Betting On Early-Season College Football? Consider These 5 Tips

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Written By Brett Gibbons | Last Updated
College football betting tips

Preview season is in the past as the final days of the college football offseason wind down. Now, it’s time to shift focus to the regular season and real games. But before you dive in, let’s take a look at some betting tips to help you get ahead of the game in the early college football season. What games should you target? Where should you begin?

Follow along with TheLines all season long for college football odds and analysis.

Top College Football Early-Season Betting Tips

Specialize In Smaller Markets

In college football, there’s already a shortage of readily available information. I outlined that in detail in my recent article differentiating college football betting vs. the NFL. However, when it comes to smaller market teams – think Conference USA, the MAC, etc. – that shortage becomes famine.

By this time in the offseason, the lines on the biggest games of the opening week are hammered into place and your best bet for value now is to hope one book doesn’t update their lines as quickly as another.

Not the case with small-market teams.

Doing your due diligence with research into teams like Louisiana Tech or San Jose State can pay dividends all year long, but especially early in the season. Did the Spartans lose a key contributor on defense? The market likely didn’t correct in response; hell, it may not even know that injury occurred.

Target these small-market games that have less attention on them.

Know The Openers

Sportsbooks released odds for college football Week 1 earlier than ever in 2023, with the full slate dropping at FanDuel Sportsbook in May. By this point, those lines have been picked through and cleaned out for all value. Especially for marquee games like Florida State vs. LSU and North Carolina vs. South Carolina, the value in these numbers is mostly gone.

But, say you find a game you like and a perceived edge. Let’s say it’s in the West Virginia at Penn State game and you feel good about Penn State -21. Betting into this old number is often a mistake. The Nittany Lions opened under -16 and have grown steadily since. Sure, you’re betting with the market, but you’re betting the worst of the number.

Conversely, let’s say you like Utah -7.5. The Utes climbed to as high as -10 this offseason before the market stepped in and bet hard in the other direction. Plenty of resources exist to find opening lines and how they moved this offseason. Knowing that movement is absolutely critical when betting into mature markets.

Be Ready To Throw Out Your Priors

This really is a betting tip that applies to all leagues, but is especially true with college football. We spend all offseason long projecting, predicting, and previewing teams to the point where our assessments cannot possibly be wrong. But if a team comes out early and performs far below your preseason expectations, adjust your assessment. Don’t hold onto preseason priors.

College teams are extremely volatile. After all, we are betting on 18- to 22-year-old student athletes.

Making a big change is a difficult thing to do that affects even the sharpest bettors. Be ready to adjust your assessments on the fly.

Monitor Rule Changes

The most impactful rule change to the betting market this year involves the new running clock. No longer does the clock stop on first downs, except in the final two minutes of each half. Multiple opinions have floated around about how this change affects markets, particularly totals. My advice: if you don’t strongly lean one way, it’s best to lay off totals until you see how the running clock affects them.

This also builds off the last tip – stay fluid. If you believe the running clock will cause less scoring, but the first few weeks of the season show more scoring, don’t clutch your preseason expectation too tightly. Adjust your numbers on the fly. The market may not be so quick to change.

Target Unranked Teams Playing Borderline Top-25 Teams

Since 2014, unranked teams that were favored over teams ranked 20-25 won 28 of 35 games outright. Last season, such teams were 6-3.

Rather than this being a suggestion to lay heavy juice on the favorites, it’s more a cautionary tale to avoid making a mistake by blindly betting the ranked team. AP Polls (and even CFP rankings) are not predictive and if the market favors the unranked team, there’s always a good reason why.

No games currently fit the bill, but keep this nugget in mind when assessing future games like Week 3’s Kansas State at Missouri.

Week 1 College Football Betting Lines

Compare odds from the best sports betting sites below and click to bet.

Navy Midshipmen at Notre Dame Fighting Irish

UTEP Miners at Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Ohio Bobcats at San Diego State Aztecs

Massachusetts Minutemen at New Mexico State Aggies

Hawaii Warriors at Vanderbilt Commodores

San Jose State Spartans at USC Trojans

Florida International Golden Panthers at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Kent State Golden Flashes at UCF Knights

North Carolina State Wolfpack at UConn Huskies

Florida Gators at Utah Utes

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Minnesota Golden Gophers

Central Michigan Chippewas at Michigan State Spartans

Miami (OH) RedHawks at Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Louisville Cardinals at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Stanford Cardinal at Hawaii Warriors

Bowling Green Falcons at Liberty Flames

Colorado Buffaloes at TCU Horned Frogs

East Carolina Pirates at Michigan Wolverines

Arkansas State Red Wolves at Oklahoma Sooners

Utah State Aggies at Iowa Hawkeyes

Ball State Cardinals at Kentucky Wildcats

Virginia Cavaliers at Tennessee Volunteers

Northern Illinois Huskies at Boston College Eagles

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at SMU Mustangs

Fresno State Bulldogs at Purdue Boilermakers

Akron Zips at Temple Owls

South Florida Bulls at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Buffalo Bulls at Wisconsin Badgers

Ohio State Buckeyes at Indiana Hoosiers

Massachusetts Minutemen at Auburn Tigers

Boise State Broncos at Washington Huskies

Rice Owls at Texas Longhorns

California Golden Bears at North Texas Mean Green

Nevada Wolf Pack at USC Trojans

Washington State Cougars at Colorado State Rams

UTSA Roadrunners at Houston Cougars

Army Black Knights at Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

Texas State Bobcats at Baylor Bears

New Mexico Lobos at Texas A&M Aggies

West Virginia Mountaineers at Penn State Nittany Lions

North Carolina Tar Heels at South Carolina Gamecocks

Toledo Rockets at Illinois Fighting Illini

Texas Tech Red Raiders at Wyoming Cowboys

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Alabama Crimson Tide

Old Dominion Monarchs at Virginia Tech Hokies

South Alabama Jaguars at Tulane Green Wave

Sam Houston State Bearkats at Brigham Young Cougars

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at UCLA Bruins

Northwestern Wildcats at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Oregon State Beavers at San Jose State Spartans

LSU Tigers at Florida State Seminoles

Clemson Tigers at Duke Blue Devils