How important is considering the betting number the books set?  I’m often asked this question by clients and wanted to shed some light on it.

Is it simply better to just try to pick the outright winner of the game or focus more on the line?

The fact of the matter is that the number doesn’t have a huge impact versus simply picking the outright winner until you get to a team laying over a touchdown. Not that you shouldn’t consider the spread at all with these numbers, it just doesn’t come into play that often.

I looked at every NCAAF game since 1980 and looked to see what percentage of underdogs won outright and what percentage of underdogs lost the game but still ended up covering.

NCAA Football Betting Results: How Often Point Spread Comes into Play

The results show that underdogs from -1.5 to -7 only cover the spread when they lose the game outright 12.29% of the time.

Once that spread hits -7.5 and above (up to -33), it increases dramatically, averaging 34.38%.  This is exactly the trend you would expect – bigger numbers make it a lot easier to cover the spread.

There’s one thing that stands out above the rest when looking at the table below.

On average, the betting spreads only impact about 25% (25.72%) of games when compared to simply picking the outright winner.

That means that roughly 75% of NCAAF games, simply picking the outright winner would also result in that team covering the number.

This is, of course, more easily said than done, but I think it can be useful when considering who to back when wagering on a game.

LineGamesUnderdog Lost/CoveredUnderdog Outright WinOutright Win %Underdog Lost/Covered
-1.54612122548.81%4.56%
-26142427745.11%3.91%
-2.57794934744.54%6.29%
-311077248143.45%6.50%
-3.593512734637.01%13.58%
-46997826437.77%11.16%
-4.55157718435.73%14.95%
-55267019236.50%13.31%
-5.55368717532.65%16.23%
-666810322233.23%15.42%
-6.581816126031.78%19.68%
-7101419729328.90%19.43%
-7.563015216726.51%24.13%
-856714314625.75%25.22%
-8.541910412529.83%24.82%
-945811511725.55%25.11%
-9.5380928021.05%24.21%
-1062715714422.97%25.04%
-10.542413510424.53%31.84%
-114081128921.81%27.45%
-11.5280896322.50%31.79%
-123611217420.50%33.52%
-12.5317876119.24%27.44%
-134821589419.50%32.78%
-13.54321247016.20%28.70%
-145771748114.04%30.16%
-14.53851475915.32%38.18%
-153321274914.76%38.25%
-15.5228703214.04%30.70%
-163551184312.11%33.24%
-16.52831052910.25%37.10%
-174711684910.40%35.67%
-17.52671012910.86%37.83%
-18258106218.14%41.09%
-18.515071149.33%47.33%
-19267105269.74%39.33%
-19.5154641912.34%41.56%
-20272106196.99%38.97%
-20.520384125.91%41.38%
-21330123278.18%37.27%
-21.51728195.23%47.09%
-2222597104.44%43.11%
-22.51194965.04%41.18%
-231997794.52%38.69%
-23.51597063.77%44.03%
-24278105113.96%37.77%
-24.51405675.00%40.00%
-251546774.55%43.51%
-25.5934044.30%43.01%
-261465542.74%37.67%
-26.5944244.26%44.68%
-271606531.88%40.63%
-27.51346232.24%46.27%
-281757563.43%42.86%
-28.5933933.23%41.94%
-291055643.81%53.33%
-29.5673311.49%49.25%
-301255610.80%44.80%
-30.5923744.35%40.22%
-31914133.30%45.05%
-31.5633623.17%57.14%
-321065800.00%54.72%
-32.5633311.59%52.38%
-33803611.25%45.00%
OVERALL22,1225,6905,21823.59%25.72%

Performance of Every College Football Betting Line Against the Spread

The table below lists the performance by closing line for regular season NCAA football games since 1980. We’ve included ATS, straight up records, winning percentages for both, and margins for both. ATS margin shows, on average, how many points each team covers by (positive number) or fails to cover by (negative number).

There are some interesting trends that seem to emerge, but for the most part this information is just provided for your information. We aren’t advocating betting any games specifically based on their closing number, however, you may want to consider the information when you are placing your bets.

