College Football Betting 2021

During the fall and winter months, it’s football that rules the day at legal sportsbooks across the US. Beyond the NFL, college football also brings in tons of action.

The sport is a preferred choice for many seasoned handicappers, and also has scores of diehard fans across the nation.

The marquee affairs during the season will bring in action that rivals the pro game, while the College Football Playoff is one of the biggest betting events of the year.

So is it worth taking the time to wager on NCAAF? What do you need to know to get started? We’ll answer those questions and more in our complete look at how to bet on college football legally in the US.

Legal college football odds: Moneyline, spread and totals

The average week during the NCAA season is filled with games, each of which will have odds and lines attached. It can take some doing to stay on top of the latest and you can start with our customizable live odds feed provided by TheLines.com.

Legal NCAA football betting apps

The growth of legal sports betting has been well-documented, and mobile betting has thrived in the new environment. You can legally and safely bet on college football from anywhere within the confines of approved legal states as a result. Here’s a look at the top options.

DraftKings Sportsbook

A few clear leaders have emerged in the battle for the top of the charts in US sports betting. DraftKings is one of the names in the mix. A feature-filled app has certainly helped the company to stand out. Busy NCAAF slates can be challenging to navigate, but the layout on the DraftKings app improves the experience.

DraftKings Sportsbook is available in the following states: VA, MI, NJ, PA, CO, IN, WV, NH, IA, IL, & TN

FanDuel Sportsbook

FanDuel has also emerged as a leader in sports betting. A clean layout and visually appealing app have helped it become a go-to spot for sports bettors. You’ll find wide-ranging odds and lines and a variety of bets in a simple-to-use mobile platform.

FanDuel Sportsbook is available in the following states: MI, NJ, PA, IN, WV, CO, TN, IA, IL & VA

BetMGM Sportsbook

BetMGM has been aggressively working toward gaining market share, and it’s working. A solid mobile product has assisted in its efforts. The sportsbook offers a range of betting markets and wagers. On the college football side, bettors will find a clean layout of all of the games.

BetMGM Sportsbook is available in the following states: DC, VA, MI, NJ, CO, TN, WV, NV, PA, IN & IA

PointsBet Sportsbook

Not long ago, the name PointsBet wasn’t well-known in the US. That has changed quickly. PointsBet has expanded its reach tremendously since launching in New Jersey in 2019. The company is now a known spot for college football and innovative features, such as PointsBetting.

PointsBet Sportsbook is available in the following states: MI, NJ, IL, CO, IA & IN

BetRivers Sportsbook

BetRivers is focused on the user experience, and that shows in its product offerings. The mobile platform is easy to use, but still filled with features at the same time. BetRivers also prioritizes a rewards program for customers. College football bettors will find competitive odds in the app.

BetRivers Sportsbook is available in the following states: VA, PA, IN, CO, IL, IA & MI

Understanding how the bonus offers work

The majority of legal sports betting states have attracted several of the top sportsbooks in the industry. As these books battle for market share, they are offering a series of bonuses to new customers in hopes of attracting more business. Here are some of the offers you might see:

  • Risk-free bet: Once you’ve signed up and made your first deposit, some sites will let you place your first bet risk-free. If you lose, you’ll receive a refund up to a maximum amount in site credits, which you can then use to bet again.
  • Deposit match: Some sportsbooks will match the first deposit that you make after creating an account. The amount of the match will be for a certain percentage up to a set dollar amount, and will vary by shop.
  • Free bet: As the name implies, you can find free bets just for trying certain sites. The free bet is credited to your account after you register. You must play through that amount on site, but any winnings are yours to keep.

New users will have a lot of incentive offers to comb through, but the promotional opportunities don’t end there. For existing users, sites will often offer special promos, such as an odds boost on a specific college football parlay.

State-by-state NCAAF betting rules

The US Supreme Court’s ruling of May 2018 essentially said that individual states could legalize sports betting if they wished. Many have done just that, and a particularly important item of note has been how each state has handled betting on college sports, with some differences arising.

