Football is king each fall in the U.S. – both in terms of fans and bettors. A 2019 study by the American Gaming Association shows college football is the third most popular sport to wager on.

Coming in behind the NFL (93%) and MLB (88%), 84% of those interested in wagering want to bet on NCAA football. It’s also a good bet many of those would choose to bet using an online sports betting app.

The West Virginia Lottery already approved three online sports betting apps for business. One will likely debut soon, and most certainly by the start of the college football season. 

It is no surprise that college football in West Virginia is big. It is also unsurprising that WV sports betting on college football stands to be big business. The state just needs to get online first.

The WV online sportsbooks approved are:

So how do you wager on college football, and what all goes into the sport?

Here’s a look at everything a bettor should know before betting on college football.

College football in West Virginia

Most college football fans and sports bettors in West Virginia are rooting for one of two teams:

  • West Virginia University Mountaineers
  • Marshall Thundering Herd

According to the AP, the Mountaineers are ranked 20th heading into the 2019 season. Last season, WVU finished fourth in the Big 12 after an 8-4 record.

The Marshall Thundering Herd ended 2018 with a slightly better record of 9-4.  That performance was good for second in the Conference USA East division.

Needless to say, both teams are looking forward to bettering their records come the fall.

Where to bet on college football in WV

With online betting options in a holding pattern, bettors can place their bets at one of the three active sportsbooks in WV:

Mardi Gras Sportsbook or Wheeling Island Sportsbook are still closed and there is no timeline as to when betting will return.

A trip to a live sportsbook can be a fun trip for sports fans, especially for big events like the NCAA championship. Bettors will quickly notice numerous TV screens and big digital betting boards with odds on the day’s games.

Players can bet on just about any game – with numerous options. Simply pick the team or other option you want to wager on and head to a betting window.

For a specific game, most sportsbooks have numbers that correspond with the team wagering on. Simply make note of that number and relay that to the teller as well as the betting amount.

Then sit back, maybe grab a cocktail, and see how things turn out. You may even want to place a wager on another game.

Bettors near the northern border, however, have the option to head into Pennsylvania. The Keystone state just launched three PA online sportsbooks that may be an option for some.

College football bet types

Point Spreads

Placing a bet on a team isn’t that difficult, but there are a few things to consider. The point spread is the margin of victory determined by an oddsmaker for a certain game.

Sportsbooks use lines to create action on both teams in a contest. For a bettor to win, the favorite will have to win by more than the margin the oddsmakers set.

For instance, if Alabama is favored by 3.5 against Georgia, they must win by 4 points or more for a win. If Alabama only wins by 3, the team didn’t cover the spread and those who bet Georgia will cash tickets.

Point spreads may be posted in the following ways:

  • Alabama -3.5 – This means the team is favored by 3.5 points, spotting the opposing team a 3.5-point lead. Bookmakers often use half-points to avoid a push. If the Crimson Tide win by 4 or more, the team has covered the spread.
  • Georgia +3.5 – This means the Bulldogs are a 3.5-point underdog. If they lose by 3 points or less, a player would cash a ticket on them.

If the spread had been Alabama -3 and they win by exactly 3 points, the best would be a push. Bettors on both sides would receive their money back.

A sportsbook uses point spreads to the action on both sides. The idea is that wager on one team cover the bets on the other side. The sportsbook takes a percentage, called the vig or juice, on the total wagered, known as the handle.

Parlay Bets

Bettors can also make a parlay wager. This is a bet where a player selects more than one game outcome.

The payout will be higher based on the number of events, but if one part of the bet does not come through then the entire bet is a loss.

For example, a player betting a two-team parlay might bet $100 on Texas A&M as a 2.5-point favorite and Oklahoma as a 7-point favorite. Both teams would have to cover for the bet to be a winner.

A typical two-team parlay pays 2.6 to 1, so this better would win $260.

Moneyline

Point spread wagering is one of the most popular ways to bet on a game. Using the moneyline to bet is also very popular.

In a moneyline wager, a bettor simply has to pick the right team to win – the point spread doesn’t apply. However, payouts can be less depending on the odds.

The odds for these bets usually look like this:

  • Texas -160 — This means you would have to wager $160 on the Longhorns to win $100.
  • Penn State +160 — With this bet, you’d win $160 for a $100 bet if the team wins.

It’s important to note that these amounts aren’t required to place a bet. Lower amounts can certainly be bet, such as a $10 moneyline bet. However, listing these in $100 increments is an easy way for a book to display the payouts.

Over/under

The over/under is an easy way to place a wager without picking a winner. This bet is based on the total number of points scored between two teams.

If the Sooners play the Longhorns, the over/under might be listed by a sports book as 55. Those who bet the over with a final score of 27-24 would lose as the score went “under” (27+24 = 51).

