College Football Picks | NCAA Predictions And Betting Advice For Championship Week

College football is a bettor’s paradise– there’s almost 100 more teams to bet on than the NFL and longshots upend heavy favorite’s dreams almost weekly. It’s high-scoring, high-flying fun from Tuesday through Saturday and chaos is rooted right in the middle of it all.

This page will serve as a guide through the 2020 college football season complete with live odds updated by the minute, recommendations on the day’s best bets, places to bet college football, strategy, and more. With the fluidity and uncertainty of the 2020 season, it’s important to keep as up-to-date as possible, making this page your best resource for the coming year.

College football Championship Week odds

College football picks for Championship Week

It’s finally conference championship weekend after a long season riddled with changes and cancellations. Teams are making a final case for the College Football Playoff, including Iowa State, USC, and Ohio State. There’s plenty of intriguing matchups ahead, so let’s break down the best bets of championship week.

#14 Northwestern @ #3 Ohio State, Saturday, December 19

Ohio State defensive back Shaun Wade commented on the upcoming matchup with the Wildcats, citing that the Buckeyes need to, “blow them out” to have a chance at the Playoff. By the time the committee makes their call on the final four teams, Ohio State will have played just six games; that’s been an area of contention among the college football world. With their final opportunity before Bowl Season being this matchup, Ohio State is out to prove they belong.

It’s been two weeks since the Buckeyes played after their annual rivalry with Michigan was cancelled. They’ll be raring to go and only Northwestern stands in their way. Expect Ohio State to come out swinging and they won’t slow down once they pick up a lead. It’s a talent gap issue for Northwestern, and this one could get ugly.

The Pick: Ohio State -20.5

Buffalo @ Ball State, Friday, December 18

Only one team is outscoring their opponents more, on average, than Buffalo (Alabama). The Bulls have posted a +30.8 average point margin this season behind the nation’s best rushing game (344.2 yards per game) and one of the top offensive lines. Jaret Patterson has eclipsed 1,000 yards in just five games played, posting 8.3 yards per carry on 125 carries; he’s also scored 18 touchdowns in those five games– just one less than his 2019 total (13 games). The Bulls are electric and score in a hurry.

Ball State has been adequate against the run this season– their 3.9 yards allowed per carry is 42nd in the nation. However, Ball State is 59th in scoring defense (27.5 points per game) and 44th in scoring margin (+6.2). They haven’t exhibited the ability to slow down offenses in the magnitude they’ll need to slow down Buffalo. The Bulls also rank 28st in scoring defense (21 points per game). 

The Pick: Buffalo -13.5

#11 Oklahoma @ #7 Iowa State, Saturday, December 19

The first meeting between these two was a major upset (at the time) for Iowa State. It sent Oklahoma into a two-game skid against unranked opponents and essentially ended their CFP hopes after just three weeks. Over Oklahoma’s last three games, the Sooners are third in the nation in average scoring margin (+31.3). They’ve turned the ship around and are back on the course they’ve been for the past five seasons.

Iowa State has played well this season, but have dropped games to Oklahoma State and Louisiana-Lafayette this year and squeaked out a win over Texas. It’s their first trip to the Big 12 Championship and the Cyclones haven’t won a conference championship since 1912. Experience matters in these situations, and Oklahoma has all of it; it’s a chance for the Sooners to secure their 50th conference title.

The Pick: Oklahoma -5.5

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Best college football betting apps

Once you’ve collected your data and are ready to place your bets, where you place them can be just as important as what bet you’re placing. The top three places to wager on college football are DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, and BetMGM. While preference is important, it’s also important to shop around at all of these sportsbooks to find the best odds; not all of them will have exactly the same lines. Just a couple minutes’ worth of shopping around could win you more money with your bets. While the names DraftKings and FanDuel might be best known for their offerings of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), they also have excellent (and legal) sportsbooks for wagering games and futures.

Not every state in the US has legalized sports gambling; it’s extremely important to recognize your individual state’s laws and regulations, which can be found here. For those outside of legal jurisdictions, DFS can offer a fun and legal way to wager on sports.

FanDuel and DraftKings offer great, user-friendly sources to bet weekly on player performances (Note: Offshore sportsbooks have been an under-the-radar source for sports bettors, but are not recognized legally in the US. It is not recommended to utilize these sources if you are outside of legal jurisdiction). You can find a list of legal sportsbooks in the US here.

How to bet on college football

When it comes to betting college football, there’s many more options than just straight winners and losers (referred to as “moneyline”); other options include point spread, the over/under, and prop bets. The moneyline refers to how likely a certain team is to win a game:

  • Ohio State -125
  • Minnesota +200

Ohio State (-125) is favored to win this matchup, while Minnesota (+200) is the underdog.
Over/under betting, in an individual game, refers to the amount of points scored, be it by an individual team or between both games combined. Consider the following example:

  • Ole Miss o66.5 (-110)
  • Georgia u66.5 (-110)

In this matchup, regardless of who wins, a bet on the over would require Georgia and Ole Miss to score 67 combined points or more; should they score 66 points or less, the under bet would win.

