To the dogs: MAC title game provides best underdog value
Conference championships provide bettors with one last taste action before bowl season gets underway, and in certain conferences, the underdogs have yielded plenty of value.
Here's a quick look at the underdog ATS and game O/U records in title games by conference, listed in order beginning with the best underdog value:
Pac-12 Conference (2-0 ATS, 2-0 O/U)
The brief history of the conference championship has been known for two things: impressive performances by the underdogs, and plenty of points - even by Pac-12 standards. The ninth-ranked Oregon Ducks, installed as 31-point favorites, rode three LaMichael James rushing touchdowns to a 49-31 shootout win over the UCLA Bruins. The following season, the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal needed a Jordan Williamson 36-yard field goal with 6:49 remaining to fend off the 16th-ranked Bruins, who entered as 9.5-point underdogs.
Mid-American Conference (9-6-1 ATS, 7-9 O/U)
It's fitting that a conference known for being an underdog in the overall NCAA landscape has produced the most value for dogs in the conference championships. The Chad Pennington-led Marshall Green Wave highlighted a stretch of four consecutive underdog covers in the late 1990's and early 2000's, but the favorites came on strong with successful covers in five of the next six years. Buffalo's stunning 42-24 win over 12th-ranked and previously unbeaten Ball State - which entered as a 15-point favorite - kickstarted another four-year stretch of underdog covers.
Southeastern Conference (9-9-2 ATS, 10-10 O/U)
Bettors haven't gained an inch betting the underdog in the last 20 years of SEC championship games. Underdogs went 5-2-1 in the eight title matchups from 1993 to 2000, but the favorites dominated the early 2000s - most notably the fourth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, whose 237 passing yards and a touchdown from standout quarterback David Greene and two rushing scores from Musa Smith led to a 30-3 drubbing of the Arkansas Razorbacks, who went into the 2002 title game as a 9-point underdog. The over/under has also been an even split over the past 20 championships.
Atlantic Coast Conference (4-4 ATS, 4-4 O/U)
its SEC brethren, the ACC has seen the underdogs cover half the time.
Florida State and Wake Forest won outright as dogs in 2005 and 2006, but
were followed by four straight covers by the favorites. The most
emphatic of those victories came in 2008, when Tyrod Taylor ran in a
pair of scores to lead the Virginia Tech Hokies - 1-point faves -
to a convincing 30-12 win over the Boston College Eagles. The underdogs
have since returned to prominence the past two years, with both results
Big Ten Conference (1-1 ATS, 2-0 O/U)
The Big Ten has only held two championship games, but both provided great value to those willing to bet the Over. The Wisconsin Badgers, who entered as 9.5-point favorites, rode Russell Wilson's three touchdown passes and Montee Ball's three rushing scores to a thrilling 42-39 win over Michigan State in the inaugural conference title game in 2011. Ball was back at it the following year, leading the Badgers - then 3-point favorites - with three more rushing TDs en route to a 70-31 thumping of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.