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College football makes for outstanding reality tv. Unscripted from the start of the season kicking off in earnest tonight all the way through the crowning of a national champion in Pasadena come early January, we’ll get storylines we never imagined possible. As sports bettors we find chapters each and every week that we’ll attempt to unravel in order to find profitable betting situations. Here are 6 gambling storylines, some real and others created, worth keeping tabs on throughout the fall.
6: Will the Heisman Trophy Winner come from off the pace?
Each of the last 3 years the man taking home the most coveted award in college football has come from out of nowhere to take home the hardware. Whether it was Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, or Cam Newton, all 3 were anything but favorites during the month of August. We know the guys getting the early love; Braxton Miller (7-1), Aaron Murray (10-1), Teddy Bridgewater (11-1), De’Anthony Thomas (13-1), Jadeveon Clowney (15-1), and AJ McCarron (15-1) however I’m skeptical the race holds true to form and set the O/U at only 1.5 for total players from the top 5 to end up in Manhattan. My ultimate longshot is a young QB out of Florida St named Jameis Winston. Rick Trickett, FSU’s assistant head coach, wouldn’t have told his own son to transfer away from the program unless he believed Winston was a truly elite talent. If the Noles can run the table with a very manageable schedule, this young man may be this year’s Johnny Football.
5: Will the prohibitive favorites in the Big Ten and American Athletic Conference, Ohio St and Louisville respectively, run away with their leagues?
Louisville is nearly a 1:2 chalk to take home the inaugural American Athletic Conference crown. I’m not sure in this day and age, when breaking down a somewhat major conference, any team warrant’s that type of pricetag. Last season the Cardinal found a way to get dismantled by Syracuse and managed to win 6 games by less than a TD. We all became enamored with their potential after a 33-23 dusting of Florida in the Sugar Bowl however that was Cardinal football on it’s best day rather than it’s typical Saturday average. Everything breaks Louisville’s way in 2013 with the lone challenge on paper coming Thursday December 5th at Cincinnati. Something doesn’t feel right for me and I just can’t see a 12-0 season for Charlie Strong’s team as a foregone conclusion.
Ohio State finds themselves in a similar spot to Louisville with one major exception; other teams in the Big Ten actually have a pulse. Games against Wisconsin, at Northwestern, and at Michigan are all losable contests for a team with an unproven defense and sky high high expectations entering the season. The pressure is on Urban Meyer to lead the Buckeyes to consecutive unblemished seasons, this time with a much greater prize at the end of the rainbow than faux national title rings from a year ago. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in betting it’s that when things appear too easy on paper something inevitably goes wrong. I’ll state right here that Ohio St and Louisville won’t both win their respective conferences with perfect records, removing one or maybe both from the national title discussion.
4: Odds on who faces recruiting sanctions first: Kentucky (+130) vs Ole Miss (-150)
This is the question that fascinates me the most on this list, mainly because no sportsbook will actually post a bettable number for it so we can throw ideas against a wall and see what sticks. I know what yall are thinking; both programs are building through legitimate hard work on the recruiting trail utilizing the strength of young charismatic head coaches. Color me skeptical that two downtrodden programs are suddenly about to burst back into national relevance almost over night. When something doesn’t smell right (see Oregon), I’m not wired to attribute the outcome to mere chance or law of averages as an oddsmaker. The harder you work, the luckier you get definitely applies to recruiting the same way it does to outcomes on the field but a little off field “push” can also help tilt the scales. Given my platform to speculate using limited knowledge of the situation, it only made sense to open the Rebels as a favorite when issuing this prop.
3: Alabama has been favored in 43 straight games entering the season leaving them 15 shy of USC’s record run of 58 games from 2003-2007: will the Tide break the record next year?
Roll Tide! Talk about dominance during the Nick Saban era; Alabama has been favored in 43 straight now spanning 3+ seasons. That’s some kind of stranglehold over a league with the most talent top to bottom anywhere in the country. Even Boise St during it’s peak years in a lesser conference couldn’t muster this feat. However, Alabama still has to keep their grasp in Vegas for another full season plus to approach the Pete Carroll dynasty. As it stands right now Alabama will be more than a touchdown favorite against every opponent on their current schedule including Texas A&M. There’s only one team in the entire country (it’s not Ohio St) that I’d make less than +7 against Alabama; the Oregon Ducks.
2: Odds of current SEC coaches still being with their programs on this date in 2014:
Nick Saban Yes -750 / No +600
If Nick were to win another title in Tuscaloosa, what would be left for him to accomplish there? No matter how much money the Tide throw his way I’d have to imagine if Texas came calling in the wake of a Mack Brown retirement the most powerful man in Alabama would consider changing his address.
Bret Bielema Yes -3000 / No +1800
Given the trainwreck that was the Bobby Petrino and John L Smith story last year, the former Wisconsin coach would really need to do something catastrophic to look worse than those two clowns. Besides, there’s no shot the boosters want to attend another Razorbacks dinner without Bielema’s wife in attendance.
