All In One Guide To Betting on College Football
There are currently 128 schools in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the NCAA. These are the programs that are allowed to provide their student athletes with athletic scholarships to play football and are members of the ten major conferences, as well a few independents that belong to no conference. The best of these teams compete to go on to play in the College Football Playoffs and National Championship Game. Sportsbooks mainly focus on offering odds for the games these 128 teams play.
What does this mean for you? Well, with that many teams participating in college football, you have tons of opportunities to find value in various wagers and make some serious money. All you need is sound betting philosophies, responsible bank roll management, and the right sportsbooks to make your picks. Keep reading, we have tips to help you solve all of these problems and more.
Best College Football Betting Sites
As important as smart, comprehensive betting strategies are, there is something just as important; where you place your bets. The internet is loaded with websites willing to take your money. Finding them are easy! But if you want things like fair odds and the ability to actually cash out when you win, that takes a bit more effort; or at least it would if we hadn't dug through the web and vetted the sites for you!
Here is a list of the best and most trusted websites to place your wagers.
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What We Look For in a Betting Site
You are going to be depositing your hard earned money onto these sports gambling websites before you can place a bet, so there is nothing more important than being able to trust that you are getting what you pay for.
For those reasons, it's good that you are here. If a site makes it onto our list provided above, you can rest assured that you can rely on them to be fair and honest. With that part of the battle won for you, all you need to focus on is picking winners!
Options of Bets Accepted
The greater the variety of bets you can make, the better use of your knowledge base you can use. While some people may want to stick to simple futures bets or straight money-line bets, it can be very profitable to make more detailed wagers.
The key to winning any bet is finding and exploiting weaknesses in the odds. Even the best teams in college football have their shortcomings, and even the worst teams can typically do at least something well.
little market weaknesses and just bet on those?
For instance, Navy will very rarely defeat Notre Dame in their annual rivalry game. But what if you could just bet on the over/under for rushing yards gained by Navy? That would be something worthwhile to look at, whereas just betting the total or the point spread wouldn't give you the same opportunity to use your research.
Maybe you have a hot tip that your local university's quarterback is going through a tough break up and has been partying a bit too much. Let's say they are playing an underdog that week, and so even without him at his best, you still expect the home team to win. Wouldn't it be nice to have the option to just bet on passing yards completed?
Ease of Use
The importance of ease of use applies to all websites, sports gambling included. It's why everyone is on Facebook instead of Myspace. The people had the option to have all of their friends' activity presented to them on a timeline, instead of wading through Myspace pages covered in gifs, songs, and snowflake animations and every other CPU memory eating, obnoxious distraction, and the market worked itself out.
Being able to navigate a website easily and find what you are looking for with ease is of the utmost importance, especially if you are new to betting college football. We want the entire process to be as hassle free as possible. From depositing your money to finding the gambling propositions that you want, to placing and collecting your earnings, a user-friendly interface is paramount.
It has to be headache free, and this is one of the criteria that goes into our lists. You will find that the more involved with your sports wagering you are, the more significant ease of use will become. There is nothing worse than trying to place a quick bet before kickoff, only to miss it because you couldn't find it in time. If the game plays out the way you expected and you weren't able to place your bet in time, it can be one of the most infuriating feelings in the world.
Understanding the College Football Landscape
To make educated bets, we have to understand the college football landscape. You will want to know how the teams are organized into conferences, and which teams are in which conference. Conferences are incredibly important, as some are valued higher than others.
For instance, a team with one loss in the SEC will still have a greater chance of getting into the playoffs than an undefeated team from the Mountain West. That's the sort of thing you'd want to keep in mind before making a futures bet involving the playoffs. The strength of schedule is incredibly important, and strength of schedule is largely dictated by the strength of the conference.
There are ten conferences in Division 1 college football. Most of a program's games will be played within their conferences, with only a few games a year coming from non-conference games.
It is important to understand the conferences and their strengths, particularly for futures bets. Some conferences have a conference championship; others do not. They are also weighed differently, due to strength of schedule, which impacts which teams get into the playoffs.
Within the ten conferences are a group called The Power Five conferences. Traditionally the champion of each of the Power Five conferences received an automatic bid into one of the six major bowl games. Under the new College Football Playoff system this is no longer necessary; however, these conferences still consist of the best college football teams in the country. Let's look at each of the conferences:
The Big Ten Conference is the oldest of all the college football conferences and one of the Power Five conferences. The teams that are admitted into The Big Ten are predominately major big money programs with lots of prestige and tradition. The majority of the universities are in the Midwest.
