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How to Bet on College Football: Find Success with Every Bet

Updated September 7th, 2021
Published January 31, 2019

College football betting text overlay on Ohio State player

If you’re a college football fan, you know just how different NCAA football is from its major league NFL counterpart. For online sports bettors, that also means college football betting comes with its own quirks that are important to understand and navigate.

With more regular season games and championship games than the NFL, it can be hard to keep up with NCAAF. From the Alabama Crimson Tide to the Iowa Hawkeyes to the Miami Hurricanes, there are plenty of football teams to keep track of at any given time throughout the college football season—not to mention all the different bowl games.

We know, it’s a lot. If you’re just getting started with college football betting, trying to decode the odds and figure out how the different types of bets work can be a little intimidating with so much going on. That’s why we put together this guide to outline the most common and popular ways to bet on college football.

How To Bet on Single College Football Games

Single-game bets are the classic wagers of sports betting. Single-game bets require you to bet on one college football game. If you can accurately predict the outcome of a national championship game between Clemson and Ohio State, for example, you win the bet and receive a payout in addition to the return of your original wager. If your pick is wrong, you lose the bet and forfeit the money you’ve risked.

Single game bets are the best place to start for beginners, so let’s start by looking at the different types of single-game bets you can make on college football.

Moneyline Bets

Moneyline betting isn’t the most popular way to wager on college football, or football more generally, but it’s a good starting point for new bettors as the least complicated bet type to understand.

In moneyline betting, you’re asked to predict the winner of a game, plain and simple. Pick the straight-up winner, and you win the bet. It’s easy as that.

To account for differences in talent or other disparities between competitors, each side will have different odds assigned to the likelihood they will win the event. You’ll get a bigger payout if you bet on a team that’s perceived to be less likely to win, and a smaller payout if the team is predicted to dominate.

Unlike betting against the spread (which we’ll come to in a moment), the margin of victory doesn’t matter when betting on the moneyline; and unlike betting on the game total (a.k.a. the over/under), the number of points scored doesn’t matter. It’s all about which teams gets the “W.”

Let’s say Tennessee is playing Texas this weekend. Tennessee is having a hell of a year, and Texas recently fired their head coach. When you log into your online sportsbook, you see a “line” that looks like this:

These odds are listed in the American odds format, which is the most widely used for football betting among oddsmakers. When looking at American odds, positive numbers indicate how much you will earn in profit when betting $100. Negative numbers indicate how much money you need to risk to earn $100 in profit.

In our example, the +185 next to Texas means that a successful bet of $100 will yield a $285 payout (i.e. your $100 wager plus a $185 profit). The -225 next to Tennessee means that you’d have to wager $225 to return a $100 profit. If you bet $100, your potential payout is $144.44 (i.e. your $100 wager plus a $44.44 profit).

Using an odds calculator can help you quickly figure out what your profit and payout will be, as well as the implied probability lurking under those odds. ‘Implied probability’ refers to the likelihood of that outcome to occur, as suggested by the odds. A line of -225 carries an implied probability of 69%, which means that it’s a good bet if you think Tennessee has at least a 70% chance of winning. If you think their chances of winning are lower than 69%, it’s a bad bet to make.

You might have noticed that when you add up the implied probabilities of -225 and +185 you get a number that exceeds 100%, in this case, ~105%. That shouldn’t be the case when you’re doling out two percentages on a binary outcome.

There is exactly a 100% chance that one of these teams will win, obviously. That extra 5% is called the “overround,” and it’s how the sportsbooks include their bookmaker’s fees or ‘juice’ directly in the betting line. In essence, it’s the price every bettor pays to play.

College Football Betting Spreads

The bulk of college football bets are made on the point spread. Also known as spread betting or betting “against the spread,” sportsbooks give one team a handicap and bettors choose teams at roughly even odds. (Again, the odds in a perfectly even matchup won’t be exactly one-to-one because the sportsbook charges a fee to handle the bet.)

Again, Tennessee is playing Texas. This time, however, the odds look like this:

The spread on this game is 6.5 points, which refers to the number of points Tennessee has to win by, or the maximum Texas can lose by, for bettors to be paid out. You’ll recognize “-110” from the American odds format outlined above; it means bettors on either side have to wager $110 in order to win $100.

What does this mean for you? If you bet $100 on Tennessee, you need them to win by at least seven points, in which case you’ll be paid out $190.91.

