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Last Updated: January 25, 2006

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College Football Money Lines

Introduction

I rarely find what I believe to be a good bet on an underdog on the money line. The following chart shows the probability of winning by point spread, based on historical data (from 1983 to 2005).

The following table shows the actual data. The estimated probability of winning is based on smoothing out the ups and downs. The fair money line is based on the estimated probability of winning. This table does not factor in "key numbers" in the NFL. In other words, some margin of victories are much more likely than others, especially 3 and 7. It is a much bigger handicap to be given 3.5 points compared to 2.5, thus the 3.5-point underdog is going to have a significantly lower chance of winning compared to a 2.5-point underdog. I'll leave adjustment to the reader (sorry).

To find the fair money line on a favorite, just multiply by -1. For example, a 7-point underdog shows an estimated probability of winning of 30.2%, which corresponds to a fair money line of +231. Thus, a 7-point favorite would have a 69.8% chance of winning, for a fair money line of -231.

Probability of Winning in the NFL by Point Spread

Spread Wins Loses Actual Probability Estimated Probability Fair Money Line
0 472 944 50.0% 50.0% 100
1.5 132 284 46.5% 45.5% 120
2 141 280 50.4% 44.1% 127
2.5 164 376 43.6% 42.6% 135
3 246 540 45.6% 41.1% 143
3.5 134 358 37.4% 39.7% 152
4 135 337 40.1% 38.3% 161
4.5 93 259 35.9% 36.9% 171
5 74 213 34.7% 35.5% 182
5.5 101 294 34.4% 34.1% 193
6 109 343 31.8% 32.8% 205
6.5 121 383 31.6% 31.5% 217
7 146 493 29.6% 30.2% 231
7.5 84 332 25.3% 29.0% 245
8 73 243 30.0% 27.8% 260
8.5 67 227 29.5% 26.6% 276
9 62 225 27.6% 25.5% 293
9.5 64 250 25.6% 24.3% 311
10 79 320 24.7% 23.3% 330
10.5 43 210 20.5% 22.2% 350
11 56 217 25.8% 21.2% 372
11.5 38 142 26.8% 20.2% 395
12 37 179 20.7% 19.3% 419
12.5 38 176 21.6% 18.4% 445
13 42 237 17.7% 17.5% 472
13.5 42 210 20.0% 16.6% 501
14 56 328 17.1% 15.8% 532
14.5 28 194 14.4% 15.0% 565
15 19 157 12.1% 14.3% 599
15.5 20 123 16.3% 13.6% 636
16 22 171 12.9% 12.9% 675
16.5 14 144 9.7% 12.2% 717
17 29 239 12.1% 11.6% 761
17.5 17 134 12.7% 11.0% 808
18 8 121 6.6% 10.4% 858
18.5 6 89 6.7% 9.9% 910
19 18 142 12.7% 9.4% 966
19.5 10 83 12.0% 8.9% 1,026
20 9 136 6.6% 8.4% 1,089
20.5 12 109 11.0% 8.0% 1,156
21 10 138 7.2% 7.5% 1,227
21.5 4 94 4.3% 7.1% 1,303
22 5 128 3.9% 6.7% 1,383
22.5 7 71 9.9% 6.4% 1,468
23 7 115 6.1% 6.0% 1,558
23.5 5 76 6.6% 5.7% 1,654
24 6 122 4.9% 5.4% 1,756
24.5 3 68 4.4% 5.1% 1,864
25 5 62 8.1% 4.8% 1,978
25.5 2 61 3.3% 4.5% 2,100
26 1 78 1.3% 4.3% 2,229
26.5 4 55 7.3% 4.1% 2,366
27 1 79 1.3% 3.8% 2,512
27.5 2 56 3.6% 3.6% 2,666
28 6 93 6.5% 3.4% 2,830
28.5 2 41 4.9% 3.2% 3,004
29 1 52 1.9% 3.0% 3,189
29.5 1 38 2.6% 2.9% 3,385
30 1 52 1.9% 2.7% 3,594
30.5 3 33 9.1% 2.6% 3,815
31 2 58 3.4% 2.4% 4,049


Written by: Michael Shackleford

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