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How NCAA Football Betting Odds Work

By Scott, College Football Handicapper,

If you want to bet on college football, the odds may be a little confusing or off-putting at first. But understanding how college football betting odds work is a real walk in the park. It’s one of those things where after you learn it, you’ll be thinking “Was that all there was to it?” It’s really that easy.

Once you understand what the “point spread” and the “money line” are all about, you will be ready to be turned loose to bet on college football. To become a winner will take a lot more knowledge and dedication, but simply understanding how college football betting odds work is a breeze. It’s really as simple as learning two basic concepts--the point spread and money line.

The Point Spread

Standard college football betting revolves around a point spread. All games have a point spread. It’s a number that is applied to both teams in a game. One team is favored by that amount, while the opponent is an underdog by that same number. Let’s look at an example.

Alabama -4.5 vs. LSU +4.5

The above example is an example of a point spread. The point spread is 4.5. Alabama is at -4.5, which means they are 4.5-point favorites. LSU is at +4.5, meaning they are 4.5-point underdogs. For a bet on Alabama to win, they must win the game and do so by a number that exceeds 4.5 points. At -4.5, they need to win by 5 or more points. LSU is +4.5, so for a bet on them to win, they can either win the game outright or lose by less by 4.5 points. So if they lose by 4 or less points, they win.

A point spread evens things out in college football betting. When betting against the spread, both sides of the bet generally pay the same. But obviously, teams are not of the same quality. The point-spread accommodates for that disparity in team quality. When the better team needs to not only win, but do so by a certain number of points, that gives the worse team some betting appeal. The team that is considered worse doesn’t need to win the game for you to win. They can lose by a certain number of points and a bet on them can still be a success.

When betting against the spread in college football, you have to bet a little more than you stand to win. Consider it a bookie tax. Every form of gambling makes it so the amount you win is at least slightly less than what the true odds would indicate and sports betting is no different. The “juice” or “vig” is not close to being as steep as it is on other forms of gaming.

When betting college football against the spread, there are only two choices and they almost always pay the same. The bookie is not doing this for free, so usually, you’ll be betting $110 for every $100 you hope to win. Some books offer -105 betting lines, meaning you only have to bet $105 to win $100, which is a huge advantage since it cuts the bookie tax in half.

Just to recap, the following pair of point spread principles will have you up to speed:

1. A minus sign always indicates a favorite and they must win by an amount that surpasses the number you see next to the minus sign.

2. A plus sign always indicates an underdog and they can either win the game or not lose by an amount surpassing the number you see next to the plus sign.

The Money Line

Now that we got the point spread out of the way, let’s look at the money line. A good way to look at the money line is simply as a way to express odds. While betting against the spread is considered the standard form of college football wagering, there are a lot of other bets you can make and most of those use the money line.

Let’s look at an example:

North Carolina State +160 vs. Central Florida -180

In addition to betting against the spread, you can bet games on the money line, where you simply pick which team will win the game outright. In the above example, you see a game with a money line listed next to each team. Those are simply the odds of those teams winning the game. Let’s explain how those odds work.

North Carolina State is +160. Whenever you see a plus-sign in betting, that means it is an underdog. Central Florida is -180. The minus sign always indicates a favorite. A money line bet on North Carolina would pay more than you bet because they’re the underdog. At +160, that means you would win $160 for every $100 you bet. Central Florida at -180 means you would need to bet $180 to win $100.

Remembering these two money line mantras will mean you have achieved full comprehension:

1. Favorites are always listed with a minus sign and the number you see next to the minus sign is how much you bet to win $100.

2. Underdogs are always listed with a plus sign and the number you see next to the plus sign is how much you win if you bet $100.


You can simply bet on whether the combined total score of both teams will be “over” or “under” a certain number. The bookie will post a number on a game. You have two choices--whether the total score will be higher or lower than that number. Here is an example:

Boise State vs. USC, Total: 61
Over 61 -110
Under 61 -110

In the above example, the total is 61. If you feel the combined total score will be over 61, you would bet “over.” If you think it will be below 61, you bet “under.” You see both choices are listed at -110. Just like when betting on teams against the spread, you have to bet more than you stand to win. With totals, that amount will usually be $110 for every $100 you hope to win.

