No college football games have been played yet, so countless fan bases around the country believe that their team couldn't possibly be better. Many public betters believe the same -- especially when it comes to highly-ranked teams. Every year, though, we see teams start the season near the top of the rankings only to go on and crush the financial hopes and dreams of those who bet on them.
Needless to say, being able to spot the teams that could fail, at least from a betting perspective, to live up to lofty preseason expectations would be very profitable. Here, then, we have five teams all ranked in the Top 13 now that have the potential at least to be not so nearly as highly-ranked from an ATS perspective when the season comes to an end:
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Ohio State: This one's a no-brainer. They are the unanimous No. 1 team - a defending champion that is widely expected to repeat. There is no way to go but down for this squad. There are so many reasons to be skeptical about this team -- at least from a betting perspective. They are playing with a target on their backs -- everyone will be out to get them and will give them everything they have. They have three world-class college quarterbacks -- one who is a receiver now, and two who are going to have to be happy playing much less than they ideally would like to. It could work out well, or it could end really badly. There are also concerns about focus after a dream season like last year -- and the early suspensions this year aren't the best sign on that front.
I'm not suggesting that this team is going to crash and burn - they won't. There is a decent chance, though, that they won't be as dominant and immortal as the public seems to believe that they are going to be, and that could be a big challenge when it comes to covering spreads.
Alabama: Alabama has been Alabama as we know it since Nick Saban rolled into town. Things feel at least a little different this year, though. For so long now we have just assumed that they are going to be right in it until the end. This year they have real uncertainty at QB, though, and some other bigger-than-normal questions on both sides of the ball.
Don't get me wrong -- they are still ranked third in the country, so it isn't like this has been a disastrous offseason or anything. I just can't shake the feeling, though, that this might not be quite the team that they have been. If they aren't, and if the public doesn't adjust quickly enough, then there could be some early value in being pessimistic.
Oregon: It's easy to be very optimistic about Vernon Adams. He looks like a special talent. The fact is, though, that he is taking a massive step up in class and that he was unable to join the team until late because of that pesky math class. Will he be up to the challenge? If not then the team has real issues given how quickly and decisively he won the QB contest. The team also faces a tough schedule. Eastern Washington is tougher than they should be because of how well they know Adams. Then they travel to Michigan State in one for the ages. Survive that and there are still home games against Utah and USC and trips to Arizona State and Stanford. Even good teams could easily lose a couple over that stretch. There is a decent chance that the team won't be able to live up to their always-lofty expectations.
USC: When was the last time you could describe a National Champion as a circus? USC, despite all their talent, certainly has the look of a circus sideshow this year. Steve Sarkisian has not exactly inspired confidence early in his tenure at USC, and his antics in the last couple of weeks haven't helped make us feel good about his leadership. His leash is very short, and it isn't hard to imagine him losing this team once they hit their first speed bump.
And then there's Cody Kessler. He has shown that he can be an elite quarterback -- at least until he plays a ranked team. Six of the opponents on the schedule are ranked right now, and a couple more have the potential to be by the time they play. If Kessler can't find consistency in his game, which has been lacking so far, then it could be a long season -- and a fruitful one for bettors with a negative viewpoint.
UCLA: I'm almost 40 years old. For more than half my life now, then, it feels like UCLA has been just about the break through. About to reach the promised land. About to quit finding ways to throw away their immense potential. it looks like this could be the year. But then, so have the last countless years in one way or another.
Can freshman QB Josh Rosen thrive under the immense pressure that he faces as the savior of this program, or will they look just like what he is -- a youngster jumping into the deep end of the sport? And, is the Ishmael Adams situation just an isolated one or a sign of greater disciplinary issues to be concerned about? The first two games are more than manageable, but then a five-week stretch of BYU, Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford, and Cal looms as one that could make or break it another Bruins season.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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