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A college football gambling cheat sheet for 2018, with numbers and projections to give you an edge

Here are some numbers that can help you make informed choices.

AllState Sugar Bowl - Clemson v Alabama Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Welcome to the first college football season since the Supreme Court allowed states to start legalizing sports gambling. Maybe you’re betting on the sport in person for the first time, or maybe you’re still betting online.

If you want to bet on this sport, you’ll need to accept a certain degree of chaos. Betting is risky in any circumstance, and riding your hard-earned dollars on the athletic performance of unpaid teenagers is not a proven road to riches.

To give yourself a better chance, use these numbers. The ones here are most useful for futures betting ahead of Week 1’s kickoff — team win totals, national championship bets.

But S&P+ updates each week, and Bill Connelly posts the system’s weekly picks each Thursday on our college football page. You’ll start to see Vegas lines trickle out on Sundays for the coming week, with point totals maybe a day or so behind. Here are Week 1’s.

Let’s compare Connelly’s S&P+ win projections (based exclusively on a computer model) to oddsmakers’ win totals.

S&P+, SB Nation’s preferred college football advanced stat, uses play-by-play data and adjusts for opponent strength to paint a picture of how good a team really is. The system is explained here. On a weekly basis, it usually beats the Vegas spread 50 percent (fine) to 54 percent (excellent in college football) of the time; nothing is perfect, but it’s proven to be one of the best starting points out there.

These are S&P+’s FBS regular season win projections, alongside regular season win total over/unders from Vegas’ South Point Casino in late May (one thing to keep in mind for some of the top teams like Alabama and Clemson is that S&P+ is designed to start out conservative, when it comes to win totals):

College football win totals and S&P+ projections

Team Vegas total S&P+ projection
Team Vegas total S&P+ projection
Air Force 4.5 4
Akron 4 4.3
Alabama 11 9.9
Appalachian State 8.5 8.5
Arizona 7.5 7.7
Arizona State 5 5.1
Arkansas 6 6
Arkansas State 9 8.4
Army 7.5 7.4
Auburn 9 8.9
Ball State 4 3.9
Baylor 6 5.9
Boise State 10 9
Boston College 5.5 5.9
Bowling Green 5.5 4.7
Buffalo 6.5 6.6
BYU 5.5 5.4
California 5.5 5.4
Central Florida 9 9.6
Central Michigan 4 4.5
Charlotte 3.5 3.6
Cincinnati 4 6.1
Clemson 11 10.5
Coastal Carolina 3.5 4.8
Colorado 4 4.4
Colorado State 5.5 6.2
Connecticut 3.5 3
Duke 6.5 6.5
East Carolina 3 2.7
Eastern Michigan 6 5.8
Florida 7.5 6.9
Florida Atlantic 9 8.8
Florida International 5 4.9
Florida State 7.5 7.2
Fresno State 8 8.2
Georgia 10.5 10.1
Georgia Southern 6.5 5.6
Georgia State 5 4.8
Georgia Tech 5.5 5.1
Hawaii 3.5 3
Houston 7.5 7.3
Illinois 3.5 3.8
Indiana 5 6
Iowa 7.5 7.1
Iowa State 6.5 6.2
Kansas 3 3.4
Kansas State 6 5.5
Kent State 2.5 3.6
Kentucky 5.5 5.4
Liberty * 4.6
Louisiana Tech 7 7.1
Louisville 7 7.3
LSU 7 7.2
Marshall 7.5 7.8
Maryland 4.5 4.6
Massachusetts 5 6
Memphis 8.5 8.8
Miami-FL 10 9.3
Miami-OH 6 6.6
Michigan 9 8.4
Michigan State 9 8.5
Middle Tennessee 7 6.1
Minnesota 6 4.9
Mississippi State 6 8.1
Missouri 7.5 6.8
Navy 7 6.4
NC State 7 7
Nebraska 6 5.3
Nevada 6 5.2
New Mexico 4 4.4
New Mexico State 6 6.7
North Carolina 5 6.2
North Texas 8 7.1
Northern Illinois 7 6.4
Northwestern 6 6.4
Notre Dame 9.5 9.3
Ohio 8.5 8.1
Ohio State 10.5 10.4
Oklahoma 10 9.7
Oklahoma State 8 8.4
Old Dominion 5.5 5.4
Ole Miss 6 6.8
Oregon 8.5 8.3
Oregon State 2.5 2.4
Penn State 9.5 9.2
Pittsburgh 5.5 5.3
Purdue 6 5.3
Rice 3 4.2
Rutgers 4 3.6
San Diego State 8.5 8
San Jose State 3 2.7
SMU 6 6.3
South Alabama 3.5 5.2
South Carolina 7 7
South Florida 8.5 8
Southern Miss 6.5 6
Stanford 8 7.4
Syracuse 6 4.7
TCU 7.5 7.5
Temple 6.5 6.6
Tennessee 5.5 5.4
Texas 8.5 7.1
Texas A&M 7 6.7
Texas State 3 4
Texas Tech 6 5.7
Toledo 8.5 8.7
Troy 8.5 7.9
Tulane 5.5 4.9
Tulsa 4 4.3
UAB 7.5 6.8
UCLA 5 5.2
UL-Lafayette 5 4.1
UL-Monroe 6 5.2
UNLV 6 6
USC 8.5 8.1
Utah 7 7
Utah State 7.5 7.3
UTEP 2.5 2.4
UTSA 5 5.5
Vanderbilt 4 4.9
Virginia 5 5.2
Virginia Tech 8.5 7.4
Wake Forest 6 6.3
Washington 10.5 10.1
Washington State 6.5 6.5
West Virginia 7 5.9
Western Kentucky 4.5 5.7
Western Michigan 5.5 6.3
Wisconsin 10 9.2
Wyoming 6.5 6.8
Odds via the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, May 28.

