Betting on College Football Games in Tennessee
Tennessee got an influx of professional teams to root for when the Tennessee Titans moved to the state as the Oilers in 1997, the Nashville Predators joined the NHL as an expansion team in 1998, and the Memphis Grizzlies moved from Vancouver in 2001. But long before any of these teams arrived, Tennessee residents were die-hard NCAA football fans, with many of the state’s sports fans rooting for the Tennessee Volunteers above all other teams.
Tennessee sports fans have plenty of passion to spread around and have embraced their pro teams with open arms over the last two decades. But to many of the state’s residents, the Tennessee Volunteers are still the state’s No. 1 sports team. And after years of needing to settle for illegal and unregulated means to bet on NCAAF games, college football fans will finally be able to place their bets safely and legally at state-approved sportsbooks.
How to bet on college football games in Tennessee
Tennessee has some quirks to its sports betting law that differentiate it from other states, but most of the usual bet types are still available to bettors.
Online sportsbooks and sports betting apps in Tennessee
Gov. Bill Lee did not sign the house bill that legalized sports betting in Tennessee, but he did let it pass into law when it crossed his desk in 2019. The bill that passed into law stipulated that Tennessee would allow sports betting only in the form of online wagers, thus separating it from other states that allow bets at brick-and-mortar locations.
Sportsbooks that want to operate in Tennessee must do so through online sportsbooks that can be accessed via websites or mobile device betting applications. All of the major sportsbooks around the world already offer online betting, so there were plenty of high-caliber online sportsbooks ready to jump into the Tennessee market as soon as their licenses were approved.
College football bet types
The Tennessee Lottery Board had the task of ironing out the regulations on sports betting in Tennessee. The board decided that it would allow NCAAF betting, including bets on Tennessee’s college teams, but with a few restrictions: player proposition bets and live betting on college events would be illegal. Fortunately, college football fans still have plenty of ways to place bets on the action:
- Moneyline: A standard bet placed on which team will win the game is known as a moneyline bet. Bets on the moneyline generally have one betting favorite (which has its betting odds listed with a “-” in front of them) and one betting underdog (which has its betting odds listed with a “+” in front of them). Numbers listed with a “-” tell you how much you must bet to win $100, meaning that a team going off at -250 will pay out $100 on a $250 bet. Numbers listed with a “+” tell you how much you will win if you bet $100, meaning that a +200 bet will pay out a $200 profit on a $100 bet or a $40 profit on a $20 bet.
- Against the spread: Against the spread wagers even the playing field between the two teams by giving points to the underdog and taking away points from the favorite. For example, if the Tennessee Volunteers are a -6.5 favorite against the Arkansas Razorbacks, the Volunteers will need to win by seven points or more to cover the spread laid against them. An Arkansas +6.5 bet will win if the Razorbacks upset the Volunteers or if they lose by six points or fewer.
- Over/under: The sportsbook sets a total on each college football game that is a projection of how many combined points the teams will score in the game. Over/under bets, also known as totals bets, allow bettors to bet on whether the actual combined score of the game will go over or under the posted total. If the Memphis Tigers are hosting the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and the total is set at 61.5 points, under 61.5 bets will win if Memphis and Tulsa combine to score 61 or fewer, and over 61.5 bets will win if the combined score is 62 points or higher.
- Parlays: NCAAF parlays allow bettors to take their favorite moneyline, over/under and against the spread wagers and combine them into a single bet. Parlays offer significant payouts if every game you add to your parlay wins, but the entire parlay is a loss if a single bet loses. Payouts vary based on how many games you select and the odds on those games.
- Futures: Bets on long-term events such as what team will win the College Football Playoff or which team will win the Big 12 Conference Championship are futures bets.
NCAAF teams in Tennessee
There are four Division I football programs in Tennessee and six FCS football programs in the state. Here’s a rundown of the four Division I schools.
- First Season: 1912
- All-Time Record (Through 2019): 502-518-33
- Bowl Record (Through 2019): 5-8
- Head Coach: Ryan Silverfield
- Home Stadium: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
- Location: Memphis, Tennessee
- Current Conference: American Athletic Conference
- Conference Titles: 8 (2 AAC)
- National Championships: 0
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
- First Season: 1911
- All-Time Record (Through 2019): 551-410-28
- Bowl Record (Through 2019): 4-8
- Head Coach: Rick Stockstill
- Home Stadium: Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium
- Location: Murfreesboro, Tennessee
- Current Conference: Conference USA
- Conference Titles: 13 (0 C-USA)
- National Championships: 0
- First Season: 1891
- All-Time Record (Through 2019): 846-395-53
- Bowl Record (Through 2019): 29-24
- Head Coach: Jeremy Pruitt
- Home Stadium: Neyland Stadium
- Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
- Current Conference: SEC
- Conference Titles: 16 (13 SEC)
- National Championships: 6 (1938, 1940, 1950, 1951, 1967, 1998)
- First Season: 1890
- All-Time Record (Through 2019): 609-629-50
- Bowl Record (Through 2019): 4-4-1
- Head Coach: Derek Mason
- Home Stadium: Vanderbilt Stadium
- Location: Nashville, Tennessee
- Current Conference: SEC
- Conference Titles: 14 (0 SEC)
- National Championships: 0
Top 5 NFL players who played college football in Tennessee
- Peyton Manning, Tennessee, 1994-1997: Peyton Manning started his freshman year at Tennessee in 1994 before a couple of injuries ahead of him on the depth chart thrust him into the starting role. Manning never looked back, throwing 89 touchdown passes in four years with the Volunteers before going on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Manning finished his NFL career with 71,940 passing yards, 539 passing touchdowns, 14 Pro Bowl appearances, seven first-team All-Pro selections and two Super Bowl championships.
