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Last Updated: September 18, 2014

Betting College Football

Introduction

The purpose of this page is to explain the various ways to bet on college football. I've provided my usual statistics and advice.

Averages

The following table may not be of any help in the sports books, but I thought it was an interesting way to compare college football to the NFL.

Football Averages

Statistic College NFL
Total points scored 52.80 42.15
Over/under total 48.31 41.32
Point spread -5.40 -2.45
Home margin of victory 5.68 2.66
First downs 39.49 37.64
Rushing attempts 77.15 55.21
Rushing yards 313.12 229.52
Pass attempts 62.34 66.44
Pass yards 438.52 430.63
Interceptions 2.06 2.02
Kickoff return yards 166.14 161.90
Penalties 12.81 12.43
Penalty yards 109.36 102.77
Fumbles 3.44 2.94
Fumbles lost 1.74 1.41
Punts 10.35 9.66
Punt yards 419.42 415.04
Sacks 4.13 4.54
Sack yards 27.66 29.18
Quarter 1 points 11.95 8.33
Quarter 2 points 15.39 12.94
Quarter 3 points 12.07 8.92
Quarter 4 points 13.30 11.75


Margin of Victory

The following table shows the count and frequency of each margin of victory.

Margin of Victory

Margin
of Victory
Games Percentage
1 413 3.35%
2 327 2.65%
3 1187 9.63%
4 475 3.85%
5 324 2.63%
6 362 2.94%
7 901 7.31%
8 294 2.38%
9 152 1.23%
10 535 4.34%
11 289 2.34%
12 221 1.79%
13 225 1.82%
14 533 4.32%
15 139 1.13%
16 169 1.37%
17 488 3.96%
18 308 2.50%
19 179 1.45%
20 267 2.17%
21 452 3.67%
22 161 1.31%
23 174 1.41%
24 352 2.85%
25 226 1.83%
26 135 1.09%
27 213 1.73%
28 337 2.73%
29 99 0.80%
30 130 1.05%
31 270 2.19%
32 160 1.30%
33 73 0.59%
34 167 1.35%
35 219 1.78%
36 63 0.51%
37 93 0.75%
38 173 1.40%
39 91 0.74%
40 37 0.30%
41 94 0.76%
42 128 1.04%
43 28 0.23%
44 49 0.40%
45 96 0.78%
46 41 0.33%
47 25 0.20%
48 63 0.51%
49 77 0.62%
50 20 0.16%
51 23 0.19%
52 46 0.37%
53 30 0.24%
54 7 0.06%
55 26 0.21%
56 35 0.28%
57 6 0.05%
58 19 0.15%
59 21 0.17%
60 8 0.06%
61 1 0.01%
62 14 0.11%
63 23 0.19%
64+ 38 0.31%
Total 12331 100.00%


The next table shows the top ten margin of victories, in order.

Top Ten Margin of Victories

Rank Margin
of Victory
Games Percentage
1 3 1,187 9.63%
2 7 901 7.31%
3 10 535 4.34%
4 14 533 4.32%
5 17 488 3.96%
6 4 475 3.85%
7 21 452 3.67%
8 1 413 3.35%
9 6 362 2.94%
10 24 352 2.85%
Total 5,698 46.21%


Point Spread

The primary way to bet any football game is against the spread. The following table shows the probability of a win, loss, and tie, as well as the expected value according to all combinations of betting on a home/away and underdog/favorite. This table assumes the bettor is laying 11 to win 10, which is almost always the case.

Point Spread Bets

Bet Prob. Win Prob. Loss Prob. Tie Expected
Value
All underdogs 0.496298 0.487591 0.016112 -0.036411
All favorites 0.487591 0.496298 0.016112 -0.053033
All home 0.498338 0.485605 0.016057 -0.032571
All away 0.485605 0.498338 0.016057 -0.056878
Home underdog 0.505600 0.474971 0.019429 -0.015335
Home favorite 0.494567 0.491155 0.014278 -0.041549
Away underdog 0.491155 0.494567 0.014278 -0.048062
Away favorite 0.474971 0.505600 0.019429 -0.073808


Over-Under

The next table shows the possible outcomes and expected value of betting against the over/under line.

Over/Under Bets

Bet Prob. Win Prob. Loss Prob. Tie Expected
Value
Under 0.503232 0.483320 0.013447 -0.025836
Over 0.483320 0.503232 0.013447 -0.063850


Money Line

The following table shows the number of games in my data at each point spread on the underdog, and the number of times the underdog won. It also shows my estimated probability of winning after smoothing out all the ups and downs. The right column shows the fair line based on the estimated probability of winning.

