The sports betting industry in Illinois is up and running, and many betting enthusiasts have already taken advantage of it. However, while Illinois does allow bets on college football games, it does not allow wagers on in-state teams or any football games that include a native Illinois college team.
Even with this downside, there are lots of potentially profitable opportunities for college football sports bettors. This guide will break down everything you need to know about college football betting in Illinois in detail. Let’s get started.
How does NCAAF betting work?
College football betting works similarly to placing wagers on professional sports games or events. Sports bettors read odds listed on a line, then use that information to determine whether they want to place money on one or more outcomes including:
- Whether a specific team will win a game
- Whether a particular player will score a touchdown (or something similar)
- Whether a team will win or lose a game by a certain number of points
There are hundreds of different wagers you can place for college football matches. These days, you don’t have to visit a physical stadium or casino sportsbook to place a wager. You can also download a mobile sportsbook app and place college football bets using those interfaces.
Is it legal to bet on college football in Illinois?
Yes, with a single exception: you are not allowed to place any wagers on games that include an Illinois university team. This includes games that take place within Illinois itself and games that may take place throughout the country but that also include an Illinois university team.
You can place sports wagers through online or retail sportsbooks locations for any college team that is not based in Illinois, of course. This means you can still partake in lots of exciting action through sportsbook apps or retail books.
Differences between NFL vs. NCAAF betting
There are several important differences between betting on professional football matches and players and betting on college football.
For one, college football games are a lot more volatile by their very nature. They’re played by young, less experienced players, which often results in more fumbles, injuries, and so on. A side effect of this is that many college football games have a greater likelihood of upsets or dramatic score differences.
In essence, college football teams are usually more mismatched. When it comes to the NFL, football teams are created with a yearly entry draft. All professional NFL teams get to pick new talent from the same pool of national players. College football doesn’t have a draft since it derives its players from applicants to teams’ home universities.
Therefore, college football teams are more likely to be unevenly matched against one another, whereas NFL teams are more likely to be closely matched. Any spread bets will have larger spreads as a result.
Another side effect of this is that college teams are much less consistent in terms of their scores and performance over large time periods. There’s simply more player fluctuation between players graduating, transferring to the NFL, leaving the school for other reasons, and more.
Furthermore, college football games usually have a smaller number of bettors for each sporting event. This can be a good or bad thing depending on the type of wager or the sportsbook you use. Most college games have “softer” betting lines, meaning they’re more likely to fluctuate or change. But this also means you might find more opportunities for profit when betting on college football games as opposed to NFL games.
All in all, betting on college football in Illinois holds a number of key similarities compared to placing wagers on professional football matches. However, it’s important to keep these big differences in the back of your mind when placing a bet and evaluating whether a line is a good choice for your goals.
How to read college football betting lines & odds
Let’s break down some key terms when it comes to reading college football betting odds and lines.
“Odds” are the collective terms used to describe different mathematical projections or aspects of a particular wager line. To make a profit, bookmakers (those in control of sportsbooks) try to leverage odds to draw a roughly equal number of people on both sides of a wager.
When you first start to read college football odd, you’ll notice a number of terms that refer to different information for a particular team or game. For example:
- Rotation number – this standard number is shared across sportsbooks and refers to both a team and a match that is scheduled to play. It’s used so you can easily find a betting line without having to remember an exact team name, match date, or time.
- One important thing to remember is that positive values assigned to odds are for underdogs or the teams expected to lose. Negative point values are assigned to favorite teams or those teams expected to win. That’s because you, the bettor, will win more if you bet on the underdog and win less if you bet on the favorite team.
Point spread odds
The “point spread” is the value of points by which a team is estimated to win or lose. These numbers will be represented with positive or negative values as well. For example, a football team with a +5.5 point spread is expected to lose by 5.5 points.
Most betting lines will also have a “moneyline” column. The moneyline column always has odds values of greater than 100 or less than -100. They’re used to tell you how much money you’ll win if you place a $100 bet, although they can also be used to calculate your winnings with other wager types.
