NCAA College Football Betting
With the exception of the NFL, college football betting is by far the most significant betting sport among US bookmakers. In Nevada, well over 60% of all money wagered is on either professional or college football. It’s becoming increasingly popular all over the world as European fans are becoming exposed to the game gradually, with many able to view college football action for the first time via surreptitious online video streams.
In the United States, however, college football betting is not only hugely popular among bettors and fans but is a big moneymaker for the universities involved. Particularly in the southeast, college football rivals and in some cases exceeds the NFL in popularity with many schools drawing around 100,000 fans to their home games. Ironically, the sport didn’t have much traction when it first began in the late 1800’s. Even through the middle part of the 20th century it remained a ‘niche sport’ well behind its professional counterparts and even college basketball.
Ironically, the success of college football in the modern era is due largely to the success of the National Football League (NFL). More specifically, it was the advent and widespread adoption of television and the popularity of NFL football on Sundays that opened the door for the growth of its college counterpart. College football became a staple of Saturday morning TV sports programming and the hype machine around it started to grow.
Though the ‘best’ college football conference is a subject of ongoing debate among fans, several circuits stand out. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) includes southern schools like Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina and is the best conference in the sport year in and year out. Out on the west coast, the Pac 12 conference includes powerhouse Southern California as well as Arizona, Stanford and Oregon. The recent trend in college football is toward consolidation of major programs into ‘Super Conferences’ with the smaller circuits left scrambling for their very survival.
Like NFL football, pointspread bets are the most popular way to bet on college football games. Players back a favorite that must win by a designated number of points or the underdog who must win outright or lose by less than that same number. There are also college football totals, though some sportsbooks limit them to high profile and/or televised games. Like their NFL counterpart, bettors can predict whether the combined points scored by both teams will go ‘over’ or ‘under’ a designated number. There are also a number of ‘exotic’ ways to bet on college football including parlays, teasers, halftime plays and ‘in running’ bets. A few books even take action on smaller college football conferences like the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Division II.
In terms of handicapping college football betting, there are a few differences from the NFL game. The most obvious is the disparity in talent level from the top to bottom of the table. The NFL is proud of its relative state of parity and that ‘on any given Sunday’ any team can beat any other team. College football is much more top heavy, and the chances of a bottom feeder knocking off a top program like Alabama or Oklahoma is slim and none. For that reason pointspreads on college football games can be significantly higher than their professional counterpart. In the NFL, bettors will see pointspreads of more than two touchdowns only a few times a season. In college, its not uncommon to see pointspreads of 30 or 40 points and particularly in early season non-conference play when powerhouse programs take on smaller schools in so called ‘paycheck games’.
Aside from this important differential in talent level and a few minor rules differences, many of the same concepts apply. A good quarterback and/or a stout defense can lead a team to a championship while being unable to protect the quarterback or stop an opponent’s running game is a one way ticket to a losing season.