If you’re so inclined, you may already place a wager (or wagers) on which college football team will win the 2013-2014 BCS National Championship.
Yes, the season ended a few hours ago and the offseason has yet to unpack his things, but it doesn’t matter. Sports books have already opened up the window and expectations are in place. Well, a means to make money is in place based off these expectations, but the forecasting is already underway. It never stops, really.
These odds will continue to change as a) more money comes in to shift them and b) natural offseason happenings take place—additions, unexpected subtractions, injuries, coaching changes and the unpredictable (see: a coach flying over his motorcycle handlebars) develop.
Still, the odds are in place and Vegas has had its say. What exactly is it saying?
Using the odds from the online book Bovada.lv, here are some initial observations on the experts’ forecasts. Also, the full list of 2014 BCS National Championship opening odds can be found here.
ROLL CHALK: Alabama Is a Worthy Favorite Yet Again
Quarterback AJ McCarron is back along with his favorite target—and future star—wideout Amari Cooper. Although they lose Eddie Lacy at running back, soon-to-be sophomore T.J. Yeldon is an absolute specimen. Alabama also is loaded at that position and will feature multiple backs who would star on most teams.
The offensive line is the primary concern, and the team’s strength from the past season will need to be rebuilt as Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack head to the NFL. The defense will lose a few key contributors but won’t go through the transformation it has in recent years. It will once again be one of the nation’s best, and C.J. Mosley’s surprising return for another season is absolutely massive.
Beyond the talent, the schedule makers were very favorable. An early game at Texas A&M might be the most anticipated game on the entire college football schedule, but outside of this, it’s hard to find losses. A winning ticket won’t pay well, but you have to like your chances here. Value is lacking, but there’s good reason for that. Nick Saban’s group will be a monster (again) and will be difficult to bet against.
Other Worthy Favorites: Teams Near the Top Worth a Look
Urban Meyer will enter the offseason unbeaten as an Ohio State head coach and with a quarterback who appears poised to improve even more. Braxton Miller will get plenty of Heisman buzz—deservedly so—and the Buckeyes are relatively young on both sides.
Las Vegas has always been very fond of Urban Meyer-coached teams, and again, there’s good reason for that. More appealing than the team and the young talent, however, is this schedule. If you haven’t seen Ohio State’s 2013 road, take a look.
Ohio State will be favored in every game, and the finale at Ann Arbor feels like the lone major obstacle on paper. At 7/1, Ohio State is a very live wager. Good value for a team with a relatively clear path.
Texas A&M 11/1
At this point, getting Johnny Manziel at 11/1 feels like an absolute steal. With that being said, there are some concerns when looking at this team. Still, 11/1? Yes, please.
The losses of left tackle Luke Joeckel and defensive end Damontre Moore are massive, and the two could very well be the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the upcoming NFL draft. Although that may not transpire, many see both as top-10 picks. Offensive lineman Jake Matthews did decide to return, however, which was huge for the Aggies.
A&M is blazing on the recruiting trail, and there should be some offensive weapons that make an immediate impact. Outside of playing Alabama, A&M will also take trips to Ole Miss, LSU, Arkansas and Missouri. Although not easy, there’s a lot to like here.
Also, Johnny Football.
Those Not So Worthy: Teams Near the Top to Stay Away From
Despite losing everyone on the team outside of the trainer and mascot, LSU is still the sixth-overall selection on the board. Ten LSU underclassmen are testing their luck in the NFL draft, some of whom were huge contributors.
Although no one (well, outside of Alabama) develops defensive talent like LSU, it’s just too many losses. The offense should be improved if Zach Mettenberger can get better, and the Tigers do have weapons on that side of the ball, but there’s not enough value given the mass exodus.
The schedule is also not ideal, as the Tigers have TCU, Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and Alabama to face. Run away from 16/1.
The Gators come in as the No. 10 team on the board, and while 25/1 isn’t bad value, I just don’t see them as a team likely to match its 2012 success. That's not exactly bold, however, because it was a tremendous year for Will Muschamp's group.
Forget about the Sugar Bowl debacle against Louisville. While it was a dumpster fire, it’s not the reason I’m shying away. Florida loses some very good players, and running back Mike Gillislee will be a tough guy to replace. The defense should still be very good, but offensively I just don’t see a rapid transformation taking place.
Also, I’m not crazy about their 2013 schedule, which includes games against an improving Miami team, LSU, Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida State. Oof.
Let's Go BIG: As for Value, Here’s Where to Look
The best value on the board, and it’s really not close. The Horned Frogs had only 11 scholarship seniors last year, and many of the freshmen and sophomores played meaningful minutes. Quarterback Casey Pachall has returned to the team, and if he can stay on the right track, TCU could be in for big things.
The Big 12 is wide open, and while a BCS National Championship run is a long shot, 100/1 is wonderful. A lot will need to go right for this to happen, but the ceiling for this team should be incredibly high.
There are holes on this team, no question, but Nebraska is playing in a wide-open conference with a schedule that’s favorable. The Cornhuskers’ first five games will come at home, and overall they'll play eight at home. Perhaps most importantly, they won’t play Ohio State in the regular season.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez should continue to improve, and wideout Kenny Bell is one of the conference’s best. Running back Rex Burkhead is gone, but soon-to-be-star Ameer Abdullah should be just fine. It’ll take a massive jump, but 50/1 is a nice price.
Not nearly the same kind of value as the teams above, but 25/1 with an improving Stanford team certainly feels like good value. And while Stanford will lose a ton on offense—including running back Stepfan Taylor and tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo—the Cardinal should still be one of the Pac-12’s best.
Their offensive line will still be one of the country’s best, and quarterback Kevin Hogan should continue to improve. The schedule really isn’t all that tough, and both Oregon and Notre Dame will come to their building. Lots to prove, but reasons to believe Stanford can get it done.