National Title Odds Analysis, Week 6: Let’s Talk About Kentucky’s Résumé, Hurdles

Oct 02, 2018 12:07 PM EDT
  • Alabama's odds to win the national title may have bottomed out for now as we enter Week 6 of the college football season.
  • Both Kentucky (200-1) and West Virginia (50-1) are mispriced at the moment.

Well, after all the hype and discussion and blowouts, it finally may have happened. Alabama‘s price may have hit rock bottom for a little bit.

After the Crimson Tide opened -175 last week following the drubbing of Texas A&M, a win over Louisiana-Lafayette did not improve Alabama’s standing in the market. The Tide reopened at -170 Tuesday morning at offshore book 5Dimes.

As the Tide keeps easily knocking off these lesser foes, it will be interesting to see if the -150 to -175 area is where they hold until facing rival LSU in Baton Rouge to start November, provided the other contenders maintain their level of success as well.

Alabama’s opponents so far haven’t exactly been lighting it up against other competition. The teams Bama has beaten so far are 7-7 against other FBS schools. There’s still a lot we don’t know about the Tide, and that doesn’t mean they aren’t an all-time great team. It’s just that we don’t know yet.

The Other Main Contenders

All odds from 5Dimes as of Tuesday morning

A few things of more significance than Alabama’s price consistency got straightened out last Saturday. Penn State, by virtue of its loss to Ohio State, now has a very uphill climb to get to the playoff. The Nittany Lions dropped from +2750 to +4750.

The Buckeyes, interestingly enough, actually saw their price get slightly worse, albeit fractionally. They were +450 last week, and they are +500 this week.

Perhaps it’s a little of their vulnerability that showed Saturday night in Happy Valley, but more likely it’s just that they have many difficult games remaining, and a loss to either Michigan State or Michigan would give those schools the current inside track to the Big Ten title game.

Clemson may have had a crazy Saturday, but despite a scare against Syracuse, the Tigers remain the second-lowest price on the board. They dropped from +400 to +475, and injured quarterback Trevor Lawrence (neck) reportedly took every rep in practice on Monday.

Georgia, which has been in the top four in the market all season, also changed slightly, going from +700 to +650.

Notre Dame, by virtue of its win over Stanford (and a convincing victory at that), can now more aptly be put in the contenders section. The Irish were covered extensively in my analysis last week, and with the struggles of so many opponents on their schedule (Virginia Tech, Florida State, USC), a once-daunting slate of games now looks quite favorable.

The Irish dropped from +2350 to +1200, one of the most significant price drops on the board.

Kentucky…Still Undervalued?

I talked about Kentucky last week, as well. The Wildcats were 300-1 and had just beaten Mississippi State to stay undefeated. Kentucky went out and beat South Carolina 28-7 Saturday night, but its odds dropped only to 200-1.

There are 19 FBS teams with better odds than the ‘Cats at the moment, including teams with one loss such as Michigan State, Michigan and Texas. Central Florida has lower odds, despite the fact that the entire playoff system is essentially designed so the Knights can’t make it.

Kentucky might appear like one of the more fluky undefeated teams remaining, but that would be a foolhardy position to take at this point. Wins over Florida and Mississippi State, and even the Gamecocks, are just as good if not better than a lot of wins the other contenders have.

Michigan’s best win right now is Northwestern. Michigan State’s best win is at Indiana. S&P+ has Kentucky ranked 15th in its latest projections.

The most appealing characteristic for Kentucky? The remaining schedule. The Wildcats host Georgia in the most important game of the season, which could very likely be for the SEC East title.

Other games: at Texas A&M, vs Vanderbilt, at Missouri, at Tennessee, vs. Middle Tennessee State, at Louisville. The Cardinals’ struggles are well-documented, so despite being a rivalry game, it now be has to be viewed as a likely win.

Another factor to consider: if Kentucky drops a game somewhere else (say, this week at Texas A&M) but defeats Georgia, it would still win the tiebreaker with the Bulldogs and go to the conference championship game anyway.

The Wildcats actually have some wiggle room as long as they don’t lose to Georgia. It’s not a bad position, but it’s being rated as a very unfavorable one.

Oregon is the only other team at 200-1, and the Ducks have a loss that may already prevent them from making it, because their Pac-12 title game opponent will be so weak. That’s how Kentucky is being rated at the moment.

The only team with a longer price that has any real chance of making the playoff is Florida, at 250-1, and Kentucky beat the Gators. You could do worse than betting this price, although if you read this, you’d have 300-1 from last week. No big deal.

Shouldn’t West Virginia’s Price Be Moving?

The final team I want to talk about is the Mountaineers, who escaped Lubbock with a high-scoring, crazy win in the early window Saturday. West Virginia remains undefeated at 4-0 (the N.C. State game was canceled, which shouldn’t really end up mattering), and plays Kansas this week.

My question with West Virginia isn’t necessarily that the Mountaineers should be regarded as a favorite, but this: why is Oklahoma +2250 while West Virginia is +5000?

The teams are actually pretty similar — explosive offense, offensively minded head coach, questions on defense, outscore teams to win — and neither has played a truly great opponent yet. They play the same conference schedule because they’re in the Big 12.

The Mountaineers have hovered around 50-1 all season. The aura and name brand of Oklahoma (and the flashy, incredible plays of Kyler Murray) may be creating some mispricing here.

Credit:

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Benny Snell

Follow Ken Barkley on Twitter
@LockyLockerson

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