How to Bet on College Football

How to Bet on College Football

Unlike the NFL, there are a lot more teams to consider when betting on college football games. That makes it very challenging for oddsmakers and bettors alike but also gives the latter more of an advantage because it is much harder for the former to keep up with all the teams and set accurate lines. Many bettors prefer wagering on college football for that reason, because they can get more perceived value on point spreads and totals.

College football also has a much greater annual turnover in terms of players leaving their current teams, with the best upperclassmen usually declaring for the NFL Draft. It is important for bettors to remind themselves that they are wagering on college athletes who are attending school, with many of them hoping to make it to the next level. In fact, the big difference between college football and basketball players is that the NFL has a three-year requirement to remain in school compared to only one year for the NBA. 

That said, college football is an extremely top-heavy sport, with just four teams qualifying for the playoffs at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level. Teams from power conferences including the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 are the only ones who have made it to the national semifinals in the first four years of its existence. 

While the College Football Playoff (CFP) was originally designed to create a better system for determining the national champion, it is still difficult for schools from non-power conferences to make the four-team field and will continue to be that way unless it expands to at least eight or more. In 2017, the Central Florida Knights finished 12-0 during the regular season but could not even crack the Top 10 in the CFP rankings. The 12th-ranked Knights proceeded to knock off the seventh-ranked Auburn Tigers 34-27 in the Peach Bowl to strengthen their case for expansion, even declaring themselves true national champions with a banner at the end of their season. Instead, the Alabama Crimson Tide won the national title 26-23 in overtime versus the Georgia Bulldogs in an all-SEC championship game, making the argument for a better playoff stronger yet.

No matter where you stand on the CFP argument, motivation is what betting on this sport is all about. From the coaches to the players, all of them are looking to better themselves through both team and personal goals, whether it be trying to have a winning season or make a bowl game in the short term. Then in the long term, they are looking ahead to their futures too, such as getting a better job or making it to the NFL. Handicapping motivational factors like these thus become the key to winning your bets. Below is a breakdown of the different ways you can wager on college football along with handicapping tips on what to look for with regards to the different types of bets. 

Betting College Football Point Spreads

In college football, point spreads are a lot different than in the NFL because the matchups can be much more lopsided. You will see lines of 30 points or more on a regular basis, especially early in the season when there are non-conference games featuring powerhouse teams like Alabama against weaker foes put on the schedule just to pick up an easy victory. In those cases, the Crimson Tide’s third or fourth string will likely be battling the opposition at the end and still may be more talented. So what you are betting on is essentially a crapshoot where you can flip a coin to get similar odds.

Again, motivation can be the difference when wagering on the point spread in college football, as some teams will look to run up the score in order to impress the pollsters while others playing much more competitive games simply want to win straight up. No matter what the case might be, always try to follow any storylines associated with a specific game that might give you an edge. It is far more likely to get inside information on a college football game that oddsmakers may not know about opposed to the NFL.

Betting College Football Moneylines

Building on the point that many college football teams solely worry about winning games in certain situations is where betting on the moneyline obviously comes into play. Conference games in particular can be very competitive, and all that really matters for the best teams is winning, not running up the score or anything more than that. But keep in mind, just like point spreads can be much higher in college football, moneylines can be an even bigger risk with a huge price to pay and big upsets a distinct possibility. 

At the end of the regular season though, good teams ultimately need a great conference record and many times might have to go unbeaten in league play to earn a shot at making the CFP. If that team has one loss or more, then the committee may look at how many points those games were decided by and who the opponent was when deciding the field. The truth is, nobody knows exactly how the committee’s final decision is made. What we do know is that conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory) are noted as the main criteria when teams are comparable. If that is truly the case, then winning certain games is all that matters, so wager accordingly.

Betting College Football Totals

If you thought over/under totals were high in the NFL nowadays, then you would probably be surprised to see totals nearing triple digits in the fast-paced, high-scoring world of college football. Some conferences like the Big 12 are even well-known for playing little defense, with shootouts taking place in most games almost every week. Others such as the Big Ten can be just the opposite, especially when cold weather and wind become a growing factor late in the year and impact scoring in a negative manner.  

However, it all comes down to perceived value when betting on college football overall, and that includes over/under totals. If you think a number is too low, then you will wager on the over. If you believe a number is too high, then you take the under instead. The numbers seem to be far more extreme in college football, with sportsbooks erring on the side of caution. While oddsmakers might throw you a gift here and there as a bettor, they are also making you think hard about their numbers and maybe even second-guess yourself. In these situations, go with your gut and wager on the numbers you like.

Betting College Football Win Totals

The NFL is much different than college football from a betting perspective in many ways, and we have already explained a few reasons why. Win totals are no exception, as there are less games played in college, and the champion might lose one game.

The win total numbers in college football account for that, so you may be wagering on near-perfection for the best teams when going over while betting on the possibility of a one-loss or two-loss campaign for the worst. The best investments on college football win totals seem to be on those teams that are between five and six, where taking the over most likely results in a winning season and potential bowl bid. If you are an under bettor, then look for teams with head coaches on the hot seat who do not want to stick around.

Betting College Football Parlays and Teasers

There are few things more exciting than putting together a parlay and/or teaser bet on a college football Saturday. While pro bettors may choose to wager a larger amount on a single game, casual fans often prefer taking a smaller risk in exchange for the opportunity at a bigger payout by betting on multiple games and tying them together. Parlays are more common because the payouts are greater, although teasers do have a much better chance of cashing. For newbies who do not know a lot about teaser bets, they are like parlays in the sense that you wager on two or more teams at the same time. But you can get anywhere between six and 10 more points on the spread or total with a teaser, which can benefit you greatly no matter what side you are on. 

Because the numbers can be so huge in college football, getting or taking an extra touchdown or more either way can turn out to be an easy winner. Remember, oddsmakers struggle to make lines on college football games sometimes due to the high number of teams and games every week, so getting even more value is never a bad thing. Even if you lose a teaser bet, you will go down knowing that you got some of the best numbers available to give you the best chance of winning. The same cannot be said of a parlay, as the odds of one team costing you are far more likely.