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NCAAF Betting Strategies

NCAAF Betting Strategies

Malcolm Darnley
Malcolm Darnley
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9 Min
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Betting On The Top Rank Teams Matters
Betting Spreads and Totals
Tracking Your Betting Record

When it comes to betting on college football, there are definitely some nuances that make it unique from other sports, including its big brother, the NFL. 

However, there are also some basic fundamentals that need to be followed in college football that apply to betting on all sports.

Information and knowledge is and will always be the most important skill. That pertains to football, baseball, hockey, basketball, and any other sport you like to wager on.

The more insight and knowledge you have about a specific team or athlete, the more of an informed decision a gambler can make.

Bankroll management is also an integral part of being a successful gambler.

Whether you have a $1,000 bankroll or a $100,000 bankroll, protecting your money and taking a long-term approach to beating the sportsbooks will be your most successful strategy.

Of course, over time every gambler will start to get a feel for their own money management style and make the necessary adjustments.

However, for those who are just starting in sports betting, taking it slow and steady is key. Rome wasn’t built in a day, pick your cliche of choice – you need to be cautious and consistent with your bet sizes.

How To Bet on The Top Ranked Teams

With 125 Division 1 football teams to bet on, a college football gambler has many different games to choose from each week.

One would think that identifying great teams who win a lot of games is a good way to make a profit gambling.

2021 AP Pre-Season CFB Team Rankings:

Team2021 Regular Season Record2021 ATS Record
#1 Alabama12-17-6
#2 Clemson9-34-8
#3 Oklahoma10-25-6-1
#4 Georgia12-18-5
#5 Iowa State7-55-7
#6 Ohio State10-26-5-1
#7 Texas A&M8-47-5
#8 Cincinnati13-08-5
#9 Oregon10-35-8
#10 Iowa10-37-6
TOTALS101-24 (81%)62-61-1 (51%)

Our table above represents the Top 10 teams as ranked by the Associated Press before the 2021 season began. Of the 125+ eligible teams, these are the 10 believed to be the best in the country before the season started.

With a record of 101-24, it is clear the AP picked some pretty good teams with their preseason rankings. In fact, three of the four teams playing in the college football playoffs were ranked in the top 8 to start the year.

That is impressive considering the total amount of scenarios that could have played out during the season.

However, when it comes to covering point spreads, those same 10 teams combined were only 51% ATS.

When you factor in a normal -110 betting line for each wager, this means that someone who bet $100 on every game played by those 10 teams would have lost $463.64 overall, despite their combined 81% winning percentage.

This information tells us that sportsbooks understand the general public is most familiar with and most comfortable betting the top-ranked teams and that point spreads are set accordingly. 

This information isn’t meant to scare anyone away from betting on the best teams in the Country. It is meant to highlight that there is no easy money and that covering the spread is only loosely related to winning games.

Each time a team faces a new opponent and each time a new point spread is set, the homework process begins all over again.

You don’t get to auto bet Alabama each year and expect to reap the financial rewards.

How To Bet Big Spread Games

There are different factors bettors must consider when handicapping college football games with big spreads.

In the NFL a 10+ point spread is considered a big line and most teams will play in only a couple of games all year with a point spread that big.

In college football, a dominant team like Alabama regularly plays games with 20+ point spreads. In fact, in 2021, Alabama was favored by more than 20 points in over half their games.

In the NFL, a team is never incentivized to blow out an opponent. A win, whether it be by one point or 30 points, still counts as one win in the standings.

In college football, that isn’t necessarily the case. With so many more teams in college and so many fewer playoff spots, teams are often judged not just on wins and losses, but on their overall performance of a game. 

If the #5 ranked team in the country beat Arkansas 35-3, then the #6 ranked team will want to beat Arkansas by at least the same score if not more. Sometimes in college football style points do matter.

But of course, not every game will be coached the same. In their first game of the season, Alabama was a -19.5 favorite against Miami and ended up beating them 44-13. 

The very next week Alabama was a -54 point favorite against Mercer and only beat them 48-14. Could Nick Saban have run up the score against Mercer even more?

Yes is the most likely answer to that.

Did Nick Saban feel that his team needed to cover the -54 point spread and gain some extra style points against Mercer? No. It’s Mercer, not Miami.

