NCAA football, for those who may not know, is a sports leagues consisting of football teams that represent colleges and universities. Though there are, technically, 4 different levels of college football, the one we will be focusing on is Division 1. This is so because “D1” football is far and away the most popular type of NCAA football, as well as the most wagered-upon type.
There are more than 125 Division 1 football teams who play a season that kicks off towards the end of August and officially wraps up shortly after the New Years holiday. With such a long season, it goes without saying that there are plenty of NCAA football betting opportunities. The following will walk you through some of the different betting styles so that you can gain a better understanding of how betting on NCAA football works.
Before we go any further into talking about the different types of bets that can be placed, it is only right that we walk you through and explain how to interpret the odds that you will see on any given sportsbook’s website.
When you are looking at odds, you will first notice either a “-“ or “+” followed by a number. These symbols help you understand which betting option is more likely to happen (the favorite) and which is not as likely to happen (the underdog). Put simply, a “-“ indicates a favorite while a “+” indicates an underdog. There will be occasions where both betting options feature the same symbol, but that should make no difference to you.
To help you understand just a bit better how all this works in practice, we will paint a hypothetical scenario featuring Team A facing off against Team B. Team A is the favorite, so their odds might look something like -200. Team B, on the other hand, has odds of +350 because they are, according to the oddsmakers, not very likely to win. If you are placing a $100 wager on Team A and they emerge victorious, you will win $50. This is determined by taking the 200 odds, moving the decimal two places to the left (2.00) and dividing your $100 wager by this amount. To the contrary, if you place a $100 wager on Team B and they end up winnings, you will win $350. This amount is determined in much the same way as the first. Once again, you will take the 350, move the decimal place to left twice (3.50), and multiply this umber by your $100 wager.
Even if you are not adept at arithmetic and all of this confuses you, there is no need to worry because most NCAA football betting sites do the calculation for you. So, even before you execute the wager your potential winnings will be quickly and easily calculated.
Now that you understand how odds work, we can move onto the different types of bets that can be made.
Types of Bets to Utilize When Betting NCAA Football
If we are discussing a spread bet, we are really talking about a wager that is determined by a team’s margin of victory or loss. Once again, the best way to illustrate how this type of wager works is to provide a hypothetical example.
In this example, we will see the Penn State Nittany Lions face off against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Penn State are not favored to win, so their spread will be +3.5 while Ohio State’s will be -3.5. The odds on a Penn State spread bet will be -105 while OSU’s odds will come in at -115.
If you place a wager on Penn State at +3.5, what you are really saying is that Penn State will either win the game or lose by 3 or less. In other words, Penn State is kicking off the game with a preexistent lead of 3.5 points. So long as they can preserve that lead (or build upon it) by the time the final whistle is blown, you will win your wager.
A wager on Ohio State at -3.5 is saying that Ohio State will win by 4 or more points. Another way to think of this is by imagining that OSU is starting the game already losing by 3.5 points. In order to win your wager, the Buckeyes will have to overcome this deficit by the game’s conclusion.
Now you might be wondering why there are half-points if, in football, there is no such thing as a half-point score. This is a phenomenon in betting that occurs as a way of ensuring a tie will never happen. If the spread were an even 3 points, the final score could be something like 31-28 and no spread bettors will win. Instead, they will be given their money back and it will be as though the wager never happened.
Moneyline betting is, by far, the most straightforward style of betting that exists for football and just about any other sport. Simply put, a moneyline wager is a bet placed on a team that you think will win. Margin of victory is not taken into account. No matter whether they win by 1 or 100 points, so long as the team you picked emerges victorious, your wager will too.
There is no clear-cut advantage or disadvantage to choosing a moneyline bet over a spread bet, but rather this typically comes down to personal preference. It must be noted, however, that NCAA football games can be so one-sided that a moneyline might not exist. In essence, the oddsmakers have determined that one team is so likely to win that featuring a moneyline for that particular game will amount to the sportsbook, quite literally, giving money away. These types of games are often accompanied by spreads that reach point tallies of 20 or more.
Moneyline betting is straightforward, but so to are over/under wagers. When it comes to these, you are placing a bet on whether the combined total score will be either over or under a pre-set amount. If the over/under for a particular game is 48 and the final score is 28-35, a bet on the over will emerge victorious. To the contrary, if the final score in the same example is 14-10, all under bets will win.
Over/Under bets tend to be toss-ups more than anything else due to the unpredictable nature of NCAA football. So while a downtrodden offense may perform poorly all year, there could be a game where they absolutely go off and end up putting 56 points on the board. Still, an over/under is a great bet if you are a neutral party.
Another great type of wager for NCAA football is what is known as a prop bet. Prop bets come in many shapes and forms, but instead of them focusing on the game as a whole, they focus on possible occurrences that may happen during a game.
You can wager on, for example, the over/under for one of the two competing teams, the over/under for a particular player’s receiving yards, and so much more. Typically, high-profile games (eg. Bowl games, rivalry games) feature more player and team props than low-profile matchups.
NCAA Football Events to Wager On
When it comes to the best events in the NCAA football world to bet on, we are really talking about a multitude of things. First and foremost, you will find that teams from certain conferences get far more attention than others. Teams from conferences like the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC, and Pac 12 all feature some great games with some of the best teams in the world. What’s more, the rivalries that exist in these conferences makes for some great action.
In addition to regular season conference play, there are also post-season bowl games that are great for bettors. Bowl games are technically considered to be NCAA football’s post-season, but while other sports have playoffs, the NCAA has bowl games. These are one-game matchups against two teams who have accrued 7 or more wins in a season. Like the regular season, certain bowl games attain a lot of bettor attention while others do not. Regardless of this, there is plenty of betting action to be had during bowl season (mid-December to early January).
Quick List of Popular Games/Events to Bet:
- The “College Football Playoff”: The best thing about the NCAA is the newly-adopted CFP aka the College Football Playoff. This is the end-all of postseason tournaments in NCAA mens football right now, with the top 4 teams going against each other in a single elimination format. The #1 seed plays the #4 seed in a top-rated Bowl matchup, where they will face the winner of the #2 vs #3 Bowl matchup. The CFP replaced the controversial Bowl Championship Series that had been used to determine the National Champion and has been a very accurate measure of who the nation’s top college programs are when the regular season and conference championships have concluded.
- ANY Conference Championship game (ie, Big 10, Pac-12, SEC, etc): These types of games are normally the most intense games to bet on during the regular season because of the implications they have on teams vying to make the aformentioned College Football Playoff. They almost ALWAYS involve rivals and the very best talent in the NCAA and they are usually pretty tight-scoring matchups.
- Rivalry Games: Like conference championships, in-state rivalry games are some of the most heated matchups of the year for any major D1 program. These are games that pit powerhouses like Ohio State vs Michigan and Auburn vs Alabama against each other at least once a year, drawing in millions at the gate and of course millions more in terms of advertising revenue and fans that tune in to watch these games on TV. Rivalry games go beyond school pride and this is why they are always the funnest to bet!
- Bowl Games (of course!): This is a no-brainer. There are literally more than 60 bowl games a year that make up the “NCAA postseason” - with many of them garnering huge ratings and tourism revenue. Fans from all over the country will travel to watch their teams play on a traditionally neutral site just to see them take home a Bowl victory. The most popular Bowl games are the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl.