College Football Betting Odds

Whether it’s college football season or not, you can bet on college football in Iowa right now. Each of Iowa’s sportsbooks, online and retail, has opportunities to place some sort of wager on the sport 365 days a year.

If you are a fan of college football in Iowa, you’ve come to the right place. This page is the premier destination for information about how to bet on college football at legal Iowa sportsbooks. So, if you’re new to betting on college football, stick around. We have plenty of information about how to go about making the best of your experience.

How betting on NCAA football works

The first thing to understand about betting on college football is that there’s a world of options for you to bet on. In the regular season alone, the 130 Division I teams play roughly 12 games, meaning that there are more than 1,500 games to bet on that you have at your disposal.

NCAA football also has an extensive postseason with its bowl system and playoff games. In any given year, there will be roughly 40 bowl games up for betting. Both teams and individuals can also win awards at the end of the season.

So, when you’re thinking about all the ways to bet on college football, consider this list:

  • Regular season games for every team.
  • Win totals (over/under) for each team.
  • Conference championship winners.
  • Postseason games for the more successful schools.
  • Playoff games for teams contending for the national championship.
  • Heisman Trophy and other award winners.

Each game will come with its own set of betting lines. You’ll be able to wager on point spreads, moneylines and/or over/unders (totals bets).

There will also be proposition wagers on various events, both before and during the game. However, note that prop bets on individual college athletes are not allowed in Iowa. But even if you’re wanting to bet during the offseason, you’ll still be able to place futures bets on the eventual national champion and other end-of-season awards.

Is college football betting legal?

In short, yes. For the most part, it is legal to bet on college football in Iowa. The only exceptions are prop bets on individual college players. Those are not permitted by law.

How betting on college football is different from betting on the NFL

You might be thinking that wagering on any football game is the same. After all, it’s the same sport, so it couldn’t be that much different. Sure, the players are younger and (in general) less proficient, but the points are still counted the same for touchdowns, field goals and extra points.

However, betting on college football is radically different from betting on the NFL. The difference isn’t so much in the types of bets you can make, but rather the information and opportunities that you can find.

The NFL has 32 teams, and each team features the highest caliber of players you can find. Even though the differences in talent produce wins and losses, it is rare for an NFL game to be a complete mismatch.

NCAA’s Division I alone fields 130 football teams competing in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and some of those teams will drop down and play Football Championship Subdivision teams (like Northern Iowa and Drake) from time to time. Even teams in the same conference can have wildly different talent levels, let alone those in different conferences or divisions.

So, mismatches and blowouts are far more common. Even bowl games, which pit two teams with at least six wins against each other, are not immune. In 2018 alone, bowl games featured Army destroying Northwestern by 56 points and Auburn obliterating Purdue by 49.

The mismatches also mean larger spreads on the games. However, just because a team is favored to win by a wide margin doesn’t mean that it will win by that much. Any number of things could happen, including a stingier-than-expected underdog or the favorite’s coach turning down the heat and resting his starters. While neither event affects the outcome of the game itself, it could greatly change things for a bettor.

The sheer number of games creates some of the best betting opportunities you’ll have, however. Oddsmakers tend to focus on NFL games more than college games, especially college games featuring two non-marquee teams. Spreads, moneylines and other marks could prove quite inaccurate and present profitable spots for the discerning bettor.

Mistakes are also possible on the bettor side, too. There will be fewer bettors on each college game than for NFL games, and the level of research may not be as high. Both media and casual observers have a more intense focus on NFL games, and it’s easier to see where a team might be overlooked at the college level.

Finally, the experience difference counts much more profoundly at the college level. A senior playmaker is more likely to make an impact than a redshirt freshman, simply due to the fact that the senior has been battle-tested and has had time to hone his game. Heck, a freshman is probably still a teenager and could still be growing and discovering the depth of his talent.

NCAA football betting lines and odds

(Note: If you’re already experienced with sports betting, you can probably skip ahead.)

