With August only a couple days away and football season around the corner, I thought it’d be a good idea to go through a few futures bet markets. For the few of you who don’t know what futures bets are, I’ll explain it to you in the most basic terms possible: you are betting NOW on the outcome of something that can only be determined in the FUTURE; this is the gambling equivalent of a long-term investment. By betting in the futures markets, you can get decent value, have a greater ability to hedge and make money during the season, and also have something to root for in the long-term.
In this piece, we’ll be evaluating college football futures, focusing on team win over/unders and division/conference winners markets for the upcoming season. Do note that because I like the value, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m predicting the bet to be successful, but that the value of the odds is significant enough for me to bet it.
College Football (all odds courtesy of 5dimes)
Team Win Over/Under Market
Arkansas Razorbacks OVER 5.5 wins (5/7 odds)
The 6 win threshold seems very low to me here, and I like Arkansas’ chances to get to that mark. Bielema is a massive upgrade over John L. Smith at Head Coach, and he has a schedule that is rather favorable in the first few weeks. Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford, Southern Miss and Rutgers should give Arkansas a 4-0 start to the season. From there, they’ll only need two wins in their last eight, and I’ve got a sneaky feeling that one of those will come against Texas A&M at home on September 28. Should they lose their next four, they will still have two very winnable home games against Auburn and Mississippi State that should get them to six wins.
Michigan State Spartans OVER 8.5 wins (5/6 odds)
Michigan State has a very weak schedule and is coming off of a down year, finishing 7-6 (with a 3-5 conference record) that immediately follows a couple of seasons with double digit wins. This team reminds me a lot of Ohio State prior to last season: mediocre record, down year, great defense, bad offense and A LOT of close losses. Seriously, look at their Big Ten losses from last season: lost to Ohio State 17-16, lost to Iowa 19-16 in Double-OT, lost to Michigan 12-10 in Ann Arbor (Michigan kicked the game-winning field goal with 5 seconds left), lost 28-24 to Nebraska on a late TD, and lost to Northwestern 23-20. They were top ten in the country in terms of points against last season, and they return seven starters on that defense. In addition, the offense will return eight starters and will be battle tested. I like the Spartans to rebound this season, and I will back them heavily to get at least nine wins this season.
Nebraska Cornhuskers OVER 9.5 wins (even odds)
This mark is just a bit low. This team is probably gonna start off the season at 8-0, with its last game against Iowa at home. That’s nine wins right there, with only one win against the likes of Michigan (away), Michigan State (home) and Penn State (away) necessary to achieve ten wins. The value is there and I’d pounce on it.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights OVER 6.5 wins (11/10 odds)
I know that it is REALLY easy to hate Rutgers right now, but the value here is too good. The team is in a weak conference, plays against Norfolk State and East Michigan at the start of the season and then will only need 5 wins in its last 8 games to break the 6.5 win threshold, which is really low for a team that has made a bowl game in seven of the last eight seasons.
Tennessee Volunteers UNDER 5.5 wins (8/5 odds)
Tennessee has three easy wins in its non-conference schedule, which should be a solid case for them to finish with over 5 wins this season. Here’s the problem: the rest of their schedule is the equivalent of a murderous slaughter—they face Oregon, Florida and Alabama away, in addition to Georgia and South Carolina at home. That’s five potential losses right there, giving them four games to get another three wins. That’s gonna be rather difficult for a team that only won one SEC game last season, and that was against Kentucky at home in the final week. They will play Kentucky again (albeit on the road), but they’ll also play against Missouri, Auburn, and Vanderbilt. I find it difficult for them to get six wins.
Texas Longhorns OVER 9.5 wins (2/3 odds)
It’s not so much the value that I like here, but I think this is a sure thing and I would bet it HEAVILY. I’ll explain my thoughts on this bet a little more in a bit.
Texas A&M Aggies UNDER 9.5 wins (7/5 odds)
The belief in college football right now is that there’s the SEC and then there’s the rest of college football. So how exactly did Texas A&M fare in their first season in the toughest conference in college football? I mean, you can’t say it was all that bad, especially when you consider the 11-2 record, Cotton Bowl victory and the Heisman Trophy for Freshman QB Johnny Manziel. Oh, and they beat National Champion Alabama in their own house. Look, nobody is denying that A&M is a very good team, or that Manziel is a very good QB, but they’ve got a target on their back right now. The SEC will have more film on them and will take them more seriously headed into this season. I expect them to lose three or four games, with two of those coming against Alabama at home on September 14th and LSU away on November 23rd. I also expect them to lose one of their two road games against Arkansas and Ole Miss.
Tulsa UNDER 8.5 wins (29/20 odds)
Tulsa went 11-3 last year, but they won a lot of close games and return only ten starters. They also have a relatively tough schedule this season, with games away to Bowling Green, Oklahoma and East Carolina along with home games against Marshall and Iowa State. They’ll probably win two or three of those games, but that does make the margin rather slim with an over/under mark of 8.5 wins. Bet a small amount here and with a bit of luck it’ll cash.
