College football betting is finally legal outside of Nevada and millions of NCAA fans can now place a wager right from their couch on any computer or mobile device. With many states legalizing online sports betting and many others in the process of approving similar laws, fans can now bet on college football legally, easily, and (hopefully) profitably.
NCAA betting has already been legalized in Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Rhode Island, and Mississippi and many other states have proposed legislation that would bring college football betting to all adults over 21 who are located in those states. These sportsbooks, many of which are run by existing casinos, use geolocation technology to confirm you are betting from within state lines and identity-verification software to confirm you are over 21.
Betting on college football can be intimidating in the beginning. There’s weird numbers and strange terms. But it’s actually very easy once you get the hang of it and there’s just a handful of basics to learn to get started. Here is a quick primer on NCAA odds, how to bet on college football, and the different types of bets you can place.
College Football Betting Odds
Most bets are placed on the point spread, which is intended to make one-sided matchups more interesting and encourage betting on the underdog. The point spread is the margin of victory the favorite must “cover” or win by in order for the bet to win. For example, if Alabama is a -4 favorite and LSU is a +4.5 underdog, Alabama must win by at least 5 points in order for the bet to win while a 4-point win is a “push” or draw and anything else is a loss. On the other hand, LSU can lose by as many as 4 points and you would still win your bet because Alabama failed to cover the spread.
College football as a lot of heavily skewed matchups. Sometimes you will see Alabama or similar teams as a -30 point favorite. The same still applies, Alabama must win by at least 31 points to cover for your bet to win while their lowly opponent can lose by up to 29 points and you would still win your bet.
You can also bet on the moneyline, which is the ratio between the payout and your bet. There are no spreads to cover but sportsbooks try to incentivize betting on the underdog by offering higher payouts. So if Clemson is a -190 favorite, you would need to bet $190 to win $100. But if Ohio State is a +220 underdog, your $100 bet would win $220. The moneyline is not great for many of the heavily skewed matchups in college football unless you expect an unbelievable upset.
You can also bet on the score of the game rather than just the winner. Each sportsbook sets a projected point total for each matchup and you can bet whether the actual final combined score will be “over” or “under” the projected total.
The point spread and the over/under are constantly being adjusted by sportsbooks so both are usually at pretty even odds but sportsbooks will also usually add some juice, which is the fee or commission the sportsbook takes for facilitating the bet. Usually you will see something live -5.5 (-110). The -110 is known as a dime line and is the most common since the juice is usually around 10 percent. That means you would bet $110 to win $100. The juice can also be lower or higher than 10 percent, but usually it will be between -105 and -115.
College Football Betting Markets
The point spread, moneyline, and over/under are just three of many bets you can place at online sportsbooks. Many newer sportsbooks will let you make prop bets on individual games and in live in-game bets on individual drives. You can also make season-long bets on all sorts of events.
Prop bets or side bets allow you to bet on countless single-game events that may not have to do with the eventual winner. Many sportsbooks will let you place these pre-game on events like who will score first, will a quarterback throw for over or under 2.5 touchdowns, or who will lead the game in receiving yards. Each option will have a moneyline attached based on the likelihood of each event happening. You can also bet on what the score will be after one quarter or one half. Some sportsbooks offer point spreads for single-half scoring.
Some of the newer sportsbooks also allow you to make in-game live bets, which are a lot of fun but very fast-paced and intense. First, you can bet on the winner and over/under during the game, which will come with different odds than you saw pre-game because the dynamics have changed. You can also bet on individual drives and whether a team will score a touchdown or field goal. Live bets come with realtime odds that are always changing so you have to stay on your toes.
Many sportsbooks also offer futures bets, which are like prop bets but for longterm and usually season-long events. These allow you to bet on things like whether Michigan will have over or under 10 wins, which player will win the Heisman trophy, or who will win the SEC. Each option will have its own moneyline based on the likelihood of each event happening.
College football betting can be fun and exciting but it can also be costly if you try to do too much too soon. The best beginner strategy is to focus on one sport and get adjusted to one bet type at a time. It is best to start with moneylines, which only require you to predict the winner, before moving to point spreads, which require to predict the winner and the margin of victory. Once you are a master of the point spread, you should have no problem predicting the over/under and, eventually, applying that to other sports.