2021 College Football Betting Guide

College Football Betting Ultimate Guide

SB3 has the ultimate College Football betting guide. See which sportsbooks we recommend. Next, learn the college football betting strategies. Review our historical BCS Championship results and records. See recent College football playoff results 2014 to present. View the latest National Championship and Heisman Trophy futures odds.

Cached 2021-11-14 14:00:05

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  1. Current Matchup Odds
  2. Best Bets
  3. Best College Football Teams
  4. Betting Tips
  5. College Football Trick Plays
  6. Can AP Preseason Rankings Predict a National Champion?
  7. Tables & Reference
  8. Live College Football Odds – Tap Here

Current Matchups

NG 2021-11-20-12-00-00 Cached 2021-11-14 14:00:05

College Football Betting

1. Fade the Public 80% or Higher in Big Games

“Big Games” are matchups between major conference rivalries. Ignore matchups between mid-level teams that don’t garner much attention.

Suppose LSU at Alabama opens Alabama -5½. Favorite Alabama must win by 6 or more points. Underdog LSU cannot lose by more than 6. Read about spread betting here.

First, review this matchup’s market. Suppose 80% of the public is taking favorite Alabama. Both are popular SEC football teams. It’s likely many people have bet on this game. See current public betting chart here.

Second, research each teams’ record against the spread (ATS). See this website. Check how often Alabama covers as a favorite. Review LSU’s performance as an underdog. Suppose LSU has a winning ATS record.

Third, check the line. Suppose it just moved to Alabama -7. This change suggests heavy action on the favorite. Alabama must now win by 8 or more points. A 7 point win ties the spread. Latest NCAAFB odds here.

Combine the results of your handicapping research:

  1. 80% Alabama public money.
  2. LSU’s winning record ATS.
  3. Line moves against Alabama.

Taking underdog LSU represents much better value than following the public. It’s likely many bettors picked Alabama without taking a hard look at the numbers.

SportsInsights.com compiled the following data from the 2015-16 college football season. The overall win rate is higher when betting against the public in big games.

2015-16 College Football Betting Against Public
*Big Games
Public Betting Big Games ATS Win Rate
<50% 172-154 52.8%
<40% 105-93 53.0%
<35% 77-68 53.1%
<30% 45-42 51.7%

Note the lousy win rates for betting against the public in small games. Avoid second tier teams and inconsequential matchups.

2. Spread and Total Straight Bets

College Football Betting Against the Spread

Analyze college football ATS trends to guide your betting strategy. Note how favorites vs. underdogs perform against the spread. Review similar data for home vs. away teams.

Dig deeper. Assess how home teams perform as favorites vs. underdogs. Do the same for away teams. Many valuable trends will develop over the course of a season. Use this link to see current and historical College Football ATS trends.

College Football Total Betting

You can identify good total betting opportunities from a sportsbook’s spread and total numbers. See our calculation here. You have an edge if total isn’t consistent with the calculation.

If the projected total is under the sportsbook’s total, bet the under. If the projected total is over the sportsbook’s total, bet the over.

Tip Watch our video explaining how to place total bets here.

3. College Football Prop Bets

Carefully handicap top teams and players. Review your sportsbook’s college football props page. Odds are commonly expressed as moneylines. Learn more about moneyline betting here.

The following are the most common college football prop bets.

Odds to Win the Heisman Trophy

2022 Heisman Trophy Futures Odds – Top 20 Athletes
Last Updated November 13, 2021 1:38 pm
Outcome SB3Gen SB3Gen
1. Bryce Young
2. Kenneth Walker
3. CJ Stroud
4. Matt Corral
5. Caleb Williams
6. Kenny Pickett
7. TreVeyon Henderson
8. Jordan Davis
9. Desmond Ridder
10. Brian Robinson Jr
11. Kyren Williams
12. Breece Hall
13. Zamir White
14. John Metchie III
15. Isiah Spiller
16. Brock Purdy
17. Spencer Sanders
18. Sam Howell
19. Hendon Hooker

Cached 2021-11-13 13:49:30

Example Heisman Trophy Odds

  • Johnson +700
  • Baker +1500
  • Smith +1800

This prop is a bet on this season’s future Heisman Trophy winner. Sportsbooks will offer odds for 20+ players. The 3-player list above is just an example.

