Tips on How to Become a Successful College Football Bettor
We’re about two months away from Week 1 of the college football season. With preseason annuals on the bookshelves and online content starting to pour in, now is as good a time as any to brush up on your handicapping. With over 100 teams and 10 conferences, the manual on how to successfully bet college football is extremely long. Below we discuss some of the concepts and techniques that we utilize and that should assist you in having a profitable season.
1. Whittle it down. College football is a vast landscape. And unless you bet full-time or work in a group, knowing the ins and outs of every team can be a daunting exercise. We recommend isolating two or three conferences to key in on throughout the season. And don’t buy into the theory that it’s easier to beat “mid-major” conferences because there’s less of a market. Yes, there are opportunities to be had in betting the Sun Belt but it comes at a price. We’ve found that compared to say, the SEC, small conference football is more prone to sloppy play, poor coaching, and misleading scores. There’s also not as much information readily available, i.e. media coverage and accurate injury reports. That said, if you’ve typically had a good read on C-USA then it makes sense that much of your time should be spent handicapping each team. In the end, knowing everything about 30 teams is way more valuable than knowing just the basics of all 130.
2. Who do I bet on and bet against? You’ve heard the phrase before, “Good teams cover, bad teams don’t.” In college football, there’s some truth to that but it’s far from formulaic. If you consistently bet on the Alabamas and Clemsons of the world, you probably won’t get hurt. In fact, both teams have combined for just over 55% ATS over the last four seasons. But betting on teams that are established as “elite” is hardly a “get rich quick” scheme. The same holds true for college football’s bottom feeders. Last season, Rice, San Jose State, and UTEP — three of the worst programs in the country — all posted winning spread records. Teams that are easily identifiable — elite, mediocre, or horrific — are often times priced accurately. And understand, that as the season progresses, the number of teams that oddsmakers and bettors “get right” grows. There’s a reason why a majority of the country finishes 7-5, 6-6 or 5-7 ATS. It’s the teams that were expected to be elite but perform below expectations, or those who were pegged for failure that earn a bowl berths that are your “cash cows.” How teams are priced is a perception, whereas how teams perform is reality. Isolating teams where the two fail to align is the key. The discrepancy may not last all season but spot a few teams before the market does and the wins will start to accumulate.
3. Be creative. This may sound harsh but you’re not going to find any winners by just reading preseason annuals. You’re also not going to make money betting on and against teams based on returning starters. Those two attributes ARE the market, especially during the preseason when there’s no data. No, in order to beat college football, you need to be looking elsewhere. Coordinators are a good start. A well placed coordinator can take a unit from mediocre to elite (see: former Utah State and current Texas Tech OC David Yost) literally overnight. Overhauled rosters offer potential as well. Bettors tend to use raw returning starters or lettermen as a baseline for their preseason projections. The more the merrier, right? Well, what if a program had five straight losing seasons and during the offseason brought in two new coordinators, a bunch of transfers, and inked a better-than-average recruiting class? It may take time for everything to click, but by cleaning house at least there is the potential for growth. When we see programs that are consistently bad return 15+ starters, yes, those players should in theory improve but we’re far less apt to call for huge gains.
4. Embrace the box score. Whether we made a bet on the game or not, we create a “true score” for every college football game. We do this by using a formula based on yardage and a few other statistical factors. Most of the time, the final score and “true score” are similar. But college football can produce some wild results thanks to turnovers and special teams. If you want to take your betting to the next level, being aware of skewed results is imperative. Take last year’s Florida State-Virginia Tech game. The Hokies won 24-3 as +7 underdogs which on the surface looks impressive. However, the box score tells a different story. Virginia Tech held a +5 turnover margin and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. Florida State actually won the total yardage (327-319) and yards per play (5.19-4.83) battles. The Seminoles probably didn’t deserve to win but the game was a lot closer than the final score indicated. And perhaps fitting that two weeks later, Virginia Tech would be exposed for nothing more than a fraud after it lost to Old Dominion, 49-35. A lot of folks didn’t expect that from a team that “dominated” Florida State on the road. And an even better example was Georgia Tech-USF. The Bulls won 49-38 but the “true score” shows that the Yellow Jackets were close to 10 points better.
These are just a few of the many things you can incorporate into handicapping college football. Unfortunately, there is no boilerplate, sure-fire formula to success. But with a little hard work and willingness to think outside of the box, profits can be made.
Over the last four seasons, Advantage Group has been one of the most successful college football services around. With a low volume, high winning percentage approach, AG has produced an unmatched (and documented!) 102-54 65% +72.5 unit record including 22-15 60% +13.0 units in 2018. Be sure to check out all of their subscription options for the upcoming 2019 campaign.