Why Ohio State Is the Best-Value Bet in 2014 College Football Season

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Why Ohio State Is the Best-Value Bet in 2014 College Football Season
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The season-ending shoulder injury—or, the re-injuring of said shoulder, if you will—to Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller already projects to have major championship effects. 

From the moment that Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch first reported the news Monday, Ohio State's Big Ten and national-championship picture got fuzzier. 

As it turned out, the concern expressed by Haney wasn't a matter of creating a storyline through hyperbole. 

According to Las Vegas SuperBook, the Buckeyes have dropped to 50-1 odds to win the College Football Playoff (h/t Chip Patterson, CBSSports.com). For reference, Ohio State was listed at 12-1 by the same oddsmakers to win it all before Miller was officially ruled out for the year. 

Now is actually a good time to consider buying stock in Ohio State's championship odds. 

Miller's injury is more devastating to him than it is to Ohio State. You simply have to feel awful for a guy whose season is over before it begins. 

"My thoughts and prayers are with Braxton and his family," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said in a statement. "This is an unfortunate injury to a young man who means so much to this program and to Buckeye nation."

True, you can't understate the importance of Miller's injury. Good quarterbacks, especially ones who can pick up yards with their feet, are nearly impossible to account for and can mask a lot of deficiencies. As B/R's Ohio State lead writer Ben Axelrod writes, new starter JT Barrett isn't as physically gifted as Miller—not to mention he doesn't have experience. 

What Barrett does have, however, is leadership. That's a much-needed quality during a difficult time: 

Despite being just a second-year player with no playing experience at the college level, Barrett has also already been lauded for his leadership within the Ohio State locker room. And while he may not be a physical freak capable of stringing together single-game highlight reels like Miller, he prides himself on his intangibles and ability to spread the ball around.

But it's not like the Buckeyes were devoid of talent elsewhere. The defensive line of Michael Bennett, Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Joey Bosa could be the single best group at that position anywhere in the country.

Coupled with a secondary that will feature an up-and-coming star in Vonn Bell, the Buckeyes pass defense, which ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten a year ago, should be better.  

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The question marks lie mostly on offense, which even before Miller's injury had to replace four offensive linemen, leading running back Carlos Hyde and leading receiver Philly Brown. The talent is there for the next wave of stars, there's just not a ton of experience in the trenches or in the backfield. 

But there's an X-factor with offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who was recently ranked as the top assistant in college football by Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman. That should inspire confidence that the offense will come together sooner rather than later. 

And, as of mid-August, Ohio State has one preseason top-25 team on its schedule: No. 8 Michigan State on November 8. That's not to say the Buckeyes won't be challenged before then, but that does give the offense time to iron out wrinkles. 

The odds may have dipped out of Ohio State's favor, and for all anyone knows, Miller's injury could cost the team a game or two it might have normally won. 

That said, there are still plenty of reasons to like Ohio State and their title chances in 2014. Putting the Buckeyes at 50-1 odds seems like a steal. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All odds courtesy of Las Vegas SuperBook.

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