Note each player’s odds. Minus numbers indicate a heavy favorite. Bettors must risk the ML value in dollars to make $100.

Plus numbers indicate less likely underdogs. A list with all plus numbers suggests no obvious favorite. Bettors must risk $100 to win the ML value.

Other individual player props work the same way. Make regular visits to your sportsbook’s props page. Prop bet lines and odds will update throughout the season.

Taking the most likely team isn’t necessarily an obvious winner. The least likely team could be a better value. Always research scoring trends of each team.

4. College Football Championship Futures

(See latest odds top of page)

Example Odds to win the Championship

  • Alabama +190
  • Clemson +500
  • Georgia +850
  • Ohio State +850

This future is a bet on a team’s probability of winning the National Championship. Bettors may choose 2 or more teams to manage risk.

Positive numbers indicate a less likely result. Risk $100 to with the ML value. Negative numbers indicate a more likely result. Risk the ML value to win $100.

See Also:

  • More stats in Tables & Reference below.
  • Review our analysis of AP preseason rankings below

Research your team as much as possible before betting. Bet immediately before the prop closes. Taking this bet too early is risking. Never bet with incomplete information.

5. Team Season Win Totals

This bet is a prop and future hybrid. Season win totals will have one negative and one positive value. These numbers assign odds to results above or a below a win total line.

Example Alabama Regular Season Wins

  • Over 11 -120
  • Under 11 -110

Risk $120 to win $100 that Alabama will win more than 11 games.
Risk $110 to win $100 that Alabama will win less than 11 games.
Note: Bet ties if Alabama wins exactly 11 games.

Example Washington State Regular Season Wins

  • Over 6.5 +120
  • Under 6.5 -150

This win total line includes ½ points. That means no tie bets are possible.

Risk $100 to win $120 that Washington State win more than 6.5 games. A result of 7 or more wins.
Risk $150 to win $100 that Washington State win less than 6.5 games. A result of 6 or less wins.

Handicap each team’s schedule. A historically strong team with an easy schedule suggests a winning final record. If you think they’ll win more games than the sportsbook’s line, bet over.

Place small bets. Your money will be tied up until the wager can be graded. This commonly happens at the end of the season. Or, when the team can no longer win enough games to exceed the win line. Then the under wins.

Best College Football Teams 2000 to Present

1. 2001 Miami Hurricanes

College Football Betting 2001 Miami Hurricanes

  • Record: 12-0
  • Total Points: 512
  • Ave. PPG: 42.7
  • Ave. Margin of Victory: 32.9

Miami cruised to the 2001 National Championship with a perfect 12-0 record. The Hurricanes crushed their opponents winning by an average of 32.9 points.

17 players were first round NFL draft picks. That includes wide receiver Andre Johnson who was the BCS Championship co-MVP with quarterback Ken Dorsey.

Johnson later enjoyed a 14 year career in the NFL, mostly spent on the Houston Texans.
Dorsey returned as a senior to lead Miami to the 2002 BCS Championship where they eventually lost to Ohio State in double overtime. In 2003 he was drafted in the seventh round to the San Francisco 49ers.

2. 2005 Texas Longhorns

College Football Betting 2005 Texas Longhorns

  • Record: 13-0
  • Total Points: 652
  • Ave. PPG: 50.2
  • Ave. Margin of Victory: 33.8

Texas eked out a 41-38 2005 BCS Championship win against defending National Champions Southern California. The Longhorns’ dramatic victory was the perfect topper to a 13-0 undefeated season.

Quarterback Vince Young powered the team’s offense all season. He was the first college quarterback to pass for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season.

Young, cornerback Aaron Ross and safeties Michael Griffin and Michael Huff went on the NFL. Vince Young played with the Tennessee Titans from 2006-2010, then with the Philadelphia Eagles for 2011. He retired in 2014.

3. 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide

College Football Betting 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Record: 12-1
  • Total Points: 453
  • Ave. PPG: 34.8
  • Ave. Margin of Victory: 27.5

Alabama’s 21-0 National Championship victory against LSU is the only shutout in BCS history. It was sweet revenge for Coach Nick Saban after the Crimson Tide finished second to the Tigers in the SEC.