Despite its name, The Big Ten actually has fourteen teams, split into two divisions of seven organized by East and West.
- Ohio State
- Michigan State
- Penn State
The Big Ten has an annual Conference Championship game which often has a large impact on admission to the College Football Playoff and National Championship Game. At the end of each regular season, the winners of the East and West divisions play for the Big Ten Conference Championship.
The SEC is another Power Five conference and a perennial powerhouse in college football. After all, the gold standard of college football programs, Alabama resides there. Appropriately, the conference headquarters are located in Birmingham, Alabama.
Similar to The Big Ten, the SEC is home to 14 teams, also split into East and West divisions. They also end the season in a conference championship game that holds enormous national importance. The SEC has been so dominant in recent years that often a team with a loss (and maybe even two losses under the right circumstances) will be considered for the Playoffs or large bowl games before a lesser conference team with an undefeated record. The strength of their conference schedule is just so high that a loss can be forgiven.
- South Carolina
- Ole Miss
- Texas A&M
Be warned that when betting on SEC games, they will be receiving most of the media attention and public wagers on their games, so when placing your bet, you will want to do so early before the sharp money comes in.
The ACC is yet another major conference, relevant to multiple sports, including college football. This conference currently includes fifteen programs located within the borders of ten neighboring states:
Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. So as the name suggests, it covers most of the Atlantic Coast.
The conference is divided into two divisions, The Atlantic Division and The Coastal Division, and is the only conference with divisions not divided by geography.
- Wake Forest
- NC State
- Florida State
- Boston College
- Virginia Tech
- Georgie Tech
- North Carolina
- Boston College
Similar to the other Power Five conferences, the ACC has a conference championship game that is played between the champions of each division. This game is played on the first Saturday of December at the conclusion of the regular season.
The Pac-12 Conference is yet another of the Power Five and is located in the West. The twelve member schools are all located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Members include each state's flagship university, in addition to four public and two private schools.
The Pac-12 is divided into two divisions, organized geographically by North and South.
- Washington State
- Oregon State
- Arizona State
The Pac-12 features a championship game between the North Division Champion and the South Division Champion teams. The winner of the Pac-12 is often chosen to play in the College Football Playoffs, although it is possible to have some exceptions. If the winner is not selected for the playoffs, they are chosen to participate in The Rose Bowl. If chosen for the playoffs, the next runner-up plays in The Rose Bowl instead.
The Big Ten consisted of fourteen teams, so to add a bit more confusion; The Big 12 has a membership of ten. The Big 12 is another member of the Power Five conferences and boasts a total of 21 national titles in total. Before 2011 the Big 12 was divided into two divisions, geographically, by North and South. However, this is no longer the case.
In 2011, after Nebraska and Colorado decided to leave for the Big Ten and the Pac-12 (at the time, Pac-10) respectively, the Big 12 decided to scrap the divisions altogether as well as the conference championship game. Now, each team plays every other team in the conference one time. With regards to futures bets keep in mind that the lack of a conference championship may occasionally impact the Big 12 champion's bid to the playoffs, due to having one less game to display their dominance.
The AAC is a collection of twelve universities, both public and private, of various enrollment sizes. The conference came to be out of the Big East and the tumultuous conference realignment between 2010 and 2013. After complicated legal dealings and a mass exodus of schools from the Big East, the AAC conference was born (more commonly referred to as The American).
The American conference is split into two divisions, organized geographically by East and West.
- South Florida
- East Carolina
The AAC holds a conference championship game at the conclusion of the regular season. The game takes place in the home stadium of the division champion with the best conference record. If the teams have the same record, the team's head to head record is the tiebreaker.
The Mountain West conference covers a vast geographical area, going as far West as Hawaii. Made up of the majority of the former Western Athletic Conference, the Mountain West conference boasts twelve competition teams split into two divisions.
The divisions are divided into the Mountain Division and West Division.
- Air Force
- Boise State
- Colorado State
- New Mexico
- Utah State
- Fresno State
- San Diego State
- San Jose State
At the end of the regular season, they play a conference championship game between the two division winners.
The Mid Atlantic Conference has a membership base of twelve universities, nine of which are located in Ohio and Michigan. The three additional schools are located in Illinois, Indiana, and New York. The MAC is not a traditional football powerhouse, but it does boast the highest graduation rates of all the conferences.
