How Double-Digit College Football Favorites Fare In Bowl Games

In NCAA football, bowl games were reserved for only the best teams but an increasing number of bowl games have increased the number of participating teams to 80 to-date. As a result, the NCAA loosened the criteria for bowl eligibility, allowing teams with non-winning records to participate as well. For the 2017-2018 NCAA football season, the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl represent the playoff semifinals. In this article, we’ll take a look at historical records to analyze how double-digit favorites have fared in bowl games, in order to try and use this information to our advantage.

Scope Of Analysis

For the purpose of our analysis, double-digit favorites encompass any team favored by more than 10 points, capping off at 18.5 points as this was the largest point spread favorite that we came across. However, the results derived from this analysis may not be as representative due to the fact that we only had a limited sample size to work with, as bowl games don’t happen nearly as often as regular season games.


From our analysis, heavy favorites in bowl games of more than 10 points won at a .758 clip, accumulating 75 wins to only 24 losses. However, when performance was pitted against the spread, the results were significantly worse as heavy favorites only won at a .439 clip – 43 wins, 55 losses, and one push. While it’s pretty much expected that heavy favorites should win at a .700 clip or better, especially in NCAA football, the results against the spread were pretty underwhelming. If you had been silly enough to take these heavy favorites against the spread, you would have been down quite a bit to say the least. It was interesting to note that teams favored at -10.5 points were .214 against the spread, with three wins and 11 losses – shocking! On the other hand, teams favored at -14.0 points were .611 against the spread, with 11 wins, seven losses, and a push.

Interpreting Results

From these results, it’s quite obvious that handicapping bowl games is a different beast than handicapping regular season games. Bowl games tend to be much more competitive, as they are essentially “winner moves on, loser goes home” type of games. As a result, players tend to leave it all on the line and in a sense, will try harder. Additionally, in many cases, the more motivated team tends to win these intense playoff games. In terms of preparation time, each team will receive significantly more time to prepare for the other team. This could make all the difference in the world, especially for a team with a great coach, who is able to prepare his players in the most optimal ways to handle whatever the opposing team’s offenses and defenses throw at his team.

In terms of heavy favorites not being able to cover the spread as easily in bowl games, this may come down to the fact that no matter how much of an underdog the opposing team is, the team will likely give it their all during every minute of the game. No player wants their season to end and as bleak as things may be looking, they will still be competing their hardest and trying their hardest to win. For example, even if a team that is an underdog is getting blown out by 30 points at the half, they may end up only losing by 14 points. The heavily favored team, let’s say by 15 points, would end up not covering against the spread, which may be largely due to the fact that the team was a bit too comfortable at the half and in a sense, let the final score seem closer than it should have been due to “pity points”.

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