Probability of Underdog Winning by Point Spread

Spread Wins Games Actual
Probability
Estimated
Probability
Fair
Money Line
0 42 84 50.0% 50.0% 100
0.5 0 0 0.0% 48.5% 106
1 125 268 46.6% 47.1% 112
1.5 130 246 52.8% 45.6% 119
2 124 264 47.0% 44.2% 126
2.5 224 482 46.5% 42.7% 134
3 318 700 45.4% 41.3% 142
3.5 182 507 35.9% 39.9% 151
4 134 326 41.1% 38.5% 160
4.5 97 279 34.8% 37.1% 169
5 89 227 39.2% 35.8% 179
5.5 102 285 35.8% 34.5% 190
6 109 330 33.0% 33.2% 202
6.5 130 418 31.1% 31.9% 214
7 172 551 31.2% 30.6% 227
7.5 100 365 27.4% 29.4% 240
8 60 227 26.4% 28.2% 255
8.5 59 202 29.2% 27.0% 270
9 55 199 27.6% 25.9% 286
9.5 57 242 23.6% 24.8% 304
10 121 401 30.2% 23.7% 322
10.5 56 250 22.4% 22.7% 341
11 48 196 24.5% 21.7% 362
11.5 30 141 21.3% 20.7% 383
12 36 175 20.6% 19.7% 407
12.5 38 162 23.5% 18.8% 431
13 38 222 17.1% 18.0% 457
13.5 59 245 24.1% 17.1% 484
14 48 331 14.5% 16.3% 514
14.5 29 184 15.8% 15.5% 544
15 19 139 13.7% 14.8% 577
15.5 20 110 18.2% 14.0% 612
16 25 134 18.7% 13.4% 649
16.5 16 162 9.9% 12.7% 688
17 26 246 10.6% 12.1% 729
17.5 18 144 12.5% 11.5% 773
18 7 110 6.4% 10.9% 820
18.5 7 82 8.5% 10.3% 869
19 11 109 10.1% 9.8% 921
19.5 9 87 10.3% 9.3% 977
20 11 152 7.2% 8.8% 1,036
20.5 12 113 10.6% 8.3% 1,098
21 6 153 3.9% 7.9% 1,164
21.5 4 104 3.8% 7.5% 1,234
22 7 107 6.5% 7.1% 1,308
22.5 5 68 7.4% 6.7% 1,387
23 7 93 7.5% 6.4% 1,470
23.5 5 98 5.1% 6.0% 1,559
24 4 126 3.2% 5.7% 1,653
24.5 4 85 4.7% 5.4% 1,752
25 7 66 10.6% 5.1% 1,858
25.5 1 48 2.1% 4.8% 1,969
26 2 68 2.9% 4.6% 2,088
26.5 6 61 9.8% 4.3% 2,214
27 1 79 1.3% 4.1% 2,347
27.5 6 73 8.2% 3.9% 2,488
28 6 108 5.6% 3.7% 2,638
28.5 5 57 8.8% 3.5% 2,796
29 2 52 3.8% 3.3% 2,965
29.5 1 45 2.2% 3.1% 3,143
30 1 50 2.0% 2.9% 3,332
30.5 3 47 6.4% 2.8% 3,533
31 2 54 3.7% 2.6% 3,745


To get the probability of a favorite winning, just take the difference from 100% of the underdog winning in the same game. For example, a 7-point underdog has a 30.6% estimated chance of winning. Thus, a 7-point favorite would have a 100%-30.6% = 69.4% chance of winning.

It should be mentioned that the estimated probability does not take into consideration key numbers. For example, the difference in probability of winning between a 2.5- and 3.5-point underdog would likely be more than the 42.7% - 39.9% = 2.8% suggested in the estimated probability column.

I also looked at this curve by whether it was a home or away underdog but did not find it statistically different enough to pay special treatment to.

The following graph illustrates the actual and estimated probabilities of winning.



Buying Extra Points

The following table shows the probability of winning, not counting ties, after getting an extra 0.5 to 2.5 points according to the fair spread. For example, you consider the fair spread on a team to be +3, but somebody will give you +3.5, then your probability of winning would be 53.42%.

