A Complete Guide to Betting on College Football

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College football full betting guide

A fall Saturday wouldn’t be the same without a few college football bets. In this article, we’ll go through everything you need to know about college football betting.

In the rapidly growing world of sports betting, football is king. While the NFL remains the top option, college football is right up there in terms popularity.

From types of bets to promos and betting strategies, there’s plenty to learn about college football betting to elevate your experience.

How do college football odds work?

In sports betting, odds are a representation of the likelihood of an event occurring. If an event has plus-odds (for example, +125), it means this outcome is an underdog and is less likely to happen. However, if an event has negative odds (-140), it means the outcome is favored and is more likely to happen.

Odds differ across the many different markets. For markets such as totals and spreads, the number has been adjusted, so the odds are fairly stagnant, usually at -110. That suggests that the events have a 50/50 chance of happening. For a moneyline bet, the odds are adjusted based on the likelihood of each team winning. For example, Clemson may be a -150 favorite over Florida State. This implies Clemson is a slight favorite to win the game. To learn more about how odds and different types of bets work, check out our complete betting guide.

Clemson during the fourth quarter head coach Dabo Swinney talks with media after the Clemson spring football game at Memorial Stadium
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Betting on a college football game

When betting on college football, there are three main markets posted for each game in every sportsbook. You must master these three types of bets to proceed as a successful college football bettor.

Moneyline betting

When betting the moneyline, you are simply betting on a team to win the game. The margin of victory does not matter. Whether it’s ugly or pretty, it makes no difference. If the team you back to win the game wins, you cash your bet.

When betting the moneyline in college football, it’s important to note the odds. These odds change based on the likelihood of each team winning each game. For example, Alabama might play Auburn. Alabama could be a -300 favorite on the moneyline. This betting line implies oddsmakers are giving Alabama a 75% chance of winning the game. If you wanted to bet Alabama on the moneyline, you’d need to wager $300 to make $100 in profit. Obviously, your stake is returned to you if you win your bet, meaning you would collect $400 in total. This would be considered a bet that’s likely to win, so the payout isn’t exactly as exciting as you might hope.

Kalen DeBoer and his wife Nicole DeBoer pose for a photo after he was introduced as the new head football coach for University of Alabama during a press conference in the North end zone at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
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On the flip side, if you wanted to bet Auburn as a +240 underdog in the same game, you would need to bet $100 to win a profit of $240. This means that upon getting your original stake back, you’d get a total payout of $340. At +240 odds, it’s implied Auburn wins the game just 29% of the time. If you think they win the game more often than that, there would in theory be value in betting on Auburn. It’s a bet that is less likely to win, so the payout is potentially more lucrative as a result.

Point spread betting

Spread betting is the most popular way to bet on college football. Oddsmakers compare the two teams in a given matchup and select a number (the spread) that would in theory make the teams even. For example, if Michigan were to play Ohio State, oddsmakers might say the Buckeyes are 2.5 points better than the Wolverines. That would make Ohio State a 2.5-point favorite on the spread.

The attractive part of betting spreads and the main reason it’s so popular is that the odds are typically always around -110 and don’t require the initial investment that betting a favorite on the moneyline requires. Oddsmakers theoretically set the spread so that they believe there’s a 50/50 chance of either side hitting.

Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day, who always loses to Michigan, watches players stretch during spring football practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
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If you think Ohio State wins the game by three points or more, you’d bet Ohio State -2.5 at -110 odds. A $110 bet would net you a profit of $100. Conversely, if you think Michigan keeps the game under a field goal or wins the game outright, you can bet Michigan at +2.5 at those same -110 odds. In that situation, you would also need to bet $110 for a potential profit of $100.

Totals (over/under) betting

There are certainly times when you can’t decide who will win a game, but you’re pretty certain you could predict what type of game we will see. If you bet Oklahoma and the Big 12 in the Baker Mayfield days, you could expect points. Conversely, betting on Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes often resulted in lower scoring affairs.

For those times when you don’t want to get involved with a team or a side, a bet on the total makes sense. Oddsmakers post an over/under line of points, and bettors decide whether the two teams will combine to score more or less than that number. Obviously, the total number of points is different for each game and takes into account the style of teams.

For example, an Oklahoma-Texas total usually has some offensive flair and excitement, so the total might be listed at 64.5 points. If the teams play a back-and-forth 38-35 type of game, the over would be the winning side. Elsewhere, an Iowa-Minnesota matchup in the Big Ten is usually going to be an offensive struggle. The total for that game might be posted at 37.5 points. When Iowa kicks four field goals in a 12-10 victory, the under would be the winning side.

Texas Longhorns Head Coach Steve Sarkisian speaks to the team following the Longhorns' spring Orange and White game at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium
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Like spread betting, the odds for a total bet are usually set at -110. The odds themselves don’t move, but rather the total itself will move. A $110 bet on either the over or under in a game with -110 odds will pay out a profit of $100.

