Most college football teams return to action this week for the first time since 2020, and sports bettors across the country will be happy to be part of it in so many ways — right on up to those taking FIU -33.5 vs. LIU (whatever or whoever those are) Thursday night.
Betting with point spreads gets the average gambler a nearly 50% chance of profiting from any game, in addition to the entertainment value of rooting for a team while watching or scrolling.
But we’re here to tell profit-minded bettors there’s a way to bet on college football that guarantees their coming out ahead — or obtaining very close to a sure thing — if that’s the primary goal. All it requires is tying up your investment for four months in futures wagering on season win totals.
Let’s benefit from their disagreements
Many of the online sportsbooks operating nationally have posted an over/under option on season wins for all or most of the Division 1 programs. The beauty is the sportsbooks don’t always agree on the strength of teams.
Sometimes the projections and odds disparities are so wide that there’s an arbitrage opportunity by betting both the over and under while using different betting sites. Other times there’s a chance for a nice profit — with minimal risk involved — if the win total falls a certain way.
The catch is that the bettor has to reside in a state where it’s not only legal to bet, but where the sites with differing opinions are operating and the player has registered and funded the multiple accounts necessary to take advantage. The good news is that opportunity becomes more likely every day, seemingly, as more states legalize sports betting, get it up and running, and welcome a steady stream of new operators.
There would normally be a second catch: It takes time and research to find the best opportunities for multiple wagers that enable a bettor to spit in the eye of that ordinary house edge of 10%. We’ve taken care of that part by finding the best two-way (or three-way, in some cases) action using odds posted on college football win totals in multiple states by FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, FOX Bet, SuperBook, and BetRivers (with the latter using Kambi odds also available on multiple other sites, such as Unibet and Barstool).
Tying up money for the rest of 2021 isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re willing — and you have access to the sites involved — here are 10 excellent opportunities to have more in your account once the regular college football season ends than you do now. (Remember, these win totals are only for the scheduled games — not bowls or conference title games.)
Louisiana-Monroe 1.5 wins
OK, no normal bettor — only the most professional of sharps, who presumably don’t need this article for advice — has ever paid attention to the Warhawks, who are a bit less menacing than their nickname suggests. The Sun Belt Conference program went 0-10 last year, but that doesn’t begin to tell how bad it was: Louisiana-Monroe never held the lead once in a game.
By some means, the school attracted former Auburn coach Terry Bowden to take over this year, and he attracted former Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez to become offensive coordinator, and Rodriguez has settled on his son Rhett to become starting quarterback after transferring from Arizona.
Terry Bowden also said ULM could play multiple quarterbacks at Kentucky. https://t.co/JEnm15wLtL
— Adam Hunsucker (@Adam_Hunsucker) August 31, 2021
So things may have bottomed out for the Warhawks, but none of that matters for betting purposes. What counts is that while most betting sites set Louisiana-Monroe’s wins over/under at 1.5 (the non-conference schedule opens at Kentucky Saturday followed by LSU and Liberty — yikes), two sportsbooks could hardly be further apart on whether the team is more likely to stop at one win or get to two.
FOX Bet sets over 1.5 at +125, and BetMGM sets under 1.5 at +125. You bet those two in those ways (for god’s sakes, don’t do it backward), and if there’s a way to lose, we’re missing it. In fact, assuming you are in either Colorado, Michigan, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania (the states where both online sites operate), you might not find a better arbitrage opportunity in all of sports betting all year — or ever. Go Warhawks! (Or don’t — we don’t care, it doesn’t really matter. Just play is all.)
San Diego State 6.5 wins
OK, the Aztecs of the Mountain West Conference are at least a better football program than Louisiana-Monroe, even if the latter’s betting option can’t be matched and the school’s nickname is only equally as great. Last year was a bit of a downer as San Diego State only went 4-4, but it had made bowl games for 10 straight years before that.
The Aztecs open against New Mexico State Saturday night as a 30-point favorite, suggesting they should be back to their better-than-average ways. They have non-conference games afterward against Arizona, Utah, and Towson.
As for their season wins, 6.5 sounds right to just about everyone who sets odds. But here’s the thing: FOX Bet will pay off at +105 to anyone betting the over who succeeds, and DraftKings will do even better by paying +120 on winning bets of those taking under 6.5. If you bet both ways using the two sites, that means you spend the season rooting against coach Brady Hoke’s squad, because the “under” pays more. Even if they’re successful, however, you succeed, too, with the FOX Bet payoff. It’s magic!
