College football is perhaps the best place to bet futures, as you only hand over your money for a little over three months, from late August to mid-December. (Another month if you’re betting on the national title, as we will here.) This year, with four teams guaranteed a shot at the FBS National Championship, we have the most wide-open season in years and potentially the best chance to make future money. Find some loose change and take a shot at getting an early Christmas present from your man.
Ohio State +1150, Oklahoma +1200, Georgia +2000, UCLA +2500
For the first time, four teams a committee will pick four teams to continue into a playoff for the national title. With five main conferences and probable mounting pressure to not pick two SEC teams, I think we’ll see the winners of the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big 10 working to get the committee’s attention. The SEC winner is definitely in, as is the Pac-12 champ and Florida State, if they win the ACC. Oklahoma has a great shot at running the table, which should get them in.
Ohio State may need to run the table to get in. It is possible. In a restructured Big 10, they will probably be unbeaten when they play at Michigan State November 8. Win there and they are 12-0 going into the Big 10 title game.
In the SEC, the West is loaded with Alabama, Auburn, LSU and darkhorse Mississippi (mainly because of its cushy schedule). In the East, Georgia can’t have as unfortunate season as they did last year. They play at South Carolina, but off a bye and early (September 13). They also avoid Bama and LSU, and host Auburn. In a league where a lot of teams will count on defense, the Bulldogs have the best offense.
The Pac-12 is loaded with UCLA and USC in the South and Oregon and Stanford in the North. It’s hard to see any Pac-12 team going unbeaten, but UCLA has the best shot. They host Oregon, USC and Stanford, and the toughest road game is at Washington. However, the season could be over on September 13 if they lose in Arlington to Texas. If they do, watch for a freefall.
Oklahoma must go unbeaten to get into the playoff, but can do just that. We’ll know if they have a shot after the Sooners travel to TCU October 4 and follow up a week later with the Red River Shootout. Should Texas beat UCLA, the Shootout could feature two unbeaten teams.
North Carolina/ACC +1600, Iowa/Big 10 +1300, Georgia/SEC +700
I already talked about Georgia and the SEC. North Carolina is the probable opponent for an unbeaten Florida State. The Seminoles are priced too low (+500) to bet as a national title contender. If they get to the four-team playoff, you can probably bet them then at +200 three months from now. The Tar Heels have underachieved for years (psst, don’t tell Mikey). But after rattling off five wins in a row at the end of 2013 before losing to Duke, then rebounding against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, I think this is their year. Marquise Williams was the key. With a year under his belt he should be the second best QB in the ACC. Defense is the Tar Heels key, and the D-line needs to mature quickly. Knowing a spot in the playoff could await them with a win, the ACC title now means more to an underdog than just an Orange Bowl bid.
Iowa could be the real darkhorse this season. They miss Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan from the East, and get all the heavy hitters in November. There is a real possibility of seeing two 7-0 teams when the Hawkeyes host Northwestern November 1. If Iowa wins there, they travel to patsies Minnesota and Illinois, then finish the season hosting Wisconsin and Nebraska. Even if Iowa isn’t unbeaten at the end of the season, they may have more inspiration to win the Big 10 title than if the Buckeyes (or Michigan State) have a loss on their record.
Next week I’ll look at season win totals. Unlike this set of picks where we’re trying to find winners, betting season win totals often means finding teams that will disappoint and betting Unders.
Don’t fall in love with a team. Just rent them for three hours.
The Old Man