NCAA Football Betting Guide

On Saturdays from late summer through early winter, NCAA football (NCAAF) is the biggest game in town. Once the regular season is in the books, bowl season takes over the spotlight, and that helps to set the stage for one of the biggest betting events of the year.

The College Football Playoff attracts tons of attention, even from fans who don’t follow the sport closely during the regular season. The legal sports betting environment has only helped to bolster the enthusiasm, including right here in Michigan.

While you can take your best shot at the CFP and national title game and call it a day, you’d be missing out on a whole lot by doing so. College football is an awesome sport which is chock full of excitement, and there’s a slew of reasons why seasoned handicappers make it a focal point.

For those new to the game, you’ll quickly see that there’s lots to love. We’re going to help cut down the learning curve immensely in this complete guide. Read on as we explore everything you need to know about betting on NCAAF.

Best NCAAF betting apps in Michigan

To get started, you’ll need a place to go to place your bets. Our recommended sportsbook operators up above check all the boxes. The platforms are smooth and slick, and signing up is hassle free. Click through on our exclusive links to begin the process.

You’ll get some outstanding bonus offers for doing so. After entering a few simple pieces of information, your account will be all set. If you take the time to download the app for your device from the sportsbook site, you’ll be able to bet on college football on the go.

How to bet on NCAA football in Michigan

Sports betting is legal in Michigan, but it took awhile to get here. In May 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States placed the question of sports betting legalization in the hands of the individual states to decide for themselves.

A number of states got up and running quickly, while others took some time or are still working on it. Legislation was passed in Michigan at the end of 2019 with the official launch of sportsbooks beginning in March 2020. You can now legally and safely bet on NCAAF and other major sports markets.

Before jumping in the deep end and placing bets, it’s a good idea to have a sense of the lay of the land. We’ll cover the basics that you need to know over the next few sections, starting with how to read and understand the odds.

NCAA football betting odds

The average Saturday during football season is jam-packed with games. You’ll find odds listed for each game on the docket. The marquee matchups can sometimes be found in the featured listings in the lobby, and you can click on the NCAAF link to find the rest.

For a default game listing, you’ll see the teams listed with the road team on top and the home team on bottom, but know that there are neutral site games from time to time. Next to each club will be a series of numbers that will resemble this.

  • Ohio State +110                +1.5 (-110)                  O 54.5 (-110)
  • Michigan -120                   -1.5 (-110)                   U 54.5 (-110)

The three sets of numbers you see are for the following bet types: moneyline, point spread and totals. Here’s how to read the odds.


The moneyline odds give us a quick snapshot of the game from the oddsmakers point of view. Favorites are designated with negative odds, while the number will be positive on the underdog side.

  • Ohio State       +110
  • Michigan         -120

Point Spread

The spread bet adds another wrinkle to the equation. Sportsbooks install a number on each contest which is akin to an estimated margin of victory. You can bet on the favorite minus the points or choose the underdog plus the points.

  • Ohio State       +1.5 (-110)
  • Michigan         -1.5 (-110)


The totals bet refers to the combined points that will be scored in the game by the two teams. Oddsmakers will set an estimate, and bettors then get to pick if they like the total to be Over or Under that number.

  • Over    54.5 (-110)
  • Under  54.5 (-110)

Take the time to review the odds in detail for each game you plan to wager on. The odds board can seem confusing at first glance, but it’ll become less so with just a little bit of practice.

Once you have a good understanding of the concept, you’ll find that the odds are almost like a free piece of research you can use to your advantage while breaking down the games.

NCAAF bet types

A good part of the appeal of college football has to do with the number of games you get to consider each week. The packed schedule can seem daunting for those new to the game, but the bright side is you can go through the list and simply pick out the ones you want to focus on.

There’s no need to try and handicap the entire slate. Once you have the games that you want to zero in on, you can start working through the kinds of bets you want to place.

Here are the most popular bet options you’ll have at your disposal, starting with the ones we took a glance at earlier.

NCAAF moneyline betting

The moneyline bet is a straightforward concept. All you need to do is pick which side you think will win between the favorite and underdog. The tighter the range between the odds, the closer the oddsmakers expect the game to be.

NCAAF point spread betting

Spread betting is very popular for CFB betting, but it’s also challenging to beat the sportsbooks consistently. For each game on the docket, there will be a spread you have to account for in your handicapping.

