Last Updated: 2017-08-30
As we look ahead to the 2017 college football season, we’re going to be covering a lot of things that can help you before the games get underway and throughout the course of the season. We’ve already taken a look at the new coaches in the Power Five and Group of Five conferences. We’ve also looked at some teams to buy based on last year’s results, particularly those that struggled against the spread.
Most sports bettors have short memories. They’ll remember the outliers from last season. There were some teams that you wouldn’t want to bet on with your worst enemy’s money and some teams that you couldn’t bet on enough. Year-to-year success in college football is definitely an attainable goal, but rarely do we see teams string together dominant ATS seasons. Either the secret is out and the lines have been adjusted or teams simply regress towards the mean a little bit and can’t cover as many numbers.
In our article on teams to buy, we looked at a few examples of this concept from 2015 to 2016 and then gave a list of teams that should be on your radar heading into late August. Well, now we’ll do the opposite and look at some teams that should be on your radar as teams to sell.
Before we get into those teams for 2017, let’s look at this angle in action from 2015 to 2016:
Stanford – David Shaw’s team was back on the map in 2015. In 2014, Stanford failed to win at least 11 games for the first time since 2009. Led by Christian McCaffrey, the Cardinal announced their presence with authority and won 12 games straight up and 10 against the spread. It culminated in a dominant, blowout win over Iowa in the Rose Bowl. Shaw’s Cardinal won 10 games again last season, but fell from 10-4 ATS to 6-6-1 ATS in the process. Stanford was 1-5 as a home favorite in 2016.
Washington State – Mike Leach’s Cougars came into the 2016 season with some pretty high expectations. The 2015 season seemed to come out of nowhere, as Wazzu won nine games straight up and went 10-3 against the number. Even with a +6 turnover margin in 2016, the Cougars dropped to 8-5 straight up and 6-7 against the spread. After an 8-1 ATS conference mark in 2015, the Cougs were just 4-5 ATS in 2016 against Pac-12 foes.
Florida State – I’m actually going to go a little farther back to illustrate this point. The 2013 Seminoles rolled to a perfect record and won the National Championship over Auburn. They were 11-2-1 against the spread. Jimbo Fisher’s team didn’t appear to have a letdown in 2014 with a 13-1 straight up mark, but the Seminoles only covered three of their 14 games against the spread. They went from 6-0-1 as home chalk in 2013 to 1-6 as home chalk in 2014.
Houston – Tom Herman’s Cougars put together a 13-1 season during his first year with the program and went 9-5 ATS in the process. With most of his core back and a big recruiting class full of Lone Star State talent, people were talking about Houston as a Group of Five team that could get into the playoff discussion. It made sense, right? After all, Houston beat Florida State in the Peach Bowl. Well, the Cougars regressed amidst the Herman rumors and thanks to a reversal of turnover fortunes and finished the year 9-4 straight up with just a 4-8-1 record against the number. The overpriced Cougars were 0-4-1 as home chalk.
Boise State – The Broncos only went 9-4 straight up and 7-6 against the number in 2015, but big things were expected from the boys from Boise in 2016. After outscoring opponents 39.1-20.2 on average in 2015, the 7-6 ATS mark seemed like an outlier. Well, Boise went 10-3 last season, but finished 4-9 ATS and failed to cover a game as a favorite on the Smurf Turf. The Mountain West Conference got stronger last season and adjustments weren’t made with the Broncos, who were about a three-touchdown favorite on average at Albertsons Stadium last year.
Those are just a few of the examples from last year. One of the best ways to play this angle is to look in the Group of Five conferences at teams that came into the mainstream last season. Those programs that Average Joe Public forgot existed until they surpassed expectations last year. A few of those teams and a handful of others make our list for the purposes of this article as we look for some teams to sell in 2017.
Old Dominion – Bobby Wilder has done a good job transitioning the Monarchs from a top-tier FCS program into a serious Conference USA contender. The Monarchs made their first bowl appearance in program history last year and won in the Bahamas Bowl. Old Dominion won 10 games and went 8-4-1 against the spread. Not all is well in Norfolk, though. Sure, star running back Ray Lawry is back, but quarterback David Washington is gone and so are a few key players on defense. More importantly, ODU was 8-0-1 against the spread as a favorite during the regular season. The word is out that Wilder has a good program and we often see regression happen in instances like that.
Troy – The Troy Trojans became the first Sun Belt team to be ranked in the top 25 last season. They only went 8-5 against the spread, but won 10 games. It was the first time the Trojans had been in a bowl game since 2010. Most of the core is back for Neal Brown’s team, so expectations will be fairly high in the weak Sun Belt Conference. That’s not to say that Troy can’t meet them, but people know who Troy is now off a top-25 spot and a bowl berth. With a couple weeknight games and a couple marquee non-conference opponents, this will be a team to watch. They’ll also likely be a team to sell.
