College Football Betting Lines and Odds Explained

All College Sports BallsAs dedicated college football fans, we are always looking for ways to understand the game better. Whether rooting for a particular team or outcome, your enjoyment of the wonderful sport of college football can be enhanced when your knowledge is improved. And when placing wagers with your hard-earned money, it is nice to have your hands on as much information as possible.

That is why we have provided our in-depth resource guide which not only provides an example of a college football betting line but also breaks down what you'll see at an online sportsbook for each individual matchup. First, let's dive head-first into how to read college football betting lines and odds before your next round of wagers during the college football betting season.

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What Are College Football Betting "Odds"?

Before going any further, it's important to understand what "odds" are and how they work as it relates to betting on college football. You've probably seen "National Championship odds" or something similar hundreds - if not thousands - of times, but have you ever stopped and asked: What exactly are odds?

Much like the definition of the word itself, odds indicate the probability or "chance" that something does or does not happen. However, when betting on college football - or anything for that matter - odds also indicate how much money is required to place the wager and how much can be won from that bet if you're correct.

Example: Odds to win the CFP National Championship - Alabama +225

In the example above, we see that Alabama is listed with +225 odds to win the national championship. The "+225" is a plus-number which tells us that the oddsmakers believe there is a less than 50% chance the Crimson Tide will win it all. A minus-number would tell us that the oddsmakers believe there is a greater than 50% chance of the bet being won while +100 or "Even" is 50/50 - a flip of the coin.

After putting +225 into a sports betting calculator, we see that the oddsmakers believe Alabama has a 30.77% implied probability or "chance to win" the national champion. This doesn't take into account the sportsbooks' juice or "vigorish - which typically is anywhere from 3% to 10%, but it's still a good indication of what the oddsmakers believe Alabama's chances are in the above example.

In addition to the probability of a bet being won, odds also tell us how much needs to wagered and how much can be won. Plus-numbers always require a minimum wager of "+100" or "even," and the amount that can be won is the displayed odds while minus-numbers require a minimum bet of the displayed odds and the amount won is "even."

If we use $100 for our "even" baseline (you can bet as little as $1 in most cases, though), and since +225 is a plus-number, the odds tell us that a $100 bet will win $225 if the Crimson Tide win the national championship. Once the wager is graded as a win, the online sportsbook will payout $325 to you ($100 bet + $225 won). If the odds had been a minus-number, like -225, then the opposite is true since - when using $100 as a baseline again - a $225 wager would win $100.

So, the next time you see anything about college football betting odds, just remember the number displayed indicates two things: 1) The chance that a bet has to win, and 2) The amount that needs to be wagered is relative to the amount that can be won.

College Football Betting Line – Point Spread, Money Line, Over/Under

Below you will see a typical college football betting line. There may be subtle differences from one sportsbook to the next, but all of the information you see below is pretty much the standard display you are going to run across at high-quality college betting sites. Whether you are betting the point spread, over/under the total, money line, or any applicable parlays and teasers, the following information is an example of what your wager is placed on:

Sat 11/24 12:00 PMMichigan+7+20549(over)
Ohio State-7-23049(under)

Point Spread

When looking at the betting line for a given matchup, the first set of numbers that you'll notice, in the column directly next to both teams, is what's called the "point spread."

The point spread was invented to give sportsbooks a way to draw an even amount of action on both teams since both sides will payout the same amount on most occasions. Here's a simple way to look at it before we dive into the details: Based on the above example, Michigan is winning 7-0 as soon as the game kicks off, and by the end of the game, hypothetically, both teams would be tied when the clock hits zero.

Basically, the spread is what oddsmakers believe will be the margin of victory for the matchup. To make the odds even for both teams, the favorite gets "handicapped" by a set number of points, which is indicated by a minus-number. The underdog is always represented with a plus-number. If both teams are perceived to be equally talented, and the margin is less than 1 point, then the game will be a "pick'em," where you simply pick which team you think will win.

In the example above, Ohio State is playing at home and is predicted to win by a touchdown and an extra point over Michigan, which is indicated by the -7. The name of the game with the spread is to correctly predict which team will "cover" - not necessarily which team will win.

For a winning bet on Ohio State, the Buckeyes must win by 8 or more point while a winning wager on Michigan has two conditions: The Wolverines can either lose by 6 points or less or win the game by any margin. If the margin of victory is exactly 7 points, then this is what's known as a "push" which means the entire handle is refunded to all parties.

Money Line

The set of numbers sandwiched in-between the point spread and the over/under total is what's known as the "money line," which is arguably the oldest type of bet on sports that still exists today.

