In the United States, college football’s popularity is third among all sports, just behind the NFL and professional baseball. The sport’s television audience is large, as are average game attendance numbers. The sport’s large fan base is driven by pride in their favorite teams and a hunger for a form of football that’s a bit more “pure” – college players are unpaid amateurs, lending the sport an Olympic flavor.

The sport’s massive popularity (eclipsing even the NBA) means it has an equally-large presence in the gambling industry. The sport carries with it much of the good that’s found in NFL betting – league parity and a week or so between games during which bettors can research and handicap – while adding excitement due to a larger pool of teams and increased fan connection with players and squads.

The ability to select NCAA football winners successfully is rare – the sport’s large number of participants and truckloads of data require more research for handicappers than in some pro leagues. Also required is a bankroll that can withstand twenty-two weeks of ups and downs, since the sport’s season from beginning to end is nearly half a year long.

Why Bet on College Football Games?

A big part of the appeal of NCAAF bets is tradition. In America, fandom in the NCAA is determined by a gumbo of factors – regional and local bias, attendance at a D1 school, or family tradition play a big part in which NCAA squads a person is a fan of. Many bettors are college students or recent graduates, loyal to the team they spent four years screaming for in the stands.

Another appealing feature of the college football season for sports bettors is the sheer number of teams, games, statistics, and potential outcomes. Because of variations between conferences and teams, there are between 12 and 14 regular season games per Division 1 team. That means that each regular season of NCAA football is made up of some 1,500 games. Access to that large of a variety of betting options and handicapping-ready statistics is appealing to bettors because it means more opportunity for high-value wagers and a rich tapestry of data with which to pick winners.

The existence of regular head-to-head contests between teams (in rivalry games, in-conference games, and historical competitions going back a hundred years) makes finding trends easier; a given team will play a specific field of teams every season. Not only does the historical aspect of these contests add intrigue, it gives bettors a long view of a coach’s performance against specific teams, players, and coaches in the recent past.

With the addition of the College Football Playoff beginning in the 2014-2015 season, bettors now have more high-profile games to wager on, and the league will (hopefully) be able to use these games to determine a true champion. Gone are the BCS days, when two or even three legitimate contenders could claim the crown. The new system will no doubt bring in new fans, new bettors, and lots of media attention.

Basic NCAA Football Betting Strategy

The first tip every novice college football bettor should hear is this – be patient. This is easier said than done, especially with 50-plus games taking place during the NCAAF regular season. In sports betting terms, patience here refers to the ability to place only those wagers that a bettor thinks have high value. Because of massive media attention, a tendency among newcomers to wager on way too many games (usually because they think they have found a “sure-thing” NCAAF wager) leads to frustration. Patience, in college football betting, means knowing exactly when to place a bet.

Another important aspect of a college football strategy is the ability to take advantage of a moving line. As with any sport, point spreads in college football move; the difference for NCAAF bettors is that the variables involved in moving the line are legion. Everything from sports media rumors to one-sided action by squares betting identically can impact a college football line. Learning how to manage early lines – when to bet on them, when to wait – will take more than a single season of college football action.

Remembering that these are young amateur players, an understanding of emotions is important for NCAA football bettors. A big win one week can easily alter a team’s mindset heading into the next week; the same is true for a surprise loss the week before. The athletes that make up an average NCAA football team are just a couple of seasons out of high school and are particularly vulnerable to emotional highs and lows.

Three Must-Wager NCAA Football Games

With 1,500+ games in a given season (plus the huge number of bowl and championship games), it’s not difficult to find NCAA contests worth wagering on. The three types of games below are can’t-miss wagers for NCAA bettors.

Rivalry Games – In-conference or in-state opponents squaring off against one another are common in this sport, likely because these teams have been playing one another for decades. The amount of history behind classics like the Red River Shootout (Texas vs. Oklahoma) and the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn) give the game an emotional aspect that’s unlike anything in American sports.

Conference Championships – Even though these games are slightly less-important under the CFP than they were under the old BCS system, conference championships go a long way to determining the best teams in the land, and as such they are among the most high-profile and high-stakes games in any season.

The College Football Playoff – New in 2014, the CFP is a three-game playoff involving four teams hand-picked by a committee of NCAA experts. These games determine the league champion, and will likely be the most-covered and most-viewed games of the year.