The rules might be similar and many of the same handicapping principles stay the same, but capping college football and NFL action the same way can burn you at the fastest payout sportsbook. We point out some difference in the two footballs and how you should be prepping your bets:
Who stalks the sidelines holds a lot more weight in NCAA football than it does in the pros. College coaches have a certain identity and regular tendencies that football bettors can follow. That can be play calling on offense, particular trends in big games, or a tendency to run up the score without remorse – giving better ATS value to those programs.
A good college coach can also get more from a mediocre team, which means added value when they go against power programs. Teams like Kansas State with Bill Snyder, Washington State with Mike Leach, and Wisconsin with Paul Chryst always seem to compete with the elite-tier teams in their conference no matter the skill level on the roster.
In the NFL, head coaches don’t hold as much weight with the lines due to talent-rich rosters. While NFL coaches do have consistent tendencies they must always be adapting to their opponents – either pregame or in-game. Game plan can change week to week.
If a college coach were to miss a game for whatever reason, oddsmakers would likely adjust that team’s odds to make up for their absence. In the pros, perhaps only New England’s Bill Belichick would move a spread or total if he were unable to be there on Sunday.
Some fields in college can be worth more than the standard three points to the spread – spots like Columbus Ohio, Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, and Kyle Field at Texas A&M. Depending on the seating, student sections, and time of day – night games are generally more raucous – these hostile environments can have a big impact on visiting teams. After all, we’re talking about young impressionable college kids.
Home field doesn’t have the same impact in the pros. These teams and players are used to life on the road, with travel and opposing crowds, that they are as affected by these outside things. There are a handful of stadiums in the NFL that may be worth more than the perceived field-goal, including Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and CenturyLink Field in Seattle – two of the loudest venues in pro football. That noise can impact the visiting offense as they aren’t able to hear the snap counts.
Roster depth can be a huge issue for small schools and the mid-level programs in Power 5 conferences. One or two injuries at a certain position or unit can leave massive gaps in the offensive and defensive playbook. A team may have a senior or junior go down at a key position, leaving an inexperienced freshman or sophomore to step up suddenly.
The NFL doesn’t have that same liability. While injuries to key players can drastically alter the makeup of a team, the rosters are much deeper and much more talented. Cluster injuries are where you can find value in NFL ailments, with teams missing starters on the offensive or defensive lines, or secondary. Rival coaches are smart enough to exploit those soft spots, which can often decide how a game is won and lost.
On a given Saturday, there is over 50 Division I college football games on the schedule – from Power 5 conferences to smaller outlining leagues. It’s tough for books and bettors to pay close attention to all 130 programs, which means there are a number of lines that could be off and hold value for anyone able to spot those edges. College football is also a much smaller betting market than the NFL, so with less people betting into it the line value does not dry up as fast as the pros.
There are just 32 teams in the National Football League and each and every one is under the microscope. Bettors know more about the inner workings of NFL teams than they ever have and oddsmakers must make sure their opening numbers are solid and react quickly to sharp money and one-sided action. By the time Sunday rolls around, the NFL spreads and totals are so fine-tuned, it’s tough to win consistently.