Fundamentals of College Football Betting

While the NFL is still king at legal US sportsbooks, college football is a rising star in the sports betting landscape.

Given that the regular season slate is packed with games and offers on hundreds of options, NCAA football betting is the preferred choice for many seasoned and casual sports bettors. Betting action intensifies even more during bowl season and the College Football Playoff.

There are some similarities between pro football betting and college football betting to lean on, but there are also some distinct differences. The sheer number of teams and games in college football can make it seem intimidating at first glance as well. But that becomes less of an issue when you remember this: you can take a very targeted approach.

Here’s everything else you need to know about the basics of NCAA football betting and how to find an edge over betting on the NFL.

Seven essential tips for betting on college football

Any time you start betting on a new sport, you should know what you’re getting into, and there are basic betting fundamentals that can shorten your learning curve. Here are seven that you should understand for betting on college football.

Vanderbilt football odds
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

1. NCAAF betting is not NFL betting

If you know how to bet on the NFL, you’ll find that there’s a lot of crossover to the amateur game. That said, there are also distinct differences. You’ll be able to lean on many of the same skills you’ve acquired, but you’ll also need to tweak your approach and how you assess things.

2. Account for talent gaps

There are 130 teams that play at the FBS level. The difference between the top 10 programs and those at the bottom is massive. The same can be said for a number of bigger schools in relation to their small-program peers. When breaking down games, the overall talent level is a big factor.

3. Respect the power programs

The top college football programs are where they are for a reason. They are consistently good and have top coaching staffs in place, both of which directly translate into attracting top prospects. The better teams also deliver a more predictable level of output on a weekly basis; schools with lesser talent can be more inconsistent.

4. Stick to stats that matter

It can be really easy to get lost in the numbers with college football in hopes of finding an edge. Understanding what the numbers say is important, but it’s also just as imperative to know what really matters. Simple stats can reveal a lot, while yards per play for and against is a great way to zero in on overall efficiency.

5. Take a targeted approach

When there are so many games to consider, it’s helpful to take a divide-and-conquer approach. You can zero in on a specific conference or certain games, for example. If you attempt to get a handle on every game, that can lead to unfocused research efforts and poor decision making.

6. Monitor line moves

The live odds board tells us a lot for all sports, but it can be especially useful with college football. From the opening release of NCAAF lines until kickoff, there’s generally movement that you should be aware of. The shifts can point out where the money is flowing on the game, and perhaps even some news you may have missed.

7. Find what works for you

Once you have the basics of NCAAF betting down, it’s time to devise your own strategy. There are lots of resources you can use, so take the time to research and pick out tidbits that may give you an advantage. In the end, the goal is to build out a handicapping system that works for you and delivers positive results.

Finding success can take some time, but the foundation that you create can pay out down the road. If you’re willing to put in the effort, there are edges to find with college football.

Five common college football betting mistakes to avoid

It’s equally important to know what not to do when it comes to NCAAF betting. The road can be a little bumpy as you get up to speed, but there are also some major mistakes that are completely avoidable. Here are five things not to do:

Fundamentals of College Football Betting1. Blindly follow talking heads

As sports betting continues to go mainstream, there’s no lack of opinions on how games are going to turn out. While it’s fine to respect the opinions of sources that you trust, be mindful of not getting too carried away with the noise. Great talking points don’t necessarily translate into winning tickets.

2. Try to outsmart everyone

There’s a place for gut feelings in sports betting, but it should be balanced out with facts and data. If your research points you to an outcome that you disagree with, then you should have a viable reason for why that’s the case. Be careful not to get hung up on making calls in an attempt to prove yourself correct.

3. Make ridiculous upset calls

To be clear, upsets can absolutely happen. Picking them out on the weekly slate can be rewarding, both in terms of returns and positive vibes. That said, don’t go searching for upsets that just aren’t there. Big underdogs can surprise here and there, but there are usually valid clues to follow before it happens.

4. Try to bet every game

The average Saturday during the college football regular season is packed with games. You can certainly try to break each of them down if you wish, but your time will be much better spent elsewhere. Pick out the number of games that you feel comfortable with, and focus your research efforts there while passing on the rest.

