Favorites are the easy wager to make in the college football futures market, with history pointing to the SEC and an occasional Big Ten team to be among the last teams standing.
Following last season’s surprises such as Tulane, LSU and TCU, we have five under-the-radar options for fans who are looking to avoid the chalk — otherwise known as Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama — on the futures betting menu.
—Utah Utes, +300 to make Pac-12 title game and +8000 to win the national championship
Some fans may have forgotten how effectively quarterback Cam Rising performed before suffering a torn ACL in the Rose Bowl against Penn State.
Rising is reported to be aiming to start early this season, perhaps as soon as next Thursday’s matchup at home against Florida.
The real value comes from Utah’s ability to navigate the Pac-12. The +300 is just for reaching the conference title game, so the USC Trojans are not the main competition in winning this futures bet.
Rising, combined with the coaching expertise of Kyle Whittingham, can lead Utah to at least a second-place finish and a berth in the conference title game.
If they get there, well, it’s college football. Anything can happen and the +8000 to win the national title would be a nice ticket to be carrying.
Key matchups: Sept. 29 at Oregon State, Oct. 21 at USC, Oct. 28 vs. Oregon and Nov. 11 at Washington.
—Pittsburgh Panthers +1000 to reach ACC Championship Game
Beginning this season, the ACC has scrapped the divisional format and conference finalists will be determined by winning percentage.
For the improving Panthers, that means capitalizing on the momentum from last season – capped by a stirring upset of UCLA in the Sun Bowl – and hoping for a stumble at the top.
Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina and Miami have shorter odds than Pitt, but there are a couple of keys that could lead to a nice payoff.
First, the Panthers don’t face Clemson or Miami this season.
Former Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec, a fifth-year senior, leads the offense. Running back Rodney Hammond Jr., the Sun Bowl MVP, and three offensive line starters provide some quality help.
A reloaded defensive line and strong play in the secondary are prime areas that could make the difference for a Panthers team that has won 20 games and have finished among the Top 25 the past two seasons.
Key matchups: Sept. 16 at West Virginia, Sept. 23 vs. North Carolina, Nov. 4 vs. Florida State.
—Texas Tech Red Raiders +600 to reach Big 12 Conference Championship Game, +20000 to win national title
The Red Raiders defeated Oklahoma, Texas and Mississippi last season, and will not see the Sooners on this year’s regular-season schedule.
Coach Joey McGuire enters his second season riding the momentum of the Texas Bowl victory over Ole Miss, but, with questions on defense, the Red Raiders will have to outscore their opponents.
Quarterback Tyler Shough – if he’s able to stay healthy – provides a nice foundation for the Tech offense and has a prime target in All-Big-12 receiver Jerand Bradley.
While the national title seems a bit out of reach, a first- or second-place finish in the conference will cash those +600 futures tickets.
Key matchups: Oct. 14 vs. Kansas State, Nov. 2 vs. TCU, Nov. 24 at Texas.
—Texas Longhorns +2000 to win the national title
It may finally be time for the Longhorns to fulfill their dream, dormant since Vince Young’s Texas team took down USC in the Rose Bowl to complete a perfect 2005 season.
The Longhorns visit Alabama on Sept. 9, but that game won’t have any bearing on the Big 12 title chase.
Quarterback Quinn Ewers is among 10 returning starters on offense, and, though Texas lost standout running back Bijan Robinson to the NFL, it gained highly touted freshman CJ Baxter.
Coach Steve Sarkisian had an impressive recruiting haul, and should Texas win its first Big 12 title since 2009, a berth among college football’s final four seems likely.
From there, the Longhorns don’t figure to suffer a talent disadvantage and may be ready to run the table.
Key matchups: Oct. 7 vs. Oklahoma, Nov. 11 at TCU, Nov. 24 vs. Texas Tech.
—Louisville Cardinals +25000 to win national title
Fans of long shots love the big bombers.
Fans of quarterbacks and weak schedules love the Louisville Cardinals.
Coach Jeff Brohm – an effective college QB who played in eight NFL games and threw a touchdown pass – has a talented leader at Louisville, Jack Plummer.
This is the first season at Louisville for both, as Brohm comes from Purdue and Plummer from Cal, where he threw 21 touchdown passes and nine interceptions over a 12-game span last season.
Plummer also played under Brohm at Purdue, and now has a double dose of coaching with Brian Brohm – Jeff’s brother – directing the offense.
The long odds are reflective of uncertainty, given the many offseason additions via the transfer portal.
Louisville has only one opponent, Notre Dame, ranked among the preseason Top 25, so it’s not a stretch to believe the right chemistry could lead to a conference championship.
If you’re a Brohm believer – he won 17 games the past two seasons at Purdue – this unlikely national title run (but remember TCU last year) is worth a long look.
Key matchups: Oct. 7 vs. Notre Dame, Nov. 18 at Miami, Nov. 25 vs. Kentucky.
—Field Level Media
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