College Football Odds, Picks & Futures: Last Chance to Bet Utah & UCLA?
Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III.
What a Saturday it was last week.
The headliner entering the week was Alabama and Tennessee in Knoxville, and man, did that game live up to the billing. The Vols and Tide went blow for blow, with Tennessee ultimately breaking through and finally knocking off Alabama.
Going on at the same time in Fort Worth, the TCU vs. Oklahoma State game also lived up to the hype and will have major Big 12 implications for both teams. Kody and I have been high on the Frogs and Pokes all year, so that was a game we were both closely monitoring.
What does all of this mean in the grand scheme of the College Football Playoff picture? Well, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and Tennessee have put themselves in really strong positions, and Clemson is sitting pretty as well. Here’s the thing though: the Buckeyes and Wolverines will face each other, as will Georgia and Tennessee.
If history has told us anything, it’s that we’d be foolish to write off Alabama after the loss, but the Tide don’t have much margin for error the rest of the way.
With plenty of games still to be played, there’s ample betting value still out there at the national and conference level. Let’s discuss where we see it.
National Championship Picture
UCLA to Win National Championship (+6000)
If you didn’t listen to Mike Calabrese last week and still want to buy what’s going on in Los Angeles, now’s the time.
And no, I’m not talking about Lincoln Riley, Caleb Williams and the USC Trojans. I’m talking about that other school that plays its games at the Rose Bowl.
Chip Kelly has done a masterful job with the UCLA program this year, and the Bruins are sitting right at the top of the Pac-12 standings. I don’t know if the Bruins are necessarily a top five-to-seven team in the country, but there’s no denying they have a legitimate path to the playoff.
UCLA already handled Utah at home, and the Bruins get USC at the Rose Bowl to end the year.
Why is right now the time to buy if you didn’t last week? Well, with UCLA heading to Eugene this week to face Oregon with College GameDay in town, the Bruins have an opportunity to take complete control of the Pac-12.
A win would put UCLA in a phenomenal position to make the Pac-12 Championship game, and its national title odds would drop considerably as a result.
Getting in on the Bruins now at 60-1 gives you a price that would create plenty of hedge opportunities if UCLA does, indeed, crash the CFP party. Obviously, a 13-0 finish would lock UCLA into that party, but I also think a 12-1 Pac-12 champion would be firmly in the conversation, which could potentially give the Bruins a little wiggle room.
Aside from Oregon and USC, UCLA has a manageable schedule down the stretch, with the only other road games coming against Cal and Arizona State.
I’m hopping on the Bruins now at 60-1 in advance of the showdown with Oregon on Saturday night.
Conference Championship Picture
Utah to Win Pac-12 (+450)
What was once my favorite future went into life support at one point this season — until they reminded the Pac-12 that they're still an elite team in the conference after beating USC last week.
With that win, Utah proved to me it can still compete with the best teams in the country. Better yet, you can get the Utes at a better price to win it all than what they were in the preseason.
Don’t get it twisted — this defense is not nearly as talented as last year's, especially on the defensive line, where they rank outside the top 90 in Line Yards and Pass Rush.
The unit grades out above average in all other defensive metrics and does just enough to slow down opposing offenses instead of engaging in the high-scoring affairs we're accustomed to seeing in this conference.
On the other side, the offense is a well-oiled machine. Behind a great offensive line, Cam Rising has captained an offense that mimics Georgia’s lethal conservative-type approach. It depends on methodical drives down the field with plays being made in the open field.
When they aren’t stalling out in the red zone — they rank 86th in Finishing Drives — the Utes can keep pace with the likes of USC’s elite offense. I still believe the red-zone struggles can be attributed to unfortunate luck, and it's due to regress back to the mean.
They have a very friendly schedule to win out the rest of the way — a must since they dropped a game to UCLA earlier in the year.
Now is the time to take the Utes, as they have one challenge on their schedule remaining: a road date against Oregon, which they thwarted twice last season.
With a tiebreaker over USC and potentially Oregon, Utah can stamp its ticket back to the conference championship in what may be a redemption game against UCLA.
Futures Bets to Watch
Clemson to Win National Title
Alabama's loss to Tennessee has made the College Football Playoff race a little more interesting.
With three positions presumably locked up heading into last week with Ohio State, Georgia and Alabama, the picture has now become a little more unclear. Nothing is a "gimme" for the Crimson Tide anymore, especially if they don't win out.
With uncertainty comes value, and betting on value is exactly what we do here at Action.
In my opinion, the Pac-12 has already cannibalized itself for the most part with the Big 12 following a similar path — unless TCU runs the table from our futures installment two weeks ago.
With Ohio State expected to run the Big Ten, that leaves one conference to steal the coveted fourth spot, and that's the ACC. Leading the ACC? The Clemson Tigers.
While the offense looked anemic at the start of the season, DJ Uiagalelei has quietly grown into his own surrounded by a talented group. Pair that with a vaunted defense, and Clemson has all of the tools to run the table.
Its schedule is also fairly easy. Should Clemson take care of Syracuse as -13.5 favorites, Clemson taking the fourth spot is very much in play.