Finding Value in Sides and Totals

College Football Betting: Finding Value in Sides and Totals

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper,

Of course, you want to pick winners when betting on college football. But picking which team will beat the spread is only part of it. And that’s how most people play. They see the lines and make their decisions. But if we want to take it to the next level, we will need to become more adept at extracting the best value out of our bets when it comes to betting sides and totals.

That is what separates the winners in this game from the rank-and-file bettors. The guys who succeed at college football wagering over the long haul have many different techniques, but there is always one thing they all have in common–finding maximum value in their wagers. And in college football, the opportunity to find increased value is greater than in the NFL. In college football, there are more teams, a lot of them being small-time Division I schools. The weakness in lines is more prevalent than in pro ball. There is simply more room for you to operate.

Nevertheless, you don’t want to tangle with the sharpest men in the business. If you had your choice, who would you rather try to outsmart or outmaneuver–the sharps or the general betting public? If you look at college football betting as trying to beat the posted line, you’re looking at it wrong. You want to beat the general public.

The way you do that is by striving to get better value than most people betting the same side you are. Let’s say you see a game on the board you want to bet–Boise State -14 at Nevada. Now is where it helps to understand line movement. Nevada-Reno is a team that has support, but in terms of national fan support and betting appeal, Boise State is far and away the more glamorous of the two teams. So the line is likely to go up. You rightfully jump on it early, before 14 becomes 17 or 18. If you’re sitting there with Boise State -14 and most other Boise State backers are laying 16 or more, you just succeeded in getting good value.

There are times, however, where your elevated sense of line movement tells you to wait. You might like Navy at +13.5 at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are one of the more supported teams in the country. You determine that the line is likely to move in your favor. In addition, whatever risk you stand in the line going to 13 is outweighed by the potential that it could move to 14 or better. 14 is a margin of victory that you would be more worried about. And Navy, while they have fans, are not likely to compete with Notre Dame in terms of support.

The same mentality applies to totals. Certain developments throughout the week might make that number go up or down. Perhaps a line was set in anticipation of bad weather, but it’s going to clear up by game-time. Or maybe some surprise bad weather is creeping into town, which would make that number go down. Then there are injuries suffered in practice and other factors that could affect a team. What if a team that uses a quick-trigger running game has a center hobbling around at practice. That’s information you would want to know.

Getting on the right side of a total can be measured by how it stands against the closing line. If you have the over at 51 and the closing total was 55, you are holding a good-value bet. If you have the under at 55 and the line closed at 52, you are getting poor value. So how do you know if a total will go up or down?


Look at weather reports. Start reading local papers that cover the teams involved in the game. Some of those local guys have the real lowdown on things that happen during the week. If you want to know if Kent State’s best offensive lineman was helped off the field at practice, you’re not going to get that info on Sportscenter. And don’t forget that the general betting public likes scoring. With two offensive teams playing, the tendency might be to bet over. Waiting for that number to blow up and then going under is a good value move. And if two defensively-oriented teams are playing, a lot of under bets might come in, making a late over bet the right wager.