It’s time for Part 3 of the CFB Futures preview series. I have already given out my national futures for the National Championship and the Heisman and now it’s time to start breaking down some conferences. My approach to betting conferences- like all things in betting- is purely value based. For a lot of people I’m sure that’s obvious, but for those that it’s not- these are NOT my picks to win these conferences. Some of them are who I think it going to actually win the conference, but overall it is all about where the value lies. With all that being said, let’s just get right into it.
We’ll start with the cream of the crop, the Southeastern Conference, where it just means… more. The SEC West has won 3 consecutive SEC titles with Alabama, LSU, and Alabama again. The last SEC East team to win the conference was Georgia in 2017 (more on that later) and Georgia had been the representative from the East three straight years until Florida last season. It seems like Alabama has dominated the SEC over the last 15 or so years, and of course they have, but it’s not like they’re representing the West every year. From 2010-2020 Alabama only made 6 out of 11 SEC Championships, which in probably the best division in football is still wildly impressive and they have converted those into National Championships but they aren’t as automatic as one would think. To compare, Georgia made it 5 of those 11 years, so only one less than Alabama. The difference has just been what happens after they make it.
My point in all this is, don’t be afraid to bet a team from the SEC West to win the conference that isn’t Alabama and in terms of GETTING to the SEC Championship Game- treat Georgia like you would treat Alabama in terms of respect levels. Now, here are my bets for the conference:
3u Georgia to win the SEC Championship Game (+225)- I don’t need to repeat myself too much because I have already raved about Georgia in my other previews (linked above if you haven’t read them), but I really think this is their year. The fact that Alabama’s odds to win the West are better than Georgia’s to win the East is actually crazy to me. Georgia is going to be much improved from last year, mostly thanks to JT Daniels, and Florida (their only real competition) should take a step back from last year, it just remains to be seen how big of a step. If +225 is the ML for the SEC Championship Game for Georgia against whomever, that would be a monster bet for me. That makes their implied odds of winning the Championship Game about 31% if they make it there and I really think it’s close to a sure thing they make it. Go Dawgs… again.
1u Texas A&M to win the West (+550), 1u Ole Miss to win the West (16/1)- I have wrote about it over and over again the past few days, but I think Bama is vulnerable this year and A&M, Ole Miss, and LSU are the three teams that I think have a shot of stealing their crown for a year. I’m backing A&M instead of LSU because 1. I just like A&M’s team top-to-bottom more and 2. they host Bama while LSU has to travel to Tuscaloosa so if one team is upsetting the Tide, I think it will be the Aggies. Then Ole Miss just has more value because of their longer odds and as I said in my National Title preview, in the regular season last year, Ole Miss was closer to beating Bama than any other West team. If you want more of my thoughts on these teams, read the National Title preview.
The ACC is Clemson’s conference. They have won the conference championship game six years in a row and show no signs of stopping. The last couple of years, the number has not even been touchable in terms of Clemson winning the conference. It is the same once again, and the competition problem is not helped by the fact that the two best teams after Clemson (UNC and Miami), are both in the other division and don’t even play Clemson in the regular season this year. To be fair to them, Clemson has an epic matchup with Georgia to start the season but after that their schedule is an absolute joke, and even if they lose to Georgia Week One and then win out, they will still comfortably make the playoff. As for me, I’m not ready to bet against Clemson winning the ACC but I do like one bet that will determine their opponent.
1u UNC to win ACC Coastal Division (+130)- Go Heels, baby. It is clearly a neck and neck battle between Miami and UNC to win this division and everyone else is a step below. I talked a lot in my national championship preview about why I like UNC this year but one big reason why is they host Miami. That will make a huge difference because I think this division will just go to the winner of their head-to-head matchup and UNC will be favored in that game at home. So, even if you don’t like UNC, from a pure value perspective this is a great line at plus money.
On to the Big 10, which has also been dominated by one team the last few years. Ohio State has won the last 4 Big Ten titles and they have separated themselves from the pack over that stretch as the clear power in the once very competitive conference. However, this year I think we finally get a new champion. The last team not named Ohio State to win the Big 10 was Penn State and I think they do it again.
1u Penn State to win the Big 10 Championship Game (8/1)- I hate supporting Penn State because they are a cult of people that cover up crimes against humanity and have some of the most delusional, obnoxious fans in college football, but this year… I ride with the cult. Penn State had a bizarre season last year in which they started 0-5 with a lot of strange bad breaks like the Indiana phantom TD to open the season. They then won their final 4 games of the season, all in relatively convincing fashion. I think that terrible season will fuel Penn State and they will be poised to not only bounce back, but knock off the Big Bad and take the conference.
Last year, they were literally cheated out of a victory, were -10 in turnover differential which sets them up for positive regression (and Ohio State was an NCAA best +14 which sets them up for negative regression), and were +101 in YPG despite their losing record so all signs point to Penn State bouncing back. Penn State also has 17 starters returning, one of the highest %’s in CFB.
I’ve already talked a lot about the Big 12 in my other previews because Oklahoma and Iowa State are two of my favorite teams in college football this year. I think they are a class above everyone else and you’re burning money betting on anyone else to win the conference. Here’s what I like:
2u Oklahoma to win the Big 12 Championship Game (-150)- Boomer MF Sooner. Spencer Rattler and Lincoln Riley are ready to take this conference home as Oklahoma has done all 4 years since they brought back a championship game in the Big 12. The Sooners should cruise to the Big 12 title game with 1 loss maximum and be decent sized favorites in the title game so the value really is there at -150. They should be bigger favorites than that come December 4th.
2u Iowa State to MAKE Big 12 Championship Game (-110)- I gave this bet out a couple of weeks ago because I thought it was such a steal I couldn’t wait for my write-ups.
The line has now moved to around -130 and I would still play it at that number and really anywhere up to -150. I’m really not worried about Oklahoma State or Texas challenging Iowa State for their second spot in the conference. I think the experienced offense and the elite head coach prevail and at the very least get their shot at Oklahoma.
Last but not least… actually, most definitely least… the forgotten conference, the PAC-12. It seems like a lifetime ago that Washington was given a shot in the College Football Playoff just to get stomped by Alabama and the conference has not been given a shot since. Personally, I think it’s pretty unfair to the PAC-12 given what has happened to Oklahoma and Notre Dame every time they’ve made the playoff and those teams still get more chances. The real problem is no team in the PAC-12 has been able to separate from the pack. There are a handful of pretty good teams and Oregon, Utah, and Washington have had some teams sniff the playoff since then but always seem to blow the one game they need to really give themselves a shot. This year, there is one team that I like to win the conference, although with the strength around the country, I don’t think any team in the PAC has a shot at the playoff this year.
2u Washington to win the PAC-12 Championship Game (+400)- The Huskies are ready to make a run at the PAC-12 title once again. One HUGE reason for liking Washington is their schedule- USC and Utah are clearly the best teams in the south and Washington doesn’t have to play either one in the regular season. The two best teams in the conference they will face are Oregon and Arizona State and they get both at home. This all sets up for Washington to go on a run led by 7 starters returning on both sides of the ball, including their QB and all 5 OL, the most important positions for continuity. Washington was hit harder than almost any team in the country by COVID issues and only ended up playing 4 games last year so it was a very strange year 1 for Jimmy Lake but I feel it may have prepared him for anything and his team will be ready to go this year.
That’s it for the Power 5 conference preview! I’ll be back early next week with my Group of Five preview and win totals from across the country!