Lastly, game odds will come with a “total” column. The total odds are the oddsmakers’ predictions as to the total points that can be scored in the game. Total odds are usually listed with either “Opening O/U” (which stands for opening over/under) or “Closing O/U” (which stands for closing over/under). The total odds will also be accompanied by a final score.
As a sports bettor, you can place a wager on both of the teams scoring over that total or under that total based on the odds assigned. Each set of Opening O/U and Closing O/U odds will be accompanied by moneyline-style numbers that communicate the expected payout were you to you place a $100 bet.
While understanding all of these odds and symbols can be tough at first, it becomes second nature after placing a few wagers and seeing how your money performs in action.
Finding the best college football lines online
Naturally, different sportsbooks use different sets of data or employ different professional linemakers (professional statisticians who create betting lines for bettors). So it’s important to shop around for the best betting lines at different books.
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to line shop these days since there are dozens of online sportsbooks to choose from. However, the fact that most licensed sportsbooks draw data from official league or team sources means that many betting lines are pretty similar to one another.
Still, it pays to download multiple sportsbooks and see what betting lines are available before placing wagers. That way, you can benefit from putting your money down on the most potentially profitable bets around.
For example, say that you think the Illinois Fighting Illini is a great team to put your money on. They have current spread odds set to +7.5. You believe that with their upcoming game, they’ll cover the spread and win by any point value or they’ll lose by seven points or less.
Then you check various sportsbooks’ point spread values. Your favorite sportsbook has a betting line for the Fighting Illinis with point spread odds at +7.5, with a payout value of -110. This indicates that you would need to wager $110 to win another $100.
Then you check another sportsbook by line shopping for roughly the same wager. However, a second sportsbook offers the same odds of +7.5 with a -105 payout value instead. This is the same betting line as before but it provides a better value since you’d only need to wager $105 to win $100.
When it comes to sports betting successfully, every dollar counts. It can add up over time, so it pays to shop around among different sportsbooks and find the best betting lines with the best potential payouts.
Why do betting lines change at sportsbooks?
Betting lines don’t always stay the same. This is called “line movement”.
Line movement occurs because many betting lines are initially set well before a game or tournament begins. This is especially true when it comes to futures bets, which are wagers concerned with the outcomes of future events like championship games.
Linemakers will often “move” the betting line by changing the odds or payout values. Many sportsbooks do this to keep the action roughly equal on both sides of the wager. This is how they ensure they make money no matter which team ends up winning.
For example, if an upcoming match between two rival Illinois college football teams has odds of -100 and +200, a sportsbook might decide to adjust the odds or shift the point spread to make betting on the favorite team more attractive.
Line movement can happen right up until a match, so it’s important to keep an eye on your popular betting lines and adjust your wagers or back out of a wager when necessary.
Illinois NCAAF teams
Illinois’ colleges have multiple popular football teams. But remember, you can’t place wagers on these teams or any college football games that include them.
- Eastern Illinois University – Eastern Illinois Panthers
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Illinois Fighting Illini
- Illinois State University – Illinois State Redbirds
- Northern Illinois University – Northern Illinois Huskies
- Northwestern University – Northwestern Wildcats
- Southern Illinois University Carbondale – Southern Illinois Salukis
- Western Illinois University – Western Illinois Leathernecks
College bowls — state schedule
The current college football bowl schedule has not yet been announced for the 2021-2022 season.
How to bet on college football games
Betting on college football games can be exciting and fun, but only if you know how to place a wager and understand what to expect. Let’s break down some of the most common types of college football wagers so you’re ready to put your money down when the time comes.
Moneyline bets are pretty straightforward — you just bet on who will win and receive a payout based on the moneyline odds.
For example, say that you place a bet on an underdog team winning with moneyline odds of +400; if you bet $1, you’ll get $4, since you’d be expected to win $400 were you to bet $100.
On the flip side, say that you place a wager on a favorite team with odds at -300, placing a bet for $1. In this case, you would only win $0.33 for a total of $1.33 (since your original bet will be returned to your account).
As you can see, it’s always more profitable to bet on an underdog than it is to bet on a favorite team.
Point spread bets involve wagering on how many points a team will win or lose a match.
