Alabama favored on college football futures, but undervalued teams abound

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College football is overdue for a season that’s a departure from its hierarchical norms, which could pay off big-time for bettors who take a team that’s just a little outside the radar screen.

With the season due to kick off in a few weeks, the Alabama Crimson Tide (+275) are the heavy favorite on the odds to win the national championship at sportsbooks monitored by

Coach Nick Saban’s juggernaut still averaged nearly 39 points per game last season while breaking in then-freshman QB Jalen Hurts and, of course, they always reload on defense. Alabama’s schedule is also set up in a way that allow them plenty of time to recover if they lose to the Florida State Seminoles (+700) in their season opener in Atlanta on September 2.

The top tier of the board also includes the Ohio State Buckeyes (+600) and senior QB J.T. Barrett, who likely have the best shot at an undefeated regular season of any Power 5 team.

The prices on the USC Trojans (+700) and aforementioned Florida State probably reflects those programs’ traditions and their current raw talent – both USC and FSU have dynamic redshirt sophomore QBs in Deondre Francois and Sam Darnold, respectively – more than their on-field consistency.

It’s pragmatic to go with any of the big four. College football hasn’t seen a first-time national champion since the 1996 Florida Gators. However, if that’s not stirring enough, there are some darkhorses.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys (+5000) have a prolific offense behind QB Mason Rudolph and will have home field when they play the Oklahoma Sooners (+1400) in their rivalry game in November. Coach Mike Gundy’s Pokes also signaled last season that they can peak at the end of the year.

The Big 12 also offers the West Virginia Mountaineers (+10000), who are plugging transfer QB Will Grier into what was a top-20 offense. With the Big 12 adding a championship game, that could help it get its first representative in the College Football Playoff.

Out on the west coast, the Oregon Ducks (+7500) have something new to them – a returning starting QB in Justin Herbert – as well as a new coach, Willie Taggart, who was a turnaround artist at his last two stops. Oregon was in the national championship game two years ago, and teams that have been near the top typically have greater capacity to bounce right back up after a losing season.

The reigning champion Clemson Tigers (+2800) will still possess a stout defense, but the loss of QB Deshaun Watson to the NFL is too much to overcome.


USC’s Sam Darnold enters season as Heisman Trophy betting favorite

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While being Hollywood-adjacent gives Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold a huge platform for a Heisman Trophy campaign, recent history shows being an early favorite often works against a player’s chance of being voted college football’s most outstanding player.

Darnold, the sophomore quarterback for the USC Trojans, is listed as the +400 favorite on the odds to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy at sportsbooks monitored by The top tier of the board also includes Penn State RB Saquon Barkley (+700), Oklahoma Sooners QB Baker Mayfield (+800), Louisville QB and reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson (+800),  and Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett (+800).

At the outset of the 2016 season, the board was topped by talents such as Christian McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson. Jackson was listed at +1800 early in the season.

Darnold is certainly worthy of 2018 NFL draft hype, but as a pocket passer likely will need numbers in the range of 4,000 yards and 40 TD passes to have a shot. Doing so will require quickly building rapport with a USC receiving corps that lost the sure hands that latched on to 44 per cent of Darnold’s 2016 yardage, so how Darnold gets up to speed with ballyhooed frosh WR Joseph Lewis will be essential.

Similarly, Mayfield has also lost his three best skill-position complements to the NFL. Being a finalist as a sophomore or junior, as Mayfield was, usually doesn’t portend winning; it often just means a player has hit his ceiling with Heisman voters. The debate over how Jackson’s game will translate to the NFL could also give voters pause about picking him again, unless he somehow tops his 2016 total of 51 total touchdowns (passing and rushing).

The last three running backs selected all gained at least 1,650 yards, and if he stays healthy Barkley is capable of exceeding that total in a Penn State spread offense where QB Trace McSorley (+3300) will keep opponents from putting eight defenders in the box. The Big Ten has not had a Heisman winner in the last 10 seasons, its longest drought since a 15-year span a generation ago (1976-90).

Five of the last 10 Heisman winners have hailed from the SEC, which has by far the largest media footprint of any conference in the nation. With some further research, one can zero in on playing a hunch on the Heisman Trophy betting lines between one of the many SEC running backs on the board, including Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough (+1400), Louisiana State’s Derrius Guice (+1200) and Georgia’s Nick Chubb (+2500).

Of those three, Guice, who averaged almost 162 yards across his eight starts in 2016, might be the most likely to get credit for his team’s success. It’s hard to imagine another ‘Bama back winning so soon after the 1,943-yard season Derrick Henry had while winning the Heisman in 2015.

Three of the last six winners, including Jackson, played for teams that heretofore had never had a Heisman winner. That is more of a cluster than a trend, since prior to Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in 2011, the last player to bring his team its first Heisman was in 1994.

Alabama betting favorite over Clemson in National Championship

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Led by linebacker Tim Williams and a hellacious defense, the Alabama Crimson Tide have got better at beating oddsmakers’ expectations during their pursuit of a repeat national championship.

Alabama is listed as the 6-point favorite against the Clemson Tigers with a 50.5-point total for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Tampa on Monday night at sportsbooks monitored by

Alabama is 7-2 against the spread in its last nine games as a favorite on the college football odds, and is also 4-2 ATS in its last six games when it was favored by 4.5 to 10 points. In last season’s national championship game, though, Clemson accounted for one of the two covers. Clemson is 6-1 SU in its last seven games after losing the previous game in a matchup.

The Tigers, who are 13-1 SU and 7-7 ATS, are once again a worthy challenger to Alabama as Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson embarks on his last college game before leaving for the NFL.

Watson and RB Wayne Gallman successfully running against the likes of Williams, MLB Rashaan Evans and OLB Reuben Foster could prove difficult, as Alabama has the nation’s No. 1 run defense. The Tigers do have an athletic receiving corps led by WR Mike Williams and TE Jordan Leggett and even Alabama might not be able to completely shut them down.

Watson is coming off a two-interception performance against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl and will need to be disciplined against the takeaway-happy Tide.

The major question about the Crimson Tide, who are 14-0 SU and 10-4 ATS, is how much liberty freshman QB Jalen Hurts will have after the coaching shake-up following the Peach Bowl. Newly arrived offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will be in his first game calling plays for Hurts after the ouster of Lane Kiffin.

Alabama and LT Cam Robinson can often exert their will in the rushing phase without being complemented by a dynamic passing attack, but Clemson has a stout defense led by DT Carlos Watkins and DE Christian Watkins. The Tigers were able to shut down a more seasoned dual threat QB, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, in the Fiesta Bowl.

Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough is a bruising ball carrier who could be essential to tiring out the Tigers defense. Both WR Calvin Ridley and WR ArDarius Stewart have the size and speed to win one-on-one battles downfield – provided Hurts has the time and precision to find them.

Alabama is 8-2 SU and 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games in the postseason. The total has gone UNDER in four of Clemson’s last five games on a Monday. The total has gone UNDER in four of Alabama’s last five games against teams with winning records.