Why College Football Betting is Different from the NFL

Why College Football Betting is Different from the NFL

If you have been a sports bettor for some time, you may realize the differences in betting on college football as compared to betting on the NFL. There are some things that are similar, but the two are very different sports. There are some reasons why, of course, and it’s all about numbers.

More Variance & Volatility in CFB

College football is a lot more unpredictable than its NFL counterpart. The big reason is simply numbers. There are 131 FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) teams each with rosters of near or over 100. In the NFL, there are 32 teams with 53-man rosters. You can add the 16 players each on a practice squad if you like and that number still pales in comparison to the college game. 

With so many teams and players, the difference in talent level at the very top of the game – think Alabama or Ohio State – and the very bottom – UMass or New Mexico State – is extreme. The best teams in the college game are much better than the worst teams. 

In contrast, the worst team in the NFL can beat the best team on any given Sunday. The differences in talent among the best and worst at the professional level are not as big. This is why double-digit point spreads are rare in NFL games.

In NCAA football, point spreads of 14, 21, and 28 points are common. When some of the nation’s best teams play Group of 5 or FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) teams, it doesn’t shock bettors to see a favorite listed at -40. 


Point Spreads

As mentioned, the double-digit point spread is more common in college football. Huge spreads are nothing new especially for teams like Alabama. In 2021, the Crimson Tide played a pretty good Arkansas team at home. Alabama was favored by 20.5 points. The following week, head coach Nick Saban’s team played rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The Tide was once again a 20.5-point favorite.

This is not common in the NFL. The league has much more parity, which is one of the reasons why point spreads don’t shift all that much in the NFL. Lines are released Monday morning after Sunday’s games have finished. 

There is so much information available at the NFL level. Injury reports can shift a spread as well as a wealth of other information that might come out on ESPN or the NFL Network. The college game is much different. Injury information isn’t readily available. Most teams do not say anything about injuries. When information is released, college football lines will adjust dramatically. It’s not uncommon to see NCAA lines move two, three, even four points during the course of a week.

Football Betting Strategies

With the NFL, a bettor can do some research and find the best bets in a given week. For a college football bettor, that’s too time consuming. One is much better off focusing on a smaller subset – usually a conference – and becoming somewhat of an expert. Bettors are probably better off picking a conference that is not the SEC or Big Ten as the public likes to bet popular teams.

With a conference chosen, the college football bettor can also drill down and focus on another subset. Maybe it’s totals bets. Trends can be identified and bettors can look for these within their conference each week.

For example, the Under is a trend in games where the two teams playing have scoring averages that add up to more than the total. Over the past several years, games in this subset have seen the Under cash more than 58 percent of the time. 

Whatever the trend or strategy may be, stick with it. Stay disciplined and manage bets wisely. One easy strategy is to shop for the best lines. That is a tip that can help a bettor across all sports.