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NCAAF 101: OVER/UNDER College Football Betting

Wagering on NCAA football teams requires a basic knowledge of the sport and an understanding of the different betting types. Here at Odds Shark, we can help you with both. Consider this page your new best friend.

We’ll explain how to make OVER/UNDER college football bets, complete with handicapping info.

What is an OVER/UNDER Bet?

An OVER/UNDER college football bet is a wager made on the total combined number of points scored by both teams. Sometimes referred to as a totals bet, prior to each NCAAF matchup, oddsmakers look at each squad to project the number of points they should score, then add the two together. You would look at the number and decide if you think the pooled score would be less (UNDER) or more (OVER) than the predicted score.

Unlike a moneyline bet where you need to simply predict a winner, you would need to look at the offense and defense of each team – more on that in a bit.

O/U Odds Explained

We use American-style odds (-500), but you can also choose from Fractional (1/5) and Decimal (1.20). At the sportsbook you’ll see totals betting lines laid out like this:

Auburn vs Ole Miss

OVER 52.5 (-125)

UNDER 52.5 (-125)

The bookmakers believe that both teams will combine to score in the vicinity of 52.5 points. If you believe that the collective score will be 53 or more, you would bet the OVER. On the other hand, if you think it’ll be 52 or less, you would take the UNDER.

The number in brackets refers to the actual odds. In this case, they’re the same at -125. This means that if you were to bet the O or the U, you’d get the same odds no matter which side of the bet you’d take. Let’s say you bet $25 on the OVER and it was a winning bet. You’d get a payout of $45 – your original $25 comes back to you, along with your loot of $20. Conversely, if you were to bet $25 on the UNDER and that was a winning bet, your payout would be the same since the odds are the same. Our Odds Calculator will show you how much you’d win based on the odds and amount bet.

For a bet like this, you don’t have to worry about the Tigers getting more field goals than the Rebels or which team is going to score more touchdowns. Since you’re looking for the sum of the total points, it doesn’t matter if the score is made up of TDs, FGs, two-point conversions or all three.

What Happens if there’s a PUSH?

A PUSH occurs when the total score hits the oddsmaker’s number exactly. If the odds are set at a whole number instead of a decimal, there is a chance of a PUSH. Using the same example as above, let’s say the sportsbook total is 52 instead of 52.5. If the combined score lands on 52 on the nose, your bet is refunded since neither the OVER nor the UNDER won.

Handicapping Your Totals Bets

Now that you understand how to make an OVER/UNDER college football bet, you need to do your research. Don’t worry, we’ll do some of it for you. You have things to do, people to see, and NCAA football teams to bet on.

Pace and Points Per Play (PPP)

A team’s offensive capability is equally as important as its defensive efficiency. Ask yourself this: Does the team finish drives? A squad that is capable of getting the ball into the end zone is more likely to put up more points, leading to the OVER.

Another question to ask is: Does this team create turnovers? Squads that do are more likely to keep scoring at bay or produce more points when they’re an underdog, leading to the UNDER.

Look at how a team paces itself on the field. This will help you determine how the game will go. Fast-paced teams are likely to put up more points, whereas slowpokes are not going to score as often. You should also consider a team’s points per play (PPP). Teams that average more PPP than their opponents are more likely to win. Makes sense, right? The more you outscore your opponent, the better chance you have of dominating the game. This is called a “duh moment,” and sports betting is filled with them.

But, be wary of explosive offenses when betting the UNDER. Fiery, fast offenses can be an UNDER bettor’s worst nightmare – unless you are afraid of sharks, then this would be your second-worst nightmare. Uptempo offenses that run fast and move downfield quickly are more likely to see their score sail way OVER the posted total. In cases where teams are known for their dangerous offensive prowess, the totals can’t seem to be set high enough and you should avoid taking the UNDER if you think the oddsmaker’s number should be higher.

In the same vein, fast offenses make for good OVER bets for numerous reasons. Not only does their tempo give them more chances to score, but it also gives opposing defenses less time to reset, which can lead to more points against.

