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NCAA football is one of the most unique sports to bet on. In some professional leagues, as many as 16 teams make the playoffs. In the NBA and NHL, more than half the teams get the opportunity to vie for the championship. Thus, there is more room for error, and wins and losses are somewhat marginalized.
In an NCAA football season, one loss can derail a team’s goals. For some schools, there is honor in simply making a bowl game or winning one of the “lower tier” bowls. For others, the only acceptable goal is making the College Football Playoff, to which just four teams are invited. Therefore, there is more of an emphasis on playing well each and every week. The uniqueness of the sport presents many opportunities for bettors to take advantage of when placing their wagers.
In this article, we discuss five of the best tips and strategies to use to start your college football betting season off on the right foot.
Take Advantage Early in the Season
Oddsmakers are some of the smartest people around. They know how the public tends to bet and set lines that take advantage of those thoughts. However, it is more challenging for oddsmakers to make such predictions early in the season when there is not a big sample size of games.
Inherently, bettors face their share of challenges early in the season as well. They have not gotten many chances to see teams play in live action. However, the school of thought is that the advantage shifts to the oddsmakers as a season wears on. Therefore, bettors will have their best chance for a leg up early in the season.
When analyzing an early-season matchup, pay attention to which team has more returning starters. Having more experience on either side of the ball can be a tremendous advantage early on. In addition, more of the elite teams have their spring games televised each year. If you have the time, you can do valuable research and learn certain trends about these schools from their scrimmages.
Look for Unmotivated Teams
While the first betting strategy focused on the early part of the season, this one will become apparent towards the middle or later part of the year.
As previously mentioned, college football is much more cutthroat each week than the average sport. Most schools that have a goal of a national championship cannot afford one or two losses. Each year, teams that enter the season highly rated inevitably suffer crushing losses. If their goal was a national championship, it is likely they will not play as motivated down the stretch once they realize a playoff bid is unattainable.
At the end of the day, college football is played by 18-to-22-year-old young adults. Their emotions waver a lot more than a professional’s. Thus, bettors should look to take advantage of matchups where some teams still have all their goals in front of them while others have already seen their hopes vanished.
Find the Look-Ahead Games
Playing on the emotions of student-athletes, college football is full of “look-ahead spots” each week. Suppose Ohio State has its arch-rival Michigan coming to town the following week. Would you expect the Buckeyes to give all their attention to a lesser opponent the week before their big showdown? Here is a tweet from ESPN’s Chris Fallica that proves the “look-ahead factor” is often real.
Michigan has failed to cover each of the last 3 years the week prior to Ohio State -twice as a big favorite vs Indiana. Ohio State has failed to cover each of last 6 years the week prior to Michigan – all 6 came as at least a two-TD favorite.
— Chris Fallica (@chrisfallica) November 20, 2019
The beauty of college football is intense rivalries. Army-Navy, Notre Dame-USC, Auburn-Alabama, and Oklahoma-Texas are just some of the best. This upcoming season, pay close attention to when these rivalry games are played, and look into fading these schools the week before their fiercest rivalry games.
Find the Letdown Spots
The theory behind “letdown spots” is also identical to why “look-ahead games” are a real thing. Whenever LSU and Alabama play, it is often one of the most physical games you will see in the entire college football season. In addition, the game often decides the winner of the SEC West division champion, who earns an inside track to the SEC championship.
For each of these teams, the following week’s game is usually against a weaker opponent and provides a key letdown spot for bettors to take advantage of. This does not apply to all rivalries, as Army-Navy and Michigan-Ohio State are typically played the last week of the season.
However, a letdown spot does not always have to come the week after playing a big rival. Suppose an unranked team pulled a big upset over a top-10 team. They are likely to face a week of distractions on campus, as their peers will constantly remind them of how great they are. That certainly makes preparing for next week’s game more difficult.
Live Betting Can Provide Golden Opportunities
Never underestimate the “power of the polls” when betting on college football. Each week there are new Top 25 polls that are adjusted based on the prior week of play. Towards the latter half of the season, the more meaningful College Football Playoff rankings are revealed each week. Thus, teams that are vying for a spot in the CFP know exactly what the committee thinks of their resume to that point, and what they need to do to move up the rankings.
Suppose a team is outside the top four of the CFP rankings. It would behoove them to impress the committee by winning as convincingly as possible. If that team has a sizable lead at halftime, conventional wisdom would say they would take their foot off the gas and not risk injury to key players. However, a team in this position is likely to be more motivated to extend their lead, thus making the live second-half line appealing.
On the other hand, teams that are comfortable with their rankings may not feel the need to win as convincingly. If you get the sense they may rest their starters late in a game, both the underdog and the under would seem to make sense.
One thing to always keep in mind is oddsmakers are aware of this line of thinking as well. Thus, these examples should be used on a case-by-case basis.