NCAA Football Championship and Semi-Final Games: A Point Spread Review

by Al McMordie

Dating back to the first BCS Championship Game -- Florida State vs. Tennessee, on January 4, 1999 -- there have been 37 College Football games in the semi-final or championship round.  Let's take a look at how these games have shaken out from a point spread perspective.

First, it's worth noting that all but one of the games was played at a completely neutral site.  The lone exception was the BCS Championship Game played at the Rose Bowl, on January 4, 2006 between USC and Texas.  The Trojans had the advantage of playing in their home city of Los Angeles (though the game was played at the home field of UCLA).  Unfortunately for Angelenos who attended the game, the Longhorns upset USC, 41-38, as a 7-point underdog.

The majority (23 of 37) of games had point spreads of 7 points or less, while a minority (14 of 37) were above a touchdown, with 10 involving spreads of 10 or more points.

The games have been roughly split evenly between favorites and underdogs.  The underdogs do have a slight edge, at 19-18 ATS.

In 32 of the 37 games, the straight-up winner has covered the point spread.  The five exceptions were:

Florida St. (-12, 34-31) vs. Auburn, BCS Championship, Jan. 6, 2014
Alabama (-6, 45-40) vs. Clemson, NCAA Championship, Jan. 11, 2016
Alabama (-3.5, 26-23) vs. Georgia, NCAA Championship, Jan. 8, 2018
Alabama (-14.5, 45-34) vs. Oklahoma, NCAA Semi-Final, Dec. 29, 2018
Alabama (-18.5, 31-14) vs. Notre Dame, NCAA Semi-Final, Jan. 1, 2021

The point spread ranges have had the following results:

Pk to -3 (Favorites 4-2 ATS; Underdogs 2-4 ATS)
-3 to -6.5 (Favorites 6-8 ATS; Underdogs 8-6 ATS)
-7 to -9.5 (Favorites 3-4 ATS; Underdogs 4-3 ATS)
-10 to -12.5 (Favorites 5-3 ATS; Underdogs 3-5 ATS)
-13 or more (Favorites 0-2 ATS; Underdogs 2-0 ATS)

Here are some other situations of note:

Teams playing with revenge from a loss in the current season have gone 1-0 ATS
Teams playing with revenge from a loss in the prior season have gone 4-1 ATS
Teams off an upset win in its previous game have gone 6-1 ATS
Teams off a loss in its previous game have gone 2-2 ATS
Teams that played in their Conference Championship game have gone 10-3 ATS against opponents that did not play in their Conference Championship game.
Teams off a double-digit win have gone 9-9 ATS vs. opponents not off a double-digit win
Teams off a double-digit cover have gone 10-9 ATS vs. opponents that did not cover the spread by 10+ points in their previous game
Teams off an ATS win have gone 11-7 ATS vs. opponents not off an ATS win
Teams with the greater scoring margin have gone 14-23 ATS
Teams that gave up less points on defense have gone 21-16 ATS
Teams that scored more points on offense have gone 17-20 ATS

Good luck, as always,
Al McMordie

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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