College Football Futures: Betting Value on Oklahoma & Pitt Ahead of Week 7
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Michael Calabrese: The top 12 slots in the AP Poll are now filled with three preseason teams that entered 2021 unranked, the highest-ranked Group of Five team in the CFP era and an Iowa team that has climbed 16 slots since August all the way to No. 2 nationally — the Hawkeyes’ highest ranking since 1985.
Toss in Alabama’s first loss to an unranked opponent since 2007, Clemson’s abrupt fall from grace and countless implosions by preseason top-15 teams (UNC, Wisconsin, Miami, LSU, USC), and it’s easy to get swept up in the ‘21 vs. ‘07 comparisons.
But while the AP Poll is displaying the kind of volatility usually reserved for crypto markets, college football’s futures market has remained relatively placid.
Alabama opened the season in the 3-1 range across the market, and the Tide now sit at +275, according to recent odds from WynnBET.
Ohio State, another mighty national power that has suffered a loss in the first half of the season, has seen similar stability in its odds, opening in the 7-1 to 8-1 range and settling at 10-1 in recent weeks.
Georgia, now the odds on favorite, has made the biggest jump from low teens in August to prohibitive even-money odds as of today.
Upstarts like Iowa (40-1), Cincinnati (40-1), Kentucky (200-1) and Michigan State (200-1) are still priced attractively, despite their clear paths to the College Football Playoff.
What that signals is that books aren’t worried about these programs winning a pair of games if they were to crack the national semifinals and likely projected each of them as a double-digit underdogs should they draw Georgia or Alabama along the way.
So, is there realistic value on the board beyond a roulette chip or two on college football’s new money? Let’s have a look.
Odds as of Wednesday afternoon and via WynnBET
National Championship Picture
Michael Calabrese: As I mentioned above, the true blue bloods of college football have enjoyed relative stability in the futures market despite uneven play in the first six weeks of the season.
Oklahoma has bubbled up from the 7-1 range and settled in at 10-1 over at WynnBET. My cut-off for a midseason play on the Sooners is 10-1 because of two obvious factors: the Sooners’ path to either the Cotton or Orange Bowl and Caleb Williams.
FiveThirtyEight gives the Sooners a 48% of making the College Football Playoff and ESPN’s FPI rates their remaining strength of schedule 37th nationally. Only Cincinnati (89th) has an easier path ahead of teams in the top 12 of the AP Poll.
In all but one of their remaining games (Iowa State, 65%) the Sooners are projected as the winner by a percentage of 72.5% or higher. This includes their season finale in Stillwater against Oklahoma State.
To state the obvious, a team can’t win the national title without breaking into the CFP and with major threats like K-State and Texas now in the Sooners’ rearview mirror, I love the prospect of them completing a perfect regular season.
As for the second half of this futures equation, the addition of Williams to the starting lineup can’t be overstated. The five-star dual-threat not only has the potential to personally post video-game stats in Lincoln Riley’s attack, but he also appears to be the Sooners’ Skeleton Key.
With Williams at the controls, Marvin Mims came alive, scoring his first and second touchdowns of the 2021 campaign.
Williams is making everyone around him appreciably better.
In this week’s #Sooners final thoughts, I take a look at the numbers, comparing plays with Spencer Rattler behind center vs. plays with Caleb Williams. The difference is stark. https://t.co/5vNgwM9t0v pic.twitter.com/agh3aR25qH
— Jason Kersey (@jasonkersey) October 11, 2021
With Rattler benched and Williams at the helm against UT, the Sooners nearly doubled their yards per play average (5.3 to 10.1). They also found huge home run plays on the ground, with two factors at play.
Williams extended plays with his legs, hitting home run passes left and right. His running ability also prevented Texas from loading the box to stop the traditional running game, which was all Kennedy Brooks needed to go off (217 yards, 2 touchdowns).
