The NFL normally dominates the headlines, but college football has an equally loyal and passionate following. These are two of the most popular spectator sports in America by far, and both attract tons of betting action.
Betting on the NFL or betting on NCAA football both make for a great starting point for getting your feet wet in sports betting. You have a wide range of games to choose from each week, extra time to research in comparison sports that have daily matches or games, and plenty of resources to lean on as you prepare for the games.
If you had to pick one, which one should you start with? Does one make more sense for beginners? Is betting on both a good idea? Is it easier to make money with one over the other?
NFL and NCAA football share a lot in common from a handicapping perspective, but there are specific nuances you should understand before you jump in with either. We’ll walk through the pros and cons for betting on each below.
The NFL will be the biggest attraction at legal and regulated sportsbooks in Tennessee as it is in every other state. It attracts the most betting volume by a wide margin. But a marquee college football game will also bring plenty of bettors as well.
During the NFL regular season, there’s a maximum of 16 games per week. Each one of them is heavily bet.
Over in the NCAA, there are 130 teams playing at the Division I level. While not all of them play every week, the regular season schedule is usually jam-packed.
The big nationally-televised college games will see the most action, as will the bowl games, College Football Playoff and the national championship game. For the NFL, interest goes through the roof come playoff time and for betting on the Super Bowl.
In terms of the kinds of bets that attract the most volume, it’s point spreads and totals betting for both sports, but the moneyline will also see its fair share.
In short, you’ll have plenty of ways to bet on both the NFL and NCAAF. So let’s take a closer look at the different bets you can place.
There are a lot of similarities between betting on the NFL and on NCAA football. For each pro and college game, live odds and game lines are available and include:
While the most popular bet types for the NFL and college football are the same, there are some major differences to be aware of. At the top of the list is the fact that there are often mismatches scheduled during the college regular season.
Powerhouse programs may be set to square off with lesser foes, and that can translate into huge favorites and large spreads. Totals can also be much higher in the college games with totals of 60-plus, whereas a potentially high-scoring NFL game is usually set in the 50s.
As for other bet types, the futures market is popular in both sports and stays active nearly all year. These are bets you can place on the season as a whole, such as the winner of the Super Bowl or a team to make the College Football Playoff.
Parlays are also popular for both sports. The average casual bettor has an attraction to multi-team opportunities that provide the chance for a big score. However, actually cashing on a parlay bet is easier said than done.
The NFL gets the edge when it comes to props and live betting. There are often restrictions in place on these at the college level, so you may have to pick from a pro game.
For the average bettor, the overall chances are about equal. There are more games in NCAAF, so that technically means more chances to profit. You may find more bet types available on the NFL side, so it kind of evens out on that front.
As experience levels grow, it’s not uncommon for some bettors to lean toward one over the other. However, there are also plenty of seasoned handicappers who focus on both sports throughout the fall and winter months.
One of the big benefits to NFL betting is that information is readily accessible. You won’t have any trouble finding out about injuries or playing time concerns, for example. However, that makes it tougher to find an edge, as all of the information gets baked into the lines.
At the college level, the major programs receive tons of media coverage. Information is relatively easy to find there, but that’s not the case with smaller schools. That opens the doors for more chances to find an edge for those who are willing to put in the work.
For a tiebreaker in making your decision, you may want to consider how you like receiving information. Do you like everything at your fingertips? The NFL gets the overall nod. Prefer digging around for nuggets that others may miss? There are more chances to do so with the NCAA.
NFL and NCAA teams only play one game per week. Lines are released well in advance of games, so there’s plenty of time for members of the public to digest the numbers and weigh their decision. Throughout the run-up to the game, it’s not uncommon to see the odds & game lines move.
This is valuable information for bettors. If you keep track of the line moves, you’ll gain clues on which way the money is flowing on the games. There are also resources that track the public betting percentages for each game.
Public betting numbers point to the general consensus on the game. For the NFL, each game is heavily bet, so you’ll have a clear picture of which way the winds are blowing. That’s not always the case in college.
The marquee games will attract tons of betting action, but games between lower-profile teams do not. Contests in the latter category open up more chances for bettors to find an edge. Quite simply, sportsbooks won’t devote as much time to lines for games that aren’t being bet as much.
When deciding whether to go with or against the public on the outcome of the game, it’s important to take it on a case-by-case basis. While sportsbooks have a better track record than the general public for the most part, there are times when they get their clocks cleaned, too.
The biggest conversation drivers in NFL betting circles are:
You’ll hear plenty of chatter about the numbers in advance of the games, and you won’t be lacking for opinions on which side is the right call. However, the sheer popularity of the sport translates into all bet types seeing a healthy amount of action.