Where You Can Legally BetLaunch DateLegal AgeRestrictions
Colorado SportsbooksMay 202021No prop bets on college games
Illinois SportsbooksJune 202021Ne betting on in-state teams
Indiana SportsbooksOctober 201921None
Iowa SportsbooksAugust 201921No prop bets on individual college athletes
Michigan SportsbooksJanuary 202121None
Nevada Sportsbooks201021None
New Hampshire SportsbooksDecember 201918No prop bets on in-state college teams
New Jersey SportsbooksAugust 201821No betting on in-state teams or college games taking place in the state
Oregon SportsbooksOctober 201921Can only bet on college games in person
Pennsylvania SportsbooksMay 201921None
Rhode Island SportsbooksSeptember 201918No betting on in-state teams or college games taking place in the state
Tennessee SportsbooksNovember 202021No in-play wagers on college games
Virginia SportsbooksJanuary 202121No betting on in-state teams. Live betting and props for college sports are prohibited
Washington, DC SportsbooksJune 202018No betting on any college games that take place in the district
West Virginia SportsbooksAugust 201921None

NCAAF game lines explained

From the opening kickoff of the regular season to the national championship game, there are plenty of college football games to choose from. Legal books will have odds and lines for all games available for wagering. You can find them by clicking on the football or NCAAF tab at your sportsbook of choice. The main game listing will feature the odds for three main bets.

NCAAF moneyline betting

All you need to do is pick which team you think will win the game. There will be odds on both sides of the equation — negative for favorites and positive for underdogs. The size of the the numbers sometimes indicates how close of a matchup the sportsbook anticipates.

TeamMoneyline
Ohio State+115
Alabama-125

NCAAF spread betting

This is a popular option for college football handicappers. Oddsmakers set a spread that the side you choose must cover. You can take the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the spread, which in college football can range from the low single digits to massive double-digit spreads.

TeamSpread
Notre Dame+5.5 (-110)
Clemson-5.5 (-110)

NCAAF totals betting

Also known as an over/under, this is a bet on the total combined points that the two teams will score in the game. Sportsbooks set an estimated total for bettors to consider. You can wager if the total points will be over or under that amount.

BetOdds
Over5 (-110)
Under5 (-110)

Odds for college football games come out well in advance of kickoff, so there’s plenty of time for handicapping. When the season is in full swing, you can expect to see odds for the next week of games soon after the current one is in the books.

The extra time is a plus for research purposes, but it also opens the doors to more fluctuations on the odds board. Sportsbooks often will adjust odds in response to betting action, so there are advantages and disadvantages based on when you place your bets.

Time of BetAdvantageDisadvantage
At ReleaseYou’ll be making your call based on the freshest numbers from oddsmakers, which might differ from yours.As the week moves on, new information about injuries and weather can develop that might affect the contest.
Game DayYou are operating with the most potential information in hand, giving you a full picture of the game.The softest lines already have been hit by sharp handicappers, removing one potential edge.
Live during the GameLive betting lets you react in real time to what’s happening on the field of playThis is a fast-paced way to wager that requires careful attention.

When betting at a legal online sportsbook, there are house rules you’ll need to know. The majority are common knowledge, while others will go deeper on unusual instances that may impact wagering. Here are some of the key points to know for college football.

  • Winning wagers will be settled at the odds listed at the time of bet placement regardless of any movement afterward.
  • Sportsbooks consider bets to be action once the game kicks off, and wagers will be inclusive of any overtime necessary to decide the game.
  • If a spread or total bet lands exactly on the listed number, the sportsbook will treat the wager as a push and refund it.

How to bet on college football

There are several ways to bet on college football. Not only are there slight rule differences between the NFL and NCCA, there are simply more college games to bet on. The three pregame bets are big drivers of volume for NCAAF betting, but they’re not the only ways to bet on college football. There’s an active futures market, props on the individual games and live bets as the action plays out.

NCAAF futures betting

These are wagers on long-term outcomes. College football futures are quite popular, with odds for the biggest markets coming out in the offseason.

  • National champion
  • Team to make College Football Playoff (CFP)
  • Conference winners
  • Team regular-season win totals
  • Heisman Trophy winner

A futures bet requires a long-term perspective as it won’t be decided until the outcome is in the books. As with any other bet, market action can influence the odds, but you can always shop around for the best prices.

NCAAF prop betting

You can find props for college games by clicking on the individual game listings. Depending on the state, there may be a handful on players and others on individual teams or the game as a whole.

  • Which side will have more rushing yards — Texas A&M or LSU?
  • Will there be a safety in the game — yes/no?
  • How many total points will be scored in the first half — over/under 31.5?

For comparison purposes, you’ll find many more available props for NFL games than you will on the college side. In addition to the two-sided examples above, there will be multiple-choice props, such as range bands for yardage and points per team.

College prop bets are not available in all states.

NCAAF live betting

Also known as in-game betting, live betting refers to wagers that you place in real time as the game is going on. Odds and offerings will be based on what’s happening on the field. Examples may include:

  • What will be the result of this drive — TD/FG/TO/punt?
  • How many passing yards will Alabama have in the second half — over/under 174.5?
  • Will overtime be necessary — yes/no?

