NCAAF Odds: Big Money Advantages Betting Small Conferences

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, August 20, 2015 6:42 PM UTC

Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 6:42 PM UTC

Get your homework finished because the 2015 College Football season kicks off Sept 3rd. And homework is important in learning whether to bet big on small conference teams.

Power 5 Schools In Spotlight
In many ways, sportsbooks are just like you and I. They follow and research  the major teams in college football more than they do the smaller conferences. By major teams I of course mean those in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC as well as independents Notre Dame and BYU. It's easy to find information on these teams as many have multiple sites devoted to following them. Type in "Notre Dame football injury" in Google and you will get hundreds of results. Do the same with "Bowling Green football injury" and you probably get listings for personal injury or slip and fall lawyers in that area and nothing on the football team. Plus the Power 5 teams (maybe not the dregs of those leagues like Wake Forest -- ACC; Indiana -- Big Ten; Kansas -- Big 12; Washington State -- Pac-12; and Vanderbilt -- SEC) are always on national television, whatever the network.

It's natural for casual bettors to follow what they know. The sportsbook operators know this and thus put the vast majority of their efforts into researching those types of games. Thus you could be missing out in a big way from a betting value perspective if you aren't checking out all those non-Power 5 teams. After all, most Power 5 schools play at least two games against teams from lower-level leagues. Especially early in the season.


Get A Jump On Sportsbooks
The conferences outside the Power 5 are the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt. It's probably fair to call the Mountain West's Boise State a Power 5 team at this point considering all the success the Broncos have had. They are the early favorites to get chosen for a New Year's Six bowl game. The top-ranked non-Power 5 team in the final College Football Playoff rankings is guaranteed a spot in one of those major bowls. Boise State got it last year and beat Pac-12 runner-up Arizona 38-30 in the Fiesta Bowl.

Last season among the Top 12 teams in cover percentage there were seven from outside the Power 5: Louisiana Tech (11-3 ATS), Western Michigan (10-3 ATS), Texas State (9-3 ATS), UTEP (9-4 ATS), Rice (9-4 ATS), Florida International (8-4 ATS) and Georgia Southern (8-4 ATS). Obviously a majority of those games came against fellow conference teams. The best non-Power 5 teams out of conference were Memphis (4-0-1 ATS), Louisiana Tech (4-1 ATS) Rice (4-1 ATS), Colorado State (4-1 ATS), East Carolina (4-1 ATS), Boise State (4-1 ATS), Air Force (4-1 ATS) and Marshall (4-1 ATS).

Most of those schools will cash big checks by traveling to Power 5 teams. For example, Louisiana Tech visits Kansas State and Mississippi State this season. Rice visits Texas and Baylor. Western Michigan hosts Michigan State and visits Ohio State. And so on.

I often like to back these small conference teams in Week 1 when they visit Power 5 teams because those latter schools essentially treat them as scrimmages, while it's the game of  the season for the smaller school. Central Michigan is not a bad MAC team and hosts Oklahoma State on Sept. 3. The Chips are getting 22 points and that looks good to me. Western is probably the MAC's most talented team and is getting 19 at home against a Michigan State team no doubt looking ahead to Week 2 and Oregon. Bowling Green is +21 at Tennessee, with the Vols probably more focused on Week 2 and Oklahoma.

My advice is to focus your College Footbal Picks not on a handful of smaller conference schools around the country but on one conference in particular. That way, you will be ahead of the books in terms of relevant information and betting histories. And come bowl season, I love betting on small conference teams against Power 5 ones because that game means everything to the small school, especially if it hasn't been to a bowl in a while, while the big school probably isn't happy to be playing in Boise or Shreveport or wherever and goes through the motions. Last year, for example, Memphis upset BYU, Louisiana Tech thumped Illinois, Central Florida nearly beat NC State, Houston upset Pittsburgh and East Carolina played Florida close. 

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