The point spread refers to how many points a team is favored to win by. For example:

  • Virginia Tech -14.5 (-110)
  • Pittsburgh +14.5 (-110)

Virginia Tech (-14.5) is favored to win by 14.5 points, meaning if they win the game by 15 or more, bets on Virginia Tech (-14.5) would win. If Virginia Tech wins by 14 or less or outright loses, bets on Pitt (+14.5) would win.

Each bet will have a number next to it, referring to the amount paid on a successful bet. For example:

  • UCLA -6.5 (-110)
  • Arizona +6.5 (-110)

A successful $100 bet on UCLA -6.5 (-110) would result in $90.90 worth of winnings, plus the initial $100 bet back for a total payout of $190.90. Higher numbers result in a higher payout; for example, a successful $100 bet on Minnesota (+200) would result in $200 worth of winnings for a total payout of $300.

Prop betting refers to individual performances rather than the total game and points, and can range from individual quarters to entire seasons. Consider the following example:

Total passing yards in 2020 for Trevor Lawrence

  • o3,650 (-110)
  • u3,650 (-110)

If Trevor Lawrence throws for 3,651 yards or more, the over bet would win. Should he fail to throw for 3,650 yards, the under bet would win. If he throws for exactly 3,650 yards, that is referred to as a push and all bettors’ wagers would be returned. This can apply to touchdowns in a game, completions in a quarter, nearly any statistic over any amount of time you can think of.

Futures betting refers to bets placed that will be played out over a set course, typically a season. These often include win totals and award winners, but can stretch to completion percentages, team turnovers, and rushing yards per game. Live betting is a great option for those who like the thrill of betting on games as they unfold. Live betting can range from second half over/under totals to better odds for teams as the game unfolds. For example, if Georgia Tech (-175) is down 14 at the half, their odds might jump to (+300) to win the game. Being able to capitalize on those adjustments in odds can result in serious money won, serious thrills, but also serious letdowns.

Advanced college football betting strategies

Now that the basic how-to has been covered, it’s time to consider strategy for successfully betting on college football. Fading the public is an incredibly helpful tool to use when deciding on bets. “Fading” refers to going against the grain and, when applied to fading the public, means going against the way the public is betting. A great time to use this tool is when there’s preseason hype on a team; for example, North Carolina in 2020 (7.5 projected wins). The public has been high on the Tarheels making a big jump this coming season, which pushes the win total higher than it maybe should be. This is a good time to bet the under, or away from what the public is betting once that win total gets too high (UNC is projected to finish 8-3 after a 7-6 season). This can be used for point spreads and other stats that might be swayed due to a widespread expectation that may or may not be warranted.

Anyone can look at total points, yards, etc. but often statistics can be the best liars. Knowing what metrics to look at and how to apply those metrics to your wagers will infinitely improve your odds of success. Yards per play, defensive efficiency, and turnover margin are stats that should never be ignored. If you’re really into deep dives, taking a look at expected points added (EPA– a tool analyst Warren Sharp lives by and succeeds with) is also an incredibly helpful statistic to help weigh the value of a player (used mostly in fantasy football, but can be applied to effects for injuries, as well). However, all stats should be used in context. There’s no end-all be-all metric that’s the skeleton key for unlocking betting success.

For those who are film junkies, former players or students of the game, individual matchups are extremely important to game outcomes. Just because Penn State has the 14th ranked pass defense in the country doesn’t mean Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman wouldn’t go over on his projected 50.5 receiving yards (-110). A size, speed, or technique advantage on either side of the ball can greatly impact individual performance and the outcome of a game. Knowing your injury report is key, too.

Other factors that sway games outside of player personnel include the weather (ex. warm-weather USC might have some difficulty playing in blinding snow at Utah), time zone and miles traveled (Boston College may struggle playing on the west coast due to disrupted circadian rhythm– seriously, check out the research on that– and travel fatigue), and altitude (though Washington plays at Colorado every other year, Florida State may need to adjust to the thinner air). Shopping for lines is a small, oft-overlooked trick that can earn you more dollars, as stressed in the Best College Football Betting Apps section.

There’s a stress put on situational betting, or taking a look at streaks and slumps. While very real and helpful when applied to recent weeks, it’s a common farce to believe trends that extend years (ex. The Texas Longhorns are 8-0 on the road when playing east of the Mississippi in September, therefore they are going to win at Georgia this year). Obscure yet convincing stats mislead bettors every day, and it’s important to know which trends to acknowledge (coach Ryan Day is 3-0 when facing a halftime deficit this season) versus which ones to dismiss (teams wearing red are 7-3 in the last ten Sugar Bowl matchups). However, a team that’s on a tear (ex. Kansas State has won their last six games, two against ranked opponents) might get favorable treatment (a 12.5 point spread against 5-2 Iowa State) due to their recent play. Being able to recognize real success versus six cheap wins against lesser opponents is a real advantage when betting– the public always likes to bet the “hot” teams.

Taking advantage of bonus offers, or offers that can help improve your odds, is also incredibly helpful. Some sportsbooks will offer “odds boosts” where you may be able to buy points; for example, if you are on the fence about Mississippi State (-4.5) versus Arkansas but have an odds boost that brings that spread down to (-2.5), you may feel more confident (and statistically win more) by utilizing those offers. Don’t overlook taking advantage of signup offers, as well.