College Football Futures Betting: Sucker Bets
by Trevor Whenham - 7/28/2014
Betting on college football futures - divisions winners or conference champions - can provide an excellent opportunity for value. Unfortunately, though, most casual bettors entirely forego that value and instead jump on the bandwagons of favorites and high-profile teams. It is very tough to find value when doing so, so you might as well just put your money in a pile and light it on fire. You might cash a winning bet in the short term, but in the long term you are headed for ruin. Here are five futures bets, with odds from Bovada, that will draw far more attention than they deserve.
It's important to note that I'm not saying that these bets won't pay off - more than one potentially will. The point is, though, that whether they pay off or not, the people who have bet on them have made bad bets from a long-term view:
Florida State to win the ACC Atlantic (1/6): The Seminoles are the best team in the country right now. I feel comfortable in making that statement. The problem, though, is that here is just so much that can go wrong in a college football season. Jameis Winston could struggle to handle the immense pressure he faces, or he could do something else stupid off the field and get suspended. Every opponent will be fired up for the biggest game of their year, so one misstep could lead to a loss. Time and again we have seen teams come into a season with massive expectations and an air of invincibility and wind up disappointing. While I'm not predicting that that will happen here - the ACC is so weak that Florida State should be in control - the risk here is just not offset by the potential reward. You have to lock up your money for four months or more, and in the end all you get if you are right is a return on your investment of less than 17 percent. That's just not worth it. If you truly believe in the dominant strength of the Seminoles then there will be plenty of opportunities during the season to leverage that opinion without locking your money up and with a better shot at a nice return.
Oregon to win the Pac-12 North (1/2): I'm fine with the opinion that the Ducks are the best team in the division, but these odds just don't make sense. Think about what 1/2 actually means - that you are betting that Oregon would need to win the division more than two out of every three times the season was played out in order to generate a profit. Stanford has a strong track record of success in recent years. They won't be as strong as they have been, perhaps, and their schedule is tough, but they are always going to be dangerous until David Shaw leaves. Washington has badly underachieved in recent years, but a huge coaching upgrade could help them reach more of their potential. As significant as that, though, I don't like this bet because I don't like the Ducks enough to justify it. They have not handled intense pressure particularly well in recent years, and they really didn't seem near as sharp in the first year of the Helfrich era as they were under Chip Kelly. If Marcus Mariota stumbles, or is hurt again, it could be a long year in Eugene.
Oklahoma to win the Big 12 (2/3): There is a lot to like about Oklahoma. Of course, there has been a lot to like about Oklahoma several times over the last decade, and they most frequently find a way to disappoint at some point. The conference is completely wide-open, and there is little question that the opinion of the Sooners is inflated by the fact that they beat Alabama last time out - a Tide team that didn't seem focused after falling short of the title game. I'm not convinced that they are quite as good as people think or that they are as much of a lock in the Big 12 as the odds could suggest.
Nebraska to win the Big Ten West (3/2): Bo Pelini still coaches in Lincoln, right? I'm not missing something here? Last year Pelini appeared to be a dead man walking all year - and deservedly so - but he somehow saved his job. Now, the way the media is talking about him he surely must have had a brain transplant - because that is the only way we could reasonably expect him to shine like some think he will. Sure, it's a terrible division, but the team has to play at Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa - their four toughest opponents for those keeping score at home. I'd rather buy ocean front property in Nebraska sight unseen than trust Pelini and his penchant for mediocrity with my money at anything even close to this price.
Florida to win the SEC East (3/1): Will Muschamp has shown little aptitude for running a major college program the last three years. While the SEC East isn't the toughest it has ever been, it is deep and wide-open. They are breaking in a new offensive coordinator and several other coaches as well. Jeff Driskel is coming off a broken leg. Add it all up and 3/1 doesn't look so great, does it?
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