Checking the early betting trends in the NFL this season, the underdogs have the slight edge against the spread with a winning percentage of 52 percent. That is more a product of parity at the professional level, than an actual betting trend you can bank on from week to week.
When it comes to the college ranks, the winning rate for underdogs ATS through the first six weeks of the season is also 52 percent, but that is more a product of the ‘any given Saturday’ syndrome. Just ask Virginia Tech after losing to a winless Old Dominion by 14 points as a 28-point road favorite.
College football favorites remain dominant straight-up against underdogs with a winning rate of 80 percent, but given some of the hefty betting spreads for quite a few games every week, there are always opportunities to cash in betting on the dogs.
A good starting point for finding underdogs with a betting edge is their overall record ATS when getting points. Conference USA’s Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are just 1-4 SU this season, but they have covered in all four games closing as underdogs. Over the Mountain West, Hawaii has closed as an underdog in four of its first seven games with a 3-0-1 record ATS. Iowa State is farther down in the Big 12 standings at 2-3 SU overall with a 1-2 record in conference play, but the Cyclones are coming off a 48-42 upset against Oklahoma State as 10-point road underdogs as part of a 3-1 record ATS when closing as underdogs.
Another good way to find value in the betting spreads are matchups between the lower-tier teams from a major conference going up against one of the better teams in the Mid Majors. Most times, the team from the major conference will be favored even though they may have a losing record overall. Facing an opponent they are supposed beat only adds pressure to a team that is not all that good to begin with. Knowing that they have a good team, the Mid Major becomes even more motivated to win. Every matchup still needs to be evaluated on its individual merits, but do not underestimate the importance of motivation when it comes to college football.
Conference rivalries are another good place to find value in an underdog. In these situations, motivation is running high for both teams, but now you have to take into consideration the ‘revenge factor’. The automatic lean goes towards the team that lost last year’s game. They are going to want to avenge that loss, especially if they are listed as underdogs.
Home underdogs in general offer value, but once again you need to breakdown every matchup on face value. Going back to this season’s betting trends, underdogs have lost 80 percent of the time SU, but that losing rate drops to 70 percent for underdogs playing at home. When you factor in the spread, home underdogs have covered 50 percent of the time.
One of the biggest reason’s you should look for opportunities to bet underdogs in any football game is the inherent value they have in the betting spread. The online sportsbooks know that the betting public tends to lead towards the favorite in any matchup, so they will automatically try and push bettors that way with their opening spreads. If the line moves towards the favorite as the week wears on, that only adds more value to the underdog. Betting against the consensus that leans heavily towards the favorite comes with some level of risk, but it can be a great way to maximize the value in the team getting points.