- Reggie White, Tennessee, 1980-1983: Reggie White enjoyed a productive career at Tennessee with 293 tackles and 32 sacks, including a school-record-for-one-season 15 sacks in 1983. The future NFL Hall-of-Famer made the Pro Bowl every year for 13 straight years in the NFL from 1986 through 1998 and was a first-team All-Pro eight times during his illustrious professional career. White helped lead the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl win in Super Bowl XXXI.
- Jason Witten, Tennessee, 2000-2002: The Volunteers recruited Jason Witten to play defensive end, but head coach Phillip Fulmer moved him to tight end when the team suffered some injuries at the position. This fateful move would spark a sensational NFL career at tight end for Witten, who has been to 11 Pro Bowls and compiled 1,215 catches, 12,977 receiving yards and 72 receiving touchdowns in 16 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.
- Doug Atkins, Tennessee, 1950-1952: Doug Atkins enrolled with the Tennessee Volunteers to play basketball, but his exciting mix of height, strength and agility led head coach Bob Neyland to recruit him on to the football field. Atkins was a menace at defensive end and helped lead the team to a national championship in 1951. He went on to win two NFL championships (in 1954 and 1955), was a Pro Bowl selection eight times and was a first-team All-Pro four times.
- Stephen Gostkowski, Memphis, 2002-2005: Stephen Gostkowski got progressively better in each of his four years at Memphis, having his best season as a senior going a perfect 35-for-35 on extra points and 22-for-25 on field goal attempts. After that, the New England Patriots drafted Gostkowski in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft, and he went on to become New England’s all-time leading scorer with 1,775 points on 653 extra points and 374 field goals made. The veteran kicker is one of the NFL’s most accurate field goal kickers of all time, with an 87.4% success rate and is a three-time Super Bowl champion.
NCAAF betting FAQ
How does the college football regular season work?
There are 130 NCAAF Division I teams split into 10 conferences (with seven of those teams unaligned as independents) in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Most FBS teams play 12 regular season games, with eight or nine games coming against conference opponents and the remaining three to four games being out-of-conference matchups. Then the independent schools, most notably including the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, schedule all of their games “out-of-conference” as they are not aligned to any conference schedules.
The ultimate goal is a spot as one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff, but this is only a realistic goal for the nation’s most elite teams. Winning the conference championship is the primary goal for many teams around the nation, while some teams just hope to get to six wins to become eligible for an FBS bowl game.
Most conferences are split into two divisions, with the top team from each division meeting in the conference’s championship game in early December.
How does the College Football Playoff work?
A rotating group of 13 committee members — including one athletic director from each of the five “major” conferences (the ACC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the SEC), former coaches, and former players — forms the College Football Playoff selection committee. This committee starts releasing its top 25 rankings every Tuesday over the second half of the season, ranking the best teams in the nation from 1 to 25 based on factors such as records, head-to-head results and strength of schedule.
Once the regular season and conference championship games wrap up, the committee’s final season rankings determine which teams will advance to the College Football Playoff. The top four teams play in College Football semifinals matchups, with the No. 1 ranked team facing the No. 4 ranked team and the No. 2 ranked team facing the No. 3 ranked team.
The “New Year’s Six” bowl games are the most prestigious bowl games in college football: the Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. These six bowl games rotate which will host the two College Football playoff semifinal games each year. Then the winners of those semifinals matchups advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship, with the winner of the game being crowned the champion.
What happens to the teams that don’t make the College Football Playoff?
Bowl games were once reserved for only the nation’s best teams. But with so many sponsors wanting to get in on the action, the NCAAF bowl season has ballooned up to a staggering 44 FBS bowl games in 2020. Most bowl games have conference tie-ins. For example, the Pac-12 is set to send its champion to the Rose Bowl (if that team isn’t in the College Football Playoff), its second-best team to the Alamo Bowl, its third best to the Holiday Bowl and so on.
In the event that a conference does not have enough bowl-eligible teams to meet its tie-in requirements, these bowl spots become at-large and can go to bowl-eligible teams in other conferences. But as the number of bowl games keeps expanding, the criteria for becoming bowl-eligible could start slipping.
Can I bet on who will win the Heisman Trophy in Tennessee?
No. While you can bet on the outcome of games with moneyline and against the spread wagers, Tennessee sports betting regulations stipulate that you can not bet on player-related props or in-game action on NCAAF games or any other college sporting events.