How to Bet on College Football

The pomp. The pageantry. The tradition. The energy and excitement of youth. There's just so much to love about the college game. Saturday's in the fall belong to NCAA football. College football was a thing long before the NFL was ever imagined. On Nov. 6, 1869, Rutgers and Princeton - then known as the College of New Jersey - clashed on the gridiron in what was the first college football game.

The sport grew rapidly in popularity. The first bowl game, the Rose Bowl, was originally held in 1902 and has been an annual event since 1916. Today, there are 41 bowl games in existence. In fact, the college bowl games proved to be such a boon to the sport and a lucrative entity that for decades, college football officials steadfastly refused to implement any sort of playoff system to determine a champion.

Instead, the NCAA, which was formed in 1906, opted to go with what critics referred to as the "mythical" national champion, because instead of the winner being decided on the field of play, a champion was declared via the ballot box. The oldest of these polls, run by the Associated Press as a vote among its sports editors across the United States, declared the Minnesota Golden Gophers as the first national champions in 1936.

This format was followed for several decades. Finally in 1998 the Bowl Championship Series, in which eight teams were invited to play in four separate bowl games. Each year, one of these bowls would pit the top-two ranked teams in the nation and would be classified as the national championship game. This system was further modified in 2014, when the College Football Playoff was born. This pits the top four teams against each other in two semifinal games, with the winners then clashing in the national championship game.

By going to a playoff system, not only has the NCAA finally legitimized their national football champion, they've also presented college football bettors with the chance to wager on a Super Bowl-style event every season. 

College Football Transformed Sports Betting

If you've never heard of Charles K. McNeil, don't feel bad. But if you've ever cashed a winning bet on a college football, then you should give thanks to Mr. McNeil. A math teacher originally from New York - one of his students was John F. Kennedy - McNeil loved to bet. And he didn't much like the way college football betting worked at the time, by giving or getting odds on a team. 

In the 1940s, McNeil sought to dechiper a method which would be fairer to both those who bet on favorites and also the people who preferred to play underdogs, and what he came up with revolutionalized the way we bet on football. McNeil devised the point spread system. By giving or getting points on a team, it balanced the books in terms of wagers on both sides of the ledger. Today, point spread wagering is the most popular form of bet on football. And it all started with wagering on college football. 

Results / FixturesNCAA Football

Don't Dine On Cupcakes

Part of the appeal and the romance of college football is the upset. Everyone loves a good upset story - unless you happen to be one of the unlucky souls who bet on the faovrite. They still wax fondly about Appalachian State's 34-32 victory at Michigan Stadium over the mighty Wolverines, and that game was played in 2007.  

With so many college football games on tap every week, there are going to be upsets. And there are also going to be some wildly lopsided point spreads in play where it will be tantalizingly tempting to play the underdog. But don't do it too often. These soft spots on a powerhouse school's schedule are known as cupcakes, and it's good to keep that term in mind. It's not healthy to eat a whole bunch of cupcakes, and it's also unwise to wager on a bunch of cupcakes. 

The occasional cupcake can prove quite tasty. So how do you know when to go for a cupcake? Here's a scenario when it makes sense. Say Ohio State is playing Wisconsin, and two weeks after that, they head to Beaver Stadium to play Penn State. But in between those two huge Big Ten games, the Buckeyes play host to Kent State. There's a good chance that Ohio State could be caught looking ahead, and if you're getting 30 points or so, this might be a fine time to play the Golden Flashes to beat the spread.

StandingsNCAA Football

The most common form of wager on college football is the point spread. Say that Oklahoma is listed as -3 against Oklahoma State. That means if you bet the Sooners, they must win by more than three points. As long as the Cowboys don't lose by more than three points, you would cash in if you bet on them.

Moneyline wagering is also offered. Suppose you have Boise State -235 at Wyoming +400. The moneyline works two ways. A minus number is based on what you'd need to bet to win $100. A plus number shows how much you'd win on a $100 wager.

In total betting, you are wagering on the number of points both teams will combine to score. If a Florida-Florida State game was listed with a total of 63, that means that the sportsbook is anticipating that this digit will be the total final score for the game. You either bet them to go over or under that total.

 

Here are some other valuable college football betting tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid road favorites. Always remember that these are kids. They are not professional athletes. In fact, the vast majority of NCAA football players will never perform under the bright lights of an NFL stadium. So just because they've been recruited by USC and are wearing the legendary colors of the Trojans, that doesn't preclude them from getting rattled by a hostile crowd at Stanford or Oregon.
  • When two powerful offenses clash, always play the over. Don't be fooled into thinking one team will clamp down on the other. It's rare in college football for a team with a potent offense to also have a stout defense. Look at their game scores. Have these teams been in a lot of shootouts? If so, why would you bet against another one?   
  • Only bet on teams you think can win. Don't get caught up playing the point spread game. Don't bet on Mississippi State because you're sure Alabama won't win by the 12 points that the Bulldogs are getting from the oddsmakers. Bet on Mississippi State because you believe that they have a legitimate shot to beat the Crimson Tide. Otherwise, don't lay the wager.