This page will serve as your guide for betting on college football in the US. It will break down the basics of CFB betting, compare odds at legal sportsbooks in the US, and delineate the strategies that work best in the college game when compared to the NFL.
It’s never easy to consistently beat oddsmakers and win in sports betting, but this guide should help you get closer to cashing 50 percent of the time. Remember that even a 52 percent cash rate is a success in sports betting, and sports betting experts usually only cash 60 percent of the time at most.
We’ll also help you find the best sportsbooks and apps to bet on during the 2019 college football season.
With the current state of things amid a worldwide pandemic, odds and futures betting will remain incredibly fluid and great care should be taken when placing bets. Factors to heavily consider include: players contracting COVID-19, teams canceling games, and upsets due to an increased number of players sitting.
Following college beat reporters on Twitter and frequently checking in here at TheLines will help you stay ahead of the curve during the ever-changing landscape. Most importantly, stay water and taper expectations throughout the season. Even though uncertainty defines this upcoming season, intelligent and adaptable bettors could capitalize on the market.
Best college football betting apps
There are a number of apps available for sports betting in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Iowa, West Virginia and Indiana, with more states planning to go online by the end of the year. Here is a list of some of the top US sportsbooks apps:
College football betting odds
How to bet on college football
There are several ways to bet on most sporting events and college football is no exception. Here are some of the options for CFB betting, including some tips on when you might want to go with that specific type of wage:
- Moneyline: Taking the Moneyline means you’re betting on the winning team regardless of the margin of victory. Underdogs will get plus-odds on the Moneyline and the favorites will have negative odds. For example, if a team is heavily favored they will be listed as Alabama (-2300), meaning that a successful $230 bet on the Crimson Tide would only pay out $10.
- Point Spread: The Point Spread is different in that it accounts for the expected margin of victory. In the NFL, the biggest favorites are usually giving 13-16 points, meaning a bet (likely at something close to -110 odds) is only successful if the favorite wins by 16-plus. These spreads can be much, much bigger in college. When playing the lowly Illinois Fighting Illini, Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State can often be favored by 40 points or more. This changes the game in terms of taking the favorite in the hopes of a truly one-sided affair.
- Point Total: Since these point spreads are often set at such a lofty number, gamblers may lean towards betting the overall total of a game. The total is often presented with an equal odds proposition of taking the Over or Under. Some sites offer the opportunity to bet on the expected point total of one team (23.5 points for example).
- Proposition Bets: There are often an extensive number of Prop (or proposition) Bets where gamblers can wager on the individual performance of a player, the type of score to open a game, and the specific margin of victory. These options are often more expansive in prime time and bowl games. Gamblers can choose to combine multiple propositions on a game, or multiple bets on different games, into a Parlay. This wager is an all-or-nothing proposition which only pays out if all (anywhere between 2 and a dozen) bets are successful. The more bets added to a Parlay, the greater the potential payout.
- Teaser: A form of Parlay that involves a combination of two to ten wagers in which you can adjust the point spread or total to your specifications. These bets are therefore more likely to succeed, but the payouts are smaller than in a Parlay.
NCAA markets and futures betting
The options listed above are for betting on individual games, but gamblers can also wager on NCAA futures. Rather than betting on an individual game, futures offer gamblers the opportunity to bet on the eventual National Champion, conference champions, or the number of wins that a team will accrue during the regular season.
There are also futures bets available on postseason awards, such as the Heisman Trophy. Here is a rundown of the favorites on FanDuel Sportsbook to win the 2020-2021 Heisman Trophy before the season:
- Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) +200
- Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) +900
- D’Eriq King (Miami) +1400
- Myles Brennan (LSU) +1400
- Sam Ehlinger (Texas) +1400
Odds on futures bets will change throughout the season if a key player gets hurt, or a contender upsets another contender. Since only four teams have a shot at the National Title in the CFB Playoff format, teams that start to fall out of the playoff picture will suddenly have very long odds. COVID-19 could also have a major impact on the award.
The odds for the futures bets on the National Champion came out shortly after the 2019-20 CFB season ended. Here is a quick rundown of the odds:
How these lines will be affected has yet to be released, as the status of the CFP remains up in the air due to the evolving nature of the ongoing pandemic. Keep updated with the goings on at theLines with regards to National Championship odds.
There is also a futures section on most books where you bet the conference champion. The FBS conferences on books are the AAC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, C-USA, MAC, MWC, Pac 12, and SEC. While most of these conferences have several contenders with relatively even odds, top-heavy conferences such as the Mountain West will have perennial powerhouse Boise State as more likely than not to win the conference. Alabama is also expected to win the SEC for the fifth time in six years.
Strategies differ when betting on individual games versus futures. Timing is of paramount importance when betting futures, since you can effectively “buy low” on a player or team that’s struggling early in the season and get much better odds. Taking a futures bet towards the end of the season when the Heisman candidates are pretty much solidified will not be very profitable. Game lines are much more simple in terms of betting before the opening kickoff, or taking advantage of “live betting” in states where online gambling is legal and available.
College football power rankings
1. Alabama: Alabama is the best team in college football and there’s, to this point, no argument against that. They won the SEC Championship game by a slim margin over Florida, but somehow felt like they dominated wire-to-wire. (Previous: 1)
2. Clemson: When Trevor Lawrence plays for Clemson, there might not be a better team in the nation. They ran all over Notre Dame in a revenge game for the ages and secured their second seed in the CFP. (Previous: 4)
3. Ohio State: Northwestern had Ohio State on the ropes in the first quarter of the Big Ten Championship game, but the Buckeyes proved their might in the second half. Trey Sermon set a program record for 325 yards rushing in a game and Ohio State is in for their fourth CFP berth. (Previous: 2)
4. Cincinnati: The Bearcats topped off an unbeaten season with an AAC Championship game win over #24 Tulsa. It took a last-second field goal, but Cincinnati’s pedigree shouldn’t be questioned. It was unfortunate that they didn’t receive consideration for the CFP, but they get a chance to prove the committee wrong against Georgia in the Peach Bowl. (Previous: 5)
5. Texas A&M: Texas A&M finished the season with their only loss being Alabama. That’s a tough loss, but it was a 28-point blowout. Those who believe the Aggies should have found their way into the fourth CFP spot have a legitimate argument– it was an impressive season for them. (Previous: 6)
6. Notre Dame: The Irish found their way into the College Football Playoff, but are massive underdogs as they face Alabama. They’re a good team, but Clemson proved that they don’t belong in the top tier in the country. (Previous: 3)
7. Indiana: The Hoosiers were left for dead after losing star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. That is, until they weren’t. Indiana proved they’re more than Penix on the back of a sturdy defense. Their only loss this season was a nailbiter to Ohio State and Indiana is in business. (Previous: 8)
8. Oklahoma: Oklahoma was able to take care of business in the Big 12 and bring home their 50th conference title. While their two losses keeps them firmly short of the CFP, they get Florida in the Cotton Bowl in what might be the best bowl matchup of the year. (Previous: 9)
9. Florida: It’s an uncomfortable truth, but the Florida Gators are still an excellent football team. They kept their game with Alabama within one score– something no one else on their schedule has done (not Georgia, not Texas A&M). Their offense is as explosive as any, and three wins or not, they’re a top team. (Previous: 10)
10. Georgia: While 2020 has hardly been Georgia’s best year in recent memory, the Dawgs are still capable of playing with anyone in the nation. Two losses bumps them down the list, but compared to teams like Iowa State or Northwestern, Georgia is coming out on top. (Previous: NR)
ACC power rankings
1. Clemson: A bounceback beatdown of Notre Dame and an ACC Championship solidifies the Tigers as the best team in the conference.
2. Notre Dame: When Clemson is healthy, there’s a clear divide between one and two. Notre Dame is clearly two, but there’s a gap when both teams are at full strength.
3. North Carolina: It’s a major dropoff between two and thee in the ACC, but UNC continues their win-and-move-on recipe this season. They blew the doors off Miami this past week and hurdle them for the third spot.
4. Miami: Despite getting blown out by UNC, Miami doesn’t fall too far. They only have two losses on the year, both to ranked opponents, and have proven their might in a 48-0 win over Duke a couple weeks ago. It’s not the prettiest fourth place, but it’s where they belong.
5. NC State: 8-3 is 8-3. NC State lacks a statement win, but their record is undeniable in the conference.
Big 12 power rankings
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners proved their worth. They brought home their 50th conference championship this season and solidified a spot in the Cotton Bowl.
2. Iowa State: The Cyclones came up just short in the Big 12 title game. It was a good showing, but they ultimately lacked experience enough to take care of Oklahoma twice in one year.
3. Texas: No matter how you dice this one, someone’s going to disagree. They lost to Iowa State and tumbled out of the AP Top 25, but they still have the jump on Oklahoma State. They’re not a pretty third, but third is where they belong.
4. TCU: TCU is 6-4 with wins over Texas and Oklahoma State; they’re also 4-1 over their last five games after starting 1-3. The Horned Frogs are a mid-level team, but they’ve been winning football games.
5. Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State has waffled in every prove-it game this season (vs Oklahoma and vs Texas). Luckily for the Cowboys, the rest of the Big 12 is in rough shape.
Big Ten power rankings
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes are exactly as good as advertised. It wasn’t an ideal first half, but Ohio State won their fourth straight Big Ten championship and deserve the top spot.
2. Indiana: Indiana competed better with Ohio State than Northwestern did, coming up bigger in the second half as opposed to the first. The Hoosiers are an excellent football team worthy of the second spot.
3. Northwestern: It was an inspiring first half, but the lack of offense and questionable play calling cost the Wildcats a Big Ten championship against a hobbled Ohio State team.
4. Iowa: Iowa held Wisconsin to one score for the third consecutive game (the Badgers’ first time doing so since 1990). The Hawkeyes are a legitimate contender– potentially the last contender in the conference.
5. Minnesota: This is where the Big Ten lays this year. 3-4 Minnesota rounds up the top five based on record alone. There’s no merit in their resume, but the rest of the Big Ten didn’t get the memo that football season had started.
Pac-12 power rankings
1. Washington: Washington had the Pac-12 Championship berth, but COVID complications within the program caused them to drop out. That doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving of the spot– or the second rank on this list– though.
2. Colorado: The Buffs were upended by an inspired performance from a dangerous Utah team for their first loss of the season. Colorado’s still in good shape coming up on the year’s final power rankings.
3. Oregon: Wait– the conference champions third on the list? Yep. Oregon lucked into their championship spot but won it nonetheless. Run it back against USC, or either team above Oregon, and we aren’t confident they would win.
4. USC: Kedon Slovis had a chance, but ultimately choked away a Pac-12 championship. It showed that those close games weren’t just competitive teams, it’s that USC might just be a few possessions away from being sub-0.500.
5. UCLA: Three losses isn’t ideal, but they came at the hands of ranked Colorado, (at the time) ranked Oregon, and unbeaten USC on a final-second touchdown. The Bruins are solid.
SEC power rankings
1. Alabama: Not much needs to be said about Alabama: SEC champions, undefeated season, and top seed in the CFP.
2. Texas A&M: Texas A&M wins, but they win ugly. A 17-14 nail biter with listless Vanderbilt and 20-7 slap fight with unranked LSU isn’t great to see on their resume, but the Aggies are one of just two zero- or one-loss teams in the SEC.
