Since last year, gambling is no longer prohibited by the Federal Government, and this has seen a full legalization of gambling gain momentum. Of course, that doesn’t mean that sports gambling suddenly became a new thing. People have been legally and illegally gambling on sports for years.
This may also open the door to gambling on college sports in some of the great states where the games are played. You might want to halt your excitement, because the truth is betting on college sports will give you a major headache. Let’s look at the reasons why:
1. Massive Lines
Beating the spread in the NFL means dealing with fairly manageable numbers with usually no number larger than 13. That is not the case with college football.
Numerous lines in the 30s range and higher place themselves on the wire frequently from week to week. So that means you rarely get to just pick Alabama or Clemson with the points. You’ve got to count on them covering the 40 plus points spread they’ve been given.
And outside of the NBA, few sports struggle to establish whether the favorite or the underdog takes the line. In College Football, the underdog beats the spread slightly more than the favorite covers with 52% of underdogs beating the spread and 48% covering.
College basketball has the same percentage but reversed, with 51% covering while 49% beat the spread. All sports (outside of the NBA) have wide margins between what is more likely, the favorite covering or the underdog beating the spread. The NFL favors favorites, while the NHL and MLB favor underdogs. So it is much tougher to bet the line on college sports.
2. “Put in the Backups”
One of the elements that make it so tough to predict those lines is the involvement of second and third string players.
College football teams carry a roster of 85 scholarship players and 105 players overall. In non-conference games (the games most likely to be blowouts), top college teams clear their benches so players who’ve been working hard behind the scenes get their chance to shine.
While that is admirable, it sure makes predicting the line much tougher. Backups are unpredictable. They are backups for a reason. Maybe they play fired up and add to the team’s big lead, or maybe that opposition nibbles away at the lead until it is below the number on the line.
This is rarely a problem in pro football, where teams can only suit up 45 to 46 players. So even if games are out of hand, starters stay in, meaning results are more likely to stay consistent through four quarters.
And while basketball doesn’t carry as deep a bench, the two minutes backups might get to play in a blowout can change the final score drastically as walk-ons might struggle to score and stop the otherwise overmatched opponent.
3. Favorites win most of the time
So, betting the line in college football will give you all kinds of difficulties. But what about picking winners straight up?
Well, finding straight up winners that are profitable brings a whole new set of difficulties. Seventy five percent of favorites win in college football, meaning you will have to put down a lot of money on the front end for every little profit.
4. Unpredictable Games
“Now what a minute, didn’t you just say favorites always win in college sports?”
Well, yes I did. But remember, college sports are played by 18 to 22 years old. And “consistent” is not a word anyone uses to describe that age bracket. That inconsistency put together with the emotion college sports bring creates a formula for an unpredictable result to bite you at just the wrong time.
Things like UMBC knocking off Virginia in last year’s NCAA tournament (the only 16 seed to ever do so) or Virginia Tech losing to Old Dominion this past football season are both examples of results that, while they are against the norm, could never be seen by even the best prognosticators.
Also, as identified by the New York Times, many college players would likely be in financial hardship, and their incentive to rig the game is higher than average.
5. Different Starting Times
Pro sporting events are fairly set in the time slots they play. But college football can be all over the map with this. And what you get from an inconsistent 18-22 year old at 8 pm may not be what you get at noon.
So along with all the other factors you have to consider when choosing what teams or lines to bet on, go ahead and add “time of game” as a factor for determining who to bet on in college sports.
6. Age of the Players
I mentioned this in the previous two sections. These aren’t professionals. These aren’t adults who bring the lunch pail to work every day with a consistent effort.
Young players are far more prone to emotions. A matter off the field is far more likely to affect the play of a college player than it is to affect a professional. And emotion is such an integral of the college game. Players who get hyped for a top 10 matchup might not bring the same intensity to game with a mid-level conference opponent.
So keep in mind that when you bet on college sports, you are putting money on the line with players not that far removed from high school.
7. Lack of Information
But none of the previously mentioned items may be as big a roadblock to gambling on college sports as this issue.
Professional sports leagues ensure their fans have a wealth of information. Most require players and coaches make themselves available to the media throughout the week and after games. Most require injury reports and fine teams who don’t properly update those reports.
College sports have no such requirement. Coaches close practices. They limit media access. They give no information on injuries. It is possible in college sports to show up to a game and discover a player is not playing at kickoff or tipoff. And that withheld information could cost you a lot of money and make a lot of money for someone with access to the information coaches withhold before games.
So, think long and hard before you start placing wagers on college sports. There’s far more complications to it than you might have realized.