NCAA Football Betting Guide

Bet on college football online in Tennessee

While the actual College Football season is only a few months out of every year, betting on college football is available year-round. As soon as the two teams left standing decide the current College Football Playoff Champion, futures odds for the next season go live. Once the new season begins, college football betting markets of all sorts flood the sportsbooks again.

Legal online betting on college football in TN is new in 2020, and Tennessee has some unique laws and regulations surrounding it. We’ll explain what those are below and how betting on college football differs from betting on other sports. Whether you’re new to college football or you’ve been betting on NCAA football for years, there’s vital information to find right here.

Live College Football Odds

Check the feed below for real-time NCAA football odds at TN online sportsbooks. These are up-to-the-minute odds and you’re just one click away from making your bet. Click on any game to go directly to the sportsbook and claim your free bets or bonuses. NOTE: This is just a snapshot of the games available; to see the full NCAA football betting slate, head to our full live odds feed page.

Is college football betting legal in Tennessee?

The simple answer is yes; college football betting is legal in TN if you are:

  • at least 21 years of age
  • Physically within the state’s borders

The sportsbook you place your bet with must be licensed by the Tennesee Lottery. Placing a bet with a local bookie or an online sportsbook that the Lottery hasn’t licensed is illegal.

Licensed operators will denote their compliance on the app/website. You can usually find a statement at the bottom of the landing page.

Tennessee law bans proposition bets on any individual athletes’ performances in college sports. The ban applies whether the athletes play for teams that hail from Tennessee or not.

Additionally, TN betting apps are not allowed to offer in-game betting or live wagers on college sporting events. Again, whether the games take place in TN or not makes no difference.

You also won’t find any lines on anything but NCAA D1 FBS games and teams, so don’t expect to bet on Tennessee State Tigers games, for example.

How does NCAA football betting work?

There are a few things you should know about major college football betting before you start in on it. College football lines are based around either the results of the games themselves or the long-range expectations of either teams or players. Those include but aren’t limited to:

  • Regular-season games
  • Postseason bowl games
  • College Football Playoff games
  • Heisman Trophy award
  • Win totals for teams
  • Conference championship winners

The lines on individual games include moneyline or straight bets, point spreads, and totals. Longer term bets, like predicting a team’s win totals or the winner of the National Championship are called futures bets. Although win totals are a popular type of futures market, you may find others depending on the sportsbook you choose.

How to read college football betting lines

For the most part, TN betting apps will use the American style of odds. When reading the lines on American odds, the numbers tell you how likely a sportsbook believes a particular outcome is.

For example, the odds on a moneyline or straight bet tell you how confident a sportsbook is that one team will win the game in question. There is another crucial element to American odds, which is a negative or positive denotation.

The minus or plus sign dictates this. This tells you what your payout will be if you win your bet. The easiest way to calculate your potential payout is to work with amounts of money in $100 increments.

Positive odds tell you what your payout will be if you wager $100. Negative odds, on the other hand, tell you how much you need to bet in order to make $100 in profit.

Different sportsbooks will arrange the elements differently reading from left to right. They should all look somewhat like this, however.

TeamMoneylineSpreadTotal
Tennessee-200-9.5 -110O 40.5 -110
Vanderbilt+150+9.5 -110U 40.5 -110

Note that the teams only correspond with the moneyline odds. If you bet on the spread or the total, you’re betting on one side of those markets for the game, not on a specific team.

Team win totals futures will look very much like the totals markets for a singular game. There will be a line and you can choose the over or the under with the corresponding odds.

TennesseeO 5.5 +240
U 5.5 -120

Now that you know how to read the odds on college football, it’s time to shop around. This is a crucial element in maximizing your betting dollar.

How to shop for lines on college football

Like shopping for anything else, it’s best if you go in knowing exactly what you want. In terms of betting on college football, this means identifying the games and markets you want to wager upon.

