In seemingly the blink of an eye, we have arrived at the regular-season finale games for most FBS teams in college football. Some teams will move on to conference championships after this week and others to bowl games, but for many teams, the upcoming weekend’s games are the end of the season. Of course, a lot of emotion comes with that, even more so if we’re talking about senior day festivities or the ends of competitive athletic careers. There are even unique circumstances in which teams don’t know what the future holds as it might depend on how they fare in the final game. Clearly, the stakes season finales carry and the emotional motivations teams bring to games have a huge impact on the results.
As a college football bettor, I know that special games, whether they are season openers, rivalry contests, revenge matchups or a combination of those factors and others, offer unique circumstances that require special consideration. As such, it was an ideal time to go back and look at the recent data regarding teams playing in their regular-season finales to see if I could uncover any systemic advantages as we head to this week’s games. Like in my other system articles, I analyzed home/road scenarios, line ranges, statistical comparisons of the teams and several other variables.
I was able to come up with eight highly successful angles that have developed in recent years in college football season finale games. These only include regular-season prescheduled games, not conference championship or bowl games. Here they are along with my theories as to why they have been successful and which games will be effected this weekend.
CFB Regular-Season Finale System 1
Since 2015, HOME FAVORITES of more than 20 points are 51-5 SU but just 22-34 ATS (39.3%) in regular-season finales.
Analysis: In many regular-season finales, the teams are either conference foes or intense rivals. These aren’t great circumstances for laying a lot of points, as underdogs typically gain a lot of motivation from both that angle and not wanting to end the season on a bad note.
Potential teams to FADE in Week 13: GEORGIA (-35) vs. Georgia Tech, LIBERTY (-23.5) vs. New Mexico State, ALABAMA (-22) vs. Auburn
CFB Regular-Season Finale System 2
Since 2015, HOME UNDERDOGS of 7 points or more are just 19-94 SU and 44-68-1 ATS (39.3%) in regular-season finales.
Analysis: Teams playing as heavy home underdogs in the final week of the season are probably either not very good or are hosting a quality team with some stakes to play for. In any case, these overmatched home dogs don’t fare well.
Potential teams to FADE in Week 13: WESTERN MICHIGAN (+8) vs. Toledo, CA (+10) vs. UCLA, INDIANA (+11) vs. Purdue, MIAMI FL (+7) vs. Pittsburgh, UMASS (+21) vs. Army, South Florida (+19) vs. UCF, TEMPLE (+12) vs. East Carolina, FLORIDA ATLANTIC (+7) vs. Western Kentucky, NORTHWESTERN (+14) vs. Illinois, COLORADO (+30) vs. Utah, LOUISIANA TECH (+17) vs. UAB, TEXAS A&M (+10) vs. LSU, VANDERBILT (+15) vs. Tennessee, ARKANSAS STATE (+13.5) vs. Troy, FIU (+19.5) vs. Middle Tennessee State
CFB Regular-Season Finale System 3
In regular-season finales since 2015, TEAMS SCORING more than 43 PPG are 33-7 SU and 25-14-1 ATS (64.1%) versus teams scoring less.
Analysis: It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to fade the most explosive offenses in their final regular-season games. It might be their last opportunity to impress the pollsters or bowl committees.
Teams to BACK in Week 13: OHIO STATE (-7.5) vs. Michigan, TENNESEE (-15) vs. Vanderbilt
CFB Regular-Season Finale System 4
In regular-season finales since 2015, when there has been a difference of four wins or more between the teams, the BETTER TEAM has gone 118-14 SU and 75-56-1 ATS (57.3%) overall. Digging a bit deeper, when the BETTER TEAM has been the ROAD TEAM in the matchup, the record has been 58-9 SU and 42-25 ATS (62.7%).
Analysis: This is somewhat similar to No. 2 above, where it turns out that the home-field advantage hasn’t risen to much when the host is overwhelmed. In most cases, these better road teams are playing for high stakes, whereas the hosts are not.
ROAD Teams to BACK in Week 13: UCLA (-10) vs. California, UCF (-19.5) vs. South Florida, ILLINOIS (-14) vs. Northwestern, LSU (-10) vs. Texas A&M, TENNESEE (-15) vs. Vanderbilt, TROY (-13.5) vs. Arkansas State
CFB Regular-Season Finale System 5
One of the most intriguing regular-season finale angles involves those teams trying to clinch bowl eligibility, as they are sitting with five wins. Since 2015, when those five-win teams faced teams with better records in the season finales, they have gone 23-32 SU but 33-21-1 ATS (61.1%).
Analysis: Trying to clinch a bowl bid in your final opportunity is obviously one of the biggest motivational factors a college athlete can have. It is the difference between winning and extending the season for a month or simply being done after a loss. Even against better teams, these bowl-hungry teams come to play.
Teams to BACK against the spread in Week 13: MISSOURI (+3) vs. Arkansas, GEORGIA TECH (+35) at Georgia, MIAMI FL (+7) vs. Pittsburgh, MICHIGAN STATE (+18) at Penn State, GEORGIA SOUTHERN (+4.5) vs. Appalachian State, FLORIDA ATLANTIC (+7) vs. Western Kentucky, RICE (+14) at North Texas, VANDERBILT (+15) vs. Tennessee, AUBURN (+22) at Alabama, UTEP (+18) at UTSA
CFB Regular-Season Finale System 6
College football season finale underdogs of four points or more that have a better record than their opponent have gone just 3-15 SU and 5-13 ATS (27.8%) in their last 18 tries.