Key Points About College Football Betting Odds

Money lines are expressed around the $100 reference-point only to make it easy to understand. You can bet more or less and the odds would simply break down proportionally.

If a game is determined to be evenly-matched, it will be called a pick ‘em. That means there is no point spread and you simply pick who will win the game.

Whenever a game is listed, the road team is listed first, with the home team listed second.

A lot of point spreads are on a half-point, meaning there cannot be a tie. In the event the spread lands on a full-number, ties are possible. When the result lands exactly on the point spread, the bet is considered a “push” and you receive your money back.

Free Picks

Editor's Picks - Each weekend our very own in-house All-American Editor makes his NCAA point spread predictions in an attempt to force fumbles, sack and intercept your bookie!

Expert College Football Picks - Free premium college foots plays against the spread from expert handicappers from around the web from week 1 through the National Championship.

Underdog of the Week Pick - We sort through it all and find out which University is getting "too many points" this week. If there was a Heisman Trophy for picking underdogs, we'd be a frontrunner. Expect a 57%+ winning percentage with these picks as we've got a keen ear for loud barking dogs.

Line Movement - NCAA football lines open early in the week and often times move up or down based on wagering activity, injuries to key players and weather. We decipher whether it's square or wiseguy action and predict the point spread winner based on value.

College Football Consensus Picks - We assess the public perception each week and let them pick the winners for us as we fade their selections which provides us with many trips into our bookies endzone.

Computer Picks - We enter them into the computer and the machine makes it's picks. This is a great guide especially when betting totals! These are available after the first few weeks of the season.

Trends - Despite what you have been told or read on tout sites, the trend ain't your friend. We however turn the tables and fade the almighty trend for what should be some great profits over time.

2017/2018 College Football Predictions - Bob gives his picks to win each major conference. At the end, he gives his prediction on who thinks will win the 2018 National Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8th.

2017 Heisman Trophy Predictions - USC QB Sam Darnold is a heavy pre-season favorite to win college football's most coveted award, but Jay isn't buying it. In fact, he's passing up the top (3) favored players in favor of a QB who he's confident will be NCAA football's best player in 2017.

2017-2018 College Football Championship Predictions - NCAA football experts have the Alabama Crimson Tide running away with the National Championship this season and who can blame them? Roll Tide is LOADED! It never happens that easy though. The USC Trojans (+825), Florida St. Seminoles (+850) and Ohio St. Buckckeyes (+875) all have a legit shot. Oddsmakers have Oklahoma (+1300) on the bubble and everybody looking from the outside in at 20/1 or higher. Jay gives his pick to win it all along with how his top 15 rankings for season's end. Get your bets in early before your favorite team's line drops!


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Heisman Trophy Betting Odds - USC QB Sam Darnold starts the season off as a heavy favorite at +350 odds. Sooners QB Baker Mayfield is second on the list at +700 but can he keep his nose clean? Louisville QB Lamar Jackson should dominate this season but will Louisville be taken seriously? Oregon Ducks RB Royce Freeman is worth a pop at 60/1 if he gets the carries. Bama WR Calvin Ridley brings experience and big-time playmaking ability and will be featured on National TV a bunch, giving him a legit darkhorse shot. But will they throw the ball enough with a QB who likes to run? Missing from this year's list of odds is a defensive player.

Odds to Win the 2017 College Football Championship - The Alabama Crimson Tide are heavy favorites to win the National Championship this year at 5/2 followed by Ohio St. at 13/5, USC at 7/1 and FSU at 17/2. Things drop off a bit with the Oklahoma Sooners coming in at 12/1, Auburn Tigers at 14/1 and Michigan Wolverines at 16/1. Check out your favorite school's odds here!

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