If the game ended at 34-27, “over” bettors would win as the total was 61. A score ending at 31-24 (55 points total) would bring a push and bettors would get their money back.

Futures

In futures bet, a player is wagering on some future event. That might be the eventual Big 10, SEC, or national champion.

Bettors typically receive bigger odds and can sweat a team throughout the season. Here are a few examples of how these bets look:

  • Alabama +300 – A bettor would win $300 for every $100 wagered.
  • Oklahoma +1600 – A $100 wager on the Sooners to win the national championship would bring a score of $1,600.
  • Texas A&M +15000 – A $100 wager would win a bettor $15,000 (in essence, odds of 150-1).

Prop Bets

Prop bets involve certain events or statistics during a game or over a season. Sportsbooks often offer several of these, especially during big games such as playoffs, bowl games, and more.

A few examples might be:

  • The number of wins a team might achieve throughout the season
  • Passing yards by a quarterback
  • Rushing or receiving yards by certain players

FanDuel in New Jersey even offers a prop bet on whether Alabama and Clemson will meet in the 2020 national championship.

Live betting

Online betting has certainly made live betting much easier in recent years. Bettors can choose among adjusted betting lines and over/under totals throughout a game.

This type of betting allows for more action and can keep players more immersed in a game. The same types of wagers available at the beginning of the game are now available throughout a matchup. In game betting is now one of the fastest growing types of wagering.

College football playoffs & bowl games

College football features 130 teams in what is known as the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

This is the highest level of college football and features traditional powers like Alabama, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame. Both WVU and Marshall are part of the FBS.

The top four ranked teams each year play in a playoff bracket in the postseason to determine a national champion. Teams that don’t qualify play in numerous traditional bowl games like the Cotton, Orange, and Rose bowls.

A playoff system has been in place since 2014 with all games aired on ESPN. A 13-member committee determines rankings and seedings for the College Football Playoffs.

Alabama and Clemson lead with the most national championships in that time with two each

Bowls, playoff, and championship games are popular with bettors and extend the college football season into January. They make for easy wagering as they are usually featured on national TV.

Breaking down the conferences

Most teams play in one of several conferences throughout different regions in the country. Some are considered deeper and more talented than others.

Teams usually play about 13 regular season games with eight or nine of those coming in their conference. The non-conference games are usually played before matchups against conference foes.

Here’s a look at some of the top conferences in the country:

  • Southeastern Conference (SEC) – This conference is considered by many to be the most powerful in the country. This group features big football programs like Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, and LSU. The SEC mostly includes teams in the southeast but Texas A&M is also a member. The SEC produced several players drafted into the NFL each year.
  • Big 10 – Another major conference, this one features traditional powers like Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Most teams are located in the Midwest.
  • Big 12 – This name is a bit of a misnomer now as the conference now actually has only 10 teams. The conference includes major schools like Oklahoma and Texas, and od course, WVU.
  • Pac-12 – This conference features teams mostly on the West Coast. It features major programs in California like USC, UCLA, Stanford, and Cal (UC-Berkley) as well as Arizona State, Washington, and others.
  • Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) – This conference features teams mostly on the East Coast including Clemson, Florida State, Syracuse, North Carolina, and others.

There are several others conferences across the country including the Conference USA, which includes Marshall, and:

  • Western Athletic Conference (WAC)
  • American Athletic Conference (AAC)
  • Mid-American Conference (MAC)
  • Mountain West
  • Sun Belt

Independent programs

Not all NCAA FBS teams actually play in a conference. Some programs simply schedule other teams and pay as an independent.

These schools may not benefit from winning a conference championship. Instead they hope to get enough big wins to be ranked among the country’s best by the end of the season.

Notre Dame is the most well-known and well-regarded among these. But this group also includes:

  • Army
  • Brigham Young
  • Liberty
  • University of Massachusetts (UMass)
  • New Mexico State

Things to consider when betting on NCAAF

Becoming a winning bettor on college football isn’t easy. Those who wish to take it seriously should develop a system of study and analysis.

Here are a few things to consider when booking those wagers this fall:

  • Home and away – Teams tend to play better at home, or so the theory goes. Bookmakers traditionally give the home team 3 points. So if two teams are even, the home team will be a 3-point favorite.
  • Trends – Many skilled handicappers find trends in teams. How do they fare against the spread? What about the last few matchups against a certain team on the road? There are numerous complexities and situations that can be considered when analyzing a game to bet?
  • Situational matchups – Bettors may want to look at value that might favor one team versus its opponent. It might include something like a strong versus a weaker offense. Maybe one offensive player has proven too much for other similarly-talented opponents.
  • Injuries – No one likes to see players injured, but a team missing a key weapon could make for a ripe play. A talented player not on the field could hamper a team offensively or defensively.