Analysis: This is somewhat rare but is the classic trap … team is better yet playing as a good-sized underdog. Trust the oddsmaking experts who are paving the way for profits.
Teams to FADE against the spread in Week 13: COASTAL CAROLINA (+13.5) at James Madison. Keep an eye on LOUISVILLE (+3.5) at Kentucky and MINNESOTA (+3.5) at Wisconsin as those lines were within a half-point of meeting the criteria.
CFB Regular-Season Finale System 7
Some of the best season-finale types of teams to fade have been the winning teams that don’t score a lot, as teams with winning records and scoring 24 PPG or fewer have gone just 10-14 SU and 5-19 ATS (20.8 %) in their regular-season finales.
Analysis: There is some solid foundation to this one, as the team with the winning record is probably being given the benefit of the doubt by oddsmakers. They haven’t been able to produce much offensively all season, why would it start in the finale?
Teams to FADE against the spread in Week 13: UTAH STATE (+16.5) at Boise State. IOWA (-10.5) vs. Nebraska, WYOMING (+15) at Fresno State, KENTUCKY (-3.5) vs. Louisville, MARSHALL (-6) vs. Georgia State, TROY (-13.5) at Arkansas State, SAN DIEGO STATE (+1.5) vs. Air Force
CFB Regular-Season Finale System 8
College football regular-season finales expected to be defensive slugfests have been just that, as of the last 14 with totals below 40, UNDER the total has gone 12-1-1 (92.3%).
Analysis: Totals only get in the sub-40 range in college football when they are warranted, albeit by the offensive ineptitude of the teams, their defensive prowess, the intense nature of a rivalry, or perhaps even inclement weather. Whatever the case, don’t fight the obvious. Oddsmakers are telling you it’s going to be a low-scoring game.
Games to play UNDER the total in Week 13: New Mexico-Colorado State (35), Nebraska-Iowa (37.5), Minnesota-Wisconsin (34.5), Illinois-Northwestern (37). Watch the Virginia-Virginia Tech game as well as it had a posted total of exactly 40 as of press time.
AP Poll Ranking Systems for Week 13
Upon request from readers, I’ve applied last week’s poll ranking systems to show which games are in play for this week.
The following information was first published last week in my article regarding CFB Systems for teams ranked in the Top 25. There are 21 games this week featuring ranked teams.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The data is based only on the AP Poll, not the Coaches Poll or CFP Standings.
CFB AP Poll Rankings System 1
In games featuring two ranked teams since 2017, HOME TEAMS are NOW 140-69 SU and 119-84-6 ATS (58.6%).
Plays for Week 13: There are four games this weekend featuring a pair of ranked teams, Tulane-Cincinnati, Oregon-Oregon State, Michigan-Ohio State, Notre Dame-USC
Digging deeper into that data, you will find that when the home team has been ranked better, those teams have gone 81-14 SU and 58-34-3 ATS (63%). For Week 13, Ohio State and USC qualify.
Adding another point-spread wrinkle to the last angle, when better-ranked home teams have been single-digit favorites or underdogs, they have gone 40-11 SU and 36-13-2 ATS (73.5%) since ’17. For Week 13, AGAIN Ohio State and USC qualify.
CFB AP Poll Rankings System 2
This week is officially Week 13 on the college football schedule.
In games Week 12 or later in the season, RANKED ROAD TEAMS are now 90-23 SU and 66-45-2 ATS (59.5%) vs. non-ranked home teams since 2017. Games that qualify for week 13 with ROAD TEAM in CAPS are UCLA-California, UCF-South Florida, COASTAL CAROLINA-James Madison, UTAH-Colorado, WASHINGTON-Washington State, LSU-Texas A&M, TENNESSEE-Vanderbilt.
Digging deeper into this data, you will find that when these RANKED ROAD TEAMS are favored by more than six points against non-ranked hosts, they have gone 76-9 SU and 52-31-2 ATS (62.7%%) in that same Week 12 and later timeframe after going 6-1 SU and 4-3 ATS last week. The road ranked teams that meet the criteria for Week 13 are UCLA, UCF, Utah, LSU and Tennessee.
CFB AP Poll Rankings System 3
In games Week 12 or later, there has been a huge discrepancy in the performance of RANKED HOME TEAMS against non-ranked visitors at the 12-point favorite line mark. As favorites of 12 points or more, they have gone 80-11 SU but just 35-51-1 ATS (40.7%), but at any other line, including underdog, they are 27-2 SU and 21-8 ATS (72.4 %) since ’17. That last record includes Tulane’s rout of SMU last week.
Home ranked teams playing as >=12-point favorites vs. unranked foes
* KANSAS STATE (-12) vs. Kansas
* GEORGIA (-35) vs. Georgia Tech
* CLEMSON (-14.5) vs. south carolina
* PENN STATE (-18) vs. michigan state
* ALABAMA (-22) vs. Auburn
Home ranked teams playing as <12-point favorites vs. unranked foes
* OLE MISS (-2.5) vs. Mississippi State
* NORTH CAROLINA (-6.5) vs. NC State
* TEXAS (-8.5) vs. Baylor
* FLORIDA STATE (-9.5) vs. Florida
* TCU (-10.5) vs. Iowa State