USC Trojans OVER 10.5 wins (33/20 odds)
Notre Dame away and Stanford at home aside, the Trojans have a very easy schedule this season, especially when you consider the fact that they avoid Oregon for the first time since 2004. I know that it’s very easy to just bet against Lane Kiffen on historical and moral grounds, but the value here is actually rather good, and that is why I would put a small amount of money on this future.
Virginia Tech Hokies OVER 9.5 wins (7/5 odds)
This will be explained in the next bet.
Conference & Division Winners Market
Virginia Tech Hokies to win the ACC Coastal Division (81/20 odds) and ACC Championship Game (39/4 odds)
The Hokies are coming off of a 7-6 season after 8 straight seasons with 10+ wins. A big reason for that was an inexperienced offensive line, the loss of David Wilson to the NFL, and a young defense that struggled against the run the first half of the season. Logan Thomas was projected to be a Top 5 pick in last year’s draft before the season, but plans for the NFL were put on hold as a result of Virginia Tech’s down year. This season, however, the Hokies return nine starters on a defense that saw big time improvement at the latter end of last season. Another huge plus is that they will avoid playing Clemson and Florida State during the regular season, while also getting Miami and North Carolina at home. Their futures odds across the board are available at great value right now, and I’d put some money on them to win over 9.5 games, the ACC Coastal and ACC Championship Game because of that.
Michigan State Spartans (71/10 odds), Nebraska Cornhuskers (25/4 odds) or Michigan Wolverines (24/5 odds) to win Big Ten Championship Game
Even as a Buckeye, I’m placing money on one of these three to beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. It isn’t that I’m not confident in Braxton Miller and Urban Meyer, it’s just that the value on these three is too good for me to turn down, especially when it comes to Michigan and Michigan State.
In the event of a Michigan-Ohio State Big Ten Championship Game ONE WEEK after a showdown in Ann Arbor, you get the feeling that something weird is gonna happen; there’s a distinct possibility of this showdown taking place, and if I’m getting almost 5/1 odds on a team to win a rivalry game, I’m taking it.
In the case of Michigan State, their conference schedule is REALLY weak with their only major challenges coming against Michigan and Nebraska during November; they have a very good chance of winning the Big Ten Legends Division (13/4 odds) because of that. If they make The Big Ten Championship Game, I like their chances against Ohio State, because Dantonio is a former Ohio State assistant who studies his alma mater intently to prepare for them.
As far as Nebraska is concerned, you put a bit of money on them just to do it. They’re a solid team that will contend for their division. Should they get through the division, you’re essentially getting over 6/1 odds on them to win a game against the Buckeyes. I like that value.
South Carolina Gamecocks (17/4 odds), Georgia Bulldogs (19/4 odds) or Florida Gators (12/1 odds) to win SEC Championship Game
As with the previous paragraph, I like the value a team could get in a one-game playoff against a National Championship contender. In this case, it’s South Carolina, Georgia or Florida against Alabama. All three have a very real chance of winning the SEC East, and as such each deserve a small amount backing them in the SEC Championship Game.
Texas Longhorns (3/1 odds) to win Big 12 Conference
They’re second-favorites behind Oklahoma State, but I like this Texas team to finish 11-1 and win the Big 12 Conference. The Longhorns return 10 starters on offense and nine on defense after finishing last season with a 9-4 record. If it weren’t for injuries last season, Texas would’ve had a much better defense and could’ve finished with at least 10 wins. I would also put a small amount on Texas to win the National Championship (20/1 odds).
Fresno State to win Mountain West Championship Game (51/20 odds)
Fresno State has always had a solid program, and this year they have a chance to be a legitimate BCS-Buster. Even if they don’t make a BCS Game, they’re a very good team that should be able to cruise through the MWC West Division into the MWC Championship Game. There, they will probably play against Conference favorite Boise State, who is also being touted as a BCS-Buster. With a one-game playoff being rather realistic and a team getting slightly over 5/2 odds to win the conference, the value here is rather good.
BCS National Championship Value Bets
Look, I could just cop out and give you Alabama or Ohio State to win it, but that’s just gutless. If you want a Championship pick with a bit of juice in it, here’s a list of four possible champions to choose from (small wager amounts, of course):
1) Texas Longhorns (33/1 odds)
2) South Carolina Gamecocks (25/1 odds)
3) Michigan State Spartans (100/1 odds)
4) Nebraska Cornhuskers (50/1 odds)
Follow Greg Visone on Twitter @njny
**Disclaimer: All odds and analysis provided is for entertainment and informational purposes only. Any use of this information in violation of federal, state, provincial or local laws is strictly prohibited.