Patient bettors understand that the true key to maxing out profits is by betting futures.
Betting on the national champion, or on which player will win the Heisman Trophy, requires playing the long game. But if you have the mental fortitude and chutzpah for it it can be a great way to cash in on a huge payout.
If you’ve always wanted to bet on a future but aren’t sure how, don’t worry. We’re here to help.
Here’s a guide to betting on college football futures.
What Are NCAAF Future Odds & How Do They Work?
Futures bets are any wagers that settle far in advance, hence the name future. Futures bets traditionally revolve around which team will win its league championship but can also include individual award winners, conference winners, whether a team will make the playoffs and other various bets that settle either after the season or down the road in a season.
Because it can be extremely risky to wager on which of the 131 FBS teams will end up hoisting the national-championship trophy after the College Football Playoff ends each January, sportsbooks assign long odds to each team before the season. For instance, when Alabama won the national championship in 2020, its preseason title odds were +240 — or $240 profit on a $100 wager — which provided bettors a tidy profit when the Crimson Tide claimed the title.
But again, futures can be unpredictable. When Joe Burrow and LSU won the national championship in 2019, it went off at +3300 before the season, or $3300 profit on a $100 wager. The Tigers had the T9th-shortest odds and made enormous profit for those who bet them before the season.
How to Read College Football Future Odds
Reading college football odds can seem confusing, especially if you’re new to sports betting. Due to space constraints, both on TV and on mobile screens and devices, American sportsbooks display their futures odds as either plus or minus a number. But there are other ways odds are displayed globally as well.
How American Odds Work
American odds, or plus- and minus-money betting, all center around a $100 wager. Most preseason futures bets will be plus-money, which means the number listed is the profit gained from a $100 bet, since even the favorites aren’t assured of winning anything before the season begins.
However, later in the season, as both championship contenders and award winners become more obvious, some futures bets may have minus-money odds. Like if Clemson opens the season 8-0, its odds of winning the ACC will drop substantially, probably into the -200 or shorter range. If Clemson were -200, it would require a $200 wager to pay out $100 in profit.
How Decimal Odds Work
Decimal odds are popular in Europe and are a more user-friendly way to read betting odds, frankly. Instead of listing odds in relation to a $100 bet, decimal odds reference a $1 wager, and bettors may read those odds as profit-per-dollar wagered.
For example, if Clemson’s odds to win the ACC were -200, that would be listed as 0.50 in a decimal odds system. Bettors would receive $0.50 in profit for every dollar wagered.
Again, since most futures bets are plus-money, they would be listed as numbers greater than 1. For instance, if Alabama were the preseason national-championship favorite at +175, that would be listed as 1.75 in a decimal-odds context.
How Fractional Odds Work
Fractional odds are the most understandable to people, which is why TV tends to use them when referencing a futures bet. Aside from television, horse-racing bettors traditionally deal with fractional odds, like 2/1 or 5/1.
Fractional odds are great when dealing with whole numbers can get confusing when odds break down further. For example, if Alabama were +175 to win the national championship, those odds would be 7/4 in a fractional setting, which not only looks weird but is harder to compute when doing the math in your head.
What to Look for When Placing an NCAAF Future Bet
Seeking value is the best advice when placing any wager. Finding the bet that doesn’t make sense, then mashing it, is the key to making a huge profit. Like if you know of an elite talent at an under-heralded position, try to take advantage of long odds for a Heisman Trophy future before the country and national media gets wind and strongly diminishes the odds.
Place multiple wagers on multiple futures bets if you’re interested in trying to win big. The payout will far exceed the initial stake you put out if one of the teams wins.
So if you’re not interested in betting on Clemson, Alabama, Georgia or Ohio State to win it all each year, find the sleeper that could be the fourth team in the tournament that could upset the proverbial apple cart.
If you don’t care about betting the national champion, since it has been near-impossible to crack the top-4 if you’re not the teams listed above, you can target a team to win the conference you care about. Or you can bet on a sleeper pick to reach the college football playoff.
Find the bet you love that has the longest/most lucrative odds and take advantage.
Best Sportsbooks to Place College Football Future Bets
There are a lot of sportsbooks at your disposal, especially if you’re in a state that has enabled sports betting for years. But here are a few of our favorites.
DraftKings is perhaps the best sportsbook in the nation for futures betting, since it offers a plethora of boost options for futures wagers and has some of the best odds on futures around. DraftKings Sportsbook is also the most widely available betting sites in the country, available in more than a dozen states, which makes it a great option if you’re in a state where sports betting is legal.
FanDuel is the No. 1 sportsbook in America thanks to its elite odds and strong innovative practices. FanDuel was the first to enable bettors to use same-game parlays in 2018, and that has become a standard practice across the sports betting landscape in recent years.
FanDuel is a great option for futures betting too, offering easy-to-find markets for bettors to wager on a team to win the national championship, its conference, the Heisman Trophy or even to finish with 10-or-more wins in the upcoming season. Plus, FanDuel has a strong array of deposit and withdrawal options, including Venmo, which gives users a much more simple experience.
Caesars got into the sports betting game in 2021 after it completed its purchase of William Hill sportsbook and became a great option for college football futures shortly thereafter. Caesars Sportsbook gives bettors elite odds on all markets, including futures, and an extremely easy-to-navigate app and website experience.
Plus, all wagers come with Caesars Rewards, the company’s VIP rewards program that enables users to cash in their rewards for free bets, hotel and dining credits and more.