Alabama’s defensive prowess goes without mention. It allowed just 8.2 points per game. Only one other team scored more than 14 points against them all season. This helped the 2011 Crimson Tide win most games comfortably, including a 42-14 romp over Auburn.

Tailback Trent Richardson was a first round NFL draft pick. He was joined by 3 teammates from Alabama’s formidable defense: Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dont’a Hightower.

4. 2013 Florida State Seminoles

  • Record: 14-0
  • Total Points: 723
  • Ave. PPG: 51.6
  • Ave. Margin of Victory: 41.8

Believe it or not, Florida State wasn’t ranked in the top 10 when the 2013-14 season began. Minds changed after the Seminoles started crushing seemingly better competition.

Freshman quarterback phenom Jameis Winston led the charge. FSU scored more than 50 points in seven games. This feat bumped their average points per game to an all-time FBS record 51.6. Their 723 season point total is also a record.

Winston also won the 2013 Heisman Trophy. He joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015 as the #1 overall draft pick. Any other choice would have been a gross oversight after his stellar performance with the Seminoles.

5. 2010 Auburn Tigers

  • Record: 14-0
  • Total Points: 577
  • Ave. PPG: 41.2
  • Ave. Margin of Victory: 15.5

Auburn didn’t exactly steamroll its opponents. In fact, the Tigers won 6 games by a touchdown or less. They made the 2011 National Championship facing the Oregon Ducks. The game was tied 19-19 with just over 2 minutes left. A favorable call secured a 37 yard gain for Auburn, setting up the eventual winning field goal.

Quarterback Cam Newton went on to win the Heisman Trophy. He was drafted #1 overall by the Carolina Panthers. He later took Carolina to the Super Bowl earning an MVP in the process.

Auburn faded somewhat after Newton’s departure. The Tigers remain a strong perennial SEC contender but have yet to make another National Championship. This is understandable given the long shadow Alabama casts from Tuscaloosa.

College Football Betting Tips

  1. Refresh your bankroll before College Football begins. Deposit early to avoid last minute credit card processing glitches.
  2. Monitor College Football betting props. Visit your sportsbook’s prop page regularly.
  3. Shop college football lines from multiple sportsbooks. SB3 has live odds here.
  4. Avoid large parlay bets of 4 or more selections. These wagers are risky. Stick to +EV spread bets, totals and moneylines.
  5. Consider taking a big underdog on the moneyline vs. against the spread. Winning underdog moneylines have higher expected value than underdog spread bets.

Greatest College Football Trick Plays

2019 Case Study: Can AP Preseason Rankings Predict a National Champion?

Note: Due to multiple cancellations arising from the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, we will not be updating this case study for the 2020-2021 season. It will be updated next year prior to the 2021-2022 season. Last year’s analysis follows below…

We’ve analyzed AP (Associated Press) Preseason college football rankings from 1998 to 2019. The goal was to determine if these rankings can predict the eventual National Champion.

The following insights will be helpful for National Championship futures bettors. Payouts are usually higher before a season begins because sportsbooks don’t have enough data to handicap each team. Strong teams losing the first 1-2 games will also get underdog status until they start winning again.

Preseason Rank Performance – 1998 to 2019

Read first column as teams ranked N or higher.
Ranked Championship
#1 3 14.29%
#2 or higher 10 47.62%
#3 or higher 11 52.38%
#4 or higher 11 52.38%
#5 or higher 14 66.67%
#6 or higher 14 66.67%
#7 or higher 15 71.43%
#8 or higher 15 71.43%
#9 or higher 15 71.43%
#10 or higher 16 76.19%

14.29% of preseason teams ranked #1 eventually won the National Championship. Choosing the #1 team is a bad bet. It’s only happened 3 times since 1998!

Preseason Teams Ranked #1 that Won Championship – 1998 to 2019

Preseason teams ranked #1 to win
Season Rank Team
1999 #1 Florida State
2004 #1 USC
2017 #1 Alabama

But 52.38% of teams ranked #3 or #4 or higher did win. That’s a coin flip. Still a risky bet by some measures.
A better bet? 65% of preseason teams ranked 5 or higher went on to win. Now probability is on the future bettor’s side.

