Pretenders & Contenders

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We’re 2 full weeks into the college football season and you have the inalienable right as a fan to push the panic button already. Over reacting to your team’s national title prospects this early in the season is as American as apple pie.  Certain teams are already starting to show their true colors, yes I’m looking at you in the burnt orange and that program in the Pac12 led by Lane Kiffin. Other schools have played 2 glorified exhibitions; AHEM Texas A&M and Wisconsin, meaning the jury is still out on their potential in 2013.  Rest assured I’m here to ease your pretty little heads and put to bed dreams of darkhorse national championships, improbable undefeated seasons, and the kind of heroics reserved for an episode of Friday Night Lights rather than college football.  Think of me like that older cousin preparing you for life’s harsh realities by telling you Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny don’t exist and you’ll have an easier time stomaching the content in my article.

Pretenders vs Contenders takes on a different tone when you talk to someone who seeks out value in numbers for a living. My decisions aren’t based on what team I think will actually win the national championship but rather the teams who have a shot and therefore a current price actually worth betting.  Now let me be brutally honest; college football is a much different animal when you’re trying to find value in the market compared to other futures. So much relies on external factors falling in your favor if there’s even one slip up during the regular season.  This is now the portion of the show where I mention Alabama and disappoint a fervent fan base because it’s the only time I will do so in the column. My reason? Well that’s because the Tide aren’t pretenders or contenders; they’re overwhelming front runners at 5-2 and the consensus pick to win the national title.  My list includes a healthy dose of teams that I’m buying, selling, or passing on given current valuations.

All futures prices courtesy of the LVH

Oregon 9-2: You bet your ass these Ducks are contenders for a national championship but are they worth betting?  Chip Kelly or not it looks like Oregon will be just as explosive as long as Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas are in uniform. Schedule wise I don’t see major landmines outside of a trip to Palo Alto against the Cardinal.  The price isn’t great and in gambling that’s all that matters meaning unless you can find them at 6-1 or better, I can’t make a case for betting them here. PASS

Georgia 20-1: Ah yes, the Clay Travis special. The Dawgs shook off their opening week loss to Clemson and bounced back against USC telling the country they’re not dead yet.  Plain and simple for the Bulldogs: run the table and you can bring a national championship back to Athens. The defense needs to grow up quickly or the game against LSU in late September will squash those title dreams and for me I just haven’t seen enough to justify an investment here. Pass

Texas A&M 20-1: Beat Alabama and I’ll believe in you, no really I will.  Of course that would then mean the price gets cut in half.  There are too many tough games standing in the Aggies way to make a real run at the national championship. Eventually a mediocre defense will be the Achilles Heel and keep them from bringing a title to College Station. Sell

Ohio St 5-1: Braxton Miller is awesome…Ohio St is not. There’s no way I can back this team at such a short market price.  Although their schedule isn’t daunting, I don’t see them getting through unscathed and a 1 loss Big Ten team won’t be able to sneak into the top 2 slots of the BCS. Sell

LSU 20-1: My pick to get out of the SEC West. Yep, I’ve spent way too many nights at the club lately meaning this selection is the remnant of poor judgment. Zach Mettenberger will end up being the best QB in the entire conference by the time the year’s over and I believe LSU finds enough from the defense to become an awfully balanced side and scary out all season long. Buy

Clemson 12-1: No, they’re Clemson; the idea of considering them at this price is unfathomable. Sell

Stanford 12-1: This may be the best team in the nation no one talks about. Hell, the Cardinal have won as many games as Alabama since 2010 yet they continue to fly under the radar. They don’t have that “feel” of a title contender however a win against Oregon in back to back seasons would be no small feat.  This is a price worth nibbling on if you believe the smart kids can put an end to the SEC’s dominance. Buy

Michigan 12-1: I’m not even going to justify this with a serious discussion.  I do hope today isn’t the first day that Clay’s wife Lara reads my column because that might not bode well for my future contributions to OKTC.  Sell…TWICE

Florida St 12-1: Now we’re cooking with peanut oil on a team I think will be there until the bitter end.  Florida St has 2 landmines on their schedule in the form of Clemson and Florida (no, I won’t count NC State).  Jameis Winston is the real deal, his debut against Pittsburgh wasn’t a fluke. The young pivot will be the catalyst for leading the Seminoles quest to number 1 but the hard part about investing here is the price has dropped considerably from the open. Oh well…BUY

Baylor 75-1:  I know what you’re thinking, where the hell does he get off even considering this team. Hear me out:  home games against OU and Texas given what I’ve seen through 2 weeks are very manageable when you consider the Bears will be less than a FG underdog in both of them.  Road trips to Oklahoma St and TCU in late November aren’t easy however 75-1 won’t be on the board then if the Bears enter that pivotal stretch undfeated.  Call me crazy…ok yea this isn’t happening but it would be one hell of a story if Bryce Petty gives the Bears a punchers chance in what could be a whacky year in the Big XII. BUY…small

Teams under 100-1 where you’d be better off burning your money than betting them to win the national title:

UCLA 40-1

Nebraska 30-1

Oklahoma 30-1

Louisville 25-1

Wisconsin 60-1

How does Vegas see the top 25?

Best Prop for the Weekend Courtesy of Bovada:

Will Johnny Manziel get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty? Yes +150 / No -200

My Odds on First Coach to get fired in 2013:

Trent Miles (Georgia St): 2-1

Ron English (Eastern Michigan): 5-2

Bobby Hauck (UNLV): 7-2

Paul Pasqualoni (UConn): 5-1

Lane Kiffin (USC): 10-1

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.