overwhelming one. They also only have 4 road games, which is a rarity in today’s football scheduling. Watch this team!
6.Bowling Green – I feel this team could be a strong play this year. HC Clawson is slowly building a MAC powerhouse with more talent in camp than any BG team since the Urban Meyer era.
7.Tennessee – This is a borderline team with me because I’m still not sure about Dooley as a HC. But with 19 starters returning, their games should be much more competitive against the elite SEC teams. I think they could be very tough in the second half of the season once they start adjusting to new DC Sunseri’s intricate defensive schemes.
8.Army – They have an extra high numbers of starters back this year for a military school. Plus an experienced senior QB and a favorable schedule. This will be their best chance in years to beat Navy.
9.South Florida – I get the feeling Holtz is going to prove his worth this season after a disappointing 2011. I like their schedule. With the exception of their game at Louisville, every road game USF plays will be against teams that will most likely regress from last season. Signs point to a 9 or 10 win season and at least that many against the spread wins, especially if QB Daniels stays healthy and cuts down on his mistakes.
Experience will be on our side with this team with 29 juniors and seniors on the roster, and 18 players with starting experience. The only thing that could hurt this team is if they start incurring injures since they aren’t a deep team.
10.Ohio – Frank Solich’s Ohio teams have been cover machines. They fell off a little last year going 6-7 against the spread (their worst against the spread record in 6 years!). But I don’t see them having two losing against the spread seasons in a row.
11.Duke – Duke should be flying way under the radar being picked last in their division. This is HC Cutcliffe’s best team with 17 starters back and a QB who had 65% comp rate last year. Dangerous against the spread team who should put up plenty of points this year. Cutcliff has also recruited more speed in the last couple of years. And I believe it will show up this year. The Dukies should be much more competitive.
12.UCONN – This is probably my weakest pick. But a few things to keep in mind, even though Pasqualoni never has really been able to win the big games in his coaching career, he’s probably the third best coach in the Big East. The Huskies have also been one of the best cover teams in the nation. They were 30-18-1 against the spread between 2007-10. Their 4-8 against the spread mark last year was their worst since coming on the big board in 2000.
When I see a team put in that kind of number, I’m thinking their chances of regressing up to their “mean” are good and they’ll be back to their normal 7 to 8 against the spread wins. With 14 starters back and in the second year of Pasqualoni’s system, I think they have a decent chance of reaching that number providing they can get anything at all from their QB play.
A few borderline teams that I’ll be watching close to see how they perform at the beginning of the season for possible play-on’s are Missouri, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Rutgers, Tulsa, SMU and North Carolina State.
A few other things to note; of the 22 teams who covered the spread last year, 15 of those teams got on an against the spread run of 5 games or more. And 9 of those teams got on a run of 6 against the spread wins or more. This is common EVERY season. Most teams that beat the spread in any given season will have a nice run of against the spread wins at one time or another during that season.
I always keep a close eye on each team, and how they are doing every week against the spread. If I see a team reel off 2 or 3 wins in a row, I start paying close attention. Especially when it’s one of my potential against the spread candidates. I did this last year with a couple teams on my list like Clemson and Stanford. Clemson got on a 6 game run and Stanford got on a 9 game against the spread run! These two were money in the bank because I caught them early. So my suggestion is to start keeping records and paying attention. Thinking ahead is the best advice I can give with these potential against the spread beaters.
Any teams you think may be against the spread winners this year that I may not have included?