College Football Futures: Betting Value on Oregon & Western Kentucky Ahead of Week 3
Abbie Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Mycah Pittman (4) and the Oregon Ducks football team.
College football fans entered this season growing tired of seeing the same teams in the College Football Playoff, which led to talks of CFP expansion. However, there has already been a ton of movement among teams ranked in the top 10.
Georgia knocked off Clemson, 10-3, in a top-five matchup in Week 1.
Last week, Iowa State’s futility against its in-state rival continued as Iowa dominated in a top-10 battle, 27-10.
In one of the most shocking results of the week, No. 12 Oregon went into Columbus and knocked off No. 3 Ohio State, 35-28, without two of its defensive stars in defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and linebacker Justin Flowe.
While these results affect the CFP landscape, they have also changed the conference championship and national championship futures market for bettors.
Oregon stands out as a team to move up as a national title contender after last week’s results.
Odds as of Wednesday morning and via WynnBET
National Championship Picture
Alex Hinton: Following its upset victory over Ohio State, Oregon now has a clear path to making the CFP.
When the CFP committee starts comparing resumes, Oregon’s win over the Buckeyes might wind up being the most impressive win of the season. It could be the trump card that gives the Ducks the edge over other teams in contention for the last spot or for seeding.
Flowe’s right foot injury is more serious, and he is out for the season. However, Thibodeaux is closer to returning from his sprained ankle and was a game-time decision against Ohio State.
Oregon has a soft upcoming schedule with home games against FCS Stony Brook and Arizona in the next two weeks. That should buy some time for the Ducks to get Thibodeaux back. Returning its star defender will only improve its chances to win the National Championship.
The Ducks’ two toughest remaining games are road games against Pac-12 South contenders Utah and UCLA.
Washington was thought to be Oregon’s biggest contender in the North as the Ducks head to Seattle, but the Huskies have not looked like the team many expected entering the season.
Still, Washington would love to ruin Oregon’s season if it can, so that game will not be easy for the Ducks.
If Oregon drops one regular-season game, it will remain in great position to make the CFP, provided it wins the Pac-12 Championship. As a one-loss Pac-12 champ with a victory over Ohio State, Oregon’s resume will be as good as any in the country.
Once the Ducks are in the CFP, it will be two wins away from the national title. For a team with a clear path for making the CFP, getting the Ducks at 30-1 is well worth the flier.
Mike Calabrese: The Hilltoppers may have started a transfer portal trend. Western Kentucky essentially imported an entire offensive identity, along with all of the useful personnel, from Houston Baptist.
In 2020, the HBU Huskies, an FCS afterthought, took the paychecks and traveled to play three FBS opponents on the road.
But instead of playing the role of doormat, the Huskies averaged 34 points and 525 total yards per game.
Former Walter Payton Award finalist Bailey Zappe nearly orchestrated an upset of Texas Tech in Lubbock, tossing four touchdowns while racking up 567 yards through the air.
This caught the eye of college recruiters, and WKU decided that instead of trying to cherry-pick a player or two, they’d take the whole kit and kaboodle.
Zappe and a handful of his top receiving targets headed northeast, along with offensive coordinator Zach Kittley.
The Hilltoppers had spent three straight years stuck in neutral offensively, far removed from the glory days of Brandon Doughty and Mike White. So, to many, this transfer portal move seemed to be a last-ditch effort to restart a flailing offense that had been holding the program back.
Through two games, it’s clear that this complete reinvention is a wild success.
Zappe, despite throwing interceptions on the opening drive in his first two starts as an FBS quarterback, has racked up 859 passing yards already. He’s also accounted for 11 total touchdowns against just two turnovers.
The Hilltoppers, as a result, are 1-1 straight up and 2-0 against the spread, nearly upsetting Army in front of a raucous West Point crowd on Sept. 11.
These first two games have realized the promise of the Toppers’ new offense and given rise to the G5 stardom of both Zappe and Jerreth Sterns. The diminutive junior wideout is top-six nationally in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
What’s surprising is that despite WKU’s clear upgrades on offense, its odds to win C-USA have stayed relatively flat. UAB and Marshall, defensive stalwarts by C-USA standards, are entrenched as co-favorites with UTSA and FAU ahead of WKU as well.
Given the fact that the Hilltoppers avoid UAB during the regular season and host UTSA and FAU, I feel confident they’ll be in the C-USA East Hunt down to the bitter end.
Their season ends with a trip to Marshall on Nov. 27, a spot that I anticipate could serve as an ideal hedge opportunity.
I played them in the preseason at 12-1 to win the C-USA and still see value today at any number north of 8-1.
What to Watch in Week 3 and Beyond
The Mountain West Race
Mike Calabrese: I’m keeping a close eye on the four-horse race in the Mountain West. Simply put, this is not Boise State’s sandbox anymore. Nevada, Fresno State and San Jose State all have the goods to win the MWC, making the Broncos’ +125 odds a bit perplexing.
Nevada, however, at 7-2 doesn’t offer the value it once did during the preseason when it could be had at north of 4-1. I’ve circled Fresno State (+700) and San Jose State (+800) as the team I’m leaning toward in the MWC.
Fresno State nearly orchestrated an upset of Oregon in Eugene and has the kind of offensive balance that any G5 team would covet.
The Bulldogs offense has racked up 528 yards per game (17th), behind elite quarterback play from Jake Haener.
The interesting upside of Kalen DeBoer’s team is that Ronnie Rivers, arguably the best tailback in the MWC, hasn’t played up to his typical level in the early going.
A career 5+ YPC back, he’s checking in at 3.6 YPC this season while making far less of an impact in the passing game than usual. If the Bulldogs can open running lanes for him, this may be the top G5 offense nationally.
San Jose State is somewhat the forgotten team, at least by Vegas standards. The defending MWC champ held its own defensively against USC but couldn’t move the football against the Trojans during its 30-7 defeat two weeks ago.
After a bye week, the Spartans begin their title defense against arguably the easiest MWC conference slate — no Boise State, road games at Hawai’i, Wyoming, Colorado State, UNLV and Nevada.
They catch Fresno State at home in the regular-season finale. That’s a recipe for a floor of 7-2 in conference and a ceiling of 9-0.
Keep in mind, this is a San Jose State program that returned a seasoned starting quarterback in Nick Starkel and the Mountain West Coach of the Year entering his fifth season.
I think it would be more unlikely that they’re not in the MWC hunt late in the season than the Spartans defending their MWC title.
And finally, there is the Boise factor. If I were completely intimidated by the Broncos, all of these lucrative payouts would be meaningless. But Boise feels like an incomplete team being led by a green head coach.
The passing game is elite, whether that be with Hank Bachmeier or Jack Sears at the controls this season. But the running game remains MIA, and the defense wilted in the second half of its opener against UCF.
If Oklahoma State can score north of 31 points on Boise on Saturday night on the Smurf Turf, I’m ready to pull the trigger on both Fresno and San Jose to win the MWC.