Probability of Underdog Winning by Point Spread

Spread 0.5 Points 1.0 Point 1.5 Points 2.0 Points 2.5 Points
-21 0.520918 0.536281 0.551179 0.558373 0.565335
-20.5 0.515827 0.531190 0.538615 0.545809 0.558769
-20 0.515827 0.523484 0.530910 0.544301 0.557260
-19.5 0.507889 0.515546 0.529368 0.542759 0.558504
-19 0.507889 0.522142 0.535964 0.552234 0.567979
-18.5 0.514684 0.528938 0.545731 0.562001 0.568052
-18 0.514684 0.532002 0.548795 0.555047 0.561098
-17.5 0.517841 0.535159 0.541612 0.547864 0.553831
-17 0.517841 0.524496 0.530949 0.537114 0.543082
-16.5 0.506856 0.513510 0.519874 0.526040 0.544503
-16 0.506856 0.513418 0.519782 0.538860 0.557322
-15.5 0.506761 0.513324 0.533015 0.552092 0.560656
-15 0.506761 0.527067 0.546758 0.555606 0.564170
-14.5 0.520920 0.541225 0.550359 0.559207 0.567110
-14 0.520920 0.530338 0.539471 0.547638 0.555541
-13.5 0.509703 0.519121 0.527551 0.535717 0.544988
-13 0.509703 0.518395 0.526824 0.536404 0.545675
-12.5 0.508955 0.517647 0.527535 0.537115 0.555027
-12 0.508955 0.519152 0.529040 0.547548 0.565460
-11.5 0.510505 0.520702 0.539805 0.558313 0.563415
-11 0.510505 0.530205 0.549309 0.554580 0.559682
-10.5 0.520296 0.539995 0.545437 0.550708 0.559247
-10 0.520296 0.525907 0.531348 0.540171 0.548710
-9.5 0.505781 0.511392 0.520499 0.529322 0.554459
-9 0.505781 0.515172 0.524279 0.550252 0.575390
-8.5 0.509675 0.519066 0.545876 0.571850 0.582682
-8 0.509675 0.537321 0.564131 0.575324 0.586157
-7.5 0.528483 0.556129 0.567682 0.578875 0.588874
-7 0.528483 0.540396 0.551950 0.562281 0.572279
-6.5 0.512274 0.524188 0.534852 0.545183 0.559015
-6 0.512274 0.523271 0.533934 0.548227 0.562059
-5.5 0.511329 0.522325 0.537078 0.551370 0.581534
-5 0.511329 0.526542 0.541294 0.572461 0.602625
-4.5 0.515673 0.530885 0.563056 0.594223 0.604564
-4 0.515673 0.548847 0.581017 0.591702 0.602043
-3.5 0.534178 0.567352 0.578381 0.589065 0.601917
-3 0.534178 0.545551 0.556579 0.569858 0.582709
-2.5 0.511717 0.523090 0.536796 0.550075 0.554541
-2 0.511717 0.525851 0.539557 0.544172 0.548638
-1.5 0.514561 0.528695 0.533459 0.538074 0.550925
-1 0.514561 0.519473 0.524237 0.537516 0.550367
0 0.505061 0.519194 0.532901 0.543586 0.553926
1 0.514561 0.525934 0.536963 0.568130 0.598294
1.5 0.511717 0.523090 0.555260 0.586428 0.600260
2 0.511717 0.544891 0.577062 0.591354 0.605186
2.5 0.534178 0.567352 0.582104 0.596396 0.606395
3 0.534178 0.549390 0.564143 0.574474 0.584472
3.5 0.515673 0.530885 0.541549 0.551880 0.562713
4 0.515673 0.526669 0.537333 0.548526 0.559359
4.5 0.511329 0.522325 0.533879 0.545072 0.570209
5 0.511329 0.523243 0.534796 0.560770 0.585907
5.5 0.512274 0.524188 0.550998 0.576972 0.585510
6 0.512274 0.539921 0.566731 0.575553 0.584092
6.5 0.528483 0.556129 0.565236 0.574058 0.579160
7 0.528483 0.537874 0.546980 0.552252 0.557354
7.5 0.509675 0.519066 0.524507 0.529779 0.547691
8 0.509675 0.515286 0.520728 0.539235 0.557147
8.5 0.505781 0.511392 0.530496 0.549004 0.558275
9 0.505781 0.525481 0.544584 0.554164 0.563435
9.5 0.520296 0.539995 0.549884 0.559463 0.567367
10 0.520296 0.530492 0.540380 0.548547 0.556450
10.5 0.510505 0.520702 0.529131 0.537297 0.545861
11 0.510505 0.519197 0.527626 0.536475 0.545038
11.5 0.508955 0.517647 0.526781 0.535629 0.554092
12 0.508955 0.518373 0.527507 0.546584 0.565046
12.5 0.509703 0.519121 0.538813 0.557890 0.563857
13 0.509703 0.530009 0.549700 0.555866 0.561833
13.5 0.520920 0.541225 0.547589 0.553755 0.559806
14 0.520920 0.527482 0.533846 0.540098 0.546149
14.5 0.506761 0.513324 0.519777 0.526029 0.541775
15 0.506761 0.513416 0.519869 0.536138 0.551884
15.5 0.506856 0.513510 0.530304 0.546573 0.559533
16 0.506856 0.524173 0.540967 0.554358 0.567317
16.5 0.517841 0.535159 0.548981 0.562372 0.569334
17 0.517841 0.532095 0.545917 0.553110 0.560072
17.5 0.514684 0.528938 0.536363 0.543557 0.557525
18 0.514684 0.522341 0.529767 0.544200 0.558168
18.5 0.507889 0.515546 0.530443 0.544877 0.563338
19 0.507889 0.523251 0.538149 0.557225 0.575686
19.5 0.515827 0.531190 0.550880 0.569956
20 0.515827 0.536132 0.555822
20.5 0.520918 0.541223
21 0.520918


