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 over the last 15 years. As well, as a more recent look at just the past 5 seasons.

Last 15 Years

Conference# GamesSU RecordAvg. LineATS Results
SEC13182-49 (62.6%)-2.574-56-1 (56.9%)
Big 1011647-69 (40.5%)+3.459-55-2 (51.8%)
ACC12259-63 (48.4%)+0.166-55-1 (54.5%)
Pac-129754-43 (55.6%)-4.354-47 (51.5%)
Big 1211257-55 (50.9%)-1.246-65-1 (41.4%)
American Athletic237-16 (30.4%)+0.59-14 (39.1%)
Mountain West7339-34 (53.4%)-0.138-35 (52.1%)
MAC6721-46 (31.3%)+2.424-40-3 (37.5%)
C-USA8443-41 (51.2%)+1.344-39-1 (53.0%)
Sun Belt3719-18-0 (51.4%)+1.918-17-2 (51.4%)
Independent3014-16 (46.7%)+2.413-17 (43.3%)

As you can see, the SEC has dominated in a lot of ways. Over the last 15 years they have played in a 131 bowl games. The next best is the ACC with 122.

The SEC also makes the most of their postseason appearances. They have won 63% (82-49) of their games. The only other conference who has won more than 55% of their games is the Pac-12 at 55.6%.

Not only does the SEC win the majority of the time, they are also the best at covering the betting line. They own a 74-56-1 record against the spread, which is a 56.9% win rate. The ACC is the next best at 54.5%.

One of the things that stands out to me is the struggles of the Big 10. They have won only 40.5% of their games. They also have been a surprising 3.4-point underdog on average. On the bright side they are a respectable 51.8% ATS during this time.

The only “Power 5” league that has covered at less than a 50% rate is the Big 12. They are a mere 46-65-1 (41.4%). Even worse than them is the recently formed American Athletic, which is a mere 7-16 (30.4%) straight up and 9-14 (39.1%) ATS.

Last 5 Years

Conference# GamesSU RecordAvg. LineATS Results
SEC5032-18 (64.0%)-3.730-19-1 (61.2%)
Big 104116-25 (39.0%)+3.820-19-2 (51.3%)
ACC4523-22 (51.1%)+1.224-21 (53.3%)
Pac-123924-15 (61.5%)-5.919-20 (48.7%)
Big 123416-18 (47.1%)+1.514-20 (41.2%)
American Athletic237-16 (30.4%)+0.59-14 (39.1%)
Mountain West3315-18 (45.5%)-0.516-17 (48.5%)
MAC307-23 (23.3%)+4.611-17-2 (39.3%)
C-USA2919-10 (65.5%)-0.118-11 (62.1%)
Sun Belt1911-8 (57.9%)+1.29-9-1 (50.0%)
Independents137-6 (53.8%)+0.24-9 (30.8%)

There’s a lot we can learn from the previous table that looks back over the previous 15 seasons. The problem with that data is a lot can change over that period of time.

That’s why 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.

As good as the SEC has been over the last 15 years, they have been even better the past half decade. Their win percentage is up to 64% (32-18), as well as their cover rate, 61.2% (30-19-1).

Our concerns with the Big 10 and Big 12 haven’t changed. The Big Ten continues to struggle to win games, while the Big 12 remains a prime fade option against the spread.

The big sleeper conference that you are likely overlooking is C-USA. They are 19-10 (65.5%) SU and 18-11 (62.1%) ATS in 29 bowl appearances. The league to avoid in postseason games looks to be the MAC, which is a mere 11-17-2 (39.3%) ATS.

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