Bettors who love football are often drawn to betting on both college football and the NFL. While the fundamentals of the two sports are similar – they are both football after all, and they both feature many of the same rules – there are some key differences between betting on Saturdays and betting on Sundays that you really need to be aware of if you want to succeed at both. Here are seven big differences between betting on college football and betting on the NFL that sports handicappers can use:
Differences in talent levels are much bigger in college than the pros – Even the worst player on an NFL team was one of the best players on their college football teams, and likely one of the better players in their entire conference. That means that though there are obvious differences in talent between the best player on the best team and the worst player on the worst team there is still a reasonable expectation of talent and athleticism form every player. In college football the gap between talent levels can be far more pronounced. The top players on a BCS conference elite program were usually highly touted and recruited by multiple programs across the country. When they match up against a weak team from a lesser conference – a player who may only have got one or two offers for scholarships from low level schools – there is a huge difference in size, strength, athleticism, and talent. When a top level football program plays a doormat from a lesser conference you’ll especially see the difference in the size of the opposing lines, and in the speed of the secondary compared to the receivers.
Coaching talent gaps are much bigger in college – Just as some schools have much better players than others in college, there are also much better, more experienced coaches at higher level programs. Higher level football coaches also have more resources to employ. In the NFL it can seem like some coaches are much better than others – and they obviously are – but you have to be a very talented, experienced guy to get a head coaching job so the difference between the best and worst coaches in the NFL is far narrower than it is in college.
Public knowledge is much less reliable in college – In the NFL the amount of information that is available is stunning, and the appetite for that information from the public is almost endless. there are very few secrets surrounding an NFL team. The same is often true of the elite programs in college football – the ones that get constant national exposure. When you start dealing with weak teams in major conferences or average teams in lesser conferences, though, the amount of easily accessible information, and therefore the amount of public knowledge, is significantly lower. While it is very rare to find information that almost no one is aware of or is acting on in the NFL it can definitely be found if you are hungry enough to look for it in college football.
Scheme is much more important in college – there are different approaches to offense and defense in the NFL, but for the most part teams play some basic variations of the same things other teams are doing. In college there is a much wider range of schemes employed. For starters, the spread is widespread in college and virtually non-existent in the pros. On top of that there are dozens of different ways that the spread and pro style offenses are used, and teams get really creative in an attempt to overcome skill deficits. You need to spend a lot more time in college understanding schemes and what matchups they create than you do in the NFL.
College potential outcomes fall within a much wider range – It’s a simple as this – several times over the course of a season teams will score 60 or 70 points in a game. That will never happen in an NFL game. It’s rare to see a team score more than 40 points in the NFL. Because the games can be more wide open and the matchups more one-sided in college the challenges for handicapping totals are different than they are in the pros.
More compensation for potential mistakes needed in college – The less experienced and less talented football players are the more likely they are to make mistakes. While mistakes happen in the NFL all the time they are far less common than they are in college football. College football games can be riddled with mistakes – especially in games that don’t feature elite teams. The more mistakes there potentially are in a game, the more you need to be aware that the game might not turn out like you expect. That means that you often need to see more value in a line in college football than in the NFL in order to bet it comfortably because there is more of a risk that things could go wrong.
Lines are much tighter in NFL than in a lot of college games – The NFL is the king of betting. Betting volumes are massive and attention is very intense. Lines are bet very hard by the pros as soon as they are released, and then hit by the public throughout the week. By the time the games roll around the lines have been scrutinized heavily, and any clear mistakes that were there early on have been totally bet out of them by the end. In short, NFL lines are tight. The same can’t be said for a lot of lines in college football. The betting volume in games between two lower level college teams is often just a tiny fraction of what is bet on an NFL game. With the smaller betting totals sportsbooks are going to put much less effort into setting good numbers, and fewer pros are going to be focused on the game. The impact of the betting public is far less pronounced as well. If you think you have found a line in the NFL that is a big mistake then you are probably wrong and you should look at it more closely. If you think the same in handicapping lesser college football games then you might be on to something and you’ll want to bet it.