Much like the NFL, bettors are finding the NCAA Football season as a great opportunity to find value and, with the wide range of teams and betting options available, its never been a better time to invest.
Below we provide all the info and tips you need before starting your NCAA punting journey.
Starting with the different bet types in the NCAA.
Straight up NCAA money line bets
The easiest form of betting NCAA Football is by taking a ‘straight up’ wager. Also known as a head-to-head or money line bet, it simply means you have backed a team to win the game outright. In a one-sided market you’ll often see the favored teams at short odds of around $1.33, whereas the outsider will be paying $3-plus. This is due to the wide variety of teams that compete in the championship season and mismatches are a common theme throughout the season.
However, each week there is at least one game where there are two ranked teams play each other and the odds are more comparable. Ranked teams are the top 25 in the nation which are tipped to reach their conference title game, and/or the national championship playoffs. For more information about how the NCAA Football season works, see the “NCAA Football season explained” section.
Many bettors tend to focus on the spread but taking straight up wagers can be profitable and they are easily the safest option available when backing favorites.
Betting on the spread
The most popular form of betting is spread betting. For each game where any team is favoured to win, the bookmakers will offer a points number to make up the difference in the market.
For example: Notre Dame are paying $1.50 to win vs. Syracuse. In order to balance the market, the bookmakers will likely offer around +5.5-+7.5 points for Syracuse because they are the underdog. What does this mean? Place a wager on Syracuse +5.5 and they can either win, or lose by five points and your bet will win.
Spread betting can often confused bettors, but it’s a simply concept that ensures bookmakers, within reason, to take an even amount of action on both teams. If you were to take Notre Dame -5.5 then you would need the Fighting Irish to win by more than five points.
A good strategy when betting the favorites is to also place a wager on the exact winning margin. No bettor likes to lose a spread bet by .5, therefore, simply place an exact winning margin bet on Notre Dame to win by five and you won’t be stressing about that close loss. Alternatively, if you’re uncomfortable with the spread line the bookmakers are offering, most will allow you to ‘buy the hook’.
Buying points won’t cost you anymore money, but it does bring your odds down. +5.5 at even money would become less value if you wanted +7.5, but it does offer that security of losing a close game. The most popular ‘points buying’ lines are around the 6.5-7.5 and 9.5-10.5 range where teams are either favored by under a touchdown and/or favored by a touchdown and one field goal. Punters know that many games depended on the final drive of the game, so some added insurance points can come in handy.
Total Game Points
This simply applies to betting on how many points will be scored in a game. The odds available will depend on which two teams are playing and can range from as low as 34 to as high as 80 points.
When two defensive teams such as LSU and Ohio State play each other, the total points will be set at a low total. If two offensive teams play each other then the total can get as high as 80 points.
Most bettors tend to bet on the over for many reasons. Firstly, watching a game where you’re favoring the under can be boring – you’re effectively hoping for a boring game with plenty of turnovers and field goals, therefore most punters lean on the over. Secondly, if the game goes into overtime your under bet is all but done. The NCAA Football overtime rules differ from those used in the NFL so overtime can be a lengthy and a high scoring affair. A 16-16 game can easily end up being 34-27 at the end of overtime so beware when betting the under.
If you feel as though one team will have an advantage in any of the four quarters or half, then you can place a straight up or points spread bet in any quarter or half. If one team is favored to win by 10 points for the entire game, then bookmakers will likely offer a -2.5 points spread option for each quarter.
This type of betting option is popular for bettors because specific teams show consistent statistics of either playing well in certain quarters/half’s, or conversely playing poorly. If you know a team are slow starters, then there is an option to take the opposing team to win the first half, and the other team to win the second half.
Example of market structure:
Notre Dame -10.5 vs. Syracuse:
1st quarter – Syracuse -2.5
2nd quarter – Syracuse – 2.5
3rd quarter – Syracuse – 2.5
4th quarter – Syracuse – 2.5
This simple structure shows how the market is set out for quarter betting. If you don’t want Syracuse -10.5 for the entire game then you can pick a quarter in which you think they will cover the spread. This sort of bet can be situational however, which makes it tough to play before the game starts.
If Syracuse are leading by 30 points heading into the fourth quarter, they might not play with the urgency needed to cover the -2.5 spread, however, if they are behind into the final quarter then the -2.5 play becomes more probable.
NCAA Football exotic bets
There are plenty of exotic bets (prop bets) to be played in NCAA Football. These bets are extremely popular, especially for those who support a certain player or have correctly capped a player to have a big performance.
Exotic betting allows punters to bet on a wide variety of options which includes player, team and game prop bets. Below are some of the most popular prop and exotic bets you can place on NCAA Football.
First touchdown scorer
This is the most popular player prop bet in the NCAA Football market. Because the odds are so generous, due to the relative outside chance that your selected player will score the first touchdown, it has become a widely used ‘home run’ tactic when betting college football.
In each team there are players who have more chance to score first – wide receivers, tight ends etc – but to cap which player will score first is purely down to past statistics and a fair amount of luck.
There are good ways to correctly figure out which players will get their hands on the ball early in the game. Teams like Oregon and Georgia State like to run the ball, therefore the running back and fullback would be heavily favored in the market.
There is always a chance the first touchdown scorer could be a defensive player who scores a fumble recovery or intercept and the odds available on these players make this option a viable chance to make big money. The rule of thumb is that you have to bet a lot more on the straight up or moneyline option to make a profit, but on the first touchdown scorer market, you only need a few dollars and the right outcome to win big.
