We all have that one friend who likes to claim that they “called it” when referencing the eventual college football national champion. If you’re that friend, you could be putting your money where your mouth is.
Futures bets, or betting on whether or not something will happen weeks, months, or even years in the future, give bettors an opportunity to make some real cash. The reason? The odds bookmakers set on futures bets are typically very favorable.
In this article, I’ll lay out some tips you can use to help capitalize on futures bets in college football.
1 – Look Back at the Past for National Champions
Somewhat ironically, the best place to start when making futures bets is the past. It isn’t difficult to find where each national champion started when the futures bets market opened for the national champion.
What might be surprising, however, is that sportsbooks are remarkably accurate in college football. For example, out of the teams with the top 4 highest odds to win it all, you’ll typically see at least two or more in the College Football Playoff. If you pay attention to the odds in other sports, you’ll know that this is an unusually high success rate.
LSU’s 2020 National Championship is an outlier given the reign of Saban and Swinney at their respective programs. If you’re looking to win a futures bet on the national champion, this is one of the few times the value-picks might not be the best option.
To say that you should always go with one of the top three or four teams with the best odds might be a stretch. With that being said, the results are in, and those teams that start out as heavy favorites have a history of coming through and winning it all.
2 – Examine the Schedule
It can be easy to look at the recruiting classes coming in, as well as the returning starters, and make a pick based on that information. Unfortunately, you’d be leaving out arguably the most important factor in making a prediction – the schedule.
Now, I understand that you might argue in conferences like the SEC, where every team has a tough road, there isn’t much new information to be gained. My suggestion would be to go a bit deeper, and look at when certain games will be played, and also where they will be played.
For example, Alabama is going to be much less likely to take down Auburn on the road if they’re coming off a prime time game against LSU the previous week. On the flip side, if they played one of the easier teams the previous week, this could set things up nicely for a Crimson Tide win.
The bottom line is that all almost all of the top teams are going to plenty of difficult games on the schedule. Where you’ll find some differentiation is in the context surrounding the game. Who was last on the schedule, who’s next up on the schedule, and who a team plays coming off of a bye week are all critical factors to consider when making your prediction.
3 – Considering the Heisman
The Heisman is a fascinating award in that it rarely goes to the player who was predicted as the winner before the season starts. To bettors, this means that there are some great opportunities to bet for value.
As a general rule, my suggestion for futures bets on Heisman winners is to stay away from the player who is the favorite. The scrutiny, and most important, the expectations, can make it difficult to come through and win. Essentially, everyone is waiting for a reason to knock them out of the top spot, as it creates a better storyline (which is what most of the individual awards are about anyway).
If you’re able to locate two or three players who have highly-valuable odds (think around 10 to 1), packaging them together might give you the best chance to cash in on your plays. In a relatively unpredictable situation, it’s always beneficial to have more horses in the race.
Another factor to consider when betting on the Heisman, similar to betting on the national champion, is the schedule. It might not be fair, but Heisman hopefuls can suffer greatly from just one or two sub-par performances throughout the course of the season. If, for example, you’re betting on a running back, make sure they don’t have back-to-back games where high production is going to be a challenge.
Finally, I’ll point out the obvious when it comes to the Heisman – it’s becoming a quarterback award. Sportsbooks know that in the past decade it’s been a challenge for other positions to win, and odds are set accordingly. So what does that mean for your betting strategy?
You probably don’t want to wager your money on only non-quarterbacks winning, because that’s the most unlikely outcome. The solution is to match one or two quarterback picks with a running back, so that you can hit if things play out as expected, and still have a chance if the unlikely result takes place.
Unlike betting on the national champion, it’s best to look for some value when betting on the Heisman winner.
4 – Observe Changing Odds
Whether you’re talking about the Heisman or the national champion, sports bettors (and sports fans in general) know that one week can change everything. If the top team in the country loses in week 7, you can bet that their odds of winning the national championship will go down dramatically.
Although every loss has the potential to be catastrophic to a team’s season, losing in the right scenario can actually be beneficial for bettors. The reason being is that odds will become much more favorable should you choose to double-down. For example, if you chose Clemson at 4 -1 odds at the beginning of the year, following a loss you might be able to make the same bet at 8 -1 odds, increasing your payout significantly if they’re able to rebound.
As you can tell, I’m a fan of sticking with your original national championship pick as long as they aren’t completely out of the question. The risk of making contradictory bets, in my opinion, just isn’t worth it. This philosophy changes when it comes to the Heisman.
As I mentioned previously, the Heisman odds can be turned upside down on a week-to-week basis. If you notice a player rising up the charts in the middle of the season, you should be quick to jump on the bet before the player becomes a lock to win.
Regardless of whether or not you think you’re in the market to go against your previous futures bets, it’s a good idea to follow along with the odds throughout the season. In the same way that live betting during a game can present tremendous opportunities, so too can futures betting throughout the course of the season.
With all of that being said, it’s important to look over your previous bets and make sure you aren’t actually putting yourself in a lose-lose situation. Hedging a bad bet is one thing, but creating a messy scenario in which you could lose all of your bets (and a significant portion of your bankroll) is something that you need to take seriously. It sounds obvious, but it happens more often than you’d think.
Futures bets are exciting, high-value plays for those who are patient enough to wait awhile for the results to come back. But as we know, patience is a virtue, and can be a profitable one at that.
Before making any plays, always be sure that you have a solid argument to back up your bet, and do your research to avoid mistakes.
If you’ve never been a futures-bettor in the past, the excitement of following your play throughout the course of a season just might change your mind.