College Bowl Point Spreads Explained
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The happiest season of all. Ask college football fans what the best time of the year is, and most of them will tell you it’s the Bowl Season. The end-of-the-year college football games are a special event, and present a good chance for bettors to win, particularly with college bowl games point spreads.
If you want to know more about college bowl spreads, how they work and how to bet on them, this is the guide you need.
What is the Bowl Season in College Football?
In order to understand what a bowl game is, we need a brief explanation on how NCAA Division I football works. Division I college football is split into two subdivisions, the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), which has the nation’s top programs, and the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS.) While the FBS is considered the best of the two, its champion isn’t officially recognized by the NCAA.
From the early days, the FBS champion was determined by a national ranking, elaborated by a poll of journalists from the Associated Press. However, since the method was considered subjective and was not sanctioned by the NCAA, it often ended in controversy. The FBS has a long history of contested and disputed championship claims, with many teams ignoring the AP poll and declaring themselves as champions.
The Bowl Season helped fill in the void. In 1902, the first-ever Rose Bowl (nicknamed the “Granddaddy of Them All”) took place, with Michigan beating Stanford. In the 1930s, the number of bowl games increased to five. These games also allowed the top teams from across the country to face off against opponents outside their conferences and make a more compelling case for the number 1 spot in the national ranking.
The system changed in 1995 with the creation of the Bowl Alliance. Looking to establish a National Championship Game, the Bowl Alliance determined that the top 2 teams would face off in one of the New Year’s Six bowls. In 1998, the Bowl Alliance became the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Eight years later, it created the BCS Championship Game, a separate bowl game for the #1 and #2 schools. Then, in 2014, the format expanded to four teams, making two of the New Year’s Six bowls into semifinals and rebranding the BCS into the College Football Playoffs (CFP).
With the changes in regulations, the number of bowl games quickly increased. By the late 90s, the FBS already had 30-plus bowl games. The 2022 Bowl Season will have 43 games. Teams need to secure eligibility by winning a minimum of six games during the season. The next step is receiving an invitation from a bowl’s organization. Each bowl game is affiliated with specific conferences, and is only allowed to invite teams from that poll. If not enough teams meet the eligibility criteria (six wins) within that poll, then the bowl’s organization is allowed to invite teams with five wins.
Point Spreads Basics
You’ve probably seen college bowl betting lines followed by a plus or minus sign. That indicates a point spread bet. In this kind of bet, the teams are given a sort of handicap, which is a negative number for the favorite team and a positive number for the underdog.
The most common bet, the moneyline, simply requires you to pick the winner. In a point spread bet, however, that works differently. In order to cover the spread and win the bet, you need to take that handicap into account. For the favorite, that means winning the game by a score margin big enough to make up for the negative number. The underdog, meanwhile, can afford to lose the game, but the margin must be smaller than the handicap. If the underdog wins the game, it covers the spread, no matter the score.
As you can see, a point spread bet is different from a moneyline bet in the sense that you can win by betting on the losing team. Point spread bets are a good alternative in heavily one-sided games, for example. In these situations, the moneyline doesn’t pay enough for the favorite. But a spread may offer a better payout, since the favorite needs to cover the spread as well to win the bet. Simply winning the game isn’t enough.
College Bowl Games Point Spreads Tips
- Bowl games can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, some players see the Bowl Season as a last chance to prove themselves before the NFL Draft, or as their last-ever football game if they have no intentions of going pro. But other players with high Draft stocks opt to sit out and avoid potential injuries. Check the reports before every bowl game to know who is playing and who isn’t.
- For some teams that narrowly miss out on a playoff spot, a bowl game can be seen as a consolation prize, and their motivation will be down. But for other teams, and smaller programs in particular, bowl games mean a lot. Take what each team is playing for into consideration before placing a bet.
- In some games, it can be tricky to properly measure each team’s strength. A team with a solid record in a weaker conference won’t necessarily be a runaway favorite against a team from a strong conference with a worse record. Check the stats and how high the offensive, defensive, and special teams units are ranked nationally.
College Bowl Games Point Spreads Examples
- In the 2021 Bowl Season, Alabama opened as a -7.5 favorite against Cincinnati for the Cotton Bowl Classic, the first semifinal. The Crimson Tide won 27-6, comfortably covering the spread.
- Ohio State opened as a -6.5 favorite for the Rose Bowl against Utah. In a tight, back-and-forth match, the Buckeyes came back from two possessions down to win 48-45. Although Ohio State won the game, Utah ended up covering, since the winning margin was smaller than the 6.5 spread line.
- In the Citrus Bowl, Kentucky entered the match as a -3 favorite over Iowa. The Wildcats won 20-17, meaning that both teams tied the spread. In this case, the bet ended in a push, and the sportsbook returned the wagered amount.
Pros vs Cons of College Bowl Spreads
- The Bowl Season is one of the best moments in college sports. Having the chance to bet on bowl games adds another element to the fun.
- Point spreads sometimes offer better value compared to certain moneyline bets. If you consider the spread favorable, then it’s worth giving it a go.
- With 40-plus games and 80-plus teams playing, you will probably have your hands full trying to keep up with everything that’s going on. Coming up with a betting strategy for college bowl spreads may get tricky at times.
- Between injuries and players saving themselves for the NFL Draft, not all teams play their bowl games at full strength.
If you like college football, then the Bowl Season is probably your favorite time of the year. But even if you don’t follow college football closely, the Bowl Season is the perfect time to learn more about the sport. Throw betting into the mix and you can make things even better. When placing your college bowl games point spread bets, remember to go through all the available information: which players won’t take part, the team’s stats and what they are playing for.