After destroying the spread in 2013, and returning such talent this season, expectations for the Florida State Seminoles of 2014-15 could not be higher, making them an overvalued betting risk this season.
Florida State beat the SPREAD by an AVERAGE of 11.68 points last season. For this 2014-2015 season, they return a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, an all-senior starting offensive line (four of whom are returning starters), a running back that averaged 8.0 yards per carry, a wide receiver poised to become the best receiver in Florida State history, (arguably) the best tight end in college football, a ferocious defensive line, one of the deepest and most talented defensive backfields in the game, and a returning Lou Groza Award-winning kicker. You might think this article’s thesis delusional, but history offers three good reasons NOT to bet on the 2014-15 Florida State Seminoles.
REASON #1: Betting on Defending National Champions is Unprofitable
CollegeFootballWinning.com studied more than 20 years of against-the-spread (ATS) results for all teams during and immediately following their National Championship-winning seasons. The following charts illustrate the results of that study:
National Champions beat the spread at an average rate of 64.8% during their National Championship-winning season. Obviously, that is tremendously profitable. Following those National Champions just one season later reveals an ATS winning rate of just 49.85% - unprofitable. In real money terms, the bettor who wagered $110 (to win $100) on every game that National Champions played during their National Championship seasons from 1994-2013 would be up $6,970. On the other hand, the bettor who wagered $110 in every game those National Champions played the following season would be down $1,340. In other words, blindly betting on the defending National Champions' College Football odds is not a profitable strategy over the long term.
REASON #2: Betting on Returning Heisman Trophy Winners is Usually a Bad Idea
Since 2003, there have been five Heisman Trophy winners who returned to their teams the following season - Florida State’s Jameis Winston becomes the sixth in 2014. The graph below illustrates the ATS results for those Heisman Trophy winners for the season AFTER they won their hardware:
Four out of those five returning Heisman Trophy winners played on teams that had losing ATS years. If we remove the anomaly (Tim Tebow’s Florida Gators), then the average season ATS winning rate for a team with a Heisman Trophy winner on it becomes 38%. Even if we include Tebow’s aberration, the ATS winning rate averages just 47.62%. Any way you look at those numbers, the results are unprofitable.
REASON #3: Double-digit ATS Winners Bite Back
Nearly every season, there is a handful of teams that achieves at least 10 (double-digit) ATS wins. CollegeFootballWinning.com tracked the last 20 teams to do so, and the season that followed such success was worse IN EVERY CASE. Not only did all 20 teams do worse ATS than they did during their (immediately prior) double-digit ATS season, but 15 out of the 20 teams had unprofitable seasons- defined as beating the spread at a rate lower than 52.38%. The line graph below plots all of the season ATS winning rates for the 20 teams that, just one season prior, had double-digit ATS wins:
For the preceding season, each of the 20 plotted teams above won at a rate that was somewhere between 71.43% and 92.31%. The average season ATS winning rate of those 20 teams (for their double-digit-winning season) was 79.55%. Their average season ATS winning rate, just one year later, was 45.45%. For the 2013-2014 season, Florida State won 11 and lost 3 games ATS, making their season ATS winning rate 78.57%.
The Cautionary Conclusion
Florida State of 2014 is a defending National Champion with a Heisman Trophy winner coming off of a double-digit-winning ATS season. Each of those reasons should be enough to give a bettor pause, but all of them should serve as a force multiplier for avoiding those FSU spread bets in 2014-2015. Of course, each of those categories has an exception to the tendency, but wise sports bettors choose to have favorable odds on their side. Will you?