A bettor can gain an advantage, even if it’s just a slight one, by understanding the tendencies of a coach and the necessity of a team to run up the score against an inferior opponent.

Home Underdogs

For most football fans, when we picture a college football team playing in front of their home crowd, we can visualize a loud, hostile and intimidating environment.

Largest College Football Stadiums

Stadium NameCapacityUniversity / College
Michigan Stadium107,601Michigan Wolverines
Beaver Stadium106,572Penn State Nittany Lions
Ohio Stadium102,780Ohio State Buckeyes
Kyle Field102,733Texas A&M Aggies
Neyland Stadium102,455Tennessee Volunteers
Tiger Stadium102,321LSU Tigers
Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium100,119Texas Longhorns
Bryant-Denny Stadium100,077Alabama Crimson Tide
Sanford Stadium93,246Georgia Bulldogs
Rose Bowl92,542UCLA Bruins

When Michigan plays Ohio State every year, whatever stadium they play in will have over 100,000 fans in attendance. It’s natural to assume that Michigan players would execute and perform much better in front of their own frenzied fans compared to playing in front of 100,000 Buckeye fanatics.

As a bettor, we can visualize the advantages and disadvantages of playing at home and away. When we are handicapping individual games, we can often have an inherent bias towards a home team, especially a home underdog, and their chances of covering the spread.

What better environment for an underdog to overachieve than in front of their supporting fans?

The opposition may be intimidated or they may have traveled a long distance through multiple time zones only to find out the hotel catering doesn’t carry their favorite brand of breakfast cereal.

All of these things and more allow us to paint a likely scenario of a home team underdog covering the spread. However, sportsbooks also know the advantages of playing at home.

They also know the human brain can be naturally wired to over-value that advantage of the home field because of our powerful minds.

This isn’t to say that home team underdogs never cover because they do. In fact, according to the math over the last decade, they cover almost 50% of the time. 

If it was 54% or higher, we would be on to something.

But it’s not.

There is a definite advantage to playing at home. Don’t let your vivid sense of imagination let you overvalue its true worth.

Document, Track, Analyze, Repeat

Many gamblers find the preparation and analysis required before placing a bet to be just as much fun as watching the gameplay out. There are some bettors who love to analyze stats and handicap games when betting college football

There are also some who take the challenge on because it’s a necessary part of the gambling process, but don’t enjoy the pregame homework as much as watching the game unfold.

However, one thing that all elite-level gamblers do is take the time to properly document their bets. Documenting your bets can be as easy as creating a spreadsheet and then filling it in each time you place a wager.

Or, there are many different bet tracking software applications available for gamblers today that can help automate the tracking process for us.

Whether you enjoy creating spreadsheets or prefer downloading the latest app, an important part of the gambling process is to make sure you are keeping track of all your bets placed.

There is no doubt that documenting and properly tracking your wagers leads to more paperwork and can be a little bit more time-consuming, but the value it will provide you over time far outweighs the short-term effort of keeping it up to date.

Some of the key information you will want to track are the teams involved, location of the game, odds you bet, total profit (or loss), and the type of bet you placed.

Others will get even more detailed and include the final score, weather information, key injuries, and more.

The majority of online sportsbooks will provide your account with a limited history detailing your recent wagers. However, it is not the job of a sportsbook to manage and track your betting history.

In fact, they might prefer you didn’t do it.

A bettor’s own history is one of the best information tools available and can help us all improve at our craft. Constantly reviewing the types of bets you make and your overall results allow a bettor to understand and reflect on their strengths and weaknesses.

There is so much information we can learn about ourselves when we track our bets.

Do we have a bias towards home teams? Do we bet a proportionate amount of underdogs to favorites? Do we have a skill at betting Over/Unders? How did we do with our hockey bets vs basketball bets vs football bets?

I could go on…and on… and on some more about the information we can learn from properly reviewing our own history.

Diligent tracking and analysis of your own betting history is by far the most effective way to get better at sports gambling, no matter the sport or the amount of money you wager.

Even if sometimes the numbers staring back at us weren’t what we were hoping for.

I find my personal tracking spreadsheet can be a lot like a scale. Sometimes I can’t wait to jump on it and see the numbers staring up at me and sometimes I need to work up the mental courage just to look down.