In the constant pursuit of more football bets to make to satisfy my desire for gridiron action and to ease my impatience over the start of the season, my eyes have been drawn to the odds offered on college football conference and division winners. Any futures bet is all about looking for value, and there certainly appears to be some reasonable value on the table in several places here. In many divisions or conferences it is relatively easy to narrow it down to two or three likely winners, but the public often falls in love with one of those teams, leaving the other one or two teams as an overlay. In other cases, the two or three teams are all at prices that could work together. Here's a look at some of the more intriguing possibilities (all odds are from Bodog):
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Big 12 South - This division is a two-horse race. Unless something totally unexpected happens, it will come down to Oklahoma and Texas. As is often the case in the division, the difference will likely be the Red River Shootout or the Red River Rivalry or whatever we are supposed to call it now. Given that both teams have relatively soft schedules (especially Oklahoma, with only the 69th most difficult in the country), it is very possible that the winner of the showdown in Dallas will end the year undefeated. Texas is favored to win the division at current odds of 11/10, with Oklahoma close behind at 3/2. If you feel that a major upset is unlikely in the division then you could ensure yourself a small profit just by betting on both teams, or you could split your bet unevenly between the two teams depending upon how you see things unfolding.
There's another way to get a bit more return from betting these two teams, while assuming only slightly more risk. Regardless of which one of the two teams win, it's very likely that they will go on to win the Big 12 Championship. Nebraska is the class of the North Division, and it seems unlikely that they are in the class of the Sooners or the Longhorns. Both Oklahoma and Texas are at 8/5 to win the Big 12 Championship. You could take the same approach betting the conference as you did with the South Division, and you could enjoy more profits because of the higher prices.
ACC Atlantic - The odds would indicate that this will be a showdown between Florida State (10/11) and Clemson (2/1). I'm not sure I buy it, and I really see value elsewhere. Florida State has a long way to come back from 6-6 last year, and others are clearly way more excited about their chances than I am. No team with Drew Weatherford taking snaps is worth that price at this time of the year. The clear value is with Wake Forest at 7/1. I'm not saying that they are clearly going to win, but I like their chances at that price. They maintain most of their offense, so they shouldn't miss a beat there. On defense they lose six starters, but they excelled defensively more by system than by stars last year, so I don't fear a dramatic step back. Florida State has two games that I don't give them a lot of chance of winning (Virginia Tech, Florida) while Wake Forest has none. That alone could make the Deacons worth a gamble.
ACC Coastal - This division very well may offer the worst price on the board. Miami, the team that finished a disinterested 6-6 last year and has to get used to a new coach and a new system this season, is favored to win at 1/1. If that appeals to you then we obviously look at football differently than I do. At low odds I much prefer Virginia Tech at 11/10. A live longshot could be Georgia Tech. They have an uphill battle to win it all, but your success would be rewarded at 8/1 if they pulled it off.
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SEC West - Unless you are drinking the Nick Saban kool-aid, you would probably agree that this is a clear two-horse race. LSU is the class of the field at 6/5, and Auburn is not far behind at 3/2. The strength of LSU could lead you to make the argument that they provide reasonable value at 6/5, especially when compared to other prices on the board. Like the Big 12 South, you could also make a flat bet profit by taking both if you don't foresee a surprise, or you could use one as a partial hedge against the other - a large bet on LSU with a smaller bet on Auburn, for example, so that your loss is minimal if Auburn wins and your profit is still solid if LSU wins.
Big Ten - My personal favorite conference offers an interesting situation. Unless you believe in Penn State, it is fairly safe to say that the winner of the conference will come from among the group of Michigan (2/1), Wisconsin (3/1) and Ohio State (4/1). A flat bet on all three would break even if Michigan wins, and profit nicely if one of the other two teams does. As an added bonus here, all three teams play each other in the last three weeks of the season, so you can use those games, and the knowledge built up over the season to that point, to hedge your futures bets, or to increase your position on a team you feel good about.