For experienced bettors, college football season is a sprint that lasts from late August through college bowl season — except for a little lull in December.
Outside of that, Saturdays in the fall are full of wall-to-wall games, and there is often a robust selection of weeknight games to boot.
New bettors may find the lengthy game schedule a bit intimidating. However, no rule says they need to pay attention to or handicap each and every game. Instead, bettors can focus on things such as Top 25 teams or particularly appealing conferences.
For this guide, we’re going to outline all you need to know about college football betting. From where you can bet to how to handicap college football successfully, we have you covered.
Best College Football Betting Sites in 2020
Bet on 2020-21 College Football National Champion
Now that the 2020 FBS College Football National Title game is in the books, the early futures for the 2021 National Champion are posted at several sportsbooks.
Unsurprisingly, with QB Trevor Lawrence returning for his junior year, national runner-up Clemson is the early front runner. Check the futures odds at DraftKings and FanDuel as of March, 2020.
Bet on 2020 Heisman Trophy Winner
If you live in (or near) Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana, Iowa or West Virginia you can bet on college football online within state borders. If you live out-of-state you can create your account, make a deposit and collect any winnings from your home state. You only need to cross into the legal betting state to place your actual bet.
How does betting on college football work?
Much like wagering on all of the other major team sports, betting on college football is similar. However, there are some nuances, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
First off, let’s take a look at where you can place your bets.
Betting on college football using an app
If you prefer to have more flexibility on when and where to place a bet, then you should seek out a sportsbook with a robust mobile offering. Nearly all of the major football betting sites will have a mobile app available for download for both Android and iOS platforms.
Once you have chosen your preferred site or sites from our list above, look for the corresponding mobile offering on the sportsbook’s website. After downloading, log in and take a look around.
For the most part, operators will do their best to mirror the mobile experience to what you will find online, albeit a little smaller scale. Placing a bet on mobile is generally easy, and you shouldn’t miss a beat once you get the hang of the app itself.
Is betting on college football legal?
The answer will vary depending on the state in which you live.
On May 14, 2018, the US Supreme Court weighed in on the topic. In a nutshell, the high court placed the decision in the hands of the states themselves.
Since then, several states have gone all-in and fully legalized sports betting. Others have legalized it in some form, while legislation is pending in other states.
Sports betting is in legal in 11 states. These, plus the latest information on more US states, are listed in-depth in our guide to US sports betting. These three states, however, have the most extensive places and methods for legal sports betting.
- Pennsylvania: Sports betting is legal for online and retail sportsbooks.
- New Jersey: The first state to act after the SCOTUS ruling, online and retail sports betting is entirely legal in the Garden State.
- Nevada: Continues to be completely legal in Nevada.
Official rollouts in states such as Indiana and Tennessee are close. Illinois and New York are among the other states that have legalized some form of sports betting. Bills have at least been introduced in several other states, while others have yet to take substantive action.
California and Florida are in the list of states where sports betting is still illegal.
What is the biggest difference between NFL betting vs. college football?
One of the most significant differences between betting on college football versus the NFL is the number of teams in a given week.
There are 32 franchises in the NFL. That means that there will be a maximum of 16 games on a given week.
Each team gets a bye week during the regular season, so the number of games on the weekly schedule can range between 13 and 15 contests. Generally, bye weeks take place in the middle of the season, so the beginning and end of the year will see full slates of games.
For college football, 130 programs play at the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) level, which is sometimes also referred to as Division I. Below the FBS is the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision. Below that are Division II/III programs.
For betting industry purposes, the majority of the attention is to FBS.
When college football games are played
With 130 teams, the weekly schedules are jam-packed. The majority of the action takes place on Saturdays. College football gets underway at the end of August, usually at least a week ahead of the start of the NFL’s regular season.
For the first week, there’s typically a Sunday and a Monday football game as well since there isn’t any competition with NFL viewership. Thursday and Friday’s games are standard parts of the schedule throughout the season, and there will also be some midweek games as the season moves along.
Learning college football betting
The NFL is king in terms of media attention. It would be tough for a story regarding the league to slip through the cracks.
For college, the major programs will receive a ton of attention as well, but information on smaller schools can often be more challenging to come by.
That’s an area in which bettors can gain an edge over the long run. The time devoted to digging for potential nuggets of information can help to spot opportunities that other bettors or sportsbooks may miss.
This info can help when a powerful school is matched up with a smaller program. Generally, the larger program will be huge favorites. Spreads of 20 points are greater are not uncommon at all. You can sometimes uncover value here.
In addition, the less attention paid to college football by the sportsbooks and bettors can occasionally lead to softer lines that are ripe to be exploited.
Experience means a great deal in college football.
Programs that have solid continuity at the key coaching positions are generally built to last. For other schools, turnover at critical spots is not uncommon when poor results are achieved.
The experience factor also applies to the players on the field. In the NFL, we are dealing with professionals who have proven to be the best of the best. At the college level, we’ll see first-year players mixed in with seniors.