5. Overdo it with parlays

There’s nothing wrong with taking a moonshot here or there, but going overboard with parlay bets can quickly become a massive bankroll drain. If parlays are going to be part of your betting strategy, then have a clear budget in mind, a distinct game plan, and realistic expectations on returns.

Regardless of experience level, mistakes happen in sports betting. We can learn something from each of them and do our best to avoid them down the road. For the bigger pitfalls, such as the ones up above, being mindful of them can help to prevent bigger setbacks that will impede our progress toward NCAAF betting success.

Betting on NCAAF futures

The futures market is very active for college football. Futures odds are released on the bigger markets in the beginning of the offseason, while more choices will become available as a new campaign approaches. Here are some of the more popular NCAAF futures you can bet:

  • National championship.
  • Team to make College Football Playoff.
  • Conference and division winners.
  • Team regular season win totals.

Handicapping futures requires a different approach than you would take for individual games. Here are some tips to consider as you work toward finding some winning futures bets.

1. Prioritize returning talent

There is a lot of attrition in NCAA football. Players move on to the pro ranks or transfer to other schools, and many just move on to other endeavors. For a really good clue on which teams could make some noise in the coming season, research how much talent is returning while prioritizing key positions such as QB and both lines.

2. Look for coaching staff continuity

The same holds true on the coaching front. Take the time to research the staffs and how long the coordinators have been in place. Those who have been together for several seasons may be on to something. That said, a strong new hire at the head coaching level can be a big spark toward improvement in the right situation.

3. Expectations vs. schedule

When researching teams, it’s important not to take what the market says at face value. For example, a team market may be set at 10.5 regular season wins, but that doesn’t mean much unless you take a deep dive into that team’s opponents. If you take the time to research and project, you may find spots to either pounce or pass.

As an aside, the futures market can also be an outstanding research tool to lean on as the season approaches. By studying the NCAAF odds and overall market perception, you can quickly get a handle on the potential pretenders and contenders in each conference.

Public betting trends in college football

Public betting can help point you to the overall consensus on a game or line. There are sites that track the percentage of bets that are flowing in each direction, and you can also gain clues by watching for movement in the lines.

Movements in college football public betting lines can provide valuable intel to use as part of your handicapping process. There’s no rule that says you should always bet with or against the public, but knowing how things are shaping up can be valuable information.

There can be inefficiencies in the lines. While handicapping, you’re looking for things like this, and the public numbers can help you spot them. It’s kind of like having dozens of eyes on the numbers as opposed to just relying on your own.

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that oddsmakers are very good at what they do. There are times when the popular consensus opinion is way off the mark. As you gain experience with NCAAF betting, you’ll learn to spot when that may be the case.

Fundamentals of college bowl betting

Once the regular season is in the books, the better programs in the land will move on to play in bowl games. Each of the postseason affairs attracts a good deal of betting action, but it’s the marquee matchups that really move the needle.

You can follow the same handicapping principles that you use during the regular season, but there are a few other clues that can help lead you toward a profitable NCAAF postseason.

NCAAF Betting basics1. Closely monitor the news

This should be part of your overall repertoire anyway, but it’s even more important this time of year. Players can opt out of games to avoid injury, while coaching staffs can be shaken up in advance of the contests. These two factors can have a big impact on the proceedings, so keep a careful eye on what’s going on.

2. Gauge team motivation level

A berth in a bowl game is always a reward. However, there are times when the game a team makes it to is less than it was shooting for. On the opposite side, a team could come out of nowhere and be absolutely tickled with its assignment. As part of your research, determine what’s what for the two teams.

3. Watch out for sharp money

One of the big benefits of betting on bowl games is that lines come out well in advance of the contests. That leaves you extra time to research, as well as to pay attention to line moves. Sharp and sudden spikes in one direction could be an indication of where the smart money is going, so keep an eye out.

For the bowl games, remember that you can also take a targeted approach here. If you can’t make heads or tails of a matchup, then take a pass and enjoy the game without anything on the line. You can focus your wagering efforts on other games.

Fundamentals of national championship betting

The College Football Playoff National Championship game is one of the biggest betting events of the calendar year. The winners of the College Football Playoff semifinal matchups square off with the title at stake.

