Identifying College Football Underdogs and Parlays for Profit
Last season I provided a fun weekly exercise providing four college football underdog picks with analysis each week. Fairway’s Football Forecast was producing more winners than losers through more than half the season when I went on the disabled list and PUP. The feedback from Fairway’s followers was great, and we’ll fire for the green again with Fairway’s Foursome and Four-pack each week to coincide with our four NFL picks and projections.
Last season our college football picks and plays were 14-10 ATS selecting only underdogs, and of our 14 ATS winners, 10 teams won the game outright. So I came up with a $1,000 per week bankroll to wager on these games as follows:
• $200 bet on each team to cover the point spread ($800)
• $40 bet on the money line for each underdog to win the game outright ($160)
• $20 bet on a 4-team money line parlay ($20)
• $20 bet on a 4-team parlay ($20)
I thought I would add a small parlay wager each week utilizing 2% of this theoretical bankroll each on those two parlays. Should we use big underdogs greater than 2 touchdowns, we may reduce the number of teams in the money line parlay as there may not be a money line available. I know many bettors that like to go for a bigger score and parlay payoff (Big Bertha), so I added that to our wagering portfolio.
As you evaluate many of the results in college football, be sure you're digging into box scores, key plays and turnovers that change momentum or outcomes, and not get stuck on scores. The sports books will make you pay a premium to back some teams riding high, or provide extra value on the 'bad' teams knowing most bettors won't be interested in taking a tag with these 'losers'. Regardless of your choice, try to find hidden stats or information that may show subtle or significant gains which may point you towards improved play and performance of teams ahead. And be sure you understand the emotional component and a team's interest, as some teams may suffer a letdown and not play at peak performance, whether they are off an emotional, all-in effort victory, or a deflating and disappointing defeat.
Risk vs. reward and searching for value is something bettors should shoot for in their pursuit of profit. Competitively-priced underdogs are always worth examining, as many of these barking 'Dogs can not only have your wager secured in the later stages of a football game, but some will also have a solid shot to win outright.
Thus, money line wagers should also be part of your betting portfolio when you bet on more competitively-priced underdogs, as the payoffs at the sports books can be very rewarding.
Week 2 of the college football season is always one of my favorites, as divergent ATS results from opening week action results in significant swings and adjustments in price. Determining motivation, momentum and letdown while evaluating the situations, scheduling, stats and projecting strength at the point of attack and in the passing game is all part of the handicap and process in our never ending pursuit of profit.
Some weeks it can be difficult to isolate four solid underdogs of interest, especially in the NFL with no more than 14 games on a Sunday. But I must admit, this week it’s more difficult to narrow down our foursome as there are many ‘Dogs of interest and birdie opportunities on the college football card.
This week's underdog plays – Shop lines at the leading online sportsbooks.
303 Liberty (+9) at Army - Flames money line +260
317 Air Force (+9.5) at Florida Atlantic - Falcons money line +280
348 South Carolina (+10) vs Georgia - Gamecocks money line +340
374 Northern Illinois (+10.5) vs Utah - Huskies money line +340
$20 4-Team Money Line Parlay = $5,276
$20 4-Team Parlay = $220
Liberty at Army - Few bettors know about the Liberty Flames, an under-the-radar program that is playing as an FBS Independent this year. The Flames head coach is Turner Gill, who resurrected the Buffalo Bulls program more than a decade ago. Last week Liberty opened the season with an eye-opening mauling of Conference USA’s Old Dominion Monarchs 52-10 as an underdog. Liberty rolled up nearly 600 yards offense in a balanced attack. The challenge this week is to not only avoid a letdown after that historic win in its debut as a full-fledged FBS program, but to also adjust and slow Army’s option offense, which was sub-par last week (168 rushing yards) in the Knights 34-14 loss at Duke in a game they trailed 17-0 at halftime. This line has been adjusted by a TD based on last week’s results, and our rushing projections favor Army despite the transition and last week’s performance. But we fire with the Flames again knowing this veteran and hungry Liberty team beat the Baylor Bears last season as a 33-point underdog.
Air Force at Florida Atlantic – Here’s a military team we’ll support this week. Air Force comes off an easy opening week win over FCS Stonybrook 38-0. The Flyboys Flexbone option offense was in midseason form rushing for 333 yards. With our rushing guidelines likely to produce a strong rushing advantage in this match-up, we fly with the Falcons and their 7-2 ATS ‘Dog log on the road recently. FAU will try to bounce back after getting smashed by the Sooners last week 63-14. The Owls allowed over 300 rushing yards to Oklahoma in defeat, and now will little time to regroup and prepare for the Air Force option, it will be a tough on coach Kiffin’s defense. FAU is also 0-4 ATS vs non-conference FBS opponents under Kiffin, and with only a small adjustment in price from last week’s results, we fly with the Falcons knowing too that with a veteran QB and under coach Calhoun, the ‘Dog is 18-4 ATS in Air Force games.
Georgia at South Carolina (+10.5) – Leading reduced juice sportsbook 5Dimes has the best ‘Dog line on this marquee match-up in the SEC. Last week we hit an over the totals winner when the ‘Cocks rose up and blew out Coastal Carolina 49-14. South Carolina's more up-tempo attack was balanced with 267 rushing yards and 294 passing yards with 4 TD’s from QB Jake Bentley. My Gamecocks preview projected a more explosive offense for South Carolina this season, and the ‘Cocks will really have to rise up and explode this week if they want to beat the No. 3-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, last year’s SEC champs and College Football Playoff entrant. Georgia had a layup win last week over Austin Peay 45-0. Last season SC was conservative but cashed as a huge ‘Dog in a 24-10 loss at Georgia. Now the less experienced Dawgs hit the road for the SEC opener minus their two RB studs who moved on to the NFL. Yes, we’re aware Georgia was 8-1 ATS away from home last season. But it will be crazy in Columbia, and the ‘Cocks have more game this season. The ‘Cocks also like to play in their own bed and show their dominance. South Carolina has won nearly 80% of its home games over the past decade, and coach Will Muschamp’s team thrived as a disrespected ‘Dog last year going 7-1 ATS. ‘Cocks rise.
Utah at Northern Illinois (+10.5) – Let’s call for a NIU bounce back, as the Huskies trailed Iowa just 3-0 late in the 3rd quarter last week before falling in a misleading final score 33-7. Both defenses played solid with NIU holding Iowa to 352 yards offense in Iowa City. We’ll lean on the Huskies defense back home to keep them in this contest and for this ‘Dog to run the ball with more motivation and determination this week. Meanwhile, Utah was blowing out FCS Weber State 41-10 with a 587-61 yards dominating advantage. Now the Utes hit the road inflated and fat against their first-ever MAC foe with their key PAC-12 games on deck. We liked Utah in our season preview, but along with our defensive ‘Dog Huskies, who are on a 11-1 ATS run as home ‘Dog, we like the situation from last week’s divergent results. Some more puppy chow on the price along with a little letdown by the Utes against a perceived inferior foe makes this a big defensive ‘Dog call on the Huskies at home.
Saturday night bonus will point us towards death in the desert for Michigan State, as new Arizona State coach Herm Edwards looks to silence his critics with a victory over the Big Ten boys. ASU +6.5 at leading online sportsbook BookMaker.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay