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
Note: These power rankings are based on teams that have played or are on schedule to play. This means teams from the Pac-12 and Mid-American will not be included at this time.
1. Clemson: Is anyone surprised by the Tigers’ results so far? They rolled their schedule and, until they lose, they will remain here at #1.
2. Alabama: Despite losing Jaylen Waddle for the season, Alabama still has one of the most talented receiving corps in the country. They’re impressive on offense, but defensively have been uncharacteristically susceptible.
3. Ohio State: No surprise, the Buckeyes dominated Nebraska in their opening game. Justin Fields was perfect– his only incompletion was a drop in which Chris Olave was injured on. The defense had some early questions, but sured up and they look every bit of a national contender as expected.
4. Georgia: The best defense in the country paired with an explosive offense is a deadly combination. When pit against any SEC opponent not named Alabama, we’d take Georgia to win.
5. Notre Dame: Notre Dame is undefeated despite having some tight wins against lesser opponents. An upcoming game against Clemson will shape out how Notre Dame fares in these power rankings, but as of now, it’d be disrespectful to put them any lower than here.
6. BYU: BYU continues to roll and roll big. Zach Wilson leads the country in completion percentage and BYU is looking like a real contender. Their schedule has been no cakewalk despite not playing a Power Five opponent– the collective win percentage of teams they faced is over 0.500.
7. Florida: The Gators lost their first game of the season to a struggling Texas A&M team who falls farther down this list. So, what gives with Florida being ranked this high? Their offense has proven to be lethal and Kyle Trask has shown times of being the best quarterback in the nation. His connection with tight end Kyle Pitts has been unmatched and Florida is a very real contender that had one bad game.
8. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have been beneficiaries of a light schedule, but gave their fans a scare in Week 1. Oklahoma State managed just 16 points in a win over Tulsa and have since faced West Virginia and Kansas. However, they did score a ranked win over Iowa State a week ago. Tests against Texas and Oklahoma will sort the Pokes as contenders or pretenders.
9. Wisconsin: They may be without their new signal caller Graham Mertz for awhile as he battles ruling over potential COVID-19 exposure. In his first game, Mertz was perfect– he went 20/21 for five touchdowns and played just over a half of football. He’s a deadly player and the Badgers might have their best quarterback since Russell Wilson.
10. Cincinnati: The Bearcats seized their opportunity against their best opponent of the season yet by running right through SMU. Questions of their strength of schedule can be put to bed– Cincinnati is the team to beat in the AAC. They’re also the most probable team to win a New Year’s Six bid.
ACC power rankings
1. Clemson: Clemson has yet to be challenged in the ACC, despite facing top-10 Miami earlier on. It’s not likely the Tigers will be moved off this spot.
2. Notre Dame: As mentioned, there’s some concern for the Irish, but they keep winning. Upcoming tests will set their ranking straight.
3. Miami: D’Eriq King seems to have found a proper home with the Hurricanes and, despite a beating from Clemson, they’re shaping up to be one of the better teams in the conference. There’s a couple more games for Miami to prove their worth (at NC State, at Virginia Tech, vs North Carolina), all of which the Canes will be expected to win.
4. North Carolina: The Tarheels benefitted from a favorable preseason ranking (18th) on no grounds other than hype. UNC had a couple of nice wins, including over Virginia Tech, and climbed as high as fifth in the AP Poll. However, a loss to Florida State is grounds for serious concern. There’s a big gap in talent between the fourth team and the third team in the ACC.
5. Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech was upset by Wake Forest but maintains their fifth spot. It’s just the way the ACC has shaped up this year. As big a gap as there is between the third and fourth teams, there’s an equally-big one between four and five.
Big 12 power rankings
1. Oklahoma State: Thanks to implosions by Texas and Oklahoma, the Cowboys find themselves on top of the Big XII and these power rankings. Oklahoma State benefitted from a favorable schedule (Tulsa, West Virginia, Kansas) and will be tested in their next three weeks (Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma).
2. Kansas State: The Wildcats have been one of the biggest surprises of the season, but they are facing the remainder of their season without star quarterback Skylar Thompson. It’s a big blow to K-State, but they’ve proven to be worthy after their opening week loss to Arkansas State.
3. Iowa State: Iowa State is stuck somewhere between good and bad, but fall third in the Big XII after losing their second game of the year. It was a nail biter with Oklahoma State, but the Cyclones fell short. It’s tough to put them any higher than here.
4. Oklahoma: The Sooners are this year’s biggest disappointment in college football. The defense is hapless and Spencer Rattler doesn’t look like the same caliber quarterback as Oklahoma’s last crop (Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts). There’s possibility for a rebound, but back-to-back losses to Kansas State and Iowa State is going to have lasting impacts on their season.
5. Texas: Losses on their record include Oklahoma (above) and TCU (the Horned Frogs’ only win on the year). The Longhorns can score in bunches, but there’s serious question about the validity of the team. They face Oklahoma State next, which will help sort out where Texas belongs on this list.
Big Ten power rankings
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes are exactly as good as advertised. Unless they’re tripped up, Ohio State can be pencilled in at the top spot.
2. Wisconsin: If Wisconsin has to play three weeks without Graham Mertz, they may be in trouble. Mertz showed signs of being a superstar in the making Week 1 against Illinois, but is battling a mandated removal from the program for three weeks after potential COVID-19 exposure. We’ll see how good this Badger team is should they have to play without him.
3. Michigan: The Wolverines showed up Week 1 and blew out ranked Minnesota in Minneapolis. Michigan bullied the Gophers up front, rushing for 8.2 yards per carry while only allowing 3.1 yards per carry. They’re a good football team, but their ranking will be solidified by upcoming matchups against Indiana, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State.
4. Indiana: To some, the Hoosiers’ opening week win over Penn State was a complete shock that came out of nowhere. However, Indiana was a competitive team last year and this matchup was ripe for an upset. Michael Penix Jr. is a dangerous football player and that may not end up being Indiana’s only upset this season.
5. Penn State: It wasn’t the opening day Penn State fans had hoped for, but Indiana is a good football team. The Nittany Lions are still immensely talented and have a chance to turn things around. The bad news is, their next game is against Ohio State– a team they always play tough, but aren’t expected to beat.
Pac-12 power rankings
1. Oregon: Despite the departure of Justin Herbert, the Oregon Ducks were looking to be the sole Playoff contender from the Pac-12 yet again. Instead of their usual signature high-flying offense, Oregon is anchored by a vicious defense and Kayvon Thibedeaux (preseason All-American). They also field one of the nation’s top NFL prospects, tackle Pinei Sewell.
2. USC: With JT Daniels gone for Georgia, Kedon Slovis had the starting quarterback position locked down at USC and the Trojans are looking at one of the better offenses in the nation. Along with Slovis is a full slate of returning receivers and eight defensive starters.
3. Arizona State: The breakout of Jayden Daniels is going to be the story in Tempe this coming football season. Instead, the The Sun Devils also fielded one of the nation’s best scoring defenses in 2019 (22.4 points per game) and will see a majority of those starters to return.
4. Cal: Another of the nation’s premier scoring defenses is returning five of their front seven starters in 2020. Cal put together one of the streakiest seasons of all time– four straight wins followed by four straight losses capped off by a 4-1 finish and a bowl victory. Chase Garbers is back for the Golden Bears, who posted a 14-3 touchdown to interception ratio in just 215 pass attempts.
5. Utah: Utah lost a lot this past offseason, including quarterback Tyler Huntley, running back Zach Moss, and nine defensive starters. South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley made the move to Salt Lake City in the offseason and the rising defensive crew (the Pac-12’s best) brings up a bunch of juniors and seniors.
SEC power rankings
1. Alabama: Any shred of a doubt that Alabama is the best team in the SEC is long gone after they piled 41 on the Dawgs’ touted defense.
2. Georgia: Despite being beaten soundly by Alabama, Georgia remains the second-best team in the SEC this year. Their defense is nearly unbreakable (unless you have three All-American-caliber receivers who all run a sub-4.4 and the nation’s best running back, among other talented stars). They’re worthy of the second ranking until taken down again.
3. Florida: Texas A&M beat them head-to-head, so why not the Aggies here? Everyone has inspired days, and Florida was edged out by one bad quarter this season. They still field one of the best connections in Kyle Trask to Kyle Pitts. There’s no reason to count out Florida yet.
4. Texas A&M: It’s not the year the SEC had hoped with the Big Ten and Pac-12 having delayed starts and the Big XII looking like a real mess. Texas A&M is the last ranked SEC team on this list and even they have had their issues. The Aggies came out of the gates with a 17-14 dumpster fire win against Vanderbilt and were then blown out by Alabama. They did rebound against Florida, but there’s a lot more A&M needs to prove before they climb the rankings.
5. Arkansas: The Razorbacks have been a great surprise in their first year under Sam Pittman. They outplayed Auburn all day long but were victims of one of the most egregious officiating errors in recent memory. Arkansas deserves to be here, especially after playing Georgia tough and beating their other two opponents.
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.