Of the teams remaining with a legitimate shot at the National Championship, I now view OU — with Williams as QB1 — in the elite offense category with Alabama and Ohio State.
Defensively, Alex Grinch will need to make adjustments down the stretch, but he did just that last season, shrinking OU’s points per game allowed figure from 27.6 in the first six games down to 15.4 in the final five.
I love the combination of a manageable schedule, dynamic offense with a new X-factor and a former Broyles Award semifinalist getting in the lab to fix a leaky defense.
At 10-1, I’m pulling the trigger.
Alex Hinton: From 2013-19, every team in the ACC Coastal won the division at least once. Last year, the ACC dropped the division format amid the pandemic. However, it did not matter because Clemson won the ACC Championship for the sixth consecutive year.
The Atlantic Division — and the conference as a whole — has not been in question because of Clemson’s dominance. This season, the Tigers have looked mortal like everyone else in the ACC.
Wake Forest is the only undefeated team remaining in the ACC at 6-0 overall and 4-0 in ACC play. However, the Demon Deacons still have trips to UNC and Clemson, along with hosting NC State.
Additionally, Wake Forest is currently 48th in SP+ — including 75th defensively — and 44th in The Action Network’s College Football Betting Power Ratings. Wake Forest’s shaky defense will come back to haunt it at some point.
While you could take Wake Forest at 5-1, you could get a Pitt team with a much stronger profile at a similar price.
Pitt is 10th in SP+, ranking ninth offensively and 27th defensively. The Panthers have the highest scoring offense in the FBS at 52.4 PPG.
Quarterback Kenny Pickett has played like a future NFL Draft pick this season. He’s completing 72% of his passes, averaging 10.3 yards per attempt and has 19 touchdown passes against just one interception. Defensively, Pitt ranks 11th in Havoc.
The Panthers’ remaining schedule is also favorable with road games at Virginia Tech, Duke and Syracuse. They also face Clemson, Miami, Virginia and North Carolina at home.
UNC already has three conference losses and Miami looks like a shell of the team it was expected to be this season. Pitt will not run the table, but the Panthers look like the best team in the Coastal right now.
I like Pitt’s chances to win the ACC outright, and you can still grab it at 4-1.
What to Watch in Week 7 and Beyond
Alex Hinton: Texas and Oklahoma delivered a classic in this year’s edition of the Red River Showdown. The Sooners came back from a 21-point deficit to defeat the Longhorns, 55-48. However, it might not be the only matchup between the arch-rivals this season.
Oklahoma sits atop the Big 12 standings at 3-0 and is in control of its own destiny. However, Texas still has only one conference loss at the moment.
Texas doesn’t have the easiest schedule remaining. It hosts Oklahoma State this week and still has road dates at Baylor, Iowa State, and West Virginia. But it’s capable of winning all of those games.
The Longhorns are capable of scoring with anyone. Since Casey Thompson stepped into the starting lineup, he has led one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The Longhorns are averaging 58.8 PPG in Thompson’s four starts and he’s averaging 10 yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
Thompson’s presence has sparked the emergence of Xavier Worthy, who has looked like a No. 1 wide receiver as a true freshman. In the last four games, Worthy has 22 catches for 456 yards, and six touchdowns.
Oh, and by the way, Texas also has the best running back in the country in Bijan Robinson.
The Longhorns are loaded with playmakers, but their set of triplets will be hard for anyone to stop. That includes Oklahoma, as we saw on Saturday.
The Sooners looked much better offensively once it switched to Williams. Assuming that continues, I project the Sooners will occupy one spot in the Big 12 title game.
However, it’s hard to beat a good team twice. The Sooners avenged regular-season losses in the Big 12 title game against the Longhorns in 2018 and against Iowa State last season.
If Texas can flip the script and avenge the loss to Oklahoma itself, you would get much better value by taking Texas at +325 compared to -160.
You would have the option of hedging and taking Oklahoma’s spread or moneyline in the rematch if you choose.