Bless the diehard college football fans — just don’t always trust them when it comes to betting. They’re the engine behind NCAA football consensus picks, the majority choice to win any matchup, often influenced by amateur bettors wagering out of favoritism or name recognition. Thankfully, we’re here to help you tell the difference.
NCAAF Consensus Odds
Betting Against the Consensus in College Football
In college football, the elite power programs attract the most attention — from blue-chip recruits, from television networks, from national media, and from the betting public at large. Bettors who wager with little to no knowledge of the sport’s subtleties are more attracted to a brand name like an Alabama or Oklahoma, simply because they’re more familiar with them, and all that public money can often influence how sportsbooks set the lines.
Of course, college football consensus picks are consensus picks for a reason — because they win the majority of the time in a sport where a handful of programs dominate the rest. Clemson -11 in the College Football Playoff semifinals after the 2018 season was a consensus pick that made sense, and proved accurate after the Tigers thumped Notre Dame.
But not all spreads are that large, and many require some nuance to navigate, and the public — hello, Alabama -6 over Clemson in the 2019 national title game — isn’t always right.
Savvy bettors known as “sharps” go not with the herd, but with betting trends; sometimes they point toward the consensus, and other times they don’t. Sharp bettors study a team’s recent performances against the spread and against the total, information that’s easily available on betting websites. Some sharps develop their own betting guidelines and systems that they stick to regardless of what the masses do.
Sharps occasionally make a move known as “fading the public,” which means betting against the consensus — like taking Clemson over the favored Crimson Tide in the 2019 title game. It’s a tactic that requires some judiciousness; you don’t want to do it all the time, but it can pay off if the research and homework appear to run counter to line moves influenced by college football consensus betting.
Sharp bettors are also aware that some programs are simply overvalued, benefitting from odds or lines that are inflated because of masses wagering out of sheer favoritism or popularity. The classic case here is Notre Dame, which is beloved by millions of fans, remains a popular NCAA football consensus bet, but has a poor recent track record against elite programs.
Similarly, high-scoring teams such as Oklahoma or Washington State can bedazzle casual bettors with their offenses, only to be exposed when they run up against more complete opponents. Sharps know to dig beyond the obvious, and that there’s always more than meets the eye.
And that digging can sometimes pay off. The further you venture from the game’s highest level, the less lines are impacted by NCAA football consensus betting; amateurs aren’t exactly delving into more obscure matchups like Georgia State against South Alabama, or New Mexico versus San Jose State, or even lower-level power conference games like Vanderbilt against Arkansas.
But savvy bettors can find real gems by diverting from the herd and diving deeper into the pool of games on offer, and unearthing those matchups where the line or the total looks like a mistake. In sports betting, there’s no bigger thrill.
But let’s face it, it’s still fun to bet on the big games — be they early season kickoff classics, conference championships, or playoff showdowns — and share in some of the wonderful communal craziness that college football has to offer.
Heck, even go crazy and paint your face and break out the barbecue grill. Just don’t assume all those amateur bettors laying some action on the big boys have done their homework, and always think twice before you follow the crowd.
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