BY TONY JOHNSON
There are only two sports that I not only love betting on but also believe I have an edge in. They are golf and college football. I admit this is odd. They could not be more different from each other. They aren’t even both team sports! As you might expect I go about betting both very differently. One of the main differences is that I focus much more heavily on matchup bets in golf and less on the futures. In college football I certainly focus on the games and trying to find some edge each week in the dozens of matchups across the country but also pay very close attention to the futures markets in national championship, conferences, and even the Heisman race. My reasoning is simply that these futures markets in football are much more heavily weighted with public money (squares like us!) instead of sharp money. Most sharps stay away from futures in general and have no interest in tieing up money for extended periods of time. While that’s probably sound strategy in general I have found some great spots over the years both before the season and during the season.
I figured I would start by unveiling what futures I already have since it has some effect on bets I will make going forward. These are the bets I have on teams to win the National Championship. (the real one, not the false one that UCF fans like Aaron are hanging on to) Just kidding Aaron I wouldn’t do that to you.
Ohio State 8.25/1
Arizona 300/1 (RIP already I think)
Oklahoma State 300/1
In evaluating the current future championship market, our goal is to find some value in teams that we believe can either come through the season with one or zero losses. It’s important to note here that I put absolutely no weight on non-power five teams. It has been proven over and over again that even undefeated seasons from teams in the minor conferences will not yield a top four or better ranking by the committee. This is certainly a debatable topic but for the sake of this discussion we know it’s reality and will simply ignore them. So that leaves 66 teams (I include independants Notre Dame and BYU) with which to worry about.
Let’s start by looking at the conferences as a whole. In the Big 10 we have another massive difference between the east and west. Out west, Wisconsin was the prohibitive favorite to win but have since fallen to BYU at home. I personally think the public has overblown this loss for a few reasons. First off BYU is good and have a win at Arizona as well already this year. Second, this was a non-conference loss and will not count against them in initially determining the division winners. Iowa appears to be the only other high quality team on that side and crazy enough both schools face each other in Iowa City this Saturday! Wisconsin is a current three point favorite on the road although we all know Iowa slays giants on a yearly basis at home. On the eastern side, Ohio State looks like the cream of the crop but has a tough schedule including a date in Happy Valley against an underrated Penn State team in two weeks. Michigan is rounding into form after a poor showing to Notre Dame in week 1 and Michigan State should be better going forward as well.
The Pac 12 appears on the weak side similar to last year. The south is a train wreck with quite possibly Utah or Colorado the best team there. USC is simply too young and has made gross mistakes already on both sides of the ball this year. Washington is again the best looking team on the other side but Stanford and upstart Oregon, lead by upstart quarterback Herbert, are lurking right below them. If a team can get out of the conference with only one loss, and a conference title under their belts, they stand a good chance at reaching the playoff.
The SEC appears to be the deepest conference this season and are lead by two powerhouses in each division. It’s hard to imagine Alabama losing the SEC West or even a single game with new quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who’s a monster both through the air and on the ground. Auburn, LSU, and Mississippi State prowl beneath them but I’d be hard pressed to imagine any of them having a chance of getting to the SEC championship game. Is it possible that a 1 loss SEC West team not in the SEC championship can get in the playoff? Yes. Alabama proved that last year but it’s still a longshot. The Georgia Bulldogs appear to be the pick of the litter on the eastern side and I can’t see anyone beating them. They already have a dominant win at South Carolina who may very well be the second best team in the East. Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee are rebuilding and Vanderbilt probably doesn’t have enough talent on either side of the ball. The only intriguing team is Missouri with Drew Lock at the helm who has a rocket for an arm and a great array of receivers. Defensively are where the issues are though and they host Georgia this Saturday which could be the last hope for a team to win the East not named Georgia.
