It’s not too difficult – with the right amount of effort and eye-squinting, that is – to see the logic behind cautious, conservative “futures” betting odds on outcomes to occur a year or 2 years from now.
For instance, a popular candidate for office in a country in which her political party rules the roost might still be given a “45 percent chance” to win a general election by London and Las Vegas bookmakers. making users think that it must be a mistaken price. What the cautious odds take into account is that outcomes “in the future” are cogent on a step-ladder of other benchmarks, milestones, and key moments (and scandal-avoidance) that must take place before the “victory in a general election” thing is even up for a vote.
That’s what separates futures gambling from money-line and Over/Under picks even when it appears as though speculators are choosing between only 1 team, person, or outcome, and another.
There are over 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. And following the unlikely outcome of last season’s College Football Playoff, it’s understandable if Las Vegas thinks putting 1-to-1 odds on any brand to win a national championship is foolish this far away from January. But that doesn’t mean “pretenders” should be ranked alongside “contenders” in odds to win the next 4-team postseason bracket.
Aye, the bookmakers (and the betting public) don’t want to admit that there’s a single dominant CFB conference again, and fans of that particular league don’t want to admit that exactly 2 programs have risen to a level above everyone else. The syndrome is causing college football’s preseason odds to flatten-out and produce favorable lines on true-favorites instead of merely the underdogs.
2022-23: College Football Playoff Odds To Win and Best Picks
(Preseason CFP Lines Courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook)
Alabama : +180
Ohio State : +300
Georgia : +350
Clemson : +800
USC : +2000
Texas A&M : +2500
Oklahoma : +5000
Michigan : +5000
Notre Dame : +6000
Utah : +8000
Texas : +8000
Penn State : +10000
Wisconsin : +10000
LSU : +10000
Tennessee : +10000
Oklahoma State : +10000
Miami Florida : +10000
Florida : +12000
Oregon : +12000
NC State : +15000
Kentucky : +15000
Mississippi : +15000
Baylor : +15000
Arkansas : +15000
North Carolina : +20000
South Carolina : +20000
Washington : +20000
Wake Forest : +20000
Mississippi State : +20000
UCLA : +20000
Auburn : +20000
Iowa : +20000
Nebraska : +20000
Michigan State : +20000
Florida State : +25000
Iowa State : +25000
Cincinnati : +25000
California : +25000
Louisville : +25000
UCF : +25000
Pittsburgh : +25000
TCU : +25000
Purdue : +25000
West Virginia : +25000
Boston College : +25000
Minnesota : +25000
Much like the current betting odds on this year’s World Cup in Qatar, the long-term lines on a 2022-23 College Football Playoff winner are remarkably devoid of shifts prior to CFB’s partial “Week Zero” kickoff. Does it mean that less gamblers are making picks than online bookmakers anticipated, leading to a wait-and-see approach as the gambling “handles” slowly begin to mount? Or are so many users wagering on the upcoming NCAAF postseason that the odds have been bell-curved into rigid position?
No matter the case, the SEC still appears to be “underrated” from the perspective that Alabama and Georgia’s odds to win another College Football Playoff title should add up to a 1-to-1 betting risk. As it stands now, savvy bettors can pick Alabama at 2-to-1 odds and Georgia at close to 4-to-1 odds to win a national championship, and be poised for a likely winner with 1 of the 2 schools.
One can argue that the Crimson Tide should be even shorter than a (+180) gamble to win the national championship in January, as Alabama returns Heisman Trophy quarterback Bryce Young alongside its typical majority of 5-star blue-chippers at every turn on the depth chart. While old-fashioned analysts will caution sportsbook users not to get caught-up in the hype over a single player, Young’s presence at QB is also representative of the SEC’s league-wide revival behind center.
SEC players dominate the percentages of athletes chosen in the NFL Draft, and it’s merely bad recruiting practices at quarterback that tripped-up the conference’s legacy teams in the 2010s. Once a rash of subpar QBs in the SEC helped bring an end to the “Pop Warner” recruiting fad, and once Varsity passers were once again courted by universities at healthy ages, the conference’s signal-callers were destined to rise once again. Georgia (+350) quarterback Stetson Bennett finished the 2021-22 season with a 176.7 passer rating, and led UGA to an upset victory over ‘Bama in the 2022 College Football Playoff championship tilt.
But where are the bookmakers’ own “chips” going if not all-in on an SEC-bred College Football Playoff champion? Clemson (+800) deserves an optimistic 2022 futures line as the only program to have rivaled UGA or Alabama in overall CFP honors since the playoff’s inception. Ohio State’s (+300) odds to win a national championship are a little bit harder to fathom, since the Buckeyes didn’t reach the CFP or even win the Big Ten in 2021. Pigskin analysts are excited about an OSU offensive backfield that includes QB C.J. Stroud next to dynamic RB TreVeyon Henderson. OSU’s offensive line and WR corps should continue to perform at a CFP-worthy level in 2022. But the defense remains a question mark, especially given that the Buckeyes compete in a Big Ten conference that’s still picking up more quality teams.