3. Florida: A competitive outing with Alabama wasn’t enough to bury their shoe-gate game from a week ago. Florida is a very good football team, but they’ve lost to both teams above them.
4. Georgia: Georgia has been quiet since being beaten soundly by Alabama and Florida. They’re a talented team, but 2020 isn’t the Dawgs’ year.
5. Auburn: Three of Auburn’s four losses this year have come at the hands of top-5 Georgia, Alabama, and Texas A&M. It’s a tough sledding for the Tigers.
College football betting tips
As mentioned above, CFB has more teams and far less parity than the NFL. That leads to some lopsided scores and lofty spreads. It can be difficult to find the right side of the line, but here are some analytics to consider:
Home Field Advantage — How historically strong is a particular team at home? Are you considering a school with a particularly dedicated fan base such as Auburn? Or betting a mid-major matchup between two schools in the MAC that will likely be played with light fanfare?
Rivalries — There are only a few games during the CFB season, but some count for more than others. The top teams in each conference often schedule a huge H2H rivalry game towards the end of the season, such as “The Game” between Ohio State and Michigan. It doesn’t always have to be the top teams, though, as Alabama has a more fierce rivalry with Auburn than SEC competitor Georgia. The intensity of those rivalry games can often lead to closer finishes and that should be accounted for when betting point spreads.
Weather & Conditions — The weather can play a huge factor in the outcome of games and number of points scored. Obviously, poor weather makes it tougher to pass, catch, and kick, which often leads to fewer points. Some run-heavy teams thrive in inclement weather and teams from the south or west coast could struggle if playing on the road in a harsher climate.
Pace — As the average number of plays a team runs per game, this can primarily help you identify fast-paced games that are likely to go over the total, or slow-paced games that will go Under.
PPP — Another key factor in CFB that can help you determine both the point total and potential winner against the spread is the number of explosive plays a team averages. This can be measured in points per play (PPP) and teams that average more PPP than their opponents tend to win over 80 percent of matchups. If both teams average a lot of explosive plays and both defenses struggle to contain big plays, the Over becomes a much better proposition.
Offensive efficiency — The ability of a team to finish drives (offensive efficiency) can serve as a great indicator for which teams are capable of covering the spread and which games are likely to go Over (or Under) an expected point total. Pass yards per attempt is another indicator of which teams are successful on offense in terms of controlling possession and creating points.
Defensive efficiency — When betting on the point total, consider which teams have greater defensive efficiency. Teams with a consistent ability to create turnovers are far more likely to stay close in games when they’re an underdog, or pull away and cover the spread.
Win Probability — This is an advanced tool that can help tremendously with live betting. Algorithms can provide the likelihood of a team holding on for the win and that makes for a very safe bet.
Injuries and Player Factors — Finally, you have to consider the health of key players and any potential storylines about a rift between a player and the coaching staff. Coaches have all the power in CFB and sometimes players will underperform if they feel slighted or otherwise mistreated.
Each game brings its own criteria in terms of analytics and there is almost always ample time to crunch the numbers and find an edge.
CFB betting vs. NFL betting
With so many more games on a CFB slate, it’s difficult for oddsmakers to dedicate as much time into researching each matchup. Sometimes oddsmakers will nail the line for high-profile games in the “Power Five” conferences, but will lose track of the mid-major games. That opens the door for savvy bettors to hammer a line that they think is off the mark.
There are significant differences in the format of each game. CFB teams can carry up to 70 players and certain programs will use nearly everyone on the team to maintain a fast-paced style (popularized by Chip Kelly at Oregon).
There is slightly less betting activity in college compared to the NFL, and far less coverage in terms of injury updates. Changes might be coming, but right now the NCAA doesn’t require CFB teams to release injury reports. The ACC used to require a pre-game injury report from teams, but has since nixed that requirement.
While information on injuries isn’t nearly as transparent in CFB, savvy bettors can find out information via twitter and websites to indicate if a key player is going to be at all limited or potentially inactive. This is a potential area to gain an edge since there is plenty of local media coverage and fan investment even if the coaches aren’t required to tip their hand.