The ACC sets up relatively simply as well except for a few upstart teams that can’t be taken lightly. The Atlantic division is headed by Clemson who appear dominant yet again on both sides of the ball. Many people are sleeping on Boston College right now who have the most explosive offense currently in the ACC. (yes it’s true, 27 plays so far of 20+ yards) They maintain a strong defense as well and are a tough out for anyone. NC State, Wake Forest, Syracuse, and Louisville are all solid enough teams but don’t have enough to beat Clemson in my opinion. (ignore FSU, dumpster fire) The Coastal features Miami who looked bad in a loss to LSU but played a great all around game against a tough Toledo team on the road last week. There are several other good teams there as well with Virginia Tech, Duke, and even Virginia who looks to finally be coming around under Bronco Mendenhall who saw a lot of success at BYU a few years back. I don’t believe Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, or North Carolina can compete at the top. Still, this is an intriguing side and I’m trying to figure out if one of those teams can beat Clemson in the ACC championship which would need to happen to get to the playoff.
The Big 12 this year is a wide open scorefest that will likely be the most fun conference to watch all season. Oklahoma lead by Kyler Murray and a surprisingly stingy defense heads this conference so far but Texas, TCU, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State can all score in droves and compete with anyone. Don’t sleep on Bill Snyder at Kansas State who is always tough to beat (watch out WVU this week) and Iowa State showed last year that they can beat people on a big stage by upsetting Oklahoma on the road last year. It seems like there is lots of value in this conference to be had which is exactly why I had wagers on two teams before the season started. One loss will almost guarantee a conference championship birth and winning that game with get in the playoff.
So now the fun part. Our goal at Betting For An Edge is to always find value and here we go. All it takes is to find some teams with odds that we believe are good enough to take a shot on. There is no magic science to this. For ease I will use the current odds on William Hill but you may find some that are better when you shop around. I tend to stay away from heavy favorites like Alabama (+140) and teams that are riding high and seeing lots of public money come in for them due to recent performances. Some examples of these are Oklahoma (15/1), LSU (20/1), and Mississippi State (28/1).
Starting with some Big 10 teams, Ohio State (6/1) seems too low for the tough schedule that they have remaining with at least one loss likely by the end. Iowa (40/1) intrigues me and a win at home versus Wisconsin this week would set them up beautifully to win their side of the conference. That said, I’m not sure of their chances to beat Ohio State who they don’t play in the regular season. Wisconsin (75/1) is a spot I really like. Bettors have backed off of them since their home loss to BYU and if they redeem themselves vs Iowa this week they have a good chance to dominate the majority of their schedule in the weaker side of the Big 10. I also think they might be good enough on the ground with that destructive offensive line to beat Ohio State or Penn State in the Big 10 championship. In the Pac 12, Stanford (50/1) may just be good enough. They have a bear of a schedule left with road games at Oregon, Notre Dame,and Washington. After Washington on Nov 3rd, the schedule is pretty easy and they would face a team from the very weak Pac 12 South. I think Utah (300/1) holds good value despite the loss to Washington already. Everything went wrong in the second half for them last week and they have an offense to dominate people unlike in years past. The fear with the Pac 12 though is the general weakness of the conference and the potential of a one loss team to get left out of the playoff. Something to think about.
I don’t believe any teams have enough betting value in the SEC. The only one I could see an argument for would be Georgia (+750) since they would virtually lock up a birth into the SEC title game with a win over Missouri this week. There isn’t a lot to get excited about at +750 though so I don’t feel great about it. Moving south to the ACC I like Boston College. (300/1 Westgate) They have a very tough schedule and play Miami and Virginia Tech from the other side of the conference but do get Clemson at home in November. Simply getting to the ACC Championship game is a challenge but they are solid on both sides of the ball with the best running back in the conference by far in A.J. Dillon. Clemson (+350) is too low but Miami (75/1) looks great. They have the opposite deal with BC and have a weak schedule in conference. I believe they will be more prepared this season against Clemson should they reach the conference championship. Lastly, the Big 12 offers some intriguing betting opportunities. Texas (100/1), TCU (250/1), and Kansas State (1000/1) hold the most value in my opinion. Texas and TCU play each other this week and each already have one loss so a win in this game will them a big leg up going forward. Kansas State is an extreme dark horse and already lost to a very good Mississippi State team but a win at West Virginia this week would bring them right back into the picture. Speaking of West Virginia (30/1) I think these odds are far too low and their defense remains very unproven. Oklahoma State (75/1) is too low now as well.
So after all the analysis these are the bets I am willing to make that have an edge at this current moment.
Boston College 300/1
Good luck to everyone and next we will preview the Heisman Trophy race and try to find an edge in that future market.