Outside of the realm of professional sports bettors, few college football fans have the robotic abilities it takes to fully handicap every game that takes place during a week of play. That would mean handicapping thousands of games every season, and with large teams and a wealth of raw data to mine, it is an impossible task. The trick to a decent college football betting strategy is not to be the world’s best data analyst or to have an uncanny memory of every game played in the last four seasons – the trick is following a few simple rules of thumb and only wagering where value is available.

Unfortunately, NCAA football fans are so passionate, so driven by a deep sense of passion for the game or for a team, they forget to follow the rules. When fans get into the wagering game, the likelihood of bad bets increases.

Fandom is all well and good, but subjective opinions don’t lead to positive returns. Because college football involves such a large pool of names, teams, conference, and divisions, being a fan is not in any way a bonus. Now that the NCAA has instituted a brand-new end-of-the-year playoff system, fan confusion and improper wagering will only get worse.

The strategies below, designed to help beginners to the world of NCAA football gambling come from two camps. One is simple common sense betting strategy common to sports wagering across all markets. The second category of advice has more to do with a participant’s level of participation in the number-crunching aspect of the sport. Essentially, we suggest that bettors do proper research and go into a wager with an understanding that tiny variables can affect the outcome of a game.

  1. Use Money Management

Bettors should become familiar with a little tool called a “unit bet size.” This isn’t complicated – a unit bet size is essentially a bettor’s entire bankroll for the season broken up by the total number of wagers they want to place. The idea is for bettors to put less of their cash at risk on each game, and to prevent them from over-wagering due to emotion.

For example, if a bettor has $1,000 for the entire 2014 NCAA football season, a unit bet size of $10 would allow for as many as 100 wagers between August and January. Once a bettor becomes more comfortable with the sport, they can decide to bet multiples of that unit on games they find lots of value in – a bettor that’s done his homework can place two or three units on a contest in which they feel heavily-favored.

Money management is important because it reduces the impact of the inevitable losing streak. It also protects a seasons’ worth of wagers from squandering. Remember that even the professionals barely break a 50% rate of success. These are people who spend their entire lives handicapping and line-searching.

  1. Condense the Card

Here, “the card” refers to a weeks’ worth of games offered by a given bookmaker. Bettors staring at a stack of odds for 60 different college football games will be intimidated, no doubt. The ability to condense from that large number of contests to a more-manageable number is important.

Many methods for condensing the number of available bets exist – some start by cutting out any game in which they have no knowledge or interest. Others start by cutting out all favored teams on the road – road favorites are notoriously bad wagers in college sports. The method used doesn’t matter, provided a bettor reduces their number of available wagers to something they can manage.

  1. Watch for Line Movement

Because sportsbooks offer different odds, and because these point spreads and other odds references move around plenty during the week before the game, it is important to work an understanding of how any why these numbers move into any NCAA football strategy.

Why do these numbers move? A large number of different factors are involved; everything from player injuries, action from people in the betting market, and even changes to front-office staff or player rumors can affect the line. The way a line move is just one more data point for bettors to work off of, and it also acts as an influence on how and when bettors act on a hunch.

For example, bettors interested in an underdog may be wise to wait a few days to get the best price point. That’s because the line on a heavy favorite often moves in order to encourage people to lay bets on the other side. Since bookmakers want a balance of wagers on either side of a contest, bets on underdogs may come with better terms as the week progresses.

  1. Do Your Homework

There is nothing wrong with placing a wager on a college football game without any prior knowledge – casual bets are fun, and not everyone has time to develop a betting strategy and research an entire league. Bettors who place a casual $10 wager on their alma mater should expect to enjoy the game they have a stake in, but not to win with any regularity.

Placing advantageous bets on college football teams requires work. Thankfully, the games occur about a week apart, granting bettors additional time to collect and analyze data. A basic set of wagering homework includes a detailed list of all bets placed for the year, analysis on all teams involved in the coming weeks’ wagers, a financial packet including bets won and lost as well as amounts won and lost, and information on how lines have moved at different bookmakers in the past.

  1. Find a Weakness and Exploit It

This seems like a basic bit of strategy, but it isn’t. In fact, looking for specific weaknesses and strengths among teams headed into a game is a decent way to micro-handicap. For bettors who don’t have time to analyze contests they want to wager on in detail, a simple analysis of strong and weak parts can be extremely useful.

The best teams in NCAA football history had their weaknesses, and the worst of the worst (I’m looking at you, Idaho Vandals) generally have a strong aspect or two. The trick is to determine which of a team’s weak and strong parts are the most important and to place a wager that reflects that belief.

Consider the implications of a pass-happy Air Raid offense on the road against a team that struggles to score. Without looking any deeper, it seems like a wager on the first team is a sure thing. But if that anemic home team offense is offset by a shut-down secondary, the outcome of the game looks totally different.

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