BetMGM is one of my favorite sportsbooks since it gives users awesome promos, like free bets, that can be used to place futures bets. Plus, BetMGM also has a great rewards program that gives users valuable credits for use at MGM properties around the country.
BetMGM makes college football futures extremely easy to find and boosts odds on those bets before the season. Plus, bettors can get competitive lines and great odds on all college football bets all season.
PointsBet Sportsbook is changing the sports-betting game thanks in large part to its custom PointsBetting style of wagering that punishes bettors for being wrong and rewards them for being correct.
PointsBet offers a huge assortment of futures for college football, including empowering bettors to wager on whether an specific team will make the playoff or win the national championship, making it an exceptional option for futures betting.
BetRivers Sportsbook is arguably the best option for new and novice bettors since they give bettors a friendly welcome bonus, and provides prospective bettors with a helpful glossary of common terms that may seem intimidating to inexperienced gamblers.
Plus, with BetRivers, bettors can get helpful trends and tips so they can make the most informed decisions before placing their initial bets.
How to Pick College Football Future Betting Sites
The sites listed above are some of our favorites, but there are other ways to further narrow down which sportsbook you should use to bet. Here’s a look at some other criteria.
You’ll want a sportsbook that makes signing in easy and fast but also one that is easy to navigate and find the wagers you want to make. Futures can be tricky to find sometimes, so if you aren’t satisfied with the use of ease on one sportsbook be sure to try another, especially if you’re in a state where there are a lot of options.
The best college football odds lead to the best payouts. Sometimes gambling can be as simple as that.
For example, if Alabama to win the national championship is listed at +175 on most sportsbooks but you find the Crimson Tide at +200 somewhere, that is a substantial enough difference to warrant taking advantage of.
The best sportsbook bonuses are the ones that lengthens your ability to play without needing to constantly re-deposit. If you’re targeting a risk-free bet, ideally try to find one that reimburses in site credit. A bet-and-get, where you get a substantial amount of site credit for a small deposit and first wager, is a great new-user bonus if you’re short on funds but still want to play.
Some welcome bonuses may look great on paper, but you don’t want to be out $1,000 or more in just two wagers. Stick to the one that gives you a safety net but also enables you to stay in the game.
Some sportsbooks like DraftKings will give bettors an odds boost on futures like adding +300 to which team will win the national championship. DraftKings also has been known to boost odds on sure-fire college sports outcomes to +100 so bettors can lengthen their ability to play on the platform.
Aside from DraftKings, other sportsbooks will have promos like odds boosts on teams to win the national championship or to win individual games in college football each week.
Target the boost or promo that gives you the best odds for the bet you want to make. That’ll give you the best payout.
Why Should I Bet College Football Futures?
Because betting on college-football futures can lead to huge payouts, especially if you play your cards right. If you’re a huge college-football fan, there is some serious value to cash in on from placing futures, especially if you place your money on a few champions or a bunch of Heisman hopefuls early in the season.
Plus, there is the added ego boost of having money in a long-odds future when the odds diminish. It gives bettors an I-knew-when moment that can be extra-rewarding. For instance, DeVonta Smith was about +4000 to win the Heisman midseason in 2020. A bettor I know put it in right before his odds dipped substantially thanks to a huge push from ESPN, and my friend cashed in when he took home the hardware.
If you have a future bet in in a sport like college football, each week there’s an added stake to the games, especially as the season goes on. Since most national-championship favorites have insanely short odds on a week-to-week basis, and since one loss can blow up an entire season, betting a college-football future is having a stake in every game that entire season.
Why Shouldn’t I Bet College Football Futures?
The odds are long, and without a crystal ball or a “Back to the Future"-style sports almanac, futures bets have the potential to make us all look very silly. For instance, if you placed a national-championship wager on Florida State in 2017, since the Seminoles were one of the preseason favorites at +800, you looked mighty foolish when they finished the season 7-6.
Or, again since one loss can drastically change one team’s season, your future can be put in serious jeopardy by an untimely loss. For example, if you placed a national-championship future on Ohio State in 2021, your bet was put in serious peril when the Buckeyes lost at home to Oregon in Week 2.
College Football Future Betting for Beginners
Again, target value. Try and find the most lucrative bet you can that you love. But as a beginner, the best way to bet is trial and error. Make mistakes, but don’t make ones that are extremely costly. Stay within your means and be responsible.
If you have a bias then that’s all the more reason to put in a future bet, but be patient. Futures bets take months to pay out, especially if you put them in early, which means the sportsbook will have all that money ahead of time while you wait and see if your wager will be successful.
In all likelihood your futures bet won’t hit, especially if you step out on a limb. But have fun and do your best and riding the wave will be a fun experience.
Additional Types of NCAAF Bets Available
Aside from futures, there is a large array of college-football bets to place. Here’s a look at those.
Totals can also be futures, like betting on a team’s over/under for wins in a season. But generally totals are listed as over/under the number of points in a single game.
Props are wagers that are not tied to an individual outcome. Player props in college football are not legally allowed in some states, but there are game props available for every game with every sportsbook.
Parlays are when a bettor combines multiple outcomes in a single bet. The idea with parlay betting is to get more lucrative odds on outcomes that are more likely to happen.
Betting on which team will win a game each week. Odds are assigned based on which team is favored, or more likely to win, and which is the underdog, or the team less likely to be victorious.
Spread betting is all about trusting a favorite or underdog to win or lose by a certain number of points. In spread betting the odds are fairly standard.