(New FBS entrant Liberty isn’t included.)

Odds Shark has more recently updated totals for most of the Power 5.

If Vegas is right, the New Year’s Six bowls will look like this:

The methodology is here. We’d get this postseason layout, roughly (with regular season win totals in parentheses):

College Football Playoff

  • Cotton semifinal (Arlington): No. 2 Clemson (11) vs. No. 3 Ohio State (10.5)
  • Orange semifinal (Miami): No. 1 Alabama (11) vs. No. 4 Washington (10.5)

The other New Year’s Six bowls

  • Sugar (New Orleans): Oklahoma (10) vs. Georgia (10.5)
  • Rose (Pasadena): Wisconsin (10) vs. USC (8.5)
  • Peach (Atlanta): Miami (9.5) vs. Auburn (9.5)
  • Fiesta (Glendale): Boise State (10) vs. Penn State (9.5)

Boise State is the Group of 5 favorite to get that NY6 at-large spot.

Bud Elliott’s Blue-Chip Ratio says only 13 teams have title shots, so be careful betting on any team outside this group to make the CFP.

Every national champion in the recruiting rankings era has signed more than 50 percent four- and five-star recruits over its four previous classes. If you’re betting on futures like a Playoff berth or national title, remember that recruiting rankings matter.

2018 Blue-Chip Ratio Teams

Team Blue-Chips
Team Blue-Chips
Alabama 77%
Ohio State 76%
USC 71%
Georgia 69%
Florida State 67%
LSU 63%
Auburn 62%
Clemson 61%
Michigan 57%
Texas 55%
Oklahoma 53%
Penn State 53%
Notre Dame 51%

There’s an exceedingly high chance that the last team standing is one of those 13. Some champion will bust the Blue-Chip Ratio eventually, but no one has yet.

Elliott, who posts a weekly gambling column at this site, also has a bunch of futures picks for your consideration.

There are 26 here. Some of his most recent, using odds available at Odds Shark:

USC to win the Pac-12 (+485): I have heard great things about J.T. Daniels in USC camp. The true freshman QB is a special player, and I believe that this line is inflated due to the loss of Sam Darnold. If USC does make it to the Pac-12 final, this could also be a hedge opportunity to bet against the Trojans in that game.

NC State and Georgia Tech to win the ACC (+6000 each): This is nothing but a hedge opportunity. I project these teams for second or third place in their divisions. So why bet? Well, the gap between the odds for FSU and NC State and between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech is too large. NC State draws Virginia and North Carolina as its opponents from the Coastal Division, likely an easier cross-division pairing than either Clemson or FSU get.

Clemson to make the Playoff (-130): Clemson is -170-ish to win the ACC, but actually has a cheaper price to make the Playoff whether it wins its conference or not, like Alabama did last year. It is possible that Clemson wins the ACC and does not make the Playoff, but that seems highly unlikely. I am high on true freshman QB Trevor Lawrence and expect him to be Clemson’s starter at some point this season.

Alabama to not make the Playoff (+280): I am getting almost 4/1 on my money here. I think Alabama is the best team, but is any team really that much of a lock to make the Playoff out of the SEC? If Georgia, Auburn, or someone else wins the SEC, I very likely win this bet.

Oklahoma to make the Playoff (+425): I project Oklahoma to be favored in all 12 games, and by double digits in at least eight. I’ll take 5/1 on a major-conference team with that projection all day.

Notre Dame to make the Playoff (+600): Notre Dame is going to have a stout defense and could be favored in all 11 games, following its home opener against Michigan.

Betting on the Heisman is probably a fool’s errand, but here are the odds.

Really, godspeed if you want to try. You’d be better off playing slots.

But here’s the top of Bovada’s preseason board:

  • Bryce Love, Stanford RB: 7/1
  • Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB: 7/1
  • Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB: 8/1
  • Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State QB: 11/1
  • Jake Fromm, Georgia QB: 15/1
  • Will Grier, West Virginia QB: 15/1
  • Trevor Lawrence, Clemson QB: 15/1
  • Trace McSorley, Penn State QB: 15/1
  • Khalil Tate, Arizona QB: 15/1
  • J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State RB: 18/1
  • Shea Patterson, Michigan QB: 20/1
  • Kyler Murray, Oklahoma QB: 22/1
  • Jarrett Stidham, Auburn QB: 25/1
  • Cam Akers, Florida State RB: 28/1

And I have one win total pick I would drive to Vegas right now to make, if I had the time to drive to Vegas and also had a car.

Give me FAU over 8.5 wins, though that’s not the program’s total above. (You’ll find mildly different totals at different casinos and online sportsbooks.)

My dad was recently in Vegas for a few days. He texted me, his college football writer son, to ask what he should bet on. He sent me a picture of a futures odds sheet from the ARIA Casino, and it included Lane Kiffin’s Owls at 8.5 wins (the projection from S&P+, which is designed to be conservative: 8.8).

I informed him that he should bet our family’s house on the over, because Conference USA’s bad and FAU’s really good. He wound up betting $100 at -115, and while that was less than I’d have put down, I think I earned my father free money.

FAU will lose to Oklahoma in Week 1, then maybe once or twice more in the regular season. If the Owls lose four games and fail to beat that 8.5 number, I will take a bite out of a sock and post a picture of it.