Colorado State 4.5 to 5 wins
The first two examples were fairly simple, straightforward, winning propositions, but now we’re going to get slightly more complicated in deference to football fans in the beautiful sports betting state of Colorado and to the much-lauded SuperBook site there.
Many Coloradans would be happy to bet the Colorado State Rams no matter what, even after their recent disappointing campaigns (1-3 in the COVID-shortened season last year, 4-8 in 2019). After beating only Wyoming last year, they’re not expected to be a Mountain West Conference contender, and they will be challenged in their non-conference games starting with San Diego State Friday night, followed by Vanderbilt, Toledo, and Iowa.
The Colorado State football team is hosting fans for a game at Canvas Stadium on Friday for the first time since 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions. https://t.co/GJHbyyCBNY
— Coloradoan (@coloradoan) September 1, 2021
Most of the sportsbooks settle on 4.5 as the right over/under for Colorado State, but there’s another nice arbitrage opportunity in betting FanDuel over 4.5 at +105 and the SuperBook (still only in Colorado in addition to Nevada, but coming to New Jersey soon) under 4.5 at +120.
But here’s the extra wrinkle: BetMGM offers under 5 wins at -125. It presents the chance for a three-way, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you put this on top of the two other bets and the Rams win exactly 5 games, you push, get your MGM money back, and make a profit from FanDuel. If they win 4 games or fewer, you’re a winner from both SuperBook and BetMGM. If they win more than 5, you’re ecstatic no matter what if you’re a Colorado State fan. Really, it’s hard to lose here, and even bettors outside Colorado can focus on just the FanDuel-BetMGM opposing bets.
Toledo 8.5 wins
The Toledo Rockets almost always field a fine football team competitive in the MAC, but maybe not one you’d ordinarily care two cents about. But this year, they’re worth caring $20 about, or $200, or whatever your betting budget allows if you’re in the right state.
Coach John Candle’s team went 4-2 last year and enough starters return that it should be on a similar level in 2021, starting with a Saturday night home game against Norfolk State. There’s a little trip to Notre Dame to follow before finishing the non-conference schedule vs. Colorado State.
The Rockets are listed here because even though all of the sportsbooks agree on 8.5 as the right over/under for them, the oddsmakers’ leanings are far enough apart to assure studious bettors (or just those reading this) a profit. FanDuel puts over 8.5 wins at even money (or +100, as it lists it on the site). DraftKings and BetMGM, meanwhile, offer a payoff of +105 for betting on the under.
And if you happen to be in one of SuperBook’s two states, you can do even better, getting +110 on the under. One way or another, if you get two bets down going opposite ways, you can root all year against Toledo in order to seek a modest payoff while risking nothing.
Central Michigan 6.5 wins
As we go further down the list, the potential profits maybe get a little smaller, but the football programs don’t get any less obscure, which brings us to … the Central Michigan Chippewas!
They are one of the many directional schools in the MAC conference, and yet another on this list that is kinda OK, pretty good sometimes, but not great — none of which matters for our betting purposes. But last year, the Chippewas went 3-3, and the year before that they were 8-6. They open Saturday at Missouri and also play Robert Morris, LSU, and Florida International (ohhh, so that’s FIU!) in non-conference play. As if things weren’t tough enough in opening with an SEC foe, the Chippewas learned Wednesday coach Jim McElwain was heading into emergency surgery for appendicitis.
CMU opens the football season Saturday at Missouri but might be without head coach Jim McElwain, who has surgery Wednesday for appendicitis. https://t.co/khIWOufB8U
— Hugh Bernreuter (@BernreuterHugh) September 1, 2021
You want to make a little money off the sportsbooks’ o/u set at 6.5 for Central Michigan this year? It’s as easy as using BetRivers or SuperBook to bet the over at +115 while simultaneously visiting FanDuel to bet the under at +105. And they say sports betting is hard? Sheesh.
Arizona 2.5 wins
Just because your school is bigger and more recognizable and in a beautiful, sunny locale doesn’t mean it’s better — just ask fans of the Arizona Wildcats. The university overhauled the coaching staff after a winless 2020, 12 straight losses overall, and to top it all off at the end of last season, a 70-7 thrashing by rival Arizona State.
So no one’s likely surprised by that wins projection of 2.5 for the Wildcats, who start the season as a big underdog vs. BYU Saturday and also play San Diego State and Northern Arizona outside the Pac-12.
