Earlier in the week, we named the seven teams that disappointed the most in the betting market this season. Now, let’s break down the seven programs that easily went over their win total or were able to consistently cover point spreads throughout the regular season…
Mike Leach has a strong track record as a head coach and 2018 was probably his most impressive coaching job. Leach and Washington State had a win total set at six at the South Point Sportsbook in Las Vegas, which was the fifth highest in the Pac-12 North behind Washington, Oregon, Stanford and California.
The Cougars won 10 games to exceed their win total by four victories and went an impressive 10-2 against the spread. While Washington State was one game short from playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game due to their loss to Washington, it was a great season in Pullman and one that rewarded Wazzu’s bettors.
Notre Dame isn’t typically a team that can overachieve due to bettors heavily favoring the nationally known Fighting Irish, but this season was the exception.
Notre Dame finished a perfect 12-0 in a season in which their win total was set at nine. After a bumpy start to the season, the Irish inserted QB Ian Book into the starting lineup and greatly exceeded market expectations. They covered by 23 points against Wake Forest, 16.5 points against Stanford and 15.5 points against Virginia Tech in Book’s first three starts.
Even though oddsmakers finally caught up with Notre Dame, the team was able to cruise during the rest of the regular season and put themselves in position to make the College Football Playoff.
Syracuse had a win total of 5.5, which meant it was basically a coin flip as to whether or not the Orange would make a bowl game after back-to-back four-win seasons under Dino Babers.
But ‘Cuse came through, reaching six wins before the month of October ended, ultimately finishing the regular season with nine victories. Syracuse was 8-4 against the number and came in second place in the ACC Atlantic division. Although the ACC was down this season, Syracuse was one of the few teams that exceeded expectations.
Kentucky entered the season with a win total of 5.5, and they turned out to be one of the top stories of the year, somehow reaching nine wins. They set the tone early in the season by ending a 31-game losing streak to Florida and then proved that they weren’t a fluke by notching back-to-back home wins against Mississippi State and South Carolina to close out September.
But the betting market caught up with Kentucky and they only covered the closing number in two of their final seven contests. However, they did reach the top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings in November, marking a huge accomplishment for a program like Kentucky.
LSU’s win total was one of the most discussed numbers before the regular season started. The Tigers were only expected to win seven games, which is extremely low for an SEC program of that caliber. Just keep this in mind — the last time the Tigers lost less than seven games was in 1999 and that was the year before they hired Nick Saban.
While the low win total made sense because of a challenging schedule on paper and question marks at the quarterback position, LSU proved their doubters wrong early in the season with upset wins over Miami and Auburn.
LSU ended up winning nine regular season games in 2018, giving head coach Ed Orgeron a season to be proud of.
It was an odd year for Northwestern, but ultimately a successful one. Yes, they won eight games in a year where their win total was set at six, but the real value was if you took a shot at 11/1 on the Wildcats winning the Big Ten West.
And kudos to you if you predicted that, because the Wildcats are the first college football team to ever play in their conference championship game without recording a single non-conference win.
When it comes down to numbers, Pat Fitzgerald’s squad went 8-1 straight up and 6-3 against the spread in conference play. Their most impressive performances were outright wins against Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota – all games that Northwestern was labeled the underdog in.
Another team that came out of nowhere to win their division was Pittsburgh. They were 18/1 to represent the Coastal in the ACC Championship Game, and while they only won seven games, they were talented enough to go over their win total of five.
Pittsburgh really made money for their backers in October and November. They covered the spread in seven straight games and only lost one game in that span — a five-point loss at Notre Dame in a matchup where the Panthers were 21-point underdogs. Pittsburgh is a 27.5-point underdog against Clemson in the ACC title game, so maybe Pitt will come through for their backers one more time before the season’s over.