The run-up to the game is akin to what you’ll see during Super Bowl week. There will be tons of opinions on how things will shake out, and every tidbit will be treated as if it’s a major story of the earth-moving variety.

When it’s time for you to make your call, stick to what has worked for you all season long while doing your best to tune out the noise. If you’ve had a solid betting season, there’s no reason to deviate when the stakes ramp up on the field.

For specific things to dig into, research any common opponents the two teams may have faced during the year, and also spend time on recent play and performance in the semifinal games. Once you’re done, make the best calls that you can and enjoy the game.

Buying picks for NCAA football betting

If you’re looking to buy picks for NCAAF, the best advice is to do your due diligence. The decision to purchase picks individually or on a subscription basis is a personal one, and the reason for doing so will vary.

For those who are time-pressed with research, are not having success on their own, or simply don’t like breaking down games, then looking at purchasing picks can make sense. However, it’s important to remember to keep your expectations in check.

While there are some solid handicappers and services out there, there are also many who give the industry a bad name. This comes back to shopping carefully, but the good news is that there are some red flags to watch out for.

At the top of the list is unrealistic promises, such as picks that never lose or a ridiculous return on investment percentage. There are no soothsayers in the world of handicapping. Anything can happen on the field of play, so claims to be some kind of all-knowing savant need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Additionally, beware of those with poor overall reputations or a shady presence online. A simple search on the internet can uncover a whole bunch, so be sure to do your research before making a purchase.

Circling back, pick buying can make sense in the right case, but be sure to stick with sellers that offer up full transparency and great customer service. If they’re playing the long game with picks marketing, then neither of those two things should be an issue.

It can be hard to make buying picks pencil economically. The best sports bettors on Earth will win at a rate of 60%, at the most. Casual bettors looking to bet small sums on games for recreation, while simultaneously paying someone for picks, will have a hard time seeing a return on investment.

Types of college football bets

The main ways to bet on college football are just like what you’ll find in other major team-based sports. Here’s a quick refresher on the big three.

  • Moneyline: You just have to pick which side you think will win the game. Favorites have negative odds, while underdogs have positive numbers. A close range points to a tight game, while a big discrepancy means it’s a mismatch.
  • Point spread: The choices are the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the number. Sportsbooks set a spread for each game, and the side you choose has to cover the margin for the bet to be considered a winner.
  • Totals: This wager revolves around the total combined points that both teams will score in the contest. Sportsbooks set a benchmark number, and bettors then get to choose the over or under on that amount.
  • Props and live betting are both big deals in the pro ranks, but less so at the amateur level. That’s mainly due to state restrictions. In Tennessee, sportsbooks are not allowed to offer live betting on college contests or prop bets on individual player performances.

Why bet on college football in TN?

There’s a ton of passion surrounding college football in Tennessee, both from the perspective of fans and bettors. So exactly why do so many bettors get excited about NCAAF? Here are some of the biggest reasons:

  • Sheer volume: There are 130 teams that play at the highest level of NCAA football. That translates into dozens of games each week of the regular season. Even the postseason is jam-packed with 40+ bowl games plus the College Football Playoff. If you like having a lot of choices, you’ll love NCAAF.
  • Chance to find an edge: College football is very popular and receives lots of coverage, but it pales in comparison to what the NFL receives. If there’s a major piece of news at the pro ranks, it’ll go viral instantly. Outside of the top programs, information can fly under the radar in college games. Those who put in the work can develop an edge.
  • Variety of approaches: Since there are so many games and teams to choose from each week, there’s an abundance of betting possibilities. There are also lots of ways to approach the various slates of games. You can focus on a specific conference or group of teams, stick to the powerhouses or dive into the small schools, for example.
  • Enhanced knowledge of game: NCAA football is essentially the minor league for the NFL. Players make the leap each year from amateur to pro, and plenty of coaches jump up in ranks as well. As you get more familiar with the college game, you’ll find that your knowledge base will expand tremendously. That can help you find more edges in both NCAA and NFL betting.
  • Fun and excitement: You’ll find excitement in abundance with college football betting. Thrilling games, stellar performances and moments that leave you awestruck are par for the course with the average NCAAF slate.

If you’re on the fence with college football betting or intimidated about getting started, remember that you can start small and keep it simple. Just pick out some marquee matchups and dive in.