Betting on sports has been in existence since 1000 B.C in China, where people were betting on animal fights. Even in ancient Rome, people used to bet on Gladiatorial games. However, hitherto the 1940s, bettors were genuinely restricted in what sorts of wagers they could make. That was the case, up until Charles K. McNeil came up with the idea of point spread. McNeil, a Math teacher from Chicago and a voracious gambler, invented what he named “wholesaling odds” and began his very own bookmarking activity in the 1940s. He began proposing this new style of wagering on football, but his plan later developed to include basketball. Charles K. McNeil revolutionised the manner in which sports betting was done. His legacy lives in what we now know as point spread.

What is point spread betting?

The point spread, also known as the handicap, is an advantage imposed (number of points) on the underdog team in a match, so that the odds for each team can be almost similar, allowing for a more competitive betting chance. The points spread introduces a new exciting twist in betting where placing a wager on the poor or losing team can still win you money.

So, how is point spread college football betting set?

Bookmarkers design the point spreads to entice an almost similar betting odds on both teams. Since most games have a perceived underdog and a favourite, the point spread serves to eliminate the one-sidedness of the bets, and also to present the bettors with an opportunity to cash in big on improved odds. Besides the public perception of which team is stronger, other are considered when betting on a point spread are:

  • Location of the match. The team that’s playing at home has an advantage, thus the coined phrase “home advantage.”
  • Injury concerns in each team.
  • The form of each team in their previous games, and their head to head statistics.
  • The nature of the game i.e. whether it is a rivalry, a derby or just two teams meeting up.


Suppose Alabama, a four-time champion in the current decade, are set to play Northwestern at home in the coming fixture, I’m sure very few fans will bet their money on Northwestern winning. But if you add a -7 point spread to Alabama, the odds will be more evenly distributed. The -7 point spread on Alabama means that, theoretically, Alabama will start the game being 7 points down. Which means that for you to win the bet “Alabama -7”, they’ll have to win the game with at least 8 points more.

Correspondingly, if you add a +7 point spread to Northwestern, and a bettor stakes on the bet “Northwestern +7”, they’ll win the bet if Northwestern win the game or, they’ll still win if the Northwestern lose by 6 points or less. Isn’t that an elegant twist?

Common phrases used are “covering the spread” or “betting against the spread. The former implies that if the favourite team wins even after factoring in the point spread, or the underdog wins with the added points, they covered the spread. The latter, on the other hand, implies that you are wagering on the point spread in contrast with the money line.