When it comes to handicapping bowl games, there’s a lot of different things we need to consider. Most of the time we focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the two teams playing.

That’s a good start, but I want to take a different approach with this article. I took the time to gather up the data to see how each conference as whole performs in postseason play.

I’m not saying base your bowl picks strictly off the data presented. I just want to give you another tool to help you beat the bowl betting lines this year.

Conference Performance Against the Spread in Postseason Play

Experts and media members often debate which league is on top of their power rankings each year. How strong or weak you perceive a conference to be often impacts what team you bet.

Those who follow NCAAF closely, typically have a good idea of where to rank each conference.

The problem for a lot of people is the bias they create based on their favorite team. They can have a hard time admitting that their team plays in a weak league, as that takes away from what they have accomplished.

NCAA Football Conference ATS Betting Results in Bowl Games

I decided it would be a lot easier to just look at the results and see what the data has to say. I’ve compiled the SU and ATS results for each active FBS conference since. As well, as a more recent look at just the past 5 seasons.

Records Since 2002

Conference# GamesSU RecordAvg. LineATS Results
SEC14388-55 (61.5%)-2.781-60-2 (57.4%)
Big 1012455-69 (44.4%)+3.264-57-3 (52.9%)
ACC13463-71 (47.0%)+0.572-60-2 (54.5%)
Pac-1210653-53 (50.0%)-4.350-55-1 (47.6%)
Big 1211659-57 (50.9%)-0.950-65-1 (43.5%)
American Athletic3411-23 (32.4%)+0.011-23 (32.4%)
Mountain West7037-33 (52.9%)-0.934-36 (48.6%)
MAC7218-54 (25.0%)+3.021-47-4 (30.9%)
C-USA8544-41 (51.8%)+1.747-37-1 (56%)
Sun Belt3119-12 (61.3%)+1.917-11-3 (60.7%)
Independent2613-13 (50.0%)+2.112-14 (46.2%)

As you can see, the SEC has dominated in a lot of ways. They have played in a 143 bowl games. The next best is the ACC with 134.

The SEC also makes the most of their postseason appearances. They have won 61.5% (88-55) of their games. The next best Power 5 conference is the Big 12 at a mere 59-57 (50.9%).

Not only does the SEC win the majority of the time, they are also one of the best at covering the betting line. They own a 81-60-2 record against the spread, which is a 57.4% win rate. The ACC is the next best of the Power 5 conferences at 54.5%.

One of the things that stands out to me is the struggles of the Big 10. They have won only 44.4% of their games. They also have been a surprising 3.2-point underdog on average. On the bright side they are a respectable 52.9% ATS during this time.

There are two “Power 5” leagues that have covered at less than a 50% rate. That would be the Big 12 at 43.5% (50-65-1) and the Pac-12 at 47.6% (50-55-1).

As far as the Group of 5 conference are concerned. More times than not you want to avoid teams out of the MAC (30.9% ATS) and American Athletic (32.4% ATS). C-USA (56% ATS) and Sun Belt (60.7%) are two Group of 5 conference with a strong history of cashing winners.

Last 5 Years

Conference# GamesSU RecordAvg. LineATS Results
SEC5128-23 (54.9%)-3.128-22-1 (56.0%)
Big 104725-22 (53.2%)+1.625-20-2 (55.6%)
ACC5125-26 (49.0%)+0.027-23-1 (54.0%)
Pac-124019-21 (47.5%)-2.313-26-1 (33.3%)
Big 123418-16 (52.9%)+2.518-16 (52.9%)
American Athletic3010-20 (33.3%)-0.59-21 (30.0%)
Mountain West3014-16 (46.7%)-1.915-15 (50.0%)
MAC297-22 (24.1%)+3.711-15-3 (42.3%)
C-USA3019-11 (63.3%)+0.118-12 (60.0%)
Sun Belt139-4 (69.2%)+3.07-4-2 (63.6%)
Independents95-4 (55.6%)-0.13-6 (33.3%)

I also took the time to look at just the past 5 years. We can see what trends have held serve over time and what changes might be worth noting.

One thing to note is the SEC doesn’t look nearly as good during this stretch. Their win rate drops from 61.5% since 2002 down to just 54.9% in the last 5  years.

As for the Big 10 and their struggles long-term, they appear on the rise. Their win rate in the last 5 seasons in bowl games is 53.2%. Same with the Big 12, who has won. 52.9%.

The only Power 5 program that doesn’t have a profitable ATS mark in the last 5 years is the Pac-12, which has gone a miserable 13-26-1 (33.3%) ATS.

Both C-USA and the Sun Belt were strong bets long term and have remained that way of late. C-USA has covered 60% of the time in the last 5 seasons, while the Sun Belt is at 63.6%.

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