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College Football Line Movement

College Football Betting: Line Movement

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper,

Let’s take a look at spreads and totals and some of the nuances that exist. There is an opening line offered on college football games early in the week. Look at it like a stock. A company goes public and an estimation is given on its value. The market will then determine if that price was correct. The price will either go up or down.

With spreads and totals, the bookie makes a spread or line. It’s not just any guess--it’s an educated calculation made by the brightest minds in college football. But in effect, they’re throwing something against the wall to see if sticks. And it usually does. But sometimes, the line moves. Why is that?

First of all, early money is usually smart money. The sharps already have their own line. When the opening lines come out and they see a discrepancy, they hit it heavy. But when a line moves, it’s the bookie’s attempt to balance the action. They’re in business to make money, not facilitate an all-out gambling frenzy on one team. So if a team is getting bet on heavily, they usually move the line against that team to make the other side more tantalizing. If they don’t, then they really like the original number.


Gambling action isn’t the only thing that moves lines. Weather concerns could also come into play. The number of the total could drop in light of poor weather conditions or the line on a pass-happy team can move against them. Players who were supposed to play can be downgraded to “doubtful.” All these things can move the line in your favor or against you.

When betting online, you will find that books allow you to view line history. You can see where the number started and all the times it changed. This allows you see where the money is coming in and whether you’re on the right side of the line movement. You’d hate to take a team at -1 when they were +2 a few days ago. Or to be taking the over when the total was 2 points lower earlier in the week.

But when that opening line comes out, be prepared to act. Especially if that spread lands on or under a key number, you don’t want to be left out in the cold. You can try to control the variables a bit. If the number lands at 3 and the opposing team has some key injuries, it might be better to act quickly and not let that number start moving against you, as player’s statuses get downgraded. When things can only get worse to make the line go the wrong way for you--acting quickly can be a good move in the long run.

Or if the team you’re betting on is a national favorite and they’re at -3, don’t wait for all the money to pour in and leave you looking at -3.5 or -4. If you like Notre Dame at -3, you know people love to bet on the Irish. Take the number before it starts moving against you. If Boise State is on the road at 9.5, don’t wait for it to go to ten. Be extra aware when the opening line lands on key numbers--common margins of victory.

Lines will likely move on games with robust national interest. The Alabama-LSU game is likely to see a lot more action than the Arkansas State-Louisiana-Lafayette match-up. The lines are likely more accurate than in a game in a lower-end conference, but the betting action is more furious. In games involving popular teams, big-time rivalry games, or ones that are nationally televised--don’t be surprised if that line starts jumping around. Knowing a little bit about what goes into devising lines and totals and what accounts for their movement can keep you a step ahead of the game.

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