Betting the BCS era: Best and worst bets, biggest point spreads, totals and upsets

College football’s elites ruled the BCS era, with Alabama and Southern Cal re-emerging as dynasties on the field and in the betting market.

Alabama heads to the Sugar Bowl as a 15-point favorite over Oklahoma. It is the 54th consecutive game that the Crimson Tide have been favored. Alabama was last an underdog against Tim Tebow and Florida in the 2009 SEC Championship Game.  The Crimson Tide are 31-22 against the spread during their run.

Southern Cal was favored in 58 consecutive games from 2003 to 2007 under coach Pete Carroll. The Trojans were underdogs at Auburn to open the 2003 season. They would not be an underdog again until Oct. 27, 2007, at Oregon. USC went 33-25 against the spread during that stretch.

While those two traditional powers received the most respect from oddsmakers, Boise State was the best bet of the BCS era.

The Broncos covered the spread in 59.7 percent of their games over the last 16 seasons, the best mark of any team with at least three years in college football’s highest level.  Boise State heads into the Hawaii Bowl against Oregon State with a 116-85-2 record against the spread since 1998-1999, the first season of the Bowl Championship Series.

Some notables from the Broncos’ run from 1998-2013:

  • went 24-8 ATS as an underdog, under three head coaches.
  • went 67-43 against the spread in conference play.
  • went 10-3 ATS in bowls.
  • went 48-32 ATS at home.

While the Broncos were the best bets of the BCS era, the Army Black Knights were the worst. The Black Knights covered the spread in only 41.8 percent of their games, the worst percentage of any team with at least three seasons at the FBS level. Capped by a 12th consecutive loss to Navy on Saturday, Army finished the last 16 seasons at 74-103-1 against the spread. Army was favored on the road 11 times and went 1-10 against the spread in those games during the BCS era.

BCS Era Odds & Ends

—You need to win at least 52.4 percent of your bets to overcome the house’s standard 11-to-10 edge (juice). Twenty-four teams covered the spread in at least 52.4 percent of their games during the BCS era. Eighteen of the 24 are from a BCS conference.

—Thirty teams finished with winning percentages against the spread of worse than 47.7 percent. Thirteen of those teams were in a BCS conference for the entire BCS era. Some notable programs with losing ATS records during BCS era: Illinois 84-108, Michigan 92-107-5, Tennessee 100-116-2, Miami 93-105-2.

—The biggest upset of the BCS era, according to the point spread, was Stanford’s 24-23 win at Southern Cal in 2007. The Cardinal were 39-point underdogs. Other notable upsets with point spread in parentheses: James Madison 21, Virginia Tech (-39) 16, Sept. 11, 2010; Texas State 30, Houston (-34.5) 13, Sept. 1, 2012; Appalachian State 34, Michigan (-33), 32, Sept. 1, 2007.

—No team went undefeated against the spread for an entire season during the BCS era. Northwestern’s 12-1 record against the spread last season was the best single-season ATS mark of the BCS era. Kansas went 11-1 ATS in 2007-08. Fresno State  (2006-07), Washington (2008-09) and Central Michigan (2011-12) each went 1-11 ATS during a season.

—The largest over/under total of the BCS era was 88 in the Oklahoma State-Baylor game on Dec. 1, 2012.

—The first 15 BCS national champions went a combined 123-63-2 against the spread during their title seasons.

Top ATS records of BCS era:

(Pre-bowls; ATS win percentage in parentheses)

1. Boise State – 116-78-2 (59.7)

2. Oregon – 116-85-2 (57.7)

3. Oklahoma State – 112-84-5 (57.1)

4. Stanford – 108-88-3 (56.6)

5. Kansas State – 114-87-1 (56.5)

Bottom 5

1. Army – 78-111-1 (41.2)

2. Eastern Michigan – 81-106-2 (42.3)

3. New Mexico State – 81-106-2 (43.4)

4. Idaho – 81-106-2 (43.5)

5. Indiana – 83-106-2 (43.9)

Line archives from, Phil Steele’s College Football Preview and