Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Understanding College Football Opening Odds

Opening odds are the first odds that sportsbooks release to the public for betting each week. A collection of professional oddsmakers get together to determine what the opening line on each game should be, and then sportsbooks release the numbers for each game en masse to the delight of college football diehards around the country.

Generally speaking, college football opening odds are released on Sunday evening sometime before the start of the NFL Sunday Night Football game. Over the years, these have been released as early as 6 p.m. ET, but other times they have been released a little after 8 p.m. ET. They generally populate one at a time as they are loaded onto a sportsbook’s website, and bettors everywhere are constantly hitting refresh to see the lines as they open.

It’s important to note that some gaming information websites similar to GetMoreSports.com release opening lines. However, people are not able to bet on these lines. Most of the time, these odds are generally in the same ballpark as the true opening line, but other times they are well off the mark. Keep that in mind when you are looking around for college football opening odds to take advantage of.

Related: College Football Betting Strategy

Pros and cons to betting opening odds

It’s no secret that one of the best ways to make money betting on college football is by betting the opening lines. Opening lines are the softest lines that you will find over the course of the week, and there is no shortage of professional bettors that will look to take advantage of them. There is no hard cash behind opening lines, just informed opinions, giving sharp bettors the chance to set and beat the market.  

In the analytical age, quantitative bettors with good systems have a definite edge here. These statheads can spend all of Sunday updating their systems and formulas with the results of Saturday’s games to get an idea of their early leans. They can see which teams might be underrated or overrated by both the public and the sportsbooks to pick off a soft opening number.

However, the limits on college football opening odds are relatively low — sportsbooks know that this is when they are the most vulnerable, as they have no idea what the sharps are thinking on any given game. The limits on games rise as the week progresses with the books accepting more risk as they get more action on a game. For the books, the opening lines are a trade-off. They know they may release a few bad numbers, but it’s better for them to lose small and adjust accordingly rather than lose big at the end of the week.

This leads to some of the biggest sharps waiting until the end of the week to place their bets. These shrewd bettors know they will miss out on several decent opportunities, but they don’t want to tip their hands on anything prior to gameday. For them, the $100 or $200 limits and quick adjustments on the opening lines don’t make it worth their time, and they would rather wait until Saturday morning when they are able to put $10,000 on a game without the line moving away from them.

Line movements on opening odds

Generally speaking, a line’s initial movement is indicative of where it will end up. For example, if sportsbooks open Alabama as a 10-point favorite over LSU and early action bumps the line up to 10.5 or 11, it is more likely that the line continues to rise rather than fall back down. That’s especially the case with spreads that jump considerably shortly after they open. It’s uncommon, but not unheard of, for a line to initially move in one direction and then go back across the opening line.

There are a few other things to keep in mind when it comes to the initial movements on college football opening odds. If a line moves a significant amount from where it opens, you might see it fall back down somewhat just because bettors that got in early are buying back or middling. They are guaranteeing themselves a profit or potentially hitting both sides of a game in the case of a middle.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that there are key numbers in football. Although key numbers aren’t as important in college football as they are in the NFL, a large percentage of games end up being decided by 3, 4, 7, or 10 points. As such, there will be resistance on these numbers, especially three. This resistance is much lighter when it comes to the opening line as the limits aren’t high and sportsbooks aren’t very exposed. Thus, you can get a key number early on before it becomes impossible to get later in the week.

Times that you won’t see an opening line come out on Sunday evening

Injuries are a fact of life in college football, and there are times that an opening line will be delayed as we await news about a star player or quarterback’s status for the upcoming week. Although these injuries aren’t as important, in terms of the betting odds, as they are in other sports and leagues, they would still have an affect on the number. Sportsbooks don’t want to put out a bad number or get beat to the punch on an injury update, so they will hold off posting a line until there is some more clarity regarding the injury later in the week.

You might also see opening lines release earlier than Sunday evening later in the year. That’s because conferences like the MAC and the Sun Belt will play games on Tuesday and Wednesday night in October and November to get on national television and give their leagues more exposure. There are times that upcoming midweek games are released as early as Thursday of the previous week, but they are largely released in a haphazard fashion. Keep an eye out if you are looking to be the opening line in one of those games.

