College Football Betting: Best & Worst ATS Teams In 2015-16

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, January 13, 2016 1:16 AM GMT

Earlier this week we reviewed the top over-under teams for the 2015 college football season. Here you will find the best and worst against the spread (ATS). Did you grow rich or poor continually backing one of these sides? Check it out.

Many teams exceeded or fell flat of expectations, staying one step ahead or behind the oddsmakers for much of the year. Listed are their ATS record, margin against the number, and average closing line against the college football odds.

 

Best Against the Number
1. South Florida (10-3 ATS, 10.6 margin, avg. line -0.1)
The Bulls kicked off as 2.5-point underdogs or less in four closely matched games (Syracuse, Connecticut, Cincinnati, and Temple), winning each of them outright and by an average of 22 points. They were favored in just three games all year (Florida A&M, Central Florida, and SMU), claiming victory and covering the number in each of those as well. 

What may have thrown the market off with the Bulls were the team’s first three games against FBS opponents (Florida State, Maryland, and Memphis), in which it lost all straight up. The Bulls offense posted 14, 17, and 17 in each game respectively. More alarming was its 317 total yards per game average (128 passing yards), signaling signs of potential scoring deficiencies. A 45-24 thrashing of Syracuse awakened the unit the following week and South Florida went on to average 36.9 points in conference play, going 6-1 SU and ATS in the process. Oddsmakers were slow to adjust.

 

2. Southern Mississippi (10-4 ATS, 10.0 margin, avg. line -4.3)
In 2013, head coach Todd Monken went 1-11 SU (1-7 in conference) his first season in charge of the Golden Eagles. The program improved slightly the following year, posting a 3-9 record straight up, but it again fell flat in conference play (1-7). Nonetheless, expectations were low headed into this year. 

Southern Miss caught oddsmakers by surprise, though. Monken, a former collegiate quarterback and offensive coordinator, led a unit that feasted on poor defenses. Most were Conference USA opponents, but when the Golden Eagles faced a squad allowing more than college football’s 28-point average, it put up a whopping 48.0 points per game. They went 7-0 SU, 6-1 ATS in this scenario.

 

3. Toledo (10-2 ATS, 8.8 margin, avg. line -5.5)
The Rockets were going to put up 30-plus points per game this season—they have in five straight. What caught the market off guard was a defense playing roughly 10 points better than the year before. Toledo shocked Arkansas 16-12 in Week 2 as a 21.5-point underdog. It went on to win and cover its next six games, cracking the AP top 25 in the process. The defense allowed 13.2 points per game during this stretch. The Rockets managed to go 3-2 SU and ATS to close out the year, with the defense coming down to earth (27 PPG in the final five) against the MAC’s stronger offenses.

 

4. Washington State (10-3 ATS, 2.9 margin, avg. line -0.8)
This season marked coach Mike Leach’s fourth year in charge of the Cougars. He had his recruits seasoned and in position to execute his always-dangerous air-raid offense—and it delivered. Commanding three losing seasons in a row, it was do-or-die time. Washington State marched home with nine victories including its first bowl win (20-14 over Miami, Sun Bowl) since 2003. The gimmicky offense, the only scheme of its kind in the Pac-12 other than California, baffled opponents. The Cougars went 8-1 ATS in conference play. They averaged 33.8 points per game and scored over its team total in seven of the nine.

 

5. Houston (9-5 ATS, 9.0 margin, avg. line -10.7)
Thirteen teams ended up with nine covers on the season, and some in fewer games than the Cougars. Nevertheless, they had the greatest margin over the number of all, and really deserved to make the list going 13-1 SU. 

After a convincing 38-24 victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl, Houston cemented itself as the top non-Power 5 team in the nation. QB Greg Ward Jr. was seemingly uncontainable this season, guiding the offense to 40.4 points per game. Houston lost three against the number in November, a stretch where they put up just 28.3 per contest with the 5-foot-11 junior suffering from a bum ankle. Once Ward Jr. regained full health, it was back to beating the odds, as they closed the year with three straight ATS victories.

Must Read: Top Ten O/U Teams For The 2015-2016 Season

Worst Against the Number
1. Central Florida (2-10 ATS, -13.5 margin, avg. line 10.2)
Following three seasons of nine wins or more and consecutive conference titles, the Knights went 0-8 SU, 1-7 ATS before veteran coach George O'Leary unceremoniously resigned. They lost two games SU as double-digit favorites in its first three games: 15-14 to Florida International as 13-point chalk in the season opener, and a stunning 16-15 loss to FCS foe Furman as 26-point faves. 

The offense was anemic all season, amassing just 80.9 rushing and 187.5 passing yards per game on the year, well below its nearly 360 total yard average in 2014. 

 

2. Hawaii (3-10 ATS, -10.4 margin, avg. line 7.6)
The Rainbow Warriors have been in a tailspin for several seasons now, winning a total of eight games straight up in the three years prior to the 2015 campaign. For all intents and purposes, the program looked to be on the up and up after four victories last year improved on their lowly one-win 2013 season. 

Hawaii fired out of the gates with a big 28-20 win over Colorado as a 7.5-point underdog in the season opener. It lost but covered against then-No.1 Ohio State 38-0 in Week 2 and thrashed a less-than-talented UC Davis squad 47-27 next time out. By Week 4 the wheels came off. The team scored a measly 15.4 points and yielded 37.8 per game in their final 10 contests, going 1-9 ATS. Oddsmakers rushed to catch the number, but failed to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow with their college football picks.

 

3. Auburn (3-10 ATS, -4.4 margin, avg. line -5.8)
The AP preseason No. 6 team was the biggest bust of the season. After winning a 31-24 turnover-filled contest against Louisville in the season opener, War Eagle needed overtime to beat FCS opponents Jacksonville State  27-20 in Week 2 at home. The nation knew something wasn't right after that near upset.  

Auburn averaged 27.5 points per game on the season and allowed slightly less at 26, but a combination of inconsistent play and a bevy of talented players kept the number too high for one of the most underperforming teams on the season.

 

4. Texas State (3-9 ATS, -8.7 margin, avg. line 3.5)
There were nine FBS programs that failed to cover the spread in nine games on the season, but Texas State topped them all in margin with -8.7. When a squad gives up 522 total yards a game on defense it is destined to fail bettors and baffle bookmakers. 

 

5. Oregon State (3-9 ATS, -7.5 margin, avg line 10.5)
It was a tough year for new coach Gary Andersen on the Beavers' sideline. The writing was on the wall after the team could only muster 26 points in its opener against FCS opponent Weber State. Oregon State couldn't move the ball, nor stop it. Defensively, poor fundamentals plagued the team. It gifted Pac-12 opponents 42.3 points and 549 total yards per game. Whoa.