Moneyline bets are very popular with new bettors, and also a great starting point due to their overall simplicity. Seasoned bettors will also touch on the moneyline when solid value opportunities present themselves. Props and live betting continue to grow in popularity, especially among bettors who prefer more instant thrills.
A busy NFL Sunday slate will bring in major parlay action at online sportsbooks and betting apps. Bettors love taking their chances on big scores off minimal investments.
Parlays are far from easy to hit, though, and fall into the category of high-risk, high-reward.
The NFL news cycle never sleeps, even in the offseason. That’s a good part of the reason why futures odds are so popular. The odds and lines also make for a great research tool for bettors looking to get a handle on the overall state of the league.
Just like the NFL, it’s point spreads and totals that capture much of the attention in NCAAF betting. As mentioned earlier, you may be looking at some really big numbers for potential mismatches or shootouts, but that doesn’t hamper the action.
For moneyline betting in college football, it’s best to take a selective approach. When the spread is in the lower range, which indicates a closer matchup, there’s value to be found on both sides.
For the huge mismatches, betting on a favorite won’t return much at all. If you bet on a dog in these cases, you’re looking at a huge score if everything breaks just right. That said, hoping for the best is far from a wise move.
If you’re making a call on a big dog, then you should have some concrete reasons for doing so.
Parlays are also very popular among NCAAF bettors during the massive Saturday slates of games. You can find solid returns by stringing together several favorites, but that’s naturally predicated on everything going your way.
There are dozens of teams to track across the Division I level, but oddsmakers offer up a handy research tool in the form of the futures market. Bets happen all year round, and you can get a great sense of what the season may hold for various programs just by watching the numbers.
Some of the stronger arguments for betting on the NFL:
Now for the case against betting on the NFL:
The constant information flow surrounding the NFL can make it a bit easier for those new to the game to quickly get a handle on what’s going on. Those who prefer information to be harder to glean may find NCAA football suits them better.
There’s a strong case to be made for betting on both sports at the same time, but that won’t necessarily work for everyone. For those who fall into that camp, seeing which one checks off the right boxes can help. Here are some of the positive attributes for NCAAF betting:
Here’s a handful of reasons why you might want to shy away from betting on college football:
As you can see, one of the biggest positives for NCAA football betting can also be a negative. Information is easy to come by on the big schools, but not so much with lower-profile programs. You can find an edge if you dig in, but it’s going to take some work.
The answer to this question depends on your overall familiarity with the two sports. If you’re starting from scratch, it’s better to start with the NFL. There’s more information that’s readily available, so the learning curve can be less steep. If you have a decent handle on one or the other, then you should start in your comfort zone and work toward expanding into the other once you have developed a decent set of skills.
Overall, the NFL will have more promotional offerings available. This is the bread and butter for sportsbooks. Each game is heavily bet, but that doesn’t mean that operators won’t take extra steps to pull in as much action as possible. You’ll find promos for college, too, especially on marquee games and postseason affairs. The best course of action is to stay on top of the offerings from your operators of choice. It’s a competitive market out there, so operators aren’t shy about offering up some extra benefits.
The skills necessary for success in NFL or college football betting translate well, and there’s lots of correlation between the two sports that you can lean on. However, it comes down to your overall comfort level. For example, if you follow the NFL but don’t really know anything about the amateur ranks, it’s better to start with the former and work toward learning about the latter before diving in. If you have a good comfort level with both sports, then you can certainly look toward wagering on both of them.
There’s no blanket answer for this question. The decision to purchase picks individually or on a subscription basis is a personal one, and the best advice is to do your due diligence and to choose very carefully. While there are some solid handicappers out there who offer up services and do a nice job, there are also plenty of sellers who fall into the shady category. If you’re looking to buy picks, you should be on the hunt for transparency, a solid reputation and a good online presence. When something rubs you the wrong way during your research, listen to your gut and move along.
It’s 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.
The NFL gets the easy nod here. There are plenty of opportunities to explore for each game on the docket, and operators go all-out to make things easy for users to get involved. College football would likely be awesome for live betting as well, but restrictions on betting on college sports make that a moot point in many locales. Many states frown on in-game wagering and prop betting for contests involving amateur athletes.
You’ll find lots of huge favorites on the college side, while the majority of NFL games are much tighter than that. Regardless, blindly betting on the favorites or underdogs all of the time is a recipe for disaster. Upsets can happen at any time, and favorites may very well prove to be the right call as well. In short, it’s important to look at each game on its own merits and base your decisions on what you find. Generally speaking, the public leans toward favorites and the over, so there’s that to consider while researching various facets, including the public betting percentages for the contests.