In the past, college football has presented an attractive betting alternative to the NFL. In large population centers, all of which have NFL franchises, the biggest game in town is generally professional football.
Legal betting on football in the United States totaled about $20 million in 2019. Of that, approximately sixty-five percent, or $13 million, was bet on the NFL. Despite the legalization of sports betting in many states, there is still a sizeable illegal wagering handle, but for the basis of this piece, I’ll stay with legalized figures.
On a full slate, the NFL has sixteen games spread over Thursday, Sunday, and Monday. A college football week can feature as many as 50-60 games involving FBS teams.
Given the disparity of the amount wagered per game and the high profile of the NFL, including fantasy, the attention placed on each game by oddsmakers is exceptionally high. Consistently placing winning bets on NFL games is extremely difficult.
If you’re tired of getting beaten up by the NFL and explaining to people why you’re so depressed on Monday mornings, you might want to turn to college football wagering. There are a couple of good reasons to opt for the college game. First, if nothing else, you get a day to recover from the disappointment if you have a tough betting day.
College Football Betting Success
The primary reason success can be had wagering on college football is the variety of games. Oddsmakers don’t have as big of a financial incentive to spend a lot of time and effort in setting the odds for college football games.
My point is, oddsmakers miss things more often in the college game. The L.A. Rams ranking 29th in pass defense playing the #2 scoring offense of the New Orleans Saints isn’t going to fly under any bettors’ radar. However, if Central Michigan is ranked 40th in passing offense and Northern Illinois is 87th in pass defense, not everybody will pick up on that mismatch.
Do you ever look at an apparent mismatch in college football, at least from a point spread perspective, and wonder how the underdog was able to keep a game much closer than anyone thought? In most cases, it’s because of a matchup problem for the favorite.
These situations exist more frequently early in the season before trends and stats have been determined. There is also the assumption that Power Five teams hold an advantage over other FBS squads, however misguided.
This season, however, with shortened schedules and barely any nonconference games, the focus will be on analyzing familiar matchups. There are also fewer games, so those under-the-radar MAC vs. Mountain West contests will have to take a year off.
Oddsmakers are going to be paying more attention to college football lines in the upcoming season, too, because there are fewer games. Ultimately, I predict it’s going to be a tough year to bet on football, especially college. When oddsmakers have to break down 30 games instead of 60, the lines are pinpointed even more than in the past.