College football betting is a fun and exciting way to add to the entertainment of watching the games. If you are new to betting on CFB, or just want to learn more so you can increase your chances of success this guide is for you.
What This College Football Betting Guide Covers:
- Understanding how to read the football odds like point spreads, money lines, and totals
- The best places to bet on NCAA football games
- Strategies you can use to win more bets in CFB
Basics of Understanding How to Read the College Football Odds
Betting on college football doesn’t have to be complicated. You have the option to bet on sides with point spreads or money lines, total points scored with over/unders, or you can combine them all together in parlays or teasers. You can also bet on things to happen within a game with prop bets, or outcomes decided at a later date with futures. Let’s take a look at each one in more detail.
Point Spreads (Sides)
Point spreads are by far the most popular type of bet in college football betting. A line is set for each game with a favorite and an underdog. The favorite is the team with the negative number and the underdog is the team with the positive number. Here is an example:
In the example above, Alabama is favored to win over Auburn by 10 points. This means if you were to wager on Alabama you would need them to win by more than 10 points in order for your wager to win. If you were to bet on Auburn you would need them to either win the game outright or lose the game by less than 10 points. If the game ends with Alabama up by ten then the bet is a push and your wager will be refunded.
In most cases you will need to add a 10% “vig” or “juice” to the amount you want to win on your college football bet. This means if you want to win $100, you will need to wager $110. This is usually represented by a number after the spread, e.g. -110. That -110 means you need to bet $110 for every $100 you wish to win on the college football bet. The percentage you need to break even on -110 bets is 52.4%.
Sometimes around the CFB key numbers the books will manipulate the juice instead of the point spread to balance the action.
If you would rather just bet on who you think will win the football game outright, you want to look at the moneyline.
This comes with a caveat, of course. To bet on the favorite you will need to risk more, while a wager on the underdog will payout at a higher rate. Let’s look at an a real college football betting example:
Notre Dame +270
Remember, you are just picking who you think will win the game. In the example above, if you were to wager $100 on Notre Dame, you would win $270 if they won the game. With Michigan, because they are the favorite, you will need to risk $330 just to win $100. The more likely outcome is for Michigan to win the game and that is why the risk is adjusted. However, there are times when taking the underdog can result in a great payout.
The way to handicap these games is to estimate the chances each team has of winning, and then compare that to our money line conversion chart to see what the line should be.
One thing to keep in mind if you want to take a side of a game is our college football spread to money line conversion chart. This lets you compare the price you are getting on the point spread and the money line at your book to see if there is any more value in taking one over the other. A handy tool to have in your arsenal if you are trying to win money over the books this fall.
Over/Under bets are also popular, and are super easy to understand. Odds makers set a number for the total points that will be scored in the game. You simply bet if you think the actual score will be higher (over) or lower (under) than that number. This is what a total might look like:
LSU vs. Tennessee
In this example, the total is 48 points. If you think these teams will combine to score less than 48, take the under, more than 48, take the over. It’s that simple. You will typically pay the -110 juice again here, but on a rare occasion the sportsbook might modify the juice to balance the action.
When you bundle more than one bet together, it’s called a parlay. In CFB, there are a lot of correlated parlays. If you can find these and your book let’s you bet on them it can be a real money maker.
The good thing about parlays is that they can pay out huge if every game wins. The bad news is that if just one of your games loses, the entire parlay loses.
Remember: when betting parlays, the house has calculated the odds to maintain the advantage. This doesn’t mean you can’t win parlays, it just means that you are increasing your risk when you bet them. If you like this kind of action then read our understanding parlays article to go further in depth.
Here’s a quick look at a typical college football betting parlay payout table:
# of Teams
*$10 Wager Payout
3 Teams 6/1$60.00
4 Teams 10/1$100.00
5 Teams 25/1$250.00
6 Teams 40/1$400.00
7 Teams 75/1$750.00
8 Teams 150/1$1,500.00
9 Teams 300/1$3,000.00
10 Teams 700/1$7,000.00
12 Teams 1,800/1$18,000.00
If you are including money lines, sides, or totals where the juice isn’t -110 you can throw the prices into our parlay payouts calculator to get the true odds for your bet. If you don’t love the all-or-nothing kind of parlay, round robin bets allow you to hook teams together in smaller combinations so you can lose a game and not get a complete zero out of it.
Teasers are parlays in which you get extra points on the point spread or total at a reduced price. For example, if Iowa is listed at -10 and Florida at -14, you could bet a two-team 7-point teaser. That would be Iowa -3 and Florida -7 at -120 juice (bet $120 to win $100). As with parlays, all bets must win for your teaser to win. We take a hard look at NCAA football teaser strategy and how you can make it profitable.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL BETTING TEASERS
POINTS6 pts6½ pts7 pts
* TIE + LOSS = LOSS * TIE + WIN = PUSH
Props (short for propositions) are bets on player performance or a certain game sitution. It expands your options outside of just the final score.
If you’ve ever heard of betting on the coin flip in a big game, that’s a prop bet. Another example, “Will X rush for more yards than Y tonight?”
A prop can basically be anything that the oddsmakers can think of. Normally this means a matchup of quarterback passing yards, running back rushing yards, or receiving yards, but can also include over/under yards, yes/no propositions or a lot of first and last things to happen.
In college football betting, a future bet is betting on who will win the Heisman, conference title, or national championship. For example, you might see Notre Dame listed at 15/1 to win the College Football Championship. This means you bet on Notre Dame to win it all and the payout will be 15 times your wager (e.g. $100 to win $1,500). Of course, if Notre Dame doesn’t win the national title, you lose your entire wager.
Season Win Totals
With CFB season win totals, the college football betting odds makers set a number of wins each team will win. You can bet on whether that team will win more or less than that number that season. For example, you see Arkansas Over/Under 8.5 wins. You would bet on the under if you thought Arkansas would win 8 games or less. Otherwise, bet the over if you thought they would win 9 games or more.
Halftimes & Quarters
Now you know you can bet on the spread and total for the full game. But more than that, odds are often offered for each quarter of half of the game as well. These work exactly the same as full game bets, just for a smaller time period in the game.
You might think that the sportsbooks would just take the full game spreads and totals then cut them in half, but that’s not how it works. Normally, the favorite for the game is favored a little more in the first half. Of course, for really large favorites the books know that the teams coast in the second half, so the first half spread might be an even larger percentage of the overall number.
Second half aren’t set until the first half is complete. They will take into account injuries, how the game is being played on the field, and the score to set a second half line. For those who like to watch the games and really dive into one at a time, you might be able to find an edge by seeing something that the books don’t, or that doesn’t show up in the stats for the first half. I know a lot of bettors who thrive with second half wagers.
Live Betting (In-Game)
Many bettors wait until a college football game starts before doing any wagering. When you do live NCAA football betting it’s just making bets on the spread, moneyline, or total after the game has started.
A lot of sportsbooks believe this is the future of sports betting, but in my opinion there are some hurdles to overcome. The sportsbooks have access to real-time data, where most gamblers are going to have a delay in their feed. This gives the oddsmakers the edge of seeing a few seconds into the future compared to you.
The other issue I have is that they will put a spinner on live bets. You place a wager and there is a delay before the book accepts it. This is so they can make sure nothing happens to skew the odds in your favor.
The good news is that it’s difficult to model the in-game lines correctly. If there is whether that moves in or a key player gets injured, the books are slow to adjust. However, you should wait until there is a break in the action like a change of possession, commercial break, or timeout. This lets you be on an even playing field as the book when it comes to knowing exactly what the situation of the game is, and it ensures if there is a delay in accepting your bet nothing bad happened in those few seconds.