Gus Malzahn Yes -3000 / No +1800
It only took a short trip to Jonesboro to make War Eagle realize what they were missing without Malzahn calling the plays. He’s an offensive genius and despite the talent not being where he’d like it in his first year, the school will gladly give him at least 3 seasons to get the Tigers back on track.
Will Muschamp Yes -1800 / No +1200
If Mack left and Texas couldn’t get a guy like Nick Saban, would they go after their old defensive coordinator? The Gators are headed back to where they were during Urban Meyer’s heyday but I still contend this isn’t the same glamour job within the conference that it once was.
Mark Richt Yes -500 / No +400
Oh how close he was to being shown the door in Athens before a mid season resurgence last year carried UGA all the way to the SEC title game. Richt’s Bulldogs have a wealth of offensive talent but their defense could end up resembling Gwinnett High School if young players don’t grow up fast during an imposing September schedule. If the Dawgs struggle early and don’t win 10 games this season, I think its plausible the school pulls the plug on the tenured head coach.
Mark Stoops Yes -3000 / No +1800
Kentucky football is back! Back from what, I’m not quite sure. The idea to recruit players from Ohio and the rest of Big Ten country rather than fighting battles deep in the south was pure genius. The better question becomes is this recruiting success sustainable long term with Ohio State posing the primary competition for a limited talent pool?
Les Miles Yes -1500 / No +1000
Where did I come up with this price? I kind of threw grass in the air hoping it would land somewhere that made sense. Miles has a tall task looming this year, being forced to replace so much depth on the defensive side of the ball. Fortunately for him he’s thrived in this role historically rattling off double digit win seasons each time the Tigers weren’t ranked in the top 10 to start the year. Just when you think LSU is rebuilding, they spring a BCS bowl appearance on you.
Dan Mullen Yes -150 / No +130
Mullen has to be kicking himself for passing up a number of high profile gigs each of the last few offseasons. Plain and simple, winning in Starkville every year is a daunting task especially with Ole Miss on the rise. I don’t think the Bulldogs will send him packing if MSU misses the postseason but he very well could already be circulating his resume for future employment before the holidays roll around.
Gary Pinkel Yes +100 / No -120
Pinkel is the only coach on this list I make a favorite to be somewhere else when next season starts. It’s by no fault of his own that Missouri is in over their heads when you talk about SEC caliber talent and depth. James Franklin is a solid QB option but his durability remains a major concern and his health be directly connected to Pinkel’s employment status come next fall.
Hugh Freeze Yes -3000 / No +1800
Energy, enthusiasm, and a program on the rise; Wait, this is Ole Miss we’re talking about right? Deep recruiting classes and an overall upgrade in talent means losing the Egg Bowl is no longer acceptable. I’ll be intrigued to see if the Rebels can start climbing in the SEC west and dethrone the likes of LSU or Alabama in the top third of their division.
Steve Spurrier Yes -5000 / No +3500
Unless he decides he’s had enough coaching or Hardee’s calls to model a new clothing line, the Ole Ball Coach will be back in the SEC creating media nuggets for a long time. South Carolina won’t tell Steve it’s time to go anytime soon and at this point in his career he’s not looking to change his zip code for anything other than golf.
Butch Jones Yes -3000 / No +1800
Butch has the unenviable task of reviving a program that’s fallen on pretty hard times. Life in the SEC his first time through will be a challenge yet I think the Vols have found a long term coaching solution by moving completely away from the Dooley coaching tree.
Kevin Sumlin Yes -300 / No +250
If the NFL comes calling, my gut says he’d leave tomorrow. Sumlin’s an offensive genius but one without his general in Kliff Kingsbury this year. I can’t quite put my finger on it however I don’t see College Station as the final landing spot for one of the brightest rising stars in the coaching ranks
James Franklin Yes -2500 / No +1600
Franklin has the keys to the city given everything he’s done for Commodore football the last few years. Depth remains a concern in Nashville and you’ll have to wonder how the team responds to all the offseason turmoil of a situation that produces no winners no matter what the court rules. Going from the hunter to the hunted isn’t an easy transition; it will be fascinating to see if Vanderbilt can take the next step in the program’s meteoric rise back to respectability.
1: SEC (-150) vs the Field (+120)
The SEC’s dominance in college football is well chronicled. Hell, the last time a team not hailing from the NFL’s minor leagues took home a BCS national title was back in 2005 when Vince Young was actually relevant (sorry Packers fans). This year looks to be no different with Alabama entrenched as a prohibitive favorite to win the national title at 5/2. LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Florida all have their current prices listed at 25-1 or shorter as well. To put this in perspective, every other conference combined, yes combined, only gives bettors 6 teams to choose from priced shorter than 25-1. SEC college football remains king until someone proves otherwise. Which team(s) for my money are potentially able to dethrone the top conference? Florida St 20-1 or Oregon at 10-1.