Q: There are three bowl games this year with Big Ten vs. SEC matchups. I have to imagine that the SEC generally beats down the Big Ten straight-up, but was wondering if there is any value in taking Big Ten teams against the spread? I’d appreciate any information you can provide.
—Andy, from somewhere.
BTB: Thanks for the message, Andy. In Big Ten vs. SEC bowl games, the numbers aren’t as lopsided as you’d think. The SEC owns just a 29-27-1 ATS advantage over the Big Ten in bowl games over the last 20-some years (since 1990), and is just 31-26 straight up during that span.
Now, the numbers have gotten worse recently, most notably in the past two seasons. Last year, the Big Ten went 1-2 in both categories and only Michigan State covered as 2.5-point underdogs to Georgia. The year before that, on New Year’s Day 2011, three Big Ten teams lost by a combined score of 138-45 and it was by all accounts the worst day for a conference in bowl history.
If you break down all of the stats between the two conferences, they aren’t too interesting. However, one thing that’s worth noting is that the team that wins straight up has also covered the spread 52 of 57 times. So, the spread has been largely irrelevant in Big Ten vs. SEC bowl games.
Here are the three Big Ten vs. SEC games on this year’s slate, all of which take place on New Year’s Day:
Gator Bowl, Mississippi State -2 vs. Northwestern: The Wildcats, who failed to cover as 9-point underdogs to Texas A&M in last year’s Meineke Car Care Bowl, were tied for the national lead with an 11-1 ATS record this season.
Outback Bowl, South Carolina -5.5 vs. Michigan: The Gamecocks stomped Nebraska in last year’s Capital One Bowl to move to 3-1 ATS against Big Ten teams in bowl games. The Wolverines are 20-7-1 all-time against the SEC but lost to Mississippi State in 2010 and got rolled by Alabama in this year’s season-opener.
Capital One Bowl, Georgia -10 vs. Nebraska: Both teams are coming off losses in Big Ten vs. SEC bowl matchups last year. The Bulldogs’ motivation will be in question after knocking on the door of the BCS Championship Game, while Nebraska was a win away from the Rose Bowl.
A couple other nuggets:
- Favorites are 34-22 ATS.
- The SEC is 20-15 ATS as a favorite.
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