If you want to bet on college football, you’re certainly not alone. According to CNBC, some $70 billion is wagered on college football every year. Tune into College Gameday and you’re sure to hear the commentators discussing spreads, odds, and lines.
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. That’s why we put together this guide outlining the most common and popular ways to bet on college football.
Single Game College Football Bets
Single-game bets are the classic wagers of sports betting. Single-game bets require you to bet on a single college football game., If you can accurately predict the outcome, 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 begin by looking at the different types of single-game bets you can make on college football.,
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 with 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 Favorite University is playing Underdog State this weekend. Favorite University is having a hell of a year, and Underdog State recently fired their head coach. When you log in to 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. 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 Underdog State 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 Favorite University 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 Favorite University 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.
Betting Against the Spread
The bulk of college football bets are made on the point spread. Also known as 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, Favorite University is playing Underdog State. This time, however, the odds look like this:
The spread on this game is 6.5 points, which refers to the number of points Favorite U has to win by, or the maximum Underdog State 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 Favorite U, you need them to win by at least seven points, in which case you’ll be paid out $190.91.
If you back Underdog State, 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 Favorite U is called “laying” the points, because you’re effectively giving Underdog State 6.5 points before the game even starts.
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, a shootout, a basketball 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.
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. 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.
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 Favorite U, 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 Favorite U and Underdog A&M on a 6.0-point teaser, the spreads become Favorite U -0.5 and Underdog A&M +8.5. Now, you only need Favorite U to win by a single point and Underdog 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|
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. Sports Betting Dime makes it easy to do so with our college football futures trackers.
Track College Football National Champion Odds
Track Heisman Trophy 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 our list of top college football betting sites when looking for futures that offer value.
Expand Your Horizons and Grow Your Bankroll!
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.