For the best odds on first touchdown scorer markets, head to recommended bookmaker and sign up.
Total yards for player and team
Betting on how many yards a player or team will gain can often be controversial and it does require a fair amount of prior knowledge of the game, however, this option is extremely popular for punters who prefer not to bet on the outcome of a game.
Capping how many yards a player or team will gain can be done through past results and with situation betting. If a running back is paying $1.90 to gain more than 100 yards and he’s up against a team that allows more than 300 yards on the ground in every game, then that would be a great time to bet.
You can also bet on how many yards the entire team will amass, but there are dangers with betting on these options. There have been countless hard-luck stories where punters have hit their wager on the final play of the game, only for the play to come back due to a yellow flag penalty. The yards gained on a penalty are all reversed, and this is where many punters get confused.
If a wide receiver doesn’t catch a 50-yard pass but there is a penalty on the defensive team, then a 50 yard penalty can be awarded, but this yardage isn’t attached to the wide receivers statistics. It counts as penalty yards and won’t attribute to either your player or team yards wager.
On the contrary, this wagering option is a great way to sit back and relax whilst watching the game. Your wager could come in within the first quarter and you no longer have to wait for the full game to finish. You can reinvest or take your profits to the bank.
This is the definition of having a prop bet. Betting on whether or not there will be a safety is a popular prop bet, especially in big championship games. Many punters will have a wager on the safety being the first scoring play of the game which, as you would imagine, pays very nicely. Some bookmakers pay out as much as $49 for a safety to be the first scoring play and $14 for a safety to be scored at any time throughout the game.
Just to show it can be done, the Seattle Seahawks forced Peyton Manning into a safety in the 2013/2014 Superbowl as the first scoring play, setting up massive wins for the exotic and prop bet punters.
What is a safety?
A safety is when a team forces the quarterback to get tackled in his own end-zone, resulting in two points to the defensive team. It is a rare play as most teams opt to run the ball from their own goal line, but the odds available are very rewarding.
NCAA Football season explained
NCAA Football has changed dramatically in the 2014/2015 season with the introduction of a playoff system.
Instead of a selection panel picking which two teams would make the BCS Bowl game, it is now a playoff system where the top four teams play a semi-final for entry into the final. This system is seen as a more fair way of finding who the best teams are throughout the season.
Most college teams play between 12-14 games in the regular season, depending on whether they play for a conference title or not. For example: Alabama played 13 games in the 2014/2015 season because they played for the SEC Division title against Missouri, whereas teams who weren’t good enough to play for a title were left with one less game.
Teams that perform well in their divisions will become ‘Bowl eligible’, which enables them to play one bowl game throughout December/January. There are currently 39 bowl games with six falling under the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) banner. The BSC bowls are the highest profile bowls and are often played between the best NCAA football teams in the country.
BCS Bowls list:
Rose Bowl – Pasadena, California.
Orange Bowl – Miami, Florida.
Sugar Bowl – New Orleans, Louisiana
Cotton Bowl – Arlington, Texas
Peach Bowl – Atlanta, Georgia
Fiesta Bowl – Glendale, Arizona
Due to the playoff system being introduced, the above bowl games will become hosts for the semi-finals and finals for the BCS Championship. In the 2014/2015 season, the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl will host the semi-finals and the final will be played at AT&T Stadium at Arlington, Texas.
Betting on bowl games is most NCAA Football punters’ favorite time of the year as placing a wager on a ‘must-win’ game is considered easier to cap than a game where winning or losing has little effect on the season.
Bowl games offer a grand final for teams who otherwise wouldn’t contest a major championship game and punters bet record amounts during this time.
Some bookmakers will offer markets for Division II and Division III games, but the large majority of punters will stick to what they know and bet on Division I games only.
Best NCAA Football teams to bet on
Alabama Crimson Tide
The Alabama Crimson Tide are one of the most profitable teams to bet on in the NCAA.
Using a devastating running game which has molded many NFL superstars, the Crimson Tide are ruthless in their attack and many people believe their offensive line and running back system could rival those in the NFL. That’s questionable, but at collegiate level, Alabama have dominated recent seasons, winning in 2012 and 2013 to tally 14 national championships.
Alabama is always heavily favored to win its games, but the Crimson Tide are point spread machines and will continue to be punters friends in the NCAA.
Florida State Seminoles
Under the wing of quarterback Jameis Winston, the Florida State Semioles went undefeated in the 2013/2014 season, winning the national title. They have since remained undefeated in the 2014/2015 and will play in one of the two semi-finals under the new playoff system.
Despite only narrowly winning many games in their most recent system, they have been very profitable in the ‘straight up’ markets and due to their close games, the prices available have been generous. The Seminoles, ranked fourth in the nation, were paying $1.50 to beat the No.15 ranked Georgia Tech in their final game of the regular season. A great value price for a team that has been undefeated for almost two seasons.
The Oregon Ducks have been knocking on the door of a championship for some time after finishing runner up to Cam Newton’s Auburn in 2011. The running-based team heavily relies on their star running backs and despite being favored by more than 20 points on average, the Ducks usually cover with ease and they have the ability to post winning totals of around 70 points.
If you’re looking for a high-scoring game, then bet on the Oregon Ducks, or place a player prop yardage bet on their running backs.