Betting College Football Teasers

If you've read our article on betting NFL teasers, then you'll know all about basic strategy teasers and how to use them. You might assume that the same strategy will work with college games. This is a dangerous assumption to make though.

There are, of course, many similarities between NFL football and college football. Some betting strategies work equally well across both, but some do not. Basic strategy teasers are an example of the latter, and this is something that sharp football bettors would probably agree on unanimously.

It would therefore seem reasonable to think that betting college teasers cannot be profitable, and indeed this a commonly held view. It's not, however, an accurate one. Basic teaser strategy might not work, but that's not to say that there aren't any alternative strategies.

In this article we provide a brief explanation of basic strategy, and explore why it doesn't work for college football. We also look at some alternative teaser strategies for college football.

Recommended Reading

To get maximum value from this article you should already have read the article mentioned above, about basic strategy for NFL teasers. If you're not especially familiar with how these wagers work, you should start with our introduction to teasers in our sports betting guide.

Of, if reading isn't really your thing, we've put together a video to help you with everything you need to know about betting on college football teasers:

Basic Teaser Strategy Explained

To clarify exactly why basic teaser strategy doesn't work for college football, we should first provide a brief explanation of what this strategy entails. Remember, this is all explained in more detail in our NFL teaser strategy article. If you find it hard to follow, or want more details on the calculations involved, please refer back to that.

The main idea of basic teaser strategy is to place teasers that go from a loss to a win on point spreads of three and seven, at the best odds possible. This is based on the simple fact that three and seven are the two most common margins of victory, and therefore the highest value point spreads to use. Bookmakers generally start their teasers at six points, so the idea is to place teasers backing any teams that meet the following criteria on the point spread.

  • Underdogs that are +1.5 to +2.5
  • Favorites that are -7.5 to -8.5

Two team, six point teasers are typically available at odds of -110, and in our article on basic strategy for the NFL we calculated that each selection must win 72.37% of the time to break even. Considering that point spreads are 50/50 propositions before the tease, teasing must increase the cover rate by 22.37% to be profitable (72.37% less 50%).

Three team, six point teasers are typically available at odds of -180, and we calculated that each selection must win 70.95% of the time to break even. Teasing must increase the cover rate by 20.95% to be profitable (70.95% less 50%).

Past data for NFL games over a sustained period of time supports the theory that basic strategy increases the cover rate sufficiently for the wagers to be profitable in the long run.

Why Basic Strategy Fails for College Football

With college football, the required margins of victory happen less frequently. The following data highlights this. It's from the five season period from 2007 until 2012.

NFL College Football
% of games with 3 point margin 14.8% 9.84%
% of games with 7 point margin 9.8% 7.42%
% of games with 3-7 point margin 38.8% 27.10%

This difference might not seem particularly significant at first glance, but it means that following basic strategy will not increase the cover rate often enough for the wagers to have positive expected value.

Using Historical Data to find Alternate Subsets

We've explained how basic strategy involves backing teams that fall into two subsets. First there are underdogs that are +1.5 to +2.5 on the spread, and second there are favorites that are -7.5 to -8.5. Having established that teasing these subsets isn't profitable for NCAA football, a logical approach is to look for alternate subsets that might be profitable. This can be done by studying past results, known as datamining, and then testing what might work.

When we did this ourselves, we discovered two alternate subsets that do seem to work. They're very similar to the ones we used when betting on the NFL, but there's one extra criterion.

  • Underdogs that are +1.5 to +2.5, where the betting total is less than 47.5.
  • Favorites that are -7.5 to -8.5, where the betting total is less than 47.5.

One of the reasons why the initial subsets don't work is because college games are generally higher scoring than NFL games. So it made a great deal of sense to look specifically at those games where the total score was predicted to be similar to NFL games. That's why we added in the extra criterion based on the betting total, as that gives us a good measure of how many points are likely to be scored.

Based on the same five seasons as used previously (2007-2012), we found the following.

  • 137 games met the necessary criteria.
  • Without teasing, the relevant selections covered the spread 44.93% of the time.
  • With teasing, the relevant selections covered the spread 78.83% of the time.
  • The increase in the cover rate was 33.9%.

This 33.9% increase in cover rates is more than enough for a strategy using this alternate subset to have been profitable over that five-year period. It also suggests there is merit in further datamining to find more alternate subsets that could work. There is, however, a downside to relying on datamining.

Why Datamining is Dangerous

Some years ago, one of our resident betting statisticians made notes that basic strategy subsets for college football had a cover rate of 348-154 (69.3%) over a five-year period. However, when running the figures with a year dropped, and a new year added to get the most recent five seasons at the time, the results increased to 366-144-1 (71.76%). That's quite a swing, and when dealing with a small sample size we can't be sure these stats have much meaning.

The 71.76% cover rate mentioned above might also mislead bettors into thinking basic strategy college football teasers are profitable in 3-team 6-point +180 format. This would be the first season that a five-year trend suggested this to be the case though. When digging further, this can be explained by the fact that over this period, before the tease, these same selections went 264-241-6 (52.38%) against the spread. This is an increase of only 19.38%. As variance irons itself out or the market moves back to efficiency, this short term trend will near certainly disappear.

So, although we've showed that using low total subsets over a five-year period would have been profitable, we have to keep in mind that sample sizes are relatively small and there could be some freak variance at work. It's therefore hard to take this information to the bank. With that being said, the idea to teaser low total games is logical, and may well be +EV in the long run. The exceptional results highlighted above are probably well-padded by variance though.

A Better Method for College Teasers

If you really want to beat college football teasers, then a better method for the favorites is to remove vig from the moneyline. This is something we explain in detail in our article on handicapping the betting market.

Let's use a game between Ohio State and Michigan as an example, where the point spread is as follows.

Ohio State vs Michigan
Point Spread
Ohio State

The odds for both selections on the spread are the standard – 110, while the moneyline looks like this.

Ohio State vs Michigan
Moneyline Betting
Ohio State

The no-vig moneyline is -287.27, which has a no-vig win probability of 74.18%. What this tells us is that the market is giving Ohio State a 74.18% chance of winning.

However, their point spread was -8, so in our teaser selection we now have Ohio State -2. From here we need to use reverse of the strategy covered in our article on buying half points.

Our database shows about a 2.5% push rate in college football on the -1 and a 1.8% push rate on the -2. Considering half the 1.8% probability of -2 is in our opponent's line of +2 and we both push on that number, then we only take half credit for that probability (0.9%).

So for Ohio State -2.0 we deduct 2.5% + 0.9% from their 74.18% chance of winning to give them a -2 cover rate of 71.59%.

In the above example teasing Ohio State in a 3-team 6-point +180 teaser (70.95% required break even rate) is +EV, while adding them to a 2-team 6-point -110 teaser (72.37% required break even rate) is -EV.

Final Words

There are many additional tips and warnings you'll need to know about to beat teaser betting over the haul. In the intro we encouraged you to read our article on NFL teaser betting before reading this one. If you didn't do that, let us once more suggest doing so. There's a lot of valuable information in it that is likely to make your betting seasons more profitable.

We should also point out that a lot of the material on this page is fairly complex, particularly the last method just explained. This is perhaps not something you should attempt unless you have some considerable experience and reasonably advanced betting knowledge. You'll certainly want to read the other articles linked to give you a broader understanding of everything we've explained.
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