While college football doesn’t receive the same amount of attention the NFL does nationally, there are pockets of the country where this is far and away the most popular sport in the United States. In particular, the south is a hotbed for college football, and schools like Alabama, LSU, Georgia, and Florida are much more popular than the professional teams in their areas. College football is one of the few sports where a diehard fan of a team can have an edge on the sportsbooks, so there are ways that you can beat college football.
Get in Early
Opening college football betting odds are released on Sunday afternoon or evening once the season gets underway, and there is incredible value to be had with the early numbers. Most bettors are paying attention to the NFL slate and ignoring the college football odds, so there are great numbers to be had if you don’t mind the lower limits that come with betting early.
There are numerous reasons why betting early lines in college football is advantageous. First, the oddsmakers don’t have the same knowledge they have with college football as they do with other sports. Players usually only play for two or three seasons, and the limited number of games makes it difficult to base much on past performance.
Second, injuries aren’t disclosed as readily as they are in the NFL. Because of state laws and privacy rights, many schools don’t have an official injury report, and you have to pay attention to each game to see who is starting and who is sitting. That gives shrewd bettors a leg-up on the online sportsbooks, and they can take advantage of these somewhat soft lines.
Totals are typically released a day or two after betting lines, and there is similar value in these early numbers. Early in the season, online sportsbooks base a lot of these numbers on what we saw from a team the previous season, and they don’t necessarily to take into account a major roster overhaul.
Double-Digit Underdogs in Rivalry Week
Emotion means a lot in college sports, and there are numerous times we have seen a heavy underdog pull off an upset to ruin their rival’s season. Perhaps the best example of this was in 2007, when the Pittsburgh Panthers upset the West Virginia Mountaineers 13-9 as 28.5-point underdogs. The loss cost West Virginia a chance to play for the BCS National Championship, while Pittsburgh ended the season a dismal 4-7.
While it’s not often that we see such a drastic upset, there are several times each season where a down-and-out team rises from the depths to beat a heavily favored rival. No matter how poorly a team’s season has gone, they are usually fired up when they take on their rival, and that leads to strong performances inconsistent with their usual form. The most value can be found in the games with the longer odds, and teams that are double-digit underdogs in Rivalry Week, especially home teams, tend to cover the number.
Betting the Under and the Losing Team at Halftime in a Blowout
The vast majority of college football coaches don’t want to run it up. Once a game has been decided, they look to rest their starters and get their reserves some valuable playing time, and that makes going against the grain at halftime a wise move. We see this happen with powerhouses like Alabama and Clemson all the time, as Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney only care about picking up the win and moving on to next week.
If a team is up 35-0 or more at halftime, you will often see them favored in the second half. However, it’s not often they cover, as they move to a vanilla offense in addition to taking out their starters, allowing the losing team to make the final score more respectable.
Betting the Service Academies in Games Where They are More Than Three-Touchdown Underdogs
Since 1995, the service academies are 42-11-1 ATS in games where they are underdogs of at least 21.5 points. In recent years, more people have paid attention to this trend after Army nearly defeated Michigan in 2019 and Oklahoma in 2018.
There are two reasons why Army, Navy, and Air Force have such a sterling ATS record in these games. First, all three schools run the option, and that leads to much shorter games. Second, no school wants to blow out one of the service academies given the United States’ love of the military, so they will call off the dogs early to allow the academies to save face.