How To Bet On College Football in 2023: Comprehensive NCAAF Betting Guide & Tips

Learn how to bet on college football by knowing how to read the odds and make smart bets.

Dec 11, 2023 • 06:52 ET • 5 min read
Michigan Wolverines quarterback JJ McCarthy in NCAAF action.
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

College football betting isn’t far behind the NFL when it comes to popularity at sportsbooks across the United States and Canada, and many new bettors are looking to learn how to bet on college football. 

College football teams play just once a week, and the average team plays a 12-game regular season and, if successful enough, will qualify for a bowl game.

The time between games allows for NCAA football betting to see plenty of odds movement, and with college football as its own religion in most states, you know the betting action will be fast and furious.

How to read college football odds

The three most basic ways to bet college football are on the point spread, the moneyline, and the Over/Under, also referred to as the total. The point spread is betting on how many points one team will win or lose the game by. Betting the moneyline is simply picking who will win the game. And betting the total means predicting how many total combined points will be scored in the game.

Point spread: Evening, the field

The college football point spread is the number of points a team is expected to win or lose by, in a given game, set by oddsmakers. This levels the field of competition between the two teams involved.

If the Georgia Bulldogs are expected to beat Alabama by 2.5 points, oddsmakers will set Georgia as the points spread favorite at -2.5 (indicated by the negative value). This means that the Bulldogs must not only win the game, but win it by three or more points to cover the spread.

Alabama is thus set as the point spread underdog at +2.5 (indicated by the positive value). This means that the Crimson Tide can either win the game outright or lose by 2 or fewer points to cover the spread. 

Team Spread Odds
Crimson Tide Alabama Crimson Tide +2.5 -110
Bulldogs Georgia Bulldogs -2.5 -110

Moneyline: Pick the winner

From rivalry games to bowl games, college football moneyline bets are as simple as it gets. You are picking a team to win a game. And based on the implied probability of winning, each team will have a moneyline value assigned to them.

Teams that are expected to win a matchup (the favorites) have a lower return on moneyline bets but offer less risk. While teams expected to lose (the underdogs) have a higher return on moneyline bets but are riskier wagers.

In this scenario, Georgia is the -151 moneyline favorite, indicated by a negative value in front of the odds (-) while Alabama is the +133 underdog showed positive value (+).

This means that bettors would have to risk 1.51 betting units to win one unit (ex. $151 to win $100) betting on Georgia. Meanwhile, an Alabama wager of one unit ($100) would return profits of 1.33 units ($133). You can use our moneyline calculator to see how much you can win from other moneyline odds values. 

Team Odds
Crimson Tide Alabama Crimson Tide +133
Bulldogs Georgia Bulldogs -151

Over/Unders: Predict the total

Another way to wager on college football games is the Over/Under (or totals). Totals are the estimated combined points scored between the two teams in a game.

In this example, oddsmakers predict Georgia and Alabama will combine to score 70 total points to be scored in a game. So, if a college football bettor thinks more than 53 points will be scored in the game, they would bet the Over. And if they think less than 53 will be scored, they would bet the Under.

Result Odds
Over 53 -110
Under 53 -110

Props: Player performances and much more

Prop bets are some of the most fun wagers to make in college football. Prop betting allows you to focus on something other than the final score of a game. Instead, you are wagering on individual player performances, such as will Player X score a touchdown, or will Player Y rush for Over/Under 75.5 yards, or even will Player Z throw an interception.

Generally speaking, prop bets are listed Over/Under totals, like passing yards or receptions, Yes/No propositions, or specific happenings, such as the first player to score a touchdown or the result of the first offensive play of the game.

Parlays: Bigger payouts, bigger risks 

College football parlays allow you to combine multiple bets to increase the potential payout. The more bets involved in the parlay, the bigger the potential payout and the greater the risk.

However, parlays require all bets to win to pay out. Even if all but one of the bets involved in the parlay is a winner, the entire parlay is graded as a loss. 

In the example below, you would need Oklahoma and Clemson to go Over 70 points, Ohio State to win or lose by seven points or less, and Notre Dame would need to win the game against USC to win all three legs of the parlay and cash the +507 bet.