The conference is divided into East and West divisions with six teams a piece.
The MAC - East consists of:
- Kent State
- Miami (OH)
- Bowling Green
The MAC - West is made up of:
- Central Michigan
- Eastern Michigan
- Ball State
- Northern Illinois
- Western Michigan
Each year the MAC hosts a conference championship game between the winners of each division.
Conference USA was founded by a merger of the Metro Conference and Great Midwest Conference. It includes fourteen teams, located in the Southern United States. This conference did not participate in collegiate football until 1996 and is not a conference that is highly publicized or competitive on the national stage.
Similar to other conferences, Conference USA is divided geographically into two divisions by East and West. In the East division, you have:
- Old Dominion
- Florida International
- Middle Tennessee
- Western Kentucky
- Florida Atlantic
In the West division are:
- UT San Antonio
- Louisiana Tech
- North Texas
- Southern Mississippi
The two division champions participate in an annual conference championship game on the first Saturday in December.
The Sun Belt Conference is a grouping of twelve collegiate teams, two of which (Idaho and New Mexico) are leaving the conference at the conclusion of the 2017 season. The Sun Belt did not begin sponsoring football until 2001. The membership schools are currently:
- Coastal Carolina
- Appalachian State
- Texas State
- New Mexico State
- Louisiana Monroe
- Arkansas State
- Georgia Southern
- Georgia State
- South Alabama
The Sun Belt is not currently divided into divisions, although they plan to in 2018 after the departure of the teams mentioned above. They will have two divisions of five teams a piece. The conference has not played a conference championship game. However, beginning in 2018 the two new division champions will compete in the conference's first conference championship game.
are a tradition that began in 2014. It is an annual post-season tournament between the top four college football programs to determine an outright season champion. It replaced the controversial BCS system which was much maligned after several instances of a national champion not being agreed upon unanimously.
College football has a rich history, beginning in the fall of 1869. For more detailed information about the history of college football, including major bowl games, the all-time classic games played, a list of each year's champions, and more, check out this page.
Betting College Football for Beginners
College football provides bettors with a full slate of games per week, more so than the NFL, often offering over 30 games on a single Saturday. This provides a vast array of betting options for the interested gambler.
With such a large pool of games to choose from, there is always value to be found in the odds. The public will only focus on a few mainstream games each week, leaving lots of vulnerable lines out there for the intelligent handicapper to benefit from. Let's look at some of the types of wagers we will be looking to make any given Saturday.
The most common college football wager is the spread bet. The point spread is a way for sportsbooks to equalize the chance of winning for either team by giving points to the underdog team and taking them from the favorite.
You can find a more in depth explanation for Point Spreads and the strategies behind them here:
If Point Spreads are the most popular bet, Totals Bets are in second place. And it is very common to find the point spread and totals bet for a single game on a parlay card. Totals bets are bets placed on the total amount of points scored in a game. The sportsbook sets what's called a "line", and you wager on whether the total points scored will go over or under that number.
You can find a more in depth explanation for Totals Bets and the strategies behind them here:
A parlay is a combination of spread, money-line, and/or totals bets combined into a single bet in order to increase the payout. However, if a single portion of the ticket loses, the entire card loses.
You can find a more in depth explanation for Parlay Bets and the strategies behind them here:
Futures bets are made on the outcome of the entire season rather than a single game. You can bet on things like who will win the Heisman that season or who will win the National Championship.
While the link below will explain how futures bets work, here are several futures bets that are specific to College Football:
The most common futures bet wagered is who will win the National Championship Game. This is pretty straight forward but it has been made a bit more interesting thanks to the college playoffs. With the single elimination four team playoff at the end of the season, there is more variance than when the BCS just picked two teams to play in the Championship game.
Another popular futures bet is on which college player will win the Heisman Trophy. The Heisman Trophy is awarded to the best overall college player in that given year. You typically want to bet on star quarterbacks or running backs on the major winning programs for this bet. The Heisman can be difficult to predict, but due to that unpredictable nature, can pay out very well. The 2016 Heisman trophy winner, Lamar Jackson, paid out 8 to 1 last season.
One of the newer futures bets available to College Football fans is who will make the NCAA Football Playoffs. Four teams will qualify, and all they need to do is get in, they don't have to win a game. These bets actually offer decent odds a lot of the time and are worth looking into.
Additionally, you can make over/under bets on regular season wins for most major programs. If you are good at predicting how seasons will play out, futures bets can be a very lucrative option.
