Playing the Point Spread and the Over Under
To be successful at NCAA Football handicapping gamblers need to understand three major differences between the professional and college game. All three have to do with the nature of the college game—the manner in which schedules are set up, the number of teams involved and the way in which rankings are determined. Understanding these aspects will help improve your handicapping of NCAA football games.
Often when a bettor who has been wagering exclusively on professional football switches to handicapping NCAA games, they are perplexed by the point spreads and the over/under. Often the spreads are huge and the over/unders are also gigantic. What’s the spread when Florida Atlantic visits Nebraska? Can is be 46 points with the over/under set at 62? It very well could be. Those are numbers you’ll never see in any NFL contest where a huge point spread is 14 and over/unders come in somewhere around 36 points.
Here’s why NCAA Football handicapping is such a different animal than NFL odds making.
Non-Conference Versus Conference Games
The Florida Atlantic Owls and Nebraska Cornhuskers’ match up would be an early-season, non-conference game. Florida Atlantic, which until 2005 was an independent non-conference school, now plays in the Sun Belt Conference. The school has fielded a football team for less than a decade. On the other hand, Nebraska is a Big 12 powerhouse that has been playing the game since 1890. They’ve won 46 conference titles, been to 45 bowl games and won five National Championships.
So when it comes to NCAA Football handicapping a huge point spread in this game seems inevitable. It’s a David versus Goliath scenario and David has to fight Goliath in Nebraska. The fact is that early in the season the NCAA often matches up teams that would normally never play one another and those games can often become massacres. There is no comparison to the level of talent a program like Nebraska attracts and a school like Florida Atlantic can sign.
The Talent Pool
There are 120 Division I NCAA football programs. There are over 8,000 players on those teams. In the NFL, there are fewer than 1,800 professional players. Simply do the math in terms of how much talent is out there and how many spots have to be filled when it comes to college football.
The NFL is known for its parity. The reason that so many professional teams are competitive is the fact that only the best of the best are chosen to play in the league and because the hard salary cap limits spending by each franchise, which helps spread the talent around. The NCAA certainly has rules about recruiting and the spending of cash but the fact is the fat cat schools with the best coaches, best facilities and best winning record attract the best players. The result is that even within conferences teams can be woefully mismatched. Once again, that translates into huge point spreads and over/unders.
Finally, the national rankings, which list the top-25 teams in the nation, are partly based on how a team is expected to perform against another compared to how they actually do perform when the game is played. Unlike the NFL, where a win is a win whether a team is victorious by one or 50 points, in college football a team’s margin of victory can mean the difference between being number one and number 10.
In the Florida Atlantic versus Nebraska game, it’s not enough for the Cornhuskers to beat the Owls. They have to whip them. If they don’t, those coaches and writers whose votes rank the teams in the two national polls might doubt how good the club really is. That could result in a lowering national ranking. And so, point totals and spreads can loom large.
When is comes to NCAA Football handicapping, there are certain factors that are part of the college football experience that influence margins of victory and how many points are scored in a game. When determining how you’re going to wager remember to keep these factors in mind.