Sagarin Betting System Guide

Sagarin Ratings - Betting Guide | Point Spreads

Sagarin Betting System Guide


How good are computer rankings at correctly predicting the outcome of a match? Over the years, many experts have tried to come up with different systems. But one of them introduced these concepts to a broader public: Jeff Sagarin. A mathematician and sports statistician, he created the Sagarin ratings, which have been a mainstay in college sports.


In 1984, the Sagarin ratings were adopted by the NCAA to determine the teams taking part in March Madness. A year later, the Sagarin ratings became part of USA Today, which continues to host the official ranking page. From 1998 to 2014, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Committee used the Sagarin ratings to determine the BCS Bowl participants.


But what exactly are the Sagarin ratings and why are they relevant for sports betting? How accurate are the Sagarin ratings in predicting the outcome of college basketball and college football games? How to read Sagarin ratings? We will help you understand more about this sports rating system.


Sagarin Ratings Basics


Sagarin graduated from the MIT in 1970, and went on to introduce his famous system just under a decade and a half later. The Sagarin ratings originally relied on two different methods: elo chess, based on the method created by Hungarian-American physicist Arpad Elo to rate chess players, and BLUE (an acronym for Best Linear Unbiased Estimator), which was based on game scores.


The Sagarin Ratings or Sagarin Rankings is a computer-generated rating system created by Jeff Sagarin, a statistician from MIT. He initially used the elo rating to determine the opponent’s strength and the BLUE, which used scoring margin. More recently, he abandoned both and went over to three different scoring methods instead:


Takes nothing else other than game scores into account.
Another method that only takes the score into account. Sagarin defines it as a different method compared to Predictor, but since he doesn’t reveal his formulas, there is no way of knowing how Golden Mean and Predictor actually work.
 In this method, recent games carry more weight than earlier games.


All three methods are then combined into the overall rating, which is the primary method used to rank the teams.

To read these Sagarin ratings, the method is quite simple: You take the ratings for both teams and compare them, adding the home advantage bonus to the home team’s rating.


Sagarin lists the home advantage points right under the rating column. The home advantage bonus changes over the course of the season. For college basketball, Sagarin adds 4 points, while for college football, the home advantage is 3.


Also note that the Sagarin ratings only take College Basketball Division I games into account. Wins against Division II teams do not count. Since college football rankings also include the FCS, cupcake games between FBS and FCS teams are taken into account.


These Jeff Sagarin rankings are used primarily for college basketball and college football. But Sagarin ratings are also used for major professional sports leagues, such as the “Big Four”: NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL, as well as golf and even NASCAR. You can bet on these sports using the above method, albeit with a different scoring system


Sagarin System
Home Advantage BONUS: _____
Team A (Home team) rating + bonus
Team B rating


Betting on Big 6 (NFL, NBA & NHL) With Sagarin Ratings


Bettors can use the Sagarin rankings to guide betting on other sports outside of college. On the USA Today website, there are Sagarin NFL ratings appearing along with the other major leagues.


The concept is similar for the NFL:


Add three points (or 2.18 for 2022) to the home team and add/subtract the rankings. If the Buffalo Bills carry a 27.01 overall rating, and they visit the Miami Dolphins, with a 21.52 rating, the Bills are 3.31 points better. Why? Because 27.01 minus 23.70 (21.52 + 2.18 for home turf) equals 3.31.


NFL Sagarin System
Home Advantage BONUS: 2.18
Bills logo Buffalo Bills 27.01 Bills are 3.31 points better
Dolphins logo Miami Dolphins home team 21.52 + 2.18 = 23.70


For the NHL and NBA, it’s the same practice.


For the NBA Sagarin rankings, take the Brooklyn Nets at 91.68 hosting the Golden State Warriors at 92.96. Normally, Golden State should be favored, but if we add the 3.21 home court points for Brooklyn, the Nets edge Golden State by 1.93.


NBA Sagarin System
Home Advantage BONUS: 3.21
Nets logo Brooklyn Nets home team 91.68 + 3.21 = 94.89 The Nets edge Warriors by 1.93
Warriors logo Golden State Warriors 92.96


NHL’s Sagarin is the same, albeit with smaller numbers.


If the Vegas Golden Knights, with a 4.42 overall rating, visit the New York Rangers at 4.11, who should be favored via the NHL rankings? If you answered Vegas, you’d be right. Sagarin is spotting just 0.15 to home NHL teams so the Rangers 4.26 (4.11 + 0.15) is still short of Vegas’s 4.42 rating.


