We are in the midst of the weirdest college football season in history. As we approach the weekend some teams have only played one game, even though Thanksgiving is right around the corner.
The best player in the game, Trevor Lawrence, has COVID-19 and his absence might have cost them a shot at the playoffs this season. Every week it seems the results are wackier and wackier with teams names like Liberty and Coastal Carolina suddenly in the headlines.
No matter what is going on with the game of college football though, betting on the games remains a constant form of entertainment and opportunity.
Most Common NCAAF Wagers
Money lines are the simplest of wagers as all you have to do is predict who will win the game. One advantage of college football over the NFL is that there are no ties. Overtime is not timed and teams will play until one team scores and the other can't match or beat it.
Lines are laid out looking something like this. Clemson -250 vs. Florida State +200. This means that you have to wager 250 to win 100 with Clemson and 100 to win 200 with Florida State. Money lines in college football can be extreme due to the gap between the best and worst programs.
Point spread betting is the most popular way to bet on football, college or pro. Oddsmakers try to balance the action on both teams by establishing a "fair" winning margin for the favourite. Once that is established market influences and new information move the "number", always with the intent of balancing the action to the advantage of the sportsbook.
Point spreads account for the assessed strengths and weaknesses of each team, the location of the game and a number of other factors, then create a difference in points that a team has to win, or not lose by, to win the wager.
An example would be Clemson -35 (-110) vs. Florida State +35 (-110). Clemson has to win by 36 or more to cash your wager and Florida State has to keep it within 34 points to cash theirs. It it lands on a 35 point margin the bet is void.
Totals are probably the easiest bets to understand. It is a wager on the total points scored in the game, regardless of who wins. Similar to the spread it is generally priced at -110 Over and -110 Under.
One advantage of totals betting is that you can be wrong about how you see the game playing out, but still cash a bet. Maybe you thought it would be a close contest decided by a field goal but instead a team wins by 20. It just doesn't matter as long as you have been right predicting whether it would go over or under.
How to Pick a Great Sportsbooks for College Football Betting
For football, where half a point can make a difference in your success, it is recommended to have a few "outs" or available sportsbooks so you can take advantage of differences in the marketplace. You also want to make sure that whatever sportsbook you choose has a strong reputation for payouts and customer service. Beyond that there are a couple of things I looking at before creating an account.
Line Release Times
Generally speaking football lines are released about a week before a game. Not all sportsbooks release their lines at the same time so depending on how you like to bet this could be a factor. Often early lines are the "softest" and even if they have lower limits they might be the most advantageous if you are a handicapper that has their homework done. Opening and closing lines can sometimes vary by a few points.
This is the term for any wagers that you can make that are not directly tied to the outcome. These could be team or player props and they are often ways to place bets correlated with the ultimate outcome while also offering opportunities to win even if you are little off. You might like a running back to rush for over a certain total, or want to take a first quarter line. Derivatives create opportunities for bettors as they are generally algorithm driven and the computers can only predict so accurately.
College Football Betting Strategy and Tips
It's Not the NFL
Football is different at the college level. Not only are there different rules for timing and overtime, but the players are less experienced and more prone to mistakes. Also, the difference between the top and bottom teams in college and the pros is much wider. On a given NFL weekend you might see 1 or 2 spreads over 10 points. In college football half of the games might have spreads that big and sometimes they get into the -40 range. The game may look the same but there are lots of differences.
So Much Volume...Specialize
This year might not be the next example, but in a typical college football week under normal circumstances there might be 60 games spread over five days and four time zones. That is a lot of team information to be on top of so it is recommended that you specialize so you can apply your process to games effectively and find value. That could mean focusing on a particular conference or maybe even specializing on sides or totals as a means of giving yourself the best chance to find winners at a profitable rate.
Styles Make Fights
This is another way that college football is different from the NFL. In the pros most teams are playing very similarly and it comes down to execution and anticipation. In college not so. As teams are trying to leverage their talent and confuse opponents there is much more variation - Air Raid, Run N Shoot, Triple Option - these are just a few of the offensive styles that come into play each week.
Defenses are not just 4-3 or 3-4 either. Knowing how these offenses and defenses can stymie one another is a critical piece to the handicapping puzzle. The team's with the best talent do not always win and sometimes it is style driven.
The world of college football is great entertainment and betting opportunity. Hopefully this article has helped you to understand it a little better and can you get started.