Let’s say you wanted to bet on the spread of the Tennessee-Vanderbilt game in our earlier illustration. You would browse through the TN sportsbooks to see which operator has the lines and odds that look the most generous.

This is easiest to do if you have a number of sportsbook apps installed on your phone or tablet. Just tap on the app and navigate to the proper tab to pull up each book’s current NCAA football odds.

Although some operators reward customers’ loyalty with bonuses and points, there’s nothing wrong with checking out the competition to make sure you aren’t missing out on a better deal. Think of the betting odds as the “price” you are paying for the experience of wagering on sporting events.

Successful wagering on sports has an element of timeliness to it. Sportsbooks can move the lines before the games start if something happens that they believe warrants such movement.

How to bet on college football throughout the season

TN’s legal online sportsbooks will have moneyline, point spread, and point total odds on most of the games they handicap. The easiest way to remember what these terms mean is:

  • Moneyline: Also called straight betting, you’re simply picking one team to win the game, thus putting your money on the line on that team
  • Point spread: Commonly simply referred to as the spread, you’re betting on the margin of loss or victory for one of the teams in the game
  • Point total (Over/Under): Similarly usually just called the total, you’re betting on whether the two teams will combine to score fewer or more points in the game than the sportsbook predicts

Going back to our earlier example, if you were certain the Volunteers would win the game, you would put your money down on Tennessee -200. The simplest way to understand this is if you want to make $100 in profit if Tennessee wins, you need to wager $200.

Moving onto the spread, let’s say instead you think the Commodores can make it a close game. You would then bet on Vanderbilt +9.5 (-110). If the Commodores pull off the upset or lose by fewer than 10 points, you would win.

If that was your bet and Tennessee won by 10 or more points, however, the sportsbook would keep your wager. Again, the -110 tells you that if you want to make $100 in profit on your bet, you need to wager $110. If you were confident in the Volunteers’ ability to win this game by 10 or more points, you’d bet Tennessee -9.5 instead.

Moving onto the total, you simply need to pick either the over or the under. If the over/under was set at 40.5 and you took the over, and the final score of this game was 24-17, you would win because the total amount of points scored by each team combined would be 41.

Sportsbooks will post lines on several contests throughout the season on a weekly basis, usually very soon after the current week’s slate of games end. The other way to bet on college football in TN is via futures bets.

Betting on NCAAF futures

Using our earlier illustration, you will likely find win totals futures up as early as when the previous season ends. The lines and odds on these markets can fluctuate throughout the offseason and regular season based on several factors.

The line in these markets is the over/under value, in this case, 5.5. The hook, that extra half-point, works to ensure the sportsbook won’t have to grade your bet as a push.

The odds are the other numbers, either +240 on the over or -120 on the under. If you were confident the Volunteers would reach or surpass the six-win mark in the current/upcoming season, you’d take the over at +240.

However, if you think that five wins are as many as Tennessee will reach, you’d put your money down on the under and -150 instead. Betting on these markets is a matter of timing as the factors that can cause these lines and odds to move include:

  • Heavy betting on the over or the under
  • Coaching changes for the Volunteers or any of their scheduled opponents
  • Suspensions of key players for Tennessee or any of its scheduled opponents
  • Major injuries for the same teams
  • Unexpectedly great or poor on-field performances
  • Transfers away from/to relevant programs

This market comes with an extra wrinkle because you need to not only keep on top of these developments for the Volunteers but for their opponents as well. Every Tennessee win is a loss for another team and vice versa.

Win totals are not the only kind of futures for college football. Check your favorite sportsbooks to see what else they offer.

Tennessee’s NCAAF teams

There are three NCAA D1 FBS college football teams in TN. Two of the three play in a conference that is within the “Power 5” structure while the third plays in a “Group of 5” conference. The three programs are:

  • Memphis University
  • University of Tennessee
  • Vanderbilt University

Memphis plays in the American Athletic Conference, while both Tennessee and Vanderbilt play in the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

NCAAF rankings and Tennessee sports betting

Each week during the season, the Associated Press conducts a poll of members of the media on who they think the top 25 teams in the country are. The AP compiles all the votes and then releases the results.

