College football’s wildness and unpredictability is part of what makes the sport so fun to watch. Unlike the NFL, college football is full of lopsided matchups, huge blowouts, and excessively high scores.
This chaos can make it seem like outcomes are highly random. Even the experts in Vegas struggle to predict games. If the big shots struggle with college football, is it smart for us to even try? Are we bound to lose? Today I want to focus on totals and whether we can gain an advantage from betting them in college football.
Why Bet Totals?
It is a commonly held truth that totals are easier to beat than point spreads in all sports. The evidence for this lies in the maximum bets allowed by bookies.
Log onto your favorite book. You will notice that the max allowed bet for totals is much lower than that of a spread. This is because totals are easier to beat and thus pose a greater risk to books. They offset this risk by lowering the maximum allowed bet.
So assume that college football is your sport and you want to get into totals betting. What is the first step? I want to show a few numbers that quantify exactly how often Vegas is in the ballpark with their totals.
Vegas Is Often Way Off
This first chart displays the number of games in which Vegas is at least a touchdown off when setting the total for a college football game.
|Year||# of Games w/Margin >=7||% of Games w/Margin >=7|
Surprising to say the least. Vegas is at least 7 points off 65.3% of the time. This is significant because most teasers are 6 or 7 points. I don’t like teasers or parlays in the NFL, and they are an even worse idea in college football.
Teasers are bound to be -EV plays, but I suppose you could make an argument in favor of teasers in certain unique cases. If you believe the total or spread will be very close to what Vegas predicts, then maybe teasers are an okay play … maybe.
Because we know the total is at least 7 points off 65.3% of the time, we should really think twice before placing any teaser bets.
Here is another chart, this time exploring how often Vegas is 2 touchdowns off.
|Year||# of Games w/Margin >=14||% of Games w/Margin >=14|
In over one-third of college football games, the Vegas total is off by at least 14 points.
Far too often, we are suckered into thinking that the game is going to play out exactly like Vegas predicts. I call this falling for the spread storyline.
The same concept applies to totals. As is evidenced by the above numbers, just because a total is set at 60 does not mean the game will finish anywhere near 60 points.
Bet the Side With the Most Potential
So I was on a Reddit sports betting forum once (don’t roll your eyes!) and I read about a guy who created some algorithms that told him which MLB offense in a given game was more likely to break out and score runs in bunches.
His logic was that he wants to be betting on the side that has the greatest chance of running away with the game. This reasoning perfectly explains why we should bet totals in college football.
Because the total has a high chance of being way wrong, we should err on the side with the greatest potential. I will use a term called the “4 units,” which is simply each team’s offense and each team’s defense.
I would bet the over/under assuming the best of the 4 units will dominate. If you think either defense will dominate, bet the under.
If you think either offense will dominate (and they like to pass a lot), bet the over. If you think an offense that likes to run a lot will dominate, you may want to bet the under because they will chew lots of clock.
Now this is a very simplistic version of the aforementioned Redditor’s idea, but if you take the time to flesh out a nice little system, you may have a leg up in the lucrative totals betting market.
Remember, Vegas is at least 7 points off 65.3% of the time. Find a way to improve your handicapping skills and you might find out just how lucrative totals betting can be!
Kreighton loves sports, math, writing, and winning — he combines all of them as a writer for WagerBop. His favorite sports to review and bet are MLB, NFL, NBA, NCAAF, and NCAABB.