Even when starters are pulled later in the game during a blowout, the backups can continue to run up the scoreboard as their coaches will want them to get experience manning the offense at the same speed – not to be confused with Speed, the fifth-highest grossing film of 1994.

Look for NCAA football teams that are installing these frenetic offenses and putting up big numbers early in the season. Bettors who can find these sorts of squads before the betting public catches on can usually get a lot of value on their OVER bets.

Does Home Field Matter?

There is much debate when betting college football OVER/UNDERs about home-field advantage. Historically, teams tend to play better when they’re on their own turf. They have the backing of their own fans and there’s no travel involved. But, does that mean you should take the OVER all the time? No.

You need to ask yourself this: Is it a rivalry game?

If it is, then you could be looking at big points. The intensity of rivalry games can sometimes lead to closer finishes since both teams have something to prove. You’ll need to examine the rivalry itself to know if you should take the OVER or UNDER. Is it The Game between the Ohio State and Michigan? Is it Tennessee vs Vanderbilt? Alabama vs LSU? Big rivalries could mean big points and big OVER wins.

Watch the Weather

Most college football games are played in outdoor stadiums. Before making your picks, look at the forecast. Poor weather makes it harder for players to pass and catch. Wind can hinder a kicker’s chances of getting the ball between the uprights. The worse the weather, the worse chances a team has of throwing up points. Run-heavy teams can have an easier time in inclement weather, whereas southern and West Coast teams could struggle when playing up north, especially later on in the season when it’s colder.

Injuries and Coaching Staff

A player’s health plays an important role in handicapping totals. Are key guys in the lineup? Are they injured? A backup quarterback who has never taken a snap before may not lead his team to any scoring drives. An inexperienced running back may not have as many catches as his more experienced counterpart who is sitting out a pivotal game with a broken arm.

You’ll also need to look at coaches. In the NFL, you’ll see more collaboration between staff and players. In college football, the staff have all the power. They’re the ones who come up with and call the plays, and if a player is unhappy with his coach, it could carry over onto the gridiron. A player may underperform as a form of protest if he believes his coach isn’t using him properly. This may sound immature, but remember that college players are young and for some of them, this is their first time away from home.

Look to the Betting Trends

Seeing how others are betting is an important part of handicapping. You can see which side the public is heavily backing with our Consensus page. Moreover, our Betting Trends page will show how the total has presented itself in games past. For instance, trends would look something like this:

Nebraska vs Purdue

• The total has gone OVER in 6 of Nebraska’s last 10 games on the road

• Nebraska is 3-3 SU (straight up) in its last 6 games when playing Purdue

• The total has gone OVER in 5 of Purdue’s last 9 games at home

• The total has gone UNDER in 2 of Purdue’s last 6 games

Using Our College Football Database

One of the greatest handicapping tools you can use besides our Betting Trends page is our NCAAF Database. Here, you can look at how a team has performed historically in certain situations. For example, you could see how Notre Dame did in its last 30 games against a certain opponent, on the road, at home, during the regular season, in the playoffs, as a favorite, or as an underdog. You’ll also be able to see if the total went OVER or UNDER, and what the score was.

Don’t Bet Blindly on OVERs

It may seem like a good rule of thumb to always take the OVER when it comes to NCAA football. Because it tends to be a high-scoring game, you’d think that betting OVERs all the time makes sense. While some teams are worth betting on the OVER, there is often value to be found going the other way on the UNDER instead.

A team that runs a standard pro-style offense that is putting up a ton of points against weak out-of-conference foes might get a load of hype and see huge totals set when conference play begins. This isn’t done for giggles. Oddsmakers tend to set higher totals for games like these because it’s assumed that the stronger team will dominate.

However, against teams that aren’t totally mismatched on defense and getting beat on every play, these offenses won’t be nearly as productive, and those who took the UNDER will come out on top.

The bottom line for betting college football totals is this: When making your picks, focus not only on how many points a team scores, but also on how it scores those points.