It’s never too early to think about college football. Sure, the BCS National Championship Game is still many months away, and there will be plenty of other sporting events to think about between now and then. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that there are futures odds posted, and we can bet on which teams we think are legitimate BCS National Championship contenders and which teams really aren’t. Here’s how I view some of the teams and their prices (all odds are from Bovada):
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The Tide are back for another run, and some will argue that they are even better than they were last year when they won it all. A.J. McCarron is back at quarterback, and he’ll have the best group of targets to throw to he has ever had. The offensive line is facing a massive overhaul thanks to graduation and departures. However, with the talent there, it is at least reasonably likely that the protection will be fine. The running back corps is so deep and impressive, and that will help the line shine.
There are the concerns about focus after a title that you have for every team, but that hardly matters here because of what they have already accomplished. They are a legitimate favorite, but I am certain I can find better ways to spend my money than betting on this low price.
I’m not a believer. The coaching change should be reasonably smooth because Mark Helfrich is an insider, but there will still be some bumps. There are some personnel losses, with the departure of two excellent linebackers the most striking.
The Pac-12 is getting stronger, and it will be a rougher road for the team. Most significantly, though, I just don’t see any way that there isn’t a hangover after the way the team was humiliated in last year’s title game. That kind of thing can leave a scar. I see no value at all here.
Ohio State (7/1)
They were undefeated last year, though they couldn’t take advantage of that because of their troubles following rules. Now Urban Meyer has had an extra year to implement his systems, he has a Heisman candidate at QB in Braxton Miller, and he returns nine starters from an offense that was already the best in the Big Ten last year. There are some concerns on defense, the senior leadership that was lost was very valuable, and the Big Ten is going to be tougher this year than it was last year. Still, this is a very legitimate team, and at this price is far more attractive from a betting perspective than the two above.
Texas A&M (10/1)
This price is ridiculous. This is a team that lost two games last year, and they have lost five starters on offense and seven on defense. Chief among those departures is Luke Joeckel, the all-world left tackle who won’t be easy to replace.
Johnny Manziel is facing more scrutiny than any player in recent memory, and he has to do it with a new offensive coordinator. Could this team be good? Sure. Their coaching is excellent. Is it a good bet that they will be at this price? Absolutely not. This is public excitement running wild.
I’m skeptical about this one, too. The SEC is all about defense, and Georgia has some real questions there. They have lost 12 players who were either starters or big role players on defense. They have lots of talent behind them as you would expect, but they are going to be very young and frighteningly inexperienced. It is possible they could be fine, but it takes a leap of faith to bet on them that is far beyond what I am willing to risk.
There are some big questions here. The offense was a disaster last year, and that isn’t new for the Tigers. They brought in Cam Cameron to try to solve the problems. At his best he is a very talented offensive mind. He isn’t coming off a very good season in Baltimore, though, and he has some challenges here, so it is far from certain that he’ll shine.
The whole defensive line — a huge strength last year — is gone. So is linebacker Kevin Minter, who was unquestionably the quarterback of the defense. The team is far from a disaster, but this price needs to be higher.
Finally one I like. David Shaw has lost some key pieces — running back Stepfan Taylor and two excellent tight ends. Thanks to their years of success, though, this team has more depth and talent than ever before, so there are no real reasons to worry.
The offensive line has a chance to be special, they’ll be able to score, and the defense should be tenacious. Solid value at this price.
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