By Phil Simon
When it comes to football, betting on the NFL and the college game are the same, right? The product is similar and the game is the same at both levels. But there are more differences than the average fan might not notice. And when it comes to betting, the differences between the pros and college students could affect your bottom line. The purpose of this article isn’t to tell you what side you should wager on rather to point out the differences when wagering on each game and how they can help you become more successful.
College Football or NFL
Every game is important and teams want to win. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? And here is one of the differences between NFL and college football. The college game is based on rankings. Winning the conference is a big deal and that falls into place with a team’s rank. The higher a team is ranked the better off its going to be at the end of the season. And when a college team faces a lesser opponent it better win and win big to solidify a spot. In this case it’s not unusual to see point spreads reach 30 and sometimes 40 points. So for teams like Alabama and Clemson winning the game is just part of the equation.
Things are a lot different in the NFL. First, the talent level is for the most part equal throughout the league. Parity is something that was worked at with a salary cap and free agency. Rarely do you see a point spread in the NFL reach 20 or more points. New England was a 20.5-point favorite to beat the Jets in Week 3 of the 2019 season, just the third spread over 20 points in the NFL in the last decade.
Also keep in mind when it comes to the NFL there are only 32 teams compared to 130 at the college football FBS level. Just by the volume of teams it’s much easier to track trends and stats in the NFL than in the college game. It would be a huge undertaking to handicap every FBS team, that’s why it’s recommended to focus on a few schools and/or conferences.
We touched on this briefly above, but it goes without mentioning that the most successful college teams hold a huge advantage in talent over most of their opponents. That’s why you see the same teams jockeying for position in the College Football Playoff every year. Having one of the best quarterbacks can win you a lot of games in the NFL. That’s not necessarily the case in college. Four- and five-star recruits flock to the blueblood programs for a shot at glory in the NFL. And that’s at every position on the field.
There is no draft in college football. The best programs get the best athletes and the disparity in talent is evident when the top teams take on average clubs. This situation also forces oddsmakers to increase the point spread and things can get dicey when lines climb to 30 and 40 points. In most situations it’s safer to play the over/under.
In professional football a draft is used to disperse the influx of players. This is another way to help keep parity in the league. And remember roster sizes. The NFL has a 53-player roster but only 46 can suit up for a game. College teams have upwards of 120 players. Since there is no third-string in the NFL games tend to be much closer. In the college game when a big favorite gets a lead the coach will use players down the depth chart. This is a big reason why high point spreads are a risky wager.
Just because NFL players are making millions of dollars playing the game doesn’t mean they lack motivation. The game is their livelihood and not performing means they are out of a job. That tends to keep players on an even-keel during the course of a season with games having a more predictable outcome. It’s a different ballgame, literally, at the college level. A lot of players are looking to make it to the next level and padding their stats is a way of standing out. And are there any better rivalry games than in college football? Emotion in a Border War, Civil War, Apple Cup, Iron Bowl or Holy War game is off the charts. The intensity of these games isn’t always figured into the point spread or total.
Which is Best?
The best answer to this question is: it depends. Some prefer the pageantry and wide-openness of the college game. Others would rather watch the best players in the world competing in a more predictable setting. To each his own as the saying goes. One thing’s for sure whichever game you bet on, do your due diligence when it comes time to throw down. Being properly prepared will help you make a more informed wager.