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Other popular college football bets

The three markets listed above are far and away the most popular and important markets to know if you are new to betting on college football. However, that doesn’t mean those are the only markets available. In fact, there’s a litany of ways to bet on college football every weekend beyond those three markets. 

Parlay bets

For those unaware, a parlay bet is a combination of multiple bets into one singular bet. For your bet to win, every leg of your parlay bet must win. If four of your five legs win, your bet is a loser. Obviously, it’s hard to hit multiple legs without one failing you. However, the appeal is the odds. A five-leg parlay of spread or total bets pays nearly 25-to-1.

Mix in a few parlay bets if you must, but keep them small and be aware that they’re not much more than a fun lottery ticket.

Prop bets

A prop bet is a bet on something within a certain game that may or may not ultimately have an impact on the final score. Common prop bets include player props for stats like rushing yards, touchdowns and receptions. Player props work in two types: An over/under or a yes/no. You can bet that a wide receiver will have over or under 91.5 yards in a game, that’s an over/under. A common yes/no bet is a bet on anytime touchdown scorer. Each player has different odds on the probability of them scoring a touchdown.

Other prop bets are at the team and game level. For example, team totals, which team will score first and will the game go to overtime are all specific types of prop bets.

It’s worth noting that only five states don’t have some type of restriction on college player prop betting, and this form of betting could become even more restrictive based on pushback from the NCAA. Make sure to check out your state’s guidelines to find out which types of bets are permitted.

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Futures bets

A futures bet is a bet on something that will happen in the future. In the college football world, common futures bets include bets on teams to win the national title, bets on teams to win their conference, Heisman trophy future bets and over/under on season-long win totals.

During the offseason, Georgia might be +300 to win the National Championship. By the start of the season when the excitement grows, that number might slowly move towards +250. After a 5-0 start, that number moves again to +200. At 8-0, maybe they become even money. If they win the SEC Championship Game, they might become an odds-on favorite at -150. After winning some playoff games, they might become -250 favorites.

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban meet before the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
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If you bet them in the offseason, you secured a Georgia bet at +300 odds. Of course, they can get upset early in the season, lose key players to injury, and have an uneventful 9-3 season and your bet goes up in flames. That’s the prospect with futures bets, and that’s why the potential payout is increased.

Other futures bets include season win totals. During the offseason, sportsbooks release a win-total number for every team. You can then bet if they will win more or fewer games than the listed number. For example, if you expect Michigan to struggle without Jim Harbaugh, J.J. McCarthy, and Blake Corum and their numerous losses on defense, you might be inclined to bet them to win under 9.5 games.

College football live betting

Live betting is another growing and popular way for bettors to become invested in college football. Quite simply, live betting means betting on a game after it has already started, with the odds being adjusted based on what has happened in the game up until that point. 

If used smartly, live betting can create betting opportunities. For example, if you are watching a game and the teams are moving the ball efficiently but a turnover or offensive penalty prevented points from being put on the board, you can live bet a deflated total to go over knowing that offenses are having success. 

Another way to take advantage of live betting is if a favorite goes down early in the game. You can now jump in and bet the favorite at deflated odds compared to what they were before kickoff. Conversely, if you like an underdog before kickoff and they go down early, you can live bet the underdog with a few extra points in your pocket.

As seasoned sports viewers, we’ve all seen games where one team is completely overwhelmed or has no desire to compete. You can also use live betting to your advantage in situations like that. A computer model spitting out numbers is unlikely to account for factors such as motivation and competition level.

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College football betting strategies

In all sports, there’s a variety of different betting strategies to use to try and have the best results possible. College football is no different. Of course, not all betting strategies work. If they did, casinos wouldn’t be so beautiful and extravagant. Let’s take a look at some pieces of advice that should at least guide you in the right direction when it comes to betting on college football.

Use analytics, ignore trends

How often have you heard insane trends like “Mississippi is 13-0 all-time in November on bluegrass when wearing their purple jerseys and the temperature is above 70 degrees?” First off, most of the time, the information comes with a small sample size. Secondly, even in situations where the information is somewhat useful, you need to understand that the data doesn’t apply to the current team and roster and might not even apply to the current coach.

Instead of using historical trends, focus your research more on data and analytics. Dive deep into box scores and figure out how misleading the final score of their games was. Use advanced metrics such as EPA/play and success rate to separate teams that gain meaningful yards from teams that gain meaningless yards.

Examine the strengths and weaknesses of each team and then figure out ways to apply all of this to your handicap. It doesn’t always have to be a straightforward line of thinking either. For example, if a team is dominant at run defense, and the opponent struggles to run the ball, you can expect that team to pass the ball a majority of the game. This prevents a running clock and could theoretically lead to more scoring opportunities, making the over on the total an intriguing play.

