The focus of this article is on how to bet College Football, specifically, totals. When it comes to gambling, NCAA football is a completely different beast than its NFL counterpart. College football betting provides gamblers with a greater slate of games throughout the week compared to the NFL, including usually 25 plus matchups on Saturdays alone.
We will prepare you by starting with one of the most basic college football betting types: Totals. Or as many call it, over/under bets.
What is Total betting?
First, Sportsbooks determine what they believe will be the total points scored by each of the teams combined. During the process of setting the Total, oddsmakers consider many factors, from both a team and player perspective. Here are just a few of the factors bookmaker’s look at before setting their totals:
- History between the two teams during their previous meetings
- Down conversions
- Passing yards
- Rushing yards
- Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA)
- Field goal percentages
- Completions and interceptions
There is a lot more to it but, the factors listed give you an idea about the level of research that goes into bookmakers setting totals.
Once the total is set, bettors place wagers on the over (or under) of that specific point total.
Basically, over/under bets are wagers made on the combined number of points scored by both teams during the game (this includes overtime). For example, let’s take a look at a matchup between the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes.
The total is currently set to 50.5 points. If you were to bet the OVER, you would need the Gators and the Hurricanes to score a combined number of points of 51 or higher. If you were to bet the UNDER, the teams would need to score a combined number of points of 50 or lower.
Now, let’s take a look at a hypothetical result: Miami 30, Florida 21.
This result would give us a total of 51 (21+30) points. This combined total is over the oddsmaker’s prediction. So, if you bet on the over, you would win your wager. On the flip side, if you bet on the under would lose your money.
That’s honestly all there is when it comes to college football over/under betting. Totals betting is really that easy on paper. This ease of total bets appeals to a lot of gamblers, especially for those that are new to sports betting. Newer bettors are drawn to Over/Under bets because it is a simple entry point.
Another reason over/under betting is a popular bet overall, is because you’re not forced to choose a team. You don’t have to bet or root against your favorite team or player. If you are a Michigan fan, you don’t have to put your money on Ohio State. The only thing you’re interested is the sum of the teams’ total points.
You can see why totals bets are so popular, as they are considered such “straightforward” wagers. But, making money from totals is not as “easy” as it sounds.
There’s no one right way to bet on football totals. Your success, or failure, will depend on your ability to assess how many points are likely to be scored in games. For those assessments to be accurate, you need to take a wide range of factors into consideration. Let’s examine some of those next.
Key Factors to consider before betting totals:
Coaching and playing styles
Some college football head coaches are more aggressive than others, like Florida Atlantic University’s Lane Kiffin. He doesn’t merely want to win He wants to win by a huge margin and take the opponents hearts. Winning margins also have an effect on the rankings, so the notion makes sense, especially for a school like FAU. These types of high scoring teams usually have great QBs and more geared towards passing the ball.
On the other hand, there are teams that are more conservative, and pound you via the running game. Take Georgia Tech and their Triple option offense. These types of run-heavy teams and coaches want to win without taking unnecessary risks. Oftentimes, this means these types of teams will forego high-risk scoring opportunities for a more moderate approach and tempo.
It’s worth identifying which teams and coaches use an aggressive playbook and which use a conservative playbook early in the season. A conservative approach usually means fewer points scored, most notably, if the game gets out of hand, these conservative coaches may opt to run out the clock by simply running the ball.
One of the ways bettors can gain an edge on totals is by evaluating injury factors. Late in the season, pretty much every team is dealing with a number of injuries, but some are more notable than others. In general, every college football player is given a value toward the actual weekly point spread. QBs and star position players are worth more in college than the NFL.
Depth and the number of quality players on each collegiate team is one of the reasons why. When it comes to injuries, predicting how changes to offense or defense might affect game flow will give you a much better barometer of how a game might play out. Take Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence for example. Last season Clemson averaged 44.3 points per game, but that rose to 47.44 points per game in the nine games that Lawrence was the starting QB, excluding playoffs. The Tigers offense just runs more efficiently with Lawrence at the helm.
Yes, oddsmakers would factor in an injury as big as Lawrence’s to the point-spread and Total if it were to occur. But, once a QB has an offense humming, especially at the college level, it won’t be the same scoring-wise without him.
When teams that are closely matched play one another, a play here or there may end up being the difference in winning or losing your wager. If you can figure out how a game will be from a tempo perspective after an injury you may be able to comfortably predict the outcome regardless of a victory. There’s no substitute for injury knowledge and how it will affect a team’s offense and defense when it comes to evaluating matchups.
Most gamblers check the weather report before wagering on any game taking place outdoors, especially if they are betting the over/under. If you are putting money on the Total, you want to know if there is going to be snow, ice, and especially wind during game time.
Wind specifically is one of the biggest factors impacting a college football game’s total. The stronger the wind is blowing the more profitable it has been to bet the under. Windy games make it harder to complete passes and to make field goals. There is value betting the Under in these types of breezy games. The tipping point when it comes to wind is 15MPH or over, as that can change the trajectory of a football, no matter how strong the quarterback or kicker.
Home Field Advantage
In general, teams play better at home, but this is an even stronger point to hammer in college sports. It’s been proven that most college kids just play better when their stadiums are packed and their home crowd is behind them.
Breaking down the right Stats
A lot of gamblers make the mistake of looking at team’s season stats as opposed to recent ones before betting Totals. If the team they want to bet on is averaging 42 points per game on the season than most bettors will probably assume that they will score about that point range again in their next game. But, it could be, though, that they are averaging 42 points because they scored 70 points one game against a weak non-conference opponent, that skewed their season average. The same team could easily be struggling to score in their recent games, versus quality opponents, but that wouldn’t be reflected in the average.
Also, use yards per play, not yards per game. Yards per game is influenced by team and coach philosophy (as stated above), and game flow. It is better to look at the yards per play on offense and defense over the team’s last three games instead of looking at it in a whole season point of view.
If you are looking to see how fast a team plays, or their tempo, look into plays-per-minute. That way you can see how quickly teams are getting to the line to snap the ball. The faster, high scoring teams play more quickly, which leads to more plays and possessions, which leads to more points.
On the opposite side, if you want to find out which teams run more, you need to look at the stat called Standard run rate. This will help you breakdown how often a team runs the ball. When betting unders, you want to bet on the teams that run the ball and keep the clock moving.
It is very easy for longer range stats to tell an inaccurate story, so you need to be sure you aren’t fooled by that when you make your betting decisions.
As simple as Totals are to wager on, there’s still a lot to consider if you want to make regular and consistent profits. The bookmakers are very good at setting the lines for Totals, so you’ll rarely find spots where it’s obvious which way you should bet. You’ve got to do your research and try to make genuinely informed judgements. You need to be patient too, and wait for the right opportunities. Now, go get them!