There really isn't any way to go wrong when choosing how you bet on college football. This sport, like most others, provides many different options, each of which are worth their salt. But if you're looking to capitalize on the innate nature and style of the game, then over/under bets are the way to go. These wagers, while hardly atypical, offer you the best chance of catering to unflagging team identities without having to choose an actual winner or specific identity.
What's An Over/Under Bet?
Over/under wagers essentially entail gambling on the total score of the game, and whether or not it hits a certain benchmark. Oddsmakers will set a line prior to kickoff, and it's your job to decide if the two participating teams will combine to clear that threshold or fall under it.
For example, let's say the over/under on a game between Alabama and Clemson State is listed as 52.5. A bet in favor of the under stipulates that the final combined score will be 52 or lower, while an investment in the over says Alabama and Clemson will total at least 53 points between them.
It's also worth noting that over/under wagers can be worked into the futures scene. Most sports, including college football, will release their win total yardsticks sometime before the start of the season.
The application of this bet doesn't change when looking at the bigger picture. If Alabama's win total benchmark is set for 9.5, an under bet banks on them securing nine or fewer victories, while an over play would count on them racking up at least 10.
Why Bet On The Over/Under In College Football?
People enjoy working over/under bets because it pulls them away from general outcome wagers.
Both moneyline bets (picking a winner outright) and spread gambles (point differential based moves) limit you to a rather specific result. With over/under betting, it doesn't necessarily matter who wins. You are just trying to determine the ceiling on the final score. This lets you spend more time catering to team play styles, which tend to be more consistent than their record, and less time on the deep-cut nuances of the matchup.
Oh, sure, head-to-head vitals are still important. But, again, because you're merely wagering on a scoring threshold, you're not indentured to the same specifics.
These benefits extend to the futures front when you are betting win totals. Picking whether Alabama will win under 10 games or more than 10 games is exponentially easier than predicting a national championship victor. In the latter scenario, you are taking one team against an entire field. The return on your investment will be more lucrative, but it's also far less likely that your decision pans out.
College Footballs' Budding Relationship With The Over
Foolproof over/under strategies do not exist. Anyone claiming to have developed one is trying to sell you a bridge that hasn't been built yet. College football, like all sports, is susceptible to wild cards and human error. There is no one bet that is absurdly safe.
With this in mind, it is important to take long and hard looks at over lines for most college football games. The game is faster than ever, which means more possessions for each team—which in turn will make for higher combined scores.
High-octane offenses in particular are better than average over bets. College football secondaries are rarely stingy, so if a team is going to air it out with notable frequency, there's a chance they'll be tallying more touchdowns than the typical attack.
Run-based offenses are less appealing in this regard, but they can still be valuable. Halfbacks are used in more varied capacities than in the NFL. Quarterbacks will look to throw more screen passes in college, and more than that, offensive lines usually have a decided edge over average defenses.
That tends to happen when you're dealing with a more diluted pool of talent—offense wins out. The NFL consolidates the best talent onto 32 teams, so they have more of the cream of the crop in one place. Collegiate programs are mushrooming in number. There are hundreds of schools that will appear on a sportsbook's slate at some point during the regular season. Each one will have its own standout players, but most won't have too many. The top talent is spread out among so many different schools.
This holds true even at the tippy top of the food chain. Look specifically at the top 25 schools, and you're still, in most cases, dealing with a dearth of concentrated star player. You'll see a lot of successful system-based stories, along with the occasional NFL-prospect-brimming squad. For the most part, though, there won't be as much of a gap between, say, the 25th-best unit and the fifth-best team.
Offense has a penchant for winning out any time the talent distribution tilts this way. It's not that offense is easier than defense. It's not. But mistakes are more pronounced on the defensive end. Miss a rotation or blow a single coverage in the secondary, and before you know it, you've given up a touchdown. Meanwhile, on offense, a dropped pass or errant throw doesn't always lead to turnover. Such miscues can of course lead to changes in possessions and opposing scores, but defenses are more focused on stopping the ball, not seizing control of it. That's what players are taught.
All of which has turned college football into the regular-season version of multisport All-Star games. The over/under continues to rise in All-Star exhibitions because the offensive talent is so esteemed. College football is close to the same way, only it's offenses are standing out because defenses, by design and default, aren't exactly built to stop them.
Payng attention to offensive metrics is a great way to identify the top over bets. If you are looking at a game that features one of the top-10 attacks in the country, that'll be your clue to take a look at the predetermined line.
Whenever two of these teams face off against one another, it's a bettor's dream. For instance, if Clemson State and Alabama are meeting in the middle of the season, and they're both posting top-20 or even top-30 offensive marks in college football, there's a good chance their matchup will turn into a high-scoring duel.
It almost doesn't even matter in this situation whether one of them is also sporting an elite defense. Our assertion from before holds true: Good offenses will typically rise above strong defenses at the college football level.
If you are at all concerned, however, it's a good idea to look beyond points per game or points per 100 snaps. Instead, look at how each team, in this case Clemson and Alabama, gets its offense. Do they throw a lot of passes? Are they reliant on high touchdown totals? Or are the more run-based with en emphasis on controlling the clock and speed of play? The latter isn't necessarily a red flag, but the former is always a crystal clear harbinger of solid over appeal.
