How many bowl games can the NCAA fit into their college football schedule? At the moment, the answer is 41, including the National Championship Game (but not including the four All-Star games). The powers that be put a hold on new bowls in 2016 after they didn’t get enough eligible teams to fill all those slots. Despite the moratorium, bowl season remains one of the biggest deals in sports betting, with NCAA bowl games odds filling up the football page at Bovada Sportsbook every December.

Fortunately, you don’t have to win at least six games to be eligible for NCAAF betting. This handy guide will show you how to bet on NCAA bowl games by taking a close look at all of the different bets you can place, and we’ll offer some time-tested betting tips that will help you make the right picks for bowl season.


NCAAF Spread

The point spread is the king of bowl game Vegas odds. Instead of betting on Team A or Team B to win straight-up, the favorite is given a handicap of a certain number of points that they have to win by, while the underdog can lose by up to that same number of points and still “cover” the spread. This turns the bet into something much closer to a 50/50 outcome, with the winning bettors paid out at even money – minus the “juice” (aka “vigorish”) the sportsbook charges to process your bets.

For those of you just learning how to bet on NCAA football, or in case you need a refresher, here’s an example of what you might see at Bovada, using the 2019 National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers for reference:

  • Clemson +6 (–115)
  • Alabama –6 (–105)

The Tide were the designated home team at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, so they were listed at the bottom, as is customary in North American sports betting. And as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, Alabama were the favorites, laying six points to No. 2 Clemson. You can tell the favorite by the negative sign next to their spread. The Tigers, in turn, were 6-point underdogs, as indicated by the positive sign.

The American odds in parentheses tells you how much each bet would pay out. Most football spreads have the standard payout set at –110 for both sides, meaning you wager $110 to win $100, or $11 to win $10, or any such multiple between the minimum and maximum bets allowed. In this case, the odds were tweaked slightly to make Alabama’s odds a bit more rewarding for Tide supporters. The sportsbook can move both the spread itself and the odds for the payout at any time before betting closes, which is usually just before kick-off, in order to encourage equal action on both sides; this ensures there’s enough money coming in to pay all the winners.

Speaking of which, if you had Clemson +6 for this game, you made the right pick: The Tigers won 44-16 in an unusually rough game for ‘Bama. Clemson could have lost by up to five points and still covered, while the Tide needed to win by seven or more – a 6-point victory would have resulted in a “push,” with all monies returned.


NCAAF Moneyline

The moneyline is the old-school way of betting, where you pick one team or the other to win straight-up. It works much the same as the spread, using American odds to express the line for each side. Here’s the moneyline at the close for our example game:

  • Clemson +180
  • Alabama –220

Again, it’s pretty simple: You could either bet $220 on Alabama to win $100, or $100 on Clemson to win $180. If you chose the latter, you chose wisely.



The last of the three “straight” bets in college football is the total, where you bet on whether the two teams will combine to score Over or Under the posted number of points. It looks like this on the NCAAF betting page at Bovada:

  • Clemson O 59 (–105)
  • Alabama U 59 (–115)

The Over is always listed at the top, and the Under below, but Bovada also uses the capital “O” and “U” to make things a bit easier to read. The total for the 2019 title game was 59 points; the odds for the payouts can be seen in parentheses, just like the point spread. And the Over got there by a single point (although all the scoring was done in the first three quarters), paying out $100 for each $105 wagered.


NCAAF Buying Points

If you want to hedge your spread or total bet a little, you can tack on an extra half-point and make it easier to cover – for a price. And you can do this up to three times for a single bet. This will usually cost you 10 “cents” on a line, meaning it will move from –110 to –120, then –130 and –140 as you add on more half-points. But since three is a “magic” number in football, you’ll have to pay a premium of 15 cents when you move onto or away from a 3-point spread in NCAAF betting.


NCAAF Futures

The futures market is where you place bets for events that won’t be resolved until sometime in the future – like who will win the National Championship. Clemson was available at +400 to win the title heading into the 2018-19 campaign, while Alabama were the FBS favorites at +175.


NCAAF Props (Team, Player)

Proposition bets, or “props” for short, ask you to bet on something other than the outcome of the game itself. Team props include bets like who will score first, while player props include bets like how many passing yards a certain quarterback will produce.


NCAAF Live Betting

All the straight bets you can make at Bovada are also available live for selected games, which usually include every single bowl game. Odds are posted on the Live Betting page and updated throughout the game; you can also bet on things like whether the next play will be a pass or a run.


NCAAF Betting Tips

Betting on football is meant to be fun, but you can also make a little bit of money on top if you do it right. To spread the risk around, make a lot of small bets instead of one big bet; one quick way to do this is to divide your bankroll into 100 units, and bet one unit at a time. As always, never bet money you can’t afford to lose – keeping your bankroll separate from the rest of your funds will help you achieve this.

As a general rule, underdogs and the Under have some built-in betting value. Since most people like to bet on favorites and the Over, the odds change, once they put their money down, to get more people to bet the other side, giving you an opportunity to make your preferred pick at a better price. Pay close attention to the weather conditions for outdoor games, and which players are injured; by combining this research with the basic betting principles we’ve mentioned, you can get the most out of your bowl game experience at Bovada Sportsbook.