How to Read College Football Odds: Spread, Moneyline, Total

min read
The Michigan Marching Band takes the field to a “maize out” crowd at Michigan Stadium before an NCAA college football game against Washington in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Michigan won 31-10. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
(AP Photo/Tony Ding)
BetMGM @BETMGM May 30, 2023, 4:20 PM

College football betting is the best way to get closer to the action throughout the season. And if you don’t have much experience with online sports betting — or need a refresher — it doesn’t take long to learn how to read college football odds.

College Football Spread

What is the margin of victory?

The spread, aka point spread, is the number of points by which one team is favored, i.e., the margin of victory, as set by the sportsbook.

For example:

The spread for a Clemson-Georgia game is 3.5 points, meaning Dabo Swinney and the Tigers must win by at least four points to cover the spread of -3.5. Meanwhile, Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs must either win the game or lose by three or fewer points to cover their spread of +3.5.

If, for example, Clemson wins 27-21, the margin of victory is seven points and enough to cash tickets for those who placed a college football bet on Clemson -3.5.

If Clemson wins 27-24, the margin of victory is three points and not enough to cash tickets for Clemson -3.5. That three-point win, however, is enough to cash tickets for Georgia +3.5.

If the ticket cashes, the payout is dependent on two things: stake and odds. In this game, as of late August, the odds were -105 for Clemson -3.5 and -115 for Georgia +3.5. If you won the Clemson bet with a $100 stake, you’d receive a payout of $195.24 (including stake). If you won the Georgia bet with a $100 stake, you’d receive a payout of $185.96.

If the spread is a whole number, e.g., -4 or +4, the bet can be a push. If Clemson was a 4-point favorite a won by four points, it’s a push, and spread bets are refunded.

College Football Moneyline

Who will win the game?

The margin of victory is irrelevant with a college football bet on the moneyline. 

Clemson is a -160 moneyline favorite against Georgia, who is a +135 moneyline underdog. While it’s a different bet than the spread, moneyline odds function in the same way in terms of payout. If you won a Clemson moneyline bet with a $100 stake, you’d win $162.50.

A Georgia win, meanwhile, would result in a higher payout. With +135 odds, a $100 moneyline bet would return $235. 

College Football Over/Under Total

How many total points will be scored in the game?

The Clemson-Georgia over/under total is 52 points. You can either bet the Tigers and Bulldogs will combine for more than 52 points with -110 odds or fewer than 52 points with -110 odds.

Like a spread bet, a push is also possible with whole numbers; if they combine for exactly 52 points, it’s a push, and all over/under bets of 52 points are refunded.

If Georgia wins 31-23, the over would hit (54 total points) and return $190.91 on a $100 bet. If Georgia wins 24-23, the under would hit (47 total points) and also return $190.91 on a $100 bet.

College Football Parlays

You can combine straight bets into a parlay to take your online betting to the next level.

You could, for example, combine the following bets into a college football parlay:

  • Spread: Clemson -3.5 (-105)
  • Moneyline: BYU -360 (vs. Arizona)
  • Over/Under: Notre Dame vs. Florida State Under 56.5 (-110)

You could place one $25 on each bet and hold three separate tickets (total stake of $75) with potential payouts totaling $128.48

  • Clemson: $48.81
  • BYU: $31.94
  • Notre Dame/Florida State: $47.73

Or you could combine the bets into a college football parlay and lower your stake to $25 total for a potential payout of $119.07. If all three bets hit, you’ll receive a payout nearly identical to the total payout of three straight bets while risking one-third of the stake.

Visit the sportsbook for updated odds and the best sports betting promotions.

BetMGM First Bet Offer $1,500