Of course, inexperienced players can make more mistakes than their experienced teammates. This is especially true in the early part of the season. Teams with coaching staffs who have been together a while and also have a good amount of returning starters can be ready to burst out of the gate.
Programs that have lost a lot of players to graduation or by moving on to the next level can take some time to get going. The same applies to teams with new coaches, but there are always exceptions to those two rules.
College football betting lines and odds
Looking at a college football odds board can be intimidating at first glance due to the sheer number of games weekly. On the bright side, no rule says you have to handicap every one of them.
For example, some seasoned bettors prefer to stick with a conference or two that they know particularly well. Plenty of folks will focus solely on the big games and nationally televised affairs. Also, there will be those who prefer to focus on not-so-popular games.
There is no golden rule on which approach to take. It all comes down to personal preferences, as well as the amount of research time you have at your disposal.
For the game lines themselves, they appear exactly as they would for an NFL game.
You will find point spreads and total points, as well as moneyline opportunities if you prefer just to pick straight winners. One caveat to the moneyline approach is that betting on a massive favorite will not generate much in the way of returns.
Point-spread bets receive the most attention. Your goal is to figure out who will win the game and by how much. If a team is favored by seven points, you have to determine if the margin of victory will be within that parameter or outside of it.
It’s challenging, but that’s also part of the fun. Few things in life can be more satisfying than seeing your hard work pay off and translate into results.
How to shop for lines
As you become more familiar with college football lines, you will begin to recognize valuable and not-so-valuable opportunities.
The lines from the various sportsbooks are generally similar, but that doesn’t mean they are all exactly alike.
That’s where the concept of line shopping comes into the frame. When a book opens up a line for a game, it can shift based on the action it takes in.
For example, a seven-point favorite can suddenly be whittled down to a six and a half-point favorite, or go in the opposite direction and rise to seven and a half points.
While that may not sound like a significant difference, it certainly is. This is especially true for games that you may be on the fence. The extra half-point of security can make a difference for your peace of mind, not to mention your bankroll.
As you gain experience with sports betting, you will undoubtedly come across your preferred platforms and sportsbooks. It’s perfectly fine to keep the majority of your action there, but don’t be afraid to shop around for better deals.
Shifts in the point spread, game totals and moneyline values can happen throughout the week at various books. If you have a game or several games that you are particularly keen on, take the time to look around and see what other operators have to offer.
You never know when you’re going to find an attractive opportunity you weren’t expecting.
As we mentioned up above, there are 130 teams at the FBS level.
The teams are usually spread across 10 conferences, but there are currently six schools that have independent status and no direct affiliation.
The conferences are further broken down into two categories: Power Five and Group of Five.
In general, the Power Five conferences include the bigger programs, while the school in Group of Five are in the middle or lower in terms of overall power.
There is some crossover in which more prominent programs have down years. Also, for Group of Five schools which are playing exceptionally well and attracting a lot of talent. However, it makes for a fair rule of thumb to follow.
This is also where the research component comes in handy.
Betting markets sometimes discount the smaller programs when they are matched up with a school that looks stronger on paper. However, anything can happen after kickoff, and there have been plenty of upsets over the years.
The best of the best in the NCAA
If you begin to study college football, you’ll begin to recognize some patterns.
Success often breeds additional success. Many programs will remain strong for several years at a time, while others can have trouble getting out of a constant downward trend.
This can help tremendously with your handicapping, as you’ll begin to get a feel for which teams are more reliable. After all, it’s easier to count on a program that continually excels as opposed to one that seems to have trouble getting out of its own way.
Let’s take a look at the best of the best in a few categories:
- Most Wins: Michigan is tops on the list of total wins, followed by Ohio State and Texas. Other top programs are right behind them, including Alabama and Notre Dame.
- Most Championships: The history of college football stretches back to 1869. Princeton and Yale are at the top of the list in spite of not being top football programs for some time. Behind them are powerhouses Alabama and Notre Dame with 22 championships each.
- Most Players Who Get Drafted: USC is atop the list for most players drafted all-time as well as first-round selections. For the most recent draft, Alabama had the most players drafted.
- Which Is The Highest-Scoring Team: For the 2018 season, Oklahoma was first in the nation for average points scored per game, followed by Utah State and Alabama.
- Which Team Has the Best Defense: In 2018, Mississippi State allowed the fewest average points per game, followed by Clemson and Fresno State.
- Best Coach In College Football: Two coaches are generally considered the best in the current college football landscape: Dabo Swinney of Clemson and Nick Saban of Alabama.
It’s important to remember that no two seasons will be exactly alike. However, schools that consistently put a reliable product on the field tend to continue that trend and vice versa.
College football predictions
Predicting the outcome of games can quickly evolve from a curiosity to a passionate hobby. Just like the various approaches to tackling the big college football schedule we outlined up above, there are several ways to attack it.
For some folks, the research component is a big part of the enjoyment. Those in this category tend to have their systems that rely upon crucial pieces of intel. They will often work toward continually tweaking and trying to perfect their model.
