Tuesday 9 July 2019

Sesquicentennial Season

It's hard to believe that the 2019 American Football season is now less than three and a half weeks away with the first pre-season NFL game kicking off on August 1st.

The College version of the game is on August 24th, and this season will celebrate its 150th anniversary on November 6th this season, with the generally recognised first game having been played in 1869 between Princeton and Rutgers, although the rules were more like Football (Association) than Football (American). Rutgers won 6-4, but a week later Princeton won 8-0 and the National Championship was shared, albeit retroactively! 

College Football can be complicated with 130 schools (teams) playing in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) with most (124) playing in 10 Conferences. Six teams are Independent. 

The ten conferences are themselves considered in two groups, the "Power Five" which are the strongest, and the "Group of Five" which are the weaker ones.  
Overall, as readers of this blog will know, the strategy of backing small road 'dogs is a long-term winning strategy with a winning record every season this millennium, although in three seasons the hold (at -105) meant a small loss.

Some more observant readers may notice that the table of results on the left is slightly different to those previously published.

The reason is that I am restricting selections to the Division 1 games. The small number of other games included in the database don't add a lot of value to the results if it is almost impossible to get a bet on.

As a result the 8.1% ROI from 1,740 selections is now down to 7.9% from 1,657 selections, which established over 18 years should still be worth getting up for, although of course, some will say it's just chance and that there is no such thing as a public bias favouring home teams in this sport. Long may that continue.

Most college games are conference games, and the ROI from 1,120 games is comparable at 7.2%, but not all conferences are the same. 

In recent years, defined as the last five seasons, four of the "Group of Five" conferences each show a double digit ROI, with the Mountain West showing a small loss. 
In the elite, and modestly monikered, "Power Five" conferences, recent overall returns are steady, if not spectacular. 

With each conference having its own personality, there are of course differences between individual conferences, and with some conferences sub-divided into divisions, there are differences there also. 

My favourite conference, for personal reasons, is the currently top ranked Southeastern (SEC) conference, which is split into two divisions, East and West. 

Don't ask me why Missouri play in the East, when only two teams in the SEC are located further West. (Actually you can ask me why, as I do know the answer, but it's an odd alignment on the face of it). 

The West is the stronger of the two, with Alabama, Auburn and LSU winning 8 championships since the Bowl Championship Series was established in 1998, with the East winning 3 - Florida (2) and Tennessee. Alabama has also won 5 of the last 10 championships, and lost in another two finals.

As there is so much interest in Alabama, the markets do offer some opportunities. Back Overs when they play on a neutral ground (last ten seasons 76.9%), fade them at home and back them away (the public again overrates the home team).  

In conference games between East Division teams, there is no edge on small road 'dogs, either recently (10-10-0) or historically (33-34-1) while in the West all-time, they cover 54.2% of the time, and 66.7% in recent seasons. Look for Auburn to cover the 3.5 points on 21st September when they play Texas A&M.

When West teams play in the East, small 'dogs cover 55.6% of the time, (71.4% when the host is coming off a loss), while when East goes West, only back the small 'dog if they won their previous game as these teams cover 60.5% of the time. 

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