Welcome to the exciting world of betting on college games. The information provided on this page will help you better understand the nuances of betting on college football and basketball games. Hopefully, the tips offered in the last section will help you become a winner.
How to Bet on College Sports – Straight Bets
If you want some real excitement, you might enjoy betting on college sports. For the most part, we are referring to college football and basketball games in the US. Occasionally, bookmakers might post betting lines on college baseball (College World Series) and college hockey during the championship tournament.
Most sports require the bettor to bet on a match or game that has two potential outcomes, either Team A wins or Team B wins. If the two teams tie, all bets are refunded. Bookmakers use a point spread betting format when posting college sports odds. When betting college football and basketball games, there are three potential outcomes: Team A wins, Team B wins, a tie (push) with the point spread applied.
Point spreads are used to theoretically give both teams appeal as a betting option. Without a doubt, there are some teams that are just better than others. Give the unpredictability and lack of parity in college sports, a point spread is the only tool a lines maker has to create a viable betting opportunity on some games. In college football, it’s commonplace to see teams favored by 21 points or more. The favorite is almost assured of winning, but the point spread can give the underdog plenty of appeal. With that said, money lines are usually made available for bettors who prefer not dealing with point spreads.
There are a lot of things that lines makers use to develop point spreads for college games. Homecourt advantage in college basketball is said to be worth two points (one basket) and three points in college football. Along with point spread betting on the outcome of the game, bookmakers also offer over/under betting options on college games. The over/under betting option requires the bettor to wager either over the total or under the total using the lines makers’ stated total, which represents what they estimate will be the final score for the two teams combined.
Note: Most point spreads and over/under bets come with a money line of -110. The extra $10 represents the commission or “vig” for the bookmaker should they get equal action on both sides of the game.
For all examples listed below, we will assume the bettor is going to be wagering in $100 USD increments. The favorite in a match will be listed with a minus (-) point spread while the underdog will be listed with a plus (+) point spread. The minus represents the amount the bettor must bet to win $100. The plus represents the amount the bettor will win if they bet $100.
Example: Today’s college football game is between the USC Trojans and the Michigan Wolverines in Michigan. The same example would be applicable for a college basketball game. Here’s what the line might look like:
USC Trojans +8 –110 over 53 –110
Michigan Wolverines –8 –110 under 53 –110
If the bettor bets $100 on either team or either side of the over/under option, they will get back $190.90 for a profit of $90.90 if their respective team wins. The winner is determined by taking the game’s final score and subtracting 8 points from Michigan’s score or adding 8 points to USC’s score. Example: If the final score was Michigan 34 – USC 27, the adjusted score would be Michigan 26 – USC 27, making USC the winner for betting purposes. Remember: If the two teams are tied after the point spread is applied, the game is a push and all the applicable wagers are refunded. The same is true if the total lands right on the number
Note: the winnings on a minus money line are calculated by taking the bet amount and dividing it by the money line odds with a decimal placed two digits to the left from the end. In this case, it would be $100/1.10 = $90.90. The same calculation method would be used if the bettor wagered on the over or under at the stated odds.
How to Bet on College – Money Lines
As indicated above, bettors may wish to forgo the point spread option in favor of betting with the actual money line. For this game, the money line would look something like this:
If the bettor bets $100 on USC, they would get back $360.00 for a profit of $260 if Boston wins the bet. If the same $100 was wagered on Michigan, the bettor would get back $133.33 for a profit of $33.33. Note: Very seldom are money lines offered on games with point spreads over 21.
How to Bet on College Sports – Proposition Bets
Proposition or prop bets aren’t very popular on regular season college football and basketball games. When comes in college bowl season for college football or the March Madness Tournament for college basketball, it’s easier to find lines on prop bets. Prop bets can be offered on individual performance, individual matchups, or team matchups such as which team will score last. Futures bets are also made available on which team will win the national championship in each respective sport.
How to Bet on College Sports – Parlay (Accumulator)
Parlays or accumulators allow bettors to bet on multiple college football and basketball games all within the same bet. The basic requirement is all games must be recorded as winners. That’s a risky proposition. However, it comes with some potentially nice payoffs.
A bet becomes a parlay when the bettor decides to list at least two teams on the same betting slip. Again, it will only be a winning bet if all selections win. If ties a game ties after the point spread is applied, a parlay treats the game as “no-action” and relegates the parlay down one level. For instance, a 3-team parlay becomes a 2-team parlay.
Here’s a possible parlay bet for college basketball:
Duke Blue Devils –17 –110
Indiana Hoosiers –9 1/2 –110
Kentucky Wildcats under 158 –110
College Football and Basketball Parlays pay at stated odds as follows (calculating with money lines would give similar return):
The scale continues up to a 10-teamer that pays 500-1. Anything higher, a money line calculation could be used.
How to Bet on College Sports – Teasers
For sports where point spreads are applicable, bookmakers offer a teaser option. A teaser bet is like a parlay in that the bettor has to use at least two games. The difference is the bettor gets to adjust the point spread on each listed game by a selected amount. College basketball teasers range from 4 points to 6 points by half-point increments and 5 to 7 points for college football teasers. Teasers are tempting, but they pay significantly less than comparable parlays.
Using the parlay from above, the 4-point teaser would look like this:
Duke Blue Devils –13
Indiana Hoosier –5 1/2
Kentucky Wildcats under 162
College Sports Betting Tips
The Internet is filled with college football and basketball betting tips from self-proclaimed handicappers. Some tips are free and others are available at a price. Tips can be useful if you don’t have time to do your own handicapping. If you do your own handicapping, betting tips might be a good way to see if you have consensus with your own opinions.
Still, you should make every effort to do your own handicapping. Here’s a list of factors you should include in your handicapping process:
- College sports have lots of important rivalries. Pay attention to betting trends on rivalry games. Big rivalries usually exist between high ranked teams in the same state or with historical significance. North Carolina and Duke have a huge basketball rivalry while Ohio State and Michigan might have the biggest rivalry in college football.
- Read injury reports before making bets. Injured offensive skilled players missing a game or coming back from injury can make a huge difference.
- Over/under bets are easier to handicap than point spread bets in college football because of available stats.
- Pay attention to revenge games. If a team suffered a big loss against an opponent the year before, the losing team might have extra motivation to get fired up. This is an important betting angle if the loss kept the losing team from a bowl game or conference title.
As a rule of thumb, you should never bet more than 5% of your bankroll on a straight bet, 3% on a parlay or teaser and perhaps no more than 2% on a proposition. However, you must realize the bookmaker is going to have a significant advantage when you are making proposition bets. Above all, you never want to gamble with more than you can afford to lose. That means pay your bills, put some savings aside and have fun betting on NBA games with whatever you might have remaining. Responsible gambling is the only way to truly enjoy the experience.