NHL Sagarin System
Home Advantage BONUS: 0.15
Golden Knights logo Vegas Golden Knights 4.42 The Vegas are still better
Rangers logo New York Rangers home team 4.11 + 0.15 = 4.26


How To Use Sagarin Ratings on College Games


  • Betting on NCAAF With Sagarin Ratings

Bettors looking to employ the Sagarin college football rating system can do so simply by adding the team’s ratings plus the home turf advantage. As of 2022, the home rating advantage is three points. Thus, the home team gets an extra three points or whatever is considered apt according to the NCAAF season.


Say Ohio State (OSU) (with a 94.14 rating) takes on Michigan (with a 93.72 rating) in Michigan. You will then add 1.77 points to Michigan to give them 95.49. As such, they should be favored over OSU, based on Sagarin’s NCAAF rating.


NCAAF Sagarin System
Home Advantage BONUS: 1.77 Recent
OSU Ohio State Buckeyes 94.14 Score: 92.77
MICH Michigan Wolverines home team 93.72 + 1.77 = 95.49 Score: 94.15 + 1.77 = 95.92


Let’s use the “Recent” rating method to add some nuance to this. OSU is the second-best team per the overall Sagarin’s college football rankings. But going by recent forms, their score is only 92.77, while Michigan’s is 94.15. Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise if Michigan is an even larger favorite, if we count the home advantage: 95.92.


  • Betting on NCAAB With Sagarin Ratings

Betting by using Sagarin’s NCAAB ratings is the same process, in theory. But, instead of an additional three points for home NCAAB teams, add four or the points on the chart at that moment. So when UCLA with an 89.06 overall rating hosts Baylor with 87.44, UCLA’s margin becomes 4.77.


NCAAB Sagarin System
Home Advantage BONUS: 3.15
UCLA UCLA Bruins home team 89.06 + 3.15 = 92.21 UCLA still better
BAY Baylor Bears 87.44 92.21 – 87.44 = 4.77


How did we come up with that number? UCLA, as the home team, gets an additional 3.15 points. Thus, their 89.06 rating moves up to 92.21. If you deduct Baylor’s 87.44 from that, you get 4.77. That’s how you “calculate” Sagarin’s college basketball rankings. The same applies to the NBA, per Sagarin’s basketball ratings.


  • Other Sports in Which You Can Use Sagarin Ratings

You can use Sagarin’s ratings on sports outside of basketball, football, and the ones we went through above. One of the most popular sports is golf. Sagarin’s rankings in golf are also posted on his site. And just like the principles with the other sports, you calculate “advantages” by pitting one golfer’s score against the other.


One important note though is that the lower the golfer’s score, the better. It lends itself to golf’s system of scoring based on how few strokes a player needs. A player like Calum Scott with a 67.02 rating is higher ranked than someone like Luke Potter with a 68.21 rating.

Tips on Using the Sagarin Ratings for Betting


The Sagarin system has an average success of 75% in predicting the winner, and around 53% against the spread.

In other words, while not perfect, it’s still a reliable tool for bettors. Naturally, you shouldn’t trust it blindly, but Sagarin ratings are a helpful tool that can be used both for moneyline bets and spread bets as well; you can use, for example, Sagarin NFL ratings to help your wagering decisions.

There is one major downside to the Sagarin rating system:

Since it only takes cold numbers into consideration and nothing else, it fails to account for injuries to key players. Even if one of the teams loses its star player, the Sagarin prediction remains the same.

When using the Sagarin ratings for betting, remember to factor in other important things.

If a team is still trying to secure a spot in the NCAA National Championship, then it will naturally try harder than a team with nothing to play for. As much as prediction systems are extremely helpful in betting, the human factor must be taken into consideration as well.


Also learn about Point Spreads Betting Tips and Tricks


Examples of How To Use the Sagarin Ratings for Betting


  • The Sagarin college basketball rankings have been updated according to the Final Four result. Surprisingly, Gonzaga still leads the ranking despite having been knocked out in the Sweet 16.
    Using the current ratings, the Bulldogs (94.61 rating) would be favorites by 2.54 points in a hypothetical match against the reigning champions Kansas Jayhawks (92.07). Even if the Jayhawks held the home court advantage (2.42), Gonzaga would still be the favorite by a 0.12 point margin.


