As we head into Week Zero of the college football season, there are only 5 games and none of them are of interest to me so I thought it was a good time to focus more on the approach of betting college football, particularly early in the season, instead of breaking down the Week Zero games. Betting college football is a completely different animal than betting any other sport. In the NFL you have 16 games on a Sunday. For context, that’s how many games there are just on Thursday night of the Week 1 CFB slate. Each CFB weekend has around 75 games which makes it virtually impossible to try to cap every game. So, I’m gonna lay out a few tips on how to prepare for a CFB Saturday, especially Weeks 1&2 when there are no data points on these teams.
Tip #1: Pick a conference, division, or just a couple of teams and learn everything you can about them.
Like I said earlier, there are way too many games to deep dive into every single game on a given weekend. I think one useful tactic is to become an expert on a certain conference. It takes a full summer to try to study every team in college football and even then you won’t have a full grasp on every team. However, in a solid week or two of prep you could master a certain conference so when lines come out you can go straight to the SEC, for example, and should have an instant feel for soft lines in those matchups. Your one advantage as a college football bettor is there are so many games that it makes it impossible for oddsmakers to be as sharp as they are in the NFL. That gives you the chance to beat early lines if you are an expert on a few specific teams.
Tip #2: Experience is king.
Another major difference between betting CFB vs the NFL is that for the NFL you have to track where players move in the offseason but there are maybe 2-3 rookies a team you actually have to worry about and other than that you basically know the whole roster if you watch football. However, with CFB you’re often having to learn 5-10 new players for every team that will be stepping into a starting role. So instead of learning hundreds of new players and how they could potentially impact a new team, look to teams with the most experience. In my experience, a team with offensive line, quarterback, head coach, and coordinator continuity are the most successful teams in CFB (especially early in the season).
This season some teams that fit that mold are Georgia, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Iowa State, and UNC- all teams I’m looking to back both in the futures market and in early weeks. Overall, the teams returning the most production in each Power 5 conference are Ole Miss, Minnesota, Miami, Arizona State, and Iowa State.
Tip #3: Study the Schedule for Look-Ahead/Let-Down/Sandwich Spots
Situational spots are a much bigger factor in college football than they are in the NFL. For example, if the Broncos just had a huge road win against the Chiefs, they would be a likely candidate to let-down the next week. However, in the NFL you are talking about grown men/professionals that understand the importance of every single game. Also, going from even the best NFL team to the worst NFL team back-to-back weeks isn’t *that* significant of a drop-off. However, in college football you could go from an FCS team one week where you’re a 35 point favorite to Alabama the next week where you’re a 35 point dog. College kids get so up for huge games that they are naturally more likely to let down in boring spots. For example, Kentucky is a team with aspirations to challenge for the SEC East which would likely require them to beat Florida and Georgia. Kentucky has a monster stretch midseason where they play Florida, LSU, and Georgia three weeks in a row. Kentucky knows that stretch will determine their season. However, the week before that 3-game stretch Kentucky goes on the road to a divisional opponent in South Carolina. That is a spot where Kentucky will be decent road favorites and should win but could easily be looking ahead to the big slate coming up and get hit in the mouth by a South Carolina team that’s just looking for a win wherever they can find one.
These spots are something I’ll be looking into every week and sharing every week on the website and/or on Twitter. Also, these spots are where a team with more experience have a big edge. Both coaches and players that have been to Death Valley before, for example, are less likely to look ahead to it and forget about their upcoming opponent. Hopefully all of this is helpful information as college football approaches and we look to have a great season!