If you haven’t bet on NCAA football or much else, then you might be a bit intimidated by all the numbers that you see on a typical odds board. There are three-digit numbers by everything, some are negative, and none of it makes sense.

Those three-digit numbers are the key to figuring out both the payout that you can hope to win and the odds associated with your decision. They are the payout ratios that the sportsbook is offering for various decisions.

Positive numbers are always assigned to the underdog or the less likely result in a game. What that number tells you is how much profit you will receive for a successful $100 bet. Negative numbers, on the other hand, denote the favorite or more likely outcomes. So, the number displayed is the dollar amount you must wager in order to win $100.

Sample listing

ncaaf odds sample

We imported this screencap from DraftKings, but almost every sportsbook will list its college football games the same way. For the most part, these three bets are the standard listings across the board.

The first thing to notice is the moneyline. In this example, Wake Forest is the favorite at -235, while Florida State is the underdog at +185. Accordingly, Wake Forest is favored to win by 7.5 points on the spread. The two teams are expected to score 66 points in their game.

What those numbers with the spread and the totals tell us, however, is the amount you must bet to win $100. For any bet besides moneylines, the three-digit number will be negative, and will usually be around -110.

The reason that you must pay $110 to win $100 is because the sportsbook has to collect its profit, or “vig,” for having hosted the bet. Assuming both bets are at -110, this translates to a 4.55% house advantage for the sportsbook.

How to shop for lines

The lines we displayed above came from DraftKings. However, DraftKings is not the only sportsbook around, and sportsbooks don’t always have the same lines. For instance, check out this listing from PointsBet about the same game:

ncaaf sample 2

See the differences? Wake Forest is only favored by 6.5 points here, so you could take a point off the margin that the Demon Deacons need for only $2 more per $100 in vig. That’s a no-brainer.

This example illustrates why it is beneficial for you to maintain multiple sportsbook accounts in Iowa and check around before you place a wager. It is also important that you take note of the lines early, then review them after a few days have passed.

Changes to the lines or the payouts are clues about where other bettors are going with their money. If the PointsBet line began at -7.5 for Wake Forest, for instance, then the money bet on Florida State at that mark has indicated that Wake might not win so convincingly.

Line shopping and movement also give you the opportunity to “middle,” if you are so inclined. Consider the following with the examples above:

  • You make a $100 bet on Florida State on DraftKings at +7.5, then another a $100 on Wake Forest at -6.5.
  • Wake Forest wins by 8, so you lose the FSU bet but win the Wake Forest bet. You bet $200 total and receive $190.91 in return, for a loss of $9.09.
  • Wake Forest wins by 6, so you win the FSU bet but lose the Wake Forest bet. You bet $200 total and receive $188.50 in return, for a loss of $11.50.
  • Wake Forest wins by 7, so you win both bets. You receive $379.41 in return, for a profit of $179.41.

So, the middle can help you limit your losses and set you up for the potential of a big win. Now, betting a one-point middle probably isn’t the best plan, since you lose a bit if the score comes out with any other margin besides 7. But the greater differences you can find in the lines, the better the opportunity.

Top Iowa NCAA football teams

Iowa is home to more than one notable football program. Here are the football programs to know in the Hawkeye State:

Each one of these teams should have several betting options throughout the season.

College bowls for Iowa teams

Top college football teams have been playing in bowl games for more than 100 years. Although the bowl system was originally designed to be a series of exhibition games to bolster economic opportunities in various regions, they have become a means for grading teams each year and, quite recently, a way to determine the national champion for each season.

Iowa has two teams that are in the highest division of play, the Football Bowl Subdivision: the University of Iowa and Iowa State. In addition, both teams compete in conferences that are part of the so-called “Power 5,” which are considered to be the toughest and most competitive conferences.

Because of their affiliations, both Iowa and Iowa State can expect to receive a bowl bid each year if they become bowl-eligible. Generally speaking, bowl eligibility requires teams to post six wins or more during the regular season.