ESPN and USA Today combine to do the same thing based on the votes of college football coaches around the country. These polls carry a lot of weight for sports betting.

For one thing, you’re more likely to find betting markets on games involving highly-ranked teams. In addition, oddsmakers tend to give large spreads in favor of highly-ranked teams when they play lower-ranked or unranked teams.

Games between two highly-ranked teams are great fodder for TN sportsbooks to offer promotions upon. Many of those contests are postseason bowl games.

College bowl games for Tennessee teams

Every year, there are six bowl games that claim the top spots in the FBS postseason structure. They rotate the distinction of national semifinal games between them year to year as well. The “New Year’s Six” are:

  • Cotton Bowl Classic
  • Fiesta Bowl
  • Orange Bowl
  • Peach Bowl
  • Rose Bowl
  • Sugar Bowl

The two teams that win the two national semifinal games meet later in January for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. A committee picks the four teams who participate in the Playoff each year.

Since the institution of the CFP, the Committee has always included that year’s SEC conference champion. In some years, there have been two SEC teams in the playoff.

Other bowl games range from mid-December to New Year’s Day each winter. Some of those bowl games are tied to certain conferences. For the SEC in 2019, these included:

  • Belk Bowl
  • Citrus Bowl
  • Gator Bowl
  • Music City Bowl (played in Nashville)
  • Outback Bowl
  • Texas Bowl

Last year, Memphis played in the Cotton Bowl. Other 2019 bowl games that extended invitations to AAC programs included:

  • Armed Forces Bowl
  • Birmingham Bowl
  • Boca Raton Bowl
  • Gasparilla Bowl
  • Military Bowl
  • Liberty Bowl (played in Memphis)

The conference affiliation and dates of these bowls, along with the title sponsors, can change from year to year. Additionally, the corresponding conference must have enough eligible teams (a team needs at least six wins) to fill all the spots.

Biggest upsets in Tennessee history

  1. Georgia State 38, Tennesee 23, Aug. 23, 2019: Vols entered as 24.5-point favorites but were upset by an FCS team that had lost its last seven games in a row.
  2. Tennessee 35, Notre Dame 34, Nov. 10, 1991: Tennessee overcame a 31-7 deficit to win this game on a blocked Fighting Irish field goal attempt.
  3. Tennessee 7, Kentucky 0, Nov. 25, 1950: Vols defeated legendary Coach Bear Bryant on a sloppy, snow-laden field and derailed the Wildcats’ national title hopes.
  4. Vanderbilt 17, South Carolina 6, Oct. 20, 2007: Vandy got its only win over a Steve Spurrier-coached team and ended the title hopes of the sixth-ranked Gamecocks.
  5. Memphis 21, Tennessee 17, Nov. 9, 1996: Memphis defeated Tennessee for the first time in 15 games, tarnishing the reputation of Vols quarterback Peyton Manning.

Biggest rivalries in Tennessee football

Although Tennessee and Vanderbilt play in the same conference, there isn’t much of a rivalry between the two programs. Tennessee leads the series 76-33-5 and won 22 consecutive meetings from 1983 to 2004.

There was a time not that long ago when the Volunteers were an SEC powerhouse, with a fierce rivalry with the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, the past 20 years have been uneven for UT, with 11 winning seasons, nine losing seasons, and zero conference championships.

Nowadays, the big rivalry for the Volunteers is with fellow SEC East team Florida. The Gators lead the series overall, 29-20, but have walloped Tennessee as of late, with 14 wins in the last 15 games.

The other chief rival for Tennessee are the Georgia Bulldogs. The rivalry developed when the SEC split into East and West in 1992, ensuring that the two teams played each other regularly. Since that time, it has been a very evenly matched rivalry, with 14 wins each from 1992 to 2019.

