Early Season College Football Betting

College Football Betting: Early Season College Football Betting

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

It’s important to hit the ground running early in the betting season when wagering on college football. We don’t want to spend the rest of the season trying to atone for early-seasons woes. The bad news is that it’s never easy to beat the bookie. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. At the same time, early in a college football season, there can be some gaps that we can possibly exploit.

Early in the season, a lot hasn’t yet been determined. The oddsmakers have an idea of what’s going on, but no iron-clad information or at least nothing like the info you get from seeing a team actually play. Not that there isn’t variance in form, but the writing on the wall will be there as the season carries on. That leaves early-season a prime time for opportunistic bettors willing to take a stand and live or die by their convictions can pounce on some good action. Let’s take a look at why early-season can be an advantageous time to get the year off to a good start:

Power of Perception: There is a lot of turnover in the college ranks. What was true yesterday might not be true tomorrow. But the way people perceived teams yesterday is likely to be how those teams are perceived tomorrow. This can be based on a few different things, but namely on how a team performed the previous season or that team’s overall Q-Rating.

A team that did very well last season will fester in bettor’s minds. The next season rolls around and maybe that isn’t the same team. But bettors will be acting like it is. There is a gap for us to occupy. Or maybe a team was really bad, did horribly against the spread, and suffered some high-profile beatings on the field. But a coaching change, growing experience, some personnel returning from injury, and any number of other things have made that team a lot better. We need to be on top of that. And when we see a team that gets a ton of national attention and we know they’re ready for a downfall, we need to capitalize on that. The same applies to traditionally-poor teams. We need to be on the cutting edge for when that team is ready to have its day in the sun.

Inaccurate Lines: The point spreads on college football games will invariably tighten as the year gets older. But in the beginning, even the oddsmakers will have enough blind spots and items of uncertainty to make the lines less than air-tight. Not that the wise guys in Vegas are asleep at the wheel, either. They’re really just posting numbers they feel will yield an equal amount of betting action on both sides. It’s really the public that is slow to acknowledge the winds of change in college football.

Pay Attention to Practice: A lot can be gathered by being in-tune with preseason preparation. This is especially true with teams that have revamped coaching staffs, where we need to see how players are picking up on new systems. A previously unheard-from stud could emerge in this part of the year and what’s wrong with knowing about it early? It’s just that a lot of times, bettors are surprised by what they’re seeing on the field early in a season when a lot of times, that information could have been ascertained by paying attention to practice.

Look Beyond Returning Starters: The element of returning starters can sometimes be a bit misleading. First of all, not all returning starters are going to be much better with added experience. It’s not a birthright. Naturally, we want to analyze the positions where a substantial vacancy has been left by a solid departing player, but we can never be sure if a spot won’t be filled better by incoming talent. But even the term “starter” can be misleading, as some players who technically don’t “start” are key pieces and whether they’re departing or remaining isn’t always properly accounted for. Our analysis needs to cover more than just the guys who start on paper. Doing so can give you a little edge early in a season, as you have an enriched view of a team’s true power.

Open Mind: It’s easier than it sounds. Our entire lives, we are geared to look at certain teams a certain way. Like if someone mentions Wake Forest, the first inclination is to think they’re bad. If someone mentions Wisconsin, we think of a running team. If someone mentions Boise State, we may picture high-flying aerial antics. Some of that may be true, but the more we lock into pre-conceived notions, the less likely we are able to notice the winds of change. In addition, we might have ideas of which teams are good, mediocre, or bad based on last season’s form. It’s always good to remember that, while also acknowledging that teams reserve the right to alter course without any prior notice.

Steer Clear of Media Bias: Not to imply that those in the media don’t understand the sport. A lot of them assuredly do. But the media is less of a provider of useful information as they are looking to get rankings. A lot of teams will receive a lion’s share of publicity, leading you to think they’re better than they really are. Or teams that are not that exciting or lack a robust following will barely get any coverage, though they’re true worth should warrant it. Let’s also remember that when those in the media are discussing college football, they’re doing so devoid of any wagering concerns. They’re just discussing pigskin in a general, straight-up sense. And for those of us looking to cover spreads, that information doesn’t always amount to much. When it comes to betting on college football, those who blaze their own paths are generally awarded the most.

Weird Match-Ups: Throughout the college football season, the bookie has a frame-of-reference when dealing with certain matchups. The teams are either rivals, have some recent history, or played common opponents. Early in a college football season, however, there are some matchups that are completely out-of-context. Teams with no common ground or shared history will play each other early in the college football year. While bookies will often handicap these games exceedingly well, there can still be little gaps that are unaccounted for that we can exploit. Not that we should go too outside our comfort zones in looking for bizarre matchups, but there can be opportunity in unchartered territory like when two teams from different contexts play each other.

Betting Against the Public: Numbers bear out that the public is generally out-of-tune early in a college football season. There are typically many bettors who haven’t updated their view of the sport and are essentially learning on the job. The general betting public can be stuck in the past. They’re slow to notice teams on the rise or ones who have taken a step back. That’s why it’s typically profitable early in the season to not side with the betting public. They’re betting historically-great teams while laying numbers that are too big. They’re not betting on traditionally-bad teams that are getting better because they need to see a team thrive before thinking they’re good. If anything, being on the same side of the betting public early in a season should be no cause for comfort.

Isolating Good Value: The concept of good value vs. bad value in college football betting is never more apparent than early in the season. Again, this is where the power of perception rules the day. The bookies, acting on the perceptions of the general betting public, set big numbers for the highly-ranked teams, while teams that have been overturned on their backs in recent seasons get big-time points, as the bookies really need to go out of their ways to induce betting on those teams. In other words, no one needs to be encouraged to bet on Alabama or Michigan. However, betting on SMU or Vanderbilt might require more incentive.


If you can develop a preseason understanding of teams that are primed to ebb or shine the upcoming season, you can isolate some good value early in the season. After all, it won’t take long for the writing to be on the wall—at which point, it’s too late. Look for solid candidates for teams that are either overrated or underrated. That’s step one. The key part is having the nerve to act on it. Not everyone has the moxie to make a bet on a 1-11 team from last season their bet of the week. At the end of the day, however, getting good betting value is what it’s all about.