In the interest of thoroughness, we do need to mention that Northern Iowa and Drake, as members of the Football Championship Subdivision, are technically eligible to compete for a spot in a bowl. However, it is uncommon for FCS teams to play in a bowl, even in a normal year, and neither school played a single game in 2020 due to COVID concerns.

Ways to bet on college football games

Although we’ve touched on betting college football games, let’s talk a bit further about the different bet types that you can use on Iowa sportsbooks, along with some examples from DraftKings. However, because Iowa does not allow betting on in-state college teams, we are going to refrain from using examples of those teams — there’s no reason to rub salt in the wound.

Point spreads

Point spreads are one of the most common types of wagers you’ll encounter. Every game will have a spread because there’s plenty of scoring in college football. A spread bet is a wager about the margin of victory. The book will propose a margin, and then you will bet whether the favorite will exceed that mark or the underdog will cover it.

  • Northwestern        +20.5 (-107)
  • Ohio State              -20.5 (-114)

So, Ohio State, a playoff contender, is expected to roll over Northwestern by almost three touchdowns. Apparently, DraftKings bettors think it will be worse than that, because the payout ratios (-107 vs. -114) are trying to incentivize betting on Northwestern.

Moneylines

We touched on moneylines earlier, but they are also ubiquitous wagers that will appear for each game. They are bets regarding the winner of the game, regardless of margin.

  • Texas A&M       -625
  • Tennessee       +430

In this example, Texas A&M is heavily favored to beat Tennessee — you’d have to bet $625 on the Aggies to be eligible for a potential $100 in profit. A quick glance at the spread for this game (-14 for A&M) reveals that DraftKings thinks the Ags will win by two touchdowns, hence the moneyline payouts.

Totals (over/unders)

Totals are the one bet type with a name that might not ring any bells. That’s because this bet is usually called the “over/under,” which is a shorthand description of how the bet works. A totals bet features the oddsmakers estimating how many total points the two teams will score, and bettors wagering whether the actual total will be higher (the “over”) or lower (the “under”).

  • Washington State          O 56.5 (-110)
  • Utah                                U 56.5 (-110)

Here you can bet whether the combined point total between the Cougars and the Utes will be higher or lower than 56.5 points. The estimate is a decimal to avoid ties. Please note that this listing does not mean that Washington State must go over or Utah must go under — it’s simply how this bet is usually listed.

Futures

Futures bets are both common and available throughout the year. They are wagers about awards and events that occur as the culmination of the season.

NCAAF Championship 2020-21

  • Alabama              -143
  • Clemson             +275
  • Ohio State          +300
  • Notre Dame        +700
  • Texas A&M        +2000
  • Florida               +4000

According to this listing, Alabama is favored to win it all this year. The rest of the teams are underdogs to the Crimson Tide. One thing you’ll often see with futures odds, however, is that it is far more common to see listings with only underdogs — the earlier in the season, the more difficult it is to predict how things will turn out.

Propositions and live betting

Propositions are wagers on events that do not directly determine the outcome of a game. Live bets, which are fast becoming the most common type of bet, refer to wagers that occur during in-progress games.

First Team to Score

  • Louisiana-Lafayette       -106
  • Coastal Carolina            -130

Both of these teams are ranked, despite their low brand recognition. The edge in this bet, though, goes to Coastal Carolina, which is having its best season in history, and has a very strong team, so the Chanticleers seem more likely to strike first in this game.

Propositions are available on individual players in different sports and at different levels. However, they these types of bets are less common on the collegiate level and are outright banned in some states, including Iowa.

Parlays

Parlays are not so much a different type of bet as a combination of other wagers into one. So, if you bet the moneylines for multiple games in a single day, that would be a parlay, and each game would be a “leg” in the parlay.

