Over the last couple of weeks I have previewed all 25 of the likely preseason Top-25 teams for this coming college football season. That means I have spent a whole lot of time looking at futures odds - national title, conference and division futures. Most futures odds are not particularly attractive - especially now before teams have even started practicing. There are a few, though, that are at least somewhat more interesting than the rest. Here are four that stand out (all odds are from Bovada):
North Carolina to win the ACC Coastal: The Tar Heels won all eight conference games last year to win their division. This year they are going to have a loss - they play at Florida State - but they are in the mix in all the rest. They had a great offense last year, and despite a QB change they should be able to score well again this year. The defense isn't stellar, but should be adequate. They are certainly capable of repeating as division winners. The biggest reason they are attractive, though, is just an oddity in the odds set by Bovada. At +1000 to win the conference, they are the second-most-likely winner from their division - behind Miami at +900 and ahead of Virginia Tech and Pitt at +1400. In the division futures odds, though, they are at +400, which not only puts them behind Miami (+150), but also Pitt (+300) and Virginia Tech (+325). That's a bit odd, and it suggests that there is at least relative value in taking the Tar Heels to win the division.
Houston to win the AAC: I would not generally condone betting on a team at a price like this in futures odds - Houston is at even money to win the division. No matter how sure a thing is, you just have to tie your money up for too long to make it worthwhile. If you are looking for a relatively low-risk, long-term play, though, then this is about as good as it gets. Houston is going to win the AAC. Coaching, quarterback, depth, talent, schedule - it sets up for them. They are the only team in the conference that is a legitimate national player at this point. If you are in the market for these low-return-but-relatively-low-risk plays for some reason, then another thing you could do is bet both Clemson (+150) and Florida State (+225) to win the ACC. If you bet equally on both then you will profit regardless of which team wins, and it would truly be shocking if one of the two didn't win it all. Ohio State and Michigan are both at +175 to win the Big Ten, and it's a very fair bet at this point that one of the two will come out on top.
Western Michigan to win the MAC: The Broncos are favored to win the conference at +250. P.J. Fleck is a very good coach, and he is building a winner slowly but surely here. He's recruiting better than he should and is putting a good product on the field. As is so often the case at smaller schools, he's almost certain to move on to greener pastures just as he gets things rolling, so Western Michigan should enjoy it while they can. They have really good depth and talent above anyone else in the conference. The schedule sets up well for them, and they are well positioned to do well here. This is a solid play.
Florida to win the SEC East: The Gators are the third choice here at +400, behind Tennessee at -125 and Georgia at +220. There is a lot of hype around Tennessee, but I don't entirely buy into them. It's seems like their success is assumed before they have even proven anything. At the very least they are vulnerable. Georgia is a team I like in the longer term, but with a young QB and a new coach taking over after 15 years of the same regime it seems like they could be a year away from their peak. I'm willing to take a risk on Florida. They are a flawed team in many ways - probably too many - but their chances aren't as relatively small as these odds would have you believe. That means that there is some value here. The good news if you bet this is you will have a pretty good idea if you are going to win or not early on - the Gators travel to Tennessee in Week 4, and the winner will have a big edge in the race heading into the heart of conference play.
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