I don’t think that there is a better sport to bet on than college football. There are so many games each week that you can find something attractive no matter what you like to bet on, and the lines are usually not nearly as tight as they are in the NFL. It can be a betting gold mine, but it can also be very easy to make mistakes that will harm your chances of being profitable. Here are six of the biggest mistakes casual college football bettors make:
They assume ranked football teams are always better than unranked ones – Generally a ranked college football team is superior, but that certainly isn’t always the case. The polls are flawed – or at least they can be. They tend to over compensate for teams in major conferences, and they will often rank big name college teams that are playing poorly ahead of more obscure teams that are playing much better. The people who vote in the college football polls aren’t always as careful as they could be, and they certainly don’t have time to watch every team play – not even just a little – before they have to make their picks. While the rankings can be used loosely as a guide, relying them too much can be a big mistake. It’s not only theoretically possible for an unranked team to be better than their ranked opponent, but it happens almost every week in NCAA football.
They are blinded by hype – The media likes to focus on just a few teams and a few players. They talk about those players like they are flawless, and those teams like they couldn’t possibly lose. It’s all meaningless, of course – they will move on to over-inflating the next team or player as soon as their current infatuation falters. You have to take everything you read about college football in the mainstream media with a big grain of salt.
They ignore smaller conferences – The big six conferences in college football get the most of the attention, and of those the Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC get more of their share. Because those games are in the headlines and on national TV they are the ones that casual bettors pay the most attention to. Those games are also the ones that the most people bet on, though, and that means that oddsmakers put the most effort into setting the lines for those games and adjusting them to minimize their risk. In many cases the better opportunities actually lie in the smaller conferences. No one cares about C-USA, so the chances of finding good value there is much better than in the Big Ten. The more value there is in lines, the more margin for error there is in your handicapping.
They give strong offenses too much credit – College football fans – all football fans, really – love high powered offenses. When a college team is scoring points seemingly at will then casual bettors are going to be attracted to that offense, and they are almost certain to give the team to much credit. The betting public already likes the favorites and the over in most games, but they will especially like those sides when these offenses are in play. Astute bettors can often use those tendencies to find value.
They undervalue the importance of location – Home field advantage can be massive in college football. Some teams don’t draw big crowds, but there are many that draw fans in numbers that no other sport can match. Teams like Michigan, Alabama, or Ohio State get a massive boost from their location. Even lower profile teams can draw big crowds that can give them a significant boost. In some sports it is safe to assume that the home field advantage is relatively stable and consistent regardless of the location. In college football that’s a dangerous assumption.
They bet too many games – With 124 teams in the FBS there are 50 or more games to bet on any given weekend, and the large majority of those games are played on Saturday. Part of what makes college football so great is all of that variety – it’s pleasingly excessive. Casual bettors often bet too many of the available games, though. Just because there are 50 games doesn’t mean that you have to bet on all of them, or even a good portion of them. The beauty of having so many games available is that as a college football handicapper you can be particularly picky about what you play without risking winding up with no bets to make. Less is often more when choosing your bets.