Selection Bet type Odds
Oklahoma vs. Clemson Over 70 Over/Under -110
Alabama (Alabama vs. Ohio State) Point Spread +7.5 (-110)
Georgia (Georgia vs. Notre Dame) Moneyline -150
Three-pick parlay +507
Stake: $100 Win: $507

Futures: Betting on the CFP and more  

Futures are bets made on a long-running outcome rather than a single-game result, often made in markets such as odds to win the College Football Playoff, win a conference, or win the Heisman Trophy. Futures are often posted before the season and take bets throughout the schedule, constantly adjusting the odds to results, injuries/trades, and betting action until the futures market is decided.

Lock in your futures bet early enough and you could be looking at a nice payout. For example, if you bet $100 on Georgia to win the NCAA Football National Championship, you could walk away with a cool $1,200. But remember, your money will be tied up for the entire length of the season, so take that into account when considering your college football bankroll.

Compare more college football odds and see the latest matchups on our NCAAF odds page.

College football betting tips

Plenty of odds options Plenty of odds options

Unlike the NFL, where there can be no more than 16 games in a regular-season week, it’s not uncommon for there to be more than 60 college football games to be played in a given week given the 130 FBS teams. That provides a ton of odds options for sportsbooks to consider and even the sharpest oddsmakers can have trouble with all that data. So, shop around (Covers has a great College Football Odds page!) and find the best number possible.

Rivalries Rivalries

There is nothing in sports like college football rivalries, and these intense matchups can create opportunities for savvy bettors. It might not matter how much better Alabama could be than Auburn in a given year, the Iron Bowl will be close more often than not. 

Home underdogs do well in this spot, but maybe a team is also looking for revenge after an embarrassing performance the previous year. There are so many rivalries in college football: Notre Dame-USC, Oklahoma-Texas, Army-Navy, and so many angles to go along with them. Make sure to scan the schedule on our Scores and Matchups pages for the spots like these each and every week.

Betting trends Betting trends

College football betting trends are situational patterns repeating the same betting result, often against the spread or Over/Under. For example, one team could be 10-2 against the spread in the last 12 games as an underdog.

The validity of betting trends is often disputed, especially as it pertains to trends based on short-term results or limited sample sizes. However, long-term betting trends can hint at possible patterns worth following, particularly in college, where there may be plenty of roster turnover, but coaching philosophies remain intact. For example, maybe a coach has a history of getting his team ready to play as a road underdog.

Head over to our college football trends page for updated betting trends throughout the season. 

Injuries Injuries

Due to the physical nature of the sport, injuries have a large influence on college football betting odds.

When it comes to the odds, quarterback injuries have the biggest impact, while select skill players, like star running backs and receivers, can also move a spread up or down. Outside of those key positions, injuries to individual players don’t affect the odds much at all.

However, because college football rosters are much bigger than NFL ones, make sure you identify which schools are deep at certain positions and are set up to weather a storm of injuries. Make sure you check our college football injuries page before making your bets.

Differences between college football and the NFL

We already spoke about how there are so many more college football teams compared to the NFL, but that is also going to create a bigger talent disparity, and in turn, bigger point spreads. While a two-touchdown spread is big in the NFL, we regularly see spreads in the -20 and -30 range in NCAA football. Teams like Alabama and Clemson can thrash opponents, so know how to handle big spreads.

Another big difference between the NFL and college football is overtime. In the NFL, they play a pseudo-sudden-death overtime where each team must possess, or can possess, the ball. The exception: if the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown on the opening possession. So, in a worst-case scenario, there is an extra nine points scored in OT.

Meanwhile, in college football, each team possesses the ball in an untimed overtime period, starting at the opponent’s 25-yard line, attempting to score. This goes on until one of the teams has the lead after an overtime period. But theoretically, teams could go back and forth forever, which has been known to crush the dreams of Under bettors everywhere. 

Free NCAAF betting contest         

Think you’re ready to place bets on college football? Our King of Covers NCAAF contest is perfect for that. Make real college football bets for free without having to deposit at a sportsbook. Bet the spread and Over/Under totals on the 2021-22 NCAAF season for the chance to win cash and prizes.

The best college football betting sites and apps

Football is the most bet-on sport in North America and bettors love wagering on the pros and college football games every week during the fall and winter. Make sure you place your college football bets at a platform that’s safe, secure, and trustworthy. We’ve rounded up all the best football betting sites and top football betting apps so you can make smarter football bets.

College football betting forum

Want to learn more about college football betting and meet a large, knowledgeable community? Check out Covers’ NCAAF forum to get picks, ask questions, and learn from experienced football bettors.

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