NCAA Football National Championship Futures Odds and Betting Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 1/22/2015
We haven't even played the Super Bowl yet - or the Pro Bowl, for that matter - so it seems a bit silly to already looking forward to next football season. The new NCAA Playoff produced such a compelling set of games, though, that I can't help but look ahead to what could be coming and what we could have to look forward to at the end of this calendar year. Because everyone else is focused on Super Bowl betting, it's also a good time to look now that no one is paying attention to NCAA National Championship futures to see that there is any value just sitting there ripe for the picking. Here are the six teams that stand out as the most interesting - not necessarily the most likely to win, but interesting to think about, at least (odds to win the 2016 College Football Championship are from Sportsbook.ag):
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Ohio State (+550): The defending champions seem poised for another run. They still have one of the best two coaches in football, and he is absolutely loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Ezekiel Elliott is back for more, and the way he played in his last few games last season he could be poised to run for about a million yards this year. The schedule is mostly laughable. They have a scary trip to open the year when they head to Virginia Tech. That's not scary because I expect the Hokies to be great but just because the Buckeyes were shocked by them this past year. After that the team should be able to basically cruise to their last two games. They finish with a bang, though, hosting Michigan State and then playing at Michigan a week later. There won't be a lot of margin for error because their schedule lacks signature games, but there is no reason that the team couldn't repeat. There are two very closely related reasons for concern, though. First, the team has to deal with a completely unprecedented situation - trying to figure out how to utilize three different quarterbacks who would each, if they were on different teams, head into the season as prominent Heisman contenders. It's a good problem to have, but there is real potential for it to create issues. Second, now that offensive coordinator Tom Herman is the head coach at Houston, a reconfigured offensive staff is left to sort out the QB situation. I would feel more optimistic if Herman were in charge. Still, they are justifiably the favorites - though I don't see much value in the price.
TCU (+800): They are going to go into the coming season very angry. That could be a good thing. They are also loaded on both sides of the ball. They showed how good they can be many times this past year - and especially in their bowl game. The simple fact is that they would have absolutely been in the playoff if they had not let the game against Baylor slip away from them. This year they need to avoid a similar lapse if they want to get their shot at the big prize. An undefeated Big 12 Champion is just not getting left out of the playoff. They get Texas, West Virginia and Baylor at home, so the season sets up well for them. At Oklahoma State and especially Oklahoma are a bit scary but manageable. Given the somewhat tougher schedule, I don't like their chances as much as Ohio State's, but the price is right - to reflect their chances, not to offer any value.
Alabama (+1000): When you get a chance to take this team at 10/1 you take it. Period. The public is down on the team a bit after a bit of an underwhelming season despite the record and a poor playoff showing. This team is as loaded as it always is, though, and you can be certain that Nick Saban isn't going to tolerate the issues - or the widespread opinion that he is now only the second-best coach behind Urban Meyer. This team will be highly-motivated and has the tools to be tough. The schedule isn't really any tougher than usual, and these boys will be ready. Good value here - at least relatively.
Oklahoma (+1400): Bob Stoops has made a habit of falling short in the face of high expectations lately, and last year was yet another example. I like how aggressive he got in this offseason in response to his frustration, though. It would be easy for a guy like him at this point in his career to either let things slide a bit - Kirk Ferentz is the name that pops into mind as an example, or to look for another job - and Stoops could have pretty much any one he wanted. Instead, he ripped his coaching staff apart and in particular made a sharp hire of Lincoln Riley as his new offensive coordinator. Talent isn't in short supply, and perhaps the shake-up will help this team live up to their potential. Not a ton of value, but a reasonable price.
Michigan (+11000): You might as well look for a long shot at this point in the process, and Michigan is as good as any. They were ridiculously bad last year, but that wasn't because of a lack of talent. They couldn't execute, and their coaching was just plain horrible. Now Jim Harbaugh is in charge, though, and he has assembled an all-star team of a coaching staff. He's recruiting very aggressively to fill some holes and will certainly get some more out of the countless talented-but-wildly-underachieving players he inherited. Their season-opening trip to Utah could be scary, but if they survive that things are solid - they face their two biggest rivals at home. I'm not for a second saying that I think that it is likely that this team will win it all. If a Jim Harbaugh-led team were to make it through the season with a single loss, though, there is a good chance they would be selected for the playoff. They are a big long shot - just perhaps not quite as much of one as the price suggests.
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