NCAAB Sagarin System
Home Advantage BONUS: 2.42
GONZ Gonzaga Bulldogs 94.61 Gonzaga favorite by 0.12
KU Kansas Jayhawks home team 92.07 + 2.42 = 94.49


  • Using the recent rating, on the other hand, the NCAAB matchup is completely shifted.
    Since the Jayhawks won the NCAA Championship, they currently have the highest recent rating at 97.93. Gonzaga drops to 90.62, making Kansas the favorite by 7.31 points. Since the home advantage only adds 2.41 points, the Jayhawks would still be the favorites by 4.9 points as the visiting team.


NCAAB Sagarin System
Home Advantage BONUS: 2.41 Recent
GONZ Gonzaga Bulldogs home team 94.61 Score: 90.62 + 2.41 = 93.03
KU Kansas Jayhawks 92.07 Score: 97.93


  • Alabama leads the Sagarin college football rankings with a 98.88 rating. The Crimson Tide takes on Utah State in Week 1 of the 2022 college football season. The Aggies have a 67.30 rating, making Alabama the favorite by a huge margin of 33.72 points. Since the Crimson Tide is the home team for the opener, the winning margin prediction jumps to 35.86.


NCAAB Sagarin System
Home Advantage BONUS: 4.28
ALA Alabama Crimson Tide home team 98.88 + 4.28 = 103.16 Winning margin prediction jumps to 35.86
USU Utah State Aggie’s 67.30


Pros vs Cons of Sagarin Ratings in Betting


🔷 Pros:

🔹 The Sagarin system has been around for decades, and remains fairly popular because of its accuracy. Even though it’s not perfect, the system can correctly point out the winner in 3 out of 4 matches, while also having a positive win rate in covering the spread. Overall, it is a helpful tool for bettors.


🔹 The Sagarin ratings are free to use and also relatively simple to understand. All it takes is a single subtraction to predict the outcome of a game. There are also four different rating methods to choose from, allowing the bettor to pick whichever one they find the most reliable.


🔶 Cons:

🔸 Since it only cares for cold numbers, the Sagarin ratings system does have one major flaw in not taking injuries into consideration. If a team loses its star player before an important matchup, sportsbooks will respond to it by aggressively shifting the lines. The Sagarin prediction, meanwhile, will remain the same, leaving the bettor in a tough spot.


🔸 Sagarin has never revealed his formula, which can make bettors uneasy about how the ratings are calculated.


Learn How much to Bet with our Guides



The Sagarin betting system has many advantages. New bettors, or those looking to use a system without emotional biases, can find benefits in using it. Mathematical models are usually more reliable than depending on intuition alone. However, as with most models, there are limitations to this system, so bettors must not rely entirely upon it. As such, Sagarin ratings may serve a better purpose as a complement to other betting strategies, rather than a conclusive device.



FAQs: Sagarin Betting System Guide

1. How To Use Sagarin Ratings?

The Sagarin ratings system uses four different methods to rank teams: Predictor, Golden Mean, Recent, and, finally, Rating, which combines all the other three. Each method is reliable on its own, leaving it up to the bettor to decide which one to use. In order to use the Sagan ratings to predict the outcome of a game, you need to do a simple subtraction, including the home advantage.

2. How To Read Sagarin Ratings?

The Sagan ratings use numbers to rank teams based on their scores and winning margins. It uses four different methods for that. With a simple subtraction, you will find out the predicted winner and the predicted score margin.

3. What Is a Sagarin Difference?

A Sagarin difference is simply the difference between the ratings of two different teams. You can use the Sagarin difference to predict the outcome of a match and also the winning margin, which is quite helpful for a point spread bet.

4. How Are Sagarin Ratings Calculated?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know how Sagarin ratings are calculated. Jeff Sagarin has never revealed his formula.

5. How Accurate Are Sagarin Ratings?

Sagarin ratings have an average success of 75% in predicting game winners and a 53% rate in covering the spread.

6. What Are Sagarin Ratings?

Sagarin Ratings are a computer-generated rating system that typically provides predictions for college basketball (NCAAB) and football (NCAAF) betting, although it also includes sports like golf, NFL, MLB, and NBA.

7. Who Is Jeff Sagarin?

Jeff Sagarin is an American sports statistician from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a background in mathematics from 1970. His rating system is featured on USA Today and has been used in the college football Bowl Championship Series and to pick the participants for the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship tournament (March Madness).



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