If you choose the favorite minus the points, then that side will need to win the game by a margin greater than the spread to cover. For the underdog, an outright victory or keeping the game closer than the spread translates into a cover.

NCAAF totals betting

A totals bet is also known as an Over/Under. That’s due to the choice that bettors need to make on the projected total set by oddsmakers. You can bet on the total points being Over or Under the mark when all is said and done.

Outside of the three main bet types, there are a number of other ways for you to get in the game with college football.

NCAAF prop betting

Prop bets are basically side wagers on things that might happen during the course of the contest. As a general rule, the bigger the game, the more prop betting opportunities there will be to explore.

Here are some examples of what you might find:

  • Winning side and total – Alabama or Clemson plus Over or Under
  • How many total TDs will be scored in the game – Over/Under 7.5?
  • Which side will have more rushing yards in the game – Michigan State or Wisconsin?

NCAAF parlay betting

Parlays are bets in which you include two or more outcomes on a single betting slip. The more choices you add, the better the potential return if you win. However, the difficulty also rises with each selection added. The total parlay odds will be based on the odds for each selection.

An example of a parlay would be three moneyline picks on one ticket:

  • Eastern Michigan over Central Michigan
  • Western Michigan over Miami-Ohio
  • Oklahoma over Texas

NCAAF teaser betting

The teaser option affords bettors with more flexibility on point spread bets. You can move the spread by a designated number of points for a series of games, but the odds will be adjusted based on the move. Teasers are typically offered at key numbers like 6, 6.5 or 7 points. As an example, you could adjust a 9-point spread down to 2 points with a 7-point teaser.

NCAAF round robin betting

A round robin bet is similar to a parlay in that you are including multiple selections on a single ticket. However, the round robin allows you to make multiple combinations as opposed to a single parlay. For example, you could use four teams and make six two-team combinations with a single round robin bet.

As you begin betting on NCAAF, you can zero in on a bet type or two and master the basics, such as moneyline and props. Once your skills advance, you can add more items to the arsenal and determine which wager types work best with your strategy.

Live betting on NCAAF

Live betting is yet another option you’ll have at your disposal for college football regular-season and bowl games. These are bets you can place after a game has already kicked off.

Odds and opportunities will vary based on what’s happening, but here are some examples of what you might come across.

  • What will be the outcome of Michigan’s next drive – TD/FG/Punt/TO/Downs?
  • Who will hold the lead at halftime – Baylor or Texas Tech?
  • Which side will have more passing yards in the first half – USC or Oregon?

This is a big area of growth in sports betting which has evolved into a must-have option for operators. Mobile betting apps make for a fantastic way to stay on top of these fast-moving markets.

Live betting can be lots of fun, but be careful not to get too swept up in the action. Always remember to only bet with amounts you are comfortable with.

The NCAAF futures market

You can also take a big picture view with your NCAAF betting by exploring the futures market. These are wagers you can place on events that will happen at a later date.

The market remains active nearly year-round and is chock full of opportunities.

  • National Championship Winner
  • Team to Make Playoffs
  • Conference and Division Winner
  • Team Regular Season Win Totals
  • Heisman Trophy Winner
  • Other Individual Awards

Using the national champion as an example, odds for the next edition are released soon after the current game ends. You can place your bets right away, or you can stay involved all season and look for appealing odds on squads you like.

How the NCAA football season works

The college football season is the most wonderful time of the year for many seasoned handicappers. While it only lasts for a few months, there are scores of opportunities to take advantage of, so those new to the game will find lots to like.

Here’s how the calendar breaks down:

Regular season

The NCAAF regular season kicks off at the end of August and rolls on through to late November or early December. Along the way, there are dozens of games to consider each and every week. There are 130 teams playing at the D1 level, and each of them will play at least 11 games, which is broken down into conference and non-conference play. At the conclusion of the regular season, the top teams in each conference, of which there are 10 at the D1 level, will play to crown a conference champ.

Bowl season

At the end of December and into early January, there are typically more than 40 bowl games. These are postseason contests which are essentially an award for programs which had themselves a solid regular season. In order to be eligible, a team must have at least six wins in the regular season. The better the team, then the more prestigious of a bowl game they’ll be invited to.

