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The Agony and Joy of Betting College Football




A look at college football betting and some reasons why late scores that cover the betting line seem common place.

Comparing college football betting to the NFL is certifiably insane.

I must clarify this first. I enjoy betting on college football and don't discourage anyone for giving up this unique pastime in exchange for solely wagering on the NFL.

However, I suppose like eating octopus or going bird-watching it's not for everybody. There are some unusual things about college football betting we must accept and get used to. Like 35-0 first quarters and attempting field goals with 30 seconds left in the game when one team is ahead 22 points. But more about that later.

The one thing we don't have to accept about college football is betting on it in exchange for merely watching and enjoying it. And worse, making any comparison to the rules and customs involved in professional NFL football. So why do we habitually subject ourselves to as much as fourteen hours of it each Saturday for twelve weeks? Followed by a seemingly endless smorgasbord of nightly bowl action, where virtually any school with a winning record qualifies.

Good questions where the most likely answer are us being creatures of wagering habit. I know I was ready to quit betting college football for about the 200th time last Saturday after tuning in with wagering curiosity for Missouri-Idaho. And very intently to watch every play after investing some money on a big game between nationally-ranked Wisconsin at home vs. Maryland.

So, who in their right mind spends three hours on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to watch a Missouri-Idaho game? Life is just too short, even for Missouri or Idaho alumni. The Tigers, a -14 favorite at home with most major offshore sportsbooks scored as quickly as possible on their first five possessions in the FIRST QUARTER to go up 35-7. That just isn't possible in an NFL game. Over bettors were feeling pretty happy as well with a Total of 65 on the line and three full quarters left to play. The only objective left was to impress pollsters.

NCAA college football betting Mission accomplished by halftime as Missouri ran into the locker room leading 51-14. Perhaps if ESPN announcers could mention that halftime betting was still available at most Nevada and top online wagering websites somebody would still be tuning in. At least with 95% of all NFL games at halftime there is some wagering hope and suspense leading into the second half. But for many of these college games you can circle a point spread win plus over before the school band marches on the field.

Then again, some bettors don't enjoy weekly NFL suspense and love these early NCAA blow-outs. As opposed to Sunday, you'll often know very quickly on Saturday if "you're in the game" with a large menu of double-digit spreads. For some lucky Missouri bettors, they could have randomly checked the score while still getting the grass cut on Saturday.

Proof Winning by 25 instead of 22 is Crucial

If anyone still has doubt that college football coaches do not have knowledge of point spreads and possibly over/under totals as well, we submit tape of last week's Wisconsin-Maryland game for the jury. Also, why college football and their poll system remain a world away from professional football, where simple wins and losses earn you titles.

Some background:

Wisconsin coming into the game was ranked anywhere from 5th to 7th in the NCAA polls, sandwiched around Big-10 competition from Penn State and Ohio St., who face each other this week. They don't play either school to help seal their path into the top four slots, necessary to qualify for the NCAA championship playoffs. Besides a win, all positive signs were big in the minds of the voters as perhaps only Michigan stands in Wisconsin's way of going undefeated this season.

Maryland is a decent team with a bad defense but were -24.5 underdogs against the Badgers on the road at top sportsbooks Diamond Sports, BetOnline and Heritage. The Over/Under at most books was firmly set at 49.

Things looked promising but far from a lock for anyone who wagered on Wisconsin at halftime as they led 21-3. Again, when you bet big college football favorites, you hope for 51-14 halftimes in these types of games or often tear up your tickets in surrender. A Badger bet was more in doubt when the Terrapins forged a mini comeback in the third quarter closing to 28-13.

Some prayers were answered at the 9:12 mark of the 4th quarter when Wisconsin scored a touchdown to go ahead 35-13. Plenty to win the game but not enough to cover that -24.5 spread. Maryland had given up hope of winning with four minutes left, punted and it appeared both teams preferred getting off the field without injury. Guess again.

Wisconsin politely ran the ball eight straight times to the Maryland 15-yard line, and then called time out with 0:36 left on the clock, leading by 22 points.

After a strange sideline conference, I would have loved to listen in on, Wisconsin head coach Paul Chrsyt elected to send in kicker Rafael Gaglione to kick a 33-yard field goal.

GOOD!!!!! Wisconsin wins 38-13 to the delight of any lucky, lucky person who bet on either Wisconsin -24.5 and/or Over 49. The truly blessed hit the Daily Double parlay with both.

And if you bet on Maryland and/or Under, I hope you didn't send out a death threat for Coach Chryst or broke your television in disgust. Just submit this as evidence that all coaches are indeed aware of the point spread and are supremely impacted by it. Especially, in college football where voters at gunpoint will not admit it influences their opinion.

Submitted for Your Judgement

Therefore, to review for the jury. Why would any football team call a time-out (college or pro) to kick a meaningless field goal with the game long decided by 22 points and nothing to gain with 0:36 left in the game? To:

A: Humiliate their opponent

B: Cover the spread and gain untraceable "extra points" with pollsters who did not watch the game or read a word about it.

If you answered (B), you are most likely correct, but no evidence we can obtain under oath will ever prove it. All we can ascertain is that Wisconsin is now #5 in the both the AP Top 25 and Coaches polls. While the Badgers are expected to bury Illinois (also –24.5) this Saturday, they hope for Ohio State to gain revenge on Penn State. That would move Wisconsin into the #4 or maybe #3 spot in the polls.

Who says that field goal was meaningless? Certainly no one who wagered on the Wisconsin-Maryland game. It will happen again within the agony and joy of betting on college football.

Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.