Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton
- 2018 AAC Championship odds are out at offshore sportsbooks.
- Temple had a down year and has two hurdles against UCF and USF in 2018, but there are a lot of reasons to like the Owls.
- Our Collin Wilson is taking Temple to win the AAC at 12-1.
Title odds for Group of 5 conferences such as the AAC and Mountain West have been posted. And while the rest of the world watches the NBA draft, I’m busy getting college football futures action down.
Westgate also posted odds to reach the College Football Playoff for more than 70 teams. These numbers have been posted for a limited number of teams offshore, and there is plenty of value in a few of the odds at the SuperBook.
American Athletic Conference
The Pick: Temple +1200
The Owls finished 2017 hot, winning four of five games, including a 28-3 throttling of Florida International in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. It was a tale of two halves for Temple, which included losses to UConn and Army during a 3-5 start. Temple’s lackluster play was unfamiliar for head coach Geoff Collins, who built terrorizing defenses as defensive coordinator at Florida and Mississippi State.
Frank Nutile took over at quarterback midseason and is back in 2018 with a plethora of returning skill position players. The defense has shed a bit of returning production, but Temple has had plenty of success recruiting defensive talent through the Matt Rhule days. Collins certainly has innovative ideas to attract players — offseason trips to Japan earning college credits is one of them. Temple’s recruiting class has ranked in the top half of the AAC in four of the last five years, according to the 247Sports Composite. The year Rhule left for Baylor was the one outlier.
As for Temple winning the AAC, it really comes down to two games against East division foes UCF and USF. The losses to those teams in 2017 are a bit misleading, since Temple went -9 in net turnovers in the games against the Knights and Bulls. Notably, Temple outgained the unbeaten Knights 397-384 yards, but threw four interceptions and lost a fumble.
The Nov. 1 game this year in Orlando will be a revenge spot for Temple, which will have 12 days’ rest.
Fading the AAC Favorites
I will also look to fade UCF and USF in multiple spots in 2018. Josh Heupel had lukewarm offenses at Oklahoma, Utah State and Missouri, in terms of S&P+, as offensive coordinator. Heupel is now UCF’s coach, but it remains to be seen if Mizzou’s 14th-ranked S&P+ offense last year was an anomaly. The loss of Shaquem Griffin should have immediate impact on the UCF defense because of how much ground he covered.
As for South Florida, Quinton Flowers has moved on to the NFL. Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert did not force his offensive package after the move from Texas to South Florida. Both Gilbert and coach Charlie Strong elected to stick with a Gulf Coast Option that worked for Willie Taggart when coaching Flowers. There should be regression on this Bulls squad as it searches for a new quarterback while possibly changing scheme to feed the strength of the offense (wide receiver).
Scheduling favors Temple in the East, as South Florida visits Philly on Nov. 17. This is an overlook spot for the Bulls, since Central Florida awaits on Friday, Nov. 23. UCF must play Memphis from the West division. The Knights also play Navy nine days after the Temple game — the first time UCF will see the triple option in 2018.
Mountain West Conference
How good is Boise State? My projections make Wyoming +7.5 on Sept. 29 the toughest conference test. Boise will be coming to Laramie off a bye week, and being away from the blue turf is a positive for the Broncos.
The most value from conference odds may come from the West division, but good luck predicting outside of Fresno State and San Diego State. Since the Mountain West went to divisions in 2013, only the Bulldogs and Aztecs have won the West. There are no cross-division advantages as the top three teams in the West (San Diego State, Fresno State, Nevada) all play Boise State. In 2018, San Diego State visits Fresno State on Nov. 17, where the point spread is projected at Bulldogs -4.5. The winner of that game should have a rematch against the Broncos for the championship, but good luck understanding who gets home field.
With Boise State at -200 and no indication of who will win the West, there will not be an investment on Mountain West Conference odds in my portfolio. However, I certainly can’t blame anyone splitting a unit on San Diego State +700 or Fresno State +700 with a hedge shot against Boise to wrap the season.