Let’s dig into each rank’s performance. Some ranks perform better than others. Eliminating poor performers potentially decreases the cost of our future bet.

Most Common Rank to Win – 1998 to 2019

Most Common Ranks to Win and Percentage
Rank Wins Pct
#2 7 33.33%
#1 3 14.29%
#5 3 14.29%
#3 1 4.76%
#7 1 4.76%
#10 1 5.00%
#11 1 4.76%
#13 1 4.76%
#14 1 4.76%
#19 1 4.76%
#22 1 4.76%

Notice #2 teams win more than double the times a #1 wins. Bad news for any #1 and good news for this season’s #2. Interestingly #5 teams have won as much as #1 teams.

No #4 ranked preseason team has ever won the Championship between 1998-2019. The last #4 to win was Florida in 1996. #4 Nebraska also did it in 1994.

Does that mean the #4 team should be removed from our 5 team futures bet? It’s not a bad idea. You’ll save money paying only for 4 teams. Check each team’s historical performance before marching off to your bookie:

Times Top 5 Preseason Teams Won Championship – Best Records: 1998 to 2019

Win, Loss and Win Percentage for preseason teams ranked 5 or better winning Championship at least once
Team Won Lost Top 5 Seasons WinPct
Clemson 2 1 3 66.67%
Alabama 5 6 11 45.45%
Miami (FL) 1 3 4 25.00%
LSU 1 5 6 16.67%
Florida 1 5 6 16.67%
USC 1 6 7 14.29%
Florida State 1 7 8 12.50%
Texas 1 7 8 12.50%
Ohio State 1 9 10 10.00%

Clemson has the best record of all top 5 teams between 1998-2019, winning the National Championship 66.67% of the time. Keep a top 5 Clemson team in your futures bet!

Alabama and Miami (FL) have won 45% and 25% of the time respectively. Florida and LSU have each won once in their 6 top 5 preseason rankings appearances. These teams are less reliable.

Now let’s check the worst performers.

Times Top 5 Preseason Teams Didn’t Win Championship – Worst Records: 1998 to 2019

Preseason teams ranked 5 or better that have never won the championship
Team Won Lost Top 5 Seasons WinPct
Oklahoma 0 10 10 0.00%
Georgia 0 4 4 0.00%
Michigan 0 4 4 0.00%
Oregon 0 4 4 0.00%
Tennessee 0 3 3 0.00%
Nebraska 0 3 3 0.00%
Wisconsin 0 2 2 0.00%
West Virginia 0 2 2 0.00%
Boise State 0 2 2 0.00%
Stanford 0 1 1 0.00%
Arizona 0 1 1 0.00%
Baylor 0 1 1 0.00%
Notre Dame 0 1 1 0.00%
Penn State 0 1 1 0.00%
TCU 0 1 1 0.00%
Michigan State 0 1 1 0.00%
Auburn 0 1 1 0.00%

The AP ranked the Oklahoma Sooners 10 times in the preseason top 5 between 1998-2019. Each time they failed to win the National Championship. Michigan and Oregon both appeared 4 times and never won, either. Georgia, Tennessee and Nebraska each failed 3 times. Nebraska last won in 1997. Tennessee won in 1998 ranked #10 in the preseason.

2019-20 College Football Futures Summary Analysis

What does this mean for the 2019-20 National Championship? Which teams are investment-grade contenders?
The following table summarizes our conclusions using the statistical trends identified above.

College Football Futures Analysis: Preseason Top 5 – 1998-Present
Team 2019-20
Preseason Rank
Win Pct
Historical Team
Rank or higher
Win Pct
#1 Clemson 1 14.29% 2-1 66.67% 14.29%
#2 Alabama 2 33.33% 5-6 45.45% 47.62%
#3 Georgia 3 4.76% 0-3 0.00% 52.38%
#4 Oklahoma 4 0% 0-1 0.00% 52.38%
#5 Ohio State 5 14.29% 1-9 10.00% 66.67%

Our basic analysis leads to at least one important conclusion: don’t exclude Alabama! Here are some possible college football national championship future bets for the 2019-2020 season:

1. Clemson, Alabama, Georgia & Ohio State – Drop unlucky #4 Oklahoma. The Sooners have only been ranked top 5 once and have never won the National Championship when ranked top 5 in the preseason between 1998-2019.

