In this new era of wide-open offense and high scoring games, the dynamics have changed for over/under betting. To the simple-minded, betting on totals means wagering on the over for games that involve high scoring offensive teams such as the Alabama Crimson Tide. It also means betting the under for more defensive and run-oriented teams such as the Wisconsin Badgers. Of course, as is the case in all college football betting forms, there is more to wagering totals than meets the eye. Today we'll examine what goes into college football totals and what a handicapper should look for regarding that.
Reading the Board for College Football Totals
An over/under, AKA totals line, is based on the two teams' combined score in a particular game. For example, in the 2020-21 national championship game, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes over/under line was 76. That means gamblers would bet that the combined score of that game between the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide would either go over or under the total of 76. As it turned out, Alabama won the game 52-24 for a combined final score of 76. The line was dead-set perfect as the game was a push. All bets, over and under, were refunded.
In the College Football Playoff semifinal game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, we had an actual decision. The Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide game had an over/under total of 65.5. Alabama won the game 31-14, which made for a final combined total score of 45, which was far under the posted board total of 65.5. Those that bet the game under the total were paid. While everyone taking the over lost their bet.
Now let's examine what goes into making the over/under totals line.
Setting the Over/Under Totals Line
Every game listed on the board has a price for the pointspread, money line, and total. All of those lines are set by the oddsmakers to attract equal wagering actions to either side. If two gamblers bet $110 to win $100, the sportsbook is a guaranteed winner as long as they each take the different side. That is because of the extra $10 that you bet. The losers of the bet forfeit the entire $110. Subsequently, the sportsbook pays the winners $100 and pockets the $10 from the losers as profit. As long as there is equal betting action on each side of a bet, the house is guaranteed a profit. The problem with a sportsbook is when wagering action is overloaded one way or the other. Thus, the need to set a price that attracts equal support to both sides.
The over/under total lines that you see are based on public perception. Always remember, the betting odds are NOT based on what Las Vegas thinks. Instead, the betting lines are based on what the sportsbook thinks that YOU believe.
Oddsmakers are Mind Readers
When two high scoring teams with weak defenses play, the apparent college football totals bet is over the total. And that is the problem. Over the total is too obvious of a pick. Of course, such a matchup is likely to produce a high-scoring game. But ask yourself this; Don't you think that the oddsmakers expect a high-scoring game too?
Further, oddsmakers also know that the majority of the public is thinking over the total. Thus, in our example, the over/under totals line will be set extra high. If the sportsbook sets the college football total high enough, it will scare off potential action on the over and towards the under. This example shows how the linemakers keep the wagering action split for each side.
Naturally, the opposite is in a bad weather game between two defensive oriented teams. Oddsmakers know that the public will be thinking under the total in such situations. As a result, a lower than usual college football total will be set for games like this. In fact, the total will be set so low as to entice some gamblers to bet over the total.
Success at betting on college football totals is like any other form of gambling. If a college football total looks obvious, that is because it is not.