I like betting on college football more than on the NFL. It took me a long time, and hundreds of mistakes, but I learned how to find more value betting on NCAA football games than pro games. I learned by trial and error, and it cost me a lot of money for the education.
You can skip some of the pain and expense by learning from some of my sports betting mistakes. I see gamblers making these same mistakes every day. Here’s a list of seven mistakes college football bettors make all of the time.
1 – Ignoring the Run Game
When you’re evaluating NFL games, the passing game is far more important than the running game. Winning run first teams are a thing of the past. If a team can’t pass they don’t have much chance to win.
But in college football, the run game is still important, and some teams can win consistently with a weak passing attack. And the top teams in the country can usually throw and run, depending on what they need to do to win the game.
I cover running quarterbacks in another section on this page, but quarterbacks play a much bigger role in the running game in college than in the NFL. Some teams base their entire offense around a talented running quarterback.
One thing you have to be careful of when evaluating the running attack for each team in a game is what I call inflation.
Take a close look at the early season schedule and when you see games with a lopsided score, look at the rushing yards in the game. A dominant team can run for 400 or more yards against a weak opponent, which inflates their stats. When the same team gets in league play and faces better defenses the early season stats can be misleading.
The best running teams are still going to be able to run against better competition, but don’t overvalue early season statistics that they rack up against weak teams.
2 – Underestimating Quarterback Gaps
One of the biggest challenges in betting on football is accurately comparing quarterbacks. In the NFL there are a limited number of starting quarterbacks and you can rank them from best to worst overall to get an idea of the performance gap between two quarterbacks in a game.
But in college football there are many more quarterbacks, and they often play using completely different styles. However, if you want to be a winning college football gambler you need to learn how to judge the talent and performance gap between quarterbacks.
In college, there are only a small number of elite quarterbacks. It’s easy to see the gap between one of these players and most other quarterbacks.
But how do you determine the gap when the teams each have what appears to be an average quarterback?
You need to look at all of the statistics, but these are only going to give you so much information. I always look at the competition each quarterback has faced so far in the season, and see how they perform against better teams.
Some quarterbacks pile up huge numbers against weak teams but crumble when they face a better defense. I also try to judge how good or bad the offensive line is in front of each quarterback.
3 – Defenses Can Dominate in College
The minds behind the offenses in the pros are some of the best in the world. They figure out the weakest part of the defense and attack it. When the defense stops one thing the offensive coordinators make adjustments and attack a different area.
This happens in college football sometimes as well, but in college there are some truly dominant defenses that don’t have any real weaknesses that opposing teams can target. Some college teams have a defense that’s so good that they can win most of their games even if they have a weak offense.
When I’m evaluating defenses in college football I always look at the talent level based on recruiting rankings on the defense for each team. The best defenses tend to have the highest ranked recruits. You can learn more about talent levels and rankings in the last section on this page.
You have to evaluate both the offense and defense when handicapping NFL games, but the offense is usually more important. When you’re handicapping college games the defense is every bit as important as the offense. Don’t make the mistake of spending all of your time evaluating the offenses and ignore the defenses.
4 – Shutdown Cornerbacks
Every season there are only a few cornerbacks that are really good. But when a team has a shutdown cornerback, they can completely take the other team’s best receiver out of the game. This can alter what a team can do on offense a great deal.
You need to identify the best cornerbacks in college football and adjust your handicapping based on what a team can do when they can’t use their best receiver. Almost every college football team has a wide receiver that’s much better than the other receivers on the team, and the offense relies on him a great deal.
He was so good that many teams simply never threw a ball his way. He forced the offense to game plan around him, and he changed every game he was in, even if he never defended a pass.
When you identify cornerbacks in college that have this same influence on the game it helps you evaluate games better.
5 – Undervaluing Running Quarterbacks
Quarterbacks who can run change what the defense can do. When a defense faces a good running quarterback, they have to use an extra defender to shadow the quarterback to try to limit the damage he does with his feet.
This reduces the number of players the defense can use in coverage, making it easier to find open receivers.
Running quarterbacks are valuable because they can extend plays and turn what might be a sack or loss into a gain or a first down. This can be crushing to a defense that is close to a stop.
6 – Underestimating the Importance of Punters
Punters are usually the last player on a college team that sports bettors think about. In fact, mist sports bettors don’t even bother thinking about the punters at all. But punters can have a great influence on games in college football.
Field position is important because teams that start in better field position have an easier time scoring than their opponents. A great punter creates better field position for his team over the course of a game, and a bad punter creates better field position for the opposing team throughout the game.
I’m always amazed at just how bad most punters are in college football. Most college teams have 100 players, and I don’t understand why they can’t find one of them that can punt the ball 40 to 50 yards every time. But the fact is that most teams don’t have a good punter.
7 – Ignoring Overall Talent Levels
You need to start paying close attention to the college recruiting rankings every year. The main recruiting buzz is in December every year when most recruits sign with their college teams. But recruiting has become a year round thing for major college programs.
When you look at the college teams with the best recruiting classes over the past four years it gives you a good idea which teams are going to finish in the top 10 and top 25. This also helps you when you’re evaluating individual games. The team with the highest rated recruits playing usually wins.
It’s easier than most people think to learn how to be a good at betting on college football. You simply start handicapping games and every time you make a mistake you learn from it and correct it in the future. Now you can learn from mistakes that others are making so you don’t have to make them in the first place.
The running game and defense is more important to handicappers in college than in the NFL. Quarterbacks are still the most important players on the field, and when you use the advice on this page you can make more profitable bets evaluating them.