Take a look at this in depth explanation for Futures Bets and the strategies behind them here:
College Football Betting Strategies
This is a strategy that was developed by a 27-year-old MIT Finance Student by the name of Mike Wohl. It takes extreme patience and a decent bankroll to start, but if you have those things, it's a very lucrative investment. Think of this strategy more as investing in the stock market rather than sports gambling.
The strategy is to identify games in which the favorite is favored by 20-25 points and bet those games money-line. Last season 4.5 games per week fit this description. Now obviously, betting a heavy favorite on the money-line is not going to produce much on any individual bet. Of the 376 games that fit these criteria, the favored team won 357 times and only lost 19 games. This is a winning percentage of almost 95%.
Over the course of the season, the investor would stand to make a 12.24% profit on their investments. Researching seasons in the past, this method would produce a profit for the last 6 seasons in a row. In Wohl's model he began with $100,000 and placed a $10,000 bet on each money-line favorite; however, you could scale this down to fit your spending abilities. You won't get rich quick, but an investment that can return 12.24% a year is a pretty great deal.
The "active underdog theory" is a common thought process used in handicapping college football. What we are looking for are teams that were recently upset, are playing a rival, or coming off a bad loss in which they should have won.
College players are more susceptible to emotions and external motivations than their professional counterparts. They tend to over perform in emotional rivalry games and underperform in let-down games after a big win. There is also a tendency to underperform when looking past an opponent the week before a more important game.
When utilizing this strategy, we want to find an underdog team that has something to prove. Either they are bouncing back from a hard loss or playing one of their historical rivals. Assuming the underdog will be looking for revenge and to get things back on track with their program, we are wagering that they will outperform the total number of points they are predicted to score. The emotional boost may not be enough to win the upset, but we are only counting on them covering the Over.
Similar to the "active underdog theory," this tip concerns the psyche of the college athlete and how it affects performance. Teams coming off a huge, emotional win have a tendency to follow those performances with a flat, less inspired performance. Especially if they don't have more to play for that season and the week before was essentially their "championship." This can happen with big rivalry upsets especially.
This same phenomenon will appear when a team is looking past an opponent to a bigger, more important game on the horizon. If a team has a nonconference opponent or an unranked opponent one week before a big rivalry or meaningful contest, athletes have a tendency to underperform the week prior. While the best coaches will be more proficient at handling the ebbs and flows of the season, no college team is completely immune to let-down games.
The last two tips highlight the need to focus on the overall situation under which the game is taking place, not just the teams themselves. The timing and circumstances of a contest are nearly as important as the talent on the field for the thorough handicapper.
Correlating your parlays is a strategy of betting that just involves predicting the most reasonable outcome of a game. If you are betting on a team with a high powered offense, it makes sense to pair that bet with an "over" totals bet. Similarly, if you identify a defensive juggernaut it stands to reason that if they win, the game will be going "under." There are exceptions to this rule, but it's a good concept to keep in mind when organizing your wagers.
When picking a winner, you will forecast the outcome of the game in your mind or by using models. You'll know the most likely circumstances that will need to take place in order for your team to win. Correlating your parlays is just a way of doubling down on your prediction and staying consistent with the most likely outcome.
Once you've found solid 4-5 games that you feel confident in betting on any given weekend, it may be tempting to put them all on one parlay card for a large payout. While this is one option, casting a wider net and giving yourself a better chance of winning at least some of your bets is a smarter option.
So for example, let's say you've handicapped four games and feel confident that they are all winners. To diversify your parlays, you will then place several three team parlay bets with different combinations of those four teams. Now if only one team loses, they won't be on all of your cards, and you may still turn a profit.
One betting strategy that has worked across all sports parlays is to identify a heavy favorite that is strongly suspected to win, and then play them on two separate parlay tickets, paired with two different underdogs. With this strategy, you only need one underdog to pull through to win money, and you get a better return than just betting the favorite straight up.
For these bets, you'd typically want a favorite in the -200 range, and underdogs at around +150 or more. If you pick too heavy a favorite, you may not get enough of a return if you only win one card to still turn a profit. You won't lose quite as much, but we are trying to win money, not just mitigate losses.
The general public loves betting on the Power Five conferences (ACC, Big 10, SEC, Big 12, and Pac 12). As a result, the odds makers tend to focus most of their energy on the big televised games and major conference match-ups. Furthermore, the influx of public betting and sharp money will affect the line being offered.