A practical use for the table above is in buying an extra half point. Most casinos will give you an extra half point if you lay 120, instead of the usual 110. The following table shows the probability of winning and expected value off of the five best spreads to buy a half point off of. Assuming a fair spread, the house edge laying 110 is 4.76%, this is worth the price to buy the extra half point off of spread of 3, 7, 10, and 14 only.

Value of Buying a Half Point by Point Spread

Spread Prob.
Win
Expected
Value
3 53.42% -2.07%
7 52.85% -3.11%
14 52.09% -4.50%
10 52.03% -4.61%
17 51.78% -5.06%


Teasers

Teasers are basically a sucker bet. Under the exact right circumstances, with generous odds, they can be a good bet. However, for recreational bettors picking teasers arbitrarily, they are an awful value.

For those who don't know, a teaser is like a parlay, except in the case of college football the player gets 6 to 7.5 extra points per leg. For these extra points, the wins are significantly less than a parlay.

To begin my analysis, the following table shows the probability of winning each leg with 6 to 7.5 extra points and according to whether the player is teasing a side, under, over, or doing a "Wong" teaser, which I'll explain momentarily.

Probability of each Teaser Leg Winning

Points Side Under Over Wong
6 65.39% 65.39% 63.31% 71.57%
6.5 66.49% 66.47% 64.34%
7 67.72% 67.58% 65.47%
7.5 68.87% 68.63% 66.67%


Before going further, let me explain what a Wong Teaser is. As far as I know, the first time the idea was published was in Stanford Wong's book Sharp Sports Betting. Wong correctly noted that 3 and 7 were the two most common margins of victory in the NFL. He advised teasing over these two key numbers. It works only fair spreads of +1.5 to +2.5 and -7.5 to -8.5. For example, teasing a +2 underdog to +8, allowing the team to lose by a field goal or touchdown and still cover the spread.

While this could be done with any number of points in the teaser, it is only worthwhile with six-point teasers, due to the depressed payouts getting more than six points.

That said, the next table shows the expected value of six-point teasers by the various number of picks and pays I have seen and across the type of bet being teased.

Expected Value of 6-Point Teasers

Legs Pays Side Under Over Wong
2 5 to 6 -21.60% -21.62% -26.52% -6.08%
2 1 -14.48% -14.49% -19.84% 2.45%
3 1.4 -32.89% -32.91% -39.10% -12.00%
3 1.6 -27.30% -27.32% -34.03% -4.67%
3 1.7 -24.50% -24.52% -31.49% -1.01%
3 1.8 -21.71% -21.73% -28.95% 2.66%
4 2.5 -36.00% -36.03% -43.77% -8.15%
4 2.8 -30.52% -30.54% -38.95% -0.28%
4 3 -26.86% -26.89% -35.74% 4.97%
5 4 -40.22% -40.24% -49.15% -6.09%
5 4.5 -34.24% -34.27% -44.06% 3.30%
6 6 -45.27% -45.30% -54.93% -5.90%
6 6.5 -41.36% -41.39% -51.71% 0.82%
6 7 -37.45% -37.49% -48.49% 7.54%
7 9 -48.87% -48.91% -59.24% -3.78%
7 10 -43.76% -43.80% -55.16% 5.84%
8 10 -63.22% -63.25% -71.61% -24.25%
8 12 -56.54% -56.57% -66.45% -10.48%


As you can see, there are a lot of very negative expected values in the table above. The few positive ones are for Wong teasers only and only under the most generous odds, which can be hard to find. The liberal pays with the positive expected value for Wong teasers can be found at Coast/Boyd casinos.

