Ohio State leads the way on this year's college football futures odds to defend the National Championship, but the Buckeyes will have to get through a tough Big Ten Conference first.
Maybe we should have seen it coming. When the four teams were announced for the first College Football Playoff last December, most of the focus was on the two marquee quarterbacks Florida State and Oregon were bringing to the party. Clearly, we should have been zeroed in on the 3rd-string pivot in command of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
College football odds certainly weren't zeroed in on Ohio State last August, the Buckeyes fetching as high as a 50/1 payday to win it all on Labor Day and ranked third behind Michigan State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten race. Now, the sports books believe Urban Meyer's troops have a great shot to defend the National Championship as OSU leads the list at around 4/1 for a general consensus. Good luck with that bet.
The Buckeyes are also prohibitive favorites to successfully defend their B1G title at 1/2. Michigan State (5/2) and Wisconsin (13/2) are once again seen as Ohio State's closest competition unlike a year ago when OSU was behind both the Spartans and Badgers.
Buckeyes Open With Chance To Avenge Only Loss
Ohio State's title chances were given up for dead after a loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2 of the 2014 NCAA football betting schedule; in fact, the Big Ten was seen as chasing the rest of the Power 5 at that point as far as the National Championship picture. All the Buckeyes did from that point on was reel off 13-straight wins, including taking out No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon in the playoffs.
Meyer and his gang -- including a 3-way battle at QB -- will have a chance to exact revenge for that setback in the season opener this time around. The Buckeyes travel to Blacksburg for a Monday night battle against the Hokies to close out Week 1, and have a very favorable schedule the rest of the way until the season finale at Michigan.
Wisconsin would love to get even with the Buckeyes for the 59-0 shellacking Ohio State put on the Badgers in the Big Ten title tilt. It will have to come in another conference championship setting, however, since the two don't meet in the regular season. For now, the Badgers will focus more on Alabama, their season opener down in Arlington, Texas.
East Division Of Big Ten Should Prove Deeper
Perhaps the 2nd-biggest storyline -- behind the Buckeyes defending a national title -- is Jim Harbaugh's return to his alma mater as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. The Maize & Blue suffered through an often embarrassing 5-7 final season under Brady Hoke, but are expected to bounce back as the fourth choice to win the conference on the NCAA futures odds at 8/1.
Harbaugh didn't exactly have a lot of time to pull in a top recruiting class, but he did land three No. 1's from their respective states and given his past, it won't take long to get the Wolverines headed upward and onward.
While a new coach was coming to Ann Arbor, an old one was leaving East Lansing. Mark Dantonio is still running the show, but the Spartans lost defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi plus several standouts on that side of the ball. Michigan State has a tough conference road slate with road rumbles at Nebraska, Michigan and Ohio State.
It was an up-&-down first season for James Franklin at Penn State, but mostly ended on the up with a bowl win and solid recruiting class. The Nittany Lions are 15/1 long shots to represent the West Division and win the Big Ten crown.
'Huskers Breaking In New Coach & New Scheme
It took long enough, but Bo Pelini finally pissed off enough people in Lincoln to be shown the door. Enter Mike Riley, formerly at Oregon State, to guide the Nebraska Cornhuskers back into national prominence. Or so it is hoped.
At 10/1 to win the conference, Nebraska is the second choice behind the Badgers in the West Division. Riley gets to avoid facing both Ohio State and Michigan in his first season, the schedule setting up nicely if the Cornhuskers can upset Wisconsin in Lincoln on October 10.