Thanks to the eminently reasonable minds on the U.S. Supreme Court, sports gambling is now allowed in any state that wants to pursue it, and so far New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and Mississippi have joined Nevada in offering the enterprise in full. More people will be rushing to the windows as college football season gets into full swing, and we’re here to help — hopefully! — with a few things to keep in mind.
For starters, consider that trends should not be considered predictive, especially considering college football’s constant turnover, and anyone who blindly places a bet solely because of them is unlikely to come out ahead. Think of them merely as something to consider as you go about making your picks.
Unbeaten but not untested
The nation’s four remaining undefeated teams — Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Central Florida — went 3-0-1 against the spread last weekend, the first of November. Pretty good, eh? But that success bucked a trend we’ve seen in the College Football Playoff era, namely that unbeaten teams haven’t fared that well against the spread in the last month-plus of the season.
Entering November of last year, as John Ewing of Bet Labs pointed out back then, undefeated teams had gone 17-34-1 ATS in November and December since 2014, the first year of the College Football Playoff, covering just 33.3 percent of the time. Such teams went 8-11-1 in 2017. Add the 3-0-1 mark last weekend, and unbeaten teams have gone 28-45-3 ATS overall in November and December over the past four-plus seasons.
All four of the remaining unbeaten teams are in action Saturday:
Central Florida (-25.5) vs. Navy, noon
Alabama (-24) vs. Mississippi State, 3:30 p.m.
Notre Dame (-17) vs. Florida State, 7:30 p.m. (this spread may be changing with Thursday’s news that Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book may miss the game with a rib injury)
Clemson (-20) at Boston College, 8 p.m.
At the same time that he gave us his ATS trend regarding undefeated teams, Ewing also delivered this little nugget, one that Alabama and Georgia backers may want to heed this weekend: Entering November 2017, top 10 teams coming off wins over top 10 teams had gone just 57-82-2 ATS in their next game since 2005, covering just 41 percent of the time.
Since Ewing published that trend, it has held up nicely.
10-28-17: No. 6 Ohio State 39, No. 2 Penn State 38
Cover next game? No. The third-ranked Buckeyes lost outright to Iowa, 55-24, as seven-point favorites.
11-11-17: No. 10 Auburn 40, No. 2 Georgia 17
Cover next game? No. The sixth-ranked Tigers defeated Louisiana-Monroe, 42-14, but didn’t cover the 38-point spread.
11-11-17: No. 5 Oklahoma 38, No. 6 TCU 20
Cover next game? No. The third-ranked Sooners defeated Kansas, 41-3, but didn’t cover the 39.5-point spread.
11-11-17: No. 7 Miami 41, No. 3 Notre Dame 8
Cover next game? No. The second-ranked Hurricanes defeated Virginia, 44-28, but didn’t cover the 20.5-point spread.
11-25-17: No. 6 Auburn 26, No. 1 Alabama 14
Cover next game? No. The fourth-ranked Tigers lost to No. 6 Georgia, 28-7, as two-point underdogs.
9-15-18: No. 12 LSU 22, No. 7 Auburn 21
Cover next game? No. The sixth-ranked Tigers defeated Louisiana Tech, 38-21, but didn’t cover the 19-point spread.
9-29-18: No. 4 Ohio State 27, No. 9 Penn State 26
Cover next game? No. The third-ranked Buckeyes defeated Indiana, 49-26, but didn’t cover the 27-point spread.
10-6-18: No. 19 Texas 48, No. 7 Oklahoma 45
Cover next game? No. The ninth-ranked Longhorns defeated Baylor, 23-17, but didn’t cover the 14-point spread.
10-12-18: No. 13 LSU 36, No. 2 Georgia 16
Cover next game? Yes. The fifth-ranked Tigers defeated 22nd-ranked Mississippi State, 19-3, as five-point favorites.
Add it all up, and top 10 teams coming off wins over top 10 teams have gone 58-90-2 ATS since 2005.
No. 1 Alabama hosts No. 16 Mississippi State on Saturday, one week after its 29-0 win over No. 3 LSU. Fifth-ranked Georgia also will test this trend: After beating No. 9 Kentucky, the Bulldogs host No. 24 Auburn as 14-point favorites.
Keep tabs on the forecasts for the following games, which could be played in conditions that can have a tendency to keep scores down.
Illinois at Nebraska, noon Saturday: wind (69 over/under)
Ohio State at Michigan State, noon Saturday: wind (52)
BYU at Massachusetts, noon Saturday: wind (59.5)
Wisconsin at Penn State, noon Saturday: wind (55)
Kansas at Kansas State, noon Saturday: wind (46.5)
Akron at Eastern Michigan, noon Saturday: wind (43.5)
SMU at Connecticut, noon Saturday: wind (66)
Clemson at Boston College, 8 p.m. Saturday: wind (57.5)