Betting against the spread is a very profitable approach when betting on college football. The Central Florida Knights led the league in ATS wins last year, and they give us a clear profile of what to look for in a team when betting against the spread.
NCAA Football can
be a strange game for fans and bettors, a point that can be proven with a discussion of the most
profitable ATS team during the 2010-2011
season. The Central Florida Knights were a virtual ATM for their backers, posting an 11-3 SU and ATS
mark. Let’s take a look at their season
and attempt to determine how and why George O’ Leary’s squad managed to beat the spread so often.
The UCF Knights opened
the season as a 26 ½-point favorite over the I-AA South Dakota Coyotes. UCF
picked up a fairly easy 38-7 win in a game that was never in doubt. The major news story from
this game was that it would be the last
that junior Rob Calabrese would finish as the starting quarterback.
UCF hosted NC
State the next week and dropped a 28-21 decision as a three-point favorite on the NCAAF odds board.
Calabrese was terrible in the game, spotting the Wolfpack a 21-0 lead before being benched in
the third quarter for freshman Jeff
Godfrey who rallied the team in the fourth quarter. Godfrey’s emergence, which went largely
unnoticed at the time, would become one
of the key components of UCF’s season.
The Godfrey era
truly began with an uninspired 24-10 win at Buffalo as a 7 ½-point favorite
(the first of seven consecutive ATS wins). This line did not reflect the talent differential, as
the Knights were on the road and the
quarterback situation was unresolved.
UCF then travelled
to Manhattan and nearly upset the Kansas State Wildcats. As it turned out, they lost a last-second
17-13 heartbreaker as a 6 ½-point ‘dog.
This was a classic trap game for bettors, as most recreational gamblers took the BCS squad and
gave up the points. The Knights were
still under the radar, while the Wildcats were a bit overrated at this point in the season.
UAB hit a
juggernaut in Orlando on October 6, as the Knights toyed with the Blazers en
route to a 42-7 win, which easily covered an 11 ½-point spread. The defense and rushing game were
dominant, while Godfrey made just enough
throws to keep the opposing defense honest. This would be a pattern for success.
East Carolina, and Houston were the next four victims SU and ATS for the Golden Eagles. Marshall and East
Carolina were double-digit SU wins with single-digit spreads, while UCF simply
blew the doors off of Rice with a 41-14 win
as 23 ½-point chalk.
The Houston game
demonstrated UCF’s character, as the Golden Eagles went up by
17 points only to lose the lead in the third quarter. UCF
then stormed back behind the arm of
Godfrey who threw for two touchdowns and 294 yards in an exciting 40-33 road victory as a two-point favorite.
He demonstrated that he had an arm to go
along with his rushing ability. This
seems to be the game that got the linesmakers’ attention, as UCF lines began to inflate and the Eagles would
only go 2-2 ATS for the remainder of the
The Knights found
themselves in the top-25 and as 10 ½-point chalk against Southern Miss in
Orlando the next weekend . . .and proceeded to lay a major egg in a 31-21 loss. The Golden Eagles
limited UCF on offense and killed the
Knights secondary through the air.
Knights blasted the Tulane Green Wave by 47 points as a 18 ½-point favorite, a
line that was a bit low as an overreaction to the Southern Miss loss. UCF then took an ATS loss the next
weekend, defeating Memphis 37-17 as a
26-point favorite. Finally, they closed out the regular season with a surprisingly low-scoring 17-7
win over SMU as 7 ½-point chalk. This
game showcased the rushing game and defense of the Knights.
The Liberty Bowl
on New Year’s Eve capped a fantastic season for the Knights, as they upset the SEC’s Georgia
Bulldogs 10-6 as a six-point ‘dog. This
was yet another trap game for bettors, as most jumped on the SEC bandwagon against a Conference USA team
that was getting less than a touchdown.
As it happened, the Knights’ defense dominated the Bulldogs and the rushing attack did just enough to win
had several factors working in its favor that allowed the Knights to become the
most profitable NCAAF team in 2010-2011. They were in Conference USA, which meant they would be
undervalued against BCS teams. A
quarterback controversy early in the season led to a slew of low lines during the midpoint of the season.
Finally, the Knights were simply better
than most of their Conference USA foes, and linesmakers did not set the numbers high enough on
conference games until the end of the
Watch for some of the same traits from other
squads next season. You may just find yourself a goldmine and an edge over the sportsbooks