2. Clemson, Alabama & Ohio State – Drop Georgia and Oklahoma. See above #1 why Oklahoma isn’t worth a bet. Georgia hasn’t won a championship despite 3 preseason top 5 appearances between 1998-2019. Also, only 4.76% of teams ranked #3 have won a title.

3. Clemson & Alabama – 47.62% of teams ranked 2 or higher have won the National Championship between 1998-2019. Clemson and Alabama have the best historical records of top 5 teams. Buyer beware: odds are less than a coin flip.

Is this bet worth it?

Is the expected value of these bets positive? Not based on historical trends.

A 4-teamer with a 65% probability is still risky (#1). Remember, you must divide your wager among 4 teams such that you make a profit if any of them wins. Try playing with an arbitrage calculator. You’ll get a rough idea about how much to bet on each team.

Don’t use arbitrage unless you cover all possibilities

Caution: Arbitrage assumes a fixed number of possibilities. In this case, there are more than 4 teams that could win. These 4 are only the most probable. There’s a 35% chance any other team wins. That means you would lose your entire investment.

If one of the 4 wins, you’ll make a small percentage gain. But if none win you’ll lose 100% of your investment. Futures bets are generally risky unless you can find arbitrage opportunities among small sets of teams, like NFL division futures. Read more here.

Tables and Reference

College Football Playoff Results 2014-Present

College Football Playoff Results 2014-Present
Season Winner Loser Score Site
2020 #1 Alabama
SEC Champions
#3 Ohio State
Big 10 Champions
52-24 Hard Rock Stadium

Miami Gardens, Florida
January 11, 2021
2019 #1 LSU
SEC Champions
#3 Clemson
ACC Champions
42-25 Mercedes-Benz Superdome

New Orleans, Louisiana
January 13, 2020
2018 #2 Clemson
ACC Champions
#1 Alabama
SEC Champions
44-16 Levi’s Stadium
Santa Clara, California
January 7, 2019
2017 #4 Alabama
SEC West Co-Champions
#3 Georgia
SEC Champions
26-23 OT Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Atlanta, Georgia
January 8, 2018
2016 #2 Clemson
ACC Champions
#1 Alabama
SEC Champions
35-31 Raymond James Stadium
Tampa, Florida
January 9, 2017
2015 #2 Alabama
SEC Champions
#1 Clemson
ACC Champions
45-40 University of Phoenix Stadium
Glendale, Arizona
January 11, 2016
2014 #4 Ohio State
Big Ten Champions
#2 Oregon
Pac-12 Champions
42-20 AT&T Stadium
Arlington, Texas
January 12, 2015