I should also state that there were only 1,780 games in my data that had a spread in the Wong teaser range. The 71.57% chance I show of a Wong teaser winning should be considered rather rough, with a standard deviation of 1.70%. Other research leads me to believe the probability of a Wong teaser winning any given leg is closer to 68.9%.

The next table shows the expected value for 6.5-point teasers. As mentioned before, Wong teasers are only good when buying six points, so that column is omitted from the 6.5, 7, and 7.5-point tables.

Expected Value of 6.5-Point Teasers

Legs Pays Side Under Over
2 10 to 13 -21.80% -21.83% -26.77%
2 5 to 6 -18.96% -19.00% -24.12%
2 10 to 11 -15.61% -15.65% -20.98%
3 1.2 -35.35% -35.39% -41.42%
3 1.5 -26.53% -26.58% -33.43%
3 1.6 -23.59% -23.64% -30.76%
4 2 -41.38% -41.43% -48.60%
4 2.5 -31.61% -31.67% -40.04%
4 3 -21.84% -21.91% -31.47%
5 3.5 -41.54% -41.61% -50.40%
5 4 -35.05% -35.12% -44.89%
5 4.5 -28.55% -28.63% -39.38%
6 5 -48.18% -48.25% -57.45%
6 5.5 -43.86% -43.93% -53.91%
6 6 -39.54% -39.62% -50.36%
6 7 -30.91% -31.00% -43.27%
7 8 -48.32% -48.40% -58.94%
7 9 -42.58% -42.67% -54.38%
8 9 -61.82% -61.89% -70.65%
8 10 -58.01% -58.08% -67.71%
8 12 -50.37% -50.46% -61.84%


The next table shows the expected values for 7-point college football teasers.

Expected Value of 7-Point Teasers

Legs Pays Side Under Over
2 5 to 7 -21.39% -21.70% -26.53%
2 10 to 13 -18.87% -19.19% -24.17%
2 5 to 6 -15.93% -16.27% -21.42%
3 1 -37.89% -38.27% -43.88%
3 1.2 -31.68% -32.09% -38.27%
3 1.4 -25.47% -25.92% -32.66%
3 1.5 -22.37% -22.83% -29.85%
4 1.8 -41.12% -41.59% -48.57%
4 2 -36.92% -37.42% -44.89%
4 2.5 -26.40% -26.99% -35.71%
5 3 -43.04% -43.61% -51.90%
5 3.5 -35.92% -36.56% -45.88%
6 4 -51.79% -52.36% -60.63%
6 5 -42.14% -42.84% -52.76%
6 6 -32.50% -33.31% -44.89%
7 6.5 -51.03% -51.71% -61.34%
7 7 -47.76% -48.49% -58.77%
7 8 -41.23% -42.05% -53.61%
8 9 -55.78% -56.49% -66.26%
8 12 -42.52% -43.43% -56.13%


The next table shows the expected values for 7.5-point college football teasers.

Expected Value of 7.5-Point Teasers

Legs Pays Side Under Over
2 5 to 7 -18.68% -19.26% -23.81%
2 2 to 3 -20.94% -21.50% -25.93%
3 1.2 -28.13% -28.89% -34.81%
3 1.5 -18.33% -19.19% -25.93%
4 1.8 -37.00% -37.89% -44.69%
4 2 -32.50% -33.45% -40.74%
5 3 -38.01% -39.10% -47.33%
5 3.5 -30.27% -31.49% -40.74%
6 4 -46.64% -47.76% -56.10%
6 5 -35.96% -37.31% -47.33%
7 7 -41.19% -42.63% -53.18%
8 10 -44.31% -45.87% -57.08%


To conclude the topic of college football teasers, stay away from them with a 10-foot pole unless you are crossing both the 3 and 7 point margins of victory with a six-point teaser on every leg as well as getting the liberal Coast/Boyd casino odds.

Data

The data used in this analysis is from 12,231 college football games from 1996 to 2013. The reason I started in 1996 is that is when overtime rules were introduced to eliminate ties. The data was rather dirty, so I had to cut out a lot of games that had ridiculous information, like a point spread of -100, a negative over/under line, the sum of the points scored by quarter was less than the total points in the game, or the game ended in a tie. I'm sure there is still some bad data in there, but I believe the vast majority to be okay.


Written by: Michael Shackleford

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