The Vols’ biggest rivals would be other SEC East division teams like Georgia and South Carolina. For Memphis, their strongest competition in the AAC is usually Central Florida and Cincinnati. Keep in mind that Memphis has only been part of the AAC since 2011, so it hasn’t had much time to establish longstanding conference rivals.

Five Tennessee players drafted into the NFL

It’s difficult to pick the five greatest athletes who played their college football in Tennessee and then entered the NFL via the draft. The following five players are some of the best from Memphis, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt, however:

  1. Peyton Manning: Perhaps the greatest Volunteer in NFL history, Manning won a Super Bowl title with the Indianapolis Colts and held several records when he retired.
  2. Jason Witten: One of the most prolific pass-catching tight ends in the history of the NFL, the former Tennessee player is a two-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl selection.
  3. Isaac Bruce: With four Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring to his credit, one of the members of the “Greatest Show on Turf” represented Memphis well in the NFL.
  4. Will Woolford: A stalwart on the Buffalo Bills’ offensive line during the franchise’s run of four consecutive AFC championships, Woolford is fondly remembered by Vanderbilt fans.
  5. Jay Cutler: Cutler went from rewriting the quarterback record book for the Commodores to leading several NFL teams during his career.

How to stream and watch college football in Tennessee

If you live in Tennessee or elsewhere in the South, the major networks will usually feature the marquee SEC games of the week.

ESPN and the SEC Network are two other go-to’s for SEC games. Since the SEC regularly has some of the top teams in the country, the broadcast stations regularly carry games as well.If you don’t subscribe to a cable or satellite package, you can find some of the games with an ESPN+ subscription.

The SEC Network has its own app through which you can access content by logging in with your credentials from your cable or satellite provider. The SEC Network does not offer its own OTT service like ESPN+.

There are also live TV streaming options that carry these networks like Hulu’s and YouTube’s live TV services.

If you’re looking for Memphis games instead, ESPN is the home of the AAC as well. Check your provider’s listings to see when you can watch Tigers games on ESPN.

Differences between college and NFL betting

One of the biggest differences is the sheer size of major college football. Whereas there are just 32 NFL franchises, there are 129 NCAA D1 FBS football programs.

While not every team plays every week during the college football season, that still means there are many more games on a weekly basis as compared to the NFL. Naturally, popular media outlets can’t devote equal coverage to all those games and teams.

In the same way, sportsbooks tend to focus on the programs with the strongest reputations, local teams, and the games with the biggest hype on a weekly basis. This can include special promotions on top of the volume of markets.

Since the talent disparity can be significant, the spreads on college football games can be much larger than for NFL games. While spreads of 20 or more points in the NFL are rare, they are much more commonplace in college football.

At the same time, the lower skill level of college football players as compared to NFL talent can make games more difficult to handicap. For these reasons, college football teams laden with upperclassmen tend to perform better than those relying on freshmen and sophomores.

NCAAF Betting FAQ

Where in Tennessee can I bet in-person on college football?

You can’t.

Tennessee is the first state to legislate and implement a sports betting industry that runs entirely online since the state does not have any casinos or racetracks, the locations that normally house retail sportsbooks.

If you want to bet on NCAAF in a retail book, you will need to travel to an adjacent state where that is legal, such as Arkansas or Mississippi.

Does home-field advantage matter?

Yes. Research shows that players tend to perform better and home teams get more favorable calls from officials in their own stadiums.

When is the best time to bet on college football games?

Usually, the earliest odds are the best for bettors. As sportsbooks learn more about upcoming contests, they adjust markets in their favor.

The downside to betting early is that, while you may get the number you want, you open yourself up to a long window where things like injuries or weather could throw a wrench in the gameplan.

How many bowl games are there?

In 2019, NCAA D1 FBS teams played 40 bowl games. The number is constantly growing though.

What's the longest winning streak in college football history?

The Oklahoma Sooners won 47 consecutive games from 1953 to 1957.