Is home field advantage overrated in college football

Oct 4, 2017 |
Is home field advantage overrated in college football
Colorado State has been most profitable road team in college football since 2013, going 17-6 ATS in away games, including 7-0 ATS in its last seven on the road.
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports
Colorado State has been most profitable road team in college football since 2013, going 17-6 ATS in away games, including 7-0 ATS in its last seven on the road.
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The best bet in college football is blindly betting teams who are favored and playing on the road this season. If you’d backed the road chalk in all games through the first five weeks of the college football season you’d be sporting a tidy 50-30-1 record and a 62.5 win percentage.


It’s not just the favorites either. Away underdogs are covering at a 57 percent clip and road teams in general are hitting at 58 percent. And this isn’t a single season phenomenon or a blip on the radar screen. Road teams in college football are 3520-3300 against the spread since 2008 with winning seasons in all but one of those years.

Even looking at things from a straight up perspective, the numbers don’t look too bad for road teams. Football programs from Power Five conferences won 64 percent of their home games in 2004 but by 2015 the percentage had dropped to 52.3.

Opinions vary on how much home field advantage is worth in college football but most people say about 3 points.

“Ball park number for home field starts around 3 points, but it’s just a start,” Westgate Superbook assistant manager Ed Salmons told Covers. “Many factors go into this.”

Oddsmakers set lines with the public’s perception in mind, particularly in marquee matchups where more average Joes will be betting.

You could make an argument the true value is probably less than a field goal but TV pundits drone on about the importance of home field to the point it’s been drilled into the collective consensus of your average college football fan.

But with away teams covering the spread at a 51.6 percent rate over the last 10 years, we can assume the importance of playing at home is overrated.


Take Alabama for instance. Since Nick Saban arrived in 2007, the Crimson Tide are 124-19 straight up and 77-64-1 against the spread (there was no line for Saban’s first game as HC in 2007 when Bama hosted Western Carolina). Alabama’s home ATS record during Saban’s tenure is 33-37-4 but its away record is 27-16.

People argue the best time to back Bama is revenge spots or when Saban faces a former coordinator who’s taken a head coaching job at another program. The Tide cover the spread most frequently when they’re just playing in their opponent’s backyard. Alabama is 8-1 against the spread in its last eight road games.

If you’re looking for a team that’s been the most profitable team on the road in recent history, look no further than Colorado State. The Rams are 17-6 ATS in away games since 2013 and 7-0 ATS in their last seven roadies.

Betting on road teams should continue to hold value moving forward as long as the public perception is that home field advantage is important in college football. But seeing away favorites continue to cover at a 62.5 win rate or better is wishful thinking according to Covers Expert Marc Lawrence.

“Road favorites during the first four games of last season were 67-55-1 against the spread,” Lawrence says. “The same type of trend falls back to the mean in previous years though. I would look for the numbers to level off by season’s end.”


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