College football betting is extremely popular in the United States. It probably falls third behind the NFL and the NBA in terms of popularity, but don’t tell that to the college football fanatics that live and die with each and every game on the Saturday card.
The betting options for college football, sometimes abbreviated NCAAF or CFB, are similar to those of professional football. You’ll find spreads, totals, money lines, teasers, parlays, derivative (half & quarter), props, and live betting options listed at your preferred sportsbook.
Teasers and money line wagering are far less popular with college football compared to the NFL because of the higher level of variance in the sport and the larger talent gaps, but those options are still available to you if you wish to use them.
Using a live odds screen like ours at ATS is critically important for college football because there are a ton of games on Saturdays. Unlike the NFL, which plays no more than 13 games on Sunday except for Week 17, there are upwards of 50+ college football games on Saturdays and more in non-conference play. It is important to check the odds and keep everything square.
Let’s take a look at the different college football bet types:
The most popular college football wager is to make a spread bet. The spread is a handicap placed on both teams in order to level the proverbial playing field. If Ohio State was playing Coastal Carolina and it was just a matter of picking the winner, everybody would bet on Ohio State and nobody would bet on Coastal Carolina.
If Ohio State was -48 and Coastal Carolina was +48, then bettors would be put to a much more challenging decision. The function of the spread is to attempt to allow the sportsbooks to achieve balanced action on a game. It never happens that way, but some bettors will take a team plus the points as an underdog and other bettors will take a team minus the points as a favorite.
In the hypothetical Ohio State/Coastal Carolina situation, Ohio State might win that game 52-3. At -48, you would subtract 48 points from their total. If they would still win the game at the updated score, then they “cover the spread”. In this case, at -48, Ohio State would win 4-3. Had the Buckeyes won the game 42-3 instead, Coastal Carolina would win because 3 + 48 is 51 and that is greater than 42.
Some college football spreads can be that high. Other times, you will see something like Alabama -7 vs. LSU. The same concept still applies. If you subtracted seven points from Alabama’s final total (or added seven points to LSU’s total), which team would win the game?
Along with the point spread, sportsbooks add vigorish (also known as “vig” or “juice”) to the spread in order to help balance action and also to create a house edge. The standard for spread betting is -110, but sportsbooks can and will move the juice to -115 or -120 if they want to give bettors something else to think about, but don’t want to adjust the point spread.
To make the math easy, we will assume that you are a $100 bettor. At -110, you have to bet $110 to win $100. A $100 bet would return about $91. Think of -110 as 11/10. You have to bet $11 to win $10. If the vig is -115, then it becomes $115 to win $100 or $15 to win $10.
Money line betting still takes place in college football, though the large spreads leave fewer opportunities. That being said, it does still happen and bettors will take shots on the big money line underdogs looking for an upset.
A money line is simply a bet on which team will win the game. When you think about how a spread evens out the two teams from a betting standpoint, the vigorish evens out the two teams with money line betting. A favorite might be -2000 or -2500 or might be as small as -130 or -135 depending on the spread.
A money line is equivalent to a percentage likelihood of that team winning the game. Like a -135 favorite would be around a 57.5% implied probability to win the game. That would be a spread around -3 or -3.5, depending on the vig.
Money lines can have wild variances in price in college football because of the competitive imbalance of some of the teams. In games with reasonable spreads in single digits, you will see similar money lines to the NFL, but because CFB is a little more unpredictable, those money lines will be reflective of that.
Totals betting in college football is the same as it is in any sport. Add the final scores of both teams together and grade the wager. In the above example with Ohio State and Coastal Carolina, if the total is 59 and Ohio State wins 52-3, the total points scored were 55, so the under wins. If Ohio State wins 62-3, the total points scored were 65, so the over wins.
Totals, like spreads, have vig attached to them. Once again, the standard vig would be -110, but it can move to -115 or -120 if the sportsbooks feel they need to balance risk a little more and give bettors more to think about.
Many people like to make college football parlays, specifically playing money line favorites together as a way to cut down on the high vig. Parlay tickets require at least two bets on the same ticket. The odds on each individual leg of a parlay ticket are factored into the equation, but you do get a “multiplier” by virtue of having to pick two or more games correctly with the same bet because the degree of difficulty is higher.
If any of the bets on your parlay ticket lose, the entire thing is a loser. Generally speaking, if one or more bets wind up a push (tie), then your parlay ticket odds are just reduced with those games taken out of the equation.
You might have Ohio State -48 parlayed with LSU +7. If Ohio State wins by 55 but LSU loses by 10, then your parlay ticket loses. If Ohio State wins by 45 and LSU wins outright, your parlay ticket loses. All outcomes on a parlay ticket must win in order for that ticket to pay out winnings.
Teasers are generally not a good idea in college football because games can be very high-variance in nature. However, if you do want to play them, these are an alternative to parlays. You can play 6, 6.5, 7, and 10-point teasers. With a teaser, the spread or total will be “teased” up or down based on the side that you are playing to give you a more favorable line.
In the Alabama vs. LSU example, you might tease Alabama down from -7 to -1 on a six-point teaser. You might also tease the Ohio State total of 55 up to 61.5 if you are playing the over or down to 48.5 if you are playing the under.
Like parlays, all bets on a teaser must win in order for that ticket to be deemed a winner. If a bet pushes, the house rules will determine whether that teaser is a loser or if it will be taken down to an adjusted number of games.
Think your team will get off to a fast start? Like a team to go for the blowout in the first half and cruise in the second half? Maybe derivative betting is for you. College football is divided into quarters, which gives you the opportunity to bet the spread and total on all four quarters. You can do the same for the 1st and 2nd half as well.
The odds are going to be based on the full-game spread and total and be a smaller amount, but the team favored to win the game is traditionally going to be the favorite for all four quarters and for the first half in pregame betting. Depending how the first half goes, the second half line could be different.
Live betting means betting while the game is going on. There are algorithms and interfaces with all reputable online sportsbooks that allow you to bet adjusted spreads, totals, and money lines as the game is being played. Props are also regularly offered.
You can bet after you see what’s happening in the game or in the box score and many bettors feel like this gives them an advantage. This is a separate area within your favorite sportsbook website or app with odds based on the game play.
Props are not as prominent with college football as they are with other sports, but you can still find over/under odds for quarterback passing yards or running back rushing yards. You can find some Yes/No touchdown props.
Like all bet types, these have vig attached to them and you’ll have to make a call on how much you like the bet to decide if you want to lay the vig or maybe play the other side at more favorable odds.
There are tons of college football betting options each and every week, so you are sure to find something that you want to bet and we’ll continue to help with the process here at ATS.