Bet timing

Sportsbooks will often post college football betting lines for the following week on Sunday. If you wait until Saturday morning, or gameday, to place your bets, you are betting into a number that has been shaped and molded by the market and specifically sharp bettors for six days. Beating those numbers consistently is a tough task.

Oftentimes, if you bet on a college football game early in the week, you’ll notice that the line has moved 2 or 3 points by kickoff on Saturday. It feels good laying only 4.5 points with a favorite when the majority of the country is laying 7 points. Conversely, it feels good getting 9.5 points with an underdog when the majority of bettors are only getting 6.5 points.

Beating the market close at kickoff is referred to as “closing line value” and having positive closing line value is one of the bigger indicators of being a successful bettor. If you consistently get the best of numbers, you’re in a good position to win.

Of course, there’s a caveat when you bet early in the week. College football has 134 schools at the FBS level, making following each team closely nearly impossible. In addition, their injury reporting guidelines aren’t nearly as strict as the NFL. Oftentimes, you won’t find out about injuries until warmups before a game.

However, if we beat the closing line two or three times per week, that adds up to 40-50 occasions in a season. We’ll take that and not worry about the handful of times we get burned by late injury news. Of course, if you’re betting strictly for fun, we can understand that you want to make sure a team’s quarterback is actually playing before you bet on them.

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How to bet big favorites and big spreads

One of the bigger differences between college football and the NFL is the parity and the level of competition. In the NFL, even the worst teams are composed of professionals and massive blowouts aren’t overly common. In college, you’ll see multiple spreads of 30+ points every week.

Betting on these big favorites every week can be exhausting. It’s hard to predict how motivated a team is to cover a big number. Teams often lift their foot off the gas. Teams put in backups late. It becomes a sweat and a mess. However, there are creative ways to bet these big favorites.

Consider betting on them in the first quarter or first half market. How often do we see these big favorites come out, score on their first four possessions, and then sit on the lead? Rather than bet on a team to cover 31.5 points for a full game, consider betting them to cover 17.5 points in the first half.

Based on this same thought process, consider live betting the under on totals once a big favorite goes up big. A good example of this in recent years has been Michigan. We’ve often seen them go up 24-0 on teams, suffocate them on defense and then take the air out of the ball and run it down the team’s throats, eating up the clock.

How do you find the right college football betting site?

College football can be bet on at any reputable sportsbook. However, certain factors are more important than others when it comes to betting on college football. Consider the number of markets posted, the number of options available to you, the user interface, the number of promos and other factors.

Here’s a list of our top sportsbooks and what they offer college football bettors:

SportsbookBenefits
FanDuel SportsbookThe slickest and easiest-to-use sportsbook app
DraftKings SportsbookMultiple weekly promotional offerings for college football
Caesars SportsbookWide variety of markets and props posted weekly
BetMGM SportsbookAn extensive menu of futures options
BetRivers SportsbookCompetitive odds with beneficial rewards program

We recommend shopping for your college football odds across at least a few sportsbooks to make sure you’re getting the best value. You could see one moneyline at FanDuel Sportsbook and then a slightly more valuable one at Caesars Sportsbook. The discrepancies aren’t usually big, but when you’re betting a lot of money, every edge counts.

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What types of college football promos are available?

As a bettor, there’s nothing better than a promotion or offer to help boost your betting day. Thankfully, with sportsbooks competing for your action on Saturdays, there’s usually a wide variety of promotions available. Here are some common ones:

  • Profit boost: Place any bet on any college football market and boost your winnings by a certain amount determined by the profit boost.
  • Bonus bets: Bet up to a certain amount, knowing that if you lose, you’ll get a bonus bet refund of your wager.
  • Parlay boost: For each leg of your parlay, earn a percentage boost increase. For example, a 4-leg parlay is boosted 20%, while a 10-leg parlay is boosted 100%.
  • Parlay insurance: If one leg of your parlay loses, get your stake back in the form of a bonus bet.
  • Live bet boost: Get a profit boost that must be used on a live bet.
  • Early cashouts: If your team goes up a certain amount of points, your bet will be graded as a winner.
  • Bowl Game Promos: Specific boosts come bowl season to increase your profits.

FAQ

Is betting on college football legal?

The answer depends on in which state you are located. Where sports betting is legal, betting on college football games generally is as well.

What’s the difference between a moneyline bet and a spread bet?

When betting the moneyline, you are simply picking a team to win the game. When betting the spread, the margin of victory becomes involved. 

Can I bet on individual player props for college football?

In most states, there is some kind of restriction in place for college football prop betting. Restrictions range from no live prop bets and no in-state player prop bets to a total ban on college prop betting. 

Which sportsbooks can you use to bet on college football?

You can use a wide variety of sportsbooks to bet on college football, including Caesars, BetMGM, BetRivers, FanDuel and DraftKings. 

What’s the best sportsbook for college football betting?

You can’t go wrong with using DraftKings or FanDuel to bet on college football. They have a large number of markets, easy-to-use apps and weekly promotions.