NCAA Football bowl game opening odds

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M., 2 p.m. Dec. 15, ESPN

Utah State -11 vs. North Texas


Autonation Cure Bowl, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla., 2:30 p.m. Dec. 15, CBSSN

Tulane -3.5 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette


Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, 3:30 p.m. Dec. 15, ABC

Fresno State -4.5 vs. Arizona State


Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Ala., 5:30 p.m. Dec. 15, ESPN

Eastern Michigan -3.5 vs. Georgia Southern


R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, 9 p.m. Dec. 15, ESPN

Appalachian State -9 vs. Middle Tennessee


Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl, FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla., 7 p.m. Dec. 18, ESPN

Northern Illinois -1 vs. UAB


Frisco Bowl, Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas, 8 p.m. Dec. 19, ESPN

Ohio -3 vs. San Diego State


Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla., 8 p.m., Dec. 20 ESPN

South Florida -2 vs. Marshall


Bahamas Bowl, Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas, 12:30 p.m., Dec. 21, ESPN

Toledo -4.5 vs. FIU


Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Albertson’s Stadium, Boise, Idaho, 4 p.m. Dec. 21, ESPN

BYU -12.5 vs. Western Michigan


Birmingham Bowl, Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala., noon Dec. 22, ESPN

Memphis -4 vs. Wake Forest


Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas, 3:30 p.m. Dec. 22, ESPN

Houston -1.5 vs. Army

 

Dollar General Bowl, Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama, 7 p.m. Dec. 22, ESPN

Buffalo -4 vs. Troy


Hawaii Bowl, Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, 10:30 p.m. Dec. 22, ESPN

Hawaii -2.5 vs. Louisiana Tech


Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas, 1:30 p.m. Dec. 26, ESPN

Boise State -2.5 vs. Boston College


Quick Lane Bowl, Ford Field, Detroit, 5:15 p.m. Dec. 26, ESPN

Georgia Tech -3.5 vs. Minnesota


Cactus Bowl, Chase Field, Phoenix, 9 p.m. Dec. 26, ESPN

TCU -2 vs. Cal


Walk On’s Independence Bowl, Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La., 1:30 p.m. Dec. 27, ESPN

Temple -3.5 vs. Duke


New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Yankee Stadium, New York, 5:15 p.m. Dec. 27, ESPN

Miami -2.5 vs. Wisconsin


Academy Sports+Outdoors Texas Bowl, NRG Stadium, Houston, 9 p.m. Dec. 27, ESPN

Vanderbilt -2.5 vs. Baylor


Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn., 1:20 p.m. Dec. 28, ESPN

Auburn -3.5 vs. Purdue


Camping World Bowl, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla., 5:15 p.m. Dec. 28, ESPN

West Virginia -7 vs. Syracuse


Valero Alamo Bowl, Alamodome, San Antonio, 9 p.m. Dec. 28, ESPN

Washington State -1 vs. Iowa State


Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, noon Dec. 29, ESPN

Michigan -7.5 vs. Florida


Belk Bowl, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., 12:30 p.m. Dec. 29, ABC

South Carolina -3.5 vs. Virginia


Arizona Bowl, Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., 1 p.m. Dec. 29, CBSSN

Arkansas State -2 vs. Nevada


*Capital One Orange Bowl, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida, 4 or 8 p.m. Dec. 29, ESPN

Alabama -14 vs. Oklahoma


*Goodyear Cotton Bowl, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, 4 or 8 p.m. Dec. 29, ESPN

Clemson -11.5 vs. Notre Dame


Hyundai Sun Bowl, Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas, noon Dec. 31, CBS

Stanford -7 vs. Pitt


Military Bowl, Navy-Marine Corps. Stadium, Annapolis, Md., noon Dec. 31, ESPN

Cincinnati -7 vs. Virginia Tech


San Francisco Bowl, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., 3 p.m. Dec. 31, Fox

Oregon -1.5 vs. Michigan State


AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn., 3:45 p.m. Dec. 31, ESPN

Missouri -7.5 vs. Oklahoma State


SDCCU Holiday Bowl, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, 7 p.m. Dec. 31, FS1

Utah -7.5


TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, Fla., 7:30 p.m. Dec. 31, ESPN

Texas A&M -4.5 vs. NC State


Outback Bowl, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla., noon Jan. 1, ESPN2

Mississippi State -5 vs. Iowa


Citrus Bowl, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla., 1 p.m. Jan. 1, ABC

Penn State -7 vs. Kentucky


PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, U. of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., 1 p.m. ESPN

LSU -7.5 vs. UCF


Rose Bowl Game, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif., 5 p.m. Jan. 1, ESPN

Ohio State -4.5 vs. Washington


Allstate Sugar Bowl, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, 8:45 p.m. Jan. 1, ESPN

Georgia -10.5 vs. Texas


CFP National Championship, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., 8 p.m. Jan. 7, ESPN

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