When you place a wager using point spread odds, you bet that:
- An underdog team will either win the game by any point value or will lose the game by the point spread value. For example, if you bet on a team with +5.5 odds, that team will need to win the match or lose by 5.5 points or less for you to take money home.
- A favorite team will win by more than the point spread. For example, if you were to bet on a team with -6 point spread odds, they’d need to win by more than six points for you to win the wager.
Futures bets involve placing a wager on a future event or outcome. They usually have big odds that decrease with time, meaning you’ll win more money if you place a bet farther ahead of a game beginning.
For example, you can place a wager on the college football championships in Illinois, seeing odds like +1000 or +2500 for the Fighting Illinis to win a particular bowl if you wager months in advance. If you bet even $10 with +2500 odds, you’ll win big!
Over/under bets are a great choice if you don’t have a big stake in either team’s performance or want to participate in live college football bets. They’re similar to point spread bets in that your wager is based on the points scored by both teams, but you’re not concerned with who wins or loses.
Say that you have an over/under bet with the odds being:
- Team A – over 38.5 (-115)
- Team B – under 38.5 (-115)
In this example, you’d need to decide whether you think the combined points scored by both teams at the end of the game will be over 39 or 38 or lower. Oddsmakers usually produce total odds with .5 decimal endings to separate over winners from under winners.
If you wager on Team A’s over 38.5 odds, you’d bet that the total combined points will be 39 and you’d need to wager $115 to win $100.
Sportsbook house rules for NCAA football betting
In Illinois, it’s illegal to bet on any college football matches that include an in-state college team. Furthermore, you are only allowed to place wagers on Division I teams and events. Note that the ban on certain collegiate events does not extend to all in-state events — only those that include Illinois native teams.
Online betting vs. retail sportsbooks
These days, you have a lot of choices when it comes to choosing your sports betting platforms. Retail sportsbooks at Illinois’ casinos can be great places to enjoy the action among other sports bettors. Retail sportsbooks also include lots of TVs so you can watch the action unfold in the moment.
Many top sportsbook apps also include live streaming and in-play betting. Mobile sportsbooks are advantageous since they allow you to place a wager from anywhere in the state, plus check your bets while at work or handling other responsibilities.
Ultimately, both types of sportsbook experiences can be great. It all depends on what you want to use.
How to watch or stream NCAAF games in Illinois
You can watch and stream college football games in Illinois on local channels, as well as sports channels like Fox Sports. You can also live stream college football games on many top betting sites like DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook. Note that these sportsbooks will not stream games that include native Illinois teams for obvious reasons.
Greatest upsets in Illinois college football history
Illinois’ college football teams have a history of successful game upsets. One of the most well-known occurred in 1924 when Illinois’ college team defeated the Wolverines, a Michigan team that had not lost a game in over two years. Illinois eventually won with a final score of 39-14.
A much more recent upset involved the Wisconsin Badgers, who had just come from a successful 38-0 victory over Michigan State. However, Illinois State defeated the Badgers with a final score of 24-23 despite the Badgers being favored by over 30 points.
Biggest rivalries in Illinois football
Illinois college football’s biggest rivalry is undoubtedly that between the Illinois Fighting Illinis and the Northwestern Wildcats. It’s such a famous rivalry that the two teams regularly compete for a special prize: the Land of Lincoln Trophy.
Is live betting allowed on college teams?
Yes, but not on any native Illinois college teams. Any out-of-state teams are fair game.
How do the plus and minus odds work in college football?
Plus odds are always assigned to the underdog team to represent higher potential payouts for those who bet on them. Negative odds are assigned to favorite teams to represent lower potential payouts.
What does the “T” mean in college football betting?
On a betting line, the “total” column may be abbreviated with a simple “T”. For instance, a column showing “T: 40.5” indicates that the sportsbook predicts a total point value for a given match of 40.5 points.
What does the spread mean in college football?
The spread represents a projection of how many points a team will win or lose by in a given match.
Should I bet the underdog in college football matchups?
It’s often more valuable or profitable to bet the underdog. But it all depends on how you understand the teams, the odds assigned, and more.