How to handicap college football betting odds

Jun 19, 2017 |
How to handicap college football betting odds
College football bettors can find different handicapping angles depending on which month of the season is taking place.
Photo By - USA Today Images
College football bettors can find different handicapping angles depending on which month of the season is taking place.
Photo By - USA Today Images

The college football season is only four months long, but it provides plenty of strong betting opportunities with more than 120 teams on the betting rotation. 

Oddsmakers and sportsbooks must post a pointspread on every game, however sports bettors have the advantage of not having to play every game. Selectivity is where you obtain your edge, by isolating the strongest situations and value each week. While the college football season is only four months long, each month requires an unique handicapping approach.


The first four weeks of the college football season are when the lines are the softest. Unlike the NFL, college teams do not play preseason games which means the only way to evaluate new players is through media reports, scrimmages, and practices. 

Early power ratings and odds are set based on last year's statistical data with adjustments for key player changes (additions and losses). This is a subjective method of handicapping and bettors who have an accurate read on overrated or underrated teams when the season begins, hold an edge. Teams with inexperienced quarterbacks or new head coaches often struggle in September, especially if the team is changing offensive or defensive schemes and systems.


Teams are in conference play by the time Week 5 rolls around. This means similar common opponents and more valid statistical data to analyze. Always be on the lookout for misleading box scores. 

Turnovers are the main factor that decide football games. While fumbles are 90 percent random, interceptions are not. Strong defenses force more turnovers, while struggling quarterbacks throw more interceptions. However, extreme turnover margins usually produce misleading final scores that create inflated pointspreads (and value) in upcoming games. 

Total yards and yards per play are two of the best statistical measurements of a team's strength. Matchups are also important, so pay attention to statistical subsets such as yards per rush and yards per pass on both offense and defense.


The final month of the regular season presents more unique handicapping opportunities. Public perception is now solidified on which teams are good and bad. There is normally less value with the top teams, so look for reasons to play non-public teams. 

Misleading scores in past games caused by turnovers or injuries can present value in November, especially with teams that are starting to play better after a slow start to the season.  Rival underdogs are also worth a look. These are usually losing teams that are inferior on the stat sheet, and will not be playing in a bowl game, but bring their best effort when facing a stronger in-state rival. 

Late season bye weeks are also beneficial, especially for underdogs, as it gives them extra time to prepare game plans and get their players healthy.


When handicapping the college football bowl game odds, motivation is the key. The majority of the early bowl games in December are meaningless. However, mid-major teams from smaller conferences are normally excited to play, while power conference teams and Top 25 squads are often disappointed. This presents value with the underdog. 

Statistical matchups are still important when handicapping bowl games, but motivation comes first. The long layoff before bowl games means lineups often change as teams have players that are suspended or academically ineligible. Several head coaches normally take new jobs, so make sure the coaching staff is still intact and the players are willing to play hard.

Motivation is less of an issue when handicapping the major bowl games such as the National Championship Playoffs and the New Year's Day games.  Using matchups and statistics from the entire season is the best way to approach these games.  Keep a close eye on conference and schedule strength from the regular season as this can help you isolate overrated and underrated teams in bowl games.

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