Betting smaller conference teams allows for more opportunities to identify and exploit weaknesses in the lines. Because the sharp money doesn't come in as heavily on these games, the lines stay relatively "soft." This means the book makers won't need to change the line and give you less favorable lines. If you have a local team that you are more familiar with than the general public, that's an excellent team to begin handicapping games for.
This is the ultimate trap for new sports gamblers. You see a powerhouse team heading out on the road, and it seems like an opportune time to get the stronger team at slightly more favorable odds due to them being the away team. Don't fall for it.
As we've addressed previously, college players are more influenced by external factors like the crowd or emotions. Thus, home field advantage plays a major role in how a team performs. These are 18 to 22-year-old college students that are away from home and in unfamiliar environments.
Home underdogs outperform the point spread given to them with a frequency that makes chasing road favorites a losing wager. You are much better served hammering home underdogs getting points.
Every single team in the country has at least one unit or aspect of the game that they are weakest at. When looking to handicap games, it is worth your time to research and determine a team's flaws. Once you have identified the two team's flaws, it's time to determine how they match up and which is more likely to be exploited.
Whichever team has the most glaring vulnerability at the most important position, bet against them. Units like the offensive line can have enormous impacts on the performance of every other position on offense. If the quarterback doesn't get time, they can't perform. If they don't have the time to make reads and get rid of the ball, the wide receivers cannot affect the game. It's a chain reaction.
Something to always keep in mind when betting on sports is that the odds the bookmaker provides are not based on the likelihood of a team winning or losing, rather they are set at numbers designed to get an equal amount of money bet on each side. Because of this, heavy favorites receiving these enormous point spreads are usually influenced by public perception.
Well, over the last decade if you chose to go against the grain and bet against public favorites, favored by 30 points or more, you would have won over 65% of your wagers. A win rate of 65% will net some serious returns, so make sure you bet the underdog and take the points when you see this situation occurring.
Every handicapper takes things like rain and wind into account when trying to determine whether to bet over or under a total, but often people don't factor in the wind. In reality, no weather condition has a stronger correlation to totals betting wins and losses more than the wind. The research suggests that if winds are going to be 13 mph or higher, you should bet the under.
With the high-powered air-it-out offenses so commonly used in college football today, the wind is as important as ever. If you are handicapping a game and feel like it's going to go over, make sure to check the forecast and reconsider as necessary.
Similarly to the tip, we mentioned earlier, about betting smaller programs, you are best served developing an expertise in a particular conference or set of teams rather than trying to handicap for 128 teams. If you have a local university or alma mater that you know the ins and outs for, seek to focus on wagering on their games.
You will have more information than the casual bettors, and most likely the sports books as well since they spend most of their focus on the broadly watched games and traditionally successful programs. Handicapping is all about finding weaknesses in the line, so having small niche areas and programs that you focus on can give you a significant advantage, safe from sharp money disturbing the odds.
General Betting Tips for the Beginner
If you are a novice sports bettor, one of the first lessons you will need to learn is bankroll management. Picking winning teams is only one factor in making money betting on sports. For an in-depth look at bankroll management, check out the link below:
To turn a profit betting on sports, you're going to need to be able to find vulnerabilities in the lines offered by sportsbooks. Most public bettors make their determinations on public narrative and the talking heads on television, so if you're responsible enough to gather real data and research the tips we've laid out above, you can create an edge for yourself and profit! For an in-depth look at research and analysis, check out the link below:
No person is an island, so you probably won't be relying strictly on your own ideas and statistical models. We all start by relying on expert opinions and research that they've done to come to our conclusions. As such, who you get your information from is important. You want people that actually win bets, right? Well, you've come to the right place. For an in-depth look at finding the right sources and becoming a successful handicapper, check out the link below:
Something to consider is using multiple sportsbook websites to place your bets. Most bets are won or lost based on a half point, so finding the most favorable conditions relative to your handicapping is of the utmost importance.
There are occasions in which one sportsbook will be offering you better odds on a game that you have handicapped. It's smart to shop for the best prices and odds that you can get to maximize your winning percentage and profit. For an in-depth look at diversifying the places, you wager, check out the link below:
As we've mentioned several times earlier in this guide, public money and sharp money coming in will move the line in ways that can disrupt your ability to find value. Because of this, it is advised to get your bets in early, as soon as they are released to the public. For college games, this typically occurs on Sunday. For an in-depth look at how the public impacts lines and strategies to deal with line movement, check out the link below: