Our college football betting handicappers are always keeping a watchful eye on what we can expect on the field, and this year, we are looking at the Top 10 teams in the land that might ultimately be ATS surprises in 2013.
1: Marshall Thundering Herd – We’re particularly high on the Herd this year. They only went 4-7-1 ATS last season, and they missed out on a bowl game right at the end of the year. However, they have one of the best quarterbacks in a now-diluted Conference USA with QB Rakeem Cato, and he might be able to lead the charge towards one of the best records in the conference. If nothing else, the combination of Cato and WR Tommy Shuler should be a heck of a lot of fun to watch. Still, Head Coach Doc Holliday and the gang in Huntington should be a tremendous ATS force in 2013.
2: Miami Hurricanes – The Canes were big ATS shockers last season at 9-3 ATS, and they are going to have a chance to once again pull it off. Head Coach Al Golden really has this team going in the right direction at this point, and there is once again going to be a chance to win the ACC Coastal Division for the second straight year. QB Stephen Morris is now a senior, and he has a fringe Heisman Trophy candidate in the backfield in RB Duke Johnson, who is just a sophomore. The defense needs a lot of help after a dismal year, but 10 of the 11 members are back from that unit, and they should be in a heck of a lot better shape because of it.
3: Ole Miss Rebels – There is a lot of talk this year about Alabama, Texas A&M, and LSU in the SEC West, and Mississippi State still has the edge in the battle for Mississippi as most see it. However, Head Coach Hugh Freeze is working on a team that could be outstanding from an ATS standpoint this coming season. The Rebs went 10-3 ATS last year and made a bowl game in spite of the fact that most figured that they were going to be a dismal team. Twenty of the 22 starters are back from this team, including QB Bo Wallace, who might be one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks in the SEC this year. This is going to be the second straight great season for bettors of the Rebels.
4: East Carolina Pirates – Some have considered the Pirates as a potential Top 25 team in the country this year, as they have a ridiculously good offense that is returning a number of starters. QB Shane Carden threw for 3,116 yards, and not only is he back, but so is 1,000-yard rusher RB Vintavious Cooper and 1,000-yard receiver WR Justin Hardy. The defense has to improve from last season when it allowed over 31 points per game, but nine starters are back and could be a heck of a lot better. ECU might ultimately be another benefactor from this weakened Conference USA, and this could be a lot better than the 6-7 ATS mark from last year.
5: Boise State Broncos – The Broncos are always one of the mid-majors in the nation, but what has happened over the course of the last few years is that the oddsmakers have caught up. This year though, the tide could turn. The WAC and the MWC basically combined forces this year, and that might dilute this conference just a bit. The opportunity is going to be there for the Broncos to get back to their winning ways, and going 12-0 isn’t out of the question. Maybe by the end of the season, there will be troubles again and the oddsmakers will catch up, but at least at the outset of the campaign, we think that the oddsmakers are undervaluing what we still see as one of the best teams in the land.
6: TCU Horned Frogs – The Horned Frogs only went 5-8 ATS last season, but they ended up in bad shape because they lost QB Casey Pachall early in the season. TCU has always been built on its defense, and this is no exception. This year, the Horned Frogs are bringing back 10 of their 11 starters from last year, and the way that the Big XII is shaping up, there could be a heck of a lot of covering opportunities. There is a question as to whether or not Head Coach Gary Patterson is going to be able to turn this team into a BCS club in the Big XII, but regardless of that, we still think that the team is going to be one of the best cover teams in the land.
7: Connecticut Huskies – The Huskies are playing in the newly formed American Athletic Conference, where they are mixed in with the rejects from the Big East and the castoffs from Conference USA. The opportunity is there though, to finally make an impact from a betting standpoint. UConn is a slow, plodding, boring team, but it doesn’t beat itself all that often. Instead, the Huskies rely on their defense. They have a starting offensive line that is completely intact from last year, and that is destined to help. Above all though, Connecticut is in a conference that is there for the taking. Sure, Louisville is clearly the best team in the Big East, but it will be one of the most overrated ATS teams in the land this year. Perhaps the step down in competition will help out the Huskies.
8: USC Trojans – Is this the year the Men of Troy finally get back in the saddle? The oddsmakers aren’t going to think all that much of this club, knowing that QB Max Wittek looked terrible last season when he had to replace the injured QB Matt Barkley. However, with a full offseason, four offensive linemen returning, and WR Marqise Lee and RB Silas Redd ready to dominate, Wittek could end up looking a lot better in this, his sophomore season. Remember that USC doesn’t just recruit lousy quarterbacks. They’re all high school superstars, even the backups. The Pac-12 is littered with great teams like Stanford and Oregon, but the Trojans might be waiting in the wings, ready to pounce for bettors after a horrifying 3-9 ATS season in 2012.
9: Penn State Nittany Lions – Head Coach Bill O’Brien was deserving of Coach of the Year honors in the Big Ten last season, as his Nittany Lions were one of the best ATS teams in the land at 9-2-1 ATS and were respectable at 8-4. There are plenty of returners to the fold this year, and O’Brien is going to have his team playing well. The schedule sets up well this year as well, knowing that the club has seven home games and just five road games. The possibility is definitely there to once again surprise the Big Ten with all of the scholarship limitations that have been put on the roster. Don’t be shocked if PSU is once again competitive.
10: Clemson Tigers – The Tigers went 9-4 ATS last season, and they really made names for themselves when they beat LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve. The problem that we know this team is going to have is that the oddsmakers are going to be all over them on a weekly basis. There won’t be many games this year in which they won’t be double digit favorites. However, it’s awfully justified. QB Tajh Boyd is back for what should be a Heisman Trophy type of campaign, and he has one of the most talented receivers in the land in WR Sammy Watkins as well. If the defense can figure out how to hold teams down in the low-20s with regularity this year, Clemson will remain one of the teams that could cover 10 games this year.
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.