The concept of the money line is simple: Which team do you think will win? That's basically it except when it comes time to put up the money since that's where folks might get a little confused at first glance.  Just like the spread, the minus-number indicates the favorite, and the plus-number indicates the underdog. However, unlike the spread, a different amount of money must be wagers on both teams, and the payout is vastly different as well.

Because the line is only for "which team will win," you aren't betting on a margin but instead the odds themselves, which indicates the amount needed to wager and how much you'll win if you're correct.

So, in the above example, Michigan is +205. The plus-number tells us that if you bet $100 - and the Wolverines win the game against the Buckeyes - you'll win $205 (plus get back your original $100 bet, obviously). On the other hand, a bet on Ohio State requires you to bet $230 - and if the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines - you'll win $100 (and the $230 bet).

The key to betting on the money line is knowing that favorites require more money to be "at-risk" and offer less of a payout since the perceived better team is more likely to win the game, i.e., that's why they're called the favorite. The opposite is true for underdogs because less money is required to be "at-risk" and the payout is more than what was initially wagered.

And you don't have to bet $100 - we just used a common example for conversion. The odds are relative to whatever unit size you're working with. The college football betting sites we recommend let you bet as little as $1, so using the same example: The Michigan money line requires a minimum $1.00 bet to win $2.05, and the Ohio State money line requires a minimum $2.30 bet to win $1.00 - at the end of the day, your bankroll size doesn't matter when wagering on the money line or any other betting line for that matter.

Over/Under - Total

Lastly, the final column on any traditional college football betting line is the total or "over/under" as it's commonly called. The "total" refers to the total number of points, from both teams, that will be scored in any given matchup.

The oddsmaker predicts how many points will be scored by both college football teams and then allows the public to bet on whether the combined points scored by both sides will go "over" or "under" the number set by the sportsbook. If the total points scored by both teams fall exactly on the number set by the oddsmaker, then - like the point spread - it's considered a push and all bets are refunded.

Using the Michigan-Ohio State betting line example above, we can see that the oddsmaker has set the total at 49 points. Since a wager must be placed on whether the total points scored will be over or under to set number, a bet on the over means you believe both teams will combine to score 50 or more points while a bet on the under means you think both teams will combine to score 48 or fewer points.

The total is a bit like the point spread since it's another way the sportsbook attempts to get an even amount of action on both sides of the bet, and as a result, the payout is typically even as well - regardless of what the combined total points scored winds up being when the game ends.

Other Types Of Bets On NCAA Football

With the biggest and the most popular elephant in the room - i.e., the NCAA Football betting line - covered, we can now turn our attention to the other types of wagers that you can make. Here's a brief explanation of the other types of bets you can place during the college football season.

Prop Bets

Also known as "proposition" or "side" bets, essentially, these types of wagers are based on something occurring that doesn't directly relate to the outcome of a game like the standard betting line does. Game, team, and player stats are the most common props you'll see - such as "Trevor Lawrence pass for over 300 yards against Syracuse? Yes/No" - and sportsbooks will literally have dozens or even hundreds available for every matchup. Novelty bets such as "Will Nick Saban throw his headset to the ground during the Iron Bowl against Auburn?" also fall into the "prop bet" category.

Futures

Remember our example in the college football betting odds explanation section above, i.e., "Odds to win the CFP National Championship - Alabama +225"? That is what's known as "futures," which is basically any wager that's placed weeks or months in advance of the outcome becoming known. Timing is vital when betting on futures since the odds fluctuate as a particular outcome becomes more or less likely to happen.

Parlays

A college football parlay is when a bettor combines two or more bets into a single wager in order to gain more favorable odds, which, in turn, can result in a bigger payout should he or she be correct. The more combo bets placed, the better the payout because the parlay becomes less likely to win with every added wager. There is a catch: If any of the bets lose, then the entire parlay loses. If a bet in a parlay is graded as a push, then the wager is removed from the equation, and the odds and payout for the parlay are adjusted accordingly.

Teasers

A teaser bet on college football is basically a parlay, where two or more bets are combined into a single wager, but the sportsbooks allow the bettor to "buy points" or adjust the numbers - such as the spread - to his or her favor. Buying points will cause the payout to decrease and like parlays, if any bet loses, then the entire teaser is lost while a push simply adjusts the odds and payout as if the bet was never made.

Live Betting

And finally, we arrive at one of the newest forms of betting on college football. Live betting, also known as "in-play" or "in-game" wagering, gives bettors a way to get in on the action happening during a game. Every type of wager we've covered - excluding futures - can be wagered on while the game is being played. The odds - and payout - for spreads, money lines, totals, prop bets, etc. will be adjusted in real-time based on how a matchup is unfolding. With the rise of wagering on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, live betting is becoming more and more popular each season.