Live betting on college football is one of those uneven areas among states with legal sports betting. There’s no one uniform rule for all states, so take the time to review what’s on the books in your area for college football live betting.

Understanding the juice/vig

The vig is the amount sportsbooks charge as a fee for taking and handling bets. Also known as vigorish or juice, the amount will vary based on the odds for the wager. For example, standard odds of -110 mean that the vig is 9.1%. Here’s the math behind it.

If you placed a winning bet at odds of +100, you double your money. In the case of industry-standard -110 odds, a winning $110 bet returns a profit of $100, or 90.9%.

For every movement up or down, the vig changes. At -105, it’s 4.8%, while it rises to 13% at -115. When looking at it in those terms, the benefits of shopping around for the best possible odds become readily apparent.

The vig isn’t always easy to figure outside of spread and total bets, but it’s part of the overall equation as oddsmakers set lines. To achieve long-term profitability in sports betting, understanding how the vig can impact your bottom line is imperative.

Offshore sites and illegal betting

The boom time for legal sports betting doesn’t mean that there are no longer illegal options out there. Offshore sites are still running and will take business from US consumers.

They claim to be able to do so without issue, but the reality is that they’re operating outside of federal law.

At legal shops, there are clear-cut rules and regulations in place. Your funds have to be protected as part of state law. There are no such protections in place with offshore sportsbooks, so you’re putting your funds at risk.

Betting with offshore operators is a risky idea and can lead to unnecessary problems down the road.

How the college football season works

The regular season typically gets underway at the end of August. It stretches through to late November/early December. In total, there are 14 to 15 weeks of games, along with another week for conference championship games.

There are 130 college football teams playing at the Division I level. They’re split across 10 conferences with a handful of independent teams in the mix. The largest conferences are separated into Power Five and Group of Five.

The former is mainly the larger programs, while the latter consists of smaller schools. Teams will play between 10 and 12 regular season games on average, so not every school is playing each week.

The bulk of regular season action takes place on Saturdays, but there are regular Thursday and Friday games, as well. For opening week, there will be games on Sunday and Monday in advance of NFL season, while midweek games take place in certain conferences later in the year.

Betting on College Football Playoff and bowl games

At about the midway point of the season, the first edition of the College Football Playoff poll is released. It’ll come out weekly from there, with the final edition released after conference championship week.

The top four finishers will qualify for the playoff, with the winners of the semifinal games advancing to the national title game.

For the remaining schools, there are a plethora of bowl games for which to qualify. In full seasons of play, teams need to win at least six games to qualify, but requirements may shift in condensed seasons. The biggest of the bowls are known as the New Year’s Six, and each will bring in a flurry of betting action.

  • Cotton Bowl
  • Fiesta Bowl
  • Orange Bowl
  • Peach Bowl
  • Rose Bowl
  • Sugar Bowl

Two of the six bowls serve as hosts for the College Football Playoff semifinal games on a rotating basis, while the national title game is a standalone affair held on a Monday night later in January.

Bowl season is a busy time for sportsbooks. All of the games are nationally televised, so betting action is pretty heavy for all of them.

The most business comes in for the semifinals and national title games, followed by the signature games of the season.

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College football and legal sports betting

Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018, the NCAA stood firm as one of the biggest roadblocks to legalized sports betting. From the top down, sports betting was frowned upon, and a number of scandals involving college athletes through the years certainly didn’t help.

In a post-PASPA world, the NCAA still maintains its overall stance that federal standards would be necessary for it to become more accepting of sports betting. Even if that were to come to pass, it’s tough to envision the NCAA evolving into outright acceptance of it, but intriguing developments in recent times have demonstrated that the conversation is evolving.

League/team partnerships

Pro sports leagues and teams have started to embrace marketing partnerships with sports betting companies. Each of the four major North American sports — the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL — have deals in place at the league level, and several individual teams also have agreements with sportsbooks. That trend hasn’t yet extended to college football.

However, there are a pair of notable exceptions. PointsBet inked a deal with the University of Colorado in October 2020. It’s for five years and covers various promotional opportunities for PointsBet. While that deal was surprising to many observers, William Hill has had a similar arrangement in place with UNLV and University of Nevada-Reno for a few years.

Moving forward, legal sports betting clearly isn’t leaving, and it will be expanded to several more states before too long. Partnerships between sportsbooks and various leagues and teams will likely follow, but it’s unclear how much more of that will be to come in regard to college football and individual schools.

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