BCS National Championship Results

BCS National Championship Results
Season Winner Loser Score Site
2013 #1 Florida State
ACC Champs
#2 Auburn
SEC Champs
34-31 Rose Bowl
Pasadena, California
January 6, 2014
2012 #2 Alabama
SEC Champs
#1 Notre Dame
42-14 Sun Life Stadium
Miami Gardens, Florida
January 7, 2013
2011 #2 Alabama
#1 LSU
SEC Champs
21-0 Mercedes-Benz Superdome
New Orleans, Louisiana
January 9, 2012
2010 #1 Auburn
SEC Champs
#2 Oregon
Pac-10 Champs
22-19 University of Phoenix Stadium
Glendale, Arizona
January 10, 2011
2009 #1 Alabama
SEC Champs
#2 Texas
Big 12 Champs
37-21 Rose Bowl
Pasadena, California
January 7, 2010
2008 #2 Florida
SEC Champs
#1 Oklahoma
Big 12 Champs
24-14 Dolphin Stadium
Miami Gardens, Florida
January 8, 2009
2007 #2 LSU
SEC Champs
#1 Ohio State
Big Ten Champs
38-24 Louisiana Superdome
New Orleans
January 7, 2008
2006 #2 Florida
SEC Champs
#1 Ohio State
Big Ten Champs
41-14 University of Phoenix Stadium
Glendale, Arizona
January 8, 2007
2005 #2 Texas
Big 12 Champs
#1 USC
Pac-10 Champs
41-38 Rose Bowl Stadium
Pasadena, California
January 4, 2006
2004 #1 USC
Pac-10 Champs
#2 Oklahoma
Big 12 Champs
55-19 Pro Player Stadium
Miami Gardens, Florida
January 4, 2005
2003 #2 LSU
SEC Champs
#1 Oklahoma
21-14 Louisiana Superdome
New Orleans
January 4, 2004
2002 #2 Ohio State
Big Ten Co-Champs
#1 Miami (FL)
Big East Champs
31-24 Sun Devil Stadium
Tempe, Arizona
January 3, 2003
2001 #1 Miami (FL)
Big East Champs
#2 Nebraska
37-14 Rose Bowl
Pasadena, California
January 3, 2002
2000 #1 Oklahoma
Big 12 Champs
#2 Florida State
ACC Champs
13-2 Pro Player Stadium
January 3, 2001
1999 #1 Florida State
ACC Champs
#2 Virginia Tech
Big East Champs
46-29 Louisiana Superdome
New Orleans
January 4, 2000
1998 #1 Tennessee
SEC Champs
#2 Florida State
ACC Co-Champs
23-16 Sun Devil Stadium
Tempe, Arizona
January 4, 1999

BCS Team Records

BCS Team Records
Team Stat Year
Most Points 55, USC
vs. Oklahoma
Fewest points allowed 0
Alabama vs. LSU
Most Points Combined 79
Texas vs. USC
First downs 30
Texas vs. USC
Rushing yards 289, Texas
(36 att.) vs. USC
Passing yards 374
Oregon vs. Auburn
Total yards 556, Texas
(289 rush, 267 pass) vs. USC
Total plays 85
Auburn vs. Oregon
Largest comeback 18
Florida State vs. Auburn

BCS Individual Records

BCS Individual Records
Individual Stat Year
Total offense 467, Vince Young (QB)
Texas (267 pass, 200 rush) vs. USC
Rushing yards 200, Vince Young (QB)
Texas (19 att.) vs. USC
Rushing TDs 3, Vince Young (QB)
Texas vs. USC
Passing yards 363, Darron Thomas
Oregon vs. Auburn (28-41-2, 2 TD)
Passing TDs 5, Matt Leinart
USC vs. Oklahoma
Receptions 11, Kellen Winslow Jr.
Miami vs. Ohio State (122 yards, 1 TD)
Receiving yards (tie) 199, Peerless Price
Tennessee vs. Florida State (4 rec., 1 TD)
Receiving yards (tie) 199, Andre Johnson
Miami vs. Nebraska (7 rec., 2 TD)
Receiving TDs 3, Steve Smith
USC vs. Oklahoma
Field goals 5, Jeremy Shelley
Alabama vs. LSU
Tackles 18, James Laurinaitis
Ohio State vs. LSU
Sacks 3, Derrick Harvey
Florida vs. Ohio State
Interceptions 2, Sean Taylor
Miami vs. Ohio State

BCS & College Football Playoffs Average Stats

BCS & College Football Playoffs Average Stats
Stat Value
Average Winner’s Preseaon Ranking 6.238
Average Finalist’s Preseason Ranking 13.048

Lowest Ranked Preseason Team to Win – 1998 to 2019

Note: This table will update before the 2021-2022 season.

Lowest Ranked Pre-Season Team to Win
Rank Team Season
#22 Auburn 2010

Teams ranked 11 or Worse to Win – 1998 to 2019

Note: This table will update before the 2021-2022 season.

Teams ranked 11 or worse to win
Rank Team Season
#22 Auburn 2010
#19 Oklahoma 2000
#14 LSU 2003
#13 Ohio State 2002
#11 Florida State 2013

College Football Required Reading


espn.com/college-football/rankings/_/week/1/year/2001/seasontype/2 (2001-2017 Inclusive)

Author: Richard Lucas