You can win a ton of money with parlays — in some cases, many multiples beyond what you’d get for betting each game individually. However, in order to cash in, every single leg must be correct. Otherwise, you lose.

How to watch or stream NCAA football games in Iowa

We are blessed to live in a time where there are multiple ways to watch college football in Iowa. Our mobile devices, our computers and our humble televisions each offer ways to watch the games on (mostly) Saturdays.

Watching

There are both national and regional options for watching college football in Iowa. The big games will be available on network television or basic cable, but smaller events will likely require tuning into smaller stations. Iowa and/or Iowa State games appeared on the following networks in 2020:

  • ESPN
  • ABC
  • FOX
  • FS1
  • BTN

Streaming

Most people are tied to their phones, day and night. The good news is that most college football games are available via stream on your smartphone or tablet. The best news is that your cable subscription usually takes care of any associated charges, so you can watch for free. Top sites to stream college football games in Iowa include:

  • ESPN+
  • fuboTV
  • Hulu
  • Youtube TV
  • Sling TV
  • Vidgo

Best spots to watch the games live in Iowa

Iowa is a great place to make a bet on a college football game. You have options both in retail and online sportsbooks.

Naturally, retail sportsbooks in the state have plenty of ways to watch the games unfold. However, if you are an online sports bettor, you might be wondering about good places to watch the game without having to drive to a casino.

Here are our picks for the best sports bars to watch college football in Iowa:

  • Des Moines: The Station on Ingersoll, 3124 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines, IA
  • Cedar Rapids: The Blind Pig, 3325 Center Point Road NE, Cedar Rapids, IA
  • Davenport: Public House Davenport, 5150-5198 Northwest Blvd., Davenport, IA
  • Sioux City: One-Eyed Jacks, 3091 Hamilton Blvd., Sioux City, IA
  • Iowa City: Players Sports Bar and Grill, 219 Iowa Ave., Iowa City, IA
  • Waterloo: LJ’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill, 3550 Kimball Ave., Waterloo, IA

While these are the largest cities in Iowa, you may not live in them. However, we wanted to give you some options nearby. The best thing to do with any game that you want to watch is call ahead. Nothing’s more frustrating than driving only to find out that the bar isn’t showing your game.

Biggest rivalries in Iowa college football

A football team develops rivalries. Whether it’s due to geography, repeat meetings, on-field incidents or a combination of all three, every team has one or two games circled on its schedule each year.

Iowa’s biggest college football teams are no exception to this rule. Here are the top rivalries for each big-time team in the Hawkeye State. If there is any trophy that the two teams pass between each other or a special name for the game, it will be listed in parentheses.

Please note that there is tension between all four of these schools to some degree. However, the relative sizes and successes of IU and ISU provide a clear division between the four. Nevertheless, these schools are sometimes called the “Big Four.”

Iowa

  • Iowa State (Cy-Hawk Trophy)
  • Minnesota (The Floyd of Rosedale)
  • Wisconsin (The Heartland Trophy)
  • Nebraska (The Heroes Game Trophy)

Iowa State

  • Iowa (Cy-Hawk Trophy)
  • Kansas State (Farmageddon)
  • Missouri (Telephone Trophy)

Northern Iowa

  • North Dakota State
  • Southern Illinois State

Drake

  • Dayton

Iowa college football betting FAQ

Can I bet on college football in Iowa?

Yes. It is legal to place sports bets on college football games at Iowa sportsbooks.

Can I bet on Iowa college football teams in Iowa?

Yes. Placing bets on in-state teams is legal. However, prop bets on individual athletes from anywhere are not legal in the state.

Are there any types of bets that I cannot make on college football games?

Aside from the aforementioned individual prop bets, not really.

Do I have to drive to a casino to register for a sportsbook account in Iowa?

Not anymore. Iowa law did require in-person registration for online sportsbooks, but that requirement expired on the first day of 2021. So you are free to explore Iowa online sportsbooks from the comfort of your home, office or favorite coffeeshop.