Some may be surprised, however, that they can bet on this team’s season with no chance to lose, regardless of how much Arizona does just that. BetRivers is listing over 2.5 wins at +105, while FanDuel and SuperBook offer +110 for going under 2.5 wins.
Ohio State 11 wins
This one is interesting, in that as you’ve noticed — with the help of our drumming it into you — a lot of these diverse opinions from oddsmakers arise on more obscure programs that will be viewed on television by no more than 1% of the country on any given Saturday. But then, there’s Ohio State.
No one questions the No. 4-ranked Buckeyes will repeat as a juggernaut, likely knocking everyone aside with casual disdain in the Big Ten while pursuing another College Football Playoff bid. But there’s a profitable nuance from the oddsmakers’ perception of just how great Ohio State will be.
Most sites set the over/under at 11, because well, nobody gets set at 12 (even in This Is Spinal Tap). But with FOX Bet, you can bet over 11 and get paid a return of +105. At DraftKings, you can bet under 11 and get paid a return of +105 also. In other words, you come out a nickel ahead for every $2 you’re willing to invest in this method by going both ways.
We can’t really call it gambling, in that you come out the same whether the Buckeyes win or lose. We just call it winning. And if you don’t like that, well …
SMU 6 to 6.5 wins
We don’t know whether to call them Southern Methodist or just SMU, but you may know them as the Mustangs who have returned to some level of success under coach Sonny Dykes, going 7-3 last year and 10-3 the year before. Despite that, oddsmakers are a little less optimistic about a program that has Abilene Christian, North Texas, and Louisiana Tech on its pre-American Athletic Conference schedule.
Visit https://t.co/fle1MJsXNd to purchase your spot! #PonyUpDallas https://t.co/eJWlSKaPAh
— SMU Athletics (@SMUMustangs) August 30, 2021
The recommended bet here is another three-way, even if there is an outside chance of losing money, depending on how much you bet on each and where things fall. On DraftKings, you can bet under 6.5 at +120 for starters. FanDuel has over 6.5 listed at just -105. FOX Bet can be bet over 6 at -150, creating a push where you profit from DraftKings if it falls on that number.
If SMU wins 7 or more, you should win two bets. Only 5 wins or less create a likely loss, and you get the adrenaline rush of rooting for the Mustangs every week without much to lose.
Utah State 3.5 to 4 wins
The Aggies are another program that stumbled during the COVID-plagued 2020 season and sent the former coaching staff packing afterward. When your only win all year comes against New Mexico, something’s gotta change.
It doesn’t necessarily mean things will be better quickly under Blake Anderson. His squad, which opens with a tough road visit to Washington State Saturday night, is expected to land near the bottom of the Mountain West Conference standings again.
Only the biggest optimists on the Aggies side expect them to win more than 4 games this season. Some say 3.5 is the right o/u, some say 4. The varying odds line up for the following recommendation using three sites: FanDuel over 3.5 at -105, DraftKings under 3.5 at +110, FOX Bet under 4 at -133. Sure, you could lose money if Utah State wins 5 or more. That’s why it’s called gambling, folks. You should be fine though.
Utah 8.5 to 9.5 wins
And, yes, astoundingly, we remain in the Beehive State for the final wonderful futures bet on our list. And seemingly just as rare, there’s a good team involved again.
The Utes are almost always good, though they started with two losses last year before finishing the shortened season 3-2. The year before they won the Pac-12 South. Coach Kyle Whittingham has coached Utah to 134 wins since 2005 — he pretty much knows what he’s doing by now.
The Utes start by hosting Weber State Thursday night. You think they can win that game? They also play BYU and San Diego State before starting conference play. There’s a lingering sting from the loss of running back Ty Jordan — the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year last season — in an accidental shooting death last Christmas, but that could also inspire his teammates to great heights this year.
There’s a range of 8.5, 9, or 9.5 wins as Utah’s over/under from sportsbooks. It sets up one interesting scenario involving potential loss, but we’re willing to take a risk, considering the likelihood of this being a nine-win team. FOX Bet lists over 8.5 wins at -120. FanDuel lists under 9.5 wins at -110.
Those aren’t crazy vig costs for taking a chance to win both bets when the Utes finish 9-3. You can make all the safe arbitrage bets you want up above. If you like a bit of a sweat, however, while staying up late on weekends to catch football from the West Coast, this is the bet for you.
Photo: John Jones/USA Today