LineGamesFavorites ATSATS MarginATS Win %Favorites SUSU MarginSU Win %
0326159-163-4-0.3249.40%159-163-4-0.3249.40%
-0.56233-29-0-1.0553.20%33-29-0-0.5553.20%
-1715320-371-24-0.6946.30%344-366-50.3148.50%
-1.5461215-246-0-0.7346.60%230-225-60.7750.50%
-2614300-301-13-0.5249.90%331-277-61.4854.40%
-2.5779383-396-0-0.9949.20%420-347-121.5154.80%
-31107488-553-66-0.7746.90%612-481-142.2356.00%
-3.5935462-473-00.449.40%580-346-93.962.60%
-4699331-342-260.1549.20%424-264-114.1561.60%
-4.5515254-261-00.7249.30%327-184-45.2264.00%
-5526247-262-170.3648.50%329-192-55.3663.10%
-5.5536274-262-00.3851.10%359-175-25.8867.20%
-6668329-325-140.6650.30%440-222-66.6666.50%
-6.5818397-421-00.0648.50%550-260-86.5667.90%
-71014472-490-520.6349.10%708-293-137.6370.70%
-7.5630311-319-01.4249.40%460-167-38.9273.40%
-8567260-289-181.1547.40%420-146-19.1574.20%
-8.5419190-229-0-0.3445.30%293-125-18.1670.10%
-9458217-232-9-0.0748.30%334-117-78.9374.10%
-9.5380208-172-02.154.70%297-80-311.678.80%
-10627299-301-270.5249.80%479-144-410.5276.90%
-10.5424185-239-0-0.8243.60%315-104-59.6875.20%
-11408199-201-81.1349.80%317-89-212.1378.10%
-11.5280128-152-0-0.4345.70%215-63-211.0777.30%
-12361157-195-9-0.6144.60%284-74-311.3979.30%
-12.5317169-148-01.5853.30%253-61-314.0880.60%
-13482216-252-14-1.0846.20%384-94-411.9280.30%
-13.5432238-194-01.7555.10%357-70-515.2583.60%
-14577311-255-112.2354.90%494-81-216.2385.90%
-14.5385179-206-00.4846.50%326-59-014.9884.70%
-15332150-176-6-0.3746.00%278-49-514.6385.00%
-15.5228126-102-00.8155.30%194-32-216.3185.80%
-16355191-161-31.0954.30%310-43-217.0987.80%
-16.5283149-134-00.2452.70%253-29-116.7489.70%
-17471230-217-240.8851.50%420-49-217.8889.60%
-17.5267137-130-01.4351.30%237-29-118.9389.10%
-18258123-127-81.1649.20%233-21-419.1691.70%
-18.515065-85-0-1.743.30%135-14-116.890.60%
-19267130-131-60.6749.80%239-26-219.6790.20%
-19.515471-83-0-1.2546.10%134-19-118.2587.60%
-20272138-125-91.0752.50%251-19-221.0793.00%
-20.5203107-96-00.652.70%191-12-021.194.10%
-21330171-150-91.8453.30%303-27-022.8491.80%
-21.517282-90-00.0247.70%163-9-021.5294.80%
-22225111-107-71.0550.90%215-10-023.0595.60%
-22.511964-55-01.1453.80%113-6-023.6495.00%
-23199109-86-4-0.255.90%189-9-122.895.50%
-23.515983-76-00.1152.20%153-6-023.6196.20%
-24278152-116-101.9756.70%267-11-025.9796.00%
-24.514077-63-00.5455.00%133-7-025.0495.00%
-2515472-74-80.3649.30%146-7-125.3695.40%
-25.59349-44-00.0252.70%89-4-025.5295.70%
-2614683-59-41.5958.50%141-4-127.5997.20%
-26.59448-46-00.7251.10%90-4-027.2295.70%
-2716088-68-42.1756.40%157-3-029.1798.10%
-27.513469-65-0-0.2351.50%131-3-027.2797.80%
-2817587-81-70.0751.80%169-6-028.0796.60%
-28.59351-42-00.1254.80%89-3-128.6296.70%
-2910544-60-1-2.5942.30%101-4-026.4196.20%
-29.56733-34-00.0549.30%66-1-029.5598.50%