Understanding The Value Of The Under
Given everything that has already been laid out, it would be fair to assume that you should recurrently be investing in college football's over lines. This isn't true.
People get too caught up in the high-scoring nature of the game when they blindly go that route. Yes, college football games will routinely have lucrative totals, but sportsbooks and oddsmakers are not ignorant. They will try to set their pre-kickoff marks accordingly.
This shouldn't scare you away from a 61.5 over/under line necessarily. It does mean, however, that you should be on the lookout for factors that can drag a final score below the forecasted totals.
Stingy defenses are a surefire mark of a potential low-scoring affair. Best of all, they absurdly easy to spot. As we mentioned previously, defenses tend to be less talented than offenses in college football. Every so often, though, you come across a true hallmark squad that prides itself more so on limiting the points of even the best offenses rather than getting into patented shootouts.
But unlike elite offenses, defenses cannot be defined strictly by points-per-game metrics. It matters how much they are allowing every week, yet college football is so high scoring in the first place, there's a chance that a 10th-place squad could be letting up close to 30 points per game.
Place stock in how they allow their points instead. If you see that a defense ranks in the top 10 of points allowed per game and is fantastic at preventing touchdowns through the air, you have enough evidence to support an under investment. If they're more apt to lock down run games but don't excel at breaking up plays in secondary, then you'll want to be more cautious.
Over/under evaluations work the same-way for run-based offenses. Remember: It's the pass-heavy ones that tend to hold the most value for the over. If a team is heavily dependent on hand-offs, this can change the calculus—not always, but sometimes.
Example: Let's say Oregon has the second-best rushing attack in the country but a mediocre or sub-average passing scheme. There's a good chance they might not rank among the upper-echelon scoring factions, because it usually takes more time to score on the ground. When betting on them, then, you'll want to give more consideration to the under than you would for an offense that typically places in the top 10 of a certain score category.
Assessing All The Factors Of Over/Under Betting
Using everything we have broken down, you will ideally be able to recognize factors that make for a good over or under bet. The trick is applying the offensive and defensive identities to both participants, and deciding which bet should win out.
Consider all of the following combinations for single games, and the best wager you can make:
- Top offense vs. Top offense = Good over bet
- Top offense vs. Bad defense = Good over bet
- Bad defense vs. Bad defense = Good over bet
- Top defense vs. Top defense = Good under bet
Whenever you're gambling on contest that includes one of these matchups, your decision can be pretty straightforward. It's in the following situation that things get hairy:
- Top offense vs. Top defense = ???
Basically, under these circumstances, you're faced with the following dilemma: What do you do when two squads are masters on different sides of the ball?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. All you can do, and should do, is dig deeper. Our recommendation is to look at the weaker parts of their games, and decide which figures to be more a detriment. If the team with the top offense is also pretty good at defense, but their counterpart, despite having a good defense, isn't all that talented on the offensive side, you then know you've walked into a quality under bet.
Ultimately, in these overlapping situations, the onus will be on the bettor to take more thorough stock on the over/under line. Even if you believe you've identified a quality under bet, you should make sure the oddsmakers have not also overly catered to that side of their line.
To help with this problem, as a rule of thumb, it's best to steer clear of college game lines that have an over/under of 39.5 or less and an over/under of 69.5 or more. Anytime you're tasked with picking games that are forecasted to hit under 40 or around 70, you have entered unchartered territory. If you know the teams and their play styles well, you're free to make your own decision, but this general rubric should ensure you avoid cases in which you get absolutely torched on your submission ticket.
Bowl Games, And The Over/Under
One final note on college football's over/under value bets: Everything you're taught, everything we've unpacked for you in the meat of this text, almost entirely goes out the window for Bowl Games.
Championship affairs and playoff tilts are just different. Teams aren't as concerned with running up the score. Once they build a lead, they are more interested in trying to protect it. Coaches will adjust their play style as a result if they get out in front in the second half. You will see more conservative offensive and defensive approaches—more clock-consuming run attacks, less blitzes on the defensive side, etc.
This isn't a license for you to gravitate toward every championship under. It's more a PSA that oddsmakers will winnow down their average over/under marks across the board. And when this happens, you don't want to be swindled into haphazardly betting the over because you are used to dealing with higher lines. You will want to prepare for your matchup as always knowing that the sportsbooks are probably more spot-on than not with their predictions.
Can this change when you're dealing with two Bowl Game participants who thrive lighting up the scoreboard, but who also don't boast top-shelf defenses? Most definitely. Other than that, though, betting on Bowl Games needs to more methodical—more about the individual matchups and the stakes at hand, and less about college football's overarching trends that, as we have noted, can work out quite well during the regular season.
Lessons Learned About College Football Over/Under Betting
- Over/under bets can apply to single games (combined total score between two teams) and future wagers (win totals for a specific squad)
- Offenses tend to outperform defenses by a wider margin in college football, so pay special attention to over lines when looking at one-off regular-season competitions
- Also make sure you are diving deeper into the best defenses; if they're legit at stopping strong passing attacks, then there's a good shot the under will become a solid investment
- Weigh every aspect of each team's identity on offense and defense before ever looking at the consensus over/under; it will help you get a better feel for when you actually go to your sportsbooks and submit your wager
- Be extra wary when betting Bowl Games, as playoff and championship stakes have a way of dragging down the final scores