6 Unique Things about Betting on College Sports

NCAA Sports Gambling Considerations

Handicapping sporting events is an interesting and challenging profession. Not only do you have to learn the intricacies of each sport, but you also have to learn the subtle differences between college and professional games.

Betting on college sports can be fun and profitable, but you can’t handicap NCAA games the same way you handicap professional games. College athletics have many unique things that professional sports handicappers don’t have to worry about.

In this post, you’re going to learn about the six most important unique things you need to know about betting on NCAA sporting events.

1. College Athletes Can Now Be Paid, But Not like Professionals

Rules in college for athletes have changed following name, image, and likeness laws and agreements. Often called NIL, it basically means that college athletes can make money from their name, image, and likeness.

Please Note:
While a few popular college athletes have landed big-money deals, most athletes aren’t receiving any money or not much money. However, local business people in some areas are hiring athletes for promotional purposes, and a few have offered blanket deals to entire teams.

Opponents are screaming that NIL is leading to pay-to-play agreements at big colleges, but the fact students who make their college a ton of money being able to make a profit as well is probably a good thing.

But you also have to consider how the NIL deals influence how you handicap college games.

It might not seem like a big deal, but it affects recruiting and where talent ends up playing. So anything that influences recruiting needs to be accounted for in handicapping.

2. They’re Still Kids, or At Least Young

Handicapping college sports is challenging for many of the same reasons as handicapping pro sports, but there’s one additional variable that can be a big deal. You’re trying to predict what kids are going to do and how they’re going to perform.

I suppose that most college athletes aren’t considered kids by society, but can you remember some of the bad decisions you made when you were 17 to 23 years old? I know that I made several bad decisions, and I played college athletics.

I was lucky that none of my bad decisions ended up costing me anything serious but staying up all night doing something before a game sure didn’t help my performance the next day. And you know some college players are still doing the same thing today.

Please Note:
When you’re evaluating kids or at least young athletes, you can’t always predict what they’re going to do. And you might never find out why a college athlete had a bad game, but some of them are making bad decisions that influence games.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that some professional athletes aren’t making poor choices that influence games, but I believe that it’s more likely that a college kid is making a poor choice than a pro making a lot more money.

3. Coaches Have More Control

In professional sports, the players have more power than the coaches on almost every team. Professional coaches do have some power, but few have the same power as college coaches.

Professional teams are owned by people who want to make money and win championships. So the owners pay star players a lot of money to help them make money and win, and if a star player doesn’t like a coach, the player can get the coach run out of town in many situations.

College coaches do get fired, but it’s almost always because they don’t win enough games or have a scandal. They rarely get fired because a star player, or group of players, doesn’t like them.

And at the big college programs
If a player isn’t working hard, three or four other players are ready to step up and take their space. The best college players are trying to get to the professional level where they can make more money, and the coaches play a big role in getting the players where they want to be.

Only a small handful of college athletes are so good that they could try a power play on a coach, and if they’re not happy, they can transfer somewhere else.

4. Recruiting Must Be Handicapped

In every college sport, but especially in football and basketball, you have to use recruiting rankings when you handicap games. College teams don’t have a limit on how many top players they can have, like the limits in professional sports.

Some pro leagues use a salary cap so a team can only have so many great players, and the sports that don’t have a salary cap have other measures in place to distribute talent.

College teams that have the best players win more games and will continue winning more games forever. Of course, occasionally a team with less talent upsets a better team, but look at the recruiting rankings and top 20 teams in any college season, and you see the teams with the most talent in the top 20.

But just knowing which teams have the top talent isn’t all you have to know when you handicap games.

You also need to judge how each team uses their talent and which teams get the most out of their talent. But you can’t afford to ignore recruiting rankings if you bet on college sports.

5. Looser Lines

The top online sportsbooks set lines that produce the most profit, but they also know which games are going to have the most money bet on them and do their best to create tight lines for the games that will get the biggest handle.

When a sportsbook looks at all of the games they need to set a line for, unless the college teams are a top 25 team, the game isn’t very high on the sportsbooks list. This is important because the most popular games tend to have tighter lines than the other games.

It doesn’t mean every other game has a loose line, but it does mean that it’s easier to find games and lines offering value when you’re betting on games that aren’t popular.

College sports have many more games than professional sports.

So you can find looser lines on more games. Looser lines give you more long-term profit when you know how to handicap games well.

6. Totals Are Harder

Betting totals is challenging in any sport, and it’s not easy in professional sports. But totals are even more challenging in NCAA sports. Unfortunately, NCAA totals are so difficult that I rarely bet on them anymore.

Please Note:
The NCAA totals are harder than professional sports totals because the coaches have different priorities and are dealing with a different group of players. I know this sounds a little confusing, so stick with me for a minute while I explain.

In an NFL game, the coaches have a set of players limited by the league’s roster requirement. In NCAA football, coaches have many more players. And when a game gets out of hand, college football coaches have more reasons to play inexperienced players than NFL coaches have.

For Example:
A common thing in college football is a big favorite jumps out early and takes control of a game. It looks like the over is easily going to hit, but the coaches start playing their second and third-string players to get them experience.

What happens to the total when one or both teams start playing secondary players? Unfortunately, the answer is that nobody knows. Sometimes scoring grinds to a stop, and sometimes the score explodes. But there’s no way to handicap this scenario, which is why totals are dangerous in college football.

But what about totals in college basketball compared to football? The same things apply in NCAA basketball, and it’s impossible to handicap what’s going to happen in these situations.

College coaches need to develop young players for next season, while in the pros, coaches rarely even know if young players are going to be on the team the following season.


When you try to handicap NCAA games the same way you handicap pro games, you will struggle. While the NFL and NCAA football or the NBA and NCAA basketball have many similarities, a few things aren’t the same.

The biggest difference between professional and college sports is the talent level from team to team.

The talent gap can be much larger in the NCAA than in the pros, so you always have to consider this. College sports are often easier to handicap than the pros, but only when you know what to do. Use the six unique things about NCAA sports in this post every time you handicap a game.


Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.

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