-3012565-57-32.0653.30%124-1-032.0699.20%
-30.59251-41-02.4155.40%88-4-032.9195.70%
-319140-44-7-0.3847.60%88-3-030.6296.70%
-31.56325-38-0-0.9339.70%61-2-030.5796.80%
-3210641-58-7-3.0141.40%106-0-028.99100.00%
-32.56329-34-0-0.9446.00%62-1-031.5698.40%
-338042-37-1-0.1653.20%79-1-032.8498.80%
-33.54923-26-00.2846.90%49-0-033.78100.00%
-348540-43-2-0.3948.20%84-0-133.61100.00%
-34.54929-20-01.3659.20%49-0-035.86100.00%
-358842-44-2-0.9548.80%87-1-034.0598.90%
-35.55525-30-0-1.2645.50%54-1-034.2498.20%
-365429-25-0-1.0753.70%52-2-034.9396.30%
-36.53213-19-0-2.2540.60%30-2-034.2593.80%
-376435-26-33.4157.40%64-0-040.41100.00%
-37.53110-21-0-2.432.30%31-0-035.1100.00%
-385330-21-22.5758.80%53-0-040.57100.00%
-38.53317-16-0-4.5951.50%32-1-033.9197.00%
-393922-14-33.6961.10%39-0-042.69100.00%
-39.5199-10-01.547.40%19-0-041100.00%
-404223-17-20.6457.50%42-0-040.64100.00%
-40.53015-15-0-0.3350.00%30-0-040.17100.00%
-413917-20-21.6945.90%39-0-042.69100.00%
-41.5168-8-0-350.00%16-0-038.5100.00%
-424018-21-11.5246.20%40-0-043.52100.00%
-42.52415-9-03.562.50%24-0-046100.00%
-43287-21-0-7.8925.00%28-0-035.11100.00%
-43.5179-8-0-3.552.90%17-0-040100.00%
-442925-4-06.4586.20%29-0-050.45100.00%
-44.5147-7-01.5750.00%14-0-046.07100.00%
-45189-9-0-8.4450.00%17-1-036.5694.40%
-45.5114-7-0-6.6836.40%11-0-038.82100.00%
-46196-10-3-0.7437.50%19-0-045.26100.00%
-46.5164-12-0-3.0625.00%16-0-043.44100.00%
-47125-7-0-4.2541.70%12-0-042.75100.00%
-47.563-3-0-7.8350.00%6-0-039.67100.00%
-4872-5-0-9.7128.60%7-0-038.29100.00%
-48.594-5-0-0.3944.40%9-0-048.11100.00%
-49124-7-1-5.2536.40%12-0-043.75100.00%
-49.572-5-0-5.6428.60%7-0-043.86100.00%
-50103-7-0-2.430.00%10-0-047.6100.00%
-50.552-3-02.340.00%5-0-052.8100.00%
-5164-2-05.1766.70%6-0-056.17100.00%
-51.553-2-0-1.360.00%5-0-050.2100.00%
-5243-1-011.2575.00%4-0-063.25100.00%
-52.582-6-0-8.3825.00%8-0-044.12100.00%
-5320-2-0-130.00%2-0-040100.00%
-53.532-1-05.566.70%3-0-059100.00%
-5442-2-0-0.2550.00%4-0-053.75100.00%
-54.511-0-04.5100.00%1-0-059100.00%
-5551-3-1-7.425.00%5-0-047.6100.00%
-55.522-0-06100.00%2-0-061.5100.00%
-5630-3-0-4.330.00%3-0-051.67100.00%
-56.520-2-0-40.00%2-0-052.5100.00%
-5710-1-0-320.00%1-0-025100.00%
-57.510-1-0-8.50.00%1-0-049100.00%
-5843-1-08.575.00%4-0-066.5100.00%
-58.521-1-0-850.00%2-0-050.5100.00%
-5931-2-0-11.6733.30%3-0-047.33100.00%
-59.521-1-0550.00%2-0-064.5100.00%
-6010-1-0-30.00%1-0-057100.00%
-61.510-1-0-18.50.00%1-0-043100.00%
-62.511-0-00.5100.00%1-0-063100.00%
-6311-0-01100.00%1-0-064100.00%
-64.510-1-0-9.50.00%1-0-055100.00%

You’ll notice a few records, like +3 dogs are profitable blindly.  I’d factor that into any college football teasers you think about making.  Taking a small dog across numbers like 3, 4, 6, and 7 is going to lead to some profitable wagers.

More ATS Records by Sport