If you back Texas, you need them to (a) win the game outright or (b) lose by no more than 6.5 points. Betting on the underdog is called “taking the points,” because (for your money) you’re getting the probability that your team wins, plus taking the cushion those points provide. Conversely, betting on Tennessee is called “laying” the points, because you’re effectively giving Texas 6.5 points before the game even starts.

Totals Bets

Totals betting is a little like betting against the spread in that you’re not strictly betting on which side will win or lose the game. Instead, you’re betting on the total number of points scored in the game. The betting line will look similar to the following:

The number 62.5 is the projected total score of both teams combined, and you have the option to bet on the actual total being over or under this projection. If you’ve ever heard of the over/under, it refers to this element of totals betting.

If you take the ‘over,’ the actual total must exceed 62 points for you to win the bet, while the actual total must be 62 or less for those who bet the ‘under’ to come out as the winner. As with the point spread, the -110 indicates that you must risk $110 to win $100.

Notice that you’re not betting on the abilities of one team vs the other, but the overall qualities of the game. Will it be a blowout in the NFL, a shootout in the NHL, an NBA game on grass? If so, consider betting the over. Will it be a tightly contested defensive struggle, a suffocating phonebook fight, or a symphony of offensive incompetence? Take a hard look at the under in these circumstances.

How to Make Multiple Game College Football Bets

With 128 teams in the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision, a.k.a. Division I), you might be tempted to bet on more than one game each week. There’s plenty to choose from too: Michigan, Florida, Indiana, Oregon, Auburn—just to name a few.

While you can simply place single game bets independently of one another, you might find more value with multiple game bets, which tie the outcome of multiple games into a single wager.

Parlay Bets

Parlays are multiple game bets that inextricably tie the outcomes together, meaning that all your picks must be correct in order for you to cash out. By betting on multiple games at once, you get much longer odds, and thus a larger payout, but only if all your picks in the parlay win.

Let’s say you want to bet on Tennessee, but the odds are very “short,” meaning the potential profit is not very enticing considering the amount you’ll have to risk. If you parlay this pick with bets on other games, the potential reward begins to look much more appealing. A three-team parlay of narrow favorites can payout at +300 or +400, and a similar bet on three strong favorites can net close to +100.

Teasers: Getting an Extra Edge on Your Parlay Bets

Teasers are another multiple-game bet, and like parlays, all your picks must be correct for you to be paid out. With teasers, however, you get an opportunity to adjust the lines on the relevant games. Say the following games are on the docket this Saturday:

With a teaser, you generally have the option of adjusting the spread by 6.0, 6.5, or 7.0 points in either direction. So, if you bet on Tennessee and Texas A&M on a 6.0-point teaser, the spreads become Tennessee -0.5 and Texas A&M +8.5. Now, you only need Tennessee to win by a single point and Texas A&M to lose by no more than eight. If both of those bets succeed, your teaser is a winner!

You can bet on more than two games in a teaser, and there are no rules about picking all favorites or all underdogs. You can mix and match to your heart’s content.

The standard odds for various teasers are as follows:

# OF TEAMS NUMBER OF POINTS PAYOUT
2 6.0 -120
2 6.5 -130
2 7.0 -140
3 6.0 +150
3 6.5 +135
3 7.0 +120

Betting on College Football Futures

Futures are bets on the far-flung future of college football. They are simple propositions that ask bettors to select the outcome of an event happening relatively far off. The two most common college football futures bets you can make involve accurately predicting the National Champion and betting on the Heisman Trophy winner.

While wagering on outcomes far ahead of time can be massively entertaining, note that it’s supremely easy to find bad futures bets  and exceedingly hard to find value, unless a really good team or player is heavily undervalued, which is rare.

Most sportsbooks will release odds on college football futures lines following the end of the season (projecting outcomes for next year). Tracking the odds and comparing them with your own handicapping efforts is the best way to look for value, whether you’re looking for national championship odds or Heisman Trophy winner winner odds.

An important note of caution: because futures bets inherently have many possible outcomes, unscrupulous sportsbooks can produce lines that, upon careful review, are far from fair.

If you add up the implied probabilities of the lines on offer and get a number greater than, say, 120%, it’s likely that you’re not getting good value regardless of who you bet on. Stick to this list of best sports betting sites when looking for futures that offer value.

College Football Wagering Has Never Been Better

It’s an exciting time to bet on college football with a number of states looking to legalize sports betting starting with Arizona on September 9. Maryland, Louisiana, and New York are also expected to launch legalized online sports betting sometime in the near future.

Want to learn more about betting on college football, or perhaps just betting on sports in general? We’ve got you covered with our comprehensive series on how to bet on sports.

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