There’s also a large group of people who prefer to take a hands-off approach. Those in this category may rely on a handful of trusted sources to help them make their handicapping decisions. There are even subscription services and individual game picks available for people who prefer to have others do the leg work.
In between these two approaches are many other ways to play the game known as sports betting. Once again, there’s no right or wrong way. It all comes down to what you are most comfortable with, what brings you the most enjoyment and hopefully, what allows you to cash more tickets in the long run.
For those just starting up, start with the basics and build up from there. Look for key metrics like average points scored and allowed yardage for and against, and turnovers.
Besides, there are plenty of free services out there that release power ranking and other metrics.
Power rankings attempt to conceptualize the overall strength of a team into a single number. The better ones out there can be quite useful when you are trying to figure out point spreads.
College football bowl games 2019-20
After the college football regular season is done, it’s time for bowl season. Here’s the schedule of what you can look forward to in 2019-20. For more on the history of college bowl game sponsors, check our A-Z list here:
|Dec 20||Bahamas Bowl||Thomas Robinson Stadium, |
|2:00 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 20||Frisco Bowl ||Toyota Stadium, |
|Dec 21||Celebration Bowl||Mercedes-Benz Stadium,|
|12:00 p.m. ||ABC
|Dec 21||New Mexico Bowl||Dreamstyle Stadium,|
Albuquerque, New Mexico
|2:00 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 21||Cure Bowl||Exploria Stadium, |
|2:30 p.m. ||CBSSN
|Dec 21||Boca Raton Bowl||FAU Stadium, |
Boca Raton, Florida
|3:30 p.m. ||ABC
|Dec 21||Camellia Bowl||Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama||5:30 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 21||Las Vegas Bowl||Sam Boyd Stadium, Whitney, Nevada||7:30 p.m. ||ABC
|Dec 21||New Orleans Bowl||Mercedes-Benz Superdome,|
New Orleans, Louisiana
|9:00 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 23||Gasparilla Bowl||Raymond James Stadium,|
|2:30 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 24||Hawaii Bowl||Aloha Stadium, |
|8:00 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 26||Independence Bowl||Independence Stadium,|
|4:00 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 26||Quick Lane Bowl||Ford Field, |
|Dec 27||Military Bowl||Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium,|
|12:00 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 27||Pinstripe Bowl||Yankee Stadium, |
The Bronx, New York
|3:20 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 27||Texas Bowl||NRG Stadium, |
|Dec 27||Holiday Bowl||SDCCU Stadium, |
San Diego, California
|8:00 p.m. ||FS1
|Dec 27||Cheez-It Bowl||Chase Field, |
|Dec 28||Camping World Bowl||Camping World Stadium,|
|12:00 p.m. ||ABC
|Dec 30||First Responder Bowl||Gerald J. Ford Stadium,|
University Park, Texas
|12:30 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 30||Music City Bowl||Nissan Stadium, |
|4:00 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 30||Redbox Bowl||Levi's Stadium, |
Santa Clara, California
|4:00 p.m. ||FOX
|Dec 31 ||Belk Bowl||Bank of America Stadium,|
Charlotte, North Carolina
|12:00 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 31 ||Sun Bowl||Sun Bowl, |
El Paso, Texas
|2:00 p.m. ||CBS
|Dec 31 ||Liberty Bowl||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, |
|3:45 p.m. ||ESPN
|Dec 31 ||Arizona Bowl||Arizona Stadium, |
|4:30 p.m. ||CBSSN
|Dec 31 ||Alamo Bowl|| Alamodome, |
San Antonio, Texas
|7:30 p.m. ||ESPN
|Jan 1 ||Citrus Bowl||Camping World Stadium,|
|1:00 p.m. ||ABC
|Jan 1 ||Outback Bowl||Raymond James Stadium,|
|1:00 p.m. ||ESPN
|Jan 2 ||Birmingham Bowl||Legion Field, |
|3:00 p.m. ||ESPN
|Jan 2 ||Gator Bowl||TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, Florida||7:00 p.m. ||ESPN
|Jan 3||Famous Idaho Potato Bowl||Albertsons Stadium, |
|3:30 p.m. ||ESPN
|Jan 4||Armed Forces Bowl||Amon G. Carter Stadium,|
Fort Worth, Texas
|Jan 6||Mobile Alabama Bowl||Ladd–Peebles Stadium,|
|7:30 p.m. ||ESPN
The bottom line on college betting
College football is one of the more popular sports in the US, both from a general interest level and from a handicapping perspective. For many seasoned gamblers, college football season is the best time of the year.
Beyond being fun and enjoyable, the massive volume of weekly games opens up numerous profit opportunities. Some bettors love to dive in and break down as many games as they can handle, while others prefer to specialize and focus on a select few contests each week.
The same applies to the break down of the games themselves. Some bettors prefer to do their research and another group that relies on trusted sources.
Whether you prefer a hands-on or hands-off approach, there will be plenty of opportunities.
Enjoy the season.