This Week’s College Football Lines – How NCAA Football Betting Odds Work

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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. Its one of those things where after you learn it, youll be thinking Was that all there was to it? Its 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. Its 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. Its 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. Lets 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 doesnt 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, youll 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, lets 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.

Lets 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. Lets 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 theyre 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.