CFB betting predictions
In recent years, Clemson and Alabama have vied for the title as the undisputed kings of CFB. Last season, we saw LSU put together one of the best college football teams of all time. Now Futures on the CFP are a bit more open and the odds are likely to change throughout the season, especially with such a volatile landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep up to date on developing stories with our betting analysis on PlayPicks.com. We’ll also break down the matchups of individual games to get you primed for bets each Saturday.
Is college football betting legal?
When the Supreme Court overturned the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May of 2018, it opened the door for individual states to legalize sports gambling. Beginning with New Jersey (the original plaintiff in the PASPA case), several states quickly moved to legalize and regulate the industry within state lines. Betting on college football and professional sports is still not federally legal, but residents in more than 20 states can place bets at live sportsbooks.
Most other states in the U.S. have introduced some sort of bill that would legalize sports gambling. Of course, some states are far closer than others to legalizing the industry. Visit our individual sports betting pages at TheLines.com to get a look at the status in each state.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many college football bowl games are there?
There were 40 bowl games at the end of the 2019-20 CFB season. For the modified 2020-21 season, win eligibility requirements were waived by the NCAA and every team will be considered eligible. However, not every team will be selected for the 39 bowl games, as only 78 teams can fill those spots.
When are college bowl games announced?
The schedule for the 2020-2021 CFB season is available online for every team in the FBS. The college bowl game schedule is typically announced after the conference championship games in December.
How do spreads work in college football?
Favorites are handicapped by a point spread and bettors that take the favorite on a point spread will need the team to win by more than that number (-14 for example). Conversely, underdogs will pay out bets on the spread if they lose by 14 points or fewer in that example.
What is the over / under in college football?
Point totals in CFB are generally much higher than the NFL because of the increased pace of play and lack of even talent and coordination on the defensive side of the ball.
How many Division 1 football teams are there?
There are currently 130 FBS football teams in Division 1 and 127 teams in the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision). The FCS is comprised of 14 conferences and the FBS is comprised of 10 conferences, plus seven independent teams (note: Notre Dame has officially joined the ACC for 2020-21, but did not specify if this affiliation would last beyond the season).
How many players can be on a college football team?
Programs in the FBS are able to give 85 players financial aid, but only 63 can receive full scholarships. There is no specific limit on how many players can dress for a game per NCAA rules, but conferences such as the Big Ten limit the number to 70 players. The NCAA does require that a maximum of 105 players take part in preseason camp.
Where is the national championship game in 2021?
The 2020 College Football Playoff is scheduled to take place in three different stadiums. The 2020-21 semifinals will be made up of the Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA) and the Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA) and are scheduled to take place Jan. 1. The National Championship is scheduled to be held Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
What is the purpose of college bowl games?
Bowl games have become a holiday tradition and an exciting goal for players, coaches, and fans to cap their seasons. While the CFP has seemingly overshadowed the other bowl games, players remain invested in ending their season or careers on a high note.
What happens to my futures bet should the season be canceled? Postponed?
In the event of a canceled college football season, futures bets would be voided, and all wagers would be returned to the bettor. Should the season be postponed, the futures would hold true until the season is fulfilled.
How will the champion be determined in 2020?
The College Football Playoff intends to be held in 2020-21, as announced by the NCAA. Per the College Football Playoff Committee’s official website, “With recent schedule changes for the regular season, it makes sense for the committee to make its final rankings after the conference championship games, when it can get a complete picture of the season. The selection committee members understand the need to be flexible as we all navigate uncharted waters this season, and this move will allow them to evaluate all the available information.”
Which college football teams are competing in the 2020-21 season?
All conferences have announced a start date for competition after the Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West, and MAC announced postponements to their fall football season. 127 of the 130 teams will compete at some point with varied amounts of games played.