Which College Football Teams Are Best Against the Spread?
Betting against the spread is one of the more difficult things to do in college football betting, and bookmakers are almost dead-on when setting spreads for college football. With the Power 5 teams averaging 48.77% in beating or covering the spread, you really need to be up on college football to beat the spread.
However, there’s always a few exceptions to the rule. While under half of the Power 5 teams beat the spread more than 50% of the time, there are a few teams that can do it with some regularity.
The results could change based on whatever timeline one sets. So as we begin the 2018 season, we set a timeline of the past 3 years as the freshmen of 2015 enter their last years of playing. Here’s the top five Power 5 against the spread of the past 3 years.
Wisconsin | 24-16-1 ATS (58.54%)
Since Paul Chryst took over the Badgers, they’ve been a remarkably good team. Not good for a Wisconsin team, a straight up good team. Overall, he’s lead the Badgers to a 34-7 record over the past 3 seasons, and 3 straight bowl wins.
In terms record against the spread, Wisconsin is almost 10% better than the Power 5 average. The powerful Bucky rushing attack has served them well to stay ahead of the spread, as well as their opponents in general. The Badgers look to be extremely good against the spread in 2018.
Their rushing attack is typically strong, but their secret weapon is junior QB Alex Hornibrook, who threw for over 2,500 yards last season. Passing and Wisconsin don’t usually go hand-in-hand, but they look to have a surprising passing game in 2018, which should keep bookmakers on their toes.
Washington State | 23-16 ATS (58.97%)
Mike Leach is one of college football’s most consistent winning coaches, in records or against the spread. In the past 3 years, Wazzu has gone a 9, 8, and 9 win seasons. The advantage they have over Wisconsin is lower expectations in a tough conference. Wazzu is not a favorite to win the Pac 12 very often, but that means that those 8/9 win season still catch people by surprise.
What doesn’t surprise people is the air attack. The passing attack of Mike Leach has been a staple of Wazzu football, something he originally cultivated at Texas Tech. The effectiveness is clear, showing in the past 3 season. It shows against the spread as well. They have one less win against the spread than Bucky, but they don’t have that extra push that drags Wisconsin behind Wazzu.
The Pac 12 North is going to be extremely tough this season, so Wazzu has their work cut out for them to continue beating the spread this season. They could still manage it behind what is one of the most potent attacks in college football.
Oklahoma | 24-16 ATS (60%)
Well, it isn’t Bob Stoops anymore, but Oklahoma is still winning games. In the past three years, they’ve been dominant in the Big 12 and against the spread. One of three teams to crack a 60% win against the spread, the Sooners have been hard to pick against.
Head coach Lincoln Riley figured out how to do it in his first year, going 8-6 against the spread in 2017. Admittedly, he had Baker Mayfield, which will help matters. Having a Heisman-level QB propelled the Sooners last year to a 12-1 season, as well as being a good bet against the spread.
This year, however, doesn’t look to be as good of news. Mayfield is gone, and the defense definitely has some holes. Meanwhile, they get to face the shockingly high powered attack of FAU in week one, and there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to cover. Oklahoma will have a lot of questions to answer first if they want to keep their spread record above 60%.
Northwestern | 25-14 ATS (64.1%)
The top two aren’t top teams by any stretch of the imagination, but you’d better not bet against the ‘Cats. A straight up stunning 64.1% win percentage against the spread will make bettors sit up and pay attention. Even beyond that, head coach Pat Fitzgerald did something that almost nobody has been able to do in the 142 year history of Northwestern: create expectations.
To be fair, Northwestern doesn’t have the national expectations that the rest of the stars of the Big Ten sees. On that, the Cats tend to catch a lot of people by surprise. In 2017, Northwestern won 10 games, but without a shot at the Big Ten title because of early losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. They also won 10 games in 2015, but only went 7-6 in 2016.
Northwestern is poised to continue catching people by surprise in 2018. The defense is surprisingly good, almost on an elite level, and QB Clayton Thorson is a quiet weapon if he can recover 100% from injury. The ‘Cats have a chance to continue beating the spread by opening the 2018 season against Purdue, where they’re 1 point underdogs. Be very careful about betting against Northwestern.
Iowa State | 24-12-1 ATS (64.86%)
*spluttering* Iowa State?! Yep, the Cyclones, for the past three years, have been the best team against the spread. Forever overlooked until 2018, Iowa State is usually that team that’s good for one upset a year. In 2017, it was Oklahoma.
It’s hard to put a finger on what makes Iowa State so good against the spread, but it’s similar to the situation with Northwestern. Perpetually overlooked, but Iowa State is actually a pretty good team. Head coach Matt Campbell has gone 11-14 in two seasons with Iowa State, and they won’t be surprising anybody in 2018.
The Cyclones are set up for success in 2018, behind RB David Montgomery and one of the toughest rushing defenses in the nation. Again, they won’t be surprising anyone on 2018, but that might just suit the Cyclones for once. Statistically favored over CFP dark horse West Virginia, betting against Iowa State is simply not in your best interests.
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