The sound of the band, the stadium decorated in school colors, and a -45.5 spread on the game… College football is truly a national treasure. Each fall, Saturday mornings become a ritual for fans and sports bettors alike.
With 125 Division 1 FBS teams, there’s never a shortage of games to bet. These tips will help you make educated decisions while betting on college football. And they just might make you enough money to stretch that bankroll into the NFL action on Sunday.
1 – Be Wary of Home-Field Bias
The pageantry that permeates the stadium when a big-time team plays at home is truly a sight to behold. That doesn’t mean all that energy will be reflected in the final score.
While there’s no question that playing at home has some advantages, how significant those advantages are is often a bit overvalued. The standard “home team” protocol is for the books to award three points (give or take a half-point) to the home team. For example, if Alabama is -4 on a neutral field against Clemson, they’d be -7 if they were playing in Tuscaloosa (and -1 if playing at Clemson).
Sports gambling is often a very number-driven, analytical endeavor, but the human element still comes into play in some capacity. In this case, sometimes, betting on college football has to do with “home team bias.” This is the tendency of the public to assume home-field advantage completely changes the matchup, giving the home team a much better chance to win or play better than their usual standard.
The reality is that the true home field advantage is the advantage sportsbooks have over bettors. On average, home teams win 58.9% of the time, the same can’t be said for covering the spread. Home teams cover the spread on average less than 50% of the time, coming in at 48.8%.
You might be thinking that this slightly-less-than-50% statistic isn’t that significant. But it’s the difference between your average weekend gambler who loses money over the years, and someone who can live off their winnings.
If you’re considering placing your bet on the home team, just remember that the statistics suggest you have a less than 50% chance of covering the spread.
2 – Embrace the Underdog
As with any high-volume betting sport, the vast majority of the money is coming from “fans” more than dedicated gamblers. This almost always leads to a bias toward the better teams, which opens the door for thoughtful bettors to capitalize on underdogs.
While betting on college football, underdogs typically have more success over time. But there are specific situations where taking the dog should be almost automatic. These scenarios are:
- When the underdog is on the road and the over/under total is 45 or less.
- When the underdog is on the road with a spread of +7 or less.
The reason why these two circumstances provide the best opportunity for bettors to capitalize on the underdog is simple: public bias. Are you noticing a trend yet? If the home team, that is also the favorite, only has to win by a touchdown to cover the spread, it would seem like a good bet. The books understand this and move the lines accordingly.
Once again, the numbers for betting on college football back up the underdog theory. According to The Action Network, since the 2005 season, road underdogs playing in a game with an over/under total of 50 or less have covered the spread a whopping 53.2% of the time. In games where the over/under total was 45 or less, that percentage increased to 54.6%.
While those 53.2% and 54.6% numbers look pretty enticing, there’s another underdog scenario that’s slightly more common where the odds are tipped even more in your favor. The most profitable play for betting road underdogs happens when the spread is four or less.
Since 2005, road underdogs receiving four or fewer points have covered the spread 54.2% of the time. But the real value isn’t betting on the spread. Road underdogs will almost always have a high-value moneyline bet to win the contest straight up. Research has shown road underdogs receiving four or fewer points win the game outright 47.1% of the time.
If you’re thinking that 47.1% isn’t going to get the job done, think again. Because of the big plus-money lines you’ll get by betting on the underdog, your payout will be significantly higher. In fact, in terms of return on investment, this is one of the best plays available while betting on college football.
3 – Pick Home Favorites After a Bye
If there’s been a theme to this article so far, it’s that taking the home team (who is also a favorite) is a bad idea. Well, there’s one particular case where the home favorite is the prudent play—after a bye week.
It’s no secret that teams (especially Power 5 conference teams) get beat up throughout the course of a season, and a week to rest is invaluable. Not only do players get to rest and rehabilitate injuries, but coaches get extra time to formulate a strategy against their upcoming opponent.
In most circumstances, while betting on college football, going against the home favorite is the wise choice. However, it’s a good idea to jot down games after a bye week on your calendar as potential big winners.
4 – Check the Weather
When it comes to the over/under, the sportsbooks are pros at profiting off of the public’s bias towards high-scoring affairs. People generally root for higher-scoring, more exciting games, and this comes through in the way they bet. Naturally, betting on the over is one of the least profitable plays, except when it’s hot out.
If the temperature at kickoff is 85 degrees or higher, the over has hit 54.8% of the time. If the weather is 90 degrees or higher (like SEC in September), that number rises to 58.7%.
The temperature isn’t the only reason to check your weather app while betting on college football. Wind has also proven to be a major factor in choosing the over/under.
When the wind is blowing at a modest 10 mph or higher, the under hits 54.5% of the time (since 2005, like the rest of the stats). If you increase the wind speed to 15 mph or more, the percentage on the under rises to 57.9%.
Obviously, the wind impacts how effectively quarterbacks can get the ball to their intended target, but offenses also run the ball more. More running plays mean less big scoring plays, which leads to lower overall totals while betting on college football.
These statistics show, rather convincingly, that your tailgating plans aren’t the only thing impacted by extreme heat or high winds.
College football season is like a five-month holiday for sports gamblers. From the tightest rivalry game matchups to the high-spread games that take place in early September, every Saturday is exciting when you’ve got some interest in the outcome.
Because there are so many games, it can be easy to lose track of your performance while betting on college football. Be sure to keep track of what’s coming in and what’s going out, so you don’t get in over your head. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. Plus, you’ll need some dough for the NFL the following day!