College football is known for its legendary tailgates, fervent fan bases, and of course, an unpredictable week 1 for sports bettors. Matchups between last year’s national champion and a directional school from North Dakota, which causes huge spreads, aren’t the only problem.
Players are constantly graduating, going to the NFL, or transferring to other schools. Not to mention, as 18 to 22-year olds, consistency and perfect execution during the first week of the season is a lofty expectation.
In this article, I’ll lay out some tips and tricks that can help you capitalize on the first week of the college football season, even when so much is still yet to be known about each team.
1 – Bet on Returning Players
To state the obvious, chemistry and talent play a huge role in how a team will perform throughout the course of a season. Unfortunately, how well a team comes together and how much talent they truly have, usually isn’t apparent until several weeks into the season.
If you want to feel confident in the team you’re betting on in Week 1 there’s only one solution – go with teams who have an unusually high amount of returning players. With all the coverage surrounding the more popular teams, getting this information isn’t nearly as difficult as it might sound.
For example, quarterback is the logical place to start. Despite the experts’ best effort, predicting which quarterbacks will dominate the college ranks has proven to be an imperfect science at best. Once you’ve been able to watch them compete for a full season, it becomes much clearer who is going to perform.
Quarterback isn’t the only important position to focus on the returning starter. Lineman, both offensive and defensive, as well as linebackers can be extremely important. Skill positions are going to be the most notable absences if they graduate or go to the NFL, but these players don’t have quite the impact that you’d think.
Unknown is the best word to use when describing college football’s Week 1. Unknown is also a word that can strike fear into any sports gambler. To alleviate some of the anxiety, my recommendation is to stick with games that have players you can count on to perform.
2 – Play the Under
Before I get into my explanation, note that I’m not saying it’s always the best idea to do it under every circumstance. With that being said, the data would suggest that if you’re on the fence on the over/under in Week 1, you should play the under.
Offenses take a few weeks to really hit their stride, even in the NFL. In college, you have a number of teenagers and 21 and 22-year-olds who have never played a game together. Regardless of how much talent they have, there’s a high likelihood it’s not all going to click right away.
Aside from the teams themselves, there is another factor at play when it comes to over/under in college football games during Week 1. Oddsmakers know that football fans are excited to get back to watching the games, and are more than likely rooting for a high-scoring affair with tons of fireworks. These hopeful thoughts can, more often than not, lead to inflated totals.
Because the public is hoping for high-scoring games, sportsbooks are going to use that bias to their advantage. Whenever the public bias is clearly going in one direction, it’s better to break out the tried and true “fade the public” philosophy.
You may have your reasons for still thinking the over is the right play, but if you’re caught up and can’t make a decision, stick to the under in Week 1. Don’t worry, this will change quickly during the middle of the season.
3 – Bet for Value
You should already be considering value as one of the most important factors any time you place a bet. Over time, if you frequently risk more than you stand to gain (talking to you money live favorite bettors), you’re going to struggle.
I understand that it can be difficult to bet on underdogs and take the moneyline, but taking these high-value bets tips the odds in your favor, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I would recommend always giving real consideration to the underdog and the moneyline, but it’s especially important to do so in Week 1.
The reason? People typically overestimate how good teams will be coming out of the gate. Essentially, the inexperience of not playing together before Week 1 works as an equalizer, and gives underdogs a better opportunity to not only cover, but win outright.
Finally, there’s one additional reason why taking underdogs in Week 1, and thus making high-value bets, is a good idea. Similar to the concept of going against public bias when it comes to the over/under, it’s important to recognize that sportsbooks expect “traditional” powers to receive more money on their side, meaning they can push the spreads to use the public’s bias against them.
For example, let’s say Florida is playing Vanderbilt. Florida is obviously the better team, but the oddsmakers want to use the public’s bias towards Florida to make more money. So, even though based on the information the sportsbook has, the spread should be Florida -13, they raise the line to -16.5 knowing that people are still going to bet on Florida because it’s Week 1 and they don’t know any better.
I hate to oversimplify the strategy back to fading the public, but sportsbooks have the unknown on their side in the first week of the season, and it’s important to take that into account.
4 – Look at the Next Game
Most of the time, the trap game phenomenon is avoided in Week 1. If you aren’t familiar, a “trap game” happens when a team performs poorly because they’re looking ahead to a big game on their schedule the following week.
Because it’s Week 1, there’s an added motivation to go out and perform to make a statement. With that being said, if a team has a cakewalk in the first week and a huge matchup the following week, the same philosophy can be applied.
When you look at the matchups between the country’s top teams and the small schools (think of the games with 30+ point spread), the numbers are so high that you need some extra factors to help you make your pick. Looking ahead at the “good” team’s next game on the schedule can help you decide if you think a team might not be completely focused on the game at hand.
It’s unlikely that a 30+ point favorite is going to have much trouble winning the game, but if they are looking ahead they might only win by 22 points, which is really all you need to make your money.
College football players are kids, and looking ahead to bigger and better games is only natural. As a bettor, it’s important you keep an eye on the schedule as well.
Betting on the first game of the season in any sport is extremely challenging. Bettors use data to help make educated decisions, and in Week 1, there simply isn’t much to look at.
However, don’t forget that oddsmakers are also at a disadvantage during this time, which can’t really be said very often. If you’re smart about your plays and consider who the sportsbooks are going after, you can avoid the biases that they’re looking to exploit.
As always, consider betting for value above anything else, watch your bankroll, do your research, and you should set yourself up to have a great season.