Ohio State isn’t even sure where to play DL stalwart Jack Sawyer in 2022-23, and a highly-touted secondary won’t be the game-changer if OSU’s front-7 cannot stand up to power-rushing teams like Michigan. Jim Knowles is the Scarlet & Gray’s new defensive coordinator after nudging Oklahoma State’s unit up to a top-25 standard, but it takes a while for new DCs to make a big difference in Saturday win-loss outcomes. LSU (+10000) speculators are likewise expecting it will take at least 1-2 seasons for new skipper Brian Kelly to produce a superior offense in Baton Rouge. But it remains curious to see only Texas A&M (+2500) representing the SEC’s national championship picks ahead of Big-12 and Pac-12 entities like Utah and Texas at matching 80-to-1 odds. Any “underdog” SEC pick that manages to knock off Alabama and/or Georgia on route to a league championship in 2022 would likely become a betting “favorite” in the College Football Playoff semifinal round, potentially making a (+2500) futures pick on an SEC team as likely to pay-off as the 10-to-1 and 20-to-1 picks on contenders from lesser conferences.
Portentous odds now available on far-flung contenders from weaker conferences, such as the 20-to-1 pick Southern Cal’s CFP championship prospects, could produce overly optimistic betting on those teams.
Cincinnati’s loss to Alabama could have very well ended the practice of betting sharks making picks on the Group-of-5’s CFP odds, including bets on G5 programs to simply reach the 4-team bracket. Cincinnati, for all its merits in 2021, played a solid game and still lost by 21 points to a team that did not go on to win the national title. If the CFP uses Cincinnati’s short-lived berth as a reason not to welcome another Group-of-5 team, then it could be decades before a team arrives in the bracket that isn’t from the top-4 conferences. With the Big-12 and Pac-12 leaking A-list programs to the Big Ten and potentially the SEC, some experts would make the case that D1 will soon be dominated by a “Power-3” of the 2 latter leagues and the ACC.
Put more simply, would you take Alabama and Georgia together at 1-to-1 odds as an “either or” prop bet to win again this season? Considering that the 2 teams are lording over a conference that’s got a “North Dakota State” level power advantage over all-comers from elsewhere, it wouldn’t be a bad proposition pick.
Week Zero Game Lines, Point Spreads, and Picks
Sat. August 27: Nebraska Cornhuskers at Northwestern Wildcats
Sin City has indulged in a “sin” too far in handicapping the new-look Big Ten, giving highly-touted Nebraska a (-12.5) edge on the point spread for a rare in-conference Week Zero opening kickoff.
Not only has Nebraska not shown a propensity to play up to pundits’ expectations in each new season for several autumns running, but the Cornhuskers were winless on the road in 2021-22. Northwestern tends to make at least a single courageous upset bid early in every fall’s Big Ten slate.
WagerBop’s Pick: Northwestern ATS (+12.5)
Sat. August 27: Wyoming Cowboys at Illinois Fighting Illini
The Wyoming Cowboys (+10.5) didn’t play a Power-5 team in 2021’s out-of-conference schedule, but the Mountain West posse got better throughout last year’s slate, which included a crushing Week 13 victory over ranked Utah State and a high-scoring bowl victory in December.
Illinois may be expected to romp as a double-digit favorite from a league with more burly tacklers than Wyoming faced in its entire OOC campaign last autumn. But the Illini face a long, challenging rebuilding task on the OL under Bret Bielema, and teams with a nascent blocking operation tend to start slowly.
WagerBop’s Pick: Wyoming ATS (+10.5)
Sat. August 27: Vanderbilt Commodores at Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Halawa’s late games are known as the “bail-out” opportunity for unlucky bettors, given kickoff times that bleed into Sunday morning in New York. But there’s no such hard-luck scenario needed to motivate a pick on Hawaii (+6.5) and Vanderbilt’s opening contest on Saturday…or very early on Sunday morning. Hawaii’s defense reverted to its humble waterline at times during 2020 and 2021’s campaigns, giving bookmakers reason to believe that an SEC offensive line will blow-open holes for Vanderbilt RB Patrick Smith as the Commodores greedily snag a victory over vulnerable opposition. But an O/U (54.5) betting point-total for Week Zero in Hawaii, especially given Halawa’s struggles with big, fast visiting offenses, is way too conservative on behalf of handicappers who should take history into consideration.
Hawaii’s high tempo and wide-open style may not click on all cylinders in Week Zero, but if the game is sloppy, we can expect points-off-turnovers to make up the difference on a 60+ point evening.
WagerBop’s Pick: Over (54.5)
Recommended Preseason Futures Picks: Alabama (+180), Georgia (+350)
2022 FBS Win Totals Picks: Boise State Broncos OVER (9), Missouri Tigers OVER (5.5), Houston Cougars UNDER (9) or (9.5), Kansas Jayhawks OVER (2.5)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.