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4 College Football Betting Mistakes You Might Be Making

College football season is a gridiron gambler’s favorite stretch of the year. With seemingly-endless games to choose from, there’s something for everyone to get excited about even if your team isn’t in playoff contention.

The opportunity to win big is there. But if you aren’t careful, your bankroll can start disappearing quick. In this article, I’ll explain some of the most common mistakes that both beginner and intermediate handicappers frequently make when betting on NCAA football.

1. You’re Not Familiar With “This Year’s” Team

One of the challenging—if not frustrating—things about NCAA football is the fact that there is so much player turnover from year to year. It might not feel all that significant when you consider the same handful of teams dominate each season, but when you get down to the middle of the pack, the difference from year-to-year is much more noticeable.

You can almost guarantee that teams like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Oklahoma are going to be loaded with talent every year. Beyond that, you need to make sure that when you bet on games early in the season, you’re reading up on the key roster changes from the previous season.

For Example

Teams like Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon, and even LSU have major fluctuations from season to season, and if you think you’re betting on last year’s team, you could get yourself into trouble.

The good news is that there is an entire industry dedicated to covering recruiting, and therefore you should be able to find most of the information you need without too much difficulty. With that being said, you do have to seek it out and spend a little time during the process. Don’t rely on preseason rankings either. They’re simply unreliable early on the season.

College football is unique in that we associate certain schools with success because we’ve seen it in the past. Many traditional powers have been suffering through “down years” recently, and bettors who think they’re going to win 10+ games each season because of the name on the jersey risk being part of a down year as well.

To make sure you don’t fall for this trap, you need to remove emotion from your evaluations. Use numbers and math so that you’re only working with hard facts.

2. You Don’t Consider the Moneyline Underdog’s Value

When it comes to finding value in the world of sports handicapping, the moneyline is the first place I look every time. College football has the volume of games that supports the philosophy of taking on a little more risk for a bigger reward.

Bettors who are just starting out often make the mistake of thinking that the goal is to win as many bets as possible regardless of how much they have to risk in the process.

For example, they might think it’s smart to take a favorite to win outright at -150 because they don’t want to risk giving up four or five points on the spread. I understand that you don’t make money if you don’t win. But if you’re regularly risking significantly more money that you could win, it’s eventually going to catch up to you.

Betting the favorite—even a heavy favorite—on the moneyline does not guarantee a win. Think of it this way: If you bet on a team at -250 and they lose, you now have to win three bets at -110 just to get back to slightly above even. On the flip side, if you bet on a team at +200 and win, you can afford to go 1-2 and still be even. The bottom line is that when something is unpredictable, it’s best to go with the side that gives you more value for your risk.

I wouldn’t suggest that you always take the moneyline underdog, but if the odds are +125 to +160, I’d say it’s worth sacrificing the points you’d get. If the team you bet on is going to cover their +3 spread, there’s a pretty small window in which they’d cover and still lose.

Becoming a frequent user of the underdog moneyline can make for some tough Saturdays here and there. But in the long run, it’ll work out in your favor.

3. You Don’t Consider Motivation

It’s easy to forget that college football teams are made up of 18- to 22-year-olds. What do we know about people in this age range? They’re highly susceptible to emotional factors like, for example, playing against an in-state rival that they’ve learned to hate during their time at their current school.

If you aren’t considering motivation when you’re looking at the slate of games available, you’re missing out on something that’s very important to predicting the outcomes of certain games. Rivalry week is notorious for having a large number of upsets, and teams who have no business winning a game routinely pull out the victory.

Futher Info:

Rivalries aren’t the only factor to consider when it comes to evaluating motivation. For example, a team who needs to win in order to have a chance at the playoff might be playing just a little bit harder than a team who is saying, “Maybe next year,” after suffering one too many losses that disqualify them from the final four. The same philosophy applies to teams who are trying to capture their conference title.

Then, you have the more obscure reasons why a team may be playing with an extra chip on their shoulder. Coaches who are playing against a school which fired them are notoriously determined to win. In fact, any time a coach has a personal problem with an opponent, expect his team to bring their best.

Judging things like emotion and motivation are obviously difficult, but it’s these evaluations that can be the key piece of information you need to help you predict the outcome of a game. While there’s no perfect data set that can quantify this, that doesn’t mean it’s not vitally important.

4. You’re Only Betting Big Games

Most casual college football fans – or even serious ones who are just fans of top-tier teams – might overlook the fact there are 130 Division 1-A schools. If your betting strategy only includes teams in the top 25, you’re a sportsbook’s dream.


Here’s why it’s a good idea to consider placing bets on teams that might not exactly be at the top of the college football food chain: There’s so much action on them that the sportsbooks place extra attention on them. Rest-assured that you’re getting the sharpest lines possible when it comes to your Georgia vs. Alabama, Ohio State vs. Clemson, Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma, and so on.

The true opportunities to make money, in my opinion, lies in the “group of 5” conferences rather than the Big 5 (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12). This is for several reasons. For example, group of five schools are more likely to return starters who typically won’t leave for the NFL. There’s less action, which means sportsbooks are a little less concerned with putting out perfect lines, and the competition is consistent on a week-to-week basis. So, you typically know what you’re getting from teams.

When you’re struggling to win bets in NCAA football, shift your strategy to focus on the teams that most bettors are overlooking. If you can find a source of information from a sharp who exclusively bets these games, it’s about the only time I’d recommend following along.


If you have one main takeaway from this article, it’s that you should formulate a “checklist” that works for you. It should be something that allows you to go through and evaluate each game in a quick, efficient manner.

The ever-changing world of college football is a challenge to keep up with, but if you start to figure out what you need to look for each week, it does get a little easier to place solid wagers. Remember to seek out value, stay away from games in which you’re emotionally involved, and always do what you can to stay informed on the latest news from around the sport.