College Football Playoff

Towards the middle of the regular season, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will begin releasing a poll on the top teams in the land. At the conclusion of the conference championships, the four teams who have made the cut for the playoffs will be announced. The pairings of the prestigious New Year’s Six Bowls will also be unveiled. Two of the games listed below will play host to CFP semifinal games.

  • Rose Bowl
  • Sugar Bowl
  • Orange Bowl
  • Cotton Bowl
  • Peach Bowl
  • Fiesta Bowl

National championship game

The teams that win in the CFP semifinals will advance to the national title tilt, which is a standalone contest that’s played on a Monday night in early January. Before the CFP was implemented, there were several seasons in which there were disputes over the ‘true’ national champ. It’s now all decided on the field. This game is one of the biggest betting events of the entire sporting year.

NCAA football in Michigan

The Wolverine State is home to two powerhouse programs in the Big Ten which capture tons of attention. Here are some of the key details on both programs.

Michigan Wolverines

  • Home field: Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor
  • Head coach: Jim Harbaugh
  • Big Ten titles: 42 (last in 2004)
  • National titles: 11 (last in 1997)
  • Heisman Trophy winners: 3 (last was Charles Woodson in 1997)

Michigan State Spartans

  • Home field: Spartan Stadium in East Lansing
  • Head coach: Mel Tucker
  • Big Ten titles: 11 (last in 2015)
  • National titles: 6 (last in 1966)
  • Heisman Trophy winners: None

There’s also a trio of smaller programs which play at the D1 level in the Mid-American Conference. Here’s what you need to know about those schools.

Central Michigan Chippewas

  • Home field: Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mt. Pleasant
  • Head coach: Jim McElwain
  • Conference titles: 16 (last in 2009)

Eastern Michigan Eagles

  • Home field: Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti
  • Head coach: Chris Creighton
  • Conference titles: 10 (last in 1987)

Western Michigan Broncos

  • Home field: Tim Lester
  • Head coach: Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo
  • Conference titles: 4 (last in 2016)

NCAAF betting tips

If you’re the type that likes to research, then you’re going to love handicapping NCAAF games. There’s a ton of information out there for the taking, and those who put in the work can be rewarded by finding an edge. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you work towards building out a system you can call your own.

1. Study odds and line moves

As mentioned earlier, the odds are a research tool you can use to your advantage. Understand what the oddsmakers are telling you about the game, and also pay attention to line moves to see which way the money is flowing.

2. Realistically assess team strength

While everyone loves an upset — except for bettors on the other side — be sure to keep your expectations in check. There’s a wide disparity in program strength for lots of NCAAF matchups, so make a viable case before looking to land a moonshot.

3. Coaching and continuity

There’s lots of turnover in NCAAF, so programs that are returning a good amount of starters, especially at key positions and on the offensive line, while also keeping the coaching staff intact could be in line to make some noise.

For those who don’t have the time to break down games, you can always lean on advice from sources you trust. There are plenty of picks and tips to be found, many of which are free while others are of the paid variety. One note of caution: be sure to look for reputable sources that have a demonstrated track record of results for you to review.

NCAA Football FAQ

In 1997, Charles Woodson won the award in the wake of an electrifying two-way season for the Wolverines. Michigan has three Heisman Trophy winners in total with Desmond Howard and Tom Harmon the other award winners. Rival Michigan State has never produced a winner of NCAAF’s highest individual honor.


Yes, this has happened twice. In 2008, tackle Jake Long out of Michigan was drafted first overall by the Miami Dolphins. In 1941, running back Tom Harman, also a Wolverine, was the first-overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.



The first edition of the CFP was held after the 2014 season. Ohio State won the inaugural title under this format, defeating Oregon, 42-20. Over the following four years, Alabama and Clemson would win two titles each. LSU is the most recent champ with a 42-25 victory over Clemson in the 2020 title tilt.


These two programs have been huge factors in one of the top conferences in NCAAF. Michigan has won a total of 42 Big Ten crowns, the last of which came in 2004. Michigan State has 11 under its belt with the most recent coming in 2015. Add it all up, and the two powerhouse programs have combined for a whopping 53 Big Ten titles.

There are plenty of games that can be included on the list for consideration, so this is a question that’s certainly open for debate. From a Michigan perspective, the Wolverines were on the losing end of a stunning 34-32 defeat to Appalachian State at home in 2007. Michigan was ranked fifth in the nation at kickoff, while Appalachian was in the FCS level of the sport at the time.