Eastern Michigan – The hard part about this team is that I don’t think there will be a ton believers in the squad from Ypsilanti. Eastern Michigan has been so bad for so long that a 7-6 straight up record and a 10-3 ATS mark will probably be chalked up as a lot of variance. It was. The Eagles were actually outscored 31-27 on average in MAC play, but went 6-2 against the number because perception was so low on them to begin with. It’s possible that EMU is the rare “double buy” team, in that they carry a great ATS record for a second straight season, but it’s probably more likely that Chris Creighton’s team takes a sizable step back. After all, EMU only has one other winning season against the spread (2011) over the last 10 years.
Wyoming – How ‘bout dem Cowboys?! Well, the Cowboys are going to get a ton of love in the Mountain West this season. It will be the fourth year for Craig Bohl, who won everything there is to win at the FCS level as the head coach of North Dakota State. The Cowboys also have a rare gem in starting quarterback Josh Allen, who is being discussed as a potential first-round pick and quite possibly the first QB off the board. Wyoming went 8-6 and 10-4 against the spread. It was Wyoming’s first winning season since 2011 and first winning season ATS since 2012. Better talent and a better quarterback, but how inflated will the prices be in Laramie? The Cowboys went 7-0 ATS at home.
Colorado State – There are some influential people in the industry that drive a lot of early action based on their predictions. Phil Steele has Colorado State as his favorite in the Mountain Division. It makes sense, as the Rams went 7-6 last year and 9-4 against the spread. It will be Mike Bobo’s third year at the helm, so progress should be expected with recruiting classes and systems in place, but will perception be higher than reality? It very well could be.
Temple – It took two years for Matt Rhule to build something special at Temple. It took two more years before Rhule was offered a Power Five conference job at Baylor. Geoff Collins gets his first crack at being a head coach, but he has some lofty records to follow up. Rhule’s Owls won 10 games each of the last two years and went 21-7 ATS in the process. A 12-2 ATS record is almost unheard of in this day and age, so natural regression should be coming anyway, but it could be more than that in Philadelphia. Teams that play defense are few and far between in the AAC, which is a reputation that will follow Temple around. That could create value in going against them this season.
Colorado – The Boulder Buffaloes turned the college football world upside down by shining in Pac-12 play and even getting a Pac-12 title shot against Washington. The Buffaloes went 10-4 straight up and 10-4 against this number. This had been building under head coach Mike MacIntyre, but now that it’s here, is it sustainable? Programs that aren’t accustomed to constant success can have a hard time maintaining it. That’s the task at hand for Colorado. A disappointing Alamo Bowl showing may have lowered expectations a tad, but expectations should be lowered because Colorado isn’t sneaking up on anybody this season, not after going 7-3 against Pac-12 foes and 5-0 ATS in true road games.
Penn State – Happy Valley is a tough place to play and the Nittany Lions proved that last season by going 7-0 straight up at home and 8-1 in conference play, including a win over Ohio State as a 19-point underdog. Expectations are sky high in State College, as James Franklin’s team could be the biggest challenger for Ohio State in the quest for the Big Ten East crown. Penn State went 11-3 against the spread last season after going just 4-9 ATS in 2015. The sex scandal is well in the past now as far as football goes, with scholarships reinstated and the program seems to have gotten past its poor reputation as with regards to recruiting. The lasting memory that bettors have of Penn State from last season is the team going toe-to-toe with USC, a 2017 top contender for the National Championship, in the Rose Bowl. Perception and reality may not be aligned in this situation.
Alabama – Look, let’s be honest, you generally don’t get rich betting against Alabama. But, as the biggest name in college football, Alabama’s lines draw the most attention from oddsmakers and bookmakers. It was incredible to see the Crimson Tide go 10-4-1 against the spread last season. As good as Alabama has been, they had never won 10 games ATS in the Nick Saban era prior to last season. Everybody assumes it’s a revenge year for the Tide after getting beaten in the College Football Playoff Championship Game. Maybe it is, but the reputation that Alabama has precedes the players everywhere they go. Alabama was 8-2 away from home between true road games and neutral-site games. Oddsmakers couldn’t set lines high enough to avoid getting one-sided Alabama money. Don’t be stunned if the Tide roll back towards .500 against the spread. You should have chances to bet against the titans of Tuscaloosa.
Are there other teams that you’re looking to sell this season? Reach out to us on Twitter, @bangthebook or @SkatingTripods, and let us know your thoughts!
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